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July 31, 2010

At heart of Pollard's challenge to Senator Montgomery, charter schools (and big bucks from charter school proponents)

Atlantic Yards Report

Senator Velmanette Montgomery, foe of the Atlantic Yards project, is facing an opponent in the September primary.

I got a mailing the other day from Mark Pollard, who's challenging 13-term incumbent state Senator Velmanette Montgomery in the 18th District, which includes Atlantic Yards.

What it doesn't say is that the contest is significantly about charter schools, given that charter school proponents from outside Brooklyn have contributed a large majority of his $87,385 war chest.

(The candidates allso differ on Atlantic Yards, but I didn't see any AY backers contributing to Pollard yet, other than $25 contributions from Delia Hunley-Adossa, chair of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement Coalition and head of the potemkin Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, and her daughter Saadia. Hunley-Adossa last year challenged incumbent 35th District City Council Member Letitia James, a Montgomery ally.)

Click through to see how individual Pollard supporters, mostly from Manhattan, are contributing as much as $6,000 to his campaign.

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Posted by steve at 8:42 AM

July 30, 2010

Wiggle room: In FEIS graphics, ESDC suggested Flatbush Ave. lane closures would be temporary, but text was ambiguous (& referred only to utility work)

Atlantic Yards Report

Wiggle room, or weasel words?

So, did the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) study the impact on Flabush Avenue traffic of the need to build a lay-by lane for the arena and thus upgrade Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway vent structures?

On July 27, when I reported on the announcement of a "temporary" 17-month lane closure on Flatbush between Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue, I suggested no.

That morning, I asked the ESDC if it had been studied in the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) or the June 2009 Technical Memorandum and whether ESDC had documentation on the rationale for the change and estimates of its potential impact.

Yesterday morning, I got an answer, and it deserves a close look.

Essentially, the text of the ESDC documents left enough wiggle room for the closure currently planned, but the attached graphics indicated that Flatbush Avenue lane closures would be temporary.

The asterisk, however, is the FEIS mentioned only the impact of utility work, not the upgrade of vent structures.

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Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

Photos and video: construction work near Flatbush Avenue and subway

Atlantic Yards Report

Excavation work on the arena block will come very close to the subway below Flatbush Avenue--remember, the arena wall would be less than seven feet away. Raul Rothblatt took some photos of ongoing work yesterday.

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Posted by eric at 7:04 AM

July 29, 2010

Phone calls from Utah firm about Atlantic Yards: is Pacific Crest Research back? and is this about the Senate race or just AY p.r.?

Atlantic Yards Report

It looks like the shadowy, Utah-based polling firm Pacific Crest Research (PCR) may be back and involved in tapping/shaping public opinion about Atlantic Yards.

From Brooklynian, selected comments:

  • just got off the phone with someone, based in utah, who peppered me with a lot of questions about the yards project, and whether i agree that forest city ratner's doing a great thing for the slope and the community as a whole. i assume ratner's paying for the survey since many of the questions seemed tilted in his favor.. but i had some free time, and it was a very cathartic experience....still, to be doing a survey like this, the developers must be really worried about something.
  • I took the survey and it was obviously sponsored by Ratner. I told the guy that I really shouldn't be taking the survey as my husband used to work for FCR and says the affordable housing phase of the project ain't never gonna happen.
  • I took the survey too and also think it was sponsored by Ratner. Whenever they asked whether finding out something positive e.g., about job creation changed my mind, I just responded that I didn't believe any of it (the good stuff) would happen.

The background

None of the commenters on Brooklynian mentioned the name of the firm, but the Utah connection offers a significant hint. Remember, in 2006, I got two calls from the company, the second “a very brief public opinion survey on some very interesting issues in Brooklyn.”
...

Why now?

It could be that FCR is simply trying to gauge public opinion in anticipation, for example, of the its next phase of p.r. statements regarding the project.

It could be that FCR is trying to help candidates such as Mark Pollard, who's challenging incumbent state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, an Atlantic Yards opponent (though the big backing for Pollard in that race comes from charter school proponents).

After all, in one 2006 call, I was asked some general questions, but most focused on the race between last-minute challenger Tracy Boyland and Montgomery.

Or maybe it's another client with another motive.

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NoLandGrab:

DoesFCRequalPCR.jpg

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, More Annoying Atlantic Yards Phone Polling

One would think that 30 years of construction and massive parking lots would be enough of an imposition on Brooklynites. But no!

Someone (Ratner, Barclays, an unknown) is polling Brooklynites on Ratner's Atlantic Yards to tap and shape public opinion.

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

Prokhorov on cover of Russian Forbes, spinning team purchase; in Letters page of USA Today, saluting LeBron James

Atlantic Yards Report

The Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, principal owner of the New Jersey Nets, is on the cover of Forbes Russia’s August “Stars and Money ” issue, which contains a subtitle: “Mikhail Prokhorov and American Basketball: Who Will Be the Winner?”

Note that Prokhorov claims he bought the Nets for $200 million, which is inaccurate, as it refers only to the direct cash payment. As summarized by Sports Business Journal via NetsDaily in March:

As reported, Prokhorov's Onexim Group has agreed to put down $200 million in cash; assume about $180 million in franchise debt from Forest City Enterprises, Bruce Ratner's parent company; eat $60 million in costs--including losses--sustained while the team remains in New Jersey; and purchase up to $106 million in junk bonds needed to finance Barclays Center infrastructure, for a total of around $550 million.

In the end, Prokhorov put less money down, offering a $75.8 million loan rather than, as reported, buying $106 million in taxable bonds.
...

In USA Today

Prokhorov is wobbly enough in English basketball lingo to have described draft pick Derrick Favors as a "powerful forward" (rather than "power forward"), but that hasn't stopped him--or his handlers--from working the Prokhorov message in print.

Maybe it's an effort to position the Nets to snag future free agents, or maybe it's just a way to keep his name in the paper. After all, one of the Nets' biggest selling points remains its owner.

From USA Today, Roundup: NBA team owner backs LeBron James' decision:

The players are signed, the "Decision" is made, but the passions around this year's extraordinary class of NBA free agents refuses to die down. What surprises me is the amount of negative commentary directed at the three top free agents (especially LeBron James) who decided to play on the same team and to create a great franchise together. Of course, any club owner dreams of having those players, including me, but all questions of how the announcements were made aside, I respect their choice, and no one has the right to judge them.

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NoLandGrab: Prokhorov's POV on James is quite magnanimous, but when one of your team's "biggest selling points remains its owner," your team's in trouble.

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Atlantic Yards Construction to Make Downtown Brooklyn Less Dangerous?

The L Magazine
by Benjamin Sutton

Not sure how to feel about this one: city-financed and -facilitated Brooklyn gentrification real estate megadevelopment Atlantic Yards is moving along full steam with construction of the Barclay's Arena, which will require the closure of one lane on Flatbush Avenue between Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue for two years beginning August 1st. The Brooklyn Paper is quick to point out what a terrible inconvenience this will be for drivers, reducing the number of lanes from six to five—to ease the blow, buses are being rerouted and traffic officers will be on call at all hours; but for cyclists and pedestrians this is unexpectedly great news.

Almost anything to slow the highway-speed traffic in that area where so many walk and ride on their way between north and south Brooklyn is worth it, except, for instance, the destruction of an entire neighborhood. But, since we apparently have no choice but to let Bruce Ratner make billions, a little incidental and much-needed traffic control will be a tolerable side effect.

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NoLandGrab: We're all for traffic calming, but there's little about this street reconfiguration that will be beneficial to pedestrians or cyclists. Peds have been reduced to squeezing onto a sliver of sidewalk along the arena site, and Flatbush will likely be nearly impassable to those brave enough to tackle it on two wheels. Traffic will surely be moving more slowly, however — if at all.

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

Atlantic Yards construction 7-28-10

Raulism via YouTube

More video from Raul Rothblatt, with Daniel Goldstein's former home at left in the long shot.

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Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

July 28, 2010

Legible version of the subway monitoring plan surfaces, shows arena wall less than 7' from subway; if vibrations get too intense, work must stop

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has a must-read exclusive on the MTA's plans for monitoring construction of Bruce Ratner's arena.

How do you build an arena very close to six active subway lines?

Very, very carefully, apparently.

As a recently acquired document (excerpted at left; click to enlarge) shows, the foundation wall of the planned arena, at at the arena property line, would be less than seven feet from the wall of the IRT subway line, specifically the tracks for the 2 or 3 trains going north along Flatbush Avenue toward Manhattan.

That means some very careful monitoring is required, as described in plans first made public here.

Plans initially denied

On May 24, I wrote about 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.

That's crucial, because portions of subway tunnels next to the arena site were described in 2007 as in "critical condition" and required repair "in the immediate future" and the "near future"--repairs Forest City Ratner is now obligated to make, though the cost is unclear (and could generate a request for future public support).

But the plan, at least as reproduced in the document, was illegible.

And, when I filed a Freedom of Information Law request for a legible copy, I was told no such copy exists.

Airing a complaint

So I wrote about that absurd situation and, a few weeks later, unbidden, I received a package from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which contained hard copies of the documents at issue: four huge blueprint-style documents, about 44" by 36".

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NoLandGrab: Interestingly, if you add the dimensions of the documents together (44" + 36"), the sum is almost exactly equal to the distance between the subway tunnel wall and the arena foundation. Coincidence?

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

More Officials Shoving Atlantic Yards Down the Memory Hole

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB picks up on Norman Oder's latest tale of Atlantic Yards revisionism.

Hornick seems to think there was an Atlantic Yards process in which to participate and negotiate and that opponents chose not to participate.

That is utter nonsense.

The opposition studiously participated in the barely existent process (two hearings on the environmental disclosure statement), while Ratner partners and Atlantic Yards proponents studiously disrupted the meager "process" that did take place. The opposition forcfully made the case, over and over, that they wanted a meaningful, democratic process in which to participate—but there simply wasn't one.

That is the original sin of Atlantic Yards. Shame that a city planning official doesn't get that (or know that), even worse that he gets it all backwards.

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Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Prokhorov: Nets Will Be Worth $1 Billion by 2015

NetsDaily

Looks like Mikhail Prokhorov is playing fantasy basketball.

The cover of August's Forbes Russia shows a tall man in a suit holding a basketball, and asks, "Mikhail Prokhorov and American basketball: Who Will Be the Winner?"

In the article, "I told America I come in peace," Prokhorov goes over much the same ground he has in press conferences and interviews with U.S. media, but talks more about the team's financial prospects.

The Nets' owner says the team will continue to lose money in Newark but the team's move to Brooklyn, plus his ambitions to create a dynasty, will make the Nets both profitable and valuable, suggesting the team will be worth $1 billion and earn an annual profit of $20 million.

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NoLandGrab: To put that figure in perspective, Forbes estimates the value of the Los Angeles Lakers, who won 45 more games than the Nets this past season (and the NBA title), at $607 million. Prokhorov is "guaranteeing" a Nets championship by 2015, as well.

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

July 27, 2010

"Temporary Change of Traffic Pattern on Flatbush Avenue" means one lane will be closed at least 17 months; did ESDC bury the real reason for change?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation yesterday sent out a Community Notice (embedded below) announcing a "Temporary Change of Traffic Pattern on Flatbush Avenue" that will begin on August 1 and affect the area between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street, a western boundary of the Atlantic Yards project.

Temporary? It will last at least 17 months, through early 2012. That's on the extended side of "temporary."

Change of traffic pattern? That means that one of six lanes on Flatbush will be closed. A "reversible center lane [will] provide a third travel lane in the peak direction." Expect new No Standing Anytime signs and traffic agents will be assigned to facilitate the flow of traffic.

(Click on graphic to enlarge)

Burying the real reason?

According to the notice, the work aims "to accommodate upgrades to the MTA vent structures along Flatbush Avenue."

Sure, but that seems to be the secondary reason.

According to the June 2009 Technical Memorandum, excerpted below, the vent structure upgrades were driven by the need to build a lay-by lane, thus allowing for "pick-up/drop-off and loading/unloading activity adjacent to the arena."

Was this predicted?

Was all this expected? Not really (as far as I can tell), which means the impact on traffic was not studied in the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

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Click here to see a PDF version of the Empire State Development Corporation's "COMMUNITY NOTICE: Temporary Change of Traffic Pattern on Flatbush Avenue."

Additional coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Flatbush to get ‘narrow’ minded during arena construction

The area around the new home of the Brooklyn Nets will be anything but a slam dunk for drivers next month as Flatbush Avenue will be narrowed to accommodate construction workers.

The six-lane road will be squeezed to five lanes between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street, and the center track will run in the peak direction — towards the Manhattan Bridge during the morning rush, and away from it the rest of the day.
...

ESDC spokeswoman Beth Mitchell said that traffic agents will be dispatched to make the three block lane loss as painless as possible.

“Traffic agents will be there as long as the [city] Department of Transportation determines they are necessary,” Mitchell said.

Expect those agents to keep busy. The area is constantly jammed, mostly due to car traffic, but congestion has also been exacerbated since the one-block portion of Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues was eliminated. That roadway was a key part of the B63 bus line. Now, Downtown-bound buses must turn from Fifth Avenue onto Flatbush Avenue and then block traffic as they wait to turn left at Atlantic Avenue.
...

A southbound bus stop for the B41 and B67 will also be eliminated at Fifth Avenue as part of the construction.

NoLandGrab: This ought to be fun.

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment Announces Willis Group Holdings as a Major Partner of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn

Press Release via MarketWatch

Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, a sales and marketing arm of the Barclays Center, today announced that Willis Group Holdings plc, the global insurance broker, has become a major partner of the planned Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
...

As part of its integrated marketing platform within the arena, the Willis brand will be displayed prominently as the exclusive sponsor of the Barclays Center's 38 Loge Boxes. The Willis name also will appear in all marketing and advertising associated with this premium seating, including a significant presence on Barclayscenter.com.
...

"Brooklyn is a great global brand that's reaching new heights with the Barclays Center. The borough has earned a storied place in sports mythology, from the heroics at Ebbets Field to being the birthplace of legends such as Vince Lombardi, Joe Torre and Joe Paterno," said Joe Plumeri, Chairman and CEO of Willis. "Willis helps manage the world's most complex risks, and we look forward to both helping the Barclays Center through its multi-faceted construction process and, when the arena is opened, to working with Mikhail Prokhorov, Bruce Ratner, Brett Yormark, Jay-Z and their team to carry Jackie Robinson's legacy forward and bring a new generation of champions to Brooklyn and New York."

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NoLandGrab: Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis? "Carry Jackie Robinson's legacy forward?" How, exactly?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, London-based sponsor signed for 38 four-seat loge boxes at Barclays Center; Jackie Robinson legacy invoked for Prokhorov's team

Would you believe that Russia's second-richest man would be carrying Jackie Robinson's legacy forward?

See Scott Turner's (of Fans for Fair Play) November 2005 takedown of the difference between the Nets and the Dodgers.

Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

Clear and Hold

Boston Review
by Casey Walker

Though I have closely followed the Atlantic Yards scuffle for years, I barely know what the project is anymore, what it will look like, or what it will contain. My guess is you would find city officials who are similarly unsure. I doubt even the executive vice presidents of Forest City—who tout a “vibrant addition to a thriving borough”—could offer more than a guess about how many apartments and how many office buildings, let alone how many residents and businesses, eventually will be located within the project footprint.
...

It is impossible not to notice that the tenor of the debate over Atlantic Yards has been right out of the mid-twentieth century street fights that pitted Moses-style “urban renewal”—demolition and rebuilding—against the Jane Jacobs model. Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, advocated on behalf of local, self-organizing neighborhood regeneration around what already exists. She resisted the overreach of any city planner, developer, or administrator who thought of the city as a simple machine rather than a complex ecosystem. “You can’t build the ovens and expect the loaves to jump in,” Jacobs said.

In her new book, The Battle for Gotham, activist and veteran urban critic Roberta Gratz contends that decades after the biggest clashes between Moses and Jacobs, their disagreement is still at the heart of fights over urban life.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, In the Boston Review, an Atlantic Yards-centric review of The Battle for Gotham

The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs, by Roberta Brandes Gratz, is the subject of a thoughtful 2900-word review in the Boston Review, Clear and Hold, by Brooklyn resident and Princeton grad student Casey Walker.

Atlantic Yards gets a significant cameo in the book's Conclusion (its tenth chapter), but it is the focus of Walker's review, which states:

Atlantic Yards is a familiar urban story: surrounding neighborhoods are braced for upheaval; architects have come and gone; redesigns have been announced, lambasted, tweaked, disowned; lawsuits multiply like kudzu; millions of dollars are all but blowing through the air; and the likely date of actual completion is anyone’s guess (Forest City Ratner, the developer, contends the Barclays Center will be finished by 2011, but the Web site does not give a timetable for the rest of the project).

Actually, they're saying 2012, now.

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

For the New Domino, newly unveiled MOU casts doubt on affordable housing promises

Atlantic Yard Report

Last week, I raised questions about the guarantees of 30% affordability in the New Domino plan in Williamsburg (which approaches a full City Council vote on Thursday).

Now Williamsburg Greenpoint News+Arts advances the story, reporting:

Unlike the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning of 2005, which spelled out the inclusionary housing goals and benefits in the zoning text, the affordability aspects within the New Domino proposal are in a separate letter, a non legally binding document called a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

...In the case of the New Domino plan, the “out” lies not just with the city but with the developer CPCR as well. From a copy of the actual MOU (see at end of article) for the proposed New Domino plan, exclusively obtained by WG News + Arts, paragraph 9 in the text clearly states:

“Whereas, this MOU is not a legally binding instrument and is only intended to set forth the understandings of the parties without creating any legally enforceable rights or obligations.”

