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January 31, 2009

Are Pro Sports Too Big to Fail?

The Wall Street Journal
by Jonathan V. Last

First there was the tech bubble. Then came the housing bubble. Could the pro-sports bubble be next?

In an economic crisis, the weak die first. So it was no real surprise that the first sports casualties of the current recession came from minor professional leagues: Last month the WNBA shuttered its premier franchise, the Houston Comets, and the Arena Football League, which had been scratching out a living since 1987, canceled its 2009 season. (The LPGA is cutting three tour stops and $5 million in prize money from the 2009 tour, so they're feeling the pinch, too.) The question is, were these failures part of a normal, recessionary, thinning of the herd? Or were they the early warning signs of a pro-sports bubble that may be about to burst?

Yet teams keep building new stadiums. They're charging bigger premiums -- such as personal seat licenses -- for high-end and luxury seats. Parking, concessions and player salaries keep going up, too. Is it all sustainable?

Perhaps. America's obsession with sports has created a nearly continuous 90-year boom. There have been down moments, but neither the NFL nor MLB has ever contracted, i.e., eliminated, a team -- the ultimate sign of failure. The National Basketball Association hasn't eliminated a franchise either, since it took on its modern form in 1976.

During the Great Depression, baseball did take a significant hit: Attendance dropped 40% from 1930 to 1933 and didn't return to pre-Depression levels until 1945. Player salaries declined 25%. But no teams went belly-up.

Matters might be different this time.

First, franchises have become accustomed to the public financing of stadiums and arenas. During the construction boom of the 1990s, some 50 ballparks, stadiums and arenas were built in the U.S., according to BusinessWeek. On average, taxpayers footed 70% of the bill -- even though team owners reaped the benefits. In baseball, for example, Forbes calculates that the median ballpark is worth $100 million to a team, or a quarter of a franchise's total value. In the '90s, teams argued that new stadiums added to a city's economic vibrancy. Yet studies now show that subsidies for sports stadiums actually create a slight drag on the local economy. And even if cities wanted to believe the boosters, the bad times should now make the current crop of publicly financed stadiums the last. The Vikings, for instance, have started asking Minnesota lawmakers about building a new facility for their team. The response has been laughter.

"The U.S. government is buying banks, major retailers are going under, and a half-a-dozen newspapers are folding up shop," [Fox Sports Radio's Steve] Czaban says. "Why is it we think this could never happen to sports?"


Posted by eric at 1:06 PM

Dock Street foes, supporters clash at hearing

The Brooklyn Paper this week wrote an article in support of the Dock Street proposal in DUMBO. Since the newspaper's website is open for comments, many angry readers accused the paper of bias. Ed Weintrob, publisher of the paper, jumped in with his own defense comment and used the New York Times' relationship with Bruce Ratner as the posterchild of bias:

As for Two Trees, it is no secret that we are rental tenants in one of Two Trees’ DUMBO buildings (we've mentioned this in the past, and several posters have pointed it out on our own Web site — so, no secret). As far as we know, our lease terms are in line with those of comparable tenants. We PAY for our space.

So there is no conspiracy or secret payback here. We are not business partners with Two Trees in the sense that the business fortunes of Two Trees do not affect our bottom line (unlike, for instance, the New York Times, which has a business partnership in its Times Square building with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner).


Posted by amy at 12:31 PM

CBA signatories seek federal stimulus money for AY; ESDC flatly says project is not "shovel-ready"


Atlantic Yards Report has the the scoop on the not-yet-online story from Courier-Life that breaks the news of ESDC's opinion of the Atlantic Yards status:

"ESDC spokeswoman Lisa Willner responded that Atlantic Yards is not a shovel ready project and thus would not be eligible for stimulus money."

The article also includes a confused statement from BUILD CBA signer James Caldwell:

"The way it [stimulus money] is being proposed is that it will go through the government and they will give it to unions and not to community based organizations that train and prepare people in our community," he added.

I don't think the plan is to give the money to unions.


Posted by amy at 12:13 PM

Mayor's Budget Would Shrink Capital Plan by 30 Percent

The Real Estate
Eliot Brown

Mayor-for-life Bloomberg seems to be packing up the golden shovel that helped dig the city into an economic disaster:

Just as Washington is planning an infusion of spending on construction and infrastructure, Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a substantial cutback that would shrink the city’s five-year capital plan by more than $6 billion, or 30 percent.

What’s in the capital plan? Money goes to roads, police stations, economic development projects (such as revitalization of Coney Island and the development of Atlantic Yards). These cuts to the plan come on top of what equated to a 20 percent reduction enacted last year, which spread out the four-year plan into five years.

Mr. Bloomberg has been a mayor who apparently loves capital spending, and for the past two years, the city has allocated record amounts to capital projects. New below-market-rate housing, new parks, improved infrastructure—all have been strongly emphasized in the Bloomberg administration’s early years, but all have come at a cost, bringing up the city’s debt burden as almost all the money was borrowed (this is a common practice for capital projects).
Just last week, City Comptroller Bill Thompson released a report warning about the city’s rising debt level, as tens of billions in added debt could leave taxpayers with an increasingly unmanageable burden each year in the form of debt payments. Debt payments are especially burdensome as they stay the same even if tax revenue shrinks, eating up a larger portion of the budget.


Posted by amy at 12:05 PM


National Center for Policy Analysis
Source: Roger Meiners, "This Land is My Land, Your Land is My Land…" PERC Reports, Vol. 26, No. 4, December 2008.

Atlantic Yards -- a publicly subsidized multibillion dollar project in New York which includes public land, some "heavily blighted" private property and some "land with less blight" -- will house apartment and office buildings as well as the Barclay Center for the Brooklyn Nets. However, not everyone is excited, says Roger Meiners, professor of economics and law at the University of Texas at Arlington. Recently, property owners sued the governor, the mayor, the state, city agencies and private developers who had agreed that the plaintiffs must be forced to sell their land. Guess who won.

To piece the land together, the developer and government created a coalition to overcome the squawking of those being booted out. Promises include:

-Creating an estimated 15,000 union construction jobs; 45 percent will be held by women and minorities.
-In an agreement with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), over half of the housing units will be rent controlled or sold at below-market rates to low-income buyers.

Dispensing such goodies is the price of doing business in places like New York, says Meiners. The largess is borne, to the tune of $1 billion, by the taxpayers and, in part, by the property owners forced out at a price less than they were willing to accept. However, the court noted that judges may not intervene on behalf of the property owners "simply on the basis of our sympathies," and that this case follows precedent, including the much discussed Kelo case.

Yet, the Kelo decision shocked many people when they saw ordinary folks being booted out of their homes so a developer could get control of property, says Meiners. Due to the backlash, many states passed anti-takings legislation. However, some states allow an exception to use eminent domain to seize property for private development if there is "blight." As the court in the Atlantic Yards case noted, this is "merely the means to the end."


Posted by amy at 9:55 AM

January 30, 2009

At State of the District Address, Jeffries again talks housing, says economy has “slowed down the AY streamroller”

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries State of the District address:

With his preacher’s cadences, lawyer’s acumen, and Brooklyn pol's sense of strategy, 57th District Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is an elected official worth watching, both for what he says and what he doesn’t say, as he begins his second two-year term in office.

In his second annual State of the District Address, delivered Wednesday night before an enthusiastic audience of more than 150 at the Pratt Institute’s Higgins Hall, he barely mentioned Atlantic Yards--though, compared to his glancing mention last year, he was more critical, an indication that the center of gravity regarding the project has shifted.

And, as I explain lower in this report, he thinks it’s likely that the legislature will hold a hearing on Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

Yet More Visions for the Endlessly Pared-Down Atlantic Yards


Here's a preview of two visions of a stripped-down version of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.


There's still time to get in your own 'shopped image. The deadline for submissions to Curbed.com is today (link).

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

IBO official: time for another look at AY incentives (but not for a cost-benefit analysis, yet)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper quotes George Sweeting, Deputy Director of the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO), says, according to the Brooklyn Paper, "It may be time for the city to take another look at the mix of incentives.”
Still, it doesn't look like the IBO is ready to perform another cost-benefit analysis. (The initial one had its flaws, since the IBO mainly focused on the arena.) In September 2007, Sweeting told me, "It remains unlikely that we will re-work the entire fiscal impact analysis, given other demands on our resources."

When I queried Sweeting yesterday, he responded, "We don’t have anything underway on Atlantic Yards at this time. As the plan evolves we may take another look--but we have to consider that in light of our own limited resources and other demands on them."

Indeed, the plan is hardly firm. However, that hasn't stopped Forest City Ratner from pursuing additional indirect subsidies. Shouldn't someone be calculating how this cuts into the originally promised benefits?


NoLandGrab: We'd bet that the IBO won't pursue any additional analysis, so as not to embarrass Bruce Ratner and project supporters.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

NY1 Exclusive Poll: NYers Still Sour Over Term Limits

By Josh Robin

It appears that Mayor Bloomberg is vulnerable on an issue other than the extension of term limits... public funding of ballparks.

For Democrats eyeing toppling Bloomberg, like Congressman Anthony Weiner and city comptroller Bill Thompson, there's another angle -- baseball.

Fifty-nine percent of New Yorkers disapprove of financial deals to give the Mets and Yankees new ballparks. Just 14 percent approve while about a quarter aren't sure.

The poll was taken before recent reports that costs of recreational facilities that were part of the Bloomberg administration-brokered deal have ballooned by nearly $80 million.

Which means if perks for baseball teams emerge as an issue, this political game isn't over yet.


NoLandGrab: In the past, Mayor Bloomberg has contended that the teams are paying for new venues with their own money. As in the case of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena, we know that isn't true.

Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

So, the Nets are the metro-area exception, giving tickets away

Atlantic Yards Report

The Nets have spent the last year figuring out new ways to give away free tickets. Due to the slowing economy, other franchises are following suit:

In a piece yesterday on public radio's The Takeaway headlined Sports teams slash ticket prices to keep fans, Jeff Beresford-Howe observed the extent to which teams nationally are desperately trying to fill seats, and offered a contrast: "The extent to which none of this has reached New York yet is remarkable."

Well, as DDDB and many others would point out, it sure has reached the New York metro area, where the Nets are actually giving tickets away--and even giving away corporate sponsorships, in a scheme NLG deems worthy of The Office.

On Wednesday night, the Izod Center was barely half-full, as the Nets drew an announced 10,138 for a game against the Toronto Raptors. Photos suggest the arena was even more empty.


Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

Kucinich asks Citigroup to give up Citifield naming rights deal

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder responds to news that:

Representatives Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Ted Poe (R-TX) have asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to demand that Citigroup dissolve its $400 million naming rights contract for the New York Mets, known as Citifield.
Essentially, the naming rights agreement is a marketing expense, and even banks that take federal money aren't being asked to stop marketing, are they? (Can egregious marketing expenses be regulated?)

But it's probably not a marketing expense--at least at $20 million a year--that the bank would make today.

Barclays Capital has so far avoided nationalization. But the discussion about the Atlantic Yards arena naming rights deal might get interesting if the U.K. government does end up bailing out the bank.


NoLandGrab: That's a hard one. Can we expect a backlash if any automakers that accepted federal bridge loans pay premium rates to advertise during the Super Bowl?

Then again, if taxpayers are lending a hand in the construction of the ballpark, shouldn't naming rights proceeds go back to the government?

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Reports of Atlantic Yards' Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated - Reprint of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Newsletter

Yonkers Tribune

Folks keeping tabs on Forest City Ratner overdevelopment in Yonkers like to keep tabs on what their favorite overdeveloper is up to in Brooklyn. Yesterday the Trib published the entire text of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's (DDDB) latest newsletter.

For those of you who aren't on DDDB's distribution list, click here.

Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

January 29, 2009

Nets shooting for new sponsors with tournament

by John Brennan

Most Tuesday mornings, Nets Chief Executive Officer Brett Yormark joins some colleagues in a game of pickup basketball. Now Yormark is challenging dozens of current — as well as possible future — corporate sponsors to show off their own unsung basketball-playing employees.

It's the 64-team Nets Metropolitan Madness Basketball Challenge, an event to be held in March at the Nets' East Rutherford practice site.

There's more than just bragging rights at stake, too: The winning team gets a free Nets sponsorship for the first two months of the 2009-10 season. That includes courtside, visible-on-TV signage; radio advertising; and a spot on the njnets.com Web site.

Each company that enters a team will receive 25 free tickets for a Nets game.


NoLandGrab: Last week, we joked that some Nets' marketing efforts seemed to come right out of NBC's The Office. Now we're beginning to think they really might.

And of course, no Nets' promotion would be complete without free Nets' tickets, the one thing which the team seems to have in endless supply.

Posted by eric at 4:12 PM

Time to Say Goodbye

The Cleveland Leader
by Roldo Bartimole

Forest City Enterprises executives now call for “an open process” when the decision on the Medical Mart and convention center don’t go its way. What a sick laugh.

Just the audacity of the behind-the-scenes manipulators asking for the light of public sunshine is shocking.

Forest City’s Sam Miller and Al Ratner have run the string out. They’ve taken and taken from the city and the county.

From tax abatement of their luxury Ritz-Carlton, from their scraping away millions of tax dollars at the Halle building, from their pocketing of tens of millions in tax subsidies at Tower City, from their $25 million lawsuit against RTA after RTA employed as construction managers of its facilities at Tower City, of its charging RTA about $1 million rent a year for the privilege of bringing tens of thousands of people to its doorstep via the rapid, of the $60 plus million spent to put the Waterfront Line though Tower City, from the $13-million walkway through Tower City to Gateway and the walkway to the new federal building, to the building of the new federal building on their land, there has been a corruption of the public business – mayor after mayor, county commissioner after county commissioner.

Time to say goodbye to the politics of take and grab.

Time to say goodbye Forest City. Goodbye Sam. Go to New York. Take your headquarters with you. Get out! Go!


NoLandGrab: New York?! Thanks, but no thanks, Roldo — we already have our fill of Forest City.

Posted by eric at 3:39 PM

Atlantic Yards: Time to reconsider

The Daily Gotham
by mole333

Been saying for ages that Bruce Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards over-development plan was too big, too expensive and would never bring the benefits he promised. Been saying it ever since it was supposed to be a "done deal." Slowly, as indeed promises have been broken by Ratner, costs spiral and, of course, the economy collapsed under the watch of Bush nationally and Bloomberg locally, more and more people are jumping ship.

The shift started, I think, when even one of Bruce Ratner's biggest local fans, Bill de Blasio, started to feel betrayed by Ratner's sudden reversal on his promise regarding affordable housing. By taking the affordable housing off the schedule, Ratner actually removed the one excuse many had for supporting it. When even developer-friendly de Blasio started flirting with Ratner's opposition, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, you knew Ratner was in trouble. Another politician who once was considered a Ratner supporter who became increasingly disillusioned was State Senator Hakeem Jeffries. Ratner has been alienating political allies for some time now. Once the affordable housing was shelved, the political cover many of these politicians had for supporting Ratner was out the window.


Posted by eric at 3:33 PM

Carlton Avenue Bridge Could Be Closed for Four More Years



DOT cut a much more generous deal with Forest City than was initially made public and ESDC perpetuated the myth to the appelate court, according to a fascinating and detailed expose yesterday on the Atlantic Yards Report. ESDC first told the public in 2007's Final Environmental Impact Statement that the bridge would be closed for two years. A Freedom of Information Act request by AY Report's Norman Oder, however, revealed that Forest City has three years to complete the project with another two years tacked on in the case of an "unavoidable delay."


Posted by eric at 2:59 PM

Brennan to ESDC/FCR: here's Atlantic Yards blight, so listen to BrooklynSpeaks

Atlantic Yards Report

Shortly after BrooklynSpeaks asked Gov. David Paterson to address multiple aspects of the stalled Atlantic Yards project, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Assemblymember Jim Brennan both sent letters requesting developer Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to respond.


Brennan's letter, addressed to ESDC CEO Marisa Lago and FCR Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin, is more formal, essentially endorsing the elements of the BrooklynSpeaks letter, which, among other things, asked that further street closures and demolitions be halted, that viable vacant buildings be repurposed, that the Carlton Avenue Bridge be returned to service, and that interim public open space be created.

He writes: As a follow-up to our discussion, I am enclosing for your response and comment an urgent letter sent by BrooklynSpeaks sponsors to Governor Paterson on December 31st and calling for a number of immediate steps to mitigate the blight and disruption to surrounding neighborhoods caused by the Atlantic Yards project and to improve communication with the community and its elected officials. Enclosed as well are photographs detailing the extent of the blight caused by demolition associated with the project.


Markowitz wrote only to Gilmartin, not to the ESDC, and used her first name in a more familiar tone:
I enjoyed our conversation today regarding the proposal and many ideas put forward by BrooklynSpeaks. In reviewing the list, it seems to me that a number of them are meritorious. And it's my hope that Forest City Ratner will move quickly to implement those that will mitigate any of the problems associated with the project in the opinion of this group which speaks for so many who reside in the immediate area of Atlantic Yards.

Markowitz did not specify which ones are meritorious. And his third sentence, which essentially endorses the "opinion of this group," could be read to suggest that all are meritorious.

Perhaps Markowitz thinks it's practical and possible--and good p.r.--to "create interim public open space as play areas or community gardens," as BrooklynSpeaks requested.

But does he really think the developer would "[m]ake publicly available current expected and worst-case construction timelines" or "[r]eturn the Carlton Avenue Bridge to service"?



Posted by steve at 7:37 AM

City budget whiz says Bruce’s Yards deal needs retooling

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

George Sweeting, deputy director of the city’s Independent Budget Office, sent a shockwave through Tuesday morning’s Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce annual “Economic Outlook Breakfast” when he stated that “it may be time for the city to take another look at the mix of incentives” that it offered to Ratner because “it doesn’t look like there will be much progress in the next few years” on the $4-billion mini-city.

Sweeting said that the escalating costs of the proposed publicly financed basketball arena at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues — now close to $950 million, from an original pricetag of $400 million in 2003 — might eliminate the supposed benefit to the city coffers.

In 2005, an IBO study found that the arena would get $950,000 in surplus revenues every year during the arena’s 30-year financing period — puny revenue projections in a city whose annual budget is $60 billion.


“If amenities are scaled back and the overall scale of the project is reduced, it’s reasonable to stop and look at whether the city’s contributions and the MTA land deal still show a positive in the cost-benefit calculation,” Sweeting said. “Some of the benefits to the public may now be less than originally assumed. A lot has changed since 2005, when we found that the arena was basically a break-even proposition.”


Posted by steve at 7:19 AM

Now, ex-Sen. D'Amato is raising funds for AG Cuomo


A fundraiser is being planned for New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in preparation for his apparent run for Governor.

After his prominent appearance alongside Gov. David Paterson -- for whom he raises funds -- during the appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand as New York’s new senator, D’Amato next week hosts a $1,000-a-ticket fundraiser for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Celeste Hadrick reports.

Check out the host committee:

The host committee includes some familiar names: Frank Macchiarola, Henry Amoroso, Anthony Bonomo, Adam Ciongoli, Gandolfo V. DiBlasi, Lawrence Elovich, Charles A. Gargano, Hon. Joel A. Giambra, Peter S. Kalikow, John E. Zuccotti, Bruce Ratner, Russell Rosenthal, Steven R. Schlesinger, Gregory V. Serio, Robert Wild and Judith Wild.

Followers of the Atlantic Yards fight will recognize three names in particular:

Charles Gargano, the former chairman of the ESDC who pushed through the project in the waning days of the George Pataki administration,

Peter Kalikow, former MTA board chairman, who gave the winning bid for the Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner despite a bid of only $100 million cash for a property the MTA had assessed for $214.5 million,

Bruce Ratner, Chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, who's constantly looking to make sure that he will have easy access to public funding for his projects.


Posted by steve at 6:20 AM

Pricey stadium stations

Metro New York
By Patrick Arden

Here's a further example of how the City and State governments' enthusiasm to subsidize private sports facilities costs taxpayers more and more.

When the MTA agreed to spend $40 million for a station to service the new Yankee Stadium, rider advocate Gene Russianoff suggested the team pay for naming rights to the stop.


The cost of the new Metro-North station has climbed to $92 million —the city’s kicking in $39 million — and keeps rising: This week Metro-North approved $800,000 to keep the station clean.

“The Yankees have refused to contribute,” said Andrew Albert, a rider rep. on the MTA board.


NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, the State refuses to back off from subsidizing the proposed Nets Arena which will eat up plenty of taxpayer money, but return little.

Posted by steve at 6:06 AM

Park replacement costs skyrocket

River Ave. Blues

Here is commentary on the announced delays in delivering parks for Bronx residents that are meant as a replacement for public parkland given away for the construction of the new Yankee Stadium. The proposed Atlantic Yards project gets mention as an example of poor planning.

According to a recent study by the city’s Independent Budget Office, the City of New York will have to pony up nearly $80 million more than originally expected to replace the 22 acres of parkland lost to the new Yankee Stadium. This project will now cost around $195 million. Who would have guessed?


In the end, this is of course no different from countless other city projects. Along Second Ave., the long-awaited Second Ave. Subway has run into countless delays and budget problems, the Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards projects are a mess, and even the Fulton St. Hub, part of the Lower Manhattan post-9/11 redevelopment plan is stuck in neutral.


NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards is a State project (the City having abdicated its responsibility years ago), but the pattern here is similar: Backroom deals result in huge public subsidies with little public benefit.

Posted by steve at 5:48 AM

January 28, 2009

Columbia Law School Eminent Domain Forum, Today

Susette Kelo, the plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court eminent domain case Kelo vs. New London, and Jeff Benedict, author of Little Pink House, which chronicles the legal battle, will appear this evening at a forum hosted by the Columbia University School of Law's Federalist Society.

Also attending will be Nick Sprayregen, owner of Tuck-It-Away Self Storage, who is fighting Columbia University’s effort to take his generations-old family business to make way for a private development plan, and Sprayregen’s attorney, Norman Siegel, former Executive Director of the New York ACLU.

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009
4:30 p.m. — 6:00 p.m.
Columbia University School of Law
William & June Warren Hall
Amsterdam Avenue & West 115th Street
(Entrance on Amsterdam Avenue between 115th & 116th Streets)
Room L107 (on Lower Level)
#1 Subway to 116th Street [map]

Click Here for more info.

Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

Carlton Avenue Bridge Could Be Closed for 3, or Potentially 5, Years

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) told an appellate court last year that the Carlton Avenue bridge, which is a major connector between Prospect Heights/Park Slope and Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, would be taken down by Forest City Ratner and reopened in 2 years. Forest City Ratner and the ESDC also made the same representation to the public and to elected officials—that this closure would only last two years—from January 2008 to January 2010.

But Ratner and ESDC were knowingly misleading everyone as shown in documents acquired by Norman Oder and revealed today on his Atlantic Yards Report. When those 2 year representations were made to the public, Ratner and NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) had already signed an agrreement that Ratner could take at least 3 years to rebuild the bridge and potentially up to 5 years.

It's just the latest example of unaccountability and non-transparency by the state and city agencies and the "developer," where the community—people who walk or drive places and expect speedy emergency services unhindered by unnecessary street closures—gets the short end of the stick.


Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Cleveland self-immolation reaches new irony - Forest City! demands transparency

Blogger Interrupted

Controversial Ohio blogger Tim Russo finds Forest City's outrage outrageous.

Just when you think Cleveland can’t caricature itself any further, a shocker! Filthy rich developer already obscenely engorged with taxpayer riches going back decades, largely because of closed, opaque non-transparent back room deal making, finally loses a back room deal. And NOW they want transparency.


NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that Forest City Enterprises is to Cleveland what Forest City Ratner is to Brooklyn, only on steroids.

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

Forest City Enterprises calls for public review of convention center site decision

Cleveland Plain Dealer
by Jim Nichols

The ultimate beneficiary of government back-room deals doesn't like the taste of its own medicine.

Executives from Forest City Enterprises called Tuesday for a public review of the Cuyahoga County commissioners' decision to spurn their firm's proposed site for a downtown convention center in favor of building where the old one sits, under and around Mall B.

"As long as this is done in an open process, and a process that allows the light of day in a decision of this great a magnitude, we'll support it, for the good of the community," David LaRue, a top Forest City executive, said in an interview.


NoLandGrab: Financially shaky Forest City was obviously counting on the revenue the Medical Mart project would bring their way — and on their sway with Cleveland's elected officials to carry the day.

Wonder if their new-found love of openness and transparency will lead them to demand an investigation into how high-bidder Extell lost out on the MTA's Vanderbilt Railyard?

Oh, and be sure to read the comments posted on the Plain Dealer web site.

Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

Atlantic Yards as footnote

The troubled Atlantic Yards project frequently pops up as a context-setter — usually as the what-not-to-do example.

BrooklynPaper.com, What’s up, Dock? Lobbying fees, that’s what

For example, when Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project was nearing its approval by Albany lawmakers in 2006, the developer spent $2.105 million to lobby elected and appointed officials, up from less than $500,000 the year before.

Brooklyn The Borough, An Update on Brooklyn Bridge Park

With even Bruce Ratner scaling back, who is going to invest in more overpriced residences during an economic crisis?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Navy Yard, B’klyn Waterfront Are Bright Lights in Otherwise Dismal ’09 Econ. Outlook

George Sweeting, deputy director of the NYC Independent Budget Office and the panelist focusing on the city as a whole, also said a turnaround is far off.

Asked about [Forest City Ratner’s] Atlantic Yards arena project, Sweeting said “It may be time for the city to take another look at it. It’s pretty clear it will not look like originally planned.”

Posted by eric at 9:26 AM

Despite announced two-year timetable to replace Carlton Avenue Bridge, contract gives FCR three years (and maybe more)

Atlantic Yards Report

Why is the half-demolished Carlton Avenue Bridge lying fallow in Prospect Heights? Because cash-strapped Forest City Ratner has a lot more time to replace it than anyone (outside of Forest City Ratner and city and state agencies) knew.

The Carlton Avenue Bridge, closed on 1/23/08 and currently half-demolished, was supposed to to be closed two years for reconstruction.

However, the contract for bridge work--which I obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request--gives developer Forest City Ratner three years before penalties kick in, and even longer in case of unavoidable delays. (Excerpt below.)

That three-year window has never been made public, as far as I know, and I got only a cursory explanation of why it was allowed.

“We negotiated an agreement with FCR which met our mutual needs," New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesman Seth Solomonow told me. "The project end-date does not preclude the possibility of earlier completion.”

That's true, but it doesn't explain why no one announced that 36 months might be an end-date.

Moreover, as I describe below, "unavoidable delays" could extend the deadline to 60 months, or five years, to finish the job, without penalty--and loose contract language could stretch that deadline even more.


NoLandGrab: In government-speak, "we negotiated an agreement with FCR which met our mutual needs" means "we served this up on a silver platter for Bruce Ratner — public be damned."

Posted by eric at 8:48 AM

January 27, 2009

Yankee Stadium rec area cost out of the park

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

More revelations about The Parks that George (and Mike) Stole from the people of the nation's poorest Congressional district.

The cost of replacing more than 22 acres of South Bronx parkland displaced by the new Yankee Stadium has skyrocketed 67% to nearly $195 million, according to a new report by the Independent Budget Office.

Design revisions, project additions, unanticipated cleanup of hazardous materials and construction inflation have driven costs up by $78.6 million, the report said. While the Yankees are financing the stadium — with the help of city and state subsidies — the parks are being paid for by the city.

Eight smaller parks will replace Macombs Dam Park and a portion of John Mullaly Park, which were demolished to make way for the new stadium and parking garages.

The parks were initially expected to be completed by December 2010, but construction delays at almost every facility means they will not likely open before the fall of 2011.

The increases and delays came as no surprise to community members who believed all along that the city’s original plan was not feasible. They vigorously opposed the stadium, in large part because of its impact on neighborhood parkland.

Joyce Hogi, a member of Community Board 4’s parks committee and a longtime area resident, said community members told the city it was underestimating the amount of environmental remediation that needed to be done, but that its warnings went nowhere. “We knew the costs of the parks were going to escalate,” she said. “During our protests, we said ‘there are tanks under the soil, there’s remediation that needs to be done.’”

Even if there are no further delays, Ms. Hogi believes irrevocable damage has already been done. “The kids that played in these parks will be adults and parents by the time we get the replacements,” she said.


NoLandGrab: The phony claims by the Yankees and the Bloomberg administration that the new stadium will be a boon to the Bronx make the theft of the area's parkland all the more egregious.

Posted by eric at 4:15 PM

Mall Site Chosen For Medical Mart And Convention Center

WCPN Cleveland Public Radio

In a blow to developer Forest City Enterprises, Cuyahoga County's commissioners voted unanimously to build Cleveland's planned Medical Mart on the site of the city's Convention Center — rather than the Tower City site owned by Forest City.

The mall is the site preferred by Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. The Chicago firm is the county's partner in developing and operating the medical mart and convention center. The commissioners made their decision after several hours of closed door discussion which irritated representatives of Forest City Enterprises. Forest City had been trying to sell the commissioners on another site and spokesman Jeff Linton told the Plain Dealer he was "stunned" and dismayed that the commissioners eliminated consideration of the Tower City site with so little public discussion.


NoLandGrab: No wonder Forest City is irritated — they're used to being behind the closed door, inside the back room. Never mind that the Commissioners found that the Tower City site would cost Cleveland $100 million more than the site they selected.

Don't be surprised if opponents of the company's Atlantic Yards project experience a little schadenfreude when hearing that Forest City was "dismayed" that there was "so little public discussion." Will this outcome usher in a new era of openness at Forest City? We already know how committed they are to sharing information.

Posted by eric at 12:17 PM

Atlantic Yards Gets Contextual

The Architect's Newspaper Blog
by Matt Chaban

...or at least as "contextual" as one can get plopping an 18,000-seat arena into a residential neighborhood.

The Atlantic Yards has been through a number of iterations, including one by the Post entitled Atlantic Lots, which was developed with the MAS. But today’s rendering by the paper is perhaps its slyest yet, taking a proclamation by “biggest cheeleader” Borough President Marty Markowitz, who called for the project to be clad in brownstone as a cost-saving measure.


Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Evicted, But Not Without a Fight

The government took her home. The Supreme Court approved.

The Wall St. Journal, Book Review
By Melanie Kirkpatrick


Enter Susette Kelo. Ms. Kelo is a classic American heroine -- the feisty little guy who takes on city hall and corporate fat cats in pursuit of a just cause. "Little Pink House," by Jeff Benedict, is her story. It opens on the day in 1997 when she fell in love with a Victorian fixer-upper overlooking Long Island Sound and plunked down her life savings to buy it. She was 40 and fleeing a troubled marriage. She had spotted the "for sale" sign on the cottage when she answered an emergency call in the neighborhood while on the job as an EMT worker.

A few months after Ms. Kelo moved into her dream house, Pfizer Inc., the pharmaceutical company, announced plans to build a large research facility nearby. The state put up $100 million to upgrade the neighborhood. The city's development arm, run by a bulldozer of a woman who was also president of Connecticut College, moved quickly to buy out the local property owners. Ms. Kelo and a few others said no. The day before Thanksgiving in 2000 she came home from work to find an eviction notice on her front door; she had 90 days to vacate the premises.

Thus began the campaign of Ms. Kelo and several of her neighbors to save their homes.


This from the Institute for Justice:

Susette and author Jeff Benedict will hold a book forum at Columbia University on Jeff's new book, Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage. The book is available for purchase from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Little-Pink-House-Defiance-Courage/dp/0446508624. We hope you will be able to make it, and be sure to check out the Wall Street Journal's review of this terrific book below.

Book Forum
Hosted by the Federalist Society
Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009
4:30pm - 6pm
Columbia University School of Law William & June Warren Hall
Amsterdam Avenue & W. 115th Street
(Entrance on Amsterdam Avenue between 115th & 116th)
Room L107 (on lower level)
New York, NY

Posted by lumi at 4:16 AM

Learning from Rockefeller Center: building during a downturn, the role of p.r., and the difficulty of effective urbanism

Atlantic Yards Report

...Rockefeller Center occupies 22 acres, the size of the current Atlantic Yards footprint (announced at 21 acres). Rock Center has 19 commercial buildings; Atlantic Yards would have an arena, an office building or two, and the rest of the 16 towers would be housing.

Despite a distinct difference between a complex with no housing and another that would mostly contain housing, there are some interesting comparisons and contrasts, as a reading of Daniel Okrent's terrific Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center, published in 2003, suggests.

So some relevant issues, as I'll discuss below, include the shifting costs and program; the drumbeat of public relations; the relationship with holdouts; the role of zoning; the capacity to gain tax breaks; and the opportunity to build during an economic downturn.

Ultimately, however, the message is clear: even if Atlantic Yards gets built as proposed, which is enormously unlikely, Rockefeller Center would be a very difficult standard to meet.


Posted by lumi at 3:53 AM

The Case For Moving The Islanders

A chance to run for Kansas City may be coming soon. They should take it.

By Tom Van Riper

While "Fishsticks" are floundering in Long Island, Bruce Ratner's lame duck Nets joins the rumormill.

When the New York Islanders announced they'd play an exhibition game in Kansas City, Mo.'s sparkling new Sprint Center next fall, they seemed to put jaded fans on notice: If Long Island doesn't want us, the heartland does.

For now, team officials insist there are no plans to relocate. But a move to Kansas City makes a lot of sense to the Islanders, a franchise losing some $20 million a year in the biggest sports market in America.
There is one alternative: Wang could partner with New Jersey Nets owner and real estate developer Bruce Rattner (sic). His idea for an arena in Brooklyn, N.Y., 20 miles west of Nassau Coliseum, seems to be crumbling. If that project falls through, Plan B might include the Nets splitting time either with the Devils in Newark, N.J., or at a new Islanders arena on Long Island.


Posted by lumi at 3:52 AM

January 26, 2009

Priceless Video: Brooklyn Goes to Cleveland

Gowanus Lounge

This is an amazingly amusing short film from the 1950s that’s about Cleveland from the perspective of Brooklyn. Priceless. Props to E.C. Stephens for coming across this. Seriously, if you want to chuckle, watch this.


"Because of a few trees, they call themselves da Forest City. That could be right, from what I see of it, they're still not outta the woods."

Posted by lumi at 7:18 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

[rendering by NYPost, above left; rendering by Curbed, above right. Original aerial photograph by Jonathan Barkey]

Curbed, Fresh Visions of the Endlessly Pared Down Atlantic Yards

Apparently too impatient for developer Forest City Ratner to release the latest (Frank Gehry-free?) pared-down version for the basketball/high-living complex Atlantic Yards, the Post went ahead and commissioned the bizarre Ebbets Field-inspired take seen above left. Which led us to commission an even more retro, neo-classical vision, above right. We'd say it's at best a tossup as to which vision gets built. Meantime, pace Restless, we invite you to submit your vision of the new Atlantic Yards to tips@curbed.com; we'll publish any gems.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Looking Increasingly Un-sexy

Look on the bright side: The project design is getting increasingly contextual—it should blend right in with the Atlantic Terminal Mall!

City Room Blog [NYT], Housing & Economy

So this is the biggest project in Brooklyn? The Atlantic Yards plan has fallen a long way from the spectacular glass-and-steel arena designed by the architect Frank Gehry and surrounded by 16 high-rises. [New York Post]

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Officials and Ratner Mum on Atlantic Yards

Nets Daily, New York State Forms New Corporation to Help Nets’ Arena

Posted by eric at 5:02 PM

Brooklyn Broadside: We’re Beginning To See A Thaw For New Brooklyn Development

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

The Eagle columnist must be inhaling fumes from his kerosene heater.

It is with relief as we start this week that I can see ahead to the end of January. It has been colder than our recent past experiences, but the shortest month of the year cometh, and then there is March.

January has not been short of news here in Brooklyn, most of it meaningful and most of it setting stages for even bigger news later.

Another major project we will hear something about before long will be the Atlantic Yards. Forest City and the state will probably win the last of the lawsuits, and the only questions about the new arena will be where and when. Other building decisions will be made later once bank money starts coming back into the system.

So, the gloomy January is about to run its course, and all the Brooklyn news is not all that gloomy, as it turns out.


NoLandGrab: Wha? Holt must've had this column in his desk drawer from January 2007, since he seems more or less oblivious to the dire economic consequences facing Forest City Ratner and their Atlantic Yards project.

And what does he mean by "the only questions about the new arena will be where and when." We get the "when" part — though Holt ignores the mounting losses being incurred by the Nets, and the enormous debt payment due next month to Gramercy Capital — but what does he mean by "where?" Newark?

Posted by eric at 4:25 PM


NY Post
by Rich Calder

So this is the biggest project in Brooklyn?

The reeling Atlantic Yards project has come a long away from the spectacular glass-and-steel arena designed by star architect Frank Gehry and surrounded by 16 monolithic brick, glass-and-steel high-rises - but seemingly in the wrong direction.

A rendering [original aerial photograph by Jonathan Barkey] commissioned by The Post shows a significantly scaled-back version of the controversial $4 billion project by developer Bruce Ratner, which is now on hold indefinitely because of both the credit crunch and anti-project litigation.

Earlier this month, Ratner confirmed he's trying to scale back costs on the Gehry-designed, $950 million arena, to potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars.

Markowitz followed that announcement with a call for a downscale "brownstone" facade for the arena - which Ratner said he would consider.

Most of the rest of Atlantic Yards is expected to be on hold for many years - or until a cash-strapped Ratner comes up with enough money to build.

A $153 million loan Ratner took out with Gramercy Capital to buy land for the plan has risen to $177 million with interest and is due next month.

Although Gramercy has seen is stock dramatically decline in recent months, Ratner is trying to get an extension.

Ratner, according to sources, is also in talks with Metropolitan Transportation Authority about cutting costs on a $445 million transit-improvement plan he promised in 2005 for the Vanderbilt Rail Yard in order to receive a green light from the state for Atlantic Yards.

"With its substantial legal and financial obstacles, the Atlantic Yards proposal is on life support," Goldstein said. "It is time for the Paterson Administration to pull the plug.


NoLandGrab: We've been unable to confirm rumors that Ratner has asked Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn to "lay off a little," along with a request for advice on "good bake-sale locations."

Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

Sports of The Times: Tear Down Stadium and Build Up the Bronx

The New York Times
by Harvey Araton

Araton's scathing column appeared in Sunday's Times. Once again we ask, why do the sports beat writers and columnists see through the stadium swindles while the metro and editorial desks get writer's block?

Months after its rousing and official farewell, old Yankee Stadium stands strong, proud and in one piece, shuttered but not altogether silenced.

Twenty-two days until pitchers and catchers, its message board atop the outer wall reminded passers-by last week — one day before the Yankees finally left the building. Humble sorts they are, they made a publicized show of an administrative schlep across the street Friday that was months overdue, like the demolition of a ballpark so beloved that it almost sounds sacrilegious to ask, why is it still here?

A civic conscience trumps sentimentality, however. Enough is enough. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: Tear down this stadium, Mr. Bloomberg!

“That’s going take at least two years because the city’s priority is the Yankees, not the neighborhood,” said Joyce Hogi, a member of the Community Board 4 parks committee.

She and her colleagues fought a long, losing battle of preservation best evidenced by two stadiums at the expense of cherished parkland, to be replaced here and there and on terms mostly beneficial to a private enterprise already worth in excess of $1 billion. All while the old and the new stand side by side, towering over what is commonly called the nation’s poorest Congressional district like some supersize baseball mall.

The city and the Yankees say the area will benefit in economic development. Hogi said: “The Yankees have been there for 80 years and what’s been developed? The only thing they are building now is a fortress so the people coming in will never have to step foot in the neighborhood.”


NoLandGrab: Joyce Hogi raises a very good point. If the Yankees are so good for the people of the Bronx, why is this "the nation’s poorest Congressional district" after 80+ years of the Yankees?

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Arena LDC emerges; why would it be used to pay for infrastructure for broader AY project?

Atlantic Yards Report

Even as the Atlantic Yards project seems stalled, state officials have organized a local development corporation (LDC) to oversee tax-exempt bond financing for Forest City Ratner’s planned Barclays Center arena.

But the odd thing about the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC) is that its scope contemplates financing for infrastructure improvements beyond the arena—a function not mentioned in the Atlantic Yards General Project Plan (GPP).

That could help get the city and state off the hook for providing additional infrastructure while allowing Forest City Ratner favorable terms to pay for the infrastructure.

The General Project Plan only outlines how a portion of the infrastructure improvements will be paid for, the LDC is a possible vehicle for funding the rest, and Norman Oder notes "other language in project documents opens up the possibility of additional governmental contributions."

The above analysis is preliminary, because the ESDC would provide only partial answers to my queries and was unwilling to explain whether such infrastructure financing was contemplated in the GPP.


Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM


The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

Activity in the luxury condo market around the block from Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards arena and highrise project paints a bleak picture for the need for more luxury housing in the area:

Sales of luxury apartments in the majestic and phallic Williamsburgh Savings Bank building are so sluggish that the owner will rent the unsold units until the economy improves — the latest proof that the real-estate market has gone to hell in a rent basket.

Brooklyn’s tallest building, once predominantly filled with dental offices and now a 190-unit tower called “One Hanson Place,” earlier this year was proudly boasting of an upper-floor apartment with wraparound views of the New York skyline that cost $6 million, but is now trying to fill the last 19 domiciles with rent ranging from $3,400 to $4,800 per month, according to the Stribling Properties Web site.


NoLandGrab: One of the more curious details of Ratner's struggle to build Atlantic Yards has been the occasional announcement that the proportion of housing and commercial space has once again changed. When there was a boom in the price of office space, the formerly-known-as Miss Brooklyn signature skyscraper was supposed to be an office tower. As the luxury condo market soared, Ratner changed his mind and added condos. Two different plans were approved by the Public Authorities Control Board to help Ratner continue to hedge his bet, underscoring the fact that neither is truly in demand.

Predictably, none of the promised affordable housing that is being used to promote Ratner's project will get built if the arena and office space-slash-luxury condos are stalled.

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

What's Happened to the Plant in the Park

Gotham Gazette
By Anne Schwartz

The controversy over the construction of a water filtration plant in the Bronx underscores the importance of ongoing scrutiny by politicians and watchdogs over largescale projects like Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, even after they are underway:

The escalating cost of the facility, which will be one of the largest water filtration plants in the world, is one of a number of complaints raised by critics, who opposed ever placing it in the Bronx and say the city is mismanaging the project. As they watch over the construction of the plant as well as associated work at nearby Jerome Park Reservoir, they want to ensure that the city keeps its promises to provide jobs to local residents, minimize the environmental impacts of construction in residential neighborhoods and spend an additional $240 million on Bronx parks.

Local politicians and state officials agreed to let the city build the filtration plant after the Bloomberg administration made these promises. Other projects throughout the city -- from Willets Point to Atlantic Yards to Yankee Stadium -- also faced local opposition and entail similarly elaborate agreements for community improvements, affordable housing and more. The ongoing saga of the filtration plant in the north Bronx shows the need for constant vigilance by residents and elected officials to make sure these promises are kept.


Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

Go away Islanders

LI Biz Blog
By David Reich-Hale

The New York Islanders decision to play an exhibition game in Kansas City later this year fueled speculation that the team could be relocating if the Town of Hempstead doesn’t move on site approvals for the Hub.

Though the Islanders haven't had much to get excited about in recent years, the addition of an NBA franchise might make a possible new arena more profitable:

Finally, here’s an interesting note in the column, and a rumor that’s quietly spread throughout the area: If Bruce Ratner’s gigantic plan to build an arena in Brooklyn for the New Jersey Nets falls apart, he could decide to partner with Wang and move the Nets to Long Island. If that happens, a new Nassau Coliseum becomes that much more enticing.

However, Ratner could just as easily move the team to Newark, where the New Jersey Devils play.


Posted by lumi at 4:38 AM

January 25, 2009

Sunday Comix - Cheerleader Marty

The Brooklyn Paper


Posted by steve at 8:05 AM

Outward Bound: Forest City Ratner also gives to NY Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger's favorite charity

Atlantic Yards Report

Henry Ward Beecher said "Every charitable act is a stepping stone towards heaven." Not wanting to wait, Bruce Ratner performs charity that benefits him in the here and now by many millions of dollars. Please read this blog entry to see just how it's done.

Let's take a look at New York City Outward Bound, which lists Forest City Ratner among those supporters contributing $50,000-$99,999. This comes from the company, not the foundation.

There's an interesting potential synergy; the contributors at that level also include The New York Times Company and publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., who is on the Outward Bound board.


We can't be sure why Bruce Ratner gave--maybe Outward Bound holds a special place in his life, too--but it can't hurt relations with New York City's most powerful publisher, whose opinions are reflected in the Times's editorials (and silences).


Posted by steve at 7:45 AM

And the Blog Goes On

New York Times
By Samantha Storey


This article takes a look at New York City real estate blogs and the challenges they face with the downturn in the real estate market. One Brooklynite quoted mentions the proposed Atlantic Yards project as a topic that he follows via the real estate blogs.

Louis Rosenfeld, who lives in Park Slope, started visiting Brownstoner last summer when he was looking for an apartment. He closed on a co-op in the fall, but is still reading the site.

“I find it interesting to use as a lens for what’s going on in the borough,” said Mr. Rosenfeld, a book publisher.

He said he liked the site’s broad approach. “I can find out what is happening with the Atlantic Yards and in neighborhoods like Ditmas Park and Flatbush.” He also said it was difficult to find news about these smaller neighborhoods in mainstream media.


NoLandGrab: Please feel free to think of us as your clearing house for all things Atlantic Yards. We're here to keep an eye on this vital Brooklyn issue whether or not The Times chooses to cover it.

Posted by steve at 7:24 AM

Alonzo Mourning's legacy not so stellar outside South Florida

Palm Beach Post
By Chris Perkins

Miami Heat basketball star Alonzo Mourning announced his retirement from professional basketball this past Thursday. Mourning's career outside of Miami is the focus of this article. Here is further confirmation that the New Jersey Nets are just part of the scheme by developer Bruce Ratner to win support for the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

In July 2003, Mourning departed the lowly Heat - remarking he didn't owe the franchise anything - and signed with title-contending New Jersey as an unrestricted free agent. But things soon went awry in New Jersey (owner Bruce Ratner didn't want to pay to keep center-forward Kenyon Martin or swingman Kerry Kittles) and when it seemed the Nets were finished throwing money around in pursuit of a title, Mourning, who went there to win a title, forced his exit.

He made life miserable for the Nets, spouting off to the media at every opportunity. Remarking on a conversation he had with Ratner, Mourning said, "I asked him, 'Other than your investment in this team for financial purposes - obviously getting a significant return - what's the reason why you bought the team?' " "And you ask anybody in here," Mourning continued, "he said, 'To move it to Brooklyn.' I mean, I didn't hear, 'To win a championship.' "I just shook my head."


Posted by steve at 7:16 AM

The Rat’s Nest

Wally 426

Here is a rundown of the proposed Atlantic Yards project. Included are some of the things we love to hate about the project: the ridiculously high density, the bait-and-switch on affordable housing, empty job promises and opaque public process. The blog entry concludes:

As it currently stands, the shifting economy has also shifted the feasibility of the project. Ratner has not only scaled down the plans for the arena and surrounding buildings, but has also requested to cut funds given to the MTA (another slap in the face to commuters). As he still hasn’t paid the $100 million for the land, the space can technically go back on the auction block until a more sound investor comes along. Ratner seems to be back on his heels right now. With increased opposition from the community, he could be pushed off the rat’s nest he’s attempting to build in the heart of Brooklyn. For all those willing to further the opposition’s cause, you can sign the online petition and let your voice be heard…



Posted by steve at 6:58 AM

January 24, 2009

New York Times criticized for a deal with (Mexican) tycoon; could those criticisms apply to its deal with Ratner?

Atlantic Yards Report

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu is investing $250 million in the New York Times Company. This transaction has triggered a critical essay in Slate. Norman Oder wonders if some of the criticism being made of the Times Company's close relationship with Slim couldn't also be applied to the chummy relationship with Bruce Ratner, who partnered with the Times in building the paper's new headquarters.

As I quote some excerpts from Martinez's essay, I'll suggest some similar criticisms may apply to the Forest City Ratner deal.

Whether a weak Mexican state can develop and implement muscular antitrust policies to rein in the likes of Slim and foster greater competition is one of the keys to our neighbor's prosperity, which shouldn't be a minor story for an American newspaper.

Whether major projects like Atlantic Yards can be built in New York City via a transparent and fair process, including the role of eminent domain shouldn't be a minor story for New York's leading newspaper, especially given that the Times Tower itself was an example of such challenges.

The point is, Slim doesn't have to interfere at all. I know from experience that publishers do intervene in the editorial process, as is their prerogative. And I can assure you that Slim's investment will be a factor, even if unspoken, in editorial decision-making henceforth at the Times. Perhaps Mexico's crony capitalism will remain a mostly neglected topic—but now conspiracies will be read into the neglect.

I'll take the Times at their word that the publisher doesn't interfere in the news coverage. (Michael Wolff suggests Ratner is "protected" and, while there's no proof of that, and there has been some tough reporting, there's been a lot of weak reporting, too, and never a major investigative piece.)


Posted by steve at 8:42 AM

Whither Hudson Yards, again?

2nd Ave. Sagas

This assessment of the problems the MTA is having concerning the sale of Manhattan's West Side Yards includes an opinion that the proposed Atlantic Yards project will be on hold for the coming year.

But with MTA CEO and Executive Director Elliot Sander calling the negotiations “very sensitive,” it’s easy to see a collapse in the near future. With this deal on the rocks — and the Atlantic Yards deal treading water for another year — the MTA’s capital budget may suffer. These mega-projects were to bring in over $1 billion, and if they both fall through, the MTA will have to scramble to replace the funds.


NoLandGrab: It's not clear if developer Bruce Ratner can hold on for a year or if MTA wouldn't be better off if it held competitive bidding for the Vanderbilt Rail Yard.

Posted by steve at 8:30 AM

The weekly wrap-up, January 23

New York Post

This week we learned that...

... Bruce Ratner isn't quite so excited about this Atlantic Yards thing anymore.


Posted by steve at 8:20 AM

January 23, 2009

Rink Rewards: Nets Giveaway

Prospect Park Alliance

An email from the Prospect Park Alliance hit our in-box this morning, carrying news of the latest promotional offers at the Park's Wollman Rink.

New Jersey Nets giveaway. Plus, 50 winners get pair of tickets to February 3rd Nets game!

January 24 & 25

With paid admission to Wollman Rink. All promotions subject to change, while supplies last.


NoLandGrab: Given typical attendance at a Nets' game, supplies should last a long, long time. If "winners" get a pair of tickets, what do the runners-up get — four tickets?

Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Happy Bruce Day!

From Wikipedia (emphasis added):

Bruce Ratner (born January 23, 1945 in Cleveland, Ohio) is president and CEO of Forest City Ratner, the New York division of Forest City Enterprises, which is based in Cleveland. Ratner was New York City's most active real estate developer during the 1990s. Ratner graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1967 and graduated from Columbia Law School in 1970.

After obtaining his J.D. Ratner became the director of a Model Cities program for the Lindsay administration in New York City. Subsequently he served in the capacity of chief of the Consumer Protection Division in the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs under Mayor Ed Koch in 1978.

In 1992, Crain's New York Business selected Ratner as the top New York City executive in the fields of real estate, finance and insurance. His projects generally involve large public subsidies, but to his credit has only once used the power of eminent domain.

NoLandGrab: "Only once used the power of eminent domain"?


As a birthday tribute, maybe the Bruce Ratner Fan Club can get crackin on that Wikipedia entry.

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

The Edolphus Towns succession, Darryl Towns, and Forest City Ratner's interest and intervention$

Atlantic Yards Report

City Hall News has an interesting piece on the potential race to succeed 74-year-old, 14-term 10th District Rep. Edolphus Towns, who in 2008 easily beat back a challenge from activist Kevin Powell though in 2006 was challenged more forcefully by City Council Member Charles Barron, whose impact was diluted by the spoiler role of Assemblyman Roger Green.

The article, headlined Big Egos and Ambitions Set To Collide in Prospective Race To Succeed Towns, doesn't mention the Atlantic Yards angle on past races nor the prospective one.

Still, Forest City Ratner has an interest in this race, part of the unwritten story about the developer's impact on Brooklyn politics. That interest includes a previously unreported Bruce Ratner campaign contribution to Assemblyman Darryl Towns and a surprise appearance by Towns himself at a recent AY-related meeting held by the Empire State Development Corporation.

The Mad Overkilling Norman Oder finds Forest City Ratner's fingerprints in Darryl Towns's campaign finance filings and examines the State Assemblyman's public track record on Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Atlantic Terminal Tower

AtlanticTermTower-BIB.jpg Brit in Brooklyn posted this photo of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Terminal Tower (located across the street from the developer's Atlantic Yards project), along with this debatable description from the architect.

"The tower design addresses three primary relationships: the retail base, the adjacent Williamsburg Bank Tower, and the surrounding residential neighborhood." — From Swanke Hayden Connell Architects

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

"Negotiating against ourselves": Council Member Gioia offered a prescient warning about the city's embrace of AY

Atlantic Yards Report

While doing research on the political tidal wave of support for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject, Norman Oder stumbles upon a moment in time when one politician was trying to think clearly:

Would you believe that, some four-and-a-half years ago, a top city economic development officials promised that the return on public investment in the Atlantic Yards project would be eclipsed by the impact of the New Jersey Nets moving to Brooklyn?

Or that an effort to "find a better deal" was seen to "discourage developers from coming to us," even though, since then, the city has held competitions for developers seeking to build megaprojects?

That's in the transcript of the 5/4/04 City Council hearing on AY.

There were two key exchanges between City Council Member Eric Gioia and Andrew Alper, then president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

(I augmented the transcript slightly with a look at some video.)


Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Obama Inaugural Address: National Themes and Atlantic Yards

Noticing New York

Singling out the "collective failure to make hard choices," "false promises," and "short cuts," Obama called on Americans to cast aside the culture of "greed and irresponsibility" — like Atlantic Yards?

Using the Alantic Yards test, we observe that Mr. Obama seems to envision a better future where with our “eyes fixed on the horizon” we will see no Atlantic Yards.

Below we supply our sampling of President Obama’s words (emphasis supplied). (From the full transcript as prepared for delivery of President Barack Obama's inaugural remarks on Jan. 20, 2009, at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.):

In the words of President Obama:

. . . . That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. . . . Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. . . .

Atlantic Yards is clearly an example of the worst kind of greed, but it is also an example of the kind of irresponsible diversion and misdirection of resources that has crippled our economy.


Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

Atlantic Yards developer seeks to cut transit costs

The Star-Ledger

The developer of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards is trying to cut back on transit improvements he promised in exchange for approval for the $4 billion project, according to a report in the New York Post.

The report said Bruce Ratner, who plans to bring the New Jersey Nets to the arena portion of the project, is in talks with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority about cutting costs on a revamp and move of the Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt Rail Yard, which he agreed to purchase three years ago for $100 million.


Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

The NY Times Co. to sell portion of building co-owned with Forest City Ratner

Bruce Ratner is about to get a new business partner in the Times Tower:

The Wall St. Journal, Times Co. Nears Deal On Building

New York Times Co. is nearing a deal to sell a portion of its Midtown Manhattan headquarters in the latest of a string of recent efforts to reduce its debt load.

The deal under discussion is a sale-leaseback transaction in which Times Co. would sell the 19 floors it occupies at its 52-story headquarters to W.P. Carey & Co., an investment-management company, a person familiar with the talks said. Times Co. would continue to occupy and manage the space and have the right to buy it back in 10 years when its lease expires. Times Co. owns an additional six floors that it leases to other tenants; those floors aren't part of the deal.

The building, designed by the architect Renzo Piano, was completed in 2007. Times Co. owns 58% of the tower, and the developer Forest City Ratner owns the rest.

The NY Times, Times Co. Is in Talks to Sell Part of Building

A spokeswoman for the Times Company, Catherine J. Mathis, declined to say how much W. P. Carey would pay for the space, what it would cost to repurchase it or what the rent would be. The Times Company previously said that it was pursuing a sale-leaseback arrangement for up to $225 million and would use the proceeds to repay some of thecompany’s long-term debt.
The Times Company owns 58 percent of the 1.5-million-square-foot tower. The developer Forest City Ratner owns the rest of the building. Forest City’s portion will not be included in the sale.

Bloomberg.com, New York Times in Talks to Sell Part of Manhattan Headquarters

The stock fell 42 cents, or 7 percent, to $5.58 yesterday and is down almost 90 percent from a high of $52.79 in June 2002. New York Times has been seeking to sell assets, trim staff and increase revenue through front-page advertisements.

The publisher is also looking for a buyer for its 17.5 percent stake in the Boston Red Sox baseball team, a person familiar with the talks said this month.

Reuters, NY Times in building sale talks with W.P. Carey: report

The building was completed in 2007.

Earlier this month, the company agreed to a pricey $250 million loan from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim giving the Times extra time to sell assets and improve its business.

Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

January 22, 2009

Marching (Lower) in Lockstep


A peek at the latest quotes for Barclays and Forest City Enterprises early this afternoon showed that shares in the two companies had declined an eerily similar 10.44%. We should note that the 59.20 quote for Barclays is British pence (about 81 cents), while the FCE quote is in greenbacks.

Could it be the curse of Atlantic Yards?

Posted by eric at 12:51 PM

I Wish I Could Quit You, Marty

Gumby Fresh

The pseudonymous Gari N. Corp, who consistently delivers some of the most entertaining and insightful writing about the Atlantic Yards project, somehow last week slipped this must-read analysis of the financing for the Barclays Center past our ever-watchful NLG staff (which didn't must-read it until this morning).

Now I've just put down my copy of the Very Hungry Caterpillar, which I was using to induce unconsciousness in Federico N. Corp. And some utterly brutal (in a good way) individual sent me a link to the financing plan for the project that Assemblyman James Brennan pried out of Forest City Ratner in 2007. Since I always complain that the inputs and outputs of the arena financing are rather opaque it behooves me to take a look at these.

So what do we find out?

Click through to learn why Mr. Corp thinks the arena financing "looks well shaky" — and why he's not too upset that he's getting Queens news rather than Brooklyn stories on his telly.

Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

Culinary to take beef with city to voters

Halting city hall plan, curbing redevelopment spending are union’s aims

Las Vegas Sun
by Joe Schoenmann, Sam Skolnik

A union fighting Forest CIty instead of providing it with political cover? Las Vegas really is a fantasyland.

Culinary Union officials say they will file two petitions today with at least twice as many signatures as necessary to force June 2 ballot questions aimed at not only stopping Las Vegas from building a new city hall but limiting its options for spending redevelopment money.

[Culinary Union Political Director Pilar] Weiss said the union’s hand was forced by the city’s push — during a recession and at a time when government services to the public are being slashed — to build a $150 million city hall, which would require the city to raise $267 million through public bonds.

The city hall financing hinges on an agreement with developer Forest City Enterprises, which would build and develop the 303,000-square-foot building at First Street and Clark Avenue. After construction, the city would lease the building for up to 30 years.

The city intends to sell bonds to finance construction. After finishing the building, Forest City would collect lease payments from the city, which it would use to pay off those bonds.

The deal also includes a one-time payment to Forest City of $7.5 million, equal to 5 percent of the building’s expected construction cost.

But a multimillion-dollar land swap is key to the deal. In exchange for giving the city a block upon which to build city hall, Forest City would get a plot of land in the highly touted Union Park development. The developer wants to build a casino on that plot.


NoLandGrab: Could this deal be more convoluted? It sounds to us like Forest City is swapping the land under the would-be new City Hall for other land owned by the City of Las Vegas, which will sell bonds to pay for construction and then lease the building from Forest City, which will use those lease payments to make payments in lieu of taxes to pay off the bonds. Oh, and the city will toss in a little cash, too.

One thing is simpler, though — by constructing a government building, Forest City doesn't have to go through the motions of trying to look like it's seeking commercial tenants before the local government becomes the biggest tenant in the building, as was the case with Forest City Ratner's MetroTech complex in Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, Ratner Now Trying to Stiff the MTA

A week after the (not surprising) news that Forest City was "value engineering" its development plans for Atlantic Yards in an effort to cut costs, word comes that the developer is also trying to restructure the $100 million payment it committed to make to the MTA....

Noticing New York, Caroline Kennedy, in Our Defense Against Eminent Domain?: The Way it Might be

Michael D.D. White muses about how a Senator Caroline Kennedy might approach the issue of eminent domain, an issue now moot given her withdrawal from consideration for New York's junior senate seat.

Further, in Atlantic Yards you have perhaps the clearest possible example of a developer-initialed and -driven megadevelopment. In Atlantic Yards there is ample evidence of bad faith and incompetence on the part of the government in assisting that private enterprise and putting a particular private entity’s goals ahead of the public. That includes the way in which competitive bidding was avoided and the accommodations in structuring the project to make it the maximum possible subsidy sponge, despite what that means in terms of poor design and oppressive density. Since so much is being torn down and left vacant for so long, and since the subsidies are so great, the argument of any economic benefit is conspicuously undermined or totally nonexistent.

NYObserver.com, Columbia Expansion Holdout Sues To Block Eminent Domain

The owner of a set of storage buildings in West Harlem, Nick Sprayregen, has filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s use of eminent domain, he said this afternoon. The state has commenced actions to acquire the properties in connection with Columbia University’s planned 17-acre expansion in the area.

Also in Harlem eminent domain-related news, a group of business owners in East Harlem has filed suit against the city in connection with the Bloomberg administration's plans to develop a large mixed-use project along 125th Street. In claims laid out in the press release here and the lawsuit here, the group argues that the city is violating a number of provisions associated with the urban renwal area where the site is based (including the fact that a large number of the planned apartments be market-rate).

BrooklynPaper.com, Cartoonist has gone country

[Brooklyn-based country crooner Andy] Friedman lives in Prospect Heights, near Freddy’s Bar, the Prohibition-era tavern that is slated to be torn down for Bruce Ratner’s basketball arena. The bar appears in a mournful song on Friedman’s forthcoming CD, “Weary Things,” which will be unveiled at Friedman’s Jan. 29 show at Southpaw. This week, he traded bons-mots with GO Brooklyn.

GO: The most overtly local song is “Freddy’s Backroom.” It’s bittersweet. But isn’t the story of our borough and our city that we simply pave over the old, even if history gets lost in the name of progress?

AF: I don’t think that song is a protest song, or an anti-Ratner song. Heck, I’ve shopped at Target. But I love those bars and I’m entitled to lament. That’s all it is. I wrote that song sitting at the bar on a stack of beer coasters one night, just looking around, and thinking that soon it will be gone.

NoLandGrab: Gone? With Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project looking ever so shaky, Friedman might have to one day rewrite that tune to give it an ever-so-rare-in-country-music happy ending.

Curbed, Now Mr. Bruce Doesn't Want to Pay Mr. Sander & the MTA

Any day now, we expect a story about how the Atlantic Yards project has come across a new construction process that will allow everything to made from popsicle sticks and super glue, slashing the cost by 99.5 percent, with the remaining .5 percent coming from piggy banks stored at an undisclosed location on the outskirts of Cleveland. Ah, but we jest.

