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December 31, 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful in 2008

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Extracted below are mentions of the proposed Atlantic Yards project from this month-by-month rundown of Brooklyn stories:


Atlantic Yards lawsuits continued to be dismissed in both state and federal courts. Many were still pending.


Despite controversy, Brooklyn Museum honors Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, while the building was surrounded with unhappy, sign-waving protesters.


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


Architect Frank Gehry fires his staff—before Ratner’s Atlantic Yards designs have been completed.


No Land Grab: At least one other small thing happened on the project - In December, preparatory work on the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint was suddenly halted.

Posted by steve at 4:44 PM

GL’s Top Ten Brooklyn Stories of 2008

Gowanus Lounge

This end-of-year review has the proposed Atlantic Yards project as the number two Brooklyn story of the year.

2) The Atlantic Yards Meltdown. Who could have predicted that by the end of 2008 the discussion would center around whether the mega-project would ever be built? During the year we saw talk of a “stall” and a “halt.” There was a dramatic scaling back of Miss Brooklyn. The timetable for building affordable housing slipped. Landscape architect Laurie Olin left the project. And Architect Frank Gehry laid off people working on the project. Our prediction: Developer Bruce Ratner will have difficulty obtaining financing for a nearly $1 billion Gehry arena and the arena will either be scraped or a new version from an off-the-rack firm for $500 million will be built. There are also significant odds the entire project will be canceled if the tanking Nets are sold and go to Newark. We now give the project odds of 50-50 at best. And, by “project,” we mean an arena surrounded by seas of parking. A pox on the officials that allowed demolition to go forward and decimate part of Prospect Heights, including destruction of the historic Wards Bakery.


Additional: 2009 Will Change Brooklyn’s Development Vocabulary

Posted by steve at 3:45 PM

GL’s 2009 Brooklyn Deathwatch: Five Rotting Corpses???

Gowanus Lounge

Here is a list of 5 development development projects that are thought to have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. Topping the list of projects is the one that we'd like most to see pushing up daisies: the not-dead-yet Atlantic Yards.

Last year, we went out on a limb and predicted the Gowanus Whole Foods project wouldn’t happen. It hasn’t. Yet. This year there are oh-so-many projects that one can predict will be scaled back or do the Dance of Death. Here are a few to chew on:

  1. Atlantic Yards. We think there is a good chance most of the project will choke on its own excess, including the arena, because of the credit crunch. Unless, of course, Forest City Ratner succeeds in getting a taxpayer bailout to make it happen. If the arena does happen, we predict a crappy Prudential Center-like structure that would be built at half the cost of Frank Gehry’s work. So, maybe it’s not an entirely dead and rotting corpse, yet, but the thing is already on life support.


Posted by steve at 3:12 PM

Forest City Ratner On The Web

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner's lean new web site emphasizes completion of projects


It's "Out with the old, in with the new" on the intertubes as Norman Oder takes a look at the newly-revised Forest City Ratner web site finds a lot fewer pages to look at. The old site had 7 pages chock-a-block with graphics and a nifty blue color theme. Now, it's down to 4 austere pages (including "Contact Us" and "Terms of Use").

Maybe the truncated new web site for Forest City Ratner, currently just two pages, embodies current lean times. Or maybe the site, which offers less information than its previous incarnation, is just a work in progress, with links coming to projects like Atlantic Yards and Ridge Hill.

Bruce Ratner's bio, currently missing from Forest City Ratner's web site

Also gone, at least for now, from the Forest City Ratner web site is the biography of CEO Bruce Ratner.

Just in case Bruce Ratner's bio--which was apparently written in 2004--doesn't reappear on the revamped Forest City Ratner web site, here's a look at the old one, courtesy of the Internet Archive. The screen shot captures only part of the text, which is reproduced below.

You are invited, dear reader, to look at Atlantic Yards Report to read the entire splendiferous bio. Here on No Land Grab, we just include this paragraph that predicts a project named Atlantic Yards:

On a site adjacent to Atlantic Center, Mr. Ratner is preparing to construct Atlantic Yards, a 7.7 million-square-foot mixed-use development designed by internationally acclaimed architect Frank Gehry. Encompassing 8 acres of public open space, more than 2 million square feet of commercial space and more than double that amount of residential space—at a variety of price points, including affordable housing—Atlantic Yards will be anchored by the 800,000-square-foot, 18,000-seat Barclays Center arena, designed to be the home of the Nets professional basketball team, recently purchased by a group of investors led by Mr. Ratner.

Posted by steve at 4:18 AM

December 30, 2008

At home, Nets attendance finally increases

Atlantic Yards Report

The attendance at the last three New Jersey Nets home games has picked up considerably, with an announced crowd of 16,203 (81.1% of 19,968) on December 22, 16,852 (84.4%) last Friday, and a crowd of 18,786 (94.1%) last night.

Even if that's just tickets distributed rather than gate count, it's a return to some higher numbers posted earlier in the season and an increase from a previous average that nudged above 15,000.

Photos from last night indicate few empty seats, though those from Friday indicate a good number of cheap seats empty. Note that the announced attendance was 16,722 when the Nets hosted the Knicks December 10; I attended and estimated a 25% fudge factor.

Last year, attendance picked up around the holiday season, as well. But if the Nets sustain some increased attendance, despite the team's surprisingly bad home record (contrasted with its strength on the road), one factor might be the team's effort to distribute free or low-cost tickets.


NoLandGrab: With the Nets flooding the marketplace with free tickets, it's no wonder that attendance has picked up a bit.

Posted by eric at 8:40 AM

Following up on Morningstar's claim that Forest City Enterprises stock would be worthless

Atlantic Yards Report

When Morningstar recently said that Forest City Enterprises stock was likely worthless, it took several days--even after it was picked up by the Washington Post--for FCE to respond forcefully, plausibly stressing that the consensus of other financial analysts was that the stock should be a buy.

Since then, there's been some interesting criticism from an anonymous financial analyst commenting on Cleveland journalist Jill Miller Zimon's blog Writes Like She Talks.

Basically, the anonymous financial analyst doesn't think that the young Morningstar analyst has the experience or expertise to pan Forest City Enterprises's stock, which still doesn't answer the original question, "Why did it take Forest City Enterprises so long to respond?"


Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

Atlantic Yards: RIP?

One blogger posts a fantasy headline and tells us what he really thinks about Atlantic Yards:


Actually, the above headline is just wishful thinking on my part. But there seems to be hope, despite the Supreme Court's refusal earlier this summer to hear an appeal of the eviction notices related to the 22-acre development on the outskirts of downtown Brooklyn. The crippled housing market coupled with an economy in full recession has paralyzed the Atlantic Yards project, while two major lawsuits opposing it are making its way through the New York court system.
Yes, the area should be utilized for commercial and residential development, but at a reasonable scale, just not for this purported monstrosity.

And to those who favor the project, like Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, who long for the area to become our answer to Manhattan's business and financial districts, I say, Get over your Brooklyn inferiority complex! Hopefully, Brooklyn will never be Manhattan, and that is nothing to be ashamed of, on the contrary. Yes, we should all be striving for the betterment of the borough but without losing sight of the big picture, as it relates in this case to those who will irrevocably harmed by this monumental tribute to greed and shortsightedness. Those fashionably ironic t-shirts that announce "Defend Brooklyn" should add "from the Atlantic Yards fiasco!" It's only right.


Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

"My humble fiction": Markowitz imagines lost opportunity for AY compromise, posits arena as corporate magnet

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman "Oderizes" Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's comments on Atlantic Yards, separating fact from "humble fiction":

In his now-traditional end-of-the-year interview with the Brooklyn Paper's Gersh Kuntzman, Borough President Marty Markowitz offers some curious comments on Atlantic Yards, notably the suggestion that project opponents missed an opportunity to compromise on a smaller project, and that the presence of a basketball team would draw corporations to Brooklyn.

Those, I submit, are "humble fictions," the counterpoint to Markowitz's catch-phrase, "in my humble opinion."

More soberly, he bows somewhat to reality by acknowledging that the project could take "12 to 16 years" to build. That's a distinct contrast with the approved ten-year construction timeline, which was reiterated by Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner this past May, but it doesn't acknowledge that the State Funding Agreement gives the developer 12+ years to build Phase 1 and imposes no deadline for Phase 2.

Markowitz also puts in a few words for the "mend-it-don't-end-it" BrooklynSpeaks coalition, which, while slumbering, could still supply a framework for tweaking the project design and government oversight.

The full article tackles each issue.

Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

Markowitz's Time Warp

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn noticed that The Brooklyn Paper has Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz on record casually changing the creation story of Atlantic Yards:

Let's zero in on one comment by Beep Markowitz in his interview with The Brooklyn Paper's Gersh Kuntzman:

MM: ...We’ll see what the future brings. I am confident that [Atlantic Yards] is going to happen. I really am. I really am. I was hoping it would have happened in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, so if it’s 2011, it’s 2011, as long as I know it’s on track.

GK: Is it on track?

MM: I hear that. The train is at the station. It’s moving very slowly. We have to see what the future brings. … It was always going to be over the course of 12 years or 16 years.

Actually, it wasn't "always going to be over the course of 12 years or 16 years."

The project that was approved in 2006 was to take 10 years. But now New York State's agreements with Forest City Ratner give the "developer" 6+ years to build just the arena, 12+ years to build just Phase One (the arena and 4 or 5 skyscrapers), and no timeline whatsover to build Phase Two, which would comprise the bulk of the proposed "affordable housing."


This isn't the first time Markowitz has delivered his own version of reality. A year and a half ago, Atlantic Yards Report filed a story on Marty's creation myth.

Posted by lumi at 4:45 AM

Another newsworthy year!

By The Brooklyn Paper Staff

The big news from the Atlantic Yards footprint came in a small package:

MAMA SITA!: 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, and 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.


Posted by lumi at 4:41 AM

Forest City Struggles

The Eagle Tribune, 'It's the economy, stupid' Top 10 business stories of 2008

In the Merrimack Valley, the crumbling real estate market hit the construction industry. Even huge companies like Forest City Enterprises, which had planned on developing a riverfront mill in Lawrence into an apartment complex, are struggling to get financing for projects.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Downtown Building Boom Is In ‘Suspended Animation’

Atlantic Yards: Don’t Write Obit Yet

Opponents to Atlantic Yards have been trumpeting the lack of progress, with a local newspaper even preparing an “obit.” The legal issues, the last in an interminable list, are expected to be resolved once again in Forest City’s favor. What happens after that is up in the air, but many are convinced the city will not permit the loss of a major league professional franchise — the Nets.

Posted by lumi at 4:36 AM

December 29, 2008

Marty slams Bloomy in year-end interview!

The Brooklyn Paper

In what's becoming a beloved holiday tradition, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz sat down recently for his annual year-end interview by The Brooklyn Paper, and he wasted no time getting to his favorite economic stimulus package, Atlantic Yards. Here are some highlights:


"I am a tremendous supporter. We need Atlantic Yards more this year coming than we needed it at any time before.... And having an arena and a national team is a great selling point to corporations that are looking to either relocate or expand. Basketball has become the sport of corporate — corporate sport. The men and women that work for corporations eagerly look forward to going to games and people bring clients there. So having an arena and a national team would be an unbelievable catalyst for jobs and new companies coming and staying in Brooklyn — my humble opinion!"

"I have to tell you, when it was first proposed, attempts were made by me and my office to reach out, but the immediate response was, 'We don’t want it. Shove it! How many times do we have to tell you, Mr. Markowitz, we don’t want it. We don’t want the buildings. We don’t want the arena. We don’t want it.' And when you have folks that say an absolute no. Not, “Maybe we’ll take some housing, six stories high, eight stories high, but we don’t want the arena.” Obviously, I wanted it all.

"But it was our demand, you can blame me indirectly and others, as a holy grail of Atlantic Yards, that there must be a maximum affordability of housing. If it was up to me, it would be 75 percent."

article (with unedited audio stream)

NoLandGrab: It seems the Beep has conveniently never heard of the community-backed UNITY Plan, which advocates for much more density than "six stories high, eight stories high." As for affordable housing, Markowitz has to know that non-profit developers like the Fifth Avenue Committee or the Pratt Area Community Council could build two or three times the number of affordable units with the same amount of subsidy being sought by Forest City Ratner.

Posted by eric at 1:40 PM

A New Year’s Revolution List (Starting 2009 Off Clean: Pull the Plug On Atlantic Yards)

NNY-RibbonCutting.jpgNoticing New York published a list of fourteen ways to leave your lover, that is if you're one of Bruce Ratner's yes-men working in City or State government:

We are throwing out ideas in the list below that consists of various thoughts about ways to terminate Ratner’s “entitlements.” We invite anyone to contribute additional ideas to the list. How good an idea does one need to send Ratner and his “entitlements” packing? It probably won’t take much to bid adieu to Forest City Ratner. Remember that even were Ratner to protest, the courts are going to be sympathetic to the government seeking to follow a good government course of action.

  1. Entitlements? Where would they come from? There was no contract to begin with. There is no such thing as a legally enforceable "agreement to agree." A contract has to be reasonably specific from both ends about what is going to be done in order to be enforceable.

  2. Next, the project is no longer what was approved. For instance, there should be no obligation to do a $950 million arena when what was approved was a $637.2 million arena.

  3. It is easy to simply note that more approvals are needed and that they won't be forthcoming. An example: the Public Authorities Control Board approval taking the arena up to $950 million.

  4. Housing subsidies should not be given unless there is a competitive bid for the parcels of project being financed. That knocks Ratner totally out of the box. The housing agencies have not contracted to give (non-bidding) Ratner subsidy and they shouldn’t.

  5. Then there are the various breaches on Ratner's part.

  6. It is also possible to throw Ratner out based on misrepresentations.

  7. If all else fails, terminate and give Ratner damages. The courts will never allow him substantial damages. (Among other things, think back to the misrepresentations and no-bid aspects of his project.)

  8. To get out of financing the arena, bond counsel can observe that they don't consider that proper legal opinions can be issued on the bonds. (It could be the current bond counsel or there might even be a reason to switch to bond counsel as a first step, given everything that has gone on with Yankee Stadium and a history of odd real estate assessments on these deals.)

  9. Ratner’s so-called “entitlements” can be voided for public policy reasons.

  10. Eminent domain could be used to wipe out whatever “rights” Ratner thinks he has.

  11. Then there is the simple expedient of just settling the law suits- Why? Because the state knows that there is plenty in its files which would cause the litigation to be lost if it is divulged.

  12. Because of various bait and switches, what was contracted for was never properly approved. There are therefore no valid “contracts” because they would all be ultra virus. An ultra vires defense can also be asserted to the extent that authorizing legislation has been exceeded.

  13. Recind city and state appropriations. Take advantage of the fact that this project is being done over the course of so many years that appropriations for it can always be recaptured because the City Council and/or the state legislature this year doesn’t have to spend what once upon a time a prior City Council and/or the state legislature decided it wanted to spend.

  14. Have the city rezone the entire area for something more appropriate. Override ESDC’s zoning override. (And don’t re-override it back again.)

The above is not intended to be inclusive. Nor have we ordered ideas, putting the best first. Pretty much any one idea would suffice in itself though there is always the option of using ideas in combination. As we said, consider this a wiki-endeavor, so we are soliciting additions.


Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

Atlantic Yards

Overlooking the Vanderbilt Railyards in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

Photo by pablodeny, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Does marketing trump basketball when it comes to the Nets starting Yi?

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards developer and NJ Nets owner Bruce Ratner wants you to believe that the off-season trade of star forward Richard Jefferson for Yi Jianlian was "100 percent about basketball.” Considering the marketing potential of one of China's biggest exports, many critics wonder if the trade has more to do with sponsorships and tapping into an international fan base:

Even though Yi has not yet been "great," there's another incentive to make sure he gets playing time. CEO Brett Yormark signed sponsorship deals in September with four Chinese companies.
Fan sentiment from China has even distorted the balloting for the All-Star Game (ASG), with Yi occupying third place among Eastern Conference forward in overall fan voting, ahead of stars like Chris Bosh and Paul Pierce, among others.


Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

December 28, 2008

Funny story: Yormark, in Star-Ledger profile, misremembers (or lies about) our encounter

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder finds himself part of the Atlantic Yards story as the Newark Star-Ledger mentions him as part of a profile of New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark.

A profile in the Newark Star-Ledger of New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark, headlined Nets executive promotes New Jersey while selling Brooklyn, begins with the subject asserting he’s never read about P.T. Barnum, “the first great salesman/cajoler/marketer in American history.” Maybe that's a subtle sign that we should take what he says with a grain of salt.

The article, while offering much praise for Yormark’s hard work, salesmanship, and innovations, also addresses the challenges presented in the headline.

It also contains some very contradictory quotes from Yormark and me about who said what during a tour of Brooklyn I gave him before he was hired by the Nets.

From the article, it may seem impossible to arbitrate who’s right, but, as I contend (with backup evidence) below, in some places Yormark is either misremembering or simply not telling the truth.

(He hasn't been so good at predicting when the arena would open, has he?)

The first slip-up happens when Norman is misrepresented in the Star-Ledger.

Remarkably, Oder concedes that the political might is too strong to stop the project from going forward, but he'll write every day until the first shovel pierces the ground.

Oder replies:

I didn’t make that concession in the email interview. I have said that, despite the troubles facing the project, I think it’s more likely than not that the developer and state will win the lawsuits and move forward. That chance of that happening has declined, but it’s still over 50%.

Oder then goes on to state the facts regarding a tour he gave Yormark in which Yormark never even set foot outside of his SUV. Oder finishes by questioning the Izod Center attendance figures touted by Yormark.


NoLandGrab: On one hand, it's too bad that any time needs to be wasted correcting Yormark, who has no real regard for Brooklyn. On the other hand, there's none better than Norman Oder to do the correcting.

Posted by steve at 9:38 AM

“Master Salesman” Trying to Sell Basketball across Two Rivers

Nets Daily

Here's a brief summary of the story about Nets CEO Brett Yormark in today's Newark Star-Ledger.

Brett Yormark’s days are long, like 18 hours long. His list of successes is long as well–getting Nextel to pony up $740 million for NASCAR races and Barclays Bank to come up with another $200 million for an unbuilt arena. The Nets’ CEO likes the challenge of selling the Nets in both New Jersey and Brooklyn and the Nets like him, willing to him a stake in the team and an eight year deal. An arena critic takes issue with it all.


Posted by steve at 9:33 AM

Nets executive promotes New Jersey while selling Brooklyn

The Newark Star-Ledger

This lengthy piece about New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark features plenty of the bluster you might expect when a salesman talks about himself.

"I came for Brooklyn," Yormark openly admitted in a recent conversation in the boardroom at the team's East Rutherford headquarters. "And like everyone, I'm frustrated with the delays. But I'm convinced of this: It will only make the accomplishment grander."

The monomania that surrounds the Nets' planned move to Brooklyn consumes only half of Yormark's long day, which is interesting, because building the Barclays Center -- the centerpiece to a $4.2 billion, 22-acre monolith known as Atlantic Yards -- would be a full-time job for anybody else.

There are also occasional glimpses of reality, including a mention of Atlantic Yards Report author Norman Oder.

Meanwhile, you can define Barclays only one way: inert. Some people -- many of the living around Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues -- like it that way. Organizations have been formed to fight it. Publications such as New York Magazine are increasingly skeptical. And then there are bloggers, such as watchdog journalist Norman Oder.

This lengthy article about Meanwhile, you can define Barclays only one way: inert. Some people -- many of the living around Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues -- like it that way. Organizations have been formed to fight it. Publications such as New York Magazine are increasingly skeptical. And then there are bloggers, such as watchdog journalist Norman Oder.

There's also an anecdote about how Yormark was first introduced to Brooklyn by Norman Oder as tour guide.


NoLandGrab: Today's Atlantic Yards report has Norman Oder's recollection of the time he spent with Yormark. If we have to choose between Yormark's self-serving remarks on behalf of his real estate overlord, and Oder's meticulous service for the truth, we'll choose Oder every time.

Posted by steve at 9:05 AM

The Crappy Quality of Forest City Ratner Cafe

Daily Gotham
By Mole333

Mole333 takes his son the Brooklyn Children's Museum, and the child has a wonderful time. Then it comes time to eat. The museum's café is chosen. The results were not so pleasing.

The hot dog was just this side of soggy. The pizza was horrible. It was the kind of artificial tasting crust with metallic tasting sauce and cheese that looked like softened plastic that I despise. I am very tolerant of pizza. With pizza and with turkey and stuffing dinners I like even mediocre versions...even kind of liked the versions served in my college cafeteria, though with a degree of masochism, I suppose. The Children's museum cafe pizza was the second worst I have ever, ever had. I found myself thankful that it was so tiny. I had subsidiary food for Jacob (mango, nuts, cereal bars) that he was happy to eat. But I just went hungry rather than get anything else from the cafe. Most of the other people in the cafe seemed unenthusiastic about their food as well, though that could just have been the fact that everyone was dealing with hungry kids.

Then, finally, on exiting, a final stomach-churning discovery is made.

As I was leaving, I saw the name of the cafe. It explained everything. Had I seen it at the start I would have skipped it and tried pretty much anything else in the neighborhood. The horrible cafe with hot dogs even my hot dog loving son wasn't keen on and pizza even pizza loving mole333 could barely stomach was the "Forest City Ratner Cafe."

Bruce Ratner offering the community substandard goods is something I have come to expect. If only I had known in advance I would have known to avoid the place like the plague.

This item them ends with a helpful suggestion list of four food establishments within a short walk of the museum, all without the appetite-suppressing name "Forest City Ratner".


Posted by steve at 8:47 AM

December 27, 2008

Three From Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

With $5B in NYC development on hold or dead, could union accord with contractors jump-start projects?

In light of the increasing financial impossibility of starting large development like the proposed Atlantic Yards project, New York's construction unions are looking to assist funding projects and are also negotiating with developers to lower labor costs by as much as 25%.

Included in this entry is an excerpt of an interview of Ed Malloy, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council and Louis Coletti, chief executive of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, on the Brian Lehrer show.

Interviewed on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show on Wednesday, Malloy and Coletti were optimistic when asked to predict the situation with construction jobs in a year.

Coletti said, "There's two scenarios. If we're unable to reach an agreement, I think this could be the deepest recession bordering on depression that we've ever seen in this industry. With an agreement, I think that we can minimize the unemployment. We have to keep in mind, what Ed said before, is we're coming off the best five years that this industry has ever seen."

Malloy was unequivocal: "Recovery under way."

Neither discussed Atlantic Yards specifically; it's likely that even a $300 million fund would be parceled out to many projects. But the labor concessions would benefit many more projects, including AY, lowering the overall cost and speeding the construction timetable.

In other words, if the money were available--and that's hardly a given--maybe the arena could be built in less than 32 months.

Ex-commercial banker: Don't bail out America's "credit-drunk" commercial landlords and real-estate bankers

An expert on commercial property lending, in a letter published in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, suggests that commercial-property developers should be ashamed at asking for a federal bailout. Mike Offitt wrote, in part:

Unlike residential borrowers, most commercial landlords don't live in their buildings, and unless they are pleading stupidity, they understood perfectly, as did the lenders themselves, that the loans they were seeking from overeager conduit and securitization lenders were too generous. They decided to roll the dice and got rich with these cheap and easy funds. Now they are asking their formerly rich Uncle Sam to bail them out as their loans come due.

As the founder and former head of Deutsche Bank's commercial lending unit, and former senior trader of CMBS and commercial loans for Goldman, I am well aware of the perils of letting commercial-property borrowers fail: Either their lenders will have to extend them new terms, or they will face bankruptcies and tax recapture issues. Their bankers or securities holders will have to take losses and new investors will get to buy their holdings at deep discounts. Any other solution would be a travesty. The only thing more startling about the suggestion that the Treasury bail out the likes of William Rudin, Stephen Ross and Steven Roth is that they had the nerve to raise it. Washington should focus on making REMIC and securitization laws more flexible to allow extensions of loans or collateral substitution, not giving America's credit-drunk landlords and real-estate bankers a mulligan on the taxpayer dime.

Did Gehry lay off staff working on AY or just move (most of) them?

Exactly what is the status of Frank Gehry's design team for the proposed Atlantic Yards project?

Did architect Frank Gehry lay off two dozen staffers working on Atlantic Yards, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and the Daily News?

A commenter on the Brooklyn Paper's web site had a slightly different take: El Sonrisas from Los Angeles says: The layoffs were not exclusively of the team, most people from the Brooklyn team remain working for Gehry Partners. The layoffs were across all projects and all ranks. Most people from the Brooklyn project, whom still work at Gehry's, were simply relocated to other projects.

If that's true, it would be much easier for Gehry to reconstitute the team should the project get back on track (and he gets paid).

Posted by steve at 9:20 AM

Atlantic Yards

Shooting Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards By Shooting Brooklyn

Posted by steve at 9:04 AM

Downturn Ends Building Boom in New York

New York Times
By Christine Haughney

This article does not mention the proposed Atlantic Yards project, but it provides one context for evaluating claims made by certain developers and State agencies about the project moving forward.

Nearly $5 billion in development projects in New York City have been delayed or canceled because of the economic crisis, an extraordinary body blow to an industry that last year provided 130,000 unionized jobs, according to numbers tracked by a local trade group.

The setbacks for development — perhaps the single greatest economic force in the city over the last two decades — are likely to mean, in the words of one researcher, that the landscape of New York will be virtually unchanged for two years.

“There’s no way to finance a project,” said the researcher, Stephen R. Blank of the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit group.


Posted by steve at 8:28 AM

Morningstar calls Forest City stock worthless, but FCE vehemently objects

Writes Like She Talks

This is further to an earlier report on Forest City's stock being awarded an estimated value of $0 by Morningstar. This blog entry asks the questions: Why did it take Forest City over two weeks to respond to the Morningstar evaluation and why did the Cleveland Plain Dealer fail to cover to story until Forest City responded?

This news may not be news to people who follow Forest City Enterprises more closely than I do, but I hadn’t seen anything about any of this until this morning in this post at Atlantic Yards Report, a blog that does follow FCE very closely.

First, Morningstar, on 12/9/08, in an article subtitled, “We’d prefer a pack of gum to these businesses”:


The Washington Post writes about it on 12/21/08 in an article called, “Not Worth the Paper They’re Printed On”:


The Atlantic Yards Report feels that FCE’s concerns are reasonable, and I have no idea how these things work My only question is, why did it take more than two weeks for Forest City to issue this rebuttal? And, again, it looks like this battle over the rating has been kept very very down-low. Given the economic times, that’s not surprising, but is it proper news provision on the Plain Dealer’s part?

The day before the Morningstar analysis was published, on 12/8/08, the PD published this item about FCE withholding dividends, but the Plain Dealer didn’t publish anything about Morningstar’s 12/9/08 review of FCE until two days ago, on 12/24/08, more than two weeks after Morningstar published its review. Do not even try to convince me that the PD didn’t know about the Morningstar pan before then. Then, the FCE objection was published…yesterday, two and a half weeks after the hit.

So - only if it comes home, we hear about it? Otherwise, it’s too business wonky?


Posted by steve at 8:04 AM

December 26, 2008

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Luxury Property Blog, Luxury Real Estate Market Prediction 2009

It is crystal ball time for the luxury real estate industry, and for once, the industry seems to be in agreement. A few optimistic Florida realtors aside, the consensus is there is only one way to go in 2009. More of the same and downward prices.

The face of luxury real estate will change in New York, with developers already leaning toward rentals instead of sales. The developer of the Atlantic Yards project, Forest City Ratner, has stated it would shift focus away from expensive luxury condominiums in favor of rental apartments during the first phase of construction. Personally, I think this is wishful thinking, and I don’t see the project getting off the ground any time soon.

Stocks & Politics, FCY: Forest City Enterprises Senior Bond (FCY)/FCZ

The decision making process on whether to buy the senior note issued by Forest City Enterprises is producing a heated debate in my own head.

Personally, a prolonged downturn in commercial real estate, coupled with liquidity issues for a heavily indebted company, can topple even the best managed company. This is a very close call for me. After having a debate with myself and calling a vote, which was 4 to 3 in favor of a nibble only at a price below the current bid, I placed a limit order for 50 shares a few minutes ago.

Will the order get executed? Read on...

Stocks & Politics, FCY: Odd lot limit order filled

I am about to leave HQ for the day, and just checked my order page. The 50 share buy of the Forest City senior bond was filled when the 9.95 bid was just hit. In an honest appraisal of my own decisions to buy FCY and FCZ, I would have to characterize those decisions, taken together, to constitute proof beyond a reasonable doubt of going off my rocker, hopefully temporarily, but I would hasten to add my exposure is insignificant for me in my defense.

Posted by eric at 4:06 PM

WNYC's Schuerman on AY timetable oversight: "the deadlines are pretty generous"

Atlantic Yards Report

WNYC real estate reporter Matthew Schuerman was on-air with host Richard Hake on Wednesday talking about Atlantic Yards, and Norman Oder was listening in.

On Wednesday, December 24, WNYC radio's economic development reporter, Matthew Schuerman, was interviewed about Atlantic Yards at approximately 25:45 of Hour 2 of Morning Edition. While there wasn't much new for Atlantic Yards watchers, it was a decent summary of the issues and a reminder of the developer's over-optimistic plans, the government's limited leverage, and the question mark over the project's future.

Hake asked how easy it would be for the developer to restart the project even if they win the pending lawsuits. (The defendant is actually the Empire State Development Corporation.) I think that the eminent domain case is a longshot for the plaintiffs, given the rules in New York State; while the case regarding the environmental review is somewhat more up in the air, I've said that the state and the developer have to be considered favorites to prevail.

Schuerman noted that, if they win, FCR said they will have to evaluate the bond market again. He cited an interview with Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who along with other elected officials attended a meeting Monday with FCR and ESDC.

Hake asked if AY opponents are jumping for joy.

Schuerman responded: "I'm sure there's some schadenfreude there, to see Forest City Ratner on the rocks like this, struggling to get this project under way, really. But they live here--it's a devastated neighborhood, it's even more devastated now that half, three-quarters of the buildings are cleared away, and they're really worried that Forest City Ratner will sit on this land, not doing anything for five, ten years, and their neighborhood will just get worse and worse."

I think that, while perhaps half of the buildings have been demolished, many larger buildings remain, so less than half of the non-railyard site has been cleared.

People in and bordering the footprint are living near empty lots--blight as defined by the state. Most of the opponents live outside the footprint and have a more peripheral relationship to the site--forced by the closure of the Carlton Avenue bridge to detour, or to pass some eyesores--but an ongoing relationship to the policy response, or lack thereof.


Posted by eric at 8:33 AM

"Long stratagem and sports kingdom"? With Yi on board, Nets sign marketing deal with Chinese sportswear company

Atlantic Yards Report

The Nets seem to have less difficulty attracting sponsors than they do fans, which makes us wonder how much the sponsors are paying.

The New Jersey Nets are having Office Max help sponsor the holidays, in case you didn't notice. And forward, Yi Jianlian, of China, may be having an up-and-down season, but he wasn't named the NBA's ninth-most marketable player for nothing.

According to People's Daily, which apparently scooped the domestic press:
The Nets have entered into a multi-year sponsorship alliance with PEAK, a China-based company specializing in sports apparel production, including shoes, sportswear, and gear.

The announcement of the sponsorship was made at a press conference on Monday at the High Point Solutions Business Center at the IZOD CENTER, which was attended by PEAK general manager and executive director Xu Zhihua and Nets chief executive officer Brett Yormark. The press conference also included a performance by the Peking Opera and a fashion show, with PEAK models taking the ramp.


You'll have to click through to find out what "long strategem and sports kingdom" is all about.

Posted by eric at 8:17 AM

Forest City Enterprises "astonished and appalled" at Morningstar for calling stock worthless

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder analyzes the debate over the value of Forest City Enterprises' stock.

I don't know whether Morningstar typically contacts senior-level executives before issuing such a dramatic assessment, but Forest City's grievance seems reasonable. (If only they would reciprocally answer questions from the press themselves.)

The analysts who are neutral or slightly positive on the stock should count for something--indeed, the consensus among five analysts tracked by Yahoo is 2 on a scale of 1 (Buy) to 5 (Sell), with two at Strong Buy, one at Buy, and two at Hold. The analysts haven't exactly distinguished themselves by publicly asking hard questions of the company. But I think neither they nor Morningstar based their reports on a close look at Atlantic Yards.

Maybe they and the Morningstar analyst could put their cards on the table and have a debate.


NoLandGrab: Wonder what rating these analysts had on FCE stock 18 months ago, when it was trading above $70.

Posted by eric at 8:08 AM

Forest City fights back

Firm rebuts negative stock assessment

Cleveland Plain Dealer
by Michelle Jarboe

Forest City Enterprises Inc. on Wednesday strongly disagreed with a recent Morningstar Inc. article, saying the author's opinion that Forest City's stock is worthless was based on flawed assumptions and inaccurate interpretations of the company's debt obligations and its construction costs.

"We disagree in the strongest possible terms with Morningstar's opinion," spokesman Jeff Linton wrote in a statement. "Further, we are astonished and appalled that Morningstar would issue such an opinion without having made contact with Forest City."

Linton said no Morningstar representative has contacted or spoken to any senior-level executive at Forest City in two years. In a recent article, Morningstar analyst Matthew Coffina named Forest City among five stocks that he considered to have a fair value of zero. Five analysts who regularly cover Forest City have taken a neutral stance on the stock or expect it to perform slightly better than the market.

"We remain stable, with good liquidity and solid cash flow from our operations, and we have implemented a strategy to specifically address current market conditions," Linton said. Forest City shares closed Wednesday at $5.59, down 14 cents or 2.44 percent.


NoLandGrab: The market will ultimately decide who's right, but with large debt obligations coming due and the company giving away tickets to Nets' games, things don't look too rosy for Forest City.

Posted by eric at 7:56 AM

Via Ticketmaster, Nets tickets are free (with service charge)

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, if attendance in the NBA is about tickets distributed, then gate count is about getting fans in the seats to buy concessions, not what they paid to get there, right?

So the Nets are giving tickets away. An announcement on Ticketmaster:
As part of the Nets Tickets on Us Program, you are receiving this one time, complimentary* ticket offer to see the Nets take on some of the NBA's best at the IZOD Center. Simply select one of the home games listed below and you can receive up to two tickets to the game. It's about taking a break and enjoying a night out, courtesy of the Nets.

Valid on tickets regularly priced at: $110, $80, $76, $40, $20, and $15.


Posted by eric at 7:45 AM

December 25, 2008

A Lump of Coal From Forest City Ratner

Crappy Holidays From Forest City Ratner

Posted by steve at 12:00 PM

Merry Christmas - From DDDB

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn


*All I want for Christmas is my big bail out, My big bail out, see my big bail out. Gee, if I could only have my big bail out, Then I could wish you "Merry Boondoggle."

It seems so long since I could say, "Sheldon Silver sitting on a thistle." Gosh, oh gee, how happy I'd be If I could only whistle.

All I want for Christmas is my big bail out, My big bail out, see my big bail out. Gee, if I could only have my big bail out, Then I could wish you "Merry Boondoggle."

*"Sung to the tune of "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth"


Posted by steve at 11:35 AM

"New Improved Brooklyn" revisited more than 4.5 years later (with a hint about an architect helping Gehry)

Atlantic Yards Report

This is a look back at two articles in New York Magazine from April, 2004. The first article, "New Improved Brooklyn" gives us a chance to see what has happened to plans four years after the fact. The Atlantic Terminal Mall was built, but the planned arena (as well as any part of the proposed Atlantic Yards) has yet to appear. Likewise, the BAM Cultural District. Also, there have been a number of tower buildings built in downtown Brooklyn, but they are for housing, not the jobs that were promised when the area was rezoned.

Many of the issues that have made Atlantic Yards controversial are covered, including: Using Starchitect Frank Gehry as window dressing for yet another Bruce Ratner badly-designed development and the State pretense that a rezoning for the project footprint was needed to allow the area to develop. The lack of community input for the project is covered in the NY Mag article's conclusion:

Despite her sympathy for grand plans like Gehry's, Lange was skeptical in her conclusion: It shouldn’t take towers along the waterfront to recenter our mental maps of New York on the East River, not at Central Park. Brooklyn is already different, inextricably linked, but equal. It shouldn’t be back-office territory, but front-office space for smaller businesses. Those potential Williamsburg towers really are on the Fifth Avenue of the future. Enrique Norten’s library, Frank Gehry’s theater and arena are equivalent to Herzog & de Meuron’s South Bank Tate Modern—jewels in the setting that is Brooklyn, rather than alien presences.

The trick, then, for Brooklyn’s neighbors is to negotiate with the city, with the developers, with the architects, from a position of strength. Know neighborhood character, and admit its weaknesses. Point the Manhattan developers to real instances of blight. Look to the development that has been and is now already occurring, without benefit of tax breaks and zoning incentives.

The fear of Manhattanization is not, in this case, knee-jerk nimby-ism, but the sense that many chose to Brooklynize instead—to move here from other places, to stay here for multiple generations. What is attracting all this top-down money is work that has already been done by people happy to say, when asked at a party, No, I don’t live in New York. I live in Brooklyn. (Emphasis added)

The trick was that Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his allies never tried to let the neighbors negotiate.

Next, a review of an article from the same issue, "Don't You Be My Neighbor" which concludes with a kind of call to New Yorkers to become involved in development issues.

...The alternative to acceptance is community engagement in planning.

While many might see that engagement as dull and demanding, keep in mind that New York City as of now structurally inequipped; the community boards, which service areas the size of small cities, generally have just one professional staffer.


Posted by steve at 10:55 AM

Our Reasons to Love New York Magazine and Elected Politicians

Noticing New York

This blog entry begins as a commendation to New York Magazine for its coverage of Atlantic Yards and how it brought the development to the attention of many, and began the blog author's involvement in the Atlantic Yards fight.

