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September 30, 2009

On Brian Lehrer, Mayor (in clip) disses IBO; Schuerman explains why it’s tough for Thompson; Council candidate Griffith gets a say

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR analyzes today's two Atlantic Yards-related segments on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show.

The Atlantic Yards segment on today’s Brian Lehrer show concentrated mainly on the minor differences between full-throated project support Mayor Mike Bloomberg and supporter-with-concerns Comptroller Bill Thompson, the Democratic candidate.

The most valuable moment in the segment came at about 13:45, when Lehrer brought up the fact that New York City Independent Budget Office Mayor Mike Bloomberg, in full voice, disses the cost-benefit analysis of the Atlantic Yards arena: “I don’t know what the IBO studies would have shown back when they tried to establish the value of Central Park or Prospect Park or anything else. These are the kinds of projects you have to do because without that we don’t have a future, and we’re going to get this one done.”

As Schuerman pointed out, “The funny thing is, he applauded the IBO study when it came out four years ago, showing it was a slight positive net gain for the city.” Schuerman noted that the effort to analyze costs and benefits is “murky,” given that the IBO was able to look only at the arena.

Has the Comptroller reacted to the IBO study? “More than anything, I don’t think Thompson has taken a position on Atlantic Yards,” Schuerman added, noting that Thompson has not chosen to audit the project.
...

Caller Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy suggested that Thompson could challenge Bloomberg on Atlantic Yards, given that it’s “a poster child of all the mayor has done wrong, when it comes to megadevelopments.”

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Posted by eric at 7:54 PM

The Times corrects DePlasco's railyard misinformation

Atlantic Yards Report

Looky here! The Times just got around to correcting an egregious week-old lie by Atlantic Yards snake-oil salesman Joe DePlasco.

Six days after allowing Forest City Ratner flack Joe DePlasco to say, "“Most of Atlantic Yards is being built over the Long Island Rail Road," the New York Times finally publishes a correction:
about 40 percent of the project — not “most” of it — is being built over a railyard.

Actually, it's not being built yet either.

For what it's worth, I filed a request for a correction last Wednesday night, shortly after the article appeared online--it was published Thursday--and again yesterday.

link

Read the full correction (scroll to bottom)

Posted by eric at 7:43 PM

The Heroes and Villains of New York City

We look at who is saving this city... and who is destroying it.

The L Magazine

Heroes

Daniel Goldstein

Before the Great Recession, opponents of the Atlantic Yards project had to declare that the out-of-scale sweetheart-dealt development wasn’t a done deal; now its dwindling public supporters have to declare—with Forest City Ratner on its third design for a Nets arena at Flatbush and Atlantic, with no announced plans whatsoever for the rest of the infrastructure-crushing, neighborhood-upending towers—that the project isn’t dead yet. Much of this is due to the formerly quixotic-seeming court battling and gad-flying of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, and its indefatigable co-founder. With Bruce Ratner now accessing a credit lifeline courtesy a Russian oligarch, Brooklyn needs Goldstein and his organization now more than ever.

link

NoLandGrab: Just in case you were wondering, the heroes are on top.

Be sure to read The L Magazine's compelling mayoral endorsement of another of its heroes, Rev. Billy Talen.

Posted by eric at 5:47 PM

Our pick: Mike Bloomberg for mayor

The Brooklyn Paper

The Community Newspaper Group's endorsement of incumbent Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who orchestrated the overturning of term limits to clear the way so he could run again, is not totally outlandish, since it's well nigh impossible to get excited about his Democratic challenger, Bill Thompson. But someone must have spiked the coffee down at the CNG's Metrotech offices, because some of the reasons they give for supporting Bloomberg are downright nutty.

Protecting neighborhoods: To his ill-informed critics, the mayor is a tool of developers who want to pillage our communities. But on the ground in the neighborhoods we cover, the mayor has moved ahead with zoning changes to preserve neighborhoods or revitalize commercial areas, such as Carroll Gardens and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, Jamaica in Queens or along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. In such cases, we’ve seen the benefits of the mayor’s big-picture approach.

First off, we've never called Bloomberg a "tool" of developers, since he's richer than all of them. More like a BFF.

But seriously, the "benefits" of the Fourth Avenue rezoning? You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who praises that ill-conceived effort. Here's a shining example of that "big-picture approach."

Concerning the sprawling Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the mayor’s team admitted long ago that it didn’t handle the development properly and has since done a much better job. That improvement deserves praise.

WTF? We'll defer to Norman Oder's critique, below, but suffice it to say, the "mayor's team" in this instance was one ex-staffer, former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, who admitted the project should have gone through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, rather than have short-circuited that process with a state-level zoning override. As for the "much better job" since, well, that's pure fantasy. And "praise?" Sorry, not here.

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More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, CNG editorial claims Bloomberg's "not a politician" and has "done a much better job" on Atlantic Yards

Here's Norman Oder on the Mayor's alleged Atlantic Yards improvement:

A much better job? Do they mean the accelerated transfer of subsidies or the dissing of the Independent Budget Office?

Term limits

Remember, the Community Newspaper Group is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who agreed to have his New York Post support Bloomberg's effort to overturn and extend term limits.
...

The endorsement claims:
And best of all, he’s not a politician.
...

I'll point people to Tom Robbins in the Village Voice, critiquing Bloomberg's claim of "Progress. Not Politics":
The first word is a debate worth having. The next two are simply lies.

Not politics? Whatever you think of Bill Thompson's erratic campaign, at least he was being nominated that very night by his own party in an open primary. Mike Bloomberg? His GOP endorsement came courtesy of a classic, old-school political deal in which five Republican county leaders sat down in a room and agreed to give the mayor their ballot line.

He cut the same insiders' pact with the cultish local chapter of the Independence Party. The party's nominating convention this spring featured all the democracy of a Chinese Politburo meeting, including a ruling clique that fawned over the visiting mayor. A few weeks later, Bloomberg sealed the deal with a $250,000 down-payment to the party's coffers, with presumably a great deal more to come.

Not politics? Bloomberg continues to scorn the city's campaign finance system, the hard-won reform designed to curb the influence of big money in elections. He spends as much as he wants—the same way the hacks used to do before limits were adopted.

Then there's the bare-bones political scheming that won the mayor the very right to even appear on the ballot this year. That's the one topic Mike Bloomberg still refuses to talk about. He gets an electric-like jolt whenever the topic is raised. Just when and why Mike Bloomberg decided to overturn the city's term limits laws is shrouded in mystery. He's done his best to keep it that way.

Posted by eric at 5:13 PM

30 Issues Day 8: Atlantic Yards

WNYC Radio [The Brian Lehrer Show]

Brian Lehrer and WNYC reporter Matthew Schuerman discuss if and how the Atlantic Yards project might factor into the mayoral election, and "Daniel (Goldstein) in Prospect Heights" is the first caller.

link

NoLandGrab: Democratic Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson has not distinguished himself by failing to distinguish himself from Mayor Bloomberg in supporting Atlantic Yards, leaving Green Party candidate Reverend Billy Talen the clear choice for project opponents.

In the subsequent segment, Mark Winston Griffith, an Atlantic Yards opponent who ran second in the Democratic primary for the 36th Council District seat to Atlantic Yards-supporting incumbent Al Vann, talks about his effort to unseat Vann in the general election, running on the Working Families line.

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NLG: We endorsed Mark Winston Griffith in the primary, and that holds for November's ballot, too.

Posted by eric at 12:55 PM

ATLANTIC YARDS RATNERVILLE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Weeks beginning September 28, 2009 and October 5, 2009

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

Please note: the scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditions. All work has been approved by appropriate City and State agencies where required. In addition to the activities described below noise attenuation and vibration monitoring measures are underway in connection with the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments dated 12/08/06.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact our project Ombudsperson at: 212-803-3233 or AtlanticYards@empire.state.ny.us

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard Work

  • Installation of conduit and cable within Yard (BL1120 and 1121)

  • Completion of underground water line, hydrants and connection to City water (BL1120 and 1121)

  • Completion of Fire Protection Piping on Pacific Street wall

  • Completion of track panels and turnouts/track switches (BL1120 and 1121)

  • Final Alignment, Tamping and Regulation of Track throughout Yard (BL 1120 and 1121)

  • Preparation for Paving of Vehicle Access Roadway throughout Yard (BL 1120 and 1121)

  • Work is anticipated to continue through the end of the year.

Environmental Remediation

  • No work currently underway

Infrastructure

  • Infrastructure work related to installation of new sewer chambers at the intersection of 6th Avenue at Pacific Street is complete except for finish paving. Infrastructure work related to the installation of new a water main along the east side of Flatbush Avenue has commenced. Work will be done at night and is expected to take six (6) weeks.

Here's the previous Construction Update, for the weeks of September 14th and 21st.

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

Ratner-Prokhorov Deal: What Did the ESDC Know, and When Did They Know It?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Our sources tell us the NBA knew of the Prokhorov-Ratner deal at least 6 months ago.

If true, this begs the question: What did the ESDC know and when did they know it?

link

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

On Brian Lehrer, Goldstein says ESDC offer for condo is less than what he paid in 2003; today's segment is Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reviews Monday's Brian Lehrer Show segment on eminent domain.

...the most enlightening moment of the segment came when Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, called up and revealed that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) actually offered him less money than he paid for is condo in 2003.


...

At about 16;10, Goldstein called in. "As far as just compensation, people need to know what just compensation actually means in New York State," he said. "I received, last Monday, a letter from the ESDC, which is overseeing the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, where they make what is called their pre-vesting offer, what they're going to pay you should they take the property.... They don't offer you just compensation. They don't even offer you fair market value. What they have offered is below the market value, any real estate agent would tell you that.... It is even below what I paid for the place... over six years ago, and everybody knows the market is not lower. So the point is, in New York State at least, people trying to live their lives in their homes are being punished... by incredibly low-ball offers."

Serkin said that properties are valued at the time of taking and can suffer from condemnation blight--the fair market value reflects the lowered perception of the property.

That doesn't seem fair, Eddings said.

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NoLandGrab: No, it's not fair. Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation would have you believe that property owners are lavished with riches when their homes and businesses are taken by eminent domain, but the reality is far different.

Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

30 Issues Day 6: Eminent Domain

WNYC Radio [The Brian Lehrer Show]

Monday's Brian Lehrer Show devoted a segment to eminent domain and its role in developing New York City.

Christopher Serkin, associate professor of law at Brooklyn Law School, explains what eminent domain is and how it's used. Dana Berliner, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice and Kathryn Wylde, president & CEO of the Partnership for New York City argue the ins and outs of the policy. Then, WNYC's Matthew Schuerman outlines the mayoral candidates' positions on eminent domain in NYC.

link

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

Nets ticket revenues down nearly one-third last season

Bergen Record
by John Brennan

The New Jersey Nets made a big splash last week with the announcement of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s intention to buy controlling interest in the franchise.

But in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing released late Friday afternoon, the news was much grimmer: Revenue from Nets ticket sales declined by nearly one-third last season.

The filing — detailing the bottom line of Nets Sports and Entertainment LLC — demonstrated that while announced Nets attendance figures were similar in 2007-08 and 2008-09, the ticket sale revenue nosedived to $25.9 million from $37.4 million.

“That’s a huge drop, and it wouldn’t be all because of the economy by any means,” said Jim Grinstead, editor of the Revenues from Sports Ventures newsletter.

Grinstead said it was more typical for NBA teams to see ticket sale revenues to decline about 10 to 12 percent in 2008-09, because of a need to discount tickets to entice cash-strapped customers to games.

The Nets balanced most of the ticket revenue decline with cuts in player salaries, marketing and other expenses — but still finished with an operating loss of $68.6 million in 2008-09.

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NoLandGrab: The bloom appears to be off the Yormarketing Genius.

Related coverage...

SportsBusiness Daily, Nets Ticket Sales Revenue Drops By Almost One-Third In '08-09 [subscription required]

Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

Proposed Supermarket Divides Bronx Community

The New York Times
by Terry Pristin

An article about a Bronx supermarket project and a related Community Benefits Agreement highlights the Mayor's flip-flop.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who in the past has supported the efforts of community groups to forge their own pacts with developers for projects like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, is now adamantly opposed to so-called community benefits agreements. City officials say that benefits to local residents should be considered as part of the public approval process, not in separate agreements.

Seth W. Pinsky, president of the city Economic Development Corporation, said the split over the supermarket illustrated the flaws inherent in these pacts. “On the one hand you have groups that are claiming to represent the communities saying no to grocery stores,” he said, “while on the other hand there are community groups saying we desperately need more grocery stores.”

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NoLandGrab: The truth is probably that the Bloomberg Administration will embrace CBAs when they suit their goals, and oppose them when they don't.

Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

New Barclays Center Design Eyes Atlantic Yards

eOculus
by Lisa Delgado

The official publication of the American Institute of Architects' NY chapter reports on the September 14th presentation by Bruce Ratner's most-recent architects.

Some questions about the project remained unanswered. Eliciting grumbles from community activists who oppose Atlantic Yards, Bell chose not to allow questions pertaining to the process surrounding the complex, explaining that the session’s purpose was to focus purely on the new design. And while the architects explained many specifics of that design, just how the arena will be integrated with the complex’s future towers remains shrouded in mystery. During the Q&A, one audience member asked what would happen to the oculus if another building slated for that spot were constructed in the future. Pasquarelli replied that the whole canopy might be removed or extended, or perhaps new escalators or elevators could even go through the oculus. As time goes by, it will be interesting to see just how this project — and the opposition surrounding it — plays out.

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Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, An architect-centered take on the curious September 14 "community information session"

So e-Oculus, the publication of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), offers a (predictably) architect-centered take on the curious September 14 event that was both an AIA continuing education event and a "community information session"--or maybe a "public informational session."

The article, headlined New Barclays Center Design Eyes Atlantic Yards, does not look askance at the moderator's distracting musings:
“Where do the things in dreams go? Do they pass to the dreams of others?” asked Rick Bell, FAIA, quoting from Pablo Neruda during a recent talk on the new design of Barclays Center. A bit like dreams, memories of the sports-and-entertainment arena’s previous, rejected designs hovered over the proceedings: Gehry Partners’ glassy, circular design, which got scrapped for a more economical (and bland) version by Ellerbe Becket. SHoP recently joined up with Ellerbe Becket to create a sexier new design, the subject of the evening’s talk.

Norman Oder posted a comment on the eOculus article page:

One important reason why “community activists” wanted more questions answered: the Empire State Development Corporation billed this as the second promised “community information session.” However, the session was held after the period for public comment had closed. And Bell acknowledged he had no idea how a community info session was (awkwardly) grafted on an AIA continuing education session.

Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

Department of City Planning official said design changes to AY were "obviously quite significant," but ESDC told the public "no"

Atlantic Yards Report

Via Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, Norman Oder learns that Winston Von Engel, Deputy Director of the Brooklyn Office of the Department of City Planning (DCP), agrees with the rest of the project watchdogs that "the design changes to the project are obviously quite significant. Under the circumstances, we believe that a more detailed review of the proposed design is appropriate."

However, according to the official response, filed with the "Modified General Project Plan," to the community's concern about the design changes, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) stated:

No modifications to the Design Guidelines or overall program are proposed, and the Arena, although redesigned, does comply with the Design Guidelines as required by the GPP [General Project Plan]. The Design Guidelines, which establish the framework for the design and development of the Project Site, were developed in close consultation with ESDC and DCP staff and are attached as an exhibit to the GPP.

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NoLandGrab: It was in developer Bruce Ratner's self-interest that the modifications to the design were not deemed "significant," otherwise the Empire State Development Corporation would be forced to issue a "Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement" (SEIS), which would take months to complete and would blow past Ratner's end-of-year deadline for taking advantage of triple-tax-free bonds.

This is one of many examples of how governmental agencies have been bending over backwards to accommodate developer Bruce Ratner in every way possible.

Posted by lumi at 6:59 AM

Hot Bird's Last Stand 2008

Photo by Trish Mayo, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

It was a thrill to see my photo hanging on the wall of the Brooklyn Museum as part of the exhibition Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibit.

HotBirdsLastStand.jpg

The photo in this photo was taken in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project and shows one of the few buildings that Ratner hasn't been allowed to demolish yet.

Posted by lumi at 6:51 AM

From Ratnerville with Love

The reports and analysis are still trickling in of Bruce Ratner's deal with the Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov to bail out the NJ Nets and the flagging Atlantic Yards project.

NY Newsday, Globalization continues after sale of Nets to Russian mogul

Though the headline makes it sound like "globalization continues" despite the sale, Newsday's John Jeansonne casts the deal in the context of borderless economies:

“It’s business as usual in the international economy,” Duke University cultural anthropologist Orin Starn said of the Prokhorov deal. “It’s a borderless world and a world where money talks.

“It’s part of the pattern of globalization of sports ownership, just as corporations have globalized,” Starn said. “It’s also about the old story of sports franchises as a kind of trophy, a plaything of the wealthy. American millionaires and billionaires, from [marketing magnate and Washington Redskins owner] Daniel Snyder to [Microsoft co-founder and NFL, NBA and Major League Soccer team owner] Paul Allen, want their franchises, their sports toys. Russian billionaires are the same.”

Rob Tilliss, who worked with Ratner in the latter’s 2003 purchase of the Nets and now is CEO of the global sports and entertainment advising firm Inner Circle Sports, argued that “the reaction would’ve been similar if it were a wealthy Indian or Malaysian or Chinese buying the Nets. I think any time you have a foreign investor acquiring a major U.S. asset, there’s a lot of interest.”
...
Not so many years ago, such a deal would have been a clear sign of the apocalypse, especially since sports so often is tied to patriotism.

NoLandGrab: Globalization aside, this still begs the question, should public tax dollars and eminent domain be used to feather the nest of a foreign businessman, who is listed at #40 on Forbes's world's most wealthy list.

RotoTimes.com, Atlantic Division Report

Current Nets owner Bruce Ratner believes that the sale of 80 percent of the Nets to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is the final piece to building an $800 million arena and moving to Brooklyn. The Nets currently play in the Izod Center, the oldest arena in the league. Prokhorov would be the first foreign owner in the NBA if the sale is approved.

Minyanville.com, The NBA, From Russia With Love

One report on the deal totally fudges an important Atlantic Yards stat:

Prokhorov’s ownership conditions would give him a 45% stake in the team’s new arena in downtown Brooklyn. In addition to the arena, the Atlantic Yards projects would create more than 1,000 housing units, with more than half of them being touted as being “affordable or middle-income.”

NoLandGrab: Ratner added condos to his project after striking the "50/50" deal with ACORN, which bring the percentage of "affordable or middle-income" housing units down to roughly 35%.

Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

Forest City in the News

TradingMarkets, Forest City Enterprises Up 118.2% Since SmarTrend's Buy Recommendation

If you had listened to SmarTrend's "proprietary pattern recognition system," back in January 2009, you would have been up 118.2% on the stock in the parent company of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

There's no mention that the stock is still way down from when it nearly hit $70 back in April 2007.

The Boston Globe, From crumbling to chic

On the once-contaminated site of a decaying shoe factory, a thriving neighborhood is growing with the opening of hundreds of chic apartments, part of a renaissance in this Merrimack River mill city, which has seen plenty of hard times.

Longtime residents like Richard Lynch never believed the crumbling brick buildings and trash-filled parking lots near downtown could be recreated as modern housing with exposed brick, wood beams, and even a cyber cafe.

Today, however, developers, residents and government officials - including Governor Deval Patrick - are scheduled to celebrate the official opening of the 305-unit, four-building Hamel Mill Lofts complex, one of several Haverhill developments spurred by state and federal incentives.
...
Forest City Residential Group, the Hamel Mill Lofts developers, calls the $80 million complex a public-private partnership, because so many state and federal incentives were used to fund the project. For instance, the development was built with the help of Massachusetts’ five-year-old “smart-growth’’ law, formally known as 40R.

Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

The Nets Offseason: In Their Own Words

Nets are Scorching [ESPN]
By Mark Ginocchio

While the Nets have only made a handful of roster moves since the end of the 2008-09 NBA season, their summer has certainly been an eventful one. With training camp kicking off this week, NAS is looking back at the events of the past three months, using the Nets own words to tell the tale.

Excerpts related to the Atlantic Yards saga:

July 23 – Anonymous team official on the possibility of Bruce Ratner selling the team (Star-Ledger): “Bruce has looked into several options. He’s had offers, he’s made counteroffers, and at some point in time - probably by the time the season gets under way - something will transpire.
...
September 9 – Bruce Ratner on the new Barclays Arena renderings (release): “The Barclays Center will quickly become an iconic part of the Brooklyn landscape. The design is elegant and intimate and also a bold architectural statement that will nicely complement the surrounding buildings and neighborhoods.”

September 9 – Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn on the renderings (release): “It’s all lipstick on a corrupt pig, window-dressing on a boondoggle.”
...
September 22 – Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov on his interest in buying the Nets (blog post): “For our Onexim group the realization of this very lucrative business project, whose participation was made possible by the world crisis (never in history have foreigners owned an NBA club), is another interesting sports development.”

September 23 – David Stern on the announcement that Prokhorov was buying the Nets (press release): “We are looking forward to the Nets’ move to a state-of-the-art facility in Brooklyn, with its rich sports heritage. Interest in basketball and the NBA is growing rapidly on a global basis and we are especially encouraged by Mr. Prokhorov’s commitment to the Nets and the opportunity it presents to continue the growth of basketball in Russia.”

link

Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

With distractions afoot, Nets want to stay focused on court

NY Daily News
By Julian Garcia

The Nets can't afford to get distracted.

But if they are willing to let their minds wander, there are plenty of options. There is the Russian billionaire who could be the new owner of the team, the possibility of being one of the major spenders in next summer's free agent market or the chance that Lawrence Frank and team executives Rod Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe are all in their final seasons.
...
Point guard Devin Harris knows that one of his biggest challenges could be keeping his teammates focused while outsiders continue to bring up current owner Bruce Ratner's deal with $9 billion man Mikhail Prokhorov, the franchise's pending move to Brooklyn or 2010 free agency, all of which will be hot topics.

Harris didn't dismiss those issues.

"The funny thing is we help ourselves more by doing better," said Harris. "We attract free agents if we do better as a team right now. So if we keep ourselves more in the present it will help us in the future."

article

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

PETER DAVIDSON appointed EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR of empire state development

On the heels of Marisa Lago's abbreviated tenure, which represented only a portion of the chaos at the helm of the Empire State Development Corporation in the wake of Eliot Spitzer's resignation, the quasi-public corporation announced a new Executive Director. [Full press release after the jump.]

Long Island Business News, ESDC names new executive director

A longtime media executive has been appointed the new executive director of Empire State Development Corp., New York’s chief economic development agency.

Peter Davidson is the former owner and publisher of El Diario/La Prensa, the leading Spanish-language daily in the United States, and for the past nine years served as chairman of the New York City-based J.M. Kaplan Fund.

Atlantic Yards Report, ESDC names media executive Peter Davidson as Executive Director

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has recently been rather thin on top, with the departure this summer of CEO Marisa Lago, a yet-unconfirmed Chairman, Dennis Mullen of Rochester, and the long goodbye from Avi Schick.

Now media executive Peter Davidson has been named Executive Director, and will oversee Atlantic Yards, among many other projects.

(By the way, Susan Rahm, the mysterious volunteer who apparently played a key role on the ESDC's Atlantic Yards, was notably absent at the September 17 board meeting when Atlantic Yards was approved. Update: I didn't see her, but another person there said she was in the building. She certainly wasn't at the table.)

For Immediate Release: September 29, 2009

Contact:
Warner Johnston (ESD) | wjohnston@empire.state.ny.us | 1-800-260-7313

PETER DAVIDSON appointed EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR of empire state development

Davidson will oversee statewide subsidiaries and large-scale urban development projects ensuring capital investment growth for New York State
Will also manage State’s Tourism Division, home of the iconic I LOVE NY brand

Empire State Development (ESD) today announced the appointment of Peter W. Davidson as the agency’s new Executive Director. Mr. Davidson, an experienced dealmaker and executive in the private sector, will oversee the management of all ESD’s statewide subsidiaries and its large-scale urban development projects, as well as its divisions of Marketing, Advertising, and Tourism.

Mr. Davidson is a long time media executive, having founded and operated six different media companies in New York in newspaper, radio, television, advertising, and market research, with many of them geared toward the Hispanic community. From 1989 to 2000, he was owner and publisher of El Diario/La Prensa, the leading Spanish-language daily in the United States. Known as a creative business leader, he has piloted complex deals, structured numerous equity and debt-raising transactions, and acted as lead negotiator in multiple financings, acquisitions, and asset sales.

For the past nine years, Mr. Davidson was also Chairman of the New York City based J.M. Kaplan Fund, where he oversaw grant-making focused on waterfront access, transportation, and infrastructure in New York City, the protection of immigrants throughout the United States, and archeological conservation worldwide.

“Peter brings a wealth of experience as an entrepreneur to Empire State Development,” said Dennis M. Mullen, Empire State Development Chairman & CEO, designate. “He is a well-respected business leader, and with his vision and energy, we will be able to move forward with important development projects that stimulate the economy while providing important capital investment. Peter’s knowledge and expertise, particularly of business and government leaders in New York City, make him a perfect addition to ESD, and we welcome him to the team.”

As Executive Director, Mr. Davidson will work under the leadership of Mr. Mullen to spur economic growth and foster job creation in New York State through large-scale urban development projects, such as the development of Governor’s Island, the revitalization of Erie Canal Harbor, the expansion and renovation of the Jacob Javits Convention Center, and the construction of Brooklyn Bridge Park. He will also oversee ESD’s direct development work on such projects as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Midtown Rising in Rochester.

“I am honored that Dennis has given me this incredible opportunity,” said Mr. Davidson. “Our economy faces significant challenges, and I am eager to bring fresh ideas and energy to the organization in whatever way I can.”

Mr. Davidson is a graduate of Stanford University and the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration. He is an active member of the Brooklyn community, where he lives with his wife and three children.

Mr. Davidson’s first day at Empire State Development is Thursday, October 1, 2009. He will be based in ESD’s New York City office.

Empire State Development is New York’s chief economic development agency. ESD also oversees the marketing of “I LOVE NY,” the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information, visit www.nylovesbiz.com.

###

Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

The Awl Voter Guide For September 29, 2009

AWL

Though the results are in — Bill de Blasio beat Mark Green for Public Advocate and John Liu defeated David Yassky for NYC Comptroller — it's worth noting that one blog had previously not endorsed de Blasio, solely because of his pro-Atlantic Yards stance.

PUBLIC ADVOCATE
In our previous voter guide we explained that we were disinclined to vote for Bill de Blasio due to his support of the Atlantic Yards project. However, that was when there were several other alternatives to Mark Green. Today there are not. We endorse Bill de Blasio.

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Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

September 29, 2009

The Orchestrated Timing of the Ratner-Prokhorov Deal

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Was the Ratner-Prokhorov deal in the works prior to the ESDC's September 17th vote to re-rubberstamp Atlantic Yards? Of course it was.

Was the letter of intent signed before the 17th ESDC Board vote? It probably was (or at least could have been and was just waiting to be signed after the re-rubberstamp.)

Was it all orchestrated? Of course it was. Why would the Board members want to discuss such things as Norlisk Nickel, Courchevel, the Kremlin, and Rusal, when they could stick with their known quantity and buddy Bruce Ratner? That way the discussion about Mr. Prokhorov could occur without any accountability.

link

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

The ESDC's non-responsive Response to Comment document: looking at evasions about benefits, renderings, timetables, signage, blight, etc.

Atlantic Yards Report

"Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan for Dummies:" Norman Oder spells out the issues and evasions in the official Empire State Development Corporation document that was adopted as part of the re-approval of Bruce Ratner's controversial arena and highrise megaproject.

I've already written about major changes agreed to by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) at the September 17 approval of the Modified General Project Plan (MGPP), including:

  • a speed-up of government funds
  • a pass-through of city payments
  • a hedging defense of the announced ten-year timetable
  • the dubious "economic benefit analysis"
  • a cut in size of the project by one-third
  • an acknowledgment that affordable housing depends on subsidies.

The Response to Comments document distributed by the ESDC at the September 17 board meeting is notable for non-responsive or evasive responses, including, as I've previously explained:

  • the claim that an "economic benefit analysis" equals a cost-benefit analysis
  • the claim that a construction schedule represents a "useful timetable"
  • the evasion of the question of whether affordable housing financing would be available
  • the claim that a ten-year timetable is reasonable
  • the questionable critique of the New York City Independent Budget Office's report on the Atlantic Yards arena.

But the rest of the document deserves scrutiny, as well, given the ESDC's avoidance of candor.

Below are some selected responses, with my commentary. Among the highlights, the ESDC:

  • punts on whether project benefits would be binding
  • ignores the request for architectural renderings
  • claims an Arena block program required closing Fifth Avenue
  • doesn't acknowledge the likelihood of extended surface parking
  • ignores a question about the timetable for reopening the Carlton Avenue bridge
  • disregards how an extended project timetable would extend blight
  • ignores a request for renderings of signage.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

Two Runoff Elections: Your Votes Sure Could Make a Difference, Or Is That Really So?

Noticing New York

With both candidates for Public Advocate in favor of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject and both candidates for Comptroller tepidly against the project, blogger Michael D.D. White recommends that you cast your ballot today.

link

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

Prudential Center Hosts Nets and Devils Open Season

The Star-Ledger
By "Inside Jersey Staff"

Though Nets owner Bruce Ratner would rather the team be playing in Brooklyn, this month the gravity of the Prudential Center in Newark has temporarily pulled the team into its orbit:

Newark's Prudential Center will be a true Mecca for sports fans this month. The new home for the New Jersey Devils hockey team will host two preseason New Jersey Nets basketball games: The Nets will tip off against the 2008 NBA champ Boston Celtics on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. and take on their rival neighbors, the New York Knicks, on Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $10 to $500, and are available through ticketmaster.com.

Typically, the Nets play their home games at East Rutherford's Izod Center, but their owner, real estate developer Bruce Ratner, has been planning amid much controversy to relocate them to the Barclays Center, part of the trouble-plagued Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Given that the Izod Center's future has been in question since the Devils' exit in 2007, the Nets' two preseason games in Newark will no doubt allow the NBA team to test the water at the Prudential Center as a possible temporary home before the completion of the Barclays Center.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

Marty hails Nets' buyer

The NY Post
By Rich Calder

After a week, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz broke his studied silence over Bruce Ratner's deal to sell a majority stake in the NJ Nets and a minorty share of the oneday-to-be-built arena to Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov.

"Brooklyn is the Russian capital of America, so Mr. Prokhorov will feel right at home here, and I have been assured he will put the interests of Brooklyn first when it comes to making [the planned] Barclays Center and its benefits to Brooklyn a reality," Markowitz told the Post.

The beep sought to dispute borough politicians and political operates sourced in Friday’s edition who said Markowitz behind closed doors is embarrassed and angry over developer Bruce Ratner’s announcement last week that he plans to sell a majority stake in the Nets to Prokhorov.

article

NoLandGrab: Brooklynites can rest assured that Marty has "been assured" that Prokhorov "will put the interests of Brooklyn first?" That's hardly believable, or a ringing endorsement for that matter.

Thanks Marty and Bruce, we can now look forward to the use of tax dollars and eminent domain to further enrich a Russian oligarch — "Mr. Prokhorov will feel right at home here" indeed.

Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons" said it best, "Welcome to the American dream: a billionaire using public funds, to construct a private playground for the rich and powerful."

Atlantic Yards Report, Finally, Marty Markowitz embraces the Prokhorov purchase of the Nets and the arena

It took a little while--and an anonymously sourced New York Post story saying he was steamed and embarrassed--but Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz now says he's happy Russian mogul Mikhail Prokhorov is buying 80% of the Nets and 45% of the Barclays Center.
...
Note that Markowitz is not talking about the project's benefits to Brooklyn, because the timetable is very murky.

As for benefits to Brooklyn, no one's quite toted them up. We know that the New York City Independent Budget Office says the arena would be a net loss for the city.

NoLandGrab: For the record, Marty didn't say he was "happy," only that he was "assured."

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

Nets' Would-Be Buyer Portrayed as Enigmatic Russian Doll

Runnin' Scared

The Village Voice's Roy Edroso reviews the media's take on the Russian oligarch who agreed to purchase a majority share in the NJ Nets and bail out Bruce Ratner's floundering Atlantic Yards project.

Mikhail Prokhorov wants to buy the Nets; the Jersey Star-Ledger takes a look at him. The billionaire has "suspected ties to organized crime," but that's "not uncommon in Russia, according to Rusal's own website." His largest U.S. operation is the country's only palladium and platinum producer, which he bought with the help of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the Carlyle Group.

This weekend the Times offered a more light-hearted take from Moscow-based correspondent Clifford J. Levy: "Oligarchs have their share of occupational hazards: heavily armed rivals, stupendously corrupt bureaucrats," etc., but can Prokhorov face down longtime Atlantic Yards project opponent Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn?

article

Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

Charges dropped against Bruce Ratner's new business partner

You know that the saga of Ratnerville has devolved into the absurd when NoLandGrab informs its readers that all charges have been dropped in a prostitution case against a multi-billionaire Russian oligarch.

Russia Today, Billionaire's alleged prostitution ring case closed

A case in which Russia's richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov, was arrested by French police investigating prostitution has been dismissed due to lack of evidence of any crime, according to the billionaire's lawyer.

RIA Novosti, France drops prostitution case involving Russian billionaire

Prokhorov himself described the closure of the case as "logical."

"I said initially that the case is a void. Its closure is logical. I am satisfied," the billionaire said in his blog.

Prokhorov also owns an investment vehicle, Onexim Group, while one of his main assets is Polyus Gold, Russia's largest gold producer.

The tycoon signed on Wednesday a letter of intent with New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner to acquire a majority stake in the club and to take part in Ratner's Atlantic Yards mega-development project to construct a sports, residential and business complex in Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 4:57 AM

Getting to know the Russian buying Nets at a discount

The subscription-only Sports Business Journal takes a look at Bruce Ratner's deal with Mikhail Prokhorov to bail out the struggling franchise and megaproject.

Foreign money comes ashore with Nets deal

Who is Mikhail Prokhorov and what does his deal to buy the New Jersey Nets mean for the future of U.S. sports team ownership? Those were the questions running through sports business circles last week after the announced sale of the New Jersey Nets to the Russian multibillionaire...

Prokhorov Appears To Be Getting Great Deal In Nets Acquisition

Forbes Editor Indicates Prokhorov's Investment Just One-Third What Team, Arena Are Worth Forbes National Editor Mike Ozanian indicated that prospective Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov's $200M investment for 80% of the franchise and 45% of the proposed Barclays…

Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

September 28, 2009

Brooklyn Utopias?

MuralPhoto-TC.jpg This photo of the Hagan sisters' mural in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, by neighborhood photog Tracy Collins, is part of the exhibit running at the Brooklyn Historical Society, entitled "Brooklyn Utopias?" (www.brooklynutopias.com).

Says Tracy Collins about his work: "Through photographs of the neighborhood over the past 5 years and quotations from the developer and Atlantic Yards supporters, I explore how my version of a Utopian Brooklyn has been threatened by the Utopian Atlantic Yards development."

Opening Reception: Thurs, Oct. 1, 2009, 5:30-7:30pm
Exhibition Dates: Oct. 2, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010
Public Hours: Wed-Fri, Sun, 12-5pm; Sat, 10am-5pm
Address: 128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201, 1st Floor Lobby
Public Program: “Town Hall Meeting: Utopian Urban Planning:” Join artists and community leaders to discuss Brooklyn’s future: Sun, Oct. 25, 2009, 2-4pm

Click here for more info.

Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

Opportunity for Thompson? Looking at Bloomberg's support for the West Side Stadium, reflexive backing for AY, and how AY was reframed in polls

Atlantic Yards Report

Underdog Democratic mayoral nominee Bill Thompson's an Atlantic Yards supporter. Indeed, he signed a boilerplate letter (left) in July 2005 to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in support of the project.

Should Thompson somehow challenge Mayor Mike Bloomberg on his support for the project, the challenger might gain some headway--only if he looked back in history and framed the issue appropriately. (Right now the only AY critic in the race is Green Party candidate Rev. Billy Talen.)

Click here for Norman Oder's look back at the political history of Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

The Curious Case of the Nets' Ownership

The Wall Street Journal
By Brad Parks

The bizarre deal with Mikhail Prokhorov is only the next colorful chapter for a "storied" franchise:

But the Russian oligarch will have to work hard to match the antics produced by his predecessors. This, after all, is a franchise whose first NBA owner, Roy Boe, financed its entry into the league by selling its best player, Julius Erving.
...
Still, if there's one thing that encourages the Nets' remaining diehard fans about Mr. Prokhorov, it's this: He couldn't be any zanier.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:36 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

A Daily Photo of Brooklyn, NY, Crossing Flatbush

There’s no construction going on at the Atlantic Yards project, yet it’s like a construction site. How is that? The large unsightly building in the background is home to Target and other stores.

NoLandGrab: There is "prep work" going on in the railyards. BTW: the "large unsightly building in the background" is owned by Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

Noticing New York, Re: The Atlantic Yards Report of Our Wondering about Whether ESDC COULD Disapprove the Prokhorov Transaction

Coulda, woulda, shoulda — after being quoted in Atlantic Yards Report, blogger, lawyer and urban planner Michael D.D. White explains how the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) could review the Ratner-Prokhorov deal, why the agency should cover its ass, and why it won't.

NoLandGrab: Ratner helped the ESDC to gamely sidestep the issue, by announcing the Prokhorov deal less than a week after the quasi-public corporation "reapproved" the project.

johnbyronkuhner.com, New Jersey Nyets

One writer pats himself on the back for coming up with the "New Jersey Nyets."

NoLandGrab: Never mind that the obvious pun was also irresistible to NoLandGrab, NY Newsday, NY Post, Poet Leon Freilich, and The Associated Press.

Sean Elder, The Russian Is Coming, The Russian Is Coming!

Writer and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board Member Sean Elder comments on the "typically condescending editorial in [The NY Times] Week in Review."

Moscow correspondent Clifford Levy first gives DDDB (of which I am a proud member) points for being “resourceful, tenacious and just plain ornery.” (“Get off my land, ya varmint!”) Then he establishes his bona fides by saying he now lives just blocks from Prokhorov’s office but used to live right near the site of the Nets proposed arena.

Hoops Vibe, From Russia with love: Mikhail Prokhorov perfect for New Jersey Nets

An analysis of the Prokhorov deal from Vancouver:

With Prokhorov in the fold, the Brooklyn arena again looks like a go. Barclays, a massive British bank, are rumored to have interest in buying naming rights and the 6-6 Russian will bring other international contacts to the franchise.

The timing is perfect. With a rich owner and developing core, the Nets are suddenly attractive to free agents next summer.

Forever in Flux, Atlantic Yards

Three photos from the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

The photo that appears here depicts a portion of the prep work going on in the railyards. The other photos show what's left of the Ward Bakery building, next to the main part that Ratner has already torn down.

The Game I Love, Ocio alla Perestrojka
Fun with machine translation:

The magic word is Atlantic Yards, the mega-complex of residential and new Nets arena (the Barclays Center, thirty thousand people) that should be built in downtown Brooklyn. Pharaoh Project, edited since 2004 by what is the owner of the Nets, Bruce Ratner, however, is in a phase of tired. Not only because environmentalists are bringing before the courts of each judicial Ratner for that which is revealed as a great work but also as a real bath of cement in the area. But also because the credit crisis in the U.S. has slowed monstrously funding.

NoLandGrab: For the record, the arena is supposed to hold 18-19K seats, not 30K, and is in Prospect Heights, not Downtown Brooklyn, which is a couple blocks away.

Digest-News.ru, Гамбит Прохорова ("Gambit Prokhorov")

More fun with machine translation:

Prokhorov - penetrating genius and will be many times richer than when the crisis is over.

Dances with Bears, MIKHAIL PROKHOROV AND THE NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION – STRETCH TO FIT

John Helmer, a commentator on Russian affairs, posted US Congressional Rep. Bill Pascrell's (D-NJ) press release, "urging [NBA Commissioner David Stern] to thoroughly investigate former nickel mining baron Mikhail Prokhorov, who reached an agreement... to buy the New Jersey Nets."

Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

Forest City in the News

Denver Post, Developer Forest City wants to donate money to build Stapleton school

With tax revenue declining, local officials are scrambling to figure out how to build another school at Forest City's Stapleton project. The Cleveland developer has pledged to, "take $5.5 million earmarked for a park and instead donate the money for a new school in the neighborhood. John Lehigh, president of Forest City Stapleton Inc., also wants to contribute the land for the future school, which the neighborhood desperately needs."

The Eagle-Tribune, Haverhill gets final $1.7 million for parking garage

The announcement that Haverhill, MA is to receive $1.7M to build a downtown parking garage will be made at, "at an event that is also to celebrate the completion of a portion of the Hamel Mills Lofts complex. That housing development is located in a series of renovated factory buildings that formerly housed the L.H. Hamel Leather Company. The state provided millions worth of historic tax credits to help Forest City Residential Group build the complex."

Posted by lumi at 4:54 AM

September 27, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Sunday Morning Overdrive

Atlantic Yards Report

The orchestrated timing of the Prokhorov deal: just after the main opportunity for public agencies to ask questions

The timing of the deal with Mikhail Prokhorov seems clearly orchestrated, in the works but not announced until after the Atlantic Yards plan received its second approval, on September 17, from the Empire State Development Corporation.

Would the politicians backing the proposed Atlantic Yards project have been so enthusiastic if they knew that a Russian oligarch would be the beneficiary of taxpayer subsidies?

Prokhorov has an option on 20% of the project as a whole, so Forest City Ratner would still be the majority owner.

Other billionaires get tax-exempt financing--hey, that helps them stay billionaires--so that's not the argument. There are some clouds over Prokhorov's reputation--a prostitution investigation in France, alleged Mafia ties--but nothing solid.

Still, there's something to it. Forest City Ratner, for all the criticism it has engendered, has a track record in New York City and Brooklyn. Elected officials were happy to work with it.

Do they profits stay in New York? Not necessarily--they go to Cleveland. But the idea of scarce housing bonds going to help a Russian oligarch surely would give some local officials reason for pause.

And maybe that's why Borough President Marty Markowitz has been so quiet--though I fully expect an effusive statement explaining that he's happy that, in such tough times, the announced benefits of Atlantic Yards are on their way. Even if many of them are not.

Would AY get Liberty Bonds? Crain's source asserts it's eligible

An article appearing in Crain's New York mentions that the proposed Atlantic Yards project could be eligible for Liberty Bonds. Norman Oder questions that claim.

Liberty Bonds, which were aimed at the revitalization of Lower Manhattan in the wake of 9/11, have never been mentioned as a source for Atlantic Yards arena financing. It would be controversial, to say the least, to see "federal assistance made available to New York to support the Lower Manhattan rebuilding effort" helping a Russian oligarch.

Liberty Bonds are naimed at commercial property (i.e., offices):
The financing may be for the acquisition, construction, reconstruction and/or renovation of non-residential real property within the New York Liberty Zone and, under limited circumstances, elsewhere within The City of New York.

And it looks like the program is over, supplanted by stimulus funding.

Where have you gone, Mr. Stuckey? To academe and the questionable promotion of AY as transit-oriented development

Jim Stuckey was president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group for Forest City Ratner until he resigned under a cloud in 2007. Part of his career since then has included academia. He is now Leader of NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate.

Stuckey teaches a class called TRANSFORMING THE URBAN ECONOMY. From the syllabus:
This course will examine the economic development concepts, programs and projects in cities, with particular emphasis on the New York City metropolitan area. It will provide students with a basic understanding of the process of economic development, tools for assessing development opportunities and for promoting economic development, information on both successful and unsuccessful strategies and projects, and opportunities to discuss current issues in economic development.

The intention of this course is to present students with information on how economic development projects and tools are created, evaluated, and implemented from both theoretical and experiential points of view. The course will also look at essential elements of development projects, review negotiation strategies, and analyze standard investment packages.

The course will include readings and discussions on a number of current cases in economic development in the New York City area.

...

Here's one Atlantic Yards mention:
Class 8 – Infrastructure Investment and development: transit-oriented development (October 27)

  • What is transit-oriented development?
  • Policy and planning tools for implementing TOD.
  • Potential impacts of TOD.
  • Examples: Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn; Moynihan Station; West Side Yards. Required Reading:
  • *Robert Cervero, et al., Transit Oriented Development in the United States: Experiences, Challenges, and Prospects. 2004, Chapters 1, 9, 11 and 20.
  • Regional Plan Association Reports on Moynihan Station, The West Side Yards and Newark, New Jersey.

There's no reading for Atlantic Yards. Will Stuckey assign my critique of the project's parking plan?

In whimsical, cliched essay, Times writer introduces Brooklyn to oligarch, misses opportunity to point out "Soviet-style bureaucracy" in charge of AY

Norman Oder displays more patience than some by giving a hard look at a light-hearted piece about the proposed Atlantic Yards project appearing in today's New York Times.

Sunday's New York Times Week in Review section has a cutesy piece headlined Brooklyn, Meet Your Oligarch, by Moscow correspondent and former Brooklynite Clifford J. Levy, who really has done much better work.

The irony is that, had Levy understood the Atlantic Yards project better, he would've mentioned a curious commonality Prokhorov's country and the Atlantic Yards project: AY has been shepherded and approved by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), which has an unelected and hardly well-informed board. No local official has a vote.

And the biggest critic of public authorities like the ESDC, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, calls them "Soviet-style bureaucracies." And I've suggested some of the ESDC's explanations represent "Soviet-style math."

Posted by steve at 11:28 AM

Questions still remain about prospective NJ Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov

The Star-Ledger
By Dave D'Alessandro

This rather in-depth look at Mikhail Prokhorov's background gives reasons why those who are overjoyed at the oligarch's offer for the Nets should not yet see transfer of Nets ownership as a done deal.

But there are incidents and business practices in Prokhorov’s past that need to be examined, because while the 6-7 Russian tycoon may be astute when it comes to basketball, nobody knows how he is at hurdling, or sprinting, against the clock.

The hurdles here, after all, aren’t like the ones he has vaulted so easily back home, where a favorable relationship with a repressive government can bury your competitors and make you a billionaire before you’re 32.

“The question arises, at least from here in Moscow: Does the NBA commissioner think it’s his duty to do what it considered due diligence?” asked John Helmer, a former Carter Administration official who has run an acclaimed business news service in Russia since 1989. “And in the United States — particularly in New York State — you have to believe that an oligarch is open to investigation.”

The investigation will be conducted by NBA commissioner David Stern’s own legal team, but given the league’s desperate need for investors with deep pockets who can also expand their fan base into new markets, cynics would suggest that Prokhorov will get the feather-duster treatment.

The government, meanwhile, will likely conduct an elaborate search through the byzantine maze of Prokhorov’s wealth and power for something that might create doubt about his suitability to own a professional sports team.

Can he hold up under the scrutiny of whatever agency has oversight responsibility? Will the overseers determine that it’s not the size of his bank balance, but where the money comes from, that bears closer inspection? Would an examination from the Treasury Department — and its Committee On Foreign Investment In The United States — turn up how much is actually in Prokhorov’s portfolio, and if he is borrowing for the Nets deal, what the Russian is offering for security?

And can Prokhorov overcome these hurdles and generate additional funding for Barclays Center by Dec. 31, which is the day Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn dream turns into a pumpkin if the two partners cannot secure the financing for the $800 million arena?

link

Posted by steve at 11:12 AM

Tricky times ahead for New York Nyets

Newsday
By Neil Best

From the viewpoint of only what is best for the Nets franchise, this article only expresses concern that the proposed Atlantic Yards project might not happen and scuttle any deal with Mikhail Prokhorov.

Could all this just be an elaborate hoax designed to make us care about the Nets and their glacial move to Brooklyn?

Because face it, Mikhail Prokhorov seems too good to be true for a team that has toiled in the shadows of New York-area sports since it dumped another 6-7 guy with flare: Julius Erving.

The tall tales emerging this week of the Russian deca-billionaire and international man of mystery offer elements of everything from "Entourage'' to "The Sopranos,'' all wrapped in a nation known for centuries as one of Earth's great enigmas.

For the sake of argument, let us assume he is for real, the richest man in Russia spending a pittance of his estimated wealth - $200 million - to buy 80 percent of the Nets and partner with current owner Bruce Ratner in his planned new arena (and real estate development) in Brooklyn.

If such a man were on the verge of purchasing the Yankees or Giants or even Knicks, there would be much hand-wringing over what an overseas oligarch might mean for a beloved, traditional franchise.

But the Nets are such an afterthought that this can only be viewed as a good thing for the NBA, whose owners still must approve the deal but seem unlikely to discourage foreign dough.

...

Even Prokhorov must answer to political realities and complexities in Russia, a factor that might have been reflected in what at first seemed to be a peculiar post on his blog upon agreeing to the Nets deal.

In it he strangely linked buying the Nets to improving Russian basketball by tapping into U.S. training methods. The strategy became clearer when Russian legislators hammered him for spending money overseas.

"I can't consider this action as anything other than unpatriotic,'' Aslambed Aslakhanov, a member of the upper parliament chamber's sports committee, said via the state news agency RIA Novosti.

"We also have talented children here, but sports isn't being developed. They're not trying in order for us to return to our former sports ranking of the best in the world.''

That was a hint that there are potential hurdles to come, from lingering political opposition to the new arena in Brooklyn to who knows what sort of pressure back home, where Russia remains proud and protective of its athletic fortunes.

Will the story turn out to be too good to be true after all? Please, nyet.

link

Posted by steve at 10:55 AM

Atlantic Yards gets a lift

Crain's New York
By Amanda Fung

This article takes a cautious view as to whether the proposed Atlantic Yards project will proceed.

Last week's pledged cash infusion of $200 million from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov represents a major windfall for Forest City Ratner Cos. as it struggles to get its vast Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn under way, but that is still far from a slam dunk.

In a nutshell, Mr. Prokhorov's cash takes some of the financial pressure off the developer as it tries to line up financing for its new $900 million Atlantic Yards home for the Nets basketball team. Indeed, the developer has the go-ahead to raise $700 million in tax-free bond financing. The rub is that Forest City's ability to raise the hundreds of millions of dollars it needs to build out the remainder of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards site remains in as much doubt as ever.

...

When it comes to the Barclays Center, where the Nets could play ball as soon as the 2011 season, Forest City's plans definitely seem to be gathering steam—four years after the developer first unveiled them. Earlier this month, the Empire State Development Corp. approved the developer's modified plans, giving it the green light to assemble land and proceed with the project. On Oct. 14, New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, will reconsider a lower court's approval of the use of eminent domain to acquire the last plots of privately owned land the developer needs to fully assemble its site.

Bruce Ratner, chairman of Forest City, has expressed confidence that he'll win the case. Many legal experts are inclined to agree.

“Forest City is relying on substantial precedents which permit use of eminent domain for large economic development projects with the addition of affordable housing,” says Scott Mollen, an attorney at law firm Herrick Feinstein. “However, each case involves unique facts.”

Defeat would almost certainly scupper Mr. Ratner's plans, and would most definitely kill his deal with Mr. Prokhorov. That deal calls for his Onexim Group to invest $200 million in return for an 80% stake in the Nets—including its more than $200 million in debt—and a 45% interest in the 18,000-seat Barclays arena. All that is contingent upon Forest City obtaining all the land by the end of this year.

...

“I question whether or not someone associated with the Kremlin would respect unions or prevailing wages and affordable housing,” says Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James. “This partnership takes away from this project being about the borough of Brooklyn.”

In order for Mr. Prokhorov to take his stake in the project, however, it has to get built—and there the odds are still long. Forest City needs to break ground by year's end to take advantage of the tax-free bonds that it desperately needs, and then turn its attention to raising yet more money for future phases.

This deal helps in terms of bolstering Forest City's balance sheet, and will speed up the process,” says Kenneth Krasnow, managing director at Massey Knakal Realty Services. “But we haven't seen financing of this magnitude in a year or two.”

link

Atlantic Yards gets a lift

Crain's New York
By Amanda Fung

Last week's pledged cash infusion of $200 million from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov represents a major windfall for Forest City Ratner Cos. as it struggles to get its vast Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn under way, but that is still far from a slam dunk.

In a nutshell, Mr. Prokhorov's cash takes some of the financial pressure off the developer as it tries to line up financing for its new $900 million Atlantic Yards home for the Nets basketball team. Indeed, the developer has the go-ahead to raise $700 million in tax-free bond financing. The rub is that Forest City's ability to raise the hundreds of millions of dollars it needs to build out the remainder of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards site remains in as much doubt as ever.

Originally, Atlantic Yards carried a price tag of $4 billion and was to include 16 towers, some residential, some office. But a modified plan produced this year scaled back that vision to only one 400-unit residential tower, including some affordable housing, with a tentative opening date of late 2011. Construction on future components of the project is expected to begin after the arena is built, but only if the financing can be lined up.

“The deal appears to make it more likely that Forest City can take advantage of the tax-free Liberty Bonds by year's end and attract other investors,” says Neysa Pranger, director of public affairs for Regional Plan Association. “But there's still a way to go.”

When it comes to the Barclays Center, where the Nets could play ball as soon as the 2011 season, Forest City's plans definitely seem to be gathering steam—four years after the developer first unveiled them. Earlier this month, the Empire State Development Corp. approved the developer's modified plans, giving it the green light to assemble land and proceed with the project. On Oct. 14, New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, will reconsider a lower court's approval of the use of eminent domain to acquire the last plots of privately owned land the developer needs to fully assemble its site.

Bruce Ratner, chairman of Forest City, has expressed confidence that he'll win the case. Many legal experts are inclined to agree.

“Forest City is relying on substantial precedents which permit use of eminent domain for large economic development projects with the addition of affordable housing,” says Scott Mollen, an attorney at law firm Herrick Feinstein. “However, each case involves unique facts.”

Defeat would almost certainly scupper Mr. Ratner's plans, and would most definitely kill his deal with Mr. Prokhorov. That deal calls for his Onexim Group to invest $200 million in return for an 80% stake in the Nets—including its more than $200 million in debt—and a 45% interest in the 18,000-seat Barclays arena. All that is contingent upon Forest City obtaining all the land by the end of this year.

Much-needed windfall

Having sustained $380 million in pretax net losses over the five most recent years, Forest City could certainly use Mr. Prokhorov's cash. His option to acquire as much as 20% of the overall Atlantic Yards project represents another potentially major windfall for the developer.

But his potential involvement does carry some political risks, too. Some community officials wonder if the Russian tycoon will deliver the affordable housing that was promised by Forest City.

“I question whether or not someone associated with the Kremlin would respect unions or prevailing wages and affordable housing,” says Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James. “This partnership takes away from this project being about the borough of Brooklyn.”

In order for Mr. Prokhorov to take his stake in the project, however, it has to get built—and there the odds are still long. Forest City needs to break ground by year's end to take advantage of the tax-free bonds that it desperately needs, and then turn its attention to raising yet more money for future phases.

This deal helps in terms of bolstering Forest City's balance sheet, and will speed up the process,” says Kenneth Krasnow, managing director at Massey Knakal Realty Services. “But we haven't seen financing of this magnitude in a year or two.”

Posted by steve at 10:23 AM

Politi: For NJ Nets, Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov only latest in string of wacky owners

The Star-Ledger
By Steve Politi

This article sees Bruce Ratner's attempt to sell the Nets as yet another episode in ownership that hasn't worked out well for the franchise. This item concludes with the most recent history of the Nets as unfondly remembered, and the future seen as dim.

There were two trips to the NBA Finals but, finally, no new home in Newark. Ratner is an easy target now, but it was Katz who ultimately sold the team to a developer who made his intentions clear from the beginning.

Now, it is Ratner struggling to complete his goal for the team, to turn the Brooklyn Nets into the linchpin for Atlantic Yards. Like nearly everyone else who has owned this team, he has lost hundreds of millions in the process.

Prokhorov is his bailout plan, and he’ll only come aboard if the move to Brooklyn is complete. He has a history of spending whatever it takes to build a winner with his basketball team in Russia, but can a man from eight time zones away really be the answer for this team?

“Your guess is as good as my mine,” said David Gerstein, one of the Secaucus Seven who is still a small investor in the team. “I wish them luck. It could be a great thing for the team and the NBA.”

It could be. Or it could be an unprecedented disaster that involves two continents, millions of rubles and whispers of involvement from the Kremlin. When it comes to Nets owners, the trend is usually down.

link

Posted by steve at 9:44 AM

Brooklyn, Meet Your Oligarch

New York Times
By Clifford J. Levy

What to make of this item about Mikhail Prokhorov's possibly buying the New Jersey Nets from Bruce Ratner? It's apparently meant to be humorous.

This part might be a howler if the proposed Atlantic Yards project ever went through any community review, but it's intentionally been designated a state project so that city review and zoning don't apply. Therefore, the irony is definitely missing.

Still, Mr. Prokhorov, who is to control the Nets and a large minority stake in the arena, may have culture shock when he grasps what it takes to complete a project in New York City. Environmental impact statements? Community board input? Appellate court review? Can’t we get the thumb’s up from the local chieftain and get it done?

In Russia, where governance has an authoritarian cast and civil society is less than robust, it is unusual for a project to be significantly delayed or killed because of community opposition. (On the other hand, work is often hamstrung by financial malfeasance or bureaucratic incompetence.)

“Things are still done in a very simple way in Moscow,” said Alec Brook-Krasny, a Moscow native who emigrated at age 30 in 1989 and now represents Brighton Beach in the New York State Assembly. “Whoever is the main person in the neighborhood, the main official in the city, that person makes the decisions. In 99 percent of the cases, it’s the final decision, and the community has no say.”

And no thanks to trying to stereotype the opposition to the proposed Atlantic Yards project:

Not to overly generalize, but those residents tend to be a liberal, touchy-feely bunch. (During the 2000 presidential election, I recall, there was a public forum in Park Slope to debate the merits of the candidates. It was titled, “Gore or Nader?,” as if the idea of even considering voting for George W. Bush was preposterous.)

The people like organic food and bicycles. They compost. They fuss over their children. They don’t miss living in Manhattan. You get the idea.

You can safely read this while eating your morning cereal without any risk of getting milk nose.

link

NoLandGrab: This AY thing is, like, making me so tense. I'm gonna take a bong hit. Then I'll go out to the park and throw a frisbee with my dog, Sky.

Posted by steve at 9:20 AM

September 26, 2009

Media Observations From The Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

When it comes to the changing AY deal, again the press falls short; but the press sure does love a billionaire

Norman Oder returns to the theme of the failure of much of the press, and particularly the New York Times, to fully cover the important real estate story that is the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

The deal to buy the New Jersey Nets has finally gotten some scrutiny in the New York Times, but the Empire State Development Corporation's willingness to offer concessions to developer Forest City Ratner still hasn't drawn coverage, even as the Times is willing to write whimsically about comparisons between Mikhail Prokhorov and Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

The resonance in "The Battle of Brooklyn" documentary: an ACORN encounter and some "Russian dressing"

Norman Oder notes how, in the case of the yet-to-be-completed documentary "The Battle of Brooklyn", sometimes film can capture that which cannot be blogged.

In one instance, Develop Don't Destroy spokesperson, Daniel Goldstein confronts ACORN's Bertha Lewis

The filmmakers recently put up a clip of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Goldstein confronting ACORN leader Bertha Lewis after a press conference on affordable housing. As Galinsky writes:
After the event, Daniel Goldstein confronts her with the fact that tenants are already being pushed out. She admits that ACORN hasn’t actually talked to any of the tenants yet. She then argues that the developer has nothing to do with greedy landlords forcing out tenants before they buy the property.

This is not a gotcha moment, but instead a small part of a complex tale. We feel that it is relevant to follow up on published reports that call into question the relationship between the developer and ACORN. At issue is the fact that the developer gave a $500,000 grant and $1,000,000 low interest loan to ACORN in the midst of a previous scandal when many long time donors refused to continue supporting them.

I think the clip also clearly shows something else: the theatrical Lewis knows she can be intimidating, but Goldstein is not intimidated.

In another case, Borough President Marty Markowitz seems to inadvertently predict the involvment of Mikhail Prokhorov years before the fact.

In a fortuitous moment, the filmmakers years ago filmed Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz as claiming the project "puts the Russian dressing on a great pastrami sandwich." (It's about 2:27 of the trailer below.)

Whether Markowitz considers the sale of the Nets to Russian mogul Mikhail Prokhorov such an equivalent is yet unknown.

Atlantic Yards will be a focus on The Brian Lehrer Show on Wednesday

This coming week, The Brian Lehrer Show, which runs 10 am to noon on WNYC radio, will focus on development in New York City, including a focus Wednesday on Atlantic Yards: All this week, we’ll be discussing what’s at stake for development in New York City, from affordable housing and zoning to close examinations of Atlantic Yards and other high-profile projects.

6 Mon 9/28 Eminent Domain
7 Tues 9/29 Industrial and Commercial Development
8 Weds 9/30 Focus: Atlantic Yards
9 Thurs 10/1 Affordable Housing
10 Fri 10/2 Focus: World Trade Center

Lehrer's New York Development Wiki is pretty thin.

