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March 31, 2009

Chuck Ratner and Frank Gehry On Hope and Real Estate Development

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

"Hope is not a plan."
-- Chuck Ratner, Forest City Enterprises President and CEO on the tough economic times during today's 4th Quarter conference call

Last week, former Atlantic Yards archtiect Frank Gehry, referring to Atlantic Yards, said, "I don't think it's going to happen."

The next day the NY Post reported:

Gehry later backtracked through a publicist, saying his comments to the trade publication were "misconstrued as a prediction" about the project and that he remains "hopeful it will come to fruition."

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Posted by eric at 8:41 PM

At conference call, Forest City executives say "we are prepared to move forward" on Atlantic Yards arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder dialed in to Forest City Enterprises' earnings call this morning.

In a conference call with investment analysts today, Forest City Enterprises executives maintained optimism about the Atlantic Yards arena but also hedged with some of their language, saying "we are prepared to move forward" rather than committing with more certainty.

They were not asked any tough questions, such as whether architect Frank Gehry is actively working on the project.

Careful language on AY

CEO Chuck Ratner, in his prepared remarks, essentially repeated the message from yesterday's press release: "As you may have seen, we recently achieved another legal victory with the state appellate court upheld a prior State Supreme Court ruling related to public approvals and environmental review. We have one material lawsuit pending, and when we have cleared the legal hurdles, we are prepared to move forward with the first phase of development at Atlantic Yards."

He didn't predict a timeline.

Later, an investment analyst asked about the likelihood of Atlantic Yards, including potential alternatives or further revisions.

Joanne Minieri, president of subsidiary Forest City Ratner, responded, "As we’ve stated, once this litigation is resolved, this project is ready to go. We’ve worked diligently and actively on being prepared to proced with Atlantic Yards. We believe with respect to the arena there’s an opportunity in today’s market to finance it. We’ve done a lot of predevelopment work both on the site and in the soft cost area. On resolution of the litigation, we remain prepared to proceed."

There's also a lot of predevelopment work not done, since Forest City Ratner stopped working at the Vanderbilt Yard in December.

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NoLandGrab: The absence of hard questions for Forest City executives from analysts who presumably have good working knowledge of the company's business is emblematic of why the world's economy has unraveled. If Oder had started Credit Default Swap Report four years ago, perhaps we wouldn't be in such a mess. Will City and State politicians with influence over Atlantic Yards learn from the failures of SEC regulators, and start paying attention?

Posted by eric at 8:17 PM

The Day: One More Challenger for Letitia James

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Andy Newman

Tish James gets another challenger.

The scrum for the 35th district City Council seat grows more crowded still: Enter Medhanie Estiphanos, a 32-year-old financial analyst and political neophyte.

Mr. Estiphanos, who was born in Eritrea, grew up in California and lives at Franklin and Lexington in Bed-Stuy, told us on the phone last night that he is taking on incumbent Letitia James and challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa because he sees at this historic juncture an opportunity to “change America’s psychology” and unite Brooklynites to help save themselves and the planet.
...

While Mr. Estiphanos said he shared many of Ms. James’s reservations about Atlantic Yards, for example — “From the get-go,” he said, “I thought the scale of it was much bigger than Brooklyn could handle” — he faulted her for aligning herself as strongly with the project’s opponents as she has.

“I think she could’ve played a much better role being facilitator between Bruce Ratner, Paterson, the residents being affected by this, and really bring people to the table to cooperate,” he said.

In any case, Mr. Estiphanos added, “Atlantic Yards has been incredibly detrimental to the community in a much more important way: it’s taken too much of people’s time and focus. There are so many other issues in this community. Our education system’s a dismal failure. People can’t afford to live in their homes anymore. Affordable housing is almost an anachronism. All these issues are much more important to me in the long run than Atlantic Yards, and I think they’re much more important to the people of Brooklyn than Atlantic Yards.”

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NoLandGrab: Mr. Estiphanos sounds almost as sick of Atlantic Yards as we are. Project opponents, however, this blog included, have a deep fidelity for Ms. James.

More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, New 35th District candidate: AY too distracting and James should have been a "facilitator"

If City Council Member Letitia James is a prominent opponent of Atlantic Yards and challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa is a prominent supporter (even if she's not talking about it), third candidate Medhanie Estiphanos is apparently trying to split the difference.

In an interview with the New York Times's blog, The Local, Estiphanos, who doesn't mention AY on his web site, says the project has been "incredibly detrimental to the community" mainly because "it’s taken too much of people’s time and focus" from other, more pressing matters.

Perhaps, but issues he prioritizes like education and affordable housing are also citywide issues, involving a larger number of stakeholders, giving local political officials somewhat less of a voice. Atlantic Yards is a local land use issue--or, at least, should have been, had it not gone through the state process overriding local zoning.

Posted by eric at 8:01 PM

What’s Stalling New York’s Skyscrapers?

Economix [NY Times blog]
by Edward L. Glaeser

A Harvard economist strives to figure out what's keeping big buildings from being built in NYC. [Hint: not lawsuits.]

The most high-profile pauses are associated with Frank Gehry and the developer Forest City Ratner. Their massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn is experiencing delays, and they are “conducting a study to assess costs, risks and overall timing” on the stunning 76-story Beekman Tower, which was to be Manhattan’s tallest residential building. If you look at curbed.com’s collection of construction-related rumors, you would think that Manhattan was covered with half-finished skyscrapers.

At first glance, those stalled structures don’t seem puzzling. Nothing seems more normal than projects left unfinished in a recession. After all, America has gone from building two million new housing units a year during the heated frenzy of the bubble to building fewer than 600,000, according to the latest housing permits data.

Atlantic Yards isn't technically stalled, since actual construction has yet to begin.

But Manhattan prices have supposedly fallen only 15 percent, which should leave them high enough to cover the construction costs of almost any building. Why are developers, with land and permits in hand, not developing?

Glaeser puts forth several hypotheses, this being the last:

Hypothesis #4: Developers are facing their own liquidity crisis and are having trouble obtaining financing to finish projects that can easily cover their construction costs. After all, developers don’t typically bet their own money. If no one is willing to extend them credit, then projects will come to a halt, and some stalled projects have acknowledged financing troubles.

Conclusion:

Given the problems with the other hypotheses, I’m betting on No. 4. My guess is that buildings are still worth more to buyers than the cost of constructing them, but that lack of financing is stopping that from happening.

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NoLandGrab: Since Forest City reportedly has all the financing in place for the Beekman Tower, we may need hypothesis #5. Anyone?

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: NYS and NYC Comptrollers Urged to Release Cost of Atlantic Yards Project and Barclays Center Arena

BROOKLYN, NY (March 31, 2009) — Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn today requested that New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and New York City Comptroller William Thompson procure—and release to the public—the construction costs for developer Forest City Ratner’s proposed Barclays Center Arena and the entirety of the Atlantic Yards development plan.

To date New York City and New York State refuse to release the costs of the taxpayer-subsidized project, claiming those numbers to be “trade secrets” and “proprietary information.”

"When basic information—the costs of the taxpayer-subsidized Atlantic Yards proposal—is held as some sort of state secret, there is no doubt that Forest City Ratner’s development plan suffers from a severe transparency problem,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “The Comptrollers of New York City and State owe it to the taxpayers to force the public release of the Atlantic Yards construction costs. There is no reason whatsoever for these costs to be kept secret."

The text of the DDDB’s letter follows and is available for download here [PDF].

Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
Office of the State Comptroller
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12236

Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr.
Office of the Comptroller of New York City
1 Centre Street
New York, NY 10007

March 31, 2009

Dear Comptrollers DiNapoli and Thompson:

New York City and State are refusing to release the construction costs of developer Forest City Ratner’s proposed Barclays Center—the arena portion of the Atlantic Yards development proposal in Brooklyn—and the cost of the rest of the project. In a denial of a Freedom of Information request for this information the NYC Economic Development Corporation has claimed that these costs of the publicly financed project are “trade secrets,” and the Empire State Development Corporation has stonewalled.

This lack of disclosure defies logic and good government principles.

Developer Forest City Ratner Companies’ (FCRC) proposed Atlantic Yards project had a $4 billion price tag when announced in December 2003, with the arena portion estimated at $435 million. When approved in December 2006 the arena cost had shot up to $637 million. Last March the New York Times reported that the arena cost had increased to $950 million. Recently it has been reported that the developer is looking to reduce the cost of the arena. But the cost is unknown.

These substantial changes in the arena price tag (with no mention of the attendant project cost increases) have left the public and elected officials in the dark about basic information.

Atlantic Yards Report journalist Norman Oder made FOIA requests for the most recent arena and project price tag and so far his requests to the ESDC and NYC EDC have been denied. (See: Will we ever find out how much AY and arena now cost? More FOIL responses from NYC EDC and ESDC).

In response to the FOIA request, NYCEDC has claimed that the current cost of the Atlantic Yards project 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." The financial materials, NYCEDC said in a letter, "contain proprietary assumptions, analyses and projections regarding the feasibility and performance of the Project and provide insight into FCRC's proprietary financial models and other business practices, which would be detrimental to FCRC's competitive position if disclosed." And disclosure would frustrate ongoing negotiations "relating to all aspects of the Project.”

The ESDC told Mr. Oder that the agency would grant access to documents "not privileged or exempt from disclosure" only after FCRC gets the opportunity to argue for an exemption. That’s not particular reason for optimism about disclosure.

If there is truly proprietary information, those sections could be redacted. But the arena and project costs are not proprietary information—especially for a project subsidized by taxpayers.

When the project was being promoted, prior to approval, the developer issued arena cost projections frequently, and at approval the costs were not top-secret information. As recently as a year ago FCRC was willing to divulge the $950 million figure to the press.

Now, more than two years after the project’s approval, the arena and project cost are suddenly carefully guarded “trade secrets” whose disclosure would jeopardize the developer’s competitive edge or negotiations? Furthermore, why are there even negotiations going on at this point, over two years after the project was approved? What, in general, is being negotiated and with whom?

We write to urge you to make every effort to procure these costs—the arena cost and the project cost—and release them to the public. These figures are the very least the taxpaying public deserves to know, and must know, about the project.

Sincerely,

Candace Carponter
Legal Director
Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn

Cc: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor David Paterson, ESDC Chair Marisa Lago, NYC EDC President Seth Pinsky

Candidates for City Comptroller: David Yassky, David Weprin, Melinda Katz, John Liu

Assembly Members Jim Brennan, Hakeem Jeffries and Richard Brodsky.
Senators Bill Perkins, Velmanette Montgomery, Eric Adams and Daniel Squadron.

NY City Council Economic Development Committee Chair and Members:
Thomas White, Alan Gerson, Letitia James, Annabel Palma, Diana Reyna, Albert Vann, David Weprin, David Yassky

NY City Council Finance Committee Chair and Members:
David Weprin, Maria Baez, Gale Brewer, Leroy Comrie, Jr., Bill de Blasio, Lewis Fidler, Dennis Gallagher, James Gennaro, Vincent Gentile, Alan Gerson, Eric Gioia, Vincent Ignizio., Robert Jackson, Oliver Koppell, James Oddo Diana Reyna, Joel Rivera, Helen Sears, Peter Vallone, Jr., Albert Vann, David Yassky

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

Was the Izod Center 61% full last night?

Atlantic Yards Report

Silver lining for the Nets in last night's abysmal blowout home-court loss to Milwaukee? There weren't too many witnesses.

The announced attendance (but not necessarily gate count) for last night's home game between the New Jersey Nets and Milwaukee Bucks was 12,205, or 61.1% of the 19,968 capacity.

I doubt that many people attended, and surely there were not that many people there by the early fourth quarter of a blowout loss, as the photo indicates.

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Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

Delayed Arena Development Is Costing Nets

The NY Times
By Richard Sandomir

The long delay in starting to build the Nets’ proposed arena near downtown Brooklyn is helping to cause huge financial losses.

For the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31, Nets Sports and Entertainment, which owns the team and real estate in Brooklyn, had a pre-tax loss of $77.8 million. That brings the three-year total of losses to $228.2 million, according to a 10-K filing by Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of Forest City Ratner.

Forest City Ratner is developing the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, the site of the arena.

Forest City Enterprises owns 23 percent of the Nets, who play in the Izod Center at the Meadowlands. Because of the way losses are allocated among the partners, and the increased capital that has been advanced to the team by Forest City, its share of the team’s pre-tax losses for the last three years is $76.5 million.

“The team is expected to operate at a loss in 2009 and will require additional capital from its members to fund the operating loss,” the company said in the filing.

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NoLandGrab: Forest City is playing a game of chicken. The company's plan is to weather the downturn and sustain the massive losses until they are able to move the team to Brooklyn, at which point they hope that the team will be turning a profit and be worth more than they paid.

Every time Forest City CEO Charles Ratner assures investors that the company is proactively managing debt maturities, he blinks.

Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

As foreclosures increase, real blight (unlike AY 'blight') creates "real-estate panic"

Atlantic Yards Report

While municipalities are struggling to contain real blight, resulting from the housing boom and bust, Bruce Ratner's own blight study hardly passes the smell test, especially where evidence of blight was of the developer's own making:

BlightBogusEvidence.jpg

In the case of Atlantic Yards, there were some vacant buildings and empty lots, but there was and remains enormous demand for the land in and around the AY footprint.

That's why the failure by consultant AKRF to conduct the market study called for in its Blight Study contract with the Empire State Development Corporation looms large in the effort to appeal the dismissal of the case challenging the AY environmental review.

Instead, we saw AKRF straining to find blight, for example at the Mobil Station at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, contending that, "as shown in Photographs C and D, portions of the lot’s asphalt surface are pot holed (Photograph C shows a drainage grate near the lot’s entrance that has sunk below grade) and areas of the sidewalk surrounding the lot are cracked and uneven."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn responded that the "so-called potholes are in fact asphalt patches applied to holes drilled by Roux Associates in the course of making soil sample borings for AKRF when FCR was purchasing the property. It is not evident as asserted in Photo 1127-1-D that the entry drainage grate has sunk below grade. Likewise, the concrete sidewalk has cracks so very modest and so easily fixed, they do not merit 'blight characteristic' status."

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Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

Ward Bread Bakery site

Yesterday, we featured a poem by Leon Freilich thanking Bruce Ratner for bringing us "A ready cemetery." To Freilich's point, photographer Tracy Collins just uploaded this panoramic photo of what is left of the Ward Bakery site, scrubbed clean of all but memories.

TC-WardBakeryCemetery.jpg

Via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

Islanders have boro view

NY Daily News
By Nicholas Hirshon

CHARLES WANG isn't ruling out Queens in his power play to win a swanky new rink for the Islanders.

While the city is trying to force Willets Point property owners to sell by threatening to use eminent domain, Queens leaders are hoping to lure the NY Islanders hockey team:

Queens leaders hope to lure the Islanders as part of redevelopment plans for Willets Point, a gritty industrial zone of auto body shops. But Wang said the 62-acre tract near Citi Field "isn't even in the priority list."
...
The Queens Chamber of Commerce is pitching Willets Point as an ideal spot for the four-time Stanley Cup champions given its proximity to highways and the No. 7 train.

Meanwhile, Wang hasn't given up on the NJ Nets:

Wang, who bid on the New Jersey Nets in 2003, told the crowd "it would be wonderful" for the hoops troupe - which played at the Coliseum from 1972 to 1977 - to return to Uniondale.

Nets owner Bruce Ratner's plans for an arena in Brooklyn are struggling amid dried-up financing, but team spokesman Barry Baum insisted the franchise will still move there.

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Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

Atlantic Yards Opponents Ask to Appeal Again

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Ryan Thompson

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – There could perhaps be yet another appeal filed in the vast array of lawsuits aimed at stopping Atlantic Yards.

According to a press release from petitioner Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), it and a dozen other community group co-petitioners filed a motion Monday morning to seek permission to appeal to the state’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals in Albany.
...
So far, Atlantic Yards opponents have not won any substantive case that would stop or substantially alter Atlantic Yards through court directive.

The lawsuits, however, seem to be tangentially successful, causing substantial delays and excessive costs to the 22-acre project that could possibly never get fully built, factoring in the nation’s current economic crisis. Last week, the project’s architect, Frank Gehry, made headlines when he commented to The Architect’s Newspaper that he was skeptical that Atlantic Yards would ever happen.

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Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

What's left out of New York magazine's AY footprint

Atlantic Yards Report points out what's missing in the NY Magazine photo of the Atlantic Yards project site (click to enlarge). Hint: most of the project site.

It's worth noting that the Frank Gehry rendering at the top represents only Phase 1, the arena block, bounded by Flatbush, Atlantic, and Sixth avenues, and by Dean Street. (Site 5 is omitted.)

It's also worth noting that the photo at bottom, which shows Forest City Ratner's malls and the Williamsburgh Savings Bank for perspective, only portrays part of the arena block. It focuses mainly on (part of) the Vanderbilt Yard, cutting off the block bounded by Flatbush, Fifth, and Sixth avenues, and Dean Street--the block that houses plaintiffs in two lawsuits.

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Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

Noticing Noticing New York

Gehry Leaks

Michael D. D. White explores the history of Frank Gehry's buildings and leaks. In Cambridge, MA, Gehry blamed the leaks on "value engineering," which doesn't bode well for two Forest City Ratner projects — Beekman Tower (or "Stump," depending on where it tops out) and Atlantic Yards — both of which are currently getting the value-engineering treatment.

Here is prediction that somebody should perhaps be making about the Beekman. Have you watched the way water runs down mountainsides in a heavy rainstorm? Look at how the Beekman facade has channels that will collect rivuleting water into expanding streams, especially when pushed around by wind. We really can’t help ourselves; we are expecting that there may be water problems at the Beekman. As water cascades down the side of the building where will the water go? Leaks into the building’s interior may not be the only problem.

That’s what we were thinking before word came out that the Beekman may be redesigned and built at only half its originally planned height. Where are we now? All we can say is happy value engineering!

Former AIG Executive’s Whereabouts: Quick Note on Scandal Follow-up Questions We Hope Are Being Asked

Commentary on AIG, Barclays and the Nets arena naming-rights deal:

What makes this a windfall paid for at U.S. Taxpayer expense is the fact that, in a self-dealing fashion, AIG executives routed substantially more money to Barclays than it deserved. We said in our previous article:

As people closely following the scandal know, AIG has been routing federal bailout money around the world and to Wall Street, essentially buying favor with big firms and banks by unnecessarily paying 100% on the dollar to extinguish collateral obligations which should have been extinguished with much lower negotiated discount sums. This has turned into windfall infusions of cash, a counterintuitive reward for financial companies who (foolishly?) placed their bets on AIG’s unregulated derivatives and CDO division being sound.

...
Adding our two cents to the points [Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn] made, we found, with respect to those [retention] bonuses, another analogy with respect to Atlantic Yards (like the AIG scandal, also a product of New York’s “FIRE” sector- Finance, Insurance and Real Estate culture). We asked why the executives who steered AIG into the mess thought they were entitled to be retained (through bonuses) to clean up that mess. This, we said was the same thing as the financially teetering Forest City Ratner executives expecting that they have some sort of propriety right to clean up the mess they very consciously created in Prospect Heights and Fort Greene.

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

House Ad

HouseAd.jpg We came across this "house ad," traveling through the heart of the Atlantic Center and Terminal Mall complex. These days, the entrance to the parking garage of Bruce Ratner's own malls is one place he can definitely afford to hype his team in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 4:31 AM

Forest City Financial News

Yahoo Finance, FCE-A

Continuing its slump, Forest City Enterprises traded down 8.9% to 3.41 just before yesterday's closing bell.

Fox Business News, REMINDER: Forest City Enterprises Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year 2008 Earnings Conference Call

4Q and 2008 earnings conference call TODAY:

Forest City Enterprises, Inc., (NYSE: FCEA; FCEB) has released its fourth-quarter and full-year 2008 financial results and will hold a conference call on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. ET to discuss these results. Investors are invited to dial into the conference call hosted by Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer, or to listen to a live webcast of the call through www.forestcity.net.

Atlantic Yards Report, At today's conference call, will investment analysts finally ask FCE what exactly Frank Gehry is doing?

Norman Oder comes up with another crib sheet for investment analysts tracking Forest City Enterprises.

If the analysts don't ask some hard questions, they will sound ever more captive of the companies they cover, another example of the failure of the Wall Street ecosystem.

All signs indicate that Frank Gehry is no longer working on the Atlantic Yards project. Maybe they can just ask:

  • Is Gehry still working on the project? How actively?
  • Will he rehire staff to work on the project?
  • Have other architects taken Gehry's designs and reworked them to save money?

In other words, is it still a Frank Gehry arena?

And maybe they can ask if Turner Construction, which produced the construction timetable and was called "a preeminent construction management company" in an affidavit by former FCR executive Jim Stuckey, is off the job, as a Curbed tipster suggested.

Tampa Bay Business Journal, Forest City reports full-year loss of $112 million
Revenues are down, losses are up:

Real estate developer Forest City Enterprises Inc., one of the two owners of Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel, reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $45.1 million, or 44 cents a share, compared to a year-earlier profit of $12.6 million, or 12 cents a share.

Revenue in the quarter fell 20 percent to $323 million from $404.4 million.

For the 12 months ended Jan. 31, Cleveland-based Forest City cited a loss of $112.2 million, or $1.09 a share, on revenue of $1.29 billion. The company reported net earnings of $52.4 million, or 51 cents a share, in the same period a year ago.

A small portion of the 2008 loss, about $8.6 million pre-tax, is attributed to severance costs associated with employee layoffs.

Posted by lumi at 4:17 AM

March 30, 2009

CurbedWire: A Double Dose of Gehry-Ratner Hookups

Curbed

It's just a rumor at this juncture, but Curbed is reporting that giant contractor Turner Construction is no longer involved with Forest City's Atlantic Yards project.

FINANCIAL DISTRICT—A tipster sends along an e-mail with a photo of Frank Gehry's Beekman Tower, which—given certain circumstances—should probably be called Fra Geh's Bee Tow. The e-mail was titled "Gehry's skin," but our tipster is a mysterious one. Is this old curvature or a new piece of the puzzle, indicating that actual work is going on down at 8 Spruce Street? Like we said, mysterious. [CurbedWire Inbox]

ATLANTIC YARDS—Speaking of Forest City Ratner-developed projects that may or may not still involve Frank Gehry, a tipster with some inside info has this to say about recent developments with the arena + towers plan: "Turner Construction is out as the contractor. And it's long been assumed that Ratner will not work with Bovis. So who will be brought in as a relief pitcher? And what could this project really be if the person that was leading the charge for all this time is gone?" [CurbedWire Inbox]

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Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Curbed Tipster: Turner Construction Off of Atlantic Yards Job

Small blurb from Curbed, but big news, if it is true.

No Gehry, no contractor...now what?

A tipster tells Curbed that the lead contractor for the Atlantic Yards project, Turner Contstuction, is off the job. Could that be why we saw a Turner Construction truck idling, with purpose, outside of Forest City Ratner's contractor condo offices in the former Spalding Building in the project site (24 Sixth Avenue)?

Posted by eric at 11:05 PM

Jefferson has double-double in Bucks win over Nets

AP via Yahoo! Sports
by Tom Canavan

Bruce Ratner's New Jersey Nets pretty much threw in the towel on their season tonight, with a blowout 107-78 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets, losers of five in a row, saw their "tragic" number for missing the post-season drop to three. More tragic for Ratner will be the absence — for the second year running — of any playoff revenue.

Richard Jefferson had 29 points and 10 rebounds against his former teammates and the Milwaukee Bucks snapped a season-high, five-game losing streak with a 107-78 victory over the reeling New Jersey Nets on Monday night.
...

Chris Douglas-Roberts had 14 points and Brook Lopez added 10 points and 10 rebounds for New Jersey, which suffered its second embarrassing loss in 24 hours. Minnesota snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating the Nets on Sunday.

That was only a nine-point loss. This one was a blowout, and it was never close after Milwaukee used an 18-0 run in the final 4:51 of the first quarter to 32-13 lead.
...

The rest of the game was garbage time, punctuated by boos by the sparse crowd when the Bucks pushed the lead into the 20s and 30s over the final three quarters.
...

The loss reduced the Nets’ magic number for being eliminated from playoff contention to three. The Nets have lost 17 of 23 games.

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NoLandGrab: Sorry, Hova, we just don't see LBJ wanting to be a part of this act.

Posted by eric at 10:37 PM

Billionaire Bloomy needs you to volunteer for his campaign

The Brooklyn Paper

Mayor Bloomberg's new Brooklyn campaign office, at 535 Atlantic Avenue, is just a stone's throw from the proposed site of one of his favorite unbuilt megaprojects.

The mayor’s retail office is nearly equidistant from the administration’s two main Brooklyn obsessions: Atlantic Yards (which it hopes will get built) and the Brooklyn House of Detention (which it hopes to reopen and double in capacity). A campaign spokeswoman said the location was picked solely because it was centrally located and near major transit routes.

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NoLandGrab: We wonder if candidate Mike will pay dues to the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, which has been a staunch critic of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

Forest City Reports Fiscal 2008 Full-Year and Fourth-Quarter Results

Forest City Enterprises reported their 4th-Quarter and Full-Year earnings today, via a press release. It's a long document, which you can read by clicking the link below.

Bottom line, the company lost $112.2 million in 2008, versus a gain of $52.4 million in 2007. Forty percent of the losses occurred in the 4th quarter. The Nets continue to lose lots of money, and FCE is having to cover losses for certain "non-funding partners," as well.

But fear not, basketball fans. Despite companywide retrenchment, they haven't put everything on hold this year:

In 2009, we do not anticipate commencing construction on any new projects, with the exception of the arena at our Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and a fee-based development project in Las Vegas.

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NoLandGrab: In other New York-related plans, Forest City still says that the Beekman Tower "will have approximately 900 market-rate apartments," though they acknowledge that they have "initiated a study of costs and timing for Beekman to identify possible options to achieve savings on completion of the project."

Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

Forest City Enterprises announces losses, asserts that AY arena is one of only two new projects to launch in 2009

Atlantic Yards Report

It's a very busy day over at AYR. First the appeal of the environmental lawsuit, now Forest City's latest earnings report.

In another sign that the Atlantic Yards project is crucial to its struggling business, Forest City Enterprises (FCE) today announced in its year-end fiscal results that it would continue to significantly slow development, anticipating that it would commence construction on only two new projects, "the arena at our Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and a fee-based development project in Las Vegas."

However, there are several doubts regarding arena construction, including pending legal cases disregarded by the developer and the availability of financing. While Forest City is indeed closer to starting construction than in previous years, consider that in 2007, for example, FCE CEO Chuck Ratner and other executives asserted that the arena would open in 2009, and New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark has consistently shifted the goalposts.

In fact, in a 10-K document filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the developer acknowledges that 2011 is hardly certain:
The Nets are currently operating at a loss and are projected to continue to operate at a loss at least as long as they remain in New Jersey, which is expected to be until at least 2011, and possibly longer.

Other delays

The 10-K document also acknowledges the potential for continued delays:
Brooklyn Atlantic Yards. We are in the process of developing Brooklyn Atlantic Yards, a long-term $4.0 billion mixed-use project in downtown Brooklyn expected to feature a state of the art sports and entertainment arena for the Nets basketball team, a franchise of the NBA. The acquisition and development of Brooklyn Atlantic Yards has been formally approved by the required state governmental authorities but final documentation of the transactions are subject to the completion of negotiations with local and state governmental authorities, including negotiation of the applicable development documentation and public subsidies. Pre-construction activities have commenced for the potential removal, remediation or other activities to address environmental contamination at, on, under or emanating to or from the land. There is also one lawsuit pending challenging the use of eminent domain which may not be resolved in our favor resulting in Brooklyn Atlantic Yards not being developed at all or not being developed with the features we anticipate. As a result of the foregoing, this project has experienced delays and may continue to experience further delays. There is also the potential for increased costs and delays to the project as a result of (i) increasing construction costs, (ii) scarcity of labor and supplies, (iii) our inability to obtain tax-exempt financing or the availability of financing or public subsidies, or our inability to retain the current land acquisition financing, (iv) our or our partners’ inability or failure to meet required equity contributions, (v) increasing rates for financings, (vi) loss of arena sponsorships and related revenues and (vii) other potential litigation seeking to enjoin or prevent the project or litigation for which there may not be insurance coverage. The development of Brooklyn Atlantic Yards is being done in connection with the proposed move of the Nets to the planned arena. The arena itself (and its plans) along with any movement of the team is subject to approval by the NBA, which we may not receive. If any of the foregoing risks were to occur, we may not be able to develop Brooklyn Atlantic Yards to the extent intended or at all. Even if we are able to continue with the development, we would likely not be able to do so as quickly as originally planned.

The importance of AY

Atlantic Yards has a significant upside for the developer, not only the control of a "great piece of real estate" (in Chuck Ratner's words) but the opportunity to stanch significant losses on the operation of the Nets, $35 million in the past year. A new arena would bring new revenues and also raise the value of the team, which has actually declined since an ownership group led by Forest City Ratner's Bruce Ratner bought the team in 2004.

So Atlantic Yards will be a fight to the finish, as the developer anticipates "continued challenging business conditions in 2009."

article

The remainder of the article briefly parses some of the highlights of FCE's earnings report, as they relate to Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

In effort to appeal EIS case, plaintiffs charge "evidence of corruption" in ESDC's blight study

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder distills the appeal of the EIS lawsuit.

On the same day that developer Forest City Enterprises asserted in a press release that "only one material lawsuit" is pending in the Atlantic Yards case, project opponent Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) announced that one other lawsuit may indeed be alive.

In an effort to reverse an appeals court’s February decision rejecting an appeal of a trial judge's dismissal of the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review, DDDB and 25 co-plaintiff community and civic groups have asked (PDF) the Appellate Division, First Department, to allow the state’s highest court to review the decision, arguing that the blight study by Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) did not contain simply errors or misjudgments but rather is associated with “evidence of corruption” and that a for-profit company should not be able to lease a publicly-owned arena for a dollar a year.

Decision said to be tainted

The ESDC, argue the appellants, was “purposefully disregarding the contrary economic conditions and development trends which it asked its own consultant, AKRF, to study; knowingly misrepresenting the effect of the Vanderbilt Rail Yards on the non-ATURA [Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area] portion as impeding development, while the non-ATURA portion and adjacent areas were enjoying substantial, desirable private redevelopment and rapidly rising property values; and knowingly misrepresenting the crime rate in the non-ATURA portion as higher than surrounding areas, while its own data showed just the opposite.”

“Simply put, New York law requires ESDC to do more than simply throw out a number of purported justifications for its “blight” determination without regard to truth, accuracy, or logic, secure in the knowledge that as long as any one of its proffered justifications can be called ‘rational,’ its blight determination will not be disturbed by judicial review,” the petitioners argue.

Thus the “the court should find the agency’s ultimate determination irremediably tainted, regardless of whether a few of its proffered justifications might arguably be valid.”

article

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn et al. File Motion Seeking Appeal of Adverse Ruling in Court of Appeals on Atlantic Yards EIS Lawsuit

NEW YORK, NY—Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, and 25 community group co-petitioners, filed a motion today to the Appellate Division (First Department) seeking the right to appeal in the state’s top court—the Court of Appeals—an adverse ruling on their case challenging the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC’s) Environmental Impact Statement and Blight Study for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development proposal.

On February 26 the appellate court ruled against the petitioners.

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, Justice Catterson—one of the four judges on the panel—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.

link

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.)

The motion filed today asks the Appellate Division to allow petitioners to appeal to the Court of Appeals. The petitioners’ motion papers focus on the rationality of the ESDC’s determination that the project site was blighted, and that the ESDC improperly designated the Barclays Center Arena as a “civic project” under the Urban Development Corporation Act.

The petitioners believe that that Appellate Division misapplied the relevant legal standard in reviewing ESDC’s blight designation. The Court relied on older cases that were reviewing blight determinations in taxpayer lawsuits. Those cases are very limited and allow a person to challenge government spending that is clearly unauthorized. Taxpayers cannot challenge decisions that they believe are simply unwise and must show clear illegality, so the burden of proof on the challenger is very high. In contrast, the case against Atlantic Yards is an Article 78 challenge where petitioners must only show that ESDC’s decision was arbitrary and capricious. That too is a high standard but not as high as the taxpayer lawsuit.

“As Justice Catterson properly noted, ESDC’s failure to consider the context of existing economic development trends in Prospect Heights should make the blight determination per se irrational,” said lead attorney Jeffrey Baker.

Specifically the petitioners would like the Court of Appeals to address and clarify these issues:

  1. That the Appellate court has clouded the “arbitrary and capricious” standard of review of ESDC’s determinations with the more deferential standard of a taxpayer action and,

  2. Incorrectly conflated constitutional requirements applicable to condemnation issues with the specific statutory requirements of the Urban Development Corporation Act and the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

The motion can be downloaded at:
www.dddb.net/FEIS/appeal/coa/MotionforLeave_090327.pdf

All relevant case files can be found at:
www.dddb.net/FEIS/appeal

For clarity's sake, this is not the state eminent domain lawsuit spearheaded by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and brought by nine property owners and tenants in the Atlantic Yards project site.

###

Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

Atlantic Yards, Inch by Inch

You can sue, sue, sue—but nothing ruins megaplans like a crashing economy.

NY Magazine published a timeline of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject plan. Though it's lacking in detail, one thing is apparent: we're more than five years into a fight over a project that was supposed to take ten years to build out.

link

Atlantic Yards Report, New York magazine's timeline: "The Fall of the Atlantic Yards Megaplan"
Norman Oder notes that not only isn't the project dead, but:

Also, the timeline is rather arbitrary, having left out such milestones as the overhyped 6-8% scaleback (NYTimes, front page!) and the December 2006 Empire State Development Corporation and Public Authorities Control Board approvals.

Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

THANKS, RATNER

You’ve given Brooklyn what it needs,

You and pal Frank Gehry,

A host of homes turned into holes,

A ready cemetery.

Leon Freilich

Brooklyn's poet-at-large posted the above in the comments section of a Q&A with Simeon Bankoff, the executive director of the Historic Districts Council, on The NY Times "City Room" Blog.

Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

Getting It Right: Government’s Role in Housing and Economic Development

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder attended a symposium at Brooklyn Law School and filed two reports:

More criticism of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement: it (mostly) doesn’t apply if Ratner sells the project

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner likes to tell anyone who will listen that the company's Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is not only comprehensive but legally enforceable. Though critics have pointed out that the signatories were handpicked and most are financially supported by the developer, some other criticisms came up at a panel entitled, "Community Input in Megadevelopments."

However, a national expert on CBAs, speaking at a conference in Brooklyn Friday, identified three serious flaws in the AY CBA: it (mostly) doesn’t apply if Forest City Ratner sells the project; there are several roadblocks to enforcing the current obligations; and structures to implement the plan have apparently not been set up.

The two latter criticisms have been aired in the past, as have other concerns about enforceability, but I've heard little about the issue of successorship.

NYC EDC's Pinsky: Atlantic Yards "not over" but "missed the market;" is streamlining environmental review the answer?

On Friday, New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) President Seth Pinsky was the luncheon speaker at Getting It Right: Government’s Role in Housing and Economic Development, a symposium held at Brooklyn Law School.

In his address, he talked about Yankee Stadium, CitiField, the World Trade Center site, Hudson Yards, Coney Island, Willets Point, and Hunters Point South, among other major projects.

Unmentioned was Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn's most controversial project, so, during the Q&A, I brought it up in a nonconfrontational way (despite the temptation to ask whether NYC EDC would ever tell me how much the project costs).

"Are there any lessons to be learned from Atlantic Yards?" I asked.

