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February 28, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Saturday Trio of Truth

"Little guy" Gehry says Atlantic Yards is "stopped"; what are the implications?

In a profile of Frank Gehry in the Los Angeles Times, the starchitect says that Atlantic Yards is "stopped". What, exactly, could he mean?

Unexplained is the meaning of "stopped." Developer Forest City Ratner, of course, is chomping at the bit to break ground on the arena. The major legal cases may be cleared this spring, though appeals are possible, but financing remains uncertain.

Gehry could have easily have said the project is "on hold." So either he was infelicitous in his language or he knows more about the developer's plans than the rest of us.

Alternatively, he could have meant that the project is, for him, "stopped," given that his designs for an arena are undergoing major changes.

Gehry's statements back up (if not completely confirm) the reportage in the Wall Street Journal and New York Daily News that he's laid off his staff working on Atlantic Yards. It's too bad he wasn't asked a specific question.

ESPN's Simmons on NBA contraction: "Welcome to the No Benjamins Association"

The economy is making things difficult for lots of enterprises, and the NBA is no exception. A review of an ESPN item causes Norman Oder to ponder if the New Jersey Nets might be sold.

In a piece cleverly headlined Welcome to the No Benjamins Association, ESPN columnist Bill Simmons points to the parlous economic future faced by the National Basketball Association (NBA).

He notes that, at previous All-Star Games, the topics were various: This season? We talked about money. Constantly. We didn't even know about the line of credit on the horizon; that didn't leak until the Monday after the All-Star Game. (On Thursday, we learned that 12 teams will accept the league's offer to borrow $200 million from JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, with between $13 million and $20 million available to each team...) We knew about layoffs of employees within the league and various franchises. We knew various local and national sponsors were bailing, most notably car companies and major banks (two staples for the NBA). We knew certain franchises were losing significant wads of money and reacting accordingly.

Yormark claims (incorrectly) that Bloomberg saluted AY affordable housing

Mayor Bloomberg manages to not mention affordable housing these days when endorsing Atlantic Yards, which is smart as it's not clear if the affordable housing component of the development will be built. Nets CEO Brett Yormark isn't quite with the program.

Yesterday, commenting on the most recent court ruling regarding the Atlantic Yards case, New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark said, in a Fox Business Network (FBN) interview (at 3:45 of video): "I'd love to echo the mayor's sentiments when he said we've got to get this project started, the affordable housing, the jobs, it's much-needed."

Well, Atlantic Yards backers may have memorized the affordable housing mantra, but that doesn't mean everyone else has done so. Why does Yormark have to make things up?

Here's the statement Mayor Mike Bloomberg issued: “The Atlantic Yards project will create thousands of jobs and generate badly-needed tax revenue. The court’s unanimous affirmation today that the review and approvals processes were comprehensive and properly completed is a big step towards the start of construction.”

DDDB noted that affordable housing is on the back-burner.

Posted by steve at 6:51 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere

New York Zoning and Municipal Law Blog - Atlantic Yards Condemnation Litigation Continues
This assessment of this past week's Appellate court takes a very clinical approach and, thus, ignores gray areas of the decision as described by Norman Oder. It's a good read for understanding how proponents see the ruling.

Be In Brooklyn - Appellate Division: Yes to Atlantic Yards This is another pro-Atlantic Yards assessment of the Appellate court decision. Mayor Bloomberg's quote mindlessly spouting Ratner propaganda is repeated.

The Cross Pollinator - Atlantic Yards: A beacon of corruption "Cross" is definitely the operative word for this bitter look at the court decision.

And this brings us to the NYC local issue of Atlantic Yards, a giant shitpile of corruption if there ever was one. If you’re located outside of New York City, you might be able to view this project like you view something corrupt where you live. The Big Dig in Boston, the trailers with formeldahyde in them in New Orleans, it’s all part of a great American tradition.

Posted by steve at 5:37 PM

Frank Gehry considers an accomplished past and uncertain future

Los Angeles Times
By Christopher Hawthorne, Architecture Critic

This article salutes Frank Gehry as he turns 80, and makes note of his accomplishments. But all is not well in Gehry's psyche as the worsening economic crisis has created a world that seems to have little need of starchitects.

And yet if Gehry now stands atop a mountain he spent much of his career trying to ascend -- driven by a fierce ambition he has often tried to conceal beneath what he calls an "aw, shucks" persona -- he does so at a moment when the mountain is beginning to crumble beneath his feet. After a decade in which a handful of leading architects became global stars -- with Gehry leading the charge -- and private and government clients alike were willing to finance jaw-dropping feats of architectural innovation, funding for new construction has suddenly vanished.

Most distressing of all for Gehry, two projects that he saw as capstones to his career, gigantic mixed-use developments on L.A.'s Grand Avenue and at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, have both been put on hold.

"I've had a disappointing year, couple of years, with Grand Avenue and Brooklyn," he said in a wide-ranging conversation in his office last week in which he was by turns ruminative, weary and hopeful. "All my life I've wanted to do projects like that, and they never came to me. And then all of a sudden I had two of them. I invested the last five years in them, and they're both stopped. So it leaves a very hollow feeling in your bones."

article

This article has also been noticed by Develop Don't Destroy:

Frank Gehry, The "Little Guy" With the Big Buildings, Says Atlantic Yards Has "Stopped"

DDDB observes that Gehry seems to be off the Atlantic Yards project, despite denials by developer Forest City Ratner. There's also the question of why the architect wants to portray himself as allied with the "little guy" when he sides with the powerful clients like Bruce Ratner.

If Mr. Gehry wants to think of himself as "the little guy," that is quaint. But then, speaking about Atlantic Yards, for example, he shouldn't say things such as this:

...There are some buildings that are background, some that are foreground. Miss Brooklyn (the tallest building), I call my ego trip...

or this:

This is an extraordinary opportunity for an architect like me, I’ve been doing these iconic buildings, like Disney Hall and the Bilbao museum, but not an opportunity like this, to do housing, to do a mixed project and build a whole neighborhood practically from scratch and fit it into an existing fabric and make something special out of it.

Now we're not sure if he is just "the little guy" or also a self-styled "liberal do-gooder" like his boss (former boss?) Bruce Ratner.

Posted by steve at 5:07 PM

Atlantic Yards West

Have you heard about the proposal for a massive mixed-used development that features an arena for an NBA team? Surpise! It's not the proposed Atlantic Yards, it's a proposal being put forward in Sacramento.

This first article gives a gee-whiz overview of the new proposal, but manages to refer to the project as "Atlantic Yards West" without a whiff of irony. No Land Grab readers should get a very strong feeling of deja-vu :

Fanhouse - Sacramento Gets a Look at Potential New Home for the Kings

Hopes of keeping the Kings in Sacramento moved forward Friday, as the NBA unveiled its plans for a huge development with a new, privately-financed arena as the centerpiece. The plan is absolutely massive in scope ($1.9 billion, 8 million square feet), with a new state fairgrounds, condos, retail and office space all apart of the plan.

...

All told, officials call it a potential "city within a city." It is a truly massive undertaking, and any arena won't be ready until 2013 at the earliest. NBA representative John Moag said it will take at least a year to get a developer, and that shovels won't turn dirt until the economy improves. (The economy is worse in Sacramento than in most American cities, if you can believe it.) If you believe in the Sacramento Kings, keep your fingers crossing.

Luckily, the fine people at Field of Schemes are able to inject a whiff of reality.

Field of Schemes - Sacramento proposes Atlantic Yards West for Kings

The NBA and city of Sacramento officially issued their plans for a new Sacramento Kings arena on the site of Cal Expo yesterday, and you sure can't accuse them of thinking small: It includes a 350-acre "living village" with a new indoor fair space, and retail, office, and residential buildings, and a whopping price tag of $1.9 billion. If this sounds familiar, it's because it's a dead ringer for the similar office/residential/arena plan that is currently in the process of collapsing in Brooklyn, thanks to plunging demand for office or residential space.

..

Economist Claude Gruen, a specialist in these kind of giant development deals, called the plan's economic projections "too rosy," and said it wasn't reasonable to expect it could pay for itself. But at least it's created some much-needed jobs for architectural sketch artists.

NoLandGrab: People of Sacramento - be afraid. Be very afraid

Posted by steve at 4:50 PM

Another AtlanticYards Appeal Fails

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Ryan Thompson

The Eagle reports on this past Thursday's decision by the Appellate Court:

After the New York State Supreme Court dismissed yet another lawsuit that seeks to stop Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project from being built in Brooklyn, opponents of the project appealed.

Here's yet another mention of the 22 lawsuit wins that Forest City Ranter claims, though nobody knows where that number comes from.

That appeal was denied yesterday by the Appellate Division, First Department – making opponents of Atlantic Yards now 0-22 as far as the lawsuits are concerned. The plaintiffs in several cases filed in state and federal courts have lost at all levels of litigation, and all appeals have been denied or refused by the courts.

The lawsuits, however, seem to be tangentially successful, causing substantial delays and excessive costs to the $4 billion project that could possibly never get fully built, factoring in the nation’s current economic crisis.

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Posted by steve at 4:33 PM

A Brooklyn Bailout?

The Indypendent
By Daniel Goldstein

This article provides an overview of the current state of the Atlantic Yards opposition. It also goes on to address the issue of having Federal stimulus funds be made available for this pork-laden project.

The community opposition is concerned that FCR will attempt to secure stimulus funds by claiming Atlantic Yards is a “transit project” because they are obligated to build a new rail yard. FCR received the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) Vanderbilt Rail Yard development rights, despite a bid less than half the appraised value, because it had committed to building a new, “state-of-theart” rail yard. The sole purpose of the new yard would be to facilitate the construction of the arena, rather than any transit need the MTA expressed in 2005 when it accepted FCR ’s lowball offer — an offer which FCR has yet to pay. Now FCR wants federal taxpayers to bail them out of their commitment to build this rail yard to nowhere.

Most important, nearly all economists agree that arenas are not economic generators or cost-effective job creators. FCR has never even publicly announced the estimated number of new jobs the arena would create because it would be woefully few, especially in relation to the arena’s public cost. And the opportunity costs are dramatic.

The project, including the arena, is not “shovel-ready” by any stretch of the imagination, as FCR doesn’t own the land it needs to construct it and, according to the developer, it’s undergoing an extensive redesign. The proposed affordable housing is nowhere in sight and construction is highly unlikely to start in 2009, if ever.

The use of stimulus funds for this project birthed in opaque backrooms, and laden with non-competitive and no-bid contracts, would violate the bill’s accountability provisions requiring a transparent and competitive bidding process before contracts could be entered into. Atlantic Yards failed that test a long time ago.

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Posted by steve at 4:21 PM

February 27, 2009

Isles file arena paperwork, financing still hazy

Field of Schemes

Neil deMause reports on the status of New York Islanders' owner Charles Wang's plans for a new arena (Wang released a 6,000-page environmental report on Tuesday).

Commenter Januz believes the only way the Isles remain in the area is if they relocate to Brooklyn (guess where), and he notes that Al D'Amato is the reason why.

Interesting enough, Al D'Amato is involved with BOTH Ratner and SMG (The managers of the Coliseum).
...

A possible plan of D'Amato's, could be to have Atlantic Yards be considered "Shovel Ready" to help with funding. Move the Nets temporarily to the Coliseum, until it is built, then move them and the Islanders to Brooklyn. Then when the economy improves, sell the Coliseum and the land to a developer (Say around 2015, when SMG's management contract expires, and the economy is better?).

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Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

Atlantic Yards #2: Federal Bailout? Online Petition Says Hell No

Gowanus Lounge

In any case–although history has shown that New York State government doesn’t really care what taxpayers and voters think about the Atlantic Yards project, there is a new online petition to demonstrate opposition to the governor.
...

The petition can be found here. We strongly urge everyone that opposes the project to sign it and even supporters to voice opposition to a massive public bailout of a private developer’s project, which is the ultimate misuse of recovery funds. There are currently nearly 1,500 signatures and there should be a HELL of a lot more. Opponents should also be raising all holy hell in Washington to persuade officials that using taxpayer funds to bailout this project will come back to haunt them as symbolizing misuse of Federal dollars.

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NoLandGrab: Now nearly 1,600 signatures — and counting.

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Appellate Court Decision - Media Wrapup (Part Deux)

NY Observer, Ratner Wins Another Round in Legal Fight Over Atlantic Yards

A state appellate court struck down a crucial, but not final, legal challenge to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project Thursday, as the court rejected a challenge to the environmental review brought by project critics.

Mr. Ratner is still awaiting a key decision on a lawsuit that challenges the use of eminent domain for the project, which calls for the development of a Nets basketball arena and more than 6,000 apartments near downtown Brooklyn. The project has struggled in the economy and has been unable to proceed due to the legal challenges; and at the same time, the developer is struggling to make the project financially feasible in the rough economic climate. Many observers expect the eminent domain lawsuit to ultimately be dismissed given the relatively broad power New York eminent domain laws give to the state.

WNYC Radio, Court Tosses Atlantic Yards Environmental Lawsuit

Developers of the Atlantic Yards have cleared a legal hurdle. A state appeals court rejected an attempt to block the $4 billion Brooklyn project on environmental grounds.

The decision says the state's environmental review of traffic, crowds, potential terrorism and other concerns satisfied legal requirements.

GlobeSt.com, Atlantic Yards Wins a Round in Court

Forest City Ratner Cos., developer of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, has won another legal round as an appellate court upheld the dismissal of a challenge to the project. The challengers--an advocacy group known as Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and 25 other community groups--say they will appeal.

Brownstoner, Ratner Wins Another Round of Yards Lawsuits

Despite voicing uneasiness with some aspects of the case, an Appeals Court panel did not find enough evidence of improper conduct on the part of the ESDC to rule in favor of the 26 neighborhood groups challenging the Atlantic Yards project on the basis of the project's "sham" environmental review. While the court did not find legal grounds to grant the opposition's petition, it did sympathize with its overall plight....

Gowanus Lounge, Atlantic Yards #1: Court Rules for State on EIS Litigation

We’ve been too diverted by other subjects–some of them stupid–to wade into Atlantic Yards recently, but it’s time.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, No Land Grab Has the Links to News and Analysis on Court's Decision Yesterday

Yesterday was a bad day for Brooklyn: the State Supreme Court Appellate Division ruled in FAVOR of the Empire State Development Corporation and AGAINST the community in the challenge to the state's environmental review and "blight" determination for the Atlantic Yards proposal.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards: Still Breathing

Yesterday a state appellate court ruled that the Empire State Development Corp. appropriately reviewed and approved Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project, clearing one more hurdle for developer Forest City Ratner in its attempt to build an arena and...whatever the heck else Atlantic Yards is nowadays.

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

Lawsuit coverage round-up: missing the story and, in most cases, the big picture

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder notices something interesting about yesterday's coverage of the appellate court decision rejecting the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review - there's really not much of it. For example, neither the Post, nor Times have the story in their print editions and the News only has a three-sentence item.

Also, what coverage there is misses some key points:

While it is important to point out how the decision helps the project proceed, the court ruling and surprisingly bitter concurrence indicate that something's wrong.

Concurring Justice James Catterson believes that the Empire State Development Corporation's blight study was in many ways bogus, calling one argument "ludicrous."

And the main opinion, upholding the blight study, made no attempt to assess whether it was arbitrary for the state to call a house built to 60% of allowable development rights as underutilized.

Nor did those justices acknowledge, as Catterson did, that the original contract for a Blight Study required consultant AKRF to study market trends in and around the project site, but AKRF did not do so.

So, when Bruce Ratner says, “This project has been reviewed as thoroughly as any in the city and now it is time to put these cases behind us and get to work,” not only should it be pointed out--as NLG did--that nobody's getting to work just yet, but also that a formal and apparently extensive review by the unelected ESDC does not mean a truly thorough review.

link

Posted by steve at 8:43 AM

Mayor Bloomberg Regurgitates Ratner Hype While Ignoring Court's Challenge

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Here's what Mayor Bloomberg had to say today about the court ruling:

...

"The Atlantic Yards project will create thousands of jobs and generate badly-needed tax revenue. The court’s unanimous affirmation today that the review and approvals processes were comprehensive and properly completed is a big step towards the start of construction."**

Here's what the court's ruling had to say about elected folks, such as the Mayor:

..."While we do not agree with petitioners' legal arguments, we understand those arguments to be made largely as proxies for very legitimate concerns as to the effect of a project of such scale upon the face and social fabric of the area in which it is to be put. Those concerns, however, have relatively little to do with the project's legality and nearly everything to do with its socio-economic and aesthetic desirability, matters upon which we may not pass. To the extent that the fate of this multi-billion dollar project remains, in an increasingly forbidding economy, a matter of social and political volition, the controlling judgments as to its merits are the province of the policy-making branches of government, not the courts." (Emphasis added.)

That sounds like a challenge to the Mayor and other elected officials to do more than simply accept that legal Ts were crossed and legal Is were dotted. That is the purview of the court. The Mayor's purview is sound policy. We wonder, with great concern, what the sound policy is that underlies the Atlantic Yards proposal, that underlies a publicly-subsidized billlion dollar arena in the midst of the Great Recession. An arena which, by the way, would be a financial loss for the City. We wonder what the merits are and who, if anyone, is judging them outside of Forest City Ratner spin.

** Note well that the Mayor's release makes no mention of housing of any kind—market or affordable. Those, of course, are on the backburner, and the pilot light is flickering.

link

Posted by steve at 6:30 AM

Appellate Court Decision - Media Wrapup

amNY - Atlantic Yards wins legal victory
By Jason Fink

The $4 billion Atlantic Yards project cleared a hurdle Thursday when a state appellate court dismissed a legal challenge by the development’s opponents.

The ruling upheld a lower court decision that the state acted properly in approving the project’s environmental impact study. A separate case challenging the state’s use of eminent domain in taking land for the project, slated to include an arena for the Nets, is also being heard by the appellate court.

Developer Bruce Ratner, who has been locked in a long-running battle with community groups over the project, said in a published report that it’s “time to put these cases behind us and get to work.”

The group that brought the case vowed to take it to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

“The Court of Appeals is the only court that can break the chain of previous cases, and we eagerly await our opportunity to argue before it," Jeffrey S. Baker, the attorney for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, said in a statement on the group’s Web site.

Crain's New York - Atlantic Yards developer wins key legal victory
By Theresa Agovino

Forest City Ratner Cos. scored a major victory towards building its Atlantic Yards mega development on Thursday when a state appellate court unanimously ruled that the Empire State Development Corp. appropriately reviewed and approved the project.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a nonprofit community group, which brought the suit, said it would appeal. The group challenged the environmental review process and alleged that the site shouldn’t have been designated as blighted.

...

The 22-acre development has faces more than legal challenges. Financing for the project is a major hurdle. Banks have virtually stopped lending, especially for huge projects like Atlantic Yards. The estimated cost of the Frank Gehry-designed complex has ballooned to $4 billion from $2.5 billion. The cost of the arena alone, the future home of the Nets basketball team, jumped 40% to $1 billion.

NY1 News - Court Greenlights Atlantic Yards Review

An appellate court unanimously upheld a state supreme court ruling Thursday that the environmental review process for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards was completed correctly.

In a statement, developer Bruce Ratner of Forrest City Ratner said the decision validates the environmental review process. He added it is time to get work on the basketball arena and 16 high-rise buildings that would encompass the $4 billion project.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz agreed with the court's decision and say the project will create jobs and affordable housing.

An opponent of the project, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, says it will take its case to the state Court of Appeals.

The group says the project won't create long-term jobs.

AP (via Newsday) - Court tosses Atlantic Yards environmental lawsuit

A state appeals court has upheld a lower court's ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed by a coalition of community groups opposed to the massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

The appeals court decision, issued Thursday, says the state's environmental review of traffic, crowds, potential terrorism and other concerns satisfied legal requirements. The $4 billion, 22-acre development includes an arena for the New Jersey Nets, office towers and thousands of apartments near downtown Brooklyn.

Project developer Forest City Ratner and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are applauding the ruling. A spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn says the coalition might appeal.

The project still faces another lawsuit challenging the state's right to use eminent domain to demolish more than a dozen properties.

NorthJersey.com - Nets' Brooklyn move clears hurdle
By John Brennan

The proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn — scheduled to be the Nets' future home — earned a court victory Thursday when a New York appellate panel rejected a lawsuit by community activists who oppose the plan.

The suit, which is unrelated to a case heard last week involving the use of eminent domain at the site, charged that the Empire State Development Corp.'s environmental review of the site was inadequate. The groups — led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn — contended, among other complaints, that the state agency did not analyze the risk of a terrorist attack at the site and that the proposed construction schedule was "irrational."

Three judges, however, wrote in a 13-page majority opinion that "our power to review the substantive adequacy of an [environmental impact statement] is extremely limited."

City Room (NY Times Blog) - Legal Victory for Atlantic Yards Developer
By Charles V. Bagli

The developer Bruce C. Ratner chalked up a legal victory for his proposed Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn on Thursday when a state appellate court ruled against opponents who had challenged the $4 billion project on environmental grounds.

In the opinion, the court agreed with a lower State Supreme Court decision that the state had acted properly in reviewing and approving the project, which includes an arena for the Nets and up to 6,000 apartments on 22 acres. Still, the project has a number of other roadblocks to clear, including another lawsuit, before it can break ground.

Mr. Ratner, however, was elated. “Once again the courts have decided in favor of Atlantic Yards,” he said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “This project has been reviewed as thoroughly as any in the city and now it is time to put these cases behind us and get to work.”

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and state officials also issued statements lauding the court decision.

...

Although the court reached a unanimous decision, Judge James M. Catterson broke with his colleagues, saying that the state’s urban redevelopment law “is ultimately being used as a tool of the developer to displace and destroy neighborhoods that are ‘underutilized.’” But, he said he was hesitant to end the longstanding practice of deferring to the state’s economic development authority.

NoLandGrab: Some of these articles quote Bruce Ratner as saying “This project has been reviewed as thoroughly as any in the city and now it is time to put these cases behind us and get to work.” He's clearly hoping that nobody recalls that this is a State project, and has thus bypassed all city review. Also, with another lawsuit pending and enormous economic problems facing the project, it's going to be awfully hard to begin any work on the project.

Posted by steve at 3:41 AM

Concerns 'Legitimate' But Project Proceeds

New York Law Journal
By Mark Fass

Here is a review of yesterday's decision by the New York State Appellate Division.

Proponents of the Atlantic Yards, the largest single-developer project in the history of New York, scored another legal victory yesterday as a state appeals court upheld the dismissal of a challenge by the coalition Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

By a vote of 3-0 with one judge concurring, the Appellate Division, First Department, rejected numerous claims by Develop Don't Destroy, the most active opponent of the 16-building development regarding the lead agency's environmental impact statement and eminent domain findings.

The coalition might have legitimate grievances, the majority held, but it did not set forth any legitimate claims.

"While we do not agree with petitioners' legal arguments, we understand those arguments to be made largely as proxies for very legitimate concerns as to the effect of a project of such scale upon the face and social fabric of the area in which it is to be put," the majority held in its unsigned opinion, Develop Don't Destroy v. Urban Development Corporation, 104597/07.

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Posted by steve at 3:24 AM

How Unappealing

The Architect's Newspaper Blog

This blog entry points out that despite the latest legal victory for the developer of the proposed Atlantic Yards, it's not at all clear that the project can be built.

The folks over at Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn have been paper cutting Forest City Ratner for years now, with lawsuit after lawsuit, but they may almost out, and still without a victory–at least not a legal one. Today, the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the ESDC had not erred in its filing of the environmental review of Atlantic Yards.

The case wound up at the appellate division after it was declined by a lower court, but that hasn’t stopped Dan Goldstein and company without already pushing the issue to the next level:

Hopefully, the Court of Appeals will provide a standard to avoid the ludicrous outcome that, despite the significant questions about the improper motives of the ESDC and the inappropriate influence of the developer, the court’s hands are tied and constrained to uphold the approval of such a disastrous project.

...

And so now onward to destiny. And more billable hours. Which may well be the point. With the collapse of the economy, Forest City Ratner is running out of time to find financing for the project before certain contracts expire. And so, in losing and thereby dragging things out after half-a-dozen legal challenges, DDDB is actually winning.

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Posted by steve at 3:14 AM

What Was Guy Ambrosino

Gowanus Lounge

As the possible Atlantic Yards site (also known as Propect Heights) is being demolished by Bruce Ratner, Guy Ambrosino is doing–or saying–something about it. (Bear in mind, however, his statement is more of the memory and the appreciation of communal statement than it is in protest and politics.) This Saturday (2/28) from 4-5pm Guy’s What Was will be the opening of his use of raw materials acquired (good word) from the deconstruction of the Yards at the Soap Box Gallery (636 Dean St, directly across from the Yards) with an after party at Barrette (601 Vanderbilt Ave.) from 5-7pm. For more information about these events or the artist himself, check out Guy Ambrosino.

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Posted by steve at 2:59 AM

February 26, 2009

Matter of Develop Don't Destroy 104597/07 (Brooklyn) v Urban Dev. Corp.

For you legal eagles out there, here's a link to the New York State Appellate Division, First Department's ruling today in the appeal of the challenge to the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement.

In re Develop Don't Destroy 104597/07 (Brooklyn), et al., Petitioners/Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v

Urban Development Corporation doing business as Empire State Development Corporation, et al., Respondents/Defendants-Respondents.

Posted by eric at 4:44 PM

Appellate court, despite some misgivings, dismisses EIS case; one judge concurs but slams blight study, says his hands were tied

Atlantic Yards Report

In a decision that constitutes a crucial advance for the Atlantic Yards project (even if only an arena is planned as of now) an appeals court has rejected an appeal in which 26 community groups challenged a trial judge's dismissal of a wide-ranging challenge to the project's environmental review.

In the opinion (Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, et al., v. Urban Development Corporation dba Empire State Development Corporation, et al.), the judges in the Appellate Division, First Department, took pains to express some skepticism about the project, calling it “purportedly transformational” and noting that the ESDC, rather than being a neutral agency, had “promoted” Atlantic Yards.

And one judge, in a concurrence that had the tone of a dissent, slammed the ESDC for a "ludicrous" claim regarding the blight study.

However, the main opinion ignored a contract signed by the ESDC that gives the developer vastly more time than established in project approval documents.

Ultimately, they acknowledged that “our power to review the substantive adequacy of an EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] is extremely limited,” thus dismissing challenges regarding issues of terrorism, the project’s build timeline, and the findings of blight.

An appeal is planned, though the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, is not obligated to hear the case. One more case, on eminent domain, is pending, after oral arguments Monday; it is even more of a long shot, given constraints on courts interfering with agency decisions.

A political issue

The court concluded:
While we do not agree with petitioners' legal arguments, we understand those arguments to be made largely as proxies for very legitimate concerns as to the effect of a project of such scale upon the face and social fabric of the area in which it is to be put. Those concerns, however, have relatively little to do with the project's legality and nearly everything to do with its socio-economic and aesthetic desirability, matters upon which we may not pass. To the extent that the fate of this multi-billion dollar project remains, in an increasingly forbidding economy, a matter of social and political volition, the controlling judgments as to its merits are the province of the policy-making branches of government, not the courts.

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NoLandGrab: Though the justices are bound by the laws of New York State, they sure sound sympathetic to the plight of the community. Et tu, David Paterson?

Posted by eric at 4:05 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Community Will Seek Court of Appeals Review of Today's Atlantic Yards Court Ruling

State Appellate Court Rules for ESDC on Atlantic Yards EIS Appeal

But Justices Remain Skeptical About NY State’s Blight Claim As Basis for Bruce Ratner’s Project

Community Petitioners Will Ask Court of Appeals to Review the Case

New York, NY— Petitioners—26 community organizations led by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn—will be headed to the highest court in the state, the Court of Appeals, after a four judge Appellate Division panel ruled for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) on their challenge to the environmental review and blight designation for developer Forest City Ratner’s floundering Atlantic Yards proposal in Brooklyn. (The court’s ruling is here.)

Petitioners will ask the Court of Appeals to review the ruling and are considering all issues in the case for an appeal.

A key issue in the case is the state’s designation of the developer’s handpicked development site as "blighted." The court ruled that the state’s "blight" designation had a "rational basis."

However, Judge Catterson wrote a concurring opinion which raises substantial questions about that basis, suggesting there was no rational basis, but rather a decision to facilitate Forest City Ratner in its effort to control 22 valuable acres in the heart of Brooklyn.

Catterson wrote:

Because I believe that the New York Urban Development Corporation Act…is ultimately being used as a tool of the developer to displace and destroy neighborhoods that are "underutilized," I write separately. I recognize that long-standing and substantial precedent requires a high level of deference to the Empire State Development Corporation's finding of blight. Reluctantly, therefore I am compelled to accept the majority's conclusion that there is sufficient evidence of "blight" in the record under this standard of review. However, I reject the majority's core reasoning, that a perfunctory "blight study" performed years after the conception of a vast development project should serve as the rational basis for a determination that a neighborhood is indeed blighted.

…ESDC's contention that as 'a matter of law,' ESDC could only look at conditions contemporaneous with the study, which was conducted years after the [project’s] announcement, is ludicrous on several levels."
(Emphasis added.)

"We are going to request that the Court of Appeals review this case because it is the only court that is able to require a harder look at the facts, rather than blind obeisance given by the Empire State Development Corporation to the dictates of Forest City Ratner. Judge Catterson’s concurrence that the ESDC 'is ultimately being used as a tool of the developer,'is the reason why extreme deference is not warranted in this case," said lead attorney Jeffrey S. Baker. "The Court of Appeals is the only court that can break the chain of previous cases, and we eagerly await our opportunity to argue before it."

Baker continued, "The appellate court is constrained by previous decisions regarding the issue of blight, decisions which have shown a high level of deference to government agency decisions. While we recognize the limitations this court is under, we do not think this is a similar type of case, particularly with the severe condemnation of the ESDC’s actions and decisions as put forth in Judge Catterson’s concurrence. This case will provide the Court of Appeals an opportunity to make it clear that judicial review is not a meaningless exercise and require agencies making blight determinations to do so for legitimate reasons and not simply to facilitate the goals of a developer with political connections."

link

Judge Catterson’s concurrence echoes the concerns expressed in Appellate Court argument this past Monday on the eminent domain case against Atlantic Yards. There the judges understood the critical issue that there is no record at all of the state balancing the private versus purported public benefits of the project, which points to the overwhelming evidence that the blight determination is a story the ESDC has fabricated to accomplish the developer’s purposes.

"Hopefully, the Court of Appeals will provide a standard to avoid the ludicrous outcome that, despite the significant questions about the improper motives of the ESDC and the inappropriate influence of the developer, the court's hands are tied and constrained to uphold the approval of such a disastrous project," said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn legal director Candace Carponter. "While Forest City Ratner would have the public believe that the court has found that Atlantic Yards is a good project, to the contrary the court noted our very legitimate concerns about the project. Their ruling on a standard of review is not in any way a validation of the purported benefits of the project."

