« April 2010 | Main | June 2010 »

May 31, 2010

Own Property in New York State?

You’d Better Pay Attention to Tuesday’s High Court Argument on Eminent Domain Abuse

Institute for Justice

If you own a piece of property in New York, you’d better pay close attention to an oral argument taking place on Tuesday, June 1 at 2 p.m. in Albany before New York’s high court.

This case—Kaur v. Empire State Development Corporation—may well decide if powerful private interests can team up with the government to take away your home, your small business, your farm or your factory through eminent domain for someone else’s private gain.

It is called eminent domain abuse and it is a plague that has wreaked havoc across the Empire State for decades. Tuesday’s court argument will decide whether Columbia University—a private institution—may direct the government’s power of eminent domain to take property away from its neighbors for the university’s private use and profit. Columbia seeks to take the property of neighbors Nick Sprayregen and Amanjit Kaur to expand its campus. If Columbia were a public university, this would be a public use. But Columbia is a private university and, as such, the takings are for private gain.

Immediately following the 2 p.m. oral argument, which is expected to last for about one hour, property owners, their advocates and supporters will hold a press conference outside of the court to answer questions and explain why property rights must be respected in the state. The press conference will take place at Academy Park, 20 Eagle Street in Albany, directly across the street from the front of the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

Dana Berliner, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice (IJ), said, “This is the kind of abuse of government power on behalf of powerful private interests the Framers of the Constitution sought to prevent when they drafted the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution and required that private property could only be taken for a public use. Taking someone’s land for a private institution like Columbia for its private use and profit is not a public use.” The Institute for Justice, which represented the homeowners in the infamous eminent domain abuse case Kelo v. City of New London, is the nation’s leading advocate against eminent domain for private gain.

Just last year, the Court of Appeals refused to stop the use of eminent domain for an arena for the NBA Nets and private development project in Brooklyn. It now has an opportunity to redeem itself in this decision.


Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

Barclays gags Guardian over tax

Injunction forces news website to remove seven leaked memos showing how bank avoided hundreds of millions of pounds in tax

The Guardian

Gustav Peebles, co-author of the Atlantic Yards-economic-bonanza-debunking Kim/Peebles Report [PDF], happened across this March, 2009 Guardian piece about Barclays, a company that makes BP look like the Park Slope Food Coop.

Barclays Bank obtained a court order early today banning the Guardian from publishing documents which showed how the bank set up companies to avoid hundreds of millions of pounds in tax.

The internal Barclays memos – leaked by a Barclays whistleblower – showed executives from SCM, Barclays's structured capital markets division, seeking approval for a 2007 plan to sink more than $16bn (£11.4bn) into US loans.

Tax benefits were to be generated by an elaborate circuit of Cayman islands companies, US partnerships and Luxembourg subsidiaries.

The documents had been leaked to Cable by a former employee of the bank, who wrote a long account of how the bank works.

The anonymous whistleblower wrote to Cable: "The last year has seen the global taxpayer having to rescue the global financial system. The taxpayer has already had a gun put to their head and been told to pay up or watch the financial system and life as we know it disappear into a black hole.


NoLandGrab: Tax-cheating, gag-ordering British banks, Russian billionaire oligarchs "self-made" through back-room deals — such is the company Bruce Ratner keeps.

Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

Price drops at On Prospect Park provide another reason to doubt KPMG report on housing market

Atlantic Yard Report

New information gives even more reason to question the KPMG report for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) on the housing market in Brooklyn, a report that asserted that there was sufficient demand for the planned Atlantic Yards luxury condos for the entire project to be completed in the announced decade.

So far, judges have deferred to the ESDC's "experts," but the expert is not very reliable.

Remember, KPMG last August 31 claimed that Richard Meier's On Prospect Park was 75% sold; however, the New York Times quoted the developers as saying half the units have been sold and that StreetEasy.com documented only 25% the units as sales.

Now, the developer counts 54 units sold, with--after the consolidation of some units to make larger apartments--42 yet unsold, according to a New York Times Real Estate section article headlined Larger Units for a Richard Meier Condo.

That's still way under 75%. (StreetEasy counts 38 recorded sales.)

Prices going down

Moreover, the prices for On Prospect Park are likely much lower than assumed in the KPMG report. The Times reports:

To get the building’s original buyers — some of whom had put down deposits in early 2008 — to close on their apartments, Mr. [Louis] Greco [of developer SDS Procida] said, he had to deduct 15 or 20 percent from the agreed-upon prices...

Mr. Greco said that 42 apartments remained to be sold, at prices starting from about $680,000 to $5 million; per square foot, the prices are about 28 percent lower than in 2008.


NoLandGrab: Long story short — Brooklyn needs a real estate bubble unlike anything we've seen over the past decade to make the Atlantic Yards numbers work.

Posted by eric at 9:24 AM

Klub Prokhorov

The billionaire Nets owner and the creation (his creation, actually) of a new kind of New York Russian.

New York Magazine
by Michael Idov

When Mikhail Prokhorov—gangly, boyish, 45, and a billionaire seventeen times over—announced his purchase of the New Jersey Nets and a majority stake of their yet-unbuilt arena at the Atlantic Yards, he leaped into the city’s collective consciousness with a speed unusual for any foreigner, let alone a Russian. The Nets are not a trophy skyscraper, whose ownership ultimately matters only to the kind of people who keep track of trophy skyscrapers. They are a ticket to instant popular-culture importance. By becoming the first foreign owner of an NBA team, Prokhorov simultaneously established himself as a major figure in one of the world’s most glamorous businesses (in the world capital of the sport, no less) and a central player in New York’s biggest real-estate drama after ground zero. The scale of his trick didn’t really hit home until a May 19 breakfast photo op with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Jay-Z: a perfectly orchestrated tableau of New York relevance.

Prokhorov’s interest in the Nets appears sincere enough. His father was a Soviet sports official, and Prokhorov is the head of the Russian Biathlon Union (he attended the Vancouver Olympics in that capacity). He played basketball himself in high school—because he was six-eight, it was practically an imperative—and invested in Moscow’s CSKA professional team before turning his attention westward. Prokhorov has already floated a $12 million to $15 million offer to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, openly plans to court LeBron James and other top free agents, and during his recent visit to the city promised to bring the team a “championship in five years.” He also hopes to raise the sport’s profile back in Russia and perhaps groom future stars there.

And yet buying the Nets and their arena was clearly a real-estate play as well. Prokhorov had already established himself as a major figure in the New York property market before the Atlantic Yards deal. In 2008, after developer Harry Macklowe defaulted on a $513 million loan from Deutsche Bank AG, the super-liquid Prokhorov swooped in and offered to buy the Park Avenue site in question for $250 million. “Guys like Prokhorov,” says a source who’s seen the bid, “are always looking to get in at opportunistic prices. They make extremely low offers that also happen to be all cash, which locals don’t do.” By the time Prokhorov turned his attention to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards, the project was in almost as much trouble as Macklowe’s. Only the infusion of Russian cash raised it from a coma.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, New York Magazine suggests that, as notable new New York Russian, Prokhorov (Nets, Snob, etc.) is latter-day Baryshnikov

Idov's closing paragraph:

Have I sold out to Prokhorov? Sure I have. And not just by joining his club or working for his magazine. Simply by writing these lines, I’m helping him accomplish his trick by promoting the group he’s so bent on creating. But then I think of that picture of Prokhorov with Mayor Bloomberg and Jay-Z, and it brings to mind a similar photo, one that I apparently committed to memory. It’s a seventies shot of Baryshnikov lolling on a Studio 54 couch, sandwiched between Steve Rubell and Mick Jagger. In most respects, Prokhorov and Baryshnikov couldn’t be more different. But seeing the two Russians flanked by such iconic New York figures had the same effect on me. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit—maybe even a little snobby. But both pictures helped make me feel like I belong in New York, like my life, and those of my countrymen, is bigger somehow than it was back home. Isn’t that why we all seem to end up here?

Well, Idov and his Russian-American peers may feel the connection, but others may feel a tad bit of dissonance. Baryshnikov rose through stupendous talent and drive.

Prokhorov as New Yorker

Prokhorov has brains, talent and (clearly) drive, but his vast wealth tracks back significantly to his insider's deal to buy Norilsk Nickel, a process a prominent Russian journalist described to 60 Minutes as "rigged." (Without that deal, he wouldn't have been in a position to make a killing when he sold his shares.)

In buying into the Atlantic Yards project--80% of the Nets and 45% of the arena operating company--Prokhorov also gains from an insider's real estate deal.

Maybe that makes him a certain kind of New Yorker, as well.

Posted by eric at 9:06 AM

Brooklyn Paper Editor Kuntzman: "Once [arena is] built, you kind of have to focus on the positives"

Atlantic Yards Report

On the John Gambling Show last Friday, the host, after interviewing Bruce Ratner, interviewed Brooklyn Paper Editor-in-Chief Gersh Kuntzman.

One issue was Atlantic Yards and Kuntzman, who's a smart fellow, sounded dismayingly like the editor of the Pyongyang Paper.

JG: New Yorkers... everybody, it's a human condition, is resistant to change, because we like what we know and we're worried about things we don't know. But I think, like so much in New York, after that thing is built, and I know all of the sort of grunts and groans that have taken place... I think Brooklynites are going to go, 'Wow, this is great, why didn't they do it sooner?'

Only if they ignore the surface parking that could linger for more than a decade and a project that could take 25 years to complete.

GK: Well, the sooner thing, definitely... You're absolutely right about the fact that people typically resist change. I would argue that New Yorkers do it less than other people. The only real constant in New York City is change. And I think that's one of the things that makes New York great.

Focusing on the positives

GK: As far as Atlantic Yards goes, I do believe that once it is actually built, people will have to start seeing its advantages rather than focusing on the more balanced picture: 'well, do the positives outweigh the negatives?'

Once it's built, you kind of have to focus on the positives. And there will be some positives to it. You've got a basketball team that potentially could put Brooklyn on some people's maps. You have a venue where you can have the Ringling Brothers Circus, we haven't had that in decades.


NoLandGrab: Toss in a little bread, and everything will be hunky-dory.

Posted by eric at 8:47 AM

Wizards Pre-Draft Workouts: The Path of Derrick Caracter


A tale about the sleazy world of U.S. amateur basketball and the toll it takes on young men's lives passes through — you guessed it — Atlantic Yards.

The connections [Eddie Lau] made boosted him to one of the most well-known runners (or “street agents”) in the New York City area, serving as a recruiter for the Long Island Panthers, the AAU team of Caracter. Tom Sicignano, who has been associated with AAU team Brooklyn USA, a rival of the Panthers, claimed that Lau once gave one of his players a pager, which was later confiscated by that player’s high school coach. Sicignano, also known as “Ziggy” was, of course, a former manager of the famed Gold Club in Atlanta. He was the one who spilled the beans on the crimes of former Gold Club owner Steve Kaplan and all the NBA players who received “services” at the famed strip club trial in 2001. Ziggy also admitted that he paid players with prostitutes, transported prostitutes across state lines and bribed police officers, along with having connections to the Gambino crime family.

Ironically, when Ziggy felt that the rival Long Island Panthers and coach Gary Charles, along with Eddie Lau, were trying to steal Sebastian Telfair from his program, he said, “I’m not a priest, but compared to these other guys, I’m Cardinal Ziggy O’Connor.” Good one, buddy. Sicignano was more recently seen as a supporter of New Jersey Nets minority owner Bruce Ratner and his efforts to procure Atlantic Yards, where the new home of the Nets, the Barclays Center, is currently being built. Ratner gave Sicignano and Brooklyn USA $10,000 in 2005.

So many back room connections, so much seediness.


NoLandGrab: Not sure if that last line is meant for amateur hoops or Atlantic Yards, but it's certainly befitting for both.

Posted by eric at 8:38 AM

May 30, 2010

Coney Island reopens for summer season, but will buildings be demolished for chain retail and condos? Also, an AY cameo in the saga of a "razzle"

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's a look at how the city continues to work hand-in-hand with a developer to destroy Coney Island as an amusement area even as both claim to revive it.

The summer season has begun at Coney Island, with Astroland replaced by the new rides of Luna Park (named to echo one of the three great amusement parks, open from 1903 to 1944 and replaced by public housing).

That's the cause of much official celebration and, indeed, there are some other signs of life, such as the city's plan to move the famed B&B Carousell to Steeplechase Plaza.

However, as Kevin Baker writes in the Village Voice and the folks at Save Coney Island remind us, much remains contested, notably developer Joe Sitt's plan to demolish some historic structures on or below Surf Avenue and replace them with chain retail and restaurants--and, quite possibly, hotels/time-shares that would be turned into condos, thus leading to the demise of the amusement zone ecosystem (despite Coney's unique zoning).

Perhaps the most basic question is asked by Save Coney Island spokesman, Juan Rivero.

“The Bloomberg administration needs to decide: Will this summer be remembered as the beginning of Coney Island’s rebirth? Or will be remembered as the summer that the City allowed an opportunistic developer to demolish Coney Island’s history?” Rivero said.


Posted by steve at 8:46 AM

In friendly interview, Ratner claims team purchase was a "civic venture," dodges question about arena economics

Atlantic Yards Report

When an interviewer is not knowledgeable and the interviewee is Bruce Ratner, Truth is probably going to take a big hit. Fortunately for us, John Gambling's interview with the subsidy-sucking developer has been reviewed by Norman Oder, who adds the truthiness that is otherwise missing.

Gambling started off by asking if arena construction had begun.

BR: We've been in construction for about a month and, in two years, we will have a brand new arena.

JG: There's more to this than just an arena.

BR: There's the arena. There's housing, both affordable and market-rate housing. It's an architecturally beautiful project. And of course the arena brings the Nets and circuses and all kinds of concerts and entertainment.

Whether it's architecturally beautiful is an open question, given that the only renderings beyond the arena are "vaportecture." Keep in mind that Ratner famously told Crain's New York Business last November, "Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."


JG: I wonder whether or not it will detract from New York... maybe suck some of the dollars out of New York into Brooklyn. Have you done any speculation along those lines?

Gambling, a notably uninformed (but authoritative-sounding) interviewer, might have pointed to the June 2009 New York Times article "arena glut" article, which suggests that five arenas--and maybe even four--are too many for the region.

The Barclays Center would compete with the main arena in New York City, Madison Square Garden, but it could compete more with the antiquated Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

BR: No, I think really what it is is additive.., whether it's the rides that you're about to watch or a new arena anything really new like that is just additive to the experience of New York and it's always been that way, Whether it's a new team when the Mets came, some 30-40 years ago, or whether it's the Nets coming.... It's an additive to the experience, particularly for Brooklyn.., Brooklyn has not had a pro sports team for over 50 years, and now we have a professional sports team in our great borough.

Note that Ratner stresses "an additive to the experience," which is undeniable, rather than analyzing the revenue issue.


NoLandGrab: "Additive experience" apparently means the addition of city and state subsidies to Ratner's fortune while the rest of us wonder at the addition of a money-losing arena and acres of parking to Prospect Heights.

Posted by steve at 8:29 AM

The Russian moves to Brooklyn

by Kyle Stack

This article notes NYU Prof Robert Boland's analysis of Mikhail Prokhorov's purchase of the Nets and the outlook for a new arena for the Nets. He takes a dim view of both.

Robert Boland, a Sports Management professor at New York University, believes Prokhorov wouldn’t have been given the chance to own a team in past years.

“He’s a guy who the League never would have approved in good times,” Boland said. “They’re afraid of him.”

Boland explained that the source and stability of Prokhorov’s wealth is in question and that Prokhorov’s financial state “would have been much more questioned by American sports leagues before this economic collapse.”

Operation of the Nets' arena will be problematic for several reasons. One difficulty will be finding people willing to buy tickets to watch the Nets.

The $1 billion arena is destined to suffer financially right from its expected opening in the 2012-13 NBA season, according to Boland.

“They will have trouble selling out the arena the first couple of years,” Boland said. “The Knicks are having trouble selling out and they’re in Madison Square Garden with four million people walking under it every day.”

Even though the Nets’ Brooklyn arena would seemingly benefit from the 2.5 million people who live in the borough and the resulting enthusiasm of Brooklyn finally getting a pro sports team after what will have been a 54-year pro sports drought, there are plenty of questions yet to be answered. First on the list is whether fans are willing to pay for tickets to watch a team which has no assurance of being among the NBA’s elite during the next several years.

There's also the problem of a glut of arenas in the region whose managements are chasing what little money corporations are willing to spend on luxury boxes.

Whether the common fan can afford to attend games at the Nets’ BK arena is far from the their only concern. Finding corporate partners willing to shill out money for luxury suites could become a tough exercise.

The Brooklyn arena, if and when it opens in 2012, would be just the latest modern sports mega-facility to open in the New York metropolitan area. Prudential Center (2007), Yankee Stadium (2009), Citi Field (2009), Red Bull Arena (2010) and New Meadowlands Stadium (2010) have all taken their rightful places in line. That’s not to mention the renovations at Madison Square Garden which by the time it’s expected to be finished in 2013 will have given the building’s interior a complete makeover.

Any corporation willing to splurge on luxury suites is an unpopular choice in these times. “Their shareholders would be groaning,” Boland said. But it does still occur, although the Nets can’t be assured that their 104 planned luxury suites will sell out immediately.


Posted by steve at 8:03 AM

May 29, 2010

Coney Island's Grand Past and Grim Future

Requiem for a dreamland

Village Voice
by Kevin Baker

An epic and well-worth-reading piece on the Joe Sitt/Mike Bloomberg/Dominic Recchia/Amanda Burden destruction of the incredibly resilient-but-teetering American playground, Coney Island, wouldn't be complete without a mention of the epitome of the modern "razzle" — Atlantic Yards.

Coney Island today is a place where you can drink beer, "shoot a freak," see a geek, see a burlesque show, see fish, catch fish, eat fish, ride the Cyclone, ride the waves, win a kewpie doll, play Skee-Ball, go to a ballgame, see a band, lie on the sand. It is the last stand of the demimonde, the last place where you can feel the openness and the energy of 1970s New York, stripped of the accompanying dread of crime and decay.

The city and the developers they favor now propose to rescue us from all that, just as, in the past, they "rescued" a unique, prosperous community of 100,000 people by turning it into a bereft, isolated slum of 50,000 people. Where, 50 years ago, an unaccountable, unelected city authority tore down much of Coney Island under "Title 1," now an unaccountable, unelected city authority endorses tearing it down again under "Phase 1." And once again, anyone who objects is accused of championing "the nostalgic fables of the past."

It's not just Coney. Much like Thor Equities, Michael Bloomberg's administration has forwarded its development schemes everywhere with "renderings of some fantastic building." On and on it goes, from the Olympics and the West Side Stadium, to the gargantuan "airport village" in Jamaica, to the wall of condos planned for the Queens and Brooklyn waterfront along the East River, to the Hudson Yards project on the West Side, newly revived—an endless carny game of bait-and-switch, sold on the promise of one amazing, futuristic building after another, none of which ever seem to get built.

A veritable catalog of such swindles—past, present, and future—can be found in a triumphalist 2006 copy of New York magazine on "Tomorrowland"—the Oz-like New York it imagined would exist by 2016.

Therein can be found a headline that reads, "Brooklyn (Like It or Not) Will Get a Shimmering Frank Gehry Crown."

It refers, of course, to the Atlantic Yards project, where somehow no shimmering crowns ever appeared—only plans for a cheesy, college-style fieldhouse, built to house a bad basketball team owned by a mysterious Russian oligarch. In the process, the city—which currently claims to be unable to afford to let schoolchildren ride the subway at half-price—may well have squandered nearly $200 million for the cash-strapped MTA, money it left on the table in its rush to hand the site over to a single mega-developer that ended up flipping the whole project.

Actually, Bruce Ratner has only flipped the Nets, and 45% of the arena, which he had to do to keep the project solvent. Of course, he's also flipped the bird to Brooklynites.

Just down the page, in the same New York article, is a mention of another coming attraction in Tomorrowland: the Thor Galleries Tower, in Albee Square.

The real problem here, though, isn't Joe Sitt, or even Mayor Mike, the developers' buddy, but the driving force behind them and so many other mayors and developers over the years. It's a mentality, a secular religion, a form of warped corporate progressivism that insists order and sterility and profit can always be imposed upon the vast creative anarchy of this city.

Down on Coney Island, they know better.

"I think the island is both welcoming and malicious. I think it'll thwart them in some way," says Richard Snow, who remembers seeing the remnants of the foundation holes dug for the great Friede Globe Tower, still visible into the 1970s. "I think I know enough about Coney to say that it won't work out the way anybody's saying it will."

article / text-only version

Posted by eric at 1:46 PM

Noticing New York's White puts the AG candidates on the spot re Atlantic Yards; Brodsky's in high dudgeon over suggestion he went easy on AY

Atlantic Yards Report

In Touchstone For Whether There Will Be Change In Albany: Attorney General Candidates on Atlantic Yards and Eminent Domain, Michael D.D. White offers a long but important-to-read post. The summary:

The good news with respect to the possibility of change is that at least two of the candidates for state Attorney General (the Erics) think that the job of Attorney General should entail actions designed to stop Atlantic Yards dead in its tracks. That includes, in the case of state senator Eric T. Schneiderman, investigation of likely violations of law and, in the case of former state insurance superintendent Eric R. Dinallo, use of the Attorney General’s power to issue opinions and rulings to make clear that the law is not being properly interpreted when eminent domain is abused by state officials. (We will be quoting both at length further on.)

The bad news is that if the Erics are correct and that addressing these Atlantic Yards abuses should be part of the Attorney General’s job (or at least within the AG’s discretion), none of the current AG candidates are willing to say that it is improper for gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, the current holder of the AG position, to be taking campaign money from Forest City Ratner, the mega-project’s developer. That this is not improper notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Cuomo has been asked to investigate Atlantic Yards and issue rulings on the conduct by the public authorities facilitating it. That it is not improper notwithstanding the questions that lurk: Is Mr. Cuomo taking action on Atlantic Yards and is Mr. Cuomo taking appropriate action?

Atlantic Yards as "Superlative Touchstone"

White calls Atlantic Yards "the superlative touchstone to detect for true reform-mindedness," comparing it to Yankee Stadium, the Aqueduct "racino," the destruction of the Coney Island amusement area, Willets Point, Columbia University's expansion, and putting it in the context of public authority reform and campaign finance, state ethics and lobbying reform.

He notes that, while Cuomo has given back some campaign contributions, he's failed to return a contribution from Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, nor has he issued some publicly requested opinions on AY.


Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Touchstone For Whether There Will Be Change In Albany: Attorney General Candidates on Atlantic Yards and Eminent Domain

Noticing New York

Might we get actual, honest-to-God change in Albany this November? Who needs tea leaves when we have Atlantic Yards.

Are things in Albany about to change? We are in the middle of an election cycle where we will see turnover in all the important offices. Notwithstanding that all the candidates will be talking about reform, is change and reform what we will get in the end or will we just get be more of the same, a continuing lack of transparency, pay-to-play political contributions, and the same old mire of tangled political relationships that separate us form proceeding directly to the reforms that need to implemented?

Do we really need to remind our readers that in the last election cycle, just four years ago, the candidates Eliot Spitzer, Alan Hevesi, David Paterson, also all ran on the platform of reform? Because of scandal one of those candidates, Alan Hevesi, never took office as state Comptroller, Eliot Spitzer soon resigned from the governorship in scandal and David Paterson who succeeded Spitzer is now enmeshed in is own crippling scandals that would likely remove him from office were he not so close to the end of his term and were the public not already so utterly exhausted by the scandal-driven midterm turnovers to date.

Touchstones and Stepping Stones

Are things in Albany about to change? We think we can furnish some insight. We arrive at the perceptions we can offer by use of the singular touchstone reference which we think cuts through obfuscation and the political posture and pretense like a hot knife through butter: Atlantic Yards. We apply our test to a race for a state office which itself can serve as a touchstone, the race for New York State Attorney General. That race is a touchstone not only because of how key the office is itself, but also because it is now being vacated by Andrew Cuomo, the perceived front runner in the race for Governor, the highest office in the state, who like his predecessor, the disgraced Eliot Spitzer, has been able to use the AG’s office as the penultimate stepping stone to the highest state office.

Think of anything going on the state that is objectionable to reformers and Atlantic Yards trumps it by several shades of darkness.


Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Second look: fire truck going the wrong way on Dean Street; clarification: congestion caused more by closure of Pacific Street than of bridge

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday I pointed to Tracy Collins's time-lapse photography of congestion on Dean Street adjacent to the Atlantic Yards footprint.

In the very brief segment below, he's pulled out the sequence in which a fire truck leaving the station at 494 Dean Street (just out of the frame on the left) travels west against traffic on Dean Street before turning right, north, on Sixth Avenue.

A clarification on cause of congestion

Yesterday and in previous coverage of congestion on Dean Street, I suggested that it was caused both by the closure of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, which should reopen in two years, and the permanent closure of parts of Pacific Street.

But the bridge closed in January 2008, and the increase in traffic didn't accelerate until parts of Pacific Street closed in March. So the latter deserves most of the blame.


NoLandGrab: Closed bridge, closed streets, whatever. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Atlantic Yards has significantly slowed down emergency response times, though the ESDC and the city swear it hasn't. What's a few seconds when Bruce's profits are on the line?

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

May 28, 2010

Tracy Collins offers time-lapse photos from outside arena site, near FCR's malls, despite official discouragement

Atlantic Yards Report

Photographer Tracy Collins did some filming yesterday, and workers at Forest City Ratner's arena site as well at the developer's mall complex didn't want him getting too close.

The documentation doesn't bring up anything unusual, but there's a value to consistent documentation. Surely Forest City Ratner is trying to control the visuals, such as with these shots of new Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Arena construction

Flatbush Avenue at Pacific Street
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York
May 27, 2010

Collins writes:

Site of the Barclays Center Arena of the Atlantic Yards development by Forest City Ratner. Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall is in the background.

I was told by the construction workers (who eventually covered the gap in the fence thru which I was shooting) that I should "move along" and that "I couldn't photograph here." I told them that I could and I would as I was on a public sidewalk.

Barclays Center Arena construction, Flatbush at Pacific from tracy collins on Vimeo.


NoLandGrab: Classic! Watch the short video for Forest City Ratner's censoring of its proprietary dirt-moving technology — this from the company that swears that "when it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there’s no such thing as too much."

And for good measure, they kicked Tracy Collins off the "private" street between Bruce Ratner's malls, too.

Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

Traffic on Dean Street: Documentation of three intersections, by Tracy Collins, shows congestion and challenges

Atlantic Yards Report

I've been using a camera as a rather wobbly tool to document traffic and street conditions in and around the Atlantic Yards footprint. Below, Tracy Collins, who's a far more able photographer, has produced some videos with far more clarity.

Dean Street will be the main (only?) route to the massive interim surface parking lot on the southeast block of the project footprint. It's already backed up, both in the morning (as I showed), and in the afternoon (as Collins shows below in the first video).

Some of that is related to the closure of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, which should reopen in two years, but some is related to the permanent closure of parts of Pacific Street.

And the presence of double-parked vehicles could compound congestion; a vehicular accident would make it worse. There's not a lot of leeway.

So perhaps the workers counting traffic for the city (Department of Transportation, presumably) will recommend some fixes.

Click thru for more, including several videos, including the one above.

NoLandGrab: Any "fixes" are likely to be nothing more than lipstick on a hockey mom — Bruce Ratner's superblocks and thousands of parking spaces will surely make an already congested area well nigh unbearable.

Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

Things That Make You Say WTF:Jay Z has breakfast with Mayor Michael Bloomberg,Mikhail Prokhorov & Bruce Ratner

Global Fusion Productions

This whole super hype about Jay Z being coowner & poster child for the Nets & their soon to be Brooklyn based arena makes me say WTF. For those of us who live in New York City, we all know that our Mayor is punch drunk with power & the pursuit of more of it with his countless deal making which often do not benefit the average New Yorker, but rather only benefits his fellow business cohorts while giving him more global exposure & raises his Bloomberg brand. Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, Mayor Bloomberg & Real Estate developer/former majority owner of the Nets- Bruce Ratner all have a mutually beneficial relationship in their global business circles, so where exactly does Jay Z from Marcy Projects fit into this circle?

Jay Z really is a little to nothing stake holder in the Nets, but because he’s from Brooklyn & looks like many of the people in the the Brooklyn neighborhood that developers through their government influences & “shut out the people” deal making have successfully taken from the people thru eminent domain in the glory of capitalism & gentrification, he has become the face of the Brooklyn arena project to make the people of Brooklyn feel & think one of their own has their back & best interests at heart. This is all nothing new in deal making & using commonalty to attain public sympathy & trust, but come on Brooklyn are any of you buying this?


Posted by eric at 9:20 AM

May 27, 2010

China Land Snatch!

National Bibliographic

"Private" property in China is about as tenuous a proposition as straight talk from Brett Yormark. How bad is China's landgrabbing? The author calls Atlantic Yards "child's play" by comparison.

This story today in the Times is a good reminder of what unchecked capitalism abetted by local and state government (free market / police state) looks like in China. If anyone holds the illusion that the economic boom in China benefits all of its citizens, take a look at what's happening in the Laogucheng neighborhood of Beijing where all of its residents are being forcibly and often violently evicted from their homes before they are razed to make way for development. One woman, Tang Fuzhen, actually resorted to self-immolation as armed thugs broke into her home to expel her and her family. What's more, this is merely one headline catching example out of hundreds of such occurrences all over China. It highlights the gritty, leading edge of the real estate boom in China that seems likely to lead to massive inflation in addition to massive human rights violations. The silver-lining is that protests from average citizens, law professor, and others have finally made some headway with the legislative affairs office of the State Council, with cabinet members calling for local governments to hold developers responsible for "vicious incidents" and to "publicize 'reasonable' standards of compensation."


NoLandGrab: At least the Chinese get a silver lining. Albany lawmakers, unlike China's State Council, haven't lifted a finger to rein in developers.

Posted by eric at 10:50 PM

Green Party Nominates Clark and Lawrence for US Senate

Via NewsChannel34.com (Binghamton, NY)

New York's Green Party has nominated its candidates for statewide office, and among them is local activist Gloria Mattera, a stalwart of the fight to stop Atlantic Yards, who's running for Lieutenant Governor.

From Green Party of New York State:

The Green Party state convention in Albany last weekend nominated a full slate of candidates for statewide office in New York this November.

Gloria Mattera, a long time peace activist from Brooklyn was nominated to run for Lt. Governor on a ticket with Syracuse labor activist Howie Hawkins (www.howiehawkins.org).

In 2005, Mattera challenged incumbent Marty Markowitz for Brooklyn Borough President, after he enraged local communities by championing the use of eminent domain to seize homes for the benefit of private developer Bruce Ratner’s professional basketball arena and a multiple high-rise tower project. Mattera advocated human scale development driven by community specific needs that promoted sustainability and offered truly affordable housing.

Mattera is a long time Executive Board member of Physicians for A National Health Program NY Metro Chapter and on the steering committee of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 10:40 PM

Plan to move Madison Square Garden across the street revived; one argument is competition with the Brooklyn arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Madison Square Garden is supposed to be under renovation, but the plan to move it to the Farley Post Office across Eighth Avenue--this time, without expansion of the transit hub--is apparently revived.

And one argument by developer Steve Roth of Vornado Realty Trust involves competition with the new Brooklyn arena, according to the Times:

According to these officials, the developer’s pitch to Mr. [James] Dolan and Mr. [Hank] Ratner went something like this: The renovation of the 42-year-old arena could be more expensive and more disruptive for the Knicks, the Rangers and the Liberty than anticipated. And in the end, the site would still be inferior to the new arena for the Nets that is under construction in Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: But it would still be the World's Most Famous Arena, with cachet that Bruce Ratner will never touch.

Posted by eric at 1:11 PM

Was the Barclays Center used to lure the 2014 Super Bowl?