"Yes. The first is that it’s not over ‘til it’s over," Pinsky replied, to some chuckles. "We continue to work with Forest City and think that there are steps that can be taken that can allow that project to move forward. We’re hoping that that we can work with them to get the financing, to get at least the first phase of the project under way before the end of the year, but, no doubt, it’s a very tricky environment in which to do a major financing, so we’re hopeful, but nothing is real until it’s real...."

Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

‘Half-built sites’ cast shadow on New York’s economic landscape

Arab Times (AP)

A New York City contractors’ group has tracked over 100 projects in the city either stalled or canceled since last fall’s credit crisis dried up developers’ financing. The city’s Department of Buildings said more than 30 construction sites have been idled during recent inspections, and “we suspect that there are more,” spokeswoman Kate Lindquist said.

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.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

March 29, 2009

Economics may keep Nets here

Jersey Journal via NJ.com

The bad national economy may have some say on where New Jersey's National Basketball League franchise will play its home games in the future. For now, Nets ownership has said, the team will be in a new arena in Brooklyn, but the architect for the New York City project is not so sure.

Frank Gehry, the famous architect, talked about the new Nets arena in a trade publication, Architect's Newspaper, according to The New York Daily News.
...

Now, the economy has made financing difficult to obtain. The Daily News reported that Gehry's Los Angeles-based design firm laid off all two dozen employees working on the Atlantic Yards project in November.

The Nets are still playing at the Izod Center in the Meadowlands, an aging arena once listed by one sports publication as the worst in the NBA. Another tenant, the New Jersey Devils pro hockey team, constructed its own arena, The Prudential, or "The Rock," in Newark, and is enjoying decent attendance figures.

It is no secret that the Devils would like the Nets as a tenant. Despite protestations that they will play in New York City's Kings County, the Nets scheduled two preseason games for this fall in The Rock. Apparently the NBA franchise is not in total denial.

There may be a silver lining in the economic dark clouds that will allow the Nets to stay in the Garden State.

article

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

Lupica says Ratner's flacks are orchestrating emails

Atlantic Yards Report

From Mike Lupica in today's New York Daily News:
Here's a heads-up for Bruce Ratner's flacks: When you put Brooklyn people up to sending me e-mails, I print them up and then make them into paper airplanes.

link

NoLandGrab: Does it seem like they might be running out of good ideas over at Metrotech?

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Atlantic Yards Report Looks for Media Accuracy

Atlantic Yards Report

Did you think that this would be the week when the New York Times would start giving more intense coverage to the largest single development in Brooklyn history? Dream on!

Why the New York Times needs to cover the Gehry story

Architect Frank Gehry's doubts about the Atlantic Yards project, which surfaced last week, generated widespread coverage, including in the New York Daily News and New York Post, and some creative backpedaling from Nets CEO Brett Yormark.

The New York Times ignored it. However, as DDDB reminds us, only a little more than a year ago, on 3/21/08, Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner "did say he was confident about starting construction on a $950 million basketball arena for the Nets by the end of the year."

That didn't happen. And now Yormark is promising construction this year. But there are a number of variables, and all predictions should be taken with a grain of salt. So the Times should be asking questions, rather than reprinting Bloomberg News stories based on Yormarkisms.

The Gehry born-in-Brooklyn claim may have started in the Brooklyn Paper

At one time the web site for the proposed Atlantic Yards project erroneously said that Frank Gehry (who, apparently, is no longer the architect for the project) was born in Brooklyn. The error was corrected, but what was the source of this error?

It was a tempest in a teapot last March: Forest City Ratner claimed, in legal papers and on its web site, that Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry was born in Brooklyn. What it was pointed out that Gehry actually was born in Toronto, FCR changed the Atlantic Yards web page.

Given that biographical information about Gehry is readily available, I think Forest City Ratner should've gotten it right, but I recently concluded that the developer doesn't deserve all the blame. The Brooklyn Paper also reported the born-in-Brooklyn claim when the project was announced nearly five years ago.

Posted by steve at 8:09 AM

Backpedalling For A Sunday Morning

Those who have spent the last few years following the ways of Bruce Ratner are quite used to seeing communications from Forest City Ratner wherein straightforward English phrases are interpreted to mean whatever pleases the developer. This past week, the spin machine speed dial was turned to "Full" as starchitect Frank Gehry's simple, honest assessment of Atlantic Yards: ''I don't think it's going to happen" was reimagined as a hissy fit on Gehry's part.

Chicago Sun-Times - Brooklyn plans
By John Jackson

The New Jersey Nets still contend they'll be moving to Brooklyn, although the opening date of their new arena, the Barclays Center, keeps getting pushed back.

But last week, famed architect Frank Gehry, who designed the arena and the Atlantic Yards project that surrounds it, expressed doubts the project will be built. ''I don't think it's going to happen,'' he said bluntly.

''Frank Gehry is still the architect of this project,'' said Brett Yormark, the Nets' CEO. ''He loves it; it's still dear to his heart, no different than it is to all of us.

''It's fair to say there are a lot of people concerned. But things take time in New York City, especially from a development perspective. Frank was just venting, probably.''

Yormark said he expects ground to be broken on the project this summer and that the Nets will open the 2011-12 season there.

Newsday - Brooklyn dodging
by Alan Hahn

Those skeptical of the Nets' ambitious Brooklyn plans were not surprised to hear the project's famous architect, Frank Gehry, recently admit, "I don't think it's going to happen." But the Nets quickly mobilized to insist the plans still are full steam ahead.

Nets owner Bruce Ratner said concerns about the Atlantic Yards development project in the troubling economic environment are "understandable," but Ratner went on to say that the project's biggest hang-up - legal battles with residents who needed to be relocated - has gone completely in favor of the Nets. A decision regarding eminent domain is expected within a month, which would fast-track the project for a groundbreaking by early summer.

The plan remains to have the Nets in Brooklyn, at the new Barclays Center, for the start of the 2011-12 season.

"Atlantic Yards will get built," Ratner said.

Gehry later said his comments, which were published in an architectural trade magazine, were "misconstrued" and said his firm is "hopeful that the project will come to fruition in the very near future."

Posted by steve at 7:46 AM

Ratner Money Fueling Challenge to James' Council Seat?

Brownstoner

Here's another one that was missed this week on NoLandGrab (is there a theme developing here this Sunday morning?) This time, Brownstoner touches on the race for the 35th Council District. The City Council seat is currently held by the stalwart Atlantic Yards critic, Letitia James.

Despite protestations to the contrary, it's looking like Bruce Ratner is going to be a major player in the challenge to Council Member Letitia James' seat in the 35th District. Atlantic Yards Report, which broke the news of the campaign by Delia Hunley-Adossa earlier this month, has a post out this morning about Hunley-Adossa's campaign treasurer Charlene Nimmons. According to AYR, Nimmons, like Hunley-Adossa, runs a small non-profit whose major purpose appears to be to funnel salaries from Bruce Ratner to the women who run them in return for their support of the Atlantic Yards project.

link

Posted by steve at 7:34 AM

Follow the Money

The Architect's Newspaper Blog

Sometimes things slip past us. This blog entry is from March 17, but wasn't posted here on NoLandGrab. This dreadful oversight is now corrected. Here's your chance to again contemplate how taxpayer money is helping to pay for the naming rights to the basketball arena of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

And you thought the bonuses were the worst part of the AIG bailout. If you happen to oppose Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, it turns out that there might be bigger fish to fry, as the gang over at Develop Don’t Destory Brooklyn are blaming the bailout for helping to keep the notoriously nascent project afloat.

In a press release, DDDB argues that because AIG paid $8.5 billion of its $170 billion federal bailout to Barclays, and Barclays is paying $400 million to Ratner for the naming rights of the arena, Ratner is therefore receiving $400 billion from the federal government. DDDB’s Dan Goldstein put it thusly:

Why are TARP bailout funds flowing through AIG to a British bank to Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises for a billion dollar arena in Brooklyn? Why are federal taxpayers being forced to pay for Barclays’ marketing scheme? There is no justification for it, especially as TARP funds are supposed to spur banks to start lending again, rather than prop up activities such as the Barclays-Ratner boondoggle. The federal bailout of AIG was not intended to assist Barclays in hyping its brand in Brooklyn, or to help them slap their logo, for 20 years, no less, on a basketball arena already heavily dependent on city, state and federal subsidies.

Granted, it seems like a bit of a stretch to us–and Aristotle, too–no matter how fungible money is.

UPDATE: Then again, we’ve been wrong before. Both the Bergen County Record and Daily News look into the bailout connection, which seems to pass their smell test. News columnist Juan Gonzalez connects the dots:

link

Posted by steve at 7:24 AM

March 28, 2009

Springtime in Ratnerville

SpringInRatnerville

Posted by steve at 7:06 AM

"Dee raises more than Tish" and other reasons for more journalistic voices (plus a new 35th District candidate)

Atlantic Yards Report

The race for the 35th Council District seat, now occupied by Tish James, is still in its early stages. Norman Oder bemoans the lack of journalism in the Courier-Life's coverage.

In other words, we don't need another newspaper now owned by the same publisher to tell us that the headline "Dee raises more than Tish" (attached to an article written by the Courier-Life's inimitable Stephen Witt)could easily have been rewritten.

How about: "Challenger Hunley-Adossa holds first fundraiser; incumbent James has yet to hold one" (in the race for the 35th Council District).

...

Curiously enough, the Courier-Life's Witt sells Hunley-Adossa's campaign short, attributing to "sources" some broad-brush generalizations: James will also get the anti-arena crowd in droves and the churches, sources said.

Well, won't Hunley-Adossa get the "pro-arena crowd"? And which churches has James locked up? Hunley-Adossa makes no secret of her religious faith, so I'm sure she'll get her share of support from churches.

The synagogues and mosques, apparently, are up for grabs.

Also noted is the entry of a third candidate into the race: Medhanie Estiphanos.

link

Posted by steve at 6:53 AM

A Short Look At Bruce Ratner's Credibility on Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

On March 21, 2008 in The New York Times Bruce Ratner expressed confidence:

...[Bruce Ratner] did say he was confident about starting construction on a $950 million basketball arena for the Nets by the end of the year. The arena was to be surrounded by the office tower, known as Miss Brooklyn, and three residential buildings in the first phase of the project. ...

It is March 2009. Not only has the "developer" not started construction on his billion dollar arena, but he doesn't own the land or have the financing to start.

The article, "Slow Economy Likely to Stall Atlantic Yards," continued.

...In another indication of the problems facing the project, Forest City recently sent a letter signed by the project’s celebrity architect, Frank Gehry, to chief executives of many of the city’s biggest corporations, inviting them to become a tenant in the “centerpiece of the project,” Miss Brooklyn. It was originally scheduled to be completed in July 2009..

What a difference a year makes. Last March Frank Gehry was signing direct mail solicitations to find an anchor tenant for his client's office tower.

Just this last week, Frank Gehry said about Atlantic Yards: "I don't think it's going to happen." And his client Bruce Ratner, trying to do damage control, called Gehry his "friend," but did not deny the obvious—his Atlantic Yards star architect was no longer working on his project.

link

Posted by steve at 6:45 AM

Take Note: News Corp Quietly Owns NYC Neighborhood Newspapers

BlackandBrownNews.com

This article voices concern over Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation acquiring neighborhood newspapers in Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn (including the Brooklyn Paper). The fear expressed by the author, a former communications director for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, is that News Corp.'s moves signal the end of independent media in New York.

The role of the Brooklyn Paper in the Atlantic Yards fight is reviewed.

It was the Brooklyn Paper that was the chief media challenger of the Atlantic Yards Project, a major real estate development plan orchestrated by ONE real estate developer to redesign Brooklyn with the centerpiece of this grand design being a new NETS Arena designed by iconic architect Frank Gehry.

(Editor’s Note: You don’t have to live in New York City to get the scope of this real estate development project. Every major city has its own version of this project including the motley crew that makes it all happen.)

For at least three solid years it was the Brooklyn Paper – whatever its motivation – that challenged what seemed to be an unchecked process that gave the developer free reign to move ahead with over-the-top goals of redesigning Brooklyn, all with the stamp of approval of city and state authorities. I know this because at the height of public hearings surrounding this project I was communications director (a stint that lasted everso brief) for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who was the chief cheerleader for all things Atlantic Yards Project and a fierce advocate for that ONE developer. The Brooklyn Paper was relentless - as they should have been – in their reporting on this story.

link

Posted by steve at 6:27 AM

PR Teams Work Hard to Patch Up Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards 'Misquote'

Media Bistro

This item gives a quick synopsis of the bit of controversy stirred up by Frank Gehry's comment on the state of the proposed Atlantic Yards project ("I don’t think it’s going to happen") and ends on a humorous note.

So as to give you a bit of a breather from these bits of Frank Gehry news until at least after the weekend, you have our promise to be brief. After saying he doesn't have much hope of seeing the Atlantic Yards project ever completed, Gehry, developer Forest City Ratner, and most specifically, both their PR departments, have been working in overtime to repair any damage caused from this brief, off-the-cuff remark. Gehry released a statement saying his comments were being misconstrued and the Ratner people are doing the same:

"Frank Gehry is still the architect of this project," [New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark] insisted on WFAN radio. "He loves it. It's very dear to his heart, no different than it is to all of us."

"Frank was just venting probably," Yormark added later.

Though we wonder how "I don't think it's going to happen," which were Gehry's words, is exactly "venting." Maybe if he'd yelled it, flipped the table over, and poured hot coffee all over the interviewer, that would be "venting" (at least that's how we do it). To us, his original quote sounded more like "resignation" which tends to be a little more genuine and grounded in reality.

link

Posted by steve at 6:14 AM

Atlantic Yards Submitted for Stimulus Spending

Nets Daily

Atlantic Yards, troubled but alive, has been nominated for federal stimulus money, according to a list prepared by New York State. The question is by who. Earlier, it was believed the Empire State Development Corp., the state entity behind the project, had nominated it. Late Friday, the governor’s office said a private citizen had suggested the funding; the ESDC had not.

link

Posted by steve at 6:06 AM

March 27, 2009

Correction: Yes, Atlantic Yards has been submitted for stimulus funds, but not by ESDC

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder posts a "mea culpa" in which he explains how he jumped to the conclusion that federal stimulus funds were requested for Atlantic Yards by the ESDC.

I contacted Erin Duggan, who's handling press for the stimulus package, who responded, "That is a very draft list of the requests that have come in. That communication in particular was from a citizen, and was not any official request for the project. We have no requests for funding for Atlantic Yards."

article

Posted by lumi at 7:11 PM

The Barclays naming rights deal may be well under $400 million after all

Atlantic Yards Report

Maybe, as British news report with an unnamed source indicates, Barclays Capital would pay much less than the reported $400 million for the Atlantic Yards arena naming rights deal

One of the lingering questions of the AY saga is why Barclays has stuck with the deal so steadfastly. Sure, they believed--not without evidence--that a Brooklyn arena might be a way to splash their name across America.

But they signed up in January 2007 for a Frank Gehry arena, not an "inspired by Frank Gehry arena" or a "Frank Gehry arena produced by architects who happen to work for someone else."

So as New Jersey Nets CEO (Chief Exaggeration Officer, to NLG) Brett Yormark does damage control about Gehry's role, maybe Barclays has already renegotiated the deal downward.

Gumby Fresh blogger Gari N. Corp makes a cameo as he tries to explain why a Barclays PR flack might have initimated to a reporter for a British publication that "we're not on the hook for anywhere near as much. We're not that mental."

article

Additional coverage...

Gumby Fresh, Name Over

Let's go back that old set of arena projections, shall we (you can find a discussion here)? We see that the developer was looking to meet between $30 million and $35 million of the arena's then-projected (and probably too low) $43 million in yearly debt service with sponsorship revenue, which would presumably include the naming rights. Any reduction in the naming rights' contribution to this already meager total might be fatal.

Posted by lumi at 6:39 PM

Yes, Atlantic Yards has been submitted by the ESDC for stimulus funds, but is it eligible?

Atlantic Yards Report

It seems like Bruce Ratner's subsidy-laden Atlantic Yards megaproject magically made it onto NY State's "Second Draft List" (it wasn't on the first) for projects to receive federal stimulus funds:

Yes, apparently, Atlantic Yards is shovel-ready, according to the Empire State Development Corporation, which had gone back-and-forth on that issue.

A cryptic entry in the massive, 774-page Second Draft List - Project Proposals (PDF), issued March 25 by the New York State Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Cabinet, mentions AY but, in contrast to most other projects, without a budget or a description. (Click to enlarge)

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NoLandGrab: Huh? A request for $0 for "Atlantic Yards" is supposed to be a placeholder, or something, for a figure to be filled in at a later date? You gotta be kidding.

Like everything Atlantic Yards, the actual amount of money that Bruce Ratner wants is another state secret.

Posted by lumi at 5:22 PM

Behind Hunley-Adossa's campaign, treasurer Nimmons heads another dubious nonprofit, with Ratner funding

Atlantic Yards Report

Is Delia Hunley-Adossa the "Ratner Candidate" in her challenge of Atlantic Yards political foe City Councilmember Letitia James?

In her challenge to Council Member Letitia James in the 35th District race, Delia Hunley-Adossa relies significantly on her campaign treasurer, Charlene Nimmons, who also heads a questionable fledgling nonprofit organization that signed the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

As with Hunley-Adossa’s Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE), Nimmons’s Public Housing Communities (PHC) likely relies on the largess of developer Forest City Ratner. (Neither would confirm or deny that most funding comes from FCR, though Hunley-Adossa has acknowledged that FCR supported one program and Nimmons has cited an FCR-supported event sponsored by her organization.)

If so, given the light workload of both nonprofits, the salaries Nimmons and Hunley-Adossa both draw from their nonprofits give them leave to work on the campaign--which suggests that the developer is supporting the challenge to James even without direct contributions.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Ratner says Gehry tower will keep rising

Downtown Express
By Julie Shapiro

BeekmanTower-DEx.jpg

Word spread quickly last week that Forest City Ratner planned to chop the rising Beekman St. tower in half, leaving it at its current height of 38 stories.

The rumors started when workers recently stopped adding floors and WNYC reported that contractors applied for a permit to add a roof.

Joyce Baumgarten, spokesperson for Forest City, said the rumors are exaggerated. The permit was actually for the tower’s first setback, not for the roof, she said. The permits look similar, which could have caused the confusion, she added.

Baumgarten said the addition of new floors had paused so Forest City could look for ways to save money, possibly by re-bidding construction contracts. She is not worried about finding a market for the building’s 903 apartments, which will range from $4,000 to $15,000 a month.

“There’s been no change in the design of the building,” Baumgarten said in a phone interview. “Work is continuing on the building.”

In a statement, Baumgarten added, “Given current economic conditions, including downward trends in construction costs, we are conducting a study to evaluate potential opportunities to achieve savings on the project.”

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NoLandGrab: On the other hand, nothing in Baumgarten's statement actually precludes topping out the building at 38 stories, so stay tuned...

Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

British press watch

The Independent, Row grows in Brooklyn over Barclays' Nets deal
The Barclays naming-rights deal scandal has been reported in the British press.

Building Desgin Online, Foster and Gehry hit as New York projects go on hold

Frank Gehry's misadventure leads an article in a British architecture trade publication:

Speaking to US-based publication the Architect’s Newspaper, Gehry said: “The Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn—I don’t think it’s going to happen.

“There are projects underway that are being threatened, and may not be completed. That would be devastating to me. Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles is also on hold.”

Gehry, who turned 80 earlier this month, has since issued a statement saying his comment was “misconstrued as a prediction of the future of the Atlantic Yards development”.

It read: “All of us at Gehry Architects New York are immensely proud of our work with our client Forest City Ratner on the Atlantic Yards Project and remain hopeful that it will come to fruition in the very near future.”

Earlier this month, Gehry admitted he had been forced to cut staff numbers at his practice by 50% over the last year as projects were stopped or stalled.

His comments came as a number of high-profile developments hit trouble in New York.

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

Ratner Statement Doesn't Deny That Gehry is Off Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn noticed that Bruce Ratner never flat out denied that Frank Gehry is off the Atlantic Yards project. Instead Ratner explained, "Frank Gehry is a friend, a great architect and someone I have huge respect for."

link

Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! Jewish and Muslim Burial rites NO!!

While the City and State continue unfettered support for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, cuts in city services threaten burial traditions of observant Jewish and Muslim New Yorkers.

NY budget cuts could imperil Jewish burial rites

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City's medical examiner warns that proposed budget cuts could threaten Jewish and Muslim burial rites.

Dr. Charles Hirsch says the cuts could hamper his office in its efforts to expedite the burials of observant Jews and Muslims, whose religions call for burials within 24 hours of death.

The city has ordered the medical examiner's proposed operating budget of about $80 million for the fiscal year beginning in July cut by $7 million. And the state has threatened to withhold about $18 million in reimbursements.

Posted by lumi at 4:21 AM

March 26, 2009

Is it dead?

WBAI Radio's Wakeup Call

Is it "Taps" for the Atlantic Yards project? WBAI covered the latest developments this morning during its six o'clock hour, including a conversation with DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein.

listen

The segment begins with the playing of "Taps" at about the five-minute mark. Some browsers may not display a timer, but five minutes is roughly one-tenth of the way along the slider.

Posted by eric at 12:43 PM

Trouble For Gehry's Beekman Tower

ArchSource

I posted an article on the 18th of last month on Gehry's Beekman tower and how he had utilized his "Digital Project" software to ensure that the design would come in under budget. Unfortunately, it seems that even his magic software can't save the tower from effects of the economic meltdown in the country right now.
...

Developers should really stop the horrid habit of chopping off projects halfway and leaving projects that they feel are products of a recession but are really monuments to their inefficiency. Didn't realize how much it would cost or have a contingency plan for if costs exceed the budget, which always happens anyway.

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NoLandGrab: Fortunately, Ratner's Atlantic Yards project has yet to get started, so abandoning it now won't leave any stumpy buildings — just tree stumps.

Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

New Jersey Nets: The Gehry Question

The Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

Here's one we missed yesterday.

We're not in the habit of criticizing octogenarians, because we have an earnest desire to be one someday, and besides, some of our best friends fit that description.

It's a pretty sure bet that Bruce Ratner feels the same way, so he can't exactly call Frank Gehry dotty or addled, because he needs the architect to sell his project -- not only to make the sponsors stay on board, but just for his gravitas.

He can call him impatient and egocentric and just laugh it off, because that is often true with most great architects. There's a old line from Frank Lloyd Wright, who said, "Early in life, I realized I had to choose between hypocritical modesty or honest arrogance, and I chose the latter."

That, by the accounts we've read, is what you also get with Gehry. We wouldn't know, we never met the man. We only know him by his work, and frankly, that expressionist postmodern stuff makes us avert our eyes.
...

Still, for what it's worth, Gehry is at the heart of the Brooklyn project, and Ratner is tethered to him. And now the Master Builder is saying the project is kaput.

We'd say Ratner has some explaining to do. As Dan Goldstein put it yesterday, there really is no project without Gehry, who isn't getting any younger; and it certainly seems there is no Gehry commitment anymore, no matter how much back-tracking he does through a publicist.

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Posted by eric at 8:47 AM

Paging Lillian Hellman: on WFAN, Nets' Yormark does damage control on Gehry, reaching new depths of suspicious spin

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder dissects Brett Yormark's performance on WFAN yesterday.

New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark probably isn’t a Lillian Hellman fan, but he really should become familiar with Mary McCarthy’s infamous dis of the author: "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'."

Yormark isn't yet in Hellman territory, but he's getting closer. And the only reason he gets away with it is that reporters, like Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts of WFAN yesterday, fail to challenge him.

The tally

Yormark, hauled out to do damage control after architect Frank Gehry said he didn’t think Atlantic Yards would happen, yesterday reached new depths of suspicious spin, declaring that Gehry was “just venting,” promising that the Brooklyn arena would open in 2011, asserting new job numbers for the project, pronouncing New Jersey “just terrific for us,” and claiming that Atlantic Yards would bring things that the “country needs right now.”

And he even blamed the Atlantic Yards opposition on “one individual out there,” presumably Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s Daniel Goldstein, somehow ignoring the thousands of people who have donated money, gone to rallies, and signed petitions.

Brutally weird

Let me respond quickly to those Yormarkisms.

  • Gehry has reason for his pessimism; he’s laid off his Atlantic Yards staff.
  • Yormark’s confident predictions of arena openings in 2010 and 2011 have fallen by the wayside. (Here’s the audio.)
  • Yormark apparently hasn’t checked the job figures on the AY web site.
  • If New Jersey were so terrific, the team of course would stay.
  • While the country needs jobs, the affordable housing Yormark claims Atlantic Yards would bring would not come “now,” nor, perhaps, for a very long while.
  • Of course Gehry must be touted; he's key to the naming rights deal.

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NoLandGrab: Oder is kind in calling Benigno and Roberts "reporters." Sports-talk hosts barely qualify in that regard. And he lets the station slide on its business relationship with the Nets — WFAN is the team's official radio broadcaster.

Posted by eric at 8:27 AM

Atlantic Yards: Back from the dead edition

NY Daily News, Frank Gehry, Atlantic Yards officials backpedal on architect's comments project is dead

Frank Gehry was "just venting."

Forest City Ratner and Nets officials scrambled Wednesday to downplay the famed architect's comments that the controversial $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project may not be built.

New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark said Gehry was still heading up the massive project - and said it would go up.

"Frank Gehry is still the architect of this project," Yormark insisted on WFAN radio. "He loves it. It's very dear to his heart, no different than it is to all of us."

"Frank was just venting probably," Yormark added later.

The Brooklyn Paper, Gehry says he was ‘misconstrued’ over predicting Yards demise

Starchitect Frank Gehry quickly recanted — sort of — a statement he made earlier in the week that the Atlantic Yards project is dead.
...

In a statement issued by his Los Angeles-based firm, the architect described his earlier comment, made in what he called a “free-flowing interview,” as being “misconstrued as a prediction of the future of the Atlantic Yards development.”

“All of us at Gehry Architects New York are immensely proud of our work with our client Forest City Ratner on the Atlantic Yards Project and remain hopeful that it will come to fruition in the very near future,” the statement concluded.

Atlantic Yards opponents reminded that some people define a gaffe as when a newsmaker slips up and actually tells the truth.

NY1 News, Gehry Expresses Doubts Over Atlantic Yards' Future

With video.

WNYC Radio, Atlantic Yards Architect: Project May Be Dead

Posted by eric at 7:48 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! 8,900 State Workers NO!!

While NY State maintains its commitment to Bruce Ratner's subsidy-sucking eminent domain-abusing megaproject plan, Governor Paterson is making plans to lay off state workers due to the economic downturn.

From the AP, via Crain's NY Business:

Gov. David Paterson on Tuesday ordered layoffs that could total more than 4 percent of state workers after unions refused concessions amid a staggering economic downturn that was projected to push the state's deficit to $16 billion in the next year.

Budget Director Laura Anglin told The Associated Press that the layoffs of nearly 9,000 employees would be the first since the late 1990s after unions refused to even provide counterproposals.

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Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Atlantic Yards is dead! Long live Atlantic Yards!
Here's a sampling of the blowback from Frank Gehry's comment, reported in The Architect's Newspaper, that he didn't think that Atlantic Yards was going to happen.

Brownstoner, Gehry Says He Thinks Yards Won't Get Built, Then Hedges

In an interview with the Architect's Newspaper on Tuesday, starchitect Frank Gehry let this line slip about the Atlantic Yards project that he is the lead designer for: "I don't think it's going to happen." In a press release, Bruce Ratner called Gehry a "great friend" and said it was understandable that he (and others) "have concerns about this project happening in the worst economic environment since the Great Depression." Never fear, though, he said. It will get built. Gehry then responded through his publicist, saying that his original statement was "misconstrued as a prediction" about the project and that he remains "hopeful it will come to fruition." Time will tell.

Gothamist, Gehry: Atlantic Yards Project Won't Happen

From a pretty informed update of the recent events in the Atlantic Yards saga:

Starchitect Frank Gehry really stepped in it during a recent interview with industry journal The Architect's Newspaper, admitting he doesn't think developer Bruce Ratner's $4.2 billion plan to build a Nets basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments in Brooklyn will become a reality.
...
But Ratner is keeping up a brave face; in a statement sent out last night, he deemed Gehry's doubts "understandable," and even acknowledged that "others have concerns about this project happening in the worst economic environment since the Great Depression." But excelsior! Ratner insists, "Atlantic Yards will get built."

Hoops World, No Arena For The Nets?

Frank Gehry's comments come at a time when most believe the project will never get off the ground.

Curbed.com, Gehry Predicts Atlantic Yards' Death, But Hopes It'll Happen

Frank O. Gehry knows that what ends up getting built at Atlantic Yards might not bear much of his DNA, but according to the architect, Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards might not end up looking like much of anything at all.
...
That's some fresh blood in the water for the project's opponents, and the Atlantic Yards team (no, not the Nets) is already doing damage control.

Reason, Hit & Run, "...the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn—I don’t think it’s going to happen."

New York turned to eminent domain, it's worth remembering, so Bruce Ratner could build a new basketball stadium for the Bruce Ratner-owned Nets.

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog], Dark Days, Press-Wise, for Atlantic Yards

As Ward Harkavy pointed out this morning, Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry's admission in regard to the project ("I don't think it's going to happen") must chap developer Bruce Ratner's ass, despite Gehry's walkback.
...
Meanwhile the Daily News refers to the project as "trapped in limbo" and "dormant," and NY1 says Ratner is "struggling to raise cash for the project." Negative perceptions aren't everything, especially when big money and high-powered interests are pulling the other way, but this can't be helping the boosterism that long animated the project.

$mart A$sets [Village Voice blog], Game on at Atlantic Yards: Ratner disputes Gehry's pessimism. Even Gehry disputes Gehry.

But as I noted yesterday, speaking of the massive development's future, Gehry told The Architect's Newspaper, "I don't think it's going to happen."

Oops, there goes that sales scheme.

Joshing Politics, Gehry Proclaims Atlantic Yards Dead

In what may be one of the worst pieces of news for the embattled Bruce Ratner, his star-architect (or starchitect) Frank Gehry said that the controversial Atlantic Yards development is kaput. Well, he didn't say "kaput" but the answer was just as bad.
...
Atlantic Yards probablity of being built has diminished for the last year or so and the current state of the economy has helped drive it into the ground for good. Credit is tight, construction costs have risen, but most importantly, the controversy of the development helped keep the project in question just long enough to help quash Ratner's dreams. Now he'll try to build something a lot smaller and less grand, but this is where a competent city government would come in and restore some order. Of course, as long as Marty Markowitz is around that possibility is quite slim.

The Cross Pollinator, Poor poor Atlantic Yards

I’m psyched Gehry used the ‘d’ word as in dead, kaput, no go. I feel empathy towards those who have taken time out of their lives to oppose this corporate monstrosity. I’m happy Bruce Ratner’s ugly anti-democratic concrete monstrosity may not come to pass. I will be thrilled if Mayor Bloomberg takes a black eye on this project.

But it’s not official. And as everybody knows, vampires are really difficult to kill. So let’s hope this slow circling of the toilet will eventually culminate with a flush. The day Bruce Ratner throws in the towel will be a great day.

Plan NYC, Mayor Disappointed by Changes in Atlantic Yards Plans

Mayor Bloomberg says it would be a shame if Atlantic Yards is built without a Frank Gehry designed arena, because litigation delayed the project long enough for economic changes to make the plan unfeasible. However, one critic says the government should have proceeded with caution rather than endorsing assumptions made at the peak of the market. In addition, it is still unclear whether the Gehry design will be used.

Nets Daily, Ratner Denies His Architect’s Claim That Brooklyn “May Not Be Completed”

In an interview published Tuesday, Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry told a writer, “I don’t think it’s going to happen” describing the site of the Nets’ arena as one of two big projects “that are being threatened, and may not be completed”. Later, Bruce Ratner denied the claim, saying “Atlantic Yards will get built”. On Monday, Mayor Bloomberg had told reporters the project may get built “without the Gehry design”

UnBeige, Gehry Gives Up on Atlantic Yards

Continuing with Frank Gehry's worst start to a month in the last little bit, what with the Beekman Tower getting chopped in half and finding new leaks in Ontario, in a section of this interview with The Architects Newspaper, it looks like Gehry has finally come to terms with the "on hold" Atlantic Yards project never being finished....

Queens Crap, Ratner's architect thinks Atlantic Yards won't happen

ArtInfo.com, Atlantic Yards Project Unlikely, Says Gehry

Posted by lumi at 1:37 AM

March 25, 2009

The Nets' Chief Exaggeration Officer

WFAN

New Jersey Nets President and CEO Brett Yormark made an appearance on WFAN radio today with midday hosts Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts, and much of the talk revolved around Frank Gehry's diminishing confidence in the future of Atlantic Yards.

Ever the fabulist optimist, Yormark repeated his claim that the Nets would be in Brooklyn for the 2011-2012 season. And then he blew some more smoke at the credulous Benigno and Roberts, telling them that the project would create "17,000 construction jobs" and an outlandish "8,500 permanent jobs."

The problem with those claims is that they're not true. Even Forest City Ratner claims only 15,000 construction jobs, and those are actually job-years, arrived at by multiplying 1,500 constructions jobs by 10 years of build-out. As for the permanent jobs, FCR's most recent claim is 3,000 jobs, and Atlantic Yards Report has poked big holes in that number — Norman Oder calculates 2,418 permanent jobs, with only 725 of those being new office jobs. That is, if FCR actually builds an office tower, which it says it won't until it has a tenant for at least half the space.

Yormark also claims a record of 22-0 in Atlantic Yards court decisions, which he cites as the reason for optimism about clearing the remaining legal hurdle and breaking ground this year. But with Yormark's Nets sporting a record of 30-41 and sitting 3-1/2 games out of the NBA Eastern Conference's 8th and final playoff spot, he might do well to concentrate a bit more on basketball and a little less on real estate prognostications.

Listen to the interview

Posted by eric at 11:14 PM

The Gehry Question

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

Posted by lumi at 6:02 PM

A project may not grow in Brooklyn

Crain's Cleveland Business reports that Atlantic Yards "lead architect" Frank Gehry isn't sure that the project is going to happen and that NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg isn't sure that Gehry will be the architect if it does:

Forest City Ratner Cos.’ big Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn is in peril, according to this story in The New York Daily News.

The short Daily News piece is based on an interview that Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry gave to The Architect Newspaper on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
...
The Daily News says New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg this week suggested the $4.2 billion project — stalled for lack of financing in the recession — still could get built, but on a smaller scale and without Mr. Gehry.

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Posted by lumi at 5:41 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE — Atlantic Yards Architect Frank Gehry on Atlantic Yards: “I Don’t Think It Is Going to Happen”

World Famous Architect Sounds Like He's No Longer Working on Bruce Ratner's Project

Brooklyn, NY — For the first time Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry has publicly expressed serious doubts about developer Forest City Enterprises’ arena and skyscraper development plan and its viability.

The Architect's Newspaper interviewed Frank Gehry on the occasion of his 80th birthday, and broke the news.

The world-renowned architect was asked, “Which other unrealized commissions do you most wish had been built?”

Mr. Gehry answered, “The Corcoran Gallery in DC, the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn—I don’t think it’s going to happen…”

In the five-plus years since developer Forest City Ratner unveiled his project, with Frank Gehry by his side, the architect has not once wavered in his involvement in the project and belief in the project’s viability.

Now he has.

“While Bruce Ratner's project is a big question mark, it seems clear that Frank Gehry—who was a major selling point for the project, its investors and its naming-rights sponsor Barclays bank—is no longer working on the project. Mr. Gehry would not have made this comment if he were still involved with Atlantic Yards and Forest City Ratner as his client,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “Will Barclays pay $400 million for the naming-rights for a cookie-cutter concrete box rather than a landmark, Frank Gehry arena? They signed on for a Gehry arena, so it's very doubtful.”