City Room Blog [NY Times], Housing & Economy

Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project is in such financial upheaval that the developer is now trying to cut back on much-needed transit improvements, which he promised in exchange for approval for the $4 billion project. Sources said the developer, Bruce C. Ratner, is in talks with the cash-poor Metropolitan Transportation Authority about cutting costs on a revamp and move of the Long Island Rail Road’s Vanderbilt railyards, which he agreed to buy three years ago for $100 million. [New York Post]

NJ.com, Atlantic Yards developer seeks to cut transit costs

Gothamist, Ratner May Scale Back Atlantic Yards Transit Upgrades

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

The MTA and Atlantic Yards: Two Atlantic Yards Report Entries

Atlantic Yards Report

Two blog entries look at revelations that Forest City Ratner is looking to renege on promises it made to upgrade the Vanderbilt Rail Yard as part of its sweetheart deal to buy the MTA property for less than half its assessed value.

A telling non-answer? When asked about AY concessions, MTA chief Sander says only that agency is "flexible and thoughtful"

In light of the precarious situation regarding the MTA's sale of the West Side Railyards, Norman Oder tries to understand the status of the deal for the Vanderbilt Rail Yard, which occupies roughly a third of the footprint for the proposed Atlantic Yards project. MTA executive director, Lee Sander, is not very forthcoming with Crain's Editorial Director Greg David.

Yesterday, David asked Sander, "The Atlantic Yards projects clearly hangs in the balance, even if the court cases go in favor of Forest City Ratner. Has the MTA recognized that it will also need to be flexible at Atlantic Yards if Forest City Ratner wins the court cases and tries to go out and finance the arena?"

(Actually, the defendant in pending lawsuits is the Empire State Development Corporation.)

"I think that we have been flexible and thoughtful in all these negotiations," Sander responded, speaking carefully. "I think if you had spoken to [developers] Jerry Speyer, Gary Barnett, Brookfield... I don't think you'll have [REBNY's] Steve Spinola or any of these people we interact with saying we were rigid, or unrealistic, and so forth."

"So, whether it's with Forest Ratner--with Forest City Ratner, with Bruce Ratner, we will apply, as we have, intelligence, thoughtfulness, to the exercise," Sander said, proceeding to offer examples that were not quite related to AY. "We also have open lines of communication with the city. We worked unbelievably closely with Dan Doctoroff and Mayor [Mike] Bloomberg in the Hudson Yards transaction. We have extraordinary partnerships across the board, whether it's with [city officials] Ray Kelly, whether it's with Janette Sadik-Khan, whether it's with Ed Skyler. We do these things collaboratively."

Reading the fine print: if FCR doesn't produce an upgraded railyard, would that stall the arena?

What might the legal implications be if promised rail yard upgrades are not delivered? Good question!

Did the Empire State Development Corporation write itself into a contradiction?

According to the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan (p. 22): ESDC's acquisition of all such properties [via eminent domain] will not occur until such time as ESDC receives commitments, guaranties and other evidence satisfactory to ESDC that FCRC will (i) promptly commence construction of the Arena, the Upgraded Yard and all of the infrastructure necessary for the Arena (collectively, the "Arena Infrastructure"; together with the Arena and the Upgraded Yard, the "Initial Development"), and (ii) complete such construction within agreed-upon time periods. (Emphasis added)

If developer Forest City Ratner does not create the upgraded railyard it intended--as the New York Times reported, citing an anonymous source--would that be violating the General Project Plan?

Then again, there's often some wiggle room. It probably depends on the definition of "Upgraded." But the issue is worth tracking.

Posted by steve at 8:52 AM


New York Post
By Rich Calder

Add to the list of broken promises for Atlantic Yards benefits: Improvements for the Vanderbilt rail yard.


Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project is in such financial upheaval that the developer is now trying to cut back on much-needed transit improvements, which he promised in exchange for approval for the controversial $4 billion project, The Post has learned.

Sources said Bruce Ratner is in talks with the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority about cutting costs on a revamp and move of the Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt Rail Yard, which he agreed to purchase three years ago for $100 million.

The news has Atlantic Yards opponents seething because Ratner wasn't the highest bidder for the 8.3-acre rail yard site, but the MTA agreed to sell it to the developer anyway, allowing him to move forward with his now crumbling 22-acre plan to build an NBA arena and 16 office and residential towers in Prospect Heights.


In light of the news that Ratner is trying to cut costs, Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for the anti-Atlantic Yards group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, called on the MTA to put the project back out for bids.

"Either [Ratner's company] wildly inflated the cost of constructing a new rail yard to win their bid despite their lowball offer, or they're not building the state-of-the-art yard they had agreed to build," he said.


Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

HM Yards

Gumby Fresh

This blog entry, looking at things from a financial perspective, speculates as to whether, Barclay's Bank would continue with an agreement for naming rights for the arena in the proposed Atlantic Yards project. Financial problems could result in the bank becoming nationalized. The entry concludes:

I don't have much of an insight into the mind of Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and now, presumably, the Grand Vizier of All UK Banks. I mean I've tried to stare into his mind and the colour difference between his hair and eyebrows has freaked me out. We'll have to wait for Barclays to fall into the welcoming arms of the government to see how it will play out, but if I were Mister Ratner I'd try and get the funding agreement active before my compatriots start asking awkward questions.


Posted by steve at 8:11 AM

Willets Point Not Vanishing Yet

Castle Watch Daily

This item notes that Willets Point is the next hot spot for those concerned with eminent domain abuse. For now, the proposed Atlantic Yards project is "stalled".

Now that Atlantic Yards has stalled and Columbia’s expansion has gone to court, the focus of eminent domain activists shifts to Willets Point in Queens. The 45-acre area employs thousands of highly-skilled workers, and generates billions of dollars in economic activity and millions in tax revenue for the city - yet for decades, the city has refused to supply the area with basic municipal services like garbage collection, plumbing and electricity.

One of the businesses most active in opposing eminent domain for private gain is Bono’s Sawdust, a family business owned by Jake Bono. Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York has tracked the Bonos’ plight for some time with an interview, photos and video.


Posted by steve at 8:04 AM

What Ever Happened to Atlantic Yards?

By Matthew Schuerman

This story is an especially good summary for anyone who isn't up to speed on the status of the proposed Atlantic Yards project. It begins with a review of the state of the developer-blighted project footprint, and looks back at lawsuits, and the Forest City Ratner campaign to promote the project. There are sound bites from Leigh Anderson, a resident of the project footprint, Borough President Marty Markowitz and James Caldwell, head of BUILD, the Ratner-financed astroturf organization created to promote Atlantic Yards.

Also heard from is Seth Pinksy, who insists the project will proceed.

A Bloomberg administration official, Seth Pinsky, wouldn’t speculate on when the project would be finished. But he says it will be–eventually.

PINSKY: The one thing that anyone who’s lived through the history of New York City real estate is that New York’s real estate market is cyclical and during the down cycles, everyone despairs that nothing is going to get built for decades and decades, and then the boom returns and things sprout up out of the ground.

REPORTER: But Atlantic Yards is a little different from other New York real estate projects. It was sold half as a private real estate development, half as social welfare. That’s how public officials justified the 300 million dollars in direct aid, and numerous other advantages, that government will provide for the project.

The article ends by summarizing the murky future of the project:

In the meantime, Ratner has to figure out just how long he can hold out, whether he can wait out the lawsuits, and the bond market. It looks like he will continue losing more than 20 million dollars a year so long as the Nets play in New Jersey. He is also fighting rumors that his star architect, Frank Gehry, has left the project. Officially, the company says Gehry is still on board, the Nets are slated to open in Brooklyn by the end of 2011, and the entire project will be finished by 2018.


Posted by steve at 6:59 AM

The Newark Nets, Starring Shaq


This item considers the scenario suggested from yesterday's article in the Newark Star-Ledger that would have the New Jersey Nets playing in Newark, rather that in an arena in the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

That headline's a lark in the real world, but one of those cooked-up future realities in the mind of Jersey native Shaquille O'Neal.

Steve Politi of the Newark Star-Ledger has a perplexed Shaq talking about the absurdity of the Nets playing in an N.J. city not named Newark.

Given the barricades blocking the Atlantic Yards project that would send the Nets to Brooklyn, Shaq's talk (after the jump) about making the Newark Nets a real deal don't sound too far-fetched.


Posted by steve at 6:49 AM

The Stadium controversy as a national bellweather

River Ave. Blues

This item discusses the issue of publicly financing stadiums in a time of financial difficulty. Not surprisingly, the proposed Atlantic Yards project gets a mention.

As New York, the center of the known universe, prepares to open two baseball stadiums in a few months, urban policy gurus and baseball economists have put the city and its stadium financing deals under a microscope. Meanwhile, with the U.S. economy in a deep recession, the national construction boom has all but ground to a halt.

Enter Maury Brown and The Biz of Baseball. In a multi-part series on Brown’s site, Pete Toms has explored the issues surrounding stadium construction and financing. Part I explored how stadium construction plans are couched in terms of mixed-use development. Part II examined how the current state of the U.S. economy has left the new Busch Stadium an island in an uncompleted and unfunded ballpark village. Yesterday, Part III hit the Internet.

In it, Toms looks at the impact the recession will have on stadium financing. Toms predicts that of the three major sports teams awaiting approval for stadium financing and construction — Nets, Marlins, A’s — at least one of those teams will never get its new home and the others may have to wait a while. With the Atlantic Yards plan in shambles, the Nets fit the bill, but I don’t think the Marlins and A’s will be enjoying new digs anytime soon.


Posted by steve at 6:32 AM

M.T.A. Would ‘Deal With It’ If West Side Plan Collapses

The New York Observer
By Eliot Brown

This item is primarily about a looming deadline and potential problems for the deal between the MTA and Related Companies to develop the West Side rail yards in Manhattan. The financial difficulties of the deal between the MTA and Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yards also receives a mention.

The M.T.A. is also in negotiations with developer Forest City Ratner, which wants to change the terms of its payments to the agency as part of its planned Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. Should that project collapse, the M.T.A. would not get an expected $100 million in payments from Forest City.


Posted by steve at 6:24 AM

January 21, 2009


Weeks beginning January 19, 2009 and January 26, 2009

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.

Posted by eric at 11:10 PM

'The Simpsons' takes swipe at Ratner, Atlantic Yards


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

OK, the Daily Snooze is about a month behind NoLandGrab in catching on to this Simpsons episode, but they do have a bit more reach than we do, and we're happy to give props to Michael O'Keeffe, who's always seen Atlantic Yards for what it really is, as evinced by this line:

The Atlantic Yards controversy has had one upside: It inspired a terrific episode of “The Simpsons.”


Posted by eric at 9:50 PM

Could the Barclays Center become Her Majesty's Arena?

Here are a couple stories regarding the plight of Barclays, proud holder of the naming rights to the would-be arena at the center of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. A major bailout by the Bank of England might be the only thing standing between Barclays and bankruptcy.

FT.com, Barclays remains under pressure

Barclays fell another 9 per cent on Wednesday afternoon as fears about the health of the banking sector following the government’s latest bail-out persisted.

The UK’s second largest bank, which has more than halved in a week, closed 6.8p lower at 66.1p. Earlier in the session the bank’s shares had fallen as low as 47.4p, a fall of 35 per cent, amid speculation it could bring forward its annual results statement. The bank, which turned down the opportunity to participate in the government’s bank rescue earlier this week, is due to release full-year results on February 17.

That 47.4 pence per share, equal to about 65 cents, matches a low not seen since 1985.

Worries about the banks’ potential exposure to further significant writedowns and the creeping threat of nationalisation have put the sector under pressure all week, but other banking stocks managed an afternoon rally on Wednesday.

Bloomberg News, Barclays Falls Seventh Day on Nationalization Concern

Barclays Plc, the U.K. bank that turned down government funding last year, declined for a seventh straight day in London trading on speculation that it may be forced to take more writedowns and be nationalized.

Barclays, which dropped as much 35 percent earlier in the day, recovered to close down 9.3 percent at 66.1 pence. The shares have lost 57 percent this month, valuing the company at 5.5 billion pounds ($7.5 billion).

Barclays last week said it would beat analysts' consensus 2008 earnings estimate of 5.3 billion pounds. Some are skeptical that Barclays could do that when other banks are writing off billions.

“There is genuine fear from shareholders, who see a real risk of nationalization,” said Simon Maughan, an analyst at MF Global Securities Ltd. who has a “sell” rating on Barclays. “The whole rest of the world, operating in the same business as Barclays, has seen significant losses. There is talk that Barclays will bring its results forward to prove its case. Bring it on.”

NoLandGrab: Wonder what the Nets' marketing rep's job will be on "A Day in the Life" of Barclays? Helping tear up the arena naming-rights contract, perhaps?

Posted by eric at 3:28 PM

EXCLUSIVE: NBA's Nets Employ Unique Marketing Strategy


Nets' marketing guru Brett Yormark just gets geniuser and geniuser every day.

The New Jersey Nets have initiated a program under which people in the team's partnership marketing department will spend a day working as an employee with one of the Nets' marketing partners. The program begins this week when a member of the Nets dons the role of a Goya employee. Next month, another Nets' employee will join Canon. The program, dubbed "A Day in the Life," is intended to have members of the Nets' partnership marketing unit better understand the day-to-day workings of companies that are aligned with the team. Among the potential jobs facing Nets' marketing personnel are going on a delivery truck route with a Budweiser distributor to see how its product is received at retail, joining an Aflac sales person on an out-of-office sales call or spending time at Vonage’s call center in New Jersey. Other Nets' partners include LG, Barclays, Toyota and McDonald's. “Especially in this economy, it’s crucial for us to engage with our partners to fully understand their entire business operation and how it runs on a day-to-day basis,” said Brett Yormark, president and CEO of New Jersey Nets Sports & Entertainment. “We want to know first-hand how they go to market and how they advertise, learn more about new product launches, and understand what obstacles they face everyday. This is in important way for our partnership marketing crew to think of new ideas to allow them to create additional value for our sponsors and to help drive their business.”


NoLandGrab: This sounds like something that Dunder Mifflin regional manager Michael Scott might dream up on The Office. Can't you just see Dwight and Stanley spending a day in the kitchen at Chili's? Seeing how the Bud delivery guy stacks those cases on the hand truck will surely help Nets' marketing staff place Anheuser-Busch's arena signage just so.

Seriously, with the Nets barely able to fill half their building, despite massive ticket giveaways and endless promotions, you'd think they'd want to concentrate on their own jobs rather than somebody else's.

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

Atlantic Yards Report Flasher

Adobe Flash Flasher While many people are looking forward, AYR today offers a couple of flashbacks.

Flashback: the lack of a schedule for Phase 2 was evident when the CPC considered Atlantic Yards

On 9/25/06, some two years and four months ago, the City Planning Commission considered a proposed minor scaleback in the size of the Atlantic Yards project. That was orchestrated.

So was a cut in the flagship tower Miss Brooklyn. “We really do believe the height it’s proposed at is really appropriate,” the Department of City Planning's Regina Myer said at the time. I wondered if that set the stage for a negotiated trim at a later date, and that turned out to be true.

But what's striking is how officials and critics pointed to the likelihood that the 11 towers of Phase 2 might not be constructed on schedule.

Flashback: four years ago, ACORN's Lewis scoffed at getting paid by Forest City Ratner

Since the beginning, we've wondered why NYC ACORN signed a deal with Bruce Ratner that wasn't in the best interest of most of the group's membership. Revelations last year that Forest City Ratner bailed out the national organization restores our faith that everything happens for a reason.

A little more than four years ago, Bertha Lewis, executive director of New York ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), scoffed when a questioner wondered if the organization was being paid by Forest City Ratner for its support of the developer's Atlantic Yards project.

Today, Lewis is the chief organizer of national ACORN, as it recovers from an embezzlement scandal, and Forest City Ratner has bailed out the organization with a grant and loan worth $1.5 million.

The situation is not exactly analogous: national ACORN is the beneficiary, not New York ACORN, and the Atlantic Yards project is no longer pending approval but has gained state approval.

But Lewis's outrage at the question is belied by the organization's current dependency on the developer.

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Could Shaq connect the Nets to the Rock? Well, there's hope but no plan

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder examines Shaquille O'Neal's opinion that the NJ Nets should move to Newark instead of Brooklyn.

The Newark Star-Ledger, which has been leading the coverage of the possibility that the New Jersey Nets might play pre-season games at the Prudential Center, now raises the question about whether native son Shaquille O'Neal, who's become a big investor in Newark, might be the man to bring the Nets to the Rock permanently.
That's not exactly a full-fledged plan, but, on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, the pessimism about the Brooklyn move has grown. "[F]ew outside the organization believe they're getting to Brooklyn any more," Politi writes.

Meanwhile, leaders in NJ are keeping a close eye on the situation:

"The best thing to do is wait and let it take care of itself," Sen. Richard Codey the state senate president, told the newspaper. "With Brooklyn looking like Dorothy from Kansas, they'll have to make a financial decision soon."

The general sense from political leaders and the media is that Bruce Ratner can't wait forever to seal the deal:

Forest City Enterprises stock, seesawing for weeks, was down a mere 21.42% yesterday. The Nets' losses continue. Earlier this month, Crain's New York Business Editorial Director Greg David observed, "If those [legal] challenges are not dismissed before March, the project will be in trouble."

He didn't give a rationale, and it's certainly possible that the project could survive even if legal cases linger. However, the clock is ticking.


Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Speaking of Mythical Places

Develop Don't Destroy posted an item on something we all missed. It appears that the powers that be in New Jersey are concerned that groundbreaking on their Xanadu get started before Bruce Ratner's Shangri-La:

From the January 15th Bergen Record:

Codey questions Xanadu's viability

State Senate President Richard Codey strongly questioned the viability of the struggling [Meadowlands] Xanadu project today, given the repeated delays in its opening as well as the downturn in the national economy.

Former Govs. Jim Florio, left, Richard Codey and Donald DiFrancesco were part of a roundtable discussion on the Meadowlands. "I think it’s a race to see which project is put in the grave first: the Brooklyn [Barclays] arena or Xanadu," Codey said, referring also to the Nets’ long-deferred attempt to move out of the Izod Center...

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

Bloomberg A.D.

The Observer
By Eliot Brown

It looks like NYC Commissioner of Department of Housing Preservation and Development Shaun Donovan is a shoo-in for Obama's secretary of Housing and Urban Development. But what are the hurdles for a post-Donovan HPD?

And part of the plan relied on affordability requirements in a few key mega-developments, such as the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn that planned over 6,400 units of housing, more than 2,200 of which would be for low- or middle-income families.

But with financing in short supply and the market for new development at a standstill, affordable housing production is taking a hit across the board. Development in the rezoned areas is expected to proceed far more gradually; demand for the federal tax credits has dropped as banks have no profits on which to be taxed; and large projects including Atlantic Yards are stalled with an uncertain future.


Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

January 20, 2009

Shaquille O'Neal may be the man to bring New Jersey Nets to the Prudential Center

Newark Star-Ledger
by Steve Politi

The question nags at Shaquille O'Neal every time he visits his home city now, the same way it should nag at every basketball fan in this state. He sees the gleaming Prudential Center in the heart of a community that loves his sport, then shakes his head in wonder and frustration.

"Why," he wants to know, "aren't the Nets playing in Newark?"

On this topic, like everyone else, Shaq is stumped. The Nets should be playing in Newark, and not just for a few lousy preseason games as the team is proposing. And the 7-footer could be a major force in making them -- to borrow his favorite Scrabble word -- a Shaqtastic success.

Imagine the Nets finally giving up their Brooklyn fantasy and moving to the Rock with one of the all-time greats in uniform. Imagine Shaq, after he decides to retire, staying with the franchise as a part owner, his smiling face on billboards and his hulking frame sitting in courtside seats.

So the player who can rescue the Nets for New Jersey is not LeBron James, the free agent everyone wants in 2010. As long as this team stays on this side of the Hudson River -- and few outside the organization believe they're getting to Brooklyn any more -- James is not signing here, no matter how chummy he is with part owner Jay-Z.

No, the savior already has a Superman tattoo on his chest.


Posted by eric at 11:38 PM

After Sure-Bet Investment Fails, a Bank Contends It Was Duped

The New York Times
by Vikas Bajaj

Nearly two years ago, on a Tuesday in February 2007, a Wall Street salesman pitched an investment that sounded almost magical. It was called Gemstone VII. A shiny amalgam of financial instruments, it promised attractive returns — with virtually no risk.

If that sounds too good to be true, that is because it was. Like so many investments that Wall Street concocted in recent years, Gemstone was fashioned from subprime dross. The M&T Bank Corporation, which got the sales talk and subsequently bought into the investment, lost $80 million.

At issue now is who should bear responsibility for those losses. Should it be Gemstone’s creator, Deutsche Bank, which had sold mortgage investments to customers like M&T Bank while encouraging others to bet against them? Or should it be M&T, which had invested in Gemstone, an instrument known as a collateralized debt obligation, and taken the risks? The two banks are arguing over these questions in a lawsuit in upstate New York.

M&T Bank says it was duped. Deutsche Bank representatives portrayed Gemstone as safe — “fully rock solid,” and “a layup,” M&T contends in its complaint.

What's this have to do with Atlantic Yards? Robert Wilmers, the bank's CEO, was named chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation in 2008. The ESDC is the sponsoring agency for the floundering Brooklyn megadevelopment project.

While M&T’s losses on Gemstone and similar securities were relatively small, amounting to less than 2 percent of the bank’s investment portfolio, M&T’s chief executive, Robert G. Wilmers, wrote about them at length in his bank’s 2007 annual report.

He lamented the decision to trust others, and said that the fact that some C.D.O.’s paid just 0.25 of a point more than traditional mortgage securities “makes one rue the choice all the more.”

Will it be a case of "once burned, twice shy" for Wilmer? Or will he buy the fantastic — and increasingly fanciful — promises of Atlantic Yards jobs, tax revenues and affordable housing? Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


Posted by eric at 10:41 PM

A short history of Atlantic Yards orchestration: condos added, 8% scaleback, Miss Brooklyn cuts, and the arena redesign

Atlantic Yards Report

Much in the Atlantic Yards saga, I suspect, has been strategized in Forest City Ratner's offices at 1 MetroTech.

Consider the 12/10/03 press conference at which public officials praised the project, and continue through exclusives bestowed on news organizations, For example: the 7/5/05 release to the Times of new Frank Gehry designs (Instant Skyline Added to Arena Plan, which, alarming readers with its visuals, backfired somewhat) and Bruce Ratner's 5/4/08 op-ed in the New York Daily News (Atlantic Yards dead? Dream on), which was, to say the least, factually challenged).

But some episodes have been truly orchestrated, a term I'll reserve for a sequence in which community or political leaders provide (or are said to provide) cover for something the developer likely wanted to do all along.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's attempt to play architectural adviser is only the latest. But it is the least effective, given that the public and press have woken up somewhat.

Click here to read about Forest City Ratner's brilliant pr coups: the 50/50 bait and switch, the phantom scaleback, the one-foot-smaller-than Billyburg ploy, and the company's new spokesman for "value engineering."

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

Atlantic Center To Lose Major Tenant


After sixty years in business, consumer electronics retailer Circuit City announced on Saturday that its attempts to find a buyer had failed and that it would close all of its 567 stores as part of the company's liquidation. One of those stores happens to be in the Atlantic Center, Forest City's mall overlooking the site of its proposed Atlantic Yards project. The Atlantic Center store is on the second floor of the mall and won't be easy to fill in this environment.


NoLandGrab: The State of NY is already the Atlantic Center Mall's largest tenant; maybe we can move in a few more State agencies to bail out Bruce Ratner's flailing mall.

Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

A Fable for Our Times: Gehry and the Spirit of the Land

Noticing New York

Blogger Michael D. D. White sketches a fable for Frank Gehry, via personal family history, Alexander Hamilton, the Ward Bakery, Bard College and Atlantic Yards. Hope that Frank Gehry and developer Bruce Ratner aren't superstitious.


Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM

January 19, 2009

If it's Monday, the Yankees must be lying spinning

City tabloid sports columnists have no illusions about who's really paying for the new Yankee Stadium. Why is it that sports columnists seem to grasp injustice a lot faster than Metro beat writers?

NY Daily News, Yankee Stadium and Citi Field are the Houses That You Built

Mike Lupica, whose b.s. detector is as sharp as anyone's in the New York media, sums up the Yankees' subterfuge in a must-read column.

For the last time, the Yankees aren't building a new Yankee Stadium for the Bronx because it is the poorest Congressional district in the country. And they aren't building it for you anymore than the Mets are with Citi Field. This isn't about a grand slam home run for the city's economy. It is a grand slam for these baseball teams.

Yankees president Randy Levine - whom Hal Steinbrenner has somehow allowed to become the angry face and threatening voice of his organization - likes to scream about lies and distortions. He ought to know. You can start here: That the Yankees moved across the street as some sort of public service. They didn't. New ballparks and new arenas are never public services and never help the taxpayers, not in the Bronx, not in Queens, not in the Meadowlands.

Not anywhere.


Post columnist Phil Mushnick isn't buying what Yankees president Randy Levine is peddling.

Says here that in the throes of a crisis that demands fiscal accountability, Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky's call for a full accounting of New York's financing of the new Yankee Stadium should have been met by both Mayor Bloomberg and Yankee president Randy Levine with this: "Anything you want, and right away. We've nothing to hide."

Instead, Levine and the mayor's office threw a name-calling hissy fit, accusing Brodsky of political grandstanding, and, sounding more like John Sterling than John Sterling, accusing him of treason for trying to do dirt to the citizens of New York by asking none-of-his-business questions about New York's deal with the New York Yankees!

Levine said that Brodsky's "behavior in trying to hurt the people of this city is disgraceful." Indeed!

How dare anyone question a $370 million shortfall in the original estimate of public financing for the Yankees!

WFAN/YES Network, Francesa on the Fan

Levine keeps pushing the prevarication with WFAN radio host Mike Francesa, including this novel explanation for the massive taxpayer contribution to a new Yankee Stadium.

"For years and years, in the Bronx, people were complaining that the parkland in the Bronx was not adequate. So as part of this arrangement, the Yankees pay for the stadium, the city is building the infrastructure. So the city is building new and additional parkland.... The city are building beautiful brand-new parks."

Yup, it's all about the parkland — ballpark land, that is.

Posted by eric at 4:48 PM

Forest City in the News

Crain's Cleveland Business, Parmatown retailers shelve rumors of mall shutdown

With news reports that the owner of Beachwood Place, Northeast Ohio's most upscale mall, is flirting with bankruptcy as it struggles with loan issues, the rumor mill in more modest corners such as Parma is that Parmatown will lose its anchors and be demolished. In Elyria, the talk is that Midway Mall will be shut and sold to the Cleveland Clinic.

Both Parmatown and Midway management say the chatter is not accurate. However, a wave of store closings by retailers amid a decline in consumer spending means mall managers and others spend a lot of time quelling rumors while shopkeepers face the unenviable task of trying to sell in such an environment.

Parma Mayor Dean DiPiero said he has heard juicier, but even more wrong-headed, rumors about Parmatown being torn down for a Kalahari-style water park, a casino or even public housing.

“It's not true,” the mayor said. “I talk with them weekly. Retail is struggling everywhere. Sure, Parmatown has lost stores. But it is continuing to chug along.”

A casino or government-subsidized housing? In a mall?

Part of the strategy at Parmatown is to install other uses on the grounds, so it now operates a community conference center and houses the city of Parma's recreation department, a congressional office of U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Cleveland, and the Parma Chamber of Commerce. The mall underwent a $12 million renovation in 2001.

Government offices in a mall? Where have we heard that before?

Parmatown is owned by Parmatown LLC, which is controlled by RMS Enterprises, a venture formed by the founding Ratner, Miller and Shafran families of Forest City Enterprises Inc.

Ah, now it all becomes clear. Forest City is no stranger to casino development, and New York State has helped out cousin Bruce by locating a large Department of Motor Vehicles office in the developer's Atlantic Center Mall.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Convention expert Bruce Harris supports Tower City medical mart site

One of the most influential figures in convention and conference booking says Cleveland could wreck its future as a meeting place if Cuyahoga County commissioners pick the existing Cleveland Convention Center as the site for a replacement facility.

The other site under consideration -- a riverfront locale behind Tower City Center -- holds every make-or-break advantage, barring some fatal, as-yet-unrevealed flaw, said Bruce Harris.

Harris insisted he has no ties to principals at Forest City Enterprises, which owns the Tower City site and wants $40 million for it.

Posted by eric at 4:30 PM

Will the Nets Ever Move To Brooklyn?

The Biz of Basketball
by Matt Wiesenfeld

It wasn't that long ago that the Nets were perceived to be a team on the come. Vince Carter came to town and Jay-Z was sitting court-side giving them the kind of 'cred' generally reserved for the Knicks and Lakers. Building on top of this was talk of a brand new arena as part of a revitalization project in Brooklyn, which hasn't hosted a major sports franchise since the Dodgers left 50 years ago.

However the recent news on this project leaves many in doubt that it will ever be completed. The project calls for several high rise buildings in addition to the proposed stadium and its progress and challenges are well documented on Atlantic Yards Report.

Further clouding the issue, according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, is that the Nets have announced that they are negotiating to play some preseason contests at the Prudential Center in Newark, leaving some to speculate that it could be a potential landing point for the franchise. What this might do to the Atlantic Yards project is not clear though it would not be a huge leap to think this is an indicator that the team believes the project might never be completed.


NoLandGrab: The Nets have since said they were not considering the Prudential Center, which, given their track record, means they very likely are considering it.

Posted by eric at 4:14 PM

Quiet Hammerman Up for de Blasio's Council Seat

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog]
by Roy Edroso

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn alerts us that Craig Hammerman has declared for the city council seat presumably to vacated by Bill de Blasio, who is running for Public Advocate. Hammerman has for 15 years been the District Manager of Community Board 6, and is a member of the New York Hall of Fame. Nonetheless politically he has kept a low profile; he has been mildly critical of the Atlantic Yards project, but the most recent reference to that we could find was in early 2007, and in Brownstoner's October list of Brooklyn' Most Influnential People he was mentioned only for clamping down on local bars.


NoLandGrab: Close watchers of the fight over Atlantic Yards have seen Hammerman ratchet up his criticism of the project over time.

Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

Nathan Kensinger, Photographer


Gothamist interviews photographer Nathan Kensinger, who has lent his lens to the documentation of the fight over Atlantic Yards (especially with his surreptitious expeditions inside the railyard).


Nathan Kensinger is an urban explorer, filmmaker, Law & Order location scout and photographer. Illegally accessing areas that normal folks don't usually see, his photos give everyone a glimpse at what's inside the restricted areas. His work has landed in the Brooklyn Museum and Library in the past, and now he has a new show about to open at Union Docs called "Abandoned Brookyn," which shows "the rapid pace of development along the waterfront has been reshaping many old industrial neighborhoods" in the borough.

Given the opportunity, how would you change New York? A couple months ago, I would have said New York needed to slow down its pace of development, which was going at such an unsustainably fast pace. But it looks like the economic downturn took care of that. They're already reevaluating many of the major, controversial development projects that were pushed through over the last few years, like Manhattanville, the Atlantic Yards, the Iron Triangle. And now we're stuck with all these hastily built - or half-built - construction projects that have permanently changed the landscape the city. I think New York needs to take a closer look at what it is has lost and what it will lose because of all this rapid development.