The court concluded its majority opinion with this:

"While we do not agree with petitioners' legal arguments, we understand those arguments to be made largely as proxies for very legitimate concerns as to the effect of a project of such scale upon the face and social fabric of the area in which it is to be put. Those concerns, however, have relatively little to do with the project's legality and nearly everything to do with its socio-economic and aesthetic desirability, matters upon which we may not pass. To the extent that the fate of this multi-billion dollar project remains, in an increasingly forbidding economy, a matter of social and political volition, the controlling judgments as to its merits are the province of the policy-making branches of government, not the courts."
(Emphasis added.)

"As the court suggests, because today's economic realities ensure that the Atlantic Yards proposal is not the project that was approved and its future remains an enormous question mark, it is time for our elected leaders starting with Governor Paterson to step up, re-examine the project and explain to the public the rationale for allowing a zombie project of unknown design, cost or benefit to flail forward," said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein.


A list of the petitioners and all appeal briefs can be found at:
http://www.dddb.net/FEIS/appeal

Posted by eric at 3:38 PM

Forest City Ratner Press Release: APPELATE DIVISION RULES IN FAVOR OF ATLANTIC YARDS

Unanimous Environmental Decision Upholds Blight Findings and Concludes - the State met its environmental review obligations

Brooklyn, NY – February 26, 2009 – Bruce Ratner, CEO and Chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, issued the following statement today regarding the Appellate Division, First Department, ruling on the public approvals for the Atlantic Yards project.

“Once again the courts have decided in favor of Atlantic Yards,” Mr. Ratner said. “This project has been reviewed as thoroughly as any in the City and now it is time to put these cases behind us and get to work. Today’s decision speaks comprehensively about the review and approval steps followed for this project and unanimously validates the process.”

The ruling today, which was unanimous, and upholds a State Supreme Court ruling on January 11, 2008, includes six major points related to the review process:

  • The State met its environmental review obligations. Its 3500 page EIS provides an “impressively detailed analysis of the project’s anticipated environmental impacts in 16 separately identified areas.”

  • Confirms that Barclays Center serves a public purpose as a civic project.

  • Confirms the validity of ESDC’s determination that the project site is blighted. “There is no real issue as the actual condition of the properties or of the whole area…the existence of circumstances indicative of “substandard and insanitary” conditions in that area is extensively documented.”

  • The Project includes constitutionally sufficient public purposes – quoting prior decisions court notes that the project includes “several classic public uses,” including alleviation of blight and the development of a sports arena.

  • The EIS properly considered alternatives to the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

  • The court concluded that “the project at issue does not pose extraordinary inherent [security] risks.”

While Mr. Ratner acknowledged one remaining case, for which there was a hearing this week, he explained, “We are ready and eager to break ground. Now more than ever we need to get people back to work and get this project going. Atlantic Yards promises to generate thousands of new jobs, needed new tax revenue for the City and the State, and affordable homes. The courts have consistently ruled in favor of this project because it is good for the City, the State and the borough. This was never truer than now.”

Legal Update

  • Today’s decision is the 22nd consecutive ruling in favor of Atlantic Yards

  • June 23, 2008. The United States Supreme Court declines to review a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

  • February 1, 2008. US Court of Appeals, the Second Circuit, unanimously rejects the opponents’ appeal in the federal eminent domain lawsuit that was dismissed in June, 2007.

  • January 15, 2008. The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court unanimously dismisses a challenge to the project approvals under Section 207 of the Eminent Domain Procedure Law in November 2007. Opponents’ request for an appeal was denied in January, 2008.

  • January 11, 2008. NY State Supreme Court rules against opponents in a case on environmental review procedures. Opponents are appealing the case.

  • October 2007. A second suit brought in the NY State Supreme Court challenging the State's use of eminent domain was dismissed in May 2007, and the dismissal was affirmed by the Appellate Division in October 2007.

NoLandGrab: Today's court decision is certainly a victory for Forest City, but we'd sure like to see their list of the 22 "consecutive" rulings in their favor.

Posted by eric at 3:20 PM

Paterson on stimulus spending: transparent, immediate, and effective

Atlantic Yards Report

At a Leaders Briefing on Economic Recovery yesterday, Gov. David Paterson laid out (video) the areas in which the state expect to spend federal stimulus funds.

They include transportation, housing (especially weatherization), energy issues, water and sewer treatment programs, and the establishment of broadband service.
...

During the session, Timothy Gilchrist, who heads the Economic Development Recovery Cabinet, explained that $14 billion in project requests are pending for $4 billion in stimulus funds for infrastructure. Some will be eligible, he said, and some won't. They can be tracked on the web site economicrecovery.ny.gov.
...

Could Atlantic Yards qualify as transparent, immediate, and effective?

It would be tough to put the Atlantic Yards railyard on the list, as I suggested.

And, argues DDDB, the project would not be in compliance with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, because it's not shovel-ready, according to the bill's provisions, and it's a no-bid project.

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Posted by eric at 3:08 PM

Why Brooklyn arena tax revenues likely would be lower than projected (and why the IBO should take another look)

Atlantic Yards Report

Have you been wondering what gives with Norman Oder's unflagging obsession with NJ Nets attendance figures? Is the "Mad Overkiller" unable to ignore any of owner Bruce Ratner's exaggerations?

Today's post reveals the method to his madness:

New York City's Independent Budget Office (IBO) may not be ready to recalculate a cost-benefit analysis for the planned Atlantic Yards arena, but there's surely a reason to do so, because one key statistic has likely changed, and one key assumption was likely wrong from the start.

As I describe below, that could mean a 23.2% decline in expected new spending, and a significant--if not quite as high--decline in sales tax revenues. If so, there'd be even more evidence that the arena would represent a loss to the city rather than, as previously analyzed by the IBO, a "modest fiscal surplus."

And it would be another reason to tilt the balance between public and private benefit from the project....

The key assumption is that current NJ Nets fans would attend games in Brooklyn. However, if that reasoning was specious to begin with and attendance keeps dropping, the prospect that NYC would capture enough sales tax revenue from Jersey fans to make the project a net gain for the city pretty much goes down the tubes.

Click here to read the article as Oder walks readers through the math.

NoLandGrab: It's pretty much a given that these projects never pan out like the politicians promise, but very few reporters set out to try to prove it before the fact.

If the justification for hundreds of millions of dollars of direct cash subsidy is based upon this house of cards, Oder is right, it's time for the City to square with the public, especially during this fiscal crisis.

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #10-13

Noticing New York

City planners constantly wrestle with the question WWJD (what would Jane do?).

Though the celebrated urban activist and author Jane Jacobs passed away before handing out a detailed report card on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards eminent domain-abusing superblock megaproject, her research and groundbreaking books provide enough information for acolytes to fill in the blanks.

Blogger Michael D. D. White continues his series (links and excerpts below):

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Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #10: Building Creates Close-grained Weave of City Fabric? NO

Jane Jacobs calls for cities to be constructed with intricate and close-grained diversity of uses that give each other constant mutual support both economically and socially. Atlantic Yards, and the Ratner Metrotech and the Atlantic Centers do not incorporate such close grained and intricate features.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #11: Project Will Be Developed Gradually Working with City Fabric? NO

Jane Jacobs calls for cities to be constructed gradually so as not to lose the existing intricate and close-grained diversity of uses that has built up slowly and organically and does not replace itself easily. Atlantic Yards, which is planned to be under construction continuously until finished will be the opposite of a gradual event, partly because of its concentrated scale and partly because, rather than integrate with existing fabric, it goes out of its way to tear down existing fabric and replace it in one sudden “swoop.”

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #12: Avoidance of Projects Being Apart from Weave of City Fabric? NO

Jane Jacobs objects to projects being constructed in a self-isolating way, apart from the weave of the city fabric, which is the way that Atlantic Yards is proposed to be built and the way that Ratner’s Metrotech was built.

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #13: Project Participates in City Fluidity? NO

Jane Jacobs suggests that cities must provide fluidity which means that different sections of the city should work together in multiplying options and choice for the city’s dwellers in general. There is no evidence that Atlantic Yards (or Metrotech) is creating any new options for living or working that people will utilize.

Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

Atlantic Yards is Not in Compliance With The ARRA and Faces Enormous Statewide Competition

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn explains why, according to state and federal regulations governing the economic stimulus package, Bruce Ratner's ailing Atlantic Yards project does not qualify, no matter how much money the developer spends on lobbyists.

Forest City Ratner is lobbying for a bailout of Atlantic Yards from the stimulus bill.

But there are two big strikes against this effort that are not in compliance with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:

  1. Atlantic Yards is not shovel-ready according to the bill's provisions.
  2. Atlantic Yards is a no bid project. The bill does not allow this.

During the "Leaders Briefing on Economic Recovery" Timothy Gilchrist, head of the Economic Development Recovery Cabinet, laid out in detail the procedures and qualifications by which stimulus money will be apportioned.

Mr. Gilchrist said that there are statewide requests for infrastructure projects valued at $14 billion and $4 billion in stimulus funds available for the state. He said that the"Recovery Cabinet" and State agencies had identified over 1,900 projects in early January valued over $11 billion. Since that time an "equal number of projects had been identified" by agencies and municipalities valued around $3 billion, including about 200 projects "in the last few days."

Some will be eligible, he said, and some won't.

Is Atlantic Yards on that list? So far, it does not appear to be, but the lobbying must be intense.

link

Posted by lumi at 4:27 AM

Spike Lee Talks Black History at Dewey & Leboeuf

The AmLaw Daily

If you've ever wondered why one of the most high-profile sons of Brooklyn and NY Knicks superfan has kept his mouth shut on Bruce Ratner's Nets-arena-and-highrise Atlantic Yards plan that would create a wall-o-density between several historic low-rise Brooklyn neighborhoods, here's a tantalizing clue.

SpikeLee.jpg According to AmLaw, one of Lee's go-to attorneys is a pal of Jay-Z and an investor in Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets:

[Law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf's diversity committee invited Lee to speak as a part of the firm's annual celebration of black history month. An appearance by "Do The Right Thing" director can cost upwards of $25,000 under ordinary circumstances, according to a quick check of the National Speakers Bureau website. Lucky for Dewey, the firm is home to one of Lee's go-to lawyers, partner L. Londell McMillan who says he "had a few favors in the bank" with Lee.

As noted previously in this space, McMillan is a bit of a modern day Renaissance man: On top of being legal counselor to Lee, Prince, and other entertainers, McMillan is the executive publisher of the hip-hop magazine "The Source" and a business partner with rapper Jay-Z and real estate developer Bruce Ratner in their efforts to relocate the New Jersey Nets to his and Lee's hometown of Brooklyn.

link

NoLandGrab: Do the right thing indeed.

Posted by lumi at 4:21 AM

Construction's Role in Picking Up the Pieces

The Epoch Times
By Charlotte Cuthbertson

“The stimulus bill will certainly be shaping construction this year,” said Robert Murray, vice president of economic affairs at McGraw-Hill Construction. As a result, the public works sector will be the “saving grace of construction” in 2009 and 2010, Murray said. Murray spoke at the McGraw-Hill “Managing Construction’s Financial Crisis” Conference in New York Feb. 24-25.

Interestingly, when the current state of the construction industry is talked about, Bruce Ratner's flagging Atlantic Yards megaproject tops the list:

Commercial building has been hit hard by the credit crunch. Large projects nationwide such as Atlantic Yards in New York, the Chicago Spire, and the Echelon Resort in Las Vegas have been put on hold.

[OK, so this list is in alphabetical order; however, industry leaders are keeping an eye on what's happening to the largest single-source private development project in NYC history.]

Construction industry leaders are bracing for another rise in costs:

Material costs could be shooting up again by 2010, driven by demand and transportation costs, said economist Simonson.

“By 2010, if economies like China and other developing nations get going again, they're going to add to that demand of materials that we need here for construction” and anytime there's a surge in shipping costs, or fuel surcharges, “you feel it on the construction site,” Simonson said.

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NoLandGrab: It's worth noting that stimulus money spent on construction is going to create construction-industry jobs.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and developer Bruce Ratner are telling anyone who will listen that some of this money must be spent on Atlantic Yards in order to create jobs, but clearly these jobs would be at the expense of other jobs created by more essential projects.

Posted by lumi at 4:11 AM

February 25, 2009

STIMULUS = DEATH?

HOW 'FREE MONEY' MENACES NY

NY Post
by Nicole Gelinas

In an op-ed piece that snuck by us a couple weeks back, Gelinas warns against squandering stimulus funds on operating expenses — and white elephants.

Another potential waste of our finite stimulus money: Developer Bruce Ratner is reportedly lobbying for some of the cash to go to his Atlantic Yards basketball stadium and apartment project.

Sorry, surplus "luxury" apartments and a stadium aren't core infrastructure. This boondoggle shouldn't be taking a dime away from the region's real capital-starved assets - which the private sector needs to be running reasonably well so that it can recover.

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Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

The Developers’ Bailout

City Journal
by Nicole Gelinas

Free-marketeer Nicole Gelinas eviscerates the plan put forth in Saturday's Daily News by former ESDC honcho Avi Schick for bailing out the imploding commercial real estate industry, which seems to be a recipe for creating a new, unsustainable bubble.

In yesterday’s Daily News, Avi Schick—the former head of Albany’s economic-development agency, the Empire State Development Corporation—unveiled a truly awful idea. And that’s really saying something these days. Schick wants to use taxpayer-guaranteed state and city pension funds to prop up the city’s teetering commercial real estate. His proposal would likely exacerbate our commercial real-estate problems, while imperiling pension funds and thus tax dollars.
...

What’s wrong with this idea? It’s hard to know where to start. First, subsidizing new construction would add to a growing glut of empty real estate in New York. “Building values are dropping as unemployment worsens, offices empty, rents decline, credit remains tight and buyers expect higher rewards for taking on more risk,” the New York Times reported last week. The commercial vacancy rate has risen from under 6 percent to double digits in less than a year. Why create even more “critical real estate and development projects” that nobody wants?

Second, preventing buildings from falling into default isn’t the noble goal that Schick suggests. When buildings default, their prices fall, and that leads to lower rents for tenants. Over the past several months, office-building values in New York have fallen off a third or more, and office rents have dropped nearly 16 percent. This correction is necessary. For the past few years, the Manhattan real-estate market had sizzled as hedge funds, banks, finance-related law firms, and the like paid escalating amounts for premium space. In 2005, 2006, and early 2007, owners bought buildings—and lenders financed them—based not on income from current rents, but on the expectation of ever-rising rents.

Now, every Wall Street firm and nearly every commercial bank that has failed, or nearly failed, needs to shed office space. Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns—their imploded profits have all left behind acres of empty space overlooking midtown and downtown Manhattan. Wall Street may not regain anything close to its super-profitable bubble-era form; and though New York, provided it keeps up public safety and the like, certainly can attract new industries to replace Wall Street, those industries almost certainly won’t be so flush with cash, so lower rents are inevitable. The commercial real-estate market needs to purge itself of its speculative assumptions built on twin bubbles in credit and in the financial industry—and that will hurt.

The good news, though, is that lower commercial rents are not a bad thing for New York. Excessively high commercial rents benefit only owners. They hurt tenants, and thus the city’s attempt to diversify itself and move away from a financial industry that has imploded. Anything that New York City and State do to prop up commercial prices thus will not only delay the industry’s recovery; it will injure the rest of the city’s economy, too.
...

One final problem: who will decide which real estate projects are “critical”? Schick notes loftily that “lobbying must be prohibited. . . . If pension funds are on the line, it must be all about the numbers, not who you know.” The state pension fund, though, has a history of allegedly choosing managers based on political contributions, as investigations into former New York State comptroller Alan Hevesi have shown. Plus, developer Bruce Ratner is lobbying heavily for federal “infrastructure” stimulus money for his Atlantic Yards condo and basketball-stadium project—a centrally planned Brooklyn boondoggle that already benefits from hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies.

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Atlantic Yards Report, Avoiding AY example, Schick, former ESDC leader, proposes "transparent" investment fund for commercial real estate

Norman Oder picks up the Atlantic Yards thread from Gelinas, and expands on it.

Schick's idea has drawn severe criticism for ignoring market issues and for serving to further the interests of Daily News publisher, Mort Zuckerman.

But first let me point out how Schick's guidelines for public investment set out--at least on paper--a severe contrast with the way his former agency has shepherded the Atlantic Yards project.

Contrast with AY: transparency

Schick recommends:
* Investment guidelines, including the expected cost, timing and return, must be publicly articulated before any financing is provided. This transparency will help guarantee that investment decisions will be guided by professionals, not politics.

Only a vague "expected" timeline was provided by the ESDC in its approval of the Atlantic Yards project, and there was no assessment of the expected return--an issue in eminent domain case heard in state appellate court Monday.

In other words, Schick is setting out a higher standard. And while the justification may be a larger percentage of direct public investment in a project, the widespread special benefits for the Atlantic Yards project constitute a significant amount of publicly provided advantage.

Contrast with AY: no lobbying

Schick writes:
* Lobbying must be prohibited. The news that the banks receiving TARP money lobbied Treasury was one more sign that it was still business as usual in D.C. If pension funds are on the line, it must be all about the numbers, not who you know.

"Who you know" has been a watchword of developer Forest City Ratner, which has long been one of the state's top spenders on lobbying and has a particularly cozy relationship with all-powerful Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Lately, the developer has deployed former Senator and uber-lobbyist Al D'Amato, apparently to direct federal stimulus funds to the Atlantic Yards project.

Contrast with AY: equity stake

Schick writes:
* The fund must be given an equity stake in projects that obtain financing. The government will create substantial value by establishing this fund, entitling it to capture a portion of those profits when it exits the investment.

As noted above, while this may represent a larger percentage of direct public investment in a project than in Atlantic Yards, the widespread special benefits for the Atlantic Yards project constitute a significant amount of publicly provided advantage.

Indeed, Schick's formulation highlights Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's stunning willingness to direct federal money to the project without any attendant public share.

NoLandGrab: Trying to pump more air into a bursting bubble with public money seems like the just the thing a former ESDC president would propose. And forgive us if we find his calls for "transparency" a wee bit comical.

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

President Obama Stresses Stimulus Spending Oversight and Accountability

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has been seeking some significant change in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards boondoggle. "Oversight and accountability" has been high on the community's list, which would make the arena and highrise backroom deal a poor candidate for Obamabucks.

ObamaChangePoster.gif

Regarding Bruce Ratner's lobbying to use the stimulus bill as an Atlantic Yards bailout bill, these two paragraphs from President Obama's speech to Congress [Tuesday night] should make Governor Paterson think more than twice about doing such a thing (if he is considering it at all) and put an end to that nonsense:

...I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we've all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort - because nobody messes with Joe. I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend. I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new website called recovery.gov so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent...

link

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn asks that you please sign the petition to New York State Governor David Paterson asking that no federal bailout funds be used to bail out Bruce Ratner's ailing Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

UN-FUNNY VALENTINES ARRIVING LATE: YOUR COMMUNITY INTERESTS AT HEART

Noticing New York

UnfunnyValentine.gif Blogger Michael D. D. White imagines neighborhoods sending each other Valentine's Day cards because... well because when it comes to city planning, there's not a whole lotta love goin' round.

9. The Proposed Atlantic Yards Megadevelopment in Brooklyn: Poster Child For Everything Developmentally Bad. Speaking of destroying what the community values and what is economically of superior value, the Fort Greene and Prospect Heights communities, near the proposed Atlantic Yards, should get a valentine from Red Hook. The developer-driven Atlantic Yards involves tearing down worthwhile existing buildings. Some of those buildings, like the Ward Bakery are historic and surpassingly valuable as candidates for adaptive reuse. Others were very recently produced within the last few years by a vigorous and governmentally unaided development economy that the project seeks to quash and replace. The communities near Atlantic Yards will be getting empathy valentines from, and sending them to, almost all the other communities in New York beset by bad development. Atlantic Yards is the one project that is so supremely bad that it is the poster child for virtually every kind of city and state development incompetence and collusive oversubsidization of big developers.

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Atlantic Yards Report, Noticing New York's critique of major projects, and the path not taken of site preparation (at Hudson Yards and AY)

The "Mad O" finds some interesting points in Michael "Double D" White's Funny Valentine post:

There White takes on stadium projects, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Columbia University expansion, the Rudin/St. Vincent’s Real Estate Deal, and a whole lot more. Atlantic Yards, not surprisingly, is deemed "Poster Child For Everything Developmentally Bad."

But probably the most resonant observation regarding AY comes in the segment White devotes to the Hudson Yards project, to be built on railyards that require some very expensive platforms. (The Vanderbilt Yard, less than 40% of the AY site, also would require a platform but not one as extensive.)

White observes:

If the government (as opposed to a private developer) was preparing the site it would not be necessary to postpone the site’s preparation at this time. Site preparation during the current economic downturn might even be cheaper. As it would be a public work, it would arguably be in the running for funding through federal stimulus, an important part of that being that the prepared parcels would later be bid out. But stimulus money cannot be given to a private developer already signed onto the deal because it would totally change the equation based upon which the developer bid to pay the public a low amount for the site. Used that way, the money would eliminate the risk developer assumed and constitute an award of enormous private benefit to the developer without bid.

The same would be true regarding Atlantic Yards, despite Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's push for federal stimulus money for the railyard.

Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

Nets Add to Brooklyn “Founding Sponsors” as Case Moves Ahead

Nets Daily

MetroPCSLogo.gif

Mobile phone provider MetroPCS has signed a “low seven figures” per year sponsor deal with the Nets, receiving the right to name the upper bowl at the new Barclays Center the “MetroPCS Pavillion”. The news comes the day of a crucial court hearing in Brooklyn on the use of eminent domain to acquire property for the arena. The case is seen as a long shot, but critics claim they’ll file even more appeals if they lose.

According to commenter "NetIncome":

Here’s what Yormark had to say in the article…

“We’re still planning on breaking ground in late spring or early summer,” said Nets Sports & Entertainment President and CEO Brett Yormark. “Regarding this specific deal, what makes us happy is that it’s another brand using our new building as a launching pad for their brand.”

link

Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

"If a shot falls in the woods," well, what if there weren't many Nets fans there to begin with?

Atlantic Yards Report

NJNetsCrowd090223.jpg NJ Nets point guard Devon Harris got off an incredible buzzer-beating shot from beyond the half-court line to win Monday night's game against Philly. Unfortunately, the Nets were left high-fiving themselves: sports channels and reporters didn't give props to what should have been the play of the day, and the arena seemed less than half full.

Last night the Meadowlands hosted just about as exciting a game as you could possibly imagine," wrote Henry Abbott yesterday in ESPN's TrueHoop blog, referring to the New Jersey Nets-Philadelphia 76ers contest that ended with an astonishing half-court buzzer-beater from Nets point guard Devin Harris.

But his local newspaper, the New York Times, didn't send a staffer to the game, and it was covered with three paragraphs of bland AP copy.
...
The reported attendance was 13,235, or 66.3% of the 19,968 capacity. Now, I know that attendance reflects tickets distributed, not gate count, but does anyone think they came even close to the reported total?

Keep in mind that the game was competitive until the end, so few should have left early.

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Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

Marty Markowitz's Boardwalk plea for bailout

NY Daily News
By Elizabeth Hays

After years of delayed repairs, Markowitz is calling on the Bloomberg administration to use a large chunk of the city’s federal stimulus money to overhaul the entire crumbling, 3-mile promenade which runs from Sea Gate to Brighton Beach.

“The Boardwalk is an essential part of Coney Island and it’s deteriorating. It’s in horrible condition,” said Markowitz, who is also calling for some of the state’s money to go to the controversial Atlantic Yards arena/residential/commercial project.

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NoLandGrab: The Coney Island Boardwalk is a publicly owned open space that has been neglected by the city and is badly in need of repair. Atlantic Yards is a planned $4 billion arena and highrise project with a smattering of publicly accessible privately owned open space and a "publicly owned" privately accessible arena to be leased to Ratner for $1.

Which do you think deserves federal bailout cash?

Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, State Appellate Court Hears AY Eminent Domain Arguments

Much of the substance of [Monday's] arguments, which were limited to 15 minutes per side, focused on whether the State should apply a stricter definition of public use in OK'ing seizure by eminent domain and whether the ESDC erred in not considering the amount of profits a private entity (Forest City Ratner, in this case) stood to make in the deal. The lawyer for Goldstein et al argued that, depending on the size of Ratner's potential profit, the benefit to the public could be merely "incidental" in comparison. On a related note, a petition again Ratner getting stimulus funds for Atlantic Yards has been started here.

The Community-Based Planning Project, Opening Arguments Heard in Altantic Yards Case

The Brooklyn Paper has a thorough wrap-up of yesterday’s opening arguments in Goldstein et. al. vs. Empire State Development Corporation, the case brought before the State Supreme Court by tenants who are threatened with displacement via eminent domain for the proposed Atlantic Yards development.

NoLandGrab: Monday's oral arguments were not "opening arguments." Both sides had already submitted lengthy briefs [oxymoron alert], and the law permits a paltry 15 minutes per side to augment those briefs in front of the justices.

Posted by lumi at 4:36 AM

February 24, 2009

Petition: No Federal Stimulus for Atlantic Yards

Petition Online

To: New York State Governor David Paterson

I oppose the use of federal stimulus money to fund the Atlantic Yards project. The design, schedule and benefits of the project have clearly departed from what were disclosed to the public in 2006. Any allocation of stimulus to Atlantic Yards at this point would not only further reduce the project's already unacceptable standard of accountability, it would deprive the people of New York City investment in urgently needed public works. I therefore urge you to reject any request for stimulus funds to be granted to Atlantic Yards.

Add your name to the petition

Posted by eric at 7:58 AM

In a swift half-hour, eminent domain argument touches on balance of public and private benefit--but not much more

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder covered yesterday's eminent domain hearing:

Does the state constitution, as the plaintiffs contend, require a stricter evaluation of public use--the bedrock of condemnation--than does the federal constitution? The judges in the ornate Brooklyn Heights courtroom of the Appellate Division, Second Department, seemed willing to consider the argument, but also injected skepticism.

The plaintiffs gained ground on one potentially important point. While the defendant Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) had in legal papers claimed (without foundation) that a document quantified the private benefit to developer Forest City Ratner, that document went unmentioned.

Indeed, an ESDC lawyer conceded no such analysis comparing private and public benefit was performed, but quickly argued that no such analysis was required. Indeed, case law suggests that even if there's substantial benefit to a private entity, the condemnation should be confirmed if public purpose is dominant--and an ESDC lawyer claimed there's "overwhelming public benefit."

Still, one judge called the absence of such an analysis a "critical point."
...
The judges yesterday seemed unsympathetic to the plaintiffs' argument, previously untested in court, that a section of the state constitution approved at the 1938 Constitutional Convention requires projects developed with state subsidies or loans to be restricted to low-income people.

Click here to read the rest of Oder's report, which includes a brief explanation of why yesterday's hearing was so brief and play-by-play review with color commentary.

Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

Lawsuit asks Ratner: So, how much profit WILL you make on Atlantic Yards?

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Brinkerhoff-BP.jpg

A lawsuit against the Atlantic Yards mega-project now hinges on whether the state agency that approved the project can back up its claim that the development is a benefit to the public even if the agency never actually determined the profit that private developer Bruce Ratner is expected to reap.

In oral arguments in a case brought by nine residential and commercial owners and tenants who are facing forced eviction to make room for Ratner’s 22-acre project, plaintiff’s lawyer Matthew Brinckerhoff repeatedly argued that the state never examined whether Ratner’s profit was so large that the supposed public benefit of the basketball, office and residential development is merely “incidental.”
...
The plaintiffs’ case also hinges on Brinckerhoff’s reading of the state Constitution. In Monday’s arguments, he reiterated his contention that Article 18, section 6 of the state’s Constitution bars the use of public money from being allocated to an urban renewal project unless “the occupancy of any such project shall be restricted to persons of low income.”

The State's attorney argued that the State isn't required to review Ratner's profit and that blight clearance for low-income housing refered to in Article 18, section 6 doesn't apply, since "An arena and new infrastructure for the Long Island Rail Road are perfectly reasonable [uses] of state funding."

article

NoLandGrab: Without the actual transcript, it's hard to know if the State attorney actually managed to sidestep the last point.

Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

Arena opponents: New York violated eminent domain laws

The Bergen Record
By John Brennan

During a 40-minute inquiry, the judges asked several questions of each side regarding a central tenet of the lawsuit: Did the Empire State Development Corp. — a New York state agency — properly weigh the public benefits of the project against the private benefits for Nets owner Bruce Ratner?

"They don't have to," ESDC attorney Charles Webb said of his client.

Webb added that state law merely requires that the project area be designated as blighted and that the project serve a public purpose. Webb's colleague, Philip Karmel, added that the construction of an 18,000-seat arena near downtown Brooklyn as well as the remaking of a blighted community was "an overwhelming public benefit."

But Matthew Brinckerhoff, the attorney for Goldstein and the other plaintiffs, said he was encouraged by the judges' questioning about what he called a "sweetheart deal for Ratner that could be worth billions." He said the judges could order ESDC to either complete a formal estimate of the private benefits or reveal what specifics they already have but have not made public.

Webb countered that almost a century of court decisions buttress his side's arguments.

The court dwelled just briefly on the ESDC's claim that Goldstein filed the state case only after striking out in federal court — long after such legal challenges could properly be brought in New York, Webb said.

The judges' decision is not expected for six to eight weeks.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

N.Y. court hears objections to Nets arena

The Star-Ledger

Four Brooklyn judges heard arguments about whether New York violated its eminent domain laws when it approved the proposed Nets arena and housing project in Brooklyn, according to a report in the Record.

The report said judges inquired whether the Empire State Development Corp. needed to weigh the project's public benefits against the private benefits for Nets own Bruce Ratner.

The parties in the case offered sharply different predictions of the project's timeline, the report said. Daniel Goldstein, the lead plaintiff, predicted the Nets would not be able to break ground before 2010, while the Nets hope that construction can begin early summer.

article

NoLandGrab: To date, Goldstein's prognostications regarding the timeline have been more accurate than those of the Nets and Forest City Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

At Supreme Atlantic Yards Hearing, Questions of Process

The NY Observer reporter Lydia DePillis attended yesterday's eminent domain hearing and filed a story which included this brief exchange:

In the 15-minute skirmish—the seventh of 16 hearings on the court's docket that morning, and easily the highlight—the petitioners and their ESDC respondents ran through their briefs as well as they could, interrupted frequently by questions from the bench.

ESDC attorney Charles Webb also didn't have much time to begin his argument before the panel's chair, Justice Robert Spolzino, asked him to respond directly to the petitioners on the question of whether ESDC should have dug deeper into the financial reward in store for Mr. Ratner (even if the project constitutes "public use," Ms. Levy and fellow plaintiffs' attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff used case law to argue, public benefit should be considered in relative terms).

"Did they [ESDC] address private benefit?" Justice Spolzino wanted to know.

"I don't believe they did, because there was no reason to," Mr. Webb answered.

"They don't have to?"

"They don't have to."

The article also mentions that with a decision in the environmental review case pending and a possible appeal of the eminent domain case it will be difficult for Bruce Ratner to float the triple tax exempt bonds he needs for the project before the December 2009 federal eligibility deadline.

Posted by lumi at 4:58 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Reason "Hit and Run", "Nobody cared if Ratner was going to benefit to the tune of a trillion dollars or one billion"

The New York Observer reports that questions of transparency and favoritism loomed large: "Nobody cared if Ratner was going to benefit to the tune of a trillion dollars or one billion," [plaintiffs' attorney Matthew] Brinkerhoff said. "This is something that his company has zealously guarded for years."