Atlantic Yards Report

Would you believe that New York Used Barclays Center To Help Lure 2014 Super Bowl, as claimed by NetsDaily?

Why, surely, yes, that was the deciding factor, no?

Well, you'd have to go to the links. The evidence isn't there.

From a New York Post article headlined Apple fans all feeling Super:

"America came to the rescue of New York, and that's something I think that New Yorkers have never forgotten," Bloomberg said. "This is a little bit of our chance to say thank you."

State economic development chief Peter Davidson told The Post that the under-construction Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be added to the list of venues hosting Super Bowl-week gala events, including the Javits Center and the James A. Farley Post Office.

The Jets' Johnson wasted no time in raising the possibility of a Jets-Giants championship game in four years.

From a Brooklyn blog post headlined EXCLUSIVE: New Brooklyn arena in line to host events during Super Bowl week in 2014:

Peter Davidson, executive director of the Empire State Development Corp., told the Post yesterday that the planned Barclays Center for Prospect Heights would be a perfect place to host some of the gala events that will be held in the New York area during the week leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII.


NoLandGrab: Would you believe NetsDaily is allegedly a real sports site and not a fantasy sports site? Us, neither.

Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

A walk along the Dean Street project border, the path from parking to the arena block; see how the sidewalk narrows, so the state's numbers are off

Atlantic Yards Report

Today I show two videos, shot on May 22 and May 23, that cover the same ground.

My aim was to show the transition between thriving Vanderbilt Avenue just southeast of the Atlantic Yards site, and the blighted northern border of Dean Street, where Forest City Ratner is using land cleared by demolitions (notable the Ward Bakery) for construction staging and surface parking.

Most notably, the path to the arena block from parking on Dean Street relies on a sidewalk that is very narrow in several segments, far from the "approximately 18 feet" claimed by the Empire State Development Corporation.

The effective sidewalk width on Dean Street between Sixth Avenue and Carlton Avenue is supposed to be 10.5 feet. Not so.

The sidewalk narrowed considerably in the segments flanking row houses, leading to the likelihood of a bottleneck as people approach the arena block, especially where there are trees.

As noted in the table at bottom, the ESDC estimates the second-lightest impact--LOS B--from pedestrians on Dean between Sixth and Carlton. That seems questionable.

Members of the Dean Street Block Association have installed tree guards to protect trees and nurture flowers in the tree beds.

How long will they survive?


Posted by steve at 8:56 AM

Atlantic Yards Confession

Old First

This blog post examines Atlantic Yards from an unusual, spiritual perspective. To begin, the post recounts a ritual blessing performed on the site. What follows is a broad history of the Atlantic Yards site, including the period when the project was proposed.

And then others came looking for power and prestige and wealth and fame. The Empire State Development Corporation had visions of empire. They wanted not community but evidence of empire. They used the power of empire over enterprise. They overpowered the small things that were growing here.

What they did here was immoral, according to the standard of the laws of God. They coveted this neighborhood, and they coveted their neighbors’ houses, and they did not love their neighbors as themselves. There were spirits here at work. The spirit of possession took over here, and the spirits of manipulation and deceit.

The media were used and the laws abused. The politicians participated and the deals were made and the payoffs paid. The judges did not do justice and the public servants were subservient. This community was ignored and others were co-opted, falsehoods were repeated, and people were removed and silenced. We were set against each other, and our motives impugned, and our persons insulted. Might was made the right. The ground was blighted by intention. Sturdy old buildings were demolished and lovely decorations were destroyed. The simmering spirits of anger and frustration were inflamed. And this is the desert we are left with. We confess it and we lament it. Requiescat in pace.

Read the full blog post for the concluding search for reconciliation and prayer for peace.


Posted by steve at 8:41 AM

A Decade of Constructive Criticism

Wall Street Journal
by Julie V. Iovine

An installation entitled "The City We Imagined/The City We Made" reviews New York real estate development for the first decade of the 21st century. The Atlantic Yards fight makes an appearance.

The data are printed on 8-by-11 sheets of color-coded paper (zoning ordinances, for instance, on orange), so you can see at a glance that there was only one rezoning in 2001—but almost two dozen in 2005. Relive Forest City Ratner's battle with assorted Brooklynites over the proposed $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards development on panels for 2003 and for 2005 through 2010, as the dispute approaches blood sport. Park projects (on pink) come in sporadic waves, and it's hard to miss the oppressive reality that the scores of ambitiously designed condominiums conceived in 2007 are arriving with a thud in 2010.


Posted by steve at 8:20 AM

so I don't forget

Photo, by horseycraze, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Posted by lumi at 6:23 AM

May 26, 2010

Near the AY footprint, in the later part of the morning rush hour, traffic stacks up on Dean and Bergen streets (video)

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, at about 9:15 am and thus in the later part of rush hour, I took a walk to the blocks just below the Atlantic Yards footprint.

At the corner of Carlton Avenue and Dean Street, there was a lot of traffic stacked up, mainly on Dean going east.

The cause? I'd blame the closure of the Carlton Avenue Bridge (for another two years or so) and the permanent closure of two blocks of Pacific Street have channeled traffic to adjacent streets.

In the first video, there was even some gridlock at Carlton and Dean.

I walked east on Dean to Sixth Avenue along the sidewalk--which narrows noticeably as it approaches the arena block--wondering about the impact of a couple of thousand people walking along that same route to and from the interim surface parking in the block bounded by Carlton Avenue, Vanderbilt Avenue, Dean Street, and Pacific Street.

Answer: it'll be very crowded. People will be walking in the street.


I then walked down Sixth Avenue to Bergen Street and filmed for a while at the corner of Bergen and Sixth, where the traffic had stacked up going west on Bergen.

There was a guy counting traffic at Bergen and Sixth who told me he was working "for the city." There's definitely some data to gather.

I continued walking along Bergen east to Carlton. The traffic diminished somewhat, but there were still delays.

And it wasn't even the heart of rush hour.

It's going to be an interesting ride.

Click on the link to see the videos that provide the raw material for this blog post.


Posted by steve at 10:40 AM

For 48 Hours, an Oligarch Turns on the Charm

The New York Observer
By Irina Aleksander

This piece follows Prokhorov on his whirlwind media tour while in New York. Totally missing is any real analysis as statements are presented at face value.

For example, the following says that there may be "misinformation" regarding Prokhorov, but doesn't say what that information might be, unless it's the impression made by someone who is supposed to be endearing despite some less-than-wholesome interests.

Mr. Prokhorov was in town for 48 hours that, if spent properly and efficiently, would warm the press and thereby the public to the mysterious Russian who just a week prior to his visit was approved as the principal owner of the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets. There was also, perhaps, some misinformation out there. In March, 60 Minutes aired a segment in which Mr. Prokhorov showed off his Kalashnikov rifles, his bars of solid gold and his dancing nightclub girls to an overwhelmed Steve Kroft.

"He is a macho man in Russia, and that is how macho men show off," said Janna Bullock, the prominent, Russian-born Manhattan real estate developer. Ms. Bullock and Mr. Prokhorov belong to the same social clubs back in Mocow. "No one told him how to behave, that America is not as aggressive, not as sexual. But it is very endearing, actually. It's like a child showing off his toys."

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz also makes an appearance with the oligarch.

... At 4 p.m., he joined Mr. Ratner and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz in the Atlantic Center mall in Brooklyn, overlooking the stadium construction site that would become his "favorite place in New York." "I asked him just one important thing, that he bring a winning team to Brooklyn," Mr. Markowitz said. "He looked me in the eye and said he would try his best and was confident he could do so-which sounds to me like the Brooklyn attitude right there!"


NoLandGrab: This "I intend to" attitude seems much more like an ESDC attitude than a Brooklyn attitude.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Prokhorov's modern blueprint: "brilliant, premeditated publicity move[s]" get saluted, without analysis

A New York Observer reporter gives a thumbs-up to the Mikhail Prokhorov show. From a piece headlined For 48 Hours, an Oligarch Turns on the Charm:

Mr. Prokhorov was in town for 48 hours that, if spent properly and efficiently, would warm the press and thereby the public to the mysterious Russian who just a week prior to his visit was approved as the principal owner of the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets.

...During the press conference, [p.r. consultant] Ms. [Ellen] Pinchuk pursed her lips and picked at her fingers each time her client was asked tough questions: his business dealings in Zimbabwe; the team's unfortunate record (12-70); will it continue to bleed money ($42.2 million in the recent fiscal year)? By the end, her water glass was empty. Mr. Prokhorov, however, performed expertly, answering each question with a joke and giving the sort of show that kept the reporters busy taking notes.

Next came an unexpected afternoon meeting with a 28-year-old Brooklyn resident named Vinnie Rotondaro. Vinnie had just graduated from Columbia J-school, with five bylines at a blog called the Brooklyn Ink.

...It was, in other words, another brilliant, premeditated publicity move that neatly tied up Mr. Prokhorov's two-day charm offensive.

My comment:

Um, Prokhorov's "brilliant, premeditated publicity move[s]" would not have succeeded had the press considered that the money he can spend on the team and arena (and p.r.) is money he didn't have to spend on the arena, thanks to significant public subsidies, tax-exempt bonds, and the giveaway of arena naming rights.


The episode--in which the press pronounces on public relations efforts instead of analyzing the issues at hand--recalls the New York Times's infamous "modern blueprint" article from 10/14/05, headlined To Build Arena in Brooklyn, Developer First Builds Bridges:

But from whatever viewpoint, the project's seemingly inexorable movement suggests that Mr. Ratner is creating a new and finely detailed modern blueprint for how to nourish - and then harvest - public and community backing for a hugely ambitious development that is expected to provide more than nine million square feet of apartments, offices, stores and hotel rooms, as well as the arena, in the middle of a populous, cantankerous and often sharply divided city.

Posted by steve at 9:47 AM

"Freddy's", the Documentary, to Screen on June 9 and 11. Find Out What's Been Lost

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

On June 9th and June 11th the Brooklyn International Film Festival will screen the World Premiere of "Freddy's"—the documentary about the world's best bar which has been confiscated and shuttered forever by the State of New York for Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov's billion dolllar arena.

Many have heard that Freddy's was taken by eminent domain but may be wondering what the big deal is about this bar, this cultural hub. This film will help you understand what has been lost.


Synopsis: Freddy's Bar & Backroom was a thriving cultural hub situated in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Open since prohibition, the bar featured a unique and colorful history. This documentary chronicles the diverse set of characters in Freddy's community - the bartenders, the regulars, the artists and the musicians. Through their barside reflections, both hilarious and poignant, we see the true importance of this Brooklyn institution. Beyond the late nights and naked Mondays, Freddy's was a vital part of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, it also sat in the footprint of a controversial real estate deal that has threatened to radically transform Brooklyn's character.

Click on the link for details of the screenings and a trailer.


Posted by steve at 8:44 AM

May 25, 2010

A partial walk through and around the eastern end of the footprint, and an encounter with a security guard unmindful of rules on photography

Atlantic Yards Report

Continuing the trip I took May 20 up Vanderbilt Avenue to look for blight near the eastern edge of the Atlantic Yards footprint, in the video below I walk from Vanderbilt Avenue and Atlantic Avenue south to Pacific Street, west to Carlton Avenue, and south to Dean Street.

The walk traverses part of Block 1129, which is being used for construction staging and interim surface parking. The demolition of the Ward Bakery led to the provision of significant surface space.

(Note that in the beginning of the video I identify the starting place as Vanderbilt Avenue and Pacific Street, whereas it's actually Atlantic Avenue.)

Private street?

Even though there are signs professing that the street is closed, the street remains unblocked, at least during off-hours, and I saw a few bicyclists and cars passing through. There was no guard at either end of the street, but there was a guard outside one of the buildings, presumably protecting it from any incursion.

I turned off the camera before I got to the building and chatted briefly with the guard as I passed.

When I got to the corner of Carlton and Pacific, I turned the camera back on and looked east, pointing out that the street was still open.

I walked south to Dean, capturing the block of row houses on Carlton between Pacific and Dean, a finger of the Prospect Heights Historic District. As I note on the video, blight is supposed to cause deterioration of surroundings--though that's not the case.

An encounter with a guard

Curiously enough, after shooting the wall that once was full of graffiti ("Gehry, thy name is eminent domain," by the Prospect Heights Action Coalition), I got to Carlton and Dean.

Then, oddly enough, the security guard from Pacific Street followed me and confronted me, telling me I shouldn't be taking pictures. He threatened to call the cops. I told him the cops said it was OK.


NoLandGrab: If you see something, say something.

Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

How about that under-the-radar Charter Revision Commission? Hearing Tuesday in Brooklyn takes on term limits

Atlantic Yards Report

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who spends an inordinate amount of time sending out press releases commenting on every possible matter of public interest (except one), is doing something useful: casting light on the shadowy efforts by the New York City Charter Revision Commission to amend the charter regarding issues like term limits, land use, and public integrity.

There's no small self-interest, as well; Mayor Mike Bloomberg wants the commission to examine whether the Public Advocate's office should be abolished.

Hearing on term limits

On Tuesday at 6 pm, the commission will hold a hearing on term limits at Brooklyn Borough Hall. It will be webcast live. Three nationally recognized experts will testify and those wishing to testify can begin signing up one half-hour prior to the start of the forum.

The hearing on land use will be Thursday, June 24, in Flushing, Queens.


Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

Hot cakes, foul mood

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Thomas Tracy

Speaking of the site of the Atlantic Center, had Walter O'Malley succeeded in building a baseball stadium on the site, it's possible that "Beaten and Robbed" might refer to a Dodger victory sparked by a couple stolen bases rather than yet another spate of crime in one of Bruce Ratner's malls.

Beaten and robbed

Two teens were apprehended after they mugged a 15-year-old inside the Atlantic Terminal Mall on May 21.

Police said that the suspects pulled a knife on their victim as he perused the Flatbush Avenue mall between Hanson and Atlantic avenues at 3 pm, but were taken into custody before they could exit the front door.

The Bruce Ratner-owned mall is a hotbed for crime, making an appearance pretty much every week in this column.


Posted by eric at 9:40 AM


by Jane McManus

A sidebar to a story on New Jersey's pitch for a Super Bowl reveals that, though we've been correcting the record on the precise location of the site Walter O'Malley was eying for a new Ebbets Field for going on six years now, some media outlets just can't get it straight.

Dodgers in Atlantic Yards

Walter O'Malley was looking to build a new baseball stadium for the Brooklyn Dodgers at the very Atlantic Yards site that is now slated to be the future home of the New Jersey Nets. Thanks to powerful New York City planner Robert Moses' lack of cooperation, O'Malley didn't get his stadium, and the Dodgers moved to L.A. after the 1957 season.

Had he succeeded, O'Malley would've built the ballpark across the way, roughly where Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center mall stands today.


Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

Dellaverson, ex-MTA CFO, joins a law firm, and the Times discreetly ignores the Vanderbilt Yard deal

Atlantic Yards Report

Gary Dellaverson, former Chief Financial Officer at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, lands at the law firm Proskauer Rose, and gets some positive words from the Times:

In 19 years at the transportation authority, the mustachioed, cigarillo-smoking Mr. Dellaverson took on some of the toughest assignments at a notoriously tough agency. As chief labor negotiator, he did battle with the Transport Workers Union during the 2005 transit strike. The headache-inducing complexity of the Hudson Yards development deal was his doing (after the first developer fell through, he nailed down another in five days).

Selling "Atlantic Yards"

Reuters reports:

The law firm hired Gary Dellaverson as special counsel in its labor and employment department. Dellaverson joins from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where he was most recently chief financial officer. He was previously the MTA's chief labor negotiator, overseeing such matters as the 2005 transit strike and efforts to sell the West Side Rail Yards and Atlantic Yards.

I don't know whether that summary came from a law firm press release or Reuters shorthand, but nobody sold the "Atlantic Yards." It's a project, not a place.


Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

On the Brian Lehrer Show Tuesday: Marty Markowitz and "Your Anecdotal Census"

Atlantic Yards Report

As part of the program’s ongoing Census coverage, WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show presents YOUR ANECDOTAL CENSUS–a county-by-county look at the stories emerging from each neighborhood in 2010. The series debuted earlier this month, and continues each Tuesday at 11 am through September.

Tomorrow today the subject is Brooklyn. Among the guests: Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Anecdotes welcomed

Listeners have been asked how the world around them has changed in the past decade. One of the more interesting comments already posted:

Jacqueline Woodson from Park Slope, Brooklyn

I think I am one of a shrinking number of African American recent homebuyers in Park Slope. We bought our house in 2002 when my daughter was 10 months old. I had lived as a renter in the neighborhood for many years before that and have watched the neighborhood go from being racially and economically diverse (as well as having a large number of queer people living here) to being a predominantly white, wealthy, straight neighborhood. It saddens me to see this change. Saddens me that my daughter (and now young son) aren't growing up in a neighborhood where they see their worlds constantly reflected back at them. I find myself thinking about organization IJack & Jill -- started so that African American children could meet other children of color. Who ever thought there would be a need in Brooklyn? But the children of color on our own block can be counted on one hand. Our mixed race gay family is a rarity in the neighborhood and when my partner and I walk through the neighborhood holding hands now, we get stares we wouldn't have imagined ten years ago.


Posted by eric at 9:14 AM

May 24, 2010

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth? An Examination of Brooklyn Bridge Park in Terms of the Politics of Development

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White publishes an epic three-part look at the politics of development in New York City, viewed through the prism of Brooklyn Bridge Park. It touches only tangentially on Atlantic Yards, but the delays in construction of the park conjure scary visions of a 50-year buildout in Prospect Heights.

This three-part article, which is principally about the new Brooklyn Bridge Park currently under development, wends a long, more serpentine path through the politics of New York City development than perhaps any other we have written. As you would expect, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's appearance is much more than a cameo. We don’t offer him praise.

Inevitably the metaphor of looking a gift horse in the mouth comes to mind when we contemplate the spectacular change to the city’s waterfront that will one day be Brooklyn Bridge Park. Whatever our government agencies ultimately do, the park will provide desirable benefits that will be extremely hard to complain about. But not conscientiously examining “gifts” that government officials deliver just doesn’t work in the political environment of New York. Besides Brooklyn Bridge Park is not truly a gift; it is something that community activists worked for years to obtain. Our elected representatives are, after all, supposed to be working for us. It is their job to properly administer our available public resources. Whether they are doing so requires a conscientious examination. We hope you will find that conscientious examination takes us on an interesting and worthwhile trip.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

How Big Will Jay-Z Play in Free Agency?

Nets Daily

Everywhere Mikhail Prokhorov went his first day in New York, there was Jay-Z: having lunch with the new owner at the rapper's 40-40 Club, by his side at the Draft Lottery, having breakfast with Mayor Bloomberg. The unspoken but heavily implied message: the rapper and the Russian will combine to recruit LeBron James (even if Jay-Z will be on a European tour starting July 2.)

Jay-Z told Prokhorov of his desire to play a "more active role" with the team, but Prokhorov seemed to suggest Jay-Z is likely to be more cheerleader than recruiter, telling reporters: "I think it’s more than enough that he is very passionate with the team. I think it’s management job to look for free agents, and with agents, it’s a professional job. But of course Jay-Z’s passion is additional advertisement for the team."


NoLandGrab: It's not the movies, so the Russian guy doesn't need a sidekick named Mr. Z.

Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

Brutally weird: There's a monitoring plan to ensure arena construction doesn't damage subways. But it's illegible. Ask for legible copy? Unavailable.

Atlantic Yards Report

The construction of the Atlantic Yards arena, according to a Subway Indemnity Agreement signed by Brooklyn Arena LLC and the New York City Transit Authority, not only must proceed "in a good and workmanlike manner" but also must be subject to a monitoring plan, thus protecting critical transit system assets.

The monitoring plan begins on the 29th page of the document below.

But you can't read it, as the two sample excerpts below show.

It's illegible. [Click for a larger, though no more legible, version.]

So I asked the MTA press office for a legible copy.

My request was ignored.

I filed a request with the NYCTA FOIL officer.

I was told to file with the MTA.

I refiled the request with the MTA FOIL officer and got the following response: In response to your May 20, 2010 [request], please be advised that the MTA does not have a more legible copy of Exhibit A of the Subway Indemnity Agreement. This completes the MTA's response to your FOIL request.


Well, if the MTA doesn't have a more legible copy, then how do we know what's supposed to be in the monitoring plan?

Answer, we don't.

Perhaps some of our elected officials might want to check into this.


NoLandGrab: "Brutally weird?" Norman Oder's too kind. More like completely moronic. But that's our tax dollars at work.

Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

The Dean Green Monster

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

Dean Street between Vanderbilt and Carlton Avenues
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

Newly installed fake greenery on the fence that surrounds the former site of the Ward Bread Bakery.

This lot is currently being used to support construction of the Barclays Center Arena of Atlantic Yards. It will eventually become a "temporary" surface parking lot with a 1000+ car capacity. Someday it may be the site of several residential towers.

Related coverage...

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Construction Chronicles

To those who consider Atlantic Yards a soul-crushing, neighborhood-destroying miscarriage of justice, we say this: At least the project is going green! With a, um, really long fence covered in "newly installed fake greenery." Well, that's one way to dress up a future parking lot! Let's call it Lebron's* Lawn.

(*Lebron results not guaranteed.)

Posted by lumi at 5:58 AM

May 23, 2010

AY Report: Pics of Prokhorov's Domain, Would Cuomo Rein In ESDC?, Vodka for Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

Photos: Prokhorov at Ratner's mall, looking down at his domain, with Bruce and Marty

Click through to see the images for this blog entry.

This past week, new Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov ventured boldly... to the top of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center mall to look down on his--well, the state's, his, and Ratner's--(eminent) domain.


The first photo, with Bruce Ratner, seems to suggest that the arena block is almost completely a blank slate. Not quite, as Tracy Collins has shown. Then again, Forest City Ratner has done funny things with photos before.

Do you think Ratner explained how he got $131 million in public funds to purchase land for the arena site? (That's separate from the discounted price on the railyard.)

The second photo is a meet-and-greet with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who's more than a foot shorter at 5'5". Markowitz didn't issue a press release.

What--is he not certain that Prokhorov has Brooklyn's best interests at heart, ready to deliver "affordable houses and jobs"? Did Markowitz tell Prokhorov how few Brooklyn elected officials attended the groundbreaking in March?

Cuomo, launching gubernatorial campaign, proposes reorganization of economic development efforts; what does that mean for the ESDC?

From Andrew Cuomo's announcement yesterday, launching his long-gestating gubernatorial campaign:

I also propose reorganization of our economic development efforts. We have spent billions in tax benefits and grants through dozens of programs and a myriad of uncoordinated state agencies. Once again, we are just not getting our money’s worth. We must restructure our approach into coordinated regional strategies investing in cluster economies. That’s what works. I will create a State infrastructure bank to help fund and better coordinate public works investment in our State. I will orient our health care institutions and academic institutions to be high tech job generators in this exciting, new innovation economy. And we will make New York more competitive by reducing the high costs of doing business in New York. The essential job of government is to facilitate, not frustrate, job development.

Does that mean Cuomo will rein in agencies like the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), partner and enabler of developers like Forest City Ratner?

If Cuomo had given back Bruce Ratner's campaign contribution, that might hint toward a yes. But he didn't.

A Vodka for Brooklyn? Absolut, assisted by Spike Lee, jumps on the brownstone brandwagon

Hot on the heels of the "brownstone" and "loft" suites promised for the Barclays Center, Absolut Vodka is about to launch "Absolut Brooklyn," in collaboration with filmmaker and advertising guru Spike Lee.

(The Brooklyn native is apparently expanding his ad business into Brooklyn. Note that Lee also attended the Barclays Center groundbreaking in March.)

There's a stoop, which is, of course, the iconic vodka image, and a line from a Lemon Andersen spoken word poem. The number on the brownstone is a homage to Lee's Brooklyn roots.

Absolut will ease the way with a $50,000 donation to Habitat for Humanity and sponsorship of this year's Brooklyn Blogfest.

Posted by steve at 9:36 AM

No Cheers in Brooklyn for Replacing Freddy's Bar

By Dana Chivvis

This article recounts some of the story of the Atlantic Yards fight as seen from the now defunct neighborhood bar, Freddy's.

Mikhail Prokhorov, the new owner of the New Jersey Nets, blitzed the media earlier this week, entertaining the press with an artillery of one-liners. In some ways, the story of Prokhorov's latest purchase does seem like a joke: A 44-year-old Russian billionaire, known for being a playboy, buys the NBA's worst team and then moves it from New Jersey to New York, where it's renamed "the Nyets."

But New Yorkers displaced by plans to build a new arena for the team -- the crown jewel in a 22-acre development project in Brooklyn -- feel as if the joke is on them. To make way for the new commercial space, office buildings, condos and arena, the state used eminent domain to seize homes and evict iconic neighborhood businesses, like Freddy's Bar and Backroom, located in the project's footprint. Opponents complain that city's gritty, patchwork neighborhoods are being replaced with a shiny, plastic megalopolis.


The state's ability to seize private land for public use is a constitutionally granted power. The Supreme Court affirmed its legality in a landmark case in 2005, Kelo v. New London, leading 43 states to amend their laws to restrict eminent domain powers. New York was not one of those states.

"You can say anything is for the public good. A basketball stadium is for the public good, houses are for the public good," said Dana Berliner, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, which argued on behalf of Susette Kelo. "New York is the worst state in terms of the abuse of eminent domain."


Posted by steve at 9:19 AM

How Lieber fills Doctoroff's shoes

Crain's (requires subscription)
By Greg David

This article on current Deputy Mayor Bob Lieber discusses predecessor Dan Doctoroff's legacy including Doctroff's participation in the Atlantic Yards project.

Mr. Doctoroff was the passion behind the effort to first build a stadium on the far West Side and then rezone the area for a new commercial and residential neighborhood. He led the rezoning of Greenpoint-Williamsburg, made the deals for the new baseball stadiums, and behind the scenes pushed through approval of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

The article concludes with this assessment of Lieber:

In the end, he will be known for completing the agenda. It will always be called the Doctoroff era, and the final grade will depend on whether those projects survive the recession and live up to their promise.


NoLandGrab: With promises of jobs, affordable housing and tax revenues greatly diminished or evaporating and a completion date some 25 years hence, Atlantic Yards is well on target towards failure.

Posted by steve at 9:05 AM


Honky's Movie Year

This movie reviewer finds a parallel with the Atlantic Yards development as he compares the the difficulties faced by the hero in the animated film "Up", Carl Fredricksen, with those of Daniel Goldstein.

When I saw Carl's house being surrounded by construction work, and a conglomerate trying to buy his land (or force him out, whichever...) I thought of a recent situation here in New York City. A group of investors led by Bruce Ratner (Booo...) bought up property around a piece of land known as the Atlantic Yards, with the intent of building a giant mall, condo units, and a new home for the Nets basketball team. They bought out (and forced out) a lot of people from their homes, but there was one lone holdout. Then the recession hit, and the entire construction project sort of got put on hold. Meanwhile this poor guy was living in a virtual ghost town in downtown Brooklyn, which couldn't have been safe. Finally he did get a large payout in order to move - so I'm wondering why Carl couldn't have taken the construction company's best offer, or forced them to pay for his home to be moved somewhere else.


NoLandGrab: In "Up" the hero attaches a multitude of balloons to his home and flies off to South America. An Atlantic Yards fantasy might include attaching balloons to Bruce Ratner, Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the entire ESDC. They fly off and Prospect Heights is left intact.

Posted by steve at 8:52 AM

May 22, 2010

Prokhorov: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (and why the team might become the Brooklyn Bridges)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder provides a critical look at Mikhail Prokhorov that is missing from so much media coverage of the oligarch's appearance in the New York area .

New Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov arrived with a good story--a Russian multi-billionaire with wit, insouciance, and the cash to realize his significant ambitions.

He proceeded this week to get the sports press to lap up more, showing far more public presence--if not exactly candor--than the saturnine, close-mouthed multi-millionaire who owns the Knicks. (Roundup 1, roundup 2.)

So no one asked very hard questions and, if it got a wee bit in that direction, they didn't follow up. The story line is the Russian mogul who'll revive a basketball team. Forget the NBA's opaque vetting process and the inability of the press to suss out the Zimbabwe controversy. Forget the huge footnote that should be added to Prokhorov's claim of being a "self-made" man.

Forget bogus blight and eminent domain, forget the giveaway of naming rights, forget a massive interim surface parking lot next to a historic district. Forget, forget, forget. It's a sports story, globalized.

And laugh at the witty guy ESPN columnist Bill Simmons dubs "Mutant Russian Mark Cuban." (Simmons predicts a name change; scroll down to why I disagree on his pick and expect the Nets to become the Brooklyn Bridges. Prokhorov must decide by October 1.)

And a rookie journalist who luckily snagged a one-on-one interview gets praised for (and celebrates) his exclusive, not scrutinized for his caricature of the Atlantic Yards controversy. Hard to blame him, right? Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes started it.

(Two voices of dissent: Dave D'Alessandro in the Star-Ledger, asserting that Prokhorov "knows less about the NBA than Bruce Ratner did when he showed up" and criticizing "some thicket of inane blather," and Dave Zirin in HuffPost, though he's conclusory about the Zimbabwe issue.)


Posted by steve at 5:11 PM

Not So "Just Wright" (Because It is After All "Not So Just")

Noticing New York

This is not a review of the movie "Just Wright", but this blog entry is critical in how the film is used to promote the New Jersey Nets. Also, click through to read the "Quirky Addendum" about an illegal billboard being used to promote the film.

We just realized that the one of the new fables being spun is the new film “Just Wright,” a giant promo for the (still New Jersey) Nets that is apparently quite consciously directed at the urban black minority population. The two leads are rappers, Queen Latifah and Common (Scott McKnight). Common plays a Nets star player and Queen Latifah plays a Nets fan.


As for the product placement we picked up this from NPR’s “Tell Me More”:

There was a time when I would have criticized such blatant product placement and crass commercialism but there's just not enough financial support for smaller motion pictures in the marketplace — particularly, if they're African American oriented.

Here is Noticing New York’s response to the “Tell Me More” assessment. We are in favor of financial support for smaller motion pictures that are African American oriented but the cynicism here in our opinion renders this a rather sad abuse. This above others, is the perfect instance in which to criticizes “blatant product placement and crass commercialism” as something worse, cynical manipulation.


Posted by steve at 4:58 PM

NJ Nets: Deconstructing Mikhail Prokhorov

The Star-Ledger
By Dave D'Alessandro

This article dares to ask, aside from having deep pockets, what qualities does Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov possess to enable him to successfully run an NBA franchise?

We keep reading these stories about his bold vision and his savvy business sense and his urbane countenence – which is all fine, because the media always leads this ludicrous pep rally mentality.

But we think everyone might be missing something that might be relevant about Mikhail Prokhorov:

This guy knows less about the NBA than Bruce Ratner did when he showed up, and you know how that turned out.

To put it politely, with the possible exception of Sean Williams, the Russian gentleman is as ignorant as anyone we’ve ever encountered that had some connection – big or small – to the NBA.


Honestly, we liked him just fine. He used the same lame jokes throughout every stop on his media tour that day, but he’s charming – intuitive in some ways. He communicates very well – we loved his use of our colloquialisms (“I am looking forward to hanging out with him,” he said of Jay-Z). He has an air of casual arrogance, but he’s not condescending. And, yes, he's unintentionally amusing, with a voice and manner that sounds like it’s out of central casting: When he says, “You must have multiple strategy,” he sounds like he’s saying, “Drop gun and put money in lacquer box.”

No, the only thing that bothers us is that he’s just very NBA dumb. And if you don’t think that’s a problem, you have an exaggerated sense of whether money can fix this team anytime soon.


Posted by steve at 4:38 PM

Eminent Domania: Eminent Domain Battle

Fox New York
By Kathy Carvajal

Click through to view this piece on eminent domain abuse. Atlantic Yards is included as a an of example of how a vague definition of blight was used to allow the use of eminent domain.

From Brooklyn to Long Branch, New Jersey, attorneys representing private citizens have been challenging a state's right to take control of a property for public use.

Historically, few challenges were made to the eminent domain law as it involved the creation of railways, expanded public facilites, etc. But in recent years there has been an increase in legal challenges to the law when 'blight' is used as the primary reason by the state for a takeover.

On Friday, Good Day NY spoke with Attorney Bill Ward who has represented property owners in Long Branch.

"The eminent domain process is subect to abuse. Where the controversy comes in is in redevelopment projects under the Local Redevelopment Housing Law (in NJ) that says certain areas of a city are blighted," Ward told co-host Rosanna Scotto.

"What I would like to see is the state legislature tighten the definition of blighted and eminent domain."

In 2005, following a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the states in an eminent domain case, more than 30 reformed their eminent domain laws.


Posted by steve at 4:16 PM

CROOKLYN: NBA's Nets Sold to Russian Billionaire

The Huffington Post
By Dave Zirin

Contrasting much of the fawning attention given by some of the press to Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, this article reminds us that the NBA, due to money woes, has turned a blind eye to the oligarch's dealings.

Prokhorov, it was revealed in April, has extensive business arrangements with Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe. These dealings have been very lucrative yet could, if they continue, be in violation of US sanctions, now that Prokhorov has become league owner. Whatever one may think of the hypocrisy of the United States enforcing sanctions on Mugabe while linking arms with numerous noxious regimes, it is a stubborn fact that the nearly 90-year-old strongman has spent a career brutally repressing social movements -- when he hasn't looted the country with his IMF-backed structural adjustment programs.

When news of the Prokhorov-Mugabe partnerships became public, Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. said, "This is disgusting. Obviously, the Board of Governors of the NBA didn't do their job properly when they vetted this deal." Prokhorov was also arrested in 2007, although not charged, for arranging prostitutes for guests at a French Alpine Villa. The pressure on France by the Russian government to release Prokhorov was said to be very intense.

Yet NBA commissioner Stern vociferously denied that there was anything even slightly shady in Prokhorov's past, saying, "We are pleased that the NBA's Board of Governors approved Mikhail Prokhorov's purchase of majority ownership of the Nets, welcoming into the NBA ownership ranks the league's first majority investor from outside of North America." He has also told everyone to just "call him Mike."


Posted by steve at 9:30 AM

June 1: Get on the Bus to Albany for Columbia Eminent Domain Argument

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

From our friends in Harlem and at the Institute for Justice, you are invited to take the bus to Albany, please see details and registration information below:

On June 1, the New York Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in Tuck-it-Away v. New York State Urban Development Corporation. Columbia University (a private, for-profit entity) wants to expand into Harlem, and take everything in its path. They asked the state to use eminent domain to take Nick Sprayregen's storage business, but the New York Appellate Division said NO. Columbia appealed to the state's highest court...the same court that rubber-stamped the seizure of properties for the Atlantic Yards project for Bruce Ratner and his billionaire Russian business partner Mikhail Prokhorov. That court will hear the case on June 1. Oral arguments begin at 2pm.

Join the Institute for Justice, Coalition to Preserve Community and property owners and activists from across New York City and State on June 1 to show your support for Nick. Help us tell the court and the media that New Yorkers oppose eminent domain for private gain. We will have a free bus leaving Harlem at 8:30am for Albany. Free lunch will also be provided for those riding our bus. Please join us!


Posted by steve at 9:27 AM

The Mikhail Prokhorov Media Experience, In Brooklyn

The Huffington Post
By Vinnie Rotondaro

In an apparent effort to get some more mileage from his interview with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Rotondaro recounts what it was like to do the interview. Part of this article provides background that tries to reduce the Atlantic Yards controversy to a conflict between "royally pissed" opponents of the project and supporters "giddy at the prospect of employment."

What I knew for sure was that in Brooklyn he had helped stir serious controversy. I saw it for myself covering the groundbreaking of the Atlantic Yards Project a few months earlier for the Ink. Locals gathering outside Freddy's Bar, which was forced to move as a result of project, were royally pissed. They wore oversized poster masks of the "main culprits" of Atlantic Yards. Prokhorov was one of them. Conversely, some folks from Crown Heights had Brownsville seemed practically giddy at the prospect of employment. The two factions engaged in some light verbal sparring. "Who's true Brooklyn?" Et cetera, et cetera.


NoLandGrab: We're keeping an eye out for yet another piece from Rotondaro about what it feels like to read about what bloggers say about his interviewing skills.

Posted by steve at 9:08 AM

Final "Atlantic Yards" Homeowner Agrees to $3 Million Settlement in Eminent Domain Dispute with State of New York


Here is a press release promoting the law firm that negotiated a settlement for former DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

Attorneys from the New York law firm of Goldstein, Rikon & Rikon, the only law firm in New York practicing exclusively in the area of eminent domain and condemnation law, successfully negotiated a settlement on behalf of the last homeowner to agree to vacate his condominium on the property that is to be used for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards development, which will include the New Jersey Nets' new arena.

Daniel Goldstein, an outspoken opponent of the Atlantic Yards project and the only remaining resident of a 31-unit condominium building at 636 Pacific Street in Brooklyn, agreed to a $3 million settlement with the New York State Urban Development Corporation, which had taken title to his property by eminent domain on March 1, 2010. Goldstein was represented in the negotiations by Michael Rikon, an experienced eminent domain attorney and partner at Goldstein, Rikon & Rikon. The settlement was reached in court before the Hon. Abraham Gerges, Justice of the Supreme Court for Kings County, N.Y.

"We're delighted to achieve this outcome for our client so that he can get this entire matter behind him and use the compensation he will receive from the settlement to relocate his family to a new home in New York," said Rikon. "Our client never wanted to leave his home and does not believe it was right for him to be forced out, but we're gratified that we were able to achieve a reasonable resolution for him."


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Firm representing Goldstein in eminent domain proceedings touts $3 million settlement

After what they presumably considered a discreet amount of time--one month--the law firm representing Daniel Goldstein in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain proceedings issued a triumphant press release about the settlement.

The press release is not aimed at people interested in the Atlantic Yards fight or the nitty-gritty of the settlement figure, which was driven by Forest City Ratner's interest in vacant possession in time for the NBA lottery (and the entrance of new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov), a lowball offer from the state which pushed Goldstein to settlement, and a judge very interested in getting a deal done in one day.

Not to mention a delay in negotiations caused by the developer's interest in a full gag order. The aftermath? Forest City Ratner's spurious claim that the sticking point was money.

Rather, the release from Goldstein, Rikon & Rikon (disclosure) doesn't offer such context. It seems aimed at generating professional acclaim and business leads. That's what businesses do, but it's not the full story.

Posted by steve at 8:57 AM

May 21, 2010

The Brooklyn Real Estate Summit

GreenPearl Events

It better be a hell of a meal for that price, but considering the speakers, who'd have an appetite, anyway?

We are pleased to announce that...

MaryAnne Gilmartin, Executive Vice President, Forest City Ratner Companies has confirmed her participation at The Brooklyn Real Estate Summit on the New Development panel to discuss the Barclays Center, the centerpiece of the 8 million square foot Frank Gehry master plan for the Atlantic Yards.

MaryAnne joins a who's-who line up of key speakers, including Joe Sitt, Chairman & CEO of Thor Equities; David Kramer, Principal of Hudson Companies; and Seth Pinsky, President of the NYCEDC for a day of information, discussion and networking.

Join us at...


Wednesday, June 16, 2010, 8 am - 4 pm

St. Francis College

180 Remsen Street, Downtown Brooklyn

Click for information / registration

Registration: $195 (includes lunch)


NoLandGrab: You know those police sting operations where they contact wanted criminals and tell them they've won a TV or something and need to show up at such-and-such a place in order to collect it? Gilmartin, Pinsky and Sitt might want to think twice.

Posted by eric at 2:29 PM

Friday, May 21st: Atlantic Yards Art

Brooklyn Based

Students in Brooklyn College’s Performance and Interactive Media Arts MFA Program have spent the past semester creating visual interpretations of the Atlantic Yards controversy. Now they’re inviting the community to participate in their art-based conversation as they present their work in “A Question of Domain: Art About Atlantic Yards.” The exhibition begins at 6:30pm in the playground located on 6th Avenue between Dean and Bergen Streets (look for the U-Haul parked on Bergen) and then moves indoors to the lower level of Southpaw at 8pm.


Posted by eric at 2:21 PM

Photos by Tracy Collins: Dean Street begins to be shrouded by a blue construction fence; the staging area gets a green fence

Atlantic Yards Report

Tracy Collins took several photos in recent days of Forest City Ratner's efforts to wall off the Atlantic Yards site, mainly for demolition on the arena block but also to deter prying eyes on the block being used for staging and surface parking.

And he created a video.

Atlantic Yards Walls from tracy collins on Vimeo.


Related coverage...

Brownstoner, The Walling Off Begins

Tracy Collins, who's been documenting the Atlantic Yards saga religiously for the last several years, put together this video (which also appeared on Atlantic Yards Report) of Ratner beginning to wall off the Atlantic Yards site from prying eyes.

Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

NBA's Nets Sold to Russian Billionaire

The Nation
by Dave Zirin

We've been saying this for some time: pro sports is the next economic "bubble."

With a bank account estimated at in excess of $13 billion, there is little Mikhail Prokhorov wants that he cannot have. But the ease with which Russia’s richest man bought the NBA’s New Jersey Nets speaks volumes about the ailing financial state of the league.

By striking a deal for $200 million (as well as assuming $180 million in team debt) in exchange for an 80 percent stake in the team and 45 percent of a new the Brooklyn arena at Atlantic Yards, Prokhorov and the NBA have taught us something.

First, we now know that the NBA’s financial problems are not collective bargaining posturing by management but in fact very real. In years past, it’s been hard to imagine the strait-laced NBA commissioner David Stern rolling out the cashmere carpet for someone with the Russian plutocrat’s checkered past. Like many of the new billionaires in Russia’s “great frontier” capitalism of the last decade, the precious metals magnate is nobody’s saint.

As Candace Carponter, the legal director of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn said, “The NBA is so desperate to bail out Bruce Ratner and to get a wealthy international owner that, despite their claims, they failed to do a proper investigation of Mikhail Prokhorov."

Mikhail Prokhorov’s reputation as a win-at-all costs “gangster capitalist” may be well earned. But he might actually have to sharpen his chops to keep up with how they have taken care of business in Brooklyn. As Mankoff said, “Given the antics of some former and current professional sports owners in the US, I don’t think he’ll be any better or worse than some of them."


Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

Vote On Charter Schools Questioned, Sen. Montgomery Gets A Challenger

City Hall
by Andre Tartar

Trial attorney and law professor Mark Pollard is preparing to mount a campaign to unseat 13-term State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, whose 18th senatorial district covers much of central Brooklyn.

Pollard is positioning himself as an upstart outsider, though that hardly seems the case. What kind of grassroots candidate takes his cues from "party bosses."

This is not Pollard’s first foray into politics. In 1997, he considered running for City Council, but dropped out because he says party bosses told him to wait his turn. Last year, he was angling to take a run for the seat held by his former boss Al Vann, until the term limits extension allowed for Vann’s re-election.

“Velmanette Montgomery is no Al Vann,” Pollard said, explaining why he finally pulled the trigger.

Pollard also hopes to win the support of Assembly member Bill Boynard and trade unions alienated by Montgomery’s opposition to the Atlantic Yards development.

But so far, most of the political establishment is backing Montgomery. Although Pollard used to work for Al Vann, the Council member is backing Montgomery, saying in a statement to City Hall that, “I think it is unwise for someone with no track record to run against her.”

Council Member Letitia James, whose district overlaps Montgomery’s and is also an Atlantic Yards opponent, is likewise backing Montgomery.

“She’s been my mentor and is arguably one of the most progressive voices in the State Senate,” James said. “I’m confident she will win re-election.”


NoLandGrab: Pollard is right about one thing — Velmanette Montgomery is no Al Vann, and thank goodness for that. She's been a staunch opponent of Atlantic Yards, and, as Tish James points out, a progressive voice in the ass-backwards NY State Senate.

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

The Bilbao Effect: a theatrical satire, with a starchitect, a megadevelopment, and some AY echoes

Atlantic Yards Report

No, The Bilbao Effect, Oren Safdie's highly entertaining satirical play, isn't about Frank Gehry, even though the title takes off from the well-known phenomenon of enlisting a starchitect to create a signature civic building, like Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

After all, the protagonist is arrogant Swiss starchitect Erhardt Shlaminger, a man convinced of his own genius, while Gehry can get self-deprecating and defensive.

Nor is it about Atlantic Yards, though it is clearly inspired, in part, by the project. After all, the official blurb that states it "tackles controversial urban design issues that New Yorkers have recently encountered in Brooklyn as a result of the hotly-debated plans to redevelop the Atlantic Yards [sic] into an architecture-star mega-development."

Architecture on trial

The play, staged appropriately at the Center for Architecture in Greenwich Village, takes the form of a mock trial of Shlaminger, held by the American Institute for Architects (and subject to the unreliable judge's caprice).

Why? His project--well, the architectural imperfections that reflect extreme heat (read Gehry's Disney Hall) and falling ice (read Daniel Libeskind's addition to the Royal Ontario Museum)--is supposed to have caused a woman's suicide.


NoLandGrab: Let's not forget Mr. Gehry's own avalanche problem.

Posted by eric at 11:47 AM


The Brooklyn Ink
by Vinnie Rotondaro

Mikhail Prokhorov's big local exclusive goes to a 28-year-old who just graduated from journalism school.

On Wednesday I met with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, the recently minted owner of the New Jersey Nets, at the Clover Club, a bar in Carroll Gardens. Prokhorov is the first-ever foreign owner of an NBA team. He never drinks. “Maybe a glass of red wine sometimes,” he said, “with dinner.” So we sipped cups of English Breakfast tea instead. Below is our conversation, which has been edited down for the sake of brevity, and clarity.

Mr. Prokhorov, I want to get a better sense of who you are and where you come from.

(Prokhorov fools as if the question is out of line. He pretends to get up and leave)

Interview over?

(We huff and smile)

Where were you born?

I was born in Moscow.

A lot of Brooklynites are excited about this. They want a professional team. They think back to the days of the Dodgers. But other Brooklynites don’t like this. How aware were you of this when you were thinking about the project?

I know that nobody likes changes. I am very conservative with my social activity. I’m very flexible in my office and my businesses. But very stubborn in my social life. I think as soon the team comes, it will be a really fascinating story.

But how much attention did you pay to the resistance? Locals fought it for years. Whole groups formed against it.

I understand their concerns. But I think Bruce [Ratner] did a great job to reach a good agreement with the tenants—


NoLandGrab: Yes, great job indeed.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Prokhorov gets questioned about Brooklyn by a guy who caricatures AY opposition; has blight arrested growth on Vanderbilt Avenue? (video)

A (just-graduated) Columbia J-School student got a one-on-one interview with Mikhail Prokhorov yesterday, which The Brooklyn Ink published under the headline Tea Time with Mikhail Prokhorov.

(Here's some backstory from the Observer on how the interview came about. And here's Vinnie Rotondaro's coverage of the groundbreaking--happy to quote without skepticism claims of jobs--which might have caught the eye of Prokhorov's handlers.)

While much of the interview was unsurprising, given Prokhorov's parries in other interviews, the billionaire was asked if he was cognizant of the protests against the project (answer: not much).

But Prokhorov was not pressed on his claim that the arena would offer "affordable housing, new jobs, excellent opportunities for the small and middle-sized businesses."

AY vs. DC's Chinatown

And the interviewer, apparently not familiar with the revival of Prospect Heights and the bogus claims of blight at the project site, compared the site to the "dump" that was Washington, DC's Chinatown and suggested "some people still don’t like the idea of there being a downtown, Manhattan-esque part of Brooklyn."

Um, there already is a Downtown Brooklyn. It was rezoned. The 22-acre Atlantic Yards site is outside the boundaries.

NY Observer, Meet Vinnie Rotondaro, The J-School Grad Who Scored a Prokhorov Exclusive

Russian billionaire and new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov was in extremely high demand among reporters on his tour through New York this week. At a press conference on Wednesday, which lasted almost an hour, reporters were allowed to ask questions one at a time. It was a scrum.

Mr Prokhorov did, however, grant two one-on-one interviews. The first was with Mike Francesa of WFAN, a virtual requirement for anyone entering the New York sports world.

And who got the second interview? It wasn’t Sports Illustrated, or The Times, or ESPN or the Journal.

It was with a 28-year-old named Vinnie Rotondaro who graduated from Columbia School of Journalism three days ago.

NLG: Maybe this is all legit, but something sounds fishy in the tale of how Vinnie got the get.

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com], Nets' owner Prokhorov enjoys taking bite of Big Apple but still sweet on Russia

Prohkorov did take time out of his busy schedule for an interview over English Breakfast tea at the Clover Club in Carroll Gardens with blogger Vinnie Rotondaro of The Brooklyn Ink.

When asked if he planned to buy property in Brooklyn, Russia’s second-richest man replied "I haven’t decided yet ... My first priority now is to build a championship team."

NLG: Perhaps he prefers to acquire property the way Bruce Ratner does — via eminent domain.

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

Russian diplomat's daughter gets top Nets post

Billionaire owner of the NBA team hires Stanford grad and former Google staffer to help manage team and oversee development of the Nets' new Brooklyn arena.

AP via Crain's NY Business

The daughter of a Russian diplomat was hired Thursday as president of the company that will oversee the New Jersey Nets.

Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim Group announced that Irina Pavlova will be the team owner's representative in the New York area.

Ms. Pavlova has extensive experience in business and finance. She earned an MBA from Stanford, worked as a financial analyst with Prudential Investment Corp. and became Russia's first employee for Google. She lived in Moscow and Washington as a child.

Ms. Pavlova will coordinate the development project in Brooklyn that is to become the Nets' new home. The long-delayed arena is expected to open in 2012.


NoLandGrab: Ms. Pavlova, who's no doubt a smart, accomplished and talented executive, appears to possess other attributes important to Prokhorov.

Related coverage...

NY Post, Nets 'draft' Russian gal

The Russian billionaire's Onexim Group announced yesterday that Irina Pavlova would be his local representative, opening an office in New York and working with the team's front office "to ensure they have everything they need to build a championship team."

Prokhorov plans to keep living in Moscow, so Pavlova will work on his behalf with developer Bruce Ratner on the Barclays Center in Prospect Heights and potentially on the rest of the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

May 20, 2010

Run, Dennis, run? ESDC Chairman Mullen, a Republican, said to be tapped to run for governor (but ESDC says no)

Atlantic Yard Report

Capitol Tonight's Liz Benjamin wrote today, in a piece headlined Source: Cox Approached ESDC Chair To Run For Gov:

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox is so worried about party-flipping Suffolk County Steve Levy’s chances of getting on the ballot at the party’s upcoming convention that he has been actively recruiting a fourth gubernatorial candidate, multiple sources confirm.

Less than one month ago, Cox approached Dennis Mullen, a Rochester businessman who was confirmed by the Senate last week as ESDC chairman, to sound him out about potentially running, according to a source with direct knowledge of the conversation.

State GOP spokesman Alex Carey told Benjamin the two spoke but didn't discuss a gubernatorial run, and ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston said "Mullen’s number one priority is his work as the leader of New York State’s economic development agency" and "has no plans to seek elected office."

What if? Mullen would move AY

Well, that sounds definitive. But a Mullen governorship--he'd have to get the nomination and then beat Andrew Cuomo, which is a tall order--might prove interesting for the Atlantic Yards project.

After all, at an ESDC meeting March 26, Mullen joked that Atlantic Yards is "a project that I would like to move off our portfolio."


NoLandGrab: Uh, desperate much, NYS Republican Party? With the fine fettle in which Democratic rule has placed us, this is the best you can do?

Posted by eric at 10:46 PM

When business necessities trump professed corporate values: Goldman Sachs and Forest City Enterprises

Atlantic Yard Report

In an article yesterday headlined Clients Worried About Goldman’s Dueling Goals, the New York Times concluded:

While Goldman [Sachs] has legions of satisfied customers and maintains that it puts its clients first, it also sometimes appears to work against the interests of those same clients when opportunities to make trading profits off their financial troubles arise.

Note that Goldman vigorously disputes the article.

Yes, Goldman was behind the Atlantic Yards bond deal, but the interesting parallel regards similar claims by the investment bank and Forest City Enterprises to high ethical standards, and evidence that such standards are trumped by business necessities.

As for the values professed by Forest City Enterprises, under the heading "Integrity and Openness," the company states:

In all our dealings with all stakeholders, we will uphold the highest possible standards of ethical behavior. Our interactions will be characterized by an attitude of openness, candor and honesty.


NoLandGrab: Huh?! Is there another company named Forest City Enterprises?

Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

Prokhorov's debut continues: caption contest for Bloomberg meeting; team name might change; one-liners charm reporters

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder rounds up the Prokhorov lovefest, including some stuff we missed.

In a breakfast with the mayor and a press conference with reporters, new Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov continued his American debut yesterday, with raves from sports reporters impressed by his demeanor and one-liners and unmindful of, oh, things like eminent domain or charges of sanctions-busting in Zimbabwe.

And, as the video from ESPN below shows, Prokhorov has even been schooled to utter a Ratnerian mantra, though surely he will be advised to amend "affordable houses and jobs" to "affordable housing and jobs."


Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

The Media: We ♥ Mikhail!

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com], New Nets owner Prokhorov all smiles after first visit to site of club’s new Brooklyn arena

From Russia to Brooklyn with Love.

Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who is now majority owner of the New Jersey Nets, paid his inaugural visit yesterday to the construction site of his team’s soon-to-be new home in Brooklyn.

“He seemed thrilled with what he saw and what he sees for the future,” Borough President Marty Markowitz, who accompanied the billionaire, said through a spokesperson.

Prokhorov quietly viewed the construction site from across the street, atop the Ratner-owned Atlantic Center Mall in Prospect Heights.

He was accompanied by a modest contingent that included Ratner and Markowitz, according to Ratner and Markowitz staffers.

NY Post, Nets' new owner dines with Mayor Bloomberg, Jay-Z

It's good to be the kings.

Multibillionaire and newly minted Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov convened a meeting of his peers yesterday morning -- breaking bread with partner Jay-Z and Mayor Bloomberg at a gathering whose net worth is larger than the economies of more than a few small nations.

The retro-style mogul -- who doesn't own a cellphone, rarely uses a computer, prefers newspapers and writes his own letters -- also got his first look at the Atlantic Yards project, accompanied by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and developer Bruce Ratner. The whirlwind tour was part of just another day at the office for Prokhorov, who claims he needs just five to six hours of sleep a night....

NoLandGrab: Impressive, Mikhail, but you're a sleepyhead compared with Nets CEO Brett Yormark, who claims he sleeps but three hours a night. Imagine how bad the Nets would be if Yormark slumbered for eight hours like we mere mortals.

NY Daily News, New Jersey Nets' Mikhail Prokhorov dines with Mayor Bloomberg and Jay-Z, talks of renaming team

Mikhail Prokhorov is a man with tsar power.

The 6-foot-8 owner shared a Gracie Mansion breakfast with Mayor Bloomberg and Nets minority owner Jay-Z.

"We are soul mates," he said of the hip-hop mogul. "I'm looking forward to hanging out with him."

NLG: Soul mates, maybe; equal decision makers, uh, not so much...

The Star-Ledger, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov outlines plans for offseason, beyond in meeting with media

In a brunch with reporters today, the Nets' new owner fired general manager Kiki Vandeweghe, lopped Mike Krzyzewski off his coaching shopping list, revealed his strategy for recruiting LeBron James, and essentially dismissed minority partner Jay-Z as being any part of that free agent process.

And while he said he likes and admires Jay-Z, who is a friend to many players, Prokhorov said the rap impresario will not be involved in the free agent recruitment process.

“I think it’s more than enough that he is very passionate with the team,” the owner said. “I think it’s management job to look for free agent ... it’s a professional job. But of course Jay-Z’s passion is additional advertisement for the team.”

NLG: Don't worry, Jigga, when you're not firmly ensconced in your "bunker" suite, Micky will let you don the Sly Fox costume, and run around the Barclays Center.

NY Daily News, Mikhail Prokhorov not sure if 'Nets' nickname will stick, but is certain club will become a dynasty

...Prokhorov revealed that he initially had his eye on buying the Knicks.

Asked how he came to know former Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner, from whom he bought 80% of the Nets for $200 million, Prokhorov said one of his investment bankers recommended Ratner after it became clear that a deal for the Knicks was not possible.

"The idea was to buy Madison Square Garden and the basketball team and maybe the ice hockey team," Prokhorov said.

The Star-Ledger, Mikhail Prokhorov wants to change the Nets' culture, but can he do it as an absentee owner?

The Nets just rid themselves of an owner they wished would have disappeared in the Siberian wilderness. Now, they find one they want to stick around, and off he goes ... to Siberia.

Well, not quite that far, but close. Mikhail Prokhorov made a fine first impression in his whirlwind media tour, but just as quickly as he said privyet, he boarded his jet back to Moscow before we learned who he is and what he has planned for his new toy.

And, if you’re a Nets fan, you have to wonder: Can this long-distance relationship really work?

This franchise, a rotting carcass under predecessor Bruce Ratner, needs more than Prokhorov’s fat wallet. It needs a heavy dose of his swagger. It needs his presence and personality.

Prokhorov made a solid first impression — lots of humor, lots of polish, but little substance.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Prokhorov Would Like to Meet Brooklynites

After meeting with Bruce Ratner, Jay-Z and Mayor Bloomberg, after moving to Newark, Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov wants to meet you, Brooklynites.

You know where to reach us, Mikhail.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Snake Eyes: Prokhorov, Nets Jilted by Lady Luck at NBA Draft Lottery

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

May 19, 2010

It came from the Blogosphere...

Noticing New York, Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman Yesterday: Presenting an Image of Justice Respecting Atlantic Yards?

Yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman held a hearing in one of the litigations pertaining to Atlantic Yards, known as Peter Williams Enterprises, et al., vs. New York State Urban Development Corporation (aka Empire State Development Corporation, or ESDC). This particular hearing was confined to the technical issue of whether it would be proper to switch the venue of the case from Justice Friedman’s court in Manhattan to Justice Abraham Gerges’ court in Kings County. ESDC, the state agency being sued, asked for the transfer of venue after Justice Gerges decided issues with respect to title in the separate condemnation case in ESDC’s favor. That is something that the attorney for the plaintiff, Matthew Brinckerhoff, said would make a belated transfer such as this look bad. (It would look like forum shopping for a soft judge.)

Noticing New York’s principal contribution here is to provide our court artist’s sketch of Justice Friedman. We think justice ought to be as transparent as possible. Shouldn’t photographs of what goes on in the court room be allowed? Until they are we will have to suffice with this "sketchiness."

Brooklyn Based, Tip Sheet: May 19-May 25

Atlantic Yards Art
Students in Brooklyn College’s Performance and Interactive Media Arts MFA Program have spent the past semester creating visual interpretations of the Atlantic Yards controversy. Now they’re inviting the community to participate in their art-based conversation as they present their work in “A Question of Domain: Art About Atlantic Yards.” The exhibition begins at 6:30pm in the playground located on 6th Avenue between Dean and Bergen Streets (look for the U-Haul parked on Bergen) and then moves indoors to the lower level of Southpaw at 8pm.

Gothamist, Do The Nets Have The Worst Luck Or What?

This morning, Prokhorov had lunch with fellow billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg—as well as Nets investor Jay-Z and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner—at Gracie Mansion. NY1 reports that "bagels were on the menu." And, FWIW, Shaquille O'Neal weighed in on the Nets' arena drama: "I think [the Prudential Center is] better than most arenas, I think it's one of the best arenas in the country. Hopefully they can stay there forever. I don't know what's going on with the Brooklyn situation, but it says a lot for the city of Newark."

Posted by eric at 11:17 PM

Architects at Play, Dangling Medals

The New York Times
by Aric Chen

Shhh, ixnay on Lantic Yardsatay, here comes Frank.

Frank Gehry (’89), whose own Pritzker ceremony took place in Nara, Japan — “As a student, I learned how to make tatami mats and was in a gagaku orchestra,” he reminisced — could be spotted in head-to-toe black and, at 81, looking slimmer than before. “I go up and down,” he shrugged.

At 8 p.m. it was feeding time, and the crowd of 400-plus was ushered into the soaring, barrel-vaulted Great Hall. Looking across the moodily lighted space blooming with peony table centerpieces, one could guess at the conversations taking place: about how shockingly few of the New Yorkers had been to Ellis Island. About how many Sanaa buildings one had visited. About anything but Atlantic Yards and Beekman Tower’s flying construction debris, if Mr. Gehry was within earshot.


Posted by eric at 11:09 PM

Prokhorov learning to talk the talk in NY

'Americans, I come in peace,' Nets owner says at Manhattan news conference

by Jane McManus

Funny, 'cause his predecessor has left Prospect Heights in pieces.

When asked if he has been to Brooklyn, Prokhorov mentioned that he was there years ago and, in essence, explained that any international business magnate is probably too busy to visit the outer boroughs on a regular basis. But given that the Nets are attempting to build and move into a new stadium and complex at Atlantic Yards, Prokhorov will be spending a lot of time there as he strives to attend 25 percent of the Nets' home games.

"What I like from Brooklyn is its absolute unique ethnic diversity," Prokhorov said. "It gives a lot of energy. It gives a lot of opportunities, and for me Brooklyn is a really exciting place and I'm looking forward to have more opportunity to meet with the people to speak and know better this place."


Posted by eric at 11:05 PM

Review & Comment: Little Ol’ Brooklyn

Brookln Daily Eagle
by Henrik Krogius

The Eagle's Krogius finally talks some sense, but too little, too late.

As New York’s single most populous borough, Brooklyn is expected to absorb its share of the city’s additional million anticipated by 2020. In that context the four thousand apartments projected for Atlantic Yards, at a major transportation hub, make obvious sense.

He means by 2030, but that's not the part that makes sense.

So here we are, in little ol’ Brooklyn, facing the monster of growth. We have no realistic prospect of holding it entirely at bay. What is open to us is to exercise the best judgments as to where the growth fits better and where it does not. We can’t shut out the next ten or fifteen years. Brooklyn will have to grow. The best hope – and it may take further economic calamity – is that despite the inertia a way will eventually be found to modify our capitalistic workings so that we can live with what we have rather than always demanding that there be more.


Posted by eric at 10:59 PM

Mayor Has Breakfast With Atlantic Yards Leaders


We think they meant "Mayor Has Breakfast With Atlantic Yards 'Leaders'."

We've dutifully repaired some additional errors below.

The mayor had a power-packed breakfast this morning, hosting the major players &$$#@!%s behind the Atlantic Yards development project at Gracie Mansion.

Bagels were on the menu for this morning's breakfast meeting between Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, arena developer Bruce Ratner and Nets co-owner Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter.

Prokhorov is in the city this week to take park in the NBA draft, after closing on a deal last week to buy 80 percent of the Nets and 40 45 percent of the arena, which will be called the Barclay Barclays Center. The arena is now under construction at the former future site of the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 2:06 PM

Caption Contest | What Are They Saying?

City Room

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had Jay-Z over for breakfast at Gracie Mansion this morning. Also at the table were the developer Bruce C. Ratner and the Russian oligarch Mikhail D. Prokhorov. Presumably the main topic of conversation was Atlantic Yards and/or the Nets. But who knows? Perhaps you have an idea. Put yourself in an empire-building state of mind and let us know in the comments below. And, please — hard as this may be to believe — no profanity.


NoLandGrab: "I hate that &#%@! site too!"

Posted by eric at 1:07 PM

AY resumes as sports story: Prokhorov era begins with a championship pledge, lottery bump, Boomberg welcome, eerie echo of Gehry

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards, as it was for so many months after word of the project emerged in July 2003 and the official announcement in December 2003, has again become a sports story, with news of the Nets and their colorful billionaire owner absorbing pages and pixels.

"Colorful billionaire owner?" Did Norman Oder bother to watch that video he posted? It's like watching (white) paint dry.

Despite the best chance at the first pick, given their league-worst record, the Nets unluckily got the third pick. That means they almost surely won't draft can't-miss prospect John Wall (subject of scenarios in which free agent superstar LeBron James is lured as a package), but they should have a shot at a very good player.

Still, as Mitch Lawrence noted in the Daily News, Prokhorov's pre-draft pledge to win an NBA championship within "one year minimum and maximum in five years" and to "turn Knicks fans into Nets fans" is "[n]ot looking good."

Echo of Gehry

Asked in an NBA.com interview what his sales pitch would be to free agents, Prokhorov, reprising much from his earlier video, asserted two competitive advantages.

One involves the presentation of a global team with fans all around the world. The other? "We are creating the history, practically from scratch now," with a great desire to win.

(Emphasis added)

Surely Prokhorov didn't know that his words sounded eerily reminiscent of (now-departed) project architect Frank Gehry, who at the 12/10/03 inaugural press conference called Atlantic Yards an "extraordinary opportunity... to do housing, to do a mixed project and build a whole neighborhood practically from scratch and fit it into an existing fabric and make something special out of it."


Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

When Billionaires and Eminent Domain Abusers Meet

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Oh to be a fly on the wall of Gracie Mansion tomorrow morning.



*8:00 AM
Has Breakfast with New Nets Majority Owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Forest City Ratner Companies Chairman Bruce Ratner and Nets Co-Owner Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter

Gracie Mansion
88th Street at East End Avenue

*Photo opportunity only.


Posted by eric at 9:58 AM

May 18, 2010

New Owner; Same Old Nets


The graph above was done by Sleepy Freud of the Warriors blog Golden State of Mind, and it displays visually the Nets chances at the different picks. As you can see, there are only four colors represented on the Nets’ chart, meaning that the worst the Nets can do is the 4th overall pick. The Nets really need the number one pick though. It isn’t because of John Wall though, sure he is a fantastic player, but in all honesty I’d be happy with any of the players rumored to be in the top 4. The reason the Nets need to win the draft lottery is that they need to keep this “momentum train” rolling.

If the Nets win the draft lottery, the good mojo continues and this new feeling that Nets’ fan have (I think it is called hope) keeps going. If the Nets lose, it is just the other shoe dropping, something Nets’ fans are used to.

I think winning the lottery is what will help Nets’ fans finally close the book on the Bruce Ratner era for good and confidently start the Mikhail Prokhorov off on the right foot, optimistically.

NoLandGrab: Consider the "momentum train" derailed, and the other shoe dropped — the Nets drew the third straw in the NBA draft lottery.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Prokhorov Promises Championship, Not Affordable Housing

In this video you can just feel the excitement and the dedictation to Brooklyn and affordable housing. Well, not really...but it is worth watching the new owner of the Nets and 40% of the Barclays Center Arena (and eventually possibly the whole arena and 20% of the rest of Atlantic Yards) humorlessly (and expressionlessly) explain how he'll pick up the pieces from the wreckage Ratner left behind.

NLG: Prokhorov's English is waaaaay better than our Russian, but Nets Daily really calls this guy "the most interesting man in the world?" They need to get out more.


Seriously, try to picture Bruce Ratner making this video. You can’t. He’d just say something about “maximizing our profit margin” and then continue to drown whatever small child he was holding at the time.

Posted by eric at 11:29 PM

Justice Friedman limits oral argument to issue of whether case involving Development Agreement should be transferred to Gerges in Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, I asked: will the Atlantic Yards Development Agreement--which gives far longer deadlines than officially proclaimed when the project was approved--get its day in court?

Well, it didn't happen today and it's looking less likely (though not impossible).

In a hearing that lasted little more than 20 minutes, Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman limited argument in the case, known as Peter Williams Enterprises, et al., vs. New York State Urban Development Corporation (aka Empire State Development Corporation, or ESDC), to questions of venue--whether the case even belonged in her court.

Her announcement at the start perked up ESDC attorney Philip Karmel and left the 15 or so project opponents in the audience somewhat frustrated. (Also in the audience, a few attorneys for Forest City Ratner, the meter ticking.)

Should she agree that it does, rather than move the case to a condemnation judge in Brooklyn who has ruled without question in the ESDC's favor, she'll then entertain arguments on the merits of the case.


Posted by eric at 11:16 PM

Atlantic Yards Was Not the Way to Do a CBA

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Ratner touted the Atlantic Yards "Community Benefits Agreement" (CBA) as a gem centerpiece of his project. But the CBA establishment understands that the Atlantic Yards CBA is bogus and does not compare favorable to legitimate CBAs. In other words, the CBA was a publicity stunt, rather than the historic agreement Ratner claims. (Note: When legitimate CBAs are struck, community opposition disappears, rather than builds over 7 years as it did with Atlantic Yards.)

Last night the Bar Association of the City of New York hosted a panel discussion titled Community Benefits Agreements: Time for Reform? One thing coming out of that panel is absolutely clear: if New York is going to have CBAs, the way they are done needs to be reformed entirely.


Related coverage...

Noticing New York, New York City Bar Association Program on Community Benefits Agreement Reform: Atlantic Yards Mega-monopoly as Unsurpassable Example of Abuse

Yes, in some respects Atlantic Yards tactics reflect a typical divide-and-conquer-the-community strategy like other CBA situations, but Atlantic Yards itself provides a textbook worth of material to show how Community Benefits Agreements can be manipulated and abused. And it’s likely unenforceable to boot!

Posted by eric at 10:49 PM

Pain in the butt

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Thomas Tracy

Bruce Ratner's malls maintain their lock on being ground zero for local criminal activity.

No rest

A thief who swiped a bike outside the Atlantic Center Mall was arrested on May 10 after the owner of the two wheeler told police about a distinctive feature — it had no seat.

The victim told police that he locked his $1,100 Schwinn Voyager to a bike rack on Atlantic Avenue near Fort Greene Place at 10:35 am. He then removed the bicycle seat, locking it on the same rack next to his bike before running a few errands.

When he returned over a half hour later, the seat was still attached to the rack, but the bike wasn’t.

It didn’t take long for cops to track down the 45-year-old thief, who was spotted riding high on the uncushioned two wheeler past the corner of Lafayette Avenue and Rockwell Place.


Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

Boosting the Wilpons?

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance

Richard Lipsky, always careful to avoid biting the hand that feeds him, assails subsidizing sports venues in Queens while positing that over in Brooklyn, they "might actually make some sense." Especially if the developer has paid you to lobby for it.

It has to do with the economics of sports franchises. As one expert has pointed out: "Local political and community leaders and the owners of professional sports teams frequently claim that professional sports facilities and franchises are important engines of economic development in urban areas. These structures and teams allegedly contribute millions of dollars of net new spending annually and create hundreds of new jobs, and provide justification for hundreds of millions of dollars of public subsidies for the construction of many new professional sports facilities in the United Sates over the past decade. Despite these claims, economists have found no evidence of positive economic impact of professional sports teams and facilities on urban economies."

So, by all means, offer a spot in Willets Point to a dying hockey franchise-it makes as much sense as NYC spending billions to evict existing business owners and their thousands of employees in order to house the largest car dependent shopping mall in NYC. And as far as Atlantic Yards is concerned, where thousands of units of housing give the development a greater economic rationale, that might actually make some sense. The arena is gonna get built and the Islanders would be value added to the arena.


NoLandGrab: Gotta love Lipsky's blog tagline — "Protecting Neighborhood Business For Over 20 Years." Which "neighborhood business," exactly, are you protecting in Brooklyn? Forest City Ratner?

Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

Atlantic Yards Hits Air-Rights Turbulence


Does real estate have a memory? New York City has seen its share of bungled, back-and-forth construction projects that, once completed, become part of the urban fabric, their birth pangs forgotten. The Guggenheim, for instance, was once the target of the wrath of artists, who refused to display art in a building they considered a monstrosity; after the instant landmark opened, all was forgiven.

But while public sentiment seems to be swinging in favor of the World Trade Center rebuilding project, it's less certain whether the turmoil can ever burn off of another convoluted endeavor across the river: Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards. Just as Forrest [sic] City Ratner seemed to win over the last of the neighborhood's anti-construction holdouts, another canny local has slapped the developer with an arcane "air rights" lawsuit.


Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

SBJ: New owner Prokhorov quickly becomes face of Nets

SportsBusiness Journal via SportingNews.com
by John Lombardo

Welcome to the Mikhail Prokhorov era.

The New Jersey Nets are wasting no time trying to recast themselves. The hapless franchise that lost $64 million is undergoing a transformation under the new ownership as the Russian Prokhorov finally takes control of the team.

One thing that doesn't appear to be changing is Brett Yormark's role as the Nets' prevaricator-in-chief.

"Our fans are really excited about our fresh start, from new ownership, to the draft lottery, to a new coach, to free agency and to a new home," said Brett Yormark, president of Nets Sports and Entertainment. "We're off to the best start in new season-ticket sales in team history, in large part because our fans see how committed ownership is to winning and because we have such a compelling story to tell."

OK, wait for it...

Yormark did not disclose the new ticket sales numbers.


Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

Panel discusses CBA reforms; in successful West Coast CBAs, signatories don't take developer cash; developer pays upfront for affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Even if experts disagree on some aspects of reforming Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) in New York City, they pretty much agree on several factors that, in their absence, detract from the legitimacy of the Atlantic Yards CBA:

  • signatories shouldn't take money from the developer
  • the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) shouldn't be circumvented
  • the CBA should have real teeth in it

The panel discussion last night at the Bar Association of the City of New York was titled Community Benefits Agreements: Time for Reform? (Audio is here.)

Beyond debate about whether the city should establish rules on CBAs--a recommendation in a Bar Association report issued in March--panelists also agreed that policies on issues like local hiring and living wages should be institutionalized citywide rather than subject to project-by-project negotiations.

The presence of such policies would vitiate the appeal of CBAs like the one for Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 11:35 AM

May 17, 2010

Yormark claims Prokhorov purchase helps spur record sales of season tickets

Atlantic Yards Report

Nets CEO Brett Yormark tells Sports Business Journal, "We’re off to the best start in new season-ticket sales in team history in large part because our fans see how committed ownership is to winning and because we have such a compelling story to tell."

Well, maybe, but until and unless he releases statistics we can't be sure.

After all, Yormark's credibility is a tad thin, given that last July he claimed "we're having one of the best off-seasons that we've had in years."


NoLandGrab: Why, we'd almost be inclined to believe Yormark — if we hadn't spent the past five-plus years documenting his seemingly pathological lying hype.

Posted by eric at 11:32 PM

Tuesday at 2:30 pm: will Development Agreement get its day in court?

Atlantic Yard Report

My preview, redux:

The last Atlantic Yards case to reach oral argument will be heard tomorrow, May 18; the issues include whether the belatedly-released Development Agreement can be formally added to the case and whether the case remains before a Manhattan judge already critical of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) or moved to a Brooklyn judge who has ruled without question in the ESDC's favor.

The case, known as Peter Williams Enterprises, et al., vs. New York State Urban Development Corporation (aka ESDC), will be heard at 2:30 pm at 60 Centre Street, room 335, before Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman.


Posted by eric at 11:28 PM

How the ESDC quietly increased the amount of (lingering temporary) parking on Block 1129, and why that's an argument for more oversight

Atlantic Yards Report

When the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) posted an updated version of the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (aka Memorandum of Mitigation Commitments), signed in December, the amount of parking on the southeast block of the site was apparently increased.

Block 1129, bounded by Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues and Dean and Pacific Streets, was as of 2006 supposed to hold a 944-space parking lot. Last June, when the project began re-approval, the parking lot grew to 1044 spaces. Only after the process was there any notice that the parking lot would hold 1100 spaces.

I tried to figure out why--and didn't get a full answer.

Surface parking and the need for oversight

Another 650 or so surface parking spaces would be made available on Block 1120, bounded by Sixth and Carlton avenues and Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, which contains both ground-level land and below-grade tracks.

BrooklynSpeaks pointed out in March that Atlantic Avenue was the borough's most dangerous road and that parking at the site should be reduced.

That hasn't happened, and Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) and BrooklynSpeaks suggested that the ongoing issue of traffic and parking demanded greater oversight:

Since its inception, the sponsors of the BrooklynSpeaks initiative have called attention to the traffic and transportation issues raised by the Atlantic Yards project. It is one of our key prinicples underlying an Atlantic Yards that works for Brooklyn. We have specifically attempted to engage the ESDC on the plan to allow nearly 1,700 “interim” surface parking spaces on the Phase II site prior to construction. Unfortunately, the agency’s May 2007 promises to have a substantive and ongoing discussion of this and other traffic issues affecting public safety and quality of life in a “transportation working group” have so far been unfulfilled. We hope that the recent attention on Atlantic Yards’ lack of public accountability will motivate the State to reform its stewardship of the largest development in Brooklyn’s history.


NoLandGrab: Nothing alleviates "blight" like acres and acres of surface parking lots!

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

Atlantic Yards math! A minimum from one perspective is a maximum from another (arena community events, parking spaces)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder peers through the looking glass at Atlantic Yards, where one plus one usually adds up to anything but two.

Sometimes the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner talk out of both sides of their collective mouth, thus challenging the spirit, if not the letter, of agreements regarding both surface parking and community events at the arena.

The minimum number of community events promised is also the maximum allowed.

The maximum number of surface parking spaces permitted is also the minimum required.

It's Atlantic Yards math!


Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

Tues, May 18. Oral Argument on Eminent Domain Related Atlantic Yards Case

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Legal arguments in the following lawsuit will take place Tuesday, May 18th, at 2:30 PM in Manhattan. Keep in mind, when timing your arrival, that there is a security check to go through.


Tuesday, May 18.
2:30 PM
New York County Supreme Court
60 Centre Street [Map]
Room 335


Oral argument on Article 78 lawsuit seeking to compel the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to make new Eminent Domain Procedure Law (204) findings and determinations.

A number of property owners and tenants in the footprint brought this lawsuit in January 2010 arguing that the eminent domain takings were based on a 2006 approved plan that no longer exists. If the property seizures are going to occur, they must be for the drastically altered current plan—a basketball arena and one building—not for the project originally conceived with the promise of 2,250 affordable housing units, 16 towers and 10,000 jobs. The case argues that the ESDC must make new findings and determinations under the States's Eminent Domain Procedure Law.


Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Times columnist criticizes corporate welfare for stadiums and companies making bogus threats to leave city; Atlantic Yards would have fit right in

Atlantic Yards Report

In a column in today's New York Times headlined Companies We Keep, and Pay For, Metro columnist Jim Dwyer criticize the willingness of city mayors to subsidize companies to move from other parts of the city into the rebuilt World Trade Center.

Such corporate welfare has been provided in response to threats to leave that "were barely disguised feints, and sometimes not even that." Dwyer cites the magazine publisher Condé Nast, and other media businesses, including the Times itself. The biggest winners were in the financial industry.

And while Mayor Mike Bloomberg canceled his predecessor's subsidies for new baseball stadiums, writes Dwyer, "A few years later, Mr. Bloomberg used hundreds of millions in public money to help the Yankees and Mets build stadiums."

What about AY?

Equally worthy of mention--but unmentioned--is Bloomberg's willingness to subsidize a new basketball arena in Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

It came from the Hovasphere...

NY Post, Jay-Z's 99 problems: Sour economy gives mogul's investments a bad spin

Even the world's most successful hip-hop star isn't immune to the Great Recession.

While his music and apparel businesses appear to be humming along, ringing up mega-profits, Brooklyn's Jay-Z -- not just a businessman but a business, man -- has suffered a few financial bumps of late.

Jay-Z Inc.’s losers

NJ Nets:

Paid $4.5M in December 2004 for a minority stake in the team. Sale price of $300M means he owns 1.5%. Forbes valued the team at $269M this season, down 9% from the previous season. Operating deficit of 13.9M. In 2004, Team owner Bruce Ratner said he wanted to have team in Brooklyn for the 2006-07 season but 2012 looks more promising.

Wall St. Cheat Sheet, 6 Companies Salivating to Get Lebron James on the New York Knicks

A guy you never heard of is claiming credit for hooking up Jay-Z with Bruce Ratner.

Let’s face it: the New York Knicks have sucked for a while now. In the City that prides itself on attracting the best and brightest, this can’t last.

When I worked at sports boutique investment bank Inner Circle Sports LLP, it was my idea to bring Jay-Z in as a part-owner when our client Forest City Ratner Companies wanted to buy the New Jersey Nets and take them to Brooklyn. Now, I have some less expensive advice for a few New York City companies which could use the same type of synergetic aid.

Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

May 16, 2010

AY Report: Daily News Fails to Clarify Prokhorov, Prokhrov Should Move to Brooklyn, Development Follows Economic Growth

Atlantic Yards Report

Daily News profile of Prokhorov makes no attempt to clarify the Zimbabwe issue, lets Russian hoopster tell us everyone will like owner of Nets

Here is a critical look at a piece appearing in today's Daily News.

David Stern says that the firm the NBA hired to investigate Prokhorov's business background could find no reason why he shouldn't be an owner. He wouldn't name the firm because he worries that identifying it might compromise the firm's ability to conduct future investigations. Stern did say it was not a law firm, and that the league has used the group's services in the past.

"We retained a firm that has important investigative assets and contacts on a global basis," says Stern. "We made additional discrete inquiries of various agencies and departments that are not at liberty to talk to us on the record. We made a complete round of inquiries."

Well, it's a little more complicated, isn't it? Is Renaissance Capital's only presence in Zimbabwe stock research, as a spokesman for the firm, owned in significant part by Prokhorov, told the Times?

The Times whiffed, but the Zimbabwe government newspaper stated that Renaissance Capital was among several companies that "have confirmed their participation" in an investment summit in February.

Wishful op-ed from the Daily News: "Nets' owner Mikhail Prokhorov should move to Brooklyn"

The New York Daily News, fresh from a wishful editorial urging Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov should help build affordable housing, now publishes a wishful op-ed that urges Prokhorov to move to the borough:

By committing to live in Brooklyn, Prokhorov can signal that he intends for the communities around the Barclays Center to remain livable.

Um, if he moves to the area Dean Street and Carlton Avenue, where thousands of people will walk to and from a massive surface parking lot, it'll be a bit of a challenge.


And what to make of this, from the op-ed:

The more Prokhorov incorporates Brooklyn into his plans, the more thoroughly we will embrace him. I hope that the Barclays Center forgoes bland, corporate and instead offers the beloved Latin American cuisine sold at the Red Hook ball fields, along with sublime stromboli from the Bari Pork Store in Gravesend and, of course, hearty Russian fare from Brighton Beach. All beer should come from locals like Brooklyn Brewery and Sixpoint Craft Ales.

(Emphasis added)

That's not how it works. A look at the Barclays Center web site tells us:

A partnership with the Barclays Center consists of a limited list of elite, category leaders known as our Founding Partners and Sponsors. These partners form the foundation that will have a direct connection to the evolution of a community, award-winning architecture and entertainment.

They include:

Bud Light Established in 1852, Anheuser-Busch Companies is one of the world's largest brewers; best known for Budweiser and Bud Light, as well as such labels as Busch and Michelob. In addition to beer, Anheuser-Busch produces energy drinks and non-alcoholic malt beverages.

Anheuser-Busch has several operations outside of brewing as well, including its Busch Entertainment theme-park business. Anheuser-Busch has taken large strides in recent years to become an industry leader in recycling, supporting renewable energy, and environmental efficiency.

Which comes first, economic growth or real estate development?

Remember how Gov. David Paterson claimed Atlantic Yards would "have job creation the likes of which Brooklyn has never seen?"

Consider this quote: Real estate development doesn't create economic growth, it follows it.

(Italics in original)

The source is The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs, by Roberta Brandes Gratz.

I'll write more about the book shortly, but suffice it to say, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, with a "never-ending waiting list for production businesses wishing to get in," comes off far better than does Atlantic Yards.

As it should. Remember the $6 billion lie?

Posted by steve at 8:10 AM

Nets' owner Mikhail Prokhorov should move to Brooklyn - and earn the borough's trust

Daily News
By Alex Nazaryan

This is a pretty odd op-ed. After giving every indication that the Atlantic Yards development was pushed through for the benefit of developer Bruce Ratner, the idea is that things will be fine if only Mikhail Prokhorov moves to Brooklyn.

Moving to Brooklyn would help Prokhorov understand that the borough of homes and churches is neither Manhattan nor his native Moscow. In Russia's capital, entire neighborhoods are razed at the whim of city officials, while its traffic jams are among the world's worst.

This statement is apparently meant to contrast Moscow and Brooklyn, but ignores the destruction of a neighborhood for an arena and the traffic congestion that will come with the development.

By committing to live in Brooklyn, Prokhorov can signal that he intends for the communities around the Barclays Center to remain livable. American cities are rife with unsightly sports arenas, out of sync with their surroundings and unfriendly to pedestrians; Barclays Center must avoid that fate.

An arena surrounded by parking lots sends a clear message as to what Prokhorov thinks about keeping Brooklyn livable.


The more Prokhorov incorporates Brooklyn into his plans, the more thoroughly we will embrace him. I hope that the Barclays Center forgoes bland, corporate and instead offers the beloved Latin American cuisine sold at the Red Hook ball fields, along with sublime stromboli from the Bari Pork Store in Gravesend and, of course, hearty Russian fare from Brighton Beach. All beer should come from locals like Brooklyn Brewery and Sixpoint Craft Ales. Heck, there's enough space in the Barclays Center footprint for its own organic farm.

The idea that an area can be understood and honored merely by eating representative cuisine is simply silly. And yes, there might be plenty of room for farming, but cultivating parking lots will be a challenge.


The real point of this op-ed seems to be a hope by the author for a bromance with Prokhorov.

As someone who lives four blocks from where the Nets will someday play, I hope that Prokhorov treats our borough as more than a distant outpost to be visited in a town car. I hope he walks along the graceful brownstone blocks of Fort Greene and acquires a bit of Brooklyn patois. While he's at it, he should also cross the Brooklyn Bridge on foot and ride the F train to its end in Coney Island.

As for Italian food, I'll take him to a wonderful little place in Brooklyn Heights. We'll split the bill.


NoLandGrab: "Mikhail, you've destroyed my neighborhood. So why do I find you so irresistible?"

Posted by steve at 7:39 AM

New Jersey Nets' new billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov is about to come in from the cold

Daily News
By Nathaniel Vinton

This piece notes how the new owner of the Nets and savior of Bruce Ratner, oligarch Mikhail Prokhrov, is generating excitement for sports fans, but also raises questions as to how well the NBA vetted him.

Prokhorov is not the first non-American to take possession of a major professional sports franchise in the U.S. - Nintendo of America owns the Seattle Mariners, for instance. But it is still unprecedented for New York City, and not everyone is excited about the prospect. Democratic congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey has asked the Treasury Department to scrutinize Prokhorov's investment empire for ties to Zimbabwe's notorious dictator Robert Mugabe, whose regime is subject to strict U.S. sanctions.

"I really encourage foreign investment in the United States of America," says Rep. Pascrell, "but I believe we have an obligation and responsibility to very carefully investigate the people and companies involved, and I believe we have not done that in this particular case."

Pascrell admits he's disappointed to see the Nets leaving home state New Jersey (after spending the coming two seasons in Newark). He is outraged by what he calls the lack of transparency in the background check the NBA says it conducted this spring.


In another economic climate, this background would not fly with the NBA Board of Governors, says Dave Zirin, the author of the forthcoming book "Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love."


"There are numerous reports on the public record that Mikhail Prokhorov made a great deal of money in ways that might raise an eyebrow or two," says Zirin. "It's not a question of whether he was vetted, but of how much Stern was willing to overlook."


NBA Commissioner David Stern continues to find a way to keep his vetting process opaque:

David Stern says that the firm the NBA hired to investigate Prokhorov's business background could find no reason why he shouldn't be an owner. He wouldn't name the firm because he worries that identifying it might compromise the firm's ability to conduct future investigations. Stern did say it was not a law firm, and that the league has used the group's services in the past.

"We retained a firm that has important investigative assets and contacts on a global basis," says Stern. "We made additional discrete inquiries of various agencies and departments that are not at liberty to talk to us on the record. We made a complete round of inquiries."

After raising the reader's suspicions, the article makes it awfully difficult to believe this quote from Russian NBA player Andrei Kirilenko:

"He's not just going to be good for the Russian community," says Kirilenko, who peruses the bookstores of the Russian enclave of Brighton Beach when he visits New York, "everyone in the area is going to like him."


Posted by steve at 7:19 AM

May 15, 2010

BYE Freddy's

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

485 Dean Street at 6th Avenue
formerly Freddy's Bar and Backroom
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

Freddy's has closed, hoping to reopen nearby. This building is now vacant and will be demolished for the Barclays Center of Atlantic Yards.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, From Tracy Collins: more images of 481 Dean and Freddy's, as demolition approaches

Photographer Tracy Collins, who's steadily chronicled the Atlantic Yards site (and more), has just posted photos of 481 Dean Street (the first two) and its nearby neighbor Freddy's Bar & Backroom, empty and awaiting demolition after a fence is installed.

Posted by steve at 7:29 AM

Behind “Vision Plan for the Fourth Avenue Corridor,” a "community-based process," including concerns about Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how a Department of City Planning official admitted that the city had had no interest in developing the Vanderbilt Yard, and that Atlantic Yards was a developer-driven project?

Well, now Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz (the biggest booster of AY) has spearheaded a "community-based process" to help figure out how to improve the major artery of Fourth Avenue, which, at its northern end, nearly reaches the Atlantic Terminal mall and the Atlantic Yards arena site.

In fact, the report (embedded below) issued yesterday recommends improvements in open space on the south side of Flatbush Avenue very near the arena site. The source of funding for this and other improvements, such as landscaping, is unclear.

Yes, a plan for a main artery like Fourth Avenue is not the same as a plan for an arena plus housing, but the contrast in process remains striking.


Posted by steve at 7:23 AM

Public Advocate Asked About Jobs, Affordable Housing

The Local (NY Times Blog)
By Alison Stephen

The issue of affordable housing to be built as part of the Atlantic Yards project was part of a meeting with Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio, hosted by the Brown Community Development Corporation (BCDC) at the Brown Memorial Baptist Church.

The BCDC leadership committee also expressed concern about the amount of affordable housing planned for the Atlantic Yards site. Emphasizing his role as a watchdog, Mr. de Blasio pledged to look into the Atlantic Yards project’s plans to create affordable housing.


NoLandGrab: de Blasio knows very well that the affordable housing component for Atlantic Yards is dependent on city and state subsidies. He called for an end to subsidies for the project during his campaign for Public Advocate. Although he probably wasn't thinking of subsidies for affordable housing, de Blasio has kept his stance on Atlantic Yards ambiguous. Don't expect him to do much more than "look."

Posted by steve at 7:03 AM

Dean St. Block Assoc. Meeting Monday, May 17, 7:30-9pm

Included on the agenda for this meeting:

Atlantic Yards: Are you struggling to understand what is going on? Come with your questions and concerns. Among other things, we will discuss the recent approval of mechanical demolitions for the arena block, the locations of construction staging, the problems caused by increased traffic, and continue laying plans for the future.


Posted by steve at 6:59 AM

May 14, 2010

NBA: NETS CEO Brett Yormark Tells It Like It Really Is!

The Huffington Post
by Steve Ettlinger

At last we agree on something.

After years of hyperbole from developer and Nets' owner Bruce Ratner and his Nets chief, Brett Yormark, concerning the Nets' intended move to Brooklyn, CEO Yormark finally said something that is both entirely believable and astounding in an interview with Julian Garcia on DailyNews.com Wednesday:

"There was an incredible amount of uncertainty with Brooklyn, and through Bruce's incredible efforts, (it got done)," Yormark said. "And he deserves all the credit in the world. No one thought he was going to get it done."

Either he's lying, or he's very confused. I dunno, but the CEO who's been involved in all the planning and worries and effort to make this thing happen should know the score if anyone does. And he's the guy who kept saying it could and would and will happen. Phew.


Posted by eric at 1:12 PM

To allow demolition on arena block, sidewalk on north side of Dean between Flatbush and Sixth will close for 3 months; will it be Saturday or Monday?

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) issued a Supplemental Report [PDF] (embedded below) to the Atlantic Yards Construction Update, indicating that the the northern sidewalk of Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues will be closed for three months to facilitate mechanical demolition on the arena block.

It's unclear whether the closing will begin Saturday or Monday, though I'd bet on the latter.

This may be the first announced mechanical demolition process; I couldn't get clarification late yesterday from the ESDC. The ESDC's Construction Updates only go back to 2009; a search on NoLandGrab's construction page doesn't list previous announcements of mechanical demolition.

Mechanical demolition

Mechanical demolition, which was untenable when there were residents and businesses on the arena block, means more equipment, noise, and dust--surely a burden for those living across the street. (What equipment exactly? My query is pending.)

It's faster for the developer, though, and, for those not spending too much time at home, it'll be over sooner. For those who were living next door to unplanned mechanical demolition, it was most unpleasant.


Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

What's happening on Block 1129? Construction Update shows layout for construction support, hints that 752 Pacific will remain

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the Atlantic Yards Construction Update [PDF] (embedded below) issued Monday, May 10, Block 1129, which once housed the Ward Bakery, a homeless shelter, and several businesses and homes, is poised to become Forest City Ratner's headquarters for arena construction, the Community Liaison Office, the community labor exchange, and much more.

Block 1129 is the southeast block of the project footprint, bounded by Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues and Pacific and Dean streets. Pacific Street has been closed and will be demapped.

The arena site, however, is one long block away to the west, with a thriving residential block between them that will see a ton of traffic. It's an unusual situation and, as they say in the world of environmental impact statements, a significant impact. (Site maps and images here.)

Hints that 752 Pacific will remain

Also, the update suggests that Forest City Ratner will use, rather than demolish some buildings. If so, that confirms claims in a court document filed by a lawyer for longtime property owner Henry Weinstein that the developer wants to use the renovated six-story building at 752 Pacific Street as office space.

Remember, FCR executive Maryanne Gilmartin claimed in an affidavit that "[t]he prompt demolition of the buildings that remain on Block 1129 also is critical to construction of the arena."


Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

In third list of NY Observer's "most powerful people in New York real estate," Ratner drops down and Prokhorov debuts

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Observer has produced its third edition of the Power 100: The Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate. Notably, Bruce Ratner continues to drop down the list, from #8 in 2008 to #23 in 2009 to #53 this year.

And Mikhail Prokhorov debuts ahead of Ratner, at #43.

Sure, Ratner could not have moved Atlantic Yards without the deal to sell 80% of the Nets and 45% of the arena--actually, the arena operating company--to Prokhorov, but Ratner has the connections and pays for the lobbying. He's still more powerful, in my book.

Also notable is the debut appearance of New York Times real estate/development reporter Charles Bagli, who should have made all three lists, though not for his coverage of AY.

It's hard to believe that, in 2008, I was on the list. Not anymore.


Related coverage...

NY Observer, Power 100: The Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate

#43: Mikhail Prokhorov, Would-be owner of the Brooklyn Nets

Assuming the NBA gives him the thumbs-up, Mr. Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, is slated to become owner of New York City’s newest professional sports team, as well as a co-owner of the Barclays Center now under construction in downtown Brooklyn after seven years of planning.

#53: Bruce Ratner (23), Chairman of Forest City Ratner

For the past seven years, Mr. Ratner’s focus has been on Atlantic Yards, the planned home to a Brooklyn Nets arena and, eventually, thousands of units of housing. This spring, he finally emerged the winner of the fight with defiant landowners. He was clearly wounded by delays and the economic crash, but he is still standing, and construction is under way.

#61: Charles Bagli, Staff writer for The New York Times

In a world of blogs, sometimes it takes the most influential news organization to call the end of an era. Mr. Bagli (an Observer alumnus!) did just that in October 2008, in a story titled “Failed Deals Replace Boom in New York Real Estate.” Since then, he’s documented every major development, successful or struggling, from Stuy Town to N.Y.U. to Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

Prokhorov, Ratner Seal Deal for Nets

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

Per the announcement, the deal for the $900 million arena is now fully financed (Mr. Ratner apparently raised new financing needed to complete the deal), and the $510 million in tax-free bonds have been released from escrow.

With the closing and a new $75 million investment by Mr. Prokhorov, credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's dropped a downgrade watch on the $511 million in tax-free bonds, leaving the existing BBB- rating on the bonds. Essentially, this means S&P believes there's less risk to the project than it did a few weeks ago, given that Mr. Ratner has found a way to get it fully financed.

Mr. Prokhorov, who now owns 45 percent of the arena development, put in an additional $75.8 million loan to help finance the project, according to the report, a loan that "has certain equity like characteristics."


Related coverage...

Gawker, Bruce Ratner Cons Russian into Buying Worst Team in NBA

NoLandGrab: That's nothing compared to the hustle Ratner and his elected (and unelected) accomplices have pulled on the citizens of New York.

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

Stephen Goldsmith, Editor of What We See

by Jake Dobkin

It's been more than four years since urbanist and activist Jane Jacobs passed away, but the issues she focused on during her life seem more pressing than ever: how to build successful neighborhoods and cities, the economic survival of small business in the face of development, and the effects of mega-projects like Atlantic Yards. This month, New Village Press published "What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs"- we asked Stephen Goldsmith, one of the books editors, about Jane Jacobs' life and legacy.

Jane Jacobs' urbanist philosophy seems to have largely been embraced by the current generation of city planners. Where do you think her ideas have had the greatest physical impact here in New York? One way to observe how her ideas are having the greatest impact, and there are many examples to be sure, are in projects such as Majora Carter's efforts with Sustainable South Bronx , and Alexie Torres-Flemming's work with Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice. One might even make the case that the High Line project is an outgrowth of her sensibilities.

Consider the reclamation of these abandoned, neglected places and the new life they have, the way these places have learned to become something new. Jacobs ideas have catalyzed ways of thinking about preservation, about integrated uses that even manifest themselves in such things as local manufacturers capturing downstream waste for new materials, such as Ice Stone in Brooklyn. The integrated way she viewed cities, economies, ecologies and people encourages creative responses to complex problems.

In fact, her ideas seem so dominant that only very rich or foolhardy developers would try to get a Robert Moses scale project done in the city now. Do you think we've lost anything because of that, like the ability to design and build large, necessary projects? Books like The Battle for Gotham by Roberta Brandes-Gratz and Tony Flint's Wrestling With Moses have addressed these questions in ways that are stirring public debate about this once again. Large scale projects such as transit infrastructure aside, what we see today are developers who like to fake authenticity at a large scale, who appropriate front porches or mixed-use development as though these ingredients will salvage bad ideas. The ability to design and build large scale projects such as Atlantic Yards has not been stopped, and as as result the people of Brooklyn will have do endure still-unknown consequences of these poor choices.

If Jane Jacobs was alive today, what issues do you think she'd be working on? What fights would she be fighting? We know from conversations we had with her that she was very concerned about how we can support the the businesses of immigrant communities long-term, making sure that their efforts to support themselves did not ultimately lead to the gentrification of their neighborhoods and force them out. This was happening in Toronto and we know it is occurring elsewhere, so this was an issue of concern that she would have continued to work on with us.

As for fighting, it is easy to imagine her raising hell about the fate of Atlantic Yards for many reasons, and about wholesale proposals for what she referred to as cataclysmic changes in any community, especially places that suffer like New Orleans.


Illustration by Robert Cowan

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

An arena for the Islanders near CitiField? Not without major subsidies (and what about financing and the arena glut?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on news of discussions between Mets' COO Jeff Wilpon and Islanders' owner Charles Wang about relocating the latter to Queens.

The Brooklyn arena would be a much better bet for a move for the Islanders from the Nassau Coliseum--except it can't support major league hockey as designed.

"I'd love to have more teams move here," Mayor Mike Bloomberg said at a news conference, according to Newsday. "That'd be great." So great, in fact, he signed on well before Atlantic Yards was publicly announced.


Related coverage...

Queens Crap, Atlantic Yards, part 2?

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

May 13, 2010

Life After Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn’s Daniel Goldstein led the fight against the Atlantic Yards mega-project for years. Days before moving out of his home, he spoke with The Indypendent about why he fought so long and what he learned.

The Indypendent
by John Tarleton

Here's a must-read interview with last-man-standing Daniel Goldstein. We've excerpted some of the highlights.

[Daniel] Goldstein had hoped to put down roots in Prospect Heights, then an increasingly vibrant low-rise neighborhood near where Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues converge and within walking distance of Boerum Hill, Clinton Hill, Park Slope and Fort Greene. Instead, Bruce Ratner moved into the neighborhood too, and in a big way.

The billionaire developer whose giant Forest City Ratner real estate firm bears his name, announced his plan to purchase the New Jersey Nets basketball team and move it to Brooklyn. With the support of powerful political allies, Ratner was promised 22 acres of prime real estate around the Atlantic Yards rail terminal (including the block on which Goldstein lives) to build a basketball arena and 16 luxury condominium towers, a $4.9 billion dollar project that would eventually receive almost $2 billion in direct and indirect government subsidies.

Ratner’s allies hailed the project as a jobs and affordable housing panacea. A small army of opponents, including Goldstein, cried foul, saying the project was a billiondollar boondoggle that would wreck several Brooklyn neighborhoods while failing to deliver its promised benefits. And they did more than that. They got organized in a major way, forming a tenacious organization called Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which battled Ratner and his cronies in the courts of law and public opinion for years.

Goldstein emerged as the leader of the group, through which he met his wife Shabnam Merchant, who was also organizing against Ratner’s mega-project. The last property owner holding out against the project, Goldstein folded in April, taking a $3 million settlement from Ratner after all his legal options were finally exhausted. Days before he and his family were slated to move out of their home, Goldstein took a break from the chaos of packing to speak with The Indypendent about why he had stuck it out so long, the wisdom of fighting City Hall and what he might pursue next, including a possible future in politics.

JT: What will be the long-term impact of the fight over the Atlantic Yards project on other projects like it in the city?

DG: There’s been some impact as far as the Columbia [University] expansion and the victory that property owners there had in court over eminent domain. I think many community organizations will learn from the fight we waged. If there is an attempt to ram a project like this down the throat of a community again, it will be fought in a similar fashion.

JT: Why did you make the deal with Ratner?

DG: On March 1, I became a tenant of New York State after the state took ownership of my apartment, from which it was preparing to evict me. Had I gone all the way to being evicted, I would have had to leave my home and then go back to court just to get maybe fair-market value for my home. Whether or not I accepted a settlement, it would not have impacted the fight against the project.

There was a four-hour back-and-forth separately between attorneys on each side and the sticking point wasn’t money, it was they wanted a complete gag order on me that I refused to accept. If I had, I wouldn’t be talking to you now or say anything ever again about the project. It was gut-wrenching. I wish it had never come to that. I would give back all of the settlement money if none of this had ever happened, if the neighborhood could be restored and grow in the way that it had been growing.

JT: If somebody came up to you and asked if is it really worth it to fight City Hall, what would you say to them?

DG: Absolutely. I think it’s worth it. Everyone should fight City Hall when they think there is an abuse of power. There’s a lot to resist and fight against and expose and try to reform certainly when it comes to eminent domain and how development proceeds in the city.


Posted by eric at 11:50 PM

Nets welcome Prokhorov, "new big man" with "winning attitude"

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Nets' official site:

In the realm of attitude and commitment, let's recall new team majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov's days in what New York Times sports business reporter Richard Sandomir referred to as "Russia's frenetic transformation to capitalism” and Michael D.D. White's clarified as just another form of special privilege.

"Have you ever given a bribe?" Bloomberg reporter Ryan Chilcote asked Prokhorov during a Bloomberg TV profile aired in March.

"It was like, 15 years ago, last time," Prokhorov responds, his syntax indicating it wasn't a first.

Prokhorov and his partners have more subtle and legal ways of achieving influence these days.

Then again, the Ridge Hill scandal is still a mystery.


Posted by eric at 11:38 PM

Ratner, Prokhorov: A Winning Combination

by Alyson Grala

Yes, nearly as impressive a combination as eminent domain abuse and massive corporate welfare.

Prokhorov’s agreement to buy the Nets, and take a stake in the arena that will house them, pulled the entire $4-billion Atlantic Yards project from the brink of a collapse brought on by a slack economy, lawsuits and cost-overruns associated with Frank Gehry’s initial design.

But not everyone was as fired up about Prokhorov coming to Brooklyn. Several lawmakers called for a delay to the approval due to allegations that Prokhorov earned his billions in part through shady business dealings with Zimbabwe, a country under US sanction. One of the more vocal, New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. (D) said in a statement, "Mr. Stern has refused to confirm or deny to me whether the league's vetting operation looked at Mr. Prokhorov's businesses in Zimbabwe and his investment bank's ties to a massive public corruption scheme." Pascrell, who's district is based in Paterson, NJ, added, "This is simply unacceptable to me and the millions of basketball fans across the country who hold the NBA to a higher standard.


NoLandGrab: Higher standard? It's pretty clear by now that the NBA doesn't have any standards.

Posted by eric at 11:15 PM

Barclays Center Business Alliance Breakfast Club!

Those spammers over at Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (aka BS & Entertainment) are at it again. This hit our inbox earlier today.

Good Morning,

Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment would like to extend a personal invitation to you and a guest to join us at an upcoming Barclays Center Business Alliance Breakfast Club event.  You will be extended the opportunity to meet company executives, your dedicated suite sales team, other NY metro area businesses, Brooklyn dignitaries, special VIP guests and Brett Yormark, President and CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment. The breakfasts will be held at the Junior’s in Brooklyn.

Please choose from the dates below and RSVP with the contact information provided.

  • Tuesday, May 18th – 8am (space is limited)
  • Wednesday, June 16th – 8am
  • Wednesday, July 21st – 8am

Call 646.616.9511 or email suites@brooklynse.com to reserve your spot.

We look forward to introducing you to a best in class experience and welcoming you to our family of Barclays Center suite holders.  Please visit www.barclayscenter.com for more information about our new arena in Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 4:46 PM

Prokhorov filled arena financing gap not by buying bonds but offering a loan; he could end up owning 80% of arena operating company

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who as of yesterday owns 80% of the Nets, also filled the financing gap for arena construction, thus leading ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) to affirm its investment grade (BBB-) rating on $511 million in tax-free bonds and removing them from the potential downgrade announced in March.

Prokhorov offered a $75.8 million loan rather than, as reported, buying $106 million in taxable bonds.

And Prokhorov--who put down $200 million for 80% of the Nets and 45% of the arena, and agreed to fund some $220 million in losses and debt--apparently drove a hard bargain with Forest City Ratner and Forest City Enterprises.

With relatively little additional cash, Prokhorov, according to a report issued yesterday by S&P, could end up owning 80% of Brooklyn Arena LLC (BALLC), the company operating the Barclays Center.

If so--and S&P didn't call it likely--that would mean that the government assistance and eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards arena, the first building in the project, would have benefited most directly Russia's second-richest man.

Had that been announced during the approval process, it surely would have generated much more concern.


Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

In Daily News, Yormark defends Ratner; wishful editorial urges Prokhorov to build subsidized housing planned for AY project

Atlantic Yards Report

Prokhorov, with ownership interests in the team and arena, has an option for 20% of the rest of the project, but no role in it. He has no obligation to build the subsidized housing nor has he made a commitment to do so. He got involved in Atlantic Yards as a platform for business expansion in the United States.

The affordable housing will be built if the city and state administrations assign enough scarce subsidy dollars to do so. What no one's analyzed is whether more such housing could be built elsewhere with the same dollars.


Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

Netsky prospect: Russian mogul brings pro basketball closer to Brooklyn

NY Daily News, Editorial

Another in a long line of nonsensical Daily News editorials fluffing Atlantic Yards.

There are two ways Prokhorov, a 6-foot-7 Russian playboy who made most of his rubles in the metal business, can play his role as 80% owner of the Nets and 45% owner of a new arena under construction at Flatbush and Atlantic Aves.

He can sit back as the Nets - currently ranked 26th of 30 NBA teams in total value - see their stock soar upon relocating to the new Barclays Center. Then he could sell the team for a pretty penny and let that be that.

Or, he could put a full-court press on Brooklyn - investing time, attention and money in one of the greatest places on the planet while building what's now a JV squad into a championship-caliber franchise.

Brooklyn, denied a pro sports franchise since the team that shall not be named went West in 1957, deserves the full-court press.

Hand in hand with partner Bruce Ratner, Prokhorov must ensure swift construction of a first-class sports and concert venue. He must work to ensure that the rest of the promise of developer Ratner's Atlantic Yards is fulfilled, complete with thousands of units of affordable housing.

He must make good on Ratner's commitment of thousands of affordable seats for Brooklynites.


NoLandGrab: Yeah, Proko will be in it for the good of Brooklyn — just like Bruce is.

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

Wall Street Journal on Atlantic Yards

Future Of Capitali$m

On its New York sports page, the Wall Street Journal covers a Reverse Robin-Hood: Mikhail Prokhorov, whose fortune has been estimated at $17 billion, gets to build a new basketball stadium in Brooklyn for the Nets in partnership with Bruce Ratner with $511 million in tax-free bonds. The article is headlined "Bruce Ratner Looks Back on His Ownership of the New Jersey Nets," but it might have been headlined, "American taxpayers, many of whom are struggling to raise capital to invest in their businesses without tax-exempt financing, pay to subsidize stadium for a man who could have afforded to build it with his own money."


NoLandGrab: That pretty much nails it.

Additional coverage...

Bergen Record, Nets: Ready, set, rebuild

The Nets have undergone a change in ownership and philosophy.

The sale from Bruce Ratner to Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, which was finalized Wednesday, means the Nets will make winning basketball games a priority again and not have to worry about shedding salaries and costs.

When Ratner purchased the Nets six years ago for $300 million, he bought a team that had been to two straight NBA Finals. But Ratner wanted the Nets for real estate reasons, to move them to Brooklyn, which will be a reality because of Prokhorov.

Under Ratner and his ownership group, winning became secondary and cutting costs the norm. It led to Kenyon Martin’s trade in 2004 and Jason Kidd’s forced exit in 2007, and contributed to the Nets going from a 52-win squad during the 2001-02 season to a 12-win team this campaign.

NY Post, Nyet gain for Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Done Deal: New Nets Owner Prokhorov Approved By NBA’s Board of Governors

NBC New York, Russian Basketball Comes to Brooklyn

NY Post, Nets new owner Prokhorov gets good reviews

"The happiest man in all this has to be Bruce Ratner," said one opposing executive who, like many NBA execs, coaches and assistants, yesterday saw approval of Prokhorov as a positive for the league but asked for anonymity because he didn't want to publicly address another team's dealings. "Ratner got in it for the real estate and got screwed but only after he screwed the Nets."

One coach called Prokhorov the "Russian Mark Cuban who is going to do whatever it takes to win." He was alluding to the Dallas owner's vast wealth and competitive drive to win.

The real Mark Cuban welcomed Prokhorov into the NBA's ownership ranks.

"I think it's great," Cuban said via e-mail. "His desire to win, and his personality are a huge positive for the NBA."

NLG: The value of a ringing endorsement from Cuban, however, may be somewhat negligible, like the financial health of Cuban's own team...

The New York Times, Minority Owner Sues Cuban, Calls Mavericks ‘Insolvent’

Mark Cuban’s financial management of the Dallas Mavericks was described as reckless in a lawsuit filed Monday in Texas by a minority investor in the team who accused Cuban of amassing net losses of $273 million and debt of more than $200 million.

Ross Perot Jr., who sold Cuban control of the team in 2000 but retained a small stake, said in the state court filing that the team was essentially insolvent and lacked the revenue to pay its debts.

The NBA appears to have about as much interest investigating the Mavericks' alleged insolvency as it did Prokhorov's ties to international pariah Zimbabwe:

The N.B.A. does not seem to be worried by Perot’s accusations.

Adam Silver, the deputy commissioner of the N.B.A., said the league had “absolutely no concern” about Cuban’s financial situation.

NLG: The league, however, might one day have to reckon with its being one big house of cards.

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

Salute Daniel!

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

To the editor,

I was outraged to learn in December, 2003, that Forest City Ratner was going to build a huge urban center between our neighborhood and Fort Greene. None of us had heard anything about such a plan.

At the time, it was reported as an accomplished fact, even though there had been no consultation through community groups. We also felt betrayed that Borough President Markowitz and Mayor Bloomberg were advocating by-passing the usual Uniform Land Use Review Process.

Daniel Goldstein quickly mobilized an opposition and came to many community meetings to see who else felt as indignant as he did (“The $3M man,” April 23). Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn was forming, and Daniel began to assume responsibility for organizing the group based on his democratic ideals and desire to preserve the diversity of the neighborhood. Also, his apartment in the footprint was something to defend.

The $3 million Daniel got from Ratner for his apartment after seven years of struggle is barely sufficient. A significant portion will go to legal fees. His family will be able to find another place to live among us in the community to which they have shown such a fierce commitment. And they will get modest back pay for the sacrifice of living in a nearly abandoned building and receiving for more than full-time work the modest amount that we were able to raise so that Daniel could speak eloquently and honestly on our behalf.

Susan Metz, Prospect Heights


Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark defends Bruce Ratner as new owner Mikhail Prokhorov moves in

NY Daily News
by Julian Garcia

Brett Yormark redefines "toady."

Of all the reasons Nets fans are so optimistic these days, the fact that their team now has one of the richest owners in sports is at the top of the list. Mikhail Prokhorov, who officially took control of the franchise yesterday, is worth an estimated $13.4 billion, so spending mere millions on top players every year should not be a problem.

But Nets CEO Brett Yormark thinks that the team's former majority owner deserves some credit, too. After all, Yormark said that if not for Bruce Ratner, the Nets would not be moving to Brooklyn, where they are hopeful of becoming one of the marquee teams in the league.

"There was an incredible amount of uncertainty with Brooklyn, and through Bruce's incredible efforts, (it got done)," Yormark said. "And he deserves all the credit in the world. No one thought he was going to get it done."


NoLandGrab: What? The project had the backing of three governors, the mayor, the Assembly speaker, the local U.S. senator, and the borough president, among others.

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

May 12, 2010

After NBA approval, Forest City's deal to sell Nets to Prokhorov finalized; Ratner talks about jobs and housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Even though the deal involves hoops--the Nets basketball team and the Atlantic Yards arena--note that Bruce Ratner is still talking about jobs and housing.

(Yes, there will be construction jobs but not the 10,000 office jobs initially promised. One tower might begin construction later this year.)


NoLandGrab: Why would Bruce Ratner let the truth start to get in the way of his bullshit now?

Additional coverage...

Curbed, Russki's Atlantic Yards Deal Sealed; Williamsburg Wreckage

Well-armed Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov closed on the Atlantic Yards deal with developer Bruce Ratner today. In a statement Prokhorov said, "This much-anticipated day has finally come and now the real fun begins of building a championship team with a state-of-the-art home in the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards." Such hope!

NJ.com, Done Deal: Mikhail Prokhorov Owns the New Jersey Nets

The new principal owner, who was overseas when the final papers were signed in Brooklyn, closed the deal at 12:30 Wednesday afternoon with Bruce Ratner’s group, according to a statement issued through his holding company, Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc.

AP via USA Today, Sale of New Jersey Nets to Russian billionaire complete

The team was ruined by cost-cutting moves under Ratner, who signed off on the trades of Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson.

Bloomberg Businessweek, Developer Forest City closes sale of Nets stake

Shares of Forest City Enterprises rose 41 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $15.50 in afternoon trading.

Gothamist, New Nyets Owner Approved To Begin Giving Out False Hope

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com], Russian billionaire closes deal to buy Nets and move club to Brooklyn

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Russian billionaire closes Nets deal with Forest City subsidiary

Posted by eric at 6:31 PM

PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Announces Closing of Agreement with Mikhail Prokhorov Related to Nets, Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today announced that its New York-based subsidiary, Forest City Ratner Companies, closed an agreement with Nets Sports and Entertainment and Mikhail Prokhorov, under which entities controlled by Prokhorov will acquire an 80 percent stake in the Nets basketball team and a 45 percent share in the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn. The transaction was approved by the National Basketball Association's Board of Governors on May 11.

"This is a major step forward for Brooklyn, the Nets and Atlantic Yards," said Charles A. Ratner, Forest City Enterprises president and chief executive officer. "We are pleased to partner with Mikhail Prokhorov and we share his vision of bringing professional basketball to Brooklyn and to a worldwide audience from the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards. I also want to acknowledge the hard work and creativity of Forest City's entire New York team, led by Bruce Ratner and Joanne Minieri, in making this day possible."

In accordance with the agreement, subsidiaries of Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc., have invested $200 million and made certain contingent funding commitments to acquire the above-referenced shares of the arena and team, as well as the right to purchase up to 20 percent of the Atlantic Yards Development Company, which will develop the non-arena real estate.


NoLandGrab: Yadda, etc.

Posted by eric at 6:26 PM

PRESS RELEASE: Prokhorov and FCRC Announce Closing on Partnership

via NBA.com

Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc., Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) and Nets Sports and Entertainment (NSE) announced today that they have closed on the agreement for the purchase of an 80% stake in the capital of the Nets basketball club and a 45% share in the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn.

Mikhail Prokhorov, principal owner of Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc., said, “This much-anticipated day has finally come and now the real fun begins of building a championship team with a state-of-the-art home in the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards. It’s a wonderful opportunity to combine great sports and good business, and I look forward to working with Bruce Ratner and Forest City and with the Nets organization as we move ahead. To the fans, whether in New Jersey, Brooklyn, or Moscow, I will do everything I can to give you a winning team. See you at the Draft Lottery.”

Bruce Ratner, Chairman and CEO of FCRC, said, “This is a partnership that will allow us to bring Brooklyn and the Nets to a world-wide audience. I’m thrilled to have Mikhail on board and look forward to working with him as we embark on this journey to Brooklyn.”

Mr. Ratner explained as well that while construction on the site and arena has been ongoing, today also marks a significant milestone in the history of the project because all paper work related to the arena lease has been completed and bond funds have been released from escrow. “We are thankful to our partners, especially the Mayor and the Governor,” Mr. Ratner said. “Today, the promise of Atlantic Yards, including the Barclays Center, the jobs and the housing, becomes a reality.”

In accordance with the agreement, subsidiaries of Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc., have invested $200 million and have made certain contingent funding commitments to acquire 45% of the arena project and 80% of the NBA team, and the right to purchase up to 20% of the Atlantic Yards Development Company, which will develop the non-arena real estate.

The transaction was approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors on May 11th. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP acted as legal counsel to FCRC and NSE. Hogan Lovells advised Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holding USA, Inc. and its subsidiaries.


NoLandGrab: Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

Posted by eric at 6:20 PM

Ratings agency may downgrade tax-free arena bonds, cites uncertainty regarding taxable junk bonds; Prokhorov could still fill the gap

Atlantic Yards Report

Update: the Star-Ledger reports that Prokhorov is buying the bonds.

One day after the Atlantic Yards arena groundbreaking in March, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P), citing “uncertainty” about the plan for arena financing, withdrew its rating (of junk) for $106 million in taxable bonds needed for the arena financing structure. Because of that, S&P warned that it could lower the ratings on the tax-free bonds “in the next few months.”

Should that occur, that would push the $511 million tax-free bonds issued by the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC) into a rating below investment grade, the level that was needed to market the bonds in the first place.

However, that wouldn't scotch the deal; the bonds have already been sold to investors. And, given that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov now has bought 80% of the team and 45% of the arena, he surely has an incentive to fill the gap either with equity or by buying the taxable bonds, as he had been rumored to do months ago, thus restoring the rating.

Still, it's a curious situation--why haven't Prokhorov and Forest City Ratner resolved this?--and it was curious timing.

Rating withdrawn

The March 12 revision by S&P drew little attention, though Reuters reported the ratings agency's statement, "At this point, there is uncertainty as to the final terms and conditions of any new funding approach."

The full report (which I got yesterday, after learning of it belatedly) is fairly cryptic, stating that the rating for the taxable bonds was withdrawn “because the sponsors decided to pursue an alternative financing strategy to that originally presented to Standard & Poor's.”

The rating on the tax-exempt bonds “was predicated on a capital structure that assumed issuance of debt at BAHC.”

“At this point, there is uncertainty as to the final terms and conditions of the new funding approach,” S&P said. “We are placing LDC's 'BBB-' rating on CreditWatch with negative implications. The negative CreditWatch indicates that we could lower the ratings in the next few months."


NoLandGrab: Might holders of Atlantic Yards bonds be wishing they'd instead invested in Greek debt?

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

Another push to turn luxury condos into affordable housing, but cost is unclear; report proposes eminent domain for condos but slams it for AY

Atlantic Yards Report

Can 4000 empty luxury condos, including some in and around Downtown Brooklyn, really be converted into low-income housing owned by a community land trust or the New York City Housing Authority?

Several activist groups say yes, though their proposals--involving tax foreclosure and the use of eminent domain--are thin on the actual number of condos that might qualify, given that only a fraction are in empty buildings rather than simply languishing on the market.

Still, a report issued yesterday makes some policy recommendations that deserve discussion: development tax breaks should be suspended, and owners of buildings who warehouse their units for more than a year should be assessed fees.

The report criticizes New York State for using eminent domain "to pave the way for large-scale, luxury development projects," such as Atlantic Yards, the "vast majority of which will be luxury, market-rate housing despite the proliferation of failed luxury housing that already currently exists in this area."

(The report says AY will help" further the gentrification of low-income communities." By contrast, ACORN, Forest City Ratner's partner, contends the project will help fight gentrification. The Empire State Development Corporation says gentrification was already happening in the areas nearby.)

Also, given the large number of market-rate units yet unsold, the report implicitly casts doubt on projections by Empire State Development Corporation consultant KPMG that condo prices in AY towers would reach $1217/sf in 2015.

Here's some more news: money-bags Bruce Ratner owes the city $240,000 in back taxes for 80 DeKalb.

Forest City Ratner's 80 DeKalb, according to a Brownstoner tipster, is supposed to be 50% rented. If it's in tax arrears, I'd bet it's less that the building is vulnerable to foreclosure than Forest City Ratner maintaining cash flow.

Or maybe it's more complicated. FCR also missed a mortgage payment at 10 MetroTech, which is the main component of the block-wide complex that includes 80 DeKalb.


NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner has gotten hundreds of millions of dollars in handouts from the taxpayers, and he can't make good on less than a quarter-million in arrears?

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

Two-faced Times

Ignores own 'corporate welfare'

NY Post
by Steve Cuozzo

There they go again at The New York Times -- trashing "corporate welfare" in the form of tax breaks for companies that pledge to keep or create jobs in the city. It's an axe they're entitled to grind, even in stories that are supposed to report news rather than disseminate propaganda. But a Times piece yesterday, like so many before, neglected to mention how the bleeding "paper of record" has itself so lavishly and greedily benefitted from "corporate welfare."

Pfizer Inc. plans to move up to 1,400 employees out of town. As a result, the Times reported, it may have to reimburse the city for $12 million in tax breaks of which it availed itself since 2003, when it received a theoretical $47 million in city and state incentives in exchange for committing to expand its workforce here.

But what's outrageous is how the Times, in its predictable and repetitive campaign opposing "corporate welfare," invariably omits any reference to the public largesse the newspaper company enjoyed in the construction of its own Eighth Avenue headquarters.

Lest anyone forget, the Times Co. and its development partner, Bruce Ratner, received $26.1 million in city tax breaks -- more than twice the amount Pfizer actually accepted -- for the tower project.

But even that number doesn't begin to reflect what the Times really got from Albany and City Hall. The Times Co. and Ratner were only able to build an admittedly fine skyscraper thanks to the bulldozer of eminent domain -- the state's highly controversial, and rarely applied, condemnation power.

Condemnation not only forced out scores of viable stores and business between 40th and 41st streets, it rewarded the Times Co. and Ratner by charging them a sweetheart price for the blockfront -- a lowball $85.1 million, compared with comparable land values in the mid-'00s estimated at $200 million.


NoLandGrab: Two-faced Post!

Corporate welfare and eminent domain for Bruce Ratner and The New York Times = Bad.

Corporate welfare and eminent domain for Bruce Ratner minus The New York Times = Good.

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

Ratner's Reign of Error Ends. Prokhorov's Plaything Begins

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Earlier today the NBA approved the transfer of ownership of the league's worst team, the New Jersey Nets, from Bruce Ratner to Russia's richest man Mikhail Prokhorov.

Thus ends Ratner's 6-plus years of staking his claim to the title of one of the worst, if not the worst, owners in sports history (that's what happens when you buy a team to do a land grab.)

Now what do we have? A project proposed by a Cleveland-based developer and approved by an unelected, unaccountable state agency is now in a large part under control of a Russian oligarch who bailed out Ratner.


Related coverage...

Field of Schemes, NBA approves Nets sale to Prokhorov

So much for that whole Zimbabwe thing: The NBA Board of Governors (in other words, the league's owners) voted yesterday to approve Mikhail Prokhorov as owner of the New Jersey Nets. Prokhorov now becomes the league's first non-North American owner, as well as its second richest after the Portland Trail Blazers' Paul Allen.

The final tally: Prokhorov pays $200 million, plus assumed $180 million in team debt, in exchange for 80% of the team and 45% of their new Brooklyn arena. Prokhorov also agrees to buy $100 million worth of arena bonds, something that looks like a worse deal for him now that the bonds may fall below junk status.

The Star-Ledger, New Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov intends to give fans 'plenty to cheer about'

The Russian oligarch received official approval from the NBA Board of Governors to purchase controlling ownership in the team Tuesday, setting the stage for the official closing of the transaction today.

Then, presumably, there will be something to cheer about — notably, the reawakening of a franchise that had pinched every penny under owner Bruce Ratner the last few seasons.

He purchases the Nets at a time when NBA business is bad business. The league and its 30 teams will lose roughly $400 million this season, Stern disclosed during All-Star Weekend; and for the first time in decades, most franchises are no longer appreciating in value.

The Nets themselves lost $64 million in fiscal 2009, according to SEC filings. So desperate for a wealthy partner, Ratner approached Prokhorov in July, and their partnership saved the Atlantic Yards project that had been Ratner’s dream since he purchased the Nets for $300 million in 2004.

Brownstoner, Electeds Protest Prokhorov Too Late

Also yesterday, a group of five Brooklyn elected officials released a letter to NBA commission David Stern protesting the sale to Prokhorov on the grounds of his prior business relationship with zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. The only problem? The letter was sent after the NBA had already made its decision. Still, as Atlantic Yards Report points out, it was unlikely the letter would have had much impact after similar concerns from a New Jersey congressman had been brushed off.

The Brooklyn Paper, Tsar power! NBA approves Prokhorov to take over Nets

Put the borscht on the menu at the Barclays Center — a Russian billionaire now owns the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets!

The New York Times, Prokhorov To Take Over Nets

As expected, the N.B.A. board of governors approved the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov’s deal to be the new majority owner of the Nets. The approval was unanimous among the teams that voted. One team, the Chicago Bulls, did not vote.

NoLandGrab: We're ordering our Bulls jerseys now.

NY Daily News, Russian approved for Nyets

Ratner had been planning to move the Nets to Brooklyn for years but hit numerous delays due to legal and financial issues. The move became official only after Prokhorov - who will be the second-richest owner in the league behind Portland's Paul Allen - agreed to buy the team.

Prokhorov is believed to be in Russia but is expected to be in New Jersey on Tuesday to represent the Nets at the draft lottery.

The Supreme Court Jester, A Short Alphabetical History of the Nets from Dr. J to Jay-Z

Will he rename the team the Ets? That way they could be the N.Y. ets --with a motto like "Get to "no" the NYets." Plenty of people have said "no" to the Nyets in opposing their new home in the Atlantic Yards proposed by Forest City Developer Bruce Ratner. The latest suit involves real-estate entrepreneur Peter Williams, who says he owns some "air rights" above the site of the planned Nets arena in Downtown Brooklyn -- and the billion-dollar project can't be completed until he settles the issue with the developer.

Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

May 11, 2010

Albanian Village Needs Help Fighting Gov’t Land Grab

Develop Don't Destroy Accursed Mountains via Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn

Sure, Albania's a little bit outside of our usual purview, but news of this land grab comes from Catherine Bohne, proprietress of Park Slope's Community Bookstore. Plus, they've got a cool flag.

The Valbona Valley where I’ve been half-living is traditionally one of the toughest places in Europe - they don’t call these the Accursed Mountains for nothing! Perhaps in order to survive the people have become both adapted to the land AND fiercely protective of each other — really GOOD to each other. And to me! Now the local government - which, like most government in Albania, is very corrupt – is moving to grab land in Valbona. And the Selimaj, my adopted family, are standing up to them. This really is the little guy fighting against huge forces. Will you help?

Landgrabbers, apparently, are not exclusive to New York State's allegedly representative democracy. They're perfectly at home in Albania's formerly Communist parliamentary democracy, too.

Here are the two videos I made so far which summarize the situation – I was up all night making the last one, so I’m sort of blotto right now, and I think the videos will be clearer than I will be.

Valbona Land Grab – Part 1 (5/9/10)

Valbona Land Grab – Part 2 (5/10/10)

This land grab promises no hoops, but it will offer ping pong! And a community benefits agreements — which will deliver basketball ping pong before affordable housing running water.

The Komun has published reports to various foreign investors promising over 80 infrastructure projects to benefit the people of Margegaj Komun and Valbona specifically, including really important things like bringing running water to the houses of Valbona village. They were supposed to start work this summer. They haven’t. Instead, they’re rushing to build this tourism complex (with Ping Pong) which (you may have noticed) employs mainly members of the Head of the Komun’s family (who live in Shoshan, not Valbona).

In all seriousness, click thru to learn how you can help the Selimaj fight the good fight.

Posted by eric at 11:14 PM

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!...

Courier-Life Newspapers via NYPost.com, Last holdouts face eviction to make room for 'Willoughby Square Park'

There are dozens of tenants left in the city-acquired properties on Albee Square between Willoughby and Fulton streets, some of whom allege that the city isn’t helping them find new homes.

“They keep telling us that they’ll help us get a place, or that they’ll pay us to move out — but they lied,” said Ray Ahamed, a 14-year resident of one of the properties. “Some people have been living here for 50 or more years. My family will have a hard time finding a place to go.”

Ahamed added that he was given a July deadline to get out — a date not confirmed by the city.

“What’s the worst-case scenario? We’re not sure,” said an HPD official, who asked not to be named.

Posted by eric at 10:50 PM

4,000 new luxury condos sitting vacant

Units are in 138 buildings that owe city $3.8 million in back taxes; study recommends seizing and converting them to low-income or affordable housing.

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

Here's more evidence that the housing component of Atlantic Yards is a long, long way off.

There are more than 4,000 new luxury condominium apartments in the city that are sitting vacant and unused, according to a comprehensive new report due to be released Tuesday afternoon. What's more, the units are in 138 condo buildings that owe the city a total of $3.8 million in back taxes.

Right to the City-NYC, a coalition of community organizations, will unveil its detailed report, "People without Homes, & Homes without People" at a press conference Tuesday afternoon in Harlem with officials from the boroughs. The report identified and tallied units in completely and partially finished buildings in six neighborhoods with sizeable low-income populations: downtown Brooklyn, the Lower East Side, Harlem, Bushwick, the South Bronx and the West Village/Chelsea.

Across the six surveyed neighborhoods, 74 buildings with 1,159 units were completely vacant, while 190 building with 2,933 units were partially vacant.

In the 72-page report, Right to the City recommends that the city convert the empty condos to public housing or community land trusts. It even suggests that the city seize the vacant condos through eminent domain. In addition, the group said the city should suspend tax breaks for developers and impose fees on building owners who warehouse their units for more than a year.

“In a city where a record number of families are going homeless every night, this report shows us that there is an opportunity to turn some of these problematic buildings into real community benefits,” said Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn, who will be joined by Council members Melissa Mark Viverito and Leticia James at the press conference, in a statement.


NoLandGrab: And speaking of the homeless, we know Bruce Ratner's record when it comes to sheltering them.

Posted by eric at 10:41 PM

As expected, NBA approves Prokhorov as Nets' majority owner; Brooklyn officials release belated call for NBA caution on Zimbabwe issue

Atlantic Yards Report

Today, the National Basketball Association Board of Governors, as expected, approved Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov as majority owner of the New Jersey Nets.

And five Brooklyn elected officials, led by Council Member Letitia James, sent a letter (below) to NBA Commissioner David Stern urging the league to postpone the decision and look seriously into charges that a company Prokhorov partly owns is connected to sanctions-busing in Zimbabwe.

Given that Stern had previously brushed off the charges raised by New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell, there was little chance that the Brooklyn officials' concerns would be taken seriously.

Still, they released the letter just after the NBA vote and might have gotten more attention had they sent the letter earlier.

Click thru for the full text of the letter.

Posted by eric at 10:35 PM

NBA approves sale of Nets to Russian Prokhorov

by Brian Mahoney

The first step in what the New Jersey Nets hope is a quick turnaround is in place. New owner Mikhail Prokhorov is eager to get started on the rest.

"For those who are already fans of the Nets and the NBA, I intend to give you plenty to cheer about," the Russian billionaire said in a statement.

The Nets are now officially the Nyets.

Prokhorov's purchase of the team was approved Tuesday by NBA's owners, who welcomed the first non-North American into their club.

Russia's richest man agreed to buy 80 percent of the Nets and 45 percent of an arena project in Brooklyn from developer Bruce Ratner late last year. Final approval of the sale was delayed until the state of New York had taken over all the land seized under eminent domain at the site of the team's Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Nets expect that transaction to close Wednesday, and the long-delayed 18,000-seat arena is to open in 2012.


NoLandGrab: And thus ends the "Bruce Ratner era," which firmly trounced "the Dark Ages," the "Great Depression" and "the '70s" for worst era ever.

NY Observer, NBA Approves Nets Sale From Ratner to Prokhorov

This ends a more than six-year stretch for Mr. Ratner, the Brooklyn-based developer whose Nets sunk to nearly the worst record in NBA history this season as he struggled to begin the project that attracted him to the Nets in the first place: Atlantic Yards, the planned $4.9 billion Brooklyn mixed-use development that holds a new Nets arena as a centerpiece.

Construction has finally begun on the arena, and last week, the holdout who had led so much of the fervent opposition to the project for years, Daniel Goldstein, moved out after the state claimed his land and he settled with Mr. Ratner for $3 million.

It's indeed a new era for Brooklyn, as the chapter of fighting and opposition has come to a close, clearing the way for a less dynamic narrative of construction.

NLG: Pending, of course, three lawsuits, including Peter Williams's air-rights challenge.

The Wall Street Journal, Russian Billionaire Takes Control of the New Jersey Nets

“We are pleased,” said NBA commissioner David Stern in a written statement. “We anticipate that his passion for the game and business acumen will be of considerable value not only to the Nets franchise but to the entire NBA.”

According to people familiar with the matter, NBA officials were satisfied that Prokhorov would play by the NBA rules and would be a suitable owner for the NBA franchise that has struggled financially.

NLG: i.e., he fit the league's ABB blueprint: anybody but Bruce.

The Internets [NYDailyNews.com], Prokhorov approved by NBA's board of governors

The league sent out an e-mail just after 5:30 p.m., putting an end to what had been anticipated since Prokhorov struck a deal to buy a majority share of the team from Bruce Ratner last September. Some final business needs to be taken care of tomorrow and then the Russian billionaire will official take control of the league's worst team and begin his mission of turning it into one of the best.

TrueHoop [ESPN.com], Mikhail Prokhorov, just in time

On the day that Mark Cuban is battling the notion that his Mavericks are barely solvent, Mikhail Prokhorov arrives on the scene to compete for the title of owner NBA fans most dream of becoming.

The Sports Section [NYMag.com], The Prokhorov Has Landed

It's impossible to overstate how much Prokhorov is going to change our area sporting landscape; we really might have our new Steinbrenner. The journey begins today. Don't say you weren't warned.

UPI.com, Prokhorov approved as N.J. Nets owner

"We are pleased that the NBA's board of governors approved Mikhail Prokhorov's purchase of majority ownership of the Nets, welcoming into the NBA ownership ranks the league's first majority investor from outside of North America," said NBA commissioner David Stern.

The Star-Ledger, NBA Board of Governors approves sale of Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov

The Board of Governors vote, which was done via e-mail, was unanimous among the 29 NBA team representatives.

One adamant nay vote, however, came again Tuesday from Congressman Bill Pascrell, the Essex County representative who in recent weeks has changed that the NBA overlooked Prokhorov’s business ties with Zimbabwe – a country under U.S. sanction – and Russian organized crime.

Calling the sale “short-sighted,” Pascrell reiterated that the league’s vetting process was a “smokescreen.”

“Mr. Stern has refused to confirm or deny to me whether the league’s vetting operation looked at Mr. Prokhorov’s businesses in Zimbabwe and his investment bank’s ties to a massive public corruption scheme,” Pascrell said in a statement. “This is simply unacceptable to me and the millions of basketball fans across the country who hold the NBA to a higher standard.

“I believe there are plenty of fans who consider the NBA’s sacrificing of principles in the name of scoring a quick profit as a flagrant foul.”

Bloomberg Businessweek, Prokhorov’s $200 Million Nets Buy Gains NBA Approval

Prokhorov will be the first owner of an NBA team from outside North America and the second foreign owner of a U.S. franchise. Nintendo of America Inc. is the majority owner of Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners.

“Today’s vote will give the NBA a greater global reach and bring a multitude of new fans to the game of basketball,” Prokhorov said in an e-mailed statement.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Prokhorov Approved to Own the Nets

True to form, the Eagle runs the press release.

Bruce Ratner, Chairman and CEO, Forest City Ratner Companies, the developer of the Barclays Center, said, “Mikhail and his team will bring tremendous innovation and excitement to the NBA. He has a love for basketball and a commitment to excellence. I also thank the Nets organization, for which I have worked very closely with over the last six years. I have never met a more hard working and committed group of professionals, who are dedicated to the team, and, more importantly, to the fans.”

NLG: "For which I have worked very closely with?" Bruce's grasp of the language is only rivaled by his grasp of pro basketball.

NY1, NBA Approves Nets Sale To Russian Billionaire

Prokhorov has made it clear he intends on moving the team to Brooklyn.

The sale had been held up over legal delays on Atlantic Yards.

The Wall Street Journal, Meet Prokhorov's Fixer-In-Chief

Posted by eric at 9:04 PM

De Blasio: Eminent Domain Is Needed

by Ian Ritter

NYC Public Advobdicate Bill de Blasio has apparently forgotten that the only need for eminent domain in the Atlantic Yards footprint is to clear the way for a basketball arena.

Certain projects that provide affordable housing to residents here are in the best interest of the city and require the need for eminent domain, said Bill de Blasio, New York City’s public advocate, speaking at a breakfast put on by non-profit association ABNY. He specifically pointed to the controversial mixed-use Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn being built by developer Bruce Ratner, which bought out a number of residences and building in the area and was the center of a contentious legal battle.

“I do think there’s a place for eminent domain,” de Blasio said, explaining that he is a “pro development progressive.” “When appropriate you do maximize height and density to maximize affordable housing.”


NoLandGrab: The "non-profit" ABNY is run by a real estate magnate, with assistance from a former senior advisor to the chairman and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation and ex-flack for stellar governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson. De Blasio, no doubt, is starting to line up donors for his 2013 run for mayor.

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Developers' Advocate Bill de Blasio: Eminent Domain Was Needed for Atlantic Yards Housing

A "pro-development progressive" would realize that Atlantic Yards and the use of eminent domain for it, is all about the developer's profit.

Worse is this: affordable housing could be accomplished over the Vanderbilt Rail Yards in a high density and highrise community without the use of eminent domain at all. And when eminent domain is continuously used for private benefit, the eventual backlash will be such that it will be difficult to use it when it is actually crucial for a public purpose.

Atlantic Yards Report, Public Advocate de Blasio defends eminent domain for Atlantic Yards; he's apparently forgotten his "no more subsidies" position

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who issues daily press releases but did not see fit to attend or comment on the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking in March, now concludes he's happy with the project, at least according to a speech before the business-friendly Association for a Better New York (ABNY).

No more subsidies?

During the campaign last August, de Blasio said in a debate, "But no more subsidies. That project has gotten all the subsidy it deserves. And they either have to figure out a way to make it work or we should pull the plug."

As I wrote, de Blasio came a little late to "no more subsidies," given his silence when the developer gained more than $100 million by renegotiating the Vanderbilt Yard deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Beyond that, when the Empire State Development Corporation a few weeks later announced new concessions to developer Forest City Ratner, de Blasio was silent.

Posted by eric at 8:40 PM

Hey, cops, how about Targeting target already

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Thomas Tracy

The Atlantic Yards blight study pointed a big, lying finger at the project footprint as the source of local crime. Amazingly, with the footprint (or at least the Phase One portion of it) now devoid of human beings, that crime doesn't appear to be letting up. Wonder how that could be?

Target trouble

Two thieves were arrested on May 5 when they supplanted an apparent smoking addiction with another bad habit — shoplifting.

Police said that the suspects, a 41-year-old man and a 42-year-old woman, were caught trying to swipe 18 packages of Nicorette gum from the Target in the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Flatbush and Atlantic avenues at 6:50 pm.

The two also tried to pocket 19 boxes of Prilosec heartburn treatment before store employees grabbed them and contacted police.

Marshalls menace

A fast-moving thief snagged a pocketbook from a woman’s shopping cart as she perused the aisles at Marshalls on May 7.

The 31-year-old woman told police that she was shopping in the department store, which is part of the Atlantic Center Mall, at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues at 5:30 pm when she turned away from her cart for just a few moments.

When she turned back, her bag, which contained $700, her credit cards and an Australian driver’s licence was gone.


Posted by eric at 12:43 PM

Oral argument postponed in case regarding call for new eminent domain findings; ESDC wants case moved to Brooklyn, says Gerges already decided issues

Atlantic Yards Report

Update: The case has been rescheduled for Tuesday, May 18 at 2:30 pm.

The last Atlantic Yards case to reach oral argument will be heard tomorrow May 18th; the issues include whether the belatedly-released Development Agreement can be formally added to the case and whether the case remains before a Manhattan judge already critical of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) or moved to a Brooklyn judge who has ruled without question in the ESDC's favor.

The case, known as Peter Williams Enterprises, et al., vs. New York State Urban Development Corporation (aka ESDC), will be heard [on May 18th] at 11 am 2:30 pm at 60 Centre Street, room 335, before Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman.

The Development Agreement

The plaintiffs argue that the ESDC should not have relied on the 2006 Determination and Findings (D&F) to exercise eminent domain but instead should have issued a new D&F describing the public use to be served by the project as of 2010, given that the Development Agreement, among other documents, points to a much longer buildout.

I previewed the arguments on 4/9/10 and covered the brief hearing on 4/12/10; as noted below, a major pending issue is whether the case should be moved to Kings County Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges, who already ruled against similar arguments in the effort to block condemnation, but didn't evaluate the Development Agreement.

As for the Development Agreement, Friedman is already considering it in motions to reopen a separate case challenging the legitimacy of the claimed ten-year buildout. She had ruled against the petitioners, two coalitions of community groups, but had refused to open the record to the Development Agreement, released in late January.

Even as construction proceeds on the arena, the fundamental question, to attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff (who represents petitioners in the D&F case), is whether the ESDC will succeed in its "bad faith attempt to conceal the true nature of the Atlantic Yards Project from Petitioners and the public at large until after the time to challenge it has expired."


Posted by eric at 12:34 PM

Ratner's Arena Was on the Brink of Failure. Not a Good Sign for the Rest of the Atlantic Yards Project.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

As Mikhail Prokhorov is about to shove Ratner off of the NBA stage, The Wall Street Journal sat down with the developer for an exit interview. (Atlantic Yards Report notes, amongst other things, that Ratner admits Gehry was gone six months before Ratner actually announced it to the public.)

Ratner was on the brink with the Atlantic Yards arena. This is portentous for the future of Atlantic Yards, which, we should remember, is supposedly an affordable housing project.


Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

May 10, 2010

Bruce Ratner's NBA Waterloo

The Developer Looks Back on His Ill-Fated Nets Purchase; My Four-Hour Dinner With Prokhorov

The Wall Street Journal
by Matthew Futterman

With the formal handover of the New Jersey Nets to Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov just days away, Bruce Ratner can go back to what he's good at, things like building big buildings in Brooklyn and making a lot of money in the process.

"I was never one to puff my chest out with some big ego about being the owner of a basketball team," Mr. Ratner said during a rare interview.

History will show that from the fall of 2004 until this week, Mr. Ratner owned the Nets and, unlike nearly all of his other professional endeavors, he wasn't very good at it.

Before he bought the team for $300 million, Mr. Ratner admittedly wasn't a basketball fan. The only reason he made the deal was so he could build an arena and a massive development in downtown Brooklyn across the street from two very profitable shopping centers he began building there a decade ago. He subsequently lost $25 million to $30 million each season, he estimates, as the franchise declined from one of the league's best to its worst, winning just 12 games last season.

But a championship team was never the point.

"He had a vision for a team that was for sale and didn't have many takers," NBA commissioner David Stern said of Mr. Ratner. "He had a vision of using it for an anchor for a spectacular new building and a new real-estate development, and that's what he's going to do."

Mr. Ratner's employees speak of how he was always optimistic about his project, through six years of litigation and a global financial crisis, when, in basketball parlance, he learned to rebound. Mr. Ratner always promised his troops they would figure out a way to keep alive his dream of moving the basketball team into a gleaming arena in Brooklyn. He didn't tell anyone what he really thought—that the project was dead.

"Back then, no one knew if anything would succeed," said Mr. Ratner, 65 years old. "And we were running out of time."


NoLandGrab: Wait — we thought it was "100% about basketball."

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Wall Street Journal reports Ratner had decided to ditch Gehry by November 2008, portrays sale to Prokhorov as a coup

In anticipation of the expected transfer of the New Jersey Nets to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, developer Bruce Ratner granted what the Wall Street Journal described as a "rare interview" and was rewarded with an article that, while portraying him as bruised by the experience of ownership, delves neither into questions about Prokhorov nor the propriety of the latter's benefiting from significant public subsidies and eminent domain.

Ditching Gehry

The WSJ's Matthew Futterman pinpoints November 2008 as the moment when Ratner ran the numbers and, "[w]ithin hours," decided to ditch Frank Gehry as the arena designer.

Oh. That's not what they told us.

New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark, in March 2009, told WFAN:

"Frank Gehry is still the architect of this project. And he loves it. It’s very dear to his heart, no different than it is to all of us – Bruce Ratner, our investors and myself."

The New York Daily News reported in May 2009:

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

Revising the deal

The Journal reports:

He also knew he'd have to delay construction of his commercial and residential buildings and negotiate a new deal with the state's Metropolitan Transit Authority. In the previous deal, he'd agreed to pay $100 million for the 22-acre site where the project, known as Atlantic Yards, will be built. But now he would have to replace that lump sum with a series of staggered payments.

Oh, he would, would he? (If only he'd have to pay $100 million for the entire site, rather than for the 8.5-acre railyard.)

The framing here suggests, not without foundation, that Ratner is fully capable of getting public agencies to renegotiate. Whether that's a good thing or not goes by the wayside.

Posted by eric at 11:28 PM

In Safdie's New Satire, Architecture Has Tragic Consequences

Architectural Record
by Rachel Somerstein

Not much rankles like large-scale urban development. Take, for instance, some of the more extreme claims regarding the plan for a sports arena at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards: ill-conceived, a waste of taxpayer money, a circumvention of the democratic process. But would anyone go so far as to indict it, or any other development, as a cause of death?

"More extreme claims?" Those seem pretty straightforward to us.

That’s the central accusation in Los Angeles writer Oren Safdie’s play, The Bilbao Effect. The new work is a tragicomic satire in which a Staten Island resident takes an architect to a court of sorts—a hearing in front of fellow American Institute of Architects members—because he blames the aggressive form and metallic skin of a project by the designer for the circumstances leading up to his wife’s suicide.

Despite parallels between Safdie’s play and the real Atlantic Yards—it contains explicit references to Frank Gehry, the project’s original architect (he stepped down in 2009)—the writer says he doesn’t intend to mirror a specific situation or designer.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Are criticisms of Atlantic Yards "extreme claims"? Only to a reviewer uninformed of some rather mainstream critiques

As I commented, why exactly are "ill-conceived, a waste of taxpayer money, a circumvention of the democratic process" deemed "some of the more extreme claims regarding the plan for a sports arena at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards"?

After all, the New York City Independent Budget Office called the arena a money-loser for the city and Municipal Art Society then-President Kent Barwick, not exactly a radical, suggested, “Maybe the absurdity with which that proceeded will awaken the desire for a more rational process.”

Posted by eric at 11:20 PM

Harlem group's chaos endangers $76M gift

'The appearance of impropriety, favoritism or conflict . . . could harm [West Harlem] as a whole.'

NY Post
by Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein

You'll never believe this, but another "Community Benefits Agreement" appears to be failing to benefit the community.

A $76 million windfall intended to help Harlem residents is in limbo -- and may never be paid -- because the politician-backed nonprofit in charge of distributing the money is in disarray, The Post has learned.

Although it formed four years ago, the West Harlem Local Development Corp. lacks a mission statement, has yet to get tax-exempt status from the IRS and doesn't even have a phone number.

The group already has received $500,000 from Columbia University -- part of a 16-year payout designed to assuage community fears over the school's expansion -- yet hasn't spent a cent on the neighborhood.

At least five people have quit the nonprofit, alleging that it was becoming a "slush fund" for Manhattan politicians.

The delay "threatens to undermine" the agreement and leave Harlem with nothing, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer charged in a scathing letter to the group.


NoLandGrab: Pot, meet kettle. Stringer was instrumental in setting up the LDC, which undermined community opposition to Columbia's landgrab.

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

The filming is done

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

On Wednesday Dan and Shabnam moved all of their possessions out of their home. On Thursday they had a party to say goodbye to their apartment with many of the people that they fought alongside over the last half dozen years. On Friday they cleaned up and moved on.

We shot all of these events and are beginning to go through the materials. While the struggle to amend the project continues, our filming is done.


Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

What We Built (and Didn’t)

Bloomberg’s surprisingly unchanged city.

New York Magazine
by Justin Davidson

At times during the last decade, it felt as though every part of New York was constantly trying on new identities, and not always so comfortably. “The City We Imagined/The City We Made: New New York 2001–2010,” a sweepingly particular new exhibit presented by the Architectural League in a storefront at 250 Hudson Street, chronicles that period of convulsive construction. On one side of a snaking line of panels is the imagined New York: a time line of dreams, fights, proposals, announcements, visions, and revisions. On the other are 1,000 photographs of the city as it really became. You could walk through the displays repeatedly and follow a different story line each time. The show is a sentimental journey through a decade’s worth of real-estate-development fights.

In these ten years, New Yorkers discussed what was to be built with vituperative intensity. Architecture mattered—architects themselves became celebrities—and the city’s soul always seemed to be hanging in the balance. What dominated discussion were the grandest dreams and angriest battles: the threat of a stadium looming over the West Side, the vision of a jagged Olympic village bristling at Hunters Point, the alternately hopeful and paralytic saga of Moynihan Station, the demoralizing arc of Atlantic Yards, the tortuous tale of the World Trade Center. Many of these are stories of soufflélike fantasies that collapsed and left their sites in 2010 essentially as they were in 2001—or worse.


Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

Pro Bono Barrister: Will Plaintiff Weiss Follow Plaintiff Goldstein?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Charles F. Otey, Esq.

The Atlantic Yards saga makes a cameo appearance in the Eagle's "weekly column dedicated to telling about the good that lawyers do," which defends upstanding citizens Marty Markowitz and Greg Atkins against claims of sexual harassment, calling the former Brooklyn's most "respected spokesman."

As we all discovered — some to their dismay and chagrin — even so determined a crusader as Daniel Goldstein, who inveighed for years against the “injustices” inherent in the construction of the huge Atlantic Yards project, ultimately had a “price.” He took $3 million for an apartment that cost him under $600,000. A nifty profit. And he earned it.

As for Daniel Goldstein, long a media favorite as spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, weaving a drama in which he was cast as David against ‘Goliath Bruce Ratner, he is not a “sellout.” His ($3 million) settlement was totally foreseeable by anyone who’s been around long enough to have witnessed a number of such ‘crusades.’

Interestingly the settlement, reached before Justice Abraham Gerges, was achieved off the record, which gives both parties the right to “spin” it any way they want. A former city councilman and Interim Administrative Judge, Justice Gerges’ reported suggestion of the off-the-record settlement played a key role in bringing this matter to a conclusion.


Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

Clock ticking on Nets' renewal

Bergen Record
by Al Iannazzone

With Prokhorov worth roughly $17 billion, the Nets won’t cut corners or use players as marketing tools, as they have in recent years. It doubtful any Nets will deliver pizzas, as Courtney Lee did for a promotion during this dismal 12-70 season. The focus will return to basketball and winning.

"They’re going to be one of the best organizations in the league," an NBA executive said.

Prokohorov, who made his fortune in precious metals, will own 80 percent of the Nets and 45 percent of the Brooklyn arena project. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, tried blocking the sale, claiming Prokhorov’s business dealings with Zimbabwe violated U.S. sanctions. The NBA called Pascrell "misinformed."

The holdup has been clearing the Brooklyn site, which was accomplished Friday, all but paving the way for Prokhorov to try to do for the Nets what he did in Russia last decade.


NoLandGrab: "Misinformed?" The NBA's so-called "vetting" process appears to consist of making sure that the owner of the Nets is anyone other than Bruce Ratner. Prokhorov, who "made his fortune in precious metals," also does business in Zimbabwe, which appears intent on selling uranium to our good friends Iran. From The Guardian:

"Be also assured, comrade president Ahmadinejad, of Zimbabwe's continuous support of Iran's just cause on the nuclear issue," Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, pledged last week. The prospect that Iran had secured exclusive uranium rights in Zimbabwe for its nuclear programme emerged following Mugabe's comments.

And what person doing business in Zimbabwe has more expertise in mining than the soon-to-be Nets owner? Vet that, David Stern.

Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

Year in review: Uncertainty for Manhattanville

The Empire State Development Corporation appealed in January to the New York State Court of Appeals, which will hear the eminent domain case on June 1.

Columbia Spectator
by Kim Kirschenbaum

The University’s Manhattanville expansion plan faced a setback this year after a state court declared eminent domain for the project illegal in December. This surprise ruling, which will send the case to New York’s highest court in June, has significantly raised the stakes of this protracted legal battle.

The New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division declared in December in a 3-2 decision that eminent domain—the process by which the state can seize private property for “public use” in exchange for market-rate compensation—in the 17-acre expansion zone is illegal, dealing a blow to the University’s long-term plans. It was an unexpected victory for Tuck-It-Away Self-Storage owner Nick Sprayregen and gas station owners Gurnam Singh and Parminder Kaur, the last private landowners in the expansion area who have not struck deals with the University.

The Empire State Development Corporation—the state body that approved eminent domain for the project in December 2008—appealed the decision in January to the New York State Court of Appeals, which will hear the case on June 1.

In the interim between the December ruling and the June appeal, the plaintiffs and respondents have been exchanging legal briefs. These briefs have honed in on, among other things, previous eminent domain cases whose legal precedents could be a bellwether for the upcoming case. Of particular interest is the November 2009 Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation case, in which the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards commercial development in Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 9:47 AM

Does belatedly-released Development Agreement change nothing? So claims FCR; Justice Friedman faces motions to reopen case regarding AY timeline

Atlantic Yards Report

"The Development Agreement changes nothing."

So declares Forest City Ratner in a blistering and brazen defense of the ambiguous document, kept under wraps until late January, that sets an outside date to complete Atlantic Yards in 25 years but also seems to obligate the developer to build the project, as promised, in a decade.

(The obligation involves penalties, by my calculation, that are only about $5.5 million for a 15-year delay, on top of $5 million for each of three Phase 1 towers if they're late and $10 million for a late arena.)

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is a bit more circumspect, stating the agreement's "terms are consistent with the information that was in the administrative record reviewed by this Court." The ESDC blames "petitioners' coordinated scorched-earth litigation strategy of filing multiple motions against the Atlantic Yards Project."

FCR and the ESDC point to clauses in the Development Agreement that point to daily fines for delays of $1000 or $10,000--more likely the former, as noted below--and say those are not trumped by larger penalties for delays in three towers.

Pending legal battle and judicial skepticism

The statements come in legal papers filed before State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, asked to revisit her March 10 ruling that the ESDC's ten-year timeframe for Atlantic Yards was reasonable, thus not requiring a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to reflect the burden of a 25-year project on communities or an annulment of the 2009 M0dified General Project Plan (MGPP).

Friedman already has reason to be skeptical of the developer and the ESDC, given that she previously wrote that the latter's rationale was "marginally sufficient to survive judicial scrutiny" and that its consideration last year of plan modifications "lacked the candor that the public was entitled to expect."

And she didn't consider the Development Agreement, signed in December 2009, three months after the project was approved, but released publicly only in January, a week after oral argument in this case.


Posted by eric at 9:18 AM

May 9, 2010

A Tower Grows at Flatbush and Myrtle

The Wall Street Journal
by Anton Troianovski

A high-rise called Toren hovers over Brooklyn's jumbled cityscape like a sci-fi robot elevated on a platform of dimpled, zigzagging metal panels.

"It's like something from outer space," says Deborah Johnson, who walks past the new apartment tower on the intersection of Flatbush and Myrtle a few blocks from the Manhattan Bridge on her trip home from work.

Up the street is Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. "Over time it's going to mature and it'll be a different kind of place," Mr. Duffy says of the stretch of Flatbush occupied by Toren.

But some are nervous. Standing at Toren's base, Manhattan attorney A. Mason says, looking upward, "The reason I chose to live in Brooklyn is because it does not look like that."


NoLandGrab: Of course, Toren doesn't look like that, either. In one of the classic marketing-brochure fantasy shots of all-time, BFC Partners issued a rendering showing the building surrounded by green lawns, rather than in its true locale, shoehorned among other high-rises smack up against chaotic Flatbush Avenue.

Posted by eric at 10:10 PM

Messages from Freddy's after departure: "We are not blighted" and "No excuse for eminent domain abuse"

Atlantic Yards Report

When the operators of Freddy's Bar & Backroom vacated this premises this past week after closing, they left a few messages in the front window.


Posted by steve at 9:05 AM

Deputy Mayor hedging bets on whether AY arena will open in 2012; if so, haste to clear arena block more connected to Prokhorov deal than arena opening

Atlantic Yards Report

Will the Atlantic Yards arena open in October 2012, Forest City Ratner's goal, as stated in an affidavit by executive MaryAnne Gilmartin?

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that Robert Lieber, deputy mayor for economic development, told the Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable luncheon May 4 at the Brooklyn Historical Society, "You will see the first game played at the new arena at the end of 2012 or no later than 2013."

Well, maybe he was speaking casually, but October is not exactly the end of 2012.

And "no later than 2013" could mean February, midway through the basketball season, or it could mean the 2013-14 season, which begins in October.

Why the haste?

If so, it casts doubt on Gilmartin's claim that "it is essential to now vacate the buildings required for phase 1 of the Project, because the critical path to completion of the arena on schedule requires prompt realization of vacant possession of those properties."

Rather, it buttresses the argument made by condemnee (and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn co-founder/former longtime spokesman) Daniel Goldstein that the developer's haste to achieve vacant possession of the arena block--backed by the Empire State Development Corporation--was connected more to the desire to consummate the transaction involving the team/arena to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov before the NBA draft.


NoLandGrab: It looks like certified aerobics instructor Gilmartin is bending over backwards to accommodate Prokhorov.

Posted by steve at 8:47 AM

The Week in Crime: Dodge City

The Local (NY Times Blog) By Chris Prentice

The "Dodge" in the headline refers to a brand of automobile, but the dodge we're thinking of is the one where the Empire State Development Corporation, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, claims Atlantic Yards will alleviate blight including crime in the area of the development when Ratner's nearby malls are the crime magnets responsible for the problem.

April 27: A woman’s purse was stolen around 9:15 p.m. while she was dining at Chuck E. Cheese on Flatbush Avenue. She lost personal papers, money and an iPhone, with a total worth of more than $700.

April 30: Some $8,000 worth of jewelry was stolen from Sterling Gallery on Atlantic Avenue around 4 p.m. The unknown thief snatched a display case from the store and fled.

May 1: A woman shopping at Target at 6:10 p.m. said her purse was taken from her shopping cart when she bent down to look at some nail polish.


Posted by steve at 7:19 AM

Let the bulldozers roll

Glen Ellyn & Wheaton Real Estate
by Cindy Voss

Here, when you scroll down the page, in 5 sentences, is the entire Atlantic Yards saga -- as seen through narrow focus of an out-of-town real estate agent.

You know those stories you hear periodically about the homeowner who becomes the last holdout against the mega-developer who’s buying out an entire neighborhood?

Daniel Goldstein bought his condo in Brooklyn for $590,000 in 2003, and didn’t budge when offered a buyout by the developers of the enormous Atlantic Yards project in 2004 — though his 29 neighbors in the building took an offer of about $850 per square foot, according to the New York Post. That would have been about $1 million for Goldstein. But, no, thanks.

Recently, however, he accepted an offer of $3 million.

NoLandGrab: You know the story where a community resists a corrupt land grab? It looks like the author of this blog entry doesn't.


Posted by steve at 7:00 AM

May 8, 2010

Vetting the Nets’ Suitor Is No Easy Task

The New York Times
By Richard Sandomir

The New York Times looks to see how well Mikhail Prokhorov, expected to become the new owner of the New Jersey Nets, might have been vetted by the NBA. What's discovered is that news reporting can be a lot of work.

Leagues generally do not say much about the details of vetting prospective owners. It is a sensitive personnel process most often involving very wealthy people. But Prokhorov is a special case.

First, a foreign owner of a major league United States team is a rarity (the only other one is the Nintendo money that went into acquiring the Seattle Mariners). Second, no American league has vetted anyone like Prokhorov, who has benefited mightily from Russia’s frenetic transformation to capitalism.

Last month, The New York Post reported that Prokhorov was doing business in violation of American and European economic sanctions against Zimbabwe and its dictator, Robert Mugabe.

The league and Prokhorov said he was not violating any sanctions. But the report was seized on by Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., a New Jersey Democrat, who demanded that the Treasury Department, which administers the sanctions first imposed by President Bush in 2003, investigate Prokhorov. Pascrell, who has parochial interests in opposing the team’s move from New Jersey, said the real issue was who the N.B.A. did business with.


Mike Bass, a league spokesman, said, “We have no further comment on the congressman’s factually unsupported allegations."

Pascrell’s larger concern is whether the vetting of Prokhorov was thorough enough.

Last fall, Stern said the investigation into Prokhorov would be “very extensive, stringent, some would say, invasive.” On Friday, Bass said that generally, “it is fair to say that we do not routinely investigate the business operations of every company in which a prospective owner has invested.”

It makes you wonder what the league did not investigate about Prokhorov.

NoLandGrab: I thought that understanding the NBA's investigation was why we read this Times article.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, In shallow look at charges against Prokhorov, the Times can't verify claims that his company is active in Zimbabwe

The New York Times, which pursued "the journalism of verification" when in came to the murky saga of Megan and Jeff, authors of a publicity-seeking (seeming) stunt in Madison Square Park, today throws up its investigatory hands when it comes to expected Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

The article, headlined Vetting the Nets’ Suitor Is No Easy Task, is written by New York-based sports business reporter Richard Sandomir, with no cited help from Times staffers in Russia or in Africa, despite the expertise and assistance they might provide.

While the article leaves lingering questions about both Prokhorov and the NBA's vetting process, it also fails to evaluate some information that would raise even further questions about the alleged Prokhorov connection to sanctions-busting in Zimbabwe.


Sandomir notes that vetting a foreign owner is rare, and Prokhorov is the first "who has benefited mightily from Russia’s frenetic transformation to capitalism."

The Times does not ask the Treasury Department whether it has followed up on Pascrell's call for an investigation of sanctions-busting.

Sandomir concludes:

Last fall, Stern said the investigation into Prokhorov would be “very extensive, stringent, some would say, invasive.” On Friday, [league spokesman Mike] Bass said that generally, “it is fair to say that we do not routinely investigate the business operations of every company in which a prospective owner has invested.”

It makes you wonder what the league did not investigate about Prokhorov.

Rather than end with a reporter-as-columnist's lingering question, why can't the Times do some investigation of its own? It worked with Megan and Jeff.

Posted by steve at 8:15 AM

'Real' last holdouts to Nets’ Brooklyn arena project move out

New York Post

This is somewhat strange coverage of the Ahmed family moving from their Dean Street home.

As the Post first reported Tuesday, the Ahmeds nearly threw the $4.9 billion project for a loop after they emerged from their residence at 481 Dean Street days earlier and demanded more money to leave before the block could be razed.

Here is a claim that the ESDC, tool of developer Bruce Ratner, somehow didn't know the Ahmeds were still in residence.

Neither developer Forest City Ratner, nor the state – which had previously seized other private land for the controversial plan to build the Nets’ arena and 16 residential/commercial space towers – had been aware anyone was still living there.

The article ends with an odd statement about the Atlantic Yards project:

The timetable for the rest of Atlantic Yards, however, remains unclear because of the national credit crunch.

NoLandGrab: The timetable really isn't that unclear. The development agreement allows for a 20-year buildout. Maybe the credit crunch makes things uncertain, but so does the lack of need for any new condos or office space anytime soon.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Post: "Real last holdouts" move out; "sources" leak details on settlement; details, explanation still murky

Norman Oder finds the Post coverage puzzling.

The New York Post's Rich Calder quotes "sources close to the project" that the Ahmed family of 481 Dean Street (described as "worn-out" but looking pretty sturdy) finally left yesterday:

And complicating matters was a document that recently surfaced showing Aisha [Ahmed] became the true property owner through a divorce settlement, sources said. Because of that, she is expected to receive a sweet settlement worth "several million dollars" for vacating by today, instead of holding up the long-delayed project through eviction proceedings, a source said.

The family is also expected to get more than $250,000 in relocation costs. The developer has provided tenants within the 22-acre project footprint $85,000 per family to relocate, but Aisha was able to squeeze out three times that by demanding her two children also be considered leaseholders, sources said.

Given that no source is identified, all the details should be taken with a grain of salt. The $85,000 payment, for example, was for renters, so if Aisha Ahmed's the owner she wouldn't get it.


Calder writes:

Neither developer Forest City Ratner, nor the state – which had previously seized other private land for the controversial plan to build the Nets’ arena and 16 residential/commercial space towers – had been aware anyone was still living there.

In fact, state officials and the developer were under the impression that Aisha’s ex-husband, Naseer Ahmed, who is listed in city records as the building’s owner, agreed to sell so the project could proceed. But that never happened.

Again, this is confusing. It wasn't hard to notice the Ahmed family on Dean Street when attending, for example, a rally outside Freddy's Bar & Backroom nearby.

And it wasn't that the state "seized other private land," the Ahmed home at 481 Dean Street was part of the condemnation petition.

There's more to the story.

Posted by steve at 7:43 AM

From Tracy Collins: time-lapse photos, day and night, from 636 Pacific Street looking northwest at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues

Atlantic Yards Report

Photographer Tracy Collins visited Daniel Goldstein's building at 636 Pacific Street during both the day (May 4) and evening (May 6, the last night Goldstein and family were residents--to take two series of time-lapse photos.

As the photos show, the closing and demapping of Fifth Avenue, to the west of Goldstein's building, has made it much easier for Forest City Ratner to proceed with utility work and other site preparation on the arena block.

Also, as the photos show, the northwest end of the Atlantic Yards site truly is a borderland, with broad Atlantic Avenue to the north, a tower over the Atlantic Terminal mall, and the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower (aka One Hanson) just to the west.

What's not shown is the southern border of Goldstein's building and the southern border of the site, lined by much narrower Dean Street and the row-house scale of Prospect Heights (as shown in the video I took).


Posted by steve at 5:08 AM

May 7, 2010

MSG Reno to Exile Liberty... to Newark?

Runnin' Scared
by Neil deMause

We'd have chosen death over Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena, but it sounds like we might get (the) Liberty instead. Maybe.

And with MSG renovations slated to last through 2013, there's even the possibility of a one-season stay in Brooklyn, given that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards is still — officially, at least supposed to be complete by late 2012. Liberty officials didn't immediately return calls seeking more info on the team's plans.

And for those wondering, the Garden renovations — now officially pegged at a mind-numbing $775 million to $850 million — will be footed entirely by MSG, which is currently in the process of being spun off by Cablevision as its own corporate entity. Yes, MSG will still be getting its $11million-a-year property-tax break — at least until the city council decides that it's time to finally do away with the yearly subsidy that Ed Koch established in the 1980s and neglected to ever set an end date for. But at least the renovations won't be backed by new public dollars — unlike some other arenas we could mention, not to mention the now-dead plan for moving MSG across the street. Maybe if we're extra lucky, they'll even make the blue seats blue again.


Posted by eric at 2:28 PM

From Sixth Avenue to Dean Street and Pacific Street, a route no longer; Goldstein's exit interview with the Daily News; more debate on the settlement

Atlantic Yards Report

On Monday night, I filmed my walk from the north part of Park Slope, where I live, up to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn co-founder Daniel Goldstein's apartment in the Atlantic Yard footprint.

Flatbush Avenue is obviously a significant barrier between Park Slope and Prospect Heights, and the mostly residential character of Sixth Avenue changes to significantly commercial. The scale of the block, albeit with fewer trees, remains fairly consistent, although the handsome four-story 78th Precinct headquarters at Bergen Street does stand out.

There are row houses along the west side of Sixth up to Dean Street. Cross Dean into the footprint and there's Freddy's, being dismantled, and other buildings empty or emptying.

The walk goes onto private Pacific Street, divided by a jersey barrier and blue fence, leaving Goldstein isolated, and into his building, which boasted a new doorman of sorts, a guy in the entrance passageway keeping tabs.

The exit interview

I interviewed Goldstein for background to be used at a later date. Meanwhile, the New York Daily News, eschewing the ambush style of the New York Post, asked Goldstein for an interview and he agreed to help them fill their space.

Here's the close:

"We were living basically under uncertainty every day," he said. "The ups and downs are a drain ... and it causes tension in a family and stress in a family."

The uncertainty ended March 1, when the state took ownership of his home through eminent domain. Facing eviction, he accepted the $3 million settlement to leave by today.

Though his building will soon be demolished and the Atlantic Yards project will go forward, he said it was all worth it.

"I looked for years for a place to live and I ended up in this one. ... I don't necessarily believe in fate, but this was a calling for me," he said. "We don't regret any of it."


Posted by eric at 9:28 AM

Daniel Goldstein, $3 million Atlantic Yards holdout, packs his bags

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

It's moving day for Daniel Goldstein.

He'll leave his Pacific St. home for the last time today after fighting a losing battle to save his apartment, which sits at what will be center court in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena.

"I feel proud about this fight," said Goldstein, who was inspired to fight the mega-project by his mother's death.

"But as far as the moment, I'm walking out the door and we can't come back in here again. I have to turn over keys, and leave a street I know we can never walk down again. I know I will feel sad about that."

Goldstein, 40, whose $3 million settlement two weeks ago drew both praise and criticism, spoke to the Daily News from his seventh-floor apartment in a living room piled high with moving boxes.

For nearly five years, he and his family have been the only residents living in the nine-story former warehouse.

He and his wife, Shabnam Merchant, 43, who he met as a fellow anti-Yards activist, and their baby daughter, Sita, will move to a rental a few blocks away while they search for a permanent place - and try to steer clear of Ratner's mega-project.

"We sometimes feel we never want to walk past this street," said Merchant.

Goldstein said 18-month-old Sita learned to sleep peacefully through the "building-shaking" 4 a.m. jackhammering that often kept him and his wife up at night.

"She's happily oblivious to pretty much anything," he said, adding there is at least one thing he wants to make sure Sita knows about.

"I have had some people say they'll make sure she knows what her parents did," he said. "I would hope ... she would be pleased to know that we did this."


Posted by eric at 9:21 AM

Atlantic Yards-- Roll Out the Dough, Land Grab to Go

Deep QT
by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

I love the smell of eminent domain abuse in the morning. It smells like land grabs and taxpayers being soaked. A truly fragrant blast of the stuff is wafting up from Brooklyn, where developer Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) have cleared the last man standing in the footprint of the behemoth Atlantic Yards project. Eminent domain was used to acquire much of that footprint. Until becoming a footprint, the area was a neighborhood in Prospect Heights. Atlantic Yards, which is being heavily backed by New York taxpayers, will include an arena (Barclays Center) to showcase the sad sack New Jersey Nets. Though the sacks currently belong to a group headed by Bruce Ratner (of Forest City You Know Who) a murky Russian plutocrat is in the process of becoming majority owner. The cash infusion to Atlantic Yards is sorely needed by Ratner.

Despite all this, Ms. Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff seems to think that Daniel Goldstein should have been dragged from his building in handcuffs, with less money than he paid for his home.

I definitely agreed with the need to oppose the ESDC/Ratner use of eminent domain. Still do. What I have a hard time getting behind is Dan Goldstein's three million dollar deal. And after all my partisan writing, forwarding, and expanding, I feel some final words are warranted.

Dan has lots of reasons for taking the 3 mil. To paraphrase a few: He was going to be evicted anyway, it was sensible to get what he could. What would he achieve by being a martyr? At one point he was outrageously low-balled for his property, so squeezing ESDC and Ratner for a high-ball was justified. Though he agreed to resign as DDDB spokesperson, he didn't surrender his right to speak against Atlantic Yards. And so on and so forth. Dan's loyal supporters are also doing some splainin'. Saying Dan was only doing the responsible thing for his family. And the 3 mil is less than it seems, given the tax bite, the legal bills for the non-DDDB attorney who represented Dan in the settlement negotiations, and how expensive it will be for Dan to get another place in NYC. (Personally, I think the last excuse should be dropped. It's bound to grate with all the folks who somehow manage to find something for under a mil.)

I Want To Believe. But the words three million dollars three million dollars three million dollars keep beating in my brain. No matter how I twist it, the amount seems a little-- dare I say it?-- greedy. Which wouldn't be a big thing (we're all human) if the greed of Forest City Ratner and ESDC hadn't been such a DDDB theme-- and if Dan Goldstein weren't working so hard to paint himself as totally free of impure motives. As said, a lot of Dan's supporters are helping him paint. The pro-Ratner crowd is making with the jeers. (Bertha Lewis of ACORN did a bile dump almost immediately.) But anger and disappointment is also being expressed by people who are against Atlantic Yards and expected Dan Goldstein to be unflaggingly noble.


NoLandGrab: Luckily for critics of Daniel Goldstein's settlement that none of them have ever had to walk a mile in his shoes. And for the record, we know of no one involved on the front lines of the Atlantic Yards opposition — and we count ourselves among them — who believes that Daniel Goldstein owes anything to anyone.

Posted by eric at 9:08 AM

Columbia's Day of Reckoning?

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance

Everybody's favorite hired gun, Richard Lipsky (eminent domain at Columbia and Willets Point, where he's on the payroll of property owners = bad, eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, where he was on the payroll of developer Bruce Ratner = good), opines on the coming NY Court of Appeals case.

If the higher court allows the lower court ruling to stand, it will send a chill down the spine of the EDC condemners-and that's especially true if any upholding decision looks at the blight issue with care. The role of the city's neglect in the blighting of Willets Point could well lead to the trashing of any ED effort on the Iron Triangle. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

In our view, an adverse Appeals Court decision against NY State would be the icing on the cake.


Posted by eric at 8:57 AM

May 6, 2010

In coverage of Goldstein move, the New York Post lies and Forest City Ratner (apparently) displays its vindictiveness

Atlantic Yards Report

Evidence suggests that Forest City Ratner is still trying to be vindictive to Daniel Goldstein, and the tabloid press is a happy partner. The New York Post's Rich Calder, diminishing his integrity, wrote, in a blog post yesterday headlined It's game over for Nets Arena holdout Goldstein:

Here’s Brooklyn’s new $3 million man packing up his belongings and fleeing his longtime hood to pave way for Nets basketball.

Two lies, one sentence. He's not close to being a "$3 million man," given the cost of legal fees, taxes, and a replacement apartment. (Forest City Ratner's gained far more value from the override of zoning.)

And Goldstein, who's moving a short distance away, could hardly be said to be fleeing, after living alone in his building with his family for more than five years.

Who let the photographer in?

Well, it is a private street, so why was photographer Benny J. Stumbo allowed? Did FCR tell the guard to let the photographer in? Does the Post really think that a picture of someone's baby is fair game?

Goldstein's response

I asked Goldstein for comment and he responded:

"The photographer was shooting right out on my street and shooting me. I do not know how he knew I was moving at that precise moment, but I have my guesses. When I told him to leave me alone and he wouldn't, we had a heated exchange (one in which I explained to him the street was private and residents and their visitors were only allowed, and he did not want to believe me despite a big sign saying so at the entrance to the street), ending with him telling me 'Put down your baby, take off your glasses and I will beat your ass.' It was an idle threat, but out of proportion to anything I did. I certainly did not threaten him in any way.

Some perspective

Why was this more important news than any analysis of, say, the Development Agreement that sets 25 years as a deadline to finish the project?

Because the Post, like so many in the media, doesn't think its job is to hold public agencies accountable. Its job is to grab a few eyeballs, at whatever the cost to its reputation.


Posted by eric at 1:12 PM

It's game over for Nets Arena holdout Goldstein

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

A Post photog ambushed Daniel Goldstein and his daughter yesterday, on their allegedly "residents only" private street.

Daniel Goldstein, the longtime Atlantic Yards project holdout who last month accepted a $3 million settlement from developer Bruce Ratner that allows an NBA arena to be built, freaked out today outside his now-former Prospect Heights home after the Post photographed him watching movers pack his belongings into two large vans.

Goldstein, while holding his young daughter Sita in a baby carrier, got so furious that he yelled, "It’s a private street! Get off, or I’ll call the cops," said photographer Benny Stumbo. However, Stumbo said he had already gotten permission to shoot in front of the soon-to-be demolished condo complex at 636 Pacific Street from a security guard watching the fenced-up block for Ratner.

Alleged "security" guard.

Meanwhile, Ratner may have a new main nemisis.

As the Post web site first reported yesterday, real estate mogul Peter Williams says he owns air rights above part of the site of the planned Nets arena and that the project can’t be completed until the issue is settled.

He filed a suit accusing the state of failing to address his air rights when condemning property for the project, but says he’s ready to sell to Ratner or anyone for the right price.

Williams told the Post he was contacted by project opponents who are in the process of raising money to buy the air rights before Ratner can. He declined to give his asking price but said he’d "prefer" to sell to the opponents because he considers Ratner a "bully."

The opponents, he said, could then take over the court challege. If the court sides with Williams or the opponents, it could take up to two years for the state to be able to condemn the air rights and clear the way for the project -- time that Ratner doesn’t have.


Posted by eric at 12:54 PM


The Brooklyn Ink
by Todd Stone

While the headline is all wrong — "Atlantic Yards" is still just a trade name, as well as a euphemism for "worst land-grabbing, subsidy-bloated, mega-development boondoggle ever" — this article captures the essence of footprint moving day.

At the intersection of Dean Street and 6th Avenue yesterday, a U-Haul truck was parked outside of what used to be Freddy’s, a legendary Prospect Heights bar that served its last round of drinks over the weekend, after more than 70 years in business.

Freddy’s is among the last of the tenants of Atlantic Yards to pack up and leave – to make way for the much-protested construction of a basketball stadium for the New Jersey Nets, made possible by state laws of eminent domain.

It was moving day yesterday, and with an air of acceptance, mixed with nostalgia, a group of about six – mostly former employees of the bar – removed large pieces of furniture from inside. One former employee named Michael walked out of the bar and into the heavy midday heat with a large monkey on his back made of wood.

“We’ve got to keep that,” one of the guys said to Michael as he passed.

Michael used to live just three doors down from Freddy’s on Dean Street, in a brownstone building also condemned for the Atlantic Yards project. He moved out in February, but his next-door neighbors, at 481 Dean Street, stayed on until they were discovered still living there on Monday, as reported by the the NY Post.

“I’ve seen them going in and out [of the their home] all along,” he said, as if to convey that it was no secret to him that they were still living there. The fact that they were still there certainly didn’t seem to bother him; if anything, he seemed impressed.

While talking outside, a security man told [Forest City Ratner Community Liaison Bill] Murphy that there are people on the roof, gesturing to the building where Goldstein still lives. Realizing it was Goldstein’s building, Murphy said, “Don’t worry. It’s probably just Daniel Goldstein and his friends documenting the place.”


NoLandGrab: All the commotion must've distracted the security man, allowing the NY Post to sneak in and ambush Goldstein on Forest City Ratner's allegedly private street.

Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

For Columbia Expansion Appeal, State Looks to Atlantic Yards

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

Columbia University's proposed 17-acre expansion is set for a test June 1, when the state's top court is scheduled to hear arguments on the use of eminent domain, a power that was ruled unconstitutional by a state appellate court in December in a humiliating blow for the Ivy League school and the state. (The scathing court decision labeled the state's argument that the area was blighted as "mere sophistry.")

Seeking to reverse the decision, the state's lawyers are arguing that the appellate court was far off-base, and ignored precedent set by the top court in November for the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, the $4.9 billion housing and basketball arena project in Brooklyn.

Both sides--the state's development agency (funded by Columbia for this case), and landowners Nick Sprayregen and Gurnam Singh--have now submitted their briefs, and here's a look.


Posted by eric at 12:37 PM

Atlantic Yards Project: Another Brooklyn Holdout Emerges

Housing Watch
by Lisa Selin Davis

Out of the rubble -- literally -- of the Atlantic Yards construction zone, another family has emerged. A woman named Aisha Ahmed, whose ex-husband bought 481 Dean St. in 1988, is asking for $170,000 more than she has been offered -- or $85,000 for each child -- to vacate her property. We don't know what the previous offer was, nor do we know if the property has been officially sold, since no records have been found.

We do know that the state, the developers, and probably even the members of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the organization that Goldstein led (until he retired as spokesperson after receiving his settlement) were unaware of the Ahmed family's presence. They are described as "elusive" and perhaps the building is in bad enough shape that it fits the definition of blight that Forest City Ratner, AY's developer, fought so hard to establish.


NoLandGrab: The "elusive" Ahmed family ingeniously concealed themselves by being the only people on the block with a light on, which can be seen in this photo (second building to the left of Freddy's), taken last Friday night by Tracy Collins.

And as the photo (also by Collins, click to enlarge) to the right shows, 481 Dean Street, the second building from the left, is hardly in "bad enough shape" to fit any objective definition of blight (that is, one not dreamed up by the Empire State Developmenter Corporation and Forest City Ratner), which Housing News would have known had they bothered to go round and look, or had they even just Googled "481 Dean Street," like we did.

Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

Starchitect on trial for creating monstrous ‘toaster on steroids’ Safdie delivers ‘shrewd, intelligent’ examination of the WOW! factor

The Villager
by Jerry Tallmer

The Villager reviews Oren Safdie's play, "The Bilbao Effect."

What Oren Safdie has here given us is a shrewd, clear-eyed up-to-the-minute exegesis on the hubris of a profession more sacrosanct in some ways than the medical; and more vulnerable — as when what seemed like all of Brooklyn rose up against the Atlantic Yards. Not to mention the ongoing nine-year fiasco of what was supposed to rise like the Phoenix from Ground Zero.

The Bilbao Effect in reverse, so to speak.


Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

ESDC, Have you No Shame (Or Fear) For the Irony of it All? Asking for a Court Comparison of Atlantic Yards to Battery Park City?

Noticing New York

With apparently no compunction or sense of the appalling irony of it all, ESDC has gone into court swearing that they have given the time and thought necessary to compare the inexcusable Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards project they endorse with that exemplar of large-scale development projects, Battery Park City.

For years we have been holding Battery Park City side-by-side with Atlantic Yards in order to stress by comparison what a bad large-scale project Atlantic Yards is. Even as recently as a few weeks ago we invoked the Battery Park City model when speaking with Senator Charles E. Schumer to make explicit why his continuing support for Atlantic Yards is misguided and sanctions unprecedented favoritism for a single developer mega-monopoly.

Atlantic Yards Report carried the story Monday that ESDC was attempting to invoke the inestimable good grace in which Battery Park City is held to counter the dismay provoked by Atlantic Yards documents that provide for the potential (some would say extreme likelihood ) that Atlantic Yards will involve “25 years of construction in Prospect Heights rather than the announced and promised ten years.” ESDC pointed to Battery Park City to argue that this wouldn’t be so bad and that presumably the promised 10 years should be considered no different from current 25 years provided for. Atlantic Yards Report’s Norman Oder pointed out that this embarrassingly little feint was despite the fact that there were some “key contrasts” between the projects.


Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

Another look at the Peter Williams case: did easement come with building and could it be sold to opponents?

Atlantic Yards Report

WNYC reports on the case brought by Peter Williams Enterprises (PWE):

He says the state took his property by eminent domain but forgot about air rights he acquired above an adjacent building nine years ago.
...Forest City Ratner says Williams never owned the air rights but instead a light and view easement that he forfeited when he gave up his building.

The lawsuit says that PWE was conveyed "certain property above the plane" of 24 Sixth Avenue, including, as noted in the underlying document, "the right and interest of light and air."

So that's property, but it isn't "air rights" in the sense of the right to build.

Does easement go with building?

It's plausible that a property owner would lose the benefit of an easement when that property is sold; as described in FindLaw, some easements typically remain with the property while others do not.

With the former, the "easement essentially becomes part of the legal description." However, as Williams's lawsuit states, the easement was never described in eminent domain proceeding.

And another twist

The New York Post reports:

Williams told the Post he was contacted by project opponents who are in the process of raising money to buy the air rights before Ratner can. He declined to give his asking price but said he’d "prefer" to sell to the opponents because he considers Ratner a "bully."


Related coverage...

WNYC Radio, Atlantic Yards Project Hit With Another Legal Challenge

A former Prospect Heights property owner says he still owns air rights over a small parcel where the Atlantic Yards arena is being built.

AP, Air-rights lawsuit seeks to derail Nets arena

Another lawsuit has been filed aimed at halting the Brooklyn development that includes a new arena for basketball's Nets.

Gothamist, Atlantic Yards Faces "Air Rights" Hurdle

Bruce Ratner must have exhaled a sigh of relief when outspoken nemesis Daniel Goldstein finally agreed to vacate the last apartment in the footprint of his multi-billion dollar Atlantic Yards site last month, giving way for the humongous project to begin construction. But just because no one is physically in his way anymore doesn't mean Ratner doesn't have to contend with more ethereal concerns!

Can't Stop The Bleeding, Final Atlantic Yard Holdout To Ratner : You Paid For The Ground, Now Cough Up For The Air

While Bruce Ratner was finally successfully in paying Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s Daniel Goldstein to leave his Brooklyn home, another local resident is presenting a separate challenge to plans to build a new Nets arena.

Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

The Times's Dining section discovers new restaurants thriving less than a block from blight

Atlantic Yards Report

From a New York Times "$25 and Under" restaurant review yesterday, headlined The Vanderbilt and Kaz an Nou:

The service was slick, the room was handsome and the food reliably good at the Vanderbilt, a well-groomed gastropub that opened last fall in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. But something was missing.

It was not half as pleasurable as Kaz an Nou, a new French-Caribbean place two blocks away with half its size and sophistication.

Looking at the map

Those living nearby or checking the map know that the two blocks between Kaz an Nou (on Sixth Avenue between Bergen and Dean, closer to Dean) and The Vanderbilt (on Vanderbilt Avenue between Bergen and Dean, closer to Bergen) are long east-west blocks.

By contrast, each restaurant is less than a single short north-south block from the corner of Dean Street, which happens to be the southern border of the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Why does this matter? Because the Empire State Development Corporation, in its Blight Study, declared at the outset:

This report presents an evaluation of conditions in the area proposed for the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project which themselves are evidence of blight or which may retard the sound growth and development of surrounding areas.

(Emphasis added)


Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

May 5, 2010

Atlantic Yards holdout Peter Williams claims developer Bruce Ratner doesn't own air rights

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Just when developer Bruce Ratner thought he'd grabbed all the land he needed for his Atlantic Yards project, a property owner is staking one last claim - to the air above the site.

Peter Williams insists he still owns the air rights over a Sixth Ave. lot - and says the state forgot to condemn it when they used eminent domain to seize the rest of the site.

He sued the state Tuesday, charging the Empire State Development Corp. is trying to "steal" his property and "intends to proceed as if it owns property it plainly does not.

"They screwed up," Williams said.

The state took possession of the Sixth Ave. building where Williams' grown children lived on March 1 - but never filed to condemn the air rights he owns over the former condo building next door.

"I have something of value that they're not paying me for," he said. "They're trying to run me over with a steamroller."

Williams came to own the air rights over the building next door in 2001, in return for letting the owner route an emergency exit through his property.

But other property owners at the project site can't follow Williams into court looking for a payday: Their air rights were taken by the state along with their land.

Without Williams' air rights, Ratner can't build anything taller than four stories at the site. He also can't claim the "vacant possession" of the project site he needs before turning over ownership of the NBA's New Jersey Nets to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. The Nets are slated to move into the Barclays Center arena in 2012.


Related coverage...

The Real Deal, AY air rights the latest hurdle for Ratner

A former Prospect Heights property owner is claiming to own the air rights to a part of the site where Bruce Ratner plans to build his new Nets arena and is suing the state for trying to "steal" it.

If the court rules in Williams' favor, a state condemnation of his air rights could take up to two years -- time that could devastate the project.

Curbed, The Last Last Holdouts

Bruce Ratner thought he had cleared out the last Atlantic Yards holdout when he struck a $3 million deal with Daniel Goldstein, but it turns out Goldstein has competition for the "last holdout" title.

NY Post, Air-rights suit hits Nets plan

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

Noticing New York on the Goldstein settlement: the bargain the state enabled Ratner, bad public policy on free speech, and the ongoing battle

Atlantic Yards Report

Michael D.D. White has written a must-read on his Noticing New York blog, arguing that Forest City Ratner received a huge bargain (given the enormous development rights enabled by the state) when it settled with Daniel Goldstein for $3 million, that the developer will seek continuing advantage in the Atlantic Yards fight, that the state inappropriately assited Forest City Ratner in trying to muzzle Goldstein, and that the reporting on the settlement disserved the public.