Posted by eric at 9:58 AM

Two years later, a look at the promise by Barclays of a 2009 arena opening

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks back:

When this Barclays Center ad appeared exactly two years ago in daily newspapers, the arena sponsor promised that its "gift" to Brooklyn was "technically not until 2009, but our excitement can hardly be contained."

At the time, I wrote that, given potential delays from lawsuits and other factors, 2009 might better be seen as a goal than as a given.

That was probably conservative. In retrospect, there was little chance to meet the 2009 goal. Now there's little chance to meet the stated 2011 goal, nor to produce something that looks like this picture any time soon, if at all.


Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

What New Yorkers want is... infrastructure

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner's highly subsidized Atlantic Yards megaproject was not on anyone's infrastructure wish list, published in yesterday's New York Times.

Nobody mentioned an arena--though that should hardly be a federal priority.

Nobody even mentioned affordable housing, though I'd bet that's an artifact of not quoting anyone in the housing field. Then again, if the transportation infrastructure is improved, the housing will follow.

Some commenters questioned the wish lists posted and more than one suggested New York needs something many other major cities (and not-so-major-cities like Minneapolis and Cleveland) have: a direct train route to the airport.


NoLandGrab: These days, policy analysts or politicians don't have the balls to mention the increasingly unpopular Atlantic Yards as a candidate for federal infrastructure stimulus money, though we're sure that many of them are thinking about it.

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

January 18, 2009

The Brooklyn Wire

wire_big8.png This week, The Brooklyn Paper launched a web site that aggregates Brooklyn news from some of "today's most-popular blogs and sites," including Atlantic Yards Report and NoLandGrab.

Check it out at http://www.brooklynpaper.com/sections/wire/.

Posted by lumi at 6:05 PM

Atlantic Yards YES! Schools NO!!

NY Times presents letters from New Yorkers to Obama:


Teacher of English as a Second Language, Francis Lewis High School, Fresh Meadows, Queens

I teach in a trailer in the back of a building. My school is built for 1,800 kids, and we have over 4,500. They build a wall in the middle of the room and say we have two rooms. It’s unconscionable.

There’s an entire school in the Bronx made of trailers. Meanwhile, we’re building more seats in stadiums down the street. What do you think will happen if we build stadiums and not schools? Kids get it. They’re smart.


Posted by amy at 9:42 AM

Bloomberg's economic plan


Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to bolster the New York City economy is a major step forward on two counts. It provides a clear signal that city government is willing to take significant action amid the economic crisis. It also raises the bar for Mr. Bloomberg's likely opponents in this year's election—Comptroller William Thompson and Congressman Anthony Weiner—when they offer alternatives.
But the mayor failed to address some key issues. He never explained how he would continue major economic development projects such as Willets Point with diminished resources and a lack of commitment on the part of the private sector to move forward on these plans. He didn't mention the Atlantic Yards or West Side rail yards projects and whether he thought more government subsidies are appropriate to move them forward.


Posted by amy at 9:32 AM

Atlantic Yards still just an artist's rendering

Theresa Agovino

Simply waiting for the economy to get better could prove costly to Forest City. It has to move the project along if it is to meet a year-end deadline to take advantage of tax-free bonds that would reduce borrowing costs by at least $100 million. Right now, it is attempting to renegotiate or extend a reported $152 million loan due next month and is scrambling to lower the cost of the arena, which has ballooned 40% in two years, to nearly $1 billion. Also, if construction doesn't begin by the summer, it is unlikely the arena will be ready by Forest City's targeted completion in 2011.
Company executives told local elected officials last month that its bank, Goldman Sachs, suggested it cut the cost of the arena to ease the path to financing. Its current $950 million price tag is nearly double the cost of other arenas built in the United States, according to Sports Business Journal.


Atlantic Yards Report comments:

The $100 million-plus savings on bonds that end-of-year deadline seems crucial, though I wonder if it could be extended.

The 2011 completion date is extremely unlikely, given that construction must begin, according to Bruce Ratner's 30-month schedule, by May 1, and, by the Empire State Development Corporation's 32-month schedule, by March 1.

Neither is tenable. Yes, it's possible that conditions might allow for a speed-up, but everything else construction-related has taken longer than anticipated. We should be talking 2012 as a more likely best-case scenario.

Posted by amy at 9:23 AM

In Marty's Brooklyn!!, only a tangential mention of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report reads the Winter 2008 issue of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's promotional publication Brooklyn!! online:

As in past issues, there's little mention of Brooklyn's biggest and most controversial project, Atlantic Yards, for which Markowitz is chief cheerleader. (The publication was undoubtedly produced before Forest City Ratner suspended work at the Vanderbilt Yard in December.)

On one of the two pages headlined "Marty's on the block," one photo caption describes a school playground renovated thanks to a donation from the Forest City Ratner, the New Jersey Nets, and Barclays Capital.


Posted by amy at 9:19 AM

New Jersey Nets miss an opportunity at the Prudential Center

The Star-Ledger

Brett Yormark, the Nets' top executive, broached the idea with Devils management of playing three pre-season games in Newark. Then just as quickly, he dropped the idea. Sources with the team said the Devils don't have the "sales force or infrastructure" to generate the type of sales the team could get in the Meadowlands.

That's laughable. The number of fans who watch a pre-season game at the Izod Center would barely fill a No. 13 bus on Broad Street during rush hour.

The Nets have nothing to lose by giving Newark a shot, especially if they want to broaden their "base," as Yormark says. The Prudential Center is a warm and welcoming place. Give it shot. Work out the details.

Unless they want to go back to the Rutgers gym in Piscataway where they played in the late 1970s. Maybe there are still some fans there.


Posted by amy at 9:14 AM

Bruce Ratner's Developer's Blight



Bruce Ratner's Developer's Blight, In White


Posted by amy at 9:01 AM

January 17, 2009

When the Action Moves On

NY Times
ALEX WILLIAMS speculates that Washington DC is the new New York:

Massive development projects like Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, with its planned Frank Gehry-designed sports arena and 60-story skyscraper, appear stalled. There’s no sign the New Jersey Nets will be moving to the borough any time soon.

“I think the city that never sleeps definitely needs a nap,” Michael J. Petruzzello, a prominent Washington public relations consultant, said in an e-mail message. “Washington, not Wall Street, is where all the action is right now. We have the money, power and the celebrities. We own all of the banks and financial giants. The Obamas are the hottest power couple on the planet.”

Atlantic Yards Report writes:

OK, but the real estate industry, though connected to Wall Street and its cascading wealth, is a product of other factors, like the push from the mayoral administration, and Atlantic Yards is stalled not merely because of economics but because it prompted serious resistance. And demolitions for Atlantic Yards, as part of a project ostensibly to remove blight, have created blight where there was none before.

While I don't doubt a new local sports team could gain a following, especially with p.r. and press support, I haven't seen signs many Brooklynites are hankering for the Nets; the few times I've watched their games on TVs in local sports bars close to the AY site the response has been indifferent.

Oh, and the Times writer should've checked with someone in the Metro section. That 60-story skyscraper, at last notice, was to be 511 feet, though it's on indefinite hold until an anchor tenant could be found. And the market for office jobs was bogus from the start.

Posted by amy at 11:05 AM

The Yankees get their bonds, but questions remain

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Yankees, as expected, got the tax-exempt bonds they sought, with one abstention among the board members of the New York City Industrial Development Agency, that of Comptroller William Thompson's representative. The New York Mets got their bonds, with no debate. Here's coverage in the Times.

Questions pending

I wasn't there, but Good Jobs New York's Allison Lack was, and she observed:
Representatives for the Yankees and Mets each made presentations during the hearing, which goes against standard IDA practice. By the IDA’s own rules, comments in favor or opposition to projects are limited to public hearings (one took place yesterday). At all the IDA board meetings Good Jobs New York has attended over the years, never before have we seen project applicants speak in favor of their projects during these meetings.


Posted by amy at 10:58 AM

Brand-new home could await Nets -- in Seattle?


Ken Berger

Bruce Ratner bought the Nets with the sole purpose of moving them to Brooklyn. If the team doesn't make it there, then what? Ratner would either sell or move the Nets somewhere else. Since the NBA has no plans to expand, there is only one city that has an arena (assuming it gets renovated and updated), a committed ownership group (led by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer) with the blessing of NBA commissioner David Stern and the league's Board of Governors, and a loyal fan base that adored its NBA team for 41 years. And it isn't Newark. It's Seattle.

Atlantic Yards Report says: "The Nets, of course, would have to be sold, and that wouldn't happen, I suspect, until and unless Atlantic Yards crashes completely."

Posted by amy at 10:45 AM



City Hall
Edward-Isaac Dovere

If Markowitz is remembered for nothing else, he will be for Atlantic Yards, the multi-building project that is still scheduled to one day stand here, centered on an arena for the relocated Nets. Deservedly so: bringing a professional basketball team to Brooklyn was an idea that Markowitz first proposed on the campaign trail in 2001, and, the story goes, shortly after winning he convinced Bruce Ratner to buy the Nets for the purpose of moving them to a new home built over the old rail yards along Atlantic Avenue.
He is clearly annoyed by the people who fought the project through the flush years when construction would have been easier, and stands by the old talking points—that it would spur economic development, bring pride to Brooklyn, create 1,000 units of affordable housing and be a home for events even as significant as a Democratic Convention—which come to him as easily now as they ever did, though not with the same enthusiasm he once had.

NoLandGrab: Okay, so Atlantic Yards is not proposed to be "over the railyards," the article is an interesting read, especially since the author was "Executive Editor" of Ratner rag, the Brooklyn Standard.

Atlantic Yards Report writes:

The profile raises a lot of questions, and they turn back, in a way, to Atlantic Yards. Brooklyn, arena supporters say, needs a team to be major league, though Oklahoma City, which has a team, surely is no Brooklyn.

Brooklyn could use a borough-wide daily newspaper, too. And a political system that would give the borough some more autonomy, leading to a BP with real clout, accountability, and a willingness to withstand vigorous political challenge.

Instead we get an energetic, entertaining, and enigmatic "visible symbol," who manages to be "on the block"(as his promotional publication Brooklyn!! puts it) a heck of a lot. At one point that was enough, but the increasingly testy Markowitz, who's "not at the table," has endured long enough to experience the limits of his position.

Posted by amy at 10:28 AM

January 16, 2009

City Agency Approves More Funding For Yankee Stadium


Here's a big surprise.


The city's Industrial Development Agency approved another $370 million in tax-exempt bonds for the new Yankee Stadium today.

The panel voted 11 to one in favor of the additional funds. There was one absention.

It's been the subject of two days of heated hearings this week.

The IDA discussed the issue yesterday. On Wednesday, Yankees President Randy Levine defended the request before a State Assembly hearing.

The team says it needs more money to pay for rising construction costs.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky has accused the Yankees and the city of working together in illegal secrecy. City Comptroller Bill Thompson has accusing the city of financial incompetence on the project.

link (with video)

The one "nay" was cast by the Comptroller's representative.

Posted by eric at 2:29 PM

My Good Taste


In light of these developments I've scaled back my earlier vision of the Yards, left, and will go with the vision above. Yes, it's a parking lot -- in the rural, hill country style, where the attendant stays mildly drunk all day as he watches reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard with the pack of dogs he shares the lot "office" with.


NoLandGrab: We like this redesign, though it appears to be lacking the "brownstone feel" favored by the Borough President.

Posted by eric at 1:05 PM

Nonfiction Reviews — 10/13/2008

Publishers Weekly

The story of New London's epic eminent domain battle merits a starred review in Publishers Weekly.

Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage Jeff Benedict. Grand Central, $26.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-446-50862-9


Benedict (The Mormon Way of Doing Business) has taken a complicated court case centered on eminent domain and turned it into a page-turner with a conscience. In 1997, an EMT named Susette Kelo left her husband, bought a cottage and started over in the economically depressed Ft. Trumbull neighborhood of New London, Conn. In February 1998, the New London Development Corporation began trying to muscle the neighborhood into selling homes to make way for a Pfizer research complex. Benedict's passionate account is rife with heroes and villains—he delights in pillorying Kelo's foil, Claire Gaudiani, the president of Connecticut College who lured Pfizer to consider New London. The fight escalated when the city tried exercising eminent domain to seize the homes of Kelo and others who refused to sell, leading to the case, Kelo v. City of New London, reaching the Supreme Court in 2005. Raising important questions about the use of economic development as a justification for displacing citizens, this book will leave readers indignant and inspired.

link (scroll down)

NoLandGrab: While we strongly urge you to patronize your local independent bookseller, for those of you without easy access to a neighborhood book store, Little Pink House is available from Amazon.com.

Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

Circuit City Sets Deal on Liquidation

AP via NYTimes.com

Looks like there'll soon be room for another New York State or City agency in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall.

Circuit City Stores Inc., the nation's second-biggest consumer electronics retailer, reached an agreement with liquidators on Friday to sell the merchandise in its 567 U.S. stores after failing to find a buyer or a refinancing deal.


NoLandGrab: The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles is already housed in the Atlantic Center, and the City of New York is the largest tenant of Bruce Ratner's MetroTech complex. When Ratner's projects fail to succeed in the marketplace, his friends in government bail him out by leasing space.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Updates From Plane Rescue in Hudson River

City Room [NY Times blog]

What is the amazing story of yesterday's US Airways ditching doing on the pages of No Land Grab, you might ask? You're not thinking like a marketing genius who has a devil of a time selling seats for his basketball team's games.

The pilot was praised by public officials, passengers and eyewitnesses for the way he handled the plane. The New Jersey Nets wasted no time jumping on board, too. They invited the pilots to the Nets-Boston Celtics game this Saturday, where the team wants to honor them as the “Heroes of the Game.”

article (scroll down to 7:50 p.m.)

NoLandGrab: Hey, what's a little crass exploitation of something that was a whisker from being a colossal tragedy when your team is losing $30 million a year? But just the pilots? Sure, it's the Celtics, but the Izod Center should have plenty of room for the entire crew, the passengers, and then some.

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Why Frank Gehry is Brett Yormark's problem (and other FAQs)

Atlantic Yards Report

Today's Atlantic Yards-must-read is Norman Oder's list of questions and possible answers concerning architect Frank Gehry's diminishing role in the project, the political, practical and finanacial implications and this week's sleeper story.

So, what happened with Gehry?

According to two news reports, though without named sources, Gehry laid off his staffers working on Atlantic Yards. (One commenter asserted the staffers were merely shifted.) One report said it was because he hadn't been paid.

Is Gehry off the project?

According to Forest City Ratner, no.

NoLandGrab: When Frank Gehry dismantles a project team, some architects are laid off, while members of his core group of designers are moved to active projects. This means that Atlantic Yards is NO LONGER AN ACTIVE PROJECT at Gehry Partners, LLP.

Forest City Ratner can say anything they want, but the company has hired another engineering firm (NOT FRANK GEHRY) to cut costs.

What may be bigger news this week?

Click here to find out.

Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

At IDA hearing, Brodsky warns of "complete breakdown of the issuance of public debt"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder rounds up coverage of testimony from yesterday's "public hearing of the New York City Industrial Development Agency (IDA) on additional tax-exempt bonds for the New York Yankees and New York Mets."

State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky pointed out:

"This event and this vote and this hurried process is only greater evidence of the complete breakdown of the issuance of public debt in New York State."

One columnist believes that triple tax-exempt bonds are "hardly a handout," while Neil deMause points out that the New York Times has suddenly seen the light, practically after the fact (and in contrast to the paper's stance on Bruce Ratner's megaproject).


Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

The Times on "pay-to-play," but not the FCR/Silver version

Atlantic Yards Report

The NY Times criticizes pay-to-play in New Mexico, but turns a blind eye in its own backyard:

On Wednesday, the New York Times editorialized on the charges involving New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who, beyond the alleged scandal, has received a lot of money from developer Forest City Enterprises.
So, how about editorializing about the appearance of Forest City Ratner giving $58,420 to a committee controlled by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, far more than could be given to any individual candidate?

And how about editorializing--well, a news story first would help--about Forest City Ratner's bailout of ACORN, its partner on the Atlantic Yards project?


NoLandGrab: The Times has already demonstrated that the paper will ingore any excess or impropriety to support its own business partner Bruce Ratner and his highly leveraged heavily taxpayer-funded Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

EDC: City Not a One-Trick Pony

By Paul Bubny

NEW YORK CITY-"We are undeniably in difficult times," Tokumbo Shobowale, COO of the New York City Economic Development Corp., told an Associated Builders and Owners audience on Wednesday. However, he said that in many ways the city is better prepared to withstand the current downturn than it was following 9/11, thanks in large part to a diversifying economy. "We’re no longer a one-trick pony," Shobowale said.

NoLandGrab: Yeah we're, like, a three-trick pony, that is if you're counting boondoggles for sports team owners, or eminent-domain-abusing megaprojects.

The timelines of two major Brooklyn EDC initiatives--revitalizing Coney Island and the Atlantic Yards project--are less clearly defined at the moment. Shobowale said the goal with Coney Island is to turn it into a 12-month tourist destination, but at present there are only a few acres of the arcades and rides that made the area famous. Forward movement on Atlantic Yards hinges on developer Forest City Ratner Cos. lining up financing, he said, pointing out that the renewed commitment of Barclays to the project is an encouraging sign.

NLG: Ugh, Coney Island is now famous for even less than a few acres of arcades and rides, and we can't decide who is more to blame, developer Joseph Sitt or Mayor Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, "Forward movement on Atlantic Yards hinges on" more than financing: Forest City needs to renegotiate its existing debt burden, continue to feed operating losses from the NJ Nets, and deal with legal suits, a sour credit market, etc.

And since when is Atlantic Yards a "major Brooklyn EDC initiative?" The Mayor signed over New York City's role to the Empire State Development Corporation a long, long time ago.


Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

January 15, 2009

Bait and switch

The Brooklyn Paper Editorial

Borough President Markowitz’s call for Bruce Ratner to cut costs at Atlantic Yards is a shameless attempt to provide cover for his political patron.

Markowitz, of course, is Atlantic Yards’ single greatest cheerleader — and, as such, has done nothing but salute Ratner every step of the way, even as the project’s cost to taxpayers has grown, even as Ratner’s own studies revealed huge environmental and traffic flaws and, yes, even as the cost of the publicly financed basketball arena has gone from a then-unthinkable $450 million in 2003 to the positively obscene $950 million today.

Last week, Ratner said that he would scale back the grandeur of the Frank Gehry-crafted arena — whose design was a main selling point for the entire $4-billion white elephant that is Atlantic Yards.

Predictably, this week, Markowitz put out his own press release, calling Gehry’s design no longer “economically feasible.”

And there you have it, folks: the Atlantic Yards bait-and-switch is complete.


Posted by eric at 10:15 PM

The Brooklyn Paper mailbag

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

Prospect Heights resident Alan Rosner, no stranger to the BP's letters section, warns that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, and its political backers, are sure to be on the stimulus-handout line.

Thank you for your front-page timetable of five years of Forest City Ratner’s efforts to gain control of 22 acres of Brooklyn real estate (“Atlantic Yards at five: What went wrong,” Dec. 13).

Of course, after five years we know there is no reason to believe this is over yet. Mayor Bloomberg is getting a shot at staying on, while Gov. Paterson and the daily papers remain silently complicit.

For now, Forest City’s treading water makes good sense. Come January or February, the feds will make stimulus money available to the states, creating an opportunity for the Atlantic Yards promotional team to pronounce that Atlantic Yards is a shovel-ready project with jobs, jobs, jobs and more jobs.

Forest City’s demolition created blight and stopping work on the Carlton Avenue Bridge only makes Borough President Markowitz and Forest City’s argument that much more convincing. Still denying federal financing for this project would be more consistent with what President-elect Obama meant when he spoke of government from the ground up.

Atlantic Yards has always been a top-down, developer-driven project. Opposition to Atlantic Yards, on the other hand, is very much the story of community organizing; of individuals, community groups, blogs, The Brooklyn Paper and local electeds attempting to get the state and the developer to take community concerns into account.


Posted by eric at 10:06 PM

Is Yankee Stadium costing taxpayers too much money?

Crain's NY Business Poll

The Yankees' request for additional tax-free financing to finish its new stadium has generated criticism from some politicians, partly because much of the money will be spent on luxury add-ons. The city's Independent Budget Office places the cost to city taxpayers for the $1 billion-plus stadium at $363 million.

Is the stadium costing taxpayers too much money?

Yes. Mayor Michael Bloomberg claims he drives a hard bargain, but he gave away the store to the Yankees.

No. The new stadium is generating all sorts of economic activity in the Bronx, and in the long run, the city will come out ahead.

Click here to cast your vote.

Posted by eric at 4:58 PM

Whatever Yankees Want

New York Times Editorial

The new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx is still months away from the first pitch of Opening Day. But suddenly a lot of people are questioning yesterday’s package deal for this luxurious ballpark in light of today’s struggling economy.

Seats for $1,500 a game? Suites fit for the royal family? A scoreboard fit for the Big Board? A fabulous steakhouse and granite ramps (no ordinary cement for this crowd)? This $1 billion-plus pavilion and park financed with a lot of taxpayer help is beginning to sound like something fit for the Wizard of Oz.

To pay for many of these add-ons, the Yankees now want — surprise! — more help from the city. They have asked the Industrial Development Agency for an additional $400 million in tax-free financing to finish the project. Unless the city’s leaders show some courage, the agency is expected to rubber-stamp that request by the end of the week, after a pro forma hearing on Thursday.

Mayor Bloomberg has — rightly — had to cut city budgets and increase property taxes and explain to residents how times are bad and how we all will have to share the pain. It is time for Mr. Bloomberg to make that same pitch to the Yankees.

If the Yankees can sign megamillion-dollar contracts (C. C. Sabathia just landed one for $161 million over seven years), they should be flush enough to contribute more toward their new stadium and to the parks for people living nearby.


NoLandGrab: And might The Times feel differently about hundreds of millions in subsidies for Atlantic Yards? Given that developer Bruce Ratner is the paper's real estate partner, and that The Times owns a 17.5% stake in the Yankees' arch rival, the Boston Red Sox, we're not sure we can expect the same point of view.

Posted by eric at 4:43 PM

Markowitz's SkyStoop

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn


Inspired by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's suggestion to the Daily News that perhaps Forest City Ratner could incorporate "Brooklyn-style stoops at the base of some of the towers" for more of a "brownstone feel," DDDB has offered up a "value-engineered" rendering.


NoLandGrab: We know a stoopid idea when we see one.

Posted by eric at 2:02 PM

Is BEEP Markowitz Ratner's New Architect

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB thinks they may have a lead on a "value engineer."

Sounds like BEEP Markowitz may be the architect Bruce Ratner has been looking for to fill Frank Gehry's shoes.


Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Nets moving to Long Island?

NBC Sports Fan Zone: Scuttlebutt

Looks like a headline writer over at the NBC Sports rumor blog got a little carried away.

Talks with the Devils to use their arena in Newark for three games next preseason have apparently fallen apart. Word within the organization was that the talks may have been a testing ground to find a place for the Nets to reside if the Brooklyn arena never gets built. Nets management denies that, but now it's looking like the team is talking to the folks at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, where the New York Islanders play, to play some games there. The plan is still that the team will be in Brooklyn in 2011 but the arena still isn't under construction and the current financial crisis as well as protests from such folks as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has made team owner and real-estate developer Bruce Ratner seriously scale back his plans and possibly not be able to get the job done by then. (Newark Star-Ledger)

link (scroll down)

NoLandGrab: What the Star-Ledger actually meant was that the Nets were considering the Nassau Mausoleum for some pre-season games.

Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

Is Newark dead? Devils owner wants to negotiate regarding Nets preseason games at the Prudential Center

Atlantic Yards Report

After New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark stated that, contrary to a report from the day before, the team was not considering playing preseason games at the Prudential Center in Newark, a commenter on this blog yesterday asked: "Is Newark really dead as Yormark says or is this just part of a negotiating ploy to get a better deal?"

Well, in Day 3 of the saga, the Star-Ledger reported last night that New Jersey Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek told the Nets "that he had every intention of making a proposal to host Nets preseason games at the Prudential Center and was surprised that the team abruptly stopped negotiations."

The dispute was apparently over money, with the Nets asking Vanderbeek's Devils to guarantee a gate count typical in the regular season, even though preseason games, as Vanderbeek wrote, "typically play to half the audience of a regular-season game."


Posted by steve at 9:00 AM

New Jersey Devils owner still wants New Jersey Nets to play at Prudential Center

Newark Star Ledger
By Steve Politi

The intrigue continues as Jeff Vanderbeek, owner of the New Jersey Devils, states his desire to continue negotiating with the New Jersey Nets so that the Nets can play pre-season games at Newark's Prudential Center. The possibility of the Newark games has fueled speculation that the Nets are looking for an out as construction for the arena for the proposed Atlantic Yards project becomes increasingly doubtful.

Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek fired back at his counterparts with the Nets Wednesday, telling the NBA team in a letter that he had every intention of making a proposal to host Nets preseason games at the Prudential Center and was surprised that the team abruptly stopped negotiations.

Vanderbeek questioned the timing of the recent media reports about the games and said Nets CEO Brett Yormark broke off discussions with the Devils without contacting the team directly.

"I believe direct communication is important," Vanderbeek wrote in the letter, a copy of which he provided to The Star-Ledger. "Let me clearly state that nothing would please the Devils' organization and the Prudential Center more than hosting several Nets preseason games next year and more into the future."


Posted by steve at 8:53 AM

The Power Broker, 2009: Mayor Mike Bloomberg

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder leads us on a game of political connect-the-dots. He shows how Mayor Michael Bloomberg is working on an alliance with Governor David Paterson that has allowed Bloomberg to push through a change on term limits and to promote Caroline Kennedy as the next Senator from New York.

The line being drawn leads, ultimately, to developers. This point is drawn from The Village Voice's Wayne Barrett:

Barrett adds: Should Paterson choose Kennedy, he is said to be considering signing up with Knickerbocker SKD, the political consultants already tied to Bloomberg, Kennedy, Chuck Schumer, and Christine Quinn, all of whom are up for re-election this year or next.

Remember, Knickerbocker SKD has produced Forest City Ratner's fliers and worked for pro-AY candidate Tracy Boyland. Examinations of power in New York City often lead to developers.


Posted by steve at 8:18 AM

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz: Ratchet down Yards arena

Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

This article reflects the effort by Borough President Marty Markowitz to keep the proposed Atlantic Yards project alive by echoing ideas that the developer proposed a week earlier.

The glitzy, world-class pro basketball arena slated for the Atlantic Yards project is now likely to be merely "functional," Borough President Marty Markowitz told the Daily News Wednesday.

In his strongest language yet, Markowitz called on developer Forest City Ratner to eliminate the costly flourishes and glassy facade of the Frank Gehry-designed NBA basketball arena in the face of an economic meltdown.

"We don't have to be rocket scientists to know that the awe-inspiring arena project designed by Frank Gehry has now become ... It's just not doable," said Markowitz.

The final, bizarre touch is a quote from Forest City flack Joe DePlasco, who implies that calls to change the proposed arena design originated with Markowitz, when it's clear to those following the Atlantic Yards fight that proposed changes come from Ratner:

"We look forward to discussing the borough president's proposal with him and continuing to work with him and others to bring this project to fruition," said DePlasco.


Atlantic Yards Report, Is arena value engineering also a security upgrade? Marty drops hint

Norman Oder adds this observation on what the proposed changes in the Daily News item might mean:

Maybe that that would make the AY arena more like Madison Square Garden and less like Newark's Prudential Center, and thus not pose dangers that require street closings.

Posted by steve at 6:56 AM

Coverage of Yankees Bond Hearing

There was considerable coverage of yesterday's hearing held by State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky regarding public subsidies for the new Yankee Stadium. All news sources reflected the contentious nature of the hearing at which New York City Industrial Development Agency Chairman Seth Pinsky and New York Yankees President Randy Levine tried to justify massive public subsidies. Look for similar posturing from the City should the proposed Atlantic Yards project move forward.

Metro: Yanks play hardball at stadium hearing

Brodsky says taxpayers are paying for the new stadium, citing the city’s request to the IRS to permit an arrangement under which the Yankees would repay their tax-exempt bonds with “property taxes.”

But the Yankees have never paid property taxes, so “the city is no worse off,” explained Seth Pinsky of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, who viewed the project as a $1 billion stimulus package to the South Bronx.

Brodsky called this “bizarre bureaucratic arrangement” a gift to the Yankees that outweighs any public benefit. While the stadium project has resulted in thousands of construction jobs, it will create only 57 permanent, full-time jobs.

NYTimes: Hearing on Bonds for Yankee Stadium Gets Testy

A central part of Mr. Brodsky’s argument is that the Yankees, by paying off bonds with payments in lieu of taxes (known as Pilots), are avoiding paying property taxes. He wondered if they had a “divine right” to not pay taxes. And he brandished a document from the newest report that said, “The city has determined to use its property taxes (in this case Pilots) to finance the construction and operation” of the stadium.

In his view, the property taxes are taxes owed and the Yankees, contrary to their contention, are using city money to repay their bonds, not their own. “The Yankees don’t pay taxes now,” he said to Mr. Pinsky. “Does that mean they should never pay taxes?”

Atlantic Yards Report: Are PILOTs a subsidy? At Assembly hearing, Brodsky goes around and around with reps from city, Yankees

In addition to exhaustive coverage, Norman Oder presents a tie-in to the fight against the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Yesterday’s hastily-called Assembly hearing on the New York Yankees’ request for some $370 million in additional tax-exempt bonds featured antagonists who disagree fundamentally and easily reach the edge (and beyond) of civility: Assemblyman Richard Brodsky vs. New York City Industrial Development Agency Chairman Seth Pinsky and New York Yankees President Randy Levine, both present only via subpoena.


...the big news was the city Independent Budget Office upped its estimate of project subsidies significantly, to $854.7 million. Note that the IBO did not say that the PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) deal with the Yankees represents a cost to the city for the $1 billion-plus in foregone property taxes. (deMause disagrees, calculating $416.6 million in foregone taxes.) IBO does calculates the public costs for the first round of Yankees tax-exempt financing to be $205.2 million and the new round $72 million, with some 97% of that cost falling on federal taxpayers--which is why Kucinich is interested.

Nor did IBO say the PILOTs plan for the Atlantic Yards arena represents a full subsidy, though many AY critics think so. Brodsky hasn't opined on the issue, but if he's consistent, it seems he'd have to maintain the same posture that he has in the case of the Yankees.

There are some significant differences, however. Notably, because the land underneath the arena would be tax-exempt, and part of it is the MTA’s Vanderbilt Yard, “the MTA has an incentive to make a deal that maintains the tax exemption in order to maximize the price it receives for the development rights,” the IBO said in 2005.

It didn’t exactly happen, given that the MTA accepted a cash bid less than half the appraised value.

Posted by steve at 6:24 AM

January 14, 2009

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, Marty Urges Cost-Cutting at Atlantic Yards

With a worsening economic picture and no end to its legal entanglements, the chances of Forest City ever building the Frank Gehry-designed vision it sold to the public are growing increasingly slim. Recognizing this reality, one of the project's biggest supporters, Marty Markowitz weighed in yesterday with his own call for modifying the project to reflect the new realities.

In a sign that the final outcome, if built, could be a nightmarish architectural hodge-podge of mediocrity, Markowitz also said that, "There may be a chance to incorporate design and construction changes that will lower the bottom line and celebrate the ‘Brownstone Brooklyn’ architecture that makes our borough unique."

The Albany Project, Wither Atlantic Yards?

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has been one of the most vigorous supporters (and, to be honest, one of the most obnoxious ones as well) of Bruce Ratner's mega-suck development. It seems that the realities of the economic meltdown are finally catching up with this boondoggle and even a pro-Ratnerville putz like Markowitz has noticed.

