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April 30, 2009

Atlantic Yards YES! Late-night subway riders NO!!

What's the point of building a basketball arena near a transit-hub if the sweetheart deal for the railyard over which a portion of that arena would be built shortchanges the cash-strapped transit authority, leading to huge fare increases and draconian service cuts?

The New York Times, New Cuts Could Doom Late-Night Subway Service, M.T.A. Director Says

The executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said on Wednesday that a possible second round of service cuts and fare increases in the near future would take the transit system “beyond doomsday” and that extreme measures like stopping late-night subway service could not be ruled out.

The authority revealed on Monday that it faces an additional $621 million shortfall this year, even after deep service cuts and fare increases of as much as 30 percent go into effect. The new deficit estimate is due to the slumping economy, which has cut revenues from taxes and fare and toll collections.

A deficit of more than $1 billion is forecast for next year.

Subway and bus fares are scheduled to go up on May 31, with the base fare rising to $2.50, from $2. Service cuts, including the elimination of 35 bus routes and the W and Z subway lines, will be phased in over the rest of the year.

NoLandGrab: You may recall that "increased weekday evening and weekend service to the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station complex" was one of the proposed "traffic mitigation measures" listed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Yards. Many critics thought that wasn't plausible when the FEIS was issued in 2006. How about now?

Posted by eric at 3:39 PM

Atlantic Yards through the looking glass

If you can wrap your head around this... NoLandGrab.org was referenced in Atlantic Yards Report's article analyzing a UK mag Prospect Magazine cover story that referenced the Atlantic Yards fight and Atlantic Yards Report.

In other words, not only is Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards a poster project for eminent domain abuse, massive public subsidization of the private sector, lack of transparency, and piss-poor urban planning, but the media culture that has emerged from this shameful real estate morass is now a self-referencing "case study" of how new media is shaping and responding to citizens' new news diet.

Atlantic Yards Report, In debate about the future of news, AY and AYR become a case study

In the UK's Prospect magazine, the cover story, an epistolary debate between author (and Outside.in founder) Steven Johnson and Princeton professor of communications and public affairs Paul Starr, is headlined Will the coming age of news be better than the old?

Interestingly enough, both the optimistic Johnson and pessimistic Starr cite Atlantic Yards and AYR to buttress their arguments.

I think that any discussion of the media ecology around Atlantic Yards needs several explanatory footnotes, which I offer below, but I believe that the volunteer media response to Atlantic Yards is an unusual phenomenon, not easily duplicable, which places me much closer to Starr's camp.

Someone has to do the work of journalism--reading documents, showing up at meetings, asking questions, making analytical connections over a period of time--and it's not easy.

Prospect, Will the coming age of news be better than the old?

Steven Johnson:

Let’s talk about what it’s like in my home town, Brooklyn, right now. You talk about the decline in state government reporting in New Jersey. For the past three years, the dominant civic issue in Brooklyn has been a controversy over the Atlantic Yards, a big urban redevelopment project. On Outside.in the page for the Atlantic Yards brings together news, reporting, commentary and chatter. There are 30 stories from the past five days. The New York Times print edition ran exactly one story mentioning it in the past month.

How much richer will coverage of an important civic issue like Atlantic Yards be in five years?

Paul Starr in reponse:

Let’s take a closer look at your business, Outside.in, and see whether it is a substitute for professional journalism. I see that when you launched Outside.in in October 2006, you used the same Atlantic Yards example. It’s two-and-a-half years later, and I’m sure by now you must have a second. But anyone looking around your site will see that investigative reporting is not what it does. From what I could tell, it doesn’t do any reporting of its own. It aggregates what appears elsewhere. There seems to be no standard of relevance or significance. And if what appears elsewhere is garbage, it helps to spread that garbage because, by its nature, an automated news site lacks the one thing that every good editor has­—a crap detector.

NoLandGrab: To Starr's point, if anything, NoLandGrab.org, though primarily a news aggregator, has spent the last five years being an Atlantic Yards "crap detector." Ironically, we assumed this responsibility because the old media abdicated theirs, which leaves us WHERE in this debate?

Posted by lumi at 6:06 AM

Developers Say Labor Pact Saves Less Than Claimed

The NY Times
By Charles V. Bagli

Construction union concessions sought by NYC developers could yield as much as a 20% savings on labor costs, though that may only translate into a 5-12% overall reduction in project costs.

The agreement, which claims to cut project costs by “an average of 16 to 21 percent,” is all but finished and a news conference still expected. More than a dozen projects have lined up to participate. But, developers and bankers say, that does not necessarily mean that any of them will proceed. The matter has become an object lesson in the intricate dance steps of New York politicians, real estate executives and union officials.

Though representatives for Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner have recently denied that the company's Beekman St. project is being topped out at half the planned height, reporter Charles Bagli cites the Frank Gehry-designed tower as an example of a project stalled mid-development in hopes of securing labor concessions:

The developer Bruce Ratner recently stopped work at the 38th floor of his planned 76-story Beekman Tower downtown, threatening to cap the building at 40 stories if he did not get concessions. Real estate executives say, however, that part of why Mr. Ratner — and others — are struggling is because annual rents are about one-third less today than the $80 per square foot that had been projected.


NoLandGrab: Possibly, in the case of Ratner's Beekman St. project, slow progress on the labor agreement is a scapegoat. Aside from the downward market projections mentioned above, parent company Forest City Enterprises has been struggling to keep up with debt maturities, has stopped or slowed work on many large-scale projects and put premium retail properties up for sale.

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

NY MTA may raise fares twice in 1 yr -- a first

Reuters, via guardian.co.uk

New York subway riders and motorists could get hit with a second round of fare and toll hikes this year, the first such double-whammy in the cash-strapped transit agency's history, officials said on Wednesday.

Meantime, the two big real estate/railyards deals aren't going to be providing any relief soon:

The developments of midtown Manhattan's Hudson Yards and Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards were expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars over time, but the two mega projects have stalled in the credit crunch.


NoLandGrab: Though the project has "stalled in the credit crunch," there are outward signs that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is strapped for cash and word is that the company is trying to renegotiate the terms of the MTA agreement.

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

NJ Nets head coach Lawrence Frank to return

Just as some banks are "too big to fail," some coaches are too expensive to fire.

LF-NYP.jpg The NJ Nets announced yesterday that head coach Lawrence Frank will return next year to serve out the last year of his contract, valued at $4.5 million.

Here are some of this morning's headlines:
The Star-Ledger, Lawrence Frank staying on as coach of New Jersey Nets
The Star-Ledger, Lawrence Frank reacts to staying on as New Jersey Nets coach
Associated Press, Nets' Lawrence Frank will return next season

With a flagging fan base, waning prospects of ever breaking ground on a new arena in Brooklyn and a red ink-stained balance sheet, Bruce Ratner's NJ Nets didn't have much choice but to keep Frank on. To pay out the rest of Frank's contract and hire another coach would have put the team even deeper in the hole.

Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

April 29, 2009

In discussion about Fort Greene and Clinton Hall, history, transition, gentrification, and, yes, Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

It’s hard to do justice to the sometimes compelling, sometimes disjointed, wide-ranging panel discussion concerning Fort Greene and Clinton Hilll presented last night by the New York Times’s blog The Local at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Dweck Center at Grand Army Plaza.

But the session, titled “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” did touch on the important and sometimes fraught intersections of neighborhood transition, development pressure, and race/class relations. (Of the panelists, two were black and two were white.)

And, despite some overlong monologues (from both panel and audience) or off-topic questions, it left people longing for more, for the messy humanity of in-person dialogue, in contrast with often-anonymous online interaction.

The growth of new residential towers, mainly at the neighborhood’s edges--and in several cases the unexpected consequence of a Downtown Brooklyn rezoning aimed to produce new (but ultimately unnecessary) office space, provoked dismay from [Nelson] George, who linked them to the planned Atlantic Yards project, which would be built just across the border in Prospect Heights.


Posted by eric at 9:17 AM

Built For Collapse

Just Seeds

A graphic artist put Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject to good use, by making it the poster project for the NYC high-rise condo glut (aka, the real estate bubble that would never go bust like the rest of the country).

In the artist's words: Built4Collapse.gif

The Atlantic Yards is a mega-development project designed by Forest City Ratner a company with close relationships to powerful NY politicians as well as the NY Times. The company wishes to build a basketball arena and 13 towers, mostly residential, near downtown Brooklyn. There are so many problematic factors to this project like traffic congestion, desire to use eminent domain, community displacement, request of "Federal Stimulus" money, and so much more.
I felt like referencing the renderings of this development project was appropriate in highlighting how overdevelopment of cities, like Brooklyn, has led to economic crisis. Construction combined with predator lending and stretching potential homeowners beyond their means has brought us to the stage of crisis that we are experiencing.

One hope of mine is to make this into stickers, for the front door of every new condo in NYC. If you are interested in using this image, gimme a holler, I can pass along a high-res file.


Posted by lumi at 5:49 AM

Second thoughts from a former state official; could Times Square have been reclaimed without eminent domain?

Atlantic Yards Report

The former insider and CEO (1983-85) of the state Urban Development Corporation (UDC) has publicly concluded that the use of eminent domain actually hindered the progress of developement of the Times Square area. Norman Oder examines William Stern's arguments and matches them against competing opinions.

The recently transformed Times Square area is a poster child proffered by city officials like Mayor Mike Bloomberg in defending the use of eminent domain. But what if eminent domain really didn’t work?

Here's a taste of Stern's arguments:

In hindsight, eminent domain was not merely unnecessary; eminent domain was destructive and counterproductive to the aim of achieving redevelopment. The properties surely could have all been bought out by the mega-developers. After all, that is how mega-development traditionally has taken place in the United States. It used to be called an “assemblage,” and good developers know how to do it without eminent domain. That kind of process would have been fairer and less costly. It also would have helped assure from the start that the buildings ultimately constructed on the site had the best chance of meeting the market’s demand—rather than government officials’ caprice. It was the way, after all, that Times Square had been developed in the first place. During my time at the UDC, developers approached me privately and said eminent domain was not needed. They had previously implemented large-scale development without eminent domain and were confident they could do so in Times Square.
While eminent domain may have made it easier two decades later to build (since the property was already condemned), the city lost far more than what it could ever gain from the lands’ new uses. It destroyed legitimate local businesses that create the patchwork of unique attractions that bring tourists from across the country to any major city. It delayed any resurgence of Times Square, as property owners and government officials remained in limbo and tax dollars were lost.

Our efforts ignored the root causes of the problems in Times Square, blinding us to any true cures and setting a dangerous precedent for future projects in New York City. Property owners who were anticipating massive buy-outs as a result of the West Side’s upzoning were shocked when they learned this simply ushered in a plan that effectively wiped them out, with “fair” market value in place of negotiation.

Check out the rest of the article for more analysis, including how Bruce Ratner's eminent domain-dependent Atlantic Yards megaproject is Stern's example of current abuse of power.

Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

Finance Commissioner Stark resigns, but the Yankee Stadium issue is ignored

Atlantic Yards Report

More evidence that sex sells. Starkgate has resulted in the resignation of the NYC Finance Commish, but the papers are focusing on her questionable relationship with a subordinate, not the dubious Yankee Stadium land valuations they cooked up, possibly on orders from the Mayor's office, at the expense of taxpayers:

There's a brief mayoral statement. But none of the coverage so far--see, for example, the Times, Daily News, and Crain's--raises any questions about what may be the most significant cloud over Stark and her former subordinate (and current consort) Dara Ottley-Brown: their role in the swift and curious reassessment of the Yankee Stadium site.


NoLandGrab: Look for similar land-value shenanigans for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards... hopefully without the sex scandal, though that would liven up the public conversation over the Prospect Heights megaproject.

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

Forest City Completes Sale of New York Retail Center

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises just sold a Queens shopping center to raise some much-needed cash, which should cover losses for the NJ Nets for a few months.

From the press release:

CLEVELAND, Ohio, April 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA) (NYSE: FCEB) today announced the sale by its subsidiary of The Shops at Grand Avenue, a retail center located in the Borough of Queens. The property was purchased by an affiliate of AEW Capital Management, LP, for a selling price of $33.5 million, representing a cap rate of approximately 7.75 percent on in-place income. The transaction, which closed April 16, 2009, generated proceeds of approximately $9.4 million, net of partner tax indemnification.

"We have always been an active seller of real estate from our portfolio," said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City president and chief executive officer. "Today, selective sales, joint ventures and other structures are part of our strategy to generate liquidity in response to current economic and financial-market conditions. As this transaction demonstrates, our high-quality properties in strong markets continue to attract buyer interest, even in a down market."

The Shops at Grand Avenue, which opened in 1997, is a 100,000-square-foot community center anchored by Stop & Shop, and featuring tenants including Party City, Mandee and Ridgewood Savings Bank.

Also, Crib Notes, Forest City sells New York shopping center

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

Filmmakers’ Discussion Panel at Galapagos

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

A documentary about Atlantic Yards will run next week at the Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC) film festival:

On Tuesday, May 5 during the “Brooklyn Current” program (7 to 8:30 p.m.)... Brooklyn Boondoggle takes a close look at the community voices surrounding the Atlantic Yards project....


Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

April 28, 2009

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brownstoner, Brooklyn Paper and Courier Begin Sharing Content

It's light fare, but an article about a stolen bench appearing on the Brooklyn Paper website Friday was notable for the fact that it was attributed to Thomas Tracy of the Community Newspaper Group, the publisher of the Courier-Life chain of newspaper; as of last month, the two papers share a corporate parent named Rupert Murdoch. The cross-publication was noticed by the ever-vigilant Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards Report. Like many observers, Oder is wondering whether the fact that The Paper is now owned by News Corp will mean its critical coverage of Bruce Ratner and the Atlantic Yards project will lose some or all of its edge to fall in line with the pro-development stance of its sister publication and the generally pro-business tack of Murdoch's empire.

The Score, Pacers pain not isolated incident

Smaller-market NBA teams aren't the only ones hurting these days.

The New Jersey Nets are showing an 8 percent revenue decline in the 12-month period that ended Jan. 31. The Nets’ financial results are detailed in the recently released financial disclosures of Forest City Enterprises, a publicly traded Cleveland-based real estate company which owns 23 percent of the team.

While the Nets’ revenue was down to $92.4 million during the most recent fiscal year, its losses were up, to $27.8 million. That compares to a $22.6 million loss during the previous fiscal year. The losses have escalated dramatically since 2006, when the team lost $9.5 million.

Nets Daily, State Official: We’re Driving Arena “Aggressively”

Driving the arena aggressively? Says one commenter, "someone better remind them to disengage the parking break."

DenverPost.com, Stapleton top-selling community

Developed by Forest City Enterprises, the Stapleton neighborhood has 24 parks and 25 miles of walking and biking paths designed to connect residential neighborhoods to restaurants, shops, parks and schools.

NoLandGrab: One major criticism of Forest City's Atlantic Yards project is the way it would divide the neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights.

Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

Lessons from Times Square redevelopment: even after legislative approval, financial accountability is needed

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at Atlantic Yards through the lens of "Lynne Sagalyn's 2001 epic analysis of redevelopment, Times Square Roulette."

Closer evaluation

Sagalyn argues that, given the lengthy project buildout and economic changes--situations that have recurred in the case of AY--further analysis was warranted:
This context of review intensifies the accountability issues attached to public deal making, as does the task of coping with a changing economic context and its implications for already-cut deals. Both issues make apparent the need for financial accountability of public deal making, after initial legislative approval. By the conventional norms of public policy, this means some type of review of the public’s financial commitments, an ex-ante evaluation of a deal's costs and benefits or an ex-post audit of financial transactions or both. That the public resources in question may be in the form of off-budget foregone revenues (rent credits or tax abatements) or long-term contingent commitments (ESAC) rather than direct cash grants or loans does not change the logic. It only complicates the tasks of analysis and explanation.
(Emphasis added)

Accountability needed

Sagalyn concludes:
If deal making is to progress as an effective and politically sustainable strategy in the took kit of development officials and city planners, the protocols for democratic accountability need to be further refined.


Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Development amid Deficits, Building amid Budget Gaps

City Hall News

Lago-CHN.jpg Atlantic Yards excerpts from online selections of the the on-the-record transcript of Empire State Development Corporation President and CEO Marisa Lago at an On/Off the Record breakfast held April 8:

Q: What is the status on Atlantic Yards?
A: Obviously a challenging project. Again, projects conceived in a different time and in a different economy. But, one, now the focus is very much on moving forward with the Nets stadium and with the housing that is on that first block, the first phase of the project. Attenuated timelines, I think, are a reality for private-sector and for public-sector projects; there’s nothing wrong with that. You look at the history of the transformational projects that have occurred in the city—earlier I was discussing with some of the folks here Roosevelt Island, the project that has grown over decades; 42nd Street, a project that has grown over the past 25 years—and the scale of the Atlantic Yards is similar in that it is remaking, re-knitting a portion of the city. So, as I said: [we are] focusing on what can get done now in the current climate, what is finance-able now, and also recognizing that it is a project that is scheduled to grow out over multi-years, decades, not months.

Q: What dates are we looking at for completion, and what does it look like when it’s done?
A: With respect to Atlantic Yards, our focus is on the first phase, on the arena and the attendant community benefits and housing that surround it, and with respect to particular dates, one doesn’t know, I think that it is a folly to say that. But, are we driving it aggressively? Absolutely.

Q: So we don’t know yet when the first basket will be scored in the Nets arena?
A: You know the history of predicting dates for it. I think the important thing is the commitment that the government has, that the city/state government has in working with Forest City to drive the project forward.

Video is available at http://www.cityhallnews.com/. Scroll through the video links on the right-hand side under "Online Exclusives."

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

Nets Plan “Sky Banners” in IZOD Corners

The word from NetsDaily.com is that Sports Business News (subscription only) is reporting that Bruce Ratner's crack sports-marketing team has figured out how to monetize thousands of empty seats:

The Nets have rented four 52′ high by 20′ wide projection screens they plan to hang in the four corners of the IZOD Center next season. The “sky banners” will display advertising expected to bring in as much as a half million dollars a year. They will be spread over entire sections and reduce the number of upper level seats by as many as 1,000. During sellouts, the banners can be removed.

NoLandGrab: It's clear that the Nets have given up trying to fill up the Izod Center with NJ fans that are way past caring for a team that is obsessed with moving to Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

Noticing Noticing New York: a twofer

Markowitz, McCullough, Me and Other Merry Minions of the Blogosphere

Though Michael D.D. White's update on the fight to preserve landmark views of the Brooklyn Bridge may have little to do with Atlantic Yards, activists in the fight against Bruce Ratner's Prospect Heights megaproject will get a sense of "deja screw" as Marty Markowitz stages another face-saving compromise and celebrities begin to join the fight, as an autocratic Mayor begins to tighten his grip on the power lever.

Links to Avoid: Unnecessary Temptation, Unnecessary Subsidies

One family's disgraceful fall is a cautionary tale about the inevitable political drift when politicians are faced with hundreds of millions of dollars sloshing around looking for a pocket to fill.

We offer a diagnosis of the source of political drift: We think that what most often separates a political party from its name and principles is the pull of temptation. The temptation in the comptrollers’s scandal is that the structures allowed one man control too much money and there was a lack of transparency to boot. It was just too easy to skim.
Consider, for example, the case of the highly unnecessary Atlantic Yards that is proposed to be massively subsidized almost beyond belief. For starters, the project will never deliver its ostensible benefits which are little but Orwellian fictions. In championing this project, Republican’s like former Governor Pataki or former Senate Leader Joe Bruno become proponents of excessively large government and an extraordinary level of government intervention in the private sector. Conversely, Democrats, like former governor Eliot Spitzer, become proponents of specially aiding a wealthy real estate developer and sports team owner like Bruce Ratner at the expense of the general New York populace. Voila! What better example could you have of political drift?

Unencumbered by a fixed party label, Bloomberg alone is not subject to such criticism since, names aside, he seems to be fixedly devoted to only one thing. He is regularly on the side of an oligarchic big government that aids the privileged.

Posted by lumi at 3:56 AM

April 27, 2009

Waiting for the judges to rule in both major AY cases (and watching Forest City Ratner repeat a discredited lie)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder outlines the arguments from latest briefs filed in the appeals of the environmental and eminent domain cases against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan. At times the opposing lawyers get a little feisty and Oder catches Ratner attorney Jeffrey Braun in a lie, though Braun filed an affirmation of the Empire State Development Corporation's briefs "under penalty of perjury":

Braun also asserted that AY would serve as “a powerful engine of economic growth,” claiming that that the environmental impact statement (EIS] estimated that the project would create 15,000 construction jobs and between 1300 and 6400 permanent jobs, as well as “$4.4 billion in net tax revenues for the City and the State over 30 years.”

Except the EIS said no such thing. In January 2008, Braun used the same language, then, after AYR and Baker called him out on it, admitted he was “mistaken.” (See graphics below, by Abby Weissman.) It's time for him to amend the affirmation he filed in court earlier this month.


Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

Forest City in the News

Baltimore Business Journal, To jump-start East Baltimore biopark, Forest City may scale back
Sometimes you build it and they don't come:

While officials of the Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins say they are not altering the master plan for the $1.8 billion project, they are considering cutting in half the size of a planned 280,000-square-foot lab building that is supposed to be constructed next. Or the project’s developer, Cleveland’s Forest City Enterprises Inc., could bump ahead in the development pipeline a 150,000-square-foot research facility planned for the project’s third phase.

Regardless of how Forest City proceeds, it has to do something to attract tenants and help finance the project, said Scott Levitan, a senior vice president with Forest City who handles leasing for the project, a key component of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to boost Maryland biotech industry. More than eight years after then-Baltimore Mayor O’Malley unveiled plans for the sprawling redevelopment north of Johns Hopkins Hospital, the project is behind schedule, over initial budget projections and the first building is half-leased.

Denver Post, Stapleton-Northfield roadway primed to go

A road tying Forest City Enterprises's award-winning Stapleton project with other area projects is slated to receive federal stimulus money.

GlobeSt.com, Ballot Petition Back to State Supreme Court

Foreset City Enterprises's deal with the City of Las Vegas is embroiled in courtroom drama.

Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

April 26, 2009

Rocawear Pop Shop

This view of the Rocawear Pop Shop parked on the Atlantic Yards Footprint shows a reflection of the Williamsburg Savings Bank Building.


Posted by steve at 8:34 AM

The Yormark rules? Rumblings of uneasiness at Nets' practice of courting sponsors

Atlantic Yards Report

In recent days, there has been speculation as to whether Lawrence Frank, coach of the Nets, will be retained for another season. One consideration is whether a new coach might have a conflict with Nets marketing initiatives.

NetsDaily blogger NetIncome (aka Bobbo) pointed out a couple of blog entries on the Star-Ledger/NJ.com web site, which both Matthew McQueeny and Dave D’Alessandro questioned whether a new coach would accept the team's apparent practice of letting sponsors and other big spenders access to practices and the team's plane.

The answer was no--a suggestion that current coach Lawrence Frank may be a better fit with team management than some critics think.

Unmentioned is the source of the policy, but a major influence--as NetIncome suggested--must be Nets CEO Brett Yormark, an uber-marketer who's regularly devising ways to court sponsors.

Included is this "speculative" exchange between Brett Yormark and team president Rod Thorn:

[Thorn] “Look, I’ve got an idea for you: Why don’t you dial this number — a guy named Jeff Van Gundy is awaiting your call.”
[Yormark] “Okay. And what should I do when he answers?”
[Thorn] “Tell him you’re hiring him to be the next coach of the Nets.”
[Yormark] “That’s it?”
[Thorn] “And then ask him how he feels about your filling up all the empty seats on the team plane with corporate clients, or having sponsors crash practice at your whim. Let us all know what he thinks of that idea.”
(Twenty seconds of silence)
[Yormark] “You know, I’ve always liked Lawrence.”

The entry concludes:

If the Nets are having a tough time now, imagine what kind of access Yormark's promising sponsors in Brooklyn?


Posted by steve at 8:02 AM

Time to rethink arena revenue assumptions?

Atlantic Yards Report

A reader points me to pollster Zogby International's blog, in a post headlined Box Seats or Paying the Rent?:
The new Yankee Stadium is making news, but not for the reasons team management wants. In addition to building a stadium that, after a few games, seems to be allowing too many home runs, empty seats in prime viewing locations are painfully obvious.

According to the Associated Press: “At the new Yankee Stadium, the best seats in the house have turned out to be the emptiest. The most expensive spots in America’s costliest ballpark have become an embarrassment packing a financial sting to the proud New York Yankees, as the Legends Suite section in the infield has been filled only once in the six games since the $1.5 billion stadium opened last week."

...A Zogby Interactive poll done on Feb. 23-24 found 70% saying have cut back on entertainment, recreation and eating out at restaurants. We reported then that: “The slashing of entertainment budgets isn’t just taking place in poorer households - around 70% of those in all household income brackets, including those with more than $100,000 in household income, said they have reduced their spending on entertainment and at restaurants in the past year. Younger adults are most likely to say they have cut back - 76% of those age 18-29 are spending less on entertainment, compared to 55% of those age 65 and older who say the same.”

Are the Yankees, and perhaps other pro teams, out-pricing the market for seats at games? Would you pay those prices to watch a ballgame?

Here's Neil deMause on "Seatgate."

The AY relevance: even if an arena could get funded (assuming lawsuits are cleared), all the assumptions about revenue require a rethink.


Posted by steve at 7:50 AM

Six Hungry Candidates at the Dazzle Me Forum

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn

This entry is an account of yesterday's forum, where candidates for the City Council in the 39th District (Gary Reilly, John Heyer, Josh Skaller, Bob Zuckerman, David Pechefsky and Brad Lander) presented themselves at the Carroll Gardens Public Library. There are several Atlantic Yards mentions.

Skaller, who believes that big projects like the Atlantic Yards and Yankee Stadium, are a big waste of city money, said that there is a "priority deficit" in the city and there's a need "to spread the pain around." He told the crowd: "The MTA is the heartbeat of the city and there should be no cuts to subways or buses. The city needs control of the MTA not politicians in Albany." ...

About stimulus money for the Atlantic Yards, the candidates all agreed that it was a travesty. "It's absurd," Skaller stated forcefully. "The need for stimulus for small business is greater than any need for Atlantic Yards."


Posted by steve at 7:30 AM

April 25, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Saturday Quartet of Exactitude

Norman Oder publishes four blog entries for a Saturday morning. One entry looks at construction labor costs, another at politics and two deal with media issues. And what have you, dear reader, done today?

In Council races, CBID endorses Skaller for 39th, Simon for 33rd

On Thursday, Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats voted to endorse Josh Skaller for City Council (39th District) and Jo Anne Simon for City Council (33rd District) in the upcoming Democratic primary.

The endorsement of Skaller was unsurprising, given that he previously was CBID president. But Simon, according to rivals like Ken Diamondstone, did not have the strongest reform credentials among the seven candidates.


I wasn't there for either the public or private segments of the discussion (I'm not a member), but I suspect the endorsement of Simon was in part a strategic move. Like most of the candidates, she's certainly qualified.

She's also a woman, and thus has the strongest chance among the "brownstone" candidates to beat Stephen Levin of Greenpoint, who's county leader Vito Lopez's chief of staff and seen as the machine candidate.

Skaller sides with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn on Atlantic Yards; Simon has been critical of the project but has been associated with the milder position of BrooklynSpeaks. Several CBID leaders are well to the "left" of BrooklynSpeaks, but, obviously, the Atlantic Yards issue wasn't dispositive.

Construction unions agree to some concessions, but reduction wouldn't cut arena price tag in half

Crain's reports:
After six months of discussions, building contractors and unions have reached an agreement to slice labor costs. The problem is that developers estimate the deal will only save them no more than 15%—far less than the 25% they had sought when negotiations began.

Labor makes for roughly half the costs of the project, and Crain's suggests that these cuts--work rule changes more than wage/benefit concessions--might not be enough to get projects moving.