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Case Starts in State Appeals Court Today

Eminent domain arguments aside, the [Atlantic Yards Report] post reminds us of what an untransparent, back-room deal the MTA deal was: First, the MTA announced it would sell to Ratner, then it went through the motions of issuing an RFP; when Extel Development bid $150 million for the Yards versus Ratner's $50 million, the MTA gave it to Ratner anyway. Nice.

In the comments section, "bkn4life" shares his own observations after attending the hearing.

Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

Atlantic Yards on BCAT. Councilman Yassky Makes Some Interesting Comments

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

Councilman David Yassky is quoted throughout the Atlantic Yards segment [of BCAT's Reporter Roundtable], transcribed below. He has some very interesting things to say:

[Atlantic Yards discussion starts at 9:55.]

"I don't think the project as put forward by Forest City Ratner and approved by the State is going to be built. There just isn't the funding for it. It doesn't work in this economy. It's really time to go back to basics and say 'what do we want at that site?' Now of course we want housing—we want affordable housing—we don't want it on the giant scale that was proposed but we do want housing, and affordable housing. Let's start with that now."

And:

"If they [Forest City Ratner] come in and say no we're not gonna do or we can't do these [MTA] transit improvements, they should lose every single right they have for that project."

And:

"It's time for the Paterson administration to take charge of this project. It's a state approved project, the state government is calling the shots, they at least have the authority to. It's time for them to really get engaged."

Of course, neither the Empire State Development Corporation nor Forest City Ratner would comment for the segment.

Posted by lumi at 4:32 AM

February 23, 2009

TODAY: Eminent Domain Court Argument

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The challenge, by nine brave home and business owners and tenants, to New York state's use of eminent domain to take the their properties for developer Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development proposal will be argued in court on Monday, February 23.

Forest City Ratner cannot build its floundering project without these plaintiffs’ properties.

Monday, February 23. 10am*
Supreme Court, State of New York. Appellate Division**, Second Department
45 Monroe Place. Brooklyn, NY.
Directions to the Court.

The lawsuit was filed on August 1st, 2008 and fully briefed at the end of December. All briefs in Goldstein et al. v Empire State Development Corporation can be found here.

link

Posted by amy at 10:45 AM

Missing from Chuck Ratner's Atlantic Yards claim: blight--and hoops

Atlantic Yards Report

On February 13, after Gramercy Capital Corporation offered Forest City Ratner a crucial extension on a loan, Chuck Ratner, CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises told the New York Times, “This is a key step in our strategy of proactively managing our debt maturities. By working closely with Gramercy to secure this extension, we have put Atlantic Yards in a position to achieve the vision of economic revitalization, job creation and affordable housing for the future of Brooklyn.”
(Emphasis added)

What's missing from that statement?

First, the original Forest City Ratner slogan of "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops," one which by 2006 had already begun to downplay basketball for an emphasis on affordable housing. Now, the twin promises of economic revitalization" and "job creation" seem calibrated to the current zeitgeist.

Second, the primary (but not exclusive) official government goal of the Atlantic Yards project: blight removal.

Though Forest City Ratner has never emphasized an intention to remove blight--that's the goal of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)--it surely has been on the mind of the developer.
...
But a lot of people (including some judges) looking at Atlantic Yards don't really believe the site is blighted. The issue is important, because blight claims are key to the eminent domain case being heard today.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:45 AM

ACORN's Bertha Lewis Agrees With Community Opposition to Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn lets ACORN's Bertha Lewis make an important point:

"It's the most American thing you can do, is protect your home and protect your community."

**Please Note: We do not post this video as commentary on ACORN other than to show that Ms. Lewis takes the same position on homes and community that the opposition to Atlantic Yards takes (YouTube doesn't permit editing the clip). We invite Ms. Lewis and ACORN to join us in defense of homes and community against the community wrecking Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards onslaught.

link

Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM

February 22, 2009

ACORN's Lewis Says "Opponents" Should Be "Fair" and Let Ratner "Compete" For Stimulus Funds

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Courier> papers. It is not online yet, but we'll post it when it is.

The article calls Al D'Amato's lobbying for a bailout for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal a "counter lobbying effort" while "opponents" of the project are "stepping up their lobbying efforts."

Witt refers to opponents, only DDDB by name, writing a letter to the Governor which was "obtained by this newspaper." Perhaps his paper obtained the letter because it was publicized in a press release yesterday but overlooked the 38 signers including political clubs, good government organizations, neighborhood and community groups, and clergy members.

Perhaps ACORN's Bertha Lewis overlooked that too. Because it is Ms. Lewis whose astonishing comments overwhelm the article. We'll let her words speak for themselves, but it is necessary to remind readers that ACORN is contractually obliged to support the Atlantic Yards project in the public and in the press, and last Summer Forest City Ratner gave ACORN $300,000 and a $1 million low interest loan. And remember, Ratner isn't "applying" for stimulus money like small businesses and community centers will have to, he is lobbying the Governor, and who knows who else, directly along with Al D'Amato.

article

Posted by amy at 10:34 AM

It came from the Atlantic Yards Report...

Guess what's missing from Bloomberg's campaign web site?

HINT: They rhyme with radium and marina...

Borough President Marty Markowitz kicks off re-election campaign

There's no campaign web site just yet. However, after two terms and the extension of term limits, the Borough President's web site surely does double duty.

Man plans to row Atlantic again. Press dutifully provides publicity.

AYR asks why this gets so much coverage from the media, and what happened to the sponsorship from Barclays Center?

As eminent domain hearing approaches, remember, it's a "publicly owned" arena

Is it a publicly-owned arena--an issue that may come up at the eminent domain hearing tomorrow? DDDB has it wrong. NLG has it right--it would be publicly-owned by leased for a buck.

And, if we're going to be precise, I'm not sure Ratner is a billionaire any more, and more than one-third of the apartments would be subsidized (though only about half, perhaps, would be "real housing for the real Brooklyn"). As for whether payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) qualify as taxpayer financing, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky would agree, but it is a matter of debate. Surely PILOTs represent a subsidy--worth perhaps $165 million.

Posted by amy at 10:22 AM

February 21, 2009

Manhattan on Sale

Barron's
by Leslie P. Norton

With all the awful goings-ons in the financial markets this week, what did Barron's choose to put on its cover this week? A report on New York City's teetering luxury real estate market.

First came Miami, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Now Manhattan's high-end housing market is cratering. With Wall Street firms stepping up layoffs, and money for big-ticket mortgages drying up quickly, prices for new york apartments and townhouses of $5 million or more have been falling and may well drop by another 30% before finally bottoming out. That could help turn the Big Apple into the ugliest housing market in America.

While Barron's reported three months ago that the New York luxury market was headed for trouble ("Sand Castles," Nov. 24, 2008), the outlook has become notably worse, with some experts citing the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers as the breaking point.

The local economy is reeling as the securities industry moves to cut some 46,000 jobs by the summer of 2010. Affluent investors have pulled back from house shopping to nurse wounds inflicted by the stock market. Even that most voracious of buyers -- the hedge-fund manager -- has lost his appetite, as angry investors yank their money from his funds.

article [subscription required]

NoLandGrab: Sure, Manhattan's not Brooklyn, but this can't bode well for big, Manhattan-style luxury high-rise buildings in outer boroughs that haven't yet broken ground, like, um, those planned for Atlantic Yards. It's very possible that market assumptions for the project's nearly two thousand condo units are now out the window.

Posted by eric at 2:50 PM

New Jersey Nets fall to Washington Wizards, 107-96

Newark Star-Ledger
by Colin Stephenson

In their first game after not trading their star, Vince Carter, the New Jersey Nets reaffirmed their commitment to winning by getting pasted at home by the worst team in the Eastern Conference.

The day after the trade deadline, their team still intact, the Nets talked Friday morning about ratcheting up their effort, of pushing hard to find a way to squeeze into the playoffs.

And what did they do Friday night, in the opening game of a four-game homestand at Izod Center, against the woeful Washington Wizards?

They got squeezed, 107-96.

article

Posted by eric at 2:15 PM

Oral Argument in Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Case Monday

GLay20gavel.jpg

Gowanus Lounge

In case you haven’t heard, oral arguments in the state eminent domain case concerning Atlantic Yards are being held on Monday, February 23. The hearing will take place in a session that starts at 10AM at the Supreme Court, State of New York; Appellate Division, Second Department; 45 Monroe Place. Brooklyn, NY. The case is seventh on the docket, so it could be a long time before the hearing starts. The case is known as Daniel Goldstein et al v Empire State Development Corporation. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. It is the most significant piece of remaining litigation concerning Atlantic Yards, but not the only one.

link

Posted by amy at 2:10 PM

Brutally weird: Courier-Life says "Yards opponents" are trying to block Ratner from applying for stimulus money

courier2.21.09.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

We know Atlantic Yards isn't dead, because things still keep getting brutally weird. The Courier-Life's Stephen Witt, who brought us the story of "the real land-grabbers," this week suggests that the real manipulators in the political system are the volunteer groups opposing a bailout for Forest City Ratner.

And the victim of the "counter lobbying offensive" is developer Forest City Ratner, which is paying uber-lobbyist Al D'Amato in an effort to get federal stimulus money for the Atlantic Yards project.

But the signers of the latest letter are not, as the headline suggests, "Yards opponents;" some are simply watchdog groups concerned with prudent infrastructure spending like the Straphangers Campaign and The Open Planning Project, as well as Good Jobs New York, notable for its scrutiny of subsidies, and the consultant Majora Carter.

Click through to the article to find out how DDDB is like the Republican party (according to Bertha Lewis.)

Posted by amy at 2:04 PM

When is democracy coming to Atlantic Yards?

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

This is a perfect reason why so many people in Brooklyn think Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal is little more than a back-room deal to enrich an influential developer.

On the same day the Daily News' Pete Donohue and Elizabeth Hays report that Brooklyn beep Marty Markowitz has been lobbying for stimulus money to jump-start the Nets owner's stalled project, Norman Oder says on his Atlantic Yards Report blog that the New York City Economic Development Corp. has denied his Freedom of Information Law request for the current price tag of the proposed arena and surrounding skyscrapers.

The EDC told Oder that supplying that information "would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise." In other words, it's a trade secret.

Huh?

link

NoLandGrab: O'Keeffe links to Leonard Cohen's song "Democracy" and asks when democracy will come to Atlantic Yards, but everybody knows the deal is rotten.

Posted by amy at 1:29 PM

New Senator Gillibrand, in "listening tour," hears some Atlantic Yards criticism

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, new Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand may be close with former Sen. Al D'Amato, now a lobbyist for developer Forest City Ratner, but she can't say she hasn't heard criticism of the Atlantic Yards project.

She met with about 50 civic and community leaders from Central Brooklyn on a listening tour earlier this week at Borough Hall organized by City Council Members Letitia James, Bill de Blasio, and David Yassky.
...
Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn told me that, unlike other attendees, he told Gillibrand about a project that "shouldn't get any of the stimulus money."

Gillibrand asked why. Goldstein said there were dozens of reasons, but, asked for one, said it wasn't "shovel-ready." He said he passed on a letter signed by DDDB and several other groups to a Gillibrand staffer.

link

Posted by amy at 1:12 PM

Recession? Markowitz Says Not in Brooklyn

Downtown Brooklyn Star
Daniel Bush

And in a pledge sure to draw criticism from opponents, Markowitz vowed to push through the beleaguered Atlantic Yards project.

The project - potentially the biggest in the borough - calls for a new sports arena for the New Jersey Nets, apartment buildings, and open space on a vast tract of railyard land that has been unused for years. Plans for the site have been downsized significantly in the past few years in response to organized opposition from some elected officials, residents, and some community groups who have sued the developer, Forest City Ratner, in an effort to block the development.

The Star should never have sent a non-shovel-ready reporter to cover Atlantic Yards when Norman Oder is looking. Atlantic Yards Report makes the corrections:

No, it's not on the railyard only.

No, the railyard is not "unused;" it's still a railyard, but until recently a platform for above-ground development hasn't been fiscally feasible.

And, no, the downsizing hasn't been significant.

Reaction to Markowitz's speech from other Brooklyn politicians varied:

"Markowitz was very entertaining and he covered every point in my district," said Councilwoman Letitia James, whose district includes parts of Downtown Brooklyn. "But unfortunately Atlantic Yards is not shovel-ready and it never will be."

Others, like Councilman Bill de Blasio, praised Markowitz for delivering a speech that encouraged and lauded borough residents for fighting through difficult economic times. "It’s such a fun experience to hear Markowitz talk about the people of Brooklyn," de Blasio said. "Markowitz has so much energy. He really personifies the Brooklyn ideal."

Maybe Bill was stuttering or something because surely he meant to say "He really personifies the Brooklyn back room deal."

article

Posted by amy at 11:51 AM

February 20, 2009

As oral argument in state eminent domain case approaches, questions of a cost-benefit analysis and a different state standard

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder previews Monday's oral argument in a primer to the state-level challenge to the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation.

The Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, after dismissal in the federal courts, goes to state court Monday, February 23, when the oral argument will be heard before the Appellate Division, Second Department. (That division, as opposed to a lower court, is designated to hear all cases challenging New York State’s Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL).)

The new case has to be considered a long shot. The EDPL allows only 15 minutes for oral argument, and there’s no opportunity to cross-examine witnesses or acquire documents through discovery--reasons why critics say New York law is in desperate need of reform.
...

Some but not all of the arguments in Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) reprise those made in the federal case, though, in one new argument, the plaintiffs may have established an advantage.

They contend that, in order for the state to assess whether public benefits from the project would trump the private ones, the ESDC should have conducted an analysis, but didn't do so.

The ESDC's response is to proffer a report that was not released publicly before the project was approved and did not truly represent an analysis, the plaintiffs point out.

article

The oral argument will be heard this coming Monday, February 23rd, 2009, at 10:00 a.m. at:

The Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department
45 Monroe Place
Brooklyn, New York
[map]

Click here for more info.

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

Is the cost of Atlantic Yards now a "trade secret"? NYC EDC foils FOIL request

Atlantic Yards Report

So, what's the current price tag on the Atlantic Yards project, including the cost of the arena?

The information is surely relevant to understand, among other things, the potential pace of the project and the potential need for more government money. For example, more costly affordable housing likely would require a greater level of housing subsidies.

And it might back up BrooklynSpeaks' comment Tuesday that "the current design, program and schedule for the project is unknown."

Forest City Ratner surely has an estimate, so I suspect government agencies have one too. To learn more, I filed several Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests.

NYC EDC says no

So far, however, I've been stymied, as a city-affiliated agency, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, declares that the information is exempt from disclosure because it is either a trade secret or its disclosure "would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise."

Really?

The cost of the project was certainly not a trade secret when Atlantic Yards was approved in December 2006. The price tag was $4 billion, with the arena at $637.2 million, according to the General Project Plan.

Did approval flip some kind of secrecy switch?

article

NoLandGrab: This type of opacity alone should disqualify Atlantic Yards from consideration for stimulus funds. Here's the section about Accountability and Transparency from Recovery.gov:

This is your money. You have a right to know where it's going and how it's being spent. Learn what steps we're taking to ensure you can track our progress every step of the way.

Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

Markowitz Seeks Bailout for Bruce Ratner

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Senator Al D'Amato is lobbying to get Bruce Ratner a bailout from President Obama's stimulus bill. Last year he got paid $40,000 to lobby for this bailout and other stuff. So what (and how much) is Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz, a lone political voice out there in the recession wilderness, getting for his hyperactive groveling for the shovel-unready Atlantic Yards proposal?

The Daily News details Markowitz's desperate ping-ponging around the State. Sounds like the pestering barrage of phone calls, as the mythology goes, that the BEEP reportedly (in The New Yorker**) once made to get Bruce Ratner to buy the Nets.
...

** "Funny" passage in that New Yorker article, in light of the above:

...Markowitz said of his Nets-related scheming, “I thought to myself, Who can I call who has a dedication to Brooklyn, and that has got the economic ability, because, let’s face it, someone who builds two-family homes is not going to be in a position to buy a team and to build an arena.”

link

Click through for DDDB's imagining of Markowitz's lobbying of the MTA.

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz wants stimulus cash for Atlantic Yards

NY Daily News
by Pete Donohue and Elizabeth Hays

While Brooklynites struggle with rising unemployment, home foreclosures and a shrinking economy, Marty Markowitz is focused like a laser beam on bailing out Bruce Ratner and building a temple to greed.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has been lobbying hard to get public stimulus money to jump-start developer Bruce Ratner's languishing Atlantic Yards project, the Daily News has learned.

Markowitz said yesterday he called Metropolitan Transportation Authority honcho Elliot Sander this week to push transit officials to use the federal aid to pay for a new railyard at the $4 billion complex.

Ratner had originally promised to pay $182 million to build the new railyard as part of his winning 2005 bid to develop an NBA arena, and 16 residential and office towers on the site.
...

Meanwhile, Atlantic Yards opponents launched their own campaign to keep the project away from any stimulus aid. Several dozen good government and neighborhood groups yesterday sent a letter to Paterson urging him to turn down aid to Ratner.

"It would be an obscene and perverse use of the stimulus funds available to New York State to use them for this purpose," said Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "He committed to paying for a brand new railyard, why should he be bailed out on that?"

Markowitz argued yesterday it didn't matter if Ratner originally promised to pay for the new railyard in his bid because court delays and the recession have changed the playing field.

"That was then and this is now," said Markowitz.

article

NoLandGrab: If Ratner gets one penny of stimulus, you'll know that the status quo is alive and well in Albany.

Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

DDDB, CBN, Good Jobs NY, clergy oppose stimulus for Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

First, BrooklynSpeaks and NYPIRG's Straphangers Campaign issued statements Tuesday opposing the awarding of federal stimulus funds for Atlantic Yards. (Earlier, I'd argued that, if the project was shovel-ready, it had a huge asterisk.)

Yesterday, an even more forceful letter was sent to Gov. David Paterson, signed by some expected project opponents, the coalitions Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, several (but hardly all) of their constituent groups, and several other civic groups, including the Straphangers, the Sierra Club, and the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance.

Among those signing the letter were Good Jobs New York, notable for its scrutiny of subsidies; Majora Carter Group, LLC, run by the MacArthur Prize-winning consultant and founder of Sustainable South Bronx (and Dan Doctoroff antagonist in a 2007 development debate); and The Open Planning Project, which has championed smart infrastructure via projects like Streetsblog.

article

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

Why are New Yorkers so damn competitive?

Time Out New York
by Nelson George

How is Atlantic Yards like a game of three-card monte? Writer and DDDB Advisory Board member Nelson George explains:

My favorite metaphor for the competitive nature of New Yorkers is three-card monte. Though its heyday was the loosey-goosey Big Apple of the ’80s, I saw games being run on lower Broadway last fall. And where there is three-card monte, there are crowds of New Yorkers huddled over milk crates, cardboard and three bent cards.
...

When competitiveness tips over into selfishness, when the desire for triumph becomes simple greed, you have a formula for social unrest and personal tragedy. And, as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, our moral center will be tested as at no time since the Drop Dead ’70s. Only by tempering our excesses will New York survive this apocalyptic epoch intact. Greed is not good. Developer Bruce Ratner—hell-bent on destroying the charm of Fort Greene and causing traffic jams in Downtown Brooklyn in order to build the ugliest complex since Co-op City—was in the process of proving that. Thankfully, the state giveaway that was to be Atlantic Yards has been a victim of the same vicious capitalism that made Ratner rich in the first place.

article

NoLandGrab: You'd think that after having picked the wrong card from Bruce Ratner so many times, New York pols would stop putting the taxpayers' money down on his cardboard box. Could it be they're actually shills?

Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

New Jersey Nets president Rod Thorn says he did not come close to dealing Vince Carter

Newark Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

Vince Carter remains a Net, and team president Rod Thorn claims he was never lobbied pressured by principal owner Bruce Ratner to unload the star player's jumbo salary.

The Ratner factor? He claims there was none, and we've got no reason to doubt this. We asked him directly whether he consulted the owner more than usual, and he said, Nope. And we asked him whether the owner's affection for Carter influenced the inaction, and he issued another Nope.

"Bruce has always been a big fan of Vince, as all of you guys know," Thorn said in a conference call. "As all the rest of us are, too. I wouldn't say that had any effect on anything we did -- or didn't do as the case may be."
...

The salary dump? It was discussed. But only for as long as it took the Nets to realize they couldn't get away with it. They had to get something - anything - that would keep them competitive, or at least sell the fans on the delusion.

article

NoLandGrab: Remember, for Ratner, owning the Nets is "100% about basketball."

More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, At trade deadline, Nets keep Carter--but what about this summer?

Posted by eric at 9:08 AM

Community's Open Letter to Governor Paterson Says:

Stimulus Funds Must Not Be Used to Bail Out Atlantic Yards

BROOKLYN, NY (February 19, 2008) - A unified and diverse coalition of clergy members and community, good government and political organizations, sent a letter today to Governor Paterson and the State's "Stimulus Czar" Tim Gilchrist. The letter explains, in detail, why the failing Atlantic Yards development proposal in Brooklyn is not "shovel ready," is not eligible for stimulus funds, and should not be bailed out by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The letter is attached and appears below. It can also be downloaded at: http://www.dddb.net/StimLetter.pdf.

Honorable David A. Paterson
Governor of New York State
The Executive Chamber, State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

February 19, 2009

Dear Governor David Paterson:

We write to you regarding our deep concern about efforts developer Forest City Ratner is reportedly making to lobby state officials for a share of New York's federal stimulus funds to be used for the proposed Atlantic Yards development.

The intent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the "stimulus bill," is to generate jobs and kick-start the economy, not to bail out projects which have been found to deaden economic growth, such as sports arenas. New York's share of the federal recovery package should not be used for the Atlantic Yards arena and overall Atlantic Yards proposal.

Governor, the people need significant funds from the federal stimulus program for important infrastructure and housing needs that are real and readily achievable. There are far greater priorities than the Atlantic Yards project, across Brooklyn, across the city and across the state. Atlantic Yards is simply too highly leveraged to return the public's investment even with an infusion of federal stimulus funds.

An arena on land obtained through the questionable use of eminent domain violates both sound planning processes and sound community economic development. The process by which the development proposal has proceeded violates provisions of the bill that require a transparent and competitive public bidding process that meets federal standards.

The project, including the arena, is not "shovel-ready" by any stretch of the imagination or in the terms described in the stimulus bill, as Forest City Ratner doesn't own the land it needs to construct it and, according to the developer, it is undergoing an extensive redesign with an unknown final plan, an unknown price tag, and unknown benefits for the public. The proposed affordable housing is nowhere in sight. Construction is highly unlikely to start in 2009.

The development proposal already has the financial benefit of city, state and federal subsidies in the form of direct cash payments, below-market land, free land, housing subsidies, tax breaks and tax exemptions, estimated by most close observers to be worth anywhere between $1.5 and $2 billion. A new federal subsidy through stimulus funds would be on top of the developer's expected federal tax-exempt arena bond estimated to be a subsidy worth about $165 million. Yet, the proposed arena has been shown by the City's Independent Budget Office to be a loss for the city and at best a slight gain for the state. It doesn't deserve or need further taxpayer-backed financial support.

Nearly all economists agree that arenas are not economic generators or cost-effective job creators. Forest City Ratner has never even publicly estimated the number of new jobs the arena would create because it would be woefully few, especially in relation to the public cost of the arena. And the opportunity costs are dramatic.

Job creation and affordable housing at the rail yards are being held hostage by the developer's and ESDC's prioritization of the arena over all else. The insistence on building the Barclays Center Arena, currently priced at an astounding $1 billion, is the chief impediment to meeting these critical needs on the MTA yards.

Furthermore, this developer received the development rights to the MTA's 8-acre Vanderbilt Rail Yard site, despite a bid less than half the appraised value, because it had committed to building a new, "state-of-the-art" rail yard. The sole purpose of the new rail yard is to facilitate the construction of the arena, rather than any transit need expressed by the MTA in 2005 when they approved their sale to Forest City or in the MTA's 20-year projected needs assessment. This project is not an MTA priority. There are many other transit projects that are much more important priorities.

Granting a share of the stimulus funds to relieve the private developer of its commitments to the MTA and the public would be grossly inappropriate and would undermine the bill's intent.

For these reasons we urge you to deny any request for federal stimulus funds for the proposed arena, infrastructure to facilitate the arena and for the Atlantic Yards development proposal.

Sincerely,

Good Jobs New York
Majora Carter Group, LLC
NYPIRG Straphangers
Sierra Club
Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats
Lambda Independent Democrats (LID)
Bowery Alliance of Neighbors
Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance
The Open Planning Project
The New York Community Council

Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (42 Member Coalition)
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (21 Member Coalition)

Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association
The Brooklyn Bear's Gardens, Inc
Bergen Street-Prospect Heights Block Association
Brooklyn Vision Foundation, Inc.
Carlton Avenue Association
Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association
Carroll Street Block Association Between 5th & 6th Aves.
Coalition for Respectful Development
Committee For Environmentally Sound Development
Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights
Crown Heights North Association, Inc.
Dean Street Block Association Between 4th and 5th Aves.
Dean Street Block Association, 6th Ave. to Vanderbilt
DUMBO Neighborhood Association
East Pacific Block Association
Fort Greene Association
Fort Greene Park Conservancy
Friends of Bond (Street)
Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus
Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation
Park Slope Civic Council
Park Slope Neighbors
Prospect Heights Action Coalition
Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Inc.
Prospect Place (of Brooklyn) Block Assoc., Inc. (Flatbush to Underhill)
Society for Clinton Hill
South Oxford Street Block Association
South Portland Avenue Block Association, Inc.

Reverend Dennis Dillon
Brooklyn Christian Center, Chief Executive Minister
The Christian Times, Publisher
The Black Church Means Business Conference, Executive Chair

Reverend Dr. Daniel Meeter
Pastor of Old First Reformed Church

Reverend Clinton Miller
Pastor of Brown Memorial Baptist Church

Posted by lumi at 4:14 AM

February 19, 2009

The Brooklyn Paper mailbag

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

More reaction to the Brooklyn Paper's recent Atlantic Yards editorial.

Yes, we need immediate job creation from shovel-ready projects, but why should Atlantic Yards — a privately owned venture — be the primary beneficiary of these costly federal dollars?

Does The Brooklyn Paper really believe (like our borough president, Mayor Bloomberg and numerous other elected hangers-on) that there are there no crumbing schools, old water mains, no public housing projects with uninhabitable apartments or broken or faulty elevators and security cameras that should be rebuilt or replaced?

Are all of Brooklyn’s libraries, playgrounds or parks in such great shape that none need to be refurbished?

The passage of the stimulus presents us with a once in a generation opportunity to make a large number of improvements to our bridges, roads, schools, subways and public buildings — all of which have been victims of long-term public neglect.

The use of stimulus funds for any component of the Atlantic Yard project would represent a betrayal by our elected officials.

How can they protest overcrowded schools, crumbling bridges, an impending subway fare hike and/or East River tolls, and still call for diverting precious stimulus funds to a privately owned basketball arena?

Francis Byrd, Prospect Heights

The writer is a former 57th Assembly District leader.

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Posted by eric at 10:48 PM

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning February 16, 2009 and February 23, 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.

  • Demolition of 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) has been completed. Fencing being installed/repaired and site clean up underway.

  • Rigs are on site, Block 1118, lot1 and Block 1119, lots 1, 64, in connection with soil borings that are being conducted.

NoLandGrab: Curiously, this construction update is the same as the last construction update, except this is missing: "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." Just an oversight, or is the oversight no longer in place?

Update: A reader suggests that with the little work still ongoing limited to the rail yard, DOB would not have oversight.

Posted by eric at 9:18 PM

NJ Nets: VC's A Keeper. . . .For Now

NJ.com
by Dave D'Alessandro

Look where the Nets dumped Vince Carter's albatross of a salary — right back in the gloomy Izod Center!

This experience elicits the memory of a high-ranking Nets official in the winter of '07-08, who admitted something with an obvious trace of foreboding:

"The minute we signed Vince to that deal, we knew he was untradeable," the guy said.

The majority of you think that's a good thing. In which case we say, Congrats - he's staying. Until they go through the whole routine again this summer, which may lead to the same exact result, given the economy.

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NoLandGrab: By "the majority of you," we believe D'Alessandro means the ever-shrinking pool of Nets fans. Among those who likely aren't too happy about the failure to make a deal is one Chuck Ratner, CEO of Forest City Enterprises, who surely views Cousin Brucie's Nets folly like the aforementioned albatross.

Posted by eric at 4:38 PM

League distributes financial warning

Yahoo Sports
by Adrian Wojnarowski and Johnny Ludden

We don't think we'd want to be long an NBA franchise right around now.

The NBA sent out an ominous memo to its teams on the eve of the league’s trade deadline to outline dramatic projected drops in salary-cap and luxury-tax levels for the next two summers, Yahoo! Sports has learned.

Because of rapidly declining revenues, the league office delivered a sobering warning to teams trying to free cap space for the historic free-agent class of 2010: Owners and executives will likely have to strip more payroll than initially planned.

At a time when most of the league’s teams are trying to shed salary, these stark projections did nothing to encourage the absorbing of top talent and pricey contracts in the final hours leading up to Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.

“They’re scaring the crap out of the people,” one Western Conference executive said Wednesday night. “There were already not enough buyers in this market, and after seeing that [memo], there are even less now.”

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NoLandGrab: Given news like this, the idea of committing even more public money to increase the supply of local NBA-sized arenas makes about as much sense as buying a new analog television.

Posted by eric at 1:07 PM

If Carter era is over, does Harris era begin?

The Nets Insider
by Al Iannazzone

Vince Carter and his big salary still belong to the Nets, but the NBA trading deadline is still a bit more than two hours away.

Carter could stay in New Jersey or could wind up back here in Dallas, or in the Pacific Northwest with Portland or in Cleveland. It all depends on what owner Bruce Ratner decides about the current state of the Nets' economy.

It's not good. We all know that. But the Nets are not alone. The NBA had to borrow $175 million to help teams losing money and you can bet the Nets are one of them. So it's not as if it's any surprise that this team is hurting financially.
...

So what's next? It's up to the Nets' owners.

Do they want a competitive team? (That was hard to type with a straight face since the Nets have lost the last four games by a total of 73 points.) Or do they deal Carter for salary relief and play in front of a mostly empty Izod Center? (It was hard to type the last part with a straight face since with Carter the building isn't exactly full).

There won't be many straight faces, though, if Carter is moved. You, the fans, would be upset.

This isn't like last year when the Nets had to move Jason Kidd because he had become a distraction and disruptive. The buzz may have left, but there was a feeling of optimism when Devin Harris arrived.

If Carter is traded by three p.m. for financial reasons, there will be less buzz and little optimism about the Nets.

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Posted by eric at 12:48 PM

Atlantic Yards Report Stealthy Wednesday Wrap-Up

As trade deadline approaches, will Nets move Vince Carter?

Might the Nets trade their star solely for the sake of saving money? What message would that send to their few remaining paying fans? AYR scours the Star-Ledger, NYPost.com and NetsDaily for clues.