It looks increasingly likely that this project, at least the project as we've known it these last few years, just ain't gonna happen.

NoLandGrab: We think they mean "whither," unless they're being ironic.

Brooklynian, NY Daily News: Battle in the Garden

First Ratner, now Catner? Anti-Atlantic Yards activist Patti Hagan is embroiled in a fight over a pair of feral cats in a community garden, prompting one commenter to write:

I think it's kinda funny that Patti Hagan is working to evict these cats when she's worked so hard to prevent people from being evicted from the Atlantic Yards site.

Posted by eric at 9:17 PM

Yanks stadium cost passes $2B, subsidies near $1b

Field of Schemes
by Neil deMause

There were plenty of fireworks at today's Assembly hearing on the Yankees and Mets stadium projects, but behind all the smoke lay a giant bill for the taxpayers. Stadium-boondoggle expert Neil deMause was on hand for all the action, both for his own site and the Village Voice's Runnin' Scared blog.

Today's New York state assembly hearing on the Yankees and Mets stadium projects can best be summed up like this: City economic chief Seth Pinsky complained about hearing chair Richard Brodsky calling the city's procedures "Soviet-style," then later quoted Edward R. Murrow to implicitly compare Brodsky to Joe McCarthy; and Brodsky, in his closing statements, offered to take on both Pinsky and Yanks president Randy Levine in a fistfight. Not, in other words, one of democracy's finest moments.

The real story, in any case, came after Levine, Pinsky, and almost everyone else had gone home: Economist George Sweeting of the Independent Budget Office presented new detailed estimates of how much the new stadiums are costing taxpayers in subsidies, and how much the teams are benefiting. I'll be updating my stadium cost spreadsheet [PDF] with the new numbers shortly, but in the meantime, some highlights: The total cost of the Yanks' new stadium is now well north of $2 billion, with taxpayers picking up $854.7 million of that tab; for the Mets, the cost to the public is now a mere $371.5 million. And that's without even counting the fact that neither team will pay property taxes, ever, thanks to a nifty tax dodge involving public authorities and 99-year subleases. [Emphasis added]


Runnin' Scared, When Elephants Fight: Not-quite-liveblogging the Brodsky Yankees Hearing

Part 1 of deMause's running commentary.

Runnin' Scared, Brodsky Hearing: IBO Says Mets, Yanks Stadiums Costing Taxpayers $1.2 Billion

And Part 2, featuring the IBO's subsidy bombshell:

Without going into details (check the IBO's website for those), the totals come to a total public subsidy for the Yankees of $854.7 million, more than half a billion of which will come out of state and city coffers; for the Mets, the total subsidy is $371.5 million, with the state and city on the hook for about $230 million. And this, it's worth noting, is without counting any lost future property taxes. Levine would probably turn orange at this point, but he, along with most of the rest of the onlookers, has gone home.

More coverage...

NY Observer, IBO: New Yankee Stadium Costing City, State $528 M.

AP via SILive.com, Lawmaker offers to fight Yankees prez over stadium

The president of the New York Yankees asserted repeatedly at a combative hearing Wednesday that the team's new $1.5 billion stadium — backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies — is a good deal for the city, and he accused a lawmaker who offered to fight him of grandstanding for headlines.

The legislator, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, lashed out at team president Randy Levine and city economic development chief Seth Pinsky, challenging both to a "civil, in-your-face fistfight" over public financing of the stadium.

The subsidies for the stadium have sparked outrage in the middle of a global economic meltdown that has crippled the city's budget and cut thousands of working-class jobs while the Yankees doled out hundreds of millions of dollars for new players. The team, which last season failed to make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, signed pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira to contracts totaling $423.5 million.

AP via International Herald Tribune, Yankees feed at taxpayer trough because they can

I don't live in New York, so I'll leave it to the taxpayers there to be outraged or simply figure that's not a bad price for entertainment. But at a time when the unemployment rate is at a 16-year high, Americans are losing their jobs at the fastest rate since World War II, and cities and states are struggling for enough money to provide the most basic services, I'd lean toward outrage.

NoLandGrab: AP sports columnist Tim Dahlberg should indeed be outraged, since Federal taxpayers will be picking up the tab on several hundreds of million in subsidies for the Yankees and Mets.

Posted by eric at 8:45 PM

Yankin' Our Chain

Here's a round-up of some of today's stories about the Great Yankee Stadium Swindle.

amNY, City's share of Yankee stadium costs double

The city’s costs for the new Yankee Stadium have more than doubled in two years, said City Comptroller William Thompson, who accused the Bloomberg administration of low-balling its original estimate.

The capital cost for the city is now $325 million, up from its estimate of $129 million in 2006, the comptroller’s office said today.

“It’s willful. Costs don’t just go up dramatically like this,” said Thompson, a mayoral candidate.

“The Yankees have spent $423.5 million on free agents this offseason — for them and the city to ask New York’s hard working taxpayers to foot the ever expanding bill on the new stadium is nonsensical and unfair, especially in difficult economic times,” said Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Queens), a candidate for public advocate.

The New York Times, Yankee Stadium Burdens Mayor’s Campaign

With a vote set on Friday on whether to extend $372 million in additional tax-free financing for the new Yankee Stadium, challengers to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg are trying to halt the subsidies. State lawmakers have subpoenaed team and city officials to an emergency hearing on Wednesday, and what once looked like a gleaming example of the mayor’s financial skill is suddenly looking like one of his biggest vulnerabilities.

What could give the stadium issue traction this year, however, is the city’s dire financial condition — presenting a stark contrast between struggling, insecure New Yorkers who don’t earn major league salaries, and the hundreds of millions of dollars the new stadium complex is costing them.

NoLandGrab: Remember, Bloomberg engineered the overturning of term limits on the ridiculous premise that only he could guide us through the current economic crisis. By giving our money away to the Yankees?

The New York Times, A New Yankee Stadium, the Same Old Politics

The city is proud of the deal, officials say, because it will create “1,000 permanent new jobs.” If you scratch into the official filings, it turns out that there are actually only 22 new full-time jobs expected. The rest are seasonal positions — valuable, certainly, but only if they really exist.

And what if the team doesn’t create 1,000 new jobs? Does the city have any mechanism to hold the team accountable, to get back some of its investment?

Asked about this on Tuesday, Mr. Lombino, the spokesman for development corporation, said there is none.

The New York Times, Yankees Try New Strategy to Market Premium Seats

The Yankees have hired a division of a prominent Manhattan residential real estate brokerage, Prudential Douglas Elliman, to help sell some of their prime real estate: unsold premium seats and luxury boxes at the new Yankee Stadium.

Levine said that hiring Prudential Douglas Elliman was not an indication of a slow sales pace on high-end seats at the $1.3 billion stadium. Seven luxury suites remained to be sold, out of 59, and about 1,000 of 4,000 premium seats were available.

NoLandGrab: Sure, Randy, they're sellin' like hot cakes. So why did you have to hire Prudential Douglas Elliman? The Yankees haven't gotten any better at telling the truth in the 30 years since then-manager Billy Martin said "one's a born liar, and the other's convicted," in reference to rightfielder Reggie Jackson and owner George Steinbrenner.

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance, YanKeys to the City

Our old friend Richard Lipsky, who loves the Atlantic Yards project, hates the idea of subsidizing Yankee Stadium. Just for fun, substitute "Atlantic Yards" for "Yankee Stadium" in the passage below:

So, as we anticipate another election cycle where Mike Bloomberg will once again break all spending records, dramatically injecting his own version of an economic stimulus into the local economy primarily for his own benefit, we will be able to add the Yankee Stadium development to a long list of mega projects launched by a mayor who has lost sight of the needs of average New Yorkers in the pursuit of monuments to his own ego.

Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

Markowitz Weakens on Atlantic Yards

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog]
by Roy Edroso

The normally development-friendly Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz actually said something almost critical of a developer yesterday. He suggested Forest City Ratner, despoilers of Atlantic Yards, should look at a "more economically feasible" plan for the Nets stadium/luxury complex than the bloated one that's currently stalled in its tracks.

The press is less than respectful. The Times allows Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein to rebut Markowitz. The Brooklyn Paper teases out Markowitz's statement as "saying that the $1-billion basketball arena at the heart of Atlantic Yards is no longer 'economically feasible,'" and reminds readers of Markowitz's prior Atlantic Yards gush. (The Daily News already ran an "Atlantic Yards lite is on 'last legs' -- foes" story last weekend.)


NoLandGrab: We think the normally astute Roy Edroso misreads Markowitz; he's not being "almost critical" of Forest City Ratner, but rather attempting to play along with their increasingly inept public relations effort.

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM


by Rich Calder

With Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project hanging by a thread because of the rotten economy, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said yesterday the arena for the NBA's Nets must be built more cheaply.

Markowitz suggested that the monolithic glass and steel arena be scrapped for a less expensive model relying on stone and cement.


Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

Voinovich Was Free and Easy With Public Money

The Cleveland Leader
by Roldo Bartimole

Forest City Enterprises' affinity for the public purse figures in a story on Ohio Senator and former Cleveland Mayor George Voinovich, who announced recently that he would not seek re-election in 2010.

Halle’s was one of the first, a $7-million UDAG (Urban Development Action Grant) for Forest City Enterprises. It was sold by Voinovich’s executives as a deal that would earn the city profits. None ever came, unless your name was Voinovich.

One Voinovich brother got the contract as leasing agent; another a deal at Tower City [NLG: Tower City is a large Forest City development in downtown Cleveland]. As an example of how profitable it could be, Victor Voinovich got $84,000 in commissions as the leasing agent for one Halle’s occupant - Climaco, Climaco, Seminatore & Leftkowitz, as it was known then. (If anyone wants a rundown - rich in detail - it’s available in Point of View, Vol. 19, # 16.)

Forest City got into the UDAG business full-time and came away with millions of dollars in free money. Voinovich fashioned most UDAGs at no interest with principal payable at the end of the loan, usually 20 years out. A sweeter, more profitable deal could not be made by any business. UDAGs were given to a number of Tower City projects, including the Ritz-Carleton [sic], which also got 100 percent tax abatement.


Posted by eric at 9:43 AM

GL Analysis: It’s Time to Completely Rethink Atlantic Yards

Gowanus Lounge

Symbolically, the final shoe dropped yesterday. One of the people chiefly responsible for Atlantic Yards, Borough President Marty Markowitz told the New York Times that in the paper’s words he was “calling on the developer and state officials to review the design with an eye toward paring costs so that the long delayed project is more financially viable." We are not getting into another long Atlantic Yards diatribe. There have been many problems with the Atlantic Yards approval process including that it has been one of the most anti-democratic and divisive exercises in the last half century in urban America. It has been a textbook case in how not to plan a major urban project.

We’d even go so far as to say that the proposal as it currently stands is so radically different than what was shoved down the public’s throat that it should be scrapped and the entire project should begin from scratch. Perhaps with another developer. If the price tag is a decade of emptiness, so be it. The tragedy is that the state allowed blocks of Prospect Heights to be leveled that will now become blights on a community. Maybe by the time everyone comes up with a workable plan, there might even be a financial market healthy enough to finance the revised plan.


Posted by eric at 9:18 AM

BrooklynSpeaks to Paterson: stop street closures, halt demolition, and come clean on Atlantic Yards timetables

Atlantic Yards Report

The coalition of what Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz calls "reasonable people" speaks again. Norman Oder wonders if they have "lost faith in the developer."

Complaining that the preliminary and stalled work on Atlantic Yards has created blight and disruption, the sponsors of BrooklynSpeaks, the "mend-it-don't-end-it" group of Atlantic Yards critics, have asked Governor David Paterson to intervene.

In a letter sent December 31 (and posted January 9), before the recent flap about a discounted arena, they asked that Paterson ensure that the city, state, and developer Forest City Ratner halt further street closures, halt demolition of viable vacant buildings and repurpose them, return the Carlton Avenue Bridge to service, and create interim public open space as play areas or community gardens. (Full text below)

Not all of that may be practical; the bridge seems tied to reconstruction of the Vanderbilt Yard, which is on indefinite hold, and state and city officials have not clarified the timetable.


Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

FCR is a crap landlord

The Footprint Gazette

"Fo-Gazy" has had his share of crappy landlords, but Forest City Ratner leaves him foaming, just not at the mouth:


My current landlord hasn't been faced with a similar disaster, thank goodness, but I am confident that were one to arise, FCR, the owner of my apt. building, would do terribly. I have been trying to get in touch with our property managers for three (3!) months to handle a couple of repairs. My kitchen is falling apart and my bathroom requires a plumber. I have called or emailed just about every week, sometimes several times per week and have either been blown off or ignored each time. The management company is Esquire Management, and they can only be described as negligent. The photos to the left are of our front steps, which have been gradually falling apart. Recently an attempt to keep the steps from crumbling was made. See that hard foam that was sprayed into the cracks on either side? Looks nice don't it? Why stop there? There are a lot more cracks on those steps that could use a good foaming.


Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

New Jersey Nets will not play preseason games at Prudential Center next season

The Star-Ledger
By Dave D'Alessandro

Stating unequivocably that "all discussions (with the Devils) are off," Nets CEO Brett Yormark dashed the brief hopes of NJ Nets' fans that they might see their team play preseason games in the new Newark arena.

The buzz about the Nets' brief sojourn into Newark for preseason games next fall died a quick and sudden death Tuesday night, when the team's CEO said that all negotiations with the Prudential Center have ceased.

Brett Yormark, the Nets' top executive, confirmed that he was in discussions with Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek over possibly holding three exhibition games in the new building, but that the arrangement wouldn't be feasible.

He also stressed, as always, that such a pursuit wouldn't have signaled any change in the team's commitment to move to Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn sometime in 2011.

Star-Ledger reporter Dave D'Alessandro is beginning to express some doubts about Yormark's rosy predictions:

Delayed repeatedly by legal challenges and financing issues, the construction of the $1 billion Barclays Center is schedule to start sometime this year, Yormark has said, but no groundbreaking date has been set.

Since the average construction of an arena takes 30 months -- according to the estimate of Nets owner Bruce Ratner -- it will be difficult to open the 2011-12 season in Brooklyn if work doesn't begin by this May.


AOL Sports, FANHOUSE, Are the Nets Dumping Brooklyn for Newark?
This article was published before the Star-Ledger ran today's story about talks falling through on Nets' preseason games in Newark.

Atlantic Yards Report, Yormark scotches Newark report, says arena will start this year
Norman Oder reviews Yormark's claims and the Star-Ledger's analysis of the arena opening:

Yormark has said it would take 24 months. Ratner said last June that "it will be about two and a half years to build our arena." I think the construction schedule indicates 32 months.

Whatever arena proponents say, work beginning by May is highly unlikely--it implies not only clearing of lawsuits but no delays in exercising eminent domain. Thus 2012 is a more likely best-case scenario.

Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

As hearing on Yankees' bond request approaches, Brennan questions tax-exemption for stadium

Atlantic Yards Report

The hearing this morning that Assemblymembers Richard Brodsky and Jim Brennan will hold on the New York Yankees' request for some $430 million in additional tax-exempt bonds will inevitably get contentious, as Brodsky assured the the attendance of New York City Industrial Development Authority chair Seth Pinsky and Yankees president Randy Levine only via subpoena.

With them will be city Comptroller William Thompson, a mayoral candidate, who issued his own scathing criticism of the Yankees's plan yesterday, and asked that the IDA's planned hearing Thursday on bonds for the Yankees and the New York Mets be postponed. The fourth person testifying will be George Sweeting of the Independent Budget Office.


Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

Marty: Atlantic Yards no longer ‘economically feasible’

The Brooklyn Paper's Gersh Kuntzman noted a little strategy on the part of Borough President Marty Markowitz, who was hoping that his press release would play more favorably with developer Bruce Ratner's business partner, The New York Times.

Markowitz’s bombshell statement was first issued on Tuesday to the New York Times, which has a business partnership with Ratner and has not been critical of the developer’s stalled 16-skyscraper arena, office and residential complex. It was later released to other media outlets.

Kuntzman also noted that recent events have just been the next step in managing expectations for Atlantic Yards:

So much for “thriving.” Ratner actually spent most of last year driving down expectations, first telling the New York Times in March that the $4-billion project no longer had a timetable and that the “Miss Brooklyn” office tower at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues could not be built because Ratner had failed to line up an anchor tenant during the real-estate boom that was just beginning to go bust.

In the end, Marty remembers how his bread is buttered:

It is unclear what comes next. Ratner has said he wants to trim costs, and now Markowitz has once again echoed his favorite developer and longtime donor to his Best of Brooklyn charity.


Yesterday, Gumby Fresh blogger "Gringcorp" left this comment on Atlantic Yards Report:

Outstanding. So Marty dutifully issues a call to scale back the size of the thing - after the developer/financiers/whoever have spent a week priming the public for just that. Do you think he realizes just how much of an FCE stooge he looks, or do you think he hopes no-one will notice. I feel slightly insulted to be honest, although I get that sensation most times he speaks in public.

Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

Markowitz Backpedaling on Atlantic Yards Project


Yesterday's joke of the day was Marty Markowitz's press release on Atlantic Yards. The way it usually works is the politican pretends to call for a change in the plan, the developer pretends to acquiesce and they call it "a win-win." This week the Atlantic Yards political-pr machine got it all backwards, but no one told Gothamist.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, a fervent champion of an embattled plan to build an ambitious $4.2 billion plan to build a Nets basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments in Brooklyn, has for the first time muted his enthusiasm for the development. Could this be the canary in the coalmine for the controversial project, which throughout 2008 struggled to gain momentum against repeated setbacks? Markowitz issued a statement this afternoon opining that, because of the economic tailspin and all, developer Bruce Ratner should conceive of a "sports and entertainment venue that is more economically feasible but provides the modern amenities our residents and visitors to Brooklyn demand and deserve."

However, Gothamist didn't hold back the snark on Bruce Ratner's increasingly desperate efforts to remain at the helm of the project:

Forest City is now trying to negotiate with the MTA over the Vanderbilt Yards, an essential part of the project site which the developer still hasn't paid for. According to the Times, Forest City wants to pay the $100 million for the property in installments. Come on MTA, you know Ratner's good for it; it's just a bad streak! He can win it all back! With interest!


Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

January 13, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Assembly Committees Issue Subpoenas to Randy Levine, Yankees President, and Seth Pinsky, Chairman of the NYCIDA Board, on Public Financing of the New Yankee Stadium

Committees Seek Testimony and Documents Which Yankees and NYCIDA Have Failed To Produce

Chairman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, and Chairman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn) of the Committee on Cities, issued subpoenas yesterday to Seth Pinsky, Chairman of the Board of the New York City Industrial Development Agency, and Randy Levine, President of the New York Yankees, to appear at the Committees' hearing tomorrow, January 14th, 10:00 A.M., at 250 Broadway, Room 1923 (19th Floor), and deliver documents regarding the public financing of the new Yankee Stadium. The Yankees and the NYCIDA have continued to stonewall the Committees’ requests for documents pertaining to the request for an additional $430 million in public financing, in the face of a NYCIDA Board vote on Friday, January 16 on the additional money.

Assemblyman Brodsky said, “The Assembly investigations of the NYCIDA financing of the new Yankee Stadium have already revealed that taxpayers will pay up to $4 billion to construct the new Stadium; that City agencies cooked the property tax assessment; that secret negotiations gave the City, at taxpayer cost, a free luxury suite at the new Stadium, and that the number of new permanent jobs created at the Stadium in exchange for $4 billion of subsidy was 22. The City and the NYCIDA are now seeking to railroad an additional $430 million of taxpayer money, on which the Assembly Committees have been seeking additional information for months. The City, the Yankees, and the NYCIDA have refused to make these and other documents available. The legislative oversight and legislative functions of the Assembly require the City and the NYCIDA to tell the Committees and the public the truth about this deal. Subpoenas, as always, are a last resort, but in this case were necessary.”

"It is obvious that additional public subsidy for the Yankees is both inappropriate and unnecessary and the New York City IDA should halt further tax-exempt financings based on diverted property taxes," said Assemblyman Brennan.

Posted by eric at 9:12 PM

Comptroller opposes Yankees' subsidies

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Engquist

City Comptroller Bill Thompson said Tuesday he opposes further city subsidies for the new Yankee Stadium, which he had supported in the past, and will vote against additional tax-free financing for the team unless the terms are changed.

His vote as a board member of the Industrial Development Agency will be largely symbolic, since the board is stacked with appointees of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports requests by the Yankees for more financing.

"We need to get more in return to allow the Yankees to issue another $400 million in debt," Mr. Thompson said at a press conference at his office. "Incredibly, the Yankees are asking for more money and the city is giving it to them without asking for anything in return."

The Bloomberg administration disagreed. "In exchange for the new tax-exempt bonds, the city will receive $11.5 million in capital from the Yankees that can be used for our parks and infrastructure projects. Similarly, the Yankees application discloses that the team is putting $225 million of its own equity into finishing the stadium, which creates tax revenue for the city."


NoLandGrab: Among the many problems with this deal is that the Bloomberg administration is quick to leave out details that might prove inconvenient.

As Neil deMause reported on his Field of Schemes blog yesterday ("Yanks bond request includes $11m tax break") the IDA will also be voting on granting the Yankees exemptions on mortgage recording and construction materials sales taxes, totaling — surprise — $11.1 million, almost equal to the $11.5 million "capital contribution" the Yankees are making.

You can read the entirety of Bill Thompson's statement opposing further subsidies for the Yankees after the jump.


Comptroller Cites Lack of Oversight and Financial Competency as Cause of Inflated Expenses

New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. today accused Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Industrial Development Agency (IDA) of financial incompetence during negotiations for a new Yankee Stadium, saddling City taxpayers with astronomically steeper costs.

Speaking at a news conference, Thompson highlighted the upcoming IDA Board of Director’s vote on a new stadium financing plan as an opportunity for the City to rectify earlier oversights and errors.

“While our financial review cannot determine intent, this incredible mismanagement begs the question: Was this plain old incompetence or a blatant attempt to mislead the public?” Thompson said. “Either way, New Yorkers now have a box-seat view of fiscal mismanagement.”

In July 2006, the IDA approved a financing package with the Yankees to allow for construction of a new stadium. The debt package totaled $967,555,000: $942,555,000 in tax-exempt bonds and $25 million taxable. Direct capital costs to the City for related infrastructure projects, such as new parkland, were estimated at the time to be $129.2 million. These costs do not include the construction of new parking facilities, for which the City is also responsible.

“The original City capital contribution now has ballooned to $325 million, two-and-a-half times the amount we were told in 2006,” Thompson said. “With this deal, New Yorkers lose. At a time when we can least afford it, the Administration is bending over backwards to subsidize an enormously profitable corporation, one that just signed three players to contracts worth a total of $423 million.”

Thompson cited the following as examples of faulty cost estimates:

  • The demolition of the existing Yankee Stadium was estimated at more than 50% less than the true cost.
  • Failure to conduct environmental reviews, which would have taken into account the existence of, and necessity to remediate, oil tanks on the waterfront site of a planned new park.
  • Underestimation of the cost for a rooftop park and retaining wall resulting in cost escalations of 30%; the price tag now stands at $44.5 million.

“We cannot continue to let New Yorkers lose in order for the Yankees to win,” Thompson said. “Next season, more and more families will be priced out of the very stadium they helped to build, as the minimum cost of a box seat alone will at least double from $250 to $500.”

Thompson’s review also examined the City’s lost revenue, such as an agreement to surrender use of 250 parking spots to the Yankees as part of its negotiations for a luxury suite, resulting in a loss of $500,000 in revenue per year. These ongoing negotiations likely will result in an additional loss of $750,000 in annual revenue from three billboards, on which the Yankees want the rights to advertise.

Similarly, the cost to the City for a luxury suite will total $1,250,000 annually, while other luxury suite purchasers will pay between $600,000 and $850,000. Under terms of the new agreement, the City has agreed to let the Yankees market the suite with a minimum payment of $100,000 per year.

“Anybody can see that this is simply a bad deal for New York,” Thompson said. “Yet it is the kind of financial incompetence that the Administration has consistently demonstrated when it comes to the new Yankee stadium. And incredibly, the Yankees are asking for more money and the Administration wants to give it to them without getting anything in return.”

Thompson’s office has held meetings with IDA staff to discuss the new financing plan and the status of related projects. This Thursday, the IDA Board of Directors will hold a public hearing regarding the proposed issuance of $371.8 million of new bonds, including both tax-exempt and federally taxable, together with a $60 million refunding of the existing bonds to move debt service out to later years. The IDA Board will vote on the plan Friday.

Some elements of the $371.8 million are said to include:

  • $40 million in extra costs to accelerate construction.
  • $60 million additional security costs at the behest of the New York Police Department.
  • $92 million in scope modifications.
  • $75 million in true cost increases.
  • $65 million in “soft costs.”

“For all these reasons, I am calling for the vote to be postponed so that the City can negotiate a better deal,” Thompson concluded.

In November 2008, an audit conducted by the Comptroller’s office found that the Yankee’s underpaid the City more than $11 million in rent over a two-year period. As a result, the Yankees have since paid the City $7,352,519 plus interest of $635,132. The Yankees still owe the City another $4,035,636.

The full audit report can be viewed at www.comptroller.nyc.gov.

Posted by eric at 8:46 PM

Political cover in reverse...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

So, let's see here:

Last week Forest City Ratner says: We are tying to cut costs on our billion dollar arena (probably by removing Frank Gehry as its architect).

Today, Borough President Markowitz says: Forest City Ratner should cut costs on their billion dolllar arena.

Today Forest City Ratner responds to Markowitz: Hey, Markowitz is right, we should cut costs on our billion dollar arena and we can't wait to talk (wink, wink) with him about it.

Have you ever seen such a sloppy and silly attempt at political cover?


NoLandGrab: Forest City Ratner's foundering p.r. effort is a far cry from what New York Magazine's Chris Smith just a couple years ago called "the most sophisticated political campaign the city has seen in a very long time." It's a bit reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, which expected to sew up the nomination in the first few primaries, but was unprepared for the long haul when things didn't go as planned.

Posted by eric at 8:23 PM

Is Forest City Ratner trying to chintz the MTA on the Vanderbilt Yard replacement?

Atlantic Yards Report

The big news in today's New York Times CityRoom post, headlined Markowitz Calls for Paring Cost of Atlantic Yards Arena [originally: "Paring Down"], is not that Borough President Marty Markowitz, who can be counted on to support anything developer Forest City Ratner decides, thinks it's a good idea to value-engineer (belatedly?) the planned Atlantic Yards arena.

No, it was the penultimate line:
The developer has also talked about building a less expensive railyard as a replacement, according to a state official who is involved with the project.

Well, I'd heard that one too.

Looking at the numbers

Remember, Forest City Ratner claimed that its bid for the MTA’s Vanderbilt Yard was enhanced by the value of the replacement railyard it was to build, saying its bid of $100 million cash plus enhancements was worth $445 million. (Remember, FCR initially bid $50 million cash, before the MTA decided to negotiate exclusively with them, rather than with rival bidder Extell, which bid $150 million cash but didn’t have FCR’s political backing).

This claim was belied by the fact the MTA’s own appraiser calculated the value of the railyard site at $214.5 million including the value of a new railyard.

So now the developer wants to build a less expensive railyard. Shouldn’t that original bid be reexamined?


Posted by eric at 6:29 PM

Markowitz: Arena Will Create Affordable Housing

Here's the full text of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's statement today regarding the "value engineering" of the planned Atlantic Yards arena.


“Make no mistake—the Barclays Center will be built, the Nets will be playing in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn will have a world-class arena after more than fifty years of waiting to get back to the big leagues. But frankly, as we all know, the economic realities have changed since the inception of this project. As has been widely reported, Forest City Ratner is looking hard at ways to realize cost savings by doing things like using more cost-effective materials, while still maintaining the features approved during the public process. There may be a chance to incorporate design and construction changes that will lower the bottom line and celebrate the ‘Brownstone Brooklyn’ architecture that makes our borough unique.

To that end, I am asking Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation to give Barclays’ design a second look, and conceptualize a sports and entertainment venue that is more economically feasible but provides the modern amenities our residents and visitors to Brooklyn demand and deserve.

I can’t think of a more critical moment than now to create the jobs, affordable housing, tourism and enthusiasm that the arena will bring to Downtown Brooklyn and New York City—so let’s get together, let’s get it done and let’s bring the Barclays Center and the Nets to Brooklyn!”

NoLandGrab: Just how the arena is going to create affordable housing has yet to be explained.

And someone please tell Marty that being in the "big leagues" and having a pro sports franchise are completely, totally unrelated.

More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Markowitz on Barclays Center: a chance to "celebrate the ‘Brownstone Brooklyn’ architecture" (?)

That doesn't sound very Frank Gehry-esque. Rather, it sounds a bit like the Atlantic Terminal Mall.

Posted by eric at 6:13 PM

Markowitz Calls for Paring Down Atlantic Yards Arena

City Room [NY Times blog]
by Charles V. Bagli

Huh? Are we really going to be stuck with four more years of this guy?

The indefatigable Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, weighed in on Forest City Ratner’s proposed $1 billion basketball arena near downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday, calling on the developer and state officials to review the design with an eye toward paring costs so that the long delayed project is more financially viable.

In light of the economic downturn, he said Forest City should conceive of a “sports and entertainment venue that is more economically feasible but provides the modern amenities our residents and visitors to Brooklyn demand and deserve.”

Funny, but that is pretty much what Forest City Ratner acknowledged it was doing last week.

Opponents of the project, who view it as an oversize intrusion, regarded the Forest City announcement as a death knell. Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, said he found Mr. Markowitz’s statement “bewildering.”

“We’re in the midst of the most severe recession since the Great Depression and he’s discussing what a publicly subsidized arena should look like?” Mr. Goldstein said. “It is indefensible to subsidize a luxury housing project and an arena when so many other vital city services are being cut or going begging. It is long past time to start over with the process of developing the railyards in a feasible manner where we can actually achieve job creation and truly affordable housing in a timely fashion.”


NoLandGrab: What Dan Goldstein said.

We can only imagine that when Forest City abandons this ill-fated boondoggle once and for all, the Borough President will soon thereafter call upon the developer to abandon the project.

Posted by eric at 3:38 PM

Early Spring Cleaning

CNBC Fast Money Rapid Recap

Hedge fund manager and CNBC commentator Karen Finerman reiterates her short position in Forest City Enterprises.

Personally, I think the economy is going to get worse from here. As a result I’m short commercial real estate by being short the iShares Dow Jones US Real Estate [IYR] as well as short Forest City [FCE.A].

link (with video — Forest City comments @ 0:50)

"FCE, which is Forest City, they are doing the Atlantic Yards which is the Nets project, a very, very troubled project, they have a lot of debt coming due in the short term."

Posted by eric at 12:45 PM

Gehry still on board for $4bn Brooklyn Atlantic Yards scheme

BD Online
by Arlene Martin

Gehry speaks?!

Frank Gehry has refuted suggestions that he is no longer part of a $4 billion mixed-use project in New York’s Brooklyn district, which was put on hold last month.

But pressure group Don’t Destroy Brooklyn insisted Gehry is no longer part of the Atlantic Yards scheme, which includes an office tower, commercial and residential space, plus a flagship $1 billion stadium for the Nets basketball team.

The group said Gehry had walked off the project after developer Bruce Ratner’s efforts to value-engineer aspects of the development, including the stadium.

“It’s pretty obvious that Ratner is desperate to cut costs and the costs of quality construction materials, and the only way to do this to find a much less expensive architect, one who designs in a less expensive way,” group spokesman Daniel Goldstein told BD.