It has been rumored that Barclays contract has an escape clause if the arena is not designed by Frank Gehry.

Forest City Ratner, a subsidiary of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, has a $400 million naming rights agreement with Barclays bank to build the billion-dollar Barclays Center arena, the proposed new home of the New Jersey Nets. The company bought the Nets in 2003 and had planned to open a new arena in Brooklyn in 2006. The arena’s financing, which faces the global fiscal crisis and credit crunch, is dependent upon the British bank’s lucrative sponsorship.

“Ratner really needs to come clean about Gehry's status with the project,” Goldstein concluded.

Posted by lumi at 5:28 PM

New Jersey Nets: Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn still a 'go' despite architect Frank Gehry's claim

Star-Ledger

The Nets might not be building their new arena in Brooklyn after all.

At least that's what the famed architect who had been designing the project said. In a story posted on the New York Daily News' website Tuesday night, Frank Gehry told the Architect's Newspaper trade publication, "I don't think it's going to happen."

Bruce Ratner, the Nets' majority owner and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, dispelled the sentiment of Gehry's remark, and was placed in the awkward position of having to contradict the star of the project.

"Frank Gehry is a friend, a great architect and someone I have huge respect for," Ratner said in a prepared statement Tuesday night. "It is understandable how he and others have concerns about this project happening in the worst economic environment since the Great Depression.

"But that said, we've prevailed in 22 judicial decisions and are ready to proceed even at a time when other projects and industries have faltered. Atlantic Yards will get built and there has never been a time when this project is more important to the people of the state and city of New York and the borough of Brooklyn."

Still, the disconnect gave a great deal of hope to Daniel Goldstein, who founded Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the organization fighting the Yards project.

"Ratner needs to come clean about Gehry's status," Goldstein said Tuesday night in an e-mail response to a reporter's question. "If Gehry is no longer on the project, then obviously it is a severe blow for Ratner and a major impediment to Barclays actually keeping the naming rights.

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NoLandGrab: Friends, sure, but did Bruce tell Frank he wants to be "just friends?"

More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Ratner says AY will proceed, claims Gehry's in the lead; architect backs off comment

An update to Frank Gehry's "I don’t think it’s going to happen" quote about Atlantic Yards was inevitable, and so was the backpedaling.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

GAME OVER FOR NETS' ATLANTIC YARDS: GEHRY

New York Post
by Rich Calder

In an interview with The Architect's Newspaper, Frank Gehry yesterday referred to Bruce Ratner's $4 billion plan to bring an NBA arena and 16 residential-office towers to Prospect Heights as one of several "unrealized commissions" he most wishes had been built.

"I don't think it's going to happen . . . That would be devastating to me," he said.

Ratner said in a statement last night that it is "understandable" that Gehry and "others have concerns about this project happening in the worst economic environment since the Great Depression," but the developer promised "Atlantic Yards will get built."

Gehry later backtracked through a publicist, saying his comments to the trade publication were "misconstrued as a prediction" about the project and that he remains "hopeful it will come to fruition."
...

A Ratner spokesman yesterday said Gehry was still the project's "lead architect," but opponents of the controversial development said they doubt the architect is still involved because of his remarks about the project.

"If they're saying he is the lead architect, he seems to be leading them nowhere," said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for the group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

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Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

Beekman St. chop shop

Last week, news leaked out that Forest City Ratner might be considering chopping the Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Tower in half, to top out at a mere 38 stories. If this news is true, the "Beekman Tower" probably warrants a name change: Beekman St. Stump, The FiDi Meltdown?

Here's the latest online buzz:

Curbed, Pondering a Glass of Gehry Half Empty in FiDi

The image of the Beekman Tower at right popped up in the Curbed Photo Pool and caught our eye. Writes the FiDi-residing contributor:

There's this gehry tower going up outside our window that I've been tracking. Not that I idolize frank gehry, but I've been excited about it, in large part because the rest of our view is comprised of these horrible horrible federal and municipal buildings.

The news last week was that they're going to stop construction on the tower at the current floor, and that the tower is going to be 38 floors instead of 76. Why? BAD ECONOMY.

So depressing, the resulting building is just going to be a huge, shiny, stumpy thing.

Which, apparently, is worse than a huge, shiny, wavy thing.

Fast Company, Why Starchitect Skyscrapers like Frank Gehry's Beekman Are Getting Chopped

It seems that the Beekman Stump is part of a trend.

Will a stunted economy leave us with stunted cities? Reduced building heights have become an unfortunate reality for a faltering construction industry, as architects are seeing their projects slashed in half, some mid-construction. This week it was announced that Frank Gehry (who's not having the best 80th birthday year so far) will lose the top half of his Beekman Tower, in lower Manhattan.
...
But Gehry's lucky his building is getting finished at all, short or not. A study published yesterday noted that construction has been halted on 11% of the 1,324 tall skyscraper residential and mixed-used projects around the world as developers scramble to locate the necessary funds to top out their projects.

ArtInfo.com, Construction of Gehry Tower Put on Hold

We're pretty sure that no news organizations actually reported that construction was "put on hold," as the headline suggests, only that a permit has been issued to designate the 38th story as the roof.

Construction of a Frank Gehry tower in lower Manhattan has been put on hold pending an evaluation of costs, Crain's reports.

Half of the Beekman Tower's intended 76 floors have been constructed so far. Developer Forest City Ratner Cos. has indicated that work will proceed on the lower stories, but that for the time being no additional floors will be built. ...
Construction of the Beekman tower began in 2006. In 2008, Forest City Ratner Cos. closed a deal for $680 million in financing for the project. At the time, it was seen as one of the few construction projects in the city to buck the overall real estate slowdown.

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

Gersh speaks! Award-winning Brooklyn Paper editor answers (sort of) questions about new Post parent, Courier-Life sibling

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has been publicly contemplating the implications, especially for coverage of Atlantic Yards, of the purchase of The Brooklyn Paper, by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which already owns rival weekly Courier-Life Publications.

[Brooklyn Paper Editor] Gersh Kuntzman twice chided me for not contacting him with my questions.

Kuntzman agreed to an email interview. To summarize the news:

  • Kuntzman doesn't think anything's changed with the paper's historically critical Atlantic Yards coverage (I disagree)
  • he acknowledges that his newspaper can longer critique its former rival
  • he doesn't know if the two chains will be consolidated (I predict some level of that)
  • he doesn't notice advertising in the paper (I think he should)

Kuntzman--whom I'm tempted to call Gersh, given that the Get your Gersh on headline is imprinted in my mind--indicated he may respond, as well, so stay tuned for another round.

Check out the rest of the article, which has the email interview published verbatim.

Posted by lumi at 5:49 AM

Boro shopping stripped: New report says Brooklyn is hardest hit by shuttering of small businesses

NY Daily News
By Jeff Wilkins, Amanda Prescott and Erin Durkin

Hard times are compounded by Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards ghost town, for one small business owner located near the footprint of the project.

Paul Laidlow, the owner of Living Lights near Clinton Ave., added that the nearby Atlantic Yards project's dormant construction site has also driven shoppers away from the avenue.

"I had my eyes on that project as the lifeline of my business," said Laidlow. "Right now, it's basically survival. We're not even looking to make profit. ... We may not be here much longer if it doesn't turn around."

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Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! Transit Riders NO!!

gal_bramhall_03_20.gif

Bruce Ratner's lowball bid for the development rights over the Vanderbilt Railyard still stands, while transit riders are being asked to pay more to bailout the struggling Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Cartoon, Bill Bramhall, Daily News, by way of Streetsblog.

Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

LOCAL INTELLIGENCE, March 24, 2009

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's blog roundup:

The Atlantic Yards Report has posted a video of Mayor Bloomberg saying that it will be a shame if the project is built without the Gehry design, but he was seemingly resigned to it. The blog speculates on how informed Bloomberg was before making the statement.

In more AY news, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. requested that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner intervene in the naming rights agreement between Barclays PLC and the proposed Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn. Pascell (D - NJ) reasons that Barclays’ $8.5 billion dollars in bailout money from U.S. taxpayers shouldn’t be frittered away on “high priced marketing opportunities.” Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn

link

Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

March 24, 2009

Gehry on Atlantic Yards: "I don’t think it’s going to happen" (ask him May 11 in NYC)

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry has finally expressed serious public doubts about Atlantic Yards, which leads to the following questions:

  • how much does he know?
  • what led to his candor?
  • can the Barclays Center be built without him?

...

While the New York Daily News said Gehry declared the project "dead," he didn't speak with complete certainty, so we should expect a statement soon from developer Forest City Ratner.

After all, Mayor Mike Bloomberg said yesterday that he thought the project could get built without the Gehry design.

If so, the Barclays Center naming rights deal, already under fire because of the AIG connection, might be reconsidered by the bank, since it was signing on to a Gehry arena, not a generic one. That raises major question marks about the developer's capacity to build an arena.

Gehry vs. Ratner

The Daily News probably was correct, however, in observing that "The comment suggests the troubled relationship between Gehry and developer Bruce Ratner is over."

On February 6, I suggested that Gehry wasn't talking about AY because he didn't want to jeopardize his relationship with Ratner, the developer of the Beekman Tower.

Now that the Beekman Tower may be compromised, Gehry may feel more free to talk.

article

Posted by eric at 10:17 PM

Reports of Atlantic Yards's death are greatly, OK, at least somewhat, exaggerated

Architectural trade publication The Architect's Newspaper today published an interview with Frank Gehry conducted about a month ago, and one line from that interview has caused a bit of an Atlantic Yards firestorm. Here's the rundown.

The Architect's Newspaper, Q&A: Gehry at 80

Which other unrealized commissions do you most wish had been built?

The Corcoran Gallery in DC, the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn—I don’t think it’s going to happen. There are projects underway that are being threatened, and may not be completed. That would be devastating to me. Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles is also on hold.

NY Daily News, Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn is dead, says its architect Frank Gehry

The News reads "I don’t think it’s going to happen," and starts administering last rites.

The multi-billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn is dead, according to one who should know: the "starchitect" who was going to build it.

Asked by a trade paper about "unrealized commissions" he most wishes had been built, famed 80-year-old architect Frank Gehry brought up Atlantic Yards.

"I don't think it's going to happen," he told the Architect's Newspaper in an interview published online.

The comment suggests the troubled relationship between Gehry and developer Bruce Ratner is over.

NoLandGrab: Dead? That seems a bit hyperbolic. Ratner and Gehry seeing other people? Most definitely. While the interview cited was conducted in late February, any chance of a reconciliation was likely dashed when Frank caught Bruce fooling around with the Beekman Tower.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Breaking News: Gehry Thinks Atlantic Yards Is Not "Going to Happen"

So. Is Atlantic Yards dead? Or is the "liberal do-gooder" Frank Gehry just speaking liberally?

Well, while the project may not be dead, its star architect certainly thinks so, and wouldn't say so were he still working for Atlantic Yards "developer" and his—apparently former—boss Forest City Ratner. What this statement makes certain and clear, is that Frank Gehry is no longer working on Atlantic Yards.

The $mart Asset [Village Voice blog], Frank Gehry on Atlantic Yards: 'I don't think it's going to happen'

The ailing British bank conglomerate is receiving bailout money from U.S. taxpayers, via AIG's "counterparties" scheme, yet has said it will go ahead and pay $400 million to name the arena Barclays Center.

Of course, if Atlantic Yards isn't built and becomes just money down the Ratner hole, the centerpiece arena won't be called anything, except a huge waste of time, money, people, precious residential space, resources, anguish, and anger.

Nets Daily, Atlantic Yards Architect Says “I Don’t Think It’s Going to Happen”

Posted by eric at 9:17 PM

RESCHEDULED: Meet ESDC CEO Marisa Lago Now April 8th

Via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

CITY HALL Newspaper invites you to April's "On/Off the Record" Breakfast:

A breakfast with the CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation, Marisa Lago.

Wednesday, April 8. 8:30am -- 10:00am
TD Bank
317 Madision Avenue
(Corner of Madison and 42nd Street)

Moderated by Edward-Isaac Dovere, Editor of City Hall
Breakfast will be served.

Please RSVP to: 212.268.0441 or RSVP@manhattanmedia.com

Space is limited.

Posted by eric at 4:22 PM

DDDB Twofer Tuesday

Shouldn't Congresswoman Yvette Clarke Tax Bruce Ratner at 90%

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke was one of the co-sponsors of the approved House bill that would levy a 90% tax on the AIG bonuses. Those bonuses reportedly amount to about $165 milllion.

But Congresswoman Clarke has been silent about the counterparties AIG paid billions to, including Barclays Bank, which received $8.5 billion in taxpayer bailout funds funneled through AIG. Does she really oppose the bonuses but support AIG funneling 400 million bailout dollars to Bruce Ratner and his arena?

Barney Frank Had Said Naming-rights Would Be "Off Limits" For TARP Beneficiaries

New Jersey Congressman Pascrell's letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner calls for an end to the Barclays naming-rights deal for Bruce Ratner's billion dollar Barclays Center arena because Barclays is a recipient of taxpayers' TARP funds funneled through AIG. Pascrell's letter reminds us of a quote from House Financial Services Committee Chair Barney Frank as reported in the February 13th New York Daily News:

...Naming rights deals will be off limits for firms taking taxpayer money in the next $350 billion installment of bailout money for banks and financial institutions.

"I'm confident you won't see anything like that going forward," in the next bailout round, Frank said.

We've gone forward. Now what?

Posted by eric at 12:59 PM

Pascrell asks Treasury to force Barclays to bail on Ratner arena naming-rights deal

Yesterday, NJ Congressional Representative Bill Pascrell sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, asking that the government step in to force the cancellation of Barclays $400 million naming-rights deal for Bruce Ratner's new Nets arena.

There are four main distinctions between the Barclays and CitiGroup-Mets deals, both valued at $20 million per year over 20 years:

Here are links to and highlights from the coverage:

The NY Observer, Jersey Pol Takes Swipe at Bruce Ratner's Arena Deal

...New Jersey electeds have generally refrained from publicly disparaging the plans, at least in the past couple years. But now, with the more than $4 billion project on death watch due to the economy and a lengthy legal battle, there seems to be a change in tune.

Today, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell publicly released a letter he wrote to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, requesting that the Obama administration act to block Barclays bank from leasing naming rights for the arena—a move that, if realized, would be a major blow to the project.

The NY Times, Congressman Wants Barclays-Nets Deal Scrapped

Pascrell said in a telephone interview: “The bailout money was never anticipated to be used to put your name on a sports arena. The circus is over. The taxpayer has to be protected. I’m more outraged about this than the A.I.G. bonuses.”

Barclays and the Nets signed their 20-year deal in early 2007, two months after Citigroup signed its $400 million deal with the Mets to put its name on Citi Field. Citigroup has received $45 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program funds. Barclays got its bite out of TARP from A.I.G., but has not taken bailout money in Britain.

In the Barclays’ situation in Brooklyn, Pascrell said, “A shovel hasn’t been put into the ground, the agreement has an escape clause and no money has been exchanged.” He added, “The secretary has to appeal to these people.” Pascrell said he would consider legislation “as a last resort” if Geithner cannot persuade Barclays to drop out.

The Bergen Record, Pascrell seeks cancellation of Brooklyn arena naming rights

“I believe that any further payments of taxpayer money… be conditioned on the cancellation of any stadium or arena naming-rights agreements that may be in place,” wrote Pascrell. “Federal money was made available to banks and companies like AIG in order to stabilize the financial system and free up credit markets, not for high-priced marketing opportunities.”

NY Newsday, NJ lawmaker seeks cancellation of arena name deal

In a letter Monday, Pascrell, a Democrat from Paterson, told Geithner he believes any further payments of taxpayer money to financial firms should be contingent on cancellation of any sports naming rights deals.

Atlantic Yards Report, On Barclays/AIG, NJ Congressman vaults story into media; Yormark spins regional benefits, affordable housing

Norman Oder traces the growth of this story and counters Nets CEO Brett Yormark's argument that Atlantic Yards represents "benefits for the entire region":

A new arena would compete with the already-built Prudential Center for a finite number of events. The city's rationale for subsidies is that the arena would poach tax revenues from New Jersey. It's surprising that more New Jersey officials haven't glommed on to Pascrell's media gravy train.

DDDB.net, Yormark Says Arena Will Provide Housing

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn notes that, in his official statement to the press, Nets CEO Brett Yormark is trying to sell the Barclays naming-rights deal as a regional jobs and affordable-housing program.

Nets Daily, Congressman Asks for End to Barclays Naming Rights

Here's one opposing view.

NJ.com, Whose money is it?

So why punish Barclays? Barclays not only didn't receive any corporate welfare here, but they didn't need a bailout from their own government. When they needed additional funds, they got them the old fashioned way - they convinced investors to invest in them.

NoLandGrab: Yeah, they got funds the old-fashioned way — they struck a deal with investors in Qatar and Abu Dhabi who could end up owning almost a third of the bank, in order to avoid at all costs having to answer to UK bank regulators.

Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

Bloomberg says "it would be sad if Atlantic Yards gets built without the Gehry design" but seems resigned to it

Atlantic Yards Report

In his most recent comments on Atlantic Yards, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg "offered some offhand and ill-informed support for Atlantic Yards, as well as resignation that it might be built on the cheap, without a Frank Gehry design."

"It's also true that it's a good example to us when you--in this case, it wasn't like Atlantic Yards-- but when you litigate again and again, what happens is that the economy changes and the assumptions that were made in the past which are typically made at the top of the market, because that's when people want to build things, have to get changed, downscaled, and it would be sad if Atlantic Yards gets built without the Gehry design, which would've been phenomenal for this city, although I gather at this point it looks like that the only ways Ratner's going to get that done is to do it at a lower cost and not to do everything at the same time."

What's Bloomberg leaving out? Oh, that maybe government shouldn't endorse the assumptions that are made at the top of the market, but maybe should proceed with more caution.

Bloomberg doesn't sound like he's informed beyond reading the newspaper, but he should know that his own administration, via the City Funding Agreement, allowed the developer to build far less than promised and at a slower pace--all before the economic downturn.

article

NoLandGrab: The Mayor's comments are interesting because they betray exactly the type of thinking that led the country into the current economic mess: "Assumptions made in the past, which are typically made at the top of the market" assured investors that there was no risk in sub-prime mortgages and credit-default swaps because real estate ALWAYS increases in value.

Four more years anyone?

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! Mental Health Services NO!!

While the City blames the State for cuts in mental health programs, both parties support massive subsidies for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena and high rise megaproject.

City Room, [The NY Times], City Hospital System to Cut 400 Jobs

City officials said the job cuts were unavoidable and blamed the situation on a refusal by state leaders to increase Medicaid reimbursements to the hospital system.
...
The elimination of programs is across the board: slated for the chopping block are four school-based mental health programs, four community clinics, three satellite pharmacies, two hospital-based case management programs, two mental-health day-treatment programs, and a hospital-based therapy program for tuberculosis patients. Three other hospital-based programs will be consolidated with reduced staffing for “greater efficiency.”

The closings, and the layoffs, are to be in effect by June.

Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

Forest City in the News

PR Newswire, Forest City Enterprises Notice of Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year 2008 Earnings Conference Call

CLEVELAND, March 23 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc., (NYSE: FCEA) (NYSE: FCEB) will release its fourth-quarter and full-year 2008 financial results on Monday, March 30, 2009, and will hold a conference call with investors on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. ET to discuss these results. Investors are invited to dial into the conference call hosted by Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer.

The conference call is scheduled for 11:00 A.M. ET, Tuesday, March 31, 2009. To participate, dial 888-679-8034 using access code 18297673, approximately five minutes before the call. Tell the operator you wish to join the Forest City 4th Quarter Earnings Conference Call. (International callers, please dial 617-213-4847)

A live webcast of the call will also be available online at www.forestcity.net.

Please use the following link to pre-register for this conference call. Callers who pre-register will be given a unique PIN to gain immediate access to the call and bypass the live operator. You may pre-register at any time, including up to and after the call start time.

To pre-register please go to: https://www.theconferencingservice.com/prereg/key.process?key=P8K9QVFQF

The call will be replayed from March 31, 2009, 2:00 P.M. ET to April 30, 2009, 11:59 P.M. ET. The replay number is 888-286-8010, access code 88419381. (International callers, please dial 617-801-6888) The webcast replay will be available at www.forestcity.net .

If you have questions, please call AnnMarie Fenske at Forest City, 216-621-6060.

Brownstoner, A Touch of Glass for 80 Dekalb
The bay windows are being installed as work continues on Forest City Ratner's 80 DeKalb Ave. project:

Sometime between last Tuesday, when we posted Development Watch, and this weekend, when we drove by again, 80 Dekalb got its first windows and facade panels. Interestingly, they are not a flush design; instead they are three-sided, like half a hexagon, meaning that all those protrusions are going to be interior, not little balconies.

GlobeSt.com, TOD Stalled, Not Forgotten

A Forest City exec at a panel discussion on transit-oriented developement hosted by the Urban Land Institute is keeping an eye on the next wave:

“The last transit-oriented boom was really driven by condos, but during the next upturn, what’s going to be the market driver?”

Answers included mixed use, and small community centers. [Senior VP of development for Forest City Residential Inc. Renata] Simril’s answer: “The 75 million eco-boomers who are entering college now. They are going to be the next wave of renters.”

NoLandGrab: Simril likely said or meant "echo-boomers." To say that the recent transit-oriented boom was really driven by condos is overlooking the fact that the boom was actually fueled by access to easy credit. While it is helpful to look at demographic data, that's only part of the picture.

Simril also likely said or meant "7.5 million," not 75 million. The US Census Bureau currently estimate total college enrollment at 15.9 million students. Of course, Atlantic Yards watchers know well that Forest City sometimes plays loose with the "facts."

FCE-A climbs back over $4 mark

Trading on average volume, common stock in Forest City Enterprises spent the day trading above $4, to close at $4.80 (not like we're paying attention or anything).

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

PRESS RELEASE: PASCRELL REQUESTS GEITHNER INTERVENE IN NAMING RIGHTS AGREEMENT BETWEEN BARCLAYS, PROPOSED NETS ARENA IN BROOKLYN

PASCRELL: FEDERAL MONEY FOR FINANCIAL STABILITY, NOT PRICEY MARKETING SCHEMES

WASHINGTON—U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-08) today requested that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner intervene in the naming rights agreement between Barclays PLC and the proposed Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn on the grounds that Barclays is the recipient of $8.5 billion dollars in bailout money from U.S. taxpayers through credit default swap payments by AIG.

“I believe that any further payments of taxpayer money, whether through TARP or the Federal Reserve System, be conditioned on the cancellation of any stadium or arena naming-rights agreements that may be in place,” stated Pascrell a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means. “Federal money was made available to banks and companies like AIG in order to stabilize the financial system and free up credit markets, not for high priced marketing opportunities.”

[The text of the letter can be found after the jump.]

March 23, 2009

The Honorable Timothy F. Geithner
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 3134
Washington, DC 20220

Dear Secretary Geithner:

I am writing to request that the Department of Treasury take all appropriate and legal steps to reign in the questionable business practices engaged in by Barclays PLC. Specifically, Barclays plans on spending almost $400 million for the naming rights to the proposed Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn, despite recently receiving $8.5 billion dollars in bailout money from U.S. taxpayers through credit default swap payments by AIG.

As you are aware, Barclays is one of the world’s largest financial services companies. While the company is headquartered in London, it has operations that stretch across six continents, including a significant presence in the U.S. Like most banks, Barclays’ business has suffered and continues to weaken as a result of the current global economic crisis, leading to thousands of employees being laid off worldwide, including here in the United States.

However, this has not stopped the company from moving ahead with their plan to spend $400 million over the next twenty years to have their name on an arena. This situation is aggravated by the fact that the arena’s construction will be financed, in part, by taxpayer dollars. Considering Barclays’ financial position, the recent revelation that they have received almost $8.5 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars through AIG, and that taxpayer money will be contributed to the funding of this stadium project, I believe that allowing this naming rights deal to remain in place makes little sense for both taxpayers and Barclays.

I understand that the Treasury Department allowed CitiGroup, which had a similar naming rights agreement with the New York Mets in place, to move forward even after receiving federal bailout money.

However, unlike that deal, construction on the Atlantic Yards arena has not yet broken ground. Furthermore, press reports indicate that the agreement between Barclays and the Atlantic Yards arena includes an opt-out clause and no money has exchanged hands.

I believe it is appropriate for the U.S. to request that Barclays cancel this naming-rights agreement as a result of the payments made to it through AIG and respectfully request that you take action to that effect. Furthermore, I believe that any further payments of taxpayer money, whether through TARP or the Federal Reserve System, be conditioned on the cancellation of any stadium or arena naming-rights agreements that may be in place. Federal money was made available to banks and companies like AIG in order to stabilize the financial system and free up credit markets, not for high priced marketing opportunities. We must do everything in our power to ensure that taxpayer money is being effectively utilized to restore our economy and return our country to prosperity.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any further information. I thank you for your attention to this matter, and look forward to the favor of your reply.

Sincerely,

Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Member of Congress

Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

March 23, 2009

Putting a stake in the heart of Dodgers nostalgia, new book on O’Malley points out that Brooklyn had rebounded by the 1960s

Atlantic Yards Report

ForeverBlue.jpg Much has been made of how Bruce Ratner's acquisition of the NJ Nets will ultimately fill the hole left in the heart of Brooklyn, over 50 years ago, by the Dodgers' exodus to Southern California. However a new book about the storied franchise peeks behind the myth of the Dodgers and serves to question the pr strategy for NYC's most ambitious single-source mixed-use development project.

Interestingly, an interview with the author prompts WNYC radio host Leonard Lopate to reveal how he feels about Bruce Ratner's overdevelopment scheme.

For Atlantic Yards watchers, probably the most significant thing about Michael D’Antonio's revisionist biography of Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley, Baseball's Most Controversial Owner,and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles, is his effort to put Dodgers nostalgia in perspective, blaming it on Roger Kahn’s book The Boys of Summer, and his explanation of why the Brooklyn Dodgers were America’s team in a way that no team today--let alone the Brooklyn Nets--could be.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

Forest City in the News

Though we're trying to keep track of news about other projects being developed by Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, here's one story we missed earlier this month, which includes an interesting twist.

VoegeleFCE.jpg MARCH 2 — Forest City Enterprises announces that The Village at Gulfstream Park secures tax-incremental financing (TIFs), where future gains from the taxes generated by the project are used to retire the debt. The project is being developed jointly by Forest City Enterprises and Manga Entertainment.

PR Newswire, Forest City Reaches Agreement on Tax-Increment Financing, Announces 32 Tenants for The Village at Gulfstream Park

CLEVELAND, March 2 -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA) (NYSE: FCEB) today announced that it has reached agreement with the City of Hallandale Beach, Fla., for up to $900,000 per year for 15 years of tax-increment financing (TIF) for The Village at Gulfstream Park, a 490,000 square foot, high-end retail and entertainment destination currently under construction in the City. The Company also announced 32 top-tier tenants for the center, which is expected to open in the first quarter of 2010.

Commenting on the TIF agreement, Charles A. Ratner, Forest City president and chief executive officer said, "This is a milestone in our relationship with the City of Hallandale Beach and represents the creation of a true public-private partnership to make the Village at Gulfstream Park a reality. Given continuing challenges in the credit markets, creative solutions such as this are needed to ensure the strength and viability of new development. We deeply appreciate the commitment this represents on the part of the City. Today's tenant announcements are the first of many steps in returning that commitment."

Proceeds from the TIF will be used to assist in retiring debt incurred by the project for infrastructure improvements.
...
The Village at Gulfstream Park is located on Florida's Atlantic coast, between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, on U.S. Route 1, less than two miles east of Interstate 95. It is anchored by Florida's premier thoroughbred racing track, and is being developed by subsidiaries or affiliates of Forest City and Magna Entertainment Corp.

Co-Star Group, Village at Gulfstream Park Opening in 2010

GlobeSt.com, Gulfstream Park Project Secures TIF

MARCH 6 — A local paper reports that the project is bucking national economic trends.

South Florida Times, Shops, theater, nightclub coming to Gulfstream Park

Although the country is in the midst of a national economic situation, the Village at Gulfstream Park is currently in the process of constructing Phase 1 of the $244.7 million project that will bring more than 13 restaurants, 17 shops and two upscale and trendy night clubs to the establishment.

Large cranes hang high over the skies of 201 South Federal Highway in Hallandale Beach, and men in yellow hardhats continue to layer block over block, as the general manager of Gulfstream Park, the developers of Forest City Commercial Development and the retailers wait in hope and anxiety for the final product.

The vision is to have the Village at Gulfstream Park be the leisure, fashion and entertainment destination in South Florida with quality dining, exceptional retail outlets, exciting entertainment and of course, one of America’s thoroughbred racing facilitie

MARCH 6 — Magna Entertainment, the largest owner and operator of thoroughbred racetracks in the nation, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Forest City offers a grim reminder of Magna's "obligations."

The Miami Herald, Gulfstream Park's owner seeks Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Magna Entertainment, the nation's largest horse track operator -- and owner of South Florida's Gulfstream Park -- has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and will sell Gulfstream as part of a deal to keep its racetracks open.
...
Nevertheless, Magna's bankruptcy filing does raise questions about Gulfstream's future. To keep its racetracks open, the company arranged a six-month, $62.5 million financing package through a subsidiary of MI Developments, Magna's largest shareholder.

That deal also calls for Magna to sell Gulfstream and other properties to either MI Developments or a third party that may emerge during the Chapter 11 process in Delaware.

Though South Florida's housing market is in a slump, Gulfstream's Hallandale Beach property is highly valuable, which could prompt interest from developers.
...
So far, the project is only 50 percent leased. Ultimately it will have 70 stores covering more than 410,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space, plus 80,000 square feet of office space.

Magna partnered with Forest City Commercial Group on The Village. Brian Ratner, who heads Forest City's East Coast development team, said of Magna, "They've honored their obligations and we expect them to continue to do that.''

As an outsider, it's difficult to conclude where this leaves Forest City. However, we know that this is one of the few Forest City projects on which work has continued, and that executives in Cleveland who are "proactively managing debt maturities" didn't need another cloud of uncertainty hanging over their heads. Though Brian Ratner keeps his cool, you have to wonder if Magna will continue to honor its obligations, when the reason for filing for Chapter 11 in the first place is to find relief from just such obligations.

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

Looking at the Times's article on the effects of economics on sports

The Sunday New York Times ran a story entitled "In Economic Downturn, Corporate Ties Put Bind on Sports." This might have been a good opportunity for The Times to catch up on some reporting it hasn't done regarding the New Jersey Nets. Norman Oder helpfully fills in some of the gaps. (Italicized sections are quotes from The Times.)

The worst economy since the Great Depression is settling over the fields, courts, tracks, luxury suites and boardrooms of professional sports.

The N.F.L. cut 169 jobs, and its commissioner reduced his salary by about 20 percent. The N.B.A. shed a tenth of its staff, and ESPN will not fill 200 vacant jobs. The United States Olympic Committee laid off 54 workers to cut millions from its budget, and Nascar teams have laid off hundreds of employees.

...Teams have frozen or cut ticket prices, and some, like the Nets and the Minnesota Timberwolves, will give refunds to season-ticket holders if they lose their jobs.

Unmentioned: the Nets have also pursued the attention-grabbing but (likely) not very useful Snowbird Ticket Exchange.

...

Pro sports were once thought to be more resistant than other industries to recessions, but this is no ordinary downturn. Teams, leagues and tours have become increasingly reliant on revenue from corporate sponsorships, advertising and luxury suites, and are likely to suffer more than they did in previous downturns. The financial and automotive industries, so heavily invested in the marketing of sports, are undergoing upheavals that have required government bailouts and rounds of layoffs to survive.

Unmentioned: the recommitment of Barclays Capital to the Brooklyn arena, a situation that raises questions not only about the funneling of money from AIG but also whether the Frank Gehry arena to which Barclays originally agreed still would be built.

...

The Indiana Pacers are losing $30 million this season and are among 15 N.B.A. teams in the red. The 30-team league would not say if the Pacers were one of 12 teams that borrowed from a recent $200 million addition to its $1.7 billion credit facility. The new credit, Commissioner David Stern said, is an affirmation of strength, not financial weakness.

“Owners can borrow at better terms than they can get individually,” he said, adding that the additional credit is not crisis-related but can be used for various purposes.

Unmentioned is the Nets' borrowing of $20 million, which, as far as I can tell, is an effort to stanch the team's losses.

...

Closer to home, P.S.E.&G., New Jersey’s largest utility, made a decision that, if emulated in stadiums and arenas nationwide, will erode bottom lines. It chose to save $400,000 a year by not renewing its leases on luxury boxes at the Izod Center, the Prudential Center, the minor league Riverfront Stadium and Giants Stadium (although it has chosen to rent one at the new Giants-Jets stadium), and at two arts facilities.

That means more losses for the Nets. And it raises questions about any corporation's willingness to commit to luxury suites at the yet-unbuilt Barclays Center. Remember, Nets' uber-marketer Brett Yormark recently claimed that 20% of the suites have been sold--the same number claimed last May.

link

Posted by steve at 1:49 AM

March 22, 2009

The City Realty: Atlantic Yards (The Barclay Center)

Manhattan Magazine

What could be a greater obstacle to developement than the sudden disappearance of trillions of dollars in worldwide assests? Could it be a few curmudgeonly Brooklynites armed with lawsuits? What if the two deliver a one-two punch?

[Click image to read article]

Posted by lumi at 8:30 PM

Sunday Funnies

Atlantic Yards Report, Was the Izod Center 90.7% full Friday night?

ishot-1241.jpg
ishot-1242.jpg

Posted by steve at 10:21 AM

The Xanadu story: a reminder about "public authorities largely operating out of public view" and some sobering AY parallels

Atlantic Yards Report

Who can name a development plan that involves back-room deals done between State agencies and a developer, over-optimistic financial assumptions, and deadlines that just keep getting moved further and further back? You say "Atlantic Yards"? That is one correct answer, but the answer I was looking for was "Xanadu".

See the remarkable parallels to Atlantic Yards including this comparison of two struggling developers:

WNYC pointed out that Colony Capital -- the current private sponsor of Xanadu -- failed to make its November payments on a $360 million loan to creditors.

And the Star-Ledger reported yesterday that workers at the Xanadu site "said they were told they were being let go, but a spokesman for the developer, Meadowlands Xanadu, said the project is not being halted," just delayed.

That echoes the mysterious close of work at the Vanderbilt Yard in Brooklyn, which Forest City Ratner blamed on lawsuits but which workers said (I've been told secondhand) was due to cash flow problems. Remember, FCR made virtually no explanation even to the ESDC.

And parent Forest City Enterprises, apparently trying to avoid the fate of a Colony Capital, is selling prime properties to raise cash and is reevaluating the Beekman Tower in Manhattan and may leave it at 50% of its planned height.

link

Posted by steve at 10:00 AM

What Direction Will The Brooklyn Paper Take?

Noticing New York, Tales of Two Landlords Bridged by an Iconographic Clash

This item includes concern as to whether the Brooklyn Paper's perspective will be skewed by having Bruce Ratner as a landlord now that the paper has been bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Some questions were raised by an earlier endorsement by the Brooklyn Paper for a plan for then-landlords David and Jed Walentas.

The issue of Walentas as Dock Street developer and Brooklyn Paper landlord came up in sharp relief at the City Planning Commission’s Wednesday, March 4, 2009 hearings on the Dock Street project. (See: Saturday, March 14, 2009, At the City Planning Commission Hearings on Proposed Dock Street Project: A Reprise.)