Also, Crain's notes that construction costs across the city have fallen from 5% to 15% since last summer.

None of that suggests that the Atlantic Yards arena price tag could be cut nearly in half, as developer Forest City Ratner apparently hopes.

Sign of consolidation? Brooklyn Paper begins to publish work by Courier-Life staffers

Another hint of the creeping consolidation of the once-rival weekly newspapers has emerged.

On the Brooklyn Paper's web site yesterday, an article was attributed to Thomas Tracy/Community Newspaper Group. Tracy works for the Courier-Life chain, and a longer version of that article appears in this week's Courier-Life.


I sent Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman a link to the first article and asked if there was a new policy about the two papers sharing staff or content.

His response didn't mention a policy: "Tom Tracy is one of the best community reporters in Brooklyn. His sources are wide and whose knowledge is deep, so we are privileged to be able to run his stories, where appropriate, in our newspaper."

I have no reason to question Tracy's sources or knowledge, but Kuntzman's explanation was a bit overboard for an article about the theft of "the multi-colored snowboard bench that’s been greeting shoppers outside the 4 Play Brooklyn clothing boutique on Seventh Avenue for eight years."

It seems like the two publications were sharing a neighborhood story.

If and when they get to sharing more substantive coverage, then things will get more interesting.

Second attempt to row the Atlantic fails, but that gets much less ink

Two months ago, I criticized the local press for paying attention to the second attempt by Victor Mooney to row the Atlantic while ignoring bigger stories of civic concern.

Now Mooney's second attempt has been aborted, due to a failure of water purifiers; that news gets a brief in the Brooklyn Eagle and the Courier-Life chain.

The New York Times, which ran a story in February, hasn't told us about the demise of the Goree Challenge II. Well, the Times hasn't covered Forest City Ratner's bailout of ACORN, either.

Posted by steve at 7:25 AM

NBA Rumors: Afternoon Update

NBC Sports

An item on this page titled "Jersey trying to hold on to Nets" indicates the doubts that the proposed Atlantic Yards project can move forward and the resulting jockeying by New Jersey legislators to keep the Nets in New Jersey.

The Nets have been trying to get themselves to Brooklyn but ground hasn't even been broken on the colossal Frank Gehry-designed arena that's planned for them there. Plus, owner Bruce Ratner is supposedly in serious financial trouble. And there are a few Brooklynites who really, really, really don't want the team in their borough. So Jersey is making its move and trying to keep the Nets from moving. A bunch of Jersey lawmakers are trying to get support from the governor to make sure the team stays in its current home, the Izod Center, until the day comes – and they are hoping it doesn't – that the team needs to move. (Newark Star-Ledger, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn)


Posted by steve at 7:11 AM

The N.J. Nets at the Prudential Center in Newark? Ask the lawyers first

Newark Star-Ledger
By Joan Whitlow

This opinion piece describes the dispute between the Newark Housing Authority and the New Jersey Devils hockey team about monies owed. The NHA claims that the Devils owe them millions in back rent on Newark's Prudential Center and the Devils say that NHA owes $800,000 because the arena wasn't completed in time. The resolution of this dispute could effect where the New Jersey Nets end up playing should the proposed Atlantic Yards project fail to proceed. Doubts about the Nets' move are included in this analysis.

The N.J. Nets at the Prudential Center in Newark? Ask the lawyers first In the meantime, the Nets basketball team (which was going to build a Newark arena for itself before the team's ownership changed) is playing at the Izod, but planning to move to a Brooklyn sports center envisioned as part of a major real estate development. Those of us who have been sticking pins in effigies of the blueprints believe the current economy has killed the Brooklyn move. Our hope is Bruce Ratner, the Nets principal owner, will either move the team from the old, can't-draw-a-crowd Izod center to Newark, or sell the team to those who want them to play at The Rock.


However, even if Brooklyn is a bust, getting the Nets to Newark, or keeping them in New Jersey for that matter, is not a slam dunk. It will depend on the deal that the Nets make. As the history of the Prudential arena shows, public officials are often all too willing to give up more than they should to woo a major league franchise. The competition for the Nets will be fierce and could get irresponsibly stupid on a national level.


Posted by steve at 6:42 AM

Booker Predicts “National Competition” for Nets if Brooklyn Fails

Nets Daily

Here is another mention and discussion of Cory Booker's recent remarks regarding the fate of the New Jersey Nets should the proposed Atlantic Yards project fail.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker predicted a dire outcome if the Nets’ Brooklyn move fails. The mayor, speaking on WBGO radio, said again he thinks Brooklyn won’t work, and suggested that Bruce Ratner would then put the team up for sale. “I think there’s going to be a national competition for it, because people want the team, from Seattle to New Jersey,” said the mayor, adding Kansas City is also a possibility.


Posted by steve at 6:35 AM

April 24, 2009

Touchy subject: Yanks kick MLS after ticket remark

AP via Yahoo! Sports

Mention those empty seats at Yankee Stadium at your own risk.

Don Garber did.

A day after the Major League Soccer commissioner raised the subject, New York Yankees president Randy Levine blasted back.

“Don Garber discussing Yankee attendance must be a joke,” Levine said Friday. “We draw more people in a year than his entire league does in a year. If he ever gets Major League Soccer into the same time zone as the Yankees, we might take him seriously.

“Hey Don, worry about Beckham, not the Yankees. Even he wants out of your league,” he said.

NoLandGrab: Hey Randy, how 'bout you worry about filling your absurdly priced empty seats — and fixing your flawed poor home-run-derby excuse for a $1.5-billion stadium?

“When I mentioned the New York Yankees yesterday, my comments were part of a larger assertion that all businesses—even the most successful sports entities—are experiencing some impact from the economic downturn,” Garber said through a league spokesman.

“The Yankees are one of the world’s strongest sports brands and the context of my comments about a few empty seats at Yankee Stadium was to illustrate the economic challenges we are all facing,” he said.


NLG: The obnoxious Levine is overreacting just a tad, no? Garber is dead-on in his estimation of the sports recession, and his comments are one more reminder of how foolish New York State officials' continuing support of an expensive new arena in Brooklyn really is.

Posted by eric at 7:34 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...


Plans to move the Nets to an 18,000 seat arena in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards may not be realized in this tough economic climate. Mayor Cory Booker argues the best place for the franchise is the Prudential Center. However, State Senator Paul Sarlo wants the Nets to stay put because of the economic impact it will have on Bergen County.

“We also believe that both the Nets and Devils, the marriage of them two working under one roof may not work. The typical NBA teams don’t want to be second class citizens to an NFL team.”

NoLandGrab: We think he means N-Aitch-L. And based on this silly argument, the Knicks will soon look to have their own, exclusive arena.

Gothamist, Rats Now in Charge at Atlantic Yards

A spokesman for Bruce Ratner's properties naturally blamed the rat infestation on the sorry state of the site before the developer came in and "corrected the problems." If the area around the stalled project follows the course laid out in Life After People, expect the rats to return to the wild in the next few months, only to be replaced by the arrival of wolves.

moleinfoblog, Blue Wolf Capital Management, Politicians and What is Wrong With NYC

I also recently had a confrontation with Marty Markowitz at an IND meeting where I took exception to being called "anti-development" because my opposition is NOT to development per se, but to the overwhelming influence of developers in NYC politics and the lousy policies it buys them that hurts the community but lines the pockets of developers. An example is the city actually BUYING the land for Bruce Ratner so he can build his Atlantic Yards project at the same time fire houses are being closed and schools getting over crowded thanks to funding cuts.

ImprovResourceCenter.com, Prospect Heights

Does anyone live in PH? And if so do you have any issues re: the Atlantic Yards project/ specifically the empty lots on Dean and below. I'm looking to move to the area but hear that there's a bit of an uptick in crime due to the lack of people etc.

The $mart A$set, [Village Voice blog] Cuomo's embarrassment of riches

Maybe if [NYS Attorney General Andrew Cuomo] has time, he might even start investigating the Yankees' suspiciously sweet deals with the city that resulted in huge public subsidies for a team that charges $2,600 a seat. Or the taxpayer bailout money funneled overseas to Barclays that is helping finance the NBA arena that Bruce Ratner's trying to build in Brooklyn.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Scarce Lenders, Underperforming Properties

Morningstar also offers a suggestion: "If Forest City were to hand back a few highly leveraged underperforming properties, its overall debt picture could improve materially...." It's not quite what they mean, but when one hears "underperforming" it's hard not to think "Nets."

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

Breakfast with Marty: jousting about budget issues and adding urban planners to community boards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder goes to a bloggers' breakfast hosted by the Beep, and if Atlantic Yards came up, it wasn't during the morning's on-the-record portion.

A baker's dozen of bloggers--a few full-time, most part-time, a few trained in journalism, most not--were invited yesterday morning to breakfast at Borough Hall with three aides to Borough President Marty Markowitz, then with the BP himself.

While there was a 20-minute opportunity for on-the-record questions--read below for my back-and-forth with Markowitz about land use issues and the budget--the first two-thirds of the meeting was off-the-record. So the meeting served as a chance for the hosts to learn more about what we do, to learn how to open up lines of communication and to help hone strategy.


NoLandGrab: Our invitation must've been lost in the mail.

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

Newark Mayor Booker: "I believe the project in Brooklyn is not going to work"

Atlantic Yards Report

Newark's Mayor continues to be bullish on the notion of the New Jersey Nets ending up in, um... New Jersey — Newark, to be exact.

Last night, the WBGO radio show Newark Today with Mayor Cory Booker, was supposed to focus on environmental issues, but, as with shows in February and March, discussion of the Nets was inevitable.

"Let me tell you exactly what I think is going to happen," Booker continued. "I believe the project in Brooklyn is not going to work and not going to go forward. I believe the team's going to be put up for sale. I think there's going to be a national competition for it, because people want the team, from Seattle to New Jersey. I think New Jersey cannot afford to lose the Nets, so we're working double time to make sure that, when that opportunity comes, it's bought by New Jersey investors with the intention of putting the team in Newark."


Posted by eric at 5:23 AM

Morningstar revises value of FCE upward, but warns of increased uncertainty

Atlantic Yards Report

Morningstar now thinks that Forest City stock is worth as much as the paper it's printed on.

Less than six weeks after Morningstar analysts declared the stock of Forest City Enterprises essentially worthless (though other analysts disagreed), they now report an increased fair value estimate, to $4 per share. (The number is attached to a document available to subscribers only.)

Why? "[I]n large part because of our reduced expectations of bankruptcy and slightly lower cost of capital assumptions." The market is more optimistic, given that the stock closed yesterday at $7.19.

But the full picture isn't very rosy.

Morningstar also offered a warning: "We are also increasing our fair value uncertainty to extreme from very high to reflect the complications that come with the nonrecourse debt structure... If Forest City were to hand back a few highly leveraged underperforming properties, its overall debt picture could improve materially, but limited property-level information makes this impact difficult to predict."

Beyond that, the report states, "Other contributors to our higher uncertainty rating include the company's debt mix, a large development pipeline, and joint-venture interests."

Ominous for AY?

While Morningstar has been more pessimistic about Forest City than rival analysts, the report points to two factors that would make the Atlantic Yards project tougher to build, at least in the short term.

"New commercial mortgage-backed securities issuance is nonexistent at this point, meaning Forest City will have to find other means to refinance 17% of its maturities," the report states. " In addition, banks in general are less willing to loan against commercial real estate, as this asset class is poised for at least a year of falling prices and rising defaults."


Posted by eric at 5:16 AM

April 23, 2009

Help Wanted: Must Sit in Fancy Stadium Seats

The New York Times
by Richard Sandomir

The Times' sports business columnist thinks the Yankees could learn a thing or two from the Nets when it comes to filling empty seats.

If televised images of the Yankee Stadium empties are important — barely half the 43,342 announced as paid attendance in the Wednesday afternoon rain showed up — then here’s a tip for the Yankees: Follow your old business partners, the Nets, and play “The Price is Right.”

This part is undignified, so it’s good that Bob Sheppard hasn’t returned to work yet.

Last December, when sleet, snow and ennui pared the Izod Center crowd to 9,889 (the paid, not the turnstile, count) for the Nets-Dallas game, the theme song of the venerable game show was heard, the public address announcer implored fans in the arena’s upper reaches to “Come on down!” and Vonage got extra value as the sponsor of this spasm of generosity.


NoLandGrab: Or, since they already have the technology to generate virtual ads behind home plate for TV, they could just generate some virtual fans for those empty premium seats.

Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

Debating whether Bloomberg's changed, media panelists offer mixed but critical views of the mayor

Atlantic Yards Report

Not much Atlantic Yards in this report on yesterday's panel discussion on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Media, but it does set some context.

[The Daily News's Errol] Louis said the city was AWOL on the mortgage crisis: “When the mayor wants to focus on something like Jets Stadium or getting the Olympics here, you know it’s a priority for him. Does anybody recall any similar focus on helping people keep their homes in working-class Southeast Queens?”

(The same criticism might be made of the mayor's support of Atlantic Yards. Similarly, AY brings up challenges in framing issues; is it about jobs, or public spending, or civic engagement, or sports?)


Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

Rat-infested Yards site stirs catcalls

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

While concern is increasing about the growing rat problem around Ratnerville, a spokesman for Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner blames the victims:

"It's worse now than it's ever been," said Dean Street Block Association member Peter Krashes. "Whenever the work happens, rats are everywhere, eight at a time."

The problem has gotten so bad that a meeting was held on Monday by the block association to determine how best to protect against the scourge of rats and mice.

Residents believe the rats scatter to the streets each time a building is demolished or roadwork occurs. Although Krashes admits rodents are a citywide problem, he said the it has worsened in Prospect Heights, where he has lived since 2001, in the last year.
Doug Derryberry, who has lived in a Dean St. building not owned by Ratner since 2005, said the rodent population appeared to multiply around his home last year.
A Forest City Ratner spokesman said all property owned by the developer is baited before being razed and the entire project site is routinely checked for illegal dumping.

"The properties [Ratner] controls today are by far cleaner than they were when the developer acquired them," said Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, who suggested other property owners near the site are to blame for the increase in rodents.


Posted by lumi at 7:05 AM

Looking at the 33rd district race, AY, and some undercurrents

Atlantic Yards Report

So, the debate Monday night among six of the seven candidates running to succeed City Council Member David Yassky got a significant amount of coverage, but, since no one looked closely at the Atlantic Yards angle, I’ll address AY and some other issues.
From comments at the debate, [Ken] Baer, [Doug] Biviano, and [Ken] Diamondstone all opposed Atlantic Yards, standing with the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn coalition. Baer and Diamondstone have been longstanding opponents.

[JoAnne] Simon, who has paid critical attention to Atlantic Yards, has allied herself with the mend-it-don’t-end-it coalition, BrooklynSpeaks. She announced that she promised not to take contributions from developers.

[Evan] Thies, who has not been associated with DDDB, forcefully criticized AY as “a gaping monument to how bad the city and state have gotten at these development plans.”

Baer, Diamondstone, and Thies agreed that AY was the biggest boondoggle among projects. Simon said it’s very hard to know, “because we don't have good numbers” on many of the projects, though she also criticized “single site control,” which also applies to AY.


Posted by lumi at 6:58 AM

Gehry says he always works "tight to the bone," so why did arena cost go up 50%?

Atlantic Yards Report

As Frank Gehry continues to shape his own legend, Atlantic Yards watchdog Norman Oder is still trying to get answers about the true cost of the planned Nets arena.


Though Gehry didn't mention Atlantic Yards during the interview [on the radio show Design and Architecture], AY-watchers would be most intrigued by his comments at about 17:50:

For me, I've always felt that if I didn't work very tight to the bone--and tight to the bone means, If a client gives you a program, and they have a budget, and that program and budget will build X, then you have to stay close to that to be successful. And then if you kept doing that, then people would come back and hire you again, because they knew you were going to do that. That's been my ethic. Now there are a few buildings that sometimes you have clients that want to... be excessive, for their own reasons. I tend to stay away from those projects. I've had a few from time to time. Most of them never got built, like a big house in Cleveland.

So, that begs the question: how did the projected cost of the Atlantic Yards arena skyrocket from $637.2 million in December 2006 to $950 million in March 2008?

And why are others, not Gehry, trying to value-engineer the cost in half?


Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

Debating the Design Depression: Austerity vs Extravagance

Fast Company
By Alissa Walker

Atlantic Yards makes a cameo in an article about the handwringing over the direction of design and architecture during a global economic depression:

But is it indeed immoral to design something overly large, overly decadent, overly expensive in these dark times? Should Hadid be publicly tried for her design crimes? Should the auto designers with sleek yet oil-dependent cars on their drawing boards be damned to design hell? Frank Gehry for wanting his fantastical Atlantic Yards to become a reality? Moss for pushing something like Hella Jongerius' Polder Sofa ($10,615)? The whole of Milan this week for perpetuating such a concept? And where do we possibly draw the line?


NoLandGrab: The community has wondered if it is "immoral" to force neighborhood residents to sell their homes for a professional basketball arena, to use taxpayer money for the privilege and not reveal the real costs, to fund "astroturf" organizations and call it grassroots support, etc.

You don't have to dig deep to ponder the social and moral consequences of the Atlantic Yards project; it's ironic that designers and architects should all of a sudden start now.

Posted by lumi at 6:35 AM

Referencing "Atlantic Yards"

Congratulations Bruce Ratner! Your "Atlantic Yards" project has become a yard stick for neighborhood development controversies. From The Brooklyn Paper, "Gym-nauseum! Neighbors say St. Joe’s b-ball arena is ugly":

OK, so it’s not Atlantic Yards, but St. Joseph’s College has unleashed the borough’s second-most-divisive fight over a basketball arena by unveiling plans to build an athletic center on a landmark block of Clinton Hill.


Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

Markowitz Gears Up For Another Term As "Mr. Brooklyn"

By Jeanine Ramirez

During the past eight years, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz hasn't given in to common sense, so we don't expect him to give in to critics in his run for a third term:

Markowitz is hoping another four years as borough president is next for him. Just six months ago, there would have been no re-election bid for Markowitz, who was eyeing another office. But that changed with the extension of term limits.

"I'm thrilled. Before term limits were extended, I was looking, I must admit, in dread, that I would have to wrap it up this year," Markowitz said.
Those who won't be contributing to Markowitz are the opponents of the stalled Atlantic Yards project, with the Nets arena as its centerpiece. And he can count out those against his plans for a Coney Island Amphitheater, which would be a state-of-the-art seasonal concert venue.

Markowitz says he's not giving in to his critics.


Posted by lumi at 6:11 AM

More empty stores at area malls

Richmond BizSense
By Al Harris

Forest City Enterprises's newly minted White Oak Mall serves as a case in point to illustrate the sagging market for retail space in malls nationwide:

Just a few miles down the road from Fairfield Commons, the new outdoor strip center White Oak Village (owned by Chicago-based Forest City, which also owns Short Pump) had 16 empty stores for a vacancy rate of 27.5 percent. That figure includes the standalone restaurants, big-box stores (two of which are unoccupied) and the strip center “village.” The shopping center opened in October and the stores are still awaiting their debut tenants. With excess retail space opening up around the city, that wait could be longer than expected.


NoLandGrab: Those in the know, know that Forest City is headquartered in the "Forest City" of Cleveland — not Chicago.

Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

Big Projects Slow Down But Still Moving

The Epoch Times

Marisa Lago, president and CEO of Empire State Development Corp (ESDC), reiterated the state sponsor's support of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject at an April 14 breakfast panel:

Inevitably, questions arose at the forum about Atlantic Yards, the ambitious project caught in the financial crisis crossfire. Lago called it “one of our most controversial projects.” She said the City and State were determined to work with Forest City Ratner Co. to keep it going but the time frames are changing.


NoLandGrab: How are the time frames changing and who determines these changes, the state or developer? Benefits to the public, like affordable housing, remain in limbo, while the developer takes his time, despite receiving hundreds of millions, possibly billions, of dollars in taxpayer support.

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

The coach

Yesterday's NJ Nets press conference didn't settle any speculation over whether or not coach Lawrence Frank would be back next year to serve out the last year of his contract.

NY Daily News, Lawrence Frank's job with Nets may rest on players' review, says Rod Thorn

And even though Bruce Ratner publicly endorsed Frank two weeks ago, the Nets owner also said he would go with Thorn's suggestion, even if it meant having to pay two contracts. In a Tuesday night meeting that included several high-ranking team officials, Ratner apparently delivered the same message to Thorn, who said Wednesday that finances will "not be an overriding factor" in his decision.

NoLandGrab: The Nets just laid off a chunk of the front office staff; it's hard to believe that finances are not "an overriding factor."

The Star-Ledger, New Jersey Nets coach Lawrence Frank's future still up in the air as president Rod Thorn mulls decision

Rod Thorn needs more time.
The Nets president only knows that 82 games and a week of rumination weren't enough to decide whether Lawrence Frank should remain his head coach.

"I'm not leaning any way right now. I just want to get all the facts, evaluate them, think about them and make a decision."

One day after having a late meeting to discuss team issues with owner Bruce Ratner, CEO Brett Yormark, GM Kiki Vandeweghe, and at least one investor, Thorn exhibited a consternation that is rare for one of the NBA's most acclaimed executives.

Nets Blog [NY Post], Indecision Day

Principal owner Bruce Ratner is on record saying that two coaching salaries would not be a deal breaker. But a word that didn't come up is "reasonable." Frank will make $4.5 million next season. They're not going to want to pay that sort of money to a replacement. Eddie Jordan is a name that pops up but he would command that sort of salary. And then there are assistants. Frank's staff is up contractually this summer. A new coach would mean a new, higher-priced staff.

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

Judge pressures Yankees to show stadium documents

AP, via Newsday.com
By Michael Gormley

While the City and State have dug in their heels, refusing requests from watchdogs for financial documents revealing the projected cost of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, there's a similar side-drama going on with the new Yankee Stadium.

A New York judge is ordering the Yankees to give him a catalog of financial records sought by state lawmakers investigating the use of public funds to help build the team's new stadium, or prove the data should remain private.

Two Assembly committees subpoenaed the records in January in the escalating fight with the team, but the Yankees withheld some key documents involving ticket prices and why some city officials received luxury box tickets


NoLandGrab: Common sense would dictate that the taxpayers ought to have knowledge of the finances of a project if taxpayer money is being used, but common sense is not so common.

Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

April 22, 2009

The sports bubble pops, and the Nets can't help but notice

Atlantic Yards Report

The layoffs of staffers working on sponsorships for the New Jersey Nets apparently reflect the new reality.

There are already many questions related to the planned Brooklyn arena, among them Frank Gehry's role and the cost of construction.

Given the example of the new baseball parks, there's less of an appetite for luxury suites. That would mean a decline in both revenues for the developer and the taxes expected. It also suggests that a new cost-benefit analysis is in order.


Posted by eric at 10:34 PM

Yankees handing over $68K in back rent

The New York Yankees agreed to pay the city some of the back rent owed on their old stadium, but negotiations on another $64,000 continue.

AP via Crain's NY Business

The team that committed $423 million to just three free agent contracts this past off-season, raised ticket prices 76%, and is receiving, according to Field of Schemes author Neil deMause [PDF], north of a billion dollars in public subsidies for its new ballpark, is haggling with the city over $64,000. Is it any wonder the team is cursed?

The Yankees say they'll pay New York City $67,574 in back rent on their old stadium.

Under its rental agreement, the baseball team can deduct some maintenance costs from its rent.

An audit being released Wednesday by Comptroller William Thompson found improper deductions, including some payroll, security and stadium repair costs.

The team and the city are still haggling over another $63,888 in rental credits from last year.


NoLandGrab: $64,000? Pay your #@%&ing tab!

Posted by eric at 12:34 PM

Is This Seat Taken? In Front Rows of New Ballparks, No

The New York Times
by Ken Belson

More evidence that the financial premises underlying Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, which were shaky to start with, now bear no relation to reality.


After spending $2.3 billion on new stadiums packed with suites, restaurants and the latest technology, the Mets and the Yankees expected fans to embrace their new homes and pay top dollar for the privilege. Almost every team that has built a new stadium in the recent past has seen an immediate surge in attendance.

Instead, the Mets and the Yankees face a public relations nightmare and possibly millions of dollars in lost revenue after failing to sell about 5,000 tickets — including some of the priciest seats — to each of their first few games after last week’s openers.

The empty seats are a fresh sign that the teams might have miscalculated how much fans and corporations were willing to spend, particularly during a deep recession. Whatever the reason, the teams are scrambling to comb over their $295- to $2,625-a-seat bald spots.

But the slow start in New York is striking considering how much the teams here spent to build and promote their parks. Like airlines that break even on economy tickets and rely on first-class travelers to turn a profit, the teams need to sell their most exclusive seats to help repay the hundreds of millions of dollars of tax-free bonds they issued to finance their new parks.


NoLandGrab: Let's not forget how much the taxpayers kicked in, too. And all this stadium-building is supposed (wink, wink) to have a net positive effect on the city and state treasuries.

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Breakfast-of-Candidates (39th Edition): John Heyer

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn

Louise Crawford chats with John Heyer, candidate for the City Council's 39th District.

Clearly, when you work for Borough President and Atlantic Yards Cheerleader-in-Chief Marty Markowitz, you know you're not going to make many friends in the 39th if you wholeheartedly support Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project.


At the age of 23, Heyer got the call from Borough President Marty Markowitz that changed his life. For nearly four years he has been assistant to Markowitz, a job that has taught him "how government works." While he doesn't agree with Markowitz about everything, Heyer does have great respect for his boss and firmly believes that Marty's support of Atlantic yards is not cynical. "He really thinks it's good for Brooklyn."

I asked Heyer what he thinks about the controversial project: "Certain aspects are too large. But I do think Brooklyn should have a national team."


NoLandGrab: In a nutshell, Atlantic Yards is too big, but he supports basketball. Heyer's ability to triangulate his position is reminiscent of the approach of the current 39th District Councilmember, Bill de Blasio, who supports the affordable housing.

Bruce Ratner has given most politicians something to love about the project, enough so that they can overlook its serious problems.

Atlantic Yards Report, Marty's minion: AY too large, but Brooklyn needs a team

Norman Oder offers some cogent analysis:

[Heyer] doesn't seem to acknowledge the trade-off between getting "Brooklyn" to "have" a team--which is not how professional sports works, unless you're in Green Bay, WI, where fans own the Packers--and letting Forest City Ratner decide how big the project should be.

Shouldn't the latter decision been made via a more democratic process?

Posted by lumi at 6:15 AM

Rocawear Mobile Shop Finally Pops Up

Rocawear-Bstoner.jpg Brownstoner ran a reader's photo of the Rocawear truck, located in a newly cleared lot in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. The Brooklyn real estate blog agrees with Atlantic Yards Report that it's going to take more than a "nifty retail concept" to bring life back into the footprint.


Posted by lumi at 6:04 AM

Former Port Authority head warns about deferring infrastructure decisions to private entities (and what about AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Last night's panel discussion at the Municipal Art Society, The City in the Age of Obama, was notably thought-provoking, applying some reasonable skepticism to the daunting challenges facing the region.

Anthony Shorris, director of the NYU Wagner Rudin Center for Transportation Policy, and former executive director of the Port Authority of NY/NJ, had the most resonant lines, warning that questions of infrastructure face major and various roadblocks.
He then made comments that, while not directly about Atlantic Yards, certainly had some resonance, especially given Forest City Enterprises' claim that "we control the pace" even as as the developer is reportedly looking to build a less expensive replacement railyard than it promised.

"The fourth challenge that requires rethinking... is the boundary between public and private," Shorris said. "Increasingly we've deferred much of the [infrastructure] decisionmaking to the private sector"--his tone turned sardonic--"and we know by definition the public sector is incompetent and corrupt, unable to make decisions wisely; the only people who can make decisions wisely are clearly bankers."


Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

Weiner goes out on a limb: "Atlantic Yards, as it’s been fought over, probably won’t happen”

Atlantic Yards Report

WeinerHeadShot.jpg Norman Oder isn't surprised by Rep. Anthony Weiner's latest comments about Atlantic Yards, since the project as approved "was never realistic." Still Oder wonders what Weiner meant by "'trouble' or, for that matter, 'pulls out'."

Rep. Anthony Weiner, currently hedging on his once-planned run for mayor, is interviewed by the Brooklyn Eagle:

Even though the planned Atlantic Yards project is outside his district, he said that if the Nets deal pulls out, there would be trouble. Still, he said, “Atlantic Yards, as it’s been fought over, probably won’t happen.”


Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

Nets layoffs point to lean times; with fewer front-office staff, it will be harder to reap sponsorships

Atlantic Yards Report

Nets coach Lawrence Frank has done a reasonably good job developing young talent, but other coaches with his mixed record get the boot.

So, will team officials Wednesday announce Frank's departure, with one year left on his contract? One reason he might stay, according to the Daily News's Julian Garcia: the team doesn't want to pay him $4.5 million next year not to coach, given losses topping $30 million.

Al Iannazzone reports on the money factor:

There have been a few waves of layoffs in the Nets' offices. About 10 were let go from midweek on. Also, the Nets won't have a summer league team, per se. They're joining forces with the Sixers for summer league to help split the costs.


Nets Daily, Frank’s Fate to be Known by Morning
Rotoworld.com, Nets coach likely safe for one more year
SportingNews.com, Nets coach Lawrence Frank likely to stay

Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

Green for the Masses

Majora Carter: Forget the polar bears and focus on the jobs.

Newsweek interviews the Bronx's queen of green, Majora Carter, who explains why the big bucks go to the big boys, like Bruce Ratner.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Carter's work, check out the entire interview. The following is the bit with the Atlantic Yards reference:

You've talked a lot about work at the municipal level. Where does the money for these projects come from? Is that where the big battles are?

Yes, because the real vittles go to the folks who have power in any municipality. Poor people don't. In a sad way, it was completely telling that when the funds came down to New York from the stimulus package, Alfonse D'Amato was right up there trying to advocate for funds for the Atlantic Yards project. I was like, excuse me? If nobody's watching that, then how do we make sure the jobs are going to people who desperately need them? How do we make sure we're reversing the environmental degradation that we've done to the ghettos of our country? There are people who really know how to milk the system. The result is they've clustered huge amounts of noxious facilities in communities like ours all these years, at huge expense to public health and air quality.

NoLandGrab: To Carter's point, Bruce Ratner proposes to build a 19,000-seat stadium at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. Flatbush Avenue runs adjacent to neighborhoods with some of the highest childhood asthma rates in the nation.

Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

Mall rats

The Brooklyn Paper, The Police Blotter
By Mike McLaughlin

Even though Bruce Ratner's own crime survey in the Blight Study for the Atlantic Yards project claims 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," stories indicating otherwise keep piling up on the police blotter:

Police arrested three women last Monday in two shoplifting incidents in the Atlantic Terminal mall near the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues on April 13.

In the first crime, police cuffed a 60-year-old woman in Target for allegedly stealing another woman’s purse — and the $230 in it — at around 5:30 pm.

About two hours later, it took three cops to subdue two women, 19 and 26, who were caught pilfering “miscellaneous merchandise” from the Daffy’s department store in the same Bruce Ratner-owned mall.

According to the police report, the two women scuffled with officers, injuring three of them, after they were caught skipping the bill.


Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

Forest City in the News

Daily Herald, Des Plaines considers redevelopment options

The Des Plaines city council Monday approved a memorandum of understanding with Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, formalizing the city's intent to make it the master developer for the 70-acre Five Corners taxing district.

Forest City likely would redevelop roughly 20 acres of the Five Corners redevelopment area, centered around Rand and River roads. But the developer also may be involved in planning the future redevelopment of the entire district, officials said.

Nets Daily, What’s Going on Here?
NJ Nets and Atlantic Yards superfan "NetIncome" noticed that shares in Forest City Enterprises have reached the high single-digit range, though he doesn't know why. [Neither do we for that matter.]

Forest City Enterprises is Bruce Ratner’s parent company and the biggest shareholder in the Nets.

Its stock has more than doubled in a little more than two weeks, better than 4% alone on Friday. It has gone from $3.41 on March 30 to $8.57 on Friday…that’s a 151% increase in 14 trading days. It got as high as $8.97 Friday before dropping back a bit late. We believe that’s the highest it’s been, intraday, since December. The whole market is going up, but not 151% in 14 trading days.

FCE owns 23% of the Nets and a big chunk of Atlantic Yards. We doubt this is happening because investors think the Nets are going to get the overall #1 pick in the lottery. Similarly, we cannot imagine it happening if those investors, several of whom are big institutional investors, think Atlantic Yards is dead, considering it’s the only major project FCE is moving during the recession.

You know the old adage: buy on the rumor, sell on the news. What’s the rumor?

TheStreet.com, Profit With RealMoney

On March 10, RealMoney contributor Tim Melvin recommended Forest City Enterprises (FCE.A Quote) to subscribers in an article entitled, "The Coming Value Party." Forest City shares closed March 10 at $4.67. The stock closed Friday at $8.57, giving subscribers who followed Melvin's advice an 83.5% return.

NoLandGrab: Shares of FCE-A closed on Tuesday at 7.80.

Posted by lumi at 4:41 AM

April 21, 2009

Cold crime — Unbelievable!

The Brooklyn Paper Police Blotter

This Atlantic Center Mall swindle took place a couple months ago, but we just had to reproduce it here, since it's actually a parable.

One man, in his 40s, approached the woman and asked her for directions in the Bruce Ratner-owned galleria between Fort Greene Place and South Portland Avenue at 4:45 pm. Then, the accomplice joined the conversation and showed off documents that supposedly indicated that he would receive an $81,000 settlement from a car accident.

But the sharpie said he can’t bring money back to his unidentified home country and instead planned to give it to charity. He also said he’d give tens of thousands of dollars to the woman (who, for some reason, did not find this hard to believe).

At this point, the supposed benefactor asked the mark to take him to a bank because he’s never seen American money. The woman then withdrew $2,000 from a Court Street bank, a ceremony that was followed by dinner at McDonald’s with the two confidence men.

In the fast food restaurant, the older of the two con artists intoned a prayer over the greenbacks, wrapped the bills in a cloth and returned the bundle to the woman.

Hours after the “chance” encounter began, the lady took the sanctified cash to her church to donate it, only to unwrap the cloth to find that the scammers had pulled the old switcheroo and left her with old newspapers.


NoLandGrab: Substitute Bruce Ratner and the ESDC for the two perps, the people of Brooklyn for the vic, a billion dollars in public subsidies for the cash, and a basketball arena for the old newspapers, and — voila! — you have the great Atlantic Yards swindle!

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

In new book, Gehry warns (in 2005) about the "dicey" DNA of Ratner's FCE parent, but author doesn't check back on AY today

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite the lack of hard-nosed questions about Atlantic Yards and his relationship with developer Bruce Ratner, Frank Gehry had a few things to say about the controversial megaproject when interviewed for Barbara Isenberg’s "Conversations With Frank Gehry." Norman Oder mines the book for references and teases out some additional context.

Here are some tidbits:

For now, however, consider the pregnant statement Gehry made to his interviewer nearly four years ago about his client, Bruce Ratner: “His parent company’s DNA is a little dicey.”

Now the economy has plummeted, the project has stalled, Gehry has laid off his AY staff, and the tension grows between artistic quality and corporate results. Gehry said in January 2006, "I think if it got out of whack with my own principles, I would walk away."

How much more dicey has Forest City Enterprises’ DNA gotten? And is the project "out of whack"?
Gehry sounds a bit like he has assimilated a bit of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, saying he embraced working in Brooklyn since he lived here as a one-year-old, his kids moved to Brooklyn, and "[t]he idea of bringing a sports team back to Brooklyn is very powerful, because they lost one. It’s been like a big hole in their gut since they lost the Dodgers, and I think Bruce is doing it for the same reasons. he loves that idea."
Gehry describes the relationship with the Department of City Planning as “we mostly see eye-to-eye.” He says Mayor Mike Bloomberg has provided a lot of support.

“And Ratner and his team work really well with my team,” Gehry continues. “They like each other, and they even spend social time together. They sometimes have to travel together so everybody has kind of bonded, me included. For what I’ve yearned to do, it’s kind of the dream project.”
At the time of their conversation in August 2005, Gehry was “clearly excited” about Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Markowitz to meet with bloggers; will he answer questions about the Brooklyn Paper's scoop about his charities?

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner may be the Brooklyn Paper's new landlord, and Borough President Marty Markowitz may spend big bucks with the Paper's new Courier-Life sibling--both, I've suggested, causes for concern--but the Paper has continued some tough coverage of Markowitz's not-for-profits Best of Brooklyn and two summer concert series.

The latest total: Forest City Ratner and affiliated companies have delivered $200,000 to the Martin Luther King Jr. Concert series, on top of previous gifrts ranging between $680,000 and $1.075 million to Markowitz’s charities. Barclays Bank gave $60,000, on top of as much as $100,000.

And neither FCR nor Barclays would answer questions.
Perhaps, however, Markowitz willy answer some tough questions Thursday when he meets with an invited group of Brooklyn bloggers.


Posted by lumi at 6:06 AM

The prince and process

Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry supports "engaging with the democratic process!"

Gehry signed on to an open letter chastising the Prince of Wales for recent comments condemning a Westminster development.

In the comments section, NoLandGrab.org's Steve Soblick couldn't help noting that Gehry's defense only makes sense if you're not from Brooklyn.


Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

A little bird told me...

twitlogo.gif Though we're not sure how the Mad Overkiller Norman Oder will abridge his daily posts on Atlantic Yards into short "tweets," updates from Atlantic Yards Report r now availb on Twttr:

I will link to at least some of my posts via Twitter (you can sign up to "follow" AYReport) and perhaps offer other Atlantic Yards-related observations.


The latest AYR Tweet:

"OK, New York Times. Now you've got the Pulitzers, can you report on how biz partner Forest City Ratner bailed out ACORN?"

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Advisory Board Member Awarded Pulitzer

Congratulations for Lynn Nottage from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

DDDB congratulates Lynn Nottage, DDDB Advisory Board member and Brooklyn native, on winning the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Her winning play Ruined, about the fate of women in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is playing through May 10 at Manhattan Theatre Club's New York City Center Stage I.


Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

Noticing Noticing New York

Keeping up with Bloomberg and Friends: Stark New Scandals and Is it True WSJ Readers Don’t Commit Murder?
Noticing New York updates readers on the political drama in Mayor Bloomberg's administration. It only figures tangentially into the Atlantic Yards controversy, through benefits of "crony capitalism."

WNYC.com, Cityscapes: Public SpaceCityscapes: Public Space

Noticing New York's comment on architecture critic Paul Goldberger's conversation with landscape Architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, discussing "the role of public space in the crowded city":

When Mr. Goldberger refers to “the streets of New York themselves” as being one of our greatest public space assets, it reminds us that, sadly, the Bloomberg administration is planning to shut down streets, avenues and sidewalks. For instance, streets in downtown Brooklyn will be eliminated as well as streets and avenues in the planned Atlantic Yards footprint. It is unnecessary and unfortunate. One of the glories of the Wall Street area is that the original unique street grid with all its winding paths is historically protected.

Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

April 20, 2009

What's the Senate hearing about? The definition of blight and a cost/benefit analysis, among other things

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder cautions against rehashing old arguments for and against Atlantic Yards and recommends that a State Senate Committee hearing on the project cover important ongoing questions and issues, specifically the determination of "blight" and a real cost-benefit analysis:

[T]he [Courier-Life] article did emphasize, in the lead, that [State Senator] Montgomery said that the hearing would include testimony from both supporters and opponents of the project.

And it closed with a quote from James Caldwell of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatory: "This project needs to start already, because people need to go to work."

But the hearing is about oversight of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and other agencies, so it shouldn't be a do-over from the environmental review process in which supporters and opponents state their views.

The hearing should address issues like blight, given that a state judge called "ludicrous" the ESDC's contention that it could only look at conditions contemporaneous with the study, which was conducted years after the project's announcement.
The ESDC's fiscal impact analysis addressed costs, not benefits. (The Independent Budget Office was the only entity to do a partial cost-benefit analysis, but it related only to the arena, not the project as a whole, and now the IBO thinks it's time for at least a partial look.)

Despite what the ESDC said in court papers regarding the pending state eminent domain case, the state made no attempt to quantify the benefits due to Forest City Ratner.


Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

Gehry layoffs get a mention in the Times, but questions about AY role remain unanswered

Atlantic Yards Report

Nearly five months after Frank Gehry laid off his Atlantic Yards project team, The NY Times finally reports that Gehry Partners has laid off staff, and that his "billion-dollar mixed-use developments in Los Angeles and Brooklyn are in limbo."

As I wrote March 31, developer Forest City Ratner says Gehry is still the lead architect on Atlantic Yards. But Gehry's laid off his staff working on the project. So what does that mean:

  • 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?

Shouldn't Gehry and Ratner be asked those questions?


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder is right. Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project is the LARGEST single-source private development project in NYC HISTORY. If it were "in limbo," as yesterday's article in the business section reports, does that somehow rate as important news deserving of followup? The lack of coverage might make readers conclude that the Times deliberately downplays negative Atlantic Yards news.

Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

Spotlight Finds Eminent Domain Crusader

The NY Times
By Lary Bloom

Susette Kelo's little pink house became the national symbol of the fight against eminent domain abuse. Now the straight-talking woman who was the lead plaintiff of the controversial case, which led to the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to uphold the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes, is on a book tour, where she ends up in Fox's NY studios at the same time as conservative media darling Ann Coulter:

Ms. Kelo and the book’s author, Jeff Benedict, a New London native, arrived at the Fox News green room on schedule. They watched as another guest on the show, Ann Coulter, commanded attention — a makeup artist required a full 40 minutes to prep the glamorous basher of liberals. When it came time to apply the blush to the other woman in the room, Ms. Kelo said, “I haven’t worn makeup in 10 years.”

A longtime nurse, Ms. Kelo also thought — as she confided later — that Ms. Coulter resembled patients she had seen.

“She’s way too thin,” she said. “This poor girl needs to eat.”

Mr. Benedict thought of other contrasts between the two women. There was a great buzz in the building when Ms. Coulter arrived. Ms. Kelo was greeted as any ordinary citizen off the street, without heads turning. Yet Mr. Benedict wrote in his journal that night that 50 years from now the name Susette Kelo will be far better known than Ann Coulter.


Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

Is commercial real estate a time bomb?

Mall operator General Growth Properties' bankruptcy is worrisome. But even if commercial real estate weakens further, the market probably won't collapse.

CNN Money
By Paul R. La Monica

Can watchdogs draw any conclusions about the financial health of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises from last week's news of the collapse of General Growth Properties? Well, yes and no...

General Growth Properties, the nation's second largest operator of shopping malls, filed for Chapter 11 protection Thursday morning. That makes General Growth (GGP) the biggest retail casualty yet of this recession, a downturn that also led to the bankruptcies of Circuit City, Linens 'N Things and Steve & Barry's.
"Losses in commercial real estate will rise across the financial sector throughout the year," said Keith Hembre, chief economist with First American Funds in Minneapolis. Hembre said that banks have an estimated $1 trillion worth of exposure to commercial real estate. ...
"Historically, commercial real estate is one of the last areas to experience a downturn," Hembre said. "Employment is the driver that determines occupancy."

However, some investors believe that the commercial real estate market won't wind up completely melting down. For one thing, commercial real estate prices didn't get as out of whack with reality as residential real estate did.
In addition, it's worth pointing out that General Growth's bankruptcy does not come out of the blue. The company has been reeling for months and was widely viewed as one of the weaker real estate investment trusts, or REITs.
"Companies are not going bankrupt en masse," said Michael Cuggino, president of Pacific Heights Asset Management, a San Francisco-based investment firm that owned Kimco and ProLogis as of year-end. "Some REITs are raising capital when they have the chance and are being proactive about their debt instead of waiting until the last minute."

Hembre agreed that there is a shakeout now taking place in the real estate sector and winners and losers are emerging. So even though the General Growth bankruptcy is certainly a bad sign, it may not be the beginning of a massive wave of real estate bankruptcies.


NoLandGrab: Clearly, Forest City has been struggling with cash flow for the past year. Time will tell if the company has been proactive enough to get ahead of its own credit crunch, or if it remains in crisis mode and will emerge as one of the losers.

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Forest City in the News

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Red Cross, Cleveland cite Sam Miller for founding Save-A-Life - Honored

Sam Miller of Forest City Enterprises was honored by the American Red Cross and the city of Cleveland for founding Operation Save-A-Life, which gives free smoke alarms, batteries and installations to city and suburban residents at risk.

Pegasus News, Jean Michel’s, new restaurant going into Mercantile Place on Main, gets hero’s welcome from Dallas bigs

As Forest City Enterprises's Mercantile Place project in Dallas gets ready to open, a top Dallas restauranteur reveals plans to locate his latest upscale eatery in the downtown residential complex.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert calls medical mart site a mistake, points to Detroit's downtown
Armed with a photo-rendering of Forest City Enterprises's Medical Mart at Tower City proposal, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers continues to rail against last week's approval to place the project "at the site of Cleveland's existing convention complex on the downtown mall."

Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

April 19, 2009

Sunday Comix

Noticing New York

Noting A Good Day for Us

Double-D Versus Bruce R

Posted by steve at 8:05 AM

The Rocawear Pop Shop: from blight to bling and back

Atlantic Yards Report

RocaWare Amid The Blight

Norman Oder visits the mobile Rocawear shop that has parked on the site of the proposed Barclay's Arena. He finds the developer-created blight unavoidable.

Yesterday I checked out the mobile Rocawear shop that finally arrived Friday (I'd thought Thursday) at the northeast corner of Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue.

Up close it's a nifty retail concept, and other news coverage (e.g., The Brooklyn Paper) has given us a close-up exterior shot, plus an interior view.


Go inside ... and it's an immersive environment, a lounge on wheels: no windows, flattering lighting, couches, and hip-hop videos providing the proper ambience to sell $28 t-shirts and $48 polo shirts (among other things) anointed by rap superstar Jay-Z.


Exit to a barren stretch of Flatbush Avenue, however, and the blight is palpable.

It would take a lot of temporary installments--shops, flea market, playground--to bring life to the empty lots created by demolitions in the Atlantic Yards footprint.


Posted by steve at 7:47 AM

From “public-private partnerships” to “crony capitalism"

Atlantic Yards Report

Simon Johnson's essay in the May issue of The Atlantic, headlined The Quiet Coup, is summarized: The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises.

The piece is well worth reading, and the resonant passage for Brooklynites might be this one: But inevitably, emerging-market oligarchs get carried away; they waste money and build massive business empires on a mountain of debt. Local banks, sometimes pressured by the government, become too willing to extend credit to the elite and to those who depend on them. Overborrowing always ends badly, whether for an individual, a company, or a country. Sooner or later, credit conditions become tighter and no one will lend you money on anything close to affordable terms.

The downward spiral that follows is remarkably steep. Enormous companies teeter on the brink of default, and the local banks that have lent to them collapse. Yesterday’s “public-private partnerships” are relabeled “crony capitalism.”* (Emphasis added)


Posted by steve at 7:36 AM

Displaced by the Yankees, Some Bronx Athletic Teams Go Homeless

The New York Times
By Manny Fernandez

What happens when government is too eager to sacrifice the public needs for those of a privately-held sports franchise? There's no need to wait for the construction of Atlantic Yards to find out. The miserable results of this kind of experiment are on display right now in the Bronx.

The official opening of the new Yankee Stadium last week was greeted by rave reviews from many fans. But some parks advocates, community leaders and neighborhood residents have been less enthusiastic, frustrated by the loss of ball fields as well as the construction delays and rising costs of replacement parks.

The new stadium was built across the street from the old one on Macombs Dam Park and a portion of John Mullaly Park. State and federal law dictates that parkland removed from public use must be replaced by parkland of equal or greater value. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department originally said seven of the eight replacement parks planned for the area would be completed in time for opening day at the new stadium. But the agency later pushed back the schedule for some of the parks, and a report in January by the city’s Independent Budget Office found that the cost to replace the two parks had climbed to nearly $195 million, up from a 2005 estimate of $116 million.


NoLandGrab: Critics of the Yankee Stadium deal saw these problems approaching years ago. Then Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrión Jr. worked with the Bloomberg administration to squelch public discussion by effectively replacing Community Board 4 members who voted against building the new Yankee Stadium on public land. Moves to make the proposed Atlantic Yards a State project similarly kept the public from having any say in that project.

Posted by steve at 7:04 AM

April 18, 2009

Time running out for Atlantic Yards? Maybe not yet, but AMBAC going "junk" doesn't help

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder notes the discussion of the proposed Atlantic Yards development on yesterday's Brian Lehrer Show. Problems facing the development include a downgrading of AMBAC, the corporation that originally promised to back bonds issued by Bruce Ratner to purchase the MTA's Vanderbilt railyards. Featured in this radio segment were WNYC reporters Bob Hennelly and Matthew Schuerman.

"Time might be running out for Atlantic Yards," Hennelly said in the lead-in to Schuerman's segment.

Scheurman said, "The New Jersey folks, it seems, are just positioning themselves to pick up the scraps that Brooklyn leaves behind." He noted that the Nets say they're moving to Brooklyn by 2011, but pointed out that the developer has steadily been promising a move.

"There will be a point where if they don’t complete the Brooklyn arena or get it into the ground, they may well decide to evaluate other options," he said.

There's an Internal Revenue Service deadline this December to issue tax-exempt bonds that could save Forest City Ratner $150 million, Schuerman said. (I've estimated $165 million, but all numbers are approximate.)


Schuerman was asked what was keeping the bonds from being issued. First, lawsuits must be cleared. But even if they are, developer Bruce Ratner "might not be able to issue the bonds in this economic environment as it is. When he first bid on the MTA railyards, he submitted a letter of interest from the AMBAC corporation, saying AMBAC would back these bonds, but AMBAC has been downgraded to junk status… all the institutions he was relying on to finance the arena have really come undone, because of the banking collapse."


Posted by steve at 7:20 AM

How Rudy Giuliani gave Bruce Ratner and Jim Stuckey parking permits

Atlantic Yards Report

This blog entry points to the historical roots of the political favoritism that allowed the proposed Atlantic Yards development to receive State approval in a no-bid, opaque approval process.

Public discussion about parking permits led the New York Times back into city archives to explore the Giuliani administration's 1998 bestowal of parking permits to select supporters.


Among them were "Democrats for Giuliani," including developer Bruce Ratner and Forest City Ratner executive Jim Stuckey, who had served, respectively, as city Consumer Affairs Commissioner and head of the Public Development Corporation (precursor to the New York City Economic Development Corporation).

But do they still have the permits?


Posted by steve at 7:11 AM

Quinn, Jeffries, Towns Look to Reverse-Engineer Development Bubble

City Hall

Here's a plan to make use of luxury living units now sitting empty after the housing bubble has burst.

Flatbush Avenue was once a hotbed of development in the new downtown Brooklyn. Glittering towers filled with pricey condos began to dot the landscape, rezoned by city planners ushering in a would-be renaissance.

Developers cheered that vision, rallied by the surging housing market. They even advanced into the heart of Kensington, four miles down the road, where yet another 107-unit luxury project began to take shape.

Now, just three years after ground-breaking, those plans have unraveled. The towers are vacant relics of the housing bubble. The Kensington project, not even complete, faces foreclosure and possible demolition.

Some see the failed projects as nothing more than monuments to a reckless development era. But others have seized them as an opportunity to try and reverse-engineer the city’s housing bubble by paring down the city’s condo glut and adding to its affordable stock.

Housing advocates and policymakers are piecing together plans to convert many of those luxury units into cheaper ones, either through subsidies, affordable housing programs or new tax incentives. Or perhaps even government intervention.

“There are hundreds of units of empty luxury apartments that developers are unable to sell or rent because of the declining housing market,” said Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), whose district includes some of the newest high-rises in Brooklyn. “It makes sense to figure out a way to convert those empty luxury units into affordable housing for the community.”

The plan is seen by advocates and even some developers as a creative if untested strategy for easing the city’s housing woes as credit tightens and prices plummet.


NoLandGrab: Maybe - just maybe - there are already enough luxury units on the market and no need to use public subsidies to create thousands of units for the proposed Atlantic Yards development.

Posted by steve at 6:54 AM

Book Review: 'Conversations With Frank Gehry' by Barbara Isenberg

Los Angeles Times
By Christopher Hawthorne

The reviewer of this collection of Frank Gehry interviews cannily observes how a certain Brooklyn project is hardly mentioned:

Isenberg generally steers clear of touchy subjects, notably the controversy that has surrounded the Brooklyn project. Known as Atlantic Yards, and designed to cover as many as 22 acres with 8 million square feet of new construction, it has been bitterly opposed by neighborhood activists. Gehry has sounded ambivalent about the commission of late and hardly seems to mourn the fact that the project may never be built, even in piecemeal form.


NoLandGrab: Perhaps some have "bitterly opposed" Atlantic Yards, but some of us have been happy to do what we can for a better Brooklyn.

Posted by steve at 6:37 AM

April 17, 2009

The Brooklyn real-estate bust continues

The Brooklyn Paper
by Ben Muessig

Brooklyn is for sale — but nobody is buying.

The collapsing economy is being blamed for a 35-percent drop in the number of properties sold in the borough’s once-booming housing market in the first quarter of this year compared to the last part of 2008.

Worse, the first quarter of 2009 is off 57 percent compared to the first quarter of 2008.

The bad news — contained in a new report from the real-estate consulting firm Miller Samuel, which conducted the study for the Prudential Douglas Elliman real-estate firm — follows a trend that started last year, when the economy imploded, mostly because of a housing market bust.

The drop in sales was caused in part by unrealistic asking prices, according to researchers.


With loads of new Brooklyn condos sitting empty, one wonders how Bruce Ratner and the ESDC can make the numbers work on Atlantic Yards. Could they be planning to just sit on the empty lots for a few decades?


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Does 2037 Work for You?

But the biggest implications are for the time frame of the rest of the project. All of the promised community benefits--affordable housing, jobs, greenspace, and so on--aren't likely to arrive as briskly as the tardy arena, and will probably await further installments of the project.

And when is that likely to happen in the Ratner world of receding timelines? While not strictly comparable--in the sense that the current AY plan is primarily residential--new research on the future of the World Trade Center buildings gives a sense of what kind of truly remarkable dates are possible in the brave new world of post-meltdown New York real estate. The forecast: One World Trade Center, which the Port Authority is building, will not be fully occupied until 2018. Tower 2 will not be completely rented until 2025 and Tower 3 will not be fully leased until 2037.

The timeline of Atlantic Yards needs a similarly clear-eyed reassessment. The use of eminent domain and public subsidies are based on promised benefits on a certain timeline--and it would be useful to at least know approximately which decade we're talking about.

Posted by eric at 6:31 PM

General Growth files for bankruptcy protection

The nation's second-largest mall operator filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after it failed to persuade debt holders to give it more time to refinance.

AP via Crain's NY Business

The nation's second-largest shopping mall owner, General Growth Properties, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday in a tough bargaining move to restructure its $27 billion in debt.

The Chicago-based company is paying the price for its aggressive expansion at the height of the real estate boom. General Growth, like many homeowners during the frenzy, bought several properties at top dollar and now is finding lenders unwilling to refinance.

The real estate crisis has been slow to affect the market for retail, hotels and office buildings. But the delinquency rate for commercial loans, while still relatively low, is creeping up and could deepen the economic recession.

The company has suspended its dividend, halted or slowed nearly all development projects and cut its work force by more than 20%. It also has sold some of its non-mall assets.


NoLandGrab: "Suspended its dividend, halted or slowed nearly all development projects and cut its work force?" Where have we heard that before?