But a spokesman for the award-winning architect strongly denied the allegation.

“Frank Gehry is proud of his ongoing work with the visionary Atlantic Yards team and remains dedicated to the collective pursuit of a vibrant new urban community in the heart of Brooklyn,” he said.


NoLandGrab: We're having a bit of a hard time believing that the only media inquiry that Gehry Partners has responded to is from a British architecture publication (note the unnamed spokesman).

That said, remaining "dedicated to the collective pursuit of a vibrant new urban community in the heart of Brooklyn" does smack of building a "neighborhood practically from scratch." Of course, if Bruce Ratner hadn't torn down and de-populated the neighborhood that was already there, that wouldn't be an option, would it?

Posted by eric at 11:52 AM


NY Post
By Ikimulisa Livingston and Rich Calder

Hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies just doesn't buy what it used to.

They were going for an old-time feel - but not that old!

Spanking-new, $850 million Citi Field is already beginning to rust.

A Post reporter spotted brown water from a rusty beam creeping down the wall of the front entrance of Citi Field's main gate in Flushing, Queens, on 126th Street. The Mets are set to move there in April.

Rob Bedelis, a mechanical engineer who helped build the Milwaukee Brewers' Miller Park, said Citi Field shouldn't be rusting a little over two years after the start of construction.

"It's a sign of the quality of workmanship," he said. "If I were a fan, I wouldn't be too thrilled. This might be cosmetic and not structural, but fans are paying a lot of money for baseball tickets."

From the comments section:

zodiax wrote:

Just think what the problems would be if "value engineers" had used cheaper materials, like they are proposing for the new Nets home.


Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

Forest City stock takes hit

Denver Post Wire Services

Forest City Enterprises fell 16 percent in New York trading after Moody's Investors Service said the property developer's credit outlook is negative because of high debt.

Moody's rates Cleveland- based Forest City's senior unsecured debt B1, four levels below investment grade. About 58 percent of the company's debt is secured by assets, a position Moody's called "aggressive."

Forest City is working on a $4.2 billion development in Brooklyn, N.Y., known as Atlantic Yards, and has delayed construction on residential and retail components of that project because of a global credit shortage. It's going forward with an arena at the site for the NBA's New Jersey Nets.


NoLandGrab: We'd like to see an example of how the arena is "going forward."

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums NO!!

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Botanic Garden, Aquarium Both in Line for Cutbacks

Not just here but across the state, administrators of zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums fear that they may need to institute devastating cuts.

At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, for example, not only the Garden’s in-house exhibits could be affected, but also its educational programs, its community horticulture programs and its extensive outreach programs to Brooklyn schools, Scot Medbury, the Garden’s president, told the Eagle.

John Cavelli is executive vice president for public affairs of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which oversees both the Prospect Park Zoo and Coney Island’s New York Aquarium as well as the Bronx Zoo. He said that in Gov. Paterson’s recently submitted state budget, “Living museums, like the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium, are singled out for the largest reduction — 55 percent.

“Next year, 76 zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums are zeroed out of the budget ... It is clear: We can't fire our bears or furlough our sea lions. All options are on the table, including cutting staff and services.”

NoLandGrab: Thank goodness for Atlantic Yards' eight acres of publicly accessible open space! Uh, when exactly will that be open?

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

All trussed up and nowhere to go...

Work on at the Vanderbilt Railyards has been suspended due to "lack of support."

Image, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

New Jersey Nets might play preseason games at Prudential Center -- could permanent move to Newark follow?

The Star-Ledger
By Dave D'Alessandro

Today's Star-Ledger scoop is another sign that Bruce Ratner's New Jersey Nets aren't headed to Brooklyn any time soon:

The Nets could be headed for Newark after all.

For a short while, anyway.

Nets management has begun negotiations with Devils owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek to play three preseason games at the Prudential Center next October, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions who asked not to be identified out of concern for affecting the talks.

Nets CEO Brett Yormark would neither confirm nor deny the discussions Monday night, but he strongly implied such an arrangement could be feasible for his team.

"We're exploring many different options, continue to regionalize the franchise," Yormark said through a team spokesman. "Preseason games afford us the opportunity to do this."

Vanderbeek also didn't confirm or deny any talks with the Nets, but he said Monday night no preseason games had been scheduled for the Prudential Center.

"No, not that I know of," he said.


Nets Daily, Nets Talking with Devils about Preseason Games at “The Rock”

Commenters over at Nets Daily are pretty excited about the prospect that the team might have a future in NJ, with some calling for a pre-season package.

Atlantic Yards Report, Star-Ledger: Nets will schedule three (of four) pre-season games at Newark's Prudential Center

Norman Oder feels that "the New Jersey Nets are apparently making an about-face in their willingness to consider Newark as an interim home, at least."

Though Nets CEO Brett Yormark insisted last month that the Izod Center is "a perfect setting for us right now," he conceded to Star-Ledger reporter Dave D'Alessandro that it "still doesn't provide us with the resources we need, and the contemporary look and feel of some of the newer buildings."

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

At web sites of engineering and facade firms working on arena, some stale information (and a hint about "value engineering")

Atlantic Yards Report

What the heck is "value engineering" and what does that mean for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan? When the phrase du jour passes Marty Markowitz's lips in a WNYC News Radio interview, it's time for the rest of us to get a clue.

Norman Oder finds a bunch of stale information on the web sites of two firms involved with Atlantic Yards, but gets a primer on how, what and when value engineering is applied to your friendly neighborhood megaproject.

For those wondering about the concept of value engineering, WSP Flack + Kurtz offers its description:

Our philosophy is to identify realistic building system design criteria and the potential costs associated with making those criteria more stringent to determine the potential cost savings associated with relaxing certain criteria.

The firm offers an elaboration, with a warning about timing:

Value Engineering is most effective when it occurs during the conceptualization of a project, when design criteria are established and system concepts are developed to satisfy criteria.

Examples of design criteria and their impact are:

  • Levels of redundancy which impact the quantity and size of equipment and distribution strategies
  • Environmental conditions which affect the size and capacity of central equipment and distribution systems
  • Energy/life cycle performance which affect the cost and perhaps size of the equipment
  • Acoustics which affect construction techniques and materials; etc.

Once prudent and practical design criteria are established, together with appropriate budgetary allowances, the design should be able to be executed which satisfies both the criteria and the budget. The design and budget are then validated at the completion of Schematic Design and Design Development, however, by the end of Design Development, the systems and budget should be well established and fixed.

When "value engineering" occurs at the end of Construction Documents we consider it to be "de-value engineering". At this stage of the design process, there is the least opportunity to optimize the overall design, including architecture, structure, etc.. At this stage changes to systems or concepts usually impose major disruption to the design schedule, and potentially the construction schedule.

With our philosophy, the overall design concepts, including architecture, structure, and MEP, are optimized for the available budget so that the best value is achieved in an integrated fashion for the construction dollars expended. (Emphasis added)

Well, the arena may not have reached the end phase of Construction Documents which describe the design, location, and physical characteristics of building elements needed to convey to the contractor precisely what to build.

However, the arena is surely no longer in the conceptualization phase, when "value engineering" is most helpful, according to the firm.


NoLandGrab: One of the firms included the above image of "Miss Brooklyn" (aka "Building One") from 2006 on its web site.

It's fairly obvious that rendering wasn't released to the press, along with others from this phase of Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards designs, because of the vantage point. This is the only rendering that we've seen, of any portion of the project, from street level. The fairly impressive sense of the scale of the building that Gehry once called "my ego trip" would definitely have freaked out more people at the time.

Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

9th inning for Yanks, Mets handouts


Neil deMause explains how much a second Yankee Stadium triple-tax-free bond "handout" is going to cost federal taxpayers, if approved, and why the richest team in pro sports really, really needs the money.

Is the city giving the Yankees $259 million? No. It’s in essence extending a $259 million low-cost loan, with the cost of the discount being covered by taxpayers. Cost to the public: about $90 million, most of it charged to the federal treasury.

What’s it for? Bigger scoreboard, a Hard Rock Cafe, “bathroom improvements,” you name it. Most of which have already been built and paid for, since the stadiums open in fewer than three months.

Why should we pay the teams for stuff they’ve already built? The city says it’ll earn a few million dollars in new taxes from the extra construction, and that the Yanks have kicked in a $10-million gift to the Parks Department. Unless the team is threatening to return their new faucets and void their check to Parks if the bonds aren’t approved, though, it’s hard to see how this is a gain.


NoLandGrab: Though deMause doesn't blame the Yankees' payroll for the need for mo' money, why should taxpayers in other cities be made to help enrich a rival ball club concurrently snatching up the most coveted free agents?

Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

The Prospect of Caroline Kennedy as a New York Senator

Noticing New York

What might US Senate prospect Caroline Kennedy's views be about Atlantic Yards? It's hard to know, but Michael D. D. White notes that on the one hand, the Senior Senator from New York, Charles Schumer, is a big booster who holds faith in ACORN's involvement, and on the other hand, Kennedy's late mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, was very passionate about landmarks preservation.


Posted by lumi at 4:24 AM

January 12, 2009

Ties on the Vanderbilt Yard labeled "Atlantic Yards" - Brooklyn, NY

Members of the press aren't the only folks mixed up about Atlantic Yards vs. Vanderbilt Yards.

Image via Atlantic Yards flickr photo pool.

Posted by lumi at 7:29 PM

This Week At Maysles Uptown Cinema - SOUTH BROOKLYN

Duffed Out

Please join us this week as we focus on South Brooklyn in our series, Rent Control: New York Documented and Imagined, a six-month long examination through film and conversation between diverse communities of a city in flux.

On Thursday we screen Brooklyn Matters and Subprimed, two films highlighting the Atlantic Yards project and the foreclosure crisis in East New York that are must-see’s for all New Yorkers who care about the future of two important Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Maysles Cinema
343 Lenox Avenue between 127th & 128th
tel: 212 582 6050


Posted by eric at 4:42 PM

Frank Gehry May Lose Entire Atlantic Yards Project


While Frank Gehry was laying off his staff for the recently put on hold Atlantic Yards project, could he have foreseen that he himself might be leaving as well? Such is the rumored case as developer Bruce Ratner has started looking elsewhere for an architect, likely a less expensive one, to replace Gehry in creating the one part of the project still active: the new stadium for the Nets basketball team. Here's a bit of Ratner's people confirming the rumor by saying that it's not true:

"Frank Gehry has not been removed from the project," said Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Forest City. "We are continuing to speak with many arena experts and working hard to find ways to build a world class venue in an incredibly difficult economic environment."


Posted by eric at 4:38 PM

Sports Business Journal Twofer

This week's Sports Business Journal features a number of stories on the special challenges the severe economic downturn poses for stadium and arena projects. Here are two that feature Brooklyn's favorite mega-boondoggle.

Raising the stakes: Sports facility projects desperate for funding pitch their ideas as vital components for reviving a stalled economy

In the sports industry, where it is difficult even in prosperous times to garner public support for building arenas and stadiums, clubs at the big league level are now faced with trying to push their projects forward in a recession.

The sullen economy and tight credit markets have made it difficult for teams and municipalities to borrow money to fund projects, which in effect has everybody in the facilities industry searching for answers.

Sports projects still seeking public assistance are now trying to use the recession to their advantage, promoting their plans as a way to generate much-needed jobs.

Others continue to believe in the power of packaging arenas and stadiums with mixed-use development. However, New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner has been trying for five years to secure funding to start building his ambitious $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, N.Y., which would include a new arena for the team.

NoLandGrab: We can rest assured that executives of Forest City Ratner and their accomplices in New York City and State government are working feverishly to get their hands on more public money — while conveniently ignoring the relatively paltry number of jobs that would be created per dollar of public investment.

Sports projects play the waiting game: Financing, land acquisition, legal battles and voter opposition are just a few of the hurdles that have delayed the following sports construction projects

Guess which project heads the list? (Okay, they're listed alphabetically.)

Barclays Center
Proposed location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Announced: 2003
Projected opening: 2011
Projected cost: $950 million
Tenant: NBA Nets
Current home (built): Izod Center (1981)
Status: Nets owner Bruce Ratner first announced a $4 billion project in Brooklyn that included a $435 million arena to open in the summer of 2006. Construction has yet to begin due to problems with financing and neighborhood opposition. The arena’s price had ballooned to $950 million by March 2008, although team officials told SportsBusiness Journal in December that the venue is on track to open in 2011.

NLG: 2011? Wishing will not make it so.

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

Some common (and less-common) mistakes in Atlantic Yards coverage

Atlantic Yards Report

This is a MUST READ for REPORTERS covering Bruce Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" megaproject slated to be built over the VANDERBILT RAILYARDS PLUS about 13-14 ACRES of city streets and private property, in PROSPECT HEIGHTS, due to a STATE ZONING OVERRIDE, ACROSS THE STREET from where Walter O'Malley wanted to build a new ballpark for the Dodgers, which was scaled back ONLY AFTER the plans were made larger, etc.

Norman Oder compiled a list of eighteen mistakes repeatedly made in the mainstream media, some as late as last week.


NoLandGrab: Heck, even if you're not a reporter, you'll want to be familiar with this list, so you won't get fooled again.

Posted by lumi at 5:58 AM

Inquiry Highlights New Mexico’s Few Ethics Laws

The NY Times
By James C. McKinley Jr. and Michael Haederle

Forest City Enterprises makes a cameo in an article about New Mexico Governor Richardson's ties with campaign contributors, after he had "to forgo a cabinet post in the Obama administration."

One of the largest donors to Mr. Richardson has been Forest City Covington, a joint venture that is developing Mesa del Sol, a 12,900-acre tract of state-owned land just south of the Albuquerque airport.

From 2002 to 2007, Mr. Richardson’s two political action committees, his re-election campaign and his presidential campaign received more than $290,000 in cash and in-kind contributions from Forest City Covington and members of the families that control the company.


NoLandGrab: There's no mention that Atlantic Yards developer and NY Times developement partner Forest City Ratner is a wholly owned subsidiary of Forest City Covington partner, Forest City Enterprises. Maybe the relationship was deemed too circuitous to explain. Actually we're a little surprised that Forest City didn't get a pass in this case.

Atlantic Yards Report, In New Mexico, cloud over Gov. Richardson includes $290,000 from Forest City affiliates and representatives

Norman Oder notes that:

It wasn't like the press hadn't been pointing this out. On 4/10/07, the AP ran an article bluntly headlined Richardson Signs Bill Benefiting Donor. It began:

Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richardson received about $150,000 in gubernatorial campaign contributions the past two years from a developer that benefits from taxpayer-subsidized bonds authorized in legislation he signed last week.

Among its contributions, the developer, Forest City Covington, gave the New Mexico governor the use of a leased corporate airplane for three trips last year that were valued at $21,727, according to a review of lobbyist expenditure and campaign finance reports by The Associated Press.

Richardson's office said the company's political contributions didn't influence his decision to sign the bonding legislation. "The governor makes decisions based upon what is best for the state - period," said Jon Goldstein, a spokesman for Richardson.

The company emphasized that its campaign contributions complied with state election law. New Mexico allows unlimited contributions from corporations and other donors. Federal law, however, limits contributions to presidential campaigns.

"The only influence we desire is that of continued economic growth and development for New Mexico," Anne Monson, a spokeswoman for the development, said in a statement.

But Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics, said $150,000 was "a lot of money from one company to one politician."

NoLandGrab: Richardson's office claims that contributions from Forest City Enterprises didn't influence his decision? Now executives at Forest City must be thinking, "damn, we coulda saved a lot of money if the guy was gonna sign the bill anyway."

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Vanishing Point

Dope on the Slope shares some perspective on Bruce Ratner's stalled Atlantic Yards megaproject.


As in the vanishing chance that the Atlantic Yards project will even remotely resemble what was promised by Ratner and the local cheerleaders.

The only thing that isn't vanishing is the chance that the taxpayers of this state are still going to get screwed on this deal regardless of what, if anything, is actually delivered.

You gotta admire a guy who can finagle a bailout for a promise based on someone else's property and money.


Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Eminent Domain Is Density

Noticing New York

Michael D. D. White makes a point that has so far been overlooked in the conversation about the use of eminent domain for property transfer from one private owner to another in an urban environment... it inevitably leads to greater density and all of the attendant issues.

It does not seem to be an accident that density and the use of eminent domain coincide in the following examples of recent and proposed NYC development:

  1. The Bank of America Tower, the second tallest building in New York (6th Avenue and West 42nd Street. Year of completion 2009)


  1. The New York Times Tower, which is tied with Chrysler Building for third place as the third tallest building in New York (8th Avenue between West 41st Street and 40th Street. Year of completion 2007)

  2. The proposed 22-acre Atlantic Yards megadevelopment which, calculated on a per square mile basis, would be twice as dense as the densest census tract in the country. (Though the 22 contiguous acres of the megadevelopment should certainly be considered as a whole, the 22 acres do not constitute a single census tract since the span of acreage spans partakes in four different districts. See: Ratner Will Bring Us Closer Together, by Matthew Schuerman in the Observer, October 5, 2006. The project area unto itself is substantial: Though the project design involves discredited superblocking, its footprint could readily constitute 10 city blocks if it were better laid out.)

...Eminent domain is being used as the tool to shoehorn in density that would not be achievable under normal circumstances. The fact that these three examples are current era projects separated by only a few years bespeaks something of the new proclivity to use eminent domain to force private owners to transfer their property to other private owners. Often the transfers being forced involve the new, after-transfer owners making similar or identical use of the land as the original owners even though the original owners’ actual buildings might be torn down.


Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

Door slams shut on New York City’s property boom

Taipei Times

Bruce Ratner's struggling Atlantic Yards megaproject is the current celebrity spokesmodel for the flagging NYC construction industry and real estate market:

Manhattan has traditionally been a real estate fortress, protected from wider trends simply by the facts that so many people want to be here and space on the island is finite.

Not any longer.
Construction, one of the great New York industries, is also stuttering.

Reports suggest that at least US$4 billion worth of construction projects have been cancelled or delayed, among them a 16-storey tower and basketball arena project in the Atlantic Yards neighborhood.

“No one wants to take the risk of putting up a new building,” Harbert said.

The picture is similar in the residential market.


NoLandGrab: BTW, the "neighborhood" is "Prospect Heights" — "Atlantic Yards" is the name of the project.

Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

January 11, 2009

IZOD Center? How about we start calling it the U NOD OFF Center


NY Daily News

But instead of fighting each other, the team and its fans should point the finger at ownership and those executives who promised more than five years ago to relocate to Brooklyn but have so far managed only to move to a town called limbo.

Delay after delay, mostly due to legal issues, has continuously pushed back the start of construction of a proposed downtown Brooklyn arena that is supposed to be part of a larger development project, Atlantic Yards. However, spokespeople for team owner Bruce Ratner continue to say that the Nets will be playing in Brooklyn before the end of 2011.

And I'll be the Nets' starting center by then.


Atlantic Yards Report comments:

Indeed. Maybe he's done the math, too, or just stopped believing Nets CEO Brett Yormark.

Posted by amy at 10:57 AM

Sunday Comix


After this week, maybe Bruce can get that t-shirt Frank sent him back out...

Posted by amy at 10:53 AM

Marking the end of 'The Bilbao Decade'

The Boston Globe
Robert Campbell

The Bilbao Decade produced some wonderful buildings, but it was a time when the social purposes of architecture were sometimes lost. Architecture is supposed to be about making places for human habitation - rooms, streets, parks, cities - not merely skyline icons or beachfront palaces.

Just as one feels a page turning with the arrival of a new American president, so a page is turning, once again, in the history of architecture.


Posted by amy at 10:49 AM

Lupica Has "A Quick Question for Caring Bruce Ratner"


Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica continues his needling:

Quick question for Caring Bruce Ratner:

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

This comes after he wrote this, and this, and this, and this.


Posted by amy at 10:28 AM

Was the billion-dollar arena a feint? And why isn't Gehry talking?

Atlantic Yards Report

So, why did the cost of the Atlantic Yards arena escalate from $637.2 million in December 2006 to $950 million in March 2008?

Remember, last March, the $950 million figure appeared in the New York Times without explanation. The number, I wrote last December 2, just didn't compute, given that there was no similar announced escalation in the cost of the project as a whole.

Was it simply a consequence of rising construction costs and expensive Frank Gehry details aimed to sell suites and sponsorships? Was it part of an effort to gain even more tax-exempt bonds? Or was there a plan to announce an overambitious arena, with the intention of later cutting back?


Posted by amy at 10:25 AM

Atlantic Yards (Brooklyn Nets Arena) May Be 'Dead' According to Opponents

Fanhouse NBA

So what does this mean to the average NBA fan?

Well, considering the Nets were long expected to coincide the move to Brooklyn with the acquisition of LeBron James, and indeed use that as an incentive for James to build his empire in New York. With these questions plaguing the project, you have to wonder if the project will even get finished. If that's the case, landing James becomes very difficult, because if he does decide to leave Cleveland (which he may not, Cleveland fans. Rest assured, I think it's very likely he stays.), he's likely looking for a major market. And New Jersey is not nearly as attractive a location, as say, Madison Square Garden.


Posted by amy at 10:21 AM

Atlantic Yards Report - Two We Missed

Atlantic Yards Report

Was value-engineered arena driven by revenue analysis?

GumbyFresh, who notwithstanding the moniker is pretty well-situated to observe the financial markets, thinks the news of the value-engineered arena was driven by a cold hard look at the costs and revenues.

The New York Times's Charles Bagli, who appeared on the Brian Lehrer Show this morning, suggested it was a question of financing--a not dissimilar thing.

Brodsky, Brennan to hold hearing on Yankees' bond request a day before IDA hearing

The latest sports facility deals may have hit a bump in the road. Yes, the New York City Industrial Development Authority (IDA) has scheduled a hearing January 15 on $342 million in new tax-exempt bonds the New York Yankees and the New York Mets are requesting from the city, with a board meeting on approval the very next day.

Not so fast, say Assemblymembers Richard Brodsky and Jim Brennan, who chair the Committee on Cities and the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions respectively. They've scheduled a hearing January 14 "in the face of the refusal by the City to postpone a final decision until a full understanding of the law and the facts could be brought forward."

Posted by amy at 10:14 AM

January 10, 2009

AY "on last legs," as per James? Well, Crain's editorial director says "nothing's for certain," points to March decision date

Atlantic Yards Report

The headline summarizes it all as AYR asks why Greg David, Crain's New York Business Editorial Director, asserts that March is a deadline:

David continued, "Having said that, there are a series of legal challenges pending at the appellate courts in New York. If those challenges are not dismissed before March, the project will be in trouble. If they are dismissed in March, the project will have a chance to go ahead if it can be financed. A year ago, it could've been financed. Can it be financed today? I have no idea."

David didn't explain why March is the deadline. Parent company Forest City Enterprises has a loan on footprint property with Gramercy Capital due in February. Perhaps that can only be renegotiated with a short horizon in sight? And would attorney George Locker's assertion that new lawsuits would cause further delay affect that March deadline?

And what of David's comments about the "imaginative campaign" vs. traditional journalism?

Let's take a look at what David called "one of the most imaginative campaigns... that I've ever seen." Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has raised money for multiple lawsuits, helped stage rallies, and maintained a very active web site, blog, and mailing list. The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has coordinated a wider range of concerned groups, in responding to the environmental review.
What about AYR? I don't practice traditional journalism, given that this blog mixes reportage, analysis, and commentary, and I used to say I wasn't neutral. But neutrality can be code for "the mushy middle" and, with Atlantic Yards, it's important to analyze the facts.


Posted by amy at 2:06 PM

Atlantic Yards lite is on 'last legs' - foes


NY Daily News

Trimming Frank Gehry's design for the Nets arena at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards will help ensure it gets built, boosters said Friday- but critics say the scaleback is the plan's death knell.

"The project is definitely on its last legs, and the wicked witch is almost dead," Councilwoman Letitia James (WFP-Fort Greene) said after the Daily News reported that developer Bruce Ratner wants to hire "value engineering" firms to trim millions from Gehry's plans.
"Atlantic Yards will happen, with the arena and everything else, and Frank Gehry-inspired for sure, but it may mean that some of the bells and whistles may have to be deferred," Borough President Marty Markowitz said.

"It's prudent to cut costs if you have to cut costs. You do without some of the bells and whistles."


DDDB provided the excellent graphic as well as this commentary:

Are the Councilwoman's comments overstated? Perhaps slightly. Norman Oder thinks so as he gauges the various spins.

But not as overstated as Markowitz's, "Atlantic Yards will happen." How could he be so sure? There is no evidence he can point to to back up his claim. The evidence actually presents itself in favor of James over Markowitz. The developer doesn't have the land, doesn't have the money and doesn't even have the access to some of the money he needs to build his project. And wishful thinking by the BEEP won't get him these things.

Posted by amy at 1:59 PM

Funny story: in "Design by Deception," analysis of megaproject cost overruns, the hero is... Frank Gehry

Atlantic Yards Report

Gehry, in at least one account (but hardly all), is responsible for making sure projects come in on budget. Then again, if that applied to Atlantic Yards, then why did Gehry's Brooklyn arena balloon from $435 million to $637.2 million to $950 million? And why didn't developer Forest City Ratner let Gehry try to deliver the arena on budget instead of (apparently) letting the architect recede? Mysteries remain.

In Design by Deception: The Politics of Megaproject Approval, an article in the Spring/Summer 2005 issue of Harvard Design Magazine, Bent Flyvbjerg described how large construction projects, including public works, defense, and aerospace, around the world inevitably came in way over budget.

He wrote:
Which large projects get built? My research associates and I found it isn't necessarily the best ones, but instead those for which proponents best succeed in designing—deliberately or not—a fantasy world of underestimated costs, overestimated revenues, overvalued local development effects, and underestimated environmental impacts. Project approval in most cases depended on these factors....

Many project proponents don't hesitate to use this approach, even if it means misleading lawmakers, the public, and the media about the true costs and benefits of projects. This results is an inverted Darwinism—an unhealthy "survival of the unfittest"—for large public works and other construction projects.

His analysis sounds a lot like... Atlantic Yards


Posted by amy at 12:31 PM

Izod Center visitor: "fan experience... a joke"

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, it's interesting to see that I'm not the only one who finds the Izod Center a little too noisy/flashy and thinks there's a big discrepancy between announced attendance and actual gate count.

Boston Celtics fan Steve Weinman, a Long Islander who looks positively on a Brooklyn arena, wrote on the Celtics blog about attending the game Wednesday between the New Jersey Nets and the Memphis Grizzlies. The headline: Fan Experience At IZOD a Joke.

Some excerpts:
Forgetting the fact that the East Rutherford arena is located in the less-than-optimally-accessible Meadowlands complex, the experience inside is a mess... It's hard to imagine there were anywhere close to the reported 11,552 observers at the arena last night as 6,000 seemed a generous estimate... The possibility of being left to one's own thoughts during a break in the action is all but none. Until the game's final television timeout at the 2:14 mark in the fourth quarter, we were constantly bombarded with either the underwhelming Nets Dancers or some odd gimmicks that involved contestants engaging in any number of confusing behaviors,


Posted by amy at 11:59 AM

January 9, 2009

Complaint Dept.

Mark Lamster

The author and blogger cites Atlantic Yards in a world-record-setting bout of complaining.

The complaint has always been my great metier, the form in which I am a non-pareil master. Last night I became an honest-to-goodness world record holder in my favored idiom. At the behest of my friends with the Universal Record Database, I set the new standard for Most Complaints In 60 Seconds, a feat documented by numerous officials, and witnessed by New York’s daily digest of record. A video of the proceedings will soon be available, but I thought I’d provide a transcript, for your reading pleasure.

I’m tired. I’m hungry. My feet are cold. I’m damp. It’s too dark outside. It’s too dark in here. I left my hat at prêt a manger. I don’t have enough Facebook friends. My eyesight blows. A 5-year contract for AJ Burnett? I’m not rich enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not good looking enough. I don’t have enough work. I have too much work. It’s all underpaid. My book is overdue. My book is not good. Specifically, the footnotes are a disaster. I can’t figure out HTML. I’m a shitty typist. I hate fish. I hate broccoli. I have tempomandibular disorder. I hate it when I burn the roof of my mouth on hot tea. Who drinks tea anyway? Tea is for grandmas and pussies. I hate the gym. I hate the stairmaster at the gym. I hate the guy at the gym who runs on the stairmaster like a gerbil on a habitrail. Our culture sucks. I’m going to miss Top Chef tonight. This is a waste of time. What the fuck am I doing here? Isiah Thomas. Daniel Libeskind is a hack. The plans for Ground Zero suck. Atlantic Yards sucks....


Posted by eric at 10:24 PM

WNYC Twofer

Real Estate, Soured

Crain's NY Business editorial director and Atlantic Yards fan Greg David is a little less sanguine about the future of Forest City Ratner's megaproject.

NoLandGrab: What the hell is it with these pro-Atlantic Yards media outlets? While they never question any claims made by the developer or state development officials about the project's wonderful (alleged) benefits, they're quick to cast aspersions on the veracity of information put forth by project opponents.

"Of course they're not journalists, so they're not responsible for sticking to the facts?"

We beg to differ, sir, and we challenge Crain's — or the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, for that matter — to point out anything we've published that isn't true.

Budget Forces Changes to Nets Arena

Brooklyn's articulator-in-chief isn't sweating Bruce Ratner's economizing.

One of the biggest boosters of the planned basketball arena for the Nets says he's not worried about possible design changes to make it less expensive to build. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz says the arena at the Atlantic Yards will still resemble architect Frank Gehry's original design.

MARKOWITZ: There is some economies value engineering as they call it, which is a good thing because you shouldn't be wasting money on a design or services that are not relevant.

NoLandGrab: Huh? Just last May, Markowitz was quoted praising the genius of Gehry by the Brooklyn Paper:

“It’s been exciting to watch the Atlantic Yards project and Gehry’s designs evolve,” said Markowitz, who is not an architect. “With each new concept, we’ve seen creative possibilities for a thriving, gleaming city center like no other.”

The Gehry factor has been used from day one as a key selling point for the project, but now it's "not relevant?" Takes one to know one, we guess.

Posted by eric at 9:46 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere... (Where have you gone, Frank Gehry edition)


If the Nets ever relocate to Brooklyn, their new arena will likely be a scaled-down version of star architect Frank Gehry's much-touted design thanks to the dismal economy.

Nets Daily, Ratner May Scale Back Gehry-Designed Arena

Bloomberg News, Developer Ratner May Scale Back Plans for Nets Arena

The company declined a request to interview Ratner. A call to Gehry’s Los Angeles office wasn’t immediately returned.

Posted by eric at 1:06 PM

Bye-Bye Shiny Shiny

Gumby Fresh

Gumby, who only posts when he has something important to say, has spun out a must-read about the latest developments in the saga of the Atlantic Yards arena.

Can they save some money by ditching Frank Gehry's Shiny Materials? Maybe, but I'd like you to recall that the Yankees and even the Mets stadiums went over budget, and they were basically pastiches of every single other ballpark that's gone up in the past few years. Not that much Shiny there.

So here we are now, observing a rather complex game of three-dimensional chess with ugly buildings as pieces. Aesthetic considerations never really loomed large in the politicians' considerations, certainly nowhere near as much as money and jobs. It probably helped sell the project to the public, at least initially, but Ratner's always been comfortable in foisting ugly and unpopular buildings on Brooklyn when the money's right.

So let's assume that the final tab on the new uglier stadium hits $800 million. Is that what the bond market wants, is it what the politicians can support with a straight face, and will it change the dynamics of the project's legal challenges? Mr. Oder's reporting, and my hunches don't give me any grounds for optimism.


Posted by eric at 12:58 PM

Mr. Gehry is Getting 'Value Engineered' by Mr. Bruce


One might almost say that it was predictable. In financial markets that have dried up, how was Bruce Ratner going to get financing for a $950 million arena, the most expensive in the world? Now, we know the answer, he's firing Frank Gehry and building a $400 million arena. Well, not firing. He's "value engineering" Mr. Gehry's work and going to shave $500 million, give or take, and it will end up looking like the Atlantic Center Mall Prudential Center in Newark. Perhaps by the time it's done, Mr. Gehry will be dead of old age and won't have to see what was done to what would have been one of his master works. "We are continuing to speak with many arena experts and working hard to find ways to build a world class venue in an incredibly difficult economic environment," a Ratner spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.

Sorry they're going to value engineer your curves and glass into a concrete box, Frank. No truth to the rumor it will be called the Brooklyn Dollar Store Center.


Curbed also runs down the chatter on the mysterious vanishing of Frank Gehry from the Atlantic Yards disaster.

De-Frankification of Atlantic Yards React-O-Matic

So, who has what to say about the removal of value engineering of Frank Gehry from Atlantic Yards? There is some react.

NoLandGrab: Someone better put out an APB for Mr. Gehry.

Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

Gehry’s $1 Billion Work of Art to Be Turned Into $400M Crap Box

Gowanus Lounge

Regardless of whether you are for or against this project (and we oppose it), it would seem Brooklyn was promised an SL-Class Mercedes, but now, it turns out that a Ford Focus may be delivered. In some circles they call that “bait and switch.” This project has changed so radically that it behooves the state to start the entire review and approval process from scratch. We don’t expect that to happen because Gov. David Paterson has shown little interest in interfering with the malfeasance that allowed the project to be approved under the reign of the very questionable Charles Gargano at the Empire State Development Corp. Sadly, a neighborhood has already been destroyed, 1960s urban renewal-style, which only proves that planners and officials never REALLY learn lessons. It’s only the urban reporters and academics who watch this stuff for generations who truly understand the mistakes that are being made. Sadly, Atlantic Yards is turning out to be a bigger nightmare and more grotesque failure than anyone could ever have imagined. Now, the final kick in the rear end is that a borough that was promised a Harrod’s branch is going to get a Target instead. Gov. Paterson, if you have a shred of integrity, you will order a halt to this travesty and have everyone start the planning process from scratch.


NoLandGrab: Gowanus Lounge was spot-on in its prediction of Ratner's plan to dumb-down the arena. Could they be prescient in predicting the sale of the Nets to investors who would relocate the team — permanently — to Newark?

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

Developer Reportedly Looking To Scale Back Nets Arena

Vivian Lee reporting

The struggling economy could mean big changes for the proposed Nets basketball arena in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.


According to published reports, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner Developments is looking to scale back the $1 billion arena to make it less expensive to build.

The arena was designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and is the centerpiece of Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, which also includes apartment and office towers.

Representatives from longtime opponent to the project Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn say they have heard from sources that Gehry is definitely out as the architect.

"Frank Gehry is a world-famous architect and they had sold this as a world-class, state-of-the-art arena designed by him that would be an international tourist destination," said Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy. "I don't think the developer ever had the capability or the financial wherewithal to build such a facility."

"Now we're at the point where half of the neighborhood is demolished and they can't really build anything and they certainly can't build what they promised," continued Goldstein.

link [with video]

NoLandGrab: Is it just us, or is the media-loving Frank Gehry suddenly doing his best J.D. Salinger impersonation?

Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

Reports: Gehry still part of Forest City project

Crib Notes [Cleveland Plain Dealer blog]
by Michelle Jarboe

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are reporting that architect Frank Gehry is still part of Forest City Ratner's controversial and much-delayed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

Forest City Ratner, the New York arm of Forest City Enterprises Inc. of Cleveland, denied rumors that it had fired Gehry but said the developer is looking for less expensive ways to build an arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team. The $1 billion arena, designed by Gehry, is the centerpiece of the project.


NoLandGrab: Actually, the papers are reporting that Forest City Ratner is claiming that Gehry is still part of the project. Gehry hasn't responded to inquiries. In other news, Pinocchio is reportedly a real boy.

Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

Atlantic Yards: Is Pride Driving Ratner?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Editorial
by Raanan Geberer

Actually, we think it's another of the Seven Deadly Sins: Greed.

Although sketchy, and often from biased news sources, reports keep filtering in about Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project getting bogged down in problems with construction financing (stemming from the current recession) and lawsuits.

NoLandGrab: "Sketchy, and often from biased news sources?" You mean like the Eagle's frequent and dutiful reprinting of Forest City Ratner press releases?

Ratner admitted there were problems in a statement last year, although he insisted that the project would be built. Against this, though, you have the matter of the constantly changing deadline – at first, ground was supposed to be broken in 2006, then in 2008, now in 2009.

You also have the sketchy reports, although not confirmed, of Frank Gehry Architects laying off about 20-plus architects and other staffers who were working on Atlantic Yards. Forest City Ratner declined to comment on these reports.

The reports are only "sketchy" because neither Ratner nor Gehry will provide direct and honest answers to inquiries.

This leads one to ask: Is Bruce Ratner’s desire to be acknowledged as a great developer and leader the main force in stubbornly keeping this project on the table?

If Bruce Ratner doesn’t have the resources to complete the giant Atlantic Yards project, he should have the courage to either downsize it — limiting it to the arena and a few other buildings of lesser height than previously envisioned — or sell the land to other developers.


NLG: If being a "biased news source" means questioning the propriety of tossing a billion-plus dollars of public money at a giant eminent domain-abusing boondoggle, then we'll proudly wear that moniker.

As for the Eagle's call for Ratner to "courageously" limit the project to an arena and a few buildings, that's precisely what most critics of the project don't want. Ratner's Atlantic Yards was deceptively sold as an affordable-housing, job-creating project characterized by world-class design. The arena is the main traffic generator and neighborhood disrupter, and the worst part of the whole scheme. And now the Eagle is being complicit in the bait-and-switch.

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

Shifting sands at Atlantic Yards

AtlanticLotsCrop.jpg It seems that every few weeks, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has to do pr damage control, as the sands shift under the immense taxpayer-funded boondoggle-slash-largest single-source private development project in NYC history.

In December, the developer insisted that the project was still going forward, even though work had stopped. Now Ratner's pr henchmen are trying to convince reporters that Frank Gehry is still on the project, even though Gehry dismantled the project team just before Thanksgiving.

This morning, Norman Oder references "Atlantic Lots," created by the Municipal Art Society to warn New Yorkers and politicians of the likely future for the project. The most recent news indicates that we are already heading in that direction.

Here are today's headlines:

NY Daily News, Brooklyn Nets Arena cutbacks? Bruce Ratner scales back plans; Star architect Frank Gehry may go

Forest City Ratner has brought in "value engineering" companies to review architect Frank Gehry's blueprints to save money and keep the project afloat amid a cash crunch that has stopped all work at the site, sources said.

A Forest City Ratner spokesman denied rumors that Gehry had been axed.

"Frank Gehry has not been removed from the project," spokesman Joe DePlasco said.

NoLandGrab: "Value engineering" company is code for "less expensive architect." "Gehry has not been removed from the project" sounds like doublespeak for "we didn't quit Gehry, Gehry quit us."

Sources said Ratner is "looking to value engineers to do the arena less expensively and get that dollar amount down...They are looking at the arena from inside-out and upside-down to see how to bring the arena to life less expensively."

Cutting costs could include using less expensive materials, a different configuration or bringing in a different architect to do the project more cheaply, a source said.

"The question is how to deliver the arena that meets the specs and do so in a way that isn't going to cost a billion bucks," the source said.

NLG: Let's pause for a reality check. No arena has EVER been built for the tune of a BILLION DOLLARS. Bruce Ratner has NEVER demonstrated how he was going to defy established pro-sports economics to make it work in the first place. Ratner gets to use the credit crisis as cover for what was inevitable — figuring out how to drive the cost down (or the subsidies up) regardless of the economic climate.

The Wall St. Journal, Developer May Scale Back Plan for Nets' Brooklyn Arena

The Journal hints at the point we just made:

The price tag of other recently developed arenas has been much lower than Mr. Gehry's design. For example, The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, home of the National Hockey League's Devils, cost about $400 million. It opened in 2007.

The business journal also checked in with the ESDC:

A spokesman for New York's Empire State Development Corp., the site manager for the project, said it had little control over the ultimate design of the arena.

"The aesthetic choices are Forest City Ratner's," said Warner Johnston, the ESDC spokesman.

DDDB.net, Who is in Control? ESDC Says They Are Not

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn makes a point about the ESDC's comments to the Journal:

The ESDC actually has control over nearly every aspect of the project; whether it chooses to use its control, rather than leave the steering wheel in the hands of the reckless driving Ratner, is another story.

For now, it seems, they are willing to enable yet another Ratner bait-and-switch: we'll sell you on a Frank Gehry design but won't build you one.

The NY Times, Atlantic Yards Developer Denies Removing Architect

Charles V. Bagli, the lead real estate reporter at the Times, is keeping tabs on the latest developments in the paper's NYC blog.

amNY, More trouble for Atlantic Yards?

Newsday's commuter daily merely cites the Times's blog coverage.

Atlantic Yards Report, As FCR scales back arena cost, Gehry's role recedes; ESDC, which once touted architect, says developer controls aesthetics

Norman Oder wraps up the coverage with some analysis and gives props to Bob Guskind from Gowanus Lounge:

The Gowanus Lounge's Bob Guskind on December 31 was prescient (and I wasn't):

Our prediction: Developer Bruce Ratner will have difficulty obtaining financing for a nearly $1 billion Gehry arena and the arena will either be scraped [sic] or a new version from an off-the-rack firm for $500 million will be built.

Would the arena look more like the Atlantic Lots design produced by the Municipal Art Society than Gehry's latest design? Or would it just look more ordinary, like the Prudential Center in Newark, which cost under $400 million, and is increasingly being suggested as an alternative?

There's another reason behind the "value engineering," I surmise. There's just no way the land underneath the arena could be valued high enough for the foregone taxes to be sufficient to match the PILOTs, or payments in lieu of taxes, needed to pay off a $950 million arena.

Will valuations have to be "jacked up," as with Yankee Stadium, to pay off a $500 million arena? Stay tuned.

Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

A Letter to the Editor of the Newark Star-Ledger

Atlantic Yards Report

The Star-Ledger prints a letter to the editor from Norman Oder, which sets down the more modest facts of Norman Oder's initial encounter with Brett Yormark, who at the time was boning up on Brooklyn to try to impress then-prospective employer Bruce Ratner:

The article claims that Yormark "hired a tour guide for a fairly large sum." Yormark's memory is faulty. The sum was about $100 and we spent less than two hours; he didn't have the time to get out of his vehicle, for example, to see Prospect Park.

At that time, the Atlantic Yards project had not gone through any public evaluation, and I knew relatively little about it. Yormark's certainty that the project would be officially approved helped provoke me into later launching a watchdog blog about it.


NoLandGrab: What we love about Brett Yormark is that the guy is larger than life: he hired Norman Oder for "9-10 hours," he works 18-hour days, etc. We'll grant Yormark true superhero status when he can rub two of Ratner's dimes together to make twenty cents.

Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

Builder: This ‘Domino’ won’t fall

Th Brooklyn Paper
By Ben Muessig

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena and highrise megaproject is now the official totally floundering, ill-conceived, way-too-expensive poster project:

The developer behind Brooklyn’s second biggest construction project says that he’s doing fine — even though his foes are hoping that the softening economy will do to his oversized project what it did to Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

January 8, 2009

Atlantic Yards

City of strangers

A former resident of Prospect Heights, back for a visit, ponders the future of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Staying just down from the Brooklyn Museum and up from the proposed development around the Atlantic Yards. For those of you not in the know, the Atlantic Yards is an attempt to bring a section of Manhattan to downtown Brooklyn, running through the heart of my old Brooklyn neighborhoods, Downtown (or lower Prospect Heights in the current real estate vernacular) and Fort Greene. Included would be some dozen or so hi-rises, supposedly mixed commercial, low and medium income, and ‘luxury’ condominiums and a basketball stadium for the brought-back-to-Brooklyn Brooklyn Nets, designed by Frank Gehry.

If the Atlantic Yards is still happening, they haven’t gotten too far. Mostly the developers have demolished a couple of warehouses in the surrounding area, and blown up half the bridge which connected Carlton street east of the LIRR tracks to Carlton west of the LIRR tracks. The LIRR trains still sit humming at the end of those tracks, servicing the butt-ugly Atlantic Station which connects to the even more butt-ugly Atlantic Centre big box mall behind it. The LIRR station is still sectioned off with ugly wooden hoardings, both inside and out, as it has been since I first arrived here fifteen years ago.

Bruce Ratner, the man behind the Atlantic Yards, is responsible for both station and mall, and this doesn’t bode well, since the mall has to be one of the worst shopping experiences this correspondent has ever been on.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

Power train


ESPN The Magazine writer and blogger Luke Cyphers had his ears open on the train to Albany on Tuesday.

Went to Manhattan yesterday, and on the way back this morning was on an Amtrak car to Albany with what seemed like every small-time pol and appointee from Gotham. They were headed north to hear Gov. Paterson's state of the state speech. (He failed to mention rail, except for lip service for the MTA.)

What did the small-time pols talk about? New York development deals--Atlantic Basin, Atlantic Yards (and the what's-JayZ-smokin' Brooklyn Nets), Coney Island's stalled Xanadu, something on Staten Island, Mayor Bloomberg's now-dead Yankees suite--and whining about how the budgets for their small-time offices are being cut. (Did you know borough presidents still have 50-plus-member staffs?)

In other words, they don't seem to realize the world has changed.


NoLandGrab: Damn! Hadn't thought of that. For the price of a train ticket, a pair of dark sunglasses and a cheap wig, one might be able to get the lowdown on the future of Atlantic Yards, since as far as we can tell, those two words have yet to pass the lips, in that order, of Governor Paterson.

Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

Brooklyn's Borough Prez Honors Notorious B.I.G.

by Darren Ressler

No, we're not talking Bruce's Idiotic Gambit, but the late hip-hop artist. Atlantic Yards does get a mention, for context.

For once he's doing the right thing. Many of us who live in NYC's best borough (that's Brooklyn, in case you didn't know) have been forced to endure life under double-chinned, perennially dieting Borough President Marty Markowitz. While I could ramble on about how I disagree with Markowitz's bizarre vision for Brooklyn, support of the doomed Atlantic Yards project and chastise him for his strange, sometimes embarrassing remarks (when asked by a reporter about the closure of beloved 100+ year old restaurant Gage & Tollner, Marty quipped: "Maybe it wasn't so beloved!"), tomorrow night Marko will present a proclamation to the family of Brooklynite Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls and The Notorious B.I.G., at a special Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) screening of the new biopic Notorious.


Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

Was the Izod Center 57.8% full last night?

Atlantic Yards Report

NBA attendance watchdog Norman Oder thinks that all 11,552 ticketholders for last night's Nets-Grizzlies game failed to show, and judging by the photographic evidence, we think he may be on to something.

The New Jersey Nets won their third straight home game last night, a notable change; the officially announced attendance at the Izod Center was 11,552, or 57.8% of the 19,968 capacity. This photo, however, suggests a much lower percentage.

(Note that all dunks by the Memphis Grizzlies' Rudy Gay, according to the play by play, occurred during the second and third quarters, except for one near the end of the game, when he was fouled by Yi Jianlian, who is not evident in this photo.)


Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

Latest from FCR's foundation: $100K+ to Markowitz series, BAM, Brooklyn Museum, Polytechnic (+ $1M for WTC memorial)

Atlantic Yards Report

A review of Forest City Ratner Companies Foundation's filing to the IRS shows how goodies are distributed to groups that are friendly with the developer. Recipients include Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Museum, the BAM LDC, and the Polytechnic University

There's some new money for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, but the most dramatic thing about the latest Internal Revenue Service filing from the Forest City Ratner Companies Foundation--which last April I called shadowy because of its lack of transparency--is that the total dispensed during tax year 2007, $1.89 million, exceeds the aggregate given out during the three previous years.


Corporate generosity, in this case, serves to bolster ties with charitable and nonprofit organizations in Brooklyn that, not coincidentally, can reciprocate support for FCR endeavors. For some other charities, such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital, the motivation may be simpler; Bruce Ratner's on the board.

The foundation's activities are often under the radar. Its officers, as I described, are FCR executives and employees; there's no web site for grant-seekers to use, nor listed criteria for grants, nor publicly announced call for contributions. The phone number is the FCR switchboard. Nor is the list of donees described in as much detail (address, purpose) as in the IRS reports from other foundations.

Read the rest to see who got what and what the benefit of such giving is for Forest City Ratner.


Posted by steve at 5:49 AM

Today's Andrew Zimbalist quiz

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's a quick visit with Andrew Zimbalist, author of the deeply-flawed 2004 report, Estimated Fiscal Impact of the Atlantic Yards Project on the New York City and New York State Treasuries, which was commissioned by Forest City Ratner.

So, about what situation did the oft-quoted sports economist Andrew Zimbalist declare, "The notion that the stated pretext has anything to do with the reality is absurd"?

A. The estimate that the Atlantic Yards arena would host 225 events a year, assuming that the arena in the Meadowlands would close and no arena would be built in Newark.

B. The claim that, absent tax-exempt bonds, the Yankees, aka "Bronx Bombers," would have been forced to leave the city and state of New York.

C. The idea that simply building market-rate housing for a project like Atlantic Yards boosts local tax revenues.

D. That tax-exemptions claimed by sponsors of college bowl games to entice public funds would boost "climatic, recreational, commercial, agricultural, social, educational and economic interests."

E. The notion that "Forest City Ratner was simply taking advantage" of existing tax exemptions rather than additional government subsidies and special benefits in the Atlantic Yards plan.

Answer: D

Bonus: Zimbalist himself is responsible for A, C, and E.


Posted by steve at 5:30 AM

Builder: This ‘Domino’ won’t fall

The Brooklyn Paper
By Ben Muessig

Buried inside this article about how the current financial crisis may affect the conversion of Williamsburg’s Domino Sugar refinery into housing is a comment by Assemblyman Joe Lentol about Domino that includes Atlantic Yards.

Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Williamsburg), who has long called for reducing the height of the skyscraping towers, said that beleaguered banks likely won’t lend to developers — and builders might need to turn to the community for support.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we can use this as an opportunity to negotiate the size of the project,” said Lentol. “Just as Atlantic Yards may be scaled down, Domino’s dreams for a large project may be scaled down too.”

Lentol has never opposed the proposed Atlantic Yards project. If anything changes about the project, it will not be due to any effort on his part.


Posted by steve at 5:25 AM

January 7, 2009

Markowitz Supports Reopening the Jail and Adding Retail

Gowanus Lounge

Atlantic Yards makes a cameo in GL's report on the Borough President's support for the re-opening of the Brooklyn House of Detention. And yes, the Beep apparently really did say that "Brooklyn families have a right to expect reasonable commuting to visit detained relatives as opposed to the extreme burden of traveling to Rikers Island.”

And we can reassure everyone that Mr. Markowitz has not suggested a Frank Gehry-designed prison at Atlantic Yards should Bruce Ratner cut bait and run, leaving the Beepster twisting in the wind of one of New York’s most historically disastrous failed megaprojects.


NoLandGrab: Stranger things have happened, at least in Springfield, where the Frank Gehry-designed Cultural Center quickly became The Montgomery Burns State Prison (highlights below).

Posted by eric at 1:42 PM

David Lies Some More

The Flying Guillotine

Atlantic Yards Report scores an honorable mention in this blog post, which makes it clear that fudging attendance figures goes well beyond Brett Yormark and the New Jersey Nets — it appears to permeate the entire NBA.

Check out this recent post about the same issue regarding the New Jersey Nets and their attendance lies from Atlantic Yards Report. They claim there that you should subtract 25% of the announced attendance and that is the actual amount of people that are there. Maybe in the past but this year that seems a bit generous.

This type of stuff has been going on with the NBA for years (and other sports leagues, MLS I’m looking at you) and hurts their overall credibility which in turn hurts their ever dwindling fan base. For a league that has decided to live and die on the casual fan this is tantamount to suicide. David Stern should take the brunt of the blame. He has spun and lied about just every critical topic involving the NBA over the last 10 years (where is the transparency about referees?). He has done nothing but bring the leagues visibility down (leaving big markets Vancouver, Seattle for much smaller markets, taking short term money gains to move to cable while reducing overall network TV exposure) while refusing to face the problem that their live event product is substandard to that of other sports on a per $/per ticket basis. He has lost all credibility and when David Stern loses credibility the league loses credibility.


Posted by eric at 12:51 PM


by Stephen Witt

Steve Witt gets the call-up to the big club, and gets to interview two Nets dancers, to boot. Eat your heart out, Dennis Holt!

The Nets’ move to Brooklyn in the proposed Barclays Center arena may be stalled due to ongoing litigation and a crumbling economy, but two of the team’s star dancers have already made the move to the Borough of Kings.

Jerese Kimbough, 26, originally from outside Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Allison Barnes, 22, originally from Birmingham, Alabama have both decided to call Brooklyn their home since moving to the area and successfully auditioning to become part of the dance troupe, which entertains fans during time-outs at all Nets home games.

Unsurprisingly, the ladies think the Nets would be a boon to Brooklyn (not to mention their commutes).

Kimbough also supports the team’s move to Brooklyn, saying it will be good for the borough to have a team of its own.

“Hopefully it will provide more jobs in the community as well and more activity in general,” she said.

Barnes, who moved to the area just six months ago and lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, said she thinks the team coming to Brooklyn will offer a major boost to the borough.

“It will be a great opportunity for Brooklyn fans to have a team of their own to look up to,” said Barnes. “Kids get a chance to see something positive and have an opportunity to go to local games and see how we do it. The family that lives below me asks all the time about when the Nets are coming to Brooklyn, and they’re real excited about the move.”


More coverage...

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Update: Two Nets Dancers Move to BK

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

News Round-up: Evil Empire Edition

We're having a hard time deciding if the Evil Empire is the one in Yankee Stadium or the one in City Hall (probably both), but there's plenty of news today about how they're once again teaming up to stick it to the taxpayers.

It's not every day that we can say that the voluminous Norman Oder has posted a digest version of the news, but in this case, he's summarized the key stories, which are also linked in their entirety below.

Atlantic Yards Report, Documents emerge about stadium subsidies; mayoral candidates shy away from criticism

The big news in today's papers is that, as the New York Times reports, in an article headlined City Gives Up Its Stadium Suite in Exchange for Cash: After intense criticism, the Bloomberg administration has given up a perk it worked fervently to secure: a free luxury suite at the new Yankee Stadium.

But lower down in the article there's a hint at the larger story:
“Does the Bloomberg administration really think that giving up a suite at Yankee Stadium is going to soften the blow that this project has had on city taxpayers?” said Bettina Damiani, director of Good Jobs New York....

Indeed, though Rep. Anthony Weiner, a stated mayoral candidate, criticizes the suite deal in the Times, Tom Robbins in the Village Voice points out that both Weiner and Comptroller William Thompson, a fellow candidate, are unwilling to criticize the larger question of taxpayer funds supporting the stadium via tax-exempt bonds.

If they're unwilling to raise that issue, it's unlikely they'd look closely at a similar funding scheme for the planned Atlantic Yards arena. The main critic of the stadium deals is Assemblyman Richard Brodsky.

The Village Voice, Mayor Mike and the Yanks: How Suite It Is

Tom Robbins's story, sub-headed City Hall gift-wraps another present for baseball's richest team, is a must-read for those of you interested in what a colossal screwing of the public looks like.

The 2009 mayoral campaign begins this month when the richest sports franchise in America puts its hand out for one more bailout. The New York Yankees—strike that—Yankee Global Enterprises LLC, the mega-corporation that controls all things Yankee, has already received $942 million in triple tax-free bonds courtesy of the Bloomberg regime to build its fabulous new stadium on city land where a wonderful tree-shaded park once stood near the Harlem River.

The mayor's people are spending most of their time these days ordering the closing of day-care centers and firehouses, insisting that the terrible economic situation dictates no other course. But on January 16, Bloomberg's team will pause from these chores to order its representatives on the city's Industrial Development Agency to approve another $370 million in tax-free bonds to finish the stadium project. According to the city's Independent Budget Office, this new round of financing will cost taxpayers roughly $48.5 million in foregone revenues. This is on top of the $181 million the team saved by having the taxes excused on its first round of financing.

The New York Times, City Trades Its Yankee Stadium Suite for Cash

Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky appears to be the only politician in the entire state willing to raise questions about the propriety of spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of public dollars on new ballparks.

Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, who had sought details about the deals the city was making, described the city’s about-face over its use of the suites as “a terrible embarrassment.”

“The taxpayers who are paying for the construction of Yankee Stadium cannot afford to buy tickets for the games, but the mayor was getting a luxury box, so he had to back off,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

“But the reason he backed off,” Mr. Brodsky speculated, “is because next week, the city is going to give the Yankees more taxpayer money.”

On Jan. 15, the Industrial Development Agency will hold a hearing over a recent request by the Yankees and the Mets for about $400 million in municipal bonds and other money to pay for the final construction stages at their stadiums. In 2006, both teams received about $1.5 billion in bonds and subsidies to help them build the ball parks.

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog], City Releases 116-Page Obfuscation of Stadium Deals

Neil deMause tries to peer through the NYC Industrial Development Agency's smokescreen.

Amid today's hoopla over the Bloomberg administration's decision to give back its free luxury boxes at the Mets' and Yanks' new stadiums - about which it's probably best said that the city decided that partying it up in a suite while the great unwashed paid through the nose for tickets didn't look so hot, so instead chose to take the value on a gift certificate - there was another development in New York's ongoing baseball stadium melodrama. This afternoon, the city Industrial Development Agency also released its cost-benefit documents for the $342 million in new tax-exempt bonds the teams are requesting from the city, in advance of a public hearing on January 15 to decide the bonds' fate.

Covering 116 pages, the paperwork -- released at 5:49 pm, the traditional time to dump documents on an unsuspecting press corps, knowing that few will have time to read them let alone track anyone down for comment -- goes into mind-numbing detail on just what gewgaws the teams would be using the money for: For the Yanks, such items as $38,608,134 for "Counter Terrorism Structure Hardening" and $4,750.000 for "Perforated Metal Mesh Panels Upgrades"; for the Mets, "Structural hardening and upgrade perimeter security" and "Modification of office and rotunda flooring material" (no price breakdowns provided).

Newsday, Bloomberg backs off ballpark suite deals for city

"Other cities get boxes and through our negotiations we made sure New York got no less, but we've decided to take the value in cash payments to return it to the community," said mayor's spokesman Andrew Brent.

NoLandGrab: In this case, "New York" = "the Mayor and his chief lackeys." The Bloomberg administration's magnanimity appears to know no bounds.

Metro NY, City drops luxe box at Yankee Stadium

The city is giving up the perk just one week before it decides whether to give hundreds of millions more in tax-free financing to both teams during a budget crisis.

Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

Brett Yormark, remixed: Nets CEO's shifting predictions on arena opening date

Atlantic Yards Report

BrettYormarkDream.jpgIf you ever wanted to know what Norman Oder does for fun, check out his fantasy interview with Nets CEO Brett Yormark:

A good salesman always sounds convincing, even if underlying facts change the spiel, and New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark is at the top of the game.

In three radio or TV interviews over less than 15 months, Yormark offered unwavering predictions about the opening date of the Atlantic Yards arena (aka Barclays Center) in Brooklyn. First, he said 2009, then 2010, then 2011.

Just take a listen to this one-minute audio file. I’ve interpolated my own questions into the remix, but the original quotes come from the interviews transcribed below.


Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Forest City Enterprises stock rises 28.25%

FCEA-090106.gifAtlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder continues the stockwatch of Atlantic Yards overdeveloper Forest City Enterprises:

Yesterday, the stock rose $1.87 to $8.49, a 28.25% rise. Four other firms in the property management sector rose (nearly) 15% or more.

Forest City stock began to rise after noon. Perhaps not coincidentally, the developer issued a press release stating that the Forest City-New East Baltimore Partnership had a new tenant at the Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins: the Brain Sciences Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

But a deal to occupy 25,000 square feet of office space isn't enough to move the market that much. Perhaps some institutional investors were making decisions.


Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

FIPS UNDERCOVER: Target, Atlantic Center Mall [The Seventh Level of Hell]

FIPS posted undercover footage of empty aisles at the Target in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal Mall*.

This is part one of our four part series in which we attempt to uncover, once and for all, why the hell Target at the Atlantic Center Mall sucks a big dick.

We double dawg dare you to try to conjure up a more poorly run, haphazardly stocked, woefully understaffed shit show of a retail establishment...a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e.


*FIPS was so deeply undercover that they misidentified Target's location. It's in the Atlantic Terminal mall, not the Atlantic Center.

NoLandGrab: Actually, back in the day, we can remember bodegas in the Lower East Side that never seemed to have anything on the shelves, save one or two small boxes of laundry detergent. Never could tell how they stayed in business.

Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

January 6, 2009

Will December 19, 2009 be the decision date for Atlantic Yards? It depends on "reasonable steps"

Atlantic Yards Report

A reader reminds me that I didn't read all the fine print before posting today on the future of Atlantic Yards in 2009. After all, a state document sets up December 19, 2009 as a decision date--but maybe not a final one.

Target: December 19

The State Funding Agreement, as I wrote last March, sets up an "Effective Date," defined as when litigation... shall have been sufficiently concluded so as to permit such financing and construction to proceed.... [and] ESDC has acquired and delivered vacant possession of the Project Site.

That could take a while, especially if George Locker's timetable moves litigation into 2010.

If the Effective Date does not occur prior to December 19, 2009 and Forest City Ratner fails to pursue or cooperate in the site litigation or take "reasonable steps, (including advancing design work and other predevelopment activities)" in furtherance of the project, it "will be deemed abandoned," and the ESDC will get its money back.

Is that likely? I'm not so sure.


Posted by eric at 7:02 PM

BROOKLYN AT EYE LEVEL To Be Made Into A Full-Length Play


The Civilians (Steven Cosson, Artistic Director) the award-winning New York-based theater company, have announced that they will commission a full-length play from their newest project, Brooklyn at Eye Level, following a successful series of initial performances. The show played to capacity crowds December 4 - 7 at The Brooklyn Lyceum and was embraced by the entire community as an important contribution to the often contentious debate surrounding the Atlantic Yards development.

Brooklyn at Eye Level is the culmination of a long-term investigation of development in Brooklyn and its effect on neighborhood and community. This lively presentation of theater, dance and music took its inspiration from interviews with the real life players in the story of Brooklyn: residents both old and new, community activists, developers and politicos, among many others. Representatives from both sides of the Atlantic Yards battle attended the performances, many of them returning for repeat viewings, including BUILD, Develop Don't Destroy, Fifth Avenue Committee, Pratt Institute, Pratt Center for Community Development, Park Slope Civic Council.

Civilians Artistic Director Steven Cosson commented, "The community response to Brooklyn at Eye Level has been nothing short of amazing. We were so fortunate to be able to present the culmination of this initial phase in the heart of Brooklyn, so close to the footprint of this very important civic debate. We look forward to going further with this project and commissioning a full-length work inspired by the material. We will also continue to work with our supporting organizations to develop content for radio, television, online programming and other media formats."


Posted by eric at 2:38 PM


Weeks beginning January 5, 2009 and January 12, 2009

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.