At the CPC hearing, pages of the Brooklyn Paper were introduced into testimonial evidence as substantiation for the supposition that the Dock Street project would not deleteriously detract from the public experience of seeing the bridge. We noted above that the paper editorially supported the project. Pro-Dock Street testimony was delivered that averred that investigative reporting by the paper also substantiated the fact that the “iconic” views of and from the Brooklyn Bridge would not be impaired. That pro-project testimony was thereupon followed up by testimony from those opposing the exceptionably large project pointing out that the Brooklyn Paper’s position and reporting were suspicious and ought to be discredited due to the fact that the Walentases were the paper’s landlord.

Atlantic Yards Report, Will the Brooklyn Paper start distributing Brooklyn Tomorrow?

How could I have forgotten? Perhaps the clearest dependence on/capitulation to developer Forest City Ratner by the New York Post is the production of, by the Courier-Life staff, the annual Brooklyn Tomorrow advertorial distributed by both the Post and the Courier-Life.

That advertorial has included rapturous coverage of Atlantic Yards and, not coincidentally, significant advertising from Forest City Ratner.

That raises a question: will the Brooklyn Paper, now a part of the Post's Community Newspaper Group, start distributing Brooklyn Tomorrow? Will its reporters write for it?

We'll see in June.

(Thanks to longstanding Ratner foe Patti Hagan for the reminder.)

Posted by steve at 9:21 AM

Forest City in the News

Atlantic Yards Report, In Baltimore, Forest City's project is stalled, too

Norman Oder analyzes a story from National Public Radio's Marketplace (Bad economy stalls Baltimore makeover) about Forest City Enterprises' Science + Technology project.

Half the labs aren't operating; Forest City's leasing head Scott Levitan says, "The challenge now is to ride out the storm, get over the Valley of Death."

The problem: the business model has changed in just three years, as big firms have chosen to buy smaller ones than invest in basic research.

Meanwhile residents who sold their homes for the project are waiting for the promised replacements, but rehabbed houses still await construction loans from banks.

...

Levitan says Forest City has invested $47 million, while the city, the state, and philanthropic partners have put up $120 million--a nice deal compared to Atlantic Yards, where the direct investment vs. direct subsidy would $250 million vs. $305 million, except that the other public benefits total hundreds of millions, perhaps more than a billion dollars.

Which means Forest City isn't walking away.

Let's go to the tape:
LEVITAN: No, ha, ha, ha. We're not.

A nervous laugh about an ambitious project trying to tough out the recession

They're not walking from AY either, I'd bet. It could be Forest City's last project standing

Posted by steve at 8:53 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Noticing New York, Willets Point Lawsuit Points Out . . .

This wide-ranging entry of Noticing New York covers:

References to the proposed Atlantic Yards project and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) abound. One example compares AIG with FCR:

Consider the similarities: Like Forest City Ratner, huge AIG was headed for bankruptcy. Essentially, AIG was bankrupt except for the fact that the government stepped into a subsidizing partnership relationship with AIG. Through its subsidies, the government owns 79.9% of AIG. Similarly, the government is subsidizing Atlantic Yards so heavily with taxpayer money that it is paying for substantially more than half of the $4.4 + billion price tag of Atlantic Yards. In each case we are discovering how rushed and badly thought out the government’s provision of subsidies has turned out to be.

Cato Institute, Kelo v. City of New London

Here is a recently posted video that gives an overview of the Supreme Court decision allowing a broad definition of public use so that property may be taken by the State. In the case of Kelo, the result has been what is now feared for the proposed Atlantic Yards development: job creation only for demolition crews and a development that never happens.

Posted by steve at 8:20 AM

March 21, 2009

Sign of the times: Forest City Ratner buys welcome ad in the Brooklyn Paper

Atlantic Yards Report

This week, Forest City Ratner welcomed its new tenant, the Community Newspaper Group of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, to its new office at MetroTech.

The Courier-Life chain was well on its way; now that the Brooklyn Paper has joined Murdoch's fold, the landlord ran a full-page ad (above; click to enlarge) on the back page of this week's Brooklyn Paper, as well as an ad in the Courier-Life.

It's the first Forest City Ratner advertisement in the Brooklyn Paper in recent years, at least as far as I remember. The developer has been happy to advertise in the Courier-Life, however.

Will the developer keep advertising in those papers? Will that advertising have any influence on the editorial pages or even news coverage?

We'll see, but I did speculate that the Brooklyn Paper's news coverage of Atlantic Yards will diminish somewhat (as it already has), and its editorial criticism will diminish even more.

link

NoLandGrab: Also interesting in this issue of the Brooklyn Paper is a page-two full page ad (link to a PDF) for Mike Bloomberg, an Atlantic Yards supporter.

More coverage...

New York Times A Scrappy Local Paper Ponders Its New Parent

“The Brooklyn Paper’s always had a very independent feel, and we’ve been told to continue that feel,” said Mr. Kuntzman, whose paper is peppered with playful headlines with exclamation points. “We’re a scrappy paper. We always have been; we always will be.”

Some media-vigilant Brooklynites are skeptical. For example, while The Brooklyn Paper has been generally critical of the controversial Atlantic Yards development project, other News Corporation publications, such as The New York Post, have supported it.

“I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that The Brooklyn Paper’s news coverage of Atlantic Yards will diminish somewhat (as it already has), and its editorial criticism will diminish even more,” wrote Norman Oder, a critic of the development, on his blog Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by steve at 7:51 AM

Your Building, Too, Could Be Declared “Blight”

The Preservationist

This article points out the importance of the blight study presented by Forest City Ratner's tool, the Empire State Development Corporation. What has been especially surprising for those involved with the Atlantic Yards fight is how much broader New York State's definition is for "blight" compared to most people's definition.

To most of us, “urban blight” means abandoned buildings, broken windows, and rubble-strewn vacant lots. But a number of other, seemingly minor, things can cause a property to be declared “blight” under existing law. One of the most surprising blight factors is “underutilization.”

An official “Blight Study” can be a devastating tool in the hands of the state – especially when it wants to seize private property for a politically favored project. A cynical architect friend of mine, wise in the ways of urban development, declared: “Show me an urban block – any block — and I can write a report that will show that it is “blighted.”

This reality became painfully clear to a group of us who have been trying to block an obscenely over-scaled $4-billion mega-development that a private developer – allied with politically powerful forces in New York State – has been trying to impose on brownstone Brooklyn. To provide a basis for the public subsidies needed to prop up the mega-project, a key legal tool of the Empire State Development Corp. – acting in concert with the developer — has been the official “Blight Study.” The Blight Study was used to condemn an area that was already undergoing revitalization through renovations being carried out by individual property owners. But the pace and scale of neighborhood rejuvenation was deemed not sufficiently grandiose by state planners and the private developer. And thus the $4-billion Atlantic Yards project was suddenly presented to the community as a “done deal.”

...

Brownstone Brooklyn is now left with the ultimate irony: All the buildings that were “blight” only in the eyes of New York State’s lawyers are demolished. They have been replaced by vast swaths of state-sanctioned urban wasteland (see photo) that is clearly “blight” by anyone’s definition. And this legal eyesore will now disfigure the urban landscape for the foreseeable future. Something is wrong with this picture!

article

Posted by steve at 7:38 AM

Ratner May Cut Gehry Beekman Tower in Half

Yonkers Tribune

Yesterday's Develop Don't Destroy press release finds its way to Yonkers, home of Forest City's Ridge Hill development.

The inability to complete more than half of a single tower in Manhattan—propped up financially by Liberty Bonds from New York City’s Housing Development Corporation—does not bode well for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project.

article

Posted by steve at 7:34 AM

Towering inferno

Gumby Fresh

Gari N. Corp, who somehow manages to make things like tranches and subordinated debt sound droll, ponders what the Beekman Tower haircut portends for New York City's other Bruce Ratner — Frank Gehry collaboration.

What does this mean for the Atlantic Yards situation? The differences are legion, in particular the fact that probably the first bit of AY to come to market is the arena, which will have a different, though not necessarily better, economic profile than Beekman. But the fact that a project with this bank letter of credit enhancement is struggling quite probably blocks off the last best hope of finding someone to guarantee the AY bonds, since the bond insurers really aren't that interested in terrible basketball team relocations right now. A commenter ages back pointed to the Beekman financing as one model for what FCR might do on AY. I think by now it's a shining example of the perils of applying such a solution to the doomed Brooklyn arena.

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Posted by eric at 12:40 AM

March 20, 2009

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Ratner May Cut Gehry Beekman Tower in Half

If The Developer Can Only Build Half a Tower That’s Already Financed, How Is He Going To Build Atlantic Yards’ Arena and 16 Skyscrapers?

ESDC Needs to Provide Some Answers

New York, New York — Developer Forest City Ratner, it appears, is going to stop vertical construction 38 stories short of completing its 76-story, 900-unit Downtown Manhattan, Frank Gehry-designed tower.

According to WNYC-radio and Crain's, all signs point to a tower half the planned height, and the developer has not denied those reports.

One year ago Forest City Ratner announced with much fanfare the securing of $680 million in financing for the whole 76 stories. With financing in place, why would the company halve the project? Presumably, the souring housing market, the global financial crisis and the overall poor performance of Forest City Ratner’s Cleveland-based parent company Forest City Enterprises (FCE-A) have all played a role.

The inability to complete more than half of a single tower in Manhattan—propped up financially by Liberty Bonds from New York City’s Housing Development Corporation—does not bode well for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project.

“Let’s get this straight. Bruce Ratner can’t build half of his Downtown Manhattan tower, even with financing, but he claims he can finance and build the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, which includes a $1 billion 18,000-seat arena and, not one, but 16 skyscrapers, including a hotel, an office tower and 6,430 units of housing. Who does he think he is kidding? He may have cut Gehry’s building in half, but that doesn't make him a magician,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

link

New York State, through the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), is still supporting the Atlantic Yards plan, including the arena, for which Forest City Ratner has neither secured the financing nor the land. Nobody really knows what the arena cost is, though the last reported estimate, one year ago, was $950 million. Meanwhile, the City and State are keeping the current arena construction costs top secret, refusing to divulge the costs even in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, claiming that the information is a “trade secret.”

Goldstein concluded, “New York State’s continued unconditional and unquestioned support for Atlantic Yards, especially in light of the apparent problems with the Beekman Tower project, is incredibly reckless. It’s time for the ESDC to give some answers to the public, starting with a simple one: what is the estimated cost of the Barclays Center arena?”

Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning March 16, 2009 and March 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

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

NoLandGrab: When is an update not an update? When nothing has changed or happened on the alleged "construction" site. And after we noted that the ESDC had slightly altered the normal format in its most recent update, they seem to have reverted to form.

Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

Delia Hunley-Adossa: The Candidate Speaks

The Local (Fort Greene/Clinton Hill) [NY Times blog]
by Andy Newman

While The Local couldn't get in to the kick-off event last night for Delia Hunley-Adossa's campaign to unseat City Council Member (and staunch Atlantic Yards opponent) Tish James, one attendee recorded the proceedings and passed it along.

Guess which Brooklyn megadevelopment project did not make a cameo.

Ms. Hunley-Adossa, 52, is a prominent supporter of the Atlantic Yards project, which if it gets built is expected to create thousands of construction jobs. As the executive director of a non-profit called Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, she is the chairwoman of the committee of nonprofits that signed the Community Benefits Agreement with Forest City Ratner.
...

Although Atlantic Yards is the most obvious point of divergence between Ms. Hunley-Adossa and Ms. James, one of the few politicians in the city who opposes the project, Ms. Hunley-Adossa did not mention Atlantic Yards in her 15-minute speech last night.

article

NoLandGrab: What does it say about the state of backing for Atlantic Yards when a "prominent supporter" of the project, running against the most outspoken officeholding opponent of that project, avoids even mentioning the project at her campaign's launch event?

And as one commenter points out, if Tish James is "one of the few politicians in the city who opposes the project," where have all the supporters gone?

More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Who's supporting Hunley-Adossa against James in the 35th? Construction unions

Well, challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa may or may not garner direct support from employees of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner in her challenge to unseat incumbent Letitia James in the race for the 35th District seat in the City Council, but, thanks to the New York Times's blog The Local, we know who is supporting her: construction unions that have rallied in support of the project.

Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

Beekman Street Tower, questions and speculation

The news reported yesterday by WNYC and Crain's NY Business that Forest City Ratner (FCR) might chop the Beekman St. Tower in half at 38 stories has raised many questions and fueled some local speculation.

Here's a quick round-up of responses:

DDDB.net, If Ratner Can't Do Beekman Tower, How on Earth Can He Do Atlantic Yards?
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the coalition group spearheading the fight against FCR's Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, had this to say:

So. Let's see. Forest City Ratner, it appears, is going to stop 38 stories short of its 76-story, 900-unit Downtown Manhattan, Frank Gehry designed tower, which is already well underway. But the same Forest City Ratner claims it can finance and build a one-billion-dollar-18,000-seat arena and 16 skyscrapers including a hotel, an office tower and 6,430 units of housing, aka the as-of-yet commenced $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

And the only things stopping the Atlantic Yards project are lawsuits...so they say.

BeekmanStUnderConst-AYR.jpg Atlantic Yards Report, If FCR's Beekman Tower faces 50% cut, what does that say about Atlantic Yards promises (and designs)?
Watchdog journalist Norman Oder posted a news round-up along with some important questions and analysis:

What value would remain at 38 stories?

Though a 38-story Beekman Tower would surely represent an enormous compromise for Gehry's vision, it still could find a place in the market. "We're selling views," [FCR executive MaryAnne] Gilmartin said last October. "From the moment you step into the apartment, you see sky.” Each apartment has three vistas, “which is extraordinary… When you clear the 11th floor, there’s not much to compete with it.”

What is to become of the Liberty Bond financing?

The $680 million in financing for the project—the largest construction loan in the company’s history (according to the Trib)--was announced a year ago.

The bonds issued by the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) are a combination of $190 million in tax-exempt Liberty Bonds, aimed to revive Lower Manhattan, and $476.1 million in taxable bonds. The New York State Housing Finance Agency contributed $13.9 million from its Liberty Bond allocation.
...
I asked NYC HDC spokesperson Catie Marshall yesterday how much the developer would be allowed to spend. "The funding for a project such as the Beekman is generally done in tranches, thus it is phased (sort of pay-as-you-go)," she responded. "In the case of the Beekman, the bonds are variable rate and only the first two tranches have been issued. In general terms, if a project is altered and does not need all of the funding, the remaining tranche(s) will not close. It’s pretty straight forward."

The Tribeca Trib, Ratner: 76-story Beekman Tower Design Not Shrinking, Yet
The Trib reports that FCR claims that the design HASN'T changed:

WNYC reported that the city’s Department of Buildings issued the developers a permit for work to be done on the roof of the building. The report concluded that the permit “treats the top of the current [38-story] structure as a roof.”

According to the developers, the “roof” referenced in the permit is actually the first of three setbacks included in the building’s design, not the proposed top of the tower.

“The design has not changed,” a company spokeswoman said.

Curbed.com, Trouble Surfacing at Frank Gehry's Beekman Tower
That's "trouble" with a capital "T" that rhymes with "B" that stands for "Beekman":

...the underlying meaning is clear: Things aren't quite going as planned at the legendary starchitect's signature addition to the New York City skyline. Is Bruce Ratner just playing hardball with unions, or with the government to get added subsidies? Hopefully. Real estate bust or not, what would a half-built skyscraper left rotting near the Brooklyn Bridge do to the image of the Financial District as a reborn residential neighborhood-on-the-rise? Or, if it's completed at half its envisioned size, to the legacy of Gehry?

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

Beekman Street Stumped

The big news yesterday was Forest City Ratner's (FCR) admission that the company was "conducting a study to assess costs, risks and overall timing" for the Beekman St. Tower project. That's developerspeak for "salvaging a project that's already under construction."

BeekmanSt38.gif If FCR actually caps off the Beekman St. tower at a stumpy 38 stories, the building would become a highly visible iconic stump, noteworthy for what it is not. However, it is equally noteworthy that FCR might consider downsizing a project for which it has already secured financing.

A clearer picture is beginning to emerge of a company that has endured waves of layoffs, has been scrambling to renegotiate looming debt obligations, and has halted or slowed construction wherever possible. All outward appearances indicate that parent company Forest City Enterprises could be experiencing a dire cash-flow problem. [If we're wrong, then the company should stop acting like that's the case.]

This also might explain why FCR has been loudly proclaiming its commitment to the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise project in Brooklyn, while trying to sell off some of its better performing income-producing assets. The real estate company is already stuck with the money-hemorrhaging NJ Nets, but the rest of Atlantic Yards is stalled and has relatively limited overhead costs (aside from lobbyists), and may represent the company's best opportunity for growth if it can weather the current financial storm.

With 4th-quarter results due out in April, it will be interesting if the conference call with analysts will be more business as usual, or if institutional investors will manage to get some real answers as to where this company thinks it is headed.

Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

Forest City Stockwatch

Though overexamining the daily trading activity of a single stock can be uninformative in the overall scheme of things, we noticed that somebody (or somebodies) was dumping shares of Forest City Enterprises (NYSE: FCE-A) late yesterday (March 19, 2009).

FCE-A traded in a narrow range almost all day, then, on late spiking volume, traded lower by several percentage points, to close just below the $4 mark. Just before the closing bell, more than a quarter of a million shares traded around $4 a share.

[Click graphic to enlarge.]

We're wondering if this could this have been a panic sell based upon news that Forest City might cap off the "iconic" Frank Gehry-designed Beekman St. Tower at a mere 38 stories, or if shorts like Metropolitan Capital Advisors' Karen Finerman are anticipating further troubles.

Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

Forest City in the News

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Merchandise Mart developer tells Forest City to get out of the way; says mall site is superior to Tower City

It appears that no amount of whining will get Merchandise Mart to agree to a deal to build on land owned by Forest City Enterprises (parent company of Atlantic Yards developer Forest CIty Ratner), but that hasn't stopped the increasingly desparate development company from trying to force a deal.

Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. rejected Forest City's offer to sell property behind Tower City, listing 17 reasons for the decision. Then MMPI asked the Cleveland-based firm to get out of the way and let the complex be built beneath downtown's historic mall.

"The mall site is so clearly superior to the Tower City site," MMPI Senior Vice President Mark Falanga said in a phone interview. "Forest City's got to recognize this. They've got to allow the process to move forward and accept the reality."

Fresno Bee, Downtown doesn't need Forest City's help

While the City of Fresno was waiting on Forest City Enterprises to transform a portion of the downtown area, economic revialization was happening without the subsidy-sucking eminent domain-abusing mega-development company. Now that Forest City has left the city at the altar, folks are recognizing the importance of organic redevelopment.

No, downtown Fresno has not been waiting idly for Forest City.

Ask the people behind Kebab Express (2139 Kern St.), Fresno's Newsroom Café (901 L St.) and the new Teazer World Tea Market at the Galleria (2405 Capitol Street #104) -- all three are new downtown businesses opening this month.

If this Forest City fracture does anything, it opens up opportunities for more local business to thrive in downtown Fresno.

Many places in Forest City's 85-acre radius were left in business purgatory, awaiting news on whether they'd fit in Forest City's plans ... or not.

So again, we don't need Forest City.

We've got people.

Posted by lumi at 4:58 AM

Developer cuts tower from 76 stories to 38

Gehry Tower near City Hall put on hold 38 stories short of goal

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

The Beekman Tower, the Frank Gehry-designed luxury rental building in lower Manhattan, has been put on hold 38 stories short of its planned height of 76 floors.

Developer Forest City Ratner Cos. says that work will continue on the lower stories, but added that no additional floors will be added pending an evaluation of costs.

The tower will have a 100,000 square-foot public school for pre-K and eighth graders, ground floor retail space, and an ambulatory care center for its next door neighbor—the New York Downtown Hospital. The building was to have roughly 900 apartments with stunning views of lower Manhattan and the nearby Brooklyn Bridge and was expected to open next year.

“Given the current economy, we are conducting a study to assess costs, risks and overall timing,” said a spokesperson for the company, in a statement. “Work is continuing on the building including on the school and we should have some conclusive answers shortly.”
...

Last year, Forest City Ratner closed $680 million in financing for the mixed-used development—the largest construction loan in the company’s history. It was seen as one of the few projects in the city that was bucking the overall real estate meltdown as construction continued. Construction on the foundation of the Beekman Tower began in 2006.

article

Posted by eric at 1:31 AM

March 19, 2009

Help Save Wildlife with the NJ Nets!

The following e-mail message from the Wildlife Conservation Society hit our in-box today, headed by the subject line above.

Great Discounts for Net Games for Bronx Zoo Supporters

In celebration of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Earth Month and the first annual RUN FOR THE WILD this April, the New Jersey Nets are giving WCS "friends and family" major discounts on tickets to upcoming games.

WCS Members and friends will receive special ticket prices for the following games:

  • Nets vs. Miami Heat (Friday, March 20th, 2009 at 7:30 pm)
  • Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks (Monday, March 30th, 2009 at 7:30 pm)
  • Nets vs. Detroit Pistons (Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 at 7:30 pm)
  • Nets vs. Philadelphia 76ers (Sunday, April 5th, 2009 at 7:30 pm) ***
  • Nets vs. Orlando Magic (Saturday, April 11th, 2009 at 7:30 pm)
  • Nets vs. Charlotte Bobcats (Monday, April 13th, 2009 at 7:30 pm)

Special ticket price:

Lower level (Sections 106,111,119,125) - Regular price is $110 - WCS Special: $75 each

Lower level (Sections 101-103, ,113-117, 127, 128) - Regular price is $80 - WCS Special: $50 each

Upper level (Side-view of court)- Regular price is $78 - WCS Special: $45 each

Upper level (all remaining except for behind the basket) - Regular price is $40 - WCS Special: $30 each

In addition, the Nets will donate $5 for each ticket sold in conjunction with this offer back to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

*** April 5th - NJ Nets versus Philadelphia 76ers Game: Ticket holders will be treated to gorilla-themed showcase featuring entertainment and prize giveaways dedicated to Run for the Wild and gorilla conservation.

Unfortunately for WCS members, it seems they're being unfairly penalized. As Norman Oder reported on Atlantic Yards Report this morning, the Nets are offering $80 and $40 tickets for that April 1st game vs. Detroit for $20 and $10, respectively, in certain promotional emails. That's $30 and $20, respectively, less than the prices available via the Wildlife Conservation Society offering.

Our advice to WCS members? Buy the tickets being offered via the Nets' email campaign, donate $10 or $15 to the WCS, and you'll still come out ahead.

Or better yet, donate all of what you'd pay for a Nets ticket, and save yourself the schlep to a half-empty arena to watch a team that is currently 2-1/2 games out of a playoff spot.

Posted by eric at 1:30 PM

Downtown Housing Complex May Downsize

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

WNYC is reporting this morning that Bruce Ratner's Beekman Tower project in downtown Manhattan may be getting some serious value-engineering — as in, cut in half.

At 76 stories, the Beekman Tower on Spruce street was supposed to be the tallest residential building in New York City. But the developer may stop work at half-the-height because of the poor economy. WNYC's Matthew Schuerman has more.

REPORTER: The sleek, narrow tower, designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, was to include 900 luxury apartments. It was billed as part of the post September 11th recovery for Lower Manhattan. The developer, Forest City Ratner, qualified for extra height by including a school in its bottom floors.

But Ratner may not need that extra height after all. This week, shortly after the structural concrete reached the 38th floor, the developer received a building permit that treats the top of the current structure as a roof.

Neighbors report that consutrction has slowed to just six hours a day. A spokesperson says Ratner has made no final decisions, but is "conducting a study to assess costs, risks and overall timing."

link

NoLandGrab: If WNYC's report is correct, Frank Gehry will likely not be a happy camper. And if this is what they mean by "value engineering," should we anticipate an Atlantic Yards arena in which the games are played on a half-court?

Posted by eric at 8:52 AM

Forest City selling three NYC movie theaters, Queens Place mall

Atlantic Yards Report

Which NYC properties did the parent company of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner put on the auction block to raise much-needed cash?

QueensPlace.jpg

A reader put me out of my misery by forwarding the actual coverage in the newsletter Real Estate Alert:

Eastdil is also marketing the retail properties, which are in three outer boroughs of New York. The largest is Queens Place, in the Elmhurst section of Queens. The 222,000-sf vertical power center, built in 2001, is filled by big-box stores, including Target, Best Buy and shoe retailer DSW.

Also being offered is The Heights on Court Street in Brooklyn (102,000 sf). The property is occupied by a United Artists movie theater and a Barnes & Noble book store. United Artists also leases the other two retail properties up for grabs: the 84,000-sf Steinway Street Theaters in the Astoria section of Queens and the 70,000-sf Forest Avenue Cinemas on Staten Island.

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NoLandGrab: It's nice to know that real estate industry folks are reading Norman Oder's blog. Certainly Bruce Ratner would prefer that was not the case.

For you non-industry folks, "vertical power center" is a euphemism for "mall," which is apparently a four-letter word in the real estate world. Our favorite is still "regional lifestyle center," which as far as we can tell is a large outdoor mall.

Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Follow the money...

The Brooklyn Paper, Tish: Follow the money

Councilwoman Letitia James has found a Brooklyn angle on the nation’s populist outrage against AIG, calling on the British bank Barclays to not use the billions in taxpayer funds funneled to it by the insurance giant on its $400-million naming rights deal at the proposed Atlantic Yards arena.

James (D–Fort Greene) condemned any use of the federal bailout — officially, the Troubled Assets Relief Program — for anything other than jump-starting the economy.

“TARP money is for banks to start lending again, not for Barclays to polish its corporate identity,” said James.

The Daily News I-Team Blog, Trickle-down economics in Brooklyn

Backed by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's flowchart graphic and Councilmember Letitia James' statement, the "I-Team" explains why Barclays' naming-rights deal for the Atlantic Yards arena doesn't pass the smell test:

American taxpayers spend $170 billion to bail out AIG, which spends $8.5 billion to help Barclays, the huge British bank that is choking on its own financial woes. Barclays then says it will honor its $400 million naming-rights deal for Nets owner Bruce Ratner’s proposed Brooklyn arena.

Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

April Fool's? No, Nets tickets really are 75% off

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, they're not giving them away. But Nets tickets for a game against the Detroit Pistons on April 1 really are 75% off.

link

NoLandGrab: The joke is on fans who already bought tickets and are likely not eligible for some sort of refund.

Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

Atlantic Ave @ Vanderbilt

Here's a view of the sky that would be nearly non-existent if Bruce Ratner builds his Atlantic Yards arena and 16 high-rise megaproject. To get an idea of what the sky would look like post-Atlantic Yards buildout, place your hand over the photo just to the left of the lamppost.

Photo by "steffiekeith," via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

Best Western Adds Sunset Park, Downtown Hotels

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

In a recent article covering plans for new hotels in Brooklyn, reporter Linda Collins forgot the "cow pie" meter:

If you believe that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project is NOT in Downtown Brooklyn, despite claims by the overdeveloper's marketing materials, this one is even more of a stretch:

Best Western Downtown Brooklyn, 1324 Atlantic Ave. at Nostrand Avenue in Bed-Stuy, is expected to be the first completed, with its opening anticipated this summer.

Last we checked Bruce Ratner hasn't built the arena or the rest of Atlantic Yards, but someone forgot to tell hotelier Mukesh Patel:

He has had a lot of negative comments about the hotel’s location but he had that for the others, too. “But today, Fourth Avenue is changing,” he said. “Today, everyone is going to Williamsburg.” “This [Atlantic Avenue] location is not far from Downtown Brooklyn, it’s not far from the new stadium and Atlantic Yards development, and it’s easy to reach me: by public transportation — there is a Long Island Railroad station right in front of my property.”

article

Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

Under fire, Finance Commissioner Stark gives up moonlighting job; won't talk about conflict-of-interest situation

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder rounds up coverage of revelations that NYC Finance Commish Martha Stark has a second job (a no-no for City department heads) and ingnored ethical concerns over a subordinate.

In October, New York City Finance Commissioner Martha Stark seemed unflappable when she testified before a Congressional subcommittee regarding the valuations for the Yankee Stadium site, valuations that critics believed were "gamed" to ensure sufficient PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) to repay construction bonds.

Despite Stark's confidence, there was still a big gap between her explanation that, when choosing comparable sites for an assessment, the first priority is proximity, and the city's practice, which included a vastly non-comparable site in Alphabet City, more than seven miles away.

Should the Atlantic Yards arena proceed, Stark's department will have a crucial role in ensuring an assessment commensurate with the bonds. This week, there are new reasons to question Stark's judgment and integrity.

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Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

Forest City in the News

For some reason, Forest City Enterprises's Tower City Medical Mart proposal was so important to the company that they insisted on going back to the developer, Merchandise Mart Properties, with a revised proposal, only to lose out a second time.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Medical mart developer rejects Tower City site as 'nonstarter'

Mark Falanga, senior vice president of Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., said in letters to Cuyahoga County commissioners and Tower City owner Forest City Enterprises that a number of factors make the site a "nonstarter."

wkyc.com, Cleveland: Medical Mart planners reject Tower City site

CLEVELAND -- MMPI, the Chicago firm seeking to build the Medical Mart/Convention Center project is reaffirming its commitment to the site on the malls and resoundingly rejecting Forest City's proposal behind Tower City.

MMPI's MarK Falanga wrote Forest City and County Commissioners calling the Tower City site a non-starter citing sixteen specific issues including reconfiguring the Cuyahoga River, the site's size, inadequate meeting rooms, undesirable views, possible soil contamination and questions about Forest City's estimated costs.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Fair questions about Cleveland's med mart deserve detailed answers -- editorial

Forest City Enterprises's campaign to discredit the winning backroom deal has put doubt in the minds of the editorial board of Cleveland's main citywide daily.

Yahoo Finance, FCE-A

Last we checked, Forest City Enterprises was still trading below five bucks a share.

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

Atlantic Terrace rising

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

Across the street from the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise development plan, the Fifth Avenue Committee is building the Atlantic Terrace affordable-housing development, a stark reminder that if affordable housing was a priority for Atlantic Yards, the megaproject would probably already be underway.

Posted by lumi at 4:40 AM

March 18, 2009

Case closed (and Blight Study bogus): high crime in Sector 88E relates to Ratner's malls, not AY footprint

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder publishes a must-read piece proving the utter bogosity of the Atlantic Yards blight study's claim of high rates of crime in the project's footprint.

I've long argued that claims in the Empire State Development Corporation's Blight Study of high crime in the Atlantic Yards footprint were dubious, first writing in July 2006. The state's evidence was so weak that Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden, in her January 2008 dismissal of the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review, punted on even addressing the crime issue.

Last April, the Daily News, quoted an anonymous source as saying the need for a police presence at the Atlantic Terminal Mall has cut into the ranks of officers policing the rest of the 88th Precinct.

Case closed

Last night, a police official clarified the issue and closed the case: yes, Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls are prime crime locations in the precinct.

"A large percentage of our crime--particularly grand larceny and petit larceny--occurs in the malls," declared Captain Vanessa Kight, 88th Precinct Executive Officer, at the monthly meeting of the 88th Precinct Community and Youth Council, held at the Cadman Memorial Church in Clinton Hill.

Even though four officers are assigned to the malls at various times, there have been 195 crimes so far this calendar year at the malls, notably the snatching of unattended purses. (Here's a list of recent purse-snatchings at Target, in The Local, the New York Times's new blog.)

AYR cites the blight study:

Based on this data, which reflects incidents occurring within the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal shopping and parking areas as well as on the surrounding sidewalks, it is unlikely that a large proportion of crimes in sector 88E occurred on the Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal premises. For example, while there were 39 robberies in sector 88E in 2005, the shopping center security records indicate that no robberies occurred that year at Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal. Similarly, while there were 115 grand larceny crimes reported for sector 88E in 2005, the shopping center security force recorded only one incident of larceny that same year. Although crimes catalogued by the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal security staff are not necessarily the same as those catalogued by the NYPD, the relatively low number of crimes reported at the shopping centers indicates that the high crime rate in sector 88E is more likely a result of crimes occurring on the project site than in Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal.
(Emphasis added)

What a crock.

Remember, Jim Stuckey, then president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group, straightfacedly told WNYC talk show host Brian Lehrer in July 2006, ""The crime in these [AY footprint] areas is substantially higher than areas around it."

What a crock.

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More coverage...

The Local (Fort Greene/Clinton Hill) [NY Times blog], The Day: Captain Tasso Responds

Way back on Day 1, we solicited your questions for the commanding officer of the 88th Precinct, Captain Anthony Tasso.

The Captain has now spoken. He has much to impart, including the shocking but not surprising news that a huge portion of the officially tallied crime in the precinct — perhaps a quarter, perhaps more — consists of purse-snatchings and other grand larcenies at Target and its neighbors at the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls.

This statistic is of interest not only to those concerned about the amount of police manpower and womanpower the mall consumes but to Atlantic Yards critics like Norman Oder. He notes this morning that the mall crime figure gives the lie to the Empire State Development Corporation’s claim that “the high crime rate in sector 88E is more likely a result of crimes occurring on the project site” — that is, the area that AY developer Forest City Ratner convinced the state to declare “blighted” and seize for eminent domain — than in the developer’s two malls.)

BrooklynPaper.com, His ‘Target’ is purses

A deft purse-snatcher robbed three women in Target on Flatbush Avenue while their shopping carts were momentarily unattended on the afternoon of March 15.

The first filching occurred at 2:30 pm when a 30-year-old woman said someone stole her cellphone, debit card and driver’s license from her cart while she bent down to look at a pair of shoes.

An hour and a half later at the same store in the Bruce Ratner-controlled mall, a woman, 32, said a thief took her purse, containing two cellphones and $1,300, when she retrieved some items from a shelf.

NoLandGrab: It's amazing how much crime has increased in Ratner's malls since the Atlantic Yards blight study was concluded.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner Twofer Tuesday

Development Watch: 80 Dekalb Reaches 25 Stories

While its Atlantic Yards project hangs in the balance, Forest City is really cranking on its 365-unit rental project at 80 Dekalb Avenue. When we wrote about it in early February, it was at the 17-floor mark; now it's up to 25 stories. Just 11 more to go!

Petition: Say No to Stimulus Money for Atlantic Yards

This petition already has over 2,000 signatures.

SixShot.com, Jay-Z & Partners Picture New Jersey Nets In Brooklyn In 2011

This hip-hop site puts a Sean Carter spin on Bloomberg.com's Brett Yormark press release interview.

SportingNews.com, Nets CEO: Team in Brooklyn for 2011-12 season

Yet more electronic ink for this single-sourced (Brett Yormark) story.

Huffington Post, Old Growth Media and the Future of News

Steven Berlin Johnson on how the internet has affected the news.

But of course, that's what the web can do. That's one of the main reasons we created outside.in, because I found myself waking up in the morning and turning to local Brooklyn bloggers like Brownstoner, who were suddenly covering local news with a granularity that the Times had never attempted. Two years later, there are close to a thousand bloggers writing about Brooklyn: there are multiple blogs devoted to the Atlantic Yards real estate development....

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

Forest City borrows $20 million from NBA lenders to counter Nets' losses

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder translates yesterday's Forest City press release.

Despite suffering serious losses, more than $30 million a year, the owners of the New Jersey Nets have adjusted a key loan that could help the team limp toward a transition to a new Brooklyn arena.

The Forest City Enterprises press release issued yesterday sounds like gobbledygook....

...[A]s far as I can tell, it means that the owners of the Nets had already borrowed $65 million and not only extended that loan, but lowered the principal on it by taking out a separate $20 million loan.

