« April 2009 | Main | June 2009 »

May 31, 2009

An Intrepid Time Traveler Finds Morlocks and Their Master in 21st Century Brooklyn

Ratner and his morlocks

Image originally posted by Karl the Druid on a Brooklynian message board.

NoLandGrab: If you want to geek out NLG style, check out "The Time Machine" directed by George Pal.

Posted by steve at 8:10 PM

Yet More On A Sunday From Atlantic Yards Report

There were two more entries from Sunday's Atlantic Yards Report that weren't included here earlier:

Brutally weird: for "Brooklyn," substitute "Forest City Ratner"

The Daily News editorial today cites "a new basketball arena for Brooklyn."

But the arena wouldn't be for Brooklyn.

Forest CIty Ratner would get the naming rights and the revenues. Brooklyn would get a chance to buy tickets.

Pinamonti predicted it

Brutally weird? Well, John Pinamonti predicted it, in "The Burrow":

Makes me sad, yea it's such a pity
They're trying to rename Brooklyn "Forest City"

More testimony submitted for the Senate hearing: why eminent domain should be reformed

This entry points out the need for reform of New York State eminent domain law. The abuse of eminent domain is vital for the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

The issue of eminent domain and blight got short shrift at the hearing on Atlantic Yards held Friday by State Senator Bill Perkins.

One person who submitted testimony, but couldn’t attend, was Michael Rikon, an attorney since 1980 in private practice representing property owners in condemnation proceedings. (He also represents some property owners in the AY footprint.)

“In my opinion, it is fundamentally wrong to take someone’s property and turn it over to a private party,” Rikon said in his prepared testimony. “We understand that eminent domain is necessary on occasion. But the use of this most extreme power should be limited to a true public purpose. Atlantic Yards should be limited to a stadium site for the Nets.”

Posted by steve at 7:19 PM

It Came from the Blogosphere...

Gothamist, Public Meeting on Atlantic Yards Derailed by Project Supporters

State Senators held a public hearing at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn on Friday to get a sense of where things stand for developer Bruce Ratner's $4.2 billion dollar dream of building a Nets arena and mixed-use towers on a 22-acre site that includes part of the MTA railyards. But it was difficult to get a sense of just how FUBAR the controversial project actually is, in part because the meeting was packed with hundreds of jeering construction workers wearing hard hats and "Atlantic Yards Now" buttons. At one point State Senator Bill Perkins futilely begged for silence, telling the crowd, "I think if we could eliminate some of the whistling and shouting..." But he was drowned out by cries of "Go, home Bill!"

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner to Get New Deal From the MTA

Bruce Ratner refused to testify before the hearing of the NY State Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions about the past, present and future of the Atlantic Yards Project. It was confirmed that the MTA has offered him an even sweeter sweetheart deal and the Empire State Develop Corp will release a modified project plan in the coming months, which will require a new public hearing on the project and a new unanimous vote by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) comprised of Governor Paterson, Assembly Speaker Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith.


The most enlightening testimony of the day came from George Sweeting of the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO), who said that the project's proposed Barclays Center Arena would be a financial loss for New York City. Since the IBO's last report in 2005 the City subsidy had more than doubled from $100 to 205 million. Sweeting said, "This change alone therefore eclipses the $25 million net positive benefit to the city that we previously estimated for the arena."


The ESDC's Marisa Lago declared with near certainty that there will be a modified General Project Plan coming out sometime in the coming months, which will trigger a new public hearing, a new vote by the ESDC board and a unanimous vote by the PACB. This would require Governor Paterson to put his stamp of approval on the project for the first time, which would be difficult to do considering the state of the economy, budget cuts, public opposition to the project and changed political perspectives since it was first approved in 2006.

Daily Gotham, Atlantic Yards: Costing YOU Money in Two New Ways!

Bruce Ratner's gigantic Atlantic Yards project has already been costing YOU, the taxpayer, millions of dollars. You have even been asked to pay for the cost of the land! But the story keeps getting worse and worse. It seems Ratner's arena will be an ongoing money sink for New York City, and further more, some of the federal bailout money to help the MTA and keep out transit working in NYC will actually go to Bruce Ratner. This man is one of the greediest in the city! And with people from Pataki to Bloomberg to Marty Markowitz to Vito Lopez (corrupt Party Boss and the newest ally of Working Families Party) all helping him out, taxpayers are getting repeatedly screwed over.


You know, I have an idea. Maybe Marty Markowitz, Vito Lopez and Michael Bloomberg can just rename Brooklyn "Ratneropolis." After all, so much of our money and land are being handed to Ratner by these politicians.

Posted by steve at 7:01 PM

Devils owner far less bullish than Newark mayor about Nets moving to The Rock

Atlantic Yards Report

Though Newark Mayor Cory Booker is a huge cheerleader for a potential Nets move to Newark, it appears that New Jersey Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek, operator of the Prudential Center, is more concerned about having the competing Izod Center close so the Rock can attract lucrative concerts.

The Record reports:
The Nets basketball team continues to play at Izod Center on a year-to-year basis as it awaits groundbreaking on a proposed new arena in Brooklyn. Asked if he would rather the Nets move to Brooklyn or to Newark, Vanderbeek replied, "Personally, I guess I would marginally rather see the Nets in Newark."

The team's financial experts are "about 50-50" on whether the added revenues and public attention for the arena from Nets games would offset losing some flexibility for the Devils on desirable weekend home dates, Vanderbeek said. He said the uncertain fate of the Nets has allowed state officials to postpone making a decision on Izod's future.

"I just want the Nets off the fence," Vanderbeek said. "The biggest problem for us is that the Nets are being used as a pingpong ball [by the sports authority]. For a while they wanted to throw them out, then they love them."


Posted by steve at 10:32 AM

Council candidate Lander, in testimony prepared for Senate hearing, gets tougher on AY, saying deal should be canceled

Atlantic Yards Report

City council candidate Brad Lander alters his stance on Atlantic Yards to one that begins to look more like that taken by his rival Josh Skaller. Skaller has maintained an anti-Atlantic Yards stance from the time he first announced his candidacy.

It was notable that, at the State Senate hearing Friday, the only legislators to appear in favor of the project were three (one via proxy) from Southern Brooklyn, far from the project site and the area from which Forest City Ratner executive VP Bruce Bender can always call in chits. Even Borough President Marty Markowitz neglected to show up or send an emissary.

And, though there was much extraneous testimony that had nothing to do with the hearing's ostensible purpose of government oversight, there were several people who didn't get to testify.

One would-be elected official, 39th District Council Candidate (and urban planner) Brad Lander, submitted testimony calling for legislators to pressure Governor David Paterson and the Empire State Development Corporation to cancel the AY deal. The issues he raised were ones the legislators barely touched.

His reasons:

  • a need for a full accounting of public subsidies
  • a need for a new economic and cost-benefit analysis
  • a need to investigate whether land valuation for the PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) deal would be as questionable as the one for Yankee Stadium.

Follow the link for further details and excerpts from Lander's testimony.


Posted by steve at 9:29 AM

Daily News to MTA: compromise with Ratner (and ignore all else)

Atlantic Yards Report

While the New York Daily News advocates for New Yorkers to just toss their tax dollars at Bruce Ratner for no good reason in particular, Norman Oder suggests a different approach.

The New York Daily News, ostensibly the newspaper of the city's working class, is owned by a real estate developer and has maintained blinkered support for Atlantic Yards, today editorializing that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority should compromise on a deal with Forest City Ratner.

In an editorial headlined Net the Nets: New York must get behind a new basketball arena for Brooklyn, the newspaper urgeds the MTA to be "flexible... in getting the deal done."

Missing reality

While the Daily News cites an extension on the Hudson Yards deal as a precedent, the newspaper neglects to point out that an adaptation to changing conditions might also require a new assessment of costs, benefits, and subsidies, as City Council candidate Brad Lander, among others, points out.

After all, if the Independent Budget Office now thinks that the arena would be a money-loser for the city in terms of new tax revenue, maybe "netting the Nets" deserves a bit of reconsideration.

Fair process?

The Daily News suggests that the MTA would get "revenue it would otherwise lose."

Remember, Forest City Ratner's proposed payment would be even less than half the appraised value--and stretched over a longer period of time. Rival Extell bid $150 million, rather than Ratner's $50 million, later upped to $100 million.

One reason for the MTA's willingness to negotiate exclusively with FCR was the developer's promise of a new railyard--apparently more elaborate than the one incorporated in Extell's bid. But now FCR promises to scale that back too.

Given that only one bidder emerged after an RFP was issued 18 months after Forest City Ratner was anointed the site, can we assume there was fair competition for what Chuck Ratner, CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises, calls a "great piece of real estate"?


Posted by steve at 9:22 AM

Times takes semi-skeptical look at Brooklyn arena plans, doesn't question professed 2011 opening

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at an article in today's New York Times reviewing the status of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Well, the New York Times didn't cover the hearing yesterday, but in a long article in tomorrow's Sports section, sports business reporter Richard Sandomir asks, Will the Nets ever play basketball in Brooklyn? and concludes: maybe.

For one thing, the Nets have some $500 million--albeit over 20 years--in sponsorship commitments for the arena, notably from Barclays Capital, which bought naming rights.

(Hm--one question no one asked--and I didn't think of: why exactly does the Empire State Development Corporation let Forest City Ratner sell naming rights to an arena that is nominally publicly-owned? The fig leaf of public ownership is necessary for tax-exempt arena bonds; FCR gets to keep the revenues.)

The cost of the arena was approved at $637.2 million in 2006, ballooned to $950 million, and now may be cut by $200 million. The Times reports that Forest City Ratner hopes to have $600 million in tax-exempt bonds sold, which would imply some portion of taxable bonds.

The Times reports that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is committed to lawsuits that could continue to delay the project, though it's not clear they can stop the crucial exercise of eminent domain and thus stop the sale of bonds.

The entire entry is well worth a read as Oder examines:


Posted by steve at 8:26 AM

Atlantic Yards hearing: “It’s Déjà vu, all over again”

Not Another F*cking Blog

This blog entry considers the possibility of bridging the divide between opposing sides of the Atlantic Yards fight.

What’s more depressing for me is that most Atlantic Yards opponents and supporters, and particularly those living in and around the footprint, all really want the same things, but we stand on opposite sides of a seemingly impenetrable divide. I believe we all want:

  • development over the MTA’s Vanderbilt Rail Yard, which only makes up 8 of the 22 acres of the proposed project site
  • development that produces, first and foremost, affordable housing and living wage jobs for area residents
  • development that does not displace residents
  • development that’s funded prudently and makes the most of our limited tax dollars (seems that Atlantic Yards would be a net loss, per the Independent Budget Office [pdf] )
  • development that enhances and encourages diverse and robust growth of local business and amenities

  • How we attempt to achieve these goals is where we part ways.

    Supporters seem to believe that Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development is the way to go, despite the fact that the basketball arena, a structure that nobody needs, would be built first. The touted affordable housing would be built soon thereafter, so says the developer. Supporters point to their Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) as a guarantee that FCR is legally-bound to follow-through on its promises, although it’s not legally binding. I doubt the penalties in the CBA would ever be enforced if (when) FCR reneges on its “guarantees,” and I know that the supporters aren’t naive enough to take FCR’s word at face value. I suppose they figure any agreement with the developer is better than no agreement.


    You can view more of my photos from the hearing here.


    Posted by steve at 8:05 AM

    MTA Downgrades LIRR Plans At Atlantic Yards


    After months of speculation, the MTA announced that the Long Island Rail Road improvements proposed at the Atlantic Yards development will be less grand than planned. Instead of nine rails, there will be seven, and the MTA is also expecting less money from developer Bruce Ratner. The Post reports that the MTA "allowed Ratner to renegotiate because the national credit crunch was making it difficult to finance the 22-acre plan to build an NBA arena and 16 office and residential towers in Prospect Heights." To refresh your memory, back in 2005, Ratner won the MTA's land—called the Vanderbilt Rail Yard—after bidding $100 million, which was $50 million less than a rival bid (the land is appraised at over $200 million). It's unclear how much Ratner will end up paying the MTA (rumor is $50 million!); Atlantic Yards Report has details of the State Senate meeting where MTA interim CEO Helena Williams spoke. And Ratner, who hopes to break ground later this year, is downsizing other parts of his plan.


    Posted by steve at 8:01 AM

    Ratner's hardball pays off: construction resumes at the Beekman Tower

    Atlantic Yards Report

    The construction workers cheering for Atlantic Yards on Friday probably don't embrace the developer's hardball tactics to reduce construction costs at two extant projects.

    After all, FCR stopped work halfway through the construction process of the Beekman Tower in lower Manhattan, what the New York Times calls an effort to "desperately sought to cut costs on the project."

    In an article Friday headlined Savings on Labor Allow Work on Residential Skyscraper to Resume, the Times reported that work resumed this week, just as abruptly as it stopped.

    The key: a cut in labor costs and cheaper construction materials and appliances. Among the other projects helped by a new agreement with unions is the tower under construction at 80 DeKalb Avenue.


    Posted by steve at 8:00 AM

    For Nets, Barriers to Brooklyn Fall Slowly

    The New York Times
    By Richard Sandomir

    The Times gives its assessment of the state of the Atlantic Yards fight.

    Will the Nets ever play basketball in Brooklyn?

    The question is impossible to answer nearly six years since Bruce C. Ratner hatched the idea when he led the successful bid to acquire the Nets for $300 million.

    Troubled by litigation, Forest City Ratner, Ratner’s real estate development company, has not fully cleared the full 22-acre site where the arena, the Barclays Center, would rise.

    No work has been done since the end of last year on land that is a hodgepodge of empty lots and buildings and the Long Island Rail Road’s Vanderbilt Yards. Forest City has neither begun to pay the Metropolitan Transportation Authority the $100 million they agreed to for development rights over the yards — and is, in fact, negotiating the price sharply downward — nor begun to move the tracks to a far end of the site.

    Brett Yormark, Nets CEO wants us know that, this time, really, truly, he double-swears that the proposed arena will be built:

    “It’s done, inevitable, it’s imminent, it’s going to happen this year,” said Brett Yormark, the Nets’ chief executive. After a number of failed predictions for when the Nets would move into the arena, he said: “We’re on schedule. There’s more certainty than there’s ever been.”

    His confidence rests on two factors. First, a state appellate court’s May 15 dismissal of a lawsuit filed by an alliance of 21 community groups, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. If the appeal it expects to file fails, the state can use eminent domain to seize the remaining properties.

    Second, the recession that appeared to level the hope of financing the arena is abating, opening up clogged credit markets to the possibility of selling up to $600 million in bonds.


    But Forest City must break ground by Dec. 31 to meet the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline to sell tax-exempt bonds. If the developer misses the deadline, financing costs will leap. “Bruce and I have never talked about missing that deadline,” Yormark said.

    The same deadline appears to loom for the 20-year, $400 million naming-rights deal between the Nets and Barclays. Barclays extended the sponsorship beyond last year because of continued construction delays, but a spokesman refused to say if it would do so again.

    Daniel Goldstein, a leader and spokesman of Develop Don’t Destroy, said he did not believe Forest City would meet the deadline, not with his group’s appeal of the eminent domain decision and intention to file more lawsuits to delay the project until its death.

    “They’re not going to get financing this year or control of the land this year,” Goldstein said during an interview in his condominium on Pacific Street, which would be about midcourt of the proposed arena. He, his wife and baby daughter are the only occupants of the nine-story building, the other 30 unit owners having long ago accepted Ratner’s buyout offers.

    “I don’t even think they know what will make them give up,” he said.


    Meanwhile, the Nets continue to be a financial drain on Forest City:

    Since acquiring the Nets, Forest City Enterprises, Ratner’s parent company, has sustained pretax losses of $111.9 million, including $76 million in the year ended Jan. 31.

    The team’s dozens of investors have sustained $353 million in pretax losses, about half of it from amortization. Forest City became responsible for 54 percent of the team’s losses in the year ended Jan. 31, a larger share than it had ever absorbed. On the positive side, it has future sponsorship commitments for the arena of $500 million, 80 percent of it from Barclays.

    And where is Frank Gehry? He was supposed to be the architect for the arena, except that now he isn't.

    The team desperately needs the arena, which was designed by Frank Gehry. But to reduce its cost to $800 million or less, it could lose Gehry, the architect of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The arena was to be sheathed in glass and topped with a running track and an ice skating rink. But Forest City has consulted with other architects, including Ellerbe Becket, in Kansas City, Mo., to slash the price and make it easier to finance.


    Gehry, who declined to comment through a spokesman, recently cast doubt on the Atlantic Yards, for which he is the master architect, ever coming to fruition. He quickly retracted his statement. But if the shape and look of the arena changes enough to meet economic needs, it may not meet Gehry’s standards.

    Posted by steve at 7:31 AM

    Net the Nets: New York must get behind a new basketball arena for Brooklyn

    The Daily News

    At least in the past, this editorial might have included some promised benefits from underwriting out-of-scale private development. Now it's just down to subsidies for pity's sake.

    Slowed but undefeated, developer Bruce Ratner is striving to advance Atlantic Yards, a project that would bring a sports arena, the NBA Nets and thousands of apartments to Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

    New York should hope he succeeds. And the MTA, which agreed to sell Ratner most of the property for the project for $100 million, must be flexible as well in getting the deal done.

    The economic meltdown forced Ratner to scale back his $4.2 billion dream. So the spectacular, eccentric design by famed architect Frank Gehry will likely give way to a more traditional arena shorn of Gehry's trademark folds and curves. And Ratner has asked the MTA to extend payments on the $100 million sale price.

    That shouldn't be a stretch for the MTA, which hit a similar bump last year while trying to develop the Hudson Yards on Manhattan's West Side. The agency worked with the builder to stretch payments and delay closing as the credit markets crashed.

    Ratner will likely need similar cooperation to get Atlantic Yards on track, while giving the MTA revenue it would otherwise lose. Let's make a deal.


    NoLandGrab: Here's the deal being proposed: Give public subsidies to a billionaire developer and receive an arena that returns ... nothing.

    Posted by steve at 7:18 AM

    Atlantic Yards Combatants Finally Forced To Sit Through State Senate Hearing

    The Village Voice
    By Neil deMause

    Here's an excerpt of a story covering Friday's state hearing by the expert of arena/stadium financing from Field of Schemes.

    Yesterday was the long-awaited — like, six years long — first state legislative hearing on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, with State Senator Bill Perkins convening his Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions Committee (think of him as the Senate version of Richard Brodsky) at Pratt Institute.

    While there were lots of questions that could have been raised, the one most everyone is wondering was: Is it still happening, and if so, does it bear the slightest resemblance to the vision that Ratner and then-architect Frank Gehry unveiled back in the Friends era?

    Or will it now be a stripped-down arena surrounded by what the Municipal Art Society has dubbed Atlantic Lots?

    Unfortunately, those best able to answer this question — Forest City Ratner, the Nets owner's family development company — were announced to be a no-show. Errol Louis in Thursday's Daily News claimed that Forest City Ratner wasn't invited to testify; Perkins said he did too invite them, by fax, mail, and email. At least one Forest City rep was spotted in the audience, but he declined Perkins' entreaties to come on down.

    In their absence, it was left to various unelected officials to make the case that the project is still on track, just with some, um, adjustments. Empire State Development Corporation chief Marisa Lago said that the "value engineering" Ratner is now engaged in — including, reportedly, ditching Gehry for off-the-rack arena designers Ellerbe Becket — didn't represent "downsizing" of the arena plus office tower plus affordable housing plus unaffordable housing that Ratner originally agreed to: "You're getting a new kitchen, just some of the shiny chrome finishes are going to be changed." Metropolitan Transportation Authority interim president Helena Williams noted that Forest City has "proposed revisions to some of the deal terms" it agreed to in 2006, including "a smaller up front payment for the land" than the $100 million the developer originally promised (Louis reported this as a $20 million down payment; Williams declined to name a figure), something she said the MTA board will discuss at its next meeting on June 24th.

    This piece ends by noting of one of the most remarkable moments of the day from Independent Budget Office deputy director George Sweeting:

    "Most of the new tax revenue that's generated from the project comes from the office space," added Sweeting. "If the project that finally emerges has less commercial office space, then presumably that tax revenue piece that's spun off from there will be lower."

    Nobody booed, but that could have just been because they weren't paying attention.


    Posted by steve at 6:59 AM

    State Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Atlantic Yards

    by Matthew Schuerman

    State lawmakers have held a hearing on the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, even though the project was approved three years ago. As WNYC's Matthew Schuerman reports, Friday's gathering was a raucous one.

    Sound: Crowd booing...

    REPORTER: Construction workers and other supporters of the project packed the 200-seat auditorium in Brooklyn where the hearing was held. Throughout the four hour hearing, they shouted down the lawmakers holding the hearing and accused them of trying to delay the project, which is three years behind schedule. One man told Senator Bill Perkins to go back to Harlem.

    SPEAKER: We want the project. You should go back to Harlem

    REPORTER: Perkins heads the legislative committee that oversees the state agency that oversees Atlantic Yards and said he had a responsibility to ask questions. The developer, Forest City Ratner, is promising to break ground finally this fall.


    Posted by steve at 6:52 AM

    Crowd packs hearing on Atlantic Yards

    By John Brennan

    This article was overlooked yesterday. It is excellent summary of Friday's state hearing on the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

    An often-rowdy, overflow crowd of about 200 packed a Brooklyn auditorium today for a four-hour hearing on the proposed $5 billion Atlantic Yards project that would include a new basketball arena for the Nets.

    Construction workers made up the bulk of the crowd for the New York Senate hearing titled, “Atlantic Yards: Where are We Now, How Did We Get There, and Where is the Project Going?”

    Many used their union-supplied whistles whenever a state official expressed support for the stalled, struggling project. After about an hour, some began to heckle state Sens. Velmanette Montgomery, D-Brooklyn, and state Sen. Bill Perkins, D-Manhattan, chairman of the Senate committee that reviews major projects, as they continued to ask questions about the wisdom of building Atlantic Yards near downtown Brooklyn.


    Lago and other state officials touting the project appeared to be using financial estimates that were several years old, with little or no adjustment for the much-less-robust current economy.

    State officials also said that they do not yet know what percentage of affordable-housing units would fall under various income levels, ranging from $30,000 to $134,000 for a family of four.

    MTA Executive Director Helena Williams, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said that Forest City Ratner, the developer, is seeking to renegotiate a 2006 agreement under which the company would pay $100 million up front for air rights at the Vanderbilt Yards site that comprises a portion of the project footprint.

    Williams added that she has agreed to allow Forest City to construct a seven-track replacement to the previous nine-track Vanderbilt Yards site, saving the developer considerable money. She said she wanted to ensure an effective rail site, “but we’re not building the Taj Mahal either.”


    Posted by steve at 6:38 AM

    The myth of construction jobs: it's not AY or nothing

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder quotes economist Brad Humphreys to point out that valuable money and resources could be used for more useful projects than a basketball arena.

    Also consider economist Brad Humphreys, who testified skeptically at a Congressional hearing last September concerning Yankee Stadium, noting that the alternative to the new project was not zero construction jobs but, instead, jobs elsewhere.

    The same would apply to Atlantic Yards, so that's important to remember if, for example, construction workers show up en masse at today's oversight hearing.

    Humphreys' testimony

    “The key to determining the actual net economic benefits generated by sports stadium construction projects is to determine how many jobs are created that would not have existed if the project did not take place, and also to determine how many of the workers filling those jobs would have been unemployed if the project had not taken place,” he said. “According to economic theory, only this small subset of the total number of jobs created by a stadium construction project can be counted as part of the economic impact of the project.”

    “The net economic benefit created by stadium construction projects is much smaller than the total economic benefit (which can be easily found by simply adding up the total amount of spending associated with the project) because of the presence of opportunity costs, and the double counting that typically takes place when non-economists attempt to estimate these benefits,” he observed.

    “Opportunity cost is the cost of forgone alternatives. In the case of the New Yankee Stadium, the facility generates significant opportunity costs for the City of New York and in the local community," he said. "The City could have issued a billion plus dollars of tax exempt bonds to finance any number of alternatives.”


    As I wrote, while supporters often suggest it’s AY or nothing, others point out that an alternative, albeit smaller project, could be built on the Vanderbilt Yard, and subsidies and incentives deployed elsewhere.


    Posted by steve at 6:20 AM

    May 30, 2009

    Senate hearing: no tough questions for ESDC; MTA yields on yard; IBO calls arena a loss; arena 2012; raucous AY supporters make for 8/23/06 flashback

    Atlantic Yards Report

    As followers of the Atlantic Yards fight would expect, Norman Oder scrupulously documented yesterday's hearing held by State Senators Perkins and Montgomery. He was disappointed that the state and city officials who were there to testify were not subject to tougher questioning.

    In some ways, the State Senate hearing held today on Atlantic Yards was eerily reminiscent of the epic 8/23/06 hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement: the house was packed--I’d estimate at least 2/3 of the crowd at Pratt Institute’s Higgins Hall--by union members and Community Benefits Agreement signatories, many wearing "Atlantic Yards Now" buttons, who raucously disrupted the hearing and, when some of their members testified, repeated old arguments for the project.

    Though this was supposed to be a fact-finding hearing, the representatives of city and state agencies emerged almost completely unscathed by questions posed by the panel led by State Senator Bill Perkins, despite testifying for some two hours. No one asked about the current timetable or cost of the project, nor challenged a stale, purported cost-benefit analysis. (Forest City Ratner, though it helped orchestrate the turnout and had uberflack Joe DePlasco in the aisles, did not testify.) More than 200 people were present in the main hall; more people were in two overflow rooms.

    This is the ultimate recounting of what went on in the hearing:

    -The revelation by George Sweeting of the IBO that the project arena will provide a net loss to the city.
    -Deceptive information from Seth Pinsky, President of EDC, on economic benefits.
    -The lack of any timetable for the affordable housing.
    -The vague and misleading answers given by representatives from the State, City and MTA.
    -The disruptions from project supporters.
    -And much, much more!


    Posted by steve at 10:03 AM

    Friday, May 29, 2009 Today’s State Senate Hearings on Atlantic Yards and Noticing New York Testimony

    Noticing New York

    One thing in particular that was noticed at yeasterday's hearing was that the crowd of men wearing orange hard-hats and day-glo vests were not actually construction workers but BUILD members/supporters.

    To say that the hearings were chaotic would be an understatement. As commented upon at the hearing’s conclusion, much of it was characterized by people who attended (including two senators, Carl Kruger and Marty Golden, who sort of crashed the event) for the purpose of intentionally showing disrespect to the proceedings and who exhibited open hostility toward any legislative inquisitiveness about the vast resources going into Atlantic Yards or about what Forest City Ratner is expected to produce in return. This meant that throughout much of the afternoon men dressed like construction workers with hard hats and red mesh Day-Glo caution vests were standing up to shout and use steel whistles to drown out and/or indicate their opinion on what was happening.

    Senator Perkins did not ask security to enforce order and the disruptions were tolerated except for an occasional request for more respect or to tone things down.

    Construction Workers Really BUILD?

    While the men looked like construction workers it may be that, rather than being supplied by the unions as so often happens, they were instead supplied by BUILD, the Ratner-created and financially supported Astroturf organization. The best indication of this was that while there were several people who spoke on favor of proceeding with Atlantic Yards (or whatever the megaproject turns out to be), the caution-vested fellows where particularly emphatic about applauding the testimony of two individuals testifying who were actually from BUILD. The hard-hatted men were apparently on the clock. We noted that when one of their number inquired of someone else who seemed to be in charge whether it would be OK to leave, the other responded by holding up five fingers. From this we interpreted that they were committed to stay until 5:00 PM. That assessment seemed to be spot on when, at two minutes of 5:00, the entire group stood up and then exited the doors at exactly 5:00.

    Testimony provided by George Sweeting of the IBO gets special mention:

    Senator Perkins commented after the hearing was over that the most important testimony was that provided by George Sweeting of the city’s Independent Budget Office. Senator Perkins noted that during that testimony “you could hear a pin drop” which he pointed out was quite something given the many people in the crowd who had come specifically to be raucous and disruptive. What we heard from the IBO was that the Atlantic Yards megaproject has changed enough so that, even though there are still further reductions that need to be taken into account in the calculated amount of benefit the project will provide, it is already clear that the reductions in benefit which are already known, identified and susceptible to calculation now “eclipse” (that means “wipe out”) the meager amount of “net public benefit” that the IBO had once been able to calculate that the project could deliver. (Technically, the calculations done so far extend just to the arena, as we noted all that will be built at first, but see the section above per the benefit of the housing and read on with respect to what we say about the zoning override.) In other words the project is NOT delivering any public benefit

    This blog entry also questions the wisdom of adding more subsidies to the project rather than going back to the drawing board as well as written testimony provided to Senator Bill Perkins by Michael D.D. White


    Posted by steve at 9:40 AM

    Ratner A Rail Loser

    New York Post
    By Rich Calder

    In 2005, Extell Corporation bid $150 million for the Vanderbilt Yards and Bruce Ratner bid $100 million. Voting against their own fiduciary interests, the MTA selected Ratner's bid. Continuing in that direction, the MTA will take less cash from the developer in return for less of a rail yard than originally promised.

    Transit officials are scaling back plans for the rail yard being rebuilt beneath Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn from nine tracks to seven -- and they're also expecting less cash from Ratner.

    MTA Interim Executive Director Helena Williams confirmed yesterday that the cash-strapped agency had reached a tentative agreement to allow Ratner to cut back costs on a $445 million transit improvement plan to Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt Rail Yard that he promised to deliver three years ago in exchange for approvals for the controversial $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

    Ratner was supposed to pay the agency $100 million, plus provide $345 million in transit upgrades. But Williams during a state Senate hearing on Atlantic Yards said the agency allowed Ratner to renegotiate because the national credit crunch was making it difficult to finance the 22-acre plan to build an NBA arena and 16 office and residential towers in Prospect Heights. ...

    Meanwhile, sources said Ratner could end up paying the MTA only $50 million, half the $100 million originally promised. Williams during the hearing said the MTA is considering allowing Ratner to make "a smaller up front payment followed by additional payments."


    "The project that was approved in 2006 does not exist. Nor do the jobs, the housing or the arena that were promised," said Daniel Goldstein of Atlantic Yards opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, who was loudly booed by the workers.

    He called Ratner's original agreement with the MTA "a sweetheart deal," adding that the "MTA, which just got a government bailout, is now going to give a bailout to [Ratner]."


    Posted by steve at 9:04 AM

    Construction Workers Dominate Atlantic Yards Hearing

    Nets Daily

    Construction workers chanting “Jobs!” and “New York Nets!” dominated a State Senate hearing Friday on Atlantic Yards. Workers booed and heckled critics of the project as well. At the hearing, state officials said the Barclays Center may be downsized. Among possible changes: fewer luxury suites. The officials confirmed Bruce Ratner wants to reduce what he owes the MTA, owner of the railyards beneath the arena.


    Posted by steve at 8:58 AM

    As Plans for Atlantic Yards Evolve, Government Benefits Don't

    The New York Observer
    By Eliot Brown

    The promised benefits from the proposed Atlantic Yards project continue to diminish. State and city subsidies make less and less sense.

    The M.T.A. has now publicly acknowledged that it expects less upfront cash from Forest City and less costly transit improvements made by the developer, a point that was enumerated at a raucous state Senate hearing on the project Friday afternoon. Further, figures released by the Independent Budget Office suggested the fiscal impact for the city of the arena would turn from net positive to negative given the substantial government subsidy added since the last analysis, done in 2005, which then showed a $25 million benefit to the city.

    M.T.A. interim head Helena Williams said at the hearing, held by Senators Bill Perkins and Velmanette Montgomery, that she expects Forest City will give the agency less than it initially pledged to the agency in its bid for the project, $100 million, in an upfront cash payment. She also said the agency had reached a tentative agreement over the new LIRR rail yard that Forest City is expected to build for the agency, one that would cost Forest City less than the $350 million or so that it included in its bid. She said it was “value engineered,” and included modifications such as a decrease in the number of planned tracks to seven, from nine. Asked at how much she valued this yard, she said the final number was still being negotiated with Forest City.


    THE NEW IBO NUMBERS, which take into account an extra approximately $100 million the city added in subsidy in 2007, put the 30-year fiscal impact of the new arena on the city in the neighborhood of a $65 million loss. This assumes the subsidy is all going directly for the arena, though the project as a whole is far larger—it calls for 6,400 units of housing and a commercial office tower—and Forest City sold the project as one large package.


    The IBO testimony, made by deputy director George Sweeting, also included an observation that appraised land values of the area have tripled in the last three years. And while he did not specifically allege wrongdoing, he suggested those figures would create controversy given the complex financing agreement needed for the deal, which requires a high assessed land value to get tax-free bonds:


    NoLandGrab: The testimony of George Sweeting of the IBO was one of the highlights of yesterday's hearing. His written testimony (in PDF format) can be found here.

    Posted by steve at 8:30 AM

    Job hungry hardhats jeer opponents at debate over Atlantic Yards

    Daily News
    By Jotham Sederstrom

    The Atlantic Yards project has apparently changed a great deal since it was first proposed. One thing that hasn't changed is the desire by the project's proponents to squelch information that would help determine just what is being proposed and whether it provides benefits in return for state and city subsidies.

    A public hearing on the controversial Atlantic Yards project spun out of control Friday as hundreds of job-hungry union laborers repeatedly shouted down opponents of the building plan.


    "I think if we could eliminate some of the whistling and shouting ..." the event organizer, said state Sen. Bill Perkins, only to be interrupted by a new round of jeers.

    "Go home, Bill!" several workers shouted at Perkins, whose district is in Harlem. "I live here! Bill, go home!"

    The five-hour hearing was called by Perkins and other state senators to determine the status of the delayed $4.2 billion project, which is being reevaluated by designers in a bid to cut costs.


    Senator Marty Golden, acting as a tool of the developer, made an unexpected appearance at the hearing.

    At one point, the hearing veered completely off track when state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn), a critic of the plan, berated fellow Sen. Marty Golden (R-Brooklyn) for showing up late.

    That prompted workers to erupt in jeers in a show of support for Golden, who backs the 22-acre project.


    Posted by steve at 8:14 AM

    Locals, Lawmakers Still Divided Over Atlantic Yards


    At a Friday hearing in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, state officials called to separate fact from fiction when talking about the future of controversial Atlantic Yards project.

    "Bring transparency to this process and to understand not only where we are, how we got here, where we're going, but also for the future, how we can do better," said Manhattan State Senator Bill Perkins.

    The economy is not just threatening to change the scale of the plan, but the benefits it might deliver for the city.