Crain's Chicago Business, General Growth blames credit crisis, not shopping slowdown

The meltdown in financial markets, not the deep slump in the retail industry, brought General Growth Properties Inc. to its knees Thursday.

“The reasons for this are unrelated to the performance of the shopping center industry generally,” General Growth CEO Adam Metz wrote in an affidavit filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. “Instead, the problem is that virtually every source of commercial real estate financing has dried up, leaving a vastly inadequate supply of credit to meet the demand created by current and upcoming maturities.”

Posted by eric at 3:54 PM

The Curse of the Bambini

Most people, or at least those with a passing interest in baseball, have at least some familiarity with "The Curse of the Bambino," which, according to legend, the Boston Red Sox brought upon themselves when they sold the highly touted young pitcher-outfielder Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees following the 1919 season, for $125,000.

To that point, the Red Sox had been arguably baseball's most successful franchise, winning the first World Series title in 1903, and five championships in total. The Yankees, by contrast, had never even won an American League pennant.

Following the sale of "The Bambino" to the Yankees, it took 85 more years before the Red Sox won another World Series, when they became the first team in Major League history to win a post-season series after having lost the first three games, defeating the Yankees for the pennant, four games to three, before sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals for the title. The Yankees, meanwhile, won 39 pennants and 26 World Series during that stretch, becoming America's most successful professional sports franchise.

But the Yankees' unrivaled success has come to an end, thanks to the Curse of the Bambini, better known as the children of the Bronx from whom the Yankees (aided and abetted by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg) stole Macombs Dam Park, on which the team has erected a new Yankee Stadium, with the help of hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidy.

According to this new legend, the Yankees will never win a championship while playing in their ill-gotten ballpark. In an ominous sign of things to come, the Yankees — who doled out $423 million in new contracts to just three free agents during this past off-season, and who already had MLB's highest-paid player, the ever-popular Ster- A-Rod, on their payroll — opened their new gilded palace by losing, 10-2, to the Cleveland Indians, who, even with yesterday's victory, still possess the American League's worst won-lost record.

Cleveland, coincidentally, is home to real estate developer Forest City Enterprises, which hopes to build a heavily subsidized, eminent domain-reliant sports venue of its own, in Brooklyn, for the New Jersey Nets. Since Forest City purchased a controlling interest in the Nets, in 2004, the team's fortunes have declined precipitously, sliding from championship contention to also-ran status. Another curse, perhaps? Most likely, yes.

Back in the Bronx, the bambini, who reside in the nation's poorest Congressional district, and who suffer from some of the highest asthma rates in the modern world, have seen their beloved Macombs Dam Park, and its 400 or so stately trees, bulldozed in favor of a monument to greed. The old Yankee Stadium, which managed to draw in excess of 4,000,000 fans each season from 2005 to 2008, still sits across the street, perfectly serviceable.

The promised replacements parks, individually smaller and far less accessible than Macombs Dam Park, and which the city claimed would be open at the same time as the new Stadium, remain just a promise. Current estimates have the new parkland being ready in 2011, costing the taxpayers about twice as much as originally estimated, and don't hold your breath, which one actually needs to do in the Bronx's brownish air.

Meanwhile, the Yankees continue to advertise heavily for their Legends Suite seats, which are not, at $2,650 a pop, selling like hot cakes. That's $2,650 per seat, per game, or about one-fifth the annual per capita income for Bronx residents. It's not hard to understand why the new Yankee Stadium is cursed.

We offer our condolences to Yankee fans, who over the decades have gotten so used to winning championships that anything less feels like abject failure. Thanks to the Curse of the Bambini, no new World Series banners will grace the rafters so long as the Yankees play in this second edition of Yankee Stadium. Take solace, though, in the fact that modern sports facilities seem to miraculously become obsolete in a couple of decades; the curse could, potentially, be broken by the building of a new, 100% privately financed ballpark, built without subsidy, on privately owned land without the use or threat of eminent domain, or the complicity of government in the theft of public parks.

On second thought, you better resign yourselves to a long, long drought.

Posted by eric at 3:54 PM

Future Home of the Nets

The Brian Lehrer Show

WNYC reporter Matthew Schuerman tosses a healthy dose of cold water on the likelihood of Forest City Ratner being able to issue bonds for the planned Barclays Center arena in a must-listen segment focusing on New Jersey's arena civil war and the Nets' foundering move to Brooklyn.

If the Nets aren't going to Brooklyn, Newark better get them. That's what Newark mayor Cory Booker says. WNYC reporters Bob Hennelly and Matthew Schuerman talk about the political wrangling going on around the future home of the Nets.


Posted by eric at 3:01 PM

Jean Michel's to open at Mercantile Place


Speaking of what's good for the goose not being good for the gander, this blog entry reprints a Forest City Enterprises press release touting the developer's Mercantile Place project in Dallas, which relied heavily on the adaptive reuse of historic buildings, extolling "the beauty and character of a historic neighborhood" and its "sense of place." In Brooklyn, however, the developer has already demolished the historic Ward Bakery, and is itching to level the preservation-worthy Spalding and Atlantic Arts buildings, which have already been renovated and repurposed for housing.

Mercantile Place is comprised of three upscale apartment buildings - The Merc, The Element and The Wilson. The Merc is a 31-story luxury residential tower, formerly the renowned Mercantile National Bank Building. The building has been renewed, remixed and restored with first-class amenities and elegant finishes. It opened to residents in March 2008....

The Wilson was built in 1903 and patterned after Paris' Grand Opera House with Second Empire-style architecture. In 1999, the building was renovated and transformed from a former department store and office building into 143 luxury loft apartment homes.


Posted by eric at 2:31 PM

The Great Recession: A Stimulus to Get Our City Back to “Bidness?”

Noticing New York

Blogger Michael D.D. White wonders why what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander — the gander being we taxpaying citizens of New York State.

So state and local governments everywhere else are saving significant money on public sector work by getting bids during this economic downturn, and Forest City Ratner claims it is similarly going to reduce costs for itself through the lower bids they can get during the economic downturn. . . Who isn’t invited to the party to get the benefits of such bidding? The New York taxpayers who are expected to shoulder the unbelievably huge subsidies (more than $2.1 billion) being given to Forest City Ratner, without bid, for its proposed Atlantic Yards project! That is because, our politicians gave Ratner (without any bid) a multi-decade monopoly on a 22-acre site which, in theory, precludes competition for perhaps 40 years.

Are our politicians really telling us with straight faces that they have made a deal with Ratner that precludes any competition for however many decades it takes his company to complete Atlantic Yards? Are they saying that the public can’t even give project work to competing developers if Ratner dawdles for decades, goes bankrupt or reneges on what was once promised for delivery?


NoLandGrab: White cites the $2.1 billion in Atlantic Yards subsidies estimated by the New York Post, which many project-watchers consider an overstatement. However, even Forest City Ratner has copped to more than a billion dollars in assorted tax breaks.

Posted by eric at 2:11 PM

Without upgraded railyard, would General Project Plan be violated?

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR offers up another line of inquiry to State Senator Bill Perkins, who's planning a committee hearing on Atlantic Yards.

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

ESDC response

I got a response this week from the ESDC: "Based on the current economic climate, we are reviewing all GPP requirements but have not reached a decision on whether further modifications are necessary or appropriate."

Surely the ESDC does not want to modify the GPP nor the Final Environmental Impact Statement; that would only delay the project.

But if there are major changes to the project, shouldn't they be documented and defended?


Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Doctoroff reflects on PlaNYC's virtues; contrasts with AY evident

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder uses former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff's own words to expose the big lie otherwise known as Atlantic Yards.

As the second anniversary of the debut of PlaNYC 2030 approaches, former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff Wednesday reflected on "one of the Bloomberg administration's proudest legacies." The event, at the Museum of the City of New York, was the first public appearance in which Doctoroff addressed the issue since he left government.

While a framework plan like PlaNYC is not the same as a development project like AY, notably, many of the principles behind the former--an emphasis on consultation and achievable goals, realistically presented--seem counter to the city's embrace of Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

Forest City Enterprises stock rebounds

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Enterprises stock, which in late March had sunk below $4 a share, has more than doubled, closing yesterday at $8.23. That's still well more than 80% below the peak in recent years, but it's a major short-term gain, especially since Morningstar has said the stock is worthless.

The comeback did not begin dramatically after the developer released earnings results March 30, but rather picked up steam a little later.

While part of the recovery may be tied to the general rise in the market, it also may reflect new confidence in the company. The Motley Fool reports:
[S]ome of the smartest minds in the business are trolling through the wreckage of this market turmoil and picking up some of the pieces. All-star mutual fund manager Marty Whitman recently added to his position in real estate operating company Forest City Enterprises (NYSE: FCE-A)...


NoLandGrab: There's no disputing that someone with the foresight to have purchased FCE shares two weeks ago would have made some money, but we should point out that Marty Whitman's Third Avenue Value Fund has been by far the biggest holder of the company's shares for many years.

Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

April 16, 2009

Truce talks underway in dispute between Prudential, Izod centers

The Star-Ledger
by Ted Sherman

That's "Truce talks," not "Bruce talks," but there's a very good chance those have been going on too.

Truce talks have broken out in the arena wars. After nearly two years of fighting over which will be the state's premier entertainment venue, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority -- operator of the aging Izod Center in the Meadowlands -- and the Prudential Center in Newark are quietly trying find a way to co-exist without destroying each other.

The two sides have been talking behind the scenes about a possible joint agreement that would give the Sports Authority responsibility for the day-to-day running of the new arena in Newark, executives on both sides said today.

The Prudential Center, known as "The Rock," is home to hockey's New Jersey Devils, who began their NHL playoff run tonight. The New Jersey Nets, who play at Izod, say they are moving to a propose[d] arena in Brooklyn but critics say the structure is underfunded and will never be built. The team has agreed to play two pre-season games at the Prudential Center, but insists it has no intention of moving to Newark.


Posted by eric at 12:49 PM

As Thomas Resurfaces, Knicks Rebuild a Franchise

The New York Times
by Harvey Araton

What's Isiah Thomas have to do with the Nets? Nothing. What do the Knicks have to do with the Nets? Not much, other than that they wiped the floor with the Vince Carter- and Devin Harris-less Nets in last night's season finale — and unlike their cross-Hudson rivals, they appear headed in the right direction.

Speaking of uncertainty, at least the Knicks have a home in which they don’t feel imprisoned and which isn’t being swallowed by an indoor skiing and entertainment complex.

Pity the Nets; despite the infusion of young talent at point guard (Devin Harris) and center (Brook Lopez), they remain residentially stuck between a horrible place, the Meadowlands, and a hard place, Brooklyn. If shovels aren’t soon in the ground for the proposed arena, they’d be wise to relocate soon to the Rock, as Newark’s Prudential Center is called, if they want to compete for free-agent talent.


NoLandGrab: Unless Nets' minority owner Jay-Z is ready to ink LeBron James to a six-record contract and cut him in on his LiveNation gig, the chances of LBJ ending up in a Nets' uni in 2010 look close to nil.

Posted by eric at 12:30 PM

Arena, 2012? New 2010 groundbreaking estimate suggests even that date may be cutting it close

Atlantic Yards Report

In his series on questions needing answers for an eventual State Senate Committee hearing on Atlantic Yards, Norman Oder thinks that the official arena opening date might be out of reach:

Yesterday, it was revealed that Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) CEO Marisa Lago predicted that construction jobs be generated in 2010, thus indicating that groundbreaking would occur then.
How long would the arena take to build? Let's say, for example, that arena construction begins in February. Should the arena take 24 months, as with many arenas around the country, the arena could indeed be finished well in time for the 2012-13 basketball season, which begins in October.

But what if the arena takes two-and-a-half years to construct, as Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner has said? That would get the arena finished in August, again early enough for 2012.

And what if the arena takes 32 months to build, as indicated in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, according to my reading. That would push an opening date until early October--and any delay in groundbreaking could jeopardize that opening.


Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

Marty’s borough haul continues

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

Bruce Ratner and Barclays Bank continue to pour "thank you" money into Marty Markowitz's seaside concert series.

Not-for-profits controlled and created by Borough President Markowitz continue to rake in donations from companies who have benefitted from his support of controversial projects like Atlantic Yards and the cruise ship terminal in Red Hook.

The beep also continues to transfer hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars from his budget to Best of Brooklyn, a charity that Markowitz runs out of Borough Hall with staff members who are partially on the city payroll.
Forest City Ratner, the lead developer of the stalled Atlantic Yards mega-project, funneled up to $100,000 to another Markowitz-founded charity, the Martin Luther King Jr. Concert series in East Flatbush. That donation comes on top of earlier contributions from Forest City and other Atlantic Yards-tied organizations totaling between $680,000 and $1.075 million to Markowitz’s trifecta of charities.

Barclays Bank, which paid $400 million for naming rights to the proposed arena at Atlantic Yards, chipped in up to $60,000 for the concerts and has given as much as $100,000 in the last two years.


NoLandGrab: Though many Brooklynites enjoy the concerts, it's hard to believe that Ratner and Barclays would pour sponsorship money into the summer concert series if not for Markowitz's unflagging support for the megaproject.

Posted by lumi at 6:26 AM

As expected, ESDC turns down FOIL appeal requesting cost of Atlantic Yards project

Atlantic Yards Report

As he expected, Norman Oder's appeal to the denial of his Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request was denied. But this one comes with a sequel:

Two weeks ago, I described how the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) had denied my Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request seeking the current cost of the Atlantic Yards project, declaring the figure 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."

Following standard procedure, I filed an appeal with the agency's appeals officer, who, in a letter I received yesterday, denied my request.
The new twist, however, is that the ESDC is apparently prepared to announce new cost figures for the project.

Perhaps the agency will explain why it can announce new cost figures shortly after denying my request. Is there no need for trade secrets?


NoLandGrab: All this fuss over a project that is receiving enormous public subsidies — you'd think that there was some transparency requirement when taxpayers' money is at stake, especially for a private project.

Posted by lumi at 6:16 AM

Permission to Speak Frankly: How We Know More and Less From Breakfast Interviews With Marisa Lago

Noticing New York

Blogger Michael D. D. White goes on the record about off-the-record questions posed to Empire State Developer Development Corporation CEO Marisa Lago at last week's breakfast sponsored by City Hall News:

As noted, the Q&A session was “off the record” but since we think it is important for the public to know what was said about Atlantic Yards, here is our solution for partially informing you. We can tell you on the record what our question to Ms. Lago was. Also, because we conferred with City Council candidate Josh Skaller, we can tell you for the record the question he asked Ms. Lago about Atlantic Yards. While we can’t tell you what Ms. Lago’s answers were at the breakfast and we don’t even think we can tell you whether our questions were, in fact answered, Noticing New York submitted these questions to Ms. Lago for on the record responses which we got.

In light of her call for more stringent cost-benefit analysis for the ESDC's Empire Zone program, how does Ms. Lago justify Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject?

Although AY is a developer initiated project - we have carefully reviewed the expected impact of the project and the expected benefits to be generated from the project - in terms of jobs, fiscal benefits, the production of affordable housing and the removal of blight. We think this is a good deal for the City and State - especially now.


Atlantic Yards Report, ESDC CEO predicts AY groundbreaking in 2010 (and semi-answers other Noticing New York questions)

For those of you who don't have the opportunity to read White's entire post, Norman Oder posted crib notes, including the breaking news:

Michael D.D. White's lengthy Noticing New York post brings us some news: Empire State Development Corporation CEO Marisa Lago indicates Atlantic Yards groundbreaking won't occur until 2010, as opposed to the 2009 pledge by developer Forest City Ratner.

NoLandGrab: Lago's responses underscore the fact that a cost-benefit analysis was never done for the project, or if it was, it's being withheld from the public.

In general, it is interesting that reporters and watchdogs have to "stalk" those who are actually in the know on Atlantic Yards. Whether it is in pursuit of the ombudsman, the CEO of the ESDC, architect Frank Gehry, Forest City executives etc., these watchdogs wind up at panel discussions and on radio call-in shows hoping to get simple answers to simple questions. Folks, this is democracy through the looking glass.

Posted by lumi at 5:57 AM

This timeline is not so timely

GlobeSt.com, Construction Forum Talks New Timelines

Construction executives heard familiar tunes from two top local economic officials Tuesday morning at the New York Building Congress industry breakfast. The featured speakers--Maris Lago, president and CEO at the Empire State Development Corp. and Robert Lieber, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development--both stressed that scope, size and timelines of major public-private projects are subject to economic realities, while down cycles are prime times to invest in infrastructure.
Later, when New York Times reporter Charles Bagli--who moderated the discussion with Anderson--asked Lago if the original scope, size and current time frame--2011 for completing the first phase--of the Atlantic Yards were indeed realistic, given the times and climate, Lago acknowledged the financials are challenging. She said her agency was focused on meeting a December 31 deadline for tax-exempt bonds at the downtown Brooklyn project.

NoLandGrab: These bonds are regulated by the IRS, who grandfathered them in for Atlantic Yards.

They are also from the same program that the Yankees took advantage of when land values were fudged in order to qualify for more of these tax-free bonds. Could city and state agencies be hard at work trying to figure out how to do the same for the arena at Atlantic Yards?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Intelligencer

News from Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report:

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Wednesday indicated that two of the major questions swirling around the Atlantic Yards project should be answered: the agency will “soon” go public with both a new construction timetable and a new project budget.

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

Forest City in the News

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Maple Heights: Southgate U.S.A. operations given to court-appointed receiver

A shopping mall owned by some of the principals of Forest City Enterprises is going into foreclosure:

Operations of Southgate U.S.A. shopping center on April 9 were given to a court-appointed receiver employed by an Ann Arbor-based real-estate investment company.
Southgate U.S.A. was operated by the Terminal Tower-based SG USA through an ownership group comprising members of the Ratner, Miller, Shafran and Siegler families for which Albert B. Ratner was managing member.

Ratner is co-chairman of Forest City Enterprises Inc., Cleveland, which had no ownership stake in Southgate.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dan Gilbert, Paul Dolan push for delay of medical mart agreement vote
Two Cleveland pro-sports team owners are calling for a delay in the approval vote for the Medical Mart project. One denies being an agent for Forest City Enterprises!

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Court St. Boutique Owner Works Amid Sea of Change
Forest City Ratner's 12-story cinema complex is the centerpiece of change on Court St.

Chicago Sun Times, RENT TO OWN

New West Realty, co-developers of the 300-unit Eastgate Village complex at 26th and King Drive, has started one of the more aggressive rent-to-own programs in the Chicago area. It allows for 75 percent of a prospective buyer's monthly rent to be escrowed as a down payment for a purchase within a year. Buyers sign both an agreement to purchase a condo or town house and a one-year lease at Eastgate Village, part of the former campus of Mercy Hospital.

New West is a partner in the project with Fogelson Cos. and Forest City Enterprises Inc.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

April 15, 2009

New Jersey Nets coach Lawrence Frank appreciates owner Bruce Ratner's support but knows Rod Thorn will decide fate

by Dave D'Alessandro

Ratner suggested that this is going to be a tight-fisted summer for most teams, but not necessarily his. So if Thorn decides to sit on his wallet during free agent season -- and not spend the exception money at his disposal -- the owner invites all fans to direct their angry e-mails at the team president.

But Ratner foresees "the kind of summer where everyone's careful about what they do. Everyone wants to make sure, because you don't know what next year is going to bring" economically.

In the next breath, however, the owner said Thorn won't be limited by budget restraints -- which is welcome news for a dubious basketball staff, which has already managed to trim the payroll to the fourth-lowest ($62.6 million) in the NBA and been asked to trim costs in other ways.

"We've always spent what we had to spend, and we'll do that again," Ratner said. "From our point of view, we've always done what's necessary and will continue to do that. And we'll always need to have a competitive team -- as competitive as possible -- and money's never stood in the way of what we're willing to get."

Straining credibility, Ratner added that he's not entirely opposed to being a tax-paying team -- essentially, inflating the payroll to more than $71.1 million -- "if something came along."


More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Star-Ledger on Ratner's basketball promises: "straining credibility" (and what if AY news were treated the same way?)

Dave D'Alessandro wasn't afraid to say that Bruce Ratner was "straining credibility." Why haven't Metro desk reporters at other area dailies been equally skeptical regarding claims about Atlantic Yards?

Imagine how some other coverage of Atlantic Yards might have gone.

The New York Times in March 2008 reported that the "Nets arena is on track." The New York Daily News in May 2008 quoted Ratner as saying "We anticipate finishing all of Atlantic Yards by 2018."

Both were "straining credibility." Similarly, much that Nets CEO Brett Yormark says about the project strains credibility.

Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

ESDC predicts new AY timetable and budget; those should still be questions for the Senate oversight hearing

Atlantic Yards Report

More on issues that should be addressed in a possible NY State Senate Committee hearing on Atlantic Yards:

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) yesterday indicated that two of the major questions swirling around the Atlantic Yards should be answered: the agency will "soon" go public with both a new construction timetable and a new project budget.

Both could be big news. For nearly two-and-a-half years, at least in court papers, the ESDC has stuck to the ten-year construction schedule announced in the Final Environmental Impact Statement. Last week, ESDC CEO Marisa Lago acknowledged that it could take "decades."

And the ESDC, which announced a $4 billion project budget in December 2006, has since asserted that information about the project budget and cost of the arena is a trade secret. That, however, sets up the possibility that developers and public agencies can announce one set of numbers to the public, then turn around and keep the actual numbers secret.

Since the Atlantic Yards project is highly subsidized, Norman Oder points out that the actual timeline "requires candor:"

The ten-year timeline was crucial to public support for the Atlantic Yards project. Within ten years, blight would be removed, 2250 units of affordable housing would be built, eight acres of publicly accessible open space would be provided, and new tax revenues would be available. Even before that, a new arena and railyard were to be built.


Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

The latest cloud over Finance Commissioner Stark: a romance with the (former) assistant in the middle of the Yankee Stadium controversy

Atlantic Yards Report has it all... sex, power, money!

Though the latest City Hall controversy reads like a steamy soap opera, Norman Oder explains how it runs straight through the scandal over the Yankee Stadium land valuation, which was likely jiggered to maximize the amount of tax-free bonds available for the construction of the project.

What does this have to do with Atlantic Yards? The city plans on issuing the same tax-free bonds for the Nets arena, but with the Yankees-City Hall financial scandal blowing steam, will watchdogs put a damper on free lunch for Bruce Ratner?

City Finance Commissioner Martha Stark is under a cloud again, this time for having a romantic relationship with a former assistant commissioner. Mayor Mike Bloomberg, formerly a staunch defender of Stark, says the city is looking into whether the relationship began while Dara Ottley-Brown was employed by Stark.

However, as I note below, no one is yet looking into the potential connection to an even more questionable episode: Ottley-Brown served as the Department of Finance's (DOF) point person in ensuring that the land under the new Yankee Stadium would be assessed--re-assessed, it turned out--at a figure sufficient to generate the foregone taxes to be repaid by PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes).

And the DOF faces similar challenges in ensuring that the assessments of the Atlantic Yards arena site are sufficient to generate PILOTs sought by the developer.


Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

Newark Mayor: If Nets Aren't In Brooklyn, Then Newark

By Jen Chung

Newark Mayor Cory Booker is not happy with plans to improve the Izod Center at the Meadowlands. According to the Star-Ledger, Booker sent a letter to NJ Governor Jon Corzine, "Should the Nets not build their project in Brooklyn, the Nets' long-term home in New Jersey cannot be Izod. It must be Newark."


Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

Forest City in the News

Denver Real Estate Examiner, Neighborhood Profile: Stapleton
If you're moving to Denver and considering the Stapleton area (emphasis added):

Built on the abandoned grounds of Stapleton Airport, Stapleton was conceived as a new-style urban community.

Restaurants, retail shops, sports and recreational facilities, schools and office space make this development almost self-contained. 30% of Stapleton is open space and parks!

The 80-acre Central Park has increased Denver’s park system by 25%. Pocket parks throughout the development nurture the sense of community, welcoming walkers, dog-walkers, and baby carriages. Many homes were built with large front porches, encouraging neighbors to get to know each other.

With a mix of single family homes, lofts, condominiums and townhomes, many different lifestyles are accommodated.

Sustainability is a fundamental principle of the developers, Forest City Enterprises, Inc. Since 2006, all new homes have been Energy Star certified.

There’s so much to explore and experience at Stapleton:


NoLandGrab: "Sustainability is a fundamental principle of developers, Forest City Enterprises?" Tell that to the Ward Barkery Building. [Before and after.]

Yahoo Finance, Forest City Enterprises Inc. (FCE-A)

FCE-A closed yesterday at 7.37, over double the share price from two weeks ago.

The Cleveland Leader, Med Mart - "We need it." Remind Me Why. Please.

The Medical Mart saga in Cleveland continues. This time, Forest City Enterprises only makes a cameo appearance as a point of reference:

Tower City got upscale outlets here when it opened because of Forest City’s ability to ask favors of people they do business with elsewhere. It had no long term meaning.

NoLandGrab: Non-Clevelandites (Clevelanders?) like ourselves have wondered how Forest City Enterprises managed to pull off an upscale mall at Tower City in the first place. Tower City has since receded to a more hum-drum food-court-type mall.

Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

After layoff threat, Bloomberg talks jobs

By Patrick Arden

From a sidebar, headlined "Long waits for high-profile projects," in an article about NYC's efforts to create jobs:

Moynihan Station won’t get stimulus aid because it’s not “shovel ready,” said Marisa Lago of Empire State Development Corp. Atlantic Yards is “challenging,” she added. Tax-exempt bonds for the Nets arena must be secured before an IRS deadline at the end of this year.


Posted by lumi at 4:43 AM

April 14, 2009

Ringing endorsement


WFAN Radio

NBA Commissioner David Stern was a guest on Francesa on the FAN today, and inevitably, Mike Francesa asked about the Nets' move to Brooklyn.

Francesa: So you still think they're going to Brooklyn, eventually?

Stern: They think they're going to Brooklyn, so I think they're going to Brooklyn.

Play audio [Nets discussion about 1/3rd of the way in]

Posted by lumi at 6:48 PM

Jay-Z’s truck never gets out of park

The Brooklyn Paper
by Ben Muessig

UPDATE: Jay-Z's Rocawear Popshop seems to be on the same timetable as Bruce Ratner's 2006 2009 2010 2011 whenever arena opening.

Looks like Jay-Z’s Rocawear tractor-trailer ran out of gas.

Despite a much-ballyhooed announcement that the rapper — and miniscule part owner of the New Jersey Nets — would roll out a “new premium line” of apparel at a temporary store inside an 18-wheeler parked at the corner of Pacific Street and Fifth Avenue starting today, the truck never showed.

“The woman managing the tour says that they’re postponing until Thursday,” said Shayna McClelland, a spokesperson for the company that designed the pimped-out truck.


NoLandGrab: We have a call in to Newark to see if anyone has spotted the truck over by the Prudential Center.

Posted by eric at 3:58 PM

Nadler, ACORN and the Working Families Party: No Credible Evidence?

Anita MonCrief

The ACORN whistleblower connects the dots between ACORN, NY Congressman Jerrold Nadler, and... Atlantic Yards developer Bruce C. Ratner.

Over the past several weeks, ACORN has been in the news regarding the startling call by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) for a hearing on ACORN after Heather Heidelbaugh read my testimony into record at a hearing on April 2, 2009. However, “House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) shut down a request by Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) to launch an investigation into ACORN, with Nadler citing not enough “credible evidence” to proceed.”

Interestingly enough Nadler has also received donations from Bruce Ratner and his brother Michael (who has sat on boards and panels with Nadler). As Norman Oder explained in his Atlantic Yards Report, the Ratners and ACORN have quite a lot of negative history with the residents of Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 1:28 PM

Projects Whose Names None Dare Speak

WNYC News Blog
by Matthew Schuerman

The chiefs of economic development for the city and the state spoke before construction industry executives this morning, trying to reassure them that all was well even in these hard times.