NoLandGrab: As far as we know, no actual demolition is transpiring at 800 Pacific, which is the last remaining piece of the Ward Bakery. But what about the Carlton Avenue bridge? The ESDC and elected officials remain silent on this debacle, which has cut off easy travel between Prospect Heights and Fort Greene, creating hardship for pedestrians and hampering emergency response. We suggest that New York State apply for federal stimulus funds to rebuild what Forest City Ratner has destroyed, and then bill FCR for the full cost.

Posted by eric at 1:36 PM

Besides major lawsuits, other expected litigation could delay arena construction

Atlantic Yards Report

Attorney George Locker isn't finished suing to block the Atlantic Yards project, and those pending and potential lawsuits could delay arena construction by two more years.

Besides pending major lawsuits over eminent domain and the Atlantic Yards environmental review, which may be resolved this year, other expected litigation may delay the start of arena construction, perhaps into 2010 or 2011. That means the best-case arena opening date could be 2012 (as I’ve already argued), or 2013, rather than the announced 2011.

That estimate comes from attorney George Locker, who represents tenants in two Atlantic Yards arena block footprint buildings. Without an assessment by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) or independent authorities, I can’t be sure if the timetable estimate is solid, but it should certainly be part of the conversation.


Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

WINTER IN AMERICA...how construction workers should respond to the meltdown

A call for construction workers to unite with tenants, and the rest of the working class

by Gregory A. Butler

Union carpenter/writer Gregory Butler calls upon workers in the building trades to resist a push by contractors for deep wage-and-benefit concessions, and presents a novel affordable-housing plan.

In New York City, we have an easy answer before us – all those abandoned buildings stopped in mid build because the banks cut off the developer’s credit line!

We should demand that the City of New York use eminent domain to seize those abandoned buildings, use public funds to finish building them and turn them over to the New York City Housing Authority to serve as low income housing.

Suddenly dropping thousands of low income units into the housing market will serve to pull down overall rents, opening up housing opportunities for the middle income population.

What about Atlantic Yards, which is pledged to use union labor?

One thing we should absolutely NOT do anymore is to totally subordinate ourselves and our unions to the contractors, the developers and their trade associations.

Louis Colletti is not our friend – neither is Donald Trump – or Larry Silverstein – or Steve Ross – or Bruce Ratner – or any of the other developers… they are our class enemies, the people we have to struggle against to get what we need, both narrowly as construction workers and more broadly as part of the working class.

We and our unions need to stop being shills for their narrow commercial interests and their taxpayer subsidized megadevelopments!


Atlantic Yards Report, Militant union carpenter: unions shouldn't compromise with contractors or support Atlantic Yards

Norman Oder provides some context, and cites some of Butler's earlier writings.

Butler wrote critically in September 2008 about a lack of union militancy:
Although New York developers, building owners, not for profit community groups and governmental entities continued to increase their use of non union contractors over the next decade - and as wages and working conditions sharply deteriorated for those non union tradespeople, the unions made very sparing use of their members power on the jobsites.

For instance, only 2 union rallies were held in all of Brooklyn (New York City’s most populous borough) during this decaded - and one of them - the larger of the two events - was to support developer Bruce Ratner’s deeply unpopular Atlantic Yards luxury housing/office building/New York Nets basketball arena project in Prospect Heights.

Later, he added:
The general response of the Building Trades has been to tag along behind the bosses - symbolized in New York by all the rallies that have been held to promote unpopular megadevelopment plans - like the Johnson family’s Hudson Yards Stadium for the Jets on the West Side of Manhattan or the Atlantic Yards stadium/office building/luxury hirise development that billionare developer Bruce Ratner and centimillionare music producer Jay-Z want to build in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

"I don’t know... how long we could delay": A look forward at Atlantic Yards in 2009

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder surveys the landscape of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject for the coming year and handicaps the chances that the project, or at least the arena, ever gets built.

Click here to find out what's in store for: the legal cases, stalled construction, the still-in-New Jersey Nets, bond financing, affordable housing subsidies, the political supporters, Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs), and how much more self-inflicted abuse one cash-strapped development company can take.

Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

Forest City in the News

Here are some bits of non-Atlantic Yards-related news concerning developer Forest City Enterprises:

GlobeSt.com, Demolition Underway for $108M Presidio Project

SAN FRANCISCO-Forest City Enterprises is spending the next few months tearing down the non-historic “wings” of a former hospital complex here as it prepares to renovate its historic core and add space en route to a 161-unit rental community. The former Public Health Service Hospital is located at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge within the Presidio, a sprawling former army base that has been under redevelopment for more than a decade.

Forest City landed $67.5 million in construction financing for the estimated $108-million project in November, 18 months after it signed the related development agreement with the Presidio Trust. The demolition, which began in December, will take four months to complete. Completion of the renovation and new construction is slated for late 2010. Forest City hopes to achieve LEED-Gold certification for the project from the US Green Building Council.

Cleveland.com (Plain Dealer), Analysis: Frank Jackson's influence on medical mart in doubt
Cleveland's Medical Mart project is still limping along, as a final decision for the site location has yet to be determined. This has got to be driving cash-strapped Forest City Enterprises executives crazy, since one of the sites is owned by the development company:

Commissioners will decide on a site for the complex after MMPI presents them with an analysis of two possible locations: Tower City and the current Cleveland Convention Center. They had wanted to pick a site by Jan. 15. The latest delay will push the decision to mid-February.

A spokesman for Forest City Enterprises last week said he was hopeful [Mayor] Jackson's involvement would move things along. The company owns Tower City and has been frustrated with the project's stagnation.

Conntact.com, It's Winstanley's Town; We Just Live in It

In addition, Forest City Enterprises, a $10 billion publicly-traded real estate company headquartered in Cleveland, is negotiating with the Science Park Development Corp. to convert the old gun factory, known as Tract A, into a mixed-used residential and commercial development.

Posted by lumi at 4:50 AM

The Year in Review by the Daily Bulletin

The top legal, judicial and courthouse news stories of 2008

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Ryan Thompson

For you legal eagles, we've excerpted the Atlantic Yards courtside action from the Brooklyn Eagle's year in review:

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

• Another Atlantic Yards lawsuit is dismissed.

• Atlantic Yards opponents file another lawsuit, claiming the project is delayed too long. New York Court of Appeals refuses to hear one of the Atlantic Yards lawsuits.

• Atlantic Yards cases and appeals continue.

Not very informative, we agree. Since we pretty much have no freakin' idea what the Eagle was trying to say, we had to look up these excerpts in Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report year in review:


State Court Justice Joan Madden takes eight months to rule against a community challenge to the Atlantic Yards environmental review. She punts on the crime statistics and thus doesn't fully assess the issue of blight.

A Forest City Ratner official admits the legal battle over Atlantic Yards cast doubt on the developer's ability to get arena financing and requests that the appeal in the case challenging the AY environmental review to be heard in May rather than September. The request is not granted.


A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously upholds Judge Nicholas Garaufis’s dismissal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case and suggests (correctly, it turned out) that a U.S. Supreme Court appeal would be tough to mount.


The ESDC's 10-year project "is a public relations and marketing scheme; it does not exist in a legally enforceable form," argues George Locker, a lawyer for residents of two buildings in the AY footprint. The ESDC objects to "purported quotations" about the timetable from Bruce Ratner in the New York Times and instead points to Ratner's Daily News op-ed.


The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear an appeal of the federal eminent domain suit, setting up for a longshot state court challenge. (There's an interesting fib in the ESDC's brief.)


The Atlantic Yards eminent domain case is filed in state court and, though most of the arguments have already been dismissed in the (likely) more hospitable federal court system, the new case adds a novel claim.


In the appeal of the case challenging the AY environmental review, two of five justices seem skeptical of state’s blight claim, but questions in court do not predict a final ruling.

Posted by lumi at 4:29 AM

Plans for population growth may be off

By Amy Zimmer

In better times, city officials banked on a population boom, but the recession has some urban planners saying the Bloomberg administration may need to reconsider its rosy estimate of a city of 9.1 million people in 2030.

Expectations of a population spike were buoyed by massive construction projects such as the troubled Hudson and Atlantic yards.

“The downturn in the real estate market signals that the city’s population is not likely to increase in the near-term future,” said Tom Angotti of Hunter College’s Center for Community Planning and Development.


Posted by lumi at 4:25 AM

Avi Schick Leaves ESDC

Once Spitzer's man at ground zero, Schick also played roles in Atlantic Yards, Columbia expansion

The NY Observer
By Eliot Brown

Avi Schick, the prosecutor-turned-development official who has served as downstate president of the Empire State Development Corporation for the past two years, will leave his job this week. Mr. Schick emailed a letter on Monday evening to colleagues announcing his departure.

Mr. Schick's departure comes more than seven months after the Paterson administration announced he would resign his position; in May, the state announced he would leave in September.

At the ESDC, Mr. Schick, once a top prosecutor in the state attorney general's office under Eliot Spitzer, oversaw state involvement in projects such as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, the development of Governors Island, and Columbia University's West Harlem expansion.


Posted by lumi at 4:21 AM

January 5, 2009

More details emerge about Forest City Ratner bailout of ACORN: did Bertha Lewis mislead her board?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on blogger Anita MonCrief's most recent entry regarding the financial relationship between ACORN and Forest City Ratner.

ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief--who has an ax to grind but has presented accurate information--offers more details about the agreement between Forest City Ratner to bail out the struggling national organization ACORN, headed on an interim basis by Bertha Lewis, who as head of New York ACORN signed the controversial Atlantic Yards housing agreement with the developer.

MonCrief suggests the deal was approved after the fact.

Moreover, though the New York Times, according to MonCrief, knew of the deal, the newspaper neglected to write about it. However, as I detailed last month, the Times wrote about a roughly equivalent bailout of ACORN.

It's time for another look.


Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

ACORN and FCR: Did they Dupe Brooklyn?

Anita MonCrief

The blogging ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief has published a new post about the loan and grant extended by Forest City Ratner to ACORN, which calls into question the veracity of ACORN Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis's dealings with her own board.

As with all major power consolidations (or as it is known to students of history: a coup d’état ) there are snags and other loose ends that need to be taken care of. In this instance, that dangling piece of thread is the Atlantic Yards debacle. As reported earlier, Forest City Ratner gave ACORN a loan of 1.5 million dollars back in September. According to several members of the ACORN Board, Bertha Lewis lied on several occasions regarding the timing of the loan and whether Board approval was ever received.

Careful review of the loan agreement shows that a letter was sent to ACORN dated August 19, 2008 from Forest City Ratner that stated Forest City Ratner would make a loan to ACORN in the amount of 1 million dollars and give ACORN Institute 300,000 now and 100,000 in August of 2009 and 2010. What is even more interesting is the date on the signed agreement between Bertha Lewis and FCR, September 4, 2008 (for copies of the contract please email me). According to emails that I have in my possession, Bertha Lewis confirmed the loan to the New York Times on September 25, 2008, and she stated that the loan was signed on September 8, 2008 and dispersed around September 12, 2008. The email goes on to show that Bertha's recollection of how she got approval to take this money from good old Bruce might have been a little faulty, or as one board member puts it:


This does not fly with me. When I had [asked] for a copy of the loan agreement from Forest City [Ratner], you told the young lady no! I have since talked with an attorney and was told that I have every right as a member of this board to ask for these documents. This is [impertinent] behavior from you....


NoLandGrab: Will the mainstream media give FCR and ACORN a pass on this, or might they actually look into these troubling allegations?

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

“It’s not going to happen in a nanosecond": a look back at Atlantic Yards in 2008

Atlantic Yards Report

2008AYR.jpg Norman Oder looks back at the Atlantic Yards news from 2008, including major stories that he broke. Many items seem like they happened just yesterday, while others are like a broken record:

Click here to read about lawsuits, protests, counter protests, renderings, demolitions, construction delays, lawsuits, financing, lobbying, lies, damn lies, subsidies, blight, Nets to Newark, lawsuits, more demolitions, liar fliers, Atlantic Lots, green roof, balance sheet blues, even more subsidies, ground breaking delays, more ground breaking delays, the resurrection of Jim Stuckey, construction halt, lawsuits, Barclays Bank, Ward Bakery RIP, Nets for sale, Nets not for sale, layoffs, $1.5 million to ACORN, free Nets tickets, Forest City stockwatch, and the Atlantic Yards deathwatch.

Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

Destroying Coney Island to save it

By Neil deMause

After two straight years of “last summer ever!” at Coney, 2009 is starting to feel like the end for real. Astroland itself is in the process of being packed up — possibly for shipment to Australia — leaving only the Cyclone and the smaller Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park as remnants of Coney’s once-great amusement district.
Such is what’s become of the city’s 4-year-old plan to “revitalize” Coney Island via a sweeping rezoning plan to bring in housing and “entertainment retail.”
[Developer Joseph] Sitt’s money-grubbing has drawn lots of deserved jeers, but Coney has plenty of company as a failed example of Bloomberg development policy: Hudson Yards, Atlantic Yards, Willets Point, all of which promise to end up as empty holes commemorating the popping of the real estate bubble (let’s not even get into Ground Zero). A Jan. 14 meeting by the Municipal Art Society is expected to turn into a last-ditch push for the city to call a timeout on its rezoning and go back to the drawing board. It’s a bit late for “think before you act,” but better late than never.


Yesterday, Gowanus Lounge featured a video of Coney Island's makeshift memorial.

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

January 4, 2009

Richardson Withdraws as Commerce Nominee

The Wall Street Journal
by Jonathan Weisman

What does Bill Richardson have to do with Atlantic Yards? Forest City Enterprises was one of the biggest donors to the presidential campaign of the erstwhile nominee for Secretary of Commerce, and New Mexico is home to the company's giant Mesa del Sol project.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his nomination as President-elect Barack Obama's commerce secretary Sunday, citing a federal grand-jury investigation into a "pay to play" scheme in his home state, Obama transition officials said.

Just days ago, Republican Senate aides said they didn't believe the investigation of CDR Financial Products would be a major impediment to Mr. Richardson's confirmation. But the probe appears to be heating up. Mr. Richardson hired a personal lawyer last month and in mid-December, the grand jury began taking testimony from a slew of witnesses.

The grand jury is investigating how the company won more than $1.5 million in work advising the state of New Mexico after making contributions to Mr. Richardson's political action committees. The "pay-to-play" investigation is trying to determine whether the governor's office had any role in the contracting decisions.


NoLandGrab: Might the grand jury take a gander at the arrows connecting Richardson, Forest City and Mesa del Sol, too? Regardless, FCE is losing a friend at Commerce.

Posted by eric at 4:40 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...


A Sports Scribe, I-what?

If team owner Bruce Ratner sells the team, as it has been rumored, then the new owners might as well save the headache of trying to build the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. When the City of New York and New York State was basically throwing money towards the Yankees and Mets for their facilities while pondering the West Side Stadium for the Jets, it was not a stretch to believe that the Nets would move across the Hudson River before the end of the decade.

Yet, Ratner was dealing with the quagmire that Walter O’Malley dealt with a half-century earlier for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Whether the lack of movement has been public opposition, government reluctance or both, this area has never been developed in the manner than some have envisioned. Add the fact that Ratner made his money from real estate and you have a derailed train with broken tracks to its side.

Fucked in Park Slope 209 Reasons Brooklyn Is So Damn Badass: Happy 2009!

179. We, (and the tanking economy) stopped Atlantic Yards! Sort of (Noah Adler). The fact that a public that was shut out of Bruce Ratner's stupid development plan for the Atlantic Railyards has managed to stall the project until the economy tanked. Yay! (David).

Posted by amy at 10:00 AM

Mayor needs an economic plan


While no one would suggest the mayor can solve all the local economy's ills, he needs to come up with new programs that offer immediate aid and support. He should start with the city's vital tourism trade, as well as small businesses and emerging industries. He must rethink his affordable-housing plan, which can't succeed unless there is more new construction, and he has to explain how he will keep such crucial projects as the redevelopment of the West Side rail yards, Atlantic Yards and Willets Point on track.

NoLandGrab: Wouldn't it be more important to start with explaining WHY these projects should be continued in their current forms when alternate plans would make much more sense and not wreak economic havoc?

Posted by amy at 9:53 AM

In governors' request for federal infrastructure aid, only a hint of (indirect) help for Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

So New York State Gov. David Paterson, along with governors from other large states, has asked the federal government for a total of $1 trillion in emergency aid over two years for all 50 states.

Could any of that be directed to Atlantic Yards? The news coverage wasn't clear, summarizing the request as including $350 billion for infrastructure; $250 billion for anti-poverty programs; and $250 billion in flexible education spending to maintain funding for programs from pre-kindergarten to higher education; and middle-class tax cuts.

Given that the "ready-to-go" projects are the focus, Atlantic Yards could not be directly affected. However, it's possible that a change in rules regarding the Low Income Housing Credit Program could make it easier to fund affordable housing destined for the project.


Posted by amy at 9:51 AM

In Fresno, new mayor wary of lingering FCE project; developer's rep claims commitment

Atlantic Yards Report

The new mayor of Fresno, CA, Ashley Swearingin, is wary of a delayed development called South Stadium, an 85-acre mixed-use project promised by Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises.
At a debate in September, Swearingen, a Republican who led the Fresno Regional Jobs Initiative, said, "[L]et me speak in general terms and say that from a policy standpoint I never really supported or endorsed the idea of an exclusive negotiating agreement with Forest City. I think it’s the wrong way to go about downtown revitalization. Once it was done it was done and I was curious to see the outcome and I think thus far we just really haven’t seen anything, particularly when the Proposition 1C dollars were handed out and the Forest City project did not receive the funding that they expected to receive. So I think there are certainly red flags on that project."

Exclusive negotiating agreement? Doesn't she know that in New York, the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation said of Atlantic Yards, "So, they came to us, we did not come to them. And it is not really up to us then to go out and try to find a better deal. I think that would discourage developers from coming to us, if every time they came to us we went out and tried to shop their idea to somebody else. So we are actively shopping, but not for another sports arena franchise for Brooklyn."


Posted by amy at 9:49 AM

Slow news leads to front-page treatment for Nets dancers, DDDB baby


Atlantic Yards Report

I had to laugh yesterday when I saw various editions of this week's Courier-Life paper.

A front page standalone photo promoted an "exclusive" look (on p. 4) into the lives of two Nets dancers who've moved to Brooklyn "respectively to pursue dance careers. The two talented ladies say they love their new home borough and can't wait for the team to relocate to Brooklyn." (Click to enlarge graphics.)

Well, their commute would be so much shorter. Then again, there are 16 2008-09 Nets Dancers and a bunch are from New Jersey and Staten Island.


Posted by amy at 9:44 AM

January 3, 2009

Curbed Awards '08: The Neighborhoods, In Glorious Detail!


Atlantic Yards makes two appearances on the awards list:


Lost Neighborhood Landmarks of the Year

3) Ward Bakery. Though the Coney faithful rightly bemoan the depressing destructoporn that engulfed Astroland as the year wound down, the total destruction of Ward Bakery in the Atlantic Yards footprint saddened us more profoundly, probably because the place will remain an empty lot for the next few eons.


Massive Projects At Massive Risk Award

1) Atlantic Yards/Hudson Yards. We sort of always knew, given all the hype and press and controversy and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth surrounding our twin yards, that neither one of these projects would ever happen in their proposed form. Predictions for 2009: Hudson Yards disappears from the public agenda altogether, while Bruce Ratner brings the Nets to play in a 3,000-seat replica of Ebbets Field. It's called compromise, people!

DDDB adds: "3,000 seats might be about right the way the Nets are drawing this year."


Posted by amy at 10:25 AM

Markowitz on the relationship with donor FCR: "I don't see the slightest conflict"

Atlantic Yards Report transcribes Marty's Brooklyn Paper interview adding text from the podcast that wasn't in the paper version.

The effect of budget cuts, Markowitz contended, was to rely more on private donations, which led Kuntzman to press him on his relationship with developer Forest City Ratner.

Markowitz's statement that "I don't see the slightest conflict" is questionable, however, because his role as Atlantic Yards cheerleader-in-general can interfere with the borough president's obligation to represent the public, including challenges to the developer on broken promises or environmental impacts.


Posted by amy at 10:17 AM

Brodsky to IDA: delay vote on tax-exempt bonds for Yankees, Mets

Atlantic Yards Report

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky has asked the members of the New York City Industrial Development Authority--the bonding arm of the New York City Economic Development Corporation--to delay a January 16 vote on an additional $454 million in tax-exempt bonds the new Yankees and Mets stadiums.

Brodsky, who chairs the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, gave the board members documents he uncovered regarding "legal failures of the initial funding for Yankee Stadium" and said he's still waiting for "documents that clarify and explain the request for additional funding, the role of the IDA, and the role of other parties."

A public hearing on the funding request is schedule for January 15, with a vote scheduled for 9 a.m. the next day, the switch enacted after complaints that it had been scheduled for Inauguration Day, January 20.

"The spate of taxpayer bailouts of large corporations was at least justified by the threat that they would otherwise go out of business," Brodsky said. "There is no reason to provide public assistance to these hugely successful businesses at a time when taxes are rising, services are being cut, and jobs are being lost."


Posted by amy at 10:15 AM

NJ Nets: Mail's In (Pharmaceutical Edition)

Dave D'Alessandro/Star-Ledger

Dave: I found your story about fan support at home interesting in that it did not point any blame at ownership, who have essentially made them a lame duck for the state they play in. As long as Brooklyn keeps getting thrown in our face, it's hard for even me to get excited about what is actually a pretty good team. Love to see them embrace NJ and either stay put or go to Newark. Seems to me people have forgotten just how few people went to Nets games in the early 90s. What turns up these days at the Meadowlands those teams would have killed for. There was a legit base building during the Kidd era and Ratner just killed it, since his interest has always been real estate and not the Nets -- and certainly not New Jersey. Eddie Trunk

ET: All valid points, and you're crawling around an interesting issue pertaining to fan psychology. Do they really have to feel emotionally attached to a team in order to go out to a game once in a while? I can't speak with any authority on that, because I haven't rooted for a team since before you were born. If I weren't professionally obligated to attend these games, I'd go fairly regularly, but only if they promised not to shoot T-shirts at my head.

Dave: How can you justify New Jersey's largest paper giving so much space to a guy solely dedicated to taking the Nets out of Jersey? Shame on you. Thomas Greco

Tom: You already know I'm the most parochial clod in the room, but we can't take this stuff personally. You are hereby invited to vote with your wallet - knowing full well that your disdain (and the indifference of your friends) are the primary inspirations for their leaving in the first place.

Dave: Yormark is a salesman. Not much else. If he has a functioning IQ, he'd realize his Atlantic Yards is a long shot. Also why no mention of the poison pill this guy signed with Meadowlands? You know the one, the clause that allows Nets to break lease for any destination penalty-free except for Prudential Center? How is that good for New Jersey or the Nets? It isn't on either count. Their home regard arises from tipping off in an empty barn. There is no other valid explanation. I think Newark would give this team a buzz at home it needs. Patrick Sullivan

Pat: Why would the NJSEA give them an out from their lease if there was a chance they'd take their business to a competing arena?

DD -- Nice job, you didn't drink the Kool-Aid. Ratner and Yormark's obsession with Brooklyn is the reason I gave up my season tickets after 15 years, even though the team won't get to Brooklyn until 2011 -- at the earliest (or if ever). They ripped the team apart with Brooklyn in mind. The last two seasons of mediocrity was enough for me to bid adieu to the Meadowlands before they do. If they were staying in New Jersey, I would have remained a loyal fan through re-building. After all, I lived through the Butch Beard era, and started to follow the team closely when Coleman was a rookie. The Nets were my hobby; a very expensive hobby, but a hobby nonetheless. I have to think that season tickets are way down; my former seat neighbor told me that my seats have been empty all season except for one game, and four other couples in my former neighborhood didn't renew either. And indeed, hot dogs were $4.25 and the beer was $7.75. David Wald.

DeeDubya: Here's the thing. They like to talk about how their core constituency is pleased with the game presentation, the TLC, and the future of the team - even if it involves a schlep across two rivers in a few years. And maybe their demographics support that assertion. But it's pretty obvious to the rest of us that they are shoveling sand against the tide - and that people just like David Wald represent the tide, and he's going out.


Posted by amy at 10:08 AM

Sports Bubble Primed to Burst

Andrew Jeffery

Another real-estate developer turned sports mogul, Bruce Ratner, may be wishing he'd stuck to skyscrapers rather than sky-hooks. Ratner owns the New Jersey Nets, and, along with Forest City Enterprises (FCEA), is trying to build the team a new $950 million Brooklyn complex. Legal troubles and financing difficulties have stalled development; Forest City has stopped work on all other existing projects.

Ratner isn’t any more beloved than Zell: Nets fans have no desire to make the trek across the Hudson for games, and Brooklynites aren't interested in seeing luxury condos go up in their backyards.


Posted by amy at 10:03 AM

January 2, 2009



The Northeast Ohio online community thanks Cleveland-area taxpayers on behalf of Forest City Enterprises, for the $42 million Convention Center subsidy generated by a 0.25% hike in the county sales tax.

What have you done lately for Randy Lerner, Sam Miller, Albert Ratner, Tim Hagan, the Cleveland Orchestra or the Playhouse Square Foundation?


You may not know it but as a resident of Cuyahoga County you have been extremely generous to these richest of our rich.

The figures are in through December for a number of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County taxes.

The $42 million is the result of the one-quarter percent sale tax increase voted by two people – Hagan and Jimmy Dimora. No real public debate. Absolutely no public vote.

So thank you from Sam Miller & Al Ratner.

That is, of course, if the dysfunctional Cleveland and Cuyahoga leadership can ever get their act together to start building the new Convention Center for Sam, Al and Forest City Enterprises.


NoLandGrab: Of course, Forest City didn't bother to thank taxpayers, since they look upon the public subsidy as an "entitlement."

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Off-the-Field Losses Crimp Team Owners

Prestige of Owning Sports Franchise Is Lost When a Principal Business Struggles Along With Athletes

The Wall St. Journal
By Matthew Futterman

For all the talk of slumping ticket sales and sponsorships, the most troubling scenario for the sports industry is the growing trend of team owners beset by financial problems in their principal businesses.


...The problems have been spreading as the souring economy diminishes the fortunes of team owners. That jeopardizes the essential ingredient of the sports business: rich people who can afford a really expensive hobby.

"The willingness or tolerance for future losses is very, very low," says Allen and Co.'s Steve Greenberg, an investment banker to the sports industry and former deputy commissioner of Major League Baseball. "More owners are looking to operate at break-even or better. The problem is, it's hard to turn a $15 million to $25 million loss into break-even in a short period of time."

Unlike other recessions, this one threatens to wipe out sports owners who were recently willing and able to put up with meager profits or annual losses because of rising team values and the perks of the investment, such as the celebrity status.
Many owners' primary businesses incurred deep losses in 2008. As a result, league officials and investment bankers fear a market flooded with teams for sale at a time when potential buyers are few and credit for acquiring sports teams is difficult to secure, which would lead to shrinking team values.
Also feeling the crunch is Forest City Enterprises Inc., the real-estate developer behind Bruce Ratner, principal owner of the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets. The company said last month it was ceasing all development projects, after its stock price fell from $60 in 2007 to under $6.

Forest City, which owns 23% of the Nets, pegged losses for the team at $30 million through the first nine months of 2008. The Nets have lost more than $100 million since Mr. Ratner acquired the team in 2004, forcing him to slash payroll.

Forest City still wants to develop a $950 million arena in Brooklyn for the Nets, but the project is stalled amid legal wrangling and financing problems.

NBA Commissioner David Stern says Forest City's ability to secure financing for the arena is hampered now, adding: "Our hope is that will improve in 2009."


Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

Atlantic Yards Report twofer

Another report argues against parking requirements for projects like Atlantic Yards

Thanks to Streetsblog's end-of-the-year roundup for pointing me to the much-overlooked Transportation Alternatives report, Suburbanizing the City: How New York City Parking Requirements Lead to More Driving [29MB PDF].

What Streetsblog calls the "Best Policy Paper That You Probably Didn't See Because They Released it at the End of August" reinforces the observation--as I wrote 12/24/07 in a piece headlined PlaNYC 1950--that residential parking shouldn't be required at large outer-borough projects near transit hubs.
The report mentions Atlantic Yards, but I think the numbers projected in the chart (click to enlarge) are misleading.

The report blends the residential and commercial variations presented in the AY environmental review, but the former configuration, as I've written, is far more likely, which would produce 2570 underground spaces for residents component and an additional 1100 underground spaces for the arena.

IS ULURP on the way out when the City Charter is revised?

The Courier-Life chain reported last week, in an article headlined Community input may be on the outs - City looking to re-examine uniform land-usage guidelines that revisions to city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) will be looked at by a City Charter revision panel Mayor Mike Bloomberg is expected to establish next year.

Such a change has been talked about for months, including in a 5/11/08 Daily News column, as I reported.

The Courier-Life article quoted an anonymous "informed source, who attended a discussion of the issue at a meeting held by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, the goal may be to shorten the lengthy ULURP process." The goal: to move development much faster.
Some large projects, like Atlantic Yards, have been exempted from ULURP because the city agreed to let the state take the lead. Even though former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff has acknowledged that Atlantic Yards should have gone through ULRUP, note that a city housing official has observed that ULURP doesn’t work for large projects.

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

90 to watch in ‘09!

From The Brooklyn Paper's list of "90 people, places and things to watch in ’09:

55. Rich Kessler: This longtime Park Sloper discovered what he calls “The Brooklyn Mirador” — a view of the Empire State Building perfectly framed inside the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ arch in Grand Army Plaza. The view could be lost if Atlantic Yards ever gets built, and Kessler is fighting to restore Olmsted’s original design scene for the plaza around the arch.
36. Marilyn Gelber: The head of the Independence Community Foundation spearheaded this year’s “Give Where You Live Campaign,” an effort to keep Brooklynites’ charitable donations in the borough last year. And she’s still an outspoken voice against Atlantic Yards.
8. Atlantic Yards: So far, court cases, economic turmoil and his own ineptitude has stalled Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project for five years — and in 2009, two more cases could drastically alter the project once and for all. A decision is expected sometime in January on a lawsuit over the state’s weak environmental review. And early this year, Brooklyn appellate judges will hear a case that challenges the constitutionality of the state’s use of eminent domain. In financing news, Ratner’s $177-million bridge loan is due in February, but sources say the developer is trying to refinance the money in the meantime.


Posted by lumi at 4:27 AM

January 1, 2009

Footprint 2009


Photo, Tracy Collins.

Posted by lumi at 10:15 AM

Vanderbilt Villainelle

Dope on the Slope

The Hillbilly Bard of Brooklyn composed une petite "villainelle" pour Bruce.

Will Ratner's scheme now falter?
With his feat of clay now crumbling,
Has Miss Brooklyn abandoned the altar?

Click here to read the rest.

Posted by lumi at 9:56 AM

Watching "The Wire," thinking about Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

When you're a walking Atlantic Yards encyclopeida, even a highly acclaimed television series gets filtered through the lense of development in Brooklyn:

The epic, brilliant five-season HBO series The Wire, now fully available on DVD, takes off from cops and dealers (working the corners, at right) in Baltimore to portray a more deeply troubled ecosystem, including schools, the port, and the local media, with complex, intertwining plots and an array of indelible characters.

If you watch The Wire through a Brooklyn (or, generally, urban) lens, a minor but recurring plot point becomes ever more noticeable: the profits from the drug trade get laundered into real estate, and the port, one of the last bastions of well-paying union jobs, withers away and is replaced by real estate development.

I'll detail some of the choice moments, then try to reflect on some of the larger implications.


Posted by lumi at 9:40 AM