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October 31, 2010

Some revisionist history on the Nets' effort to land LeBron James; they were out of the running even though they said the opposite

Atlantic Yards Report

With the benefit of some hindsight, let's reconstruct the New Jersey Nets' ill-fated pursuit of superstar free agent LeBron James.

We've long known that, on 7/1/10, Nets' brass and owner Mikhail Prokhorov flew to Cleveland to meet with James.

Now we know, according to the New York Post's Fred Kerber, in an article headlined How Nets went LeBust come ‘Decision’ time, they didn't get very far:

“We never got any correspondence from LeBron’s camp after the first meeting,” [Nets official Bobby] Marks said. “When it was a three-, four-day stretch that we didn’t hear, we knew we were out.”

By the morning of July 6, the Nets heard the bad news through backchannels. One hour before James’ July 8 “The Decision” show, [agent Leon] Rose called [Nets GM Rod] Thorn and said the Nets were eliminated.

Looking back

But what were Kerber and others in the press reporting at the time?

Kerber reported July 7, in an article headlined Nets in LeBron holding pattern:

The Nets feel they remain in the LeBron running -- "We're still at the table," Thorn said.

That's just the way the game is played.

link

Posted by steve at 7:08 PM

In promotional "Brooklyn Tomorrow," architect Pasquarelli hailed as Barclays Center savior; he says arena's in a "residential neighborhood"

Atlantic Yards Report

After taking an Atlantic Yards hiatus in 2009, the infamous Brooklyn Tomorrow advertorial published by the Community Newspaper Group, publisher of the Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life chain, again puts Atlantic Yards on the cover, as it had in the 2007 and 2008 issues.

...

The Table of Contents pulls no promotional punches regarding p. 14: "Barclays Center: Architect Gregg Pasquarelli will be remembered as the man who saved basketball in Brooklyn."

The letter from the editors, Vince DiMiceli and Gersh Kuntzman, further assists developer Forest City Ratner (who just happens to be the two newspapers' landlord) citing "our exclusive interview with the man who saved the Barclays Arena (the focal point of what we're sure is to become America's Downtown)."

The focal point of America's Downtown? Even for a promotional real estate publication, that's a double stretch. The arena would extend Downtown Brooklyn to the southeast.

And no one's going to mistake the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, even with the new temporary plaza Pasquarelli's designing, as America's Downtown. Not even New York's. Does America's Downtown feature Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls?

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Paper hasn't touched the story about Forest City Ratner's effort to raise $249 million by hawking green cards to Chinese investors.

Click on the link below to read about an "exclusive" interview with architect Gregg Pasquarelli and see how he boasts about designing a building for which he only did the facade work.

link

NoLandGrab: The publicity machine put in place to promote the Atlantic Yards project at least made some sense as part of an effort to get the project approved. Any hype generated now is just an indication of how bad this project is.

Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

October 30, 2010

Phoenix Suns owner Sarver on how arenas get built: "They get built through politics and political connections"

Atlantic Yards Report

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver gets praise in The Atlantic's Brave Thinkers feature for agreeing to have the team wear "Los Suns" jerseys as a rebuke to newly-passed legislation, aimed at illegal immigrants but feared as fostering racial profiling.

Part of his explanation:

A lot of people looked at the decision as an inappropriate mixture of sports and politics. But I think it’s naive to say that sports and politics don’t mix. I mean, how do stadiums and arenas get built? They get built through politics and political connections. Almost all professional sports owners are active in politics to support candidates and causes, but it’s usually based on a financial agenda. To me, this law was more of a human-rights issue—and just an issue of fairness—than it was political.

link

Posted by steve at 7:36 AM

Five Questions for Chris Owens

Prospect Heights Patch
By Graydon Gordian

Citizens are urged to keep a critical eye on Atlantic Yards in this interview with District Leader for the 52nd Assembly and Atlantic Yards opponent, Chris Owens.

Now that the construction of the Atlantic Yards development, or at least the Barclays Center, appears inevitable, how should the neighborhood engage with the development? Are there ways for Prospect Heights residents and other Brooklynites to interact with the development in a positive way? Or should those who opposed the development initially remain staunch in their opposition?

It is imperative that Prospect Heights residents remain extremely engaged in the development of the Atlantic Yards project. As a staunch opponent of the project, even I realized that if we lost the battles we would need to "sit at the various tables" as the project moved forward. I am proud to say that many PH residents have been active in fighting to ensure that the project does not totally destroy Prospect Heights as a special neighborhood.

Just last week I attended a block association meeting where representatives of the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner were doing a lot of explaining about the impending traffic challenges for Prospect Heights.

In the end, our elected officials have to be unafraid to make a stink if things are not going right -- including the low level of employment for local community residents thus far, for example, and the uncertainty surrounding traffic patterns. (Look at the disasters already unfolding on Flatbush Avenue.)

Assembly Members Hakeem Jeffries (57th AD) and Joan Millman (52nd AD) along with State Senators [Velmanette] Montgomery and [Eric] Adams, and Congresswoman [Yvette] Clarke now bear the responsibility of enforcing appropriate and meaningful regulatory and political oversight of this monstrous project.

All of us have direct influence over these representatives whether or not we have direct influence over [Borough President Marty] Markowitz, [New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg or the next Governor of our state. I will certainly be involved with these efforts as much as possible.

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Posted by steve at 7:27 AM

Green Party Candidates Want ‘Green New Deal’

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Atlantic Yards opponent Gloria Mattera is running for Lieutenant Governor of New York on the Green Party ticket.

“We’re building a green political movement with a very diverse, exciting slate of candidates who represent a true cross-section of the population,” said Mattera.

Currently a member of the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn steering committee and an executive board member of Physicians for a National Health Program NY Metro Chapter, Mattera is running for office for a fourth time in a decade.

...

Mattera ran for borough president in 2005 against popular Democratic incumbent Marty Markowitz, objecting to his support of the Atlantic Yards project. Mattera’s run for the top Brooklyn office called for “human scale sustainable development driven by community special needs.”

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Posted by steve at 7:20 AM

Regan Jaye Fishman on KingCon II

Talking with Tim

A panel about Atlantic Yards will be part year's KingCon II, an independent comic, animation and illustration convention being held November 6 and 7 at the Brooklyn Lyceum. The blog's author interviews KingCon II's co-organizer.

O’Shea: The second panel to be also held on Thursday (at 9 PM), what can you tell me about it?

Richmond: [The second panel is] The Wants of the Few: Atlantic Yards, Comics and the Changing Face of Brooklyn

Was it the right place?

Was it the right time?

Was it the right process?

Atlantic Yards continues to fulfill the major media expectation of Brooklyn as a backwater where the people don’t matter.

Laws that seem pretty clear are ignored.

Captains of industry (well real estate) rule the day.

The common man is marginalized so that they an tear down middle class housing to build rich person housing while promising that they “might” throw a bit of affordable housing out there. All at the promise of more tax revenue that is clearly a bald-faced lie.

Judges make rulings that only seem appropriate if you believe everyone is already in the bag since the rulings grasp at any straw to not actually deal with the issues at hand.

Kind of make comics irrelevant if the actions of the leaders and monitors of gotham are already that much of a caricature.

And, lastly, where is the urban grit and spit in your eye that propelled comics to a position of status anyways? Will everything look like a cheap glass tower that charges ore for less?

Maybe the comic industry should start the pullout from an urban psyche if that urban core is just like Des Moines.

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Posted by steve at 7:07 AM

October 29, 2010

A salute to (lost) Pacific Street, from the L Magazine

The L Magazine via Atlantic Yards Report

From the L Magazine's The 50 Best Blocks in Brooklyn:

40. Best Block Currently Closed for Atlantic Yards Construction
Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth Aves, Prospect Heights
It's been somewhat sparse for years, but the buildings dotting this AY-adjacent block are/were of an unusually high architectural pedigree, from the elegant brick Spalding Building at the corner of Sixth Avenue and the historical firehouse next door, to the ornate Atlantic Arts Building nearer to Fifth Avenue, all of which are coming down behind closed gates.

Um, emphasis on were. And it's not just currently closed, it's permanently closed.

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Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

State Comptroller criticizes ESDC for lack of transparency, no-bid contracts

Atlantic Yards Report

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who not coincidentally is running for election next Tuesday (for the post to which he was appointed in 2007), on October 27 issued a brief report criticizing the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

The press release was headlined DiNapoli Public Authority Spotlight: Urban Development Corp.: Hundreds of Millions Spent on No-Bid Contracts and High Salaries.

News of the high salaries--more than a quarter of staffers earning six figures--actually surfaced in June, in a report from the Authorities Budget Office, and it's hardly surprising that the ESDC (the name under which the agency mainly does business) has awarded no-bid contracts.

After all, ubiquitous consultant AKRF has often been chosen, via no-bid contracts, to conduct environmental reviews, such as for Atlantic Yards and the Columbia University expansion.

"We also are able to hire people on the basis of a sole source if we can articulate a rationale for why it would be cost effective or otherwise appropriate," ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont said at a tense oversight hearing in January.

But DiNapoli put a number on it, stating that the Urban Development Corp. awarded 32 contracts worth $344.9 million in fiscal year 2008-09 without seeking competitive bids. By contrast, it awarded 97 smaller contracts, with a value totaling $216.1 million, through a competitive process.

Need for accountability

“These numbers raise more questions than answers,” DiNapoli said in his news release. “The state’s public authorities spend billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money in the dark shadows of state government.

Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

Preview of Civilians’ Atlantic Yards Musical In the Footprint at BHS

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

“Investigative” theater company The Civilians will stage their evocative new production, In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, at the Irondale Center in Fort Greene, beginning Nov. 12.

The site of the future Atlantic Yards Project is two blocks from the theater, where In the Footprint will chronicle the conflicts surrounding the largest land development project in Brooklyn’s history. The piece, which includes original music, was inspired by interviews with the real-life players in the controversy, representing many different perspectives.

On Monday, Nov. 8, a lucky audience will be treated to a preview of the show at the Brooklyn Historical Society on Nov. 8, with refreshments and hors d’oeuvres. Seats are limited and can be reserved on a first come, first served basis. To reserve, call The Civilian’s office at (718) 230-3330, or e-mail Civilians managing director Marion Young at marion@thecivilians.org.

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Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

Apple’s money renovates a Chicago subway station

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

Steve Jobs & Co. have funded a nice station renovation in Chicago, while New York's transit riders have been jobbed by Bruce Ratner.

For a cost of $0 to the CTA, the North/Clybourn station in the city’s Near North Side area received a full overhaul. A private partner picked up the $4 million tab.
...

In exchange for the advertising space inside the station, a right of first refusal should the CTA sell the naming rights and use of a nearby bus depot, Apple paid for the station renovation.
...

All of this leads me to the same question I had when the project was first announced almost a year ago: When will the MTA hop on board with these types of partnerships? It’s true that the authority will append the Barclays Center name to the Atlantic/Pacific subway stop when the Nets’ new arena opens, and it’s true that Forest City Ratner is funding some transportation upgrades to that busy Brooklyn hub. But Ratner purchased the Vanderbilt Yards air rights well under market value. The least he could do is fund some transit upgrades.

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Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

Green Party Candidates Want ‘Green New Deal’

Slope’s Gloria Mattera Runs for Lt. Governor

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Harold Egeln

As Albany stews in a political cauldron of dysfunction, one of the alternative tickets being offered for the state’s top leadership posts offers a “Green New Deal.”

One of those candidates is from Park Slope, Green Party lieutenant governor hopeful Gloria Mattera, a healthcare worker known for her community and political activism.
...

Currently a member of the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn steering committee and an executive board member of Physicians for a National Health Program NY Metro Chapter, Mattera is running for office for a fourth time in a decade.

In 2001 and 2003 she ran for City Council against Democrat Bill de Blasio, with campaigns focused on growing economic inequities, reaching out to the Muslim communities, and opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In her 2003 challenge to de Blasio, she emerged second with 20 percent of the vote.

Mattera ran for borough president in 2005 against popular Democratic incumbent Marty Markowitz, objecting to his support of the Atlantic Yards project. Mattera’s run for the top Brooklyn office called for “human scale sustainable development driven by community special needs.”

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Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

October 28, 2010

The Times Gives Prokhorov a Sunday Feature (No Mention of Atlantic Yards)

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The Times has a Sunday magazine feature story on Bruce Ratner's Nets/arena bailout partner Mikhail Prokhorov. We haven't read through it yet, but skimming reveals something rather astonishing: in 8,298 words, "Atlantic Yards" are two words that never appear. (There is also no mention that The New York Times Company and Prokhorov's partner Bruce Ratner were business partners in the construction of the company's new-ish midtown headquarters.)

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Posted by eric at 11:38 PM

Money cleanses: what's missing from the Times's Prokhorov article (hint: whatever the Nets do, Prokhorov's already won)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder runs through some of the things missing from The Times's puffy profile of Mikhail Prokhorov, including:

  • Any mention of Atlantic Yards, the project proposed and pursued by his business partner Bruce Ratner...

  • The recognition that the Times might disclose the newspaper company's business relationship with Ratner...

  • The realization that Prokhorov, like Ratner, might be beneficiary of some sweetheart deals...

  • Voices beyond Prokhorov regarding his super-swift path to wealth...

It's not about Nets' victories. Prokhorov, virtually unknown in America, is on the cover of the Times Magazine. He's already won.

Money changes everything? No, money cleanses everything.

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Posted by eric at 11:31 PM

As Times Magazine buffs Prokhorov, Nets tickets in Newark go for pennies

Atlantic Yards Report

I'll have more in a bit on the more-hagiographic-than-not New York Times Magazine cover story on Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, but consider that even the oligarch's presence in Newark last night (where the Nets won their opener) didn't drive attendance.

From John Brennan in The Record's Meadowlands Matters blog, a piece headlined Tickets for sporting events at rock-bottom prices:

But for tonight's Nets-Detroit Pistons NBA regular-season opener — the first for the Nets in their temporary Prudential Center home in Newark — fans who know where to look online can find a $200 list-price ticket for $50, a $40 ticket for $10, or a $20 ticket for an amazing 47 cents.

In a follow-up, Brennan pointed out that Newark Mayor Cory Booker has tried to liken his city to Oklahoma City, which snagged a permanent team after hosting the New Orleans Hornets after Hurricane Katrina.

But the turnout, even with cheap tickets, was low:

The crowd was listed at 15,178, but at the Izod Center the Nets traditionally listed their crowd (which accounts for tickets distributed) about 2,500 higher than actual turnstile attendance (pretty typical in the NBA). So this crowd was not close to the 17,000 that Booker talked about beforehand.

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Posted by eric at 11:22 PM

The Playboy and His Power Games

The New York Times
by Chip Brown

The Times devotes God-knows-how-many words to a profile of Mikhail Prokhorov without really getting to the root of anything. Here's the opening:

“Pretend you are putting a gun against my back,” said the Russian billionaire. We were standing in a small training room on the third floor of his house outside Moscow. Suddenly he pivoted, and any ideas I had of sprinting off with his wallet went poof. His loaded foot was poised to crush my knee. You had to wonder, Did he really need the full security detail that followed his chauffeured Mercedes around Moscow in a Land Rover?

The key was that your body had to be relaxed, he said. Not rigid. Not tense.

“You have to be soft.”

“You could have broken my leg.”

“Yes,” he said, “but in a very soft manner.”

article

NoLandGrab: Prokhorov might not be such a bad guy, 'cause while he just pretends, his business partner, Bruce Ratner, put a figurative gun to the head of Brooklynites — and the ESDC gave him the bullets.

Posted by eric at 10:26 PM

MAS Summit: the dominance of NYC EDC in planning, the value of green space, and the importance of sharing the bounty across the boroughs

Atlantic Yards Report

While the livability survey revealed at the Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Summit for New York City October 21-22 suggested that most New Yorkers were satisfied, there were significant pockets of discontent, notably (and unsurprisingly) among poorer residents in the outer boroughs.

So there was a good deal of discussion about how to improve things. After all, suggested Robert McNulty, founder and president of Partners for Livable Communities, "livability should be defined by the least advantaged member of your community."
...

Blame NYC EDC

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, blamed the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) for thinking that parking garages and big development like the East Side Gateway Mall or Yankee Stadium were the key to development.

"I think EDC needs to undergo a revolution," he said. "This stuff isn't window dressing." Such "stuff" includes things like parks and transportation.

Indeed, in a 10/4/10 Gotham Gazette column headlined The Real Power in City Planning, Hunter College planning professor Tom Angotti wrote:

Name just about any big and controversial development project in New York City -- the new Yankee Stadium, Bronx Terminal Market, Willets Point, Coney Island, Metrotech -- and behind them stands a single powerful dealmaker that makes them possible, the New York City Economic Development Corp. or EDC.

His conclusion:

Whether EDC does better planning and development because of its special position and powers is an open question that we might all disagree on. But EDC has assumed critical government planning powers that the City Charter and local law give to city agencies. By negotiating and making decisions in the shadows, EDC can avoid the sunlight that helps citizens understand what is getting developed and decide whether they want it or not. We may know what EDC's executives say to the public through their public relations office but little is know what is said in their exclusive discussions with developers.

Note that NYC EDC has supported Atlantic Yards, though the lead role went to another not quite transparent agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, controlled by the governor.

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Posted by eric at 8:58 AM

Does Ratner have “possession of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards property”? No, but the request for a Times correction is a month old

Atlantic Yards Report

This isn't big news, but it's an example of how errors in the "Paper of Record," however basic, need correction, given that they could mislead readers and researchers, as with the yet-uncorrected claim that the arena would be built "on the railyards."

A 9/28/10 New York Times City Room post, headlined Latest Design Is Unveiled for Atlantic Yards Plaza, claimed that the entire 22-acre site was controlled by the developer:

Seeking a correction

I posted a comment that day saying it wasn't true, given that several properties (e.g., houses on Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue, the P.C. Richard building on Site 5) are controlled neither by the state nor the developer, and that eminent domain is supposed to proceed in at least one more phase.
...

I filed an official request for a correction through the proper channels and wrote to reporter Charles Bagli directly. He acknowledged the error but, for whatever reason, he and his editors have been unable or unwilling to get it corrected.
...

Meanwhile, the Times today publishes corrections that tell us that the first name of the daughter of an artist recently profiled is Ona, not Oona and that the surname of a customer of a designer is Rattazzi, not Ratazzi.

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Posted by eric at 8:50 AM

Freddy's Bar finds new home in Park Slope after getting the boot from Brooklyn Atlantic Yards arena

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

New Freddy's Bar co-owners (from l.) Matt Kuhn, Donald O'Finn and Matt Kimmett (Photo: Robert Mecea/Daily News)

Months after falling to the Atlantic Yards wrecking ball, Freddy's Bar has found a new home in South Slope.

The longtime Prospect Heights watering hole, which got the boot last spring to make way for developer Bruce Ratner's new Nets arena, is set to open in a new spot on Fifth Ave.

Owner Donald O'Finn signed a lease last week and was moving in supplies in hopes of re-creating the saloon that had run since Prohibition in the now-demolished Dean St. building.

"Everything from Freddy's went into storage," he said. "We have all the booths. We have the bar stools."

And they have the chains that were installed on the bar to prepare for a standoff that ultimately never happened.

The bar, along with other home and business owners on the project site, fought all the way to the state's highest court to stop eminent domain - and lost. Patrons vowed to chain themselves to the bar to stop eviction, but ended up going peacefully.

"The chains are definitely going to be displayed here," O'Finn said. "To me they're a metaphor for community."

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Posted by eric at 8:40 AM

Talk about a downward dog

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Last week's Forest City-owned Atlantic Center/Atlantic Terminal crime trifecta might help explain why crime is spiking in the area despite the de-population of the Atlantic Yards footprint, which the faulty Atlantic Yards Blight Study erroneously claimed was the source of local lawbreaking.

Early am shopper

A burglar broke into the crime-riddled Atlantic Center Mall on Oct. 20, but was arrested before he could take anything.

The 30-year-old was caught on the second floor of the mall on Atlantic Avenue between Fort Greene Place and S. Portland Avenue at 2:32 am, yet it remained unclear how the crook got inside.

Payless pinch

Three teenage footwear fashionistas raided the Payless Shoes inside the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Oct. 19.

Workers said the teens entered the Flatbush Avenue store between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue at 11:55 am and began putting more than a dozen pairs of shoes into a plastic bag they had brought with them.

They then stormed out, scratching a guard’s arm as he tried to detain them.

Shoe sneak

A real heel rifled through a woman’s handbag on Oct. 18 as she tried on footwear inside the DSW inside the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Flatbush Avenue.

The woman claimed that no one came near her bag as she shopped inside the store between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue at 6 pm. Yet, an hour later, she realized her iPad, Blackberry and camera had been taken.

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Posted by eric at 8:26 AM

October 27, 2010

Cuomo has apparently put on back burner investigations of Willets Point, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership lobbying

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a very intriguing passage within a New York Times article today about Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, likely to win election as Governor next Tuesday, headlined Mixed Views on Cuomo as Attorney General:

But the praise is neither universal nor complete, and there are many who assert that Mr. Cuomo has, not unlike his predecessor, been more interested in headlines than in undertaking the tedious chores needed to bring lasting reform, and that he has mishandled, sidestepped or prolonged some public integrity cases.

For example, an investigation into whether the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and some public officials violated lobbying laws in their redevelopment efforts is still unresolved after two years. (Mr. Bloomberg last month endorsed Mr. Cuomo’s campaign for governor.)

What might that refer to? It's time to repeat my post from 12/12/09, adding that I never got a response to my queries from Cuomo's office:

Learning from Willets Point, Part 2: is the Attorney General still investigating lobbying by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership?

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Posted by eric at 4:18 PM

Why would EB-5 investors in Atlantic Yards earn no interest? Because it's such "a safe, secure position"

Atlantic Yards Report

From The National (published in the United Arab Emirates), an article headlined Green Card scheme a slam dunk in China covers one of the investment seminars put on by the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) for its Atlantic Yards EB-5 investment project:

So keen are some Chinese to gain entry to America that they value the assurance of a Green Card over any financial return.

Most EB-5 schemes pay interest of between 2.5 and 2.75 per cent. But not this one, according to Gregg Hayden, the general manager of NYRC.

"The investor on this particular project, to simplify the process, is not getting paid any interest," says Mr Hayden. "We have put them in such a safe, secure position that they're not earning any interest. If you look at the spectrum of EB-5 projects, interest rates are paid according to risk."

To simplify the process? How about to maximize return to the New York City Regional Center and Forest City Ratner?

As for the security of the the position, well, that's a matter for continued debate.

Buying green cards

The report in The National shows a NYCRC rep pretty much contradicting what his boss said six weeks ago.

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Posted by eric at 4:04 PM

Green Card scheme a slam dunk in China

The National
by Tom Spender

A UAE-based publication covers Bruce Ratner's green card-hawking magical mystery tour.

Some were dressed in suits, some in casual and even worn-out clothing, but all of the Chinese in the banqueting hall had one thing in common - money, or access to it.

About 200 potential investors had streamed into the west Beijing hotel to hear about an opportunity in New York that seems well-calibrated to a changing world: Green Cards in return for interest-free credit.

The roadshow was showcasing the biggest-ever use of the US government's EB-5 scheme, which offers Green Cards to foreigners who invest US$500,000 (Dh1.8 million) in America for two years, thereby creating at least 10 new jobs.

Officials from the New York City Regional Centre (NYCRC) are touring China to drum up 498 investors with the aim of contributing $249m to the city's biggest property project outside Ground Zero.
...

Critics say reaching out to the Chinese is simply a way to save cash. If developers borrowed the same amount of money from a bank they would face tens of millions of dollars in interest repayments.

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Additional coverage...

NetsDaily, Did Ratner Enlist Ex-Nets in Money-for-Visas Program?

Darryl Dawkins and Otis Birdsong were in China last week not just to watch the Nets play the Rockets but to attend an investment "roadshow" where Bruce Ratner sought to raise nearly a quarter billion dollars through a controversial money-for-visas program, an Abu Dhabi newspaper reports.

According to a reporter who was at one of the "roadshows" in Beijing, the two were on hand to mix with about 200 prospects Ratner and advisors had invited to invest in the Atlantic Yards project. Under the EB-5 visa program, those who invest $500,000 or more can receive US green cards in return.

Posted by eric at 3:43 PM

Times takes optimistic look at Prokhorov as face of Nets, suggests trip to China was to recruit companies as sponsors (but what about EB-5 investors?)

Atlantic Yards Report

In Nets’ Top Attraction May Be Prokhorov, an article in tomorrow's [now today's] Sports section, the New York Times offers an optimistic take on the Nets' struggles: majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov "may end up being the face of the organization."

(I pointed out October 24 that the ESPN The Magazine portrayed Prokhorov as the face of the Nets, one of only four teams where players weren't front and center.)

The article states:

He has also moved fast to rebuild the team and has not shied away from the limelight. Since he took over in May, he has hired Avery Johnson as coach, Billy King as general manager and taken the Nets to Russia and China to help convince foreign companies to spend their money on the team.

Ah, but was the trip to China mainly to sign up sponsors, or was it to convince immigrant investors to get their green cards via the EB-5 program by buying into the "Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project"?

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Posted by eric at 3:21 PM

Nets’ Top Attraction May Be Prokhorov

The New York Times
by Ken Belson

More hard-hitting coverage of Mikhail Prokhorov from The New York Times.

The Knicks have had a lot of reason to cheer Timofey Mozgov, their new Russian center who had an impressive preseason and figures to play a prominent role on the team this season.

But Mozgov is not the only tall Russian involved in basketball around New York. Fans will likely see a lot of Mikhail D. Prokhorov, the new owner of the Nets, who has promised to turn last season’s 12-win team into a championship-winning club.

Prokhorov lives in Moscow, but plans to attend about a quarter of the Nets’ home games at the Prudential Center in Newark this season. That includes the first three games, against the Pistons on Wednesday, the Kings on Friday and LeBron James and the Miami Heat on Sunday.

Prokhorov will not sit courtside like Mark Cuban in Dallas. Instead, he will keep to his owner’s box, where he can survey his team, which cost him $200 million and includes a 45 percent stake in the Barclays Center, the Nets’ new home in Brooklyn.

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Posted by eric at 12:19 PM

The view from Dean Street: early-morning construction; the demolition of 636 Pacific Street

Atlantic Yards Report

City zoning prohibits sports facilities from being built within 200 feet of residences, but that zoning was overridden by the Empire State Development Corporation in the case of Atlantic Yards.

So those on the south side of Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth avenues have some bird's-eye views of the site.

First, a video shot at about 7:15 am today by a neighborhood resident.

Below, a photo of 636 Pacific Street, the last building in the footprint, shot yesterday by Battle of Brooklyn documentary filmmaker Mike Galinsky.

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Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

Environmental review process slammed at MAS Summit, but solutions remain elusive

Atlantic Yards Report

Right about now, you're probably catching on that Norman Oder has regained full internet access, the absence of which had kept him to a limited publishing schedule for the past week or so.

Is the environmental review process broken? At the Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Summit for New York City October 21-22, two speakers suggested it was, but they didn't make what I believe is a key distinction: between truly public projects and public-private (or private-public) projects.

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Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Cataloging non-blight on Vanderbilt Avenue

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite the presence of the eastern end of a "blighted" Atlantic Yards project site, "Almost every corner along the stretch of Vanderbilt Avenue that runs through Prospect Heights is home to an eatery or drinkery of note," according to Brooklyn Based.

Of particular note are Woodwork, on Vanderbilt between Pacific and Dean streets, and Weather Up, at Dean Street, both immediately across the street from the staging/construction zone slated to be a massive surface parking lot.

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Posted by eric at 11:39 AM

Aqueduct Report: Jay-Z Was Clueless

The Huffington Post
by Matt Sledge

The New York inspector general's report on the tainted Aqueduct bidding process contains a little-noticed tidbit about the Aqueduct Entertainment Group's most famous would-be investor.

Jay-Z, as it turns out, never actually inked a deal with AEG.
...

What's more, Jay also didn't seem to know much about the project, Inspector General Joseph Fisch determined after taking his testimony. That conversation "revealed":

scant knowledge of AEG's proposal and its composition, no finalized agreement with AEG, and no lobbying by him whatsoever. Regardless, his notoriety caused his name to be mentioned in most news articles discussing AEG which brought his name, and well-known conviction, to the forefront.

So much for the the savvy, take-charge CEO persona Jay-Z likes to present to the world. The report seems to suggest that he was little more than a hype man for the AEG bid.

The project's real heavy hitters may have been hoping to use Jay to impress just one person: Governor David Paterson. A February report in the New York Post suggested the AEG consortium chose Jay-Z to gain the favor of the governor, who became friends with the rapper last year.

The multimillionaire music impresario's part of the AEG bid bears a striking resemblance to his role with the New Jersey Nets. Although he controls only a tiny share of the basketball franchise, his stake is trumpeted loudly in promotional materials for the related Atlantic Yards arena project, and he was prominently featured at its groundbreaking in Brooklyn, along with Governor Paterson. As Norman Oder has perceptively written of the groundbreaking, putting the rapper "front and center" was "a brilliant move [...] relying on the unsurprising shallowness of a star-struck press."

article

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

Moody's lifts rating on Forest City Enterprises from "negative" to "stable"

Atlantic Yards Report

According to an AP article yesterday headlined Moody's revises Forest City outlook to 'stable', the ratings firm has lifted Forest City Enterprises from "negative" to "stable," citing improved results and stable liquidity.

The AP reported:

Last month, Cleveland-based Forest City reported a second-quarter profit of $122.8 million. The results bested the company's prior-year quarter performance - a loss of $1.8 million.

Moody's noted Forest City has been addressing its mortgage debt maturities, refinanced its credit facility and significantly reduced its development exposure. Wonder if Moody's factored in an expected $249 million in immigrant investor funding, at low or no interest?

Morningstar, by the way, is a bit more cautious:

While we like Forest City's use of nonrecourse property debt and its geographically diverse footprint, we believe its extensive exposure to the volatile retail industry as well as its high degree of financial leverage warrant an extreme fair value uncertainty rating.

link

Related coverage...

AP via Forbes.com, Moody's revises Forest City outlook to 'stable'

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

Citizenship for sale? Yahoo says yes, and endorses it (without looking closely at the Atlantic Yards deal)

Atlantic Yards Report

Would you believe that the brief mention in a Wall Street Journal article about Forest City Ratner's to raise $249 million via immigrant investors inspired an Oct. 25 analysis (Citizenship For Sale?) by Daniel Gross, economics editor and columnist at Yahoo! Finance, that concluded that not only is the EB-5 program a good idea, but it should be vastly expanded.

In other words, superficial journalism by the Wall Street Journal is compounded by superficial journalism by Yahoo!
...

The problem is that, with Atlantic Yards, the signal example Gross chooses (and touts on the video accompanying his piece), no new jobs would be created, the Empire State Development Corporation acknowledges, but Forest City Ratner could save perhaps $100 million over five years on $249 million in low- or no-cost financing.

Would they be "created" according to the federal government's loose regulations? That's what proponents say. Still, there are several reasons to be skeptical about the project, as I've written.

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NoLandGrab: Mr. Oder was kind enough not to put "journalism" in quotes.

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards Construction Site Gets A Face Lift

WNYC Radio
by Janaya Williams

Artist Mauricio Lopez designed the bold geometric patterns of “Color Mesh,” now adorning the construction fence along one side of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project.

Lopez was one of four winners of last month’s urbancanvas design contest, which invited artists to beautify construction sites with artwork suitable for fences, sheds, and scaffolds—structures that protect the public during the construction process.

article

NoLandGrab: No offense to Mr. Lopez, but that's just lipstick on pork.

Photo: WNYC

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

October 26, 2010

"Everything we work on is on the web;" is that Atlantic Yards? No, it's Governors Island

Atlantic Yards Report

Is Atlantic Yards a public-private partnership? Or, as I've contended (with Amy Lavine), more of a private-public partnership?

Well, the contrast between public and private projects became more clear during a presentation on Governors Island at the Municipal Art Society's (MAS) Summit for New York City October 21-22.

"Everything we work on is on the web," declared Leslie Koch, president of the city-controlled Trust for Governors Island. Her remarks accompanied the presentation below (also on the web [PDF]).

And a look at the Trust's web site leads us to the master plan for park and public space, the results of a design competition.

What about AY?

By contrast, the Empire State Development Corporation's Atlantic Yards web pages just offer links (and are stale). Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards web site has been down since June 2009, resolving instead to the Barclays Center web site, which is mainly about marketing.

link

Posted by eric at 12:48 PM

News from the Construction Alert: 636 Pacific on the way down (remembered by Brownstoner), Urban Canvas program will beautify construction fence

Atlantic Yard Report

The Empire State Development Corporation hasn't posted a Construction Update, but according to the latest Update, aka Construction Alert (below), all but one of the buildings on the arena block have been demolished, with that last building--and three smaller ones on the southeast block, Block 1129--under demolition.

That last building, of course, is 636 Pacific Street, the rehabbed warehouse dubbed the Atlantic Arts building and known as the home of Daniel Goldstein, co-founder of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, until he agreed to a settlement in April. Demolition is expected to be completed next month.

(Photo and set by Tracy Collins)

In a coincidence that could only be described as brutally weird, today Brownstoner featured 636 Pacific as the Building of the Day. The pseudonymous Montrose Morris wrote:

Had this building been anywhere else, it would easily have been eligible for landmarking, as it is a rare example of [Chep] Kingsley's work in NY, as well as for its intrinsic beauty on its own, especially with the wealth of terra-cotta in the colors, materials and motifs here. The details are in excellent shape, and it is a rare piece of commercial architecture of this type and from this era. Wastefully, it will soon be rubble. I hope the terra-cotta is salvagable. That, and pictures will be all that is left. As one commenter suggested, salvage is unlikely.

FCR's claims of delay were overblown

Note that the affidavit filed by Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin in April warned (p. 22, or p. 67 of the overall document) of the enormous costs of delay, claiming it "may take several months to perform the work necessary to prepare for actual demolition" of 636 Pacific, and it would "take an additional several months--approximately five months is the current estimate--to perform and complete the actual demolition."

Actually, a demolition permit was filed in mid-September, which means the work would wind up taking two months.

article

NoLandGrab: As we've said before, the next time someone from Forest City Ratner speaks the truth will also be the first time someone from Forest City Ratner speaks the truth.

Posted by eric at 12:36 PM

Building of the Day: 636 Pacific Street

Brownstoner

Brownstoner yesterday saluted 636 Pacific Street, or what's left of it, as its "Building of the Day." A demolition squad in the employ of Bruce Ratner has reduced it nearly to a pile of rubble at this point.

Address: 636 Pacific Street, near 6th Avenue
Name: Former Allied Storage Building, now Atlantic Arts Building
Neighborhood: Prospect Heights
Year Built: 1924
Architectural Style: Italian Renaissance Revival, morphing into early Art Deco
Architect: Chep Kingsley
Landmarked: No

Why chosen: This was built as the Allied Storage Building back in 1924. It was designed by Chicago architect Chep Kingsley, and was lauded by a storage industry magazine of its day, as the most beautiful and dignified storage building built in New York, and a complement to the new Williamsburg Savings Bank going up nearby. Self storage is a recent phenomenon of today's consumer society, but in the 1920's, only the rich could afford storage, and this building certainly looked quite elegant with its profusion of colorful cobalt and white glazed terra-cotta trim, and classical detail. There is an Italian Della Robbia style influence to the blue lozenges, as well as a clear early Deco influence in other motifs. Polychrome terra-cotta of this sort is a staple of early Art Deco architecfuture, coming out of the Art Nouveau tradition, and proceeding into the more familiar angular lines of later Art Deco. The building was owned by the same family until they sold it to the developers who turned it into much hyped loft-style condos in 2002. The developers renamed it the Atlantic Arts Building, although now it will be forever known as “Daniel Goldstein's Building”.

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Photo: Brownstoner

Posted by eric at 12:24 PM

Citizenship For Sale?

Yahoo! Finance
by Daniel Gross

Some organizations, professional service firms, and companies promote the program as a whole, or market investment in particular projects as appropriate for EB5 aspirants, such as a ski resort in Vermont. Other entrepreneurs having a tough time raising cash are now seeking to use the program to tap into new sources of financing. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that developer Bruce Ratner is seeking to use the program to help raise funds in China for his massive, controversial Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Now, many may view the prospect of giving favorable immigration treatment to investors as problematic. The phrase "bring us your moneyed investors yearning to breathe free" doesn't have the same poetic heft as the inscription about the tired, poor, huddled masses etched on the Statue of Liberty. From its inception, the price of citizenship has traditionally been a willingness to leave behind the old world and work hard -- not write a check to support the construction of a bunch of ski-in, ski-out condos.

Don't count Daniel Gross among those who view the EB-5 program as "problematic," however.

I happen to think this is a very good thing. If it were fully utilized, the EB5 program would bring at least $7 billion annually and create or preserve 100,000 jobs per year.

Someone needs to tell Gross that, based on the Atlantic Yards model, EB5 would bring in at least $7 billion annually and possibly create or preserve ZERO jobs per year.

article

Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

Errata

Every once in a while, it's important to remind people that Atlantic Yards is still not a place. It's a project, a marketing slogan, it has a footprint, even — but there's still no physical "Atlantic Yards."

Gothamist, Guess The Year: Model Edition

If you can figure out what's going on here, you may be able to guess the correct year. Put your best guesses in the comments, and we'll update later with the answer, more details and photos.

UPDATE: These photos were taken in 1955, and are of a model of Ebbets Field. When the Brooklyn Dodgers outgrew Ebbets, club owner Walter O'Malley announced plans for a privately-owned domed stadium at the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, but New York City Building Commissioner Robert Moses wanted the city to build a stadium in Flushing Meadows instead—the team eventually chose Los Angeles over Queens, and the original field was demolished in 1960.

NoLandGrab: Wrong on two counts! O'Malley wanted to build his stadium across the way from the Vanderbilt Yard, on a site now occupied by Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center mall.

The New York Times, Making Construction Beautiful in Brooklyn

Mauricio Lopez’s “Color Mesh,” one of four designs selected in a recent city competition aimed at beautifying construction sites, had its debut on Monday on a construction fence at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

NLG: "At the Atlantic Yards project site" we'd accept. "At Atlantic Yards," not so much.

Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

The Empire Strikes Back!

NetsDaily

Last July, you may recall, the Nets angered Jimmy Dolan by papering over the side of a building opposite the Garden with their 1,200 square foot "Blueprint for Greatness" poster. Now, reports the Brooklyn Trolley Dodger blog, Dolan has struck back!

On the side of a wall inside the footprint of the Atlantic Yards, the Knicks have put up a much smaller wall poster, featuring Amare Stoudemire in front of the Manhattan ...not Brooklyn... Bridge. It reads, "Brooklyn Represent - You, Us, We, Now".

link

Related coverage...

Slam Online, Knicks/Nets Billboard Rivalry Continues to Rage

The stakes (and weirdness) continue to get raised between the marketing departments of New Jersey and New York’s pitiful basketball teams.

Rap Radar, NY Knicks Net Billboard In Brooklyn

Now, the Knickerbockers have fired back and plastered a poster with Amar’e Stoudemire near Atlantic Yards, the future locale of the Brooklyn Nets. Checkmate, Hov!

Photo: Brooklyn Trolley Dodger

Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

October 25, 2010

MAS Summit: Bloomberg administration's Jacobsian efforts are highlighted, but embrace of "cataclysmic projects" shouldn't be ignored

Atlantic Yards Report

While the big news at the municipal Art Society's (MAS) Summit for New York City October 21-22 concerned the livability survey commissioned by the MAS, there was much more worthy of discussion, and I'll address some of those issues this week.

Notably, one moment crystallized the ongoing tensions--as provoked earlier in the week by the Jane Jacobs Medals celebration--between the Bloomberg administration's worthy, Jacobsian efforts, and its less defensible affection for megaprojects.

Author and Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz spoke on a panel titled Vibrant Neighborhoods.

"I think it's wonderful that members of the Bloomberg administration thought this summit important enough to appear here to catalog the wonderful things agencies are doing to make the city more livable," she said, a reference to Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin, Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who spoke at the event, along with Deputy Mayor Patti Harris.
...

"What is interesting is many of these things are not what we hear most about," Gratz said. "They are creative initiatives, spread in small doses, very Jacobsian, not the big cataclysmic projects that we hear most about that are not the creators of a livable city."

"Real economic development nothing to do with real estate, and this is something Jane taught us in The Economy of Cities," Gratz said. "Economic development is an activity that comes first. The buildings to house it comes second. Jane used to say you cannot build the ovens and expect the loaves to jump in. What we've been hearing about, and talking about, are the loaves. That's why it's been such a stimulating discussion."

article

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

Fort Greene and Clinton Hill Crime Wave

My Little O
by Michael Locke

Now, how could this be? Didn't the Empire State Development Corporation and its consultant, Forest City Ratner-funded AKRF, claim in the Atlantic Yards Blight Study that crime in the area was concentrated in the project's footprint? But now the footprint has been largely de-populated. You don't think they could've lied about that, do you?

Deputy Inspector Anthony Tasso, Commanding Officer of the 88th Precinct, reported at last night’s Precinct Community Council meeting that there has been a 70% year-over-year increase in crime for the four-week-period from September 21st to October 19th. The increase is primarily in assault and robbery.

“We have seen a significant increase in kids-on-kids crime in the vicinity of Brooklyn Technical High School after school, from 2 to 5pm,” the Deputy Inspector said. “These kids usually hangout in large groups in Fort Greene Park, on Fulton Street, in the Atlantic Terminal Mall and at DeKalb and Flatbush Avenues.”

article

Additional coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], 88th Precinct Responds to Spike in Crime

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

Freddy’s returns — but it’ll be miles from the Barclays Center

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

More coverage of the news that Freddy's Bar & Backroom, the symbolic Ground Zero of the fight against Atlantic Yards its eminent domain abuse, has found a new home.

Meet the new Freddy’s — not exactly the same as the old Freddy’s.

One of Brooklyn’s most-beloved bars — and the former hub of opposition to the Atlantic Yards project that was torn down because it stood on the site of the future Barclays Center — will re-open on Fifth Avenue between 17th and 18th streets, far from the beer-drinking hordes that will someday attend basketball games at the arena.
...

The Prohibition-era bar’s previous location at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue has now been demolished by developer Bruce Ratner, whose Barclays Center is supposed to open in late 2012.
...

Now, if all goes as planned, the bar will reopen with the familiar dive-bar trappings of Freddy’s, including the “chains of justice.”

article

Related coverage...

Brownstoner, The Return of Freddy's!

On Thursday, they signed a lease for the former Ellis Bar and Restaurant space at 627 5th Avenue between 17th Street and 18th Street. The opening date for Freddy's has not yet been set: "The opening of the doors is contingent on the speed and accuracy of both the State Liquor Authority and the Department of Buildings, as well as the embrace of Community Board 7."

Found in Brooklyn, It's Official. Freddy's Bar & Backroom Is Rising Again!

As Donald O'Finn said before the closing of the old Freddy's, "Freddy's is not an address, it is an idea." And it was my impression on Saturday that the new Freddy's has every intention in continuing to present that idea with free live music and events every night of the week in the same uniquely open and collective manner as the old Freddy's.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

October 24, 2010

To ESPN, the biggest thing about the (non-turnaround) Nets is still their owner, likened to the omnipotent Galactus

Atlantic Yards Report

In ESPN The Magazine's preview issue on the National Basketball Association season, each team is represented by a comic book cover rendering.

It's notable that, among the 30 teams, only four don't feature players dominating the image: the New Jersey Nets, with Mikhail Prokhorov (right); the Charlotte Bobcats, with player-turned-owner Michael Jordan; the Indiana Pacers, with player-turned-president Larry Bird; and the Dallas Mavericks, with flamboyant owner Mark Cuban.

The text

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

Mikhail Prokhorov is many things to many people: billionaire entrepreneur, playboy, and new owner of the Nets. But to Marvel, he's Galactus, an omnipotent figure with infinite resources and a voracious appetite for devouring worlds. Prokhorov took over the Nets in May, and the team already has a new GM (Billy King), coach (Avery Johnson) and arena (Newark's Prudential Center). But Silver Surfer Devin Harris remains. Can Prokhorov's team turn around last season's 12-70 mark? He's not that powerful--yet.

Some caveats

First, some people, like Matt Taibbi, might add the term "gangster" to the description of Prokhorov.