We can’t write about the value of New York magazine without writing about the cover story they did on Atlantic Yards for their August 7, 2006 issue, with their “Ratzilla” “Battle for the Soul of Brooklyn” cover. (See: Mr. Ratner’s Neighborhood, Manipulative developers, shrill protesters, and a sixteen-tower glass-and-steel monster marching inexorably forward. What the battle for the soul of Brooklyn looks like—from right next door, By Chris Smith Published Aug 7, 2006.)

This cover story was where some people, including ourselves, were introduced to our first credible account of the Atlantic Yards tale. I was still responsible for legal affairs at the state finance authorities. We subscribe to New York magazine (basically since it was in its fledgling incarnation as part of the World Journal Tribune) but I had not read the story. It was brought to my attention in the office by other agency professionals. It was brought into my office noting that I would almost certainly find it a cause for alarm. Even then I did not read the story right away. When I did, I was quite concerned. It got may attention. I kept researching afterward. And there was lots worth researching. There is no better site for deep research on the subject than Atlantic Yards Report. The New York magazine piece was a wonderful initial introduction and overview.

The article ends with a hope for responsible actions on the part of elected officials. In this case, the elected's are personified by Councilman David Yassky.

Atlantic Yards Report ran a story today about how Forest City Ratner is speaking in terms of its being entitled to build Atlantic Yards (and by definition being entitled to a decades-long 30+ acre monopoly on this section of Brooklyn). (See: Wednesday, December 24, 2008, Who's in control? Forest City and the indirect subsidy value of its "entitlements.") Fact is, no one is proposing to build what was ever “approved,” there are no commitments from Ratner and there are no entitlements. (In fact, “entitlements” is a just a made up term. It stands for nothing legal and, at best, a claim upon politicians not the public.) The plug ought to be pulled now and the public funds should be retrieved just as Mr. Yassky says. Then perhaps Mr. Yassky can, as a candidate for City Comptroller, subsequently as City Comptroller Elect and then as City Comptroller start plugging those figures back into the city budget so they can be spent appropriately.


Posted by steve at 9:44 AM

Daily News: Forest City favors apartments at Atlantic Yards

Cleveland Plain Dealer
by Michelle Jarboe

Forest City's attempts to keep alive its proposed Atlantic Yards development are noted on the company's home turf.

The New York Daily News is reporting that Forest City Ratner is favoring apartments over condos during the first phase of its controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

The much-delayed project includes homes, offices, stores and a new arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team, of which Forest City is a partial owner. Though Forest City Ratner's parent, Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises Inc., has shelved most future development, executives recently have said they hope to move forward with Atlantic Yards; however, the project timeline is unclear, and recent comments from Forest City Chief Executive Officer Charles Ratner indicate that much of it hinges on the state of the credit markets.

In a report posted online late Tuesday, the Daily News said that Forest City Ratner told city and state officials Monday about new plans to build 900 apartments in three towers originally designed for condos and commercial space.


Posted by steve at 9:25 AM

It Came from the Blogosphere

A number of sources picked up on yesterday's Daily News story about a meeting in which an Atlantic Yards update was given to elected officials by Forest City Ratner.

MyDealBook, News Pearls: Debt in your stocking? more…

Now the troubled Atlantic Yards mega-development is turning wine into water…no, actually, condos into rentals…according to Jotham Sederstrom of the Daily News. Forest City Ratner informed the City and state of the new plan on Monday, the paper reports.

Odwet.com, Delay for Atlantic Yards’ Condo Plan

After work was abruptly stopped at the construction site earlier this month, another delay for the Atlantic Yards project has been announced. The Daily News reports that “Forest City Ratner officials told city and state officials at a private meeting on Monday it would shift focus away from pricey condominiums in favor of rental apartments during the first phase of construction.” About 900 rentals will be put in space originally meant for condos and commercial space. City Council David Yassky said, “Going rental is consistent with what other developers are doing elsewhere. That’s just what the market is dictating.” So, does that mean Frank Gehry will rehire some staff to design the rental units?

PlanNYC, Atlantic Yards Condos Instead Will Be Rentals

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner has decided to delay 900 condominiums. Citing the failing economy as cause of the delay, the developer will instead focus on creating 900 rental units in three towers. The shift has raised questions as to the status of the project's planned 1,950 condominiums. Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said that he views the delay as an opportunity to focus on affordable housing. Alternately, Councilman David Yassky said that he believes that Atlantic Yards will not go forward and that taxpayer money designated for it should be returned.

Gothamist, Delay for Atlantic Yards' Condo Plan

After work was abruptly stopped at the construction site earlier this month, another delay for the Atlantic Yards project has been announced. The Daily News reports that "Forest City Ratner officials told city and state officials at a private meeting on Monday it would shift focus away from pricey condominiums in favor of rental apartments during the first phase of construction." About 900 rentals will be put in space originally meant for condos and commercial space. City Council David Yassky said, "Going rental is consistent with what other developers are doing elsewhere. That's just what the market is dictating." So, does that mean Frank Gehry will rehire some staff to design the rental units?

HoopsVibe.com, Economy to Delay Move of Nets to Brooklyn

The crumbling economy has forced the developer of the controversial Atlantic Yards project to indefinitely delay as many as 900 condominiums and the project’s glitzy centerpiece. With the condo market tanking, Forest City Ratner officials told city and state officials at a private meeting on Monday it would shift focus away from pricey condominiums in favor of rental apartments during the first phase of construction.

"Going rental is consistent with what other developers are doing elsewhere," said Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights), who attended the meeting. "That’s just what the market is dictating."

The new plan calls for creating approximately 900 rental units in three towers formerly planned for condominium and commercial space, said several officials who attended the meeting at the Empire State Development Corp. office in lower Manhattan.

A combination of affordable and luxury rental apartments would be offered under the new plan, the officials were told.

Posted by steve at 9:00 AM

December 24, 2008

Atlantic Yards: Information Sharing Recordkeeping, Part 11 (Public AND Private Edition)

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB adds to its tally of examples of Forest City Ratner's unprecedented forthrightness.

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

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

Today The Daily News reports that Ratner is no longer planning on constructing condos in the first phase of his project, but rather only rentals (that's of course if he ever gets the money, land and legal right to build anything at all). The article reports that there was a "private meeting" amongst state officials, local pols and Ratner's people on Monday. What did the ever forthcoming Team Ratner have to say about all of this?

...It was unclear what will happen to the $4.2 billion project's original call for a total of 1,950 condominiums.

A Forest City Ratner spokesman declined to comment on the shift to rental apartments or details of the meeting.


Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

Details on AY housing point to 80/20 rentals, not condos, in a smaller Phase 1

Atlantic Yards Report

As far back as May, developer Forest City Ratner was planning to convert at least one of the first three residential towers on the Atlantic Yards arena block from condos to rental housing, a recognition of the tough lending and consumer market for condos--and of the opportunities in gaining tax-exempt financing.

That's the indication from a fact sheet prepared (but not actively distributed) to accompany the release in May of new designs for the arena block, as well as from news emanating from a meeting Monday between local officials and the Empire State Development Corporation.

The fact sheet stated that the first of the three residential buildings, the 34-story, 350-unit B2 (in red), would have 50% affordable housing--and thus participate in the New York City Housing Development Corporation's (NYC HDC) 50/30/20 program, involving 50% market rate, 30% subsidized for middle- and moderate-income households, and 20% subsidized for low-income households.

The fact sheet said nothing specific about the contours of the affordable housing for the other two buildings, known as B3 and B4 (the office tower known as B1, at left, is on indefinite hold as the developer searches for an anchor tenant), but it did state:
These buildings will all include significant amounts of affordable housing and, like B2, will also require securing tax-exempt bonds from the City and State.
(Emphasis added)

The New York State Housing Finance Agency (HFA) does not support 50/30/20 programs, but rather 80/20 programs, with 20% low-income housing and 80% market-rate rentals, as at the developer's 80 DeKalb Avenue project.

So B4, which at one point was to be more than twice as big as the first two buildings combined, would be an 80/20 building, according to reports I got from the meeting Monday.


Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

Who's in control? Forest City and the indirect subsidy value of its "entitlements"

Atlantic Yards Report

After that, Forest City Ratner gained its "entitlement," a word favored by Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner, a word that indicates that the developer controls the pace, a phrase used last month at a real estate industry conference.

Chuck Ratner, speaking to investment analysts on December 10, said, "Despite the slow-down, we retain our core development capacity, as well as a reservoir of entitled opportunities where we can re-start additional vertical development, largely on our schedule, with modest carrying costs. When conditions improve, we will be able to take advantage of these opportunities."
(Emphasis added)

As I wrote, the obligations, as so far expressed in the City and State Funding Agreements, give Forest City Ratner a long leash. The developer has 6 years after the delivery of property via eminent domain to build the arena and 12 years to build Phase 1--and can get away with building 44% less square footage than approved.

The penalties for a delayed arena for Phase 1 are quite modest. There's no timetable for Phase 2.

So the City and State Funding Agreements might be considered another form of indirect subsidy--a benefit to the developer without an actual outlay of government funds.


NoLandGrab: Back in the day, someone living off a bevy of entitlements was known as a "welfare queen."

Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

Developer of Atlantic Yards project delays condo plan

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

Forest City Ratner "officials" met with elected representatives on Monday to update them on the ailing Atlantic Yards project.

The new plan calls for creating approximately 900 rental units in three towers formerly planned for condominium and commercial space, said several officials who attended the meeting at the Empire State Development Corp. office in lower Manhattan.

A combination of affordable and luxury rental apartments would be offered under the new plan, the officials were told.

State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries asked Forest City to emphasize the affordable housing component in the new plan, but received no reply.

Others are thinking about a do-over:

"I don't believe the project approved by the state is going to be going forward anytime soon," said Yassky. "Forest City Ratner should return the taxpayer dollars, and start talking about what actually can be built."


NoLandGrab: In light of the developer's cash flow problems, it would be naive to believe that the development company will ever return funds to the taxpayer, though Yassky's sentiment about getting real about what can be built makes a lot of sense.

Prediction: Forest City will look for federal bailout money to keep the project alive and will concurrently undermine the affordable housing pact while claiming that they are not.

Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

Looking at the NBA's (and Nets') history of inflated attendance figures

Atlantic Yards Report

After guestimating a 25% fudge-factor for attendance-vs.-turnstile numbers at Nets games, Norman Oder did some more research and found that he wasn't that far off:

For instance, after the hoopla of the NJ Nets 2005 "sold out" home opener:

On 11/5/05, Neil Best of Newsday got some figures from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, reporting:

According to a turnstile count supplied to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, 15,504 people attended Wednesday's opener against the Bucks at Continental Airlines Arena.

The Nets made a point that night of announcing they had distributed 20,098 tickets, making it technically a sellout. But many tickets apparently went to corporate sponsors and were unused.

During a heated interview on WFAN on Thursday, CEO Brett Yormark estimated that 17,000 people attended the game and host Mike Francesa insisted there were no more than 15,000 there.

[WFAN's Mike] Francesa's "charitable" estimate was more accurate, according to the numbers, which represent a 23 percent reduction in attendance.


NoLandGrab: Putting the aside the difference between "attendance" and actual number of spectators who attended a game, it's Orwellian that a game can be "technically a sellout" when many NJ Nets tickets are being given away for free.

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

2008: Year in Review

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning posted the 2008 "the good," "the bad," and "the ongoing." Bruce Ratner's five-year-old Atlantic Yards megaproject threat made the top of the ongoing-and-going-and-going list, with other eminent domain abuses following close behind:

The Ongoing

  • Atlantic Yards: 2008 marked the fifth year since the Atlantic Yards project was announced. The spring and summer were busy times: local organizations held a rally opposing the project, and the Municipal Art Society imagined a partial buildout of the site as Atlantic Lots. In response, developer Bruce Ratner manufactured a pro-Atlantic Yards rally. By August, the footprint was a mess, the stadium opening date was pushed back again, and nine property owners were challenging the state’s proposed use of eminent domain in State Supreme Court. In September, the State Supreme Court rejected the ESDC’s motion to throw out the case, which will now be heard in spring 2009. Most recently, Ratner stopped all work at the site, citing the ongoing lawsuit and the financial meltdown, and local organizations called for an audit of public funding spent on the development.

  • Eminent Domain: A major issue in 2008, eminent domain came up regarding Atlantic Yards, Columbia University’s expansion into Manhattanville, and in the City’s redevelopment of Willets Point. In September, the Community-Based Planning Task Force testified for state senators who are examining eminent domain policy at the state level.


Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

Construction unions may finance building projects

Crain's NY Business

As Forest City Enterprises deals with cash flow woes and tries to keep plans for the Atlantic Yards megaproject alive, here's something to keep track of:

New York construction unions, anxious to keep their members employed as building in the city slows, are exploring starting a fund to help finance real estate projects.

Ed Malloy, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council, says the unions may put $100 million of pension fund money into a fund that would fund various construction projects. However, he said the unions would seek matching funds from the city and the state to create a fund of $300 million. A proposal will be sent to government officials next year.

“As the days go on you hear about more projects with financial problems and we really want to do something to help,” said Mr. Malloy.


Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

December 23, 2008

Good Jobs NY Press Release: Bloomberg’s Economic Development Office Announces Rushed Vote on More Bonds for Yankees’ and Mets’ Stadiums

Back Door Giuliani-Era Practice Revived

New York, December 23, 2009 – Good Jobs New York today denounced the New York City Industrial Development Agency (IDA) for announcing a rushed vote on $454 million in proposed additional tax-exempt financing for the new Yankee and Mets Stadiums.

In the wake of a statement by New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. assailing the IDA for scheduling the vote on Inauguration Day, the IDA has rescheduled the board vote for January 16, the day after the hearing, not the normal five days after. The rushed voting process revives the IDA’s practice of secretive and questionable economic development deals that were the norm during the Giuliani administration.

The new date for this important meeting gives IDA board members less than 24 hours to consider the testimony presented the previous day on two major projects that have been widely considered to be egregious corporate giveaways. This raises other transparency concerns such as:

  • Deviating from regular IDA calendar: The IDA’s hearing on proposed financing for the projects is being held outside the normal monthly public hearing calendar. The regularly scheduled IDA public hearing for January is on the 8th (where a separate project will be presented), while the board meeting originally slated on the 13th has been cancelled.
  • Weak board attendance: Since few IDA board members attend the agency’s required public hearings, it is unlikely that the majority of the board will have heard public testimony prior to voting on these two projects. Those members not in attendance must rely on copies of testimony submitted and the IDA staff’s reporting, as there are no stenographers at IDA hearings.

Moreover, the public financing scheme approved by the IDA in 2006 for the new Yankee Stadium is under investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Domestic Policy and by State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky. Earlier this month, for example, Brodsky revealed evidence that suggests communication between City and Yankees’ officials led the city to artificially inflate land values to support more bond debt.

“It is outrageous for the Bloomberg Administration to rush additional public financing for the wealthiest teams in baseball while city, state and federal legislators are grappling with the worst budget crisis in decades,” said Bettina Damiani, Project Director of Good Jobs New York. “How do entertainment corporations outrank the city’s infrastructure and employment needs?”

This rushed vote is a giant step backward for transparency at the IDA. In 2006, the IDA codified policies it had practiced since 2004 that made significant steps forward, including allowing more time between hearing and board meetings, and releasing cost benefit analyses and project applications five days prior to public hearings. These policies have enabled New Yorkers to participate in meaningful debate, as evident at IDA hearings when financing was proposed for various post 9/11 projects and for the initial allocation of tax-free financing for the Yankees and Mets, for example.

“We urge the IDA and the Bloomberg Administration to reschedule the vote until after the Inauguration, so board members have sufficient time to review public comments and IDA materials associated with the projects,” said Damiani.

Should the IDA board approve this financing, it will cost more than $80 million in lost tax revenue, bringing total public costs for both the Yankees and Mets deals to nearly $1.4 billion, with most going to the Yankee Stadium project.

The public hearing will be held at 10:00am on Thursday, January 15 at the IDA offices in Lower Manhattan, 110 William St., 4thFloor. The Board meeting to vote is currently scheduled for January 16 at 9:00am at the same address.

Posted by eric at 2:32 PM

Forest City Announces Major Milestones for Mesa del Sol Project

Forest City Enterprises via International Business Times

CLEVELAND, Dec. 22 — Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today announced two major milestones for Mesa del Sol, a 12,900-acre, mixed-use project in Albuquerque, N.M.

On Dec. 5, Mesa del Sol announced an agreement with Sandia National Laboratories to partner on research, development and demonstration of energy technologies in a real life environment at Mesa del Sol.

On Dec. 10, Mesa del Sol held a ribbon cutting ceremony for phase one of a new, 210,000-square-foot office building for a business unit of Fidelity Investments.

"Forest City and Mesa del Sol are proud to partner with Sandia, one of the nation's leading energy research and development laboratories, and Fidelity Investments, one of the world's largest providers of financial services, to create jobs and help ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for Albuquerque," said Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer, Forest City Enterprises. "These milestones demonstrate Forest City's continued success in delivering on our development pipeline and establishing vital partnerships with premier organizations for our large-scale, mixed-use urban communities."


Sandia National Laboratories

As part of the newly announced agreement, Sandia and Mesa del Sol will be able to advance technical work already underway toward the goal of achieving the nation's energy objectives and meeting national energy needs, while providing a foundation for job creation in the energy and sustainability fields.

Development of solar technologies will be one focus of the research and demonstration projects. Mesa del Sol is already home to solar industry companies SCHOTT Solar and Advent Solar.

The partnership will help Sandia meet Congressional and U.S. Department of Energy priorities for advancing alternative and renewable energy initiatives, with the added benefit of forming a valuable public/private partnership. While many of the projects will take place at Mesa del Sol, additional programs are also scheduled for Forest City's residential communities for military families in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Fidelity Investments building

The new office building, which sits on the north end of Mesa del Sol's Innovation Park, is fully leased to Fidelity's Human Resource Services business, which provides corporate clients with payroll, health and welfare and other human resources services.

In January, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson announced that Fidelity would become a tenant at Mesa del Sol. The new building was erected in less than 12 months, and Fidelity employees are currently moving in to the new facility. Initially, 300 Fidelity associates will work at the new building, with 1,250 expected at full occupancy. Phase two of the building will be ready for the tenant in 2009.

The Fidelity building was designed to achieve LEED Silver certification, but is now anticipated to earn a Gold certification instead, making it the first LEED Gold office building at Mesa del Sol. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to guide sustainable construction and renovations.

About Mesa del Sol

Mesa del Sol is being developed by Forest City Covington NM, LLC, a joint venture between Forest City NM, LLC, a subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, and Covington NM, LLC, an affiliate company of Covington Capital Corporation. For more information, visit Mesa del Sol's Web site at http://www.mesadelsolnm.com.

About Forest City

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. is a $10.9-billion, NYSE-listed national real estate company. The Company is principally engaged in the ownership, development, management and acquisition of commercial and residential real estate and land throughout the United States. For more information, visit the Company's Web site at http://www.forestcity.net.

Posted by eric at 1:15 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Atlantic Yards Report, Was the Izod Center 81.6% full last night?

The announced attendance at the Izod Center last night, when the New Jersey Nets met the Houston Rockets, was 16,303, meaning that the arena, which has an official capacity of 19,968 (and peaked last year at 19,990), was 81.6% full.

This photograph from the first quarter shows a good number of seats full in part of the upper bowl--"there was some extra juice in the building," wrote the Record's Al Iannazzone--but many empty seats closer to the floor.

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog], Atlantic Yards Foes Says Nets Not Much of a Draw

Now critics are saying that the Nets, the Jersey NBA franchise whose planned removal to Atlantic Yards is supposed to be a great boon to the area, may not be drawing so well.

Unbeige, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project Stalls, Frank Gehry Forced to Lay Off Entire Design Staff

Back in April, you might remember that a bevy of Brooklynites took to the streets to protest Bruce Ratner's plans to redevelop big swaths of Brooklyn with the help of Frank Gehry at the design wheel. While those efforts didn't really have much effect on the construction plans, who could have guessed that the economy would have swung the way of the protesters and done their bidding for them?

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Zero means zero

Morningstar tried to put it delicately and hedged enough to say things could change, improving the companies' fortunes, but in the end there was no polite way out: "If we think a stock is worthless, there's no point in saying otherwise," the investment research company said in a recent report.

Posted by eric at 12:47 PM

Genius or desperation (or both)? Nets unload 100,000 tickets via Saveology.com

Atlantic Yards Report

If you can't actually sell your tickets, try giving them away to "people in-need."

Saveology.com™, a consumer comparison-shopping portal based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, has announced "it has purchased 100,000 Nets ticket vouchers that are being distributed to charities, hospitals, and people in-need in the New York metropolitan area, as well as to Saveology.com customers."

"During this sharp economic downturn we felt it was important to provide people with the opportunity to enjoy attending a Nets game on us," said Saveology.com CEO Benny Aboud in the press release. "This initiative also will enable our customers to attend Nets games and to receive future promotions, as well. We are thrilled with our partnership with the Nets as we continue our goal to help people."
(Emphasis added)

Besides helping people, Saveology.com is seeking customer leads: those "who sign up for tickets will have the chance to receive beneficial information on how to save on their essential services, which include home phone service, Internet, wireless phones, insurance, home security, moving services, and more."

Nets CEO Brett Yormark called it "a major investment by Saveology.com;" unmentioned in the press release was the discount the Nets offered. It's unlikely the team charged Saveology much to give away tickets to "people in need." For the Nets, the advantage comes in filling seats that otherwise seem empty, and with concession sales.


NoLandGrab: Are people really "in-need" of Nets' tickets?

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

morningstarrating.gifAs analysts call Forest City Enterprises stock worthless, local elected officials get a vague update on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

In light of ongoing lawsuits, federal intervention in the credit markets and the news that Morningstar just rated Forest City Enterprises' stock as worthless, Norman Oder speculates about the development company's options for more subsidies and delays for Atlantic Yards, and concludes, "if Forest City Ratner seems to be fighting hard to maintain Atlantic Yards, it may be because the parent company itself is at stake."


Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Developers, too, ask for bailout as massive debt looms

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Michelle Jarboe added some details about Forest City Enterprises to the Wall St. Journal story on the commercial real estate sector's need for fast credit:

Forest City has not taken a lead role in this campaign, but company executives have discussed the lobbying efforts with trade associations, said spokesman Jeff Linton. Forest City faces more than $2.1 billion in debt maturities through Jan. 31, 2011, according to a recent regulatory filing. About half of that had been dealt with as of Dec. 2 or can be extended, but Forest City still must refinance more than $1 billion in debt during the next 25 months.

"In a general sense, we're supportive of anything that will help to get the credit markets working again," Linton said. "And if the idea of having some aspect of a government loan guarantee or some other involvement by the federal government helps improve the perception of risk associated with lending for commercial real estate . . . we're certainly all for that."

A spokeswoman for Developers Diversified did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Rich Moore, an analyst who follows Forest City and Developers Diversified, said he had not heard about the companies making requests for assistance from the government or the Federal Reserve. But, he said, real estate developers and owners need to try every possible measure to get debt during this credit crunch. "It's less about 'How good are my properties?' and 'How strong are my tenants?,' and more about 'Will somebody please make me a loan?,'" said Moore, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets in Solon.


NoLandGrab: The Federal Government has been doing all it can to get the credit markets working again, but it appears that some real estate developers are more highly leveraged than others. However, the one commercial real estate developer renowned for its expertise in lining up subsidies (aka "corporate welfare") has assumed what might be a catastrophic amount of debt — might the two be related?

Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

Atlantic Yards: "modest initiative"

Talking Points Memo Café

In an article entitled "Bloomberg Not Blue Enough For New York," reporter Ethan Porter reviews NYC Mayor Bloomberg's legacy, including the real estate follies:

Both the Olympic bid and the West Side stadium proposal generated reams of newspaper headlines and volumes of architectural schematics, but no finished products. Even a more modest initiative, the Atlantic Yards Project, which would create a basketball arena in Brooklyn, has gone absolutely nowhere. And of course, Ground Zero has sat dormant throughout Bloomberg's entire administration.


NoLandGrab: Porter falls victim to the persistent Atlantic Yards media lethargy.

Since when does the largest single-source private developement project in New York City history rate as "modest?" If built to the planned scale, Atlantic Yards would be the densest residential community in the nation.

Just because the press has been modest in its coverage of the $4 billion arena and 16-high-rise megaproject, doesn't make it "more modest" than the $1.4 billion football stadium.

Posted by lumi at 4:42 AM

December 22, 2008

Five More Stocks with Zero Value

We'd prefer a pack of gum to these businesses.

by Matthew Coffina

Here's the original report from Morningstar, picked up yesterday by The Washington Post.

Last month, we highlighted five stocks, each with a fair value that we estimated at a nice, round "zero." Since then, zero-dollar fair value estimates have experienced a virtual renaissance, with the total number of such calls more than doubling to 32 (Click here to see a full list). I thought this phenomenon merited a second look, so this month, we present five more stocks that look completely worthless to Morningstar's team of analysts.

Before diving into this month's picks, there are two things I'd like to address. Last time, an adoring fan sent me an e-mail to express just how valuable he found my article--about as valuable as the featured stocks. He had a valid point though. So what if we think these stocks are worthless? What are you, as an investor, supposed to do about it?

Well, we probably wouldn't recommend shorting these stocks. In many cases, the share prices have already fallen near zero, leaving little upside and potentially infinite downside. Also, put options are rarely available at a strike price that would make them worthwhile.

As with most of our 1-star calls, the primary intended audience is the company's existing shareholders. After all, if you can sell something worth $0 for 50 cents, you're getting a terrific deal. Besides, our primary goal in generating fair value estimates is to be as accurate as possible given the available information. If we think a stock is worthless, there's no point in saying otherwise.

Forest City Enterprises (FCE.A)
From the Analyst Report: "At nearly 83%, Forest City's debt/total gross PP&E is much higher than peers'. With EBITDA/interest expense expected to dip below 1 times during the next three years, Forest City could face severe financial distress, since it may need to refinance debt at ever-increasing interest rates while operating cash flow declines."


NoLandGrab: Another audience that ought to be paying close attention — beyond current FCE shareholders — is those New York State and NYC elected officials contemplating shoveling more taxpayer money at the company's stalled Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 4:45 PM

Not Worth the Paper They're Printed On

The Washington Post
by Steven Levingston

One of the world's most-respected investment-research firms doesn't think the company behind Atlantic Yards is in very good shape.

Morningstar tried to put it delicately and hedged enough to say things could change, improving the companies' fortunes, but in the end there was no polite way out: "If we think a stock is worthless, there's no point in saying otherwise," the investment research company said in a recent report.

The company presented five stocks that its team of analysts deemed to have a fair value of zero. Morningstar stock analyst Matthew Coffina pointed out that the company made similar calls on several stocks in mid-2005, with mixed results. Back then, two companies whose stocks it targeted, Delphi and Delta Air Lines, filed for bankruptcy protection. Three others, Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea, Elan and AK Steel, soared afterward before plummeting again. "I'd ... like to emphasize the perils of making $0 fair value calls," he writes.

That said, he also says it's important to point out that if shareholders can sell what Morningstar deems a worthless stock now for, say, 50 cents, they have gotten themselves a good deal. In introducing the worthless stocks, Coffina said, "We think equity holders in the following companies would be better off investing in dinner and a movie, as a break from this wretched economy."

Forest City Enterprises: Severe financial distress, slowing operating cash flow, may need to refinance debt at high rates.


NoLandGrab: Despite Forest City Enterprises' precarious financial state, New York State and New York City elected officials still seem intent on throwing precious public dollars at the company's Atlantic Yards project, while paying lip service to the need for drastic belt-tightening.

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

Forest City Celebrates the Opening of Hamel Mill Lofts

Forest City Enterprises via PR Newswire

CLEVELAND, Dec. 19 -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc.(NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today celebrated the opening of the first building at Hamel Mill Lofts, a collection of high-end, historically renovated rental apartment buildings in Haverhill, Mass.

"Hamel Mill Lofts is a great project in a great location that emphasizes our Company's commitment to Sustainability through the adaptive re-use of a historic, century-old shoe factory complex," said Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Forest City Enterprises. "The completion of phase one of Hamel Mill Lofts further demonstrates Forest City's ability to deliver on its construction pipeline, even during our country's current economic recession."


NoLandGrab: Here's a more local example of Forest City's "commitment to Sustainability through the adaptive re-use of a historic, century-old... factory complex."

Phase two of Hamel Mill Lofts is scheduled to be completed in 2009.

"We are excited to bring another quality Forest City development to the greater Boston area, one of our Company's core markets," said David Levey, executive vice president of East Coast development, Forest City Residential Group. "Haverhill has several qualities we look for in the cities we choose to work in. The downtown is situated near a scenic river and right next to the highway, and we're right across the street from a commuter rail station. Hamel Mill Lofts showcases smart growth development at its best."

For the community, Forest City utilized historic and low-income housing tax credits, in addition to the State of Massachusetts' Smart Growth Zoning tool that promotes sustainable development.

Hamel Mill Lofts is currently leasing, with the first residents moving in earlier this month. For leasing information, visit http://hamelmilllofts.com or call 978-372-5638.

Amenities at Hamel Mill Lofts include a WiFi cafe, theater room, fitness center and landscaped courtyards, along with ample on-site parking. The apartment homes at Hamel Mill Lofts feature three different finish packages, more than 40 floor plans, along with state-of-the-art kitchens, energy-efficient appliances, in-suite washers and dryers, open-beamed ceilings and large windows.

About Forest City

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. is a $10.9-billion, NYSE-listed national real estate company. The Company is principally engaged in the ownership, development, management and acquisition of commercial and residential real estate and land throughout the United States. For more information, visit the Company's Web site at http://www.forestcity.net.

Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

Developers Ask U.S. for Bailout as Massive Debt Looms

The Wall Street Journal
by LingLing Wei and Jon Hilsenrath

What took them so long? Used to printing money and responsible in large part for the global credit crisis, the real estate industry now wants the taxpayers to bail them out. You can bet that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises will be near the head of the soup line.

With a record amount of commercial real-estate debt coming due, some of the country's biggest property developers have become the latest to go hat-in-hand to the government for assistance.

They're warning policymakers that thousands of office complexes, hotels, shopping centers and other commercial buildings are headed into defaults, foreclosures and bankruptcies. The reason: according to research firm Foresight Analytics LCC, $530 billion of commercial mortgages will be coming due for refinancing in the next three years -- with about $160 billion maturing in the next year. Credit, meanwhile, is practically nonexistent and cash flows from commercial property are siphoning off.

Unlike home loans, which borrowers repay after a set period of time, commercial mortgages usually are underwritten for five, seven or 10 years with big payments due at the end. At that point, they typically need to be refinanced. A borrower's inability to refinance could force it to give up the property to the lender.

Real-estate owners are pressing the government to take preemptive action before thousands of properties begin to fail. Among those who have been active in the lobbying effort: William Rudin, whose family is a large Manhattan office-building owner, Stephen Ross, chief executive of The Related Cos., a major U.S. developer, and Steven Roth, chief executive of office and retail landlord Vornado Realty Trust.

article [Subscription required]

NoLandGrab: Forest City Enterprises has a $177 million AY-related debt obligation to Gramercy Capital coming due in early February, and you can bet they don't have the cash to pay it off.

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

Jay it ain't so

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Inspired by a recent Daily News column, and by Jay-Z himself, DDDB lays down its own Atlantic Yards-inspired rhymes.

Hova owning less than point oh one/
But always out in front having all the fun/
Don't count your chickens before they hatch/
BR's boondoggle gonna fail? Whaddya think...'natch!


Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

Atlantic Yards Brooklyn, a big project falling down?

Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

Preservationist/Urbanist/Transportation Advocate/Blogger Richard Layman catches his readers up on the latest Atlantic Yards news.

The crunch in the real estate market brings some hope to some of us, those who have been working against certain ill-conceived big projects requiring massive public subsidies, land, condemnation, and/or displacement.

Earlier this week, a goodly number of the architects designing the Atlantic Yards project under the direction of Frank Gehry were laid off.

Cheap money enables bad projects.

When money isn't cheap anymore, quality matters, and bad deals fade away if they haven't already broken ground....


Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

Confidential but not at all correct: the latest AY footprint ownership map

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder unveils a "confidential" map of the footprint.

Two years after the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) produced a deceptive map regarding the ownership and control of property within the Atlantic Yards footprint, developer Forest City Ratner (I believe) has produced an updated version of the map that maintains the deceptions and adds some more.

Most notably, the developer's foothold has actually grown more tenuous, since FCR two years ago claimed it owned or controlled 90 percent of the land needed for the project, but the map now claims 86 percent, based spuriously on "recent acquisitions."

It also omits the public streets that would be demapped for the project.

The following map, dated August 2008 and titled Brooklyn Arena and Atlantic Yards Block and Lot Map, was passed on by a reader. While I can't be certain of its provenance, the statement "All information is to the best of FCRC's knowledge" strongly suggests that the document was provided by the developer, or at least based on information it provided.

I'm not sure why the map's producers claim it's "Privileged & Strictly Confidential," given that it reproduces (though incorrectly) public information. (Click to enlarge.)


Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

Looking Ahead to the New Year

Gotham Gazette asked some notable New Yorkers for their predictions for 2009.

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject was on the minds of City Councilmember Letitia James and Julia Vitullo-Martin of the Manhattan Institute:

City Councilmember Letitia James

Atlantic Yards will not be built.

Julia Vitullo-Martin, senior fellow, the Manhattan Institute

The city looks a little bit better off than it actually is. Major projects all over New York are slowing or stopping altogether. The most mesmerizing are the highly subsidized, politically favored, allegedly private sector projects, for which Atlantic Yards is the poster child. Forest City Ratner has halted work and laid off staff while asking for even more government subsidy. Will our elected officials really have the gall to raise our already excessively high taxes while directing hundreds of millions of dollars more into Bruce Ratner's sink hole in downtown Brooklyn?

Let's hope that 2009 becomes the year in which corporate socialism, and its bloated projects, is ended in New York once and for all.


Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Sports Business Daily: Ratner a person to watch in 2009

Atlantic Yards Report

Sports Business Daily included NJ Nets owner and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner in their list of people to watch in 2009.

The third name listed:

NETS OWNER BRUCE RATNER: Everyone remains intrigued by the prospect of an NBA team in Brooklyn, but can Ratner fight back the legal opposition and a sour economy to pull off the Atlantic Yards project?

Ratner's inclusion was notable, given that only one other sports team owner was part of the list. That suggests that the Brooklyn controversy is significantly on the national sports radar.


Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

December 21, 2008

Jay it ain't so

NY Daily News
Filip Bondy

Saying Jay-Z is a confident dude might be an understatement. (Wouldn't you be confident with Beyonce (r.) on your arm?) But the hiphop mogul and minority Nets owner might have jumped the gun when he bragged about relocating the team to Brooklyn on his new single, "Brooklyn Go Hard."

On the track, Jay-Z rhymes: "I father, I Brooklyn Dodger them/I Jack/ I Rob/ I sin/Ah man, I'm Jackie Robinson/ except when I run base, I dodge the pen/Lucky me, Luckily they didn't get me/Now when I bring the Nets I'm the black Branch Rickey."

Slow down, there Z. Of course Rickey was the Major League Baseball executive, who signed Jackie Robinson to break MLB's color barrier.

But Jay-Z might have spoken too soon.

This past Wednesday, officials with Nets owner Bruce Ratner's company conceded that the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn has been put off indefinitely for financial reasons. At least Jay-Z still has Beyonce.


Posted by amy at 11:47 AM

A Private War


Bill Moyers Journal

Forest City appears on a list of private companies bidding for military housing government contracts in a Bill Moyer's expose. Why would Forest City be interested?

In the Bush administration you have a wish to turn over to private industry the business of government. In turning over of government to private industry, to release them from oversight. There is a lot of logic behind the idea, one of the logics is that, if only government were to operate like private industry, then government would be a more efficient operation. But if you think about it, what if they spent money like the executives of Lehman Brothers and Enron? Do we really want our governments operating like that?
It's a very good deal, because you get homes for free to manage, and to collect rents on, you get up front money from the taxpayer and the rents are provided by the taxpayer because those are in the form of housing allowances given to military personnel. They are going to control that property for 50 years.


Posted by amy at 11:39 AM

TODAY: Dec. 21 DDDB Holiday Party - You're Invited!

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB Holiday Party 2008


Posted by steve at 11:30 AM

Lupica on Yankee Stadium: "It's a wonderful lie" (and NY mag on "perversely perfect symbols")

Atlantic Yards Report

Most of Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica's column today, headlined It's a wonderful lie, concerns the revelations, many from his collegue, Metro columnist Juan Gonzalez, about the strange and sudden leap in the valuation of the land under Yankee Stadium.

He writes:
So how come no politician in New York except Rep. Richard Brodsky seems to be asking the questions and carrying the fight on this? Or maybe the cozy relationship between the Yankees and City Hall that began when Yankee groupie Rudy Giuliani was mayor was turned over to Bloomberg like a well-turned double play. As always with the current mayor, pay close attention to what he does, not what he says.

And I'll add: And will any politician look closely at the valuation of the land under the Atlantic Yards arena, assuming the construction plan and issuance of tax-exempt bonds moves forward?


Posted by amy at 11:17 AM

As Columbia plan gets approved, a fight over blight and eminent domain emerges

Atlantic Yards Report looks at the Columbia plan's approval, and an article in the Weekly Standard by Jonathan V. Last:

Last thinks, as did AY opponents in their case, that the Supreme Court's Kelo v. New London case may have an impact on the Columbia case. No, Sprayregen won't be able to establish that the ESDC was engaged in “impermissible favoritism” toward Columbia, given that such a designation is much more likely in a trial court. (That's why the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn-organized lawsuit was first filed in federal court.)

Last thinks Sprayregen can argue that Columbia’s plan, unlike that endorsed in Kelo, is not “comprehensive” because Columbia has not made firm plans for the site. I'm not so sure; I suspect that the state will argue that the framework, at least, is comprehensive, and courts will defer to that.

And while courts have readily agreed to included non-blighted property to create contiguous sites, writes Last:
the Court has not been confronted with a case in which the neighborhood blight was directly caused by the party seeking the benefit of eminent domain.


Posted by amy at 11:10 AM

Shovel Ready Xmas/Gifting Our Public Servants

Blogger News Network
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Though not elected or appointed, the news media also qualifies for the public servant gift list. Hey hey they’re the fifth estate. And they often partake of government powered development deals– another servant status symbol. Many truth tellers deserve gifts. Remember coverage of the lead-up to Iraq? Celebration of the housing bubble? How about glaring omissions in local corruption stories? Alas. List space is limited. Gotta go with a biggie.

For the New York Times, the gift of forgiveness (tis the season) from unhappy investors and employees fired in the name of cost cutting. Sure, erecting a behemoth new headquarters (52 stories, 1.5 million square feet) in midtown Manhattan and sinking capital into owning 58% of the Xanadu wasn’t a great idea. (Developer Forest City Ratner owns the rest, albeit with a mortgage.) Newspapers are facing uncertain times. Still, the Times and Ratner did get help from the state in obtaining the prime land. Think eminent domain. The right of government to take private property for public use projects. Why deem a private real estate deal “public use”? Ask anyone sleeping on a park bench. The Times cuts wind.

Speaking of wind, December marked the fourth anniversary of the announcement by Forest City Ratner of their plans for the massive Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. The project has received tons of government assistance, including the use of eminent domain. Yet Atlantic Yards is mired. Eonomic realty is a Grinch. Ratner wants more welfare FAST. Resistors in nabes rolled over by Rat send a shout out: Happy Landgrabiversary! They’re also tossing a holiday bash


Posted by amy at 11:07 AM

December 20, 2008

Yards party


The Brooklyn Paper

Sunday, December 21: Opponents of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project aren’t all walkathons and charette reports. These people know how to have fun, too. Case in point, the Develop Don’t Destroy holiday party today at Freddy’s. Not only is it a chance to hang out with people who don’t like Bruce Ratner, but you can also have a few drinks in a historic bar.
4–7 pm. Freddy’s Bar & Backroom [485 Dean St., at Sixth Avenue in Prospect Heights, (718) 622-7035].


Posted by amy at 4:40 PM

With Senate candidate and transportation policy, new politics look like old politics

Atlantic Yards Report

First, the ascension of Caroline Kennedy as the front-runner for the soon-to-be-free Senate seat in New York has already drawn the endorsement of Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, support from Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and will involve the influential consultants Knickerbocker SKD, who work for Bloomberg, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and--of course--Forest City Ratner.


Posted by amy at 4:32 PM

Good game, bad weather, low attendance for the Nets

Atlantic Yards Report

Given that last night began the weekend and the New Jersey Nets were playing the Dallas Mavericks, to whom fading star Nets point guard Jason Kidd was traded earlier this year for emerging star Devin Harris (and more), the Izod Center should have drawn a crowd larger than the 15,621 average.

However, due to some lousy weather, many people stayed home and the Nets drew an announced 9889 people to watch what Nets Daily described as Harris Scorches Kidd and Mavs, a sign that the trade has worked out quite well.
The AP reported:
With so many seats unfilled, the Nets allowed fans sitting in the upper section to move to the lower bowl during a second-quarter timeout.

Is that the future of crowd management in low-attendance arenas? I suspect it will be reserved for special cases, like last night. Otherwise it runs the risk of making those paying full freight feel like suckers.


Posted by amy at 4:28 PM

Curbed Week in Review: Gehry Layoffs, The Ponz's Epic, General Growth Selling, More



Prospect Heights: Starchitect Frank Gehry laid off two dozen staffers working on the Atlantic Yards job on the day before Thanksgiving and word is they didn't even get severance pay. Word also is that developer Bruce Ratner was paying the bills for revisions to the project.

NoLandGrab: One Curbed commenter noticed that Gehry and Madoff have more in common than just having a bad week...they might actually be "separated at birth."

Posted by amy at 4:22 PM

It Was Fun Till the Money Ran Out

NY Times

WHO knew a year ago that we were nearing the end of one of the most delirious eras in modern architectural history? What’s more, who would have predicted that this turnaround, brought about by the biggest economic crisis in a half-century, would be met in some corners with a guilty sense of relief?

Before the financial cataclysm, the profession seemed to be in the midst of a major renaissance. Architects like Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, and Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, once deemed too radical for the mainstream, were celebrated as major cultural figures. And not just by high-minded cultural institutions; they were courted by developers who once scorned those talents as pretentious airheads.

Firms like Forest City Ratner and the Related Companies, which once worked exclusively with corporations that were more adept at handling big budgets than at architectural innovation, seized on these innovators as part of a shrewd business strategy. The architect’s prestige would not only win over discerning consumers but also persuade planning boards to accede to large-scale urban projects like, say, Mr. Gehry’s Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

But somewhere along the way that fantasy took a wrong turn. As commissions multiplied for luxury residential high-rises, high-end boutiques and corporate offices in cities like London, Tokyo and Dubai, more socially conscious projects rarely materialized. Public housing, a staple of 20th-century Modernism, was nowhere on the agenda. Nor were schools, hospitals or public infrastructure. Serious architecture was beginning to look like a service for the rich, like private jets and spa treatments.

Atlantic Yards Report points out that Ouroussoff "doesn't mention Atlantic Yards, which, though mostly luxury housing, would contain a considerable amount of subsidized housing--albeit much not accessible to the average Brooklyn household."

Posted by amy at 4:17 PM

December 19, 2008

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, The Madoff Mess and Real Estate

One developer apparently not affected by the Ponzi scheme is Bruce Ratner; not sure if you guys will think that's good news or bad.

NoLandGrab: Given the fact that the Atlantic Yards project has already taken in hundreds of millions in public subsidies, and that Forest City Ratner has torn down half of the Carlton Avenue bridge, not to mention half the neighborhood, and that they've stopped all work, and that they're trying to renegotiate their payments to the MTA and to Gramercy Capital, and they're trying to accelerate payments from NYC and grab even more taxpayer money — they're kind of running their own Ponzi scheme, aren't they?

Draft Express, Nenad Krstic to Oklahoma City?

It’s important to note that Krstic is currently a restricted free agent, with his NBA rights still held by the New Jersey Nets. With the Nets having 15 guaranteed contracts on their roster, and a deep frontline (with seven players who are either power forwards or centers), it’s expected that they will not match Oklahoma City’s offer sheet. The team is trying to maintain as much cap space as possible for the summer of 2010, and the third year on Krstic’s deal would hinder them in that regard.

The team is in a big financial crunch, as shares of Nets owner Bruce Ratner’s company, Forest City Enterprises, have fallen 92% in a year and a half, from $70 to just under 6$, and the team has laid off employees (even in the front office) as recently as last week. Forest City reported losses of 30 million dollars on the Nets over the first nine months of 2008. A number of articles released recently again put in question the feasibility of the Atlantic Yards project, which would move the Nets to Brooklyn in 2011.

Joshing Politics, ESDC Claims Eminent Domain To Help Expand Columbia University

Robert Moses may be dead, but his legacy lives on here in New York City. Eminent domain has been increasingly and severely abused by local and state governments to help their favored private interests gain certain properties. We've seen it in the failed attempt to build Atlantic Yards and in Uptown Manhattan. While Bruce Ratner and Frank Gehry's hopes of the reshaping Brooklyn go down the tubes, the battle to expand Columbia University into Manhattanville is raging.

Posted by eric at 1:42 PM

Forest City gets more time to show Fresno the goods

Fresno Bee
by Bill McEwen

Not that long ago, Forest City Enterprises was the sexiest new name in Fresno.

The Ohio-based developer brought a record of success, urban expertise and financial clout to town.

Most of all, Forest City had the star power that appeared important in rebuilding downtown Fresno and capitalizing on taxpayer investment in the downtown stadium.

Mayor Alan Autry loved Forest City and the City Council loved Forest City. Soon the media were producing stories about the amazing transformation that might occur south of the stadium and chasing Fresno's attempts to land an anchor tenant such as Bass Pro Shops or IKEA to spur retail development.

Now, not quite five years later, the national economy is in free fall, Forest City is no longer flush with money and the company's good name is just as likely to elicit yawns -- or anger -- as excitement in Fresno.

But fear not, Fresnonians — Forest City is pressing on, with the help of its government backers and, if it gets lucky, more public subsidies.

But the City Council -- at least the one that listened to Smartt's report -- still sort of loves Forest City. On Tuesday, it wisely extended the firm's exclusive negotiating agreement for the South Stadium Project for another six months into mid-2009.

What does six months buy Forest City and Fresno taxpayers?

Time for Forest City to pursue state and federal money to close an estimated $100 million financing hole in the $300 million project.


Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

Trouble spot: Nets' attendance should be on the NBA's (and Times's) radar

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on this morning's NY Times story on NBA teams struggling at the turnstile.

Missing from the article is any mention of the New Jersey Nets, which should be very close to that bottom fifth. Consider that the Indiana Pacers are drawing 14,180 fans, or 78.06% in an arena with the capacity of 18,165.

The announced Nets' attendance is just a fraction better. As of today, the Nets are averaging 15,621 fans, or 78.14% in an arena with the capacity of 19,990, a very slight decrease from last year's average of 15,657. (I had previously listed 19,968 as the capacity.)

That's a marginal distinction. Not only that, the Times acknowledges the capacity to fudge the numbers:
(N.B.A. teams report attendance based on tickets distributed, not turnstile counts. The latter figure is not publicly available.)

I suspect the Nets are as good as fudging the numbers as anybody, maybe better. After all, one of the issues facing the Nets is similar to that facing the suffering Kings, as the Times described it:
On top of everything else, the Kings are in a political battle for a new arena, and fans are nervous that they will leave.

Before the season ends, the Times should follow up on the "trouble spot" in its own backyard.


Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

Indirect subsidies: how Forest City Ratner might save another $8 million (and a whole lot more)

Atlantic Yards Report has a must-read post for those who are trying to "follow the money."

Norman Oder explains how the value of subsidies for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject have already been lowballed. Plus, he identifies another area where NYC is on the hook for unspecified millions:

For example, I estimated last month that Forest City gained nearly $55 million when the city reimbursed the developer $100 million for property in the AY footprint for which it spent $103.5 million--but was more likely worth $158.1 million.

And think I've identified another $8 million, given the transfer of city streets and the conveyance of city property for just one dollar.

Beyond that, the use in project documents of a term known as "extraordinary infrastructure costs"--which Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has aptly called "a blank check"--leaves open the possibility of much more public subsidy.


Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

Good timing, bad timing on AY naming rights deal, arena subcontractors, and construction materials

Atlantic Yards Report

Apparently, there's an upside to the current market turmoil:

The Barclays Center naming rights deal for the Atlantic Yards arena, announced in January 2007, was clearly good timing for the Nets, with a record deal reported at $400 million over 20 years.

When Barclays announced its recommitment last month, neither the bank nor Forest City Ratner made clear that deal had been maintained at the same dollar value. I had suggested that Barclays had had some leverage to renegotiate.
The announced cost projected for the planned Atlantic Yards arena went up 50% since project approval in December 2006. Then again, in the last few months, the number likely has declined from the $950 million figure disclosed in March.


Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

In Some N.B.A. Arenas, the Crowds Are Thin

The NY Times
By Howard Beck

Over all, N.B.A. attendance is flat — about a half-percent higher than at this point last season on a per-game basis. Cumulatively, arenas are at about 89 percent of capacity, on par with last season.

Given the recession, league officials are actually encouraged. They do not expect a significant increase or a significant decrease in attendance this season.

Still, it is hard to ignore the thousands of empty seats at Arco Arena and Conseco Fieldhouse, or anecdotal reports that things are worse than the official numbers indicate. (N.B.A. teams report attendance based on tickets distributed, not turnstile counts. The latter figure is not publicly available.)


NoLandGrab: Tickets "distributed," not even sold, which likely means that hundreds or even thousands of people who are getting free or deeply discounted Nets tickets aren't bothering to go.

Though the article briefly surveys the league, it's no shocker that Times business partner and NJ Nets owner Bruce Ratner gets a complete pass.

For commentary on NJ Nets attendance, you have to check out the NY Daily News, The Star-Ledger, and most recently, Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

Strike Two? Not So Fast

The Architect's Newspaper Blog
By Matt Chaban

First Laurie Olin, now Frank Gehry. That was the news earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal reported that the Santa Monica-based architect had laid off “more than two dozen” staffers involved with Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project. What followed was a string of cheers predicting the troubled Brooklyn mega-development’s demise. After all, how could it go on without its signature starchitecture?

The point is that, while the layoffs could be another possible death knell for Atlantic Yards, they could also simply be the economizing of one of many architects in dire straights at the moment. Were Gehry forced to fire some employees, why not look to the project that is on hold? In other words, there are greater forces at work here, so don’t necessarily read too much into any layoffs.

That is, of course, assuming the designs are finished and ready to go and the architect and developer are still on good terms, both of which the Daily News called into question today.


NoLandGrab: Fair enough; even though developer Bruce Ratner and designer Frank Gehry are acting like the project is dead, Atlantic Yards could just be in a coma and you'd have to be a trained professional examining the actual patient to know the difference.

Posted by lumi at 4:43 AM

Would Gehry's staffers come back after the credit markets unfreeze?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Architect's Newspaper warns against reading too much into Frank Gehry's laying off staff members working on the Atlantic Yards project.

AN's Matt Chaban quotes Kermit Baker: "What we’re seeing, as a result of the credit freeze, is a lot of projects, even a lot of good projects, being put on hold. Once the credit markets begin to unfreeze, though, a lot of this work will come back."

Baker was not speaking directly about AY, but Chaban suggests that situation could apply.

That's plausible. Then again, Forest City Ratner could have been a lot more enthusiastic in talking about the issue. Why not say Gehry's on sabbatical?

Chaban also warns not to read much into Gehry's unwillingness to comment, calling it par for the course.


Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM

Heartwood Studios: digital storytelling used (still?) to market the Barclays Center

HeartwoodNetsGauntlet.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

Heartwood Studios, which offers "Digital Storytelling® through Visual Extravaganza®!" is--or at least was--working on marketing the Barclays Center and suites there.



Posted by lumi at 4:25 AM

December 18, 2008

In Pictures: 10 Ways The Economy Is Squeezing Sports


How is the economic crisis reverberating through pro sports? From sponsorships drying up to ticket sales slipping to international expansion moving to the back burner, a look at the year ahead:

#8 New Venues and Naming Rights

Two new sparkling NFL stadiums are going up soon, neither of which has secured a naming-rights deal as of yet. The new digs for the Dallas Cowboys (opening in 2009) and the New York Jets and Giants (2010) will get a corporate logo slapped up at some point, but not for the kind of dollars the clubs expected at this time last year. Meanwhile, will the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., the supposed new home for the NBA Nets, ever get built?

view the slideshow

Posted by eric at 6:37 PM

M'ville Expansion Clears Last Major Hurdle, State Approves Eminent Domain

Columbia Spectator
by Kim Kirschenbaum & Maggie Astor

Denied their own holiday cheer, the Empire State Development Corporation has placed large lumps of coal in the stockings of Manhattanville property owners in the path of Columbia University.

Making room for Columbia's Manhattanville campus expansion, the Empire State Development Corporation unanimously voted to invoke eminent domain on private commercial properties in the project area.

The state's decision on Thursday, will allow the state to seize land from two holdouts who have not struck property deals with the University. In exchange, the landowners--Nick Sprayregen, the owner of Tuck-It-Away Storage, and the Singh family, which operates two gas stations in Manhattanville--will receive market rate compensation.

Through the ESDC's invocation of eminent domain, the state will take over these commercial properties and then transfer ownership to Columbia, with an understanding that the land can be put to better civil use by the University. Columbia has said it needs control of all the land in its development site in order to build the campus expansion according to the plans approved by the New York City Council last year.

Though the ESDC has voted in favor of eminent domain, the battle may still be far from over. Sprayregen said that he and his lawyer "have already begun our preparations for the next step, which will be to file our petition contesting the findings of eminent domain." He added later, "I will have no choice but protect the interests of my family to the very best of my ability. I am cautiously optimistic that we will prevail in the courts."

Posted by eric at 2:52 PM

CORRECTED - OFFICIAL-NY MTA-Still sees $1 bln from all real estate projects


The news service has fixed its billion-dollar Atlantic Yards booboo.

(Corrects headline and text to read MTA expects $1 billion of revenue from all real estate projects, not just Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards.)


Posted by eric at 1:33 PM

Atlantic Yards: '09's $4 B. Question

The Real Estate [NY Observer]
by Tom Acitelli

What will 2009 bring? Just askin'.


Posted by eric at 12:23 PM

Why Bloomie is Campaigning for Caroline Kennedy

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog]
by Wayne Barrett

Should Atlantic Yards opponents be concerned at the prospect of Senator Caroline Kennedy, D-NY?

Bloomberg's 2009 campaign and Kennedy's 2010 campaign will be run out of the same offices at Knickerbocker SKD, where consultant Josh Isay already helped orchestrate the term limits coup for clients Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and where he is now trying to help pull off his second coup in three months by securing the Clinton seat with a resume-reinvention for Ms. Kennedy.

Knickerbocker SKD produced Forest City's liar flyers, including the infamous high-rise-free glossy issued in May, 2006, and also served as a consultant to Tracy Boyland's unsuccessful Ratner-backed bid to unseat State Senator Velmanette Montgomery later that year.

Isay runs a consulting firm that literally feasts on its ties to Bloomberg. His clients include the Partnership for New York City, the NYC Cultural Institutions Group, NYC & Co., Forest City Ratner, Primary Care Development Corporation, and the Building Trades Employers Association, all of which do business with Bloomberg City Hall. He's got a metal bat company out of California that lists itself as having lobbied the mayor against a council ban, and a taxi company that's approved by the Taxi & Limousine Commission to put driver and passenger information monitors in cabs. He did the television ads for PlaNYC 2030, the premier initiative of the Bloomberg administration, paid for by the Real Estate Board of New York and others.


NoLandGrab: This is a must-read for those of you interested in political gamesmanship in NYC and Albany.

Posted by eric at 12:07 PM

The Ponz: Madoff Mess Has Real Estate World Reeling


No indication yet that The Bruce himself was invested with Bernie Madoff (Ratner appears to prefer the guaranteed returns of huge public subsidies), but the giant Ponzi scheme appears to have touched at least one of his business partners.

As the names of big-time real estate heavyweights—Mort Zuckerman, Fred Wilpon, Glenwood Management, etc.—continue to trickle out in connection with accused Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, we've been awaiting the definitive, air-clearing account of just how bad the scandal has screwed the real estate world (especially since the threats starting rolling in). Today, the Times comes pretty darn close to unleashing that exposé. There are tales of hundreds of millions in losses, developers on the verge of collapse, an array of potentially doomed projects and scores of panicked investors looking to unload their apartments right now—only there are few details given as to the identity of those poor panicked souls. One of the specific examples given is the Blumenfeld Development Group, whose owner "invested heavily" with his close friend Madoff. Blumenfeld is a partner with Forest City Ratner on the flag-waving, Target-sporting hope of East Harlem, East River Plaza. A spokesman for Blumenfeld says the megamall (above) will be completed, but the company's other development plans are uncertain.


Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

Mr. Gehry Maybe Didn't Get Paid For Everything By Mr. Bruce


It's got to suck worse than a damned Electrolux being the world's most famous starchitect, having your name dragged through the mud over a controversial project at the apex of your career and, then, maybe not getting paid for all your work. The possible de-Frank Gehryfication of Atlantic Yards continues with some additional details on yesterday's bombshell supplied by Jotham Sederstrom in today's Daily News.


Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

More Yards turmoil — Gehry lays off design team!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Sarah Portlock

Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry has reportedly laid off more than two dozen workers on the mega-project’s team, indicating that perhaps the project is more doomed than previously thought.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Yards developer Bruce Ratner, who is building the $4-billion, oft-delayed project, ordered Gehry to “put down his pencils” in late November.

And on Thursday, the New York Daily News suggested that the layoffs amounted to a complete shutdown of Gehry’s Atlantic Yards team.


Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

Atlantic Yards Report: Thursday Morning Wrap

The posts are coming fast and furiously from Norman Oder today.

MTA: $1 billion refers to capital plan, not Atlantic Yards

No, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority does not expect $1 billion from Atlantic Yards, as reported erroneously by Reuters yesterday. As announced umpteen times, the authority would be paid $100 million cash for the Vanderbilt Yard.

MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin says that the reporter wasn't at the MTA meeting at issue. The MTA's 2005-2009 capital plan assumes $1 billion in asset sales, he says, "which obviously includes Hudson Yards, not just AY." Thus the reporter erred in attributing the $1 billion to one project.

Was Izod Center 62.8% full last night?

Announced attendance Wednesday of 12,542 for the basketball game between the New Jersey Nets and the Utah Jazz meant the Izod Center was 62.8% full (capacity 19,968).

I've suggested a 25% fudge factor.

This first-quarter photo and this third-quarter photo suggest more empty seats, but the view of the arena is quite limited, so it's hard to judge.

Hedge fund head says she's short on Forest City, which has a lot of debt coming due in 2009

In Trading the Real Estate Bounce on CNBC's Closing Bell yesterday, it's worth watching the segment to hear all the comments from Karen Finerman of Metropolitan Capital (a hedge fund) about Forest City Enterprises.

Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

Daily News: layoffs may signal rift between Gehry and Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

While the Wall Street Journal two days ago reported that Gehry had dropped all his staffers working on the project, in an article today headlined Architect drops ax on Yards staff, the Daily News suggests that the layoff of some two dozen workers wasn't quite amicable:
"Almost all the people working on the Brooklyn project got laid off," said a source familiar with the cuts who claimed the developer had refused to pay Gehry additional costs for design revisions. "Basically, he's not willing to pay."

That suggests the effect of limited cash flow, not the all-purpose excuse of litigation, for which Forest City has blamed the work stoppage at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard.

No one's talking

A Forest City Ratner spokesman wouldn't discuss the issue--DDDB has been pointing to the developer's unfulfilled promises of transparency--nor would anyone from Gehry's office, which led the Daily News to conclude:
It was unclear yesterday whether the relationship between Ratner and Gehry was over or merely put on hold because of the economy.


NoLandGrab: Frank Gehry may have been excited to "build a neighborhood practically from scratch," but not if he's not getting any more scratch from Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

Architect drops ax on Yards staff

NY Daily News
by Jotham Sederstrom

In yet another slap against developer Forest City Ratner, architect Frank Gehry has axed nearly every employee working on the stalled Atlantic Yards project, sources told the Daily News.

Although designs for an NBA basketball arena and five towers were first released in 2003 and redrafted this year, a second phase featuring 11 towers, affordable housing and public space has not been finalized.

A Forest City Ratner spokesman acknowledged that some designs had yet to be completed, but declined to discuss the layoffs or how they would affect the project.

"The answer is yes, of course there is design work left to be done, and, no, there are no new images to release," said Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco.


NoLandGrab: That's about the straightest comment we've heard yet from JDP, though it's the questions he wouldn't address that are more telling.

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

Atlantic Yards Report Double-Dose Financial Report

Atlantic Yards Report

Two items on Forest City's gyrations in trying to figure out how to continue to build a publicly financed stadium in the midst of a World financial meltdown:

A good way to increase cash flow is to delay paying for public properties while receiving public subsidies more rapidly.

Indirect subsidies: how Forest City pursues more aid (and can they revise the City Funding Agreement?)

So, now we know what Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner meant when he told investment analysts in April that "we still need more" subsidies.

I commented that such a request might generate pushback from some elected officials. It did, and since then, the hemorrhaging of city and state budgets means that direct appropriations are very unlikely.

However, as the New York Observer reminded us this week, there are more ways to skin a budget, including:

  • a delay in paying the Metropolitan Transportation Authority the $100 million (not $1 billion) it pledged to pay for the railyard
  • additional subsidies boosting the affordable housing
  • a speed-up in the city's pace to deliver the $100 million pledged

Will Gramercy Capital, its stock tanking, easily renegotiate loan with Forest City Ratner?

A loan made by Gramercy Capital Corporation to Forest City Ratner is coming due. Will FCR be able to pay? Will the loan be renegotiated? Stay tuned!

The company that lent Forest City Ratner nearly $153 million to buy property in the Atlantic Yards footprint has seen its stock price tank, as has the stock of FCR's parent Forest City Enterprises, as it awaits repayment of $177 million it dearly needs.

While the stock of Gramercy Capital Corporation reached $28.51 for its 52-week high, it closed yesterday at $1.32. In October, it suspended its third-quarter dividend to save $32.3 million. (FCE acted similarly last week.) The company might be a little antsy about getting repaid promptly and in full.

Posted by steve at 6:34 AM

MTA Continues Support for Atlantic Yards

Nets Daily

The recent puzzling item from Reuters is picked up and used as an indication of continued political support for Bruce Ratner.

While lawsuits move through court and reports circulate that Bruce Ratner has cash flow problems, New York’s politicians haven’t backed off their support for Atlantic Yards and its new Nets’ arena. On Wednesday, the head of the MTA, which owns the railyards where the project will be built, said he expects Atlantic Yards to generate $1 billion. “We don’t have any current concern with respect to the $1 billion”, he said.

NoLandGrab: It does, indeed, appear that the MTA continues to support Bruce Ratner's boondoggle at our expense, but what is with that $1 billion figure? The agreed-upon bargain basement price for the Vanderbilt Yards is $100 million.


Posted by steve at 6:25 AM

Smoking gun: emails show how Yankee Stadium valuation was "jacked up"

Atlantic Yards Report

Note is made of incriminating emails that show, despite Congressional testimony to the contrary, New York City worked for the Yankees to cook the books and show a higher value for the land under the new Yankee Stadium. This allows the Yankees access to more tax-free bonds.

Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez continues to look into the astounding inflation (from $26.8 million to $204 million) in valuation of the land under Yankee Stadium, apparently aimed to qualify for the amount of foregone taxes needed to pay off construction bonds via PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes).

(Yes, Atlantic Yards watchers are waiting to see if something similar happens with the land under the planned $950 million arena.)


If the city cooked the books, the IRS could conduct an audit--and strip the bonds of their tax-exempt status. (Is there political juice for that?)

Here is Juan Gonzalez's article from yesterday's Daily News referenced in this Atlantic Yards Report story (it helps boil the blood and keep you warm on these cold mornings): E-mails reveal how city went to bat for Yankee to inflate value of stadium land


Posted by steve at 6:00 AM

Yankees Find New Uses For Bond Money

amNew York

Here's an example of the voracious appetite of professional sports organizations for public funds, no matter what the economic climate.


Posted by steve at 5:49 AM

December 17, 2008

Waiting for corrections: Reuters article on MTA/AY claims $1 billion railyard deal

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder tries to suss out the meaning of an inexplicable Reuters story about the MTA's sale of the Vanderbilt Yards:

Are we supposed to believe, in a Reuters article bizarrely headlined NY MTA: Still sees $1 bln from Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards:

  • that MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson knew what he was talking about when he said "We don't have any current concern with respect to the $1 billion" the agency expects from Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan?
  • that the Reuters reporter didn't know the purchase price for the Vanderbilt Yard is $100 million?
  • that the reporter thinks Atlantic Yards would "be built on one of the agency's rail yards"?
  • that the reporter didn't realize that the real story, which MTA officials wouldn't touch, is the Observer's scoop about Ratner trying to delay paying the money owed?


NoLandGrab: Can we choose, "All of the above?"

Posted by steve at 11:02 PM

Trading The Real Estate Bounce

CNBC Fast Money Final Call
by Lee Brodie

Some real estates shares, including the iShares Dow Jones US Real Estate ETF, rallied on the news of yesterday's unprecedented Fed rate cut...


But Karen Finerman isn’t fooled. In fact she sees a trade. She’s short real estate because she doesn’t think the Fed’s actions have materially changed the commercial real estate picture in this country.

“I’m short Forest City,” she tells Dylan Ratigan on CNBC’s Closing Bell. “(They’re probably best known for the Atlantic yards development in Brooklyn.) They were a development company and that’s not a business model that’s working. And they have a lot of debt.“


Posted by eric at 11:00 PM

Packin' Up?

pacificisland via You Tube

Looks like the boys over at Forest City Ratner might be breaking down their staging area at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue. Could the cessation of all work on the Atlantic Yards project be obviating the need for large steel construction plates?


NoLandGrab: Once again a day late and a dollar short, Forest City Ratner appears to have missed the lucrative black market in scrap metals.

Posted by eric at 9:27 PM

NY MTA: Still sees $1 bln from Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards

Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Dan Grebler

So much for fact checking (that's so "old media"); Reuters is reporting that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is paying $1 billion for the Vanderbilt Railyard.

It's a Christmas miracle — just last week, Ratner was on the hook for a mere $100 million.

NEW YORK, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority said on Wednesay it still expects to receive $1 billion in revenue from Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards development, a major project to be built on one of the agency's rail yards.

The Brooklyn project includes offices, apartments and a new basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team. But its future, first clouded by legal disputes, is now clouded by the difficulty of getting real estate loans.

MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson told reporters after a board meeting: "We don't have any current concern with respect to the $1 billion" the agency hopes the project will contribute to its capital plan.

The project has been delayed by law suits and other issues. But the last court challenge based on the use of "eminent domain" could be decided in state court in the next six months.

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, of Forest City Ratner Co (FCEa.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), said he remained confident despite the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

MTA Executive Director Lee Sander declined to comment when asked about a report in the Observer that said Ratner sought to delay paying the agency $100 million when the project closes.


Posted by lumi at 7:25 PM

Blowing the Whistle, or Something

Die Zwei Luftmenschen

Former Daily News reporter — and current Berlin resident and blogger — Deborah Kolben recounts her role in last week's IFC Media Project segment on Atlantic Yards.

I decided to do my small part for journalism. I was approached by a TV show called the Media Project to talk about my experience covering Atlantic Yards for the Daily News. The point, I think, was to illustrate/expose how decisions at big newspapers are often influenced by outside forces, namely money.

The guy below is the editor of the Daily News, Martin Dunn. My favorite part is that when approached by a reporter and asked about me Dunn says he doesn’t know who I am, and then five seconds later says I wasn’t even a staff reporter. Which one is it?


NoLandGrab: As far as we can gather, the title of Deb's blog translates as "The Two Air People." Straighten us out if you know German.

[Update: Norman Oder (who else!) corrected our Yiddish (not German!), pointing us to the following definition: luftmensch (plural luftmenschen) — an impractical contemplative person having no definite business or income.]

Posted by eric at 2:04 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Curbed, Gehry Lays Off Atlantic Yards Staff, Finances Suck Even More

The news about Atlantic Yards keeps coming and none of it--not a single, solitary shred of it--is good.

Brownstoner, Credit Crunch Hits Gehry's Office

After Ratner told Gehry to put his pencils (or balls of crumpled paper) down, he laid off two dozen workers, reports the WSJ.

The Cleveland Leader, How Community Activists Treat Forest City Elsewhere

There appear to be some typos in this post, but we gather that their point is that Forest City Enterprises gets something of a free pass in its home city of Cleveland, OH.

Noticing New York, Time to Times; Dear, Dear, Dear

Micheal D.D. White wonders when he might hear back from The Times.

This therefore seemed like an opportune time for us to continue with our series of letters about Atlantic Yards written to politicians and people of influence. In this post we publish the May 10, 2007 letter we wrote to the Times Public Editor, Clark Hoyt. We arranged for that letter to be on his desk the day he started his job as the Times new public editor.

Nets Daily, Brooklyn Project Slows Further: Architect is Told to Hold Off

As much as we now loathe the Nets because of their starring role as Bruce Ratner's Trojan Horse, we do feel for their dedicated fans.

Gothamist, Atlantic Yards Project Falling Apart, Gehry Fires Staff

Late last month, architect Frank Gehry dismissed more than two dozen staffers working on designs for the embattled Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the Wall Street Journal reports. The terminations came despite the fact that most of the proposed $4.2 billion project—which would include a Nets basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments—has not been designed, as Develop Don't Destroy points out.

Posted by eric at 1:43 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Frank Gehry Lays Off Atlantic Yards Staff

Ratner Seeking More Favors from City, MTA and Private Lenders For Failing Atlantic Yards Plan

BROOKLYN, NY— Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development plan is contending with pending litigation as well as the global fiscal crisis and credit crunch. After confirming two weeks ago that all work has stopped on the Atlantic Yards project site, and last week that the project is indefinitely on hold, now Ratner can add the absence of architects to design the beleaguered megaproject to its list of woes.

Ratner’s world-renowned Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry has laid off all staff working on the Atlantic Yards plan, according to a report in today’s Wall Street Journal. Gehry laid off more than “two dozen staffers” despite the fact the most of the proposed project has not been designed.

Meanwhile, The New York Observer’s Eliot Brown confirms that Ratner’s project is experiencing substantial cash flow problems and breaks the news that Ratner is “…attempting to cobble together extra money; trying to speed up tens of millions of dollars it is owed by public entities; delay tens of millions in payments it owes to both the public and private sectors; and tack on new subsidy programs for the housing piece of the project.”

“Ratner doesn’t have the architect, money or land he needs to build his planned Atlantic Yards project. The project has been miserably managed and is on the edge of failure. So now Ratner wants the budget-slashing State, the budget-slashing City and the fare-raising MTA to grant him yet more favors? Sorry, but that doesn’t fly,” said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “It really is high time for the Paterson and Bloomberg administrations, and the MTA, to face the facts of Ratner’s failing project and stop funding his money pit while asking everyone else around the City and State to sacrifice during this fiscal crisis.

Ratner’s seemingly desperate attempt to have the City and State further favor and cater to him includes an effort to get the cash-strapped MTA to restructure the $100 million dollar deal for the Vanderbilt Rail Yard (8-acres of the 22-acre project site) so Ratner doesn’t have to pay up front because, The Observer reports, “financing is nearly impossible to find and Forest City is hardly swimming in cash.” This attempt to delay payment is even though the $100 million is already well below the MTA’s $214.5 million appraisal of the rail yard.

Ratner also wants the City to speed “up the payments on the balance” of the $100 million in its direct taxpayer subsidy (which is only part of the City’s $205 million direct subsidy and does not include the City’s blank check for “extraordinary infrastructure”).

And in the private market Ratner is trying to renegotiate and extend a large bridge loan with Gramercy Capital, which comes due in February. The Wall Street Journal reports that the $153 million loan has accrued to $177 million owed.

Ratner does not own the land he needs to build his proposed arena and superblock skyscrapers, and he does not have the financing to build any part of the project. The status of the two pending lawsuits challenging the project’s environmental review, “blight” finding, and use of eminent domain, can be found at: www.dddb.net/php/status.php


The community in Brooklyn has advocated for developing the rail yard in a fiscally responsible manner, which is described in the community developed UNITY Plan, which has been presented to Governor Paterson's economic development officials. The UNITY Plan is based on the principle that the MTA should divide the rail yards into multiple, manageable parcels that can be put out for bid and bring more revenue to the MTA. The smaller parcels reduce the risk inherent in Ratner's massive project by spreading it amongst multiple developers. Then the yard can actually be developed and badly needed affordable housing could be realized.

Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

The Approval Matrix: Week of December 22, 2008

Our deliberately oversimplified guide to who falls where on our taste hierarchies.


New York Magazine

The Civilians' Brooklyn at Eye Level snuggles into the "Highbrow — Brilliant" quadrant, accompanied by a photograph taken by one of the highbrow and brilliant documenters of the Atlantic Yards saga, our favorite Brooklyn Brit, Adrian Kinloch.


Click here to see Adrian's original photo.

Posted by eric at 11:59 AM


Two big Atlantic Yards stories broke in the last 24 hours.

There have been rumors during the past couple of weeks that Frank Gehry laid off or reassigned the entire Atlantic Yards design team. The Wall St. Journal Blogs finally broke the story last night.

Even though no spokesperson for Gehry or Ratner would comment, this means that Frank Gehry's studio is no longer actively working on the project. Gehry could start up again if and when the project begins moving forward, but as of this time, the project is realistically on hold.

All signs have been pointing to the conclusion that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises is experiencing cash flow problems.

Based on multiple sources, The NY Observer is reporting that Bruce Ratner is trying to renegotiate payments to the MTA for the railyard and to Gramercy Capital for a bridge loan and is pushing for the City of NY to speed up the release more of the promised cash subsidy.

Norman Oder of AtlanticYardsReport.com has something to add to both stories:
Gehry lays off staff working on Atlantic Yards
Observer breaks news that Ratner's renegotiating subsidy deals

Posted by lumi at 5:59 AM

WSJ: Gehry lays off staff working on Atlantic Yards; FCR again blames legal challenges

Atlantic Yards Report

[F]or weeks I've been told--all secondhand--that the Los Angeles-based Gehry Partners laid off staff working on the Atlantic Yards project.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal pinned it down enough to go public, in a brief piece headlined Gehry Lays Off Staff:

Frank Gehry laid off more than two dozen staffers in late November after client Forest City Ratner ordered the architect to put down his pencils on the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, according to people familiar with the matter. A Gehry Partners LLP spokeswoman declined to comment.

A Forest City spokesman declined to comment and pointed to a previous statement that said work on the Brooklyn, N.Y., project was delayed because of legal challenges. Forest City has said it is committed to the 22-acre site, slated to be anchored by a basketball arena plus residential and office skyscrapers.