If it sounds too good to be true, remember that in other famous MOUs that have so far not been fully met, if at all met, like the second MOU attached to the Atlantic Yards proposal, developers were actually required to pay fines and restitution if the deal were to fall apart.

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Related coverage...

Williamsburg Greenpoint News+Arts, New Domino Development Goes to a Vote in City Council w*/ no Guarantees for Community

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com], City set to approve Domino plan -- without guarantees

NY Observer, At New Domino, Affordable Housing Promise More of a Pledge

Alas, this resembles the groundwork of many a development project in New York. While a good number of developers do end up delivering on promises, other projects are sold to the public on the promise of certain public benefits (in exchange, the public's representatives grant approvals), only to see those benefits eroded over time as they prove difficult or impossible to fulfill. A couple other case studies to look at: Battery Park City, once meant to be mostly below-market rate housing; and Atlantic Yards once meant to have a green roof and a Frank Gehry-designed arena.

Posted by eric at 9:26 AM

Last Rites for The Spalding Building

Brownstoner

From Atlantic Yards Report comes the sad news that the Spalding Building at 24 6th Avenue is being prepped to meet its maker. Another clear example of an architectural eyesore that needed to be purged from the blighted neighborhood. Not. Ratner purchased the building for $2,200,000 in August 2009. As far as we can figure out, there's still that last-minute lawsuit out there involving the building's air rights too.

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Related coverage...

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Historic Spalding Building Bites Dust

One of Brooklyn’s notable conversions of an historic manufacturing building to condominiums is preparing to bite the dust.

First reported Monday on Brownstoner.com as “sad news,” the building set for demolition is known as the Spalding Building, at 24 Sixth Ave., corner of Pacific Street in Prospect Heights, and was once the home of the A.G. Spalding manufacturing company, where the pink rubber balls known as “spaldeens” were manufactured.

NoLandGrab: How is it that the Eagle could write "first reported by Brownstoner.com" and "Brownstoner was citing a report and photo posted on the Atlantic Yards Report" without connecting the dots that this story was first reported by Atlantic Yards Report, referencing photos and video taken by Raul Rothblatt?

Photo: forgotten-ny.com

Posted by eric at 9:10 AM

atlantic yards phone survey

Brooklynian
Posted by prezst

just got off the phone with someone, based in utah, who peppered me with a lot of questions about the yards project, and whether i agree that forest city ratner's doing a great thing for the slope and the community as a whole. i assume ratner's paying for the survey since many of the questions seemed tilted in his favor.. but i had some free time, and it was a very cathartic experience.

still, to be doing a survey like this, the developers must be really worried about something.

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NoLandGrab: Not sure if or what about FCRC might be worried, but it does seem a little odd for them to be doing a push-poll at this stage of the game.

Posted by eric at 9:03 AM

July 26, 2010

Atlantic Yards down the memory hole, again; DCP official suggests the project was an example of public participation

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder chalks it up to memory failure; we're more inclined to believe it's either outright lying or, when we're feeling charitable, perhaps the side effects of college drug use.

It was a throwaway moment, almost, at Land Use and Local Voices, a conference July 21 co-sponsored by the Municipal Art Society and Manhattan Community Board 1.

But it was another example of how Atlantic Yards may be falling down the collective memory hole, and how even a top bureaucrat at the Department of City Planning doesn't understand the project, suggesting it as an example of effective public participation for some.

Read on for City Planning Deputy Director Sandy Hornick's long, strange trip.

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Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Beekman Tower: Gehry's Downtown Skyscraper

Buildipedia
by Murrye Bernard

Frank Gehry's second architectural venture into New York City is also his tallest building yet. Spiraling 76 stories and enveloping 1.1 million square feet, the Beekman Tower dominates the nearby Woolworth building in downtown Manhattan. Under construction since 2006, the newest addition to the city's distinct skyline is expected to open early next year, and it proves that Gehry's signature, sculptural vocabulary translates successfully into skyscraper form.

Although many refer to Beekman as a "luxury" residential building, its 900-plus units will be market-rate rentals, rather than the condominium model. As part of a unique public-private partnership [NLG: AKA massive subsidies], the building will house an elementary school in its base, as well as an ambulatory care center for New York Downtown Hospital. Retail spaces will occupy the street level, and two adjacent public plazas have been designed by award-winning landscape and urban design firm Field Operations.
...

New York City has not always been so receptive to Gehry. After several failed attempts to build in Manhattan, he finally completed the IAC Headquarters on the West Side Highway. Its billowing, fritted glass facade did not indicate smooth sailing, however, as the building received more than its fair share of criticism. Brooklyn wasn't very receptive to Gehry, either. Last summer his controversial and ultimately too-expensive design for Atlantic Yards was scrapped by Forest City Ratner, the very same developer responsible for Beekman Tower.

Though reaction to Beekman Tower has generally been positive, it has not escaped criticism for a couple of its design elements. The six-floor base that houses the public school is a vast departure from the rest of the sleek steel-and-glass facade; the red-orange brick plinth with punched windows looks like a typical, uninspired school design. Also typical of public school projects, Gehry had to grapple with a very tight budget and strict guidelines for this component of the project. Another point of criticism is that the rippling facade is absent from the south side, which is completely flat. There have been many theories as to why it was designed as such, ranging from zoning issues to ill-informed aesthetics. It has been reported that this side was flattened due to the main issue that has plagued the project from the start: budget constraints.

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Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

July 25, 2010

In Forbes video, Yormark spins suites: it's about "creating a sense of urgency and scarcity to that customer"

Atlantic Yards Report

In the Fobes video below, Nets Sports and Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark spins suites.

In the context of the overall economy, how would you describe the market for suites, Yormark is asked.

"It's certainly getting better," he responds. "I think the NBA does it as good as anybody else. They have annual meetings with respect to premium seating and suites, where we're doing a lot of best practice exchanges... But I think overall it's about creating more value. It's getting out of the box, being creative, running events, creating a sense of urgency and scarcity to that customer, and making sure you have the right message."

A sense of urgency? The suites have not exactly been selling well, given that, in 20 months, sales nudged from "about 30 percent" to less than 34 percent and the top price declined more than 21 percent.

What are their innovations?

"For us, it starts with our product mix," Yormark responds. "We have larger suites, smaller suites, and then we have our premium suites... And then it's about presentation. Not only we do have a great showroom... but we also have a traveling model... and we show that entire presentation on an iPad."

"We have a two-year move to Prudential [Center in Newark[, and then obviously the Barclays Center in the spring of 2012," Yormark says.

We'll see if that timing works out, given that the Prudential lease is renewable for two years.

link

NoLandGrab: Does anybody want to buy an arena suite? Anybody?

Posted by steve at 8:48 AM

PlaNYC 1950 under reconsideration? Parking minimums in Downtown Brooklyn may be dropped

Atlantic Yards Report

From Streetsblog, “Movement Afoot” to Drop Downtown Brooklyn Parking Minimums

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the Department of City Planning is currently studying the merits of parking minimums in some of New York's transit-rich neighborhoods, like Harlem and western Brooklyn and Queens. And local interests in at least one neighborhood, Downtown Brooklyn, are starting to mobilize around the issue. While the coalition has yet to go public, sources say there have been preliminary discussions about reducing, or even eliminating, parking minimums in the area, which would be a big victory for sustainable transportation.

Right now, parking minimums in Downtown Brooklyn force new developments to include huge garages, effectively subsidizing driving in one of New York City's most transit-rich neighborhoods.

...This round of discussions about parking minimums hasn't reached Community Board 2 yet, said District Manager Robert Perris, but he knows it's been tried before. "I know the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, on behalf of certain developments, and the Brooklyner was one of them, went to DCP and said these figures are crazy here," recalled Perris. "They were not successful in those negotiations." The Partnership refused to comment for this story.

They were also crazy when it comes to Atlantic Yards, adjacent to Downtown Brooklyn (or, if you believe the developer, part of it) and adjacent to a major transit hub, as I wrote in December 2007, calling it PlaNYC 1950.

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Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

Birth of a new urban model

Crain's New York
By Amanda Fung

This article suggests that the nearly-completed Battery Park City could serve as a template for building sustainable projects that create wholly new communities. How Atlantic Yards could be included on this list is a mystery as there are no indications that the project was planned with sustainability in mind and it is destroying, not creating a community. The article gives credit for the success of Battery Park City to the State's Battery Park City Authority. Atlantic Yards is unique among New York's large projects in having no real oversight.

Now, with major mixed-use development projects looming on the horizon—from the rail yards on the West Side of Manhattan to Willets Point in Queens to Atlantic Yards and Coney Island in Brooklyn—Battery Park City is also being viewed by planners as a potential model for crafting sustainable communities from scratch.

The article also lists several large projects in various stages, including Atlantic Yards. The project is mistakenly listed as being in downtown Brooklyn, instead of Prospect Heights. The project's original goals are listed, but with only a basketball arena being constructed and one residential tower supposedly on the drawing board, nobody can really say what the developer will build in the 25 years allowed by the Empire State Development Corporation. Parking lots are more likely than 16 towers.

ATLANTIC YARDS

Area 22 acres in downtown Brooklyn

Goals The Barclays Center, an 18,000-seat arena, will be home to the Nets basketball team. Future plans for 16 towers for mostly residential units, but project will also include hotel and office space.

Status The foundation for the Barclays Center was recently poured.

Developer Forest City Ratner Cos.

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Posted by steve at 8:09 AM

Fightback grows against NYC transit cuts

Workers World
By Dee Knight

The MTA's sweetheart deal is questioned by the “Campaign to Take Back Our Transit System” (TBOTS) in light of service reductions.

The MTA says it has an $800 million deficit. The TBOTS campaign says the MTA has plenty of money. The MTA continues to drain revenues with a multibillion-dollar, 20-year construction of the Second Avenue subway to serve Manhattan’s posh Upper East Side and with the gargantuan Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn to serve the developers of a new profit-making sports complex. And the $2.5 billion extension of the midtown 7 line fosters commercial development on the West Side. None of the profits of these developments will go back to the MTA or the riding public.

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Posted by steve at 7:57 AM

July 24, 2010

Who's missing from Dave Zirin's new book "Bad Sports"? Bruce Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

It's a good bet that a book called Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love might contain a chapter on one Bruce Ratner, the owner who ran the Nets into the ground in pursuit of a real estate deal.

After all, ESPN, in its Ultimate Standings, recently ranked Nets ownership, led by Ratner, at 121, the second-worst in all of sports, behind only Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers, who paid $2.73 million last November to settle a housing discrimination lawsuit.

...

And it's a good bet that author Dave Zirin, who writes with left-wing, populist force about sports, knows about Ratner.

After all, Zirin's listed on the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board, a group with a number of members who've done little more than lend their names.

...

But Zirin, as far as I can tell, never wrote about Ratner, neither in his Edge of Sports column nor the book. (This May he did write about new owner Mikhail Prokhorov.)

Donald Sterling gets a chapter in Bad Sports. So do George Steinbrenner of the Yankees and James Dolan of the Knicks.

Ratner deserves one too.

Count it as a missed opportunity.

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Posted by steve at 7:29 AM

The Spalding Building is prepared for its fate, as demolition work continues

Atlantic Yards Report

From Raul Rothblatt, aka Raulism on YouTube: Below is a walk along Pacific Street from Carlton to Sixth Avenues in Brooklyn, viewing both construction for Atlantic Yards and demolition of existing properties.

At the end, he gets to the renovated Spalding Building at the corner of Pacific Street and Sixth Avenue, sheathed in scaffolding, pictured at right and part of a set taken yesterday regarding Atlantic Yards work.

NoLandGrab: The conversion of a long-unused factory building into beautiful living units gives lie to claims that city and state subsidies were needed to jump start development and remove blight in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Posted by steve at 7:15 AM

Big Footed by the EPA in Brooklyn

The Wall Street Journal
By Julia Vitullo-Martin

The complaint in this op-ed is that the city and state, at the behest of developers, should be in charge of cleaning up the Gowanus Canal. Given the way the city and state bent over backwards for developer Bruce Ratner, it's not surprising that many favor going to the EPA, rather than risk sacrificing a diligent cleanup because of the needs of developers. The quote below invokes the Atlantic Yards project as an example of how not to do intelligent development.

Some neighborhood activists are happy with the Superfund designation. Linda Mariano, co-founder of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, tells me she opposes "premature development." She argues that "the neighborhood belongs to the people—not to the private developers and not for the kind of Atlantic Yards overdevelopment this mayor has been advocating for. The EPA will do a significant cleanup so that we can reuse the brownfields as open space, recreation, adaptive reuse for light industry and artisans."

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Posted by steve at 6:55 AM

July 23, 2010

In City Council hearings, Pinsky lets Atlantic Yards fall down the memory hole, claiming "certain elements" of the project have been accelerated

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards is falling down the memory hole.

In two City Council committee hearings, held in March 18 and May 25, New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) President Seth Pinsky made some questionable statements regarding Atlantic Yards, but was not called to account.

  • He mischaracterized the timing and size of the city's investment
  • He claimed there were new incentives to get the project done on time, but those incentives don't conform to the timetable his agency used to calculate city revenues
  • He made new claims about the total of city spending on Atlantic Yards, but hasn't provided full details
  • He cited, but didn't at the time provide, a new cost-benefit analysis that seems dubious under scrutiny, given that it presumes a both a full buildout and one accomplished in ten years
  • He didn't point out that the city's new analysis represents a 20% decline in city revenue (though, likely, it's merely a more honest calculation than its predecessor because it incorporates certain costs)

Pinsky has a lot on his plate, so maybe he can't be expected to get everything right. But if he gets it wrong, why do all the errors come in defense of the project?

More scrutiny needed

That's an argument for an oversight hearing, as new City Council Member Brad Lander and veteran Letitia James have requested.

"It is the largest project in Brooklyn, and will have a massive impact on the neighborhoods around it," Lander said. "There are many unanswered questions, both about the project itself, and about a wide range of City services (transportation, public safety, affordable housing, public schools, open space, etc). Tish [James] and I have made repeated requests for such a hearing, and we will keep pushing for it."

Read on for a run down on Pinsky's shaky grasp of the truth.

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Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Carl Paladino: I'd Use Eminent Domain To Block Ground Zero Mosque

NY Daily News
by Celeste Katz

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino has dreamed up a novel new use for eminent domain: religious bigotry!

If elected governor, WNY's Carl Paladino vows in a new radio ad that he'd use the eminent domain laws to stop the construction of a controversial Islamic center/mosque near Ground Zero.

(I'm not sure he could actually do that, by the way, but I'm looking into it.)

It's New York State. You can use eminent domain for anything, as long as you're rich and powerful enough to get away with it. Just ask Bruce Ratner.

Paladino says sure he can, and instead of a mosque, the site should be a war memorial.
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It's notable from a political standpoint that Paladino is going after Cuomo here, leaving out that other Republican guy who wants to be governor, Rick Lazio.

Cuomo and Lazio have tangled on the topic, with Lazio doing most of the tangling.

Lazio spokesman Barney Keller replied to my inquiry about Paladino: “Since Rick Lazio called on Andrew Cuomo to do his job several weeks ago and look into the funding stream of the Cordoba Mosque voices of opposition have emerged from coast to coast.”

Also weighing in on this one: Libertarian gubernatorial hopeful Warren Redlich, who's dumping on the "knee-jerk" Paladino idea as a "plan to waste money and abuse property rights through eminent domain."

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NoLandGrab: We had to look it up, too — "WNY" stands for "Western New York," not "Wing Nut Yokel."

Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

Community Board Approves Its Disapproval of Riverside Center

NY Observer
by Sam Levin

Manhattan Community Board 7 is all for bloated, neighborhood-warping mega-projects — just as long as no one builds one within the confines of Manhattan Community Board 7.

Step one of Riverside Center’s public review is complete.

After four hours of debate in a special meeting devoted entirely to Extell’s 8-acre project, Community Board 7 on Thursday night finalized its own recommendation for the final frontier of the Upper West Side.
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“CB7 endorses the initiatives of the City government,” the [Board's] report says, citing precedent of Atlantic Yards and the New Domino Sugar Factory development.

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Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

July 22, 2010

NYC EDC cost-benefit analysis emerges: certain costs finally calculated, but fundamental flaws remain, as revenues based on full buildout in 10 years

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, I've finally gotten a copy of the New York City Economic Development Corporation's (NYC EDC) updated Atlantic Yards fiscal analysis (aka cost-benefit analysis) and it's very much a mixed bag.

On the one hand, it's more responsible than the analysis released in 2005, given that it acknowledges a good number of costs. (In fact, the estimated net benefit to the city over 30 years is down more than 20%, from $524 million to $411.3 million.)

But it still suffers from some fundamental flaws:

  • it presumes a ten-year buildout, without assessing alternatives
  • it presumes a full buildout, without assessing alternatives
  • it ignores some opportunity costs and the costs of increased service provision
  • it (apparently) still counts income taxes from new residents

Too short

Moreover, the document, at three pages (versus its eight-page predecessor), is quite thin. While it provides overall calculations, it does not, as per the previous document, provide supporting calculations. (I had to ask to get some of the breakdowns.)

The document does not, for example, explain the difference in fiscal impact between four office towers and one tower. It should, especially since an Empire State Development Corporation analysis drastically lowered the fiscal impact in December 2006 in response to a reduction in office space.

What about no office towers?

Document emerges

Remember, the analysis was cited by NYC EDC President Seth Pinsky at a May 2009 hearing and promised a few days later. I criticized the previous document and asked for the updated version via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request; in December, the request was denied.

Pinsky brought it up the analysis at a March 2010 City Council hearing and again at a hearing in May. (I'll discuss that testimony tomorrow.) His agency finally provided it this week to City Council Member Brad Lander, who passed it on to me.

It's clear that the document was not, in fact, available last June.

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Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

DSCC consultant Lowe, connected to Sampson and Ratner (and Boyland's challenge to Montgomery), racks up the bucks

Atlantic Yards Report

State Senate leader John Sampson involved in sleazy dealings? Who knew?

From an article in City Hall News headlined Largely Unknown DSCC Consultant Cleared $300k In Last Year:

The Democratic State Senate Committee and Conference Leader John Sampson have spent over $300,000 with two companies run by the same consultant, a shadowy operative named Melvin Lowe who had worked on only a few campaigns prior to being brought on in the wake of the Senate coup last year.

...Several people familiar with the DSCC and Lowe have expressed mystification at what his position entails to justify being paid this sum, and the DSCC itself declined to provide details.

Lowe, who was brought on to provide oversight for the DSCC, is the principal of both Prestige Strategic Communications and G&L Consulting, which, as reported on Wednesday by Liz Benjamin on the State of Politics blog, share an address at 350 West 110th Street...

Before the massive influx of money to the campaigns in the last 12 months, Lowe had retained only a handful of clients... $16,000 paid to him by former Council Member Tracy Boyland in her 2006 race against State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery that was paid to Prestige...

Immediately before starting with Sampson and the DSCC, Lowe was a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner Companies, helping lobby on behalf of the Atlantic Yards. While at that job, Lowe got involved in the Ridge Hill development in Yonkers and is among the people mentioned in subpoenas that came out of the local U.S. Attorney’s office related to the passage of that project.

Here's brief coverage from 8/31/09 about Lowe's DSCC hiring, his role in Ridge Hill, and reports of consulting work regarding Atlantic Yards.
...

The Boyland connection

News to me from the City Hall News story: Lowe was paid by Boyland's campaign. That reinforces suspicions that Boyland's shadowy run was connected to Ratner.

Remember, Boyland used the same consulting firm--Knickerbocker SKD--that FCR uses for its deceptive Atlantic Yards mailers and Boyland told the Brooklyn Papers that she's friends with FCR's Bruce Bender, a former top City Council aide.

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Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Creating Open Space Takes Politics and Planning

Gotham Gazette
by Anne Schwartz

In the 1970s, who could have predicted that in 2010, New Yorkers would take yoga classes on a lush lawn in Bryant Park, enjoy a lunch break in the middle of Broadway or bike to work along the Hudson River? With the restoration of so many parks and the creation of new ones like the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park, outdoor public spaces have become central to life in New York City in a way that hardly could have been imagined just a few decades ago.
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The key to success is a fair, inclusive and transparent master planning process based on an assessment and analysis of current conditions, needs, benefits and public interest and willingness to pay. "It doesn’t do any good to have an open process for soliciting input if the process for making decisions is then secretive, biased or preordained," [park expert Peter Harnik] writes.
...

"As seeds for regrowth, parks are key," Harnik writes. "But they must be reserved, designed and placed in advance of the built environment that will surround them," which, he notes, doesn't come naturally in this country -- or, one might add, in New York City. The city's development-driven culture has led to missed opportunities to create large areas of new parkland around which housing and commerce can grow.

One example is the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, where an arena and 16 apartment towers are being built partly on a deck covering the Metropolitan Transportation Authority railyards. The green space between the apartment buildings is slated to be added last, leading many to fear it will never exist. And even if the project and its parks are completed as planned, a neighborhood with a severe shortage of parks and sports fields will end up with a slightly lower ratio of parkland to resident than it now has.

Harnik's book inspires a momentary fantasy of what downtown Brooklyn might have looked like with a new central green space -- one that could have been funded with part of the nearly $300 million subsidy the city and state provided for the arena. A park might even have generated a greater economic return than the arena.

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NoLandGrab: In the case of Atlantic Yards, the "publicly accessible private open space" is not a park in any sense of the word, but rather Ratner's cost of doing business — the bare minimum cost, we might add.

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

Brooklyn arena positioned to host boxing events

AP
by Dave Skretta

The fertile boxing ground that produced dozens of world champions, from Mike Tyson to Riddick Bowe, will soon have a regular series of fights in a glimmering new arena.

By "soon," they mean "in a few years."

Golden Boy Promotions has agreed to bring at least 12 shows each year to the New Jersey Nets' new home in Brooklyn. The announcement was made Wednesday by Los Angeles-based Golden Boy and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which is behind the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development.

The centerpiece of it, the 18,000-seat Barclays Center, is scheduled to open in 2012.

"There's a rich heritage in this marketplace," Brett Yormark, president and chief executive of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, told The Associated Press. "We're going to work very closely with Golden Boy, and we're very excited about the possibilities."

The agreement is exclusive in the fact that Golden Boy will not have similar agreements to develop other boxing franchises in the New York area, but Yormark said it will not prevent local promoters from working with Golden Boy to stage fights at the Barclays Center.

"The exclusive word is a little overstated," Yormark said.

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NoLandGrab: Overstated? Until now, we didn't know that Yormark knew the meaning of the word.

Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

The land use issue won't go away, even if the Charter Commission won't get to it this year

Atlantic Yards Report

After spending the day today at Land Use and Local Voices, a conference co-sponsored by the Municipal Art Society and Manhattan Community Board 1, I can safely say that both experts and engaged citizens know there's something wrong with the current process.

There's a significant need to give local voices more credence (though not a veto), while recognizing that land use has borough-wide and city-wide implications.

And while the Charter Revision Commission doesn't have time this year to address land use, if it's reappointed, it should--though some at the conference were doubtful the commission would go beyond the promised issue of term limits.

(I'll have a report on the conference, in which Atlantic Yards was again invoked as an example of a Community Benefits Agreement gone wrong, at a later date.)

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Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

July 21, 2010

D-Lee's agent tells it like it is: "the hypocrisy of the whole world of sports"

Atlantic Yards Report

Recently departed Knicks forward David Lee, an ever-improving player who became a (last-minute) All-Star this past year, got some well-deserved ink from Times columnist Harvey Araton today, in Traded by Knicks, Lee Was Still a Team Player.

Araton noted that Lee was the only team member to attend funerals of two men connected with the team and that he was the only one to watch from courtside the halftime ceremony 40th anniversary of its 1970 championship team.

Araton wrote:

“People talk about how much they want good citizens, guys who are committed to an organization and a city,” said Mark Bartelstein, Lee’s agent.

“At the end of the day, it is what it is, the hypocrisy of the whole world of sports.

Flashback: hypocrisy

Remember how Bruce Ratner, in a 6/26/05 New York Times Magazine interview, went out of his way to puff the Nets:

The players are terrific. They are of good character. They are incredibly charitable. They are family-oriented. They have integrity.

As I wrote 2/15/08 upon Jason Kidd's departure for Dallas, we wouldn't see any more stories about his tempestuous divorce, his churchgoing, nor his image rehabilitation via Take a Net to School.

Then, as with the Nets' current slogan, It's All New.

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Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

Jane Jacobs vs. Robert Moses: some (Doctoroff, Burden) say you can have it both ways, and some (Gratz) say you can't

Atlantic Yards Report

There are two kinds of people in the world of urbanism, apparently: those who think you can meld or navigate the difference between Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, and those who think you can't.

Former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff is among the former groups. Asked July 8 if there was a simplistic either/or divide or a continuum, he replied, "“I don't think it is true any more, and I certainly think that the way we went about things, which was by no means perfect but we learned a lot along the way, is evidence that you can have it both ways."

CPC Chair Burden

Last night, at the third of the Architectural League's Conversations on New York, City Planning Commission Chairperson Amanda Burden sounded a similar note. Discussing the legacy of the Bloomberg administration, she observed, "I would say we've been able to have the city grow in place," able to accommodate new New Yorkers and access the waterfront.

She said it was her personal emphasis to "focus on the public realm... to end up with a vibrant street life." In that way," she continued, "We plan on a Robert Moses sort of scale, at least a number of these rezonings, but we judge ourselves by a Jane Jacobs scale."

In the age of Jacobs

Her interlocutor, critic and author Paul Goldberger, was too busy and/or polite to point out that, as he wrote in his 2004 book Up From Zero, about the contested process to rebuild the World Trade Center site, that it's never simple:

We may well be living in the age of Jane Jacobs, as opposed to the age of Robert Moses, but we also live in the age of marketing, and it is common today to see large projects presented as if they epitomized the small-scale, naturally occurring urban values Jacobs espoused.

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NoLandGrab: "Vibrant street life?" Like Brooklyn's 4th Avenue?

Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

Jane Jacobs, esthete? (or why the High Line belongs in the Metro section)

Atlantic Yards Report

While urbanism certainly encompasses questions of design, it equally involves politics, policy, and economics. So it was a little jarring to see, in today's New York Times, news that High Line Founders To Get Jane Jacobs Medal appear in the Arts section.

The High Line is a spectacular new park and, while it's spurred inventive architecture, it belongs in the Metro section. Last week, a front-page Times article about the High Line's notable ripple effects, After High Line’s Success, Other Cities Look Up, began on the front page, but jumped to the Metro section.

Oddly enough, online that article is assigned to the arts desk.

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Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

Ratner and Blumenfeld's $400 million East River Plaza opens

The Real Deal
by Amy Tennery

Bruce Ratner claims that shopping in his newest mall is "equivalent to getting a raise." Say what?

Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner, said that while he's excited about the plaza opening, he's still cautious about development in general. "We're finishing all our projects, that's what's most important now," Ratner told The Real Deal following the ribbon cutting this morning. "In the development business... there's really not [much of a] difference between now and six months ago."

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NoLandGrab: Yeah, finishing all their projects... in a few decades.

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

Enough Already

Talking Points Memo
by David Kurtz

TPM Reader MK, a New Yorker, has had enough with out-of-towners like Sarah Plain protesting the mosque near the WTC site:

I first heard about this project a month or two ago, and the thing that struck me the most about it was the overwhelming support it had from the local community board in Lower Manhattan. As you are probably familiar it is nearly impossible to have a community board agree on even the most mundane issues, so to have a community board agree 29-1 on ANY this particular issue is quite an accomplishment.

Furthermore, why is land use in New York City the business of anyone else but the citizens of New York? If so, I would really like to know Sarah Palin's opinion of the Atlantic Yards (or Hudson Yards or the expansion of Columbia University) project, an issue that is 1,000,000x more controversial than this project. That's all this is: a land use issue.

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Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Eliminating Station Booth Agents Still a Bad Idea, Says Millman

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The Eagle republishes 52nd District Assemblymember Joan Millman's July 14th testimony on the MTA's pending token-booth closings and station-clerk layoffs.

While we are in the midst of the worst recession this country has faced in over 75 years and the state must make difficult financial decisions, safe and affordable public transportation is an absolute necessity. We must look at every available option to sustain mass transit, including East River tolls, because a properly funded transit system provides intangible long-term benefits to the overall health and growth of our city. We must find a balanced approach which combines a reasonable amount of state funding with other funding sources.
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Unfortunately, the MTA’s financial mismanagement does not stop here. I am still stunned that the MTA sold the Atlantic Yards property for less than half its own appraised value of over $200 million. What did the MTA get in return for this sweetheart deal? Not enough! The MTA ought to be acting in the best interests of the public, not subsidizing deep-pocketed developers.

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Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

July 20, 2010

Dean St Demolition 7-19-10

Raulism via YouTube

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Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

New Domino plan passes key hurdle with no essential modification; is affordable housing subject to same loopholes as with Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

When it comes to big developments, you always have to look behind the curtain. And when it comes to the controversial New Domino development in Williamsburg--the second-largest in Brooklyn, after Atlantic Yards--the land use process, the affordable housing, and the urban planning all deserve another look.

Notably, the project has been justified because of the promised affordable housing, but, as with Atlantic Yards, the developer won't commit to building the housing in the announced timetable.

So the likely loopholes should be part of the public discussion.

And here's a number you haven't seen in print: $2.5 million, which is (nearly) the total the New Domino developer spent on lobbying in the last five years (details below).
...

I posed several questions to the New Domino developers, including whether the 660 units had to be built in ten years, whether the timing or number of units is subject to subsidy availability, and whether the developer--as in some Community Benefit Agreements--was required to put money in an affordable housing fund up front.

"I apologize, but no one is available at CPC Resources to answer this inquiry," spokesman Richard Edmonds responded.

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NoLandGrab: Hey, at least he apologized!

Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

On Pacific Street, truck traffic for arena construction seems to be backed up again

Atlantic Yards Report

More traffic mayhem in Prospect Heights, brought to you by the geniuses behind the Atlantic Yards project.

What's wrong with this picture of Pacific Street between Carlton and Sixth avenues?

Well, according to the Prospect Heights residents who sent me the photo yesterday, the trucks waiting to cross Sixth Avenue and enter the arena construction site were not following the rules as stated in the sign below.

Trucks are supposed to "queue as needed from Vanderbilt Ave to Carlton Street on Pacific Ave only." (The latter two, of course, were described incorrectly.)

Then the "flagger/radio operator at the intersection of Carlton Street and Pacific Avenue will dispatch trucks on an as called for basis from the Arena site radio operator."
...

The reason for the rules? Pacific Street between Vanderbilt and Carlton avenues has been closed, so it's a private street used for construction staging. Pacific Street between Sixth and Fifth avenues also has been closed (as has Fifth between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues) for construction.

However, Pacific Street between Carlton and Sixth remains a public street, with the residential Newswalk building occupying a larger portion of the block. So the drivers are supposed to be mindful of their surroundings.
...

Of the two dispatchers, one is responsible for managing between Vanderbilt and Carlton and one on the arena block site alerting the first dispatcher when space on the site is available and when to release truck(s) from Pacific and Carlton.

According to the tipster, that wasn't happening yesterday. The photo--as opposed to a video--isn't conclusive, but, according to the tipster, only after dispatchers at Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street recognized they were being watched did one return to Carlton Avenue.

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Posted by eric at 9:42 AM

The Sooner he goes home!

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Stephen Brown

It's rare that a week goes by without a crime being reported at one of Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn malls, and this week is no exception.

What a steal!

A 22-year-old was arrested on July 17 after she was nabbed stealing more than $11,000 worth of bare essentials.

Workers at the Target on Flatbush Avenue between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue told police they stopped the young woman from rolling away with a cart full of items at 12:13 am.

A set of bed sheets, some luggage, cleaning supplies, pet food and adult and baby clothes were among the items heading out the door, they said.

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Posted by eric at 9:36 AM

Three Arrows, a Co-op That Loves Its Committees

The New York Times
by Susan Dominus

Congratulations, Bruce Ratner! You're now the poster child for undemocratic development projects!

Hi, Jen and David — it’s your Realtor, Sasha, calling. I don’t want to clog your voice mail, but I just found a summer property at Three Arrows that I absolutely think you should see. Actually, it’s not a property. Don’t call it a property. They hate the word “property.” They call it a site, and what you really buy is the house on it. The land itself is owned by Three Arrows. It’s a co-op, like in the city, only it’s in Putnam Valley, N.Y., up past Peekskill.

Anyway, it’s got great lake access just for members and their friends, but it’s not a club. Three Arrows is not really clubby — definitely not country-clubby, I mean. Think socialist, not socialite. A bunch of actual socialists started the place nearly 75 years ago: “Cooperative living at proletarian prices.” Those old lefties were pretty good branders, it turns out.
...

A majority vote of the membership can overturn any decision — direct democracy in action, they like to say (try putting that in the brochure for Bruce Ratner’s newest development!).

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Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

July 19, 2010

Doctoroff, updated, with video: was there really any "citywide planning"

Atlantic Yards Report

Had there been citywide planning, then Winston Von Engel, Deputy Director of the Brooklyn office of the Department of City Planning, wouldn't have said in March 2006. "We concentrated on the Downtown Brooklyn development plan for Downtown Brooklyn. Forest City Ratner owns property across the way. And they saw the yards, and looked at those. We had not been considering the yards directly."

Had there been citywide planning, there would have been a fair bidding process for the railyard and for the project rather than one developer with an inside track.

Had there been citywide planning, some agency would have been responsible for the weeds that meant the railyard appeared blighted.

Had there been citywide planning, the project would have--as Doctoroff agrees in retrospect--gone through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

Had there been citywide planning, there would have been much less parking approved.

Had there been citywide planning, public transportation would be enhanced.

Had there been citywide planning, there would have been a real cost-benefit analysis.

Had there been citywide planning, Bruce Ratner would not have been able to say, as he did at the groundbreaking in March, that, when he met with Mayor Mike Bloomgerg in July 2003, some five months before the project was publicly unveiled, that the mayor declared, "Let's get this done."

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Posted by eric at 11:18 PM

Citizens Union: "there is a need to integrate 21st century security concerns into land use decision-making"

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember the issue of security?

The good-government group Citizens Union (CU), in its lengthy comments to the Charter Revision Commission on land use and other issues (more here), says "there is a need to integrate 21st century security concerns into land use decision-making."

Oh. The CU was never out front on Atlantic Yards, and its comment do not specifically invoke AY, but they essentially back up concerns by AY opponents and critics that terrorism and security should have been considered not merely--as they surely have been--by the developer and the police, but in the environmental review.

As of now, no streets are supposed to be closed outside the Atlantic Yards arena, even though--at least in a previous incarnation--the distance to the arena was no greater than at the Prudential Center in Newark, where streets are closed.

(Given the re-orientation of the arena, the distance from the street, at least on Flatbush Avenue, likely would be greater.)

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NoLandGrab: Norman Oder might be correct about the Flatbush Avenue setback, but this Michael D.D. White photo of the Barclays Center model makes it look like the arena will virtually overhang Atlantic Avenue — surely a security no-no.

Posted by eric at 1:21 PM

Consensus, trust and bad faith

Cap'n Transit Rides Again

Part of the problem is simply that so many of the actors are obviously acting in bad faith. Marty Golden sits by and watches as the MTA fails to get proper funding, votes for the budget that strips $143 million from the agency, and then attacks Janele Hyer-Spencer for voting for that same budget. The TWU leaders make a mockery of the overtime rules that earlier labor leaders worked so hard to establish. Real estate mogul Bruce Ratner milks the MTA for all it's worth, even as it's preparing to cut subway and bus service.
...

Ultimately, the thing to do is to reform the system so that dishonest politicians like [John] Sampson and Richard Brodsky can't get the kind of power that they currently have, and so that greedy unelected business owners like Ratner have limited influence.

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Posted by eric at 1:17 PM

New Rochelle veterans have new plans in pitch to save city armory

LoHud.com
by Hannah Adely

Local veterans, reinvigorated in their hope of saving the city armory, will present plans Tuesday at a City Council meeting to convert the dormant building into a community, veteran and athletic center.

Forest City Residential had planned to tear down the New Rochelle Armory as part of its larger 26-acre Echo Bay development proposal, but has said it will alter and possibly downscale its plan to fit the current economy.
...

"Forest City Residential now has exclusive rights, under contract with the city, to develop the area that includes the armory.

The company, however, gave permission for the City Council to hear the veterans' alternate plan.

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NoLandGrab: Sounds like they took a page out of the Land Grab Pirates playbook: "propose the biggest, ugliest complex possible, only to... pare it down 15% or so, and say you've been merciful.

Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

Citizens Union to Charter Commission: some sharing of power needed, but not fundamental change (hearing tonight)

Atlantic Yards Report

The venerable good-government group Citizens Union (CU), as I wrote in March, has played it carefully regarding Atlantic Yards, in December 2006 calling for a “limited delay” but saying it “does not align itself with those who oppose the project"--and never speaking out further.

Now the CU, which has a special role in the Charter Revision Commission's work, is also playing it carefully, proposing reforms--some of which (land use review regarding security and architectural character) could affect future Atlantic Yards-like projects, at least if they are be subject to city review.

But those reforms would not fundamentally change the power balance in the city.

CU will present its 49 recommendation to the Commission at a hearing tonight at 6 pm at Brooklyn College, the first of five hearings [PDF] in response to a preliminary staff report.

That report scanted issues of land use and concerns about local decisionmaking (as pointed out by Brooklyn representative Carlo Scissura, Borough President Marty Markowitz's Chief of Staff), but stressed term limits and instant runoff voting (IRV)--the latter of which apparently has already been dropped.

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Posted by eric at 12:34 PM

July 18, 2010

The paradox of "Google News"--or, how AYR original content appears in Google News only when someone else borrows it

Atlantic Yards Report

A Google search has become a critical part of almost everyone's on-line experience, but when it comes to news, and particularly to Atlantic Yards, Google's approach to what is news could probably stand to be improved. For example, press releases are treated as "news" while stand-alone journalists, can only show up as bloggers.

Google, which is based on algorithms rather them whims, should get it right, or at least be consistent, right?

It depends where you look.

If you search on "Atlantic Yards" in Google Blogs, not only do Atlantic Yards Report posts and articles appear in the list, but AYR gets prominence up top, as shown in this screenshot from July 11.

...

But if you search on "Atlantic Yards" in Google News, AYR is ignored.

That's because Google News algorithms exclude sites written and maintained by one person, no matter the quality or reputation.

There's surely the logic behind the rule, and it would be difficult to police, but it disserves readers.

Google News includes self-serving press releases, which, however labeled, are less likely to provide solid information than legitimate standalone journalism, a concept that's more than five years old

And it leads to absurd results, because Google News includes news articles that are partly based on AYR--such as several Gothamist posts in Google News--or nearly completely based on it, such as:

Click on the link for further insight into Google's policies, and see that one way around the exclusion of blogs is to reference blog content in comments on news items.

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Posted by steve at 7:55 AM

Atlantic Yards Demo 7/14-16/2010

Photo set, by Raulistic, via Flickr.

Posted by steve at 7:39 AM

July 17, 2010

Atlantic Yards Report Saturday Morning Trio

Atlantic Yards Report

Photos of demolitions on Dean Street, and a curious instance of preservation; what next?

Here's a set of photos, via Raulistic (aka Raul Rothblatt), of demolition on Dean Street from Wednesday through Friday.

And, with some annotation added by Brownstoner, note how a handsome old door disappeared, perhaps to be re-sold or to grace some demolition worker's own project. That must not have been completely kosher, because the door was temporarily replaced with an out-of-context substitute.

Check out this blog entry to see that the pictures don't lie.

Markowitz's summer concert strategy/legacy gets gentle treatment in the Times; what about FCR sponsorships and disproportionate capital spending

In an article yesterday headlined Bringing Fun to Brooklyn, a New York Times music reporter offered rather gentle treatment of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's signature public accomplishment:

MARTY MARKOWITZ’S duties as the Brooklyn borough president include appointing community board members and overseeing a budget for capital projects. But one morning this week his platform was all about fun, which he advocated with all the vigor of a contested campaign issue.

“People have a right to have fun in this city,” Mr. Markowitz said in an interview in his office, his voice rising to a level of bombast well known to his constituents. “What are we going to do, become puritans? As long as we’re not inconveniencing in any dramatic way, we have to stay fun here.”

The Times goes on to encapsulate the history of Markowitz' summer concerts, but Norman Oder points out there's more than mere "fun" going on.

That skates over that fact that corporate and foundation contributions, such as from Forest City Ratner and its foundation, mean Markowitz might be indebted to big developers like Forest City Ratner. Also, as the New York Post has pointed out, Markowitz's separate charity, Best of Brooklyn, has a record of issuing no-bid contracts.

Also covered is the plan by Markowitz to stick a neighborhood with an amphitheater, whether it wants it or not.

But not everyone in Brooklyn is a fan of the concerts, or of Mr. Markowitz’s plan for their future. At Asser Levy Park, where the series was to open on Thursday night with a concert by Neil Sedaka and Brenda Lee, Mr. Markowitz’s proposal for a sleek $64 million amphitheater has drawn community opposition.

...

Mr. Markowitz, 65, said the amphitheater plan — designed by the international firm Grimshaw Architects — would also fix the park’s chronic drainage problems and is a necessary improvement. Most of its cost, he said, has already been allocated through the capital budget that Mr. Markowitz controls.

...

Most of its cost has already been allocated? As I reported in May 2009, some $24.6 million, more than a third of Markowitz's capital budget last year, was directed to the $64 million amphitheater.

In other words, despite the lead of the article, Markowitz's capital budget is about fun, and about his legacy.

By contrast, as City Hall reported, former Bronx BP Adolfo Carrión directed much of his capital money toward creating affordable housing.

On the LeBron James saga and a strategic, unsuccessful media leak by the Nets

It's just another day at Atlantic Yards: Dreams of greatness (Starchitect! Affordable Housing! Public Space!) followed by lowered expectations. Here is an inside look of how the Nets failed to get LeBron James on the Nets' roster.

Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA columnist for Yahoo! Sports, offers a long recap of the LeBron James saga, headlined Inside look at LeBron’s free-agent coup.

As Wojnarowski tells it, after the 2008 Olympics, James always wanted to go to the Miami Heat, to be joined by fellow stars, but was at least intrigued by the meeting with the Nets:

The New Jersey Nets – with owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minority partner Jay-Z – were the first team to make a formal presentation to James at the offices of his LRMR marketing company in downtown Cleveland on July 1. This was the meeting that most intrigued James, because he had never been in the room with Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire and new Nets owner. This was a self-made global tycoon, different than the rest of the owners, and this surely intrigued James.

...

As it started to get back to Jay-Z that the Nets were trailing to the Heat and Bulls, a Nets official close to ownership – against the wishes of several peers – hatched a plan to leak the notes of a Prokhorov staff meeting to a media outlet. The leaked notes indicated that Prokhorov believed James’ brand would be diminished as part of a three-star team in Miami. What’s more, the notes also indicated what great respect Prokhorov had for Maverick Carter.

(Emphases added)

Prokhorov is self-made? I thought he made money, as 60 Minutes reported, "in a process that even Prokhorov's business partner admitted wasn't perfect, and probably not even legal under Western standards."

...

So, where did those notes go? Wojnarowski doesn't say, but the trail points to ESPN writer Chris Broussard, who wrote July 6, in the headline Prokhorov sounds off to inner circle:

In this historic summer of NBA uncertainty, one thing is clear to Mikhail Prokhorov: Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will play for the Miami Heat next season.

Another of Prokhorov's beliefs is that if LeBron James joins Wade and Bosh in Miami, The King could win "two or three titles" but "diminish the LeBron brand" because he'd be winning with such a power-packed lineup.

..ESPN.com has obtained notes from the [Prokhorov conference call] from a league source, and they provide interesting insight into the perceptions of the NBA's newest, most fascinating owner -- who, above all, left his first foray into NBA free agency optimistic his Nets soon would be the home of James.

...

On the conference call, he categorized the options he believes James has before him:

• The "hometown angle" of remaining with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

• The choice to play with Wade and Bosh in Miami, where James would have a "very high chance to win two or three titles" but where he could also "diminish the LeBron brand."

• Joining the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers or New York Knicks. These teams, according to Prokhorov, are similar from a basketball standpoint and he believes none of the three clubs has a clear-cut strategy for winning championships.

• Becoming a member of the Nets, who would give James the best opportunity to build a dynasty, become a champion and emerge as a global icon.

To assure James of winning, Prokhorov said the Nets would pursue a trade for Chris Paul. He admits it could "take a year for the young roster to grow" but that after adding the right pieces around James, the Nets could win the NBA title two years from now.

Best opportunity to build a dynasty?

That plan didn't exactly work out, though media outlets like the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, as NLG points out, seem to think the team is on Plan B.

Posted by steve at 8:42 AM

Millman to MTA: Hearings a “Sham”; Restore Agent at High Street

Brooklyn Heights Blog

At a public hearing, Assembly Member Joan Millman questions a some of the MTA's dealings, including how the MTA gave developer Bruce Ratner a sweetheart deal on the Vanderbilt Yards.

She addressed the question of additional funding for the MTA by noting that the state needed to increase its contribution. She also faulted the MTA for hanging on to unused buildings the sale or lease of which would bolster its coffers (”What is the MTA doing with 370 Jay Street?”, she asked, “Storing tokens?”), failing to get contributions from developers along the Fourth Avenue corridor, and selling its Atlantic Yards property in a “sweetheart deal” for less than half its appraised value. She advocated using some federal stimulus funds for MTA operating expenses rather than capital projects, and said the federal government had approved this, but the MTA had yet to agree.

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Posted by steve at 8:14 AM

Cool “New Jersey Nets” images

NBA & Basketball

3882804180_8ec6eacd04.jpg

Taken on a bitterly cold day in late January, not long after plans to build a new basketball stadium and high-rise complex on this site were first announced.

For a closer look at the Atlantic Yards project and its effects on the surrounding neighborhood, I strongly recommend Tracy Collins’ excellent collection, Atlantic Yards: [De]Construction of the Neighborhood.

Photo by Genial 23, via Flickr

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Posted by steve at 7:58 AM

July 16, 2010

What's violating fiduciary duty for a public authority? "I don't care what the facts are; I'm going to do what the governor or mayor told me do"

Atlantic Yards Report

The road to reforming public authorities is a long one, but, with the expansion of the Authorities Budget Office (ABO) and the release of a report July 1, New York is moving down that road, right?

Yes, and no.

It's not merely that the ABO is understaffed, with a cohort so small it "borders on insanity," according to corporate governance expert Ira Millstein.

(Working pro bono, noted attorney Millstein with colleagues shaped the contours of the 2009 Public Authorities Reform Act, leading New York to what Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, the legislative sponsor, calls "a grand experiment" in reforming government.)

It's that even an expert like Millstein assumes that "you'll never have on the board everybody thinking uniformly." And, for some authorities--I'll point to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and its quasi-spawn, the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC)--that hasn't been true.

There's been little discussion and no dissent when it comes to Atlantic Yards; the board members ask the barest of questions, are glaringly uninformed, and uniformly vote as predicted.

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Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

AY lobbyist Lipsky flunks sustainability

Atlantic Yards Report

Lobbyist Richard Lipsky was paid $15,000 last year by the Atlantic Yards Development Group (and $10,000 by FC East River Associates, which is developing East River Plaza in East Harlem), so that may be enough to keep him writing things like this on his Neighborhood Retail Alliance blog:

The point gains additional poignancy, because it has been suggested by New York's Burden-planning commissioner Amanda-that Flushing Commons is a prime example of Mayor Bloomberg's promotion of sustainability because of its location right next to a major transit hub. Now, in our view, Atlantic Yards, located at Fulton and Atlantic Avenue, has a greater claim to this distinction because of the 18 or so interconnecting rail links in and around the site; but the claim that downtown Flushing offers a similar venue for the use of mass transit over looks the fact that the 7 Line (the only train servicing the area) is already stuffed to the gills-and the buses that run out of Main Street are filled to capacity at peak travel hours.
...

Yes, the Atlantic Yards site would be adjacent to a larger transit hub than in downtown Flushing So it does have a somewhat greater claim to the distinction, but that doesn't make it sustainable.

As urban planning professor Tom Angotti wrote in the 6/5/07 Gotham Gazette, under the headline Atlantic Yards and the Sustainability Test:

Atlantic Yards is promoted as a prime example of “transit-oriented development” because it is located over the third largest transit hub in the city. Yet Forest City Ratner plans to build a parking garage with 3,670 spaces, and in the first phase, which could last 10 to 20 years, create over 2,000 spaces in open parking lots. These would attract more cars and increase traffic congestion. At the same time, the plans currently provide for no improvements to subway and train stations, which are already over-capacity, and no additional trains. Bus service, under the latest proposals, would not be expanded and could even decline.

Actually, AY would be adjacent to the hub, not over it.

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NoLandGrab: Speaking of reality, Lipsky never fails to allow it to get in the way of his paycheck.

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

Prokhorov Preaches Patience: Nets Owner Moves to Plan B After Failing To Land Big Free Agents

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by John Torenli

Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who took the tri-state area by storm just over two months ago when he was officially named owner of the New Jersey (soon-to-be-Brooklyn) Nets, had a new message for diehard fans this week.

“Be patient. Support our team. We will win for sure,” Prokhorov insisted Tuesday during his state-of-the-franchise address at the Four Seasons in New York.

After failing to land one of the prized free agents on the team’s July wish list — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — Prokhorov didn’t panic and sign a player his management group was less than enamored with in the hopes of pacifying a loyal but frustrated fan base.

Instead, he simply went to one of several back-up plans the organization had in place, just in case the “Big Three” turned down his monster pitch.

“Really I’m very happy with how things have played out,” Prokhorov said calmly. “Just after my meeting on the first of July, I had a different anticipation. I have predicted a lot of what has gone on. We have Plan A, we have Plan B and we have Plan C and even Plan D.

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NoLandGrab: OK, it's one thing for a reporter to mindlessly boost a team, but it's a completely different thing to lose one's grip on reality. Does John Torenli really believe that somewhere the Nets had a plan to acquire four guys nobody's ever heard of, and hire as their president the executive who built the Sixers into the sixth-worst team in the NBA, one that missed the playoffs last season by 14 games? That sounds more like Plan W.

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Mikhail Prokorov [sic] Faces Off Against the Knicks

Bettor.com

This story bears a striking resemblance to one posted yesterday by Capital New York, though it's slightly different, as if it got run back and forth through Google Translator a couple times.

But one thing definitely got lost in translation.

It’s hard to imagine Prokhorov doesn’t believe it. He has the assets to make it possible and hasn’t stalled in beginning the process. In a first step, he moved the Nets to Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards for the upcoming season, a geographic change that will have demographic effects.

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NoLandGrab: If that's the case, either Bruce Ratner is going to put on the most spectacular high-speed construction job ever, or the Nets will be playing their home games on the Dean Street playground. A safer bet is that the Nets will be calling Newark's Prudential Center home for a couple seasons, at least.

Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

The Hezitorial: Yonkersites Likes it ‘Nice and Rough’

Yonkers Tribune
by Hezi Aris

The editor of the Yonkers Tribune imagines a future in which reverse-Robin Hood Bruce Ratner cuts out the middleman.

In preparation for 2012, acid tongued bloggers have formulated a credible and new form of governance, created about a triumvirate of exceptional people who would share power in intervals of 4 months apiece over a two-year cycle, permitting only one re-election. The most proficient for Yonkers’s success are the “the three amigos”, better known to Yonkersites as Bruce Ratner, Louis Cappelli, and Peter Kelly. Each has been able to amass preeminent corporate structures, incorporating an OPM [Other People's Money] philosophy. OPM is the antithesis of Robin Hood’s conduct of robbing the rich to benefit the poor. Specifically for Yonkers, Robin Hood’s philosophy will revert to robbing the poor to benefit the well to do. It seems an appropriate concept. It may not be “nice", but it will be “rough". Each of “the three amigos” will exact a return for economic development projects that will dwarf all those planned until now. Future projects will exact sizable sums from every Yonkersite before permitting a corporation, small, medium, or large, to use the funds Yonkersites will give their corporations as payment for their coming to Yonkers. Yonkersites’ investment in them will give Yonkersites great pride in offering the corporations our funds. Our children will sing songs in their name. We will serve them without concern for ourselves, happy in knowing that our lot is to pay them homage for looking in our direction. Green is a powerful color.

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Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

July 15, 2010

Doctoroff posits justification for Atlantic Yards: Downtown Brooklyn “needed more of a center” (but there was no plan until FCR stepped forward)

Atlantic Yards Report

Former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff has to be feeling pretty good. He didn't bring the Olympics to New York, and that smarts, and he couldn't get the West Side Stadium passed.

But he got most of the Bloomberg administration's ambitious land use agenda passed during his six-year tenure, which ended in 2007.

Now, in his genial, confident way, Doctoroff can look back and contend, as he has before, that he managed to thread the needle between Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, to get projects passed with sufficient public input and without much displacement, to make omelets (in Moses's famous formulation) but without breaking eggs.

And if he's not challenged--as he was back in 2007 by Majora Carter, then of Sustainable South Bronx--he just might get away with it. Doctoroff had said, as he's said since, that he and the administration had gotten better at listening.

Carter said they hadn't done enough, that they had to "really, really listen." She added, "The interesting thing about listening is you have to do it openly and not have a predetermined idea set.”

And Doctoroff might get away with claiming, as he did last week, that Atlantic Yards was primarily a product of city guidance, rather than a project presented by a developer with good connections.

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Posted by eric at 10:05 AM

18th-Century Ship Found at Trade Center Site

City Room
by David W. Dunlap

How does the discovery of a 200-some-odd-year-old ship relate to the saga of Atlantic Yards? Read on.

In the middle of tomorrow, a great ribbed ghost has emerged from a distant yesterday.

On Tuesday morning, workers excavating the site of the underground vehicle security center for the future World Trade Center hit a row of sturdy, upright wood timbers, regularly spaced, sticking out of a briny gray muck flecked with oyster shells.

Obviously, these were more than just remnants of the wooden cribbing used in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to extend the shoreline of Manhattan Island ever farther into the Hudson River. (Lower Manhattan real estate was a precious commodity even then.)

“They were so perfectly contoured that they were clearly part of a ship,” said A. Michael Pappalardo, an archaeologist with the firm AKRF, which is working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to document historical material uncovered during construction.

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NoLandGrab: Clearly, AKRF has its claws in nearly every major (and majorly subsidized) construction project in New York City. We've been unable to ascertain, however, whether the World Trade Center Environmental Impact Statement claimed that the project would have "no adverse impact on maritime operations in lower Manhattan."

Posted by eric at 9:48 AM

Mikhail Prokhorov Says One Thing, Nets Do the Opposite

Former Sixers G.M. latest curious move in Prokhorov's first summer as owner

NBC New York
by Josh Alper

There's no doubt that the addition of Mikhail Prokhorov to the roll call of team owners makes the American sports landscape a more interesting one. We're starting to have some second thoughts about how much he means any of the things he says, however.

Case in point is an interview that Prokhorov gave to Nets Daily on Monday while he was flitting through the sky on his Gulfstream. The first question had to do with the departure of team president and general manager Rod Thorn and the search for a replacement who would help the Nets fulfill Prokhorov's promise of a championship within five years. The owner professed to be in no rush to hire a new man because, as a new owner, "I need to touch and smell everything myself and this takes some time."

Fast forward to Wednesday when the Nets announced that former Sixers G.M. Billy King would be joining the team and assuming Thorn's duties. Maybe rush translates differently in Russian?

His job title is general manager so Prokhorov may still be taking his time to find a president but that would appear to be, in one form or another, a semantic distinction that won't make much difference if King proves to be the same guy who ran the Sixers into the ground after Larry Brown left the team. The team ran through numerous coaches, spent barrels of money on mediocre players and generally resembled the Isiah Thomas Knicks without the same media spotlight.

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NoLandGrab: Plan D?

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards Smells Bad

Josh Alper at NBC-New York scratches his head about Mikhail Prokhorov.

So do we.

Does this guy take anything seriously? If he treats free agency and his franchise this way, imagine what kind of humorous stylings he'll come up with when Atlantic Yards doesn't provide any affordable housing.

Posted by eric at 9:36 AM

Thorn had good run with Nets

Bergen Record
by Al Iannazzone

Rod Thorn, the only guy with any class in the whole Nets organization, is getting out.

With money tight under former principal owner Bruce Ratner, Thorn had to break up a championship contender and trade Kenyon Martin in 2004, cut salary nearly every season to avoid luxury tax penalties and move draft picks for cash.

The Nets finally have unlimited resources with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov signing the checks. Yet, Thorn is resigning.
...

Thorn is not retiring. Teams have called him, but Thorn isn’t sure what he will do next.

He dispels reports he’s leaving because of money – Prokhorov offered a two-year, $8 million deal, down from the $5.5 million Thorn made last season — or doesn’t like new ownership.

"It’s time for me to go," Thorn said.

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Posted by eric at 9:26 AM

Villain-off: Prokhorov, Dolan and the end of a basketball monopoly

Capital New York
by Josh Curtis

Two weeks ago, while the Knicks were waiting with clammy hands for The Decision, the Nets unveiled a mammoth, 225’ X 95’ billboard depicting none other than Prokhorov himself standing alongside Nets minority owner and New York hip-hop legend Jay-Z. Above their heads read, “The blueprint for greatness.” But this was different from billboards past. It wasn’t commissioned to preside over a Holiday Inn on some gray New Jersey highway in the middle of nowhere. Instead, it was tacked up at the corner of 34th Street and Eighth Avenue, a stone’s throw from Madison Square Garden. Nets CEO Brett Yormark has said that the location was a coincidence. It wasn’t. It was a gauntlet thrown down in earnest by a man who has every intention of making good on his threat to dethrone the Knicks.
...

Of course, it’s no secret that the Knicks have been bad for a while. But few seem to appreciate just how bad. Amazingly, the Knicks have now endured more consecutive losing seasons than any major New York-area sports franchise in the last 50 years. More than the Jets. More than the Mets. More than the Nets. More than the Islanders. More than everyone. Nine in a row. A decade has been flushed down the toilet. This is epic stuff.

And what the Knicks have begun to learn this off-season—and will doubtless continue to learn—is that being so bad for so long isn’t just depressing; it’s dangerous. It costs you players, yes, but more importantly, as Prokhorov knows, it costs you fans.
...

If that erosion isn’t yet obvious in the case of the Knicks, it’s because, unlike the Jets—and every other major New York sports franchise—the Knicks haven’t had in-state competition since 1977. For almost 33 years, they have enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the sporting affections of New York City in a way that no other New York team has. But that will end as soon as 2012, when the Nets plan to set up shop in the city’s most populous borough—and when the value of the Knicks’ brand may be at or near its all-time nadir.

By that time, Prokhorov expects to be riding high. "If everything goes as planned, I expect to be in the playoffs next season . . .and championship in one year minimum and maximum in five years,” he told Nets season-ticket holders in May.

Maybe there’s no need to worry. Maybe he's exactly as crazy as he seems.

Jim Dolan had better hope so.

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NoLandGrab: If everything goes as planned? That must be Plan C, since the Nets didn't land the top pick in the draft, nor any free agent of note, a showing on that front even worse than the Knicks'.

The Nets are the only sports team we know of that has had to resort to putting its owner (and his celebrity-fractional-owner sidekick) on a billboard for want of a marketable star.

Photo: Marianne O'Leary via flickr

Posted by eric at 9:11 AM

July 14, 2010

On Steinbrenner memories and Yankee Stadium subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at media coverage of the death of The Boss, including this nugget from Field of Schemes:

On Field of Schemes, sports facility watchdog Neil deMause observed:

Most of the coverage so far has talked about the seven championships the Yankees won during his tenure and his "bluster"; less attention has been given to his role in the debacle that is New Yankee Stadium.

...Steinbrenner is survived by his children Hank, Hal, Jessica, and Jennifer, $1.2 billion in public subsidies for his new stadium, and a big hole in the ground where promised parks were supposed to be by now.

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Posted by eric at 10:10 PM

ay dean st demo july 14

Raulism via YouTube

Bruce Ratner and his henchmen continue to lay waste to a once-up-and-coming neighborhood. But hey, at least you'll get to see LeBron James Dwyane Wade Chris Bosh Carlos Boozer Rudy Gay John Wall Johan Petro wearing the home jersey.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Demolition proceeds on Dean Street

Prospect Heights resident Raul Rothblatt (aka Raulism) offers a video of this morning's demolition work at 473 Dean Street (past photos by Tracy Collins).

According to the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Update, this is one of several buildings on the arena block for which demolition is in process or anticipated.

For those curious, Breeze Demolition of Red Hook is not part of the state's database of Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses.

Posted by eric at 5:15 PM

Virtually ignored by the Charter Commission report: a strong mayor, weak Borough Presidents, and the fact that there's "no real local government"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder files another report on the review of New York City's Charter.

The news from the city's Charter Revision Commission is that a vote on term limits (and maybe Instant Runoff Voting) are apparently on the agenda, but more substantive change, regarding issues like more public input into land use and expanded power of Borough Presidents, is not.

That's plausible, given the tight schedule to get measures on the November ballot, but the commission's staff report was dismissively brief, ignoring many legitimate criticisms posed by the Borough Presidents and others.

As the Staten Island Advance reported yesterday, that ticked off one Commission member:

"The fact the conversation on borough presidents and community boards warrants maybe two paragraphs, to me is utterly disrespectful to the communities," said Carlo A. Scissura, who is chief of staff to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Almost as disrespectful as the sham Atlantic Yards "process" that his boss so heartily embraced.

The fundamental problem

The failure to address the BPs' concerns reflects a larger issue, one that doesn't get traction in the Commission report, and one that explains the hundred successful rezonings under Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his ability to get agencies to march in lockstep to support projects like Atlantic Yards.

"The fundamental principle in this city is that there’s no real local government," suggested Gerald Benjamin, a professor at SUNY New Paltz, speaking at a June 10 hearing of the Commission.

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Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

As Everyone Else Discovers Brooklyn, So Have Hoteliers

The New York Times
by Susan Stellin

The fantasy impact on hotel demand of Bruce Ratner's arena continues to get unquestioned play in the media.

Although there are plenty of high-rise condominiums and rental towers nearby (many still not completely occupied), the area’s retail options are mostly fast-food restaurants and discount stores, rather than the boutiques, cafes and restaurants that have made Brooklyn such a hot destination, first for residents and now tourists.

Hoyt Harper, a senior vice president of brand management for Sheraton, said this location was convenient to transportation hubs and would be well positioned to attract Nets fans when the new stadium opened nearby in Atlantic Yards.

“We’re two years ahead of the sports facility,” Mr. Harper said, “but we’ll be in a great location to capture the business that brings to the market.”

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NoLandGrab: "The business that brings to the market?" We're not talking a Super Bowl, folks, we're talking a regular-season NBA game or a circus matinee. How many attendees at your average Knicks game are staying in Manhattan hotels? We'll wager that the number is tiny, and moreover, that they're hotel guests who happened to buy a game ticket, not vice versa.

Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

A Post-Mortem: Obama and ACORN

CounterPunch
by Billy Wharton

Another review of John Atlas's paean to ACORN, Seeds of Change.

Atlas’ treatment of the great debate that ensued over ACORN New York’s controversial support of the Atlantic Yards development project is less endearing. Here, it is author turned lawyer, as he seeks to justify the group’s decision to side with a real estate magnate using eminent domain laws for personal enrichment. Atlas does not attempt to frame the conflict as part of a larger struggle over real estate in the city or to mark the political distance traveled from the radical homesteading projects of the 80s. Instead, he summarized ACORN’s stand using the phrase so often employed to justify a political sell-out, “Unlike ideologues on both ends of the political spectrum, ACORN knew that the perfect is often the enemy of the good.”

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Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

July 13, 2010

The Job Development Authority, creator of BALDC (issuer of AY debt) & staffed by ESDC, fails to file annual report, budget info, mission statement

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has an interesting and eye-opening story on one of the most shadowy of New York's shadowy Public Authorities.

t sure looks like State Senator Bill Perkins' concerns about the Job Development Authority (JDA), the shadowy alter ego of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that was used to create the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC) to issue arena debt, deserved--and deserve--attention.

In one important official accounting, the JDA--which has no dedicated staff--appears to be a cipher.

Nearly alone among state authorities, it didn't submit a mission statement, an annual report, or a budget report, according to the first annual report by the state Authorities Budget Office (ABO).

The unusual transaction

Last December, Perkins in a letter to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo asked a question that, to my knowledge, has never been answered:

In essence, the ESDC crafted an unusual transaction whereby a nearly defunct entity, the Job Development Authority (JDA) was used to form the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Development Corporation (BALDC) which then issued the $511 million worth of arena construction bonds.

I believe that the bond issuance was done in this manner to avoid a review by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) and the state Comptroller. I respectfully request that your office issue an opinion as to whether the process employed during the bond issuance was legal, as the public must have utmost confidence in the processes of government.

Such a review by the PACB might have delayed the arena bonds, possibly beyond the end-of-year deadline for a crucial tax exemption.

ESDC response

I asked the ESDC why no filing had been made by the JDA, whether it would be made, and whether the BALDC would be included.

I got the following response last week from spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell:

ESDC has been working towards a JDA filing, and has held discussions with ABO about filing for JDA. JDA is a legal entity distinct from ESDC without a separate staff (ESDC staff functions as JDA’s staff, although JDA has an independent board) and much of the information asked of public authorities is not applicable. Therefore we have been working to prepare a customized filing that takes into account JDA’s unique nature, and once the prior three years of filings are complete, we will immediately file this year’s report. We are currently preparing these filings and hope to submit them within the next few months. As the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation is an affiliate of JDA, information regarding it will be covered in JDA’s filing.

There was no explanation for the delay.

Read on for lots more, including the news that more than a quarter of ESDC employees earn in excess of $100,000 a year. Is it any wonder that New York State is just about broke?

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Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

More trouble at Atlantic Terminal

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Stephen Brown

Bruce Ratner is lucky that he's the biggest, meanest developer in town, because if a bigger, meaner developer were to eye his Brooklyn malls, they'd be ripe for a blight-based eminent domain taking.

‘Terminal’ illness

Are there more thieves than shoppers at the Atlantic Center Mall? More criminal activity has popped off at the uber-sketchy hub of commerce.

  • A thief snatched a woman’s bag while she shopped on July 5. The victim told cops she had placed the bag down for less than a minute at around 12:30 pm when the thief took a cellphone, an iPod and $20.

  • A thief managed to swipe a woman’s wallet from her bag on July 6 while she sat in front of the Children’s Place store at around 1 pm. When the victim went to make a purchase minutes later, she realized she was missing an assortment of credit cards and IDs.

  • A crafty thief bumped a woman and stole her billfold while she shopped at the DSW Shoe Warehouse on July 10. The victim told cops that she was scoping some shoes at around 4:30 pm when some goon bumped her. When she went to buy some items, she realized she was missing $20 and an assortment of IDs and credit cards.

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Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

The Nets draw blanks, but that's OK for Prokhorov and Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

The Record's Al Iannazzone sums up, in an article headlined Nets look to solve puzzle, the team's positioning:

The Nets wanted Mike Krzyzewski or Jeff Van Gundy to be their coach. Tom Thibodeau was their third choice. The Nets hired Avery Johnson.

They hoped their 25-percent chance of winning the draft lottery would get them the top pick in the draft and John Wall. They took Derrick Favors third.

The Nets wanted team president Rod Thorn to continue to guide the basketball department. Thorn is resigning at the end of the week, with former Sixers’ president Billy King a candidate to replace him.

In free agency, they hoped – and wanted to believe – Mikhail Prokhorov’s money and global vision and Jay-Z’s appeal would result in LeBron James and other superstars coming to the Nets.

They wound up with Travis Outlaw, Johan Petro, Jordan Farmar and Anthony Morrow...

Well, for team fans, that's not so hot, but Prokhorov has already reaped enormous good publicity from his purchase and media tour.

And former majority owner Bruce Ratner and his partners at Forest City Enterprises are no longer saddled with the team's losses.

So some bad luck likely doesn't hurt them as much.

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NoLandGrab: As for Brooklyn residents unlucky enough to live anywhere near Ratner's Atlantic Yards site, their bad luck will cause them pain for many years to come.

Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

Hidden New York Byways Revealed With 80,000 Photos in the Latest AIA Guide

Bloomberg News
by James S. Russell

Fran Leadon, an authority on New York City byways, wore out four pairs of shoes tramping as much as 20 miles a day to update the classic “AIA Guide to New York City.”

“I love discovering these quiet corners of New York,” Leadon said as I joined him recently on a city walk, referring to a quiet enclave of vine-clad 19th-century row houses called Vinegar Hill. It missed out on the boom decade’s wave of gentrification that seems to have swallowed up much of Brooklyn.
...

The AIA guide, sponsored by the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, is a 1,055-page love letter to the city. It obsessively details the greatness of well-known neighborhoods, while luring the reader to bucolic corners of Staten Island and the hidden Art Deco grandeur of the Bronx.

Leadon, who helped update the work of the original authors, the late Norval White and Elliot Willensky, had the daunting task of reflecting the biggest explosion of development in New York since the 1950s. He says he took 80,000 photographs.
...

He documents the robust renovation that has energized the neighborhoods all around the planned Atlantic Yards megadevelopment. “None of these areas were in the last edition of the guide,” he said. The riches he uncovers explode the argument that Forest City Ratner’s contentious project was needed as an antidote to blight.

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Image: Oxford University Press via Bloomberg

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

Charter Panel's Narrow Scope Stirs Concerns

When the Charter Revision Commission meets Monday night, it will weigh its staff's recommendations against advocates' calls for a wider vision.

City Limits
by Jarrett Murphy

The site of the Atlantic Yards development, the biggest land use battle in recent memory. Advocates and developers both want changes to the city's land use process, but the staff of the Charter Revision Commission has recommended that those questions be put off to a later day.

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Photo: Marc Fader/City Limits

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Want to reach FCR's Community Liaison Office? It's moving to Dean near Carlton, so send an email for now

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Empire State Development Corporation's (via Forest City Ratner) ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE, Weeks of July 5, 2010 through July 18, 2010 [PDF]:

Community Liaison Office
The CLO is in the process of being relocated from 24 6th Avenue to a trailer on Dean Street near the intersection of Carlton Avenue & Dean Street. Persons seeking access should do so from Dean Street While the technological infrastructure is being set up and reestablished, the CLO phone line (866-923-5315) will be unavailable. However, community residents are encouraged to use the CLO email – communityliaison@atlanticyards.com - which remains operational. To aid the community, signage detailing the new location for the office will be posted at 24 6th Avenue as well as at the new location.

As promised, Forest City Ratner is planning to demolish 24 Sixth Avenue, the former Spalding factory that was renovated into some handsome condos.

It still looks like the developer will use 752 Pacific Street on that southeastern block (Pacific near Carlton) as construction headquarters, rather than demolish it as once promised.

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NoLandGrab: We believe that in both instances, Atlantic Yards Report meant "threatened" rather than "promised."

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

July 12, 2010

At Charter Commission hearing, most invited panelists support ULURP; Angotti, BPs, civic groups, call for planning, not zoning; AY gets a cameo

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York City Charter Revision Commission hearing on June 24 aired some important testimony on land use reform, to relatively little coverage, and though land use is not on the agenda this year, the issues deserve discussion.

The gist of the expert testimony--four of five those invited--was that the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) pretty much works, and shouldn't be amended. (There was also a lot of criticism of Community Benefit Agreements, as I've written.)

The one outlier, urban planning professor Tom Angotti of Hunter College--also an advisor to the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods on Atlantic Yards issues--disagreed, laying out in great detail the flaws in ULURP.

He suggested that greater weight (though not a veto) be given to the advisory opinions of local Community Boards and arguing for greater transparency in the pre-ULURP negotiations.

Also see Angotti's essay in the July Gotham Gazette, headlined Charting a Better Way for Planning and Community Boards, which questions for example, the continuing validity of a side agreement between then-Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and then-City Council Member John Liu regarding the Flushing Commons project in Queens.

(Coming July 21: a free conference titled Land Use and Local Voices: Is the City’s Land Use Process in Need of Reform?, sponsored by the Municipal Art Society and Manhattan Community Board 1.)

The Atlantic Yards exception

Barely mentioned was that state projects like Atlantic Yards avoid ULURP completely, with no weight at all given to the Community Boards; one expert, Vishaan Chakrabarti of Columbia University's real estate program, said it was "inappropriate" for the state to control such projects.

(The three affected Community Boards all expressed opposition or significant concern.)

Atlantic Yards did play an awkward cameo role in a question from a commission member, who wondered--without recognizing how AY avoided ULURP--how the charter might allow for community participation in discussions about the "horrific" traffic generated by the arena.

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NoLandGrab: While many Atlantic Yards opponents and critics called for the project to go through ULURP, it was because some process was better than no process. Clearly, it was not an endorsement of what is, as Professor Angotti pointed out, a deeply flawed mechanism.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, CB 8 Chairperson to Charter Commission: "Too often developers seek loopholes to avoid the input of the community they are attempting to infiltrate"

In the Charter Revision Commission hearing June 24 on Land Use, Nizjoni Granville, Chairperson of Brooklyn Community Board 8, was the second public speaker after the expert panel (covered here), appearing at about the 2:20 mark (webcast).

Like some other commentators, she asked for Community Boards to have more than advisory power in the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

And while Granville didn't name any names, and some of her testimony referenced supportive housing projects, her statements that "developers seek loopholes to avoid the input of the community they are attempting to infiltrate" and "developers are able to circumvent the process if they receive government funds that are not obtained from New York City" sure sound to me like references to Atlantic Yards.

As I wrote 10/1/06, Community Board 8, which takes in part of the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint at its western tip, didn't take a harsh official stance toward the project as did Community Board 6, but it did submit numerous letters of concern from Executive Committee members and area residents to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Granville, who is something of a skeptic regarding Atlantic Yards, was elected Chairperson in June 2009 over a project supporter, though it can't be said AY was the deciding issue.

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

Hanging w Dan Goldstein learning about the horrific Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn

baratunde’s internet scratch pad

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Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

In 20 months, Nets suite sales nudge from "about 30 percent" to less than 34 percent; top price has declined more than 21 percent

Atlantic Yards Report

How suite it isn't.

Either Nets Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark was spinning very, very hard back in 2008 or Nets suite sales have really slowed down--or both.

Since May 2008, 26 months ago, they've only sold nine suites, by my count, given that 26 were sold to insiders and the total sold is now 35.

(It's also possible that some who initially committed have backed out.)

Opening promises

On 5/5/08, Crain's New York Business reported:

Already, 20% of the 130 luxury boxes have been sold to “friends and family,” says Nets Sports Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark.

That's 26 suites.

In an 11/17/08 interview with the never-skeptical Alexis Glick of Fox Business News, Yormark stated, "We’ll be in Brooklyn for the 11-12 NBA season. We’ll probably be in Brooklyn actively in the summer of 2011. So give us a little time to gain some traction. We’ve presold our suites to the tune of about 30 percent."

That would mean 39 suites, if the total at that time was still 130. Or that would mean 30 suites, if the number had dipped to 100 (as was announced ten months later, in September 2009).

The percentage drops

But Yormark is what we might call an unreliable narrator.

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Posted by eric at 10:05 AM

Atlantic Yards as Muse

Curbed

The Nets haven't made a big splash in the NBA free agent market, but they're changing the game when it comes to cheap Brooklyn hotels. A new inn on Atlantic Avenue was going to be called the Best Western Downtown Brooklyn, but was renamed the Best Western Arena Hotel because of its proximity to the Barclays Center, even if both names aren't quite accurate when you take a look at the location. Still, we would've gone with Best Western Eminent Domain Environs.

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Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

A partnership slows in Downtown B'klyn

Stalled merger exposes political divisions

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Engquist

Something is rotten in Downtown, and guess who's one of the players?

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a local development corporation formed by the Bloomberg administration in 2006 to reshape the city's third-largest business district, has run into financial and political difficulties that cloud its future.

The seed money it was getting from the city, a robust $2 million only two years ago, has plunged to a mere $250,000, forcing it to shed personnel and accelerate a long-envisioned takeover of three local business-improvement districts and their reliable revenue streams. But the longtime head of one BID has balked, and local politicians have put the merger on hold.

The partnership must pull off the ambitious reorganization if it is to survive as anything but a shell. The BIDs would account for $5 million of the organization's proposed $7.5 million budget for the fiscal year that began this month. Member contributions would total just $340,000.

Meanwhile, some Brooklyn City Council members—who view the organization as an arm of the Bloomberg administration, characterized by big salaries and nebulous accomplishments—want it disbanded.

The partnership—which is down to nine employees after cutting several positions from its 19th-story MetroTech suite—has support for its restructuring plan from the large corporations that dominate its board. But Michael Weiss, executive director of the MetroTech BID, who would lose his job in the shakeup, has rounded up political support to stall it.
...

Mr. Chan declined to comment, but his spokesman, Lee Silberstein, paints a bright picture of the partnership's accomplishments and future. “On balance, this is playing out as it was supposed to,” he says, noting that the partnership enjoys strong support from the downtown Brooklyn business community, including titans like developer Bruce Ratner, banker Alan Fishman and former KeySpan chief Robert Catell.
...

But Councilwoman Letitia James says Mr. Chan miscalculated in his handling of Mr. Weiss's BID. “Joe's usurpation of MetroTech was not wise, was not smart politically. He did not do his homework and is now suffering the consequences,” she says.

Mr. Ratner tried to broker a compromise by offering Mr. Weiss a job paying more than the $165,000 he is making, but Mr. Weiss declined.

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NoLandGrab: Of course, Mr. Ratner collects rent from the Partnership, and Partnership personnel have turned up at public hearings to laud his Atlantic Yards project, a good chunk of it on the public dime.

Posted by eric at 9:36 AM

July 11, 2010

Behind the "Best Western Arena Hotel" and its "six blocks away" location

Atlantic Yards Report

We've become used to hearing all kinds of deceptive claims made for the Atlantic Yards project, but now the management of a new hotel is trying to say that, once the Nets arena is complete, guests will be close by. Nope.

Well, the new Best Western Arena Hotel is in Bedford-Stuyvesant, but that has not stopped them from claiming proximity to Downtown Brooklyn, promoting (as in the graphic below) Brooklyn scenes at Fulton Ferry, and drawing a name from the two-years-away Atlantic Yards arena.

A press release claimed:

Located within walking distance to the Atlantic Terminal, guests have convenient access to a variety of attractions including the Barclays Center, future home for the Nets NBA team, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum and the world-famous, Coney Island. Just minutes from the hotel, guests will also enjoy shopping at Atlantic Terminal Mall and Macy’s.

“Brooklyn is quickly becoming a top destination for tourists, business and leisure travelers, and with the new Barclays Center, a new sports arena for the New Jersey Nets scheduled to open in 2011, our hotel will be a great addition to the city,” said Mukesh Patel, owner of the Best Western Arena Hotel. “We are only six blocks from the new arena and the only hotel and first stop along the Long Island Rail Road, making it a convenient stay whether they're in the area for work or play.”

Um, the arena is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012.

Also, even the most generous interpretation of "six blocks"--starting at Nostrand Avenue (which should count as a half block away)--is wrong. A walker on the south side of Atlantic Avenue would have to walk seven quite long blocks (Bedford, Franklin, Classon, Grand, Washington, Vanderbilt, and Carlton avenues) before getting to the Sixth Avenue border of the arena site.

As for the Long Island Rail Road, the best arena access would be via the Atlantic Terminal stop. It would be 1.4 miles from the hotel address to the northeast corner of Atlantic and Sixth avenues, and probably about 1.5 miles to the actual arena entrance.

Short blocks in New York City are about 20 blocks to a mile, with the average for long blocks about seven avenues to a mile, the New York Times's 9/17/06 FYI column. That would make the arena hotel about 30 short blocks from the arena, or about ten long ones.

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Posted by steve at 2:53 PM

Nets Seeking Bargain Shoppers in Suite Sales

Nets Daily

There are still plenty of arena suites available for the Nets arena, even though they've been on sale since May of 2008.

The sales pitch would have been so much sweeter if LeBron had taken his talents in another direction.

Inside a midtown Manhattan office atop Bruce Ratner's Times Building, Nets sales people are offering not a superstar but bargain rates for Barclays Center suites.

While suites at Madison Square Garden, Citi Field and Yankee Stadium go for as much as $1 million a year, some smaller but similarly placed suites at Barclays will go for between $215,000 and $425,000. The target: small businesses, particularly in Brooklyn. So far, only 35 of the 104 suites have been sold, a number that's barely moved in the last few years. Although the Nets can't offer LeBron James, they are offering prospects road trips on the Nets' team plane.

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NoLandGrab: There may have been moves to make arena suites more affordable (perhaps because they're no longer designed by starchitect Frank Ghery who was dropped from the project), but when can we expect to hear anything about Atlantic Yard's much-touted affordable housing?

Posted by steve at 2:28 PM

PSCC Editor: "I actually believed the assurances [by] Forest City Ratner and its government enablers that the community’s voice would be heard"

Atlantic Yards Report

Ezra Goldstein moves on (to the Community Bookstore in Park Slope) after six years editing the Park Slope Civic Council's Civic News--as good a community publication of its type that you'll find--and, in his final column, admits to some initial naivete about the Atlantic Yards project.

In Six Years Before the Masthead, he writes:

I am not so hubristic to claim that my more recent articles have attained perfection, but I will give myself credit for getting better over time because I had the good sense to listen to, and learn from, the wiser people by whom I was surrounded in the Civic Council and this community. I even learned a thing or two from people who astounded me with their wrong-headedness.

I resist the temptation to use stronger negatives to describe this last group because I find it difficult to give up all pretense of journalistic objectivity. I will, however, drop a broad hint about whom I am so pejoratively inclined by saying that the early articles that make me cringe the most have to do with Atlantic Yards. In retrospect, I am astounded by my naivete. I actually believed the assurances given by developer Forest City Ratner and its government enablers that the community’s voice would be heard, and that the usurpation of power from our city council and the trampling under of our city charter were merely matters of convenience and not mechanisms to run roughshod over the pesky public, and to guarantee that there would be scarcely one iota of community input into this Goliathan project.

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NoLandGrab: In most relationships, we want to think the best of others, but the lies propagated by Forest City, the ESDC, many Brooklyn politicians, and other supporters of the Atlantic Yards project have taught many of us to be more skeptical of what we're told.

Posted by steve at 8:57 AM

A caution on public-private partnerships when it comes to parks

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards is supposed to be a public-private partnership (or, more likely, a private-public partnership), but developer Bruce Ratner famously told Crain's last November, "Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."

So the public-private balance is tough to navigate--and not just with development projects. And it tells a story about city mayors, including Mike Bloomberg.

Read the rest of this blog post to see how, despite claims by the city that "private investment allows it to target limited taxpayer resources to the parks most in need," showplaces like Central Park prosper while much city parkland is neglected. Lack of city funding is cited. Spending by the city for parks maintenance and operations has dropped from 1.4 percent of city funds in 1960 to 0.37 percent in the latest budget.

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Posted by steve at 8:42 AM

Even without Lebron, Nets have a foundation in Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Paper
By Stephen Brown

In an apparently new meaning of the word "forward," this article tries to say that the inability of the Nets to sign Lebron James represents progress.

The first concrete sign of the Barclays Center is now in place — builders have begun to lay the foundation of the arena at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

The construction milestone came on the eve of the New Jersey Nets’ failure to land Lebron James — but is still seen as a major step forward for the Brooklyn-bound team.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Brooklyn Paper plays catch-up and cheerleader

The Brooklyn Paper plays catch-up and cheerleader, in a July 10 article headlined Even without Lebron, Nets have a foundation in Brooklyn:

The first concrete sign of the Barclays Center is now in place — builders have begun to lay the foundation of the arena at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

The construction milestone came on the eve of the New Jersey Nets’ failure to land Lebron James — but is still seen as a major step forward for the Brooklyn-bound team.

(Emphasis added)

Is still seen? By the issuer of the press release, at least. Most other commentators are pointing out that the Nets lost big this past week.

...

That announcement came June 29--well before the NBA free-agent merry-go-round--and so did the court hearing also cited in the article:

Lawyers for the opposition reargued their claim last week that a longer construction timetable for the project was withheld from a judge to get a favorable ruling.

The Brooklyn Paper didn't bother to send a reporter to the hearing, but linked to my coverage.

It wasn't simply that the Development Agreement was withheld in the court case; it was that the deadlines in the document, had they been seriously considered by the Empire State Development Corporation board, would have triggered another look at the projected ten-year buildout.

Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

July 10, 2010

Charter Revision Commission: term limits, instant runoff voting on agenda, but not land use or the power of Borough Presidents and Community Boards

Atlantic Yards Report

The City's Charter Revision Commission has held some interesting (and undercovered) hearings on issues like land use and the power of Borough Presidents and Community Boards, but it doesn't look like those complex topics are going to make it to the ballot this November.

Far more likely are term limits and instant runoff voting (IRV); the latter would be especially welcome to allow voters to rank their preferences in multi-candidate races.

It makes sense that issues like land use deserve more time and discussion; I'll have reports this coming week on some of the testimony.

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Posted by steve at 8:50 AM

Office towers in New York and the question of subsidies; the Observer suggests skepticism

Atlantic Yards Report

An article in by Eliot Brown notes that "10 of the 11 new major office towers to be constructed since late 2001 will have gone up with substantial government assistance." Is this assistance warranted?

Brown notes that developers argue they need tax breaks to make costs feasible, thus "showering the city with new jobs." However, he suggests the structure is inconsistent and "inherently vulnerable to political manipulation." (Case in point unmentioned in this article: Atlantic Yards.)

...

He got a quote out of the proponents:

Elizabeth Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corporation—the state agency that administered the incentives for many of these projects, including the Gem Tower—defended the existing structure, saying in a statement that "the State undertakes a rigorous cost benefit analysis that ensures that any benefits yield results in the form of economic return many times over.

Well, I'd question the concept of rigorous; after all, with Atlantic Yards, the revenue projections depend on a chimerical ten-year buildout of the project.

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Posted by steve at 8:43 AM

Statutory Rapist Says He’s LeBron’s Father in Lawsuit

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Samuel Newhouse

This story about a suit brought by someone claiming to be LeBron James' biological father takes a detour to blame Atlantic Yards opponents for James' decision to play for Miami.

James disappointed New Yorkers last week when he decided to go to Miami Heat instead of to the Knicks or Nets.

Some commentators believed that James would have picked the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets if the construction of the team’s arena hadn’t been stalled for years by Atlantic Yards lawsuits opposing the use of eminent domain to seize and demolish property on the construction site at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

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NoLandGrab: This commentator believes that James might have picked the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets if the team didn't have a 12-70 record last season.

Posted by steve at 8:28 AM

The Daily News turns on a dime, spurning LeBron James after months of pulling for him, aching for him

Atlantic Yards Report

The Daily News, which launched a GetLeBron.com website as part of a months-long push to attract the superstar, today turned on a dime, editorializing James and the giant mistake: LeBron decides he can't make it here:

Who needed him, anyway?

Last night, with pomp even the queen couldn't muster, the man who's known as the King made the biggest mistake of his young life. Instead of having the courage to man up and build a real legacy in the big city, he's signing on with a ready-made dream team in Miami.

He can have his Crockett and Tubbs. We'll keep our Serpico and Sipowicz.

He can have his chain steakhouses and pizza places, and the Burger King headquarters. We'll take Peter Luger and Grimaldi's and enough others to give you a hundred delicious heart attacks.

He can have his glitzy beaches and palm trees and clubs filled with people who, if they can fake it there, they can fake it anywhere. We'll take Coney Island - freaks, cigarette butts and all. We'll take Central and Prospect and Crotona and Van Cortlandt parks....

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NoLandGrab: The Daily News criticizes Miami as a place of "chain steakhouses and pizza places, and the Burger King headquarters" even as it has endorsed destroying a real Brooklyn neighborhood for the bland, corporate dreams of developer Bruce Ratner.

Posted by steve at 8:26 AM

July 9, 2010

Notes from LeBron mania: Nets losses, reversible jerseys, bitterness in Cleveland, Zimbalist the media critic, and Yormarketing desperation in Florida

Atlantic Yards Report

Blueprint for greatness? We think not. As one NetsDaily commenter posted last night, "'Proky' is just Russian for 'Ratner.'"

Now that superstar LeBron James has signed with the Miami Heat, and the Nets' coach and owner remain positive, not everyone's convinced.

From the Times:

The Nets are so far the biggest losers in free agency, having failed to sign any of the players on the market, despite the best efforts of their charismatic new owner, the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov.

Well, you might say the teams that lost stars fell behind much more, but the Nets suffered in comparison to other teams that cleared cap space.

From Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi, mindful of the short stay in Newark:

And, while it will be largely overlooked, his nine words — “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach” – have effectively ended New Jersey’s frustrating and fruitless dalliance with professional basketball.

...Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov issued a statement not five minutes after the decision to “reiterate our commitment to winning a championship within five years.” But that billboard outside Madison Square Garden, the one declaring that Prokhorov and Jay-Z had the “blueprint for success” is 30 stories worth of hubris today, and the new owner looks as feeble as the old one.

Al Iannazzone on the Nets Insider connected a few dots:

This free agency continued the trend from the regular season.

The Nets had the best chance to win the Lottery and potential franchise-changer John Wall, and fell to third. At one point, they believed they were in the mix for James. Another loss.

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Related coverage...

NetsDaily, Prokhorov: "Goals Remain Intact"

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov released a statement shortly after LeBron James announced his decision to join the Miami Heat.

"We have a vision of a championship team and need to invest wisely and for the long term," Prokhorov said. "Fortunately, we have more than one plan to reach success, and, as I have found in all areas of my business, that is key to achieving it. To Nets fans past, present and future, the goal of making the playoffs this season remains intact and we reiterate our commitment to winning a championship within five years."

NoLandGrab: Nets fans better hope that "Plan B" doesn't stand for "Plan Bruce."

AP via USA Today, Nets lose another one — LeBron heading to Miami

The New Jersey Nets had one of the worst seasons in NBA history and nothing changed on the free agent marketplace in the offseason.

The Nets' hopes for an amazing resurrection just months after winning 12 games collapsed on Thursday when two-time MVP LeBron James became the latest superstar to say nyet to new Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov and his high-profile negotiating team that included hip-hop mogul Jay-Z.

NLG: LeBron apparently didn't feel the Nets' pitch was quite as "spectacular" as the Nets thought it was.

NetsAreScorching, THE DAY AFTER: WE’RE GOING TO BE OKAY NETS FANS

Perhaps, many of us were caught up in the way the Nets have been selling themselves the past week. The swagger, the taunting billboards, the “leaks” of information from negotiations… maybe it all created a false sense of accomplishment. They always tell a fighter not to lead with the chin, and Team Prokhorov has certainly put it all out there, inviting a backlash. But personally, after the past six years of Bruce Ratner’s focus on real estate, rather than basketball, I welcome an owner who’s willing to take calculated risks and not be ashamed if they don’t hit the bullseye when it comes to assembling a roster.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New Best Western Arena Hotel Opens at Crossroads of Bed-Stuy, Crown Hts, Prospect Heights

Brooklyn now has a brand new Best Western hotel that’s open and ready for business.

Originally to be named Best Western Downtown Brooklyn, it was renamed Best Western Arena Hotel because of its proximity to the Barclays Center at Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development.
...

“Brooklyn is quickly becoming a top destination for tourists, business and leisure travelers, and with the new Barclays Center for the New Jersey Nets scheduled to open in 2011, our hotel will be a great addition to the city,” said Mukesh Patel, principal of Mukteshwar LLC, owner of the new Best Western. “We are only six blocks from the new arena and the only hotel at the first stop along the Long Island Rail Road, making it a convenient stay whether they’re in the area for work or play.”

NLG: That would be 2012, if they're lucky. Maybe they can advertise the hotel to Heat fans in Miami, who might want to come watch their team eat the Nets for lunch.

Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

Ratner Hands Out AC Units to Residents Near Atlantic Yards

NY Observer
by William Alden

Since this story is such old news, we can only guess that someone at Forest City — maybe the unnamed "assistant vice president" (assistant to the vice president?) — figured he'd take advantage of the heat wave to make Bruce Ratner appear somehow benevolent.

Some residents near the Atlantic Yards construction site in Brooklyn can expect a free air-conditioning unit from their friendly neighborhood developer, Forest City Ratner.

According both to an assistant vice president at Ratner and to Joe DePlasco, the publicist who represents the developer, Ratner has been handing out AC vouchers to people who live near the construction. The effort is part of Ratner's mitigation plan; in the past such efforts have included closing roads to ease traffic related to the construction. But it remains unclear just how an air conditioner would mitigate construction woes.

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NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure that Dean Street residents will attest that closing roads has not eased traffic. And it's a fair bet that construction will outlast Ratner's cut-rate AC units.

Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

The Kickstarter Film Fest's Tomorrow Night Tonight in Brooklyn. Be There.

Papermag.com
by Lauren Kelly

Yancey Strickler and Perry Chen's Kickstarter.com, the innovative startup that allows anyone and everyone to help back a creative idea through micro-funding, is now celebrating a selection of its successful film projects with the Kickstarter Film Festival.

The shindig, held in collaboration with Rooftop Films, will screen 90 minutes of 12 films. Narrowing it down, Stickler told us via-email, was tough.

"We've had well over 5,000 projects on Kickstarter at this point, so there was a lot to choose from," Strickler said. "The festival lineup is weighed towards early favorites. Many of these are some of the earliest Kickstarter projects, some of the first to stun us with their passion and creativity."

The chosen few include stop-motion film Little Brass Bird by way of Chicago, Battle of Brooklyn, about a Brooklyn neighborhood's resistance to the Atlantic Yards development project, and the extended trailer for The Woods, Matthew Lessner's Lord of the Flies take on the digital age. Some will be shown in their entirety, but most of the screenings are extended introductions at four to twenty minutes long.
...

Presale sold out, and though additional tickets will be for sale at the door, we suggest you get there early. And don't head out before the afterparty.

Old American Can Factory, 232 3rd St., Gowanus, Brooklyn, (718) 237-4335. Friday, July 9. Doors 8 P.M. Films 9 P.M. Afterparty 11:30 P.M. $10.

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Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

July 8, 2010

LeBron mania to be resolved tonight, as nation will learn superstar's destination in prime-time special; Nets' chances drop

Atlantic Yards Report

Basketball superstar LeBron James's final choice of a city and team--er, sports entertainment corporation--will be revealed tonight in an hour-long special on ESPN, capping the mega-hype and drama that started months ago and ramped up a week ago when teams could approach him directly.

Given how the chess pieces have fallen in the past week--Dwayne Wade joined by Chris Bosh in Miami; Amar'e Stoudemire signing with the Knicks; Carlo Boozer signing with Chicago--the free agent-less Nets have lost ground, despite what the New York Post inaccurately hyped July 3 as Nets insider: Meeting with LeBron 'spectacular'.

(The self-serving, unidentified "insider" was referring not to the meeting but the team's pitch: And the Nets were the first team to try to impress James with a presentation one team insider dubbed “spectacular” after getting reviews from those involved.)
...

Going too far?

[The Star-Ledger's Dave] D'Alessandro thinks things have gone way too far:

So now he’s ready to announce his decision. The free agent market in any sport is always a shameless function of ego, and one week of this was enough. Now the grand prize, a young man who refers to himself as The King, has concluded his vainglorious quest to keep our attention as he decides that he is either going to take one billionaire’s money or another billionaire’s money.

Buzz Bissinger, who with James wrote a book about the star and his high school teammates, told the Times:

“I’m disappointed because I think he’s handled this terribly,” said Buzz Bissinger, who helped write James’s 2009 biography, “Shooting Stars.” “I hate the idea that he is the king and that all these grown men have had to go grovel in front of him. It’s a side of him I didn’t see before.
...

Some sobriety

In a Next American City essay July 2 headlined Cities to Lebron: “We Need You”, Ferentz Lafargue looked skeptically at the campaign for James, suggesting that the numbers bandied about regarding the local economic impact were not to be trusted.

New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman wrote June 29 about the impact of transit cuts on the poor, and looped in the buzz of the moment:

For example, on Thursday the fabulously wealthy LeBron James, a Cleveland basketball player, becomes a free agent. Some prominent New Yorkers desperately want him to play here, and they are throwing all sorts of freebies his way as inducements. After all, why should a zillionaire pay his own way? That’s what the less illustrious and the less affluent must do.

The courtship of Mr. James is supposed to fill us with civic pride. The good news is that we will have more time to read about it while we stand on the subway platform waiting longer than ever for an overcrowded train to arrive.

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NoLandGrab: LeBron James? Yawn.

Related coverage...

NetsDaily, $32 Million and No One to Take It

The salary cap figures are out and the Nets now have $32 million--$31.929 million to be specific--in cap space with 10 players under contract (two partially guaranteed). If this was July 1, that would be a good thing, but it's about to turn into July 8. Not so good.

After striking out on Carlos Boozer, it now appears that David Lee won't be available either. Unless LeBron James chooses the Knicks, he'll likely be dealt in a sign-and-trade to the Warriors as early as Friday. The hope that James will choose the Nets is now very unlikely, with the the betting be he'll either stay in Cleveland or head to MIami to join the other Golden Ones.

So what do the Nets do now?

NLG: Make another run at the NBA record for futility?

slayer2022 via YouTube, Mikhail Prokhorov recruits Lebron James

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

Did KPMG Plagiarize Part of Its Atlantic Yards Market Study?

Going Concern

The "Accounting News for Accountants & CFOs" blog follows up on Norman Oder's story of KPMG's cribbed Atlantic Yards "market study."

But wait! There’s more! We learned today from a friend of GC that not only does AYR call out KPMG for having their pants on fire, it also says that the firm got a little carried away with the copy and pasting.
...

Our messages (email, voicemail, in a bottle) to KPMG have not been returned at this time.

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Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

July 7, 2010

I’ll Take Manhattanville

Many states have clamped down on eminent domain. Recent court cases signal that New York won't be following their lead.

Architectural Record
by Stephen Zacks

Seizing another person’s land is a pretty strong-armed way of doing business. Property owners have often challenged eminent domain in courts, and lawmakers in many states have tried to limit its use. Recent decisions in New York show that the state won’t hesitate to apply the broadest interpretation of the law to make mega-developments happen.

On June 24, the New York Court of Appeals—the state’s highest court—ruled that the state could use eminent domain to acquire property for a Columbia University expansion in West Harlem. The decision overturned a rare December 3 rejection by a lower court. The landowners fighting to keep their property intend to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision comes seven months after another controversial eminent domain ruling: On November 24, the same Court of Appeals upheld the use of eminent domain for the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. The massive, mixed-use project is now under construction.

Stoking the Debate

These recent decisions have reignited a long-running debate over the uses of eminent domain. Should we be afraid of Beijing or Shanghai-style condemnations of property to promote urban redevelopment?

article

Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

Brutally weird: top lawyer at firm that represents Forest City Ratner in Atlantic Yards cases denounces Community Benefit Agreements

Atlantic Yards Report

While a few people covering the New York City Charter Revision Commission hearing on June 24 noticed the criticism of Community Benefit Agreements by invited experts, no one noticed an enormous irony.

The co-chair of Land Use department at the law firm Kramer Levin--which represents Forest City Ratner on Atlantic Yards--denounced Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs), even as a colleague has, in legal papers, praised the Atlantic Yards CBA.

And a fellow panelist, also denouncing CBAs, echoed a basic question raised by critics of the Atlantic Yards CBA: how do you define who represents a community?

The CBA critics agreed that the only mitigations should deal with project impacts rather than negotiating with groups--many of them, in the case of Atlantic Yards, with no track record--on issues like job training.

That suggests that Forest City Ratner should have negotiated with groups representing communities very close to the Atlantic Yards site regarding issues like traffic.

article

NoLandGrab: Oh? Is traffic a problem?

Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

MTA sells off subway name rights for cheap

Metro NY
by Carly Baldwin

Look who just caught on!

What a deal! Developer Forest City Ratner is only paying the MTA $4 million to add the Barclays Center name to the Atlantic Terminal station for 20 years.

It’s a bargain compared to the $5.4 million AT&T will pay to turn Philadelphia’s Pattison Avenue SEPTA station into the AT&T station for five years.

“The MTA doesn’t seem to drive a hard bargain,” said Daniel Goldstein of Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, an opponent of the arena. “Barclays is getting their name spread across the subway system and to get only $200,000 a year out of it is offensive.”

Atlantic Terminal will be a gateway to the Barclays Center, future home of the Nets. SEPTA is renaming a station entirely after a corporation, said an MTA spokesperson, while the MTA will merely tack Barclays name onto the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. station in 2012.

Barclays hasn’t said what it is paying the Nets — hundreds of millions, according to reports — for naming rights to the sports complex. But Forest City Ratner, on behalf of Barclays, will only give the cash-strapped MTA $200,000 each year.

“They should have gotten more money for what they’re doing,” Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Metro discovers the subway naming rights deal is a bargain

Norman Oder, of course, was way out ahead on this story.

You read that here two weeks ago, though without the quotes from Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign.

Posted by eric at 8:35 AM

July 6, 2010

JUST WRIGHT

THE PAVILION PROJECT

Queen Latifah’s name, in Arabic, means “gentle,” and so she plays a physical therapist whose godsister is chasing NBA star point-guard Common. Goldbricking montage. But when he gets injured, it’s Latifah to the rescue—physical therapy montage—she falls asleep on his shoulder one night just as he flips on the enormous flat screen and up comes Romancing the Stone. But why call forth that old, sublimated love letter to insurgency and blow? Impossible not to like these two. He loves his mother, holds doors, “hates weaves,” plays jazz piano, fixes things, gives to charity, appreciates interior design, and understands. She eases his pain, helps him believe he can do it, is a homegirl, likes soul food and sweets. It’s bad news for that rival sister when she reveals herself too well-versed in a Morimoto menu. And anyway, sushi’s suddenly a bit déclassé, right?

The camera lifts from the final kiss to show the stadium’s banner of signs: “Barclay’s.” Yes, he’s a New Jersey, soon to be Brooklyn, Net. Show me, in ten years, the low-income housing that was promised in the Atlantic Yards complex, show me the local jobs. It will be too late, but I’ll show you three vibrant neighborhoods with a clog at their navel, and around it a knot of traffic and ring of junk t-shirt shops and shitty bars.

link

Posted by eric at 3:41 PM

KPMG's Atlantic Yards market study: not just blatant lies but shameless plagiarism (from Corcoran)

Atlantic Yards Report

In court June 29, Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) attorney Philip Karmel said that "probably the most important factor" in the ESDC’s decision to assume a ten-year buildout for Atlantic Yards was not the Development Agreement that provides 25 years without sanction but a KPMG report that backs the timetable.

The KPMG report got very little discussion, but it contains lies--blatant, checkable lies--about condo sales.

And, as I discovered when I took another look, it contains more than two pages of shameless borrowing--plagiarism that is not diminished by a vague footnote.

Borrowing from Corcoran

The entire section on New York City Market Dynamics is cribbed from The Corcoran Report(s) for Manhattan and Brooklyn for the second quarter of 2009.

Yes, there's a footnote to the section headline that cites "The Corcoran Report--2nd Quarter 2009" as a source, but there's no indication that nearly all the text--with the slightest of changes--comes from Corcoran.

No quotation marks, no indentations, no italics.

Nor did KPMG change a line like "We estimate that sales are down," which indicates not KPMG's observation but that of Corcoran.

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NoLandGrab: So let us get this straight. "Probably the most important factor" in the ESDC's assumption of a 10-year build out was a market report published by a real estate company that counts on a robust real estate market to make money? Which they copied, like test answers in high school?

Additional coverage...

Brownstoner, Busted! KPMG Blatantly Plagiarized from Corcoran In Its Yards Report

Mega-consulting firm KPMG got big bucks to prepare a market study report for ESDC that was used to justify all sorts of overly-optimistic assumptions about the future of the real estate market. Sounds like they should have kicked some of that dough Corcoran's way though, since the highly-paid execs indulged in a liberal dose of the old cut-and-paste in its preparation of the report.

Posted by eric at 7:51 AM

Ratner: Vandeweghe deserved better

ESPN The Magazine
by Ric Bucher

Bruce Ratner is shedding a few crocodile tears over the team's dismissal of Kiki Vandeweghe.

Bruce Ratner remains a minority partner in the New Jersey Nets, so he's not at liberty to question the decisions made by the team's new majority owner, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. But if there's one consequence of the new regime's attempt to distance itself from last season's nearly historic -- as in historically bad --12-70 record that bothers him, it's how assistant general manager Kiki Vandeweghe was sent packing.

Enough so that Ratner's conscience apparently compelled him to speak out about it. Especially now that team president Rod Thorn is stepping aside as well and the team is in search of new leadership altogether.

"He didn't go out the way he should have," Ratner said now of Vandeweghe. "The team is in a really good position and he was instrumental in putting it there."

Ratner's conscience? We wonder if Bruce also feels that Daniel Goldstein "didn't go out the way he should have."

That said, Ratner doesn't see the Nets bringing Vandeweghe back. His gratitude for Vandeweghe's work and guilt over how he was dismissed stops short of going to bat for him.

"It's Mikhail's team now and he wants to put his stamp on it," Ratner says. "I can understand that."

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NoLandGrab: You're a stand-up guy, Bruce. Maybe if you hadn't been desperate for Proky's cash to keep your crooked Atlantic Yards deal afloat, Kiki would still have a job. But that's not how it went down. So shut up already.

Posted by eric at 7:24 AM

July 5, 2010

ESPN's Ultimate Standings show Nets, in pre-Prokhorov season, declining to 118 (among 122 franchises), with Ratner still the second-worst owner

Atlantic Yards Report

Congratulations, Bruce Ratner! You're still the second-worst owner in pro sports, even though you don't even own most of your team anymore. And the only guy worse than you is "The Most Evil Man in Sports."

With no way to factor in a brighter future in Newark (and Brooklyn) and a deep-pocketed new owner, the New Jersey Nets actually declined from 111 to 118 in ESPN the Magazine's Ultimate Standings 2010, a ranking of how much the 122 franchises in four pro sports give back to the fans.

(The unimpressive New York Knicks nudged up to 119 from 121.)

The Nets ownership, led by Bruce Ratner, held steady at 121, the second-worst in all of sports, thanks to Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers, who paid $2.73 million last November to settle a housing discrimination lawsuit.

The best scores for the Nets were in the categories of Title Track (championships won or expected in the lifetime of current fans) and affordability. Look for the latter to decline, though perhaps not until the expected Brooklyn move, and the former to increase, at least if major free agents are signed.

Title Track: 99
Ownership: 121
Coaching: 121
Players: 114
Fan Relations: 113
Affordability: 82
Stadium Experience: 119
Bang for the Buck: 116

The explanation, from ESPN's Insider (subscription only), comes with some digs at marketing man Brett Yormark:

Mikhail Prokhorov is a genius when it comes to buying low. And that's what he got with the Nets. "It was the single worst fan experience in ANY professional sport," says Net Income of Netsdaily.com. We feel you guys, we really do, because New Jersey hasn't been embarrassed this badly since Jersey Shore debuted. We're not even talking about the Vince Carter trade and the NBA-record 18-game losing streak to start the season. There were the reversible jersey promotions (one side: a New Jersey Nets player, flip it inside-out: Kobe Bryant!). And CEO Brett Yormark scolding a fan who donned a paper bag. Amazingly none of this even begins to address the IZOD Center, which housed this entire spectacle. Net Income, please do the honors: "It hadn't been updated in 30 years. It had virtually no amenities and was always crowded, perhaps even an unsafe concourse. Traffic and parking configurations were changed, sometimes game to game, to accommodate a massive and still-empty shopping mall, the construction of a new Giants/Jets stadium and then the destruction of the old one." Luckily for Nets supporters, the Ratner era ends with a temporary pit stop in Newark and an overhaul of the organization, Russian-billionaire style. "Nets fans on the whole are excited by the prospect of Prokhorov, if only because we know our owner is now committed to basketball rather than real estate," says NJ4Life of Netsdaily.com. Hey, that's not a bad place to start.

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Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

screening the first 20ish minutes at rooftop on friday july 9th

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kickstarterfilmfest/the-kickstarter-film-festival...

at the kickstarter film fest in conjunction with rooftop films.
hope to see you there.

link

NoLandGrab: The Kickstarter Film Festival needs to raise another $220 by 6 p.m. tomorrow in order to secure $2,000 in matching funds. A pledge of as little as $10 will get you a ticket. Here's the lowdown:

On Friday, July 9th, Kickstarter and Rooftop Films are hosting the first annual Kickstarter Film Festival on the roof of the OId American Can Factory in Brooklyn.

The festival will feature 90 minutes of film and video from a dozen Kickstarter projects, including feature films, stop-motion animation, documentaries, art, and dance. All of them amazing.

Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

Rumor Noted That Toys ‘R’ Us is Coming To Downtown Bklyn

FCRC Will Not Confirm

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The possibility that a Toys “R” Us store may open in Downtown Brooklyn was reported by Brownstoner.com yesterday.

Stating that the rumor was from “a trusted source,” the blog said the toy giant was considering renting the old Sid’s Hardware space at 345 Jay St., a space owned by Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC).
...

No comment was available from FCRC at press time.

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NoLandGrab: Out with the mom 'n' pop, in with the national chain.

Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

Carl Kruger, already under investigation, now has Post looking at his questionable campaign spending

Atlantic Yards Report

After news surfaced of a federal corruption investigation involving Brooklyn state Senator Carl Kruger--an aggressively unabashed supporter of Atlantic Yards, and recipient of Forest City Ratner-related campaign contributions--now the New York Post is following up with a close look at his campaign spending.

In Senate's biggest 'waste' Probed pol a lavish campaign spender, the Post reported yesterday:

The state Senate's top fat cat lives like a king off his campaign cash, tapping donations to pay for his meals, car, hotel rooms, phone, computers -- even flowers, candy and iTunes, records show.

While Dick Dadey, executive director of the government watchdog Citizens Union, called for a criminal investigation, he acknowledged that lax state laws provide a lot of leeway: "He's abusing the law, even if he's not necessarily violating it."

(The article came with a requisite ambush photo of Kruger.)
...

Today, in Probed pol's bizarre money trail, the Post followed up:

Embattled Brooklyn state Sen. Carl Kruger last year tapped his campaign fund for $10,500 in payments to an obscure New Jersey company that operates out of a private home and communicates via post-office box, The Post has learned.

The payments went to Reliable Repair Inc., a Fair Lawn, NJ, firm the Democratic lawmaker said was hired to install air conditioning and heating systems at his district office.

...Reached by phone to answer questions about work done for Kruger, Mark Yanishevsky, named as Reliable Repair's vice president, asked: "Why are you trying to blackmail me? How did you find me?"

What if the Post looked into the equally suspicious Pacific Crest Research?

link

NoLandGrab: Does Kruger look guilty? You decide.

Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

July 4, 2010

Hakeem Jeffries returns for summer "office hours" at subway stops; ask him about AY and the vague governance bill

Atlantic Yards Report

Beginning Wednesday, July 7, for the fourth straight year, central Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries will host his “Summer at the Subway” evening office hours (schedule below) at subway stops in his 57th District.

Jeffries and staff members will visit stops in the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods.

...

Jeffries' web site highlights the following issues, all surely less controversial in his district than Atlantic Yards:

  • employment of housing authority residents, as per federal law
  • counting prisoners in their home counties rather than the location of the prison
  • keeping personal information out of the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk
    database
  • the conversion of vacant luxury apartments into affordable housing

...

Note that Atlantic Yards is not a priority, perhaps because Jeffries--who's long taken a cautious position on the project--doesn't think he can do that much about it and perhaps because it's an issue on which his constituents are divided, and resigned.

...

He has pushed to ensure that 200 of the planned 1930 condos on site are subsidized, but we haven't heard much about that lately.

And he has sponsored a new version of a bill to establish a governance entity for Atlantic Yards, a bill that the Empire State Development Corporation happens to support.

Given the ESDC's resistance to oversight, that's a bit of a red flag.

Jeffries acknowledged that, "The bill, as written, still requires significant negotiation between elected officials, community leaders and ESDC as to the precise nature of the governance structure moving forward."

Which means that, unless it's written into the legislation, the governance entity could be toothless. It's worth some questions for Jeffries.

Click on the link to see where and when Assemblyman Jeffries will be holding his evening office hours.

link

Posted by steve at 9:16 AM

First Annual Kickstarter Film Festival by Kickstarter & Rooftop Films – July 9th – super cool

Transmedia Camp 101

The first annual Kickstarter Film Festival will include the documentary "Battle Brooklyn," about the Atlantic Yards fight.

On Friday, July 9th, Kickstarter and Rooftop Films are hosting the first annual Kickstarter Film Festival on the roof of the OId American Can Factory in Brooklyn. The festival will feature 90 minutes of film and video from a dozen Kickstarter projects, including feature films, stop-motion animation, documentaries, art, and dance. All of them amazing.

...

LOGISTICS

The American Can Factory holds roughly 700 people — 300 on the roof and 400 in the courtyard below (there are two screens). This project’s 260 tickets are for the rooftop seats (some are being reserved for the filmmakers and press). Four-hundred courtyard seats will be sold at the door on the night of the festival, weather-permitting.

TIMES

8pm Doors
8:30pm Music
9pm Films
11:30pm Afterparty

ADDRESS

The Old American Can Factory
Corner of 3rd St and 3rd Ave, Brooklyn NY (Map)

Here's a short synopsis of the documentary:

Battle of Brooklyn by David Beilinson, Suki Hawley and Michael Galinksy A documentary about the Atlantic Yards fight over a Brooklyn neighborhood (about 15 blocks from the festival) between a developer, the government, and the people who live there. A 25-minute premiere.

link

Posted by steve at 9:06 AM

July 3, 2010

The many faces of Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov (and a presidential endorsement?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov can be a friendly, charming guy, sure, and he's offering (with the help of Jay-Z and, oh, lots of public assistance) free agent LeBron James big bucks, but check his reaction at the draft lottery to see the steel.

And notice how the picture of Prokhorov with President Barack Obama, appearing on the Nets web site, sure looks like it's being used, despite a ban, "in any commercial or political materials... that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House."

Most of this blog post is made up of pictures and videos. Click on the link for the full experience.

link

Posted by steve at 7:50 AM

LeBron Who? New York’s Apartment Brokers Want Prokhorov

Wall Street Journal

LeBron James has reportedly been apartment hunting in Manhattan. But for the city’s real estate brokers, there may be a bigger client on the market.

As The Journal’s Craig Karmin reports, New York real estate brokers are drooling over the prospect of showing palatial pads to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, 45, the owner of the New Jersey Nets.

...

The Russian billionaire has made his presence known in Brooklyn as well–albeit in a different way. His firm invested $200 million in the Atlantic Yards development project, which includes the stadium the Nets expect to call home in 2012.

link

Posted by steve at 7:45 AM

July 2, 2010

State Comptroller's audit slams MTA's real estate stewardship, omits Vanderbilt Yard; MTA claims success in AY deal, Barclays station naming rights

Atlantic Yards Report

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, in an audit report [PDF] issued yesterday, slammed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) stewardship of its real state portfolio, including the failure to claim what the New York Post termed "a whopping $9 million in back rent" from commercial tenants and the failure to sell $12 million worth of air rights.

Curiously enough, the audit (embedded below) omits any mention of the controversial 2005 deal to sell the Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner, which had such an inside track all but one other bidder was deterred (though that bidder offered more in cash).

Nor is there mention of renegotiation of the Vanderbilt Yard deal in 2009, with the MTA leaving $80 million of the originally pledged $100 million to instead be paid over 22 years, and accepting a replacement railyard smaller than promised and worth $100 million less.

(Could there be any connection to a campaign contribution from Bruce Ratner to DiNapoli?)

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NoLandGrab: If you've ever wondered why New York State is virtually broke and no one in Albany seems the least bit interested in actually fixing the problem — this is why.

Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

Nets Owner to Operate From Seagram Offices

The Wall Street Journal
by Craig Karmin

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov recently completed his first Manhattan property deal since becoming owner of the New Jersey Nets, taking office space in the Seagram Building on Park Avenue.

His private investment firm, the Moscow-based Onexim Group, has agreed to lease about 2,500 square feet on the 26th floor of the famous building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, said a person familiar with the matter.

Mr. Prokhorov plans to use the space as his business office when he's in town and it will serve as an office for the Nets basketball team, this person said.

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NoLandGrab: Surely that can't be right. The owner of the future Brooklyn Nets would want to have his office in Brooklyn, wouldn't he? Maybe in the flagship new Atlantic Yards office tower that Bruce Ratner will start building any day now. Oh, wait...

Crain's NY Business, NYC office construction at near standstill

Building starts in first four months of 2010 fall to lowest level in years, with 99% of the work coming in alterations and renovations.

New York City office construction is at a virtual standstill, according to the New York Building Congress, a nonprofit group that represents the construction industry. However, there are signs of a possible recovery in coming years.

According to the group's review of multiple data sources, the value of office construction starts sank to a mere $163 million in the first four months of 2010. At that pace, the value of starts for the year as a whole would come to just $489 million, compared with $2.6 billion in 2009 and $1.3 billion in 2008.
...

Currently, the majority of office construction work is in the alterations and renovations category, rather than new ground-up construction. For the first four months of 2010, alterations accounted for more than 99% of all construction starts as measured by value—$162.3 million, versus $700,000 in new construction. In 2009, alterations accounted for $1.7 billion of the $2.6 billion in office starts.

While the data doesn't suggest an imminent turnaround, a review of historical construction data, as well as recent employment and leasing trends, suggest that the office market outlook will be one of gradual absorption of available space, potentially followed by renewed expansion, for the next few years.

NLG: But let's not let this news stop the Empire State Development Corporation from claiming the full Atlantic Yards project will be completely built in 10 years.

Posted by eric at 9:43 AM

Brooklyn Broadside: Domino Joins Brooklyn’s Big Projects

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

This reporter believes that there are five big projects on the Brooklyn lineup, big in terms of size but also big in terms of impact on the borough and for the future. Brooklyn would be totally different, and quite poorer, without them.
...

Atlantic Yards has started, and Wednesday’s Eagle reported that nearly 700 cubic yards of concrete has been poured in building the sports arena. In one sense, this is the biggest of the projects because of the number of housing units that might be built, because the impact of the sports arena itself will be almost immeasurable, and because the possibility of a whole new Downtown springing up in a number of years is strong.

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NoLandGrab: Even Dennis Holt is right sometimes, as in his admission that Atlantic Yards's housing units might be built. Yet while the economic impact of the arena might be "almost immeasurable," the traffic impact of the arena is already being felt all to well by nearby residents.

Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

July 1, 2010

Atlantic Yards Challenge Heard in Manhattan Supreme Court

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Mitchell Trinka

In mid-April the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, a group of neighborhood organizations concerned about local development, filed a motion that asked the New York State Supreme Court to reconsider a decision in January that maintained approval of the Atlantic Yards 2009 modified general project plan. On Tuesday lawyers from both sides had their chance to offer oral arguments in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Gib Veconi, a member of the development council board that filed the motion, said that changes in the project’s construction schedule were at the heart of the suit. The schedule expanded from ten years until completion in the original plans, to a possible 25 years. It was a time line not released to the public until after a decision came in favor of Atlantic Yards in late January, he said.

“That means a large area of the project footprint would be used as a parking lot for decades,” Mr. Veconi said.

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Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

The loss of Yi and the Nets' China ambitions

Atlantic Yards Report

Yi, we hardly knew ye.

Now that the Nets have traded Chinese forward Yi Jianlian to the Washington Wizards to clear salary cap space (and bid for two free agents, not one), what happens to the team's global ambitions?

(And when will they update the Nets' Chinese web site, which still features Yi, as in the screenshot at right?)

Well, notwithstanding the role of globetrotting Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov as owner, there has to be a setback in the world's most populous country.

I didn't see that concern in coverage of the Yi deal in the AP, News, Post, or the official press release.

Some savvy

The Star-Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro wisely pointed out:

Ether way, Yi and his $4.05M salary are history -- so much for that foray into the Asian continent, unless they believe a billion Chinese fans are going to follow the owner, which doesn't seem likely.

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Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

Intense Russian Advertecture Haunts MSG

Curbed

MIDTOWN— Nets-owning Russian supervillain (and Atlantic Yards savior) Mikhail Prokhorov bought billboard space across the street from Madison Square Garden to tout his partnership with Jay-Z and mess with Knicks execs' minds. Intimidation is an art in the former USSR, and come to think of it, so this ridiculously huge mural should also probably hang in a museum one day. Go Nyets? [Pic via Jeff Baum's Tumblr]

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NoLandGrab: Jay-Z has been working on his Nets' greatness blueprint for five years, with less-than-great results.

Posted by eric at 9:55 AM