I mostly agree, with a few amendments. As I wrote 4/30/08, regarding Ratner's purchases of other apartments in Goldstein's building:

While it looks like the developer was being generous, the enormous increase in development rights made it worthwhile--even if he had to pay, which he doesn’t.

In that case, Ratner was directly reimbursed by city taxpayers for the land purchases. In Goldstein's case, there's no more money in that specific kitty--but the developer has since found new ways to gain public concessions, and surely will continue to do so.


Posted by eric at 9:25 AM

May 4, 2010

In last-minute lawsuit, owner of easement in arena block seeks to preclude claim of vacant possession; his goal is money, not to stop arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Peter Williams, who owned an industrial building-turned-home (occupied by his two adult children, and a third person) in the Atlantic Yards arena block, settled weeks ago with Forest City Ratner.

Now he's brought an unusual lawsuit claiming that the state made a "colossal mistake" in not pursuing eminent domain for the easement bordering and above the Spalding Building at Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street. He acquired the easement in 2001 and owned adjacent 38 Sixth Avenue.

This could stop the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner from claiming they have achieved "vacant possession" of the arena block when current occupants leave by Saturday.

The easement prevents anything more than four stories from being built at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street--presumably precluding an arena.

Doh! Stupid easements!

Though the lawsuit raises the spectre of requiring a whole new process under the Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL), Williams, a former plaintiff in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain cases, has not displayed a particular ideological bent. Rather, he's publicly said he's in it for the money.


NoLandGrab: What's a few million when you could be a hero to millions? Don't forget, Ratner had your son thrown in jail — for taking one of Ratner's spycams off your own building!

Posted by eric at 10:55 PM

Bklyn arena opponent sues state for allegedly screwing up condemnation proceedings

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

Hold the shovels. Again.

A real-estate mogul says he owns some "air rights" above the site of the planned Nets arena in Brooklyn — and that the billion-dollar project can’t be completed until he settles the issue with the developer.

Peter Williams — who has already received a money settlement from developer Bruce Ratner for handing over property he owned at the arena site — today filed a scathing lawsuit accusing the state of fowling up the project’s controversial condemnation process and trying to "steal" his air rights.

Or as Bruce Ratner and his lackeys at the ESDC like to call them, "err rights."

It alleges the state colossally blundered by never condemning air rights Williams has owned since 2001 above and around 24 Sixth Avenue in Prospect Heights when it previously condemned other land owned by project holdouts.

If the court sides with Williams, it could take up to two years for the state to be able to "condemn" the air rights and clear the way for the project — time that Ratner doesn’t have.

The project nearly fell apart over earlier legal delays, and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s anticipated purchase of the Nets from Ratner is contingent on all the property being free and clear of any hurdles.

Wlliams said he filed the suit because he believes the state "screwed up" and he considers Ratner "a bully." He declined to say how much of a settlement he’s seeking but is open to one.

"I’m not a martyr like Daniel Goldstein," he said, referring to the leader of the project opposition group who last month ended a six-year holdout on his condo by agreeing to a $3 million settlement.

The suit raises the issue of whether air rights should be considered a separate property lot.


NoLandGrab: While Governor Paterson is threatening to furlough state employees, it sounds like ESDC attorneys will be working overtime.

Queens Crap, "New York State's Colossal Mistake"

This is the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project (in yellow).

The red outline shows a large piece of property that, according to opponents, the state forgot to condemn, which means the entire project is now in really serious jeopardy, if not dead.

And that payment that Bruce Ratner is making to Daniel Goldstein to get him out by Friday is really just a lot of money down the toilet now from Ratner's perspective, because Goldstein really was never the last obstacle. Actually, the last obstacle is the state's own stupidity.

How wonderfully ironic yet completely appropriate is this?

NoLandGrab: It's a actually a tiny lot adjacent to that red parcel (and air space above it), but it might well be large enough to cause Bruce Ratner and the ESDC a monumental (and, might we add, well deserved) headache.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Forgotten Land & People at Atlantic Yards?

Small blunders could be causing some big problems for the Atlantic Yards project.

Two unexpected events have recently arisen inside the footprint of Forest City Ratner’s proposed $4.9 billion development near Downtown Brooklyn, which project shall feature a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets.

Forgotten Parcel Not Codemned?

A piece of property about the size of a standard one-bedroom apartment in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards site was never officially condemned, says attorney Matthew Brinckheroff in an action filed in Kings County Supreme Court on behalf of the property’s owner.

“Last week we wrote them and said, ‘You made a mistake,’” Brinckerhoff told the Eagle Tuesday. “ESDC [the state’s Empire State Development Corporation] said, ‘That’s not a piece of property; we already condemned it, even though we didn’t,’ and basically told us to go jump in a lake. So instead of jumping in a lake, we sued.”

Brinckerhoff pointed out that in the UDC’s 2006 documents, they clearly state that in the “event of any inconsistency between the street addresses and the tax blocks and lots, the block and lot information shall control.”

He said that under state law, UDC must now hold a public hearing to consider condemnation of this lot and issue its results.

Posted by eric at 8:21 PM

Atlantic Yards: Property Owner Files Legal Action Based on New York State’s "Colossal Mistake"

Seeks to Prevent New York State From Claiming Right to Property It Forgot to Condemn for Forest City Ratner’s Basketball Arena

New York State Does Not Own All The Real Estate Interests In the Arena Block Of The Atlantic Yards Project

Peter Williams Enterprises, Inc. Press Release via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

New York, NY— On Tuesday, Peter Williams Enterprises, Inc. (“PWE”), a company owned by Peter Williams, filed an action in New York State Court seeking a declaration of its ownership of a tax lot on the block where Forest City Ratner plans to build an arena for its professional basketball team.

PWE owns the property located at 24 Sixth Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, specifically, the entirety of Block 1127, Lot 7501 (“Lot 7501”). Unlike the other lots located at 24 Sixth Avenue (Lots 1001-1021), which were condemned by the New York State Urban Development Corp (the “UDC”), and recently leased to a Forest City Ratner affiliate, the UDC did not condemn Lot 7501.

Indeed, the UDC did not identify Lot 7501 in either its Notice of Public Hearing, pursuant to Article 2 of the EDPL, dated July 24, 2006 (the “Notice”), or its Determination and Findings, pursuant to EDPL § 204, dated December 8, 2006 (the “Determination”). Both the Notice and the Determination identified the property subject to acquisition by condemnation by block and lot. Both listed Lots 1001-1021as the only lots UDC sought to acquire located at 24 Sixth Avenue. Both expressly provided that the “street addresses are included for ease of reference only,” and that in the “event of any inconsistency between the street addresses and the tax blocks and lots, the block and lot information shall control.” Because Lot 7501 was never identified, it cannot be, and has not been, taken eminent domain.

In the Complaint, PWE’s attorney, Matthew Brinckerhoff of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, explained that: “If defendants want to acquire title to Lot 7501, they must do so through legal means. The UDC must follow the procedures set forth in the EDPL; it must hold a public hearing to consider condemnation of Lot 7501 and thereafter issue the predicate findings and determination. It cannot simply take that which it does not own.”

The Complaint and other documents establishing PWE’s claim can be obtained on request from mbrinckerhoff@ecbalaw.com.


NoLandGrab: Oops?

Posted by eric at 8:06 PM

“$hhh!” A Thieving Developer Wants Daniel Goldstein Quiet About Its Misdeeds, Meaning the Atlantic Yards Fight Ain’t Over

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White examines Forest City Ratner's headlong attempt to muzzle Daniel Goldstein.

After nearly seven years of fighting to stay in his home Mr. Goldstein, already stripped of his home ownership and facing imminent eviction as eminent domain was being wielded against him to build the basketball arena that is proposed to be owned by Forest City Ratner and a Russian close-to-the-Kremlin oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, agreed to the compensation figure he would receive. That compensation turns out to amount to far less than that value of his property’s development rights and therefore far less than the value of what was taken from him, far less than the value of what we think he should have been entitled to. More on this further in.

The thing that was so odd in this process and about which the media yet failed to report is how important it was to Forest City Ratner to attempt to deprive Daniel Goldstein of his right to speak out against the project. Because of the way it was negotiated, with Daniel Goldstein stoutly refusing to give up his free speech rights, we will never know the exact dollar value Forest City Ratner put on his unrelinquished rights. We would have been thrilled if Mr. Goldstein had played the negotiations in a way that teased out that precise figure before he rejected it but had he been so clever he could have run the risk of appearing unprincipled and insincere to the judge.* Nevertheless, the fact that Forest City Ratner pressed hard to deprive him of his rights, enlisting the weight of the state and Judge Gerges in the negotiations to do so, has to be viewed as highly significant and startling.

(* Mr. Goldstein did find himself in a bit of an ironic PR box: It seems the more principled one is, the more altruistically principled people want you to be. Some thought Mr. Goldstein should have taken none of the compensation that was offered late in the game and should have been led out of his apartment in chain gang-style with the rest of his family.)


NoLandGrab: If Daniel Goldstein was in it for the money, then Forest City must've been in it for the stupidity. Claiming losses of $6.7 million per month while unable to take vacant possession, wouldn't it have made sense for them to offer him $6 million or $7 million on March 1st, the day that Justice Abe Gerges handed title over to New York State.

Posted by eric at 7:49 PM

Brodsky gains Assembly Speaker Silver's endorsement in Attorney General race; was quiet about Atlantic Yards a factor?

Atlantic Yards Report

Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, known for pursuit of public authorities reform and criticism of the Yankee Stadium deal (but not the similar Atlantic Yards deal), has won a key endorsement in the hard-fought race for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General.

Today Brodsky announced support from four Manhattan Assembly Members and, notably, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who said, "I'm proud of the way Richard has taken on difficult and controversial matters, and changed the outcomes. We can elect statewide leaders who know how to build coalitions and fix problems. He'll be a great Attorney General."

As I've written, it's widely believed that Brodsky didn't push on Atlantic Yards (despite occasional swipes at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's failure to fulfill its fiduciary duty) so as to not offend Silver.

Also in the race

Those also in the race include state Senator Eric Schneiderman (endorsed by the state’s largest labor union, 1199/SEIU, not to mention Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz), former New York insurance superintendent Eric Dinallo; former U.S. Representative Liz Holtzman; Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice; and attorney Sean Coffey.

The incumbent, Andrew Cuomo, is widely expected to run for governor.


NoLandGrab: How does one choose between candidates endorsed by Shelly Silver and Marty Markowitz? By opting for "none of the above." Meanwhile, Cuomo has already accepted a nice fat contribution from Bruce C. Ratner.

Posted by eric at 7:39 PM

Final Hold-Outs Emerge At Atlantic Yards


This 'blighted' house at 481 Dean Street has emerged at the last minute as the final barrier to the bulldozers at Atlantic Yards. According to The Post, the Ahmed family is still living there and, despite having already accepted the standard $85,000 relocation fee Ratner was offering renters to move, refusing to budge.

It turns out that neither Forest City Ratner for ESDC even knew people were still living in the house.


NoLandGrab: With all the spycams Ratner has trained on the neighborhood, no one noticed their comings and goings? The bloody lights were on Friday night during Freddy's almost-last-night party. And the ESDC can find micro-fissures in the sidewalks in their search for blight, but not an entire living, breathing family?

Related coverage...


After Prospect Heights resident Daniel Goldstein relented and took a $3 million buyout to vacate his condo, Forest City Ratner thought they were in the clear to begin razing properties to make way for their sprawling Atlantic Yards project. But a family has emerged from a property at 481 Dean St. and demanded $170,000 in relocation fees to leave.

Posted by eric at 12:36 PM

KPMG's lies about condo sales? ESDC calls "alleged inaccuracy" trivial and belied by current "robust demand," but ignores the deep discounts

Atlantic Yards Report

So what do the attorneys for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) say when faced with legal papers calling attention to a blatant lie from consultant KPMG regarding condo sales in Brooklyn?

They question the conclusion, call it trivial, and say it's belied by other evidence.

It's quite a strained performance, given that current prices at the Oro development are less than half the prices Forest City Ratner expects for condos coming on line in five years.

Timetable issues

The statement comes in a motion (below) arguing that Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman should not reopen the case in which she dismissed a challenge to the ESDC's 2009 approval of the Modified General Project Plan, though she criticized the ESDC’s “deplorable lack of transparency."

One of the key issues is whether it was reasonable for the ESDC to assume a ten-year timetable for the project and thus evaluate environmental impacts based on that scenario, an issue seemingly belied by the Development Agreement that sets 25 years as an outside date.

The condo market

But another key issue concerns the current condo market in Brooklyn.

The KPMG market study concluded that the market could absorb the projected market-rate units by 2019. In her 3/10/10 decision, Friedman wrote, on p. 9:

KPMG concluded that FCRC's residential absorption rate estimates were supported by current market data for condominiums...

(Emphasis added)

Current market data?

But they weren't supported by current market data, because the market data was a lie.

As I wrote 3/30/10, while KPMG said that as of last August the Oro condo development had sold 75% of its units, a 3/29/10 press release indicated that the development had finally reached the halfway mark. And a New York Times article demolished KPMG's claims regarding sales of Richard Meier's One Prospect Park.


NoLandGrab: The ESDC — liars or morons? You decide!

Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

Raze the stakes

New 'last' holdouts vs. Nets arena

NY Post
by Jeane MacIntosh and Rich Calder

And everyone thought Daniel Goldstein was the last holdout.

Developers of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project were thrown for a loop after a family emerged from a worn-down Brooklyn building last week -- and demanded more money to get out of the way of bulldozers ready to raze the block, several sources close to the project said.

The holdouts, who lease apartments at 481 Dean St. in Prospect Heights, are asking for at least $170,000 more to move out of the footprint of the Nets' new basketball arena.

"They saw that man got all that money last week and thought, why should they leave?" said a relative of Aisha Ahmed, whose ex-husband bought the building in 1988.


Posted by eric at 7:34 AM

May 3, 2010

It's Prokhorov to the Rescue!

Russian Billionaire Who's Buying the NBA's Nets Has Worked Magic Before; a Broken Biathlon Team

The Wall Street Journal
by Reed Albergotti

Russian billionaire oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov helped resurrect the country's woeful biathlon team. Can he turn around the Nets?

At the moment, the Nets are barely better off than the Russian biathlon team 19 months ago. The Nets almost had the worst record in NBA history. They haven't had a winning record since 2006 and has the NBA's worst attendance numbers. The team has been hemorrhaging anywhere from $20 million to $30 million a year, according to the team's current owner, Bruce Ratner, who, after a seven-year fight has both the funding and the necessary approvals in place to build a more profitable arena in Brooklyn.

Mr. Ratner says some of the team's woes on the court were intentional—the Nets unloaded some talent to create salary room for an unusually star-studded free-agent market that includes marquee players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. What the Nets do in free agency will determine, to a great extent, their success in the NBA.

When the NBA was vetting Mr. Prokhorov last fall, a person familiar with the discussions said one big question was whether he could put together a winning team in the NBA while operating under the league's salary controls. When he built CSKA Moscow, he primarily used his fortune to sign better talent than the competition.

Mr. Kushchenko thinks Mr. Prokhorov will be successful in New Jersey, despite his inability to buy any players he wants. "It's a big mistake to think that Mikhail Prokhorov spends unlimited money," said Mr. Kushchenko.

He adds that Mr. Prokhorov's greatest skill is improving everything around the field of play, while letting coaches and general managers figure out what to do with athletes. "Money is a tool to create thoughtful, professional staff," he says. "His style is to invite the best professionals from this or that field, and create a sophisticated, detailed system, use modern technologies and be sure to bring the project to a positive result."

Nets fans, wherever they may be hiding, had better hope so.


Posted by eric at 11:22 PM

Freddy's RIP

Photo, Pexy, via Flickr

Today is a sad day for a lot of people who live close to Flatbush Ave. Fort Greene, Park Slope and further. In fact for a lot of Brooklyn. It is sad because Freddy's is closing. It's closing because greedy, glutinous rich people think they know what's best for this neighborhood & are erecting some god awful monstrosity that is going to turn this Neighborhood in to a Manhattan-esque commercial nightmare.

The Barclay's Arena.

NYDrinker, Freddy’s Bar and Backroom: Closes for good with a bang

Though there were rumors that the negotiations to reopen on 4th Avenue and Union Street have fallen through, everyone was sure Freddy’s would be back somewhere, at some time. For those who frequent its notorious Dean Street location, the night was more of a going away party for a good friend who was leaving for a long trip, as well as providing a bit of closure for a street corner that will never be the same. In the end, an angry sit in didn’t happen and the recently installed chains of justice remain unused. Turns out partying is just more fun, and seems like a more fitting way to say goodbye.

Brownstoner, Closing Bell: Freddy's Last Call

Friday was supposed to be the last night for Freddy's bar, the anti-Atlantic Yards stronghold which had been forced to close via eminent domain. They tacked on an extra night at the last minute, however, and photog Tracy Collins was there to document it in a Flickr photo set.

Gothamist, Freddy's Bar Closes Amid Relocation Rumors

Saturday night was the last night of revelry at the beloved Prospect Heights dive Freddy's Bar & Backroom, which had become an unofficial headquarters for the anti-Atlantic Yards protests.

Brooklyn Vegan, Freddy's Bar & Backroom stayed open one extra night

Freddy's Bar & Backroom, the Prospect Heights bar forced out by the Atlantic Yards project, had its final nights on Friday and Saturday. Friday was supposed to be the last hurrah, but the bar was open for business on Saturday too...

Posted by eric at 11:04 PM

2010 Freddy's Last Night, Really - May 1

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

Freddy's Bar and Backroom
485 Dean Street at 6th Avenue
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

May 1, 2010 was really the last night for Freddy's at its Dean Street location. The entire block will be demolished for the Barclays Center Arena of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards development.


Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

Photos by Tracy Collins from Freddy's last last night

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, I visited the last last night for Freddy's Bar & Backroom from about 8:30 to 10:30 pm.

Photographer Tracy Collins arrived later and captured the scene at the bar, the Backroom, and the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, slated to change significantly.

Here's his set; several examples are below.

The top chants of the night, I'm told:

  • "Fuck the Nets. We Want the Funk"
  • "We all Live at Sixth Avenue and Dean" (to the tune of "Yellow Submarine")


Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

The slow buildout at Battery Park City, according to the ESDC, serves as an acceptable example for Atlantic Yards. Except it doesn't.

Atlantic Yards Report

So what do the attorneys for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) say when faced with legal papers expressing dismay about potential 25 years of construction in Prospect Heights rather than the announced and promised ten years?

They say it would be unimportant, and point to the example of Battery Park City--even though the latter is more than four times as large, with several other key contrasts.

The statement comes in a motion arguing that Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman should not reopen the case in which she dismissed a challenge to the ESDC's 2009 approval of the Modified General Project Plan, though she criticized the ESDC’s “deplorable lack of transparency."

The truth about Battery Park City

Battery Park City is 92 acres, more than four time the 22-acre Atlantic Yards site, so the impact of staged development has been more attenuated.

It was built on a landfill, with no established neighborhood and longstanding street grid.

At Battery Park City, large portions of the 36 acres of open space were built first, while with Atlantic Yards, the buildings would come first.

Battery Park City involves multiple developers and multiple parcels, rather than a single developer controlling one site, choosing to move forward as it sees fit, with light penalties and many excuses for delay.


Posted by eric at 10:05 AM

the spunk lads played a final set at Freddy's on May 1st

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Battle of Brooklyn filmmaker Michael Galinsky shot some video of one of the last songs ever played at Freddy's by Backroom legends The Spunk Lads. Click through for the vid.

This is one of the last songs The Spunk Lads Played. It was riotous.

I have been trying to find a way to write about the last couple of weeks of shooting, but it's difficult because there is so much going on with both the cut and the story.

After nearly 7 years of shooting it isn't so hard to figure out what the story is, but it is hard to let go of so many explosive threads of it. We watched the cut last night and it is definitely getting stronger all the time.


Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

Having a lovely time, wish I was here

Raulism via YouTube

Scenes from the final final night at Freddy's, which might have been more aptly titled, "Having a lovely time, wish I could stay here."

The last night at Freddy's, before NY State takes possession to give it to a couple billionaires.


Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

Precedent uncertain for eminent domain lawsuit

The Court of Appeals will soon re-examine whether the state can, on Columbia’s behalf, seize private property for the “public good” in exchange for market-rate compensation.

Columbia Spectator
by Maggie Astor

Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion plan seemed to be approaching the finish line, but last December, the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division threw a wrench in the plans, deeming the use of eminent domain for the project illegal.

On June 1, the Court of Appeals—the highest court in New York—will re-examine whether the state can, on Columbia’s behalf, seize private property for the “public good” in exchange for market-rate compensation. The fate of eminent domain could determine the fate of the expansion.

Many players hoping to predict the outcome have turned to the November 2009 Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation case, in which the Court of Appeals upheld the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards commercial development in Brooklyn.

To some, the link seems clear: If the Court of Appeals forbade eminent domain in Manhattanville, they argue, it would violate its own precedent. But the plaintiffs here say the legal issues and the projects on the whole are very different.


NoLandGrab: Alternatively, the Court of Appeals could come to their senses, admit they totally f*cked up, and actually protect New York State's citizens from the abuses of government.

Posted by eric at 9:45 AM

May 2, 2010

AY Report: Last Last Night For Freddy's, Observer Editorial

At the last last night for Freddy's on Dean Street, Bruce Ratner says "obey"


Yes, the official final night at Freddy's Bar & Backroom was Friday, but managers knew it would be mobbed, so they scheduled a second, unofficial closing night last night.

In the Backroom, 26 musical acts--a good number sharing a musician or two--played short sets. Many photos and videos were taken (and should surface soon enough). The bar was full, but people could move--at least during the earlier part of the evening when I stopped by.

There was frustration and emotion, but also, of course, cameraderie. For many people, Freddy's has been that "third place," the not-work, not-home space where you meet your friends or simply where you are known.

This image of developers Bruce Ratner was distributed last night on postcard-sized stickers.

Freddy's is not about logos, other than some neon beer signs in the window. The sponsor-heavy successor structure near the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue will be plastered with logos.

Observer editorial declares "Progress in Brooklyn"

Norman Oder takes a look at an Observer editorial and finds it ignores the facts to make its point.

The Observer opines:

The saga of Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn may be about to reach a satisfying denouement. One of the most vocal opponents of developer Bruce Ratner’s plans for the site, Daniel Goldstein, has agreed to accept a $3 million payment for his apartment, despite having promised that he would stand his ground.

Wait a sec--he no longer owned his condo; it was owned by the state. Yes, he might have fought until the end, but that also would've exposed him to the risk of a lowball settlement.

The editorial continues:

There are no more residential holdouts on the 22-acre site, and the project’s opponents have lost one of their key allies in their long and loud opposition to Mr. Ratner’s project. The $4.9 billion plan should now move forward after languishing for far too long.

Actually, there are still several residents on the site, and they don't have to decide whether to be holdouts, because their homes would be subject to condemnation in the second phase of the project.


The editorial continues:

Mr. Ratner already has begun construction of a new basketball arena, the future home of the New Jersey Nets. But his plan to build as many as 6,000 apartments—30 percent of which are designed for moderate-income tenants—has stalled while opponents like Mr. Goldstein have stood in the way, insisting that Mr. Ratner’s plan was too ambitious.

Actually, Goldstein was in the way of the arena, and the sale of the team to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Ratner can't build the affordable housing until there are plans for towers, and subsidies.

The editorial continues:

It surely is ambitious, and not least because Mr. Ratner has set aside so many apartments for people of modest means, at least by New York standards Mr. Ratner has tried to do the right thing, as some tenant advocates have acknowledged. But in some circles in New York, it is a capital crime to speak well of a real estate developer or to suggest that a new project might be good for any given neighborhood.

The "tenant advocates" are led by ACORN, which is contractually required to support the project, was bailed out by Forest City Ratner, and stands to benefit--via successor New York Communities for Change--from managing the subsidized housing.

Unmentioned are the clauses in the Development Agreement that allow for delays in affordable housing.


The editorial closes:

Mr. Ratner has persevered, to his credit. Downtown Brooklyn will be a better place when the Atlantic Yards project is finished. If there is any justice, Mr. Ratner’s critics will concede the point when the time comes.

Well, Atlantic Yards would be in Prospect Heights. As for when it would be finished, in April 2009, then-CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation Marisa Lago said would take "decades."

Posted by steve at 8:02 AM

Fire Ceremony At Freddy's Last Last Night

Although Friday was billed as Freddy's last night at its current location, there were more amazing goings-on Saturday night.

Posted by steve at 7:56 AM

Freddy's RIP


This article includes an extensive slide show of Freddy's from Friday night.

After a long fight over Ratner's Atlantic Yards and "eminent domain," Prospect Heights dive bar Freddy's closed its Dean Street doors for good. Not to go out without a bang, Freddy's threw a last call bash "for the little people" and to rally morale for Freddy's planned relocation (rumors have them bar eyeing Fourth Avenue and Union). Metromix swung by to toast the final call and capture the bacchanalian spirit the bar's been generating for decades.


Posted by steve at 7:52 AM

May 1, 2010

A Toast To Freddy's

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

A Toast To Freddy's

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The last night at Freddy's: photos from outside and inside

I never made it into Freddy's Bar and Backroom for its closing night on Dean Street last. Neither did a lot of people. But Tracy Collins did, and his photos (set) capture a flavor of the evening.

On a balmy spring night, the party spilled outside and the crowd grew. The music could be heard from the sidewalk--the bands exited and entered via the door to the Backroom.

There was a lot of talk but virtually no overt protest. One guy from Park Slope--who told me he'd never previously protested--hung around with a sign saying "Welcome to Rat City."

The row houses next door--one of them still occupied by a family that will leave by May 7--looked pretty sturdy. Further down the block were buildings, long empty, yet to be demolished.

It raised the question not answered in the legal proceedings: why were Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation in such a hurry?

Posted by steve at 9:26 AM

Radio show State of the Re:Union's lame take on Atlantic Yards: "Isn't any job better than none?"

Atlantic Yards Report

Here are the money quotes from the public radio show State of the Re: Union and its Atlantic Yards segment, courtesy of host Al Letson. (The show will run on WNYC this weekend but is available online.)

Letson's not so much a journalist--his bio reads "Renaissance Man: Playwright/Performance Poet/Public Radio Host-Producer"--so analysis is less important than feeling. Indeed, the name Forest City Ratner is never mentioned in the segment, which lasts less than 13 minutes.

Letson said on the Brian Lehrer Show yesterday that he came in against eminent domain but emerged with a more nuanced sense of the controversy. Yes, he's sincere, but his takeaway is shallow:

But those who oppose Atlantic Yards will tell you that the jobs are a pipe dream, that the work created won't be sustainable middle-class building careers, and they may be right, but I wonder if it matters. In these tough times, when families are losing their homes and unemployment is through the roof, isn't any job better than none?

Isn't any job better than none? Well, no, because enormous public subsidies might be used to create more jobs and more housing.


Posted by steve at 8:35 AM

AY Report: PlaNYC Sans Nabes, Bond Rating Agencies Slam

Atlantic Yards Report

PlaNYC after three years: neighborhoods are still missing, according to Angotti

In a Gotham Gazette essay headlined PlaNYC at Three: Time to Include the Neighborhoods, urban planning professor Tom Angotti, director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning & Development and author of "New York For Sale" (MIT Press, 2008), writes about how the city's land use processes generally ignore neighborhoods.

Unmentioned--likely because it represents an even more egregious example of excluding input--is Atlantic Yards, a project on which Angotti has consulted for the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods


Angotti writes:

April 22 -- will mark the third anniversary of PlaNYC2030, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's self-proclaimed "long-term sustainability plan." While the city has taken many steps toward the plan's goal of "a greener greater New York," particularly in energy conservation, one gaping hole remains in the plan.

PlaNYC2030 left out any role for the city's hundreds of neighborhoods, 59 community boards, and the countless civic, community and environmental groups that care about the future of the city. It was a top-down plan, conceived at City Hall with minimal input, and it was never approved as an official plan. In the long term this will only undermine the ability to sustain the plan itself, and both implement and improve it.

A slam at the bond rating agencies

Remember how bond ratings agency Moody's made the questionable assumption that there would be 225 events a year at the Barclays Center? There's no effective oversight regarding rating agencies like Moody's, Standard and Poor's, and Fitch.

In Ratings Agencies Are Overrated, Hugo Dixon (editor of Reuters Breakingviews, the commentary arm of Reuters) and Christopher Swan write in the Times:

Why do markets still pay attention to what rating agencies have to say? After their appalling record predicting the subprime mortgage crisis, it is astonishing and sad that investors still seem to quake when Standard & Poor’s reduces Greece’s rating to junk status and downgrades Spain’s.

A Martian would find it hard to understand why anybody gives any credence at all to S.& P. and its rivals. It’s not just that they were pumping up the subprime market. For example, the agencies gave a AAA rating to Abacus, Goldman Sachs’s synthetic collateralized debt obligation, after smart investors saw trouble in the market.

They point to other miscues and then explain how the ratings agencies remain embedded in the current system. Still, they conclude:

It is high time regulators and investors dethroned them from their privileged status.

Posted by steve at 8:28 AM

It came from the Blogosphere...

Brooklyn the Borough, This Weekend Only! Freddy’s Last Hurrah
By Nicole Brydson

On Thursday night at Freddy's Bar, small magnetic LCD lights ascended rapidly from the hands of patrons, fixing themselves to the historic tin ceiling – a glowing, colorful metaphor for how this 70 year old establishment might soon be moving on.

The reality, however, is that the patrons and the staff are not willing to write the bar's obituary just yet. In fact, some don't even believe that despite the bar's eviction, Bruce Ratner's Nets arena will ever come to fruition. The Times, always ahead of the curve, did their obit today, and surely this weekend's last hurrah will bring a barrage of reporters and gawkers to the Prospect Heights bar, keen to experience the end of something – anything – authentic.

A Jaded Girl's Guide to NYC, paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

If you’ve never been to Freddy’s it’s hard to explain the vibe. Pictures won’t do it justice, it looks like a dive bar and essentially is. But the people, the music, the art, the culture of the bar in general, I don’t know that I’ve found anywhere comparable in the city. It’s the type of bar that immediately makes you feel at home. My theatre company has done a few shows there, and are looking forward to further cultivating our relationship with them at their new location, but in the meantime, a wonderful, supportive place is closing to be torn down and replaced by the Nets stadium and high-rises and God knows what else that goes against what the bar, and the neighborhood stands for. What I stand for, really. In high school, it always angered me that the jocks got preferential treatment to the artists. It angers me to see this consistently occurring in the real world as well, especially in such a seemingly cultural mecca.

Prepare for CrossCheck, Another Classic NYC Hangout Bites the Dust

We have the Atlantic Yards project to thank for this latest closure. Sure, the owners are looking to relocate on Fourth Avenue, the increasingly popular corridor between Gowanus and Park Slope, but just like when Siberia Bar vacated its 50th Street subway haunt for bigger digs off Ninth Avenue, it won’t be the same.

The bar’s website says today is the final day for paying respects to this Dean Street holdout, however I have it on good word that there will still be some drinking, dancing and memorializing going on tomorrow night, with a special appearance by The Spunk Lads—as close to a house band as you’ll get for Freddy’s. They take the stage at midnight.

I know I’ll be there, in my Docs, kicking back the chairs and several Jameson’s, one last time.

Gideon's Trumpet, Freddy’s Bar — R.I.P.

The closing of Freddy’s Bar appears to be the kind of rending of the social fabric of a neighborhood that Jane Jacobs deplored in her famous book, “The Death and Life of American Cities.”

Posted by steve at 7:53 AM