Reasons to hang on

And, among the 12 teams in the 30-team league that were interested in a loan, the Nets borrowed the maximum. Remember, Forbes reported in December that the Nets were among only seven teams that declined in value, and the Nets experienced the largest retreat, of 13%.

A new arena paid for by naming rights (and maybe just taxpayers), with many luxury suites, would raise the value of the team enormously. That's why, as Forest City Enterprises struggles financially, selling off viable properties, Atlantic Yards likely will be held until the bitter end.

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Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

FCE Press Release: Forest City Announces Extension of Credit Facility for NBA Nets

CLEVELAND, March 17 — Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) announced today that Brooklyn Basketball, LLC, in which the Company has an equity interest, has secured an extension of a $65 million credit facility related to the National Basketball Association (NBA) Nets professional basketball team. At closing, Brooklyn Basketball reduced the principal of the facility to $45 million through a $20 million add-on facility funded by a routine borrowing by the team under the NBA's League-wide Financing Facility.

The credit facility, through JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., has been extended to September 9, 2010, with a second extension available to June 9, 2011. The $20 million add-on is a combination of five-year and seven-year fixed-rate notes.

"This is another example of our companywide strategy of proactively managing debt maturities across the full range of our business interests," said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City president and chief executive officer. "As always, we appreciate the support of our lenders in this effort, and I congratulate our internal team that secured the extension."

link

NoLandGrab: "Lah-di-dah, we're just routinely borrowing more money to pay the Nets' bills. Nothing unusual here."

Forest City CEO Chuck Ratner would have us believe that this is just "another example of [Forest City's] companywide strategy of proactively managing debt maturities." But borrowing money to keep an NBA team operating (one that loses a lot of money) is hardly routine for a real estate development company. And neither is having to borrow a lot of money to help a dozen franchises routine for a professional sports league.

By the way, it comes as no surprise that the Nets were among the NBA's desperate dozen.

Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

Naming deal for arena criticized because of bailout money

NorthJersey.com [Bergen Record]
by John Brennan

DDDB got a fair amount of traction with its press release yesterday connecting the dots between US taxpayers and Bruce Ratner's planned Barclays Center arena.

AIG’s distribution of $8.5 billion in federal bailout money to Barclays Bank means Barclays should call off its $400-million naming-rights deal for a proposed Brooklyn arena, project critics charged Tuesday.

A spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn — a group which for several years has protested the Atlantic Yards arena and housing project — questioned the propriety of Barclays’ continued financial interest in the plan.

The New Jersey Nets are slated to be the marquee tenant at the proposed arena.

“Why are federal taxpayers being forced to pay for Barclays’ marketing scheme?” Daniel Goldstein, the spokesman, asked in a statement. “The federal bailout of AIG was not intended to assist Barclays in hyping its brand in Brooklyn, or to help them slap their logo for 20 years on a basketball arena already heavily dependent on city, state and federal subsidies.”
...

Spokesmen for the Nets and Barclays each declined to comment Tuesday.

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More coverage...

NY Daily News, Looting goes far beyond bonuses: AIG doled out payments to a small group of banks, including UBS

For those who have forgotten, Barclays is the bank that agreed back in 2007 to pay $400 million in a 20-year naming rights deal for Forest City Ratner's proposed new basketball arena in Brooklyn.

Last November, in the midst of a world financial meltdown, and with prospects for Ratner's Atlantic Yards project looking bleaker than ever, Barclays reaffirmed its intention to spend that $400 million for what is essentially vanity advertising.

So just around the time Barclays receives $8.5 billion from AIG's bailout package, the British firm decides to go forward with its naming rights deal in Brooklyn.

If it ever gets built, we should call it the American Bailout Arena, for the old ABA, where the Nets got their start.

Even as millions of Americans lose their jobs, homes and retirement savings, these jackals are paying themselves off with our money.

Urbanite [amNY blog] Critics slam Nets arena deal with bank that got AIG funds

Add one more voice to the anti-AIG outrage.

Atlantic Yards Report, The AIG to Barclays story has legs

Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

March 17, 2009

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: U.S. Taxpayers To Pick Up Tab for Barclays' Vanity Project

AIG Bailout to Fund Barclays' Naming Rights Deal For Bruce Ratner's Proposed Barclays Center Arena

BROOKLYN, New York — On Sunday troubled insurance giant AIG revealed the counterparties who benefited from the $170 billion taxpayer bailout of the besieged company. $400 million of that bailout would go to a proposed basketball arena, which, if it’s ever built, is already slated to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies funded by New York City, New York State and federal taxpayers, and is reliant on New York state’s use of eminent domain to seize homes and businesses.

Britain’s Barclays Bank was the beneficiary of some $8.5 billion worth of the AIG bailout by US taxpayers. Barclays has a $400 million naming-rights deal for Forest City Enterprises developer Bruce Ratner’s proposed $1 billion Barclays Center basketball arena, the centerpiece of the company’s floundering Atlantic Yards development plan in Brooklyn, New York.

Thus the American taxpayer is, in essence, picking up the tab for a British bank’s $400 million vanity project.

“Why are TARP bailout funds flowing through AIG to a British bank to Clevland-based Forest City Enterprises for a billion dollar arena in Brooklyn? Why are federal taxpayers being forced to pay for Barclays' marketing scheme? There is no justification for it, especially as TARP funds are supposed to spur banks to start lending again, rather than prop up activities such as the Barclays-Ratner boondoggle,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “The federal bailout of AIG was not intended to assist Barclays in hyping its brand in Brooklyn, or to help them slap their logo, for 20 years, no less, on a basketball arena already heavily dependent on city, state and federal subsidies.”

link

In February there was a political and public uproar over Citigroup’s $400 million naming rights deal for the nearly completed home of the New York Mets—Citi Field—because the financial firm had received $45 billion worth of the TARP bailout. At the time the New York Daily News reported that the House Financial Services Committee Chair, Congressman Barney Frank, said that:

...Naming rights deals will be off limits for firms taking taxpayer money in the next $350 billion installment of bailout money for banks and financial institutions.

"I'm confident you won't see anything like that going forward," in the next bailout round, Frank said.

Unlike Citi Field, the proposed Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn has not even broken ground.

“When Congressman Frank learns of yet another instance of fungible bailout funds going towards a lucrative naming rights deal, we expect that he will not be pleased and will quickly take action,” Goldstein concluded.

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

Three months later, Morningstar again says Forest City Enterprises stock is worthless

Atlantic Yards Report

Even though Forest City Enterprises tried to discredit Morningstar's previous analysis that downgraded the company's stock rating to nearly worthless, it didn't prevent Morningstar from reasserting its position, though other industry analysts disagree:

It looks like déjà vu from December. An analyst from Morningstar, in a report (subscribers-only) that repeats nearly verbatim the conclusions in a report issued three months ago, yesterday again warned that stock from Forest City Enterprises (FCE), parent company of Forest City Ratner, is essentially worthless.

And, most likely, company representatives will fire back, as they did in December, by contrasting Morningstar's take with more optimistic assessments from other analysts and pointing out that the Morningstar analyst didn't speak to them.

Indeed, for the past three months, five analysts tracking FCE have consistently rated the stock (FCE.A) as a buy, or 2, on a scale of 1 (Strong Buy) to 5 (Sell), according to Yahoo Finance.

Specifically, two called it a Strong Buy (1), one called it a buy (2), and two recommended Hold (3). No one rated it Underperform (4) or Sell (5).

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Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

What does Forest City have on the block in New York City?

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Enterprises is apparently in the position where it feels it has to sell off some of its premium performing assests, including four retail properties in NYC.

Norman Oder surveys the online list of Forest City's NYC holdings and speculates about which ones the company has decided to hold.

There are no Forest City Ratner listings publicly available via either the CBRE or the Holliday Fenoglio Fowler web sites.

I've listed the properties below, in the order they appear on the FCE web site. I'll bet that the 42nd Street Complex, Atlantic Center Mall, and Atlantic Terminal Mall are untouchable, because the latter two would benefit enormously from Atlantic Yards and the Times Square location is prime.

(Remember, as the New York Times Magazine told us Sunday, in an articled headlined Where Is the New Brooklyn?, Brooklyn is a euphemism for gentrification,)

The Shops at Atlantic Center Site V aren't on the block, either, because a) FCR doesn't control all the land and b) the site is in the Atlantic Yards footprint. The Museum of Jewish Heritage is a small retail space.

The rest is up for grabs. I don't know enough about the retail market, nor FCR's sense of core efforts, to know whether movie theaters--which do reasonably well in bad economics, right?--are more or less likely to be sold.

But Forest City has a lot more property than you might think.

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Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

Second thoughts on yesterday's post: FCR's lobbying will continue

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman "oderizes" his own analysis of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner's lobbying efforts for 2008:

My point was that, even though there was much less going on with Atlantic Yards, the developer still spent a lot of money, only 20% less than the 2007 total.

But maybe there's another way to look at it. Forest City Ratner had to spend significant sums lobbying because there was much less going on.

Because questions of housing subsidies, city payments, and a contract with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority remain unresolved, the developer needs to lobby more than ever.

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Posted by lumi at 5:58 AM

City criticizes developer for writing Coney zoning amendments, but has not criticized source of AY design guidelines

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the Daily News, "Local pols approved dramatic new changes to the city's plan for Coney Island at a developer's urging, infuriating city officials, sources said."

A city official summed up his or her indignation this way: "Having a for-profit developer write these zoning amendments is the equivalent of having a Big Tobacco lobbyist write anti-smoking legislation."

More proof that Atlantic Yards is the exception to the rule, Norman Oder reminds us that one of his Freedom of Information Law requests turned up the revelation that the Atlantic Yards design guidelines were created by none other than the developer's own designer, Frank Gehry.

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Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

Forest City in the News

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, New med mart doubts raised as final decision on site nears

Forest City Enterprises takes its campaign to save its Tower City Medical Mart proposal directly to the Cleveland media by trash-talking a competing plan proposal:

Cleveland's historic downtown mall would undergo dramatic change if a new convention center is built below, according to a Forest City Enterprises executive.

The underground complex would elevate sections of the mall as much as 10 feet above Lakeside Avenue, further obstructing views of Lake Erie, said Forest City Co-Chairman Al Ratner, in a meeting Monday with Plain Dealer editors and reporters.

The mall would turn into a collection of walls and stairs, disrupting the century-old vision of architect Daniel Hudson Burnham, said Ratner, who is pushing his company's competing site behind Tower City for a combined medical mart/convention center.

KFSN, Forest City Gone- Mayor Trying to Move Forward

Fresno tries to move on after being left at the altar by Forest City Enterprises.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

March 16, 2009

Money: Taxpayers to AIG to Barclays to Ratner

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

Atlantic Yards Report, Are American taxpayers paying for the Barclays Center naming rights deal?

Are American taxpayers paying for the Barclays Center naming rights deal?

Well, if money's fungible, you certainly could say so.

Posted by lumi at 7:24 PM

Despite Atlantic Yards slowdown, Forest City Ratner spent $928,652 in 2008 on city/state lobbying

Atlantic Yards Report

Nope, you're not imaging things — Norman Oder is reporting that in 2008, Forest City Ratner spent $928,652 to lobby the city and state, with 80% on behalf of the Atlantic Yards arena and high rise megaproject. All that for a project that stalled out last fall.

While the subjects of the lobby effort are described in broad terms (e.g., "budget regulatory and legislative issues"), they also offer some tantalizing hints. Forest City Ratner is apparently trying to ensure it receives credits for brownfield cleanup.

It is in talks with the city and Metropolitan Transportation Authority--remember, the New York Observer reported that FCR is trying to delay paying the MTA the $100 million in cash pledged, and has sought a speedier delivery of the city's pledged $100 million.

And, perhaps most importantly regarding the issuance of bonds for the planned Brooklyn arena, Forest City Ratner is lobbying the New York City Department of Finance (DOF). Remember, the arena site would be tax-exempt, but PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) would be used to repay the arena bonds. However, the PILOTs cannot be larger than the foregone taxes, and the arena site valuation must be high enough to ensure that the foregone taxes are significant.

In order to value the Yankee Stadium site, the DOF looked well beyond the South Bronx for comps (comparable properties), even to a vacant lot in Alphabet City, more than seven miles away.

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Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

Forest City in the News: Financial Straits Edition

When any company starts cannibalizing its holdings of revenue-producing assets and begins pulling back on its most successful, award-winning projects, then it's hard to come to any conclusion other than the company executives are doing massive triage to keep things afloat.

 

LAYOFFS AT TOP PROJECTS

Last week, New Mexico Business Weekly reported that Forest City cut its Mesa del Sol staff in half. The same tsunami of layoffs also hit Forest City's other award-winning megaproject:

DenverPost.com, Forest City chops down jobs

Forest City Stapleton, the master developer of the Stapleton residential and retail area, has laid off seven employees, according to sources.

 

DUMPING PREMIUM PERFORMING ASSETS

When a company has to raise cash in a tough economy, it is forced to start dumping the good stuff.

Crain's Cleveland Business, Forest City puts desirable assets in play

Over the last few years, Forest City has sold hundreds of millions of dollars of assets in a process CEO Charles Ratner described last April as “selling from the bottom” to prune properties with limited growth opportunities. It relinquished better properties only when it could get “a very, very good price,” he said at the time.

Forest City now is marketing a portfolio that’s the opposite of prior dispositions — it consists of gem office and retail buildings in superior markets and apartments in hot rental markets. And it’s trying to sell in a battered market where it will be hard to achieve a very, very good price.

The industry newsletter Real Estate Alert reported in its March 11 issue that Forest City is offering for sale or seeking to recapitalize 10 apartment buildings with a total of 4,000 suites in markets from Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia to San Jose.

Also on the block with the CB Richard Ellis and the Holliday Fenoglio Fowler brokerages are four retail properties in New York City and a stake in the 2.4 million-square-foot office component at the University Park mixed-use complex in Boston.

The trade newsletter said Forest City hopes to garner $1.15 billion from the sales.

NoLandGrab: And when the "good stuff" is on the auction block, it's gotta make you wonder if the NJ Nets are for sale as well, despite team executives' assertions to the contrary.

 

A CAUTIONARY TALE

What happens when a city stakes an urban renewal plan on a single development company, which, though it has a track record of completing projects, finds itself in financial straits?

Things are worse than before: businesses under threat of eminent domain have moved, the local economy loses years when a more incremental, diversified master plan could have been implemented, and the city is left holding the bag.

KFCN, Commercial Hope For Downtown Sans Forest City

Thanks to developer Forest City Enterprises and the Fresno City Council, the day of reckoning has come for Fresno, which now has to consider its next steps.

Some believe downtown could still get that different look even without a big developer. Commercial real estate broker Victoria Gonzales has a handful of clients whose business plans for growth and expansion over the last 5 years stalled out.

Many, like this bike shop, were forced to move because the uncertainty surrounding Forest City's construction plans.

"We've seen business leave, and businesses go out of business and property owners who can't sell their properties," she said.

Gonzales said the signs of a nearly abandoned commercial district are everywhere.

Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

New Jersey Nets move to Brooklyn “will happen” in 2011

Sports Business International ran an item reiterating Nets CEO Brett Yormark's assertions to Bloomberg News that the move to Brooklyn "will happen" and that, "We’ll be there for the 2011-2012 season. We’ve pre-sold 20 per cent of our suites. We’ve got eight of our 14 founding partnerships already completely signed. Next week, we’ll announce our ninth.”

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NoLandGrab: Since the Nets "pre-sold" 20% of the suites last year (that is if you're inclined to believe the marketing wunderkind), you gotta assume that means they've sold no suites in recent months. Besides, things must be pretty slow when your big announcement will be a ninth "founding partner."

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

March 15, 2009

The Brooklyn Paper and its new Courier-Life sibling: Markowitz, Ratner, and advertising

Atlantic Yards Report

There are questions in the minds of many as to what kind of coverage the Atlantic Yards fight will receive from the Brooklyn Paper now that it has been purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. As a result of the purchase, the anti-AY Brooklyn Paper has the same owner as the pro-AY Courier-Life chain.

This blog entry points out that:

Time will tell if the Brooklyn Paper maintains its independent viewpoint.

link

Posted by steve at 11:03 AM

Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein: The last man standing

New York Daily News
By Mike Lupica

Lupica, a reporter who always "got it" when it came to the proposed Atlantic Yards project, does a profile on Develop Don't Destroy spokesman, Daniel Goldstein.

The neighborhood has changed since this all started in 2003. Ratner has bought out residents who have moved away, and the economy has crashed, and Ratner has money problems the same as a lot of big guys have. Barclays Bank, which bought the naming rights to the Gehry arena, has to be getting wobbly because it is a bank, how can it not be in this world?

...

"There is no way the lawsuits can be resolved before the summer," Goldstein said. "And if they haven't broken ground before this year is over, there is a chance the whole thing falls apart." He laughed then and said, "But that is all speculative. They are still adamant about building the arena and they are tough opponents and they have an approved project of this size in New York City. And they know that if they show signs of giving up, they could lose the rights to the land."

...

He was asked again yesterday why he stays at this, all this time after Ratner bringing the Nets to his borough was treated as if the Dodgers were coming back.

"Because Atlantic Yards is a corrupt political deal," he said. "Because from the start this was about a developer joining forces with the state to destroy a New York City neighborhood, to destroy portions of five neighborhoods that surround this project and are among the best in the country in my opinion."

He moved to Pacific St. in the spring of 2003 and in September of that year he first began to hear the rumors about Ratner and then it all became official before the end of that year. You ask him now what he thinks the end game might be.

"I think there is a very good chance," he said, "that he has to sell the team and the whole thing falls apart. But I can't tell you that for sure."

article

NoLandGrab: The article also mentions the thousands of donors who fund the legal fight against Atlantic Yards. If you relish the idea of pushing against the powers that be, even in these tough financial times, you might want to consider joining in.

Posted by steve at 7:31 AM

Jon Stewart to Jim Cramer: "You don’t just take their word at face

Atlantic Yards Report

Here is a quick item to remind those reporting on issues surrounding the proposed Atlantic Yards project, that good reporting is not merely passing on, and tacitly approving what is told to you. The same advice could be useful for anyone following the Atlantic Yards fight.

In a devastating takedown Thursday of CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer, "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart offered this sardonic observation: "I’m under the assumption, and maybe this is purely ridiculous, but I’m under the assumption that you don’t just take their word at face value, that you actually then go around and try to figure it out."

Those interviewing New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark might take that warning to heart.

More on media complicity from Salon's Glenn Greenwald.

link

NoLandGrab: The Salon piece referenced is a good read, and makes the point that enjoyment of the Stewart/Cramer slapdown should not distract us from an ongoing problem in the media.

Posted by steve at 6:56 AM

March 14, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Saturday Wake-up Call

You thought that Saturday would be a nice day to take it easy and relax? Ha! Norman Oder is hard at work poking at your conscience and digging to discover all things "Atlantic Yards."

The Courier-Life misreads Tish vs. Dee

Here's a look at the most recent attempt by the Courier-Life to cover Brooklyn politics.

The Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt suggests, in an article headlined "Tish vs. Dee: a real battle" (click to enlarge) that Atlantic Yards won't be the deciding factor in the 35th District Council race.

But first he suggests they're evenly matched:
Political pundits are expecting an interesting battle this primary season for the 35th District City Council seat as popular incumbent Letitia (Tish) James faces popular community activist Delia (Dee) Hunley-Adossa.
..."It definitely will be a bruising battle," said Geoff Davis, brother of slain City Council member James Davis, who preceded James in the seat. "They both have name recognition. They both are community oriented. They both have participated in countless programs for young people and have two separate views on the Atlantic Yards project. Delia is for it and Tish James is against it."

Ok, but James is the incumbent. She's won two elections and has achieved a far different level of visibility. She crushed her opponent in 2005. Though James thinks AY is the big issue, Hunley-Adossa denies that.

Next up, an analysis of the article from The New York Times's real estate supplement about Mayor Michael Bloomberg's development schemes.

Times real estate magazine article on "Post-Bubble NYC" gets AY wrong (and boosts Bloomberg)

First, there's this needed correction:

It contains this sentence: Thousands of apartment units and a new arena for the Nets would rise on the site of the Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn.

Well, there's a planned or proposed Atlantic Yards site, but there's no "site of the Atlantic Yards," because the railyard is called the Vanderbilt Yard. The project would not be in downtown Brooklyn. Other sections of the Times have fixed such mistakes, but the Times, a many-headed beast, continues to produce errors.

And there's deeper analysis as well:

The article states:
And yet his legacy is already visible on the city’s landscape. It is less sweeping, perhaps, but no less significant: he empowered the private sector to remake the city bit by bit.

This was partly a function of the way Bloomberg ran New York, a natural byproduct of his ability to govern the ungovernable city. “The perception under Bloomberg has been that New York is a good place to do business, and that’s very important for developers,” says Jonathan Miller, one of the city’s best-known real estate appraisers.

But it was also deliberate. Bloomberg is a businessman. He believes in growth and has faith in the private sector. His administration expedited permits and signed off on building designs with minimal interference. It also freed up underutilized land — old piers, elevated freight lines, warehousing districts, rail yards — either by rezoning or by threatening to employ its powers of eminent domain. In many cases it offered attractive incentives, most notably tax breaks, to encourage companies to build. The administration did its share of construction too, adding parks across the boroughs and along the city’s long-neglected waterfront and, in partnership with private developers, initiating New York’s largest affordable-housing project in decades.

Well, isn't there a big difference between rezoning, which involves some level of accountability, and threatening to use eminent domain? And isn't there a difference between both of those and turning the decision to deploy eminent domain to an unaccountable state agency like the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), as in the case of Atlantic Yards?

What's missing in this sunny passage? Democracy.

Finally, The New York Times publishes a Bloomberg News article. In doing so, The Times drops any hint of skepticism of remarks from Nets' CEO Brett Yormark.

In unskeptical Bloomberg News article (in the Times), Yormark asserts 2011 arena opening; Newark's Booker still optimistic

In publishing a Bloomberg News article quoting Nets CEO Brett Yormark's prediction of a 2011 Brooklyn arena opening--an article in which Yormark was not challenged, nor was his dubious record of predictions noted--the New York Times sports section today has sunk into the swamp.

The article fails to include the disclaimer that the parent New York Times Company is business partners with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner; such a disclosure might have served to alert editors to add a dollop of skepticism.

...

"At the end of the day, I am judged with how much revenue we can generate," Yormark tells Soshnick. "When you really break it down, it's tickets and sponsorships."

Translation: he's willing to do what it takes to generate that revenue. Including making things up.

Posted by steve at 8:54 AM

Forest City In The News: Forest City Plan In Fresno Ends

Due to a $100 million "financial gap" (the difference between money that Forest City is willing to spend and that the government is willing to hand over), Forest City has canceled its Fresno project. For the moment, businesses in the former project area get a respite from the threat of the use of eminent domain.

Forest City In The News: Forest City Enterprises cancels downtown Fresno project

The Fresno Bee
By Denny Boyles

Forest City Enterprises has abandoned plans for a $300 million project in downtown Fresno that would have brought housing and commercial businesses to an 85-acre area south of Chukchansi Park, the company announced today.

The company has had an exclusive development deal with the city of Fresno since 2004, but was unable to close a $100 million gap in funding for the South Stadium project.

Support for the project was strong on the City Council, which in December agreed to extend its exclusive negotiation agreement with the Cleveland-based developer for six more months.

More coverage, below, courtesy of Atlantic Yards Report, including an indication of why Forest City will continue pushing for Atlantic Yards.

Three months after pledging commitment, Forest City pulls the plug on Fresno projectlink

Though developer Forest City Enterprises (FCE) in December maintained it was committed to a $300 million housing and office project in downtown Fresno, CA, yesterday FCE announced it has abandoned the project.

The key issue, apparently, was the inability to secure state and federal subsidies, despite the developer's effort to make cuts.

...

The city's new mayor, Ashley Swearingin, was no fan of the project, but the real gap seems to be the failure to find $100 million in state or federal funds to fill that budget gap. The Bee reported in December that the six-month extension gave the developer time to pursue state and federal money.

Forest City apparently has no spare cash; just this week reports emerged about the company's effort to sell 15 properties.

There's a subsidy gap for Atlantic Yards, as well. However, New York City, especially Brooklyn, is a core market for the developer, and there's a significant upside to AY--or, at least, the erasure of a significant downside: the massive losses suffered via ownership of the Nets.

Posted by steve at 8:32 AM

the shakedown artist

The Black List

This blog entry includes a quick history of how Al Sharpton came to join the list of Atlantic Yards supporters.

3) forest city ratner: may 2000, sharpton speaks at a worker rally at the atlantic mall in brooklyn, a forest city ratner project, accusing developer bruce ratner of paying low wages and "enslaving our communities;" 2004, forest ratner begins to provide yearly financial support to nan in the thousands of dollars. the company sponsors nan conferences. sharpton becomes a vocal supporter of the company's plan to build the atlantic yards near the mall, including the new nba arena.

link

Posted by steve at 8:24 AM

Downtown B’klyn to get Hyatt, Best Western

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

This article talks about the coming glut of hotel rooms in downtown Brooklyn. It is estimated that if all the proposed devlopment is completed, there will be 2,000 hotel rooms in the area.

The article concludes by making mention of the hotel rooms that would be added by the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

And this does not include the proposed hotels at Brooklyn Bridge Park (100-200 rooms) and in Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Plan (150 rooms in “Miss Brooklyn”).

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NoLandGrab: Not only is Atlantic Yards not in downtown Brooklyn, there is currently no estimate as to when, if ever, "Miss Brooklyn" might be built.

Posted by steve at 8:08 AM

After the Bubble

New York Times
By Jonathan Mahler

One might think that The New York Times was going out of its way to misrepresent the proposed Atlantic Yards development. In an article in this weekend's real estate supplement, the author recalls a meeting with then deputy mayor for economic development, Dan Doctoroff. Atlantic Yards is mentioned as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's master plan (emphasis added).

As a violent summer storm raged outside, Doctoroff sketched out for me Bloomberg’s ambitious plans for New York. The rail yards and warehouses of the far West Side would be replaced by condos, hotels and retail stores. Thousands of apartment units and a new arena for the Nets would rise on the site of the Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn. Penn Station would undergo a gut renovation (and be renamed after Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan). Lower Manhattan would be transformed into a recreational playground, with cafes, performing-arts pavilions, ball fields, an outdoor ice rink, even a floating garden on the East River.

"Atlantic Yards" is the name of a proposed mixed-use development planned for Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

-The location of the development is Prospect Heights (or at least say "Vanderbilt Yards" if you're thinking about the Long Island Railroad facility).
-The location is outside of downtown Brooklyn.
-Only about a third of Atlantic Yards would be built over the existing rail yard. The rest would be built by razing the adjoining part of Prospect Heights.

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Posted by steve at 7:50 AM

Tish vs. Dee: a real battle

Courier-Life Newspapers
by Stephen Witt

Though the Courier's Witt does his best to tar City Council member and outspoken Atlantic Yards opponent with the brush of Brooklyn's disgraced Democratic political machine (despite her distinguished record advocating for her community in the Council, he opts to describe her as "a longtime political operative for former Kings County Democratic boss and convicted felon Clarence Norman"), the truth is that James's declared primary opponent, Delia Hunley-Adossa, is the actual machine candidate — and that machine is the Ratner machine.

While Witt quotes sources who make this race out to be close, James won her last race handily (she took 85% of the primary vote and 88% of the general election vote in 2005). And while Forest City has made an effort to help its favored candidates in past races (anyone remember Tracy Boyland?), given the financial situation at Metrotech, it's hard to imagine that they'll invest significant funds in Hunley-Adossa's campaign.

The story is not yet available online; we'll post a link when it is. In the meantime, you can click on the article for a larger version.

Posted by eric at 12:21 AM

March 13, 2009

Nets’ Yormark Says Team Move to Brooklyn ‘Will Happen’ in 2011

Bloomberg News
by Mason Levinson

You've got to admire Pollyanna Brett Yormark's enthusiasm. You just have to wonder why.

The New Jersey Nets are committed to moving to a yet-to-be-built Brooklyn arena for the 2011-12 National Basketball Association season, overcoming economic concerns and legal opposition, team Chief Executive Officer Brett Yormark said.

“It will happen,” Yormark said in an interview for Bloomberg Television’s “For the Record,” which will air tonight. “We’ll be there for the ‘11-’12 season. We’ve pre-sold 20 percent of our suites. We’ve got eight of our 14 founding partnerships already completely signed. Next week, we’ll announce our ninth.”

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NoLandGrab: Yormark's boast about having pre-sold 20% of the still-on-the-drawing-board arena's suites glosses over the reality of the situation. You see, nearly a year ago, in early May, 2008, Yormark also boasted about having pre-sold 20% of the suites, to "friends and family." At the time, we questioned what "friends and family" really meant.

Bottom line, in the past ten-and-a-half months, the Nets have apparently not enticed anyone else — friend, family or, more importantly, otherwise — to join the ranks of suite buyers.

We should also note that when Yormark was first boasting about the suite pre-sales, he was also claiming the Nets would be moving to Brooklyn at the start of the 2010 season.

Posted by eric at 7:40 PM

Nets' Move to Brooklyn Still a Possibility?

RotoSynthesis
by Charleie Zegers

By the looks of that headline, "done deal" is certainly no longer the Atlantic Yards meme.

A real estate report buried in the business section of yesterday's New York Daily News has some interesting implications for several NBA teams.

The report, which seems not to be published in their online edition, says that the developer behind the proposed "Atlantic Yards" project in Brooklyn has put 15 potentially-lucrative properties in the market, in the hopes of raising cash that would go towards the new development.

If it gets built, Atlantic Yards will be a massive commercial/residential development, centered largely around a new basketball palace that would become the new home for the New Jersey Nets. But the downturn in the economy has put the future of the project in doubt.

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NoLandGrab: Nothing in any reports we've seen has indicated that money raised via the sale of these Forest City assets "would go towards" Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 3:34 PM

Get political

Time Out New York compiled a list of favorite NYC bars from castmembers of three Broadway shows that are about to open.

TONY-090313.jpg Still under seige of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards eminent domain-abusing overdevelopement, Freddy's Bar and Backroom lands a spot in groups of bars with a notable political history.

Freddy’s BAR & BACKROOM
As Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project dies a painful, protracted death, Freddy’s regulars have reason to hoist inky pints of Guinness and cheer. Since the developer’s Brooklyn Nets plans were first announced, this eclectic bar, where bands strum nightly, has served as a nerve center for community opposition. 485 Dean St at Sixth Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-622-7035). Average drink: $5

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Posted by lumi at 6:16 AM

After taking over Governors Island and Brooklyn Bridge Park, would the city oversee Atlantic Yards? Nah

Atlantic Yards Report

NYC is planning on taking over the Governor's Island project and is thinking of doing the same for Brooklyn Bridge Park. Norman Oder explains why Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project won't go the same route:

Now, why wouldn't New York City want to take over Atlantic Yards? Well, first of all, it's not a joint city-state project; rather, it's a state project with city contributions.
...
Let me suggest several other reasons the city wouldn't take over:

  • the project requires a state override of city zoning
  • a city takeover would make a mockery of the lack of city input during the approval process
  • a state agency, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), not a city one, has proposed using eminent domain
  • the ESDC has led the way defending the project in court
  • the city doesn't have any more money to contribute
  • City Council member Letitia James, an AY opponent, might have some questions
  • City Council members Bill de Blasio and David Yassky, sometime AY critics and current attention-seeking citywide candidates, also might have questions
  • AY is a political hot potato, likely the only project that elected officials and civic groups have opposed as unworthy of federal stimulus funds

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Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Hotels’ shaky bet on success in Brooklyn

Crowds flock to downtown Brooklyn’s Fulton Street Mall for discount school clothes at Cookies or hip-hop wear at Jimmy Jazz. But a new industry is in a risky bid during the recession to dominate the area: luxury hotels.

MetroNY
By Amy Zimmer

Even the hotel portion of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject is looking like it's not going to fly, as a staggering number of hotel rooms are already in the pipeline in Brooklyn during a serious citywide occupancy downturn.

A staggering 2,000 hotel rooms are in the pipeline for downtown Brooklyn — 750 alone on Duffield Street, a tiny block off of Fulton believed to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad.

“If a new hotel doesn’t have financing, it’s not going up,” said Dan Lesser, of CB Richard Ellis. “That’s just the reality.”
...
Manhattan’s hotels filled only 67 percent of their rooms last month, according to preliminary data from PKF Consulting. A year ago they were 82 percent full. Average room prices plummeted from $250 to $206.

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Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

Yup, the Brooklyn Paper's moving into MetroTech

Atlantic Yards Report

With one prediction already coming to pass, Norman Oder offers another one:

As I suspected, the Brooklyn Paper will join the Courier-Life chain in renting space in Forest City Ratner's MetroTech.

I wondered if this might make it tougher to report critically on Brooklyn's most powerful developer.
...
I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that the Brooklyn Paper's news coverage of Atlantic Yards will diminish somewhat (as it already has), and its editorial criticism will diminish even more.

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Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

$70 Billion in Requests for $4 Billion in New York Stimulus Funds

ThePoliticker.com
By Eliot Brown

As part of the Paterson administration’s “Economic Recovery Update” on the stimulus spending, the governor’s office sent an email out this afternoon of a draft list of requests it has received for infrastructure-related federal stimulus funds.

The unranked list, a 461-page document with 11,842 projects, totals around $70 billion in requests, according to a spokeswoman for the governor’s office. The state has just $4 billion or so to dole out for infrastructure, said the spokeswoman.

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject does not appear to be on the list; however, reporter Eliot Brown adds, "the list also notes that not all project requests have been included," so stay tuned...

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Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

Cities in Crisis

America’s cities are fighting foreclosures, stalled development and budget shortfalls on a scale not seen in a generation. But innovation is taking root in the empty spaces left by economic retreat. A look at how tomorrow’s American cities will be leaner — and greener.

Next American City
By Ariella Cohen

Cities are struggling to find new solutions for budget gaps, neighborhoods hard hit by the foreclosure shock wave, and stalled real estate projects. In this climate is Atlantic Yards "too big to succeed?"

Last fall, that prediction began to come true. In November, architect Frank Gehry laid off the staff working on the arena and skyscrapers. Forest City, the parent company of the site’s corporate developer, has said that while it remains committed to the project, it faces credit problems and has been unable to secure commercial tenants for the project’s signature tower, known as “Ms. Brooklyn.” In a December conference call, Forest City CEO Charles Ratner told investors and analysts that the company would not begin any new projects until the market recovered, a dead halt after four years during which the company averaged $800 million in new project starts. “Today,” he said, “you can’t take a pencil and figure a return. When you can’t make money, you don’t do it.”

Footprint resident Daniel Goldstein sees opportunity in one neighborhood's struggle:

“There is an opportunity to go back and design a project with the community, a project that the community wants and would benefit from.”

Ron Shiffman, a professor at the Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment and a former commissioner at the New York City Planning Commission, agrees. “There are empty lots where luxury condos were planned,” he says. “Now we see that this idea that we would always have an unending supply of the wealthy is wrong, and we see that we need to diversify the way we are building our cities.”

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Posted by lumi at 5:26 AM

March 12, 2009

Good buy! The Brooklyn Paper joins News Corp.

The Brooklyn Paper

That didn't take long. The Brooklyn Paper, which was acquired by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation earlier this week, is relocating. To Forest City Ratner's Metrotech.

“We are extremely excited to be adding The Brooklyn Paper to our group,” said News Corporation Senior Vice President Les Goodstein. “We bought The Paper because we admire its attitude, its flair and its outstanding design. And we don’t intend to change that.”

