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February 28, 2010

Carlton Avenue Bridge

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

Carlton Avenue Bridge

Carlton Avenue at Pacific Street
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

The Carlton Avenue Bridge over the Vanderbilt rail yard was demolished for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by steve at 10:00 AM

AY Report: de Blasio's Attempt at Transparency, AY Corrections From The NY Times

Atlantic Yards Report

Public Advocate de Blasio pushes (voluntary) transparency for Council earmarks, discretionary funds from mayor and borough presidents

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio announced on February 24 a new government web site that will detail how elected officials--City Council members, the mayor, and borough presidents--spend discretionary funds.

It's a good idea, but, as the Daily News noted in an editorial today, a web site based on voluntary compliance isn't enough.

Moreover, as the Daily News pointed out, City Council President Christine Quinn "should have instituted this type of disclosure long ago" regarding "the Council's $50-million-a-year slush fund... a font for thievery." (Indeed, former Council Member Miguel Martinez is n prison and Council Member Larry Seabrook has been indicted.)

Public Advocate or Comptroller

I'll add that it's not necessarily something the Public Advocate must do, since Comptroller candidate David Yassky had the same idea during his campaign, and even set up a web site, It's Your Money NYC, featuring 2009 budget data (but not 2010 budget data), albeit limited to Council Members.

The value of transparency

Such transparency should be part and parcel of city government. I had to request capital budget data last year to learn, as I wrote last May, some $24.6 million, more than a third of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's 2009 capital budget, was directed to the $64 million amphitheater planned for Asser Levy Park in Coney Island, home of one of the two summer concert series Markowitz has long sponsored.

A week later, the Times corrects two Atlantic Yards errors

A correction in today's New York Times:

An article last Sunday about Sharon Zukin, a Brooklyn College sociology professor and critic of gentrification who argues for stronger government regulation of rents and zoning, referred incorrectly to the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, which Ms. Zukin cited as an example of inexorable gentrification. It is a project, not a place, and city officials did not in fact rezone the property to allow the development.

While the Times has acted responsibly in correcting the record, I don't see why it should have taken a week. I posted a critique on Saturday, February 20, and sent in a request for a correction that morning.

In other words, even if the Metropolitan section went to press early Saturday, a correction could have appeared in the main section Sunday.

Posted by steve at 9:49 AM

February 27, 2010

AY Report: Paterson as "Pathological Liar", Sid's Hardware Leaves "Dead Scene"

Atlantic Yards Report

"Pathological liar" Paterson, a compromised governor, and Atlantic Yards

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, in a post-mortem on Governor David Paterson, who has suspended his campaign but resisted calls to resign:

Paterson, however, was criticized by opponents of the Atlantic Yards/Barclays Arena project, who had hoped that he would come out strongly against the plan.

“We met with the governor and he had promised an independent review of Atlantic Yards in December, but he never followed through,” said Dan Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. Goldstein concurred with Village Voice writer Wayne Barrett’s depiction of Paterson as a “pathological liar.”

Well, I don't think a single episode makes Paterson a "pathological liar," but, like too many politicians, he made a promise and didn't follow through.


Then again, Barrett's gotten a lot more opportunity to observe the governor. He called Paterson a "pathological liar" yesterday on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show and, writing on Thursday in the Voice's blog, called for the governor to resign:

Who is running the state of New York? Is there any way an embattled governor, fresh off a national lying tour launched on Larry King, can possibly guide a budget through a divided legislature? Is there a shred of credibility left?

Sid's Hardware is leaving MetroTech; last June, a representative told the MTA board that Atlantic Yards would benefit it and other local retailers

The Brooklyn Paper reports that family-owned Sid's Hardware, the first local retailer to transfer to MetroTech after the project changed Downtown Brooklyn, is moving to Hamilton Avenue at the southern end of the Gowanus Canal and near Park Slope.

In what in retrospect seems like an act of duty to the AY-supporting Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (on whose board Sid's has a seat), a representative of the story testified last June before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that the arena project would bring new customers and other benefits to Sid's and its neighbors.

Instead, Sid's isn't waiting around. According to the Paper:

“Look, the rents are too high, there’s no parking, and this dead scene isn’t a place to run a business,” said Rich Popper, a store manager. “The other day, I had one guy go around the block for 20 minutes so he could pick up a couple cans of paint.”

NoLandGrab: Although the MetroTech BID likes to boast on its website that Metrotech "was conceived as a means of revitalizing Downtown Brooklyn," the characterization of the area as a "dead scene" is an indication of the sad truth about this Bruce Ratner development.

Posted by steve at 9:16 AM

Governor Paterson Had Strong Ties to Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By David Caruso, Associated Press and Raanan Geberer, Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Governor David Paterson announced yesterday that he will not run for a full term. This article takes the opportunity to review Paterson's appearances in Brooklyn and his involvement with Brooklyn issues, including his broken promise to take a much-needed hard look at Atlantic Yards.

Paterson, however, was criticized by opponents of the Atlantic Yards/Barclays Arena project, who had hoped that he would come out strongly against the plan.

“We met with the governor and he had promised an independent review of Atlantic Yards in December, but he never followed through,” said Dan Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. Goldstein concurred with Village Voice writer Wayne Barrett’s depiction of Paterson as a “pathological liar.”

NoLandGrab: Paterson's failure to execute a review of the proposed Atlantic Yards project allows the ESDC, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, to run roughshod over Prospect Heights.


Posted by steve at 8:58 AM

Forest City Ratner: Carlton Ave Bridge Closure “a Bit of a Conundrum”

by Ben Fried

This account of last Wednesday's meeting on street closings for the proposed Atlantic Yards project focuses on Forest City Ratner's pushing the schedule to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge much further into the future than promised. Attention is paid to the more than 1,000 "interim" parking spaces on the project footprint. With a 25-year buildout allowed, these spaces could remain a blight on the area for decades.

Forest City Ratner did discuss its failure to reopen the Carlton Avenue bridge. This missing piece of the Prospect Heights/Fort Greene street grid -- a critical link for cyclists who use the Manhattan Bridge -- was originally expected to be rebuilt two years after closing in January 2008, with Forest City facing a three-year deadline to complete the work before incurring penalties. Now the reconstructed bridge is unlikely to open until 2012 at the earliest, and Oder reports that Forest City's explanation, along with its timetable, keeps on shifting.

Largely unmentioned at the meeting was Forest City's intention to construct more than a thousand "interim" surface parking spaces on the site, mostly to store vehicles belonging to their employees and construction workers. Since all this new parking could sit around generating traffic and blighting the landscape for quite some time, neighborhood groups want to know how exactly how much would be constructed, and how it will be priced and managed. They didn't get any answers on Wednesday.


Posted by steve at 8:49 AM

AY Street Closures Could be Imminent

By Aaron Short

Here is coverage of this past Wednesday's meeting regarding street closures for the proposed Atlantic Yards project. The opening sentence implies, but doesn't explain, how street closings will occur before construction begins on an arena.

Getting around Downtown Brooklyn could get a little harder even before construction begins this year on the new Barclays Center Arena.

According to Department of Transportation coordinator Chris Hrones, Pacific Street, between Vanderbilt and Carlton Avenues, and Fifth and Sixth avenues will be closed permanently, in addition to Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, to accommodate the $4 billion Atlantic Yards development project. Public transportation options will also change as a result of the street closures, forcing the elimination of the B63 bus stop on Fifth Avenue, between Pacific and Atlantic avenues.


City officials had expected to implement the closures by February 1, but all changes have been suspended pending a decision by State Supreme Court Judge Abraham Gerges to proceed.


Posted by steve at 8:41 AM

February 26, 2010

It came from the Blogosphere...

Streetsblog, Forest City Ratner: Carlton Avenue Bridge Closed Until 2012

New information did surface about reopening the Carlton Avenue bridge: Forest City Ratner has shifted the timetable again. This missing piece of the Prospect Heights/Fort Greene street grid -- a critical link for cyclists who use the Manhattan Bridge -- was originally expected to be rebuilt two years after closing in January 2008, with Forest City facing a three-year deadline to complete the work before incurring penalties. Now, Oder reports, the reconstructed bridge is unlikely to open until 2012 at the earliest, according to Forest City's Jane Marshall.

Largely unmentioned at the meeting was Forest City's intention to construct more than a thousand "interim" surface parking spaces on the site, mostly to store vehicles belonging to their employees and construction workers. Since all this new parking could sit around generating traffic and blighting the landscape for quite some time, neighborhood groups want to know how exactly how much would be constructed, and how it will be priced and managed. They didn't get any answers on Wednesday.

Brownstoner, Carlton Avenue Bridge Closed Through at Least 2012

The Volokh Conspiracy, Nicole Gelinas on Blight Condemnations in New York

Nicole Gelinas has an interesting article on the expansive use of “blight condemnations” in New York. As she points out, New York courts have defined blight so broadly that virtually any area can be designated as such, and then condemned. This has created massive opportunities for abuse by politically connected interest groups who can use eminent domain to get the government to take property they covet.

Gideon's Trumpet, Is “Central Planning” Behind Urban Redevelopment?

Many — possibly most — redevelopment decisions are made by individual developers — New York’s Bruce Ratner being the proverbial Exibit A — who identify an urban area that seems to them to be a likely spot for construction of a lucrative project, and then proceed to persuade the local government to get the land in question for them. It is not unusual to see cases where a developer approaches a land owner and offers to buy the latter’s property, but when negotiations fail to produce a deal, the local municipality miraculously declares the subject property to be “blighted,” and takes it for redevelopment by — who else? — the developer who was unable to acquire it in a consensual transaction.

Reason Hit & Run, "Eminent Domain as Central Planning"

Streetsblog, Community Benefits Agreements: What Do They Mean for Livable Streets?

In New York, however, the history of community benefits agreements is stained with failures. The CBAs crafted here are often held up as models for what not to do, said Lavine. Millions of dollars that the Yankees promised to local organizations have never been distributed. In Brooklyn, the Atlantic Yards CBA has been criticized as little more than a fig leaf for the developer.

Lavine cited the lack of real community involvement in the negotiations of the Columbia, Atlantic Yards, and Yankee Stadium CBAs as undermining those agreements. "There have also been issues with people taking money from developers," she added. "That's certainly not a best practice."

Transcendentalist Television, Ed Sullivan On Acid

Ed Sullivan On Acid at Freddy’s Backroom, the longest running stand-up comedy show in Brooklyn has been on the verge of being shut down most of its run. What is threatening Freddy’s is the Brooklyn famed Atlantic Yards construction. And Freddy’s, a perfect Prospect Heights bar with creative graffiti all over the bathroom (above the hand dryer are dozens of suspected shooters of JFK) stands right in the way.

Posted by eric at 5:21 PM

Pinsky hopes for AY groundbreaking in weeks, says projects should emerge via RFPs; Gilmartin says FCR's frustrated with absent government coordination

Atlantic Yards Report

At an interview and panel discussion sponsored by BISNOW on Wednesday February 24, Atlantic Yards was mentioned as an example several times by Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC), and MaryAnne Gilmartin, the Forest City Ratner executive in charge of Atlantic Yards.

While Pinsky said "we hope to break ground in just a matter of weeks" on Atlantic Yards, perhaps the most interesting statements concerned the unsaid: while he asserted that the city's projects emerge from community consultation and that the best way to proceed was via RFPs (Requests for Proposals), Atlantic Yards proceeded differently.

Gilmartin expressed frustration at the lack of coordination among government agencies working on Atlantic Yards, without acknowledging that, while that certainly may slow things down, it also can give the developer the upper hand.

She also asserted that, in contrast to the example of Stuyvesant Town, Forest City has avoided the "exuberance" of inflated expectations--even though a report from KPMG on Atlantic Yards housing suggests similar expectations.


Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

Paying for Atlantic Yards support, fungible money, and Liu's CBA criticisms

Atlantic Yards Report

Did Forest City Ratner pay people to attend the meeting Wednesday night on street closings. An audience member told me yes; the developer said no.

Whether you believe one or the other, the developer is still paying in part for community support. And, if you believe money's fungible, some of the subsidies and tax breaks the developer has received have gone to the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatories, all of whom have received funds from the developer.

All this means that Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), more than established job-training groups with broader funding, has an interest in the success of the project.

And when FCR executive Jane Marshall thanked BUILD President James Caldwell at the end of the evening, it was--I suspect--for helping make the room seem friendlier to a developer that was not welcoming tough questions.


Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

Document: the revised plan for street closures and traffic changes

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has the latest iteration of Forest City Ratner's still-pending street-closing plan.

Wondering about the revised plan for street closures, and other traffic changes that was debuted at the public meeting on Wednesday, February 24?

Draft Mitigation Plan Fifth Ave-Pacific St Closures 022410 (2)


Posted by eric at 9:06 AM

February 25, 2010

Halfway There: Atlantic Avenue Volunteer Group Moves Toward BID Formation

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

[Sandy] Balboza, founder of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association (AABA) and its president for the past 15 years, told the Eagle that AABA “enthusiastically supports the BID” and its mission.

“The BID will take over the physical improvements, promotion and marketing activities currently performed by AABA,” she said, noting that she is ready to give over those time-consuming activities.

But Balboza would like to see AABA continue as an advocacy group, taking stands on issues the BID can’t because of legal constraints. She mentioned AABA’s stance against the Atlantic Yards project and Brooklyn Bridge Park — specifically its inclusion of residential development — as two such issues.


NoLandGrab: Sandy Balboza and AABA have been stalwarts in the renaissance of Atlantic Avenue, and the fight to stop Bruce Ratner's mega-project — which would undoubtedly have a deleterious effect on the mostly mom-n-pop Atlantic Avenue businesses that AABA represents.

Posted by eric at 9:36 PM

Meet the New Bobcats Owner... Soon

NBA FanHouse
by Tom Ziller

Bruce Ratner is believed to have sold the Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov for less than the $300 million he spent on the team, but one could argue Ratner's financial interest in the Nets was merely a necessary evil to get his massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn built.


NoLandGrab: You mean it wasn't "100% about basketball?"

Posted by eric at 9:28 PM

Quiz: Brooklyn vs. Manhattan

Do you know which borough you belong in?

Time Out NY
by Michael Martin, Chris Schonberger and Jonathan Shannon

Question #15 in TONY's which-borough's-for-you quiz asks:

What do you think of the Atlantic Yards project?

It'll probably drive rents up.
It's sad people will be moved out, but it'll probably improve the area.
I would answer that, but I'm currently chained to the bar at Freddy's.

Take the quiz

Posted by eric at 9:06 PM

At meeting on street closings, information (Forest City's planned major ramp-up) and evasions; tension but little conflict; questions left unanswered

Atlantic Yards Report

Some significant information--and evasion--emerged during last night's meeting on street closings and transportation changes for Atlantic Yards, sponsored by three City Council Members and held at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene.

It drew more than 120 people, well more than half project supporters, as well as opponents, local elected officials (and their staff members), and representatives and officials of the three local community boards. (Planned for closing are Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, and Pacific Street between Flatbush and Sixth avenues and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues.)

For example, officials announced tweaks in the traffic plan and claimed political resistance has caused a delay in formation of a Transportation Working Group, which was first announced in May 2007.

A Forest City Ratner (FCR) executive gave evasive answers about the delays in the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge (now tied to a previously-unannounced four-phase plan for railyard construction), the cost of a lease for the streets (city taxpayers lose $3.7 million), and the reason VMS (variable message signs) announcing street closings were left on for more than two days even after the closings were delayed.

That executive, Jane Marshall, indicated that, once a ruling approving condemnation of streets and other property emerges, the developer plans a huge increase in activity at the Atlantic Yards site, fostering construction of the arena. (That ruling was initially expected January 29, but was put on hold by a judge after property owners mounted an unusual opposition.)

While Marshall said such a ramp-up could begin in 24 hours, no one could promise how much advance notice would the community get about street closings, which were put on hold last month, and presumably are a significant part of the construction plans. (Council Member--and project opponent--Letitia James recommended two weeks.)


Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Brooklyn Paper FOIL request on arena security generates one (redacted) email exchange from ESDC; that day, the setbacks issue was in the news

Atlantic Yards Report

In an article headlined Deadly silence? Officials have had one e-mail exchange over Yards security, the Brooklyn Paper looked into the Empire State Development Corporation's unlikely claim that "its officials have had just one e-mail exchange over security outside the proposed 18,000-seat arena."

And the one document the newspaper did receive was an 11/13/07 exchange of two email messages, with all text redacted.

What was on their mind?

Could they have been discussing my post that day, headlined State secret? ESDC stonewalls on arena setbacks, but graphics hint building's near street?

I noted that the ESDC was unwilling to offer some basic information: how far would the arena be from the street?

I pointed out that, despite the arguments for secrecy, there was a difference between security measures and architectural plans that show the distance from a building to the street, information that eventually would be disclosed.

And, I noted, the ESDC or the developer could have put the setbacks issue to rest, but they didn't. It was just a few days later that we learned that the situation in Brooklyn was much like that in Newark, where police had begun closing the streets bordering the new Prudential Center arena.


Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

“Eminent Domain as Central Planning”

Not Another F*cking Blog!

This photo of 493 and 495 Dean Street was used in the article, Eminent Domain as Central Planning, by Nicole Gelinas. The article was published in the Winter 2010 issue of City Journal.

These homes were determined to be “blighted” and would be demolished for Atlantic Yards. A high rise building would replace them (and 3 other homes, 2 of which have already been demolished).


Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

A fan-friendly solution to fix the NBA

by Bill Simmons

In the NBA, the owners are headed for a similar, "Wait a second, were we doing this the right away?" realization, if it hasn't happened already. The current system doesn't fly. The salary cap and luxury threshold ebb and flow with yearly revenue -- so if revenue drops, teams have less to spend -- only there's no ebb and flow with the salaries. When the revenue dips like it did these past two seasons, the owners are screwed.

They arrived at this specific point after salaries ballooned over the past 15 years -- not for superstars, but for complementary players who don't sell tickets, can't carry a franchise, and, in a worst-case scenario, operate as a sunk cost. These players get overpaid for one reason: Most teams throw money around like drunken sailors at a strip joint. When David Stern says, "We're losing $400 million this season," he really means, "We stupidly kept overpaying guys who weren't worth it, and then the economy turned, and now we're screwed."

For instance, when I was in Dallas for All-Star Weekend, I asked an extremely wealthy person the following question: "Why haven't you bought an NBA team yet?"

His answer: "Because they're still overvalued. Anyone who buys in right now is doing it for ego only. That's why the league grabbed the Russian's [Mikhail Prokhorov's] money [for the New Jersey Nets] so quickly. He has a big ego and deep pockets, and he didn't know any better. He just wanted in.


Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

Voice of the People for Feb. 22, 2010

NY Daily News, Letters to the Editor

Community on board

Brooklyn: We contest Controller John Liu's assertion that the community around the Atlantic Yards development was not included in the Community Benefits Agreement ("Communities need a voice," Op-Ed, Feb. 18). All of the signatory organizations and principals live or work in community boards within the project's footprint. Liu is right that we haven't seen the benefits of Atlantic Yards - but not because the developer did not reach out to the community. It's because a small group of people delayed the project with litigation.

Delia Hunley-Adossa, chair

Atlantic Yards CBA


NoLandGrab: This could just have easily read "Voice of the Paid Signatories," since all of the signatory organizations have also received money from Forest City Ratner for their support of the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

February 24, 2010

Hit and run raises questions about Flatbush Ave.

Courier Life Publications
by Thomas Tracy

Sunday morning's tragic hit-and-run on Flatbush Avenue, which left 22-year-old Erinn Phelan reportedly brain-dead and her friend Alma Guerrero with a broken collarbone, has led to more questions about the potential effects of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project on local road safety.

[City Council member Letitia] James said that the Sunday morning accident exemplifies the need for more traffic calming on Flatbush Avenue.

“It’s a speedway and it’s only going to get worse with the Atlantic Yards and the continued growth in Brooklyn,” explained James, who believes that the re-synchronization of traffic signals and more general lighting would bring some much needed relief. “We’re not looking for street furniture, we’re going to be pushing for combatting problems with speeding.”

James said that the DOT seemed “receptive” to the traffic light ideas she and the North Flatbush BID are proposing.

Cops from the 78th and 77th precincts said that they are stepping up traffic enforcement on Flatbush Avenue in light of Phelan’s accident and other complaints.

“We’re doing a lot more speeding enforcement,” Deputy Inspector John Argenziano, commanding officer of the 78th Precinct told members of the 78th Precinct Community Council Tuesday.


NoLandGrab: The Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) admits that the thousands of parking spaces planned for Atlantic Yards will generate thousands of additional daily car trips. What's uncertain is whether those trips will lead to slower speeds as a result of added congestion, or more speeding when frustrated drivers finally get past the gridlock.

One thing the FEIS didn't take into consideration: the potentially impairing effects of alcohol consumed inside the Barclays Center on the thousands of drivers — and pedestrians — leaving arena events.

Posted by eric at 10:55 PM

Liu Outlines Powers Being Exercised, Powers He Would Like And State Of Campaign Plans

At City Hall Event, comptroller talks budget, charter commission, CBAs and slush fund

City Hall
by Selena Ross

Liu said he believes encouraging private development is important but crucial to keep tabs on developers who receive public help. In major projects like Yankee Stadium and Atlantic Yards, he said he would consider looking back over Community Benefits Agreements signed before he came into office to see if they had been upheld.

With this week’s news that ACORN, a signatory to the Atlantic Yards agreement, has folded its New York operation and relaunched as New York Communities for Change, Liu said there were many questions surrounding the enforcement of CBAs and that he wanted to create a clear framework for similar agreements in the future.

“That probably would not be the only example of a community organization that was part of putting together and signing onto a Community Benefits Agreement that is no longer in existence,” Liu said. “That just highlights the problem even more so. It's very difficult to hold developers accountable to the CBAs that they’ve signed onto in years past.”


Posted by eric at 10:47 PM

Eminent Domain as Central Planning

Wielding creative definitions of blight, New York runs roughshod over property rights and uproots viable neighborhoods.

City Journal
by Nicole Gelinas

Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights, industrial and forlorn for much of the late twentieth century, was looking better by 2003. Government was doing its proper job: crime was down, and the public-transit commute to midtown Manhattan, where many Brooklynites worked, was just 25 minutes. That meant that the private sector could do its job, too, rejuvenating the neighborhood after urban decay. Developers had bought 1920s-era factories and warehouses and converted them into condos for buyers like Daniel Goldstein, who paid $590,000 for a place in a former dry-goods warehouse in 2003. These new residents weren’t put off by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s railyards nearby, and they liked the hardwood floors and airy views typical of such refurbished buildings. They also settled in alongside longtime residents in little houses on quiet streets. Wealthier newcomers joined regulars at Freddy’s, a bar that predated Prohibition. Small businesses continued to employ skilled laborers in low-rise industrial buildings.

But Prospect Heights interested another investor: developer Bruce Ratner, who thought that the area would be perfect for high-rise apartments and office towers. Ratner didn’t want to do the piecemeal work of cajoling private owners into selling their properties, however. Instead, he appealed to the central-planning instincts of New York’s political class. Use the state’s power to seize the private property around the railyards, he told Governor George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz. Transfer me the property, and let me buy the railyards themselves below the market price. I’ll build my development, Atlantic Yards, around a world-class basketball arena.

New York, in short, would give Ratner an unfair advantage, and he would return some of the profits reaped from that advantage by creating the “economic benefits” favored by the planning classes. Architecture critics loved Frank Gehry’s design for the arena. Race activist Al Sharpton loved the promise of thousands of minority jobs. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn) loved the prospect of administering the more than 2,000 units of “affordable” housing planned for the development, as well as the $1.5 million in loans and grants that Ratner gave it outright. When the state held public hearings in 2006 to decide whether to approve Atlantic Yards, hundreds of supplicants, hoping for a good job or a cheap apartment, easily drowned out the voices of people like Goldstein, who wanted nothing from the government except the right to keep their homes.


A version of this article appeared as an op-ed in Sunday's New York Post.

Posted by eric at 9:23 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Off the Dribble [NY Times NBA blog], Nets Chief Executive Looks Forward to Turning the Page

For Brett Yormark, the chief executive of the Nets, next season cannot come soon enough. With just five wins, the team is on track to set a league record for losses.

“For us, it’s about talking about a new story and going through a total transformation,” Yormark, a relentless marketer, said before the Nets lost to the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday. “We’ll have a new home, new coach, new owners, new players and a new attitude.”

Still, Yormark acknowledges that this season has been a tough one. No amount of optimism can sugarcoat a team with just five wins. Fans understand that teams suffer injuries and bad breaks, but at the end of the day, wins are what count most.

“We’ve been beset by injuries, then we got into a tailspin and it’s hard to recover,” Yormark said.

NoLandGrab: Good excuse, except the Nets have had their full complement of players for some time, and the results have been identical.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, More Negligence on Atlantic Yards Arena Security

The latest on New York State and City not performing their obligation to ensure the public's safety. Don't any of our elected "leaders" ever get embarrassed by this sort of stuff?

Bleed Scarlet, Not the greatest RU sports weekend

Per Josh Margolin and Ted Sherman from the Star-Ledger, the Nets are finally moving to Newark next year. Keeping them in Izod was just a terrible idea from the start…as is putting an arena in Brooklyn. As per the article, Gov. Christie’s administration did secure several additional concessions from Forest City Ratner. The whole reason the Nets stayed in Izod instead of the Rock in the first place was to avoid any suggestion that their stay in Newark could become permanent.

Phil Reisman [LoHud.com], Questions About Ratner and Ridge Hill

A Brooklyn activist by the name of David [sic] Goldstein writing for The Huffington Post poses some serious questions about why Forest City Ratner, the developer of the Ridge Hill project in Yonkers, escaped accusations of criminality in a bribe case that resulted in the indictments of Yonkers city Councilwoman Sandy Annabi, former city Republican chief Zehy Jereis and Anthony Mangone.

Goldstein's interest in Ridge Hill stems from his opposition to the highly controversial $4.9 billion “Atlantic Yards” project in Brooklyn—another Forest City project—which includes the construction of 16 high-rises buildings and a basketball arena for the worst basketball team in the history of the NBA, the Nets.

Posted by eric at 8:26 PM

Putin Questions Dealings of Russian Oligarchs

The New York Times
by Andrew E. Kramer

The business dealings of four of the super-wealthy Russians known as oligarchs slipped into dangerous territory Wednesday when they were upbraided by Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin in a televised speech.

Presiding over a meeting on the electricity industry, Mr. Putin said the executives had undertaken to invest in power plants some years back but were now trying to renege on the obligations, citing diminished demand for electricity because of the financial crisis.

Mr. Putin had sharp words for Mr. Prokhorov, one of Russia’s richest men whose business interests extend outside of the country as well.