    Back in 2005, a basketball arena alone was expected to yield some $25 million dollars in economic benefits, according to the city's Independent Budget Office.

    Now that the cost of financing the project has nearly doubled for the city, the office predicts that financial boost will disappear. Its numbers suggest the arena will become a money-loser in the end.


    Posted by steve at 7:26 AM

    May 29, 2009

    It came from the Blogosphere...

    Streetsblog, Sotomayor’s Eminent Domain Stance: What Does it Mean For Cities?

    Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is dominating the conversation in Washington as analysts begin to dig into her past rulings. And while she has yet to weigh in on abortion, the judge has spoken loud and clear on an issue of interest to livable streets advocates: eminent domain.

    As a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Sotomayor ruled against property owners in Didden v. Village of Port Chester, a case that centered on plans for a CVS drug store in Westchester County.

    In theory, eminent domain can and should be used for beneficial purposes, such as transit expansion. Yet a recent push along those lines was halted by the Colorado state legislature last year, and proposed curbs on eminent domain are also imperiling the future of light rail in the Houston area.

    On the flip side, local governments often take private property for new development projects, claiming that commercial and office buildings justify a standard of "public use" -- as was the case in Kelo and in Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards case, which was turned away by the Supreme Court last year. Another eminent domain case heard by Sotomayor's court, Brody v. Village of Port Chester, involved condemnation to build a Stop-'n-Shop supermarket parking lot.

    UrbanOmnibus, Times Square’s Lesson in Design Value

    New York City’s plan to close Times Square to vehicles looks like a triumph. The chaise-lounges [or chaises-longues, depending on whom you ask - Ed.] the city dropped at the Crossroads of the World on May 24th have stayed popular throughout the week, like day-glo brigadiers in a battle against delivery trucks. (I saw two tourists taking pictures of their feet on the pavement on May 26.) At the same time, the luxuriant plans that Gehry Partners concocted for developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project are failing to keep the project financially credible - and the latest rumor is that a no-fuss plan from Ellerbe Becket for the project’s focal basketball arena may bump Gehry’s bundle of crumples.

    So: plastic chaise-lounges win a wave of rear ends, while titanium arenas leave the court with a hobble and nary an ovation. What’s the takeaway for urban design? I say it’s an axiom: people want to be together. If they come together under a roof shaped like a hoopoe bird, fine. But in an era of lean government budgets, the plan that gets people together quickly and cheaply should guide policymaking.

    Nets Daily, Ratner Asking MTA for Compromise on Railyards

    In slamming critics for hobbling Bruce Ratner with “frivolous litigation”, Daily News columnist Errol Louis reveals that the MTA, owners of the Brooklyn railyards, may decide Friday whether to accept a $20 million “down payment” from Ratner…instead of the full $100 million he owes the agency. Meanwhile, El Diario becomes the first city daily to oppose any more Atlantic Yards funding…calling it “developer welfare”.

    Curbed L.A., Is Gehry Out At Atlantic Yards?

    While the developer's spokespeople keep insisting Gehry is still the master architect for Atlantic Yards, Gehry himself has been saying the project is dead. Ratner plans to re-evaluate Gehry's design in July, but the smart money is on a plan that would be cheaper to execute.

    Transit Blogger, Ratner Looks To Pay MTA Less Upfront

    One of the most controversial construction projects of any kind to come in the last decade is the Atlantic Yards. The $4B project is centered around building a new arena & at least 16 high-rise buildings in downtown Brooklyn. The project has featured a multitude of supporters on both sides of the aisle. The average citizen has mostly been against the project as it features the status quo setup, benefit the rich while displacing & screwing over the less fortunate.

    The project & its supporters have seen better days as lawsuits have held up groundbreaking & more so of late the global financial crisis. Now Bruce Ratner, CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies is looking to use the crisis as an excuse to shortchange the MTA money his company was due to pay the agency.

    Little China Girl, Attack of the killer zongzis

    Brooklyn’s least-favorite megaproject makes a cameo in this entertaining blog post about Beijing, food poisoning, quarantine, and the threat of eminent domain.

    It’s about the government using its power to uproot citizens from their homes and raze a historical ground. Kinda like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. And it kinda makes me want to go to Kashgar.

    UnBeige, Atlantic Yards Rumors Appear True as Ellerbe Becket Steps in to 'Reevaluate' Frank Gehry's Plans

    Remember when it was rumored that developer Bruce Ratner was looking for another architect to replace Frank Gehry on the much-trimmed Atlantic Yards project, despite the press teams fighting off such ideas ("Frank Gehry has not been removed from the project")? And then Frank Gehry himself sort of stuck his foot in his mouth by saying he'd given up hope on being involved with the Yards going forward -- again much to the chagrin of the press handlers? Well, if you can believe it, apparently all of these crazy rumors seem to have maybe come true after all.

    Posted by eric at 7:53 PM

    Atlantic Yards Developer Tries to Stiff MTA – Again

    Ratner demands another discount from broke transit agency

    NBC New York
    by Caitlin Millat

    The ever-dwindling Atlantic Yards housing and arena project hit a new hurdle this week as developer Bruce Ratner asked the cash-strapped MTA to accept a mere $20-million down payment on the already discounted $100-million price for the stretch of state land.

    The MTA could decide as early as tomorrow whether Ratner should be allowed to pay the $20 million down payment for the Vanderbilt Yards, the land on Atlantic Ave. between Flatbush and Vanderbilt Aves, the Daily News reported.

    Ratner's $100 million initial proposal -- which came earlier this year [NoLandGrab: actually, it was in 2005] -- was only half of the appraised $214.5 million value of the property. If Ratner's given permission to pay the $20 million down, it would be less than ten percent of the land's appraised worth as a down payment.

    It was unclear how and when the MTA would vote on Ratner's proposal -- the next board meeting isn't until June.


    NLG: We have to say, it’s kinda refreshing to see a mainstream media outlet calling a spade a spade in its Atlantic Yards coverage.

    Posted by eric at 7:51 PM

    Savings on Labor Allow Work on Residential Skyscraper to Resume

    The New York Times
    by Charles V. Bagli

    The Beekman is back!

    Two months ago, work stopped abruptly at the 37th floor of the 76-story Beekman Tower as the developer Bruce C. Ratner desperately sought to cut costs on the project, a glass and stainless steel apartment building in Lower Manhattan.

    Just as abruptly, work resumed this week on the tower, which will be the architect Frank Gehry’s first skyscraper and the tallest residential building in the city.

    The developer, who had threatened to cap the building at 40 stories, said he was able to retain Mr. Gehry’s distinctive wavy-wall design and the tower’s full height, while paring labor expenses and taking advantage of falling prices for construction materials and appliances for the tower’s 900 apartments.


    Posted by eric at 7:50 PM

    Forest City in the News

    Dallas Observer, This Evening, Talk of Designating Two Downtown Buildings as Historic Landmarks

    Forest City tried to double-dip in Dallas’s subsidy pool through a landmark designation, and now they may be sorry they did so.

    Noticed something interesting on the Landmark Commission Designation Committee's agenda for today's 5:45 p.m. confab: the re-initiation of historic designation proceedings for two downtown buildings, the Mercantile Continental Building on Commerce Street and the Dallas National Bank Building on Main Street (otherwise known as The Joule). That's re-initiation -- as in, both buildings were, at one time, being vetted to see if they deserved designation and should be afforded the attendant protections and stipulations that come with such a title. But the initiation proceedings were terminated -- by the very folks who initially approached the Landmark Commission about starting 'em up in the first place.

    Katherine Seale, executive director of Preservation Dallas and a member of the Designation Committee, says that three years ago, the owners of both properties approached the Landmark Committee about designation. Forest City Enterprises, of course, owns the Continental, which sits just across the street from their Merc re-do, while Tim Headington is the oil man who sunk a small fortune into the circa-1925 Gothic revival skyscraper known as the Dallas National and rebranded it The Joule.

    The Designation Committee found both more than worthy of historic designation -- each met at least eight of the 10 criteria -- and recommended moving forward. But representatives for both owners yanked their request for designation, Seale says, because officials with the city's Office of Economic Development told the owners they wouldn't be eligible for historic property tax credits, since both were receiving tax increment financing district money for their respective redos. (Forest City, which has promised 140 residential units in the Continental Building, is set to receive $10 million from the Dallas Connection TIF; The Joule, $8.5 million from the City Center TIF.) Messages have been left with Karl Zavitkovsky, head of Economic Development.

    "So the property owners asked the nominations to be withdrawn," Seale says.

    The Designation Committee will vote on re-initiating designation proceedings without the owners' consent.

    Bloomberg News, Martin Whitman Is Buying Distressed Debt, Forest City

    Martin Whitman’s Third Avenue Management LLC increased its stake in Forest City Enterprises Inc., the property developer whose shares have tumbled 83 percent in the past year, and is investing in distressed debt while avoiding most stocks.

    Third Avenue already owned 22.7 million Class A shares at the end of the first quarter, more than anyone else. The firm bought shares that were sold for $6.60 apiece in an offering this month. Forest City is the Cleveland-based developer that’s planning a new arena for the New Jersey Nets in Brooklyn.

    Whitman confirmed the purchase in an interview in Chicago yesterday. He said Third Avenue plans to invest in more companies that are seeking to pay down debt and is avoiding stocks because of short sellers’ ability to drive down prices.

    NoLandGrab: Whitman has been a respected fund manager for decades, but riding a $70 stock down to $6, and then buying more, may not be a recipe for success.

    Posted by eric at 7:47 PM

    REMINDER: Atlantic Yards Public Hearing, Today

    SENATE STANDING COMMITTEE ON Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, Senator Bill Perkins, Chair

    Atlantic Yards: Where are we now; How did we get here; Where is the Project going?
    Testimony by invitation only. Written submissions welcome!

    To elicit recommendations for improved accountability, and transparency, land use planning, and community participation for large scale development.

    Friday, May 29
    1PM - 5 PM
    Pratt Institute, Higgins Hall
    61 St. James Place (corner Lafayette Ave.)
    Brooklyn, NY 11238

    The Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Plan (AY Plan) was announced by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), a public authority, in 2003. The plan includes a 19,000 seat Arena and 16 high rises which are to be built during a ten year time period. The 22 acre site adjoins the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Parks Slope and Boerum Hill in Brooklyn. It includes an 8 acre site owned by the MTA, and other properties owned by the City and private property owners. The Plan received all of its approvals in December 2006. The approval includes an override of the local zoning laws; an override of a more strict NYC Environmental Review; and approved taking properties by Eminent Domain.

    The ESDC designated Forest City Ratner Corporation (FCRC) as the sole developer. New York State and New York City have committed to subsidize the Project through issuing bonding debts, infrastructure improvements, and other subsidies.

    The Committee will hear testimony regarding financing, project oversight and the role of the Empire State Development Corporation, a public authority, in the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Plan (AY Plan).

    Posted by eric at 9:15 AM

    Some questions for today's Atlantic Yards oversight hearing

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder summarizes some of the questions that State Senator Bill Perkins might want to pose at today's State Senate hearing on Atlantic Yards.

    Why is the cost of the project and arena a secret? And why did Bruce Ratner disclose the cost to the Times? Where's the new timetable and budget? How long would the arena take to build? Could it really open in 2011?

    Is there an interim plan for the site, should nothing get built over most of it?

    What is the financial accountability for the project? How are the government agencies considering renegotiating the deal? Is there any new analysis of expected benefits? Will there ever be a cost-benefit analysis?

    Is Frank Gehry still on the project? What's Ellerbe Becket's role? How does Gehry's diminished role affect naming rights and expected revenue?

    Will Forest City Ratner pay the MTA the promised $100 million once the ESDC begins to pursue eminent domain? Will the MTA be willing to compromise with Forest City's request to amend the agreement and pay only $20 million up front?

    Did the ESDC do any independent evaluation of Forest City Ratner's claim that it had stalled work because of litigation?

    Has the developer exacerbated blight via demolitions?


    Posted by eric at 8:59 AM

    May 28, 2009

    Senator Perkins confirms that Forest City Ratner was invited to the hearing

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Rabid fabulist Errol Louis ought to get a second opinion when told things by unnamed Forest City Ratner spokespeople, since what they say and what is true are frequently and often very different things.

    State Senator Bill Perkins took umbrage at the quotation from an unnamed Forest City Ratner representative, as reported in Errol Louis’s Daily News column today, that the developer “wasn't even asked to testify at Perkins' invitation-only hearing.”

    “I’m disturbed by the insinuation we did not invite Forest City Ratner,” Perkins told me, after I called his office to inquire. “You can be sure that if they called to meet with me”—the developer asked Perkins to postpone the hearing—“you can be sure they were invited.”

    He said that FCR had been invited by mail, fax, and email, and that, “when their representative met with me to share some of their concerns, they were invited by me personally.”


    NoLandGrab: Here's a prediction — neither Bruce Ratner, nor any employee of the company that professes that "when it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there’s no such thing as too much," will show up to testify at tomorrow's hearing, since Perkins hasn't actually subpoenaed anyone.

    Posted by eric at 5:40 PM

    Errol Louis blames AY foes, reveals that Ratner wants to pay MTA just $20 million at first

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder's running commentary on Errol Louis's column in today's Daily News inserts the truth where Louis left it out, and highlights the scoop that Ratner doesn't even have the jack to pay the MTA the already off-off-peak price they'd agreed on for the railyard.

    Amid New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis's predictable support for Atlantic Yards, criticism of project opponents, and avoidance of inconvenient facts, is some real news: developer Forest City Ratner wants to pay the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) just $20 million--rather than the $100 million pledged--then pay the rest of the sum over some unspecified timetable.

    In other words, another indirect subsidy. Hints of the developer's strategy emerged in December, but not the sum at issue.

    If the MTA is truly a guardian of its funds--the money would go to the capital plan, not operations--that deserves a lot of sunlight. Louis wrote that the MTA could vote as early as Friday morning; no board meeting is listed, and MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin confirmed to me that there's no meeting. (An executive session requires a public meeting, and no special meeting is planned at this point, Soffin said. The next MTA board meeting is at the end of June.)

    Keep in mind that Forest City Ratner's $100 million pledge in September 2005 was less than half the appraised value of $214.5 million--the appraiser took into account the value of an improved railyard, which FCR counts as a bonus--and less than Extell's $150 million bid. And that $100 million bid came only after a $50 million bid, and the decision by the MTA board--controlled by Gov. George Pataki at the time--to negotiate exclusively with FCR.


    Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

    The damage done to Brooklyn: Atlantic Yards has shrunk, and with it good jobs and affordable housing

    NY Daily News

    Stopping short of calling Atlantic Yards critics "rabid obstructionists," columnist Errol Louis lays the blame for the flailing project at the feet of the "anti-development faction."

    However, his sympathetic treatment of developer Bruce Ratner has earned him this valuable scoop:

    Project insiders say Ratner's most pressing short-term financial hump is the need to pay $100 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the Vanderbilt Yards, a crucial stretch of property and train tracks along Atlantic Ave. between Flatbush and Vandbilt Aves.

    As early as tomorrow, the MTA board could vote in closed session on whether to allow Ratner to make a smaller-than-expected downpayment - $20 million or so - and allow him to pay the rest over time.


    Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

    As public hearing approaches tomorrow, questions of benefits and blight; will Bruce Ratner testify?

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Though NY Daily News columnist Errol Louis claims "that Forest City - the single most knowledgeable source of changes to the project - wasn't even asked to testify" at tomorrow's invitation-only hearing, Norman Oder is reporting that "CEO Bruce Ratner has been invited, but, at least as of yesterday, had not confirmed participation."

    NoLandGrab: Note that "Forest City Ratner Corporation" is on the list to testify from the official "Media Advisory." We're not saying that Louis's Forest City Ratner source is lying, only that he or she is being a little dramatic.

    Another question: will there be any witnesses from the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA)? If so, maybe they'll be asked about their financial dependence on Forest City Ratner.

    Remember, Delia Hunley-Adossa, chair of the CBA executive committee (and a City Council candidate), won't say who supports her dubious environmental organization, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience.

    The national organization ACORN never announced that it was bailed out--with a $1 million loan and $500,000 in grants--by Forest City Ratner, which has relied on ACORN's New York affiliate to supply crucial political support for the project. Can New York ACORN criticize the diminished plans for affordable housing? Unlikely.

    Remember, experts on CBAs have criticized this agreement for unenforceability if Forest City Ratner sells the project--not unlike the apparent switch in architects--and because signatories are not supposed to accept money from developers.


    Campaign for Community-Based Planning, Comment on Atlantic Yards!

    The Community-Based Planning Task Force will join City and State agencies, environmentalists, planners, and other community members and advocates to give testimony at a public hearing on Atlantic Yards on Friday, held by State Senators Bill Perkins and Velmanette Montgomery. Oral testimony on Friday is invite-only, but the public may submit testimony via email.

    Posted by lumi at 7:16 AM

    MEDIA ADVISORY: Updated list of confirmed attendees to NYS Senate Public Hearing on Atlantic Yards and Public Authorities

    Below is an updated list of confirmed attendees. List still in development.

    NYS Senate Public Hearing on Atlantic Yards and Public Authorities: “Atlantic Yards: Where Are We Now, How Did We Get There, and Where is this Project Going?”


    • NYS Senator Bill Perkins, Chair of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions; Members of the Committee
    • NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery
    • Empire State Development Corporation CEO Marisa Lago
    • Metropolitan Transportation Authority Interim Chair and LIRR President Helena Williams
    • Forest City Ratner Corporation
    • NYC Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky
    • Other City and State Agencies and Officials
    • Environmental and Social Justice Witnesses
    • Members of Affected Communities

    Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

    "Home team advantage": what an Ellerbe Becket arena might look like and whether a 2011 opening date is possible

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Recent revelations that starchitect Frank Gehry's role has not only diminished, but that design firm Ellerbe Becket is working on the Atlantic Yards arena casts more doubt on developer Bruce Ratner's claims that groundbreaking is just around the corner and the Nets will be playing in Brooklyn in 2011.

    It's highly unlikely, however, that groundbreaking would come next month, given that the Gehry-or-not decision wouldn't come until July. And, based on the timeline for Ellerbe Becket's recent arenas, it looks like a June groundbreaking is necessary to get the arena open for a basketball season beginning in October two years hence.

    So a 2011 arena opening date, even if there are few legal and oversight hurdles, seems quite doubtful.

    Check out the rest of the article for a sneak peek at the Ellerbe Becket design portfolio.

    Posted by lumi at 7:05 AM

    Curious case: at the ESDC, a volunteer lawyer plays a key role in the Atlantic Yards project

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Ever heard of Susan Rahm?

    One key contributor to the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) oversight of Atlantic Yards is an unpaid consultant--a retired partner at a major law firm, with a background in city planning and urban redevelopment--who has volunteered several days a week since the summer of 2007, well after the project was approved.

    Though Norman Oder sheds some light on a key "volunteer" at the ESDC, he ends up with more questions than answers.

    "Rahm was brought in by the administration of then-Governor Eliot Spitzer to work on the project. How typical is such a role?"

    Does Rahm play a policy-making role or not?

    To whom is a volunteer accountable?

    "[S]houldn't the ESDC have been more forthcoming with the public?"

    "[W]hat kind of interaction she has with Forest City Ratner, and why the agency was so ill-equipped it needed a volunteer to help out on this project[?]"


    NoLandGrab: We'd like to know if there are more volunteer opportunities at the ESDC, perhaps for community volunteers?

    Posted by lumi at 6:54 AM

    Forest City in the News

    KDVR.com, Denver's Stapleton neighborhood facing school shortage

    Denver's Stapleton neighborhood was marketed to parents with young children as a community where you could get to work easily and have your children go to school down the block.

    But as fate would have it, so many parents with young children moved there that the Denver School District and developer Forest City now face a shortage of classroom seats.

    NoLandGrab: Keep in mind, that, back in Brooklyn, Forest City Ratner claimed that if Atlantic Yards was built to its proposed scale, that there would be enough capacity in area schools to handle the increase in population.

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Water taxi does the weekend party loop

    Forest City Enterprises finally gives the nod to docking privileges for a Pittsburgh water taxi.

    Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

    EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

    The Washington Post, Sotomayor on the Issues

    In an examination of the judicial record of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York, The Washington Post reports:

    Sotomayor ruled with the majority that the Village of Port Chester violated a property owner's due process rights by failing to give adequate notice of his right to challenge the determination that his land should be used for a redevelopment project. Nevertheless, the panel supported the right of the government to take property for public use.

    From the majority decision in the case of Brody v. Village of Port Chester:

    "While a legislature may juggle many policy considerations in deciding whether to condemn private property, judicial review of the final legislative decision to exercise the power of eminent domain focuses exclusively on whether or not the taking is for a public use. In addition to the narrow scope of judicial review, a long line of Supreme Court cases have 'defined [the concept of public use] broadly, reflecting [the Court's] longstanding policy of deference to legislative judgments in this field.' The combination of those factors — the narrow scope of issues and the broad deference to the legislature — suggests that the role of the courts in enforcing the constitutional limitations on emin ent domain is one of patrolling the borders. That which falls within the boundaries of acceptability is not subject to review."

    Iron Triangle Tracker, City to begin eminent domain process at Willets Point

    The city will formally kick-off plans to seize control of the remaining privately-owned land at Willets Point this June, officials at the Economic Development Corp. said Wednesday.

    The EDC said a public hearing on eminent domain will be held at Flushing Town Hall on June 22, a procedural first step in the legal process through which the city plans to take the remaining 22 acres of land at Willets Point.

    Property owners at Willets Point said representatives from Cornerstone Realty Group, a firm hired by the city to assist in business relocation in the area, canvassed the Iron Triangle on Wednesday informing people that the city intended to begin eminent domain proceedings and a letter would arrive Thursday detailing the process.

    “They said they’re going to send a letter,” said Marcos Neira, President of the Willets Point Defense Commitee. “They’re talking about eminent domain. Whoever is going to read this letter is going to be scared.”

    Posted by lumi at 6:21 AM

    May 27, 2009

    Atlantic Yards Nets Arena Will Be Less Gehry, More Cheap

    by John Del Signore

    As embattled developer Bruce Ratner—who just won't let go of his $4.2 billion dream to build a Nets basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments in Prospect Heights— continues to stagger around like a zombie who refuses to believe he's dead, the project's celebrated architect Frank Gehry is becoming increasingly uninvolved.

    Last November, Gehry quietly dismissed two dozen staffers working on revised designs, and in March he told a reporter he doubts the project is "going to happen." Ratner is still determined to break ground on the $800 million arena as early as September, but it seems likely that Gehry will eventually have his name removed from Atlantic Yards; the Daily News reports that Ratner has hired Kansas City architecture firm Ellerbe Becket to essentially redo Gehry's design to cut costs.


    NoLandGrab: Is it just us, or does "Ellerbe Becket" sound like the latest chapter in Bruce Ratner's series of unfortunate events?

    DDDB.net, The Frank Gehry Clock is Ticking, According to Forest City Ratner

    The Gehry clock is ticking, according to Forest City Ratner, and it is at the eleventh hour.

    Brownstoner, Gehry Finito as Lead Designer for AY Arena?

    Posted by eric at 11:47 PM

    End developer welfare at Atlantic Yards

    El Diario La Prensa

    The Spanish-language El Diario continues to oppose Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project — a uniquely honorable distinction among New York City's dailies.

    At a time of economic crisis, in which the city, state and nation are struggling to fill budget holes and provide critical services, every public dollar must be wisely spent and invested. This calls into question mega projects such as the Atlantic Yards redevelopment plan.

    Forest City Ratner (FCR), the private developer, billed the gargantuan $4 billion project as one that would bring affordable housing to Brooklyn. Thirty percent of the housing units were supposed to be for low and moderate income households.

    But a slew of critics have questioned the supposed affordable housing, tax revenues and other benefits that the project is supposed to provide, especially with FCR’s inability to secure financing for the project’s housing component.

    FCR, with the support of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and the Bloomberg administration, planned to build an arena for the Nets and 16 residential and commercial towers. Those plans have been scaled back. FCR has reportedly lobbied for more taxpayer support and even a slice of stimulus funding, and tried to renegotiate on money it owes to agencies like the MTA.

    Aside from an oversized project threatening to rupture neighborhoods and communities in Brooklyn, the lack of transparency around costs or benefits to the public is unacceptable.


    NoLandGrab: Is El Diario's common-sense opposition to Atlantic Yards just too simple and straightforward for the other papers to fathom? Or do they just not like getting scooped?

    Posted by eric at 11:21 PM

    As with FCR's pictures of open space, the city likes to produce unrealistic park renderings

    Atlantic Yards Report

    From Tuesday's New York Post:
    A Parks official... also said the city has a "bad" habit of commissioning renderings for park projects "it knows it'll never be able to fully fund" just to grab a quick headline "and boost the mayor's popularity."

    That sounds a lot like Forest City Ratner commissioning landscape architect Laurie Olin for some renderings of open space not scheduled until Phase 2, for which the State Funding Agreement imposed no timetable.

    Remember, according to Empire State Development Corporation CEO Marisa Lago, Atlantic Yards could take "decades." And the open space is all scheduled for Phase 2.


    Posted by eric at 10:44 PM

    Money questions for the Senate hearing: public benefit plunging, MTA obligation thrown off, per-unit subsidy compared

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder keeps coming up with questions for Friday's State Senate hearing on Atlantic Yards, including some worth posing about promised affordable housing.

    I've previously questioned whether the ESDC ever considered whether enough housing bonds would be available to build the affordable housing at the announced timetable.

    Evidence suggests the timetable was never realistic.

    But did the ESDC ever compare the per-unit subsidy with the subsidy for units at other developments? Would this be a prudent use of housing subsidies? Obviously, cost should not be the only factor, but when and how should the various factors be applied?

    These questions never came up in public, to my knowledge, but they're still worth asking.


    Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

    Architectural firm Ellerbe Becket tapped to reevaluate Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards arena design

    NY Daily News reporter Jotham Sederstrom has some additional details about yesterday's Sports Business Journal report that Missouri-based design firm Ellerbe Becket has been working on Forest City Ratner's Nets arena:

    Ellerbe Becket... was tapped last fall to reevaluate the extravagant arena design [Frank] Gehry conceived for developer Forest City Ratner to lure the NBA's New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn.
    Headquartered in Kansas City, Ellerbe Becket is known for designs that are more cost-efficient than Gehry's projects, which tend to be full of ruffles and flourishes.
    The firm, which has designed basketball arenas for the NBA's teams in Memphis and Charlotte, was hired around the same time Gehry axed nearly every one of his employees who had been working on the stalled project.

    A Forest City Ratner spokesman Tuesday insisted the firm had been hired to implement cost-cutting measures for the estimated $800 million arena, but observers familiar with how Frank Gehry works suspect that could soon change.

    "Because Gehry's designs are fairly complex, any real changes would probably end up looking like an Ellerbe Becket project," said a former Gehry architect who worked on Atlantic Yards until being laid off late last year. "[Gehry's projects are] relatively difficult to execute."

    Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco said a reevaluation of Gehry's design would be completed by July, at which point Ratner will determine whether the world-famous architect would remain on the project.


    Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

    FCR was evasive on open space, Olin's role, bridge openings, plausible timetable, so the state should be answering these questions

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Let's look back at some not-so-transparent responses from Forest City Ratner to community concerns, and consider that the Empire State Development Corporation, not the developer, should be answering such questions.

    The list includes:


    Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

    A Gehry arena or an Ellerbe Becket arena?

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Yesterday, Sports Business Journal reported that Kansas City-based arena design firm Ellerbe Becket has been working on Bruce Ratner's arena for the Atlantic Yards megaproject.

    Well, there's serving as a consultant and serving as a lead designer. Ellerbe Becket may have been working on the AY arena for three years, but it's unlikely that the firm's role entered the foreground until [architect Frank] Gehry laid off his staff just before last Thanksgiving (as the Daily News reported).

    If Barclays bought naming rights in 2007 with knowledge that Ellerbe Becket was helping, the firm surely expected to see Gehry's name on the arena.

    So, even if the news won't "wreck the arena's financing model," as DDDB alleged, state officials surely should be able to tell the public who's designing the arena. Right?

    And what about the cost and timing of the arena?

    Check out the rest of the article for "Bobbo's" (aka "Net Income") latest pot shot at Norman Oder, who proves to be more resourceful than the pseudonymous Nets fan.

    NetsDaily.com, Kansas City Firm Redesigning Barclays Center
    PlanNYC.org, Nets Arena Designer In Question
    DDDB.net, Bye-bye Frank Gehry. Hello Ellerbe Becket?

    Posted by lumi at 4:37 AM

    PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Enterprises, Inc. Announces Underwriters' Exercise of Over-Allotment Option Related to Offering of Class A Common Shares

    PR Newswire

    CLEVELAND, May 26 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA) (NYSE: FCEB) today announced that the underwriters have exercised, in full, their over-allotment option to purchase an additional 6.8 million shares in relation to the company's previously announced public offering of 45.5 million Class A common shares, priced at $6.60 per share.

    Forest City expects to receive net proceeds from this offering of approximately $329.8 million, giving effect to the exercise of the over-allotment option. Forest City intends to use the net proceeds from the sale to reduce its outstanding borrowings under the Company's $750 million revolving credit facility.

    The joint book-running managers for this offering are Merrill Lynch & Co., Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Morgan Stanley.

    Copies of the final prospectus supplement relating to these securities may be obtained by contacting Merrill Lynch & Co., Attention: Prospectus Department, 4 World Financial Center, New York, NY 10080, telephone: 212-449-1000; Goldman, Sachs & Co., Attention: Prospectus Department, 85 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004, telephone: 212-902-1171 or 866-471-2526, fax: 212-902-9316, e-mail: prospectus-ny@ny.email.gs.com; or, Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated, Attention: Prospectus Department, 180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014, e-mail: prospectus@morganstanley.com.


    TradingMarkets.com, Forest City Sells 6.8 Million Overallotment Shares

    Posted by lumi at 4:24 AM

    May 26, 2009

    Kevin Caplicki


    Justseeds is offering signed screenprints of artist Kevin Caplicki's "Built for Collapse."

    Click here for more info, and to buy — just $20.

    Posted by eric at 5:50 PM

    Brooklyn Bound?

    Sports Business Journal: Breaking Ground
    by Don Muret

    Don’t be surprised if Ellerbe Becket becomes the lead designer for Barclays Center, the Nets’ much-delayed arena project.

    Renowned civic architect Frank Gehry originally designed the building. Kansas City-based Ellerbe, designer for the two newest NBA arenas, in Charlotte and Memphis, has been consulting for the Nets for the past three years and is making adjustments to arena blueprints to see how it can be built at a lower cost.

    Team officials declined to confirm Ellerbe’s involvement or whether Gehry is still part of the project.

    Ellerbe Becket principal Bill Crockett said, “Our work has been ongoing, and we have not been advised of what they will accept and when it will be released.”


    Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

    A closer look at the Borough President's budget, his marquee Coney project, and the off-books funding via the mayor's office

    Atlantic Yards Report

    It's 10 a.m. Do you know where your Borough President is spending your tax dollars?

    City Council Member and Comptroller candidate David Yassky is on to something with his It's Your Money NYC web site showing recent City Council earmarks. We need a lot more transparency, and it should go beyond the City Council.

    After all, do we know what Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz does with his operating budget? Sort of, but it takes a little digging.

    Do we know what Markowitz does with his discretionary budget? Not quite.

    Do we know what Markowitz does with his capital budget, by far the greatest pot of money he controls?

    People might be surprised to learn that some $24.6 million, more than a third of the total this year, is directed to the $64 million amphitheater planned for Asser Levy Park in Coney Island, home of one of the two summer concert series Markowitz has long sponsored.


    Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

    In Pinamonti's new album, listen to "The Burrow," "It Wasn't the Rain," and more

    pinamonti4.gifAtlantic Yards Report

    Brooklyn roots musician John Pinamonti, best known in AY circles for his live version of "The Burrow," part-elegy, part-fight song, has released a studio version of the song--with richer instrumentation--as part of his fifth album, End of Smith.

    It's well worth a listen, as is the rest of the album.


    Posted by lumi at 5:50 AM

    Former Lehman Brothers banker to head New York City’s Housing Authority

    World Socialist Web Site

    In an article about the new appointee to the NYC Housing Authority, one resident in the Walt Whitman Houses points to Bruce Ratner's eminent domain-abusing Atlantic Yards megaproject as an indication of Mayor Bloomberg's affordable housing priorities.

    Robert noted that multimillionaire developer Bruce Ratner’s project to develop a sports arena complex in the neighborhood would evict people from their homes.

    “They’re building a big stadium to move the [professional basketball team] Nets to, with new condos all over downtown Brooklyn—look around. They want us gone. If you could look at all the contracts and the plans, you’d see that the developers have blueprints of all the housing in the area, including the developments, and they have this property divided up among themselves. The public doesn’t know what’s going on.


    Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

    May 25, 2009

    Nets Off-Season Report #6

    Nets Daily

    Blogger Net Income hears what he wants to hear in a recent statement by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and addresses rumors about a westward move for the Nets.

    Don’t be surprised to see more news about Bruce Ratner trying to get stimulus money for infrastructure improvements around the Barclays Center. There was a lot of discussion in the media, driven by the critics, earlier this year, less so now.

    But something Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said this past week reminded us the idea hasn’t died. Key to any project receiving money is its “shovel-ready” status.

    The Beep said on hearing Atlantic Yards had won its latest court fight:

    “Today’s decision marks a significant step forward in the dream of bringing professional sports and a world-class facility back to our borough, and Brooklyn’s shovels are, and have been, ready. So, let’s pick them up and get to work!”

    And not just that. Former New York Senator Alfonse Damato has been hired by Ratner to work some magic on the stimulus money, aka lobby.


    NoLandGrab: We have it on good authority that the pseudonymous Mr. Income was once in the news business, in which case, he should have dug a bit to find out that Al D'Amato was hired about eight months ago to lobby — and so far, the only one making out in that deal is Al D'Amato.

    Posted by eric at 1:08 PM

    Ratner, Botstein and Gehry: birds of a feather

    Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

    An unrepentant Marxist, blogger, and Bard College alum notes that Bruce Ratner was recently appointed a trustee of his alma mater.

    In a tiny announcement, the magazine informed its readers that “Bruce C. Ratner, director of Forest City Enterprises, was appointed to the Board of Trustees.” Right off the bat, I had to assume that Ratner was cut from the same cloth as Asher Edelman, Susan Weber (George Soros’s ex-wife), and Charles P. Stephenson Jr. He was likely to have made his money through some ill-gotten gains or to have come by it through marriage as Susan Weber and fellow board member and ultra-Zionist Martin Peretz did. Edelman, a Bard graduate who the Gordon Gekko character in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” was based on, used to be a business partner of corporate raider Stephenson before the threat of arrest for insider trading forced him to relocate to Europe and out of the securities business.