Sacramento mayor: "We need to find another way to make sure we get an arena built"

Here's a novel situation: the Mayor of Sacramento is actually an ex-NBA player. Not novel: he's an elected official trying desperately to convince his constituents that the Sacramento Kings are an economic plus for the city. But those pesky citizens voted down a publicly funded arena. What to do?

Maybe the team should pay for it privately?

Nah.

Now the plan is for a mixed-use project. Neil deMause is doubtful.

Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

Mayoral Hopeful Wants Islanders in Brooklyn

Spin Cycle [Newsday blog]
by Bill Murphy

The Brooklyn Islanders?

That’s something more than a whimsical thought when it’s pushed by a politician who would like to be mayor of New York City less than two years from now.

“I’m looking for the Islanders moving to Brooklyn,” U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) said Thursday morning on WFAN Radio. Weiner, an avid hockey player who is among a handful of Democrats vying to challenge Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2010, said he thought the current economy made it unlikely that the entire Atlantic Yards project would be built as planned, but there probably would be a new arena to house the Nets basketball team.

As Newsday reporter Steve Zipay recently pointed out, “the numbers show — and have shown for decades — that economically viable arenas generally have two professional sports teams as anchors.”

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NoLandGrab: Since we already have four arenas in the area (Madison Square Garden, the Izod Center, the Prudential Center and Nassau Coliseum), and only five NBA and NHL teams (the Knicks, Nets, Rangers, Devils and Islanders), it would seem we already have more arenas than we need. And the same goes for mayoral candidates.

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

Flashback, 2005: Roger Green says AY area “not blighted;” academic says AY a far cry from Times Square blight

Atlantic Yards Report

There's much attention now on whether the proposed Atlantic Yards project will receive Federal stimulus funds, despite the widely acknowledged lack of benefits the project will return to the City and State. One way to have avoided this mess would have been for the State to acknowledge that there's no need to threaten use of eminent domain for a neighborhood that was already developing well economically without any special intervention. All involved would have done well to note former Assemblyman Roger Green who, despite being a project proponent, said that the project area is not blighted.

Anyone wishing to catch up on all the issues relating to eminent domain would do well to read as Norman Oder uses a look back at a 2005 public hearing to examine the issue of eminent domain and Atlantic Yards. It will be particularly useful as the Atlantic yards eminent domain case will have a hearing in State appellate court this Monday.

The blog entry ends with a quote from Develop Don't Destroy spokesman, Daniel Goldstein, who testified at the 2005 hearing.

Goldstein brought up the malleable definition of blight: “What’s troubling is if you call that area blighted a lot of Roger’s district could be called blighted.

Green responded with the money quote: “The area, for the record, the area is not blighted. For the record.”

“And I appreciate that, “ Goldstein continued. “And Roger is correct. Just this week, in the Real Deal real estate magazine there’s a glowing article about how booming that area is. One of the buildings… that was mentioned in that article was my building, which is a converted warehouse which six months after it opened and people moved in, this project came along. Within a year and a half, the building has emptied out. I’m glad to hear Roger say that. If blight can be used for this neighborhood, as you go eastward in Brooklyn you better watch out because it will just continue.”

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Posted by steve at 6:39 AM

M.T.A. Tells Ratner To Stay Away From Their Stimulus Money

Joshing Politics

This blog entry is optimistic over the failure of efforts by Bruce Ratner to win Federal stimulus money for the Atlantic Yards Project, although this particular story doesn't seem finished, yet.

It has already been mentioned that community destroyer developer Bruce Ratner is looking for a chunk of that economic stimulus money to build his offices, apartments and basketball arena. However, the opposition to that has been fierce and people are noticing. First of all it wasn't written anywhere in the bill (probably because H.R. 1 was about stimulus and not earmarks) and now the M.T.A. is telling Ratner to scat as well.

From The Gothamist:

Atlantic Yards opponents have expressed considerable outrage over developer Bruce Ratner's attempt to get a taste of the federal stimulus package for his embattled stadium, office, and residential project in Brooklyn. Last week it came to light that former Senator Alfonse D’Amato’s lobbying firm, Park Strategies, was working behind the scenes to secure a cut of the stimulus for Ratner. But they can forget about getting any of the loot earmarked for the MTA; a transit official tells the Post that the stalled development is "not on any of our lists [of projects]." However, Ratner is still lobbying for some of the stimulus money outside of the MTA's purview; there's some $3.9 billion for "infrastructure and energy assistance" which will soon be at Governor Paterson's disposal. A spokeswoman for the governor says they're "examining whether the project warrants stimulus funds," and notes that "there's a lot of competition."

Damn, not even a lobbying effort could get AY a dime (though I'm sure D'Amato didn't come for free, heh). Now as for Paterson's discretionary $3.9 billion, if he even thinks twice about giving Ratner money, he can kiss Brooklyn's vote in next year's primary race goodbye.

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Posted by steve at 6:34 AM

Tell Your Story at President Obama's Recovery.gov

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Want to let the Obama administration know that bailing out Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards is not the purpose of the stimulus bill and would undermine the bill itself?

You can do so at recovery.gov.

Go here to tell your story.

Here is one story posted to recovery.gov that a DDDB supporter sent to us by email:

For five long, hard years, my neighbors in Brooklyn have been fighting against an ill-considered project called Atlantic Yards. Its centerpiece is an arena that virtually nobody supports except politicians and developer-initiated groups that receive support from the developer.

Sports facilities virtually NEVER make money for their municipalities. It's been well-documented, over and over, that the chief (in most cases, sole) beneficiaries are the franchise owners and developers (in the case of Atlantic Yards, they are one and the same; and that entity, Forest City Ratner, is the largest political contributor in New York State).

Please don't make a mockery of our desperate fight to save our beloved neighborhood by awarding construction funds to this, or any other, sports facility.

It's hard to lose your cynicism in this economic free-for-all, where banks are given money without condition but small businesses and middle-class homeowners are left to flounder and fail.

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Posted by steve at 6:24 AM

With trade deadline looming, New Jersey Nets believed to be trying to 'give Carter away'

The Star-Ledger
By Dave D'Alessandro

The delays in building the proposed Atlantic Yards project are part of the mix that's giving Bruce Ratner, owner of the New Jersey Nets and developer of the project, headaches as he tries to tell Nets President, Rod Thorn, to either save big dollars by unloading Vince Carter or just continue to endure more financial losses by the Nets organization.

As the trade deadline enters its final hours Thursday, there are numerous factors working against the Nets' bid to shed Vince Carter's salary -- which has become their primary objective, because they can't actually find a deal that will improve their roster.

...

The Nets themselves can no longer afford him, as long as the team is stuck in the lottery. Their arena doesn't generate enough revenue, Brooklyn is years away, the improvement is coming too slowly to satisfy the small fan base, and their own financial losses figure to be in the same $30-35 million range this season.

The only thing Thorn has left, these GMs believe, is the nuclear option -- dumping Carter's salary for pennies on the dollar -- and hoping the fans understand that it's all about clearing cap space for 2010, when the Nets hope business will pick up.

Thorn, however, is a competitive man who isn't ready to do that. He could get Tracy McGrady, but that would constitute a salary dump. He could get Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier, but that too would constitute a salary dump.

Unless owner Bruce Ratner directs him to do otherwise -- which some team officials fear could happen -- Thorn will resist that option until 3 p.m. Thursday.

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Posted by steve at 6:06 AM

More Bad News for Bruce…

Newark, NJ Commercial Real Estate Blog

This blog entry gives the briefest of commentaries on yesterday's New York Post story about how the MTA will not use any of its federal stimulus dollars for the benefit of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

“Brooklyn’s flagging Atlantic Yards project took another hit yesterday when Metropolitan Transportation Authority honchos confirmed the agency won’t dish out any of its allocated federal stimulus funds to aid developer Bruce Ratner. “

The New York Post reports that the troubled project is facing even more trouble as Bruce Ratner is seeking any source of funding he can. I mean I feel bad for the guy I do, but, the Newark Nets has a ring to it…''''

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Posted by steve at 6:01 AM

February 18, 2009

NJ Nets: The Armageddon Option

As Star-Ledger sportswriter Dave D'Alessandro sees it, Bruce Ratner has two options in the waning hours before tomorrow's trading deadline, dump Vince Carter's hefty contract or suck up tens of millions of dollars in losses (again):

So consider the wide-angled reality of the matter. The season is probably going nowhere. The franchise is going to lose upwards to $35 million again. The arena is not generating any revenue. The fan base, such as it is, is already apoplectic. Brooklyn is still a pipedream until it isn't.
...
Take our word for it: There aren't many smiles at Forest City Enterprises board meetings anymore.

So at this time tomorrow, they are going to tell us one of two things. Either they're going to stick it out and take another huge financial hit, or they'll be in full dump mode - which is precisely what they'll be doing if they pull the trigger on some of those idiotic proposals that have been bouncing around in the last 48 hours.

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Posted by lumi at 6:52 PM

535 Dean Street - Apt: PH107

The Corcoran Group

NewswalkPH107.jpg

Originally the Daily News printing plant, the building was converted into spacious condo lofts 5 years ago and is now known locally as the Newswalk Building. This is the most Dynamic Pent House in the building with a true WOW factor because of its triple high ceilings, outrageous private roof deck, State-of-the-Art Chef's Kitchen, hardwood floors and northern exposure which comes through a wall of windows. The large bathroom is in excellent condition. There is also a very well maintained 14,000+ sf common roof deck with separate playground and a raised barbecue deck with 6 grills available. This full service building has a 24 hour doorman, free exercise room, on site valet parking (for a fee) and a common laundry room. Please note: monthly common charge includes heat, hot water and gas. Located in Prospect Heights near the proposed Atlantic Yards, which involves the designs of world famous architect Frank Gehry and a stadium for the New Jersey Nets basketball team.

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NoLandGrab: They had us right up until "Atlantic Yards."

That light, airy, Atlantic Yards site-facing penthouse would come up to about mid-thigh on one of Ratner's buildings, should the project ever happen. Maybe the parlay is a low-ball bid — and a big donation to DDDB if it gets accepted.

Posted by eric at 4:18 PM

As Other NYC Projects Falter, Atlantic Yards Still on Track

Commercial Property News Online
by Barbra Murray

That headline is a bit hyperbolic — the Atlantic Yards project is hardly "on track."

Amid a flurry of announcements of delayed projects in New York City, Forest City Ratner Cos. has orchestrated the $161.9 million refinancing of a loan connected to its $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Downtown Brooklyn. Gramercy Capital Corp., which made the original loan to Brooklyn-based FCRC for the purchase of land for Atlantic Yards, provided the refinancing along with a group of co-lenders.

The project site is in Prospect Heights, not Downtown Brooklyn.

Timing of the deal was just right, as the loan was scheduled to be repaid this month; the new loan is due in February 2011.
...

While FCRC was successful in arranging a big refinancing transaction in the midst of one of the most challenging economic periods in memory, the company concedes that its drive to move forward with Atlantic Yards has not gone unhindered. "The economy has impacted all development activity--certainly tenant interest and the ability to access credit markets--and we certainly aren't immune to that," a spokesperson told CPN. And there are other issues preventing the Atlantic Yards project from progressing smoothly. "There are a couple of lawsuits pending by the opposition, but we've cleared many hurdles on that front and are confident that we will be able to clear the remaining hurdles."

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NoLandGrab: It's rare for Forest City to mention the economy as an obstacle before lawsuits — they usually claim the latter are the only things standing in their way.

Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

RATNER BIDS FOR FED $$

NYPost.com
by Rich Calder and Tom Namako

The Post is reporting that one possible source of stimulus funds for Atlantic Yards has reached the end of the line.

Brooklyn's flagging Atlantic Yards project took another hit yesterday when Metropolitan Transportation Authority honchos confirmed the agency won't dish out any of its allocated federal stimulus funds to aid developer Bruce Ratner.

"It's not on any of our lists [of projects]," one MTA official said.

But while Ratner won't be getting any MTA aid to bail out his reeling $4 billion plan to bring an NBA arena and 16 residential and office towers to Prospect Heights, he still has a shot at getting some of the federal pork directly through Gov. Paterson.

The state's $24.6 billion pool of the stimulus bill contains $3.9 billion for infrastructure and energy assistance and Ratner is lobbying hard for some of it.

A Paterson spokeswoman said the governor is still examining whether the project warrants stimulus funds, adding there's a lot of competition.

Ratner declined to comment for this article.

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Atlantic Yards Report, Post: MTA isn't seeking stimulus funds for Atlantic Yards

However, the Post reported, developer Bruce Ratner "still has a shot at getting some of the federal pork directly through Gov. [David] Paterson."

As far as I can tell, that's a generic reference to the fact that Paterson will control discretionary funding, not an assurance that Atlantic Yards is on a specific Paterson list.

Posted by eric at 8:24 AM

Does he know something we don't? ESPN host says "Brooklyn’s done. Brooklyn’s finished."

Atlantic Yards Report

If you're wondering why your friends and neighbors think that Atlantic Yards is already dead, read on...

BSReport.jpg

ESPN columnist and radio host Bill Simmons, in his free-flowing February 16 podcast, flatly declared that the Nets' announced move is doomed: "Brooklyn’s done. Brooklyn’s finished."

There's no evidence that Simmons has any inside information--though a Nets official, speaking anonymously last October, told a Bergen Record columnist the move wouldn't happen. I think, however much the project appears to be struggling, it's hardly doomed.

Meanwhile, developer Forest City Ratner is angling to get federal stimulus funding to move the project along and is hoping for a swift resolution of pending legal cases, which is not implausible.

So, while Simmons' statement is opinion, not fact, it's another example of how the "Atlantic Yards is dead" meme has been getting around.

Here's one meme that might keep Ratner up at night (emphasis added):

At about 65:35 of the podcast, Simmons brought up rumors about troubles in the National Basketball Association:

Sacramento might move. New Orleans might move. The New Jersey owner is supposedly broke.

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Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

When it came to D'Amato's lobbying, Bloomberg once was scathing about buying "political connections"

Atlantic Yards Report

[I]n his personal politics, Ratner may lean left, but when it comes to business, the developer is an equal-opportunity rent-seeker.

Hence Forest City Ratner's willingness, in the pursuit of federal stimulus funds, to enlist lobbyist and former Republican Senator D'Amato, who gained election as a conservative and maintained three terms as "Senator Pothole," emphasizing constituent service and pork.

Now D'Amato's an influence-peddler to the highest bidder, who previously was hired by the developer to make sure federal eminent domain laws didn't get tougher.

When the owners of Madison Square Garden and Cablevision deployed D'Amato and his ilk against Mayor Bloomberg's Westside Stadium plan, Bloomberg scornfully blasted the tactic.

In the case of Atlantic Yards, D'Amato is lobbying for a project the mayor supports, so there's no reason to expect criticism from Bloomberg.

But the principle is the same. Decision-making by lobbyists detracts from democracy.

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NoLandGrab: Norman Oder could have gone further and said, "the LACK OF principle is the same."

Oh well, in lieu of spending $40K on lobbyists, we get to hurl stink-bombs on the Internet.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Will the Times comment on Ratner's blatant bailout bid? Based on past performance, no

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder offers a reminder to the NY Times newsdesk that they don't have to march in lockstep with the paper's editorial board.

Will the New York Times editorialize against the private bailout Forest City Ratner apparently seeks, deploying federal stimulus funds to complete the new railyard the developer had committed to build?

It's doubtful, given the newspaper's steady path from criticizing AY subsidies to studious silence, even though a stimulus for Atlantic Yards is so contentious that it's drawn criticism from not only Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn but also BrooklynSpeaks and the New York Public Interest Research Group's Straphangers Campaign.

But maybe the news desk, if it truly believes in small-d democracy, will do some more reporting.

Check out the rest of the article, in which Oder offers a retrospective of the Grey Lady's criticism of "taxpayer money to be used to help fund a profit-making real estate venture like this one," before falling silent on the entire affair.

NoLandGrab: Does the Times support "taxpayer money to be used to help fund... a real estate venture like this one" if it is no longer "profit-making?"

Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

BrooklynSpeaks, Straphangers say there should be no stimulus for AY

Atlantic Yards Report

JoAnneSimon-JB.jpg

Last Wednesday, District Leader JoAnne Simon asked a fundamental question of Atlantic Yards Ombudsman Forrest Taylor: "When is this project no longer this project and is so fundamentally altered that we need to look at it again and start over?"

Taylor said he'd take the question back, but BrooklynSpeaks, the "mend-it-don't-end-it" coalition of which Simon is member, yesterday issued a statement drawing on that issue to ask Governor David Paterson to reject any request by Forest City Ratner for federal stimulus funds.
...
“The original Atlantic Yards plan was conceived for the economy of 2004. In 2009, that plan is no longer feasible, and the current design, program and schedule for the project is unknown,” said Prospect Height Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) representative Gib Veconi. “Providing stimulus for Atlantic Yards now would amount to the Governor approving a new project before it’s been disclosed to the public.”

It also would seem to bail out a developer for obligations previously committed.
...
BrooklynSpeaks, for reasons of pragmatism as much as principle, has been unwilling to join lawsuits challenging the fundamentals of the project, the approval of Forest City Ratner's role.

Still, BrooklynSpeaks, which has proffered proposals for reform that haven't gotten much traction, at least has been praised by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the project's biggest cheerleader and a proponent of stimulus funds.

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NoLandGrab: In the past, Marty Markowitz has attempted to highlight the differences between the coalition groups Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks, but even his own stumping for more public subsidy of Bruce Ratner's ill-fated Atlantic Yards plan hasn't managed to soften the consensus that it would be a shameful waste of precious taxpayer money.

Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

Coalition Rejects Idea Of Stimulus for Ratner

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BrooklynSpeaks, a coalition of community and civic groups in the areas near Downtown Brooklyn, Tuesday called on Governor Paterson not to grant federal stimulus funds to Forest City Ratner for the Atlantic Yards project.
...
The Straphangers Campaign came out with a similar statement Tuesday, saying, “There are many very worthwhile transit projects more deserving of federal stimulus funds.”

A representative of Forest City Ratner wouldn’t comment on the stimulus issue.

© Brooklyn Daily Eagle 2009 All materials posted on BrooklynEagle.com are protected by United States copyright law. Just a reminder, though -- It’s not considered polite to paste the entire story on your blog. Most blogs post a summary or the first paragraph,( 40 words) then post a link to the rest of the story. That helps increase click-throughs for everyone, and minimizes copyright issues. So please keep posting, but not the entire article.

FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Material from diverse and sometimes temporary sources is being made available in a permanent unified manner, as part of an effort to advance understanding of the issues associated with Bruce Ratner's Empire State Development Corporation-sponsored Atlantic Yards project. It is believed that this is a 'fair use' of the information as allowed under section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 USC Section 107, the site is maintained without profit for those who access it for research and educational purposes. For more information, see: www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.

Posted by lumi at 4:38 AM

February 17, 2009

Breaking down the trade market

SI.com
by Ian Thomsen

The deepening recession and a run of blockbuster deals in recent years have created speculation of another big movement of talent approaching the trading deadline Thursday. But don't count on it. The way the market is shaping up, there may be a number of minor money-moving deals but no blockbusters.

While there are a lot of sellers seeking to dump expensive contracts, there aren't nearly as many buyers.
...

The Sellers
...

• New Jersey Nets: The 32-year-old Vince Carter is on the books for $16.1 million next season and $17.5 million in 2010-11. There have been rumors of interest from San Antonio, Dallas and Houston, and there is reason to be skeptical in all cases. The Nets should be looking to move Carter because his value has improved with his return to health this season, he'll be winding down by the time the young Nets grow back into contenders, and the argument can be made that they're better served going into the tank this season to improve their draft position than by competing for the No. 8 spot in the playoffs. (And wouldn't Nets owner Bruce Ratner prefer to not pay all of that money over the years ahead?)

article

NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner would especially prefer to not pay all of that money over the years ahead — but trading Carter and throwing in the towel will just further crimp the Nets' already-anemic attendance, off-setting at least a portion of any salary-dump savings.

Posted by eric at 6:16 PM

PRESS RELEASE: BROOKLYNSPEAKS SPONSORS CALL ON GOVERNOR TO REJECT FOREST CITY RATNER’S REQUEST FOR FEDERAL STIMULUS FUNDS FOR ATLANTIC YARDS

Cite project’s uncertainty, lack of oversight, accountability and transparency

BrooklynSpeaks speaks out in opposition to yet another helping of pork for Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

The sponsors of BrooklynSpeaks, a coalition of community and civic groups seeking to reform the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, today called on Governor Paterson to reject the request by Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) for federal stimulus funds. The sponsors cited the unknown nature of the developer’s current plans and the lack of oversight, accountability and transparency surrounding the project’s governance.

“The original Atlantic Yards plan was conceived for the economy of 2004. In 2009, that plan is no longer feasible, and the current design, program and schedule for the project is unknown,” said Prospect Height Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) representative Gib Veconi. “Providing stimulus for Atlantic Yards now would amount to the Governor approving a new project before it’s been disclosed to the public.”

“From the beginning, Atlantic Yards has been a public-private partnership in which the public has not been represented,” added District Leader Jo Anne Simon. “Atlantic Yards continues to be a project without any mechanism for meaningful participation by the community or local elected officials, or any true oversight or accountability from the State. To award stimulus funds when Atlantic Yards’ timeline and essential characteristics remain question marks would not only be bad for Brooklyn, but runs directly counter to the criteria for eligible, shovel-ready projects established by Congress.”

link

Posted by eric at 4:59 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Reason.com, Got Them Taxpayer-Funded, No-Revenue, Multimillion-Dollar Sports Stadium Blues

Surprise! Those grand promises politicians and team owners made to taxpayers in their pitches for publicly-funded sports stadiums? They aren't panning out.
...

But even if state governments eventually wise up to these ripoffs, there's always the feds. Just as things were looking gloomy for New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner's plan to build a $4.2 billion, Frank Gehry-designed, mixed-use facility and basketball stadium in Brooklyn, Ratner found new hope: He has hired former Sen. Al D'Amato's lobbying firm to procure a cut of the stimulus package President Obama signed into law today.

GANGBOX, CONSTRUCTION DOWN 34% IN NEW YORK CITY, THANKS TO THE MELTDOWN

The recession has not only rocked New York’s financial markets. It’s also adversely affecting new building starts and putting some projects on hold.
...

The $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn is another mixed-use project rumored to be in trouble. It was slated to include office, retail, apartments and a new arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team. Joe DePlasco, spokesman for developer Forest City Ratner Companies says an eminent domain court case is holding up that project, which had hoped to break ground last fall.

“Once the case is resolved and we are confident we will win it, we have to close with MTA, get funding and begin,” DePlasco says. He declined comment when asked if the slowing of the project was due to a lack of financing.

NoLandGrab: Did Ratner-flack DePlasco say "once the case is resolved and we are confident we will win it," or "once the case is resolved, and we are confident we will win it?" There is a difference. And of course he said nothing about the financing.

TrafficCourt [RetailTraffic blog], Stimulus For Atlantic Yards?

Does a new arena and retail complex count as infrastructure? Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz seems to think so.

Evan Weiner at MCNSports.com, All sports business eyes turn to Florida, Arizona and Detroit

The stimulus package is designed to pump money into states, cities, towns, villages and municipalities for infrastructure development and repairs. Things like energy projects, road reconstruction which would create jobs. There also could be stadium/arena construction although that would seem to be on the low priority end behind building and repairing bridges and retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient. In New York, New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner, a political operative under New York City Mayors John V. Lindsay and Ed Koch in the 1970s, is turning to former New York Senator Al D'Amato's lobbying firm to help him get stimulus money in an attempt to get the stalled Atlantic Yards-Brooklyn Arena project moving.

The Cross Pollinator, New York State is a political sewer infested with rats

Atlantic Yards makes a cameo in this post about new Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and the his-'n'-hers rifles she keeps under the bed.

Charles Schumer: In Wall Street’s pocket, loves Atlantic Yards

Gowanus Lounge, GL Analysis: The NY Times Finally Tackles Coney Island

Another AY cameo, this time in the context of the Coney Island fiasco.

Mr. Bagli also points out the fact that the city could use eminent domain to get Mr. Sitt’s land, but that tactic would only result in years of legal battles that could make the Atlantic Yards litigation look speedy.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Ratner Wants Bailout Money for Atlantic Yards

Check out the press release on the Develop Don't Destroy Website about Ratner's efforts to secure some federal bailout money for the ailing Atlantic Yards project. DDDB charges that this would turn Atlantic Yards into "the poster child for misuse and abuse of the recovery bill."

Posted by eric at 4:27 PM

STATEMENT ON THE ATLANTIC YARDS PROJECT AND FEDERAL STIMULUS FUNDS

NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign

The New York Public Interest Research Group's Straphangers Campaign released the following statement today regarding Forest City Ratner's brazen attempt to grab a chunk of scarce stimulus funds.

There are many very worthwhile transit projects deserving of federal stimulus funds, from modernizing stations to replacing aged subway tunnel fans.  The Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn is not one of these priorities.  

The Atlantic Yards developer should pay for moving the yards to accommodate development, not the taxpayers.

Posted by eric at 3:44 PM

Priming the Pump at Atlantic Yards?

Gotham Gazette
by Gail Robinson

The Wonkster kicks around the Atlantic Yards hot potato, so to speak.

Does the economic stimulus package President Barack Obama is signing today include a great big bailout for Atlantic Yards? The idea of federal stimulation for the problem plagued arena and condo project surfaced in the Observer last week, prompted by former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato’s lobbying for the help on behalf of developer Forest City Ratner.
...

“Under the banner of ‘doing nothing is not an option,’ how many ill-conceived and economically unjustified “infrastructure” projects, whose consequences will persists for decades to come, will be rushed into construction?” Think Markets wondered. “The Atlantic Yards public-private-mega-project in Brooklyn, even in earlier good economic times, not only raised questions of fairness in the use of eminent domain, but also of the impact it will have on the texture and vitality of a local community. … The current developer is now angling for stimulus money.”

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Posted by eric at 3:28 PM

HOW SHOULD NEW YORK USE OUR $TIMULUS MONEY?

SouthOxford.com

NoLandGrab: Close watchers of the Atlantic Yards fight will note that the planned arena would be nominally publicly owned, and leased to the Nets for the annual sum of $1 — a neat accounting trick that also comes in handy when grandstanding in front of a judge. If there's such a thing as "implausible deniability," that would be it.

Posted by eric at 3:05 PM

Jeffries: no stimulus funds for railyard, but maybe for affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Pinning down Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is like trying to catch a shadow.

If City Council Member Letitia James, a staunch opponent of Atlantic Yards, opposes the use of federal stimulus funds for the project, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who's more on the fence, thinks money might be spent on housing--but not a new railyard.

"I’m unconvinced that the railyards are the appropriate place for the money to be spent," Jeffries said yesterday after I asked whether federal money should relieve developer Forest City Ratner of a previous obligation.

"It’s clear to me that a much stronger case could be made to spend stimulus money on affordable housing," given that it responds to "a permanent need."

I had queried him to amplify some quotes in an article in this week's Courier-Life chain, which could have left the impression that he supported stimulus money for a new Vanderbilt Yard as long as Phase 1 of the project contained affordable housing.

article

NoLandGrab: Jeffries allegedly opposes the use of eminent domain to build an arena, too, but that opposition sure doesn't sound absolute — or a matter of conscience.

Posted by eric at 7:29 AM

Decoding "shovel-ready": AY railyard may seem eligible, but with a huge bailout asterisk (and wouldn't be "fully vetted")

Atlantic Yards Report

shovelready01.gif Recently, the Empire State Development Corporation was confused as to whether or not the Atlantic Yards was a "shovel-ready" project, and there was (perhaps calculated or cautious) confusion between Senior Senator Charles Schumer and Governor David Paterson as to whether Atlantic Yards would be eligible for federal bailout money.

Norman Oder explores the meaning of "shovel-ready" and whether or not the railyard work has been "fully vetted," which is a requirement, according to an overview released by the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

And where in the stimulus bill might money for AY come from?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder asks and answers the question of the day:

So, where in the stimulus bill might there be money for Atlantic Yards? There aren't too many places and there's surely much competition for relatively limited funds.

[Keep in mind that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is currently spending thousands of dollars on lobbyists to answer the same question.]

Discretionary funding
There's some discretionary money for governors; the emphasis is on education but "other government services" are included.
...
Of $53.6 billion, 18.2% would mean $9.8 billion spread nationally--not a huge amount of money for each state. The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) calls it the State Stabilization Fund, which has "flexible funding for governors’ priorities."

Mass transit and housing
NASBO also identifies $9.3 billion in the bill for mass transit. (I couldn't find the reference.) The bill has provision for a "Public Housing Capital Fund." There's also $1 billion for a "Community Development Fund," but that money would go to grantees that received funding in FY 2008.

There's an additional $2.25 billion nationally for "capital investments in low-income housing tax credit projects;" New York State would get a relatively small fraction.

Might that involve Atlantic Yards? Well, the December 2006 KPMG report (p. 21 of PDF) to the Empire State Development Corporation states that developer Forest City Ratner would be eligible for such tax credits, a benefit of $95,000 to $165,00 per unit. Then again, the stimulus bill says that not less than 75 percent of the funds would have to be committed within a year.

Overview in the press
The New York Times, provides an overview of the impact of the stimulus on New York, identifying "$24.6 billion for Medicaid, education, transportation, and other priorities."

Drilling down, the newspaper reported $1.3 billion for transit projects, "nearly all of which would go to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. About $500 million would go to the Fulton Street Transit Center in Lower Manhattan. As for the rest: The authority has a long list of other projects that could get some of the stimulus money, including subway and commuter rail station renovation and improvements to behind-the-scenes infrastructure like rail yards and shops.

The Vanderbilt Yard was not on the MTA's initial list, but the decision is apparently in the hands of Gov. David Paterson.

Then there's the matter of an amendment that seemingly would have precluded money being spent on stadiums, which never made it to the final bill.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

ARENA price tag in half, not PROJECT

halfoff.gif Yesterday's Atlantic Yards Report article made the top of the list of The Real Deal's links, which, in ten words, managed to mangle the story.

In the original article, Norman Oder was pondering whether or not developer Bruce Ratner could manage to cut the ARENA price tag in half, while The Real Deal's headline went whole-hog, announcing that the "Price tag of Atlantic Yards might be cut in half."

It's amazing how casually misinformation can be generated, in the cut-and-paste era no less. No wonder we keep bumping into friends and acquaintances who assume the project is already dead.

Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Secures Refinancing on Key Loan for Brooklyn Project

Forest City Enterprises continues to try to reassure investors by issuing a press release every time they secure financing. This week the company ducked a major blow by ponying up $15 million to Gramercy Capital in exchange for a two-year extension on a bridge loan for Atlantic Yards.

From PR Newswire:

CLEVELAND, Feb. 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA) (NYSE: FCEB) today announced that a subsidiary has secured a $161.9 million refinancing from Gramercy Capital Corp. and certain co-lenders on a key loan associated with the Company's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, New York.

The original loan covered land acquisition costs at the project site and was set to come due this month. The refinancing will be due in February, 2011.