New York Times reporter Charles Bagli, one of the moderators, got impatient at one point, telling panelists, “I was struck by the fact that so many of the projects–the public private partnerships that dominated the headlines, that dominated the public approval process–were not mentioned or were barely mentioned this morning.”

The answer, whatever the project, was pretty much the same: these things were supposed to take a long time to build anyway.

Marisa Lago, of Empire State Development, said Atlantic Yards was “clearly a challenging project in this environment.” She said her agency was focusing on meeting a December 31st deadline to qualify for tax-exempt bonds.


NoLandGrab: If it's "clearly challenging," why doesn't ESDC pull the plug rather than throwing good money after bad? The December deadline ESDC is trying to meet pertains only to the financing of the arena; wasn't there supposed to be some affordable housing somewhere along the line?

Posted by eric at 1:13 PM

DDDB Tuesday Trifecta

Actually, we're playing catch-up — two of these items were posted yesterday.

How Many Sports Venues are Too Many?

In terms of timing, Bruce Ratner is at the very end of the "those guys" line. How much longer will his investors let him stand there?

Nets Season Grinds to Halt, Dumps Tix on Schools

PS 139 has been awarded free tickets to see the NJ Nets play the Bobcats at the Izod Center in NJ. The tickets arrived unexpectedly at the school today and the game is Monday April 13 at 7:30 pm!...

"Awarded" seems a bit of overstatement--although it's certainly the case that anyone who would travel all the way from Ditmas Park to fill a seat in the deserted Izod Center should deserve some kind of award.

AY Oversight Hearing Delayed but Prep Continues

Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

Nets News

Hopes for the Nets' 2009-2010 season seem to rest on their securing the #1 pick in the NBA draft lottery, which, based on their record, they have a 1.7% chance of winning. Good luck.

Bleacher Report, New Jersey Nets' Offseason Scenarios

This year the Nets will only have one pick and they need to make it work. They need rebounding and defensive presence. What they really need is Blake Griffin—he would fit in perfectly.

There is a problem, though. Griffin is undoubtedly going No. 1 overall, no matter which team drafts first. But hey, New Jersey may actually get really lucky and win the lottery just like the Chicago Bulls did last year. One can dream, right?

The more likely scenario will have the Nets trying desperately to move up, offering packages of young players, coupled with expiring contracts, and their pick.

NorthJersey.com, Nets have no money to burn

Missing the playoffs for two straight years means the Nets have more work to do and less money to do it.

Playoff games would have added more zeroes to ownership's bottom line, lowering their losses for the year and perhaps loosening the purse strings a little bit.

A recent story in Sports Business Journal reported that principal owner Bruce Ratner and his investors lost $27.8 million for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31. That figure includes the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: We're not sure what Atlantic Yards costs are included in that loss figure; we suspect some marketing costs, perhaps, like those for the mock suite in the Times Tower.

TheNetsInsider.com, And the blame game begins...

Coach Lawrence Frank has received the blame for this team not making the playoffs this season for the most part. It hasn't been determined if he will take the fall because of it, although owner Bruce Ratner endorsed him during the Nets' 91-87 win in their home finale against the Bobcats last night.

The Nets' failings are not all on Frank anyway. Everyone shares in the blame for the Nets 34-47 record.

People are quick to point to the coach or to the players not playing hard enough, and both are legitimate. But you have to start at the top -- at ownership, then management -- then coaches and then players.

NBA Fanhouse, New Jersey Civil War Erupts Around Nets

As doubts continue to shroud the Atlantic Yards project that would send the Nets to Brooklyn, two cities in New Jersey have begun a public war of words over where the team should play if the New York City plan falls through.

The folks running IZOD Center, the current arena in East Rutherford -- an awful place in a frankly awful location -- have quietly applied for upgrade funds. Officials from Newark, where a new arena has recently opened, think the IZOD ploy [is a] backdoor effort to keep the Nets in East Rutherford if the Brooklyn arena isn't built. And those Newark folks -- they are mad.

NLG: We hear that's not the only civil war in New Jersey these days — the other involves a rift between the Nets' front office, led by team president Rod Thorn, and the sales-and-marketing staff, headed up by CEO Brett Yormark.

HoopsWorld, Ratner Gives Support To Frank

No coach has been under fire more than Nets coach Lawrence Frank, and for the first time in weeks, Frank got some support from within his own team, that support came from his owner Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

Jay Z opens a store in a truck

The Brooklyn Paper
by Ben Muessig

The streetwear retailer Rocawear will roll out a “new premium line” of apparel at a temporary store inside an 18-wheeler that will be parked at the corner of Pacific Street and Fifth Avenue starting today.

The so-called “Rocpopshop” will park in front of the Atlantic Terminal Mall to showcase the brand — which is backed by a guy named Shawn Carter (you know him as Jay-Z, the legendary rapper and tiny investor in the New Jersey Nets) — in an attempt to “transport the customer into the Jay-Z and Rocawear lifestyle,” according to organizers.

Some Rocawearers were eager to check out the retrofitted big rig between April 14 and May 3, when it will be parked near the footprint of the beleaguered Atlantic Yards development, but others were irked by conflicting reports on the brand’s Web site promising that the truck would arrive at “Atlantic Yard” a week earlier.


NoLandGrab: We've been unable to confirm rumors that Bruce Ratner is looking for a truck large enough to house a basketball arena.

More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Rocawear Pop Shop finally arrives

Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

New York Stories

With two facilities opening this week and more on the way, can sports’ biggest marketplace support them all?

Sports Business Journal
by Bill King

Yankees COO Lonn Trost is having trouble sleeping these days.

Trost suspects that this would have been the case even if the economic weather hadn’t turned as it did, breeding the “perfect storm,” as he often calls it. It was during an economic boom that the Yankees planned, built and priced the most expensive stadium to date: a vast, $1.5 billion stretch of polished stone and steel.

They will open the park on Thursday, amid the worst financial unraveling since the Great Depression, a time of fiscal and psychic realignment that has some companies rethinking the way they entertain clients.

This is not something anyone would have predicted or planned for.

“Is the activity as high-paced as you’d want opening a new facility? Absolutely not,” said Jeff Wilpon, Mets chief operating officer and son of principal owner Fred Wilpon. “But it’s still pacing ahead of last year, and I think in the end we’ll pick up because of word of mouth.

“Considering that the economy hasn’t gotten any better, that’s not so bad. We’ll be fine.”

This is not simply the story of two big league ballparks built in one environment and opening in another, though that would bear watching, even by itself. No, this is about an entire sporting city under construction, a place where the hard hat is running neck-and-neck with the ball cap, as no fewer than half a dozen teams try to make good on billions of dollars in facility upgrades at a time when purse strings are pulled tight.

And where the handful who haven’t yet put shovels in the ground hope against hope that they still can.

Like the would-be developer of Atlantic Yards?

And then there is Nets owner Bruce Ratner, still angling to build a $950 million arena as part of a $3.5 billion project in Brooklyn, and Islanders owner Charles Wang, who wants to pull off a similar play on a smaller scale with his NHL team on Long Island.

NoLandGrab: Officially, it's a $4 billion project.

From the time that it became clear that this glut of inventory would hit the market in a short span, the teams took the position that New York, as the capital of American business, could absorb it. Today, each still speaks confidently about his own endeavors. But privately, each wonders about the larger picture.

We’ll be fine, but those guys?

One man’s “we” is another man’s “those guys.”


NLG: Obviously, there's no regional entity overseeing and coordinating the need for arenas and stadiums, but there should be. And with the Yankees still advertising the availability of ticket packages just two days short of opening their new ballpark, the market for more sports facilities doesn't seem too rosy.

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

As Newark mayor takes swipe at Izod, facility glut in NY area must make Brooklyn boosters a tad uneasy

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week Sports Business Journal reported that the Izod Center at the Meadowlands might be getting an upgrade, equipping it for the unlikely future of an ever-extended Nets residency.

Yesterday, Newark Mayor Cory Booker fired back, sending a forceful letter to Gov. Jon Corzine:

It is fiscally irresponsible, particularly in these difficult economic times, for the State of New Jersey to expend a single additional public dollar or incur additional debt to support an outdated facility to retain the Nets when a state-of-the-art, world class center already exists in Newark. I urge you to veto the NJSEA minutes and not let this project move ahead.
Meanwhile, an article yesterday in Sports Business Journal focused on the rivalry for sponsorship and attendance among the new and coming sports facilities in the New York area.


Posted by lumi at 6:50 AM

Questions for Sen. Perkins: Why did ESDC punt to the city's DOT on the Carlton Avenue Bridge

Atlantic Yards Report

In Norman Oder's first installment "about issues that a State Senate committee might address when it holds a hearing on Atlantic Yards," he explores the discrepancy between the Empire State Development Corporation's assertion that the Carlton Avenue Bridge would take two years to rebuild, when developer Forest City Ratner's contract with the NYC Department of Transportation allows for three.


Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

Psst Bruce... the name of "the coach" is "Lawrence Frank"

The decision whether or not to retain NJ Nets coach Lawrence Frank after another dismal season in which the team failed to make the playoffs lies with GM Rod Thorn.

Meanwhile, in another sign that the Atlantic Yards developer couldn't play a team owner on TV, he can't seem to come up with the coach's name.

NY Daily News, Nets owner Bruce Ratner says Lawrence Frank 'has done good job'

"I think the coach has done a good job this year," Ratner said Monday night at the Nets' 91-87 victory over Charlotte at the Meadowlands. "Obviously our record is not where we'd like it to be, but the coach has done a good job. I like the coach."
"I'd have to say we're truly supportive of the coach," Ratner said. "He's a very good coach."

The Star-Ledger, New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner will support any endorsement of coach Lawrence Frank by president Rod Thorn

"I'm not neutral when it comes to the coach," Ratner said. "But Rod and I will talk about all the decisions we're going to make."
But Ratner was quick to add, "Again, I really believe -- and I'm not just saying this -- that we have a very good coach, and he's done a very good job over the years we've had him."

Posted by lumi at 6:15 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

WebCommentary.com, Don't Blame ACORN Whistleblower Anita MonCrief for Providing Proof!

On Good Friday, Norman Oder wrote an open letter to the Public Editor of The New York Times, asking why The New York Times has ignored developer Forest City Ratner's "incredible" bailout of ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).
Hurray for Mr. Oder for raising what he described as "the complicated, vexing question of the impact on Times coverage from the parent New York Times Company’s relationship with developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), which together built the Times Tower in Midtown--a relationship that has drawn critical scrutiny from Editor & Publisher's ethics columnist."

But Mr. Oder's criticism of [whistleblower] MonCrief for "decid[ing] to make public what [NY Times reporter] Strom considered confidential reporter-source communication" is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of privileged communications.

The attorney-client privilege belongs to the client, not the lawyer. A lawyer cannot conceal his or her malpractice by claiming privileged communication with the client.

Likewise with the physician-patient privilege.

NoLandGrab: To be clear, Oder said he was "uncomfortable" that a souce released a "confidential reporter-source communication."

Curbed.com, It Happened One Weekend: eBay for Apartments, Starter Studios Cheapen Up, Kosciuszko 2.0, More!
"Atlantic Yards" and Columbia University have become the NYC gold standard of eminent domain abuse:

4) The Kosciuszko Bridge, the unpronounceable worn strip of metal that connects Greenpoint and Maspeth along the BQE, is set to be replaced with a new nine-lane bridge, with construction beginning in 2013. The scrap metal dealers and wholesalers located below will lose their land via eminent domain, but don't expect another Atlantic Yards or Columbia. After all, good lord that bridge needs replacing. [The City/'Uneasily Contemplating the Arrival of a Spiffy Newcomer']

Orange Juice Blog, Do we have 21st century “pirates” operating in NJ & NY today?

The news about Bruce Ratner and his eminent domain-abusing subsidy-sucking "Atlantic Yards" megaproject is getting around:

Exactly five months ago I blogged about a major redevelopment project that I first became aware of when attending an Institute for Justice, IJ conference in the Washington, DC area two years ago.

A property rights victim from Brooklyn, NY attended the conference to share their efforts and literature as well as to gain our support in fighting to protect their homes and businesses from the corporate wrecking ball in a pending eminent domain action involving Bruce Ratner. The name of this development is “Atlantic Yards.”

Here we go again. Another professional sports team with their hands in the public trough.

Reason Online, SLAPP Silly

The online libertarian mag is NOT POSTING about the developer who is suing the author of a book about an egregious case of eminent domain abuse, the book's publisher, the professor who wrote the blurb, and two newspapers who ran reviews.

And in case you-know-who is checking, we're not saying anything either.

Noticing New York, Bloomberg Update: Fire and Ice (Part I)
A two-part -volume series outlines how Mayor Bloomberg uses his "unfathomable wealth" to collect support and promote pet projects with little consideration for impacts to the environment and surrounding communities.

Part II: If you have a problem with that, you can take it up with the ex-Blagojevich operative Bloomberg hired to run his reelection campaign.

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

April 13, 2009

Senator Perkins begins to gear up for Atlantic Yards oversight hearing, but it won’t be held April 24

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder is reporting that, though the NY State Senate Standing Committee on Corporations's "tentatively scheduled April 24 hearing" on Atlantic Yards has been postponed, some members are getting up to speed on the problems and challenges associated with Bruce Ratner's historic megaproject.

If a legislative oversight hearing on Atlantic Yards scheduled this month sounded too soon to be true, well, that was right.

More pressing Senate business has delayed the tentatively scheduled April 24 hearing by the Senate Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions regarding the performance of agencies like the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

It may make for a more thorough hearing, as well, since Senate Committee Chair Bill Perkins, as well as his main staff member working on the issue, are clearly still getting up to speed on Atlantic Yards.

Perkins, a Harlem Democrat who last September held an oversight hearing on eminent domain, came to Brooklyn Saturday to meet with about 15 people--mostly but not exclusively critics and opponents of AY--to be briefed on the project.


Posted by lumi at 6:15 AM

In the End, the Nets’ Minimal Expectations Were Proved Accurate

The NY Times
By Jonathan Abrams

The NJ Nets missed the playoffs for the second year in a row under the stewardship of owner Bruce Ratner, whose only reason for owning the team is to move it to a new arena in Brooklyn as the centerpiece of his Atlantic Yards plan:

The Nets (33-47) exhaust their home schedule against the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night, and the season Wednesday against the Knicks. They will miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season, leaving [coach Lawrence] Frank’s future with the team in question. The number of losses is their most since 2000-1, when they finished with 56.
The Nets were one of four teams in the conference that did not win a majority of their home games. Attendance dipped at Izod Center. The organization still seems confident of a proposed move to Brooklyn, although the Atlantic Yards project has been continually stalled by legal and financial obstacles. The Sports Business Journal recently reported that the Nets lost $27.8 million last year and were in danger of losing sponsors for the planned arena.


Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

Forest City in the News

Forest City Enterprises is moving forward on a project run by its military community subsidiary and is trying to strike a developement deal in Illinios:

Kitsap Sun, Work Begins on Community Center at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor

Forest City Military Communities, Navy Region Northwest and public officials broke ground Friday on a new community center at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

The facility, which will be completed late this year, is in the southwest family housing area.

Journal Online, Major Changes At 5 Corners?

A city council committee agreed yesterday (Thursday) to forward to the full council a proposed preliminary agreement to work with a large company to redevelop part of the "5 Corners" area near Rand and River roads.

Aldermen are expected to fully air the proposed Memorandum of Understanding with redevelopment giant Forest City Enterprises, Inc. that could lead to major changes in the River-Rand area. If the full council accepts the Memorandum of Understanding, it could lead to a formal Redevelopment Agreement that would call for construction possibly sometime in 2010.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

High-Dollar Stadiums In A Low-Rent Economy

All Things Considered
By Mike Pesca

Both New York baseball teams christen their deluxe new stadiums this week: The Mets on Monday and the Yankees on Thursday. But these high-dollar baseball palaces — designed to be financed in part by luxury suites and swanky seats — are arriving at what may be the worst economic time since Lou Gehrig retired.

Reporter Mike Pesca does a fairly good job of not letting Mayor Bloomberg off the hook, after Bloomberg tries to gloss over the cost of the ballparks to the taxpayers as a "relatively small amount for infrastructure," running into the hundreds-of-millions of dollars. However, Pesca totally missed the fact that future taxes are being divereted to paying back the bonds (sorta like striking a deal with the city to divert your property tax to help pay off your mortgage). This is significant because Bloomberg has also repeatedly asserted that the arena that Bruce Ratner wants to build is being privately financed.


Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

April 12, 2009

Spend $10,600 on the Yankees — or for College or a Car?

The New York Times
by Vincent Mallozzi

Recession? What recession?

With the celebrated arrival of Citi Field, I can barely afford to raise a family of Mets fans.

But for me and my three sons, things could be a lot worse.

After all, we could be Yankees fans.

Now let’s suppose the four of us wanted the best seats in the house across the street from the one that Ruth built. A single ticket for a premium Legends Suite seat, on the field level behind the dugouts and home plate, goes for $2,650. For me and the boys, that amounts to $10,600 to watch nine innings of Yankees baseball, or $1,177.77 per inning, if you’re keeping score at home. That princely sum is three times as much as Ruth earned — in his first full season with the Red Sox, $3,500 in 1915.

By contrast, the Mets’ top ticket is $695. Can anybody here afford this game?

“I think if anybody in any business had known where the economy was going to go, they would have done things differently,” Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ general managing partner, told reporters before the team’s first exhibition game at the stadium. “There’s no doubt that small amounts of our tickets might be overpriced.”

Might be overpriced?


NoLandGrab: Don't look to the Barclays Center for bargains — "bunker" suites in Bruce Ratner's planned Nets arena are allegedly priced at $540,000, or a mere $13,170 per game.

Posted by eric at 3:25 PM

Fundraiser for Tish James - Monday April 13, 2009

Tish James Fund Raiser

Posted by steve at 7:17 AM

With playoff hopes dead, Nets dump tickets at schools

Atlantic Yards Report

With the New Jersey Nets' playoffs hopes dead, how are they going to fill seats at the Izod Center? Give them away.

From a message forwarded to me, from a parents' mailing list at PS 139, an elementary school in Ditmas Park: PS 139 has been awarded free tickets to see the NJ Nets play the Bobcats at the Izod Center in NJ. The tickets arrived unexpectedly at the school today and the game is Monday April 13 at 7:30 pm! So if you would like to attend this game you can pick up your tickets from me.... Please reply to me and let me know how many tickets you would like (limit of 8 per family) and when you can pick up on Thurs or Fri. We have 96 tickets to give away...

Let's say they contacted 100 schools: should all the tickets actually be used, that would fill about half the arena.


Posted by steve at 7:12 AM

Racing and Gaming in Downtown BK?

The Angry New Yorker

With all the buildings demolished to build Atlantic Yards and nothing much else happening, the whole area has turned into a rat farm.

Maybe they could just build a low-budget labyrinth and hold rat races. That way people could go bet on and watch the races right in downtown BK and not have to schlepp all the way to Aqueduct or Belmont.

Full story in the NY Daily News


Posted by steve at 7:09 AM

April 11, 2009

Two Entries on Historic Preservation From Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

A few mayoral candidates (but not the big two) on historic preservation, plus more from the HDC conference

For their annual conference, the Historic Districts Council invited 5 mayoral candidates. The two considered the top contenders, incumbent Mayor Mike Bloomberg and City Comptroller Bill Thompson, stayed away. Those who did appear were Tony Avella, Green Party candidate Bill (Rev. Billy) Talen, and Rep. Anthony Weiner.

Tony Avella spoke of steps he's taken that, had they been enacted earlier, might have saved the Ward Bakery Building in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards.

He cited his success in enacting the “demolition by neglect” bill, which plugged a “huge loophole” in the landmarks law, allowing owners to demolish a landmarked building that had fallen into disrepair. The opposition was not just the real estate industry, he noted, but also, the religious community, which often wants more control of real estate that could be turned into development sites.

He said he’s been working on a bill to give the LPC the power to trump a demolition permit. “Even if they have a permit, we should have power to say, the building is still there, you’re going to have to hold off for 30 days,” Avella said. That could have at least stalled the Ward Bakery demolition.

Those fighting Atlantic Yards will readily agree to this quote from Bill Talen:

“The government must no longer be the partner of the real estate developers and speculators.”

This quote was part of remarks by former State Senator and Council Member John Sabini:

Sabini offered the money quote: “Real estate is to New York what oil is to Texas.”

Brooklyn Assemblyman Jim Brennan offered an idea as to how to uncouple the interests of developers from construction unions so that the unions wouldn't have to endorse every development proposal, no matter how outlandish:

Brennan suggested there may be a way out of polarizing development battles pitting residents against construction workers. “Unions become allies because they are dependent on these megaprojects for their employment and always take the short-term pro-development point of view,” Brennan said.

“I think government needs to promote public works and development in a balanced stabilizing manner, so construction unions are less dependent on the private sector.”

At a crossroads, preservationists urged to find clear message and collective voice

Norman Oder has gone through the report "Preservation Vision: Planning for the Future of Preservation in New York City" (PDF), released by Minerva Partners, and highlighted portions of particular siginficance to the Atlantic Yards and the effort to save the Ward Bakery.

The report paints a bleak picture for the current state of preservation in New York, but offers suggestions in ten categories as to how to make preservation a priority:

Here are highlights under the heading "Community Livability":

It’s important to link preservation to affordable housing, since it shows a recognition of an important issue. Then again, it's a challenge, since, in the case of Atlantic Yards, affordable housing is a tradeoff for increasing density, something often not possible via preservation.

Suggestions include: Find a way to make it easier to use the Historic Preservation tax credit program; if the State Historic Preservation Office could be more flexible and the standards for restoration eased so that developers could also conform to code requirements, the tax credit could be used to help finance safe and affordable apartments.

Collaborate with affordable housing developers and advocacy organizations on tax credit filing, research and paperwork in support of middle class property owners and lower-income housing developers.

Create a city policy for mandatory inclusionary zoning, with new subsidies for the creation of affordable housing; since available properties are privately owned and expensive for affordable housing developers to buy, more public funding should be devoted to helping them succeed.

Rethink the question of density on wide streets; NYC has been and will continue to be a growing city, no historic district designation or down-zoning should be affected without some thought to where new housing can be built in the community.

Here are some ideas in the "Messaging and branding" category:

Preservationists are often perceived as stodgy, elitist, negative, and scolding -- not a good thing. Even the terms “preservation” and “historic” suggest an emphasis on the connoisseur, not the layperson. How to mainstream it?

Among the suggestions: Put human stories first: notions of “neighborhood preservation” and “community character” and “sense of place” have meaning for regular New Yorkers, but they need translation and specificity; for now, many associate the work of the profession with the negative impacts of gentrification.

Coordinate an event series, like Open House New York, for preservation.

Posted by steve at 6:45 AM

April 10, 2009

An open letter to the NYT Public Editor: why has the Times ignored Forest City Ratner's "incredible" bailout of ACORN?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder pens an open letter to The New York Times regarding its (absent) coverage of the ACORN/Forest City Ratner relationship.

Dear Mr. Hoyt,

I know you’ve steered clear of previous requests to look into the complicated, vexing question of the impact on Times coverage from the parent New York Times Company’s relationship with developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), which together built the Times Tower in Midtown--a relationship that has drawn critical scrutiny from Editor & Publisher's ethics columnist.

As you read on, you’ll find evidence that a Times reporter knew of (and was alarmed by) a $1.5 million loan/grant that Brooklyn-based FCR gave last August to ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which had suffered severe cash flow difficulties in the wake of an embezzlement scandal.

“This is incredible,” reporter Stephanie Strom wrote after learning that the deal was allegedly approved without ACORN board’s assent, adding that an explanation given to her “doesn’t hold water.”

In doing so, FCR has helped bail out an organization reeling from the revelations that not only did the brother of ACORN’s founder embezzle nearly $1 million in 2000 but also, as the Times reported 9/10/08, that the news was “concealed by senior executives until a whistle-blower told a foundation leader about it in May.”

Also, as the Times reported 10/22/08, ACORN's budget has been suffering, as it apparently owes taxes to federal and state authorities while foundations that previously supported the organization have backed off. Meanwhile, two board members, both members of a committee established to lead ACORN through its turmoil, have sued the organization, charging that ACORN was destroying financial documents and covering up improper expenditures.

The Times chose not to report on that crucial loan. But that FCR-ACORN relationship remains worthy of sunlight, given the crucial partnership between FCR and ACORN’s New York affiliate in the enormously controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Gothamist, Stalled Atlantic Yards Project Leaves Neighborhood Blighted

Gothamist picks up on Tuesday's Daily News story:

Government officials and developer Bruce Ratner have for years tried to seize private property in Prospect Heights to build an arena, office towers and apartments, arguing that the neighborhood was the epitome of urban blight. Opponents, meanwhile, countered that the developer was swooping in just as Prospect Heights was experiencing its first revitalization in decades.

Now, after years of demolition but no construction, the project has brought about the very blighted conditions officials ostensibly sought to remedy. Ironic, huh? Sadly, it's not the fashionable Napoleon Dynamite-type irony; more like the old fashioned irony that led Oedipus to gouge his eyes out after he realized what the hell happened. And with the development foundering, residents fear an increasingly desolate future.

Joshing Politics, Atlantic Yards Exacerbates Blight Problem It Claimed To Fix

And Joshing Politics follows up on Gothamist's follow-up:

Irony is a funny thing. At some level the situation it describes is both funny and tragic. In the case of the Atlantic Yards monstrosity development, it is hard to find humor when you have been forced to sell your house and/or see your neighborhood ripped up in front of you for a greedy developer. Bruce Ratner and his partners had claimed that it was necessary to clean the area up and make it Gehry-ified but now it turns out it was Ratner that blighted the area.

Runnin' Scared, Noobs Flood the City; We Propose a Screening Process

The Village Voice blog proposes a litmus test for people wishing to relocate to New York City.

We've got things backwards, people. Henceforth we should raise the barrier to entry: prospective members must have something going for them besides big savings accounts and stars in their eyes. They should have some moxie, pep, balls, whatever name you want to give to the quality that makes someone willing to stick with New York even when it's the home of Son of Sam instead of "Top Chef." A crime wave might do it, but we would prefer some kind of application process. Maybe prospects could come to City Hall to be confronted by a board of natives who will ask them what kind of music they listen to, what they think of Atlantic Yards and "Real World Brooklyn," etc., and reject the ones who look like they might be trouble. We nominate to such a board Reverend Billy, Randy Credico, and Charles Barron, for starters.

It isn't perfect, but what we've been doing so far isn't working.

Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

The Brooklyn Paper mailbag

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

Your story about the arborcide caused by the New York City Waterfalls exhibit (“Silent spring — It’s official: W’falls were arborcidal maniacs,” April 4) should have made a least some reference to Mayor Bloomberg, who diverted $2 million in 9-11 disaster recovery money for its funding.

He led and directed almost all the $15-1/2 million in funding for it and then gave his pet project a (self-congratulatory) city award notwithstanding the damage it did.

It was probably because of Bloomberg’s involvement that there wasn’t an environmental impact statement or assessment ahead of time sufficient to identify the damage that was likely.

In addition to the diverted disaster recover money, funding came from Bloomberg’s private “charity” and from a City Hall “charity” that Bloomberg controls by being mayor and then from a long list of mostly real-estate industry interests, like Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, all of whom benefit terrifically from discretionary decisions made by the Bloomberg administration.

The kicker is that the recipient of all this money, Susan Freedman, president of the Public Art Fund, testified in support of the Bloomberg-proposed special extension of term limits.

Michael D. D. White,

Brooklyn Heights


Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

As AMI climbs, a significant slice of Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" seems to track market

Atlantic Yards Report

How much of the Atlantic Yards affordable housing would be, in the words of a July 2006 Daily News editorial, "real housing for the real Brooklyn"? Only about half.

The newspaper defined that cohort as those "on waiting lists for public housing and Section 8 vouchers." Those seeking Section 8 assistance must earn 50% or less of Area Median Income (AMI). Those seeking public housing can earn up to 80% of AMI. Currently, with the AMI $76,812, that means a four-person household could earn up to $61,540.