    NoLandGrab: Proyect's on the right track with his hunch about ill-gotten gains, but he's a little shaky when it comes to other details, like the idea that community opposition forced the Atlantic Yards project to relocate from Prospect Heights to Downtown Brooklyn. Score one for Ratner's public relations effort!

    Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

    Yassky, IND and Vito Lopez

    Daily Gotham

    Atlantic Yards gets a few dishonorable mentions in David Michaelson's update of the political players (and pay-to-players) on the Brooklyn political scene.

    Remember when an organization largely funded by Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner appeared on the dance card of City Councilman David Yassky, who is now candidate for NYC Comptroller:

    A similar situation arose when David Yassky was endorsed by the president of an organization called BUILD. President of BUILD endorses Yassky, Yassky almost immediately turned around to propose the city (that's your money and mine) fund BUILD. Pay to play?

    So we already have a problem with Yassky and money...a bad combination for someone running for Comptroller, the person in charge of the city's money.

    But Yassky also claims to be "reform." And IND, a "reform" club, endorsed him. David Yassky donated to Vito Lopez, the very Party Boss that IND claims to be independent of and claims to oppose.

    And speaking about the Brooklyn Machine party boss, the NJ Nets minority owner and brother of Bruce is a supporter:

    An earlier Vito Lopez connection I focused on, back in 2006, was when Michael Ratner, [brother] of Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, donated no less than $3,100 to Vito Lopez. That is more than Scotto, Yassky and Weprin put together. Right after this donation from Michael Ratner to Vito Lopez, Vito Lopez proposed a bill in the Assembly that basically gave so much to Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project that even Ratner supporter Mike Bloomberg balked and opposed it. Vito's payback to the Ratners was eventually rebuffed.

    And is it another Ratner connection that Barclay #2 Realty Corp also donated to Vito Lopez? I am not sure if this is the same Barclay's that spent so much cash buying the naming rights to Ratner's arena (with no team??? not sure) or not. But Barclay #2 Realty Corp donated $2,500 to Lopez. But then again developers and chiropractors are his main donors anyway.


    NoLandGrab: "Barclay #2 Realty Corp." is the legal name of a partnership formed to manage a 66-unit co-op apartment building in Queens — not an affiliate of British bank Barclays.

    Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

    May 24, 2009

    The Ratner family and allies gave big to Kucinich's 2008 challenger

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Rep. Dennis Kucinich has demonstrated his opposition to using taxpayer money to subsidize sports facilities by holding a hearing on how the assessment of the land under the new Yankee Stadium was "gamed" to the benefit of the Yankees. Using an article by Roldo Bartimole entitled "Cimperman Is Doing Corporate Work", Norman Oder looks at how how the Ratner family, always looking for ways to gain more public subsidies, has supported Kucinich's rival.

    Should Kucinich scrutinize plans for the Atlantic Yards arena the same way he's done the Yankee Stadium deal--with the important distinction of doing it beforehand rather than after-the-fact--undoubtedly there would be reason for the Ratners to support his next opponent.


    Once on the “take list,” it’s hard to get off. Now Cimperman lives on the pay-as-you-play dole. Let’s lead off with the 10 donors for this Congressional run from Forest City Enterprises, the chief buyers of politicians: The Ratners: Al, $2,000, Brian, $1,000, Mark, $1,000, Ronald, $1,000, James, $1,000, Kevin, $1,000, Audrey, $2,000, Charles, $1,000, Deborah Ratner Salberg, $1,000 and Alan Krulak, $1,500. That’s $10,500 from Forest City people in the first financial report to the Federal Election Commission. (On a single day in the early 2000, Cimperman got $4,000 from some of the same Ratners, always seeking favors at City Hall)

    The Federal Election Commission database shows that people associated with Forest City Enterprises gave $22,000.


    Kucinich, with his national profile, however, outraised Cimperman, relying significantly on out-of-state donors, beat him in the primary, and was reelected. Commentators on Bartimole's piece suggest that the money flow to Cimperman declined after the incumbent showed his strength.


    Posted by steve at 9:14 AM

    June 9th Community Meeting on the Fight Against the Atlantic Yards Project

    Develop Don't Destroy Broklyn


    Posted by steve at 9:12 AM

    May 23, 2009

    Brooklyn Exchanges, an exhibit on AY and more, is well worth a look

    Norman Oder gives us his impressions of "Brooklyn Exchanges". For those who wish to see this exhibit for themselves, it is on through June 1 at Metropolitan Exchange, 33 Flatbush Avenue (at Livingston), and is open Wednesday-Saturday 12-6 p.m.

    Particularly valuable is a historic timeline of Brooklyn--it's best to enter the gallery, go past the Atlantic Yards images, and walk counterclockwise to start with the timeline.

    In each of the three major sections of the exhibition, the renderings of planned developments (e.g., CityPoint, the Irondale Theater at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church), several of which are on hold, are juxtaposed with current views of the sites as well as historical photos.

    Especially valuable are views of the theaters that once occupied the area near BAM. There's also an effort, with variable success, to intersperse text from interviews with residents and other interested parties.


    The segment of the show devoted the Vanderbilt/Atlantic Yards gives attention to the alternative UNITY plan, as well as interviews with photographer Tracy Collins (whose photos offer perspective on the AY footprint), and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn legal chair Candace Carponter. (No, there are no interviews with plan boosters.)


    Posted by steve at 6:53 AM

    May 22, 2009

    The face of overdevelopment

    stefano giovannini’s journals

    Bruce Ratner - developer - 80 DeKalb event


    Brownstoner, >80 Dekalb Tops Out

    B-Stoner's invitation to the toppipng out probably got lost in the mail.

    Posted by eric at 9:10 PM

    Islanders, Nets linked together by common history, together again in Brooklyn?

    by Evan Weiner

    The more things change...

    So how much has changed in the three years and eight months to the day since this column was written by this reporter in the New York Sun about a proposed arena being built in Brooklyn for Bruce Ratner's New Jersey Nets and how Nassau County politicians shouldn't feel so snug that Charles Wang would keep his Islanders in the county?

    Apparently not much. Just change a few dates and the September 21, 2006 column could be easily rewritten today and it is. Remember just about all of the column is nearly four years old and it serves to illustrate just how slowly government works on big project proposals.


    Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

    Support wanes for Atlantic Yards?

    Crain's Insider

    Political support for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn was nearly unanimous when it was proposed in 2003 and for years afterward. That’s no longer the case—despite a string of court decisions favoring the developer, Forest City Ratner, and its partner in state government, the Empire State Development Corp.

    In the past two years, local officials including Councilman David Yassky and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries have done little cheerleading for Atlantic Yards and have periodically been critical. Project booster Roger Green quit the Assembly in 2006, leaving Borough President Marty Markowitz as the only unflagging supporter among local officials. Not one of more than a dozen candidates in two City Council districts near the project openly supports it, according to opposition group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

    Initially, the Brooklyn political and nonprofit establishment lined up behind Atlantic Yards and Forest City, while opponents were marginalized and deemed NIMBYists. That made it easy for Mayor Bloomberg, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Govs. Pataki and Spitzer to grant Forest City the funding and approvals it needed. Two exceptions were Councilwoman Tish James and state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, who have opposed the $4 billion project from the outset.

    The waning of political support for Atlantic Yards could cost Forest City if it decides to seek new approvals from ESDC and the Public Authorities Control Board for an arena-only general project plan. The developer has been unable to get financing for the project’s huge housing component—and affordable housing was the major reason it garnered support from elected officials and Acorn, an influential nonprofit group. The developer must break ground on the arena this year to qualify for tax-exempt financing.


    Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

    In Columbia eminent domain case, some skeptical judges, AY echoes, and signs of emerging strategy for community resistance

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder turns his attention to another case of eminent domain abuse.

    Lawyers representing two property owners resisting the use of eminent domain for the Columbia University expansion maintained a passionate argument in appellate court yesterday, calling the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) actions in bad faith and seeing an ESDC lawyer clearly on the defensive before two clearly skeptical judges.

    “Nobody’s opposed to Columbia expanding. They’re opposed to eminent domain,” attorney Norman Siegel said in his closing remarks before a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division, First Department. “The [skeptical] questions [from the Court] I hope will reflect the decision.”

    Harlem State Senator Bill Perkins, speaking after the hearing on the sidewalk outside the courthouse, at 25th Street and Madison Avenue, was blunt: “It looks like Columbia’s going to lose.”

    That’s unclear, given that three judges were largely quiet and ESDC lawyer John Casolaro, despite facing some withering skepticism from Justice James Catterson, reminded the court that the condemnor had a structural advantage. Their job, he told the judges, is to decide whether ESDC has some foundation for its decision. If they decide that the ESDC “had a reasonable basis or a basis, the inquiry is at its end.”

    (Should two judges dissent, an appeal would be automatic.)

    The argument came just a day after Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson saluted the Public Authority Control Board’s final approval of the General Project Plan for the Columbia University expansion into West Harlem, aka Manhattanville.


    NoLandGrab: Perkins, who has opposed Columbia's land-grab plan, will chair a State Senate inquiry into Atlantic Yards one week from today.

    Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

    Support wanes for Atlantic Yards? Maybe, but not at the PACB, most likely

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Today's Crain's Insider, under the headline Support wanes for Atlantic Yards, notes:
    Political support for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn was nearly unanimous when it was proposed in 2003 and for years afterward. That’s no longer the case—despite a string of court decisions favoring the developer, Forest City Ratner, and its partner in state government, the Empire State Development Corp.

    In the past two years, local officials including Councilman David Yassky and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries have done little cheerleading for Atlantic Yards and have periodically been critical. Project booster Roger Green quit the Assembly in 2006, leaving Borough President Marty Markowitz as the only unflagging supporter among local officials. Not one of more than a dozen candidates in two City Council districts near the project openly supports it, according to opposition group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

    OK, but at the same time very few in the local political establishment line up behind DDDB, either. John Heyer, who works for Markowitz, does support an arena. And Jeffries certainly would like to see housing at the site.

    Keep in mind that the two leading fundraisers in the 33rd District, Jo Anne Simon and Steve Levin, both steer clear of DDDB's opposition, as noted by Noticing New York. The leading fundraiser in the 39th, Brad Lander, seems closer to mend-it-don't-end-it BrooklynSpeaks on his web site but has expressed greater opposition in public, while Josh Skaller, second in fundraising, is an unequivocal opponent of the project.


    Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

    Clueless Charlie Rose asks about "Brooklyn Yards;" Gehry says "it hasn't stopped"

    Atlantic Yards Report

    On the Charlie Rose show Wednesday, architect Frank Gehry, on the occasion of the publication of the Conversations with Frank Gehry, met up with an interviewer even less clueful about Atlantic Yards than author Barbara Isenberg.

    But Gehry dropped some hints, at least, that the Atlantic Yards plan of the past is not the AY plan of the present.

    The exchange starts at about 6:38.

    Click thru for Norman Oder's annotated transcript of the segment.

    NoLandGrab: We have to admit, we thought "clueful" was a made-up word, but our dictionary bears out the erudite Mr. Oder.

    Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

    80 DeKalb Avenue

    Photo, Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool

    Photog Tracy Collins tried to gain entry to the topping-out ceremony for Forest City Ratner's 80 DeKalb Avenue project (this was a case of the topping-out actually being at the top, unlike Ratner's Beekman Tower, which may or may not have been topped-out at its original half-way point), but his "I'm with Atlantic Yards Report" didn't seem to sway security. Wonder why not?

    Anyway, his long lens managed to capture Forest City's Les Deux Bruces, Ratner and Bender, trailing, we think, MaryAnne Gilmartin. And other luminaries were on hand, as well.

    More coverage...

    Atlantic Yards Report, Tracy Collins on the block: a curious new condo at 499 Dean and a topping-out moment at 80 DeKalb

    Posted by eric at 9:01 AM

    DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Ratner Losing Mayor's Support for Atlantic Yards

    Bloomberg Pulls Plug on More Subsidies for Project

    New York, New York – New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Wednesday that the city would not give additional taxpayer subsidies to developer Bruce Ratner for his proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

    Ratner has been lobbying the city over the past many months for more taxpayer subsidy, on top of the $205 million in direct taxpayer cash the city has committed to the developer’s beleaguered project.

    The Brooklyn Paper broke the news about the Mayor’s comments:

    "We've done everything,” he said in response to a reporter’s question at his daily availability on Wednesday. “We’re going to have a tough time surviving balancing our budget."

    The mayor did add that the city needs the project, but said, "We’re not putting money in any of these projects. We're going to invest our money in better schools and in safer streets and in better parks and everything else."

    "From the sound of the Mayor’s comments, Bruce Ratner has lost the Mayor's support for Atlantic Yards. Ratner was desperate for more money from the city, his rejection is a big blow for the project's viability," said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "We applaud the Mayor for not allowing any more taxpayer money to feed the Atlantic Yards money pit. The Mayor rightfully sees far greater priorities for investment than Ratner’s failing Atlantic Yards project, an $800 million luxury arena where there is an arena glut, and broken promises to construct 'affordable' housing."

    The city had committed to a $205 million direct taxpayer subsidy to the project, a portion of the well over $1.5 billion in taxpayer and government backed financing, breaks, exemptions and sweetheart land deals. It is unclear how much the City has already paid Ratner, but $100 million of the $205 million inexplicably reimburses Ratner for the properties he bought under the threat of eminent domain on the project's "arena block,” giving him all of that valuable land nearly for free.

    DEVELOP DON'T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them.

    DDDB is 501c3 non-profit corporation supported by over 4,000 individual donors from the community.

    Posted by eric at 8:41 AM

    May 21, 2009

    Brooklyn Exchanges

    Brooklyn Exchanges

    Brooklyn Exchanges

    The Brooklyn Exchanges exhibit, an interesting blend of past and future, is the result of work by Pratt architecture students exploring different facets of development in and near downtown Brooklyn, including the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

    Many historical photographs, discovered as part of the research into history of the area, are on display. Students have contemplated the future, ranging from the gargantuan, developer-driven visions of Atlantic Yards and City Point, to the community-based UNITY Plan, to more futuristic ideas that might never be proposed but are meant as a way to achieve a more open approach to imagining what might be built.

    An online component of the exhibit is available to anyone who wants to give their ideas as to what they would like to see happen in the following areas:

    The Exhibit continues through June 1 at Metropolitan Exchange, 33 Flatbush Avenue
    Gallery Hours: May 16-June 1, Wednesday-Saturday 12-6 p.m.

    (Click on the pics for larger images.)

    Posted by steve at 11:21 PM

    491-499 Dean Street

    Photo, Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool

    Dean Street near 6th Avenue
    Prospect Heights
    Brooklyn, New York

    499 Dean Street has a bit of a past.

    If Atlantic Yards is built as currently planned, a high rise tower would replace the 3 small homes on the left and no sky would be visible in this photo. The high rise, currently called "Building 15", would be 272 feet tall, roughly 5 times as tall as 499 Dean Street.

    Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

    Tax-free bonds: public vs. private

    Gumby Fresh blogger Gari N. Corp appended the following comment to an Atlantic Yards Report post regarding a story this week in the NY Observer by Eliot Brown, clarifying a point about the market for tax-free debt. Still with us?

    One sentence jumped out at me from the Observer article. "The arena would be financed by tax-free bonds, the market for which is far more robust than the broader credit market." I think Mr. Brown has not made a distinction between tax-free bonds issued by governments and other essential service providers, and tax-free private activity bonds, which are issued for the benefit of private developers for projects that are deemed to have a public use, such as private power plants, privately-run toll roads and, yes, unnecessary arena projects.

    The distinction is important because the credit work is much easier for public activity bonds. You look at a government's tax base, budget, and a rating, hope they don't default, and off you go (though there's an emerging school that says that it's not so simple).

    For private activity bonds you have to spend much more time analysing cashflows and looking at how the project will perform. This is subject to a much larger number of uncertainties, including the economy, the health of the customer(s), construction, and so forth. It's MUCH more complex, and there have not been a massive number of private tax-exempt deals done recently. I need hardly rehearse just how speculative a venture moving the Nets to Brooklyn will be.

    Kudos to Mr. Brown for looking at the uncertainty about the financing (it is rarely a rewarding task to predict whether deals will happen or not). I think he does have to look at how difficult a financing prospect a Nets arena is.


    Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

    Fallout from the Weinstein case: questions of condemnation timing and valuation; will Site 5 really be taken?

    Atlantic Yards Report

    AYR suggests more potential questions for next Friday's Senate hearing on Atlantic Yards.

    So it's worth asking about the ESDC's plans at the public hearing: would the whole site be condemned at once? What are the plans for Site 5?

    It's also worth asking whether, given that the project likely will take much longer than projected, Forest City Ratner plans any interim open space, as once suggested in plans by landscape architect Laurie Olin.

    Valuation questions

    I suggested May 8 that, while the appellate court ruling couldn't stop the ESDC from taking [Henry] Weinstein's property, it could make it more costly, since Weinstein has contended that [Shaya] Boymelgreen’s deal with Ratner diminished the value of his property.

    [Eminent domain attorney Michael] Rikon, who does not represent Weinstein but has met with him in the past, told me that when property is condemned and appraised, the appraiser then can ignore all leases. "That doesn't mean you ignore existing leases, if they're good fair market leases," Rikon said.

    The goal is to look at comparable leases, but it may not be easy to find such comparable leases. That suggests to me that Weinstein still gained an advantage in the valuation phase should condemnation occur.

    But Rikon suggests that the more important impact of the lease was in suggesting that Forest City Ratner controlled the property, not in setting its value. And that's another question for the oversight hearing.


    Posted by eric at 9:58 AM

    Today not today Maybe today on the Brian Lehrer Show

    UPDATED UPDATE: OK, we throw up our hands. This segment may air today, it may not. You're on your own. However, if it does air, and they do discuss Atlantic Yards, we'll have it, after the fact.



    World Trade Center

    WNYC reporter Matthew Scheuerman talks about the World Trade Center and Atlantic Yards.

    Posted by lumi at 9:54 AM

    Catching up on some media mentions: FCR's stonewall, NYT's correction, Stern's (mis)information, and more

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder catches up on some recent Atlantic Yards-related stories, including:

    2) In the May issue of a magazine called Selling Power (thanks to NetsDaily), there's a profile of New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark, headlined Slam Dunk Sales. It contains this line:
    The $950 million, Frank Gehry-designed Barclays Center in Brooklyn is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2010 season.

    No, it's not $950 million, it's not necessarily designed by Gehry, and it certainly won't be completed by 2010.


    Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

    ESDC Stands by Atlantic Yards

    by Cody Lyon

    Debate surrounding Brooklyn’s long-delayed Atlantic Yards project continues as a group of residents and business owners--who last week saw their challenge to the Empire State Development Corp.’s use of eminent domain dismissed by a state Appeals Court--vow to press on to the higher New York State Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, ESDC--the state’s quasi-governmental agency that partnered with FCRC to develop the 22 acres near downtown Brooklyn--defends the rationale behind public "support" of the project, telling GlobeSt.com that Atlantic Yards "will result in the revitalization of an underutilized and blighted area."

    Regardless, beyond a widely reported statement expressing Forest City Ratner Cos. CEO chair Bruce Ratner’s "thrilled" reaction to the court dismissal, when asked about the very timely issues of financing and star architects, an FCRC spokeswoman tells GlobeSt.com the company has "no other comment" at this time. However, in April, a spokeswoman did tell Globest.com that FCRC hopes to see the Barclay’s Center Coliseum portion of the project open by 2011.

    According to the ESDC, the agency will "own the arena" where the Nets plan to play basketball in Brooklyn. "However, pursuant to various lease agreements, all operational obligations will be borne by an FCRC affiliate," says the ESDC spokeswoman.

    While FCRC did not respond to questions regarding its ability to finance Atlantic Yards, ESDC’s spokeswoman says the agency "believes financing is viable at this point in time ESDC regularly meets with FCRC and its various financial advisors to discuss financing issues. Obviously, FCRC is counting on accessing financial markets at the time of closing." Of the arena’s final design, size and scope, the ESDC spokeswoman says "clearly the design of the arena will impact costs and have an affect on financing requirements."

    In response to GlobeSt.com’s question as to whether FCRC would use the original Frank Gehry design for the arena or perhaps another architect altogether, ESDC says GlobeSt.com that was a question best answered by FCRC. Told that FCRC had not provided an answer, the ESDC spokeswoman says "regardless of Gehry’s involvement, ESDC’s design guidelines must be met."


    NoLandGrab: Need we revisit ex-Forest City Ratner spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt's claim that "when it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there’s no such thing as too much, as far as we are concerned?" Nah.

    Posted by eric at 9:28 AM

    Bloomy to Bruce: Enough already

    The Brooklyn Paper
    By Mike McLaughlin

    The city has already pledged $230 million for infrastructure and land-acquisition costs at the embattled arena and skyscraper [Atlantic Yards] project — but Bloomberg dashed Ratner’s hopes for more.

    “We’ve done everything,” he said in response to a reporter’s question at his daily availability on Wednesday. “We’re going to have a tough time surviving balancing our budget.”

    The mayor’s thriftiness is bad news for Forest City Ratner, which in recent months had been lobbying for more taxpayer aid from the city and state, and even for a share of the federal stimulus spending to help revive construction on the $4-billion complex in Prospect Heights, where work has been stalled since December because of the current financing crunch.


    Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

    624 Pacific stands alone

    Photo, by Tracy Collins, via Flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool

    624 Pacific Street near 5th Avenue
    Prospect Heights
    Brooklyn, New York

    One of the last remaining occupied buildings in the footprint of Atlantic Yards. This building would be demolished if Atlantic Yards gets built as currently planned.

    Posted by lumi at 6:33 AM

    TODAY: Columbia University Eminent Domain Abuse Heads to Court

    NoEDApple-Icon.gifWe usually have our hands full with Atlantic Yards and admittedly don't get around to posting enough on all the other eminent domain-abusing land grabs in NYC. However, NoLandGrab readers should know that the Columbia University land grab is headed to court today. Please attend if you can.

    Here's the bulletin from the Coalition to Preserve Community:

    Thursday, May 21, the biggest eminent domain case in Manhattan's history will happen at 2:00PM.

    The state appellate court will hear the issue of Columbia's land grab eviction expansion in terms of the use of eminent domain against property owners, businesses, residents and all of us.

    We urge you to attend at the address below and give support to the Sprayregens and the Singhs and others who will be affected like Ramon Diaz of Floridita, residents who live in the immediate expansion area, and all those facing displacement in the surrounding community. The case is framed by the property owners but of cousre this will affect every neighborhood in the city of New York and beyond.

    Come out. Get there by 1:45 pm. This will be a very short appearance. Each side has a maximum of 15 minutes to present its case. Come out and support the legal battle against the all or nothing Columbia plan.

    27 Madison Avenue (Cross St. 25th)
    New York, New York 10010
    (212) 340-0400

    Presiding Justice: Luis A. Gonzalez

    The Campaign for Community-Based Planning, NY Supreme Court to Hear Columbia Eminent Domain Case Tomorrow

    Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

    It came from the Blogosphere...

    Curbed, Nets Begin Pitching Barclays Center Tickets at Atlantic Yards

    Nothing gets basketball fans more hot and bothered than an eminent domain court ruling and affordable housing — "Courts Rule in Favor of Atlantic Yards — Secure Your Spot in Brooklyn":

    While most NBA teams are using the excitement of the playoffs or the promise of the NBA draft to get their fans excited about next season, the Nets are taking a different approach, as exhibited in today's e-mail blast sent out to potential ticket buyers. Can't you just feel the excitement bursting out of this update on the appellate court's eminent domain ruling?! It's like a Vince Carter dunk in an opponent's face, converted to legalese!

    Atlantic Yards Report, "Secure your spot in Brooklyn," urge the Nets, a tad prematurely

    Norman Oder got the same email as Curbed, only his was branded with The Barclays Center, instead of the NJ Nets. Scouring AtlanticYards.com, he found one page that hadn't been updated yet.

    Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, The 33rd Candidates Meet Up In Williamsburg

    Louise Crawford has been doing a great job reporting from local candidate forums. One candidate in the 33rd District has been in the trenches from the beginning in the fight against Bruce Ratner's massive eminent domain-abusing development scheme:

    Ken Baer, who often had a smile on his face, is the only one of the group who seemed to be having fun. As usual he was having trouble with his microphone and suffered for a speaking style that is less than engaging. He is not, however, an equivacator. A longtime environmentalist, Baer was an early opponent of the Atlantic Yards and now supports superfund status for the Gowanus Canal.

    plannyc.org, Developer Says Atlantic Yards Arena Construction Will Start in 2009

    Forest City Ratner Cos. chairman and chief executive and New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner said that ground will be broken on the team's new Atlantic Yards arena this year. He also said that the arena will be ready for the National Basketball Association's 2011-2012 year.

    Property | Properties, Atlantic Yards Will Face More Lawsuits; Will It Face Eternal Delays?

    This is a repost of our post excerpting yesterday's Brooklyn Daily Eagle article on the next steps in the litigation against Atlantic Yards.

    Pardon Me for Asking, 'City Limits' Takes An In-Depth Look At Councilman Bill DeBlasio's Political Career

    Councilman and candidate for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's mediocre record with his own constituents goes beyond lip service on Atlantic Yards. Blogger Katia Kelly is quoted in a City Limits article, recalling the time when de Blasio practiced doing nothing on the local school board.

    Puckchaser.com, NBA chatter up at Sprint Center? Really?
    A Kansas City hockey fan puts a damper on his fellow sports fans' hopes of wooing the Nets to the Sprint Center arena, which has no anchor tenant:

    Don’t even give the Nets moving to KC another thought unless the Atlantic Yards project completely falls through.
    So many things would have to fall in place for KC to even sniff the Nets.

    -The Atlantic Yards project would have to fall through. -Same as the NHL, the team would have to be put up for sale, it isn’t right now, and the new owner would have to want to move to KC. -The new owner would have work out a lease deal at Sprint Center. -That lease deal would have to be better than one the team would get from the Pru.

    Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

    Forest City in the News

    TradingMarkets.com, Forest City Enterprises raises $300.3 million through public offering

    May 20, 2009 -- Forest City Enterprises, Inc., a US-based real estate company, has completed a public offering of 45.5 million Class A common shares at $6.6 per share for the gross proceeds of $300.3 million.

    The Denver Post, Greene: Stapleton botches delivery

    Forest City Enterprises and the Denver School District screwed up population projections and now schools are already overcrowded in the developer's new mixed-use Stapleton development community.

    Posted by lumi at 5:05 AM

    May 20, 2009

    A Teaching Moment From a Times Correction on NY State Eminent Domain Legal Procedures

    Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

    The following correction in the New York Times is important to note. It is not surprising that a reporter or anyone else would assume that an Appellate Division ruling would be a ruling on an appeal of a lower court decision.

    What IS surprising, and shocking, is that New York State law, specifically the Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL), requires property owners to initiate their challenge to one of the state's greatest powers—seizing a person's private property, home or business—not in the state's lowest court but, rather, in the appeals court. We are not aware of any other legal challenge in the state that is required to skip a court level.

    And not only do private property owners have no right to state their case in each level of the state courts, but when they do present their case to the Appellate Division, there is no legal right to discovery or depositions, no introduction of evidence outside of the record created and controlled by the condemning agency, and no testimony, examination or cross-examination.

    So while the Times mistake is understandable, and we are glad it has been corrected, the attenuated right to protect one's property in New York State is no mistake and the legislature is less than reticent to correct it.

    From the Times:


    An article in some editions on Saturday about a state appeals court’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the use of eminent domain to seize property for the Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn referred incorrectly to the decision. As an eminent domain case, it was heard first in the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, so there was no lower-court ruling.


    Posted by eric at 3:25 PM

    Cell hell!

    The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
    by Mike McLaughlin

    Another week, another felony at one of Bruce Ratner's malls. Those places sure were a lot safer back when the Atlantic Yards blight study was being done.

    Later that day, cops cuffed an 18-year-old girl who nicked a mobile phone from a 12-year-old girl outside the Bruce Ratner-owned shopping mall at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Fort Greene Place. The suspect’s accomplice, another young woman, escaped.

    Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

    When the Voice of the People isn't your voice or your people

    Fans for Fair Play

    Occasional blogger Scott M.X. Turner turns his attention to Monday's mad-dog editorial in the NY Daily News.

    Wow. This morning, the New York Daily News has really laid its Atlantic Yards cards on the table. As usual, they're covering their crap hand with over-the-top bluffing.

    In an editorial, the Daily News' board slammed "rabid obstructionists" for fighting Bruce Ratner's superblock project. Apparently the News doesn't want you going to court if they don't like why you're going to court. Constitutional rights really get in the way when they're someone else's bag, baby. Those same rights could still delay the Atlantic Yards project anywhere from months to years. In the Daily News' worldview, the Voice of the People they like the best is no voice at all.

    Anyway, who are these insidious obstructionist nogoodniks whose foaming at the mouth is enough to coat a runway for an emergency landing?

    Why, people who've figured out that Ratner's innocuous Jobs Hoops & Housing is really Pink Slips, Blight and Lies.

    People who, facing the backs government officials have turned on them, did what the nation's stated ideals urges all of us to do -- protest, write, organize, fight, litigate, reach out, implore, investigate, report, analyze. The thing that was so popular in the 1770s, lobbing cannonballs at tyranny. Of course, if democracy comes too close to upsetting Michael Bloomberg's gilded applecarts, standing up to tyranny is no longer a celebrated thing. Citizenry Speaking Out become Rabid Obstructionists.

    Read the whole essay for a sneak-peak at the name of Mr. Turner's next band.

    Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

    The AY endgame? The deadline for tax-free bonds, the impact of lawsuits, and Atlantic Lots

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Two articles published yesterday give some hints of the Atlantic Yards endgame, including an effort by developer and Forest City Ratner (FCR) and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to gain additional subsidies (and to delay developer obligations), and plans by opponent Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) to file more lawsuits, none of which may block the issuance of tax-free bonds by the December 31 deadline.

    Also hinted is a plan by the ESDC to issue a revision of the Modified General Project Plan (GPP), which would describe a new timetable and offer new financing numbers and could--I believe--trigger an additional public hearing in the summer or fall.

    You can be sure that any additional hearing — should one be mandated — would be scheduled around the last week in August, in an attempt to minimize public participation.

    Meanwhile, another front has been opened in the legal war.

    Also, I learned yesterday, there's a hearing June 8 in state Supreme Court on a motion filed on behalf of residents in two buildings in the AY footprint, who ask that a decision against them be vacated and that a new ESDC hearing be held, given questions about project benefits and timetable.

    A motion filed by attorney George Locker pointed to ESDC CEO Marisa Lago's acknowledgement that the project could take "decades":
    As of April 8, 2009, the evidence is clear that ESDC believes that Atlantic Yards is a project that will take decades. This is an enormous change from the 10-year project that was approved in 2006. ESDC should be directed to hold a public hearing on all of the changes.


    Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

    The Weinstein case, a deceptive land ownership map, and some questions for the oversight hearing

    Atlantic Yards Report

    We're quite used to getting something less than the truth from the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City, but as Norman Oder explains, even their maps can't be trusted.

    It's plain to see, not in black and white but in bright color.

    The Empire State Development Corporation, which has regularly taken Forest City Ratner's cue in presenting facts to the public (as in the Construction Updates provided by the developer), in the December 2006 Modified General Project Plan provided this map of property ownership in the AY footprint.
    (Click to enlage)

    The asterixes in the three properties owned by Henry Weinstein (see oval) indicate: FCRC has closed on an option to take by assignment the lessee's interests under the ground leases for these properties. However, the property owner has objected to such assignments.

    More than an objection

    It wasn't merely an objection; it was a bitter legal dispute. Weinstein had leased the properties to Shaya Boymelgreen, who operated his office in the building at 752 Pacific Street.

    At about the same time that Boymelgreen sold the Ward Bakery to Forest City Ratner, he also transferred the lease to Weinstein's properties to FCR--without getting approval from Weinstein. Both parties went to court, as I wrote in August 2006.

    Weinstein won a fundamental victory in March 2007; the Boymelgreen leases were terminated. This month Weinstein saw that upheld--and more--in appeals court.


    Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

    After landing Brook Lopez last year, Nets to pick at No.11 in NBA draft

    NY Daily News
    by Julian Garcia

    The News's Nets beat writer wraps up a piece on the team's draft prospects with this:

    During his pre-lottery press conference, NBA commissioner David Stern addressed the Nets' planned arena in Brooklyn, saying he expects ground to be broken this summer. He also said that Newark mayor Cory Booker, who expressed optimism that the team could be relocated there, was "misinformed."


    NoLandGrab: Stern should hope that he hasn't been "misinformed" about the likelihood of a summer groundbreaking.

    Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

    Atlantic Yards, Finance Footrace

    The NY Observer
    By Eliot Brown

    Though Forest City Ratner has cleared an important legal hurdle, there are still "numerous loose ends": tax-exempt financing, the deal with the financially strapped MTA, mounting losses for the Nets, and additional modifications to the project.

    ...the clock is ticking. Forest City Ratner has until the end of the year to get financing for the arena, the key part of Atlantic Yards, at which point the cost of doing so will rise substantially for the firm, headed by Bruce Ratner. The firm is professing new confidence, saying it will be able to secure financing and get shovels in the ground. But there are still many balls in the air, including negotiations with the city and M.T.A., and the uncertainties warrant keeping the Champagne in storage for quite some time to come.

    Check out the rest of the article to learn more about bumps in the road for Ratner.

    Posted by lumi at 6:46 AM

    Atlantic Yards Will Face More Lawsuits; Will It Face Eternal Delays?

    As Eminent Domain Challenges Fade, Opponents Prepare New Legal Attacks

    Brooklyn Daily Eagle

    Legal reporter Ryan Thompson maps out the opponents' options and strategies, in the wake of a loss in the latest stage in the eminent domain legal battle.

    Below are some excerpts, but, for those of you who are following this fight closely, the entire article is well worth reading:


    [Daniel] Goldstein, the lead plaintiff in the case, Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation, says the case will now go to the Court of Appeals in Albany, the state’s highest court. DDDB lead attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff agrees, believing that the constitutional issues are significant enough so that the Court of Appeals must accept the appeal.
    If the Court of Appeals, which is comprised of seven judges, including Brooklyn-born Theodore T. Jones, rejects the appeal because they don’t think the constitutional questions are significant enough, Goldstein and his co-petitioners have two more bites at the proverbial apple.