The blame-the-lawsuits ploy regarding Gehry is even less credible than the claim that lawsuits have stalled all work at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard.

After all, if Forest City Ratner is truly committed to Atlantic Yards, couldn't they ask Gehry's office to work on Site 5? Or Phase 2?


Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

Atlantic Yards Becomes a Question Mark

Based on "multiple people familiar with discussions," The NY Observer's Eliot Brown is reporting that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has cash flow problems and the near future doesn't look any better.


Bruce Ratner, the Brooklyn-based cousin of Chuck Ratner who runs Atlantic Yards, seems to be rushing to patch a leaky dam. According to multiple people familiar with discussions, his subsidiary company, Forest City Ratner, is attempting to cobble together extra money; trying to speed up tens of millions of dollars it is owed by public entities; delay tens of millions in payments it owes to both the public and private sectors; and tack on new subsidy programs for the housing piece of the project. Earlier this month, Bruce Ratner abruptly shut down preliminary construction efforts related to the NBA arena in an apparent attempt to preserve cash.

For now, with Forest City still planning to build at some point, the question becomes how long the developer can keep doling money out without seeing any come back in. Forest City is awaiting what is likely the last major court challenge to the use of eminent domain, with a decision expected in the first half of 2009. But even if that concludes in its favor, as many legal experts expect it will, the developer may very well have an additional wait ahead of it. At this point it is unclear—many would say unlikely—that in six months to a year, investors would be willing to provide the nearly $1 billion in bonds needed for an arena or other financing for high-rise residential developments.

All the while, the company is signing checks. Bruce Ratner bought the Nets in 2004 for the purpose of moving them to a new arena at Atlantic Yards. For now, paying rent in someone else’s arena, Forest City reported losses of more than $30 million on the Nets in the first nine months of 2008.

Since Atlantic Yards was originally a highly leveraged project with small returns for the public, things don't look any rosier going forward.

Atlantic Yards Report, In AY as "question mark," Observer breaks news that Ratner's renegotiating subsidy deals

In light of the revelations reported by Eliot Brown, Norman Oder asks some key questions:

While no official would comment on the record, it's all worth much more scrutiny.

Why should FCR not have to pay the MTA in timely fashion if that was part of the original deal (and the payment less than half the appraised value)? Will FCR even build a permanent new railyard or just leave the MTA with the interim, temporary yard?

Why should the cash-strapped city give FCR a special deal when so many programs are hurting?

And shouldn't there be transparency regarding the Atlantic Yards affordable housing? How would the subsidies compare to those for other projects?

Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

Keeping up with the Atlantic Yards Construction Updates

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the Atlantic Yards Construction Update issued by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) for the weeks of December 15 and December 22 is the nearly same as the update issued for the weeks of December 1 and December 8.

There's no work at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard. Demolition of 487 and 489 Dean Street "has been completed," whereas previously it "will continue."

That language is worth noting, because the ESDC never announced that work "has been completed" at the railyard.

That's one of the reasons I don't believe the explanation, from the ESDC and developer Forest City Ratner, that lawsuits have stalled work at the Vanderbilt Yard. Also, the explanation defies sworn statements by company executives that work on the railyard could proceed despite litigation.

Norman Oder also notes that Forest City Ratner's AtlanticYards.com web site is no longer being regularly updated. Fortunately, AtlanticYardsReport.com is.


Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

More Forest City Delays



Fresno, CA, USA (KFSN) -- A plan to revitalize a large part of Downtown Fresno is being delayed ... again.

The 100 million dollar South Stadium Project covers eighty-five acres south of Chukchansi Park. Plans call for a multi screen movie theater, apartments and retail stores but in the last few years there have been several obstacles and setbacks.

The developer wanted a one year extension so it could continue working exclusively with the city of Fresno but the council amended that request to six months in hopes of finally getting the ball rolling.

Forest City Enterprises burst onto the Fresno scene with grand promises of revitalizing the city's lackluster downtown with retail stores and housing. That was four years ago and there has yet to be a single shovel break ground. Tuesday Forest City asked the Fresno City Council for a six month extension to work out its plan. It would be their third extension, which prevents the city from talking with other developers.


Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM

December 16, 2008

Gehry Lays Off Staff

Wall St. Journal Blogs
By Alex Frangos and Jonathan Karp

WSJ is breaking the story that architect Frank Gehry disbanded the Atlantic Yards project team:

Frank Gehry laid off more than two dozen staffers in late November after client Forest City Ratner ordered the architect to put down his pencils on the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, according to people familiar with the matter. A Gehry Partners LLP spokeswoman declined to comment.

A Forest City spokesman declined to comment and pointed to a previous statement that said work on the Brooklyn, N.Y., project was delayed because of legal challenges. Forest City has said it is committed to the 22-acre site, slated to be anchored by a basketball arena plus residential and office skyscrapers.

Forest City Ratner's parent, Forest City Enterprises Inc., said last week that it has cut off its new development pipeline, except for Atlantic Yards. But the project faces challenges given the recession and the financial markets. A $153 million land loan from Gramercy Capital Corp. that has accrued to $177 million, is due at the beginning of February. Forest City is in talks with Gramercy to extend the loan.


NoLandGrab: Ratner's PR team has lost a step, when the best they can come up with is the "legal challenges" excuse. Dumbasses, there's a half-demolished bridge over the railyards that will have to be rebuilt whether or not the project is stopped by a lawsuit.

The dismantling of the Atlantic Yards design team, in addition to the halt of prep work on the railyards and difficulty in raising credit means that realistically the project is on hiatus, in a deep sleep... or cryogenically frozen.

Posted by lumi at 8:05 PM

THE IFC MEDIA PROJECT: Anatomy of a Story

Huffington Post
By Meghan O'Hara

In last week's episode of THE IFC MEDIA PROJECT, we looked at the story of Atlantic Yards, a massive real estate development in Brooklyn, NY, and we analyzed why New York City's three major papers had failed to critically evaluate and report on the project.

We revealed how the Editor-in-Chief of the New York Daily News had bowed to pressure from the project's powerful developer. The Editor, Martin Dunn, pulled a tough reporter off the story. The Daily News still hasn't commented, but New York's other media is beginning to take note [LINK: http://www.politickerny.com/1053/fomer-daily-news-reporter-claims-atlantic-yards] and maybe soon, the story will change.


Posted by lumi at 8:01 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Curbed, Dennis Hopper Can't Afford Chupi

We're just now sorting through New York's massive year-ender, "Reasons to Love New York," and worthy of a chuckle is Julian Schnabel's Palazzo Chupi being billed as the anti-Atlantic Yards, an "immense, gratuitous, noncontextual act of real-estate ego" that actually panned out.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards: Beneficiary or Victim of Economy?

"At the moment, the old neighborhood is winning. Score two points for entropy." Is this a victory for opponents? A pit-stop on the way to development? Construction may be a while off, but demolition is long underway.

Noticing New York, Stadium Finance: Mayor, Professing to Know Numbers, Should Know He Can’t Have It Both Ways (Unless He’s Keeping Two Sets of Books)

Last Friday, (12/12), on the Live from City Hall with Mayor Mike and John Gambling radio show, Bloomberg was trying to have it both ways. He was disingenuously trying to sell the public on the idea that 1.) no substantial city tax revenues are being diverted to pay the bonds and 2.) that the bonds will still be tax-exempt.

If you listened to him he even made it sound as if he had done the calculations himself. If he did, then he did them wrong, or just wants to misrepresent the expense to the public....

Posted by eric at 12:58 PM

Team Hype: At the Izod Center, noise and flash obscure the hoops

Atlantic Yards Report

TeamHype-AYR.gif Recently NJ Nets CEO Brett Yormark contended:

“Over the course of the last two years, the state has invested like never before in that venue. During our Nets games, we have incredible lounges for season ticket-holders, the service is better than ever before. We’ve rebranded the entire arena, we’ve got greater technology than ever before. And it’s a perfect setting for us right now. One of the key things for me is that I want to be the main tenant. I want to be the big dog…. And the Izod Center… is having the most successful year it’s had in ten years now that the Devils aren’t there.”

Uh, ok... since fans could give a wit about rebranding, it's up to Norman Oder to try to look past "Team Hype":

After gaining some very expensive tickets (for a song) to see the Nets last Wednesday night, I enjoyed watching the basketball, but I can’t say I’m eager to repeat the experience.

The game itself wasn’t bad--if you’re close enough, and we were, you can see professionals playing hoops at a high level. If you can get over the fact that the Nets are essentially fungible--a collection of players remixed at will, certainly no long-serving Brooklyn Dodgers--the team is rebuilding but promising.

But the wrapper around it, as with so much sports entertainment, is ever-increasing hype. Team Hype, the name of the Nets’ acrobatic pep squad, also describes the Izod Center experience—noise, flash, and a relentless marketing effort that can obscure the game.

As with my visit two years ago, the crowd seemed to get the most excited when “Team Hype” tossed free t-shirts, in a bit of a bread-and-circuses moment.

The loudest thing in the arena was the artificial noise generated on the public address system.


NoLandGrab: What does that say about a team whose cheerleading squad is called "Team Hype" and mascot is named "Sly Fox?"

Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

Ratner Death Star

[Cue lower brass and timpani]

Dum, dum, dum, dum-da-dum-da, dum-da-dum...

You gotta love the title of this photo of the airlock between Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls, dropped into the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool by "PHootprint."

Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! Education NO!

When New York Governor David Paterson asserted, "During one of the greatest fiscal crises in our state's history, that is a level of funding we simply cannot afford," he was talking about education funding, not Bruce Ratner's highly subsidized $4 billion arena and high-rise megaproject.

Quote from Daily News, "Gov. Paterson: No education cuts now means worse cuts next year," November 26, 2008.

Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

NY Mag: "Because Sometimes Immense, Gratuitous, Noncontextual Acts of Real-estate Ego Don’t Pan Out…"

Atlantic Yards Report

While acknowledging that developer Forest City Ratner still has some momentum, New York Magazine writer Robert Kolker concludes that "At the moment, the old neighborhood is winning."

The occasion: the magazine's Reasons To Love New York 2008 package, in a short article headlined Because Sometimes Immense, Gratuitous, Noncontextual Acts of Real-estate Ego Don’t Pan Out….

Perhaps the neighborhood is winning in that Ratner has been thwarted somewhat, but a neighborhood doesn't win when demolition of viable structures creates indefinite empty lots.


Posted by lumi at 5:50 AM

Former Daily News Reporter Claims Bias Toward Atlantic Yards

The NY Observer

In a segment of the Independent Film Channel series Media Project, former Daily News reporter Deborah Kolben says she was barred from writing about Atlantic Yards after the the developers complained about her coverage.

Kolben makes her claim around the 4:21 mark, prompting one of the movie’s narrators to confront Dunn outside his home.

“I don’t even know who you’re talking about,” [Daily News Editor in Chief Martin] Dunn says. When pressed, he adds, “You obviously are not an editor, right? I run a newspaper. I can do what I like.”


NoLandGrab: "I can do what I like?" And we thought this quote was originally attributed to Bruce Ratner!

Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

December 15, 2008

Arena Football League cancels 2009 season

AP via Yahoo! Sports

The pro sports recession is deepening.

The Arena Football League canceled its 2009 season Monday pending an agreement with its players union. The decision throws the future of the 22-year-old league into question just days after it said next season had not been suspended.

The AFL’s owners voted against playing next year during a conference call Sunday night. It was unclear what had changed since the league issued a statement Wednesday night that said the 2009 season had not been suspended “despite rumors and reports to the contrary.”

The league said in Monday’s statement it was “developing a long-term plan to improve its economic model.”

The AFL’s woes come at a time when the world of sports, once thought to be largely recession-proof, has felt the economic chill. The NFL has said it would cut 150 jobs, while the NBA and NASCAR also have laid off dozens of workers. The NHL is in a hiring freeze while the Internet operation for Major League Baseball also has trimmed positions.


NoLandGrab: Two of the Arena League's franchises, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, had higher average attendance this year than the Nets — at a fraction of the overhead.

Posted by eric at 12:47 PM

Reasons to Love New York 2008

New York Magazine
by Robert Kolker

NY Magazine celebrates the woes that have befallen Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject.

#14. Because Sometimes Immense, Gratuitous, Noncontextual Acts of Real-estate Ego Don’t Pan Out…

They say New York is the place where your greatest dreams can come true. Of course, it’s also a place where those dreams can die on the vine. Take Atlantic Yards. Lending new meaning to the term noncontextual, Bruce Ratner’s $4.2 billion, 22-acre combination of residential towers and office buildings, anchored by a basketball arena for the Nets, was supposed to completely transform downtown Brooklyn—with seemingly little thought given to what it might do to the already paralyzed intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. (Did I mention I live two blocks away?)

Ratner promised a Frank Gehry design for the arena and 15,000 union construction jobs. In return, he seemed to get $100 million in cash from both the city and the state, plus tax breaks running up to $1.5 billion. Some neighbors resisted right away, at first with little apparent effect. Ratner dialed down the size of his plan slightly, but more than a half-dozen lawsuits never seemed to get real traction.

In the end, though, all the project’s opponents may have had to do was delay the game until the market changed. Bigger New York dreams than Ratner’s have failed to make it off the drawing board—remember Trump’s Television City, or Rudy’s West Side Yankee Stadium, or Mike’s Olympics?


NoLandGrab: It's more like $305 million in direct cash subsidy, but hey, in flush times like these, what's a couple hundred million more?

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

Trees return (temporarily) to the perimeter of the Atlantic Yards footprint

Atlantic Yards Report

Like a crafty veteran pitcher who sets you up away and then comes inside, Norman Oder snuck this one past NoLandGrab yesterday.

Well, there are now some (temporary) trees around the perimeter of the Atlantic Yards footprint, as the photo I took today of the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street shows.

Last month, I wrote how, preparing to demolish 86 street trees (aftermath at bottom) 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.”


Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

In sign of Brooklyn arena commitment, Yormark close to eight-year deal with Nets

Atlantic Yards Report


Whether or not Forest City Enterprises and Bruce Ratner ultimately sell all or part of their controlling share of the New Jersey Nets, the team will still have Nets Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark on board, apparently.

Sports Business Daily reports:
Since October, the rumor most rapidly circulating at sports properties, agencies and the brands supporting them was that New Jersey Nets Sports & Entertainment President and CEO Brett Yormark was taking the same job with the Miami Dolphins.

The article continues:
Actually, the flamboyant Nets executive has agreed to terms and is close to signing a lengthy eight-year deal with the Nets, according to senior NBA sources. The deal comes as the Nets’ planned move to Brooklyn from New Jersey is mired in legal delays and has been pushed back until at least 2011.

“There are some doubts out there about the team’s future in Brooklyn, but obviously this shows a long-term commitment there,” said one league source.


NoLandGrab: An eight-year deal? If this report is accurate, then Bruce Ratner has once again betrayed that he's one of the least-savvy pro owners around — if there's another team executive with such a lengthy contract in all of pro sports, we'd be very surprised.

Honestly, this smacks of more "we're committed to Brooklyn" public relations spin. We expect Yormark's contract would be laden with escape clauses.

Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

Bansal, attorney for ESDC in Atlantic Yards case, is on Obama's short list for Solicitor General, the "Tenth Justice"

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that President-elect Barack Obama has appointed New Yorkers Shaun Donovan and Adolfo Carrion (much more controversially) to become, respectively, secretary of the department of Housing and Urban Development and head of the new White House Office of Urban Policy, the latter two might offer support to the policies and project of the Bloomberg administration, including Atlantic Yards.

A third New Yorker is also up for a key job with Obama and, while the position almost surely would have nothing to do with AY, she's had a close and controversial relationship the legal battles over the project.

On the president-elect's short list for Solicitor General, who has primary and mostly independent responsibility for presenting the Government's case to the Supreme Court, is Preeta Bansal, a former New York State Solicitor General (supervising 40-50 appellate submissions per week), a member of his transition team, and the lead attorney representing the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in appeals court.

Norman Oder examines Bansal's arguments in the federal appeal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case and finds some questionable assertions, which may (or may not, but still may) be cause for concern.


Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! Day Care NO!

If you're for Atlantic Yards, it doesn't get better than this — New York "City Plans to Reduce Aid to 21 Day Care Locations" (NY Times) while still supporting Bruce Ranter's subsidy-sucking Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Atlantic Yards YES!!!

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

Carbonation-related cognitive dissonance at the Izod Center

Atlantic Yards Report

Jones Soda, the official carbonated beverage of Bruce Ratner's yet-to-be-built Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn, is being advertised during Nets home games in "the Swamp" (Izod Center), even though Pepsi has the carbonated sugar-water contract in the Meadowlands.


Norman Oder wonders if New Jersey Nets marketing officials are trying to "make sure that Jones is happy," in light of revelations that Jones executives "have been talking about how to pull out of the Barclays Center deal."


Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

altantic yards jersey barrier

Scenes like this one are all too typical in this once vibrant neighborhood on the upswing.

Photo, "shooting brooklyn," via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Will sports be next in line for handouts?

By Neil deMause

With sports teams and leagues hemorrhaging cash, "We may now be looking at the first bailout bill for pro sports."


NoLandGrab: It could happen — after witnessing the amount of City, State and Federal assistance Bruce Ratner is trying to line up for his arena and high-rise megaproject, we'll believe anything.

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

December 14, 2008

Atlantic Yards YES! Cops NO!

From NY1: As Budget Shrinks, NYPD Faces Possibility Of Layoffs

The mayor has ordered all city agencies to cut spending by 7 percent or $1.4 billion, on top of the 5 percent cut he ordered last month.

Police spokesman Paul Browne says layoffs might not be necessary if they can find other ways to cut costs.

But Kelly says with 94 percent of the NYPD's budget going towards personnel, the department may find no other way.

"If we make additional reductions it has to come out of our personnel stream, and everything will be on the table," said Kelly Friday. "And obviously, since we've already reduced with the first round of cuts, the next round will require layoffs."

If we're not going to have real cops, can we at least get RoboCop 3 to protect us from Delta City Atlantic Yards?

Posted by amy at 11:40 AM

Daniel Sagarin Atlantic Yards Photography at Prospect Perk

Daniel Sagarin's photography exhibit will be on display at Prospect Perk Cafe until December 25. If you missed the Footprints: Portrait of a Brooklyn Neighborhood show, now is your chance to see some of the photographs.

Prospect Perk Cafe

Photo by Steve Soblick

Posted by amy at 11:30 AM

Sunday Comix: Brooklyn Paper Weekly 12.13.08


Christian Fleming

5 years after its inception Atlantic Yards remains nothing more than a figment of Bruce Ratner’s grandiose imagination, a hole in the ground and a bunch of partially demolished buildings where a once great neighborhood stood.

Posted by amy at 10:47 AM

With NYC's Donovan as HUD chief, affordable housing help likely--and for AY?

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times reports today:
President-elect Barack Obama has picked the widely respected housing commissioner for New York City, Shaun Donovan, to be the secretary of housing in his cabinet.

...As chief of New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Mr. Donovan is in charge of the Bloomberg administration’s $7.5 billion New Housing Marketplace Plan to build or preserve 165,000 units for to low- and moderate-income families, housing up to 500,000 residents, by 2013.

It's probably good news for cities and affordable housing. Advocates have called for much more direct federal aid for public housing and other assistance, including tax-exempt financing, to finance affordable housing.

As I reported in June 2006:
...Before Congress, HPD’s Shaun Donovan offered two proposals to increase funds available to the city; one would “allow for 'recycling' or 'refunding' of multi-family bonds after principal repayments or pre-payments of the bonds.” The second would involve “raising the allocation of volume cap for high cost areas” like New York. (As HPD commissioner, Donovan also serves as chairman of the HDC.)

New York City needs a lot more "volume cap," an allocation of federal tax-exempt financing for projects like the proposed Atlantic Yards affordable housing, which has been jeopardized by a funding crisis. Such an increase could lessen the expected significant delays in the AY housing (which of course wouldn't get started until the project moves forward).


Posted by amy at 10:43 AM

Does Nets CEO Yormark really get up at 3:30 a.m.?

Atlantic Yards Report

So, is he a medical marvel? Maybe, maybe not. When asked about his sleep habits, Yormark hedged when queried last week on the WFAN talk show Boomer & Carton.

“It says you wake up--is it true?—3:30 every morning,” Boomer Esiaison asked.

“I’m up very early,” Yormark replied. “I start my day quite early.”

OK, it's no big deal--an executive burnishing his myth--especially given that Yormark has accomplished quite a lot.

However, as with Yormark's predictions regarding arena construction, assertions about his extreme sleep habits should be taken with a grain of salt.


Posted by amy at 10:38 AM

Atlantic Yards: Information Sharing Recordkeeping, Part 9

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

In the February 26, 2008 NY Observer Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Reigelhaupt said:
“When it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there’s no such thing as too much, as far as we are concerned."
Today Norman Oder quotes from a Courier-Life article (not yet online) about Ratner/ESDC's non-transparency regarding the stoppage of work on Vanderbilt Yards and the Carlton Avenue bridge. From the Atlantic Yards Report's coverage of reporter Stephen Witt's article:
...Now we can relax. An unnamed Empire State Development Corporation spokesman informs the Courier-Life's Stephen Witt, "Forest City Ratner has told us there are no changes in the schedule at this time" to reconstruct and reopen the half-demolished Carlton Avenue bridge.

That's more than I got out of the ESDC, which referred me to the developer. Witt also tried, but FCR "refused comment on the matter."


Posted by amy at 10:31 AM

December 13, 2008

Unreliable Sources: "Undue Influence"

IFC Media Project, via YouTube, takes a look at "one case study where newspapers' comitments to the public trust collide with private business."

Posted by lumi at 5:30 PM


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Posted by amy at 11:19 AM

Rumble in Brooklyn: The Civilians’ Brooklyn at Eye Level

Brooklyn Rail
Aurin Squire

The fight over the Atlantic Yard Development is a battle for the heart and soul of Brooklyn. It is a part of the larger war being waged around the issues of gentrification vs. stagnation and progress vs. authenticity.

The award-winning theater company The Civilians takes on this issue and several others in a new docudrama with music, Brooklyn At Eye Level, which had a workshop production December 4-7 at the Brooklyn Lyceum. Based off of testimonials and interviews from all sides, The Civilian actors collected a wide scope of opinion on the Atlantic Yards, the protests, the backroom dealings, and the people on both sides.


Posted by amy at 9:48 AM

Nets' access to unemployed does not include arena food vouchers

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder needs to learn the old 'candy bars in the backpack' trick...

I can say that my group of four, attending the game last Wednesday, spent a lot more on food and drink than on tickets. Those $7.75 beers add up, as do the $4.25 hot dogs.

If the Nets ever try again to offer access to "the people who need us most," those free tickets ought to come with arena food vouchers.


Posted by amy at 9:40 AM

Bloomberg: "Letting any group have a special deal is not what democracy is about"

Atlantic Yards Report

On yesterday's Live from City Hall with Mayor Mike and John Gambling radio show, Mayor Mike Bloomberg said some very curious things about sweetheart deals, tax-exempt financing, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's capital budget.

Special deals

At about 25:45, he flatly declared:
Letting any group have a special deal is not what democracy is about. It breeds contempt for our laws.

Pop Quiz: That was said in relationship to...
A) The zoning override that allows Forest City Ratner to build Atlantic Yards at the size it desires
B) The City Council's vote, at his behest, to overturn and extend term limits
C) The ongoing sales by Indian reservations of tax-free cigarettes

Answer: C

NoLandGrab: Click through to see what Bloomberg had to say about financing sports facilities and the MTA.

Posted by amy at 9:35 AM

Carlton Avenue bridge reconstruction not delayed, ESDC tells Courier-Life; FCR remains mum


Atlantic Yards Report

Now we can relax. An unnamed Empire State Development Corporation spokesman informs the Courier-Life's Stephen Witt, "Forest City Ratner has told us there are no changes in the schedule at this time" to reconstruct and reopen the half-demolished Carlton Avenue bridge.

That's more than I got out of the ESDC, which referred me to the developer. Witt also tried, but FCR "refused comment on the matter."


Posted by amy at 9:30 AM

What fudge factor should we assign to Izod Center attendance figures? At least 25%

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that even the New York Daily News has observed that the New Jersey Nets' "officially listed average home crowd of 16,098 seems suspiciously high," the question becomes: what fudge factor should we assign?

At least one-quarter, I'd suggest. A 25% discount on the 16,098 average would mean 12,074.


Posted by amy at 9:28 AM

December 12, 2008

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Nets Daily, D’oh! Did “The Simpsons” Just Trash the Nets?

Bad week for Bruce. First there was a community theatre performance on the downside of Atlantic Yards. Then, there was an “independent” television report on why the city’s media haven’t taken a critical view of the Barclays Center. Now, critics are pointing to Sunday’s Simpsons episode where “Lisa tries to save the endangered Springfield bee population from Mr. Burns and his new sports arena.” D’oh!

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog], The News' Amazing Disappearing Carrion Story

Had the long arm of the borough president -- or the Yankees -- reached out and told the News to can it, as Nets owner Bruce Ratner is charged with having done to ex-Voicer Deborah Kolben's coverage of Atlantic Yards?

In the 'Zzone, No Hayes

My two cents on the crowd: Yes, there is a lack of buzz and energy in the building. But there has been, even when the Nets were good. Jason Kidd's first year here, when the Nets set a franchise record with 33 home wins, they averaged 13,761 fans - their lowest since 91-92.

Everyone has their reasons for not coming. Some of you stopped when Bruce Ratner traded Kenyon Martin, or when the Nets announced they were leaving for Brooklyn. And that's your choice. No one can blame you.

(Un)Real Estate [TampaBay.com], Hope it wasn't our mall that broke the bank

Okay, so it's probably a coincidence. But a few weeks after the new Wiregrass Mall opened north of Tampa, its developer, Forest City Enterprises, says "no mas" to new projects.

What I Ate For Lunch and Why, Lentil puree and cheese sandwich

About an hour. That’s how long it takes to walk from my house to my office if you stop at the cafe on the way and shift foot to foot, dithering between the lentils and the salami, settling on the lentils, and then pour yourself down Underhill to Bergen to Vanderbilt to Dean to Carlton to the detour at Atlantic Yards where you crack open your sandwich and gnaw at it, standing on the pedestrian bridge staring out at the tops of the LIRR trains washed in cold blue light...

PlanNYC, Multiple Factors Delay Atlantic Yards

All That Matterz, Will the New Jersey Nets move to Brooklyn fail?

And finally, from some parallel universe...

The Sports Diary Online, Nets new arena will soon rise in Brooklyn

In a couple of years perhaps, the Nets franchise is headed to the Bronx. It could be a new beginning for the ball club. The city of Brooklyn will have it's own pro league team since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. Residents of the city should thank rapper Jay-Z for bringing the franchise to Brooklyn. The New York Knicks can soon renew a rivalry with the Nets now that the team will just be a bridge away from the NYC.

NoLandGrab: As opposed to being just a tunnel away...from the NYC. Thanks, Jay-Z.

Posted by eric at 5:24 PM

Yankees Need More City Money

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

Wonder how the Yankees can afford to make C.C. Sabathia the highest-paid pitcher of all time? Here's how.

It looks like the Yankees are going to get a little more help in building their stadium. WNYC's Matthew Schuerman reports that Mayor Bloomberg gave his blessing to issuing another $370 million in tax-exempt bonds for the team.

REPORTER: The Yankees need the money to add extra features to their new stadium. The team will pay the bonds back, but the city won't collect taxes from them. A Bloomberg administration spokesman says the Yankees have agreed to pitch in $11 million in return for getting these new bonds, resulting in a slight net gain for the city treasury of $2.3 million. That's hardly enough to make up for the tens of millions of dollars in extra costs the city has incurred since agreeing to the new ball park three years ago. But the spokesman says revenues from associated projects, such as parking garages near the stadium, may well make up that difference.


NoLandGrab: Yet more tax breaks for the wealthiest sports franchise in the entire U.S. are surely an important priority in times of financial crisis.

[Update: Sources are reporting that the Yankees have reached agreement with free-agent pitcher A.J. Burnett on a five-year, $82.5 million contract.]

Posted by eric at 5:04 PM



It's been a few years since I've watched the Simpsons regularly. Like a lot of people have noted, it lost its fastball years ago. But it's still crafty and knows how to get people out. Like the one from last Sunday, in which the idea of publicly funded stadiums was caught looking.

(dual hat tips: to Atlantic Yards Report for writing about and linking to the whole episode, and to Pete Toms, for letting me know that Atlantic Yards was writing about and linking to the whole episode)


NoLandGrab: Wait a minute! First Crain's credits us for an Atlantic Yards Report story, and now Norman Oder gets credit for our Simpsons' coverage?

Posted by eric at 2:15 PM

Atlantic Yards at 5: What went wrong?

The Brooklyn Paper
by Sarah Portlock

The Brooklyn Paper takes a retrospective look at the Atlantic Yards, a five-year-old project that was supposed to take 10 years to build, but which has now been stopped before any real construction has even begun.

The report includes a handful of factual inaccuracies — we expect Atlantic Yards Report will offer a full accounting — but it gets at the essence of why this ill-conceived boondoggle has run off the rails.

It remains the question that is on every Brooklynite’s mind: What is going on at Atlantic Yards?

The answer: just about nothing.

Five years after Bruce Ratner introduced his sweeping vision for a 22-acre mini-city on and around the Long Island Railroad train yards — which would balloon into a $4.2-billion, publicly subsidized project including 16 skyscrapers, a 19,000-seat sports arena, 6,800 apartments, and top-grade office space — reality has trumped the dream.

While ongoing litigation — one of the last major cases won’t even be heard until January — may have contributed to some delays, the economy’s collapse is the biggest player right now.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson and lead eminent domain plaintiff Daniel Goldstein gets the last word:

“No one knows how long the economy is going to stay this way, and we can’t let Ratner tread water on our land forever,” Goldstein said on Wednesday. “If it’s up to Ratner, they’ll wait as long as they can. But it’s time for the governor to rescue the community from what is turning into a disaster.”


Posted by eric at 1:55 PM

See what develops

Crain's Cleveland Business
by Scott Suttell

While we've been keeping an eye on what transpires in Cleveland, home of Forest City Ratner parent company Forest City Enterprises, Cleveland has apparently been keeping an eye on what's going on in Brooklyn.

A new show from the Independent Film Channel contends that developer Bruce Ratner — the New York branch of Cleveland’s Ratner family — used his influence to get a New York Daily News reporter pulled from covering the Atlantic Yards megaproject in Brooklyn.

In Tuesday’s episode of The IFC Media Project, reporter Ali Farahnakian looks at why the big New York newspapers have soft-pedaled coverage of Atlantic Yards, which has generated controversy among residents opposed to the project’s scope and use of eminent domain. It’s helpful in this context to know that Mr. Ratner is the developer of The New York Times’ new skyscraper near Times Square.

Unfortunately, the episode isn’t available to watch online. (I have it on my DVR if you want to come over and watch.) But an anti-Atlantic Yards blog, NoLandGrab.org, has a summary of the show, the biggest scoop of which is the contention that former Daily News reporter Deborah Kolben was removed from covering the project when Mr. Ratner’s “top people” complained about her reporting.


NoLandGrab: Thanks for the props, guys, but our summary was actually a summary of Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report post. As usual, AYR did the heavy lifting.

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

IFC Media Project's "Unreliable Sources" now on YouTube

Atlantic Yards Report

While the video from Tuesday's program still isn't available on the IFC Media Project's web site, it is available via YouTube.


Posted by lumi at 8:02 AM

Why the fog? Behind Chuck Ratner's obfuscation about why AY is on hold

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder answers his own existential question:

Q. When is something not on hold when it's on hold?

A. When it's Atlantic Yards.

Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner said Wednesday that the company was putting "virtually all new development" on hold. Except Atlantic Yards.

If that were true, then Ratner should have continued, "When lawsuits are cleared, we will begin construction."

Instead, he said, "We remain committed to this and when we get--and we believe we will--successfully through the last of the litigation in 2009, we’ll evaluate the market at the time and see what our next steps are."

So, it's on hold.

However, Ratner's obfuscation (fancy word for "lie") was well worth it, because it pretty much confused every mainstream media organization that tried to cover the latest news.


Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Someone at The Simpsons has been reading Field of Schemes

Atlantic Yards Report

TheSimpsons2.jpg Norman Oder believes that NoLandGrab jumped to the conclusion that the story line of last Sunday night's episode of The Simpsons was pulled from Atlantic Yards.

Sure, it probably was about ANOTHER basketball team owner who drove the fan base away because he knows nothing about basketball, unveiled his plan to use public funds to build an arena nested in a group of highrise buildings, paraded his marquis player for the one and only public hearing, and bulldozed an important community resource for a "decadent monument to excess." *Snort!*

Here's what the Mad Odernator had to say:

One key difference: the new state-of-the-art arena for the Springfield Excitement emerges not from the vote of an unaccountable public authority, as with AY, but by public referendum.

"All those in favor of building this decadent monument to excess, say aye," asserts Mayor Joe Quimby.

Having achieved success in the vote, Montgomery Burns (above), in his self-satisfied way, declares, "Welcome to the American dream: a billionaire using public funds to construct a private playground for the rich and powerful."


NoLandGrab: No, the key difference is that Monty Burns's arena got built.

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! Puppies and Kittens NO!

PuppiesKittensNO.jpg According to the NY Daily News:

"The city's homeless cats and dogs won't be spared Mayor Bloomberg's budget ax" [While Bruce Ratner rakes in the public subsidies for his arena and highrise megaproject].

"New York City Animal Care and Control, a nonprofit group that runs the city's animal shelter system, will have $434,000 whacked from its city contract next year, Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said."


Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

Nets not getting much love at home

NY Daily News
By Julian Garcia

Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets are getting as much attention for poor attendance as poor play:

The Nets won't be in Brooklyn for a while, if ever. But there was plenty of Brooklyn in New Jersey on Wednesday night. At certain points, it seemed as if the rest of New York City was there, too.

In fact, the Nets' game against the Knicks at the Meadowlands sounded like a home game for the visiting team. The loudest cheers of the night came after Knicks' buckets, and after the Knicks finished a 121-109 win, it seemed as if the whole place was going home happy.
Though the Nets - who host the Raptors Friday night - have gotten used to receiving little or no support in their home arena, which they moved into in 1981, they seem to be especially affected by it this season. In 10 games at the Meadowlands, they've gone 4-6 and are worse off statistically in virtually every category than they are on the road, where they've gone 7-3. At home, they've averaged just over 99 points a game, on the road, slightly more than 104 points.


Atlantic Yards Report, Daily News: Nets' official attendance "seems suspiciously high"
Norman Oder adds:

I've made that point about inflated attendance figures several times.

The Star-Ledger also noticed that the arena on Wednesday night seemed to have as many fans of the Knicks as of the Nets:

After losing to the Knicks on Wednesday, they face the struggling Raptors Friday at Izod Center, where sparse crowds have been the backdrop for a disappointing home record.

Despite Nets' CEO Brett Yormark's denials, the Prudential Center in Newark has to be on the team's radar screen as at least an interim location.

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

Yes to Dock St project

The Brooklyn Paper comes out in support of the Dock St. project because the public review process forced the developer to propose improvements to the design, something that never happened in the case of Atlantic Yards:

Walentas needs a zoning change to make his Dock Street dream a reality.

That requirement allowed community leaders and elected officials to pick apart the original project, a process that revealed its flaws and prevented it from being built.

Such public review was entirely lacking at Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards, where a cursory environmental impact review found serious flaws, yet because no approval was needed by a local agency or elected official, the flaws were never corrected.

On Dock Street, however, the system worked: A flawed project was rejected, and the developer went back to the drawing board and returned with a better design that includes substantial public benefits.


Posted by lumi at 4:41 AM

The $1 hot dog? Not at the Izod Center--not even close

Atlantic Yards Report

Recently, NJ Nets CEO Brett Yormark touted the NBA's plans to make the sport more family-oriented, citing the one-dollar hot dog.

Norman Oder brought his wallet and stomach to Wednesday night's game at the 'Zod:


Last month, New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark was interviewed by the unskeptical Alexis Glick of Fox Business News.

When Glick asked how the cost to take a family to a sporting event could be made more affordable, Yormark replied thusly:

Well, the NBA has been very proactive in providing opportunities for anyone to come see an NBA game. There are teams out there that have tickets priced at 5, 10, and 15 dollars. There are opportunities to go to the concession stand and buy a hot dog for a dollar now. And all that is an opportunity to bring in as many people as possible. ...
I checked out the Izod Center on Wednesday night. A hot dog now costs $4.25.


Posted by lumi at 4:37 AM

December 11, 2008

Market Doesn't Like What Ratner Was Selling in Analyst Call

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn comments:

Forest City Ratner's parent company Forest City Enterprises' (FCE-A) stock continued its two day decline since its midday third quarter analyst call yesterday (December 10th) . Yesterday it was down 15%. Today it was down 22% to $5.46, up quite a bit from its recent 52-week low of $3.26, but down drastically from its 52-week high of $48.31


Posted by lumi at 8:48 PM

Atlantic Yards YES! ESDC Holiday Cheer NO!

According to The NY Observer, holiday festivities for employees of the quasi-public corporation that brought you Atlantic Yards will be relegated to two hours on the clock:

A memo sent out Monday to staffers (below) brings the grim news that the state’s economic development agency, which pays out hundreds of millions in state dollars in an attempt to grow businesses and developments statewide, will have a relatively thrifty December.
As the memo notes, employees get to use two work hours to enjoy their parsimonious celebrations.

Happy Holidays from "Atlantic Yards YESSSS!"

Posted by lumi at 8:05 PM

The Simpsons: The Burns and the Bees

BurnsRatner.gif No joke — they just did a Simpsons episode about Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards.