Noticing New York's Michael D. D. White recently broke it down, in a post pointing out that the rent for four-person households in the more expensive 900 "affordable" apartments--or 40% of the 2250 total subsidized units--would be $2304 and $2880.

That's at and above many market-rate units in the adjacent neighborhoods. Sure, there are two bedroom apartments that are more expensive, but they may be much larger or with luxury finishes. The Atlantic Yards affordable housing would be (nominally) designed by Frank Gehry, well-located near transit and subject to rent stabilization, but they almost certainly would not have luxury amenities, and they could be as small as 775 square feet.


Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

Forest City in the News


Arizona Daily Star, Gladden Farms gets debt extension

Gladden Farms, the financially troubled master-planned community in Marana, has received an extension to continue negotiations with lender GMAC Financial Services.

Located just west of Interstate 10 along Tangerine Farms Road, Gladden Farms is facing foreclosure on about 625 acres of undeveloped land. The developer had faced a foreclosure deadline Thursday.

Dean Wingert, senior vice president of Gladden Farms developer Forest City Enterprises, said negotiations with GMAC are continuing.

NoLandGrab: Doesn't sound like lawsuits are holding up this project.

Crain's Cleveland Business, Cleveland Play House property raised as option for convention center site

The saga over the site of Cleveland's proposed Medical Mart continues...

Add the site of the Cleveland Play House at 8500 Euclid Ave. to the mix as an alternative for the planned convention center and medical merchandise mart if Cuyahoga County and the city of Cleveland cannot strike a deal soon.

The city of Cleveland owns the existing convention center and Cleveland Public Auditorium, which is MMPI’s favored site for the complex. Forest City Enterprises Inc. of Cleveland vigorously has challenged the viability and desirability of the Mall site for the complex compared with a site it owns on Huron Road near Tower City Center.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Convention center hotel plans on hold

The SEA had been considering a new request for proposals after negotiations stalled with Forest City Enterprises, the Cleveland developer selected six years ago to build the so-called headquarters hotel with as many as 500 rooms.

But even with the lure of $34 million in public subsidies for the project, the SEA has been unable to complete a deal with Forest City to undertake the project, which those in the local tourism industry see as a key to increasing the number of conventions in Pittsburgh.

While the convention center project has languished, about half a dozen hotels Downtown, on the North Shore and the South Side are in various stages of construction.

NoLandGrab: A measly $34 million in public subsidies? How dare the city of Pittsburgh insult Forest City like that!

Crain's Cleveland Business, Pittsburgh's convention conundrum

Crain's Cleveland Business picks up the Pittsburgh story.

Here’s another reminder that new convention centers aren’t always the economic slam dunks their backers expect.

“But even with the lure of $34 million in public subsidies for the project, the (authority) has been unable to complete a deal with Forest City to undertake the project, which those in the local tourism industry see as a key to increasing the number of conventions in Pittsburgh.”

(Feel free to insert the word “Cleveland” every time you see “Pittsburgh” in this story. And six years of negotiations can’t produce a hotel deal? This isn’t just a problem caused by the economic downturn.)

Daily Herald, Des Plaines eyes deal for partial Five Corners redevelopment

Forest City can root out tax-increment financing deals or public subsidies like a pig can smell a truffle.

Des Plaines city officials are considering signing a letter of intent with Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises to redevelop roughly 20 acres of the Five Corners taxing district.

City officials have been in talks with Forest City for more than a year over the northern 20 acres of the TIF district.

"We want to enter into a redevelopment agreement that makes them the preferred developer in that area," said Des Plaines 3rd Ward Alderman Laura Murphy, chair of the community development committee. "There is no development happening anywhere so for us to spark some interest in that, it's very exciting."

Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

A Very Brooklyn Passover Haggadah

In honor of Passover, we dust off this gem for "an Atlantic Yardseder."

Through the ages, the Jewish ceremony of Passover has been adapted to all sorts of social and economic situations. This year, the Children of Brooklyn celebrate their hope for a miraculous deliverance from real estate developer bondage with the songs and prayers below.

Click here for The Four Questions (About Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project), and more!

Posted by eric at 12:17 AM

April 9, 2009


NY Post
by Fred Kerber

Congratulations, Bruce Ratner!

Under your stewardship, the NBA-championship-contending team you acquired just five years ago are playoff also-rans for the second consecutive season. Even worse than the injury to pride that comes with failing to qualify for the post-season, the failure to realize any playoff revenue will wreak further damage on the Nets' already anemic bottom line.

Congratulations, too, to team President and CEO Brett Yormark, who's seemingly more concerned with promoting Brett Yormark than putting a winning team on the court.

We look forward to an entertaining off-season, and all the colorful promotions the Nets will dream up in their desperate attempts to sell tickets for the 2009-2010 season.

Now the Nets don't even have math on their side.

The Nets' unlikely bid for a playoff berth in a rebuilding season where forecasters predicted they would do little more than hurt themselves, ended last night as the Celtics dealt them a 106-104 loss.


Posted by eric at 8:57 PM

ESDC CEO Lago admits the obvious: Atlantic Yards would take “decades”

Atlantic Yards Report

Every so often, watchdog Norman Oder stumbles over a fleeting moment of candor, which seems to contradict the developer and NY State's arguments in legal briefs:

When the Atlantic Yards project was approved in December 2006, it was supposed to take a decade, according to the construction schedule attached to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)

Yesterday ESDC CEO Marisa Lago acknowledged the obvious: it could take decades.


Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

NYC EDC head on recent past: "We’ve been much more the 'Real Estate Development Corporation'"

Atlantic Yards Report

When we thought that "EDC" meant "Every Developer Corporation," we weren't far off. NYCEDC Prez Seth Pinsky explains why:

The current issue of City Hall News contains excerpts from a March 13 "On/Off the Record" breakfast session with New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky.

Q: You are the president of the Economic Development Corporation. At this moment of recession, general economic turmoil, what do those words even mean?

A:...What occurred to me was that, really, for much of the last several years, even though we call ourselves the Economic Development Corporation, we’ve been much more the “Real Estate Development Corporation”, and that’s been because the economy has been growing on its own without much need for the city’s interference.

In the full quote, Pinksy admits to an "epiphany" that hardly inspires confidence.


Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

Tax Foundation on Yankee Stadium: "the House the IRS Built"

Atlantic Yards Report

Have a quick look at how PILOTs (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) were fudged to benefit the Yankees' new ballpark (at a loss to taxpayers), because Bruce Ratner is poised to do the same thing in order to take advantage of low-cost financing for a new basketball arena.

The Tax Foundation's new report, From the House That Ruth Built to the House the IRS Built: New York City and New York Yankees Abuse PILOTs to Finance New Stadium, draws on reports from Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and hearings held by Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

The same criticisms could be launched at the Atlantic Yards arena, should it be built, given that the same regulations that allowed the financing scheme for Yankee Stadium were grandfathered in for AY.

Based on calculations from Brodsky, the $942 million in initial bonds would save the team between $231 million and $471 million--though the federal government bears the brunt of the cost. "Without this generous subsidy, it is unlikely that such an expensive stadium could have been built," the report states.

Click here for the rest of the article, in which Norman Oder breaks out the parts of the report that explain how and why this scheme was carried out.

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

Wiki Wednesday: Community Boards


Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's Community Board 6 purge is a shining example of how Borough Presidents express what little power they have over neighborhood developments. It was only to be outdone by the former Bronx BP and current Director of Urban Affairs in the Obama administration.

Still worse, in May of 2007 Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz "purged" Community Board 6 of nine members who had voted against the Atlantic Yards development he supports. After an even more dramatic purge of Bronx CB6 surrounding the Yankees Stadium proposal, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion was quoted to have said, "My very clear expectation is that these appointees are there to carry out a vision for the borough president and the leadership of this borough, and that's simply what I expect."


NoLandGrab: It's worth noting that the Bronx CB's vote on the Yankee Stadium proposal was part of the official NYC land-use review procedure, while Brooklyn CB6's vote was a purely symbolic declaration that accompanied the Board's comments submitted to the NYS land-use review. Thus, CB6's vote would only have been a small footnote in the history of the Atlantic Yards fight, if not for Markowitz's dramatic action.

Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

Ratner Reported Buying Atlantic Yards Structure

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

On March 20 [Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner] closed on a 10,000-square-foot building at 467 Dean St. in Prospect Heights that was the New York City headquarters of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers. This is according to public records, The Real Deal said, which show that Ratner paid roughly $3 million for the building.


Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! City Employees NO!!

While Mayor Bloomberg remains committed to subsidizing Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan to the tune of $205 million in direct cash payments (with more to come if development company CEO Charles Ratner has his wish), city employees are facing the possibility of layoffs:

AP via CrainsNY.com, City agencies trim budgets, layoffs likely

New York City agencies are being asked to cut their budgets again, and that likely means layoffs.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's budget director, Mark Page, told agency heads in a letter Wednesday that they must slash their budgets again for next fiscal year, which begins in July.

Mr. Page said that likely means layoffs, because there isn't much left to cut.

Since when does sinking money into Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, while the City is struggling to retain current jobs, amount to a net gain for New Yorkers?

Posted by lumi at 4:23 AM

April 8, 2009

ACORN/NY Times/Obama Campaign Story: Some Details Not as Reported

By Warner Todd Huston

The connection between ACORN and the Obama campaign has been seized upon by right-wing pundits. However, ACORN whistleblower Anita Moncrief explains that the story is more complex, especially if one looks at the connections between ACORN, Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner and the NY Times Corp.

The ACORN/New York Times connection seems to run deeper than just a desire to help out the Obama campaign by killing further ACORN stories. Moncrief informed me of some rather cozy financial ties between the Times, the Forest City Ratner corporation and ACORN that she discovered from the inside.

I do feel that The New York Times was complicit in all of this. It wasn’t just in killing the Obama story, they killed several stories in relation to ACORN. Including one where the Forest City Ratner owned by Bruce Ratner, the same people that own 48% of the Times’ building, gave ACORN a 1.5 million dollar loan. This was interesting because that’s news in New York City, there’s been a lot of contention over the Atlantic Yards deal where they’re bringing the Nets to Brooklyn?

Moncrief speculates that another reason that the Times suddenly ceased writing stories that might embarrass ACORN is that one of its leading investors and partners had suddenly become close associates financially with ACORN. This situation occurred because ACORN had done an about face on Ratner’s sports deal and was rewareded by that generous “loan.”

ACORN has also been known to be helping Forest City Ratner to get federal stimulus money since the $1.5 million kickback “loan” that Ratner gave to the community organizers. Sadly, at the same time Forest City Ratner was giving ACORN that princely sum, they were laying off workers claiming they were about to go bankrupt.


NoLandGrab: From the outside, it's not clear that ACORN did "an about face" — certainly Moncrief might know more about the timing of ACORN's position on Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn than we would. Suffice it to say, very early on in the process, Ratner reached out to and struck deals with groups that have criticized his projects in the past.

Certainly The NY Times did not report on Forest City Ratner's $1 million loan and $500K grant to ACORN, which came as a surprise to watchdogs when it was later revealed by Moncrief. The financial bailout of ACORN by Forest City Ratner underscores the fact that the signatory of the "historic" housing agreement has a clear financial stake in its relationship with the developer.

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

Lessons on activism for the preservation movement, and reflections on the AY example

Atlantic Yards Report

At the 15th annual Historic Districts Council (HDC) conference, Communities and Cornices: Preservation in a Political World, held March 7, Dick Dadey, executive director of the Citizens Union (CU), offered some general observations on effective advocacy.

The lesson apply not only for historic preservationists, but also, to my mind, offer context regarding the Atlantic Yards battle.
What is good government, Dadey asked rhetorically. He listed multiple factors: transparency, accountability, responsiveness to the people, effectiveness, acting in the public interest.

“Good government cannot function unless the citizens are paying attention,” he said. Thus the importance of advocacy. (And, I’d argue, journalism.)

Dadey listed what he called “the five P’s of effective advocacy.”

Principle: you need to have a set of principles that guide your work. HDC and other preservation groups, he said, have a very strong set of principles.

Purpose: a principled organization or effort needs to know what it’s asking for.

(In the Atlantic Yards context, it’s a very big ask, in fact, impossible. Hence lawsuits.)

Pragmatic: it’s not just about being passionate, and knowing your cause, but being wise in how you speak about it.

(Atlantic Yards diehard opponents at times have made common cause with “mend-it-don’t-end-it critics like BrooklynSpeaks.)

Political: “which is not a phrase a lot of like to use,” when fighting for these principles… but being political, knowing what tactics to use and how to use them successfully.

(AY opponents have been unsucessful in getting project opponents like Assembly candidate Bill Batson and Congressional candidate Chris Owens elected, but longstanding opponent State Senator Velmanette Montgomery was reelected easily. Now City Council Member Letitia James, the leading opponent, faces a challenge.)

People: “How do the issues we care about affect the daily lives of people who live there?

(AY opponents certainly have recruited people in the immediate area of the project, but have not drawn large numbers from beyond.)


Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

Small world: from Forest City Ratner to KnickerbockerSKD to Coney Island developer Sitt

Atlantic Yards Report

Have you noticed that developers and politicians seem to be reading from the same script?

Norman Oder just posted that a former spokesman for Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner now works for a political pr consulting firm, which is also doing the pr campaign for the developer who ate Coney Island:

Wonder where former Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt wound up?

He's now at the consulting firm KnickerbockerSKD, which produced FCR's "liar fliers," and is now working for... would-be Coney Island developer Joe Sitt.


Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

Forest City in the News

East Bay Express, The Uptown Apartments Look Nice, But Are Still Mostly Empty

Build it and they will come... or not. Forest City Enterprises's Oakland "Uptown" mixed-use transit-accessible LEED certified project isn't living up to expectations, but don't worry, "Councilwoman Nadel said the developer, Forest City Enterprises, assured her that spring is always 'a really good time' for new leases...."

As usual, the Ratners have nothing to say for themselves: "Forest City declined to be interviewed for this story, instead offering a statement prepared by a San Francisco-based PR firm."

Journal and Topics Newsletter, City To Meet With Potential '5 Corners' Developer

Des Plaines city officials are scheduled to discuss later this week a proposed major redevelopment project near Golf and River roads that could result in new stores and new residential units.

Members of the city's Community Development Committee are scheduled to meet on Thursday, Apr. 9 in city hall at 8:30 a.m. to discuss a proposed memorandum of understanding between Des Plaines and Forest City, a large commercial and residential developer.

Before the meeting, Des Plaines city officials might want to read up on Uptown Oakland.

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

April 7, 2009

Crain's Two-fer Tuesday: Atlantic Yards buzz kill edition

All signs point to an Atlantic Yards project that, for a long, long time, might be nothing more than a basketball arena. Don't expect condos anytime soon.

City condo sales head south

Condominium sales in the boroughs outside of Manhattan plummeted in the first quarter, but several neighborhoods are still faring better than others, according to a report released Tuesday.

While Manhattan saw a 63% decline in condo sales in the first three months of 2009 from the year-earlier period, Brooklyn wasn’t far behind, with a 61% drop in sales volume. Meantime, sales in Queens and the Bronx were down 58% and 50%, respectively.

The data come from a quarterly study conducted by ResidentialNYC.com, a web site operated by the Real Estate Board of New York.

Citywide, average condo sale prices fell 10%, to $1.2 million, the report said. Prices in Brooklyn recorded the largest percentage drop compared with other boroughs, tumbling 12%, to $516,000, from the year-earlier period. In Manhattan, average prices fell 5%, to $1.7 million.

Well, at least they can build some office space, right? Er...

Office rents: Biggest plunge in 25 years

Enormous growth in sublease space pushed Manhattan office rents to their biggest quarterly decline in 25 years as they fell 6% in the first three months of this year, according to a report released Tuesday by Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

Rents fell to an average of $65.01 a square foot in the first quarter, and the $4.43 drop from the end of 2008 was the largest quarterly descent since Cushman began keeping records in 1984.

Rents have slid 11% since hitting a high of $72.97 a square foot in the third quarter of 2008. By the end of the year, rents are likely to plunge 30% from their peak, according to Joseph Harbert, chief operating officer of Cushman & Wakefield’s New York Metro region.

The larger issue is the inability to get debt financing,” Mr. Harbert said. “It is going to take a while for the situation to work itself out.”

The outlook seems grim. There are only $100 million worth of properties under contract now, down from $3.5 billion a year earlier.

NoLandGrab: With Manhattan rates plunging, and office space abundant, any pricing advantage that Brooklyn once held is rapidly eroding.

Posted by eric at 4:21 PM

Atlantic Yards Report Two Five-fer Tuesday

Not content with three wee-hours posts, Norman Oder is back at the keyboard.

Though AY was supposed to remove blight, it's now created blight in Prospect Heights

The point of the Atlantic Yards project was to remove blight, despite the very dubious designation.

Now, the Daily News reports, there's a strong indication of developer blight (though the newspaper doesn't make the connection to the blight removal justification)....

Why Zimbalist's mistaken projections about AY revenues might be added to the call for a new ESDC hearing

Last week, an attorney representing residents of two buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint, filed a motion in state court to enlarge the record for his planned appeal of a case, dismissed last September, which argued that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) should hold another hearing because the project has changed considerably.

The evidence he proffered were an Independent Budget Office representative’s statement questioning the benefits from the current version of the project, as well as a financial document filed by Forest City Enterprises admitting new potential setbacks.

Now Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn adds another layer to the argument. DDDB points to a 1996 New York Times op-ed piece about "another billion-dollar sports venue boondoggle," written by Roger G. Noll, who noted that "Stadiums are bad investments, which is why the teams themselves are never willing to pay for them. New York City would generate more cash by putting the money in a savings account."

The Zimbalist connection

Noll then co-edited Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums, along with Andrew Zimbalist, who, paid by Forest City Ratner, concluded--despite huge flaws in his analysis--that Atlantic Yards would be a huge boon.

Posted by eric at 9:13 AM

If Brooklyn falls through, are the Meadowlands and Flushing options for the Nets?

Atlantic Yards Report

Tennis (stadium), anyone?

Conventional wisdom is that the new Prudential Center in Newark would be the future home of the New Jersey Nets should plans for the Brooklyn arena fall through and current or future ownership keeps the team in the New York area. (Another option is a sale to out-of-state owners.)

Then again, maybe they could stay right where they are.


Posted by eric at 8:16 AM

A baker's dozen of memories

NY Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom and Sarah R. Kaufman

Last year, neighborhood activists tried to preserve the Ward Bakery building. The Daily News helps residents preserve the memories:

Joseph Medina, who has lived in Prospect Heights for all of his 29 years, remembers weekly trips to the Ward Bakery, a historic building that succumbed to the wrecker's ball last year.
"It was monumental," Medina said of the buildings that have been razed since last year, including the bakery. "You see buildings you've seen all your life being knocked down, torn down. And they disappear."

A mattress store was the first to come down, Medina said, followed by several apartments and, finally, Ward Bakery, which was built in 1911 and knocked down in October.

In middle school, Medina said, he and his friends would get free doughnuts by the dozen from a friendly security guard until the bakery closed in 1995, when he was 15 years old.


Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM

The Rocawear Pop Shop was supposed to come to "Atlantic Yard"

Atlantic Yards Report

Jay-Z's Rocawear was supposed to send a mobile shop to "Atlantic Yard" yesterday, but, according to Rocawear watchers, it never came:

According to the Roc4Life blog, the Pop Shop was to be in residence April 6-18 at "Atlantic Yard, Brooklyn, NY." According to one report,"On Monday April 6, the tour finishes in Jay’s native Brooklyn at Flatbush and 6th Avenue, located across from Atlantic Yard."

There certainly are empty lots in the AY footprint that could accommodate a Pop Shop. But no such store was spotted by me or another person who checked it out yesterday. Nor was there a Pop Shop nudging out Yummy Taco at Flatbush and 6th.

Did the store's promoters go astray looking for "Atlantic Yard"? Or is everything AY-related delayed?


Posted by lumi at 6:39 AM

What about that 850,000 square foot arena?

Atlantic Yards Report

Have plans for Ratner's landmark Frank Gehry-designed arena been secretly altered?

More than a week later, the official Atlantic Yards and Barclays Center (bottom) sites still promise an 850,000 square foot arena, even though developer Forest City Enterprises, in a Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission filed on March 30, no longer promises an arena of that size.

Then again, the last update on the AY Construction Updates page is from October.


Posted by lumi at 6:35 AM

No Ratner, just lots of rats: with Atlantic Yards on hold folks say Prospect Heights dirty & scary

NY Daily News
By Sarah R. Kaufman and Jotham Sederstrom

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner promised, "Jobs, Housing and Hoops," but so far, all we have is rats, street closures and blight:

With construction at the controversial Atlantic Yards site on hold, angry Prospect Heights residents fear their neighborhood could remain a wasteland for years to come.

A scourge of rodents, safety concerns and road closures have all cast a shadow since developer Forest City Ratner razed 28 buildings in the neighborhood in a now-stalled bid to build 16 skyscrapers and a basketball arena nearby.

“It’s creepy to walk around at night,” said Martina Fugazzotto, 26, who lives on Dean St. and Vanderbilt Ave., near where about six buildings have been knocked down in the last four years.
For Prospect Heights resident Joseph Medina, 29, the demolitions and vacant lots near his home on Dean St. have caused packs of rodents to scurry from the rubble of a building that housed Time Mover before it was razed in July.

"If I had a video camera, it would show eight rats coming out of my garbage," said Medina, moments before a rat peeked from a hole. "I consider them my new neighbors."


Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Real Talk with Commercial Property News, REal Talk with Adam Perrotta - Monday

Atlantic Yards is now legendary for large-scale projects that have stalled out:

...we've seen a spate of very large scale projects--from Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards to CityCenter in Las Vegas to Dallas's Victory Park--hit development hurdles and undergo scale-downs as financing options remain scarce and economic fundamentals contiune to weaken.

arch3611sp09, Progress of design
Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards house of cards is the inspiration for one architecture student's design project.

ClevelandMagazine.com, Critical Sinking

When Cleveland's preeminent music critic gets canned for negative reviews of the city's new maestro, it sends a chilling effect through local newsrooms. It goes without saying that it's hands off the city's most connected real estate developer:

“I’d be leery if I started writing stories critical to Forest City,” says one reporter now. “Maybe that’s not a fair comparison, but it’s still something you have to think about.”

Brownstoner, City Used Eminent Domain for BAM Cultural District

More eminent domain in the redevelopment of Brooklyn. This time it's the City that made the land grab:

In January, the city acquired six properties in the BAM Cultural District via eminent domain. All six properties were within the block bounded by Fulton Street, Ashland Place, Lafayette Avenue and Rockwell Place. We should have noticed this earlier, as the BAM properties were actually acquired as part of a larger eminent domain grab that included several lots within the footprint of Willoughby Square Park.

Posted by lumi at 6:09 AM

April 6, 2009

Economic fallout shows up on Nets’ balance sheet

Sports Business Journal
by Daniel Kaplan

If the Nets are a leading economic indicator for pro sports, the future is not looking too bright.

In a sign that the recession has already eaten away at the bottom line in sports, revenue for the New Jersey Nets’ operating company dipped sharply in fiscal 2009, the last five months of which coincided with the economy’s contraction.

Many observers have suggested that because teams’ selling season for suites, season tickets and sponsorships finished before the economy cratered, sports would only begin to feel a bottom-line hurt as this year progressed. Revenue for Nets Sports & Entertainment, however, fell 8 percent in the 12-month period that ended Jan. 31.

The financial results mark the first public snapshot of a Big Four sports club since the economy unraveled. The results are broken out in the annual financial filing of Forest City Enterprises, which owns 23 percent of the team.

In addition, Forest City warns for the first time in the report that it risks losing existing sponsors of its planned new arena in Brooklyn, signaling that the long construction delays may spook some of the companies that have signed on and cause them to drop their deals.

“We feel very confident about all of our sponsorships,” said Brett Yormark, President and CEO, Nets Sports & Entertainment, in a prepared statement. “We have a higher level of sponsorship commitments for the Barclays Center, before groundbreaking, than any other arena in recent history.”


NoLandGrab: Yormark's statement sounds impressive, but we've no idea if it's remotely accurate.

Posted by eric at 9:08 PM

State looks to keep Izod in step with Meadowlands upgrades

Sports Business Journal
by Don Muret

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority plans to select an architect in the next few weeks to design upgrades to Izod Center, but it’s not a ploy to keep the Nets from leaving the Meadowlands.

The idea is to keep the arena up to date as construction continues on Xanadu, the $2 billion retail and entertainment project next door, and a new rail line opens this summer with service to the sports complex, said Dennis Robinson, the authority’s president and CEO.

The Nets have been trying for the past five years to build Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Team owner Bruce Ratner has said publicly that the project will break ground this year and open for the 2011-12 season. Their lease at Izod Center expires at the end of the 2012-13 season.

“They know we are very interested in having the Nets remain at Izod Center long term should the Brooklyn project not materialize,” Robinson said.


NoLandGrab: Sinking money into an arena that may be teamless in a couple years doesn't seem like a very good investment, but NJSEA CEO Robinson doesn't sound convinced that the Nets are Brooklyn-bound.

Posted by eric at 8:50 PM

Atlantic Terrace construction

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

From Tracy Collins, some stop-action-y video of the Fifth Avenue Committee's Atlantic Terrace project.

Unfortunately, they are not going to install solar panels as planned, as the building would be virtually in perpetual shade due to the towers of Atlantic Yards, which would be to the south, across Atlantic Avenue.

Posted by eric at 8:37 PM

Brooklyn Broadside: New Promotion To Boost Downtown Brooklyn Commerce

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

In a piece on the new Downtown Brooklyn marketing campaign, Atlantic Yards booster Dennis Holt unwittingly exposes the big lie about the project's location.

Its existence brought a question from a reporter that is worth noting. He asked, ‘what is considered downtown Brooklyn these days?’ Three parts of Chan’s answer was traditional — Cadman Plaza-Court St. on the west, Tillary to the north, Atlantic Avenue to the south — but the eastern boundary has moved. It used to be Flatbush and its extension, but now the boundary is fluid.

The creation of the BAM cultural district and the Atlantic Yards will create a new center fulcrum for the downtown area and it is risky to set up firm boundaries at this time. And there will probably be a gentle melding over time of the northern and southern areas.


NoLandGrab; If Atlantic Avenue is the southern boundary of downtown, then regardless whether Flatbush is the eastern boundary or not, the planned Atlantic Yards site is not now, nor has it ever been, in Downtown Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 6:38 PM

Fair is Foul

The Brooklyn Rail
by Theodore Hamm

Rail publisher Ted Hamm critiques Mike Bloomberg's defense of the rich, and his lavishing of public funds on rich sports franchise owners.

Already flush outfits like the Yankees and Mets have received $1.2 billion in combined public subsidies to build new stadiums; and if the Atlantic Yards project goes forward, it will cost at least another $700 million (or more) in taxpayer support. In the mayor’s eyes, heavily subsidized private development is a good thing. Meanwhile, increasing taxes on the highest earners is wrong, because it may cause them to flee to Connecticut.

It’s a decidedly elitist vision coming from a determinedly anti-populist figure. Even so, most would say that Bloomberg’s reelection chances are pretty good—mainly because his threats to spend whatever it takes to get reelected have already knocked a leading contender out of the race, and also because his approval rating remains high. Yet the boom years are over, and the consequences of the frenzy of overdevelopment are only just beginning to sink in. So stay tuned.


Posted by eric at 6:28 PM

Wisdom from 1996...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The New York Times fired up its way-back machine on Sunday to excavate a 13-year-old op-ed piece about, of all things, another billion-dollar sports venue boondoggle. Back then it was a new Yankees stadium on the West Side projected to hit the nine-figure mark, and Roger G. Noll, then a Brookings Institution visiting fellow, offered this pithy summary:

Independent studies of sports facilities invariably conclude that they provide no significant economic benefits. A sports team does increase overall income in a community slightly, but the increase never offsets the stadium's financing and operating costs. And because a team has relatively few (but very highly paid) employees, it usually causes overall employment in a city to fall because it can drive other entertainment businesses to cut back or close.