    The petitioners can make a Motion for Leave to Appeal to the Appellate Division, so that they can appeal to the Court of Appeals. If that is denied, the petitioners can make the same motion to the Court of Appeals itself.

    If all three of these attempts to appeal are denied, then this final eminent domain case is over. If the appeal gets to the Court of Appeals, where it will likely stay for some time, and the Court of Appeals then rejects the appeal, then the case is over just the same.


    After all the challenges to eminent domain have been exhausted, the state will then file an Article 4 proceeding in Brooklyn Supreme Court to get title to land. DDDB will oppose this.

    DDDB will claim that they can’t rightly take the land at Atlantic Yards, because Ratner doesn’t have the necessary bonds and financing in place to make the project a reality.


    But before title is transferred, DDDB will challenge the environmental review and approval of the project, based on the fact that the initial review and approval are insufficient since the original planned project has been modified so substantially over the years.


    Carponter cited some examples of possible upcoming lawsuits that would seek to stop Atlantic Yards. Carponter said that they could file a taxpayer lawsuit in federal court claiming the IRS made an illegitimate exception specifically for Ratner’s development; or perhaps a lawsuit that challenges the financing of the project.
    She acknowledged that the lawsuits would not have the effect of stopping construction of Atlantic Yards unless a stay or an injunction ordering such was issued as part of the new lawsuits. Seeking such injunctive relief would be one of the primary goals.


    Posted by lumi at 6:44 AM

    When it came to the railyard work stall in December, the ESDC was more enabler than evaluator

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder continues to place evidence on the table that Forest City Ratner, not the Empire State Developerment Corporation, is not only calling the shots, but is giving out the marching orders:

    [W]hen work stalled in December at the Vanderbilt Yard, the developer blamed lawsuits, and the ESDC endorsed that explanation.

    "The latest I have is that they’ve done all the preliminary work they can complete until the lawsuits are taken care of," ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston told me. "The work will resume when litigation is resolved." His source: "our people who work with FCR."
    However, that ignored sworn affidavits by Forest City Ratner officials that the construction schedule was “carefully drawn to allow the arena to be ready for the 2009-10 season by commencing work now on vacant properties that are owned by FCRC, the MTA and the City, with work on properties that are owned or occupied by other parties deferred until the pending judicial challenges to the Project have proceeded....”


    NoLandGrab: What the ESDC spokesperson was not instructed to say was that FCR might be running into a cash-flow problem and had to suspend work while the company was "proactively managing debt maturities."

    Posted by lumi at 6:39 AM

    Forest City’s Planned NJ Nets Arena Clears Another Legal Hurdle

    CoStar Group
    By Randyl Drummer

    Forest City Ratner Companies is claiming a court victory in its attempt to move the NBA’s New Jersey Nets onto the hardwood floor at the company’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, NY.


    In other news from the industry newsheet, CoStar Group is reporting that Saks Fifth Avenue has signed on as the anchor tenant for Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project in Yonkers.

    Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) announced that Saks Fifth Avenue signed a Letter of Intent to anchor the company's mixed-use development, Westchester's Ridge Hill, which is currently under construction. Saks plans to open an 80,000-square-foot store at the development, which is located between the New York State Thruway and Sprain Brook Parkway in Westchester County, New York.


    Posted by lumi at 6:29 AM

    Activists Vow Appeal of Atlantic Yards Ruling

    http://www.nolandgrab.org/images/atlanticyards-GSt.jpg GlobeSt.com reporter Cody Lyon filed this article on last Friday's court ruling that eminent domain may be used for Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject:

    According to the court documents, the judges said much of the land to be acquired is "substandard, and that the taking [of it] is rationally related to the purpose of remedying these substandard conditions." They added, "any incidental profit that may inure to Forest City from the remediation of the blighted project site does not undercut the public purpose of the condemnation of the substandard land."

    NoLandGrab: In plain English, the court is saying that Ratner's determination that the property in the footprint is blighted is correct and that any money he may make on the deal is "incidental" to the purpose of removing that blight.

    ...FCRC chair and CEO Bruce Ratner says in a statement... that he was confident the project will break ground this year, with the intent that the Nets will play ball in the Barclays Center in the 2011-2012 season.
    [A] lawyer for the plaintiffs says the group will be appealing to the state’s Court of Appeals. And, if that court agrees to hear the case, Atlantic Yards could be in store for many more months of litigation.

    Drawing a line in the sand, Matthew Brinckerhoff, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, tells GlobeSt.com that Ratner has not acquired his client’s property yet, and until he does, he cannot build the arena.


    NoLandGrab: Presciently, GlobeSt.com ran an image of the project commissioned by the Municipal Art Society, intended to show what an arena and one building would look like, which is what Ratner is currently publicly committing to for the foreseeable future.

    Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

    May 19, 2009

    Time for the Nets' off-season Plan B

    While fans and team management hoped for a 60-1 miracle in the NBA draft lottery, or at least a little league-office sleight-of-hand, the ping-pong ball didn't bounce the Nets' way — the NBA's 11th-worst team ended up with the 11th pick in the draft.

    AP via Yahoo! Sports, Clippers win lottery, will have top pick in draft

    Posted by eric at 11:53 PM

    Looking back at that IRS letter: did ESDC stretch the truth about the project timetable?

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder explores another unanswered question:

    So, if Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) CEO Marisa Lago thinks Atlantic Yards would take "decades," as she said in April, when did she and other ESDC officials come to that unsurprising conclusion?

    Because the ESDC said something very different last year to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) when it was lobbying to get an exemption for Atlantic Yards as the IRS planned to tighten rules regarding tax-exempt bonds.

    Somehow, during the course of a year, the project timeline went from "the Arena is anticipated to be completed in 2010, and the balance of the Project is expected to be built over the next decade," to the project will take "decades."

    It begs the question, what did the ESDC know and when did they know it?


    Posted by lumi at 6:20 AM

    How Forest City Ratner pulls the strings behind the AY Construction Updates (and why the ESDC should answer questions

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Whoopsie! The Empire State Developerment Corporation forgot to remove the original distribution-list names on one "Construction Update," indicating that developer Bruce Ratner (not NY State) is calling all the shots and explaining why pesky watchdog reporter Norman Oder keeps getting the run around.

    This may not seem like a big deal, but it's illustrative of an uneasy relationship in which ESDC must both oversee and promote Atlantic Yards. Officially, the ESDC circulates and posts the updates, announcing:

    In an effort to keep the Atlantic Yards Community aware of upcoming construction activities, ESD and Forest City Ratner provide the following outline of anticipated upcoming construction activities.

    The statement that "ESD and Forest City Ratner provide" suggests that the state agency should be willing to answer questions raised by discrepancies in the updates, such as my query about why announced utility work on Pacific Street never apparently occurred.

    However, the ESDC sent me to Forest City Ratner, which ignores my queries and, not being a government agency, is not subject to any oversight. So the government and the developer should be asked about Pacific Street utility work at the upcoming Senate oversight hearing.


    Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM

    Ratner courtroom win loose ends

    Here are some late links and reports on the decision, released last Friday, in the state eminent domain suit:

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City cheers Atlantic Yards ruling, plans to break ground this year for Nets arena in Brooklyn
    There is crack reporting and reporting on crack — Plain Dealer real estate reporter Michelle Jarboe filed a story largely based on the press release and The NY Times.

    "We're thrilled with this decision, which is the 23rd in a row in favor of the development," Bruce Ratner, chairman and chief executive officer of Forest City Ratner, said in a statement.

    NoLandGrab: Ratner is obviously ignoring the loss in court just the week earlier over his attempt to weasel a lease out from under the nose of property owner and landlord Henry Weinstein.

    PR Newswire, Forest City Statement on Appellate Division Eminent Domain Ruling

    "We're thrilled with this decision, which is the 23rd in a row in favor of the development," Ratner said.

    SmartBrief, Developer will break ground on Brooklyn arena in October

    A synopsis of the NY Times story:

    Developer Bruce Ratner plans to start construction on an $800 million basketball arena in Brooklyn for the New Jersey Nets in October. Ratner's announcement came shortly after he learned that a state appeals court dismissed challenges to his development. The project, dubbed Atlantic Yards, would also include an office tower and apartments. New York Times, The (05/15)

    NoLandGrab: In Friday afternoon's press blitz, Bruce Ratner claimed that groundbreaking would occur in October, September, "this summer" and "this year." This is what happens when you are not used to telling the truth — lying, like smoking, is habit-forming.

    CoStar Group, Forest City’s Planned NJ Nets Arena Clears Another Legal Hurdle

    Another item based on the Forest City press release.

    About.com, A Win for Ratner
    Blogger Kristen Goode wonders if, despite Ratner's win in court, the project will ever get built:

    We've been getting mixed messages from Ratner's camp for years now, and while Ratner still claims that he's going to break ground in the coming months, I have my doubts (and honestly hope that his "soon" translates to "never"). What do you think? Are the Atlantic Yards dead?

    NoLandGrab: Based on this roundup, it's no small wonder why the print media is in despair and bloggers are getting a lot of attention these days. Does the public really need several reporters to rewrite a press release, when it is available for free?

    Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

    LHinks: Bits and bytes post-woodland retreat


    Long Island watchdogs and hopeful hockey fans are keeping an eye on the Atlantic Yards arena and how recent events affect their chances of getting a new arena for the NY Islanders:

    "I'm not dead yet." -- Because no land development news happens without a "how does this relate to the Islanders?" angle: Another hurdle surpassed for the Atlantic Yards development (and the quest to move the New Jersey Nets -- which I am told is a "basket-ball" team) -- to Brooklyn. There has been a long, hard-fought effort to stop this development, but if it ever launches -- now October is the target -- calls will renew for that to be the Lighthouse alternative for the Long Island Brooklyn Islanders.


    Note: "The Lighthouse" is Long Island's version of a boondoggle mixed-use megaproject attached to a new arena.

    Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM


    City Limits
    By Jarrett Murphy

    What's new... City Councilman and candidate for NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is trying to walk a fine line with his position on Atlantic Yards:

    The most high-profile project in Brooklyn, of course, is Atlantic Yards, which falls close to his district and which de Blasio backed from the beginning. Only last year—well after demolition had begun on the site—did de Blasio say he wanted a moratorium on tear-downs until it was clear that the developer, Forest City Ratner, would make good on its promises of affordable housing and jobs.

    "I'm obviously not satisfied with how the process unfolded," de Blasio says. "I think there was an opportunity to take the initial vision which was in the community benefits agreement and involve the community and figure out a way to achieve what was in the [agreement] in a way that was acceptable. I really think that didn’t happen."

    Foes of Atlantic Yards don’t think de Blasio's late-day skepticism is genuine. "He has supported Atlantic Yards uncritically for years and now, like nearly every other supporter, has modified his position by picking away at this thing or that thing or 'I support it if [blank],'" says Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein.


    NoLandGrab: Signatories of the Community Benefits Agreement are contractually obligated to support the project and most have received financial support from developer Bruce Ratner. By siding with these groups, Bill de Blasio has done nothing to represent ongoing concerns over the project.

    What happened to de Blasio's lip service on demolitions? Ratner continued on, taking down almost every single building he could.

    Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

    May 18, 2009

    Local Banks Face Big Losses

    Journal Study of 940 Lenders Shows Potential for Deep Hit on Commercial Property

    The Wall Street Journal
    by Maurice Tamman and David Enrich

    Commercial real-estate loans could generate losses of $100 billion by the end of next year at more than 900 small and midsize U.S. banks if the economy's woes deepen, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal.

    Such loans, which fund the construction of shopping malls, office buildings, apartment complexes and hotels, could account for nearly half the losses at the banks analyzed by the Journal, consuming capital that is an essential cushion against bad loans.

    article [subscription required]

    NoLandGrab: If the prospects for commercial loans are bleak for the banks, they can't be very rosy for the borrowers, either, right? Especially those hoping to finance speculative arena/office/apartment complexes.

    Posted by eric at 11:27 PM

    Times two

    Two from the Times's blogs, that is.

    City Room, Bradley Wants Nets to Play in Newark, Not Brooklyn

    NBA legend and former NJ Senator Bill Bradley is betting his Dollar Bill on the Nets ending up in Newark.

    Add Bill Bradley, the former Knicks star and United States senator from New Jersey, to the list of skeptics regarding the planned 18,000-seat basketball arena that is to be a centerpiece of the Atlantic Yards development near downtown Brooklyn.

    Mr. Bradley, who sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2000, said in a recent interview that he supports efforts by Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark to lure a professional sports team there. Mr. Bradley believes that the Nets, which currently play in the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., can play in the Prudential Arena, the home of the Devils.

    The former senator noted that the controversial Atlantic Yards project — which would include apartments, offices, stores along with the arena — has been delayed as a result of the economic downturn.

    The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Politics, Money and More

    Those of you who follow Atlantic Yards Report closely know that Norman Oder occasionally spars with an anonymous commenter who goes by the web handles of Bobbo or Net Income. Which makes it all the more surprising that someone posting as Bobbo scolded The Local (and The Times more broadly) for continually allowing Oder to scoop them.

    Why does the Times, and particularly Mr. Newman, continually permit Mr. Oder to do what the Times should be doing on its own? Why outsource your journalism?

    All this material is public and online. You don’t even need to expend shoe leather, just a few key strokes. No wonder Mr. Oder has such disdain for the Times.


    Posted by eric at 11:00 PM

    The money primary: looking at fundraising in the 33rd, 35th, 36th, 39th, and 41st District Council races

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder follows the money.

    A round of financial reports to the New York City Campaign Finance Board arrived Friday, and help provide perspective on which candidates proceed from a position of strength.

    I look at the three districts that touch on Atlantic Yards (33, 35, 39), as well as two nearby districts (36, 41) where the incumbents have supported the project.

    Fundraising is only one indication; institutional support, such as endorsements from unions, political clubs, and other organizations that can supply volunteers, can be key. A candidate's policies, doggedness, and media savvy surely play significant roles, as can a newspaper endorsement.

    But the candidates with the most money can afford advertising to get the word out, as well as staff and consultants. And, with multi-candidate Democratic primary races--the election is September 15--a candidate with a mere plurality can win.

    Who’s ahead?

    For the answer, you'll have to click through.

    Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

    Why Atlantic Yards affordable housing will be long-delayed, and why ACORN can't complain

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Despite the rhetoric, there are couple of important things to know about the promises regarding Atlantic Yards affordable housing.

    First, should the project proceed, the housing will not be built on a schedule close to that originally promised.

    Second, ACORN, signatory to the affordable housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the Community Benefits, owes Forest City Ratner $1 million and is in no position to complain about delays.

    Today Norman Oder examines:

    In bonus coverage, at "considerable agency time and expense" the Empire State Development Corporation FOIL's Norman Oder again.


    Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

    How Brooklyn lost LeBron: Rabid development foes killed shot at getting superstar James

    NY Daily News

    A rabid editorialist laments the passing shot at getting LeBron James in Brooklyn, as if it were "the worst thing to happen to Brooklyn since the Dodgers left."

    Brooklyn, you could have had a shot at such greatness because James will be a free agent in summer 2010. And the borough was poised to be in the running with a new Nets arena.
    But plans for a sports and entertainment venue ran into rabid obstructionists who fought the arena and associated housing construction as though it would be the worst thing to happen to Brooklyn since the Dodgers left.

    On Friday, the 23rd court in a row ruled in favor of developer Bruce Ratner, primary owner of the Nets. He vowed once more to get the project going. Great. The city needs the arena and the housing. But now the best case is that Ratner will get an arena open for the 2011 season. Long after James likely signs with another team.

    So now, we can imagine James getting a brownstone in Bed-Stuy or Fort Greene. Imagine him tutoring kids at local schools. Imagine him doing for the once-lousy Nets what he's done for the once-lousy Cavs.


    NoLandGrab: You can imagine many things, once you drink the Kool-Aid.

    Contrary to what the editorial implies, Atlantic Yards Report points out that developer Bruce Ratner "is delaying the housing on his own," along with the fact that LBJ would have to take less money to sign with the Nets than he'd get from the Cavaliers, something the *Daily News" must've forgotten with all their frothing.

    Posted by lumi at 6:16 AM

    Nets looking to move Yi Jianlian

    NY Daily News
    By Mitch Lawrence

    Here's more evidence that the Nets could not afford to fire coach Lawrence Frank and pay out the last year on his contract — this item about massive cutbacks on the NJ Nets coaching staff ran at the end of an article about Yi Jianlian trade rumors:

    Meanwhile, in an effort to further save money, one plan has the Nets cutting their assistant coaches' salaries from $1 million combined to only $500,000.


    NoLandGrab: Trading Yi would end Nets CEO Brett Yormark's visionary campaign to tap into the metropolitan area's ethnic Chinese fan base.

    Ironically, the online version of this story has a link to "Buy Nets Tickets Today."

    Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

    So, why did FCR's Gilmartin give mayoral candidate Thompson $400?

    Atlantic Yards Report

    In the season's first report of campaign contributions, there are only six contributions from Forest City Ratner employees, to six different candidates in city political races, and the contributions are relatively small. So there's no reason to think it's a coordinated effort.

    But the most curious contribution is $400 from MaryAnne Gilmartin, who heads the Atlantic Yards project, to Democrat Bill Thompson, the mayoral candidate and current Comptroller.
    So, was the contribution to Thompson just a courtesy? A personal connection of some sort? An insurance policy? A belief that he was the frontrunner at the time?

    I have to think Bloomberg--who's been vastly outspending his potential rivals--will forgive her.


    NoLandGrab: Typically Forest City Ratner is brilliant at making political calculations, but blogger Michael D.D. White recently pointed out that Bloomberg is not always so forgiving.

    Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

    Nets to Break Arena Ground This Year, Play in 2011, Ratner Says

    Bloomberg.com starts Monday off with Friday's announcement that Bruce Ratner prevailed in the eminent domain case.

    The New Jersey Nets intend to break ground for an arena in Brooklyn this year and begin to play there in the 2011-12 National Basketball Association season, owner Bruce Ratner said.

    Ratner, the chairman and chief executive officer of Forest City Ratner Cos., said in a statement that a New York State appeals court ruling on May 15 cleared the way for construction of the complex that includes the planned $800 million Barclays Center arena.


    Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

    Excitement in the Blogosphere over court ruling

    A few bloggers are excited about Bruce's plans to take peoples' homes to build an arena for the Nets.

    Two bloggers who support the NY Islanders effort to build a mixed use office-housing-arena megaproject see a "Lighthouse" at the end of the tunnel:

    Let There Be Light(house), Can-Do vs. Can't-Do

    Honestly, I can't see the point of anything other than a Can-Do mentality. I would rather be the person constantly trying to move forward than the person desperately trying to stop others from moving forward. Which do you want to be? We have an option to do something truly great. The Atlantic Yards project took a step forward despite enormous odds because of a Can-Do mentality, and it's time to re-inject some of that spirit into Long Island. If we don't, some other community will Can-Do our young people, our sports team, and our economic future right out from under our noses.

    NYI Point Blank, AN ARENA DEVELOPMENT GROWS IN BROOKLYN Seems only Long Island can’t get it done

    If Ratner actually gets his deal done and a shovel in the ground in October, it will be a profound accomplishment against stacked odds. The Nets will join the Yankees and Mets and Giants and Jets in moving into the 21st century and moving into state-of-the-art homes that will help them flourish for generations.

    And then there will be the Islanders.

    situatedlaundry, My Brooklyn Nets
    Another blogger is less sangiune about the project, but any concerns are trumped by the coming of pro sports, "even if it's basketball."

    Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

    May 17, 2009

    After city/state claim cost of arena is trade secret, Ratner volunteers a number to the Times

    Atlantic Yards Report

    For the purposes of publicity, Bruce Ratner can give an estimate of the cost of the proposed Nets arena. However, the ESDC keeps the actual number a secret to New Yorkers who are expected to subsidize the project.

    There are two curious aspects to the New York Times's report yesterday, in the context of an article on the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, on the price tag for the AY arena.

    First, the Times identified the cost of the arena at $800 million, later adding, regarding Bruce Ratner, that "[h]e has also said he wants to pare the projected $1 billion cost of the arena by about $200 million."

    But the arena had previously been said to cost $950 million and, while rounding up to $1 billion may be convenient, $50 million isn't chump change. So I'm going to call the price tag $750 million until further notice.


    More importantly, Times reporter Charles Bagli apparently didn't have to file a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to get the cost estimate.


    So, how come the cost is not a trade secret any more? There's a public policy issue here. As I wrote, 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.


    Posted by steve at 9:06 AM

    When Is Atlantic Yards Groundbreaking? Bruce Ratner Doesn't Seem to Know

    Develop Don't Destroy

    Is there any reason to take Bruce Ratner's words at face value when it comes to Atlantic Yards? Of course not.

    In the aftermath of yesterday's Appellate Divsion ruling against nine property owners who sued to keep NY State from seizing their homes and businesses to enrich Bruce Ratner, Bruce Ratner was trotted out to talk directly to the press. It has been rare that the man behind the Brooklyn Boondoggle has spoken directly to anyone in the press or public over the years of the Atlantic Yards saga. Yesterday's performance explains why.

    Three daily newspapers came away with three different stories after talking to sports baron and blight maven.

    The NY Post had Ratner saying he'd break ground on Atlantic Yards in September.

    The New York Daily News had him saying "this summer."

    And the New York Times had him saying "this October."

    And the official statement from the developer on the Barclays Center website (not the AtlanticYards.com website, which appears to be moribund) says "this year."

    (All this inconsistency must have had lead flack Joey DePlasco muttering to himself.)

    It was September 2008 when Bruce Ratner told the New York Times he'd break ground in December 2008. (In the same article DDDB commented that was impossible and we were correct.)

    It was late March 2009 that Nets President and marketing guru Brett Yormark told WFAN sports radio that they'd break ground "this summer."

    Now they are saying (see above) summer, September, October and "this year." Take your pick.

    We'll tell you again, all are wrong—for legal and financial reasons.


    Posted by steve at 8:52 AM

    Nets project moves ahead, but toward what?

    Field of Schemes

    In a difficult economic time, questions and concerns persist about the viability of an arena for the Nets.

    While there's always a chance this court will be unlike all other courts, the bigger question now appears to be: If all the lawsuits are cleared away, then what will Ratner do? Or, more to the point, what can he do? We've already noted that the economic crash has essentially doomed Ratner's proposed office tower, that the apartment buildings might not happen for years, if ever, and that the original arena design has been abandoned as way too expensive; that leaves, um, an on-the-cheap arena surrounded by vacant lots?

    The state senate is scheduled to hold its first-ever hearing on Atlantic Yards (only six-and-a-half years after it was first proposed) on May 29, and Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report has a list of proposed questions that should be asked:

    • Is it guaranteed that Atlantic Yards will still include affordable housing, or can Ratner put off that portion of the project indefinitely without penalty?

    • When will the state Metropolitan Transportation Authority get the $100 million Ratner promised to pay for development rights to its rail yards — money it could kind of use.

    • Is Frank Gehry still working on this thing or what?

    I'll add one more question: Given that the entire economic landscape has changed since this plan was first proposed back in 2003, and that the design will apparently bear little resemblance to what was originally approved by the state back then, might it make sense for the state to just go back to square one and issue a new request for proposals for the site?


    Posted by steve at 8:40 AM

    Here's that grain of salt you ordered...


    Ratner: Atlantic Yards To Break Ground This Year

    May 16, 2009

    Developer Bruce Ratner says he is confident ground will be broken this year on the proposed Nets arena in Brooklyn, as his controversial Atlantic Yards project cleared another hurdle Friday.

    A panel of four appellate judges ruled unanimously the state can use eminent domain to go forward with the project because of the public benefits associated with the plan.


    Ratner says he expects the new home for the Nets will be ready for the 2011-2012 season.

    Atlantic Yards To Begin Construction By Year's End

    September 10, 2008

    The controversial Atlantic Yards project development plan in Brooklyn is moving forward against the wishes of many residents and businesses.

    Developer Forest City Ratner announced plans to break ground in December.

    Construction Begins On Atlantic Yards Project

    February 20, 2007

    The Atlantic Yards redevelopment project has been the subject of a lot of debate, but it is now finally the subject of some construction.

    The first stages of construction began Tuesday.


    Construction of the new arena for the NBA's Nets is scheduled to begin in the fall.

    PACB Gives Atlantic Yards Green Light

    December 20, 2006

    After hours of delays, the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project was finally given the go-ahead by a key state board Wednesday.

    Republicans, Governor George Pataki and State Senate Majority leader Joe Bruno, control two of the three votes on the Public Authorities Control Board. Both were known supporters of the plan.


    Developers say work on the stadium and the buildings should begin next fall, ending in 2010.

    Posted by steve at 7:59 AM

    Speculation Of A Nets Sale

    Rumors of the Nets being put up for sale are spread by Newark Mayor Cory Booker, despite the recent ruling by a New York state appellate court favorable to the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

    NorthJersey.com, Booker: Sale of Nets is imminent
    By John Brennan

    Newark Mayor Cory Booker predicts that a sale of the Nets is imminent — but he worries that investors in Kansas City and Seattle may prove fierce competition to his goal of seeing the Nets move to the Prudential Center.

    Speaking on Newark radio station WBGO-FM last night, Booker took a call from “Bob,” a former Teaneck resident who inquired about the likelihood of the Nets moving to Brooklyn. The Nets have insisted, in the face of widespread criticism based on the shaky lending environment, that they will break ground on a Brooklyn arena this summer and move into it in the fall of 2011.

    Booker — saying he was “going to go way out on a limb here and let you know maybe more than I should” — replied that he is “confident now more than ever that the deal in Brooklyn is just not going anywhere. I think there’s going to be a comeuppance very soon where the team is going to go up for sale. That’s my prediction. I really do believe it.

    “I’ve watched the deal very closely. I know people involved in the deal, and it does not look like it’s going anywhere in Brooklyn.”


    Opponents of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project — which includes the Nets’ proposed arena as a cornerstone — suffered a legal setback in the ruling today that Ratner cited. A four-judge Appellate Court panel unanimously denied the opponents’ petition to prevent New York state from using eminent domain if necessary to acquire the remaining land parcels at the 22-acre project site.


    Candace Carpenter, attorney for the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn activist group, agreed with Booker about the prospects of the Nets moving to that borough.

    “Forest City Ratner may claim, like the boy who cried wolf, that they will break ground soon,” Carpenter said. “But they won’t — they are unable to do so.”

    Fanhouse, Newark Mayor Suggests Nets Could Be Up for Sale, Moved Soon

    Newark and the Nets have an uneasy relationship right now. The Nets, waiting for Brooklyn, play in the contemptible IZOD Center, a cavernous, inconveniently located mess, up in East Rutherford. Newark has a shiny new gym, the Prudential Center, home of the Devils and (occasionally) the JoBros. Newark would like the Nets to spend some time at Prudential until Atlantic Yards in the BK is ready. The Nets don't like that idea.

    As such, the folks in Newark -- particularly mayor Cory Booker -- have fired cannonballs at Bruce Ratner and the Nets franchise, pushing the "Brooklyn ain't happening, so move to Newark!" storyline hard. Booker turned up the dial quite a bit this week by publicly predicting Ratner will be putting the Nets up for sale soon.

    Posted by steve at 7:39 AM

    It Came From the Blogosphere...

    Gothamist, Ratner Relieved After Court Dismisses Atlantic Yards Lawsuit

    After a state appellate court rejected a lawsuit stopping his Atlantic Yards project, developer Bruce Ratner says that ground will be broken sometime this year (maybe this summer, maybe this fall). He told the NY Times, "I’m honestly overjoyed. This is a weight off my back." A group of property owners in the footprint of the massive project had claimed eminent domain was improperly used to obtain land; the appellate court unanimously rejected the challenge, finding, "It cannot be said that the public benefits which the Atlantic Yards project is expected to yield are incidental or pretextual in comparison to the benefit that will be bestowed upon the project’s private developer." Still, the opponents, who believe Ratner will profit much more than the public will benefit (and who have helped stall the plans for two years), vow to take their case to the Court of Appeals. The Daily News notes, "The decision allows Ratner to qualify for tax-free bonds to build the arena and the go-ahead to purchase the MTA-owned rail yard on which it will be built."

    NetsDaily, NetsDaily Off-Season Report #5

    The long Atlantic Yards saga continued this week, and while it may seem that the Appellate Court ruling is just another step in the process, it isn’t. It is by far the most significant court victory Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corp. have achieved.

    It opens the way for the ESDC to close the deal with Ratner and begin the eminent domain proceedings, condemning the property that Ratner doesn’t control in the arena “footprint”. How quickly is the issue. The corporation could very well move soon and let the critics try to stop them.

    There is still one other legal challenge out there, but it’s even less likely to win favor at the appellate Courts. Moreover, Ratner’s people told the Post that they believe property condemnation–and construction–can proceed while that case continues. The critics disagree. Of course, critics can file more lawsuits, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a court would put a hold on eminent domain while those cases wind it way through the legal process. There’s also another issue. Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the project’s most aggressive opponent, is not exactly flush with cash and each loss hurts its fund-raising efforts. It put out a call for donations immediately after the Appellate Court ruling.


    Of course, the next big step in the arena process is raising the $500 million needed to built it, part of which will have to come from the pockets of the Nets’ ownership group, and part from lenders, perhaps even other investors. Goldman Sachs and Barclays Bank are the lead investment bankers and Net officials say they are confident they can raise the money needed, even in this economic environment.

    We shall see.

    Big Apple Sports, Playing Catchup


    The Nets, really? In May? Yup…because THE NETS ARE ACTUALLY GOING TO BROOKLN!

    No seriously, just check this out from the AP:

    Developer Bruce Ratner says he is ready to break ground on a Brooklyn arena for the New Jersey Nets this year after an appeals court struck down a challenge to his Atlantic Yards project.

    Ratner says he plans to begin building the $800 million arena this year after issuing bonds to finance the project this fall.

    The state Supreme Court’s appellate division on Friday struck down an opponents’ lawsuit that sought to stop the state from using eminent domain to seize property where the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project is slated to be built.

    I guess this means the Nets will be the hot new attraction in the NBA and a new player in the LeBron James sweepstakes.

    The opponents say they will appeal.


    Posted by steve at 7:21 AM

    Futher Coverage of Eminent Domain Ruling

    Since the ruling by a New York state appellate court in favor of the Empire State Development Corporation was announced on a Friday, additional press coverage appeared over Saturday. The tone of the coverage ranged from total acceptance of Bruce Ratner's prediction to build to this year to a possibility that could happen.

    AP Via Yahoo Sports, Ratner: NY arena project breaks ground this year

    Developer Bruce Ratner says he is ready to break ground on a Brooklyn arena for the New Jersey Nets this year after an appeals court struck down a challenge to his Atlantic Yards project.

    Ratner says he plans to begin building the $800 million arena this year after issuing bonds to finance the project this fall.

    The state Supreme Court’s appellate division on Friday struck down an opponents’ lawsuit that sought to stop the state from using eminent domain to seize property where the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project is slated to be built.

    The opponents say they will appeal.The $4 billion project includes an office tower and more than 15 apartment buildings.

    Opposition lawsuits and financing difficulties have delayed the project for years.

    TransWorldNews, Brooklyn Arena Cleared for Construction after Court Challenge Struck Down

    The future home of the New Jersey Nets is set for construction after an appeals court ruled the Brooklyn arena could break ground following the dismissal of a challenge by opponents.

    The Atlantic Yards project, to be developed by Bruce Ratner, has been delayed for several years as lawsuits have been filed to block the $4 billion venture that would include 15 apartment buildings and an office tower in addition to the arena.

    Ratner plans to begin construction on the $800 million Brooklyn arena later this year. Opponents had filed a lawsuit that challenged the state’s use of eminent domain to seize property for the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project.

    The Sports Network, Nets closer to breaking ground on Brooklyn arena

    The New Jersey Nets may have moved a step closer to breaking ground on a new basketball arena in Brooklyn, thanks to a judicial decision made last week.

    The Appellate Division of New York's State Supreme Court, Second Judicial Department, unanimously rejected an opponent's lawsuit that challenged the state's use of eminent domain to seize property for the arena.

    According to a New York Times report, the 20,000-seat arena that the Nets would use is a part of a 22-acre development project, which includes apartments and an office tower, called Atlantic Yards. The project is headed by developer Bruce Ratner, the Nets' principal owner.

    The decision, which was made Tuesday and announced Friday, said "the condemnation does not violate the Public Use clause of the New York Constitution because it cannot be said that the public benefits which the Atlantic Yards project is expected to yield are incidental or pretextual in comparison to the benefit that will be bestowed upon the project's private developer."

    Opponents have delayed the proposed plan in the last several years, arguing that taking the property violated the Public Use clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They asserted that the public uses of the development were pretexts for Ratner's private benefit.

    The Times' report said Ratner, planned to break ground on the $800 million arena by October, and that he was "overjoyed." However, it also quoted an opponent as saying the legal battle was not over.

    Newsday, Ruling puts Ratner closer to Nets' Brooklyn Arena
    By Mark Macyk

    Developer Bruce Ratner's plans to bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn is a step closer to reality after a state appeals court dismissed a major challenge to his long-delayed Atlantic Yards project on Friday.

    Ratner, the CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, said he hopes to break ground on the $800-million dollar Barclay Center by October. The planned 20,000-seat arena would be the first part of a 22-acre development at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. Along with the arena, the $4-billion project will include an office tower and more than 6,000 apartments with as many as 2,250 for low and middle-income families. Ratner said he hoped to build the first residential building six to nine months after starting the arena.

    In a unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court's appellate division upheld a lower-court ruling that rejected a challenge to the state's use of eminent domain to obtain properties. "It cannot be said that the public benefits which the Atlantic Yards project is expected to yield are incidental or pretextual in comparison to the benefit that will be bestowed upon the project's private developer," the ruling said.

    The opposition, which has yet to win a lawsuit but has delayed the project for over two years, vowed to continue to fight and expressed doubt over whether Ratner would get the financing he needs in such uncertain economic times. Ratner, the CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, said he hopes to raise the funds for the project by issuing bonds.

    Posted by steve at 6:17 AM

    Atlantic Yards YES! Libraries, NO!!

    The City of New York was able to give Developer Bruce Ratner $100 million to acquire private property in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards project - a number that just happens to be the budget for the Brooklyn Public Library.

    Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Drastic Cutbacks Are Expected at Brooklyn Public Library

    Looking at a $17.5 million cut in city funding, the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) could face hefty lay-offs and stiff cuts in hours and service.

    If the mayor’s proposed executive budget is adopted, it will represent an almost 20 percent reduction in BPL’s overall budget of $100 million. This would translate into lay-offs of approximately 175 staff members, which is one out of every six full-time employees, says BPL’s Marketing and Communications Director Stephanie Arck.

    The fifth largest library system in the country, BPL will also have to enact huge cuts in the library’s operating hours. Most neighborhood libraries would only be open five hours a day, five days a week. The six-day service that is now universal in the libraries will only remain at 15 of the 60 libraries in the system. “It’s enormous. This is the biggest cut in service since 2001,” said Arck.

    Posted by steve at 6:00 AM

    May 16, 2009

    Atlantic Yards Report: Media Attention Deficiency

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Media coverage, or, rather, the lack of it, has had a significant effect on the Atlantic Yards fight. Norman Oder illustrates in this morning's entries.

    Reading the dailies on the eminent domain case: questions about groundbreaking, appeal timing, Gehry's role

    When Atlantic Yards news breaks, the media outlets have a hard time being accurate, because none of them cover this story on an ongoing basis. Norman Oder surveys coverage in light of yesterday's ruling on the State eminent domain case.

    Answers to these questions, and more, are covered.

    OK, so when does Bruce Ratner promise a groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards arena? This summer, according to the New York Daily News; in September (which could be this summer), according to the New York Post; or in October, according to the New York Times. This year, according to an official statement.(available on the Barclays Center site but not yet the Atlantic Yards site).

    Why does it matter? First, it suggests that Ratner can't get his story straight. Second, it assumes a certain time frame for a decision regarding an appeal of the eminent domain case announced yesterday.

    Perhaps most importantly, it allows Ratner, at least for now, to continue to promise that the arena would open for the 2011-2012 season. I think that's highly unlikely, because Ratner already suggested the arena would take 30 months to build, and the environmental review said 32 months, but it's remotely possible that a stripped-down design could be completed faster.

    The state of legal battle:

    Plaintiffs' attorney Matt Brinckerhoff left open the possibility that current legal cases could be cleared by the fall: "At a minimum, if we lose every single thing imaginable, it's still going to take them four to six months," he told the Daily News. That would then lead to the effort to exercise eminent domain by the Empire State Development Corporation.

    But if the eminent domain case appeal is heard, it could slow things down for another two years. That's important, because Forest City Ratner has until the end of the year to see tax-exempt bonds issued to fund arena construction, a savings of well over $100 million.


    What about the pending request for an appeal in the case challenging the AY environmental review? The Post reports: There is also a suit pending challenging whether the state conducted a proper environmental review before approving Atlantic Yards, but Ratner's staff said it feels construction could still begin while that case remains under appeal. Opponents, however, said they disagree.

    Perhaps construction work might be able to go forward, but would bonds be approved (via a local development corporation set up by the Empire State Development Corporation) before that case was cleared? If that case goes forward and is successful, a revised environmental impact statement might be required, so the ESDC might want to wait until the case is resolved.

    Wherefore art thou, Gehry?

    So, is Frank Gehry still on the project? According to the Post: Ratner said a revised arena plan would be released at a later date and promised it would still be a Gehry-design that's top-notch.

    According to the Times: He has also said he wants to pare the projected $1 billion cost of the arena by about $200 million. He said he would decide within 60 days whether to keep the original design, by the architect Frank Gehry, or use another.

    Gehry's participation is important, because the arena has been sold to sponsors as a Frank Gehry arena. Should Gehry no longer be involved, presumably they would be able to renegotiate their level of support. I predict that some hybrid will emerge, with Gehry's name--if not his and his firm's ongoing participation--attached to the arena.

    Arena costs and why you should care:

    The price tag had previously been stated at $950 million. Trimming $200 million would bring it to $750 million. Previously, the Times had reported that Ratner wanted to cut the price tag in half, and in February I expressed skepticism, pointing out that an arena in Orlando, where construction costs are much lower, has a $480 million price tag.

    The cost is important because, the higher the price tag, the larger the amount of PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) and the larger amount of foregone property taxes. And that means that the arena site would have to be assessed--in echoes of the Yankee Stadium controversy--so the value is high enough to generate those PILOTs. Stay tuned for that controversy to emerge.

    Who's planning to build what?

    The Forest City Ratner press release stated: FCRC expects to start at least one residential building during the first phase of construction.

    Only one? There initially were supposed to be four buildings around the arena, and another building at Site 5. The City Funding Agreement suggests that the developer can meet obligations without penalty by building three towers within 12 years after the exercise of eminent domain.

    The Lopez-Sander dust-up, Ratner lobbying, and the Weinstein case: why so little coverage?

    Have you been reading a lot lately about how Vito Lopez was behind pushing out MTA head Lee Sander or how Forest City Ratner spent enormous sums lobbying for it's standstill project or what the court decision for Henry Weinstein means for the proposed Atlantic Yards project? Probably not, because New York papers are largely ignoring these stories.

    "Society doesn’t need newspapers," wrote Clay Shirky recently. "What we need is journalism."


    While not everyone agrees--newspapers, at their best, offer a menu of coverage a reader might not seek out--Shirky's argument got a boost this week..

    That's because the New York Times and New York Post ignored the New York Daily News's scoop that Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez may have been behind the ouster of generally-respected Metropolitan Transportation Authority Executive Director Elliott (Lee) Sander.


    And what about Forest City Ratner's lobbying? It didn't quite make the Top Ten last year in New York state, but the developer did have the third-largest contract, which is notable, given that no construction proceeded but the developer surely was seeking indirect subsidies (or even direct ones).

    That news didn't make it into last week's editions of the Brooklyn Paper or the Courier-Life chain, but that wasn't surprising, given that the news broke at or after those newspapers' deadlines.

    What about this week? Nope.


    An appellate court's decisions in favor of Atlantic Yards footprint landowner Henry Weinstein, who charged that his tenant, developer Shaya Boymelgreen, had improperly transferred a lease (to a building and parking lot) to Forest City Ratner, got a very brief article in the Courier-Life and hasn't yet been covered in the Brooklyn Paper.

    Posted by steve at 8:39 AM

    B'klyn Arena Victor Ratner: We're Ready To Dig

    New York Post
    By Rich Calder

    This article likes to take all of Bruce Ratner's claims at face value. The Nets playing in Brooklyn by 2011-12? Don't hold your breath. Also repeated are promises for affordable housing and jobs which would appear in the distant future, if ever.

    After scoring a huge court victory yesterday, developer Bruce Ratner says he'll break ground on Brooklyn's embattled Atlantic Yards project this September -- and may even have the Nets playing there by the 2011-12 season.

    An appellate panel in Manhattan unanimously ruled to give the state the green light to seize private property on Ratner's behalf, so construction can begin on a $4 billion project in Prospect Heights that's been heavily delayed by mounting litigation since getting state approval in Dec. 2006.

    The four-member panel determined the project has enough "public benefits" -- such as the creation of 2,250 affordable housing units and thousands of jobs -- to warrant condemning land. Opponents, however, say the 22-acre project footprint isn't "blighted" as Ratner and the state contend, so using eminent domain would be unconstitutional.


    Posted by steve at 8:14 AM

    Ruling could put Ratner's Atlantic Yards project back on track

    Daily News
    By Jotham Sederstrom

    Bruce Ratner says he has cleared the "last hurdle", although, with an appeal promised, another appeal pending and an economy that will make financing an arena difficult, he hasn't.

    Developer Bruce Ratner scored a major victory Friday in his plan to build a Nets basketball arena in Brooklyn.

    Ratner vowed to break ground this summer on the massive Atlantic Yards development, which also includes residential towers.

    "We're very, very happy," Ratner told the Daily News Friday, hours after the court victory. "This is really the last hurdle that we have and now we can do what our company does best and build an arena and houses."

    A panel of four New York appellate judges ruled that Forest City Ratner's use of eminent domain to take private property to build a new home for the Nets does not violate the state Constitution.

    State officials believe the ruling, one of more than a dozen favoring Forest City Ratner since 2005, removes the final obstacle to construction.

    Foes of the project said they would appeal - possibly delaying the project from several months to three years.


    Posted by steve at 6:58 AM

    Appeals Court Dismisses Suit Against Atlantic Yards

    The NY Times
    By Charles V. Bagli

    An hour after learning that a state appeals court had dismissed a major challenge to his long-delayed Atlantic Yards development project, the developer Bruce C. Ratner said he planned to break ground by October on an $800 million basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets in Brooklyn.

    The 20,000-seat arena is only one piece of a proposed 22-acre development at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues that would include an office tower and more than 6,000 apartments, including as many as 2,250 for low- and middle-income families.

    Given the anemic economy, the housing and the commercial building may have to wait for some time. But Mr. Ratner said he planned to complete the design for the arena, obtain final government approvals and issue the bonds for the project by fall.


    Opponents of Atlantic Yards vowed to continue their fight and expressed skepticism that Mr. Ratner would get the financing at a time when lenders are refusing to invest in real estate projects. The opposition has yet to win a lawsuit, but it has delayed the project for more than two years.

    In its unanimous decision, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, Second Judicial Department, upheld a lower court ruling rejecting a challenge to the state’s use of eminent domain to obtain properties for the developer from owners unwilling to sell. “It cannot be said that the public benefits which the Atlantic Yards project is expected to yield are incidental or pretextual in comparison to the benefit that will be bestowed upon the project’s private developer,” the ruling said.

    Candace Carponter, the legal director for one of the opponents, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, expressed disappointment but not defeat. “The benefits the original project allegedly offered were negligible, at best, and with the changed economy they are now nonexistent,” she said in a statement. “Despite this setback, our fight against the improper use of eminent domain and against the Atlantic Yards project is far from over. Forest City Ratner may claim again, like the boy who cried wolf, that they will break ground soon. But they won’t.”


    NoLandGrab: The Times seems confused regarding where this case originates. This decision is not upholding a lower court ruling. This case originated with the court that issued the ruling.

    Posted by steve at 6:55 AM

    It Came From the Blogosphere...

    Not Another F*cking Blog, Atlantic Yards one step closer to reality?

    Unfortunately, Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) was dismissed by a state appellate court in an unanimous opinion. Norman Oder (producer of the always comprehensive Atlantic Yards Report) breaks it down here.

    Although this setback wasn’t surprising or unexpected, it’s still disappointing.

    This dismissal doesn’t mean that shovels will be in the ground any time soon near what might be center court. The almost certain appeal of this decision, in addition to the upcoming State Senate public hearing, not to mention the not-so-small problem of actually finding the money to build a $4 billion development in this climate, among other hurdles, will keep things pretty quiet here in the footprint for the foreseeable near future.

    Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Breaking: Appelate Court Rules Against Home, Business Owners and Tenants in Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Lawsuit

    At a time when many local politicians and citizens would likely describe Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project as the biggest real estate boondoggle in NYC development history, a New York State Appellate Division (Second Department) panel of 4 judges ruled against nine Brooklyn homeowners, business owners and tenants who had filed a lawsuit to stop New York State from seizing their homes and businesses by eminent domain to benefit developer Bruce Ratner for his indeterminate and uncertain development proposal known as Atlantic Yards in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. (The ruling in Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation is here.)

    The plaintiffs will appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeals.

    Posted by steve at 6:36 AM

    May 15, 2009

    Court Rules Against Tenants, Owners in Eminent Domain Case. Plaintiffs Will Go To Court of Appeals

    Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

    DDDB prefaces the posting of the press release they issued earlier today with this appeal:

    To all of DDDB's supporters. Please help continue to financially support the legal defense of the homes and businesses of your neighbors, as they challenge the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards in the appeal stage.

    You can donate online (or find out how to donate by mail) at: www.dddb.net/donate.


    Posted by eric at 5:12 PM

    Goldstein et al v. New York State Urban Development Corporation in the news

    NY Observer, Court Rebuffs Atlantic Yards Opponents as Legal Options Narrow

    Developer Bruce Ratner has won another victory in his undying attempt to bring the Nets to Brooklyn as part of the $4 billion mixed-use project, Atlantic Yards. In a decision posted online on Friday, landowners and tenants were rebuffed by the state appellate court in a case that contested the use of eminent domain for the project (the case was against New York State, not Mr. Ratner himself).

    Of course, at this point a court victory for Mr. Ratner’s Forest City Ratner is nothing surprising, as it has defeated numerous legal challenges contested in both federal and state court, which have been appealed repeatedly. But more than anything else, the decision amplifies the ticking clock for critics and opponents, as Forest City needs to complete the deal with the state for the project by the end of the year in order to qualify for tax-exempt financing on the Nets arena (without the tax-free financing, its cost would rise substantially, further placing into doubt the project's viability).

    BrooklynPaper.com, Nothing but net: Ratner wins a big one!

    Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner won an important court victory against nine property owners inside the project’s footprint who had argued that the state Constitution bars the use of eminent domain for any development that includes luxury housing.

    Ratner reveled in today’s unanimous decision by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, saying it would allow construction on the long-awaited basketball arena to begin later this year.

    NoLandGrab: Bruce's bosses out in Cleveland earlier this week announced they don't "anticipate commencing any new vertical development in the near term," and we don't think they expected to lose this court decision.

    Crain's NY Business, Atlantic Yards wins key legal victory

    In the decision, the court ruled that the developer’s private benefit from the construction of Atlantic Yards does not outweigh the overall public benefit. Forest City said it is the 23rd ruling in its favor regarding the massive project which includes the Nets sports arena and residential buildings.

    NLG: Notice they're no longer using the word "consecutive" after "23rd," given the setback the Appellate Division dealt them earlier this week in a suit over Henry Weinstein's Prospect Heights property.

    “We’re thrilled with today’s decision,” said Forest City Chief Executive Bruce Ratner, in a statement, adding that he is confident that the $4 billion project would break ground this year. “This significant victory keeps Atlantic Yards moving forward. We are ready to get started.”

    NLG: Oh, are they, now.

    According to Mr. Ratner the arena and larger development are expected to create 16,924 direct jobs and over 30,000 indirect jobs. The tax revenues that will be generated for the City and State during the construction period are expected to exceed $240 million and after construction reach approximately $70 million a year.

    NLG: Either Crain's misheard Mr. Ratner, or Mr. Ratner's figures are suffering from hyperinflation.

    Runnin' Scared, Atlantic Yards Resists Court Challenge; More to Come

    Curbed, Atlantic Yards Master of its Domain

    Nets Daily, Atlantic Yards Wins Big Victory in State Court

    Posted by eric at 4:47 PM

    Atlantic Yards residents?

    Photo, Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool/Not Another F*cking Blog!.

    remnants of the Ward Bread Bakery
    Pacific Street near Vanderbilt Avenue
    Prospect Heights
    Brooklyn, New York

    Posted by eric at 3:42 PM

    Forest City warns SEC of potential new delays, new costs, and failure to meet (tax-exempt bond?) deadlines

    Atlantic Yards Report

    The specter of the Securities and Exchange Commission makes Forest City much more circumspect in its regulatory filings than it is in its press releases, and the prospectus issued this week in conjunction with its announced sale of new stock introduces heretofore unseen language cautioning about downside risks to the company's Atlantic Yards project.

    On April 2 I pointed out that Forest City Enterprises, in its Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Corporation (SEC), acknowledged 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.

    A new Prospectus filed Wednesday in association with the issuance of 40 million new shares adds several new warnings. I've bolded the new or changed text.


    Posted by eric at 3:11 PM

    Eminent domain case is dismissed unanimously; appeal in this and EIS case remain as last legal hurdles

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder analyzes today's Atlantic Yards court decision.

    The Atlantic Yards eminent domain case was always a long shot in state court (even more so than in federal court), and today a state appellate court dismissed Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in an unanimous opinion.

    In New York State, an appellate court, rather than a trial court, hears eminent domain cases, and no testimony or cross-examination is allowed.

    The straightforward language of the 16-page decision, which gave no quarter to the petitioners' claims, contrasted with the appellate decision in the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental impact statement (EIS), which took pains to express some skepticism about the project and featured a concurrence that sounded like a dissent.

    Appeal issue

    Eminent domain law in New York State gives unusual deference to the government condemnor. A major issue raised in legal briefs and the February oral argument is whether the defendant ESDC conducted a study to measure the relative benefit to developer Forest City Ratner.

    In legal papers, the ESDC claimed it had done so, though it cited a document that didn't perform such a measure. In court, the ESDC lawyer said it wasn't necessary, and the court agreed.

    Plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff said today, “The court’s logic is faulty. The private benefit to Ratner was never compared with the alleged public benefit because no one knew or cared to ask Ratner whether he would make billions, tens of billions or hundreds of billions. The ESDC has conceded that it had no idea how much money will be made by Ratner when it agreed to seize my clients’ homes and businesses on his behalf."

    The nine petitioners, organized and funded by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, will appeal to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, and say that they have the right to appeal without asking permission.

    Update: Brinckerhoff said that the state Constitution and the Civil Practice Law and Rules allow the right to appeal when a case raises a constitutional question. That's been interpreted to mean a "substantial contitutional question." He said "we have multiple substantial constitutional questions, which gives us the right to appeal." However, he acknowledged, if the Court of Appeals disagrees, it could reject the appeal and require the petitioners to ask the Appellate Division to file a motion for leave, which would be discretionary. "I have a high degree of optimism [that the Court of Appeals would hear it], but I can't guarantee it," he said.

    Such an initial request for leave to appeal is still pending in the case challenging the EIS. It could take several months--likely until the fall, given the courts' summer recess--for final appeals to be denied, and it would take much longer should the appeals be accepted. If the latter, there could be two more years of delay.


    Posted by eric at 2:52 PM

    DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Court Rules Against Home, Business Owners and Tenants in Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Lawsuit

    Plaintiffs Will Ask the Court of Appeals to Stop New York State From Seizing Their Properties to Enrich Bruce Ratner

    BROOKLYN, NY— A New York State Appellate Division* (Second Department) panel of 4 judges ruled against nine Brooklyn homeowners, business owners and tenants who had filed a lawsuit to stop New York State from seizing their homes and businesses by eminent domain to benefit developer Bruce Ratner for his indeterminate and uncertain development proposal known as Atlantic Yards in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. (The ruling in Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation is here.)

    The plaintiffs will appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeals.

    In the decision, the court wrote: “We find that, on the record in this case, the condemnation does not violate the Public Use clause of the New York Constitution because it cannot be said that the public benefits which the Atlantic Yards project is expected to yield are incidental or pretextual in comparison to the benefit that will be bestowed upon the project’s private developer.

    “The court’s logic is faulty. The private benefit to Ratner was never compared with the alleged public benefit because no one knew or cared to ask Ratner whether he would make billions, tens of billions or hundreds of billions. The ESDC has conceded that it had no idea how much money will be made by Ratner when it agreed to seize my clients’ homes and businesses on his behalf. There is ample evidence that the public benefits are minor compared to the enormous benefits for Ratner,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff. “We have the right to appeal directly to the State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, which we will do, so that Court can determine that the New York Constitution’s Public Use Clause provides greater protection to its citizens than the federal constitution.”

    Developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) cannot build its beleaguered, $4 billion Atlantic Yards development proposal, including the billion-dollar Barclays Center arena, unless New York State seizes the plaintiffs’ properties on behalf of Bruce Ratner and it secures financing. FCR has been unable to attain the financing for the project or pay for the rail yard portion of the project site. The developer does not own or control** the land the needs to build the project, including the arena. The project has not started construction, and the developer halted all preliminary work in December 2008. Two days ago Cleveland-based parent company Forest City Enterprises stated that the developer will not start any new vertical development “in the near term.”

    “We’re disappointed in the ruling, but are optimistic that the Court of Appeals will see the importance of setting clear boundaries between constitutional and unconstitutional uses of eminent domain in New York State. The benefits the original project allegedly offered were negligible, at best, and with the changed economy they are now non-existent. Despite this setback, our fight against the improper use of eminent domain and against the Atlantic Yards project is far from over,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn legal director Candace Carponter. “Forest City Ratner may claim again, like the boy who cried wolf, that they will break ground soon. But they won’t; they are unable to do so.”

    The initial complaint to the Court, all the briefs, and today’s ruling for Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation can be downloaded at: www.dddb.net/eminentdomain.

    * Note: The ruling today is on the initial case, not an appeal. The ruling comes from the Appellate Division because New York State law requires that all eminent domain challenges must be initiated in the Appellate Court, rather than the lower court—the Supreme Court.

    **Note: Just last week FCR lost control of an additional 1+ acres of property in the project site, when they lost a case to property owner, and plaintiff on this eminent domain case, Henry Weinstein. Within the proposed 22-acre project site, Ratner only owns or controls about 6-7 acres.

    Note: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, in its effort to defend the homes and businesses of members of our community, and to advocate for their rights, organized the eminent domain lawsuit, and raises the funds to support it.

    RELATED NEWS: In two weeks the New York State Senate will probe the Atlantic Yards project. Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (the State agency overseeing the project) will be testifying in the first State Senate public hearing on the Atlantic Yards project scheduled for May 29th in Brooklyn. More details here.

    Posted by eric at 1:31 PM

    Question time: New format helps reveal candidates’ traits — and car ownership!

    The Brooklyn Paper
    by Thomas Tracy and Gersh Kuntzman

    Atlantic Yards worked its way into a forum this week featuring candidates running for the City Council seat in the 33rd district.

    Ken Diamondstone and Evan Thies immediately turned their attention to front-runner Jo Anne Simon, with Diamondstone taking her to task for her approach to the much-reviled Atlantic Yards project. Simon co-founded Brooklyn Speaks, a group that wants to change Bruce Ratner’s project, rather than backing Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which wants to take the project out of Ratner’s hands entirely.

    Simon responded that there are many approaches to fixing Atlantic Yards.


    Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

    BREAKING NEWS: NYS Appellate Court dismisses Atlantic Yards eminent domain lawsuit

    We just got word that the Appellate Division, 2nd Department has dismissed the New York State court challenge to the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project, Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation.

    We'll have more news as the story develops.

    Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

    Eminent domain expert: AY EIS decision deserves an Oscar for "approving a litigation outcome while holding the judicial noses"

    Atlantic Yards Report

    In February, when a state appellate court ruled against a challenge to the Atlantic Yards environmental review, I noted that the majority "took pains to express some skepticism about the project" and Justice James Catterson offered "a concurrence that had the tone of a dissent."

    Gideon Kanner, an emeritus professor of law at Loyola University in Los Angeles and a veteran eminent domain litigator and critic, took a much bigger swing, in a post on his Gideon's Trumpet blog headlined It’s Oscar Time for their New York Lordships:
    Since we write a stone’s throw from Tinseltown, we tend to award Oscars for outstanding performance, and the New York judiciary has just turned in a breathtaking bravura performance that calls for such recognition. The Oscar for writing an opinion approving a litigation outcome while holding the judicial noses, goes to the New York Appellate Division, First Department, for its virtuoso performance in Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn v. Urban Development Corp.


    Here's Kanner's original post:

    Gideon's Trumpet, It’s Oscar Time for their New York Lordships

    No comment appears necessary, except perhaps to tell New Yorkers who may be reading this blog, that next time some politician — black-robed or otherwise — starts pontificfating about “judicial independence,” remind him of this opinion in which the judges recognized that there was no basis for their decision, but they rendered one in favor of the condemnor anyway in a sort of a the-devil-made-us-do-it performance.

    Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

    Newark Mayor Booker predicts Brooklyn deal will die: "I think there's going to be a comeuppance very soon"

    Atlantic Yards Report

    With this week's revelation that Forest City will not be "commencing any new vertical development in the near term," could Nets-to-Newark be the next big news?

    Three weeks ago on the WBGO radio show Newark Today with Mayor Cory Booker, the mayor asserted, "I believe the project in Brooklyn is not going to work," and in last night's show Booker expressed even more confidence in that prediction, again arguing for the Nets to move to Newark's Prudential Center.

    The action began at about 47:50 with a New Jersey-born caller from New York named Bob.

    CB: Bob, you're from New York, are you from Brooklyn?

    Bob: No, I'm from Manhattan.

    CB: OK, 'cause I'm trying to get those Nets from Brooklyn.

    Bob: What is the status of the negotiations to keep the Nets in New Jersey and more particularly to move them to Newark?

    CB: I'm going to go way out on a limb here and let you know maybe more than I should... I am confident now more than ever that the deal in Brooklyn is just not going anywhere. I think there's going to be a comeuppance very soon where the team is going to go up for sale. That's my prediction--I really do believe it.


    NoLandGrab: "Let you know maybe more than [he] should?" What does Cory Booker know?

    Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

    In Ombudsman's response, ESDC maintains dubious timetable, says Carlton Ave. Bridge might reopen for pedestrians

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Atlantic Yards Ombudsman Forrest Taylor has responded with the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) answers to several questions raised at Taylor's February 11 public appearance in Brooklyn sponsored by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN).

    In one case, at least, the official ESDC answer--that construction would be completed during the ten-year timeframe set out in the General Project Plan (GPP)--contradicts ESDC CEO Marisa Lago's acknowledgment last month that the project would take decades.

    So I think any further claim of a ten-year timetable should be backed up not merely by a construction schedule--which indicates technical possibility--but by a "probabilistic" date that indicates what might go wrong.

    The ESDC, in its answers, does not offer much in the way of compromise, except for being willing to entertain the option of temporarily reopening the Carlton Avenue Bridge for pedestrians.

    CBN shared the document with me. I've bolded the questions and put the answers in italic, all verbatim, then interpolated some of my own comments.

    Click through to the article for the questions and (mostly) non-answers.

    Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

    It came from the Blogosphere...

    Runnin' Scared, Atlantic Yards Continues to Not Get Built

    If you're wondering what's going on with the troubled Atlantic Yards development project, the answer is nothing much and nothing good for developer Forest City Ratner. Back in 2007 a judge ruled that the way a long-term tenant of Henry Weinstein's Pacific Street building transfered his lease to Ratner -- a ploy to get the property for Ratner's Atlantic Yards project -- was illegal. That ruling was upheld on appeal this week, and Weinstein given the right to sue for damages. Ratner's stock has fallen 12 percent, and Ratner is issuing a stock split to raise money.

    NoLandGrab: It's not technically a stock split, because that would not dilute the value of current shares.

    Stick News, 752 Pacific Street Owner Looking for $25 Mil in Damages

    While some Atlantic Yards opponents probably think the recent appeals court ruling that Jeshayahu Boymelgreen violated the terms of his lease with the owner of 752 Pacific Street by subletting to Forest City Ratner is priceless, the owner's law firm is being a little more precise in its calculations: It's going to sue for $25 million or so to make up for loss in value since the lease was violated back in 2006, reports Crain's.

    Curbed, Atlantic Yards Oops

    The rightful landlord can evict Boymelgreen and sue the for damages, which exceed $25 million according to the plaintiff's lawyer. Will the guy end up selling to Ratner himself? "My client declined to sell the property to Ratner and has never been desirous of selling his properties," his lawyer says.

    GlobeSt.com, Court Okays Eviction of FCRC, Boymelgreen

    The lead attorney for Weinstein, David Brody, of Borah, Goldstein, Altschuler, Nahins & Godel, PC, tells GlobeSt.com that FCRC’s Bruce Ratner "recorded his option for the assignment of the buildings, then he recorded certain other things and all for purposes of allowing him to represent to the ESDC that he controlled the property in terms of the Atlantic Yards project."

    Standing firm, the ESDC spokesperson tells GlobeSt.com that in fact, FCRC "did not misrepresent its position to ESDC, as it believed it had a valid assignment of Boymelgreen’s lease hold interest in the premises. The courts, however, disagreed."

    Brody tells GlobeSt.com that while his client may not win in the end, the ruling at least provides an opportunity for discovery to see how far up the ladder they can go. "Boymelgreen illegally assigned the lease to Ratner," he says.

    Brody says that under the lease, Weinstein "has the right to go in and inspect his property." But he adds Weinstein has even encountered difficulties when he visited his properties.

    He says that Weinstein’s desire has been to be left alone and to be allowed to own his property and develop it as he sees fit. "That’s what this is really about for him," Brody says.

    Posted by eric at 12:40 AM

    Forest City in the News

    Morningstar.ca, Forest City Issues Shares and Updates 1Q

    Forest City Enterprises FCE.A announced the issuance of 45.5 million Class A common shares priced at $6.60 each with an overallotment option of an additional 6.8 million shares, increasing total share count (including the overallotment) by roughly 51% and Class A share count by 65%. The offering price is accretive to our previous fair value, so we are raising our estimate to account for a slightly lower estimated cost of capital and a reduced probability for a corporate level default.

    Forest City plans to use the nearly $345 million in proceeds to pay down the outstanding balance on its $750 million credit facility, which matures in March 2010. This represents a material reduction in the company's recourse debt, reducing the likelihood of a corporate level default. Still, Forest City has nearly $1.5 billion of maturing debt remaining in 2009 and 2010--a majority of which is nonrecourse and at the property level. In our opinion, these obligations are large enough to give cause for concern. We still think further equity issuance is possible over the next couple of years, as asset sales alone will likely prove insufficient in managing maturing debt and deleveraging the company.

    Crain's Cleveland Business, Forest City Enterprises prices sale of 45.5 million shares

    Forest City said it is in active negotiations toward sales of, or joint ventures involving, about $1.3 billion of assets, representing net after-tax proceeds of about $180 million. The company said it anticipates continuing to pursue more asset sales or joint ventures over the 2009-2012 period.

    Forest City said no definitive agreements have been entered into to date, and no assurance can be given that these asset sales or joint ventures will occur.

    Reuters, Forest City shares tumble after offering announced

    In late morning trade, Forest City shares were down 17.2 percent at $6.22, and were among the top percentage losers on the New York Stock Exchange.

    "We believe the equity raise is part of a multi-step process to deleverage the balance sheet which may also include future dividend reductions and planned asset sales," Goldman Sachs analyst Jonathan Habermann wrote in a research note.

    NY Times Deal Book, Debt-Laden Companies Rush to Sell Stock

    Not surprisingly, the capital-hungry finance and insurance industries are leading the way in offering new stock, accounting for a little more than half of the sales year to date.

    But nonfinance companies such as MGM Mirage, Cliffs Natural Resources, Energizer Holdings and Forest City Enterprises have also lined up in the parade to tap the capital markets.

    Unlike the banks and finance companies, many of which need the additional cash to satisfy the capital requirements from the government’s stress tests, these other companies are generally looking to use the new capital to pay down their increasingly burdensome debt loads, much of which was racked up during the boom times, in some cases to finance deals.

    The Wall St. Journal, Rambus Roars; Stock-Sale Plan Fells Forest City

    Class A shares of Forest City Enterprises (NYSE) fell 1.21, or 16%, to 6.30 as the Cleveland real-estate developer set plans to sell 40 million shares.

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City prices stock offering, expects more than $300 million from sale

    The real estate company, based in Cleveland, released additional details Thursday morning about its plans to issue and sell common shares to raise cash and pay off debt. Forest City said it will sell 45.5 million shares at $6.60 per share, with the option to sell another 6.8 million shares depending on demand.
    The company expects its offering to close Tuesday.
    Facing a crisis in commercial real estate and limited access to new loans, real estate companies including Forest City have been trying to reduce their debts and build up cash.

    Posted by eric at 12:24 AM

    May 14, 2009

    Forest City Ratner mints money with new shares, stock declines only 16%

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Morningstar, which had once called Forest City Enterprises stock worthless but then raised its Fair Value to $4 three weeks ago, today upped its Fair Value estimate to $5.50, even as the developer announced it would sell 45.5 million new Class A shares at $6.60 each.

    Gross proceeds will be about $300 million, or, if underwriters buy an additional 6.8 million shares, $345.3 million.

    The stock closed at $6.30, down 16.11%, a hit to current shareholders but certainly a risk worth taking for the company, given its need to raise money to pay off debt.

    Still, Morningstar issued an analyst's report that said "Forest City's risks outweigh its potential rewards." Analysts tracked by Yahoo are slightly more pessimistic than they were last month and months previous.


    NoLandGrab: That decline of "only" 16% represented the largest one-day drop in FCE-A shares in months. And buyers aren't going to be lining up to buy new shares at $6.60 each if the market is being made at $6.30.

    Posted by eric at 10:46 PM

    Construction delay kills 2011 arena opening, puts even 2012 in doubt

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Let's be clear about the meaning of Forest City Enterprises' quiet acknowledgment that no "vertical development"--including, implicitly, the Atlantic Yards arena--will occur this year.

    [Update 10:25 am: a reader asks if no new development "in the near term" could still encompass starting construction this year? That's not ruled out, but if they were confident they could start this year, they would've said so.]

    If arena construction doesn't begin until 2010, there's no way the arena could open by 2011, which has been the most recent official opening date (though there's been some hedging).

    It's even questionable that the arena could open in 2012. Sure, a 24-month arena construction schedule would allow a 2012 opening, but the Atlantic Yards arena--at least in its earlier incarnation--was supposed to take 30 or 32 months.


    Posted by eric at 2:17 PM

    DDDB Press Release: Atlantic Yards Developer Announces: No New Vertical Development This Year

    Forest City Enterprises Dilutes Existing Shares By Selling 45.5 Million New Shares To Pay Off Debts

    BROOKLYN, NY— Just last week NBA Commissioner David Stern said Forest City Ratner would break ground this summer on the besieged Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn. Or, at least, that is what he has been told by the developer, who last year said they’d break ground in December 2008, and in 2003 said they’d open their arena in 2006.

    Today, announcing the sale of 45.5 million new shares to raise cash to pay off a heavy debt burden, parent company Forest City Enterprises stated in a press release that:

    “…Forest City does not anticipate commencing any new vertical development in the near term…”

    Presumably if they were going to start construction on the arena this summer, or even this year, they would have said so as an exception to their overall construction freeze.

    Forest City Ratner (FCR) continues to maintain that the Barclays Center Arena would open in 2011. But if construction does not start in 2009, that would be impossible, as would a 2012 opening date given stated build out schedules.

    “Currently Forest City Ratner doesn’t own the land it needs to build the arena or the rest of Atlantic Yards, and does not have the financing to build the arena. It appears that the numbers no longer compute to build the arena or affordable housing they once envisioned. The project is also being litigated in two major lawsuits,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “The new stock issued by Forest City Enterprises shows a desperate company in a precarious position with no creditor friends.”


    Apparently banks are reluctant to extend more credit to Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, so the developer issued 45.5 million new shares priced at $6.60. As of noon the market has responded that $6.60 is overpriced, the stock is trading at $6.36 a share and was as low as $6.06. The stock is down about 80% since September.

    Answers from the developer and the Empire State Development Corporation (the State agency overseeing the project) about these and many other questions will hopefully be forthcoming in the first State Senate public hearing on the Atlantic Yards project scheduled for May 29th in Brooklyn.

    Posted by eric at 1:40 PM

    Atlantic Yards developer to sell stock to raise capital for fiscal life-support

    Seeing as how we've been growling at Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner for over five years, we're gonna give you the plain-English bearish analysis of the latest press release from parent company Forest City Enterprises (FCE).

    In what would appear to be an extreme measure, FCE is planning to issue more stock to raise cash in order to help restore its balance sheet.

    Saddled by underperforming assets and a crushing debt burden, during the past year FCE has sold properties, renegotiated some of its loans, and taken steps to cut costs, including multiple rounds of layoffs.

    Apparently, these measures haven't been enough, and now the company is hoping to raise much-needed cash from the equity marketplace, even though (and perhaps, because) banks have been reluctant to extend more credit.

    PR Newswire (press release), Forest City Provides Update on Fiscal 2009 First Quarter
    TradingMarkets.com (press release), Forest City Enterprises To Offer 40 Million Shares
    The Wall Street Journal, Forest City To Sell 40M Shares, Seeks Credit-Line Extension
    The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City to issue, sell 40 million shares to pay off debt
    Bloomberg.com, CommVault, Forest City, MBIA, Whole Foods: U.S. Equity Preview

    Posted by lumi at 6:49 AM

    Forest City Enterprises backs off arena construction pledge, issues 50% more stock to raise money (and dilute value?)

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder's highlights Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises's quiet admission that there will apparently be no groundbreaking for Atlantic Yards this year, and that plans to issue 40 million shares of new stock would dilute current shares by 50%.

    What a difference a month and a half makes:

    Forest City Enterprises, 3/30/09 press release:

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

    Forest City Enterprises, 5/13/09 press release:

    The Company anticipates investing approximately $169 million of equity to satisfy existing completion guaranty obligations on eight projects currently under construction as of January 31, 2009. In addition, although Forest City does not anticipate commencing any new vertical development in the near term, it does anticipate potential capital needs related to existing development opportunities and the preservation of entitlements on a number of long-term projects of approximately $331 million over the course of the next four years. (Emphases added)

    Forest City also announced it would sell 40 million newly issued Class A common shares, with the underwriters allowed to sell an additional 6 million shares. The developer stated:

    Forest City intends to use the net proceeds from the sale to reduce its outstanding borrowings under the Company's $750 million revolving credit facility and, if proceeds remain, for general corporate purposes.

    What Forest City didn't say--and neither the Wall Street Journal nor Cleveland Plain Dealer noticed--is that, as of April 14, there were 80,744,785 shares of Class A Common Stock and 22,686,427 shares of Class B Common Stock, according to the Proxy Statement linked here.

    Oder reports that in after-hours trading, FCE-A shares dropped by 12%, "a suggestion that traders believe the value of the stock would be diluted by the end-of-day announcement."


    NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that the purpose of the "revolving credit facility" is to support day-to-day operations. This is akin to FCE running up its credit cards to the tune of over $400 million.

    Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

    When will MTA get any of FCR’s $100 million? Not yet, so it's worth asking about an alternative fate for the Vanderbilt Yard

    Atlantic Yards Report

    According to publicly available project documents that outline what is/was supposed to happen between the cash-strapped Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner and the financially troubled Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the MTA won't be seeing any cash from the $100,000,000 deal until details for the "construction of temporary and permanent improvements" to the railyard are agreed upon. In addition, the temporary railyard, which was supposed to be under construction according to a license agreement, is now nearly two years late.

    [A] license for temporary yard work signed 2/14/07 states that, if construction of a permanent railyard does not begin within 24 months, the MTA has the option to ask Forest City Ratner "to fully restore the Present VD Yard Functions" and--apparently, though the language is murky--end the deal.

    It's worth asking the MTA whether it renewed the license, and why, or in what circumstances it would restore the railyard functions.

    After all, it's been nearly four years, and the MTA hasn't received the capital funds it expected from the Vanderbilt Yard deal.


    Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

    Weinstein Legal Victory Shows Ratner and Boymelgreen Acted in Bad Faith

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

    Henry Weinstein, who owns 2 large properties in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards project and is a plaintiff on the lawsuit organized by DDDB challenging NY State's right to seize properties by eminent domain for Forest City Ratner's project, also had filed two lawsuits against Forest City and developer Shaya Boymelgreen.

    Weinstein had won those two suits and last week he won the appeals brought by Forest City and Boymelgreen. Boymelgreen's Newswalk property, was suspiciously cut out of the Atlantic Yards land grabbing footprint.

    Crain's NY Business reported:

    According to Mr. Brody, his client had no knowledge that Mr. Boymelgreen had assigned the lease to 752 Pacific Ave. and 535 Carlton Ave. to Forest City until Mr. Weinstein stumbled upon public records about three years ago. In 1999, Mr. Boymelgreen signed a 49-year lease with Mr. Weinstein on the property. In the meantime, Forest City has been falsely claiming in its dealings with the state to build Atlantic Yards that these two properties were under the company’s control, added Mr. Brody.

    No surprises here:

    False claims by Forest City Ratner accepted without question by the state of New York (ESDC)? That's just par for the course.


    Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM



    NY Post

    Atlantic Yards developer and NJ Nets managing owner Bruce Ratner was not named among the best or worst professional sports team owners (implying that there are worse team owners out there).


    NoLandGrab: Wonder how many of the worst owners have plans to take peoples' homes in order to erect 16 high-rise towers and an arena defiantly nestled between historic brownstone neighborhoods.

    Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

    May 13, 2009

    Atlantic Yards project faces fresh hurdle

    Appeals court rulings could complicate life for developer Forest City Ratner

    Crain's NY Business
    by Amanda Fung

    Two New York state appeals court rulings could put a wrench in Forest City Ratner Cos.’s plans to build its sprawling Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

    The recent rulings give Henry Weinstein, a developer who owns almost an acre within the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint, the right to evict the property’s tenant, Brooklyn developer Jeshayahu Boymelgreen and Forest City.

    Forest City was given an illegal assignment to Mr. Weinstein’s properties according to last week’s rulings. The court also said Mr. Weinstein can sue the entities involved in the case for monetary damages. The unanimous decisions reverse a March 2007 decision made by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Ira Harkavy, which allowed Mr. Boymelgreen to remain an occupant despite termination of the lease.

    The decisions were reached last week and announced Wednesday by Mr. Weinstein’s law firm Borah Goldstein Altschuler Nahins & Goidel. The law firm of Herrick Feinstein, which represents Mr. Boymelgreen, did not return a call for comment. A spokesman for Forest City said these rulings will not have an impact on the proposed project.

    “We are now pushing for an eviction,” said David Brody, a senior partner at Borah Goldstein Altschuler Nahins & Goidel, adding the next step will involve asking for a hearing to determine the difference between the present-day value of the property and its value when the lease was terminated in July 2006, so Mr. Weinstein can recoup that money. The value is unknown, however. According to preliminary calculations in the lease, Mr. Weinstein’s damages exceed $25 million, the law firm said.


    NoLandGrab: $25 million seems like a stretch, but hey, we could say the same thing about trying to sell $800 million worth of tax-free bonds to finance an arena in Brooklyn when a perfectly fine arena is available in Newark.

    Posted by eric at 4:45 PM

    Fight night

    The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
    by Mike McLaughlin

    More true crime from Bruce Ratner's formerly crime-free Atlantic Center mall.


    A man trying to break up a brawl outside the Atlantic Center mall was hospitalized after a blow to his head with a glass bottle on May 5.

    Lost their shirts

    A known shoplifter escaped from Old Navy on Atlantic Avenue with 60 shirts on April 30.

    Video surveillance showed the “known booster” loading up with about $1,470 of merchandise at 2:30 pm from the retailer in the Bruce Ratner-owned mall between Fort Greene Place and South Portland Avenue.

    Posted by eric at 4:37 PM

    After MTA chief Sander's departure, will successor be more willing to compromise on Atlantic Yards?

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Word is that Governor Paterson forced MTA Executive Director Elliot (Lee) Sander to resign because he wouldn't play ball with party bosses. Could that mean his replacement will be a yes-man, someone more inclined to renegotiate the terms of the railyard deal with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner?

    [T]he widespread endorsement of Sander's integrity and performance that has surfaced, combined with reports that Sander refused to bow to a patronage-driven pol, may mean his successor will be more willing to compromise with the reported request by Forest City Ratner to restructure the $100 million it owes and the developer's reported effort to build a less elaborate railyard than promised.

    Consider that, on May 8, just before his resignation, Reuters published an article with this tantalizing quote:

    Asked whether the MTA's rail yards in Brooklyn would see a basketball arena next year, part of a residential-office complex planned by developer Forest City Ratner, Sander said only: "I'm not in the arena business."

    However, the MTA's willingness to compromise with Ratner just might help the developer proceed in the arena business. So the Senate should ask the MTA about those payments and about the cheaper railyard.
    Sander was asked [in January] if the MTA would accept a replacement yard with less value. "I'm not sure I really want to engage in negotiations with you about Atlantic Yards," Sander replied. "The MTA has a good track record of being thoughtful and prudent."

    Sander's caution might have been interpreted as showing a willingness to compromise with Ratner. However, given what we've learned in the last few days, it might as likely reflected an effort to not compromise.


    NoLandGrab: Under Sander's leadership, Atlantic Yards did not make the cut for the MTA's list of projects to receive federal stimulus funding, despite Bruce Ratner's heavy-hitting lobbying efforts.

    Posted by lumi at 7:20 AM

    Brooklyn Exchange opening

    BKEX.jpg Produced by architecture and communication design students at Pratt Institute, this exhibition presents downtown Brooklyn’s past, present and future development projects in order to imagine a more creative and just vision for its future.

    Opening Reception: Friday May 15, 6-8 PM


    Metropolitan Exchange
    33 Flatbush Avenue

    2/3/4/5 to Nevins, B/N/R/Q to DeKalb
    A/C/G to Hoyt-Schermerhorn, G to Fulton or B/D/M/N/R/Q/2/3/4/5 to Atlantic Avenue
    Gallery Hours, May 16-June 1, W-Sa, 12-6PM

    Note: This exhibit also addresses some Atlantic Yards issues.

    Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

    Neighbors Use Food Stamps, but Not Costco

    The NY Times
    By Jim Dwyer

    Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner plays a role in another controversy in NYC, this time over the big-box store in its new East River Plaza development that is happy to accept subsidies and use local streets for late-night deliveries, but won't accept food stamps:

    This October, when Costco, the big warehouse chain, opens its first Manhattan store, it will occupy a brand new mall along the East River Drive at 116th Street that has been developed with $55 million in tax-free bonds and grants. The company will be eligible for millions of dollars in tax credits for creating new jobs.

    But there’s one kind of government money Costco won’t take: food stamps.

    That policy effectively cuts off more than 30,000 of its immediate neighbors in East Harlem, who receive food stamps.
    Costco is moving into the site of the old Washburn Wire factory, which shut down decades ago, and is being developed as East River Plaza by a partnership of Forest City Ratner Companies and the Blumenfeld Development Group.

    The project received a $15 million economic development grant, and the city’s Industrial Development Authority issued $40 million in tax-free bonds to pay for a parking garage. The bonds will be paid back by the developer, but the lost tax revenue amounts to $10 million, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office


    Posted by lumi at 6:43 AM

    The Perils of Public-Private

    The NY Observer
    By Eliot Brown

    While the effort to rebuild the World Trade Cetner site has become the poster-project for the pitfalls with public-private development deals — especially when the economy sours and the private partners seek to renegotiate subsidies and contracts — Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject is next in line:

    The imbroglio downtown brings into glaring view a flaw common to public-private development deals in New York, a city where progress on large-scale projects so often proves elusive. Struck in strong economic times under aggressive assumptions, agreements on large government-administrated developments almost inevitably falter when the economy shifts, causing private developers to petition the public sector for new concessions or subsidies to keep the deals alive. The result is a system in which large projects seem to rarely provide the public with the value initially advertised, at least not within the time frame once imagined.

    While the World Trade Center is by all measures an extreme example, with a host of other factors contributing to the mess, this pattern appears again and again in a glance at some of the city’s largest real estate projects on public land in recent years.

    In Brooklyn, at the imperiled $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, developer Forest City Ratner is negotiating with a host of agencies to delay or decrease its hundreds of millions in obligations to the public sector, as the viability of the project is now threatened.


    Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

    WOW factor on Dean St.

    DeanStPent-Corcor.jpg Corcoran's online listing for a penthouse in the Newswalk building tries to sugar coat fact that it is "near" Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project:

    This is the most Dynamic Pent House in the building with a true WOW factor.... Located in Prospect Heights near the proposed Atlantic Yards, which involves the designs of world famous architect Frank Gehry and a stadium for the New Jersey Nets basketball team.


    NoLandGrab: Wow — by "near" they mean actually surrounded by Bruce Ratner's contorversial Atlantic Yards high-rise complex. [Click image to enlarge.]

    Not to nitpick, but a realtor ought to know the difference between a "stadium" and an "arena." Stadiums are bigger, right?

    Posted by lumi at 6:17 AM

    Whither AY affordable housing: how little can they get away with building? Were promises ever realistic?

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder breaks down the affordability of Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" and the possibility that the government will not be able to deliver the subsidies and that it will take decades to happen.

    So the project may have been approved with no inquiry as to whether there would be enough bonds to support Forest City Ratner's plans.

    I can't be certain, but several months ago, I filed a Freedom of Information Law request, asking the ESDC if it had considered the availability of tax-exempt bonds in evaluating Atlantic Yards. I haven't gotten an answer. Each month I get a letter telling me they're still looking for responsive records.

    Maybe the Senate hearing can get some answers.


    Posted by lumi at 6:07 AM

    It came from the Blogosphere...

    Brownstoner, Boymelgreen-Ratner Deal on Pacific Was Indeed "Improper"

    A 2007 Supreme Court ruling that declared a lease deal between the developers Shaya Boymelgreen and Forest City Ratner improper was upheld yesterday by an Appeals Court in Brooklyn.... Now the question is what the impact of the appellate ruling will be.

    mcbrooklyn, Cancel Your Cancun Vacation and Party in Brooklyn, and More Briefs

    — Just one more legal glitch in the way of Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Brooklyn Eagle

    Not Another F*cking Blog, It’s about time: Atlantic Yards gets it’s first State Senate hearing, May 29

    I would have thought/hoped that the Atlantic Yards project would have come under scrutiny years ago, but I suppose it’s better late than never that the State Senate will finally take a close look at this boondoggle.

    Curbed LA, “Conversations With Frank Gehry": NYT Reviews

    Architecture critic Martin Filler, one-time friend of Frank Gehry (he was even asked by Gehry to write his authorized biography), seems to be making amends in his NYTimes review of Barbara Isenberg’s “Conversations With Frank Gehry.” Filler, you may remember, wrote a scathing indictment of Gehry's design for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project in House & Garden in 2007, declaring it would “ruin a racially and economically diverse neighborhood of a sort almost extinct in today’s money-mad metropolis” and the scale "nothing less than nuts.” Ouch.

    Huffington Post, Online News is Not Arianna Huffington's Dastardly Plot to Destroy the Newspaper Industry And Other Reality-Based Observations

    FiredogLake.com blogger Jane Hamsher cites Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report in her rebuttal of David Simon's critique of the current media landscape:

    Simon seems to have reached the conclusion that any news organization that doesn't cover the pie eating contests of Baltimore is woefully inadequate, those were the days, etc etc. I don't recall anyone ever covering the Atlantic Yards as meticulously as Norman Oder, who has written quite thoughtfully on the subject of local online news coverage. Perhaps if the Atlantic Yards project moved to Baltimore, Oder would pass Simon's litmus test.

    Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, What Does MTA Chief Lee Sander's Ritual Resignation Mean, If Anything, for Ratner's Rail Yard Deal?

    What does the resignation of a seemingly upright public servant mean for the negotiations rumored to be taking place between the MTA and Forest City Ratner to restructure the $100 million deal for the developer to purchase the rights to develop the Vanderbilt Rail Yard—the 8-acre MTA-owned, active rail yard portion of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards projec? Remember, the developer has yet to pay a dime towards his winning, lowball bid.

    Was Sander playing ball in those negotiations or playing hard ball? What will his successor do?

    Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

    R U experienced?

    The more the NJ Nets desperately promote the "experience" of attending a Nets game, the more attendance seems to dwindle. Dancers, t-shirt giveaways, loud music, and contests are poor stand-ins for breathtaking action and the elation or heartbreak shared with other fans.

    This pretty much jibes with what Rocky Sullivan's Pub Quizmaster Scott Turner found on a recent trip to the intimacy-engineered CitiField:

    Meet the Mets, meet the Mets/Step right up and greet the Mets...

    The opening lyrics to the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club's fight song, older than the club itself.

    "You know" said Diane George, my wife, as the old tune reverberated through Citi Field, the Mets ridiculously overhyped and underwhelming mallpark, "you can't really step right up and meet the Mets anymore."

    That, friends, is the last time you'll see that corporate stadium name used in this space.

    In the Mets two previous homes -- the Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium -- anyone meet the Mets. Any ticket holder sitting anywhere could journey down to the field level seats and watch batting practice, try for autographs, crowd close to the dugouts, smell the freshly watered turf, chase an errant batting practice ball fouled into the stands, exchange a greeting with players from both teams, and in general see what Major League Baseball is like up close. When batting practice was over, the batting cages were rolled away and the announcement wafted through the stadium: "Batting practice is over. Please return to your seats." Which everyone did.

    In the Mets' new stadium, only the rich get to experience this pre-game ritual. Everyone else is invited "to watch batting practice from your ticketed seat."

    And that is pretty much all you need to know about who the Mets covet and who they could care less about in the new post-Shea Stadium era.

    But this being the Rocky Sullivan's Pub Quiz Quizmail, and me being me, there's a lot more to prattle on about. So strap yourself in...it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

    I'm already on record as being really sore at the Mets about:

    • the death of Shea;
    • the hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars that paid for the new stadium;
    • the endless contrivances that make the new stadium feel more like a baseball theme-park mall than a place to watch baseball;
    • the ugly alliance with Citi Corp;
    • the clear embrace of rich fans at the expense of working-class fans;
    • the vilification of business owners across the street in the Iron Triangle; and the obscenely expensive tickets;

    In other words, the manyfold aspects of the Mets' nasty and soulless policy making lo these last several years.

    The ballpark itself? I didn't wanna be one of those foamy-mouthed protesters outside The Last Temptation of Christ.

    Interviewer: "How do you know? Have you seen it?"
    Protester: "NO!!! AND I'M NOT GONNA!!!
    Inverviewer: "Then how do you know it's sacrilegious?"
    Protester: "BECAUSE IT IS!!!"

    Up to this point, it's been fair play to critique the Mets' malfeasant policies. They've done so many bad things -- culturally, politically, fiscally. But the ballpark itself had to wait until I saw it in person.

    That happened this Sunday past.

    Diane's from Pittsburgh, a diehard Buccos fan. We took the opportunity to purchase a single pair of tickets to witness the Mets-Pirates clash. $45 for two ducats on a Sunday afternoon in May somewhat well after the turn of the century.

    It was a gorgeous day: sunny, crisp, maybe a little chilly when the breeze turned to wind. That's always been an issue out at Willets Point. Still, a really beautiful day.

    ...and the place was several thousand seats short of full-to-the-brim. It's a troubling trend for the Mets -- a sparkling brand-new "world class home of the New York Mets" (their oft-repeated phrase), a beautiful mid-May weekend afternoon, a team on a six-game winning streak, a metropolitan area of 18 million people and all the world's tourists coming to the Big Apple, and the Mets couldn't fill a 45,000 seat venue.

    It's gotta be more than simply "the economy." But that's a good place to start. How many people are simply reticent to buy into what is now a luxury item -- a baseball game.

    The Mets have diluted the actual game, possibly past the final retrieval point. A half-dozen restaurant clubs patterned after business-class lounges at airports..multiple food courts with endless varieties of trendy cuisine...mall stores galore...kids games sequestered away from the actual field...a never-ending procession of corporate promotional tie-ins involving text-messaging, cell-phone-photo uploading, Pepsi Party Patrols and video-game contests.

    So perhaps there were more fans in the house than it appeared. These days at major league stadiums, "in the house" doesn't guarantee "in the seats."

    Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, at the height of his insufferable bully-boy arc, waxed malpoetically about "putting fannies in the seats." Nowadays, MLB owners don't care about yours or my fanny, unless they're right next to the wallets in our rear pockets.

    The new Mets stadium was weirdly quiet on Sunday. And this was on a day when the home team created some excitement with an 8-2 win. Shea's ballpark buzz has gone missing. Theories have been advanced: fewer people total (57,000 capacity reduced to 45,000), fewer raucous fans due to the paucity of affordable seats, fewer kids (see affordable seats, paucity), the empty seats in the money-bags sections, and the huge number of in-stadium opportunities to not watch the game at all. When there was cheering, it sounded more like an encore at the opera than the roar Shea used to generate.

    It is believed that they're having the same problems at that new joint atop Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx.

    Before this gets to far on, there are some positives. The new stadium is obviously designed for baseball, not the multipurposes of so many stadiums in the '60s (all gone now). The Mets have made some efforts at the whole thing being more "fan-friendly." (Though replacing ushers with polo-shirted "SECURITY" bruisers works surprisingly poorly as a "fan-friendly" touch.) And early in its first season, fans are excited to see the new place.

    But the new stadium is run through with misfires, miscalculations and poorly executed strategies. There's no way this place is a "world-class home of the New York Mets."

    For starters, what's that mean, "world class"? Can this new place host bullfights, sumo tournaments and UN General Assembly meetings? Is there an international body that gives out "world class" accreditation?

    If there's one new-stadium descriptive the Mets throw around like beads from a Mardi Gras float, it's "intimacy." The problem is that the Mets, their announcers, the media and a lot of fans confuse "intimacy" with "smaller," or "proximity." Just because a venue isn't as big as its predecessor or has fewer seats, doesn't make it more intimate.

    Say you're having a drink at at bar. A hottie the very next stool over is also having a drink. Just because you're inches apart doesn't mean the two of you are intimate. A lot more needs to happen before "intimate" comes into play. In fact, a lot of classic stadiums weren't intimate at all -- fans were a long ways from the action, or the joints were simply functional and pedestrian, and nothing more.

    In fact, the new edifice's biggest intimacy destroyer the Saturn-V screeching of the new stadium's loudspeakers. Good frakkin' grief! The Mets in 2009 are loathe to let fans simply take in the game. Advert after advert, before and during the games, fill every moment of downtime. Fans aren't trusted to absorb the game on our own. Baseball's a sport that lives and breaths nuance and subtlety. That makes for a lot of downtime. At the post-Shea palace, that means relentless ear-splitting at-bat music, Just For Men commercials, text-messaging contests and theme-songs for every conceivable situation. An afternoon at the new Shea -- or TARP Field, as my friend and fellow Spunk Lad John "Reggie Mental" Sharples calls it -- is like watching a game in a subway station as the express train passes by.

    Except louder.

    Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

    May 12, 2009

    Can Gehry’s reputation survive Atlantic Yards?

    A developer’s rejection of Frank Gehry’s design for a landmark Brooklyn stadium could be the final nail in the coffin of his ‘starchitect’ reputation

    The First Post
    by Charles Laurence

    This critique of the legend of Frank Gehry from Britain's The Week contains a couple inaccuracies about the starchitect's stalled Brooklyn megaproject.

    Has Frank Gehry been fooling us all along? First came the leaks and cracks in one of his buildings that led to lawsuits in Boston, and now comes a biography that reveals the 'starchitect's' other-worldly, arty persona to be a self-conscious front.

    Since his triumph with the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, Gehry's swooping, anarchic forms, defying straight lines and conventional balance, have made him perhaps the most popular contemporary architect. At 80, Gehry appears to be at the top of his game. He is better known than any of his rivals; his buildings give pleasure to people who know nothing of architectural niceties.

    But there are doubts. Gehry designs are deemed high maintenance, and people question whether they will endure. Is he capable of doing more than his signature swoops without getting silly, or simply dull?

    The $4.2bn Atlantic Yards project in New York's Brooklyn - a sports arena surrounded by office towers and apartment blocks on reclaimed industrial wasteland - should be the Rockefeller Centre of our times and his crowning glory. Instead it has been stalled by local opposition, unrealistic costs, and complaints that the apartment blocks are stodgy, conventional and lazy. Gehry is at the centre of controversy again.

    Hey, that "reclaimed industrial wasteland" was actually the rapidly redeveloping home to several hundred people, pre-Ratner.

    Perhaps the greater blow to Gehry's triumph lies in the Atlantic Yards of Brooklyn. While the critics condemned the uninspired outer buildings, no one doubted that his sports stadium and signature office tower were Gehry beauties. But there was no thought for budget, and even before the Wall Street meltdown the developer had abandoned the Gehry stadium for a cheaper, conventional design from another architect.


    NoLandGrab: "No one doubted?" If by "no one," Laurence means "Herbert Muschamp and Nicolai Ourousoff," the The New York Times's architecture critics, then that's right. But as far as Ratner having "abandoned" Gehry's arena design, that's all still speculation, since Ratner and the ESDC are mum, and as of last night, Gehry said, sort of, that he's still the man.

    Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

    State Senator Perkins sets oversight hearing on Atlantic Yards for May 29

    Atlantic Yards Report

    After one postponement and some questions as to timing, the oversight hearing regarding Atlantic Yards has been scheduled by the Senate Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, chaired by Senator Bill Perkins, for the afternoon of Friday May 29.

    I've posted several questions/issues I think the hearing should address, and will be posting more.

    Among the issues to be covered in all of four hours: the current status of the project; the public cost; the process behind and impact of eminent domain; the cost of the arena and impact of default; and conditions under which a developer is considered in default.

    Looking at the timetable

    Note that the announcement states that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) gave Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC or FCR) 10 years to develop the project but the developer has not begun construction almost three years after gaining approvals.

    Well, given that approvals from the ESDC and Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) came in December 2006, the time lapse is about 2.5 years.

    More importantly, the timetable, according to the State Funding Agreement, hasn't even started. It gives FCR six years to build the arena after the close of litigation and the ESDC's exercise of eminent domain to acquire needed properties. It gives FCR 12 years to build the five towers of Phase I after the close of litigation and the ESDC's exercise of eminent domain to acquire needed properties. And there's no timetable for the eleven towers of Phase II.


    Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

    Notice of Public Hearing

    SENATE STANDING COMMITTEE ON Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, Senator Bill Perkins, Chair

    Atlantic Yards: Where are we now; How did we get here; Where is the Project going?
    Testimony by invitation only. Written submissions welcome!

    To elicit recommendations for improved accountability, and transparency, land use planning, and community participation for large scale development.

    Friday, May 29
    1PM - 5 PM
    Pratt Institute, Higgins Hall
    61 St. James Place (corner Lafayette Ave.)
    Brooklyn, NY 11238

    The Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Plan (AY Plan) was announced by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), a public authority, in 2003. The plan includes a 19,000 seat Arena and 16 high rises which are to be built during a ten year time period. The 22 acre site adjoins the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Parks Slope and Boerum Hill in Brooklyn. It includes an 8 acre site owned by the MTA, and other properties owned by the City and private property owners. The Plan received all of its approvals in December 2006. The approval includes an override of the local zoning laws; an override of a more strict NYC Environmental Review; and approved taking properties by Eminent Domain.

    The ESDC designated Forest City Ratner Corporation (FCRC) as the sole developer. New York State and New York City have committed to subsidize the Project through issuing bonding debts, infrastructure improvements, and other subsidies.

    The Committee will hear testimony regarding financing, project oversight and the role of the Empire State Development Corporation, a public authority, in the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Plan (AY Plan).

    The Committee will hear testimony to ascertain:

    (1) The status of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Plan (AY Plan).

    After approval of the project in 2006 FCRC has been quoted in various media as having delayed the opening date of the arena, changed the number of affordable units and the scale of the project. What is the plan now?

    (2) Cost, the extent of public financing commitments through bonding, Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS), infra-structure improvements, and other public subsidies.

    · What is the total public expenditure and cost of subsidies through infrastructure improvements, tax breaks, abatements, undervalued land, Brownfield tax credits, green construction tax credits, and reimbursements for land acquisition? · FCRC has applied for bonding to build affordable housing. Where has the developer applied for bonding, for how much and what is the per unit subsidy? · What amount has been set for the non arena PILOTS, and what is the formula for reimbursement for city services?

    (3) The process for use and the impact of eminent domain.

    (4) The cost of the arena

    · How much will the arena bond issue be and the PILOT to pay off the bonds? · If there is a default on the arena bond who will be responsible to pay off the debt?

    (5) Conditions under which a developer is considered in default.

    · The ESDC gave FCRC 10 years to develop the project. FCRC has not yet begun construction almost three years after gaining approvals. The ESDC has given the developer extensions. At what point will the ESDC say “Enough is enough,” no more extensions because of the lack of activity. · Where is the point at which the ESDC will consider FCRC in default vis a vis the Memorandum of Understanding between the City, State and FCRC? And, if and when FCRC is declared in default does the ESDC agree that FCRC loses all rights to transfer, and/or sell any aspect of the project to another developer or entity.

    Persons wishing to present testimony at the hearing should complete and return the attached reply form by Wednesday, May 20. You may reply by email, regular mail, or fax. It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of postponement or cancelation of the hearing.

    Testimony at the hearing is by Committee invitation only. However, written comments will be accepted by all who wish to submit comments.

    The Public is encouraged to attend the hearing.

    Witnesses are asked to keep oral testimony to no more than ten minutes. Written testimony will also be accepted and may be sent to the contact person listed on the reply form. In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committees will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. If you are testifying, please submit ten copies of any prepared testimony at the hearing registration desk. In order to further publicize the hearing, please inform interested parties of the Committee’s interest in receiving written testimony from all sources.

    In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the New York State Senate and Assembly have made their facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. Accommodation will be provided to individuals with disabilities upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Senate and Assembly facilities and activities.

    Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

    In brief mention of AY, Gehry says his pessimism was "misread," suggests project is "ready to go"

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Several people showed up at yesterday's panel discussion with Frank Gehry and submitted questions about Atlantic Yards.

    "I think there are about seven questions about this, I'm boiling it down to one," said [NY Public Library's Paul] Holdengraber. "People want to know what more plans you have for New York City, particularly in the context of a March comment you made about the Atlantic Yards where you say, 'I don't think they're going to happen,' and people want to know what you mean."
    Gehry seemed prepared for the question. "That was misread. I probably said something like that, but I'm always, y'know, 'the glass is half-full.'"

    [According to the Architect's Newspaper, Gehry said exactly something like that.]

    "Um, it's going ahead," he continued. "There's work going on. Every developer in the world is struggling with the times we're in... So it's frustrating if you're someone like me and you're working on it five years, you've done all this work, and it's ready to go. In Brooklyn, there's a lawsuit--one lawsuit that persists, and they can't start until that's settled. "

    [All indications are that work has been SUSPENDED on Atlantic Yards. Maybe, by "work," Gehry meant lobbying.]


    NoLandGrab: Ever notice that the decision-making process for Atlantic Yards is so opaque, that watchdogs are reduced to hounding people-in-the-know at public events in hopes of getting answers? It seems crazy because it is.

    Gehry's [deliberately(?)] ignorant answer leaves Brooklynites back where they started, in the dark.

    Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

    Appellate Division Agrees, One Ratner Lease Is Void

    Brooklyn Daily Eagle
    By Ryan Thompson

    The Appellate Division, Second Department in Brooklyn Heights upheld a Kings County Supreme Court judge who ruled that a tenant’s lease assignment was improperly made to Forest City Ratner and therefore void.
    A Ratner spokesperson said that the ruling... will likely not cause any further delays to the multi-billion dollar project....

    But the ruling in the case 752 Pacific, LLC v. Pacific Carlton Development Corp. could cause additional legal hurdles for the litigation-plagued project that once had expected to bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn as early as 2006.


    Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

    May 11, 2009

    Questions for the oversight hearing: Is Frank Gehry still on the project? What's he doing?

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Is Frank Gehry still working on the Atlantic Yards project? Developer Forest City Ratner says he is, even though Gehry laid off or reassigned the entire project team late last year.


    If Gehry has laid off his staff, as has been reported, 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?
    • Can the price tag, once $950 million, be cut in half?
    • Why exactly did the price tag rocket from $435 million to $950 million?

    Why does it matter? Because Forest City Ratner and Barclays, which bought arena naming rights, continue to tout Gehry's role.

    ...if the arena, once to be designed by Gehry, would instead be "inspired" by Gehry's design, then wouldn't revenues for the arena sponsor as well as the government be lower?

    So the public has an interest in the issue.
    Gehry's speaking tonight at the New York Public Library.


    Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

    NYT heart FCR?

    Atlantic Yards Report stumbles over two more indications that The NY Times is full of it, when it comes to covering the company's business partner and Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

    The Times's Public Editor finds a "special obligation" in covering the NYT's sibling; why not its partner?

    In yesterday's column, the New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt wrote:

    But when the story involves the most revered company in the industry — and it happens to be yours — I think there is a special obligation to be aggressive, which The Times has seemed loath to do.
    (Emphasis added)

    Norman Oder came to that exact conclusion years ago, in his white paper analyzing the business relationship between The Times and Forest City Ratner and the paper's coverage of the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

    Ironically, Hoyt was talking about the paper's failure to work the beat in the coverage of negotiations between the Boston Globe (owned by the Times Corporation) and union workers.

    Rats, empty lots in Allston, like Brooklyn, so what's the five year plan?

    The Times overlooked the rat-infested constuction site in its own backyard to cover the one in Boston.

    An article in the New York Times Saturday had a not unfamiliar ring, beginning: BOSTON — The rats are out in spades this spring in North Allston, a gritty neighborhood wedged between the Charles River and the Massachusetts Turnpike, and residents are blaming Harvard.

    There's a stall in construction work for a once-ballyhooed project, and the rat infestation recalls a report April 23 in the New York Daily News, in which Dean Street residents neighboring the Atlantic Yards footprint said demolitions have led to notable quantities of rats.

    Harvard's explanation is that the site is part of a 50-year plan — one resident would prefer a five-year plan to assure that the surrounding neighborhood is livable.

    Oder points out that Atlantic Yards should have some sort of five-year plan, now that the timeline extends "decades," and that this would make a good point of inquiry for an eventual public hearing on the project.

    Posted by lumi at 4:50 AM

    May 10, 2009

    The newspaper crisis, David Simon, the role of blogs, and the (somewhat misread) Brooklyn example

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder takes a good look at the news business and the future role of newspapers and blogs.

    So the biggest discussion this past week about the role of blogs was generated not by the fourth annual Brooklyn Blogfest, held Thursday in DUMBO, but by the Senate hearing on the newspaper crisis held Wednesday in Washington.