The deal was finalized last week, and was first reported on Tuesday by the New York Observer.

In Brooklyn, the Community Newspaper Group also includes the Courier Life chain. Both Courier Life and The Brooklyn Paper will soon be housed in the same office in the Metrotech complex Downtown, Goodstein said.

article

NoLandGrab: We would cite the chilling effect on a newspaper covering Atlantic Yards of having Bruce Ratner as one's landlord, but honestly, the Courier-Life chain's coverage of the developer's megaproject was equally abysmal both before and after their relocation to Metrotech. For now, we'll give the BP the benefit of the doubt, and urge them to do some dumpster-diving during their lunch hours — you never know what eye-opening document might accidentally end up in Ratner's trash.

Posted by eric at 6:10 PM

In Memoriam, Robert Guskind

Gowanus Lounge

Gowanus Lounge published a comprehensive obituary yesterday recounting the life of GL founder Bob Guskind, who died last week at the age of 50. Guskind reported frequently on Atlantic Yards.

BobGuskind.jpg

Gowanus Lounge and its large community of readers, admirers and friends mourn the loss of founder and editor Robert “Bob” Guskind. Dubbed by some “Brooklyn’s Blogfather,” Bob was a talented journalist, author, photographer and editor whose deep interest in urban issues took root, right out of college, at the National Journal. Bob’s abundant journalistic gifts flourished throughout the 1980s and 90s at Journal, the Washington Post and other periodicals, and were reincarnated, in this decade, through the “revolutionary” (his word) form of blogging — where his own “personal newspaper,” which he started almost exactly three years ago, quickly stood out for the quality and seeming ubiquitousness of its coverage.
...

Though Atlantic Yards was not his focus, Bob wrote forcefully about Brooklyn’s most controversial development. In a GL Analysis published last December, on the day of the project’s five-year anniversary, he observed, “A quarter century from now, when the planners analyze what went wrong in Brooklyn in the early 2000s, they will have a lot to say (and none of it good) about the chain of events that started on December 10, 2003, when developer Bruce Ratner, flanked by a beaming Marty Markowitz and other public officials announced a magnificent plan called Atlantic Yards.”

At the end of the month, he presciently predicted that “Developer Bruce Ratner will have difficulty obtaining financing for a nearly $1 billion Gehry arena and the arena will either be scraped or a new version from an off-the-rack firm for $500 million will be built.”

Less than ten days later, word emerged that the developer was trying to drastically scale back the arena’s cost.

article

NoLandGrab: While we here at NLG feel a deep personal loss, the effect of Bob Guskind's death on Brooklynites as a whole will be even more profound — he was a damned good journalist who uncovered many stories that rarely got covered elsewhere. And Rupert Murdoch's purchase this week of The Brooklyn Paper threatens to make the void that much greater.

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Willets Point United, WILLETS POINT UNITED CHALLENGES CITY’S ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

Willets Point business and land owners filed an Article 78 petition yesterday challenging the environmental review for New York City's proposed redevelopment of their properties.

Twenty-two members of Willets Point United Against Eminent Domain Abuse filed an Article 78 petition today with the NY State Supreme Court against Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York City Council, the City Planning Commission and Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber challenging the environmental review that was completed by the City of New York.

The main points of the filing are as follows:

  • Petitioners are challenging the Deputy Mayor’s Office appointing itself as the lead agency on the project. Under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) this office does not “have jurisdiction to fund, approve or directly undertake an action,” and therefore cannot be a lead agency.

  • The Deputy Mayor’s Office failed to identify and report many of the environmental impacts it was required to under a SEQRA review, including impacts on traffic and highways, emergency response, the city’s water supply and the likelihood of plan approval by federal and state highway authorities.

  • The plan takes private property without a public purpose. The current plan is simply a theoretical possibility and the Kelo decision stated that condemners must have a concrete plan in place and a “carefully formulated economic plan” in order to seize property.

Duffield St. Underground, Dissolving businesses in the name of economic development

In order to promote business, the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is displacing businesses. Today's example comes from 223 Duffield Street, where A&B Distributors have been thrown into uncertainty. The EDC has bought their building, and now this long-standing enterprise must pay its "occupancy fee ("rent")" to the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD). Of course, since the EDC is so good at economic development, it has not told this business how long it will hold this business in limbo before demolishing the building.

Crain's NY Business, Companies sue to stop city’s Willets Point remake

In their latest attempt to thwart the Bloomberg administration’s plans to redevelop Willets Point, more than 20 Iron Triangle business owners filed suit Wednesday in state Supreme Court challenging the city’s environmental review of the area.

The suit alleges the city’s environmental impact statement falls short of requirements under state law, especially regarding the project’s potential effects on local traffic. It also contends Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber’s office does not have the authority to play a lead role on the project. And it argues the city’s plans for the area are too vague to serve as a justification for the use of eminent domain.

NoLandGrab: "Latest attempt to thwart the Bloomberg administration's plan to redevelop Willets Point?" How about the latest attempt to keep their properties from being seized against their wishes? Guess we know which side Crain's is on.

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

Changes at 470 Vanderbilt: The Box plus a new residential building

Atlantic Yards Report

The real news in a report on plans for the conversion and expansion of the former Atlantic Telecom building on the northwest corner of Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues may be the land valuation.

In April 2007, I wrote about Forest City Ratner's flirtation with a plan to add 470 Vanderbilt Avenue, a nine-story former tire plant turned significantly empty telecom center just north of Atlantic Avenue, to the Atlantic Yards footprint.

That plan went by the wayside, and the telecom center became increasingly empty. But now it's showing signs of major changes: a renovation and rebranding of the office space, with new new retail, plus a new residential building slated for the site's large parking lot.

And there's an important Atlantic Yards connection; follow along to the bottom and take note of the assessed value of the land.
...

Assessed land value: under $11

It's worth looking at Department of Finance records to see the latest assessment. While DOF does not provide the square footage of the site, multiplying the dimensions (441.67 feet x 218.92 feet) yields a lot size of 96,690 square feet. PropertyShark calculates 90,500 square feet.

The land is valued by the city at $990,000.

That's under $11 a square foot. Such valuations near the Atlantic Yards site will become increasingly relevant if and when the arena block is assessed for the purposes of issuing tax-exempt bonds, especially given the example of Yankee Stadium.

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NoLandGrab: To make the numbers work for those bonds, the valuation of the land beneath the planned arena would have to be many, many times that of 470 Vanderbilt, which is just a stone's throw away.

Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

Purchase of FCE bonds, sale of FCE properties suggest corporation faces unsteady fate

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on news of purchases of Forest City debt and the company's efforts to sell several of its properties around the country.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, citing newsletter Real Estate Alert, says that FCE is seeking buyers for 15 properties: 10 apartment properties, four shopping centers and the office portion of University Park at MIT, a mixed-use development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA.

Four shopping centers? I'll bet none are in Brooklyn, NY, where synergy is a goal. One reason why FCE values Atlantic Yards is it would increase the value of the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls across Atlantic Avenue.

Another is that AY would not only stem significant losses in operating the Nets, but it would raise the value of the team.

So FCE likely will stick with Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

Seeing through the marketing hype from the Nets and other sports teams

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder rounds up a couple articles looking, one skeptically and the other not so, at the "compassion" of pro sports outfits during hard economic times. The source stories follow.

The Nets get some props from Forbes for offering "free tickets to unemployed fans who posted their résumés to the team's online job bank," but Forbes doesn't grapple with the knotty issue of food vouchers.

Seeing through the hype

Meanwhile, Bloomberg columnist Scott Soshnick sees through the sports marketing hype, commenting, in Depression-Minded Sports Teams Show Desperation, that teams (like the Nets) trumpeting no-risk ticket plans are finally recognizing "the concept of treating the customer fairly, offering value."

"Sadly, it took an economic calamity for most teams to make available the kinds of fan-friendly offerings that should have been standard practice long ago," he writes.

"Every pro sports team claims to be a source of civic pride," Soshnick observes. "And then they try to extract every last penny from the customers they’re supposed to represent."

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NoLandGrab: That's only after they've extracted every last penny from the taxpayers to build their arenas and stadiums.

Bloomberg.com, Depression-Minded Sports Teams Show Desperation

Let’s not pretend these what-can-we-do-for-you ideas stem from altruism, no matter what the press releases say. They’re born of desperation.

Forbes.com, Opportunistic Ad Plays: Marketing To The Unemployed

Amazingly, the Nets are still getting mileage out of this ticket-giveaway scheme hatched several months ago.

Also in November, the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets offered free tickets to unemployed fans who posted their résumés to the team's online job bank. As a part of the promotion, the team said it would forward resumes to sponsors and corporate ticket holders. More recently, the Nets have announced they'll refund 2009 season tickets to anyone who lost an income after buying the tickets.

Posted by eric at 9:11 AM

March 11, 2009

Forest City in the News: Financial Straits Edition

It looks like Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises might be in deeper doo-doo than they have been letting on.

Yahoo Finance, The Coming Value Party
By Tim Melvin, RealMoney.com Contributor

Third Avenue, the largest institutional holder of Forest City Enterprises stock (FCE-A), is also buying senior debt.

Because he has a fantastic track record in distressed bonds, I was very interested to see that both Third Avenue Value and the Third Avenue Small Cap Value run by Curtis Jensen were buying distressed credits in companies he believes are 70% to 80% likely to remain performing credits. In addition to buying more shares in long-term holding Forest City Enterprises, the fund purchased the bonds of the company at levels that provided yields to maturity of better than 30%. Forest City has exchange-traded bonds as well that trade under the symbol FCY on the NYSE. These are senior unsecured notes that trade at less than 25% of par, with yields of better than 30%. Whitman has done very well with this type of investment over the years, and if Forest City can survive the recession, these notes are a home run. In a bankruptcy, a quick glance tells me that these may work out to at least the purchase price as well.

To figure out what the heck this means, we contacted blogger Gari N. Corp who explained Third Avenue's hedge (emphasis added):

They're a big holder of FCE stock, but if FCE goes bankrupt then there's a good chance that stockholders get nothing, or almost nothing. That's because in bankruptcy the holders of debt are repaid first. Now, there are different types of debt - the best stuff is the secured debt, say debt that is secured on a piece of real estate (better hope, though, that its value has held up). At the bottom there's convertible or subordinated debt, as well as those bonds you brought to my attention that were "equity-linked".

But senior unsecured bonds give you a pretty good right to be repaid first, so in the event of a bankruptcy you'll get a fair amount of your money back. Well, if the bonds are trading at 25c on the dollar, the market is suggesting that you won't get a huge amount back, but if you're third ave and you bought the bonds at 25c on the dollar and you get back 30c on the dollar in bankruptcy then you've made a 20% profit.

The fact that Third Ave is now buying bonds as well as stock suggests that it has a very real concern that the stock would be wiped out in bankruptcy.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City trying to sell stake in 15 properties, newsletter says
By Michelle Jarboe

Could Forest City be so strapped for cash that it is selling the good stuff?

Industry newsletter Real Estate Alert is reporting that Forest City Enterprises Inc. is looking for buyers for 15 properties.

Forest City, based in Cleveland, has been trying to sell properties outright or into joint-venture deals to raise money. The company largely has put new development on hold and is focusing on managing its existing properties and building up some cash. According to the Real Estate Alert report, Forest City is seeking buyers for full or partial stakes in 10 apartment properties, four shopping centers and the office portion of University Park at MIT, a mixed-use development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

Forest City spokesman Jeff Linton would not comment on the Real Estate Alert article or discuss any specific properties that might or might not be for sale. He said any deals in the works would involve confidentiality agreements, which Forest City will not break.

Real Estate Alert's article did not cite a source.

NoLandGrab: We love how Forest City will not break "confidentiality agreements" concerning their efforts to dump hard assests to raise cash. That's like saying that the company won't break its own gag order signed with property owners who sold under threat of eminent domain.

Yahoo Finance, FCE-A
Forest City closed down for the day at 4.25.

Posted by lumi at 6:52 PM

Brutally weird: Brooklyn Paper sold to Murdoch; now an independent online Brooklyn publication is needed

Atlantic Yards Report

Given the pressures on the news industry, it's not surprising that Brooklyn Paper publisher Ed Weintrob might have put his weekly newspaper chain on the block, and it's not shocking that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which already controls the Courier-Life chain, might have decided to make the purchase as the New York Observer reported yesterday.

What is surprising--brutally weird, actually--is that Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman, a New York Post alumnus would tell the Observer, "They don’t want the product to change. And they love the product. And the product is fantastic."

Well, um, why wouldn't the News Corporation seek, as they say in the biz, efficiencies and synergies in Brooklyn news coverage and ad sales, given that both papers publish editions for neighborhoods like Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, and Fort Greene? (There are areas with less overlap.) DDDB calls it Monopolyn.

For how long will two reporters compete to cover the same story for two competing newspapers owned by the same giant corporation? Brooklyn Optimist blogger Morgan Pehme already reports that consolidation has begun, with some staffers and the Greenpoint Courier getting the ax.

The Courier-Life chain recently moved from Sheepshead Bay to rent space in Forest City Ratner's MetroTech. Will the Brooklyn Paper, now headquartered in DUMBO, be consolidated into the same space? If so, it might make it tougher to report critically on Brooklyn's most powerful developer.

Norman Oder speculates about how Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner may benefit from The Brooklyn Paper joining the establishment fold.

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Posted by lumi at 3:23 AM

What's Going On Here?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn posted a cheeky reminder that despite the information on the "Atlantic Yards Infrastructure Improvements" outreach poster, there's a whole lotta nada going on. "Thank you for your patience."

Posted by lumi at 3:12 AM

Forest City in the News

Usually Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises hammers out these public-private partnership deals in some backroom somewhere, so watchdogs like ourselves are not used to the company's desperate public advances attempting to get back in the game for the Medical Mart deal in Cleveland:

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City making late bid to salvage medical mart project for Tower City

Executives from Forest City Enterprises are in Chicago today, making what could be their last pitch to build a new medical mart and convention center at the downtown Tower City Center, a site Cuyahoga County commissioners have passed over for the project.
...
[Merchandise Mart Properties Inc.] executives almost immediately shot down Forest City's new plan, calling it a "nonstarter." Nevertheless, MMPI agreed to meet with Forest City this morning. The session is expected to end by early afternoon, an MMPI spokeswoman said.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City Enterprises continues to fight for medical mart project

It does not appear Forest City Enterprises gained much ground Tuesday trying to land the medical mart project for its Tower City property.

"There's nothing that jumps out at you and really feels like it's so compelling to move there," said a top official of Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. after a lengthy meeting with Forest City in Chicago on Tuesday.
...
The fight looks to be about over.

Mark Falanga, MMPI senior vice president, said by phone after the meeting that he was not immediately convinced that Forest City's construction estimates were valid. Cleveland-based Forest City claims it can build the project on its land for $27 million less than the projected cost on the county's favored site, including estimates for land acquisition.

Falanga said his staffers would review Forest City's numbers, and a final judgement would be made in a few days.

Part of the Forest City plan includes straightening a small section of the riverbank along Tower City property to provide more space for the new complex.

Falanga said a change of that magnitude would cause the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get involved, causing delays.

NoLandGrab: Like a creepy ex, Forest City isn't gonna take "no" for an answer and just move on. It's like they really, really need this deal and they are way past caring how it looks.

Posted by lumi at 2:38 AM

Gehry at Eighty

The New Yorker

NewYorkerGehrySkyline.gif

According to the online abstract of architecture critic Paul Goldberger's coverage of Frank Gehry's 80th birthday party (suscription required), it sounds like the celebrated designer of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards has suspended all work on the arena and highrise megaproject:

Gehry has cut back on the size of his office somewhat, since one of his biggest projects, Atlantic Yards, in Brooklyn, is on hold. “But I have plenty of work,” he said. “I don’t feel like eighty. I guess you never think you’re the age you are, and, as long as you don’t look in the mirror, you aren’t.”

link

Posted by lumi at 1:51 AM

March 10, 2009

Rupert Murdoch Buys The Brooklyn Paper

TheBrooklynPaperMurdoch.gif

The Observer is reporting that billionaire newspaper collector Rupert Murdoch is purchasing The Brooklyn Paper, which just happens to be THE ONLY local paper that has taken an editorial stance against Bruce Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards boondoggle:

In 2006, Mr. Murdoch purchased a rival chain of papers, The Courier-Life chain, which publishes 12 papers in Brooklyn.

According to The Observer, editor Gersh Kuntzman isn't worried:

"They don’t want the product to change," said Mr. Kuntzman. "And they love the product. And the product is fantastic."

Ms. Weintrob said an official statement would be released on Friday.

We're cringing; Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn blogger and The Brooklyn Paper's "SmartMom," Louise Crawford, explains why:

That's a shocker to me. Now a lot of things I was wondering about are making sense.

I knew nothing about it although Gersh did recently hint that some investors might be interested in the Brooklyn Paper.
...
This is a crazy turn of events and one that leaves many of us feeling slightly (slightly?) uncomfortable. Gersh has worked for Murdoch before and he's a very independent guy. I am very curious what this mean and how things will roll out. .

I was wondering why the Brooklyn Paper's phone-waiting music isn't WNYC Radio anymore. And that recent Atlantic Yards turnaround by the paper's publisher.

Hmmmmm. Questions. Questions.

NoLandGrab: Could this start a new Brooklyn newspaper war for the best Brooklyn Murdoch weekly?

Posted by lumi at 8:25 PM

Episode 11 — Brooklyn At Eye Level: Atlantic Yards

Caught in the Act, Art in Brooklyn

Posted by lumi at 7:51 PM

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning March 02, 2009 and March 09, 2009

This is an Atlantic Yards Construction Activities Two Week Look-Ahead. Please note the scope and nature of activities is 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

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

NoLandGrab: With a whole lot of nuthin' goin' on, the ESDC appears to have slightly tweaked, intentionally or not, the format of its bi-weekly no-Construction Updates. Here's the previous one for compare-and-contrast.

Posted by eric at 4:39 PM

Forest City and Downtown Fresno

Brian's FresYes Blog

While we here in New York have the opportunity to learn from New London's mistakes, the Fresno City Council could learn from our mistakes. Just ask former Fresno Council member Brain Calhoun, who once supported a big Forest City development project in Fresno's downtown.

I would encourage the Mayor and Council to review the March 7-8 article in the Wall Street Journal, A Hole Grows in Brooklyn (Ms. Vitullo-Martin, the Manhattan Institute), about the proposed 2003 Forest City development project, Atlantic Yards, that was to remake downtown Brooklyn by building expansive residential and retail space, and a new arena that would bring the New Jersey Nets to the borough. Now, more than five years later, "what's been brought to Brooklyn is a very large hole in the ground and a project that is coming to symbolize why large government projects can be riskier than allowing local residents to fix up their own communities." Let Brooklyn's experience be a warning shot across City Hall.

There is no question that Forest City is an experienced developer of government-financed and tax-abated projects. I believe, however, that the City has given them all the exclusive negotiating agreements they need. Let them, if they wish, compete with anyone else interested in improving our downtown.

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NoLandGrab: "There is no question that Forest City is an experienced developer of government-financed and tax-abated projects" sounds like a bit of a backhanded compliment.

Posted by eric at 4:24 PM

NL officials regret relinquishing power of eminent domain

Forum revisits Fort Trumbull case that went to Supreme Court

New London Day
by Kathleen Edgecomb

Here's a cautionary tale for everyone in New York's State Capitol building and New York City Hall who thought it a good idea to empower the Empire State Development Corporation in the matter of Atlantic Yards.

The city's law director and a former mayor agreed Wednesday that if they could have a “do-over” for the past 10 years, they would not relinquish the powers of eminent domain to an unelected body that is not accountable to the voters.

“Never, ever delegate the powers of eminent domain,'' said Beth Sabilia, who was mayor more than three years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the city's powers of eminent domain to take private property in the city's Fort Trumbull neighborhood for economic development.
...

“My lesson is, if the state offers you $70 million, say 'no thank you','' she said. “Yes, the city won, but no one in the City of New London really won. In New London we are all connected. I don't care if you live in a lean-to or a 4,000-square-foot house. It's where we all take our babies home.”
...

The city won the case and had the full backing of the law, but it could have made room in the project for those who did not want to leave, [Little Pink House author Jeff] Benedict said. The city chose not to and forced everyone out. Now, three years later ,with the old neighborhood removed and nothing new in its place, it's time to admit mistakes were made, he said.

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NoLandGrab: Albany has the benefit of being able to learn from New London's mistake before it actually exercises the power of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, with the added cover of being able to blame a withdrawal of support for the project on the state of the economy. So what'll it be, Governor Paterson?

More coverage...

Civil Liberties Examiner, Susette Kelo's revenge: New London regrets eminent domain fiasco

Posted by eric at 1:13 PM

Is a U.S. Government bailout paying for Barclays Center naming rights?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder declares that money is still fungible, which means that the report that Barclays Bank received a cut of the US Federal bailout funds through AIG and then reaffirmed the arena naming-rights deal with Ratner's NJ Nets is a BIG DEAL:

The money was not directly funneled into the arena naming rights. But if money's fungible, and last time I checked it was, whatever benefit Barclays gained could be redirected to other ventures. (And, as DDDB notes, Barclays will benefit from a bailout from the U.K. government.)

Maybe that's why Nets CEO Brett Yormark was always so confident Barclays would stick with the deal.

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NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that the public and political outcry over Citibank's naming-rights deal with the Mets was for a done deal. Barclays' contract with the Nets allowed the British bank to walk away from the deal back in November, but it didn't. FYI: Both deals are valued at $20 million/year for 20 years.

Posted by lumi at 7:06 AM

Alan Paul in SLAM: "Newark just makes too much sense to ignore"

Atlantic Yards Report

SLAM mag Far Post blogger Alan Paul, who's written some good stuff from his (former) base in Beijing, hit the Izod Center Sunday not so much to see the Nets play the Knicks but to catch exactly how the Nets were putting together an evening of Chinese culture.

The aim was to lure Chinese fans of Nets forward Yi Jianlian, but Paul, now back in his New Jersey home, concluded that his different worlds came together in some unexpected ways.

He connects the dots between China, the Meadowlands, and Brooklyn:

One bizarre, somewhat troubling thing you see all the time in China are boondoggle-like public construction projects. Fly into any decent-sized city anywhere in the country and you are likely to find at least one giant public building built with grandiose vision but hazy purposes. Stadiums and arenas that no one uses, for example, dot the country....

So when I drove up the NJ Turnpike to Exit 16 and saw the bizarre Xanadu complex rising out of the former Continental (now Izod) Arena parking lot, I felt just like I was back home in China! What an insane project. And to see it going up now, with the state –where I live and pay taxes — in such desperate financial straits and essential services being curbed.. well, it’s just nuts. And then I pulled into the complex and saw the new Giants Stadium rising next to the old Giants Stadium and thought about the fact that the Nets are supposed to pull out of here soon — not to move to the beautiful new Prudential Center down the road in downtown Newark but to a fantastical, not-even-close-to-being-built $1 billion arena in Brooklyn and the mind just boggles.

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Posted by lumi at 6:59 AM

New Jersey Nets Moving to the Prudential Center? It Might Actually Happen

The Bleacher Report
By Juni Ramos

Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets need a new arena, Newark actually has one — go figure.

Does Brooklyn even want the Nets? The answer is an astounding "no." There has been much outrage and protest to the building of the billion-dollar new stadium in Brooklyn.

Okay, I just said "build a new stadium." The Prudential Center is a new stadium! And it’s very well done, as I can say from personal experience. I went to a New Jersey Devils game and got my first glimpse of where the Nets could be winning basketball games.

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Posted by lumi at 6:24 AM

He’s Brooklyn’s OTHER borough president

The Brooklyn Paper reporter Mike McLaughlin asks the Bronx Beep what he thinks about the Bruce Ratner megaproject in his own backyard.

BronxBPEarlBrown.jpg

Brooklyn is one borough with two presidents. Our borough is home to not only Borough President Markowitz, but also Bronx Borough President Earl Brown.

The borough of Kings found itself with a double dose of presidents when Brown, then the deputy borough president, ascended to the northernmost borough’s top job after President Obama named Bronx Beep Adolfo Carrion to be his urban affairs czar.
...
MM: As a Prospect Heights resident, you’re smack dab in the middle of the biggest development project of Brooklyn. What do you think of Atlantic Yards?

EB: I have mixed emotions on it honestly. Certainly having lived in Brooklyn my entire life, it was great to see smoothing happening there [at the rail yards], because it was a wasted resource and an eyesore. It needed to be redeveloped. I was very happy to see over the past 15 to 20 years a good portion of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Site was finally developed with housing and commercial development. But the portion on the Prospect Heights side needs development. Having a sports franchise {the New Jersey Nets basketball team} come is an interesting addition, too, especially since Atlantic Yards was supposed to be the home of a new Ebbets Field. There a lot of issues the city has to work through. One of them is traffic. I’m not sure the environmental impact statement adequately addresses the traffic concerns. Anyone who’s driven through Flatbush and Atlantic avenues knows how crazy it gets during rush hour. And now thousands of more people are projected to come through.

MM: What about the scope of the project?

EB: The scale might be a little too large for Prospect Heights and Fort Greene. Putting a Midtown-sized development in the middle of residential low-rise Brooklyn will be a permanent change the community.

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NoLandGrab: Bronx BP Brown has most of his facts right, except for this crazy double whammy myth: "Atlantic Yards was supposed to be the home of a new Ebbets Field."

  1. It's the "VANDERBILT YARDS." "Atlantic Yards" is Bruce Ratner's brand name for the entire project.
  2. Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley wanted to build a new ballpark ACROSS THE STREET from the VANDERBILT railyard. Unfortunately, Bruce Ratner has already built the Atlantic Center eyesore on that site.

Posted by lumi at 6:23 AM

Coney Island Deadlock Could Be Broken With Eminent Domain

Gothamist

The idea to use eminent domain to stop developer Joseph Sitt from his Coney Island blightification campaign has been floated more than once.

The president of the city's Economic Development Corp. says the administration "doesn't think" eminent domain will be necessary, and the Municipal Art Society, which has been critical of both Sitt's plans and the city's proposal, says it should only be used as a last resort because such a tactic would inevitably be dragged out in court. (Cf. Atlantic Yards.) But the option is officially on the table, and some Sitt opponents would love nothing more than to see the developer get zilch for the property he's been using as leverage against the city as he threatens to create a summertime Boardwalk dystopia of shuttered businesses and vacant amusement parks.

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NoLandGrab: "Atlantic Yards" is now the poster-project for how NOT to ram a controversial project down the community's throat, that is, if you plan on breaking ground in the next five years or so.

Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

The New York Times Sells Its HQ, Starts Paying $2 Million a Month in Rent

Media Memo
By Peter Kafka

One media watchdog tries to make the connection between the NY Times Corp's sale of its portion of the building it shares with Forest City Ratner and the stock price of Ratner's parent company, Forest City Enterprises:

More cash to shore up the New York Times Company (NYT): As the Times itself previously predicted, the company has sold off (most of) its portion of its Manhattan headquarters for $225 million.
...
Meanwhile, if you want to see what the market thinks of the deal the Times got, check the stock price of Forest City Ratner (FCE-A), the real estate developer that owns the rest of the building the Times is selling.

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NoLandGrab: Those who have been watching FCE drop during the past year will tell ya that without knowing who is buying or dumping, it's hard to peg the stock price to an actual event like the sale of NY Times real estate assets.

That being said, FCE-A's performance reflects overall market malaise, especially in the real estate sector, with some deep concern over highly leveraged long-term projects, like Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, which has a money-hemorrhaging sports team attached to the deal. However, if a media watchdog could actually determine how much of the decline is due to one single event, he or she should be an investment analyst instead.

More at NY Post, TIMES DODGES BULLET WITH COSTLY HQ SALE.

Posted by lumi at 5:59 AM

March 9, 2009

New name for Nets arena? How about "U.S. Taxpayer Bailout for U.K. Bank Center"?

Barclays got a share of U.S. bailout money to AIG last fall at the same time the Brit bank re-affirmed its deal to pay Nets $400 million for its name on Brooklyn arena.

The Smart Asset [Village Voice financial blog]
by Ward Harkavy

While the cloud hanging over the U.S. economy grows bigger and darker, it's comforting to know that precious American tax dollars are flowing to British bank Barclays. Are they helping to prop up Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, too?

Working both sides of the Atlantic, British behemoth Barclays got sneakily paid off by U.S.-taxpayer-financed bailout funds late last year given to whiny insuror AIG, and now Barclays is negotiating, of course, to get U.K. government help in getting rid of toxic assets.

It turns out that while the U.K. conglomerate was getting a share of the bailout money, it recommitted last November its deal to pay $400 million to the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets for naming rights to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. "Barclays still loyal to Nets' cause," the Bergen Record trumpeted on November 13:

"Barclays is unwavering in its commitment to the Barclays Center and we are very pleased with our long-term alliance with our great partners, the Nets and Forest City Ratner Companies," Barclays chief administrative officer Gerard LaRocca said in a press release. "We are excited about being part of the continued renaissance of Brooklyn, and we eagerly look forward to opening night at Barclays Center."

(Sidelight: Bank of America, which also got part of the AIG bailout money, last month called off its similar naming-rights deal with the Yankees.)

Whether Bruce Ratner will continue with construction of the Barclays Center may be in question, but at least the foreign bank was able to get U.S. bailout money more or less under the table.

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Posted by eric at 7:32 PM

Will we ever find out how much AY and arena now cost? More FOIL responses from NYC EDC and ESDC

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder's FOIL request was... foiled again.

So I appealed the decision by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC), that the current cost of the Atlantic Yards project 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."

And the answer from the appeals officer, Judy Fensterman: no way.

The Financial Materials, NYC EDC said in a letter, "contain proprietary assumptions, analyses and projections regarding the feasibility and performance of the Project and provide insight into FCRC's proprietary financial models and other business practices, which would be detrimental to FCRC's competitive position if disclosed."

And disclosure would frustrate ongoing negotiations "relating to all aspects of the Project." Those negotiations include "private parties."
...
But the cost of the project and the arena was a public matter when the project was approved in December 2006. If the cost is now a secret, that suggests that developers and public agencies can announce one set of numbers to the public, then turn around and keep the actual numbers secret.

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NoLandGrab: You think that the total cost of the arena ought to be public knowledge, especially since the project is to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in City and State funding, and that, officially, the arena is to be owned by the public, though Nets owner and developer Bruce Ratner would lease it for A DOLLAR.

NOPE! This is a "trade secret" and would be "detrimental to FCRC's competitive position." Huh? Competitive with whom?

This doesn't pass the smell test and smacks of the fear of public outrage and political retribution if we knew what they really were up to.

Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

Forest City cuts Mesa del Sol staff in half

New Mexico Business Weekly

While Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises continues to tell reporters that work has stopped in the Vanderbilt Yards because they have gone as far as they can while lawsuits are still pending, recent layoffs indicate otherwise.

Just last week, half of the staff was laid off for one of the company's award-winning projects, Mesa del Sol, as residential development was once again stalled, due to the economy (not lawsuits).

Mesa del Sol’s staff is being cut in half and its residential development plans have been put on hold indefinitely.

Developer Forest City Covington blamed current economic conditions for the cuts but expressed optimism long term for the 12,000 acre development near Albuquerque’s Sunport International Airport.

The layoffs will reduce Mesa del Sol’s staff from its current 18 to nine over the coming months. It’s the second round of cuts since last November, when Forest City pink slipped the project’s economic development team.
...
“Our plan for Mesa del Sol is that it will be developed over the next 35 to 50 years. We know in the real estate business that there are ups and downs and unfortunately, we are working with a down market.”

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Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

Smith: How Bloomberg Could Finally Build Moynihan Station

NY Magazine, "Daily Intel"
By Chris Smith

The state sponsor of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject gets dissed by an unnamed government official in an article about efforts to get the Moynihan Station project back on track (emphasis added):

It would be wildly premature to hire another stonecutter, but there is new hope that Moynihan Station will get underway. Senator Chuck Schumer, with the help of the recession, has reframed the project along its original lines: Creating a new transportation hub instead of redeveloping a vast stretch of Midtown West all at once by moving Madison Square Garden to Ninth Avenue, as private developers Vornado and Related Companies intended to do when they won bidding rights four years ago. “Vornado and Related can’t get financing for the larger project right now, and they don’t know where they’re putting the buildings,” a government official says. “Dealing with trying to move Madison Square Garden is an intractable mess, and ESDC [New York State’s development agency] is not capable of running such a project. So this simplifies things by putting the Port Authority in charge and making transportation the central part of the project again.”

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NoLandGrab: We can't speak for the competency of the ESDC, however it is commonly believed that it was chosen so the Atlantic Yards project would be scrutinized under a less stringent land-use review process and, by law, the State could supercede all local zoning restrictions.

Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

The gaps in the Times's "Living In" Fort Greene

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder notes that aside from placing Brooklyn's Ft. Greene neighborhood next to "the Atlantic Yards area" (a planned project, not a real place), The NY Times totally ignored the high-rise public housing.

The worst thing was the failure of the article to mention the presence of high-rise buildings other than new luxury housing. Fort Greene is a mixed-income neighborhood; it includes public housing and subsidized Mitchell-Lama buildings.

Those buildings do not show up in the New York Times classifieds. They likely are not the desired locations of typical Times readers. But they are part of "Living In" Fort Greene.

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Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

March 8, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Sunday Two-fer

Nets-to-Newark depends on closing of the Izod Center

The Newark Star-Ledger opines on the chances of the New Jersey Nets moving permanently to Newark: In the end, the Nets' fate will come down to money -- whether Ratner and his investors still have enough of it, and if they don't, what follows as Plan B.

What [Newark Mayor Cory] Booker really needs is the closing of the Izod Center, which would allow Newark and the Prudential Center to land the lucrative A-list concerts currently booked at the Meadowlands. That's where the real money is.

In other words, there's a whole lot of New Jersey politics involved.

More on the battle

The newspaper reports today: Last week's announcement that the New Jersey Nets, who call Izod home, will play two preseason games at Prudential next fall fueled new speculation that the team will abandon a five-year quest to move to Brooklyn and make a deal to play basketball in Newark. At the same time, it reignited a debate over the competition between the state-operated arena in the Meadowlands and the new arena, nicknamed "the Rock," that was intended to spark a renaissance in the state's largest city.

"I believe we need to start looking at this as a regional issue," said Newark Mayor Cory Booker. "Ultimately having a very old arena and a new arena cannibalizing each other is just not a productive thing for our state."

Prudential Center officials say they are not at war with Izod, but it was always their expectation that Izod would close once the Devils and Nets left the Meadowlands.

That was sports economist Andrew Zimbalist's assumption, too.

Indeed, while the Nets pay between $50,000 and $60,000 a game as tenants, a concert date "can make five, seven, 10 times more than an NBA date for us," a spokesman told the newspaper.

Turns out "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" is about a real estate dispute

Norman Oder finds echoes of the Atlantic Yards fight in last summer's film "You Don't Mess WIth the Zohan."

Given the circumstances, it was fortuitous that You Don't Mess With the Zohan, the zany, dumb, and distracting movie starring Adam Sandler as an Israeli Special Forces Soldier-turned-hairdresser, showed up in my Netflix queue on Friday.

And guess what? It's sort of about sports and real estate, offering very tangential echoes of AY. Turns out that a villainous developer named Walbridge wants to clear a Lower Manhattan neighborhood--improbably a commercial district populated with Israelis and Arabs--so it can "have its own indoor mall, with its own 300-foot tall rollercoaster."

Click on the link to learn how the movie mixes ethnic tension and hacky-sack into its plot.