"This is a great outcome, especially given current market conditions, and I applaud the work of our New York team in making this happen," said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City Enterprises president and chief executive officer. "This is a key step in our strategy of proactively managing our debt maturities. By working closely with Gramercy Capital Corp to secure this refinancing, we have put Atlantic Yards in a position to achieve the vision of economic revitalization, job creation and affordable housing for the future of Brooklyn."

Joanne Minieri, president and chief operating officer of Forest City Ratner Companies, the Brooklyn-based subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, said, "The Atlantic Yards project has never been more important for Brooklyn. We appreciate the vote of confidence this refinancing represents, and we are as committed as ever to moving forward with this critical project."

This press release seems to have been issued due to inquiries from reporter Michelle Jarboe of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, who posted two items on the deal (first reported on the NY Times City Room blog), one before the press release was issued and one afterward.

Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

The Rail Yard to Nowhere: Ratner's Quest for an Atlantic Yards Federal Bailout

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (dddb.net) explores the history of the need for a new "state-of-the-art" railyard for which Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is now seeking federal stimulus bucks.

Why do we need a new railyard?

FCR secured the development rights to the MTA's eight-acre Vanderbilt Rail Yard, despite a bid less than half the site's appraised value, in part because it had committed to building a new, "state-of-the-art" rail yard. The sole purpose of the new rail yard, however, is to facilitate the construction of the proposed arena – not the fulfillment of any transit need expressed by the MTA in 2005 when it approved the sale to FCR; nor is a new rail yard outlined in the MTA's 20-year projected-needs assessment. FCR had committed to the MTA and the public to building this new rail yard and paying for it because the new yard was only necessary for its project.

But didn't Ratner say he was going to pay for the new railyard? [Short answer: YES.]

The Brooklyn Paper reported at the time:

...[Former MTA Chairman Peter] Kalikow argued that Forest City Ratner would be spending its own money on a public railway that would be made state-of-the-art.

And NY1 reported at the time:

What the MTA also now has is a promise to make major improvements to the Atlantic Yards, at a cost to Ratner of $345 million.

"That's not built with funny money - that's built with real cash," said Forest City Ratner Executive Vice President Jim Stuckey...

Since that time, the developer Forest City Enterprises has been seeking more "real cash" from government sources, most recently from the large pot of honey about to flow from D.C.

Check out the rest of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's article to read about Ratner's lobbying efforts, the ruse to dress their new railyard up as an MTA "transit project," and some of the politicians who are for and against it.

Posted by lumi at 4:22 AM

February 16, 2009

Audit cries foul, says Yanks stiff city on rent - again

NY Daily News
by Adam Lisberg

Not content with a sweetheart deal funneling hundreds of millions of public dollars toward the building of a new Yankee Stadium, the Sultans of Swag still insist on trying to nickel-and-dime the city's taxpayers at every turn.

The Yankees shortchanged the city to the tune of $65,511 for Yankee Stadium rent payments in the first three months of 2008, a new audit from Controller William Thompson shows.

The Bombers do not dispute the audit and plan to repay the money, just as it has paid millions in rent charges after similar challenges in the past eight years.

"The Yankees consistently overstate their rent deductions, effectively underpaying the city the proper rent due," Thompson said in a statement. "The Yankees have understated the rent due to the city by more than $3.7million over 33 quarters, which indicates a pattern thatgoes beyond an accounting error."

Sneering Yankees' president Randy Levine continues his ongoing audition for the role of the villain in the next Batman film.

"If I was Bill Thompson, I'd start paying more attention to Mike Bloomberg than the Yankees," Levine told the Daily News, "or else he's going to find himself in a situation similar to a cellar-dwelling baseball team."

article

Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

Is it possible for Atlantic Yards arena price tag to be cut (nearly) in half? And what would that mean?

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Times reporter Charles Bagli, who last March almost casually broke the news that the price tag for the Atlantic Yards arena had reached $950 million (from $637.2 million as approved in December 2006), last Friday slipped in another cost estimate with major implications.

In a CityRoom blog post taking off from the news that Gramercy Capital Corporation had extended the terms of a loan to Forest City Ratner, Bagli wrote last Friday:

Forest City has indicated that it will delay building its planned office tower or the first of the residential buildings, but it is still hoping to start construction later this year on the arena, which was designed by the architect Frank Gehry. Knowing that it could not obtain financing in the credit markets for an arena costing $1 billion, Forest City has put engineers to work trying to cut the price in half. (Emphasis added)

That's a pretty dramatic reduction, and it raises a question: what would a $500 million arena look like? It likely wouldn't look like the $950 million arena (right), as depicted in desgins released last May.

Norman Oder ponders the costs and implication for the arena sponsors.

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Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

Stimulus Fund Watch

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards seems to be the only NY State project for which reporters and taxpayers ask Governor Paterson, "Are you really thinking of giving money to THAT project?"

While everyone [including Bruce (wink!)] is on Stimulus Fund Watch, here's the latest from The Times:

The state would also receive $1 billion in highway financing and $1.3 billion for transit projects, nearly all of which would go to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The authority has said it planned to spend about $500 million of the money on the Fulton Street Transit Center in Lower Manhattan. The project, plagued by soaring costs and delays, involves the renovation of a tangle of interconnected subway stations and the construction of an architecturally ambitious glass building above them.

The authority has a long list of other projects that could get some of the stimulus money, including subway and commuter rail station renovation and improvements to behind-the-scenes infrastructure like rail yards and shops.

article

NoLandGrab: Keep in mind, the only reason that Vanderbilt Yards would have to be "improved" is because the tracks must be moved to accommodate a new arena for Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets.

Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

CEOspeak

After last week's announcement that Gramercy Capital agreed to a $15 million repayment and two-year extension on its $177 million loan, FCE's CEO released this statement, which was added to Charles Bagli's story on the NY Times City Room blog:

“This is a great outcome given current market conditions, and I applaud the work of our New York team in making this happen,” said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City Enterprises president and chief executive officer. “This is a key step in our strategy of proactively managing our debt maturities. By working closely with Gramercy to secure this extension, we have put Atlantic Yards in a position to achieve the vision of economic revitalization, job creation and affordable housing for the future of Brooklyn.” [Emphasis added.]

link

NoLandGrab: This is financialspeak for, "Even though we assured investors that our development projects are highly government-subsidized, we still totally managed to screw up our balance sheet. However, we are trying to restructure our debt in lieu of declaring bankruptcy."

Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

Gramercy Capital's Further Downside Risks

Seeking Alpha

Though Gramercy Capital's extension of its $177 million loan to Forest City Ratner was billed in the press as a reprieve for the project, maybe, just maybe, the lender's finances are nearly as screwed up as Ratner's and it didn't have much choice.

Gramercy Capital (GKK) is a REIT that specializes in mortgage and real estate loans. A slew of REITs have been reporting in the last two weeks, and several have mentioned outstanding loans and joint ventures with Gramercy. Gramercy has given some of them extensions on their loans, but it doesn't appear to be from a position of strength.

Like Forest City, Gramercy's shares are in the toilet too:

Shares have been in a downtrend since May 2008 when they were still trading around $20. GKK closed at $1.05 on Friday; there could be more downside to go.

In the meantime, GKK investors are writing down their stakes. Seeking Alpha listens in on a couple conference calls where GKK is cast as "a lender in trouble."

article

Posted by lumi at 4:46 AM

February 15, 2009

Marty's "Best of Brooklyn" fig leaf

Atlantic Yards Report

Here is a quick look at Best of Brooklyn, Marty Markowitz's non-profit partnership that manages to both do good works and help provides a "fig leaf" to cover Marty's support from corporations like Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

Here's how it was described on the ticket (above) for Markowitz's annual Chinese New Year Banquet; Best of Brooklyn, Inc., is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization for which Borough President Markowitz serves as honorary chair. Its mission is to enhance and enrich the lives of all Brooklynites, in particular our children.

The partnership is pretty tight. Best of Brooklyn does some excellent things. At the same time, it also serves as a vehicle for Markowitz to draw support from corporate donors (like Forest City Ratner) far beyond that which they could give to his campaigns.

In the course of the annual banquet Markowitz misstates some jobs recently moved to Metrotech (a Forest City Ratner development):

Another part of Markowitz's speech last Thursday deserved an asterix. He stated: We know Morton's is getting business from our legal community-- And with one of the world's largest law firms -- Weil, Gotshal -- now at MetroTech -- Brooklyn is closer to another dream of mine -- "branding" Downtown Brooklyn as a "law center"

Well, maybe a back-office law center, as the text further indicated.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges didn't move its lawyers to Brooklyn, just staff groups like Information Systems, Finance and Operations.

link

Posted by steve at 10:46 AM

Paterson Spokeswoman Hedging on Bailout for Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

If Ratner claims to be value engineering his arena and claims that litigation (as well as corporate strategy) is holding up the project, rather than financing problems, then why does he need stimulus money?

It is pretty clear that Ratner never had the money in the first place to make Atlantic Yards happen, and that he has completely misled the public, and is now looking for the final insult—a massive federal bailout.

...

There is no part of Atlantic Yards that qualifies for federal stimulus funds. Nada.

link

Posted by steve at 10:05 AM

February 14, 2009

Nets' Carter on the trading block (to pay off Gramercy?); Golden's "chance of a lifetime" down the tubes

Atlantic Yards Report

[Vince] Carter is on the trading block. This isn't Dodgerland anymore. It's not about continuity; it's about money.

The Star-Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro reports on the contours of a Nets deal with the San Antonio Spurs:
The primary benefit to the deal is financial: The Nets would rid themselves of Carter's $16.1 million salary next year, profoundly shortening their payroll: Mason ($3.8 million) and Hill ($1.1 million) would remain with the team, but Bowen and Oberto -- despite having a year left on their contracts -- have minimal salary protection if they are cut before July 1 and Aug. 1, respectively.

That would reduce the Nets' payroll to roughly $50 million at the end of the current season -- or an estimated $10 million under the salary cap -- which would make the Nets major players in the 2009 free-agent market.

A Gramercy connection?

Beyond the free-agent market, there could be an even shorter-term gain. If the Nets save $10 million+, that would go a long way toward paying off the $15 million that Forest City Ratner owes to Gramercy Capital Corporation. (Parent Forest City Enterprises, while not the majority owner, absorbs most of the team's losses.)

article

NoLandGrab: Oder's Nets equation leaves out one important variable — revenue — while D'Alessandro's doesn't factor in time.

If the Nets blatantly dump salary by moving Vince Carter while getting little talent in return, they'll further alienate their already-dwindling fan base. Sure, Brett Yormark is a genius, but even he will have a tough time selling more than a couple thousand tickets a game when the team won't even be able to pretend it's trying to win. Alas, poor Yormark.

And clearing salary cap now will do the Nets no good in the summer 2010 free agent market. They'll be at least two years short of playing in Brooklyn, so it's highly unlikely that LeBron or Dwayne Wade or anyone else for that matter will want to spend two years playing in a more-than-half-empty tomb with a gutted team far from contending for anything.

Ratner's like a chess player who has nothing left but his king and a couple pawns, playing against a superior opponent. Every time he makes a move, he finds himself in check, and the check-mate is looming.

Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

Three-in-one Atlantic Yards Report

And who's the state's new Chief Judge? Sheldon Silver's pal

Norman Oder notes the intrigue involved in the appointment of Jonathan Lippman as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals in New York. Lippman owes his rise to New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Barrett writes: In fact, the story of how Lippman reached this pinnacle has its shabby side. He exudes an above-politics reform aura, but he did not climb to the top of the state's judiciary without making some stops in the dark along the way. His ally, Silver, helped clear that path to power, working a system whose anti-democratic ways have been rebuked by two federal courts.

Lippman has been a hardworking ambassador and manager of the courts for decades, visiting almost all of the system's 343 locations and acquainting himself with virtually every one of its 1,300 judges. But he has also been its consummate political player, seemingly more interested in influence than law.

Heres the Atlantic Yards connection:

Lippman, as Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, was on the panel that in September heard the appeal of the case challenging the AY environmental review; he asked some thoughtful questions and didn't betray his hand.

A ruling in that case is awaited. Should the defendant Empire State Development Corporation prevail, an appeal is automatic only if there are two dissenting judges.

Nets keep "selling" tickets: 10 for $10 each, including top teams

Tickets for New Jersey Nets games can be had quite cheaply:

Hm. Maybe the tickets to Nets games distributed free on Ticketmaster were bought by Saveology, as the Times reported last Sunday, but if so, the team retained a marketing arrangement--perhaps because the tickets were sold so cheap.

From a commenter on NetsDaily: BTW I got free tix from ticket master for 4 games. Then the Nets sales department called and asked if I would be interested in 10 games for 100.00. Games include Lakers, Cavs, Knicks and Magic. Not bad

Not bad, indeed. Those are three of the top teams in the league, plus a cross-town rival. And $20 is the lowest announced ticket price.

A correction in the record regarding the 2008 State of the Borough Address

In his 2008 State of the Borough Address, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz stated incorrectly, "At Atlantic Yards, we celebrate the fact that a Community Benefits Agreement will guarantee that fully one half of those units will be priced below market rates."

I pointed out 2/8/08 that only half of the rental units would be affordable, even though developer Forest City Ratner initially claimed that half of all the housing would be affordable.

Last night, I took a look at the transcript of the speech. It now includes an asterix:
AT ATLANTIC YARDS, WE CELEBRATE THE FACT THAT A COMMUNITY BENEFITS AGREEMENT WILL GUARANTEE THAT FULLY ONE HALF OF THOSE [RENTAL* ] UNITS WILL BE PRICED BELOW MARKET RATES.
...
*Revision made on February 8 following delivery of State of the Borough Address

Apparently someone in the BP's office reads this blog, and responsibly corrected the record.

Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

Atlantic Yards Developer Lobbying for Stimulus Slice

WNYC

NEW YORK, NY February 13, 2009 —Long before the federal stimulus plan took its final form today, the developer of Atlantic Yards was lobbying in Washington for a piece of it. WNYC's Matthew Schuerman has more.

REPORTER: For weeks now, blogs and local newspapers have speculated that the troubled real estate project in Brooklyn could be a candidate for federal stimulus money. But the developer, Forest City Ratner, would not comment, and wish lists circulated by Governor Paterson and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority never mentioned Atlantic Yards. But lobbying disclosure records show that some time late last year, former Senator Alfonse D'Amato and his son Chris began lobbying the House and the Senate on the stimulus package on behalf of Forest City. A spokeswoman for Governor Paterson, who will control most of the funds in New York state, says it's possible parts of the Atlantic Yards project could qualify, but officials need to see the final language. For WNYC, I'm Matthew Schuerman.

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Posted by steve at 8:30 AM

Atlantic Yards Lives!

Curbed

Curbed takes some heat in the comment section of this item for mentioning the upcoming hearing for the "imminent domain" case.

Developer Bruce Ratner, he of a little project in Brooklyn called Atlantic Yards that you may have caught wind of, reportedly has come to terms with its lender that will allow Ratner to delay the repayment of a $177 million loan that was coming due this month for two years. Next obstacle for the megaproject that won't die: that pesky lawsuit challenging the use of imminent domain at the project, which will be heard starting February 23. [CityRoom]

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Posted by steve at 8:15 AM

McMahon on line 1: New Ridge Rep. loves the stimulus

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gersh Kuntzman

Rep. Mike McMahon of Bay Ridge voted in favor of the federal stimulus package. He has also mentioned that he was opposed to use of the funds for the proposed Atlantic Yards development.

McMahon said his priority for that money would be renovating B and M line stations in Bensonhurst, a plan nixed by the MTA last year — not funnel the money, as some have suggested, to Bruce Ratner to jumpstart the stalled Atlantic Yards project.

“That priority is fixing train stations and getting ferry service from Bay Ridge to Manhattan,” he said. “I do not see Atlantic Yards as a priority for the money from this package.”

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has also noticed this item: Rep. Mike McMahon Says No Stimulus for Atlantic Yard.

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Posted by steve at 8:10 AM

Alfonse: For Atlantic Yards

weblogs.newday.com

Earlier this week, we linked to an item speculating that Al D'Amato was working to get some stimulus money for the financially challenged Atlantic Yards development in downtown Brooklyn.

Now, the Observer finds some confirmation -- a federal lobby registration from D'Amato's firm for the developer, Forest City Ratner, targeting "funding for real-estate linked transportation projects; real estate project infrastructure development; stimulus spending."

Did he succeed? Time will tell. Chuck Schumer and David Paterson, on their conference call about the stimulus yesterday, had the following exchange with a reporter:

Reporter: There's been a lot of chatter on the blogs about whether Atlantic Yards is a candidate for this infrastructure spending. Is it? Will it receive...

Mr. Schumer: I don't know enough details to answer that. Governor?

Mr. Paterson: I have no idea. I thought that Schumer knew.

Mr. Schumer: I thought you knew.

Certainly sounds like something sensitive and political may be going on that neither man wanted to talk about......

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Posted by steve at 8:05 AM

Atlantic Yards Buys More Time, Ratner Wants Stimulus Money

Gothamist

This item summarizes the most recent Atlantic Yards news: Ratner has been able to renegotiate his loan from Grammercy Capital. Meanwhile, the developer has until the end of 2009 to get the development started in order to take advantage of tax-exempt bonds and a redesigned arena plan has not yet appeared. Follow the link the read of the upcoming hearing for the eminent domain case and how former Senator Alfonse D’Amato is lobbying in Washington to get stimulus money for the boondoggle.

Developer Bruce Ratner's embattled, $4.2 billion plan to build a Nets basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments in Brooklyn is staying alive, at least for now. This month was critical for Ratner because a $177 million loan from Gramercy Capital Corporation for the 22-acre property was due. Considering that the developer still hasn't paid the MTA some $100 million for the Vanderbilt Yards site, it seemed doubtful that he'd be able to make the nut.

And he hasn't! But the Times reports that Ratner's company Forest City has just bought more time from Gramercy Capital, working out a deal to make a $15 million payment immediately, as well as additional large payments in the future, in return for a two-year extension. Of course, many obstacles remain. Because of a recent ruling by the IRS, Forest City has only until the end of the year to use special tax-exempt bonds for the arena, which was originally pegged at $1 billion. Ratner's now leaning on designers to cut that cost in half because investors aren't coming forward to finance the thing.

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Posted by steve at 8:00 AM

February 13, 2009

Gramercy loan extended for Ratner; "some" state officials skeptical of stimulus funds for AY

Atlantic Yards Report

The big news in this afternoon's New York Times City Room post, headlined Atlantic Yards Project Gets a Reprieve is that the developer got an extension on a loan.
...

Perhaps more important news appeared lower down in the article:
In recent weeks, Mr. Ratner has sought to slash the arena’s cost and to get more subsidies from the city, the state and even New York’s portion of the recently approved federal stimulus package, beyond the $300 million in cash and tens of millions in tax breaks already committed to the project. Former Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato’s firm, Park Strategies, has been lobbying on behalf of Forest City to get federal money for infrastructure projects. But some state officials say that Atlantic Yards is unlikely to get that money, since other needs are more pressing.
(Emphasis added)

That's an interesting locution. It wasn't "some state officials say they don't think Atlantic Yards should get that money;" rather, it was "say that Atlantic Yards is unlikely..."

That suggests that those quoted aren't local elected officials spouting off but rather insiders with some say.

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NoLandGrab: Only one thing in all of this is certain; Governor Paterson and state officials are being asked about just one specific project — the hyper-controversial Atlantic Yards — by reporters wondering which projects will get funded and which projects won't.

Posted by eric at 5:39 PM

Atlantic Yards Project Said to Get a Reprieve

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

No, not an infusion of stimulus spending, but an extension on the $177 million that Forest City was supposed to repay to Gramercy Capital this month.

The developer of the beleaguered Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn is reported to have accepted a deal in which its lender granted an extension of its loan rather than demand full payment this month.

The developer Bruce Ratner, chief executive of Forest City Ratner, has been scrambling to keep alive his proposed $4 billion project, which includes a basketball arena and up to 6,000 apartments, in the face of a severe recession, chaotic financial markets and lawsuits filed by local opponents.

Forest City’s loan of $177 million from Gramercy Capital Corporation for the 22-acre property was due this month, which caused much speculation in political and real estate circles about the fate of the project.

According to executives familiar with the negotiations, Forest City committed to signing an agreement as soon as Friday in which the company will make a $15 million payment immediately, as well as additional large payments in the future, in return for a two-year extension.

Still, the Atlantic Yards project faces a critical test in the coming weeks at the state Appellate Court, which will hear oral arguments Feb. 23 in a lawsuit challenging the state’s use of eminent domain to seize privately owned property on behalf of the project. A victory for the opponents could be devastating for the developer.
...

The coming months will be telling. Barclays Bank, which signed a $20 million a year deal for the naming rights at the basketball arena, extended its deadline for the start of construction until the end of 2009. Under a recent ruling by the Internal Revenue Service, Forest City has only until the end of the year to use special tax-exempt financing for the arena.

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NoLandGrab: While this is good news for Ratner, it's not that good. He needs to come up with $15 million ASAP, and then make accelerated payments. With the Izod Center as empty of people as the Atlantic Yards footprint, no amount of salary dumping (Vince Carter, anyone?) will sufficiently shore up the Nets' bottom line.

Does anyone know if a bridge-loan extension qualifies as "infrastructure" in the bill passed by the House today?

Posted by eric at 4:52 PM

Atlantic Yards Is Grovel-Ready

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Channeling both Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz gave his "State of the Borough" address last night and of course cheered for his favorite boondoggle:

Markowitz also used the state of the borough address to push for a project that's near and dear to his heart - the controversial Atlantic Yards development.

While lawsuits and the financial crisis have slowed down construction, Markowitz is optimistic about the arena for the Nets and the housing being built along with it, hinting federal stimulus money may keep the project moving along.

"When it comes to ambitious shovel-ready projects, we say, 'Build baby build,'" said Markowitz. "Atlantic Yards? Yes we can, and yes we will."

Federal stimilus money for Atlantic Yards? Are you kidding?

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NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner's government cronies usually bail him out after one of his projects is built (city and state offices account for a large share of the tenancy both in MetroTech and the Atlantic Center), rather than before his not-so-ready shovel is even in the ground.

Posted by eric at 1:47 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere... (Atlantic Yards Bailout Edition)

NBA FanHouse, Nets' Brooklyn Plan Wants Stimulus Cash

Here's some news that won't be one bit controversial: the protagonists pushing Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project -- the plan that would move Ratner's Nets from Jersey to Brooklyn -- are trying to wedge themselves to the front of the line for potential New York disbursements of the federal economic stimulus.

Runnin' Scared, Stimulus for Atlantic Yards? New Depression Suggests Not

Players like Al D'Amato and Marty Markowitz are less circumspect than Schumer and Paterson, and loudly bang the drum for the project. But patronage and boosterism are their respective jobs; politicians in a position to be associated with, and get blamed for, bad decisions are keeping their mouths shut, and when they do open them, it's not such good news for developers. In her State of the City speech yesterday Christine Quinn talked about boom-time construction projects that now stand empty as "tarnished trophies" of greed and false hope. Does that sound encouraging? As it stands, Ratner doesn't even have a trophy.

Deadspin, Brother, Can You Spare $445 Million?

New York Super Blog, Really? $450mill Of Bailout For The Nets?

Bruce Ratner, the donkey who wants to sink $4 billion into this Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn for the Nets and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz are actually trying to get bailout money for this asinine project. Not only would this project be a horrendous abuse of Eminent Domain, but no one in the area wants this thing to happen anyway. Brooklyn needs the help and no one wants to see it flourish more than I do, BUT there are about 10 million other ways we could spend that bailout money.

RedState, ‘Stimulus’ Bill to Save… Brooklyn Nets?

Nothing stirs Conservatives' ire like porky spending on projects being pushed by "do-gooder liberals."

The Nets made the mistake of leaking this idea before the money was approved. They were supposed to save such discussions until after Congress passed it. That said, once states start divvying up the cash that Barack Obama wants to give them, you can bet the Nets — and a host of other franchises — will start lining up for a share of the pot....

With hundreds of billions to spend, the federal government might just buy Los Angeles an NFL team — or help the Nets lure LeBron James to their taxpayer-financed Brooklyn home.

Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

Could Atlantic Yards Get Stimulus Cash? It's Possible

But Paterson would have to expend some capital of his own

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

Will he or won't he? Bruce Ratner is desperate for another in what has already been a long line of government bailouts — so desperate that he's funneled $40,000 to Al D'Amato to lobby Congress on his behalf.

The government is pouring money into state coffers for infrastructure, and Bruce Ratner apparently has his hand out, hoping to get a slice of the $789 billion pie in an effort to save his troubled Atlantic Yards project.

Opponents of the project are livid about the mere fact that Mr. Ratner wants more public money; supporters of the project are cheering the effort. But is the massive Brooklyn project, planned home of a Nets basketball arena and over 6,000 apartments, eligible?

Thus far, with an accord on the stimulus legislation less than two days old, the public response from Albany is an unequivocal “we don’t know yet.”

The governor’s office said as much Thursday afternoon, and soon thereafter, Governor Paterson (whose administration ultimately chooses how to divvy up much of the stimulus money) was more to the point.

Here’s an exchange from a conference call yesterday afternoon with Senator Chuck Schumer and Mr. Paterson, relayed by PolitickerNY’s Jimmy Vielkind, who was on the call:

Reporter: There's been a lot of chatter on the blogs about whether Atlantic Yards is a candidate for this infrastructure spending. Is it? Will it receive...

Mr. Schumer: I don't know enough details to answer that. Governor?

Mr. Paterson: I have no idea. I thought that Schumer knew.

Mr. Schumer: I thought you knew.

NoLandGrab: Who's on first? These guys don't exactly fill us with confidence.

Should the project turn out to be eligible to get money, it would require a major political step by Mr. Paterson to allocate the relatively scarce stimulus money. The project has always been a political hornet’s nest, and to date, neither Mr. Paterson nor his predecessor Eliot Spitzer have had to take any overt, highly public steps in support of it. Given that there are far more projects than there is stimulus funding, it's safe to say that money to Atlantic Yards would come at the expense of some other project in the area. If eligible, the question then becomes whether or not Bruce Ratner, Al D'Amato, supportive politicians and groups could push Atlantic Yards toward the top of the stack at the same time that other politicans are fighting for projects of their own favor.

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NLG: The joke here is that the most likely avenue for a bailout would be transit-related stimulus funds — to rebuild a rail yard which only needs to be rebuilt to make room for Ratner's real estate project.

Atlantic Yards Report, It's official: D'Amato lobbyied feds for AY stimulus funds; state list to emerge in a few weeks

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

Back and Forth: Developing Agenda with Marisa Lago

The Capitol
by Andrew J. Hawkins

A sharp-eyed reader tipped us off to this November interview with the president and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation.

Over the summer, Gov. David Paterson (D) began to put together a team to run the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), first appointing M&T Bank chief executive Robert Wilmers to chair the economic development agency. Two months later, he nominated former Citi executive Marisa Lago to be president and CEO.

Since then, Lago has been traveling to communities upstate and down in an effort to better acquaint herself with the state’s dire economic conditions. She agrees that times are tough for major development projects like Moynihan Station and Atlantic Yards, but sees opportunities for job growth and retention.

Lago talks about the search for a downstate chair, the need to improve infrastructure even during tough times, and the criticisms of Wilmers as a reluctant executive.

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Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

The Atlantic Yards Community Liaison: office or "capacity"?

Atlantic Yards Report

A Prospect Heights resident and Norman Oder try to figure out how the Atlantic Yards Community Liaison is. Apparently her name is "Capacity."

[Forrest Taylor] identified Sonya Covington as the FCR's Community Liaison Officer; then, after speaking with the developer the next day, he contacted me to clarify that person in the job was Bill Murphy.

It all started when Peter Krashes tried to reach the Community Liaison:

Krashes left Covington a voicemail. She called back and left a voicemail, asking why he called. Krashes left another message, explaining that his inquiry was related to current construction activities.

About a day later, Krashes reported, "Bill Murphy left a message, saying he was calling because I had reached out to Sonya Covington."

"When I spoke to [Murphy], I asked specifically and he did not identify himself as the Community Liaison Officer," Krashes recounted. "He said, 'Forest City Ratner has a capacity for a Community Liaison Office, and I am part of that effort.' The Community Liaison Office does many things: jobs, housing, construction.'"

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We get the message:

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

Senate aims for swift vote on stimulus plan: Schumer

Reuters
By Joan Gralla

Ratner-Schumer.jpg Though he is an ardent supporter of Bruce Ratner's ailing Atlantic Yards arena and highrise megaproject, Senator Charles Schumer hedges in his comments to a reporter on whether or not the project qualifies federal bailout funds:

The U.S. Senate plans to debate the compromise economic stimulus bill on Thursday night and vote any time from midnight to 8:00 a.m. on Friday, Senator Chuck Schumer told reporters on a telephone conference call.

Schumer, joined by fellow Democrat Governor David Paterson, outlined how much New York state and New York City stand to get from the $789 billion bill negotiated between the Senate and the House of Representatives.
...
Cautioning that some figures were preliminary, Schumer estimated the state would get $1 billion to modernize highways and $1.3 billion for mass transit upgrades. But the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York City's buses, subway and commuter rails, cannot use any extra dollars it gets to avoid steep fare and toll hikes.

A high-speed rail link to Buffalo might be funded. But Schumer said he did not know if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Atlantic Yards Brooklyn development would qualify. This apartment-office project, throttled by the credit crisis, includes an arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team.

[Emphasis added.]

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Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn comments:

Of course the Atlantic Yards project is not the MTA's project it is Forest City Ratner's project. Unclear if that is the reporter's error or the Senator's. Presumably the MTA will use its stimulus funds for MTA projects.

Furthermore, our reading of the latest versions of the bill make it pretty clear that Atlantic Yards will not be eligible for stimilus funds for various reasons, including that the project is not "shovel ready" by any stretch of the imagination. And the bill is not supposed to supply funds to bail out a private developer and relieve him of his commitments.

NoLandGrab: Interesting — either Schumer doesn't want to deliver the bad news to Bruce yet, or he's still trying to figure out how to make his developer pal happy.

[Photo: Ratner and Schumer at press conference announcing the purchase of the NJ Nets in 2004.]

Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

Stimulus Accountability Measures Are Problem for Forest City/ESDC

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is keeping tabs on the stimulus package as the final details are being readied. The Atlantic Yards opposition group parsed through House Speaker Pelosi's overview of how States are supposed to account for the spending of stimulus funds and notes:

This excerpt on accountability and the stimulus funds would pretty much disqualify Forest City Ratner and Empire State Development Corporation unless they somehow radically overhaul they way they've done Atlantic Yards business for the past 5+ years.

Of particular interest from the overview:

Public notice of funding must include a description of the investment funded, the purpose, the total cost, and why recovery dollars should be used. Governors, mayors, or others making funding decisions must personally certify that the investment has been fully vetted and is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. This information will also be placed on the internet.

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NoLandGrab: Though the State of NY has been arguing for years that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project has been "fully vetted," it seems like it will be hard for Governor Paterson's office to quietly divert funds towards the project.

Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

We must build, sez Markowitz

YourNabe.com
By Stephen Witt

[I]n his annual State of the Borough address delivered Thursday at Kingsborough Community College...

[Brooklyn Borough President Marty] Markowitz also said it’s time to get the Atlantic Yards project going, as well as two other of his pet projects – the old Loews Kings Theatre in Flatbush and the proposed Coney Island Amphitheater.

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Atlantic Yards Report, Brooklyn Paper editorial generates outrage; is AY project really "shovel-ready"?

Norman Oder reported:

At his State of the Borough Address last night, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz apparently declared that Atlantic Yards was "shovel-ready," echoing the Empire State Development Corporation.
...

Markowitz's prepared remarks:
To ensure progress continues on creating the "city center" our borough of over 2.5 million deserves.
And let me tell you, if Brooklyn ever needed a project like Atlantic Yards--the time is now.
As the one who originally came up with the idea to make Brooklyn a "professional sports city" again --
And the one who insisted that the project include affordable housing--
I believe what's most important now -- is the thousands of union jobs it will create right when we need them most!
When it comes to ambitious, shovel-ready project, we say "Build Baby Build!"
Atlantic Yards -- Yes we can-- and yes we will.
And when Atlantic Yards is built -- it will keep on generating jobs in Downtown Brooklyn...
(Emphases in original)

Posted by lumi at 4:58 AM

Atlantic Yards IS on the list...

...of building projects that are floundering during the economic crisis. [Emphasis added.]

AP, via International Herald Tribune, Half-built sites cast shadow over NY economy

The half-built sites are powerful examples of how the global economic meltdown has affected the New York construction industry, wiping out thousands of jobs and cutting off billions of dollars in funding. There are a growing number of boarded-up sites as developers lose financing midway through projects.

Experts say the interrupted plans for the city skyline could knock down real estate values, create nuisances for pedestrians and depress thriving neighborhoods.
...

One of the biggest is Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, a 22-acre (9-hectare) development where a new arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team and up to 16 towers are planned. Construction activity stopped in December and won't resume until a residents' opposition lawsuit is resolved. The developer, Forest City Ratner, has delayed closing on a deal to purchase all the land until they have enough financing for the $4 billion megaproject.

The Real Deal, Condo plans collapse
Tallying canceled and stalled projects around the city

During the boom years, developers drew up plans for luxury condominiums across the city at a frenetic pace. Since then, many of those condos have hit troubled waters as a result of the financial crisis, as well as lawsuits, over-saturation of product and an inability to sell or even begin construction, leaving gaping holes at their sites.

To find out what happened, The Real Deal surveyed 57 of these troubled projects in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, comprising roughly 26,500 units. The Real Deal's report, Developers' best-laid plans stymied by recession details the latest status of these developments.

Some developments were able to switch gears quickly and are now successful rentals, like 133 Water Street in Dumbo, or have been reincarnated as other projects, like student housing or a youth hostel. Others, including Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, Sheldon Solow's East River project, and Swig Equities' 25 Broad and Sheffield57, face more uncertain futures because of lawsuits and financing woes.

Posted by lumi at 4:42 AM

Forest City in the News

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City makes another bid to bring medical mart to Tower City

Forest City Enterprises used a public forum to try to reverse a backroom deal that the company lost out on.

Forest City Enterprises used a public forum this afternoon in a bid to revive the chances of landing the proposed convention center/medical mart to property it owns at Tower City.

David LaRue, president of the Forest City commercial group, pushed officials of Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. -- developers of the project -- to look again at whether the complex can be built at Tower City.

LaRue said Forest City believes the project can be built there for around the $425 million projection for construction at the site of Cleveland's current convention center -- the favored location of MMPI.

PR Newswire, Forest City Statement in Response to MMPI Presentations on Convention Center/Medical Mart Location Recommendations

NoLandGrab: Yes, we noticed that Forest City Enterprises (FCE) is sounding and acting a little desperate too.

If you keep in mind that FCE is strapped for cash, then recent public statements of outrage made by company officials after losing the bid and yesterday's effort to get back in the game highlight the importance of the Medical Mart deal to the company's financial outlook.

Posted by lumi at 4:23 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Some commentary on Chris Smith's political analysis of Bruce Ratner's lobbying strategy to get some of that federal stimulus money for the ailing Atlantic Yards megaproject:

Brownstoner, Ratner Lobbying Hard for Stimulus Dollars

While Borough Prez Mary Markowitz is the only public official to publicly call for stimulus money to be diverted to the private project (and ESDC is unwilling to state its position), there are a number of electeds that Ratner has in his corner, including Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Schumer. The "key player," notes the magazine, is actually the original bloviator Alfonse D'Amato. After paying him big lobbying bucks over many years, Ratner plans to leverage the former Senator's close ties to Governor Paterson to make some rain.

Can't Stop the Bleeding, Shovel-Ready: Ratner’s Last-Ditch Attempt to Bail Out Atlantic Yards
Ratner's efforts even impress the more hardened cynics:

The whole thing sucks all the way up to heaven, and as a New Yorker and Nets fan and someone who hates this sort of workaday economic injustice and cravenness, I still care, but…it’s a lot to take, daily. So it’s nice, in a way, to find that I can still be shocked by this. And simultaneously impressed. This report on how Ratner is angling to get stimulus funding for the Atlantic Yards project from New York’s Intelligencer blog, for instance…you can’t hear it, but I’m slow-clapping for Ratner over here. Well done, you magnificent bastard. Longtime New Yorkers will want to stick around to the end of the blog post for a cameo from vampiric unkillable political lamprey Alfonse D’Amato. Because of fucking course.

Making waves this week is last week's Brooklyn Papers editorial:

Noticing New York, A Brooklyn Paper Editorial & Atlantic Yards: With Nothing Else Good To Say, We Are Stimulated To Say. . .

There is nothing else good to say about it, but we must praise the refreshing honesty of the neighbor-be-damned cynicism with which the Brooklyn Paper makes its case in its new (font-page) editorial: Build the arena — with fed money!, The Brooklyn Paper, February 5, 2009.

But the kicker is...

There it is reported that the paper just picked up five more awards in five editorial and design categories (See: February 2, 2009, Simply the best! Brooklyn Paper wins five more top awards) proudly crowing that one of its first place wins was for a recent editorial that used criticism of Atlantic Yards as its launching pad to say that Ratner should not receive “more backroom deals” (December 1, 2007, Editorial: Another backroom deal).

Atlantic Yards Report, Brooklyn Paper editorial generates outrage; is AY project really "shovel-ready"?

Posted by lumi at 3:27 AM

February 12, 2009

The Brooklyn Paper mailbag

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

What a terrible position for The Brooklyn Paper to take — extolling the worst of behaviors and calling it leadership for our times.
...

It’s not about our money getting stolen for Peoria’s assumed misuse, it’s that Atlantic Yards is a project born of a corrupt process designed to benefit a pre-selected developer: it’s that city code doesn’t allow arenas in residential neighborhoods for reason; it’s that building the arena alone never made economic sense; and it’s that the jobs associated with arenas are few and mostly marginal.

Alan Rosner, Prospect Heights

Is your publisher nuts? In this tough economy, he suggests that we subsidize a billionaire so that he can build the most expensive arena in modern history so that folks from Manhattan and Long Island, and maybe a few Brooklynites, can watch a few games a year while still costing New York taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

Why not use the stimulus money to build affordable housing?

Robert Ohlerking, Park Slope

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Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

Some real news — though not from the ombudsman: There will be a hearing!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gersh Kuntzman

Though it wasn’t announced by the ombudsman, a tiny piece of actual news did come out of Wednesday night’s Atlantic Yards gripefest: the state Senate is actually going to hold a hearing on the stalled mega-project.

Irene Van Slyke, an aide to Yards-opposing Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Fort Greene), announced that the Committee on Corporations, Public Authorities and Commissions — now controlled by Democrats — would hold a hearing in Manhattan on April 24 to figure out “who is really in charge: is it the developer, or is it ESDC [Empire State Development Corporation]?”

Given the committee’s broad purview, the hearing could also look at the project’s financing and future.

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Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

The Brooklyn Paper mailbag

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

City Council candidate Josh Skaller gets in on the criticism of the BP's misguided pro-federal-arena-bailout editorial.

The argument you make is that New York now has a chance to build the arena at minimal cost and all other considerations have little merit. This position directly contradicts much of your own paper’s coverage during the past five years. Just because we could possibly build the arena with federal money doesn’t mean that all of the significant problems you’ve documented with this project would magically go away.

The arena is the piece of the project that poses the most significant environmental threat to Brooklyn, that has led to eminent domain abuse, and which has the least long-term economic value.

I could, however, understand the use of federal stimulus dollars to erect a significant, yet appropriate amount of, sensibly designed, affordable housing over the railyards — something that Brooklyn desperately needs.

In Brooklyn, we have an opportunity to support President Obama’s work by using our own common sense to reprioritize. How tragic if we allow struggling, middle-class New Yorkers to go without decent housing while we build this ill-advised arena.

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Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

Federal Stimulus Money… Here Comes the Gravy Train

The Real Fort Greene

EmbraceKleptocracy.jpg

Looks like everyone is lining up for federal stimulus package gravy train. From the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Atlantic Yards it looks like Fort Greene may be affected by President Obama’s stimulus plan.

The Navy Yard is looking for up to $20 million to repair and replace infrastructure in the industrial park. As a site of great historical significance and a great example of transitioning a former government facility to a working industrial park, I don’t really have an issue with improving it’s infrastructure.

But of course Bruce Ratner wants a piece of the pie. Federal subsidies for a private developer? A developer who used the city’s power of eminent domain to displace homeowners and renters for a private project? It’s difficult for me to believe the overt corruption right in front of our faces. Ratner reminds me of a private sector Boss Tweed.

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Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

The Brooklyn Paper mailbag

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

Another one from this week's mailbag, this time from Park Slope resident (and Streetsblog editor-in-chief) Aaron Naparstek.

Bizarro! Your publisher just undermined years of award-winning anti-Yards reportage!

Sure, Brooklyn should grab for the federal stimulus money, but is an arena really the best way to stimulate the economy? Not even close.

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Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

I can imagine, I know what I read

YouTube

Prospect Heights activist Raul Rothblatt posted this clip from last night's Atlantic Yards Q&A, featuring City Council member Letitia James and the ESDC's Forrest Taylor regarding the Ombudsman's knowledge of Forest City's lobbying of the Governor for a federal bailout.

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Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

The Brooklyn Paper mailbag

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

Predictably, the Brooklyn Paper's mailbag is full of letters criticizing last week's editorial favoring the use of federal stimulus funds to build Bruce Ratner's near-billion dollar arena, including this response from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn board member Ron Shiffman and spokesperson Daniel Goldstein.

Ed Weintrob’s Feb. 7 front-page editorial (“Paper: Use fed $ for arena”) called for federal stimulus money to bail out Forest City Ratner’s proposed billion-dollar Barclays Center arena.

Weintrob wrote that “the most problematic, oversized components of Bruce Ratner’s proposal for Atlantic Yards should not be built, no matter how much federal money is being thrown around.” But the arena is the most problematic component of the project.

The arena, and the fixation on it, is the major impediment to the construction of affordable housing over the rail yards and job creation within any meaningful time horizon.

The Senate version of the bill specifically does not allow funds for stadiums. Furthermore, the intent of the stimulus bill is to generate jobs and kick-start the economy, not bail out a private developer — TARP took that approach and look where it got us.
...

Most importantly, nearly all economists agree that arenas are not economic generators or cost-effective job creators. FCR has never even publicly estimated the number of new jobs the arena would create because it would be woefully few, especially in relation to the public cost of the arena. And the opportunity costs are dramatic. A new federal subsidy would allow FCR to triple dip by using federally “subsidized tax-exempt bonds,” city and state subsidies and stimulus funds — the federal tax-exempt arena bond alone is estimated to be a subsidy worth about $165 million.

link

Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

Atlantic Yards Ombudsman faces audience frustrated with partial answers regarding stimulus funds, Carlton Avenue bridge

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper's Mike McLaughlin was first, but Norman Oder is biggest in his coverage of last night's Q&A with the Empire State Development Corporation's Atlantic Yards Ombudsman, Forrest Taylor, at a meeting hosted by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods.

Some 13 months ago, in his first appearance at a meeting of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), Forrest Taylor, the Empire State Development Corporation’s Atlantic Yards Ombudsman, faced what I described as a “cordial but sometimes prickly audience.”

Last night, after another year of contention, (significant) stagnation, and (sporadic) revelation regarding the Atlantic Yards project, Taylor faced a somewhat more prickly and clearly more frustrated audience, which deemed many of Taylor’s--and thus the ESDC’s--answers inadequate or evasive. He spoke before about 60 people at the same venue--St. Cyril's Belarusian Cathedral on Atlantic Avenue.

Notably, he was unable to say whether the ESDC formally backed an effort, encouraged at least by Borough President Marty Markowitz and reportedly developer Forest City Ratner, to gain federal stimulus funds for the Atlantic Yards project. He suggested that the city Department of Transportation bore all responsibility for the contract it signed allowing the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge to take up to three years, even though the ESDC publicly announced it would take two years. And, as the ESDC has done, he maintained the official position that lawsuits, rather than the credit crunch, have stalled work on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard.

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Posted by eric at 9:41 AM

State Senate to hold oversight hearing regarding Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

A State oversight hearing on the proposed Atlantic Yards project has been tentatively scheduled for April 24th.

The New York State Legislature will finally hold an oversight hearing regarding Atlantic Yards, thanks apparently to the recent ascension of the Democratic Party to power in the State Senate. The hearing might help explain, as one of its proponents wonders, whether the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in charge, or is it developer Forest City Ratner?

The hearing announcement was perhaps the most important news to emerge at last night's meeting of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, and it came not from the guest of honor, ESDC Ombudsman Forrest Taylor, but from an audience member, Irene Van Slyke, an aide to State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, whose district includes the Atlantic Yards site.

The hearing would be held by the Senate Committee on Corporations, Public Authorities, and Commissions, which is chaired by State Sen. Bill Perkins and has an oversight role regarding the ESDC. Montgomery is a member of the committee, which held a hearing last September regarding reform of eminent domain laws. Also on the committee is new State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents a district including several neighborhoods along Brooklyn's western edge.

link

Posted by steve at 5:50 AM

Om-bads-man!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

The Brooklyn Paper is first to provide coverage of last night's meeting, sponsored by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, featuring a Q&A session between Atlantic Yards ombudsman Forrest Taylor and meeting attendees.

Atlantic Yards ombudsman Forrest Taylor faced down an inquisitive public on Wednesday night — but many left the meeting feeling that the project’s supposed troubleshooter left them in the dark.

Taylor, the sacrificial lamb sent by the Empire State Development Corporation to face dozens of angry and exasperated Atlantic Yards foes, deflected virtually every inquiry from the crowd at the Belarusian Church on Atlantic Avenue, from specific construction annoyances in the project’s footprint to the financial health of Bruce Ratner’s stalled arena and skyscraper development.

“I’m low on the totem pole,” Taylor, who’s been on the job for one year, said as a way of explaining his lack of details on the interactions between the state government and Ratner’s development company. At other points, Taylor, the supposed insider, said much of his information came from reading news stories about Atlantic Yards.

Although the headline implies that Forrest Taylor is "bad", it seems that he is more limited by his job description rather than any intention to do wrong.

“There are roadblocks intentionally in his way,” said Paul Palazzo, chair of the Fort Greene Association. “His job description is lacking in openness.”

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Posted by steve at 5:39 AM

Ratner Shouldn't See A Dime Of Stimulus Money

Joshing Politics

This blog entry speaks to those who believe that Federal stimulus money would be well spent on the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

With so much money at stake in the stimulus, there is no shortage of people looking not only to get work to feed their families but to enrich themselves at the expense of the public. Senate Republicans have already reduced the amount of funds to build infrastructure in the name of tax cuts for the rich. If the Senate bill was signed by Obama as is, 42% of that stimulus would be tax cuts and mostly helping those who are on the wealthier end of the spectrum. With that, the remaining funds need to be protected from greedy developers such as Bruce Ratner. While Ratner lobbies for his own ends, the community must fight back.

...

Eminent domain was intended for projects that benefited the entire community and not a few wealthy financiers in the process. Rebuilding roads, laying new water pipes, building more mass transit lines and creating more accessability to broadband internet is what Obama had envisioned. Creating a new energy grid that utilizes green, renewable energy is also a part of that plan. I seriously doubt the names "Bruce Ratner" or "Atlantic Yards" had ever entered the President's mind.

link

Posted by steve at 5:33 AM

More comments from our Web readers

The Brooklyn Paper

The Brooklyn Paper has a special item emphasizing support for the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Publisher Ed Weintrob’s editorial advocating using the federal stimulus to build the Atlantic Yards arena unleashed a torrent of responses on BrooklynPaper.com, our award-winning Web site. Most comments were negative, but believe it or not, some commenters sided with Weintrob:

“I agree with this editorial. The fact that it will create thousands of construction jobs is another good argument to support this project.”

Sol from Park Slope

To read the rest of the comments, please follow the link.

link

NoLandGrab: A number of the commenters wish to justify the proposed Atlantic Yards project with promises of job creation. We'll repeat - yet again - that the 15,000 construction jobs promised are really just 1,500 construction jobs for 10 years. Meanwhile, the one promised office tower, where one might expect as a location for well-paying jobs, is on hold indefinitely.

Posted by steve at 5:12 AM

Get your Gersh on

The Brooklyn Paper

Brooklyn Paper Editor Gersh Kuntzman was once again in the moderator chair for Brooklyn Independent Television’s top show, “Reporter Rountable.” This week’s edition was a juggernaut, featuring Rich Calder of the New York Post, plus special guest Daniel Goldstein of the anti-Atlantic Yards group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (appearing just a week after The Brooklyn Paper’s pro-arena editorial! Yes, the sparks flew!).

The show will air on Monday, Feb. 16 at 9:30 pm and repeat on Thursday, Feb. 19; Monday, Feb. 23; and Thursday, Feb. 25 at 1:30 and 9:30. Time-Warner subscribers will find the show on channel 56, while Cablevision customers will see it on channel 69.

link

Posted by steve at 5:08 AM

February 11, 2009

Gehry Gothic

GehryGothic.jpg Is it just us, or was Frank Gehry's rendering of Bruce Ratner's Beekman St. tower that ran in today's Times inspired by gothic horror films, or perhaps Middle Earth?

It didn't take a Photoshop genius to make the point.

Posted by lumi at 4:46 PM

Atlantic Yards Wasn't On State's Wish List

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB plumbed New York State's lengthy list of projects for which it would use federal stimulus funds, and discovered that it didn't include Bruce Ratner's biggest, baddest Brooklyn boondoggle.

New York State's Economic Recovery Projects, a working and preliminary wish list of projects to receive stimulus funds, was compiled in January. It is 61 pages long [PDF].

Atlantic Yards doesn't appear on it anywhere. That was the correct position. Thus Forest City Ratner's "stimulus shakedown."

link

NoLandGrab: No wonder Bruce has the boys working overtime in Albany.

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Castle Watch Daily, Taking Stock of Redevelopment Wrecks

With the immense publicity surrounding Little Pink House, which tells the story of Susette Kelo’s battle with New London, Conn., many have been surprised to learn that the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London still stands vacant and empty.
...

Meanwhile, in New York, Atlantic Yards remains a concept only on paper. Not only that, but apparently it’s in need of a federal bailout. According to the New York Post, megadeveloper Bruce Ratner and local officials want stimulus funds to save the project.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Bailout $ for Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project?

So Ratner is lobbying to secure some bailout money to fund the Atlantic Yards project. Is that what you call a shovel ready project?

RETHINKING ATLANTIC YARDS, Signage on Dean Street

There are multiple forms of signage available to experience when walking along Dean Street in Brooklyn. With the exception of political signs protesting the Atlantic Yards project (a), most of them have been designed and placed with discretion (b); they require up close observation in order to read their messages (c).

Where, Think Big. Freak Out.

Daniel Burnham's line "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood" is probably one of the most famous quotes to come out of the field of urbanism. It's also one of the most thoroughly abused. Burnham's maxim about aiming high is used by proponents of megaprojects like Atlantic Yards (the poster child for megaprojects, you see) in defense of superblocks and devastatingly overbearing towers. In truth, Burnham did not stop where the quote does. The quote is almost always truncated, cutting off much of the great planner's intent.

Let There Be Light(house), Eyes on the Ball

A blog supporting New York Islander's owner Charles Wang's plans for his Lighthouse development, which would include a new arena for the team, doesn't think the Barclays Center is a very good fallback.

Brooklyn: I think the Atlantic Yards project is a great idea, but I just don't see it working out. Bruce Ratner's financing plan was heavily dependent on credit that it doesn't appear he can get in these uncertain economic times. In addition, there has been fierce and organized opposition that the project has had to fight every step of the way. The Lighthouse has neither of these problems, so why would you want to abandon a good bet for a pipe dream?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Americans Do Care About Bailing Out Private Developers

Sayeth Sen. Chuck Schumer:

"And let me say this, to all of the chattering class, that so much focuses on those little, tiny, yes, "porky" amendments: the American people really don't care."

DDDB counters:

...the American people do care how the stimulus money is spent, and they do not want to see it misspent to bail out private developers, especially ones who have shown complete financial incompetence and opacity when it comes to their money pit project. It is not the purpose of the bill to bail out a private developer so he doesn't have to follow through on his commitments. It is not the purpose of the bill to fund "makework."

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

Gaps in the Times: "Frank Gehry’s Software Keeps [Some] Buildings on Budget"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder critiques today's Times piece on Frank Gehry and his work on Bruce Ratner's Beekman Tower.

The legendarily press-shy architect Frank Gehry breaks his silence today for a piece of positive explanatory journalism on the real estate page of today's New York Times, headlined Frank Gehry’s Software Keeps Buildings on Budget.

The article, which focuses on the Beekman Tower the architect is designing for developer Forest City Ratner, seems perfectly reasonable on its face. But it serves as another argument that the Times must disclose the parent company's business relationship with the developer.

No such disclosure appears, but a disclosure--one hopes--would've prompted the writer and editors to ask Gehry a challenging question or two, rather than just softballs. The article aims to explain how Gehry's new software helps control costs at the tower; the article ignores the enormous cost increases at the Atlantic Yards project and fails to ask whether Gehry, in fact, continues to actively participate in the design.

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NoLandGrab: The Times's half-assed journalism must be wearing Oder down — he let them slide on siting the Atlantic Yards project in "downtown Brooklyn," something we thought the paper had finally (begrudgingly) gotten straight more than two-and-a-half years ago.

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Smith: Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Stimulus Shakedown

NYMag.com, "Daily Intel"

NY Magazine political reporter Chris Smith is getting wind that Bruce Ratner is going all out to "elbow in front of the line" to get federal stimulus money for his ailing Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise megaproject.

Here's how:

DAmato.jpg

Preparatory construction work on the 22-acre site was halted in December. Meanwhile, Ratner’s team has returned repeatedly to the city and state asking for subsidies beyond the possible $1.5 billion in direct and indirect taxpayer money that went into the original deal. That effort seemed to be making little headway, however, with the recession forcing the mayor and governor to slash spending on everything from teachers to hospitals to cops.

But Ratner is nothing if not persistent, and he’s lined up a powerful group of political supporters for Atlantic Yards, including Mayor Bloomberg, Senator Chuck Schumer, and the project’s first elected cheerleader, Markowitz (new senator Kirsten Gillibrand hasn’t taken a position on Atlantic Yards yet). Other than Markowitz, they haven’t said whether they like the idea of using stimulus money to revive the project. And there is a long list of more worthy state projects — from the Second Avenue subway to the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel to high-speed upstate rail links — that would produce bigger public benefit from the stimulus bucks without bailing out a private real-estate developer.

The key player, however, may be a guy who is out of office but certainly not out of the game: Alfonse D’Amato. Over the years, Ratner has spent millions on a wide range of Albany and Washington lobbyists, none of whom are better connected than the former senator — especially now that D’Amato has recently emerged as one of Paterson’s biggest fund-raisers. If Atlantic Yards rises from its shallow grave, don’t be surprised to see D’Amato wielding one of the shovels.

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Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

Atlantic Yards Community Meeting Wednesday [TONIGHT]

From the Campaign for Community-Based Planning:

According to today’s New York Post, developer Bruce Ratner is lobbying State and City officials for a bailout for his stalled Atlantic Yards project from the yet-to-be-approved $827 billion Federal stimulus package. His staff recently retracted an earlier statement that the project is not “shovel-ready.” Still, it is unclear whether the $4 billion project is eligible for stimulus funds, since “stadium” projects do not qualify, but “arenas” are not mentioned.

For those seeking answers to this and other questions related to the project, Community-Based Planning Task Force member organization Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods is sponsoring a community Q&A with the State’s Atlantic Yards Ombudsman on Wednesday. Here is their announcement:

WHAT: Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) Hosts Q&A re Atlantic Yards
WHEN: Wednesday, February 11, 2009, 7:30 PM
WHERE: St. Cyril of Turau Belarusian Cathedral, Atlantic Avenue at [Bond] Street, Brooklyn, NY
WHO: Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, ESDC Atlantic Yards Ombudsman Mr. Forrest Taylor, local elected officials, Brooklyn community residents, media representatives

The Empire State Development Corporation’s Atlantic Yards Ombudsman, Forrest Taylor, will be at the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods’ (CBN) bi-monthly general meeting on Wednesday to field questions about the stalled mega-development project.

[Photo by Evil Scientist, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.]

Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

Mayor Booker: moving Nets to Newark "fixed in my mind"

Atlantic Yards Report

Newark Mayor Cory Booker is being careful about mentioning what he's doing to try to bring the NJ Nets to Newark's Prudential Center. Suffice it to say, it's on his mind:

[T]he Star-Ledger's Brian Donohue explained in the video report Ledger Live, Booker's prepared--but not delivered-- [State of the City] text included a planned slip. As the mayor discussed bringing different types of investments to the city, he was to say, "We're excited to see what's NETS... I mean, next."
...
Last Thursday, however, the mayor was not reticent. The sequence began at about 35:10 of [WGBO's Newark Today]; both Booker and host [Andrew] Meyer sounded notably enthusiastic.
...

AM: Well, let me put out there what we know. We have a contributor here who's been tracking the project closely, and he's said basically that the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn has ground to a halt, Bruce Ratner, the developer, is not moving forward with the arena, supposedly until all the lawsuits over eminent domain are settled, and they're not even due to go to trial until next year. You combine that with the lack of financing available for big projects and, y'know, the Brooklyn Nets seem more and more like a mirage.

CB: I'm telling you right now I have it fixed in my mind. Every single day I think about it, that we're going to have the Newark Nets one day. It's taking a lot of work on both sides of the river, and there are a lot of people from Brooklyn to Newark that believe that that team belongs here.

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Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Frank Gehry’s Software Keeps Buildings on Budget

The NY Times
By Alec Appelbaum

An article featuring Digital Project, custom design software developed by Frank Gehry's studio and being used for Forest City Ratner's Beekman St. tower, has many details about Gehry's first NYC skyscraper, currently under construction: BeekmanStBW.jpg

When Bruce Ratner hired Frank Gehry in 2004 to design a wrinkled-looking 76-story residential skyscraper in Manhattan near the Brooklyn Bridge, the market for eye-popping luxury condominiums was booming, and the world-class architect’s multimillion-dollar fees probably seemed relatively insignificant. Now, however, the economy is crumbling, the building is envisioned as rental apartments and Mr. Gehry is bringing a more potent tool to control costs than most architects can deliver.

For the Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of Beekman Tower, the project will test the idea that an architect can provide powerful (and expensive) modeling software to help keep costs down. Using the software, fabricators have produced a facade with various textures at a price that Mr. Gehry says does not exceed what a developer would pay to build a conventional boxy building of similar dimensions.

The project, Beekman Tower, which has $680 million in debt and is due to open with 904 apartments in 2010, will be Mr. Gehry’s most important contribution to New York’s skyline. With the building’s distinctly bumpy silhouette, “the idea I was trying to achieve was a fabric, so it would catch the light,” Mr. Gehry said. ...
At Beekman Tower, the pressure on Digital Project is intense. The returns on a rental building are likely to be lower than on a condominium, and committing to Mr. Gehry’s ornate design could burn the developer if it leads to cost overruns.

Of Forest City Ratner’s financing for Beekman Tower, $203.9 million is in tax-exempt Liberty bonds, which Mr. Ratner secured by agreeing to build a public school at the base (Mr. Gehry did not design it) and by directing $6 million to a fund to support affordable housing. The project must repay a $476.1 million loan from a consortium of six international private lenders. The developer says it is current on its debt service.

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Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

February 10, 2009

Brooklyn Beep's Tone-deaf Pitch for Atlantic Yards

MarkowitzNets.jpg

Yesterday, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz tried to make the case to NY1 that the stalled Atlantic Yards project is deserving of a federal bailout:

"It has all the earmarks of exactly all the kinds of projects that Congress is looking for and President Obama is looking for."

Last night, in his prime-time news conference, President Obama had this to say about the federal stimulus package:

"What it does not contain, however, is a single pet project, not a single earmark, and it has been stripped of the projects members of both parties found most objectionable."

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

Atlantic Yards Project Gets Lobby Boost Despite Opposition

NY1

Brooklyn advocates and officials are speaking out about reports that a city developer is asking congress to help fund construction at the Atlantic Yards site.

Borough President Marty Markowitz is welcoming news that Bruce Ratner is lobbying for a portion of the stimulus package to jumpstart the $4 billion project. ... Ratner refused to comment.

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NoLandGrab: Ratner doesn't have to comment when he has Markowitz doing all the talking for him

This latest "no comment" made #18 on Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's "Information Sharing Record Keeping" list.

Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

AQUIFER DRILLING

Photographer Tracy Collins headed out to the Vanderbilt Railyards to capture this image described in the most recent Atlantic Yards Construction Update.

"Rigs are on site, Block 1118, lot1 and Block 1119, lots 1, 64, in connection with soil borings that are being conducted."

Photo via, flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

Little Pink House: the absorbing story behind the Kelo case (but not the legal complexities)

Atlantic Yards Report, Book Review

Jeff Benedict’s new book, Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage, comes with an additional subtitle, “One woman’s historic battle against eminent domain.”

So we know that the book will focus on the remarkable and enduring effort by Susette Kelo, a woman who stood up when redevelopment efforts in New London, CT, aimed at her hard-won home, and, with a handful of neighbors and the help of savvy lawyers, took the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court. And we get a hint that the book, though an impressively dramatic tale, barely sketches the bigger picture.

In the 2005 Supreme Court decision, the city won the battle--gaining permission to condemn a small piece [Parcel 4-A, below] of a 90-acre planned site--but lost the war, given the massive national backlash against eminent domain used for economic development and the significant, if mixed, responses by legislatures and courts in some 43 states to tighten eminent domain under state constitutions. And nothing's been built in New London.
...
Though Benedict has a law degree, the book can’t serve as a guide to the legal controversy. Most of the book focuses on the machinations and struggles leading up to the historic Supreme Court case, with virtually no analysis of the decision, and a brief reference to its impact. It’s as if Benedict was so worn out by reconstructing the fight that he punted on the fallout.

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Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

Deep Thought

DeepTought01.jpg Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn continues the quest for the inner truthiness of the Atlantic Yards boondoggle.

Today's word of the day comes from The One:

Moving and rebuilding an MTA rail yard—which the MTA never wanted moved or rebuilt—to facilitate a private developer's boondoggle arena is not a transit project but is, rather, what President Obama aptly described in his press conference tonight as "makework."

link

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

Forest City in the News

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Build Cleveland's med mart where the medicine is - Jim Strang

More on the convoluted tale of the Cleveland Medical Mart project and Forest City Enterprises's enduring wish to get in on the action.

One Jumbo is Forest City's riverside property. Too small and ill-shaped for much of anything useful, Forest City's site offers its one real attribute - relative convenience to the company's Tower City and its Rapid and bus connections - as sufficient to offset its costly limitations. Hey, it worked with the Carl B. Stokes Federal Court House. Why not try for another drink from that publicly funded fountain of green?

IndianaGazette.com, MAYOR AND DEVELOPER PUSH TO REMAKE LAS VEGAS'S DOWNTOWN
The Indiana Gazette ran the Times story on Forest City Enterprises's Las Vegas City Hall project.

Crib Notes, More on Forest City projects in Las Vegas

The Cleveland Plain Dealer's real estate blog is keeping tabs on Forest City Enterprises coverage in Las Vegas.

Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

Bridge to Nowhere

This shot of the half-demolished Carlton Avenue Bridge was just uploaded by "Evil Scientist" in the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Forest City Ratner stopped work over the Vanderbilt railyards, claiming that the company has done just about all it could do while the lawsuits are pending. Considering that this bridge has to be demolished and rebuilt, one of these days, it makes us wonder if the company isn't actually dealing with something like a really, really bad cash-flow problem instead.

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

February 9, 2009

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, ESDC: Whoops, Atlantic Yards IS Shovel-Ready

Last week, the Empire State Development Corporation said that Atlantic Yards was not shovel-ready; now the agency is saying it is ready.

NoLandGrab: The ESDC is shoveling something, but it ain't dirt.

Gowanus Lounge, Development Notebook: Ratner Rising (But Not at Atlantic Yards)

Bruce Ratner's 80 DeKalb project is under construction, and, according to GL, "under-the-radar."

Bruce Ratner may (or may not) curse the day he ever became involved in Atlantic Yards, but most of his other Brooklyn real estate ventures have face much smoother sailing and gotten much taxpayer support.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards: Information Sharing Recordkeeping, Part 17

We have a feeling these are going to outnumber Super Bowls before the next pigskin adstravangaza rolls around.

Posted by eric at 4:13 PM

With Credit Frozen, Developers Downshift

The New York Times
by Diana Marszalek

More woes for Forest City, this time in New York's Westchester County.

Today, however, such visions of Westchester’s future do not look as rosy, primarily because of the financial meltdown that, in some cases, has brought the business of construction to a halt, developers and local leaders said.

“It’s a mess,” said Geoffrey Thompson, of the public relations firm Thompson & Bender and a spokesman for Cappelli Enterprises, Core Plus Properties and other developers. “No one saw anything of this magnitude coming.”

With banks not lending money readily, retailers facing dismal sales and the housing market woefully hurt, now is hardly prime time for investors to spend millions or billions creating a new vision of Westchester, developers said.
...

The developer Forest City Ratner has asked New Rochelle to formally delay approval of its proposed $450 million Echo Bay waterfront revitalization project. That means the mixed-use project will most likely break ground in early 2011 rather than 2010, officials said.

We're pretty sure Echo Bay is a Forest City Residential project, which would but it under the auspices of parent company Forest City Enterprises. However, Forest City Ratner has its own headaches in Westchester County.

Even projects already under construction — Forest City Ratner’s $600 million Ridge Hill development in Yonkers, for example, with shopping, entertainment, office and hotel space — are facing less certain futures than they were a year ago, real estate analysts said.

With the retail outlook bleak, many stores are more apt this year to scale back or close than expand, meaning not only will new space be hard to fill, but there may also be new vacancies in existing space as well, real estate developers said.

Businesses that do move into new space will most likely pay rents far lower than originally expected, so developers, municipalities and investors may not recoup their investments as planned, some developers said.

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Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

It's the Mall or not at all for Med Mart, convention center

Crain's Cleveland Business

Looks like Medical Mart developer Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. has seen Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's bet, and raised him.

Jackson, a pawn supporter of Cleveland bigwigs Forest City Enterprises, said Friday that the County's commissioners would pick the Medical Mart site if the preferred Mall site — not owned by Forest City, which is promoting its own Tower City location — wouldn't fly.

MMPI now says there're only two choices — the Mall or none at all.

There's no backup location for the proposed convention center and medical merchandise mart that Cuyahoga County commissioners plan to construct on the Mall in downtown Cleveland. If the project can't be built at the Mall site at a cost that can be covered by the tax dollars dedicated to it, the entire endeavor will be scrapped.

That message is what Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., the developer entrusted with creating the project, will tell the people of Northeast Ohio this Thursday, Feb. 12, at two meetings, one with Cleveland City Council and one planned for the public.

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Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

Complicated deal, powerful partner

Forest City Enterprises is accomplished, but hit by torrent of bad news

Las Vegas Sun
by Sam Skolnik

Forest City's bid to build a new city hall in Las Vegas provides a jumping-off point for an exploration of the company's mastery of the public-subsidy game.

As the city hall project moves forward, Forest City’s record — both positive and negative — is coming into better focus.

Though the developer is rightly known for building high-quality projects, observers say, it also routinely and effectively uses the strength of its name to gain huge subsidies and tax breaks from local governments.
...

One of the company’s ongoing projects in Albuquerque, called Mesa del Sol, may hold lessons for Las Vegas. The project ultimately will comprise a 12,900-acre tract of land, four town centers and 100,000 residents.

Forest City has been extolled for concentrating on bringing a wide array of businesses to the area.
...

And yet there has been a serious downside to dealing with Forest City, he said — its bulldozer approach to taxpayer financing. Forest City demanded it, and got it. The company pulled together a powerful team of lobbyists to get a new tax increment law passed, which allows future gains in tax revenues to finance the improvements that will create those gains.
...

By winning approval to float $500 million in infrastructure bonds — backed by the revenue from significant shares of future state and local taxes — Forest City will make hundreds of millions of dollars over a 25-year period, Nims said.

Forest City lobbyists “rewrote the law to favor themselves entirely,” Nims said. “We’re now struggling to close some loopholes and reform the legislation.”

(That Forest City subsidiary, called Forest City Covington, plus its officials and members of their families, donated almost $300,000 to New Mexico Gov. Richardson’s campaign committees over a six-year period, according to news reports. Richardson later supported the Forest City bond deal.)

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NoLandGrab: The Forest City game plan will come as no surprise to Brooklynites, who are watching now as the company tries to step up its game to the Federal subsidy level.

Forest City watchers can also be sure that the utter complexity of the proposed Las Vegas deal — good luck trying to figure it out — is designed to benefit the developer at the expense of the city's taxpayers.

Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

Newly and truly blighted

Jim Flood [CUNY Graduate School of Journalism blog]

Half a block from where I live, a huge gaping chasm sits quiet and dormant, its future uncertain, its status clouded by controversy.

It’s the railyard at the center of the proposed Atlantic Yards development, where Forest City Ratner plans to erect a stadium for the NBA’s Nets alongside a mini-city of high-rise towers. The project would add thousands of apartments and condos, along with office and retail space, to an already severely congested area of Brooklyn. As of now the plan still stands, but two weeks ago construction abruptly stopped.

Initially, Forest City Ratner told the Daily News that pending litigation had forced them to stop work. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a grassroots organization opposed to the project, disputed that claim. DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein alleged that financial problems must have played a role in the work stoppage, since the area under construction would not be affected by either of two unresolved lawsuits filed by DDDB.

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Click through to hear a brief audio interview with DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein.

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

Atlantic Yards and the stimulus bill: many questions pending

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite a New York Post article that reports "City and state officials say they expect developer Bruce Ratner to lobby hard for a piece of the federal pork" for Atlantic Yards, the evidence so far is sketchy.
...

Of course, the project is not fully shovel-ready, given that lawsuits preclude full demolition and construction, but it could be at some point. (But couldn't the railyard be relocated right now?)

The difference between using federal funds for transit projects that the city/state/MTA have on the table and using them for Atlantic Yards is that the former, unlike the latter, would not relieve a private developer of a previous commitment.

Markowitz did not mention the logical conclusion: federal aid to a private developer that relieves the developer of its costs and boosts the value of the team should mean federal ownership of the arena and/or team.

Moreover, federal taxpayers would already be subsidizing the arena for perhaps $165 million if, as planned, it's built with tax-exempt bonds.

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Posted by eric at 9:25 AM

ATL. YARDS BIG WANTS PORK PIE

NY Post
By Rich Calder

Expect the developer whose motto is "no subsidy left behind" to work his ass off to get a chunk of the federal stimulus package.

City and state officials say they expect developer Bruce Ratner to lobby hard for a piece of the federal pork to help bail out his reeling $4 billion plan to bring an NBA arena and 16 residential and office towers to Prospect Heights, which is in jeopardy because of the economic downtown.

Cheerleader-in-Chief and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz insists that the project is "shovel-ready" and is exactly the type of economic stimulus that Brooklyn needs, while project opponent Dan Goldstein asserts that no more money should be used to bail out a private developer and the "Atlantic Yards money pit."

Could there be an arena loophole in the stimulus package?

State officials say the project would qualify for New York's share of stimulus funds, but no distribution decisions have been made.

Although stadium projects don't qualify to receive money through the stimulus bill, arenas are not mentioned in the document.

Though the Post repeats the "15K construction jobs" myth (it's really 1,500 jobs over 10 years), it is one of the few papers that has informed readers that the developer has "serious cash-flow problems":

The Post reported last month that Ratner is having such serious cash-flow problems that he's in talks with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority about cutting costs on a $445 million transit improvement plan he promised in 2005 in order to get the green light from the state for Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Report: City wasted resources on projects like Atlantic Yards instead of investing in infrastructure

Atlantic Yards Report

CenterfortheUrbanFuture.jpg

A report released last Friday by the Center for an Urban Future, titled Reviving the City of Aspiration, lays out the daunting challenges faced by the middle-class in New York City and lays out some potential solutions.

I'll write about the report in more detail later on, but here's one resonant excerpt:

As the city economy boomed over the last dozen years, city leaders expended a large chunk of New York’s economic development and planning resources on costly sports stadiums and glitzy developments like Atlantic Yards, Governor’s Island and the new Penn Station—projects that garner headlines and facilitate huge private profits, but do little to shore up the basic building blocks of life in the five boroughs. The opportunity cost came in investments not made to increase the frequency of subway service, create new express bus and ferry routes and renovate critical infrastructure—projects that would help reduce commuting times and improve New Yorkers’ quality of life. Local officials must now make it a priority to undertake these infrastructure projects, while continuing ongoing efforts to improve public schools and reduce crime.

None of the news coverage last week picked up on this one.

The issue isn't completely cut and dried. Surely a new Penn Station is needed, and Atlantic Yards would include some infrastructure improvements. But the economic case for a new arena--capturing revenues from New Jersey--has declined steadily as the city put more money into the project, and it may well be a money-loser.

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By the way, the cover photo of the report was shot by Atlantic Yards Camera Club member and Brit in Brooklyn blogger Adrian Kinloch.

Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

Yormark: “It’s a Challenge Out There”

Nets Daily

Nets CEO Brett Yormark keeps finding new ways to give away tickets:

No NBA team has been as driven in getting tickets into people’s hands–and people in arena seats–as have the Nets. The Times chronicles the various efforts–some might say gimmicks–the team has used to populate the IZOD Center this season. A rebuilding team, a long delayed move and economic hard times have made for what Brett Yormark calls “challenging times”. He says game attendance is down only 3%.

Check out the original post for chatter in the comments section.

NoLandGrab: Though Yormark isn't historically forthright, if attendance is only down 3%, it highlights that it was poor to start.

Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

Forest City in the News

The NY Times, Roll of the Dice on Las Vegas’s Shabby Downtown

A "complicated land swap and a lease-back arrangement" with Forest City Enterprises is at the heart of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman's downtown renewal plan.

The project would include a new city hall (never mind that the existing one, built in 1973, has an addition only six years old), a casino resort (the first in downtown in some three decades) and office, residential and commercial space (because, the developers of this project assert, the eventual economic recovery will create demand for it).

The plan includes a complicated land swap and a lease-back arrangement — “a college football parlay card, in which everything has to fall into place,” The Las Vegas Review-Journal said in an editorial. For taxpayers, the bottom line could mean borrowing $150 million to $267 million, with tax revenue from new development paying it back over time.
...
Under the plan, the development group LiveWork Las Vegas/Forest City would build the new city hall at First Street and Clark Avenue, lease it back to the city and swap the land underneath for a 6.4-acre property at Union Park, a large mixed-use complex being developed with another partner that will include a concert hall, space for medical research and other components. There, the development group would build a 47-story, 1,000-room high-end casino hotel.

The land under the existing city hall could be paired with an adjacent lot for 20 acres of developable space, perhaps for an arena to lure a professional sports team, which the mayor has long sought.

NoLandGrab: We're not sure if the reporter or editor discussed adding a disclosure to the article, but it should be noted that Forest City Enterprises's local subsidary co-owns the Times Tower with the NY Times Company.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Med mart-convention site decision up to elected officials, says Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson

After Forest City Enterprises's reversal of fortune with the Medical Mart project in Cleveland and an unofficial assurance by the developer towards another site candidate, the Mayor stepped up to the podium to calm things down:

Mayor Frank Jackson said Friday that the three Cuyahoga County commissioners - and not private developer MMPI - will pick the site for a new convention center and medical mart if the preferred site on the mall does not work.
...
"We don't know what Mr. Falanga of MMPI said to Mr. Wolstein about his site," Jackson said in a news release. "But no private developer - whether it's MMPI, Forest City or Mr. Wolstein - will determine which site is chosen."

Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

February 8, 2009

At CBN meeting Wednesday, the ESDC ombudsman will answer questions

Atlantic Yards Report

On Wednesday, February 11, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, at its General Membership Meeting, will host an Atlantic Yards Update, featuring Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) project ombudsman Forrest Taylor.

Among the questions that might be posed (though somehow I think comprehensive answers might be scarce):
--how much of the train trestle has been completed?
--why did the ESDC reverse itself, as DDDB points out, on whether the project was "shovel-ready"?
--for what federal stimulus money might the project be eligible?
--why did the ESDC let the city give the developer Forest City Ratner three years to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge?

The meeting will start at 7:30 pm. It will be held at St. Cyril of Turau Belarusian Cathedral, Atlantic Avenue at Bond Street.

link

Posted by amy at 10:43 AM

Atlantic Yards Bailout DOA?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The federal stimulus bill awaits a Senate vote likely on Tuesday followed by heated negotiations for reconciling with the House so nobody can be sure yet what the bill will be and what it will allow.

But currently the Senate version includes an amendment that has been passed that does not allow stimulus funds for, amongst other things, a stadium.

S.A. 309 page S1590 reads:

None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.

If that Amendment stays in the final bill, which is likely, Forest City Ratner will not be able to get stimulus funds for his billion dollar arena, though they will try. Will they argue that an arena is not a stadium? Probably. But an arena and a stadium are the same thing in the context of such a provision.

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Posted by amy at 10:40 AM

ESDC Abruptly Changes Tune on Federal Stimulus Money to Bail Out Ratner

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB has three questions after reading this week's Courier article by Stephen Witt:

1. Which day during the past week did Forest City Ratner tell ESDC and Johnston to "fix this" thing that Willner said last week? (If the statement was simply wrong, rather than offensive to Forest City Ratner, you'd think ESDC would have corrected it more quickly on its own.)

2. Which Ratner lobbyists are courting which city, state and federal politicians to give them a piece of the action?

3. If, as Johnston states, the suspension of work at the Atlantic Yards site is "due to pending litigation," rather than financial difficulties, then why would Ratner need or deserve federal stimulus taxpayer dollars?

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Posted by amy at 10:36 AM

Markowitz claims he doesn't know Rent-A-Center helps fund his concert series

rac2.09.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

There's an ongoing debate about rent-to-own companies like Rent-A-Center; proponents say they provide a needed service to those with little savings, while opponents say they're a ripoff.
...
So Council Members Charles Barron, Letitia James, and several organizations protested Borough President Marty Markowitz's acceptance of $25,000 in support from Rent-A-Center for his Martin Luther King, Jr. summer concert series, as reported in the Courier-Life chain. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)

Marty, of course, goes the know-nothing route and tells the paper he didn't know where the funding was coming from:

He didn't?

Does he ever look at the series web site? (Did the Courier-Life reporter point that out?)

Markowitz did say he supports strengthening the laws that regulate the industry. At the very least, good regulation requires transparency on the part of the companies and some minimal vigilance on the part of the renters.

Markowitz could apply another form of minimal vigilance and at least know where he gets funding for his projects.

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Posted by amy at 10:28 AM

Times: "Nets Try Different Ways to *Sell* Tickets"

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times article today is headlined Nets Try Different Ways to Sell Tickets in Tough Economy. Well, given that some tickets are distributed free or at a deep, deep discount, the headline might have used the word 'Distribute' rather than 'Sell.'

We do learn that the tickets available free on Ticketmaster were actually purchased by the shopping site Saveology. The Times doesn't ask uber-marketer Brett Yormark for how much the team "sold" those tickets.

While the Times includes a dollop of skepticism, acknowledging the obvious, that "on some nights, the Izod Center’s attendance appears to fall far short of the average," Yormark gets five paragraphs in a brief story to tout the ticket exchange program with his brother Michael's equally-struggling-to-fill-seats Florida Panthers hockey team.

Unmentioned: how many people have actually taken advantage of the program.

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Posted by amy at 10:25 AM

February 7, 2009

This Week On Brooklyn Independent Television

br-logo2.09.png

BRIC Community Media

Brooklyn Review
Monday, February 9th
1pm & 9pm
Brooklyn’s Time Warner Cable channel 56, Cablevision channel 69, RCN channel 84, Verizon 44 and streaming live online at briconline.org/bcat (channel 3).

What’s the deal with the Atlantic Yards project? We bring you the update on whether Brooklyn’s biggest development project is a go or a no

link

Posted by amy at 12:37 PM

Empire State Development Corporation To Answer Atlantic Yards Questions

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

WHAT: Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Hosts Q&A re Atlantic Yards

WHEN: Wednesday, February 11, 2009, 7:30 PM

WHERE: St. Cyril of Turau Belarusian Cathedral, Atlantic Avenue at Hoyt Street, Brooklyn, NY
Map and Directions

WHO: Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, ESDC Atlantic Yards Ombudsman Mr. Forrest Taylor, local elected officials, Brooklyn community residents, media representatives

The Empire State Development Corporation's Atlantic Yards Ombudsman, Forrest Taylor, will be at the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods' bi-monthly general meeting next week to field questions about the stalled mega-development project.
...
If you're curious about when the ESDC expects the Carlton Avenue Bridge to be rebuilt; why the Governor has been slashing budgets on just about every state-funded program while remaining mum about Atlantic Yards; just what the heck is going on with security plans for the planned basketball arena; or anything else having to do with the project -- this is your chance. CBN has also extended invitations to several Brooklyn elected officials, who may welcome the chance to pin down the ESDC on the many unaddressed issues and unanswered questions hanging over the Atlantic Yards project.

link

Posted by amy at 12:32 PM

Be skeptical of Forest City, New Yorkers warn Las Vegas

Atlantic Yards Report

KNPR, Nevada Public Radio, has been reporting on a proposal by Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman to build a new downtown Las Vegas City Hall in partnership with developer Forest City Enterprises, a proposal opposed by the 60,000-member Culinary Union.

And while Forest City has been unwilling to send a rep to be interviewed, on January 30 the program focused on the developer's project in Fresno, CA, and yesterday on Atlantic Yards.

The takeaway for Las Vegans from yesterday's show was to be skeptical of the developer and to take any announced plans with a grain of salt.

But the takeaway for Brooklynites probably came from Matthew Schuerman of WNYC, who warned that "the bond market can turn around in a year," which means that, should lawsuits be resolved in the state's favor--and that's more likely than not--the arena might go ahead. In other words, AY is hardly dead.

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Posted by amy at 12:28 PM

ESDC says it was wrong, AY could be "shovel-ready" for stimulus money; FCR nixes proposals by BrooklynSpeaks

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR looks at FCR's response to a letter from Assemblyman Jim Brennan:

Gilmartin, asked to stop further street closures, wrote that the developer "does not anticipate any street closures in the immediate future. When construction of the arena begins street closures will be required." (She doesn't say which streets, but Fifth Avenue between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue would be demapped, as would be Pacific Street from Fifth Avenue to Sixth Avenue.)

(BrooklynSpeaks sent its letter to Gov. David Paterson, who has not responded, as far as I know. Brennan wrote to FCR and ESDC.)

As for reopening the Carlton Avenue Bridge, Gilmartin wrote that its "demolition and reconstruction... is being coordinated with the construction of the new LIRR yard. Re-opening it is not practical or feasible, given the coordination issues, expense, and the fact that it will be put out of service again as soon as construction starts, which we expect to occur in mid-2009.”

As for the request to create interim open space on demolished sites, Gilmartin deemed it not practical “because we expect the land will be necessary to accommodate construction logistics and to meet other environmental commitments before the end of 2009.”

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Posted by amy at 12:24 PM

Forest City nixes community input

YourNabe.com
Stephen Witt

Developer Forest City Ratner Companies has nixed several interim ideas that a community organization has suggested before the Atlantic Yards project gets underway.

In a letter sent to Assemblymember James Brennan, the company responded to several interim measures for the 22-acre arena/housing/commercial project that the organization BrooklynSpeaks suggested in a letter to Gov. David Paterson.

The recommendations include returning the Carlton Avenue Bridge to service, creating interim public space in sites already demolished, and utilizing vacated buildings the company owns for community use or affordable housing until construction starts on those sites.

“The demolition and reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge is being coordinated with the construction of the new LIRR yard,” wrote FCRC Executive Vice President Maryanne Gilmartin. “Re-opening it is not practical or feasible, given the coordination issues, expense, and the fact that it will be put out of service again as soon as construction starts, which we expect to occur in mid-2009.”

It seems a tad odd that "a letter to Gov. David Paterson" was answered by Forest City Ratner. Oh, and whoopsie about that "shovel-ready" comment:

Separately, ESDC Communications director Warner Johnston backtracked on the agency’s comments made last week to this paper that the project would not be eligible for federal stimulus money because it wasn’t “shovel ready.”

“I am afraid that my office put out some inaccurate information regarding Atlantic Yards and whether it was shovel-ready. I take full responsibility and apologize,” Johnston wrote in an email.

“As we have stated in the past, the temporary suspension of work at Atlantic Yards is due to pending litigation. Once it has been resolved, work will continue. Stating that this site is not “shovel-ready” was inaccurate,” he added.

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Posted by amy at 12:13 PM

GREG DAVID WAITS FOR BOTTOM

gregdavid2.09.jpg

Real Estate Bisnow

Despite the headline, this publication is "BIS now" not "Bi's now" as you might have thought. And AREW is the Association of Real Estate Women:

You didn't think Bisnow would forget about lunch, did you? We stopped by AREW's event yesterday at 101 Park to hear keynoter Greg David, editorial director of Crain's New York Business (with AREW prez Jennifer McCool of Moynihan Station Venture and Crain's Jill Kaplan). He's determining NYC's bottom by watching three things: Atlantic Yards, particularly the court's ruling on eminent domain and how Forest City Ratner will finance the project; West Side Rail Yards' delay and whether Related will close on the project; and his friend Mike, who moved from Merrill Lynch to a hedge fund—if he keeps his job, it means that the financials will get through this market.

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Posted by amy at 11:34 AM

Union looking past the paycheck

Las Vegas Sun
Michael Mishak The Culinary Union in Las Vegas has the good sense to not roll over and play dead by signing a weak and unenforceable community benefits agreement:

The union’s larger proposal is that all future jobs — union and nonunion — be subject to living wages and include health insurance. The union says it’s a fair exchange for the subsidies a private developer will receive.

(The redevelopment deal calls for Las Vegas and Forest City Enterprises, the primary developer in the disputed downtown plan, to swap land and for Forest City to receive an annual tax subsidy valued at $3 million to $4 million.)

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Posted by amy at 11:27 AM

February 6, 2009

You Read Us! You Really Read Us!

Seems like someone at Forest City Ratner is a reader of NoLandGrab, since when we checked a few minutes ago, the Atlantic Yards web site had been updated to show that Forest City owns the Queens Place Mall, not MaceRich's Queens Center Mall — an error that we pointed out this morning.

Yoohoo, Barclays, anybody out there?

Posted by eric at 5:50 PM

Build the arena — with fed money!

The Brooklyn Paper Publisher Ed Weintrob thinks Federal stimulus aid should go to build the new basketball arena for Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets.

Yes, The Brooklyn Paper has repeatedly argued that the financing scheme for the Nets arena was unfair to New York taxpayers. But if Washington money is channeled our way, that argument over subsidies to the project would be muted.

Bottom line: If we don’t get the money, Peoria will.

Just as we need to move past finger-pointing and blame-throwing in Washington and on Wall Street, we need to look forward in Brooklyn and remove vitriol from all sides of the Atlantic Yards discussion.

Constructing the arena and bringing the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn would quickly create construction jobs, boost the commercial district along Flatbush Avenue, and restore the spirit of optimism that built Brooklyn.

Isn’t that what an economic stimulus package is supposed to do?

link

NoLandGrab: Hey, don't stop here! The lucrative business of professional sports is having as tough of a time as any industry. Maybe we can funnel some stimulus bucks to the new arena for the Orlando Magic and use Federal tax money to stimulate a new arena for the Sacramento Kings.

Atlantic Yards Report, Shocker: Brooklyn Paper editorializes for federal bailout of Ratner's arena

In his point-by-point examination of Weintrob's editorial, the "Mad Overkiller" Norman Oder calls it a "shocker" and notes that, "The editorial is signed by publisher Ed Weintrob, an unusual move, so we don't know if the sentiments are shared by editor Gersh Kuntzman, who has written many of the other editorials...."

Weintrob's argument is essentially that the money's there, so, why not throw some to Brooklyn. Our pork is better than theirs. And while some others--say, Yonkers--decorously request federal money for infrastructure to support private development projects, Weintrob wants the project itself to get a bailout.

NoLandGrab: Aside from setting a bad precedent, one problem with Weintrob's argument is that the Feds would be bailing out a pro sports team, whose value would skyrocket if moved to a new arena in Brooklyn. Perhaps, as in the bailout of the banking system, US taxpayers could become shareholders in the team?

Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

Atlantic Yards and More Cowboy Poetry

Heh, heh... for a second we got excited by the prospect of hearing some cowboy poetry about Atlantic Yards.

Actually, Atlantic Yards is being featured on Nevada Public Radio as a part of a series examining developer Forest City Enterprises, which is in the center of a controversy involving a landswap deal, a casino and a new City Hall:

02/06/09: Forest City is pushing to build a new Las Vegas City Hall, but major Forest City projects have stalled elsewhere in the country. We hear what's happened with the company's multibillion-dollar plans in Brooklyn.

The report is to feature WNYC reporter Matthew Schuerman, New York Magazine political reporter Chris Smith and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesperson and lead eminent domain plaintiff Dan Goldstein.

link

[Cowboy poetry is a separate feature later in the broadcast.]

Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

Why Gehry's not talking

GherySpeak.jpg Atlantic Yards Report

Why has a guy who loves to talk been so silent about Atlantic Yards?

Norman Oder points out that Frank Gehry has nothing to say about the fact that he is no longer working on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project because Ratner is still a client:

Architect Frank Gehry, whose role seems to have receded in designing the Atlantic Yards arena, isn't talking, despite reports that he laid off his staff working on the arena.

Why not? Well, he's not about to alienate a client who's still paying him for the Beekman Tower.

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Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

Forest City Clarifies Waiver Related to Corporate Line of Credit

PR Newswire

CLEVELAND, Feb. 5 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA; FCEB) today confirmed that it has received a waiver from its 14-member bank group related to the Company's corporate line of credit. The need for the waiver was triggered by an unintentional non-compliance with one of the non-financial covenants of the line of credit which occurred when the Company purchased $15 million face value of its Puttable Equity-Linked Senior Notes at a cost of approximately $10.6 million.

Commenting on the events leading to the waiver, Forest City president and chief executive officer Charles A. Ratner said, "We saw the opportunity to purchase these notes at a discount as a prudent business decision, and we believed the purchase, which occurred during the Company's fiscal 2008 third quarter, was in compliance with our credit agreement. In subsequent review with our lenders after the close of the third quarter, it was determined that the transaction was not in compliance with one of the non-financial covenants of the line. As a result, we immediately entered into discussions to obtain a waiver to allow the transaction, and reached agreement in less than one week with members of the group.

"It is gratifying that our lenders understood that the noncompliance was unintentional and responded with good-faith discussions that allowed us to promptly secure the needed waiver," Ratner added.

link

From Reuters, via Forbes.com, BRIEF-Forest City gets waiver from bank group

Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

Amusing Ratner pr humdinger

Recently something landed in our box that basically went this way: Whoa, Ratner is pissing off the Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority H. Dale Hemmerdinger!

On Tuesday, The NY Times reported that lenders are foreclosing on Hemmerdinger's Queens mall.

David A. Rosenberg, an executive vice president of Robert K. Futterman, a retail leasing firm, said the mall was hurt by competition from an expanded Queens Center Mall and from the established shopping corridor on Austin Street in Forest Hills.

The tipster informed us that the Queens Center Mall is owned by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, which is currently trying to renegotiate terms for the development rights over the Vanderbilt Railyards with the MTA.

A quick check in our own archives indicated that Bruce Ratner pissed off the community with garish signage on his Queens Place Mall.

Queens Center Mall vs. its smaller neighbor the Queens Place Mall — how did the tipster get it wrong? Apparently from Ratner's own AtlanticYards.com web site. [The Barclays Center website followed suit.]

You can hardly blame the public's confusion, if Ratner's own pr team can't get it right.

Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

February 5, 2009

Forest City in the News

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Scott Wolstein site on Flats east bank is second choice for medical mart

The news is getting worse for Forest City Enterprises in its home town of Cleveland, where the site it proposed for the city's big new Medical Mart project has slipped to third place.

Needless to say, Forest City execs are not used to not getting their way.

Forest City Enterprises spokesman Jeff Linton said the Cleveland company is disgusted to learn it is now, at best, a third option.

Said Linton: "It's a very strange process indeed by which our site goes from the first-place site based on a very detailed analysis that the [Greater Cleveland Partnership] did, to the second-place site based on MMPI's analysis that no one has seen, to third place based on one meeting in Chicago - and all without one single substantive discussion with us about the merits of our site and the opportunities for cost savings."

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NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards watchers will get a kick out of Forest City's indignation over backroom deals and missed "opportunities for cost savings," since Extell Development outbid Forest City Ratner 3-to-1 for Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Railyard in 2005, only to have the Metropolitan Transportation Authority decide to "negotiate" exclusively with Forest City — a process that netted a deal still worth $50 million less than Extell's original bid.