    But it’s worth connecting some dots between the the above, especially since Brooklyn blogs (including this one) were invoked--not always accurately--in the national debate that followed the Senate hearing.

    The most contentious issue, via Gawker and the New York Times’s Opinionator blog (as noted below), concerned the claim by former Baltimore Sun reporter and “The Wire” producer David Simon that he doesn’t see bloggers covering nitty-gritty local issues like zoning board hearings.

    Some critics responded that bloggers, in places like Oakland and Brooklyn, in fact do that. I’ll grant that, but I think the Brooklyn contribution to watchdog journalism was overstated and, as I wrote recently, Atlantic Yards is an anomalous case.


    NoLandGrab: It's hard not to be worried about where people can find well done news coverage when so many bloggers are largely aggregators who sometimes let personal lives and a lovely sunny Sunday take precedence over in-depth analysis. Happy Mother's Day!

    Posted by steve at 12:48 PM

    Of Illicit Leases and Typhoid Mary

    Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

    This item ties together this past week's court ruling with financial issues plaguing Forest City Ratner.

    As if Bruce Ratner needed any more obstacles, a state appeals court has upheld a judge’s March 2007 decision that another developer improperly assigned leases to a Pacific Street building and adjacent parking lot to an affiliate of FCR.


    Weinstein's property comprises about one acre of the 22 acres in the proposed Atlantic Yards project, and Weinstein is also a participant in the Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation eminent domain lawsuit. Says AYR writer Norman Oder:

    "...the ruling can't stop the state from using eminent domain to take the properties, but it might make it more costly, as Weinstein has contended that Boymelgreen’s deal with Ratner would diminish the value of his property."

    And "more costly" isn't the kind of phrase the Ratner team needs to hear right now. In his Gumby Fresh blog, the pseudonymous blogger Gari N. Corp takes the New York Times to task for its "special dumbness about stadium finance bond insurance" (and the NYT should be grateful that it attracts Mr. Corp's scorn only rarely, as his dissection is both merciless and quite funny).

    After untangling the issue of the Mets' stadium bonds to conclude that the downgrading of the bonds' insurer was not, as the Times suggested, tantamount to downgrading the bonds themselves, he added this caution:

    "Before anyone says that...the preceding might be construed as a clean bill of health for the business of New York sports, please read the bit about the Mets' resilient brand, and note also that the Mets attracted new financing from the one standing bond insurer (Assured Guaranty) for a small amount for a pretty much complete stadium for a solid team. It won't do the same for the Nets. The New Jersey Nets are the Typhoid Mary of High Finance, and no-one wants to eat their delightful cooking."


    Posted by steve at 8:56 AM

    After Arrest, a State Senator Loses His Leaderhip Posts

    The New York Times

    By Al Baker

    Difficulties seen for State Senator Keving S. Parker, an Atlantic Yards supporter who spoke out in favor of the proposed project at the Environmental Impact Statement public hearing in August of 2006 and received a $3,500 campaign contribution from a member of Bruce Ratner's family that same month.

    Less than a day after his arrest over a confrontation with a newspaper photographer, State Senator Kevin S. Parker of Brooklyn was stripped of his leadership positions on Saturday, said a spokesman for the Senate majority leader, Malcolm A, Smith.


    Officials said the senator was charged with a felony because he was accused of causing more than $1,000 in damage to the photographer’s camera. Mr. Lopez was treated at a hospital for a bruised and swollen finger that apparently got caught in a camera strap during the fracas, the police said.


    Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Senate majority leader, read a statement by Mr. Smith on Saturday that said, “After learning of the incident involving Senator Kevin Parker, I have decided to strip the senator of his leadership position as majority whip and chair of the Energy Committee, effective immediately.”

    “Furthermore,” the statement said, “payment of the stipend for Senator Parker’s leadership position has been suspended. These are serious charges which demand the attention of the proper authorities, and my decision today will stand until resolution of the proceedings Senator Parker faces.”


    Posted by steve at 8:32 AM

    May 9, 2009

    Two For Saturday Morning from Atlantic Yards Report

    Forest City Ratner just outside top ten in lobbying, but has third largest state contract

    Norman Oder notes the recently released figures on state lobbying and duly notes the spending to promote the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

    The New York State Commission on Public Integrity released its 2008 Annual Report Thursday, with real estate and construction, spending $26.1 million on city and state lobbying, in second place behind health and mental health organizations, spending $29.9 million.

    And Fried Frank Harris Shriver &; Jacobson had the third largest contract, valued at $370,399, with Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Development Company. (In 2007, Fried Frank's work on Atlantic Yards represented the second largest contract, at $771,170.)

    Forest City Ratner, according to my calculations, finished just outside the top ten in combined lobbying.

    Oder goes on to note how the media has ignored this report and fails to keep the public informed regarding Atlantic Yards.

    There was very little coverage of the report. There was no mention of the Atlantic Yards contract in Daily News coverage of the report, or in a brief wire report in Newsday. The Times ignored the report. Last year, the Times ignored the report, though others gave it more coverage.


    WNYC talk show host Brian Lehrer, who generally does a decent job, on Thursday wondered if "people go to Norman Oder's site, which is, y'know, pitched primarily anti-Atlantic Yards Project and have a discussion on both sides? Or is it just an echo chamber of the like-minded?"

    He missed the point, I argued, and today's news buttresses my argument. My goal is to explain to people what's going on, and to look into questions of civic importance, I wrote. Have Lehrer or WNYC informed the public of the Commission on Public Integrity's report? Not as far as I can tell.

    Should the public know that Forest City Ratner is spending so much on Atlantic Yards, especially when little work is going on? Sure. (DDDB pointed out that FCR was working the back room.)

    Isn't a behind-the-scenes lobbying effort "just an echo chamber of the like-minded"? And isn't that a lot less transparent than a blog that links to publicly available sources?

    Yes, the Times reviewer notices the gentle treatment of AY in new Gehry book

    From Martin Filler's review of Conversations With Frank Gehry, in Sunday's New York Times: Doubtless eager to remain in her subject’s good graces, [Barbara] Isenberg poses few questions of the confrontational sort that wise interrogators withhold until the end of a session, lest they be shown the door. For example, from her upbeat recapitulation of Gehry’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn — a large-scale mixed-use urban redevelopment centered on a professional basketball arena — you’d never know that the scheme has aroused heated opposition from community groups and planning experts, or that its future is imperiled by the current economic crisis.

    That's mainly because the interview was conducted in 2005 and, as I wrote, interviewer Isenberg didn't follow up. (Will she do so at Monday's public interview session with Gehry?)

    More than two years ago, Filler wrote critically about AY.

    Posted by steve at 8:57 AM

    Commission on Public Integrity Releases Annual Report

    New York State


    The New York State Commission on Public Integrity released its 2008 Annual Report (click on the link for the PDF). Included in the report is spending by State lobbyists. It should come as no surprise that Forest City Ratner spent oodles on lobbying for the proposed Atlantic Yards project .

    Hinman Straub Advisors, LLC had the largest lobbying contract, valued at $427,532 with Excellus Health Plan, Inc. Wilson Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP had the second largest lobbying contract, valued at $372,030 with the New York Bankers Association. Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, LLP had the third largest contract, valued at $370,399 with Atlantic Yards Development Company LLC.


    Posted by steve at 8:46 AM

    City Council candidates don't support AY project

    The Real Deal

    This entry, uses political coverage from Noticing New York, gives a quick summary of City Council candidates' stance on Atlantic Yards.

    The blog Noticing New York looks at the professed views on development, and specifically on the Atlantic Yards project, of all 15 candidates running for City Council in the 33rd and 39th districts, including current office holders. All of the candidates oppose the project, to some degree or another, the blog says. In the 33rd district, current City Council member David Yassky has said he never supported the Atlantic Yards project, and that he doesn't think the proposed plan will be built because there isn't funding for it. The 39th district's Council member, Bill de Blasio, said he became a supporter of the project because it promised affordable housing, jobs and community benefits, but said no further public subsidies should be granted until there is evidence that the Community Benefits Agreement will be adhered to. De Blasio said he can't support an arena-only plan for the site, and called for a moratorium on demolition until there is a written plan on what will be built.


    NoLandGrab: Even at this late date, De Blasio and Yassky still can't seem to bring themselves to completely oppose the proposed Atlantic Yards project. The implication is that if financing can be found, then Yassky is for it, and as long as the privately negotiated Community Benefits Agreement is adhered to, then De Blasio is in favor as well.

    Posted by steve at 8:15 AM

    It Came From the Blogosphere: Appeals Court Ruling

    Two blogs note of yesterday's state appeal court ruling in favor of developer and Atlantic Yards footprint property owner Henry Weinstein.

    Curbed - Atlantic Yards Loses One

    Because one oft-criticized developer being involved in Atlantic Yards just wasn't enough, an appeals court has upheld a judge's 2007 decision that Brooklyn kingpin (and occasional Manhattan dabbler) Shaya Boymelgreen improperly sold his lease to a Pacific Street building within the project's footprint to AY developer Forest City Ratner. What does this mean? Atlantic Yards Report explains: "The ruling can't stop the state from using eminent domain to take the properties, but it might make it more costly."

    The Local - Court Ruling Could Slow Atlantic Yards

    This just in from Atlantic Yards Report: In a rare court ruling unfavorable to Atlantic Yards, a state appeals panel has upheld a lower court’s 2007 ruling that invalidated Forest City Ratner’s long-term lease on two properties in the project’s footprint.The ruling could pose another hurdle for the developer at a moment when the project is already being held up by the recession. The earlier decision found that the developer Shayna Boymelgreen, who is a tenant at a one-acre site on Pacific and Carlton that includes a six-story building and a parking lot, sold his lease to Forest City without his landlord’s permission. The landlord, Henry
    Weinstein, is challenging the state’s right to condemn property under eminent-domain law, so Mr. Boymelgreen’s sale of the lease to Forest City would have allowed Forest City to do a partial end run around Mr. Weinstein.

    Posted by steve at 7:53 AM

    May 8, 2009

    Essence of the Architect

    The New York Times Book Review
    by Martin Filler

    Barbara Isenberg’s “Conversations With Frank Gehry” is the latest attempt to elicit the essence of his creative method in his own words. Isenberg, a Los Angeles-based writer on the arts, exhibits neither [Kurt] Forster’s intellectual sheen nor [Mildred] Friedman’s comprehensive expertise, but nonetheless offers worthwhile new information for architecture devotees and an engaging introduction for general readers.

    Doubtless eager to remain in her subject’s good graces, Isenberg poses few questions of the confrontational sort that wise interrogators withhold until the end of a session, lest they be shown the door. For example, from her upbeat recapitulation of Gehry’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn — a large-scale mixed-use urban redevelopment centered on a professional basketball arena — you’d never know that the scheme has aroused heated opposition from community groups and planning experts, or that its future is imperiled by the current economic crisis.


    NoLandGrab: Folks who've shelled out 25 bucks to see Isenberg interview Gehry at the New York Public Library this coming Monday evening may come away disappointed if Isenberg "poses few questions of the confrontational sort."

    Posted by eric at 9:29 PM

    Commission on Public Integrity releases annual report

    Empire State News

    While the economy was cratering in 2008, one industry in New York State was thriving: lobbying. Spending was up, to $173.9 million (and that's just the stuff that gets reported). Guess who was paying for a good chunk of it?

    Hinman Straub Advisors, LLC had the largest lobbying contract, valued at $427,532 with Excellus Health Plan, Inc. Wilson Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP had the second largest lobbying contract, valued at $372,030 with the New York Bankers Association. Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, LLP had the third largest contract, valued at $370,399 with Atlantic Yards Development Company LLC.


    NoLandGrab: The biggest shocker in the Annual Report from the New York State Commission on Public Integrity? The real estate industry was only #2 in lobbying spending, thanks to the health care sector. One look at your health insurance premiums, and you'll know what all that spending bought them.

    Posted by eric at 9:08 PM

    Stop Me Before I Cook Again

    Gumby Fresh

    Gari N. Corp, in his inimitable style, straightens out The New York Times (and, we must admit, us) as to the conclusions reached in yesterday's short article regarding the status of CitiField bonds. And, while he's at it, he does a little compare-and-contrast between the Mets' situation, and that of the Nets.

    There are plenty of scenarios under which the Mets bonds' underlying rating might be downgraded, particularly if the New York economy stays in the doldrums and the stadium does not generate as much revenue as it should. But let's remember this is a popular franchise in a large city with a very patient fanbase that gets plenty of excitement in September, if not in, ahem, October. Don't try and pretend that any Nets financing could get a rating like this as easily. I love the Mets, but they're a bit trashy. Compared to the Nets though, the Mets are that really classy lady in the black dress and pearls that fronts the Lexus dealers' adverts. Yes, that classy.

    Before anyone says (not that they will, this is hardly a popular blog with the pro-stadium crown, well it's hardly a popular blog at all, what with the infrequent postings and paucity of stimulating subjects, but you get my drift) that the preceding might be construed as a clean bill of health for the business of New York sports, please read the bit about the Mets' resilient brand, and note also that the Mets attracted new financing from the one standing bond insurer (Assured Guaranty) for a small amount for a pretty much complete stadium for a solid team. It won't do the same for the Nets. The New Jersey Nets are the Typhoid Mary of High Finance, and no-one wants to eat their delightful cooking.


    Posted by eric at 8:49 PM

    NY transit riders still risk more hikes


    Reuters published this story just hours before Lee Sander was forced to resign as Executive Director of the MTA by Governor David Paterson.

    Asked whether the MTA's rail yards in Brooklyn would see a basketball arena next year, part of a residential-office complex planned by developer Forest City Ratner, Sander said only: "I'm not in the arena business."


    NoLandGrab: It appears that Sander, who had nothing to do with the rigged agreement to sell the Vanderbilt Yard to Bruce Ratner, was the fall guy for Albany's lack of meaningful action on the MTA funding crisis. Rather than scapegoating a capable public servant, perhaps the Governor should instead be pulling the plug on the MTA's worst land giveaway ever.

    Posted by eric at 1:35 PM

    East River Plaza Progress

    what about the plastic animals

    Here's one local Forest City Ratner project that's actually progressing (photo from WATPA).

    It has been more than a year since we've checked on the East River Plaza. The huge downscale mall, currently lists Target, Best Buy, Marshalls and Costco as future tenants. The mall is expected to open by year's end. One of the developers, Blumenfeld Development Group, lost a lot of money to Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme. The other developer, Forest City Ratner, has been tossing money away on their Atlantic Yards monstrosity. That may be good for East Harlem as the East River Plaza looks plainer and not nearly as hideous as the early renderings.


    Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

    Snag in AY? Appeals court upholds decision that said Boymelgreen improperly assigned lease of footprint building to Ratner

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Big news out of New York State's Appellate Division today: the court has upheld — unanimously — a 2007 ruling in favor of Atlantic Yards footprint property owner Henry Weinstein.

    In a unanimous decision that may crimp the state’s pursuit of eminent domain on the Atlantic Yards site, a state appeals court has upheld a judge’s March 2007 decision that Henry Weinstein’s tenant, developer Shaya Boymelgreen, improperly assigned leases to a Pacific Street building and adjacent parking lot to an affiliate of Forest City Ratner.

    The Appellate Division: Second Judicial Department, in one case, known as 752 PACIFIC, LLC v PACIFIC CARLTON DEVELOPMENT CORP. and argued 11/17/08 stated:
    The Supreme Court properly awarded the landlords summary judgment on their third and fourth counterclaims to the extent of declaring that the tenants’ assignment of their respective leases violated the leases and that the leases are terminated.... The terms of the subject leases are clear and unambiguous.

    The court further bolstered Weinstein’s case, ruling that the Supreme Court erred in not giving Weinstein back possession of the properties at issue:
    Having found that the tenants breached the leases, and the landlords thereafter terminated the leases, the Supreme Court should have granted the landlords such relief.

    As I wrote in March 2007, the ruling can't stop the state from using eminent domain to take the properties, but it might make it more costly, as Weinstein has contended that Boymelgreen’s deal with Ratner would diminish the value of his property.

    Forest City Ratner told the New York Times in 2007 that it did not believe the ruling would have an impact on the project. Because this property is in Phase 2, the eastern portion of the project site, it might be thought that condemnation could begin on the arena block while this case remains in litigation. However, the General Project Plan states (p. 2 of this PDF):
    All of the properties within the Project Site would be acquired by ESDC... at the outset of Project implementation.

    After all, Weinstein's property is needed for the interim surface parking for construction workers and the arena.

    In a companion case, which also involved Forest City Ratner along with Boymelgreen, PACIFIC CARLTON DEVELOPMENT CORP v 752 PACIFIC, LLC, the appeals court ruled that it was appropriate for the lower court to grant the portion of the motion in which Forest City Ratner and affiliates argued they were not liable to a breach of contract, because they were not actual parties to the contract alleged to have been breached.

    The court also ruled that it was appropriate for the lower court to grant the portion of the motion in which Boymelgreen himself was not personally responsible, because his personal guarantee of the leases had already expired.

    Weinstein did win a partial victory, however. The appeals court stated:
    However, the court erred in granting those branches of the motions which were to dismiss the second cause of action alleging tortious interference with the leases insofar as asserted against Boymelgreen and the Forest City defendants.

    So Weinstein can pursue damages.


    NoLandGrab: We're anxiously awaiting the Forest City press release saying they're now 22-1 in court decisions. Of course, since they lost the original decision, too, they'd have to make it 21-2.

    Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

    The fourth annual Brooklyn Blogfest, the plethora of candidates, and why we need more journalism

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder's rundown on last night's (fourth annual) Brooklyn Blogfest only touches on Atlantic Yards in passing, but it's a clarion call for blogging as civic journalism, and well worth a read.

    Still, relatively few people in the “bloggiest place in America” (to quote Outside.in, whose erroneous formulation of Clinton Hill as the "bloggiest" neighborhood was cited twice from the stage) provide what we need most: solid civic information, "holding institutions accountable on a daily basis," to quote author, "The Wire" writer, and former reporter David Simon's testimony Wednesday before Congress.

    I think professional and amateur reporters using blogs can do some of that "journalism of verification," but, even as Atlantic Yards blogging may be an important example of unpaid response to a controversy, I believe it's not that easy to duplicate.

    The Brooklyn blogosphere, not least because some laid-off reporters have been writing for blogs (see Aaron Short and Sarah Portlock), has begun to provide more journalism, but there's much more to cover.


    Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

    AYR dissed by Brian Lehrer, who misses the point

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Yesterday, WNYC's Brian Lehrer aired a discussion about the future media landscape and took a call about the Atlantic Yards blogosphere, prompting Norman Oder to stick up for himself and others from the "echo chamber of like-minded individuals."

    The Atlantic Yards segment came at about 20:57.

    Prospect Heights resident and activist Raul Rothblatt, aka "Raul in Brooklyn," was on the line.

    BL: On both sides, do you think, do people go to Norman Oder's site, which is, y'know, pitched primarily Atlantic Yards Project and have a discussion on both sides? Or is it just an echo chamber of the like-minded?

    Lehrer seems to be confusing my blog with a talk show. My goal is to explain to people what's going on, and to look into questions of civic importance.

    NoLandGrab: From here in the "echo chamber," we're always amused when the Atlantic Yards blogosphere is characterized as a group of like-minded individuals talking amongst ourselves. One might similarly describe Brian Lehrer's show. How many Rush Limbaugh and Fox News fans storm WNYC's switchboard to offer fair and balanced rebuttals to left-leaning guests?

    Keep in mind, NoLandGrab has always linked to media coverage supportive of the project. Except for the local daily newspapers, most of it has just faded away. Heck, even Bruce Ratner himself had to downsize the company's web presence, presumably due to cost-cutting.

    Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

    In the case of Atlantic Yards

    Though there is still much that we don't know about Bruce Ratner's planned megaproject, "Atlantic Yards" has come to mean many things and has been popping up as a case in point for other issues:

    Lack of integrity and consideration

    From a letter to the editor from The Brooklyn Paper on the Federal proposal to clean up the Gowanus Canal as a "superfund" site:

    Just as in the case of Atlantic Yards, people aren’t against development, per se. It has to do with scale, with integrity, with consideration for, and with the will of human beings.

    Political fecklessness
    In this month's The Brooklyn Rail, "Atlantic Yards" is a yard stick measuring a politician's sincerity.

    Fighting the real estate industry is indeed a tall order, and it’s a primary reason that [City Councilman Tony] Avella’s campaign coffers amount to only a fraction of Comptroller Bill Thompson’s, the current Democratic frontrunner. At the same political club meetings, Thompson made mention of the overdevelopment issue, and argued for strengthening community boards. But, other than in the West Side stadium battle, as comptroller over the past eight years Thompson mounted no visible opposition to large development plans even when they involve significant sums of public money, such as the Atlantic Yards project. Avella, meanwhile, has worked with community groups across the city, including the Harlem Tenants Council in fighting the 125th Street rezoning, and he has spoken at Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn events against the Atlantic Yards.

    NoLandGrab: Though developer Bruce Ratner has spent millions of dollars on the pr campaign for his mammoth Atlantic Yards project, it seems that he has been unable to curb the public perception that ATLANTIC YARDS = BAD.

    Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

    May 7, 2009

    Mets Alerted on Citi Field Bonds

    The New York Times
    by Ken Belson

    The Mets’ trouble on the field may not be the only headache for the team. Higher interest rates may be on the horizon, too.

    On Wednesday, Moody’s Investors Service said that $613 million worth of the municipal bonds that were issued to pay for the construction of Citi Field could be downgraded to junk status.

    Moody’s cited the recent downgrade of Ambac Assurance Corporation, which was hired to guarantee that bondholders are made whole in the event that the Mets miss a debt payment. Now that Ambac has been downgraded to junk status, it is theoretically less able to meet its obligations. ...

    The 40-year bonds sold in August 2006 have a coupon rate of 5 percent. They are rated by Moody’s at Baa3, the lowest investment grade. If they are downgraded to below investment grade, or junk, the team may have to pay higher interest rates if it issues new debt.


    NoLandGrab: The downgrading of the Mets' bonds can't be welcome news for Forest City, which hopes to issue about $800 million worth of bonds in order to build the Barclays Center. As Gari N. Corp, Gumby Fresh's pseudonymous blogger, posted in a comment on Atlantic Yards Report last month:

    There's one bond insurer left that could do the deal - FSA/Assured Guaranty (they're merging). I'm fairly certain it has less than no interest in doing the Nets bonds. But even FSA/Assured no longer has a pristine rating. I still don't see how a financing of over maybe $400 million gets done....

    Posted by eric at 3:33 PM

    City Council Races (33rd and 39th CDs): Candidates’ Positions on Development and Effective Action They Would Take to Stop Atlantic Yards

    Noticing New York

    Michael D.D. White presents an epic three-part series looking at the professed views on Atlantic Yards of all the candidates running for City Council in the 33rd and 39th Council districts, including those of the current officeholders, Comptroller candidate David Yassky and Public Advocate candidate Bill de Blasio.

    Guess what? Every one of them opposes the project, to some degree or another.

    That being the case, White concludes his series with what strikes us a really good, common-sense idea.

    We have at least one starter suggestion. This is a project that continues even though it has no visible means of support. The governor has never said one public word in support of the project. Even the mayor, key to the project’s survival as he is (and as seemingly assured of reelection by his billions), avoids public statements of support for the project. The mayor avoids even mentioning Atlantic Yards and we think his plan of preference is for it to play political possum until he has procured his desired third term. Governor Paterson, (to whom the mayor has not been kind) could certainly prevent that. How?

    In this post we have reviewed the positions of fifteen candidates, two entire fields of candidates. As they all oppose Atlantic Yards as probably the city’s worst project and one that desperately needs to be stopped, why can’t those candidates all unite to approach Governor Paterson and tell him in one voice to abandon this folly? (They can send a “CC” to the Bloomberg administration.)

    Part I: Background: Development & Politics

    Part II: Stated positions of the candidates for the 33rd City Council seat

    Part III: Stated positions of the candidates for the 39th City Council seat

    Posted by eric at 12:25 PM

    Atlantic Yards Report: Two questions for the oversight hearing

    A question for the oversight hearing: what happened to utility work on Pacific Street? And why won't the ESDC explain?

    Why do we need an oversight hearing?

    Because the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)--described in this week's New York Observer as flummoxing even supporters with its disarray--won't answer some basic informational questions, but instead punts the questions over to closemouthed developer Forest City Ratner.

    Yes, the ESDC usually does respond to my queries, not always with full information, but in this case seems to be failing at a basic level of accountability.

    A question for the oversight hearing: why did utility work schedule change?

    A look at documents produced by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) during and after the environmental review shows some inconsistencies in estimates of time for utility work. According to the construction schedule and also Chapter 17 of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), it was supposed to take a year. Chapter 17 states, “The major in-street utility work would begin late in 2006 and last about 12 months.”

    However, the construction updates issued by the ESDC offered contradictory information, suggesting a shifting timetable for the first phase of utility work and potentially a much longer stretch for all three phases.

    Though the ESDC is often willing to answer questions I've posed, in this case, I never got answers.

    NoLandGrab: In the immortal words of former Forest City spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt, "when it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there’s no such thing as too much, as far as we are concerned." Indeed.

    Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

    Heading to PSU for graduation

    by Rick Seltzer

    Penn State Dickinson School of Law will hold its graduation in State College on Saturday, the first time the ceremony will be held on Penn State University's main campus since the Dickinson School of Law and Penn State merged in 2000.

    The commencement in State College helps mark the law school's new $60 million, 114,000-square-foot Lewis Katz Building that opened in January, said Kelly Rimmer, spokeswoman for the law school. Katz will be the keynote speaker at the commencement.

    Katz gave $15 million to the law school, and the new building in State College is named after him. He is an owner of the New Jersey Nets and member of the law school's class of 1966. The law school also is naming a new building on its Carlisle campus Lewis Katz Hall.


    NoLandGrab: Huh! A Nets' owner who actually gets stuff built. Imagine that. Katz, the Nets' former managing partner, retains a stake in the team.

    Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

    Downtown Congestion Calls For Whole New Bus System

    Brooklyn Daily Eagle
    by Dennis Holt

    In an editorial calling for a new downtown Brooklyn bus system, the Eagle's Dennis Holt, like a dog refusing to give up its stick, continues to speak of Atlantic Yards with the certainty of a true believer.

    Atlantic Avenue, for some mysterious reason, is underserved. There are only three bus routes, two of which do not serve the entire span from river to 4th Avenue. This avenue is going to become ever more important through Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Yards.


    NoLandGrab: We admire Holt's fidelity to Bruce Ratner's megaproject, however misplaced it might be. But his grasp of the facts? He calls Bergen Street "the only primarily residential street in brownstone Brooklyn with a city bus route," but he either is forgetting Dean Street, or conveniently ignoring its residential nature — perhaps since it would, in his ideal world, border the Barclays Center.

    Posted by eric at 9:47 AM

    Forest City in the News

    Cleveland Scene, ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKIN' IN

    Forest City used to rule the Forest City, but now, not so much.

    Could it be? Sam Miller and the Ratners of Forest City Enterprises are officially out of the inner circle?

    A lot has changed since Cleveland’s Uncle Sam had a tidy regular audience with ex-Mayor Mike White and former Plain Dealer publisher Alex Machaskee — back when the public coffers were an open check. White is raising alpacas, Machaskee is retired and Old Sam doesn’t have anybody to talk to anymore.

    We tried to calm his nerves. I called him at HQ. He answered his own phone, as usual, then said, “I don’t want to talk about this,” when asked about his waning influence. I should have asked him first how he felt about the official announcement on Monday by Mayor Frank Jackson and County Commissioner Tim Hagan that the city will get a $20 million for the current convention center on Mall B.

    Looks like Tower City is going to have to build its own damn brand, with no more help from the taxpayers, and no help from a new medical mart and convention center next door. Nobody even seems to care that Forest City was the first local company approached by Merchandise Mart Properties back more than a decade back. The company has since come out and said, “Suck it, Forest City. We’re going to kick it with Dick Jacobs over on the Mall.”

    CoStar Group, AEW Acquires Shops at Grand Avenue for $33.5M

    Forest City Ratner Cos. sold the Shops at Grand Avenue in Maspeth, NY, to a subsidiary of AEW Capital Management LP, for $33.5 million, or $335 per square foot. The sale price resulted in a capitalization rate of 7.75 percent.

    Posted by eric at 9:21 AM

    May 6, 2009

    NBA's Stern asserts groundbreaking this summer, but he didn't check with the ESDC

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder speculates about The Commish's sources.

    From the Newark Star-Ledger:
    [NBA Commissioner David] Stern was confident the Nets' Brooklyn relocation project, the future of which has been in doubt, would break ground this summer. "Yes, they will, I'm told," he said. "I'm sure."

    Well, he's probably been listening to Nets CEO Brett Yormark, whose track record is not so good.

    Empire State Development Corporation CEO recently said that the project would generate "a substantial number of construction jobs - commencing in 2010," which I interpret as an acknowledgment that groundbreaking--at least other than purely symbolic--wouldn't happen until next year in the best-case scenario.


    Posted by eric at 10:56 PM

    NBA commissioner David Stern confident New Jersey Nets will break ground this summer in Brooklyn

    The Star-Ledger
    by Jenny Vrentas

    Gathered in a ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Manhattan, within miles of new stadiums already built or on the horizon for each of their sports, the commissioners of Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL and NHL faced an obvious question: In this terrible economy, how much of a burden will teams bear after opening their palaces?

    "It's hard work, and it's going to be harder certainly now," NBA commissioner David Stern said at Wednesday morning's "Future of Sports" panel. "But it will have a period of readjustment, and it will continue to go."

    That was the overriding mentality as the commissioners -- whose leagues pull in a combined annual revenue of $21.2 billion -- discussed the effect of these trying economic times on professional sports. While adjustments need to be made, the leagues are still moving forward.

    In no area is that more relevant than New York, where the Devils, Mets and Yankees have all recently opened new venues, the Giants and Jets are completing their joint stadium, and the Nets have plans to begin construction of their new home.

    Stern was confident the Nets' Brooklyn relocation project, the future of which has been in doubt, would break ground this summer. "Yes, they will, I'm told," he said. "I'm sure."


    NoLandGrab: Sure he's sure. Not to mention that asking the commissioners of the four major sports leagues about how their franchises might really be faring is like asking Jim Cramer if stocks are a buy.

    Posted by eric at 10:42 PM

    WTF, ESDC? Recession Twists State’s Economic Development Arm

    New York Observer
    by Eliot Brown

    You probably never would have guessed this, what with its slick handling of, and all the progress with, the Atlantic Yards project, but the Empire State Development Corporation is in disarray.

    STILL, multiple business leaders and others who deal with the ESDC said that in New York City and elsewhere in the downstate region, the agency does not seem to have adopted a new approach amid the recession. The ESDC’s downstate efforts have generally been defined by a series of high-profile private and public development projects—Atlantic Yards, the expansion of Penn Station—many of which have been stalled.

    “I think it is fair to say that if ESDC has a plan for economic development, nobody downstate knows what it is,” said a leader of a downstate economic development organization who interacts with the ESDC.


    NoLandGrab: "Nobody downstate knows what" the plan for economic development is? Sure they do. It's "In Bruce We Trust."

    Read the full article to learn about the frosty relationship between the ESDC's Chairman and CEO, and how the "keen priority" of filling the job of downstate president has dragged on for the better part of a year. Could it be the psychological test?

    Posted by eric at 12:24 PM

    "Brooklyn Boondoggle": a short film that packs in protest, ambivalence, and AY episodes circa 2008

    Atlantic Yards Report

    A new review from AYR's film critic.

    To me, the most interesting element of the 11-minute documentary Brooklyn Boondoggle, which debuted last night at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO, was not the critique of Atlantic Yards, made by elected officials and a diverse array of residents.

    (The title apparently takes off from City Council Member Letitia James's statement calling the project "a gigantic boondoggle.")

    Nor was it the general absence of political and community supporters of the project--though footage of "Build It Now" counter-protestors assembling does appear early in the film.


    Rather, it was the not-so-coherent ambivalence expressed by some residents around the project site, in the main working-class black Brooklynites who identify with neither the project's supporters nor opponents.
    It's impossible for a film this short to fully convey the complexity of the project and the debate, but "Brooklyn Boondoggle" packs a good amount in.


    Posted by eric at 9:10 AM

    Damn you, lousy land grabber...

    Subtitles.gif Rocky Sullivan's Pub Quizmaster Scott Turner just came up with an Atlantic Yards remix of the sidesplitting "Actual English Subtitles Used in Films Made in Hong Kong" (click on graphic to enlarge).

    Turner explains:

    Looking this over for the four-thousandth time, I got to thinking. What if these were subtitles from the battle to stop the Atlantic Yards project. The lines wouldn't be that different if they were uttered by Bruce Ratner himself.

    1. I am damn unsatisfied to be stopped by the community in this way.
    2. Marty, you with your thick face have hurt my instep.
    3. Self-inflicted cash wounds again?
    4. Same old rules: no democracy, no community voice
    5. A normal person wouldn't steal $1.5 billion in public money
    6. Damn, I'll burn your neighborhood into a Chuck E. Cheese.
    7. Take my advice, or I'll spank you without pants. (Some of these can't be improved upon...)
    8. Who gave you the nerve to voice your opinions here?
    9. Quiet or I'll blow your Wards Bakery up.
    10. You always use free speech. I should've ordered more community benefits.
    11. I'll fire aimlessly if you don't sell your home to me.
    12. You daring lousy Brooklyn.
    13. Beat his streets out of recognizable shape!
    14. I have been scared shitless too much lately! (Again, apt as is.)
    15. I've bought political buddies more than the number of your leg's hair!
    16. Beware! Your communities are going to be disconnected.
    17. The amoralities inside are very hot. Why do I feel so cold?
    18. How can you use my donations as a gift?
    19. This will be of fine service for you, you bag of the scum. I am sure you will not mind that I remove your manhoods and leave them out on the dessert flour for your aunts to eat. (Said to the city's unions and Ratner's own allies.)
    20. Yah-hah, Bertha Lewis! I have captured you by the short acorns and can now deliver you to your constituents for a thorough examination.
    21. Greetings, large basketball fanbase. Let us not forget to form a team up together and go into Brooklyn to inflict the pain of our Dodger nostalgia feets on some ass of the giant angry residents who want schools and transit instead of a sports arena.

    Like folk songs, dates that live up to the hype, and a really satisfying plate of pancakes, good lines can change languages and change with the times, but they never stop bein' good. Even if they're very, very bad.