This past Sunday, Bruce Ratner got remixed with Mr. Burns as he razed a bee sanctuary for a new "state of the art" arena and high-rise complex, complete with a relocated basketball team and Nets' play-by-play man Marv Albert.

As Mr. Burns says, "Welcome to the American dream: a billionaire using public funds, to construct a private playground for the rich and powerful."

view episode

NoLandGrab: Bleepin' hilarious, but does this mean that Atlantic Yards has jumped the shark?

Posted by lumi at 7:35 PM

Atlantic Yards YES! Medicaid NO!!

NY Times, Hospital Officials Worry as Paterson Signals Need for More Medicaid Cuts

Heart attack victims would be revived, and broken bones would be put in casts. But pregnant women might not be able to get prenatal checkups at convenient times, treatment for children’s asthma might be cut and diabetes diagnoses for adults could be delayed.

These are among the doomsday predictions of public and private hospital executives across New York City as Gov. David A. Paterson prepares to release a budget next week that he has warned will include severe cuts to the state Medicaid program that reimburses hospitals and doctors for services to low-income patients.

In the worst case, officials say, hospitals could face bankruptcies, service cuts and layoffs within a matter of months if Medicaid cuts being proposed by Governor Paterson go into effect.

NoLandGrab: Hey, what's a little asthma or diabetes when Brooklyn could have its very own professional sports team playing in Bruce Ratner's very own taxpayer-subsidized billion dollar arena?

Posted by eric at 2:44 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

A Daily Photo, Holiday season, North Flatbush

Now we know what the area around Atlantic Mall is called. (Few refer to it as Times Plaza; the Brooklyn Times-Union paper is looong gone.) What I already knew is that the traffic around here, at the convergence of Flatbush, Atlantic, Fourth and Pacific Avenues, scares the bejesus out of me, night or day. The Atlantic Yards construction, if it happens, will exacerbate the problem. In the meantime, look both ways, not at the bland holiday decorations, and don’t try to beat the dollar vans when you’re crossing the street.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Will Survive...Kind Of

It's not the economy, stupid. Except it is. Last week, Forest City Ratner blamed the eminent domain lawsuit for delays at Atlantic Yards, and yet now he says that the project will remain pretty much on hold until the economy rebounds. The $4.2 billion project will survive, they say, but it may take even longer than expected.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Ratner Delaying Ratner

The next time you hear Bruce Ratner and his spokes-sidekick Joe DePlasco whine that opponents are delaying their Atlantic Yards development proposal (we aren't delaying it, we are trying to stop it by challenging its myriad abuses and wrongdoings so we can get some sane, community-based development moving here), just tell them to talk to Chuck Ratner, President of their parent company Forest City Enterprises.

Anita MonCrief, Get ready New York: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

In an August board meeting the ACORN board discussed the ramifications of the Ratner loan and some expressed doubts about the resources to pay back the money (many funders were withholding pledges). At this point the president of ACORN Housing promised to cover the note if ACORN could not make the payment. This statement was one of the reasons the ACORN 8 filed suit in New Orleans for access to the books. Apparently ACORN housing receives substantial public and federal support and their interest in the Atlantic Yards deal makes this whole relationships very questionable.

Imperfect Dynasty, Jersey's Top Ten: Names For The Brooklyn NBA Franchise

The Nets should be moving to Brooklyn sooner or later, and hopefully, they'll be changing their name. As a Nets fan, I can honestly say that the team's current name sucks. It's bland, pointless, and has no meaning. Hopefully, the Brooklyn franchise be given a better nickname.

Click through for the pretty lame top 10. Our suggestion: The New Jersey Nets.

Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

Second look at judge's ruling that "there are neither allegations nor proof... that the property will not be timely improved"

Atlantic Yards Report

Given the statements yesterday by Forest City Enterprises' Chuck Ratner about how the market--not the timetable the developer announced in May--it's worth taking another look at a September 2008 decision in an AY-related lawsuit by state Supreme Court Justice Jane Solomon.

Solomon rejected charges by tenants in two AY footprint buildings that that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is violating a provision of state law that requires disposition of properties within a decade and should hold another hearing because the project has changed considerably.

No timetable?

On the latter issue, attorney George Locker had argued that, while the project, when approved in December 2006, was supposed to take a decade, the State Funding Agreement gives a long leash: there's no start date for Phase 1, and that the developer has 12 years from the delivery of property to complete that phase without penalty, and there’s no timetable for Phase 2, which would include 11 of 16 towers.

“The bulk of the Atlantic Yards project, as far as the operative contracts are concerned, does not exist,” Locker argued in court.

Solomon, despite expressing surprise in the court hearing that eminent domain had not commenced despite “all of this publicity” about the project, wrote:
There simply are neither allegations nor proof in petitioners' papers that the project is or will be abandoned, that the property will not be timely improved or that it is intended to be conveyed to a private user without giving the fee owner a right of first refusal.
(Emphasis added)


Attorney George Locker posted a comment in response:

"Judge Solomon refused to see the elephant in the room, i.e., the disappearance of the Atlantic Yards Project, which occurred well before this latest financial crisis. The lack of any start or end date for the bulk of the project is clearly documented in a September 2007 Funding Agreement between FCRC and ESDC, which was kept a secret from the public until March 2008. We are appealing from Judge Solomon's decision and order. We believe that the Appellate Division will take judicial notice of reality, as opposed to the posturing of an ESDC lawyer, and send this dramatically changed project back for public hearings, as the law requires."

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

The Gift of Giving

Barclays/Nets Community Alliance press release via Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The great philanthropist Bruce Ratner, who has laid waste to Prospect Heights while gorging himself at the public trough, is spreading holiday cheer in Bushwick.

The Barclays/Nets Community Alliance, which includes a partnership between Barclays, the Nets and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), brought holiday fun and toys to hundreds of children in Brooklyn yesterday at The Salvation Army’s Bushwick Community Center.

The event featured Nets players Josh Boone, Bobby Simmons, Maurice Ager, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Trenton Hassell (pictured above) and Stromile Swift, who delivered a truckload of toys to 250 children attending an after-school program.

Nets mascot Sly was also there to help entertain the kids.

“No child should ever be without a toy during the holiday season,” said Nets owner and Downtown real estate magnate Bruce Ratner.


NoLandGrab: It pains us to publish stuff like this, but we've pledged to post all Atlantic Yards-related news (and "news"). But shame on the Brooklyn Eagle for regurgitating this pabulum while failing utterly to take a critical look at the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

"Unreliable Sources" redux: only one of three dailies covers the Forest City conference call

Atlantic Yards Report

The Daily News article, though placed online in the Brooklyn section, appears on page 3 of the print edition, a deservedly prominent place. I have previously criticized the Daily News for relegating important AY stories to the edition distributed only in Brooklyn.

(I still think the article left unrebutted the developer's claims that litigation is the cause of the current work stoppage.)

The New York Post, whose reporter covering Brooklyn development lamented to the cameras that there was a lack of information about Atlantic Yards, ignored the conference call.

The New York Times, which has neglected Atlantic Yards and other development news only to play periodic catch-up, ignored the conference call.


Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

Forest City Puts a Halt To New Work

The Wall Street Journal
by Alex Frangos


Real-estate developer Forest City Enterprises Inc. said it will halt new projects and focus on reducing debt and managing its existing real-estate portfolio.

"Forest City has heavy debt and heavy development, both of which are a problem these days," says Rich Moore, analyst at RBC Capital Markets. The company has $2 billion of debt maturities over the next two years, according to company filings. Real-estate debt markets have seized during the past year, creating headaches for property owners needing to refinance mortgages and replace construction loans.

Forest City said it will continue some developments it has already started, including the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, N.Y. Plans for the 22-acre site include offices, apartments and a basketball arena.

The company has spent five years working on Atlantic Yards. Lawsuits and the weak economy have delayed the start of major construction, and Forest City faces the maturity of an Atlantic Yards development loan from lender Gramercy Capital Corp. in February 2009.

Forest City hasn't disclosed the size of the Gramercy loan. But according to New York City records, Gramercy lent Forest City $153 million for land at the site. "We're actively engaged in the negotiation on extending the terms," Mr. Ratner said during the conference call.


NoLandGrab: Apparently, Forest City is "continuing" to develop its Atlantic Yards project by halting all work on it.

And based on the company's past M.O., turning to the public purse for yet more help will surely be a key strategy.

Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

Atlantic Yards will go up . . . when economy does

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin and Jotham Sederstrom

Top brass behind Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project insisted Wednesday the $4.2 billion project would survive the crumbling economy - but conceded there will likely be further delays and didn't have a construction time line.

"I think we can successfully delay until we are prepared to start [the project]," Forest City Enterprises President Charles Ratner told investors just hours before the price of the company's stock fell 15%, to $7.02 a share.

"I can't tell you in this market when that can be. How long?" Ratner said. "I don't know."

The gloomy forecast comes on the heels of a decision to halt construction at the site until a lawsuit challenging the use of eminent domain is settled early next year.


NoLandGrab: The Daily News continues to cling to the fallacy that Forest City stopped work on the Vanderbilt Yard due to lawsuits, even while FCE CEO Chuck Ratner was admitting otherwise.

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

AY fatigue? At CBN's anniversary event, small crowd, two reporters hear call for project audit

Atlantic Yards Report


Wednesday morning, on the the fifth anniversary of the announcement of the Atlantic Yards project, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods requested the city and state comptrollers to conduct an audit of all public monies spent on the project.

At first, only about a dozen people attended the press conference, including two local activists, Jo Anne Simon and Ken Baer, who are running for the City Council seat currently occupied by David Yassky. State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and City Council Member Letitia James were late. Besides myself, only one reporter--a representative of the Brooklyn Paper--was in attendance.

Could it be that the press and public are tired of the Atlantic Yards issue, even as new questions--such as why the state has seemingly let developer Forest City Ratner stall the repairs on the Carlton Avenue bridge--have arisen? The event was held at the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, where Forest City Ratner recently tore down two structurally sound row houses, leaving what CBN calls developer's blight and the distinctive outline of a since-demolished house on its neighbor's wall.


Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

Nets host Knicks, but attract modest crowd

Atlantic Yards Report

With an announced attendance of 16,722, the Izod Center was allegedly 83.7% full (capacity 19,968) for the game last night between the New Jersey Nets and the New York Knicks.

Well, I was there, and saw scads of empty seats--I'd estimate the arena was at best 60% full--and this with a good number of Knicks fans, happy with the team's come-from-behind victory. (See empty upper deck seats here and here.)

That's part of why Forest City Enterprises is absorbing $22.4 million in losses from the Nets this year. It's also why, despite Forest City's claim that it can proceed with Atlantic Yards at its own pace (assuming litigation is cleared), it must be feeling the pressure.


NoLandGrab: LeBron James was not watching, as he and his Cleveland Cavaliers were busy winning their 10th straight game, running their record to 19-3. The chances of the Nets signing LBJ in 2010 are looking slimmer and slimmer.

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

December 10, 2008

It came from the Blogosphere...

BrooklynNetsBigWigs.jpg Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Celebrates A Big Birthday

Yep, it's five years old today, and DDDB has posted this photo of the big cheeses celebrating the announcement in more hopeful times.

Daily Intel, Atlantic Yards Turns Five Today!

Believe it or not, five years ago today, in the flush of the real-estate boom, Mayor Bloomberg, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, and big-time developer Bruce Ratner unveiled their vision for Atlantic Yards, which would tear down a chunk of Prospect Heights to build a Brooklyn Nets arena plus a complex of residential, retail, and office towers that would loom over the small-scale hood. As many of you know, utter chaos and protest ensued, with accusations that the project's size and scale would destroy the area. And today, the protesters have won, sort of: Construction hasn't begun and the whole thing's tied up in lawsuits and has naturally slowed due to the financial meltdown.

Campaing for Community-Based Planning, CBN Calls for Audit of Atlantic Yards

Last week, all work on the Atlantic Yards project came to a halt. Developer Forest City Ratner’s spokesperson blamed the delay on the ongoing eminent domain lawsuit. However, project opponents (and Community-Based Planning Task Force members) Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn point out that the economy and financing concerns are more likely causes of the work stoppage.

According to Atlantic Yards Report, this morning another Task Force member organization, Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, held a press conference calling for an audit of the project upon the five-year anniversary of its announcement.

Brownstoner, FCE: "Lots of Things Could Happen" at Atlantic Yards

A reader just forwarded us an excerpt from the preliminary transcript from the conference call Forest City Ratner just held with investors. See the excerpt here.

The NY Observer, Forest City: All New Development On Hold (Except Atlantic Yards)

The word from the top brass at Forest City Enterprises, parent company of Brooklyn-based mega-developer Forest City Ratner, is the firm is suspending all new development. That is, except Atlantic Yards.

Curbed.com, Quotations from Forest City Ratner

On this, the fifth birthday of the Atlantic Yards announcement, Forest City Enterprises had a conference call about its finances today and there are many, many, many quotes from Chuck Ratner about money and Atlantic Yards. First, there was a statement that the market would determine when the project would actually be finished from Mr. Ratner's cousin, who is actually the corporate CEO. AYR reports the tone as "very somber, as Ratner declared that, though he'd seen many challenging times in 42 years of business, 'I must confess, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. We believe conditions will worsen.'" Company stock was down by mid-afternoon. Asked what "could happen" with Atlantic Yards, Mr. Ratner said:

"There’s lots of ‘coulds,’ OK?"..."There’s lots of things that could happen. We’ve been here before, right? We’re here with Brooklyn, 25 years ago, at MetroTech...That doesn’t mean everything works out, you saw our project write-offs are up."

Nets Daily, Nets Parent Company Recommits to Barclays Center Despite Economy

The Nets principal owner is Bruce Ratner but the man with the purse strings is his cousin, Charles, CEO of Forest City Enterprises. FCE owns the biggest chunk of the Nets with 23% and more importantly has been funding the Nets annual losses for five years. The other Ratner Wednesday insisted that the company remains commited to Brooklyn and the Nets in spite of the economy.

Posted by lumi at 7:27 PM

Forest City to emphasize operations rather than development

Crain's Cleveland Business
By Stan Bullard

Forest City Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: FCEA, FCEB) is doing the switcheroo to deal with the global credit crunch.

In a conference call with analysts and investors today, Charles Ratner, Forest City CEO, said, “The near-term effect is that we are going from a developer with an operating company to becoming a real estate operating company with a development capability. We did that in the early 1990s” during the commercial realty credit crunch after the savings-and-loan crisis.

That is how Mr. Ratner summarized the $10.9 billion Cleveland-based company’s decision to “put virtually all new development on hold until the economy improves.”
While New York City newspapers last weekend questioned whether Forest City could continue its huge 22-acre arena and mixed-use Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, Mr. Ratner said workers left the site because they completed some demolition work at the rail yard that the company had ordered. Forest City has completed all it can on the site until it resolves pending litigation related to the project, Mr. Ratner said.

“It will take longer than we thought it would. It already has,” he said. “We remain committed to the project.”


NoLandGrab: Charles Ratner is totally making up that crap about completing all that it can on the Atlantic Yards site. For instance, there's the half-demolished Carlton Avenue bridge that has to be rebuilt, whether or not Atlantic Yards makes it off the drawing board.

Posted by lumi at 6:50 PM

Chuck Ratner repudiates cousin Bruce's AY 2018 pledge, says marketplace determines pace of project

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on today's Forest City Enterprises 3rd Quarter earnings conference call.

Despite Bruce Ratner’s pledge in May that “[w]e anticipate finishing all of Atlantic Yards by 2018,” his cousin Chuck Ratner, president and CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises today told investment analysts in a conference call that, while Atlantic Yards would take longer than expected, he couldn’t predict a timeline because it would be determined by the market.

(He was assuming that legal challenges would be cleared.)

Chuck Ratner, who though questioned would not estimate the costs of delay, also reaffirmed the developer’s commitment to the project and declared that city and state officials maintained that commitment. Also, unchallenged by the analysts, he flatly stated that the developer had completed all the work it could at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard.

Ratner's statements about Atlantic Yards--firm commitment at no announced pace--suggest that Forest City is hedging its bets, hoping to attract new investors and/or additional government subsidies.

Click through for FCE's dodgy explanation of why they stopped working on Atlantic Yards last week, their attempts to renegotiate a big loan obligation, and Chuck Ratner's prognostications regarding the future of Cousin Brucie's megaproject.


NoLandGrab: So Forest City will build Atlantic Yards when market conditions will support it? What about neighborhood conditions?

Politicians in Albany and City Hall and Borough Hall have allowed Forest City to knock down more than two dozen buildings, and half of the Carlton Avenue bridge, blighting the community, cutting it off from adjacent neighborhoods and displacing hundreds of residents, and now the area will lie fallow until it becomes profitable for Forest City to move forward?

That's not even remotely acceptable. It's well past time for Governor Paterson to act in the interest of the people of Brooklyn, and the taxpayers, and pursue a more sensible, sustainable and achievable development program — like the UNITY Plan. Atlantic Yards needs to be removed from life (and public) support.

Posted by eric at 4:21 PM

Ratner Work Stoppage and Delay is Corporate Strategy.
Whither Public Policy?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB listened in on Forest City Enterprises' conference call with stock analysts today, and learned that, no, the two lawsuits it's funding are not the reason that work was halted on the Atlantic Yards project last week.

Well today, on parent company Forest City Enterprises third quarter analysts call, CEO Chuck Ratner said, "We've put all new development on hold until economic conditions improve meaningfully." He included Atlantic Yards in his run down.

So the rail yard work stoppage is due purely to corporate strategy, not litigation.

Meanwhile, as the Carlton Avenue bridge stands half-demolished, and the state and city seem content to let Forest City decide when to resume the work on this important piece of public infrastructure, DDDB has what seems like a sensible suggestion.

It's time for some good public policy at the proposed development site, instead of corporate strategies.


Posted by eric at 3:41 PM

Atlantic Yards YES! Income-tax hikes for NYC residents YES!!

AP via Crain's NY Business, Bloomberg demands bigger budget sacrifices...

...except from Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, who isn't expected to sacrifice anything.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is plunging his knife back into the budget and ordering all city agencies to slash spending by another 7% for next year, a month after he already proposed unpopular cuts and tax hikes amid a grim economic slowdown.

"We are going to have an enormous problem," Mr. Bloomberg told reporters Tuesday. "Even with all of the cuts that we have proposed, even with all of the revenue increases that we've proposed, we probably have a few billion dollars deficit."

Mr. Bloomberg also has said he is not ruling out raising income taxes. Those could go up by as much as 15%, meaning an annual increase of $233 for a resident earning between $50,000 and $70,000 a year.

NoLandGrab: Mr. Bloomberg, of course, has proposed no cuts to the Atlantic Yards project, nor any revenue increases. In fact, while he contemplates raising the income taxes of city residents, we should point out that the Atlantic Yards project would be exempt from the mortgage-recording tax, sales taxes on arena construction materials, property taxes for at least 30 years, any taxes on arena bonds, etc., etc., etc.

Posted by eric at 2:29 PM

Institute for Justice Press Release: Texas Developer Files Lawsuits To Bulldoze Freedom of the Press

Targets Include Book Author, Publisher, Law Professor Richard Epstein and Newspapers that Published Book Review

Dallas, Texas — In perhaps the most striking example of a disturbing national trend, Dallas developer H. Walker Royall has launched a lawsuit spree to silence any media or public affairs commentator who dares expose his attempted abuse of eminent domain. Similar suits have been filed in Tennessee, Missouri and elsewhere by developers and governments looking to silence critics of eminent domain for private gain.

Royall worked with the city of Freeport, Texas, to try to condemn a generations-old shrimp business owned by the Gore family to make way for a luxury marina. The project became the subject of the book, Bulldozed: “Kelo,” Eminent Domain, and the American Lust for Land, authored by veteran legal journalist Carla Main. Bulldozed tells the story of Freeport’s plan to take the Gores’ waterfront property for Royall’s luxury marina development project.

After journalist Main wrote her book exposing the Freeport land grab, Royall sued her as well as her publisher, Encounter Books, for defamation. He even sued nationally renowned Law Professor Richard Epstein who wrote a blurb for the book’s dust jacket. When someone reviewed the book, he sued him. When two newspapers published that review, he sued them.

Today, the Institute for Justice Texas Chapter filed a notice of appearance with the Dallas County District Court in order to vindicate the right of author Main, her publisher and Professor Epstein to freely debate eminent domain abuse.


Posted by eric at 1:50 PM

GL Analysis: Five Years of Atlantic Yards BS is Enough

Gowanus Lounge

A thoughtful reflection from Gowanus Lounge on the occasion of the Fifth Anniversary of the unveiling of Atlantic Yards.

A quarter century from now, when the planners analyze what went wrong in Brooklyn in the early 2000s, they will have a lot to say (and none of it good) about the chain of events that started on December 10, 2003, when developer Bruce Ratner, flanked by a beaming Marty Markowitz and other public officials announced a magnficent plan called Atlantic Yards. There would be an arena for a basketball team call the Nets (stolen from New Jersey) designed by Frank Gehry. And, a sea of housing and office towers, also Gehry designed, that would become a new center for Brooklyn. By 2006, they said, the Nets would be playing ball at Flatbush and Atantic Avenues and all would be well. Taxpayers would pay little. An eyesore called the Vanderbilt Yard would be covered up and, well, we’d all live happily ever after.

Well, here we are five years later and Atlantic Yards has turned into a case study of how not to develop a major urban project. It has proceeded with a top-down arrogance that is almost unique in the annals of American planning history. The process has been one of the most anti-democratic we have witnessed anywhere in America in three decades of coverage of urban development. (Robert Moses and Richard Daley the First notwithstanding.) Neighborhoods have been excluded. City planners have had no say (not that the outcome would have been signficantly different). An epic eminent domain case and other legal battles have developed. And the process has been conducted in such a way that deep community divisions have been created that could easily have been avoided by creating an inclusive process rather than fostering a divisive and hateful one.

Deadline after deadline has been missed. Public costs have skyrocketed. Key details have been kept from the public. The mainstream media has totally abrogated its responsibility to investigate the somewhat sleazy goings on in Albany and Prospect Heights. And, in the meantime, the entire economy has changed and the financial systems has nearly collapsed. The developer has started trimming the project. First, saying that it could stall, and then noting that affordable housing would be cut and that its signature tower wouldn’t be built until a tenant was found. Even the architect involved in the project–Frank Gehry–has found his good name dragged through mud via his association with this out-of-context, community-destroying project.

One thing is certain, when Mr. Ratner and his friend Mr. Markowitz held up Brookyn Nets jerseys on December 10, 2003, we’re pretty certain none of them imagined things would ever reach this point. We’re rather amazed ourselves. Here’s a solution that would seem to be a win-win: sell the Nets to a Newark investment group so they can play in the Prudential Center–itself a facility built by a public official who is now in prison because he was corrupt to the core and restart the planning process from the community level for redeveloping the Vanderbilt Yard. Of course, the problem is that the Bloomberg Administration does not have a good track record with this kind of thing. But, you know, hope springs eternal.


Posted by eric at 1:33 PM

CBN Press Release: Request for Audit of Public Funding for Atlantic Yards

Today the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods gathered with area residents, politicians and community leaders to mark the fifth anniversary of the announcement of the Atlantic Yards Development Project. In stark contrast to the announcement ceremony five years ago, the group stood outside in the project footprint under rainy skies, not admiring models but staring at vacant lots that have been cleared and abandoned by developer Forest City Ratner which has suspended all work on the project.

“Five years ago the people who lived here said this project would be a disaster for the community,” said Candace Carponter, co-chair of CBN. “CBN was formed to analyze the project, and all our studies confirmed what many had believed: this project was not only ill-conceived and socially unfair, it was never economically viable. Now Forest City Ratner has stopped all work and is trying to blame legitimate lawsuits that are preventing the disaster from getting worse. It won’t wash.”

“And where has the money gone?” continued Terry Urban, CBN’s other co-chair. “Hundreds of millions of dollars in city and state funds have been committed to this project. While there has been some infrastructure work done, the Carlton Avenue Bridge has been destroyed and is not currently being rebuilt. This healthy neighborhood has been severely blighted with the help of the public purse. And we want to know where the money went.”

CBN has formally requested a complete audit of all public monies that have been committed to the Atlantic Yards Development Project, both budgeted and already spent, be performed by NYS Comptroller DiNapoli and NYC Comptroller Thompson. The results of the audits will be made publicly available on the CBN website, www.councilofbrooklynneighborhoods.org.

[Letters to the Comptrollers after the jump.]

December 10, 2008

New York City Comptroller William Thompson
Office of the Comptroller
City of New York
1 Centre Street
New York, NY 10007

Dear Comptroller Thompson:

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a coalition of 42 community organizations, is writing to you on behalf of our combined membership of over 3,500 residents of Central Brooklyn. We are very concerned with recent news reports that work on the MTA’s Vanderbilt Railyards has been halted by Forest City Ratner Corporation. The MTA said this work was vital for the development of a new rail yard and was central in their selection of FCRC as the developer for the Atlantic Yards Development Project. The ESDC, the state Authority charged with oversight for the Development project, has referred all questions to FCRC and has stated that the developer is setting the schedule, not the state. The developer has also made similar public statements.

Forest City Ratner Corporation has severely blighted the neighborhood with the destruction of valuable housing stock, and buildings that housed light manufacturing, and local industry. Hundreds of residents have been displaced. The Carlton Avenue bridge, a major connection between Prospect Heights and Fort Greene, has been closed in preparation for replacement and now has no date for re-opening. This closure is not only inconveniencing and isolating two sister communities, it is endangering Brooklyn residents by adding up to ten minutes to the response time of the fire station that serves those communities which relied on that bridge.

When it was learned last week that Forest City Ratner had halted all work on the project, the ESDC was contacted and asked when the Carlton Avenue Bridge would be returned to the public road grid. Amazingly, the ESDC said it was not their responsibility. They replied to a local resident, “"The responsibility for work to construct a new Carlton Avenue Bridge is Forest City Ratner's. No work is being done on the bridge now. Beyond that, I will have to refer you to FCRC on all of your other questions." There have been no transferences of public property to the developer so their disposition is still a public responsibility, yet the Public Authority charged with oversight of this project defers to the private developer.

Most disappointingly, Forest City Ratner has done this damage with the extraordinary monetary support of New York City and New York State.

Therefore, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhood formally requests a complete audit and reporting of all public monies allocated to the Atlantic Yards Development Project by the City of New York, either directly, via any City agency or through any other channel. We request a complete report of the status of the Atlantic Yards Development Project and oversight of the public expenditures for the Project.

We look forward to your speedy response to this urgent request regarding this troubled and clearly stalled Project which has involved the public purse in its destructive process.

Thank you for your prompt attention.


Candace Carponter
Therese Urban
Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods

 cc: Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum; NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn; NYC Councilwoman Letitia James; NYC Councilman Bill DeBlasio; NYC Councilman David Yassky

December 10, 2008

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli
Office of the State Comptroller
110 State Street
15th Floor
Albany, NY 12236

Dear Comptroller DiNapoli:

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a coalition of 42 community organizations, is writing to you on behalf of our combined membership of over 3,500 residents of Central Brooklyn. We are very concerned with recent news reports that work on the MTA’s Vanderbilt Railyards has been halted by Forest City Ratner Corporation. The MTA said this work was vital for the development of a new rail yard and was central in their selection of FCRC as the developer for the Atlantic Yards Development Project. The ESDC, the state Authority charged with oversight for the Development project, has referred all questions to FCRC and has stated that the developer is setting the schedule, not the state. The developer has also made similar public statements.

Forest City Ratner Corporation has severely blighted the neighborhood with the destruction of valuable housing stock, and buildings that housed light manufacturing, and local industry. Hundreds of residents have been displaced. The Carlton Avenue bridge, a major connection between Prospect Heights and Fort Greene, has been closed in preparation for replacement and now has no date for re-opening. This closure is not only inconveniencing and isolating two sister communities, it is endangering Brooklyn residents by adding up to ten minutes to the response time of the fire station that serves those communities which relied on that bridge.

When it was learned last week that Forest City Ratner had halted all work on the project, the ESDC was contacted and asked when the Carlton Avenue Bridge would be returned to the public road grid. Amazingly, the ESDC said it was not their responsibility. They replied to a local resident, “"The responsibility for work to construct a new Carlton Avenue Bridge is Forest City Ratner's. No work is being done on the bridge now. Beyond that, I will have to refer you to FCRC on all of your other questions." There have been no transferences of public property to the developer so their disposition is still a public responsibility, yet the Public Authority charged with oversight of this project defers to the private developer.

Most disappointingly, Forest City Ratner has done this damage with the extraordinary monetary support of New York City and New York State.

Therefore, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhood formally requests a complete audit and reporting of all public monies allocated to the Atlantic Yards Development Project by the City of New York, either directly, via any City agency or through any other channel. We request a complete report of the status of the Atlantic Yards Development Project and oversight of the public expenditures for the Project.

We look forward to your speedy response to this urgent request regarding this troubled and clearly stalled Project which has involved the public purse in its destructive process.

Thank you for your prompt attention.


Candace Carponter
Therese Urban
Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods

 cc: Governor David Paterson; State Senator Velmanette Montgomery; State Senator Martin Connor; State Senator-elect Daniel Squadron; Assemblywoman Joan Millman; Assemblyman James Brennan; Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries

Posted by eric at 12:48 PM

MTA asks for shared sacrifice - but squanders its assets

NY Daily News Op-Ed
by Julia Vitullo-Martin

This opinion piece by a notable Atlantic Yards critic doesn't specifically mention the MTA's more-than-50%-off agreement to sell the Vanderbilt Yard to Bruce Ratner, but then again, it doesn't have to.

Before the state raises everyone's taxes to support the bloated Metropolitan Transportation Authority, shouldn't we first insist that the MTA take advantage of any and all underused real estate that it already owns or controls under long-term leases?

One of Mayor Bloomberg's most important initiatives in his first term was to direct city agencies to identify and analyze all real estate holdings in order to sell off underdeveloped properties. The idea was to protect neighborhoods from the blight that inevitably accompanies vacant land while letting the city reap real estate's financial rewards.


NoLandGrab: The MTA's deal with Ratner has, conversely, contributed to a big increase in blight in Prospect Heights, and a squandering of potential financial gain.

Posted by eric at 12:34 PM

The Illinois governor pressured the Chicago Tribune; in New York, the mayor & Ratner have had much less trouble

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines the differences between the way things are done in Illinois and the way they're done here in the Empire State.

The sell-the-Senate-seat scandal immolating Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has a very interesting subplot regarding state help for a sports facility and the role of Chicago's leading newspaper.

The indicted Illinois Governor allegedly threatened to withhold state financial assistance for the Chicago Cubs if the club's parent company, which owns the Chicago Tribune, didn't fire some pesky editors (simpler to just have Bruce Ratner make a phone call). In addition, according to the Department of Justice:

Blagojevich and Sports Consultant discussed the importance of getting the IFA transaction approved at the agency’s December or January meeting because Blagojevich was contemplating leaving office in early January and his IFA appointees would still be in place to approve the deal, the charges allege.

And what about the rush to approve Atlantic Yards before 2006 and the end of the administration of Gov. George Pataki? Consultants for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) worked over Thanksgiving to revise the Final Environmental Impact Statement.


Posted by eric at 12:17 PM

Times Coverage of Landmarks Preservation Commission: The Pieces Needing to Fall Into Place

Noticing New York

As a correction at the end of the article notes, the Times got a little confused about the status of the [Ward] bakery building’s demolition. However, it is easy to get confused about the status of the demolition which has lasted an infernally long time, going back to the Spring of 2007 and involves a suspicious parapet collapse. Some of the grand old building still remains.

The fact that it took three tries for the Times to variously report that the building was torn down last year, this year and is still ongoing indicates that mention of the Ward Bakery might have been included in the article late in its writing. If some of us, Noticing New York included, who have “fiercely” objected to the failure to landmark the Ward Bakery Building contributed to getting it mentioned in the article, so much the better.


Posted by eric at 12:07 PM

Happy Fifth Landgrabiversary, Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Five years ago today, December 10, 2003, Forest City Ratner officially unveiled its Atlantic Yards proposal. Bruce Ratner, joined at Brooklyn Borough Hall by Borough President Markowitz, Senator Schumer, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki, announced his plans to build the massive project extending east from the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Bruce Ratner announced that his new arena for the Nets--the team he had just overpaid to purchase--would open to the public in 2006. The project overview released by Forest City Ratner on that December day read, on page 5: "Arena development to begin at the end of 2004, with completion set for the summer of 2006."

Today we mark five years of fighting what has become the poster child for abusive over-development, development that subverts democracy, eminent domain abuse, bad government, developer and architect hubris, opaque financing, poor planning (etc.) across the city and beyond. Today, as we mark the five year struggle against the project, Mr. Ratner's land grab is at a stand still. While his real estate speculation firm is able to demolish the properties he purchased under the threat of eminent domain, he cannot start construction of his project while it faces two legal challenges in court, and the global fiscal meltdown isn't helping either. And if the plaintiffs win either of those two pending lawsuits, Atlantic Yards cannot be built. Then Brooklyn can finally work together to develop the Vanderbilt Rail Yards in a responsible manner, that truly benefits Brooklynites, and the neighborhoods that surround the yards, utilizing the UNITY Plan.

Thank you for all of your support and activism over these five years.


NoLandGrab: And thank you, DDDB. Without your incredible effort in opposing Forest City Ratner's ill-conceived boondoggle, the community would have lost long ago.

Posted by eric at 8:57 AM

Brodsky announces expanded inquiry into aid for stadium projects

Atlantic Yards Report

Given news reports of additional ($342.1 million, according to the New York Times) tax-exempt bonds for the Yankees and Mets stadiums, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, chair of the Corporations committee, issued a statement saying he'll continue his inquiries.

We don't know if the Assemblyman has been reading NoLandGrab's occasional "Atlantic Yards YES!" items, but here's an excerpt from his press release:

"We don't have the money to fund trains, schools or hospitals, yet two of the richest, most profitable companies in the world are turning to taxpayers for support," said Assemblyman Brodsky. "What public interest is served by these subsidies, especially when average citizens cannot afford the enormous increase in ticket prices? Who is protecting the public interest? How can we afford these subsidies when we can't find the money to fund mass transit or schools without enormous tax increases? We're going to get answers to these questions."

What about the "Barclays Center?"

Note that Brodsky has not indicated that the inquiry would extend to the planned Atlantic Yards arena. Though construction has not yet begun, presumably some of the same discussions between the team owner and city/state officials are occurring.


Posted by eric at 8:43 AM

The Kolben chronicles: more likely it was her reports for the Brooklyn Paper, not the Daily News, that alarmed Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

So, if the scoop in last night's IFC Media Project report on Atlantic Yards was that Forest City Ratner executives--according to an unnamed source, Bruce Ratner himself--got Daily News reporter Deborah Kolben kicked off the Atlantic Yards beat, what exactly were her transgressions?

The answer: likely none committed while writing for the Daily News.

[P]erhaps Forest City Ratner had gotten wind of tougher coverage in the works at the Daily News.

More likely, however, they were peeved by Kolben's record at the Brooklyn Paper, where she wrote skeptical articles like the 7/17/04 SILENT PARTNERS, about an attempt to find out who was buying the New Jersey Nets; the 7/3/04 RATNER’S MONEY PIT, a sympathetic account of a critical report on alleged tax benefits from Atlantic Yards; and the 6/26/04 Watchdog calls for arena ‘ULURP’, about the importance of putting the project through the city's land use review procedures.


NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure that Bruce Ratner would be wasting his time if he were to call Norman Oder's editor, Norman Oder, and demand that Oder be taken off the Atlantic Yards beat.

Posted by eric at 8:26 AM

The IFC Media Project scoop: former Daily News reporter says she was pulled off AY beat (and source blames Ratner)

Atlantic Yards Report

The scoop from from last night's broadcast of the IFC Media Project was that Bruce Ratner had reporter Deborah Kolben pulled from the Atlantic Yards story when she was working for the NY Daily News.

The big news comes when former Daily News reporter Deborah Kolben, who had previously worked at the Brooklyn Paper and later worked at the Village Voice, convincingly describes an episode in which “Ratner’s top people” told Daily News officials that they were unhappy with her reporting.

The response: an immediate message to the Metro editor to pull Kolben off the story, without even looking at her clips. Kolben blames the request on unspecified Forest City Ratner executives. The IFC Media Project cites an unnamed source who blames it on Bruce Ratner himself.

IFC Media Project's Ali Farahnakian finally tracks down NY Daily News editor Martin Dunn:

“Do you normally pull reporters off at Bruce Ratner’s request?” Farakhanian asks.

“I don’t pull reporters off at Bruce Ratner’s request,” Dunn replies, pointing a finger at his interlocutor, “but I will say this. You obviously are not an editor. I run a newspaper. I can do what I like. And I can tell people to do what I want. That’s what I do. I run a newspaper.”

Norman Oder tries to explain the exchange:

I’m not sure things are that simple, and an American editor might be counseled against such a combative tone. Then again, Dunn does come from the more rough-and-tumble British journalism tradition. And that tradition is one in which newspapers are more comfortable taking sides in both news and editorial pages, while U.S. newspapers profess (if not always follow) a separation between news and opinion as well as news and business.

The IFC Media Project additionally examines the Times's coverage, and NY Post reporter Rich Calder speaks for himself as to why his paper's coverage isn't better.


Huffington Post, The IFC Media Project: Newspapers, the Economy, Real Estate and Political Power

On November 11, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich sent a message to Sam Zell. Blagojevich was upset over a string of critical editorials from Zell's paper, the Chicago Tribune. The governor demanded Zell scale back the paper's editorial attack on him and that Zell fire the offending members of the paper's editorial board.