Also, it's misleading to conclude that Prokhorov is fully responsible for the changes cited. Longtime GM Rod Thorn decided to leave, precipitating the search for a replacement, and the team had had interim coaches last season.

And the interim move to Newark had been in place since last March.

link

Posted by steve at 8:41 AM

From the Village Voice's Best of New York: Prokhorov, Stoudemire, and Markowitz

Atlantic Yards Report

The Village Voice "Best of New York" issue reflects diminished journalism.

In the category of Best Oligarch - 2010, we get (of course) Mikhail Prokhorov:

We're sorry that recent Russian émigré Mikhail Prokhorov couldn't sign LeBron James, even though he was rich enough ($13.4 billion) and tall enough (six-foot-eight) to look the hoops star in the eye. But give the guy a break: The owner of the New Jersey Nets (soon to be the Brooklyn Whatevers) is still the world's second richest Russian, the tallest of the world's richest, and one of the youngest of the top 100 (he's only 45). Talk about a guy who fits in well with our homebred corporate piranha: Prokhorov made his billions by feasting off Russia's helter-skelter, mostly illegal, and highly immoral conversion from merciless Communism to merciless capitalism. Now if he can just translate some of that money into a winning team.

In other words, winning will make us forget

There is also an entry classifying Amar'e Stoudemire as the Best Jewish Athlete - 2010, even if the evidence for his Jewishness is thin at best.

Finally, the entry for Marty Markowitz (Best Between-Acts Concert Entertainment - 2010) pokes fun at Brooklyn's Borough President without an indication of an understanding of the BP's role.

Wingate Field in Bushwick is the place to be every Monday night during the summer, when the Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series brings through a cavalcade of old-school hip-hop, soul, gospel, and r&b stars. (This year featured Parliament/Funkadelic, BeBe & CeCe Winans, and an epic set from Salt-N-Pepa.) The free shows lure in thousands of lawn-chair-toting nostalgia enthusiasts in need of between-act cajoling, and for that, thank God, there is Marty Markowitz. We have no idea what being Brooklyn borough president actually entails other than emceeing these things (there's a weekly summer series at Coney Island, too), but we can confirm that it does involve inviting to the stage a motley crew of City Councilmen, radio DJs, preachers, wayward Applebee's employees, and assorted other yahoos. All of them have their charms, but none can compare with ol' Ramblin' Marty himself, soothing an oft-restless crowd in dulcet tones, never failing to enthrall even when he's announcing that Aretha Franklin canceled the show she was supposed to play there next week. It's infuriating at first, but eventually you come to regard it as a virtuoso performance: No one on earth kills time with more grace than Marty Markowitz. He is the Picasso of stalling. Go watch him paint sometime. Bring a chair.

Ah, it takes a certain kind of ignorance to say "We have no idea what being Brooklyn borough president actually entails other than emceeing these things."

For Markowitz, such cheerleading duties actually represent a large part of how he's defined the relatively powerless post, but it's not the only model.

link

Posted by steve at 8:23 AM

October 23, 2010

Meet Mikhail Prokhorov: Devourer of Worlds

The New York Observer
By Dan Duray

The Empire State Development Corporation, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, used the power of eminent domain to benefit Mikhail Prokhorov, one of Russia's richest man. Here, he is converted to a comic book character. It's no surprise that he's a stand-in for a famous villain.

For its latest issue, ESPN The Magazine reached out to their new sister company Marvel to create a series of fake comic book covers representing all 30 teams of the NBA. The jokes range from topical to goofy, but one of the better ones depicts Lebron James walking away from his Cleveland jersey, mirroring an iconic Spider-Man moment.

But we thought we'd share the Nets one below. In it, the team's eccentric new owner Mikhail Prokhorov is depected as Galactus, the gigantic Fantastic Four villian who travels from galaxy to galaxy eating planets. His forerunner, the Silver Surfer, is played by Devin Harris, the team's captain and a lynchpin in the Russian oligarch's plans for planet Earth. And Brooklyn.

Enjoy!

link

Posted by steve at 8:56 AM

Freddy's signs lease at 5th Avenue and 17th Street, 1.6 miles from previous location; next step: official approvals

Atlantic Yards Report

According to reports from Eater and OTBKB (which got the press release I didn't get yet), the operators of Freddy's Bar & Backroom, displaced after some 15 years from the northwest corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue due to eminent domain (which led to a settlement), aim to reopen 1.6 miles away.

The location: the old Ellis space at 627 5th Avenue near 17th Street, just below the Prospect Expressway in an area some call the South South Slope and others call Greenwood Heights.

According to the press release, Frank Yost, who held the Freddy's lease, is not part of the new bar, which will be run by former manager Donald O'Finn and former bartenders Matt Kuhn (the press release had "Khun," but I think that's a typo) and Matt Kimmett.

What next?

The bar still needs approval from the community board, State Liquor Authority, and the Department of Buildings. "We will still feature our popular videos, art exhibitions, live music and a few surprises," the press release stated. "The 'Chains of Justice' will still grace our bar as a reminder of the power of the community bond."

Initially, those behind Freddy's hoped to reopen near Fourth Avenue and Union Street at the border of Park Slope and Gowanus, but within walking distance of the old Freddy's spot in Prospect Heights.

This new location, with presumably affordable rent, is hardly gentrified and thus to some degree resembles the Prospect Heights of 15 years ago.

By now, Brooklyn neighborhoods close to Manhattan and close to transit have experienced significant gentrification. It's unlikely that Greenwood Heights would follow such a fast trajectory, which means Freddy's may be less vulnerable. But it does have to rebuild its clientele.

link

Related coverage...

Gothamist,Freddy's Bar & Backroom Opening in South Slope

The New York Observer, Freddy's, the Atlantic Yards-Fightin' Dive Bar, Finds a New Brooklyn Home

Metromix, Bars & Clubs: Freddy's Bar is back!

Eater, After Atlantic Yards Displacement, Freddy's Finds New Home

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Freddy’s Bar Signed Lease for New Fifth Avenue Space

Posted by steve at 7:53 AM

The song cycle "Brooklyn Omnibus," by the new Brooklynites who created "Passing Strange," eventually takes us to the haunted arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Last night I went to the BAM Harvey Theater to see the new song cycle, Brooklyn Omnibus, created by the musicians Stew and Heidi Rodewald, the collaborators on the terrific, quirky, Broadway musical play Passing Strange.

...

There was an encore, a "vampire song" on which Stew had to vamp a bit, since he'd misplaced the lyrics, but, as he sang, "only ghosts have eminent domain/we can't wait 'til the Barclays Center is done."

He continued: "Only the dead have eminent domain/it's the dead's job to drive the living insane."

In other words, even a newcomer knows it's haunted (with a nod to Thomas Wolfe's "Only the Dead Know Brooklyn.")

link

Posted by steve at 7:37 AM

October 22, 2010

MAS Survey on Livability: people say they're satisfied, but dismay regarding (over)development seeps out

Atlantic Yards Report

Though a Municipal Art Society (MAS) survey on livability released yesterday garnered headlines for its seemingly counter-intuitive conclusion that most New Yorkers are happy and find the city livable, it also contains signs of significant discontent regarding development.

And that wariness--72 percent seemingly oppose new housing or housing beyond existing scale in their neighborhoods--suggests a tension between those who like neighborhood scale and the Bloomberg administration's expectation of another 1 million people here by 2030.

Results of this initial poll were not particularly subtle--it would be important to understand attitudes toward development teased out by type of neighborhood, zoning, and transportation options, because the key question is fitting increased density to neighborhoods that can handle it.

article

Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

Adding A few More Off Topic Notes (Or Are They Really?)

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White weaves Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards into a review of entertainment events going on about town.

We have sceen the original version of In the Footprint ("Brooklyn at Eye Level") and we saw the short condensed cabaret version they put together using out-takes performed at Joe's Pub (at the Public) so we know the work is really good and a very entertaining evening. We'll definitely go see it in its third incarnation (and are looking forward to the movie as well).

The Joe's Pub version included the valuable addition of a scene that we didn't remember being in the first version, apparently based on an interview the Civilians did with an employee who worked with and was then fired by Ratner. That really benefitted the piece because it needed some insight into what was going on in the other side in that Ratner corporate world. Unfortunately the Ratner people were not giving interviews.

We admit to be being disappointed (only slightly) that the Civilians have not yet inserted into their piece the scene we suggested where (this is a true story) Ratner snaps his cell phone shut and, on the golf course, tells his golfing companion (a guy who owns a line of successful comic books)- “I just bought myself a basketball team!” (See: Tuesday, November 11, 2008, You Oughta Be in Pictures, . . On Stage, In a Book, In a Documentary.)

If they want to have another really good Ratner scene they can set it in the reception area of Ratner's office where, again absolutely true, Ratner was showing a live video cam projection on his wall of all the Atlantic Yards site property he didn't yet own as he awaited with arrogant assurance the New York Court of Appeals eminent domain abuse decision that would give it to him. See our Noticing New York piece: Tuesday, December 1, 2009, Unfair Substitution of Fiction For Fact in the Atlantic Yards Dialogue.

article

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

October 21, 2010

State IG probes problematic Aqueduct racino bidding; no such investigation was made of Vanderbilt Yard process

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times article today, headlined Report Says State Senators Manipulated Casino Bidding, cites the state Inspector General's report on the Aqueduct "racino":

In a scathing 300-page report [PDF] on the competition to install video slot machines at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, the inspector general described a chaotic and ultimately doomed process that was without formal rules or objective criteria, and was awash in “unrestrained political considerations,” lobbyists and targeted campaign contributions.

But when Forest City Ratner was anointed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard without any competiton--and when an RFP was issued 18 months later--there was no such inquiry.

And, as I argued in March, the Vanderbilt Yard deal was worse.

article

NoLandGrab: These clowns might go down, but we all know nothing ever sticks to "Teflon Bruce."

Posted by eric at 3:53 PM

Reflections on What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs, and the lessons for New York and beyond

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a second look at What We See, the compendium of essays reflecting on Jane Jacobs and her work published this spring, and, no surprise, Atlantic Yards makes an appearance or two.

Note that, when the book was published in May, [Stephen A.] Goldsmith (former Planning Director in Salt Lake City) told Gothamist in an interview:

Large scale projects such as transit infrastructure aside, what we see today are developers who like to fake authenticity at a large scale, who appropriate front porches or mixed-use development as though these ingredients will salvage bad ideas. The ability to design and build large scale projects such as Atlantic Yards has not been stopped, and as as result the people of Brooklyn will have to endure still-unknown consequences of these poor choices.
...

In an epilogue titled Jane's Cup of Tea, civic and social organizer Mary Rowe reflects:

Jane was not sentimental. I had always understood the word to describe a kind of saccharine-sweet, closing fondness for something in the past, but Jane corrected my misunderstanding of the term. To be sentimental was to remember something in an idealized way, which was anathema to her. Many of Jane's reflections about why government policies (and their makers) were so often anti-city were rooted in her observations of this culture's penchant for rural sentimentality.

Were some Atlantic Yards opponents sentimental about not changing neighborhoods? Yes. But they also came up with practical potential solutions.

Are some Atlantic Yards supporters sentimental? Isn't attachment to 10,000 phantom jobs sentimental?

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Posted by eric at 3:38 PM

October 20, 2010

Marty Hypocritz Calls for City Council Approval for Bike Lanes, Atlantic Yards Not So Much

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is upset with the new bike lanes on Prospect Park West and real hot under the collar about them (when isn't he hot under the collar?).

What does he think the solution is? According to the Brooklyn Paper:

“This issue of where to place bike lanes, it’s worthy of review by the City Council,” said Markowitz. “What is our objective in this city? To stigmatize the use of cars? To make it difficult to park? Do we want Brooklyn to replicate Amsterdam? These are legitimate policy issues.
(Emphasis added.)

Right, Markowitz, a few bike lanes to calm traffic on PPW should go under City Council review, but the largest development project in Brooklyn's history shouldn't. Surely there must have been some "legitimate policy issues" raised by Ratner's land grab, no?

(Btw, Brooklyn could learn a lot from Amsterdam.)

link

NoLandGrab: People who disagree with the Borough President might be interested in this.

Photo: Ben Muessig/Brooklyn Paper, via Gothamist

Posted by eric at 4:53 PM

The Last Two on the block

Tracy Collins via Vimeo

6th Avenue near Pacific Street
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

Demolition of 636 Pacific Street (aka The Atlantic Arts Building, aka former Goldstein residence) and 24-6th Avenue (aka The Spalding Building) on October 14, 2010 around 1pm. These are the last two buildings on the block of the Barclays Center Arena of Atlantic Yards. The arena would be bounded by Atlantic Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, Dean Street and 6th Avenue.

This view is looking south on 6th Avenue; Pacific Street is the near intersection, and Dean Street is the far intersection. Pacific Street used to continue right/west past 6th Avenue to Flatbush Avenue, but was "demapped" to make way for the arena. To the right (west) would be the rear end of the arena.

link

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

The Bloomberg administration and Jane Jacobs: the consonance and the disconnect

Atlantic Yards Report

It was a convivial, heartfelt event on Monday night, October 18, when the Rockefeller Foundation awarded the fourth annual Jane Jacobs Medals for new activism and career activism.

Both categories of awards were richly deserved. Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, founder of the Central Park Conservancy, helped revive the city's jewel, once shockingly deteriorated and neglected.

Josh David and Robert Hammond, founder of Friends of the High Line, saw civic possibilities in a long-neglected piece of infrastructure slated for demolition.

And the presenters of each award, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and City Planning Commission Chairperson Amanda Burden, respectively, could proudly, affectionately claim mayoral endorsement for both projects.

And the disconnect

But we shouldn't be misled into thinking that the administration of Mayor Mike Bloomberg and followers of famed urbanist Jane Jacobs are always on the same page.

Consider that, in a video shown to attendees, New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger expressed his amazement--as he has written--that backers of the West Side Stadium portrayed the gargantuan project as expressing Jacobsian mixed-use ideals because it contained retail elements at the street level.

Bloomberg, of course, backed the West Side Stadium to the hilt.

Consider that, in one of her last public statements, Jacobs, who had long lived in Toronto but maintained affection for and attention to New York City, wrote a tough open letter criticizing the Bloomberg administration's plans for rezoning Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

Such criticisms have even more weight today, when those neighborhoods face a disproportionate share of stalled construction sites.

And consider that Benepe and Burden, however committed they are to the Jacobsian ideals, have had to swallow and endorse some very questionable moves by the mayor who appointed them, such as the loss of parkland for a new Yankee Stadium, or the creation of superblocks and surface parking on behalf of the Atlantic Yards project.

article

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

October 19, 2010

The initial Atlantic Yards rhetoric was all about dreams

Atlantic Yards Report

A second look at that first Atlantic Yards flyer (Live. Work. Play…), sent to Brooklynites in May 2004, turns up some remarkably echoey rhetoric.

"It's more than just basketball. It's a dream, it's jobs and it's housing," said Sen. Chuck Schumer.

"This is something that has been the dream of so many people in this great borough for decades, that major league sports would come back to a major league town," declared Gov. George Pataki.

"This is a dream come true for Brooklyn," asserted Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Little did they know.

Maybe the overstated headline--"What Brooklyn Leaders are saying about Atlantic Yards"--should've been a hint.

Only one of the four was a Brooklyn leader, and only two of the four are Brooklyn residents.

And their Atlantic Yards claims, as of now, are more fantasy than reality.

link

NoLandGrab: Yes, they were dreaming, and now we're left with The Nightmare on Pacific Street.

Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

More crime on the supposedly safe LIU campus

The Brooklyn Paper, Police Blotter
by Thomas Tracy

And in Bruce Ratner's allegedly safe Brooklyn malls!

Wallet grab

A thief snagged a wallet from a 33-year-old woman’s handbag as she shopped in the crime-ridden Target at the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Oct. 13.

The woman’s bag was hanging off a baby carriage inside the Flatbush Avenue store between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue at 2 pm when it was rummaged through.

The sticky-fingered thief made several charges on the woman’s credit cards before the theft was reported.

article

Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

Rivals Not the Only Ones Delighted to See the Nets

The New York Times
by Richard Pérez-Peña

The Times must have blocked access to Atlantic Yards Report and NoLandGrab in its newsroom, because it keeps writing fluff about the Nets without a word about Bruce Ratner's green cards-for-cash fundraising scam.

Take a sports team with the worst record and worst attendance in its league. Move it to a new town with a rough reputation. Make it clear in advance that the franchise will stay just a couple of years before relocating again.

It would be easy to forecast a chilly reception in the team’s temporary home. But as the Nets begin a scheduled two-year stint at the Prudential Center here before decamping for the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, there are hints of a surprising warm embrace.

However...

Some people here agree with Julian Rosales, a college student, who said of the Nets, “They’re just using us for a while.”

article

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

October 18, 2010

Is Atlantic Yards on schedule? Not beyond the arena and infrastructure

Atlantic Yards Report

What's the schedule for Atlantic Yards? I queried the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and got the following response from spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell:

With respect to the arena, transit improvements and Carlton Avenue Bridge, the schedule remains unchanged. Construction is expected to be completed in advance of the 2012 Basketball Season (Fall 2012).

With respect to the overall Project Schedule – we have not updated the schedule set forth in the Technical Memorandum. We are hopeful that construction of the first residential tower will commence in 2011.

Looking at the schedule

That revised schedule in the Technical Memorandum (see third page of this PDF, marked p. 6) does update the overall schedule announced in the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

It essentially backs everything up a few years, but it's already out of date. For example, three of the first five towers are supposed to start in 2010, while the other two are supposed to start in 2011.

Also, two of those five buildings are on indefinite hold. There's no market as of now for Building 1, the office tower, which would be built only if an anchor tenant could be found.

Beyond that, the tower slated for Site 5--current home of P.C. Richard and Modell's would also be far in the future. Neither the state nor Forest City Ratner fully control the site, and the state has not yet pursued eminent domain for the site.

The project as a whole is supposed to be finished by 2019, even though penalties for delays on the third tower kick in only after a decade and penalties for the project as a whole kick in only after 25 years.

article

NoLandGrab: Hey, wasn't the Carlton Avenue bridge supposed to be replaced nine months ago? Will Forest City have to start paying fines in February? Yeah, right.

Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

October 17, 2010

Times dispatches Beijing bureau chief to write Sports story about Nets (but not EB-5)

Atlantic Yards Report

In a Sports section article today headlined For the Nets, the Journey Has Just Begun, the New York Times dispatches its Beijing Bureau Chief, Michael Wines, to cover the marketing potential of Mikhail Prokhorov's New Jersey (and future Brooklyn) Nets.

(What hasn't the Times covered? The EB-5 story.)

The article begins with a nod to the team's marketing man:

Brett Yormark is talking about the incredible global marketing potential of the New Jersey Nets, a concept — New Jersey, the Nets and global marketing potential — that might seem unlikely until you hear his pitch, and remember that two years from now, they will probably be the New York Nets.

Probably the New York Nets, not the Brooklyn Nets? I doubt it, but, if so, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz will plotz.

Winner needed

Wines somehow grants newcomer Prokhorov credit for Yormark's global marketing, but offers a caution:

Like the Nets, a number of global corporate entities have bought into Prokhorov’s vision. Barclays Bank, a British company with operations in 50 nations but a low American profile, bought the naming rights to the new Brooklyn arena. Haier, a Chinese state-owned company that is the world’s fourth-biggest appliance maker but is relatively unknown outside China, is another sponsor. So is Willis & Company, an Irish insurance broker. So is Stolichnaya vodka, the arena’s official vodka.

The N.B.A. is a phenomenon here, and outside the Four Seasons this week, Chinese fans were eagerly seeking autographs from N.B.A. players. But here, at least, some people steeped in basketball doubted that the Nets’ global strategy, carefully bolted together as it might be, would work. Chinese fans, they said, do not care whether a team is beloved in Moscow or in East Orange, N.J. They just want it to win.

OK, so that's a balanced story, within the parameters of the story. It's just that there's another story to write.

link

NoLandGrab: The Times's refusal to cover the real story of Bruce Ratner's visit to China is like sending a reporter to cover a fire and then printing a story about the aesthetics of fire hydrants.

Posted by steve at 9:22 AM

Two more Brooklyn Paper letters supporting residential parking permits

Atlantic Yards Report

On 10/9/10, I summarized the debate over residential parking permits.

This week's Brooklyn Paper has two more letters in favor of permits. One, from Park Slope architect Jonathan Cohn, who wrote the Brooklyn Views blog, states:

Your reporter’s misrepresentation of the facts (to make it seem like the issue is about generating additional revenue for the city) is taken up by project opponent Patti Hagen who rails against “yet another new tax.” The parking situation for those of us living near the Atlantic Yards site is already untenable. Commuters drive in from areas that are poorly-served by public transit to park close to the Atlantic/Pacific transit hub in order to shorten their commute. Shoppers at the Atlantic Mall park on our streets to avoid paying for parking at the mall.

This situation will be exacerbated by the Atlantic Yards development, which will draw additional drivers — at extended hours — to look for parking in our neighborhoods.

The solution, as James points out, is residential parking permits (whether they involve token fees or not), and a more robust and extensive transit system that provides more efficient and convenient options for all.

Click on the link to read the letter sent to the Brooklyn Paper by Danae Oratowski, chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council.

link

Posted by steve at 9:19 AM

Dean Street Block Association - Monthly Meeting – October 18, 2010 – 7:30PM

Dean Street Block Association

Monthly Meeting (Held every 3rd Monday of the month except holidays)

TIME: Monday, October 18th 7:30 – 9:00 pm

PLACE:
618 Dean Street, #1B

AGENDA:

o Fall Plans:
          o Love Your Block Grant
          o Tree Bed Guards

o Atlantic Yards:
          o Project Oversight
          o Meeting with ESDC and FCRC
          o Construction Concerns
          o AY Related Traffic and Parking Issues

o Police Enforcement

YOUR INPUT IS ESSENTIAL
EVERYONE IS WELCOME

link

Posted by steve at 8:59 AM

Left for dead, local Acorn remnant revives activism

Crain's New York

ACORN, shill for developer Bruce Ratner has new new name, New York Communities for Change. This article looks at the state of NYCC.

Here we see that Bertha Lewis has departed:

Though NYCC's mission is the same as Acorn's was—housing, education, jobs—much has changed for an outfit better known for organizing than organization. Bertha Lewis, Acorn's longtime public face in New York, left to start up the Black Leadership Institute, which focuses on immigration. Accounting firm Condon O'Meara McGinty & Donnelly and law firm Hughes Hubbard led a restructuring that included forming two new nonprofits—one can accept tax-deductible donations, the other can engage in political efforts.

Help is brought in to try to clean up NYCC's image:

Mark Peters, the state's former chief public corruption prosecutor and a partner at Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, came in to head one of the boards and make NYCC “bulletproof” to critics. “We've done a lot of work building fail-safe systems,” he says.

Someone still seems to think there will be 2,250 units of affordable housing for the Atlantic Yards project, even though only a small portion of those units are likely to ever be built.

An NYCC study expected soon will assert that major landlords discriminate against Section 8 tenants; lawsuits will follow. The post-Acorn group also remains a player at Atlantic Yards, working with the city and developer Forest City Ratner to ensure that 2,250 units of subsidized housing get built near the new Nets arena.

NoLandGrab: It should be interesting to see NYCC try to cash in on promises made by Bruce Ratner to Bertha Lewis regarding affordable units in residential towers that have evaporated from the Atlantic Yards project.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Missing from the Crain's article about ACORN's successor in New York: Ratner bailout, housing doubts

In a Crain's New York Business article headlined Left for dead, local Acorn remnant revives activism, here's the one reference to the connection between New York Communities for Change and Atlantic Yards:

The post-Acorn group also remains a player at Atlantic Yards, working with the city and developer Forest City Ratner to ensure that 2,250 units of subsidized housing get built near the new Nets arena.

Unmentioned:

  • the ability of Forest City Ratner to claim Affordable Housing Subsidy Unavailability, thus delaying the pledge regarding housing
  • the fact that a good chunk of the housing would be at or above market
  • the fact that Forest City Ratner bailed out national ACORN with a $1.5 million loan/grant in late 2008.

Posted by steve at 8:43 AM

Opportunities Abound

Joy's blog on Forest City Enterprises

The author of this blog apparently hasn't gotten word that the Atlantic Yards project will not be built as stated in the past, and will be generating few, if any, benefits to the public.

Forest City Enterprises has turned the threat of the downturn in economy into opportunities for themselves and others. Many of their projects offer employment, housing, and development to communities that were otherwise suffering.

Atlantic Yards (from www.barclayscenter.com)

"Atlantic Yards will span 22 acres and transform the current rail yards and predominantly underutilized and industrial area into 17 new buildings, including the state-of-the-art venue. The $4 billion development will encompass 336,000 square feet of office space, 6.36 million square feet of residential space (6,430 units of affordable, middle-income and market-rate housing), an 18,000 seat sports and entertainment venue - the Barclays Center - 247,000 square feet of retail space, a 165,000-square-foot hotel (180 rooms) and over 8 acres of intricately designed publicly accessible open space.
The development will produce tremendous economic growth for the borough and city, creating more than 16,000 union construction jobs plus over 8,000 permanent jobs, as well as generating over $5.6 billion in tax revenue for the city and state over 30 years."

NoLandGrab: The year 2004 just called, and it wants its Atlantic Yards lies back.

link

Posted by steve at 8:34 AM

October 16, 2010

Two By Tracy Colllins From The Atlantic Yards Footprint

Tracy Collins via Flickr

HOT BIRD's Last Stand

540 Vanderbilt Avenue
near Pacific Street
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

The iconic HOT BIRD sign's days are numbered. Workers were on the roof, beginning demolition. Word on the street is that it will take about a month before it's gone. The other buildings on this block (812 Pacific Street, 810 Pacific Street, 808 Pacific Street) will soon being coming down, too.

Watch a time-lapse video on Vimeo.


The Last Two on the block time-lapse

6th Avenue near Pacific Street
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

Demolition of 636 Pacific Street (aka The Atlantic Arts Building, aka former Goldstein residence) and 24-6th Avenue (aka The Spalding Building) on October 14, 2010 around 1pm. These are the last two buildings on the block of the Barclays Center Arena of Atlantic Yards. The arena would be bounded by Atlantic Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, Dean Street and 6th Avenue.

This view is looking south on 6th Avenue; Pacific Street is the near intersection, and Dean Street is the far intersection. Pacific Street used to continue right/west past 6th Avenue to Flatbush Avenue, but was "demapped" to make way for the arena. To the right (west) would be the rear end of the arena.

Watch this video on Vimeo. Video created by tracy collins.

Posted by steve at 8:05 AM

So, how was Atlantic Yards massaged for the media? Ask DKC

Atlantic Yards Report

Would you like to help break up a lively Brooklyn neighborhood on behalf of a billionaire developer? If so, you might enjoy a career in public relations.

The public relations and marketing firm DKC (formerly Dan Klores Associates) is proud of its work on Atlantic Yards, as summarized in a case study.

(They're leaving out brochure-maker KnickerbockerSKD, now known as SKDKnickerbocker, now home to former Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt. And we can't forget the role, as I explained 11/1/05, of "dark genius" Joe DePlasco, a DKC managing director.)

From the DKC site

Forest City Ratner
objectives

DKC was retained by Forest City Ratner Companies, one of the country’s leading developers, to prepare the groundwork for a Frank Gehry-designed development in the Atlantic Yards near downtown Brooklyn.

strategy

The cornerstone of DKC’s strategy was a community and media awareness program consisting of outreach to local advocates and activists around affordable housing, public space development, sustainable development and other community and design benefits.

DKC handled all messaging for the development over the next four plus years, including media materials, local, national and international, along with all media events, including everything from individual reporter walking tours to international press conferences with Frank Gehry and the landscape architect Lauri Olin.

result highlights

In addition to dealing with all levels of media, DKC arranged for numerous editorial board and opinion meetings, ultimately winning support for the project from the New York Times, Daily News, New York Post, Newsday and Crains. DKC also secured coverage of the project throughout the United States and in outlets in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, and Japan, among many others.

link

Posted by steve at 7:30 AM

October 15, 2010

Gehry: loss of arena commission "had nothing to do with me or [Ratner], it had to do with circumstances"

Atlantic Yards Report

They still love Frank Gehry in New York, as the starchitect appeared Wednesday, 10/13/10 at the 92nd Street Y, interviewed by New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger, to much acclaim.

The discussion was wide-ranging, though Gehry spent a good deal of time discussing his latest New York building, the striking Beekman Tower (aka 8 Spruce Street) in Lower Manhattan, the borough's tallest residential building.

There was a bare mention of Atlantic Yards. Gehry said he and developer Bruce Ratner "are really good friends" and that his loss of the project--for a smaller, cheaper arena not as coupled with four towers--"had nothing to do with me or him, it had to do with circumstances."

article

Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

More on the Most Recent Abdication of Judicial Responsibility on Eminent Domain

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB has a press release from the East Harlem Alliance of Responsible Merchants, regarding a NYS Supreme Court's decision this week to allow the seizure of private property on 125th Street.

EAST HARLEM ALLIANCE OF RESPONSIBLE MERCHANTS LAWSUIT DISMISSED BY COURT

(New York, NY – October 14, 2010) – The NYS Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, unanimously affirmed the dismissal of all claims made by EHARM in their fight against the East Harlem M/E/C LLC. East 125th Street project; despite the misuse of municipal might, power, and procedure to take private, productive commercial property and hand it over to a secretly selected development group, beset by trouble.
...

We are responsible owners," said Fancy Dry Cleaner's Damon Bae, one of the property owners who filed the Petition and a spokesman for the group. "We maintained our land and grew our businesses over the past decades, but we are also being victimized by the City. The City neglects its own property, and then cries 'blight' so it can take our property and give it to some politically connected developer."

"What all this points to is that a rich guy can pay his way to hire the government to seize private land so that he can make more money", said Bae. "Say for example that you had a single-family house in a large parcel of land that was passed down from generation to generation in what all of a sudden became the next up and coming neighborhood. A large developer with deep pockets can now come in, make significant payments to a few very well connected individuals, hire the government to call your house "underutilized" (since after all, you are only one family occupying a large parcel of land only for yourself, while a large condo building can be built that can house 100 families) and have your house condemned. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

link

NoLandGrab: That, sadly, is pretty much the way things are in New York State today.

Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

5 Better Names for the New Jay Street-Borough Hall Station

The L Magazine
by Benjamin Sutton

Did you know that as part of its decades-in-the-making makeover and swallowing up of the nearby Lawrence Street station, the Jay Street-Borough Hall subway station in Downtown Brooklyn will be changing names to "Jay Street-MetroTech"? How cold and quasi-Orwellian does that sound, right? The Post points out that the new A, C, F, N and R superstation has been in the works since 2007, and completion is still a long way off, so maybe they're still taking suggestions for better names than the retro-futuristic "Jay Street-MetroTech."

Because, you know, it's an almost equally massive perpetual construction site down there.

link

Photo: jag9889

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

Ratner reneged

The Brooklyn Paper, Letters

Bruce Ratner, Atlantic Yards and residential parking permits figure prominently in this week's letters section.

To the editor,

Bruce Ratner has reneged on all of his promises, instead bringing chaos, noise, dirt and traffic to the community (“Plaza Sweet — Ratner unveils new front for his Barclays Center,” Oct. 1).

He promised 7,200 units of below market-rate housing, thousands of jobs and other public benefits. There was even talk of a school to help accommodate families with children moving in at one meeting I attended. It seems the only people who will benefit live in Russia. A Russian owns 85 percent of the Nets and 45 percent of the area.

Bruce Ratner sold everyone a bill of goods. He took our tax money and will continue to do so. Let him give back to Brooklyn by footing the bill for all the residential parking permits.

Sharron Staton, Windsor Terrace

The facts are a little off (Ratner promised 2,250 below-market units, Prokhorov allegedly owns 80% of the Nets), but you get the point.

Click through for more where that came from.

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

IN THE FOOTPRINT announces cast and opening night, 11/22

OffOffBroadwayWorld.com
by Robert Lawlor

The renowned investigative theatre company, The Civilians has announced casting and opening night for its world premiere of IN THE FOOTPRINT: THE BATTLE OVER ATLANTIC YARDS, a new play with music, beginning previews November 12 prior to an official opening night on November 22 at the Irondale Center (85 South Oxford St.) in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Written and directed by Steven Cosson ("Gone Missing," "This Beautiful City,"), co-written with Jocelyn Clarke and with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman ("Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," "This Beautiful City"), IN THE FOOTPRINT is a lively theatrical chronicle of the widely-publicized conflicts surrounding the largest land development project in Brooklyn's history at the Atlantic Avenue rail yards.

Featured in the cast of IN THE FOOTPRINT are Matthew Dellapina (The Civilians' "(I Am) Nobody's Lunch"), Greg McFadden ("The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" on Broadway), Colleen Werthmann ("Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" at The Public Theater, The Civilians' "Gone Missing"), Billy Eugene Jones ("Passing Strange," "A Raisin in the Sun" on Broadway), Donnetta Lavinia Grays ("In The Next Room," "Well" on Broadway) and Simone Moore.

article

Click here to buy tickets.

Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

October 14, 2010

The Story Behind the Atlantic Yards Green Card Controversy

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

In The Observer's profile of Atlantic Yards watchdog Norman Oder, the master blogger laments how the mainstream media has ignored his biggest expose to date: plans by the state and developer Forest City Ratner to essentially sell green cards to Chinese investors in exchange for backing the arena-cum-condos project on the edge of brownstone Brooklyn.

If you are generous enough to lump The Observer in with the rest of the MSM, then — full disclosure — we have fallen short, too. But for two brief mentions, the Real Estate Desk has yet to take a serious look at the EB-5 saga. Perhaps it is time to address this "dereliction of duty," to quote Mr. Oder, and closely consider this latest twist in this most tangled of projects.
...

[I]t is not clear that Forest City Ratner or the state are doing anything illegal here. Just because Mayor Bloomberg, Marty Markowitz, Jay-Z and the Nets are shilling for this project (as hilarious graphics Mr. Oder turned up show) does not mean they are doing anything wrong. In fact, it tends to fit with the behind-the-scenes, bending-the-rules nature that has plagued the project from its inception.

Then again, his frustration with the media for ignoring the story is understandable. Illegal or not, the papers have written about far more minor infractions by developers, politicians and joe sixpacks all over the city. Why they continue to ignore this story is a mystery. Whether they can for much longer remains to be seen.

As Mr. Oder recently told The Observer, he has plenty more bombshells to come. "This story is far from over," he said.

article

Posted by eric at 10:09 PM

Some props from the Observer on the EB-5 story, but more reporting is needed

Atlantic Yards Report

While I appreciate that the New York Observer's Matt Chaban was willing to recount the high points of my EB-5 coverage, and I appreciate the observation that my "frustration with the media for ignoring the story is understandable," that's not quite enough.

The government agencies backing this plan, the developer, and the New York City Regional Center need to show their math regarding the ten jobs that each of 498 investors is supposed to create or save.

link

Posted by eric at 7:37 PM

Nearing the end of the film

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

It was almost a year ago that we launched our kickstarter campaign in order to raise money to help us finish our film. I know that some of you are wondering where the film is. Well, I'm happy to tell you that it's nearly finished. We continued to film for 7 months after the campaign because the story simply wasn't over- and it continues to evolve in exciting ways.

After 7 years of shooting and editing we can truly see the light at the end of the tunnel. All our efforts right now are going into finalizing the cut and positioning the film for a big launch at a winter film festival. We are in the process of applying to some of the bigger ones and still working hard on making the film as powerful as possible.

We have made great progress on the cut in the last month. When it gets close to the end even small changes have a big impact on the film and it's exciting to see it get more powerful with each pass.

For us, the film ends when Daniel, Shabnam, and Sita leave their apartment (which happened in May). However, the story has become big news again recently, which will help us get the film out there in a big way- because this news makes the story more relevant, and important, than ever.
...

We recently got a nice write up in the NY Press
http://www.nypress.com/article-21719-the-next-generation.html

We have started a facebook page for the film if you'd like to get more frequent information about our progress.

http://www.facebook.com/...

link

Posted by eric at 1:40 PM

Sports as distraction? Zirin takes on Chomsky and Eagleton

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a look at differing views over the role of sports in society.

article

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

New York Appellate Judge James Catterson: “there is no longer any judicial oversight of eminent domain proceedings”

Reason Hit & Run
by Damon Root

All of which brings us to yesterday’s unanimous appellate court ruling in Matter of Uptown Holdings v. City of New York. As befits a lower court, the judges consider themselves bound by the precedents set by the state’s highest court. What does that mean in practice? Here’s the entirety of Judge James Catterson’s depressing and all-too-accurate concurring opinion:

In my view, the record amply demonstrates that the neighborhood in question is not blighted, that whatever blight exists is due to the actions of the City and/or is located far outside the project area, and that the justification of under-utilization is nothing but a canard to aid in the transfer of private property to a developer. Unfortunately for the rights of the citizens affected by the proposed condemnation, the recent rulings of the Court of Appeals in Matter of Goldstein v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp. (2009) and Matter of Kaur v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp. (2010), have made plain that there is no longer any judicial oversight of eminent domain proceedings. Thus, I am compelled to concur with the majority.

As I noted in a column last month, the victimized property owners in the Columbia University case have now asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review New York’s actions (the Court refused to hear the Atlantic Yards case in 2008). Judge Catterson’s opinion is yet more evidence why the Supreme Court needs to start paying attention to New York’s eminent domain abuse.

article

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

DiSanto to Voters: Golden Responsible For Status Quo After Nearly a Decade in Albany

Atlas Shrugs in Brooklyn
by Dagny Taggart

Atlantic Yards-loving political hack Marty Golden is taking some flak from fellow Republicans — those of the reform variety.

Now, even before our blog took a critical look at Golden, a fellow Republican, he has never done anything to convince us or our readers that we are wrong in any way. He has never commented regarding our local GOP coverage and has kept entirely to himself, even as the local media has taken interest.

This campaign apparently has not provoked a different response from him.

But Golden continues to make a huge mistake by allowing a vacuum to form around him with GOP voters. Let’s not forget–and Mr. DiSanto intimates this in his statement–Sen. Golden has had some tough press lately. First, it was his involvement with Atlantic Yards. Then, it was his flip-flop on a critical piece of gun legislation. Most recently, he has been noticeably absent during crucial votes in the Senate.

article

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

October 13, 2010

Justice Catterson, forced to defer to the condemnors, concludes that "there is no longer any judicial oversight of eminent domain proceedings"

Atlantic Yards Report

A law review article I co-authored this spring with Amy Lavine argues that judges have become too deferential to condemning agencies and don't examine eminent domain sufficiently:

The courts have repeatedly used the principle of legislative deference to pass on the difficult issues—such as whether an arena is really a public good, whether private developers should be able to dictate that public good, the meaning of “blight,” and when a project changes so much as to require reapproval.

A judge reinforces the argument

Yesterday (as per DDDB), Appellate Division Justice James Catterson let loose with a blistering coda to that argument, concurring reluctantly in a decision upholding eminent domain:

In my view, the record amply demonstrates that the neighborhood in question is not blighted, that whatever blight exists is due to the actions of the City and/or is located far outside the project area, and that the justification of under-utilization is nothing but a canard to aid in the transfer of private property to a developer. Unfortunately for the rights of the citizens affected by the proposed condemnation, the recent rulings of the Court of Appeals in Matter of Goldstein v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp., 13 NY3d 511 [the Atlantic Yards case] and Matter of Kaur v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp., 15 NY3d 235, [the Columbia University case] (2010), have made plain that there is no longer any judicial oversight of eminent domain proceedings. Thus, I am compelled to concur with the majority.

Catterson background

Catterson is noted for some forceful opinions in cases related to the two above.

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NolandGrab: Again we ask — can someone tell us under what circumstances New York State can't seize property through its power of eminent domain?

Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

A profile in the Observer: "Brooklyn's Angry Man" (and the absence of the Times on the EB-5 story)

Atlantic Yards Report

On September 21, when news that I was leaving my job to write a book about Atlantic Yards surfaced, the New York Observer covered it in their Real Estate blog.

They told me they wanted to run a piece in print, but that didn't happen, as Lockhart Steele, he of the nationwide Curbed ambitions (appropriately) merited precedence as The Player. (Moi?)

However, my coverage of the EB-5 controversy apparently was enough of a hook for them to return to the idea of a print article, so this week we have Brooklyn’s Angry Man: Norman Oder Plans to Keep Up the Fight.

I wouldn't say I'm keeping up the fight so much as continuing to dig.

In closing

The close of the piece references my expectation that news about the project would slow down, and how it hasn't:

That was before Mr. Oder broke one of his biggest scoops ever, a plan by Forest City Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards, to arrange thousands of green cards for Chinese investors to drum up $249 million for the project, using a program known as EB-5. Mr. Oder revealed how the numbers on the program do not add up, as well as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's planned trip to China to stump for it. Mr. Markowitz canceled after the Post re-reported Mr. Oder's findings. And yet the only other outlets to pick up on it were the Journal and the Daily News (and the story may have been leaked to the Journal before Mr. Oder's post to steal his thunder).

The Transom asked Mr. Oder to name his favorite restaurant. He arched his eyebrows and responded, "Totonno's, in Coney Island."

Really?

"Come on!" he declared, becoming momentarily exasperated. "You should be writing about the EB-5 scandal, not Norman's favorite fucking restaurants."

I'm not sure the Observer should accept that I "revealed" how the numbers don't add up. I'd rather they do some reporting and come to a conclusion.

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Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Brooklyn’s Angry Man: Norman Oder Plans to Keep Up the Fight

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

Norman Oder was standing at the corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street in Prospect Heights last Saturday explaining the cappuccino test. "I have a friend that says if you can get a cappuccino within one block, the area can't be blighted."

He was referring to Atlantic Yards, the 22-acre project that will include a new arena for the Brooklyn Nets and possibly 6,400 apartments, assuming the developer, Bruce Ratner, can find more financing for the $4.9 billion project. Mr. Ratner had acquired much of the land between here and Atlantic and Flatbush avenues based on the argument that the area was blighted. With the backing of the state and the attendant threat of eminent domain, he forced a number of businesses and homeowners out, though not before a seven-year fight.

Mr. Oder led the Transom on a brief stroll down Dean. He knows the place well, having written 3,980 posts—and counting—on his Atlantic Yards Report, the blog he launched in September 2005. He is accustomed to giving tours, operating a company that leads them all over Brooklyn, though far less often since the blog took off.
...

"I'm motivated by my recognition that reality as I understand it does not comport with what's being represented," he said. "It requires skepticism and what may be perceived as advocacy journalism. I argue the opposite, that taking a lot of this at face value is a dereliction of duty."

He points to the lead Metro story in a recent Times about the drinking habits of MetroNorth riders compared to LIRR riders. "What the fuck?" Mr. Oder said. "That could be a cute little blog post, but why that needs to take up prime real estate in the paper, I don't know. It's a dereliction of duty."

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NoLandGrab: Oder is not so much angry as he is aghast at the failure of any mainstream media outlet to blow the lid off the biggest land-grab scam in New York's history.

Photo: Jonathan Barkey

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

City Issues Demolition Permit For Last Building in Way of Arena

NetsDaily

New York City has issued a demolition permit for the last structure standing in the way of Barclays Center: Daniel Goldstein's condominium building. The demolition will take as long as five months to complete. The building at 636 Pacific Street is strategically situated, sitting roughly where arena center court will be, and was also a symbol of the critics' resistance. Goldstein, spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy, was the last holdout in the arena footprint until bought out for $3 million in April. Demolition of the only other building in the arena footprint is nearly complete.

link

Click here to see the demolition permit [PDF].

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

October 12, 2010

NY Appellate Judge: "there is no longer any judicial oversight of eminent domain proceedings"

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

It's official — the answer to the question "when can't New York State take your home or business for any reason it dreams up" is "never."

From DDDB, in full.

It is truly a sad (and despicable and dangerous) state of affairs when New York's judicial branch admits that it has explicitly turned itself into a bystander when it comes to the 5th Amendment (perhaps the SCOTUS will have something else to say about this soon).

The following is a concurring opinion in a unanimous Appellate Division ruling against property owners challenging New York City's use of eminent domain for private gain in East Harlem:

Decided on October 12, 2010
Mazzarelli, J.P., Sweeny, Catterson, Renwick, Manzanet-Daniels, JJ.

In re Uptown Holdings, LLC, et al., Petitioners,
v
City of New York, et al., Respondents.

...CATTERSON, J. (concurring)
In my view, the record amply demonstrates that the neighborhood in question is not blighted, that whatever blight exists is due to the actions of the City and/or is located far outside the project area, and that the justification of under-utilization is nothing but a canard to aid in the transfer of private property to a developer. Unfortunately for the rights of the citizens affected by the proposed condemnation, the recent rulings of the Court of Appeals in Matter of Goldstein v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp., 13 NY3d 511, 893 N.Y.S.2d 472, 921 N.E.2d 164 (2009) and Matter of Kaur v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp., 15 NY3d 235, —- N.E.2d —— (2010), have made plain that there is no longer any judicial oversight of eminent domain proceedings. Thus, I am compelled to concur with the majority.
(Emphasis added.)

It should be noted that Catterson's concurrence is a none too subtle mega-tweak of New York state's highest court.

The question is begged: if New York courts aren't going to do their job when it comes to powerful interests taking New Yorkers' homes and businesses, and New York's elected officials are happy to pretend this isn't a problem, what is a New Yorker supposed to do?

link

Posted by eric at 9:03 PM

IN THE FOOTPRINT TIX ON SALE

This email message hit our in-box this afternoon.

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Check out video from our workshop production and take a peek at our Investigation Photos HERE!

In the Footprint tells the story of Brooklyn's largest development project in history, examining the conflicts that erupted in the case of Atlantic Yards through to the current resolution in an attempt to discover how the fate of the city is decided in present-day New York and what can be learned from this epic and ongoing story of politics, money, and the places we call home. The play is constructed from interviews with the real life players in the story of Brooklyn, including local residents, business owners, political leaders such as Letitia James and Marty Markowitz, union members, and community leaders.

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at The Irondale Center
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Click here to purchase!

Posted by eric at 3:41 PM

From Matt Taibbi's "Is American Sports Ready for a Real Gangster?"

Atlantic Yards Report

Wrote Daily News Sports columnist Mike Lupica 10/10/10:

Matt Taibbi gives Mikhail Prokhorov more of a vetting in the current Men's Journal than David Stern ever did.

Indeed, considering Taibbi's pungent observations ("Is American Sports Ready for a Real Gangster?"), in retrospect, even the tough part of the 60 Minutes profile last March of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, now the principal owner of the New Jersey Nets, was pretty gentle.

Consider the treatment of Prokhorov's remarkable rise; 60 Minutes reported:

In 1995, Prokhorov and [partner Vladimir] Potanin's bank won the equivalent of the Russian lottery: Kremlin leaders gave them what amounted to an insider's opportunity to buy one of the state's most valuable assets - a huge mining and metal operation called Norilsk Nickel, which is among the world's largest producers of nickel, copper and platinum.

They acquired it from the Kremlin in a so-called auction for the measly sum of a few hundred million dollars, in a process that even Prokhorov's business partner admitted wasn't perfect and probably not even legal under western standards. But it was legal in Russia.

Taibbi, in a Fox Business News interview promoting the article, called the process a scandal.

Auctions "shamelessly" rigged

Here's an excerpt from the article (not online), which offers a bit more context:

The auctions, at least by American standards, were shamelessly, transparently, hilariously rigged. The essence of the scam was the transfer of the state-controlled industrial jewels of the Soviet empire into the hands of a very small group of politically connected individuals. And the best example of them involved Norilsk Nickel... Prokhorov's bank, Oneximbank, helped run the auction, then got itself declared the winner after bidding $170 million to manage a 38 percent stake in a company then worth $1.2 billion. Irrelevant was the fact that another firm had bid twice as much.

The NBA vetting

Taibbi's take: "Who did the checking? Stevie Wonder?

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NoLandGrab: "Irrelevant was the fact that another firm had bid twice as much?" Where have we heard that one before?

Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

Chinese EB-5 Website Reports Atlantic Yards Report on NYCRC NETS Project

EB-5 Blog: Regional Centers in the USA
by Brian Su

Hey Norman Oder! You're ruining our scam — and the Chinese are starting to notice!

Atlantic Yards Report's negative blogging on NYCRC NETS project also draws attention from Shanghai based EB-5 Internet portal "Come2USA.com" - a popular Chinese language website that serves Chinese audience and prospective EB-5 investors. The website has been reporting Atlantic Yards daily blogs and updates on the NYCRC project.

link

Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

Hailstorm's icy aftermath in Brooklyn

amNY
by Rolando Pujol

A few weeks back, it was a tornado. Now, Brooklyn and other parts of the city can add intense hailstorm to their collective meteorological memory bank.

The storm that blew through Monday night pelted parts of Brooklyn with enough ice pellets to leave an accumulation that could easily be mistaken for a slushy January snow bank. The storm also denuded countless tree branches whose leaves had not yet attained their autumnal hues. The photo above was taken at Flatbush Avenue next to the Atlantic Yards construction site, several hours after the storm. A few more photos here and here.

The New York Times reports that in the past quarter century, Brooklyn has seen hail only five times prior to Monday night, making this storm unusual indeed.

Tornado? Check. Hailstorm? Check. What's next? A Halloween blizzard?

link

NoLandGrab: What's next? Atlantic Yards — the curse that brought all this stuff on us in the first place.

Photo: Rolando Pujol

Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

October 11, 2010

Green Cards for Sale? Atlantic Yards Backers Seek Chinese Investors

The Huffington Post
by Norman Oder

Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder brings the tale of Bruce Ratner's green cards-for-cash scam to The Huffington Post.

You don't have to favor restricting immigration to grow skeptical about a little-known federal program known as EB-5, which provides green cards to foreign millionaires if they park money here for a few years.

Not only does it look like the United States is selling visas, but the terms are easier than in other countries. The visa program was approved by Congress two decades ago as a job-creation effort (EB = "employment-based"), but today immigrant investors don't have to directly create jobs.

A look at the largest-ever EB-5 project, an attempt to raise $249 million for the uber-controversial Atlantic Yards project (arena plus skyscrapers) in Brooklyn, provokes more skepticism. After all, proponents admit that the funding won't create new jobs--and "jobs" were a justification for subsidies the project has already received.

So, if a seven-city promotional tour in China that kicks off this week is successful, here's what may happen: 498 millionaires, most of them Chinese, will each park $500,000 for five years in an investment fund, organized by the privately-owned New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) at the behest of developer Forest City Ratner (FCR).

article

Posted by eric at 8:48 PM

Lots of winners (but not the public interest) in effort to raise $249M for Atlantic Yards via "green cards for investors"; FCR could save $100 million

Atlantic Yards Report

When you run the numbers, there seem to be a lot of winners in the effort to market green cards for investments totaling $249 million in the Atlantic Yards project.

Those benefiting include:

  • immigrant investors and their families
  • the operators of the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC)
  • immigration attorneys
  • developer Forest City Ratner (by far the largest beneficiary)

Missing? The public interest, especially if no new jobs are created (as admitted) and this new investment does not actually retain jobs (as I've argued).

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NoLandGrab: Bet you could've never guessed that Bruce Ratner would be the biggest winner in this government-sponsored scam, right?

Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

Noting One Oddity, The Times, in Another, Neglects Obvious Explanations: Ratner’s EB-5 Green Cards Sale; A Reason For the Nets To Go To China, And. . .

Noticing New York

Why are the Nets going, as the article reports, to China and Russia? Though the article pronounces it odd that they are going abroad and then spends most of its time tendering possible explanations, it passes up taking a crack at the possible explanations that would seem to be the most logical, but perhaps also the most impertinent to mention.

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report specifically mentions this particular Times sports story (“The Sports section, however, is all over the Nets' trip to China.”) in writing about how the Times has avoided reporting on the scandalous sale of green cards in China by Ratner and Prokhorov to finance their nets arena.

The sports section may be “all over the Nets' trip to China” except that it isn't reporting that the likely explanation as to why the Nets owners have made it a priority for the Nets to go to China is the EB-5 green cards the owners are selling to the Chinese, something the Times apparently doesn’t want to report about. Also not mentioned is that New York state and local government officials have been expecting to tag along with Ratner to sell the U.S. issued green cards with him in China.
...

We have a question for the Times: If, in their estimation, now is not the time to report on the EB-5 green card selling scandal and the dark not-so-secret back stories relating to Prokhorov’s wealth, then when will those things be discussed in the gray lady’s pages? Maybe it is just that the Times reporters, sports reporters and others, are not able to read Chinese. The answer then would be to hire a Chinese translator which is what Mr. Oder did and the reason he has consequently been able to keep breaking new gripping stories in his series about the EB-5 scandal.

What are New Yorkers left to do when the Time sidelines itself this way? Here's one thing we can tell you: If, as the Times reports, “The Nets are creating a Russian-language Web site” then New Yorkers are all going to have to hope that Mr. Oder opens his wallet up one more time for another translator, a Russian one. If he doesn’t, with the Times asleep, we will probably miss out on some major news stories that matter a great deal to our city’s local politics.

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Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Prokhorov Flies Nets to Moscow for Pep Talk on Global Ambitions

Bloomberg
by Yuriy Humber

Speaking of fluff, Bloomberg reports on the Nets' "global ambitions" while, like The New York Times, ignoring Bruce Ratner's global green cards-for-cash scam.

Nets point guard Devin Harris said he wants to learn more about the owner and how he earned his fortune early on in life, Harris said.

“It’s not just that he’s Russian,” Harris said in an interview. “He’s proven to be the best in pretty much anything that he’s touched and he has a feel for the game. Those things are recipes for success.”
...

Prokhorov’s approach to business and marketing drive could help the Nets players as much off-court and in their game, said Nets guard Harris.

“We’re all trying to put together our own private entities as well as put together a global icon,” Harris said. “And I’m just curious about how his mind works.”

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NoLandGrab: The article incorrectly hews to the original claim of a 20-year, $400-million naming-rights deal between Barclays and Ratner, which for almost a year now has been exposed as being worth just half that amount.

Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

Times Covers Nets Fluff Instead of Bruce Ratner's Green Cards for Cash Deal in China

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Bruce Ratner's ol' friend, The New York Times, is looking the other way when it comes to a Ratner story involving local, federal and international intrigue — the scamful green cards for cash trip to China Ratner is taking with the Empire State Development Corp. You know, the story Norman Oder has been blowing out of the water the past few weeks (and the one the Daily News and the Post haven't totally ignored.)

link

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

Dear Melo: A postcard from Purgatory

If you agree to leave Denver for the Prudential Center, don't say we didn't warn you

ESPN New York
by Chris Sheridan

Time for an open letter to Carmelo Anthony, whose acquisition will remain the No. 1 quest for the New Jersey Nets between now and the trading deadline in mid-February.

Dear Melo:

Greetings from Purgatory, where the Nets played their final home game of the preseason Saturday afternoon and pulled off the impossible, making three 3-pointers in the final 12.5 seconds to come back from a seven-point deficit and defeat Philadelphia 90-89.

I call it Purgatory because that's the most fitting name for the Prudential Center, the downtown Newark arena the Nets will call home for the next two seasons until they make their move to the borough where you were born, Brooklyn.
...

If you decide what Jay-Z whispered in your ear over the summer (unofficially, of course, because otherwise it would be tampering) is enough to convince you to be the centerpiece of that move to Brooklyn in 2012, you at least need to have a scouting report on what you'll experience in Newark in the interim.

First, the Pru Center is a nicer place than the Meadowlands, but it is not without its faults.

For example, on the short walk from the court to the Nets' locker room there are seven -- yes, seven -- large metal rodent traps tucked in the corners but in clear view if you look closely enough.

Second, it is cold inside.
...

Third, it's loud, but in a crass way. If you want to hear an announcer shout, "Who wants a T-shirt?" in a voice so amplified they can probably hear it all the way down in Piscataway (the Nets' purgatory when the Meadowlands was being built), this is the place for you. Yep, no one does artificial noise like the Nets, who used to pipe recorded crowd noise over the loudspeakers in their old home to make up for the lack of people in the seats making actual noise.

You'll see odd things here in Newark, too, like the moment Saturday between the third and fourth quarters in which the significant other of former Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner ran along the baseline to give an extended greeting and hug to referee Violet Palmer. You'll also see a large, black curtain draping off a whole section of the upper deck, hiding a huge swath of seats that will likely go unsold every night, except when the Heat or Lakers are in town.

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Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Brooklyn, NY Focus

Mole's Progressive Democrat

Once again, I told you so: This really nails it: Ratner's job promises were full of shit...More: Atlantic Yards Construction Jobs Lag 95% Behind Projections...I was attacked by some union supporters of Ratner's when I predicted this. But sure enough, it came true. Funny how Bloomberg, Markowitz, Bill de Blasio and Bertha Lewis, who all repeated Ratner's lies to us, are awfully quiet now that they have been proven to be either cronies of Ratner's or fooled by Ratner.

link

Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

October 10, 2010

For Chinese as well as English speakers, a summary of my prior reportage on EB-5 financing of the Atlantic Yards/Barclays Center Project

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder recaps his coverage of Bruce Ratner's only-in-Atlantic Yards green cards-for-cash financing scheme, in the "traditional" English as well as Chinese.

For those who have not read my coverage of the EB-5 immigrant investor program run by the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) and its pitch to prospective Chinese investors in the Atlantic Yards Project, here is a summary of issues:

1) Despite the promotional material (as in the graphic below), this EB-5 project has no direct connection to the Nets basketball or the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The developer in Brooklyn, Forest City Ratner (FCR), is seeking $249 million in additional financing principally to build a new railyard, which it must build as part of the concession granted by state and local government for FCR to build a basketball area and permitting it as well to develop adjacent lots for residential and commercial purposes.

(If FCR obtains EB-5 financing it will be saving tens of millions of dollars in interest that it would otherwise have to pay as a result of borrowing from the bond markets.)

The railyard is part of related infrastructure for the overall project, which would include 16 towers over 22 acres, along with the arena.

2) This EB-5 project has almost nothing to do with the Barclays Center, the planned arena (or stadium), which is intended to house an NBA team.

NYCRC says that the "project" for which it seeks investment consists of the arena, infrastructure, and the railyard. The costs of constructiing the arena and much of the infrastructure, however, were already funded through bonds and subsidies reserved to those purposes.

3) This EB-5 project is based on job-creation calculations justifying visas for participating Chinese investors, which are, at minimum, difficult to understand.

The project's proponents assert that the investment would create or retain 7696 jobs. It is unlikely that the proposed $249 million in financing could create or retain so many jobs, however.

Nor does it appear plausible that the cited job-creation number is based on the jobs created by adding the $249 million either to existing funding to build the arena or to future construction, which is not yet funded.

Jobs resulting from construction of the arena do not depend on FCR obtaining this new funding, only jobs resulting from construction of the railyard do. Jobs resulting from new residential or commercial development will require financing substantially above the $249 million sought through EB-5.

4) Since the "project" does not in fact appear to include the arena, the resulting share and to prospective immigrant investors would seem to be much higher than the 17% figure marketed by NYCRC. That would increase the net risk.

5) The developer likely has the means to proceed with the project without the additional low-cost financing sought from Chinese investors.

For example, FCR's parent company, Forest City Enterprises, has more than $467 million in cash and credit capacity, according to its 9/8/10 earnings release.

6) A representative of the NYCRC was unable to answer a simple, direct question from immigrant investors: why, if one of the partners in the project is the Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, is any new money needed?

FCR may not be seeking more money from Prokhorov because, like most major investors, he would do so only in exchange for an increased share of the project.

7) Even though he was supposed to attend NYCRC investment seminars in China, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz--essentially the "mayor" of one of New York City's five districts--will not be going.

He dropped out of the tour shortly after bad publicity circulated about the questionable assumptions underlying EB-5 financing of the Atlantic Yard project.

8) Websites promoting this project give incorrect figures about jobs. Consider this statement attributed to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer: "Brooklyn has already begun its renaissance, bringing a professional ball team into the district as well as 10,000 new jobs – all these are proofs of our achievements."

Schumer made that claim in 2004, when there was supposed to be space for 10,000 office jobs in four towers. Now, only one office tower is planned, and it's indefinitely postponed. And as noted above, the "project" as defined for Chinese investors does not include any of the towers.

9) Unlike some other EB-5 programs, there is no suggestion that investors would get a return on their investment. The promise is that investors would get their principal back, after paying $38,000.

10) If the principal is not returned, investors are supposed to be assured the safety of their investment because of collateral.

But despite suggestions that it consists of "land," that collateral is something more complex and much less liquid: a share of development rights in the remainder of the project.

Any group of immigrant investors would appear unlikely to develop the remainder of the Atlantic Yards project without a sophisticated local partner who has experience in development. That suggests that a partner like FCR itself would be needed; if so, it would take back some share of those development rights.

11) In the video below, Gregg D. Hayden promises that the "the Barclays Center is... the most significant project in the city and state of New York in the last 20 years" and "it generates well in excess of 10,000 jobs for years to come."

However, no government agency studying the project has claimed "it generates well in excess of 10,000 jobs for years to come." Moreover, many people believe that Ground Zero, the construction after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, is a more significant project.

12) One of the NYCRC's Managing Principals, Paul Levinsohn, was investigated (but not indicted) for a scheme in which he and a partner were able to place billboards on state land within cities that didn't want them.

Levinsohn's then-boss, New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, said "the whole thing looked atrocious."

article

Posted by eric at 10:29 PM

Barclays Center Arena, with Daniel Goldstein's former home?

Tracy Collins via Flickr

This is a rendering of the current design of the Barclays Center Arena of Atlantic Yards. When this rendering (by SHoP Architects) was revealed at a public meeting on the new plaza design (on the right in the photo), I thought I had recognized the building in the background on the far left (shown by the note in the photo) as 636 Pacific Street, aka Daniel Goldstein's former home.

636 Pacific is currently being demolished, and it would have been near center court of the arena, and not on Atlantic Avenue as this rendering shows.

link

Posted by steve at 9:46 PM

For the Nets, First Brooklyn and Then the World

The New York Times
By Ken Belson and Jonathan Abrams

The Times continues its tradition of under-reporting actual Brooklyn news. This lengthy article focuses on a sponsorship deal with Stolichnaya and marketing the Nets outside of the U.S., but try to notice what is missing in this coverage:

The Nets hope to complete more deals when they visit Moscow on Sunday on their way to China, where they will play two preseason games. In Moscow, the Nets will hold a clinic for 3,000 youngsters, attend a ribbon-cutting at an Adidas store that will feature Nets gear and schmooze with businesspeople at a reception.

The Nets are stopping in Moscow on their way to China. So why can't the Times cover the trip to China by its business partner Bruce Ratner and ESDC Executive Director Peter Davidson? This trip will attempt to use the Federal EB-5 program to lure Chinese investment in Atlantic Yards in exchange for green cards. Although the program is for the purpose of job creation, the ESDC has already admitted that this mission to China will produce no additional jobs for the Atlantic Yards project.

link

Posted by steve at 9:32 PM

Nets Brooklyn arena construction will be complete by 2012, arena owner Bruce Ratner guarantee

Daily News
By Stefan Bondy

As promises for job creation and affordable houses fall through, developer Bruce Ratner is anxious to show that he can deliver on those things that are of benefit to Bruce Ratner.

In Brooklyn, the construction of the Barclays Center is "on schedule and on budget," arena owner Bruce Ratner told the Daily News at halftime of Saturday's 90-89 preseason victory over the 76ers.

"I can guarantee 2012," Ratner said.

This article relocates the arena to the Brooklyn neighborhood Boerum Hill, instead of the actual location in Prospect Heights.

The Nets will play the next two seasons at the Rock in Newark - a city they're trying to embrace with giant billboards of players hanging on buildings - before moving to the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Aves. in Boerum Hill and, perhaps, changing their nickname.

link

Posted by steve at 9:22 PM

AY Report: NYTimes and Brooklyn Paper Asleep At The Wheel For EB-5 Story

Atlantic Yards Report

Where's the Brooklyn Paper on the "green cards for investors" story? And the Times?

There's been a lot of news about Atlantic Yards in the past week or so, including coverage by the New York Post of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's planned (and aborted) trip to China in support of Forest City Ratner's "green cards for investors" scheme, and the New York Daily News of the claims behind the scheme and the construction jobs at the site.

The New York Times, which has a tiny Brooklyn bureau and a real estate/development reporter far more concerned with Stuyvesant Town, has ignored the stories. Dismaying, but not surprising.

It's more surprising that the Brooklyn Paper (and its now-mirror, the Courier-Life chain) has missed those stories.

(The EB-5 story has been picked up by a couple of blogs devoted to the topic.)

Selective coverage

It's not that the Brooklyn Paper doesn't cover Atlantic Yards--the lead story this week (PDF) is on crowd control at the planned plaza--it's that they're way behind others.

Once upon a time (2007) the Brooklyn Paper earned awards for its aggressive coverage of Atlantic Yards. Not anymore.

Is it the ownership by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation? (How can it be--after all, the Murdoch-owned Post has covered the story.)

Atlantic Yards fatigue?

Failure to read other newspapers and blogs?

Short staff?

Unwillingness to cover stories that others break first? (If so, that's just not serving the reader.)

Times criticizes Paladino for creating only 25 direct jobs, still ignores EB-5 story regarding Atlantic Yards, with zero direct jobs

From a New York Times editorial yesterday headlined Mr. Paladino and the System, a critique of Republican gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino:

A look at his record as a developer shows that he has been an eager recipient of just the sort of government largess he so bitterly condemns and a generous contributor to politicians who can best do him favors.

His flourishing real estate business was stoked with tax breaks, multimillion-dollar state leases and government land giveaways.

...He won $3 million in tax reductions for his renovations, but, as The Daily News recently reported, only 25 jobs were directly created. His campaign has said that that does not count the jobs indirectly produced by his tenants, but a large number of those tenants were state agencies, which have paid him tens of millions of dollars in rent over the years.

Ok, and what about the low-cost or no-cost financing sought by Forest City Ratner, which, as the Daily News recently reported, won't directly create any jobs?

The Times has ignored the entire EB-5 story.

Posted by steve at 9:23 AM

In article on Beekman Tower (now 8 Spruce Street), Times papers over construction stoppage and renegotiation; rental price now was sought all along

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times story about a Bruce Ratner development is surveyed. Noted is the fact that 8 Spruce Street received a tax abatement under a program meant to provide affordable housing, even though there are no affordable units at this location.

The Times also glosses over the work-stoppage that occurred for this building and that work was only resumed after Ratner negotiated a reduction in labor costs.

There's also some spin from the developer regarding success in gaining top rents -- once that's based on lower rents.

[Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryaAnne]. Gilmartin said that after looking at other high-end rental buildings, including Silver Towers on West 42nd Street, she thought rents would be at least $80 per square foot per year.

That would put the rent for the smallest unit at 8 Spruce Street — a 450-square-foot-studio — at $3,000 a month.

But Ms. Gilmartin said that if demand was strong enough, there would be no qualms about raising the prices, “even over the course of a single day.”

So they may get the originally sought rent, after lowering costs based on an expected lower rent.

And what Bruce Ratner development would be complete without an extra dollop of Federal subsidies:

As I wrote 4/7/08, covering a conference call with investment analysts, analyst Sheila McGrath brought up the Beekman Tower.

Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner asked executives Bob O'Brien and Joanne Minieri to “give Sheila a little color” regarding the “tremendous demand on the part of the banks” for the tax-free Liberty Bonds.

JM: Like a billion-two demand for the 204 [million] that we put out there.

SM: And are all the units in that building, they’re all market-rate units?

JM: That’s correct, Sheila.

BO: That’s the beauty of the Liberty Bonds, tax-exempt rates and all market-rate units.

CR: Thank you, Bob.

SM: Gotta like that.

link

Posted by steve at 8:56 AM

Eminent Domain And The 2010 NY Gubernatorial Race

Ground Report
By Richard Cooper

This article by the former Chair of the Libertarian Party of New York assesses the candidates for New York Governor by their stances on eminent domain. Included are these facts originally found on Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report regarding front-runner Andrew Cuomo:

According to Oder, Cuomo was asked by Senator Carl Perkins to review the bonds underlying the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn which includes the Nets basketball arena. He did not respond. Oder reports that developer Bruce Ratner contributed $5,000 and the law firm representing the project contributed $52,900.

link

Posted by steve at 8:48 AM

Ad for Market-Rate Condo at 212 South Oxford Street

Corcoran

On one hand, this listing doesn't mention that the building in question will be across the street from the new Nets arena. On the other, it should be noted the building is an example of development that received state, city and federal subsidies and has delivered more than 50% affordable units. You won't get that kind of percentage in the residential towers of Atlantic Yards and likely a small percentage of the affordable units promised will ever be built.

Amazing corner duplex penthouse with full city skyline views from your own private rooftop terrace! This 1,818 sq ft apartment has 2 full bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms and large home office or convertible 3rd bedroom. Atlantic Terrace is a 10-story, new development coop that is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification. The apartments feature eco-friendly design including recycled materials, energy efficient appliances, and separate zoning for central air & heat and abundant light & air. The 7 duplex penthouses feature double height living rooms, Bosch appliances and spacious private terraces. Ideally located in Ft. Greene, just steps from Atlantic Terminal, this full service elevator building will offer a doorman, a gorgeous lobby, on-site underground parking, a lounge, a live-in-superintendent and a 3000 square foot landscaped GREEN common terrace! The units feature beautiful bamboo flooring, Energy Star appliances, and sleek recycled glass and concrete countertops and sustainable cabinetry that are MADE IN BROOKLYN. The monthly maintenance includes heat, cooking gas, water and all common costs. The maintenance is 34% tax deductible. The low closing costs of a new development coop create a great opportunity to make Atlantic Terrace your new home today.

link

Posted by steve at 8:32 AM

October 9, 2010

Why is the ESDC's Peter Davidson going to China? Could it be "agency capture"? Or maybe a hostage situation?

Atlantic Yards Report

I'm still trying to figure out why Empire State Development Corporation Executive Director Peter Davidson is going to China to flack for the Forest City Ratner/New York City Regional Center effort to raise $249 million from immigrant investors in exchange for green cards.

Davidson surely doesn't believe the effort would directly create nearly 7700 jobs.

And while there may be a document that asserts the investment would help create jobs indirectly or preserve them, we haven't seen the calculations.

It strains credulity to attach the railyard investment to the already-funded arena, or to claim that it ensures future jobs that would also depend on housing bonds.

...

Perhaps this is an example of the concept of "agency capture," which, as stated in the Encyclopedia of White-Collar and Corporate Crime, occurs when "regulatory agency officials with a pro-industry bias are appointed... and when various forms of inducement or influence, political or psychological, are evident."

...

Another way to look at it: Forest City Ratner has the state over a barrel--remember the Beekman Tower renegotiation with unions?--and the state will do what it takes to make sure the project moves forward and delivers some of the promised benefits.

link

NoLandGrab: Yet another way to look at it: A farmer named ESDC lets the hogs feed at the trough.

Posted by steve at 1:44 PM

The residential parking permit debate: is parking a neighborhood right, or a scarce resource with a price tag?

Atlantic Yards Report

On-street residential parking is considered a right by New York car owners. The Atlantic Yards development has helped to trigger a debate about residential parking permits.

So, are residential parking permits a good idea? The debate has heated up since 5/21/09, when the Brooklyn Paper opined, in Why parking permits are not the answer, that "neighborhood car-owners alone would still not have enough spaces for their cars even if other drivers weren’t even in the mix."

Moreover, a permit costing a typical $100 per year would be too low:

Only a true market system would create enough revenue to make a parking permit system actually worthwhile while also serving the larger public policy goal: discouraging residents of Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Fort Greene — neighborhoods with the best subway service in Brooklyn — from owning cars in the first place.

Other flaws cited include use of placards by uniformed services to "park anywhere with virtual impunity" and abuse by drivers lying about their addresses.

Now, in reaction to the Atlantic Yards project, City Council Member Letitia James wants such permits in Prospect Heights, so that residents claim streets ahead of arena-goers.

Click on the link to read about different perspectives in this debate.

link

Posted by steve at 1:18 PM

Mr. Paladino and the System

The New York Times, Editorial

Does The Times have a double-standard when it comes to nutty, belligerent Tea-Partying gubernatorial-candidate and "liberal do-gooder" real estate developers?

Carl Paladino, the Republican nominee for governor of New York, portrays himself as a business-hardened outsider who would reform Albany’s corrupt and bloated bureaucracy and drive out the pay-to-play special interests. “I’m just a regular guy from Buffalo,” he says.

A look at his record as a developer shows that he has been an eager recipient of just the sort of government largess he so bitterly condemns and a generous contributor to politicians who can best do him favors.

His flourishing real estate business was stoked with tax breaks, multimillion-dollar state leases and government land giveaways. At the same time, he used his partnerships and corporations to donate nearly $500,000 to scores of elected officials, judges and candidates since 1999 — a bit more than most regular guys from Buffalo.

Mr. Paladino is the largest landowner in Buffalo, and building his empire required many local zoning variances and municipal permissions. Buffalo’s politicians, who received generous donations from him for years, were happy to help.

article

NoLandGrab: Does this means that if Bruce Ratner ran for governor, The Times might actually condemn his modus operandi?

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

Putting It Togther: Who Should Be Selling Green Cards?

Noticing New York

This blog post takes a new perspective on the recent relevations that Bruce Ratner will be using the EB-5 program to attract Chinese investors for Atlantic Yards.

It kept gnawing at us: Why should this be something a private individual gets to do rather than its being the responsibility of the government? . . . Why should Bruce Ratner (and his partner Mikhail Prokhorov, a bloody Russian oligarch of all people!) get to go out and sell U.S. government-issued green cards to 498 Chinese millionaires and their families? . . . Why isn’t the issuance of green cards a government responsibility?

...

So what can we afford? Here is the not-so-crazy idea we came up with when we put two and two together. Maybe we could afford a lot more if the government was the one out there handing out green cards to the high bidders. Did the MTA think they had cleverly accomplished something and squared away part of their capital budget needs when, in connection with the very low price Ratner is paying to acquire the Vanderbilt railyards from them for Atlantic Yards, they contractually obligated Mr. Ratner to build the replacement (albeit smaller and less adequate) railyard they were then going to need? By going to the Chinese Ratner isn’t the one paying to close that budget gap anymore; he’s simply passing his contractual obligation along to the Chinese. Gosh, Golly and Jumping Jehosaphat: The MTA could have gone to the Chinese directly, eliminating the middle man!

Let’s unprivatize the selling of green cards and put some money back in the government’s pocket by taking this function back! It could mean really big bucks.

The post goes on to speculate why any public officials should be part of a trip to China for that benefits a private developer (maybe it has to do with receiving a free trip with luxury accommodations).

The post ends questioning why public wealth is being transferred into private hands for no public benefit in a way that begins to mirror what happened in Russia when formerly government-owned industry was transferred into private hands under shady circumstances.

link

Posted by steve at 9:01 AM

Brooklyn politician will not join EB-5 China trip

Exclusive Visas

Exclusive Visas is an enterprise that offers, via their red white and blue website, to guide foreign nationals through the EB-5 process. This particular item is a mention of Marty Markowitz's decision not to accompany ESDC, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, to China to attract investors by using this program that sells green cards in return for an investment, in this case, of $500,000.

After it was indicated that he might be accompanying a businessman on a trip to China to drum up interest in the EB-5 visa program, the Brooklyn Borough President has decided to stay in New York.

Marty Markowitz has decided not to accompany developer Bruce Ratner on his EB-5 trip to China, where the businessman will try to draw investors for his ambitious Atlantic Yards project, reports the New York Post.

...

Ratner and his company, Forest City Ratner, is hoping to obtain $250 million in investments through the EB-5 visa program to help finance the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards development, which includes a basketball arena that could be the potential home of the New Jersey Nets.

Under the EB-5 visa program, if a foreign national invests $1 million (or in some places $500,000) in an American business and that investment leads to the creation or preservation of 10 jobs, the investor becomes U.S. green card eligible.

link

NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that, despite the EB-5 program's purpose to create or retain jobs, the ESDC has admitted that the investment sought by Ratner will produce no new jobs.

Posted by steve at 8:40 AM

The power of the press

Rumur

Here is an examination of how the mainstream media did such a poor job of covering the Atlantic Yards fight.

In 2010 it is time for us, as a society, to take a hard look at the role of the news media in our political and financial systems. After 7 years of following the Atlantic Yards development project I am troubled by both the print and TV media’s inability or unwillingness to engage in any level of real reporting on this story.

When Forest City Ratner’s project was announced in Dec of 2003 we were compelled to start our documentary because everything that we read was simply a regurgitation of press releases. Not one reporter looked to urban planners or others in government who might be able to respond critically to the information flowing from the developer and their government partners. In the days following the announcement of the project I talked to many of my neighbors about what was really going on, but I had no luck finding out useful or credible information. Those 7 long years ago, blogs were far from being a significant source of information and Facebook had not been launched, and as such the web was not a very useful source of information. The developer had staged a fancy press conference complete with pop stars (jay-z), sports stars (Bernard King), and starchitects (Gehry) in order to distract people from the enormity of what they were proposing. It worked.

...

When the project was announced, one of the main complaints by those opposing it, was that all of the developers promises were unenforceable. They also objected to its massive scale, enormous government subsidies, lack of public process and oversight, and the abuse of eminent domain. However, all of these complaints were waved away by saying that the project would bring enormous benefits.

Now the land has been seized, the streets have been closed, the subsidies have been given, and when the developer admits that he doesn’t plan to build the press barely covers it, and only as part of a story about the unveiling of a private plaza at the site.

Click on the link to get a fuller picture of how the press stood on the sidelines regurgitating press releases, virtually forcing others to get the story of the Atlantic Yards land grab to the public.

link

Posted by steve at 8:12 AM

The Next Generation - Cristina Cacioppo, Mark Rosenberg & Marco Ursino pick New York City's emerging filmmakers

New York Press

This round-up includes the documentarians who are working to finish their opus dealing with the Atlantic Yards fight.

Michael Galinsky & Suki Stetson Hawley
Husband and wife Michael and Suki have been making radical shoot-from-the-hip fiction and documentary films since the mid-90s, landing films in festivals, theaters and on TV without losing their filmmaking integrity and ceaseless energy. Their latest project is “The Battle of Brooklyn,” a feature documentary about the controversial Atlantic Yards development. Without overt editorializing, the film highlights the fallacy of the developers promises, the co-opting of the neighborhood, and the immanent doom represented in eminent domain.

link

Posted by steve at 8:04 AM

October 8, 2010

Atlantic Yards Construction 10-6

Raulistic via Flickr

Raul Rothblatt took some photos and shot some video Wednesday of construction-like goings-on around the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Raulism via YouTube, Atlantic Yards Construction 10-6-10

Raulism via YouTube, Working in Prospect Heights

NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner — destroying a neighborhood, destroying memories.

Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

The fundamental lie at the heart of the "green cards for investors" scheme (and why the Chinese investors face a higher risk than acknowledged)

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a fundamental lie at the heart of the attempt by Forest City Ratner and its partner, the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), to raise $249 million in no-interest (or low-interest) financing under the EB-5 visa program from Chinese millionaires seeking green cards.

They've redefined the "project" as a $1.448 billion project that includes the Barclays Center arena, related infrastructure, and a new railyard that Forest City Ratner is required to build.

And only by defining the "project" anew, and thus tacking the railyard on to already funded components, does the risk to investors seem diminished.

Rather, investors likely face a much higher risk than acknowledged. And the collateral offered would not be easily convertible into cash but would require a sophisticated development partner.

(Why is New York State's Empire State Development Corporation playing along, accepting the claim of a $1.448 billion project and sending Executive Director Peter Davidson to China next week? He is the only government official on the trip.)

article

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

FCR's Gilmartin going to Beijing to meet with potential investors, but promoters erroneously claim Markowitz will be there

Atlantic Yards Report

Potential EB-5 investors, immigrants who would park $500,000 for a few years as a no-interest loan to Forest City Ratner through the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), can attend two events next week in Beijing.

One is on Tuesday October 12, as previously reported, and one on Monday October 11.

Both promote the highly questionable figure of 7696 jobs associated with the $249 million investment sought--4980 are required, for $249 million aimed mainly at financing the railyard FCR's obligated to build--as well as the highly questionable collateral.

Below is the lineup, in the version from Google Translate.

Why is Markowitz there?

Note that Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz (described as the "Brooklyn New York City Mayor") os described as a guest, but will not be there after all.

He withdrew from the trip after questions were raised about the legitimacy of the project and the role of the New York City Regional Center, which is paying his way.

Thus the only government official present will be Peter Davidson of the Empire State Development Corporation.

Note that Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin will accompany CEO Bruce Ratner, along with another company executive and several representatives from the New York City Regional Center.

article

NoLandGrab: Or maybe Markowitz is pulling a double-reverse, and is going to sneak off to China in a Bobby Valentine-esque disguise.

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

The phantom 69.5 acres of collateral offered to Chinese investors in the "Brooklyn Stadium and Infrastructure Project" EB-5 funding scheme

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the English translation of a chart (below) given to green card-seeking Chinese investors by marketers for the New York City Regional Center, the "first collateral is the development rights to the 3,025,654 square-feet land the project will develop."

Nearly the same phrase (3,025,654 square feet of land) appears in the machine translation version of key facts provided to attendees at an October 11 investment seminar.

That could lead innocent investors to conclude that, should their investment not be returned in cash, they'd get a piece of about 69.5 acres.

Not at all.

The "land" is vertical, not horizontal

They would get a portion of 3,025,654 square feet of vertical development rights, achievable only by building residential and office towers over 15 or so acres.

That's a far more complicated proposition. To unlock the value of the development rights, such investors likely would have to partner with a sophisticated developer, like Forest City Ratner.

And Forest City Ratner would take a fee, thus diminishing the value of the collateral. As Michael D.D. White writes in Noticing New York:

If Ratner doesn’t return the their money the booby prize for the Chinese is that Ratner gets to keep their money!

link

NoLandGrab: It's becoming a sad joke that, as Norman Oder dutifully peels away the layers of Bruce Ratner's increasingly rotten green cards-for-cash onion, the mainstream media and elected officials keep their heads planted firmly in the sand.

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

Shock: Atlantic Yards Construction Jobs Lag Way Behind Projections

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) promised that Atlantic Yards would mean jobs, jobs, jobs—especially construction jobs. Depending on the day or year they've promised 7,000 construction jobs, 10,000 construction jobs. Well Erin Durkin at the Daily News reports today that Ratner's project lags way behind its overhyped job projections and there appears to be no improvement on the horizon or on schedule.

(Update: The print version of the article, in the Brooklyn edition only, had a much more hardhitting headline with some stark math:

link

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

October 7, 2010

Daily News reports construction jobs lag well behind estimates for 6 months ago; ESDC claims all jobs will come (AYR: not if project's 1/3 smaller)

Atlantic Yards Report

In an article today headlined Atlantic Yards not employing number of construction workers originally expected, the Daily News significantly advances the story by pointing out discrepancies between the current and predicted number of jobs.
...

Unexplained in the Daily News article is one significant reason: the construction schedule apparently assumes the near-simultaneous construction of three residential towers.
...

And here's the astonishing closer in today's article:

Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco said the number of construction jobs will grow to 450 by late next spring.

However, by late spring 2010, one year before DePlasco's projections, there were supposed to be 742 jobs, and 1055 by the third quarter.

So it's way behind projections.

What'd we tell you?

The ESDC stands its ground regarding promised jobs, the Daily News reports:

The promise of 17,000 year-long construction jobs was a key selling point for the controversial arena and 16-tower project. Ratner and ESDC both insisted that goal can still be met.

"The number of job-years hasn't been altered; they will merely be created at a different pace in light of the changes in the construction schedule," said ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell.

Not necessarily. That's only if the project is built at the full 8 million square feet.

There are no requirements for Forest City Ratner to build a project of that size. It can build a project about one-third smaller without penalty.

article

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

Atlantic Yards not employing number of construction workers originally expected

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

"Expected?" Did you actually expect Ratner's promises to be legit?

The Atlantic Yards project is lagging on its promise to create much-needed construction jobs.

Only 100 people have been put to work at the Prospect Heights site so far, a Forest City Ratner executive conceded last week - compared to 1,476 predicted in state documents by late 2010.

"Right now, job numbers obviously are less than what they will be as construction gets full throttle at the arena," said Forest City Ratner Vice President MaryAnne Gilmartin.
...

But even accounting for delays, the current number of jobs is much lower than expected. There were supposed to be 563 construction workers on site in the first quarter of 2010, 742 in the second, and 1,055 in the third.

James Caldwell, president of the nonprofit Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, said he's disappointed so few jobs have been created so far, though he still supports the project.

"I'm not satisfied because the community's not satisfied. They're coming in asking us for jobs daily," he said.

Careful, Mr. Caldwell, or Bruce might pull your funding.

Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco said the number of construction jobs will grow to 450 by late next spring.

article

NoLandGrab: Here's something of DePlasco's that's growing already.

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

(Still) New Jersey Nets: Last In Eastern Conference, Tops In Managerial Sketchiness, Undermining

Can't Stop The Bleeding

I’ve written a lot, here and elsewhere, about Brett Yormark, the poisonous but apparently untouchable anti-genius behind the Nets’ noxious rebranding during the Ratner era. Cynical, self-amused and prickly by turn, Yormark is first and foremost pretty bad at his job — the Nets are unlovable and largely unloved, and look likely to once again rank among the NBA’s worst teams after winning just 12 games last year. The last point, you might argue, isn’t so much Yormark’s fault as it was that of Rod Thorn, the team’s GM during the era in which the Nets furiously stripped assets and salary, attempted to leverage the useless sub-Radmanovic forward Yi Jianlin into a greater presence in the Chinese marketplace, and managed to hemorrhage money all the while. Thorn can’t be blamed for the Yi deal — he never evinced any real excitement about swapping Richard Jefferson for Bobby Simmons’ crummy contract and Yi’s defective Yi — but the buck has to stop somewhere in the vicinity of his office, you’d think.

It might just be a case of a veteran NBA writer sticking up for a universally respected NBA personality, but something Peter Vecsey wrote earlier this week would suggest that Yormark might actually deserve some blame for this as well. In what might be the least surprising bit of news to emerge during the offseason, Vecsey writes that Yormark (above, far right) took it upon himself to antagonize, alienate and undermine Thorn in a public gaslighting campaign of a full-spectrum dickiness that’s downright Dolan-ian.
...

And where was the owner while his two highest-paid non-players were locked in team-destroying combat? Probably in China, where the reliably pelf-chasing Ratner has been trying to take advantage of a little-publicized bit of immigration law in an attempt to, as the Atlantic Yards Report’s Norman Oder writes, find “498 Chinese millionaires, to supply $249 million in low-cost financing for the [Atlantic Yards arena] project.” And why, the since-departed Yi notwithstanding, would these millionaires put up all that money? “In exchange for creating ten direct or indirect jobs or retaining ten direct ones–a formulation that offers enormous wiggle room–the investors would get permanent residency for themselves and their families, a chance to live anywhere in America, and an opportunity to get kids educated in the American system.”

article

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

Obfuscation in English, candor in Chinese: EB-5 transcript quotes NYCRC rep: "business is business, and we are in pursuit of profit maximization"

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember, as I reported October 4, how New York City Regional Center's (NYCRC) Gregg Hayden, when faced with a question about why exactly green card-seeking Chinese investors were needed for a project that included deep-pocketed Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, simply evaded the question?

Chinese investors reading the transcript were given an additional dose of candor, words not in Hayden's mouth but which elaborate on the logic and spirit of his statement:

The costs of using investment funds are relatively lower than the costs of bank loans. Although the NBA project funds are sufficient, business is business, and we are in pursuit of profit maximization.

(Emphasis added)

This blatant admission of the developer's true goals gives a lie to the official claim that the investment would create or save jobs, and provides more evidence that the plan violates the spirit, and perhaps the letter, of the EB-5 visa program.

article

NoLandGrab: There's no small irony in the fact that Bruce Ratner has gone seeking investors in a Communist country that has fully embraced Capitalism, while back home, his Capitalist society practices Socialism for the super-rich.

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

Translation: Bruce Ratner Wants To Swindle 498 Chinese Millionaires?

Noticing New York

The deal Ratner (with Prokhorov) is offering the Chinese millionaires is that they put up $538,000 apiece and, after five years, if they are lucky they will get $500,000 back. That’s right; they get back less money. So overall the Chinese lose and are out-of-pocket financially: They’re down that initial $38,000 difference; they’re down the presumed inflation loss on the money, perhaps another $55-60,000, and they are down the lost investment earnings on the original $538,000. At a mere 8.9% annually (not 17%, 11.7%, 11%, or 10.3%) the foregone annual investment earnings on $538,000 compounded annually for five years come to: $285,989. (A lower return or reduced final figure should probably be used to avoid double counting the inflation loss.)

(* It is also a pretty safe guess that the Chinese will not get any tax benefits from having their money finance the arena which is sometimes a compensating factor when taking a negligible or nonexistent investment return. Our guess is that any tax benefits, such as they may be, will all be assigned to other REAL investors.)

That means that, all tallied, each of these Chinese “investors” are walking away and leaving about $324,000 to $380,000 or more in the Ratner/Prokhorov pocket. It’s obviously not an “investment” at all and the Chinese are not “investors”; they are simply, merely, and nothing more than, the purchasers of green cards and if green cards are worth about $324,000 to $380,000 per each individual and their family then perhaps Mr. Ratner hasn’t swindled these Chinese millionaires . . . yet.

Click through for the "yet" explained — Bruce Ratner's "collateral" damage.

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Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

Bettina Johae’s EMINENT DOMAIN, NYC

The Brooklyn Rail

Bettina Johae’s project, “eminent domain, nyc” (2010), investigates the use of eminent domain—for public and for private use—in New York City over the past centuries: from the creation of Central Park and the forming of New York’s streets in the 19th century, via the vast condemnations during the Robert Moses era for highways, railways, parks, office buildings, universities, cultural and convention centers, and public and private housing projects to more recent and future projects, such as the New York Times building, the Bank of America Tower, the Atlantic Yards project, Willets Point, and the Columbia University expansion. The project—which was produced as part of the VLA Art & Law residency—so far consists of a series of 10 postcards and a map of eminent domain from the 19th century to today.

link

NoLandGrab: Dear Daniel, Bet you wish you were here. XOXO, Bruce

Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

October 6, 2010

State agency says Bruce Ratner used federal program to finance Atlantic Yards project, Nets arena

NY Daily News
by Michael O'Keeffe

A state official says funds Nets minority owner Bruce Ratner raises for the Atlantic Yards through a federal program that grants green cards to foreign investors will not create any new jobs beyond those already forecast for the $4.9 billion project, which includes a $900 million arena for the Nets.

Elizabeth Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corporation, said Ratner turned to the EB-5 program because it will save money on Atlantic Yards financing.

"If this financing was not available - or if Forest City Ratner is not as successful as we hope in raising funds under this program - then Forest City Ratner will need to raise funds from other sources to facilitate build-out of the entire project," Mitchell said in an email.
...

"It's ridiculous to think that Forest City Ratner can't fulfill its obligation to build a new rail yard without this money," said blogger Norman Oder, whose Atlantic Yards Report serves as a clearinghouse for information about the Brooklyn project. "It looks like an effort to save money on financing. Parent Forest City Enterprises has more than $467 million in cash and credit capacity, according to its 9/8/10 earnings release. If it had to spend the money, it would."

[Center for Immigration Studies Fellow David] North said Ratner probably isn't breaking any rules by tapping into the pay-to-stay scheme for cut-rate financing because the program's rules are vague. But he does object to granting residency to anybody who can write a $500,000 check.

"It shows the artificiality of the program, since these jobs would be there anyway, no matter where the funding comes from," North said. "I think the whole program is a terrible idea."

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily News: ESDC admits "green cards for investors" program won't create any new jobs

Despite a phenomenally dull (and misleading) online headline, there's some important news in a Daily News article today headlined State agency says Bruce Ratner used federal program to finance Atlantic Yards project, Nets arena.

The headline in print is far more forceful: "Ratner plan Nets critics: Insist fund is about money grab, not jobs."

The news is not that, to finance a required new railyard, Ratner is trying to use a program that provides immigrants and their families green cards if they invest $500,000 to create or retain ten direct or indirect jobs.

The news is that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) admits that the investment "will not create any new jobs beyond those already forecast."
...

I'm not so sure the rules aren't being broken. They sure look like they're being stretched.

After all, the whole effort is accompanied by astounding and misleading public relations, starting with the presentation of the project as coupled with the Nets and the NBA.

And it's clear that this is violating the spirit (if not the letter) of the law, given that Congressional backers all say it's about job creation, not job retention.
...

The role of the press

Credit the Daily News, in the person of Sports I-team reporter Michael O'Keeffe, for following up. It should be a big news story, but apparently no one else was interested.

The New York Post has written twice about the Marty Markowitz angle. The Wall Street Journal ran a softball story at the start, with no follow-up.

The Times has been silent. So has the Observer.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Ratner's Attempt to Raise Cheap Atlantic Yards Cash Seems to Violate Federal Green Card Program

The Empire State Development Corporation admits that Bruce Ratner is misusing the federal EB-5 program which gives out green cards to foreign lenders in return for loans that create jobs or "retain jobs that would be lost without their money."

According to the ESDC, Ratner's attempt to use the program to raise nearly $250 million from Chinese lenders will not create any new jobs and is not needed to retain jobs.

NetsDaily, Controversy Continues to Roil Ratner Trip to China

Barclays Center, the first element in the project, is fully funded, but Ratner is seeking funds to finance the rebuilt railyard next door and pay off a loan on a piece of property outside the arena footprint. He's doing so under a controversial program that offers investors green cards in return for $500,000 in financing...and the middleman he's using to attract investors is using the Nets' visit to promote the effort.

The controversy has attracted so much attention that Brooklyn Boro President Marty Markowitz, an Atlantic Yards supporter, has decided not to accompany Ratner to Beijing.

NoLandGrab: Correction — the Barclays Center is allegedly fully funded.

Posted by eric at 9:47 AM

Could the Atlantic Yards arena plaza resemble Gansevoort Plaza or Union Square? Unlikely; they've reduced traffic

Atlantic Yards Report

Only this past Saturday, October 2, did I finish transcribing most of the September 29 presentation on the planned plaza in front of the Atlantic Yards arena. My report is here.

Upon reflection, I thought that architect Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP Architects did a good job articulating much of the rationale for his work.

Not that the solutions proposed will necessarily work--the proof is in the pudding--but such things as paving, lighting, and signage have been approached thoughtfully.

But even a good architect can do only so much with a problematic site. That's why the plan was found Highbrow/Despicable by the New York Magazine Approval Matrix and deemed Eyesore of the Month by James Howard Kunstler.

So I think Pasquarelli just wasn't convincing when faced with a tough question: "What are the examples of traffic islands as credible urban space?"

Click through to be unconvinced.

article

Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

The Eyesore of the Month

by James Howard Kunstler

Architectural Abortions from the USA and Around the World
(And Sometimes Other Miscellany Infecting the Landscape)

October 2010

Presenting the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, brought to you by real estate impressario Bruce Ratner. This basketball arena, designed to look like a Little Debbie Peanut Butter and Coconut Snack Cake, was designed by Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects. (Notice the "playfulness" of the SHoP logo (subtext: "...we're all babies now...!"). Perhaps basketball players live on Little Debbie Cakes. I don't know. But the cherry-on-top of the whole deal is the so-called "plaza" in the foreground -- a leftover triangular scrap of undevelopable real estate that Mr. Ratner threw to the people of Brooklyn as a bone to dogs. Lovely spot, huh, sandwiched, as it is, between about eleven lanes of traffic.

link

NoLandGrab: Kunstler is too kind — we count at least 12 lanes of traffic, not including lay-by lanes.

Posted by eric at 9:29 AM

Atlantic Yards: ‘Garden of Eden’ or Bait and Switch?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Op-Ed
by Jo Anne Simon

In 2003, Forest City Ratner Companies’ (FCRC) plans for the Atlantic Yards project were launched with great fanfare. Forest City promised, among other things, a “transit-oriented” mega-development at the apex of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues; a magnificent Frank Gehry-designed arena and adjoining towers, with 2.5 million square feet of commercial space, including the Williamsburgh Bank Building-topping “Miss Brooklyn”; 4,500 units of housing, half of which would be affordable; and eight acres of publicly accessible open space designed by world-renowned landscape designer Laurie Olin, in return for a sizeable public investment in the form of direct and indirect subsidies and tax breaks.

The increased vehicular and transit congestion, worsened air quality, construction noise and closed streets would be a small price to pay, we were assured, for replacing a “blighted” area with, in the words of Frank Gehry, “a whole new neighborhood” in just 10 years’ time.

Environmental impacts as laid out in the required Environmental Impact Statement would be negligible and mitigatable, and those that weren’t, would be worth the pain. Much like Ragú spaghetti sauce, everything was “in there.” Affordable housing? “It’s in there.” Environmental sustainability? “It’s in there.” Connecting communities? “It’s in there.” Well, not really…
...

This past week, FCRC’s CEO Bruce Ratner publicly acknowledged what many of us concerned citizens had believed all along — that Atlantic Yards couldn’t be finished in 10 years — and was never intended to be.

article

NoLandGrab: Simon goes on to tout the efforts of BrooklynSpeaks, but one has to wonder whether things might have turned out very differently if the "respectable" community organizations allied in the group had instead joined forces with DDDB and others to aggressively fight the project, rather than foolishly holding out hope that Ratner could be reasoned with.

Posted by eric at 9:18 AM

Markowitz Backs Out Of China Trip

Gothamist
by Jaya Saxena

Possibly due to quizzical looks over yet another all-expenses-paid trip, or possibly because the city Conflicts of Interest Board just said no, Brooklyn BP Marty Markowitz will not be joining Bruce Ratner on a trip to China to lure investors to the Atlantic Yards project through the EB-5 visa program. A spokesman told the Post that Markowitz "supports the group’s mission, wishes it great success and is confident the project will excite even more investors as it moves forward. Markowitz is apparently so bummed out about it that he couldn't even turn the situation into one of his signature puns.

link

Posted by eric at 9:01 AM

October 5, 2010

Teen-repellent device removed in Washington, but teens still not welcome in many public places

Grist
by Sarah Goodyear

Like in Bruce Ratner's kinda, sorta publicly accessible taxpayer-subsidized private space.

The use of public places by teenagers remains controversial in many communities across the country.

The Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, N.Y., is one recent example. A public plaza in front of the development's planned basketball arena might be off-limits to groups of four or more people under the age of 21 without an adult escort.
...

Whether you do it with a Mosquito or with old-fashioned security guards, the routine dispersal of teenagers does raise issues about the nature of public space -- the vital essence of a dynamic and productive city. This is especially true when developers, like Ratner, tout the creation of plazas open to the public in exchange for often disruptive demolition and construction in a neighborhood, and then want to restrict access to those places.
...

Instead of banning teenagers wholesale, what about enforcing laws against disorderly conduct, vandalism, panhandling, or whatever the actual offense may be -- no matter the age of the offenders?

article

NoLandGrab: Why not use the "traditional method" of teen repellence and pipe in a little classical music?

Posted by eric at 9:30 PM

NYCRC third most active regional center in China; EB-5 program popularity there attributed to lack of "meaningful" requirements

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), the firm soliciting investments (in a questionable way) in Atlantic Yards infrastructure in exchange for green cards, is the third most visible and active regional center in China, according to the blog EB-5 Blog: Regional Centers in the USA.

Popular in China

And why are EB-5 programs growing? And why are they so popular in China? According to a 3/16/10 Real Estate Channel article headlined EB-5 Visa Program Sparking Foreign Real Estate Investor Activity, it's because the program offers cheap money for real estate and few burdens for investors.

An excerpt:

The number of "regional centers" has more than doubled in the last year, often focusing on real estate projects, anything from office buildings to ski resorts in Vermont.

"It's very cheap money," said Chaim Katzap, chief executive of Lion's Property Development, which has offices in New York and China. "I think it is the best way today to raise equity."

Using the EB-5 program, Katzap helped raise $60 million from 100 foreign investors for the Brooklyn Navy Yards redevelopment in New York, which is a designated regional center.

EB-5 is particularly appealing to wealthy Chinese, who may already have family members working or living in the United States, Katzap says.

"EB-5 does not require language skills, does not require that you work here or that you live here full time," he said.

Or, to quote Gregg D. Hayden of the NYCRC, immigrant investor programs in other countries "have certain meaningful requirements that the U.S. program does not have."

link

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

Markowitz pulls out of controversial China trip to benefit Nets arena

NY Post
by Rich Calder

At least he can still hop on the subway and ride to Chinatown.

Bowing to pressure fueled in part by a Post story last week, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz confirmed today that he’s pulling out of an all-expenses-paid trip to China. He had planned to take the weeklong 7,000-mile trip this month to help his longtime pal -- developer Bruce Ratner -- peddle green cards to rich foreigners in exchange for investing in Ratner's cash-poor Atlantic Yards project.

The Beep won’t be accompanying Ratner, Peter Davidson, executive director of the Empire State Development Corp., and other officials on the trip -- even though the city Conflicts of Interest Board earlier today green-lighted the trip for Markowitz by ruling it wouldn’t violate city ethics laws.

Markowitz’s trip would have been paid for by New York City Regional Center LLC. The Manhattan company locally oversees the federal "EB-5" program, which gives green cards to investors of at least $500,000 in US job-creating projects. Ratner is seeking 498 such investors as he tries to raise $250 million for the $4.9 billion Prospect Heights development, which includes an arena for the NBA’s Nets.

Markowitz through a spokesman denied caving in to heavy criticism from project critics, including postings today by the blog Atlantic Yards Report claiming Ratner and his contingent have over-hyped the projects benefits -- such as job estimates -- to sway potential Chinese investors. The blog was also the first to report about the planned trip last week.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Post: Feeling pressure (?), Markowitz pulls out of China trip, even though it was OK'd by the Conflicts of Interests Board

Surely the pressure was fueled in part by the Post, but I have to think Atlantic Yards Report had a larger impact. And, actually, the trip would not benefit the Nets arena--that's the hype--but rather developer Forest City Ratner's search for low-cost financing for the railyard it's obligated to build.
...

According to the Post, I am "claiming Ratner and his contingent have over-hyped the projects benefits -- such as job estimates -- to sway potential Chinese investors."

Actually, I'm not claiming that they've over-hyped benefits. I'm proving it. [Emphasis added by NLG.]

Any promotion that uses a 2004 quote from Sen. Chuck Schumer about 10,000 office jobs--office jobs destined for no-longer-planned office towers--is an over-hyped promotion. There's no debate about that.

Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

When they say Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues is closed, now they really mean it

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's one street no one will be parking on anytime soon.

Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues--the place, during certain hours, for the staging of trucks for arena construction--has officially been closed since March, as the notice at bottom states.

But the closure hasn't really been enforced by the guards working for Forest City Ratner--until last Friday, October 1.

(Photo by Tracy Collins shows shanty for guard at Pacific and Vanderbilt.)

Guards step up

Prospect Heights resident Patti Hagan told me that she had regularly used the street, but, on October 1, she tried to walk east from Carlton to Vanderbilt on Pacific but was stopped by a cop.

"I could last week," Hagan said. "Why can't I walk there?"

The guard claimed it was "because of electrical voltages."

Later, on her return trip, Hagan tried to walk in the opposite direction. She was stopped by a different guard who told her it's a private street.

Hagan asked what was different since the previous week.

"Since today," the guard said. "Orders came down this morning."

article

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

Parking Permit Smackdown: Either way, it's Ratner's fault

YourNabe.com

Point: Parking permits will help, by Letitia James

I recently spoke out in support of residential parking permits for Downtown, specifically in the area surrounding the Atlantic Yards project and the upcoming Barclays Center. I have long been a supporter of these permits; even before this development, I felt that permits offered a viable solution to the “park-and-ride” issue at the Atlantic Center terminal.

In fact, Mayor Bloomberg’s citywide sustainability proposal — PlaNYC 2030 — included a congestion pricing plan that would incorporate residential permit parking. Residents with parking permits would be allowed to park in established parking zones during the day. Residential drivers would be charged an annual fee to acquire resident-only permits, the fee being comparable with similar permit programs in other major cities. In the past, I have strongly supported this proposal.
...

I strongly believe that residential parking permits have the potential to reduce traffic congestion, pollution emissions, needless traffic accidents (especially those that lead to pedestrian fatalities), and noise pollution. This would especially be appreciated in Downtown as we face the long-term development of the Atlantic Yards project.

Counterpoint: Tax Ratner for parking — not us!, by Patti Hagan

Why here? Why now? Because Bruce Ratner’s NBA-Russo arena aims to attract some 19,000 people some 300 nights a year to the always impassable intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues. Taxpaying residents would have to pay yet another new tax — for the privilege of parking in their own hood? Why not keep outsider’s cars out instead? Or tax them?

A residential parking permit tax seems unfair. Ratner is already causing major traffic problems for the car-driving citizenry, having this year deprived Brooklyn of: one lane and sidewalk of Flatbush Avenue, one lane and sidewalk of Atlantic Avenue, one block of Fifth Avenue (R.I.P.), one Carlton Avenue Bridge, and two blocks of Pacific Street — streets where parking and pedestrianism have been forever free.

Ratner should be the one paying the penalty for encouraging car-dependant hordes to drive to his arena. He should be penalized for not persuading them to take advantage of one of New York City’s major mass transit hubs.

If a millionaire over-developer can just be given public streets, Ratner should be taxed for withdrawing those priceless streets from the grid.

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

Contractor for arena curtainwall sets up shop in Dean Street building across the street from the arena (and next to residences)

Atlantic Yards Report

As photographer Tracy Collins points out, ASI LIMITED, the "Building Enclosure Specialists," appears to be a contractor for the construction of the Barclays Center Arena curtainwall.

They have set up shop in a building on Dean Street east of Flatbush, right next to a well-restored 19th-century house (and a string of residences), and right across the street from the arena block.

link

NoLandGrab: Presumably so they can set off explosions to test the blast-resistance of that curtainwall?

Photo: Tracy Collins

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

Gehry on New Gehry Building

The Wall Street Journal
by Peter Grant

The WSJ interviews Frank Gehry, principally about the Beekman Tower.

His earlier designs for major signature projects, like a new Guggenheim museum over the East River and a Nets Arena at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, never got off the drawing boards.

In an interview he discussed the new tower, which is going to be marketed by its developer, Forest City Ratner Cos., as "New York by Gehry at Eight Spruce Street." Here are excerpts:
...

WSJ: How did your design take into account its neighbors like the Woolworth Building?

FG: I am a contexualist. I pay a lot of attention to where I'm doing things.

Whoa. What? Gehry allegedly said "I don't do context" when asked about the Case Western Law School in 2005. And nothing about his monstrous Atlantic Yards design betrayed any interest in context. Must've had a change of heart.

WSJ: It must feel satisfying to see this tower completed after some of your other projects here, like the Guggenheim and Atlantic Yards, didn't come to fruition.

FG: The Atlantic Yards was the same client [Forest City Ratner] and there was a business decision to change and make it a much smaller building.

It wasn't like everyone says that my building was more expensive. That wasn't it. My building was within the parameters of their program and not more expensive. I'm very careful about that.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Gehry: change of arena architect a business decision, says his plan was within cost parameters

Well, the new arena, since it's smaller, is less expensive.

As I wrote in July 2009, Gehry's design was impossible, unless all four towers wrapping it could be completed roughly in sequence.

Also, the New York Daily News reported that the high cost of safety glass had contributed to the astounding 50% increase in the announced price tag, from December 2006 to March 2008.

NoLandGrab: Yeah, when they finally figured out that locating a glass-walled arena just 20 feet from two busy New York City avenues might be a bit of safety risk.

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

Who Is This Guy and Why Is He in China Making Stuff Up About Atlantic Yards?

Here's some coverage of yesterday's Atlantic Yards Report exposé of Bruce Ratner's green cards-for-dollars scheme.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Who Is This Guy and Why Is He in China Making Stuff Up About Atlantic Yards

Norman Oder looks at the sales job the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) is doing in China to scare up $249 million in loans (from Chinese lenders seeking green cards) for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project—specifically building a new rail yard. Lo and behold it is as overhyped and fudged as the sales job Ratner and partners laid on New Yorkers.

Field of Schemes, Ratner's green-cards-for-arena-development-funds swap raises eyebrows

Even on a normal day, Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report is a cornucopia of information about the Brooklyn Nets arena project, often more than you really want to know in one sitting. Today, however, Oder was en fuego, reporting on the growing controversy over Nets owner Bruce Ratner's plans to raise money for construction by offering green cards to Chinese investors, which he first broke news of last week.
...

While the whole mess mostly sheds light on the weirdness of U.S. immigration law — raise your hand if you had any idea that any foreigner with half a million dollars to throw around could buy their way out of waiting for resident alien status — it does indicate that Ratner and his partner Mikhail Prokhorov are looking for creative ways to find cheap money to finance development of the Atlantic Yards site. Whether that's because they're short of cash, or they just figure you can never have enough money, is anyone's guess.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards Con Job Being Replicated in China for Green Card Selling Scheme

Ratner, his government friends and something called the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC)—the private firm promoting the Atlantic Yards loans for green cards scam—are all over-hyping the project's benefits to the potential Chinese lenders, in precisely the same way they over-hyped (lied, fudged) the project's benefits to ram the project down Brooklyn's throat.

[Oder] sums up what he has found this way: "...project proponents have managed to rent government for private interests.

Oder's work, including professional translation of the program's promotional websites in China, should be a wake up call to the mainstream media to jump on what looks like a scandalous misuse of the EB-5 program to boost the developer.

Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

October 4, 2010

The Approval Matrix: Week of October 11, 2010

Our deliberately oversimplified guide to who falls where on our taste hierarchies.

New York Magazine

link

Posted by eric at 6:25 PM

NYCRC misleads Chinese investors about project (erroneous, stale Schumer claim about jobs); also, investors would get no profit, just green cards

Atlantic Yards Report

Thanks to a professional translator, we can now understand much more how the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) is misleadingly promoting the EB-5 investment into Atlantic Yards, overpromising the number of jobs, muddying the definition of the "project" at hand, and using (and misusing) quotes from dignitaries such as Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Senator Chuck Schumer.

The information comes from the web site set up by Kunpeng International Business Consulting, authorized agent for the NYCRC. (Here's another example of the NYCRC misleading investors.)

Also, we learn what collateral Forest City Ratner is offering: development rights to Phase 2 of the project, a highly problematic guarantee, given the complexity of development.

Misleading ties to NBA

Kunpeng International is promoting an October 12 conference for investors in Beijing as the "New York NBA Coliseum (Stadium) and Infrastructure Construction Project" and the "Brooklyn Stadium and Infrastructure Project." Nets stars Brook Lopez and Devin Harris are at the top.

But the investment sought has little or nothing to do with the arena.

Rather, the $249 million in low-cost (no-cost?) financing sought by Forest City Ratner--$500,000 from 498 millionaires, who each must create or retain ten direct or indirect jobs--would support a new railyard and perhaps help pay off a land loan, Ratner told the Wall Street Journal.

Financing and the buying of green cards

According to another Kunpeng page (translated), immigrant investors must put in $538,000 and, after five years, get the full return of the $500,000 principal and green cards for the entire family. There's no financial gain.

While investors in other EB-5 projects can get a financial return, this confirms the charge that the EB-5 program can allow the buying of a green card....

article

NoLandGrab: Mainstream media, consider this your wake-up call! Norman Oder has done all the groundwork — how about a little follow-up?

Posted by eric at 12:07 PM

The abdication of government: BP Markowitz and the ESDC's Davidson will flack Ratner's project in China, but won't comment on job claims

Atlantic Yards Report

For all the evidence that Atlantic Yards is more a private-public development than a public-private one, the latest twist--the effort to trade green cards for 498 Chinese investors (and their families) in exchange for $500,000 each--amps up the evidence.

The willingness of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Executive Director to pitch the project in China next week without saying (or knowing?) anything about the promised jobs suggests that project proponents have managed to rent government for private interests.

It's ridiculous to think that, without $249 million in low-cost financing from Chinese investors to build a new railyard, 7606 jobs would be saved.

Similarly, it's ridiculous to think that Forest City Ratner can't fulfill its obligation to build a new railyard without this money. It's simply a business proposition-a deceptive one that relies on the arena and team to raise money for another part of the project--to save money on financing.

No transparency

Markowitz's spokespeople simply wouldn't answer questions about how many jobs would be associated with this investment and why this specific investment is needed to create jobs.

ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell said that I should pose my questions about job creation to the NYCRC.

The NYCRC has not responded to my queries. Nor is it obligated to do so. So any public oversight of this important immigration issue gets very, very difficult.

You can do your part to fight this outrageous abuse by contacting the government to express your concerns.

Raising questions with the USCIS

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (part of the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS) spokeswoman Luz Irazabal told me that regional centers face annual oversight but questions can be raised by the public:

All petitions filed by a foreign entrepreneur connected to a regional center are reviewed individually as it pertains to the regional center.

To report your concern, feel free to send an email to USCIS.ImmigrantInvestorProgram@dhs.govUSCIS.ImmigrantInvestorProgram@dhs.gov. You can also contact the DHS Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-323-8603 (phone), 202-254-2392 (fax) or DHSOIGhotline@dhs.govDHSOIGhotline@dhs.gov (email).

article

Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

Show the math: How would investors seeking green cards create or retain 7696 jobs by financing the railyard Forest City Ratner is obligated to build?

Atlantic Yards Report

Like everything else about Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, the numbers in his green cards-for-cash scheme just don't add up.

Here's what the press should be asking the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) and any public or elected official supporting Forest City Ratner's effort (via the NYCRC) to raise $249 million from 498 Chinese investors:

Show us the math.

The investment would have to create or retain 4980 direct or indirect jobs--ten jobs per investor.

The NYCRC is claiming 7696 jobs would associated with this investment, as noted (right) on this website promoting an October 12 event for potential investors.

Show us the math.

Looking more closely

Extrapolate these job figures--for an investment about 5% of the entire $4.9 billion project--and Atlantic Yards should create or retain nearly 154,000 jobs.

Wow.

Yes, EB-5 investment monies can be used as "last-mile" funding and thus be credited for a project as a whole.

But let's test that against reality.

article

NoLandGrab: Who wants to bet on how the reality check comes out?

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

Video: in China, NYCRC rep pitching green cards in exchange for AY investment makes astounding claims (10,000 jobs, "most significant in 20 years")

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder blows the lid off Bruce Ratner's crooked green cards-for-cash financing scheme, in today's four-part package of Atlantic Yards Report exclusives.

"Members shall not engage in any professional conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, or deceit or commit any act that reflect adversely on the Member’s professional reputation or integrity."
--Best Ethics Practices for EB-5 Regional Centers, Association to Invest in the USA (IIUSA)

During a videotaped forum in China September 12 aimed at millionaires seeking green cards in exchange for an investment into the Atlantic Yards project, a representative of the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), the private firm delegated to manage such investments, made some astounding claims.

Notably, Gregg D. Hayden on video (excerpts below) claimed that:

  • "the Barclays Center is... the most significant project in the city and state of New York in the last 20 years"
  • "it generates well in excess of 10,000 jobs for years to come"
  • "because we involve government and government investment, we create a very significant 54% surplus in job creation"

All of those claims are very dubious, as is the prominent effort to link the investment sought--$249 million to build the railyard and possibly to pay off a land loan--to the Barclays Center arena and Nets basketball. See for example the NBA banner in the screenshot above.

And Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz wants to let the NYCRC pay his way to China to promote the project.

Evading the central question

Also, when Hayden was faced with a simple but challenging question--why, if Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is involved in the project, is new investment needed?--he evaded the question with a non sequitur.

The candid answer would have been: Forest City Ratner and parent Forest City Enterprises want to lower the cost of capital.

article

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

Bedbug sweep is complete — Campbell, Brown cleared

The Brooklyn Paper

Bedbugs in Metrotech might possibly be the least disgusting thing about Forest City Ratner.

Cosmo, the legendary bedbug-detecting Jack Russell terrier, sniffed out our Community Newspaper Group offices in Downtown on Saturday morning — just one day after our in-building neighbors at National Grid were infiltrated by the resilient insects.

The heroic pup is trained by his handler, Michael Loughnane of Synergy Scents, to search every crack and crevice for the notorious blood-sucking mites. He was called in by Forest City Ratner as a preemptive move after the bedbugs were spotted in the National Grid annex to 1 Metrotech Center, also known as the Community Newspaper Building.

article

NoLandGrab: The creepy insects are probably just trying to learn some new blood-sucking techniques from the experts, who, as Norman Oder reports today, have come up with a new scheme for bleeding the taxpayers.

Posted by eric at 9:32 AM

October 3, 2010

AY Barclays Center public plaza meeting photos, Sept 29, 2010

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

Posted by steve at 9:18 AM

Don't hold your breath for completion of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project

Daily News
By Adam Lisberg

Some folks are only now catching on that promises made by developer Bruce Ratner shouldn't be taken very seriously.

Developer Bruce Ratner acknowledged last week that his dream of office buildings and apartment towers anchored around a new basketball arena there won't be done in the 10-year time frame he once claimed.

...

Don't expect that to change any city leaders' support for the project - or any of the heavy subsidies being poured into it.

...

The IBO tried to measure the long-term impact of Atlantic Yards last year but threw up its hands because there was no realistic plan for when the costs and benefits would start.

Looking only at the Barclays Center arena, which is under construction now to open for the Nets in fall 2012, IBO concluded it will cost the city $40 million on balance.

The city Economic Development Corp. disputed that and put out a revised plan this year, claiming it will have a $411 million positive impact on the city over 30 years.

That analysis assumes the project started three years ago, though - before the crash. EDC insists the numbers are still valid, and that the project will be a boon to New York.

...

Don't worry about the time, says Ratner. Don't worry about the money, says Bloomberg. So what about the space?

Ratner unveiled drawings last week of a plaza to be built in front of the arena. There was supposed to be an office tower there. Ratner says it's coming, sometime.

The rendering shows 16 cars, four buses and one van in the entire 15-lane intersection. Anyone who's ever been through there knows it's busier than that at 2 a.m.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily News columnist takes skeptical look at project timeline and benefits, but says conclusion is up to "historians of New York" (nah)

In Don't hold your breath for completion of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, Daily News columnist Adam Lisberg does a little homework, likely inspired by some tough reporting by WNYC and the Brooklyn Paper:

...

Lisberg concludes:

Someday historians of New York will decide whether the timeline or the financing or the drawings were accurate. In the meantime, we'll have to live with it.

My comment:

So, Adam Lisberg does some homework and presents evidence that the timeline and thus expected benefits are extremely dubious.

But the conclusion is wimpy: "Someday historians of New York will decide whether the timeline or the financing or the drawings were accurate."

After all, the Development Agreement signed last December (and unveiled in January) gives Forest City Ratner ten years to start the third residential tower before penalties kick in. On the overall project, penalties kick in only after 25 years.

More here: http://bit.ly/c49bko

Oh, and the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush is part of the Atlantic Yards site, but a good chunk of the 22 acres is not in the hands of the developer or state.

Posted by steve at 9:17 AM

Peter Vecsey: Former Nets GM Thorn blames tension with Yormark for departure

Atlantic Yards Report

So, why did Nets General Manager Rod Thorn "retire" and then immediately un-retire to work for the Philadelphia 76ers? The New York Post's Peter Vecsey, in a column headlined Rod had rocky relationship with Nets CEO, blames it on Nets CEO Brett Yormark.

Vecsey writes:

From what I had told, Yormark had gotten down on Thorn down the stretch, feeling he'd gotten lazy and done a poor job. Though unable to talk Bruce Ratner into firing him (the master plan was to rehire friend John Calipari and re-position him on the sidelines with complete power regarding personnel), Brett had no problem undermining Rod.

There was persistent friction between the two executives.

"Yormark was Ratner's go-to guy for everything," said someone in the know. "They'd speak 30 times a day. Whenever Thorn wanted to do something of substance he'd reach out to Ratner who'd immediately run it by Yormark."

According to past and present team employees, regardless whether or not Yormark endorsed Thorn's idea, a proposed trade, signing, whatever, was soon in the newspapers and/or on the air.

"Brett is the Nets' chief leak," maintains one and all.

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Posted by steve at 9:07 AM

Markowitz isn't "taking full-advantage of permissible perks to boost economic investment in the borough;” rather, he's doing Ratner's bidding

Atlantic Yards Report

Who does the Brooklyn Borough President work for?

The more I think about it, the quote from Dick Dadey of the Citizens Union about Borough President Marty Markowitz's putative trip to China was way off, and in more ways than one.

The Post reported:

"[Markowitz] is clearly taking full-advantage of permissible perks to boost economic investment in the borough,” said Dick Dadey of the government-watchdog group Citizens Union.

Well, Citizens Union isn't much of a watchdog if it thinks that Markowitz's effort to get Forest City Ratner low-cost financing by flacking green cards will "boost economic investment in the borough."

It would more likely boost the developer.

More importantly, Markowitz, however much he may enjoy a foreign trip, would not be going in order to be "taking full-advantage of permissible perks."

Rather, he'd be doing Ratner's bidding, and the bidding of the New York City Regional Center funding the trip.

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Posted by steve at 9:04 AM

With Madoff, there were no checks and balances; same for Ratner's EB-5 visa scheme?

Atlantic Yards Report

In last Sunday's Op-Ed at 40 retrospective, the New York Times published Wall Street’s Fatal Blind Spot, by Michael Lewis and David Einhorn, originally published January 4, 2009.

A few excerpts seem relevant to the plan to raise Atlantic Yards funding from foreign investors via the EB-5 visa plan, specifically job-creation figures that are obscured and extremely questionable, and a lack of checks and balances:

Incredibly, intelligent people the world over remain willing to lend us money and even listen to our advice; they appear not to have realized the full extent of our madness. We have at least a brief chance to cure ourselves. But first we need to ask: of what?

To that end consider the strange story of Harry Markopolos. Mr. Markopolos is the former investment officer with Rampart Investment Management in Boston who, for nine years, tried to explain to the Securities and Exchange Commission that Bernard L. Madoff couldn’t be anything other than a fraud. Mr. Madoff’s investment performance, given his stated strategy, was not merely improbable but mathematically impossible. And so, Mr. Markopolos reasoned, Bernard Madoff must be doing something other than what he said he was doing.

No one else checked

The essay concludes:

What’s interesting about the Madoff scandal, in retrospect, is how little interest anyone inside the financial system had in exposing it. It wasn’t just Harry Markopolos who smelled a rat. As Mr. Markopolos explained in his letter, Goldman Sachs was refusing to do business with Mr. Madoff; many others doubted Mr. Madoff’s profits or assumed he was front-running his customers and steered clear of him.

Between the lines, Mr. Markopolos hinted that even some of Mr. Madoff’s investors may have suspected that they were the beneficiaries of a scam. After all, it wasn’t all that hard to see that the profits were too good to be true. Some of Mr. Madoff’s investors may have reasoned that the worst that could happen to them, if the authorities put a stop to the front-running, was that a good thing would come to an end.

The Madoff scandal echoes a deeper absence inside our financial system, which has been undermined not merely by bad behavior but by the lack of checks and balances to discourage it. “Greed” doesn’t cut it as a satisfying explanation for the current financial crisis. Greed was necessary but insufficient; in any case, we are as likely to eliminate greed from our national character as we are lust and envy. The fixable problem isn’t the greed of the few but the misaligned interests of the many.

The parallels are indirect, of course, but the structure of the EB-5 visa program apparently allows for promoters to make exaggerated claims, with no oversight.

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Posted by steve at 9:03 AM

At public meeting on arena plaza, presentation from SHoP, answers from FCR, ESDC, with video; public, inter-agency meetings coming (to be updated)

Atlantic Yards Reoprt

This is a comprehensive report (with updates coming) on this past week's meeting at Borough Hall. Complete with videos, it's almost the same as being there, except your loud cursing will not disrupt the meeting. Click on the link to get all the details.

At the public meeting held September 29 at Borough Hall regarding Forest City Ratner's plans for the arena plaza, public officials pledged to hold regular community meetings to keep community members informed of construction issues.

They also also pledged to hold inter-agency meetings to make sure governmental agencies were on top of things--though the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) new Project Manager seemed fuzzy on a previous pledge to do so.

About 70 people attended, with a good portion of them somehow officially involved, from elected officials' offices, government offices, and the developer. The event was low-key and, though it was allotted two hours, lasted only 90 minutes.

The big picture

There were a lot of good questions, and a reasonable amount of responsiveness, if not complete candor. There were several questions that were not exactly on topic--the arena plaza design--but they were addressed.

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Posted by steve at 4:45 AM

October 2, 2010

Atlantic Yards down the memory hole: New York Magazine profile of Extell's Barnett omits role of DDDB in spurring railyard bid

Atlantic Yards Report

I already wrote this past week how New York Magazine's profile of Extell Development head Gary Barnett misleadingly claimed he made a "surprise eleventh-hour bid for Atlantic Yards." After all, only the Vanderbilt Yard was up for bid--less than 40% of the site Ratner sought.

But there's another fundamental error in the profile, headlined The Anti-Trump; it ignores how Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) alerted Extell to the bid.

Here's the New York Magazine version:

In June 2005, shortly after he signed the record deal for Riverside South, Barnett summoned John Cetra, a Harvard-trained architect who was finishing work on the Orion, to his office. Barnett told ­Cetra he was thinking of making a bid for Atlantic Yards. Cetra was shocked by the idea. At the time, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was in the process of negotiating with Bruce Ratner over the rights to transform the area over the Brooklyn rail yards into a Frank Gehry–­designed ­future­scape. Ratner’s team of engineers had done years of planning and invested millions in the project. Bloomberg, and much of the city’s political Establishment, was behind Ratner’s bid, as well as his plans to bring the Nets to Brooklyn. Barnett was undaunted by the long-shot odds. “Gary said, ‘I want to go after this,’ ” Cetra recalled. “We worked around the clock on it.”

Barnett’s improbable bid stunned the real-estate world. He offered to pay the MTA $100 million more than Ratner, and in a nod to community opposition, his proposal called for just 4,800 occupants compared with Ratner’s plan to house 18,000. Barnett left the controversial Nets arena out of his bid and agreed not to condemn any blocks, two principal demands by community activists. Owing to their prior battle over the New York Times headquarters, the real-estate press jumped on the feud, portraying Barnett and Ratner as bitter rivals once again at war over prized development rights. Advisers in the Ratner camp certainly viewed it that way. “It was an effort to throw a wrench into the process, given what happened earlier,” one person close to the process told me. Barnett downplayed the whole matter when I brought it up. He told me he’s never met Ratner and insisted his bid was strictly about business.

DDDB's take

Here's how Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn tells it:

In May 2005, after much public pressure, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) for the sale or lease of all or some of the 8.4 acre Vanderbilt Yard (Vanderbilt Yard is the MTA's official name for the rail yards.) The MTA barely advertised the RFP (2 placements only). So, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn mailed the RFP, along with a cover letter and the Principles For Responsible Community Development On The Vanderbilt Rail Yards to one hundred developers. The few who responded were deterred by the political situation swirling around Ratner's project. But one firm, Extell Development Company, agreed to meet with some DDDB members.

After showing the UNITY Plan and The Principles to Extell, the development firm decided to submit a proposal to the MTA, with thirty days left in the ludicrously short 42-day time period the MTA had set for proposal submission. The plan submitted to the MTA by the Extell Development Company is guided by the principles underlying the UNITY Plan.

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Posted by steve at 8:39 AM

Ratner promises reasonable bollards

The Brooklyn Paper
By Andy Campbell

Developers of the Long Island Rail Road terminal made a “mistake” when they installed massive, tomb-like bollards in front of their new train station earlier this year — a mistake that Forest City Ratner says it will not make across the street at the Barclays Center.

In a bombshell dropped at a public meeting on Wednesday night about the plaza that will sit outside the Barclays Center, Forest City Ratner officials said the LIRR’s designers blew it on the excessive, granite, sarcophagus-style counter-terrorism bollards outside the building.

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NoLandGrab: First we were told that there weren't going to be any bollards, now there are. Why does Forest City Ratner even bother trying to make any more promises?

Posted by steve at 8:24 AM

Comptroller's Task Force Releases CBA Report Based Partly On Lessons Learned From Bronx Projects

Bronx News Network

This review of this week's report issued by Comptroller John Liu's office includes the Atlantic Yards CBA as an example of a poorly-done community benefits agreement.

While strong CBAs, including some with living wage guarantees, were being signed in other big cities around the country, developers in New York City, backed by it's pro-development (with no string attached) mayor, was late to the game. Some CBAs were signed -- at Atlantic Yards (Brooklyn), the new Yankee Stadium (Bronx) and the Gateway Center Mall (Bronx) -- but they lacked teeth and true community involvement, community and job advocates charged.

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Posted by steve at 8:19 AM

Neighborhood gets demolished and all they got was this lousy arena

Queens Crap

More commentary on the Atlantic Lots project:

From Develop Don't Destroy:

For his Atlantic Yards project Bruce Ratner promised a grandiose "urban room" and a tax revenue generating office tower at the gridlocked Atlantic and Flatbush intersection at the heart of Brooklyn. He also promised to build "affordable housing.”

None of that is going to happen.

...

Yes, but we already knew this, didn't we? Why aren't all the affordable housing advocates up in arms over this? Could it be because they got their payoffs in return for their support and never really cared about the actual housing?

Looks like the joke's on us taxpayers.

AGAIN.

P.S. That thing is an eyesore. It's actually bringing more blight to Brooklyn rather than removing it. Ugh.

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Posted by steve at 8:12 AM

October 1, 2010

The math doesn't work: peak construction jobs would reach 1756, so how can 4980 new jobs be claimed (and how can they be attributed to EB-5 only)?

Atlantic Yards Report

You might not be able to believe this, but Bruce Ratner's greencards-for-cash funding scheme just doesn't seem to add up.

How can the $249 million investment into the Atlantic Yards project sought from green card-seeking Chinese investors create or retain nearly 5000 jobs, as is required under the guidelines of the EB-5 visa program?
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Even during the peak construction period between 2011 and 2012, the number of construction jobs averages 1756 per year.

Yes, direct and indirect construction jobs created under the EB-5 program can be counted, but they must last two years.

Remember, the ESDC’s 2009 economic analysis suggested that “construction of the project will generate 12,568 new direct job years and 21,976 total job years (direct, indirect, and induced).”

So, if they generate 1756 construction jobs over two years, using the same ratio to add indirect and induced jobs, there would be 3070 jobs.

Where are the other 1928 jobs? There would be few permanent jobs, given the failure to construct an office tower.

More importantly, how can the sum total jobs be attributed to just this $249 million investment, when it's part of (as pitched in China) a $1.448 billion project or, as seen here, a $4.9 billion project?

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NoLandGrab: The next time Ratner does something legit will also be the first time Ratner does something legit.

Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

Marty Markowitz + China + Green Cards = Atlantic Yards Cash?

The Daily Politics
by Celeste Katz

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz could be headed to China to help developer Bruce Ratner trade green cards for cash for his Atlantic Yards project, our Erin Durkin reports:

Markowitz is waiting for the OK from the city Conflicts of Interest Board to accompany Ratner’s delegation on the trip, which kicks off Oct. 11.

The New York City Regional Center invited Markowitz on the trip and would pick up the tab, his spokeswoman said.

It’s part of the EB-5 visa program, which offers up green cards to foreigners who invest $500,000 in a project that creates or saves at least 10 jobs.

The federal government sets aside 3000 a year for such deep-pocketed investors.
...

The trip was first reported by prolific Atlantic Yards blogger Norman Oder, who has questioned whether raking in Chinese cash for the project, already under construction, should really count as creating or saving jobs.

Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin acknowledged at a public meeting last night that only 100 people have been put to work at the site so far (the developer promises more than 16,000 construction jobs over the life of the project, which actually means 16,000 "job-years," or 1600 a year if it gets done in 10 years, which even Ratner now acknowledges is close to impossible.) But she promised that number would grow quickly as arena construction got further underway.

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Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

Barclays Center Plaza To Feature Green Roof Subway Entrance

Inhabitat
by Bridgette Meinhold

In case you're rallying against the Atlantic Yards and Barclays Center developments in Brooklyn, this alteration to the original plans may or may not improve your opinion. SHoP Architects, who are responsible for the design of the Net's new arena, have altered the entrance to include a public plaza with more environmentally-friendly landscaping and a green roofed entrance to the subway.

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NoLandGrab: Our opinion? Still not improved.

Posted by eric at 9:17 AM