Posted by steve at 11:44 AM

When Arenas Collide

The Star-Ledger
By Ted Sherman

The Izod Center and the Prudential Center are only 8 miles away from each other in New Jersey. This is causing a conflict wherein both arenas are competing for the same events. (Events like the circus, the ice shows and concerts are much more profitable for these arenas than sporting events.) The uncertainty of the status of the proposed Barclays arena is part of the mix as to whether to keep both Izod and Prudential open or at least find a way so that they cooperate, and not compete.

Last week's announcement that the New Jersey Nets, who call Izod home, will play two preseason games at Prudential next fall fueled new speculation that the team will abandon a five-year quest to move to Brooklyn and make a deal to play basketball in Newark. At the same time, it reignited a debate over the competition between the state-operated arena in the Meadowlands and the new arena, nicknamed "the Rock," that was intended to spark a renaissance in the state's largest city.

"I believe we need to start looking at this as a regional issue," said Newark Mayor Cory Booker. "Ultimately having a very old arena and a new arena cannibalizing each other is just not a productive thing for our state."

Prudential Center officials say they are not at war with Izod, but it was always their expectation that Izod would close once the Devils and Nets left the Meadowlands.

New Jersey Senate President Richard Codey wants to see the two arenas cooperate, and also wants to see the Nets stay in New Jersey despite stated intentions by the Nets to do otherwise.

Codey's greater concern is to see the Nets stay in New Jersey -- and, for him, to move to Newark. "It's time they fish or cut bait. They've been in a holding position on the tarmac for more than five years and it's not right," Codey said. "The Nets need a first-class arena."

The Nets, however, say that arena will be in Brooklyn. Team chief executive Brett Yormark said the vision has not strayed from a planned $1 billion Frank Gehry-designed arena there, and they expect to break ground on the project by this summer, despite the worsening recession that has affected major commercial development nationwide.

"Even in a challenging economy, we are doing multiyear deals and seven-figure deals for Brooklyn. That's where we're going," said Yormark. "I wish the Prudential Center well and I want them to be successful there. But our intention is to go to Brooklyn."

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NoLandGrab: Does anyone believe that, even if it is built, the Brooklyn arena will be designed by Frank Gehry? It's pretty clear he's no longer involved.

Posted by steve at 11:15 AM

Will Brits Bail Out Barclays to Help Build Billion Dollar Brooklyn Arena?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

An article in The New York Times about British banks receiving bailout money got the folks at DDDB speculating what might happen if Barclays Bank, which has a $400 million naming-rights deal for the proposed Barclays Center arena, took this aid. Could the naming-rights deal be in jeopardy?

Barclays Bank, an England-based firm, has a $400 million naming rights deal with Forest City Ratner for the proposed Barclays Center Arena as part of the Atlantic Yards project. Of course, being English, Barclays is not eligible for TARP funds. But they are eligible for the British Bailout. Barclays declined to be involved in the first round of bailouts in Britain, but now The Times reports that there is mounting pressure on Barclays to accept toxic asset purchases by the British government.

From the sound of it, Barclays will eventually be bailed out by the British government.

...

The British, who are much more no-nonsense than us Yanks, are not going to look too kindly on a bailed out bank putting $400 million into a billion dollar arena across the drink in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood that doesn't even want the thing.

link

Posted by steve at 11:10 AM

Arena or Hole in the Ground?

NetsDaily

This blog entry looks at an article appearing in The Wall Street Journal and another in the Star-Ledger. Much discussion ensues.

The controversy over Atlantic Yards seems to be coming to a head: The last major court decision is expected soon. Bruce Ratner says an arena ground breaking will follow. Meanwhile, Newark makes an ever louder pitch for the Nets. The latest: a conservative analyst decries the whole process as a public-private partnership gone terribly wrong and an economic analysis of the IZOD vs. the Rock.

A Hole Grows in Brooklyn - Julia Vitullo-Martin - Wall Street Journal

When Arenas Collide - Ted Sherman - Star-Ledger

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Posted by steve at 11:05 AM

Taps for Atlantic Yards?

Gideon’s Trumpet

This blog, which is largely concerned with eminent domain issues, wonders if the end is nigh for Atlantic Yards.

The Wall Street Journal of March 7-8, 2009 (Julia Vitullo-Martin, A Hole Grows in Brooklyn, at p. A9) reports that the grandiose $4.3 billion Atlantic Yards redevelopment project in Brooklyn, that was the subject of the U.S. Court of Appeals decision in Goldstein v. Pataki, shows new signs of coming apart. We blogged about that case on March 22, 2008 (Another Big Redevelopment Project Down in Flames?) — check it out.

Says the Journal: “The projected December 2008 ground-breaking for the [new Nets’] arena came and went without a shovel hitting the dirt. The chances that the Nets will be playing in Brooklyn for the 2009-10 season, as promised, are nil. Architect Frank Gehry has laid off his entire Brooklyn staff, and Mr Ratner’s company (Forest City Ratner) has renegotiated its loans. Financing to finish the project has dried up amid a global financial meltdown.”

And so it goes . . .

link

Posted by steve at 10:13 AM

March 7, 2009

New Jersey Nets make a slam-dunk move to Prudential Center in Newark

prudentialcenter.jpg

The Star-Ledger
By The Star-Ledger Editorial Board

The announcement of two Nets exhibition games to be played in Newark's Prudential Center help to show how much some people really want the Nets.

The New Jersey Nets have decided to play two exhibition games at the Prudential Center this fall, and we're not sure if they did it because a) they're trying to expand the team's fan base; b) they're tired of playing in a place that's quieter than the East Rutherford library; c) they have never seen a fan arrive on a train; or d) they just want to quiet Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

But watch out, Nets. Whatever the reason for packing up the station wagon and visiting the cousins in their Mulberry Street McMansion for a couple of nights, it could backfire. Nets fans might get a taste of what they're missing.

...

Blogger Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards Report gets a mention, but as an activist, instead of as a journalist, which is really his trade. There's also a misinterpretation of Oder's prediction. He's said that the best-case scenario for the Nets playing in Brooklyn will be the 2012-2013 season.

The Nets insist they're moving to Bruce Ratner's proposed Strip Mall Deluxe in Brooklyn. Even Norman Oder, the New York community activist who, for years, has been calling technical fouls on Ratner and his lawyers, concedes that the team probably will open the 2012-13 season in the new Brooklyn digs. But, with the economy in a downward spiral and no bottom in sight, Brooklyn isn't a slam-dunk yet. And with each delay, the Prudential Center -- with better facilities and more luxury suites -- becomes a more attractive option, even if it's temporary.

...

In the end, the Nets' fate will come down to money -- whether Ratner and his investors still have enough of it, and if they don't, what follows as Plan B.

NoLandGrab: Money may, indeed, be important. With a history of doing only projects that involve hefty public subsidies, it may be more a question of how much more public subsidies developer Bruce Ratner can finagle.

link

Posted by steve at 1:11 PM

PILOTS and Wall Street Journal Opinion Piece

Atlantic Yards Report

While some people think that the weekend is a good time to relax a little, for Norman Oder, it's an opportunity to look even harder at Atlantic Yards. Today he gives us a double dose.

At another Assembly hearing on the Yankees, PILOTs, taxes, ticket prices, and animosity

You'd think they'd be grateful, but it turns out that sport teams don't really like to acknowledge it when they receive public subsidies. This became obvious at yesterday's public hearing on Yankee stadium. Yankees president Randy Levine, when questioned by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, insisted on saying at the same time that the Yankess received no subsidies, yet relied on PILOTS (payments in lie of taxes). PILOTS would be used to pay for the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Brodsky contends that the public is paying for the stadium because the tax-exempt bonds are paid off by PILOTs. The Independent Budget Office (IBO), however, considers only the break on interest rates the subsidy.

"I’m going to read language from the IRS letter," Brodsky said to Levine, referring to a letter in which city officials wrote, "The city has determined to use its property taxes to finance the construction and operation of the stadium."

"Is that accurate," he asked.

"I don’t know, I’m not a bond lawyer," Levine demurred. "I’ve testified, over and over, in my opinion, the New York Yankees are paying every cent of construction of the new Yankee Stadium." He noted that the Yankees do not pay property taxes and no new stadium would have been built without the opportunity to use PILOTs.

WSJ on AY: "A Hole Grows in Brooklyn"

Norman Oder takes a look at today's Atantic Yards piece in The Wall Street Journal and adds some perspective of his own.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed today about Atlantic Yards, headlined A Hole Grows in Brooklyn, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Julia Vitullo-Martin argues, not unpredictably for the newspaper and author, that the private market should have been allowed to do its work.

She writes: Now, more than five years later, what's been brought to Brooklyn is a very large hole in the ground and a project that is coming to symbolize why large government projects can be riskier than allowing local residents to fix up their own communities.

Her conclusion: The ill-fated project in Brooklyn reflects a breakdown of the state and city's strategy of favoring big-government, centrally supported, highly subsidized projects over the kind of small, privately funded, unsubsidized, incremental development that was already occurring in Prospect Heights, as the area is officially known.

...

I think Vitullo-Martin gets the big picture right--and appreciate the citation of AYR in her piece--but I wish she'd further noted the importance of government action as a catalyst. For the blocks in Prospect Heights below the Vanderbilt Yard, conversions of former manufacturing buildings into housing required spot rezonings.

A wholesale rezoning would've been necessary for both those blocks, and the railyards, to catalyze development. And some measure of subsidy would've been necessary to jump-start development over the railyards.

The difference would've been that a subsidy to build a deck over the railyards could've been announced before a single bidder had been selected, as with AY, and instead could've spurred development in multiple parcels with multiple bidders, as in the proposed UNITY Plan.

As I wrote in December 2006, the Empire State Development Corporation, in a not credible statement, contended that, without Atlantic Yards, there would have been no redevelopment in the project site.

Posted by steve at 7:30 AM

A Hole Grows in Brooklyn - The local economy should have been left to develop on its own.

The Wall Street Journal
By Juila Vitullo-Martin

One purpose of the proposed Atlantic Yards project was to remove blight from Prospect Heights. This opinion piece shows how, in the rush to force the development on Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner and his tool, the Empire State Development Corporation, have done just the opposite.

The ill-fated project in Brooklyn reflects a breakdown of the state and city's strategy of favoring big-government, centrally supported, highly subsidized projects over the kind of small, privately funded, unsubsidized, incremental development that was already occurring in Prospect Heights, as the area is officially known.

It seems that smaller scale redevelopment wasn't happening fast enough for government officials, eager to jump-start Brooklyn's economy. They leapt to support the developer's contention that the neighborhood was blighted, and that its property owners were therefore vulnerable to the state's exercise of eminent domain.

Now officials have a mess on their hands. The development got just far enough to do considerable damage to the neighborhood without progressing far enough to do any good. Atlantic Yards has razed 26 buildings, with government help, creating the blight its developer had argued was there all along. Now there are gashes where late-19th century and early-20th century buildings once stood.

article

NoLandGrab: The Vanderbilt Yard (a working railyard) is at a lower elevation than the surrounding area, so the project footprint is sometimes referred to as a "hole in the ground." Otherwise, it's refreshing to see an understanding of the Atlantic Yards boondoggle in a well-known publication such as The Wall Street Journal. Any chance that New York papers like The Times could now rethink their endorsements of the project?

Posted by steve at 7:10 AM

The Answer to Our Question About NYC Density - Destiny Is National News

Noticing New York

Plans to close portions of Manhattan's Broadway to vehicular traffic probably bring a smile to pedestrians. However, this policy is an indication that the City's approach to development has led to too great a density.

In the case of midtown Manhattan, closing streets to traffic is a possible safety valve. But what safety valve could Mayor Michael Bloomberg use in Brooklyn for the density-busting Atlantic Yards? (Emphasis added.)

The shutting down of the street space is also “answer” to the density question in another sense: although it was likely not anticipated when more density was being created, it serves as an after-the-fact escape valve adjustment to deal with it. That raises the question in our mind: What will happen in those situations where we build to cram in maximum additional density and we don’t have extra streets and avenues to close down as an escape valve or way to adjust when it turns out that we get more congestion than we can otherwise handle? The question is urgent because cramming in maximum additional density is the new Bloombergian planning style.

We are thinking in particular of areas of the city that will experiment with combining superblocks with never before tried levels of density with FARs (zoning code parlance for “Floor to Area Ratio”i.e. “density”) that only become legally possible with such street closings. Ironically, important acknowledged urbanists like Jane Jacobs would call for more streets and avenues (particularly for pedestrians) as a means to cope with high density. Two examples of situations where we therefore may be building without the kind of escape valve option being used here are Atlantic Yards and, considered by the City Planning Commission only last Wednesday, construction of a dense new superblock of towers at what is now Fordham University’s midtown campus site.

link

Posted by steve at 6:33 AM

Finding Meanings in the New York Times

Here are two odd instances in The New York Times (business partner with developer Bruce Ratner) of how the proposed Atlantic Yards project is mentioned -- and not!

The first is in The Times's Real Estate-section piece about the Fort Greene neighborhood. In trying to describe where Fort Greene is, "Atlantic Yards area" seems to have replaced "Prospect Heights" as one of the nearby neighborhoods. Atlantic Yards is not a place — it is a proposed mixed-use development located in Prospect Heights. The Times's description is something like renaming Washington D.C. the "White House area."

Multiple Identities Can Be a Good Thing
By Jeff Vandam

Snug in its corner between downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Clinton Hill and the Atlantic Yards area, Fort Greene retains more than its share of stunningly intact brownstone blocks. Many include houses rich in embellishments and detail, supported by a pride in ownership that remains steadfast even as brownstones change hands.

The second example is an article in The Times's City section about a playful rivalry between the two Brooklyn bars, Freddy's and O'Connors. The article fails to mention that the much more serious rivalry Freddy's faces is with developer Bruce Ratner, who wants to tear down the bar to build the proposed Atlantic Yards.

Pranksters Amid the Pilsner
By Sarah Stodola

Freddy’s, on Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, is the up-to-date bar. When Freddy’s plucked the bartender Donald O’Finn from O’Connor’s in the mid-1990s, he assumed responsibility for Freddy’s transition from “cop hangout” to second living room for the neighborhood’s growing ranks of artists and artistic types. The back room was turned into an avant-garde performance space, and Mr. O’Finn’s films are shown in the front room.

Posted by steve at 5:59 AM

March 6, 2009

The Death of a Blogger

The Huffington Post
by David Weiner

When I moved to Brooklyn, I stumbled upon his site, then living at a Blogspot address. It wasn't the prettiest website, but it helped me immeasurably. What the hell is that building going up across the street? Gowanus Lounge is on it. Is it just me or is my mail being stolen? Gowanus Lounge is on the case. Lost dog? Apartment hunting? Want to debate the Atlantic Yards? Talk local politics? Or even simply, what time does the park close? Gowanus Lounge could help you with all this, and more.

article

Posted by eric at 4:05 PM

Luxury Strikes Out

The Wall Street Journal
by Ben Casselman

In a case of monumentally bad timing, this year three of the biggest names in pro sports -- the Yankees, New York Mets and Dallas Cowboys -- are opening three of the most expensive stadiums ever built, filled with premium-priced seats and luxury amenities. At a combined cost of more than $3.5 billion, the stadiums were conceived and financed in a vastly different environment, a time when corporations and municipalities were flush with cash. Now they're opening just as corporate America is going through a massive belt-tightening -- and trying to avoid the appearance of extravagance at all costs.

"Let's face it, if you're taking TARP funds, it's really hard to justify getting a [luxury] box," says Neal Sroka, a luxury real estate agent hired by the Yankees to help sell the team's premium seats, referring to the funds distributed to banks under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
...

Between corporate sponsorships, naming-rights deals and luxury suites, two-thirds or more of teams' revenue comes from corporations rather than ordinary fans, estimates David Carter, executive director of the University of Southern California's Sports Business Institute. Over the years, luxury boxes, once just a few glass-enclosed rooms high above the regular seats, have become as integral to a new stadium as concession stands -- more so, because companies pay for them up front, guaranteeing profits regardless of the team's success on the field. As team owners crammed in ever-more premium seats, corporations, eager for new ways to entertain clients, happily bid up the prices.

All that corporate money, Mr. Carter says, has created what he calls the "sports ticket price bubble." Now that bubble is in danger of bursting.

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Posted by eric at 2:29 PM

The Nets-to-Newark scenario is bolstered by an interesting rumor

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder analyzes the latest rumors about NJ Nets to Newark:

In a blog post headlined Brooklyn or bust, New York Daily News sports columnist Filip Bondy suggests that, if Atlantic Yards stalls more than two years, the losses suffered by the team, $30+ million a year, might force a sale.
...
Here's the rumor:

A very specific report has been circulating around the team that Ray Chambers and Lewis Katz are preparing to invest $150 million with Ratner, as part of a contingency deal. If he can get the Brooklyn arena done in two years, fine. Otherwise, Chambers and Katz would purchase the team and move it to Newark.

I have to imagine that there's a little more wiggle room in that plan. It's unlikely that the Brooklyn arena would be completed in two years. The earlier arena design was supposed to take 32 months.

Even if the main remaining lawsuit (on eminent domain) is dismissed, as is likely, efforts will be made to file an appeal. Even if construction were to begin later this year, there's no guarantee that things would work smoothly.

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Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

Missing Robert Guskind

BobGuskind.gif This morning I'm going to get personal because Bob Guskind is gone and, if anything, Bob took Brooklyn personally.

If you browse the countless remembrances and announcements for the Gowanus Lounge creator, you might be struck by how many lives he touched. Adrian Kinloch of Brit in Brooklyn called him "Brooklyn's very own Blogfather," most called him friend. Whether or not Bob was a close friend, he was a good friend.

Yesterday, The Brooklyn Paper called him "friend" in a headline in the paper's daily email blast and then published some dirty laundry from Bob's last few months (link). Local bloggers, also known as the "Brooklyn Blogade," quickly railed against the treatment. Though Bob could be brutally honest and acerbic, he was a class act and would have never done the same to someone else, especially a friend.

Bob Guskind poured his heart and enormous intellect into Gowanus Lounge. As someone who struggles to track one complicated developer-driven neighborhood-be-damned boondoggle, I could never understand how Bob could simultaneously monitor the developments and details of several rezonings and neighborhood controversies. Unlike most of the media, he had a fairly good track record of keeping the facts straight.

Bob hated corruption and liars, which means he loathed Atlantic Yards. To him, Bruce Ratner's highly subsidized eminent-domain-abusing megaproject represented the best of the worst of non-democratic political backroom dealing.

Regular Gowanus Lounge readers noticed that an emotional and edgy tone (including fiery invective) would periodically creep into his writing during the past few months. [City Councilman David Yassky received the worst on-line asswhooping after a last minute reversal leading to his vote to extend term limits.] Even though he pushed the limits, his anger still captured the emotionally destabilizing stress felt by residents who live in Brooklyn's rapidly changing neighborhoods.

I already miss his enormous bear-hug greeting and his relentless celebration for the quirky small things, while railing against those who sweep the small things aside.

— Lumi

[Bob's photostream is still on view at flickr.]

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Robert Guskind, in remembrance

Atlantic Yards Report

Along with many others, I'm deeply saddened by the untimely death of fellow blogger--like me, he preferred a term like "online journalist"--Robert Guskind. Founder of the Gowanus Lounge, former editor at Curbed, and mentor to many Brooklyn bloggers, Bob was a thoughtful, talented, generous, and very complicated man. He was about 50 years old.
...
Bob covered areas of Brooklyn from Coney Island to Greenpoint, finding both a street-level and neighborhood niche while maintaining a punishing schedule. But because this is AYR, I will point readers back to one Atlantic Yards-related episode.

In October 2007, we appeared together on the Brian Lehrer Live show. Our segment began about 21:20 in. Bob, a bearish man, was thoughtfully skeptical and gently compelling.

"Density is good," Guskind told the host, "but the issue with Atlantic Yards, in my opinion, is one of excessive density.... Frankly, I'm skeptical of the environmental review process that was done."
...
Guskind offered the money quote, suggesting that the lawsuits were the only hope, given that the political and approval process was "rigged to produce this outcome. In a few decades of covering urban affairs and covering public policy all over the country, I've rarely seen a process this anti-democratic."

article

Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

March 5, 2009

Forest City Enterprises eliminates another 100 jobs

The struggle to get its fiscal house in order continues for Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises; the company announced today that it was cutting another 100 jobs nationwide. This follows a previous round of lay offs back in November 2008, the suspension of dividends in December, and a "greater emphasis on monitoring and managing upcoming maturities."

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City cuts 100 jobs, 50 of them in Cleveland area

Forest City Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: FCE-A) cut 100 jobs Thursday, 50 of them in the Cleveland area.

The real estate company, based in downtown Cleveland, is trying to reduce costs amid an economic crisis that has been particularly cruel to real estate. This is the second round of job cuts in recent months for Forest City, which has tabled most new development in favor of managing its properties and reducing its debts during the downturn.
...
"We anticipate that the need for across-the-board job reduction is now behind us," [spokesman Jeff Linton] said. "It may be necessary to have targeted reductions in the future, but it's not possible to predict at this point."

Crain's Cleveland Business, Forest City Enterprises eliminating another 100 jobs

“This is part of our ongoing cost-reduction efforts, and a difficult but necessary step as we bring expenses into line with our near-term outlook,” Mr. Linton said.

The real estate giant currently employs about 800 people in Northeast Ohio, most at its Terminal Tower headquarters, Mr. Linton said. Total employment nationally remains about 3,000.

Posted by lumi at 7:58 PM

In Memoriam: Bob Guskind

Several news sources are reporting that Bob Guskind — journalist, founder and driving force behind the blog Gowanus Lounge, former editor at Curbed, advocate, neighbor, and most importantly, a friend to us here at NoLandGrab — has died.

Our hearts go out to his family and friends, and the people touched and inspired by his work. The world will be a poorer place without Bob Guskind in it.

Bob, we'll miss you.

Posted by eric at 4:14 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

New Jersey Eminent Domain Law Blog, Proponents of Atlantic Yards win Appellate round

The issuance of deference given to the blight findings of the lower court is important. In fact, the contract with AKRF, the consultant hired to perform the blight study, required the study of market trends around the project site which were never completed. The courts should not be rubber-stamping blight findings based on deference to the initial fact finder. Substantial credible evidence should be the standard. The New Jersey Supreme Court in Gallenthin Realty Development, Inc. v. Borough of Paulsboro (A-51-2006) clarified the standard, reversing the blight finding in that case and issuing an opinion which has become precedential in terms of what the courts should be considering with regard to blight determinations. See blog post about blight determination in Gallenthin. The New York Court of Appeals would do well to grant certification in this case.

Noticing New York, Missing a Leg To Stand On: ESDC Didn’t Consider Developer Profit, the Main Thing Atlantic Yards is About

The Atlantic Yards plaintiffs had pointed out that there was no evaluation or record of what the private benefit of the project will be to Ratner even though this is something New York courts have previously found to be required by the New York State Constitution. Picking up on their point, Presiding Justice Robert Spolzino, during oral argument asked ESDC attorney Charles Webb if “ESDC articulated the balance between private and public benefit.”

There’s no requirement of such a finding, Webb said.

Pressed by Spolzino Webb said: “I don’t believe there is. There’s no reason to. They don’t have to.”

Not long after that ESDC attorney Philip Karmel took the oral argument podium and compounded the earlier ESDC admission, saying that ESDC had neglected to “explicitly lay out the private benefit.”

All of which is to say that ESDC first allowed Ratner to fill in the sky-is-the limit blank check and then was not the slightest bit interested in taking a peek to see the amount the developer filled in.

FastCompany.com, Dark Days for Frank Gehry

Meanwhile, two of his projects were put on indefinite hold: A mixed-use development near his iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the Atlantic Yards project. Sad news all around for architecture buffs—and likely not the last of it.

DesignApplause!, Frank Gehry. Poor me.

Frank Gehry. Poor me. Global recession sucks big time. Lays of 50% of staff.

The Atlantic Yards project, 16 towers, if not in the toilet, on hold.

The Villager, Scoopy's Notebook

ACORN’s attorney: Arthur Schwartz, of Community Board 2, was recently named general counsel for ACORN nationwide. The grassroots community activist group has 400,000 members. Schwartz, one of the city’s top union lawyers, said he’ll be scaling back a bit on that front to focus on his new job. “They pick their issues,” he said of ACORN. “They support Atlantic Yards; they negotiated a deal with Ratner to get jobs, affordable housing. They’re an integral part of the Working Families Party.”
...

What about his previously announced “next career” of becoming a political consultant? Schwartz said he’s still working on a few races, including City Councilmember Alan Gerson’s re-election campaign and Bill de Blasio’s race for Public Advocate.

Popo in my crib, Could the Nets be headed to Newark?

The decision to leave the Izod Center behind for the greener pastures of Newark seems to me to be a more likely scenario than going to Brooklyn. For one, the newly built facility offers the luxury boxes many sports team drool over and as I have experienced, a nicer concourse, better food and nicer seats than the Izod Center for spectators to enjoy. And unlike the Barclays Center, it’s already built and in use by a major sports team – the Devils.

Posted by eric at 3:58 PM

Brooklyn or bust

The Daily Blahg [NY Daily News]
by Filip Bondy

Nets' management really, really hates it when anybody asks about Newark, because Bruce Ratner remains determined to get his team to Brooklyn in two years. Ratner will never move the team to Newark. However, if the Atlantic Yards project stalls much longer, he may be forced to sell the franchise because of huge losses.

This makes the Nets' announcement so odd about playing two preseason games this fall at the Rock. Barry Baum, a spokesman for the team, says the commitment was debated among executives for this precise reason, that they feared it would start rumors about a possible move there. But money is money, and the Nets just couldn't sell preseason tickets at the Meadowlands.

A very specific report has been circulating around the team that Ray Chambers and Lewis Katz are preparing to invest $150 million with Ratner, as part of a contingency deal. If he can get the Brooklyn arena done in two years, fine. Otherwise, Chambers and Katz would purchase the team and move it to Newark.

But again, the Nets strongly deny such an agreement. They continue to fight off a bunch of legal challenges to their Brooklyn project. "We've won 22 of 23 cases and we'll win the last one," Baum says.

He sounds certain. Two years from now, Baum will either look like a truthsaying visionary or a naive flack.

article

NoLandGrab: This is the first we've heard of a possible deal with former Nets' owners Chambers and Katz, and the first time we've actually heard a Forest City executive admit that they haven't won every court battle.

Posted by eric at 3:14 PM

Foreclosure Crisis: Q&A with Acorn Home Defenders

Storefront for Art & Architecture

Thursday, March 5, 7pm
Foreclosure Crisis: Q&A with Acorn Home Defenders
Moderated by Jose Esparza

On Thursday, Feb. 19, ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) members in eight cities kicked off their Home Staying campaign, a new tactic to fight the foreclosure crisis. Teams of ACORN Home Defenders - volunteers from local communities - will employ civil disobedience as needed to help people who have faced foreclosure to stay in their homes until a comprehensive federal solution has been put in place.

A screening of footage from the first Home Defenders actions in NY State and a survey of the current nationwide housing crisis will be followed by an open discussion between ACORN and Home Defenders representatives and the audience on the legitimacy and effectiveness of civil disobedience strategies in this context.

link

The Storefront for Art & Architecture is located at 97 Kenmare Street in Manhattan.

NoLandGrab: Someone might want to ask ACORN why, when the bank seizes your home in a foreclosure, it's bad, but when the state seizes your home so Bruce Ratner can build a basketball arena, it's good.

Posted by eric at 3:05 PM

The Documentary Bodega Series presents The Civilians: Brooklyn at Eye Level

UnionDocs

The Civilians: Brooklyn at Eye Level
Directed by Steven Cosson
March 8 | 7 pm
322 Union Avenue, Williamburg, Brooklyn

The Civilians most recent production, Brooklyn at Eye Level, was presented this past December at the Lyceum: “From debates over Atlantic Yards to the construction of high-rise condos, the future of central Brooklyn is being decided right now. The Civilians investigate—at eye level—the people and places that make this place what it is and what it will be.”

UnionDocs has invited director Steven Cosson and others from The Civilians to come screen some of this performance and to talk further about their unique methodology.

link

Posted by eric at 12:55 PM

Moisture plagues 'impermeable' gallery

Toronto Globe and Mail
by James Bradshaw

Speaking of Frank Gehry, one upside to his not designing the Atlantic Yards project — should that come to pass — might be a considerable improvement in watertightness.

The new Frank Gehry-designed Art Gallery of Ontario, designed as an impregnable fortress against the harsh Canadian weather, is already showing chinks in its armour. Recent visitors to the newly reopened and much celebrated Toronto gallery have been shocked to find condensation fogging up and streaming down many of its outer windows, while buckets dot its famed Douglas fir central staircase, catching errant drips.

The leaks and condensation problems at the AGO have dredged up memories of a negligence lawsuit that ensnared its architect, Frank Gehry, in late 2007 after another of his designs, at MIT, became cracked, leaky and mouldy. When word of the dispute reached AGO director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum that November, he said he was confident the newly renovated Gallery would be "impermeable" and ready for the challenging weather of downtown Toronto.
...

A reporter yesterday found three buckets catching water on the central stairway that wriggles its way from the second floor of Walker Court up to the fifth-floor contemporary gallery. One bucket was three quarters full and catching a steady drip. The winding flat banisters were occasionally draped with small towels absorbing drips, and in two places, a small amount of water was pooling on the banisters unattended. A series of seven portable fans were connected by extension cord and strategically placed to try to dissipate some of the condensation, but appeared to be having little effect. And duct tape can be found partially covering the vents below the windows in an attempt to increase the force of the air flowing up from them.

In recent days, the windows of the gallery's two staircases have been so fogged by condensation that they gave only a hazy, impressionistic view of the city outside, and visitors could be seen wiping them with their sleeves to see out.
...

Mahoney played down the alarm some have felt at stumbling across buckets, towels and duct tape in the city's primary artistic gem, saying such "rebalancing" is routine.
...

Meanwhile, Gehry has been struggling with more substantial and different problems on other projects. The number of staff at Gehry Partners, which has offices in Paris, Hong Kong and New York, and headquarters in Los Angeles, has been halved over the last year, and two big projects - on Grand Avenue in Los Angeles, and in Brooklyn - have been put on hold as the economy spirals downwards.

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NoLandGrab: Note to the AGO — do yourselves a favor and slap some plaques on the buckets, towels and duct tape labeling them "art" created by Mr. Gehry — problem solved.

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

Barclays Wants Gehry; Won't Pay $400 Million for Atlantic Center Mall Part 2

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

With the news that the Nets will play 2 of their 3 Fall 2009 preseason games at the Newark Prudential Center Arena comes a strange column in the The Times today where the idea of a Nets move to Newark is described as "so easy" or "the odds of which seem slim to none." Newark Mayor Cory Booker is sure excited about the possibility, but those who speak for team owner Bruce Ratner say "no way."

Nonetheless, the Atlantic Yards quote of the year-to-date comes from myth-making marketing guru, Nets Chief Executive Brett Yormark in the article:

"Corporate America believes in the project, the Barclays Center specifically," Yormark said, referring to the proposed Brooklyn arena. "They know we're going to get there, and they want to be a part of it."

The "there" they want to get to is not going to be "there."

What "Corporate America" and Barclays want to "be a part of" is a world class, state-of-the-art, landmark Frank Gehry destination arena. That's what Barclays agreed to pay $400 million for and what other arena sponsors are attracted to. They didn't get into this $400 million mess to slap their logo on Plain Vanilla Center or Atlantic Center Mall Part 2 or Concrete Box Pavilion. "Corporate America" and Barclays will bail on Ratner and Yormark faster than a Magic Johnson led fast break the day Forest City Ratner makes it official that Frank Gehry will not be designing the arena. It seems that Mr. Gehry has already faced up to it. So, making it official is just a matter of time; it's already the case, but Yormark hasn't made it clear to "Corporate America" yet. (And if he hadn't noticed, "Corporate America" has bigger problems of late than deciding which white elephant to sink its non-existent extra cash into.)

Perhaps this is why the Nets are testing the Newark waters.

article

Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

Nets Newark Creep

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

In January there was a leak that the Nets might test Newark with a few preseason games in the new Prudential Center Arena. After the leak, Nets President Brett Yormark admitted to the talks, and then said they were off.

Today, the Star Ledger reports that the Nets will play two preseason games in the Newark arena next October. So the talks must have restarted.

link

Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

Elected officials call for public hearing if AY is considered for stimulus funds; Senator Adams flatly says no

Atlantic Yards Report

Six elected officials, along with a district leader, have sent a letter to Gov. David Paterson asking him to make public any documents requesting stimulus funds for Atlantic Yards, to hold a public hearing with opportunity for public comment regarding such allocation of funds, and to have "responsible state officials"meet with them before any decision is made regarding such funds.

While the letter, dated March 3, does not go so far as to oppose stimulus funds for AY, as several community groups did in a recent letter, it essentially sets up many more roadblocks beyond those faced by any other request.

And the letter points out that not only the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) but also the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) have not requested stimulus funds for the project. (It was known that AY was not on the initial MTA list, but there's been no public disclosure of ESDC requests.)

Signatories

The signatories are Assemblymembers Jim Brennan, Hakeem Jeffries, and Joan Millman; State Senator Velmanette Montgomery; and Council Members Letitia James and David Yassky. It was also signed by 52nd Assembly District Leader JoAnne Simon, who's running for Yassky's Council seat.

Not signing on, for reasons unknown to me, was Council Member Bill de Blasio, who has become a more vocal critic of AY despite his essential support for the project.

While James and Montgomery are project opponents, the others are critics of various stripes; the wording of the letter was apparently crafted to ensure consensus.

Adams letter

State Senator Eric Adams, who has been closer to the fence on Atlantic Yards than most of the above officials, nevertheless sent a more forceful letter individually.

"I am writing to express my profound concern over the alleged lobbying of state officials by Forest City Ratner Companies in an attempt to obtain a portion of New York State’s federal stimulus funds for the proposed Atlantic Yards project (an undertaking that includes a stadium for the Nets basketball team)," Adams wrote in a mid-February letter.

He concluded, "New York’s allotment from the federal recovery package must not be utilized for the advantage of any private developers, nor should it be used for the benefit of any stadium project."

Petition: 2000+ signatures

More than 2000 people have signed a petition opposing stimulus funds for Atlantic Yards, a piece of information that also has been sent to Gov. Paterson and Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

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Full text of the letters after the jump.

The first letter

Here's the text of the letter that has multiple signatories:
We are writing regarding reports that Forest City Ratner is requesting funds from the Federal stimulus package for the Atlantic Yards Project. We request that any application or other submitted documents to the Governor’s office related to the stimulus package be immediately disclosed to the public and the elected officials signing this letter. In addition, there should be a public hearing and opportunity for public comment on any application for funds. We also request a meeting with responsible state officials prior to any decision on the use of stimulus funds for Atlantic Yards.

It is our understanding that neither the M.T.A. nor the Empire State Development Corporation has submitted the Atlantic Yards project to your office as part of any list of projects for the use of Federal stimulus funds. This indicates that Atlantic Yards is not considered a priority by these agencies at this time.

It is regrettable that the State of New York, in cooperation with the developer, chose to override New York City’s zoning and land use laws for the Atlantic Yards project, depriving local community boards, the Brooklyn borough board, and the New York City Council, of what would have been their legal right to vote on the Atlantic Yards project. As a result, the project has never been vetted through the traditional democratic land use processes available to the community and the people of the City of New York.

Many events have occurred which have created uncertainty and risk regarding the 8 million square foot development approved by the State in December 2006. The original economic and financial assumptions upon which the approval was based have dramatically changed. At a meeting with elected officials in December, Forest City Ratner stated that it hopes to be able to finance the arena this summer, notwithstanding the economic climate, if current litigation against the project is unsuccessful. If it is unable to finance the arena, it has not yet committed to proceeding with a residential development. This is hardly a basis for the State to commit additional funds without a full public discussion process.