Brewed Fresh Daily, News Flash: Forest City “disgusted” by “strange” process

Apparently, not everyone in Cleveland OH shares the developer's "disgust":

Au contraire, mon ami, it looks like people are disgusted instead with your Forest City.

Crib Notes [Cleveland Plain Dealer real estate blog], Forest City says Las Vegas casino is several years off

Recent media reports that Forest City Enterprises Inc. plans to build a hotel-casino project in Las Vegas aren't inaccurate -- but they're somewhat premature, a spokesman says.

The real estate company, based in Cleveland, has shelved most development in favor of managing its existing properties during a nasty commercial real estate slump. That's why it seemed somewhat surprising when Las Vegas media outlets recently reported that Forest City was pitching a 47-story hotel-casino project on a piece of land in Union Park.
...

Forest City bought land in downtown Las Vegas in 2007 and signed a development agreement to build a new Las Vegas city hall on part of the property. The company expects to start construction this year on the project, which is publicly funded -- and therefore somewhat easier to launch right now than a development that relies on bank financing or other private sources.

NoLandGrab: "Easier to launch" if not for Las Vegas's most powerful union, which is pulling out all the stops to stop the building of an expensive new city hall.

Posted by eric at 5:33 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Brooklyn the Borough, Atlantic Yards State Eminent Domain Case Scheduled

Despite security concerns and the arena’s exorbitant $625 per square foot bulletproof glass facade, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn would like to remind you that rumors of the death of Atlantic Yards have been greatly exaggerated.

And in case anyone was wondering, the smaller scale Unity Plan for Prospect Heights and Fort Greene still exists, and is beginning to make more and more sense as we progress further into a recession.

NY Press, Atlantic Yards Development Not Quite Dead Yet

We all began to believe that Ratner's dream of remaking downtown had just about vanished. Instead of Frank Gehry's gargantuan development design, we expected to see parcels sold off and an ugly hodge podge of possible development (or just ugly holes in the ground). But Brooklyn the Borough has a roundup that updates us on all that's going down this month concerning the not-quite-forgotten project.

PR Web, EarthCam Debuts New Heavy-Duty Wireless Security System at World of Concrete

The easily deployed, heavy-duty wireless protection surveillance sensors detect motion along the perimeter of project sites or properties and instantly activate cameras to automatically focus on intruders. The system can be seamlessly integrated into existing jobsite surveillance operations and sensitivity of the detectors can be adjusted remotely.
...

Clients include Turner Construction, Bovis Lend Lease, Skanska USA, Forest City Ratner Companies....

NoLandGrab: With Forest City Ratner having rid the project area of all but a few pesky residents and businesses, and with work on the site all but non-existent, the only "intruders" we anticipate will be the weeds that start sprouting once spring comes around.

9nine9's Weblog, The Newark Nets: Why not?

And before anyone brings up the Nets’ “impending” move to Brooklyn, please silence yourself. This move is never, ever going to happen. There’s a better chance of a certain overweight 40-year-old under-six-foot blog-writing Jew with no basketball skills starting at point guard than there is for the Nets to ever bounce a ball in Brooklyn. The Atlantic Yards project is as dead as Sarah Palin’s political future. It would have been a fantastic move for the franchise, but it’s not happening. Accept this and deal with it.

For the love of God, please let the Nets move to Newark.

Oxadox.com, Luxury Real Estate News and Trends

Perhaps the agents who secured the funding could have a talk to Forest City Ratner, the developers of the struggling $4 billion “Atlantic Yards,” project which was announced as “The biggest project in Brooklyn,” which keeps shrinking. The original architect, Frank Gehry laid off more than two dozen staffers in late November after Forest City Ratner ordered the architect to put down his pencils. The developers have since been scrambling around for an alternative and juggling basketballs to keep the loans afloat.

Huffington Post, Madoff Versus Markopolos: How The Journal Dropped The Ball

The name of Brooklyn's most-revered overdeveloper pops up in this post about Harry Markopolos's claim that the WSJ missed the Madoff story.

Read the Journal, and you, too, would become an awesome force for wealth and gentrification while all those New York Daily News simps fought for the scraps and leftovers in the gilded Terrordome that you and Bruce Ratner built, out of gold and gossamer. I exaggerate, of course.

PolitickerNY, Ed Towns Gets a Chance to Matter

“He has not been helpful with the community’s efforts to battle the Atlantic Yards project,” said Ruth Goldstein, a longtime Fort Greene resident, activist and leader of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, which recently sponsored the centennial of the Martyrs Monument in the Olmsted-designed greensward.

Miss Representation, Coney Island Low

The Brooklyn Bridge Park: on hold because developers don't feel confident they can sell condos that will steal views from Brooklyn Heights, the tabula rasa of gentrification. Pier 17, dunzo as General Growth slides from a legit stock to over the counter (hell, it might be under the counter by now). Governor's Island: broke-ass. The WTC site: replacing two million square feet of office space with 'stumps'. Atlantic Yards: now doubtful we will even see a Brooklyn Nets, let alone 'Miss Brooklyn' -- even the Williamsburg Bank Building (excuse me, the Hanson) is going rental. Hudson Yards: next year -- for reals, sayeth Related.

Posted by eric at 4:44 PM

ESDC CEO: focus on infrastructure projects

Atlantic Yards Report

Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) CEO Marisa Lago, in a recent video interview posted on the Crain's New York Business web site, was recently asked what the city and federal governments should do to help New York business.

Her answer: "We have to inject an element of realism in today's market. We have to be smart about where we continue to invest. But the important thing is: we do need and will be continuing to invest."

Back to basics

"In a time like this, what do you focus on?" she asked rhetorically. "You get back to basics. And the basics are infrastructure projects. As so you can see through the state submission for the [federal] stimulus bill, we're focusing where we can put dollars today that will both put people to work today but also just lay that groundwork that, when this economic crisis turns around, and it will at some point, we will be prepared with the infrastructure that will allow the private sector then to come and continue with development."

Isn't that the way it's supposed to work? Infrastructure first. The "public realm." (I suppose she means things like the Second Avenue Subway.)

Some of the Atlantic Yards project would certainly be infrastructure, but it's not "shovel-ready," as the ESDC has acknowledged. And, more importantly, rather than set up a process to enhance infrastructure to lure the private sector, Atlantic Yards was a package deal, and one developer had the inside track.

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Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

February 4, 2009

Eminent domain case set for oral argument February 23

Atlantic Yards Report

It's a date:

Well, a day after I wrote that no hearing had been scheduled in the Atlantic Yards state eminent domain case, the case was scheduled for Monday, February 23, in a court calendar that begins at 10 a.m.

The Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, is at 45 Monroe Place in Brooklyn Heights.

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Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

Did FCR tell government it stopped work at the Vanderbilt Yard? Barely. And why was that train trestle stalled?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman "The Mad Overkiller" Oder searches for some answers about what Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner has told the state sponsor, the Empire State Development Corporation, about the company's progress and plans over the Vanderbilt Railyards:

So, what did Forest City Ratner tell government agencies when it decided in early December to stop work at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Vanderbilt Yard.

Not much.

After filing Freedom of Information Law requests with both the MTA and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the only evidence of communication was a phone call, documented in an email report from ESDC ombudsman Forrest Taylor, in which an FCR representative told him they had "completed the work needed thus far." (Click on graphics to enlarge.)

Notably, the documents also point to a stalled construction of a train trestle, with no explanation of how much had been completed nor of when it might be completed.

When queried how far along the trestle might be, ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston responded, "With regards to how much has been completed, FCRC would know." But Forest City Ratner hasn't been doing much information-sharing lately, as DDDB reminds us.

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Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

NY Hudson Yard developer gets extension on deal

Reuters

NEW YORK, Feb 3 (Reuters) - New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Tuesday has given the partnership developing its 26-acre midtown Manhattan rail yards up to another year to finalize a deal, citing the credit crunch.

The Related Companies, a private developer, and investment bank Goldman Sachs and the authority are all still committed to the $1 billion project for apartments and office space, the MTA said in statement.

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Atlantic Yards Report, MTA shows flexibility on Hudson Yards deal; would it offer same to Forest City Ratner?

Norman Oder maps out the implications for Bruce Ratner's deal for the Vanderbilt Railyards:

Asked whether the MTA would be flexible with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, Sander responded two weeks ago that the agency was always "flexible and thoughtful."

Forest City Ratner has been trying to delay paying the $100 million it would owe the MTA for the Vanderbilt Yard, so the agency's actions yesterday suggest that it may not pressure FCR.

The difference is that the price for the Hudson Yards was much higher, not merely because of differences in size and location, but also because there was a competitive bidding process.

The 2005 sale of rights to the Vanderbilt Yard attracted only one other bidder, given that the RFP was issued 18 months after Forest City Ratner was anointed the city and state's favored developer.

Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

Mr. Frank’s Arena Costs So Much Because of Security

AtlanticTerminalStores.jpg Gowanus Lounge holds to its prediction:

The Daily News has figured out via a source why the cost of Frank Gehry’s Atlantic Yards arena shot up to $950 million: the cost of making the glass bulletproof. (We would have thought bomb proof, but whatever.)
...
As we’ve been predicting, we see an ugly $500 milliion concrete box. Think Atlantic Terminal Mall, but as an arena.

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Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Proposal by Paterson protested

Union members, legislators decry consolidation plan

Albany Times Union
By Casey Seiler, State editor

Union leaders, rank-and-file state workers and a delegation of Assembly Democrats held a news conference outside the Assembly chamber on Tuesday to speak out against the governor's proposal to fold the Department of Economic Development and the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation into the Empire State Development Corporation [ESDC].

The labor leaders and legislators said the move would dangerously limit public accountability and transparency.

State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, the closest thing our state has to a crusading reformer (sigh), unleashed the sarcasm:

"If you like the MTA and the Thruway Authority, you're going to love the new ESDC."

Local Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries used Bruce Ratner's $4 billion subsidy-sucking eminent-domain-abusing Atlantic Yards as the poster project for why these state agencies shouldn't be consolidated into a giant, murky, nearly all-powerful quasi-public corporation.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, D-Brooklyn, said his dealings with ESDC on the Atlantic Yards project had shown it to be "nontransparent and unaccountable."

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Atlantic Yards Report, Jeffries: ESDC "nontransparent and unaccountable"

And that was before Jeffries got a chance to learn about the ESDC's obfuscation regarding developer Forest City Ratner's cessation of work at the Vanderbilt Yard.

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

New Finance Review for Atlantic Yards Would Be Prudent

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

THREE AND A HALF YEARS AGO, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn released a white paper calling attention to terrorism and security concerns for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise megadevelopment plan.

Just this week, the Daily News reports that the price tag of bulletproof glass put the construction cost of the arena out of reach.

Now the Atlantic Yards opposition group says "a new review of the project's financing would be prudent. Especially in this new Era of Responsibility."

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Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

Town Hall Topics

Nets Daily
By NetIncome

Either the NJ Nets' CEO is blowing hot air again, or he carefully selected a team fan event to break news:

Yormark insisted that in spite of “what you read in the papers”, Brooklyn “is closer than it has ever been”. He said that ground breaking would take place in “late spring or early summer”—which actually pushes back the date. In recent statements, the Nets have said ground-breaking would take place in the spring. He did not give a timetable for when the Barclays Center would open and admitted after a review by value engineers, “it might be smaller.” He voiced optimism that the two remaining lawsuits would be resolved by March. He expressed optimism about obtaining financing for the arena, pointing out that the Yankees had recently obtained $300 million in stadium financing and the Mets had gotten financing on a $100 million offering “at very good rates” last week.

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Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn notes that Yormark has "once again moved the arena goalposts."

Posted by lumi at 4:47 AM

February 3, 2009

Mets, Citigroup say stadium deal still on

Bank issues statement after report said it was considering move to back out of contract amid complaints from lawmakers.

AP via Crain's NY Business

Maybe they should call it Dupli-Citi Field.

The New York Mets and the financially troubled Citigroup said Tuesday that their $400 million naming rights deal for the team's new stadium is still on, despite a published report that Citi may be looking to back out.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Citigroup was exploring the possibility of backing out of the 20-year marketing partnership, which includes naming the new ballpark Citi Field. The report quoted unnamed people familiar with the matter as saying Citigroup had made no final decision.

Citigroup Inc., which late last year said it planned to cut 53,000 jobs worldwide and received $45 billion in federal bailout aid, said in a statement: "Citi signed a legally binding agreement with the New York Mets in 2006." The bank said that none of the bailout money would be used for Citi Field.

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NoLandGrab: Instead, the bailout money (aka "our money") is being used to fund things that otherwise would have had to be funded with the Citi Field sponsorship money — like bonuses.

Posted by eric at 10:11 PM

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning February 2, 2009 and February 9, 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 of 800 Pacific Street (block 1129, lot 25) has been completed. Fencing being installed/repaired and site clean up underway.

  • Rigs are on site, Block 1118, lot1 and Block 1119, lots 1, 64, in connection with soil borings that are being conducted.

NoLandGrab: Could those soil boring rigs really be oil derricks? Cash-strapped Forest City may be in desperate need of new funding sources.

Posted by eric at 8:59 PM

Citi Explores Breaking Mets Deal

Bank That Got Bailout Cash Revisits $400 Million Pact to Put Name on Stadium

The Wall Street Journal
by David Enrich, Matthew Futterman and Damian Paletta

You say Cit-ee, I say Cit-eye, let's call the whole thing off.

Citigroup Inc., eager to quell the controversy over how lenders are using government bailout money, is exploring the possibility of backing out of a nearly $400 million marketing deal with the New York Mets, say people familiar with the matter.

Officials at Citigroup have made no final decision about whether to try to void the 20-year agreement, which includes naming the Mets' new baseball stadium after the bank, say these people.

In a statement Monday, Citigroup said that "no TARP capital will be used" for the stadium -- referring to government funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. But as it revisits the pact, Citigroup is essentially acknowledging that the volatile political climate could make it untenable for the bank to proceed with the deal.

How exactly do they separate the TARP money from their other money? Marked bills?

If Citigroup parts ways with the Mets, other financial institutions may find themselves under pressure to reconsider sports-marketing deals. Bank of America Corp., which got $45 billion in government capital, signed a deal in 2004 for naming rights for the Carolina Panthers football stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

Bank of America's 20-year deal calls for the bank to pay the Panthers $7.5 million a year, making it one of the National Football League's most expensive naming-rights deals. The Houston Texans receive $10 million a year from Reliant Energy Inc.

Bank of America has been in talks with the New York Yankees about a major sponsorship deal for the new Yankee Stadium, though the company's name wouldn't be on the building. That deal appeared near complete in the fall, but neither side has discussed the matter since then.

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NoLandGrab: The Mets have a ballpark, but may end up without a naming-rights deal. Bruce Ratner has a naming-rights deal (for now), but may not have an arena.

Posted by eric at 8:24 PM

Scoop about arena costs poses questions about government approval, assurances; why did Gehry not stay "on budget"?

Atlantic Yards Report

If Atlantic Yards designer Frank Gehry has the technical tools to create accurate budgets and is sensitive to the practical needs of his client and the community, how did the arena cost skyrocket to an astounding $950 million?

Judging by every outward indication, Gehry is probably no longer working on the project, though he's not talking... about the project, the arena costs, nada.

Norman Oder examines Gehry's appearance at a 2005 panel discussion with Charlie Rose, architect Renzo Piano and legendary critic Ada Louise Huxtable for clues.

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Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

Adventures in real estate: agent hypes property next to AY site

Atlantic Yards Report

Sometimes you have to wonder if descriptions of properties located near Atlantic Yards are intended as marketing or full disclosure:

Ingram & Hebron Realty, marketing three contiguous properties at 670-674-678 Pacific Street, bills them as "[d]irectly across the street from $4 billion Atlantic Yards/Nets Arena project" and advertises them using a deeply aspirational map of the AY footprint.

(Photo by Tracy Collins shows the brick Spalding building in the background, to the west on Pacific Street.)

After all, nothing has been built, and the property for sale/lease would directly border the site of Building 15, which would first serve as a staging area for arena construction, should it go forward, and then, in four years or more, become the home of a 272-foot tower. It could take decades, if ever, to build the towers in Phase 2, east of the arena block.

In other words, anyone living or working at that location had better bring earplugs.

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Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

Mets plan to honor partnership with Citigroup

Newsday
By Wallace Matthews

In his defense of the Citi Field naming-rights deal, an official for the Mets flunks his audition to be a contestant on Jeopardy:

The federal government may have bailed out Citigroup, but the Mets insist they're not bailing on their $400-million naming rights deal with the bank whose name adorns the walls of their new ballpark, Citi Field.

"We're committed to our agreement with Citi, and Citi has indicated it is committed to us," said David Howard, the Mets' vice president for business affairs. "They're our partners and both sides are going to live up to the agreement."
...
Howard said the Mets believe Citi is being "unfairly singled out," and rattled off a list of 12 financial institutions - including Barclays Bank, which bought the naming rights to the still-unbuilt Atlantic Yards complex in Brooklyn - as examples of companies that took the money but have thus far escaped public criticism.

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NoLandGrab: Howard may be interested to know that Barclays is a British bank headquartered in the United Kingdom, which is commonly found in Europe.

Barclays has not been the recipient of federal bailout money and, allegedly in order to maintain control over executive pay, has yet to receive assistance from the Bank of England.

Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

From Ratner to Trump?

Atlantic Yards Report

A high-profile official at another highly leveraged development company asserts that they are looking for opportunities to take over projects stimied by the current economic climate. Then again, Ivanka did work for the Brucester.

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Posted by lumi at 4:45 AM

February 2, 2009

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Develop Don't Destroy Broolyn, Atlantic Yards: Information Sharing Recordkeeping, Part 15

Today the Daily News reports that Ratner's arena cost has skyrocketed because of security mitigation, leading to the need for a cheaper redesign. What does the "developer" have to say about this news?

...Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco declined to discuss security matters at the project...

Mouthpiece Blog, BIG, FANCY NETS ARENA NEEDS JAY-Z TO SELL MORE ALBUMS PRONTO

Before today, the only thing I could tell you about Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn’s very own stalled stadium/commercial construction project (South Africa feels you, Atlantic Yards), was that Young Hov was planning on bringing the Nets to Brooklyn. I know this because I listen to a lot of rap music by Jay-Z. I’ll admit it: This is probably not the best way to stay up on the business of the NBA. Fair enough.

Which is why I learned today that not only was the project stalled, its finances are all out of whack, and its proposed bulletproof security measures are basically impossible.
...

Whoops. Given that “potential terrorist attack” is not exactly something you can gloss over when you’re attempting to pack 20,000 people into an arena every night, that sounds bad. Very, very bad. By my calculations, Jay-Z will have to rap until he’s 86 to make the mortgage on that bulletproof glass.

Nets Daily, Will Security Costs Sink the Barclays Center?

The Daily News, quoting a single unidentified source, says the cost of special security glass for the Barclays Center is the latest unanticipated expense for the Nets’ new arena and it “could be the death knell for architect Frank Gehry’s flashy NBA basketball arena”.

Bleacher Report, New Jersey Nets-Florida Panthers: This Is Kinda Weird

Say you're considering buying Nets tickets, because the economy is down and you can't afford Knicks tickets.

The Nets offer you this great incentive: Come see our team that no one likes, and you'll get tickets to see ANOTHER team that no one likes! All you need is a plane ticket! Oh, and if you're only interested in basketball, this will help broaden your horizons!

Yeah, that's gonna work. Good luck with that.

Curbed, Please Don't Shoot the Barclays Center

Inside Hoops, Nets Brooklyn arena costs keep increasing

Posted by eric at 9:13 PM

MTA Chief Insists: Answer Is in Albany

Speaks to Chamber of Commerce at City Tech

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

Compared with last week’s tempestuous MTA public hearing in Brooklyn, Monday’s Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce forum featuring Elliott Sander, executive director/CEO of the MTA, was a sedate, polite affair.

The forum, hosted by New York City College of Technology (City Tech), was also sponsored by the Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and Bronx chambers of commerce. And Sander, using a PowerPoint display, unveiled some information about the agency’s last-ditch cutback plans that hadn’t been well publicized.
...

Another asked about whether public-private partnerships could be used to help fund subway, rail and bus operations. Sander replied that with mass transit, the only cases where this could be a good fit would be with large-scale real estate developments such as Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards. Needless to say, neither of these two developments are proceeding at a rapid-fire pace at the moment.

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NoLandGrab: "Public-private partnerships... such as Atlantic Yards" would better help fund mass transit if the deals struck by the MTA didn't undercut the agency's own appraisal by more than 50%, or reward the low bidder — two things evident in the MTA's agreement to sell Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner.

Posted by eric at 8:46 PM

Atlantic Yards Security: What did they know, and when did they know it?

Revisiting the Atlantic Yards security timeline

When the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods and several elected officials held a news conference on November 29, 2007 questioning security plans for the proposed Atlantic Yards arena, Forest City Ratner reacted with indignation.

BBenderState-NY1.jpg

Neighborhood residents and their representatives alike were concerned by the recent news that Newark police officials were ordering the closure of streets adjacent to that city's new Prudential Center arena before, during and after games, because the Newark arena was set back just 25 feet from those streets. Forest City had quietly revealed to The New York Times just a few days earlier that the Barclays Center would lie even closer than that — just 20 feet — from Brooklyn's hyper-busy Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.

Forest City, of course, was quick to put their public relations machine in motion, telling the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that their security consultant had spent thousands of hours working on safety plans and had met five times with NYPD counter-terrorism officials. NYPD spokesman John Kelly told the Eagle that Forest City had done "everything we have asked" and that they didn't anticipate any need for street closures, sidewalk widening or bollards.

Local elected officials and activists were unconvinced, however, calling for an independent review of those alleged security plans. No one, of course, was asking that security blueprints be made public, as Forest City would have had us believe, but rather that elected officials representing thousands of constituents in the immediate area be given a briefing on the security measures being planned. Or that the public be told, generally, how the arena would be secured — for example, "yes, it's going to be just 20 feet from the street, without any bollards to prevent a truck from plowing directly into the glass wall of the arena, but that glass has been safety-tested and everything will be fine." They refused to give us that much.

Then today, we learn from the Daily News that such blast-proof glass for the planned arena would cost an astronomical $625 per square foot, likely making it prohibitively expensive. And we learn a little bit more about the security timeline:

The Police Department, the New York State Office of Homeland Security and Forest City Ratner met to discuss security at the arena in early 2008, a Homeland Security spokeswoman confirmed.

Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that the five alleged meetings between Forest City and the NYPD prior to the November 2007 release of the true arena setbacks didn't happen (though the Homeland Security spokesperson makes no mention of earlier meetings), but it does call into question how thorough any of the prior security review might really have been. If, as Forest City spokesperson Bruce Bender then told the Eagle, "our security plan has been vetted and approved by the NYPD and the best anti-terrorism experts in the city," had the Department of Homeland Security, the ultimate arbiters of what is and isn't safe, not already been consulted? Did Forest City not already know at that point that bomb-proofing the glass would potentially make the arena, as designed, too expensive to build? Did they already know when they were getting indignant with security-meddlers that a glass-walled arena would have to be scrapped in favor of Marty Markowitz's "brownstone Brooklyn" architecture?

As is all too frequently the case with the Atlantic Yards project, too much is left unexplained, despite Forest City Ratner's claim that:

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

Sure.

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

Daily News explains leap in arena costs based on security issue

Atlantic Yards Report

In December, I questioned why the planned Atlantic Yards arena had jumped from $637.2 million to $950 million, wondering if the cost had been goosed to increase the amount of tax-exempt bonds, whether the whole project had increased drastically in cost, or whether the original figure in the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) documents was off.

After all, the rapid escalation of the cost of the arena significantly outpaced local inflation in construction costs.

Today, the Daily News has an answer: security.

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Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

Atlantic Yards arena security scare: Special glass alone would cost $625 per sq. foot

NY Daily News
by Jotham Sederstrom

The stratospheric cost of protecting the Atlantic Yards from terrorist attacks could be the death knell for architect Frank Gehry's flashy NBA basketball arena, the Daily News has learned.

The bulletproof glass facade proposed for the glitzy arena will cost a mind-blowing $625 per square foot, a source familiar with the designs told The News.

"I think the owners clearly didn't have their financing tied down for this project, and that's going to be the biggest hurdle," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity about the sky-high prices associated with securing the 850,000-square-foot arena against terrorism.

"With the security concerns at the arena, there's not much you can do to make it that much cheaper," added the source.
...

Sources close to the project said the cost of reinforcing the arena's thick glass with a ballistic-resistant glaze shocked even Gehry's own designers.
...

The Police Department, the New York State Office of Homeland Security and Forest City Ratner met to discuss security at the arena in early 2008, a Homeland Security spokeswoman confirmed.

Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco declined to discuss security matters at the project, but a source close to the developer said security and other matters have made the arena too expensive to build.

"Security is one component of the cost of the arena, but by no means the most significant," said the source. "There are a whole host of reasons why the current design is expensive, including the size, the signature look and the materials. It would be very difficult to fund this arena in this economic environment."

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Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

What's geniuser than one Yormark? Two Yormarks!

MichaelYormark.jpg

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Nets Daily, Buy One Twin, Get the Other One Free!

Brett Yormark and his twin brother, Michael, both run major league sports teams: Brett the Nets, Michael the Florida Panthers of the NHL. They both have “inventories”, that is, unsold seats. To make their season tickets more attractive, the two have agreed to a unique ticket sharing program. Full and partial season ticket holders will be offered comparable seat locations at the other’s games based on seat availability.

Sports Business Journal, Nets, Panthers offer cross-country ticket deal [Subscription required]

The New Jersey Nets and Florida Panthers have created a ticket-sharing agreement that will allow season-ticket holders of both teams to redeem tickets at Izod Center and at the BankAtlantic Center. Full- and partial-season-ticket holders will be offered comparable seat locations for games.

NoLandGrab: With the Nets ranked 24th among 30 NBA teams and the Panthers 25th out of 30 NHL teams in attendance, it's a good bet that "comparable seat locations" will be readily available to season-ticket holders. But with the two arenas 1,074 miles apart (1,266 if you're driving), the chances of anyone actually taking advantage of this silly promotion are slim.

Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

The clock ticks on the Atlantic Yards litigation, but reports of project's death "greatly exaggerated" (as per DDDB)

Atlantic Yards Report

Though Brooklynites have been on the Atlantic Yards Deathwatch for a few months, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is cautiously reminding supporters that Bruce Ratner's highly subsidized eminent-domain-abusing arena and high rise project is not dead yet.

However, even the more guarded Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report has revised the odds that the arena will be built closer to 50-50.

But what about NJ Nets CEO Brett Yormark?

New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark, in a 12/2/08 interview, promised groundbreaking for the arena in 2009, based on the following schedule:

I would say 2009 is the year. I say that for lots of different reasons. We've got really one piece of major litigation that remains... the eminent domain case. There will be a hearing in January, hopefully a favorable decision by the end of March...

Oder explains in today's article that the above timeline has already slipped.

Posted by lumi at 5:00 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! Teachers NO!

New York City is on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan. Meanwhile Mayor Bloomberg just presented a budget that proposes laying off 15,630 educators citywide, much to the consternation of another Atlantic Yards supporter, United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

This report from 1010 WINS News Radio by Terry Sheridan:

Bloomberg threatened the city's labor unions with 20,000 layoffs if they don't step up to renegotiate contracts and require workers to contribute more on their benefit packages.

"You can only get so much blood out of a stone'' with budget cuts and other measures, Bloomberg said. After that might come layoffs, he said. He is confronting a $4 billion deficit for the next fiscal year, which begins in July.

But the United Federation of Teachers is claiming city educators make up an unfair proportion of the proposed job cuts. The U.F.T. says the mayor's plan will see educators account for 15,630 of the proposed cut of 19,650 positions city-wide.

U.F.T. President Randi Weingarten said, "We know times are tough and that everyone needs to share in making sacrifices, but this is shockingly disproportionate and unfair."

Posted by lumi at 4:45 AM

February 1, 2009

Forty years later, Joe Namath's still Super

NY Daily News
Mike Lupica

If Bruce Ratner scales down his own business model on that great, big, change-the-skyline plan for the Nets and Atlantic Yards, it's going to resemble a model train set.

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Posted by amy at 10:39 AM

Let's call it the AY downsizing meme, with a misleading illustration

news019aCredit.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

Apparently the reversal of the Atlantic Yards inevitability meme has now been joined by the AY downsizing meme--and both are far less certain than asserted.

We don't know what a revamped Atlantic Yards arena would look like, other than there would likely be less glass--which certainly would help with security. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz recently speculated:
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.

It was unclear how much that referred to the arena or to the associated towers.

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Posted by amy at 10:22 AM

"Happy people pictures"--the secret to a good Forest City Ratner web site?

ridgehillweb.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

If anyone's looking for a clue to Forest City Ratner's modus operandi on the web, check out this unfinished page from the web site for the Ridge Hill project in Westchester.

Besides an effort to be more conversational, the key is apparently "happy people pictures." (Click to enlarge.) It's certainly part of the Atlantic Yards campaign.

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NoLandGrab: If FCR needs some happy people suggestions they should look no further than last year's Brooklyn Day event!

Posted by amy at 10:00 AM

Sunday irony: Pfizer sponsors segment on eminent domain abuse

60mined2.09.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

From the web site for the CBS show 60 Minutes: a 2003 segment on eminent domain, focusing on a case in Lakewood, OH, happens to be sponsored by Pfizer, a key beneficiary in the Kelo v. New London case, which, when the Supreme Court decided in 2005 for the city of New London, sparked a national backlash.

link

Posted by amy at 9:55 AM

ESDC Says Atlantic Yards Not Eligible for Federal Stimulus Money

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Unless it is a feint of some kind, the Empire State Development Corporation, for the first time ever, has made a declarative statement detrimental to the hopes and dreams of "developer" Forest City Ratner and its Atlantic Yards proposal.

And rightly so.

The state development corporation and lead agency on Atlantic Yards stated unequivocally that Atlantic Yards is not a "shovel ready" project and therefore will not be eligible for any money from the non yet approved federal stimulus bill.

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, who represents the district where the project has been proposed, also stated clearly that any decision on stimulus money for Atlantic Yards would be made by the ESDC, not by her office.

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Posted by amy at 9:52 AM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Clinton Hill Chill, NEIGHBORHOOD REJECTS FULTON ST. B.I.D!

This is a flyer from the Fulton Area Community Crier I received in the ‘hood and I’m going on record to co-sign:
...
Six years ago Mayor Bloomberg and partner Forest City Ratner Companies(FCRC) launched their Atlantic Yards attack on Prospect Heights; they thought the neighborhood would be caught off guard and defenseless. Now it’s our turn to fight off the Mayor and Pratt Area Community (PACC) on target Fulton street.

Brooklyn Streets, Carroll Gardens, Mayor Bloomberg: Hoocoodanode?

I'll clap Bloomberg on the back for two things: 311 and the smoking ban. Other than that, his every instinct is utterly wrongheaded. Dan Doctoroff? The Olympics? Patricia Lancaster? Atlantic Yards? The West Side Stadium? Sweetheart deals with every billionaire developer in town (or Ohio)? The 2004 Republican National Convention? Persecution of Critical Mass? Suppression of protest of every stripe (including the February 2003 anti-war rally)?

Posted by amy at 9:40 AM