Stadiums are bad investments, which is why the teams themselves are never willing to pay for them. New York City would generate more cash by putting the money in a savings account.

The next year Noll went on to co-edit an influential and widely-praised book called Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums, which with considerable rigor came to the exact same conclusion as his op-ed. Noll's co-editor on the book was none other than Andrew Zimbalist. Four years ago, in a report written for Forest City Ratner, Zimbalist surprised observers by switching sides to conclude that Atlantic Yards would in fact be an economic benefit.


We've included the original op-ed piece after the jump.

Op-Classic, 1996: Wild Pitch

By Roger G. Noll


Even at a time when major league sports have become a cartoon of financial excess, the proposed new home for the Yankees is breathtaking in its audacity. Excluding land value, a multipurpose mausoleum on Manhattan's West Side would cost a billion dollars.

The debate has centered on two questions: Are sports facilities economically worthwhile? And should the stadium be single-purpose or multipurpose? A more fundamental question is why cities provide large subsidies to teams in the first place.

The Yankees have little economic effect on New York City. True, most fans would never visit the South Bronx were it not for the team. But few tourists come to New York just to see the Yankees. Thus, the Yankees generate a huge increase in economic activity within 100 yards of the Stadium, but not within the metropolitan area.

Nearly all spending at the Stadium is simply shifted from other forms of entertainment like restaurants and movies. Yes, the Yankees do draw suburbanites into the city, but many of these people would spend money in Manhattan or go to Mets games if the Yankees were not an option.

The city does make money by taxing tickets and concessions, but such revenues wouldn't come close to covering the Stadium's debt service. Even if the Jets agreed to play their home games on the West Side and the two teams combined drew four million fans a year, the city would need to collect an unrealistic $20 in taxes from each fan just to meet the mortgage payments.

Independent studies of sports facilities invariably conclude that they provide no significant economic benefits. A sports team does increase overall income in a community slightly, but the increase never offsets the stadium's financing and operating costs. And because a team has relatively few (but very highly paid) employees, it usually causes overall employment in a city to fall because it can drive other entertainment businesses to cut back or close.

Stadiums are bad investments, which is why the teams themselves are never willing to pay for them. New York City would generate more cash by putting the money in a savings account.

Assuming that New York decides to build the stadium, a multipurpose facility would make the most financial sense -- if the Jets and Yankees would agree to share it, which is unlikely. Single-purpose stadiums are more attractive and draw more fans. And the teams want their own stadiums so they can control and profit from other events in them. The city, of course, gains nothing by letting the teams have their way.

Why do cities pour hundreds of millions into new stadiums? With intense competition for sports franchises, not even New York can keep a team without subsidizing it. New Jersey and New York have at various times fought over the Giants, Jets, Yankees and Mets. The sad thing is that the states need not be competitors: Fans could easily support a third team in both football and baseball. But each league is a monopoly, doing what monopolists do best: making the product scarce to hike up the price.

There is a far cheaper way to keep the Yankees. Bribe them. A new stadium could give the Yankees an additional $10 million in profits each year. So instead of spending $80 million annually to finance and operate a new stadium, New York could just hand the Yankees $10 million. Or, even better, the city could pay $100,000 for each game won, with a million-dollar bonus for winning the pennant.

This plan would save the city money, improve the Yankees' bottom line and benefit fans, who would be less likely to have a team that collapsed in the stretch.

Roger G. Noll was visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution at the time of publication.

Posted by eric at 6:08 PM

An update on the "same site" error

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has been trying to set the record straight about a recently released book that cites an uncorrected "fact" from a "newspaper of record." One of the two is unrepentant. Can you guess which one?

I sent my post yesterday about the "same site" error in a new book on the Brooklyn Dodgers to both the New York Times and the publisher of the book.

Michael D'Antonio, author of Forever Blue, responded, saying he appreciated the information and said he'd make a correction, so future editions do not suggest that Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley sought the site now planned for the Atlantic Yards arena.

By contrast, Times Senior Editor Greg Brock sent me a snippy, sarcastic letter that reminded me that the Times makes mistakes, and that anyone using the Times archives should double-check their facts.

He had earlier told me "[t]here is a limit to how many old articles we can correct in print." The amount of effort expended, however, in responding to me could easily have been applied to a correction.


Posted by lumi at 6:27 AM

(Homage to) GL Analysis: journalistic self-congratulation at MetroTech

Atlantic Yards Report

Many bloggers turned out Saturday to pay tribute to Bob Guskind and his blog, Gowanus Lounge. The lack of comprehensive media coverage of Brooklyn and its beloved neighborhoods left the landscape wide open for a writer like Guskind, who had the passion to recognize important stories and the journalistic skills to tell them.

According to Norman Oder, Brooklyn's loss is all the more poignant in the wake of News Corp's purchase of Brooklyn's most prominent weekly newspapers:

So I'll try to channel the spirit of Bob's notoriously scathing GL Analysis, liberal in its use of boldface for emphasis, in assessing the self-congratulatory coverage in this week's Brooklyn Paper and Courier-Life of the two papers' move into new offices in Metrotech.


Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

April 5, 2009

Candidate draws praise but not endorsements

Las Vegas Sun
by Sam Skolnik

Grey hair and ulcers aren't the only thing Bruce Ratner has given his cousins in Cleveland — apparently he's sent them his Atlantic Yards playbook on cynical tactics of racial division, too.

As the city prepares for a public relations fight over the new city hall project, one of its allies, Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, is planning to reach out to the region’s minority groups in an effort to sell it.

Forest City has retained the Periwinkle Group, a local marketing and communications company that specializes in campaigns that reach black and Hispanic audiences.

Periwinkle is headed by Jo Cato, who also serves on the North Las Vegas Planning Commission. According to Cato, Forest City signed up Periwinkle late last year.

Cato said she set up a community meeting in February to talk about Forest City and its role as the lead developer of the project, which is slated to cost between $150 million and $267 million.

Forest City has also retained the local agency b&p, formerly known as Brown & Partners. Cato said she will have a better idea how her group may proceed in the coming weeks.


NoLandGrab: Note to opponents of Las Vegas's proposed new city hall — watch this film ASAP! And expect the announcement any day now of an "historic" Las Vegas City Hall Community Benefits Agreement.

Posted by eric at 10:46 PM

Bills on layaway for Wiregrass subcontractors

Firms: ‘Pay us’ for months-old work on the shopping center

Tampa Bay Business Journal
by Janet Leiser

The check's in the mail.

The developer of the $150 million Shops at Wiregrass took a bold move last October opening the picturesque shopping venue in a retail-unfriendly economy. While it has won raves for its vendor mix and design and has leases or commitments for 90 percent of the leaseable space in the open-air center, not everyone is seeing the payoff — yet.

At least 18 subcontractors have placed construction liens on the project. Eleven liens have been filed with the Pasco County Clerk of Court since Jan. 5. Many of the businesses, from the Tampa subcontractor that installed roll-up doors at Macy’s to the Plant City business that installed sidewalks and curbs, worked at a rushed pace to build Tampa Bay area’s newest regional mall.

Forest City Enterprises Inc. said construction liens, totaling roughly $1.4 million, will be settled and aren’t indicative of financial problems with the project. Its general contractor, Winter Construction Co., of Atlanta said liens are routine in larger construction projects such as the 642,000-square-foot Wiregrass.


NoLandGrab: If liens "aren't indicative of financial problems with the project," they could be indicative of financial problems with the development company itself, which, according to CEO Charles Ratner, is working to "proacitvely manage" its "debt maturities." TRANSLATION: Forest City Enterprises is paying off creditors before paying off contractors, which, to most people, might be an indication of a cash-flow problem.

Posted by eric at 10:41 PM

Former educator Norbert Dennerll joins the campaign trail for Cleveland's mayoral race

Inside Cleveland City Hall [Plain Dealer blog]
by Henry J. Gomez

A three-term Cleveland councilman plans to take on Mayor Frank Jackson this year. Stop scratching your head. It's not Joe Cimperman or Martin Sweeney.

This challenger is Norbert Dennerll, who served three two-year terms ending in 1964. After 45 years, he is angling for a return to City Hall.

"I can stand in any debate with him, on any stage with him," Dennerll, 79, said of the incumbent Jackson. "We can make an interesting campaign."

In a handwritten news release announcing his candidacy, Dennerll cited jobs, education and safety as three of his top concerns. In a phone interview, he said he plans to run a positive campaign, then threw a jab at Jackson for recently giving Forest City Enterprises honcho Sam Miller a key to the city. Miller, Dennerll said, has been "the unofficial mayor for 50 years."


NoLandGrab: A key to the city? In New York, Bruce Ratner has been given a key to the city's treasury.

Posted by eric at 10:32 PM

CULTURE: The Abyssinian Baptist Church

H A R L E M + B E S P O K E

The iconic Harlem house of worship gets a rap on the knuckles over its choice of friends.

The church would become the most powerful Baptist church in the city and has since used its coffers to acquire property in the past several decades. New malls by controversial developer Bruce Ratner, favoritism to large scale construction with disregard to historic conservation, and the neglect of the Renaissance Ballroom has spurred some criticism on the direction of the church's future.


Posted by eric at 10:20 PM

Four neighborhoods roll with punches

Recession hits some locations harder than others

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

And so it goes all across the city as the recession—which many people thought as recently as a year ago might bypass us—hits with increasing fury. Yet the impact of the downturn is highly uneven. In this report, Crain's takes a look at how four very different sections of the city are faring and rates the recession's impact on each.

Big projects stalled out

Recession Impact: Bloodied

OFFICE SPACE 18 million square feet
RETAIL SPACE 4 million square feet (half on Fulton Street)

Source: Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

AFTER NEARLY 20 YEARS of growth fueled by government agencies and back-office operations for big Wall Street firms, downtown Brooklyn made major strides in recent years attracting private businesses and diversifying its mix of commercial tenants.

Last year, companies including WPP's ad agency UniWorld Group and News Corp.'s Community Newspaper Group signed leases at MetroTech Center, according to Keith Caggiano, a broker at CB Richard Ellis Inc. At the time, landlords were dangling asking rents in the high-$30s per square foot, but this year rents have fallen to the mid-$30s and few deals are getting done. Meanwhile, a number of big projects that promised to make downtown Brooklyn the fastest-growing office market in the city outside Ground Zero are on hold.

Among those are Forest City Ratner's sprawling $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, and City Point, which was supposed to transform the Albee Square site on Fulton Street into Brooklyn's tallest building, a 1.5 million-square-foot residential, retail and office tower.


NoLandGrab: More than five years after the Atlantic Yards project was launched, journalists are still misplacing its planned location. Sure, the footprint is near downtown, but it's actual location is in Prospect Heights, bordering Fort Greene.

Kudos, though, to Forest City Ratner's pr team, for its influence on plate tectonics.

Posted by eric at 10:04 PM

Nets arena plans keep getting vaguer

Field of Schemes

Neil deMause, no slouch himself, gives props to Atlantic Yards Report.

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report, the only blogger we know who goes to the trouble of digging through 10-K forms, reports that New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner's Forest City Enterprises changed its description of its planned Brooklyn arena project from "an 850,000 square foot sports and entertainment arena" to "a state of the art sports and entertainment arena." That would certainly jibe with previous reports that Ratner was desperately trying to "value engineer" the project to keep it alive; original architect Frank Gehry has already said of the arena, "I don't think it's going to happen," though he could easily have meant his design, not any arena at that site.


Posted by eric at 9:59 PM

Two From Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

Had the Times corrected the "same site" error, it might not have migrated into new book on the Dodgers

This is an illustration of what can happen when the New York Times doesn't correct its Atlantic Yards reporting:

As I reported March 23, Michael D’Antonio, author of Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley, Baseball's Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles, in interviews showed that he knows that O'Malley sought a site for a new stadium north of Atlantic Avenue, then the Fort Greene Meat Market and later the home of the Atlantic Center mall.

In the book, however, D'Antonio gets it wrong, writing in a Postscript: The borough started to bounce back in the 1980s, and in 2004 a developer proposed an indoor sports arena for the site O'Malley had been denied. The Atlantic Yards project didn't progress any faster than O'Malley's domed stadium. As of 2009 it was still alive, but the place where O'Malley would have built remained untouched.

No, it wasn't the same site, and "the place O'Malley would have built" contains a mall.


So, where did D'Antonio get his misinformation? His source notes point to a 1/16/04 New York Times article headlined Yo, Dodgers? No Way! Brooklyn Is Betting on the Nets for Revival.


The problem, as I pointed out, was that the failure to print a correction or attach it to a public database would mean that "other researchers and reporters drawing on those pieces may be misled."

Which is exactly what happened. D'Antonio apparently trusted the Paper of Record.

Lupica: Nets to Willets Point?

From today's column by New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica:
If the Nets really want to come to New York and Brooklyn comes off the table, how come they don't do something with the Islanders on all that land on Willets Point? This would involve the next Nets owner, of course, after Ratner inevitably sells the team.

Until Brooklyn comes off the table, the response, of course, would be that Brooklyn is a more central location--which it is. But a baseball stadium out there still does pretty well.

Posted by steve at 8:15 AM

Brian Lehrer Takes Stock of the Building Boom: We Ask Some Coulda, Shoulda Questions About the (AOL) Time Warner Center

Noticing New York

This blog entry is largely concerned with assessing the Time Warner Center. Included is a prediction of the effect that the World Wide Web will have on the history of developments.

No one in the future will ever forget or lose access to all the details of the Atlantic Yards fight when you have forever afterwards all of Atlantic Yards Report, No Land Grab and Develop Don’t Destroy’s websites, including many other permanent assets like Bob Guskind’s Goawanus Lounge. The plans like the Unity Plan and the Pacific Plan which are better far better alternatives to the Ratner designs for Atlantic Yards will not fade away as they will remain easily accessible on the web. By the same token, all the ways that the Ratner/ESDC lack of proper public process shortchanges the public will remain just a click or two away.

It is doubtful that were the monstrosity of Atlantic Yards ever built, Paul Goldberger and Hugh Hardy would have a blithely forgetful conversion on Brian Lehrer’s program only eight years after the end of a development battle of so many years running. To be fair though, Atlantic Yards is bigger, much worse than the Time Warner Center since it is a net negative for the public rather than a net positive. Also, so far, unlike the AOL Time Warner Center, Atlantic Yards involves no competitive bids an no compromises from the developer!

A “Time Warning” Question: Will We Be Different in the Future by Having a Different Past?

Our take-away point with respect to the (once-AOL) Time Warner Center is that it is amazing that something from just a few years ago is so remote when we seek to refresh our memories in order to gain perspective on the present. We note, however, that things are changing with the new capabilities of the internet. With those new capabilities, we wonder whether the future will unfold in such a way that we have a quite different relationship with the recent past.

In the future, perhaps 15 years from now, you might even find your perspective on what could have been versus what is shaped by revisiting the current Brian Lehrer series taking stock of what is happening to the built environment in the city. You may find your future perspective shaped when, listening to the series in the far future year, you are reminded that, in the month of April 2009, you phoned in or commented on the program’s web page to express your hopes about what the city could be.


Posted by steve at 8:06 AM

Sunday Morning Brownstoner Catchup


Here are two overlooked entries from this past week:

Ratner Snags Another Property in Yards Footprint

Forest City Ratner closed on a 10,000-square-foot property at 467 Dean Street late last month, reports The Real Deal. The $3 million purchase was the company's first in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards project since February 2007. While we're on the subject, we're surprised FCR hasn't gobbled up 670 Pacific Street yet. It's been on the market for a couple of months already.

Development Watch: 80 Dekalb Facade Spreading


We saw the first signs of facade work going on at 80 Dekalb two weeks ago. Now look at it!

NoLandGrab: If only there were some way to avoid seeing this over-sized, publicly subsidized monstrosity.

Posted by steve at 7:46 AM

April 4, 2009

Breaking With History in the Bronx

The New York Times
by Jim Dwyer

The About New York columnist hearkens back to the days when pro sports teams actually paid taxes.

The pharaohs would be at home in the new Yankee Stadium, if they could peel enough gold leaf off their sarcophagi to cover the costs of tickets. The monumentality of the place goes on display this weekend for the first games.

In dimensions and decor, the new stadium, handsome and comfortable, is meant to evoke the old one. But the resemblance is only concrete deep. This is not history, but a costume party, a rigging of familiar geometry. It disguises a radical departure from New York’s baseball history: the embrace of public subsidy — around a billion dollars when all the costs are added — for private wealth.

The first incarnation of Yankee Stadium opened in 1923. The owner, Jacob Rupert, bought private land, raised private funds for the construction, and maintained the place with money he made in ticket sales. Rupert and his successors paid taxes on the property: the land alone was assessed at $1.75 million in 1923. By 1970, the stadium and land were valued at $5 million.

If you were to page through the annual city tax rolls, you would find the valuation of Yankee Stadium — as well as the Polo Grounds in Manhattan and Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, the homes of the Giants and Dodgers — listed right alongside the other big properties in the city, like Rockefeller Center, the Metropolitan Life building and Loews Paradise theater.

What do those old tax rolls tell us?

Click through for the answers.


Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Baseball and Bailouts

Condé Nast Portfolio
by David Levine

Does the opening of new ballparks for the Yankees and Mets herald the fall of the stadium boondoggle era?


Three years ago, at the height of the real estate boom, the wealthiest team in baseball persuaded the city of New York to help it build a luxurious and expensive ballpark. The city provided land for the stadium rent-free. It issued bonds to pay for the park’s construction and convinced the Internal Revenue Service to waive any taxes associated with the project. And when Yankees management needed more money to put the finishing touches on their luxe new marvel (to install, among other things, 1,100 flat-screen televisions), they came back to the city and got what they wanted. Viewed through the dark lens of our current recession, the Yankees deal seems absurdly lavish. Certainly, at a time when America’s largest city is bleeding jobs and slashing services, there are better uses for its money than coddling A-Rod and one of the richest teams in professional sports.

But the stadium plan is more instructive now than ever. What happened in the Bronx is reminiscent of what’s happened between teams and towns all across the country in the past decade or so, albeit on a less expensive scale. And it was, in a way, an early illustration of the flawed philosophy that has marked the recent bailout binge: If we open the public coffers to private industry, the thinking went, bounty will follow. Since then, the notion of public funding chasing private companies has become national policy, and the fallout grows uglier by the day. Wall Street received big bailout money (and was dragged before Congress to justify how it managed to pay bonuses even as consumer lending continued to stagnate). Detroit CEOs jumped on the bandwagon too, submitting their own restructuring plans in exchange for government money they hoped would stave off the insolvency of the American auto industry.

So far, none of the bailouts seem to be working. Federal handouts meant to translate into increased lending appear only to have kept the banks from collapsing; Detroit’s bailout money looks like it will just delay the inevitable.

In the end, the big bailout may have been the only solution we could have reached. If we had let the banks fail, who knows where we’d all be today? But the thing that unites both efforts—the bailout on a large scale and the stadium on a small one—is our own faulty thinking: a philosophy that held that if we placed the public trust and funds in private hands, it would lead us to plenty.

Now, though, as questions arise and anger abounds over just how all of these firms are spending our money, perhaps the thinking has finally changed. It’s no longer such a given that industry knows best. And as improbable as it may seem, we might one day look at that edifice newly erected in the South Bronx in a different sort of light: not just as a glitzy new ballpark built at the end of an epic American boom, but as a brick-and-mortar remnant of a very old way of thinking.


Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

The Tish James tax story, the incumbent's misstep, and the weeklies' avoidance of the bigger picture

Norman Oder picks up on the kinds of choices being made by the Brooklyn Paper and its sister publication, the Courier-Life.

So, after ignoring the news value of the 35th District City Council campaign of Delia Hunley-Adossa, who runs a questionable nonprofit organization with ties to Forest City Ratner (but won't answer questions about it), the Brooklyn Paper finally covers the race--by picking up a story broken by its new Courier-Life sibling (right): that incumbent Letitia James owes nearly $10,000 in back taxes over the past year.

Sure, it's defensible to lead with the latest news. And James's explanation isn't fully credible.

But the bigger picture, which the Brooklyn Paper hasn't yet provided--and the Courier-Life's Stephen Witt likely will never provide--is that James's main challenger has failed to answer legitimate questions about the operation of and support for Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE), an organization that pays her a salary while she more visibly organizes rallies in favor of the Atlantic Yards project.

Oder directly contacted the Councilwoman for her reaction.

I contacted her yesterday, giving her a chance to elaborate, and she said, "No further explanation other than there is a huge difference between not paying taxes at all and paying late. I have paid property taxes for the last seven years and will pay, albeit late, as part of my responsibilty as a property owner. This is frankly nothing more than a distraction away from the more serious issues that I am dealing with in this district. I guess I should start a not for profit and accept funds from Murdoch, Bloomberg and Ratner to keep me afloat. Fortunately, I choose not to."

The papers are missing the big picture:

James's lapses do not indicate that she owes favors to any major powerbroker. Hunley-Adossa's silence suggests she might owe such favors to Forest City Ratner.

Similarly, the silence (in response to questions from both me and the Times) of Hunley-Adossa's campaign treasurer, Charlene Nimmons, regarding her dubious nonprofit's ties to FCR is also dismaying.

That's the bigger picture.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Paper completely misses a story about an appeal to the recent Atlantic Yards environmental review case and the Courier-Life coverage gives the last word to Forest City flack, Joe DePlasco.

The Brooklyn Paper, which once deemed a Forest City Ratner lie about Frank Gehry's birthplace worth of page 1, ignored this week's news about the plaintiffs seeking an appeal in the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

The Courier-Life covered it, with Witt drawing significantly from a Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn press release. He then gave the last four paragraph to Forest City Ratner mouthpiece Joe DePlasco, who declared, "There is is nothing new to say about Daniel Goldstein's court cases."

By suggesting that a case involving 26 organizations, including Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (for which Goldstein is a spokesman), is somehow one person's case, "Dark Genius" DePlasco is apparently reverting to Tactic #3: Reality Be Damned.

As I wrote 11/1/05, DePlasco sometimes makes outlandish claims, almost daring reporters to make the effort to find a counterargument. When the Courier-Life's main rival, the Brooklyn Paper, simply punts on the story, readers are ill-served.


Posted by steve at 7:26 AM

Tish, tish — councilwoman owes $10K in back taxes

The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

The Brooklyn Paper is showing disturbing signs of a changing editorial policy regarding Atlantic Yards. The paper was looking for dirt on Councilwoman and Atlantic Yards opponent Letitia James, and found she owes back taxes.

Councilwoman Letitia James owes the city almost $9,837 in property taxes for her Lafayette Avenue house since April 2008, plus $614 on her water bill — and the lawmaker is blaming the feds!

James, who makes $122,500 as the people’s representative for Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, said she hasn’t paid yet because she’s waiting for her IRS refund check.

“This is not a question of not paying, it’s a question of paying late,” she told The Brooklyn Paper. “We usually pay with our tax refund, which is supposed to come any day now.” ...

“This is a distraction from the real issues within the district,” said the second-term councilwoman, who faces a reelection challenge from two contenders.

James seized the embarrassing moment to take a swipe at one of her opponents, Delia Hunley-Adossa, who is best known as a supporter of the controversial Atlantic Yards project and founded a non-profit that was funded by Forest City Ratner, the developer of the planned Yards project.

“If I started a not-for-profit, I could take money from [Mayor] Bloomberg and Ratner to pay [my property taxes],” she quipped.


NoLandGrab: Let's hope that the Brooklyn Paper sees fit to give careful examination to the financial dealings of all the candidates for the 35th Council District, and then finds some space for coverage of what the candidates stand for -- you know, issues.

Posted by steve at 6:49 AM

April 3, 2009

It came from the Blogosphere...

The Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Mega-Project Update: AY and Coney

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on perpetually controversial Brooklyn projects Atlantic Yards and Coney Island. Here’s where we play catch-up with a compilation of recent news....

Curbed, Construction Watch: 'Forgotten Ratner' Shows Its Face

What, with Bruce Ratner's massive Atlantic Yards nearby, it's only understandable that the rising 34-story tower at 80 Dekalb Avenue on the Downtown Brooklyn/Fort Greene border became the "forgotten Ratner." But with Atlantic Yards looking as likely as a Nets playoff run, it's time for 80 Dekalb to get the attention it deserves. Forest City Ratner enlisted prolific architect Costas Kondylis for this building, which will have 292 rental apartments (20% of them "affordable"). When we last checked in, the structure was just beginning to rise. Now, via the photos above dropped in the Curbed Photo Pool, we see that the prefab panels are already being hoisted into place. If only all Brooklyn construction got on so quickly, eh Brucey boy?

ESPN.com, Frank on the hot seat in New Jersey

As far as ringing endorsements go, this one was about as strong as the foundation for that new arena they're building for the Nets in Brooklyn … you know, the one for which they still haven't stuck a shovel in the ground.

"All of us get graded and rated. All of us," Nets president Rod Thorn said. "And that's the time when Lawrence [Frank] will, too. We look at everything at the end of the year."

Thorn didn't exactly put out the fire by intimating that there are no guarantees in terms of job security, even for a coach with a guaranteed $4.5 million coming to him next season. And there is a school of thought that Nets management has become a house divided between the basketball side, led by Thorn (who has one year remaining on his contract, too), and the business side, led by Brett Yormark, president and CEO of Nets Sports and Entertainment.

Of course, it wouldn't seem to make a lot of sense for a team bleeding millions to eat another $4.5 million, although if it replaced him with a coach still being paid by another team (e.g. Eddie Jordan, still owed $4 million by Washington), it could pay the new guy a pittance in the first season to minimize the financial hit to the organization.

The coach looked right on Wednesday in the Nets' convincing 13-point victory over the Pistons, but it still wasn't enough to erase the uncertainty surrounding Frank.

That won't come until later this month, after Ratner has decided whose advice he is going to take. Hopefully, it'll be better than the advice he got at the start of this decade when his advisers were telling him the Brooklyn building would be finished by now. That day -- if it ever happens -- remains years away.

Nets Daily, Arena Critics Running Out of Cash?

Norman Oder's story today on DDDB's financials raises the hopes of the Nets-to-Brooklyn faithful.

Posted by eric at 5:38 PM

Campaign beats drum for downtown Bklyn

Effort comes as area’s pricing edge is under threat.

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

Crain's reports on the new Downtown Brooklyn marketing campaign — and is considerably less sanguine on the future of Atlantic Yards than the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's Dennis Holt.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is launching its first major marketing campaign to promote the area as an ideal business district. It comes at a time when the area’s key commercial attraction—its long-running pricing edge—is being dulled by shriveling office rents in Manhattan.

The multi-year campaign uses the tagline: “It’s the Moment.” It includes print ads in real estate trade publications and a new Web site, which features short video clips of area residents and commercial tenants. Among them is someone who is still years away—at best—from working in the neighborhood: New Jersey Nets star guard Devin Harris. The NBA team is expected to move into the planned Barclays Center arena in the Atlantic Yards, if and when the project is built.


NoLandGrab: It's a little odd that the second video among 22 clips on the campaign web site features the Nets' Harris; if the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's top "reason why" is a project that hasn't yet broken ground (and may never), they have an uphill battle ahead of them.

And if there's any public money in this campaign, chalk it up as yet one more subsidy for Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 5:19 PM

Brooklyn Daily Double Eagle

The Real Deal: Ratner Buys Atlantic Yards Property

Forest City Ratner has purchased a property in the Atlantic Yards footprint for the first time in more than two years, The Real Deal reported yesterday.

The developer, who last purchased property in the area in February 2007, has bought and demolished many of the properties in the footprint but a number of others are still in private hands, including those of nine property owners and tenants who are challenging the developer’s intent to take control of them via eminent domain, The Real Deal said.