We hope your office will be quickly forthcoming with the requests we have made. Thank you.

Letter from Senator Adams

I am writing to express my profound concern over the alleged lobbying of state officials by Forest City Ratner Companies in an attempt to obtain a portion of New York State’s federal stimulus funds for the proposed Atlantic Yards project (an undertaking that includes a stadium for the Nets basketball team).

The State of New York is facing a budget crisis, with a current-year deficit your office estimates at approximately $15 billion. You have been forced to propose many governmental agency cuts, and New Yorkers will feel the brunt of those funding decreases, which will necessitate reductions in salaries and loss of employment. Education for our children may suffer; health care may be negatively impacted; the very poor, the elderly, and the ill may all feel the consequences of financial decisions that state officials in the Legislature must make in conjunction with your office. No one will remain untouched by this economic crisis.

The objective of the stimulus bill is the use of fiscal policy to reinvigorate an economy in deep recession. Restoring economic health will be accomplished primarily by boosting economic activity through magnifying short-term aggregate demand. As federal dollars purchase more goods and services, increased demand should stabilize employment and help reverse the downturn.

On the state and local levels, we must carefully prioritize our use of all federal stimulus funds. With the severest of cutbacks facing our state, our moneys must not be applied to assist a private developer. New York’s allotment from the federal recovery package must not be utilized for the advantage of any private developers, nor should it be used for the benefit of any stadium project. The stimulus funds are intended to ease the plight of the citizens of New York State; they must be dedicated to essential restorations in fundamental areas: education, healthcare, and mass transit.
(Emphases in the original)

Posted by eric at 9:58 AM

Hunley-Adossa denies the obvious: the City Council race is (in large part) about AY

Atlantic Yards Report

Tish James says — and we paraphrase — bring it on.

The New York Times, following up on the story I broke, reports in its new blog The Local that Delia Hunley-Adossa said her City Council candidacy was unrelated to Atlantic Yards:

“One thing had nothing to do with the other,” she said.

She declined to say what made her a better qualified candidate than Ms. James but said she would release her full platform at her first fund-raising event....

Ms. James, who is in her late 40’s, said today that she felt that the race would come down to a debate over Atlantic Yards. Her district includes most of the site.

“I’m confident that Atlantic Yards was a primary reason for her candidacy since all the other issues she’s raised I’ve been on the forefront on in this district, including education and environment,” she said. “The only issue where there’s a major difference is Atlantic Yards.”

More from James

"I look forward to a spirited primary, and I look forward to her providing the answers" to the questions posed, James told me.
...

James questioned Hunley-Adossa's commitment to environmental issues. "If she was there to protect the public," James asked, "why didn't she raises questions about removal of trees [in the Atlantic Yards footprint], the dust [from demolition activities], the impact on children in the shelter [on Dean Street]?"

"I'm ready to debate her today," she said.

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Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

A Challenger for Tish James

The Local (Fort Greene/Clinton Hill) [NY Times blog]
by Andy Newman

Delia Hunley-Adossa, the president of the 88th Precinct Community Council, a longtime community activist and a prominent supporter of the Atlantic Yards project, plans to challenge Councilwoman Letitia James, whose term expires at the end of the year. Ms. James is one of Atlantic Yards’ most vocal critics.

Ms. Hunley-Adossa, 52, who owns a private security company, says she is running against Ms. James, who has held the 35th District council seat since 2003, “to be a part of the new forward-thinking leadership movement.” She added: “I’m standing on three E’s that are impacting us today — economy, education and environment.”

Ms. Hunley-Adossa is the chairwoman of a committee of nonprofit groups that signed a Community Benefits Agreement with Atlantic Yards’ developer, Forest City Ratner, binding the developer to provide job training, affordable housing and business opportunities to local residents. Critics, including Ms. James, say the agreement provides too little affordable housing.

Ms. Hunley-Adossa said her candidacy, which was first reported by the Atlantic Yards Report, was unrelated to her work on Atlantic Yards, the stalled $4 billion mixed-use development.

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Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

Nets to Newark for the Preseason

The announcement by the New Jersey Nets of two preseason games in the Prudential Center in Newark generates more coverage and comment. Common themes are: the insistence that the Nets just have to come to Brooklyn (never mind how an arena can be financed) and the arrival of the Nets by the (best case scenario for the Nets: 2012). Observers of the Atlantic Yards fight are urged to look at what Nets management does rather than what it says. It's clear that delays from lawsuits and financial troubles are forcing the Nets to keep all options open. Meanwhile, loyal Nets fans hope that their team can stay in New Jersey.

The Star-Ledger - NBA Nets agree to play in Newark
By Ted Sherman

They say it means nothing; they are still headed to Brooklyn, so don't read anything into it -- no how, no way. But the New Jersey Nets will be play two exhibition basketball games in Newark this fall.

The Nets, who play their regular season home games at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, will meet the Boston Celtics on Oct. 13 and the New York Knicks on Oct. 21 at the downtown Prudential Center -- bringing NBA basketball for the first time to the state's largest city.

Nets officials said the preseason games are aimed at regionalizing the team's fan base, and not any sign that they were exploring alternatives to the long-delayed move to Brooklyn. The Brooklyn move is tied to the construction of a $1 billion arena project that is under mounting financial pressure in the face of a worsening recession.

"Absolutely not," insisted Nets CEO Brett Yormark when asked whether the team was backing away from Brooklyn. "We're going to Brooklyn for the 2011-12 season."

New York Times - Newark’s Dreams Conflict With Ratner’s Vision for the Nets
By William C. Rhoden

Mayor Cory Booker described himself as a “hopeless dreamer” Wednesday morning.

...

Booker extended the concept to the impact a professional team could have on a city. In fact, he said that when he spoke of being a dreamer, he was referring to bringing the Nets to Newark, the odds of which seem slim to none.

Everyone associated with the Nets’ owner, Bruce C. Ratner, insists there is no way the Nets are staying in New Jersey. Ratner’s vision has always been that the team would be the crown jewel of a sprawling real estate complex in Brooklyn. “The fact is, we’re going to Brooklyn,” Brett Yormark, the Nets’ chief executive, said Wednesday.

Booker is undaunted. He spoke confidently about luring the Nets. He was passionate in describing the economic and psychic impact they would have on the city, which already has a great arena in the Prudential Center, where the Nets will play two preseason games in October.

“We don’t have to use state money to build anything,” Booker said. “The Nets coming to Newark would supercharge the city. I’m working on it every day.”

...

Meanwhile, Ratner, whose company, Forest City Ratner, was the development partner for the Midtown headquarters for The New York Times company, continues to nip and tuck and shrink his grand development project. In deference to a ravaged economy, he said he would build the basketball arena first and hold off on proposed office buildings and most of the housing until the economy improves. According to reports, he is trying to cut the estimated $1 billion cost of the arena in half in the hope of attracting financing and attracting more city and state subsidies.

Newark would be so easy. Unfortunately, that’s never been the Nets’ way.

The struggle always continues.

Daily News - Nets to play a pair at The Rock
by Julian Garcia

Loyal Nets fans from New Jersey have been screaming for years that the team should forget about moving to Brooklyn and just head for Newark, where a brand new arena would await them.

Meanwhile, Nets owner Bruce Ratner - and the people who speak for him - have been screaming back, "Forget about it!'

Well, we found out today that moving the team to the Prudential Center in downtown Newark is not such a far fetched idea.

The Nets announced today that two preseason games next season with be played at the Prudential Center, affectionately known as "The Rock." They will also play one game at St. John's University - conceivably to give the impression that they are still heading to one of the boroughs of New York City in the near future.

...

Since the Nets have been adamant about not moving to Newark, why would they want to give the impression that they might be if there wasn't at least a chance? It seems logical that by playing games in Newark they are sort of kicking the tires in case a permanent move there becomes necessary. And based on everything we've heard, it seems very likely that the Brooklyn thing will be much harder to make a reality than Ratner and his people are letting on.

I'm sure we will hear more about this in the coming hours and days, so stay tuned.

AP via USA Today - Nets will play preseason games in Newark, Queens
by Tom Canavan

In a move to expand their fan base, the New Jersey Nets will play their preseason games next fall in Newark and at St. John's in New York instead of their longtime home at the Izod Center in the Meadowlands.

...

The Nets hope to move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2011, but construction has not started on the building.

Bob's Blitz - NJ Nets Done with Brooklyn Dreams? New Jersey Opens Preseason in Newark

The New Jersey Nets will open their 2010 preseason in Newark.

Ted Sherman reports that the NJN 'will meet the Celtics on Oct. 13 and the Knicks on Oct. 21, in two preseason games at the Prudential Center, bringing NBA basketball for the first time to the state's largest city.'

Newark Nets sounds better than Brooklyn Nets did anyway...

Posted by steve at 4:26 AM

March 4, 2009

Nets will play two of three preseason games in Newark, one in Queens

Atlantic Yards Report

In what may be a prelude to a temporary move (at least) to the Prudential Center in Newark, the Newark Star-Ledger reported that the Nets will play two preseason games there next October, and a third game at St. Johns University in Queens.

While Nets CEO Brett Yormark is still touting the team's move to brooklyn in 2011, Norman Oder isn't buying it.

As I've pointed out, 2011 is unlikely, leaving 2012 a more likely best-case scenario for a Brooklyn move. That would mean at least three more seasons in New Jersey and, given the poor attendance at the Izod Center, a temporary move to Newark--where the new arena has room on its schedule to accommodate an NBA team--has to be considered.

And if lawsuits and financing problems significantly delay or kill the Brooklyn arena, the test run at The Rock would help the Nets, New Jersey Devils (the main tenant), and city of Newark negotiate a future deal.

It's all negotiable

In mid-January, when a potential plan to play preseason games in Newark fizzled, Yormark told the Star-Ledger, "If that means taking us out of Izod Center, I'll consider that. However, all discussions (with the Devils) are off."

Now, as we realize, it's all negotiable.

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Posted by eric at 4:08 PM

New Jersey Nets to open preseason in Newark

NJ.com [The Star-Ledger]
by Ted Sherman

Now we'll be able to call them the New Jersey, Newark and Queens — but not-yet-Brooklyn — Nets.

The Nets will open their preseason next fall in Newark. The team, which plays at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, will meet the Celtics on Oct. 13 and the Knicks on Oct. 21, in two preseason games at the Prudential Center, bringing NBA basketball for the first time to the state's largest city.

A third preseason game will be played on the campus of St. Johns University in Queens against the 76ers at Carnesecca Arena on Oct. 23.

"We are excited to bring our team and our brand to Newark and Queens for the pre-season schedule for next season," said Nets CEO Brett Yormark. "We are looking forward to playing two games against two of our biggest rivals, the Celtics and the Knicks, at the Prudential Center. We are also excited to be playing a game at St. John's in Queens, a borough where we expect great support for the Nets when we move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2011."

The Devils organization has made no secret of its desire to have the Nets move into their arena, known as The Rock, and to close the Izod Center. At the same time, there are mounting questions over whether construction on the long-delayed Brooklyn arena will ever get underway, in the face of continuing community opposition and a worsening recession that is killing major development projects across the country.

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Posted by eric at 3:57 PM

Hunley-Adossa, FCR beneficiary as head of dubious CBA signatory, will challenge Tish James for 35th District Council seat

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has a scoop: the Ratner machine is fielding a candidate to run against incumbent City Council member and outspoken Atlantic Yards opponent Letitia James.

Dee%26RatneritesAK2.jpg

Delia (Dee) Hunley-Adossa, a veteran community volunteer, chair of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition, director of a CBA signatory group with a dubious mission, and leader of pro-AY rallies, will challenge incumbent Council Member Letitia James, the project’s leading political opponent, for the 35th District seat.
...

Hunley-Adossa has not yet formed an official campaign committee, but has begun circulating invitations for a fundraising event March 19 at Two Steps Down on DeKalb Avenue. One of two sponsors of the fundraiser is Charlene Nimmons, who heads another fledgling CBA signatory, Public Housing Communities (PHC); the other is Hunley-Adossa's daughter Saadia.

Hunley-Adossa, asked about her platform, qualifications, and whether Atlantic Yards was an issue, responded briefly by email, "My broad range of experiences and desire to improve the condition of our community qualify me to run for city council."

"I am running for City Council to be a part of the new forward thinking leadership movement. I am standing on the three (EEEs) that are impacting us today, economy, education and environment," she stated. "With regard to any other information, that will be announced later."

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NoLandGrab: Prediction — Tish James will not have any trouble raising money or recruiting campaign volunteers.

Posted by eric at 3:08 PM

Picking up the pieces at Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Paper
by Aisha Gawad

The massive Atlantic Yards development project inspires rage in some and hope in others — but in Guy Ambrosino, it inspires a twisted art installment.

The Prospect Heights-based artist found twisted strips of discarded steel at Bruce Ratner’s demolition site — and turned those strips into an installation that opened Feb. 28 at the Soapbox Gallery on Dean Street, across the street from the Yards site.

The exhibit, called “What Was,” is meant to “document the memory of what was there using the material from the site,” said Ambrosino, an artist and photographer who works out of his Bergen Street studio.

His art also addresses the tense debate between Ratner and residents, who claim that the developer’s plan for a massive complex of skyscrapers, housing and office units and a basketball arena has caused the very urban blight that the project was supposed to cure.

“Steel is a rigid material that serves as a metaphor for how developers work, how difficult they can be,” said Ambrosino. “But when the steel is broken down into these long, flowing arcs, they become something beautiful, something positive and hopeful.”

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Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

Now we get it: Bloomberg thinks poaching companies over state lines is bad, but poaching teams is not so bad

Atlantic Yards Report

When Smith College sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, Forest City Ratner's paid consultant, calculated (report in PDF) expected tax revenues from the planned Atlantic Yards arena, one key element was what Zimbalist called the "recapture of tax revenues presently generated in New Jersey," current home of the Nets basketball team.

For Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project to be a net gain for NYC, it MUST "recapture" enough tax revenue from NJ fans. But if NJ wanted to do the same, dems is fighting words:

Guess what: the same people who boosted AY now warn that recapture of tax revenues across state lines is a bad idea. Consider an article in Monday's New York Times, headlined New York Vulnerable to Poaching in Recession, which noted how New Jersey was offering incentives to companies to move there.

The Times reported:

Those discussions have infuriated Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who complained publicly about New Jersey’s efforts in a news conference last month. And they have been sharply criticized by some economists, who assert that such incentives mainly benefit established companies with lobbying clout and are not very effective in creating new jobs.

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Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

Where we once walked…

weoncewalked.jpgPretending to Be

One blogger stumbled across a pretty cool connection to a place that used to exist in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan:

This is a photo of my dad… nearly 30 years ago…
Way before I was born…
In Brooklyn,
In a gas station on the corner of Flatbush Ave and Pacific Street, right by 5th ave…
He went there in hopes of a job,
A job towing old broken down cars…
There still are old broken cars around I suppose…
But the gas station isnt there anymore…
Torn down in hopes of a basketball arena that isnt coming anymore…
Thanks Bruce Ratner…. really…

link

Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

New Jersey Nets Unveil Latest Gay Asian Stuffed Panda Dance Troupe To Get The Crowd Hype

This NJ Nets YouTube vid could be the best reason to spend nothing to go to a Nets game.

According to Deadspin:

It seems the Nets are really pushing this "Robo-Tripping Tuesdays" promotion pretty hard. First 1,000 ticket holders get to watch Nets basketball then FREAK THE FUCK OUT.

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Plenty of rooms & deals - but no one's staying

NY Daily News
By Elizabeth Hays

According to an article in yesterday's Daily News, there's a glut of hotel rooms in Brooklyn, with more on the way:

As Brooklyn’s hotel boom goes bust, it’s hard times for hotel proprietors. But, for visitors, it’s never been better.
...
"Brooklyn . . . is hurting pretty bad," said hotel developer Sam Chang, who opened five Brooklyn hotels in recent years, including the Holiday Inn Express on Union St., but sold off his last one two years ago.

"There are too many hotels," he added.

The situation is only going to get worse if the economy doesn't pick up quickly, proprietors predicted.

Nearly 800 luxury hotel rooms are currently under construction downtown, according to the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, including a Sheraton hotel set to open this spring.

Still, other projects are hoping additional construction days will help them ride out the recession.

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NoLandGrab: Every few months or so, as the tide shifts in the local real estate market, Bruce Ratner predictably lets on that the configuration of his Atlantic Yards scheme has changed. When commercial vacancies were way down in Manhattan, the signature tower was primarily devoted to offices. Then the condo market was on fire, and planned office space morphed into luxury condos. [Officially, as a hedge, two configurations have been approved by NY State.] For the past couple of years, Brooklyn couldn't host enough hotels, and, like magic, Ratner included a hotel in his plans.

The moral of the story is that the Atlantic Yards is actually a big "whatever" — just give Bruce more money and he'll figure it out along the way. The public doesn't really need Atlantic Yards and this article is more proof that the marketplace doesn't need Atlantic Yards.

Unfortunately, the one feature of Atlantic Yards that the public seems to need or want is the affordable housing, which is supposed to get under way when the "whatever" gets built.

Posted by lumi at 4:46 AM

Forest City's business, residential tenants could use some wiggle room

The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Letters Unlimited"

One customer and former Forest City Enterprises tenant wonders why Cleveland's Medical Mart project should be built at Tower City, when outward signs indicate that the development company can't get its current business right:

I see that Forest City still won't give up the ghost or its executives' hopes to get their hands on a multimillion-dollar project that is supposed to benefit Cleveland and its citizens ("Forest City pitches cheaper mart project," Feb. 27). Please explain to me how this company plans to do this when it can't even properly run the properties the Avenue at Tower City (Forest City's proposed site for the medical mart).

I have been going to Tower City for almost two years, five days a week on my lunch break, and it seems that every few weeks or so another one of the stores that I enjoyed frequenting is gone. The latest casualty is GoToys, which claimed the same reason that I have heard from others that have left: The rent is out of sight and the company will not negotiate.

With the economy in the tank, one would think that corporate America would wise up and learn that the small business owner is the backbone of this country. With only a couple of stores left for me to frequent, my need to go to Tower City is shrinking. There are any number of places to eat downtown besides the food court. Additionally, I've lived in Forest City-managed apartments. Customer service stunk there, too.

Wise up, Forest City.

link

Posted by lumi at 4:13 AM

March 3, 2009

A pensive Gehry turns 80 and reflects on challenging times: "Today, if there's frugality, I'm ready"

The Skyline [ChicagoTribune.com]
by Blair Kamin

Could Frank Gehry be the value engineer Bruce Ratner is looking for?

Frank Gehry, the brilliant architect of Chicago's Pritzker Pavilion and BP Bridge as well as the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, turned 80 last Saturday. My colleague at the Los Angeles Times, Christopher Hawthorne, caught up with Gehry at this vexing time in his career, with his mega-projects such as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn on hold and his brand of exuberant architecture facing fresh skepticism amid the new frugality.

Gehry has a ready response, saying he could return to the corrugated metal buildings that once made him the king of "cheapskate architecture."

"I'm prepared to do that again, if I have to," he said. "Today, if there's frugality, I'm ready. I'll do corrugated again. It's fun to work that way, and it's easy. Why spend all the money for fancy details and stuff? You don't need it. You can get the passion with simpler things."

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Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

Schumer touts stimulus funds for Moynihan Station, waves off question on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Senator Charles Schumer brushes off Norman Oder's question about Atlantic Yards.

...I wanted to ask him about Atlantic Yards, given that, a little more than two weeks ago, Schumer expressed quizzical ignorance regarding whether AY would be eligible for stimulus funds.
...
He also took a few questions from reporters, answering in some detail.

When I finally got to him, he was less expansive. I told him I wrote a blog about Atlantic Yards and prefaced my question by stating that "Marty wants to use federal stimulus money for the railyards."

"Marty who?" asked Schumer, his mind apparently not on parochial borough politics.

"Marty Markowitz," I replied.

"I don't know," Schumer said dismissively, the statement responding (I think) to the propriety of the question rather than the policy issue. "I'm not--"

An aide interjected, saying it was time to go. And that was it.

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NoLandGrab: Given two opportunities in the past couple weeks to say something positive about Atlantic Yards, Chuck Schumer has twice demurred. Has New York's senior Senator lost faith, or is the project now so unpopular that he has to keep his lips zipped?

Posted by lumi at 4:18 AM

Nets ticket prices won't go down next year, except when they do

NetsTicketInfo.gif Atlantic Yards Report

Sports Business Journal reports that the New Jersey Nets are among at least 19 teams (out of 30) that are expected not to raise season-ticket prices next year.

Of course, there's still a lot of flexibility regarding tickets sold on a per-game basis. Some are free or nearly so; at other times, as the advertisement below indicates, discounts are keyed to perceived popularity of the opponent.

Even in games against the (defending champion) Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, the teams with the second- and third-best records in the league, discounts are 20-25%.

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NoLandGrab: NJ Nets ticket promotion idea — receive a pair of Nets tickets with your next purchase of a gallon of milk!

Posted by lumi at 4:16 AM

Recession Brutalizes Art World, Jeff Koons Doesn’t Seem to Notice

Flavorwire

The "Atlantic Yards' failure" couldn't happen to a nicer guy:

Even Frank Gehry is feeling the boom time hangover. In a recent interview on the architect’s 80th birthday, he reported to Christopher Hawthorne that the past year has been full of major disappointment. Not only did his development plan for Los Angeles’ Grand Avenue bottom out, but he had to put his Brooklyn-based Atlantic Yards project on the back burner. We tried to muster sympathy for the starchitect. But, we were too thrilled about the Atlantic Yards’ failure to really feel for him.

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Posted by lumi at 4:13 AM

March 2, 2009

Community Liaison Office moved to MetroTech; typos in message fixed

AtlnaticYardsWokStoppage.jpg

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, Forest City Ratner may no longer be staffing the Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office at the Spalding Building, but at least they appreciate public proofreading.

After DDDB and NLG this morning ribbed the developer for some flagrant typos in the message at right, a revised and corrected announcement was posted, as I learned when I walked by this evening.

They still haven't updated the web site list of Construction Updates, however.

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NoLandGrab: We have no doubts about Norman Oder's command of the English language, but we'd like to see that new sign for ourselves. Did they really add an apostrophe after "Companies?" Are voicemails and emails "continuously being checked," or are they being checked continuously? We'll be the judges of the "correctedness" of their announcement.

Posted by eric at 8:40 PM

Calling all Nets sponsors

NYDailyNews.com
by Jotham Sederstrom

Developer Forest City Ratner has announced a sponsorship deal that could pour millions into the ailing Atlantic Yards project - if it ever gets built.

MetroPCS, a wireless phone company, will join eight other corporations as sponsors of the New Jersey Nets, the NBA basketball team Bruce Ratner hopes to bring to Brooklyn to play in a new arena at Atlantic Yards.

Last week's announcement came on the same day as opening statements in a lawsuit against the $4.2 billion project, and followed a flurry of setbacks, including word that the Frank Gehry-designed arena could be scaled back to save money.

"I think they're trying to save a sinking ship, and I think they're trying to put their best face forward," said Councilwoman Letitia James (WFP-Prospect Heights), an opponent of the 22-acre arena/residential/commercial project.

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Posted by eric at 4:09 PM

Letter From Reverend Billy

VoteRevBilly.org

For those of you wondering if Atlantic Yards would ever become an issue in this year's New York City mayoral election, here's your candidate.

Dear New York City friends,

ReverendBilly.jpg

Today I am launching a campaign for Mayor of New York City. Our campaign will be devoted to nourishing and strengthening our common wealth, our city's heritage, our lovely parks, roads, streets, neighborhoods, and the people who live in them. This city once belonged to us, and it will once again.

It's time for all of us to rise up and reclaim our wonderful city from Starbucks and the other awful chain stores, from real estate speculators and the predators on Wall Street. Together, we'll give New York back to the people who love it.

I believe that the current mayor considers New York City a corporation. This is a natural tendency for a Wall Street guy. Parks, libraries and schools, for instance, are viewed as not worthy of public support -- they must be privatized to pay their own way. This creates a snowball effect, in which our public commons is sold off to the highest bidder.
...

Frivolous but money-making arrests, parking tickets, park rentals, and development corporation scams like the take-over of Carnegie Hall Towers (and eviction of 85 year old artists) and the cutting down of old trees in Union Square by mysterious semi-public agencies... not to mention the Olympics, Yankee Stadium and Atlantic Yards boondoggles engineered by wealthy associates -- these are the kind of distortions that come from the corporatizing of civic life.

It can't surprise us that Bloomy never met a developer he didn't like, but we might object once we've dodged a falling crane, or watched yet another neighborhood crushed under the weight of subsidized chain stores and rent hikes. This mayor has continued the attack on neighborhoods pursued by Giuliani. The 500 neighborhoods of New York, if they are healthy, are protecting our families and jobs. Local economies anchored by independent shops and public spaces are not as sexy to this administration as luxury boxes, corporate jets and the like, but really the greatness of this city is in its neighborhoods.

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Click here to learn more about Reverend Billy's campaign for mayor.

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

Gehry slows but not by choice

Toronto Star
by Martin Knelman

Frank Gehry celebrates his 80th birthday, but the milestone is tinged with melancholy.

Distressingly, two of his favourite projects, huge mixed-use developments on L.A.'s Grand Ave. (near Disney Hall) and at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, have been indefinitely delayed. The climate of sky's-the-limit architectural ambitions, combined with unbounded funding that he did so much to create, has reached a cul-de-sac.

"We've got half as much work as we used to have," he sighs.

Part of the problem is that people think Gehry's buildings cost too much. Whyever would they think that?

"I don't know how to overcome this perception that I'm extravagant. The cost of Disney Hall was only $215 million (U.S.). I'm a leftie and I've always believed in doing things on a modest scale.

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NoLandGrab: Yeah, modest. You should've seen the Atlantic Yards plan before Gehry gave it the modesty treatment.

Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

Atlnatic Yards Wok Stoppage

AtlnaticYardsWokStoppage.jpg Did Forest City Ratner lay off the employee who knew how to speel and proofread for typoos? [The author has real potential as a blogger!]

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn caught this photo of the see-you-at-MetroTech notice posted at the Spalding Building, where the "Atlnatic Yrds COmmunity Liason Officr" used to be.

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NoLandGrab: Snark aside, Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report has repeatedly noted that "We'll know Forest City Ratner is really serious when they demolish Spalding, which, if Atlantic Yards falls through, could easily be filled with loft owners."

In this case, we don't know for sure if this is another one of those drastic cost-cutting measures that have been going on at 1 MetroTech, or if this is Ratner getting "really serious."

Posted by lumi at 5:18 AM

Community-Based Plan of the Month: the UNITY Plan

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning

Ratnerville-CCBP.jpg

This monthly feature profiles a plan included in Planning for All New Yorkers: An Atlas of Community-Based Plans in New York City, an interactive, online tool created by the Municipal Art Society and the Community-Based Planning Task Force. This month, we feature the UNITY Plan, a community-based alternative to the proposed Atlantic Yards development.

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Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

Cleveland city councilman warns Medical Mart project is on "thin ice"

wkyc.com

Forest City Enterprises had a fit when they lost the opportunity to sell a portion of the company's Tower City site for Cleveland's new MedicalMart-and-convention-center plan. All the belly-aching earned Forest City a chance to redo the company's pitch, though a local city councilman warns that time is running out, since other cities are coming up with competing plans.

In January, Cuyahoga County commissioners announced that the current convention center downtown would be the site for the medical mart and new convention center.

But last month, developers with Forest City came up with a different plan to build the medical mart behind Tower City, one which they claim would cost millions less than building on the current convention center site.

Forest City representatives will travel to Chicago next week to present their plans to Merchandise Mart officals.
...
But Polensek feels the current convention center site is the best option for the medical mart. The findings of an engineering study on whether the current convention center foundation can support the project should be released in a few weeks.

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NoLandGrab: This reminds us of a famous Atlantic Yards do-over, way back in August 2005, when Forest City Ratner's lowball bid earned the company the right to exclusively negotiate the terms of the purchase of the Vanderbilt Railyard.

It will be interesting to see how this one turns out. Forest City Enterprises is very eager to get this deal done in light of the company's repeated reminders to investors and the press that it is "proactively managing [its] debt maturities."

Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

A look at a rescued and revived Ward Bakery (in New Jersey)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Ward Bakery turned into affordable housing — Norman Oder takes a look at what could have been a real win-win for Brooklyn:

BakeryVillage.jpg

Given the recent demise of the Ward Bakery in Prospect Heights, demolished by developer Forest City Ratner and with a few fragments turned into art, let's look at the renovation of another Ward Bakery (right), which straddles the border of Newark and East Orange, NJ.

Located in a depressed neighborhood, the building, now known as Bakery Village, was renovated into affordable housing that opened in 1999.

When I wrote about the project, in March 2007, I cited an Urban Land Institute report that said, “The building, however, required massive, expensive structural improvements and environmental cleanup.”

Well, "massive" and "expensive" is in the eye of the beholder. A look back at the news coverage suggests that, while it may have seemed costly in the 1990s, it was far less expensive than the sums suggested by the Empire State Development Corporation to renovate the building in Prospect Heights.

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Posted by lumi at 4:15 AM

March 1, 2009

NBA lines up $200 million for teams

AP via ESPN.com

In a "show of strength" (their words, not ours), the NBA is borrowing money to help keep a dozen struggling franchises afloat.

The NBA has lined up $200 million to distribute to teams interested in additional cash, which the league considers a sign it remains strong in a slumping economy.

Between $13 million and $20 million will be available to each of 12 teams that have expressed interest in the funds, commissioner David Stern said Thursday. The money can be used for any purpose, including helping teams deal with operating losses incurred because of the economy.

It should not, Stern said, be construed as a bailout. At a time when credit markets have been frozen, investors saw the NBA as a safe bet.

"It's exactly the opposite" of a bailout, Stern told The Associated Press "This was a show of strength in the creditworthiness of the NBA's teams."

Are Bruce Ratner's Nets, whose losses this season project in the $20—$30 million range, among the dirty dozen? We don't know, because...

The NBA declined to name the teams interested in the money.

However...

The 12 interested teams aren't necessarily those in the worst financial shape.

"Many of them are doing well," Stern said.

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NoLandGrab: In the Alice in Wonderland world of the NBA, "doing well" apparently means "needing to borrow between $13 million and $20 million." It's safe to say that we've learned nothing from the sub-prime lending mess.

Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

"What Was": across from Ward Bakery site, scavenged metal reborn as art

Atlantic Yards Report

WhatWas.jpg

Norman Oder takes on a different role, that of an art critic, as he visits a new art installation.

Across from the Ward Bakery site within the Atlantic Yards footprint, the Soapbox Gallery on Dean Street for two weeks offers artist Guy Ambrosino's installation "What Was."

Here's the artist's description: For this installation I used steel from the Atlantic Yards site directly across the street. The steel was part of the Pechters building that was torn down. It was in the concrete floors of the building. As they demolished the building and broke up the concrete the steel bent into these wonderful lines and arcs. The elegance and natural flow of the heavy rigid steel seemed an appropriate metaphor for the tension created by the Atlantic Yards Project. (The struggle between creating a wonderful project that is relevant and meaningful to community in Brooklyn against the demands of big development.)

The artwork elicits the following thoughts:

I agree that a viewer can read tension into the work, and that the steel does appear as "wonderful lines and arcs."

But my main response was something different: the Ward Bakery was so big, its debris could have been repurposed for countless installations.

Or it could have been preserved and renovated. After all, "the greenest building is one that's already built."

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Posted by steve at 6:31 AM

Newsday's Charles Wang interview

Newsday

In this interview, Charles Wang, owner of the hockey Islanders, shows no intention of bringing his team to Brooklyn.

HAVE ANY LOCAL INVESTORS SHOWN INTEREST IN PURCHASING THE TEAM/WANG: No. We never solicited, nor did anyone come to us and say, 'Hey.' I don't think anyone anticipates that it is for sale, and it isn't for sale. I think if I made a statement, 'It's for sale,' we would have interest locally. We know we have interest outside local interests, but we have not heard from anyone here. Seriously, we have not had interest [locally]. If there's interest, we would listen, I'm sure. Like anybody else, we would be polite and civil, but I'm not looking to sell the team.

WHAT ABOUT QUEENS INTEREST AT PROPOSED WILLETS POINT CONVENTION CENTER/WANG: We never spoke to them.

WHAT ABOUT BRUCE RATNER AND HIS ATLANTIC YARD PROJECT/WANG: I know Bruce Ratner, but he's got his issues to deal with. We're not contemplating anything there.

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Posted by steve at 6:07 AM

Mail's In (St. Devo Edition)

Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

A question from a Star-Ledger reader prompts this evaluation of how developer Bruce Ratner wil continue looking for a way to get an arena built in Prospect Heights.

Hi Dave: Although I'm sure you'd rather not get into this and probably can't offer much other then opinion, what are your thoughts on this statement: Bruce Ratner should sell the Nets? It's simple and to the point, and I think about 95% of Nets fans would agree that he is the man behind most of the failures this team has experienced (of course, Thorn, Kiki, and Stefanski before, are responsible for most of the good in this scenario). Strictly from a business perspective, his company's health is failing while the Nets lose millions annually and he truly couldn't care less about the product on the floor. My thought is that a new ownership group, probably led by the Devils group, could do much more with this franchise and its fledgling fan-base. If they owned the Nets, they could share the Rock, revitalize Newark and the Nets at the same time, and get rid of this giant black cloud hanging over the franchise (Brooklyn, for those not paying attention). Doron Tamari

DT: By now, you know that Atlantic Yards passed another legal hurdle, even if one of the judges on the appellate panel yesterday essentially trashed the developer (Forest City Ratner) and the agency responsible for the environmental review (Empire State Development Corp.). for being - paraphrasing here - a bunch of arrogant slobs who don't think twice about paving over people's lives before thinking about how it might affect the community at large. So, the answer is pretty easy: Ratner needs the team to make the project work, he can see the finish line now, and there's no way he's bailing out when he's so close.

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Posted by steve at 5:51 AM

Huge glut of office space coming soon

Queens Crap

From Bloomberg:

New York’s biggest banks and securities firms may relinquish 8 million square feet of office space this year, deepening the worst commercial property slump in more than a decade as they abandon a record amount of property.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., bankrupt Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and industry rivals have vacated 4.6 million feet, a figure that may climb by another 4 million as businesses leave or sublet space they no longer need, according to CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., the largest commercial property broker.

What a great time to build Willets Point and Atlantic Yards up with offices!

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Posted by steve at 5:47 AM

Panel Rejects Anti-Atlantic Yards Suit; Plaintiffs Will Appeal

The Village Voice
by Roy Edroso

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's legal challenge to the contentious Atlantic Yards project has been rejected, 3-0, in an Appellate Division panel ruling. According to the New York Law Journal, DDDB contended that officials improperly judged some properties "blighted" so that they could be seized for the project or their owners thus intimidated into selling, and that a favorable environmental impact ruling did not take into account the possibility of terrorist attack. The ruling expresses sympathy with the plaintiffs' claims, but held that they "have relatively little to do with the project's legality and nearly everything to do with its socio-economic and aesthetic desirability outside," and are thus outside the purview of a legal tribunal and should be handled by "the policy-making branches of government."

DDDB says they'll take their case to the Court of Appeals. The full decision will be released Monday is available here. DDDB reveals that the fourth judge of the panel, who concurred without joining the opinion, admitted that in her opinion "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.'"

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Posted by steve at 5:34 AM