A basketball enthusiast, Mr. Prokhorov agreed last fall to buy a controlling stake in the New Jersey Nets from the developer Bruce C. Ratner, and move them to a planned new stadium at Mr. Ratner’s Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn.

At issue are investments by the oligarchs in electrical generating companies. Under the terms of the privatization, they were to invest in building power plants or refurbishing existing sites with more fuel efficient turbines, Mr. Putin said. The men could be fined if they fail to invest.

Then, in a comment ominous for its echoes of the arrest and imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man as owner of the now bankrupt Yukos oil company, Mr. Putin said causes may arise to involve the prosecutors general in this dispute.

“There is a possibility,” Mr. Putin said, “especially if we are talking about technical safety” at the power plant sites.


NoLandGrab: In Russia, Community Benefits Agreements are very enforceable.

Posted by eric at 6:32 PM

What Role Did Bruce Ratner's Company Play in the Ridge Hill Indictments?

The Huffington Post
by Daniel Goldstein

In early January the Southern District US Attorney's Office indicted former Yonkers City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi, former Yonkers GOP Leader (and Annabi cousin) Zehy Jereis and Westchester County attorney Anthony Mangone for conspiracy, bribery, extortion, false statement and tax crimes.

The Annabi and Jereis indictments revolve around developer Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill development project and the Councilwoman's approval the developer sought for the project.

In a nutshell, Annabi was indicted for taking bribes to flip her crucial nay to a yea on the project's approval vote in 2006.

To be clear, none of Ratner's representatives (aka Developer No. 2 in the indictment) have been indicted or accused. But the facts alleged in the indictments speak for themselves and do not shine a positive light on the developer. The implications are unsavory and enormous.

I've spoken with many confounded Brooklynites familiar with the indictments who wonder why nobody from Forest City Ratner has been indicted in the Yonkers public corruption case along with the others now facing criminal charges. By not holding Forest City Ratner accountable for the actions alleged in the indictment there is, yet again, an appearance of favoritism, which appears thus far to have let Ratner's company escape prosecution for what may well be very serious crimes.

When is Attorney General Cuomo going to investigate the wrongdoing in Yonkers and Forest City Ratner's role in it? A first step for the yet-to-be-officially-announced gubernatorial candidate would be to return the $5,000 donation Bruce Ratner gave him because of the clear implications of the Ridge Hill indictments.


Posted by eric at 6:14 PM

Luxury suites at the Atlantic Yards arena: from 170 (2006) to 130 (2008) to 100 (2009) to 104 (2010)

Atlantic Yards Report

On Tuesday the Nets announced yet another effort to sell luxury suites at the Atlantic Yards arena/Barclays Center, and earlier today I pointed out a slight uptick since September in the number of suites, from 100 to 104.

However, we should remember how the number has decreased, overall. In the KPMG report prepared in 2006 for the Empire State Development Corporation, the Nets were estimating 170 suites, though analysts were skeptical.

Indeed, by May 2008, the number of suites had been cut to 130.


Posted by eric at 5:52 PM

Brooklyn authenticity, Atlantic Yards, and those "Brownstone" and "Loft" suites now being marketed for the Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

The term "authenticity" is being bandied about a lot these days, thanks to sociologist Sharon Zukin's new book Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, subject of a major article in Sunday's New York Times and a forum at CUNY's Gotham Center for New York History. (Also see this interview with Zukin.)

And the concept has been used, rather aggressively, both to justify a new basketball arena in Brooklyn and to market arena suites named Loft and Brownstone, both references to Brooklyn features erased for the project.

What's authenticity?

But what exactly is authenticity? Zukin writes:

Claiming authenticity becomes prevalent at a time when identities are unstable and people are judged by their performance rather than by their history or innate character. Under these conditions authenticity differentiates a person, a product, or a group from its competitors; it confers an aura of moral superiority, a strategic advantage that each can use to its own benefit. In reality, few groups can be authentic in the contradictory ways that we use the term: on the one hand, being primal, historically first or true to a traditional vision, and on the other hand, being unique, historically new, innovative, and creative. In modern times, though it may not be necessary for a group to be authentic; it may be enough to claim to see authenticity in order to control its advantages.

If authenticity has a schizoid quality, it can also be deliberately made up of bits and pieces of cultural references...


NoLandGrab: Authenticity is most definitely not Brett Yormark's "Loft" and "Brownstone" suites.

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Barclays Center Suites to Become 'Your Home Away from Home'

Fourteen of 15 Brownstone Suites Sold
—First-of-its-Kind Loft Suites Launched in Market—
—Suite holders become members of Barclays Center Suite Alliance—

Nets Press Release via NBA.com

Is it possible that the Nets and Forest City Ratner don't see the irony in promoting an arena they plan to build over the bulldozed homes of Prospect Heights residents as "Your Home Away from Home?"

With construction ongoing at the Barclays Center site in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (BSE), an affiliate of Nets Sports and Entertainment, LLC, is introducing Barclays Center suites to prospective buyers as 'Your Home Away from Home.'

Construction is not "ongoing," certainly not in the case of the Barclays Center. They haven't yet broken ground for the arena, as residents and business owners are still in possession of their aforementioned properties, some of which are in the arena footprint.

BSE will initiate its public suite sale in March when prospective suite buyers can visit the multi-media interactive Barclays Center Showroom, located on the 38th floor of The New York Times Building in Manhattan.

Actually, the Nets initiated sales of suites 21 months ago.

The Barclays Center, to be located at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, will be designed with 104 suites, including 68 Loft Suites that will be the first of its kind in entertainment venues in the New York marketplace. The Loft Suite will consist of 10 seats, more intimate than current suites in area sports facilities, and will be marketed in part to the 40,000 small to mid-sized businesses in Brooklyn.

"More intimate" = "smaller." Perhaps hey should have called them Studio Suites.

In addition to the Loft Suites, the arena will include 15 Brownstone Suites (16 seats each) -- 14 of which are sold -- six Studio Suites, and four Party Suites. The arena will also include 11 Backstage Suites, which will offer exclusive access to a Champagne bar.

Unless the Nets are holding back about other suites being sold — and restraint is not something we typically associate with Nets Sports & Entertainment President Brett Yormark — they must have had some cancellations, because 14 out of 104 suites is significantly less than the "20% sold" that Yormark claimed in May, 2008.

[Update: Atlantic Yards Report reminds us that the claimed number of suites as of May, 2008 was 130, so "20% sold" would've translated to commitments for 26 suites. So either nearly half of alleged Barclays Center suite-buyers have changed their minds (possible), or the initial claim was what we would politely call "Yormarkian hyperbole."]

Suite buyers will also receive membership into the Barclays Center Suite Alliance, which will offer great business to business networking opportunities.

Now there's some added value.

Re-launched in September 2009 with a new design to further celebrate Brooklyn, the Barclays Center Showroom includes a mock Loft Suite with immersive theater-style viewing to provide prospective suite buyers with the opportunity to experience actual sightlines from any suite during events.

How could they possibly celebrate Brooklyn any more than they already have?

Additionally, the Showroom offers a historical timeline of sports and entertainment milestones in Brooklyn and a dynamic video showcasing the Barclays Center and the renaissance of Brooklyn that is displayed on a high-tech media cube with four six-by-six-foot screens. Ongoing construction of the Barclays Center is also streamed live to the media cube via a construction camera at the site.

In that case, they're not currently offering any programming on the "high-tech media cube."

For more information on how to own a "Home" at the Barclays Center, please call 646-616-9500.

Unless you're Bruce Ratner, in which case you should call the Empire State Development Corporation for information on how to own other people's homes in Prospect Heights.

Click here to read the press release in its entirety.

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Deadly silence? Officials have had one e-mail exchange over Yards security

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

We're feeling safer already.

Is it possible that state officials have had just a single e-mail exchange regarding securing the outside of the Barclays Center arena in the heart of Brooklyn?

It seems unlikely — given 9-11, given the seven years since the project’s unveiling, given the so-called War on Terror, and given that this year, the Long Island Rail Road admitted that it ringed its new terminal across the street with an oversized anti-terror perimeter because they are necessary “in this day and age.”

Yet the Empire State Development Corporation claims that its officials have exchanged just one e-mail over security outside the 18,000-seat arena.

The Brooklyn Paper received the e-mail — with all nine lines of text fully redacted, by the way — in response to a “Freedom of Information Law” request seeking “any and all internal documents pertaining to exterior security designs at the Barclays Center.”

ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston confirmed that the lone e-mail exchange was indeed all the internal communications regarding security measures at the Barclays Center.

The request for information stemmed from the controversy over the bollards at the new Long Island Rail Road terminal at Flatbush Avenue and Hanson Place, which would serve the sports fans attending Brooklyn Nets games at the Barclays Center, should it ever be built.

The tomb-like bollards — which not only exceeded NYPD counter-terrorism standards, but have been decried as ugly by urban planners — raised the question of whether similar measures would be taken at the Barclays Center.

Apparently, the ESDC wants residents to believe that it has given that question almost no consideration.


Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

Best candidate for Rod Thorn’s job: Rod Thorn

Bergen Record
by Ian O'Connor

O'Connor's column suggesting that Mikhail Prokhorov hang on to Nets president Rod Thorn contains this tidbit about Bruce Ratner's stellar ownership record.

Through phone calls placed to informed NBA sources, Prokhorov also learned that Thorn’s boss, Bruce Ratner, was an absolute joke as an owner. Ratner’s decision not to pay Kenyon Martin way back when was the beginning of the end of the Nets as legitimate contenders.


NoLandGrab: Ratner's basketball acumen is especially impressive given that his owning the Nets has been "100% about basketball."

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

Tonight: Public Meeting on Planned Street Closings for Atlantic Yards

Council Members Letitia James, Brad Lander & Stephen Levin
with Community Boards 2, 6 and 8
present a
Public Information Meeting
on the

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
6:00-8:00 PM
Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
85 South Oxford Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11217

Representatives will be present from NYC Department of Transportation and Forest City Ratner Companies to brief interested residents of planned permanent street closings in the project area.

Posted by eric at 9:41 AM

Efforts to use Columbia decision to reopen Atlantic Yards eminent domain, EIS cases rejected by Court of Appeals

Atlantic Yards Report

They were both long-shot efforts, but attempts by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and plaintiffs organized by DDDB to reopen two key Atlantic Yards cases have been rejected [without comment] by the state Court of Appeals.

Thus the eminent domain case--but not the pending challenge to the actual condemnation--is over, as is the case challenging the environmental review.

This narrows the remaining court cases related to the project to three, though two are essentially versions of the same case.


Posted by lumi at 6:21 AM


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


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

This building would be demolished for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 6:12 AM

February 23, 2010

Atlantic Yards YES! Subway Station Agents NO!!

Next time you have an emergency in the subway and can't find a station agent or any other MTA employee, you can take comfort knowing that Bruce Ratner has 22 years in which to pay off his more-than-50%-off deal for the Vanderbilt railyard.

NY Daily News, MTA to cut 1,000 jobs in 'painful' bid to cope with mounting deficits

The MTA plans to hand pink slips to more than 1,000 employees as it struggles to rein in ballooning deficits, the Daily News has learned.

An additional 450 subway station agents are expected to lose their jobs, saving millions more, under cuts already approved, sources said.

Pink slips will be going out as soon as next month.

The MTA is being "penny-wise and dollar-foolish," Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen said.

"Their proposed reduction of station staff amounts to less than 1% of their multibillion-dollar budget," Samuelsen said. "The value of a human presence in the event of a human catastrophe in the subway is absolutely priceless."

Further layoffs, including hundreds of bus drivers, could take place this summer as part of a slew of service cuts.

Posted by eric at 11:31 PM

Willets Point owners ramp up attack on city plan

Foes of the big redevelopment project have an interesting weapon on their side: the traffic engineer who helped derail the old Westway plan.

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Engquist

The traffic engineer who helped kill Westway, the massive West Side highway project proposed during the Koch administration, now has his sights set on derailing the city’s redevelopment of Willets Point.

Local property owners fighting the project are banking on traffic engineer Brian Ketcham’s study that shows two proposed ramps would increase traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway and have made it a key element of their lawsuit challenging the project’s environmental impact statement.

The Bloomberg administration has argued that the ramps are necessary to prevent a traffic nightmare at the site.

The original environmental impact statement, or EIS, showed the massive Willets Point project would generate heavy traffic, but a recent report on the proposed ramps showed a much sunnier picture. The ramp study—an “access modification report,” or AMR, which is technical documentation to support federal and state decisions on whether to approve the ramps—is being redone after Mr. Ketcham used traffic data from the environmental impact statement to demonstrate that the ramps would make a bad situation worse.


Posted by eric at 11:22 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Field of Schemes, Yankee Stadium demolition, new park construction creep along

It's almost time for the New York Yankees to begin their second season at their new stadium, and Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez notes that the new parks to replace the ones buried under the team's new home in 2006 are still nowhere to be found:

Back in late 2006, when U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald rejected a challenge to the stadium plan by local residents, she noted that the city was replacing all parkland with new permanent park facilities.

"Nearly all [of those facilities] will be operational by the time the new Yankee Stadium opens in 2009," the judge said in her decision, "and the remaining three ballparks to be located on the existing Yankee Stadium fields will become accessible by 2010."

Portions of a new park and outdoor tennis courts were inaugurated along the Harlem River in November - just in time for winter. But a huge new tennis clubhouse, cafe and community facility have not been finished. Nor has a toddler park, a skateboarding park, a full esplanade for the public, and a sand beach along the river - all of which were promised.

Brownstoner, Commercial Klutch: February Edition

Meanwhile, next door at MetroTech 2, the NYC Dept. of Information Technology is taking 85,000 RSF, very good news for Forest City Ratner and the biggest lease to date in BK this year. DoIT had been considering MetroTech for nearly two years as part of NYC’s wise effort to save money by taking space in these down market times.

NoLandGrab: "Wise?" With the city laying off thousands and closing schools and firehouses, how can DoIT possibly need more space?


"Gatemouth," the Encyclopedia Brooklynica of Kings County politics, handicaps the special election in the 44th Council district with a look at the candidates' patrons.

To get what he wanted, Lopez admitted he acquiesced to the demands of the Senate Republicans (represented in negotiations by Marty Golden), who cared only about the Real Estate Board’s #1 priority, the Ratner abatement (as they sold out hundreds of other landlords; I’d cry if it weren’t so funny). Having done Ratner’s bidding, Lopez did not turn away his subsequent contribution.

Posted by eric at 11:08 PM

Catching up on the ACORN story: Brian Lehrer, Politico, City Room

Atlantic Yards Report

The latest ACORN news — really a non-story, akin to a new coat of paint on a termite-ridden house — still needs some straightening up by AYR's Norman Oder.

The ACORN story and Atlantic Yards, including my role, got three mentions today in the media, and all needed some corrections.


Posted by eric at 10:51 PM

FOREST CITY ENTERPRISES PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Announces Joint Venture with Health Care REIT for University Park Life Science Properties

Forest City Enterprises announced a joint venture today that seems aimed more at generating some cash than anything else. From the release:

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. and Health Care REIT, Inc. today announced the creation and first-stage closing of a new $668 million joint venture in Forest City's mixed-use University Park project in Cambridge, Mass.

Under the terms of the joint venture, Health Care REIT will acquire a 49 percent interest in the seven University Park life science properties owned solely by Forest City. For its share of the joint venture, Heath Care REIT will invest $170 million in cash and the joint venture will assume $320 million of secured debt on the seven buildings. Subsidiaries of Forest City will retain 51 percent ownership in the properties and will serve as asset and property manager for the joint venture.

"We're thrilled to launch this new venture with Health Care REIT," said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City president and chief executive officer. "Today's announcement demonstrates both our ability to create liquidity by monetizing elements of our portfolio, and the intrinsic value in that portfolio."

Forest City's updated "safe harbor language" includes this potential pitfall:

"liquidity risks we could face if we do not close the transaction with Onexim Group to create a strategic partnership for our Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project...."


Posted by eric at 6:12 PM

An ACORN development deal lives on

by Ben Smith

Smith follows up on his Brian Lehrer appearance, but for some reason seems incapable of crediting Atlantic Yards Report. He does, however, shed some light on how Forest City Ratner views the metamorphosis of NY ACORN into New York Communities for Change.

This morning, WNYC's Brian Lehrer asked me what would become of one of ACORN's most prominent New York projects, a "community benefits agreement" the group signed with a real estate developer [aka "Forest City Ratner"] seeking political support for a huge, subsidized project in Brooklyn [aka "Atlantic Yards"].

A blogger [aka "Norman Oder"] opposed to the project, which would include a basketball arena for the Nets, speculated today that the agreement with Forest City Ratner over the Atlantic Yards could transfer to the national group. But an official at the company, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the developer continues to work with what he sees as New York's renamed, but otherwise unchanged, ACORN.

"The people that we deal with still exist," said the Forest City official, noting that Jon Kest, ACORN's top official, is now a key player at the new New York Communities for Change, and that the developer will work with that new group.

"It’s ACORN by a different name — all the players are the same," the official said.


NoLandGrab: Apparently, "New York Communities for Change" haven't really changed anything.

Additional coverage...

City Room, Restart, Acorn Edition

The Atlantic Yards Report was among the first to notice, early Monday morning, the rebranding effort. New York Acorn had been engaged in the effort to include moderately priced housing as part of the Brooklyn renovation project.

NLG: "Renovation project?" Why didn't they say so sooner? If we'd only known they were just changing the wallpaper and replacing the cabinet hardware, we wouldn't have spent the past five years opposing Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 4:40 PM

ACORN By Any Other Name

WNYC Radio [The Brian Lehrer Show]

City Hall editor Edward-Isaac Dovere, and Politico.com senior political writer Ben Smith join Brian Lehrer to discuss the reorganization of New York ACORN, which is now calling itself New York Communities for Change. The inevitable Atlantic Yards question comes up around the 9:40 mark.

Brian Lehrer: And recently, in New York, it wasn't only the right that hated ACORN, it was opponents of the Atlantic Yards project.

Ben Smith: They were among the first to notice yesterday this transformation.

BL: And does this affect their deal with the Atlantic Yards developer to take a lot of money from them to administer community benefits agreements?

BS: Now that is a great question. I have not seen anywhere that Ratner has renegotiated with them. I suspect it gets Bruce Ratner off the hook in terms of even having any responsibility to any group. His community benefits agreements were always negotiated privately with the lowest bidder, essentially, which happened to be ACORN. And because it was a private agreement I don't really see whether Ratner is bound by it at all.


NoLandGrab: Hate ACORN? No. Have big problems with ACORN providing critical political cover for a terrible project in return for a contract — and a bailout? Yes.

Commenter Norman Oder adds:

I don't hate ACORN; however, having watched their role in the Atlantic Yards project (which they are contractually obligated to support), I've grown increasingly skeptical.

Oder also reported earlier today that it's unlikely that the reorganization of New York ACORN will affect the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.

Posted by eric at 2:34 PM

Gerges decision lingers, meeting on street closings tomorrow; CBN asks DOT to remove signs, finish Carlton Avenue Bridge

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a meeting Wednesday on planned street closings for the Atlantic Yards project, at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, 85 South Oxford Street in Fort Greene, from 6-8 pm. Representatives of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Forest City Ratner (FCR) will appear.

According to a press release from City Council Member Letitia James's office, the streets "are now expected to close on March 1." But that assumes that state Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges will have ruled on the condemnations by then, and he hasn't--yet.

Meanwhile, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has asked the DOT to make several changes regarding Atlantic Yards, including the swift reopening of the Carlton Avenue Bridge. Similar questions were previously raised by the Dean Street Block Association. So we'll see if DOT has any response tomorrow.

February 1 closings delayed

Faced with a novel challenge to the planned condemnation of property for the Atlantic Yards project, Gerges on January 29 put the condemnation--and thus the closures--on hold.


Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

While New York ACORN has supplied public support for Atlantic Yards, the Housing MOU points to national ACORN

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder wonders how ACORN's cosmetic makeover into "New York Communities for Change" might affect the organization's relationship with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

I wrote yesterday that New York ACORN, Forest City Ratner's key partner in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, has been renamed New York Communities for Change.

But is FCR's formal partner the New York organization, no longer extant, or national ACORN?

The point person for the agreement was always Bertha Lewis of New York ACORN, as noted in this city press release. Also, New York ACORN (most recently located at 2-4 Nevins Street in Brooklyn) certainly has supplied people to rally for the the project.

But the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in May 2005 simply by ACORN, as was the Community Benefits Agreement.


More ACORN coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The ACORN story goes national, some sunlight on the new organization, and lingering questions from ACORN foes in Congress

Well, the New York ACORN story that I broke yesterday (though the Villager had the gist earlier) turned into national news after City Hall News--which has led the investigation into the curious activities of the ACORN-affiliated Working Families Party--advanced the story.

Only Gothamist, however, noticed the Atlantic Yards angle.

Gothamist, ACORN Shuts Down, Rebrands

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Are doubts about Atlantic Yards affordable housing one piece of Bloomberg's revised housing goal?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Daily News reported yesterday on Mayor Mike Bloomberg's affordable housing plan:

Gone is the mayor's first-term goal of creating 92,000 affordable units and preserving 73,000.

The 2014 goal in a report Bloomberg plans to release Monday is now 60,000 new units and 105,000 preserved.

Surely the delayed and more doubtful plan for Atlantic Yards affordable housing plays a small role in those calculations.


Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

February 22, 2010

CBN PRESS RELEASE: Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods Asks: DOT, Stop Hurting Our Neighborhoods!

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods has written to NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan asking the DOT to remove signs and traffic modifications that are having a negative impact on the area.

The traffic modifications and other changes are intended to allow for construction of the proposed Barclays Arena by Forest City Ratner Companies. The courts have not ruled on the eminent domain questions required for land transfers and conceivably may not decide for months or years.

“DOT’s actions are completely premature and seem to be made at the request of a developer who doesn’t have the right to proceed with construction,” said Steve Soblick, chair of CBN. “So the thousands of people in our communities lose the use of our sidewalks, streets, and bridges because Forest City is telling DOT what to do? This is completely unacceptable.”

In its letter (text below) CBN made five requests:

  1. Remove the Variable Message Signs

  2. Do not change the 1-way status of Carlton Avenue or 6th Avenue

  3. Keep Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and 6th Avenue open for traffic and parking. Make Pacific Street (Vanderbilt-6th Ave.) 1-way West

  4. Rebuild and restore the Carlton Avenue Bridge to the NYC street grid NOW

  5. Insure that Construction Traffic, the Big Rigs, be confined to the Big Truck Routes, Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues

CBN hopes their requests will be addressed at the upcoming Public Meeting on the Street Closures scheduled for the Wednesday, February 24th, 6-8PM at the Lafayette Presbyterian Church, 85 South Oxford Street at Lafayette Avenue, in Ft. Greene.


February 21, 2010

Ms. Janette Sadik-Khan
Commissioner, New York City Department of Transportation
55 Water Street
New York, NY 10041

Dear Commissioner Sadik-Khan:

At the most recent General Membership meeting of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a concerned discussion was held about the confusion and steadily increasing inconvenience being experienced by drivers and pedestrians in the 5 neighborhoods encompassing and surrounding the proposed Atlantic Yards development. Members from Prospect Heights called for relief from the confusion being wreaked on Brooklyn streets and traffic by the DOT's premature installation of massive Variable Message Signs in the vicinity of Forest City Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards development. Further discussion addressed the safety problems that would likely arise should DOT, piecemeal, change historically 1-way streets briefly into 2-way streets (i.e. Carlton Avenue for 1-block between Dean/Pacific, 6th Avenue for four blocks between Atlantic/Flatbush). The courts have not approved the use of eminent domain without which no land transfers can occur, and without which none of the street changes and signage proposed by DOT are required.

Therefore, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods requests the Department of Transportation immediately take the following actions:

  1. Remove the Variable Message Signs
    The signs were put in place to announce street closings which cannot happen until the courts rule with finality on the eminent domain question. This may not happen for months, or years. Despite the huge Variable Message Signs being dark and without message, they remain in place, depriving our neighborhoods of always scarce parking spaces. The VMS also seriously impede pedestrian passage where erected on the bluestone sidewalks of the Prospect Heights Historic District, Ft. Greene, and Park Slope. The signs can easily be stored locally.

  2. Do not change the 1-way status of Carlton Avenue or 6th Avenue
    Changing the traffic flow of these few-block changes would deprive the neighborhood of scarce parking spaces, as well as confuse drivers familiar with those 1-way streets. Nearby, the 1-way block of Underhill Ave. that was made 2-way between Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. is quite dangerous due to unaware, inattentive drivers.

  3. Keep Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and 6th Avenue open for traffic and parking. Make Pacific Street (Vanderbilt-6th Ave.) 1-way West --
    Again, this street closure is premature but changing direction of this block of Pacific Street would accommodate the traffic changes put in place earlier by DOT and facilitate the continuing 1-way status of Carlton Ave. (North) and 6th Avenue (South).

  4. Rebuild and restore the Carlton Avenue Bridge to the NYC street grid NOW.
    The Carlton Avenue Bridge, a critical emergency-response route used by the FDNY & NYPD, was eliminated more than 2 years ago without advance notice even to the Fire Station a block away. It is necessary to public safety. Yet, Brooklyn has been deprived of this most important link between neighborhoods -- walking, biking, driving -- not for the 8 months promised, but for 26 months so far! Neither the Empire State Development Corp. nor Forest City Ratner will give a deadline for re-opening the Carlton Avenue Bridge. The Department of Transportation must exercise its responsibilities to the health and safety of the citizens of New York City, not the amorphous project timelines of a corporate developer who cannot claim to have a project plan or timeline.

  5. Insure that Construction Traffic, the Big Rigs, be confined to the Big Truck Routes, Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues
    Large construction and service vehicles must be confined to the major streets surrounding the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint and NOT be allowed to truckquake and rattle our homes on the residential streets of Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Ft. Greene, and Boerum Hill. In the Final Environmental Impact Statement the DOT gave assurances to the Community that this would be enforced; the Community expects this assurance to be enforced.

Thank you for your attention to the concerns our members have raised.


Stephen Soblick

Chairman, Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods

The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods is composed of established community organizations in Brooklyn Community Board districts 2, 6,and 8 who came together to assure full and effective community participation in the Atlantic Yards development process. Our meetings are open to all. For further information please email us at cbrooklynneighborhooods@hotmail.com.

Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

Nonfiction Book Reviews: 2/22/2010

Publishers Weekly

The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs Roberta Brandes Gratz. Nation, $27.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-56858-438-6

The mid-20th-century showdown between New York City planning czar Moses and legendary community urbanist Jacobs reverberates down the decades in this meandering polemic. A journalist and member of New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission, Gratz (The Living City) views 50 years of economic and real estate development as a duel between the legacies of Moses, whose pharaonic highway and urban renewal projects obliterated neighborhoods, and Jacobs, who extolled urban diversity and disorderly mixed uses, hated cars, and championed organic, human-scale development. Through this lens, Gratz rehashes Jacobs's defeat of Moses's Manhattan expressway schemes, examines New York's (anti-)industrial policies and historical preservation laws, and attacks what she sees as latter-day boondoggles like Brooklyn's proposed mammoth Atlantic Yards development and Columbia University's expansion.


Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

New York ACORN relaunches (in same office) as New York Communities for Change; Stringer, de Blasio, other elected officials to appear at fundraisers

Atlantic Yards Report

Like a squirrel in the midst of winter, Norman Oder keeps digging up ACORNs.

New York ACORN, Forest City Ratner's key partner in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (for the ever-tenuous promise of subsidy-monopolizing affordable housing) has been renamed New York Communities for Change.

Why? State affiliates of national ACORN, which has been tinged by internal scandal and bad press, have apparently decided to relaunch and decentralize.

In the case of the New York affiliate, at least, the office remains at the same location. It shares an address with the Working Families Party and its many convoluted affiliates--a parallel, to some extent, with the many overlapping entities connected to national ACORN.

The New York Communities for Change web site cites an address and fax number, which are the same as the Brooklyn ACORN address and fax number, as indicated on a now-defunct web page preserved by the Internet Archive.

That address is responsible for much more political activity.

As City Hall News reported 11/30/09, that same address houses the Working Families Party, formed in 1998 by ACORN and two unions, now with more than 60 affiliate organizations. And it also houses the nonprofit lobby group the Working Families Organization, Data & Field Services, the political consulting company founded in 2007 by the Working Families Party, and the nonprofit Progressive America Fund.

There's an ongoing of federal investigation regarding Data & Field Services, which came after a lengthy investigation by City Hall News.


NoLandGrab: Seems to us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

Jobs, Housing and Urban Development in Brooklyn: The Atlantic Yards Controversy

Regional Labor Review
by Lee Zimmerman

Hofstra University Professor and Brooklyn resident Lee Zimmerman examines ACORN's role in the selling of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

In an interview in the previous issue of the Regional Labor Review, ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis addresses ACORN's relationship to Atlantic Yards (AY), a massive 22-acre high-rise real estate project that developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) proposes to build in Prospect Heights, a low-rise neighborhood in Brooklyn. Both her narrative and the explanatory endnote, briefly introducing the project, present extremely problematic accounts - perpetuating those that have more or less dominated the public sphere. In this, they occlude the degree to which Atlantic Yards represents: an egregious violation of democratic process; the obliteration of vibrant communities through colossally-scaled and instant gentrification; and (continuing the radical redistribution of wealth upward that has accelerated in recent decades) a massive transfer of public wealth to a giant developer far in excess of any putative benefits. Some of these benefits include affordable housing and jobs. Given how seriously housing and jobs were needed even before the recent economic decline has exacerbated the problem, the rhetoric of “we're getting housing and jobs so AY is a good deal” has remained powerful, especially when mobilized by an accomplished leader like Berta Lewis, speaking for a group that has done so much for disenfranchised communities.

Such rhetoric, though, evades the point. The question isn’t simply “will AY provide some jobs and affordable housing?” but rather “how much benefit, especially housing and jobs, will AY provide relative to the costs - the opportunity costs, of course (the housing that won't get built, the jobs that won't get created, the more appropriately scaled development that won't get built on the site, and the public services that won't get delivered, with the direct and indirect public subsidies that would go to AY), but also the costs to the environment and infrastructure, to public and fiscal health and security, to the urban fabric of Brooklyn neighborhoods, to the fight against the abusive use of eminent domain, and to the democratic process. That is, while Lewis acknowledges that FCR sought a Community Benefits Agreement to provide “political cover,” her narrative fails to account for why that cover is needed. In an effort to suggest what is being “covered” by narratives like Lewis's, I'd like first to tease out the narrative implicit in her remarks and in the supplemental “informational” endnote, and then to sketch a counternarrative about Atlantic Yards.

article [PDF]

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

From the right and the left, critiques of ACORN and its "political cover" for Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

The connections between Forest City Ratner and ACORN (whose New York affiliate just relaunched as New York Communities for Change) are worth more coverage and, while the mainstream media have pretty much fallen down, both the right (Glenn Beck) and the left (Regional Labor Review) have taken notice.

And that's important, because ACORN head Bertha Lewis continues to shill for the project, as quoted in a Daily News article last August:

"Bruce Ratner's never wavered," she said. "I never look for anybody else to ensure these guarantees. We look directly to the developer to ensure the guarantees."

As we learned last month, while the developer is still supposed to build the promised 2250 units of affordable housing, the deadline is 25 years, not ten, the penalties for individual building delays are modest, and an Affordable Housing Subsidy Unavailability can be claimed for up to eight one-year periods--all part of what Noticing New York's Michael D.D. White deems a modest option renewal fee.

Moreover, the affordable housing in the first tower would have to conform to one of six possible scenarios--which include several scenarios with no low-income units.


Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

People's World, City comptroller takes aim at developer abuse

Newly elected city Comptroller John Liu is taking action to help protect communities from big developers and corruption.

Liu, the first Asian American elected to a top New York City office, has announced that he will set up a task force to establish more oversight over so-called Community Benefit Agreements between developers and community groups.

In Brooklyn, a CBA was signed in 2005 between Forest City Ratner, a multi-billion-dollar private developer which had already been guaranteed huge subsidies from the city, and a number of groups purporting to represent the community. The agreement was for Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards project, which will, through eminent domain, throw people out of their homes and businesses and radically alter downtown Brooklyn.

Actually, the project is sited in the midst of Prospect Heights, Fort Greene and Park Slope, near downtown Brooklyn.

Astonishingly, Forest City Ratner official Mary Anne Gilmartin admitted in a July 2009 meeting that "Forest City has funding obligations and commitments to each of the organizations [that signed the CBA], and they're reviewed on an annual basis." In other words, though the mayor and FCR attempted to give the agreement a veneer of grassroots involvement, all the singers had received funding from the developer.

Further, the agreement, while technically binding, has no actual enforcement mechanism.

Atlantic Yards may be considered the most egregious case of abuse, but, Liu said, "the public has seen a string of broken promises to communities and questionable involvement by some government officials." He added that studies have singled out the city's community benefit agreements "as examples of what not to do."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Senator Perkins' Eminent Domain Bill Must Be Passed

Senator Perkins' bill must be passed, or New York State will continue to be the worst eminent domain abuser in the country.

The Scores Report, Daily News writer has the key to LeBron’s brain

Was Mitch Lawrence too quick to write off the Nets' chances of landing the ultimate free-agent savior?

It’s not like Cleveland is the greatest place to live, either. Though I’m sure the status of the Atlantic Yards project would weigh heavily on LeBron’s decision to play for the Nets. The Nets have a few young pieces — Brook Lopez and Devin Harris — and LeBron might like the challenge of turning around a 10-win franchise.

NoLandGrab: Then again, "The King" might rather want to wear a crown in the next decade.

Streetsblog, This Week: Rapid Buses, Ratner Street Closures, Safer Maspeth

Wednesday evening: The city is rearranging traffic patterns and closing some blocks in the area near Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Learn more at this public info session on the street closings. 6 p.m.

Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

February 21, 2010

Sunday AY Report: Another Look at Jane Jacobs, Jay-Z In Shady Deals, Woods Snows Zimbalist

In the Times today, another round on Jane Jacobs and gentrification; did she prefer preservation or ways to foster thriving cities?

Yesterday's article/Sharon Zukin book promotion in the New York Times "A Contrarian’s Lament in a Blitz of Gentrification" contained a misreading of the proposed Atlantic Yards Project.

Now, Norman Oder notes how some are trying to lay blame for the gentrification of New York at the feet of Jane Jacobs. He finds that critics' thinking of Jacobs as being naive is misplaced.

You are urged to read the entire post, as this discussion of Jane Jacobs is worth the time of anytime interested in urban issues. One aspect of the Atlantic Yards fight is raised in discussing "authenticy" as a neighborhood quality.

Zukin suggests there's a role for "authenticity," a topic that pervades the book and deserves a longer discussion than I can muster at this point:

Authenticity must be used to reshape the rights of ownership. Claiming authenticity can suggest a right to the city, a human right, that is cultivated by longtime residence, use, and habit,. Just as icons... derive their meaning from the rituals in which they are embedded, so do neighborhoods, buildings, and streets.

Maybe, but authenticity has been used on both sides of the Atlantic Yards fight. Proponents have claimed they deserve a piece of the pie after all their years in Brooklyn. Opponents can argue that they helped create the situation where it became cost-effective to finally build over the Vanderbilt Yard.

In the Aqueduct video casino deal, a role for Jay-Z

The parallels aren't direct, of course, but isn't it curious that entertainer and entrepreneur Jay-Z, a part-owner of the New Jersey Nets (whose prominence in news coverage far exceeds his tiny stake), is also reported (by the Post) to have a piece of the controversial Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) deal for a video casino in Queens?

And isn't it curious that the Post, which has played up the role of consultant Darryl Greene (convicted of mail fraud) in the deal--now he's out--hasn't pointed out that Greene and Jay-Z are also part of the Atlantic Yards project?

On Tiger Woods, columnist Lupica offers skepticism; sports economist Zimbalist sees candor

New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica on golf star Tiger Woods's tightly scripted apology:

There is no way of knowing how much of this was real and honest from Tiger Woods because there never is with celebrities in trouble, who will say anything, tell any lie, to get themselves out of trouble.

Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, in the Boston Herald:

“It sounded completely genuine to me,” said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College. “The content was open and candid. He said all the right things.

Hm, let's see: should we trust Lupica or Zimbalist in analysis of jobs and housing planned for Atlantic Yards?

Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

Bars of New York #5: Freddy’s Bar and Grill

City of strangers

Here's more praise for Freddy's Bar & Backroom that could make you wonder, yet again, what is the point of destroying a neighborhood to make way for a project whose public benefits continue to evaporate.

Freddy’s Bar, in downtown Brooklyn, is fighting for its survival . . . .

Lately, the bar, and its manager Donald O’finn, have been very successful at getting media attention for the bars’ plight. Everyone from the New York Daily News (appropriately) to the New Yorker have all covered the bar’s fight against eminent domain, Bruce Rattner’s mechanism to seize the land below Freddie’s and the blocks aroud it for the Atlantic Yards Development. Even Fox News had them on for an interview.


I started hanging out in the very late 90’s, when I still lived in Fort Greene. It was nice having a good bar in walking distance. In those pre-hipster days, there weren’t many bars in Brooklyn with found video loops broadcast on a TV over the bar, or that played the whole Velvet’s Banana album or the Ramones or 80’s British punk. The back room featured everything from hardcore to experimental jazz, and even if it wasn’t a ‘neighborhood’ bar in the sense that the black people up Dean, or the fireman and policeman from the adjacent fire and police stations, seemed to hang out there in any number, it still had the feel of a neighborhood bar. Donald O’finn’s found video loops, featuring everything from early cartoons to shlock horror and snippets from Bruce Lee films, were mesmerizing. A little too mesmerizing – if you went with a friend, your attention would inevitably turn toward the screen, and all conversation would stop.

I still go down occasionally. The bar, like the neighborhood around it, feels besieged and a little standoffish. Freddy’s is something of an icon now, voted best bar in Brooklyn by Time Out among others, and like all icons it has lost its casual feel. Donald Ofinn’s found video still beams from its perch at the front of the bar. For awhile last year, with the Atlantic Yards development at a standstill, I wondered if it would even go through – even the anti-Atlantic Yards/ Eminent Domain abuse clippings in the info box were looking a little worn – but a late November court decision in favor of Rattner has Freddy’s fight a new urgency. The scale of the proposed development is incredible (simulation from 2006) : what is essentially a section of mid-town Manhattan will be dropped in what had been a quiet, largely residential, neighborhood, making central Brooklyn largely unrecognizable.


Posted by steve at 8:31 AM

Move To Newark Will Not Work

Bleacher Report
By Leslie Monteiro

This skeptical post includes a somewhat over-the-top history of Bruce Ratner's ownership of the New Jersey Nets. Even on their worst nights, the Nets draw more than 500 fans to the Meadowlands.

Ratner talked about moving the team to Brooklyn when he considered buying the team. When the league approved his purchase of the team, the marriage ended between the Nets and the few fans in Jersey.

Under Ratner's stewardship, fans stopped going the games altogether along with watching it on television. It looked like the franchise was drawing only 500 fans at best even though paid attendance indicated they drew 1,000.

Ratner lost money obviously so traded his best players. He sold his team to Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov few months ago once he realized it's hard to run a NBA franchise.

Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

February 20, 2010

AY Report: ED In the Post, Cautions on Affordable Housing, Another AY Miss in The NY Times

Gelinas op-ed in the Post: "How 'eminent domain' makes blight" (in Prospect Heights)

Norman Oder takes a look at an editorial in today's New York Post condemning the use of eminent domain in Prospect Heights.

Here, Oder adds additional facts to show how the ESDC, tool of developer Bruce Ratner, went out of its way to mischaracterize the up-and-coming Prospect Heights neighborhood coveted by the developer:

Let me add a couple more pieces of evidence. As I reminded readers last May, it was one of the least credible statements in the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) issued in July 2006 by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC): The project site is not anticipated to experience substantial change in the future without the proposed project by 2016 due to the existence of the open rail yard and the low-density industrial zoning regulations.

The Park Slope Civic Council and Park Slope Neighbors challenged that, commenting that a city rezoning could do just that, though it would "involve professional planners whose job is to advance the public interest, rather than a reliance on private interests to establish de facto zoning."

In the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the ESDC (via consultant AKRF) responded: While the City, if it desired, could rezone the project site, it has not. Given the attempts over the life of ATURA [Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area] to encourage development, the challenges of developing over the rail yard have resulted in the project site remaining underutilized and blighted, rendering any rezoning of the rail yard parcels unable to affect desired change.

Remember, the Department of City Planning's Winston Von Engel said in March 2006 that the city hadn't yet taken a look at the railyards: "They belong to the Long Island Rail Road. They use them heavily. They're critical to their operations. You do things in a step-by-step process. We concentrated on the Downtown Brooklyn development plan for Downtown Brooklyn. Forest City Ratner owns property across the way. And they saw the yards, and looked at those. We had not been considering the yards directly."

As affordable housing gets closer to market rate, it's tougher to find takers; experience regarding for-sale units offers some cautions for AY

While it's not exactly on point, a New York Times article yesterday headlined City’s Affordable Housing Program Faces Trouble Finding Buyers suggests some caution regarding the subsidized housing planned for the Atlantic Yards project: the closer the price is to market, the tougher it is to find takers.

That suggests that additional subsidies might be needed to move the units. If the subsidies come from public rather than private sources, that would again add costs to the any effort to calculate a cost-benefit analysis for the project.

This analysis goes on to point out how "area mean income" (a determinant of what is considered affordable housing) actually makes units unaffordable to Brooklynites. An example of an attempt to counter this problem is cited at Atlantic Terrace, across the street from the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Atlantic Yards gets a misguided cameo in Times article, book on gentrification

The cover story in the Metropolitan section of the New York Times tomorrow is headlined A Contrarian’s Lament in a Blitz of Gentrification, focusing on sociologist and author Sharon Zukin, who's written a new book titled Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, published last November.

The article and book raise some interesting issues about Jane Jacobs and gentrification, which I'll address at a later date...


First, however, they should get the Atlantic Yards references clear--and they don't.

From the article:

The pattern in places like Williamsburg and Atlantic Yards, Ms. Zukin said, is dreary and inexorable: Middle-class “pioneers” buy brownstones and row houses. City officials rezone to allow luxury towers, which swell the value of the brownstones. And banks and real estate companies unleash a river of capital, flushing out the people who gave the neighborhoods character.

They should've checked the crib sheet. For the umpteenth time, Atlantic Yards is a project, not a place. It wasn't rezoned via a public process, but, rather, the state would override city zoning to allow much more density than allowed. And the value of the brownstones already went up.

"It's a great piece of real estate," to quote Chuck Ratner, CEO of Forest City Enterprises.

If the Times had posted a correction on the "rezoning" mistake rather than merely practicing "rowback" in 2006, maybe they would've gotten it right.

From the book

There are only a couple of references to AY in the book, but they're sloppy. Here's one:

The largest contemporary redevelopment project in Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards, on a site Robert Moses picked for urban renewal many years earlier, stirred a lot of public protest but was derailed only by the collapse of financial markets in the subprime mortgage crisis.

No, it wasn't derailed, just delayed. And the site wasn't one Moses picked for urban renewal.

Here's another:

The new development planned for Atlantic Yards has been halted by the economic crisis.

Again, it couldn't be planned for Atlantic Yards, because AY isn’t a place. And it wasn't "halted by the economic crisis."

Posted by steve at 11:25 AM

New Jersey Nets earn 50th loss for the season, falling to the Toronto Rapters, 106-89

Daily News
By Julian Garcia

Bruce Ratner is sighted attending a Nets game.

Atlantic Yards project aside, Bruce Ratner must feel pretty good about selling the Nets after what he witnessed Friday night.

With Ratner sitting courtside for one of the few times this season, and perhaps one of the last, the Nets turned in a woeful first-half performance against the Raptors - falling behind by 20 points even though Chris Bosh was in Canada - and lost, 106-89, in front of 11,994 at the Meadowlands.

Ratner, whose sale of the team to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is expected to be approved by the league sometime next month, witnessed the Nets fall to 5-50, New Jersey staying on pace to win just eight games, which would break the all-time mark for fewest victories in one season. The 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers set the record, finishing 9-73.


NoLandGrab: Ratner is also on track to set a record for "Most taxpayer funds spent on a public project without public benefit" should the proposed Atlantic Yards project be built.

Posted by steve at 10:48 AM

How 'eminent domain' makes blight

New York Post
By Nicole Gelinas

This piece uses the dealings around the proposed Atlantic Yards project as the prime example why eminent domain law needs to be changed in New York. The article concludes with the results of underhanded dealings in Prospect Heights:

Eminent-domain abuse is a symptom of a deeper problem: The belief that central planning is superior to free-market competition. To cure yourself of this notion, stroll around Atlantic Yards, past three-story clapboard homes nestled near corniced row houses -- "blighted" residences. You'll peer up at Goldstein's nearly empty apartment house, scheduled to be destroyed.

And you'll see how Ratner's wrecking balls have made the neighborhood gap-toothed. A vacant lot now sprawls where the historic Ward Bakery was.

Today, Prospect Heights displays what the state wants everyone to see: decay. But it's isn't the work of callous markets that left the neighborhood to perish. It's the work of a developer wielding state power to press property owners to sell their land "voluntarily." Meanwhile, true private investment has been choked off, since everyone knows the state's aiming to hand everything to Ratner.


Posted by steve at 10:36 AM

Brownfield Cleanup Program to Transform Yonkers Waterfront Property

Yonkers Tribune
By Hezi Aris

After a cleanup of the site, an RFP is projected for the sale of One Point Street in Yonkers. Forest City Ratner is mentioned as a possible buyer.

City Hall is also most interested in inducing Bruce Ratner’s, Forest City Ratner (FCR) to make an investment for the property. They are comfortable working with FCR.FCR is very interested.


NoLandGrab: The comfort level with Bruce Ratner should be a lot lower considering FBI investigations and indictments resulting from FCRC's Ridge Hill Development in Yonkers.

Posted by steve at 10:18 AM

Nets To Move To Newark

Here is some more coverage of the New Jersey Nets' move to Newark, ostensibly as a layover should they get to move to Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklynites Ponder Meaning Of Nets’ Move to Newark


Brooklyn residents and officials at press time on Friday were still exploring the meaning of the New Jersey Nets’ recent announcement that are going to play in Newark, at least for the next two seasons, and its ramifications for the Barclays Arena plan in Downtown Brooklyn.

The NBA team reached a deal with the state to move their regular-season games to Newark’s Prudential Center until their new arena is built at the Atlantic Yards Site.

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily Eagle: Brooklynites "still exploring" the meaning of the Nets' move to Newark?

A Brooklyn Eagle tweak on an AP story regarding the New Jersey Nets' planned move to Newark comes off as unintentionally silly, given the headline Brooklynites Ponder Meaning Of Nets’ Move to Newark: What Will It Mean for Atlantic Yards?.

You see, Beth DeFalco's AP story is pretty much the same as the one that went out on the national wire, only with a new lead paragraph:


Could it be that "still exploring" means that Borough President Marty Markowitz didn't call them back?

Here's one example of pondering that could've made the Eagle's deadline: the Real Deal's report that the two-year lease in Newark has a two-year renewable option--just in case the AY arena gets delayed further, as has been the pattern--deserves widespread notice.

Gothamist, Nets Are Headed To Newark's Prudential Center

The New Jersey Nets will no longer have to lose to home crowds at the Meadowlands' Izod Center: The team has made a deal to move to the Prudential Center in Newark for two years. The Star-Ledger reports, "After months of wrangling, a deal was struck Thursday to allow the Nets to buy their way out of their lease at the Izod Center in the Meadowlands... The Nets will pay $4 million to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority — which could be offset in part by advertising, suite revenues and other credits."

Of course, the Nets are waiting to move to downtown Brooklyn—or so they say—to the long-promised arena at the Atlantic Yards, whose development had been on hold until an Appeals Courts swept away developer Bruce Ratner's eminent domain worries.


The Star-Ledger says the Nets could be playing in Newark as early as this spring. Legend has it that the Brooklyn arena will open in 2012.

Field of Schemes, Nets officially headed to Newark for next two seasons

This almost slipped past me, since it's only been reported at the bottom of NBA trade deadline pieces, but the New Jersey Nets finally got approval to move from the Meadowlands to Newark for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. The Nets will pay the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority $4 million to break their old lease; no immediate word on whether Newark's Prudential Center will still send concerts to the Meadowlands in exchange (though the two arenas did apparently agree to a "non-disparagement clause" to stop either side from publicly dissing the other), or how that whole ticket tax imbroglio worked out.

The long-term plan is for the Nets to be in Brooklyn starting in 2013, though work is still moving slowly at the planned Brooklyn arena site — there have been some street closings and a crane or two are on-site, but the private properties the state had said it would seize by eminent domain this winter are still waiting for the marshals to arrive. And they have their chains ready.

Posted by steve at 9:55 AM

February 19, 2010

Brett Yormark Statement on the Nets' Relocation to Newark


Nets Sports and Entertainment President & CEO Brett Yormark wants to make it very clear that the interim move to Newark — which he many times said was of no interest to the team — is purely temporary.

Brett Yormark, the Nets President and CEO, released the following statement regarding the Nets' upcoming interim relocation to Newark's Prudential Center, which will begin with the upcoming 2010-11 NBA season. This precedes the team's permanent move to Brooklyn, planned for 2012.

"Our planned interim relocation to the Prudential Center in Newark represents one of the many positive steps to take place for Nets Basketball during the next few months. This temporary move not only gives our fans a state-of-the-art arena with the first-class amenities common in most NBA buildings, but also provides our players with a great atmosphere in which to play.

"Additionally, before we make our permanent move to Brooklyn, this interim relocation to Newark enables us to continue our goal to further regionalize the team, not only in Essex and Union Counties, but also in New York City due to the direct mass transit access available between Manhattan and the Prudential Center. We are confident that the NBA family will see this as a positive move, as we do. We look forward to being part of the community in Newark and will continue our extensive community outreach in the area.

"I would like to sincerely thank Governor Christie for his support and leadership in making our interim relocation to the Prudential Center a reality. I would also like to express my appreciation to Mayor Booker and Jeff Vanderbeek for their steadfast efforts throughout this process."


NoLandGrab: Frankly, we're a bit surprised that Yormark didn't temporarily issue an interim statement about the move prior to making his permanent statement.

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

What if AY is delayed or smaller? Plausible scenario (25-year buildout, 25% smaller) means projected tax revenues would decline nearly 50%

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation's projected tax revenues (see memo, below) for Atlantic Yards could be cut nearly in half under the plausible conditions--neither of which would incur a penalty--of a 25-year buildout and a project cut 25% in size.

Reasons for doubt

Yesterday, I suggested several reasons to doubt the ESDC's calculations of new tax revenue, which rely on a ten-year buildout of the project. After all, even a supporter such as then-ESDC CEO Marisa Lago said the project would take "decades." The Development Agreement allows 25 years, plus extensions.

Also, the projections rely on a full buildout of the project, nearly 8 million square feet, opening after ten years and continuing for the 30 years. But the Development Agreement allows for a much smaller project, less than 5.2 million square feet.

Though no alternative calculations or assumptions were provided, a helpful reader prepared a spreadsheet to suggest such alternatives. (The ESDC's assumption of a 3% real discount rate is maintained.)

What if, rather than take a decade to build, the full project took 15 years? That would mean only 90% of projected revenue after 40 years. A 25-year buildout would mean 72% of revenue.


Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

Is Governor Paterson paying any attention to the ESDC? Previous upstate head of authority couldn't get a meeting

Atlantic Yards Report

I asked Wednesday who's in charge of Atlantic Yards at the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Maybe a more pressing question is who's in charge of the ESDC. The answer: not Governor David Paterson.

From a New York Times article today headlined As Campaign Nears, Paterson Is Seen as Increasingly Remote:

Mr. Paterson’s approach to his job differs markedly from that of his predecessor. Mr. Spitzer, when he became governor, promised major change, installed appointees with substantial credentials and took a deep interest in their work, peppering them with e-mailed policy questions in the early-morning hours. Mr. Paterson is less involved with those who run the agencies, and less curious about how they are operating and whether their policies are succeeding, current and former aides say.

Shortly after Mr. Paterson took office in March 2008, Dan Gundersen, who was commissioner of economic development and chairman of the Upstate Empire State Development Corporation, requested a meeting with the new governor. He could not get on Mr. Paterson’s schedule, he said, and kept asking: 12 requests over a period of about 100 days. No meeting was ever scheduled, and Mr. Gundersen resigned that June.

“Governor Spitzer was completely engaged and responsive with me,” Mr. Gundersen recalled. “And when Governor Paterson assumed office, it was important for me to brief him on the upstate agenda and the projects we were working on.”

(Emphasis added)


NoLandGrab: Who's in charge of the ESDC? Here's a hint.

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

February 18, 2010

Brutally weird: In New Jersey hometown, FCR executive fights zoning variances, claims Brooklyn projects are "as of right"

Atlantic Yards Report

More coverage of Forest City Ratner EVP Bob Sanna's NIMBY crusade to stop a 16,000-square-foot synagogue from being built in his New Jersey town at the same time Forest City is gearing up to unleash a project 500 times bigger on brownstone Brooklyn.

Led by a Forest City Ratner executive with a curious case of double standards, people in Millburn, NJ, are banding together under the Save Millburn organization, opposing a zoning exception for a proposed 16,350 square foot house of worship.

As the caption says, "The structure would be too big, too high, too wide, too close to neighbors, and without a major variance would not be legal. Traffic would increase and height limits, density limits, and signage would be overridden.

Well, it's not an unreasonable position to argue that an approved Zoning Ordinance and land use plan should be amended rather than be subject to "special zoning for special interests."


NorthJersey.com reports:

Members of Save Millburn aren't 100 percent positive they will prevent the variances from being granted. However, members say the major priority was finding transparency in the application process, and it has been a long, litigious road.

..."Robert Sanna makes his living through development projects that require major variance relief," said [synagogue attorney Philip] Pfeffer. "In his own neighborhood they [variances] are suggested and he says they are inappropriate. This shows his true colors."

..."My company is engaged in economic development that brings jobs and affordable housing into areas that really need it," said Sanna. "That is quite different from a rabbi who wants a very fancy shul."

"All the projects my company does are 'as of right' projects that don't need zoning variances," said Sanna.

That's not close to true.


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Forest City Ratner Executive Shows True NIMBY Colors in Jersey Zoning Dispute

Forest City Ratner Executive VP Bob Sanna is crying about a zoning variance in Millburn, NJ where a Rabbi wants to build a new synagogue. Sanna—whose Forest City Ratner company eschewed a zoning variance in Brooklyn for its Atlantic Yards project, instead going for a massive state override of all city zoning regulations—is a member of a local organization opposing that variance.

None of his company's projects are "as of right." None, as in zero. Unless by "as of right" he means the right to any zoning they want and the right to steal other people's properties.

NoLandGrab: Could Mr. Sanna have meant "as of fright?"

Posted by eric at 11:07 PM

Brooklyn 2012--or 2014? Nets sign two-year lease for Prudential Center in Newark, with option to renew

Atlantic Yards Report

The timetable for the Nets' planned--although not finalized--move to Brooklyn has most recently been stated as the 2012-13 season, and a long-rumored new lease in Newark anticipates that timetable as well.

However, given the history of delays, and the potential for additional snags, the new lease offers two more years in Newark.

Shifting the goalposts

Remember, the team was originally supposed to move in 2006; when the project was approved in 2006, the year became 2009. Nets CEO Brett Yormark moved the goalposts so often than in January 2009 I posted a remix of his statements.

As of last September, Bruce Ratner predicted the move would come in the "11-12 season."


NoLandGrab: We all know Bruce Ratner is a man of his word, right?

Posted by eric at 9:53 PM

Nets team seals two-year Newark deal

The Real Deal
by David Jones

The New Jersey Nets have reached a long-anticipated deal to move to Newark's Prudential Center for the next two years , as the team plans for the Barclays Arena to open two years from now at the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker confirmed the deal following a special session of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority this morning and furious negotiations to finalize talks with the Prudential Center officials.

"It's extraordinarily exciting," Booker told The Real Deal in a telephone interview. "Not only will it bring economic opportunity, energy excitement to our downtown, for the Nets they are going to receive one of the most exciting fan bases they've had in years and years." Sources said the lease with the Prudential Center includes an option to automatically renew for another two years.


NoLandGrab: What's that you say, an option for two additional years? That'd put the Nets in Brooklyn for the 2014-2015 season — one year before the entire project was alleged to have been completed, according to the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Posted by eric at 9:47 PM

NJ Nets will move to Prudential Center in Newark

The Star-Ledger

The Nets are making a fast break to Newark.

After months of speculation over whether the struggling NBA team would leave Izod Center in the Meadowlands for a two-year stay at the new Prudential Center in Newark, a deal was struck today to allow the Nets to break their lease for $4 million and move to Newark, according to officials involved in the negotiations.

The early termination fees could be offset in part by advertising, suite revenue and other credits.

The agreement came after the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority voted in secret to approve the deal at a special meeting this morning. A formal announcement is expected later today by Gov. Chris Christie.


Posted by eric at 9:41 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

team tish, ATTENTION: CMs James, Lander, Levin and CBs Hold Public Info Meeting on Street Closings at AY

Council Members Letitia James, Brad Lander, & Stephen Levin
with Community Boards 2 and 8
present a
Public Information Meeting
on the

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
6:00-8:00 PM
Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
85 South Oxford Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11217

Representatives will be present from NYC Department of Transportation and Forest City Ratner Companies to brief interested residents of planned permanent street closings in the project area.

North Flatbush Ave BID, Public Information Meeting regarding street closings in our district

We advise all residents, property owners and merchants in our district to attend this informative meeting and bring your questions. There will be some permanent street closings in our area as well once the construction gets underway at the Atlantic Yards Project for our new Berkley Arena. This event is open to the public.

NoLandGrab: We think they mean Barclays, not "Berkley." If only it were in Berkeley.

The Zionist Conspiracy, Sports Musings

Bruce Ratner bought a Nets team that went to the NBA Finals twice in a row and in just a few years, turned it into one of the worst teams in sports history. Whether via karma, divine retribution, or simply bad luck, Nets fan can only hope that Ratner's real estate empire has a similar fate.

Still, no 5-49 team has ever had a brighter future than the Nets.

Future of Capitali$m, Bloomberg for President?

It's hard to see the populist mood afoot in the country lofting to the White House a billionaire mayor who used to work for Salomon Brothers. But three recent moves by Michael Bloomberg can be seen in the context of an independent mayor who sees President Obama's sagging poll numbers and has the ability to get into the 2012 presidential race at a late stage and self-finance if no credible Republican or independent alternative emerges.

Mr. Bloomberg hasn't run the city exactly on free-market principles. He backed eminent domain at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, banned smoking and trans-fats in restaurants, and raised taxes and spending.

Posted by eric at 9:25 PM

Brooklyn Broadside: Atlantic Yards Opponents Are Only the Latest Opposing Atlantic-Flatbush Development

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

The Atlantic Yards-obsessed Holt relates the story of Baruch College's 1973 proposal to relocate to the current site of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls, but gets the headline wrong: there's no mention in the story of local opposition to that plan. Nor any mention of plans to use eminent domain back when (though the College is a public entity), nor to bolster the college move with billions in subsidies. Nor any thought of dropping an arena directly across the street from low-rise residences in an override of city zoning. In fact, almost nothing about that 1973 proposal smacks of the Atlantic Yards project.

Except The Eagle's misleading headline.


Posted by eric at 9:12 PM

City’s Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications Seeks To Expand Presence in MetroTech

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The Eagle regurgitates Tuesday's Crain's story.

The city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) is seeking additional space in the MetroTech Center in Downtown Brooklyn.

According to a report Monday in Crain’s New York Business, the city agency needs 85,000 square feet of additional space to house 460 employees and a new data center, according to the article. It already occupies space at 11 MetroTech, which is near capacity.


NoLandGrab: Once again, we wonder why — with the city planning to lay off thousands and close 19 schools and 20 firehouses — the city needs to lease yet more space from Forest City Ratner.

Posted by eric at 9:05 PM

Ratner kicks off Citi awards ceremony

The Real Deal

Citi Habitats held its 2009 company awards ceremony this week, honoring its top-producing employees, with a keynote address provided by Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.


NoLandGrab: Guess all the Elvis impersonators were booked.

Posted by eric at 9:00 PM

A Little Less Frank: The Evolving Design of Atlantic Yards

d|visible magazine
by Murrye Bernard

Quite a few errors in this Frank Gehry-focused history of the Atlantic Yards project.

Atlantic Yards. Say those two words to any resident of Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Park Slope or Downtown Brooklyn and they are likely to be met with a glare. This abandoned rail yard along Atlantic Avenue was snapped up by developer Forest City Ratner, in some instances by eminent domain, to create a mixed-use development comprised of residential towers containing units at both market rate as well as those for moderate to low income households, commercial space, and the Barclay Center, an arena for professional basketball team New Jersey Nets.


NoLandGrab: The "abandoned rail yard" is the Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt Yard, a working train yard key to the LIRR's operation. It's only "abandoned" in the sense that New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority has agreed to sell it to developer Forest City Ratner for a fraction of its value, with sweetheart payment terms, to boot.

Posted by eric at 8:45 PM

Residents dispute Rabbi's requests

by Laura D'Onofrio

Why are we posting an item about a zoning dispute over a proposed synagogue in Millburn, NJ? Because Forest City Ratner Exec VP (and Millburn resident) Bob Sanna is playing the part of rabid obstructionist community activist — but his grip on the facts is a little bit off when his company's Atlantic Yards project becomes an issue.

Representatives of Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky are scheduled to appear before the Zoning Board of Adjustment in March to apply for three variances to Bogomilsky's Jefferson Avenue and Old Short Hills Road property where he hopes to construct a synagogue.

A grass roots civic group, the Concerned Neighborhood Association, known as Save Millburn, wants residents to be aware of the zoning issue this creates in the township.

Save Millburn declares on their Web site that this is not an issue about religion or the rabbi, but is an effort to stop substantial zoning exceptions in town.

Fellow member Bob Sanna concurred that the zoning requirements were designed for a reason.

"To me, zoning is substantive and relies on infrastructure. There was a certain lifestyle, traffic, population and density in mind when they were created," said Sanna.

Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project relies on overriding New York City zoning, to accomplish goals like plopping down an 18,000-seat arena directly across the street from two-story clapboard houses and building 50-story skyscrapers in the midst of low-rise brownstone neighborhoods.

[Philip] Pfeffer [the synagogue's attorney] says it is ironic that Mr. Sanna has become a public advocate against the issue of variances. He notes that Sanna is employed with Forest City Ratner Corporation – a large development company in the New York.

"Robert Sanna makes his living through development projects that require major variance relief," said Pfeffer. "In his own neighborhood they [variances] are suggested and he says they are inappropriate. This shows his true colors."

"My company is engaged in economic development that brings jobs and affordable housing into areas that really need it," said Sanna. "That is quite different from a rabbi who wants a very fancy shul."

Uh, sure. Or an NBA team owner who wants a very fancy basketball arena.

"All the projects my company does are 'as of right' projects that don't need zoning variances," said Sanna.

That outrageous lie is accurate only to the extent that Atlantic Yards totally overrides local zoning, so as not to need a variance. As of right? Wrong.

He explains that Pfeffer most likely was referring to the Atlantic Yards Project. It is a hotly debated issue over eminent domain, which every court upheld, said Sanna.


NoLandGrab: For all we know, the synagogue project is inappropriate, but if it is, we hope it's being built right next door to Mr. Sanna's home. The chickens are coming home to roost, eh, Bob?

Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

New York City builders must stop stifling the voices of local communities

NY Daily News, Op Ed
by John Liu

NYC's new Comptroller thinks something is rotten with Community Benefits Agreements.

Scene I: A savvy private developer hires a team of well-connected attorneys, lobbyists and public relations consultants to persuade City Hall to provide government subsidies for a local yet substantial economic development project.

Scene II: In exchange for the subsidies, the developer signs on to a community benefits agreement (CBA) promising all sorts of great things for the surrounding neighborhood, like the creation of hundreds of jobs and affordable housing units.

Scene III: Fast-forward a few years. The developer has built the project using millions of dollars worth of taxpayer subsidies but has fallen short on the promises to the community. Even City Hall has forgotten about or even forgiven those promises.

In many neighborhoods, New Yorkers have been subject to this show too many times. CBAs have too often proven to be great tasting but less filling. Here are examples of CBAs gone wrong:

At Atlantic Yards, the immediate community was not included in the CBA. The project was then held up by a series of lawsuits while the original signatories continue waiting for the promised jobs and affordable housing units.

One of the main reasons why many CBAs in New York City have been disappointing - and have been singled out nationally as examples of what not to do - is that they forgot one important factor: the community.


NoLandGrab: Liu is right that the Atlantic Yards CBA ignores residents, but the problems with it go much, much deeper.

Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

Memo suggests ESDC overstated AY economic benefits by assuming 10-year buildout, office space on track, full 8 million square feet

Atlantic Yards Report

So, how credible are the rosy figures for jobs and tax revenues stated in the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) "Economic Benefit Analysis" for Atlantic Yards?

We're going to go out on a limb here and guess: not credible?

The numbers conveyed in a 9/17/09 memo from ESDC President Dennis Mullen to the board may sound good, but a look at the backing document--received via a Freedom of Information Law request--shows numerous holes in the analysis.

Knew it!

1) Timing. The calculations of new tax revenue rely on a ten-year buildout of the project, which is highly unlikely. No alternative calculations or assumptions were provided, despite the likelihood, as even supporters such as then-ESDC CEO Marisa Lago have said, the project would take "decades." The Development Agreement allows 25 years, plus extensions.

2) Office jobs. The new tax revenue--as we learned back in 2006--relies significantly on office jobs, which are highly unlikely to come online within ten years.

3) Size of project. The revenue relies on a full buildout of the project, nearly 8 million square feet. But the development agreement allows for a much smaller project, less than 5.2 million square feet.

4) Costs underestimated. The costs are most likely underestimated and there's no effort to explain the calculations.

There are other fudges, such as an increase in the amount of commercial space.

The bottom line

The fact remains: no one has done a credible cost-benefit analysis of the project as a whole. The IBO has come closest, given its study of the arena, but that's not very close.

Nor has anyone done a cost-benefit analysis based on multiple timetables and scenarios, such as a 25-year buildout or the absence of office space.

And if a non-economist like me can poke so many holes in the memo, what would peer reviewers do?


Posted by eric at 9:19 AM

February 17, 2010

Atlantic Yards YES! New York's parks and historic sites, NO!!

While Atlantic Yards, which the Paterson administration is supporting with hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies, promises a paltry eight acres of "publicly accessible" (private) open space (most of it planned for the highly tenuous second phase of the project), the cash-strapped state may close nearly half of our parks and historic sites this year due to — wait for it — a lack of cash. Really, you can't make this stuff up.

AP via Crain's NY Business, Closings loom for NY parks, historic sites

About 100 state parks and historic sites will likely close this year as budget woes plague the state, and high-profile attractions such as Niagra Falls and Jones Beach could make the list.

No nuptials at Niagara Falls? Jones Beach off limits on a 90-degree day? The "Grand Canyon of the East" devoid of campers?

New York's state parks system, the nation's oldest, is facing another round of funding cuts that is likely to result in the first budget-related closures in the system's 125-year history. State officials say even popular parks at Niagara Falls and Jones Beach, with attendance figures in the millions, could be closed, along with such destinations as Letchworth, a popular hiking and camping spot ringing the rugged Genesee Gorge south of Rochester.

"It's going to be pretty bad. As bad as I've ever seen it," said Robin Dropkin, executive director of Parks & Trails New York, a 25-year-old nonprofit advocacy group.

Peter Humphrey, a member of the State Council of Parks, predicts as many as 100 of New York's 213 state parks and historic sites could be shut down because of the state's fiscal problems.

Carol Ash, the commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, has said park closures are unavoidable in 2010 as the state deals with a multibillion-dollar budget deficit.

Gov. David Paterson's amended budget proposal calls for cutting $20 million from state parks. When added to budget cuts made in the two previous fiscal years, the agency stands to see its funding reduced by some 40% over the span of three years, Ms. Ash said.

$20 million? Bruce Ratner's basketball arena is slated for some $700 million in public assistance from the state and New York City. But what about the jobs and economic development, you ask?

The parks system will operate with 1,100 fewer people — including lifeguards, cleaners and security guards — than it had just a few years ago, is canceling its park police training academy for the third consecutive year, and will cut park police staffing this summer to 266 full and part-time uniformed officers, about half the number that were on the job in 2003.

Closing the Niagara Falls park would be a "disaster" for local businesses, said the owner of one of a handful of companies that provide wedding services on the American side of the falls.

Messers. Dropkin and Humphrey pointed out that parks' $155 million budget isn't all that much in a state that plans to spend more than $130 billion. Meanwhile, the parks system contributes $1.9 billion a year in economic activity statewide, according to one recent study.

Closing parks, Mr. Humphrey said, would cut off a revenue source while shutting out visitors looking to spend money in local communities.

"This is clearly, purely from an economic standpoint, a lose-lose," he said.

Posted by eric at 10:24 PM

Times analyzes more "liberal" Court of Appeals under Lippman; eminent domain (and the role of Silver) get a pass

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times article running tomorrow on the state Court of Appeals tries to make a point about Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, but eminent domain--which might complicate the argument--gets ignored.

The article, headlined Judge Puts Liberal Imprint on New York’s Top Court, begins:

Gov. David A. Paterson nominated Jonathan Lippman to head the New York Court of Appeals in January 2009, making him the chief judge of the state. The choice was a gamble: the judge, a longtime court administrator, did not have a long history of deciding cases, and there was almost no record of his political views.

Now, a year in, the parameters of the Lippman court are coming into focus: he has helped turn the Court of Appeals into a scrappier, more divided and more liberal panel, its rulings and court statistics show. To get the rulings he wants, the decisions show, the new chief judge has built alliances case by case with each of the four judges who were nominated by the last Republican governor, George E. Pataki, cracking the conservative majority.

Looking more closely

I posted most of the following as comments on the Times's web site.

While the court may have moved to the left in certain areas, on the contentious issue of eminent domain--which now challenges ideological boundaries--the court most recently displayed great deference to the state, which is hardly a "left" position.


NoLandGrab: While deference to the state may not be a lefty position, permissiveness on the use (and abuse) of eminent domain is completely in step with liberal orthodoxy. Remember, the five most liberal Supreme Court justices at the time were in the majority onKelo, while the four most conservative justices firmly opposed New London's taking.

Posted by eric at 10:15 PM

Future NJ Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov avoids questions about basketball, bemoans fate of Russian biathlon team

The Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

Dave D'Alessandro flies all the way to Vancouver to interview Mikhail Prokhorov, only to discover that a Nets victory is more likely than a Proky scoop.

“I hoped to get good results here. For the time being, we are not very lucky,” the oligarch said in careful but inexpert English, after his women failed to medal in the 10-kilometer pursuit.

The future Nets owner is also the president of the Russian Biathlon Union, so we played along.

So this made it a bad morning for Mikky. He wanted a medal. Some wrote that he demanded a medal. In one interview, the author inferred that heads would roll on the coaching staff if the team didn’t repeat its recent success it had in a competition in Slovenia.

“In our (best) discipline, the relay, we should sure will get a medal,” Prokhorov predicted.

By now, you can tell that we hadn’t a clue how to break the ice with a billionaire. Language was an issue — our fault, we too often talk in idioms. So we had a cordial but mostly pointless discussion for 15 minutes, standing just off this course carved into the middle of the Coast Mountains, because as soon as he heard our name and affiliation, up went the preconditions:

“No basketball. I cannot comment. The lawyers told me I cannot speak,” he said. “As soon as deal is ... closed, I have summit.”


NoLandGrab: The failures of the Russian biathletes should prepare Prokhorov well for ownership of the Nets.

Posted by eric at 9:45 PM

Julia Vitullo-Martin's cognitive dissonance

Willets Point United

From the Neighborhood Retail Alliance:

...as we have been pointing out, the EDC proposed development would create new environmental hazards-like 80,000 new vehicle trips a day in and out of the new development. [Julia] Vitullo Martin, a shill for development who castigated the defeat of the Kingsbridge Armory deal, scoffs at the suggestion: "When asked about Lipsky's concern that developing the area would create 80,000 new vehicle trips in Flushing every weekday, therefore clogging traffic and increasing the city's carbon footprint, Martin chuckles. "I don't believe that's worthy of a response," she says.

Interestingly, Julia is opposed to the Atlantic Yards development plan in part because of the unmitigated traffic impacts that would result. Yet laughs at the notion that Willets Point, a project 3 times larger than Atlantic Yards, would have any impact.


NoLandGrab: Regular readers of this blog will see the irony in Richard Lipsky calling anyone "a shill for development." The alleged eminent domain opponent warmly embraced just such a prescription for properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint when he was cashing Bruce Ratner's checks as an, ahem, paid consultant.

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

Who's in charge of AY at the ESDC? A team, but there's no point person (any more); FOIL request regarding mystery volunteer still pending

Atlantic Yards Report

Who's in charge of the Atlantic Yards project at the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC)?

Is there an in-house project manager, a point person, similar in function to the way, for example, Regina Myer serves as president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation? Is there a board with oversight responsibilities and a process for seeking local input?

Nope. For a while, though, depending on whom you talk to, the ESDC had a volunteer in charge.

Why is that question important? Well, as I wrote 6/2/09, there was evidence that suggested lawyer Susan Rahm, a volunteer, was running the show.

Norman Oder is FOILed, again.

On 4/20/09, I filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with the ESDC, asking in part:

Specifically I request records that explain 1) how Susan Rahm's role and responsibility was introduced to ESDC colleagues when she joined ESDC as a volunteer in 2007 and 2) direct contacts by Rahm and/or Darren Bloch from 2007-present with Forest City Ratner executives regarding such issues as the timing, financing, legal status and scope of the Atlantic Yards project.

Every month, I get a response from the ESDC's FOIL officer, telling me they're still working on my request. It's been nearly ten months now.


NoLandGrab: Ten months? And they expect us to believe that Atlantic Yards will be completed in 10 years.

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

February 16, 2010

City's tech agency eyes Brooklyn expansion

The city Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications seeks 85,000 square feet at Brooklyn office complex to house 460 employees and a new data center.

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

Here's a surprise — a New York City agency bailing out leasing space from Forest City Ratner.

The city's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications is eyeing office space at 2 MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn. The agency has submitted a proposal to the city Department of Planning to acquire 85,000 square feet at the 10-story building, according to filings with the city.

The new office space will relieve overcrowding at two existing DoITT offices, located at 59 Maiden Lane in lower Manhattan and 11 MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn. DoITT also has an office at 75 Park Place in Manhattan.

DoITT and Forest City Ratner, MetroTech's developer and landlord, declined to comment.


NoLandGrab: Wait a sec. Isn't the city planning thousands of layoffs and closing 19 schools? How can city agencies be short of space?

More likely, this is just a back-door way of tossing another subsidy at the Atlantic Yards developer.

Posted by eric at 5:24 PM

Council Members call February 24 public meeting on street closings; FCR and DOT reps will appear; Dean Street Block Association raises concerns

Atantic Yards Report

Those concerned about street closures (plan at bottom, by Forest City Ratner consultant Sam Schwartz Engineering( in the Atlantic Yards footprint will get another chance to query representatives of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and FCR at a public meeting at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, 85 South Oxford Street in Fort Greene on Wednesday, February 24, from 6-8 pm.

The meeting was arranged by City Council Member Letitia James, who represents the district (35) that includes the AY footprint, along with the Council Members who represent adjoining districts: Brad Lander (39) and Steve Levin (33).

It is co-sponsored by Community Boards 2, 6 & 8. Along with representatives of the developer and DOT, the Empire State Development Corporation's AY Ombudsman, Forrest Taylor, is expected to be in attendance.

There have been two previous public meetings, one lightly publicized, and both held about a mile-and-a-half away: one before the Transportation Committee of Community Board 6 and the other before the 78th Precinct Community Council. The church is much closer to the site.

Closures on hold

At the meetings, held last month, representatives of both FCR and DOT assumed that the closures--Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, and Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues and Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues--were on track for February 1.

However, a state judge put condemnations--and thus the closures--on hold, leading to significant confusion and misleading signs regarding whether the streets would actually close.

The dynamic of the February 24 meeting may depend somewhat on whether state Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges has ruled on the condemnations; it's possible that if he upholds the condemnations, the streets will be closed before the meeting.

[Update: A press release from James's office says streets "are now expected to close on March 1." That assumes that Gerges will rule in favor of condemnation before then.]


NoLandGrab: And if Judge Gerges hasn't yet ruled, you can bet that the normally sour-pussed Forest City VP Jane Marshall will be looking more dour than ever.

Posted by eric at 3:41 PM

Regarding TV revenues for Olympics (but not AY), sports economist Zimbalist offers caution: "Nothing goes up forever"

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember, after a critical response to Andrew Zimbalist's report for Forest City Ratner was issued in in June 2004, the New York Times quoted the "sports economist for hire" (to quote the Times hockey blog) as saying, "I was very careful in my use of numbers."

Zimbalist's sunny predictions regarding the benefits of the Atlantic Yards project were premised on a ten-year buildout of the entire project, a timetable that then was not necessarily likely and that is now highly doubtful.

Yet Zimbalist, as with the governmental backers of the project, produced only one set of numbers rather than alternate scenarios incorporating changing conditions.

He should've known better.

He does know better.


Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

"If the blight comes through": why reform of state eminent domain laws is overdue, and notes from Senator Perkins's workshop Saturday

Atlantic Yards Report

So, if laypeople of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) board can determine blight in Prospect Heights even if they never visit to Brooklyn, it's a mighty subjective science.

Which is why state Senator Bill Perkins's effort to reform the state's eminent domain laws is long overdue--and will be a tough battle.

For those closely following eminent domain in New York, there wasn't a huge amount new at the workshop Perkins sponsored Saturday in Albany, but--when the video becomes available--it was a good introduction to the issue.

Flashback from Radio Golf

Before I offer a summary, let's flash back to August Wilson's play about urban redevelopment, Radio Golf, on Broadway in 2007. During the play, the Bedford Hills Redevelopment Agency aims to get the city to designate certain properties as blighted.

"If the blight comes through," project supporters say at several points and, eventually, it does.

Because it, like Atlantic Yards, was a wired deal.


Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Mugger defeated!

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Andy Campbell

This week's Fort Greene police blotter is noteworthy in that it reports no crime in either of Bruce Ratner's two neighborhood malls, the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center. Which means either local crooks got into the Valentine's Day spirit, or the Empire State Development Corporation and AKRF were compiling the crime statistics.


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

February 15, 2010

NHL Commissioner Casts Doubt on Brooklyn Islanders


Gary Bettman, the NHL Commissioner, criticized Long Island politicians for delaying action on Islander plans for a[n] Atlantic Yards-like project centered on Nassau Coliseum but said Brooklyn may not make sense as an alternate location. “Does it make sense based on where the Islanders hockey fan base is to go to Brooklyn? I don’t know the answer to it,” asked Bettman, noting most fans live in Queens and Nassau.


NoLandGrab: The Islanders have a fan base? Well, yes, if the basis of comparison is the Nets', ahem, fan base. But need we remind Mr. Bettman that "Brooklyn's" ice would be too small to accommodate pro hockey?

Posted by eric at 10:49 PM

If Cuomo has "the strictest" campaign finance policy in the state, shouldn't he give back Bruce Ratner's $5000 contribution?

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Daily News reported today, in an article about the real estate industry taking advantage of campaign finance loopholes, that Andrew Cuomo's campaign spokesman, Phil Singer, said, "The AG has the strictest self-imposed campaign finance policy in the state, prohibiting donors from contributing if any matter is pending before his office and for 90 days thereafter."

(Cuomo is widely believed to be running for governor.)

Cuomo's gift from Bruce Ratner

Well, why hasn't Cuomo returned the $5000 he received on 2/4/09 from developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner?

While Ratner did not have a matter pending directly before Cuomo's office, Ratner's company was a defendant in a pending case challenging the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Yards.

But if the Attorney General, who has a vast lead over Governor David Paterson in fundraising--$16 million to $3 million, as of last month--wants to avoid the widespread perception that the real estate industry has an inside track, shouldn't he give the money back?


NoLandGrab: "Strictest self-imposed campaign finance policy in the state" of New York isn't exactly setting the bar very high, is it?

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

If Rod Thorn aces Russian test Kiki Vandeweghe could be out

Bergen Record
by Al Iannazzone

Rod Thorn is in Dallas this weekend, and if everything goes well for him, he could be in Vancouver on Monday working out the details of a new contract.

The Nets president was scheduled to meet with owner-in-waiting Mikhail Prokhorov in the Lone Star State on Sunday, but there has been a change in plans, NBA and team sources said.

Thorn now will meet with some of Prokhorov's business associates in Dallas, the site of All-Star weekend. Nets CEO Brett Yormark also will attend.

If the summit goes well, Thorn will fly to Vancouver to meet with Prokhorov and discuss his future and the future of the Nets.

If Thorn knows he's on solid ground, sources believe he could fire Vandeweghe some time after the Feb. 18 trade deadline. The Nets are 4-30 since Vandeweghe replaced Lawrence Frank as coach.

Also, Thorn is unhappy about a report involving an alleged side deal with ex-assistant coach Del Harris that made it seem Vandeweghe undermined his authority.

If Vandeweghe is fired, assistant coach John Loyer could become the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.


NoLandGrab: All we have to offer John Loyer is... "good luck."

More by-catch from the Nets...

Slippery When Nets, Random Tangents - New Name For Nets

I have three thoughts on the matter of the team name, all going in different directions. First, perhaps the Nets should name try to appeal to the major opponents of the Brooklyn move - hipsters.

NLG: Hipsters?

Courtside Post, The Brooklyn Nets...by way of Newark

According to the source, the Nets and Devils reached a new agreement last week and are expected to sign it this week. It should reach Gov. Chris Christie’s desk soon after and it is expected to be approved.

Reuters via The New York Times, James as a Knick Won’t Help MSG

Forget the cash on MSG’s books — it will be chewed up in an estimated $800 million renovation of the Garden — and that equates to $21 a share.

That price overlooks fresh competition and potential corporate governance costs. The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the New Jersey Nets are expected to play, is to open in 2012.

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

Gentrification, "Brooklyn's Roommate Belt," and how housing code changes could produce more affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at some less-apparent factors shaping New York City's housing market.

You can't just blame developers, or Wall Streeters with cash to burn. One important driver of gentrification may be the housing code, which makes it hard for developers to build low-cost studio apartments, instead aiming at larger apartments and luxury studios.

Former Citizens Housing and Planning Council (CHPC) fellow Denali Dasgupta, now a Policy Analyst in the New York City Comptroller's Office, at the Dreamland Pavilion Conference last October contended that the cause may be less market forces than market failure.

And a revision in regulations might produce a lot more affordable housing, I'd suggest, leaving less opportunity for projects like Atlantic Yards, however questionable, to be seen as saviors.


Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

February 14, 2010

Nothin' but Nyets, Nothin' but Post

NY Post, Krzyzewski: Saying nyet to New Jersey 'would be easy'

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski essentially rebuffed the Nets' interest yesterday before ever hearing what the team and incoming Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov might have to offer.

"The guy's Russian, right? You think he'd hire a Polish guy?" Krzyzewski, clearly the Nets' leading choice for head coach next season, said jokingly to reporters in Durham, N.C. yesterday after Duke manhandled Maryland, 77-56. "No one's contacted me and if they do, I think 'nyet' would be easy for me to say."

Lots of people joke about the Nets these days. Hey, they're 4-48.

NY Post, Prokhorov's learning curve

Authorities never pressed charges against Russian billionaire and new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov after arresting him in 2007 on suspicion of hiring high-class call girls to entertain his guests in the Swiss Alps. But now, Prokhorov himself admits that he has some experience in the flesh trade. "I had sex for money once. I was young, hotblooded, curious. The representative of the ancient profession was brilliant and read Nietzsche in the original," he recently told the magazine he owns, the Russian Pioneer. "And she gave advice on how to be successful in life: 'Keep your back straight and don't fuss.' I have learned not to fuss, but I am still working hard on the spine. There's still time." The 6-foot-8 bachelor skipped the NBA All-Star Game and its surrounding hoopla in Dallas, as the 4-48 Nets limp toward the worst record in the league's history. Prokhorov was in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics.

NoLandGrab: Prokhorov was allegedly going to meet with Nets' President Rod Thorn while attending the NBA All-Star game, but according to the Post, "Prokhorov's planned trip to Dallas to meet with Thorn was called off because of travel difficulties and to avoid the overwhelming throng of NBA media for All-Star weekend." They just realized there was going to be press?

NY Post, Prokhorov's next moves remain a mystery

You have got to be extremely wary of sources claiming they're privy to the preferences of Mikhail Prokhorov about anything or anyone. Come on, other than commissioner David Stern, who in this country would the Russian tycoon trust enough to seek counsel or share confidences concerning the right people to facelift the Nets' image once approved as controlling owner by the NBA's Board of Governors?

Posted by eric at 11:28 PM

AY Report: Even Gambinos Could Get NBA Team, Ratner Mall Crime Wave Continues

Atlantic Yards Report

Lupica: "with the state of the current economy in the NBA, a member of the Gambino family could get a team"

From Daily News columnist Mike Lupica today:

I love the idea that people are wondering about Mikhail Prokhorov getting the Nets, and getting into the NBA.

Are they kidding?

What, our rich guys are more noble than Russian rich guys?

Besides, with the state of the current economy in the NBA, a member of the Gambino family could get a team.

After all, the NBA is projecting league-wide losses of about $400 million this season, according to Commissioner David Stern.

Yet another account of high crime... in Forest City Ratner's mall

From the Fort Greene Association's February 2010 newsletter:

The FGA along with the Task Force has urged the restoration of Police foot patrols once common in Fort Greene believing that these patrols set Fort Greene and Clinton Hill on the correct course in the early 90’s when they were active. In speaking of his available resources at the 88th, Captain Tasso says that he does not have the manpower for foot patrols except for specific high crime locations. One of these locations is Atlantic Center, which does not have its own security force but drains Police resources from the 88th.

From the Atlantic Yards Blight Study conducted by AKRF:

The Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal shopping centers are located immediately north of the project site, also within the boundaries of Sector 88E. In an effort to determine whether a large proportion of crimes reported for Sector 88E might have occurred on the Atlantic Center/Atlantic Terminal premises rather than on the project site, crime data were obtained from the security staff at the shopping centers.

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

(Emphasis added)

Note that the mall does seem to have security staff. It's not clear, however, whether there are enough such staff. And it seems quite likely they're fudging the books--and AKRF didn't check any further.

Posted by steve at 8:53 AM

Irish Wake? Viking Funeral? Swedish Whorehouse? Bring Your Own Methaphor!

This Week In New York

Here's some fatalism mixed with support of Freddy's, located in the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Brooklyn institution Freddy’s, one of the city’s best places to hear free live music, keeps on battling for its survival, caught literally right in the middle of Bruce Ratner’s controversial Atlantic Yards Project, but the bar is continuing to hold events every night of the week and fighting the good fight. On Saturday, February 13, five great local acts will be supporting the club, beginning at 8:00 with Solar Punch, followed by Paula Carino and the Better Business Bureau at 9:00, the John Sharples Band at 10:00, Love Camp 7 at 11:00, and Tom Warnick and the World’s Fair at midnight. Carino will be featuring songs from her brand-new disc, OPEN ON SUNDAY, which she creatively financed through Facebook fan donations. “Could it be you just wanted a greener space to wander unharassed?” she sings on “Foxhound.” “Could it be that we remind you of some terror in your past?” Carino reveals her existential side on “Sir You Have No Bucket,” explaining, “Been banging my head on a locked metal door that isn’t even there anymore.” In addition to the new tunes, we hope the ridiculously catchy “Coming to My Senses” makes the setlist as well. Meanwhile, Love Camp 7, named after Lee Frost’s 1969 Nazi prison camp thriller, will be highlighting songs from their latest, UNION GARAGE, which we called “another infectious collection of hyperintelligent flower-power psychedelia featuring lilting harmonies, wry lyrics, and jangling guitars.” If you’ve never been to Freddy’s, you might not have many more chances, so this should be one helluva cool way to say both hello and goodbye.


NoLandGrab: Don't give up, Freddy's hasn't.

Posted by steve at 8:38 AM

Latest on NBA NETS to Brooklyn

BrooklynTrolleyBlogger, Breukelen Station

This blog entry closely parallels the ESDC's policy of building a Nets arena at any cost.

As far as I can tell, Russian billionare Mikhail Prokhorov is still on course to purchase the Nets from Bruce Ratner. That is something I'm very much in favor of.

There seems to be a little more buzz and activity over at Atlantic Yards these days. Brett Yormark, Nets CEO has said recently on sports radio, the plan is to be playing in Brooklyn by the 2011-2012 season. I myself find that unlikely. If they could start by 2012-2013 I'll be happy. He also said something I find interesting which is he has no problems moving in mid-season. Basically he said the moment the move can happen is the right moment to transition over to Brooklyn, regardless of what point of the season thay may be. He even agreed with a scenario where the regular season could be played in N.J. and the playoffs in Brooklyn, should they advance. Mr. Yormark reitterated anytime will be the right time.

I like what I'm hearing.
The fact they are a 4 win team in mid-February doesn't concern me right now.
I just want them here.


NoLandGrab: This is urban planning of the "I want what I want when I want it" school.

Posted by steve at 8:32 AM

February 13, 2010

Andy Friedman and the Other Failures Sing "Freddy's Backroom"

Freddy's (by O'Finn) via YouTube via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

They're gonna tear down Freddy's, they're gonna tear down Hank's Saloon.
Like crickets under the rocks, we're all gonna hop to Bennigans' Backroom.

Links: DDDB / YouTube

Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

AY Report: IBO Budget Options, Press AWOL on Atlantic Yards

IBO offers Budget Options, including repeal of MSG tax exemption and taxing vacant land (another tactic to remove blight?)

The Independent Budget Office yesterday released a new edition of Budget Options for New York City, evaluating 63 options—nine of them new—that could help close the city's budget shortfall. None are presented as recommendations, just options.

Among the biggies are the restoration of the commuter tax and the introduction of bridge tolls.

Below are a few regarding land use policy. Only the first is a new option.

Keep in mind that vacant lots are blighted, according to the Empire State Development Corporation's blight studies, which support projects to remove that blight. Others might consider tax incentives to develop such lots a more subtle solution.

Tax changes being contemplated :

As the press obsesses about Paterson rumors, Atlantic Yards news is ignored

A reader asked me a few days back if I was going to weigh in and chastise the New York Times for not yet printing the much-rumored blockbuster article about Governor David Paterson.

I had nothing to add, I said; it's all a hall of mirrors. Indeed, an article published Tuesday night on the Observer's web site by John Koblin, The Fake-News Cycle (with graphic, below; click to enlarge), summed up how rumors went viral.

Subsequently, the Times, on its City Room blog, even printed an unbylined article headlined In Albany, a Rumor of a Rumor Catches Fire.

What they're missing

Meanwhile, neither the Times nor the Observer--nor any other newspaper, save the Daily News, which treated it almost as an aside--has reported that the Development Agreement for Atlantic Yards gives the developer 12 years to build Phase 1 and 25 years to build the whole project, with many opportunities for extensions and mild penalties for most delays.

And why is that important? Because the state and the developer pledge that the goal is to build the project in a decade--and issue still in court--so no Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement was necessary.

Posted by steve at 8:59 AM

State Senator Seeks to Reform Use of Eminent Domain

by Matthew Schuerman

This item about Senator Perkins' attempt to reform New York eminent domain law mentions how Prospect Heights does not need the proposed Atlantic Yards project to prosper.

State Sen. Bill Perkins is trying to restrict the state's powers to take private property. The Upper Manhattan Democrat says the current law allows government to take advantage of small property owners.

Current law says blight is anything that's "substandard," "insanitary," or "deteriorating." But that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In West Harlem, where Columbia University has plans to expand, a state agency said buildings with loose awnings and unpainted brick walls qualified as blighted.

Perkins, who represents the area, wants to raise the bar. His legislation says a building must be abandoned or unfit for habitation or meet other criteria before being considered "blighted." He'd also require even civic projects -- such as the planned basketball arena at Atlantic Yards -- be located in blighted areas rather than supplant healthy neighborhoods.


Posted by steve at 7:56 AM

Owners' Counsel of America Honors Journalists for Investigative Reporting of Eminent Domain


This article catches up with awards rewarded to two journalists including Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder.

As Oder professes skepticism of the developer's claims, the expected economic benefits of the project, and the fairness of the process, he comes closer to aligning himself with project opponents than with the government and developer. "My goal as a blogger is fairness, not some 'he said she said' version of objectivity," he asserts. He maintains rigorous standards, sourcing his work with links and critiquing project opponents when they stray from the facts.

Oder's work involves assessments of media coverage, reporting of events such as public hearings and oral arguments, and detailed analyses of legal briefs, environmental reports and other documents. His reporting bridges the gap between legal formality and ground-level reality by demonstrating that the state's claims of blight in and around the project footprint are suspect. Oder offers a longitudinal view of an enormously contested project while analyzing the process by which the city and New York State, considered to have the most condemnor-friendly eminent domain laws in the nation, go about development and condemnation.


Posted by steve at 7:52 AM

Perkins to host workshop Saturday to discuss eminent domain reforms

Here's a way to get your activist fix on this Saturday from the comfort of your own home.

State Senator Bill Perkins, who just introduced a bill to reform the state's eminent domain laws, notably blight, will host a workshop on the issue tomorrow in Albany from 1-2:30 pm.

It should stream live at this link.

It doesn't look like any defenders of the status quo will participate. The witness list:

  • Christina Walsh - Institute for Justice
  • Amy Lavine - Government Law Center at Albany Law School
  • Anna Adler - New York State Trial Lawyers Association
  • Tara Quinlan - New York State Trial Lawyers Association

Walsh's organization has called New York one of the country's worst abusers of eminent domain and Lavine has advised Perkins on the reform bill.

The Trial Lawyers Association does not, as far as I can tell, have a position on eminent domain, but its members generally represent individuals against institutions and businesses, and thus presumably would be sympathetic to greater protections for those facing condemnation.

Posted by steve at 7:30 AM

February 12, 2010

Forest City Ratner Addresses Debris Scare at Beekman Tower

The Tribeca Trib
by Matt Dunning


Weeks after pieces of debris blown from the 77-story Beekman Tower, under construction at 8 Spruce Street, brought much of Lower Manhattan to a standstill, developer Forest City Ratner promised new steps to prevent a repeat of the dangerous incident.

On Jan. 25, wind gusts approaching 100 miles an hour blew several small pieces of wood and metal from the upper floors of the Frank Gehry-designed, tower, forcing police to close several blocks near the tower for most of the day, including eastbound access to the nearby Brooklyn Bridge, crippling pedestrian and vehicular traffic Downtown.

Earlier this week, Forest City Ratner Senior Vice President Joseph Rechichi said the company has installed new rigging for the orange safety nets surrounding the outer edges of the building’s unfinished floors, as well as reinforced tie-downs for the plywood hole covers throughout the tower.

“The nets were shredded in place, you could see them dangling all the way up the building,” said Boris Faiguenbaum, a construction superintendent for Kreisler Borg and Florman, Ratner’s general contractor on the project.


NoLandGrab: In an ironic twist, Ratner's other Nets get shredded every night in the Izod Center, too — most recently by Milwaukee, 97-77.


Downtown Express, Ratner promises better safety on Gehry tower

Two weeks after metal and plywood rained down from the 76-story Beekman Tower, the project’s managers promised concerned residents that the building was now safe.

“We are confident this will not happen again,” said Joe Rechichi, a senior vice president with developer Forest City Ratner.

“Some people don’t like the height,” C.B. 1 District Manager Noah Pfefferblit said Tuesday night, “but that’s another issue.”

NLG: Gehry-designed buildings typically begin failing after, not during, construction.

Posted by eric at 7:20 AM

If Building 1 ever goes up, for three years the arena entrance would move (in part) to Sixth Avenue, far from transit hub; was impact studied?

Atlantic Yards Report

You have to read the fine print.

Because there, at the end of a Technical Memorandum issued by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in June 2009, came the surprising news that, if the office tower known as Building 1 is constructed later than planned, the main entrance to the Atlantic Yards arena would have to move from the western edge--closest to the transit hub at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues--to the north and east on Atlantic Avenue and Sixth Avenue.

Given that there's no market for office space right now, a delayed buildout is highly likely, if the tower is built at all. (Bruce Ratner told Crain's in November, “Can you tell me when we are going to need a new office tower?”

But the full impact of that change was not studied in ESDC documents, notably the impact on Neighborhood Character.
Missing from the Appendix is any analysis of Neighborhood Character, which is one of the chapters in the FEIS and one of the impacts to be studied.

Sure, the impact would be temporary, but three years of an arena entrance closer to a residential neighborhood was never contemplated when the project was announced.


Posted by lumi at 6:05 AM

ESDC amends mitigation memo on timing, open space, etc.; more important is leeway on affordable housing, paying for TEAs, and "practicable" procedures

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has quietly--i.e., with no press release--posted an updated version of the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (aka Memorandum of Mitigation Commitments), which was signed in December.

Notably, the document--which was posted either in late December or early January--describes:

  • more time to build a school
  • more time to build a day care center (or not build it at all)
  • larger stormwater detention tanks, in the absence of an arena green roof
  • plans for temporary open space, such as kiosks, seating areas, and landscaping
  • plans for a temporary Urban Plaza

Most if not all of the changes are also memorialized in the master closing documents signed in late December and finally made available on January 25.

Still, most of the changes seem minor. The key text, most likely, the significant amount of wiggle room built into the language of both documents, leaving the city or the ESDC--which have not exactly pressed hard on developer Forest City Ratner--in charge of enforcing some vague agreements.


Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

February 11, 2010

It came from the Blogosphere...

Runnin' Scared, Downtown Brooklyn -- Where It's All Happening, Eventually, Baby!

The Village Voice blog appraises today's NY Post story.

And the big draw, which the Post saves for near the end -- Atlantic Yards. They've gone bullish in the wake of recent legal victories, and Forest City Ratner has sent their EVP MaryAnne Gilmartin to inform Observer readers, "The wait is over. We are building Atlantic Yards." And if you have the clams and the stones to join the Downtown Brooklyn gold rush, 46 nights a year you may expect drunken and (no doubt) disappointed Nets fans to stream into your neighborhood, patronize your local drinking establishments, and vomit on your local streets. Downtown Brooklyn, baby! It's what's happening, shortly after now!

Focused Filly, What $2 is Really Worth

Buried in the game notes at the bottom of the article is a really interesting line: "Despite the paltry turnout, the paid attendance for the game was 12,873." The weather - admittedly - sucked, so the very fact that 1,000 people were able to dig themselves out from the snow should've been enough news.

But run the numbers: individual game tickets sell for somewhere between $10 and $1,950 through Ticketmaster ... and 12,873 people paid, yet only 1,000 showed. While we don't know the exact breakdown of tickets sold, no matter how you slice it, that's happy math for Bruce Ratner and his pool of investors.

NoLandGrab: What the author doesn't realize is that in the NBA, "paid" attendance really means "tickets distributed," and anyone familiar with the Nets knows that free tickets distributed routinely run into the several thousands. So the math is far from happy for Bruce Ratner, and even less so for his very unhappy investors.

Lola in Brooklyn, HOME OF THE BROOKLYN NETS???

This semester, my colleagues and I are joining a group of artists, community members, life long residents, and concerned citizens to explore and bring light to the city of brooklyn's atlantic yards area.

The atlantic yard's area, which is a stretch of downtown Brooklyn, is set to be demolished and "developed" into a thriving area, which will contain the home of the "Brooklyn Nets" formally the New Jersey Nets, the worst team in the NBA. Great news, sports fans!


NLG: And we thought all this time we'd been bringing light to Brooklyn's "Atlantic Yards area."

The Daily Growler, thegrowlingwolf On Us(A) Being Yahoos

This rant is a little loose with the facts, and the grammar, but it's still a good rant.

Then there was the Williamsburg Bank in that beautiful old tower, the tallest building in Brooklyn, now owned by Magic Johnson who has turned it into luxury condos--no chance for his average Brooklyn black brothers and sisters to ever live there. Magic's no dumbass. He's been buying up New York City property for years. He opened a movie complex just up at the East Side end of my street. He bought a skyscraper in Newark for pennies on the dollar and turned it into a luxury condo building. Like I say, Magic's no dumbass. His luxury condo building in Newark is by the new sports arena they just built over there. The Williamsburg Bank building, by the way, is right up the street from Mayor Bloomberg's old developer (Bruce Ratner) buddy's getting eminent domain rights to destroy the Brooklyn Center City area (via the Atlantic Rail Yards) in order to build his new super-Brooklyn downtown, with its new hi-rise luxury hotels and hi-rise luxury condos and its new supersports arena (to be named in honor of Barclays Bank) that will soon house the unsuccessful New Jersey Nets basketball team (also the "mogul rapper," as he is referred to by the Yahoo press, Jay Z is an investor in this development)--soon to be the unsuccessful Brooklyn New Jersey Nets! This is a real scumbag Power Elite move to turn Brooklyn into a rich boys's playground. The new controlling owner of the New Jersey Nets (already called the Brooklyn Nets on paper), by the way, is a real American patriot of a dude, believe it or not a RUSSIAN fat cat (how did a former Russian Commie become a rich Capitalist after Gorbachev disbanded the Soviet Union?) Yes, that's right, the precious Brooklyn Nets--bringing sports back to Brooklyn--ironically on the very site Walter O'Malley wanted Brooklyn to build him a new stadium or he was taking the Dodgers to L.A.--is owned by a fucking Russian billionaire.

Posted by eric at 9:31 PM

Thorn to reveal game plan

Bergen Record
by Al Iannazone

Nets president Rod Thorn will meet impending owner Mikhail Prokhorov in Dallas this weekend.

Prokhorov won't take over until the NBA Board of Governors approves the sale from Bruce Ratner early next month, and contingencies regarding the Brooklyn arena site are met. The latter is expected by early April.

But Prokhorov would want a plan in place and people in position to execute it, which includes hiring a new head coach, preparing for an important draft and the NBA's biggest free agent class ever.


More Nets coverage...


What I found most insulting was how Kiki finally called on CDR to play the game’s final three minutes in garbage time. Unless we read from one of the beat writers tomorrow that CDR missed his bus or threw a snowball at Bruce Ratner before the game yesterday, I just don’t understand how a guy could go from 15-point scorer in the starting lineup, to the 12th man treatment, in the span of a few weeks.

NoLandGrab: If Chris Douglas-Roberts threw a snowball at Boss Ratner, we'll give him a starting job — and his own log-in.

Huffington Post, Nets Attendance: Barely 1,000 Turn Out To See Team Lose Again

It was a sad sight in a sorry season.

In front of about 1,000 fans, the New Jersey Nets lost for the 48th time before the All-Star break, trounced 97-77 by the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.

Despite the paltry turnout, the paid attendance for the game was 12,873.

NLG: They mean "paid" attendance. Wink. Wink.

Posted by eric at 9:07 PM

Who Benefits?

Neighborhood Retail Alliance

The conscience-free lobbyist-for-hire, Richard Lipsky, comments on Community Benefits Agreements, and claims (admits?) a role in the Atlantic Yards CBA.

...as always, the devil is in the details-and crafting standards and a procedural protocol in the context of ULURP is a daunting task indeed. The Alliance has been involved in all of the aforementioned CBA negotiations, and on both sides of the equation, so we know how complex and contentious this all is.

Ultimately, if CBAs are going to be given an official policy status, then they will need to be made an integral part of ULURP.


NoLandGrab: Except when ULURP is overridden, as it was in the case of Atlantic Yards, a project for which Lipsky was on the Bruce Ratner's payroll. As Mr. Lipsky says, the devil is in the details.

Posted by eric at 8:27 PM

Did you say "slush fund"?

Community Benefits Agreements

Amy Lavine follows up on Norman Oder's coverage of the indictment of Larry Seabrook and its implications for the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

One of the CBA signatories, ACORN, got a $1.5 million loan/bailout from the developer. Another, the "dubious nonprofit" Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, has spent most of its funding on pest management at its building, First Atlantic Terminal, even though "such tasks are not really part of BEE's mandate". Meanwhile, Darryl Greene, the subject of an intense controversy regarding a deal for a video casino, also has ties to the CBA.

New York City has had trouble with development amenities for a long time, so the problems with the Atlantic Yards, Yankee Stadium, and Columbia CBAs are in some ways unsurprising. A 1988 report from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York recommended doing away with CBA-type deals....


Posted by eric at 3:48 PM

B'klyn hot spot

Downtown's population exploding

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Brooklyn's fastest-growing residential neighborhood isn't in the Brownstone Belt from Brooklyn Heights to Park Slope -- it's all happening Downtown. New data show that since 2000, Downtown Brooklyn has gone from a struggling business district saturated with 99-cent stores to home to more than 9,000 people (see the map and census information [PDF]).

Interestingly, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership itself locates the entirety of the Atlantic Yards footprint outside of downtown Brooklyn, something that would be news to Forest City Ratner, which has for years claimed the project was "downtown" rather than in the midst of the low-rise Brownstone neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and Park Slope.

[Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Joe] Chan also said he expects the area to be boosted by the $800 million arena planned for the Nets in nearby Prospect Heights. The arena is part of Bruce Ratner's $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project, which was slated to bring more than 6,000 new units of housing before lawsuits and the credit crunch held it up.

Whether the rest of Atlantic Yards is built or not, Chan expects that "the impact of the arena will be historic," adding, "It's a game-changer for Downtown and the borough."


NoLandGrab: It'd be a "game-changer," no doubt.

Posted by eric at 3:09 PM

Save us Jay-Z!

Brooklyn Downtown Star
by Daniel Bush

With nowhere else to turn, Prospect Heights residents fighting to reopen a closed homeless shelter have turned for help to the one and only Jay-Z.

A coalition of community groups angry at the city for closing a Dean Street homeless shelter to make way for the redevelopment of Atlantic Yards sent Jay-Z a letter recently urging the Brooklyn-born entertainer, whose real name is Sean Carter, to intervene in the situation.

The rapper has an ownership stake in the New Jersey Nets, a team that plans to move to Brooklyn once a new arena is built at Atlantic Yards.

“Dear Jay-Z,” the letter started, “we wish to call your attention to a situation that you are unaware of, in the hope that you can do something, anything, to help put things right.”

It went on to tell the story of the Pacific Dean Shelter Annex, located at 603 Dean Street in Prospect Heights, which closed last month to make room for construction at Atlantic Yards, sending some 80 families to other shelters throughout the city.


Posted by eric at 2:53 PM

Liu Wants To Change Community Benefit Agreements, Development Subsidies

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

For the second time in as many days, Comptroller John Liu has announced plans to revamp a process related to real estate development.

On Tuesday, he called for general changes to the way subsidies are awarded.

Wednesday belonged to community benefit agreements, the un-regulated deals often struck between eager developers and community groups concerned about their projects, usually after concessions and money have changed hands.

Calling the unstructured employment of CBAs in New York City an "embarrassment," Mr. Liu, without offering much specificity, said in a statement that he would create new standards for the agreements "in the coming months."

There's much criticism to go around about CBAs in New York: Just who sits at the table to negotiate with the developer (i.e. who represents the "community") is always subject to debate, and the same elected officials who are approving the project are often negotiating the CBAs as well. The CBAs, which usually have nothing to do with zoning, have become a prerequisite nonetheless for a necessary zoning approval, a common complaint from developers.

The Observer has Liu's full statement. Here's a snippet.

From Atlantic Yards to Yankee Stadium to the Columbia University expansion, the public has seen a string of broken promises to communities and questionable involvement by some government officials. Furthermore, an additional layer of unpredictability confronts developers when they engage in private negotiations over benefits associated with their projects. In fact, studies have singled out New York City's community benefit agreements as examples of what not to do.


NoLandGrab: Of course, the poster-child for NYC Community Benefits Agreements — and all that's wrong with them — is the Atlantic Yards CBA.

Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

Fact-checking claims in MaryAnne Gilmartin's "The Op-Ed: Atlantic Yards—It Is Happening"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder fact checks Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin's "op-ed," which appeared in the "The Commercial Observer," a spinoff publication of the NY Observer.

Despite Gilmartin's proclamation that "We are building Atlantic Yards," Oder points out that there are no current renderings; the public costs remain uncalculated; the affordable housing isn't as affordable as the developer would have you believe; the jobs figures are calcuated in "job years" (one job for each year!), not actual jobs; the timeline is very generous before the developer incurs penalties; and though she may tout the area is blighted, the CEO of Forest City called it "a great piece of real estate."


Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

February 10, 2010

Coach For The Day!


Nets' sponsor Zappos is looking for a coach for a day — which, at the rate the Nets are losing, could turn into a longer gig. How about owner for the day?

Have you always wanted to be a Head Coach and call the shots? Well, here's your chance! One lucky winner and their guest will be brisked off to New Jersey to spend the day with the Nets. You'll get to hang out at the team's practice facility during the day, get full VIP access at the arena during that night's game and get the chance to rub elbows with Head Coach Kiki Vandeweghe!

Entry form

NoLandGrab: "Brisked?"

Posted by eric at 10:36 PM

Nets Go Cold in the Snow


Apparently, about 1,000 people were trapped tonight by the severe winter weather inside the Izod Center.

Rinse, wash and repeat. Wednesday’s game at the Izod Center was close for the first 2 1/2 quarters and the Nets led by one midway through the third, but an 18-1 Milwaukee run spanning the third and fourth decided the game. So the Nets head into the All-Star break with just four wins and an eight-game losing streak. The good news is that only about a thousand people were forced to watch this one in person.


Posted by eric at 10:25 PM

The CBA angle to the Seabrook indictment, Liu's effort to reform CBAs, and the lingering clouds over the AY CBA

Atlantic Yards Report

It is no coincidence that today, a day after news of the indictment of Bronx City Council Member Larry Seabrook for money laundering, extortion and fraud, City Comptroller John Liu issued a statement calling Community Benefits Agreements an "embarrassment" and urging more standards.

While a contract associated with the Yankee Stadium CBA was but a part of the Seabrook indictment (press release [PDF]), it was another questionable episode in the saga of CBAs, which Mayor Mike Bloomberg--once an enthusiastic witness to the Atlantic Yards CBA--now calls "extortion."

And given the allegedly criminal behavior, it raises a question as to why a convicted criminal ($500,000 in fraudulent billing), Darryl Greene--the subject of huge controversy regarding the deal for an Aqueduct video casino--has played a key role in the Atlantic Yards CBA.

According to the indictment, Seabrook lobbied the Yankees to award the Yankee Stadium boiler contract to a Bronx boiler manufacturer which was not among the four previously-identified bidders.

A developer serving as a representative of the Yankees asked the team for authorization to award the boiler subcontract to Seabrook's choice, noting that there was a $13,000 premium because the firm was "a Local Business Enterprise and heavily supported by a local politician."

The Contractor paid the Bronx Boiler Manufacturer in excess of $283,000 for the boiler subcontract. Seabrook allegedly got $50,000.


NoLandGrab: When Larry Seabcrook pushes for the Yankees to choose the politically connected high bidder for new boilers, it ends up in a Federal indictment. When the MTA sells publicly owned property to the politically connected low bidder — that's Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 10:08 PM

The fight over blight

DJC Oregon
by Edward Sullivan and Carrie Richter

Five years after the dust has settled from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, the private homes of Fort Trumbell, in the city of New London, Conn., have been removed, the land has been cleared, and Pfizer, the employer slated to move in and improve the city’s tax base, has similarly gone with the wind. Yet the ghosts of Kelo remain. Upon first issuance, the Kelo decision caused an uproar, spurring 43 states, including Oregon, to pass regulations precluding the condemnation of land for private purposes. New York, however, was not one of them. The appellate courts of New York have recently issued two diverging decisions that considered the meaning of “blight.” Those decisions might be instructive to other states, including Oregon.


Posted by eric at 9:29 PM

Barclays Center Private Suite Party Snowed Out, But You Are Still Invited for Feb 24

From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB.net):

Ratner and his 4-47 Nets have been trying to sell these unaffordable non-housing units since May 2008. Apparently they haven't sold like hotcakes. Tomorrow's scheduled suite showing has been postponed until February 24th. Now you are invited to check out the gold-plated suites and see if you are interested...and you can meet Bruce Ratner and Brett Yormark! Just remember though, Ratner doesn't own the land he needs to build the arena that would house these suites. (They'll be shown in the showroom housed in the New York Times building.)


From the original listing in Socially Superlative:

As you may know, we have commenced construction on the Barclays Center, our new arena in Brooklyn.

We will be hosting a Private Suite Sales Event at the Barclays Center Showroom this Thursday, February 11th from 7pm-9pm.

We would love for you to be our guests that evening to discuss the volume and variety of hospitality options we will have available at the Barclays Center.

With 200+ events per year projected, the Barclays Center will feel like Your Home Away From Home.

Posted by lumi at 8:09 PM

Stee-rike 3 for Mets stadium bonds

S&P downgrades to junk status the debt that financed construction of CitiField. Blame the bond insurer's performance more than Luis Castillo's.

Crain's NY Business
by Aaron Elstein

It's official, sports fans: The New York Mets are junk.

That, at least, is the new rating for the bonds used to finance the construction of the baseball team's CitiField.

Standard & Poor's on Tuesday deemed the debt, issued by the New York City Industrial Development Agency, to be less than investment grade and cut it by two notches, to BB+ from BBB. (For those keeping score at home, BBB- is the lowest investment grade rating.) Moody's downgraded the bonds to junk last week.


NoLandGrab: Wonder how the junking of the Mets' bonds will affect renewed efforts to sell subordinated debt for the planned Barclays Center.

Posted by eric at 7:44 PM

Freddy's, late night II

Photo, by kmhinkle, via Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Atlantic Yards, etc., fully taken into account, I actually believe Freddy's can carry on merrily for years to come. I'm looking forward to it.

NoLandGrab: Freddy's is under threat of eminent domain, for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by lumi at 7:42 PM

The Op-Ed: Atlantic Yards—It Is Happening

The Commercial Observer
by MaryAnne Gilmartin

The Forest City Ratner Companies executive vp pens a misleading op-ed infomercial in the NY Observer's real estate-biz weekly.

The recession, the credit crunch and the inherent difficulty of building in the most densely settled city in America: These are just a few of the challenges that have dogged the Atlantic Yards project since its announcement, in December 2003. Add to these general obstacles a small group of litigious opponents who vowed to sue early and often to stop the project, and the six-year project inception period makes more sense.

But the wait is over. We are building Atlantic Yards. And the project is more important than ever.


NoLandGrab: By "more important than ever," Ms. Gilmartin means "more important than ever to Forest City Ratner." And we especially enjoy the way the Westchester-dwelling Gilmartin frames Atlantic Yards as a latter-day Great Society initiative.

The obfuscations, mischaracterizations and outright untruths in this "op-ed" are too numerous to catalog; The Observer, whose own Eliot Brown has done excellent reporting on the Atlantic Yards project, would have been wiser to slug it "advertisement" and at least collect a royalty.

Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

Your weekly newsbriefs: Contractor named for Barclays Center

Courier-Life Publications

The Courier reprints Forest City's press release about hiring an Indiana-based company to build the Barclays Center among its weekly newsbriefs.


Posted by eric at 12:17 PM

Civic to tackle Fourth Avenue too

Park Slope Courier
by Gary Buiso

The Park Slope Civic Council will devote its annual forum to the future of the roadway, envisioned by Borough President Marty Markowitz to one day boast a grandeur akin to Manhattan’s Park Avenue.

Marty Markowitz, aesthete.

Michael Cairl, the chair of the civic’s livable streets committee, said the forum is entirely independent of the borough president’s comments at the state of the borough address last week, where the beep said he envisions a transformation of the avenue from “Atlantic Avenue to the Atlantic Ocean” into a magnificent “Brooklyn boulevard.”

“We like the fact that the avenue is changing, but the avenue has challenges in traffic and challenges in development, and we want to get the community at the table to see what they think,” Cairl said.

The avenue has seen a flurry of construction activity since 2003 when the Park Slope rezoning was passed,protecting lower rise side streets — but allowing buildings as tall as 120 feet to rise along Fourth. And while the building boom has slowed for now, the Atlantic Yards project is expected put renewed development and traffic pressures on the avenue, making focused attention there critical, Cairl noted.


Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

Brutally weird: Forest City's fantasy of 8000 AY jobs comes from 2006, the ESDC offers backup (despite lower 2009 figures) & the WashPost takes a pass

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a fascinating look at the acrobatics involved in promulgating phony job-creation figures. We ask once more — if the Atlantic Yards project is so terrific, why not just tell the truth about it?

The estimates of permanent jobs at the Atlantic Yards project have always been fantasies.

Remember the estimate of 10,000 jobs--the one that "enervated" Sen. Charles Schumer? It was bogus from the start. There was no market for that many office jobs. Forest City Ratner overstated the number of jobs that could fit in the four office towers projected to ring the arena. And it neglected to explain that most of the jobs would not be new but transferred from Manhattan.

But the latest projection of 8000 jobs, from Forest City Ratner and parent Forest City Enterprises (press release [PDF], letter to the Washington Post), is even more outrageous.

First, it's double the current official estimate (which itself is questionable) from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). Also, it's based on 2006 data--which even back then was doubtful--regarding two or three more office towers than the one currently contemplated.

And, to make it brutally weird, Forest City Ratner in legal papers relies on the 2009 data.

The Post punts

Dismayingly, the Washington Post, after several exchanges with me after my request for a correction, decided to let the claim from Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner stand as his "opinion."


NoLandGrab: Want our "opinion?" Chuck Ratner is lying.

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

February 9, 2010

Stung By Costco, East Harlem Officials Hope Jobs will Come from Other Stores at East River Plaza

by Jon Schuppe

Another must-read article for counter-parties to Community Benefits Agreements (legally binding or not) with Forest City Ratner Companies.

Still stinging from layoffs at the neighborhood’s new Costco, public officials are shifting their focus on getting local residents hired at the other big-box stores that will be opening at East River Plaza.

Best Buy is scheduled to open March, and Target and Marshalls are expected to follow in July. Officials want to avoid a repeat of what happened last month, when Costco surprised them with news it was laying off scores of workers. The announcement came two months after the wholesale outlet opened with promises of jobs for people who lived nearby.

In the end, 132 people lost their jobs—not the 160 the company orignally reported. Of the 279 workers who remain, less than half are from the neighborhood, officials said.

That's considerably less than the 60 percent goal outlined in a “memorandum of understanding” with the shopping mall’s developer. The agreement, between Community Board 11 and Tiago, a partnership of Forest City Ratner Companies and Blumenfeld Development Group, is not legally binding. But officials say it’s key to maintaining a healthy relationship with the surrounding community.

The layoffs were a blow to East Harlem because local officials gave the developer approval to have overnight deliveries in return for assurances that the stores at East River Plaza would hire people who live in the neighborhood, which has a 17 percent unemployment rate.


NoLandGrab: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice — well, that's a "Community Benefits Agreement."

Posted by eric at 11:07 PM

Nets subordinated bonds back on

Project Finance

The sponsors of the proposed Nets basketball arena in Brooklyn, New York are making a second attempt to launch the project's subordinate debt to market. Forest City Ratner and the Onexim Group are looking for buyers for $106 million in bonds, down from an earlier proposed $150 million.

According to a source familiar with the transaction, the reason for the relaunched issue is that Onexim would prefer not to buy the subordinated bonds. However, the source said that no sale of the subordinated debt has yet happened....

link [subscription or trial registration required]

NoLandGrab: Don't everyone jump on this wonderful issue at once. Mikhail Prokhorov isn't, apparently, and he's allegedly Russia's richest man.

Posted by eric at 10:58 PM

Freddy’s Bar and Backroom

Cultural Cravings

Freddy’s Bar and Backroom in Brooklyn (485 Dean St) is the epitome of an awesome dive bar. First off, it’s a convenient 5 minute walk from Flatbush Ave train station which is especially handy when you’re faced with frigid weather. The name has worn off the awning, all that’s left is a slight trace of several letters. Upon entering you’re faced with an extremely eclectic mix of items hung on the walls that in no way seems prepackaged, you know that they’ve been accumulated randomly over time. For example, the swordfish above my party’s booth had handcuffs hanging from its nose and was located next to a precariously balanced lamp. Posters protesting a specific British banking institution were taped up all over the walls, and the tv plays a random assortment of images. The booths and bar are made of dark wood, of the build that signify “bar”.

A newer addition to the bar is the heavy chain strung along it, which patrons will apparently be chaining themselves to in protest on the day the bar is finally tore down for the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by eric at 10:42 PM

Broad daylight snatch

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Claire Glass

How much more evidence of blight will the Empire State Development Corporation (motto: Open for Business!) need before it starts eying Bruce Ratner's crime-ridden malls?

Target trifling

Watch your backs, Target shoppers. Thieves continue to stalk the aisles of the Target at the Atlantic Terminal Mall.

• A superficial shoplifter was seen trying to get away with over $900 worth of beauty supplies on Feb. 6. The greedy shopper also tried to steal electronic equipment and almost $100 worth of candles in the 6:15 pm swipe. An employee called the cops, and the perp was arrested by Officer Desmond Dempster.

• Another thief grabbed a lady’s purse from her cart on Feb.6. The victim said that as soon as she turned her back at around 5 pm, a thief stole her wallet from her bag and got away with her cash.


Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

Award of No-Bid Mega-Monopoly Means Forest City Ratner Hopes To Claim an Awful Lot of Housing Subsidy, ALSO Without Bid

Noticing New York

Forest City Ratner is looking to glom onto an awful lot of housing subsidy with respect to its proposed Atlantic Yards megadevelopment. If you’re interested in knowing how much, this article attempts to close in on that figure. It’s in the neighborhood of about at least half a billion dollars, probably a fair amount more and the transaction has been set up so Forest City Ratner can blackmail the public for that money.


Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Would the Court of Appeals permit reargument of the Atlantic Yards case, given the Columbia appeal? It's a long shot, and we should know soon

Atlantic Yards Report

The unusual, long shot effort to get the state Court of Appeals to reopen the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case it dismissed in November could see a result as early as today, when the Court of Appeals resumes issuing decisions. Or it could linger for weeks or months.

Should the court agree to reargument of the appeal, or to simply hold it in abeyance until the not dissimilar Columbia University case is resolved, that could stay the pending decision by state Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges on an unusual challenge to the actual condemnation.

But if the court dismisses the motion, that would remove one of the few potential roadblocks--all long shots--to transfer of title should Gerges rule in favor of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Forest City Ratner is proceeding--mostly--as if none of these cases poses a threat; it has signed contracts for arena construction and has continued utility work and demolition, but has not announced an official groundbreaking.

The Columbia opening

Let's recap. The AY case, known as Goldstein v. ESDC, was dismissed 6-1 in late November, with the majority opinion stating that it was the role of the Legislature, not the courts, to narrow the definition of blight and the dissenting judge saying the court was much too deferential to the ESDC.

Nine days later, a lower court, the Appellate Division, blocked the ESDC's use of eminent domain in the Columbia University expansion, in a case known as Kaur v. ESDC. While the ruling was 3-2, the two-judge plurality opinion slammed the ESDC for its use of consultant AKRF, its reliance on underutilization as an indicia of blight, and its indulgence toward a private developer.

While the fact pattern in the Columbia case is different from the AY case, the issues of underutilization and deference to the agency are similar. Then again, Judge James Catterson's plurality opinion ignored any reference to the judge-decided AY case, a glaring omission leaving open the option for a complete reversal.

But the Court of Appeals had already ruled against the ESDC in another Columbia case--regarding the agency's unwillingness to hand over documents requested via the Freedom fo Information Law--and may be disposed to looking carefully at its actions.

Courts, as institutions, are generally reluctant to admit that they just made mistakes, so the petitioners in the AY case have an uphill climb.


Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

February 8, 2010

Is Concord Village an Island, an Oasis or a Haven?

‘People Who Live Here Feel They Are Part of the Community at Large’

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Some residents of Concord Village, the seven-building, 1,025-unit co-op complex at Adams and Tillary streets in Downtown Brooklyn, think of it as an island in the middle of a sea of courthouses, college buildings and traffic.

Others view it as an integral part of the Downtown Brooklyn community and still others see it as a haven. Maybe it’s all three.

Residents also have concerns about Brooklyn Bridge Park, Atlantic Yards and developments in DUMBO, but the board cannot take a stand on these issues.

“Our policy is if it doesn’t directly affect Concord Village, we can agree to keep our members informed, but we can’t take a stand,” said Woolston.


NoLandGrab: "Can't" take a stand, or "won't?" There's a difference.

Posted by eric at 10:43 PM

Builder of Mets’ Citi Field Also to Build Barclays Arena in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Compiled by Linda Collins

"Compiling," we take it, means re-writing the press release.

Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) reports it has awarded Hunt Construction Group the construction contract for the Barclays Arena at Atlantic Yards.

The Indianapolis-based construction company will be working with arena designers Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects, and will be using “a structural steel superstructure frame with structural precast seating bowl and a weathered steel rain screen facade,” according to a published statement.

press release article

Posted by eric at 10:37 PM

Public-Private Partnerships: Process, Plans, and Opportunities


Here's an event not to be missed, with a keynote speech by the New York City Economic Development Corporation's Seth Pinsky and a "panel of experts" featuring Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin.

While development has slowed due to the financial environment, some development, mainly large development, has moved on. Many of these large projects share a common trait – ties to the city and state government. What plans does NYC have for future development in the city and how will that effect job growth? What will it take to get future development started sooner? What is planned for large scale projects like Atlantic Yards?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
NY Bar Association
42 W 44th Street


Posted by eric at 10:30 PM

As controversy over Queens video deal continues, Darryl Greene drops out

Atlantic Yards Report

Hypocrisy alert!

The Times, Daily News and Post are shocked — shocked! — that the bidding for the Aqueduct "racino" contract may not have been on the up and up. In other news, we're still waiting for even a smidgen of similar outrage about the rigged Atlantic Yards deal.

Well, the frenzy over the Paterson administration's controversial selection of the Aqueduct Entertainment Group to run a video casino hasn't let up, with multiple news outlets reporting that consultant Darryl Greene, who had 0.6% of the deal, has dropped out.

Green, who pleaded guilty in 1999 to a misdemeanor count of mail fraud, as detailed in the document below, has long worked on minority contracting for Forest City Ratner, including on Atlantic Yards. (He was disbarred, according to the Daily News.)

Yesterday, the New York Post reported, in a careful locution, that "Companies connected to Greene owe nearly $1 million in state taxes."

On Saturday, the New York Times weighed in (late) with an editorial, headlined Looks Sleazy to Us, opining:

[Assembly Speaker] Mr. [Sheldon] Silver may have preferred another bidder. But his demands seem more than reasonable. He should also insist that the governor release documents showing how this bid was chosen. It shouldn’t stop there.

On Sunday, the New York Daily News ran a second editorial, headlined Two-armed bandits: Daily News demands sunlight on shady Aqueduct deal:

New Yorkers especially need to see how much money the competing bidders put on the table. We also need to understand how Paterson, Silver and Sampson justify allowing AEG to match the high bid by adding $100 million to its offering at the last minute.


NoLandGrab: Spare us the sanctimony. And never mind who gets the contract — the whole idea of slot-machine parlors as state revenue patches is morally bankrupt.

Posted by eric at 10:03 PM

Indiana Firms Involved in Nets Arena Project

Inside Indiana Business

Jobs (in Indiana), Housing (maybe yes, maybe no) and Hoops (4-46)!

Two Indiana companies have landed major contracts for the construction of the new home for the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets. Indianapolis-based Hunt Construction Group Inc. will be the construction manager for the Barclays Center project in Brooklyn. Whiteland-based ASILIMITED says it will work with Hunt in providing the building façade and enclosure.

ASILIIMITED has been selected to provide the 219,000 square feet of total building façade and enclosure of the new Barclays Center that is being developed in Brooklyn, NY.

Scope of work will be a custom designed aluminum and weathered steel unitized mega-wall system that will include blast resistant curtain wall, insulated weather wall and exterior steel lattice. Panels will be 10’-0” in width but vary in height from 10’-0” to 55’-0”. Unit weights can exceed 9,000 pounds. These units will be manufactured in Whiteland and help maintain current workforce as well as potentially growing employment throughout the project.


Posted by eric at 9:48 PM

Perkins introduces bill to reform eminent domain by redefining blight; had provisions been enacted earlier, AY would have been blocked

Atlantic Yards Report

As previewed (Gotham Gazette, New York Times), State Senator Bill Perkins has introduced a sweeping bill (S. 6971) to redefine eminent domain by redefining blight--currently subsumed under the amorphous terms "substandard and insanitary."

Thus environmental consultants like AKRF inevitably find blight when so requested by agencies like the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

The bill, which likely will gain both supporters and critics, is clearly a response to the efforts to use eminent domain in the cases of Atlantic Yards, Columbia University, and Willets Point. The bill's provisions aren't retroactive, but if they were, they almost certainly would've have precluded the use of eminent domain for the AY site.

New York is one of few states--perhaps seven--that failed to enact any reforms regarding eminent domain after the Supreme Court's controversial 2005 Kelo v. New London decision, and the libertarian Institute for Justice, which brought the Kelo case, considers New York "one of the worst" states in the country when it comes to eminent domain abuse.


Notably, the bill eliminates the opportunity for condemning authorities like the ESDC to cite underutilization--as it did in the Atlantic Yards and Columbia cases--as an indicia of blight.

Given that AKRF deemed properties occupying less than 60% of allowable development rights (Floor Area Ratio, or FAR) as blighted, that could potentially doom broad swaths of the city.


Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Queens Crap, How your nabe gets screwed in Bloomie's budget

The Queens Tribune has an excellent rundown on how Bloomturd has decided to screw each individual community in Queens in his latest budget. Remember - no money is available for your neighborhood park, firehouse or library; but there is plenty of money for boondoggle development projects that will enrich the Wilpons, TDC and Bruce Ratner. (And they said the welfare rolls were shrinking - HA!)

Golden State Worriers, Franchise Fix #9: Approach A Coach

He was generally well-liked amongst Nets followers even during his 0-16 start -- a struggle he handled with admirable grace -- and kept up appearances pretty impressively, considering Bruce Ratner's extended fire sale and the Nets' presence in the vicious New York media market. Most importantly, he's known as a players' coach. We can safely file this guy under "P" for "people person".

Homeless in LA, Bruce Ratner – who is he?

I received a track back to the blog stating that the Barclay’s evicting a NYC homeless shelter is the work of Bruce Ratner. Please educate me.

Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

A Crystal Eagle Award for me: "a champion of property rights" vs. "a champion of good government"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on his collection of an award from the Owners' Counsel of America.

I traveled on the OCA's dime to the OCA meeting this past weekend in Scottsdale, AZ, to accept the award and speak about my work. (The amount of time I spent in transit was about the same as the time I spent awake in Scottsdale.)

I had qualms about being described, at least according to some OCA members, as a "champion of property rights."

I responded that I was a "champion of good government" and if that, in the context of examining eminent domain in New York makes me appear to be a "champion of property rights," so be it.

After all, I started looking into Atlantic Yards as a media critic and then expanded into reportage and commentary; eminent domain wasn't on my radar screen.


Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

February 7, 2010

NY State Governor Under Fire for Bidding Wars

The Watering Hole
by Clinton Miller

New York State Governor David Patterson has been criticized by New York State Republicans, The Daily News and The New York Post for his handling of the bidding process for the upcoming “Racino” featured at Aqueduct Race Track.

Is this the first time that municipal bidding processes have been controversial and questionable? How about Forest City Ratner (Bruce Ratner) getting the bid for the Atlantic Yards project when his company bid $100,000,000 less than the other bidder in the midst of financial insolvency for the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority? How about all of the conflicting deals that Joe Bruno engineered when he was the leader of the New York State Senate? Isn’t this how Albany has always worked?

Perhaps there is such an outcry over this selection because the usual beneficiaries of the winning entities did not come out on top this time around.


Posted by eric at 11:24 PM

In this week's Courier-Life, street closures article on p. 4 is contradicted by news brief on p. 12

Atlantic Yards Report

Facts bite newspaper.

Does the Courier-Life chain have any editors?

This week's print issue of the Park Slope Courier includes an article (p. 4), headlined Closures around Barclays Center site begin, which is flat wrong.

It states, seemingly unequivocally, "Effective Feb. 1, sections of both Fifth Avenue and Pacific Street will be permanently closed."

Stephen Witt's article was posted online at 8:09 pm on January 29 with a different headline, Downtown street closures explained at cop meeting. That 78th Precinct Community Council meeting was January 26.

Misleading the public

Rather than updating that article to explain the delay, a headline expressing more certainty, Closures around Barclays Center site begin, was added to the article appearing in this week's issue.


Posted by eric at 11:05 PM

Screening and rewards

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

We have a rough cut screening set up in Dallas at the Magnolia Theater- Feb 16th 7:30.

With the support of Dallas video fest- Dallas Film Festival - and Dallas film society we'll be screening a full length version of the rough cut to get feedback. If you or anyone you know is in Dallas we'd love to have you there. The last half of the film is still pretty rough but it's invaluable for us to have the opportunity to show it to an audience to get a sense of how it's working. It will be especially good to show the film to people who don't know very much about the story.

The ending of the film isn't there because the story continues. A week ago Friday a hearing took place -at which the judge was expected to transfer title of the properties to the esdc. He didn't as he said he had to review the papers... so the story continues.


Posted by eric at 11:00 PM

The Observer points to the 2006 "historical delusion" perpetuated by those pushing Stuy Town; weren't similar delusions behind AY?

Atlantic Yards Report

The purchase of Stuveysant Town by Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock Realty turned out to be a disaster due to overly-rosy projections. A more critical look at unrealistic projections for the proposed Atlantic Yards development could avert a disaster before it happens.

In a New York Observer article this week headlined The Selling of Stuy Town, Eliot Brown and Dana Rubenstein write:

To flip through the pages of the 2006 offering book for potential buyers of the 11,200-apartment Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village-a deal that has devolved into the largest individual property default in modern history-is to immerse oneself in an historical delusion, one that, from today's privileged vantage point, appears as likely as Iraqi WMDs.

The book wove the strands of possible Stuy Town revenue into a real estate dreamscape, one in which the largely rent-regulated complex could become a wealthier community, complete with an elite private school, gourmet grocery shops, private spas, gated communities, Santa Cecilia granite countertops in every apartment.

Well, there were other historical delusions put forth in that heady year, perhaps not of the precise magnitude, but significant nonetheless.

How about the projected Atlantic Yards timeline, which in April 2007 I suggested might be a fantasy?


Posted by steve at 8:28 AM

Oops! Where Did That Blight Go? Sidewalk Cracks Are Just Too Damn Easy To Fix!

Noticing New York

This blog post, a sequel to an earlier entry, points out the absurdly low standard used by the Empire State Development Corporation, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, to allow a declaration of blight. The earlier post contained photographs of sidewalk cracks that could have been sufficient to call a neighborhood blighted.

It turns out that one of the cracks on Montague Street has now actually been repaired, but that wouldn't necessarily keep the ESDC from proclaiming blight, especially if there was a politically-connected developer who had his eye on the property:

The point is that, according to the ESDC, this quick and ready fix isn’t supposed to be the way that city residents deal with the “blight” of sidewalks cracks in their neighborhood. What ESDC believes should happen instead is that all the property on the entire block should be seized from the owners, all the buildings torn down and replaced by a politically-connected developer who will be assisted with extravagant public subsidies for which the developer will not have to bid. No matter, ESDC is still ahead in its determined race to find "blight" where and whenever it wants: Although this property owner on Montague Street quickly effected this repair the owner did not coordinate with the neighbors up and down the street (and on rest of block) to fix some of the other cracks we documented. . . .

. . . So according to ESDC, their property can still be wrested from them and torn down despite their vigilant efforts at maintenance.


Posted by steve at 8:14 AM

When Parks Must Rely on Private Money

New York Times

This article points out the challenge in funding new city parks. One solution for the Brooklyn Bridge Park was to build luxury housing in the park to generate revenue. Why is it that public parks need to pay for themselves, yet the public must subsidize a private arena at the proposed Atlantic Yards project that will be a money loser?

The struggle to pay for Brooklyn Bridge Park echoes similar problems around the country in creating urban parkland in a postindustrial age when open space must often be carved, at great cost, from derelict manufacturing zones, military installations or rail yards. Governments no longer have the fiscal or political muscle to finance the projects alone, and the involvement of private donors or commercial ventures has led to public battles.

The days of grand development in the style of Frederick Law Olmsted and Robert Moses, whose parks and playgrounds were built and maintained by the government for decades, have given way to an era of private-public partnerships and pay-as-you-go.

“There is this accelerating notion that not just parks but many aspects of the public realm have to be self-financing,” said Michael Sorkin, director of the graduate program in urban design at the City College of New York. “The paradox is that it’s always amounting to giving away some public good in order to realize some other public good.”

NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, Atlantic Yards continues to eat up precious public subsidies even as its public benefits continue to evaporate.


Posted by steve at 8:05 AM

February 6, 2010

More blight on Vanderbilt Avenue? Not if you ask Time Out New York

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote last month about the dubious notion of finding blight adjacent to a thriving shopping strip on Vanderbilt Avenue.

Here's another piece of evidence, from Time Out New York:

Woodwork: Vanderbilt Avenue’s position as one of Brooklyn’s emerging bar strips just got stronger with the addition of this soccer-oriented drinkery. Fans of the other football can catch all the games on three 50-inch flat-screen televisions—including early-morning broadcasts. Those with less of a passion for the sport will find other reasons to visit: Chef-owner Ross Greenberg (Aquavit) has an ambitious food menu, including homemade pickles, five-cheese truffled macaroni and cheese, and various proteins (chicken, beef, fish) cooked en papillote. The drink collection is just as serious, with a focus on small-batch whiskies, organic wines from worldwide soccer regions and hard-to-find international craft beers. 583 Vanderbilt Ave at Dean St, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-857-5777)

The location (formerly Indigo Blu) is catercorner to the shopping strip previously shown and directly across the street from Block 1129 of the Atlantic Yards footprint, slated to contain 1100 surface parking spots.


Posted by steve at 7:11 AM

February 5, 2010

City to Bronx Community About a Homeless Shelter: ‘Not in Your Backyard’

The New York Times
by Sam Dolnick

When New York City shuts down a 10-bed shelter in the Bronx because of bureaucratic bullheadedness, it's big news to The Times. When that same city kicks out dozens of families and shuts down a shelter in Brooklyn on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday so The Times's development partner can knock it down and build a parking lot... well, that's not news that's fit to print, apparently.

In the perpetual battle against homelessness in New York, the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center in the Bronx was only a bit player, with about 10 beds in its gym. But offering space for even a handful of destitute people meant something to those who benefited from a warm, safe place to sleep, as well as to those who helped provide it.

But this winter, when New York’s homeless population is above 37,000 and shelters are working to increase capacity, the gym now sits empty at night because city officials have ordered the program to close.


Posted by eric at 6:09 PM

Looking back at the legal battles: the eminent domain cases over nearly three-and-a-half years

Atlantic Yards Report

With news on the Atlantic Yards front slow on a mid-winter Friday, Norman Oder decided to take a look back at the three-and-a-half year legal battle over the project's use of eminent domain.

The legal battles regarding the Atlantic Yards project are epic and, while nearing conclusion, hardly over. Here are some flashbacks to the arguments over eminent domain, first in federal court, later in state court.

I'll write at another time about the other cases, including those challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) environmental review, the revised Metropolitan Transportation Authority deal for the Vanderbilt Yard, and the ESDC's approval of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan.

Legal papers are posted on Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's web site.


Posted by eric at 1:11 PM

In a second effort to market taxable junk bonds for the arena, they have an interest rate--and smaller quantities are on the block

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has an update on the state of the Atlantic Yards arena bond financing:

So, the Atlantic Yards junk bonds were back on the market this week, and the Brooklyn Arena Holding Company (BAHC) may be selling them soon, near or at a hefty 11% interest rate.

First try

In December we learned that Standard & Poor's (S&P) rated the $146.8 million in taxable arena bonds as B, which is "very speculative." S&P assigned "a recovery rating of '6' to this debt, indicating our expectation of negligible (0%-10%) recovery in the event of a payment default."

Project Finance magazine suggested, apparently without foundation, was that the taxable bonds might be bought by Mikhail Prokhorov, slated to own 80% of the Nets and 45% of the arena company.

That's not how it worked out. Ten days later, on December 21, Standard & Poor's withdrew its preliminary ratings, stating, "The notes were not sold in December 2009. The issuer's [sic] intends to market them in the new year."

Back on the market, same risks

This week a smaller sum--$106 million in bonds--were for sale, according to a February 2 ratings report issued by S&P. It's a good time to market corporate bonds, according to the Wall Street Journal, before interest rates sky.

That said, the bonds still have a preliminary 'B' rating, and the recovery rating of '6', all of which means it's still a speculative investment.

Find out more on the possible timing of the sale, details from the ratings report (inluding the contention that construction has commenced), and speculation about Mikhail Prokhorov's investment, in the full article.

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

A sweetheart deal in Queens for a video casino (involving Darryl Greene) gets the Daily News and Post abuzz

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Daily News and the New York Post are quite exercised, not inappropriately, about the selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group, which has ties to influential Queens Rev. (and former Congressman) Floyd Flake to run a video casino at Aqueduct Raceway.

They published editorials today decrying secret, sweetheart deals, big spending on lobbyists, and even ties to a controversial figure in minority contracting named Darryl Greene (whose company regularly works for Forest City Ratner).

Wouldja believe that all those things obtain for Atlantic Yards, notably the decision at the outset to direct the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's valuable Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner, 18 months before a truncated RFP was issued and attracted just one other bidder for what Chuck Ratner, CEO of Forest City Enterprises, calls "a great piece of real estate."


Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

February 4, 2010

Jay-Z Asked To Call Off Nets Attack On Homeless Families AFP Article Highlights Worldwide, Embarassing New York City


A group calling itself MartinLutherKingHomeless has asked iconic Brooklyn-born-and-bred entertainer and Nets minority investor Jay-Z to add his voice to efforts to reopen the Prospect Heights homeless shelter closed on January 15th to make way for a parking lot.

An article appearing today in hundreds of publications worldwide in several languages about homeless children in New York, NY has prompted community groups in the area of one shelter featured in the article to reach out to New York's most famous entertainer to help them improve New York City's image in the world by re-open[ing] the family homeless shelter closed by his billionaire business partner. Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (F.U.R.E.E.), Friends of 227 Abolitionist Place, Picture the Homeless, Prospect Heights Action Coalition,and neighboring Freddy's Bar have joined in contacting Jay-Z, whose song, Empire State of Mind is at the top of the charts, to ask if there is something he can do to help re-open the shelter. Jay-Z is most likely unaware that the shelter was closed by billionaire Bruce Ratner, a business partner of Jay-Z's. The two are co-owners of the New Jersey Nets basketball team. The Barclays Center stadium, which will house the Nets, if it is ever built (and doubts are high on that) necessitated that the shelter be closed and torn down to make a parking lot.

The Pacific Dean Family Homeless Shelter, at 603 Dean St. was closed at Mr. Ratner's request on January 15, which is Martin Luther King's Birthday. Closing an important shelter serving African-American and Caribbean-American families in the dead of winter and on Dr. King's birthday has outraged the local community.


Posted by eric at 4:45 PM

Marty till the break of dawn!


Marty Markowitz, property rights advocate?

Yep, Brokelyn was one of the 60 individuals and groups honored by Marty at his State of the Borough address last night, an esteemed bunch that included novelist Amy Sohn; Brooklyn Flea founders Jonathan Butler and Eric Demby and the owners of the new Elvis-inspired Graceland Brooklyn hair salon, Corvette Hunt and Bethany Paul.

We were also honored to share a stage with Mohamed Salem, Brooklyn’s only known Muslim owner of a kosher deli (salami aleikum!) and Mohammed Hashan, a sandwich-shop employee who refused to return Lindsay Lohan’s lost Blackberry without first demanding to see her ID. “To make sure that something valuable was really in the hands of its rightful owner—that’s Brooklyn values!” Marty proclaimed.


NoLandGrab: 'Cause the last thing we'd want to have happen in Brooklyn is for one person's private property to be taken and transferred to another private party. Right, Mr. Brooklyn values?

Posted by eric at 4:32 PM

Carlton will be two-way, afterall?

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

Carlton Avenue at Dean Street
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

These new traffic signs were installed today. They imply that the block of Carlton Avenue between Dean and Pacific Streets (it's out of view, behind the camera), will be changed from one-way to two-way, despite a recent presentation by Forest City Ratner that this would not happen. Carlton is currently one-way, going north (from the background to foreground in this photo). Parking along the eastern side of the block would be removed to accommodate the two-way traffic.

The closure of several blocks, rerouting of traffic, removal of some off-street parking and the creation of off-street parking for the NYPD 78th precinct would all occur for Atlantic Yards construction.

Posted by eric at 4:19 PM

Eminent Domain Changes Seek to Limit State's Power to Seize Property

Gotham Gazette
by David King

Gotham Gazette publishes a lengthy piece today on the potential for eminent domain reform in New York State, well worth a read.

When Henry Weinstein bought a commercial building at 752 Pacific St. in Brooklyn 1985 he never expected that 20 years later the government would want to take it away and give to a developer. Weinstein said that he would be shocked if his land was being taken for a hospital, a bridge or a library. But seeing it seized to make way for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project shakes his faith in the government. "This is the most un-American thing I have ever experienced," he said.

As New York City has reshaped itself over the past decade, the government has given private developers, such as Forest City Ratner, a powerful tool -- an eminent domain law that allows them to seize land from other property owners. Now some politicians believe the law needs change to protect property owners, such as Weinstein.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky has put together a package of legislation that would create a commission to review the state's eminent domain process, give land owners fair compensation for their property and establish an ombudsman who would help land owners whose property is targeted by eminent domain. Later this week Sen. Bill Perkins will unveil legislation that he says would change the state's eminent domain laws to better protect property owners. The situation in the legislature, along with a recent appellate court ruling that found the process the state used to take land for a Columbia University satellite campus in upper Manhattan was unconstitutional, could result in the first major changes to New York's eminent domain laws in more than 30 years.

The possibility that the state might finally redo its eminent domain laws -- laws that have remained the same as other states updated theirs -- has caught the interest of civil rights lawyers, property owners and advocates. But developers, real estate interests and some politicians fear changes could make it more difficult for the state to improve blighted neighborhoods in desperate need of investment, infrastructure and jobs.


NoLandGrab: Thank goodness for those altruistic developers and real estate interests whose huge profits are only an incidental consequence of their selfless improving of "blighted" neighborhoods. Thank you, kind sirs.

Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

Atlantic Yards gets a cameo in Markowitz's State of the Borough address; response is light (and nonexistent to mention of "Brooklyn Islanders")

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder had the, um, pleasure, of attending Marty Markowitz's swearing-in and State-of-the-Borough address last night.

Well, Atlantic Yards is still not quite ready for prime time, judging from the underwhelming response to the AY segment last night in Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's typically overstuffed State of the Borough Address.

The speech, held at the handsomely renovated Park Slope Armory, now a recreation center, was preceded by the usual parade of official speakers and diverse entertainers. It also included the swearing-in conducted by a jovial Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whose effort to overturn and extend term limits gave Markowitz his third term.

How did talk of Atlantic Yards go over?

The applause was light and Markowitz rushed rather than paused on the term "Atlantic Yards." (There was far more applause a few minutes later when Markowitz proposed opening up a call center in East New York rather than halfway across the world.)

The crowd made no response to the mention of the "Brooklyn Islanders," which is where the NY1 segment ended. (There's no evidence the arena could accommodate major league hockey.)


Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

Markowitz Sworn In For Third Term; Touts Borough's Progress


After being sworn in for a third term Wednesday night by Mayor Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz outlined his commitment to several high profile projects.

"In 2009, confident investors also rushed to buy bonds for Atlantic Yards, meaning they believe Brooklyn is the future. Soon we will have affordable housing, union jobs and the downtown cultural center that the fourth largest city in America deserves with a state-of-the-art arena hosting everything from music and theater to pro basketball and maybe a hockey team called the Brooklyn Islanders," Markowitz said.


NoLandGrab: By "soon," Markowitz means "perhaps never," at least where affordable housing is concerned.

Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

Hunt claims arena construction has started; Barclays Center web site offers "New York Post" article about the commencement of arena construction

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on chimerical construction and the faulty attribution of a faulty newspaper story.

Forest City Ratner has not held the arena groundbreaking parent company Forest City Enterprises (FCE) in December "anticipated" by January 31, in the fourth quarter of FCE's fiscal year, and title to the land needed for the arena has not been transferred, as anticipated, to the Empire State Development Corporation.

But that hasn't stopped the Indianapolis-based Hunt Construction Group, in announcing that it got the contract to build the arena, that the Barclays Center "has already commenced construction."

Also, the press section of the Barclays Center web site offers a link claiming Construction on Barclays Center Commences.

It's attributed, without equivocation, to the New York Post, though it never appeared in the print newspaper and, when posted on the Post's web site, was clearly attributed not to the Post but to the Post-owned weekly Courier-Life.

As I pointed out January 15, the conceptual scoop by the Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt evaded everyone else in the media.


NoLandGrab: Kudos to Oder for coining the term "conceptual scoop," a nice way of saying "made-up b.s."

Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

Comings and Goings

Puzzling New York
by Morgan Doninger

Brooklyn’s Loss is Seattle’s Gain

Scott M.X. Turner is one of those guys that makes something special. He fought the Atlantic Yards Project, he hosted the Rocky Sullivan’s Pub Quiz, and he did great graphic design work for the fair people of Brooklyn (yours truly included, the Puzzling New York Blog’s logo and banner are his work). Scott is unfortunately for us Brooklyn dwellers leaving us for the Emerald City. I have only known Scott for a few months, but he has been more than generous to me with his time and energy. He went to great lengths to focus my ideas for this blog’s look. He allowed me to do many guest rounds at the pub quiz to promote my blog even though my following was nil, and he was a great “talk”. Politics, sports, music, you name it he was sharp and game. I will miss having him around, but Seattle won’t know what hit it. If you want to catch Mr. Turner’s final go at quizmastering check him out tomorrow at 8:00 PM. Need Info? Sure thing.


Posted by eric at 9:41 AM

Who Will Own The Bobcats?

by J.A. Adande

Has Bruce Ratner screwed other NBA owners, or has the pro sports bubble screwed Bruce Ratner?

But an NBA source said [Michael] Jordan is not inclined to make a bid for the franchise that matches the number owner Bob Johnson has in mind. It is believed that a group led by Houston investor George Postolos, the former president of the Rockets, has made a higher offer. One source familiar with the negotiations read Johnson's backing away from the sale to Postolos last summer and the continued extension of the process as a desire to give Jordan another opportunity to put together a stronger offer. But with league owners already skittish about the perceived low-price sale of the New Jersey Nets by Bruce Ratner to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov dragging down franchise values there will be pressure on Johnson to go for the higher bid and not let his relationship with Jordan outweigh the prospect of more cash.


Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

Another look at the arena as site for graduations

Atlantic Yards Report

Would the Atlantic Yards arena be a site for high school and college graduations, as was once promised? Maybe, but there's reason for doubt:

  • the arena itself would be too big and expensive
  • the theater inside the arena isn't being promoted for graduations
  • new, city-financed competition is emerging


Posted by eric at 9:25 AM

February 3, 2010

Whistleblowing, the ESDC, and the investigations that may or may not be happening

Atlantic Yards Report

In a long but interesting post on his Noticing New York blog, Michael D.D. White alerts us that the Empire State Development Corporation, "the state agency theoretically most responsible for Atlantic Yards," does not have a whistleblower protection policy even though it's required, not by the public authorities reform bill passed last year but one passed in 2005.

White thinks that the indictments in Yonkers relating to Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project might hint at some similar investigation of Atlantic Yards, but, I'd add, there's no evidence that's happening, nor is there a fact pattern similar to a Council Member dramatically changing her vote.

Could the race among candidates to replace Attorney General Andrew Cuomo turn into a race to investigate Atlantic Yards as well, as White suggests?

Well, there are always wild cards, as White notes. Still, I'd point out that one leading candidate, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, was notable last year for shying away from opportunities to look into AY, not embracing them.


Posted by eric at 11:19 PM

Two Things About the Pataki Administration and a Hope About What Is Secretly Going on Behind the Scenes Respecting Atlantic Yards

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White weaves together a tale from strands as diverse as Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner, White's own years in the Pataki administration, whistleblowers, the ESDC, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, indictments in Yonkers, Shaya Boymelgreen, and former Bronx State Senator (and convicted felon) Guy Velella, among others.

When looking at both the Yonkers indictments and the facts that emerged respecting events that sent Senator Velella and his cohorts to jail one has to wonder how distinguishable or different are the fact patterns and conduct of government officials with respect to Atlantic Yards, not to mention some of the overlapping patterns associated with the Columbia University expansion eminent domain case. Atlantic Yards (similarly the Columbia case) involves political manipulations to confer a massive mega-monopoly and an astounding heap of subsidies on a developer without any real, true or credible bid, and without any accompanying cost benefit analysis despite neutral and convincing analysis that the only actions now being taken ESDC and the city will result in net losses to the public.

That seems straightforward enough. But then things get Rumsfeldian.

The fact is that investigations are conducted on a need to know basis. Even though some of us at the agency were close to the core of the Velella investigation and its very origin and even though we participated in and contributed to the investigation, there was much that the investigators did not tell us and that we did not know. Similarly there were other officials or public employees who also knew of some aspects of the investigation (in some cases less than we knew) but did not know how much they did not know. Some may have specifically known they didn’t know everything but still didn’t know what they didn’t know. A couple of things to note in this regard: It’s not a bad formula to encourage good behavior and secondly, since you yourself don’t know exactly where your puzzle pieces fit in when you provide them to investigators it is good to be vigilant and meticulous about the truth.

Read on to find out how White ties it all together.


Posted by eric at 8:43 PM

Stadium Development: New Yankee Stadium Helps Lift Bronx to Poorest, Hungriest Place in America

Runnin' Scared
by Steven Thrasher

Our own Neil deMause, who literally wrote the book on the subject, has repeatedly tried to show what a boondoggle stadium-building can be for cities and neighborhoods.

Here's new evidence of what the new Yankee Stadium has brought to The Bronx. Not only is the borough home to one of the poorest congressional districts in America -- the home of the new, heavily-subsidized stadium and the current World Champs can also boast that their 'hood is also the hungriest Congressional district in the nation!

As of the last census, in 2000, the 16th Congressional District was the poorest in the nation, with 42.2 percent of residents living below the poverty line. Now, nearly a decade later, a new Gallup poll finds that more than 36 percent of people in the 16th have reported that there are times when they have not had money to buy food for themselves or their family.

This compares to a hunger rate of "just" 16.5 percent in the greater New York/New Jersey/Long Island area.

The Gallup poll from which this finding comes was begun at the beginning of last year, so economic relief from all the good jobs and economic activity spurred by opening the new Yankees stadium may not have been included. But wait! The Daily News also offers this telling metric of how well the boondoggle is floating The Bronx's boat: City Harvest says that while only 381,364 Bronx residents visited "emergency food programs" in the third quarter of 2008, in the third quarter of this year -- at the height of the first season in the new park -- that number had increased by 17 percent, to 445,900 people.

There's also a Atlantic Yards harbinger in the News story: Brooklyn is home to the 6th hungriest Congressional district in America. You're in sixth place now, Brooklyn, but just wait! When you get the Nets Arena, maybe you'll compete with the home of the Bronx Bombers for the chance to become number one in poverty and hunger.


NoLandGrab: And let's not forget that while a third of residents in the Yankees' neighborhood are going to bed hungry, the money-minting, penny-pinching team consistently underpays the rent that it owes the city.

Posted by eric at 4:25 PM

Review and Comment: Hotel Town

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Henrik Krogius

The Eagle's Krogius gets all gee-whiz over the 40 hotel projects claimed to be in the works in Brooklyn (motto: "if the condo market is toast, build hotels"), reminisces about his childhood pre-Jackie Robinson, and fluffs Marty Markowitz.

A rush toward new hotels was encouraged by the rezoning for new construction downtown, by the growing cultural district around the Brooklyn Academy of Music, by the continuing gentrification of brownstone areas, and by such potential magnet projects as Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Yards. However, since the plans for new hotels were made before the financial collapse in 2008 and the resulting deep recession, it will be interesting to see if all the 40 actually get built and how many of them will thrive.

Question: When was the last time you, or anyone you know, booked a hotel room in conjunction with attending an NBA game? Think hard now.

The loss of the Brooklyn Dodgers didn’t help Brooklyn’s hotel situation. Without the Dodgers, Brooklyn lacked a destination magnet to compensate for the general perception that it was a prime example of urban decay and crime. As long as they were in Brooklyn the Dodgers not only drew people to hotels but they also stayed in them during the baseball season.

Fun fact: an NBA roster can have a maximum of 12 active players. That doesn't fill a lot of hotel rooms.

Where Golden lacked charisma, his successor, Marty Markowitz, has little actual power but plenty of infectious personality that carries beyond the borough’s borders. With Marty cheerleading the way, and with urban decline largely in reverse, here’s hoping that Brooklyn as a revived hotel town can actually be realized. That future depends also on other projects like Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Yards going forward in the face of a still uncertain economy.


NoLandGrab: H1N1 is infectious, too — and you wouldn't want to catch it, either.

Posted by eric at 4:07 PM

Hunt awarded construction contract for the Barclays Center

Forest City Ratner and Hunt Construction Group today announced that Hunt has been awarded the construction contract for the Barclays Center.

That's right, that massive pot of New York State and New York City subsidies is being used to hire a construction firm headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana.

From the press release:

Forest City Ratner Companies has awarded Hunt Construction Group the construction contract for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The cornerstone and the first building of the larger Atlantic Yards development, the Barclays Center will be a 675,000 SF sports and entertainment arena, featuring 18,000 seats for basketball and 19,000 seats for concerts, 104 luxury suites, public concourses on two levels, a suite level club restaurant, and an adjoining basketball practice facility. Designed by Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects, the Barclays Center will be constructed using a structural steel superstructure frame with structural precast seating bowl and a weathered steel rain screen facade.

The Barclays Center, which has already commenced construction, will host more than 200 events a year including professional, collegiate, and scholastic sporting events, concerts, family shows, and community activities. Upon its completion, the Barclays Center will be home to the NBA’s Nets, Brooklyn’s first major professional sports team since the 1957 departure of the Dodgers.

“Hunt is extremely proud to be a part of this historic endeavor, and is excited about serving as the design-builder,” stated Ken Johnson, Executive Vice President for Hunt.


NoLandGrab: Forest City does not have title to, let alone possession of, the land that it needs in order to build the arena on which, allegedly, it "has already commenced construction."

Posted by eric at 3:58 PM

Greetings from Scott Turner: I’ll Never Love A Place As Much As Brooklyn

via Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn

Scott M.X. Turner, who'll soon be Ratnerless in Seattle, pens his final, must-read, Greeting, full of the things he loves (and hates) about our fair borough, brought to you (and us) by Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn.

Somewhere in the recent past, Brooklyn turned into “Brooklyn.” To use one of Mayor Bloomberg’s more jackassed constructs, Brooklyn has become a “destination.” What does that mean? For starters, it’s something for visitors to Brooklyn, not the people who live here. We’re already here. How can it be a destination?

Normally, that kind of idea would just be a mostly-harmless tourism inducement. But with jackals like Bloomberg and Markowitz, it’s far more harmful and insidious.

Bloomberg has made a mayoral career out of keeping his hands clean when they’re dirty beyond all measures of political hygiene. He throws more money and legal bribery around than Boss Tweed ever dreamed, all the while the local media and citizenry letting him scamper back to the Upper East Side, unaffected and untroubled.

Hizzoner doesn’t do the hard work on issues that has residents screaming — affordable housing, job creation, education. Instead, he focuses on big-ticket projects that only enrich real-estate friends of his — the new Mets stadium, the new Yankees stadium, Atlantic Yards, Willets Point, Columbia expansion, Greenpoint/Williamsburg rezoning, Coney Island, 4th Avenue upscaling, the West Side Stadium, the 7 train extension, the Hudson Yards, the Olympic bid.

This emphasis on “destinations” leaves most Brooklynites out in the cold. Sometimes literally, like over the MLK Day eviction of homeless-shelter residents in Prospect Heights to make way for the Nets’ new arena.

Brooklyn used to be a place to live. It still is, but much of the city’s and state’s policies directed at Brooklyn have to do with Brooklyn as a brand, as a commodity, as a contrivance. It’s hard to get services in East New York or Bensonhurst when our leaders only see a few choice blocks and treats them like Disney’s Main Street USA.


NoLandGrab: Bon voyage, Scott. You might be taking yourself out of Brooklyn, but they'll never take Brooklyn out of you.

Posted by eric at 1:38 PM

Children lead way in record New York homelessness

by Sebastian Smith

Why does it take the French wire service AFP to point out the irony in New York City's eviction of homeless families at the behest of Bruce Ratner while facing a homelessness crisis of epic proportions? We're lookin' at you, New York Times.

Kariana, aged three, has a lonely existence in the New York homeless shelter her parents moved into last year. Lonely, but not alone -- there are nearly 16,000 children just like her.

Homelessness in New York has soared as a result of the damaged US economy and children make up almost half of that growing population.

New York's homelessness commissioner Robert Hess said record numbers are taking advantage of the city's guarantee to shelter.

"Given this terrible economic downturn we've seen -- the worst in our lifetimes, certainly here in New York -- we're seeing an unprecedented number of families with children coming into the shelter system," he told AFP in an interview.

Figures for January showed a total of 37,487 homeless people in the city, including 8,850 families with children. There were 15,853 children.

"We had 51 percent more applicants this year than two years ago of women with children," Hess said. "We've been adding capacity right and left in order to meet that demand."

By "adding capacity," Hess means "closing a homeless shelter on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday in sub-freezing temperatures so Bruce Ratner can create more facts on the ground before building a huge parking lot that might not be replaced for decades."

But activists paint a less hopeful picture of a city awash in money and run by multi-billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, yet unable to care for its poor.

Maria Walles, who has been in and out of shelters with her husband and daughter since 2007, joined a handful of other homeless last week to protest outside the offices of Bruce Ratner, a major developer.

He is due to demolish a homeless shelter as part of a glitzy sports arena project in Brooklyn, one of the many works transforming formerly gritty areas of New York. The shelter, which housed some 80 families, was shut on January 15.

"I think it's dead wrong. My heart says, 'wow,'" Walles said. "Why close a shelter now when it's winter? All we asked was for it to be kept open until spring."

The city responds that it is always increasing shelter space, even going as far as renting from landlords of upscale apartment buildings erected in the boom years and left empty by the recession.


en español

en français

NoLand Grab: Are they joking? That program does far more to bail out the real estate speculators who overbuilt during the Bloomberg-fueled condo bubble than it does for homeless families.

Posted by eric at 1:10 PM

Another confirmation of bait-and-switch on the size of Atlantic Yards, and why it matters (analysis of jobs and revenues)

Atlantic Yards Report

In comparing the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement from November 2006, the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan from September 2009, and the Atlantic Yards Development Agreement just released publicly last week, Norman Oder finds that the project's much-touted financial and jobs benefits are all based on a full eight-million-square foot build-out, while Forest City Ratner is only contractually required to build a project less than two-thirds that size.

What's wrong with the picture? Some much-touted benefits of the project, as calculated in new construction jobs, new permanent jobs, and new tax revenues, were all predicated on a full buildout. No alternative analysis was provided.


NoLandGrab: New York City officials also announced yesterday that the once-magnificent-and-now-decrepit Loew's Kings Theater, which had 3,200 seats, is going to be rehabbed and re-opened. Unmentioned was the likelihood that it will take some business away from the planned Barclays Center.

Posted by eric at 12:26 PM

Goooaaalll! K.C. Wizards Score a Home

The Wall Street Journal
by Maura Webber Sadovi

Kansas City, Kansas, managed to green-light a soccer stadium project without public approval, by repurposing an existing bond issue that was ahead of schedule due to higher-than-projected sales tax revenues.

Even as a stadium building boom is tapering off, some local governments are using creative financing to stay in the game. Among the most recent to write a big check: Kansas City, Kan.

About $147 million in bonds backed by the state of Kansas and local sales-tax revenue were recently approved by the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan. The bonds will pay for much of the $165 million, 18,000-seat professional soccer stadium in which Major League Soccer's Kansas City Wizards are expected to play their 2012 season.

The bond approval was seen by many as a major break for the stadium and for the Wizards, who currently play in a Kansas City baseball stadium.

To be sure, it isn't the only stadium to move forward during the downturn. A regular-season baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins that is expected to cost more than $500 million was approved last year by the Miami-Dade County commissioners. And in December, developer Forest City Ratner Cos. sold $511 million in tax-free bonds to finance a $900 million sports arena in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Still, the total value of open-air stadium projects started last year in the U.S. fell to about $1.3 billion from about $3.4 billion near the peak in 2007, according to McGraw-Hill Construction.


Posted by eric at 12:15 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

The first couple items provide a Left Coast perspective on Atlantic Yards.

Homeless in LA, When the government closes your shelter...

Your plan is in action to leave government assistance – until the government assists you back onto the streets.

You are not as important as a new sports center and shops funded by the Barclays. Prospect heights homeless shelter families were moved, all 35 of them to other shelters in a neighborhood that already is short of shelter space.

I am nauseous as i read the hot air hype on their web page: ”Atlantic Yards is one of the most important developments in the history of Brooklyn. It will serve as a proud emblem of Brooklyn’s reenergized vitality and create a new home for Brooklyn’s very own NBA franchise-the Brooklyn Nets.” Important to whom? Certainly not important to the people they are displacing and let me tell you, Barclay’s can more than afford to leave this shelter alone.

What’s the deal - will the sight of poor and starving children ruin the ambiance for you?

NoLandGrab: Actually, in this case, the government is doing the bidding of the shadow government, aka Forest City Ratner.

archiCULTURE, SF Transbay Terminal Still Moving Forward

Good to hear that unlike other mega projects in NYC which have stalled through the economic downturn/depression (and some would say should never be constructed like Atlantic Yards), the SF Transbay Terminal linking bus, train and other transit is still underway.

Brooklyn Heights Blog, Torch and Tune Bearer

CCNY architecture professor and AIA Guide to New York co-author Fran Leadon also plays a little bluegrass.

Perhaps though in a final fling with nap-time-less freedom, he played with his own band on Saturday at Freddy’s, the Prospect Heights bar under imminent threat of demolition for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

Jay-z and Beyonce are mason's?


In response to speculation that Jay-Z and Beyoncé are practicing some kind of funky religion, HelloAgainBrooklyn posts:

He is a devil for all the social ills he promote in his music and puts in a palatable form so mainstream america accepts it and it gets excused because he rubs elbows with bruce ratner and gwyneth paltrow and is bringing the nets to brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Funny, we thought it was the other way around — that his rubbing elbows with Bruce Ratner gets excused because people like his music.

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Del Harris opting out; leaves NJ Nets after two months as assistant coach

The Star-Ledger
by Dave D'Alessandro

Nets assistant coach Del Harris has seen enough — after less than two months. Can you blame him?

Del Harris, one of the game’s seminal thinkers, has decided to leave the team before the road trip that opens Wednesday in Toronto, according to a friend of the coach.

Harris, who was brought in to be Vandeweghe’s gray eminence on Dec. 4 after the latter moved into the head coaching position, has several reasons for making his exit now – all of them professional issues – but these should not be disclosed by anyone but Harris himself, his friend said.

Vandeweghe, meanwhile, was hoping he could talk the 72-year-old Harris out of leaving right up until game time, but the coach’s confidant said there was little chance of that happening.


NoLandGrab: With the entirety of Vandeweghe's head coaching experience coming in the two months that he's been trying to coach the Nets, the high-water mark of the team's season may have already passed.

Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

When it comes to the Urban Room, the Development Agreement is confusing, confounding, and nonsensical

Atlantic Yards Report

If you were trying to make sense of the Development Agreement allegedly negotiated at arm's length by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner entities, you might get confused, especially when it comes to the Urban Room, the dramatic entrance that's supposed to be attached to Building 1.

Building 1 is an office building with no timetable, but that's the least of it.

The language is confounding, sloppily drafted, since the contract provisions fail to make sense at more than one juncture. They pose damages where none exist and attribute such damages to the wrong party.

Can it be trusted?

Likely very few people have read the Development Agreement, much less tried to make sense of it. But it does not appear to have been drafted carefully.

If these mistakes jump out, how many others are there?

Click thru for Norman Oder's best stab at navigating the nearly incomprehensible documents.


NoLandGrab: We have to wonder if the confusion is a) due to the ESDC rushing headlong to get the documents done on Ratner's timetable, or b) intentional so as to render the agreements unenforceable, thus eliminating the threat of financial penalty to the developer for failure to meet the already-cushy targets.

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

CNG Watch: Coverage of the Atlantic Yards condemnation hearing is 1) absent and 2) secondhand

Atlantic Yards Report

Can we depend on the two major weeklies in Brooklyn to cover Atlantic Yards carefully? Nope.

In the Brooklyn Paper

The Brooklyn Paper actually sent a reporter to the condemnation hearing last Friday. But no article has appeared yet, either about the hearing itself--which put the condemnation on hold, news even for the Times--or the confusion regarding street closings.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Paper has informed us about possible dormitories in Red Hook, a new new sex toy shop in Williamsburg, and a green gym in Bushwick.

In the Courier-Life

The Courier-Life didn't send a reporter, but today offers us this news brief, headlined Judge studies AY condemnation papers, almost certainly penned by the notorious Stephen Witt....


Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

Your weekly newsbriefs: Judge studies AY condemnation papers

Courier-Life Publications

State Supreme Court Judge Abraham G. Gerges last week delayed a final approval ruling for the state’s planned seizure of property to make way for the $4-plus billion Atlantic Yards project.

Gerges told lawyers for both property owners and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that he will look over all the submitted papers and documents and rule “expeditiously.”

Sources closes to the project said the ruling should come within two weeks.


NoLandGrab: Funny, we don't recall seeing a Courier-Life reporter in the court room. Perhaps one of the folks sporting "Jobs, Housing & Hoops" buttons was working as a stringer.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Atlantic Yards YES! FDNY NO!!

While New Yorkers are facing deep cuts in essential services, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg scraped together another $31 million for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

The NY Times, City Fire Department Braces for Cuts

New York City’s plans to close as many as 20 fire companies will require the Fire Department to undertake its most radical reorganization since the financial crisis of the 1970s, according to senior department officials.

As a result, the department is analyzing statistics, block by block and neighborhood by neighborhood, to determine how it can most safely take engines and ladder trucks out of service.

“If we have to close 20 companies, which is a 6 percent reduction in the number of companies we have, it is going to tax us,” said Salvatore J. Cassano, the newly appointed commissioner of the Fire Department of New York. “It is certainly the most challenging thing we have faced in decades.”

Posted by lumi at 4:41 AM

February 2, 2010

A boondoggle in our backyard

meerkat media arts collective
by dara

meerkat media has officially unveiled its award-winning documentary short, Brooklyn Boondoggle.

A year and a half ago, a group of filmmakers went out to shoot a protest. It would be a short little piece, poetic and informed, and go viral among various community groups and activist sites. For me personally, it would also be the first time to work with Meerkats. How could I say no? The project happened to be about the lot of land that sat outside of my window, the Atlantic Yards. I also knew about the controversy that surrounded it and was eager to get involved in the debate. Brooklyn Boondoggle seemed like the perfect fit — work with nice people that had just become my neighbors about a subject all too politically and socially relevant to ignore.

Needless to say, one shoot at a protest turned into days into weeks into a full-blown project for the Collective. And as I am now awakened by bulldozers at 7:45am, protests have turned into endless legal battles into the construction we were all hoping to forestall.

This is for you Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Boondoggle from meerkatmedia.org on Vimeo.


Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Bronx, NY Focus

Mole's Progressive Democrat

Bloomberg to axe 934 city workers...Bloomberg axes more fire houses...Bloomberg axes another school...BUT, when it comes to giving tax money to Bruce Ratner: Bloomberg/NYC Gave $131 Million to Bruce Ratner.


Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

Hot air engulfs Nets' next move

New York Post
by Peter Vecsey

The Post reports that the Nets will sign an interim Newark lease this week.

In the riptide created by the hypothesis New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may try to wring $7.5 million from the Nets for approval to relocate after this season from the Izod Center to the Prudential Center, owner Bruce Ratner's master plan remains unaltered.

Later this week, the Nets will sign a lease with the Devils -- owners of Newark's Prudential Center -- that will permit them to exit gracefully when their Brooklyn arena is completed; its target date is early 2012. That term sheet will be forwarded to Christie in hopes of gaining a waiver, something defeated governor Jon S. Corzine had been prepared to do.

By "early 2012," Vecsey means "hopefully in time to start the 2012-2013 season."

What happens if the Nets are denied permission? Guess it depends on what's more principal -- the fantasy "extortion" number vs. the losses they figure to encumber by remaining swamp-bound another 1½-to-2 seasons -- or principle.

Stay tuned, we may have a contemporary Jersey politics mantra: Pay to Play . . . Poorly.


More fantasy basketball...

Bleacher Report, Lebron James to Nets is Possible

Looking at the Nets' record (4-42), some would say that the addition of LeBron James via free agency is a mere impossibility. But not me.

I am willing to make the very bold statement that LeBron James could very possibly be a Net in 2010.

You're probably thinking to yourself: "How could that be possible?" Well, a few things would have to happen.

NoLandGrab: Like pigs flying, the Nets running off a 36-game winning streak to end the season, and savvy-seeming LBJ losing his mind.

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

Attention Pathmark shoppers!

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Claire Glass

With Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls once again dominating the weekly crime reports, it's a safe bet that blight-for-hire firm AKRF could make a compelling case for condemning the real estate developer's property. Except their specialty is manufacturing blight where it doesn't exist.

Attention shoppers

A razor-blade-wielding shoplifter sliced and diced a Pathmark employee on Jan. 25.

The victim, who works on Fort Greene Place between Atlantic Avenue and Hanson Place, told cops that he was trying to stop the hungry shopper around 10 am when his assailant chopped his face with the blade.

The perp escaped empty handed.

More Target trouble

A scandalous squad shoplifted over $1,000 worth of electronics from the Target at the Atlantic Terminal Mall in a stealing spree that allegedly started on Dec. 18.

Officer Richard Gong put an end to the thievery on Jan. 26, cuffing the trio at noon.


A sneaky sneaker collector stole 15 pairs of kicks from the Discount Shoe Warehouse on Flatbush Avenue on Jan. 30 — but he didn’t put much mileage on them before he was arrested.

A security guard at the shoe store reported that the perp nabbed over $1,000 worth of footwear at around 5 pm.


Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

Who's in charge? Untangling the street closing mystery and the government's long leash for Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

At this point, the headline of Norman Oder's latest installment is a rhetorical question. We know who is in charge, we really only want to understand, "Why?" and "How come?"

Forest City Ratner waited well over two days to change digital signs warning that Fifth Avenue between Atlantic and Flatbush avenues would close on February 1--despite a judge's decision last Friday to defer any decision on transferring title to properties and streets in the Atlantic Yards footprint to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

So a lot of people walking and driving this weekend had a right to be confused when the street turned out to be open this morning.

(Photo looking north on Fifth Avenue below Flatbush Avenue, by Tracy Collins.)

And no one really knew who was in charge.

Was it the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT)? Not really, even though FCR said it would have to ask for DOT permission to close the streets without a judicial order. After all, I couldn't even get an on-the-record statement out of DOT.

Was it the ESDC? Maybe, given that an ESDC attorney said in court that no request for street closure would be made until title had been vested. But I couldn't get any further statement from the ESDC last Friday.

Was it the developer? Well, it appears that FCR has a pretty long leash, if it can place signs on streets and sidewalks and decide when the message gets changed.

The entire episode illustrates the precariousness and difficulty of public-private partnerships.


Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

ESDC debuts new, more transparent web site; drops "New York Loves Business" but does claim it's "Open for Business"

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has managed a long-overdue revamping of its web site, adding significantly more background information and transparency, thus bringing it (belatedly) up to par with some other state agencies and authorities.

Notably, the ESDC--mainly referred to simply as Empire State Development (though the names seem interchangeable)--has finally dropped the "New York Loves Business" slogan and nylovesbiz.com web address.

Now, the home page proclaims that New York is "Open for Business."


Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

February 1, 2010

Atlantic Yards glacier

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

The pace of construction isn't the only thing that's glacial in Prospect Heights.

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

This stretch of Pacific Street would soon be closed and demapped for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 10:17 PM

Names for KeySpan Park we’d like to see

Courier Life Publications
by Stephen Witt

All we can say is, consider the source.

With the Brooklyn Cyclones ending their naming rights relationship with National Grid, which bought the old KeySpan energy company, we at CNG’s Courier-Life have some suggestions on naming rights deals we’d like to see.

3. Ratner Field - The borough’s biggest developer, Bruce Ratner, already sold the naming rights to Barclays for the arena he’s building. Perhaps he can turn out one of his side pockets for the Cyclones and put his personal brand on the ball park.


NoLandGrab: Witt, who once famously threw a bear hug around Bruce Ratner, may be the only person in Brooklyn not on Bruce's payroll who could stomach a Ratner Park. But at least he didn't suggest "Marty's Parkowitz."

Posted by eric at 10:11 PM


Empire State Development

The Empire State Developerment Corporation has launched a new website!

The new site — wait for it — "offers increased agency transparency in outlining the organizations [sic] structure." [NLG: Emphasis, ours.]

"Governor Paterson has tasked all of us with fostering economic growth and job creation in New York State on the principle that we must do more with less," said ESDC Chairman Dennis Mullen. That, obviously, doesn't apply to Bruce Ratner, whom the ESDC is allowing to do less with more of the taxpayers' dollars.

Bet you'll never guess by looking at it that the redesign "was created internally at a cost under $1000." And if you're able to locate any of the Atlantic Yards Construction Updates on the site, do let us know.

link to site

read the press release [PDF]

NoLandGrab: Note that the press release points to a non-existent URL (www.esd.ny.us) as the new home page — the actual address is www.esd.ny.gov. Thanks to Curbed for the tip-off on the redesigned site.

Posted by eric at 9:49 PM

Costco misses mark in Harlem

Imposes big layoffs as logistics of bulk buys confound Manhattanites

Crain's NY Business
by Adrianne Pasquarelli

Here's a must-read piece (if you've signed a Community Benefits Agreement with Forest City Ratner).

After opening a store in late November with promises of jobs and economic revival for the community of East Harlem, warehouse club Costco Wholesale Corp. terminated 160 of its 453 workers there last month in order to cut costs.

“That's a lot of people,” says Matthew Washington, chairman of the neighborhood's Community Board 11, adding that the area's unemployment rate is 17%. “At a time when many are hurting, we want people to be working: They have families to take care of.”

Costco's relationship to its Manhattan neighborhood is also important because of the community benefits agreement signed last March by developer Tiago, a partnership between Forest City Ratner Cos. and Blumenfeld Development Group. Tiago promised city officials that Costco would make a good-faith effort to ensure that this year, at least 60% of workers at the Manhattan location come from the area. The proportion for the third year of operation is 75%.

After the recent layoffs, Mr. Washington of the local community board suggested that Costco work with the city's Human Resources Administration and its federal stimulus funds to rehire some employees, but he has yet to receive a response from the company.


Posted by eric at 12:41 PM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Ground Report, Gubernatorial Candidate Challenges New York Establishment

Albany lawyer Warren Redlich anounced his candidacy for New York governor on Monday, Feb. 1st at 10am in the Legislative Correspondents Association Press Room in the Legislative Office Building. Currently serving on the Guilderland, NY Town Board, Redlich will seek the Republican and Libertarian Party nominations. The theme of his campaign is "Stop Wasting Money."

He hopes to create a movement for regime change in New York uniting supporters of the Ron Paul and Tea Party movements with Greens, Democrats, independents and others who are likewise opposed to corporate welfare. He opposed the Wall Street bailouts.

Redlich calls for elimination of state government departments such as the Empire State Development Corporation which promote corporate welfare and eminent domain abuse. He opposes instances of eminent domain abuse such as Willets Point in Queens, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Columbia's scheme in West Harlem.

NoLandGrab: And, unlike some gubernatorial candidates, it's a safe bet that he will neither seek, nor accept, any campaign donations from Bruce C. Ratner.

MultifamilyInvestor, NY to Atlantic Yards Developer: Finish By…2035?!

What will happen by 2035?

Muslims will outnumber Christians in Britain.

China will surpass the U.S. economically.

Jerusalem will lose its Jewish majority, if those predictions are accurate.

In addition, 2035 is also the deadline the City and State of New York have given to Forest City Ratner to complete the Atlantic Yards project.

NLG: Yet Ratner and the City and the State all still swear that the project will be done in 10 years. Trust them.

Brownstoner, Judge Doesn't Immediately Rule on AY Condemnation

On Friday Judge Abraham G. Gerges of State Supreme Court somewhat unexpectedly declined to immediately green-light the Empire State Development Corporation's request for final approval of the seizure via eminent domain of properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

A Child Grows, Street Closures and Bus Removal to happen or not?

It seems, sadly, that Atlantic Yards is going to become a reality. So, get ready for traffic, pollution and noise.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, More Fantasy from ESDC 'Experts'

Atlantic Yards Report reveals today that the August KPMG report on housing in Brooklyn--which the ESDC used to prove that the massive dose of housing in the Atlantic Yards project could be absorbed in ten years--was, to put it kindly, fanciful. It reported entirely incorrect sales figures for the Oro Condos and Richard Meier's On Prospect Park.

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

Prokhorov Meeting with Thorn, Yormark at All-Star Break


The all-Nets-all-the-time blog rounds up recent media reports on Mikhail Prokhorov's pending purchase of the team from the worst owner in NBA history.

Beat writers have been tracking the progress of the Nets sale and although there’s nothing definitive on when the NBA Board of Governors will approve Mikhail Prokhorov as owner–or whether that’s the final step to put him in charge, it looks like the first planning meetings on the team’s future will take place during All-Star Weekend, Feb 12-14. Rod Thorn and Brett Yormark will participate. The two first met Prokhrov in October. Among the issues: whether Thorn will continue as president of basketball operations.


Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

Fifth Avenue, at least temporarily, remains open, despite the DOT's unchanging signs; (update) signs should be turned off

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite signs from the Department of Transportation (DOT) indicating that Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues would be closed today for the Atlantic Yards project, the street this morning remained open, after a state judge last Friday refused to transfer title, as the Empire State Development Corporation had sought.

Below is a video I shot early this morning (around 7:30 am) as I walked north toward Flatbush along Fifth Avenue. The DOT's digital signs--visible on both Fifth and Flatbush avenues--continued to state that the street would be closed today.

Update: I'm told that the signs were not placed by the DOT but instead by Forest City Ratner.

Update 11 a.m.: ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell states, "ESDC has been informed that the signs are being turned off and the streets are remaining open."


NoLandGrab: Shouldn't the signs be placed and managed by DOT and paid for by Forest City Ratner? Or are we just abdicating all functions of government to real estate developers?

Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

So, will the DOT close Fifth Avenue today in the AY footprint? They seem undeterred by stalled case (unless they just didn't get to all the signage)

Atlantic Yards Report

Is a street in the Atlantic Yards footprint still going to be closed today?

The evidence isn't conclusive, but signs suggest that the city Department of Transportation (DOT) may go ahead with closing Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues--Forest City Ratner's priority.

In court Friday, Charles Webb, a lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) told state Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges, "We will not even ask that they [streets] be closed until after vesting [of title]."

Gerges, however, put his decision on hold, so there was no transfer of title.

I concluded that the ESDC would not ask for streets to be closed-but I couldn't get a confirmation from the agency on Friday afternoon. (I should've contacted DOT, apparently; I sent questions yesterday.)


Posted by lumi at 4:16 AM

Another reason not to trust the KPMG report to the ESDC on the housing market

Atlantic Yards Report

There's yet another reason not to trust the report (dated August 31) that KPMG delivered to the Empire State Development Corporation on the housing market in Brooklyn.

Remember, the report claimed that Richard Meier's On Prospect Park was 75% sold. However the New York Times reported September 27 that the developer asserted that half of the units had been sold and the web site StreetEasy.com documented only 25 closings.

KPMG also claimed that the Oro Condos in Downtown Brooklyn were 75% sold. That didn't ring right.

In September, Crain's reported that prices at Oro had been slashed 25%. And yesterday the New York Times reported that the building is 44 percent sold.

Why does this matter?

Because the ESDC relied on the "expert" KPMG to validate its dubious estimate that the Atlantic Yards housing could be absorbed in a decade, a crucial defense in the case challenging the ESDC's approval of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan and the failure to issue a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

The information on Oro further undermines KPMG's expertise.


Posted by lumi at 4:10 AM