The aide who conveyed the Governor's feelings to the real estate and media mogul reported back, telling the governor that Sam Zell "got the message and is very sensitive to the issue."

When journalism becomes a backroom deal between those with political power and the businessmen who control the media, the news is corrupted. Tonight's [episode of the IFC Media Project] looks at all these issues, starting with a look into how the press has misreported this financial mess.

Then, we dig into the curious case of Atlantic Yards. What happens when New York City's three major papers have to cover the biggest real estate development in Brooklyn? Here's a hint: The New York Daily News is operated by media and real estate magnate Mort Zuckerman and The New York Times hired the developer of Atlantic Yards to build its new headquarters.

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

Happy Birthday Atlantic Yards!

Atlantic Yards was unveiled on December 10, 2003!

If you were born on this date in 2003, you'd probably be potty trained and attending pre-school.

On the other hand, if you're a poorly planned, subsidy-ladden megaproject attached to a money-leaching NBA team, then work has been suspended as you blame your misfortunes on lawsuits.

Posted by lumi at 6:27 AM

On five-year anniversary of AY announcement, CBN calls for audit

Atlantic Yards Report

As a prelude to today's Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) press conference marking the 5th Anniversary of Atlantic Yards' design reveal and calling for complete state and city audits of the stalled project, Norman Oder links a past post surveying the controversy on the third anniversary, and brings us up to date:

A lot has happened--and not happened--in the last two years, and some highlights are in the left-side band of this blog. A stall in work at the Vanderbilt Yard. An IRS ruling grandfathering in tax-exempt bonds. Hearings on sports facility finance held by Rep. Dennis Kucinich. The revelation of City and State Funding Agreements. Ongoing battles in court. Brooklyn at Eye Level. Prospect Heights landmarking. Missing trees. A mysterious market study. New Gehry designs. "Brooklyn Day." The demolition of the Ward Bakery. Delays in the groundbreaking. Delays in the projected arena opening date.

It goes on and on and on.

The Gowanus Lounge, GL Day Ender: Five Years of Atlantic Yards Fun, Tomorrow

We love anniversaries because they can be so meaningful. Well, tomorrow (12/10) marks the Fifth Anniversary of the announcement of the Atlantic Yards project. For those who enjoy taking trips down memory chain, we highly recommend the Curbed Atlantic Yards Timeline of Despair, which only runs through this spring, but rather hits on many of the key moments since the troubled (officially halted) project was pronounced “a done deal.” The official announcement was for millions of square feet of office, residential and arena space to take over the Vanderbilt Rail Yards in Prospect Heights. Bruce Ratner predicted his Nets arena would open in 2006. Oops.

Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

Empty lot — and empty promises? — at Court St project

The Brooklyn Paper managed to report the big news that work has been halted on the MTA railyards for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject, toward the end of an article on a Carroll Gardens project that has been suspended for quite a while now:

The developers of a controversial residential project on Court Street have quietly halted construction for at least six months, raising anxiety that the empty lot will haunt the main drag of Carroll Gardens during this increasingly dire economic downturn.

Here's the second-to-last paragraph:

The same can be said for the borough’s main construction project, Atlantic Yards. The Daily News reported last week that construction at the 16-skyscraper, arena, residential and office space project has halted, pending developer Bruce Ratner’s purchase of land from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the conclusion of several pending lawsuits.


NoLandGrab: Satisfied Atlantic Yards opponents can just shut up now.

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

REMINDER: Forest City Enterprises Third-Quarter 2008 Earnings Conference Call

As Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder wrote yesterday:

The Plain Dealer pointed out that companies typically hold conference calls only for second- and fourth-quarter earnings reports.

So this one's special.

Here's the press release reminder from PR NewsWire:

CLEVELAND, Dec. 9 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc., (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) has released its third-quarter 2008 financial results and will hold a conference call on Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 11:00 a.m. ET to discuss these results. Investors are invited to dial into the conference call hosted by Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer, or to listen to a live webcast of the call through www.forestcity.net .

The conference call is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. ET, Wednesday, December 10, 2008. To participate, dial 888-680-0865 using access code 53917944, approximately five minutes before the call. Tell the operator you wish to join the Forest City 3rd Quarter Earnings Conference Call. (International callers, please dial 617-213-4853)

A live webcast of the call will also be available online at www.forestcity.net .

Please use the following link to pre-register for this conference call. Callers who pre-register will be given a unique PIN to gain immediate access to the call and bypass the live operator. You may pre-register at any time, including up to and after the call start time.

To pre-register please go to: https://www.theconferencingservice.com/prereg/key.process?key=PTBD78GPL

The call will be replayed from December 10, 2008, 1:00 p.m. ET to January 10, 2009, 11:59 p.m. ET. The replay number is 888-286-8010, access code 53989009. (International callers, please dial 617-801-6888) The webcast replay will be available at www.forestcity.net.

Atlantic Yards Report, At today's conference call, will investment analysts finally ask FCE some tough questions about Atlantic Yards?

Since investors and watchdogs are being invited to LISTEN IN to the conference call, there will be no opportunity for Norman Oder to ask questions. But that didn't stop him from creating a crib sheet for analysts who can:

At the conference call and webcast today, perhaps the analysts will finally have done some homework. I've provided a cheat sheet below.

The questions range from the timeline of the project in general, to the timing of the disposition of lawsuits, to the ownership of the land, to the suspension of work and the need for additional subsidies.

Posted by lumi at 5:39 AM

Here's a brilliant idea!

Since neither the Borough, NYC or the State can print more money, why don't we get Barack Obama to "bail out" Atlantic Yards?

Borough President Marty Markowitz shared a fantastic brainstorm with The Brooklyn Ink, a project of Columbia Journalism School students.

"I would, of course, also ask for support for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project, which will bring the New Jersey Nets to our borough, and be a major investment magnet for Downtown Brooklyn, as well as create thousands of units of affordable housing and good union jobs."

Opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is scratching its head:Markowitz Wants Obama's Support on Atlantic Yards. Uh, what?

Yup, for Markowitz it's always about Atlantic Yards, even to the point that President-Elect Obama should give a darn about Bruce Ratner's luxury housing, eminent domain-abusing, undemocratic boondoggle and frivolous billion dollar arena.

This is the same Markowitz who rather disingenuously told The Brooklyn Paper in December 2006:

...There’s no question that there’s an element of people that truly believe that the greatest challenge facing America is the Atlantic Yards Project rather than terrorism and Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.

So, who is it that has lost all sense of proportion?

Atlantic Yards Report, Brooklyn to Barack: Support infrastructure, small biz, and education (but Marty hypes the Nets)

Norman Oder catches Markowitz overstating his case:

Well, the project would not create affordable housing; rather, an allocation of a limited amount of tax-exempt bonds would do so. And such housing might be a better bang for the buck elsewhere.

Should the federal government really take from Peter to pay Paul?

More importantly, federal policymakers are increasingly questioning whether federal policies should encourage sports teams to change states. Bringing the Nets to Brooklyn might help the New York economy, but mainly because the city and state would capture taxes going to New Jersey. That has no impact on the federal treasury.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dignitaries Detail Brooklyn’s Needs On Columbia Students’ Web Site

A host of Brooklyn dignitaries from the public, private and educational sectors weighed in Monday on what kind of economic stimulus package the borough needs.

They were actually responding to an online question, “If you could tell President-elect Obama what kind of economic stimulus Brooklyn needs, what would you say?”
Borough President Marty Markowitz also stressed mass transit, calling it “the lifeblood of our city.” He called for more funding of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), money to build more schools and recreation areas – and support for Bruce Ratner’s controversial Atlantic Yards project.

NoLandGrab: The arena is Markowitz's wet dream and he'll say anything to get it done:

When times are good, we must build Atlantic Yards to restore the greatness of bygone Brooklyn and to "create" more affordable housing as a hedge against rising real estate prices.

When times are tough, we need to build Atlantic Yards as an economic stimulus plan and "create" affordable housing as a hedge against a tightening real estate market.

It's embarrassing, really.

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

December 9, 2008

Media Advisory--CBN calls for city and state audit of Atlantic Yards on 5th Anniversary

What: Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods marks 5th Anniversary of Atlantic Yards design reveal: calls for complete state and city audit of stalled project

Who: Confirmed speakers include NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery and NYC Councilmember Letitia James.

When: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 9:30AM

Where: Dean Street and 6th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Contact: 718-638-3349

Five years since Forest City Ratner debuted its plans for an arena and skyscraper complex in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent, hundreds of residents have been displaced, historic buildings have been destroyed, businesses have been driven out, and profound blight has been created by the developer. Now the developer has announced that all work on the project has stopped and there is no timetable for future activity.

Please join the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods for an inspection of the stalled project and to learn more about the call for a complete audit of public monies directed to the Atlantic Yards Development Project.

Posted by amy at 11:19 PM

Brooklyn to Barack: Save Us! Borough’s Leaders Discuss Stimulus Plan

"If you could tell President-Elect Obama what kind of economic stimulus Brooklyn needs, what might you say?"

The Brooklyn Ink

Guess who's confusing "stimulus" with "bailout?"

The Ink solicited responses from various Brooklynites–academics and policymakers, politicos and labor reps. Their thoughts, and their reactions to each others thoughts, are in the Comments section below:

Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President Says:

New York City is America’s “National City,” an essential engine of our nation’s economy. Thankfully, we’ll finally have a president who understands the importance of NYC and America’s urban centers. A few ideas for economic stimulus in Brooklyn and NYC include creating and preserving affordable housing, building more schools, and keeping our public transit system safe, efficient and affordable for working people.

I would, of course, also ask for support for Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project, which will bring the New Jersey Nets to our borough, and be a major investment magnet for Downtown Brooklyn, as well as create thousands of units of affordable housing and good union jobs.


NoLandGrab: Yep, in times of economic trouble, there's nothing so important as bringing pro basketball to Brooklyn. But why would an "investment magnet" that's already slated to receive north of $1 billion in subsidies need a Federal bailout?

In addition, Markowitz's stubborn opposition to East River bridge tolls belies his claimed fealty to mass transit, and he makes it sound like he actually dug into his own pocket for the money when he says "I’ve had to bail out several HUD-awarded projects in Brooklyn."

And don't even get us started on Brooklyn Bridge Park Estates.

Posted by eric at 2:20 PM

Tonight: IFC's "Unreliable Sources"


The IFC Media Project's Episode 4 airs tonight on the Independent Film Channel at 8 p.m. (check local listings).

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 eric at 10:51 AM

As Stadiums’ Costs Rise, City Agrees to New Bond Offerings

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

Here's one Federal (and State and City) bailout that hasn't gotten a whole lot of scrutiny. This is a must-read if you would like to learn how you and your fellow taxpayers are being screwed for the benefit of a few powerful and monied interests.

With opening day for the city’s two newest baseball stadiums only four months away, the price tag for taxpayers continues to rise.

The Bloomberg administration has issued fresh estimates for utility work, lighting and the cost of replacing the parks and ball fields that once stood where the new stadium for the Yankees is being erected.

The city also plans to issue $341.2 million in additional tax-exempt bonds on behalf of the Yankees and Mets to complete the stadiums, whose combined cost is about $2.2 billion.

The teams are responsible for paying off the bonds, but they pay tens of millions of dollars less in interest because payments to bondholders are exempt from city, state and federal taxes.

The city and the state are also investing more than $660 million in parks, garages and transportation improvements around the stadiums and are providing the teams with an estimated $500 million in tax breaks related to construction materials and other items. The city had planned to issue a public notice of the latest bond offering and a required public hearing on Monday but decided to wait at least a week until it completed a cost-benefit analysis. With public costs mounting, critics of the deals say the city will be hard pressed to demonstrate that the economic benefits of the stadium projects outweigh the cost to taxpayers.

The man who rammed through the overturning of term limits on the premise that only he can guide us through the financial crisis likes to pretend that this is a good deal.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has insisted that the city will earn a profit on its investment. And based on the city’s 2006 cost-benefit analysis of Yankee Stadium, the city would earn a net return of slightly more than $40 million over the bonds’ life.

Since then, however, project costs have swelled considerably. For instance, the city says it will cost $194.7 million to replace Macombs Dam Park and the ball fields now covered by the new Yankee Stadium on 161st Street, up 50 percent from the 2006 estimate of $129.2 million.

The city is also contributing $39 million toward the $91 million cost of building a Metro-North rail station nearby, an item that was not part of the 2006 cost-benefit analysis.

Economists generally take a skeptical view of public investments in stadiums because the costs are so great, while most of the jobs they generate are seasonal and part-time. George Sweeting, deputy director of the Independent Budget Office, said, “The additional costs that have emerged make it quite likely that that the city’s net benefit number is now negative.”


NoLandGrab: We can't wait to see that new cost-benefit analysis. Given the City's history of skewing the number to fit its goals, this one ought to be good.

We hope that the City's analysis will explain how the projects' costs have soared at the same time that the greatest concern among economists and regulators is falling prices and the ugly prospect of deflation.

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

Community Newspaper Group Moves to MetroTech

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

The MetroTech building that is currently home to JP Morgan/Chase, the National Grid and NY Life Insurance, will soon be home to the Community Newspaper Group, reportedly New York City’s largest group of neighborhood newspapers with 30 publications.

Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) announced Monday that the company, better known by its initials, CNG, has signed a lease for 18,000 square feet on the 10th floor at One MetroTech Center in Downtown Brooklyn.

Recent layoffs at Forest City Ratner may have freed up the space.

CNG will move to its new home on Feb. 1, according to a spokesperson. It is taking space previously occupied by Forest City Ratner, which is moving to another location within the building.


Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Atlantic Yards Work Grinds Down, But What Does It Mean?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The Eagle publishes an in-depth investigation of the Atlantic Yards work stoppage.

During the past few days, several blogs run by opponents of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project have run items saying that the developer has stopped work on building a new rail yard for the Long Island Rail Road, part of the project. They have pointed to this as a symptom of Forest City’s being bogged down by financial problems. However, a spokesman for Ratner says that the company has merely “gone as far as it can go” with preliminary work and demolition. “Once [a pending court case] is resolved we will be well positioned to begin the construction of phase-one of the project, including the Barclays Center,” he said.


NoLandGrab: The unfailingly pro-Atlantic Yards Brooklyn Eagle appears to have “gone as far as it can go” in getting to the bottom of this story. Kinda like the Vanderbilt Yard Bridge to Nowhere.

Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

Stop The Pork Lawsuit Combats Corporate Welfare & Eminent Domain Abuse

Ground Report
by Richard Cooper

Citizens with a libertarian bent have sued New York State, seeking an end to state-sponsored corporate welfare.

New York's State Constitution explicitly prohibits corporate welfare. "The money of the state shall not be given or loaned to or in aid of any private corporation or association, or private undertaking.” Article VII, § 8. 1.

Entire agencies are devoted largely to this legalized crime such as the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDSC). The ESDC is a principal practitioner of eminent domain abuse, making it doubly engaged in legalized theft. Should the lawsuit succeed in curbing transfers or loans to corporations it probably would curb most eminent domain abuse by cutting off the taxpayer as a source of funds.


Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

Advocates says housing subsidy too high for CityPoint units, urge HDC to reconsider

Atlantic Yards Report

When the issue is affordable housing subsidies, an applicant shouldn't be asking for more per unit than has been established for other projects.

That was the lesson of a public hearing held yesterday by the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC), a first step to consider $400 million in low-interest financing for some 810 units--perhaps 20-25% affordable--at the the CityPoint tower planned at the Albee Square Mall site in Downtown Brooklyn.

Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), a fierce critic of the effects of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, brought several members to protest the CityPoint plan.

But the most effective testimony came from Paula Crespo, a planner at the Pratt Center for Community Development working with FUREE, who pointed out that the $1.9 million in bonds requested per unit was "extremely high." Some HDC projects have required only $150,000 to $400,000 per unit, she said.


NoLandGrab: Is it any wonder that we have a housing crisis in New York when the taxpayer-subsidized financing for each unit in an apartment building in which 20% of the housing will be "affordable" is equivalent to the mortgage for a prime Brooklyn brownstone?

Posted by eric at 9:24 AM

Forest City Financial News

Yesterday, Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises announced third-quarter results and the company's plans to suspend dividends (press release).

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City losses widen; CEO expects economy to get worse
In a nutshell, due to the recession and a write-off caused by the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy:

Forest City's quarterly loss hit $18.5 million, or 18 cents per share, compared to a loss of $10.8 million, or 11 cents per share, during the same quarter of last year. Earnings before depreciation, amortization and deferred taxes -- a performance measure known as EBDT -- fell to $44.1 million, or 42 cents per share, from $68.8 million, or 64 cents per share, during the three months that ended Oct. 31, 2007.
During the first nine months of the year, Forest City lost $67.1 million, or 65 cents per share, compared to $39.8 million, or 38 cents per share, at this time last year. EBDT fell to $148.4 million, or $1.39 per share, from $174.5 million, or $1.62 per share during the first nine months of 2007. Forest City attributed the drop to factors including losses on dropped development projects. The company also shouldered a larger share of pre-tax losses -- $16.8 million -- on the New Jersey Nets basketball team, of which Forest City is a 23 percent owner.

Atlantic Yards Report, Forest City suspends dividend, announces major slowdowns, reaffirms commitment to "key projects" (presumably AY)

Norman Oder considers how this news relates to the stalled Atlantic Yards project:

[P]resident and CEO Chuck Ratner, in a press release, indicated that the developer has not formally backed off Atlantic Yards: "We remain committed to projects already under construction and to key, high-profile developments in core markets."

While Forest City Ratner has stalled work at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, spuriously blaming it on litigation, the parent company's announcements yesterday suggested a need to conserve cash flow.
[G]iven that the developer's New York affiliate Forest City Ratner has already gained government approvals for Atlantic Yards, it's plausible to believe that Forest City is willing to hold on over the long-term.
On the other hand, the continued losses the company faces owning the New Jersey Nets, as well as the need to build a new arena to spike the team's now-sinking value, has to put pressure on Forest City to move forward.

Despite multiple setbacks, Oder believes that the project, in some form, still stands a chance of being built.

Posted by lumi at 4:24 AM

December 8, 2008

Brooklyn at Eye Level: go see it

Footprint Gazette

The Footprint Gazette's prodigal son returns.

It's been somewhat quiet over here, both on this blog and on this block. The two are not unrelated. Also I've been in and out of town. Now I'm in town, and I just engaged in the surreal experience of watching a play about Atlantic Yards put on by community theater group The Civilians at the Brooklyn Lyceum. As the lights dimmed and the show began, the significance of what I was watching began to dawn on me. Is that actor portraying Daniel Goldstein? Was that Patti Hagan? And holy crap, is that Cheryl, Kima's partner on The Wire, playing Tish James and Bertha Lewis? What the hell is going on here? Sitting there, watching these actors portray my neighbors and telling this story I've known so intimately the last few years was deeply surreal but also emotional and validating.

The play is a work in progress and at times that showed. But what came through was the scope and complexity of this saga, and the story's tendency to evoke strong emotional responses from the community. This is a "which side are you on" kind of issue, and it made for a natural transition to the stage.


Posted by eric at 2:21 PM

The Four Brooklyns


Photo: Adrian Kinloch

Perhaps the most insightful and enjoyable part of The Civilians' mish-mash theater piece on the Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn at Eye Level, was a song about the four Brooklyns: Manhattan, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and Florida. Manhattan, from Greenpoint down to Red Hook, handles overflow from the island to our west; the Caribbean includes neighborhoods like Flatbush and Bushwick, with large populations from Caribbean nations like Jamaica; the Mediterranean includes neighborhoods with Italian and Spanish-speaking folks, from Bensonhurst to Bay Ridge and beyond; and Florida includes those nabes with a direct pipeline to the Sunshine State (see Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach).


Posted by eric at 2:12 PM

Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Papers Move To Downtown Brooklyn

NY Observer
by Dana Rubinstein

Rupert Murdoch will consolidate the offices of his chain of weekly newspapers into one 18,000-square-foot space in Bruce Ratner's One Metrotech Center, the 24-story Class A building at 70 Myrtle Avenue, according to an annoucement released this morning.

The group of newspapers, called, appropriately enough, the Community Newspaper Group, includes the Bronx Times Reporter, as well as two chains -- TimesLedger and Courier-Life -- that Mr. Murdoch bought in 2006 for a rumored $16 million.


NoLandGrab: Judging by the Courier-Life's coverage of Atlantic Yards, we'd have guessed they were already tenants of Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 1:59 PM

The flexing of 'domain' power

the ticker [Baruch College]
by Ilda Rastoder

Fast-forward to the 21st century and the Supreme Court revisits the public use debate in the case of Kelo v New London in 2005, where the state used eminent domain "for the purposes of economic development."

The court ruled the use of eminent domain constitutional for private economic development, broadening the public use requirement, slightly altering its previous conservative position. Justice Stevens stated that a narrow definition of public use has "steadily eroded over time" and is "impractical given the diverse and always evolving needs of society." After being tested by the Berman, Midkiff and Kelo cases, eminent domain has given the green light to private developers such as Bruce Ratner and Columbia University to pursue their "public" expansion projects.


NoLandGrab: And, man oh man, does society ever need a new billion-dollar basketball arena.

Posted by eric at 1:27 PM

Could roof help bring team to USTA stadium?

Sports Business Journal
by Don Muret

Arthur Ashe Stadium, future home of the New York Islanders? Maybe the Nets?

Far-fetched, perhaps, but Danny Zausner, managing director of the U.S. Tennis Association, threw out those scenarios as his group prepares to issue a proposal in January seeking architects to plan a retractable roof for the 22,547-seat U.S. Open venue.

The roof, which could cost $100 million, would protect the stadium’s playing surface and eliminate the rain delays and washouts that have plagued the tournament in recent years. The USTA has not determined how to pay for the roof, Zausner said.

“Maybe there’s an NBA opportunity,” he said. “Once we start looking at that type of price tag, we need to see what other benefits there are to having a roof.”

Seven years ago, when the USTA began studying the feasibility of enclosing the facility, officials had brief talks with the NBA about bringing another team to New York to play in a covered Ashe stadium, and the Nets’ situation came up in the conversations. The USTA did not speak directly to the Nets, Zausner said. “They were very preliminary discussions, and it was before Bruce Ratner planned the Nets arena as the foundation of a much larger development in Brooklyn,” Zausner said.

Ratner’s $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, first announced in 2003, has encountered problems with financing and neighborhood opposition. The USTA site is not an option, a Nets spokesman said, stating that construction in Brooklyn will start in the spring after the final lawsuit is resolved, with the arena opening in 2011.


NoLandGrab: An existing facility that could be adapted for a fraction of the price of a new arena, adjacent to a subway line and a Long island Railroad station, with ample parking? Of course it's "not an option."

Posted by eric at 1:17 PM

Anti-Atlantic Yards graffiti in the new cement outside my house

woodland creature


But wait, there's more...

Posted by eric at 1:08 PM

Atlantic Yards YES! A lot of other stuff NO!!

The cuts just keep on comin' — except to Bruce Ratner's massively subsidized Atlantic Yards project.

WNYC News Radio, City Council Identifies $495M in Cuts

All totaled [City Council Speaker Christine] Quinn says the proposed cuts will save a half-billion dollars in fiscal years '09 and '10. They include saving $6 million by having teachers perform jury duty only on summer vacations and close to $14 million by not picking up grass clippings. She hopes these proposals will reduce pressure to cut spending at the neighborhood school level and thaw a hiring freeze on the police department.

Also this week the Council is expected to move ahead with a one-percent hotel tax increase that could generate another $70 million this year and double that in 2010. Still to be settled when, or if, homeowners get the $400 rebate checks they were promised.

NoLandGrab: Maybe city residents can cart their grass clippings over to some of those many empty lots Bruce Ratner has created in Prospect Heights.

Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

Nouriel Roubini vs. Andrew Zimbalist: housing construction doesn't increase labor productivity

Atlantic Yards Report

Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics at the Stern School of Business at New York University, is known as a prescient and pessimistic analyst of the national and international economy.

Whether or not his predictions are accurate, his criticism of the housing market makes a solid basic point: building housing is not the solution for economic growth and increasing local tax revenues.

That's another nail in the coffin of the misguided, misleading report produced by sports economist Andrew Zimbalist for Forest City Ratner, claiming, astoundingly, that the Atlantic Yards project would bring $6 billion in new revenues mainly because of an increase in housing, not jobs.

And it's another reason Zimbalist's report--along with other economic claims for Atlantic Yards--deserves serious analysis, rather than, as the New York Times did , giving Zimbalist the last word.

Here's the crux:
...The reality is that the U.S. has invested too much – especially in the last eight years – in building its stock of wasteful housing capital (whose effect on the productivity of labor is zero) and has not invested enough in the accumulation of productive physical capital (equipment, machinery, etc.) that leads to an increase in the productivity of labor and increases long run economic growth. This financial crisis is a crisis of accumulation of too much debt – by the household sector, the government and the country – to finance the accumulation of the most useless and unproductive form of capital, housing, that provides only housing services to consumers and has zippo effect on the productivity of labor. So enough of subsidizing the accumulation of even bigger MacMansions through the tax system and the GSEs.


NoLandGrab: Roubini's predictions about the housing bubble and economic woes have been very accurate — unfortunately — so his critique of huge investments in housing at the expense of other more productive investments must be taken seriously.

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

Cash-Strapped New York Times Wants to Borrow Against Its HQ: Anyone Want to Lend It $225 Million?

by Peter Kafka

The New York Times is running low on cash but has a $400 million debt payment due next spring. How to foot the bill? Raise money anywhere it can.

Last month, the Times cut its dividend, a move that could save it up to $100 million a year. Now the paper is looking to borrow against its new Manhattan headquarters. It has hired a real estate firm to raise up to $225 million using the value of the building as collateral. The company is looking at either a sale-leaseback or a mortgage, reports…the New York Times (NYT).

The Times doesn’t actually own the entire structure–it owns 58 percent, and Bruce Ratner’s Forest City Ratner owns the remainder–but the value of the Times’s share has been previously estimated in the $850 million to $1 billion range. It’s not clear whether the Times now thinks the building is worth much, much less than it did a year ago, or if it’s not looking to borrow against the total value of its property.


More coverage...

The New York Times, Times Co. to Borrow Against Building

NoLandGrab: We're guessing The Times won't be turning to cash-strapped business partner Forest City Ratner for the money.

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

Forest City Enterprises suspends dividends

Real-estate developer Forest City Enterprises suspends dividends to maintain liquidity

AP via Yahoo! Finance

Forest City Enterprises Inc., which develops commercial and residential real estate, said Monday its board voted to suspend quarterly cash dividends on its Class A and Class B common shares.

The suspension will take effect after the 8-cent per share dividend payment scheduled for Dec. 15.

"In the current economic and financial market conditions, maintaining liquidity is our highest priority," said President and Chief Executive Charles A. Ratner in a statement. "The board felt this was an appropriate action to preserve cash."

Ratner said the board will reevaluate its decision when economic and market conditions improve.

In October, Standard & Poor's Rating Services cut the Cleveland-based real-estate developer's credit ratings further into junk, or noninvestment grade, status.


NoLandGrab: Hmm, must be those pesky lawsuits again.

Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

Ratner/Nets Soda Deal Goes Flat

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

So, the boutique Seattle soda firm wants to play hard ball with Ratner based on all the changes, delays and unsupported financing, (good for them) while the Atlantic Yards overseer, the Empire State Development Corporation, facing the same "changes, delays and unsupported financing," doesn't even pick up the ball but rather passes the buck to the demolition man-in-chief.


Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

Citing delays, financially-troubled Jones Soda wants to pull out of Brooklyn arena sponsorship

Atlantic Yards Report

With Jones Soda on life-support, one wonders where the Nets will find another soda purveyor willing to pay the team $1.7 million a year for distribution rights in an arena that's looking increasingly shaky with each passing day.

A decline in the fortunes of Seattle-based Jones Soda and the delays in the promised Atlantic Yards arena have led Jones, which in November 2007 was announced to be the official soft drink provider at the Brooklyn arena, to explore pulling out of the deal, thus jeopardizing the planned Soda Stoop & Shoppe.


NoLandGrab: What the heck is a "Soda Stoop," anyway?

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

Net Loss: Jones Soda wants out of NBA Deal

Downtown Dispatch
By Wild World News - Seattle

JonesAntacid.jpg More heartburn for Bruce Ratner:

Documents obtained by the Downtown Dispatch, the Belltown Messenger's blog, reveal that Seattle's Jones Soda Co. is attempting to terminate their marketing agreement with the New Jersey Nets, another diminishment of market share for the carbonated candy, bubble gum soda and caffeinated energy-drink powerhouse which is progressively downsizing itself out of existence.
All the world looks on the NBA as being trendy and youthful and bursting with energy, and of course Jones Soda would want to be associated with that. But in an email dated November 12, 2008, CEO Jones asks company Manager of Legal Affairs Paula McGee if she can "please study whether we can get out of this [New Jersey Nets] deal due to delays and questionable future of this project."

Seems Jones execs aren't happy with rumors that the New Jersey Nets may – against all common good sense – stay in New Jersey.

So much for the glee and optimism of a Jones press release from November 2007 announcing that they had won the rights to sell soda at the New Jersey Nets' new arena in Brooklyn, New York "when it opens in 2009." The Newark Star-Ledger now reports that the move won't happen until 2012, if ever, and that maverick Newark mayor Cory Booker is working to keep the team in town. Evidently Jones Soda paid, handsomely, for some sort of business arrangement with the Nets which would allow them to vend their soda in a stadium which may never exist, but only in a city where the Nets will never play. Different.

Jones Executive Vice President of Sales Tom O'Neil concedes, "The Nets are losing $40M a year. They aren't going to want to release us or even help us get out of the deal. They need our money. From my perspective on this we need to play hard ball and pull out based on all the changes, delays and unsupported financing ..."

Jones also has deals with the Seattle Seahawks (13-18 since the Jones deal became official on July 1, 2007) and the Portland Trail Blazers. Both teams are owned by Paul Allen, the principal developer in the South Lake Union neighborhood in which Jones is headquartered.


NoLandGrab: We presume this signals the end of the embarrassingly stupid Ye Olde "Jones Soda Shoppe."

Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM

Atlantic Yards Report: media watch

In anticipation of Episode 4 of the IFC Media Project, which airs tomorrow night at 8pm, Norman Oder posted three articles on his Atlantic Yards Report blog, covering the IFC documentary, neutrality vs. the middle, and a litany of significant stories that the local media missed or plain ignored:

Unreliable Sources: The IFC Media Project takes a look at AY (and AYR)

[E]pisode 4, to be broadcast on Tuesday at 8 pm ET, takes a look at Atlantic Yards. The show, which contains five elements under the rubric Unreliable Sources, devotes the longest segment, lasting 10 minutes, to AY, in which I will appear.

No screening copy has been made available, so I don't know what the episode will say.

The description:

Atlantic Yards 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.

I was interviewed at length, but I know they interviewed a lot of other people.

Neutrality, the "mushy middle," and "false-balance" journalism

The act of fact-checking should spur skepticism of supporters' claims, given that neutrality should be pursuit of the truth, as Laurie Becklund comments below. (Thus claims by AY opponents or other critics should not be taken as gospel, either.)
Former Los Angeles Times reporter Laurie Becklund, co-author of two books and winner of a team Pulitzer, commented:

It has always seemed to me that one of the most dangerous errors of American journalism is mistaking the center for neutral. The center is a mid-point on a sliding scale. Its place is determined by opinions and prevailing winds.

Neutral is, or should be, the radical willingness to find and communicate what's true, no matter whether that truth lies in the middle or to one side.

This is hardly a novel notion, and no decent journalist wants to be unfair or wrong. Often, we don't know the facts. But, when was the last time you read a "for the record" from a news organization apologizing for tacitly reassuring the public, often over and over again, even after the facts were in, that it had missed reporting the very heart of the matter?

For example, why hasn't the New York Daily News explained that taxpayers paid for the front-page Bonanza it claimed developer Forest City Ratners was offering homeowners in the Atlantic Yards footprint? And why hasn't the New York Times explained that taxpayers paid for helping former footprint residents find "greener grass"?

A dozen Atlantic Yards stories that have gotten scant or no coverage

Oder offers more details on this dirty-dozen list with links to his past criticism on his blog, but here's a quick run down of stories that many media organizations have passed on:

  1. The ACORN bailout.
  2. Last week's work stoppage.
  3. Ratner's attempt to get out of paying restitution for removing trees.
  4. The "generous" taxpayer-funded buyouts.
  5. The Times's pass on the "Brooklyn Day" rally.
  6. New Atlantic Yards renderings and timetables ignored by the Times.
  7. "The view of Atlantic Yards in neighborhood scale."
  8. The bogus economic analysis by Andrew Zimbalist.
  9. A critical analysis of the Community Benefits Agreement.
  10. The bogus "scaleback" story in the Times.
  11. Naming-rights giveaways to sports teams on "public" venues.
  12. Ratner's unsupported claim of winning 20 court decisions.

Posted by lumi at 5:39 AM

MAS Prescience on Subject of One Developer: Could Prescience Have Been Greater?

Noticing New York

Atlantic Yards Report today has a pickup from our recent Willets Point series, noting the prescience of the Municipal Art Society in advocating the superiority of the multiple-developer model used at Battery Park City and Queens West over the ineffective one-developer model envisioned for the Willets Point megadevelopment. The one-developer model is the same approach that is now failing at Atlantic Yards megadevelopment.
MAS’s indisputable prescience is laudable, but we need to ask one important question. Could MAS have improved upon its prescience? We think the answer is yes.
Here is where MAS’s clear sightedness falls short. We have been urging a mutideveloper model for Atlantic Yards as far back as we can remember and we were very glad to see it is an important part of the proposed alternative Unity Plan. In contradistinction to the UNITY plan, MAS and Brooklyn Speaks, of which it is a part, have been described as having a "mend it don't end it" stance regarding Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

In "Brooklyn (Go Hard)," is Jay-Z hedging his Nets bet?

Atlantic Yards Report


A year ago, in “Hello Brooklyn,” rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z, who owns a small piece of the New Jersey Nets, promised, "So in a couple years baby I'm a bring you some Nets."

He's still promising, but his latest lyric doesn't even offer a vague time frame, In "Brooklyn (Go Hard)" (video; lyrics), Jay-Z promises, in unsurprising hyperbole, "Now when I bring the Nets, I'm the black Branch Rickey."

When exactly? Don't hold your breath. I guess Jay-Z is not listening to Brett Yormark.


Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

DDDB Holiday Shopping Guide

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is directing holiday shoppers towards stores and service providers that support the fight:

With the holiday season kicking into gear, we've prepared a helpful shopping and business guide to help you support the many local businesses that have helped support the fight against Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" project. (Our list is nearly complete, but will be updated, so please come back soon!)


Posted by lumi at 1:52 AM

December 7, 2008

A workman's pedestrian bridge to nowhere

Steve Soblick for NoLand Grab

"We've gone about as far as we can go..." - Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco

Posted by amy at 10:10 AM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Atlantic Yards Report, Times takes on stalled (private) building project, still ignores AY

In a Metro section article today headlined Tower’s Foes Never Asked for This, the New York Times tells the story about a stalled building project.
OK, that story is worthy of coverage. But the Times has yet to notice that Forest City Ratner has stopped work at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, dubiously blaming litigation.

And the Atlantic Yards story does not merely involve "a real estate boom gone bust," it involves significant public subsidies and questions about when a public thoroughfare, the Carlton Avenue bridge, will reopen. (The latter involves $7 million in city money.)

Atlantic Yards Report, The prescient MAS: "The One-Developer Model has not proven effective"

Michael D.D. White's Noticing New York posts on Willets Point included a reference to the Municipal Art Society's August 13 comments before the City Planning Commission on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

An excerpt:
Ownership: The One-Developer Model has not proven effective
The Willets Point Development and Urban Renewal plans have been ill conceived.
-The City should invest in infrastructure and site preparation
-The City should incorporate a multiple-developer model with clear public oversight

the cross pollinator, Boo hoo, Atlantic Yards is heading down the toilet

Well, there are good things about recessions. They occasionally crush the wet dreams of maniacal real estate developers. Here in Brooklyn, the city, the state, and a large real estate developer have been stuffing a basketball arena and a series of 65+ story skyscapers up the ass of the neighborhood for many years now.

Sometimes money is spent unwisely on misguided ideas. In this case, having cash dry up increases the chances that this ridiculous project never gets built. Sometimes the Universe throws you a bone.

NY Observer

Norman Oder, always observant, notes the Daily News has a habit of relegating Atlantic Yards news to the local section of the paper.

Politics as Puppetry, Tisch Plaques Arrive At Washington Square Park

Like the CCCR blog and Atlantic Yards Report, the [Washington Square Park] Blog has been an admirable example of a focused, dedicated citizen news outlet - I think this type of reporting should start becoming a central part of organizing strategy, particularly in an urban, highly mediated environment like New York City.

Posted by amy at 9:11 AM

As city housing agency considers bonds for Albee Square tower, FUREE promises a protest


Atlantic Yards Report

The now-demolished Albee Square Mall site in Downtown Brooklyn is slated to become the CityPoint tower, and the image at right from the CityPoint web site presumably illustrates the target audience.
FUREE protest

However, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), a fierce critic of plans emanating from the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, has called (below) for members to protest the plan, stating, "The developers who bought the historic Albee Square Mall and evicted all the small businesses there are now asking the City for $400 million for the 60 story luxury tower they want to build."

Actually, it's $400 million in low-interest financing, not a $400 million grant. Such bonds, which can carry an interest rate of some 175 basis points less--e.g., 4.25% vs. 6%--are attractive to borrowers. The federal government, which takes the hit on lost interest, limits each state's allocation.

FUREE argues that the building should include 50% low-income affordable housing. (Atlantic Yards, btw, was initially promoted as 50% affordable, given 20% low-income rentals, and 30% middle- and moderate-income rentals among the 4500 rentals, but the addition of 1930 condos--at least 1730 market-rate--would bring the affordability ratio down.)


Posted by amy at 9:05 AM

Sunday Comix: Photos of Prospect Heights Edition


When a commenter asked for photos of Prospect Heights for a school project, this is what the community returned:



i found these

but i think one of them is a fake

Karl the Druid adds:

while dinosaurs have never roamed freely along eastern parkway

bruce ratner does own a pteradon named marty

that reaps disaster on prospect height at the clap of a hand


Posted by amy at 8:56 AM

December 6, 2008

The multiple visions (and gaps) of Brooklyn at Eye Level

Atlantic Yards Report reviews Brooklyn at Eye Level:

Perhaps the key quote comes from an unnamed character, an Atlantic Yards opponent: “The corruption and the greed of our so-called leaders was a shock. I come from a class where you don’t get fucked over in such an obvious way.”
Missing, however, is a full sense of the public passions--there’s only one scene from the epic 8/23/06 hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, with a chorus of characters cheering and booing.
And missing is any representative of the developer. While it’s likely that no one from Forest City Ratner cooperated, there is much evidence from former AY point man Jim Stuckey, a Brooklyn guy (from Bay Ridge) himself, on which to base a character.

NoLandGrab: Maybe they left out Stuckey because although they could replicate the dialog, they could never replicate the hair.

Posted by amy at 11:07 AM

With railyard work halted, no answers about the timetable to rebuild the Carlton Avenue bridge (and why is FCR in charge?)


Atlantic Yards Report

I sent several questions to ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston, who responded yesterday, "The responsibility for work to construct a new Carlton Avenue Bridge is Forest City Ratner's. No work is being done on the bridge now. Beyond that, I will have to refer you to FCRC on all of your other questions."


Forest City Ratner doesn't answer my questions (though it does respond to some other reporters and does issue press releases).

I also sent a query in the mid-afternoon to the city Department of Transportation, but haven't heard back yet.

Since when did we leave an unaccountable private company in charge of the timetable for the reconstruction of a public thoroughfare?


Posted by amy at 10:59 AM

It Came from the Atlantic Yards Report...


Does this look like a site prepared "for the next steps"?

Does this photo, taken yesterday morning, depict a site prepared "for the next steps"? What about the half-demolished Carlton Avenue Bridge?

What about the material lying around on the ground? Are they just going to leave the footbridges there for the winter, as the pool of water accumulates?

Nets claim arena three-quarters full; photos again show otherwise

With an announced attendance of 15,364, the Izod Center was allegedly more than three-quarters full for the game last night between the New Jersey Nets and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Again, photos suggest a vastly different level of attendance.

Correcting the Times's Ward Bakery correction (and my own error), plus a big footnote

Just for the record, the Ward Bakery is still in the final stages of demolition, as the New York Times's correction yesterday stated; it was not completed in October, as I wrote Wednesday.

This week, the (print) Brooklyn Paper ignores AY news

So this week news breaks that Forest City Ratner has bailed out the national advocacy organization ACORN, and that it has stopped all work at the Vanderbilt Yard.

What does the Brooklyn Paper--which last year won a "newspaper of the year" award in part for its Atlantic Yards coverage--do?

This week they give us a screaming headline about how a hapless pizza delivery guy vandalized an elevator.

Posted by amy at 10:36 AM

Deep Thought

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards is a publicly subsidized development plan, that would utilize public land and is supposedly going to benefit the public.

Yet we can't get one public official, elected or otherwise, to give the public an honest, realistic assesment of the state of Ratner's floundering plan

Instead all we get is more Joe DePlasco spinning fib-ulous confections.


Posted by amy at 10:34 AM

Documents Show Ratner Has Voluntarily Stopped Work and Has an MTA Deadline Coming Up

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

We believe the stoppage is due to a cash flow problem for the "developer" of the Atlantic Yards project. This is likely true. But, additionally, Oder uncovers a fascinating detail while examining Ratner's work timeline submitted to the Empire State Development Corporation and other documents related to the Ratner/MTA rail yard deal. (See emphasis added in Oder article below.)

The detail does suggest that the work stoppage could also be due to MTA concern about actually receiving the low-ball $100 million Ratner agreed to pay for the rail yard, and potential ongoing renegotiation of that deal. Yesterday's Daily New article quoted MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin alluding to, perhaps, renegotiation—"Closing on the sale of the Vanderbilt Yards has been delayed as the parties work through a number of issues, including outstanding litigation." (Emphasis added.)

The detail also suggests that in ten weeks the MTA could (note, we're not saying would) walk away from the deal to sell the rail yard to Ratner.


Posted by amy at 10:31 AM

Answers From Brian Lehrer of WNYC, Part 3

NY Times City Room blog
Michael J. Gaynor

Question: I wonder if you happen to know if the Mets gave ANY serious thought to erecting their new ballpark in Brooklyn — rather than Flushing. We have Robert Moses to thank for the noisy, automobile-friendly, stadium-in-the-middle-of nowhere called Shea — but why did the Mets erect their NEW ballpark there?

Had they put it in Brooklyn — where the Nets’ new arena is going up (ballparks belong downtown; football stadiums belong in huge parking lots), reporters from the four corners of the earth would be here to cover the fairy-tale-come-true story.

The Mets longstanding tradition of dropping the public relations ball … continues.

— Posted by Richard

Answer: I, too, like downtown baseball stadiums with cityscape views. Of all places, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is a good recent model — beautifully situated with the Steel City skyline (such as it is) over the outfield wall. But in the case of New York, imagine the real estate battles à la Atlantic Yards, the pollution, and the additional public subsidies for anyplace that could fit the bill. Meanwhile, the name Citi Field is fast becoming a joke. Shall we rename it Taxpayer Field? Federal Reserve Park? Cover the infield with the Henry Paulson TARP?


Posted by amy at 10:23 AM

Obama taps corporate welfare maven for Commerce Secretary

DC Examiner
Timothy P. Carney explains Obama's pick of Forest City Bill Richardson as Secretary of Commerce:

If you’re looking for how Richardson wielded the government purse to benefit private enterprise, start by checking out his campaign finance reports. His second-largest corporate source of money in his 2008 presidential bid was a developer called Forest City Enterprises.

The name jumps out because “Forest City” hardly sounds New Mexican. Indeed, the company is based in Cleveland, but Richardson has earned their love.

In Richardson’s second term, he supported and signed the “Tax Increment for Development Act,” perhaps the most important in a string of subsidies for Forest City’s massive Albuquerque-area development called Mesa del Sol. Tax-increment financing is an arrangement whereby Forest City wins the right to pocket future tax payments after Mesa del Sol increases the value of the land.

Forest City Executive Vice President James Ratner was candid in a 2007 interview with Governing magazine about one factor in the company’s success: using big government and politicians’ ambitions for profit. The path to profit, he explained, is through “a partnership ... with government that gives them what they want, and gives the company what it wants.”


Posted by amy at 10:16 AM

Brooklyn Neighborhood Acts Out On Development Plan


At the Public Theater, the hip hop artist Danny Hoch recently put gentrification on stage in his show called "Taking Over." A similar project has been in development by the theater company The Civilians.

Their project is called "Brooklyn at Eye Level." It brings performers together with community residents to discuss development projects in Brooklyn, centering on the Atlantic Yards project.

The actors spent the past 2 months interviewing people around Brooklyn, and compiled the best interviews into an hour long show.


Posted by amy at 10:13 AM

Pencil This In


THEATER: The Civilians make theater by fanning out into the world and talking with a wide variety of people about a chosen topic—say, losing stuff—then weave the exchanges into a fast-paced, multi-faceted take on contemporary struggles. Their hotly anticipated new show, Brooklyn at Eye Level, is the culmination of a long-term investigation of development in Brooklyn—particularly the controversial Atlantic Yards project—and its impact on the community. Today's performance will be followed by a discussion led by Gilly Youner, Trustee of Park Slope Civic Council. – John Del Signore

Sunday // 3 p.m. // The Brooklyn Lyceum [227 4th Avenue] // Suggested Donation at Box Office


Posted by amy at 10:10 AM

December 5, 2008

Atlantic Yards YES! Seniors NO!!

If you had to choose between maintaining funding for programs to help seniors and subsidizing Atlantic Yards, naturally you'd choose Bruce Ratner's $4 billion megaproject.

WNYC News Radio, Cuts to City's Elder Abuse Program Puts Weakest at Risk

With the city facing a budget deficit that’s expected to balloon to $4 billion over the next two years, city agencies have been instructed to cut 7.5 percent of their budgets. Everything from daycare slots for low income families to dental clinics for kids, have been put on the chopping block.

One program slated for elimination by the Department for the Aging helps elder abuse victims – seniors who are taken advantage of because their age has made them weak and vulnerable. WNYC’s Cindy Rodriguez takes a look at who the program serves.

Posted by lumi at 4:50 PM

Atlantic Yards Derailed?

mole333 via Daily Gotham

Seems Ratner is halting work, at least for now, on his Atlantic Yards Overdevelopment Project. Remember when this was being called a "Done Deal?"

Yes, poor Ratner. He once had all the politicians, with buddy Pataki in the lead, lined up like ducks in a row quacking support for him. Now many of those politicians have abandoned him, Pataki is out of office, lawsuits are still pending, and work, already way behind schedule, is halted.

Maybe we can take this opportunity to pause and rethink how we want Brooklyn to look. The UNITY Plan remains the best option, balancing all community and economic concerns.


Posted by eric at 3:42 PM

AY scoop relegated to Brooklyn section of Daily News

Atlantic Yards Report

The indefatigable Norman Oder, who has thus far published 20 separate posts just since Monday (a pace that threatens to shatter his personal monthly record of 82 items, established this June), managed to slip this one by us yesterday.

If you checked the blogosphere, the Daily News's Atlantic Yards scoop (at least among the dailies) today about the work stoppage at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard was big news.

In print, however, the article appeared only in the newspaper's Brooklyn edition.

Part of a pattern

There's a pattern here. In March 2007, the newspaper relegated another scoop to the Brooklyn section: the explanation that the city would spend $100 million on land for the Atlantic Yards project as part of a $205 million contribution--far more than the originally contemplated $100 million in a 2/18/05 Memorandum of Understanding.

Similarly, in December 2006, the Daily News kept another important story of citywide interest--that the Empire State Development Corporation had slashed projected revenues--in the Brooklyn section.

Prominent stories sympathetic to FCR

But a slight and speculative story about vague and never-to-be-fulfilled Forest City Ratner promises for a new Brooklyn Tech High School made page 2.

And a story about the developers seemingly generous buyouts, headlined Bonanza, made the front page, but, no one followed up after I reported that city taxpayers actually supplied the cash.


NoLandGrab: Weird. It's almost like the Daily News's publisher is a real estate developer or something.

Posted by eric at 2:10 PM

Brooklyn at Eye Level: go see it

Atlantic Yards Report

Theater critic Norman Oder files a preliminary review of The Civilians' Brooklyn at Eye Level, and the early notices are positive.

The story of Atlantic Yards is, as Bertha Lewis of ACORN says, "a great Brooklyn epic," and this weekend's performances of The Civilians' Brooklyn at Eye Level certainly convey that sense.

The show, put together at a whirlwind pace over the past five weeks, is hardly finished; rather, the performance at the Brooklyn Lyceum mixes monologues (from interviews), dance, and song, part of "a great big massive sprawling project with all sorts of moving pieces, and selections from each,” according to Civilians founder Steve Cosson. It's in the "investigation phase," and more polished work will be produced down the line.

I'll wait until tomorrow to post more thoughtful reflections, but I'll remind readers that there are tickets (reservations; pay-what-you-can) for some of the shows this weekend, and it's well worth seeing, especially the closing number when the power of the theater hits home.


Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

The Times corrects the Ward Bakery error

Atlantic Yards Report

Media critic Norman Oder gets a modicum of satisfaction from The Times:

From today's New York Times:
Because of an editing error, an article on Tuesday about competing pressures facing the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission referred imprecisely to the razing of Ward’s Bakery in Brooklyn, which the commission’s staff decided was ineligible for a public hearing on landmark status. The developer Forest City Ratner began demolition in September 2007 and has almost completed it; the bakery was not torn down last year.


Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Atlantic Yards delayed again, and opponents doubt it will ever get built

by Pete Catapano


This month, ground was supposed to be broken on the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the biggest development in the borough’s history.

But no symbolic shovels have been dug into the ground — and, opponents say, there may never be.

Although neighborhood residents have seen buildings demolished, coped with a closed bridge, and heard the rumblings of underground construction, the project has hit a wall.

Lawsuits and the economy have thwarted the Atlantic Yards mega-development in Prospect Heights, said Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for opposition group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

“They are not constructing anything,” Goldstein said. “They don’t have the land or the money to build anything.”


Posted by eric at 9:28 AM

Documents show FCR has missed three deadlines to construct temporary railyard (and that litigation was not a factor)

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is blaming the halt of construction on litigation brought by opponents, while opponents are saying that Ratner has nothing to blame but himself, his hairbrained city-from-scratch megaproject proposal and cash-flow problems.

By examining Ratner's own construction timeline, submitted to the Empire State Development Corporation, Norman Oder reviews his own call and uncovers a very interesting detail (emphasis added):

I've already cited sworn affidavits by FCR executives who promised that work would continue during litigation, claiming that the developer's "construction schedule has been carefully drawn... by commencing work now on vacant properties that are owned by FCRC, the MTA and the City...."

There's another reason not to believe the ESDC/FCR explanation. Construction schedules prepared by/for the developer regarding completion of a temporary railyard--Stage 1 of three at the Vanderbilt Yard--offer no indication that litigation would be a factor.

And, contrary to the claim by FCR spokesman Joe DePlasco that "we've gone about as far as we can go at this point with preliminary work," the temporary railyard is way behind schedule, having missed three deadlines.

In fact, a license for temporary yard work signed 2/14/07 states that, if construction of a permanent railyard does not begin within 24 months, the MTA has the option to ask Forest City Ratner "to fully restore the Present VD Yard Functions" and--apparently, though the language is murky--end the deal. There's no indication that the MTA would exercise such leverage, but the option would become available in some ten weeks, as the authority waits for the $100 million FCR has pledged to lease the railyard.


NoLandGrab: Oder is right to caution that there are no definitive signs that the project will get killed by the State; however, concern that Ratner might not be able to close the deal with the MTA is a very good reason to suspend preliminary railyard work.

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

Brooklyn At Eye Level: Opening Night

Brit in Brooklyn checked out the opening of "Brooklyn At Eye Level," which started its limited run last night at the Brooklyn Lyceum.


Click here for a note from director Michael Premo from the Brooklyn At Eye Level Blog.

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

Ravitch Commission says (if you read between the lines): Don’t do deals like Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The big news yesterday out of the Commission on Metropolitan Transportation Authority Financing, led by Richard Ravitch, concerned proposals for a“mobility tax” on payrolls; tolls on now-free bridges; and a much smaller fare increase than feared.

However, reading between the lines, the Ravitch Commission, appointed in June by New York Governor David Paterson, also seems to be questioning the MTA’s stewardship of the Atlantic Yards deal, calling for a reform in governance and an increase in transparency.

Reporter Norman Oder outlines the history of the MTA's decision to sell the development rights to the Vanderbilt Railyards to Bruce Ratner, and analyzes the Ravitch Commission's recommendations.


Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! FDNY NO!

AtlanticYardsYes.gif Just the other day we were telling our friends, "If only the Mayor could deacitvate more engine companies and cut back FDNY staff to ensure aid to developer Bruce Ratner and his floundering Atlantic Yards megaproject."

From today's NY Post, FDNY'S SLASH AND BURN:

The FDNY will be slashing nighttime staff at a handful of firehouses around the city in a belt-tightening move that critics say threatens to increase response times and that has residents and union officials seeing red.

The department expects to save $9 million by deactivating three engine companies and one ladder for the overnight shift when the plan goes into effect on Jan. 17.


Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

On Dean Street, a slide show shows blight

Atlantic Yards Report ran the slideshow we compiled of photos by Tracy Collins, showing how developers can create blight in the name of "blight removal," thus fulfilling predictions made by Norman Oder and others.


NoLandGrab: Sadly, this is typical of eminent domain-abusing large-scale megaprojects.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Will It Come? What the Bloomberg Administration Wills at Willets Point

Noticing New York blogger Michael D. D. White is a curious mix of lawyer and urban planner with expertise in the public and private sector.

WilletsPointDrawing.jpg Today White posted a four-part series on Willets Point, which like Atlantic Yards, is a case study of the coercive use of eminent domain to clear way for a Xanadu-like megaproject, oops... we mean "the next great neighborhood." White explores the decision making and environmental review process, the effect of Taxpayer Field (aka Citifield), the benefit to the developer of upzoning, the story behind jobs, and the politics of "affordable housing" (including our foresight on ACORN's conversion).

For those of you trying to get caught up on the politics and planning behind Willets Point, this is a must read that contains information and analysis that you'll never find in the mainstream media.

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

NBA's Knicks top Forbes ranking while Nets sit near the basement

The Deal.com

[T]he NJ Nets, who play only eight miles away in East Rutherford, N.J., at the Izod Center (to some known as the swamp or Meadowlands), slipped nine spots [in the Forbes annual ranking of NBA franchises] to a 26th-placed ranking with a valuation of $295 million.

This couldn't have come at a worse time for Nets owner Bruce Ratner, who has denied regular rumors that he may sell the team. Whatever the status of a divestment, given the state of the economy Ratner will likely postpone any notions of selling his franchise in the near future.

For Ratner, the 2008 valuation is slightly less than the $300 million he paid for the Nets in 2004. Forbes reports that the Nets -- who didn't make the playoffs for the first time last year since 2002 -- tallied an operating loss of $900,000 last year. But the Daily News reported in October an NBA source saying the team has been losing between $20 million to $25 million annually for the last couple of years, which may be one reason for the sales rumors. Ratner's loss also may be getting bigger because of his, so far, unsuccessful attempt to build an arena in Brooklyn for his Nets. Common wisdom suggests these delays have left the team with a weak fan base as most New Jersey residents have lost interest in the team.


Posted by lumi at 4:23 AM

December 4, 2008

It was awfully quiet in Atlanta last night ...

Yahoo Sports
By Nick Friedell

So the NJ Nets aren't the only team in the league that can't give away enough tickets to make it look like something important or exciting is about to happen:

I knew the NBA was having attendance problems, but seeing last night's crowd at Philips Arena, or lack thereof, makes me believe that the NBA's issues are more severe than I originally thought.

There couldn't have been more than 6,000 people at the game last night, and that is being generous.
The Hawks, and other teams who are having trouble at the gate, are in a tough spot. They see the empty seats, and they're running all kinds of ticket specials trying to get fans in the door, but they can't drastically reduce the price of their best seats, because they'll run the risk of alienating all the season ticket holders who pay full price for every game.

After last night's contest came to its merciful conclusion, I asked Grizzlies coach Marc Iavaroni if the players and coaches even noticed small crowds. "Oh yeah, you notice small crowds," he admitted. "It's weird."


NoLandGrab: The NJ Nets keep scouring the headlines for their latest marketing gimmick. A couple months ago, the team was offering free gas, now it's free tickets for the unemployed if you send in your resume.

If you're a member of Play-by-Play, you can get FREE tickets for a $3.50 serivce charge.

On the bright side, we recently stumbled over a photo of a Nets game that was packed — only it was in Phoenix on a holiday weekend.

Posted by lumi at 7:20 PM

487-489 Dean Street demolished

Photographer Tracy Collins just uploaded these two photos of 487 and 489 Dean Street, which were just demolished and swept clean by developer Bruce Ratner.

Usually urban vacant lots are strewn with litter and fearless weeds. There's something eerie about a freshly vacant lot — unlike a newly plowed field, this land seems barren and without promise since developer Bruce Ratner just suspended construction operations in the train yard.

Collins titled this next photo, "remnant of 489 Dean." The ghostly remanant is all that is left to speak for the house that once stood there.

It's hard not to feel a little sad and cynical, especially since Ratner could have easily saved these buildings, which were, until very recently, viable housing.

Posted by lumi at 6:41 PM

Demolition Complete for 487 and 489 Dean Street


Unfortunately, the Atlantic Yards work stoppage came too late for 487 and 489 Dean Street, two perfectly serviceable buildings that were leveled in the last week by developer demolisher Forest City Ratner.

With the prospects of the Atlantic Yards project growing dimmer by the day, we're wondering what the state and city officials who allowed Bruce Ratner to lay waste to Prospect Heights, and the judges who declined to grant injunctions against demolitions, might suggest we do with all this developer's blight? The New Yorker has some not-very-inspiring suggestions.

Posted by steve at 12:51 PM

Art felt support

The Brooklyn Paper
by Sarah Portlock

On Sunday, Dec. 14, [Brooklyn Borough President Marty] Markowitz’s Best of Brooklyn organization will provide shuttle vans to spirit passengers to 64 galleries throughout the borough on four separate routes in the first of what he hopes will be an annual “smART Brooklyn” gallery hop.

The shuttle vans are paid for out of money raised by the Markowitz-controlled charity, Best of Brooklyn. That fund solicits contributions from Brooklyn-based corporations and has come under fire recently after The Brooklyn Paper reported that one of its principal benefactors is Forest City Ratner, whose Atlantic Yards project has enjoyed unwavering support from Markowitz. Government watchdogs questioned the propriety of Markowitz taking donations from companies that do business with city government.


Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

Bright Spot: Need a job? New Jersey Nets might be able to help

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Guess news travels slowly to the nether reaches of New York State; while it appears to be all bad news for the Nets and their dream of relocation today, the folks in Rochester are just learning about the team's faux-largesse.

There is generosity of spirit. There is business savvy. And when the two collide, there is marketing genius. Not since Macy's touted Gimbels in the film Miracle on 34th Street has a business enterprise, real or imagined, proposed a plan more capable of winning the hearts and minds of the public than the Employment Program recently established by the New Jersey Nets basketball team.

Just like that, the Nets changed me from a geographic sports fan who left basketball behind when Michael Jordon retired to a Nets fanatic. Just like that, they pushed aside my cynicism about high ticket prices and ill-behaved athletes and infused me with a loyalty for a team I had never watched. A brilliant marketing ploy? A true attempt to help fans? I suspect the plan is a bit of both.

Additional Nets plans include a career fair to be held at an upcoming game — an act that, for me, moves their actions out of the stunt realm and provides a welcome example of a sports organization that truly views its fans as necessary members of its team.

As CEO Brett Yormark explained on the Nets' Web site, "unemployment is on the rise in the metropolitan area, so we want to offer our fans that are between jobs some help in finding a job, as well as a chance to relieve some stress by coming to a Nets game.... We are committed to investing in our fans now, and hopefully they will invest in us when times are better."


NoLandGrab: It's nice that the Nets are still garnering free publicity from their effort to fill seats at the perpetually half-empty Izod Center while the team's majority owner is laying off workers from the Atlantic Yards project and trying to blame it on community-based lawsuits. We do hope the Nets will let us know exactly how many people actually find jobs through their "marketing genius."

Posted by eric at 12:43 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Gotham Gazette [The Wonkster], Time Out at Atlantic Yards

Work has halted on the major part of the huge — and hugely controversial — Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn but those involved disagree as to why.

...[W]hat will become of the land already demolished to make way for Atlantic Yards? Although not focusing on the Brooklyn project, the New Yorker offers a vision and it isn’t pretty: “Perhaps [the abandoned tracts] could serve, over time, as urban tar pits, entrapping and preserving in garbage and white brick dust the occasional unlucky passerby for the scientific edification of future generations, if there turn out to be any. Or they could become parking lots.”

And any of us bold enough to venture by could thank Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the state government and Borough President Marty Markowitz for how they removed “blight” from downtown Brooklyn.

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog], Work Stops at Atlantic Yards

The Daily News reports that work has stopped on a railyard site that is to accommodate the troubled Atlantic Yards project. An anonymous Ratner employee tells the News "workers were told two weeks ago to finish up what work they could before a deadline last week."

Brownstoner, Work on Atlantic Yards Comes to a Halt

Curbed, It's Official: We Now Have the 'Atlantic Yards Halt'

Forget the Atlantic Yards Stall. That little halt in work at the Vanderbilt Yard that we noted yesterday via AYR? Well, the Daily News gets confirmation from Forest City Ratner that work has stopped. Abruptly.

So, after all this, do we get the Atlantic Yards Revival or the Atlantic Yards Green-Wood Burial?

NetsDaily, Ratner Stops Prep Work at Arena Site

From the comments section:

Mr. Dollar Bills Says: "well that arena should be built any day now…."

ballerblogger, The Fundamentals

Gowanus Lounge, Usual Crew Sort of Shows for Metrotech Tree Lighting

Hardwood Paroxysm, The Choice is Yours: New Jersey Nets Tickets

With Atlantic Yards makin' us crazy, this one just made us laugh.

City Room [NY Times blog], Would You Like Ketchup With That Fried Lettuce?

The cozy relationship between the developer Forest City Ratner and the advocacy organization Acorn is making some people uncomfortable. (And Norman Oder takes The Times to task for not covering it.) [Atlantic Yards Report]

Posted by lumi at 12:35 PM

Work Abruptly Halts At Atlantic Yards Site

by John Del Signore

In a striking reversal, developer Bruce Ratner has halted work at a location that is integral to his controversial $4.2 billion plan to build a Nets basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments in Brooklyn. Ratner has previously insisted that work would continue despite lawsuits attempting to stop the project, even vowing to break ground on the stadium this month. Now a spokesman for his company, Forest City Ratner, tells the Daily News that "preliminary construction" at the MTA-owned Vanderbilt Rail Yards is being put on hold.

The Daily News also points out that Ratner has yet to actually, you know, purchase the railyard from the MTA, which a spokesman also blames on ongoing litigation. In a statement, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein notes that the $100 million purchase price is well below the yards' $214.5 million appraised value. He contends that the halted work has less to do with litigation and more to do with the project's "dire financial situation."


Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

Atlantic Yards Catch-Up

With the Atlantic Yards-related news coming fast and furiously of late, we here at NoLandGrab have been trying our best — and failing — to keep up. Here are three stories published yesterday that we just couldn't get to.

Curbed, Another Day, Another Load of Atlantic Yards Fun

So, work by developer Forest City Ratner's subcontractors on the Vanderbilt Railyard, atop which the Atlantic Yards development would be built, has stopped. Why?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Spreading the Word

Nets CEO Brett Yormark is keeping the flames stoked for an NBA team arriving in Brooklyn by the fall of 2011.

That is, of course, if the Downtown real estate magnate can get past yet another appeal of their eminent domain victory and finally plant a shovel in the dirt at the Atlantic Yards.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn Broadside: Bringing Order to Chaotic Downtown Brooklyn Streets

Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

What’s in a Name? A Mets-Citi Bond

The New York Times
by Richard Sandomir

Last week, the government came to Citi’s rescue with a stabilization plan that includes backing $306 billion in mostly real estate assets, agreeing to absorb potential losses on that portfolio, as well as buying $20 billion in Citi preferred stock.

Banks are well represented in the universe of naming rights — from Bank of America and Wachovia to Chase, Citizens Bank and TD Banknorth — but those deals did not go into effect during a dire economy or cost nearly as much as the record sum that Citi is paying (which was matched by Barclays in its deal for the Nets’ arena in Brooklyn).

Without falling into bankruptcy, Citi could not seek to abrogate its deal. It was only in federal bankruptcy court that the Houston Astros got the name of the felonious energy company Enron off its stadium, but it cost them a $2.1 million buyout fee.

The Mets are standing by Citi, and Citi is standing by the Mets.

“It’s a binding agreement,” [Citi Vice Chairman Lewis B.] Kaden said in a brief interview, “and a good deal” that still fits Citi’s local and global marketing and philanthropic goals.


NoLandGrab: "Philanthropic goals?" The only philanthropy we see at play here are the generous gifts bestowed upon Citigroup and the Mets by the taxpayers.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

DDDB Press Release: Ratner Delays His Own Project

Developer Forest City Ratner Halts All Work In Atlantic Yards Footprint Due to Financial Difficulties

It's Time for the Paterson Administration to Pull the Plug on Ratner's Failing Plan

BROOKLYN, NY— Developer Forest City Ratner has halted all work on the proposed Atlantic Yards project site in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Specifically the developer has abruptly stopped work on building a new rail yard that would sit under a portion of development. The work stoppage was reported yesterday on the Atlantic Yards Report and today in the New York Daily News.

"Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project is clearly in a dire financial situation. There is no other way to explain why the developer has halted work on the only part of his Atlantic Yards plan unencumbered by litigation. He is delaying his own project because of a serious lack of financing," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) spokesman Daniel Goldstein."

While no construction had started on the beleaguered development plan, the developer's contractors had been working on building a new rail yard before dismantling the active Vanderbilt Rail Yard. That work, preliminary to construction of the Atlantic Yards project, was due to be completed in December 2007. But now, in December 2008, it is well behind schedule and requires substantially more work. Despite that substantial delay in early stage work, the developer has halted all work on the rail yard. All other demolition and infrastructure work has also been halted.

Ratner does not own the land he needs to build his proposed arena and superblock skyscrapers, and he does not have the financing to build any part of the project. The Daily News also reported today that the developer does not own the rights to the MTA's Vanderbilt Rail Yard (8 acres of the 22-acre project site) as he has not closed on his agreement to purchase them for $100 million, which is well below their $214.5 million appraised value.

DDDB's Goldstein said that Ratner's work stoppage is a clear and urgent sign that the Paterson Administration has to act now.

Goldstein said, "Speculation and overdevelopment are a key cause of the current economic crisis. New York City and State can no longer support Ratner's non viable and highly speculative luxury housing plan and frivolous billion dollar arena."

"It is two years since Ratner's plan was approved and now he is halting work and clearly short on funds. It is long past time for our elected leaders to pull the plug on the project. Then, together with the MTA, they should divide the rail yards into multiple, manageable parcels that can be put out for bid and bring more revenue to the MTA. The smaller parcels reduce the risk inherent in Ratner's massive project—they can actually be developed and badly needed affordable housing could be realized. Such a strategy is already envisioned in the community developed UNITY Plan, which has been presented to Governor Paterson's economic development officials."

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

ACORN takes $1.5 Million from Ratner

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

The local chapter of ACORN helped get Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project approved. Now, the developer is helping out the non-profit housing group.

An ACORN spokesman says Forest City Ratner gave it half a million dollars, and is loaning the group another $1 million at a difficult financial time.

Critics of Atlantic Yards say the donation further erodes ACORN's integrity and will limit its ability to stand up to the developer in the future. ACORN's spokesman, Jonathan Rosen, says the assistance won't affect ACORN's independence, and it'll continue to fight for affordable housing around the city.


Rosen's statement prompted Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn to wonder:

Well then, how come not a peep out of ACORN as Ratner halts his work, focuses solely on a frivolous billion dollar arena and rarely even mentions affordable housing, let alone builds any.

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

Talking about AY work stall, DePlasco goes Pinocchio

Atlantic Yards Report

From today's New York Daily News, in an article headlined Atlantic Yards project location sees work halted abruptly:
"Over the last two years, we've prepared the site for the next steps. We've gone about as far as we can go at this point with preliminary work, including sewer, track, infrastructure and utility work, along with demolition," [Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe] DePlasco added.

Actually, no.

Remember what then-FCR executive Jim Stuckey said in a 2007 sworn affidavit (and seconded earlier this year by his successor):
FCRC’s construction schedule has been carefully drawn to allow the arena to be ready for the 2009-10 season by commencing work now on vacant properties that are owned by FCRC, the MTA and the City, with work on properties that are owned or occupied by other parties deferred until the pending judicial challenges to the Project have proceeded to a point where ESDC is in a position to actually use its powers of eminent domain to acquire title to and possession of those properties.

In other words, FCR was supposed to be working on the MTA's railyard all along. And it could still be doing more regarding properties it owns.


Click through to learn what Norman Oder believes will be the true signal of whether or not the Atlantic Yards project will actually go forward.

Posted by eric at 9:18 AM

Atlantic Yards project location sees work halted abruptly

Daily News
by Jotham Sederstrom


One of New York's daily newspapers picks up on the story first broken yesterday by Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards Report.

Work has abruptly halted at a key location of the controversial Atlantic Yards project, raising the possibility of additional delays on the $4.2 billion plan.

Forest City Ratner insists that work stoppage is due to lawsuits, which is strange since no lawsuits have prevented work from being done on the Vanderbilt Yards in the past and, of course, none of the property owners live on the train yard.

A spokesman for developer Forest City Ratner said Wednesday construction at the Vanderbilt Rail Yards - where an NBA basketball arena and 16 towers are planned - would not resume until a lawsuit against the developer is settled.


The developer's decision to suspend work last week marks a reversal of an earlier commitment to continue construction despite a barrage of lawsuits that has slowed work on the project.


Every delay is potentially damaging to the megaproject in a global credit crunch where cash is getting more scarce.


Though the developer claimed preliminary work was completed, an update from the Empire State Development Corp., said additional work - such as plans to remove debris, assemble train trestles and other construction - was slated for last week.

Those plans never materialized as workers were told two weeks ago to finish up what work they could before a deadline last week, said an employee who was laid off, speaking on the condition of anonymity.


"They're stopping the work because they're having financial problems," said Daniel Goldstein, a member of the anti-Yards group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.


Posted by steve at 8:00 AM

Starting TONIGHT: Brooklyn at Eye Level

AK-BaEL.jpg Brit in Brooklyn, Atlantics Yards on Stage

Drawing inspiration from interviews conducted around the Atlantic Yards footprint, Brooklyn at Eye Level is a take on the Atlantic Yards story through theater, dance and music. The Civilians Theater Company will be performing the show at the Brooklyn Lyceum this week. I got to sit in on an early rehearsal to shoot it, and found it fascinating. Looking forward to seeing the finished work.

Brooklyn at Eye Level from The Civilians theatre company at the 4th Avenue Lyceum.

December 4 – 7, 2008 The Brooklyn Lyceum
227 4th Avenue
(M,R to Union St. or 2,3,4,5,N,B,Q to Atlantic)
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm
Saturday and Sunday at 3pm
Limited seating! Click here to reserve seats or call 212-730-2019

More entries from the Brooklyn at Eye Level Blog:

"But the BROOKLYN Dodgers spoke to Brooklyn as a city unto itself. And if they had been named differently or played in another part of the city, it wouldn’t have meant anything at all.” - Met’s Fan and Fourth Generation Brooklynite

“the Unity Plan would have been much better…it had affordable housing, like 80 percent affordable. It had lower, lower . . . buildings. No skyscrapers." - Public Servant

NoLandGrab: A few of the UNITY plan facts stated above are wrong. There ARE highrises in the UNITY plan, just not 500 ft. tall, and the plan calls for “60% affordable housing,” not an eye-popping 80%.

"POOR PEOPLE NEED TO BE LIFTED OUT OF POVERTY. The idea is to do away with poverty not make poverty more comfortable.” - An Elder from Around the Way

Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

Why has the New York Times ignored Forest City Ratner's bailout of ACORN?

Atlantic Yards Report

One might think that after running a story in the National section about how ACORN (one of the groups signed onto the Community Benefits Agreement for the proposed Atlantic Yards development) was financially bailed out, The New York Times might want to do a follow-up story when ACORN received further assistance. One would be mistaken when the company doling out the goodies is Forest City.

In case The Times changes its mind, and decides to run the story, Norman Oder has written it for them.

When the embezzlement of almost $1 million by the brother of the founder of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known as Acorn, surfaced last July and led to a drop-off in donations and news of taxes owed, the organization quietly recruited funds from a partner in New York City's most controversial development project.

That partner was Forest City Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, which has signed a Community Benefits Agreement that includes a housing deal that requires ACORN to publicly support the $4 billion project.

Forest City Ratner is an ally of Bertha Lewis, ACORN's interim chief organizer and the replacement for Wade Rathke, its leader until the scandal broke.

And yes, there's a reason the Times should have made a special effort to be exacting in its coverage. It would be explained thusly:

(Forest City Ratner was the development partner with the New York Times Company in building the recently opened Times Tower in Midtown.)


Posted by steve at 4:45 AM

As the value of the Nets declines, the pressure to build the Brooklyn arena must increase

Atlantic Yards Report

Earlier this week, Sports Business Journal named the NJ Nets as one of the worst brands in all of US professional sports. Now a survey of NBA team valuations by Forbes ranks the Nets near the bottom:

The stakes for New Jersey Nets principal owner Bruce Ratner grow even higher and the pressure to build a valuable new arena increases, now that Forbes reports, as summarized in NetsDaily, Nets Now Worth Less than When Ratner Bought Them.

The ownership group he led spent $300 million in 2004 but the team is now worth $295 million and ranked 26 out of 30, while last year's article valued the team at $325 million, good enough for a rank of 16.

Now the Nets' debt/value ratio is a league-leading 71%. That suggests a need to turn things around soon and move to a new arena--or maybe even sell the team.

Norman Oder explains the pros and cons of holding on to the team as the Atlantic Yards project remains stalled.


Posted by lumi at 4:43 AM

Someone's made some good money on rising Forest City Enterprises stock

Atlantic Yards Report

On November 21, when Forest City Enterprises stock hit a low of $3.42, I wrote, "Either Forest City Enterprises is headed for oblivion or it's a very good buy."

Well, after two days of huge leaps, it's up to $8.90. That's still way below the 52-week peak of $50.06, but investors who took the plunge less than two weeks ago have been richly rewarded.


NoLandGrab: Without knowing who is buying or selling and what their basis is, one can't tell if anyone is being "richly rewarded." You can say for certain that the stock is trading and that it is fluctuating more wildly than the rest of the sector.

However, shareholders were probably relieved to hear that Forest City has stopped construction activity at Atlantic Yards and would probably sleep easier if the company unloaded the NJ Nets.

Posted by lumi at 4:43 AM

At the MetroTech tree lighting, CBA signatories and South Brooklyn politicos

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder and photographer Jonathan Barkey met up at the MetroTech tree lighting ceremony and ran into some familiar faces:


While the remarks from Borough President Marty Markowitz, other politicos, and FCR President Bruce Ratner were mostly predictable (jobs, peace, Democratic rule), I was surprised to see that, on a dais that featured fewer than 20 people (at any one time), signatories of Forest City Ratner's Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) occupied five of the seats and there were few elected officials from the immediate area.

The CBA signatories were James Caldwell and Marie Louis of BUILD; Herbert Daughtry of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance; Charlene Nimmons of Public Housing Communities; and Joseph Coello of Brooklyn Voices for Children (formerly the Downtown Brooklyn Educational Consortium).

Nimmons and Coello were unknown enough to Michael Weiss, the executive director of the MetroTech Business Improvement District and the evening's MC, that he whiffed when trying to introduce them, even though they were in the front row.

It was also interesting to notice which elected officials showed up on the dais--and who didn't.


Posted by lumi at 4:13 AM

December 3, 2008

Front Page Meets Center Stage

With reportage, The Civilians find drama in daily life.

Back Stage
by Halley Bondy

The actors' trade pub profiles the upcoming Brooklyn at Eye Level project by The Civilians.

Part theatre artists and part investigative journalists, the New York City-based production company The Civilians hit the streets last month to report on the Atlantic Yards project, a commercial development plan already in the works in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Though the real drama is in the Yards, The Civilians will enact all sides of the convoluted issue on stage in Brooklyn at Eye Level, a limited engagement from Dec. 4-7 at the Brooklyn Lyceum.

Over the past few months, members of The Civilians, including actors, reached out to the Brooklyn district, conducted interviews, and compiled Brooklyn at Eye Level under the direction of Steve Cosson. Some of the interviews were also put to music by composer Michael Friedman.


NoLandGrab: The article mistakenly states that Forest City Ratner "began construction in 2007" — the only "construction" thus far has been the company's relentless and methodical de-construction of a large swath of Prospect Heights.

Posted by eric at 7:58 PM

Vanderbilt Yards and the Money Left on the Table

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn sent the following letter last week to Richard Ravitch and the other members of the Commission on Metropolitan Transportation Authority Financing:

November 23, 2008

Dear Chairman Ravitch:

We write to you regarding the upcoming report from the Commission on Metropolitan Transportation Authority Financing. We want to ensure that you aware of one untapped revenue source for the MTA.

As you know, Forest City Ratner’s (FCR) 22-acre Atlantic Yards development proposal includes the MTA/LIRR owned, 8-acre Vanderbilt Yard, which is located in the heart of Central Brooklyn adjacent to the Atlantic Terminal transportation hub. It is literally in the middle of some of the most expensive real estate in New York City.

In September 2005, the MTA reached an agreement to sell the Yard to FCR for $100 million.

The MTA had appraised the Vanderbilt Yard at $214.5 million at that time, and a competing development proposal by Extell Development Company offered $150 million for the MTA property.

With the MTA in serious financial trouble, with fare increases, service cuts and layoffs looming, now would be the opportune time to renegotiate the agreement with FCR to get a fair deal for the MTA.


Posted by eric at 7:28 PM

Brooklyn at Eye Level: Economic Apartheid

Here's another interview excerpt from The Civilians' Brooklyn at Eye Level blog:

“I really felt it was a blatant misuse of eminent domain [proposed Atlantic Yards development]. I was hoping that the best thing would be to tear down Atlantic Center and put the arena there. . . . .there were 2 other better sites . . . including Atlantic Center, which is just a horrendous situation. Up until a few years ago, everything that went in there went out of business. It is basically subsidized by the state, they have a variety of state offices there…That’s how Ratner gets his income base. It’s not…Have you been there? It’s not a pleasant place to shop. I think I’ve only been there once. It really hurt Fulton St., the mall. Which used to have a Macy’s, a Martins, etc. . . . Here, [proposed Atlantic Yards footprint] Ratner owned a couple of parcels but he didn’t own everything. He needed eminent domain and the powers of the state…And I’m a great believer in eminent domain for a public purpose. It’s a dangerous route to take; a public purpose is NOT what gets a greater economic benefit in a place, that replaces a low-income or manufacturing or low tax-generating facility site, with a higher use. Or a low-income family with a middle-income family, then it becomes very difficult. Because you’re making an economic judgment and using an economic measure to guide policy. . . That’s economic apartheid. And that’s what we’re beginning to see. Even though it isn’t around racial segregation of people, it’s around the economic segregation of uses. It becomes very dangerous.” - A Student of Jane Jacobs

Posted by eric at 5:53 PM

FCE Press Release: Forest City Enterprises Notice of 3rd Quarter Earnings Conference Call

Wednesday, December 10, 2008, 11:00 A.M. ET

Forest City Enterprises (FCE.A, FCE.B) will release its 3rd quarter financial results on Monday, December 8, 2008, after the NYSE closing bell, and will hold a conference call on Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 11:00 A.M. ET to discuss these results. You are invited to dial into the conference call with Charles A. Ratner, President and Chief Executive Officer.

The conference call is scheduled for 11:00 A.M. ET, Wednesday, December 10, 2008. To participate, dial 888-680-0865 using access code 53917944, approximately five minutes before the call and tell the operator you wish to join the Forest City 3rd Quarter Earnings Conference Call. (International callers, please dial 617-213-4853) The live broadcast will also be available online at www.forestcity.net.


NoLandGrab: This oughta be a good one.

Posted by eric at 2:05 PM

Is anyone watching the Nets at the Izod Center?

Atlantic Yards Report


Norman Oder doubts the veracity of the Nets' attendance claims.

A photo from last night's Nets game against the Washington Wizards shows a sea of empty seats at the Izod Center. Announced attendance was 15,062, more than three-quarters of the 19,968 capacity. Sure.

Despite his denials, it sure makes sense for Nets President Brett Yormark to be considering a move himself or a team move (temporary, at least) to the Prudential Center in Newark.


NoLandGrab: While there appear to have been nowhere near the claimed 15,000+ fans at the 'Zod last night, there were at least a few thousand, judging from the photos. What the camera can't reveal is how much those folks were actually paying for their tickets, if they were paying at all.

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Breaking News: Construction work stopped, ACORN bailout, NJ Nets and deathwatch

A couple important stories about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards broke during the past 24 hours. We've posted them on NoLandGrab as they came in, but to recap, here's the skinny.

According to the Atlantic Yards Construction Update, all work on the railyards has ceased.

Norman Oder reports that an ESDC spokesperson blamed ongoing litigation, even though developer Forest City Ratner pledged to continue railyard work while litigation was pending.

No one is buying that explanation, especially Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. The group noted that this was "the one piece of his floundering project Ratner can work on unencumbered" by lawsuits.

Conventional wisdom is that Ratner is strapped for cash.

Which leads us to the next item — Anita MonCrief, a former ACORN insider, reported that Forest City Ratner gave Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatory ACORN a $500,000 "grant" and a $1,000,000 low-interest loan.

So all the signatories of the Atlantic Yards CBA have received financial support from the developer, what's the big deal? The deal is that these groups are supposed to represent the COMMUNITY. This makes it look like the signatories were just in it for themselves.

Norman Oder mentions that neither organization promoted their new partnership. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn expects that ACORN "will continue to support and promote the Atlantic Yards project no matter how putrid it becomes."

Despite the fact that Norman Oder posted his article about Ratner's loan and gift to ACORN yesterday afternoon, so far, no mainstream media organizations have picked up the story.

Nets CEO Brett Yormark is denying rumors that he is being courted by the Miami Dolphins and still insists that the Nets are moving to Brooklyn for the 2011-12 season, even though all work on the non-litigation-encumbered portion of the Atlantic Yards project has been halted without a realistic explanation. Yormark should take the Miami deal and jump the sinking ship before things get worse.

Things have just gotten worse — Sports Business News reports that a survey ranked Ratner's NJ Nets as the third worst brand in professional sports, which explains why Brooklyn is having a hard time getting excited about the team in the first place and Yormark can't give away enough tickets to fill the arena.

In case you're wondering, the Atlantic Yards Deathwatch clock has counted "1820 Days, 01 Hours, 44 Minutes, 56 Seconds SINCE THE ATLANTIC YARDS PROPOSAL WAS UNVEILED TO THE PUBLIC, AND IS STILL NOT UNDER CONSTRUCTION." In dog years, that's like... a long time.

Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

Mets: Citi Field will remain name of new ballpark

AP via Yahoo Sports, amNY, Metro, etc.
by Ronald Blum

Citi Field will remain the name of the New York Mets’ new ballpark following a government bailout the team believes will help the struggling bank survive its economic crisis.

Citigroup agreed in 2006 to pay the Mets $400 million over 20 years for naming rights to the stadium, scheduled to open next year. Two New York City councilmen said last week that the $800 million ballpark’s name should be changed to Citi/Taxpayer Field.

“The company is still an ongoing company and a vital company that is doing business around the globe,” Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said Tuesday. “The taxpayers are backstopping what’s going on in the global economy. It’s not really Citi’s fault that they’re in this problem. There are a lot of other banks in the same situation—with naming-rights deals, also.”


NoLandGrab: Sure it wasn't Citi's fault. And let's remember the taxpayers aren't just "backstopping what’s going on in the global economy" — we're backstopping the construction of local stadiums and arenas, too.

Posted by eric at 6:19 AM

As work stops at the Vanderbilt Yard, ESDC blames lawsuits--but that doesn't wash

Atlantic Yards Report

Work by developer Forest City Ratner's subcontractors on the railyard has stopped.

The question is why.

"The latest I have is that they’ve done all the preliminary work they can complete until the lawsuits are taken care of," ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston said yesterday. "The work will resume when litigation is resolved." His source: "our people who work with FCR."

However, that explanation doesn't wash, leading me to speculate that Forest City Ratner might be hedging its bets on completing the work or having cash-flow difficulties.

After all, in sworn affidavits, then-FCR executive Jim Stuckey and his successor MaryAnne Gilmartin both committed to working on the railyard while litigation was continuing.
This episode puts the tensions facing the ESDC in sharper relief. Is its role to be a partner with the developer, thus in this case (apparently) colluding in a fib? Or is its role to be accountable to the public?


Posted by lumi at 6:15 AM

Ratner and ACORN: Quid Pro Quo Pros

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn notes that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and ACORN are pros at quid and quo:

ACORN has continued its undying, unconditional support of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project even though there is barely any talk of affordable housing any more, let alone construction of any. (Yes, ACORN's contract with Bruce Ratner requires this support and promotion of the project, but only up to a certain point.)

What does ACORN get in return?

Answer: A $1 million low-interest loan and a $500K grant.

Since Ratner has been willing to help bail out ACORN, and has never given a gift of this magnitude to his partner, presumably ACORN and the interim chief organizer of the national group Bertha Lewis (also executive director of New York ACORN) will continue to support and promote the Atlantic Yards project no matter how putrid it becomes.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn also highlights a point made by Norman Oder in Atlantic Yards Report:

While Forest City Ratner is quick to trumpet its support for local community events, it has not publicly announced its gift to ACORN.

NoLandGrab: Ratner's and ACORN's instincts were spot on in this case, since a $500K gift and million-dollar loan isn't great for public relations.

One can't help wondering how Forest City Enterprises executives in Cleveland and institutional investors feel about Cousin Bruce's boondoggle gone bust. $1.5 million has gotta be sucking some wind out of the company's balance sheet.

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

Lessons from the Ward Bakery demo

AK-WardBakeryCornice.jpg Noticing New York, Landmarks Preservation Commission: Will Times Special Series Have it All Covered?
Michael D. D. White wonders if the NY Times will ever understand the significance of Bruce Ratner's demolition of the Ward Bakery building:

Just as there is no legitimate need to destroy cornices, round-arched windows and serpentine ornamentation first, there was no need to destroy the Ward Bakery Building so soon. It will probably be decades hence if it is ever replaced by Ratner at all. Still, this kind of demolition, driven by Ratner’s inverse values, continues today as he targets for demolition first that which has greatest value to the community. The current case in point is the demolition of three attractive town houses on Dean Street.

Atlantic Yards Report, The Ward Bakery gets an LPC dis (and a timing error) in the Times
Norman Oder notes that the Times finally mentions the Ward Bakery building, but only gets a clue about when it was demolished after the fact:

Yesterday the bakery got a mention in a long round-up article, though an unnamed LPC spokesperson was given the last word, suggesting that losing the bakery was no big deal.
The Times's belated attention to the topic is underscored by the newspaper of record's inability to figure out when the Ward Bakery was actually demolished, even though the demolition was completed at the end of October, just as the LPC was considering a proposed Prospect Heights Historic District that comes very close to the Atlantic Yards footprint.

...the article as published in print (and in a database) incorrectly reports that the bakery was demolished last year.

However, the online version of the article corrects the record without acknowledging the error.

Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

WFAN host Carton to Yormark: "You're not moving to Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

Someone not named Norman Oder or The Brooklyn Paper calls a Ratner henchman out on a lie:

WFAN host Craig Carton of the show "Boomer & Carton" hasn't drunk the Brett Yormark Kool-Aid. Interviewing the Nets CEO yesterday, Carton told Yormark at the end of the segment that "I think you've lied to me twice" and "I'm going to call you on it when I prove these to be lies later on in your tenure with the Nets."

Yormark denied that he lied. Then again, to another WFAN interviewer in September 2007, Yormark said groundbreaking would be that fall and asserted, unequivocally, "We'll be in Brooklyn for the 09-10 season."

CC: "Let's get down to the bottom line. You're not moving to Brooklyn."

BY: "We are moving to Brooklyn."

CC: "You're not moving to Brooklyn."

BY: "We're moving to Brooklyn."

CC: "Why can't you come clean and just be honest. How are you moving to Brooklyn? They haven't put a shovel in the ground yet... Give me a realistic time frame."

BY: "A realistic time frame is in Brooklyn, operating in the summer of 2011, being there for the 11-12 season."

CC: "So three years from this season... and you will bounce a basketball in an arena in Brooklyn in three years?"

BY: "Absolutely. Convinced of it."

It's hard to tell from the audio if Yormark's pants were on fire, but Carton also gave Yormark a chance to come clean about an offer from the Miami Dolphins, but alas, poor Yormark didn't bite.


Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

Nets Third Worst Brand in Pro Sports

Nets Daily


More bad news for Bruce Raner's NJ Nets — branding is more than billboards, a foxy mascot and free tickets:

Sports Business Journal’s annual survey of team brands finds the Nets’ brand power near the bottom of all pro sports teams. In the survey, the Nets ranked 120th out of 122 teams. The only brands with lower ratings were those of the Indiana Pacers and New York Islanders. The Nets were rated slightly higher than the Knicks. Brand power is a combination of team popularity, fan loyalty and grade of ownership.


NoLandGrab: The Nets actually earned this ranking.

Even Bruce Ratner gives his early tenure a failing grade, admitting to the San Diego Union Tribune that "I wasn't ready to be an owner"

Loyalty went out the window as soon as the Nets announced that they were moving to Brooklyn and then made questionable personnel decisions, turning the two-time Eastern Conference champs into also-rans.

Giving away free tickets to fill up empty seats doesn't make you more popular — it looks desperate.

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Brooklyn at Eye Level: Laboratory and blogatory

Brooklyn at Eye Level Blog, Community Lab: Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School

Brooklyn at Eye Level includes a number of Community Labs connecting artists with local youth groups. Last week author Carl Hancock Rux lead a workshop with students at the Hip-Hop Theater Festival’s affiliate school Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School. The workshop began with a lively discussion exploring neighborhood observations that weaved together notions of community, class, and even perspectives on vacillating trends and personal habits.

Atlantic Yards Report, Coming this weekend: The Civilians' "Brooklyn at Eye Level"

After watching Danny Hoch's one-man show about gentrification in Williamsburg, Taking Over, I wondered "if The Civilians, the not-quite-documentary theater troupe working on a project inspired by Atlantic Yards, will capture the layers involved in the AY saga."

Well, we'll see beginning Thursday, when the work-in-progress Brooklyn at Eye Level debuts at the Brooklyn Lyceum. (Reservations required; tickets Thursday-Sunday are pay-what-you-can. More here and here and note that )

While theater can add layers, it also can obscure context, especially if there's no fact-checking. All opinions are not of equal value, especially when an opinion contains facts that are untrue.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Naysayers and Yaysayers

“Ratner was trying to help all these people. He doesn’t just take your property, he offers fair market value. If you’re gonna say no cuz you wanna be in the way of progress . . ." That's one Proud Brooklynite's take on Atlantic Yards, as dramatized by the upcoming production Brooklyn at Eye Level, a theatrical investigation of the real estate development.

Posted by lumi at 4:53 AM

Delay of game? Orlando leaders play catch-up on venues financing

Orlando Sentinel
By Mark Schlueb and David Damron

Could the fact a bond issue for stadium upgrades in Orlando has stalled portend doom for Bruce Ratner's chances of getting financing for a new arena in Brooklyn for the NJ Nets?

Renovation of the aging Florida Citrus Bowl stadium won't begin until at least 2010 -- a year late -- and may have to wait even longer, Orlando officials acknowledge.

A global credit crunch has made the sale of a bond issue almost impossible, they say. Worse, a bleak tourism forecast raises questions about the reliability of the revenue source that's supposed to fund the $175 million project.

The city had planned to sell $150 million worth of bonds early next year to help finance construction of a long-planned downtown performing-arts center and also raise the first $21 million for renovations of the Depression-era football stadium.

But the bond issue has been postponed indefinitely, and officials are now looking to sell short-term notes to keep the projects moving.

"Just as our finance team was starting to meet, the financial markets blew up. The interest rates were through the roof," Orlando Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Sutton explained.


Posted by lumi at 4:30 AM

December 2, 2008

All Quiet on the Atlantic Yards Front?

Some plain-spoken analysis from Develop Don't Destoy Brooklyn:

All Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard work, and utility work for the Atlantic Yards project has been stopped according the latest "Construction Update" sent out by project overseer the Empire State Development Corporation.
It is important to note that the one piece of his floundering project Ratner can work on unencumbered is the effort to build a new yard on the eastern end of the rail yards. This is the work that has been halted. The demolitions listed have been completed.

Simpler version: All work has been halted on the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by lumi at 8:45 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

NetsDaily, Yormark Denies Report He’s Headed to the Dolphins

Brett Yormark categorically denied he has committed to joining the front office of the Miami Dolphins after this season or that he had even been approached about a job. Yormark seemed stunned when asked about the job by WFAN’s Craig Carton. “I’m committed to the Nets, committed to the (Barclays Center)”. The Net CEO again said the Nets would break ground early in 2009 and be in Brooklyn by the 2011-12 season.

CAC.OPHONY, An Experiment in Digital Storytelling

Writing a term paper on the Atlantic Yards? Use Google Maps to show how construction will restrict traffic.

PolitickerNY.com, News

The cost of the Atlantic Yards project has gone up much faster than the rate of inflation. [AYR]

NYC Communities, Community Controversy - Kelly Carter describes both sides of the coin in detail, and in the end sides with DDDB:

If people do not join the fight against the Ratner Project with Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn then they will regret it later after Atlantic Yards is complete. They will realize that from this project their community will now be dark and gloomy from the shadow that is cast over them from all the skyscrapers that are going to be built, they will have to leave earlier for work because of all the traffic of cars and public transportation, there will be an overcrowding issue from all the new apartments being built, and their community will be forced to change and be different and lost forever from the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by amy at 8:17 PM

Ward Bread Bakery scrap

Photo by Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool

Bruce Ratner's idea of historic preservation.

NoLandGrab: Thanks, LPC!

Posted by eric at 7:52 PM


RatnerACORN.jpg Christmas came early this year for ACORN. Norman Oder stumbled over Anita MonCrief's blog, which contains a bombshell about Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner's bail out of ACORN:

What is really intriguing about this whole Atlantic Yards mess is that Forest City Ratner has begun layoff s while at the same time bailing out their old friends Bertha Lewis and ACORN. I wonder if those unemployed workers know about the $1.5 Million bailout loan to ACORN by the company. At the East Regional Meeting in August of this year, ACORN leadership stated that

“Big NY ally Forest City Ratner agreed to loan us $1M at 2% and grant us $500k to pay back health fund and to use for other transition costs. Board will decide how much to allocate to IRS payment and how much to allocate to lawyers.”

Since every other signatory of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement was receiving financial support from the developer, we always figured it was only a matter of time before the public would eventually find out about some type of quid pro quo for ACORN's support.

Norman Oder explains on his Atlantic Yards Report blog:

With a grant and (low-interest) loan worth $1.5 million, developer Forest City Ratner this summer helped rescue the embattled advocacy organization ACORN, which represents low- and moderate-income people on housing and other issues—and whose New York affiliate, the developer’s lead partner in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), has supplied vigorous support at public hearings regarding the project.

In doing so, FCR has helped stabilize an organization reeling from the revelations that not only did the brother of ACORN’s founder embezzle nearly $1 million in 2000 but also, as the New York Times reported September 10, that the news was “concealed by senior executives until a whistle-blower told a foundation leader about it in May.”

It's clear that the Atlantic Yards CBA amounts to little more than a marketing document, now that we know that every signatory of the agreement owes its existence to developer Forest City Enterprises.

Oder asks some experts if the million dollar loan and $500K grant is normal for groups negotiating on behalf of the community:

The gift and loan seem to run afoul of the standards experts say both sides of a CBA should maintain. “Anytime you have negotiations in which there are competing self-interests, and one side grants a favor to the other, that’s a red flag,” Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First told the Brooklyn Paper in September 2005.

“As a matter of principle, groups in our network don’t take money from developers. We want to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest,” John Goldstein, National Program Director of The Partnership for Working Families, told me in October 2006.

Oder checks in on what ACORN has to say for itself?

I contacted ACORN spokesman Jonathan Rosen for confirmation. “This is old news," he responded. "We have confirmed this to multiple media outlets over the past few months.”

Perhaps, but none of those media outlets included news of the Forest City Ratner role in an article that I could find or he could cite.

Either Forest City Ratner and ACORN thought that no one would put two and two together or that they assumed that it's business as usual and no one would care, but from this side of Atlantic Yards it's really unbelievable that the developer struck this deal while the project was stalling out during a credit crisis. It's even more inconceivable in light of the fact that the developer has announced layoffs just before the holiday season.

Atlantic Yards Report, With $1.5M grant/loan, FCR bails out national ACORN, parent of major CBA partner
Anita MonCrief, The Great ACORN Bank Heist: Part Two
Curbed, Damn Big Acorn

Posted by lumi at 7:19 PM

Development Watch: 195 Flatbush



Not so much to watch here at 195 Flatbush, a Forest City Ratner-owned property between Dean and 5th Avenue that is to become B2, an Atlantic Yards residential building. No Land Grab reports that a stop work order was issued on October 15, though it appears the complaint — a failure "to comply with site safety plan program" — has been resolved. Clearly, plenty of other issues are in the way of progress here.


NoLandGrab: Other issues like the apparent cessation of work on the not-owned-by-Ratner Vanderbilt Yard, for example?

Posted by eric at 7:14 PM

Seating the Mayor at the New Yankees Stadium

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

Hundreds of pages of e-mails, made public over the holiday weekend, are detailing the Bloomberg Administration's efforts to secure the free use of a a luxury suite at the new Yankee Stadium.

The Mayor's press office originally said in July that the Bloomberg administration had not decided whether it would accept the box.

But the e-mails show that back in early 2006, no fewer than four different city departments or agencies were fighting for more than six months to get the suite included in the stadium's lease.

In return for the luxury box, the city finally gave the Yankees an extra 250 parking spaces and the use of three billboards.

City Hall spokesman Andrew Brent says administration officials could not have been seeking any personal benefit since at the time of the negotiations, they assumed they would only have been in office to see one full season.


NoLandGrab: All the more reason to seek a third term!

Posted by eric at 7:02 PM


Weeks beginning December 1, 2008 and December 8, 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.

Abatement and Demolition Work

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

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

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

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

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.

NoLandGrab: Noteworthy in this Atlantic Yards Construction Update, which covers the first two weeks of December, is the complete absence of any Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard work, as well as any utility work.

That's right, it appears that work on the rail yard has been stopped. We'll publish more on this breaking story as soon as Norman Oder gets to the bottom of it.

Posted by eric at 6:44 PM

Preservation and Development, Engaged in a Delicate Dance

The New York Times
by Robin Pogrebin

The Times continues its "Preserving the City" series, and this time gets quickly to the crux of the issue.

Over a decade of whirlwind development, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has repeatedly played dance partner to a potent mix of preservationists, developers and city politicians. It must strike a balance between protecting architecture and accepting economic realities, between a responsibility to history and a knowledge that the city must evolve.

Yet some preservationists and politicians assert that, under a mayoral administration that has emphasized new construction — from behemoth stadiums to architecturally bold condo towers — big developers have too often been allowed to lead on the dance floor. Some accuse the landmarks commission, charged with guarding the city’s architectural heritage, of backing off too readily when important developers’ interests are at stake.

“The real estate industry controls the agenda in the city,” said Tony Avella, a city councilman from Queens. “If they don’t want something to happen, it doesn’t happen. They pull the strings from behind the scenes, whether in rezoning reform or landmarking. It’s just incredible how much influence they have.”

Indeed. As in the following case, for example.

Yet the commission is faulted for refusing to schedule public hearings on some of the most fiercely contested projects, like Ward’s Bakery, an imposing terra-cotta-tiled structure that lay within the 22-acre footprint of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. In 2006 the commission’s staff determined that the building was not eligible for a hearing on landmark designation. Yet it was ruled eligible for a listing in 2003 on the National Register of Historic Places. Forest City Ratner tore down the bakery this year.

“This appears to be a political decision by the landmarks commission,” Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for the group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, was quoted as saying at the time. “It is deeply frustrating that they have let politics enter their deliberation on a building that clearly deserves landmark status.”

A commission spokeswoman said of the bakery, “There are many other industrial structures like it around the city, and it had several branches throughout the city.”


NoLandGrab: We challenge the "commission spokesperson" quoted above to show us one example as fine as the Ward Bakery — if such a building still stands, it's a safe bet it doesn't lie in the footprint of a politically connected megadeveloper's megaproject.


Brownstoner, The Dance of Preservation and Progress

Posted by eric at 1:59 PM

You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Get Into the Holiday Mood in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Compiled by Mary Frost

The economy may be tanking, but enjoying the holidays doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. With tree lighting ceremonies, snowflake celebrations, winter craft fairs and free musical performances, everyone can have a great time in Brooklyn this season.

MetroTech Tree Lighting Ceremony
MetroTech Commons Associates kicks off the holiday season on Wed., Dec. 3, 4:30 – 5:45 p.m. by lighting a 50’ Colorado blue spruce tree decorated with white lights and red ribbons. Attendees will be entertained with performances by the Joey Morant & Catfish Stew and The All City High School Chorus plus special performances by a soloist from the Brooklyn Music School and the kids of P.S. 58. Santa Claus has scheduled an appearance to hand out candy canes to children in attendance. Bruce Ratner, President and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies hosts the festivities. Mike Weiss, executive director of the MetroTech BID, is the emcee.


NoLandGrab: We know nothing gets us into the holiday spirit like watching the Grinch Who Stole Prospect Heights lighting his phony tree at MetroTech.

We also don't know what they're feeding that tree, but the Brooklyn Paper described it a couple weeks ago as being 15 feet tall, not 50.

Posted by eric at 1:56 PM

Atlantic Yards as Political Theater

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

Bruce Ratner has drawn resentment and scorn in the Brooklyn community surrounding his planned $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, but now he’s inspired cultural enrichment. Sort of.

A local theater company has created a production, running this week, on the fight over and the effects of the Atlantic Yards project, for which Mr. Ratner’s firm plans to build a Frank Gehry-designed arena for the Nets and more than 6,000 housing units.

Brooklyn at Eye Level, put on by The Civilians production company, will run from Thursday through Sunday at the Brooklyn Lyceum, exploring the debate around Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 1:45 PM

Giving the Mets’ New Ballpark a Bad Name

The New York Times
by George Vescey

With a mixture of rage and pride, I drove past the Mets’ new ballpark Monday and noticed that offensive name still up there.

As Citigroup grovels for a bailout from public funds, the Mets insist the name will not change. Not to give free publicity to these jokers, but as of this moment, the new stadium is still Citi Field.

My rage gave way to pride, however, knowing that we are all, in a broad sense, shareholders in the Mets. Civic benefactors. Patrons of the arts. Sportsmen and sportswomen, as franchise owners used to call themselves, before we wised up.

We are paying for the government subsidy — socialism at the top — so that this failing institution can keep its name on the Flushing skyline where Serval Zipper once stood so proudly.

New ballparks are a source of amusement in the Bronx as well as in Queens. It was recently reported that the Bloomberg administration had bargained 250 extra parking spaces to the Yankees in exchange for a larger luxury box and free food for the high-profile schnorrers from City Hall.

This disclosure makes it easier to understand why the Bloomberg administration was so compliant about the vanishing of a neighborhood park that was so inconveniently in the way of the new Yankees playpen. The city claims it will eventually put in tiny little parklets on top of garages, but at least the Yankees respect their brand and are not selling their naming rights to some shaky financial institution.


NoLandGrab: The egregiousness of the public's forced underwriting of sports facilities owned by multi-hundred-millionaires or billionaires is made even more egregious when we have to underwrite the naming rights, too, the income from which all flows to the aforementioned filthy-rich owners, all while our term-limit-overturning mayor is horse-trading public money for luxury suites — meals included.

Posted by eric at 1:00 PM

A $950 million arena? Either that cost is bogus (goosed for PILOTs?), AY might now cost $6 billion, or the ESDC math was off

Atlantic Yards Report

The Yankees Stadium deal is being scrutinized because local officials inflated the value of the stadium in order to issue more low-cost federal bonds.

Is Bruce Ratner trying to do the same for a new Nets arena in Brooklyn? If that's the case, then the dramatically escalating cost of Ratner's arena starts to make sense:

Why exactly was the Atlantic Yards arena supposed to cost nearly $1 billion? The numbers just don't compute.

The rapid escalation of the cost of the arena--from $400 million in 2003 to $637.2 million at approval in 2006 to $950 million this year--significantly outpaces local inflation in construction costs.

That leads to some troubling speculations--even if the cost may have dipped a bit recently.

Has entire project cost jumped 50%?

If the $950 million figure is in fact accurate, then the entire Atlantic Yards project has increased in cost nearly 50% from $4 billion, and government oversight agencies should be taking a second look at whether a $6 billion project is remotely viable, as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn suggested in June.

Was value of arena inflated?

Alternatively, if the project cost as a whole has not gone up commensurately, the value of the arena may have be inflated by adding improper costs, perhaps in the same way as Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and Rep. Dennis Kucinich have alleged in their recent investigations of Yankee Stadium.


Posted by lumi at 4:02 AM

Nets’ Harris Leads Nucleus of Young Talent

The NY Times
By Harvey Araton

A column lauding some crafty trades made by Nets GM Rod Thorn ends with this dig at everyone else in developer and owner Bruce Ratner's organization:

So Thorn will continue to operate on the perimeter of the market, or eventually in Newark, with obvious handicaps. Don’t bet against him still outdoing Team Dolan across the river. If Bruce C. Ratner had put Thorn in charge of building in Brooklyn, the Nets would already be there.


Atlantic Yards Report, NYTimes columnist questions Brooklyn move, suggests Newark option

Atlantic Yards watchdog Norman Oder comments:

That's a nice flourish for a columnist, but the roadblocks regarding the project couldn't have been dislodged by the executive in charge. Thorn may have convinced Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban that Harris was worth way less than fellow PG Jason Kidd (thus gaining two draft picks in last year's trade, as well), but even he couldn't quiet Brooklynites' skepticism about claims of blight in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Posted by lumi at 3:47 AM

December 1, 2008

City residents feel economy's pain

Respondents to a recent poll say the city's economy is in poor condition and 40% fear for their jobs, while 80% say they have already cut back on spending this year

Crain's NY Business
by Matthew Sollars

Wall Street's worst collapse since the Great Depression has put a scare into New Yorkers, with nearly 40% believing their jobs are at risk, a new Crain's New York Business poll shows.

A growing fear that job losses will ripple throughout the city is also causing residents to pull back on their spending—nearly 80% say they have already done so—just when the city's retailers are entering the critical holiday selling season.

"New Yorkers are hurting and scared," says Craig Charney, president of Charney Research, the firm that conducted the poll. "These numbers are startling and far worse than anything we've seen, even in the last recession."


NoLandGrab: One New Yorker not fearing for his means of support is developer Bruce Ratner, since no city or state official has made even a peep about cutting support for his Atlantic Yards project, even as everyone else is expected to make do with less. It's another case of Atlantic Yards YES, everything else NO!

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

Special report: Jazz staying put

Team executives say renovations are likely but relocation isn't

Salt Lake Tribune
by Steve Luhm

Bruce Ratner makes his way into a story about the Utah Jazz and the future of their aging arena.

In an era of unparalleled operating costs, NBA teams like the Jazz must maximize revenue streams, which includes income directly tied to their arenas.

If a building doesn't contribute to a team's bottom line, it's more than an inconvenience. It could be the death of a franchise in that particular city.

In Seattle, arena issues were cited by the Sonics' new owners as their reason for moving the team to Oklahoma City.

In New Jersey, owner Bruce Ratner's up-in-the-air plan to move the Nets to Brooklyn is based partly on the shortcomings of the outdated Izod Center.

In Sacramento, voters have been hesitant to help replace Arco Arena, leading to criticism by commissioner David Stern and rumors that the Kings might be the next team to relocate.


NoLandGrab: Imagine if you had to tear down your house every 25 years or so because it became outdated. Bet you wouldn't do that unless you were getting some generous help from the taxpayers.

Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

Landmarks Preservation Commission: Will Times Special Series Have it All Covered?

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White offers a critique of The New York Times's in-progress series analyzing the work of the City's Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The New York Times is running a series of articles that will bring some welcome attention to shortcomings of the city landmarks preservation process. The two articles that have run so far after a “six-month examination of the commission’s operations” contain some very good reporting but notable omissions in the story being told force us to wonder: Are they saving some major criticism for a future article in the series?

Just as there is no legitimate need to destroy cornices, round-arched windows and serpentine ornamentation first, there was no need to destroy the Ward Bakery Building so soon. It will probably be decades hence if it is ever replaced by Ratner at all. Still, this kind of demolition, driven by Ratner’s inverse values, continues today as he targets for demolition first that which has greatest value to the community. The current case in point is the demolition of three attractive town houses on Dean Street.


Posted by eric at 9:13 AM

Brutally weird: Why a vacant lot in Alphabet City is (not) like the land under Yankee Stadium

Atlantic Yards Report

Follow Norman Oder on a tour of Manhattan's Lower East Side, as he tries to make sense of New York City's citation of a vacant lot in that neighborhood in setting the value of the land under the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

But wait, let’s return to that vacant lot. That vacant lot is what the New York City Department of Finance (DOF) says should be compared to the South Bronx site hosting the new Yankee Stadium. That vacant lot is 4324 square feet, just a little less than one-tenth of an acre, while Yankee Stadium, at least when the city first assessed the site, was more than 17 acres, more than 170 times larger.

Not only is that vacant lot not comparable in size, it is not comparable in location. That vacant lot, according to MapQuest (below), is 8.71 miles away by driving; that route is slightly indirect, but the distance easily exceeds seven miles.

A DOF "comparable"

Yet that vacant lot was included in a list of “comparables” chosen by the DOF in an effort to value the land under the new stadium. That, critics on state and federal oversight committees say, was used to inflate the value of the property and allow more tax-exempt bonds to be issued, aiding the Yankees.

And, should tax-exempt bonds be issued for the Atlantic Yards arena, the comparables chosen by the DOF will deserve a close look.


Posted by eric at 6:14 AM

Brooklyn at Eye Level: Press notice, pr and planning



The Civilians (“Gone Missing”) present a work in progress, which is based on interviews with the players on all sides of the controversy surrounding Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards project. Dec. 4-7. (Brooklyn Lyceum, 227 Fourth Ave., Brooklyn. To make reservations, which are required, visit www.brooklynateyelevel.org.)

“Ratner was trying to help all these people. He doesn’t just take your property, he offers fair market value. If you’re gonna say no cuz you wanna be in the way of progress . . . it’s gotta be this country, based on majority rules, right? So, if the majority of people want something, you can’t have the few naysayers say no, cause then you know what? You’d never make progress the rest of our lives. And you have some beautiful buildings that are gonna be built there . . . think about that one . . . the mayor approved it, the city council approved it, everybody approved of it, right? So everybody can’t be wrong and these few people are right. " — Proud Brooklynite

NoLandGrab: Here's more proof of the success of Bruce Ratner's pr machine. Only three "yaysayers" had approval of the project, representatives of the Governor, State Assembly Speaker, and State Senate Leader. Since Atlantic Yards is a state-sponsored project, the City Council had no approval over the project, and the Mayor is a primary backer, though he didn't have any formal approval.

Three "yaysayers" and a jumble of lies and misinformation, is that democracy?

“I don’t see the average family in Brooklyn, particularly a low-income family, being able to function in those buildings effectively [proposed Atlantic Yards Towers]…When we worked in Bed-Stuy, on BS Restoration Corps. . . there was this woman who leaned out her window and said, “give us affordable housing. But make sure I can yell at my kids on the street.” You just can’t do that in a 40-story building." — Urban Planner

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM