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August 31, 2010

Why does Ratner not contribute to local races? Maybe because contributions keep the line open to Cuomo, the next governor

Atlantic Yards Report

A couple of people have asked me: if Bruce Ratner is no longer a campaign contribution refusenik, why isn't he giving money to Mark Pollard, who's challenging Atlantic Yards opponent Velmanette Montgomery in the 18th Senatorial District and has gained the support of some Atlantic Yards backers?

Well, maybe it's purely pragmatic; Montgomery has endorsements galore and a record of achievement.

Even a strong candidate--and I don't think Pollard qualifies, having started his campaign only in May, rather than building momentum over time, and relying disproportionately on charter school backers outside the district--would have trouble beating a veteran like Montgomery, even in this anti-incumbent political climate (and her failure to fully embrace reforms in Albany).

(When the 11-day pre-primary reports are made available on Friday, we'll see if Ratner's changed his tactics.)

Influence at the top

Ratner is not averse to contributions in local races, but maybe it's purely pragmatic on another level.

Ratner, I suspect, doesn't worry much about local elected officials; his concern is the governor, who controls the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the unelected agency that's shepherding Atlantic Yards and not looking too hard.

So that's why Ratner gave $5000 to the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo in February 2009, plus another $7500 this past May.

From Ratner's perspective, Montgomery may be a pest. But as long as the man at the top takes his calls, he'll be fine.

Or, to paraphrase Leona Helmsley, only the little people need to buy state Senators.

Even better, how's this for a laugh?

Ratner also gave $10,000 to New York Uprising, the clean-up-Albany project spearheaded by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, Citizens Union Director Dick Dadey, and former New York City Parks Commissioner and New York Civic Director Henry Stern.

I suspect that Ratner's contribution was generated less by desire to support candidates signing New York Uprising's worthy three-part pledge (Non-Partisan, Independent Redistricting; Responsible Budgeting; and Ethics Reform), than by his relationship with his old mentor Stern, an often-useful civic watchdog whose critical scrutiny has reliably bypassed Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: Ratner giving money to an effort to clean up Albany is like Bonnie and Clyde making a deposit five minutes before robbing the bank. And the fact that they would take Ratner's money tells you all you need to know about New York Uprising.

Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

To the Times's new Public Editor: Get up to speed on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder pens a letter to the latest Public Editor of The New York Times. Here's a snippet.

I know, I know. As a new Public Editor, you only look forward, not back. But you should know that the Times, in editorial, op-ed, and news coverage of Atlantic Yards, has not come close to meeting its standards.

(I write this having examined and critiqued the Times coverage for more than five years and, yes, having an op-ed on Atlantic Yards finally published this past June.)

Your predecessors as Public Editors have not distinguished themselves regarding Atlantic Yards, either offering weak defenses of the newspaper or ignoring issues completely.


NoLandGrab: Standards? The Times don't need no stinking standards!

Posted by eric at 12:56 PM

Yes, 752 Pacific is worth more to Forest City Ratner intact than demolished, at least for now

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how I (quoting court papers) predicted that, despite Forest City Ratner's stated plan to immediately demolish all buildings in Phase 1 of the Atlantic Yards condemnation plan, the staunch six-story building on Pacific Street long owned by Henry Weinstein was likely to be used as construction offices?

As stated in the Empire State Development Corporation's Construction Update for the weeks beginning August 17 and August 23, and the latest Construction Update [PDF] issued yesterday:

The building at 752 Pacific Street will be used temporarily for construction shanties. During the next two week period, the former occupants’ trash will be removed from the building to prepare for construction teams.


Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

August 30, 2010

In 18th District, Citizens Union prefers Pollard over Montgomery, who's reticent about addressing some reforms; challenger tries to thread AY needle

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes another look — two looks, actually — at the race for the state Senate's 18th district.

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery can point to some real achievements, as noted in a campaign mailer (right; click to enlarge), such as reforming the juvenile justice system and the Rockefeller drug laws.

But her reluctance to sign onto a full suite of Albany reforms means the 26-year incumbent, who has the support of veteran Brooklyn pols like Council Member Al Vann, may be sweating just a bit.

The Citizens Union last week announced it supported the reelection of only six incumbents, issued a "no preference" in several races, and endorsed several challengers, including Montgomery rival Mark Pollard.

(Pollard hasn't yet noted this on his web site. Montgomery doesn't have a current campaign web site--the one from the previous election has not been updated. Neither are particularly nimble in cyberspace; are they convinced that getting out the vote for the September 14 primary represents retail politics?)

While the CU did not elaborate on the Montgomery race (and some others), Executive Director Dick Dadey said the CU's preference "provide a clear signal to voters which incumbents have made an effort to bring change to Albany and which ones have stood in the way of reform and need to be replaced."

The CU doesn't hold the power it once had--its endorsement, for example, of Evan Thies in the 33rd Council District last year meant little--but it does aim to set benchmarks for good government practices.


NoLandGrab: Neither does the CU have the reputation for integrity it once had, since it refused to take a strong stance against Atlantic Yards, despite the project's lengthy list of vices.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Ziggy for Pollard: a not-quite-Atlantic Yards connection in the 18th District Senate race

State campaign finance filings (32-day report, July periodic report) show that Mark Pollard, the pro-Atlantic Yards challenger to state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, has paid $8000 in consulting fees to Brooklyn Sports MMM, which just happens to share the same address as Brooklyn USA Basketball.

Both Brooklyn Sports Management, Marketing, and Memorabilia and Brooklyn USA Basketball are the work of Thomas (Ziggy) Sicignano, coach of a traveling basketball team that's gotten $10,000 in funding from Forest City Ratner and whose players have bolstered some Atlantic Yards rallies.

(He's also notorious for cooperating in a federal investigation of prostitution he organized at an Atlanta strip club he managed. Correction August 31: Sicignano points out that he did not receive probation, as reported in the Brooklyn Paper.)

Sicignano said he's not working for Pollard at the behest of FCR, though he does think it would be "good for Brooklyn that we have a Senator who can deal with the developer."

NLG: By "a senator who can deal with the developer," Sicignano means "a senator who can provide unqualified support for the developer's deals."

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

August 29, 2010

Our Cities Ourselves: 10 Principles for Transport in Urban Life (and the AY contradiction)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a look at issues urban planning.

A nifty exhibition,Our Cities Ourselves, is on view until September 11, 2010 at the Center for Architecture in Greenwich Village (Mon-Fri: 9am to 8pm; Sat: 11am to 5pm).

It shows ten architects' treatment of potential changes in ten world cities--nearly all in developing nations.

Accompanying the exhibition is a publication titled "Our Cities Ourselves: 10 Principles for Transport in Urban Life," written by internationally famous Danish urbanist Jan Gehl and Walter Hook, Executive Director of the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

"Cities of the twenty-first century should be lively cities, safe cities, sustainable cities and healthy cities," said Gehl in a news release. "All of these qualities can be achieved if we embrace these ten principles, which means putting people first."

The principles and Atlantic Yards

Notably, two of the ten principles of sustainable transport don't quite work when it comes to Atlantic Yards.

The project would not have "small-size, permeable buildings and blocks" that enhance pedestrian life, as suggested above. In fact, it would create two superblocks.

And while the project would involve density around transit, as suggested at right, that won't necessarily make it a desirable urban district, given the level of density intended, the parking included, and the attendant traffic.

Read the full blog post to see the complete listing of 10 Principles for Transport in Urban Life.


NoLandGrab: An exhibit like "Our Cities Ourselves" might elicit groans from those who realize how a great opportunity for urban planning was lost when Atlantic Yards was approved by the state.

Posted by steve at 9:52 AM

August 28, 2010

Paterson's penchant for fudging facts seen as context for potential perjury charges; Atlantic Yards episode deserves a mention

Atlantic Yards Report

When trying to get support for bad development, it helps to have politicians in high places who put little value in telling the truth.

Now they tell us. An article in today's New York Times, headlined With Paterson, the Simple Facts Can Get Complicated, begins:

A thoroughly honest politician has pretty much always been considered an undiscovered species. But for Gov. David A. Paterson, the distinction between the truth and an untruth can get unusually murky.

Once asked if a statement was accurate or inaccurate, Gov. David A. Paterson replied, “Neither.”

On Thursday, an independent counsel asked the Albany County district attorney to determine whether Mr. Paterson intentionally lied to investigators about paying for baseball tickets, something that could lead to the governor being charged with perjury.

But how do you sort that out? After all, according to many people who deal with Mr. Paterson, it’s not always clear when he might be intentionally lying and when he is just saying wrong things. Or doing something that, by his reckoning, is neither lying nor telling the truth.

And it contains this summation:

But these same people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they continue to deal with his administration, say Mr. Paterson tends to fudge facts, as well as to tell one group one thing and another the opposite.


Those of us who saw Paterson (at the Atlantic Yards arena groundbreaking) claim, ridiculously, that Atlantic Yards would "have job creation the likes of which Brooklyn has never seen," got a pretty strong hint of all this in March.

But that anecdote didn't make the Times today. After all, the reporter on the scene took Paterson's claims at face value.

Then, and now, that was unwise.

NoLandGrab: Is Atlantic Yards going to be a powerful economic engine that will benefit others besides Bruce Ratner? Was it approved after a careful public review? Neither.


Posted by steve at 9:26 AM

From City Pragmatist: behind the Charter Revision Commission, an effort to shift power to the mayor

Atlantic Yards Report

Please click through to this blog entry and learn about two important proposals you're going to be voting on this November.

So, it turns out that the Charter Revision Commission did nothing--beyond a hearing--to grapple with issues like land use reform. And while a complicated term limits vote is one of the two proposals on the November ballot, the real import of the Commission's work is the second proposal, which--despite a fig leaf of reform--would essentially strengthen an already strong mayor.

Credit CityPragmatist blogger Alvin Berk, who's been following the Commission closely, concluding, NYC Charter Revision Proposals: A Hobson’s Choice.

He writes:

Here are the proposals being placed on November’s ballot by the New York City Charter Revision Commission. The commission has restricted voters’ options by lumping the changes into just two ballot questions, putatively because this year’s new paper voting forms are too small to show the proposals individually.

He's skeptical--and any serious reader of these long and thus confusing ballot questions would have reason to agree. (The Daily News also slammed the decision.)


Posted by steve at 9:16 AM

Want to Help Name These Two Cute Baboon Babies?


For many, there's only one thing they'd like to say to Bruce Ratner, and will use any available opportunity to say it.

Want to Help Name These Two Cute Baboon Babies?Want to Help Name These Two Cute Baboon Babies?Oh my god! The Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn has two baby baboons, and they are so cute. They also don't have names, and the zoo is holding a contest to name them. Do you want to watch them play?


Currently, the babies are known as "#1" and "#2" (which is what my parents called my brother and me!), but the zoo is asking people to submit names at its website for a contest that will be decided Sept. 24. Help us think of some good ones! Here's what we have so far:

  • Bedford and Stuyvesant
  • Brown and Stone
  • Tom and Di Fara
  • Marty and Markowitz
  • Hipster and Hasid
  • Gowanus and Barfing Noise
  • Fuck You and Bruce Ratner


Posted by steve at 8:55 AM

Battle of Brooklyn

Creative Arson

On my b’day this year, I ran into Beyonce and Jay Z while shooting the ground breaking of the Barclay Center: the largest development project in New York since, I don’t know, forever. It’s being plopped down next to downtown Brooklyn and will make billions for some, while taking away central Brooklyn’s low scale, neighborhood sensibility. The footage I shot was for/with my friends at Rumur Inc who are making an epic doc about the whole debacle. Read all about it and watch the amazing trailer here:

And yes, Beyonce and I had a moment.


Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

August 27, 2010

Why did the Flatbush Avenue lane closure get extended until "Summer 2012"? A not-quite-explanation surfaces

Atlantic Yards Report

So, why did a lane closure on Flatbush Avenue between Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue for the Atlantic Yards project get extended from "early 2012" to "Summer 2012," as we learned last week in a Forest City Ratner mailer?

The answer I got from the Empire State Development Corporation was not quite an explanation, and, as of today, the Department of Transportation (DOT) still states, on its page of Weekly Traffic Advisories (excerpt at right), that the lane closure is expected to "continue through early 2012."

I asked the ESDC and the DOT if they had any explanation for the change from "early 2012" to "Summer 2012."

I haven't heard back from the DOT.

ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell responded:

The lanes of traffic may be able to be restored a few months before the transit entrance and the arena open in the second quarter of 2010. We have been told that FCRC will restore whatever they can back to the public domain for vehicles and pedestrians as soon as possible.

That doesn't answer the question. What it sounds like is this:

  • Forest City Ratner originally said "early 2012."
  • They want some flexibility, so now they say "Summer 2012."
  • If work proceeds on schedule, they can beat their goal and be "early."

That recalls... Forest City Ratner's plan to increase projected size of Atlantic Yards, only to garner overstated headlines with a scaleback.


Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

August 26, 2010

Filing Deadline for Atlantic Yards

Condemnation Law

As many of you already know, there is a filing deadline of September 1st for property owners on the Atlantic Yards Project who wish to pursue an additional damages claim.

New York Eminent Domain Law states that a property owner has 2 years to file a claim for additional damages if a property owner signs the offer for advanced payment. However, a court order was issued requiring claimants for the Atlantic Yards project to file their claim by September 1st, 2010.

If you signed the offer for advanced payment, or if you have yet to receive an offer and wish to pursue an additional damages claim, we advise you act quickly.


Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

Marlins’ profits came at taxpayer expense

Yahoo! Sports
by Jeff Passan

Shocker! The owners of a professional sports team actually lied about their financial situation while bilking the taxpayers for a new stadium! Here's a must-read about the great pro sports swindle.

The swindlers who run the Florida Marlins got exposed Monday. They are as bad as anyone on Wall Street, scheming, misleading and ultimately sticking taxpayers with a multibillion-dollar tab. Corporate fraud is alive and well in Major League Baseball.

A look at the leak of the Marlins’ financial information to Deadspin confirmed the long-held belief that the team takes a healthy chunk of MLB-distributed money for profit. Owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson for years have contended the Marlins break even financially, the centerpiece fiscal argument that resulted in local governments gifting them a new stadium that will cost generations of taxpayers an estimated $2.4 billion. They said they had no money to do it alone and intimated they would have to move the team without public assistance.

In fact, documents show, the Marlins could have paid for a significant amount of the new stadium’s construction themselves and still turned an annual operating profit. Instead, they cried poor to con feckless politicians that sold out their constituents.

The ugliness of the Marlins’ ballpark situation is already apparent, and the building doesn’t open for another 18 months. Somehow a team that listed its operating income as a healthy $37.8 million in 2008 alone swung a deal in which it would pay only $155 million of the $634 million stadium complex. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County agreed – without the consent of taxpayers – to take $409 million in loans loaded with balloon payments and long grace periods. By 2049, when the debt is due, the county will have paid billions.

Most harrowing is the takeaway that baseball’s biggest welfare case could have funded a much greater portion of the ballpark. In 2009, when the Marlins started spending some of their profits on their portion of the stadium, they still had an operating income of $11.1 million. The team fought to conceal the $48.9 million in profits over the last two years because the revelation would have prompted county commissioners to insist the team provide more funding. Loria, an art dealer with a net worth of hundreds of millions, wouldn’t stand for that. He wanted as much public funding as possible – money that could’ve gone toward education or to save some of the 1,200 jobs the county is cutting this year.

“It’s not that teams need new stadiums, either,” said Neil deMause, whose book “Field of Schemes” blew the lid off ballpark boondoggles. “They need new revenues. It’s really just a bailout. It would be cheaper to just give the teams the money. But then it would just look like a handout. The stadiums have become part of the business model for teams.”

Not nearly enough credit goes to the proliferation of new stadiums for turning the game into a $6 billion-plus business. In case after case, teams built stadiums with a majority of the funding from public sources and today keep nearly all of the profits generated from games.


Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee shuns Montgomery (among few incumbents); could Sampson's Atlantic Yards support be the reason?

Atlantic Yards Report

Sleazeball NY Senate Democrats brook no dissent against the Party's unofficial chairman, Bruce C. Ratner (who also happens to be unofficial chairman of the state's Republican Party, too).

There was a unexplored angle to a City Hall News article yesterday headlined DSCC Spends On Consultants, WFP, But Not Espada.

The main news was that the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee was not helping scandal-tinged Majority Leader Pedro Espada but helping incumbents with safe seats as well as incumbents faced with primaries but in districts that will remain in Democratic hands. (Shouldn't the DSCC be stressing seats that could be lost to the Republicans? Not in New York.)

However, if Senate Democrats are spending on "nearly every incumbent facing a primary," it was notable that Espada was joined on a very short list of the "outs" by his Bronx ally Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. and 18th District Senator Velmanette Montgomery, who represents Central Brooklyn.

The AY connection

I haven't been able to learn why Montgomery got the short end of the stick--there could be internal political dynamics at work--but it's worth noting that Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, some major contributors, and the Senate Democratic Conference's prime strategist are supporters of Atlantic Yards or have ties to Forest City Ratner.

Sampson, notably, was the beneficiary of a fundraiser held at Forest City Ratner offices and signed a letter to Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov calling Atlantic Yards "a major economic development venture that is vital to the economy and the future of Brooklyn."

He didn't attend the arena groundbreaking in March but sent his regrets.


NoLandGrab: We sent our regrets, too, after being held back by some 200 police officers, including the counter-terrorism squad.

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

In the Atlantic Yards footprint today, new ESDC project manager Arana Hankin

Atlantic Yards Report

A Prospect Heights resident leaves me a message: Arana Hankin, the new Atlantic Yards project manager for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), was spotted walking around the project site today accompanied by Forrest Taylor, the ESDC's ombudsman, who presumably has a few more trips around the footprint under his belt.


NoLandGrab: Ms. Hankin might want to keep her hands firmly on her pocketbook should she venture over near one of Bruce Ratner's malls.

Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

Brooklyn Broadside Proposed 15 Penn Plaza: Not Worthy of Our Great City

And Ratner Should Have Kept Original ‘Miss Brooklyn’ Design

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Look who just caught on! All these years, we took Dennis Holt to be serious in his unfettered enthusiasm for every last proposed development, no matter how ill-conceived. But his latest column — in which he finally discovers a project he opposes (in Manhattan, of course) — reveals that it was all just parody.

I’m glad this scrap is taking place across the river and not here, because the current issue is a misplaced one. It really isn’t that Vornado’s proposed building, 15 Penn Plaza, is only 900 feet away from the Empire State Building, or that from New Jersey they look like they are shoulder to shoulder, or that the Vornado building could be 1,250 feet tall. Those are sidebars.

What the issue really concerns is appearance. The proposed building stinks, it is boring, and it shouldn’t be located anywhere, even New Jersey.

To my dismay, I haven’t heard or read about people talking about style or panache, only about location. Where is the Municipal Art Society? Where is the Art Commission? Where is Amanda Burden? Where are the city’s crack architectural critics? How can something so boring get so far along without a hue or a cry? The tragedy of the Atlantic Yards saga isn’t really that the arena was held up for six years, or approved, for that matter: It is that Frank Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn is not going to be built and its replacement won’t be built where it should have been. (Some of us continue to hope that if and when it is feasible to put a commercial building over P. C. Richard, Bruce Ratner will turn once more to Gehry.)


NoLandGrab: Someone let Mr. Holt know that Frank Gehry was a Southern California Trojan horse from the start, please.

Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

August 25, 2010

Decades of neglecting mass transit led to the LIRR mess

NY Daily News, Editorial

Mass amnesia causes the News's editorial board to forget years of fluffing the MTA's sweetheart giveaway of the Vanderbilt Yard to Bruce Ratner.

There's a lesson in the nightmare that Long Island Rail Road commuters are suffering because an electrical fire knocked out signals at Jamaica: This is what happens when officials starve transit systems of the money necessary for basic upkeep.


NoLandGrab: And that lesson is... don't believe anything you read on the editorial pages of the New York Daily News.

Posted by eric at 7:54 PM

A clarification on "The Battle Over Atlantic Yards," a look back at The Civilians' first AY performance (with video), and a look forward

Atlantic Yards Report

Some more coverage of The Civilians' upcoming (and updated) show about Atlantic Yards left me confused as to whether TheaterMania and the Times got it wrong in calling it "In the Footprint: The Battle Over the Atlantic Yards," rather than the more precise "In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards," as noted in the bottom document from The Civilians' web site.

Answer, according to a Civilians rep: the press got it wrong. And that makes a difference, because "Atlantic Yards" is a project, and a marketing term, not a place.


I also went to the group's YouTube channel to watch a segment from the 2008 show, "Brooklyn at Eye Level." However imperfect, it's riveting stuff.


Looking forward

When I reviewed the earlier show, I observed it was lacking perspective from Forest City Ratner. I'll add that it mostly ignored the role of the Empire State Development Corporation.

So the danger of a play about neighborhood people and community passions is that it misses those who more quietly wield the levers of power. We'll see in November how much more complicated the show gets.


Posted by eric at 12:07 PM

Sex will have to wait

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Thomas Tracy

Wait, didn't the Empire State Development Corporation claim it was the Atlantic Yards project footprint that was "crime-ridden?"

Target trouble

Two more crimes were reported at Target inside the crime-ridden Atlantic Terminal Mall this week. Here’s what happened:

• A shopper seized an opportunity on Aug. 20, taking a woman’s wallet that was accidentally left on the checkout line. The 62-year-old customer said she was at the register, but got distracted and left her wallet as she ran to grab another item. The cashier said that the woman on line behind her walked off with it.

• A thieving mom recruited her children to help steal over $1,100 in property on Aug. 19.

Store security guards said they caught the 21-year-old woman and her children with the stolen items as they were trying to leave at 6:42 pm.


Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

Governor's spokesman re ESDC appointment: "Ms. Hankin directly supervised all broad policy matters related to ESDC in the Governor's Office"

Atlantic Yards Report

So this his how news works, apparently.

More than a day after my article on Arana Hankin's appointment as Atlantic Yards project manager appeared, the Daily News followed up with a blog post that wasn't merely a one-line cite but essentially a rewrite with no new information (and pretty much my critical perspective, calling her a "loyalist").

The Daily News didn't wait for a confirmation or comment from the Empire State Development Corporation, nor was the agency asked the obvious question: why was the job not advertised?

But Morgan Hook, a spokesman for Gov. David Paterson, did respond later today:

"Arana Hankin has worked tirelessly on behalf of the State of New York for more than six years, including better than three years in the Governor's Office during the Spitzer and Paterson administrations. As part of her vast portfolio, working under the guidance of Deputy Secretary Tim Gilchrist, Ms. Hankin oversaw all economic development in downstate New York, including Atlantic Yards and lower Manhattan development. You correctly write that ESDC oversees the project, but fail to point out that as part of her portfolio, Ms. Hankin directly supervised all broad policy matters related to ESDC in the Governor's Office. Additionally, Ms. Hankin worked as a senior member of the Governor's stimulus cabinet, tasked with the distribution of billions of dollars in federal aid to New York. Ms. Hankin is more than qualified for her new position. To characterize her appointment in any other way is both factually inaccurate and unfair."

I don't doubt that Hankin had her hand in various policy matters. But if she really oversaw economic development in downstate New York, how could she let Paterson claim, ridiculously, that Atlantic Yards would "have job creation the likes of which Brooklyn has never seen"?


NoLandGrab: The Governor's office is a tad defensive about Arana Hankin's qualifications, no?

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Seven Years Later Atlantic Yards Gets an Official State Project Manager. But Who Is She?

Norman Oder breaks the news that the Empire State Development Corporation will soon announce, for the first time, the state's project manager for the Atlantic Yards project.

The announcement will name Arana Hankin as the project manager and first "head" of the project for ESDC. Oder tries to find information on Ms. Hankin beyond her loyalty to Governor Paterson. Though there is a thin record of her work, Oder does find some pertinent facts.

Good luck Ms. Hankin, you'll need it to oversee this debacle.

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Brooklyn Broadside: Domino Development: As Important to Brooklyn As Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Now there's an endorsement!

It is also not hyperbole to predict that the area will continue to bring dramatic change that will have to include new schools, new public services and big-box stores.

And there is reason to concur that the Domino project is at least on a par with Atlantic Yards in importance. The major impacts of Atlantic Yards will be the sports arena and eventually new commercial development. The housing planned for the area will evolve over decades.

The Domino project will bring a lot of new people to a not-so-large area in a very short amount of time. The views from the Williamsburg waterfront will be much better than any view from Prospect Heights, the site of Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: Holt, who grew up during the Great Depression (the first one), refuses to ever use "over" and "development" in the same sentence.

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

August 24, 2010

Gov. Paterson Loyalist To Take Charge Of Controversial Atlantic Yards Project

The Daily Politics [NY Daily News blog]
by Celeste Katz

A Gov. Paterson loyalist is set to take the reins of Brooklyn's controversial Atlantic Yards project, reports our Erin Durkin:

Sources tell Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder that 33-year-old Arana Hankin, Paterson's Assistant Secretary for Cultural and Economic Development, will soon be named Atlantic Yards project manager at the Empire State Development Corporation.

Though ESDC has overseen the $5 billion project for years - doling out $100 million in subsidies to developer Bruce Ratner and fighting a high-profile court battle to seize private homes and businesses for the Nets arena and housing and office towers - the agency hasn't actually had a full time project manager running the show until now.

Hankin's only public connection to the Prospect Heights mega-project so far has been as a board member of the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation, which rubber-stamped the $511 million in tax-free bonds Ratner needed to get the long-delayed arena underway. She previously served as a senior policy adviser to Paterson and on his campaign for lieutenant governor, and got some attention for pressing ESDC to fund the Museum for African Art project run by Controller Bill Thompson's wife Elsie McCabe.

Paterson, who railed against the use of eminent domain for private development when he was a state senator representing Harlem residents fighting Columbia's eminent domain-reliant expansion, has been an Atlantic Yards booster since taking office, touting its job creation benefits in a speech at the groundbreaking in March.


Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

Following up (or not) on the ESDC and Arana Hankin; former CBN co-chair recalls getting stonewalled by Hankin

Atlantic Yards Report

So, after I yesterday broke the (anonymously sourced) news that Arana Hankin would be named the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) Atlantic Yards project manager after, a job that apparently wasn't advertised, did anyone follow up?


Yes, the story was linked yesterday by the New York Observer, The Real Deal, and Curbed.

But the ESDC issued no statement, and no one chose to follow up. Perhaps, they think, the Atlantic Yards story is ovah. Except it's not.

Hankin's AY history

It turns out that Hankin has intersected with Atlantic Yards, though not in a way that gave assurance to project critics and opponents.

After David Paterson became governor in early 2008, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) and other groups pressed to meet with him, Terry Urban, former CBN co-chair, told me.

Paterson promised that Tim Gilchrist, who was in charge of economic development for his office, would attend that August 2008 meeting. "[Architect] Marshall Brown flew in from Chicago to present the UNITY plan, and several representatives from the larger community groups were there to show the extent of support for it, and to put a reasonable face on our suggestions for changing the proposed project, and demonstrate our willingness to work with the new leadership," Urban recounted.

"Gilchrist was a no-show. Ms. Hankin, as a Paterson aide, explained that she worked in the city office, and so chaired the meeting in his absence," Urban stated. "With the low-level staff on hand, she listened politely, and said she'd re-schedule with Gilchrist. She never did. Unfortunately for us, it was a competent stonewalling maneuver, merely another of many to which we were accustomed."


Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

The Empire State Building vs. 15 Penn Plaza: the battle over views recalls Miss Brooklyn vs. the Willy B (except there were promises from FCR)

Atlantic Yards Report

After a hearing yesterday, the New York City Council is expected to vote Wednesday to approve a new, 1216-foot tower, 15 Penn Plaza, across the street from Penn Station and two blocks away from the iconic, 1250-foot Empire State Building (ESB).

The ESB's owners protest that the new tower would block a unique asset on the city's skyline--an argument that depends, of course, on perspective, as the renderings below (via the Times) suggest.

And the campaign against that new tower by the ESB's owners, on a web site and in full-page newspaper ads, sounds a little like the criticisms about the impact of Frank Gehry's Miss Brooklyn tower on the iconic Williamsburgh Savings Bank.

There are a few key differences, however:

  • in Brooklyn, there was a much stronger case against the new tower, given that Forest City Ratner promised at the start that it wouldn't block the bank's iconic clock
  • in Brooklyn, the new building would be positioned on perhaps the main view corridor for the older building
  • in Manhattan, unlike Brooklyn, the owner of the older building spent money on a public campaign to raise awareness

The view from Vornado

The view from the ESB's owners


Related coverage...

Gothamist, Could 15 Penn Plaza Be Successful Somewhere Else?

As we mentioned before, a good 76% of New Yorkers apparently think building a 1,200 foot tower two blocks away from the Empire State Building would be detrimental to the New York City skyline. But as The Empire State Building Company's Times ad said, "There will be taller buildings in New York City...but they should merit the height with excellence." We took a look back at some recent New York history to one building that seems to be doing just that. The year was 2009, and Frank Gehry's 76-story Beekman Tower was causing quite a stir.

Developer Bruce Ratner almost had to stop the building at 38 stories due to the economy, but got the project back to its full height after negotiating with labor unions to save costs. And though the 867-foot tower is is changing the city's view of the iconic Woolworth Building (the city's tallest building from its construction in 1913 until 1930), it has not seen nearly as much criticism as 15 Penn Plaza has in just the past few days.

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

Property Rights, Eminent Domain, and the “Ground Zero Mosque”

The Volokh Conspiracy
by Ilya Somin

A few conservative commentators have advocated using the power of eminent domain to take the land on which the “Ground Zero mosque” is scheduled to be built (see here and here). The idea seems to have originated with New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.

Legally, such a taking wouldn’t be as simple as Paladino seems to think. If New York state government tries to condemn the land in question, it will have to either admit that the true purpose is to prevent the construction of a Muslim facility, or concoct some other rationale to hide its motives. If the government is honest about its purposes, the proposed taking would almost certainly violate the owners’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion, for reasons senior Conspirator Eugene Volokh outlines here.

If, on the other hand, the government tries to put together an alternative justification for the condemnation, it runs into a different problem. Even under the otherwise highly permissive Kelo decision, the Supreme Court has said that “pretextual” takings (condemnations where the officially stated purpose is just a pretext for some other agenda) are forbidden. What exactly counts as a “pretextual” taking after Kelo is a matter of great dispute, one that has divided lower courts (see this excellent article by Daniel Kelly for the details). Nonetheless, there is a good chance that a transparent effort to cloak an effort to suppress unpopular speech or religious observances in some construction project would be viewed with suspicion by courts.

As New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg puts it, “The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right.”

There is some irony in the fact that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has eloquently defended the property rights of the “Ground Zero Mosque” owners even though he recently presided over gross abuses of property rights in the Atlantic Yards and Columbia University cases, among others. He strongly supported both of these extraordinarily dubious takings. Still, Bloomberg’s hypocrisy doesn’t make him any less right about the Ground Zero controversy.


Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Atlantic Yards: And Now, the Musical

In the Footprint Scheduled For Irondale in Fort Greene

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The Civilians, a theater company that describes itself as a center for investigative theater, plans to present In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, a new play with music, at the Irondale Center in Fort Greene from Nov. 12 to Dec. 11.

The site of the future Atlantic Yards Project, including the Barclays basketball arena, is located two blocks away from the theater, where In the Footprint will chronicle the conflicts surrounding the largest land development project in Brooklyn’s history.

In the Footprint is written and directed by Steven Cosson (Gone Missing, This Beautiful City), co-written by Jocelyn Clarke, with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, This Beautiful City).

In the Footprint is part of Exchange NYC 2010-11, a city wide season of new work by America’s most innovative theatre companies. Tickets for In the Footprint are available as part of the X-Pass, Exchange NYC’s flexible season pass. For more information and to purchase the X-Pass: www.exchangenyc.org.


Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

August 23, 2010

LIRR Crippled by Small Fire

The Wall Street Journal
by Andrew Grossman and Kavita Mokha

Take heart, stranded Long Island Railroad commuters! While you were standing on the Ronkonkoma train for three hours with hundreds of other sardines, or scouting for a nice patch of floor on which to spend the night in Penn Station, you could take solace in the fact that we taxpayers gave Bruce Ratner a 22-year-mortgage for 80% of the already-more-than-half-off sweetheart deal the MTA gave him on the Vanderbilt Yard. So what if they're still using pulleys and levers to switch trains from one track to another?

The Long Island Rail Road planned to cancel a one-quarter of its usual Tuesday morning service after a small electrical fire in an outmoded control tower paralyzed the nation's largest commuter railroad Monday, stranding thousands for hours before limited service was restored.

About 100,000 people use the LIRR during the morning and evening rush hours. The railroad planned to run about 60% of trains during the Tuesday evening rush hour. The delays and cancellations could last for much of the week as workers repair the control tower, the railroad said late Monday.

The fire broke out just before 11 a.m. when a power cable that feeds the third rail near Jamaica station shorted out—possibly because of Sunday's heavy rains—sparking a blaze in a nearby control tower. The tower, a relic of the early 20th century that featured pulleys and levers that switch trains from one track to another, is at a key junction just east of Jamaica where city-bound trains on 10 of the railroad's 11 branches converge. Only the Port Washington branch was unaffected.

The railroad halted all service on those 10 branches. Most trains pulled into stations, where passengers waited for hours. There, many said, confusion reigned. Rick Jerothe's 10:11 a.m. train from Ronkonkoma—which was supposed to meet a connecting train at Jamaica that would take him to Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal—instead stopped at Floral Park, on the Nassau County/Queens line.

Mr. Jerothe, a 45-year-old executive at a medical transportation company, had an important meeting about generators at ambulance depots that he needed to attend. Instead, he said he heard conflicting announcements about possible bus service that never came and got little help from the train's crew.


Posted by eric at 11:10 PM

Exclusive: Paterson loyalist with thin résumé to be ESDC's first official Atlantic Yards project manager; why wasn't position advertised?

Atlantic Yards Report

The news of the appointment is based on sources believed reliable; the rest of the article is based on public sources. The ESDC confirmed that an announcement about a new project manager is coming this week, though no name was mentioned.

After years with no individual formally overseeing Atlantic Yards, the government agency in charge of the project, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), will soon name a project manager.

However, that new staffer--at least according to the minimal publicly available evidence--lacks experience facing up to developers like Forest City Ratner and scrutinizing complex development projects, much less engaging the public.

And that may be the point, given that the ESDC has dutifully found blight on the project site, overstated expected economic benefits, and insisted in court that the official ten-year timetable is reasonable.

Getting a loyalist in place

This week, the ESDC is expected to name 33-year-old Arana Hankin, who has a relatively thin résumé but close connections to Governor David Paterson--a staunch, if misinformed, Atlantic Yards supporter--to this new, unadvertised position.

(Though the ESDC wouldn't say so, it looks like a volunteer, attorney, Susan Rahm, served as project manager during a two-year stint that ended last year.)

Is the appointment of Hankin, nearly five years after the agency began evaluating the project, an effort to impose order on Atlantic Yards?

That may be the ESDC's posture. Equally important, however, may be the governor's desire to place a loyalist in an ongoing position after his administration ends this year.

(Didn't Paterson impose a hiring freeze? Maybe there will be vacancies at the ESDC if some staffers take a state incentive program to retire. But shouldn't a position like this new one be announced and advertised, as was the ombudsman job?)

Though Hankin's been a Paterson aide in two stints, the only press account of her government service I could find--as described further below--suggests her willingness to pursue her boss's agenda, pressing the ESDC to move forward in funding a questionable project led by Elsie McCabe, wife of then-New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson.


Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

Todd Triplett just needs a little cash, that’s all

The Brooklyn Paper
by Aaron Short

Todd Triplett is about to open a new art space in Fort Greene, a second try for the would-be dance impresario three years after his original venue, Amber Art Space, was closed down and seized by the city.

Triplett has found a location — a former parking garage on Atlantic Avenue — to realize his vision of a multipurpose arts and performance space for Prospect Heights and Fort Greene that he is calling “Free Candy.”

Free Candy is similar to Triplett’s prior effort, Amber Art Space — though he hopes it won’t end the same way.

In 2007, the city took over Amber a mere four weeks before its opening, claiming that the neighborhood around it was blighted and the building was needed as part of the BAM Cultural District plan.

Triplett and his partners had poured $1.2 million into that space, hoping to open a three-story music club on Ashland Place. But the city wanted to build a 187-unit condominium tower on the site, smashing Triplett’s dreams.

The building was never built.

“Basically, they’ve created the blight,” said Triplett. “I’ve moved on. I don’t have any anger. I just want to do it. What’s so hard about supporting the arts? Let’s just go.”


To support Todd Triplett's "Free Candy" project via Kickstarter, click here.

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

What a difference three weeks makes: ads indicate how lane closure time period was extended

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote about this change two days ago, but the juxtaposition is telling.

(Click on graphics to enlarge. Highlights are added.)

From the July 30-August 5 back page of the Brooklyn Paper:

From the August 20-26 back page of the Brooklyn Paper:


Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

August 22, 2010

Yormark says Barclays deal was crucial to arena project (duh); note how FCR not only renegotiated but sweetened the pot

Atlantic Yards Report

I don't have access to Comcast, but the NetsDaily summary of an interview with Nets CEO Brett Yormark quotes him as saying, if Barclays had pulled out of the Brooklyn arena naming rights deal, "we wouldn't be here today."

Remember, the once-announced $400 million deal was reduced to $200-plus million, still crucial funding for arena construction.

And not only did the state simply give away naming rights, that benefit to Forest City Ratner (and now Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim group) was never counted as a subsidy, not even by the New York City Independent Budget Office.

Renegotiating the deal

No wonder Forest City Ratner and Yormark were so willing to renegotiate the deal. Barclays, Yormark once told favored interviewer Alexis Glick, had never wavered--though that was before starchitect Frank Gehry left the project.

Two other signs of FCR's effort to sweeten the pot:

  • the subway/LIRR station naming rights agreement, paid for by the developer (not Barclays), to add Barclays Center to the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street complex
  • the groundbreaking event extravaganza in March, aimed to boost Barclays, with Prokhorov barely mentioned


Posted by steve at 12:20 PM

Judge won't block Willets Point redevelopment

State Supreme Court judge rejects group's attempt to halt project on environmental grounds.

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

The same judge who gave the first legal pass to the deeply flawed Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement has done the same for the deeply flawed Willets Point Environmental Impact Statement.

A state Supreme Court judge has denied an attempt by Willets Point's lone resident and nearly two dozen local land and business owners to win an injunction halting the redevelopment of Willets Point, Queens.

The group's members had argued that the environmental review conducted by the city failed to “take a hard look at the environmental impacts” on regional highways, emergency response services and area water supplies, among other complaints.

They had sought an order annulling the environmental review of the project and the City Council and Planning Commission's approvals, as well as an injunction barring the city from continuing with the development until it complied with proper environmental procedures.

But State Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden denied the request, ruling against the Willets Point group on all of its claims—which ranged from questioning the environmental review to contending the office of the deputy mayor for economic development did not have the authority to be the lead agency on the project.

Jerry Antonocci, owner of Crown Container owner, one of the businesses that filed suit, promised the group would persevere in their attempt to stop the development.

“I'm sure we're going to appeal the decision,” he said. "We just got out of the first inning. It ain't over. We're not giving up.”


Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

August 21, 2010

In Washington, federal money gets a Forest City project started; the adaptive re-use looks like... Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

It shouldn't be a surprise that the first new construction in two years for Forest City Enterprises, outside of the Atlantic Yards arena, is a building that depends significantly on government subsidies.

What is something of a surprise is that the federally-insured mortgage loan for Foundry Lofts, a 170-unit, 80/20 multifamily apartment building at The Yards, a Forest City project in Washington, involves the adaptive re-use of historic former Navy Yard industrial building (right).

That looks a bit like Newswalk in Brooklyn, or the Ward Bakery, or the building once owned by Henry Weinstein near them at 752 Pacific Street.

The Ward Bakery is already demolished, with the Weinstein building (below; photo taken December 2008 by Tracy Collins) likely to serve as offices during the construction phase of the arena, even thought Forest City Ratner executive Maryanne Gilmartin said in court papers that the developer plans to demolish that building.


Also notable is that, like Battery Park City but unlike Atlantic Yards, at The Yards a park will come first.

In fact, it will feature a 5.5-acre public park--not publicly accessible private space, as at MetroTech and planned for Atlantic Yards--though, as with many parks today, the financing is creative.

NoLandGrab: This is yet another indication that the ESDC and all those politicians who supported Atlantic Yards without reservation could have pressed Bruce Ratner for a much better project that would have saved some of the historic structures on the site and delivered goodies like promised open space first, instead of who knows when.


Posted by steve at 8:29 AM

Show About the Atlantic Yards Finds a Home Near the Atlantic Yards

New York Times
By Erik Piepenburg

This announcement of a show based on the Atlantic Yards fight describes Atlantic Yards as "eight million square feet of apartments, offices, stores and an arena for the New Jersey Nets." The arena is under construction. Except for one or two residential towers, it looks like the rest of the project will just be acres of parking.

The downtown company the Civilians has announced that its new show, “In the Footprint: The Battle Over the Atlantic Yards,” will open in November at the Irondale Center, a theater space not far from the future home of that planned 22-acre development.

“In the Footprint” is a series of songs and monologues about the conflicts over the building of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project near Brooklyn’s downtown that is to include eight million square feet of apartments, offices, stores and an arena for the New Jersey Nets. The show’s material is taken from interviews that members of the Civilians conducted with Brooklyn residents, community organizers, business owners and politicians who are either for or against the project. Performances are scheduled to begin on Nov. 12 and continue through Dec. 11 at the center at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene.


Related coverage...

The L Magazine, Atlantic Yards Musical In The Footprint Premiering in Fort Greene in November

ArtsBeat reports that documentary theater company the Civilians will premiere their show In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards this fall at the Irondale Center in Fort Greene, a few blocks from the titular mega-development. The show, which combines songs and monologues drawn from interviews with local residents, activists, business-owners, developers and politicians on either side of the fight over the in-progress project to build condos and a basketball stadium along Atlantic Avenue, will begin performances on November 12 and continue through December 11. Can't wait that long? The Civilians will perform songs from the show during a cabaret night at Joe's Pub on September 10. Either way, unfortunately, it appears to be too late.

Atlantic Yards Report, The Civilians' theater piece about Atlantic Yards will debut November 12

In December 2008, the theater troupe The Civilians, which bases its shows on interviews but doesn't quite produce documentaries, debuted Brooklyn At Eye Level, its first (and preliminary) show based on its look into the controversy and passions of the Atlantic Yards project.

I thought the show was well worth seeing, though it also had gaps. Starting in November, we'll see how much the story has been updated and how many of the gaps will be filled in.

Posted by steve at 8:09 AM

August 20, 2010

"Temporary Change of Traffic Pattern on Flatbush Avenue" now means at least 22 months, not 17 months

Atlantic Yards Report

As traffic patterns change on Flatbush Avenue today, we should know that lanes will close for a lot longer than originally announced: at least five months.

Forest City Ratner snuck a rather significant policy change into a mailer sent out this week to some Brooklynites. (Copy below is via Brownstoner.)

The "temporary" change in traffic pattern on Flatbush Avenue--six lanes becoming five between Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue--will not last from August 1 (as originally announced) or today (the revised plan) until "early 2012," as stated in both community notices embedded below.

Summer 2012, not "early 2012"

It will last until "the new Barclays Center Arena opens in summer 2012." By no stretch of the imagination does summer come "early" in the year.

I had been conservative in my earlier estimate of 17 months. Now it's 22 months to the beginning of the summer in late June 2012.

What if arena's delayed?

But what if the arena opens in the late summer? What if it's delayed?


NoLandGrab: Is Forest City ever honest about anything?

Related coverage...

Brownstoner, More Traffic Inconveniences Around Arena

Traffic on Flatbush Avenue is about to get a whole lot more snarled. According to a mailer that went out this week from Forest City Ratner, the busy thoroughfare will lose a lane of southbound traffic during morning rush hour for the next year or so while "improvements" are is made on the Atlantic Avenue subway station.

Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

Case closed (more or less): yes, ESDC volunteer Rahm was in charge of Atlantic Yards, serving at times as a sole contact person for FCR officials

Atlantic Yards Report

Who's in charge here?

Rumors that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) will soon announce a new staffer as Atlantic Yards project manager make the below account especially timely.

Documents unearthed via a long-lingering response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request offer strong evidence, if not definitive confirmation, that a below-the-radar volunteer was, during a crucial period, the ESDC's leading overseer of Atlantic Yards.

After all, lawyer Susan Rahm (below, in the audience at the 5/29/09 state Senate oversight hearing) was the sole recipient at least once of key communications from developer Forest City Ratner.

Disputed takes

As I wrote 6/2/09, there was evidence that suggested Rahm, a several-days-a-week volunteer since the summer of 2007, was running the show, a highly unusual position, given that the state agency had no other volunteers.

I had questioned whether Rahm was in a policy-making position, and was told by the ESDC that no, she was just a consultant.

Another person intersecting with Atlantic Yards disagreed. "When I was introduced to Susan Rahm, she was called the 'project manager' for Atlantic Yards," my correspondent told me. "Yeah, it’s a pretty general term, but I got the impression she was the chief operating official for the project, salary or no."

Rahm left her role in the second half of 2009, some two years after she signed on, but after Forest City Ratner and the ESDC had revised the General Project Plan and granted Forest City Ratner more flexibility.

Adding it up

Was Rahm in charge? It sure looks that way, though obviously she shared responsibility with Matlin and their superiors.

The question now: is anyone in charge? (And who might be coming?)

And if the rather vague and weak Atlantic Yards governance bill, now pending, is passed, will it set up a structure with real oversight?


Photo: Jonathan Barkey

Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

The Agonizing Slowness of Locating Eli Broad's New Museum

by Steve Delahoyde

Remember last year when everyone knew that Frank Gehry was going to get kicked off the Atlantic Yards project (including Gehry) but it was drawn out for months and months until it finally happened and surprised not a soul? If we were to award a prize for this sort of story, maybe the UnBeige Medal for Delaying the Probably-Inevitable, of course it would have gone to Gehry and Co. This year's medal recipient is another easy decision: Eli Broad's new museum in California.


Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

Beekman Tower: Now Glistening to the Very Top

by Matthew Schuerman

Frank Gehry's design for the Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan elicited a wide range of responses when its designs were circulated two years ago. Among them: Just how will the shiny steel surface fit in among lower Manhattan's stone towers?

While the building is still several months away from completion, the stainless steel siding appeared to have reached the top of the 76 floors this week, giving passersby a chance to assess it.

The building, at 8 Spruce Street, was planned during the real estate boom...and, against all odds, went up during the bust. Construction did stall last year while the developer, Forest City Ratner, renegotiated costs lower -- but work resumed within a few months. The steel structure topped off last November, and shortly afterwards, workers began installing the undulating stainless steel curtain wall.


NoLandGrab: Frank Gehry design? Don't they mean Peter Jackson?

Photo: Matthew Schuerman/WNYC

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

August 19, 2010

Barclays, beneficiary of what judge calls "sweetheart deal," agrees to pay $298 million to avoid prosecution for "trading with the enemy"

Atlantic Yards Report

And people were upset about "Citi Field?"

So Barclays Bank PLC, the "major global financial services provider," is in the news this week, and it's not because the company has committed more than $200 million to plaster its name on the in-construction Atlantic Yards arena, aka the Barclays Center.

Nor is it because Forest City Ratner has promised $4 million to add the Barclays Center name to the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street transit hub.

Rather, it's because Barclays has committed, as part of deferred prosecution agreements, "to forfeit $298 million to the United States and to the New York County District Attorney’s Office in connection with violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA)," according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Essentially, the bank used subterfuge to let banks from Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Burma, as well as prohibited persons, move money through the U.S. financial system.

The tab for Barclays might have been more, since it agreed to pay $176 million for other violations, but the DOJ press release described that as "concurrent," which means that the violator's obligations are satisfied via the $298 million. (The exact calculations of fines is ambiguous.)

None of the coverage, as far as I can tell, connected the Barclays prosecution with the firm's effort to establish a foothold in the United States via the Brooklyn arena. But this certainly casts doubts on Barclays as a "good corporate citizen," a term the Empire State Development Corporation used for Forest City Ratner, which has a murky role--with no charged wrongdoing--in the Ridge Hill corruption case.

The "sweetheart deal"

And while the settlement was approved yesterday by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, it came after Sullivan a day earlier criticized it as "a sweetheart deal."

"Why isn't the government getting rough with these banks?" the judge asked, according to the Wall Street Journal. He called it "an accommodation to a foreign bank, and that concerns me."


Posted by eric at 9:35 AM

The End of Freddy's - August 17, 2010

Tracy Collins has posted photos and video of the final destruction of Freddy's, the prohibition-era watering hole that served several generations of Brooklynites. What's going up in its place? A monument to the bank that just agreed to pay the United States Government $298 million for violating U.S. sanctions against "trading with the enemy."


The End of Freddy's - August 17, 2010 on Vimeo

485 Dean Street at 6th Avenue
former location of Freddy's Bar & Backroom
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

Shot on the morning of August 17, 2010. The block of buildings bounded by Dean Street, 6th Avenue, Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue is being demolished for the Barclays Center Arena of the Atlantic Yards project from developer Forest City Ratner.

Freddy's Bar was located on the corner of Dean & 6th.


Other coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, From Tracy Collins: time-lapse videos of demolition on Dean, including the end of Freddy's

Photographer Tracy Collins has been keeping track of Forest City Ratner's demolition of some sturdy buildings for the arena block.

Posted by eric at 9:20 AM

Williamsburg's Last Domino: A Gentrification Time Bomb?

The L Magazine

A Williamsburg "agent-provocateur" cites Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn boondoggle as the benchmark for mass gentrification.

Dennis Farr, a local activist and lifetime resident, is standing alongside me underneath some of the project's scaffolding on an afternoon in late July. In the middle of our conversation, he looks at me, seriously, and says: "Atlantic Yards pales in significance to what's gonna happen here."


Posted by eric at 9:10 AM

August 18, 2010

Task force on public authority reform says those appointing board members also owe fiduciary duty; warns boards against reliance on senior staff

Atlantic Yards Report

As I reported last month, despite the expansion of the Authorities Budget Office (ABO) as part of 2009 public authority reform legislation, corporate governance expert Ira Millstein, who led the development of the law, thought the ABO was woefully understaffed.

This week, the Governor’s Task Force on the Implementation of the 2009 Public Authorities Reform Act (PARA), chaired by Millstein, issued a report (embedded below) calling for “substantial increases to the funding and staffing of the ABO.”

But it also called for several other reforms, a few of which seemed to be a response to situations like Atlantic Yards.

Notably, the Task Force wants:

  • those who appoint board members to face a fiduciary duty (which means they'd owe loyalty, for example, to transit riders rather than real estate developers)
  • board members limit reliance on senior staff (who, in the case of AY, run Empire State Development Corporation policy)
  • boards to implement risk management polices (which might lead the ESDC to produce an cost-benefit analysis that allows for delay)

Expanded fiduciary duty

As a main recommendation, the Task Force asks that “the ABO take action to ensure that the individuals responsible for appointing and designating directors to the boards of public authorities respect the fiduciary duty owed by their appointees and designees; and that the Public Authorities Law be amended to establish a fiduciary duty owed by the individuals holding appointing and designating powers.”

In other words, just because (for example) Mayor Mike Bloomberg appoints members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, he should recognize his appointees should be responsible to the interests of the MTA, not the interests of the mayor.

That would be a significant change, given that Bloomberg's appointees led the justification of the MTA's June 2009 renegotiation of the Vanderbilt Yard deal.


NoLandGrab: The horses left the barn last year, and Albany just remembered, "hey, we have a barn."

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

August 17, 2010

Kickstarter: Free Candy

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Alexander Abad-Santos

Todd Triplett has 45 days to raise $16,560 more to bring Free Candy, a multi-use art space, to Clinton Hill.

Mr. Triplett, 34, who holds a master’s from Pratt, originally planned to open a music and arts space in Fort Greene in 2007 but was served a notice of eminent domain by the city just weeks before opening to make way for a housing tower and dance space as part of the BAM Cultural District. That project was put on hold because of the downturn in the housing market.

Mr. Triplett has found a new space, and he hopes he’ll achieve his dream with the help of community donations through Kickstarter. Mr. Triplett is still keeping the venue’s location secret, but so far he’s raised $3,440 of his $20,000 goal, which comes with an October 1st deadline. If he raises the funds, Triplett hopes to have Free Candy running by the end of the year.

The Local recently spoke with Mr. Triplett about his project. Here’s the condensed interview:

Between 2005 and 2007 I was building a space called the Amber Arts Music Space. It was in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, about a block away from BAM on Ashland and Fulton. We were about four weeks from opening and we had gotten all our various licenses, and we were just putting the finishing touches on the building. We received a letter from eminent domain from the city; basically saying they were replacing the building with a condominium and ironically, an arts space at the base of the condominium.

So we fought and eventually let it go. The building actually still stands like the day we left it. That was basically three years ago.


Click here to help back Mr. Triplett's project.

Posted by eric at 2:04 PM

The changing face of retail on Flatbush, poised for more change, especially closest to the arena block

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes an in-depth look at changes along Flatbush Avenue. If Madison Square Garden is a guide, can Sbarro's and McDonald's be far off?

Flatbush Avenue south of Dean Street has been changing for a while and the anticipated Atlantic Yards arena is likely a significant factor regarding the future of the adjacent block, as well as some factor--though not necessarily the most significant one--further down the road.

Near Seventh Avenue

A few long blocks from the arena site, at Park Place just below the intersection of Flatbush and Seventh avenues, Park Heights Stationers has closed after 25 years, "due to the rising cost of operation," which sure sounds like a rent increase.

As the handwritten comments indicate, the store was appreciated, but as comments on Brownstoner suggest, some thought it too slow to change with the times. (Photos by Norman Oder)

Will it become another chain drug store, just as the Dominican lunch counter across Seventh Avenue became a Duane Reade? Possibly, but it more likely could become an eating and drinking establishment that takes advantage both of the subway access (it's right outside the subway stop for the Q and B trains), and the relative arena proximity.

My information is thirdhand, but a source who spoke to a former employee told me that that employee believed that the landlord sought more rent from an arena-related business.


Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

Gang attack on S. Portland

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Thomas Tracy

If the Empire State Development Corporation had asked AKRF to study crime in Bruce Ratner's malls, they would've been declared blighted a long time ago. But that just isn't how they operate.

Mall rats

A lot of crooks were found shopping inside the frequently hit Atlantic Terminal Mall on Flatbush Avenue between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue this week. Here’s the rundown:

• A 25-year-old shoplifter was arrested inside Target after swiping over $500 in DVDs and CDs on Aug. 13.

• A sticky fingered thief made off with a 29-year-old woman’s wallet as she shopped for shoes inside DSW at 7:15 pm on Aug. 14.

• A 28-year-old told police she was perusing the aisles in Target on Aug. 12 when she put her wallet on a shelf for just a moment. It was gone seconds later.

• A thief sneaked his hand in a woman’s shoulder tote as she waited on line inside Victoria’s Secret on Aug. 10, taking her wallet.


Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

Atlantic Yards Nexus of Scandals

mole333's blog via The Daily Gotham

Look at what Marty Markowitz, Bruce Ratner, Bill de Blasio, Michael Bloomberg and Bertha Lewis, to name a few, have brought to Brooklyn. Atlantic Yards seems to be bringing some real sleaze to our city, though not much in the way of real, long-term jobs or affordable housing.

Barclay's, the company that bought naming rights to Bruce Ratner's arena, has just been fined for more than a decade of illegally doing business with the likes of Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma. From BBC News:

Barclays Bank is to pay $298m (£190m) to settle criminal charges that it violated US sanctions in dealings with Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma.

The bank was charged with breaching the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act in dealings between 1995 and 2006...

Barclays has agreed to pay $149m to the US government and a separate $149m in a deferred prosecution agreement with the district attorney in New York.

Yep...Marty Markowitz, Michael Bloomberg, Bill de Blasio, Bruce Ratner, Bertha Lewish and all those other Atlantic Yards shills have given prominent place in our community with a company that was guilty of "Trading with the Enemy." Will these people look with pride at the "Barclay's Arena" knowing that Barclay's broke the law to do business with the brutal dictators of Libya, Sudan and Burma and the religious zealots of Iran? Is that what we want here in Brooklyn?

Of course not all the corruption that surrounds Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards was imported. Ratner did plenty of sweetening the pot for local politicians. Remember how RIGHT after Ratner's brother donated to Brooklyn Party Boss Vito Lopez we saw Vito Lopez introduce a bill offering Ratner $300 million MORE taxpayer money?


Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

Political Meddling Harms Public Authorities, Albany Panel Finds

The New York Times
by Danny Hakim

Governors and mayors should stop meddling in the affairs of public authorities, according to a new report from a state task force reviewing the state’s sprawling authority system.

The report proposes that the law be amended to make explicit that politicians who appoint board members have a fiduciary duty that precludes them from improperly influencing their appointees. And it proposes giving state regulators enforcement powers over politicians who appoint board members, including referring violations to the attorney general or a local district attorney.

“The law has always required board members to do what’s right for the public, not what’s right for the elected officials,” said Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who championed the 2009 authorities law.

“Think if it was a judge,” he added. “Should the governor be able to call a judge on the Court of Appeals and tell them how to decide a case? The same should be true of the M.T.A. These are independent agencies with an independent mission.”


NoLandGrab: It's going to take a lot more reform than that, folks. As Atlantic Yards court cases have demonstrated, an allegedly "independent" judiciary can make plenty of bad decisions all on its own.

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

August 16, 2010

New Trailer

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

The folks at Rumur have cut a must-see new trailer for Battle of Brooklyn.

We have been hard at work on the cut and are extremely happy with how the film is coming together. in the meantime we have put together a trailer to start building interest in the film.


We hope to launch the film early in the new year.

If you want to follow the progress of the film please become a fan of rumur on facebook.



Posted by eric at 10:01 PM

Flashback: the ad in the Wall Street Journal pitching "Gehry's Newest Masterpiece, Building One at Atlantic Yards"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a stroll down memory lane, recalling Frank Gehry's homage to haphazardly stacked milk crates.

Let's recall the May 2008 emergence of new Frank Gehry designs (first via a Daily News exclusive) of the arena block, including a new flagship tower, simply designed as B1 rather than Miss Brooklyn.

The article quoted the dutiful Gehry:

"My enthusiasm for Atlantic Yards has grown and grown until arriving at our current design, which works better with the surrounding area than it ever had before," said Gehry of new designs obtained exclusively by the Daily News.


NoLandGrab: Yup, that just blends right in with Prospect Heights, Fort Greene and Park Slope brownstones, doesn't it?

Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

Naming the Nets

WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show

Will the Nets keep their promise and put "Brooklyn" in their name when they move to their new arena? Matthew Schuerman, WNYC Radio reporter, gives us an update.


Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

HUD housing policy conference includes no affordable housing advocates

Bankers and academics will debate the administration's housing policy without help from, say, community organizers

by Alex Pareene

Brooklyn's biggest affordable-housing-free affordable-housing project makes a cameo in this critique of an Obama administration housing conference.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan has exactly the sort of resume that would impress Meritocrat-in-Chief Barack Obama. Degrees from Harvard, a master's in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and even a master's in architecture. He word for HUD in the Clinton administration, and then, most importantly, went on to work on housing and development for our nation's foremost technocrat executive, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Which should've immediately disqualified him.

The Bloomberg administration has a wretched and largely ignored history of promising affordable housing and never delivering. (Not to mention the worst failure of the Bloomberg era: homelessness. It was at historically high levels even before the great financial crisis and no serious attempts at ameliorating it ever developed.)

The Bloomberg housing plan was to give land to private developers, for pennies, in exchange for the promise to build affordable housing for middle and low-income families, and then just not do anything, at all, when the developers simply ignored their promises and built nothing but luxury units. This happened on the Williamsburg waterfront, and it's happening right now near my neighborhood at the Atlantic Yards. Those developments are the norm, not exceptions.


NoLandGrab: A reader points out that it's not true that only luxury units are being built in Williamsburg, nor planned for Atlantic Yards. The reality is perhaps even worse — subsidized units which in many cases rent at market rates.

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

August 15, 2010

The Times and Lipsky: skepticism about the city's claims on Willets Point (but what about AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times, likely on a tip from lobbyist Richard Lipsky, ran a story on August 13 expressing skepticism about the Willets Point project. State officials are particularly concerned about the design for highway ramps. Why was Lipsky never skeptical about Atlantic Yards?

Lipsky, on his Neighborhood Retail Alliance blog, slammed the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC):

The fact remains, however, that this entire issue-and the review process itself-is begging to be removed from the parochial clutches of EDC and its flimflam consultant AKRF. If that happens, the economic development agency and its friends may just die from exposure.

But did Lipsky make a peep about AKRF's performance on Atlantic Yards, for example the market study it was hired to do but never did?


Did he salute transportation analyst Brian Ketcham's criticism of the ESDC's traffic analysis for Atlantic Yards, surely equivalent to what Lipsky called Ketcham's "blistering critique of EDC's defective [Willets Point] traffic report"?


That's because Forest City Ratner hired Lipsky to lobby for Atlantic Yards, and neutralized him.


Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

Freddy's Fall 8/13/10

Photo from a set by Raul Rothblatt, via Flickr

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report,The fall of Freddy's continues

On Friday, demolition workers continued to dismantle the building at the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue that once housed Freddy's Bar & Backroom. Here's a slide show from Raul Rothblatt.

Below are cropped versions of two photos in the sequence. One floor from the main building was demolished, and the Backroom next door is history.

Posted by steve at 7:23 AM

August 14, 2010

A push poll in the state Senate race, perhaps from the Pollard camp

Atlantic Yards Report

If you wanted to know anything about any kind of a poll was being conducted around the primary race for the State Senate between incumbent Velmanette Montgomery and challenger Mark Pollard, the best person to receive the call would be Norman Oder.

The call was probably linked to the Pollard camp, since a Montgomery representative said it wasn't them. (Update: Maybe that was too conclusory. It could've come from a group supporting Montgomery.)

The caller said she was a representative of a public opinion research firm called M.E.M. "We're conducting a brief survey about important issues in your area," I was told.

I asked for the location of the firm and a web site. There's no web site, I was told, and "I'm just in a call center." (She couldn't pronounce "Gowanus," so she was clearly from way out of town.) So I took a few notes.

Atlantic Yards makes an appearance in a poll question.

The next two questions concerned what is apparently the principal issue--or at least the principal campaign issue, given Pollard's funding by charter school supporters:

  • What do I think of the United Federation of Teachers
  • What do I think of charter schools?

The next question concerned what is apparently a significant secondary issue:

  • What are my feelings about Atlantic Yards?


Posted by steve at 2:23 PM

Freddy's on Friday The 13th

Photo by Tracy Collins, via Flickr

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

Posted by steve at 2:15 PM

New Jersey Nets to Change Their Name in Brooklyn


This item about the renaming of the New Jersey Nets includes some suggestions:

The Brooklyn Brooklynites: Jersey, this one goes out to you. You're our halfwit brothers, and just because you moved, it doesn't mean we haven't forgotten you're from Jersey. Seriously, you're going to need to work the word "Brooklyn" into your name as many times as possible to convince us.

The Brooklyn Martys: Come on, you know that Marty Markowitz would cream his jeans (and probably put up $2 mil of his own money) to get the team named after his Penguin-looking ass.

The Brooklyn Bulldozers: This team is so caught up in corporate greed, we wouldn't be surprised if their home-game shirts read "Brooklyn Barclays Target Pier One Saks Häagen Dazses."

The Brooklyn Freddys: Not "Freddy" as in "Freddy Krueger," although that would make for some kick-ass logos. Rather, we're talking about Freddy's, named one of the best bars in America, and a victim of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain decision.

The Brooklyn Rats: We'll tell Bruce it's named after him, but we all know it's really named for Brooklyn's most lovable critter.


Posted by steve at 2:08 PM

August 13, 2010

What if the team's "name change" is just a feint to announce "Brooklyn Nets" in a big ceremony?

Atlantic Yards Report

From the department of "who cares?":

WNYC's Matthew Schuerman picks up the news (as stoked by principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov) that Nets to Change Name, and May Not Use 'Brooklyn'.

And while that news drew anxiety from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and told-you-so-scorn from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a listen to Nets CEO Brett Yormark leaves me with another impression: they're simply waiting to make a splash with a gala announcement about the "Brooklyn Nets."

It could all just be a way to generate some more buzz.


NoLandGrab: Anything that emanates from the mouth of Yormark is suspect at best, so speculating about it is an exercise in time-wasting.

Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

Justin Bond, The Civilians, Lea DeLaria, Kenny Mellman, et al. Added to September Schedule at Joe's Pub


A new set of performances has been announced for Joe's Pub in September.

The Civilians will be performing at the venue, offering three performances of Let Me Ascertain You: Atlantic Yards (September 10-12), which is the group's multi-year investigation into the controversial Atlantic Yards development project. The evenings will feature songs and monologues taken from interviews with Brooklyn residents, business owners, community activists, politicians, and students, among others.


Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

August 12, 2010

Markowitz Upset That Russian Oligarch May Not Be Into That "Brooklynish Thing"

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

On the same day his buddies Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov are laying waste to one of Brooklyn's great community bars—Freddy's Bar and Backroom—BEEP Markowitz is upset about reports of yet another Atlantic Yards bait-and-switch. Turns out the Cleveland and Russia based tycoons may not call the team they want to move to the Barclays Center Arena the Brooklyn Nets or the Brooklyn Anythings.

And that upsets Markowitz, because...you know...he cares so much about Brooklyn and the important things, or at least that "Brooklynish thing."

Hate to say we told you so Markowitz.


Posted by eric at 10:28 PM

Freddy's Fall 8/12/10

raulistic via flickr

The bastards are knocking down Freddy's. And all Marty Markowitz cares about is that the basketball team is called the Brooklyn Somethings. Nice.


Related content...

raulism via YouTube, Freddy's Bar gets destroyed to make a Russian-owned sports facility

NoLandGrab: Thank goodness A. Russo Wrecking put up that big, garish sign. Now we know whom to call next time we want to lay waste to a neighborhood.

Posted by eric at 9:54 PM

Nets to Change Name, and May Not Use 'Brooklyn'

Local Pols Were Counting on Boost for Borough

by Matthew Schuerman

Here's a twist — the latest in a long line of Atlantic Yards bait-and-switches gets pulled on... Marty Markowitz!

A lot of Brooklyn politicians—and local residents—gave their support to the Atlantic Yards complex assuming it would be host to “the Brooklyn Nets.” Now, they can’t be so sure.

A team spokesman, Barry Baum, confirms news reports that the team submitted an application to change its name to the NBA. The timing, he said, was in order to be ready for the move to Brooklyn, expected in late 2012. But Baum wouldn’t specify what the desired name would be or whether it would use “Brooklyn” or “New York” as the geographic name. The NBA also wouldn’t comment.

While the sports world is abuzz with speculation over a nickname change, local officials are more concerned about the geography.

"The owners from day one—the one pledge they made, beside other pledges, was that the name would be the Brooklyn something,” Borough President Marty Markowitz said. “And I don’t care what the second name is as long as the first name is Brooklyn.”

An agreement that Ratner’s group negotiated with state officials to secure subsidies they needed for the project leaves open whether New York or Brooklyn would be used. That agreement was signed last October, about a month after the sale to Prokhorov was announced but before it closed.

“The company shall cause the team to play all of its home games using a name that incorporates the words ‘New York’ or ‘Brooklyn,’ unless otherwise agreed to in writing by ESDC,” the document states, using the acronym for the Empire State Development Corporation.

Markowtiz says he wasn’t aware of the document and would be disappointed if the team chose “New York” for its name.

“I know my colleagues in Brooklyn would feel very upset about it,” he said.

But Markowitz said he didn’t see any business reason why Prokhorov would break Ratner’s promise. “The whole idea of locating a basketball team in Brooklyn is because of the Brooklyn persona, the Brooklyn brand, the whole Brooklynish thing,” he said.


NoLandGrab: "Brooklynish thing?" Say what?

Frankly, we'd rather the Brooklyn name remain unblemished. And given that there are no "Bronx Yankees," "Queens Mets" or "Manhattan Rangers," we have a pretty good idea which way this thing is going — as the locals like to say, "not Brooklynish."

Additional coverage...

Brooklyn Paper, BREAKING: New Jersey Nets WILL change name!

In the spirit of new beginnings, we’re asking our readers to send in their proposed name for the Brooklyn squad by e-mailing the new monicker to newsroom@cnglocal.com. We’ll pass them along to our friends at the Nets — and publish a story with our favorites.

NLG: In honor of Mr. Markowitz, we're submitting the "New York Bike Lanes."

Posted by eric at 9:37 PM

A caution on Hong Kong envy, an Atlantic Yards cameo, and Jane Jacobs

Atlantic Yards Report

I have an essay in the online publication Urban Omnibus (a project of the Architectural League of New York) this week headlined A Caution on Hong Kong Envy, pointing out the tension between the enthusiasm of New York officials for Hong Kong's rational, high-rise development and the dismay Hong Kong residents feel at top-down planning, as shown at two recent conferences.

Yes, there's a happy medium to be sought, and New York--where density is unevenly distributed both within the city and within the region--is coming from a different direction than is Hong Kong, which went high-rise at warp speed in the mid-20th century.

The AY angle

And yes, there's an Atlantic Yards angle. As I write:

Or consider how the Port Authority’s [Executive Director Christopher] Ward, at the New York conference, suggested that the resistance to the massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn stemmed from locals’ discomfort with a dramatic shift in density. While that shift surely generated dismay, an equal measure of discomfort derives from the perception that Atlantic Yards has been a sweetheart deal, with a single developer anointed public land before any planning process, and with public amenities such as open space coming late rather than early.

...as in Hong Kong, it’s important to get the balance right between the development business and the central authorities entrusted with the public interest.

After all, Atlantic Yards opponents did wind up supporting the Unity Plan, which would have high density, though not as much, and essentially limited to the railyards.


Related content...

Urban Omnibus, A Caution on Hong Kong Envy

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

Demolition on the arena block: photos, video, and the CBA in action

Atlantic Yards Report

Prospect Heights resident Raul Rothblatt has posted both photos (set) and videos (below) of demolition at the Atlantic Yards arena site, as some rather sturdy and venerable buildings are being dismantled.

The coverage includes the building housing Freddy's Bar & Backroom (right) and the building housing the condo that was home to Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

And note the role played by A. Russo Wrecking, a firm owned by a white female resident of Nassau County that nevertheless fulfills the official aspirations of the Community Benefits Agreement, as I explained last week, but hardly represents the groups--however unrepresentative themselves--that signed the CBA.

The CBA, as I noted way back in October 2005, is supposed "to encourage systemic changes in the traditional ways of doing business on large urban development projects," but has also been supporting long-established firms, like Russo, founded in 1952, and whose officers serve as representatives of the New York City Demolition Contractors Association on the Board of Governors of the Building Trades Employers’ Association.


Related content...

raulism via YouTube, Prospect Heights Demolition 8-11 (483 Dean St.)

raulism via YouTube, Atlantic Yards Construction 8-10... reducing MTA capacity

Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

Petition to Reform Atlantic Yards Oversight

CNU New York

The New York State Chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism links to the BrooklynSpeaks petition supporting an Atlantic Yards governance bill in the State Legislature.


Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

August 11, 2010

Surreal morning in court: finally, belatedly, a wholesale assault on the Atlantic Yards project, but before a detached judge

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's Norman Oder's must-read coverage of yesterday's Atlantic Yards hearing in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

It was, actually, a little surreal.

Yesterday in Kings County Supreme Court emerged the most complete—and, to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), completely off-base—assault on the Atlantic Yards project ever heard in any courtroom, but it occurred before a handful of spectators and a single, not-so-engaged judge, well after most people, officials, and editors had relegated Atlantic Yards to the status of old news.

The case involves only three plaintiffs (two of whom are corporate entities owned by longtime footprint property owner Henry Weinstein), none of whom were in the courtroom. However, in challenging the ESDC to issue a new Determination & Findings because the justifications for eminent domain had changed markedly since 2006, it was essentially a challenge to the project itself. Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges faced dueling motions to both dismiss the case and expand the record.

With charges that the project timetable is “a complete fantasy” and the project is “a betrayal of the public trust” and “an embarrassment to democracy,” it was, perhaps, the argument that attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff should’ve made last October before the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, in a stately setting before engaged judges and a packed house. But, rather than get to the fundamentals of the sweetheart deal, that oral argument ran aground on debates about the contours of the state’s public use clause and whether the case should have gone to the high court in the first place.

Also, as Brinckerhoff stressed yesterday in court, some of the key elements of the ESDC’s behavior came to light only after the Court of Appeals’s decision in November, as well as the previous, seemingly dispositive appellate ruling: “They timed their disclosures in order to avoid judicial review.”

ESDC attorney Philip Karmel, unbowed, responded forcefully and sometimes dismissively to Brinckerhoff’s kitchen-sink arguments, some of which were not exactly on point. Curiously enough, however, Karmel never explained why the crucial Development Agreement, released in January weeks after it was publicly promised, was withheld for so long.

Starting off

Brinckerhoff began by thanking Gerges for giving him the time to argue and “for taking this matter seriously,” a statement that seemed a bit aspirational, aiming to goad Gerges into doing exactly that.

Brinckerhoff said he was acting for his clients, for all those affected by the project, and “frankly, for the public at large,” who’ve suffered “a really profound betrayal of the public trust by the respondent Urban Development Corporation [aka ESDC] in league with the developer.”

“Let me be clear about what I’m attempting to do,” declared Brinckerhoff, whose pepper-and-salt beard and sometimes unruly curls give him somewhat more of a professorial than corporate air, though his boutique law firm does quite well. “There’s a whole set of facts found in the document,” and none of such new information was disclosed until after the petition in this case was filed in January. Such facts, “put the nail in the coffin on what’s been going on for years.”

And that, he said, is why his clients should be granted, at a minimum, leave to amend the record to add such facts “deliberately concealed from us."


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, In Court Argument Atlantic Yards Called An Embarrassment Of Democracy

DDDB attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff took roughly on hour in court yesterday to lay out the "highlights" of the whole sordid Atlantic Yards partnership between Ratner and the ESDC. As Brinckerhoff said, if he was to cover all of the history, which he called an "embarrassment of democracy," it would have taken days.

Posted by eric at 9:58 AM

Symbols of Brooklyn Resistance Face Wrecking Ball


Demolition is close for the two best-known symbols of Brooklyn critics' resistance to the Atlantic Yards project: Daniel Goldstein's condominium building and Freddy's Bar. Demolition crews have been inching closer to the building that housed Freddy's and are now only a few doors away. The interior has already been cleared.

Meanwhile, scaffolding has been erected around Goldstein's condo, the first sign that work is about to begin there. Forest City Ratner has said taking down the nine-story building could take months. It's the more critical of the two since Goldstein's condo unit sits over what will be center court at Barclays Center.


Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

August 10, 2010

8/10: Demolition in Prospect Heights

raulistic via flickr

Bruce and the boys continue their "blight removal" project in Prospect Heights — including the erection of scaffolding against Daniel Goldstein's former building — as documented in this photo set courtesy of Raul Rothblatt.

Several lovely 19th and early 20th century building are being demolished to build a Russian-owned sports complex in Prospect Heights.


Posted by eric at 9:20 PM

Bertha Lewis May Be Rethinking The Smacker She Gave Bruce Ratner Now


Based on this post from Atlantic Yards Report, it doesn't sound like the non-profit's constituents are going to be able to afford any of the apartments at Atlantic Yards.


Related coverage...

Curbed, Back in the U-S-S-Yards

After analyzing a whole bunch of reports, charts, stats and—oops, sorry, we fell asleep for a moment there—Atlantic Yards watchdog Norman Oder writes that the first wave of Yards affordable housing might not be so affordable: "In five of the six scenarios contemplated for the first housing tower, the monthly rent for most of the affordable apartments would range from $2287 to $3790, depending on household size." Well someone's got to pay for the billboard!

Posted by eric at 9:12 PM

Orwellian, almost: that first Atlantic Yards tower most likely would have most "affordable" units at market rate

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) asserts that "Whatever the pace may be for the delivery of the many public benefits of the [Atlantic Yards] Project, the nature of those benefits remains the same."

I wrote yesterday that such a claim was poppycock--of course affordable housing and tax revenues arriving at a vastly slower schedule would make a difference.

Here's another reason why: the nature of those benefits, at least when it comes to the first subsidized housing units, would in fact change.

Remember, the Atlantic Yards affordable housing was sold to the public and supported by ACORN as a way to help the poor. Forest City Ratner attorney Jeffrey Braun swore in a 1/25/08 affidavit (p. 5) in a case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review:

“Furthermore, pursuant to an innovative Community Benefits Agreement, the FCRC affiliates that sponsor the project are contractually bound to provide a wide array of far-reaching benefits to the historically most disadvantaged segments of Brooklyn’s communities…”

(Emphasis added)

Not only is that claim contradicted by the fact that a majority of the subsidized units would be unaffordable to ACORN's constituency, it's quite likely that the first building would be even less affordable to that constituency.

In five of the six scenarios contemplated for the first housing tower, the monthly rent for most of the affordable apartments would range from $2287 to $3790, depending on household size. Those are the kind of unaffordable rents that ACORN members have cited in arguing for the project.


NoLandGrab: But hey, don't worry, 'cause as Bertha Lewis likes to say, those affordable units will be on the same floors as the market-rate units. You won't even be able to tell which are affordable and which are not!

The chickens have come home to roost, and they've knocked all the acorns off the tree.

Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

August 9, 2010

479 Dean Street

raulistic via flickr

Home Improvement, Ratner-style: Bruce and the boys removing some "blight" from Dean Street near 6th Avenue.


Special bonus! Home (demolition) movies:

raulism via YouTube, demolition of historic home

raulism via YouTube, Workers pause during filming of this video

Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

In court Tuesday, a continuation of the lawsuit charging that AY benefits have changed so much the eminent domain findings should be reissued

Atlantic Yards Report

It looks like not one but two judges will have to grapple with a fundamental charge regarding Atlantic Yards: that the project has changed so much since its approval in 2006 that the findings at that time--regarding both the environmental impact of the project and its expected benefits--are no longer valid.

That doesn't mean the judges will rule in favor of those challenging the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). That, we've learned, is not exactly how courts in New York State work.

But it does mean they have to think about it. And tomorrow, in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn, Justice Abraham Gerges--however distracted and uninterested he was during the first part of the case on August 6--should not think the issues were resolved in similar case he dismissed in March.

(The hearing will be at Kings County State Supreme Court, IAS Part 74, 320 Jay Street, Room 17.21, Brooklyn. Here's the map.)*


NoLandGrab: Is it really too much to ask that Judge Gerges pay attention to the arguments?

* The hearing is scheduled to commence at 10 a.m.

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Featured New Gallery-Atlantic Rail Yards

Michael Alan Photos

As Brooklyn prepares for the massive makeover that is the construction of the Barclays Center for the Brooklyn Nets as well as a stretch of new residential and commercial high rises, the status-quo of the stretch along Atlantic Avenue between Flatbush and Vanderbilt Avenues and the surrounding neighborhoods is somber. The last remaining businesses and residents have been bought out and have left. These photos reflect both the dying and the newly born. Things will never be quite the same here, as progress simply has no patience….


Photo: Michael Alan Photos

Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

August 8, 2010

Prokhorov says team name change is in the can, but will the change affect "Brooklyn" or "Nets"? (My bet is the latter)

Atlantic Yards Report

Here is speculation as to the decision-making process used to rename the Nets.

Somehow one highlight in the Forbes Russia cover story (“Mikhail Prokhorov and American Basketball: Who Will Be the Winner?”) on the new principal owner of the New Jersey Nets was not translated by njnets.com.

Prokhorov plans to change the name of the team. As translated by a Russian-speaking reader of NetsDaily:

Q: What will be the team's name after the move to Brooklyn?

A: I can not tell you right now, but the documents are already submitted to the NBA office. The name change will happen in 2012 season.

Now that could just be a roundabout way of saying "Brooklyn Nets," which would, of course, be a name change. But there's a good bet it's not.

NoLandGrab: As as tribute to Spike Lee (who attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Nets arena) and the corrupt process used to approve Atlantic Yards, maybe the Nets could be renamed the "Crooklyn Nets."


Posted by steve at 11:58 AM

The New Yorker's Kaz An Nou review: is the issue a "morale boost" or the bogus nature of blight?

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's another reminder how the ESDC, tool of developer Bruce Ratner, falsely portrayed an up-and-coming neighborhood as "blighted."

From the New Yorker's review of Kaz An Nou, the new-ish restaurant on Sixth Avenue between Bergen and Dean Streets, a half-block from the Atlantic Yards footprint:

If any neighborhood is in need of a morale boost, it’s the stretch between Flatbush and Vanderbilt Avenues, bordering the Atlantic Yards site. The last tenant took a multimillion-dollar payout, Forest City Ratner’s heavy equipment has moved in, and Freddy’s Bar has served its last beer. Just south of the buildings awaiting demolition, though, Kaz An Nou seems determined to bring a bit of Caribbean color and hope. (Its proximity to the Atlantic Yards wrecking ball has caused some concern, but the owners think they’re safe, thanks to the Seventy-eighth Precinct station house next door.)

This is just a little odd. The neighborhood near the Atlantic Yards site is doing pretty well. After all, new restaurants and pubs keep opening on Vanderbilt Avenue bordering the site.

Unfortunately, the concern regarding the proximity to the wrecking ball is misplaced; the issue is not whether the building itself is in danger of condemnation--it's not--but whether arena crowds or the market for a sports bar (or something else arena-related) would make it uncomfortable for this neighborhood spot.

The real issue, as I pointed out in March and May, when the Brooklyn Paper and the Times, respectively, wrote about the restaurant, is how exactly the state could get away with calling the AY site blighted when such restaurateurs remained undeterred.


Posted by steve at 11:51 AM

August 7, 2010

Atlantic Yards Friday Court Action

Atlantic Yards Report

Two different cases related to Atlantic Yards were heard together yesterday. Norman Oder was there and lets us know what transpired.

AY timetable is "complete, utter fantasy," says attorney in case challenging eminent domain findings; will case record include Development Agreement?

The Atlantic Yards Development Agreement "was intentionally withheld in bad faith."

"We now know [the ten-year project timetable] is complete, utter fantasy," declared petitioners' attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff .

Finally, in court yesterday, some serious charges were lodged about the essence of the Atlantic Yards project, part of the case challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) eminent domain Determination & Findings (D&F), based on the premise that the project had changed so much that the ESDC had to reassess its goals and value.

And previous court cases, limited to the record of Atlantic Yards as of 2006, were unable to examine the true nature of the project.

Easement case gets day in court: does failure to transpose appraisal language to offer document make a difference?

After a late start in state Supreme Court yesterday morning in Brooklyn--the two Atlantic Yards cases were set for 9:30 am, but state Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges didn’t arrive until 10:10--the case involving the easement held (and still claimed) by Peter Williams Enterprises (PWE) was heard.

And while the arguments mostly reprised those in the legal papers--that PWE had given up any claim to the light and air above 24 Sixth Avenue (the Spalding Building) when it sold its own property, 38 Sixth Avenue--there was a small twist, suggesting there might be something to PWE's claim.

The conclusion of this blog entry suggests that Judge Abe Gerges will broker a settlement.

Gerges said he wanted to get the parties together to perhaps work something out. They’re due back in court on Thursday, August 12 at noon.

Posted by steve at 2:31 PM

Nyet to Nets in Brooklyn?

Nets Daily

A NetsDaily translation of the full Forbes Russia interview with Mikhail Prokhorov reveals the team plans a name change once it moves to Brooklyn, and that in fact documents seeking approval for the change have been submitted to the NBA. He didn't disclose the name.

In the NetsDaily translation of the interview, provided by a Russian-speaking fan, Prokhorov is asked "What will be the team's name after the move to Brooklyn?" His response: "I can not tell you right now, but the documents are already submitted to the NBA office. The name change will happen in 2012 season."


NoLandGrab: A stated goal of the Atlantic Yards was to remove blight, but it appears that the project will create blight with an arena and acres of parking lots. Perhaps the Nets will be renamed the "Brooklyn Blighters."

Posted by steve at 2:13 PM

August 6, 2010

Last Summer at Coney Island


If not for Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards, the pillaging of Coney Island would surely be a contender for Brooklyn's worst development tale ever.

Part of the BAMcinématek series Brooklyn Close-Up

Mon, Aug 9, 2010, 4:30, 6:50*, 9:30pm
*Q&A with director J.L. Aronson

Directed by J.L. Aronson

(2010) 94min

Coney Island revitalization: seaside salvation or Brooklyn boondoggle? Coinciding with the opening of a new Luna Park this summer, this timely documentary wrestles with the fate of “the world’s playground,” birthplace of the hot dog, and precious vestige of our nation’s past. Featuring interviews with longtime residents and key players on all sides of the recent scuffle, the film details the storied evolution of Coney Island and past and present plans to redevelop it. World premiere.

BAM Rose Cinemas
General Admission: $12
BAM Cinema Club members: $8


Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

In court today, likely the last oral arguments in the remaining Atlantic Yards legal cases (new Determination & Findings; air rights easement)

Atlantic Yards Report

Likely the last oral arguments in any of the latest round of Atlantic Yards legal cases will be held this morning before Kings County Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges, at 9:30 a.m.

The location is Kings County State Supreme Court, IAS Part 74, 320 Jay Street, Room 17.21, Brooklyn. Here's the map.

Both cases are distinct longshots for those challenging the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), but still could provoke some interesting volleys. Both cases are named for property owner Peter Williams, but he actually doesn't remain a party in the first case.

New Determination & Findings?

In June, as I wrote, in a brief, five-page decision in the case known as Peter Williams Enterprises, et al., vs. New York State Urban Development Corporation (aka ESDC), state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman essentially rejected a challenge by property owners that the Atlantic Yards project has changed so much that the ESDC should be forced to issue a new Determination & Findings to proceed with eminent domain.

Friedman did not formally reject the case, because she didn't examine the Development Agreement or get to the merits.

Instead, she moved it from New York County (Manhattan) to Kings County, as the ESDC had requested. In Kings County, Justice Abraham Gerges, who handles condemnations, already rejected similar arguments when rejecting a direct challenge from property owners to the condemnations.

The remaining petitioners are two entities owned by Henry Weinstein, a longtime owner of property near the corner of Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street, and The Gelin Group, occupants of a house on Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue, slated for condemnation in a later phase of the project.

Friedman is still considering a separate case, brought by coalitions organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks, challenging the legitimacy of the ESDC's ten-year timeframe and requesting a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate project impacts over a longer period.

In that case, she did consider the belatedly-released Development Agreement.


Posted by eric at 9:28 AM

New Hotel on Third Ave. in Gowanus Readies for Opening in Early Fall

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

A soon-to-open new Brooklyn hotel has discovered an untapped market — construction tourism!

The new 12-story, 130-room hotel, at 181 Third Ave. in Gowanus, on the edge of Boerum Hill, is a project of the Troutbrook Company, a privately owned real estate investment firm based in Manhattan.

I am excited about bringing the first Fairfield Inn by Marriott to Brooklyn,” said [hotel developer Mark J.] Freud. “With Forest City Ratner finally breaking ground on the Nets Arena, just five blocks away, the Fulton Mall undergoing a $15 million streetscape reconstruction and many other new projects in the area, there has never been a better time for leisure and business travelers alike to stay in Downtown Brooklyn.”


Posted by eric at 9:20 AM

Friday, August 6, 9:30AM. Atlantic Yards Oral Argument

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Friday, August 6.
PLEASE NOTE: Time has changed to 9:30 AM, not 10AM.

Kings County State Supreme Court
IAS Part 74
320 Jay Street, Room 17.21
[ MAP ]

Oral argument on: Peter Williams Enterprises, Inc et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation

Article 78 Petition to Compel the ESDC to Issue New Determinations and Findings Under the New York State Eminent Domain Procedure Law
(Filed January 19, 2010 in Manhattan State Supreme Court)


Posted by eric at 9:05 AM

August 5, 2010

Senator Webb's critique of affirmative action, agreement in Our Time Press, Russo Wrecking, and the disconnect with the Atlantic Yards CBA

Atlantic Yards Report

What does the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) have to do with Virginia Senator Jim Webb and Our Time Press Editor/Publisher David Mark Greaves?

Well, it serves as an example (in part) of the kind of affirmative action that doesn't address the inequities that prompted the policy.

Webb's argument

In a Wall Street Journal essay headlined “Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege”, Webb recently argued:

Beyond our continuing obligation to assist those African-Americans still in need, government-directed diversity programs should end.

And Greaves, whose Bed-Stuy-based newspaper is aimed at black Brooklynites, agrees with Webb, in an essay headlined View From Here: Jim Webb is Right – Diversity Programs Are Too Diverse.


While Greaves doesn't connect the dots, I'd argue, as I did in March 2007, that the Atlantic Yards CBA, negotiated mainly by black leaders representing (mostly new) groups in Central Brooklyn, has little connection with some of the beneficiaries. (And, of course, Atlantic Yards remains as an illustration of the difficulty of defining who represents the "community.")


Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

They stole his Pop Tarts!

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Andy Campbell

As the Brooklyn Paper frequently and often makes clear, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls are the area's crime hub — something the Empire State Development Corporation did its best to cover up in committing the crime of property theft.

Diabetic thief

A jerk on a sugar high stole $1,710 worth of diabetes testing strips from Target in the Atlantic Terminal Mall on July 27.

Employees told cops that they noticed the 15 expensive kits, called OneTouch Ultra Test Strips, missing from the store — which is at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues — at about 9:43 pm.

The mall — and its neighbor, the Atlantic Center — is a frequent location for crime. (See item below.)

Bold Navy

In another burglary at the Atlantic Terminal Mall, a kleptomaniac lifted a whopping 36 pairs of jeans from Old Navy on Aug. 1.

Employees told cops that they noticed the jeans missing at the clothing superstore, which is on Atlantic Avenue between S. Portland Avenue and Fort Greene Place, at about 4:30 pm. Security footage shows the perp taking about $1,062 worth of denim.


Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Is The Domino Sugar Factory M.O.U. Sweet With No Substance?

MultiFamily Investor

The Domino Sugar Factory site is the second biggest multifamily development project in Brooklyn behind Atlantic Yards.

In 2004, the Refinery LLC purchased the 11.2 acre Domino Sugar Factory complex on the waterfront of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at 314 Kent Avenue, for just over $55 million.

The Domino Sugar Factory and Atlantic Yards thus share two qualities: magnitude and location.

They also share a third point:

For years, a development team proposing to build a $1.5 billion luxury apartment complex on the former Domino Sugar factory site in Williamsburg has vowed that 30 percent – or 660 – of the project’s 2,200 apartments would be affordable units.

The 30-percent affordable-housing promise, however, has been memorialized in a “Memorandum of Understanding” that both the city and the development team of CPC Resources and Isaac Katan recently signed off on. However, as even the document notes, this M.O.U. is a non-binding agreement.

City officials have not articulated why they have failed to implement language guaranteeing 30-percent affordability.

There is no guarantee the property will now be sold to another developer, who could then ignore the M.O.U.

Followers of the Atlantic Yards saga and this blog must have a sense of deja vu: Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project is one such example. Its M.O.U. has come under fire for not legally holding developer Bruce Ratner fiscally responsible if the project doesn’t get delivered as planned.


Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

August 4, 2010

another - almost worse - brooklyn eminent domain story

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Todd Triplett posted the following comment to a recent update of ours and asked that I spread the word about his situation. I believe he is correct in thinking that the community interested in our film will also be interested in his story.

Here is what Todd had to say.

Hello. My name is Todd Triplett. I'm the founder of FREE CANDY, a mixed-use arts space opening here in Clinton Hill, BK. 3 years ago, I lost my previous location, Amber Art & Music Space to eminent domain (not related to Atlantic Yards...but close). Despite losing everything from the previous circumstance, I've held tight to the dream and am now raising money via Kickstarter for my new space, FREE CANDY. Please check out my page and my story and share with your supporters. I'd greatly appreciate any support you can provide.



NoLandGrab: We covered this egregious land grab three years ago.

Posted by eric at 11:09 PM

When KPMG lies about condo sales, it gets a pass; when Trump SoHo (allegedly) lies, they get sued

Atlantic Yards Report

Funny, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) calls a lie by consultant KPMG about Brooklyn condo sales an "alleged inaccuracy" that is "trivial" as a legal matter.

It's just one of several lies in a report KPMG prepared to give the ESDC cover in its dubious judgment that the Atlantic Yards project could be built in a decade.

And so far, KPMG gets a pass.

Trump gets sued

Not everyone sits idly by when bogus sales figures get promoted. By contrast, in an article yesterday headlined Fifteen Buyers File Lawsuit Against Trump SoHo Project, the Times reported:

A group of 15 buyers at the Trump SoHo Hotel Condominium New York is suing groups and individuals behind the project, contending that they inflated sales figures in the first year and a half of marketing the project.

According to the complaint, which was filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Monday, representatives of Trump SoHo said the project was “30, 40, 50, 60 percent or more sold” — both in individual sales pitches and statements to the press — but after the offering plan became effective in May, buyers learned that just over 15 percent of the building, 62 of the 391 units, had been sold.

“They had a concerted and consistent pattern of lying about the numbers of units sold,” said William J. Geller, a lawyer at Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C., who is representing the buyers. As a result, Mr. Geller said, his clients bought units they otherwise would not have. “They never would have signed contracts if they knew only 10 percent of the units were sold, instead of the 50 or 60 percent they were told,” he said.

(Emphasis added)

Drawing the parallel

By the same logic, the ESDC would never have approved the project timetable last year if it knew the Brooklyn condo market was so much weaker than claimed by KPMG.


Posted by eric at 1:41 PM

Gilmartin in The Real Deal: personal tidbits and endurance of "the friction and the tension in a public setting"

Atlantic Yards Report

Maryanne Gilmartin, Forest City Ratner's point person on Atlantic Yards, mostly sounds authoritative, confident, and charismatic in a Q&A yesterday with The Real Deal.

Among the tidbits: she has a driver to bring her from her Westchester estate to Brooklyn--so much for transit-oriented developers--and she says she sleeps just five hours a night, which is edging toward Brett Yormark territory.

The AY opposition

Here's the most interesting segment:

What has been challenging for you personally about the opposition to Atlantic Yards?

It's a complicated project with lots of dimensions. And that's just hard work and I love that. I can't say I love the friction and the tension in a public setting. But it comes with the territory. I knew that and I accept that.

Well, the friction and tension in a public setting is often caused by FCR's allies, which is why I had Gilmartin last in July 2009 send an imaginary open letter apologizing for such conduct.

That event referenced, in fact, was Gilmartin's only public appearance before a (partly) unfriendly audience.


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards Head Honcho Gilmartin Profiled in The Real Deal

What do we learn?

She works very hard, but when she can she enjoys relaxing in her backyard in Westchester rather than in the massive parking lots she is preparing to create in Prospect Heights. Also, like her predecessor Jim Stuckey and her boss Bruce Ratner, she is the product of the revolving door of the city's Economic Development Corporation.

Posted by eric at 1:32 PM

Deputy Mayor Wolfson owns $5000 of Forest City Enterprises shares; does it matter? Nah

Atlantic Yards Report

Does it make a difference that Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, who joined the Bloomberg administration in March, bought about $5000 worth of Forest City Enterprises (FCE) stock in 2007?

No, because 1) the administration was already behind the Atlantic Yards project promoted by FCE subsidiary Forest City Ratner and 2) the amount is too low to trigger action by the Conflicts of Interests Board (COIB).

Wolfson reported stock in the company, parent of Forest City Ratner, worth $5,000 to $39,999, but officials told the Post it was close to the minimum.

Unmentioned in the Post or AP reports is that $40,000 is the threshold for an "ownership interest" that, for someone in Wolfson's position, would require either divestment of that interest or disclosure to the COIB of that interest, subjecting him to the board's ruling.


NoLandGrab: $39,999 of Forest City stock purchased on April 16th, 2007 would be worth less than $7,300 today.

Posted by eric at 1:20 PM

Bloomberg staffer owns stock in company building B'klyn arena

NY Post
by Rich Calder

One of Mayor Bloomberg’s top staffers owns stock in a company whose subsidiary is getting city funding and tax breaks to build a Brooklyn arena for the NBA’s Nets — a revelation that’s raising eyebrows among opponents of the controversial project.

Former Hillary Clinton political strategist Howard Wolfson, who joined the Bloomberg administration in March as deputy mayor for governmental affairs, listed investments totaling $250,000 to $935,000 — including stock in Forest City Enterprises worth $5,000 to $39,999 – in a city financial disclosure report made public today.

"This project has never had any real oversight or accountability or full public transparency, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that a member of the Bloomberg administration has money invested in it," said Councilwoman Letitia James, whose district includes the 22-acre project footprint within Prospect Heights.

A city spokesman said Wolfson bought the stock in 2007 – three years before he took the post – and that the investment amount was "close to $5,000" and, therefore, "far below the threshold that raises potential conflict of interest issues" for city employees.

James, however, said Wolfson should sell the stock or put it in trust until he leaves City Hall.

The project is getting more than $200 million in city money for land acquisition and infrastructure repairs, plus tax exemptions and city-owned property at no cost.


Related coverage...

NY Daily News, Bloomberg administration disclosures: Ethics issues for Howard Wolfson, Raymond Kelly and others

A deputy mayor owns stock in the company building the controversial Atlantic Yards stadium - and the police commissioner takes rides on the mayor's plane.

Those are two of the eyebrow-raising disclosures in the annual ethics forms released Tuesday for top officials in Mayor Bloomberg's administration.

Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson reported owning $5,000 to $40,000 worth of stock in Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of the firm developing a stadium and apartments over former railyards in Brooklyn with up to $205 million in city subsidies.

"He doesn't have any responsibilities that affect Forest City," Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said. "He's not an economic development person."

NoLandGrab: Let's hope Wolfson is a better Deputy Mayor than he is an investor. The low for Forest City stock in 2007, when Wolfson bought it, was about $44 per share; today it trades below $13.

Posted by eric at 12:45 PM

Roundtable Wrap: Apple Store Teaser


On the same day that the blog FIPS reported a Marty Markowitz staffer saying that Apple was not coming to Brooklyn, we sat in the audience at the quarterly Real Estate Roundtable luncheon at the Brooklyn Historical Society at which veteran commercial broker Robert Greenstone said he knew where the new Apple store would be but was sworn to secrecy. He could have been pulling the audience's collective leg, but it didn't seem like it. The whispers after the talk were that it was going to be in or around Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: After 25 years of Macs, might we have to return to the PC? "In" or "around" will make all the difference.

Posted by eric at 12:39 PM

August 3, 2010

If FCR doesn't build over the railyard, would "the vast majority" of benefits be realized, as the developer claimed last year to the ESDC? Not at all

Atlantic Yards Report

What happens if Forest City Ratner doesn't build a platform over the Vanderbilt Yard and build out the full Atlantic Yards project?

That's a possibility, given the renegotiation of the railyard deal last June with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which allows FCR bow out of railyard development after Phase 1 by paying out less than the cost of building a new permanent railyard.

Astonishingly, FCR in March 2009 told the Empire State Development Corporation that "the vast majority" of benefits for the community would be "entirely realized in the remote circumstance of MTA's default scenario."

As I explain below, that's not true in the slightest, given vast differences in the amount of jobs and affordable housing, and the complete absence of any analysis of tax revenues.

FCR, as a "show of good faith" in its commitment to the full project, said it would ensure that $2 million of $3 million planned for local parks and public spaces would be available in the first phase.

But that's hardly a guarantee that Phase 2, which would cost a few billion dollars, would be built.


Posted by eric at 2:04 PM


November 12, 2010 – December 11, 2010

Irondale Center in Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Brooklyn at Eye Level

The Civilians have a new Atlantic Yards-themed production on tap.

The Civilians presents the next phase of its Atlantic Yards investigation, Atlantic Yards: Death and Life of an American Neighborhood, which is a new play with music and the culmination of this long-term exploration of development in Brooklyn and its effect on neighborhood and community. This lively presentation of theater, dance and music takes its inspiration from interviews with the real life players in the story of Brooklyn and the Atlantic Yards: residents, business owners, politicians, students, youth groups, civic organizations, and many more.


Related coverage...

Theater Mania, B.H. Barry, The Civilians, et al. Set for Irondale's 2010-2011 Season

Posted by eric at 1:45 PM

EXCLUSIVE: Toys ‘R’ Us coming to Downtown!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Andy Campbell

It’s Christmas in August!

Toys “R” Us will open a “seasonal” store in the empty Sid’s Hardware store on Jay Street, bringing toys, games and Geoffrey the Giraffe to the otherwise all-business Downtown area through Christmas.

It’s unclear what will happen to the shop once the Christmas buying season ends — or if Toys “R” Us would even want to stay, given the “high” rents that developer Bruce Ratner is apparently asking.

In February, Sid’s workers told us that the shop was forced to move to Gowanus after its initial sweet deal with Ratner expired, and the landlord upped the rent.


NoLandGrab: It's Christmas every day for Bruce Ratner, and New York's taxpayers are Santa Claus.

Posted by eric at 1:38 PM

Flatbush Avenue lane closure delayed until August 20, as contractor wasn't ready

Atlantic Yards Report

Like a death-row inmate getting an 11:59 p.m. call from the governor, Flatbush Avenue users have been granted a stay — but only until August 20th.

On July 26, the Empire State Development Corporation announced a temporary (aka 17-month) closure of one lane of Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street, to begin on August 1.

Forest City Ratner even bought the back page (right) of the Brooklyn Paper to announce the plan, as well as an interior page of the Courier-Life.

Today, however, the ESDC issue an updated community notice, announcing the work would begin instead on August 20.

Why? The contractor was not ready to commence work, the ESDC said in response to my query. I assume that refers to the contractor working on Metropolitan Transportation Authority vent structures.

Click through for the updated work notice, and a look at the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Update.


Related coverage...

Courier-Life Publications, UPDATE: Flatbush constriction put off for three weeks

Flatbush Avenue will still lose a lane of traffic around the future home of the Brooklyn Nets, but the work won’t begin until Aug. 20, the state announced this week.

Posted by eric at 1:20 PM

The closing: MaryAnne Gilmartin

The Real Deal
by Candace Taylor

The Real Deal profiles Atlantic Yards honcho MaryAnne Gilmartin.

MaryAnne Gilmartin is the executive vice president of commercial and residential development at Forest City Ratner Companies, where she's been since 1994. She's overseeing the controversial $4 billion, 22-acre Atlantic Yards development, one of the most significant developments in Brooklyn's history.

How do you get from your house in Westchester to Forest City's headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn every day?

I have a driver … I used to laugh with Bruce [Ratner] when I was pregnant with each of my children that I would go into labor on the BQE and have to name one of them after an exit.

What has been challenging for you personally about the opposition to Atlantic Yards?

It's a complicated project with lots of dimensions. And that's just hard work and I love that. I can't say I love the friction and the tension in a public setting. But it comes with the territory. I knew that and I accept that.

What did you do to celebrate closing the deal?

We closed on Dec. 22 [2009], so I went home to my family to begin my holiday shopping. [Just before we closed] there were two lost packages with critical documents in them, letters of credit without which we couldn't close. The UPS facility was completely overwhelmed with holiday packages ... But we unearthed the documents in time for the closing.

Do your kids understand what a big deal Atlantic Yards is?

They used to be flummoxed by what I did. They wondered … how could she leave every morning in a suit and build that building? When did she pick up her tool belt and how did she get so high up in the air? But whenever possible I include my children. For example, at the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking, both of my boys were there. I always say if I have to leave my children every day it better be good. And this has been quite good.


NoLandGrab: Rumor has it that she involved a number of her son's 4th Grade classmates a couple years back, too, telling them that "bad man" Daniel Goldstein was standing between Brooklynites and their new basketball team.

Photo: The Real Deal

Posted by eric at 1:07 PM

August 2, 2010

So much for "structured programs and services": meditation room planned for the arena would be 150 square feet, more the size of a living room

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember that breathless 4/2/10 Brooklyn Paper article, headlined Finally, the Nets have a prayer! New arena to have ‘meditation’ room?

It somehow became the lead story in the next week's print edition, complete with an artist's imagining of what a meditation room might look like.

It was way off, as was the sports management expert quoted in the article who speculated that the room could be a revenue generator if it could accommodate a large congregation.

It won't.

How big might it be?

Though Forest City Ratner would not reveal the design of the room to the Brooklyn Paper, a March 2009 document describing Atlantic Yards benefits, which I obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request to the Empire State Development Corporation, describes the meditation room as just 150 square feet.

From chapel to atrium to meditation room

The Reverend Herbert Daughtry, who runs a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) partner organization supported by Forest City Ratner, originally wanted a chapel.

That wouldn't fly, so instead emerged the meditation room or, as Daughtry declared in his dramatic 8/23/06 testimony at the hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement, an atrium: "It will provide a place for our young, a place for the seniors, a place for the youth to come together in an atrium designed by us."

How many people can "come together" in a 150 square foot space? Not many.


Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

Whitewash! "Blueprint for Greatness" Goes Down


The Nets only leased the side of the building at 34th and 8th for a month and over the last couple of days, workmen have all but covered the iconic images of Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z with whitewash.


NoLandGrab: If that was the "blueprint for greatness," we'd hate to see the blueprint for failure.

Photo: NetsDaily

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM


Mole's Progressive Democrat

I urge anyone who can to go to this event and support one of the best Democrats in New York:


At the home of Joan Reutershan and Meg Harper

70 South Portland Avenue (near Lafayette) 6:00 – 8:00PM

Join Council Member Letitia James along with hosts Joan Reutershan, Meg Harper, Naomi Dickerson, Charles Jarden, Lucy Koteen, Patricia Johnson, Paul Palazzo, and Steve Soblick.

Senator Montgomery, currently the Chairperson of the Children and Families Committee, has stood up for all the right issues:

  • Community Supported Development
  • Reforming the Juvenile Justice system
  • Affordable Housing for all
  • Marriage Equality
  • Democratic Education
  • Opposition to Atlantic Yards

Velmanette is my state senator and she is one of the very few in Albany who is worth anything. She has led the fight against Atlantic Yards overdevelopment, led the fight to clean up the Gowanus Canal, led the fight for better and more effective sex education in our schools, and I have to say, led pretty much every fight I support in Albany.


Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

Tables for Two: KAZ AN NOU

53 Sixth Ave., between Dean and Bergen Sts., Brooklyn (718-938-3235)

The New Yorker
by Amanda Thompson

If any neighborhood is in need of a morale boost, it’s the stretch between Flatbush and Vanderbilt Avenues, bordering the Atlantic Yards site. The last tenant took a multimillion-dollar payout, Forest City Ratner’s heavy equipment has moved in, and Freddy’s Bar has served its last beer. Just south of the buildings awaiting demolition, though, Kaz An Nou seems determined to bring a bit of Caribbean color and hope. (Its proximity to the Atlantic Yards wrecking ball has caused some concern, but the owners think they’re safe, thanks to the Seventy-eighth Precinct station house next door.)

The restaurant’s name means “our house,” and eating here does have the feeling of home: the host, waiter, and chef, Sebastien Aubert, owns and operates the place with his wife, Michelle Lane, and minimal other assistance.


Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

August 1, 2010

What's missing in Phase 1? The Construction Coordination Center at Sixth Avenue

Atlantic Yards Report

On the northeast side of Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue, three of five houses once destined for eminent domain and demolition still stand, a testament to changed arena block plans.

In the original Atlantic Yards plan, Forest City Ratner sought a 100-foot plot of land just east of Sixth Avenue, as I wrote in August 2006, for staging and temporary parking, before serving as the site for the last building constructed.

But a changed arena design, and an abandonment of any plan to build four surrounding towers in four years, means that the need for surface parking and staging is less.

Moreover, FCR and the Empire State Development Corporation avoid potential eminent domain cases against homeowners, and the developer gets to save cash flow by having condemnation for the project proceed in stages.


Posted by steve at 8:52 AM

Mikhail Prokhorov, Stereotype Buster

New York Observer
By Sam Levin

This gloss of an in article in Forbes Russia talks about the Nets owner's love of Brooklyn's "unique energy", his hopes for a profitable basketball team and how his dislike of vodka breaks a stereotype. The article ends with some of Prokhorov's business philosophy.

“When you’re talking about the business of sports, you can’t leave out passion and love,” he says.

How does he handle conflicting interests of love and money? Self-discipline!

“In this business in particular, I need to be maximally careful, so that my passion and love for basketball don’t interfere with my business reasoning. It has to do with balancing my own internal interests and here I will be very self-disciplined.

NoLandGrab: Some self-discipline on the part of the city and state might have prevented the use of taxpayer dollars to subsidize a Russian oligarch.


Posted by steve at 8:36 AM