Brooklyn Broadside: Federal Stimulus Funds Could Start a Gov’t Building Boom

Dennis Holt takes a look at Brooklyn building projects getting stimulus money (Atlantic Yards is, thus far, not on that list), and remains supremely confident that Atlantic Yards will be built.

Planners expect that the Manhattan Bridge will clearly be the main vehicular portal into Brooklyn especially with three major projects — the overall BAM cultural district, Atlantic Yards, and the large City Point mixed-use project.

Posted by eric at 4:39 PM

Signs hint at money crunch for Atlantic Yards opponent DDDB, but reps say they're confident about fundraising

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder turns a critical eye to developments at Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

While Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) has not expressed public concern about its financial situation, a recently released Internal Revenue Service (IRS) document shows that the organization, in the year ending last June, spent nearly $118,000 more than it took in, cutting deeply into its reserves, leaving net assets of $20,757.

That raises questions about DDDB's capacity to maintain legal challenges as Forest City, bolstered by a new loan from the National Basketball Association for the Nets, limps ahead, renegotiating with unions at Beekman, and with more of a commitment to Atlantic Yards--the arena, at least--than nearly anything else in its portfolio. After all, a new arena would mean an end to losses from the Nets and an immediate increase in the value of the team.

But two DDDB representatives expressed confidence in current fundraising, noting that litigation expenses were much greater then than now.

Oder compares the massive spending on lobbying and political campaigns by developer Forest City Ratner to DDDB's scrappy grassroots fundraising campaigns and examines the soft spots for DDDB going forward.


Posted by lumi at 5:58 AM

With clock ticking from March to April, AY backers' estimates need revision

Atlantic Yards Report

In recent months, two supporters of Atlantic Yards have suggested that March stood as a deadline for legal cases to be resolved.

While the case challenging the environmental review was dismissed, the plaintiffs are trying for an appeal. The eminent domain case is still pending.

It's unclear why March represents some sort of cutoff, regarding the viability of the project, to Crain's NY Business editor Greg David. However, back in December, Nets CEO Brett Yormark mentioned March as some sort of milestone as well.


Posted by lumi at 5:54 AM

With Jason Kidd gone, Devin Harris steps up to tout Brooklyn move

Atlantic Yards Report

Did someone really tell Nets guard Devon Harris that Brooklyn is "yearning" for the Nets?

The Brooklyn Paper reported yesterday on The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's new "It’s the Moment” marketing campaign, which involves New Jersey Nets star guard Devin Harris:

Harris talked about the brimming excitement for a sports team in Brooklyn.

“A city that hasn’t had a professional team since 1957 when the Dodgers left, [is] yearning for us,” Harris said about his squad’s planned move to the as-yet-unbuilt Atlantic Yards arena.

Oh yeah, yearning.


Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

Downtown tower keeps going and going and going…

The Brooklyn Paper

The 491-unit residential tower, slated to top off at 514 feet, or two feet taller than the legendary Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building, is at 111 Lawrence St., between Willoughby Street and the vestigial remnant of Myrtle Avenue, in rapidly changing Downtown.
A year earlier, some Brooklynites were aghast to discover that Frank Gehry’s iconic Miss Brooklyn tower, the trophy skyscraper at the gateway to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project, would rise to 620 feet and obscure some views of the bank building’s clocktower. But later that year, Ratner agreed to lower its height to just below 512 feet (though, not to sound like a broken record, the project is stalled due to the economic downturn).


NoLandGrab: Though many Brooklynites decried the notion that "Miss Brooklyn" would dethrone the Billyburg Building, others questioned the notion that the new tallest building in Brooklyn should be around the block from the former.

Though Bruce Ratner's atlanticyards.com web site would have you believe that the planned Atlantic Yards project is in Downtown Brooklyn, the Lawrence St. tower actually is.

Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

Frank Gehry learns to like Ike — and the memorial competition

LA Times Blogs

"Mammoth Atlantic Yards" designer Frank Gehry wins competition to design the new Eisenhower memorial in DC.

To be sure, it will be a benefit for cities to see our most talented and experienced designers tackle public projects as opposed to the oversized and purely commercial developments, such as Gehry’s mammoth Atlantic Yards design in New York, that have lately occupied so much of their creative energy. Competitions for public projects ought to be far more common in this country than they are now. Spain and other European nations have revitalized their cities by requiring design competitions for most public buildings.


NoLandGrab: What ever happened to the wooly mammoth?

Posted by lumi at 5:09 AM

April 2, 2009

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #s 14, 15 & 16

Trying to keep up with Michael D.D. White is like trying to keep up with Norman Oder.

We published Noticing New York's Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #17 this morning, not realizing that we skipped numbers 14, 15 and 16.

Here they are.

#14: Project Creates Population Diversity? NO

#15: Project Has Building Age Diversity with a Close-Grained Mingling? NO

#16: Will There Be a Concentrated Diversity of Use? MAYBE NOT

Posted by eric at 5:05 PM

Past Will Touch Costly New Homes of Yankees and Mets

The New York Times
by George Vecsey

In the age of Madoff, in the age of bailouts, in the age of layoffs, comes the unprecedented spectacle of not one, but two heavily subsidized baseball stadiums opening in New York in the very same week.

Were these new places really necessary? Yankee Stadium was cramped and outmoded but quite awesome. Shea Stadium was a horror, but it was the Mets’ fans beloved horror. Knowing what we know now about the economy, we surely could have lived with them indefinitely.

The main goal became turning ballparks into resorts, land cruises designed for A.I.G.-bonus-recipient wallets, the games lasting long enough to wring more twenties and hundreds out of the faithful.

Bread and circuses. Shrimp and pennant races. Luxury boxes and follies. Laugh and cry.

Now we have these swanky new joints. The Mets and the Yankees have made their deals with the devil, the luxury-box trade.


Posted by eric at 3:30 PM

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #17: Avoidance of Harmful Parking Lots? NO

Noticing New York


Michael D.D. White continues his evaluation of the Atlantic Yards project through the prism of Jane Jacobs.

Jane Jacobs viewed parking lots as negatives for cities from two standpoints. In a neighborhood, she viewed them as dominating and disorganizing. More generally she viewed high levels of cars being a net subtraction from the benefits of city life and she viewed accommodations of cars that encouraged their use as promoting a vicious cycle which erodes the balance of pedestrian activity in favor of vehicular activity. Plans for Atlantic Yards involve a hurried rush to create parking lots, in some cases demolishing historic buildings. It can readily be alleged that the reason behind the hurry is to remove the demolished buildings from the public’s consciousness together with the possible ingredients for an alternative future. The parking lots that replace them may be in place for twenty to thirty years. If parking lots are in place long enough people will be inclined to judge the Ratner buildings by a lower standard,- - whether they are improvement over a parking lot. Twenty years of parking lot can be a long time. If one is old enough, it could be a good portion of one’s remaining life.


Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

Despite Lawsuits, Atlantic Yards Sees '11 Opening

by Cody Lyon

Hoping to challenge an Environmental Impact Statement that further paves the way for Forest City Ratner Cos.’ proposed Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn, a community activist group has filed a motion in the appellate division of New York State’s Court of Appeals.

The motion from Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn challenges a Feb. 26 ruling that upheld the state Supreme Court’s dismissal of DDDB’s suit in January, saying the state had met its environmental review obligations regarding Atlantic Yards. The appeal is one of two pending legal actions that challenge the project that involve DDDB, the community group founded a few months after FCRC first unveiled its plans for the site.

Despite the legal actions, an FCRC spokesman tells GlobeSt that the developer hopes to see Barclays Center Coliseum open by 2011. Although FRCC expects to encounter further delays because of litigation, the developers expect to close on its deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and break ground on the 22-acre project.


NoLandGrab: Let's not let reality get in the way of a 2011 arena opening. The published timetable for the arena buildout is 32 months, which would put us into December, 2011, if construction were underway — which it is not.

Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

Forest City in the News

Earth Times, Fitch Downgrades 10 Classes of Gramercy Real Estate CDO 2005-1; Assigns Outlooks

Since last review, four loans paid off or were sold out of the CDO, one of which was sold at a discount to par. Also, four loans, as well as three CMBS assets were purchased. The added loans, which were all purchased at par, consist of a whole loan (4.7%) to an affiliate of the collateral manager secured by a portfolio of 81 office properties; a second mortgage (2.5%) secured by the Atlantic Yards land assemblage in Brooklyn, New York; a whole loan (1%) secured by an office property in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and an A-note (0.9%) secured by a retail property located in Staten Island, New York.

NoLandGrab: Please don't ask us to explain this.

Las Vegas Sun, Development bills rebuff the logic of Vegas’ tax breaks

One of the central premises of the Culinary Union’s attempt to rein in the Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency is that the city is giving huge tax breaks to developers when it should be using those resources to better fund vital government services such as schools.

The union is fighting to put the issue before Las Vegas voters on June 2. Regardless of whether the Culinary is successful, like-minded state legislators may soon achieve some of the union’s goals for it.

Another bill, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, would take a more mandatory approach than Hardy’s bill. Assembly Bill 458 notes that municipalities often give tax credits or refunds to lure developers and other businesses to economic development zones. The bill would mandate that cities limit the breaks to taxes that do not fund public education.

This would limit the types and size of tax breaks the city gives to encourage downtown development, such as those to Forest City Enterprises for the proposed city hall and to CIM Group for renovation of the Lady Luck.

WCPN Radio, Civic Leaders Cautious About Convention Center/Medical Mart Project

Forest City's toadies friends in city government won't let the developer's bid for Cleveland's Medical Mart go down without a(n increasingly pathetic) fight.


Two weeks ago, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan counted out a proposal – seemingly once and for all - by developer Forest City Enterprises to build the dual purpose center on its property behind Tower City. Merchandise Mart properties Inc., the county’s private partner in the project, had decided on Mall B, where the current convention center sits, as the chosen site. All that needed to happen from there on was to wrap up negotiations on that site with the city of Cleveland, which owns it. But Tuesday, Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson emphasized that he would hold the County and MMPI to meeting a series of conditions before agreeing to proceed on the mall site – conditions like fair compensation to the city for use of the site, resolving potential conflicts between benefits to the public and MMPI, and that the facility provide enough space to meet the standards of the convention business.

Posted by eric at 9:41 AM

Gehry To Be Coated With Titanium

Preservation Institute Blog
by Charles Siegel

This item comes to us a day late.

The Pritzker Prize committee revealed today that, according to the newly released details of his will, the architect Frank Gehry will be coated with titanium after his death, and the statue will be given as a trophy to the Pritzker Prize winner for the following year.

The Pritzker committee said that, because of the current economic crisis, they may not build Gehry's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and they are trying to cancel part of his contract in Miami, but the Pritzker winner who receives his statue will be required to include it in a future building, guaranteeing the titanium coating its rightful place as an element of today's architecture.


Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

This guy was panhandled

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Mike McLaughlin

More crime in Forest City Ratner's allegedly crime-free malls.

A man and woman were arrested for assaulting a police officer inside the Daffy’s department store on Flatbush Avenue on March 29.

The troubles began at 2 pm when the man, 22, and the woman, 24, tried to bring a cat and dog into one of the other stores in the Bruce Ratner-run Atlantic Terminal Mall.

A security guard blocked them, so the couple scurried off with their critters to Daffy’s. A police officer followed them there, but a dispute arose, and the officer, a 35-year-old woman, received a laceration to her finger in the scuffling prior to arresting the animal lovers.


Posted by eric at 9:29 AM

Some Non-Union Workers still working at a portion of the Ridge Hill Property

Yonkers Insider Editorial

With the work stoppage at Forest City Ratner's Beekman Tower being linked to citywide attempts by developers to gain union concessions, and this report that non-union laborers are working on Forest City's Ridge Hill project, might unions that have backed the Atlantic Yards project rethink their unfettered support?

Sources tell The Yonkers Insider, that there is still non-union labor still working on one of the properties at Ridge Hill.

The question is didn’t the PLA (Project Labor Agreement) state that it was agreed to be 100% Union? Just asking the question. Where is Mayor Amicone, Bruce Ratner and other people who signed this agreement with the Unions?


Posted by eric at 9:17 AM

Ratner buys first AY property in two years

The Real Deal
by Gabby Warshawer

Forest City Ratner recently purchased a property in the Atlantic Yards footprint, the company's sole acquisition of property on the site of the delay-ridden Brooklyn project in more than two years.

The developer closed on 467 Dean Street -- the 10,000-square-foot New York City headquarters of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers -- on March 20, according to public records. Ratner paid roughly $3 million for the building and went into contract for the property in mid-September 2008.

The developer last purchased property in the Atlantic Yards footprint in February 2007, according to city records made public last week. Although Ratner has bought up and demolished many of the properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint, a number of others are still in private hands, including those of nine property owners and tenants who are challenging the developer's intent to take control of them via eminent domain.

[Daniel] Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn said the purchase of 467 Dean underscored Develop Don't Destroy's belief that the developer is intent on controlling all the land in the Atlantic Yards footprint, despite the project's uncertain future.

"While Ratner struggles against litigation and the world economic crisis -- making it impossible to build what he's promised to build -- this sale makes it plainly obvious that Forest City Ratner's true goal is to control 22 valuable acres in the heart of Brooklyn with taxpayer assistance and the misuse of the state's eminent domain powers," he said. "If Forest City Ratner controls those 22 acres, it will not benefit anybody but Ratner, and that is what we are fighting against."


More coverage...

Gothamist, Ratner Buying More Land for Uncertain Atlantic Yards Project

Sure, architect Frank Gehry may be telling the press the embattled $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project isn't going to happen, but Gehry doesn't speak for developer Bruce Ratner, who continues to double down on his dream to build a Nets basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments in Brooklyn.

With AY construction currently stalled, it's unclear what Ratner plans to do with the property, but the president of his company promised yesterday that once one last eminent domain lawsuit is settled, "this project is ready to go."

Curbed, Pulse Detected at Atlantic Yards

Just in time for all the increased chatter about the further demise of Atlantic Yards, The Real Deal reports that developer Forest City Ratner closed on a privately-held building in the project's footprint, the first acquisition by Ratner in Yardsville since February 2007.

The Brooklyn Paper, Project stalled, but Ratner is still buying Yard land

Posted by eric at 9:07 AM

Is Atlantic Yards Dead or Not, Mr. Gehry?

Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Daniel Bush

Six years ago, developer Bruce Ratner commissioned world-famous architect Frank Gehry to help design the Atlantic Yards complex. Now, after years of delays and setbacks, Gehry appears to have given up all hope the project will ever be realized. Or has he?


Posted by eric at 8:49 AM

Qualms about AY from IBO and FCE’s new warnings of potential setbacks cited in appeal of case that called for new hearing

Atlantic Yards Report

A lawsuit filed against the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) by residents in two buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint may gain new life, should a state court consider an Independent Budget Office representative’s statement questioning the benefits from the current version of the project, as well as a financial document filed by Forest City Enterprises admitting new potential setbacks.

George Locker, who represents residents of two buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint, today will file a motion to enlarge the record for his planned appeal of a case, dismissed last September, which argued that the ESDC was violating a provision of state law that requires disposition of properties within a decade and should hold another hearing because the project has changed considerably.

The appellants are eight rent-stabilized tenants living at 624 Pacific Street and 473 Dean Street. Originally, there were 13 plaintiffs, but five have settled with the developer and moved away--a sign, as with the purchase of a building on Dean Street, that not everyone’s willing to wait out an uncertain situation.

“No one knows what Atlantic Yards-2009 has become,” the motion states. “Consequently, no one knows the public benefit of the project, and no one, particularly ESDC, knows or can know whether proceeding with the exercise of eminent domain is lawful and appropriate, given the drastically reduced, or non-existent, benefit to the public and the high risk of non-completion and default.”


Posted by eric at 8:45 AM

Forest City's Form 10-K signals a smaller arena, offers new warnings about loss of financing and sponsorships

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder compares Forest City Enterprises' 2008 Form 10-K with the 2007 and 2006 versions, and notes some interesting changes.

While the annual Form 10-K documents filed by Forest City Enterprises with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) contain boilerplate language about the risks facing the Atlantic Yards project, that language has changed somewhat, providing some significant hints about the developer's plans and concerns.

Notably, the developer no longer promises that the Atlantic Yards arena would be 850,000 square feet. A smaller arena would indeed be cheaper to build.

Also, the developer now acknowledges additional potential for increased costs and delays, for the first time warning of potential "inability to retain the current land acquisition financing" and "loss of arena sponsorships and related revenues." Forest City also warns about the possibility of failing to meet required equity contributions.


NoLandGrab: While Forest City marketing and PR execs are apt to stretch the truth, the financial folks are loath to trifle with the SEC.

Posted by eric at 8:27 AM

April 1, 2009

FCR third in city lobbying; is spending about documents or about advantage?

Atlantic Yards Report

According to research by The Real Deal, Forest City Ratner ranked third among developers in city lobbying expenditures in 2008, spending $555,741, including $500,741 on Atlantic Yards.
The Real Deal quotes a watchdog with a rather gentle bite:

Dick Dadey, executive director for watchdog group Citizens Union, said the expenses were not surprising, but rather highlighted the complexity of filing documents for large development projects.

"The figures just reflect the true cost [of] when a developer needs to engage government action on their projects," he said.

Actually, in the case of Atlantic Yards and perhaps other projects, the lobbying figures reflect not the filing of documents--the project has already been approved--but the effort to shape the deal after the fact. And that should be disturbing, because there's relatively little oversight by legislators and city agencies to explain what exactly the developers are seeking.


Posted by lumi at 6:17 AM

ESDC: release of Atlantic Yards cost would be "damaging" to Forest City Ratner; DDDB asks comptrollers for disclosure

Atlantic Yards Report

In pursuit of the true costs of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena and highrise megaproject, Norman Oder has been denied a City, and most recently a State, freedom of information law request.

Yesterday, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn called upon the City and State comptrollers to obtain and release that information.

Oder posted the Empire State Developer Development Corporation's response and concludes:

It's understandable, as a general matter, why FOIL would aim to protect companies from the release of damaging information.

In this case, however, the cost of the project and the arena was a public matter when the ESDC approved Atlantic Yards in December 2006.

Now the ESDC is saying it's a private matter.

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.

I have filed an appeal with the ESDC and, as with the appeal filed with EDC, I don't expect it to be granted.


Posted by lumi at 6:09 AM

Deal to Cut Costs Is Close For Builders and Unions

The NY Times
By Charles V. Bagli

Reeling from the real estate downturn in the city, construction unions and builders are edging closer to an agreement that they say will reduce labor costs and enable at least some of their projects in Manhattan to proceed despite the weak economy.
Bruce Ratner, a developer who traditionally builds with union contractors, recently stopped at the 38th floor of his planned 76-story Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan, threatening to cap the building at 40 stories if construction unions did not accept concessions on wages and work rules.

Mr. Ratner, who is not involved in the current negotiations, stopped work for three months early last year while he scrambled to obtain $680 million in construction financing. At that time, he decided to switch from condominiums to rentals. In another cost-cutting move, he modified the design by the architect Frank Gehry, using a standard curtain wall instead of one that would seem to be undulating, on one of the tower’s eight sides.


Atlantic Yards Report, Brinksmanship with unions behind stall at the Beekman Tower

Yesterday, during a conference call with investment analysts, Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner explained the stall at the Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan.

"We have put additional vertical development on hold while we assess overall costs," he said. "Given falling construction costs, we have an opportunity to achieve savings on construction." Meanwhile, he said, work continues on the lower floors at the site, and the school and ambulatory care center will open as planned.
Ratner, [NY Times reporter Charles V.] Bagli writes, was not involved in current negotiations among developers and unions to modify work rules, wages and benefits to cut labor costs by 15 to 20 percent--less than the 25 percent sought be the real estate industry.

Was that because others took precedence? You'd think that if he's serious about beginning construction this year on the Atlantic Yards arena, Ratner would want concessions.

Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

City Hall’s Call: Why Forest City Ratner’s Gehry Beekman Tower Will Only Be 50% of Originally Planned Height- It’s Structural

Noticing New York

It took a blogger with a background in law, urban planning, Proust and the public sector to scoop the mainstream media and track down the real reason Forest City Ratner is considering topping out the Beekman Tower, designed by Frank Gehry, at a mere 38 stories:

Nobody knew what to think when the news went out on that the Frank Gehry-designed Forest City Ratner Beekman Tower now under construction might cease construction at about half its originally planned height.


We speculated:

It is amusing to toy with the idea that the building might have been stopped by the mayor himself when he realized how the immensity of the building in his own City Hall backyard might stand as a symbol to influence the debate over his administration’s sell-off of the public realm.

Mentioning the “value engineering” of a Gehry project got us off and thinking about the problems with leaks the building might have (Monday, March 30, 2009, Gehry Leaks) and that the cessation of construction might even have something to do late-found flaws in this regard.

Well, it turns out that we were partly right in our first speculation and partly right in our last speculation. The answer combines both. The halt to construction was called for by City Hall itself because of structural problems. Not structural problems directly in the Beekman, but structural problems caused by the Beekman in a neighboring property. The surprise is that the neighboring property is City Hall itself which is just a block away from the Beekman with pretty much the distance of City Hall Park between them.

Click here to read how engineers may have failed to consult the "site interrelationship exchange tables," causing a blow-back structural defect originally caused by the engineering work that went into the Brooklyn Bridge.

NoLandGrab: All proof Ratner is losing faith of one longtime supporter.

Posted by lumi at 5:43 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Noticing New York, Looking at Things From Another Point of View: Do We See Distinctions That Make A Difference?

Michael D. D. White ponders the figurative and real appropriation of Brooklyn's icon and what changes may be in store for the recent Rupert Murdoch conglomeration of neighborhood newspapers:

We said at the outset that with the Murdoch takeover of the Brooklyn Paper and other local papers we were worried about coverage of all Brooklyn real estate development. Truthfully, you should be able to tell from what we just said that we are worried about coverage of real estate development throughout the city by all of the media and, beyond that, we are also worried about coverage of the political process in the city as a whole.

We had our concerns. We read Mr. Oder’s interview with [Brooklyn Paper editor] Mr. Kuntzman and we think we have considered his alternative point of view. But considering that alternative point of view has brought us back to the same place. We are still concerned.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards: The Play-by-Play

"You can sue, sue, sue—but nothing ruins megaplans like a crashing economy." So goes the sub-head of New York Magazine's historical timeline of the Atlantic Yards saga prompted, presumably, by architect Frank Gehry's much-blogged blooper, “I don’t think [Atlantic Yards] is going to happen.”

Z.A.C., Untitled

About a year ago I attended the Brooklyn Ball as a guest of my friend’s family. It was a great stroke of luck and one of the most exciting nights of my life. I saw Linda Evangelista and ran into Anna Wintour on my way into the bathroom. After Kanye West’s set, I hocked my Murakami placemat (a gift for everyone who bought a ticket, for God knows how much) for the entire contents of some rich woman’s wallet–a cool $600.

At that time, Atlantic Yards was imminent. Bruce Ratner was one of the guests being honored, and there was a sizable group of Brooklynites (uncannily for me at the time, a group I’d consider closer to “my people”) protesting his presence across from the museum on Eastern Parkway. And today? Atlantic Yards is on hold.

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Interesting Question

Gumby Fresh blogger "Gringcorp" (aka "Gari N. Corp") poses an interesting question that an analyst might have asked Forest City Enterprises CEO Charles Ratner during yesterday's year-end/4Q conference call:

Perhaps a more immediate one for them is this: "You busted a gut to get a rather pricey extension on your Grammercy loan, your senior debt is now the plaything of vulture funds, and you've got $780 million in corporate debt maturing a year from now. How on earth are you going to get the arena financing done too?"


Posted by lumi at 4:15 AM

More lawsuits hit Railyards project

San Fransisco Business Times

It may be April foolish, but it's no joke. Readers who have been following the Atlantic Yards saga during the past few years should check out this article about lawsuits questioning the environmental review that are being filed against "The Railyards" project in Downtown Sacramento, where the city is poised to begin eminent domain proceedings.

"We can not and will not support the current plan," said Catharine Dickey, Executive Vice President with Westfield LLC, in a written statement. She called The Railyards plan "a front-loaded retail development scheme that resulted from a flawed, inadequate process." The company alleges that numerous traffic and other impacts weren't analyzed and that reports were based on an incorrect and misleading project description.

"Its own technical study says (it) will negatively impact Sacramento's downtown core by causing economic instability and urban decay," she said.

An attorney who has represented labor unions in the past also has challenged the city's approval of The Railyards. The plaintiffs in that case are three Sacramento residents calling themselves Sacramento Citizens Concerned about The Railyards (SCCARY).
They also allege several deficiencies in the approval process.


Posted by lumi at 4:14 AM

Mail's In (Scorched Earth Edition)

The Star-Ledger
By Dave D'Alessandro

From sports writer Dave D'Alessandro's Q&A mailbag column in yesterday's Star-Ledger:


Dave: Reading the piece on Gehry himself disclaiming the building of the atlantic yards (and to a larger degree, the Nets' eventually move there), do you in the media share our ground-level fan's perspective that Ratner, in refuting all these claims, is basically the new information minister of Iraq, loudly claiming victory & mass suicide by his country's oppressors as bombs are going off a few yards behind him, and Iraqi forces are openly retreating? On a scale of 1 to 10, how accurate would you rate the idea that the Nets are in the Prudential Center in the next 2 years? Dave Barrett

David: Thanks. The image of Bruce as Baghdad Bob is something the Home Office has already turned into a new marketing campaign ("Come for the basketball, stay for the sorties"). But as for credibility, let's try to maintain some perspective here: One guy's a businessman, the other one was a 21st century Goebbels. OK, sometimes we can't always tell the difference. But to cut to the chase: I doubt the Nets will consider Prudential (for 10-11) unless something bizarre happens during those three preseason games next October, or they recognize it as a viable place to crash because it can significantly slice their $25-35M annual deficit.

Posted by lumi at 4:01 AM

Forest City in the News

NY Observer, First Manhattan Costco in Forest City’s East River Plaza

On a Tuesday morning Forest City Enterprises investors call, president and CEO (and cousin of Bruce) Chuck Ratner revealed that Costco Wholesale will open its first Manhattan store in East River Plaza, the development firm’s 500,000-square-foot mall set to open later this year on the plot of land bounded by 116th and 119th streets and the F.D.R. Drive. Costco already has outlets in Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn.

The club store has assumed the 30-year (plus options) lease of Home Depot, according to Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco.

NoLandGrab: Longtime readers may recall that Ratner double-crossed Costco back in September 2006, only to get burned by Home Depot last year.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City Enterprises to manage, lease shopping center in Denver

Forest City Enterprises Inc. has signed a deal with investment management firm BlackRock Inc. to manage and lease a shopping center in southeast Denver.

The deal, reached Monday and announced during a Forest City conference call Tuesday, represents a new type of business for the real estate developer.

Crain's Cleveland Business, CEO says Forest City Enterprises assumes conservative posture

“Earnings don’t matter as much as liquidity,” Mr. Ratner said. “It’s all about survival, making sure you are around on the other side. This is the worst economy I’ve seen in the 44 years I’ve been with the company. Our focus is on completing projects under construction and making changes to become stronger. When conditions improve, Forest City will be a survivor and a leader.”

The comments are notable as they came the day after Forest City reported a loss of $45 million, or 44 cents a share, for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Jan. 31, compared to a profit of $12.6 million, or 12 cents a share, in the like period a year ago. It posted a net loss of $112.2 million, or $1.09 a share, for its fiscal year, compared with a profit of $52.4 million, or 51 cents a share, a year ago.

GlobeSt.com, Forest City Sees Per Share Decrease in Q4, 2008

“During the year, we addressed all of our approximately $842 million of 2008 loan maturities, with the exception of $13 million in loans still in negotiation with lenders,” Ratner says. “In addition, we have already made progress on addressing 2009 maturities.”

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Intelligencer

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, according to the Atlantic Yards Report .

Posted by lumi at 3:36 AM