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March 31, 2009

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 March 31, 2009 8:17 PM