    Posted by lumi at 6:16 AM

    Once-planned Atlantic Yards hotel is one of 43 in the city "on ice;" FCR won't comment

    Atlantic Yards Report

    At least 43 planned hotels in the city, with an aggregate of some 10,150 rooms, are delayed or completely axed, reports the Real Deal.

    ...the chart offers this tidbit about what was once a planned 180-room hotel component of Building 1:

    With the Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise project mired in lawsuits and unable to get financing, there’s no telling when or if the project’s signature masthead building, renamed Building 1, would get built. At one point, the hotel component was scuttled altogether, but now a spokesman declined to comment on whether it still exists.

    As I pointed out a year ago, new renderings of the flagship tower, originally called Miss Brooklyn, provided the clue.

    The Daily News reported that the building would include 650,000 square feet of office space, which is more than the 528,000 square feet described the previous October at an Investor Day. Given that the building was once supposed to also include a hotel with 164,652 square feet, I noted, it's a good bet that the revised plans traded hotel space for office space.


    NoLandGrab: Are you getting the sense that no one knows what Bruce Ratner is planning for the signature tower, not even Bruce Ratner? Seriously, the plans for the configuration of the tower keep shifting because the market conditions keep changing. [A few years back Brooklyn didn't have enough hotel rooms, now there are too many.] Ratner will configure the tower once or twice more because he has no clue what the market needs or wants — he just really, really wants to build the tower very badly.

    Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

    Yankee Stadium financial controversy back in court

    The controversy over the financial details of the new Yankee Stadium headed back to court, with State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky going mano-a-mano with lawyers for the Yankees in hopes that the judge will force the team to release financial documents subpoenaed by the state legislator.

    One point at issue is the valuation of the land. From an Albany Times Union article:

    [Brodsky] was joined in court Tuesday by fellow Assemblyman James Brennan of Brooklyn, who chairs the Cities Committee. Among other arguments, Brodsky questioned the failure of accessible ticket prices and what he called an admitted violation of law in the tax assessment for the stadium grounds, which used to be a city park.

    Either the land value was inflated so that the City could issue more tax-free bonds, or lowballed when the team determined the cost of the replacement park land. An examination of the "comps" used by the NYC Department of Finance suggest the former. If not for the fact that the Yankees had to replace the park land, the inflated value might not have come to light.

    The same type of tax-free bond financing has been approved for Bruce Ratner's planned arena at Atlantic Yards. Watchdogs will be keeping a close eye on how NYC officials will justify the cost of the land under the arena.

    Posted by lumi at 5:43 AM

    Ratnerville metaphor

    We totally missed an item with this photo from Getty images, posted on the Star-Ledger's NJ.com website, back in October '08.


    Peeking through the boarded up chainlink fence, around a recently cleared lot in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject, one can manage a clear view of the Brooklyn's iconic Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower (aka, "One Hanson Place").

    Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

    Nets Drumline drama

    In a totally side drama to Ratnerville, the Brooklyn Steppers director Tyrone Brown has stepped down amid allegations of sexual misconduct with one of the group members. Brown denies the allegations.

    The drum section from the Steppers has appeared at local and 2007 NBA All-Star events, rebranded as the "NJ Nets Drumline." Using kids participating in the Brooklyn Steppers program as promotional material always seemed a little tasteless and opportunistic on Ratner's part, but the developer made donations to the Brooklyn Music and Arts Program, so no one seemed to mind.

    We don't know if recent events means that we'll be seeing less of the NJ Nets Drumline, but, whether or not the allegations are true, it would be sad to lose a program that has meant a lot to the participating kids and their families.

    Here are the headlines:
    NY Daily News, Brooklyn Steppers marching band director Tyrone Brown accused of affair with 17-year-old band member
    WCBSTV.com, Former 'Brooklyn Steppers' Director Investigated
    NY Magazine "Daily Intel," Brooklyn Steppers Leader Accused of Sexual Relations With Band Member

    Posted by lumi at 4:53 AM

    May 5, 2009

    Another gentrification discussion, the hard to find "sweet spot," and the "public realm"

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder reviews a preview of a live WNYC broadcast of a discussion on preservation and gentrification, and ties it ever-so-obliquely to Atlantic Yards.

    A caller named Manny, who grew up in the Lower East Side and Washington Heights, expressed understandably mixed feelings.

    "Is the city safer, yes, but at what cost?" he asked rhetorically. "To have $90-a-plate food [at restaurants] on Avenue B is crazy... It's good, but it's also bad, because the poor people at the end have to pay."

    Well, that's only if the city allows developers and homeowners to share the benefits of rising property values without any sharing the wealth--redistributing tax money in the form of "public realm" investment, requiring subsidized housing as a tradeoff for increased density, and making non-gentrified neighborhoods more attractive thanks to better transit and parks.

    (Oh yeah, what's the connection to Atlantic Yards? Had the city been doing this all along, a project like AY--essentially a private rezoning--wouldn't have been seen as a savior by some and wouldn't have been so polarizing.)


    Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

    No redevelopment without AY? The ESDC should be pressed to explain

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Norman Oder continues his series on questions the Empire State Development Corporation should be made to answer for a possible State Senate Committee hearing on Atlantic Yards:

    The first part here mostly reprises what I wrote 12/4/06, but the issue shouldn't be ignored.

    It was one of the least credible statements in the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) issued in July by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC):

    The project site is not anticipated to experience substantial change in the future without the proposed project by 2016 due to the existence of the open rail yard and the low-density industrial zoning regulations.

    The Park Slope Civic Council and Park Slope Neighbors challenged that, commenting that a city rezoning could do just that, though it would "involve professional planners whose job is to advance the public interest, rather than a reliance on private interests to establish de facto zoning."


    NoLandGrab: Without getting too far off topic, it's worth mentioning that while every neighborhood close to the footprint of Atlantic Yards experienced some measure of "substantial change" during the past five-plus years since Bruce Ratner's megaproject was announced, most of the 22-acre footprint has been in decline, blighted by Ratner's demolitions and complete lack of social or economic vitality.

    Posted by lumi at 6:24 AM

    As Revenues Fall, Nets’ Front Office Shrinks

    NetsDaily.jpg Nets Daily has this synopsis of a Sports Business Journal article on more cuts in the NJ Nets front office:

    In addition to the ten staffers laid off two weeks ago, ten other front office positions haven’t been filled, reports Sports Business Journal. That brings team staff down to 120, a 15% drop from a high of 140 in late 2007. Team revenue has dropped from $100 million to $92.4 million this year and the Nets are among 16 NBA teams that rolled over loans from a $2 billion credit pool aimed at shoring up operations.


    Sports Business Journal (subscription only), Nets cut front office staffing, lay off 10
    Sports Business Journal, NBA gets loan pool renewal

    Posted by lumi at 5:52 AM

    Forest City in the News

    Here's some of the news from across the nation about Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of Atlantic Yards overdeveloper Forest City Ratner.

    InsideBayArea.com, My Word: Russo divulge show his secret ballpark site

    One of the owners of the Oakland A's mentions Forest City's Oakland boondoggle as he fires the next salvo in the public debate over where to site the team's new ballpark, which will allegedly be "financed with private funds."

    But long before [A's managing owner Lew ] Wolff owned the team, the city decided to allow Forest City Developers to develop the downtown site with condos — and even provided Forest City with a $67 million subsidy. So instead of a baseball stadium, retail space and housing — at no taxpayer cost — the city, in a monumental example of bad planning, gave away the site to condos.

    NoLandGrab: Regular readers will recall that Forest City's Oakland project is faltering. New condos are not selling and the latest idea is to turn empty lots into parking lots.

    Unfortunately, you can count on interim parking lots in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and the build-it-and-they-will-come mentality won't save the developer from the next condo bubble.

    Cleveland Plain Dealer, Moving On

    Forest City Enterprises Co-Chairman Sam Miller says he's stepping down from the board of Cleveland State University. Though there are rumblings that he's not happy with the direction of the board, Miller would say only that he told CSU President Michael Schwartz when he was hired that he'd leave when Schwartz left. And Schwartz is retiring, too.

    "I spent 10 years on that board, and I feel after 10 years of hard work and a lot of, let's say, material support, I feel that the progress that was made was more than was made since they started it. And I'm going on to some other colleges," he said.

    Cleveland Plain Dealer, CWRU gets $8.7 million for medical school
    Case Western Reserve University just announced "8.7 million in new gifts to [the] School of Medicine." Including:

    A $2 million gift from Forest City Enterprises Charitable Foundation Inc. that will create a new Center for Surgical Skills Training and an endowed professorship.

    Posted by lumi at 5:24 AM

    May 4, 2009

    Lupica, on Bloomberg's campaign of inevitability, omits DOF and AY

    Atlantic Yards Report

    The Daily News's Mike Lupica critiques the Mayor's non-campaign reelection campaign, and Norman Oder critiques the critique.

    As for better accountability from city agencies, OK, but that omits the performance of the Department of Finance (DOF) in the swift and curious reassessment of the Yankee Stadium site.

    And Bloomberg's edifice complex extends to Atlantic Yards, which spurred such controversy that even former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff said, in hindsight, should have gone through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) rather than the state process that omitted official local input.


    NoLandGrab: It's surprising, actually, that Lupica, who's been a consistent and frequent critic of Atlantic Yards, didn't mention the Mayor's unflagging support of the flagging megaproject.

    Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

    TOMORROW: Brooklyn Boondoggle

    This Tuesday, Meerkat Media Arts Collective will be screening their documentary short, Brooklyn Boondoggle, as part of Scene: Brooklyn, Independent Film and Media Arts, a new film series produced by the Brooklyn Arts Council.

    Exploring the highly controversial Atlantic Yards project, BROOKLYN BOONDOGGLE questions the trend of top-down urban development and asks, what if we were allowed to decide the future of our own neighborhoods?

    MEERKAT MEDIA ARTS COLLECTIVE is an interdisciplinary group of artists dedicated to making media that matters. And while the story of the Atlantic Yards is not a new one, as it has already been widely debated, we hope to use this film as a cautionary tale and do what only a short doc can do best — inspire insight and action.

    Tuesday, May 5th, 7 p.m.
    Galapagos Art Space
    16 Main Street [Map]
    DUMBO, Brooklyn
    $5 at the door

    More info

    Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

    Gary Bettman: Coliseum 'unrealistic' for Isles

    NY Newsday

    Hey, Atlantic Yards isn't the only misbegotten mega-plan mired in its own excess!

    NHL commissioner Gary Bettman went to bat for the NY Islanders' owner, Charles Wang, who is seeking approval for his mixed-use Hempstead megaproject that is to include a convention center, the tallest skyscraper on "The Island," a shopper's paradise and a new arena.

    NoLandGrab: These days, sports team owners not only want a new venue (citizens are no longer willing to foot the entire bill), so the owners are seeking the entire high-density mixed-use real estate boondoggle. If not for their limitless ambition, Wang could have already had his approval for a new arena to replace the one that everyone agrees is begining to look like THE Coliseum, and NJ Nets owner Bruce Ratner might have had shovels in the ground in Brooklyn.

    Despite supporting Wang's unwelcome megaproject, Bettman went on to state the obvious; the brand-new Newark Prudential Center is already open while the Nets are still languishing in the Meadowlands:

    Bettman also was asked about the possibility of the NBA's New Jersey Nets moving from the Izod Center at the Meadowlands to join the Devils at the Prudential Center in downtown Newark. NBA commissioner David Stern told APSE the Nets are fine where they are, but Bettman had a different view.

    "I don't understand why the Nets aren't playing at Prudential Center now," the NHL commissioner said. "The Devils are drawing, and the atmosphere is great. It has to be costing the State of New Jersey a boatload of money to keep [Izod Center] open. I hope, at some point, the Nets decide to go there."


    Posted by lumi at 5:50 AM

    Mayor's Office: maybe to new schools if AY is built, no to a new 78th Precinct stationhouse

    Atlantic Yards Report

    The Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget, in budget documents released Friday, revealed a couple of Capital Budget Priorities and Requests related to Atlantic Yards.

    In neither case does the city appear willing to commit more resources, stating that it would try to build more schools, should AY be built, with existing funds, and would not try to construct a new 78th Precinct stationhouse, despite the impact of an arena that would be built a block away.


    NoLandGrab: The Mayor continues to support Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards scheme, but will not commit to supporting the community in and around the project.

    Mayor to Community Boards: drop dead (or, at least, wither away)

    Mayor Bloomberg is facing some hard choices, but his top-down community-be-damned approach to rezoning leads one to believe that his decision to cut the already meager budgets of Community Boards wasn't one of them:

    ...Community Board budgets average around $220,000, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s budget proposes that those budgets go down 5%, not up.

    Yes, the city budget is under stress, but, as Manhattan CB 7 Chair Helen Rosenthal notes in this March 16 Gotham Gazette commentary, the entire community board budget is some $15 million--essentially a rounding error in a $60 billion budget. (Actually, the budget this year looks like it'll be under $14 million. See p. 55 of this PDF budget document.)

    Numerous Community Boards asked for an increase in their budgets, pointing out that they're already stretched to the bone, and the CBs can’t fulfill their mandates in the city charter.

    Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

    Forest City in the News

    Institutional Investor, Harlem Mixed-Use Complex Goes Up For Sale

    The parent company of Atlantic Yards' developer is still selling assests to raise much-needed cash. An excerpt from the subscription-only site:

    Forest City Enterprises is shopping a leasehold interest in Harlem Center, a 274,000-square-foot retail and office condo complex in Manhattan. Cushman & Wakefield has the listing.

    The property is located on the corner of 125th Street and Malcolm X Blvd.

    NY Daily News, Silverstein Properties launches Manhattan's tallest rental

    Leasing starts next week at [Larry Silverstein's] Silver Towers, two 60-story glass structures at 42nd St. and 11th Ave. that are the latest addition to the West Side skyline. Now that Forest City Ratner may cut Beekman Tower from 76 to 38 floors, Silver Towers will be the largest and tallest rental in the history of New York.

    Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal, Forest City and Navy Region NW break ground for community center

    A Forest City subsidiary is one of the largest builders of miliary housing in the nation:

    Representatives of Forest City Military Communities (FCMC) and Navy Region Northwest joined forces with public officials to break ground on a new Community Center located in the Southeast Family Housing area of Naval Base Kitsap, Bangor. The project is a part of the ongoing privatization partnership the Navy has undertaken to update its on-base family housing and amenities.

    Fresno Bee, Fresno turns to local developers for downtown revitalization

    Fresno is going local after Forest City Enterprises flamed out:

    Today, many parts of Vision 2010 are in place: A new federal courthouse, a major office building, the first new housing downtown in 25 years. But others have flopped -- especially plans by a national developer, Forest City Enterprises, to rebuild 17 city blocks at downtown's southernmost point.

    As a result, the city's top leaders are changing course. No more long waltzes with big builders from faraway cities. Instead, a new focus inward, sprucing up one storefront at a time, relying on local investment and guided by new rules for windows, facades, signs, traffic, parking and landscaping.

    Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

    May 3, 2009

    Your Sunday Atlantic Yards Report Fix

    The end of the Times's City section likely means even less attention to AY

    The coverage of the Atlantic Yards fight in the New York Times has been biased and sadly incomplete. Expect to see even less coverage and commentary for this boondoggle as the Times' Sunday City section is about to disappear as a result of cost-cutting.

    After today, you have two more weeks to say goodbye to the New York Times's weekly City section, which on May 24 (as noted in the Observer) will be replaced by a section consolidating it and the other regional weeklies, thus saving spending on newsprint and freelancers.


    I've been critical of the Times's use of the City section to cover Atlantic Yards, but also recognize that it's better than further diminishment of space and attention. (The Observer ran a nice piece about the loss of the section's urban essays.) But that's the newspaper business these days.

    NHL Commissioner says Nets should play in Newark

    Norman Oder finds a way to save over $100 million in Federal money: Instead of subsidizing a new arena in Brooklyn for the Nets, have them play at an arena that's already been built - Newark's Prudential Center.

    Missed this one, from Newsday's Islanders blog April 24: [NHL Commissioner Gary] Bettman also was asked about the possibility of the NBA's New Jersey Nets moving from the Izod Center at the Meadowlands to join the Devils at the Prudential Center in downtown Newark. NBA commissioner David Stern told APSE the Nets are fine where they are, but Bettman had a different view.

    "I don't understand why the Nets aren't playing at Prudential Center now," the NHL commissioner said. "The Devils are drawing, and the atmosphere is great. It has to be costing the State of New Jersey a boatload of money to keep [Izod Center] open. I hope, at some point, the Nets decide to go there."

    Helping owners

    On the NetsDaily blog, Brooklyn move supporter NetIncome comments: It’s all about helping owners. Stern knows the Nets’ owners would benefit from owning their own arena in Brooklyn and Bettman knows the Devils’ owners could use a tenant to shore up their finances.

    True enough, given that the value of the Nets franchise has gone down but likely would go up significantly.


    But there's one big difference: the Prudential Center has already been built. The construction of the Barclays Center would be subsidized by federal taxpayers by well over $100 million. (I've estimated $165 million, but all numbers are in flux.)

    Council Member, which sports entertainment corporation do you prefer?

    An article in the The New York Times seems to be just so adorable in surveying who in the City Council is a fan of which baseball team. But there's nothing cute about how New York's sports franchises use up taxpayer money and destroy neighborhoods.

    An article on the baseball allegiances of New York City Council members made the front page of today's New York Times, headlined In Council, It’s Mets 18, Yanks 13, and Neither 12.


    While Council Members were apparently asked about their "team preference," the question could have been better phrased, using language from Bettina Damiani of watchdog group Good Jobs New York, "Which 'sports entertainment corporation' do you prefer?"

    Given that context, the next step would be to ask what other entertainment corporations they prefer.

    Not in Dodgerland any more

    Sports fandom just isn't pure any more. Not that it ever was--but the distance from Dodgerland ever increases. Maybe that's why some of the Council Members expressed no preference.

    There was exactly one mention in the article of how the teams played hardball to get new stadiums built: Councilwoman Helen D. Foster of the Bronx said that she used to root for the Yankees “before they destroyed my community,” referring to the construction of the team’s new $1.5 billion stadium, which replaced public tennis and basketball courts, baseball and soccer fields, and a running track with smaller parks.

    Meanwhile, in an article to be published tomorrow (in print) about the departures of key mayoral aides, the Times again ignores the potential connection between Finance Commissioner Martha Stark's resignation and the suspicious reassessment of the Yankee Stadium site.

    Posted by steve at 6:28 AM

    Times Editorial On “The Ever-Deepening Pension Mess”: You Heard It Here First

    Noticing New York

    This item is primarily concerned with corruption in the New York State pension system, where politicians send pension funds to investment firms and receive kickbacks in return. Noticing New York suggests additional oversight for the pension system, but points out that any committee added for the purpose of reform need to be structured properly. For example, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) board failed in its responsibility to review the proposed Atlantic Yards project:

    For the sake of using this as another opportunity to take a pot shot at the project we think is above all others most deserving of criticism, consider for example the abdication of responsibility by the Empire State Development Corporation’s board for the Atlantic Yards project. Not only was the board’s initial approval quick and cursory for an extraordinarily monumental set of propositions, but the project has since been allowed to migrate substantially from what was originally touted. That migration has been entirely the responsibility merely of staff. We would not therefore deem Atlantic Yards an “approved” project. That lack of valid approval for what is currently proposed raises issues akin to the need for the altered Atlantic Yards project to go back to the Public Authorities Board before legally valid financing can ever proceed.


    Posted by steve at 6:12 AM

    May 2, 2009

    AY Report: Saturday Morning Edition

    "Everything changes when we get to Brooklyn," insists Nets CFO (which is why AY won't fade away easily)

    Norman Oder takes a look at the interview with New Jersey Nets CFO Charlie Mierswa in CFO Magazine.

    In an interview in CFO Magazine headlined "It Still Hurts When You Lose." New Jersey Nets CFO Charlie Mierswa expresses unbridled optimism--and even convinced the reporter to state, without equivocation that "[i]n two years the franchise says good-bye to New Jersey and heads for a Frank Gehry–designed arena in Brooklyn."

    Well, that timetable is in doubt, but Mierswa's interview is a reminder that Atlantic Yards backers are still betting on the new arena to reverse huge Nets losses, bring in new revenues, and raise the value of the team, which has actually declined since an ownership group led by Forest City Ratner's Bruce Ratner bought the team in 2004.


    Do you anticipate any problems raising the funds to build the stadium?

    The project has the political support that it needs, and the reason is the number of jobs it's going to bring. The recent financing that the Mets and Yankees did — municipal debt with PILOT payments [payments in lieu of tax] — that's the same vehicle we are going to use. The Yankees's $370 million issue was oversubscribed. Clearly there's an appetite for that kind of financing. We met with the rating agencies and they were very enthusiastic. All we need is the green light. We expect to get it in the next three or four months. We think we will prevail in the remaining lawsuits.


    If the political support depends on jobs, the Mierswa either hasn't listened to Nets CEO Brett Yormark's affordable housing mantra or AY backers have given up on predicting that such housing would arrive in a timely fashion.

    While it's likely that the state will prevail in the remaining lawsuits, appeals may last beyond Mierswa's timetable.

    Beyond that, Forest City Ratner's cash crunch also may stall plans. Remember, the developer must deliver $100 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority before the Empire State Development Corporation starts exercising eminent domain.


    But you're also scaling back the architectural plans for the arena, right?

    We're going through a process of "value-engineering" the stadium plans. That will bring down construction costs to a level that will facilitate the financing. There's no question it will continue to stand as a landmark in Brooklyn; it will also be economically viable in this marketplace.

    That doesn't tell us whether Frank Gehry is still working on the arena or why, given Gehry's pride in working "tight to the bone," costs need to be cut nearly in half.

    "Brooklyn Boondoggle," a short doc about AY, screens Tuesday


    I haven't seen Brooklyn Boondoggle, an 11-minute short film about Atlantic Yards that will be screened on Tuesday, May 5, at the Galapagos Art Space along with other short documentaries, so I asked about it.

    "We didn't interview any politicians, or major activists - we simply went out onto the streets and talked to our neighbors about their feelings about the project," producer Zara Serabian-Arthur of Meerkat Media said in an email message. "We talked to folks who are being kicked out of their homes, business owners hoping for increased sales, young people hoping for jobs, families concerned that the development would lower their quality of life."

    "Since there are already a lot of people doing good, in-depth investigative work into the project (including, of course, yourself, and the folks that made "Brooklyn Matters"), and we are by no means experts, the film simply tries to start a dialogue about this kind of top-down, corporate-led development, and serve as a tool for people in any city that is experiencing these kind of issues to rethink this model and imagine alternatives."

    NoLandGrab: The frame shown is definitely NOT taken from "Brooklyn Boondoggle".

    Posted by steve at 7:34 AM

    Just Miles Apart, 2 Arenas Compete

    The New York Times
    By Jeffrey C. Mays

    This article talks about the tricky political game being played out in New Jersey as politicians struggle to decide what to do about two state-owned arenas. In this difficult economy, New Jersey politicians can neither quite justify the expenditure of taxpayer money for the Izod Center, nor risk the backlash that would result from closing it in favor of Newark's Prudential Center. Part of the mix is what is to become of the New Jersey Nets, who currently make their home at the Izod Center.

    The Izod Center, which opened in 1981 at the cost of $85 million, is operated by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and was financed with public dollars. The New Jersey Nets basketball team has a lease at the arena until 2013, but team officials said they plan to relocate to a Frank Gehry-designed arena in downtown Brooklyn in time for the 2011-2012 season. There is growing doubt about whether that arena will be completed.


    Posted by steve at 7:20 AM

    "It Still Hurts When You Lose."

    CFO Magazine
    By Vincent Ryan

    There's plenty to give your b.s. detector high readings in this Q&A with New Jersey Nets CFO Charlie Mierswa.

    What will the move to Brooklyn mean for the financial growth of the organization?
    Everything changes when we get to Brooklyn — I would expect us to be one of the most valuable teams. The difference is the density of the population. Also, we will be in control of the building. Just look at the sponsor values when we move to Brooklyn versus what we're able to garner in New Jersey; it's night and day.

    The arena will be a destination in the center of Brooklyn, with clubs and amenities that you can't find in other buildings in the marketplace, because they were built 20 or 30 years ago. It's more than just basketball. There will be concerts and family shows. It will be another market for artists to play in.

    Do you anticipate any problems raising the funds to build the stadium?
    The project has the political support that it needs, and the reason is the number of jobs it's going to bring. The recent financing that the Mets and Yankees did — municipal debt with PILOT payments [payments in lieu of tax] — that's the same vehicle we are going to use. The Yankees's $370 million issue was oversubscribed. Clearly there's an appetite for that kind of financing. We met with the rating agencies and they were very enthusiastic. All we need is the green light. We expect to get it in the next three or four months. We think we will prevail in the remaining lawsuits.

    Political support for Atlantic Yards did not come from the paltry number of projected arena-oriented jobs, but from the "Affordable Housing" component of the project. Nobody knows if or when such housing might appear. Does Mierswa's comment indicate that Forest City Ratner is too busy trying to keep the project afloat to control the statements coming from its own team? Also, any discussion of project finances that doesn't take into account the U.S. economy and Forest City's financial health is woefully inadequate.

    But you're also scaling back the architectural plans for the arena, right?
    We're going through a process of "value-engineering" the stadium plans. That will bring down construction costs to a level that will facilitate the financing. There's no question it will continue to stand as a landmark in Brooklyn; it will also be economically viable in this marketplace.

    "Value engineering" translates to "Frank Gehry is no longer part of this project."


    Posted by steve at 6:37 AM

    Forest City In The News

    Inside Bay Area, My Word: No need for 'interim' parking lot in Uptown Oakland

    What do you get when you give Forest City subsidies, but then it decides it can't build? Parking lots!

    The Uptown renaissance is occurring despite a huge blemish in the heart of the district — a one-acre mud pit surrounded by an eight-foot chain link fence on the prominent corner of Telegraph and 19th. The future use of this site — flanked by the dazzling Fox Theatre and the handsome Uptown apartments, and located across the street from the art-deco landmark building housing Flora — is pivotal to the continued transformation of Uptown into a vibrant walkable district.

    A residential tower has been approved for this lot; but the developer, Forest City, does not anticipate commencing construction for at least three years due to current market conditions.

    Some City Council members are advocating for a 120-space interim surface parking lot on the site...


    The parking lot proposal ignores the larger picture. While maximizing parking for the Fox might sell a few more tickets, a surface parking lot consuming an entire city block on Telegraph will jeopardize the revival of the entire district. A one-acre mass of asphalt and sea of cars will deter pedestrians contemplating a stroll up Telegraph to explore the new restaurants, bars and shops.

    Shoppers prefer an uninterrupted flow of attractive storefronts and inviting open spaces.

    For these reasons, these same City Council members gave Forest City a $60 million subsidy four years ago to eliminate the old surface parking lot at this very site. The previous parking lot was discouraging economic development and investment in Uptown.

    Why should we care so much about a temporary parking lot? Because "interim" parking lots often remain for years or decades, depending upon market conditions and developers' whims. The new Cathedral Christ of Light, for example, was built on the site of an "interim" parking lot that remained for more than 40 years.

    Cleveland Plain Dealer, Possible expansion of TALF for commercial loans?
    by Michelle Jarboe

    In Forest City's home base, they know that the developer will look for every opportunity to get its hands on taxpayer loot.

    The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that the Federal Reserve is getting ready to announce new terms of a program that might soothe the troubled commercial real estate market.

    The Journal cites unidentified sources in reporting that the Fed could expand the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, which is designed to give investors low-cost loans to buy securities backed by consumer debt including car loans and credit-card loans. So far, the program has involved three-year loans. But, according to the Journal, the Fed could announce new, five-year loans better-tailored to investors in commercial-mortgage backed securities -- a market that disappeared during last year's financial meltdown.


    You can be sure that local real estate companies -- including shopping center owner Developers Diversified Realty Corp. and Forest City Enterprises Inc. -- are watching closely as the TALF program evolves.

    Washington Business Journal, Contractors have filed nearly $28M in liens in D.C., Northern Virginia
    By Melissa Castro

    Problems with a different FCR "Yard" project seem to indicate financial problems for the developer.

    Dozens of high-profile projects are facing liens from hard-pressed contractors. In just one week of March, Forest City Washington was slapped with a $191,460 lien for work done at its Yards project near the baseball stadium, while Faison Enterprises Inc. and Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds LLC got hit with a $118,674 lien at the nearby Onyx Apartments. The CityVista mixed-use project faces a nearly $400,000 lien for work related to Results, The Gym’s outpost there, and Intrepid Real Estate’s uber-luxury condominium building at 2501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW is on the hook for $154,555.

    Posted by steve at 6:08 AM

    May 1, 2009

    Atlantic Yards YES! Everyone else's tax exemptions, NO!!

    While Bruce Ratner is still counting on a Mortgage Recording Tax exemption for Atlantic Yards worth $77 million, and a Sales Tax exemption on all Barclays Center construction materials and fixtures, worth unspecified millions (still no word on the actual cost of the arena), Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a sales tax increase that'll cost city residents north of a half-billion dollars a year — plus the repeal of the sales tax exemption on clothing under $110.

    Crain's NY Business, Mayor’s budget treads cautiously on job cuts

    Trying to put a positive spin on what will be the gloomiest city budget in seven years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg emphasized Friday that his proposal to shrink the city workforce by 14,000, or 1.3%, in part by laying off almost 4,000, will not affect teachers or uniformed workers like police and firefighters.

    But his budget proposal does increase sales taxes and fees by more than $1 billion for the 12 months beginning July 4 and anticipates $400 million in union concessions.

    "We just don't have the money. And the public doesn't want to pay any more taxes," Mr. Bloomberg said during a City Hall press conference. "I'm not happy about raising any tax."

    NoLandGrab: "We just don't have the money" because Bruce Ratner doesn't have to pay taxes.

    Posted by eric at 3:39 PM

    Atlantic Yards YES! 13,500 City Jobs, NO! 3,750 City Workers, NO!!

    Today, Mayor Bloomberg is expected to announce the elimination of 13,500 city jobs, 3,750 through layoffs. So far, there are no plans to cutback the $205 million in direct cash subsidies for Bruce Ratner's eminent domain-abusing Atlantic Yards overdevelopment.

    Here are some of the headlines anticipating the bad news in today's budget address:
    amNY, Worse news for New York City workers: Mayor will propose 3,750 layoffs
    NY1, Bloomberg To Outline New Layoffs, Sales Tax Hike
    WCBS, Sources: Sales Tax Bump Part Of Bloomberg's Budget

    Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

    The NBA money crunch, trading empty seats for advertising, and keeping Coach Frank

    Atlantic Yards Report

    NBA's woes

    ESPN columnist Bill Simmons thinks that the NBA's fiscal troubles, about which he's written already, are becoming ever more apparent.

    Advertising vs. attendance
    Norman Oder unpacks the spin that plans for banner advertising to cover seats in the upper decks of the Izod Center would create "additional revenue":

    Well, "additional" compared to what? Wouldn't a full house, with the fans paying for concessions, bring even more revenue? Otherwise, they could put up advertising anywhere.

    Can't afford to fire Frank
    It's hard not to agree with Bergen Record sports columnist Al Iannazzone:

    Money likely played a part in Thorn’s decision [to keep coach Lawrence Frank]. Nets’ ownership is losing millions, so it would be difficult to eat the $4.5 million Frank is owed next season and pay another coach.


    Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

    Nets Keep Lawrence Frank

    NBA Fanhouse (AOL)

    We already brought you the news that Nets head coach Lawrence Frank is going to stay put for another season to finish out his contract, possibly because team owner Bruce Ratner can't afford to fire him. However, yesterday's column by Tom Ziller makes two noteworthy points.

    Frank was under contract already, but [Nets CEO Rod] Thorn had been publicly hedging on whether he'd return.
    Do they think hiring a popular player's coach like Eddie Jordan would reverse the jinx of Atlantic Yards and pull a major 2010 free agent?


    NoLandGrab: What was to be gained by the public waffling on this decision? It isn't Thorn's style and hints at chaos in the Nets front office.

    It's official, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject has jinxed the team and Thorn and Frank are powerless against it.

    Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

    And what if climate change had been part of the EIS? Maybe there wouldn't have been so much parking planned for AY

    Atlantic Yards Report

    Hmm... what if climate change had been part of the Environmental Impact Statement? The short answer is there would have been even more analysis for developer Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Developerment Corporation to ignore.

    However, Atlantic Yards has become the poster project for reckless urban planning, so it's worth ruminating on what-ifs, at least for future projects and environmental reviews:

    Last week, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) released a study that "details a suggested framework for analyzing climate change, and enables New York State to evaluate and address the potential climate change impact of different actions in land-use, energy and industrial transportation, and other issues."

    And the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued draft guidelines for adding analysis to environmental impact statements (EISs).

    A dense development like Atlantic Yards, with buildings designed to meet LEED standards, may seem to foster sustainability, but critics like urban planner Tom Angotti remain skeptical, because of what's been left out.

    Indeed, should this new policy avenue be followed, the environmental review for large projects like AY would require a closer look at the impact of parking, traffic, and construction on greenhouse gases (GHG).


    Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

    Brownstoner double whammy

    Prepping for Something Big at City Tech

    Brownstoner has got the news that soil testing is underway for "City Tech Tower," a joint venture between the school and Forest City Ratner. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the current plan is for an un-tower-like 350,000-square-foot academic building of eight or nine stories.

    Development Watch: Atlantic Terrace Tops Out

    While no one can reliably tell you when Forest City Ratner affordable housing will get built at Atlantic Yards, Brownstoner is reporting that the Fifth Avenue Committee just topped out the Atlantic Terrace project, directly across the street from the project everyone loves to loathe.

    This place is great news in terms of affordable housing: Roughly 70 percent of the units are earmarked for low- and moderate-earners.

    NoLandGrab: Case in point, if Bruce Ratner was truly focused on building affordable housing, his megadevelopment scheme would be well on its way by now.

    Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

    Forest City in the News

    Business Facilities Magazine, A New York State of Mind
    Forest City Ratner is one of the major players in Yonkers's development renaissance.

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland's downtown waterfront gets a makeover on paper that envisions public spaces, fishing piers
    Cleveland leaders, hoping to transform the city's industrial waterfront, look to other cities for examples.

    Pittsburgh acquired hundreds of acres of riverfront land, crafted plans and partnered with developers, like Albert Ratner of Forest City Enterprises and John Ferchill, both of whom have Cleveland roots, Murphy noted.

    NoLandGrab: Um... Pittsburgh shelved the Forest City convention center hotel project in response to the development company's revised proposal to downsize the project, despite the lure of $34 million in subsidies. [See, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Convention center hotel plans on hold]

    Posted by lumi at 4:39 AM