Posted by steve at 10:32 PM

Should Public Agencies Approve Prokhorov as New Nets, Arena and Atlantic Yards Owner?

Noticing New York

This blog entry notes that the entry of potential Nets owner Mikhai Prokhorov into the approval process for Atlantic Yards makes for some sticky situations, given that Prohkorov's past isn't exactly squeaky-clean.

So, if you were a public agency having to approve Mr. Prokhorov as the substantial recipient of billions of dollars of public subsidy, you would be asking questions about whether you could possibly disregard the incident involving the planeload of prostitutes given that Prokhorov was released without charge by French authorities. You would wonder if that meant that he had actually done nothing wrong or only that his $14 billion in wealth (down to $9 billion now) helped him tell a convincing story to the French authorities about how he was only importing the girls for his Christmas party. Does that mean that he gets off as just being the client-john? That he was not procuring for his own commercial benefit when he supplied the guests at his Christmas party? Does that mean that under United States law he would also have been released just as the socially tolerant French did?

These are obviously fun questions for a public agency to have to deal with and they likely have something to do with the fact that perpetual Atlantic Yards cheerleader Marty Markowitz has been uncharacteristically silent about Prokhorov being the latest Forest City Ratner orchestrated Atlantic Yards unveiling. (See: Friday, September 25, 2009, The Russian connection: reason for celebration or dismay? Has Marty been rendered "oddly silent"?)

Of course, the biggest joke is that, despite appearances to the contrary, there are likely no agreements yet for any agency to approve.

Here is a very possible answer to the question whether ESDC has the right to approve the Prokhorov transfer. They probably do. Not because the transferability section of the Modified General Project Plan says they do but because it is very likely ESDC has not signed the current deal. In all likelihood it is still being written up.

Those who have been tracking Atlantic Yards will remember that at the June 22, 2009 MTA Finance Committee meeting it was revealed that after five long years the MTA had never ever signed a deal with Forest City Ratner! (And politicians had once been worrying how difficult it would be to terminate the deal with Ratner! Ha!) Until signed, ESDC and its board can always revoke any approvals given. ESDC's board only just approved the last deal dumping, among other things, an unexpected extra $25 million on Ratner at the last minute. It is a good bet that Ratner, who perpetually tries to squeeze more out of every deal, has not negotiated to his ultimate satisfaction.

By the same token the MTA may not have signed their new deal either.

That puts ESDC and the MTA on the spot. Do they want to approve this deal with Prokhorov?

And what happens if Prokhorov becomes a part-owner of the entire Atlantic Yards project?

But even if ESDC and the MTA manage to somehow sidestep the question of such approval or even if they do approve Prokhorov, the next question is the review that Prokhorov will need to be subjected to if he is to be a major participant in owning the rest of the project. After all, everyone knows that the arena is projected to be at least a $220 million net loss for the city. The ostensible reason for proceeding with this mega-project anyway was that affordable housing might speculatively be provided someday. Well, if Prokhorov has to be involved, the awkwardness in redirecting housing subsidy away from other housing developers to the Prokhorov tainted team becomes pronounced. The housing, per se, becomes less likely. For ESDC and the MTA to approve the new Prokhorov deal now makes for exceedingly awkward nonapprovals in the future.

This doesn't even include uncomfortable questions as to whether sufficient background checks were ever done for ACORN's participation in the proposed Atlantic Yards project. Click through and imagine bureaucrats squirming.

link

Posted by steve at 6:13 PM

Ten questions: Prokhorov-Nets deal

ESPN.com
By Chris Sheridan

Click through to read the whole thing, but here are the most relevant Atlantic Yard-related questions of ten posed in this speculative article.

2. Will the sale go through?

That's a big, big question, because the Nets sale is contingent on Ratner's obtaining financing and control of the land for his mammoth Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn by the end of the year.

Part of the answer will come in the next few weeks, as Ratner and the Nets have a date in the New York State Court of Appeals on Oct. 14; a group opposing the Brooklyn project is seeking a reversal of its previous court loss in which it challenged eminent domain procedures used to acquire land for the project. The Nets are confident of victory, saying they are 25-0 in court cases related to the Brooklyn project, and they note that the U.S. Supreme Court has already declined to hear the appeal from the group fighting Ratner.

In the Nets' eyes, they're entering the bottom of the ninth with a sizeable lead.

3. So if the Nets win in court on Oct. 14, that's the last hurdle?

Not exactly. The group opposing the Brooklyn project, "Develop Don't Destroy," has indicated it will seek other avenues to delay the start of construction through the end of the year, because if Ratner and the Nets don't sink a shovel into the ground in Brooklyn by Dec. 31, they will lose access to tax-exempt bonds that Ratner is planning to use to finance a portion of the 22-acre, $4.9 billion development. The law that created those bonds has been rewritten, but the Nets project was grandfathered in with the caveat that their special exemption expires Dec. 31.

After initially predicting a 2007 opening, the Nets are now projecting their $800 million Brooklyn arena will be ready for the 2011-12 season.

4. Why would Prokhorov target the Nets from among the available franchises in the league?

Unlike the Charlotte Bobcats and Memphis Grizzlies, both of whom are locked into long-term leases tied to the construction of their recently built arenas, the Nets are desirable because of the size of the market they play in, because the team is on a year-to-year lease at the Meadowlands (and therefore is potentially portable) and because the upside of relocating to Brooklyn -- becoming a major threat to the Knicks' hold on the New York metropolitan area's fan base -- is so huge.

Also, Ratner was so eager to make a deal to secure additional financing for the Atlantic Yards project, because of the tightening of the credit markets, that he yielded to many of Prokhorov's terms in order to speed up the deal. Remember, Ratner paid $300 million when he bought his share of the Nets. This sale places the franchise's overall value at $250 million, which means Ratner is taking a substantial haircut.

7. How will the other owners react to having a free-spending Russian billionaire in their midst?

Will his checks bounce? Forget all the other stuff about background checks, personal skeletons and/or questionable connections. Is his wealth verifiable? And how much of it is in cold, hard cash? The legitimacy of the money behind this deal is the No. 1 question the 29 other owners will have, and NBA bylaws require that only three-quarters of the owners approve the sale.

And let's be real here: The more frugal of the league's owners will be especially welcoming to any prospective owner who would try to spend his way to the top and pay the luxury tax, since that money is divided among the non-taxpaying owners. With Mark Cuban and James Dolan both a lot less free-spending than they once were, the owners would like nothing more than to bring aboard a guy with extremely deep pockets and little conscience when it comes to opening up his wallet. (When CSKA Moscow's basketball team, partly owned by Prokhorov, won the Euroleague title in 2008, the players in the victorious locker room sprayed each other with Magnum bottles of Cristal champagne that cost $650 apiece.)

9. What happens to the Prokhorov deal if Ratner is unable to break ground in Brooklyn by Dec. 31?

The deal would be off; the team would still be Ratner's, it would go back on the market, and there would immediately be a franchise as a candidate to relocate to Seattle (if a new arena deal is approved), Anaheim, Kansas City, St. Louis or some other city with designs on getting an NBA team.

The Nets have never had a strong fan base in New Jersey and routinely play before thousands of empty seats. Ratner, tired of absorbing millions in operating losses annually on the Nets, would presumably find another buyer. And as noted above, the Nets are singularly attractive among franchises with the "For Sale" sign posted because they are not locked into a long-term lease.

10. So, does the Prokhorov deal go down, or not?

When a deal this big is contingent on getting something built in New York, it's inherently tenuous. There are tons of wonderful architecture and infrastructure around New York, nearly all of it built decades and decades ago. Just ask the people who have been waiting 50 years for the Second Avenue subway to be built. You'll find them by the thousands packed like sardines on the Lexington Avenue subway line, the only one serving Manhattan's densely populated Upper East Side.

Unless your name is Donald Trump or you own a baseball team, it takes forever to get stuff built in New York, and all it takes is one or two temporary restraining orders from one or two judges sympathetic to Ratner's opponents to grind the process to a halt and possibly keep that first shovel from going into the ground by Dec. 31.

With that in mind, we should call this one a 50-50 proposition. But Ratner has overcome a ton of hurdles already on the Atlantic Yards project, so we'll tilt the odds in his favor: 60-40 that the big Russian has his hands on the Nets by the time the 2009-10 season ends.

link

NoLandGrab: Comparing a City project like the Second Avenue Subway with the State's proposed Atlantic Yards project doesn't exactly lend credibility to this article's predictions, but it does suggest that, as usual, Ratner's done deal is anything but. Also, the Nets won't be in court. The ESDC, tool of developer Bruce Ratner, will be in court. October 14th will be the date arguments are presented and it's up to the Court as to when a decision will be made.

Posted by steve at 5:49 PM

FCE issues 10-K Amendment: ticket sales way down; Forest City Ratner earns 5% development fee on arena; sponsors get suites

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder catches Forest City trying to slide financial details past the press.

After 5 pm yesterday, and well past most journalistic deadlines, Forest City Enterprises filed an amendment to its Annual Report on Form 10-K--initially filed 3/30/09--for the fiscal year ended 1/31/09, concerning its subsidiary Nets Sports and Entertainment (NSE), and it has some very interesting information.

The consolidated financial statements, for the years ending June 30, 2009, 2008, and 2007, presumably had to be prepared for the sale of the majority interest of the team to Mikhail Prokhorov, but it's unclear to me why such information was not required to be made public any sooner.

Among the details in the report:

  • the Nets earned $26 million in ticket sales last year, a huge drop--30% and 35%, respectively--from the unaudited figures of $37.4 million in 2008 and $40 million in 2007
  • an affiliate of Forest City Enterprises/Ratner is earning a development fee not to exceed 5% of total project costs, and has already been paid $28 million
  • certain arena sponsors have been given use of luxury suites as part of their license agreements, apparently as a sweetener
  • if the Master Closing on the transaction--the sale of bonds, acquisition of certain property, and start of condemnation--does not occur by November 30, a $5 million initial loan payment is due then
  • the company does not consider litigation a cause for concern
  • costs of gone steadily up for arena land and related costs
  • only at the very end is the deal with Prokhorov mentioned, as a "Subsequent Event"

Click on the link to see the relevant sections of this 10-K Amendment served up fresh.

link

Posted by steve at 12:00 PM

U.S. finally embraces foreign sports owners

National Post
By Jeffrey Goldfarb

This article sees the sale of the Nets to oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov as a herald of more foreign ownership of U.S. sports franchises.

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov agreed to invest US$200-million in return for a 80% stake in the New Jersey Nets basketball team, 45% of the Barclays Center development project and an option for as much as 20% of Atlantic Yards Development Co.

The U.S. sports establishment finally seems to have embraced all the global economy has to offer. The country's professional teams have happily imported players and exported game broadcasts and merchandise to great monetary gain. But with few exceptions, they have remained averse to foreign owners. The financial crisis seems to have brought this protectionist streak to an end.

New York property developer Bruce Ratner is selling 80% of the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets and a 45% stake in the team's new arena to Russia's richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov. The 6-foot-7 playboy could be the first non-North American to control a major U.S. sports franchise without any strings attached.

...

Ratner is just another overextended millionaire under financial pressure, while Prokhorov was a rare shrewd oligarch, converting much of his holdings to cash right before the world went to pieces. The deal is still no slam dunk even if the towering Prokhorov might become the only NBA owner able to attempt to match his players on the court.

Three-quarters of the league's owners must sign off on the transaction. Ratner also needs to secure additional financing to break ground in December on the ambitious US$4.9-billion Brooklyn development where he plans to relocate the team, or risk losing tax-free government bonds that have been pledged and a lucrative sponsorship deal from Barclays.

If those hurdles can be cleared, it could prove a major victory for U.S. sports. The Nets deal may ultimately hinge on a real-estate investment, but Prokhorov could bring advanced Russian training habits to the team and build its brand in new parts of the world.

link

Posted by steve at 8:57 AM

Pols Need to Answer Some Serious Questions on Ratner's Latest Bait and Switch

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB's introduction to a story by Josh Alper from NBC New York asks some pointed questions.

Putting aside legal questions, what are the ethics and policy principles of subsidizing the 40th richest man in the world with city, local and federal financial gifts, as well as a highly controversial use of eminent domain?

Add to that, that the beneficiary of all of this largesse on the backs of the public hit the scene less than one week after the Empire State Development Corporation re-rubberstamped Atlantic Yards. Does ANYBODY think that Ratner and the ESDC didn't know about the Prokhorov deal prior to that vote?

We've got our answers, and it sounds like Josh Alper below has his, but what about our elected officials on city, state and federal levels? Shouldn't they be asked?

link

Posted by steve at 8:03 AM

Nets principal owner believes sale of club means new home for NBA club

The Canadian Press
By Tom Canavan

Mikhail Prokhorov's guest for dinner in Moscow on that July evening was Bruce Ratner, an American real estate developer - and owner of an NBA team.

Ratner, the principal owner of the New Jersey Nets, needed money to build his US$4.9 billion vision dubbed Atlantic Yards, which would include a new $800 million Brooklyn home for the team. Prokhorov, a lover of the game who owns a share of a successful Russian pro team, also had a dream: To own a team in the NBA, home of the world's best basketball.

It would take some of his $9.5 billion fortune to get it done.

...

There are three obstacles that stand in the way: Completing the tax-exempt bond deal, dealing with the challenge to the use of eminent domain, and getting the sale of the team approved by three-quarters of the NBA's 30 teams, something that seems likely with commissioner David Stern on board.

Ratner is confident about getting the bonds.

"We feel quite good about that because the markets have returned," he said, adding that he is meeting with rate agencies and expects to have everything done within three weeks.

New York's Court of Appeals is to hear an eminent domain challenge to the project next month. Ratner said the project is on solid legal ground.

"You have to have a situation where the court of appeals would have to reverse the eminent domain laws that have been around a very long time and that have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. It's not very likely," he said.

But Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for the opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, said that even if Ratner won the suit that he will not be able to break ground in 2009 because the properties he needs to demolish won't come into his possession until next year.

Goldstein also disputed that the court is being asked to reverse eminent domain laws, noting that the appeals court is being asked to rule upon the meaning of public use as it exists in the New York State Constitution.

link

Posted by steve at 7:40 AM

Let’s Make a Deal Ratner Regains Momentum with Blockbuster Sale

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by John Torenli

This article is generally enthusiastic over the sale of the Nets to Russian oligarch, Mikhail Prokhorov, and doesn't take a close look at the particulars to see that developer Bruce Ratner is unloading the Nets for cheap.

Russian billionaire industrialist Mikhail Prokhorov is — all the way to Downtown Brooklyn, where Bruce Ratner’s vision of the Atlantic Yards Development Project is suddenly coming into focus again.

News of the international mogul’s intent to purchase a controlling interest in Ratner’s New Jersey Nets has once again piqued local interest in the potential arrival of our borough’s first major pro sports franchise since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles following the 1957 season.

For better of worse, depending on which side of the Atlantic Yards argument you happen to be on, the influx of cash and media attention is exactly what Ratner needed to remind everyone that he is still determined to make the Brooklyn Nets a reality.

...

So is this just the latest burst of excitement surrounding the project? Or is it the final push Ratner needs to make the Brooklyn Nets a reality?

Only time will ultimately tell, but it seems now more than ever that all the delays, court battles and logistical issues surrounding the potential move are being pushed aside once and for all – for better or worse.

Included is an unquestioned quote from Ratner who makes the usual claims of job creation and economic development, even though a Nets arena alone will be a loss for the city and a cost benefit analysis of the entire proposed Atlantic Yards project has never been done by the ESDC, tool of the developer.

“We are one step closer to achieving our goals of creating much-needed jobs and economic development for Brooklyn and the city,” Ratner said.

link

Posted by steve at 7:21 AM

Russian’s Stake Gives Ratner a Safety Net

New York Timess
By Ken Belson and Richard Sandomir

Since buying the Nets in 2004 and immediately planning to move them from New Jersey to a new arena in Brooklyn, Bruce C. Ratner has entertained a tantalizing, if risky, vision of marrying basketball to real estate.

But after absorbing enormous financial losses and enduring lengthy regulatory and legal delays, Ratner, a real estate developer, needed a safety net to preserve part of that dream. He has found it in the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov, who earlier this week announced his agreement to buy 80 percent of the team and 45 percent of Barclays Center, the Nets’ proposed home in Brooklyn.

Although Prokhorov’s cash investment was announced at $200 million, he will also finance future Nets losses, up to $60 million, that are expected to accumulate before the move to Brooklyn, according to an executive involved in the transaction. The team has reported nearly $400 million in pretax net losses for its dozens of investors, including $129 million by Forest City Enterprises, Ratner’s Cleveland-based parent company.

Prokhorov will also be responsible for 80 percent of the $207 million in debt the team holds if the sale goes forward. The transaction requires the approval of 23 of the 30 National Basketball Association owners, and is contingent on Ratner’s obtaining financing for the arena and control of all the land required for it by Dec. 31.

Prokhorov’s arrival helps Ratner do what he ultimately wants most: build the delayed arena, the centerpiece of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards commercial and residential complex near downtown Brooklyn.

He appears to be getting a good deal. Ratner and his investors paid $300 million for the team in 2004 and assumed salary obligations of another $60 million. Prokhorov’s purchase of an 80 percent stake in the team values its equity at about $150 million; add the $207 million in debt, and the franchise’s value has barely budged.

This article goes on to give further details on the implications of the deal between Prokhrov and Ratner. Also covered is the implications for possible foreign ownership of other sports franchises.

link

This article appeared in print and was updated later on line. Commentary was forthcoming for both versions of the article from the Atlantic Yards Report:

Did Prokhorov get his shares of the team and arena at a two-thirds discount? It looks that way, reports the Times, but the deal's not simple

First, issues raised by the first version::

A little more than two days later, the major media are waking up to the notion that the agreement between Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov might be a bargain for the oligarch, despite Ratner calling it "a great deal."

In an article headlined Russian’s Stake in Nets Seems to Be a Bargain, the New York Times reports:
Mikhail D. Prokhorov’s $200 million investment for 80 percent of the Nets and 45 percent of the team’s proposed Barclays Center is just one-third of what his share of the team and arena should be worth, according to Michael K. Ozanian, the national editor of Forbes, which compiles an annual list of professional team valuations.

Ozanian, in response to my query, explained that he valued the Nets at $295 million and the arena, as reported, at $800 million. Prokhorov's share of the team would be worth $236 million and his share of the arena at $360 million.

...

"What we don’t know of course is the amount Prokhorov has promised to invest in the team as part of the deal," Ozanian explained. Assuming the investment was zero, he said, Prokhorov made the purchase at one-third fair value.

...

True, the team has floundered, its best players are gone and it plays to thin crowds in New Jersey. Ratner and his investors in the Nets have also lost nearly $400 million since buying the club. But few teams in recent years have been sold at such a steep discount.

The later version of the Times article brought answers:

The Times updates its math: add $60 million in losses and $160 million+ in debt for Prokhorov, but the arena still looks like a deal

The New York Times has updated its article suggesting that Mikhail Prokhorov got his Nets and Atlantic Yards investment at a two-thirds discount, now calling the investment a "safety net" for Bruce Ratner.

I and others had pointed out that financing for losses and debt would have to be factored in.

The Times reports:
Although Prokhorov’s cash investment was announced at $200 million, he will also finance future Nets losses, up to $60 million, that are expected to accumulate before the move to Brooklyn, according to an executive involved in the transaction. The team has reported nearly $400 million in pretax net losses for its dozens of investors, including $129 million by Forest City Enterprises, Ratner’s Cleveland-based parent company.

Prokhorov will also be responsible for 80 percent of the $207 million in debt the team holds if the sale goes forward. The transaction requires the approval of 23 of the 30 National Basketball Association owners, and is contingent on Ratner’s obtaining financing for the arena and control of all the land required for it by Dec. 31.

...He appears to be getting a good deal. Ratner and his investors paid $300 million for the team in 2004 and assumed salary obligations of another $60 million. Prokhorov’s purchase of an 80 percent stake in the team values its equity at about $150 million; add the $207 million in debt, and the franchise’s value has barely budged.

...

Prokhorov will be responsible for paying off 45% of the arena, which in total might be worth $800 million.

Does that mean he gets the package at two-thirds off? The Times is no longer quoting Forbes editor Michael Ozanian to that effect.

Rather, the Times quotes a consultant:
“The Russian is taking on a lot more risk for the potential of greater reward,” said Marc Ganis, president of Sportscorp, a Chicago-based sports consultant. “He’s getting a good deal on the team, but he’s taking on a great deal of risk with the arena and with debt.”

Well, so is Ratner. In fact, Ratner is putting equity into the arena, about $200 million, and will have a 55% stake. Prokhorov is not putting equity into the arena, and will have a 45% stake. So that looks like a significant bargain for him.

Posted by steve at 6:32 AM

September 25, 2009

Russian Tycoon's Bid For NBA's Nets Examined

All Things Considered (NPR)

Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov has agreed to buy a controlling interest in the New Jersey Nets basketball team. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis says the NBA has to vet Prokhorov's bid, but his 2007 arrest at a French ski resort in connection with ferrying in prostitutes is likely to be the main red flag. Prokhorov was not charged for that incident.

link

NoLandGrab: Stefan Fatsis mentions the "ton of anger" the Atlantic Yards project has engendered — a far cry from the "tiny opposition" claimed (falsely, of course) by the Daily News's editorial board.

Posted by eric at 8:38 PM

Russian Dressing?

What did he know, and when did he know it?

The trailer for Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley's Atlantic Yards documentary, Battle of Brooklyn, includes a clip, at the 2:27 mark, in which Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz says "this puts the Russian dressing on a great pastrami sandwich."

The scene was filmed several years ago.

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

Billionaires at Play: Mike Versus Mikhail

The New York Times
by James Barron

The Times hasn't taken a hard look at security concerns about the planned Nets' arena, shenanigans with Atlantic Yards-footprint land valuations, or the blatant giveaway of the Vanderbilt Yard for a fraction of its value, but which Manhattan strip club might Mikhail Prokhorov favor? That they've got ink for.

New York’s reigning billionaire, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, cares little for most sports but plays a lot of golf. He likes discreet dinner parties at Gracie Mansion or his own mansion. He wants his private life kept private.

New York’s latest billionaire, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, loves basketball, kickboxing and skiing. He probably wishes his private life could be kept private: Consider the four days he spent in custody in an Alpine ski resort in 2007 when investigators suspected call girls were being brought in. He was quoted as saying they were students and models, not prostitutes.

So maybe the incumbent billionaire Mike and the new billionaire Mike, the Russian oligarch who is poised to become the principal owner of the New Jersey Nets and a major investor in the team’s proposed arena in Brooklyn, will feast upon New York in different ways.

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Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

Moscow Editorial on Prokhorov's Attempt to Purchase the NJ Nets

Vedomosti via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

A rough, human translation from the Russian of an editorial in Vedomosti, a leading Moscow business newspaper, part-owned by Financial Times and Dow Jones)

The topic of the week: Game over

Purchase of the American basketball club New Jersey Nets by Mikhail Prokhorov is a vivid example of «business the Russian way» in the sense that it is easier to do it abroad.

Moreover – this is a consequence of one of the most disgusting traits of our character: I will give you everything that you wish, but to your neighbour I will give twice more. — Dear God, take one of my eyes.
...

And we can be only glad for Mikhail Prokhorov: he did not stay without basketball — he has purchased a stake in New Jersey Nets and an arena under construction for $200 million. The problem is that people won’t like to support New Jersey and Chelsea. People want to support Russian teams that win.

"Under construction" is a big stretch considering Ratner doesn't own the land he needs to even break ground on the arena. But such a mistake can be forgiven for press newly introduced to Atlantic Yards—after six years of the Atlantic Yards proposal there is as steep learning curve.

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Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

In Brooklyn, From Ratner to Russians

$ports Money (Forbes.com)
by Bruce Upbin

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the community group that's been successfully fighting Forest City Ratner's New Jersey Nets arena development for years, now has someone even richer and more shadowy and powerful to contend with: Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian mining billionaire.
...

But let's not kid ourselves. This is not a basketball deal; it's about real estate, although some media outlets are echoing the bit on Prokhorov's blog about how he loves the NBA's "super-modern" coaching methods. The mining magnate would turn the Nets into a farm team for a pro hoops league in Russia. Right, like that's going to happen. Meanwhile, the AP is reporting that Prokhorov has made a lot of Russians angry that he is buying into America and not investing in Russia. Details about the deal are still slightly fuzzy but it's pretty clear to us that he's buying the team to get access to Bruce Ratner's troubled Atlantic yards real estate development in downtown Brooklyn.

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Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Prokhorov Making Real Estate Play, Not Sports? So Says Forbes

How big a foot is Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov trying to get in to Bruce Ratner's real estate door? And if this is indeed a real estate play for the billionaire, rather than a sports play as he claims, then Brooklyn's politicians (and ACORN and Bloomberg and Paterson and Markowitz and Schumer) ought to wake up, becasue Mikhail Prokhorov never even promised affordable housing and the housing agencies will not readily hand over subsidies to an unknown entity.

Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Bait & Balance

The almost farcical turn of events at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards makes it all too clear that ambitious public/private partnerships are beyond this generation's skill-set

The Architect's Newspaper, Editorial
by Julie V. Iovine

In spite of all the acreage they have to offer, the biggest building sites in New York have cultivated more cynicism than anything else. And when the developer Forest City Ratner swapped an ambitious Frank Gehry basketball arena at Atlantic Yards for a pedestrian design by Ellerbe Becket, even the most jaded cried foul. And so it seemed almost poetically appropriate that Bruce Ratner’s next step would be to try and re-insinuate himself into the public’s graces by mesmerizing us with a sinuous, snake-like wrap by SHoP Architects, the architectural equivalent of indie film stars.

Critics have charged Ratner with a classic case of bait-and-switch, but even under the new lineup, the arena’s prospects look dim. Ellerbe Becket is still on board, leaving many to wonder how meaningfully SHoP can reshape the design. And recently the city’s Independent Budget Office reported that the basketball arena stood to be a $40 million net loss to the city over 30 years, even as city subsidies to the project have ballooned to more than $772 million. Somewhere in the shuffle the original idea of a carefully orchestrated ensemble of great buildings well-knit into the community has been sidelined.
...

Perhaps rather than try to force these gigantic projects into instant being, we should allow them to evolve more glacially like great performance pieces, with equally lasting consequences.

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More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, In the Architect's Newspaper, AY as bait and switch, and the need to debate urbanism rather than aesthetics

I'm not sure "the original idea of a carefully orchestrated ensemble of great buildings well-knit into the community" was ever viable.

Bait and switch?

Iovine quotes developer, architect, planner, and now professor Vishaan Chakrabarti: He also noted that in New York you can’t get away with bait-and-switch tactics more than once, or you’ll get a reputation. “People have long memories in this town,” he told me.

Well, beyond the Gehry bait and switch, Bruce Ratner has managed the 10,000 office jobs bait and switch, the park on the arena roof bait and switch, and the 50% affordable housing bait and switch.

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

Write all about it

Two mailbags, three letters, one topic: Atlantic Yards.

The Architect's Newspaper, Letters, It's Not About the Arena

For the last six years, architects and planners have sat idly as our craft has been reduced to window-dressing for Forest City Ratner’s (FCR) Atlantic Yards urban renewal scheme. We have watched silently as design has been used as bait by Mr. Ratner, who has wrought physical destruction and sown false social divisions among the great neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

For the last half-decade, most of us have confused cynicism with realpolitik as we have accepted FCR’s collusion with certain public officials. We sat still as they circumvented the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, thus effectively disenfranchising every New Yorker. And our continued silence equals complicity in their ongoing attempt to abuse eminent domain laws for their undeniably private benefit.

For the last week, we have spent too much time debating aesthetics, when the important Atlantic Yards issues have always been questions of urbanism. There is real tragedy in the fact that some of our best design talent, first Frank Gehry and now SHoP Architects, have been enlisted by FCR in its efforts to run roughshod over the people of New York. At a time when so many architects are already struggling to survive, we can barely afford to sacrifice our standing as a profession on the altars of shortsightedness and narrow ambitions. While SHoP is best known for pursuing a “third way” in architecture, sadly, with this commission the firm has chosen the wrong way.
...

For architects, Atlantic Yards is about leadership, accountability, responsibility, and societal obligations.

Atlantic Yards is not, and has never been, about the arena.

Marshall Brown
Director of the Yards Development WorkShop

Ronald Shiffman
Professor
Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment

The Brooklyn Paper, And from the mailbag...

Insecurity

I attended the presentation of the new Atlantic Yards arena given by architects Bill Crockett of Ellerbe Becket and Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP (“Rendered Useless,” Sept. 18).

While the new design is an improvement, once again security is little beyond assurances that all is well. During the question-and-answer session, Crockett said there would be bollards to keep vehicles from crashing over the curb. Afterwards, asked a more direct question, he said that bollards were being considered.

We all know that the arena’s 20-foot setback from the curb is inadequate under both federal and city guidelines.
...

That beautiful cantilevered mass hovering over the open plaza may not so safe. In an explosive event, it’s guaranteed to reflect any blast wave back down onto pedestrians and even into the new entrance that leads down to the Atlantic Avenue station.

And those floating, wrap around metal bands made up of hundreds of separate iron panels could quite easily beak away from the main structure to add to the flying glass and debris.

Alan Rosner, Prospect Heights

Repent, Paper!

So explain to me why a $20-million bailout for CityPoint benefiting “a team of private, for-profit developers who made a bad investment” is bad, but much more bailout money for Bruce Ratner, who made an even worse investment in a pro basketball team, is not (“Feds’ CityPoint bailout is a bad use of taxpayer dollars,” Aug. 21)?

I don’t disagree with you about CityPoint — it’s a waste of money for a bad project which could instead be used to help spur small-business growth Downtown.

But even you have to see that opposing stimulus funds for CityPoint while championing the same for Ratner’s white elephant of an arena (“Build the arena — with fed money,” Feb. 5) — a money-losing arena that would be a net fiscal loser for city taxpayers, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office — is just plain dopey.

Eric McClure, Park Slope

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Bruce babbles, explains deal as a "strategic" business investment; Bagli says project was on "life support"

Atlantic Yards Report

A must-read from Norman Oder, who dissects Chairman Bruce's appearance yesterday on Fox Business, and the discussion on yesterday's Brian Lehrer Show.

Do we really know the details of the deal Bruce Ratner signed with Russian mogul Mikhail Prokhorov to sell 80% of the Nets and 45% of the arena?

No, but when asked about it yesterday in a TV interview, Bruce Ratner basically babbled, repeating the mantra of a "strategic" business investment, asserting the deal's great because "it puts two business people together," and claiming he's been "delighted" throughout the whole Atlantic Yards process.

More soberly, Charles Bagli of the New York Times, interviewed on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, said the project had been "on life support" and suggested that one key to the deal was Prokhorov's willingness to absorb an unspecified amount of team losses.

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Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

Russian to the rescue: Moscow mogul may be savior of vital Atlantic Yards project

NY Daily News, Editorial

Here's a shocker — the Daily News's editorial board loves Russian dressing. More Soviet-style blather from Atlantic Yards' biggest fans.

With unemployment over 10%, Wall Street struggling for footing and the real estate industry in the tank, breaking ground on both a Nets arena and 1,000-plus units of housing would be a major economic boost.

Prokhorov started out in the free markets selling blue jeans and is reported to have done fabulously in nickel ore in the Russian north. Assuming he passes muster among the NBA owners - and pray that he does - his money muscle should more than put to rest doubts about the financial viability of Atlantic Yards.

Which isn't to say the project is out of the woods.

Despite the enormous benefits of the development's $4 billion master plan - including 6,400 units of affordable, middle-income and market-rate housing - a tiny but determinedly litigious opposition has used the courts to hamstring Ratner.

He has a last legal fight to win. The opponents have asked the state's highest court to radically and unwisely overhaul New York's law of eminent domain for the sole purpose of stopping Ratner. The court must respond: Nyet way, nyet how.

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NoLandGrab: "Tiny" opposition? We hardly think that "controversial" and "Atlantic Yards" would so rarely appear without each other in public if opposition to the project wasn't so widespread.

Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

Nets sale embarrasses Marty

NY Post
by Rich Calder

He's been the biggest booster of the controversial Atlantic Yards project that includes bringing the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, but Borough President Marty Markowitz has been oddly silent since a Russian billionaire swooped in to try and save the project this week.

Political operatives close to Markowitz say he's red-faced over developer Bruce Ratner's plans to sell a majority stake in the NBA's Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov. The 44-year-old playboy would also finance the project's long-stalled arena, and potentially salvage the residential and commercial portions of Atlantic Yards.

"It's a combination of anger and embarrassment," said one operative. "He signed on to a magnificent Frank Gehry-designed Brooklyn palace in the sky, and now he's got a foreign-owned big hole in the ground."

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NoLandGrab: We wouldn't have thought the shameless Marty Markowitz capable of feeling shame, but his silence does make us wonder.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Russian connection: reason for celebration or dismay? Has Marty been rendered "oddly silent"?

Is the Russian connection--the purchase of the Nets by Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov--a good thing? Would it help bring new fans to the team? It depends on whom you ask.

Let's put aside the presumed improvement in the team roster that would result from an owner with deep pockets and genuine interest in basketball. Let's just look at the immediate reaction to Prokhorov.

Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

Forest City in the News

RealNEO, TAX REFORM SHOULD GO BEYOND CORRUPTION ISSUE

If there’s going to be an investigation of the integrity of commercial property appraisals here, we ought to also probe tax reductions awarded to downtown property owners by official County and State of Ohio agents.

County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, concerned about the validity of commercial property appraisals because of the corruption charges involving County Auditor Frank Russo, has requested a probe by state officials. Rokakis apparently doesn’t trust the values on commercial properties. Who would?

The values given properties, of course, provide the measure of the taxes property owner’s pay. The lower the value the lesser taxes are due to be paid.
...

In recent writings, I’ve been pointing out that owners at the Tower City complex and the Ritz-Carlton hotel – both controlled by Forest City Enterprises businesses – have been requesting value reductions this year as they have in past years.
...

We really need – as a community and as a state – to look not only to rigged tax valuations because of outright corruption reported in recent days but to the practice of giving wealthy interests lower and lower valuations on the properties.

NoLandGrab: The opposite of that scam is going on in Brooklyn, where assessed land values in the Atlantic Yards footprint are soaring in order to justify the Payments in Lieu of Taxes needed to pay off arena bonds.

FoxBusiness.com, Forest City Enterprises Up 99.8% Since SmarTrend's Buy Recommendation

SmarTrend, our proprietary pattern recognition system, called an Uptrend for Forest City Enterprises (NYSE:FCE.A) on July 23, 2009 at $6.42.

Since then, Forest City Enterprises has returned 99.8% as of today's recent price of $12.83.

FCE.A opened at $13.08 in NYSE trading this morning.

Brownstoner, New Website, Logo for 80 Dekalb

80 Dekalb is getting sooooooo close. With just about every window in place, the 36-story rental project from Forest City has put up its splash site. There's no pricing info yet, but you can check out the nifty new logo and motto. And how about that url! Nice 4-letter dotcom: dklb.com.

Posted by eric at 9:08 AM

N.B.A.’s Global Outreach Returns to U.S. Shores

The New York Times
by Harvey Araton

In a long and illustrious European coaching career, Ettore Messina has worked for a fair amount of professional basketball owners. None of them, he said, were quite like Mikhail D. Prokhorov, a Russian tycoon who seemed destined to play moneyball in America.

“The guy has a way about him, a vision,” said Messina, who coached for Prokhorov for four years at CSKA Moscow, a top Russian club.

From across the Atlantic and then some, can the Russian billionaire see a prosperous professional basketball future in Brooklyn, before a shovel has gone into the ground for the long-delayed arena and centerpiece of a 22-acre downtown development project known as the Atlantic Yards?

Legal challenges and N.B.A. vetting hurdles remain before 80 percent ownership of the Nets shifts from Bruce C. Ratner to Prokhorov. Then it would take at least two years for them to move from New Jersey and become the Brooklyn Nets. If and when, the Nets will matter in a way they have only dreamed of since they were born in 1967 as the New Jersey Americans of the American Basketball Association, cash-poor and attention-starved.

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Posted by eric at 9:00 AM

September 24, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing

Frank Gehry isn't going to design Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards development, and that's OK.

Slate
by Witold Rybczynski

The writer/architect is not so sorry that Frank Gehry lost his Atlantic Yards exclusive.

It is a shame that Gehry wasn't given a chance to build his transparent, landscape-topped arena, but it is hard not to cheer the fact that the rest of his plan for the Atlantic Yards has also been abandoned. The 22-acre site was to contain 16 mostly residential towers, some more than 500 feet high, all designed by Gehry. Some architecture critics have praised the project as a "single cohesive scheme," but cohesion is precisely the problem. As Jane Jacobs taught, one of the preconditions for urban vitality is heterogeneity—in the uses, ages, and yes, designs of buildings. Surely we've learned by now that having large chunks of the city designed by one architect, no matter how talented, is not a good idea.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Slate critic, disremembering Lethem, says it's fine that Gehry's gone

Posted by eric at 8:44 PM

Exclusive: Nets Owner Bruce Ratner on Deal With Russian Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov

Fox Business (The Glick Report)

"Do-gooder Liberal" Bruce Ratner, and his sidekick, Yormarketing Genius, sure spend a lot of time on the Right-leaning Fox Business network. It couldn't have anything to do with Alexis Glick's gee-whiz softball's, could it?

And, oh yeah, this deal is really, truly, about world peace, or as the altruistic Ratner puts it, the aim is to "really bring Russia and the United States closer in so many kinds of ways."

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, "Orwellian, almost": ESDC says construction schedule = "useful timetable," but Bruce Ratner admits "projects take a long time"

Posted by eric at 6:53 PM

Should a Russian oligarch be allowed to buy the Nets?

Crain's NY Business

Crain's has a silly poll which drastically oversimplifies the issue. It's not a question of whether or not Mikhail Prokhorov should be allowed to buy the Nets. The larger question is whether the arena at the center of the Atlantic Yards project should be propped up with with more than $700 million in public subsidies, tax breaks and give-aways — regardless of who owns the team that would play there. Throw in the question of the use of eminent domain for the primary benefit of a Russian billionaire, and the question gets even more complicated.

Should the NBA approve Mr. Prokhorov's deal to buy the Nets?

⊗ Da. This will bring new ideas to the NBA, attract more foreign investors to the league, and help ensure the Atlantic Yards project gets built.
⊗ Nyet. Mr. Prokhorov made his billions amid the shady dealings in the early days of post-Communist Russia, and he's most likely more concerned with burnishing his image than helping Brooklyn win the urban redevelopment game.

Click thru to vote. View the results here.

Posted by eric at 6:36 PM

New Jersey Nets Sale

WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov agreed to purchase the New Jersey Nets yesterday. U.S. Congressman William Pascrell (D-NJ 8th) has concerns about the sale and New York Times reporter Charles Bagli offers context on the deal and what it means for the Atlantic Yards development.

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Posted by eric at 6:11 PM

A Nets longshot from Russia with love

NorthJersey.com
by Ian O'Connor

Bergen Record columnist O'Connor provides a must-read reality-check on this weeks developments.

Mikhail Prokhorov has formally introduced himself as Bruce Ratner’s human bailout package, and he sounds like a man who just jumped out of a helicopter in a James Bond script.

A tall, dashing Russian billionaire said to appreciate fast jets and faster women, Prokhorov has come rushing to the Nets’ rescue, pledging to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at Ratner for the right to ferry the team to Brooklyn on his personal yacht.

But before anyone counts this as a slam-dunk proposition, consider the Nets’ recent and past history on notions and events that appeared too good to be true.
...

The Nets have long led the league in empty promises and broken hearts. Rick Pitino. Jim Valvano. Rollie Massimino. They were all done deals to save the Nets until, of course, those deals were undone.
...

Truth is, Stern knows next to nothing about Prokhorov. He’s yet to see a single printout on the man’s background, and the league’s vetting process is expected to take months.

That vetting process won’t be any tougher on Prokhorov than it would be on an American tycoon, but it will be tough. The Russian needs approval from the league’s board of governors to become the first man outside of North America to lord over an NBA team.
...

Ratner is racing the clock, too, as he needs to sell a reported $650 million in bonds and break ground on his scaled-down, Gehry-free arena by Dec. 31. One minority Nets partner said that Ratner stands to lose another $100 million in his final seasons in New Jersey, and that the team would’ve cost Ratner $800 million (including the $300 million purchase price) by the time he gets to Brooklyn.

If he gets to Brooklyn.

“Until Ratner breaks ground on that arena,” one ownership source said Wednesday, “nobody’s going to believe he’ll actually pull this off.”
...

By peddling the Nets to Prokhorov, Ratner confirmed all suspicions that his ownership was never about love or basketball. It was about real estate. A damn good piece of it, too.

In the end, maybe Ratner’s human bailout package, Prokhorov, will prove to be the most dynamic force of front office energy to hit the NBA since Mark Cuban.

Or maybe this tall, dashing playboy from Russia will prove to be no more believable than a James Bond script.

The history of the Nets tells you to put your money on the latter, and to expect pro basketball in Newark in a few years’ time.

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Posted by eric at 1:52 PM

Russian to Judgment: More reaction to Ratner-Prokhorov deal

More reaction to the news that Bruce Ratner plans to sell control of the New Jersey Nets — and a large share of the not-as-yet-and-may-never-be-built Barclays Center arena — to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Leon Freilich, Verse Responder: Rusky Invasion

A Russian magnate's putting up dough
To buy the Yards and the Nets--
But wait until he runs into
The furious Brooklyn Nyets!

Old First, Pascrell on The Atlantic Yards: "Almost Biblical"

Pastor Daniel Meeter turns to the Bible for an analogy.

I just heard it on Brian Lehrer on WNYC, wonderfully affirmed by Congressman Bill Pascrell, of my home town of Paterson, NJ. He said that the problems of the latest Ratner proposal for the Atlantic Yards are "almost Biblical in proportions."

I have thought so from the beginning. The Tower of Babel comes to mind, as in Breughel's famous painting.

This latest rescue plan, by the Russian oligarch What's-His-Name, is so ludicrous as to defy belief. How can our mayor and our borough president support this? Our public subsidies, paid for by our tax money, will be used for the benefit of a financial gamble on the part of a crony of Putin, who gained his wealth and influence in circumstances fearful to contemplate. The corruption is so huge as to almost disappear from sight. But massive in our sights will be the unfinished hulks of this development.
...

Can this really be happening? Let's see how the ESDC and every other authority respond to this, or will they continue to expose their knavery? Will they finally say, Enough?

It's not going to happen, that's clear, the whole thing is too absurd. It always was absurd, but it's reached a level of absurdity that is, well, Biblical, but the tragedy is, as it always was, how much damage will they do before it finally expires?

AP via WFAN.com, Russian's bid for US team raises hackles at home

Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov's bid for the New Jersey Nets may be a boon to the troubled basketball team, but some Russian legislators and analysts call it a blow to the nation's sports.

"I can't consider this action as anything other than unpatriotic," Aslambek Aslakhanov, a member of the upper parliament chamber's sports committee, said Thursday, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti. "We also have talented children here, but sports isn't being developed. They're not trying in order for us to return to our former sports ranking of best in the world."
...

Viktor Ozerov, another upper-chamber legislator, said Prokhorov is sending his money in the wrong direction.

"I don't deny that Mikhail Prokhorov has put money into developing sports in Russia, but I would have liked all the means he considered possible to have gone to specifically supporting sports in the fatherland," Ozerov was quoted as saying.

The Kremlin hasn't commented on Prokhorov's move, but members of the upper parliament chamber, the Federation Council, commonly reflect the views of the Russian leadership.

NYTimes.com, Rubles for Clunkers? Russian Buys the Nets.

In the N.B.A., there’s a new sheriff in town, a dashing Russian oligarch who arrived at the buzzer to save the Nets’ Brooklyn dreams. Does it matter that he got ridiculously rich in the shady post-Soviet economy, is known as the Nickel King and could, for roughly a hundred reasons, knock Mark Cuban down N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern’s nightmare list? For $200 million, apparently, nyet.

NBA.com, Russian billionaire should help fortune shine upon Nets

In the space of a day, the fortunes of the New Jersey Nets changed dramatically.

With an agreement for Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov to purchase controlling interest of the team, the Nets have gone from the franchise with the biggest debt in the league to the franchise with the richest owner (or second richest, depending on how Paul Allen's investments are doing these days).
...

Nets fans have never liked current owner Bruce Ratner. From Day 1, many have believed that Ratner's reasons for buying the team in 2004 had little to do with basketball. His main reason for owning a team, according to his detractors, was so he had a reason to develop 22 acres in Brooklyn with an arena as the centerpiece.

NoLandGrab: And these most recent developments make it pretty clear that the "detractors" were 100% right.

NY Post, Sale should lift Nets’ restraints

“It’s no secret we’re having financial difficulties,” guard Keyon Dooling, a union VP and the Nets’ player rep entering the last year of his contract, said yesterday. “So I’m very enthused by this. I’m in a position where I might be re-signed or not the following year. It might be a situation where money decides. Nobody wants the decision to be based solely on money.”

The Brooklyn Paper, Who is this shadowy Russian oligarch?

But just how rich is he?

“If you know how rich you are, you are not a billionaire,” he once told the Times Online, our sister publication across the pond.

YourNabe.com, Russian Billionaire buys Nets

But reaction from Brooklyn’s large former Soviet Union and Russian community mainly living in southern Brooklyn was positive.

“This is great news and for the [Russian-American] community it will be huge,” said community activist John Lisyanskiy, who also works in City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office.

Lisyanskiy said there are about 350,000 Russian-Americans living in Brooklyn and he has been trying for years to get them more involved in local affairs and the sale of the team to Prokhorov will bring out a lot of pride, which will ultimately get these new Americans more involved in local community life.

Lisyanskiy said while Prokhorov has been controversial in some of his dealings, he is also well known for Russian philanthropy.

Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny, who represents Brighton Beach and Coney Island, and is a Russian-American immigrant, said the sale will probably trigger a big explosion in the local Russian media resulting in more Russian-Americans going to Nets games.

NLG: Just like the "big explosion" in Chinese-American Nets fans after the team signed Yi Jianlian?

Posted by eric at 1:17 PM

Prokhorov Nets deal: Who's getting paid?

Field of Schemes

Neil deMause raises some very good questions, so we reproduce his post on the big Ratner-Prokhorov deal in full.

More details are trickling out on Mikhail Prokhorov's deal to buy into the New Jersey Nets. The New York Times' Charles Bagli reports that "the deal is conditional on [current Nets owner Bruce] Ratner's obtaining financing for the [Brooklyn] arena project and control of all the land required for it by the end of this year." That means that if the lawsuits over seizing land for the project by eminent domain drag on too long — the state's top court is scheduled to hear arguments next month, and more lawsuits are reportedly waiting in the wings — the Prokhorov offer could evaporate along with the rest of Ratner's tax-exempt bond financing.

Still somewhat a mystery, though, is exactly what Prokhorov would be getting in the deal, and what Ratner would be giving up. We know that Prokhorov would be getting 80% of the Nets and 45% of the as-yet-unbuilt arena (he'd also get the right to buy into the larger development, but presumably at market value); Ratner would be getting $200 million, plus handing off unspecified Nets debts to his new Russian partner. Norman Oder writes that given Ratner paid $300 million for the team in 2004, "If 80% of the team goes for $200 million, that's a $40 million loss. Then the arena's a gift." But we don't know what the Nets balance sheet looks like: If the team has borrowed heavily since 2004, then 80% of it could be no longer worth anything close to $200 million.

The big question, though, remains not who's getting the team or the arena, but who's getting the team and arena revenues. As has been noted previously, the only way anyone would want to buy into the whole project would be if they could get a cut of any resulting boodle — if you're going to own the Nets, you want them to keep any revenues they make at the arena, while if you're going to own the arena, you want the Nets to either hand over revenues to you or pay a high rent. For Prokhorov, who'd own a larger stake in the team than the building, you'd think he'd want to ensure a low rent so that he doesn't end up owning 80% of a Huizengaesque boondoggle. But no details have been released about any lease agreement between Ratner and Prokhorov, which makes you wonder if there's more that hasn't been reported, or if the two are just throwing up their hands and figuring they'll work that out later.

Look at it this way: Regardless of who owns the team or the arena, at the end of the day, there needs to be enough cash rolling in to pay back the investments of the folks who are building it. Though Prokhorov's offer has been described as a "cash infusion," it doesn't really change the financial calculus here: It's just that you have two guys now trying to figure out how to divvy up the revenues to make a $900 million arena pay, instead of just one. Unless Prokhorov is happy to take some losses in exchange for the publicity boost of now being known for something other than nickel mining and prostitutes, that nut remains uncracked.

Of course, it's always possible that this whole deal is more p.r. than reality, giving both Ratner and Prokhorov some much-desired positive media attention. Keep in mind that the last "tentative deal" reported by Bagli (for a land sale and redevelopment plan in Coney Island) still hasn't materialized two months later.

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NoLandGrab: Please click through to Field of Schemes so it doesn't just look like we're stealing from someone a lot smarter about this stuff than we are.

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

MEET MIKHAIL PROKHOROV

NewYorker.com
by Keith Gessen

Some background on Bruce Ratner's savior from The New Yorker.

Being a Russian oligarch these days isn’t easy. The best and brightest of them are in exile or in jail; others, after feasting on leverage during the commodities boom, now have tummies full of debt. Of those still in the game, Mikhail Prokhorov is the richest, with an estimated net worth, according to Forbes, of $9.5 billion. At six-foot-seven, he is also the tallest, though this alone cannot explain the complicated process whereby he appears ready to buy the New Jersey Nets and build a stadium for them in Brooklyn.
...

We’ll see. In Norilsk—a city constructed by labor camp prisoners and now so polluted that no vegetation grows within twenty miles of the city center—Prokhorov and his partner had first to remove a stubborn sitting factory director, Anatoly Filatov, before taking over the plant. This took a long time. In the downtown Brooklyn area known as Atlantic Yards, a neighborhood almost equally devoid of vegetation due to the “development projects” of current Nets owner Bruce Ratner, Prokhorov will have to get past the no less stubborn Daniel Goldstein, the man who almost single-handedly has been holding up the construction of the stadium for the past five years. The obvious joke here would be that Prokhorov will make Goldstein an offer he can’t refuse, but, in fact, according to one government official I spoke to recently, back in the mid-nineteen-nineties Prokhorov and his partner couldn’t figure out how to remove Filatov and had to appeal to the government for help. This is unlikely to impress Goldstein.

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NoLandGrab: A couple corrections. The area near downtown Brooklyn, not in it, is known as Prospect Heights, not Atlantic Yards. And Daniel Goldstein, whose lynchpin role in, and leadership of, the Atlantic Yards opposition can't in any way be underestimated, would be the first to tell you that it's hardly been a single-handed effort.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Unanswered questions remain about the Prokhorov deal, "certain contingent funding commitments," and subsidies for foreign billionaires

Atlantic Yards Report

In a page 1 article for Thursday's print paper headlined Richest Russian’s Newest Toy: An N.B.A. Team, the New York Times's Charles Bagli, who covers commercial real estate, adds only around the edges to his earlier analysis of the deal between Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov.

Bagli, who nails the "tentative deal" as a "rescue package" for Ratner, still leaves the crucial questions open:
Under the terms of the deal, which was agreed to Wednesday morning in New York, Mr. Prokhorov would invest $200 million for an 80 percent stake in the team and a 45 percent interest in the arena. But the deal is conditional on Mr. Ratner’s obtaining financing for the arena project and control of all the land required for it by the end of this year.

Ratner and his ownership group bought the Nets for $300 million in 2004. If 80% of the team goes for $200 million, that's a $40 million loss. Then the arena's a gift. There's got to be more to it, but we don't know what "certain contingent funding commitments" have been pledged.

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Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

Prokhorov's Involvement Raises Important Question for Nets Arena Deal

Should foreign billionaires get subsidies from taxpayers?

NBC New York
by Josh Alper

On October 14th, the New York State Court of Appeals is going to hear a challenge to a lower court's ruling that the state could use eminent domain to seize land for use by a private developer. Because that case has to do with the state government, the ruling might not be impacted at all by Prokhorov's involvement but we wonder if there aren't some city and state officials kicking themselves about using eminent domain to line the pockets of Russia's richest man.

Foreign investment is nothing new and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. The idea of public financing being used for the benefit of a guy who could finance the entire deal for less than he spends on caviar in a month doesn't sit quite so well, however. It's hard to imagine that so many different elected officials would have been on board with this deal if Prokhorov had been involved from day one.

This project was initially and continually pitched as being about Brooklyn and for Brooklyn. That claim was met with skepticism in a lot of quarters before, but now it can only be met with laughter. Those elected officials mentioned above can't be happy about the way Bruce Ratner continually misled them and the public about his ability to get the deal done on his own now that they're left financing a building to be used for the betterment of Russia's basketball future. If any of them are angry enough, there could be new hurdles thrown in the way of the deal's completion.

Many of the horses have already left the barn, however, and if the deal does go forward the only approvals Prokhorov, Ratner and the Nets need will come from the NBA and the Treasury Department. The NBA should be a rubber stamp as the addition of a Russian owner fits there desire for globalizing the brand, but a decision from Treasury could concievably be affected by a large enough outcry against the deal.

That may be a longshot, but it would be nice to hear some of the arena project's government supporters weigh in with their thoughts all the same.

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NoLandGrab: We can only imagine that Marty Markowitz is already planning a "goodwill mission" to Moscow.

Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

Mikhail Prokhorov May Save Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Project, But It’s Not a Sure Thing

NY Magazine Daily Intel
by Chris Rovzar

There is still hope for critics of the arena project, though, who have been fighting against it from the very beginning. There are three major hurdles to this seemingly quick fix:

• A hearing at the New York State Court of Appeals is scheduled for October 14 to review a challenge to a previous ruling that the state could use eminent domain in this case to seize land for use by a private developer for commercial purposes. This is a very contentious issue, and one that foes of the project have long pinned their hopes on.
• Prokhorov still needs to get approval from 75 percent of the NBA's owners. This is probably not a very big hurdle: Owners will want to expand brand appeal to the Russian market, which he hopes to do, and plus, foreign owners of teams are becoming increasingly common in other sports.
• Ratner is facing a December deadline to break ground. If he doesn't, he will lose access to financing from tax-free bonds. Because of this, the deal is conditional upon Ratner having financing for the arena project and control of all the land by the end of the year. If he doesn't swing these parts, the whole thing seems likely to fall through.

The last point raises a bigger question: Bruce Ratner convinced the city and state to cut him massive deals so that he would be able to afford to build this complex, which he insisted would be for the greater benefit of Brooklyn. But Prokhorov, with his $14.9 billion net worth, is in a position to finance the project on his own — and yet his offer is contingent upon the tax breaks and subsidies that Ratner has spent years brokering. Will it look good for a Russian billionaire to receive so many public-finance crutches for a profit-making enterprise here in New York? Probably not, if critics really sink their teeth into it.

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Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

LeBron coming to the Nets?

Yahoo! Sports
by Mark Miller

Prokhorov's rubles could change everything, especially how the Nets approach the big-name free agents of next summer: LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Amar'e Stoudemire.

There's even a rumor that the basketball-loving Russian could bring back the wacky and cool design that famed architect Frank Gehry had for the proposed new arena (that might never get built) rather than the eventual ultra-blah airplane-hangar-like building that Ratner ended up with due to lack of dough to throw around. That is no longer a problem for the Nets.

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NoLandGrab: Where do we start? First, in the best case, the Nets are stuck in New Jersey until at least midway through the 2011-2012 season, and that's pushing it. Next, yes, Prokhorov appears to have deeper pockets than Ratner does, but as long as the Nets remain in New Jersey, they will continue to bleed money, and even if the oligarch is willing to spend, the NBA has a salary cap. The smart money is still on LBJ re-signing with the Cavs.

As for the Gehry design coming back, that would appear to be pure fantasy. Prokhorov loves basketball, but no one's accused him of loving architecture.

Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

Soviet-style math: from requested cost-benefit analysis to delivered "economic benefit analysis"

Atlantic Yards Report

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a notable critic of the Yankee Stadium deal (who has offered muted criticism of the Atlantic Yards deal), likes to refer to the unelected city and state authorities and agencies that have steered such deals as of “Soviet-style bureaucracies.”

Maybe we should start using the term "Soviet-style math" to describe aspects of the Atlantic Yards deal.

Cost-benefit analysis denied

Consider this response from the Empire State Development Corporation to public comments.

Comment 6: Numerous comments requested that a new cost-benefit analysis be prepared for the Project and stated that more information about project finances, including subsidies, tax exemptions, and payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOTs), should be made available to the public.

Response: The Project’s financing program is described in the MGPP. The MGPP sets forth all tax exemptions and PILOT obligations with respect to the Project. The economic and fiscal benefits set forth in the MGPP have been updated and included in the ESDC Board materials.

(Emphases added)

A cost-benefit analysis does not simply entail "economic and fiscal benefits."

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NoLandGrab: Unless, of course, it's an Atlantic Yards cost-benefit analysis.

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

Bloomberg may be pro-development, but it's much more than that: it's an idée fixe

Atlantic Yards Report

Bloomberg's posture goes well beyond a basic philosophy; it entails (take your pick) loyalty to a certain developer class, unswerving support once he's announced it, and an unwillingness to do the math you'd think a billionaire businessman would feel comfortable doing.

When confronted with evidence from a New York City Independent Budget Office report that the Atlantic Yards arena would be a money-loser for the city, Bloomberg said, according to the Observer:
“I don’t know what the IBO studies would have shown back when they tried to establish the value of Central Park or Prospect Park or anything else,” he told reporters. “These are the kinds of projects you have to do because without that we don’t have a future, and we’re going to get this one done.”

In a January 2004 radio interview, he claimed erroneously that "any city monies of any meaningful size will be debt issues financed by the extra tax revenues that come from this."

As it happens, the IBO, whatever the limits of its report on AY, has done a far more thorough and honest job than the New York City Economic Development Corporation or Empire State Development Corporation, which have produced economic benefit studies that ignore or downplay subsidies and public costs.

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Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

ACORN’s Advocacy for Poor Fuels Attacks from Right

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

The Eagle's managing editor defends ACORN from attacks by the Right — with a caveat.

First, let me make it clear that I am by no means a total fan of ACORN. I think that the Brooklyn ACORN chapter’s rah-rah, 100 percent support of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project is at best unrealistic, at worst self-serving.

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Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Cops snuff out pre-teen crime wave

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Ben Muessig

The crime wave continues at Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal mall — still considered crime-free by the Empire State Development Corporation.

Target is a bull’s-eye

A pickpocket snatched a 31-year-old’s pocketbook from the Target at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Fourth Avenue on Sept. 18.

In the latest incident at the national retailer, the crook grabbed the purse — which contained the victims IDs, keys, credit card, Metrocard, cellphone, iPhone, and $102 — at around 1:45 pm somewhere between the fitting room and the shoe section.

Got Gershed

Thieves stole at least three bicycles within the confines of the 88 Precinct, committing a crime that will forever be known as “getting Gershed” in honor of The Brooklyn Paper’s bike-crazy editor, who has been a repeat victim of bicycle theft.

• A bad guy heisted a folding bike from its spot locked near the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Sept. 15.

Purse curse

A thief snatched a woman’s wallet as she exited the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Sept. 19.

The crook jostled the woman’s bag and grabbed her Gucci wallet as she left the shopping center. The thief used the victims credit cards to buy Metrocards, police reports indicated.

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NoLandGrab: With the MTA hiking fares at the same time it's offering deep discounts to Bruce Ratner, it's little surprise that purse-snatchers are buying Metrocards with stolen credit cards.

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

Jay-Z OUT as Part Owner of NJ Nets As Russian Tycoon Scoops Franchise?

Highbrid Nation

Whither Hova?

However the one party for whom the deal leaves uncertainty is Jigga. Since the deal has yet to be ratified its unclear how Jay-Z interest will be affected. Since he was roughly a 2% minority shareholder on the Ratner team, my inexperience logic would assume along with the sale his percentage too would be liquidated. And although the deal would most certainly mean the Nets would be headed to Brooklyn and increase the chance of the team landing Lebron James it could spell an end to Jay-Z’s dream of “owning” a piece of the first NBA franchise to play its games in his hometown. As I said the details are sketchy and as the press releases and statements come out, I’ll be sure to update the story.

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NoLandGrab: Sketchy, indeed. Whether you call him Jigga, Hova, Sean Carter or whatever, there's no reason to think that Jay-Z will be finished as a minority owner. It is likely that his ownership stake, actually less than one percent, will be further diluted, but that stake has always been more about the public relations than the dollars.

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

Get your morning rush: Oligarch to bail out Ratner

Prokhorov-Metro.jpg Yesterday, the saga of Atlantic Yards got weirderer when developer and Nets owner Bruce Ratner announced that the playboy Russian financier/oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov would step in with some cash to bail out the floundering project in exchange for a majority share of the team.

The NY Times, Richest Russian’s Newest Toy: An N.B.A. Team

Mr. Prokhorov’s deal also stands out because there is little foreign ownership of any kind in major American sports. Last May, Chinese investors reached a deal to purchase 15 percent of the N.B.A.’s Cleveland Cavaliers. And the majority owners of Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners are Hiroshi Yamauchi, a former executive of Nintendo, the Japanese video-game company, and Nintendo USA, the company’s American subsidiary.

The agreement between Mr. Prokhorov and the Nets amounts to a rescue package for the developer Bruce C. Ratner, who purchased the team in 2003 for $300 million with the intent of taking it out of New Jersey, where it has had a tenuous fan base, and moving it to Brooklyn.
...
Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the local group that has fought Mr. Ratner’s development plans, criticized the deal on Wednesday, with a spokesman, Daniel Goldstein, contending that the “only reason Ratner would make this deal is because he is in dire financial shape.”

Mr. Goldstein said that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and others who supported the project were, in effect, agreeing to the use of “massive taxpayer subsidies to enrich a Russian oligarch.”

Atlantic Yards Report, Unanswered questions remain about the Prokhorov deal, "certain contingent funding commitments," and subsidies for foreign billionaires

Over the original shock and awe of the deal, Norman Oder questions the lack of details:

Ratner and his ownership group bought the Nets for $300 million in 2004. If 80% of the team goes for $200 million, that's a $40 million loss. Then the arena's a gift. There's got to be more to it, but we don't know what "certain contingent funding commitments" have been pledged.

NY Post, Russian buyer for New Jersey Nyets

The Post reports that the deal "ensures" that the Nets will make the move to Brooklyn... um, if Ratner can get the land — and secure arena financing.

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

A billionaire Russian playboy is buying the Nets in a buzzer-beating deal that all but ensures the team moves to Brooklyn by 2011.
...
The deal does have an out clause for Prokhorov -- it's contingent on Ratner acquiring land for the arena. The state's seizure of the land has been hit with numerous legal challenges, and the case will be argued before New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, next month.

NoLandGrab: What the article doesn't say is that the courts will be hearing an eminent domain case. Yes, the plan is to use eminent domain for a team and arena to be owned by a Russian oligarch. What's the big deal if we exchange an American oligarch for another?

The NY Daily News, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has deep pockets to offer Nets

The press is making a big deal about how Prokhorov will have to pass the NBA team owners' vetting and approval process, but the Daily News's Mitch Lawrence points out that with the league president backing the deal, approval is assured:

Subject to getting approval from 75% of the league's owners, Prokhorov will become the league's first owner from outside the U.S. or Canada. Rest assured, he'll get the votes, because David Stern was seen smiling yesterday when someone mentioned the former nickel magnate taking over the nickel-and-dime operation over in the swamps.

"That's the latest phenomenon - having international investors in pro sports leagues," Stern said. "If you look at the Premier League in England, they've got Russians investing in it, along with Europeans and even people from the United States. When you look at what's going on in the world now, soccer and basketball are the most popular sports. So it's going to be good to see, from our standpoint. He is going to want to help bring our game and our brand to Russia and help develop that there, and that's very good. Plus, he's going to want to help us over here."

The Star-Ledger, Politi: Fans should walk away from 'crazy' NJ Nets and possible new owner now

According to columnist Steve Politi, now that the Nets lead the league in crazy, fans should make their way to the nearest exit:

The new owner of the Nets is a hard-partying Russian oligarch who boasts that his mission in buying the team is to bring “NBA technology” — whatever that is — back to his native country.

Mikhail Prokhorov is a mysterious billionaire who was once arrested in his French ski chalet under the suspicion of soliciting prostitution, later explaining after the charges were dropped that he just “likes beautiful people.”

So what does it mean? Well, for starters, the Nets once again lead the league in crazy.
...
Bruce Ratner bought this franchise to make his real estate deal in Brooklyn a reality. Now, five years and countless millions in losses later, he has to sell the same team to make that happen.
...
If you plan on plopping down your disposable income for the Nets, supporting the team that has taken the words “New Jersey” off its road uniforms and is giving away reversible jerseys that support opposing players, you’re nearly as crazy as the franchise itself.

The Star-Ledger, Billionaire nears deal to buy Nets

They don't call him a marketing genius for nothing — NJ Nets CEO Brett Yormark puts a bright face on the fact that the franchise has alienated its local fan base and has to strike a deal with a Russian oligarch to stay afloat:

"For years we've dreamed of globalizing this franchise, and we're going to get there," Nets CEO Brett Yormark said last night. "We're marketed heavily in China now, we have Barclays' connection to Europe, and now you have this established person from Russia who brings tons of resources and knowledge of basketball, a passion and a commitment.

"All that creates a great environment where chasing championships will be the norm," Yormark said. "I think our New Jersey fans will be excited about it, and it will carry over into Brooklyn."

ESPN: NetsAreScorching, Breaking News: Prokhorov/Ratner Sign Letter of Intent to Partner on Atlantic Yards Development

Well folks, this is pretty huge. We’ll see where things legally stand once the Oct. 14 hearing in Albany regarding the use of eminent domain for the project passes, but considering it’s only been about a week since the “richest man in Russia” was linked to the Nets and this deal was announced, things are clearly moving at an accelerated pace with the end of the year still being the supposed finish line for Brooklyn to happen.

ESPN: NetsAreScorching, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn: Some Additional Reaction

Q&A with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein:

NAS: How critical does the hearing on Oct. 14th in Albany become now to the future of the AY opposition?

DDDB: No more or less critical today than it was yesterday. Ratner has legal hurdles and financial hurdles. The legal hurdles didn’t change today, and while the financial hurdles may have changed a bit, this is clearly not where Ratner wanted to be. His potential deal with Prokhorov, if it survives scrutiny seems to be a desperate deal of last resort that doesn’t go far enough for Ratner. On top of that, today’s announced deal brings even more moving parts in while diminishing Ratner’s control.

ESPN: NetsAreScorching, Reflection on Russian Billionaires and Ownership

I think the good far outweighs the bad here, and that’s before we bring Brooklyn into the equation. Opponents of the move will say it’s never going to happen - they’re going to throw more lawsuits out there to delay the process and upend the development. They might succeed. But again, Prokhorov isn’t looking to come into the NBA to be a second class citizen. If the NBA approves Prokhorov as many expect, it will be a clear signal that David Stern and others want basketball in Brooklyn more than anything - even if that means bringing in a Russian oligarch with a questionable past who might become a headache a la Mark Cuban.

MetroNY, Russian oligarch has deal for Nets

Who is this pouty Russian playboy financier that everyone is talking about?

Prokhorov

The 6-foot-7 basketball fan is worth $9.5 billion in Forbes’ estimation.

› WHO: Mikhail Prokhorov, 44

› WHAT: Self-made billionaire, industrialist. Single. Once ran Norilsk Nickel, largest producer of nickel in world. Now runs Polyus Gold, largest gold mining operation in Russia. His Onexim Group is buying a controlling stake in the Nets.

› REGRETS: Being detained by police in chic French ski resort of Courchevel on suspicion of providing prostitutes to his guests. No charges were filed.

› HOBBIES: Kickboxing

› NICKNAME: Proko. At least that’s what Nets fans seem to be calling him in blog posts.

DDDB.net, Parsing Pre-Prokhorov Statements from Team Ratner

As a reminder that you can't believe ANYTHING Bruce Ratner and his henchmen say, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn takes a look back to statements made a few short weeks ago.

DDDB.net, Atlantic Yards Affordable Housing? Fuhgodabouddit.

We meant we are so pleased that our tax dollars, public and private land taken by eminent domain abuse will be used to make Prokhorov a member of the NBA and will forward the development of the sport of basketball in Russia.

High five?

Pravda.ru, Mikhail Prokhorov Buys New Jersey Nets to Build Them New Arena

For whatever it's worth, Pravda.ru speced the planned Nets arena for a seating capacity of 32,000 — it's more like 18-19,000. The article also conflates the details of a rumored deal with the one officially announced yesterday.

GlobeSt.com, Ratner, Russian Fund Strike Arena Deal

Meanwhile, the project faces a December deadline to break ground on the arena or jeopardize the tax-exempt status of the bonds. Ratner alluded to this timeframe in a statement issued last week after the Empire State Development Corp. approved the modified design for the Barclays Center. "We now need to work aggressively to break ground by the end of the year," he said in last week’s statement. "We look forward to achieving these goals."

Bleed Scarlet, Head games

The unapologetic thief, Bruce Ratner, announced plans yesterday to sell the Nets to a Russian billionaire. Still holding out hope that legal challenges will run out the clock on this one.

The Boston Herald, Russian billionaire to buy 80 percent of the NBA’s Nets

Posted by lumi at 7:46 AM

NetsDaily: Scanning the headlines

Here are some links to the action on NetsDaily covering the Prokhorov rumors and subsequent announcement of a deal with Ratner to take over the team:

Prokhorov Confirms Negotiations with Nets, Wants Control

On his blog, Mikhail Prokhorov confirms he is in serious negotiations with the Nets to finance Barclays Center and gain control of the team.

Ratner Says Critics Can Sue but Can’t Win

Bruce Ratner told a Brooklyn newspaper chain that while critics threaten more suits to stop Barclays Center, “It’s easy to sue, but for them, winning has been elusive.”

Nets Thinking Horizontal, Not Vertical

Rod Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe said they are “not in the loop” on ownership talks, but do plan on being a player in next year’s free agency, as long as the team is attractive.

WSJ: So Far, NBA Has “No Problems” with Prokhorov Bid

The Wall Street Journal reports that while the NBA hasn’t begun a background check on Mikhail Prokhorov, “so far the league has no problems” with his plan to buy the Nets.

This pretty much sums up the reaction to a majority of the commenters on the NetsDaily blog:

THE RUSSIAN IS COMING! THE RUSSIAN IS COMING! I believe that G-D is sending this guy to save our team! This guy has everything we need. — Paul Erstein

Ratner, Prokhorov Set Deal — Russian Gets 80% of Nets, 45% of Arena

Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov have announced a wide ranging deal that will result in the Russian billionaire controlling 80% of the Nets and 45% of Barclays Center.

Will Prokhorov Clean House?

Rod Thorn is in the last year of his contract, which reportedly pays him $5 million. Lawrence Frank is in the last year of his contract, which reportedly pays him $4 million. With Mikhail Prokhorov hinting he’d like to bring in Russian (or maybe European) help, are they “toast” as Tom Ziller of Fan House suggests? Nets insiders say a management shakeup might have happened under ANY new ownership.

The Prokhorov Effect

What’s going to be the effect of having the NBA’s richest (or second richest) owner calling the shots…and spending the cash? Tom Ziller of FanHouse thinks a good young core, a ton of cap space and a very rich owner could turn the Nets into a contender fast: “Eastern powers ought to be watching behind them, because it shouldn’t be take long for the New Nets to be breathing down their backs.” And beyond wins and losses, the “New Nets” are likely to become a bigger global…and local brand.

Posted by lumi at 6:37 AM

September 23, 2009

Cuban-Nickel crisis could be nightmare for Stern

CBSSports.com
by Ray Ratto

Coming in just under the wire, we have a winner in the contest for the day's best headline.

If Mark Cuban believes in the concept of pride of ownership, his competitive hackles have just been roused by the news out of Moscow, and so his game must be raised commensurately.

He is about to face The Nickel King, and nobody is giving odds either way yet. We just know that if Cuban rises to the task, David Stern may pull off his own head just to make the pain stop.
...

Now Prokhorov only has a deal, so it hasn't come before the 30 not-so-wise men. Ratner of course will vote for it because, to get out of the mess he's made, he'd sell the Nets to Jim Balsillie and tell him he can move the team to the Yukon.

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Posted by eric at 10:10 PM

Thought experiment: what if Prokohorov had been the owner of the Nets in 2003?

Atlantic Yards Report

What if Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who, in a deal announced today would own 80% of the Nets, 45% of the arena, and have an option on 20% of the rest of the Atlantic Yards project, had been majority owner of the Nets in December 2003 when AY was announced?

What if Prokhorov and Ratner had been partners?

Brooklyn sport?

Could Ratner have said, "This started with basketball, a Brooklyn sport," as he said at the time? Could have continued to say, as he did upon the acquisition of Yi Jianlian, that “It’s 100 percent about basketball."

State support

Would the state's effort to pursue eminent domain for a "civic project" and "land use improvement project" including a (nominally) publicly owned state-of-the-art arena have run into roadblocks?

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Posted by eric at 9:58 PM

Still No Place in New York for Qaddafi’s Tent

The New York Times
by Joseph Berger

This item about where Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi might pitch his tent while in New York for U.N meetings could better be titled "Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them)."

New York, of course, has several arenas big enough to house a large tent. There is the old Yankee Stadium, which sits unused while the Yankees are heading for the playoffs in their new home next door. There is also a site near Downtown Brooklyn that may one day become the home of basketball’s Nets — Atlantic Yards.

Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, the site’s developer, said Colonel Qaddafi “could do it but he’d probably be hit by a train.”

“Most of Atlantic Yards is being built over the Long Island Rail Road, which is a functioning railyard. So it would be rather precarious for a tent.”

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NoLandGrab: For crying out loud. DePlasco is so used to lying about Atlantic Yards that, even for some throw-away story that has nothing to do with the toxically controversial project, he can't help but to make the patently false claim that "most of Atlantic Yards is being built over the Long Island Rail Road."

It's not. The 8.3-acre Vanderbilt yard comprises less than 40% of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project footprint.

Is this important in the context of the Qaddafi story? Not at all. But it illustrates how lying about Atlantic Yards has become habitual among project supporters. And the truth is, Ratner has created several acres of empty, rubble-strewn lots in Prospect Heights — more than enough room to pitch a tent.

More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Times quotes DePlasco as saying most of AY "is being built over the Long Island Rail Road"

Posted by eric at 9:43 PM

From Russia, with Rubles

Here's a sampling of stories about the latest chapter in the long, strange trip otherwise known as Atlantic Yards.

AP via Crain's NY Business, Nets, Russia's richest man agree to deal

Could the New Jersey Nets become the Nyets?

The basketball team once known as the New Jersey Americans is a step closer to being owned by Russia's richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov, who on Wednesday said he has a deal to buy 80 percent of the NBA team and nearly half of a project to build a new arena in Brooklyn.

The proposed blockbuster deal would give the Nets' current principal owner, Bruce Ratner, the needed cash to move forward with the centerpiece of his Atlantic Yards development, which includes plans for retail and residential projects.

It would make Mr. Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire and former amateur basketball player, the NBA's first non-North American owner.
...

Brooklyn's famed Russian enclave of Brighton Beach is only a few miles from the proposed arena, but for many Russian emigrants Mr. Prokhorov symbolizes everything wrong in their homeland — a smooth operator who made a fortune when Russia sold off its state industrial treasures for a song.

NY Daily News, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to become majority owner of Nets

The NBA board of governors still has to approve the deal but it seems like commissioner David Stern is all for it.

"We are looking forward to the Nets' move to a state-of-the-art facility in Brooklyn, with its rich sports heritage," Stern said in the release. "Interest in basketball and the NBA is growing rapidly on a global basis and we are especially encouraged by Mr. Prokhorov's commitment to the Nets and the opportunity it presents to continue the growth of basketball in Russia."

Deadspin, Russian Dude Will Build Arena, Buy Nets, Annex New Jersey

Russian basketboligarch Mikhail Prokhorov has gone from maybe chipping in a few dollars to build a new arena for the Nets to offering to take over the whole dang team—and maybe the entire NBA while he's at it.

The whore-loving nickel salesman initially laughed off the rumors that he was being courted to invest in the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets, but then admitted that he had indeed been approached to become a "shareholder" of the team. He did have a counter-proposal, however. It was: "Why don't you just give me all the shares and get out of my way?"

The Wall Street Journal, Nets, Atlantic Yards to Get Russian Infusion

Forest City Enterprises Inc. and Nets Sports & Entertainment tentatively agreed to sell a stake in its long-delayed Brooklyn, N.Y., entertainment and residential complex as well as 80% of the Nets basketball team to Onexim Group, a private investment fund headed by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.

The agreement comes almost six years after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and developer Bruce Ratner struck a deal for a $4.3 billion project to remake downtown Brooklyn with Atlantic Yards, a 22-acre residential and commercial real-estate project, and the $950 million Barclays Center arena that would bring the New Jersey Nets to the borough.

PolitickerNJ.com, Pascrell questions sale of Nets to Russian billionaire

New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell asks the questions that his New York counterparts have so far failed to raise.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) wants the National Basketball Association to review a deal for a controversial Russian billionaire to purchase the New Jersey Nets.
...

"Mr. Prokhorov's background raises questions about his fitness to be the owner of a high-profile NBA franchise," Pascrell wrote to NBA Commissioner David Stern. "Both Mr. Prokhorov's business and personal history have come under intense scrutiny in his home country and abroad."
...

"According to documents released by the Empire State Development Corporation, taxpayers are providing over $2 billion dollars in financing and direct grants towards the Atlantic Yards project," Pascrell said. "This represents a significant investment and risk by the taxpaying public. Should this sale go through, a large stake in the project, as well as a majority stake in the Nets, would be controlled by a foreign corporation, a first for the NBA."

Pascrell says that taxpayers would be "directly subsidizing the profits and business risks of this foreign corporation, whose investment will be reportedly smaller then the public's, instead of benefiting the taxpaying public.

"Especially during these tough economic times, this is, at best, a questionable use of taxpayer money and it is a question that should be explored," said Pascrell.

Forbes.com, From Russia To The NBA, With Money

Beleaguered New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner, whose efforts to build a state-of-the-art arena and housing and commercial complex in Brooklyn have been stymied time and again by politics and economic challenges, has pulled off a drastic play to get his new playground: giving up his team.
...

"I've never seen a deal like this," says Don Erickson, who runs Erickson Partners, a Dallas-based sports valuation specialist. The slumping commercial real estate market has most banks demanding that developers take higher equity stakes in projects--often 30% or more--along with a personal guarantee, according to Erickson. After losing a reported $70 million over the past two years, Forest City Ratner wasn't prepared to make that type of commitment.

"It put Ratner in a difficult position; he wasn't going to get construction financing," Erickson says.

Atlantic Yards Report, Could 80% of the Nets be sold for $200 million? Either Ratner's a sucker or (more likely) much of the deal is obscured

I'm reading the news coverage of the deal announced today, and pretty much everyone is taking it at face value that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov can invest $200 million and gain an 80% share of the Nets and 45% of the Atlantic Yards arena.

Ratner and his ownership group bought the Nets for $300 million in 2004, as I noted earlier today. If 80% of the team goes for $200 million, that's a $40 million loss.

Ratner would look like even more of a sucker if Prokhorov could simply sweep up nearly half of the arena with that investment.

But Ratner's no dummy. The "certain contingent funding commitments" mentioned in the press release surely hold the key to the deal.

NoLandGrab: Sure, Ratner's no dummy, but the fact that he's making this deal with Prokhorov makes it pretty clear that Ratner had no choice but to make this deal with Prokhorov.

Bloomberg News, Prokhorov to Buy Nets, Share of Arena From Ratner

The $200 million deal comes three months before the deadline for Ratner to break ground on the arena or lose financing through tax-exempt bonds issued by a New York state agency. Barclays Plc also had the right to pull out of its 20- year, $400 million naming-rights deal for the arena if construction hasn’t started by that date.

The Star-Ledger, Russian billionaire agrees to deal to become NJ Nets majority owner

Remarkably, a Forest City release emphasized the new viability of the Atlantic Yards project, and didn’t mention Prokhorov and the Onexim Group wresting control of the team until the third paragraph.

...

The ownership transfer, Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco reiterated in an e-mail, “is contingent on the move.”

So if the Atlantic Yard project is forestalled or abolished, Forest City retains controlling partnership.

HoopsWorld, NBA PM: Nets Sale Details Revealed

New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner and Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov have agreed to a deal in which Ratner's ownership stake will be sold to Prokhorov.
...
It also ensures the new Nets stadium will be done and also ensures the Nets will continue their planned path in moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn.

NLG: "Ensures the new Nets stadium will be done?" Not exactly.

Rocky Sullivan's Pub Quiz via Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Greetings from Scott Turner: The Weirdness Comes Out To Play

It continues Bruce Ratner's running theme: BROOKLYN CAN'T GET IT DONE. The sad fact is, Bruce Ratner is skint. He doesn't have the dough for Atlantic Yards, can't get more public funding, the banks aren't lending to him, and his only choice is a Russian oligarch -- a class of business practitioners with reputations in the company of robber barons and Sham-wow pitch men.

Himself from Cleveland and the Upper East Side...architects from Los Angeles and Indiana...landscape designers from Philly...construction management firms also from Philly...corporate sponsors from all over the country...and now a majority owner of the Nets from Russia.

NY1 News, Russian Tycoon Strikes Deal To Buy Most Of N.J. Nets

Brownstoner, Nets Will Have New Owner; FCR Will Have New AY Partner

Russia Today, Russian buys controlling stake in New Jersey Nets

The Brooklyn Paper, It’s official! Russian billionaire buys Nets and invests in Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn The Borough, Atlantic Yards Sugar Daddy Is Also A Russian Oligarch

The Cleveland Leader, Ratners Deal With Russian Oligarch

The Deal, Nets get a new owner after all

Posted by eric at 9:39 PM

Thompson's audit finds subway stations badly maintained (including Atlantic Avenue); does not look at tunnel conditions

Atlantic Yards Report

In case you're wondering whether Comptroller Bill Thompson's Audit Report on New York City Transit’s Maintenance and Repair of Subway Stations (PDF) mentions the deteriorated conditions in subway tunnels found in a confidential report prepared by Forest City Ratner, the answer is no. It addresses areas accessible to riders, not subway tunnels.

But it would be worth it for Thompson to ask a few questions. After all, I couldn't get any details from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority about remedial work.

Meanwhile, Thompson's report does find questionable conditions at the Atlantic Avenue subway hub for which the MTA has sold "Barclays Center" naming rights.

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Posted by lumi at 7:59 PM

Stadiums, hotels attract 'terrorist interest,' feds say

CNN

The Feds may think that sports venues are of interest to terrorists, but the Empire State Development Corporation doesn't; therefore, it's not worth gauging the risks to Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov's new Nets arena?

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI have issued security bulletins to raise awareness regarding "terrorist interest" in attacking sports and entertainment venues as well as luxury hotels.

The bulletins, which were sent to law enforcement Monday, said that authorities did not know of any credible or specific terrorist plots to attack U.S. stadiums, arenas or luxury hotels.

However, it said that terrorist groups such as al Qaeda view crowded stadiums and arenas as potential targets. It said hotels are also attractive targets for terrorists.

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Posted by lumi at 7:49 PM

Answers About Michael R. Bloomberg

City Room [NYTimes.com]

Joyce Purnick, the author of “Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics,” plays oracle to SteveFtGreene's question about Atlantic Yards:

Question: Why does Mayor Bloomberg continue to support Atlantic Yards when the supposed public benefits, especially the affordable housing will not be available until decades in the future, or never?

Answer: His argument: Economic development is good for the economy. It puts people to work, it generates tax revenues so the city can build more moderately priced housing and spend on other services. That is what he would say if you asked him. Others, and not only opponents of the Atlantic Yards project, don’t see it that way, to put it mildly.

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Posted by lumi at 7:44 PM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

For all we know, Mikhail Prokhorov is a nice, upstanding guy who used his smarts, financial acumen, fair dealing and good luck to amass a fortune worth billions in precious metals. And we're quite sure we'd prefer just about anyone to Bruce Ratner.

But we do have to ask: is New York State really going to exercise its power of eminent domain for the primary benefit of Russia's richest man?

Posted by eric at 3:00 PM

Russian Billionaire Signs Deal to Become Nets Owner

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

A Russian billionaire, an amateur basketball player the size of an N.B.A. power forward, signed a tentative $200 million deal Wednesday that would make him the principal owner of the New Jersey Nets and an investor in the team’s new home, an arena planned for Brooklyn.

Mikhail D. Prokhorov, the richest man in Russia and president of Onexim Group, would become the first foreign owner of an N.B.A. team who is not Canadian. Prokhorov, who once owned a stake in the CSKA Moscow basketball team, wrote on his blog Tuesday that he intended to improve Russian basketball by using N.B.A. training methods and sending Russian coaches to the United States for internships.

“We are delighted to join in this exciting project and to participate in the landmark development of global sports in this entertainment arena in the heart of New York City,” Prokhorov said in a statement. “I have a long-standing passion for basketball and pursuing interests that forward the development of the sport in Russia.”

Prokohorov, 44, has bragged that he will be “the only N.B.A. owner who can dunk,” according to one executive who has spoken with him.

The deal comes as the developer Bruce C. Ratner, who owns the Nets, is rushing to complete the financing for an $800 million arena at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn and start construction by the end of the year. Ratner, chief executive of Forest City Ratner, has been eager to bring in a major new investor because the team loses tens of millions of dollars a year and the arena project has been hobbled by costly legal challenges and three years of delays.

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NoLandGrab: It's pretty clear from the terms of the deal that there was no way in hell Ratner was going to pull this off without a massive outside investment — and whether he still can with that investment remains to be seen.

Posted by eric at 2:50 PM

Forget the $700 million; Russian tycoon investing $200M to bridge arena financing gap, gain most of team, part of arena; details slim; DDDB slams back

Atlantic Yards Report

Forget all the rumors that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov would invest $700 million in the Atlantic Yards arena.

Rather, he's putting up $200 million, crucial funding that will help bridge the gap between the cost of the approximately $800 million arena and tax-exempt bonds, and will gain--subject to some still-unclear details-- a controlling part of the team and nearly half of the arena, plus an opportunity to gain 20% of the development as a whole.

Though the official announcement claims that the "partnership will ensure the successful completion of a world-class entertainment venue in Brooklyn, the relocation of the NBA Nets basketball team and the economic and housing benefits of the Atlantic Yards Project," none are a lock.

It makes the completion of the arena and the team's relocation more likely, but there remain legal challenges.

Even more uncertain are the fulfillment of the economic and housing benefits.

Details thin

The key paragraph in the press release below is this:
In accordance with the agreement, entities to be formed by Onexim Group will invest $200 million and make certain contingent funding commitments to acquire 45% of the arena project and 80% of the NBA team, and the right to purchase up to 20% of the Atlantic Yards Development Company, which will develop the non-arena real estate.

(Emphasis added)

What those contingent funding commitments are remains unclear. Prokhorov sure can't get 80% of the team and 45% of the arena for $200 million. (Ratner bought the team for $300 million; Forbes said last December it was worth $295 million, though a new arena surely raises its value.)

The Times called it "a tentative $200 million deal" and noted that Prokhorov "would also take on some of the team’s debts, executives said, reducing Ratner’s 23 percent stake as well as that of other investors."

Maybe taking on the team's debt is the contingent funding commitment.

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Posted by eric at 2:38 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Bruce Ratner’s Oligarch Arena
Desperate Ratner Reaches to Russia in Rescue Attempt for Brooklyn Arena Project

NBA and Treasury Department Must Vet Billionaire

NEW YORK, BROOKLYN, MOSCOW — Enter the oligarch. Start the vetting.

Just when you thought the Atlantic Yards project couldn’t get more corrupt, developer Bruce Ratner has announced a partnership with Russia’s richest oligarch, Mikhail Prokhorov, in an attempt to rescue the floundering Atlantic Yards project. The precise terms of the deal, in a signed letter of intent, are not clear, but the oligarch's Onexim Group would invest $200 million and make certain contingent funding commitments to acquire 45% of the arena project and 80% of the NBA team, and the right to purchase up to 20% of the Atlantic Yards Development Company, which would develop the non-arena real estate (16 proposed skyscrapers).

The project faces a major legal obstacle in an eminent domain challenge to be heard in New York State’s high court—the Court of Appeals—on October 14. If the property owners fighting to keep New York State from seizing their homes for Ratner and Prokhorov’s enrichment win, Atlantic Yards, arena and all, will be dead.

Other litigation is pending and more lawsuits against the project are expected from the community's opposition to the project.

For years, and as recently as last week, Ratner said publicly that his money-hemorrhaging team was not for sale. That appears to be yet one more deception from the untrustworthy developer.

“This has got to be a huge wake-up call for Ratner’s political supporters. The only reason Ratner would make this deal is because he is in dire financial trouble. If Ratner has to go overseas to get major funding for the arena, how on earth is he going to finance the rest of the project,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “Eminent domain abuse and massive taxpayer subsidies to enrich a Russian oligarch and modernize the Russian basketball system—is that what Bloomberg, Paterson, Schumer and Markowitz are all about? They’ve got to be kidding. And now that Prokhorov has a big foot in the door, who will really be running the beleaguered Atlantic Yards project show?”

There are many unanswered questions about Mr. Prokhorov's—a former nickel baron, now the chairman of Polyus Gold, Russia’s largest gold producer, and head of the Onexim investment group—wealth, his liquidity claims and where the money is coming from for his proposed investment in the Nets and Ratner’s arena.

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Russian oligarchs are under sway of the Kremlin—they are not who they are without the backing of the Kremlin. Any Prokhorov investment in the Nets and the Brooklyn arena will be influenced by the Kremlin. According to Irina Y. Yasina, a researcher at Russia’s Institute for the Economy in Transition, quoted in The New York Times, “In Russia today, no serious deal can be made without approval from the Kremlin.”

“Russians and Kremlin leadership should understand very clearly that with this deal Mr. Prokhorov is entering into one of the biggest real estate boondoggles in New York City’s history, and New York’s most controversial real estate deal this decade,“ Goldstein said.

Prokhorov has been accused of asset stripping, abuse of corporate governance and violations of minority shareholder rights. He was arrested in France in 2007 on suspicion of involvement in a prostitution ring.

More ominous for Forest City Ratner is Prokhorov’s recent reneging on his deal to purchase the $643 million Villa Leopold, the most expensive mansion on the French Riviera. This doesn’t bode well for the strength of the oligarch’s commitment to Ratner’s project and the Nets.

Amongst other disturbing aspects of the multi-billionaire potential Ratner partner and NBA owner—the National Basketball Association would have to vet Prokhorov and 75% of the 30 team owners would have to approve the deal with Ratner, as would the US Treasury Department’s Committee On Foreign Investment In The United States (CFIUS)—is the reported link of the Russian aluminum giant, UC Rusal, with organized crime.

The Wall Street Journal reported in December 2008:

“Suspected ties to organized crime -- which [UC Rusal head] Mr. [Oleg] Deripaska denies -- led U.S. officials to revoke Mr. Deripaska's entry visa in 2006. Mr. Putin and other top Russian officials have repeatedly raised the issue on his behalf with their U.S. counterparts, so far to no avail, according to people familiar with the situation.”

Mr. Prokhorov owns 18.5% of UC Rusal and there is evidence, according to the Asia Times, that he might replace Deripaska at the helm of UC Rusal. Deripaska is the only oligarch whose business ventures in the US have been vetoed by the US government.

Mr. Prokhorov wrote on his blog on September 22:

“For our group, participation in such a complex project undoubtedly is interesting only in the event that NBA technology can be used for the systematic development of basketball in Russia.

For our group ‘ONEKSIM’, the realization of this very profitable [Atlantic Yards and Nets] business project, to which we were invited thanks to the world financial crisis (there has never been a foreign owner of an NBA club), will be yet another path for developing our sports interests alongside the biathlon, support for children’s sports and sports of high achievements.”

“Bruce Ratner has really done it this time. He’s desperate to stop the bleeding on his New Jersey Nets so he has turned to a Russian oligarch whose finances and business practices are questionable and require scrutiny and vetting not just by the NBA and David Stern, but by the federal government including the Treasury Department,” Goldstein said. “We never thought the fight against the crooked Atlantic Yards deal could get more crooked or that it would require a degree in Kremlinology, but clearly Mr. Prokhorov is eyeing the Nets and this key piece of Brooklyn to build some Russian-NBA pipeline, and sow his wild playboy oats—so much for Ratner’s mantra that this project is ‘about Brooklyn.’ We don’t need to be Kremlinologists to know that Mr. Prokhorov doesn’t care one nickel about Brooklyn or know squat about Brooklyn."

Posted by eric at 2:18 PM

PRESS RELEASE: FOREST CITY RATNER COMPANIES AND ONEXIM GROUP ANNOUNCE PARTNERSHIP IN BROOKLYN

(Brooklyn, U.S.A. and Moscow, Russia) - September 23, 2009 - Forest City Ratner Companies (“FCRC”), Nets Sports and Entertainment (“NSE”) and Onexim Group announced today that they have signed a letter of intent to create a strategic partnership for the development of the Atlantic Yards Project, a 22-acre residential and commercial real estate project in Brooklyn and the Barclays Center, the future home for the NBA's Nets.

This partnership will ensure the successful completion of a world-class entertainment venue in Brooklyn, the relocation of the NBA Nets basketball team and the economic and housing benefits of the Atlantic Yards Project.

In accordance with the agreement, entities to be formed by Onexim Group will invest $200 million and make certain contingent funding commitments to acquire 45% of the arena project and 80% of the NBA team, and the right to purchase up to 20% of the Atlantic Yards Development Company, which will develop the non-arena real estate.

Bruce Ratner, the Chairman and CEO of FCRC, said, “Mikhail and Onexim will be great partners for this project. I am thrilled that smart global investors appreciate the exciting economic potential of Brooklyn. We are one step closer to achieving our goals of creating much needed jobs and economic development for Brooklyn and the city.”

Mikhail Prokhorov, President of Onexim Group, said “We are delighted to join in this exciting project and to participate in the landmark development of global sports in this entertainment arena in the heart of New York City. I have a long-standing passion for basketball and pursuing interests that forward the development of the sport in Russia. I look forward to becoming a member of the NBA and working with Bruce and his talented team to bring the Nets to Brooklyn.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern said, "We are looking forward to the Nets' move to a state-of-the-art facility in Brooklyn, with its rich sports heritage. Interest in basketball and the NBA is growing rapidly on a global basis and we are especially encouraged by Mr. Prokhorov's commitment to the Nets and the opportunity it presents to continue the growth of basketball in Russia."

The transaction is expected to close by the first quarter of next year upon certain conditions being fulfilled, including approval by the NBA's Board of Governors. The Raine Group and Goldman, Sachs & Co. advised FCRC and NSE. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP acted as legal counsel to FCRC and NSE. Hogan & Hartson advised Onexim Group.

About Onexim Group

Onexim Group, one of the leading Russian private investment funds, was founded in 2007 by Mikhail Prokhorov and has a diversified portfolio of investments in the metals and mining sector, financial services, energy and nanotechnology, real estate and other industries. Onexim Group and Mr. Prokhorov also support many sports, cultural and charitable programs in the communities in which we live and work.

About FCRC

Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises, owns and operates 30 properties in the New York metropolitan area. Forest City Enterprises, Inc., an $11.7-billion NYSE-listed national real estate company, is principally engaged in the ownership, development, management and acquisition of commercial and residential real estate and land throughout the United States.

Posted by eric at 2:12 PM

Russian Oligarch Will Save Nets to Save Russian Basketball

Lack of financing for Brooklyn arena makes strange bedfellows

NBC New York
by Josh Alper

That would make him the first non-North American owner of an NBA team, something that wouldn't seem like such a big deal until you read Prokhorov's statement about his interest. It's partly a real estate deal, partly a sports deal and a whole lot of a nationalist attempt to use entry into the NBA as a way to make Russia a more powerful basketball nation. According to Prokhorov, the "qualitative conditions" of the deal are:

  • Russia would achieve a position of equality among the elites of world basketball
  • access to all modern technology and training methods with the possibility of using them in Russia
  • apprenticeships for leading Russian trainers and managers in the NBA
  • the ability to send our best students to NBA training camps.

In post-Soviet Russia, the Nets buy you!

It sounds utterly ridiculous, but the Nets are so desperate for financing that anything is possible. The big loser in this deal would clearly be Bruce Ratner, who would essentially have to give away control of his team and his real estate dream project in order to save both of them. It would be almost Shakespearean, except that it's the Nets and a widely reviled arena project and a crazy Russian billionaire whose plan hinges on the idea that access to the Nets would somehow be a benefit to basketball in Moscow.

So not Shakespeare so much as Monty Python, then.

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More coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Desperate Ratner Set to Make "Ridiculous" Deal With Oligarch?

Speculation fueled by Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov's blog post about his offer to buy the Nets from failed basketball owner Bruce Ratner and make a loan to fund the bond Ratner needs to fund the world's most expensive arena (or whatever the scrambled deal is, we'll have to wait and see as it is likely to be announced later today) continues. Prokhorov is excited to turn the Nets into a boomtown for Russian basketball interests. Who woulda thunk it?

NoLandGrab: We suppose this is a good time to remind everyone that for Bruce Ratner, "it's 100 percent about basketball."

Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

ACORN Forest City Ratner and the Atlantic Yards

Rumur.com

Wait a minute, that's not an ACORN worker advising a pimp — it's ACORN Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein!

Filmmaker Michael Galinsky, whose documentary film Battle of Brooklyn will tell the story of the epic Atlantic Yards battle, explains.

With the recent brouhaha over ACORN exploding into the press, and bleeding over into the issue of the Atlantic Yards we thought it was relevant to post a scene from our upcoming film that sheds some light on the relationship between, ACORN, the developer, and the community surrounding the Atlantic Yards project.
...

At the press conference on May 19th, 2005 Bertha Lewis, the head of NY ACORN (currently the head of the national organization), declares that ACORN is working with the current tenants to make sure that they are not pushed out and treated fairly by the developer. Answering a question she further states that there will be apartments set aside for those displaced by the project.

After the event, Daniel Goldstein confronts her with the fact that tenants are already being pushed out. She admits that ACORN hasn’t actually talked to any of the tenants yet. She then argues that the developer has nothing to do with greedy landlords forcing out tenants before they buy the property.

This is not a gotcha moment, but instead a small part of a complex tale. We feel that it is relevant to follow up on published reports that call into question the relationship between the developer and ACORN. At issue is the fact that the developer gave a $500,000 grant and $1,000,000 low interest loan to ACORN in the midst of a previous scandal when many long time donors refused to continue supporting them. The financial relationship between the developer and the community group calls into question this arrangement.

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Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Wiggle room for Ratner and a reason for ongoing scrutiny: expedited funding for closing and a potential tax break for five towers

Atlantic Yards Report

With the ESDC, what you see is not necessarily what you get. Norman Oder digs into the paperwork from the board meeting at which the ESDC approved the Modified General Project Plan for Atlantic Yards, and new twists keep popping up.

The memo to the Empire State Development Corporation Board of Directors on September 17 described--but didn't quite explain--why developer Forest City Ratner would get the remaining promised $40 million in state and city payments accelerated:
Expedited State funding and City funding (described above) is being requested to achieve the goal of closing on the initial phase of the Project by the end of the calendar year.

In other words, FCR needs the money because it's got cash-flow difficulties.

And, as I describe below, the lesson of the Times Square redevelopment is that continued scrutiny of the deal is required, because, even after initial passage, the deal keeps changing.

More tax relief?

There even more wiggle room in another section of the memo. The rent for the 16 non-arena development leases would be as follows:
$1 per year; provided that the tenants for Site 5, Block 1129 and portions of Pacific Street between Carlton Ave. and Vanderbilt Ave. must also pay PILOT [payments in lieu of taxes] equal to full real estate taxes unless otherwise agreed to by the City.
(Emphasis added)

Block 1129, the southeast rectangle of the project site, would include four towers, and Site 5 would include one tower. Wouldn't Forest City Ratner argue that, if the other buildings are tax-exempt--because they would be built on the currently tax-exempt MTA railyard--shouldn't the others be too? The Bloomberg administration has been accommodating, despite the mayor's claim of no more direct funding.

Note that the memo disregards Building 15, which would be built on Block 1128, east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific Streets, on land that is also not tax-exempt. Was it just an oversight or is there no plan to construct that tower any more?

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NoLandGrab: Sure, we sound like a broken record, but this is yet more evidence that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is absolutely necessary — along with a never-gonna-happen real cost-benefit analysis by the ESDC.

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

James Stuckey - Developer and Former Economic Development Official - Is New Leader of NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate

NYU School of Continuing & Professional Studies

Where are they now?

The New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS) today announced the appointment of James P. Stuckey as divisional dean of the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate, the University’s home for graduate and continuing professional education and applied research in real estate, construction management, and related fields.

Throughout his 30-plus-year career as a public official and real estate executive, Stuckey has led some of the most complex and storied development in recent New York City history, including Forest City Ratner Company’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

Click thru if you'd like to read the (no surprise) rather lengthy press release.

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NoLandGrab: Professor Stuckey? Like a kid in a candy store.

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

The Specter of Atlantic Yards

Whether it's a dispute over a new school on State Street, the expansion of a historic district, or more scandal at ACORN, Atlantic Yards — like vaportecture — forever looms in the background.

The Brooklyn Paper, ‘State’ of disunion! Residents clash over school expansion plan

As much as the community might want a residential building, IBEC says that it’s just not feasible at this time. Indeed, other projects in the neighborhood, including the massive Atlantic Yards development are experiencing similar problems with financing.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Council OKs Prospect Hts Historic District

At the time, residents feared that the neighborhood’s rich historic architecture was threatened by the Atlantic Yards project, a proposal by the developer Forest City Ratner to build 16 towers and a sports arena on a site adjacent to the neighborhood.

The American Spectator, Yes, ACORN Does Cheat on Its Taxes

ACORN also sold out its poor constituents in Brooklyn in exchange for a cash bailout from Forest City Ratner, a wealthy developer trying to build the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

Transit Riders Council: outrage that Ratner "will receive substantial concessions at the expense of... the public at large"

Atlantic Yards Report

According to Norman Oder, there are some things that a Russian billionaire's money doesn't change — like the anger of transit advocates.

It doesn't change the plan to decrease, rather than increase the size of the new Vanderbilt Yard. Nor does it change the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's agreement to accept $20 million, rather than the initially pledged $100 million, from Forest City Ratner, and to give the developer 22 years to pay the rest, at a generous 6.5% interest rate.

And when public comments were submitted to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that were critical of the deal, the ESDC ignored them, stating, in its Response to Comments document:
This document has been prepared to address comments directed to ESDC and, therefore, does not address comments related to the MTA approval process.

Except the New York City Transit Riders’ Council (NYCTRC), the legislatively-mandated representative of transit riders, submitted a letter (below) expressing outrage at the concessions to the developer, and argued that the ESDC was acquiescing in providing those concessions.

Click thru for the full text of the letter — here's a snippet:

In the discussion of the project, several members of the Council expressed outrage that the project developer, the Forest City Ratner Companies, will receive substantial concessions at the expense of the interests of the public at large and that the Empire State Development Corporation, as well as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is acquiescing in providing these concessions.

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NoLandGrab: Of course, the chair of the NYCTRC holds a non-voting position on the MTA board, but it may not have mattered, anyway, since the chair, Andrew Albert, stated that he was "torn" about the revised proposal during discussion at the meeting at which the MTA approved the revised giveaway. His fellow council members don't seem so conflicted.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Prokorov to buy New Jersey "Nyets"?

Local photog Tracy Collins has updated his photoshopped image of the Hagan sister's Atlantic Yards footprint mural (via, flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool).

The buzz is that an an official announcement is coming regarding the takeover of Bruce Ratner's floundering NJ Nets by the Russian billionaire Mikael Prokorov, in exchange for Prokorov's commitment to finance the arena.

NY Daily News, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov confirms interest in funding Nets' planned arena in Brooklyn

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov confirmed his interest in funding the Nets' planned Brooklyn arena Tuesday, saying on a blog in Russian that he is negotiating a deal with the team's current ownership group that could lead to him taking over the franchise.

Prokhorov, a 43-year-old tycoon with an estimated net worth of $9.5 billion, said he has "recently received a proposal to participate in a business project of building a new arena in Brooklyn (New York)." He added that he could also secure a "substantial stake in the project" as well as take over control of the team for a "symbolic price."

Owner Bruce Ratner reportedly is trying to get Prokhorov to fund the construction of the Barclays Center with a $700 million bond. The "symbolic price" Prokhorov is referring to is reportedly $1.

JohnHelmer.com, THE SHORT HISTORY OF BALLS – MIKHAIL PROKHOROV TO APPLY FOR A $700 MILLION BANK LOAN TO FINANCE THE NEW JERSEY NETS AND THE WORLD’S MOST COSTLY ARENA

Sources close to the deal in New York say that within 48 hours, Prokhorov and Bruce Ratner, the current controlling shareholder of the Nets and the arena project, will announce that Prokhorov’s takeover of the club is contingent on local opposition to the arena failing; and to the banks agreeing to lend Prokhorov the money. He and the banks, Ratner too, don’t have much time. A tax exemption will expire for the project if it fails to commence on December 31. How much money Prohkorov has agreed to put up himself, and how it will be secured for repayment, have not been disclosed yet.

Sports Business News, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has claimed he has sent an offer to the shareholders of NBA team the New Jersey Nets to buy a controlling stake

The NBA does not bar overseas owners, but transfer of ownership requires background checks on the new owner and approval by 75 per cent of the league's 30 owners.

The Nets' move to Brooklyn has been dogged by legal disputes, financing problems and challenges from local community groups, and in June current team owner, the developer Bruce Ratner dropped renowned architect Frank Gehry from the project to cut costs.

Atlantic Yards Report, The Prokhorov intrigue: he sounds serious

AYR's Russian expert recommends that readers, "Pay no attention to the robot translation. I think he is serious."

Gringcorp, the Gumby Fresh blogger who has been trying his best to bring us "Arena Financing for Dummies," chimes in:

There's something else going on here. The google robot isn't rendering it perfectly.

But:

"Under the deal the group will attract a similar loan to western banks (I think, if successful, the deal will simply unique!)."

Replace the "to" with "from" and you have an intriguing set-up. My guess is the banks are providing letters of credit rather than loans to the arena.

You also have a financing potentially divorced from the dictates of the bond/market/ratings agencies. No-one's done this in sports for quite a few years.

Associated Press, Russian tycoon says he's made offer to buy Nets

In the blog posting Prokhorov writes that his interest in a deal stems from a desire to improve Russian basketball by getting access to NBA training methods and sending Russian coaches for internships in the league.

Curbed.com, Poorly-Translated Russian Billionaire Saving Atlantic Yards?

So the whole deal is a smokescreen for a red takeover of the NBA? Suddenly this Atlantic Yards thing is getting interesting!

NY Newsday, Russian billionaire might buy, move Nets to Brooklyn

Prokhorov, 44, a former nickel magnate and current chairman of Russia's largest gold producing company, has an estimated net worth of $9.5 billion, according to Forbes. He said on his blog that he was initially approached by the Nets about joining in on the $4-billion Brooklyn development plan, which includes a new arena for the Nets and has been slowed by political and financial hurdles.

The Nets, NBA and Ratner each had no comment last night.

Prokhorov said on his blog that his counteroffer was to extend credit toward the Atlantic Yards project "to build a new arena in Brooklyn" and controlling interest in the team "for a symbolic price." Reuters cited sources that estimated the overall price Prokhorov would pay for the arena project and the franchise to be about $700 million.

DDDB.net, Prokhorov: The Oligarch Cometh to Atlantic and Flatbush?

NBA FanHouse, Russian Tycoon Tells Nets Owners He Wants the Team

I don't think it's unfair to say current Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner is primarily concerned with Barclays getting built at this point so that he can eventually move forward with the rest of the surrounding Atlantic Yards development. Ratner has been slammed by the economic downturn and tough legal challenges to the Atlantic Yards project. Selling off Barclays Center before ground is broke -- and giving up the top tenant in the process -- isn't ideal, and it's certainly got to be a bit embarrassing for a power broker like Ratner.

NJ.com, Nets Notes

The Nets, perhaps measuring the blowback of becoming the first team to sell out to a foreign interest, did not issue any reaction from owner Bruce Ratner. Team president Rod Thorn admitted he is “not in the loop” and merely concedes that “there’s some smoke there,” but some investors regard a sale as imminent.

The Crossover, THE RUSSIAN INVASION!

The NBA front-office (Stern and Jackson) would presumably look past the Prokmaster General’s hooker fetish in light of his bank balance. The bottom line is that more money would be coming into the NBA, and in today’s economic shit-storm, isn’t that all that really counts?

Posted by lumi at 5:51 AM

September 22, 2009

Prokhorov Issues Absurd Statement on the Nets and Atlantic Yards, No Matter How Well Translated

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

By way of DDDB, what it calls a "professional translation" of a statement posted by Russian billionaire (and rumored Bruce Ratner savior) Mikhail Prokhorov on his blog. We're not sure we completely agree with DDDB, however, about the absurdity of the statement.

Greetings to all!

I realized all of a sudden that, well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve written, and there’s a reason for that—the last few months we’ve been swamped at work with routine tasks, and there was nothing really interesting to report. But now there is something—not long ago our group received a proposal to participate in a business project concerning the building of a new arena in Brooklyn (New York) and to become a shareholder of the basketball team “New Jersey Nets,” which in two years should move to Brooklyn and be called “Brooklyn Nets.”

Most interestingly, I learned of this project from the papers, about how I would play an active role in it! And what a surprise, then, that within a few days after the stories came out in the press, shareholders of the team reached out to us with a real proposal to discuss possible collaboration! The discussion concluded with us receiving a firm offer from the American shareholders to be involved in the project. For our group, participation in such a complex project undoubtedly is interesting only in the event that NBA technology can be used for the systematic development of basketball in Russia. Our existing professional league, as everyone knows, is not able to independently keep itself afloat, and because of that, the financial well-being and existence of clubs are entirely dependent either on the support of governors or businessmen-fans of the sport, and any changes to their financial position leads to instability in the development of a club.

Click thru for the rest of the statement, which, in truth, does wander a bit.

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NoLandGrab: We've got news for Mr. Prokhorov — some teams in our existing professional league (like the one he's rumored to be bailing out) are unable to independently keep themselves afloat, either, which is why they turn to Russian billionaires (like himself), and must also depend on the support of governors (and mayors and borough presidents and economic development corporations and public authorities) for their existence.

Posted by eric at 8:50 PM

"ACORN is a corrupt organization that had its silence bought by Ratner"

Reason Hit & Run
by Damon W. Root

A Patti Hagan quote becomes the headline for Hit & Run's blog post.

Don't let the videotapes fool you, the controversial community organizing outfit ACORN is about so much more than a few tax evasion and prostitution scandals. They're also apparently happy to cash in on corporate welfare and eminent domain abuse. As the New York Post's Rich Calder reports, ACORN is deeply entwined with real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner and his controversial Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn, New York.
...

Ratner also happens to own the New Jersey Nets, who will move to Brooklyn if Ratner builds the taxpayer-funded basketball arena that's the centerpiece of the Atlantic Yards project. So don't let anybody tell you that ACORN doesn't have friends in high places.

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Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

A Stitch in Time: Post ESDC Meeting Ratner Releases Another (FIFTH!) New Set of Arena Plans

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White, tongue firmly in cheek, imagines a future re-design of the "Barclays Center" arena.

What a difference just a matter of days can make! Just days after Forest City Ratner released renderings of the fourth version of its proposed Atlantic Yards arena, it has now released its fifth set of drawings of what the arena will look like. It is startlingly like the third version, the Ellerbe Becket “airplane hangar” design. The fifth version replaces the SHoP drawings and model that were masterfully furnished just days after conclusion of the public comment period and days before the Empire State Development Corporation’s meeting last Thursday where ESDC’s board granted Ratner permission to proceed with the arena plus a thirty-year monopoly on the adjoining acreage Ratner wants for whatever he eventually wants to do regarding the rest of the megadevelopment.

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Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

PRESS RELEASE: Barclays/Nets Community Alliance Partners with Camp Sunshine to Support Hematology and Oncology Program

Special Session Offered for families from Brooklyn, New York

CASCO, Maine—Today, Camp Sunshine announced it has received support from the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance, which includes a partnership among Barclays, the Nets and Forest City Ratner Companies. This support is enabling a special session at Casco, Maine based Camp Sunshine in October for families from Brooklyn, New York who have children afflicted with hematology and/or oncology. Camp Sunshine offers children with life-threatening illnesses and their families free camp experiences, giving the entire family the opportunity to connect and rebuild relationships strained from the pressures of the illness.

Support from the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance will fund the entire session at Camp Sunshine including transportation from Brooklyn to Maine, and back. The Alliance support is part of their commitment to investing $1 million per year in non-profits that work to improve the lives of Brooklyn-area youth through sports and other activities, including healthcare and education.

“Camp Sunshine is a great resource for families dealing with a child who has cancer. The idyllic setting on Sebago Lake is the perfect backdrop for family connections, and is the perfect venue through which we can help sick children and families from Brooklyn,” explained Gerard LaRocca, Chief Administrative Officer, Barclays Capital.

At the October 2009 Hematology and Oncology Session, 40 families are expected to attend. A number of families have signed up already, but there are still more openings. Interested families are encouraged to contact the camp at (207) 655-3800, or via their website at www.campsunshine.org.

“Support from the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance is tremendous,” said Matt Hoidal, executive director of Camp Sunshine. “An important long-term benefit of Camp is the social network, and thanks to the Alliance, Brooklyn families will be able to make connections they can take home with them, in addition to enjoying a much-needed break.”

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

If Forest City Ratner has breached its deal with ACORN, why has ACORN maintained support?

Atlantic Yards Report

ACORN, we should remember, has stuck by Forest City Ratner even though the developer has likely breached the deal ACORN signed.

A reader points out that, in writing about public comments by the president of New York State ACORN, I left out part of the May 2005 Housing Memorandum of Understanding, agreed to "take reasonable steps to publicly support the project by, among other things, appearing with the developer before the Public Parties, community organizations, and the media."

The ACORN obligation

The preamble states:
As long as the Project will include the ACORN/ATLANTIC YARDS 50/50 Program as described in paragraph 1, ACORN agrees to take reasonable steps to publicly support the project by, among other things, appearing with the developer before the Public Parties, community organizations, and the media.

The 50/50 program

What was described in paragraph 1?
Developer shall develop fifty (50%) of the Residential Project as affordable housing in accordance with the ACORN/ATLANTIC Yards 50/50 program. Based on a projected number of units of 4,500 the affordable commitment will be 2,250 units.

However, just a week after the press conference announcing that deal, Forest City Ratner announced changes, proposing either an addition of 1500 market-rate condos while maintaining the same amount of office space, or reducing the office space and planning for 2800 condos. Now the number of proposed condos has been reduced to 1930.

As noted in Paragraph 5 of the MOU, if the number of units in the project should increase "for any reason that the Developer determines to be economically necessary," the developer and ACORN would try to follow the 50/50 program.

Have they done so? Forest City Ratner has agreed to build 600 to 1000 affordable for-sale units, not matching the announced 1930 condo units. But that agreement has never been part of documents approved by the Empire State Development Corporation.

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Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

IBO responds to ESDC critique of fiscal analysis: "we remain confident in our methodology and results"

Atlantic Yards Report

One intriguing mini-drama during the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) board meeting on September 17 concerned the agency's response to a New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) report concluding that the Atlantic Yards arena would be a loss for the city.

The ESDC's dismissal of the IBO's report was noted both verbally and in a Response to Comments document, but the ESDC's logic was sketchy, as I'll describe below.

And, after I forwarded the critique to the IBO, the official behind the report told me "we remain confident in our methodology and results."

Indeed, as I'll describe, I think the IBO could've been considered too conservative.

Click thru for more on the ESDC's hypocrisy, the IBO's rebuttal, and why Norman Oder thinks the lost public opportunity cost may be even greater than what the IBO reported.

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NoLandGrab: The bottom line is that the ESDC has never, ever provided any credible analysis of the Atlantic Yards project's bottom line.

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

DREAMING OF BROOKLYN: DEVELOPMENT RECONSIDERED

An art exhibit and conference looks at what development has meant—and will mean—for New York's most romanticized borough.

CityLimits.org
by Robert Neuwirth

"Dreamland Pavilion: Brooklyn and Development," a conference on October 3rd at Kingsborough Community College, and a related art exhibit on the campus, "The Soul is the Size of Elsewhere," are attempts to capture this inchoate reality.

Eben Wood, an assistant professor of English at Kingsborough and one of the prime movers behind the conference and exhibition, suggests that the concept of development is more complex than we generally admit—particularly when seen against the borough's diverse cityscape of 2.5 million people. "The word 'development' at the same time represents actual changes in the borough and is supposed to express the meaning of those changes," he says.
...

The exhibition aims at creating a documentary portrait of the rapidly changing fabric of Brooklyn. Shards of steel scavenged from the Ward Bakery—a building demolished to make way for the Atlantic Yards project—cascade across several pedestals.
...

Norman Oder, whose blog on the Atlantic Yards development has been a key resource for information and analysis of that real estate deal, will present his view of the PR war over the project.
...

'Dreamland Pavilion' will be held in the Rotunda of the Marine and Academic Center building at Kingsborough Community College (2001 Oriental Boulevard in Manhattan Beach) on Saturday, Oct. 3rd. Admission is $25 ($30 at the door; discounts available for students; and organizers insist, no one will be turned away for lack of funds.) 'The Soul is the Size of Elsewhere' can be seen in the gallery on the ground floor of the nearby Arts and Sciences Building.

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Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, On October 3, Atlantic Yards will be part of the "Dreamland Pavilion" conference at Kingsborough CC

From the program:

Atlantic Yards

“Who’s Planning Brooklyn? An Alternate Point of View”
Eve Baron, The Municipal Art Society of New York

“The Yards Development Workshop Unity Plan”
Marshall Brown, Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture

“Atlantic Yards: Brooklyn’s Most Controversial Development Through the Lens of Public Relations and News Coverage”
Norman Oder, Independent Journalist

“Miss Brooklyn, Tough Kids, and Digital Project™, or, Atlantic Yards and the Cultural Logic of Monopoly Rent”
Stuart Schrader, CUNY Graduate Center

Moderator: Ted Hamm, Brooklyn Rail

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

September 21, 2009

Dave crony collects 'money for nothing'

NY Post
by Tom Topousis

More evidence that the Empire State Developerment Corporation is asleep at the wheel — or more aptly, driving on the wrong side of the road.

Gov. Paterson's former economic-development czar, Avi Schick, stepped down from his post at the helm of the Empire State Development Corp. in January -- but, astonishingly, continued to quietly draw his $213,000 annual salary for eight more months, The Post has learned.

Schick, who has close ties to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, managed to hang on to his full salary -- more than what the governor earns -- in return for advising Paterson on lower Manhattan issues, said ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston.

The ESDC revealed Schick's continuing compensation to The Post last week after more than a month of requests, and just days after he was removed from the payroll on Sept. 11 so that he could begin a new job with a law firm that began three days later.
...

"Total waste of taxpayer money," said another official familiar with Schick's work downtown, where his most significant project was the deconstruction of the Deutsche Bank building -- a project that cost two firefighters their lives and has taken years longer than anticipated.

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NoLandGrab: In no way do we mean to make light of the terrible, avoidable tragedy that occurred at the Deutsche Bank building, but that project could perhaps be considered well-managed in comparison to Schick's other big downstate project — Atlantic Yards.

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Post: ESDC paid Schick for eight months after resignation

Norman Oder parses the Post:

It was unclear on what specific issues Schick advised Paterson.

He could not be reached for comment, and state officials would only say that he was asked to stay on during a leadership change at ESDC over the summer.

..."People assumed he wasn't paid because no other LMDC chairman had ever received a salary," said a well-placed lower Manhattan source.

Actually, if Schick could be described as anyone's "crony," the person would be Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who appointed him.

But if Schick resigned in January, his role "over the summer"--after CEO Marisa Lago left--didn't kick in until well after his resignation.

Posted by eric at 11:26 PM

More evidence that a terrorist attack might actually be a "reasonable worst-case scenario"

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation in 2006 said security concerns did not require an examination in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS):
Emergency scenarios such as a large-scale terrorist attack similar to the World Trade Center attack, a biological or chemical attack, or a bomb are not considered a reasonable worst-case scenario and are therefore outside of the scope of the EIS.

More than a few people pointed me to coverage reporting that a man being questioned in an FBI probe of an alleged terrorist plot had researched baseball and football stadiums.

Add to that the New York Police Department's (likely) classification of a sports facility like the planned Atlantic Yards arena in the High Tier of buildings that present exceptional threat, vulnerability, and impact characteristics.

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Posted by eric at 11:23 PM

WATCH MICKY DRIBBLE THE BALL – PROKHOROV’S AMERICAN MOVE IS A BUZZER BEATER BEFORE KREMLIN DISQUALIFIER

Dances with Bears
by John Helmer

Thanks to DDDB for alerting us to this story by "the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia."

Does Russia's Deputy Prime Minister hold the keys to Bruce Ratner's ultimate bailout?

In the original game of basketball, invented by Dr James Naismith in 1892, there were 13 rules. Rule 5 was the disqualifier. In the playbook of Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, there is just one rule – and that’s the disqualifier. Mikhail Prokhorov’s decision to buy into the American National Basketball Association is his signal he’s out of the Russian game.

Prokhorov has been acutely sensitive to the coverage he has been getting in the American media for some time, and according to a source in his circle, that is because he does not want to be seen by the Kremlin as getting too close to the US Government. Taking ski vacations in Aspen, Colorado, is one thing; shaking hands with the President of the United States is another (in a crowded room).

But investing up to a billion dollars or more in the US – well, Prokhorov’s men accept that, before doing that, it is prudent for the oligarch to clear the transaction in advance with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Igor Sechin, the deputy prime minister who hands out (and takes away) Russia’s mining and metals concessions. Outside Russia, this process is misunderstood. Inside Russia, it is quite straightforward – oligarchs holding concessions for the exploitation of Russian resources do so at the pleasure of the state. The dividends they draw out of these concessions may be squirreled away in offshore havens, even spent on sex objects. But the spending of the capital of the concession, cannot be decided according to the same whims, especially not at a time like this.

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NoLandGrab: Damned if we can figure all this out, since as DDDB writes, "none of you, nor Bruce Ratner nor we ever thought one would have to become a Kremlinologist to read the tea leaves for Bruce and Brett's Excellent Adventure."

All we can say is, this whole Atlantic Yards saga just gets weirder and weirder.

Posted by eric at 11:03 PM

In Miami, the Times finds public consternation over a sweetheart deal for a stadium

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on The Times' sudden interest in bad publicly funded sports-venue deals — in Miami.

The New York Times, which treated the passage of the Atlantic Yards plan last Thursday as an event barely worthy of mention, much less scrutiny, today does some delving into a controversy about another sports facility.
...

The situation in Brooklyn is both better and worse. The city and state are devoting $305 million in direct subsidies to Atlantic Yards, with--according to the IBO--about $250 million to the arena. The $726 million represents a combination of subsidies and tax breaks, including $194 million in federal tax breaks on tax-exempt bonds.

Arguably, however, Forest City Ratner is gaining even more of a benefit from opportunity costs--provisions that reduce the level of potential additional revenues--given that the state handed over all control of naming rights, a sum reported at $400 million.

Beyond that, the construction of an arena approaching $800 million would be paid by PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes), which, according to Assemblyman Richard Brodsky--at least when describing a similar funding scheme for Yankee Stadium--counts as a public subsidy. (Sports facilities expert Neil deMause says instead that the property tax breaks are a subsidy.)

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Posted by eric at 10:57 PM

Is ACORN's Atlantic Yards Connection the Real Scandal?

Gothamist's John Del Signore recaps today's NY Post ACORN article and points out that the story is only "news" if you haven't been paying attention:

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's quid pro quo relationship with community organizing group ACORN is public knowledge, but now that the group is on the hot seat for those hidden camera humiliations, the Post takes another look. For years, ACORN has rallied its members to enthusiastically support the construction of Ratner's $4.9 billion NBA arena, and in exchange ACORN would help manage tenants for the 2,250 affordable-housing units still planned for Atlantic Yards, to be built someday in the unforeseeable future.

ACORN also got a $1 million loan and a $500,000 grant from Ratner last September to weather some financial trouble. That's not really news for those who've been following the embattled project closely, but the article does feature a juicy quote from Patti Hagan, a Prospects Heights activist and former operative for ACORN’s political arm. She tells the Post, "ACORN is a corrupt organization that had its silence bought by Ratner." But that's not exactly controversial either, since ACORN's Director Bertha Lewis has herself admitted that Ratner essentially bought ACORN's "political cover."

link

Posted by lumi at 7:22 PM

Potential Nets owner lost billions in last year?

Yahoo! Sports
By Mark Miller

Brooklyn may be gaining an ultra-rich, hard-partying, 43-year-old owner to the NBA team that wants to move there. Bruce Ratner is apparently getting very close to selling a majority stake in the New Jersey Nets to basketball-loving Russian kajillionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who was arrested only a few years ago on suspicion that he was providing prostitutes to extremely high-end clients, according to the New York Daily News.

Prokhorov, the 40th wealthiest man in the world, according to Forbes, is worth about $9.5 billion even though he supposedly lost 51% of his treasure within the last 12 months. Ouch. Still, the guy apparently wants in on this team and is ready to throw in $700 million to help Ratner steamroll all the local opposition to the arena project and take majority ownership of the team.

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NoLandGrab: Prokorov didn't get rich by being stupid, so it's hard to believe that he'll bail Ratner out for the privilege of co-owning a money-losing team.

True Hoop, First Cup: Monday

Posted by lumi at 7:07 PM

State Agency Reaffirms Land Grab

Ground Report
By Richard Cooper

For local Libertarians tracking Bruce Ratner's controversial taxpayer-funded land grab, these press releases practically write themselves:

A New York State Agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, (ESDC) has reaffirmed its approval of the Atlantic Yards corporate welfare eminent domain scheme in New York City. ...
This should come as no suprise. The entire function of the Empire State Development Corporation is to facilitate these schemes to transfer taxpayer money and the property belonging to private owners to the developers favored by the ESDC. What these schemes amount to is legalized theft. Looking for justice at the ESDC is a fool's errand. The Empire State Development Corporation's reason for being is to violate the property rights of New Yorkers and in violation of the New York State Constitution's prohibition on loans or grants of monies to corporations other than mental health or educational corporations.

link

Posted by lumi at 7:02 PM

In Lean Times, Miami Pays Most of Cost for New Ballpark

The New York Times
by Ken Belson

The New York Times has to travel all the way down to Miami to report in-depth about the folly of building a new ballpark largely with public money ("ignoring voter dissent and shaky economic forecasts, Miami and Miami-Dade County will help pay for most of a new stadium," the teaser says), while right here in its own backyard, the paper has been far less critical of its development-partner Bruce Ratner's gorging at the public trough.

The push for a new baseball stadium here began the day the Florida Marlins first took the field in 1993. While city after city worked with major league teams around the country to help build nearly two dozen stadiums, the Marlins were left to play — and endure countless rain delays — in a cavernous football stadium in front of thousands of empty orange seats.

Then the recession came along, and the team got what it wanted.

Miami and Miami-Dade County have agreed to cover three-quarters of the projected $645 million cost to build the Marlins a home with a retractable roof and four huge parking garages. In return, the city and the county will receive no new revenue from the park, and the team can keep all the money from the 50 luxury suites, concessions and advertising, as well as from naming rights, which alone could generate more than $100 million.

Three-quarters of $645 million, roughly $484 million, is a whole lot less than the $726 million that New York City's Independent Budget Office estimates the taxpayers will be kicking in for Forest City Ratner's Barclays Center arena.

Such generous terms were not uncommon during good times, before city and county officials faced yawning budget gaps, potential layoffs and cuts in social services. Yet they forged ahead, anyway, largely dismissing voter opposition and the lessons learned elsewhere that new stadiums sometimes fail to deliver the economic punch promised in forecasts and that the public financing for them can handcuff future generations.

The deal was a fresh reminder that even during a recession, sports hold sway over communities regardless of the potential costs.

“Outside of Fidel becoming part owner of the team, nothing would have stopped the deal,” said Carlos A. Gimenez, one of the three Miami-Dade County commissioners who voted against the agreement earlier this year. “I’m not anti-baseball, but I’m anti-bad deal. Anyone with any sense can see this is cockeyed.”

Even The Times.

The economic benefits could also prove illusory, analysts say, because spending at new stadiums often replaces money spent at old ones or comes at the expense of spending at theaters, restaurants and other entertainment sites.
...

As the recession has revealed, some conservative forecasts elsewhere proved too optimistic. In 1996, officials in Hamilton County, Ohio, expected their local sales tax revenue to grow 3 percent a year when they agreed to add a half-penny to pay for stadiums for the Cincinnati Reds and the Bengals. Instead, it has since grown 1.6 percent per year on average and fallen nearly 10 percent this year, forcing lawmakers to consider cutting the schools budget.

“Cincinnati is a smaller market, but it underscores that all these projects have risks, and Miami has to understand in the depths of this recession it may take longer to recover than people think,” said Mark Rosentraub, the author of “Major League Losers,” which examined stadium deals nationwide. Rosentraub called Miami’s agreement “reckless.”

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NoLandGrab: We bet Rosentraub, or Field of Schemes author, blogger and sports-boondoggle expert Neil deMause, would've told The Times the same thing about Brooklyn's agreement — if only The Times were willing to ask.

Posted by eric at 3:24 PM

Report: NYC Sports Stadiums, Fashion Venues Researched by Man Eyed in Terror Investigation

Fox News

Investigators found research on New York City sports stadiums and sites related to the city's Fashion Week events on the computer of a man being questioned in an FBI probe of an alleged terrorist plot, ABC News reports.

Authorities have made few public comments about the progress of their investigation, but there have been numerous reports that Najibullah Zazi has admitted to ties to Al Qaeda while claiming he was not central to the suspected terror cell under investigation.

Zazi had been cooperating with authorities and was interviewed several time this week by investigators, but on Saturday, he apparently didn't report for a fourth day of FBI questioning. His attorney has said the reports of a confession to terror ties were untrue.

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Related coverage...

ABC News, FBI Arrests Three Men in Terror Plot that Targeted New York

Computer Shows NYC Research

A computer belonging to Zazi showed he had researched baseball and football stadiums and sites used in the recent Fashion Week event in New York City, law enforcement officials tell ABCNews.com. While officials say they do not know the targets of the alleged plot, the contents of Zazi's computer are considered a valuable insight into what he might have been planning.

The officials said text messages sent by Zazi suggest the plot was nearing the attack phase. One message said the "wedding cake is ready," which authorities say may have been code to indicate the attack was ready. Al Qaeda operatives have frequently used references to weddings to disguise planned terror attacks.

NoLandGrab: Fortunately, fans someday attending games at the yet-unbuilt Barclays Center arena won't have to fear for their safety, since the Empire State Development Corporation doesn't consider a terrorist attack a "reasonable worst-case scenario" — more evidence that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is absolutely necessary.

Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

The New York Post discovers (and downplays) ACORN's deal with Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that the national organization ACORN has been in the news, after a video sting operation exposed some unwise advice from low-level employees, the New York Post mentions, in passing, something far more significant: developer Forest City Ratner's bailout of the national organization, with a $500,000 grant and a $1 million loan.
...

The scandal has nothing to do with ACORN's housing management role, and ACORN's role in helping decide who gets to live in the affordable housing units involves running a lottery. (Yes, there are ways lottery marketers can ensure that certain groups are informed about applying, though it's likely Atlantic Yards housing would get much publicity.)

And it's not news that ACORN would earn fees for marketing the units.
...

The $1.5 million bailout is much bigger news, because it shows Forest City Ratner stepping in after major foundations, which had previously supported ACORN, stopped contributing after an embezzlement scandal.

article

Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

Group can $core on Atl. Yards

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Despite a string of scandals that recently led Congress to cut off its federal funding, ACORN still stands to make millions of dollars off its support for Brooklyn’s controversial Atlantic Yards project, The Post has learned.

The left-wing organization -- longtime boosters of the $4.9 billion NBA arena and residential- and office-tower project -- says it expects to be tapped to market and help decide who gets to live in the coveted, but long-delayed, 2,250 affordable-housing units planned for Atlantic Yards.

This, after Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner helped bail ACORN out of financial trouble last September with a $1 million loan and a $500,000 grant, according to memos.
...

The work would include community outreach and screening people to determine qualified applicants, and then scandal-scarred ACORN would be entrusted with overseeing a lottery system to choose who gets the housing. Ratner’s firm is expected to manage the housing.

When asked how much ACORN might make off Atlantic Yards, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development referred questions to Ratner, who said via a spokesman it wasn’t the “appropriate time” to make such “decisions.”

article

NoLandGrab: While Atlantic Yards beat reporter Rich Calder plays it straight, we have to wonder if the Post editorial page's hatred of ACORN will trump its love of Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

Why did Ratner say AY could take 25 years? Because that's what the ESDC gives him (despite official claims of a decade)

Atlantic Yards Report

"It would be less complicated if the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Atlantic Yards supporters simply" told the truth, but that ain't happening, so project critics have to slog through official documents just to piece together the lies.

It would be less complicated if the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Atlantic Yards supporters simply professed that Atlantic Yards would have a ten-year timetable in official documents while acknowledging in public statements that the project could take much longer (as project opponent Daniel Goldstein pointed out in comments at the ESDC board meeting last Thursday).

Actually, the ESDC's been speaking out of both sides of its mouth in official documents. According to the 2009 Modified General Project Plan MGPP), issued in June:

The build-out of the Project is likely to occur in two phases, with the Project elements on the Phase I Site and the Upgraded Yard (collectively, "Phase I") anticipated to be completed by 2014 and the Project elements on the Phase II Site (collectively, "Phase II") anticipated to be completed by 2019.
(Emphases added)

However, as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has pointed out, the revised deal for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard gives the FCR 22 years, until 2030, to pay for the railyard, and only after payment would the six development parcels be conveyed to the developer.

In other words, the only way to meet the ten-year timetable would be for Forest City Ratner to speed up payments.

Why all the fuss about the how long the project takes to build?

Does the ESDC think the ten-year period likely? It didn't say so. Indeed, the evidence from the MTA and the ESDC's own leases indicates that the timetable is unlikely and nearly impossible.

And that means that the claimed project benefits would come much more slowly, and that claimed blight would persist rather than be removed.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

Looking at ACORN's testimony before the ESDC: boilerplate support without any acknowledgment of doubt

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder fact checks and analyzes local ACORN head Pat Boone's testimony in support of Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project at last week's board meeting of the Empire State Development Corporation:

...ACORN, according to the May 2005 Housing Memorandum of Understanding, agreed to "take reasonable steps to publicly support the project by, among other things, appearing with the developer before the Public Parties, community organizations, and the media.

So that's why Pat Boone, president of New York state ACORN, was speaking. Her boilerplate support deserves closer analysis.

Boone raised no doubts about Bruce Ratner's vague construction timetable, the lack of affordable-housing guarantees if limited housing-construction subsidies are not available, and that only 14% of the planned housing units will be available to ACORN's main constituency, low-income families.

article

Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

Nets backer has dubious background?

The Russian billionaire who is believed to be close to funding the Nets' move to Brooklyn has a checkered past.

ESPNStar.com

It's amazing how a story based on a poorly reported rumor still has legs four days later.

Mikhail Prokhorov, who was recently named the 40th wealthiest man in the world by Forbes, was arrested in 2007 on suspicion he was involved in an upscale prostitution ring.

Prokhorov is reportedly close to issuing a $700 million bond through his investment firm, Onexim, that would help owner Bruce Ratner build the long-awaited Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:39 AM

Timothy P. Carney: ACORN and wealthy developers vs. hipsters and firemen

The Examiner
By Timothy P. Carney

This editorial uses a provocative headline for a piece that, at first, paints the Atlantic Yards fight as a racial conflict.

Wealthy and well-connected developer Bruce Ratner wants to bulldoze an old neighborhood in Brooklyn and turn it into high-rise apartment buildings and a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets. Many locals, including the hipsters who live in Park Slope and the firemen who work at FDNY Squad No. 1, don't want this steel hulk named Atlantic Yards casting a shadow over their neighborhood and filling their streets with traffic.

Ratner is white, is wealthy and has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians. But his allies say they're working for the less fortunate who need "Change," fighting against privileged whites who want "resegregation."

"If this thing doesn't come out in favor of Ratner," said James Caldwell, a black man who runs Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, "it would be a conspiracy against blacks."

One Ratner ally is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. ACORN might have disappeared after last year's embezzlement scandal (the brother of the organization's founder pocketed almost $1 million in ACORN funds), but Ratner swooped in to bail the group out. He loaned ACORN $1.5 million at low interest rates.

ACORN's New York director, Bertha Lewis, is a vocal and enthusiastic supporter of Ratner's development. At a news conference announcing the project would proceed, Lewis, onstage, planted photo-op kisses on both Ratner and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Lewis has also framed it on racial terms: "The overwhelming folks who are opposed are white people and wealthier people and more secure people and people who just arrived. * We're tired of being pushed out."

It helps inspire Lewis, one imagines, that ACORN got that loan from Ratner and that Ratner gave her a hand in devising the low-income housing portions of his development. Ratner, it appears, has bought an ally, not just with cash, but with power -- ACORN will now be shaping who lives where. "We're developers now," Lewis told New York Magazine.

Lewis is correct about the racial makeup of the anti-development activists. Freddy's Bar on Dean Street is the mother ship of the Atlantic Yards resistance. Excluding the barmaid, there's no pigment in this joint when I visit on a Friday night.

The piece concludes that trying to understand the proposed Atlantic Yards project as a conflict between black supporters and white opponents only distracts an observer from seeing the land grab the project is based upon.

To understand what's happening on Atlantic Avenue, you need to shed Left-vs.-Right and white-vs.-black modes of thinking, as well as simple anti-corporatism. Without eminent domain, Ratner would never be able to get all the land.

The real dividing line is people with access to government power -- Ratner, ACORN and the politicians -- against people without such access. You can guess who's going to win.

link

NoLandGrab: As a groundbreaking for the project has been repeatedly pushed back over the years, it might not be a good idea trying to predict where this fight will end up.

Posted by steve at 5:39 AM

September 20, 2009

Sunday Comix: A Peek At The Atlantic Yards Design Process

The Brooklyn Paper

Posted by steve at 11:30 AM

Does Ratner have a Plan B for the Brooklyn Nets? Not beyond more government concessions, I'll bet

Atlantic Yards Report

What happens if the proposed Nets arena plan falls through? Norman Oder looks at the possibilities.

... think we've already seen Plan B. Plan B means renegotiating the deal when possible. Forest City Ratner has long been said to have cash flow difficulties. After Thursday's approval by the ESDC to amend the city and state funding agreements, the developer will get the final $40 million of $200 million pledged, without having to fulfill certain milestones.

Moreover, the developer apparently will get some portion of the additional $105 million the city has set aside for infrastructure; rather than the city spending it, the money would go directly to FCR.

...

There's no reason or incentive for Forest City Ratner to move the Nets to another site in Brooklyn. The Atlantic Yards side is "a great piece of real estate," to quote CEO Chuck Ratner of parent Forest City Enterprises and, crucially, it sits across the street from Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls.

Parking lots at Forest City Ratner's MetroTech would help with arena overflow. That's all called synergy. And he can't build Atlantic Yards without the arena.

...

The Coney Island site that Borough President Marty Markowitz once promoted is now destined for residential towers and green space, according to the recent rezoning.

There have been reports about putting a roof on the U.S. Open Stadium in Queens, and a new arena has been suggested as part of a megadevelopment over the yet-undeveloped Sunnyside Yards in Queens.

But Brooklyn's the place with the huge financial upside. If the AY arena falls through, the easiest place for the team to go is Newark, because there's already an arena there and the New York market can surely support two basketball teams. But Ratner wouldn't be the owner, unless--and this is a big if--it comes as part of a package for urban development in Newark.

That's unlikely, given that Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner has no experience in New Jersey, and developers like to know the local political byways.

Beyond Newark, the most likely destinations would be cities with a new arena but no team, like Kansas City or a former NBA city with an arena that needs renovation, like Seattle. That would mean a sale of the team.

link

Posted by steve at 11:03 AM

Really Wylde? New NY Federal Reserve Bank Director Supported Major NYC Net Loss ($220 Million) Megadevelopment

Noticing New York

This blog entry focuses on Kathy Wylde, who was recently appointed to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Wylde has been a supporter of Michael Bloomberg, helping to overturn voter wishes on term limits, and also a supporter of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Here is a description of much of what is so wrong about Atlantic Yards:

A spectacularly flawed project in almost all respects, New York City’s Independent Budget Office has concluded that the Atlantic Yards arena, the only part of the Atlantic Yards project currently designed or for which any kind of enforceable, documented deal exists will be a net money loser for the city to the tune of $220 million($39.5 million in direct losses and $180.5 million in opportunity losses). The megadevelopment’s guaranteed inadequacies flow principally from the fact that it was set up and concocted by the developer, Forest City Ratner, as a subsidy-infusion system intended to deliver maximum benefit to the developer at the expense of the public. The IBO has conservatively calculated that on the arena alone the city will be giving the developer$726 million in no-bid giveaways.

The as yet undesigned rest of the megadevelopment has been formulated as a multi-decade no-obligation developer monopoly on a swath of valuable Brooklyn real estate that will allow the developer to blackmail the public into deeper subsidies, redoubling its net losses. In fact, just this week the developer caused New York Governor Paterson’s Empire State Development Corporation to casually shake the advance of another $25 million out of its sleeve. (See: Thursday, September 17, 2009, Noticing New York Comment on and at Today’s ESDC Board Meeting.) Since the project is unlikely ever to return the accelerated advance of that money, this extra $25 million could well bring the calculated net loss on the project up from $220 million to $245 million.

...

The mega-project, containing the seeds for its own demise from the get-go, has been foundering embarrassingly for the five years since it was proposed. The developer could quite likely go under financially. There have thus been ample and repeated opportunities for responsible organizations to call for pulling the plug on the degenerating deal. We have written before about how Ms. Wylde has, instead, errantly recommitted her support to it no matter how far it degrades. (See: Monday, July 6, 2009, Wylde Ideas, Making For a Wrong Partnership.) Most recently, despite a change in the economic environment which should have made it possible to get a much better deal for the public, Ms. Wylde endorsed a far worse one on behalf of the Partnership (see the article just linked to) where hundreds of millions of extra giveaways are being lavished on the project without quid pro quo.

Wylde will join Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University, and eminent domain abuser on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York board. The entry ends with this warning:

So, if you are wondering about what kind of biases might govern the Federal Reserve in conducting federal policy to protect the public and ensure soundness of the economy, just remember that two of its board members who are there to set policy and direction are Atlantic Yards, Bloomberg and eminent domain supporter Kathy Wylde and eminent domain abuser Lee Bollinger from Columbia.

And there is this. According to Crain’s:

The New York Fed also has the ear of Washington, D.C.—U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was president of the New York Fed until his White House appointment.

Worried?

link

Posted by steve at 10:43 AM

Two Views Of Mikhail Prokhorov: One Zany and One Not

First, the zany:

Deadspin, Evil Russian Mastermind To Buy Nets In Crucial 'Phase 1' Of Operation

After a quick rundown of the Russian billionaire, this item lists what could happen if he acquires the Nets.

But buying the Nets is only 'phase 1' in Prokhorov's plot to conquer the world through NBA dominance. Here is what the rest of his scheme might look like:

  • Overcharge for domestic beer; use profits to contaminate American water supply with deadly Omega virus.
  • Build giant army of Andrei Kirilenko superclones who can shoot both threes and meddling British agents with perfect accuracy. If Kirilenko's not available, Arvidas Sabonas will do (he's Russian, right)?
  • Destroy Palace of Auburn Hills with doomsday device, the eponymous Moonraker.
  • Create "Russian Dictator Night" promotion, where first 500 Russian dictators get to have picture taken with Nets' gaurd Keyon Dooling.
  • Frame Pat Riley in humiliating sex scandal, then kill Michael Beasley with boobytrapped cypher machine.
  • Swing trade to solidify low-post defense.
  • Entice Pau Gasol to commit suicide; inherit his Spanish castle to use as HQ, and trillion dollar fortune to finance Soviet terrorist plots.

Now here's the not-so-zany:

Daily News, Reported Nets backer and Russian millionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov has suspect background
By Julian Garcia

The Russian billionaire who is on the verge of funding the Nets' long-awaited move to Brooklyn is a hard-partying bachelor who was arrested in 2007 on suspicion he was involved in an upscale prostitution ring.

Mikhail Prokhorov, recently named the 40th wealthiest man in the world by Forbes, has an estimated net worth of $9.5 billion. And while Forbes estimates that the 43-year-old tycoon lost approximately 51% of his fortune in the last year, Prokhorov is still reportedly close to issuing a $700 million bond through his investment firm, Onexim, that would help Nets owner Bruce Ratner build the long-delayed Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn.

Prokhorov, who reportedly could also take over a majority stake in the team if a deal is reached, was arrested in January 2007 while on vacation at a French ski resort when police cracked down on a suspected prostitution ring. According to numerous reports at the time, Prokhorov told investigators that he flew beautiful women in from Russia because he enjoyed their company.

However, investigators suspected that Prokhorov had supplied the women as prostitutes to his wealthy friends and kept the billionaire in custody for several days before releasing him and dropping the charges. Prokhorov later told the French press that "my winter vacation in France was spoiled by local police, who arrested me and my friends without giving any reasonable explanations." A Ratner spokesperson refused to comment on Prokhorov's controversial past.

Posted by steve at 10:11 AM

NYC: Film and panel discussion on "Rezoning, Displacement & Building Community Power"

Activist Resource

Date : 20 September 2009
From : 6:00pm To : 9:30pm

Event Description:

Reclaiming Our Communities: Rezoning, Displacement & Building Community Power

Three documentary films and a panel discussion on the gentrification of poor neighborhoods, and the political aspects and human cost.

Featured Films:

"Brooklyn Boondoggle" (2009, 12 mins, http://meerkatmedia.org/goingson/movie-premiere-brooklyn-boondoggle/)

This short documentary explores the highly controversial Atlantic Yards project, questioning the trend of "top-down urban development" and asks, "what if we were allowed to decide the future of our own neighborhoods?"

"Some Place Like Home" (2008, dir Kelly Anderson, 40 mins, http://Furee.org/film/)

A documentary telling the stories of community residents and small businesses that are displaced to make way for high-end retail and luxury condominiums in New York City's Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn. From the film blurb: "It reveals practices and policies used to support massive real estate projects as the historical, economic and cultural fabric of the area is torn apart. It follows the battle of community residents and small businesses as they fight for some place like home." Winner of the 2009 PATIOS International Film Festival Rise Up Award.

"Rezoning Harlem" (2008, dirs Natasha Florentino & Tamara Gubernat, 45 mins, http://RezoningHarlem.com/)

The film follows longtime members of the Harlem community as they fight a 2008 rezoning. From the film blurb: "... [The rezoning] threatens to erase the history and culture of their legendary neighborhood and replace it with luxury housing, offices, and big-box retail. A shocking expose of how a group of ordinary citizens, who are passionate about the future of one the city's most treasured neighborhoods, are systematically shut out of the city's decision-making process, revealing New York City's broken public review system and provoking discussion on what we can do about it."

Panelists:

  • Maisha Morales: Furee Board Member and Small Business Owner (featured in film).
  • Joy Chatel: Furee Board Member, Executive Director of Friends 227 Abolitionist Place Museum and Cultural Center, Director of 4 Boroughs Preservation Society (featured in film).
  • Raul Rothblatt of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
  • Tom Angotti: Urban planner and author of "New York for Sale"

Cost: $7-$10 sliding scale.

Location: The Tank 354 West 45th Street New York, NY 10036

Contact: 718 852-2960 x. 301, or via the email address below.

Sponsored by: Families United for Racial & Economic Equality (FUREE) & Harlem Rezoning.

Posted by steve at 9:56 AM

Barclays Center officials want Islanders to consider Brooklyn as future home

Cup Crazy's National Hockey League blog

This rumor of the Islanders eventually playing at a future arena seems particularly suspect. As far as we know, the proposed Nets arena will be unable to host hockey events.

Remember any talk in the recent past about the idea of the New York Islanders heading west to Brooklyn? It may not be a pipe dream for some fans.

According to Chris Botta of New York Islanders Point Blank, a National Hockey League source has told him that the team was approached by officials in charge of the Barclays Center project to consider their proposed arena as a future place to play. The state did approve the revised plans of the $800 million Atlantic Yards facility on Thursday (three days ago), but whether or not it will ultimately be built still is a question mark.

link

Posted by steve at 8:33 AM

September 19, 2009

Rounding up the press non-coverage

Atlantic Yards Report

They say it's lonely at the top. It was a little lonely, media-wise, at this week's meeting of the ESDC board, as it gave its rubber-stamp approval to the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Who in the press takes seriously the amended Atlantic Yards plan, the ESDC's rubber-stamp, and the concessions to Forest City Ratner?

Not the Brooklyn Paper. It didn't send a reporter. Nor did the Courier-Life. Yes, it was a deadline day, but this is a big story. (The print Brooklyn Paper does include two AY articles the paper already published on the web: about the IBO report and the public appearance of the arena architects.)

The New York Post didn't send a reporter but ran a 92-word summary. The New York Daily News did send a reporter, but didn't run a story. (The newspaper did have a lot of room to cover anchor Ernie Anastos's use of the F-word, though.)

The New York Times mentioned the action in an aside to a story on the potential investment in the Nets and the project by a Russian billionaire. (The Local didn't even cover it.)

The only (paid) reporters to approach the decision with some professional curiosity and skepticism were Eliot Brown of the New York Observer, who nailed the conclusion that the decision helped Forest City Ratner's cash flow, and former Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman of WNYC, whose main story was bland, but dug deeper in the station's news blog.

Crain's New York Business ran a story that just hit the surface, as did the Record, Reuters, and Globe Street.

link

Posted by steve at 11:09 AM

Weinstein awarded possession of property once claimed by Ratner, but condemnation plan awaits

Atlantic Yards Report

Henry Weinstein owns property in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards project. He leased it to Shaya Boymelgreen. Shaya then leased it to Forest City Ratner, and FCR leased it back to Shaya. This was to give the appearance that FCR controlled the 5% of the footprint property held by Weinstein. It was a dandy scheme, except that it was illegal.

A day after the Empire State Development Corporation finally corrected a deceptive map that suggested Forest City Ratner controlled three properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint, property owner Henry Weinstein got a court order giving him possession of the building and parking lot occupied by his tenant, Shaya Boymelgreen.

The properties, with asterixes indicating that while controlled by Ratner (according to the ESDC) the issue was in dispute , are at the southeast corner of Pacific Street and Carlton Avenue, on Block 1129, destined for interim surface parking.

Boymelgreen had leased the properties to FCR, which in turn leased them back to Boymelgreen, who used the building for offices. The fig leaf allowed the state and developer to assert that FCR owned or controlled 90% of the site, but that was 5% too much. Weinstein has protested in court for years, and won interim victories.

...

“We got an order of immediate possession,” Weinstein said. On Monday, he said, he likely will go to the properties, make sure everyone has left, or get the sheriff to evict them.

No money has been awarded yet, but Weinstein said that Boymelgreen owes about $200,000 for four months of rent, then up to $110,000 additionally. After that, he intends to seek several million dollars for breaching the lease, as well as payment for the $29 million for the 41 years left on the lease.

“The important point is that Ratner illegally and fictitiously and fraudently represented he controlled the property,” Weinstein said. “ESDC [Empire State Development Corporation] rubber-stamped it."

link

Posted by steve at 10:51 AM

Tough week for ACORN

The Sports ITeam Blog (Daily News)

We now know that there are no guarantees when or if affordable housing in the proposed Atlantic Yards project will be built. This certainly doesn't bother Forest City Ratner or its paid-for ally, ACORN.

It’s been a tough week for ACORN and its chief executive Bertha Lewis: Conservative activists Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe (no relation to I-Team member Michael O’Keeffe), released secretly recorded videos that apparently show ACORN employees in Brooklyn, Baltimore and Washington advising them on how to evade taxes and buy a house to use as a brothel.

To the right-wing crusaders have long accused ACORN of voter-registration fraud and other sins, the videos were proof that the community-organizing group is a pit of corruption. Washington officials moved quickly to cut ties to the organization. The House of Representatives voted to deny federal money to the community organizing group (ACORN’s critics claimed has received an estimated $53 million in federal aid since 1994). The Senate voted to deny ACORN housing and transportation funds. The Census Bureau, which had planned on using ACORN to conduct the 2010 census, cut ties with the group.

But one longtime ally -- Nets owner Bruce Ratner -- will continue to stand with the bruised and battered organization. Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco said ACORN has been a forceful advocate for civil rights and working families, and the company isn’t about to abandon its friend simply because of criticism from Fox News.

...

“We like working with ACORN,” a Forest City Ratner executive told the Brooklyn Paper in 2005. “They have that radical feeling, they really fight for what they believe in. We just love their history, how they started, and feel it really represents what we're working to do here.”

The final version of a state plan for the project weakened guarantees that promised affordable housing would get necessary funding, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Law by Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder suggest. A draft of the plan said state and city subsidies would be available to fund affordable-house units, but that language was deleted in later drafts. The current plan says the affordable housing is "expected" to be paid for with tax-exempt bonds from city and state housing programs.

ACORN has not protested; Atlantic Yards critics say that may be because the organization, which had been rocked by an embezzlement scandal, received a $1 million low-interest loan and a $500,000 grant from Forest City Ratner last year.

“We’d argue that ACORN has actually sold out its core constituency as there is likely to be very little ‘affordable’ housing if Atlantic Yards is ever built,” Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards’ main opposition group, wrote on its Web site this summer, “and what ‘affordable’ housing there may be will nearly all be UNaffordable to those ACORN claims to represent.”

link

Posted by steve at 10:40 AM

Congratulations, Councilman Levin…Now What?

Real Reform Brooklyn: Eye on the 33rd

Steven Levin won the Democratic primary this week for a seat on the City Council. This open letter is a suggestion list. One of the asks is that Levin fix the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Dear Councilman Levin:

We know that it is premature to call you that. You still need to go through the general election and get sworn in. But we all know those are mere formalities. You won. Vito Lopez hooked you up every which way from Tuesday: the Zalmanite faction with Rabbi Niederman and UJO, the union endorsements, the Bushwick United Democratic Club. But it would be unfair to say that Lopez won the election for you. The other candidates sliced and diced themselves up to a fair-thee-well. All that, and good honest campaigning on your behalf, won the day. You are to be personally credited with running an honorable campaign. You never went negative. You never took a shot below the belt. That is why we said “we really want to like you.”

The question is, now what? We thought that we would give you a few suggestions for your new office:

...

  1. Don’t Fold On Atlantic Yards. You have the real opportunity to curb the excesses of Atlantic Yards. You should work with Lopez to make this happen. On December 31st, Ratner’s tax-free financing is going to go “poof.” You need to use that opportunity to force a re-orienting of the proposed arena so that eminent domain is not needed. You also need to bring about a contextual re-working of the plan to integrate it into the surrounding communities.

This appears in this item's comments section:

“You need to use that opportunity to force a re-orienting of the proposed arena so that eminent domain is not needed.”

the arena doesn’t fit at that location without eminent domain. so better: you need to denounce the use of eminent domain to build an arena.

link

Posted by steve at 7:31 AM

ESDC Rubberstamps Atlantic Yards Approval

The Empire State Development Corporation, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, continues its support of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

NY Post, 'Net' gain for Ratner
By Rich Calder

State officials yesterday approved a revised plan for Brooklyn's embattled Atlantic Yards project.

The Empire State Development Corp.'s step allows developer Bruce Ratner to secure private land needed for the $4.9 billion project to build an NBA arena for the New Jersey Nets and 16 office and residential towers. But it is also expected to spur more lawsuits from opponents who've already delayed construction for years. One group, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, said the ESDC should have started the environmental-review process over because the revised plan dramatically departs from the 2006 original.

GlobeSt.com, State OKs Atlantic Yards Changes
By Paul Bubny

The Empire State Development Corp.’s board voted Thursday to approve modified plans for Atlantic Yards. In a statement, developer Bruce Ratner said the vote “means that the Atlantic Yards project can move forward”; however, critics of the Brooklyn mega-project have threatened further legal action.

...

Following the ESDC vote, Daniel Goldstein, co-founder of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, issued a statement of his own. Calling the board’s action a “rubberstamp re-approval,” Goldstein says, “It is unfortunate for the ESDC and Forest City Ratner. Had they done things by the book, by the letter of the law, the project wouldn’t be in such substantial trouble. But they haven’t.”

Critics of the project, including Goldstein and City Council candidate Brad Lander, assert that the ESDC has failed to provide a complete site plan for public comment, or to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement as required under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. According to Goldstein, SEQRA requires an SEIS “if there is newly discovered information, changes proposed for the project or a change in circumstances related to the project. The newly discovered information, in part, is the clear realization that the project will, at best, take decades to complete.”

Goldstein says that with its vote on Thursday, “and no SEIS, the ESDC is taking irreversible steps that will send Atlantic Yards further into community litigation.” He adds that the “likely outcome” of the ESDC’s vote “is that they will be sued.” Lander issued a statement citing a recent Independent Budget Office report that the arena would lose money for the city—a projection disputed by the New York City Economic Development Corp.—and calling for the entire project to be withdrawn.

An ESDC spokesman tells GlobeSt.com, “We are confident that the process we followed fully complies with all applicable laws and that an SEIS was not required. We are confident that we will prevail in any lawsuits that may claim otherwise.”

On Oct. 14, the New York State Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear an appeal of the May 15 ruling that upheld the ESDC’s use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards. The appeal was filed in late June by Goldstein and other landowners; both sides have expressed confidence of prevailing for the state’s highest court. However, the time frame for the court hearing could jeopardize the tax-exempt status of a sale of bonds to finance construction on the arena.

SmartBrief, Decision allows Atlantic Yards developer to move forward

A decision by the Empire State Development Corp. approving the Atlantic Yards project planned for Brooklyn will allow developer Forest City Ratner to move forward with the project. Observers also expect another round of lawsuits from groups opposed to the 16-building project, which will include mixed-use commercial and residential buildings, an arena and open space. The developer must start construction on the project before the end of this year to be able to use tax-free bonds.

Posted by steve at 7:17 AM

NY state approves downgrading Nets arena from platinum-plated to gold-plated

Field of Schemes
by Neil deMause

Neil deMause manages to find the humor in the ESDC's rubber-stamp approval of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

New York state's Empire State Development Corporation signed off on Bruce Ratner's revised Brooklyn Nets arena plan yesterday, something that's been a foregone conclusion for at least two months now. It is noteworthy, though, for prompting this Reuters headline:

NY agency OKs modest basketball arena plan for Nets

This is no doubt the first time in human history that a basketball arena costing between $800 and $900 million — which would still easily break the record as the most expensive ever — has been described as "modest."

link

Posted by steve at 7:04 AM

Rumors Continue of Possible Sale of Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov

Developer Bruce Ratner continues to search for a way to end the financial loss of owning the Nets and to find a way to begin building an arena before the end of this year.

The Star-Ledger, Russian billionaire considering deal to help finance NJ Nets' Brooklyn arena project
by Dave D'Alessandro

The Nets may have found a solution to their Barclays Center funding issue, if a spokesman for a Russian billionaire can be believed.

A spokesman for Mikhail Prokhorov -- the oligarch often named as one of the candidates interested in purchasing the team -- told the Moscow Times that "the possibility exists" that Prokhorov will participate in the Brooklyn project.

Another report originating in Sport Express, another Russian publication, said that Prokhorov will purportedly invest $700 million in the new arena, while securing management partnership for a single dollar.

The publicist from Prokhorov's Onexim Group, Igor Ketrov, said, "It is possible. The investment group has received an offer to build a stadium for the New Jersey Nets. It's too early to say what's going to come out of it. Business is business."

It is not too early for Nets owner Bruce Ratner, however. He has admitted to the team's minority investors that he must get his ownership structure in order by late September.

Ratner's company, Forest City Enterprises, has lost $70 million over the last two years, according to SEC filings; and all investors have lost $353 million in the five years Ratner has been principal owner, according to a New York Times analysis of Forest City finances.

Prokhorov's interest in making a deal with the Nets was first reported by The Star-Ledger in July.

Luxist, Russia's Richest Man May Build NBA Stadium
by Deidre Woollard

Back in June I started hearing rumors that Russia's richest man Mikhail Prokhorov was interested in buying a portion of the New Jersey Nets. The six-foot-nine-inch-tall billionaire is a basketball fan and owns a share of a Russian basketball team.

The latest news from Moscow is that he may help to build the team's new arena. He would provide a loan for the Nets and receive a large non-controlling stake in the team in return. Nets owner Bruce Ratner has wanted to build an arena for the team in Brooklyn and move his team there in 2011. The stadium's construction may cost around $800 million. Ratner has been to Moscow for talks but nothing has been officially confirmed yet.

Posted by steve at 6:45 AM

September 18, 2009

Hey, you, spot the wild boar on that building!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Wendy Ponte

Isabel Hill, whose documentary Brooklyn Matters has been a clarion call for opponents of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, has now added children's book author to her impressive resumé.

Who knew there was a wild boar residing on Garfield Place? It just doesn’t seem like the place for such a beast — or maybe it does.

The wild boar, and dozens of other animals, populate lots of Brooklyn neighborhoods — and that’s the point behind architectural historian Isabel Hill’s new picture book for children, “Urban Animals,” which was published by Star Bright Books on Sept. 9.
...

Developing an awareness of building details causes children, and adults as well, to take pride in their communities, and when that happens, Hill said, people become committed to their neighborhoods and want to preserve whatever is special about them.

Hill has made a career out of appreciating the details of architecture. Originally trained as a historic preservationist, her diverse job history includes working for the American Building Survey in National Parks, being a city planner in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, and even standing hundreds of feet in the air on a scaffold in the middle of New York Harbor photographing the Statue of Liberty during her last restoration in 1986.

In Brooklyn, Hill is best known for her filmmaking. Her first documentary, “Made in Brooklyn,” explored manufacturing in Brooklyn and her second, “Brooklyn Matters,” focused a laser beam on the controversial Atlantic Yards project. Yet another, still in planning, will explore public housing.

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Posted by eric at 4:17 PM

Noticing New York Comment on and at Today’s ESDC Board Meeting

Noticing New York

This post furnishes Noticing New York’s comments delivered at the ESDC board meeting today on “Atlantic Yards.” We have to put “Atlantic Yards” in quotes because “Atlantic Yards” is so ill-defined it is quite uncertain what it is other than a giveaway scheme to benefit a developer.

Michael D.D. White sets the stage for yesterday's meeting, praising the ESDC support staff's professionalism and offering some background, before presenting his biting testimony.

This comment is in the name of Noticing New York, dedicated to the proposition that developing New York and appreciating New York go hand in hand. I am Michael White, a lawyer and urban planner. A lot of you know me. I have more than a quarter century experience in government, entrusted with the same kind of responsibilities you now intend to abuse.

  1. You are approving a $220 million net loss for the city with more than $726 million in no-bid subsidies to a private developer. (We think these conservative Independent Budget Office figures for the arena actually understate its true cost, including the developer’s megalodonic ripping apart of the community.)

  2. There is no benefit in the arena. In addition, with no requirement of benefit or corresponding obligation (and again without bid), you are giving a single developer a multi-decade blight-producing monopoly on a swath of valuable Brooklyn real estate.

  3. ESDC’s phantom arrangements involving no designs, leave ESDC with absolutely no negotiating leverage to insist on benefit or counteract Forest City Ratner’s future blackmailing of the public for subsidy. (Not that ESDC ever intended anything other than to heap benefit upon Forest City Ratner.)

  4. You shower Forest City Ratner now with additional multi-million dollar benefits such as excusing it from its railyard obligations, and we can expect that you will similarly shower more benefits upon them in the future, again without quid pro quo.

  5. What you are doing is destructive of neighborhoods, the city, our public finances, destructive of government and destructive of the basic fabric of trust required for a civilized society.

  6. Those who have never worked in a public agency and experienced the integrity with which they can operate probably wonder whether this is “business as usual.” It is not. This is cynical corruption, the worst I have ever seen.

  7. There are words of a Leonard Cohen song we think apply here:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

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Video of White's testimony courtesy of Atlantic Yards Report.

NoLandGrab: We kind of wish Michael D.D. White had had a piano brought in — or better yet, Leonard Cohen himself — for the finale.

Posted by eric at 3:54 PM

At ESDC board meeting, new revelations of ESDC's concessions to Ratner and forceful criticisms from opponents (with video)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) approval yesterday of the revised Atlantic Yards plan was predictable, which is probably why a number of news outlets--including even the Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life, both on deadline--didn't bother to send a reporter.

But there was news, both in the statements made at the ESDC board meeting and in the board documents distributed later, which indicated a significant effort to advance government funding to Forest City Ratner, a hedging defense of the official ten-year project timetable, an acknowledgement that Forest City Ratner would only be required to build a project at 65% of announced square footage, and an "economic benefit analysis" that, even by the ESDC's lax standards, fails to come clean about the net tax revenues.

Moreover, as I'll detail below, the Response to Comments issued to the board evaded or disregarded some important questions.

And while there were renderings of the arena, in contrast to absence of images at the ESDC's board meeting in June, there were no renderings of the rest of the project, giving credence to project opponents' criticism that the project timetable was bogus and that a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) was needed to assess the impact of the project over a much longer period of time.
...

The decision by the board was a crucial step toward the use of eminent domain to acquire property for the project, and to have the state issue tax-exempt bonds for the arena. The latter is likely on schedule, though condemnation would have to wait until the results of the eminent domain lawsuit, to be heard October 14 by the Court of Appeals, is learned in November.

ESDC attorneys expressed confidence they would win that lawsuit, and that any other challenges--such as a suit charging the ESDC with failing to issue a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement--would not deter the project.

There's lots more where this came from, including video and a rundown of comments from the likes of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein — all well worth clicking thru for.

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Posted by eric at 9:58 AM

From "economic impact analysis" to "economic benefit analysis;" behind the ESDC's funny numbers and methodology

Atlantic Yards Report

If you've ever wondered how and why economic bubbles and other financial fiascos happen, read on.

There are multiple layers of deception, obfuscation, and inconsistency attached to the "Economic Benefit Analysis" included in the memorandum distributed yesterday to the board of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) before it voted to approve the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) yesterday.

First, it was once called, somewhat more accurately, an "economic impact analysis," given that the ESDC was willing to consider some public contributions and thus not simply tote up new revenues. Second, the ESDC once mentioned the value of public improvements and infrastructure.

More importantly, the "economic impact analysis" was never a full cost-benefit analysis, given that it looked at public costs and subsidies quite narrowly.

And most importantly, the new numbers--even if you accept the ESDC's methodology--are almost surely a fantasy, since they're based on a full buildout of the project in ten years and the first 30 years of operations. Not only is that schedule highly unlikely--as evidenced even in informal admissions from the ESDC and developer Forest City Ratner--new tax revenues are based crucially on operations of the one office tower, which faces a forbidding market in the short term.

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Posted by eric at 9:43 AM

Ratner Said to Be Closer to Selling Majority Stake in Nets

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

The developer Bruce C. Ratner, who received final state approval Thursday to build an $800 million arena in Brooklyn for the Nets, is inching closer to selling a majority stake in the team to a Russian billionaire, according to two executives briefed on the negotiations.

Ratner, who bought the team for $300 million in 2004 with plans to move it to a new home in Brooklyn, has acknowledged in recent weeks that he is talking to potential investors. The arena, which would be known as Barclays Center, is the centerpiece of a planned 22-acre residential and commercial development project.

The executives said that Mikhail Prokhorov, one of the richest men in Russia and an avid sports fan, is the leading contender to buy a majority stake in the team and in the planned arena at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

The Nets, who play at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., declined to discuss potential investors.
...

Ratner has been eager to bring in new blood. His company, Forest City Enterprises, owns 23 percent of the team, which has endured about $380 million in pretax net losses over the past five years.

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More grist for the rumor mill...

Russia Today, Russia’s richest man to acquire stake in New Jersey Nets for $1

One of Russia’s richest men, businessman Mikhail Prokhorov, is set to acquire a majority share in the New Jersey Nets basketball club for just one US dollar, reports Sport Express.

The Russian newspaper reports that the deal – giving Prokhorov a stake in the team – is almost complete.

In turn, Prokhorov, who is a former mining executive, will invest at least $700 in building a new arena for the Nets, Reuters reports.

NoLandGrab: Is it possible Prokhorov might be overpaying?

Field of Schemes, Russian rescue for Ratner's Nets arena?

New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner's $200 million financing gap might be resolved soon, if Reuters is to be believed:

Russia's richest man Mikhail Prokhorov is preparing an offer to help the New Jersey Nets build a new arena and sources close to him say he could own a large stake in the NBA club as part of the $700 million deal.

This would, needless to say, solve Ratner's biggest problem, which is how to raise enough money to get his $900 million arena built, when he's only eligible for $700 million in tax-exempt bonds (or maybe not even that). The big question is: What would Prokhorov be getting in exchange for his $700 million? The entire Nets franchise is worth less than $300 million, so even a "large stake" wouldn't get him his investment back. (While a move to Brooklyn would increase the team value somewhat, even the Knicks aren't worth $700 million.) If the $700 million is mostly a loan, Prokhorov would get annual payments as well — but then we're back to asking where Ratner would get the money to pay off the annual cost, regardless of where he borrowed it.
...

Of course, it's also entirely possible that the entire story has been concocted to make the Nets project seem more viable, as ESPN.com notes has been the case in other instances where teams have dropped Prokhorov's name. Though Prokhorov and Ratner would seem to have one bond between them: They're both losing money hand over fist.

NBA Fanhouse, Majority Stake in Nets Being Sold to Russian Tycoon?

A report from Reuters Thursday afternoon asserted that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov was preparing an offer in the neighborhood of $700 million to purchase a stake in the Nets franchise and help build current team owner Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, which would include a new Nets arena in Brooklyn. A Prokhorov representative vaguely confirmed that the tycoon (Russia's richest man, at assets around $9.5 billion) could possibly participate in building a sports arena in the United States.

mcbrooklyn, Ratner, the Nets, and the Russian Billionaire

It also came out yesterday in Reuters that Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia's richest man, is putting together a deal to issue $700 million in bonds to help the team (and developer Bruce Ratner) build the arena. NBC New York says the Reuters story is "suspicious."

NBC New York, Russia's Richest Man to Pave Nets Path to Brooklyn?

The timing is curious, simply because everyone knows that the Nets have been losing money hand over fist for the last few years and that they'll almost certainly need outside investment in order to actually get the arena project off the ground. Prokhorov's name has come up before without any action, and it wouldn't be the first time that the name of one big financier was used to get other ones interested in beating him to what could wind up being a lucrative real estate deal with a basketball team thrown in for good measure. All Prokhorov's company spokesman would say is that he's considering an investment, which is probably true and isn't indicative of all that much.

The biggest reason to believe he might not be interested in a deal is that the NBA does a significant amount of vetting for investors in teams. Prokhorov, like all of Russia's oligarchs, has connections to government interests that he might not want to disclose to the likes of David Stern. Of course, Stern has seemed as desperate as Nets owner Bruce Ratner to get the team to Brooklyn so he might opt for a circumvented process if it helps get the arena built after long last.

HOOPSWORLD, Selling The Nets

It is believed Ratner's personal holdings in the Nets are what is being shopped to a potential buyer, and that could give control over the team to another group.

Minority investors in the Nets have told reporters for months that Ratner is aggressively shopping for cash, and that an outright sale of the team is possible, but it was more likely that Ratner would look to cash out his stake in the club to insure his Atlantic Yards project gets funded.

SLAM Online, Russian Billionaire Wants to Buy the Nets

From Russia, with boatloads of money....

AP via ESPN.com, Tycoon considers giving loan for Nets

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is considering a deal with the New Jersey Nets to help fund the construction of their new arena.

Igor Petrov, spokesman for the tycoon's investment vehicle Onexim, told The Associated Press on Friday that "there is a possibility" that Prokhorov would participate in the construction of the new arena for the NBA team. Petrov declined further comment.

Russia's leading business daily Kommersant reported Friday that as part of a deal Prokhorov would provide a loan for the Nets and receive a large stake in the team in return.

Deadspin, Russian Billionaires Are NBA's Last Hope

All New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner wants to do is get the Nets out of New Jersey and plant them in the heart of Brooklyn, but he's missing one key ingredient. What's it called? Oh right...money. He has none.

Ratner is still scrambling to build his terrible horrible no good very bad basketball arena right in the middle of the busiest intersection in Brooklyn. Nobody really wants it there and no one wants to pay for it—he had to fire architecture god Frank Gehry because his original design was too expensive—and the eminent domain-ed land owners will fight it tooth and nail. Yet Ratner persists. And with a "break ground or else" deadline looming he's turned to the only person who can help him—a disgustingly rich Russian oligarch.

Brownstoner, Russian Billionaire To Bail Out Ratner?

Posted by eric at 8:54 AM

Is Russia's richest man interested in the Nets and the arena deal?

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, maybe. But, as NLG points out, Mikhail Prokhorov has been the subject of rumors before regarding sports teams. And that main Reuters story didn't exactly translate well, given that it claimed Prokorhov would be issuing the bonds himself. On his GumbyFresh blog, the pseudonymous Gari N. Corp, who knows bond finance--yes, I've met him--breaks it down.

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Posted by eric at 8:48 AM

September 17, 2009

You *Genius* Onexim

Gumby Fresh

Gari N. Corp, as per usual, helps us get a better grasp on the financial end of things.

When one reads the following it's fairly apparent that there's no-one inside the Reuters brain trust to talk to any more about municipal finance:

Prokhorov is considering issuing a bond worth $700 million through Onexim to help fund the project, one source close to the deal said. The source said the bond must be issued before the end of 2009 so it is exempt from government taxes, adding: "This is a pure business story. The value potential of the club and arena are very high."

That said, any reporter that will allow the gibberish that is that final quote to make it into their story may have more immediate parts of their reporting toolbox in need of an upgrade.

But back to the first sentence. "Through" is the wrong preposition, pure and simple. The bonds would be issued through the Brooklyn Area Local Development Corporation as part of the hastily-approved corporate welfare package put together by the city and state for Atlantic Yards. The bonds can't be tax-exempt if they're issued by Onexim. I thought briefly that Onexim might borrow the money on a taxable basis and lend it on to the project, but that isn't what the article suggests in the sentence after.

So let's assume the Reuters guys aren't too hot at verbs or prepositions. Could they mean that Prokhorov is buying the bonds through Onexim? It would mean that Prokorov might decline to demand a prepayment penalty on the bonds, although I doubt that he would be able to avail himself of most municipal bond interest breaks, since he's not presumably paying much in the way of US tax.

He is far from the most suitable buyer for a tax-exempt bond, unless the arena bonds are Build America Bonds, where the tax subsidies are paid direct to the issuer, but I don't think they are.

They could have been told that Onexim is considering guaranteeing the bonds, by putting up a performance bond, in exchange for a substantial stake in the Nets or arena company, though I have no idea whether Onexim has the resources to make a $700 million contingent commitment like that, and whether the ratings agencies would believe them.

Still there must be a reason why someone close to Onexim or Ratner is babbling about bonds when no-one asked them to. I hope you will agree with me now when I say the Reuters reporters don't sound like capital markets vets. What we're hearing, via an elaborate and far from lucid chain of whispers, is that the bond financing is looking as hairy as the Net's team finances. This should be far from reassuring to Ratner's pals at the ESDC.

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Posted by eric at 11:50 PM

Testimony of Patti Hagan to the Board of the ESDC

Neighborhood activist Patti Hagan delivered the following testimony at today's board meeting of the ESDC, at which the boards eight members voted 3-0 — that's right, four seats are vacant and one member recused himself — to affirm the Modified General Project Plan for Atlantic Yards.

My name is Patti Hagan, a 30-year resident -- and therefore Expert -- on Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. I'm here today to demand that you -- ESDC --NOT RUBBER STAMP this rubber project so grandly titled: "Atlantic Yards Land Use and Civic Project."

In my Prospect Heights Expert capacity I will address the Agenda item euphemistically called "Authorization to Convey Real Property" -- in plain English, "Authorization to Commit Eminent Domain Abuse" -- under the AYMGPP -- Atlantic Yards Modified Ghost Project Plan.

The Modified Ghost Project Plan describes the ESDC's "principal goal" (all expansionist empires have the same one): "to transform an area that is blighted and underutilized into a vibrant, mixed-use, mixed-income community that capitalizes on the tremendous" backdoor wheelings and insider dealings of Subsidy-Dependent Overdeveloper Billionaire Bruce Ratner. Instead of operating as a Capitalist ought -- buying and selling real property on the open market -- lawyer Ratner (whose brother Michael heads the Center for Constitutional Law) opted for the Public Benefit Authoritarian route: have the ESDC, New York State's unelected, unaccountable, unresponsive, untouchable Dept. of Ghost Government seize Prospect Heights properties for him by Eminent Domain Abuse. This government land grab would not be for any discernible "public benefit" but for UberCitizen Ratner's private benefit -- despite the shocking unConstitutionality of the ESDC wielding the Eminent Domain bludgeon for friend Ratner. We see here the awesome power of New York's Dept. of Ghost Government gone amok -- again.

In my Expert Opinion -- and that of the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the National Register of Historic Places -- the Prospect Heights Historic District IS NOT a "blighted, underutilized" area, but in reality, a thriving, architecturally distinctive, organically developing neighborhood that has been steadily moving forward the traditional American way -- by residents' own hard work, without government intervention or strongarming.

ESDC -- your abusive Eminent Domain is not needed, not wanted, illegal, unConstitutional. Back off! Refuse to abuse Eminent Domain for Ratner's private gain. Put an end to New York Government By and For Developers. Scrap Ratner's Atlantic Yards Albatross NOW! Begin work immediately on a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) -- required by by this vastly changed AYMGPP.

ESDC-- it is not too late to renounce, repent and reform!

Patti Hagan
St. Marks Avenue/Prospect Heights Community Garden

Posted by eric at 9:53 PM

Block association criticizes ESDC for bait-and-switch, from "community sessions" to "public informational sessions"

Atlantic Yards Report

So, did the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) fulfill the promise made by then-CEO Marisa Lago at the June 23 board meeting to hold "community" question-and-answer sessions?

The ESDC thinks so, but it require a bit of a rhetorical switch to "public informational sessions."
...

In a letter to the ESDC distributed today at the board meeting, Peter Krashes, representing the Dean Street Block Association, revealed that his group asked to host the second community session, because community members had follow-up questions, but never got a response.

Moreover, he noted that the community informational meeting had been replaced by a “public information session” outside the time for public comment and that that session was preceded by little notice.

"[I]t is apparent it is not essential to the ESDC that we trust them," he concluded.

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Posted by eric at 9:49 PM

Dean Street Block Association Letter to the ESDC

The Dean Street Block Association, whose member-residents live directly adjacent to the Atlantic Yards footprint, presented the following letter today to the Empire State Development Corporation.

On June 23rd, when the ESDC board adopted the modifications of the general project plans for Atlantic Yards, then President Marisa Lago promised as part of the public review process, two community informational sessions with the opportunity for questions and answers.

On August 10th, following the initial community informational session and the public hearings for this review process, our block association sent a letter to Mr. Mullen requesting the opportunity to host the second community informational session promised the public. In that letter we noted that the plan and implementation of the Atlantic Yards Project uniquely and adversely affects the community in which the members of our block association live, work and worship. Because President Lago referred to the community information sessions in relation to the public comment period, we reasonably assumed the information sessions were to provide the community information as a way to make effective comment on the project. We noted that our members have approached us with questions about the project we continue to be unable to answer, and that the previous community information session had not been satisfactory because it did not offer an opportunity for questioners to follow up on their own questions directly. We never received a response from the ESDC.

We counted on the second meeting as a way to follow up on answers we found unsatisfactory at the first, and as a way to inform our comments. Unfortunately, the ESDC chose not to complete the process outlined by President Lago, and instead replaced the community informational meeting with a “public information session” outside the period of the public review for the modifications to the general project plan. It had a narrowed agenda with a focus only on the architecture of the arena. The prospect that the agenda of the second information session would be narrowed was never raised until the announcement by the ESDC this past Friday, for a meeting scheduled Monday. As a result of this change, members of our community were unable to follow up on what many believe were the ESDC’s insufficient answers on critical topics such as the timetable and feasibility of the project’s mitigations and benefits.

The ESDC also made a short and ineffective effort to inform the community the meeting was taking place. Although the ESDC had two months to schedule the meeting, preliminary notice occurred four business days before the meeting took place and formal notice occurred one business day before the meeting in the form of a press release. It is unclear what notice was provided to the community, when, and to whom. In addition, another party facilitated the meeting, and it is reported that they were given notice they were facilitating it on behalf of the ESDC at an extremely late date. As a result, they did not have the operational capability to facilitate a meeting that is part of a government process, (for example the RSVP link in the ESDC press release led to a page labeled “page not found” until the morning of the meeting). That other party, the American Institute of Architects, has stated it only gave notice to its members who are architects, and that in their view this meeting was “on architecture.”

The ESDC did not fulfill the process outlined to the public and the ESDC board at the June 23rd meeting. As a result, the community has been placed in the difficult position of providing comment on a project without sufficient information. Given the tremendous impact of the Atlantic Yards plan and implementation on our community it is essential the community trust the oversight of the project. Given the willingness of the ESDC to not fulfill its own promised commitments in relation to the review period, it is apparent it is not essential to the ESDC that we trust them.

Sincerely Yours,
Peter Krashes
For the Board of the Dean Street Block Association, 6th Avenue to Vanderbilt

Posted by eric at 9:42 PM

NBA-Russia's richest man eyes Nets deal

Reuters
by Polina Devitt and Anastasia Onegina

Reuters' Moscow bureau is the source for a story on what would be the ultimate Bruce Ratner bailout.

Russia's richest man Mikhail Prokhorov is preparing an offer to help the New Jersey Nets build a new arena and sources close to him say he could own a large stake in the NBA club as part of the $700 million deal.
...

A spokesman for Prokhorov's Onexim investment vehicle confirmed on Thursday it had been approached to participate in building the Nets' long-awaited arena in Brooklyn and was preparing an offer.

"As we have said before, we have received interest from potential investors in the team," Nets CEO Brett Yormark said in a statement. "That interest is growing as it is clear that we are moving to Brooklyn."

Officials with the National Basketball Association were not immediately available to comment.
...

Prokhorov is considering issuing a bond worth $700 million through Onexim to help fund the project, one source close to the deal said.

The source said the bond must be issued before the end of 2009 so it is exempt from government taxes, adding: "This is a pure business story. The value potential of the club and arena are very high."

Another source familiar with Prokhorov's plans said the billionaire may end up owning a stake in the club as part of the deal.

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NoLandGrab: There have been rumors about Prokhorov being interested, and not being interested, for several months now, and Bruce Ratner reportedly flew to Moscow early this summer to prostrate himself, no doubt, before the mighty Russian oligarch.

One thing is pretty certain, though — Prokhorov didn't become Russia's richest man by investing with boobs like Ratner. On the other hand, he could be eyeing the ESDC's "NY Loves Business" Atlantic Yards largesse like a kid in a candy store.

One more thing — the bit about Prokhorov issuing a bond seems a bit odd. Then again, the whole thing seems a bit odd.

Additional coverage...

ESPN True Hoop, Russia's Richest Man, A Cash-Strapped NBA Team

ESPN blogger Henry Abbott serves up a little cold water for the "done deal" crowd.

Reuters has been reporting on the possibility that billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov might infuse the Nets with the capital they need to become a presence in Brooklyn.
...

Is it real? Is the NBA really about to welcome an "oligarch" into the ownership club?

Who knows? But it is interesting to note that the Wikipedia entry on Prokhorov says that teams like to drop his name, apparently as a way of stirring other investors.

There's a global tendency to report that Mikhail Prokhorov is becoming a strategic investor of some companies or sport clubs with deep financial problems in order to attract an interest to their activities. New Jersey Nets and FC Roma are also in the list.

His name has been connected to the Nets for some time, along with speculation that he might not want to let the NBA dig into his finances as part of the ownership vetting.

The Moscow Times, Prokhorov May Fund NBA Stadium

Mikhail Prokhorov may help fund the construction of an arena for the New Jersey Nets, a spokesman for the billionaire’s holding company said Thursday.

Prokhorov, Russia’s wealthiest man and an avid basketball fan, is considering funding the stadium after being approached by someone involved in building Barclays Center, which is planned to go up in Brooklyn, Onexim spokesman Igor Petrov told The Moscow Times.

“The possibility exists” that Prokhorov will participate in the project, Petrov said, declining to say how much he would contribute.
...

Another source told Reuters that Prokhorov was getting a stake in the team as payment for a debt.

NLG: A stake in the team as payment for a debt? Wait, isn't this the Simpson's episode all over again?

Posted by eric at 8:33 PM

Huge Atlantic Yards project wins crucial approval

State's Economic Development Corp. gives the project a thumbs up, even as critics of the downtown Brooklyn site vow to file more lawsuits.

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

"Wins" crucial approval? As if it was actually a contest? Coverage of today's decision has been light, since the outcome can hardly be considered "news."

Forest City Ratner Cos.’ modified plans for its massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn won a critical approval Thursday from the Empire State Development Corp. The decision, which had been widely anticipated, is expected however to spark yet another round of lawsuits from groups that have opposed the project from the start.

No, the decision was universally anticipated.

The final approval by ESDC allows the developer to go ahead with assembling land for the site and proceed with the project. Just last week, Forest City unveiled its new plans for the design of an 18,000-seat sports arena, the future home to the Nets basketball team, which is the centerpiece of the Atlantic Yards project. The project will eventually include 16 mixed-use commercial and residential buildings, including affordable house and approximately eight acres of public open space.
...

“Today’s vote means that the Atlantic Yards project can move forward,” Mr. Ratner said, in a Thursday statement. “We now need to work aggressively to break ground by the end of the year. We look forward to achieving these goals.”

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Additional coverage...

NY Observer, Once Again, State Approves Atlantic Yards; City May Pay Ratner for Infrastructure Work

Bruce Ratner today got to check off another box on his Atlantic Yards “To-Do Before the New Year” list.

The state’s development agency Thursday morning approved Mr. Ratner’s revised plan for his $4.9 billion Brooklyn project, giving New York's assent to the planned Nets arena as well as the surrounding 15 apartment towers nearly three years after the state's initial approval. (Changes were made to plans for phasing and the size of the arena amid the economic crisis.)

The O.K. now leaves one less loose end as Mr. Ratner scrambles to get financing before a Dec. 31 deadline imposed by the IRS. Still, opponents threatened more litigation as the agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, re-approved the project, and perhaps even more lawsuits loom as the state plans to approve about $700 million in tax-free financing for the arena.
...

Mr. Ratner’s Forest City Ratner appears to be rounding up as much cash as it can as the year closes, as the ESDC said it would speed up an outstanding $25 million in subsidy, loosening the restrictions on the money.

The city, which has another $15 million in subsidy not yet given to Forest City, would be allowed to do the same, according to the ESDC document, speeding up its payments by loosening restrictions. Further, in a footnote in a state document, it was revealed that the Bloomberg administration may simply pay Forest City Ratner to do infrastructure work that it had been planning to do itself, giving the developer the cash upfront in the coming weeks or months, an additional subsidy of sorts.

WNYC News Blog, Goodbye to Gehry

The original architect, Frank Gehry, wanted to build the arena and adjacent buildings all at the same time, smack up against each other, and have them share heating and ventilation systems. Now, since it’s unclear when those neighboring buildings will be built, the arena is designed to stand alone–for years if necessary.

The vote was 3-0. The Empire State Development board generally has eight members. But there are four vacancies now, and one member present, Kevin Corbett, abstained because his employer, AECOM, has done business with Ratner in the past.

Compared to three years ago, when the ESD approved an earlier version of Atlantic Yards, board members seemed a bit chastened by the economic crisis and by the relentless opposition that the project has encountered. Mark Hamister asked about a lawsuit that opponents had threatened because the revisions had not been subjected to a full-scale environmental review. Derrick Cephas asked what the likelihood was that the entire project–16 towers with about 6,000 apartments, a hotel and some office space–would ever get built.

Steven Matlin, the special counsel on the project, summarized a report by KPMG that concluded it was “not unreasonable” to assume the real estate market could absorb that much new housing over the next 10 years, as the developer and planners hope. “This could happen,” he said.

Then again, it could not. The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods commissioned its own report that found the full project will take at least 20 years to complete.

WNYC Radio, Final Approval of Revised Plan for Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, State Affirms Modified Atlantic Yards Plan

Forest City Ratner Chairman and CEO Bruce Ratner commented, “We greatly appreciate the Board’s support. The world has changed significantly since we announced the Atlantic Yards project in 2003. However, our commitment to the project, including the housing, the jobs and of course bringing the Nets to the Barclays Center, has remained steadfast even as the changing economic environment made this project more challenging, but also more important.”

Ratner explained as well that he planned to start the first residential building within six to nine months from the start of arena construction.

Timetables for the beginning of construction of the project have repeatedly been postponed during the past few years. The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn have repeatedly raised questions about whether Ratner can meet the announced 10-year project timetable.

The two organizations have also sought a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). A representative of Councilman Bill de Blasio, now running for public advocate, also reportedly called for an SEIS.

Brownstoner, ESDC Approves Revised Plan for Atlantic Yards

The headline says it all.

NetsAreScorching, ANOTHER APPROVAL FOR ATLANTIC YARDS

For weeks, opponents of the Atlantic Yards plan have expected the ESDC to “rubber stamp” the project, despite the fact that the public comments period ended at the end of August without updated renderings being released and once renderings were released last week, they still lacked details of other aspects of the development outside of the Barclays Arena, where the Nets would play.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Rubber-Stamped

Reuters, NY agency OKs modest basketball arena plan for Nets

Posted by eric at 5:25 PM

ESDC agrees to allow a project cut by one-third; affordable housing depends on availability of subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner provided the bait, now the Empire State Developerment Corporation delivers the switch.

According to the Technical Memorandum issued by the Empire State Development Corporation in June, the Atlantic Yards project (residential version) was to be 7,961,000 square feet, including a 850,000 square foot arena.

However, according to board materials distributed today, the project would include a 675,000 square foot arena and "improvements containing at least Four Million Four Hundred Seventy Thousand (4,470,000) gross square feet (exclusive of the square footage of the Arena)."

That's a total of 5,145,000 square feet, or a little less than 65% of 7,961,000 square feet.

What about affordable housing?

That 4,470,000 gross square feet presumably could not include 1930 condos, 4500 units of mixed-income rentals (2250 subsidized "affordable" units), and an office tower.

What could be cut? Obviously, if the condo market and office market don't improve, they'd be cut. What about the rentals?

The proposed development agreement also includes "no less than Two Thousand Two Hundred Fifty (2,250) affordable housing units, subject to governmental authorities making available to Party B or its applicable successor or assign, after good faith review by the applicable administering agency, affordable housing subsidies consistent with then applicable programs rules and standards then generally available to developers of affordable housing units."
(Emphasis added)

In other words, the affordable housing gets built only if there are subsidies. And there's no proof, as I've written, that the ESDC has done due diligence to check whether such subsidies would be available.

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NoLandGrab: [Still speechless].

Posted by eric at 4:11 PM

In spite of the State Funding Agreement, ESDC will now pay Ratner's "soft costs" and speed up $25 million

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has a scoop, and here it is, in full.

In testimony today before the board of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), project supporter John Holt of the Carpenters Union said, "[Developer Bruce] Ratner's not asking you for a handout. He's asking for a hand in partnership."

Well, that partnership has just gotten a little easier for Forest City Ratner, given that the developer will get $25 million in state money faster and can use the funds for purposes previously disallowed in funding agreements signed in September 2007.

Statement at meeting

ESDC Senior Counsel Steve Matlin said, "We are requesting authorization to amend, as necessary, the city and state funding agreements. Pursuant to board authorization, ESDC entered into a funding agreement with a Forest City affiliate in 2005 to provide up to $100 million in funding for infrastructure improvements. Approximately $75 million has been disbursed or is pending disbursement. We are seeking authorization to amend the funding agreement to allow the corporation to advance the remaining funds at closing. The total state funding commitment to be made available by ESDC will remain unchanged."

According to Section 3.02 (b) of the State Funding Agreement, p. 9-10, the ESDC would not advance State Funding Payments
which (1) would reimburse Soft Costs, (2) aggregate more than the Eligible State Project Costs actually incurred as of the date of such request, (3) would result in the aggregate State Funding Payments disbursed pursuant to this Section 3.02 exceeding the aggregate City Funding Payments disbursed by ESDC pursuant to Section 3.04 hereof, (4) would result in the sum of (x) the aggregate State Funding Payments disbursed pursuant to this Section 3.02 and (y) the aggregate City Funding Payments disbursed pursuant to Section 3.02 hereof, exceeding fifth percent (50%) of the Eligible Project Costs actually incurred as of the date of each request.

Changes made

According to board materials just released, however, that's changed:
It is proposed that ESDC enter into an amended State Funding Agreement with Forest City to permit the Corporation to disburse the balance of the State funds at closing for eligible costs – including soft costs incurred by Forest City in connection with the design and engineering of the infrastructure improvements and certain site preparation costs (e.g. demolition costs) related to the development of the Arena or Vanderbilt train yard.

Maybe that's why another supporter, Travis Lock of the Salvation Army, testified today, without irony, "It is my sincere hope this morning that you would move forward with this project, the Atlantic Yard projects, on behalf of the Forest City Ratner Corporation."
(Remarks as delivered)

link

NoLandGrab: [We're speechless].

Posted by eric at 3:48 PM

ESDC consultant: ten-year project timetable for housing "not unreasonable"

Atlantic Yards Report

Does the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), as it approved the Atlantic Yards project, have a rebuttal to the statement by real estate analyst Joshua Kahr, who, in a report commissioned by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, emphatically declared that "the project cannot be completed anywhere near 2019."

(That's backed up by further analyses and even a comment by then-ESDC CEO Marisa Lago, who in April said the project would take "decades.")

Well, sort of, but it wasn't exactly emphatic.

ESDC Senior Counsel Steven Matlin told the board this morning, "In addition, under separate cover, we’ve provided the directors with a confidential report prepared by KPMG with respect to the development model and the potential absorption of the residential component of the project during the development period. KPMG has concluded that it’s not unreasonable to assume that the housing units to be developed can be absorbed in the marketplace during the projected development period."

(Emphasis added)
...

Will the public get to see the KPMG report? (Remember, a previous KPMG report surfaced officially only in litigation.)

"The KPMG report was provided to the directors on a privileged and confidential basis," Matlin said. "Quite frankly we're looking at now whether we can release the document. We may have to redact a portion. There could be some proprietary information. So we haven't reached that decision, but we're going to look at it in the next few days."

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Posted by eric at 2:55 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: ESDC Re-rubberstamps Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Project

Action is Likely to Lead to Community Lawsuit

NEW YORK, NY— Today the Empire State Development Corporation, the lead agency for Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development proposal, gave its rubberstamp re-approval to the Modified General Project Plan.

The Brooklyn community’s comments to the ESDC were not given adequate response. Today’s actions will likely lead to new litigation against the ESDC and the Atlantic Yards plan because the agency is required by law to undertake a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), but did not. (Some of the community’s comments are here.)

“It is unfortunate for the ESDC and Forest City Ratner. Had they done things by the book, by the letter of the law, the project wouldn’t be in such substantial trouble. But they haven’t. And with today’s actions, and no Supplemental EIS, the ESDC is taking irreversible steps that will send Atlantic Yards further into community litigation," said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "The likely outcome of today’s actions by the Empire State Development Corporation is that they will be sued."

The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) requires an SEIS if there is newly discovered information; changes proposed for the project or a change in circumstances related to the project.

The newly discovered information, in part, is the clear realization that the project, will, at best take decades to complete. Forest City Ratner’s agreement with the MTA guarantees a 22 year project at minimum.

The decline in the developer's significant capital investment represents a change. Among the changed circumstances are changes in the financial markets and the demand for housing, as noted in an expert real estate analysis [PDF] submitted to the ESDC.

Most outrageous is the absence of any renderings or design information concerning any part of the project other than the arena. The arena is only 8% of the proposed square footage.

The ESDC’s conclusory Technical Memorandum is not a substitute for an SEIS, which allows full public comment and forces the lead agency to respond to comments.

Posted by eric at 1:46 PM

ESDC approves project; DDDB warns of lawsuit; electeds comment

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder promises video of the ESDC meeting; for now, here's his topline report — he promises more of that later, too.

In a meeting that lasted less than two hours--the bulk of which was public comments--the board of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) today re-approved the Atlantic Yards project after a process that took less than three months.

I'll have a detailed report this evening or in the morning; notably a representative of state Senator Velmanette Montgomery spoke in opposition to the project.

Also, a representative of City Council Member Bill de Blasio--now in a runoff for Public Advocate with AY supporter Mark Green--said the Council Member appreciated the project benefits but thought a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement was in order. (Supporters say that would delay the project, perhaps fatally.)

link

Posted by eric at 1:42 PM

City Council Nominee Brad Lander Criticizes ESDC for Rubber-Stamping Atlantic Yards Changes

OK, big points to Brad Lander, who won the Democratic primary for the 39th District City Council seat on Tuesday, for the speed and forcefulness of his statement condemning today's ESDC rubber-stamping of the Atlantic Yards MGPP (though, like the ESDC's vote, this was surely prepared in advance). Here's his statement:

Brad Lander, the Democratic and Working Families Party nominee for City Council in Brooklyn’s 39th District (Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, and Kensington) released the following statement:

“I am deeply disappointed that the Empire State Development Corporation voted today to approve significant changes to the Atlantic Yards project without sufficient review or adequate information, and despite new evidence from the Independent Budget Office that the project is a money-loser for the City of New York.

The Atlantic Yards project has long proceeded with inadequate process, and with too little regard for the significant negative impacts on the surrounding community. But today, I believe the process has reached a new low, as the ESDC board approved the project despite the lack of a clear site plan, a new cost-benefit analysis, or a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

At a minimum, the proposal requires an SEIS because of the substantial changes that have been made to the plan. It is clear to me that the ten-year project benefits claimed by ESDC are highly speculative and virtually unattainable. Unfortunately, the ESDC refused to take this critical step, or to face up to the stark reality that the project’s economic structure is at best highly questionable.

I am particularly concerned about this in light of the recent report by the NYC Independent Budget Office that concluded that the City of New York will lose $40 million on this project over the next 30 years, and that it represents $180 million in opportunity cost loss for the City over that period. This is on top of the fact that the anticipated benefits of the project – in particular the affordable housing units – have become much more uncertain as a result of changes to the project.

It is my opinion that the Atlantic Yards project should be withdrawn. We should go back to the drawing board to develop the rail yards – with a genuinely public and participatory planning process that begins from public goals, at a scale and density that are suited to the infrastructure, and that proceeds through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

We need to get it right, and I am firmly convinced that we can. The yards represent an incredibly valuable opportunity to create affordable housing, good jobs and new businesses, new parkland, and new spaces of civic life. As the next councilmember for the 39th District, I'm ready to roll up my sleeves, work with City Hall, the City Council, and the community to meet these challenges. But first we must scrap the present plans for Atlantic Yards. I’m sorry the ESDC missed today’s opportunity to put us on the right track.”

Posted by eric at 1:34 PM

EMPIRE STATE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION BOARD AFFIRMS THE Modified General Project Plan FOR ATLANTIC YARDS  

In a completely unshocking development, the ESDC Board "affirmed" the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan today.

We're sure that there will be plenty of coverage, which we'll link to, but this doesn't really count as news. Here's the ESDC's press release:

EMPIRE STATE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION BOARD AFFIRMS THE Modified General Project Plan FOR ATLANTIC YARDS

Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) Board of Directors met today and affirmed the Modified General Project Plan for the Atlantic Yards Land Use Improvement and Civic Project that was first outlined in June and took other actions that will allow the Corporation to proceed with the site assemblage process.

These actions signify a crucial step toward the implementation of the Atlantic Yards Project. The phased economic development project will ultimately encompass 16 mixed-use commercial and residential buildings—including 2,250 units of affordable housing—approximately 8 acres of publicly accessible open space, and a 675,000 square-foot sport and entertainment complex at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues that will be the home court of the NETS professional basketball team.

“Today’s vote demonstrates ESDC’s confidence in Atlantic Yards, and offers proof that this project is moving forward,” said Chairman and CEO designate Dennis M. Mullen. “Like the release of the Barclays Center designs last week, this milestone provides tangible evidence that the Atlantic Yards project is on track to be a monumental urban renewal development for New York City, bringing thousands of jobs and opportunities for economic growth to Downtown Brooklyn.”

NoLandGrab: Uh, right. By the way, the weird UPPER CASE/lower case treatment is the ESDC's, not ours.

Posted by eric at 1:26 PM

Atlantic Yards Project Timeline Questioned

WNYC Radio
by Matthew Schuerman

Ratner maintains he can build the project in 10 years, and the state's adopted that timeline in order to measure its economic benefits and environmental impacts.

But an attorney for the project's opponents, Jeff Baker, argued in a recent letter to state officials that the timeline is a fiction. Over lengthy negotiations, Ratner just got the MTA this summer to agree to sell him the train yard in pieces.

But Ratner's not allowed to start building on each parcel until he pays for it. And according to the schedule of payments, he won't finish paying for the last parcel until the year 2030 meaning the full project won't be done until some time after that.

The Empire State Development Corporation is expected to approve the revised plan Thursday morning.

link

Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

CBN, DDDB say Supplemental EIS needed; what will ESDC respond at meeting today?

Atlantic Yards Report

No one doubts that the board of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), at its meeting this morning, will approve the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) and set the stage for the issuance of tax-exempt bonds and--though delayed by a pending legal challenge--the use of eminent domain.

Before it does so, however, the ESDC will have to consider some forceful comments, notably from the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), raising big questions about the announced ten-year project timetable and the need for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

Surely the ESDC, in a memorandum prepared by environmental consultant AKRF, will dismiss those questions--given that an SEIS would delay the project, and the developer wants the bonds issued before a crucial end-of-year deadline--but the explanations will be interesting.

CBN, in part of its submission, included a report from a real estate analyst questioning the economics of the timetable. DDDB, in its submission, noted that the revised deal between Forest City Ratner and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) regarding the Vanderbilt Yard allows the developer until 2030 to pay for development rights--and cannot begin construction on each parcel until after payment.

In other words, the project simply can't be built in a decade.

Changes mean SEIS

The ESDC, actually, allows for the possibility of a delayed buildout, but says there's no reason for an SEIS. CBN and DDDB disagree.

They argue that the significant changes in the project require a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate project changes.

CBN, in comments authored by urban planner Tom Angotti, gave three reasons:
1. The MGPP is substantially different from the 2006 plan;
2. The new plan creates a new and different Worst Case Scenario – parking lots for decades; and
3. Background or No Build conditions have changed dramatically since 2006.

Also, argued attorney Jeff Baker on behalf of DDDB, given the evidence that suggests there are no commitments to build Phase II, the project could no longer be considered by the ESDC as a Land Use Improvement or a Civic Project.

article

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

TODAY: ESDC to rubberstamp Atlantic Yards

This morning, the Empire State Developerment Corporation (ESDC) will take out the rubberstamp and give another nod to Bruce Ratner's "Modified Atlantic Yards General Project Plan."

Re-approval is limited to modifications to the financing structure of the plan and will not address the changes in the actual buildings and timeline, which would require a lengthy review and a revised Environmental Impact Statement, all things that Ratner wants to avoid in order to make the end-of-year deadline for federal tax-free bonds.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is encouraging people to come out and speak during the public comment period against the ESDC's latest move to make Bruce Ratner happy.

Please come out to the meeting, we encourage you to speak during the public comment segment of the meeting.

Meeting Notice from ESDC:

To attend the meeting public should RSVP to (212) 803-3772, though you can still show up without RSVPing.

Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Meeting of the Directors
Thursday, September 17, 2009 - 10:30 a.m.
ESDC Offices
633 Third Avenue (btw 40-41) in Manhattan.
37th Floor [Map]

AGENDA
Atlantic Yards Land Use Improvement and Civic Project
New York (Kings County) – Atlantic Yards Land Use Improvement and Civic Project – Affirmation of Modified General Project Plan; Authorization to Amend Funding Agreements; Authorization to Enter into Leases; Authorization to Convey Real Property; Authorization to Enter into other Project Documents and to Take Related Actions.

The public should RSVP to (212) 803-3772.
RSVP is for attendance at the meeting only and not registration for public comments – sign-up sheets for public comments will be made available after admittance to the building. This meeting is open to the public for observation and comment.

PLEASE NOTE - We welcome public comment. To ensure maximum opportunity for participation, speakers representing themselves may speak for up to 2 minutes each, and those representing groups may speak for up to 4 minutes (1 speaker per group).

Posted by lumi at 5:53 AM

More primary election wrap-up in Ratnerville

The Local, Crunching, and Chewing on, Some Numbers

And we can confirm commenter harriet’s report that Letitia James won by the biggest margin of any council candidate in the city — 67 percentage points over Delia Hunley-Adossa. But we need to correct her statement that Ms. James got the most votes. That honor goes to Inez Dickens of Harlem’s 9th District.

Can the results in other districts be analyzed through the rubric of the "Atlantic Yards effect?"

This morning we linked to Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s post stating that all three council districts surrounding and including Atlantic Yards were carried by anti-AY candidates.

But Atlantic Yards Report says it’s a bit more complicated than that, calling one of the winners, Steve Levin in the 33rd, a “fence-sitter” and the other, Brad Lander in the 39th, a “latecomer to opposition,” at least compared to Josh Skaller, whom he defeated.

In the citywide races for public advocate and comptroller, which will take runoffs to decide, Atlantic Yards Report notes that while the next comptroller will be less kindly disposed towards AY than the present one, Bill Thompson, the next public advocate will be a supporter, like the current one.

Do you think that yesterday’s results augur anything in particular for the political fortunes of Atlantic Yards, which seems likely to need as much political support as it can possibly get in order to get off the ground? Please share.

The Brooklyn Paper, Tuesday’s primary results are in!

Democratic voters in the 35th District, which covers Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, resounding backed their incumbent, Letitia James against the better-funded challenger, Delia Hunley-Adossa, whose campaign benefitted financially from her support of the Atlantic Yards project.

James won with 81.2 percent of the vote to Hunley-Adossa’s 14 percent.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Lander and Levin Sweep To City Council Victories

Atlantic Yards opponent Councilwoman Letitia James easily trounced project supporter Delia Hunley-Adossa with 7, 479 votes, a landslide of 81.2 of the vote, to Hunley-Adossa’s 1,275, or 13.9 percent.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Little-Known Mayoral Candidate Represents Conservative Party

What kind of world is it when the Conservative Party mayoral candidate takes a wait-and-see approach to ham-fisted-pork-barrel-top-down overdevelopment?

On developments such as Atlantic Yards and Coney Island, [Conservative Party candidate Rev. Stephen] Christopher wants to see what lessons may be learned from these controversial proposals. “Everything in the city is made excessively complicated. Agencies play a huge role and developers’ deep pockets take precedent, and the middle class is squeezed out,” he said.

NoLandGrab: Ironically, deep-pocketed developer Bruce Ratner probably believes that things started off pretty simple and only became "excessively complicated" when the neighbors in around the footprint of his Atlantic Yards scheme didn't roll over.

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

Forest City's Performance Softens in 2Q

Morningstar.com
by David Rodziewicz

A Morningstar analyst combs through the Atlantic Yards developer's parent company's 2Q report and concludes:

Although the company has made some headway on reducing debt and pushing back maturities through asset sales and its first-quarter equity issuance, we still think Forest City has a long slog ahead. With debt maturities still around $1.6 billion over the next couple years and interest coverage below 2 times, we think the company still has room to deleverage. With fundamental declines in portfolio performance likely over the next couple years, we think the deleveraging process will be a difficult one. In our opinion, additional equity issuances are likely over the next few years as property sales in a declining real estate environment prove insufficient to reduce Forest City's debt levels.

link

Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: Jersey Shore homeowners win

We've been following one of the more egregious cases of eminent domain abuse brewing down in Long Branch, NJ, where the town was kicking homeowners out of their seaside bungalows in favor of a new condo development. According to the US Supreme Court, the move was legal, but the NJ courts saw it differently.

NJEminentDomain.com, Settlement ends eminent domain saga for Long Branch MTOTSA homeowners

One of the lawyers involved in the case reports the good news on his blog:

City of Long Branch v. Anzalone, and its companion cases, were reversed and remanded to the trial court in part on August 7, 2008. Today's settlement, which resulted from lengthy negotiations and mediations with Judge Thomas W. Cavenaugh, dismisses the eminent domain complaints against all defendants. In addition, the city of Long Branch and the developer are paying aproximately 60 percent of the legal fees and costs of the defendants. The property owners are now free to continue to live in their homes, or to rebuild in compliance with the amended redevelopment plan. If they choose to rebuild, they can be designated as redevelopers and receive the same tax benefits as the designated developers did for Phase I of the Beachfront North project. This is a big win for the property owners and property rights advocates.

Asbury Park Press, Settlement could come today in Long Branch eminent domain case
Here's an outline of the terms of the agreement:

According to the settlement, the city will pay $435,000 to settle the legal fees of the MTOTSA property owners. Although the Institute for Justice, the Virginia-based nonprofit law firm took the case for free, the residents were also represented by private attorneys Peter H. Wegener and William J. Ward.

In other terms, the city agrees to dismiss all the condemnation complaints against the MTOTSA property owners "and abandon eminent domain proceedings without any costs'' to the property owners "for the life of the Beachfront North Redevelopment Plan or any subsequent redevelopment plan.''

The city will do all it can to help the property owners redevelop or improve their own properties and the property owners will be allowed to act as redevelopers for that process. Property owners also will receive five-year tax abatements for any improvements they make to their properties.

The city will repave their streets by December 2011 (the road will be opened multiple times as some property owners make improvements, which accounts for the advanced date) and the city agrees to work with Jersey Central Power & Light Co. to get new street lights for the community.

The city agrees to move promptly on demolition of any buildings that are structurally unsound. The developer already owns 13 buildings in the community.

The property owners will have to comply with current property maintenance codes under the settlement.

The Star-Ledger, Long Branch residents win battle to keep homes

Long Branch had moved to seize three dozen homes in the north end of its oceanfront -- on Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue -- as part of a massive luxury oceanfront development that has dramatically changed the face of the once-faded Shore town.

Residents complained the city declared the entire area blighted without taking into consideration their well-maintained modest bungalows, where many had lived for more than 40 years.

Last year a state appeals court ruled Long Branch had failed to prove the homes met standards for "blight" and returned the case to court, where it was assigned to Cavanagh as a mediator.

The Institute for Justice, Victory for Homeowners in Long Branch, N.J. Eminent Domain Battle

From the Institute for Justice's press release:

The developer must also clean up the damage it caused to the neighborhood. The developer-owned homes in MTOTSA were abandoned and boarded-up, causing decline and posing safety and crime problems. Under the agreement, the developer must start work on demolition of the abandoned homes immediately, with all the developer-owned homes being demolished by April 2, 2010. The developer plans on eventually building new homes in the area. The court will maintain jurisdiction over the agreement to ensure that its terms are enforced.

In some states where the legislature has failed to act to curb the abuse of eminent domain, the judiciary has helped to even the playing field:

Although New Jersey politicians have failed to act, the New Jersey courts have started to rein in eminent domain abuse. In August 2008, a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Appellate Division unanimously reversed the 2006 decision of Superior Court Judge Lawrence Lawson, which had allowed Long Branch to condemn MTOTSA for a luxury condominium development. After the case was sent back to the trial court and the city announced that it was willing to drop the eminent domain actions, the parties began discussing how to resolve the remaining issues in the case, leading to the agreement announced today.

The actions of the New Jersey courts follow a broader trend in state courts since the Kelo decision. While many state supreme courts follow the lead of the U.S. Supreme Court, the exact opposite has happened with regard to the use of eminent domain for private development. Since Kelo, four state supreme courts have so far rejected the decision while not one has adopted it.

NoLandGrab: Who knows, maybe NY will make it five — the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, has already agreed to hear the appeal of a lower-court ruling in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case.

Posted by lumi at 4:50 AM

September 16, 2009

PAUL GOLDBERGER: FRANK GEHRY’S REPLACEMENT

NewYorker.com

Either New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger really likes the new SHoP design for Bruce Ratner's basketball arena, or he's just hungry for a grilled cheese.

The results are good enough to take the architectural argument against the project off the table. Maybe it’s as good as Gehry’s building. The new one certainly seems to try less hard; it’s more relaxed than Gehry’s project. It has a lot of rust-colored metal making swoops and curves, but there is also a lot of glass, opening the arena up to the outside. This arena is going to be every bit as connected to the street life of downtown Brooklyn as Gehry’s would have been. It’s not the box everyone feared.

But then again, so what? The rest of Atlantic Yards still remains—too big, and too indifferent to the fabric of residential Brooklyn, which it abuts. This is a mega-project that looks less and less convincing as the months go on. The arena was predicated on the presence of blocks and blocks and blocks of apartment towers, but the city would be better off if Ratner could simply build the arena and leave it at that.

Atlantic Yards Report, New Yorker architecture critic Goldberger: just keep the arena; AYR: what about the parking?

Norman Oder raises a very good point.

Better off, of course, can be calculated in different ways. One commenter already pointed out that the NYC Independent Budget Office calls the arena a net loss for the city, while toting up huge subsidies for the developer.

Beyond the vacuum

And the the building can't be considered in a vacuum. For example, the arena requires some 1000 spaces of "interim" surface parking on a block in Prospect Heights bookended by the new Prospect Heights Historic District. (There would be a lot of "street life" on the residential block between the parking and the arena.)

That block, which already lost the Ward Bakery, retains several buildings, one of which is a handsome factory retooled into office space.

Beyond the potential loss to the city, keep in mind that the Empire State Development Corporation's override of zoning and use of eminent domain was predicated on several public purposes, including affordable housing and transit improvements; the former, at least, would be precluded. And the "blight" of the open rail yards would continue, with no incentive to deck them over.

Posted by eric at 8:31 PM

Court Street Cinema Fire, Again

Brownstoner

Forest City's Court Street Cinema was the scene of a fire for the second time in six weeks.

UnitedArtistsFire.jpg

The UA Cinema on Court Street in Brooklyn Heights had a small fire incident on Saturday that left none injured. According to the Brooklyn Heights Blog, a popcorn machine was the cause of the fire, but the sprinkler system kept it from getting out of control. The incident did fill the theater with smoke and force everyone in the theater to evacuate. Almost the exact same sequence of events occurred last month—a small fire caused by a faulty popcorn machine. Perhaps it's time for UA Cinema to invest in some new popcorn machines?

link

NoLandGrab: OK, Bruce Ratner can't pop popcorn in his theater without starting a fire, and we're counting on him to keep crowds of 18,000 people safe in a building that the NYPD would surely classify as a High Tier security risk? The city's decision to cut back on its promise of heightened security measures at Goldman Sachs' new lower-Manhattan HQ is sure to add fuel to the, ahem, fire.

NY Post, City to 'unsafe' Sachs: Pay for protection

Goldman Sachs, the wealthiest bank on Wall Street, is locked in a bitter battle with city and state officials over the number of cops available to patrol its gleaming new world headquarters at Ground Zero.

The bank is close to completing its $2.4 billion, 43-story skyscraper on Vesey Street in Battery Park City and says it will be ready to move in by the end of this year.

But the big move could be delayed as the city and state scale back an expensive security agreement with the bank. The squabble is dealing yet another blow to the redevelopment of Ground Zero -- and possibly putting taxpayers on the hook for $320 million if the Goldman-government accord collapses.
...

One key incentive was the promise to provide Goldman with a much higher level of security than usually given to a Wall Street firm. Under the terms of the contract, the city pledged manpower, and the state was in charge of security infrastructure such as blockades, surveillance equipment and guard stations.

But now the city has told Goldman it will scale back the number of cops -- pointing to budget woes and arguing that the higher levels are not yet necessary, given the long delays in opening office buildings at the World Trade Center site.

Sources also said the state is so far behind in its infrastructure plans that the NYPD would be unable to use the number of cops outlined in the deal, even if it had them to spare.

NLG: Don't worry, we're sure the security experts at Forest City will protect us if the city and state won't. Butter on your popcorn?

Posted by eric at 8:00 PM

Kingsborough Conference To Focus on Development

Planners, Academics Head for ‘Dreamland’

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Kingsborough Community College plans to host a conference titled “Dreamland Pavilion: Brooklyn and Development” on Oct. 2-3.

The multidisciplinary conference will explore the past, present and future of development in Brooklyn. Kevin Powell, a Brooklyn-based activist and author who ran for Congress unsuccessfully against Rep. Ed Towns, will deliver the keynote address. Powell has written for publications such as Esquire, Newsweek, the Washington Post, Essence and Rolling Stone.

The conference brings together more than 50 city planners, academics, journalists, activists and creative artists. Topics will include Atlantic Yards, Coney Island, the politics of gentrification, and the representation of Brooklyn in the media.
...

Dreamland was the name of one of Coney Island’s original grand amusement parks, which burned in a spectacular fire in 1911.

For more information on the conference, please log onto www.kingsborough.edu/dreamland-pavilion.

article

Posted by eric at 1:42 PM

Frank Gehry, Writ Smaller

It’s been a tough year for the world’s most famous architect.

Metropolis.com
by Karrie Jacobs

But then, in late 2003, came the announcement of Atlantic Yards, a grand urban-renewal scheme to be erected mainly on a deck over the rail yards dividing two low-rise Brooklyn neighborhoods. It seemed that Gehry, for all his greatness, had become a pawn in a real estate scheme, a device to sugarcoat an otherwise unpalatable development. And that was the moment for me when the idea of Gehry the architectural hero, the transformational genius, evaporated. He had become another big hungry ego in a world of big hungry egos.

But why? Why would someone as socially and politically adroit as Gehry squander his cultural cachet on a boondoggle? Why would he undermine his brand—the one he’d spent a lifetime cultivating—for a developer like Bruce Ratner? Or as Jonathan Lethem framed it in a 2006 letter to the architect, published on Slate.com, “I’ve been struggling to understand how someone of your sensibilities can have drifted into such an unfortunate alliance.”

True, I was horrified by the scale of the Atlantic Yards project, the 16 Gehry-designed residential and office towers, but the saddest thing was that the development’s raison d’être, the bait in its bait and switch—the basketball arena—was mishandled. The site of the arena was to be roughly the spot where the Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley wanted to build a Buckminster Fuller–designed domed stadium. Robert Moses had put the kibosh on that plan long ago. So there was a touch of poetic justice in setting a Gehry arena there. But the proposed arena, instead of being a freestanding sculptural object like the Vitra museum, Bilbao, or Disney Hall, was a feverish agglomeration hemmed in by huge towers. Like his less successful works (MIT’s Stata Center and Seattle’s Experience Music Project), the Atlantic Yards’ would-be centerpiece nudged the Gehry aesthetic toward caricature.

In June of this year, Gehry either came to his senses, quit, or was fired from the now troubled project.

article

Posted by eric at 1:28 PM

SHoP 'til you drop

Curbed, Barclays Center Must Make Room for Big Buddies

BarclaysCenterandB1.jpg

Among Atlantic Yards supporters—they're out there, right?—one highlight of Frank Gehry's original design was the way the Barclays Center arena would fit in with four new towers going up right around it, including the project's centerpiece skyscraper, dubbed Miss Brooklyn. Miss Brooklyn later downsized to B1 and then vanished altogether (the new Barclays Center designs show a big pedestrian plaza at the Flatbush and Atlantic intersection), but here's a crazy thought: What happens if the economy improves? Then it's hello B1 and goodbye plaza! Don't call it a comeback?

In an interview with the Observer, SHoP's Greg Pasquarelli said the firm was "told to design a building that can stand on its own, for the short term, and a design that clearly doesn't have anything that can obstruct the rest of the plan." At a public flogging discussion last night to discuss the new Barclays Center design, the architects reiterated that the "grand urban gesture" of the arena entrance could one day have a big ol' tower on top of it, and they must accommodate that possibility. Of course, Gehry's design is long gone, so who would design B1 and the other border buildings? Pasquarelli says he'd love to give it a whirl, but after reading Justin Davidson's thorough dismantling of the firm's involvement in Atlantic Yards ("SHoP has hocked its reputation for the sake of a PR stratagem that seems unlikely to end in triumph."), he might reconsider. Go Nets?

The Brooklyn Paper, Like the new Yards arena? That’s too bad, because it will change when the economy improves

Enjoy the new renderings of the Barclays Center while you can — because if the economy gets back on track, the look of the rippling steel building will be altered radically to include new buildings, including one atop the arena’s signature entrance way.

That was the main bit of news from Monday night’s presentation by the architecture team behind developer Bruce Ratner’s proposed basketball arena at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.
...

Other details emerged from the session:

• Of the limited retail space on the ground floor of the arena, the largest space is reserved for a team store.

• Basketball fans will still be able to see the scoreboard from the street during games, a key Gehry design.

• Advertising signage has been dramatically scaled back from Gehry’s scheme, which called for 150-foot billboards on either side of the “Urban Room.” There will be some room for LED advertising in the latticework of the building’s exterior, but Pasquarelli said it would be minor.

• The architects have signed onto Ratner’s optimistic timeline of breaking ground in December and then finishing the entire building in 26 months so that it can be of use during the 2011-12 basketball season.

A brief argument ensued after the question and answer session. The designers themselves were spirited away from reporters after the session by a spokesman for Ratner, so some members of the public took out their hostilities on Bell for omitting any questions about the development process, sticking only to design issues.

The Architect's Newspaper Blog, SHoP-ing for a Fight

SHoP’s new designs for the Barclay’s Center at Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards site has probably gotten the firm more attention than any of its previous ones, including its rather controversial plans for Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. Today, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn penned an open-letter to the firm, calling out “Mr. Sharples, Mr. Sharples, Ms. Sharples, Ms. Holden, and Mr. Pasquarelli” for signing on to “a very contentious and troubled project that faces widespread resistance from the communities it would impact—and well beyond.” Meanwhile, “Mr. Pasquarelli” sat down with the Observer to, uh, talk shop on the project and defend his firm’s involvement in the project: “We gave serious consideration as to whether we wanted to do it. And I think the thing that convinced us was, after speaking with Bruce, we were convinced he really wanted to make a great building.”

Atlantic Yards Report, Video from session Monday with architects at Borough Hall

Here are some excerpts from the presentation Monday night at Borough Hall by Atlantic Yards arena architects Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP and Bill Crockett of Ellerbe Becket.

Even though the event was officially the second community information session promised by the Empire State Development Corporation, it was essentially a continuing education session sponsored by the AIA NY, with probably at least half the people in the room architects.

The moderator, AIA New York executive director Rick Bell, kept the discussion limited to design issues, despite the distinct desire of several people in the room to go beyond that.

Atlantic Yards Report, SHoP's path not taken in Prospect Heights: historic renovation plus new construction

[Greg Pasquarelli] also pointed to the firm's use of the computer and the renovation of Porter House in the Meatpacking District, a historic renovation topped with a new building.

Nobody made reference to the lost opportunity to renovate and build on top of the Ward Bakery and other buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Then again, Pasquarelli was there to talk about the arena only. No one was there to talk about the urban design and the project conception as a whole.

The Sports ITeam Blog (NY Daily News), Hey, Nets fans? Want a burger?

Scott Turner's newsletter for Rocky Sullivan's Pub Quiz is one of the best things to hit our inbox every week. This time around, the Brooklyn activist points out that the design for the Nets' proposed Atlantic Yards arena looks a lot like one of our favorite household appliances.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Arena: Subject to Change

The biggest news from the meeting was that the current renderings will drastically change: more buildings will be added, such as the "Miss Brooklyn Tower" at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic, which, in Frank Gehry's scrapped design, was a gateway to the rest of the project. Other open plazas in the current rendering could become residential towers, but all of this is contingent on the economy.

Brownstoner, Closing Bell: DDDB's Letter to SHoP

The gist of the letter is that SHoP, by accepting the Barclays Center commission, is also attaching the firm's reputation to the Atlantic Yards and condoning the actions of Forest City Ratner: "We think that as responsible professionals, you must be aware that your designs are being used in an attempt to mask the political, planning, economic and aesthetic failures of Forest City Ratner's corrupt Atlantic Yards development proposal ... On these grounds, we urge you to reconsider your involvement. And we will be pleased to meet with you and discuss these issues."

Brit in Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards Arena: New Design in Context

NetsAreScorching, NETS ON THE NET: 9/15/09 EDITION

Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

Primary Election Round-up: Atlantic Yards edition

It's hard to say that Atlantic Yards played much of a role in the outcomes of yesterday's primary elections, since in many races, such as Brooklyn's 33rd and 39th District City Council primaries, all the candidates professed at least some degree of opposition to the project.

There was one race, however, which could be viewed as a referendum on Atlantic Yards, and the results were not pretty for Bruce Ratner's hand-picked candidate. More on that, and all relevant results, below.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], James, in a Landslide

City Councilwoman Letitia James coasted to victory over Delia Hunley-Adossa and Medhanie Estiphanos in the Democratic primary tonight, drawing more than 80 percent of the vote and virtually guaranteeing that she will be elected to a third term in the general election in November.

With 99 percent of the votes tallied, Ms. James had 7,479 votes to Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s 1,275 and Mr. Estiphanos’s 460, the city Board of Elections reported. That works out to 81 percent for Ms. James, 14 percent for Ms. Hunley-Adossa and 5 percent for Mr. Estiphanos.
...

The campaign took place against the backdrop of Atlantic Yards, the gargantuan $4.9 billion development proposed for the western edge of the district. Ms. James has fought against it. Ms. Hunley-Adossa, as head of a coalition of nonprofits that entered into a community benefits agreement with the developer, supports it.

At Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s headquarters on Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights, the scene was also animated, but not in a happy way. A cluster of her campaign workers milled in front of the office, complaining loudly and profanely that they had not been paid.

The Brooklyn Paper, In the 35th District: Letitia James steamrolls Yards-loving foe

Letitia James* 7,479 (81.2 percent)
Delia Hunley-Adossa 1,275 (13.9 percent)
Medhanie Estiphanos 460 (5 percent)

35th Council District covering Fort Greene and Clinton Hill

The popular incumbent James fended off a challenge from Hunley-Adossa that turned out to be mostly a financial one. Backed by construction union workers thanks to her support for the Atlantic Yards mega-project, Hunley-Adossa was able to raise more money than the incumbent — a rarity in New York.

But her inaccessability, plus her poor performance in a Community Newspaper Group-sponsored debate, hurt her ability to capitalize on her funding.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, The Results Are In: Three Who Oppose Atlantic Yards Win Local Races

In the three districts that surround the proposed Atlantic Yards site, all three primary election victors have professed opposition to Atlantic Yards.

Here are the positions of the winning candidates on the beleaguered project:

33rd Council District (seat currently held by David Yassky)
Winner: Steve Levin
(33.7% of the vote)
"At the present moment, it looks like it's probably not going to happen," Levin said. "So I do not support the plan as it currently stands. I think it's too much, it's too big. And I believe that it shouldn't be supported because the silver lining in the original plan, the affordable housing and the union jobs that would be created, does not look like it's going to be there."
(From Atlantic Yards Report coverage of News12 debate.)
...

35th Council District
Winner: Incumbent Councilmember Letitia James
(81.17% of the vote)
Councilwoman James is the leading political opponent of the Atlantic Yards proposal since it was unveiled in December 2003.

(AY Community Benefits Agreement chairwoman, Forest City AY Partner and political surrogate Delia Hunley-Adossa whose Brooklyn Endeavor Experience received at least $400,000 from Forest City Ratner for her salary and other questionable uses, received 13.4% of the vote.)

39th Council District (seat currently held by Bill de Blasio)
Winner: Brad Lander
(41.15% of the vote)
Brad Lander said, "We should scrap the Atlantic Yards plan and go back to the drawing board." He referenced a critical report he co-authored in 2005 and said the developer "had time to address" the critiques but made the project worse.
(From Atlantic Yards Report coverage of News12 debate.)

We look forward to working with our newest local councilmembers.

Congratulations to all of the candidates who competed, and congratulations to the winners.

Now, let's all hold their feet to the fire when it comes to their campaign positions on Atlantic Yards.

Atlantic Yards Report, The election results, the argument for IRV, and the AY effect

Maybe I was wrong when I took the New York Times to task for not issuing an endorsement in the race for the 35th Council district.

The Times announced endorsements in "several of the most competitive districts" and I thought that Delia Hunley-Adossa would give incumbent Letitia James a decent run. Well, despite something of a stealth campaign, Hunley-Adossa's camp worked hard in the final weeks, with a significant presence putting up posters.

But James won 81% of the vote in a low-turnout election, despite some Hunley-Adossa shenanigans. I still think the race deserved editorial comment, but it clearly wasn't competitive.

The ever-clear-eyed Oder gauges what it all means for the Atlantic Yards battle.

The AY effect

The current configuration regarding Atlantic Yards is changed only somewhat. DDDB claims that three who oppose AY won, but one is a fence-sitter and the other a latecomer to opposition. Veteran opponents of AY lost in both districts.

Project opponent James remains in office. In the 33rd, Levin's fence-sitting posture is not unlike that of incumbent David Yassky, though clearly the current climate pushed Levin toward more rhetorical criticism.

Lander, though not a longtime opponent like Skaller, is a longtime critic who now says the project should be scrapped--again, likely to respond to Skaller's challenge.

Though Lander may feel pressure from some supporters to moderate that position, it's a much tougher position than that held by the incumbent, Bill de Blasio. So Lander should be more of an ally to James on the issue.

Public Advocate candidate Norman Siegel, an AY opponent, lost, and the two candidates in the runoff, Mark Green and Blasio, are supporters. But so is incumbent Betsy Gotbaum.

In the Comptroller's race, AY supporter Bill Thompson will be replaced by either Council Member David Yassky and John Liu, both of whom have expressed occasional skepticism along with essential support.

Thompson beat AY opponent Tony Avella in the race for Democratic nomination for mayor. Perhaps most importantly, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, an unyielding project supporter, is highly favored to win a third term.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Yay for James, Nay for Atlantic Yards?

The Brooklyn Paper, In the 39th District: Lander crushes four rivals

Lander, an affordable housing developer best known for his work leading the Fifth Avenue Committee and the Pratt Center for Community Development, dominated his four Democratic rivals, winning all but one polling location outside the heavily Orthodox Jewish, and largely conservative, Borough Park portion of the district.
...

“As badly as we lost, we also won something,” Skaller told his supporters at Johnny Mack’s on Eighth Avenue and 12th Street. “Before we got into the race, the importance of taking on Atlantic Yards was not seen as serious, the need to fight developers in Carroll Gardens was not on the agenda, and the urgency of a Superfund clean-up of the Gowanus Canal was not understood — but it all is now.”

park slope on a rope, Primary wrap and Park Slope

What does this mean for you? I have no idea, I didn't vote either. What I do know is that Lander used to be for Atlantic Yards before he was against it. He's a public housing advocate though and now that well known sonofabitch Bruce Ratner, of AY developer Forest City Ratner, has all but punted on the affordable housing component that was crucial to getting city approval for the project, watch for Lander to be a thorn in Ratner's side. Good. Make sense? Great.

Last note is that Lander held his victory party at Commonwealth, home of the world's greatest bathroom graffiti. I like this guy more and more.

NoLandGrab: Brad was never for Atlantic Yards; he's been a critic from the beginning.

City Room, Snapshots of Primary Day

Dan Avallone, a remodeling contractor who declined to say whom he was voting for, said he was not excited about the election.

“I’m one of the few people who think the Atlantic Yards is a good idea,” he said, blaming the opposition for the long delays that have hampered the project. “Politicians and my neighbors missed an opportunity. They are looking at the future through a rear-view mirror.”

Pardon Me For Asking, Disappointed? Yes! Regretful? No! The Day After The Primaries

I hope that Josh will continue to be a strong voice for change. We need him, be it in the fight against Atlantic Yards, in the fight for the Gowanus Canal Superfund designation or in the fight to preserve our brownstone neighborhoods.

Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

September 15, 2009

YOU'RE INVITED: Atlantic Yards Rubberstamp Party (RSVP Required)

Thursday
September 17, 2009 - 10:30 a.m.

ESDC Offices
633 Third Avenue (btw 40-41) in Manhattan.
37th Floor

DDDB.net, Thurs, 9/17: ESDC's Rubberstampers Rush To Re-approve Ratner's Phantom Project

Seventeen days after the close of the public comment period and one week after arena renderings were released, without renderings of any other part of the Atlantic Yards proposal, the ESDC is preparing to rubberstamp their second approval of the project.

Keep in mind that the ESDC has to respond to all on point comments submitted by the public, such as these commetns from DDDB, this Kahr Real Estate Services's fiscal feasibility study and response to the modified plan by Dr. Tom Angotti each submitted by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods. And scores of other substantive comments from other organizations and individuals (including DDDB co-founder Daniel Goldstein.) Many of these comments conclude that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement must be undertaken by the ESDC.

Atlantic Yards Report, As expected, ESDC vote on Atlantic Yards will be Thursday; RSVP required

Is there any chance that the ESDC board will vote against the project? No.

Is there any chance there will be a dissenting vote, as at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board meeting in June? Unlikely.

Will they ask any more incisive questions than they did when they first rubber-stamped the project in December 2006? We'll see--there surely are, as DDDB notes, serious comments that deserve response.

Posted by lumi at 6:01 PM

Hunley-Adossa palm card claims alliance with anti-AY candidate Norman "Siegal"

Atlantic Yards Report

Hey, if you can't win by running for Atlantic Yards, try running against it!

It's not clear if Atlantic Yards booster Delia Hunley-Adossa, challenging Council Member Letitia James in the 35th District, has any significant endorsements. (You can't find any on her web site. No newspaper has endorsed her.)

But on the palm card her camp distributed today, she's shown in alliance with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who surely shares her views on Atlantic Yards.

The rest of the poorly proofed document says she's "working along side our trusted leaders," including Comptroller Bill Thompson, Markowitz, Council Member (and Comptroller candidate) David Yassky, and Public Advocate candidate "Norman Siegal."

That would be news to Siegel, who's a vehement opponent of Atlantic Yards and has brought up eminent domain abuse regularly during Public Advocate debates.

And Yassky has stayed out of the race.

link

NoLandGrab: Perhaps it should be called a greased-palm card.

Posted by eric at 2:48 PM

Our Endorsements for Tuesday's Primaries

Atlantic Yards Voter Guide

These endorsements are based on one thing only: true blue, principled, consistent and active opposition to Atlantic Yards. And if you think that is too "single-issue" keep in mind that Atlantic Yards involves nearly every single important issue to New York City in the 21st century (we said nearly, not all).

With that in mind, our choices for the primaries on September 15

33rd Council Race (soon to be former Yassky seat)
-- Vote for Ken Baer or Ken Diamondstone

35th Council District (Absolute no brainer)
-- Vote for Letitia James
(Delia Hunley-Adossa should be investigated, not on a ballot.)

36th Council District (Absolute no brainer)
-- Vote for Mark Winston Griffith

39th Council District (soon to be former de Blasio seat, also a no brainer)
-- Vote for Josh Skaller

Public Advocate (Absolute no brainer)
-- Vote for Norman Siegel

Comptroller
Sorry, but they all stink when it comes to Atlantic Yards, but if you must hold your nose, and hold it hard and tight, David Yassky is the only one of the four who has at times, over the years, been critical of Atlantic Yards, though he does support it. But we repeat, they all stink when it comes to Atlantic Yards. (Note well that Melinda Katz never saw a real estate developer she couldn't embrace.)

Mayor
-- Vote for Tony Avella

link

NoLandGrab's endorsements are here.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

Barclays Center Aerial Photo

Photographer Jonathan Barkey just posted the latest version of his photo, which includes a rendering of the SHoP design for Bruce Ratner's Barclays Center Nets arena.

The latest iteration of Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Atlantic Yards basketball arena design comes from Kansas City-based Ellerbe Becket in collaboration with SHoP Architects of New York. Model photographed during public display in Brooklyn Borough Hall. Aerial photograph of the Vanderbilt railyard and vicinity was originally made for The Municipal Art Society of New York.

Both images and photocomposite are Copyright Jonathan Barkey, All Rights Reserved. See License Agreement.

Posted by lumi at 5:50 AM

Arena architects talk shop; AIA runs interference on questions of process and ethics

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the second community information session promised by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) on Atlantic Yards, held last night at Brooklyn's Borough Hall, was much less eventful and enlightening than the first one held July 22, when representatives of the ESDC and developer Forest City Ratner faced, answered, and evaded a series of tough questions.

There was some helpful data: arena construction should take 26 months (the goal apparently is All-Star Break 2012); the arena would be 137 feet tall at its peak; and the floor of the arena would be 25 feet below grade.

And they suggested that the arena must be able to serve as a standalone as well as a composition with the other towers initially designed to wrap them.

When exactly those other buildings would be built was unclear, though the models leave spaces for them. Apparently there's no plan now to build foundations for them. Such bigger questions were missing--and the architects didn't stick around to answer them, as Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco quickly whisked them away from an impromptu press conference.

(Above, Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP architects, Bill Crockett of Ellerbe Becket, and Rick Bell of the AIA NY. Photos by Tracy Collins)

Last night's meeting was one of the weirdest twists in the Atlantic Yards public information saga — it was originally scheduled as a continuing education lecture sponsored by the Center for Architecture and somehow morphed into an information session sponsored by the Empire State Development Corporation.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

Super models

Photographer Tracy Collins posted some photos of the new models of Bruce Ratner's new Barclays Center Nets arena design, displayed at last night's informational meeting, in the flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

Voting booth

We've already put up the NoLandGrab slate of candidates for today's primary elections. Here are some others.

Noticing New York, Our thoughts on Navigating the Voter Minefields When All the Candidates Know the Words to Mouth on Development

This will provide our good government, good real estate development oriented, Noticing New York thoughts on who to vote for in a number of tomorrow’s most important primary elections and why: Tony Avella for Mayor. Norman Siegel for Public Advocate. John Liu (or David Yassky?) for Comptroller. Josh Skaller in the 39th City Council District. Jo Ann Simon (or Evan Thies?) for the 33rd. Tish James for the 35th. Yetta Kurland in the 3rd to defeat Christine Quinn and unseat her as speaker of the City Council.

Michael D. D. White explains how he came up with his slate, including the Marty and WFP anti-endorsement.

Atlantic Yards Report, Thinking about the 33rd Council District (Part 2): why I'm voting (gingerly) for Simon

Though it is a little uncharacteristic for Norman Oder to share his personal views on his blog, he explains that his tepid vote for Jo Anne Simon has more to do with casting a vote against Stephen Levin.

Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

September 14, 2009

The NoLandGrab Primary Slate

The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow. If you don't know your polling location, click here.

NoLandGrab offers the following candidate endorsements for your consideration.

For Mayor

Tony Avella has been a staunch opponent of Atlantic Yards and eminent domain abuse. From Prospect Heights to Willets Point to Columbia, he has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with property owners and residents and against publicly subsidized, land-grabbing boondoggles.

His democratic opponent, City Comptroller Bill Thompson, says he's a "late supporter" of Atlantic Yards, has collected tons of developer money, and has done nothing — remember, he's the city's CFO — to investigate or even evaluate the hundreds of millions of dollars the city is throwing at project developer Bruce Ratner.

The choice is clear: Tony Avella will pull the plug on the city's support for Atlantic Yards on his first day in office.

For Public Advocate

This is another race in which the choice is crystal-clear. Norman Siegel has made a career of fighting for just causes, and has been a fierce critic of eminent domain abuse. He represented DDDB in the early days of the fight against Atlantic Yards, and is the attorney for Nick Sprayregen, the Manhattanville business owner fighting the Columbia University land grab. Siegel has been New York City's de facto public advocate for years — he deserves to have his name on the office officially.

For Comptroller

None of the four candidates for Comptroller has expressed clear opposition to Atlantic Yards. Melinda Katz has taken more developer money than any candidate in the city. David Weprin says he's against eminent domain for private projects, but has voted in favor of such projects in the City Council. David Yassky has been for and against Atlantic Yards on numerous occasions; he's more in the anti camp now, but it's too little, too late. John Liu perhaps shows the most promise on land-use issues, and he's drawn the support of some prominent Atlantic Yards opponents, but his failure to stake out a concrete position on the project keeps us on the sidelines in the Comptroller's race.

For City Council, 33rd District

All seven candidates in this race have at least claimed some degree of opposition to Atlantic Yards, but two stand apart from the rest. Ken Baer and Ken Diamondstone were early, vocal opponents of the project; Baer led the Sierra Club's Atlantic Chapter when it signed on as a plaintiff to the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review, and Diamondstone had to fight to keep his Community Board seat after speaking out early and often against the project.

While some critics of Atlantic Yards have spent time trying to handicap the race in the 33rd in order to cast a defensive vote (trying to prevent the election of machine candidate Steve Levin), we're more interested in who should win rather than playing the complicated game of who can win. With that in mind, we endorse the Kens, Baer and Diamondstone.

For City Council, 35th District

Incumbent Letitia James is running for re-election. 'Nuff said. The staunchest, most outspoken opponent of Atlantic Yards holding elective office, she is highly deserving of another term. It's hardly worth mentioning that her chief opponent, Delia Hunley-Adossa, is a signatory of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, heads an organization that has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Forest City Ratner, and is an unquestioned proxy for Bruce Ratner. Brooklyn needs Tish James in City Hall.

For City Council, 36th District

There are a host of candidates challenging Atlantic Yards-supporting incumbent Councilmember Al Vann (who voted to overturn term limits), but nearly all of them support the project, too. Except one: Mark Winston Griffith. He's been a community activist for two decades, and currently serves as Executive Director of the Drum Major Institute, in which position he has repeatedly criticized Atlantic Yards and developer Forest City Ratner. Mark Winston Griffith is the obvious choice in the 36th.

For City Council, 39th District

Four of the five candidates in the 39th District race have been at a minimum deeply critical of the Atlantic Yards project, but only one has earned the widespread support of the most dedicated opponents of Bruce Ratner's boondoggle. Josh Skaller, who as president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats led the organization to join the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards EIS, has been unwavering in his opposition to the project, and he pledged from the start of his campaign to take no money from developers — a position that some of his opponents were later forced to adopt. We have no doubt that, if elected, Josh Skaller will be a feisty, principled Tish James-like independent in the City Council, and we endorse him wholeheartedly.

Posted by eric at 4:34 PM

Candidate Profile: Ken Baer

YourNabe.com
by Aaron Short

Park Slope resident Ken Baer is a one-man show.

He has no staff, no vehicle, and no cell phone, but he is running an ambitious do-it-yourself City Council campaign in the 33rd District, which he believes he can win on September 15.
...

Baer moved to Park Slope in 1979, and promptly joined the Park Slope Food Co-op.His 21 years as a Sierra Club activist have shaped his political views considerably, from opposing the Atlantic Yards project and the proposal to construct high-rise residential buildings in Brooklyn Bridge Park to urging the EPA to designate the Gowanus Canal as a superfund site and urging the MTA to find a long-term solution to its financial situation.

“Development is an environmental issue. Atlantic Yards, if constructed, would lead to a considerable amount more traffic, noise and air pollution. It would put shadows on Fort Greene which would preclude the installation of solar panels and affect people’s gardens,” he said.

article

Posted by eric at 4:27 PM

Real Estate's Last Stand

Gotham Gazette
by Courtney Gross

Who are big real estate developers supporting in tomorrow's primary?

KatzThompsonGioiaWeprin.jpg

Wielding the city's most lucrative resource -- land -- developers have long used their purse strings to try to influence City Hall. And this year is no different.

The most viable citywide candidates have collected more than $2.5 million from real estate interests for the 2009 election, according to an analysis by Gotham Gazette. None have collected more than comptroller candidate and Land Use Committee Chair Melinda Katz, who took in more than 30 percent of that figure. Thompson and public advocate candidate and Councilmember Eric Gioia have also pulled in considerable sums, at $393,000 and $314,807, respectively.

At the same time, some of the city's most well known or active developers have increased their donations by more than 30 percent since 2001 -- and we haven't even passed the primary.
...

On stage at New York Law School earlier this summer, public advocate candidate and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel gave the audience a warning for this year's election.

"Developers are out of control," he cautioned, wearing his trademark tan suit. "You should ask every candidate here whether they get money from developers. They should disclose what developers they get money from, where they stand on these issues of eminent domain. I, for one, don't get any money from developers."

But no one, not even Siegel or Avella, is immune from the development industry.

Some are more immune than others, however.

Of the citywide candidates, both Avella and Siegel have been the most critical of developers. Nearly all of Siegel's contributions associated with the industry -- which total $8,405 -- come from low-level realtors. He has one $4,950 contribution from a West Harlem developer that fought against the expansion of Columbia University -- a position Siegel also took.
...

In Fort Greene, Councilmember Letitia James is facing off against Delia Hunley-Adossa, who is an ally of Atlantic Yards developer, Forest City Ratner. Even though Hunley-Adossa has not received funds from Ratner directly, her ties to the project have caused controversy.
...

"If you look at the amount of money [the industry] spends, you find they are one of the biggest contributor blocks as a profession," said Josh Skaller, who is running for City Council in the 39th district in Brooklyn and has pledged to not take developer money. "There is a direct correlation, in my opinion, in how our neighborhoods are being overbuilt right now."

Click thru for lists of the top recipients of developer money — and its sources.

article

NoLandGrab: Two things to note. Mayor Bloomberg, were he not already New York's richest person (and self-financed candidate), loves developers too, even if he doesn't need their money. And Forest City, which appears to give next to nothing to candidates, actually funnels significant contributions through relatives of CEO Bruce Ratner, including his brother, constitutional rights attorney Michael Ratner, and college-student cousins.

Posted by eric at 3:50 PM

Atlantic Yards Report's Primary Colors

The Daily News's non-endorsement in the 35th District

In August I wrote that I doubted that the Atlantic Yards-loving Daily News could legitimately endorse challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa in the 35th Council District after her unwillingness to subject herself to public scrutiny.

Indeed, today's endorsements for "those City Council candidates whose primary victories tomorrow hold the greatest promise of raising the low quality of the municipal legislature" ignores the 35th District.

Thinking about the 39th: why Dov Hikind causes Brad Lander to sound curiously like Charles Barkley

[Josh] Skaller's been a longtime opponent of Atlantic Yards--hence the support connected to DDDB.

[Brad] Lander has been a longtime critic, though not unsympathetic to the potential benefits, who now says the project should be scrapped; in other words, he didn't oppose the fundamental decision by the Empire State Development Corporation to declare the site blighted and to pursue eminent domain, but he's now gotten much tougher.

(The WFP has close ties to ACORN, Forest City Ratner's partner on AY. In the 33rd District, the WFP has endorsed the most pro-AY candidate, Steve Levin. Then again, the WFP also supports Mark Winston Griffith, the candidate in the 36th District who's most critical of Atlantic Yards, as well as project opponent Letitia James in the 35th District.)

Still, Lander's supported by Ron Shiffman, a DDDB board member who has a professional tie as his predecessor at the Pratt Center for Community Development.

Thinking about the 33rd Council District (Part 1)

At the debate, [Steve] Levin came off with unctuous insincerity, claiming, for example, that "I am not in favor of Atlantic Yards." (Actually, he's more of a fence-sitter.)

Perhaps the most telling answer came in response to the (very good) question about which Council Members the candidates would feel closest to. Levin said he'd built relationships with Council Members Lew Fidler, Dominic Recchia, and Erik Dilan--all reliable allies of the clubhouse and Forest City Ratner, with the first two from deep southern Brooklyn, far from Levin's base in north Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 1:07 PM

SHoPing around: "Where'd we leave our ethics?"

Fans For Fair Play

FFFP's inimitable Scott M.X. Turner is most definitely not a SHoPaholic.

Here's what they came up with:

...complete with the annoying, self-absorbed architectspeak that spilled out alongside the drawings. We'll spare you the myriad pretentiousness. A little dab'll do you with this stuff:

The building consists of three separate but woven bands. The first engages the ground where the weathered steel exterior rises and lowers to create a sense of visual transparency, transitioning into a grand civic gesture that cantilevers out into a spectacular canopy at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

What, nothing about SHoP's designs curing AIDS and getting pigs'a'flyin'? How genuine and low-key.

And how about that interview with the NY Observer?

Pasquarelli: "I like Bruce. He’s very intense. He’s very smart, and he’s dealing with a lot of things at one time, but I know his heart is really in making a fabulous design."

His heart is in beating back community opposition, steamrolling residents, gag orders on people he does business with, filching $726 million in public money for the Atlantic Yards project, abusing eminent domain, exploiting peoples' fears about affordable housing and jobs, and distoring Brooklyn's past and future as a way to do business.
...

Pasquarelli, on signing on to a controversial project: "We gave serious consideration as to whether we wanted to do it."

Yeah, not so much. If you had, you would've said "no." SHoP is a hot firm in architectural circles. Whatever the cost of the chaos and hits to SHoP's reputation (see Gehry, Frank, Atlantic Yards, face, egg-on), Ratner was able to pay it. Which, by the way, proves again that Ratner can throw money around when he wants, then claim poverty when he needs.

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Related coverage

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, SHoP's Pasquarelli Channels Gehry's, Um, Attitude on Atlantic Yards Gig

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Tonight, 9/14: A Conversation With Ratner's New Arena Designers, SHoP Architects

A Conversation with the Architects of the Barclays Center
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Brooklyn Borough Hall, Courtroom, 2nd floor

The Empire State Development Corporation hosts a discussion on the new designs for the Barclays Center with building architects, Bill Crockett, Director of Sports Architecture at Ellerbe Beckett and Gregg Pasquarelli, Founding Partner of SHoP.

Click to RSVP, space is limited.

Posted by eric at 12:25 PM

Talking SHoP About Atlantic Yards

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

Q&A with Bruce Ratner's latest Atlantic Yards (arena) architect, Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP.

You’ve been brought into Atlantic Yards to design the Nets arena along with the firm Ellerbe Becket. How did you get involved?

We just got a call from Bruce [Ratner, the project’s developer] one day. I think Bruce said, ‘I’d like to come visit your office. I’ve talked to a lot of people around the city, and they told me you might be the firm that could figure out a great design and figure out something that could be built, and could do it really fast.’ And so he came over, and we had a great conversation, and that’s how it started.

What’s he like to deal with?

I like Bruce. He’s very intense. He’s very smart, and he’s dealing with a lot of things at one time, but I know his heart is really in making a fabulous design.

NoLandGrab: Actually, Bruce's heart is two sizes too small.

It’s kind of odd—they used to do these really boring designs, and then suddenly with the Times building—

—Suddenly it’s Renzo, Gehry, and SHoP.

NLG: He means it was Gehry.

Is it tough being part of a project that is a target of a lot of caustic criticism?

Yeah. We gave serious consideration as to whether we wanted to do it. And I think the thing that convinced us was, after speaking with Bruce, we were convinced he really wanted to make a great building. … We showed Bruce—we didn’t hold back, we said, ‘Here’s what we want to do,’ and it was daring, and, ‘What do you think?’ And he really loved it, and was incredibly supportive and pushed us to make it as good as possible. And even knowing that the project was going to have its critics no matter what we designed, we felt like it’s our role as New Yorkers to try to make it as good as we could.

NLG: The money helped, too. Bruce also pushed them to make it as fast as possible.

Would you want to do some of the buildings around it?

Yes.

NLG: What buildings?

Is it awkward to be designing a project that’s making a superblock out of something that was a grid? Urban planning is generally going the other direction.

Over a site that has that much transportation infrastructure, I think it’s the only ethical, rational, sustainable thing to do to put density, and sometimes density requires some superblocks.

NLG: Gregg Pasquarelli knows better than that. Arenas require superblocks — density does not.

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Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

Basket Case

Bruce Ratner SHoPs for respectability.

TurkeyCenter.jpg NY Magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson understands why SHoP took the call from Bruce Ratner to step in and dress up the arena at Atlantic Yards, but sees the latest developments as "pointless" and allows no excuses for the firm allowing itself "to be used to gussy up a degraded project with architectural flimflam."

The latest design, by the joined forces of SHoP Architects and Ellerbe Becket, is much handsomer than the quickie renderings Ratner floated in June after dumping Frank Gehry for being too expensive. But comparing fictional arenas is beside the point by now. Atlantic Yards is too far gone to be rescued by a nice façade.

When Ratner first unveiled the Atlantic Yards project in 2003, it was to be a complex on a virtually Vatican scale, with office towers, apartment buildings, and public spaces springing from an arena—all of it designed by Gehry. Six years later, we’re left with a possible basketball court in a prairie of blight. Profound urbanistic issues—how a diffuse borough as populous as Houston would reshape itself around a new high-rise mini-metropolis, created by fiat and designed by a single architect—have given way to bickering over how to decorate a shed. SHoP’s answer to this pointless question is a clever one: Wrap it in steel basketry, evoking the photogenic “bird’s nest” stadium that Herzog & de Meuron bestowed on Beijing. It worked for China, but in Brooklyn, the bird’s nest is just another way to dress up a turkey.

Davidson incisively sums up the nearly six-year history of Atlantic Yards:

So far, though, the successive proposals have followed a very ordinary New York arc, from exhilarating master plan to plodding, piddling half-measures. Instead of the epicenter of urban transformation, Atlantic Yards has turned into a ghostly landscape without a present, only a history and a costly dream. Ratner has demolished old buildings and emptied homes, committing himself along the way to putting up affordable housing he can’t afford, luxury apartments he can’t fill, and offices he may never rent.

article

Atlantic Yards Report, New York Magazine critic calls AY "a degraded project with architectural flimflam"
DDDB.net, New York Mag: With Barclays Arena Design SHoP Dresses Up a Turkey

Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

Political developerments in the 35th

Gotham Gazette, Real Estate's Last Stand

Courtney Gross examines the role real estate developers are playing in this week's elections. Atlantic Yards makes a cameo in Ft. Greene:

In Fort Greene, Councilmember Letitia James is facing off against Delia Hunley-Adossa, who is an ally of Atlantic Yards developer, Forest City Ratner. Even though Hunley-Adossa has not received funds from Ratner directly, her ties to the project have caused controversy.

The Local, Newcomer in Council Race Argues for Change

Medhanie Estiphanos is running for City Council against incumbent Letitia James and Atlantic Yards ally Delia Hunley-Adossa:

Third on his list of concerns is the lack of affordable housing and the high cost of apartments, driven in part by the many new luxury developments — like Atlantic Yards — coming into the area.

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

An Open Letter to SHoP Architects Regarding Atlantic Yards

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn laid out the arguments against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject in an open letter to the partners of SHoP, the architectural firm responsible for the new designs of the new Nets arena:

Dear Mr. Sharples, Mr. Sharples, Ms. Sharples, Ms. Holden, and Mr. Pasquarelli:

We understand that your practice has been recognized widely as one of the most promising and innovative young architecture firms in New York, as well as in the United States. It is clear that you all have a real commitment to furthering your profession through your innovative approach to practice as well as through your teaching. Thus we are writing this letter of concern in response to last week's announcement that you have joined Forest City Ratner's project team for the Atlantic Yards development proposal.
...
We hope that as practitioners and teachers of architecture that you will hold yourselves to a higher standard as it will set an example for your students, as well as other members of your field, by choosing not to be engaged with a project with so many ethical problems. You are best known for pursuing a "third way" in architecture. But with this commission, sadly, you have chosen the wrong way.

Of course we understand that the current economy is particularly difficult for architecture firms, but please understand that many of us have sacrificed much in the past six years of opposition to this project.

On these grounds, we urge you to reconsider your involvement. And we will be pleased to meet with you and discuss these issues.

Posted by lumi at 5:11 AM

September 13, 2009

Really Now! The subject of Rendering the Atlantic yards Arena Realistically Revisited

Noticing New York

Michael White was very happy to see an attempt at more realistic renderings for the proposed Nets arena. He has some suggestions for further improvement.

We cannot be happier that this work was done, but the new rendering didn’t fix everything we think should be corrected about the original image. It kept the phantom vaportecture buildings behind the arena (that are not promised or assured to be built) rather than replacing them with the empty parking lot space the public will likely live with for years/decades. It also kept the rest of the neighborhood in the obliteration of a denying shadow. We decided to make an effort to correct at least these two flaws. See our rendering below.

arenatraffic.jpg

Other corrections can be made and perhaps somebody else can do a better job than our try here. The lighting of the arena needs to be toned down, both the overly bright interior lights and the ethereal lighting of its skin. Further, the real honest living details of the rest of the actually existing neighborhood need to be supplied.

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Posted by steve at 8:06 AM

Atlantic Yards Report Sunday Updates

The nearly silent Hunley-Adossa receives $75K in public campaign funds; is it all an effort at 2013 and beyond?

This entry speculates as to what mostly-missing candidate Delia Hunley-Adossa might have planned for the future. Also discussed is the role of her Potemkin organization, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience.

We learn a couple of curious things in the profile in The Local about Delia Hunley-Adossa, the main challenger to City Council Member Letitia James in the 35th Council District.

For one thing, Hunley-Adossa's run appears to be a training wheels effort for 2013 or later. “Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to beat an incumbent, but there is life after that incumbent,” her campaign manager, Musa Moore, told the Local. “I am running a race to win, but I know politics. I know no matter what, you could win now, you could win long term.”

...

Hunley-Adossa's ideas about policy are rather undeveloped; her second priority, to quote her response to a Citizens Union questionnaire: "Education: encourage the need for building knowledge." Her ability to articulate them is limited. And she wouldn't even answer written questions from The Local.

(She does take direction from Forest City Ratner staffers, as the photo indicates. Update: Btw, I've gotten emails from both AY supporters and opponents because I originally ran this photo twice. No one else covering the campaign has pointed out the role Hunley-Adossa has played in leading Forest City Ratner rallies, so that was a reminder, but I'll agree that one photo is enough. Photo by Adrian Kinloch.)

But she has raised $74,981 in matching funds from New York City Campaign Finance Board, which matches each dollar a New York City resident gives, up to $175 per contributor, with six dollars in public funds, for a maximum of $1,050 in public funds per contributor. (James has raised the full $88,550.) That buys a lot of name recognition--and negative campaigning.

(Shouldn't candidates receiving public funds be obligated to answer questions?)

Tighe, new head of REBNY (and first woman), has longstanding Ratner ties--and owns a piece of the Nets

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) has long been a strong supporter of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards, and its new chairman only reaffirms that, given her longstanding ties to the company.

...

As I wrote in February 2006, CBRE is the exclusive leasing agent for the office portion of Forest City's Ridge Hill Village development in Yonkers, NY.

Tighe in 2002 served as agent for Forest City Ratner on leasing of the Bank of New York tower at Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Terminal mall in Brooklyn.

In 2001, representing the New York Times Company, Tighe, according to the firm web site, "arranged a network of joint ventures enabling the construction of a new 1.5 million square foot tower at 8th Avenue and 41st Street...The transaction included a joint venture between NYTC and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), which becomes 2 condominium interests upon construction completion..."

In 2006, "[a]s agent for the Forest City Ratner condo in the New York Times Building, completed a successful lease up of the speculatively built 600,000 sf at rents in excess of an average $80 per sf, a record for the 8th Avenue and 41st Street location."

As noted in Chapter 8 of my report, in a 1/22/04 profile of Bruce Ratner, the New York Times quoted praise of Ratner from Tighe but did not mention the real estate agent's connections to the Times or to Ratner. A 12/10/03 New York Sun profile noted: "After she helped pick Mr. Ratner [while working for the Times], she hopped over to his team, where she’s representing the company on the Times project, as well as some of its Brooklyn properties."

Also, the Brooklyn Paper reported 8/21/04 that Tighe is a member of the investment group that Ratner assembled to buy the New Jersey Nets and move them to Brooklyn.

On Thursday, an ESDC vote--and a short documentary about AY

It is apparently an unintended irony that a short documentary about Atlantic Yards and nearby residents, titled "I Remember Brooklyn," is scheduled to be screened on Thursday, September 17, at Freddy's Bar & Backroom.

Sure, many people know that Freddy's (485 Dean St. @ 6th Avenue) is scheduled to be demolished for the Atlantic Yards project. But Thursday is also the day in which the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is expected to re-approve the project, thus increasing the likelihood of the demolition of Freddy's.

The event starts at 7 pm and the 17-minute film is expected to be shown at about 7:40 pm, allowing time for discussion afterward, according to the filmmaker, Verônica Medina.

Posted by steve at 8:00 AM

Jo Anne Simon Endorsement Update: Veterans and Atlantic Yards

Mole 333 makes an endorsement in the City Council District 33 race. Simon's position on the proposed Atlantic Yards project is a factor.

Now the other clarification regarding endorsements in the 33rd race. Three of the other candidates in the race have as their main strategy negative campaigning against Jo Anne Simon. Among their attacks have been trying to portray her as pro-Ratner. This is very much not the case. I want to emphsize that Jo Anne Simon is THE candidate endorsed by many of the core anti-Ratner activists. I have highlighted some of them in the past, but let me give a more comprehensive list (with a reminder of some I have forgotten before thanks to the Simon campaign).

Jo Anne Simon has been endorsed by:

Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats
Councilwoman Tish James
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery
State Senator Eric Adams
Candace Carpenter (head of the DDDB legal team fighting Ratner)
Isabel Hill (film maker who made Brooklyn Matters, an award winning documentary about the fight against Ratner)

All of these have been champions in the fight against Ratner and they have ALL endorsed Jo Anne Simon. Believe me that Tish James, CBID, the head of the DDDB legal team and the maker of Brooklyn Matters would NOT endorse a pro-Ratner candidate! So don't believe misleading negative campaigning. A vote for Jo Anne Simon is a vote against not just the Vito Lopez machine but a vote against Bruce Ratner.

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Posted by steve at 7:58 AM

Nets Dailys On Arena Renderings and Bloomberg Support

Nets Daily

NetsDaily Off-Season Report #22

Neticome, the author of the Nets Daily, does a rundown of the recently released renderings for the proposed Nets arena.

Wondering why you haven’t seen images of Barclays Center? Did you miss them when the exteriors were released?

Wonder no more. There have been no architects’ renderings of the arena interior since Bruce Ratner switched from Frank Gehry to Ellerbe Becket and SHoP. In fact, all the renderings so far have come from the “hot” little New York firm, not the Kansas City specialists in arenas and stadiums. Of course, Ellerbe Becket is the interiors expert, having designed 16 NBA and NHL arenas while SHoP is known for its exotic exteriors, often of textured surfaces and has done no arena work. It’s possible we’ll see the interiors Monday at a public information session featuring the new designs and the architects.

And for those adventurous enough to travel across two rivers, the design and model will be available for public viewing at the Brooklyn Borough Hall, starting Monday. They can be seen starting 10 a.m. Monday at Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon St., between Adams and Court streets in Downtown Brooklyn. (Jay Street – Borough Hall subway stop on the A, C and F lines). The public information session is at 6 p.m. Monday. Expect the usual raucous crowd of union construction workers and project critics, who have almost come to blows in the past.

Take a read of the entry for the entire list of what NetIncome considers significant. Some observations are are straightforward enough such as a summary of the dimensions of the arena:

–There has a lot of talk of how intimate the new design would make the Barclays Center feel, but in reality, Barclays Center would be about 30% larger than the IZOD Center. Square footage at the Barclays would be 675,000 square feet, compared to 465,000 at the IZOD. That is significantly smaller than both the original 850,000 square feet design and Prudential Center. Of course, a lot of that extra space would go into the 100 suites (of various sizes), down from the original 130…and hopefully additional concourse space. On the other hand, Barclays will not be built with hockey in mind, permitting a lot closer view of the court.

Other notes give a hint of being perhaps too worshipful, like noting this "design feature" which sounds like an overwrought way of saying "at night, the lights for the arena are turned and so you can see through the windows."

–A little noted design feature as described by Greg Pasquarelli, lead architect on the project for SHoP, in a conversation with curbed.com: “The building will change from day to night. Literally, the skin is responding to the program inside. It becomes more transparent when it needs to be, with lightness and form embedded in it. The skin [of the building] sits several feet away from the weather enclosure of the stadium. At night, when lit from inside, it will glow. In day, it switches, and the slots become the dark shadows… Usually, with arenas, you get this taught skin on the outside, but here it’s punctures. I don’t want to be cheesy and say it’s like brownstones with their punctured windows, but it is.”

Bloomberg, Forest City Still Commited to Barclays Center

This entry notes he continued support of Mike Bloomberg and, not surprisingly, the developer of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

In New York and Cleveland, two key supporters of Barclays Center said Friday they’re willing to commit political and financial resources to the arena, pledging to get it done this year.

Included is this blooper in which the Mayor tries to compare the benefits of a private project to those of two of New York's great public spaces:

“I don’t know what the IBO studies would have shown back when they tried to establish the value of Central Park or Prospect Park or anything else,” Mayor Bloomberg told reporters. “These are the kinds of projects you have to do because without that we don’t have a future, and we’re going to get this one done.

Posted by steve at 7:20 AM

“Over a 30-year period, the arena would cost the city nearly $40 million more in spending under current budget plans than it will generate in tax revenues”

Reason Hit & Run
By Damon W. Root

New York City's Independent Budget Office released a sobering report this week that throws more cold water on real estate developer and New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner's plans to use eminent domain and assorted government subsidies to build a new Nets basketball stadium in Brooklyn:

Over a 30-year period, the arena would cost the city nearly $40 million more in spending under current budget plans than it will generate in tax revenues (present value, 2009 dollars). The costs total nearly $170 million from financing city expenditures on the arena and the loss of existing tax revenues at the site.

There's also this fun fact:

For the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, the mix of special government benefits result in total savings of $726 million.

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Posted by steve at 7:15 AM

Atlantic Yards Money Pit?

The Architect's Newspaper Blog

This quick summary from earlier this week shows how there was some rain on Bruce Ratner's parade of new renderings for the proposed Nets arena.

When Forest City Ratner released new designs by SHoP Architects of the Barclays Center yesterday, it was seen as an effort to right a listing ship. But no sooner had those copper-hewed renderings hit the presses than the city’s Independent Budget Office released a report [PDF] today noting that the arena will cost the city $40 million in revenues over the next 30 years as a result of financial incentives granted to the developer. Furthermore, the city lost a potential $181 million in lost opportunities through tax breaks and incentives provided to the developer, which cost the state $16 million and the MTA $25 million, though the report also notes both will release a net gain of $25 million and $6 million, respectively, if the deal goes through

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Posted by steve at 7:07 AM

Altantic Yards: Same Ol' Shit

Someones Something About Design

This cranky blog entry appears to confuse the Vanderbilt Yards with a project named Atlantic Yards and call a working railyard and surrounding neighborhood a "black hole". It's not clear if the author is upset because the developer has presented a bad design for the proposed Nets arena or just that the proposed Atlantic Yards project hasn't been built.

So apparently, this is the latest design for the giant black hole that sits in downtown Brooklyn known as Atlantic Yards. Though this design is far me aesthetically pleasing design than a giant stadium or generic condo towers (as was previously proposed some 2 years ago) nothing has yet changed in downtown Brooklyn. For all their lofty ideas, the developers have yet to break ground.

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Posted by steve at 6:35 AM

September 12, 2009

DDDB Gone Wild!

Travel Channel

DDDBGoneWild.jpg

Not quite. Actually, it's Man v. Food host (and Brooklynite) Adam Richman, representin' on Waikiki beach in a short segment about what to do when in Honolulu.

Click here to watch.

Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

So, wouldn't an honest arena rendering show some traffic congestion?

Atlantic Yards Report

This new image of the Atlantic Yards arena, produced by SHoP architects, has been criticized for its helicopter perspective, "vaportecture" towers, and failure to show traffic backed up after Fifth Avenue was demapped.

But there's a bigger problem. Oft-congested Atlantic and Flatbush avenues appear to be barely burdened. A reader sent me the altered--and, likely, more accurate--rendering below. Maybe the architects, when they appear in public Monday night, can explain.

arenatraffic.jpg

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Posted by steve at 9:43 AM

Atlantic Yards Report In Search of Truth

Atlantic Yards Report

Another letter to the New York Times Public Editor: how does the newspaper handle clear untruths told by government officials?

Here is an open letter to Clark Hoyt who is the New York Times' "readers' representative." The Times let stand a claim that the site of the proposed Atlantic Yards project is just the 8.5 acre Vanderbilt rail yards, when it’s actually a 22-acre site encompassing the adjoining neighborhood in Prospect Heights.

Bruce Ratner is a business partner of the New York Times.

Dear Mr. Hoyt,

Surely you've grappled with this question: how does the newspaper handle clear untruths told by government officials?

Let me give you an example--in which the Times was apprised of the lie, but still let it go into print.

On the CityRoom blog, on September 10, the Times reported on a new report on the Atlantic Yards arena from the NYC Independent Budget Office. The article was posted at 1:45 pm.

The Times quoted David Lombino, a spokesman for the NYC Economic Development Corporation, as saying that the Atlantic Yards site was "a site that is now an open railyard without any public benefit."

At 3:33 pm, I posted a comment, noting, in part: "The site’s not 'now an open railyard without any public benefit.' It’s a 22-acre site. The railyard is 8.5 acres."

However, on the September 11 print edition, on page A24, a somewhat truncated version of the CityRoom post, headlined "Report Sees Loss In Brooklyn Arena" ended with the above-mentioned quote from Lombino.

It's clearly untrue. And the Times had ample reason to know that.

Moreover, given the parent NYT Co's business relationship with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, the Times has a special obligation to be exacting in its coverage, and has not done so.

Your attention to this is appreciated.

Regards,
Norman Oder
Atlantic Yards Report
AtlanticYardsReport.com

In the Courier-Life, Ratner tells Witt: believe what I say about affordable housing, not any documents

Norman Oder questions the truth in Courier-Life reporting. Bruce Ratner's relationship to reporter Steve Witt is reminiscent of an old Groucho Marx quote: "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"

Showing again why he's the reporter who prefers trusting Forest City Ratner to reading any documents, Witt reports:
Ratner also briefly took off the gloves last week at opponents of his Atlantic Yards project. His remarks came in response to this paper asking him about recent reports on opponent blogs and websites alleging that Ratner is moving away from building the affordable housing component of the project.

“They [opponents] are 100 percent wrong about the affordable housing. It’s another red herring. We’re required to build affordable housing and it has been my personal commitment from the very beginning,” said Ratner.

“They [opponents] have been dead wrong about everything. What they constantly do is throw up another false statement and hope something will stick,” he added.

Well, maybe Witt could do some reading. And, perhaps, recognize that a good chunk of "affordable housing" would be above market rate.

Btw, the Daily News--not an opponent web site--did follow up on the story.

Posted by steve at 9:02 AM

What do we want? Atlantic Yards! When do we want it? Umm...

Now, even developer Bruce Ratner is all but conceding that the proposed Atlantic Yards project cannot be built in ten years.

Bruce Ratner unveils futuristic Atlantic Yards Nets arena design after critics blasted 'barn' design
By Erin Durkin

This article from the Daily News was posted earlier, but was updated to include the relevant quote from the developer.

Ratner said he hopes to have the entire project, which includes 16 office and residential towers, done in 10 years - but acknowledged it could take as long as 25.

"I don't know" if the 10-year time line will pan out, he said. "Our job is to get this done as fast as possible." Ratner vowed to begin construction on the arena by the end of the year.

That can only happen if he's able to sell $650 million in bonds and defeat a suit by opponents that will be heard by the state's highest court next month.

Bruce Ratner Admits Atlantic Yards Likely To Take 25 Years

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn succinctly informs of the significance of a changing project time line.

Twenty-five years, eh? This is what Kahr Real Estate Services concluded in its professional financial feasibility analysis of the project, as submitted to the ESDC by the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods.

Why is this important? Because the ESDC maintains it is a 10-year project, without any analysis explaining why. But if 20 or 25 years is a likely scenario, as Bruce Ratner says it is and the Kahr study shows it is, then Atlantic Yards requires a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The ESDC has already made it clear they will not do one.

Stay tuned...

Bruce Ratner 2008: AY in a decade; Bruce Ratner 2009: AY in maybe 25 years

Atlantic Yards Report gives evidence of a lengthening buildout period from both developer Bruce Ratner and Forest City CEO, Chuck Ratner.

A little more than a year after he pledged in the New York Daily News to build the entire Atlantic Yards project in a decade, developer Bruce Ratner has told the same newspaper it could take 25 years.

(Of course, the project is officially supposed to take a decade, though the Empire State Development Corporation in June acknowledged the potential for a delayed buildout. While ESDC suggested there was no need for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement, or SEIS, DDDB thinks Ratner's admission bolsters that argument. Also note that a real estate expert hired by CBN also said the project would take at least 20 years.)

In May 2008, Ratner wrote in a Daily News op-ed:
We anticipate finishing all of Atlantic Yards by 2018.

The newspaper reported yesterday:
Ratner said he hopes to have the entire project, which includes 16 office and residential towers, done in 10 years - but acknowledged it could take as long as 25.

"I don't know" if the 10-year time line will pan out, he said. "Our job is to get this done as fast as possible." Ratner vowed to begin construction on the arena by the end of the year.

(The earlier version of that article didn't include the quote.)

Of course if the project takes 25 years, various projected benefits--affordable housing, new open space, and removal of blight--would be delayed, and blight could be exacerbated.

Forest City CEO: no AY buildings beyond arena to start next year

Despite past claims that other Atlantic Yards buildings beyond the arena will start next year, Chuck Ratner, president of CEO of Forest City Enterprises, parent of Forest City Ratner, today told investment analysts that no new construction would begin in 2010.

That contradicts statements in the Empire State Development Corporation's recent Technical Memorandum, which asserts that the construction schedule is essentially the same as before, just moved forward a few years.

The Technical Memorandum states that arena construction would begin in 2009 and three towers would begin in 2010. The memo also allows for a delay in Building 1 to 2014. (A real estate analyst, in a report for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, does not find the project timetable credible.)

Posted by steve at 6:37 AM

Three profiles of the 35th District City Council candidates

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
By Sarah Maslin Nir

These are rather lengthy profiles of three City Council candidates. Only brief excepts having to do with the proposed Atlantic Yards project are being quoted here.

In Council Race, James Banks on AY Opposition

But the battle that has ended up defining Ms. James’s tenure on the council was only beginning to take shape in 2003 — Atlantic Yards, the $4.9 billion development proposed for a western swath of her district, which Ms. James has fought against for years.

Ms. James, who also heads the council’s contracts committee and is co-chairwoman of its infrastructure task force, is counting on popular opposition to the project to carry her to victory over her main challenger, Delia Hunley-Adossa, one of Atlantic Yards’ most prominent supporters.

Hunley-Adossa: FCR Alliance for the Community’s Good

It’s the elephant in the room, so let’s say it right up front: The non-profit organization run by Delia Hunley-Adossa, the leading primary challenger to City Councilwoman Letitia James, has accepted somewhere in the area of $400,000 from Forest City Ratner, the developer behind the Atlantic Yards project.

Ms. Hunley-Adossa, 52, whose friends call her “Dee,” makes no apologies for her nonprofit group, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience — an entity distinct from herself and from her campaign — accepting the money.

“Yes, I have taken and I have gotten money on behalf of the developer to give back to the community,” said Ms. Hunley-Adossa, a first-time contender for public office. “I could be cited for that, and I will do it again and again.”

Newcomer in Council Race Argues for Change

Third on his list of concerns is the lack of affordable housing and the high cost of apartments, driven in part by the many new luxury developments — like Atlantic Yards –coming into the area.

Whether it’s “Myrtle Avenue or Park Avenue,” Mr. Estiphanos said, all new developments must be required to have a portion of their units allocated as affordable housing, a move that he said will foster “economic, racial, ethnic” and even sexual orientation diversity, and improve New Yorkers’ lives.

Posted by steve at 6:16 AM

Architecture Review - Atlantic Yards

DE.SIGN

Blog author Anarchitect points out that the New York Times' architecture critic, Nicholas Ouroussoff, has a narrow focus that can hinder a greater understanding of the field of architecture as well as the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

New Design for Atlantic Yards Project Restores a Bit of the Old - NYTimes.com I am not greatly impressed with the flip-flopping design proposals for the Atlantic Yards site. However, I am also equally unimpressed by NY Times' lopsided critiques. Is NYT into marketing architects or good architecture and urban design? Mr. Ouroussoff sounds concerned and terrified (or Gehryfied?!) while reviewing the revised plans for the project by SHoP Architects....

It is tragic when architectural critics sing praises of architects rather than issues concerning architecture and urban design... There are many unanswered questions about the proposals for this site including absence of a plan - infrastructure planning and who is paying for it along with other costs that the taxpayers are presumed to bear..... In these times of Less rather than more, a critique of Excess is more we look forward to when evaluating large-scale architectural projects, not just iconic branding. Good is difficult to define however, accepted norms for what is considered to be a "high standard" remains indubitably questionable. NYT readers would be better served if Mr Ouroussoff focused more on the larger issues facing the profession of architecture and its responsibility towards shared goals; and writing a critique on architecture of the "sameness" that defines much of contemporary architecture including the work of Gehry's office rather than vilify other architects.

link

Posted by steve at 5:54 AM

The Day: Politics and More Politics

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

As the race for the City Council seat for 35th District City Council comes down the wire, candidate and Ratner beneficiary Delia Hunley-Adossa has gone negative against incumbent and pro-UNITY stalwart, Tish James.

As if you needed to be reminded, there are just four more shopping days until Tuesday’s primaries. Stand by for mini-profiles of all three council candidates, plus the last three installments of our virtual debate, the candidates’ schedules for the next few days if we can get them, as well as any other campaign news that crosses the transom.

Speaking of which, the Delia Hunley-Adossa brochure we characterized yesterday as “feel-good” (compared to a flier accusing Letitia James of buying her way into office) was not entirely so, as commenter Mike pointed out. It claims, among other things, that Ms. James moved to the district in order to run for office and is “too weak to negotiate” with big developers — presumably Forest City Ratner.

Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s supporters also inflated a union rat yesterday outside Ms. James’s council office on Hanson Place, an allusion to the construction jobs Ms. James is accused of chasing away by opposing Atlantic Yards.

link

NoLandGrab: It's a safe bet that the inflatable rat was courtesy of construction unions that have contributed to Hunley-Adossa's campaign, but whose members live outside of the council district.

Posted by steve at 5:33 AM

How to Make Us Care About the LIRR: With This Thing!

Curbed

The entrance along Hanson Place to the Long Island is a many-years-delayed public benefit that was promised as part of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls. Curbed has posted a picture of the inside of the entrance as it slowwwly makes it way to completion.

The Atlantic Yards megaproject has distracted us from the long overdue completion of the new Long Island Rail Road entrance pavilion just across Flatbush Avenue, wedged into the Atlantic Center mall. It was supposed to be done in 2007, but "unforeseen site conditions" delayed the target date to, hey now, this fall! As anyone who's wandered the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street transit hub (while it's still called that) knows, the construction has become a confusing mess over the years. But here's the thing: Has it all been worth it? Check out the startling reveal above of the work-in-progress station, complete with sky views up to One Hanson Place's dome and a cool pixel-like thingamajig...

link

Posted by steve at 5:02 AM

September 11, 2009

The City’s Main Attraction

843 acres

What would Jesus build?

A prime example of New York’s hunger for new development is Atlantic Yards. A recent report yesterday in The New York Times showed that the city would actually lose money if they built this arena and residential complex. Therefore, it wouldn’t generate money and, thus, not live up to its intended purpose.

In Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem is described in terms of modern urban planning; it is the perfect city. There’s one main element that makes this city more amazing than any other and it is that the Lord lives in the city. There’s no temple, because “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” In that city, the greatest “attraction” is the Lord.

As residents in this city, are we striving for more money and prestige or are we seeking the Lord, that he would dwell in us and illuminate our lives?

article

NoLandGrab: Jesus likely wouldn't build a temple to basketball — and most certainly not a temple to greed.

Posted by eric at 11:09 PM

Lots of crime at Flatbush and Atlantic

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Ben Muessig

Lawlessness was rampant last week in Bruce Ratner's two local malls, which the Empire State Development Corporation famously (and falsely) claimed was devoid of such acts in the Atlantic Yards blight study.

Target: Target

An armed robber heisted $1,300 from the Target department store on Atlantic Avenue on Sept. 2.

The perp masqueraded as a customer when he purchased in item at around 6:15 pm — but once the cashier opened the register he revealed his true intentions.

“Give me the hundreds. I have a gun,” he told the employee.

The victim handed over the cash, and the crook fled from the store, which is near the corner of Flatbush Avenue.

Marshall law

Thieves ransacked the Marshall’s department store on Atlantic Avenue on Sept. 6, implementing their own form of “Marshall law” in at least two purse snatchings. Here are the shocking details:

• A crook grabbed a handbag from a shopper’s cart inside the shop, which is between Fort Greene Place and South Portland Avenue, at around 3:30 pm.

The bad guy got away with the victim’s wallet, credit cards, IDs, and $250.

• Just 45 minutes later, a perp heisted another purse from a shopping cart.

article

Posted by eric at 6:23 PM

CBN-commissioned report, by independent real estate analyst, cast huge doubts on official claims about timetable, benefits

Atlantic Yards Report

Representatives of the city and Forest City Ratner objected strenuously yesterday to the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) report concluding that the Atlantic Yards arena would be a loss for the city.

Perhaps soon they'll confront another report--discussed further below--that concludes that projections by the state and Forest City Ratner that the project would take ten years are way overoptimistic--and that the developer assumed rental and condo rates well over the current market.

That suggests delays in the project and thus delays in the promised benefits about which government officials and FCR seem so certain.
...

All the promised benefits, in fact, are premised on a ten-year buildout of the project. But the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) yesterday released a sober assessment, by an independent real estate analyst, which concluded that "the project cannot be completed anywhere near 2019" and likely would take at least 20 years.
...

CBN submitted the report, “A Decades Long Project: Atlantic Yards Financial Feasibility Study [PDF],” as part of its comments to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) on the 2009 Modified General Project Plan.

(It also submitted comments calling for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement, or SEIS, which I'll address in another post. CBN, a coalition of community and neighborhood groups concerned about or opposed to the project, has received funding via state and city officials.)

Presumably consultants AKRF will respond to the comments in a technical memorandum presented to ESDC board members before they vote to approve the project at their meeting September 17.

The report was commissioned from Kahr Real Estate Group, a firm that works with commercial and investment banks, private real estate investment firms, REITs, developers, and government organizations throughout the world.

Principal Joshua Kahr writes frequently for Urban Land, the monthly magazine of the Urban Land Institute, an organization that includes major developers, including FCE. In other words, he's hardly a flaming radical; nor would it be prudent of him to do work that would damage his credibility.

Click thru for highlights from the report.

article

NoLandGrab: Norman Oder also reminds us that when the IBO issued its initial report, in 2005, "Forest City Ratner had no problem with the IBO's methodology, praising it for concluding that the arena was a 'win-win' situation for the city and the state."

Posted by eric at 5:53 PM

Oh, so the second community information session is a continuing education opportunity for architects

Atlantic Yards Report

Brutally weird.

The long-delayed second community information session, to be held in conjunction with Forest City Ratner and the Center for Architecture, will be "focused on the new arena design," the ESDC said in a press release yesterday.

Now, it sure looks like the ESDC is piggybacking on some other professional opportunity. (Yes, you should RSVP.)

From the Center for Architecture:
A Conversation With the Architects of the Barclays Center
CES: 1 LU, 1 HSW
When: 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

Where: Brooklyn Borough Hall, Courtroom, 2nd floor

The Empire State Development Corporation hosts a discussion on the new designs for the Barclays Center with building architects, Bill Crockett, Director of Sports Architecture at Ellerbe Beckett and Gregg Pasquarelli, Founding Partner of SHoP

The Center for Architecture will moderate a discussion on the recently unveiled designs for the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. The arena, being developed as part of the Atlantic Yards Development project, is scheduled to break ground by the end of the year. The architects will talk about their collaboration, the foundations for their design and their vision for this landmark building.

Images of the new design and model will be available for public viewing at Brooklyn Borough Hall from 10:00 am on September 14th through 5:30 pm Friday, September 18th. (Hours: Monday, 9/14: 10 am – 6:00 pm; Tuesday, 9/15: 8:30 am – 5:30 pm; Wednesday, 9/16: 8:30 am – 8 pm; Friday, 9/18: 8:30 am – 5:30 pm)

link

Posted by eric at 5:47 PM

"Very careful" in his numbers? What if Zimbalist had been cross-examined on the $6 billion lie?

Atlantic Yards Report

Sports economist and "expert" witness Dr. Andrew Zimbalist, whom Bruce Ratner hired to write the (hugely misleading) "economic analysis" for Atlantic Yards, has been steadily losing credibility ever since.

Remember, after a critical report on Andrew Zimbalist's report for Forest City Ratner was issued in in June 2004, the New York Times gave the "sports economist for hire" (to quote the Times hockey blog) the last word:
Dr. Zimbalist, for his part, said he had not seen the report and knew only what he had heard from reporters. Saying he was unsure whether Dr. Peebles or Mr. Kim had fully understood the economic issues, he added, "I was very careful in my use of numbers."

But what if Zimbalist, whose credibility has taken a hit in four recent court cases, been subject to cross-examination regarding the $6 billion lie?

It might have had some elements of the debate in court yesterday about Zimbalist's consulting work for Jim Balsillie, the owner who wants to relocate the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton, Ontario, near Toronto.

The National Post was live-blogging the courtroom cross-examination:

...Goldfein, the NHL sharpshooter, is punching holes in Zimbalist’s “expert” witness tag. He says the expert has had testimony tossed out of courts on a couple occasions, and that one judge in a case involving NASCAR labeled his testimony as “incompetent.”

Zimbalist says that the case is under appeal. But if I was Balsillie I would be wondering why, exactly, I had paid this guy. That’s just me. And I am no expert.

Zimbalist is making at least $50,000 for his report. Here's some more criticism of it.

article

Posted by eric at 3:52 PM

Jay-Z: many talents, but arena timelines are beyond his expertise

Atlantic Yards Report

Nets part-owner Jay-Z was on David Letterman the other night and was asked about the potential move of the team.

JZ: We're trying to get to Brooklyn. I think early December is the new date that we'll break ground and hopefully it will happen.

DL: How long will that take to get that stadium up and running?

JZ: Hopefully a year.

DL: A year--whoa. Good luck there.

Indeed. it's questionable that (symbolic or limited) groundbreaking would happen in December. And it's impossible to build an arena in a year. Two years, at best. The original design was to take 30-32 months.

link

Related coverage...

NBC New York, Jay-Z's Next Blueprint: The Nets Arena

Throw in the continuing issues with financing and this hasn't stopped being a boondoggle just yet. Still, the Nets are putting on the full-court press. Jay-Z took some time while visiting with David Letterman, video courtesy of Ball Don't Lie, to bang the drum, although his time table is a year shorter than the one Ratner threw out on Wednesday.

NoLandGrab: There was video, but YouTube has removed it due to violation of terms of service.

Yahoo! Sports, Video: Jay-Z on the Nets' move to Brooklyn, wooing LeBron

Rapper and "business, man" Jay-Z was a guest on "The Late Show with David Letterman" Wednesday night to promote his new album, "The Blueprint 3," and upcoming 9/11-benefit concert in New York. After comparing nicknames and marital experiences, "Hov" and "Dave-Z" talked a little about the Nets' move to Brooklyn, the likelihood of wooing LeBron James to his team and Shaq playing in Cleveland.

Posted by eric at 3:29 PM

Yormark Denies Team is for Sale

Nets Daily

Brett Yormark was on the FOX Business Network on Tuesday to talk about logos on practice jerseys, and when asked about a potential sale of the Nets, he denied that Bruce Ratner is actively seeking to sell the team. “We’re not open for business and for sale,” Yorkmark said after searching for the right words. He instead chose to phrase a potential purchase as investors looking to buy in. “We get a lot of inquires, especially now that we’re moving to Brooklyn. They see the asset value of the Nets.”

link

NoLandGrab: Be sure to read the comments, which show that Yormark is as beloved by diehard Nets' fans as he is by Atlantic Yards opponents.

And if you haven't had a chance to watch that Fox interview yet, it's worth it just for Yormark's master class in marketing-speak gobbledygook.

Posted by eric at 1:53 PM

Atlantic Yards Arena Design Process

Restless

This item could just as easily been posted below, with news that the planned Atlantic Yards arena will be akin to flushing money down the you-know-what.

ArenaDesignProcess.jpg

link

Posted by eric at 1:37 PM

IBO: Arena is Robin Hood in Reverse

New York City faces a whopping budget gap, the MTA is nearly broke, unemployment lines are growing, and, oh yeah, Bruce Ratner's "economic engine" is going to be a money-loser for taxpayers. Think that'll cause Mayor Bloomberg to pull his support? Think again.

NY Observer, After Negative Report, Bloomberg Cheers Louder for Atlantic Yards

Confronted Thursday with an Independent Budget Office report that alleges the centerpiece Nets arena is a net-money loser for the city—which is incentivizing the project with $169 million in discretionary subsidy—Mr. Bloomberg loudly hailed the project, implicitly comparing the private development to the city's finest public assets.

“I don’t know what the IBO studies would have shown back when they tried to establish the value of Central Park or Prospect Park or anything else,” he told reporters. “These are the kinds of projects you have to do because without that we don’t have a future, and we’re going to get this one done.”

NoLandGrab: If you're still trying to decide whether or not Mayor Bloomberg is an out-of-touch billionaire or not, this ought to clear it up. Does he maybe not know that Madison Square Garden and Madison Square Park are two different things?

Crain's NY Business, City gives more than gets at Atlantic Yards, study says

The [IBO] report concluded that new revenue generated from the Barclays Center Arena would fail to compensate the city for its capital contribution to the project and lost property taxes. It said the project would cost the city $39.5 million over 30 years.

Meanwhile, the various tax benefits and capital contributions received from the city and state mean that Forest City's savings would equal roughly 80% of the expected cost of the $900 million arena, which is slated to open in late 2011. The analysis also said that the state would net $25 million from the project.

“This deal gives an extraordinary advantage to the developer, and I think it is outrageous,” said New York State Assemblyman James Brennan, one of several elected officials who called for the study.
...

In a statement, Forest City said the analysis was wrong. The developer noted that the report seemed to intentionally lowball the city’s sales and tax revenues while applying all city and state subsidies to the arena alone, ignoring the rest of the project.

NoLandGrab: Oh, well if Forest City says it's wrong, then that's good enough for us. 'Cause they're known for their straight-shooting. We suppose the IBO report still won't be enough to cause Crain's to editorialize against the project.

NY Daily News, Report: City may lose 40M in Atlantic Yards plan-Total subsidies $726M

It's a reversal from a 2005 report by the budget office that found the city would make $25 million more in tax revenues than it would spend on the arena. That's because the city's contribution to the arena has gone up, said office Deputy Director George Sweeting.

"The arena conceivably would make money for the city if you weren't doing the subsidies, although, then it might be hard for [Ratner] to finance it," he said.

The report found that the city will take an additional $180 million hit in "opportunity costs" - mostly property taxes it could collect if the arena weren't exempt.

This just in: Pot calls Kettle black.

Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco noted the budget office did the report at the request of several elected officials who oppose the project. "An analysis conducted for opponents without speaking to the responsible parties is anything but independent," he said.

Gothamist, Nets Arena Will Be $40 Million Net Loss to Taxpayers

Just when you thought developer Bruce Ratner was about to turn the corner in the P.R. war over his proposed $800 million arena for the Nets in Brooklyn, along comes the city’s Independent Budget Office with a big bucket of ice water.

WNYC Radio, Report: Atlantic Yards Arena Will Cost City More Than It Receives in Taxes

But when the IBO, a nonpartisan agency, calculates what it calls opportunity costs, the picture is universally grim. The state, city and the MTA will lose out on a potential $220 million more, largely because they are giving away land for free, selling it for less than they could get otherwise, or foregoing property taxes on the arena property.

amNY, Report: Atlantic Yards arena a money sucker

The Atlantic Yards arena isn't looking like such a slam-dunk for the city.

metro, Taxpayers’ net loss on arena

The troubled Nets arena planned for Brooklyn was supposed to raise city revenue, but instead it’s going to be a net loss for taxpayers, according to a report released by the city’s Independent Budget Office on Thursday.

NY Post, Atlantic Yards a Net loss for city

The long-stalled Atlantic Yards project, sold as a surefire way to fill the city's coffers, is looking more like a money pit, according to a new study.
...

The analysis also criticizes the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority for selling Ratner the site at below-market value.

Brownstoner, IBO Reports Net Loss from Atlantic Yards Arena

Bloomberg Watch, Reading List: Bloomberg Pays for a Day in a Middle Class Home, Ignores IBO Report for Atlantic Yards

Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

Friday Politics Watch

Here's a round-up of the latest Atlantic Yards-related campaign news. It'll be mostly all over on Tuesday, which'll save a lot of trees.

Atlantic Yards Report, Public Advocate candidate Siegel: public hearings should be called on development process

What can the Public Advocate do to question the Department of Finance's questionable assessments in the Atlantic Yards footprint? I got an answer from candidate Norman Siegel: public hearings and even judicial inquiries.
...

Siegel responded:
My answer to your question is yes, the Department of Finance’s assessment of the Atlantic Yards footprint is a matter of great concern to me. As many readers of your blog know, I opposed the Atlantic Yards project from the beginning and served as counsel to Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn in the effort to stop the project. I am also involved with community groups opposing the New York Yankees’ broken promises to replace park space in the South Bronx that was taken over by their new stadium. The favorability of the Department of Finance’s assessments to the developers in both these cases is extremely troubling. It highlights a primary reason that the abuse of eminent domain in the case of Atlantic Yards is unconstitutional – the negotiations have not been undertaken in good faith, and they have been completely developer-driven from the get go.

There is a lot that the Public Advocate can do to hold the Department of Finance accountable, because the Public Advocate has the responsibility to oversee all city agencies. While I hope that other elected officials would support me in this effort, there has not been enough focus on the Administration or Department of Finance from the more powerful, citywide office holders. One of the most important features of the Public Advocate’s office is its authority to hold public hearings. When dealing with City agencies accused of wrongdoing, one can be assured that holding hearings is a tool I will use liberally. If I were Public Advocate, I would have already called for multiple public hearings into the city’s most roiling development projects, such as Atlantic Yards, the new Yankee Stadium, Columbia University’s expansion, and the Willets Point plan. In many of these cases public hearings aren’t sufficient to discern what discussions really occurred between government officials and developers and whether they indeed constituted bad-faith negotiating; New York law also allows the Public Advocate to petition for judicial public hearings when there has been any showing of government impropriety, which allows the public to hear the acts in a court of law.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Greetings from Scott Turner: ST's Personal Guide for Voters

Fans for Fair Play's Scott Turner offers his primary endorsements via OTBKB. Here's a sampling.

Brooklyn's 33rd City Council District: Ken Diamondstone, Ken Baer, or anyone else named Ken. Diamondstone and Baer are straightshooters, excellent AY stance, and environmentally sound

Brooklyn's 35th City Council District: Letitia James. The bravest politician in NYC these past five years, speaking the truth to power. Her chief opponent is bankrolled by Forest City Ratner.

Brooklyn's 39th City Council District: Josh Skaller. Hands down. When you say "why can't we ever get somebody good into office?", it's Josh that you're wishing for. Smart, brash, compassionate and uncompromisingly principled, Josh is it. Also, an elected official whose name sounds like a scrubbing pad is nothing to sneeze at.

Atlantic Yards Report, As Hunley-Adossa goes negative and avoids questions, her top campaign promise is... more CBAs

Delia Hunley-Adossa, challenging incumbent Letitia James in the 35th Council District, previously agreed to answer written questions posed by the New York Times blog, The Local, but has backed off, her campaign manager claiming she's too busy.
...

Hunley-Adossa has not shown a deep knowledge of policy, as evinced in her performance in two debates (sponsored by CNG and News12).

But she did respond, at least in part, to a questionnaire from the Citizens Union (CU). In the questionnaire, Hunley-Adossa reveals that her number one campaign promise, despite its absence on her web site, is "Community Benefits Agreements for all development projects."

NoLandGrab: Ka-ching! With the Atlantic Yards CBA funneling several hundred thousand dollars to Hunley-Adossa's Brooklyn Endeavor Experience — which spends a good chunk of it on Hunley-Adossa's salary — her enthusiasm for more CBAs is no surprise.

City Hall News, Beneath Atlantic Yards Dispute, Complaints About Funding, Politicking In James’ Race

Delia Hunley-Adossa, a well-funded community fixture, has made a name for herself as a candidate, both for her support of the controversial Atlantic Yards development project and her campaign strategy of shunning the spotlight for several months before attempting to come out strong in the final weeks before the primary.

“You can’t show all your hands at the beginning,” Hunley-Adossa said, by way of explaining her seemingly counter-intuitive election strategy. “So we’ve been playing our cards close to the chest.”

NLG: That's also a good strategy for not revealing how utterly devoid of ideas one's campaign might be. Coincidence?

YourNabe.com, Thompson talks Bronx at CNG candidate Q&A

Here's another fan of CBAs.

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson huddled with reporters at the downtown Brooklyn headquarters of the Community Newspaper Group on Monday, September [NLG: we think he means August] 31 to discuss his five-borough plan.
...

Thompson is a proponent of community benefits agreements linked to development, granted that the city formulate a benefits agreement blueprint. Benefits agreements should be negotiated as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, he said.

Bloomberg has attempted to shut out neighborhood stakeholders at the Atlantic Yards and Kingsbridge Armory developments.

The Brooklyn Paper, And from the mailbag...

To the editor,

It is disappointing, to say the least, that The Brooklyn Paper based so much of its endorsement for the 39th District Council seat on its position in favor of the arena at Atlantic Yards (“Dems should pick Heyer in the 39th District,” Sept. 4).

The arena would produce few good, long-term jobs, but plenty of congestion and even urban blight. And you gave short shrift to an impressive group of other candidates, in particular Gary Reilly, who has articulated very well-thought-out positions on this and other issues.

All in all, a baffling endorsement from a paper that should know better.

Michael Cairl, Park Slope

mole333's blog [The Daily Gotham], An Updated Rundown of the 39th City Council Candidates

Via Room Eight, Simon’s Atlantic Yards Fence-Sitting Buys Her Another Endorsement; Biviano Leads Groundswell Urging End to Business As Usual

Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

More new-arena-design deconstruction

Here's a selection of yet more reactions to Forest City Ratner's latest stab at an arena design (all images, SHoP Architects, PC).

NYObserver.com, A Brief History of Atlantic Yards Designs

The Observer has a slide show of the evolution of the designs for Bruce Ratner's planned arena, which still — and may forever be — just a bunch of illustrations and models.

On Wednesday, developer Bruce Ratner unveiled new designs for his planned Nets basketball arena in Brooklyn, an Ellerbe Becket and SHoP-designed complex notable for a set of wavy, dark orange metal bands that wrap around its exterior. (Though it's worth adding that missing is any design of the rest of the $4.9 billion project—which envisions 6,400 apartments and a commercial tower—as the previous designs by Frank Gehry were dropped in the name of cost.)

Now that Mr. Ratner has pledged construction will start by year’s end, which depends on a successful financing of his arena and resolution of a pending eminent domain lawsuit, it seems worth a look back at some of the various renderings and plans over the years.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Leon Freilich, Verse Responder: The Ratner Arena

The Ratner Arena

A whale that swallows

With avid ease

Tax-free bonds

And subsidies.

Noticing New York, The Surrounding Light Smears Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Arena

You can tell how eager the developer was (not!) for the public to see it by the fact that the design wasn’t released until just after ESDC closed its period for public comment. Here though is what we find to be the most fascinating element of the rendering which also convinces us that they don’t want the public to really see the design even now: Fifty percent of the colored rendering of the arena is not a rendering of the arena at all. It is a rendering which, borrowing the same colors in which the arena is depicted, shows with abnormal emphasis the blurred lights of the passing traffic on Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues! Gosh Golly! The lights of the passing traffic are going to be prettier than the arena itself?

NY Observer, New Atlantic Yards Design Less Bad Than It Could Be

The consensus on yesterday’s renderings of the new Atlantic Yards’ arena -- with its futuristic, clamshell shape and weathered steel facade – seems to be that the new design is, well, passable.
...

While the new design may temper charges that Ratner pulled an epic bait-and-switch when he dumped Gehry earlier this year, the bean counters at the Independent Budget Office have already obscured the luminous glow of the new drawings. In a report issued today, the IBO said the arena will cost the city nearly $40 million dollars over the next 30-years. In 2005, the IBO had estimated the city would net a modest gain on the project.

Atlantic Yards Report, Deceptive rendering: where's Fifth Avenue traffic?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, The "Sleeper House" Inspires the New Atlantic Yards Arena Design

Curbed, Ouroussoff: Hope for Atlantic Yards, Not So Much for Midtown

Can't Stop the Bleeding, Ratner Redux : Nets Unveil Spruced Up Airplane Hanger

UnBeige, Ellerbe Beckett and SHoP's Atlantic Yards Arena Designs Unveiled

ArtInfo, New Atlantic Yards Design Released

Posted by eric at 8:54 AM

The Ratner Hat Syndrome

Gumby Fresh

Alongside the release of the new rendering, Ratner also granted Eliot Brown, the only professional journalist spending much time writing about the arena financing, an update on that end of things. There's not much new in here, more a sort of confirmation of some of the proposals that Ratner's been floating around the last few weeks and months.

He confirms that he does have a $200 million equity gap, but seems to indicate he's looking for outside providers to take equity in the project company, rather than pay Ratner for a stake in the Nets, which Ratner would then contribute to the project as equity. This could be smart, since there are a couple of private equity and real estate investors that might like a direct stake in an asset like this.

They'll only do it, though, I imagine, if the Nets sign a long and expensive lease on the arena, which would doom his chances of trying to sell the team for a while. Of course, Ratner says that FCE could meet this $200 million from its own resources, but I think a commitment that large would put its return on capital so far in the toilet it might as well go back to building strip malls in Cleveland.

Then there's this issue of issuing the bonds to finance the stadium and then holding them in escrow until the litigation can be resolved. Ratner has told Brown that he can do this. I'm still not sure how that will work. I'm fairly certain the tax consequences for investors of being made whole (paid back early) on these bonds would be horrible. But it might be possible, and FCE, in one final throw of the dice, might be able to put up the premium to prepay the bonds itself. Certainly it would be easier to find that kind of money than $200 million in equity.

But the process is likely to be hideously complex. Go look at this page to get an idea of how difficult refinancing municipal bond debt is.

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Posted by eric at 8:49 AM

New Arena design for Atlantic Yards

The Brian Lehrer Show [WNYC Radio]

Architectural historian Francis Morrone and New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger joined Brain Lehrer yesterday to talk about the latest Atlantic Yards arena design.

link

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Architecture critics slam Markowitz for claiming arena "celebrates Brooklyn's industrial heritage"

Appearing today on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, architecture critics Francis Morrone and Paul Goldberger gave generally positive reviews to the new Atlantic Yards arena, though they acknowledged it couldn't be judged in isolation, given the controversies about the design, funding, and viability of the project as a whole.

"It's a building that will have some meaning to some people who are not actually going into it to attend a basketball game," Goldberger said. "The question is: is liking that building enough, given the context in which it exists?"

"Considering it solely as intellectual exercise, I think it's the best of the arena designs," Morrone said. He criticized original architect Frank Gehry for saying he drew inspiration from the Brooklyn Bridge.

Goldberger acknowledged a "troubling bait-and-switch" to the process, given that Gehry was crucial to getting the project passed but then was cast aside.
...

"It's a project that I would probably be behind 100 percent if Forest City Ratner were proposing to place it on the site of the Atlantic Center Mall," said Morrone, who's also a member--though it wasn't mentioned--of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Advisory Board.

"That's a great idea," assented Goldberger, architecture critic for the New Yorker.

Posted by eric at 8:30 AM

September 10, 2009

Say it Ain't So, Lombino

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

This is what happens when former reporters take up spokesman work—they look silly.

Dave Lombino used to report on Atlantic Yards, and other things, for the NY Sun, now he is a spokesman for NYC Economic Development Corporation. The Times has his response to the IBO study concluding that the Atlantic Yards arena is a money loser for NYC:

...In addition, our investment was based on benefits that aren’t easily quantified, like job creation, affordable housing, school construction and open space — and all of this on a site that is now an open railyard without any public benefit,” he said. “That’s not in the report.”
(Emphasis added.)

Perhaps that is not in the report because the site is not an open rail yard and the part that is a rail yard has a benefit, just ask the LIRR and its riders. Lombino knows better than that. He used to report, often skeptically, on the project.

Here is Lombino writing for The Sun in 2006 clearly acknowledging that the site is much more than an "open railyard." Maybe he just forgot.

Furthermore, why on earth would a fiscal analysis study non-quantifiable, illusory "benefits."

link

Posted by eric at 6:22 PM

Ask the Candidates: If Atlantic Yards Is Built

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]

But if the project does move forward in one form or another, the district’s city council member will have to figure out how to deal with the developer — the subject of this installment in our reader-driven ask-the-candidates forum. Here are thoughts on the subject from challenger Medhanie Estiphanos and incumbent Letitia James, cut and pasted, without editing.

Though the other Democratic challenger, Delia Hunley-Adossa, had said she would participate in this forum, she has not answered any of the questions yet, and her campaign manager, Musa Moore, told us yesterday she has been too busy. “We’re trying to win a campaign against a seven-year incumbent,” Mr. Moore said. “The luxury of incumbency gives you that power. I have to keep my candidate in the street from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.”

article

However, Moore's candidate has apparently had time to print up a glossy attack flyer, 'cause when you've got nothing to say, attack your opponent.

The Local, When Candidates Attack

Some residents of the 35th City Council district received two mailers today from the Friends of Delia M. Hunley-Adossa.

The other one was different. It featured a photo of the incumbent, Councilwoman Letitia James, above the headline “Convicted Brooklyn County Organization Leaders Sold Political Offices to the Highest Bidder.” The next line says, “So just how much did Letitia James have to pay?”
...

Ms. James said that she did not buy her council seat from the party organization, and that moreover, the flier is factually incorrect — when she ran successfully in 2003, she was no longer the machine candidate.

“It’s basically desperation,” she said of the flier. “That’s all that it is.”

Click thru to see the reverse side.

NoLandGrab: Now who would've expected Bruce Ratner's hand-picked Council candidate to start slinging mud? Desperate times apparently call for desperate measures, and speaking of time, the clock's running out on Ms. Hunley-Adossa's candidacy.

Posted by eric at 5:22 PM

Report Finds Net Loss to City From Atlantic Yards Arena

City Room
by Sewell Chan

We opted to post this story separately from the previous round-up of stories on the IBO report in order to point up some of the nonsense coming out of the NYC Economic Developerment Corporation.

The proposed basketball arena that has long been the centerpiece of the contentious Atlantic Yards development near Downtown Brooklyn would result in a net loss to the city of nearly $40 million over 30 years, according to a new report prepared by the city’s Independent Budget Office.

The report stands in contrast to an earlier report in 2005 by the same office, which concluded that the 18,000-seat arena would result in a net fiscal benefit for the city. Since then, city subsidies for the project — now estimated to cost $772 million — have grown. So has uncertainty about the project, which would transform a 22-acre site that is currently centered around a below-grade railyard owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
...

City officials tried to play down the report’s significance on Wednesday.

David Lombino, a spokesman for the city’s Economic Development Corporation, said in a phone interview, “The report is sloppy and contains numerous inaccuracies.”

NoLandGrab: "Sloppy and contains numerous inaccuracies?" Why, that sounds exactly like the testimony of Lombino's boss, EDC president Seth Pinsky, at the May 29th NY State Senate hearing on Atlantic Yards. From Atlantic Yards Report's coverage of that hearing:

Deceptions from NYC EDC's Pinsky

Similarly, Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, in prepared testimony maintained that the project would produce more than half a billion dollars in new tax revenues to the city, but acknowledged later that he was using a study from 2005, which calculated new revenues on 2 million square feet of office space.

Only one office tower, with less than one-third of the previous square footage, is now part of Forest City Ratner's announced configuration, and it's on indefinite hold. He later added: "We’re in the process of updating that analysis… we expect it to still be an extremely positive number."

OK, maybe sloppy and inaccurate is too kind — how about knowingly misleading and blatantly untrue? But wait, there's more.

[Lombino] said the report factored in costs associated with the entire project — the arena and the planned mixed-used development around it — while only counting the benefits from the arena.

NLG: "Only counting the benefits from the arena?" Is that like not counting the costs of the project? Here's AYR again, on the May 29th hearing:

NYC EDC calls it a "fiscal impact analysis." It acknowledges no offsetting costs or subsidies, so it's not a "cost-benefit analysis," despite Pinsky's deceptive use of the term.

Click thru for more of EDC's tall tales.

NLG: We don't know what's worse — that the NYC Economic Development Corporation doesn't have a clue, or knowingly misleads the taxpayers for the benefit of a private developer.

Posted by eric at 2:52 PM

IBO: Bruce Wins, NYC Loses

Runnin' Scared, IBO Report: Atlantic Yards to Cost City Big, Rain Cash on Ratner

This just hasn't been a good week for Bruce Ratner, the Nets owner who'd rather be the Nets' landlord. First, he unveils a new vision of his much-derided Atlantic Yards arena plan — now with more metal mesh! — and gets slammed by Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff for creating an "oddly clunky composition." Then this morning the Independent Budget Office issued its revised projections for the arena's fiscal impact on city coffers, concluding that any new tax revenues wouldn't be enough to pay for the city's costs.

The upshot, for those of you who are allergic to spreadsheets: The city is giving the arena $170 million in cash subsidies, plus another $180 million in tax breaks and other goodies. In return, it can expect to bring in about $130 million in new revenues over time — most of it thanks to the Nets themselves paying New York income taxes — resulting in either a $40 million loss or a $220 million loss for the city, depending on how you count. Ratner, meanwhile — who would be getting state and federal subsidies as well — is looking at a $726 million savings, or nearly as much as the whole arena is projected to cost in the first place....

NY Post, Study: Atlantic Yards will cost NYC $39M

Brooklyn’s controversial Atlantic Yards project – which was sold as a surefire way to fill the city’s cash coffers with new revenue – could turn out being a major money pit, a new study released today shows.

The city’s Independent Budget Office released a report saying delays and increased public subsidies for the project’s centerpiece, an NBA arena, would cost the city $39.5 million more in spending over its first 30 years than it would generate in tax revenues.
...

But city officials called the IBO report “sloppy,” saying it only focuses on the arena portion of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project, and fails to take into account the benefits of the 16 office and residential skyscrapers also planned in Prospect Heights.

IBO said it only concentrated on the arena because of the uncertainty over the rest of the project, but a city official pointed out that the city would get tens of millions of dollars in liquidated damages if Atlantic Yards is not fully built and the report doesn't address that.

NoLandGrab: For anyone who believes the city would ever actually collect from Ratner, we've got an arena to sell you.

The Brooklyn Paper, Report: Yards arena is a money pit

Opponents seized on the IBO study as evidence that one of the arena’s main selling points — that it would raise money for the city, not cost it millions — had vanished.

“It is clear that the highly subsidized Atlantic Yards proposal has a negative benefit for the public while providing enormous financial benefits to Forest City Ratner,” said Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, who added that this “stark imbalance” will be a part of his group’s upcoming challenge to the project in the state’s highest court.

NY Observer, Nets Arena a Net Financial Loss for City, Report Finds

But measured in isolation as incentives for an arena, the finding serves to illustrate how the Nets arena, estimated to cost around $800 million, follows the model of most every other professional sporting venue in this country, built with the prop of subsidies that elected officials are often ever-so-willing to offer.
...

But here the Nets were being stolen from New Jersey, bringing a whole new set of salaries, ticket sales, merchandizing and associated activity into the borders of New York City: The subsidy is meant to attract new money—not retain existing spending. Still, at least according to IBO’s analysis, the new tax revenue from that activity is not enough to cover the $169 million or so the city is adding in infrastructure investments and direct subsidy, a testament to just how substantial these incentives are for this project.

Field of Schemes, Nets arena subsidies worth almost as much as Nets arena

The New York City Independent Budget Office has issued an update of its 2005 study of the proposed Atlantic Yards arena to bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, and as Norman Oder notes, has come up with "far more pessimistic results."

NY1 News, Analysis Finds City Would Lose Money On Brooklyn Arena

An analysis released by the Independent Budget Office today found the arena of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn will cost the city an estimated $164 million and create more than 3,000 temporary and nearly 1,000 permanent jobs for New Yorkers.

Posted by eric at 1:23 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: On Day After New Arena Designs Released…

NYC Independent Budget Office Study Shows Ratner’s Arena a Financial Loser for NYC

Warns That Planned Bond Arrangement Won’t Work

BROOKLYN, NY— Fresh off a glitzy new design release by developer Forest City Ratner, a new study concludes that the Barclays Center Arena will be a money loser for New York City if built.

New York City’s Independent Budget Office released a fiscal analysis of the Atlantic Yards arena, which shows that the arena would be a $39.5 million loss for New York City over 30 years, with an additional loss of $180 million in opportunity costs (foregone gains due to tax exemptions and below market land sales).

The fiscal analysis also calculates a $726 million taxpayer subsidy and government benefits package for developer Forest City Ratner on the arena alone.

The report, “The Proposed Arena at Atlantic Yards: An Analysis of City Fiscal Gains and Losses,” is available for download on the IBO website.

“Between the IBO’s study showing the arena is a loss for the city, and the lack of any plans or guarantees for affordable housing in the project, it is clear that the highly subsidized Atlantic Yards proposal has a negative benefit for the public while providing enormous financial benefits to Forest City Ratner, including $726 million in subsidies and special benefits for the arena alone. That stark imbalance is an important part of our eminent domain argument in the Court of Appeals,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “The project is the result of a corrupt and illegal process and is a financial disaster that destroys our community. We will not let it stand and will continue to fight it by every means possible.”

The IBO study also warned that the foregone property taxes on the arena site would not be sufficient to generate PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) to pay off the $700 million arena bond Ratner is trying to float for the arena. The IBO estimates that the PILOT payment, based on a reasonable land assessment, would be about $15 million short of the necessary bond debt service.

“The question is will the arena land assessment be illegally inflated by the City’s Finance Department to meet Ratner’s desired debt service or will the bond amount be lowered, requiring a greater investment by the developer. This complicated issue is precisely what Assemblyman Richard Brodsky investigated with hearings and subpoenas on the new Yankee Stadium, and he should play the same watchdog role with the Nets arena PILOT situation,” Goldstein concluded.

This issue is raised in a side bar on page 4 of the IBO study.

The IBO study is at:

http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/AtlanticYards091009.pdf

Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

IBO: increase in land assessments insufficient for arena PILOTs

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO), in its new report, The Proposed Arena at Atlantic Yards: An Analysis of City Fiscal Gains and Losses [PDF], points out that the New York City Department of Finance has steeply increased assessments on properties destined for the arena block, especially the vacant land.

I've previously raised questions about this issue, and the IBO does not back up those concerns, though it raises new ones.

The IBO does not conclude that that the increased exemptions are fishy--I think they still deserve scrutiny--but does say that the foregone property taxes would not be sufficient to generate PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) to pay off the arena bonds.

The implication is that either the assessments would have to be increased--or the total amount of bonds lowered.

The IBO reports:

Turning to Atlantic Yards, IBO estimates that a typical property tax assessment would result in a PILOT that falls short of the payments needed to cover debt service in the early years of the project. Assuming the arena is assessed using a cost methodology, taking into account hard and soft construction costs and actual land acquisition costs, IBO estimates that in the early years after the arena opens, a typical property tax assessment would yield a tax bill of about $40 million annually. (If the developer took advantage of the as-of-right Industrial Commercial Abatement Program, the bill would be less than $10 million annually for more than a decade). In contrast, IBO’s estimate of the annual debt service payment for the arena’s tax-exempt bonds—assuming a 7.0 percent interest rate, 30-year term, and level payments—is $55 million.

Although the Department of Finance has sharply increased its assessments on land (particularly vacant land) throughout the city over the past year, the increases elsewhere in the city are just a fraction of those at the site. Citywide, the average increase in assessments on vacant land from 2009 to 2010 was 63 percent; for Brooklyn as a whole, vacant land values grew by 100 percent. Over the same period, the aggregate assessment increase for the three tax blocks that will be at least partially covered by the arena at Atlantic Yards has grown by 238 percent, while the assessment on the arena site’s vacant land has risen 702 percent—an eight-fold increase.
[Emphases added]

article

NoLandGrab: The arena land assessment rose 700% in one year?!! Either some heads need to roll because land values were not properly assessed in the past, leaving sorely needed tax revenue on the table, or somebody needs to go to jail, for cooking the valuations in order to grease the skids for Ratner's PILOTs.

Posted by eric at 12:23 PM

Net gain to Ratner, loss to public: IBO says developer saves $726M on arena; city loses $40M plus another $180M in opportunity costs

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's new that should be surprising to no one.

In the absence of any effort to update the flawed fiscal impact reports from the city and state on Atlantic Yards, the Independent Budget Office (IBO), at the request of several elected officials, has updated its September 2005 Fiscal Brief on Atlantic Yards, with far more pessimistic results.

Unlike the previous report, which found a modest net gain for the city over 30 years, the new report, titled The Proposed Arena at Atlantic Yards: An Analysis of City Fiscal Gains and Losses [PDF], estimates that net revenues would be negative for the city and modestly positive for the state and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)--at least until significant lost opportunity costs were added.

Moreover, the losses for the city would be far greater--another $180.5 million--were opportunity costs to be calculated. Such opportunity costs--foregone gains thanks to tax exemptions and other below-market benefits--were not fully calculated in the 2005 report.

Indeed, the combination of subsidies and tax breaks, including $194 million in federal tax breaks on tax-exempt bonds, adds up to what the IBO calculates as $726 million in savings on the arena for developer Forest City Ratner. And that's without assuming--as does Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, in the case of the new Yankee Stadium--that the use of PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) to pay for a sports facility constitutes a full subsidy in itself.

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NoLandGrab: Who woulda thunk it — Bruce Ratner wins, everybody else loses! And we want to build this arena why?

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

CBN PRESS RELEASE: CBN STUDY SHOWS AY TIMELINE NOT FEASIBLE; SEIS NECESSARY

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) today released two studies from experts which indicate the new timeline for building the controversial Atlantic Yards project is not feasible. The extended timeline so significantly affect the environmental consequences of the project that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) is absolutely necessary.

The studies and CBN’s response comments are available on their website, http://tinyurl.com/CBN-response.

The studies were contained in the comments CBN formally submitted to the Empire State Development Commission (ESDC) in response to the Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) for the Atlantic Yards project released by the ESDC this past summer. Steve Soblick of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods said,

"CBN coordinated a community effort to respond meaningfully to the proposed MGPP despite the fact that the ESDC gave the public only 60 days to respond and announced that, incredibly, new plan details would only be released after the public comment period had closed! [The comment period closed August 31, 2009.] Even with these limitations, our expert consultants determined the Atlantic Yards project is not financially feasible. It will require substantial additional subsidies and has no realistic completion date. There seems to be no meaningful oversight by the ESDC. The public has done its job by responding to this poorly managed project. It's time for the ESDC to do its job and order a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that fully and accurately defines the Atlantic Yards project; its costs, its benefits, and its timeline."

The first study, “A Decades Long Project: Atlantic Yards Financial Feasibility Study” was commissioned from Kahr Real Estate Services, a boutique real estate advisory firm whose diverse client base includes commercial and investment banks, private real estate investment firms, REITs, developers, and government organizations throughout the world. The study concludes that the project is simply not feasible within the 10-year projected development period. To condense the study’s conclusions:

  • The current state of the capital markets will make it extremely difficult to obtain financing for a project of this size within the next 36 months.

  • The projected residential market rate rental and condominium prices that the developer relied on when they originally underwrote the deal are substantially above the current market. They created their projection in 2006, a time that in retrospect is considered to be the top of the last real estate cycle.

  • The demand for housing units is most likely not sufficient to support a project of this scale over the next ten years.

  • The developer recently restructured its original agreement with the MTA to enable it to exit the purchase of the Phase II properties for a minimal or no breakup fee depending on timing. Based on the timing of the payments, we believe that this indicates that the developer is concerned about its ability to complete the project within the stated 10 year time frame.

Kahr Real Estate summarized the findings of the Feasibility Study by stating,

“It is extremely unlikely that the full project can be financed and completed within 10 years at a profit by a private sector developer without substantial subsidies in excess of what has already been currently proposed. Based on the state of the market, the current plan, and the collective experiences of other large scale projects, it is much more likely that the development will take at least 20 years to complete. Most important of all, the likelihood of this time frame has been essentially acknowledged by the developer... In addition, the timing of the payments [to the MTA] has now been stretched out to 2030 – the new timing of the payments clearly indicates that the developer expects the timeframe of the development to stretch beyond ten years.”

The second study, “The Atlantic Yards Plan and Why a New Environmental Review is Required”, is by Dr. Tom Angotti, Director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development. His analysis of the MGPP enumerates the incontrovertible reasons why NY State law requires the ESDC to produce a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

Among the points made by Dr. Angotti are the following:

  • Acres of parking lots may now be permanent, and an SEIS is required to analyze the impacts upon the sewer system of unmitigated storm water runoff from paved surfaces, and other possible results of that Worst Case Scenario.

  • The inclusion in the MGPP of a site plan and design for the arena that the developer has since claimed is not representative of the actual plan and design, is inconsistent with the public’s requirement to comment upon the MGPP. There is, in effect, no site plan nor meaningful design for Phase I revealed in the MGPP.

  • Given the amorphous timeframe, the MGPP proposes an essentially new plan with entirely new environmental and economic consequences that must, by definition of CEQRA/SEQRA, be analyzed in an SEIS or an entirely new EIS process.

  • Environmental effects of new “interim” parking lots of indeterminate duration must be analyzed.

  • Environmental changes of a significantly reduced rail yard, together with incremental purchases/closings on MTA and other land, and no guarantee of a platform being constructed prior to building Phase II, constitutes a new plan, requiring an SEIS.

  • Mitigations proposed in the FEIS are rendered moot by the project time extension.

  • MGPP violates CEQR/SEQR by failing to take into account all reasonable scenarios, including delays for whatever reason similar to the failure to accurately treat the No Build requirement in the FEIS.

Dr. Angotti said that his findings raise considerable doubt that the Atlantic Yards will ever be built and that it is now time for a “do-over”:

"The new timeline suggested in the MGPP makes many of the promised mitigations irrelevant and raises critical questions about what the project is, what the project will become, and what the effects will be on Brooklyn and all of New York City. Even if the developer released some shiny pictures, the underlying questions about this project suggest the ESDC should just go back to the drawing board. This Atlantic Yards can't be fixed."

Based on these evaluations, CBN also concluded a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is required;

“In light of the above, and in light of the continuing substantive shortfalls, inaccuracies, and insufficiencies identified repeatedly by our consultants, it is the considered opinion of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Inc. that the proposed Modified General Project Plan for the Atlantic Yards Land Use Improvement and Civic Project, is inadequate as an assessment of both the benefits and adverse impacts of the proposed project. It cannot be used as a reliable guide for decision making.”

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

FAQ: the reason for a new architect; curiously unchanged arena costs; why Gehry was dropped; and "vaportecture"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder asks and answers some lingering Atlantic Yards-related questions:

Was new architect SHoP brought on to respond to widespread disapproval of the June Ellerbe Becket arena design that leaked? Yes.
...

Is the arena costing much less? No.
...

Was Gehry dropped because his design was impossible? At least in part.

Click thru for the full explanations and background.

article

Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

CBN analysis says AY would take 20 years; Ratner deflects the question (though his cousin was once more candid)

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times, in its print coverage of the new AY arena designs, has an exclusive, a document that questions the official ten-year project timetable, and an unconvincing response--though the Times doesn't dissect it--from Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner.

The Times reports:
Also on Wednesday, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, an opponent of the project, released a 47-page risk analysis by a real estate consultant, Kahr Real Estate Group, suggesting that it would take 20 years to finish Atlantic Yards because of a glut of new, higher-end apartments in Brooklyn and the lack of financing for real estate projects.

Mr. Ratner’s renegotiated purchase agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns an eight-acre railyard on the site, also allows the developer to drop the second phase of the development, which involves the bulk of the residential construction, with few penalties, said Joshua Kahr, the owner of Kahr Real Estate.

“The New York City real estate market is remarkably weak,” Mr. Kahr said. “It’s a substantial challenge for Ratner to finish this project within the time frame he’s proposing. I don’t see how he can get the funding. It’s hard enough to get the funding for a little project, let alone one of this scale.”

This is hardly an unreasonable prediction, given that Marisa Lago, then CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), acknowledged in April that the project was scheduled to take "decades."

Click thru for Bruce Ratner's not-too-convincing response.

article

Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

New Yards Design Draws From the Old

The NY Times
By Nicolai Ouroussoff

The architecture critic of the Times basically considers the new arena design an improvement over the post-Frank Gehry Ellerbe Becket design, but still has serious concerns about the entire "Atlantic Yards" project.

NetsArenaShoP1.jpg

To say that the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn is in disarray is not a major revelation. That it may still be possible to save — and may even be worth saving — comes as news.
...
Shop has wrapped it in an appealing rust-colored steel skin, which will make it less harsh on the eye.

But it still falls short of the high architectural standards set by the design the city was originally promised. And too many questions remain unanswered about the overall plan — in particular, when and whether Mr. Ratner’s company, Forest City Ratner, will ever build the surrounding buildings, and, assuming it does, who will design them. Without them the cohesion of the original plan falls apart.

article

Atlantic Yards Report, NYT critic Ouroussoff gives two cheers to the new arena design: "probably the best that Mr. Ratner can do"

[B]y expressing measured approval for the design, [Ouroussoff] ignores the absence of a design for the rest of the project and the likelihood of indefinite interim surface parking and blight.

So, Forest City Ratner has to consider his review a win, since--despite the instant appellations of "clamshell," "bottle opener," and "panini maker"--the general reaction is not uniform derision.

DDDB.net, Times Critic Ouroussoff Happier With New Arena Design But Displeased With Atlantic Yards

The Times architecture critic who savaged Ratner's fifth arena design now weighs in on his sixth one and, though he thinks it is an improvement, he concludes that it doesn't cut the mustard.

Posted by lumi at 8:09 AM

Bondage

The NY Times and NY Observer are both reporting that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is planning on getting around the thorny issue of issuing the arena bond financing before the end of the year by placing the money in escrow, as long as the project is held up in litigation.

The NY Times, Atlantic Yards Developer Releases New Arena Plan
This is the incredible timeline that developer Bruce Ratner is selling to the media and investors:

The state is expected to give the arena final approval on Sept. 17. Three weeks later, Forest City plans to begin marketing and selling about $700 million in tax-exempt bonds for the project. At the same time, the company will be marketing 100 luxury suites and premium seats. It hopes to get control of the land and begin construction in November. If all goes as planned, Mr. Ratner says, the Nets, now playing in East Rutherford, N.J., will play part of the 2011-12 season in Brooklyn.

The NY Observer, New Design in Hand, Ratner Plans to Seek Nets Arena Financing Within Weeks

Nearly three years after receiving a green light from the state government, the mega-Atlantic Yards development is entering a critical stage, as developer Bruce Ratner is rushing to secure financing and tie up loose ends before an end-of-year tax deadline.
...
If Mr. Ratner’s timeline for the bonds stays on course, Forest City would be attempting to secure the financing while key litigation is still pending. Next month, the state’s highest court is slated to hear a challenge to the use of eminent domain for the project.

To mitigate the uncertainty from this, Mr. Ratner said the bond sale would call for money to go into an escrow account, pending the outcome of the various uncertainties.

Posted by lumi at 7:55 AM

New-new-n-improved Barclays Center news roundup

Here's a roundup of this morning's news headlines from local (and not-so-local) media:

BruceRatner-NY1.jpg amNY, New Atlantic Yards design unveiled, legal challenges remain

Interesting bit of news:

This morning, the Independent Budget Office is expected to release a report analyzing how much the city will make off the development versus lost tax revenue and capital spending on the project.

NY1, Atlantic Yards Developer Unveils New Arena Plans

This will be Brooklyn's new arena, and this time it's for real, says the developer.

NY Daily News, Bruce Ratner unveils futuristic Atlantic Yards Nets arena design after critics blasted 'barn' design

It's the new, new Atlantic Yards.
...
"The Barclays Center will quickly become an iconic part of the Brooklyn landscape," Ratner said.

NoLandGrab: Fer sure, it's "iconic"

Associated Press, New design unveiled for NBA arena in Brooklyn

In drawings and models, the woven steel bands give the building the appearance of being covered in wicker.
...
Developer Bruce Ratner said the two firms have been working with "Mercury-like speed" in advance of a crucial December deadline. The development, dubbed Atlantic Yards, needs to break ground by then or lose access to the tax-free bonds financing much of the project.

LA Times, Ghost of Gehry: Third try for Brooklyn arena design

An excerpt of "some quick thoughts" on yesterday's announcement:

--The announcement itself was peculiar, coming not in the New York Times or any other media outlet but via old-fashioned press release. Clearly Forest City was not going to spoon-feed any renderings to the NYT given recent pieces condemning the developer for getting rid of Gehry, but it's still something of a surprise that another New York publication didn't get the nod.

--All of this may be for naught, as there's still a good chance that Atlantic Yards -- the whole blessed thing -- is dead in the water.
...
--The new architect pairing is, no matter how you slice it, an odd one, matching Ellerbe Becket's Midwestern love of barn-style "fieldhouse" arenas with the fluid (and politically savvy) approach of Manhattan-based SHoP. For some background on SHoP, here's a profile I wrote on the firm for Metropolis magazine back in 2001.
...
--Still, perhaps because the design was produced rather quickly -- SHoP has been on the job only since June -- the arena seems to sag deflatedly from certain angles, rather like a basketball needing some air, which can hardly be the kind of architectural symbolism the Nets were hoping for.

SBNation.com, Nets Reveals Plan for a Spaceship in New York City

Yup, they said, "Spaceship."

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Long-Awaited Barclays Arena Design Is Finally Unveiled

That's "Long-Awaited" if you mean since June.

WNYC News Radio, New Designs for Nets Basketball Arena Reduce Cost, Flash

NBA Fanhouse, Cheaper Nets Arena Design Unveiled As Brooklyn Move Reaches Critical Moment

Posted by lumi at 7:26 AM

12 Notable Things About the New Nets Arena Design

Curbed

Following this morning's blockbuster reveal of the new architectural designs for the Barclays Center—the new Nets arena at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Aves. in Brooklyn—Curbed sat down with SHoP Architects' Gregg Pasquarelli, Ellerbe Becket's Bill Crockett and—yes—the man in black himself, Bruce Ratner, to soak in their collective new vision for an 18,000 seat arena. Herewith, observations and data points....

link

NoLandGrab: There's a reason that developer Bruce Ratner doesn't talk to the press much. Here's how he summed up the new arena design: "It's beautiful and cool."

Posted by lumi at 7:15 AM

Atlantic Yards Report React-o-matic

Some analysis of press releases we already posted yesterday from Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report:

ESDC announces second public information session, focused on arena design, but after public comment period has closed

Well, the Empire State Development Corporation won't renege completely on the promise, made publicly by former CEO Marisa Lago, to hold two community information sessions.

However, the second session, to be held in conjunction with Forest City Ratner and the Center for Architecture, will be "focused on the new arena design," the ESDC said in a press release issued today.

The meeting will be held at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Monday, September 14 from 6 pm to 7:30 pm.

While the meeting might be intriguing, it's fairly meaningless. There are far more questions about the project than the arena itself and, given that the public comment period has closed, any issues raised in the session Monday can't be brought up before the ESDC board meets on September 17 to approve the plan.

Yes, Markowitz is on board (just as he was in June)

Borough President Marty Markowitz issued a statement regarding the new arena design:

“As I have said all along, Brooklyn is the greatest city in America. We’re ready to get back into professional sports’ big leagues, and this arena is going to make it happen. I am thrilled that the new design delivers not only a luminous, iconic structure that celebrates Brooklyn’s industrial heritage with its steel and glass exterior, but one that harmonizes with the architecture of the surrounding neighborhoods and creates a welcoming environment for the public at street-level.
...
In June, after the original architect, Frank Gehry, had been dropped for arena designer Ellerbe Becket, Markowitz declared that the new design, derided as a "hangar," was "actually better for Brooklyn."

DDDB statement on arena design: "lipstick on a corrupt pig"

Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

Politics as unusual

The Local, Ask the Candidates: Atlantic Yards

The NY Times local blog querried the City Council candidates from the 35th District about their opinions on what should happen if Bruce Ratner is unable to build Atlantic Yards and the alternative UNITY plan. Two candidates support the UNITY plan, and "the other Democratic challenger" (aka, "the Ratner candidate") is MIA (again).

Atlantic Yards Report, In Public Advocate debate, Siegel again returns to eminent domain issue

Norman Oder reviews this week's Public Advocate debate. Candidates Norman Siegel and Eric Gioia scored points against their opponents on eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 6:55 AM

Forest City Enterprises: Good News, Bad News

The good news is that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Enterprises (FCE) is losing less money than last year, the bad news is that FCE is still hemorrhaging money.

The Plain Dealer, Loss narrows at Forest City during the second quarter

Forest City Enterprises Inc. lost $1.8 million during the second quarter, an improvement from the real estate company's $8.4 million loss a year before.

Forest City said Tuesday that it lost 1 cent per share during the three months that ended July 31, compared with a loss of 8 cents per share during the second quarter of 2008. Earnings before depreciation, amortization and deferred taxes were $95.5 million, up 8.1 percent from $88.3 million a year before. EBDT, a measure used by analysts and investors, strips out factors including gains and losses on sales of rental properties, divisions and other investments.
...
Revenue for the six months that ended July 31 was $629.8 million, down from $632.6 million a year before.

Forest City (NYSE: FCE-A) reported its earnings after markets closed Tuesday. Shares of the company's stock were trading at about $9.86, up 7.9 percent or 72 cents, just after 11 a.m. today.

Atlantic Yards Report, Forest City reports better results, but continued losses, including losses on the Nets

Analysis of FCE's quarterly earnings report includes this bit of where the continued losses incurred by the NJ Nets:

Revenues were down slightly from last year, but so were costs. FCE said in the press release, "Reduced losses on the Nets provided a pre-tax EBDT increase of $3.0 million."

What does that mean? According to a 10-Q document filed with the SEC:

Our equity investment in The Nets incurred a pre-tax loss of $8,307,000 and $18,988,000 for the three and six months ended July 31, 2009, respectively, representing a decrease in allocated losses of $241,000 and $3,033,000 compared to the same periods in the prior year. Generally accepted accounting principles require us to report losses, including significant non-cash losses resulting from amortization, in excess of our legal ownership of approximately 23%. For the six months ended July 31, 2009 and 2008, we recognized approximately 51% and 57% of the net loss, respectively, because profits and losses are allocated to each member based on an analysis of the respective member’s claim on the net book equity assuming a liquidation at book value at the end of the accounting period without regard to unrealized appreciation (if any) in the fair value of The Nets. For the six months ended July 31, 2009, we recognized a lower share of the net loss than in the prior year because of the distribution priority among members.

Included in the losses for the six months ended July 31, 2009 and 2008 are approximately $10,238,000 and $13,544,000, respectively, of amortization, at our share, of certain assets related to the purchase of the team. The remainder of the losses substantially relate to the operations of the team. Comparable to prior years, the team is expected to operate at a loss in 2009 and will require additional capital from its members to fund the loss.

(Emphases added)

Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

Francis Morrone on WNYC: New Arena design for Atlantic Yards

According to the web site, Francis Morrone, architectural historian and author of An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn, will be a guest on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, today to discuss the Barclays Center v3.0.

link

Posted by lumi at 6:18 AM

September 9, 2009

Atlantic Yards Basketball Arena v3.0

More reaction to yet another iteration of the "Brooklyn" Nets' we'll-be-playing there-any-minute-now arena (available only in renderings and models).

City Room, New Design Unveiled for Atlantic Yards Arena

Bruce C. Ratner is hoping the third time is the charm for his planned basketball arena for the Nets near Downtown Brooklyn.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Ratner, the chief executive of Forest City Ratner, unveiled the latest design for the 18,000-seat arena, which is the centerpiece for his 22-acre Atlantic Yards development at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

The original design by the architect Frank Gehry called for a $1 billion development that had four residential and commercial buildings hugging the glass-walled arena. It was scrapped in a cost-cutting move this year when the developer sought to build something less expensive. Mr. Ratner then turned to Ellerbe Becket, a firm that has designed many professional basketball arenas. But when its initial renderings of a structure resembling a brick airplane hangar leaked out in June, they were met with nearly universally negative reviews.

Stunned by the reaction, Mr. Ratner brought in a second architect, SHoP, to collaborate on the more glamorous design that was released Wednesday.

Field of Schemes, New Atlantic Yards arena designs! Collect 'em all!

The latest redesign of the New Jersey Nets' proposed Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn is out, and it looks like... a Claes Oldenburg handbag? A giant eyeball, as arena opponent and last man standing Daniel Goldstein insists? The previous design, only wrapped in one of those metal-grille facades that are all the rage these days?

Post your suggestions below. In the meantime, I'm mostly interested that the surrounding condo and office towers still appear to be made of some sort of translucent plastic — either the developers realized they didn't look so hot filled in, or it's an oblique admission that they're really vaportecture.

Gothamist, New Atlantic Yards Renderings Show Yet Another New Nets Arena

Still, to opponents like Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, these new renderings are just lipstick on a boondoggle. They've also been released after the public comment period closed, and omit details on the rest of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards site, which once-upon-a-time was to include 16 towers, 6,430 housing units, and a 511 foot tall structure called Miss Brooklyn (remember her?). Though there do seem to be some ghostly buildings hovering in the background, proving that Atlantic Yards phantoms are hardly done haunting Brooklyn.

Nevertheless, the Empire State Development Corporation declined to conduct a full public review of the dramatically changed plans, and Ratner's expected to get final state approval next week. But hurdles, as ever, remain—the state's highest court has agreed to hear the eminent domain lawsuit brought by opponents who say the ESDC is trying to seize private property to benefit Forest City Ratner, not the public.

Crain's NY Business, Developer unveils third version of new Nets home

Forest City Ratner releases artists' renderings for its proposed Atlantic Yards venue. It's not a Gehry, and not an airplane hanger, but what IS it?

Crain's asks: "What would you nickname the proposed Barclays Center?"

Brownstoner, New Barclay's Center Design Revealed

Regardless of your position on Atlantic Yards, there's no denying it's sexier than the most recent renderings, though that's not saying a whole lot.

GlobeSt.com, FCRC Unveils New Arena Design

Originally, the arena, and the mega-project as a whole, were designed by architect Frank Gehry. However, facing challenges in financing the project, FCRC scrapped the Gehry design in early June. Early images of the scaled-down Ellerbe design, which FCRC has said were preliminary, came in for criticism as hangar-like.

NetsAreScorching, NEW BARCLAYS RENDERINGS

9/9/09 will not only be known as Beatles day around the planet. Forest City Ratner has released their latest iteration of renderings for the Barclays Center, the prospective future home of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, Atlantic Yards Arena 3.0

We thought it might be instructive to show the three designs side by side. What do you think?

AP via WTEN.com, New design for Brooklyn arena unveiled

A new design for the Brooklyn home of the New Jersey Nets features weathered steel and glass, with a canopy that juts out like the bill of a baseball cap.

The Brooklyn Paper, THIS JUST IN! New Atlantic Yards arena designs are here!

From “The Hanger” to … “The Clamshell”?

Runnin' Scared, 3rd Atlantic Yards Design Emitted

Today developer Bruce Ratner unveiled a third design for his stalled Atlantic Yards project. (The first had been done by architecture superstar Frank Gehry; when it was scrapped for "value engineering" reasons, Ratner engaged Ellerbe Becket, who delivered a Pee-Wee's Playhouse set; SHoP Architects PC did the current revision.)

NY1 News, Atlantic Yards Developer Unveils New Arena Plans (with video)

"It's supposed to be 16 towers, eight million square feet," said Goldstein. "The state's going to approve it next week, yet there are no designs for anything other than this arena, which the city Independent Budget Office has called a money-loser. So what do we have here?"

The Howeva Files, The Nets Stadium's 18th Possible Design

If you are like me, you think the thing looks like a giant fat beetle. After games, I can imagine this thing scurrying up Brendan Fraser's leg like it did in The Mummy.

SportsBusiness Daily, First Images Of Revamped Barclays Center Design Released [subscription required]

BP MARKOWITZ STATEMENT ON NEW DESIGN FOR BARCLAYS CENTER AT ATLANTIC YARDS

“As I have said all along, Brooklyn is the greatest city in America. We’re ready to get back into professional sports’ big leagues, and this arena is going to make it happen. I am thrilled that the new design delivers not only a luminous, iconic structure that celebrates Brooklyn’s industrial heritage with its steel and glass exterior, but one that harmonizes with the architecture of the surrounding neighborhoods and creates a welcoming environment for the public at street-level.

Of course, I remain optimistic that this project will create thousands of jobs and bring much needed affordable housing and even more vitality to Downtown Brooklyn. Now it’s time to break ground and let our union workers get to work building this beautiful Barclays Center, an economic engine that will generate revenue and spur economic development in Brooklyn and New York City for years to come!”

NoLandGrab: Is there any question that Marty would enthuse about any design for a basketball arena? And the NYC Independent Budget Office has already called Marty's "economic engine" a net fiscal loser for the city.

Posted by eric at 3:17 PM

Arena design released: "Weathered steel and glass" (but what about the rest of the project?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reproduces the press release, with some commentary and images interspersed. Noteworthy: the arena has shrunk by about 20%.

Well, the new designs of the Atlantic Yards arena have been released and, while it's surely an improvement over the Ellerbe Becket "hangar," the buildings around it are, at best, mirages, there's no Phase 2 (of course), and it's hard to believe that the arena--as previously stated--would be 150 feet tall. The renderings portray it as far more modest.

article

Posted by eric at 1:40 PM

BARCLAYS CENTER PRESS RELEASE: ELLERBE BECKET AND SHoP ARCHITECTS TO COLLABORATE ON BARCLAYS CENTER AT ATLANTIC YARDS

New, Innovative Design to Create Iconic Brooklyn Landmark

(Brooklyn, NY) – September 9, 2009 – Bruce Ratner, the Chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), the developer of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, announced today that the award-winning architectural firms Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects will collaborate on the design of the Barclays Center, the new world-class sports and entertainment venue that will serve as the anchor of the planned development and home to the NETS Basketball team.

FCRC also released new design images of the 675,000 square-foot arena, which will be located at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn. The images can be seen at www.barclayscenter.com. The images and a model will also be available for public viewing at Brooklyn Borough Hall beginning at 10 a.m. on Monday, September 14, 2009.

“The Barclays Center will quickly become an iconic part of the Brooklyn landscape,” said Mr. Ratner. “The design is elegant and intimate and also a bold architectural statement that will nicely complement the surrounding buildings and neighborhoods. The Barclays Center will be innovative in its look and use of materials, including weathered steel and glass, and will be the best place in the world to watch a basketball game and other forms of sports and entertainment.”

Several images were released today that show the Barclays Center from different perspectives, including each major arrival point at the site perimeter. The arena was designed to accommodate other buildings on the arena block that will be part of the Atlantic Yards development, including three mixed-income residential buildings and the commercial building known as B1, along with the Urban Room that will provide access to the Barclays Center.

The building consists of three separate but woven bands. The first engages the ground where the weathered steel exterior rises and lowers to create a sense of visual transparency, transitioning into a grand civic gesture that cantilevers out into a spectacular canopy at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. The canopy, which is 30 feet above ground level, contains an oculus that frames the pedestrian’s view of the arena. The second, a glass band, allows for views from inside and outside of the arena. The third band floats around the roof of the Barclays Center and varies in transparency, the weathered steel creating backlit patterns.

The woven band of the canopy will flow out over the arena entrance, creating a seamless visual transition and helping to frame a large viewing portal into the seating area. The main concourse is placed right at street level, allowing a direct view to and from the street. Large areas of glass at street level make it not only pedestrian-friendly, but also encourage a strong visual connection to the surrounding urban neighborhood.

Construction is expected to begin on the arena later this year, with an anticipated opening during the 2011 – 12 NETS season.

link [PDF]

NoLandGrab: If that's not enough for you, click through for the rest of the press release, including bits about how an urban arena must delight its neighbors and how the arena "Founding Partners" will have branded "neighborhoods," like "ADT Plaza" and the "EmblemHealth Entrance." For real.

Posted by eric at 1:19 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: New Ratner Arena Design is Irrelevant

Six Years Into Project And No Designs For the Promised Affordable Housing

BROOKLYN, NY— Forest City Ratner’s new design for its proposed Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn—the developer’s sixth fanciful design—was released today. The new arena design, something like a big eye ball at Atlantic and Flatbush, lacks some key elements—such as the entire rest of the proposed project.

“The arena design is irrelevant. Designs continue to come and go, but they change nothing. It's all lipstick on a corrupt pig, window-dressing on a boondoggle. Ratner faces a serious eminent domain court challenge and other litigation, he doesn't have the land or any of the financing he needs for the arena, and won't be able to break ground this year, if ever,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein. “The project is still a sham, still a phantom, with no designs for the promised affordable housing and no designs whatsoever for anything besides a money-losing arena. It is unconscionable that any elected official could support this farcical project any more.”

The Atlantic Yards proposal—an arena and 16 towers including 6,430 residential units in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn—is expected to face a rubberstamp vote by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) board on September 17th. Developer Bruce Ratner and the ESDC claim the project will take ten years to build and hasn’t changed from its initial approval in 2006. Such claims are not credible—the project would take at least twenty years to construct and has changed radically since its 2006 approval. All Ratner is able to show, six years since unveiling his mega-project proposal, is the sixth version of his arena design and nothing else. The previous five designs all failed, and this new one is likely to do the same.

Ratner promises thousands of units of affordable housing, but the designs released today show nothing but an arena, which the City’s Independent Budget Office has shown to be a financial loser for New York City. Additionally, since the project has changed so radically and would take twice as long to construct as the ESDC claims, the state is required by law to conduct a new environmental review.

“With no guarantees for the promised affordable housing, no designs for that affordable housing and no commitment to acquire the rail-yard land for the affordable housing, this glitzy new design for a money-losing arena, at the expense of everything else, should be the last wake up call needed for Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg to scrap a project that can no longer deliver any of the developer’s promises,” Goldstein concluded.

Posted by eric at 1:00 PM

BREAKING: New Atlantic Yards Arena Design Revealed

Curbed

Looks like Curbed got to reveal the Atlantic Yards arena redesign, after The New York Times savaged the last version ("development partnership" only goes so far).

After getting taken to the woodshed for booting Frank Gehry off his controversial Atlantic Yards project and replacing Gehry's Barclays Center arena design with a cut-rate airplane hangar, developer Bruce Ratner told everybody to just wait one doggone minute before they judged the future home (maybe?) of the New Jersey Brooklyn Nets. Word leaked last week that Ratner had added Manhattan avant-gardists SHoP to the design team, and now the fruits of that collaboration with Midwest architecture firm Ellerbe Becket have been unveiled. So, uh, what the hell are we looking at for the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic?

The renderings and plans are available on the new Barclays Center website, now scrubbed free of Gehry's celebrated but ultimately doomed plans.

Click thru for additional images.

article

NoLandGrab: Well, it's no longer an airplane hangar, though commenters on Curbed have called it everything from "Clamtastic!" to reminiscent of a bottle opener and a toilet.

Us? We're going to call it the "Barclays Panini Maker."

Posted by eric at 12:42 PM

ESDC PRESS RELEASE: Empire State Development Announces That Preliminary Review Process For Barclays Center Arena Has Been Completed

ESD staff has been working with FCRC & architects throughout the summer to ensure that design complies with guidelines set forth in MGPP

Empire State Development (ESD) today announced that the preliminary review process for the new Barclays Center arena design has been completed. ESD staff has been working closely with the developer throughout the evolution of the arena design to ensure that it adheres to the design guidelines laid out in the MGPP. The design collaboration by Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects will debut later this morning. ESD also announced today that the second public information session will be held on Monday, September 14.

ESD, in conjunction with FCRC and the Center for Architecture, will host a public information session focused on the new arena design at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Monday, September 14 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The images and model of the design will be available for public viewing at Brooklyn Borough Hall beginning at 10 a.m. on Monday, September 14.

Details on Monday's public information session will be released later this week.

The plan for the Atlantic Yards project includes 16 buildings for residential, office, retail, community facilities, parking, and possibly hotel uses. These buildings provide approximately 5,325 to 6,430 housing units, 2,250 of which will be affordable. The Project also contains 8 acres of publicly accessible open space. The project spans over a 22-acre area, roughly bounded by Flatbush and 4th Avenues on the west, Vanderbilt Avenue on the east, Atlantic Avenue on the north, and Dean and Pacific Streets on the south. The Project is expected to create thousands of construction and permanent jobs.

NoLandGrab: We'd love to know what a "preliminary review process" entails, but we're pretty sure that it features frequent use of the phrase "yes, Bruce." As for the new design adhering to the design guidelines, it does because they say it does.

Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

Atlantic Yards SHoPping Update

Yesterday, Curbed reported that new designs for Burce Ratner's controversial publicly funded eminent-domain abusing Nets arena will be unveiled TODAY:

Well, it looks like SHoP had its T-squares out all weekend: The new arena designs will be unveiled tomorrow. Do tune in!

link

flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool, "BECKET + SHoP THY NAME IS EMINENT DOMAIN"

Neighborhood photog Tracy Collins photoSHoPped this image of the Hagan sisters' mural in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject.

NY Daily News, Seaport architect at work on Atlantic Yards arena

From an update on the addition of the design team from SHoP that ran before the Curbed scoop:

SHoP Architects, which designed the yet-to-be-built new South Street Seaport, is working on the arena plan, Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco confirmed yesterday, while declining to comment further.
...
New renderings are expected to be unveiled before state officials take a final vote on the project on Sept. 17, but will come too late for borough residents to chime in with formal comments about the project.

The public comment period closed at the end of August.

News of the new firm, which also designed a flashy glass building addition for the Fashion Institute of Technology, comes as the developer is scrambling to sell $650 million in tax exempt bonds, beat back a court challenge and break ground by a Dec. 31 deadline.

DDDB.net, Ratner's Sixth Arena Design to be Released on Wednesday. The Rest of Atlantic Yards? Don't Ask.

Posted by lumi at 6:42 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Brownstoner, Triangle Debate Goes On over Eminent Domain

The city's controversial plan to develop a 31-acre area of Williamsburg known as the Broadway triangle still needs approval from City Council, but if it goes forward, the project will displace at least six businesses via eminent domain and throw others into limbo due to rezoning. The Daily News tells the story of some of these business owners such as Ernie Wong, 33, whose family owns Shanghai Stainless Product & Design Co. on Gerry Street, or Sara Gelb, 52, who started a bus company on Bartlett Street with her husband 25 years ago and has built it up to a fleet of 18.

Atlantic Yards Report, Despite criticisms of MTA effort to relocate renters, ESDC faces lesser obligation in AY footprint

A New York Times article yesterday, headlined Tenants Evicted by M.T.A. Ask: Move Where?, sympathetically related the situation facing tenants being displaced by the construction of the Second Avenue Subway on the Upper East Side.

While federal law requires the transit agency to find the renters comparable homes, they've been shown places outside the neighborhood and outside Manhattan, because--no surprise--it's not easy to find inexpensive or rent-regulated housing in the area.

Interestingly enough, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is obligated to do much less for rent-regulated tenants who'd be displaced by the Atlantic Yards project.
...
I asked Locker, who also represents two of the Upper East Side residents, to contrast the two situations.

"As compared to the UDC Act's relocation requirements applicable to residential tenants in the case of ESDC's Atlantic Yards Project, the MTA appears to interpret the federal relocation requirements applicable to the MTA's construction of the Second Avenue Subway differently than does ESDC," he responded. "The MTA has stated publicly that it deems itself obligated to relocate tenants into comparable rent-regulated apartments in the neighborhood. ESDC has never taken that position."

Posted by lumi at 6:25 AM

At hearing on new MTA head, Kruger warns murkily of intransigence on AY; Perkins says AY deal lost MTA public confidence

Atlantic Yards Report

I questioned last week whether Jay Walder, nominated as chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), would be asked at state Senate hearings about the agency's controversial revision of the deal with Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard.

Well, not quite, but AY certainly came up at the second and final hearing, held yesterday at the State Office Building in Harlem, and there was a murky hint that the Vanderbilt Yard deal might be stalled by some additional MTA effort at due diligence.

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Posted by lumi at 6:23 AM

Forest City in the News

PRNewsWire, Forest City Reports Fiscal 2009 Second-Quarter and Year-to-Date Results

According to the Forest City Enterprises press release, losses are down compared to last year:

The second-quarter net loss attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc. was $1.8 million, or $0.01 per share, compared with a net loss of $8.4 million, or $0.08 per share, in the second quarter of 2008. Net loss for the six months ended July 31, 2009, was $32.5 million, or $0.26 per share, compared with $48.8 million, or $0.47 per share for the same period in 2008.
...
The second-quarter net loss attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc. was $1.8 million, or $0.01 per share, compared with a net loss of $8.4 million, or $0.08 per share, in the second quarter of 2008. Net loss for the six months ended July 31, 2009, was $32.5 million, or $0.26 per share, compared with $48.8 million, or $0.47 per share for the same period in 2008.

FoxBusiness.com, Forest City Enterprises (FCE.A) Bullish Technical Alert - Trend Up 35.4%

Forest City Enterprises (NYSE:FCE.A) is trading 2.3% higher (up $0.21 to $9.13) today on volume of 512,709 shares. The stock has traded within a 52-week range of $3.26 and $40.49.

Forest City Enterprises is currently above its 50-day moving average of $7.10 and above its 200-day moving average of $6.48.

DDDB.net, Forest City Quarterly Results Claim Arena Construction Would Start in 2009. Impossible.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the group leading the fight against Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject, has some news for investors and analysts.

It's official, Forest City is delusional and doesn't mind deluding its investors and analysts. From Forest City Enterprises second quarter results:

...Forest City ended the second quarter with seven projects under construction with a total cost of $2.1 billion at the Company's pro-rata share ($2.5 billion at full consolidation). With the exception of the Barclays Arena at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and the fee-development construction of a new City Hall project in Las Vegas, the Company does not anticipate commencing construction on any additional projects in 2009.

It is impossible for arena construction to start in 2009.

FCE investors and anaylsts can take that as a tip.

TradingMarkets.com, Forest City reports losses narrow to $1.8 million in second quarter

BizJournals.com, Fidelity Investment’s office wins national award

http://www.nolandgrab.org/images/MesaDS.jpgDeveloper Forest City won a green building award for an office building in the company's Mesa Del Sol project in New Mexico.

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

Nets CEO Yormark predicts financing wrapped up in 45 days, arena in "11-12 season"

Atlantic Yards Report

On Fox Business News today, Nets Sports and Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark answered questions from the unskeptical Alexis Glick.

While the segment was ostensibly about the Nets' pioneering effort to sell naming rights to practice jerseys, at about 3:00 Yormark predicted that the arena would open in the 2011-12 season.

Yormark has regularly shifted the goalposts; last December he insisted the arena would open in three years.

Glick led her arena inquiry with "Everybody wants to know the truth. Is the stadium being built in Brooklyn...?" to which the "marketing genius," who has historically demonstrated a casual relationship with the truth, replied:

We're very excited about our move to Brooklyn. Obviously, there's been lots of delays. But this fall is the fall we've all been waiting for. We'll wrap up financing in the next 30 to 45 days. We will break ground in the next few months. We will get past the remaining litigation--there's one last piece out there. We expect to win that case, like we have the other 25 that have been brought against the project. This is the fall we've been waiting for. Barclays is on board, All of our eight other founding partners are on board. We relaunch our suite sales effort later this month. So we're excited about the future, and we'll be in Brooklyn for the 11-12 season.

AYR notes:

There haven't been 25 lawsuits or even 25 court decisions. Glick didn't ask how long it would take to build the arena--at least two years, right?--and how that would impact a move across the river.

article

NoLandGrab: If reporters fail to question this made up scorecard, then why shouldn't guys like Yormark use it? On the other hand, it makes you wonder if anything Yormark just said is true.

Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

Nets Leading the Way?

Hoopsworld
By Alex Raskin

According to the Sports Business Journal, PNY Technologies—a New Jersey-based flash drive manufacturer—has struck a deal with the Nets to put their logo on the team's practice jerseys. In doing so, the Nets became the first NBA team to sell ads on any of its uniforms.
...
The financial issues of moving a franchise in this economic climate may have pushed the Nets to sell ads on their practice jerseys, but that doesn't mean they're not starting a trend. And if the league permits, don't be surprised to see logos on game uniforms as well.

Could Devin Harris end up looking like Ricky Bobby?

Who knows? [Nets CEO Brett] Yormark spent six years at NASCAR before Ratner hired him in New Jersey.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

September 8, 2009

Thompson vs. Avella on Atlantic Yards, affordable housing, and CBAs

Atlantic Yards Report

While the Community Newspaper Group's interviews with the Democratic Mayoral candidates, Comptroller Bill Thompson and Queens City Council Member Tony Avella, have already been summarized in the CNG's reports, the video is worth watching for an extended look at their analyses of Atlantic Yards.

Notably, Thompson showed himself to be a supporter of affordable housing and Community Benefits Agreements... while Avella addressed both issues with more criticism and more detail.

Unlike many candidates, who rely on funds from the real estate industry, Avella said his game plan was to tell the industry they no longer control the city's land use agenda.
...

Look for Atlantic Yards to come up again during an hour-long debate between the two on Wednesday, September 9, to be broadcast live on WABC television (Channel 7) and 1010 WINS.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

An Atlantic Yards question the candidates haven't been asked: what about the Department of Finance's questionable tax assessments in the arena block?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder sets out to ask candidates what they think about the mysterious rise in value of property in the footprint of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, which is in an area that has been declared "blighted."

Given the often-uninformed level of discourse about Atlantic Yards, I'm not holding my breath, but there's a significant issue that deserves discussion: the questionable tax assessments in the arena block.

I queried the four Public Advocate candidates--Bill de Blasio, Eric Gioia, Mark Green, and Norman Siegel--last week with the below information, but none offered a response (though Green's campaign asked for more time).

Check out the rest of the article for an explanation of how tax assessments are being used to game the system so that Bruce Ratner can take full advantage of triple-tax-free bonds allowed by the federal government.

Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Gothamist, Will Eminent Domain Fight Turn Broadway Triangle Into Bermuda Triangle?

In a highly contentious July decision, Brooklyn's Community Board 1 voted to convert a 31-acre area zoned for manufacturing on the border of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant into 1,895 low-rise apartments—905 of which would charge below-market rate rents. Opponents say the buildings would be too small and accuse the city of awarding housing contracts to non-profits tied to influential Assemblyman Vito Lopez—the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and the Bushwick Ridgewood Senior Citizens Council—without putting the sites up for bid.

Another objection? The city plans to use eminent domain to force five property owners to sell, and another 14 businesses will probably be zoned out now that the area is no longer devoted to manufacturing. Anyone familiar with the Willets Point and Atlantic Yards development wars won't be surprised that legal battles are looming. Today the Daily News takes a close look at the individuals who would be displaced.

The NY Times, Tenants Making Way for Subway Ask: You Want Me to Move Where?

When eminent domain may be used for a more traditional use — in this case, the Second Avenue subway project — the task of finding comparable housing in the neighborhood is not going so well.

Under federal law, the transit authority must find replacement housing deemed “comparable,” a phrase that officials have interpreted to mean an apartment of a similar size and rent, in the same neighborhood or nearby. If the tenant chooses a more expensive replacement, the authority must pay the difference in the rent for three and a half years.

But New York’s real estate market makes this an onerous task. Many of the residents live in rent-regulated units that cost far less than similar ones in the neighborhood. Rents could be an additional $1,000 a month.

Such a situation was not anticipated by federal eminent domain law, which says the authority is obligated to pay each tenant up to $5,250 in subsidies over the three and a half years, a pittance on the Upper East Side. In a pamphlet distributed to tenants, a sample case involves a move from a $500-a-month apartment to a $600 one.

Posted by lumi at 5:06 AM

Forest City in the News

REMINDER: Forest City Enterprises is due to release second-quarter earnings today, followed by a conference call with investors on Friday. press release

Washington Business Journal, Harris Teeter eyes Forest City's The Yards

The Harris Teeter grocery chains plans to open a store near Nationals Park after signing a letter of intent with developer Forest City Washington Inc., according to sources close to the deal.

The Matthews, N.C.-based chain already has two stores in the city....

The store near the ballpark will be 50,000 square feet in the ground floor of a building planned for 401 M St. SE as part of Forest City's major mixed-use waterfront development, The Yards.

Posted by lumi at 5:04 AM

September 7, 2009

Soon You're Talking Real Money...

Gumby Fresh

The pseudonymous bond-market insider Gari N. Corp parses last week's Nets Daily analysis of Bruce Ranter's precarious financial situation.

I finally got round to picking through this extremely interesting, timely, lucid, and well-reported Q&A at Nets Daily post about a potential sale of the New Jersey Nets basketball team. It's awesome. Go read it. Go read it again. Go pick through it yourself like an episode of The Wire. There at the bottom is a comment from me. I'm going to elucidate here on what I wrote there.

The blog's pseudonymous author has worked out that there are a lot of rather angry investors in the Nets ready to vent at the nearest knowledgeable Nets fan, and the author has done a very good job of tracking them down. They also have appeared to have gleaned a pretty convincing idea of the Nets team finances.

But buried down in the information is something pretty momentous - Ratner needs to scare up another $200 million from somewhere to finish his new stadium in Brooklyn.
...

Now go back to the Nets Daily article and take a gander at the logistics of this. Ratner wants to sell the team, and use the proceeds to fund the stadium. But buyers - with the NBA's support, apparently - do not want to be locked into an above-market lease for a Brooklyn arena. They want to own the arena, but probably don't have the resources to convince the agencies to follow through.

The Nets losses then, are only part of the reason Ratner needs to sell. But Ratner might not be able to sell the team until the financing is in place, but needs to sell the team to conclude the financing. Can he bundle both into a single instantaneous transaction? Watch this space.

article

NoLandGrab: As usual, Mr. Corp (whose unstated motto would appear to be "quality, not quantity" of blog posts) has penned a piece well worth clicking thru to.

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

New York Times hockey blog calls Zimbalist "sports-economist-for-hire"

Atlantic Yards Report

In a strong contrast to the New York Times's respectful and unskeptical treatment of sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, hired by Forest City Ratner to do a very dubious study of the Atlantic Yards project, consider coverage in the Times's hockey blog, Slap Shot.

Jeff Z. Klein, in a piece headlined Sunday’s News of Hockey, 9/6/09: Which Number Is More Absurd?, writes:
In documents filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge Redfield T. Baum, the N.H.L. finally sets a fee for the relocation of franchises: $101 million to $195 million. Those are the figures two N.H.L.-hired consulting firms recommend, as the league at last puts a hard dollar number on the relocation fees called for in its bylaws.

Those figures stand in sharp contrast to the estimate put forth by the sports-economist-for-hire Andrew Zimbalist, paid consultant to James L. Balsillie, the Canadian billionaire who has offered $212.5 million to buy the Coyotes and move them to Hamilton, Ontario. Zimbalist asserted in court papers that the relocation fee ought to be between $11.2 million and $12.9 million. Zimbalist’s assertion also maintains that a part of his recommended fee will suffice as the entire territorial compensation to the Maple Leafs and, presumably, the Sabres. Says the N.H.L. in its court filing, “The notion that a team in Hamilton would be worth only $11.2 million to $12.9 million more than a team in Phoenix is patently absurd.”
(Emphasis added)

Such skepticism about Zimbalist is surely in order, given that four times since 2006 his testimony was discredited in a court case or thrown out of court.

article

NoLandGrab: We'd be remiss if we didn't point out that the Phoenix Coyotes' current ownership is the only thing standing between Bruce Ratner and the crown of "Worst Owner in Professional Sports."

Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

The "iron core of information," newspapers, blogs, and sunshine

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder (inevitably) brings a critique of a book fretful about the future of mainstream journalism's watchdog role back to Atlantic Yards.

Democracy requires both information and a light on that information. Important information isn't important until someone who commands attention or some trusted institution validates it.

The system is already broken--the news about Carlton Avenue Bridge was ignored--but it may have to break more before it can be reconstructed.

Imagine a world in which there are fewer established media outlets but more sunshine. Some institutions, whether they be online journalism or civic organizations, would have to emerge to validate the importance of the information uncovered.

But perhaps more people would have been reading the documents of the Empire State Development Corporation and more oversight would have emerged.

article

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Ground Report, ACORN Affiliate Given Taxpayer Funds From Candidates It Supported

Libertarian Richard Cooper picks up on the most recent City Hall News exposé on the tangled web otherwise known as ACORN/Working Families Party/Data and Field Services/New York Agency for Community Affairs.

What do we have here? Taxpayers fund a political organization whose views they may not share. This is wrong.

ACORN and its rent-a-pickets have been at the disposal of progressive developer Bruce Ratner's Forest City Ratner's exercise in corporate welfare and eminent domain abuse known as Atlantic Yards which would incorporate a Brooklyn Nets Arena for the basketball team Ratner owns.

NoLandGrab: We would have called Bruce Ratner an "allegedly progressive" or "self-declared progressive" developer, but why quibble?

Mole's Progressive Democrat, Brooklyn Focus: NYC 35th City Council Race: Re-electing one of the few honest councilmembers

Mole333 endorses Councilmember Tish James for re-election, with an anecdote about an encounter with some pro-Atlantic Yards rabblerousers.

Her smile broadened when she saw her opponents and she went up and gave each of them a big hug. She went into the midst of her opponents, and showed that she didn't fear them and didn't hate them just because they opposed her. She showed the issues are issues, they don't have to be personal. I don't know what they were thinking, but those tough bullies sure seemed momentarily charmed by Letitia's grin and big hug. They looked just a little sheepish, in fact. The tension dissipated and we all went back to what we were doing.

THAT is why I love Letitia James. It was a moment that few politicians could have pulled off and she did it naturally and smoothly because that is who she is.

Brooklyn 11211, WITH REGARD TO THE TIMES

With regard to the Times endorsements today, Real Reform Brooklyn continues to see Atlantic Yards conspiracies at every turn. Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report, on the other hand, is suspicious but less willing to call foul when it comes to the Simon endorsement. Being less in the AY loop, I am skeptical, but I will agree with RRB (and AYR) that the Times' 33rd endorsement was lukewarm at best.
...

As to the 35th, where the Times chose not to make an endorsement, the AY influence would appear to be more at play here. Unless, of course, the Times simply considers the race not to be among the "most competitive districts where winning the Democratic primary usually means capturing the seat". But that is outside my jurisdiction.

Posted by eric at 9:42 AM

September 6, 2009

AY Report For Sunday

The $30,000 brownstone: Pete Hamill on "Brooklyn: The Sane Alternative" (1969)

Instead of trying to get to the bottom of the latest doings of the ESDC, Norman Oder turns to an old New York Magazine article to better understand Brooklyn history. Read the entry for yourself to see what has and hasn't changed over the last few decades. This quote gives some of the flavor of what was, and still is, attractive about Brooklyn:

The money quote for the Brownstoner crowd:
It is still possible in Park Slope, for example, to rent a duplex with a garden for $200 a month, a half-block from the subway; still possible to buy a brownstone in reasonably good condition for $30,000, with a number of fairly good houses available for less, if you are willing to invest in reconditioning them. Hundreds of people are discovering that Brooklyn has become the Sane Alternative: a part of New York where you can live a decent urban life without going broke, where you can educate your children without having the income of an Onassis, a place where it is still possible to see the sky, and all of it only 15 minutes from Wall Street. The Sane Alternative is Brooklyn.

Deconstructing an Evan Thies mailer on Atlantic Yards

Below is one side of a campaign mailer I received from 33rd District candidate Evan Thies...

The main quote comes from Ethan Pettit: "Evan Thies has not only taken the lead in the fight to stop Atlantic Yards, his 360° Planning Initiative will stop the next irresponsible megadevelopment from getting off the ground."

Pettit may believe that, but that doesn't make him an authority. A search on ("Ethan Pettit" AND "Atlantic Yards") shows he's had no public presence on AY other than signing a petition on Thies's web site.

Thies has expressed strong opposition to AY, but I wouldn't say he's taken the lead. For example, he didn't testify at: 1) the public hearing held in July by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC); 2) the state Senate oversight hearing held in May; 3) the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's two public meetings in June; and 4) the ESDC's public meeting in June.

The bottom of the mailer quotes this blog: "Thies has probably the most extensive set of suggestions" regarding development. That comes from a piece in April in which I noted that, while Thies was expressing strong opposition, he hadn't aligned himself with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which has taken the lead in opposing Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: Maybe some small comfort can be had that Thies' opposition to the proposed Atlantic Yards project, while not active, at least implies that common wisdom holds the development to be a bad idea.

Posted by steve at 10:28 PM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!

Daily News, Williamsburg businesses fear eminent domain for will steal their livelihoods for Broadway Triangle
BY Erin Durkin

Land is sold in a no-bid process and property owners threatened with eminent domain. It's just another day here in NYC.

'I'm just living in limbo,' says Ernie Wong, co-owner of Shanghai Stainless Product & Design Co. on Gerry St., as he awaits word of city's eminent domain decision. Related NewsLouis: Pols get the brawl rollingToo many loopholes: Campaign money goes for cars, spas & travelRuiz: Businesses come out for health care reformVoice of the People for Sept. 6, 2009Naked Cowboy bows out of mayoral raceIf the city's controversial plan to develop Williamsburg's Broadway Triangle goes forward, at least six small businesses will get the boot - and others will be left with an uncertain future.

While the loudest battles over the plan to build 1,895 low-rise apartments on the 31-acre Triangle site have been over the allegations of political corruption, little attention has been focused on the fate of the existing small businesses in the area.

"I'm just living in limbo," said Ernie Wong, 33, whose family owns Shanghai Stainless Product & Design Co. on Gerry St. and employs 19 people.

The Triangle, located on the border between Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant, is one of a dwindling number of areas in the city zoned for manufacturing.

The city plans to use eminent domain to force five property owners to sell. Another 14 businesses could be displaced by zoning rules that will limit their activities.

...

Aaron Jacobowitz, 44, said it took 14 years to build up a customer base at his Bartlett St. flower shop, Floral Expression. Losing the property and relocating would mean starting from scratch.

"It's a back-room deal," he said. "We're determined to fight it all the way to the end."

Opponents charge the land was handed over to two politically connected nonprofits without a fair bidding process. They say Ridgewood-Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and the Hasidic group United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg used their ties to Brooklyn Democratic boss Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Williamsburg) to be tapped as developers. Lopez and the groups have denied the allegation.

Posted by steve at 9:33 AM

Forest City In the News

Reuters, Forest City Enterprises Notice of Second-Quarter 2009 Earnings Conference Call

Forest City Enterprises, Inc., (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) will release its second-quarter 2009 financial results on Tuesday, September 8, 2009, after the market close, and will hold a conference call with investors on Friday, September 11, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. ET to discuss these results. Investors are invited to dial into the conference call hosted by Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer.

The conference call is scheduled for 11:00 A.M. ET, Friday, September 11, 2009. A live webcast of the call will also be available online at www.forestcity.net .

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

To pre-register, go to: https://www.theconferencingservice.com/prereg/key.process?key=PHJGA4XH7

To participate on the day of the call, dial 888-713-4205 and use access code 38602262, approximately five minutes before the call. Callers without a pre-registration PIN can press *1 to bypass the instructions and speak to a live operator. Tell the operator you wish to join the Forest City 2(nd) Quarter Earnings Conference Call. (International callers, please dial 617-213-4862)

The call will be replayed from September 11, 2009, 2:00 P.M. ET to October 11, 2009, 11:59 P.M. ET. The replay number is 888-286-8010, access code 94172948. (International callers, please dial 617-801-6888). The webcast replay will be available at www.forestcity.net.

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

SOURCE Forest City Enterprises, Inc.

AnnMarie Fenske of Forest City Enterprises, +1-216-621-6060

Posted by steve at 8:52 AM

NetsDaily, quoting many "insiders," says sale of team, bond issuance face tight deadline; can financing and sale be bundled?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder digests claims from the NetsDaily blog on possible futures for the New Jersey Nets. The full analysis is well worth the read. Below are some highlights.

The pseudonymous NetIncome (aka Bobbo), the ill-tempered and amply-but-anonymously-sourced Nets superfan behind much of the NetsDaily blog, has posted The Nets’ Future-An FAQ, which is worth a close look.

It's very interesting stuff, though the lack of clear sourcing should be taken with a grain of salt. I've provided some excerpts, plus some commentary of my own and, notably, from blogger Gari N. Corp, who questions the bundling of both the team sale and arena financing, observing on his Gumby Fresh blog:
This is a tremendously over-leveraged developer trying to pitch a tremendously over-leveraged project to the market.

Ratner trying to line up a buyer for the Nets who would subsequently pay pay rent to Ratner for the proposed arena.

NetIncome sees Newark as impossible, but Oder isn't so sure:

NetIncome writes:
Ray Chambers, one of the former owners, is still pitching Newark. A second insider hinted that Mayor Cory Booker had spoken to some of the owners a while back at Chambers’ request. “If you talk to Ray Chambers and Cory Booker, they’ll tell you how good Newark would be”, said the insider, but he reiterated that Brooklyn is the better deal because of the arena.

Later, he comments more dyspeptically, saying that the Newark investors are illusory--well, the sources are anonymous, as are so many of his--adding:
Again, for about the 1,000th time, there is NO WAY for the Nets to make money in Newark. NONE. Vanderbeek can’t make money on the Devils, for God sake, or the arena, even with all those open dates.

I think it's more complicated. For the Prudential Center, at least, the scenario would change if the Izod Center closes and no longer competes for lucrative concerts.

While it would obviously be more difficult for the Nets to make money in Newark, attendance--the lack thereof which has caused financial woes--almost surely would increase. Here is some insight under the heading of "Timing issues and bonds".

Insiders tell NI that ownership would have to be settled by November, a schedule complicated by a state Court of Appeals decision not expected until mid- to late-November (and, I'd add, potential other court cases). Bond rating agencies must approve the deal.

To build the $772 million Barclays Center (the FAQ says $774M), with $650 million in tax-exempt bonds, according to NI, the team owner must put up $200 million in cash and prove the availability of revenue streams, such as the lease and naming rights.

And here's an indication that Ratner must find a way to end his losses from owning the Nets:

While the Nets have lost $70+ million over the past two years, parent Forest City Enterprises, which has increasingly absorbed team losses "reportedly has told Ratner after this year 'we’re done,'” according to NI.

Oder brings in comment from the blog Gumby Fresh that indicates that some tricky maneuvering would be necessary to line up financing for an arena:

Ratner wants to sell the team, and use the proceeds to fund the stadium. But buyers - with the NBA's support, apparently - do not want to be locked into an above-market lease for a Brooklyn arena. They want to own the arena, but probably don't have the resources to convince the agencies to follow through.

The Nets losses then, are only part of the reason Ratner needs to sell. But Ratner might not be able to sell the team until the financing is in place, but needs to sell the team to conclude the financing. Can he bundle both into a single instantaneous transaction? Watch this space. (Emphasis added)

link

NoLandGrab: It's interesting and useful how comments on one blog cause analysis by other bloggers. But wouldn't it be nice if the Empire State Development Corporation, tool of developer Bruce Ratner, saw fit to let the public know directly the state of the proposed Atlantic Yards development?

Posted by steve at 5:37 AM

NY Times City Council Endorsements (Or Lack Thereof) In Districts Most Affected by Atlantic Yards

Two blog entries concern themselves with endorsements from the New York Times in city council races taking place in districts most directly affected by the proposed Atlantic Yards development. The New York Times is a business partner with developer Bruce Ratner.

Atlantic Yards Voter Guide - Old Gray Lady Dare Not Mention Atlantic Yards, Even When It Would Be Enlightening

In the 39th District, the Times has endorsed Brad Lander. For those who have been fighting the proposed Atlantic Yards development, Josh Skaller is the obvious choice. Skaller has been strictly opposed to Bruce Ratner's land grab early on.

However, the Times can't even bring itself to mention the despised project, instead, saying that Skaller "made a name fighting big development in the area."

Only The Times, with its conflicted relationship with Forest City Ratner, could turn "Atlantic Yards" into the generic "big development in the area." Had the paper actually used the name of the big development Skaller has been fighting it would have alerted readers who care about Atlantic Yards who their candidate is; by diluting it thoroughly the editorial has underinformed its readers and done a solid for Lander. (And that's not to mention the fact that Skaller is well-known for many other reasons including being the former president of the area's most active and reformist political club.)

Atlantic Yards Report - Was AY a factor? The Times's endorsements: Simon in the 33rd; Lander in the 39th; and silence in the 35th

Norman Oder looks at additional City Council races.

There is no endorsement in the 35 Council District seat which is occupied by encumbent and anty-AY stalward Tish James.

Notably, the Times, which said it was weighing in on "several of the most competitive districts," chose not to opine regarding the 35th Council District.

That essentially suggests that the newspaper considers incumbent Letitia James, an AY opponent, and challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa, an AY supporter, equally qualified (or non-qualified)--despite, for example, Hunley-Adossa's curious explanation for her inaccessibility.

The endorsement for Joanne Simon the 33rd District manages to avoid her opposition to Atlantic Yards.

The anonymous Thies partisans at Real Reform Brooklyn (RRB) called it "a pretty naked nod to its development partner" and said "the Times endorsed the one candidate who has done more to undermine unified community opposition to Atlantic Yards than any other."

Well, I wouldn't go that far, but it's notable that the Times didn't see fit to mention AY in any part of the editorial. As I've written, though BrooklynSpeaks's stated position is "mend it, don't end it," I think (contra RRB) the group's record is more mixed, and that it engaged people, such as elected officials, who were never going to join Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and other opponents filing lawsuits

I also note that Thies, though he is a strong opponent of the project now, has not played such a longtime role (given his position as an aide to Council Member David Yassky). And surely the Times doesn't endorse Simon's criticism of the project.

But I would agree with RRB that the endorsement is "pretty lukewarm," given that Simon's legal background and work with the disabled are less relevant than her positions on development issues and independence from the county party.

Brad Lander is endorsed over stronger and long-time Atlantic Yards opponent Josh Skaller in the 39th District. In this case the Times can only mention Atlantic Yards as "big development in the area"

Regarding Skaller, the Times could not see fit to translate "big development" into "Atlantic Yards. Lander has been more associated with BrooklynSpeaks than Atlantic Yards opponents, though he now says the project should be scrapped--another position that the Times surely doesn't support.

The 36th District race doesn't even get a mention.

Also, bizarrely enough, the Times ignored the highly competitive 36th District, where incumbent Al Vann faces seven challengers, with AY critic Mark Winston Griffith one of the best-qualified.

Posted by steve at 4:30 AM

September 5, 2009

Hunley-Adossa campaigners said to be rude in front of incumbent James's office

Atlantic Yards Report

Is Delia Hunley-Adossa, who is running for the City Council seat held by incumbent Tish James, sending young campaign workers to harass Tish's campaign workers at their headquarters? One correspondent thinks so, and Norman Oder wants to know if this is the case.

I and others got an email from a Frank Lavergneau, pointing to apparent rude behavior by teenage campaigners for Delia Hunley-Adossa, who's challenging incumbent Letitia (Tish) James in the 35th Council District:

My name is Frank, I'm a Clinton Hill resident, and I'm somewhat interested/involved in local politics. Today, I was enjoying some coffee along Fulton Street, and I didn't believe what I saw. Around 3:00pm, I saw around 10-12 young women carrying Delia Hunnly signs in front of Tish James' campaign office. None of these girls could have been over 16 years of age, and they were a loud, rude, gyrating crew. I didn't see from which direction they arrived, but they were walking back and forth maybe 2 blocks of Fulton (that included Tish's campaign office), so I couldn't imagine they were there for any other reason but to heckle Tish's campaign people.

It seems really disrespectful, unprofessional, and a bit sad that Delia has to resort to sending children to taunt her opponent [and they did taunt, I overheard them saying, "You should work for Dee! She pays gooood!" to the office, who as far as I could tell ignored the entire event]. Furthermore, this is really disrespectful to the neighbors and businesses to send these loud children into our community for this foolishness. Delia should be thoroughly embarrassed, because I am embarrassed for her. I am not a hard "Tish supporter", but this has made the choice for me. I have attached photos I took on my cell phone as proof, and I am sending this email to all the media I could find online or had already, because this kind of behavior needs to be exposed.

More here on Room 8, which means it was posted by someone with some political/media savvy, likely not the original source.

I have a question in to Hunley-Adossa's campaign.

link

Posted by steve at 9:22 PM

A Check and a Balance? JOHN LIU with Theodore Hamm

The Brooklyn Rail
By Theodore Hamm

This interview with candidate for Comptroller, John Liu, touches on the proposed Atlantic Yards development. It's not clear exactly where he stands regarding the project and if he believes that developer Bruce Ratner can eventually deliver on promises of jobs and housing.

Rail: What about oversight of large development projects? For example, consider the Atlantic Yards. It’s almost impossible that the initial projections will be realized. How can you play a role in seeing that future promises come true?

Liu: I’m the only one in the race talking about these issues. Over the last several years the Bloomberg administration has announced several mega-development projects, including Atlantic Yards, and a number in the Bronx and in Queens. And all these projects promise thousands of jobs and thousands of affordable housing units—and several years later, today, what do we see? Nada, zilch. As comptroller, I will be able to use the audit powers immediately to look at what was announced, and how much progress has been made to see how short we are. Because I’m sure that in every single one of these cases they are significantly short of their goals. And I do that not to say “I got you,” but to put every one of these deals on a timetable with milestones for deliverables on the promises. Right now there is no timetable for any of these major projects.

link

Posted by steve at 6:14 PM

Atlantic Yards Developers Bring in Local NY Firm SHoP, Perhaps to Quell Residual Anger

Media Bistro
By Steve Delahoyde

Here's another reaction to the naming of architects ShoP to work on the proposed Nets arena.

Remember the great and mighty uproar that occurred upon no one being surprised that Frank Gehry was getting kicked off the Atlantic Yards project? The one that helped create the vicious Kansas City vs. New York City feud? Although those initial fires have subsided, there's some new news surrounding the project, with the NY Observer learning that the developer, Forest City Ratner, has brought in a local architecture firm, SHoP, to lend Ellerbe Becket (the group that took over the project) a hand. The Observer couldn't find out how long SHoP has been involved with the project, but read-between-the-lines speculates that this could have been done to fight off some of the bitterness after the Gehry firing and as the developers prepare to unveil the new plans for the new Nets arena and surrounding buildings later this month. Here's a bit:

While certainly not the starchitect that is Mr. Gehry, SHoP is something of the hot local architectural firm these days -- a relatively young practice that designs often iconic buildings with highly distinctive exteriors and skins. Last year the would-be developers of a new South Street Seaport tapped SHoP to design a remake of the area, and the Bloomberg administration turned to SHoP to design its new East River waterfront esplanade.

link

Posted by steve at 6:05 PM

September 4, 2009

Also on News 12: the 33rd, 34th, 36th, and 39th District candidates on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Politics, always politics. Just 11 days to go until the September 15th primary election.

Along with the feisty 35th District debate held recently on News 12, some other News12 debates for Council seats are worth a look, especially for the Atlantic Yards discussion.

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Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Looking at the weekly newspaper endorsements: James, Thies, Skaller, plus some contradictions

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the endorsements from Brooklyn's major weeklies (Brooklyn Paper and Courier-Life, plus Ledger/Star and Caribbean Life) are out and there are some (relative) surprises:

  • three endorsements for incumbent Letitia James in the 35th District and none for challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa
  • two endorsements for Even Thies in the 33rd District and one for Steve Levin
  • two endorsements for Josh Skaller in the 39th District and one for John Heyer (and none for Brad Lander).

Clearly, the Atlantic Yards issue isn't dispositive; otherwise the Brooklyn Paper would not have endorsed AY opponent James as well as proponent Heyer.

Clearly, the issue of independence from the county Democratic Party isn't dispositive; otherwise, the Courier-Life wouldn't have endorsed reformer Skaller as well as Levin, chief of staff to party boss Vito Lopez. (Skaller's an AY opponent, Levin a fence-sitting supporter.)

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Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

The Brooklyn Paper's Schizophrenic Endorsements

The Brooklyn Paper can't seem to make up its mind about Atlantic Yards as a campaign issue.

Incumbent James deserves re-election

No one in elected office has been a more outspoken opponent of Atlantic Yards, and especially its planned basketball arena, than Tish James.

She is a talented community leader who has shown gutsy independence by breaking with the city’s power elite when appropriate.
...

But above all, Letitia James has consistently been ahead of her colleagues in criticizing much-hyped development projects that don’t create as much affordable housing or community benefits as promised.

As a reward for her various fights, James finds herself in a tough struggle for re-election. Her opponent, Delia Hunley-Adossa, is a strong supporter of the Atlantic Yards project, which has allowed her to raise enough money from the construction trades and other allies of the development to wage a serious campaign.

James has had to raise her money the old-fashioned way: by hitting up members of her community for small donations.

Despite her large war-chest, Hunley-Adossa offers little else but her support for Atlantic Yards.
...

For all these reasons, we heartily endorse Letitia James for the Democratic nomination in the 35th District.

Dems should pick Heyer for the 39th District

Democratic voters in Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Carroll Gardens and other parts of the 39th Council District have four extremely qualified candidates for the nomination to succeed Councilman Bill DeBlasio.
...

But the candidate we are endorsing for the Democratic nomination is John Heyer.
...

And he’s the only candidate in the race who is not ashamed to say that he wants the Atlantic Yards basketball arena built at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, a position that we share.

The Brooklyn Paper also endorsed long-time Atlantic Yards opponent Norman Siegel in the race for Public Advocate, and Evan Thies, who has become a very outspoken opponent of the project, in the 33rd District City Council primary.

Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

Just How Effed Are the New Jersey Nets?

Can't Stop The Bleeding
by David Roth

Well, very. And in some surprising ways, if this very detailed, surprisingly well-sourced but fairly dry FAQ from Nets Daily is any indication.

On one level — the most obvious, which is the level on which I really shine — the Nets’ problems aren’t that surprising. They’re preparing to send an 18-win team onto the court in a honking, empty-but-noise-choked arena festooned with branding and logos on every flat and semi-curved surface; they’ve disrespected their fans in ways that few franchises could even conceive. And of course their ticket revenues fell by nearly a third between the ‘07-08 and ‘08-09 seasons, thanks in large part to what has to rank among the most assaultively unpleasant at-game experience in pro sports and a proudly and frankly half-assed approach to building a team. They’re a study in corporate charmlessness and also can’t shoot the basketball. There’s not much left to like.

But the depth and breadth of the problems limned in the Nets Daily piece is honestly stunning. Forbes reports that the team’s debt-to-value ratio is a staggering 71% — the highest in professional sports — and that the team is carrying $200 million in debt. There’s that, but it’s not just that. At some point, the delusion and incompetence of owner Bruce Ratner and his well-compensated crew — marketing tard-genius Brett Yormark, GM Rod Thorn, Director of Player Personnel Kiki Vandeweghe and coach Lawrence Frank combined to earn $12 million last year — becomes almost too much to take. Ratner is losing $35 million on a team he doesn’t give a shit about, and which he is struggling to fit into an arena that he has struggled mightily to get built. That all might be tagged as opportunity cost if his plans for how to turn the whole thing around weren’t so laughably far-fetched....

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NoLandGrab: "Well-sourced?" Only if one counts having a lot of unattributed sources as being "well-sourced." Maybe "amply sourced." Then again, since Nets Daily's "Net Income" is anonymous himself, it's not surprising.

Posted by eric at 9:28 AM

Jo Anne Simon & More Questionable $$$

Real Reform Brooklyn

RRB's anonymous blogger (or bloggers) raises (raise) more questions about fundraising and perceived conflicts of interest in the 33rd District City Council race, and seeks the counsel of DDDB and Norman Oder.

Following up on our earlier report of Jo Anne Simon’s real estate related campaign contributions, we are deeply troubled because she has also taken money from three board members of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (“BBPDC”). BBPDC is a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation (“ESDC”). ESDC is the state agency that has been approving Atlantic Yards through by-passing the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Process.
...

We would be interested in the opinion of Norman Oder and DDDB regarding Simon taking funds from board members approving ESDC development in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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Posted by eric at 9:20 AM

The new arena designs will emerge soon, but keep watch on September 17 and October 14

Atlantic Yards Report

Mark your calendars.

DDDB predicts that next week Forest City Ratner will release the new designs--after the public comment period has closed and without designs for the rest of the project.

DDDB points to "a big court date on October 14," when the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, hears the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case.

But I suggest that September 17 is the next big date.

Yes, the board of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is expected to re-approve the project with few questions, but the ESDC also must release a memo to board members summarizing the critical comments received from the public, and we'll get to see how candid and responsive the ESDC (via consultant AKRF) has been.

And those answers, or lack thereof, may be fodder for more litigation.

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Posted by eric at 9:10 AM

September 3, 2009

It Came from the Blogosphere... (late night edition)

Field of Schemes, Ratner seeking to be Huizenga of the north?

NetsDaily has posted a long FAQ on the future of the New Jersey Nets, whose owner, Bruce Ratner, has them up for sale at the same time as he's trying to move them to a new arena in Brooklyn. Ratner is reportedly looking for both a "premium" sale price and for the new owners to pay a "large annual lease" to play in his new Barclays Center, which he hopes to have open any decade now. Since Ratner would get to keep revenues from all non-NBA events at the arena while also double-dipping from new owners, prospective buyers aren't likely to go for it unless they're severely stupid: One "team insider" said, according to NetsDaily, "In that scenario, Ratner sells the team, you get control of the team and the right to lose $20-$35 million a year on the team. Key to the franchise success is the arena, not the team."

If all this sounds familiar, by the way, it's because it's exactly what Wayne Huizenga did with the Florida Marlins in 1998, sticking new owner John Henry with a terrible lease and an even more terrible team. The difference there is that Huizenga snookered Henry into believing he'd be able to get a new stadium built in south Florida soon (it only ended up taking 14 years), whereas a new Nets owner would be settling into a new home with an awful lease.

NBC New York, Spice Up Show-and-Tell With a Nets Player

The money pit that is the proposed Nets arena in Brooklyn took another turn this week with team owner Bruce Ratner soliciting a new design team in an attempt to save face after the last idea was met with as much enthusiasm as a Pauly Shore movie. That's not the only idea the Nets have up their sleeve to try and curry favor with the public, though.

They've unveiled a promotion in conjunction with the American Dairy Association that will allow one lucky kid between the ages of 6 and 13 to bring a member of the Nets with them to school for a day. While winning would obviously be an exciting moment for any youngster, can you imagine the perspiration that will ensue as the little champion tries to choose between such icons as Keyon Dooling, Jarvis Hayes and Yi Jianlian?

Yahoo Sports blog Ball Don't Lie also covered the story, prompting this comment by "Brandon M":

Just about the whole team gets taken to school on a nightly basis by the rest of the NBA.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Time for Action, Not Talk, From Yassky and de Blasio on Atlantic Yards

Councilmembers David Yassky and Bill de Blasio, whose districts abut the Atlantic Yards site, have yet to fully understand that talk is cheap, actions (or inactions) speak louder than words and a fundamental critique at this late stage of the Atlantic Yards fight is what is called for, not warmed over, out-dated rhetoric.

Brooklyn Heights Blog, New BHS Exhibit - Brooklyn Utopias?

Beginning October 1, The Brooklyn Historical Society presents Brooklyn Utopias an exhibit that will undoubtedly get folks in Brooklyn Heights talking.

The show will feature some of Tracy Collins's photos of the Atlantic Yards footprint, many of which he's been kind enough to allow us to reproduce here.

WHEN: Opening, Thursday, October 1, 2009. 5:30-7:30pm. Exhibit dates: October 2 – January 3, 2010.

WHERE: Brooklyn Historical Society; 128 Pierrepont St. (at Clinton St.); Brooklyn, NY 11201

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], More Public Money for James Campaign

With less than two weeks to go before the Sept. 15 primary, City Councilwoman Letitia James received an additional $63,091 in public funds from the Campaign Finance Board, putting her ahead in the money race.

Delia Hunley-Adossa, one of Ms. James’ challengers, received $1,909 in public funds. Another competitor, Medhanie Estiphanos, who has not received public funds at all during this election cycle, did not get anything in this round of payment, either.
...

With Wednesday’s infusion of public funds, Ms. James has $95,601 cash on hand, based on her last filing, keeping her ahead in the money race. Ms. Hunley-Adossa has $63,859 cash on hand and Mr. Estiphanos has $4,795.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards: Coming Next Week--The Requisite Hubbub

Before you start your holiday weekend, we thought you should know what is going to happen next week, most likely.

Ratner will release new designs for his proposed arena, putting lipstick on a his boondoggle—for the sixth time. (They'll be released after the public comment period on his project has closed. And the release will be notable for something rather important—no designs for any of the rest of the project, which purportedly includes 16 towers and 6,430 housing units.)

This will be followed by the requisite hubbub of high praise and low raspberries.

Then the next day will come and everyone can remember that during the 6-year controversy over the Atlantic Yards plan, the look of the arena has not been the lynchpin of that controversy. And the fight will go on, looking forward to a big court date on October 14.

Posted by eric at 10:43 PM

Brooklyn For Barack Hosts Comptroller Debate

Our Time Press
by Mary Alice Miller

Comptroller candidates David Weprin and John Liu were asked about their views on Atlantic Yards.

Regarding the Atlantic Yards development, Weprin said he “supports some form of development. It is very important the community have input. Regarding I know there was a Community Benefits Agreement. There were commitments that were supposed to provide housing. From what I understand, there is some disagreement whether that commitment is being fulfilled. I have questions about where the project is going. I have reservations about the project’s size and scope and a situation where we throw good money after bad money. It happened after ground zero. Nothing there is happening sufficiently after 8 years. I would hate to see that kind of situation happen at Atlantic Yards. As a citywide official, the Comptroller can use the bully pulpit, but the Comptroller does not have direct control in that particular development, per se.”
...

[Liu] would use the powers of audit to review huge development deals. Regarding Atlantic Yards, that have announced promises of thousands of jobs, affordable housing and years later “I don’t see where all those promises are materializing. I would use the powers of audit to see how far short they are and put these projects on a strict timetable to make sure those promises are delivered to the people.”

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Posted by eric at 10:38 PM

Review and Comment
London and Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Henrik Krogius

The Eagle's Krogius ventures across the pond, and appraises the architecture.

[Lord Norman] Foster’s signal contribution to the London skyline is the glass-and-steel Swiss Re building, popularly called the “gherkin” or pickle, but which The London Encyclopedia says looks more like “a fat rocket” on its launching pad. It, at least, looks interesting, but too much of London’s scattered modern building is simply banal, and where it is getting older, it tends to be dirt-streaked and aging badly.

The situation is not unfamiliar to us in Brooklyn, though we don’t have anything as extreme as some of Foster’s work. Of course, if Frank Gehry should be brought back to build Atlantic Yards, we’d have something to talk about.

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NoLandGrab: At this point, there's a better chance of the Gherkin lifting off like "a fat rocket" than there is of Frank Gehry designing any Atlantic Yards buildings.

Posted by eric at 9:56 PM

NoLandGrab SHoPping Guide

Curbed, BREAKING: Atlantic Yards Going SHoPping for New Arena!

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has been taking a beating ever since he booted starchitect Frank Gehry off his controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject and swapped out the Gehrmeister's Barclays Center arena for a cheapo design from Midwest hacks Ellerbe Beckett (complete coverage here). Now Ratner is looking to save a little face, at least when it comes to architecture geeks. The Observer drops the bombshell that Ratner has brought aboard NYC-based rising starchitects SHoP to assist in the design of the arena. Desperation? Ellerbe Beckett's design has been widely panned by even Ratner's politician buddies, and renderings of the new-look $800 million Barclays Center are due at the end of the month. Still, it's up to SHoP to save us from The Hangar. Can they do it?

Examiner.com New York, SHoP Takes Over at Atlantic Yards

The New York Observer speculated that this might be a "face saving move" for developer Forest City Ratner. However. SHoP has no experience designing stadiums, but they have created notable designs such as that for Southstreet Seaport, a pedistrian bridge and the East River Waterfront esplanade.

Fogelson-Lubliner, Atlantic Yards Update

According to the Observer, our back (Atlantic) yards are now going to be in the hands of New York City based architects SHoP. If this project is going to happen, we’re happy(er) to have it in their hands than the previous architecture firm. Although the article states this is to be a collaboration between the two???

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Taps New Arena Architect

After dropping Frank Gehry, the firm has been on the lookout for a new architect as well as for a way to save face. They settled on SHoP, a New York-based firm that is young and in demand....

Posted by eric at 9:41 PM

The Nets’ Future - An FAQ

Nets Daily

Uber Nets' fan and Atlantic Yards-booster NetIncome posts an interesting and lengthy analysis of the team's dire predicament situation.

Are the Nets for sale?

In spite of denials and protestations, Bruce Ratner has been trying to sell the Nets for the past nine months, hoping to find a buyer who’ll be willing to pay $400 million for the team, a $100 million premium on what he paid for it five years ago, according to Nets insiders.

Who are the likely buyers?

So far, three investment groups have shown interest in the team, all of whom have been identified previously: those led by Vincent Viola, the former chairman of NYMEX and the team’s second largest investor after Ratner; Terry Semel, the former CEO of Warner Brothers and Yahoo!; and Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian oligarch who is among the world’s richest men with a fortune between $10 billion and $15 billion. (In addition, a fourth investor, Marc Lasry, a hedge fund manager, has shown some interest, but it has waned recently, according to published reports confirmed by a team insider.)

What the prospects for a sale?

No better than 50-50, according to insiders. Ratner does not want to give up control of the Barclays Center in any sale or recapitalization. Instead he hopes the team’s new owners will be a tenant only in the new arena, pay him a large annual lease in addition to the substantial premium for the team. The insiders say new buyers are unlikely to pay the premium or the large lease, which is significantly greater than the $2.02 million the Nets now pay the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority for the IZOD Center.

“In that scenario,” said one team insider, “Ratner sells the team, you get control of the team and the right to lose $20 - $35 million a year on the team. Key to the franchise success is the arena, not the team.”
...

Why does Ratner want to sell now?

Ratner’s desire to sell is tied to the team’s increasingly desperate finances—the Nets have lost $70+ million the past two years, according to filings made by Ratner’s parent company, Forest City Enterprises, with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Forest City owns 23% of the team and has increasingly funded team losses, going from 38% to 100% over the past four years, as the filings have noted. It has agreed to fund this year’s losses as well, but reportedly has told Ratner after this year “we’re done”.

Overall, Forest City has lost $119.1 million and all investors $353 million, according to a New York Times analysis of team finances.

There’s also the urgent need to find a significant amount of capital to construct the $774 million Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. Ratner or whoever owns the team must put up at least $200 million in cash and show prospective financiers they have substantial revenue streams—like the lease—in order to obtain tax-exempt financing. And he must do that by year’s end, if not sooner.
...

What about debt? Aren’t the Nets heavily in debt?

According to one insider, half the $400 million would go towards the down payment on the Barclays Center and half towards reducing team debt.

The team’s debt is more than $200 million, says Forbes Magazine. That, reports Forbes, makes the Nets’ debt-to-value ratio the highest in the NBA, if not professional sports, at 71%.
...

How critical was the critics’ legal strategy?

Two insiders offered begrudging praise for the critics’ legal plan, noting that they first took it to federal court, then state court. Even without a victory, that sequencing slowed the legal process to a crawl. It was “brilliant”, said one insider.
...

Suppose it doesn’t work. What happens then?

“The team will be sold to whoever can pay for it,” said an insider. “They could wind up in Seattle or St. Louis.” A sports marketing expert agreed, suggesting that Brooklyn gets less and less likely every day.

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NoLandGrab: While we frequently find ourselves at odds with Mr. Income, he does seem to have good information, though he remains anonymous, as do his sources. If he's on-target, however, Bruce Ratner appears to be suffering from delusions — and a desperate need for cash.

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

Atlantic Yards Report political watch

In a second debate, Hunley-Adossa and James clash; challenger says that half the money from FCR to BEE went to her building

Council Member Tish James and challenger Delia "Dee" Hunley-Adossa face off in another debate.

A News 12 debate taped last Thursday between 35th District Council incumbent Letitia James and challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa shows both candidates going at each other, unlike in their previous debate, when James tangled with third candidate Medhanie Estiphanos.

Hunley-Adossa spoke somewhat more effectively than she did in the previous debate. Despite lobbying the same charge against James, she showed her focus was essentially Atlantic Yards, which she repeatedly pronounced herself in agreement with.

She also claimed--for the first time publicly--that half the money received by her nonprofit, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE), went to air conditioners for her building--a curious example of Forest City Ratner routing money through a third party rather than simply doing the job itself, as it has done for other residents of the area around the AY footprint. It's a reminder that the pleasantly-named BEE, whose board members are Hunley-Adossa's family and neighbors, was originally called the First Atlantic Terminal Housing Committee.

NoLandGrab: Since Brooklyn Endeavor Experience's biggest expense is Dee Hunley-Adossa's salary, and half the money received from Forest City was spent in her own building, maybe "BEE" should be renamed "DEE."

What the 33rd District race is about: Vito Lopez, and the circular firing squad favoring Steve Levin

In the Village Voice, Tom Robbins lays out Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez's role in the 33rd and 34th Council District races, but doesn't quite point out how infighting favors his candidate, Steve Levin, in the 33rd.

And yes, this year, Lopez is pushing the envelope even further, promoting not one, not two, but three of Ridgewood Bushwick's allies into elective office. He is seeking nothing less than a sweep, a kind of Vito-fecta that will further extend his political influence.
...

I wrote earlier about Lopez's power base, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC). And more on Lopez's connections, notably judicial appointments and support for Atlantic Yards, from the anonymous blog Real Reform Brooklyn.

See how RBSCC received nearly $800,000 in the current (FY 10) budget in discretionary funding from the City Council, notably a $350,000 grant attributed to Council Member Lew Fidler and the Brooklyn delegation.

In the FY 09 budget, it received more than $900,000. Note that nearly $280,000 in grants attributed to 34th District City Council Member Diana Reyna were not renewed, as Reyna has split with Lopez and he now backs challenger Maritza Davila. Now 37th District Council Member Erik Martin Dilan has picked up the slack. A victory by Levin in the 33rd would certainly help Lopez and his organization.

NLG: Levin has ducked at least half of the 33rd District candidates' debates — not a promising sign for constituent service and accessibility should he win the primary election.

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

Support Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The BoroThreads Guys
by Marcos Salazar

The tee-shirt purveyors/bloggers are donating every last dime of profit from the sale of DDDB clothing to the fight to stop Atlantic Yards.

Help support DDDB by purchasing DEVELOP DON'T DESTROY BROOKLYN clothing at BoroThreads.com. We will be donating 100% of the profits to support the fight against Atlantic Yards so please buy a cool DDDB shirt and tell all your friends to do so also!

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shop here

Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

Iannazzone: Nets' giveaway not a good fit

NorthJersey.com
by Al Iannazzone

The Record's Nets' beat reporter is not a fan of the team's reversible-jersey promo.

The concept is interesting and innovative, but shows how bad things are in sales and that trying to create a home-court advantage isn't as important as making sure people are in the seats.

That's part of the sales department's job and no one works harder than people in the Nets' organization at trying to stir interest, which isn't easy in this economic climate and with outside expectations of the team lower than they have been in more than a decade. But as bold and creative as this plan is, there's also something fundamentally wrong with it.

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Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

Hearings begin Thursday on MTA Chair/CEO nominee Walder; will Vanderbilt Yard deal be an issue?

Atlantic Yards Report

Three New York State Senate committees this week kick off hearings on the nomination of Jay Walder to head the MTA.

Maybe we'll learn whether the incoming head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) thinks the agency got a good deal on the Vanderbilt Yard.

(Remember, the MTA in June agreed to accept only $20 million upfront from Forest City Ratner instead of $100 million; gave the developer generous terms to pay the rest; and agreed that a smaller rather than larger replacement year was acceptable. And there was apparently no formal legal advice beyond a checkoff.)
...

So, what does Walder think? Is the MTA bound to its political patrons, or to its riders?

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Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

Straight from (then) ESDC CEO's mouth: a promise of two community meetings

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, the production is lousy, but you should get the point. At the June 23 board meeting of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), then CEO Marisa Lago promised not one but two community information sessions, as I wrote August 24.

The video above picks up from here: "So this is the first meeting of the ESDC board, to be followed by a public hearing on 30 days notice, a public hearing in the community, and then to be followed by a second ESDC board meeting."

"Knowing the interest in this project, we have committed to have additional community sessions beyond what is required," she continued. "And we will be having a community session--a question-and-answer session in the community--before the public hearing and then another after the public hearing. And at those community sessions, there will be the opportunity for community questions to be answered."

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NoLandGrab: Oh well... knowing the controversy around this project, the ESDC has now committed to not holding "additional community sessions beyond what is required."

From the outside, it's hard to tell if Lago was sincere, and if her sincerity forced enough of a rift with the developer-driven powerbase in the ESDC to cause her to resign.

Posted by lumi at 7:49 AM

Atlantic Yards political watch

If it doesn't actually make your stomach turn, then it's kinda fun watching citywide candidates trying to get their stories straight on Bruce Ratner's controversial Brooklyn boondoggle:

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Thompson "Late Supporter" of Atlantic Yards. Says Urban Planning Not About "Developer Accommodation"

Whoopsie! Despite what Mayoral hopeful and current City Comptroller William Thopmson says, he seems to have forgotten that he publicly supports Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards boondoggle, at least since 2005.

Comptroller and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson says he is a "late supporter" of Atlantic Yards. Late supporter? Support has moved away from the project over the years due to more and more coming to light about what a boondoggle it is. Becoming a late supporter means one is moving towards a boondoggle.

Anyway, it is hardly true. Thompson was an early supporter. Thompson's letter of support was part of the development proposal package submitted to the MTA by Forest City Ratner in 2005. Download his letter here [pdf].

Atlantic Yards Report, At the Comptroller debate, Yassky's contradiction on AY

In all fairness, it can be hard to keep the facts and figures straight on Atlantic Yards, especially since some of them are such moving targets. However after seriously lowballing some of the figures for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, City Councilmember and candidate for City Comptroller David Yassky declares, "The project should not be built with taxpayer money."

Norman Oder points out:

[T]he only way Forest City Ratner would build it is with taxpayer money, and a "right-sized project" might require more subsidies. Still, Yassky thinks it's a "good project," so he's been unwilling to challenge such things as the state's dubious finding of blight.

Check out the rest of the article to learn more about how the other candidates bungle the issue.

NoLandGrab: In classic Yassky fashion, he's managed to confuse his position on Atlantic Yards. At this point, we have to assume that he's for the project, if only it could be a different project, and will occasionally speak out against it, but won't do anything about it.

Atlantic Yards Report, On Brian Lehrer Show, de Blasio wants "original interpretation" of AY

City Councilmember and Public Advocate candidate Bill de Blasio wants you to know that when it comes to Atlantic Yards he's a strict constructionist:

[WNYC Radio host Brian] Lehrer asked, "Do you have a position on Atlantic Yards and what should happen next?"

"I have said from the beginning I believe in the affordable housing, the hiring of local residents and living wage levels," de Blasio said. "This vision has not been fulfilled so far. I think there should be no more subsidies. I think there should be no more demolitions. I think the company involved has to prove that they will keep to the original interpretation or we should pull the plug."

No more demolitions? De Blasio is repeating talking points from April 2008.

The original interpretation? Forest City Ratner has changed its plans in numerous ways, but the single biggest one, about which de Blasio was noticeably silent, was the revision in June of the deal for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, saving developer Forest City Ratner more than $100 million and leading to a smaller, rather than larger (as promised), permanent railyard.

NoLandGrab: No more demolitions?? Sorry Bill — Ratner has already taken down every building he can, except for the Spalding building, which at this point is worth more standing, should Atlantic Yards not get built. Plus, de Blasio was nowhere near the footprint when the wrecking balls were flying.

Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

Post-Gehry, Atlantic Yards' Nets Arena To Be Designed by New York Boutique SHoP

The NY Observer
By Eliot Brown

shop.gif

After dropping famed architect Frank Gehry from the Nets basketball arena planned for Brooklyn, the developer of the massive mixed-use project has brought in New York-based architecture firm SHoP to assist in the design of the venue, according to a person informed of the decision.

The developer, Forest City Ratner, plans to unveil renderings of the $800 million arena later this month.

The choice seems a face-saving move for Forest City, as a substantial backlash from public officials and the press followed its decision to drop Mr. Gehry in the name of cost.

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Atlantic Yards Report, Observer: the new buzzy architect working on the arena is SHoP

Stealing some of Forest City Ratner's thunder, the New York Observer reveals the name of the new architect working on the Atlantic Yards arena--though not any new renderings.
...
Surely City Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden, who reportedly leaked the "hangar-like" design of Ellerbe Becket (which replaced Frank Gehry), is now pleased that a firm with some cachet is on the job. She already likes SHoP.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, SHoP Hops Into Atlantic Yards Fight. Arena Design Besides the Point

We have nothing to say about SHoP other than—welcome to the fight.

It is important to note that while there is a new firm designing the arena (and presumably they'll be working with Ellerbe Becket) there are no new renderings. Ratner waited until after the public comment period on the Modified General Project Plan ended on August 31st. Presumably the new renderings will be released soon before, or even on the day of, the ESDC's September 17th board meeting, when the board is expected to rubberstamp the project, again, no matter what the arena looks like and no matter that the rest of the project has no designs at all.

Daily Intel, Signs of Hope for a More Exciting Atlantic Yards Arena Design

The young firm, which has never designed an arena, will work alongside Eberle [sic] Beckett — experts at efficient, if uninspiring, stadium design.
...
Of course, elsewhere in the Observer, they're reporting that underlying fundamentals of commercial real-estate investments are going to cause a massive plateau on mortgage defaults in the next two years, so we're not going to hold our breath on seeing any of this executed.

Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

Bargaining for Brooklyn: insights into Vito Lopez's influence and how affordable housing lotteries work

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder adds Nicole Marwell's "Bargaining for Brooklyn: Community Organizations in the Entrepreneurial City" to his continuing education on all things Atlantic Yards:

[The book has] become surprisingly relevant to observers trying to understand political power in North Brooklyn and beyond, given the role of Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Vito Lopez.

Also, as I describe below, the book offers insight into the not always fair lotteries used to winnow applicants for affordable housing--an issue that should be on the Atlantic Yards radar screen.
...
Marwell also describes how housing lotteries work--an instructive example for those watching Atlantic Yards, given that, should affordable housing be built, it would be distributed via lottery.

(Actually, there might be multiple lotteries, or parts, given that half of the subsidized units would be reserved for residents of Community Boards, 2, 6, and 8, and ten percent of the total for seniors.)

Marwell writes that lotteries can be gamed somewhat--though, I suspect, given the intense publicity over Atlantic Yards, the chances would be lower.

Still, housing organization ACORN, partner with developer Forest City Ratner, would be under intense pressure from its members--the people who showed up, in many cases clueless and hopeful, at public hearings to tout the projects--to deliver the units to them, or at least to help position them for the best chance at such scarce housing.

Keep in mind that only 900 of the promised 2250 affordable units would be low-income (under 50% of Area Median Income, or about $35,000 for a four-person household), and that only a fraction of those units would be delivered in the first building or two.

Also note that even proponents, like former Empire State Development Corporation CEO Marisa Lago, have said it's highly unlikely that the project would be built in a decade, as officially promised, and that there's no evidence that there are sufficient affordable housing subsidies--or that the ESDC can require the timetable to be met.

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Posted by lumi at 6:44 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Inversecondemnation.com, Amicus Brief In NY Court Of Appeals In Goldstein/Atlantic Yards Case: NY's Public Use Clause Prohibits Judicial Rubber Stamp Of Takings

Willets Point United has filed an amicus brief supporting their fellow New York City property owners in the public use case now pending in the New York Court of Appeals regarding the Atlantic Yards "redevelopment" project in Brooklyn, Goldstein v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp. As we noted here, Willets Point is under the takings gun itself, and has our Owners' Counsel colleague Mike Rikon helping them (he also filed the amicus brief).

The brief argues that the Court of Appeals should not follow the Kelo rule of total deference to economic development takings: "The majority decision in Kelo v City of New London written by Justice Stevens was wrong, wrong in its holding and wrong on its facts."

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Misrepresents Ownership

The Atlantic Yards Report points us towards a little sleight-of-hand by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). In the comments filed regarding the Modified General Project Plan (GPP) for the Atlantic Yards development, local property owner Henry Weinstein states that the GPP uses an old and inaccurate map of Forest City Ratner's holdings. The map, dated November 1, 2006, falsely implies that Forest City Ratner owns or controls Weinstein's property, which includes a building and two lots used as a parking lot at the corner of Carlton and Pacific.

Brownstoner Forum, Buying into Newswalk?

It's just one person's opinion — "perhaps" believes that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan is a point of consideration before purchasing a unit in the Newswalk building:

It's also important to consider newswalk's engulfed (almost) by the Atlantic yards project - units facing away from the yards (south exposure) are preferable, but you'll see that reflected in pricing

Queens Crap, "Affordable housing" promise becomes even more of a joke
"Crappy" reposted Atlantic Yards Report's analysis of the Daily News follow-up on the Atlantic Yards Report scoop on lack of affordable housing guarantees for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Architectural Lamentations, The Ignominious Brooklyner is Now Brooklyn's Tallest

111 Lawrence Street is now Brooklyn's tallest building with 51 stories of bland condominiums. It is impressive that this building managed to escape relatively unscathed, from public outcry or protest. This is especially so considering the amount of attention Frank Gehry and Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project Miss Brooklyn received.

The Local, Linkfest: Final Word, Crime Alert and More

The Daily News calls the race for the City Council 35th District seat as being a battle over Atlantic Yards. Candidate Delia Hunley-Adossa said incumbent Letitia James’s unflinching opposition to the project without considering a negotiation is “unacceptable.”

On a similar note, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn wants opponents of Atlantic Yards to register for a walkathon to raise funds for legal action against the development. The walk route ends with a party at Fort Greene’s Habana Outpost.

Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

September 2, 2009

Brooklyn elections for borough Council districts pit incumbents against upstart challengers

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

It's a battle over Atlantic Yards in the race for the 35th District seat.

Incumbent Letitia James is one of the most vocal opponents of developer Bruce Ratner's plan for a Nets arena and 16 towers in Prospect Heights. She faces challenge from Delia Hunley-Adossa, a project backer whose nonprofit, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, is funded by Ratner under a community benefits agreement.

"Being in opposition and not sitting at the table or attempting to negotiate with the developer on behalf of the community is unacceptable," said Hunley-Adossa, who is also president of the 88th Precinct Community Council.

"Her position is one way: 'I'm against it. I don't care who's for it. I don't care what everybody's saying that needs jobs, that needs housing,'" she said.

Hunley-Adossa said her group got about $400,000 from Forest City Ratner. Its biggest single expenditure has been her salary - $51,000 over six years, she said.

"I'm not ashamed," she said, adding the money has gone to pay for air conditioners and rat abatement for homes near the construction site, environmental awareness classes, and sending kids to summer camp.

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NoLandGrab: We're not surprised that Ms. Hunley-Adossa is "not ashamed." We would be surprised if she produced receipts for all those claimed expenses, however.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Parsing the Daily News story on the 35th District; Hunley-Adossa, treated unskeptically, says Ratner gave $400,000

Norman Oder is a bit skeptical, too.

While Delia Hunley-Adossa mostly steers clear of Atlantic Yards on her campaign web site, and has disingenuously claimed that her candidacy for the 35th Council District has nothing to do with the project she supports, the Daily News today places the project front and center--and does an inadequate job by not looking closely enough at her statements regarding the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).
...

Also, she'd never before said that the money went to rat abatement or air conditioners--both the responsibility of Forest City Ratner under the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, with no mention of its CBA partners. Nor does the BEE web site claim such spending.

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

Tickets Are Tough Sell for New Giants Stadium

The NY Times
By Joe Lapointe

Bruce Ratner would have fans and investors believe that the NJ Nets' weak attendance figures will improve once he moves the team to a brand new arena in Brooklyn.

This week, the Times reports that the Giants and Jets are having a rough time selling season tickets for the teams' new stadium.

But in selling seats for both stadiums during a severe recession, Jets and Giants officials are facing economic forces that have been daunting even big-ticket sports franchises in major markets.

The Giants, who still have seats to sell for some games this season, have not found buyers for about 3,000 club season tickets for 2010, some in the best locations at the highest prices.

And the Jets lag behind the Giants. They said they still had “a few thousand” season tickets remaining for 2009 and were advertising half-season packages.

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NoLandGrab: Who would have predicted that teams with decades-long waiting lists for tickets would be such a tough sell?

It's a bad omen for Bruce Ratner, whose Nets fan base deteriorated last season to the point that the team stooped to offering packages with $10 tickets and kept finding new ways to give away tickets.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

An F train express, East Side Access, and affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report goes slightly off-topic to explore the concept that improved subway infrastructure, such as running an F-train express, has an "important side-effect...: increased production of housing, and thus more affordable housing."

In other words, boosting infrastructure might be a better bet to produce affordable housing than unquestioning support for Atlantic Yards, a lesson AY boosters like Bill de Blasio (who also supports the F express) may not recognize.

(Could it be that there's no activist organization like ACORN behind the more generalized benefits of improved transit? Yes, I know the Straphangers Campaign supports the F Express, but they don't mobilize people the way ACORN does.)

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Posted by lumi at 5:22 AM

Forest City in the News

SmarTrend, Forest City Enterprises (FCE.A) Bullish Technical Alert - Trend Up 40.4%

Forest City Enterprises (NYSE:FCE.A) is trading 2.3% higher (up $0.21 to $9.46) today on volume of 92,210 shares. The stock has traded within a 52-week range of $3.26 and $40.49.

Forest City Enterprises is currently above its 50-day moving average of $6.90 and above its 200-day moving average of $6.43.

SmarTrend is bullish on shares of FCE.A and our subscribers received an Uptrend alert on July 27, 2009 at $6.74, which has returned 40.4% to date.

Press Release, via Reuters.com, Forest City Announces Loan Extension and Tenants for Ridge Hill

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today announced that Forest City Ratner Companies, its New York-based subsidiary, has reach an agreement with a 13-member bank group on a two-year extension and modification of the $557 million construction financing for the retail/mixed-use Ridge Hill project, currently under construction in Westchester County, New York.

The financing, which originally matured in August 2010, will now have an initial maturity of August 2012, with two 12-month extensions available.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City gets extension on $557 million in financing for New York project
Associated Press, viaForbes.com, Forest City unit modifies construction financing

Posted by lumi at 4:37 AM

September 1, 2009

not exactly the Bedford Falls Building and Loan

Fans For Fair Play

Scott M.X. Turner dissects Barclays CEO Bob Diamond's recent interview with the Star-Ledger's Steve Politi.

Diamond repeated carefully-parsed talking points: Ratner's the man, the recession has been tough on poor Bruce, Big Evil Community Opposition has slowed the project.

There were, however, a couple of newsworthy and cringeworthy sentiments.

Diamond let slip that Barclays has seen the newly-revised designs for Ratner's arena. Yes, the designs that aren't supposed to exist and can't be made available for public scrutiny before the state agency overseeing the project votes to re-affirm the it. Wacky Barclays, letting the cat out of the knickers, or torch or wireless or lift or jumper or whatever mistakenly-spilled beans are called in Merry Olde.

Then there was this from Diamond: "The original intent...was branding. We wanted to continue to enhance the brand of Barclays and do something in New York, where the majority of our clients are. There were many opportunities when it came to naming rights, and what really tripped our trigger on this one was the recovery of Brooklyn and a community that was really quite poor. It not only fit our need to brand, but it fit the fact that we like to give back to the community."

  • The "recovery of Brooklyn"? When was the last time Bob Diamond set foot in Brooklyn? During the '77 Blackout? Brooklyn's been doing fine all by our lonesome, clawing back one block, one small business, one family at a time, without Ratner's help, never mind Barclays'. (And if Diamond says "hey, I live in Brooklyn," then those blinders he's wearing must be way too tight.)
  • "The original intent was branding" Well goodness, all this time we thought it was Jobs, Hoops and Housing. Glad this has all been about flying that blue eagle in neon over the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic.
  • "tripped our trigger" The shepherd's pie falls even closer to the tree...
  • "a community that was really quite poor" What community are you talking about, Bob? The Black community? The public-housing community? The immigrant community? Any community that stands between you and Barclays' exciting new branding offensive?
  • "It fit the fact that we like to give back to the community" If Barclays hasn't actually been here before (outside of those Middle Passage profit margins in the 17th century), to whom are you giving back? Nothing a like a bank that prides itself on big ol' helpings of warm and fuzzy paternalism.

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Posted by eric at 9:14 PM

Tracing the deceptive property ownership map back to Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder sheds a little more light on the Great Property Control Swindle.

Not unlike the way that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) puts its name on Atlantic Yards Construction Updates produced by developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), evidence suggests that the map of property ownership in the AY footprint also comes directly from the developer.

I earlier today suggested that the ESDC was misleading people by using an 11/1/06 map to describe current ownership. And I wrote in May that the ESDC seemed to be taking FCR's cue in presenting facts on the map.

But it may be much simpler: ESDC is simply reproducing what Forest City gives them.

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NoLandGrab: Good grief! The ESDC is either totally incompetent, or Bruce Ratner really is pulling all the strings in Albany.

Posted by eric at 8:58 PM

Green, de Blasio support AY without considering balance between costs and benefits

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder goes to the heart of the matter in the recent Community Newspaper Group debate among candidates vying in the Democratic primary for NYC Public Advocate.

I wrote earlier about the divide on Atlantic Yards in the Public Advocate race, as shown in a recent WABC debate, but a previous debate, sponsored by the Community Newspaper Group, and Brooklyn Community Access Television, also is instructive.

Not only does it show candidate Bill de Blasio supporting affordable housing and jobs without any reflection on the cost of those benefits, it shows former Public Advocate (and frontrunner) Mark Green deferring to the mayor and economic development agencies to determine the benefits, without any acknowledgment that such analyses are absent or deeply flawed.

The issue of AY came up at about 13:03. (Previous coverage in the Courier-Life described the AY issue, but not in as much detail as below.)

Click thru for the Atlantic Yards blow-by-blow.

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NoLandGrab: "Public" advocate? De Blasio and Green seem to define "public" quite narrowly.

Posted by eric at 8:42 PM

Who controls the corner of Carlton and Pacific? Behind a deceptive map in the 2009 Modified General Project Plan

Atlantic Yards Report

There are lies, damned lies, and then, there are Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation.

There's something wrong with the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (GPP), property owner Henry Weinstein pointed out in comments filed Monday with the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC): it describes his property incorrectly.

The properties, a building and two plots used as a parking lot, have a dark shade in the map, dated 11/1/06, indicating that the property is owned or controlled by Forest City Ratner. (See color version [PDF] from 2006 Modified GPP. Click on all graphics to enlarge.)

Double asterixes attached to each of the three lots indicate, "FCRC has closed on an option to take by assignment the lessee's interest under the ground leases for these properties. However, the property owner has objected to such assignments."

That's no longer accurate. Weinstein has so far prevailed in court. As he wrote:
New York State courts have ruled twice that those properties have never been owned or controlled by Bruce Ratner or FCRC....

ESDC continues a pattern of intentional misrepresentation of the facts and the far worse conduct of ignoring the truth when it is brought to their attention in their continuing efforts to benefit FCRC and Bruce Ratner. ESDC even went so far as to single my property out for a special mention of condemnation to the media after my unanimous Appellant Court decision in an apparent further effort to help Bruce Ratner and blunt the decision’s meaning... My dual court cases reveal a pattern of illegal and questionable behavior which only benefits Bruce Ratner and FCRC, why ESDC is a willing partner, remains to be answered.

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Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

Bill de Blasio's evasiveness on Atlantic Yards (and opposition from Public Advocate candidates Siegel and Gioia)

Atlantic Yards Report

DDDB's unofficial transcript of the Atlantic Yards portion of the recent Public Advocate debate shows Brooklyn City Council Member Bill de Blasio, currently second in the polls to former Public Advocate Mark Green (and gaining thanks to a New York Times endorsement), continuing his ignorance and obfuscation on Atlantic Yards.

Meanwhile, candidates Norman Siegel and Eric Gioia expressed opposition to the project, while frontrunner Mark Green, a former Public Advocate, wouldn't criticize it. Even the supporters, de Blasio and Green, agreed there should be no more subsidies for the project, but they haven't exactly criticized increased subsidies in the past two months.

The AY piece somehow didn't make the print coverage in the Times, which called the debate "light on policy" even though there was a lively discussion about the City Council "slush fund" scandal, with Siegel and Green landing some blows. For those who remember, the Times in 2005 ignored Siegel's challenge on AY to incumbent Betsy Gotbaum.

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Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM