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January 31, 2011

Feb 3: DDDB In Court Seeking Sanctions and Legal Fees From ESDC

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

On Thursday, February 3, at 9:30 a.m., New York State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman will hear argument on the motion of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn to require the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner, and their lawyers, to pay DDDB for the costs of the additional legal work which DDDB's lawyers had to perform because ESDC and FCR improperly withheld a key contract from the court last year.

We strongly encourage you, as a DDDB supporter, to attend the hearing on Thursday. A grassroots organization such as ours should not be forced to suffer financial consequences because of the misconduct of a state agency.

Thursday, February 3rd. 9:30 AM
New York County Supreme Court
60 Centre Street [Map]
Room 335

Click thru for a preview of what will be at issue in court.


Posted by eric at 11:20 PM

Catching up: on declining manufacturing jobs, uncounted vacant lots (that could support new housing)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Bloomberg administration may gain respect for pursuing illegal gun sales, but there are lots of lapses when it comes to land use.

In a post January 15, I quoted the Village Voice quoting City Limits on the decline of manufacturing jobs, but here's Sarah Crean's original piece, dated January 3, headlined Did City's Industrial Policy Manufacture Defeat?

She wrote:

According to research conducted by the New York Industrial Retention Network, 23.4 million square feet of industrial space was lost to approved rezonings between 2001 and 2008, impacting some of New York’s most populated manufacturing districts. Significant portions of Greenpoint-Williamsburg, Long Island City, the midtown Garment Center, and Port Morris in the Bronx were rezoned during this period, mainly for residential development.

Repeated attempts by community groups, labor unions, industrial advocates and others to promote alternative plans that would not place as much pressure on manufacturing clusters met with limited success. We were particularly unsuccessful in reaching any sort of a conceptual common ground with the Department of City Planning. They generally ignored the argument that permitting residential development in industrial areas would lead to conversion pressure because owners of industrial buildings could generate higher returns with residential tenants. The Department of City Planning made repeatedly clear its belief that manufacturing jobs were not integral to New York’s future, while residential development, of course, was. Now as we struggle through double-digit unemployment in many of the city’s low income neighborhoods, the logic of ignoring our industrial sector seems more questionable.


NoLandGrab: But where is one going to find a nice poached turbot in beurre blanc and a lovely Pouilly-Fuisse in a manufacturing district?

Posted by eric at 11:08 PM

Freddy’s Bar to Reopen on Feb 4th

Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn

Freddy’s Bar is rising from the ashes.

The bar, which was demolished to make way for the Atlantic Yards project and was a central meeting place in the battle against eminent domain abuse, is set to reopen on Friday, February 4th.

Clear your calendar, folks. This is going to be a raucous good time. The fun starts at 5PM and the bar will stay open until 4AM!

They’ve got lots planned for the opening. Les Sans Culottes are the headliners and they will go on at midnight. Opening acts include Apple recording artist Brute Force and eclectic world roots band The Magpie kicking things off.


Posted by eric at 11:02 PM

Gramercy Recognition Agreement emerges, with hint that immigrant investor funds would mainly be used to pay off FCR's land loan

Atlantic Yards Report

There are two Atlantic Yards Recognition Agreements after all, both of which allow those loaning money to developer Forest City Ratner to gain development rights for part of the Atlantic Yards site, and also allow the minimum square footage of Phase 1 to be delayed.

And the earlier Recognition Agreement, which is the second to be released, offers hints that the money sought from immigrant investors, subject of the later Recognition Agreement, would be used mainly to pay off Forest City Ratner's land loan, not to build a new railyard, as the developer has said.


As I wrote 12/16/10, the Recognition Agreement that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) signed last October allowed potential immigrant investors development rights to part of the future Atlantic Yards site. And a previous Recognition Agreement did something very similar.

That latter agreement, embedded below and dated December 2009, allows at least 2.25 years of additional time, to February 2012, to reset the clock should FCR default on its obligation to Gramercy Warehouse Funding, which "holds a leasehold mortgage on certain Project parcels."

That would mean at least a 14-year deadline for Phase 1, rather than 12 years. The second Recognition Agreement offers a seven-year extension, meaning a 19-year deadline.

The loan at issue

The Gramercy mortgage, the balance of which was $153.9 million when the Recognition Agreement was signed in December 2009, expires in February 2012.

FCR seeks $249 million from immigrant investors via the New York City Regional Center under the EB-5 program--green cards for purportedly job-creating investments.

FCR executive MaryAnne Gilmartin told the Wall Street Journal that the money would be used for a railyard, but could be used, in part to pay off that land loan.

Given that some 60 percent of the $249 million could be used for the loan, my bet is that's the priority. After all, the railyard doesn't have to be completed until 2016.

That suggests that the developer how has a 13-month window of opportunity to get a no-interest (or low-interest) loan from the immigrant investors to repay Gramercy.


Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

Mike replacing marsh with mall

Queens Crap

God knows we have too much nature in this city and not enough Bruce Ratner projects! Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg, for this wonderful project in line with your PlaNYC 2030 goals. Just like this one.


Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

January 30, 2011

Rice Calling It Quits in Fort Greene

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

We have some sad news to start the day. Owners of the local restaurant Rice are shuttering their DeKalb Avenue location on Sunday. After it closes you’ll still be able to get your fix at Rice’s DUMBO location, which the owners plan to keep open.


NoLandGrab: The owners of Rice have been stalwarts in the fight to stop Atlantic Yards, generously donating their excellent food to numerous DDDB fundraising events. You can say thanks by visiting their DUMBO location.

Posted by eric at 6:31 PM

Barclays, proud sponsor of...


Really? Really?

No, not really.

Posted by eric at 6:11 PM

When was Ellerbe Becket on board? Article suggests arena architect switch began in November 2008, well before June 2009 announcement

Atlantic Yards Report

When exactly did architect Frank Gehry get bounced from the Atlantic Yards arena and project?

The replacement firm, the veteran arena designers Ellerbe Becket (later to be assisted by facade architect SHoP), didn't emerge until 5/27/09, while the official statement that Gehry was gone came on 6/4/09.

However, a trade publication article that I (and others) missed suggests that the relationship had been severed as of November 2008, a time when Ellerbe Becket, according to another report, was said to simply have begun advising Forest City Ratner.


Here's the new evidence. In a 9/30/09 article headlined Barclays Center: Firms Large and Small(er) Come Together Around Performative Design, AIArchitect reported:

Last November Ellerbe Becket (whose sports design practice is in Kansas City, Mo.) began working with Forest City Ratner on a less expensive design. In June, SHoP began working with Ellerbe Becket on the project, and the two firms released a final design in September, which Forest City Ratner is raising $700 million to build.

(Emphasis added)

The phrase "working... on a less expensive design" is not the same as (in the Daily News's words) "reevaluate the extravagant arena design Gehry conceived."

Ellerbe Becket and SHoP

The AIArchitect article ignores the sequence by which SHoP was hired. After generic Ellerbe Becket designs emerged (allegedly leaked by City Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden), New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff in June 2009 called it a "shameful betrayal of the public trust."


Posted by steve at 9:46 AM

January 29, 2011

MAS announces 2011 Livability Watch List, including Moynihan Station, Coney Island, NYU expansion; AY is not included but said to inform MAS thinking

Atlantic Yards Report

The Municipal Art Society (MAS) has announced the 2011 Livability Watch List, "a compilation of the 11 initiatives that will have the most significant effect on livability in New York City this year. As the leading organization dedicated to creating a more livable New York through intelligent urban planning and design, MAS will call attention to these 11 through advocacy work, public programming and issues monitoring."

The list, which leads with Moynihan Station & Hudson Yards, and includes Coney Island and the expansion of NYU, surely includes some major topics. It's tough to argue that any should be omitted, and it'll be a challenge for the MAS to keep track and galvanize interest.

That said, Atlantic Yards is a conspicuous omission, given that the issues it raises--a megadevelopment in a very tight spot, questionable design, indefinite interim surface parking--surely galvanized MAS for a while, leading it to help found "mend it, don't end it" BrooklynSpeaks, then to withdraw about a year ago once the latter finally went to court, a tactic with which MAS disagreed.


Posted by steve at 8:21 AM

Markowitz, James comment with enthusiasm (and, in the latter's case, some challenge) on appointment of Brooklyn's Adams to head ESDC

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz issued a statement enthusiastically endorsing the appointment of Brooklynite Ken Adams as CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation:

“I congratulate Cobble Hill’s own Kenneth Adams on his appointment as the head of the Empire State Development Corporation. Ken is superbly qualified for this new role—he is an innovative trailblazer who made a huge and lasting impact on Brooklyn’s business community while president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. I have no doubt this will be Governor Cuomo’s top appointment, and all of Brooklyn is proud to share him with the rest of New York State.”

City Council Member Letitia James was enthusiastic, but more challenging:

“I want to congratulate Kenneth Adams on his new appointment as President and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation. This pick to lead a restructured ESDC is a great match. As former president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and Director of the MetroTech Business Improvement District in downtown Brooklyn, Ken recognizes that small businesses serve as an economic engine in Brooklyn.

The community looks forward to partnering with an innovative leader to resolve outstanding issues in and around the Atlantic Yards footprint. I’m confident that Ken will address the high rate of unemployment in Central Brooklyn, the lack of procurement for minority and women owned businesses in the state of New York, as well as the impact of the recession on all small businesses.

Congratulations as well to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for this superb choice; Ken is one of Brooklyn’s own!”

And No Land Grab's Eric McClure reminds us:

Adams also headed the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce during a shameful episode in 2005, when the public and owners of businesses opposed to the Atlantic Yards project were barred from a Chamber luncheon sponsored by Forest City Ratner, at which the project was discussed. Members of the press attending the function had to agree to a gag order, and opponents were relegated to protesting outside Gargiulo's locked doors.


Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn Leaders Praise Gov’s Choice of Ken Adams
by Raanan Geberer

This item contains a brief version of Ken Adams' resumé, including his time as head of the Ratner-driven MetroTech Business Improvement District.

Brooklyn public figures Friday praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s choice of Kenneth Adams, president of the New York State Business Council and former president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, to lead the Empire State Development Corp., which oversees state incentive programs.

Adams grew up in Cobble Hill, the son of community activist Murray Adams, a former president of the Cobble Hill Association. Before leading the Chamber, he served as head of the MetroTech Business Improvement District (BID). He left the Chamber to join the Business Council in November 2006.

Posted by steve at 8:09 AM

January 28, 2011

Planner Garvin on the importance of parks; his checklist explains why publicly-accessible open space (as in AY) doesn't measure up

Atlantic Yards Report

On Monday I attended a lecture by planner Alexander Garvin, academic, consultant (self-described "public realm strategist"), former Dan Doctoroff aide, and author of the recently-published Public Parks: The Key to Livable Communities.

While Garvin wasn't addressing publicly-accessible, privately-managed open space like that planned for Atlantic Yards, it's clear that it doesn't measure up to the standards of public parks.

AY open space comes later

It also should be pointed out that the Atlantic Yards open space would not come until Phase 2 of the project, and then in increments as each building is finished, which means the full eight acres would not arrive for ten years, under the non-credible official timetable, and more likely 25 years, the official deadline.

By contrast, at Battery Park City, much of the park space was built first. Indeed, as Garvin described using examples from Paris (boulevards, parks, small parks) and San Antonio (the Riverwalk), such public investment stimulated investment, rather than was portrayed as a reward after allowing new development.

Garvin, as I've reported, stresses investments in the "public realm," streets, squares, parks, transportation systems, and public buildings, which, he said Monday, provides the most leverage in capturing and guiding public investment in the public interest.


NoLandGrab: The MetroTech rules sign could've been a lot smaller if they'd just listed the things one is allowed to do.

Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

Ken Adams, former head of Brooklyn Chamber and MetroTech BID, named new CEO of ESDC

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, in naming Kenneth Adams as president and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seen as reaching out to business.

And, despite some gubernatorial concern about the top-down growth model, I wouldn't bet on any changed course on Atlantic Yards.

After all, Adams in 2006, as president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, testified in favor of the project, on behalf of the organization. And he previously headed the MetroTech Business Improvement District, of which Forest City Ratner is a major member.

Still, give the guy a chance; maybe Adams has the integrity to recognize that the ESDC's support of Forest City Ratner's effort to get immigrant investor funding is a tad unseemly.


NoLandGrab: Adams also headed the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce during a shameful episode in 2005, when the public and owners of businesses opposed to the Atlantic Yards project were barred from a Chamber luncheon sponsored by Forest City Ratner, at which the project was discussed. Members of the press attending the function had to agree to a gag order, and opponents were relegated to protesting outside Gargiulo's locked doors.

Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com], Cuomo appoints CEO of state’s top business association to head ESDC

Adams’ proud father, longtime Cobble Hill civic leader Murray Adams, told the Post he believes his son “will do a great job” and hopes “he’ll end ESDC’s long history of being pretty arrogant.”

The elder Adams -- who in 2006 was part of a group that took on ESDC during a failed legal fight to keep condos out of Brooklyn Bridge Park – said, “I think Kenneth will listen to local concerns.” He cited both the park and the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn as two examples of ESDC ignoring residents' concerns.

NLG: Hmm, maybe Cuomo should've appointed Ken Adams's dad.

The Brooklyn Paper, Brooklyn man — Ken Adams — to run state economic agency

Adams’s reputation as a bridge-builder could help put a positive face on the Empire State Development Corporation, which has drawn fire for rubber-stamping the Atlantic Yards project, and for approving housing inside Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The agency finances and operates state projects by issuing tax-exempt bonds — and often avoids the city’s usual public review process for its projects.

“The Empire State Development Corporation was used in Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Atlantic Yards to skirt all public scrutiny and evade community input,” [Cobble Hill Association President Roy] Sloane charged.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not willing to give Adams — a Brooklyn Friends graduate, after all — a chance.

“Do I have issues with the Empire State development Corporation? Yes. Do I have issues with Ken Adams? No,” he stated.

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

At State of the District, Jeffries talks education, jobs, housing, public safety--but not AY (later, he says he's waiting for an ESDC chair)

Atlantic Yards Report

At his fourth annual State of the District address last night, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries had some tangible and less tangible achievements to report to a supportive crowd, concerned with education, employment, housing, and public safety. And a few jabs at Mayor Mike Bloomberg certainly were well-received.

Ever more polished--part lawyer, politician, preacher--Jeffries drew a reasonable crowd on a snowy night, with local District Leaders (Walter Mosley, Olanike Alabi, Lincoln Restler) in attendance, along with Community Board 8 Chair Nizjoni Granville, CB 2 Chair John Dew, and Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

Atlantic Yards, as with last year’s address, was not mentioned, a sign, perhaps, of Jeffries’ recognition that neither prominent criticism nor active support of such a divisive, complicated, and delayed project would play well with his base.

Or perhaps, Jeffries recognizes that he has relatively little clout at this point. I did interview him afterward (video below), and he said he hasn’t yet talked with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about Atlantic Yards because, understandably, a new Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) leader is not yet in place. (Update: Ken Adams was named today.)


Related coverage...

Bed-Stuy Patch, Hakeem Looks Back at 2010

...he extolled his initiative meant to convert vacant luxury apartments into affordable housing, though he admitted progress was slowgoing.

“Since this law was passed several units of affordable housing have been created, but much work remains to be done,” Jeffries said. "We need more cooperation from financial institutions...some of them got more hustle than the fellas on 125th Street."

The Assemblyman only hinted at what was on his agenda this year, saying that the key to solving crime and poverty was jobs. Notably, he did not point to the Atlantic Yards project — often touted as a job creator — as a solution to the economic woes affecting neighborhoods in the vicinity of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

Prok Speaks, Nets Listen: Owner’s Words Prove Prophetic As Brooklyn-Bound Franchise Heats Up

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by John Torenli

The Eagle — and Nets' coach Avery Johnson — are impressed by the inspirational skills of team owner Vince Lombardi Mikhail Prokhorov.

The Nets had lost six straight games, 11 of 12 and owned an ugly 10-31 record last week when Prokhorov pulled the plug on a potential blockbuster deal that would have landed Denver Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony in Newark, and eventually Downtown Brooklyn.

Prokhorov, no stranger to the art of the business deal, flew in from Russia last Wednesday and insisted the Nets would no longer play the foil in Denver’s on-again, off-again discussions regarding a potential 14-player swap.

He even hinted that the eight Nets players whose names had been mentioned throughout the laborious process were suffering from the strain and tension of not knowing where they’d be playing at any given moment.

While some scoffed at the notion of the Nets, who won all of 12 games last season and barely avoided the distinction of being the worst NBA team ever, playing poorly because of the trade rumors, recent history indicates Prokhorov was right on point.

The Nets have since gone on to win four of their last five contests — their best stretch since 2009 — including Wednesday night’s come-from-behind 93-88 triumph over visiting Memphis.

Buoyed by their owner’s refusal to let the Anthony talks drag out, the Nets have clearly re-focused their attention on the hardwood.

“Right now the spirit of our team is at an all-time high, just in terms of all the things we’re tried to implement and trying to change this culture,” noted coach Avery Johnson, the man charged with carrying out Prokhorov’s vision of an NBA championship contender.


NoLandGrab: Calm down, Coach. "An all-time high" might be a bit hyperbolic, given the Nets' 14-32 record. Their four recent wins came against teams with a combined 74-109 record, which, to be fair, represents a winning percentage a full 100 points better than that of Prokhorov's charges.

Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

January 27, 2011

NBA Team Valuations: #21 New Jersey Nets


According to Forbes's annual rankings of NBA team finances, the Nets actually increased in value by 16% this year, but they have a whopping debt-to-value ratio of 224% — the only team in the league with more debt than equity.

The skinny
In May, 2010 Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov invested $293 million in equity for an 80% interest in the Nets, a 45% stake in Brooklyn Arena, LLC, the operating company that will run the team's new building, and up to 20% of Atlantic Yards Development LLC, which will develop real estate near the new Barclays Center arena. We estimate that the enterprise value for the team and arena comes to $365 million. The Nets plan to move into their state-of-the art facility in 2012 and are expected to see sponsorship, premium seating and concession revenues of $75 million a year, $60 million more than what the team received at the IZOD Center last season. Debt service on the new building, which was financed with $511 in PILOT bonds, will be between $27 million and $30 million a year.


NoLandGrab: Can you guess the NBA's new most-valuable team? The New York Knicks.

Posted by eric at 9:19 AM

New Betaville, based on gaming technology, could equalize the information gap in urban design and enhance public participation

Atlantic Yards Report

Public presentations of projects like Atlantic Yards have relied principally on self-serving, often misleading renderings produced by the developer's architect, frequently from a helicopter view rather than street level.

Indeed, even New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff got religion in April 2008, pointing out, in relation to the Hudson Yards plan, that misleading and incomplete renderings produce a "distorted picture of reality" that "stifles what is supposed to be an open, democratic process."

With Atlantic Yards, some citizen activists and outside professionals produced alternative renderings of the project in neighborhood scale, which in turn led to a new and better renderings from architect Frank Gehry, which were released by the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency shepherding the project.

Still, New York's daily newspapers failed to present a rendering of the project in neighborhood scale.

So, as I told Urban Omnibus, Betaville, described as a new “open source, multi-player environment for real cities” offers great promise in equalizing the information gap and helping present, from the start, a more honest perspective on development projects big and small. Such a service is only fair, and long overdue.

Urban Omnibus has an fascinating video interview with Betaville developer Carl Skelton, director of the Brooklyn Experimental Media Center (BxmC) at NYU Poly, in which he describes, using Betaville, how you can "fly around, like Robert Moses, and walk around, like Jane Jacobs" and how expertise can meet "local competence."


Related coverage...

Urban Omnibus, Betaville

Posted by eric at 9:09 AM

The Capitol: ESDC still waiting for a leader, but top-down growth model (AY?) seen as history

Atlantic Yards Report

From The Capitol, Empire State Building: Details about Cuomo’s economic development strategy emerge, but a new ESDC chair does not:

In his State of the State speech, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the only way to make New York the Empire State once again was through “a vibrant private sector that was creating great jobs.”

But the 10 regional councils Cuomo has vowed to create to drive economic development around the state are still unformed and his plan to remake the Empire State Development Corporation is shrouded in secrecy, with no word on who will get the top spot at the agency.

What can be gleaned from sources close to the discussions is that Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy, who will oversee the regional councils, are intent on moving away from the top-down, New York City-and-Albany-driven models of the past, empowering the regional councils with funding and bond-buying powers, and instilling a sense of competition in the process to encourage growth.

After years of turnover, failed programs and conflicting mission statements, ESDC is widely seen as in desperate need of a jump-start.

(Emphasis added)

It's hard to believe that the concept of "top-down, New York City-and-Albany-driven models of the past" doesn't include Atlantic Yards.

In December, ESDC Chairman Dennis Mullen had his valedictory. Mullen, in an unguarded moment last March, half-joked that Atlantic Yards was "a project that I would like to move off our portfolio."


NoLandGrab: Ha ha! Does that mean only half the joke is on New York's taxpayers?

Posted by eric at 8:48 AM

Dogged reporters cover Atlantic Yards

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

One of the largest development projects in the United States trying to take advantage of the EB-5 Program and foreign investment is Brooklyn Navy Yard in the Atlantic Yards development, a multi-phase project of the New York City Regional Center.


NoLandGrab: In fact, the phases are so multi that the Navy Yard and Atlantic Yards are two totally separate entities.

Posted by eric at 8:40 AM

January 26, 2011

For Times, arena returns as a sports story, sourced to Ratner, who claims, “Brooklyn has been waiting for this, really, since the Dodgers left"

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards is once again a sports story, and the only sources for the New York Times's New Arena for the Nets Is Sprouting in Brooklyn are developer Bruce Ratner and uber-marketer Brett Yormark.

In response to some not-so-informed comments by former point guard Jason Kidd, who didn't think the arena was happening, and perhaps (as per NLG) a not-so-flattering article telling us Nets tickets are going for pennies, the Times tells us:

After several years of legal wrangling and the economic downturn, the Barclays Center is finally and firmly on the way after ground was broken last year.

“It got delayed so much and there were so many false starts, ‘I think we’re there, I think we’re there,’ and then the economy got bad and this thing happened and that thing happened, so unless you read carefully, you don’t realize how far along it is and that it’s really on its way,” Ratner said.

Well, it's on its way, but exactly how far is not completely clear. A more independent source, a consultant to the bond trustee, has indicated that a meeting on schedule disputes was to happen last month, and that substantial completion had been nudged back from July to August 2012.

Remember, back in November, 2005, Scott Turner of Fans for Fair Play savaged the relevance of Dodgers nostalgia in the context of the Atlantic Yards saga, contrasting owners, their devotion to sports, their commitment to local fans, the players, ticket costs, and commitment to local businesses, among other things.


Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

Markowitz quiz: "The [???] will distort and manipulate anything they have to, to justify their action"

Atlantic Yards Report

Both Streetsblog and Aaron Naparstek point to a stunning interview of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz by Marcia Kramer of CBS, opposing the Prospect Park West bike lane.

"I don't believe a word coming out of that department, not a word," Markowitz says of the Department of Transportation. "The Department of Transportation will use any way to justify their action, distort and manipulate anything they have to, to justify their action."

While Markowitz thinks bike advocacy groups juiced the statistics by showing up the day of a survey, the DOT had a plausible explanation for the counter-statistics offered by Markowitz's favorite civic group: they counted only at the end of the line.

The Borough President wants an independent group to study usage of the bike lane, one not beholden to the DOT or the community.

The AY contrast

As several commenters pointed out, this sequence contrasts mightily with Markowitz's unyielding support of Atlantic Yards.

Consider, by contrast, Markowitz's lost opportunity to question the obviously distorted statistics on the Brooklyn housing market, contained in a KPMG report to the Empire State Development Corporation.

Or consider Markowitz's blatant lies in service to Forest City Ratner's effort to raise cheap capital from Chinese millionaires seeking green cards.


NoLandGrab: If you answered "Forest City Ratner" or "ESDC" or "Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes," give yourself full credit.

Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

Atlantic Center Crime Wave Continues, Spreads to Coney Island

The L Magazine
by Henry Stewart

Two weeks ago, police blotter stats revealed that the area around Ratner's Atlantic Yards project had become a hotbed of crime. It wasn't just a fluke: this week's stats report more crime sweeping through the area. A Target shopper had her purse snatched a week ago; four days later, a sexagenarian in Marshall's befell a similar fate, as did a 28-year-old stroller pusher in Target that same day. More seriously, a man tried to assault sexually a woman a block east of the Atlantic Terminal, but she escaped safely.

Earlier this month, I suggested that the problem was a trickle-down effect...of crime! Against a backdrop of mass-criminality like the Atlantic Yards, of course a wave of petty crime would spring up, no? Is that a crazy idea? Where else in Brooklyn have borderline-criminal landgrabs been going on? Ummm....Coney Island? Has there been a spike in crime out there? Oh, actually, the Post reported yesterday that Coney crime has been increasing dramatically. "Last summer there were a lot of murders in Coney Island,” one store owner told the paper. “The incidents of gun violence has increased dramatically." So much so that a Coney Island Coalition Against Violence formed and recently began distributing 1,000 anti-gun-violence posters. Is it really so surprising that more crime would burst out a neighborhood against which so much crime has been committed? Just like how abused children often grow up to abuse their own.


NoLandGrab: We should be clear that Bruce Ratner's malls have been a hotbed of crime for quite a while.

Photo: Kristen Goode, About.com

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Tomorrow, 1/26: Gregg Pasquarelli, SHoP Architects

Urban Omnibus

"Tomorrow" is now today.

Tomorrow night, Wednesday, January 26, the League is hosting a Current Work lecture featuring Gregg Pasquarelli, founding partner of the New York firm SHoP Architects. SHoP’s work is highly recognizable in New York City — current projects include the Barclays Center Arena at Atlantic Yards, a two-mile esplanade and park for along the East River Waterfront, projects at the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Porter House in the Meatpacking District, 290 Mulberry Street and designs for the development of South Street Seaport.

From the lecture description:

As both practitioners and educators, SHoP’s commitment to challenging the process of building seeks to prove that “beauty and technological proficiency are not mutually exclusive.” They state: “We look at an entire project and consider the site, the cultural and economic environment, a client’s physical needs and budget constraints, as well as construction techniques, branding, marketing, and post-occupancy issues…Great architecture demands that design, finance, and technology work together – we’re combining these forces in innovative ways to create a new model for the profession.”

Tickets are still available for the lecture and can be purchased on the League’s website. As always, tickets are free for Architectural League members and are $15 for non-members. Full details and information about reserving tickets can be found here.

Current Work
Gregg Pasquarelli
“Out of Practice”
Moderated by Mark Robbins
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

7:00 p.m.
The Great Hall, The Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street


Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

Required Reading for Brooklynites of a Political Persuasion: What’s Happening to Our Borough?

About.com Brooklyn, NY Blog
by Ellen Freudenheim

In case you missed them, two important pieces were published in the past few days about Brooklyn. Not about restaurants and places to spend money, but about Brooklyn's fundamental direction--and the power of big developers to literally shape the landscape of a borough that so many call home.

"We're Essentially Powerless"

Sunday's New York Times published a powerful piece calling out Brooklyn's lack of political muscle. Brooklyn civic activist Norman Oder (who, as author of the Atlantic Yards Report blog, certainly has had a birdseye view of power politics in Brooklyn) says, "We lack meaningful local government, as well as broad-based media and civic organizations." His conclusion? Putting it mildly, "Brooklyn's powerful developers, institutions and politicians often evade scrutiny."


Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

Nets coach is second-to-last in the standings, but standing tall with God

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gary Buiso

We'll save Norman Oder the trouble, and point out that while the Brooklyn Paper devotes ink to the preaching of the Nets' coach, it continues to ignore the Atlantic Yards EB-5 scam.

Praise the Lord and pass the roundball!

New Jersey Nets head man Avery Johnson delivered an impassioned sermon to an enthusiastic crowd at a Crown Heights church on Tuesday night, quoting from Proverbs and preaching about life — and predicting “pandemonium” when the team finally moves to Brooklyn.

“Have your applications ready,” Johnson advised the mostly black crowd at the First Baptist Church. “We’re bringing jobs, we’re bringing hope and excitement to Brooklyn!”

Avery’s squad barely has a prayer in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, where it has posted a 13-32 record — good for the less-than-inspirational second-to-last place.

“Everyone is telling me to keep my head up,” he said. “I’m not looking at New Jersey — I’ve got my eyes on Brooklyn!” he said to cheers.

The talk was organized by the Mighty Men of Valor, a ministry at the church, which is led by the father of former Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Clarence Norman Jr.


NoLandGrab: Given the Nets' record, it's pretty obvious Johnson has taken his eye off New Jersey. So he might want to pray that he's still the coach should the Nets ever make it to Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

January 25, 2011

New Arena for the Nets Is Sprouting in Brooklyn

The New York Times
by Jonathan Abrams

Someone at The Times dropped the ball and allowed an article to make it into today's paper about Nets tickets selling for less than the price of a stick of gum, so in the interest of "balance," tomorrow's paper will include this non-news fluffery.

After several years of legal wrangling and the economic downturn, the Barclays Center is finally and firmly on the way after ground was broken last year.

“It got delayed so much and there were so many false starts, ‘I think we’re there, I think we’re there,’ and then the economy got bad and this thing happened and that thing happened, so unless you read carefully, you don’t realize how far along it is and that it’s really on its way,” Ratner said.

He spoke Tuesday from the 14th floor of a bank building across the street from the construction in Prospect Heights as snow fell and workers pieced together parts of the upper bowl. The arena is expected to open in the summer of 2012 and also host boxing, tennis and other events. The Nets will attempt to tap into the Knicks’ stranglehold of New York City and hired the marketing agency Translation, led by the recording executive Steve Stoute, to promote the brand.

“I think Brooklyn has been waiting for this, really, since the Dodgers left,” Ratner said.

The opposition that clogged the arena’s path would probably disagree. Ratner — a development partner of The New York Times in building its current headquarters — once doubted that the arena would be built when the economy collapsed, but regained optimism once the Yankees gained financing for their new stadium.

That's us, clogging the path of progress like an oversized dump. Didn't have anything to do with eminent domain abuse, backroom deals, massive subsidies, rigged environmental studies... shall we go on?

And now, a word from Mr. Credibility.

Brett Yormark, the Nets’ chief executive, said he expected no further delays.

“None whatsoever, and I don’t have my blinders on because I’m open to see any and all obstacles,” he said. “But we’re full speed ahead all the way.”


Posted by eric at 10:40 PM

Cavaliers at Nets? Priceless (Almost)

The New York Times
by Benjamin Hoffman

For slightly less than the $2.50 cost of a single-ride MetroCard, a basketball fan could have treated himself and 21 of his friends to an N.B.A. game Monday night in Newark.

Early in the day, SlamOnline reported that tickets for the game between the Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers were selling for as little as 25 cents each on the online ticket seller StubHub.com. That seemed to set off a bit of a price war, with many tickets falling below that price. By the time the site shut down ticket sales, the least expensive seats available were listed at just 11 cents for the game between the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference.

With 22 tickets available at that price, the total to buy them would have been $2.42, though service and delivery fees would have increased the total purchase to a whopping $12.37. A single fan traveling from New York City would spend almost that much just getting to the game and back; transportation from Manhattan to the Prudential Center via New Jersey Transit costs $5 each way.


NoLandGrab: And why, you might ask yourself, are New York's taxpayers kicking in more than a billion dollars to land a team for which the market demand is 11¢ a ticket?

Posted by eric at 4:19 PM

Dave Zirin on the Green Bay Packers and the road not taken in professional sports

Atlantic Yards Report

Edge of Sports columnist Dave Zirin is now blogging for The New Yorker, and his first piece, Those Non-Profit Packers, reminds us of the the way professional sports didn't go, toward non-profit ownership, with the unique example of the Green Bay Packers:

In 1923, the Packers were just another hardscrabble team on the brink of bankruptcy. Rather than fold they decided to sell shares to the community, with fans each throwing down a couple of dollars to keep the team afloat. That humble frozen seed has since blossomed into a situation wherein more than a hundred thousand stockholders own more than four million shares of a perennial playoff contender... Shareholders receive no dividend check and no free tickets to Lambeau Field.

....The Packers’ unique setup has created a relationship between team and community unlike any in the N.F.L. Wisconsin fans get to enjoy the team with the confidence that their owner won’t threaten to move to Los Angeles unless the team gets a new mega-dome. Volunteers work concessions, with sixty per cent of the proceeds going to local charities. Even the beer is cheaper than at a typical N.F.L. stadium.

And while a member of the Packers board thinks costs today would make it tough to duplicate the ownership structure, even if the N.F.L. allowed it, Zirin sees a counterargument:

It may be exorbitantly expensive to run a team, but people don’t buy N.F.L. teams as a civic service. Being an N.F.L. owner is like having a license to print money... In the United States, we socialize the debt of sports and privatize the profits.


NoLandGrab: "Socialize the debt... and privatize the profits?" Why, that's the same business model as real estate development.

Posted by eric at 4:11 PM

Crime wave continues at Atlantic malls

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

With apologies to Benjamin Franklin, in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and crime in Bruce Ratner's malls.

Mall maul

Not a week goes by without a purse snatching in the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls. Here’s this week’s bad news:

• A thief snagged a purse from a woman’s shopping cart as she shopped at the Flatbush Avenue Target on Jan. 18. The 36-year-old shopper remembered seeing her bag in her shopping cart at 3:15 pm.

• Someone plucked a handbag from a 62-year-old woman’s cart inside Marshalls on Jan. 22. The woman turned her head away from her cart for a “couple of minutes,” beginning at 2:36 pm, when the bag was taken.

• A crook slipped a purse off a baby stroller that a 28-year-old woman was guiding through Target on Jan. 22. The woman didn’t notice that the bag was missing until 3:10 pm.


Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Still waiting for some answers from the USCIS on EB-5 and the Brooklyn arena project

Atlantic Yards Report

So, the federal government's EB-5 immigration program, in which investors in purportedly job-creating projects can get green cards for themselves and their families, has been the subject of a broad investigation by Reuters and an Atlantic Yards-focused investigation by this blog, both concluding last month.

Three weeks ago, I posed the following query to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal agency overseeing the program:

I recognize that you may be unable to comment on specific procedures or projects, so not all my questions may be answered, but they include:
--what has been the reaction, from external and internal stakeholders, to the Reuters article?
--has the Reuters article prompted any changes, or consideration of any changes?
--can/should/will USCIS crack down on apparent abuses in the marketing of EB-5 projects?
--is USCIS satisfied with the guidance/rules on crediting immigrant investors with job creation based on money already committed by other sources, especially for a project that would move forward with or without the immigrant investor funds?
--does USCIS have any new concerns about the Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure project, marketed by the NYC Regional Center?

I'm still waiting for a response.

And yes, the second-to-last question points to the Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project, given that Atlantic Yards would move ahead with or without immigrant investor funds, according to the state.


Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

China high court cracks down on illegal fundraising, said to be warning to EB-5 marketers

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not exactly clear how it applies to marketing of EB-5 investment projects like the one involving Atlantic Yards, but a new legal interpretation (translation, shorter version) by the Supreme People's Court of China should be considered a warning for EB-5 marketers, according to consultant Brian Su:

The detailed legal interpretation specifically target various illegal fundraising and PE [private equity] activities conducted by various unlicensed and unregistered agents without proper licence, including brokers and entities from foreign countries. It also addresses the issues of misinformation, mis-representation, and misuse of public media to illegally attract investors in China. The interpretation will have great implications and impacts on EB-5 regional center that are seeking Chinese investments through marketing activities in China.

Some of the provisions in the interpretation involve blatant fraud, such as promising a refund. It's unclear to me whether and how it extends to projects, for example, where investors are told they're investing in an arena that's already funded.


Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Latest City Incubator Opens in Flatiron Area

The Wall Street Journal
by Joseph De Avila

Atlantic Yards gets a mention as the yardstick for wasteful public spending.

The eighth entrepreneurial program sponsored by New York City opened Monday, aimed at providing technology and design classes to aid new businesses.

The Bloomberg administration plans to launch another so-called incubator in the Bronx this spring. To date, the city has invested $3 million in the programs, with about 500 people working out of its incubators.

Compared with the amount of money the city invests in corporate tax incentives and big real-estate projects like Atlantic Yards, incubators are "still a drop in the bucket," said Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center of for an Urban Future, a nonpartisan research group. Still, he said, "I think it's a huge shift in local economic development policy, and it's long overdue."


Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

January 24, 2011

The Vanishing City: film focuses on the fruits of a corporate-friendly mentality and the "luxury city"; AY gets a cameo

Atlantic Yards Report

Trying to understand the arc of the city that led to such projects as Atlantic Yards, I've been writing recently about the loss of manufacturing. That's part of a larger story, told intriguingly--if incompletely--in the 55-minute 2010 documentary, The Vanishing City, by Fiore DiRosa and Jen Senko.

The overview:

Told through the eyes of tenants, city planners, business owners, scholars, and politicians, The Vanishing City exposes the real politic behind the alarming disappearance of New York’s beloved neighborhoods, the truth about its finance-dominated economy, and the myth of “inevitable change.” Artfully documented through interviews, hearings, demonstrations, and archival footage, the film takes a sober look at the city’s “luxury” policies and high-end development, the power role of the elite, and accusations of corruption surrounding land use and rezoning. The film also links New York trends to other global cities where multinational corporations continue to victimize the middle and working classes.

Opening with the voices of neighborhood residents who fear they are being pushed out, the film pivots on the insights of anthropologist and urban historian Julian Brash, author of Bloomberg’s New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City and subject of this 10/22/08 Q&A on Jeremiah's Vanishing New York blog.

The "luxury city" quote, as noted at the bottom, reflects Mayor Mike Bloomberg's framing of the city as a luxury product for corporations to choose as a location--a philosophy, as the film points out, that's belied by the tax breaks targeted for big employers.

But the film, not inappropriately, points to an emphasis on building luxury housing, with the attendant shift in the character of neighborhoods, as small businesses close.

The question, echoed in the 2007 and 2008 discussions of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, is whether that was simply the market at work. As the film reminds us, it wasn't.


Posted by eric at 9:04 AM

Eminently Legal Destruction

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance

Poor Richard Lipsky. He appears to be suffering from amnesia, forgetting about his love of eminent domain for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project (and hatred of opponents), for which he served as a paid consultant, before turning opponent himself, as a paid consultant for eminent domain victims of the Columbia University expansion and Willets Point land grab.

In yesterday's NY Post, the paper had an article about the fact that property owners in NY State have absolutely no protection from the depredations of those elected officials who want to take away their property.

And in our view, the Court of Appeals in this state is an ass-but it is the legislature's failure to remedy the state of eminent domain law in New York that is the real scandal. With the state's highest court taking the, "see no evil," approach, justice for landowners here is truly blind, and will remain so unless the legislature acts-as it has in so many other states in the post-Kelo era.


NoLandGrab: Obviously, Lipsky's Atlantic Yards consulting contract has expired.

Posted by eric at 8:50 AM

January 23, 2011

Post, belatedly, notices Judge Catterson's complaint about no judicial oversight of eminent-domain proceedings; why not put EB-5 on the agenda?

Atlantic Yards

In an article headlined Wrong from blight: Judge rips land grab, the New York Post reports three months late:

In a little-noticed ruling that could pack a punch for property owners, a judge has blasted the city for abusing eminent domain in its bid to seize buildings in East Harlem -- yet says there's nothing he can do about it.

In a searing statement, Justice James Catterson of the state Appellate Division accused the city of falsely claiming "blight" as a ploy to transfer private property to developers.

But New York's lower courts are powerless to stop it, said Catterson, thanks to prior rulings from the state Court of Appeals on eminent-domain cases related to Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards development and Columbia University's West Harlem expansion.

"In my view, the record amply demonstrates that the [East Harlem] neighborhood in question is not blighted . . . and that the justification of under-utilization is nothing but a canard to aid in the transfer of private property to a developer," Catterson said of the city's argument that it can grab two blocks between 125th and 127th streets along Third Avenue because the area is economically depressed.

Unfortunately for the rights of the citizens affected by the proposed condemnation, recent rulings . . . have made plain there is no longer any judicial oversight of eminent-domain proceedings," the justice wrote.

Catterson and a panel of four other Appellate Division justices dismissed the matter of Uptown Holdings vs. New York City on Oct. 12, 2010...

Previous notice

Actually, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn noticed in October, and so did others watching Atlantic Yards, including this blog.

Catterson is known for the plurality opinion temporarily blocking eminent domain in the Columbia University expansion and also a searing concurrence, which read like a dissent, in the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

On the agenda: EB-5?

This Post article suggests that newspaper can put issues on the agenda when someone decides it's important, whether or not it's "old news."

By the same token, couldn't the Post cover Forest City Ratner's astonishing effort to raise money from Chinese millionaires seeking green cards under the EB-5 immigration program, and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's lies in service to that effort?


Posted by steve at 11:29 AM

Mike Lupica, November 2005: "If Caring Bruce Ratner is still the owner of the Nets in five years, I'll eat my hat."

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica wrote 11/13/05:

If Caring Bruce Ratner is still the owner of the Nets in five years, I'll eat my hat.

A Nets hat, even.

He doesn't want the team.

He never really did.

He wants the land.

Dan Doctoroff thought he didn't have to buy people left and right to push his agenda with the West Side Stadium, he was Deputy Mayor.

Ratner was much smarter about all this, which is why he's got all these "community leaders" on scholarship now.

Lupica was right (though it doesn't look like he wrote a follow-up). The sale of a majority interest to Mikhail Prokhorov was announced in September 2009.


Posted by steve at 11:26 AM

Dallas Mavericks beat Nets 87-86; former Net Jason Kidd wonders if move to Brooklyn will ever happen

New York Daily News
By Stefan Bondy

Jason Kidd sees fault in the Brooklyn strategy.

As the Nets continue their exhaustive search for Kidd's replacement - selling the outer borough to stars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony as a hip and trailblazing destination - the Mavs' guard spoke from experience last night when he said players can't see a future at the Barclays Center.

"Unless it's built, you can't believe it," Kidd said before Dallas edged the Nets, 87-86, courtesy of Dirk Nowitzki's game-winner with six seconds remaining. "Until it's built, guys can't, won't, believe it."


Posted by steve at 11:19 AM

January 22, 2011

The Complaint Box follow-up: Atlantic Yards debate, governmental power, and more

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, my brief Complaint Box essay in the Times, Powerless in Brooklyn, generated some debate, though more about certain parts of the argument than others. Several commenters seem to agree that Brooklyn lacks borough-wide media and local government, but there weren't many solutions.


My comment in response to several comments:

  1. Yes, the Community Board system is controlled by those who appoint, though it doesn’t have to be.
  2. Markowitz is on his third (and last) term, thanks to Bloomberg’s overturning of term limits.
  3. Search on “notorious Stephen Witt” on my Atlantic Yards Report blog for a catalog of his misreadings.
  4. Atlantic Yards never had a local vote, as the city let the state override the local land use process. That, as well as numerous indicia of a sweetheart deal, drove the lawsuits. And a judge in November for the second time criticized the Empire State Development Corporation for a lack of transparency.
  5. There is a Brooklyn Daily Eagle, but it’s a small paper that does not pretend to cover the borough.
  6. Yes, the Journal is a fourth daily, My error. But it’s a niche paper for the city as a whole, much less Brooklyn. The Daily News often covers Brooklyn better than its rivals, but the coverage is still pretty thin. Cities (though not metro areas) with Brooklyn’s population–think Philly, Houston, etc.–have their own full-scale newspapers.

I should add that the Municipal Art Society has periodically done some serious work in Brooklyn, on projects like Atlantic Yards and Coney Island, and has supported neighborhood planning efforts. But shouldn’t Brooklyn have its own MAS?


Related coverage...

The Urban Omnibus, Powerless In Brooklyn

In a biting essay in the New York Times Complaint Box, Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder decries the lack of local government and local media in the “non-Manhattan” boroughs. Primarily addressing Brooklyn, Oder asserts that the absence of daily borough-wide newspapers and a concentration of city agencies in Manhattan render the other boroughs powerless, resulting in muted citizen voices. His piece inspired debate and commiseration from Brooklynites and other New Yorkers. If you have something to say on the issue weigh in here.

Posted by steve at 11:37 AM

In ‘Footprint,’ it’s big business vs. the people

The Boston Globe
By Don Aucoin

Hell hath no fury like a neighborhood dissed, especially if said neighborhood is located in the pugnacious, dukes-up borough of Brooklyn.

So when residents of Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights area felt they were being steamrolled by a massive development proposal called Atlantic Yards, which called for the displacement of residents and businesses to make way for more than a dozen high-rise buildings and a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets, they mobilized to push back.

Their seven-year struggle against powerful business and political interests intent on pushing through the project is the subject of the fiery, fast-paced, and sharp-edged “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards.’’ A combination of monologues, scenes, and songs performed by The Civilians, a troupe devoted to “investigative theater,’’ this is populism you can hum along to.


Related coverage...

The Boston Phoenix, Review: In the Footprint: The Battle over Atlantic Yards

I've seen a lot of musicals in development; this is the first I've seen about development. Acting as a collective Anna Deavere Smith, New York–based investigative troupe the Civilians spent two years researching and interviewing for In the Footprint: The Battle over Atlantic Yards (presented by ArtsEmerson at the Paramount Black Box through January 23). The musical-theater piece, which opened two months ago in New York, chronicles the seven-year war over 22 acres of Brooklyn fated to fall to the wrecking ball but refusing to go down easy. The object: to make way for a pricy sports arena and high-rise business-and-condominium project spearheaded by real-estate mogul and part owner of the New Jersey Nets Bruce Ratner. Some New York–centric details may not resonate with Boston audiences, but issues of urban renewal (of which we've botched a few) are as hoary — and as pertinent — as Jane Jacobs's 1961 tome The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Moreover, the Civilians tart up their reportage with catchy ditties about eminent domain and community division, one of them delivered by a chorus of bloggers in bathrobes.

The Hub Review, Don't tread on them

This portrait of civic sleaze is depressing enough, but where In the Footprint breaks from the pack is in its merciless dissection of the liberal political cover Rattner deployed to get his way. Dangling the usual goodie-basket of minimum-wage jobs and some token low-income housing, the Rattnerettes deftly deployed a strategy of divide-and-conquer that left local activists sputtering. With Jay-Z, basketball, and new jobs on his side, it was easy for Rattner to depict residents unhappy with the scheme as merely racist gentrifiers - which he promptly did. The resulting fireworks are sometimes ugly, but always pointedly funny - in fact, I can't think of a more accurate portrayal of the Way We Live Now that I've seen on any local stage in several years. And somehow the Civilians manage to keep sympathy with the community's many opposing viewpoints even as they lightly satirize them - except, of course, when it comes to the repulsive Rattner (who's portrayed by a Tonka truck) or the vapid Gehry (played by his latest titanium doodle).

Downtown Lynn, The Lynn Footprint

In the play, a whole neighborhood is pretty much handed over to a developer along with an unrestricted ability to take whatever they needed by eminent domain. This of course took years and lots of court time, but it eventually got done. Of course, the project was not anything like what was originally planned and the city government never took ONE SINGLE VOTE on the project. They basically had no control. No city planner. Sound familiar?

Posted by steve at 11:17 AM

January 21, 2011

Opinion: The People, Divided

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill
by Michael Galinsky

Another thoughtful essay on education issues from Atlantic Yards documentarian Mike Galinsky.

Michael Galinsky is the father of two girls in a local elementary school and the co-director of a documentary about the Atlantic Yards development, “Battle of Brooklyn.”

If you have been to a protest in the last 10 years, you’ve likely heard the chant, “The people, united, will never be defeated.” The corollary is true as well. When the government pits community against community, as it is now doing by promoting charter schools designed to compete with community schools, the people, divided, will always lose.

For the past seven years, my partner and I have worked on a film about the Atlantic Yards project. As we finish the editing of this film, we are starkly aware of the painful parallels between that story and the way that the battle over our schools is playing out. Top-down decision-making fails to take into account the situation on the ground, which leaves those most affected by the arrangements feeling powerless, divided and battling their neighbors for resources.


Posted by eric at 11:49 PM

Document shows that, after arena naming rights agreement was signed, it was amended twice, in 2008 and 2009

Atlantic Yards Report

Thanks to an agreement (embedded below) between Barclays Capital and the Bank of New York Mellon, we have confirmation that indicated the arena naming rights agreement was negotiated not just from a reported $400 million in 2007 to $200 million-plus in 2009, but also with some unspecified interim amendments in 2008.

The agreement concerns, among other things, the role of the naming rights fee in paying off bondholders, via PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes). It does not specify the value of naming rights agreement. The state simply gave away naming rights to Forest City Ratner, which marketed them to Barclays.

The bank is the trustee for the PILOTs; the document was found via ACRIS, the city's property database.

Amendments in 2008 and 2009

The key text begins on the bottom of page 11 of the document. It indicates that Brooklyn Arena LLC, an affiliate of the Brooklyn Events Center building the arena, entered in a naming rights agreement dated 1/17/07, which was amended 11/4/08, and then amended again on 8/3/09.

Of course, after the first amendment in 2008, after the stock market crashed, Barclays stated in a press release that it was "unwavering" in its commitment to the Barclays Center.

As I wrote, we weren't told whether that commitment included a renegotiation of terms.

Most likely it did. After all, the agreement itself was not "unwavering."


Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Complaint Box | Powerless in Brooklyn

City Room
by Norman Oder

The man who launched Atlantic Yards Report as TimesRatnerReport is becoming a semi-regular fixture in the paper. This essay will also appear in Sunday's Times.

Of the boroughs outside Manhattan, Brooklyn gets the most buzz — as a tourist attraction, a “hipster brand” and an incubator of art and artisanal products. That has provoked a backlash from longtime Brooklynites and others wary of smugness from the borough’s Brownstone Belt.

However entertaining these debates, Brooklynites — and, I dare say, all of us in the non-Manhattan boroughs — share one common problem: we’re essentially powerless. We lack meaningful local government, as well as broad-based media and civic organizations.

Marty Markowitz, the borough’s president and its relentless cheerleader, says that Brooklyn has nearly everything a city needs and that fulfillment will arrive when a professional sports team, the Nets, finally moves to an arena here in 2012 or 2013.

If only that were true.

Thus, Brooklyn’s powerful developers, institutions and politicians often evade scrutiny. While local blogs and community weeklies do their part, the latter have been diminished. After Rupert Murdoch bought the independent weekly Courier-Life chain in 2006, its rival, The Brooklyn Paper, trumpeted its independence, only to suffer the same fate — a Murdoch takeover — three years later. The papers have since moved into the same building, cut the staff and published many of the same articles. In my blog, AtlanticYardsReport.com, I’ve observed how The Brooklyn Paper has muted once-tough coverage and editorial criticism of Mr. Markowitz’s beloved arena project, Atlantic Yards, which is being developed by the newspapers’ landlord, Forest City Ratner.

The upshot? While Brooklyn may make a neat T-shirt slogan and be shorthand for culinary innovation, such a focus on consumption and authenticity gives a pass to the powers that be.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, New York Times Complaint Box essay: Powerless in Brooklyn (without meaningful local government and broad-based media, civic organizations)

I have a Complaint Box essay in the Metropolitan section of Sunday's New York Times, now online at CityRoom, headlined Powerless in Brooklyn.

It's a bit of a departure for Complaint Box, which tends toward examinations of the nuances of such things as subway etiquette or tipping, but, given the limited space for op-eds in the paper--after all, the former City section is gone--any space is welcome. (Fun fact: they don't pay for this type of reader contribution.)

And yes, in only about 500 words, my essay is less nuanced than a longer version, so let's see how the comments play out.

Comments and responses

I will update this post with some comments and responses to them.

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

Mikhail Prokhorov calling off pursuit of Carmelo Anthony trade shows that Nets have begun new era

NY Daily News
by Stefan Bondy

Mikhail Prokhorov sat in the press conference room at the Rock and owned it, just as he owns $17 billion worth in assets and a team of nondescript players unbecoming of his own personality. Just as he thought he could own Carmelo Anthony, with a simple pep talk and a new arena in Brooklyn.

Instead, his biggest moment as Net owner became a very public surrender, the waving of a white flag, as Prokhorov sold it as something far more proactive. Prokhorov is used to getting his way, but the business of the NBA is unlike anything he experienced while building an empire in post-communist Russia.

The players and their agents run the show here, at least until the collective bargaining agreement expires in July. And unfortunately for Prokhorov, the Nets still aren't the Knicks, no matter how much they trump up Brooklyn and distribute updates of the construction site in Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

In the Footprint plays to raves in Boston

WBUR.org, Political Theater In Boston Explores Themes Of Warfare, Racism

There’s another excellent political play in town, “In the Footprint, The Battle Over Atlantic Yards,” by the Civilians, who are performing the work through Sunday at the Paramount. They developed the project with Arts Emerson, Emerson College’s great new arts program.

The unlikely subject matter is the urban development project in Brooklyn to bring the New Jersey Nets there, among other things. But the Civilians make the issue of eminent domain, something that Bostonians are certainly familiar with, compelling with a variety of strong theatrics from musical numbers to modernistic re-creations of who said what.

The group, at least in my mind, takes a very strong stand against Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Acorn and the developers. They side pretty clearly with those who say the destruction of the Brooklyn neighborhood was way too high a price to pay. Whether you agree or not, it makes the issues come alive in a way I certainly didn’t get from reading about it in the New York Times. [Emphasis, ours.]

Blast Magazine, Stage Review: The Civilians’ “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards” at ArtsEmerson

Whatever side one may take in the debate of whether or not the developers were within their rights, the lawmakers on the peoples’ side, the activists choosing the right cause–and they’re all presented well–no one can brush aside the primal and profound response people have to the threat of losing their homes. We can all relate to their fear and it has to give us pause. Unlike some of the Civilians’ previous shows, “In the Footprint,” digs down pretty deep into a single historical event rooted in a specific time and place without making an overt effort to universalize the issues. At its core though, is that profound, instinctual fear of being uprooted—and the chilling idea that your democratic government could take away your land without your consent.

It’s powerful stuff, but the Civilians don’t just awaken it, they conjure it within a framework of well-articulated positions and well-researched facts—some of which, they sing to you.

The Evolving Critic, In the Footprint

I found the show inspiring and thought provoking, touching on race relations in America, community activism, environmental racism, political corruption among many other issues.

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

January 20, 2011

No ’Melo, just more drama for Nets

Yahoo! Sports
by Adrian Wojnarowski


Mikhail Prokhorov can unfurl his portrait murals on the sides of Manhattan skyscrapers and marvel over the construction of his new basketball palace in Brooklyn. The Russian billionaire can promise championship parades within five seasons and employ exhaustive research to dispose of the Nets moniker and unwrap something new to call his franchise.

Only, there’s no scrubbing away the residue of decades of dysfunction and disarray with the fresh paint job. There’s no scrubbing it all away with carefully orchestrated news magazine profiles. Prokhorov isn’t the NBA’s most mysterious man, but one more clumsy, clueless creation of the commissioner’s endless failure to resurrect this franchise. All his money and clout and global reach, and yet Prokhorov and his posse look like one more incompetent ownership group killing time and brain cells until the lockout.

It was a stunning, senseless and perfectly fitting performance for Prokhorov on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center: As full-of-it grandstanding ploys go, Prokhorov was brilliant. Once he sensed the Nets couldn’t convince Carmelo Anthony to sign a contract extension, that his trip to the Rockies would be met with one more failure as owner, he made a dramatic declaration the Nets were done recruiting a deal and out of the running for Anthony.

This was no white knight sashaying into the States on a horse, but a basketball dummy on a donkey.

One by one, they’re all passing over Prokhorov: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire and Chris Bosh. Carlos Boozer and Rudy Gay. A-listers and B-listers, and now ’Melo couldn’t be sold on the owner’s Brooklyn vision. Prokhorov was right to never get on the plane to avoid the public humiliation of ’Melo rejecting the Nets, so he used the bully pulpit on Russian Cultural Night in Newark to play the part of the bad-ass owner jetting in to take control of his franchise.

From the man whose charisma and mystique brought you Travis Outlaw and Johan Petro on the free-agent market, here was the white flag of surrender two months too late.

’Melo is probably on his way to the New York Knicks, the Russian is headed back to Moscow and the Nets remain a punch line. All these billions of dollars, all these big, shiny ideas and tough talk, and it never, ever changes.

Same old sitcom, same old shameful scene. Same old Nets.


NoLandGrab: Unfortunately for Prokhorov, we're pretty sure his out clause expired when New York State handed the keys to Daniel Goldstein's home to Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

In Brooklyn, hyperlocal news gets a boost with Patch (but we need much more)

Atlantic Yards Report

The nature of the local new media is changing and, for Brooklyn, there may be some promise in Patch, the AOL-funded enterprise that's hiring do-it-all editors (without offices) in communities around the country--800 so far, with a goal of 1000.

The editors are assisted by freelancers and other contributors and, in Brooklyn at least, form a bit of a network. Right now there's a Prospect Heights Patch, Park Slope Patch, Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Patch, Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill Patch, and Bed-Stuy Patch.

What, no Brooklyn Heights or Williamsburg? Maybe those communities were seen as already "taken" by the Brooklyn Heights Blog and culture blogs like Free Williamsburg. (Disclosure: I've done one freelance piece for Patch.)

Not just news

Patch, self-described as "your local source for news, events, business listings, and discussion," got some semi-skeptical treatment in a New York Times article January 17--an article that ignored Patch in New York but pointed out that the company is focusing on relatively affluent suburban towns that can generate advertising.

Indeed, Patch strikes me as optimized for small communities that don't have a newspaper to cover key local institutions like the school board and mayor's office. (See, for example, the comment by Ann O. at the bottom of this CJR post.)

Brooklyn lacks such cohesion--even the community boards stretch beyond a single community--so the match is inexact.

And Patch is still feeling its way. I'm not sure what an article on "Rent is Too Damn High" candidate Jimmy McMillan shilling for a New Jersey car dealership was doing on the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Patch. Then again, Patch did a nice job covering the memorial for former District Leader Bill Saunders--and no other news outlet bothered.


Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

Mondo Weiss

Idiosyncratic and influential anti-Zionist blogger Philip Weiss has a complicated relationship with Israel, American Jewry, and himself

by Michelle Goldberg

What does this have to do with Atlantic Yards? Read on.

Lately, Weiss is particularly gratified to see a growing number of Jews moving in his direction. “I think there’s going to be a big anti-Zionist moment in American Jewish life,” says Weiss. “I just think it’s inevitable.”

He may be right. Take Lizzy Ratner, for example. One of Weiss’ co-editors on the Goldstone book, Ratner is a former New York Observer writer who was born into New York’s elite Jewish establishment—her father is millionaire real-estate developer Bruce Ratner. Lizzy was 4 years old the first time she went to Israel; during college she spent a semester there and was at the rally when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. Her horror led her to get involved in pro-Palestinian work.

“The moment I crossed a checkpoint, 15 minutes from Jerusalem, the world changed,” she told me. “My worldview shattered. You grow up being told ‘they’ want to push us into the sea and we have to do everything we can to stop this evil enemy that wants to kill us and is going to kill us, and then you meet the terrible evil enemy, and not only are they nice, and decent, but they’re actually oppressed.”


NoLandGrab: Of course one can't compare Mideast strife to Atlantic Yards, but Lizzy (and Uncle Michael), who's obviously concerned about justice issues, sure has been quiet about her "liberal do-gooder" Daddy rolling the bulldozers into Prospect Heights.

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

Two from The Onion the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Brooklyn Broadside: Is a Major Office Building a Prospect for Brooklyn?

First up is Dennis Holt, who after all these years, still doesn't know where "downtown" Brooklyn begins and ends.

Would it be called the Panasonic Building? It just might if it were within the Atlantic Yards development. But it might not were it to go into existing MetroTech space. What am I talking about, for Pete’s sake, or the phrase might be for Bruce’s sake?

Last Friday’s Wall Street Journal broke a story that has very much been kept under wraps for all the obvious reasons. Credit reporters Joseph Se Avila and A. D. Pruitt.

Under wraps? They're not close to making a decision, and our bet is that the unwrapping was done by Forest City.

Here’s the grabber: Panasonic Corporation of North America is headquartered in Secaucus, New Jersey. For reasons not spelled out, it wants or needs to move someplace else. The state of New Jersey is moving heaven and earth to keep it there, probably in a new building in Newark.

Guess where Panasonic is looking? In Downtown Brooklyn, of course, either as part of MetroTech (NYU Polytechnic is there, remember) or as part of the Atlantic Yards development. (Remember Frank Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn?) Bruce Ratner controls both sites. The numbers may change, to be sure, but it appears that Panasonic would need about 250,000 square feet for about 800 jobs. Those are numbers that call out for an anchor tenant and the building of a respectable office building.

Back in the real world, Norman Oder pointed out on Tuesday that nearly three times that much space is vacant at MetroTech.

Next up is Henrik Krogius, who must be talking about some other Atlantic Yards.

Review and Comment: Idea for Gowanus?

We live in a changing Brooklyn that tries to cling to its (not always so sweet) past, in a time when the speed of technological change has unsettled many people. Reaction against innovative planning has marked the new millennium on matters like Atlantic Yards and the financing and design of Brooklyn Bridge Park, and yet individual towers not part of any considered community framework have sprouted willy-nilly. It’s not the same old Brooklyn. But facing up to the need for more considered and innovative approaches to development comes hard.

Say what? "Innovative planning?" We'll let Norman Oder take that one.

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily Eagle columnist: "Reaction against innovative planning has marked the new millennium on matters like Atlantic Yards"

He's right that individual towers have sprouted thanks to the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, but the lack of response--and anticipation--is at least partly because the rezoning was supposed to bring mainly office towers, not residential ones.

But Atlantic Yards as "innovative planning"?

Audacious design, maybe.

The planning was non-existent; the project was imposed from on high, with the state overriding local land use review.

Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

January 19, 2011

Prokhorov ends Nets’ pursuit of Anthony

Yahoo! Sports
by Adrian Wojnarowski

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

In a stunning and surreal declaration during a live, televised news conference, Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov declared his New Jersey Nets had canceled a planned Thursday meeting with Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony(notes) and ended the Nets’ part in the long, acrimonious trade talks for the All-Star forward.

“It’s been too long and too expensive,” Prokhorov said.

New Jersey general manager Billy King sent text messages to Denver and Detroit officials to tell them that talks of a proposed three-team trade that would’ve brought Anthony to the Nets were done.

When asked who had been driving the talks over the past several months, Prokhorov said, “It was purely on the basketball level.”

Nevertheless, sources insist the Nets’ ownership and marketing sides had been relentless proponents of bringing Anthony to New Jersey as a prelude to their planned move to a new arena in Brooklyn in 2012.

Marketing? Et tu, Yormark?


NoLandGrab: Plan A, LeBron. Plan B, Dwyane Wade. Plan C, Chris Bosh. Plan D, 'Melo. Plan E, Teen Wolf?.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Yahoo columnist: Anthony deal, now off the table, was about marketing Brooklyn (and those unsold suites)

It can be tough to untangle the logic behind some basketball moves--did the Nets really want Yi Jianlian for his skills or for the China market?--and that issue has come up again, as the Nets have abandoned pursuit of Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony.

Posted by eric at 11:22 PM

Feb 2nd -- Your Chance to Meet Atlantic Yards Executive VP Maryanne Gilmartin

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

From BisNow's aptly named...

Head to lunch with MaryAnne Gilmartin of Forest City Ratner Companies for an update on Atlantic Yards and Barclay’s Center Arena, future home of the Nets in Downtown [sic] Brooklyn. Noon. Feb. 2. The Cornell Club, 6 East 44th Street, 4th floor. $60 up to two days in advance and $70 at the door. Contact Aracelis Kuilan at (212) 885-7239 or send an e-mail. Sponsored by B’nai B’rith Real Estate Unit.


NoLandGrab: Not attending — Carmelo Anthony.

Posted by eric at 11:21 PM

Great moments in euphemistic coverage: the Wall Street Journal reports on Steiner Studios expansion, ignores EB-5

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Wall Street Journal yesterday, regarding the expansion of Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Take Two for a Brooklyn Film and TV Studio:

Doug Steiner, chairman of Steiner Studios, says about $65 million will come from private investors, $10 million to $20 million will come from Steiner and the rest will come from government programs.

Those private investors are immigrant investors trading $500,000 for green cards for themselves and their family under the federal government's EB-5 program, as the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) reminds us.

The NYRCR is promoting another, more controversial effort to trade green cards for investments, involving Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 11:12 PM

8 per cent of fans at sports games are drunk: study


Speaking of drinking, here's some sobering news for people who live near Bruce Ratner's Barclays Center, which, thanks to New York State's override of local zoning rules, will sit directly across the street from a residential neighborhood.

A new study says eight per cent of professional sports fans who agreed to be surveyed were legally drunk when leaving the stadium after a game.

The study, published online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found about 60 per cent of fans surveyed had blew a zero on a breathalyzer, 40 per cent tested positive for alcohol in their blood. In total, 8.4 per cent were legally drunk, with a blood alcohol level higher than .08.

However, the lead author of the study admits the sample size was small, as few fans wanted to blow on a breathalyzer after the game.

"Getting fans to submit to a breath test and participate in a brief survey following a football or baseball game is not an easy task," Darin Erickson of the University of Minnesota said in a statement.

Presumably, many refuseniks were too drunk to understand what they were being asked to do.

"That's a lot of drunken individuals who could be involved in traffic crashes, assaults, vandalism, crime and other injuries," Erickson said.

A 1992 Canadian study had similar results.


Posted by eric at 5:09 PM

A Sneak Peek at Freddy's

Park Slope Patch gets a look at the soon-to-open Freddy's

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

Though there’s still some work to be done, the folks at Freddy’s were nice enough to let Park Slope Patch take a sneak peek.

Every corner of the new Freddy’s is packed with cool artifacts, from video installations by co-owner Donald O’Finn, to handmade wallpaper by artist Nancy Drew and vintage finds like barnwood O’Finn and co-owner Matt Kuhn literally tore off a barn in upstate New York.

Check it out for yourself. Here’s our peek behind closed doors at the soon-to-open Freddy’s:

Click through for another 20 or so of Kristen V. Brown's sneak-preview photos of the soon-to-be-reborn Freddy's.


Posted by eric at 4:58 PM

State Authorities Budget Office still waiting for budget reports from ESDC and affiliate JDA

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the state Authorities Budget Office (ABO), Public Authorities That Have Failed to File Reports in the Public Authorities Reporting Information System as of January 4, 2011 (embedded below), the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC, aka Urban Development Corporation) and its affiliate, the Job Development Authority (JDA), did not file required budget reports 90 days prior to the start of the fiscal year.

I asked the ESDC last week about the reason for the delay and the plans to comply, but haven't heard back. The ABO was beefed up somewhat after reforms strengthening oversight over public authorities, but it can't do its job if agencies don't comply.

In July, I reported that the JDA had not filed an annual report; the latest ABO report suggests that it has since done so. I'm waiting for details on that, too.


Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

Freddy's to Reopen in South Slope on Feb. 4

Though Prospect Heights lost the beloved bar, at least it won't be too far away.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

Prospect Heights lost its beloved bar, but a date has finally been set for its revival, at a spot not that far away.

On Feb. 4, Freddy's Bar and Backroom will reopen in South Slope, months after Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project forced the bar from its longstanding Prospect Heights home on Dean Street.

The new Freddy’s, of course, will be a little different.

For one, Freddy's new South Slope location on Fifth Avenue between 17th and 18th streets, will offer food for the first time.

The bar will also reopen under new ownership, headed by former Freddy’s manager Donald O'Finn, and former Freddy’s bartenders Matt Kuhn and Matt Kimmett.


Related coverage...

Fork in the Road, Freddy's Bar to Reopen February 4 in New Fifth Avenue Location

Owner Donald O'Finn announced that the "Chains of Justice," used in protests against the new development and the invoking of eminent domain to force out residents and local businesses, would grace the bar as a reminder of the old bar and how it came to its end.

All About Fifth, Freddy's Opening Soon

Well, we did notice some progress at the new Freddy's Bar location (621 Fifth Avenue in the former Ellis Bar space) while walking along the avenue the other day, so we knew this news was coming sooner rather than later.

Brownstoner, Freddy's To Reopen in February

Posted by eric at 10:05 AM


F**ked in Park Slope

The downsides of this project have been discussed again and again, and include: eminent domain abuse, fake affordable housing that's not really so affordable, the promise of jobs that can't really be promised cause they are union only jobs, the Frank Gehry brewhaha, etc. For a good summary, check out Atlantic Yards: A Crash Course.

Needless to say, a lot of ppl think this is gonna be bad news bears on multiple fronts.

And yes I know this project is gonna take forever and a fucking day, but since I'm a self-centered bitch, I'm wondering what you ppl think the effects of the Atlantic Yards project will be on THE BEST NEIGHBORHOOD TO LIVE IN NYC: Park Slope. What's gonna happen to us?

An influx of basketball playing residents who want to be closer to the stadium? A worse parking sitch than we already have? Crazy traffic? Plummeting real estate values? Cheaper rents? Nothing? Everything?

Spill it.


Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

Why the NYPD Bicycle Crackdown Is a Sign of How New York Sucks in 2011


Something is rotten in the state of New York. The putrescent miasma, leaching out slowly from the windows in towering pre-war apartments, from out of the sidewalk vents where one can hear from below the failing heartbeat of the subway system, slowly being bled to death. The stench is everywhere… thick, suffocating, lethal. Some are immune, born with the resistance through inheritance, countless others traded away their soul for it. Everyone else just has to suffer.

Bloomberg’s administration has, through a variety of policies, criminalized any kind of independence of thought. The rezoning of certain areas in a number of examples, the far west side/Hudson Yards, or the Atlantic Yards catastrophe that awaits the people of downtown Brooklyn. One of the most egregious, the 125th St. rezoning plan where the city has changed the code to allow for residential construction as high as 30 stories tall, increasing the residential capacity of the corridor by as much as 750%. Developers are awarded height bonuses for ‘inclusive housing’, lottery winners from the immediate neighborhood, or in other words the lucky few who won’t have to be a part of the mass exodus of the poor Harlem denizens to the Bronx and points further afield. Retailers that can afford these newly zoned spaces are ones that can afford the high new rent: Old Navy, American Apparel (although them maybe not much longer), Nike, M.A.C., The Body Shop, Starbucks, and the list goes on. Local retailers need not apply.


Posted by eric at 9:49 AM


Dig Boston
by Hilary Hughes

The Civilians have taken the story of Atlantic Yards to Boston.

“I love doing this play as much as it hurts my heart to be in it.”

This is Colleen Werthmann, a member of The Civilians, on their new production, In The Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards. Focused on the controversial housing project in Brooklyn, In The Footprint tells the story of Atlantic Yards, which, if seen to completion, will result in 16 high-rise buildings and a sports arena, across 22 acres in Prospect Park and Fort Greene.

That's Prospect Heights and Fort Greene. Don't give Bruce Ratner any ideas.

The themes of In The Footprint apply to any major city that’s experienced significant urban development. “A lot of people who lived in these neighborhoods aren’t necessarily aware of the good stuff activists are doing, like keeping a corrupt housing developer from putting up a shady halfway house in your neighborhood or preventing the municipal water supply from into a dumping pond,” says Werthmann.

“New York, like many cities, is constantly in flux, and I found it really simultaneously satisfying and harrowing to engage with that topic on so brutal a level.”


Related coverage...

Boston.com, To do list

Boston had its share of contentious development projects, including the remaking of Scollay Square and the failed relocation of the Patriots’ stadium, but a Brooklyn land-development project is the subject of The Civilians’ “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards.’’ Performances by this investigative theater company are presented by ArtsEmerson: The World on Stage. 7:30 p.m. (through Jan. 23). $39. Recommended for ages 14 and older. Paramount Black Box, 559 Washington St., Boston. 617-824-8000.

Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

January 18, 2011

Panasonic HQ to unbuilt Atlantic Yards tower? There's nearly three times as much vacant space at MetroTech

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, as rumors surfaced that Panasonic might move its headquarters from New Jersey to Brooklyn--and Forest City Ratner's extant MetroTech or yet-to-be built Atlantic Yards office towers--I suggested that the tower at AY's Site 5 might be a better destination than Building 1.

However, given available space at MetroTech, that seems like a more likely destination. Panasonic needs 250,000 square feet. Crain's, in a 1/16/11 article headlined Office vacancies grow in boroughs outside Manhattan, reports:

Downtown Brooklyn saw the largest setbacks: NYSE Euronext moved out of roughly 387,000 square feet at 2 MetroTech Center, and J.P. Morgan Chase left about 352,000 square feet at 4 MetroTech...

And because tenants in the outer boroughs tend to seek smaller spaces, leasing up emptied offices takes longer than it would in Manhattan. For instance, the tenant taking the most new space in the boroughs last year was the city's Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications, which took 72,000 square feet at 2 MetroTech.

That means there's some 739,000 square feet available at MetroTech, nearly three times the amount Panasonic needs.

Sure, they'd prefer to be flagship tenants in a building, but wouldn't existing space be cheaper? It would, unless the city offered additional subsidies.


Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

Walmart and the Theater of the Absurd

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance

Lobbyist Richard Lipsky and rabid NY Post columnist Andrea Peyser, of one (warped) mind on Atlantic Yards, have parted ways when it comes to Walmart. Perhaps Forest City Ratner needs to put Lipsky back on the payroll.

In our view, it is a form of grotesque pandering for Peyser to troll East New York looking for out of work folks-and then ask them about their view of the store: "In a park in East New York, a long Town Car drive from Manhattan, I met a dad who watched his kids. Last year, he was out of work 12 months. Now it's going on 24. To him, Walmart is not just a store. It's the chance for a new life. "We need jobs," said Malik Johnson, a laid-off laborer. "I'd work at Walmart in a heartbeat."

It's heartbreaking to hear about anyone who has been out of work and struggling in this economy-but asking them about how they would feel about a potential job opening, is what we would call a self fulfilling prophecy.


NoLandGrab: Of course, it wasn't a "form of grotesque pandering" for Bruce Ratner to troll Prospect Heights looking for out of work folks-and then ask them about their view of Atlantic Yards. No, because Lipsky was on the inside for that one.

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

January 17, 2011

Nets’ pitch to ’Melo: swing and miss?

Yahoo! Sports
by Adrian Wojnarowski

Mikhail Prokhorov is exactly halfway into his first season as Nets owner, and already, the bloom is off the oligarch.

The New Jersey Nets had strutted around so full of themselves: big talk, blustery billboards and puffed-up promises. Even so, no one bought into the myth of Mikhail Prokhorov the way they did within that forlorn franchise. The Nets treat the Russian owner like some deity, like a Euro Mark Cuban, when he’s little more than an absentee landlord cutting big checks and delivering delusional proclamations of championship parades inside of five seasons.

If the Nets truly need to sell Carmelo Anthony on accepting the trade and signing a contract extension, they’re a bigger lost cause than they’ve ever been. The Nets can’t let Prokhorov and Jay-Z get on a jet and go sell that now because this process has already cost them too much credibility – and because billionaires aren’t supposed to beg. Make no mistake: The manufactured aura of this ownership dream team will be obliterated with a ’Melo rejection.

The Nets’ suits need to sell sponsorships and fill a new arena in 2012 for a franchise that barely has a fan base in Jersey – never mind one that resonates across the Hudson River.

Yes, everyone senses desperation with these Nets – the Nuggets, ’Melo’s agents – and that’s for good reason. They’re selling and selling, but no one’s been buying the big, mysterious Russian billionaire who actually isn’t such a mystery after all. He doesn’t know the NBA. He doesn’t like the Internet because he says there’s too much information. He barely had any thoughts about who to hire or why. And he’s never around anyway.

Through it all this summer, New Jersey ran TV ads promoting salary-cap space. The Nets thrust bigger-than-life murals of ownership on the sides of skyscrapers and even shadowed Madison Square Garden with that Prokhorov/Jay-Z “Blueprint for Success” monstrosity. They taunted the Knicks, and promptly crumbled back to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

All of the bravado was wildly entertaining, and all of it completely without substance. Blueprint? There’s no blueprint, just a serious of shots in the dark.


NoLandGrab: Wow, Brooklyn's getting all this, and it only cost we taxpayers a couple billion dollars? What a deal.

Related coverage...

NetsDaily, Woj: Prokhorov, Nets In Danger of Becoming Jokes If He Doesn't Return to New Jersey with 'Melo in Tow

Moreover, [Wojnarowski] says the Nets just keep giving in their trade talks. Now, they've agreed to add three first round picks (including two of their own) and Damion James to the list of Denver's settled demands, having already agreed to give up Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, etc., etc. " "The Nets are behaving in a most desperate way and trying too hard to validate Prokhorov’s relevance in the sport. Anthony treats the Nets like the unattractive girl he refuses to tell his friends he’s seeing on the side."

Meanwhile, other writers in other precincts tell similar tales of desperation on all sides of the 'Melo Drama.

NLG: Can't be long now before NetsDaily commenters start a movement to bring back the second-worst owner in sports.

Atlantic Yards Report, As Nets continue pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, the Prokhorov backlash

Posted by eric at 9:49 PM

Freddy's Bar to Reopen February 4th

by John Del Signore

Freddy's, the sequel, opens on February 4th.

The beloved old Prospect Heights dive Freddy's Bar & Backroom, a Prohibition-era bar that became an unofficial headquarters for the anti-Atlantic Yards protests, has announced that it will reopen on February 4th at its Brooklyn new location on 5th Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets. A few of Freddy’s former employees have taken the reins, and they declare that although it's not the old Freddy's, many items "did make the long journey from demolition to re-birth, including the original prohibition era red mahogany bar, the old booths and tables, and a few special items as well." They also tell us the bar is environmentally friendly:

The entire bar has been created almost exclusively out of re-cycled, found or hand made objects, with next to nothing being purchased “New,” Thus we are “Green.” We have been built by the community, thus we are for the community... The “Chains of Justice” will still grace our bar as a reminder of our fight against eminent domain abuse and the power of the community bond.

The decor is unique and vibrant, a mixture of old and new, antique Hollywood Regency chandeliers, steam punk accents, vintage wallpaper as well as handmade erotic wall-paper and permanent art installations from local art stars like Nancy Drew and Steve Pauley. The stamp of co-owner/artist Donald O'Finn is evident almost everywhere you look, from the fish tank sunk into a wall with giant albino frogs to the barn wood wall constructions and oversized gothic frame mounted to a flatscreen TV.


Related coverage...

Here's Park Slope, Freddy's Sets Opening Date

The new spot, which was formerly home to Ellis Bar, will most likely have a completely different look and feel from the original, which was inimitable. Donald O'Finn, the bar's longtime manager, is now an owner, though, so the vibe and general atmosphere should at least be familiar to regulars, who will now have to trek to the other end of the neighborhood to visit. They're also planning on keeping with tradition by hosting live music.

The Brooklyn Paper, Freddy’s, killed by Atlantic Yards, rises from the dead

It’s a bittersweet reopening for us, of course — Freddy’s original location inside the Atlantic Yards footprint dated back to Prohibition (and looked like it, too!). The project’s construction meant the demise of a great bar.

Eater NY, Freddy's to Reopen on Feb. 4 Complete with Chains of Justice

On February 4, the new Freddy's will open on 627 5th Ave. over by 17th Street in the nether regions of Park Slope next to the highway.

Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn, Freddy’s Bar to Re-Open on Feb 4th in South Slope

Who says there isn’t life after eminent domain?

As part of the opening festivities, Les Sans Culottes will go on at midnight, with opening acts of Brute Force and The Magpie kicking things off. An exhibition of glitter and flock paintings by artist Nancy Drew will be on display.

Posted by eric at 9:35 PM

Office vacancies grow in boroughs outside Manhattan

The office market in Brooklyn and Queens and on Staten Island is still struggling to recover

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

Whether you call it "Miss Brooklyn," "B1" or vaportecture, the market for Bruce Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards office tower is non-existent.

The office market in Brooklyn and Queens and on Staten Island is still struggling to recover.

Those areas, whose collective net space absorption was negative throughout 2010, posted their highest level of negative absorption in the fourth quarter, according to CoStar Group's latest report on the boroughs beyond Manhattan (not including the Bronx). In all, 564,930 more square feet of space was put on the market than was leased during those three months, even as Manhattan racked up positive absorption of 2 million square feet.

Accordingly, the office vacancy rate for the three boroughs jumped to 8.1% in the last quarter, from 7.2% in the previous period.

“The outer boroughs clearly have some issues,” said Chris Macke, senior real estate strategist at CoStar.

Downtown Brooklyn saw the largest setbacks: NYSE Euronext moved out of roughly 387,000 square feet at 2 MetroTech Center, and J.P. Morgan Chase left about 352,000 square feet at 4 MetroTech. Since the market in the boroughs beyond Manhattan is so small, with just 67 million square feet of rentable office space, those departures put a relatively big dent in the figures, Mr. Macke noted.


Posted by eric at 9:20 PM

Washington Post re-launches Fact Checker column; CJR says every reporter should evaluate truth; what about KPMG's report to the ESDC?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Washington Post has re-launched its Fact Checker column that previously concentrated on the presidential campaigns and "will focus on any statements by political figures and government officials--in the United States and abroad--that cry out for fact-checking."

Writes Glenn Kessler:

But we will not be limited to political charges or countercharges. We will seek to explain difficult issues, provide missing context and provide analysis and explanation of various "code words" used by politicians, diplomats and others to obscure or shade the truth.

The Post will use the Pinocchio Test, which includes:

  • One Pinocchio: shading of the facts, but no outright falsehoods
  • Two Pinocchios: significant omissions and/or exaggerations, without necessarily a formal error
  • Three Pinocchios: significant factual errors and/or obvious contradictions
  • Four Pinocchios: whoppers

Unalloyed truths--they will get "our prized Geppetto checkmark."

And in New York?

There's a crying need for such a service in the New York media; to my knowledge, fact-checking has been deployed mainly when checking claims in political advertising.

But what if the media decide to check, say, KPMG's report to the Empire State Development Corporation on the condo market? I give it four Pinocchios.


NoLandGrab: We prefer to call our Pinocchios "Yormarks."

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Dean Street Block Association Monthly Meeting – January 17, 2011 – 7:30PM

Our Streets — Our Stories

Monday, January 17th
7:30 – 9:00 pm

638 Dean Street, between Carlton and Vanderbilt


Atlantic Yards:

  • Quality of life issues: Help us set our priorities. Snow removal and sidewalk care. Dust. Noise. Rodents. Traffic. Parking. Security.

  • The implications of Judge Friedman’s ruling that the Empire State Development Corporation must analyze the environmental impacts of the project based on a 25-year timeline rather than the 10-year timeline it has used so far. What is the status of the court case now?

  • Atlantic Yards Watch


Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

The absurd Wal of fear

NY Post
by Andrea Peyser

Here's a shocker — Andrea Peyser, aka the angriest woman in the world, is a fan of Walmart.

On Monday, The Brooklyn Papers reported that the giant purveyor of discount orange juice and underwear six-packs was to open a massive store in a new development on the fringes of Flatbush Avenue near Kings Plaza, spreading jobs, bargains and -- if you believe carping critics -- pain. By Tuesday, word spread like a cancer to blogs and the mainstream media.

Tuesday night, an emergency meeting was scheduled so local officials might run Walmart out of town.

"I don't know what the idea is," said Dorothy Turano, district manager of Community Board 18. "We could wake up one morning and find a Walmart there."

The hearing was pushed back, due to snow. The next day, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner denied his company met with Walmart about opening a store in its planned Four Sparrows Retail Center.


NoLandGrab: If Forest City Ratner says they didn't meet with Walmart, you can be certain they met with Walmart.

Related coverage...

Mole's Progressive Democrat, Brooklyn, NY Focus

Not surprising that Walmart and Ratner would get together. After all, they both are about as sleazy and greedy as you can get.

Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

Projecting the New Jersey Nets: Now and Later

Newark Examiner
by Gregory Hrinya

More NBA fantasy talk, involving potential trades and free-agent signings (remember how well that worked out this year?) that will thrust the Nets into the league's elite for their move to Brooklyn.

But will the deal happen? Absolutely.

While Anthony undoubtedly has reservations about playing with the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets, his own management is pushing him that way.

His agents, Leon Rose and William Wesley, want in on Mikhail Prokhorov's power and influence. While their whispers might sway the Nuggets star, the Nets' future surely will.

Rose and Wesley are preaching Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn billboards, and an owner with endless pockets. They're preaching a rivalry with the Knicks and a team, if not city, Melo can call his own.

Luring Chris Paul is just as crucial. Could it happen? Just ask Paul's agent.... Leon Rose.


NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, the Nets are holding down the 4th-worst record in the NBA, which, it must be said, is an improvement on last season.

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

January 16, 2011

Made in Brooklyn: a 1993 warning about the loss of manufacturing for housing, more poignant today; is real estate really economic development?

Atlantic Yards Report

The documentary Made in Brooklyn, about the importance of manufacturing and the shortsightedness of trading industrial space for housing and offices, was made in 1993, but the message remains valid, if ever more poignant.

(The filmmaker is Isabel Hill, known for her subsequent Brooklyn Matters documentary on Atlantic Yards.)

After all, Made in Brooklyn was filmed before this decade's real estate boom, and some of the manufacturers featured in the documentary, notably the Domino Sugar plant in Williamsburg (right), have closed, and the Domino site is slated to become the New Domino, a development second in size to Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

The reviews and comments were mostly laudatory, though one critic pointed out Hill could have asked about salaries and benefits, and noted that some small manufacturers are sweatshops. Still, manufacturing has long been a source of good jobs for immigrants and others who may lack book learning but can use their skills.

There's an argument for local manufacturing, one that remains for such things as immigrant food services, the garment industry, and support for live theater: Brooklyn offers proximity to consumer markets and access to a large pool of labor.

Author Pete Hamill, who rose from manufacturing work to a writing career, gets some zingers in on the value of labor.

The conventional wisdom

Academic Mitchell Moss offers the standard, not implausible, explanation about the loss of manufacturing: factories left for land designed for mass assembly, access to highways, and locations with low-cost labor.

What's the future for low-skilled workers? Building services and building maintenance.

But you can't build yourself out of a recession, right?


Posted by steve at 10:57 AM

Musical puts the spotlight on community

The Boston Globe
By Christopher Wallenberg

Bostonians know all about polarizing development projects designed to reshape swaths of the city. From the razing of the West End decades ago to Harvard University’s plans in Allston or efforts to reinvent the South Boston waterfront, Hub residents have heard the arguments about urban renewal, affordable housing, building height restrictions, and eminent domain, about greed versus civic good.

IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards Presented by ArtsEmerson at the Paramount Black Box, Jan. 19-23. Tickets: $39. 617-824-8000, www.artsemerson.org

The Civilians, a scrappy Brooklyn-based theater company, tackles some of these thorny issues from a New York perspective with its new musical, “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards,’’ at Boston’s Paramount Black Box Wednesday through Jan. 23, presented by ArtsEmerson.

The show centers on conflicts surrounding the largest land development project in Brooklyn since the days of the controversial urban planner Robert Moses. The 22-acre proposed mini-city has already displaced hundreds of residents and small businesses.

Standing alongside the gaping black void of the Atlantic Yards footprint on a recent evening, Civilians artistic director Steve Cosson, who co-wrote and directed the show, says its themes should resonate with urban dwellers everywhere. They speak, he says, “to a larger phenomenon of what’s going on in our country about the collusion of government and corporate power.’’


Posted by steve at 10:54 AM

January 15, 2011

Yormark claims "disbelief that the Dodgers left... has been passed on from generation to generation"

Atlantic Yards Report

On ESPN, True Hoop J.A. Adande listens to New Jerseyan Brett Yormark pontificate on Brooklyn:

I chatted with Nets CEO Brett Yormark about what the arena means to Brooklyn, why the Nets need a superstar, the building of the brand and a man he calls Michael -- that would be Mikhail Prokhorov.

“I’ve been engaged in this whole move for about six years,” Yormark said. “I’m in Brooklyn quite often, if not daily. The disbelief that the Dodgers left [in 1957], that underserved nature with respect to sports and entertainment, has been passed on from generation to generation."

Not so. He needs to get out more.

As I wrote in March 2009, Michael D’Antonio's revisionist biography of Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley, Baseball's Most Controversial Owner,and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles, put Dodgers nostalgia in perspective, blaming it on Roger Kahn’s book The Boys of Summer.


Posted by steve at 11:44 AM

The decline in manufacturing is the worst eight-year drop in NYC history; one reason is rezonings

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said the country needs to get back to manufacturing?

Well, New York City has its niche manufacturing, but that niche is narrowing. Tom Robbins, soon to depart from the Village Voice, reports:

This month, City Limits magazine reported that under Mayor Bloomberg's watch, manufacturing jobs in the city disappeared twice as fast as in the rest of the country. Almost 64,000 blue-collar positions vanished, a decline of 46 percent. It is the worst eight-year slide in city history, says Sarah Crean, who has kept an eye on these statistics for the New York Industrial Retention Network. Land rezoning is one reason, says Crean. Indifference is another.

It might be added that, when rezonings were passed, the city didn't always predict things well, as with Downtown Brooklyn. And sometimes, as with Atlantic Yards, the city let the state override zoning.


Posted by steve at 11:42 AM

Factchecking a video of arena construction

Atlantic Yards Report

NLG has the story, linking to Hunt Construction Group, which posted a video shot by the Ironworkers Local 361. No, there aren't 16,000 jobs.

On the Barclays Center site, the link goes to NetsDaily, their unswerving booster.


Posted by steve at 11:40 AM

After the last snowstorm, a better job on clearing sidewalks around the AY site (but still a few gaps)

Atlantic Yards Report

After the most recent snowfall, Forest City Ratner cleared the sidewalks bordering Atlantic Yards--more or less. This contrasts with sidewalks left un-shoveled after the December 26 snowstorm.

On Wednesday afternoon, January 12, I took a walk around the site, more or less, and saw most of the sidewalks had been cleared.

Two stretches were not cleared: most of the east side of Sixth between Dean and Pacific, and about one-fifth of the north side of Pacific between Sixth and Carlton just east of Sixth.

I checked with the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), which has overall responsibility for the site. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell responded:

"ESDC received several complaints regarding snow removal last week, and directed FCRC to improve their efforts. We are pleased with their overall effort. Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific on the east side continues to be problematic due to the proliferation of illegally parked cars, prohibiting easy access for snow removal equipment. The west side of Sixth Avenue, however, is totally clear of snow. The stretch on Pacific Street just east of Sixth is the subject of a dispute between the LIRR and city DOT, which ESDC is hoping will soon be resolved."


Posted by steve at 11:37 AM

Panasonic Headquarters Rumored to Move

InfoTech Spotlight
By Juliana Kenny

Rumors of a Panasonic move to a Forest City property are repeated.

Relocation may be in the works for Panasonic (News - Alert) Corp. The company has been eyeing property in Brooklyn, NY, which is where it may move its current headquarters from Secaucus, NJ. But the New Jersey Economic Development Authority has also approved a huge amount of money for tax credits if Panasonic moves to Newark instead and stays within New Jersey’s borders.


Posted by steve at 11:30 AM

The Vandalia Dunes Are Gone–Is Four Sparrow Marsh the Next to Go?

Oy Vey Rockaway

If there's a Forest City development happening near you, hold on to your wallet and skepticism.

Frankly, I’m shocked about the new stores being proposed for just north of the Flatbush Avenue exit of the Belt Parkway, near Toys R’ Us. However, members of Community Board 18 in Brooklyn have “warmed” to the idea, according to Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal. I’m sure the local chamber of commerce is also ecstatic.

Fifteen acres worth of a new Cadillac dealership and additional retail stores are proposed, with up to 800-some parking spaces. The developer, Forest City Ratner, sponsor of the controversial Atlantic Yards project, has declared that the area is “underretailed.” As someone who had to pilot a vehicle efficiently from Rockaway to Brooklyn College several days a week during rush hour traffic for two years, I must say I have never shared that perception.


Posted by steve at 11:27 AM

January 14, 2011

Forest City Ratner Foundation in 2009: fewer gifts, with WTC Memorial again the largest, but a first gift to ACORN and much less for Brooklyn Museum

Atlantic Yards Report

The most notable aspect of the latest annual report from the shadowy Forest City Ratner Companies Foundation, regarding donations over the fiscal year ending 1/31/10, is not the absence of contributions to some charities previously supported, such as the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Polytechnic University, both of which got $100,000 in 2008.

Nor is it the disproportionate gift to the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, $750,000 of $1,035,000 in total giving; after all, in 2008, the foundation got $1,000,000 out of $1,554,500. (Click on graphic to enlarge.)

Nor is it the decision to give $50,000 each to Marty Markowitz's two summer concert series--the Seaside and Martin Luther King series-rather than, as in 2007 and 2008, directing $100,000 to the latter series only.

The ACORN gift

Rather, the most notable aspect is the $100,000 directed to the ACORN Institute in April 2009.

In 2009, the foundation gave $40,000 to the Brooklyn Museum, down from $100,000 in 2005 and 2006, $110,000 in 2007 and $165,000 in 2008. It should be noted that Bruce Ratner was honored by the museum in an April 2008 gala.


Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

Panasonic HQ to move from NJ to Brooklyn and FCR's MetroTech or Atlantic Yards? A few unanswered questions and some Site 5 speculation

Atlantic Yards Report

Panasonic might stay in Secaucus or move to other cities, so it's likely the company is conducting a behind-the-scenes subsidy auction.

Remember, in March 2009, Mayor Mike Bloomberg complained about New Jersey dangling subsidies to attract New York-based companies across the river. So would this truly be economic development?

Site 5 location?

There are only two building sites in the Atlantic Yards footprint destined for office space, and the flagship building, Building 1, likely would be too big for Panasonic, which needs 250,000 square feet.

Moreover, Building 1 would be extremely complicated to build, involving an Urban Room attached to the arena rather than the plaza currently planned.

Thus, if Panasonic does move to the Atlantic Yards footprint, Site 5, currently the home of Modell's and P.C. Richard (bounded by Pacific Street and Fourth, Flatbush, and Atlantic avenues), might be a more likely spot for that office building.


NoLandGrab: OK, let's see if we can get this straight. Atlantic Yards involves millions upon millions in subsidies for a Russian oligarch, Chinese "investors" seeking green cards, and now, more subsidies for a Japanese electronics giant? Brooklyn really is a melting pot.

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

Panasonic Eyes N.J., Brooklyn

The Wall Street Journal

First Apple, now Panasonic? Soon, we expect "unnamed sources" to suggest that President Obama is considering relocated the White House to Atlantic Yards.

Panasonic Corp. of North America is in talks with New York City officials about relocating the company's headquarters and hundreds of jobs to Brooklyn, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Japanese electronics maker's U.S. headquarters currently is located in Secaucus, N.J. On Tuesday, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority approved as much as $102.4 million in tax credits for Panasonic to move to Newark instead of a possible move to New York City. The plan would keep about 800 jobs in New Jersey.

"This is about keeping jobs in the state and growing the economy," said Laura Jones, a spokeswoman for the authority. She added that Panasonic was keeping their "options" open and is also looking at other major cities including Atlanta, Chicago and New York.

People familiar with the matter said that Panasonic is eyeing two sites in Brooklyn—the MetroTech Center development in Downtown Brooklyn and the new Atlantic Yards development, which is also the site of a new basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets. Both Brooklyn sites are controlled by Forest City Ratner.

"At this point no decision have been made," said Jim Reilly, a spokesman with Panasonic, a unit of Panasonic Corp. of Japan. The company is still exploring its options, including staying in Secaucus, he said. He declined to discuss which cities the company was considering moving to.

Executives of Forest City Ratner couldn't be reached.


Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

Barclays Center construction time-lapse


We normally post Atlantic Yards construction videos from the like of Raul Rothblatt or Tracy Collins, but this one comes via Hunt Construction Group, the general contractor building the arena.

Ironworkers Local 361 recently posted a seven-minute video of construction at Barclays Center, including a time-lapse of recent steel erection work at the site. The 675,000-square-foot Design-Build arena will be the future home of NBA’s Brooklyn Nets upon completion in August 2012. Hunt is working closely with architects Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects on delivering a facility with a truly unique look and feel. The area is part of the major Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn, New York.


NoLandGrab: You may find this surprising, but the voiceover to the video gets a few things wrong! Here are just a few:

  • The project is not only "located over the MTA and LIRR Vanderbilt railyards," but over the former homes of quite a few former residents, displaced via eminent domain abuse.
  • 16,000 union construction jobs? Hardly. For one thing, those are job-years, and we thought the claim was 15,000. For another, there were only 325 people on the job in November.
  • 8,000 permanent jobs? Plainly speaking, that figure is pure bull.
  • Current industrial area? What industries? Homeownership?
  • Parks? You mean, like, privately owned parks that are only open when Forest City wants them open?

Also, it looks like most of the jobs for women and minority workers must come during a different phase of construction.

Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

January 13, 2011

Arena construction progress marked, but consultant says schedule not fully clear; early completion dates announced for building components

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote 12/21/10 that there was still fuzziness to the arena construction schedule and, according to the latest report the developer, state, and bond trustee by the consultant Merritt & Harris, those issues remain unresolved.

The report is dated 1/3/11 but based on an 11/23/10 site observation, so that preceded an expected mid-December meeting "to resolve current schedule disputes."

Arena components

The document also offers some very specific start and completion dates for arena components. See below and click to enlarge.


Given the "early target substantial completion date of June 1, 2012," the owner may use and occupy the Arena, though it presumably may be hard to hold concerts if seating is not installed until August 7, as indicated on the schedule above.

While the arena is expected to be ready for the October 2012 basketball pre-season, punch list work and subcontractor close-outs may mean the final completion date would be February 28, 2013.

According to the General Contractor, 325 people were on the job in November.


NoLandGrab: 325 people on the job in November represent exactly 2.166667% of the promised "15,000 construction jobs."

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

Empire wing of mind! Jay-Z invests big in Downtown chicken joint

The Brooklyn Paper
by Andy Campbell

He’s not a businessman; he’s a business, man — and that’s why rapper Jay-Z’s investment in Downtown’s newest wing joint has already put it on the map.

The King of Brooklyn just dumped some cash-money — and his famous name — on his cousin’s three-month-old chicken wing spot, Buffalo Boss, near Flatbush Avenue Extension.

White wouldn’t disclose exactly how much was invested, but funding is a mute point once Mr. Z’s instantly recognizable moniker is tied to a business.

Take the Nets for example. The rapper formerly known as Shawn Carter was an original one-percent shareholder in the team — yet was paraded around by the ailing team’s ownership like he was the managing general partner. Jay-Z now owns a tiny fraction of that fraction — yet he’s still the public face of the Brooklyn-bound team as it prepares to move to the Barclays Center in Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development.


Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

Land grab in New York

Charleston (SC) Post & Courier

Columbia University, a private institution in New York City, got a green light from the U.S. Supreme Court last month to begin seizing private property in its neighborhood, using a state agency to do the dirty work. Too bad.

The outcome is a setback for property rights. But it is business as usual in New York, a state that recognizes few limits on its powers to condemn one person's property for the benefit of another. The Supreme Court was wrong to pass up a chance to stop this sort of theft.

A number of states, including South Carolina, hastened to pass laws sharply narrowing the reach of eminent domain after the Supreme Court ruled in Connecticut's controversial Kelo case, in 2007, that a city could take private land from one owner and hand it over to another if it were fighting "blight."

Unfortunately, a number of states have left the door open to abuse of their property condemnation powers by failing to give a clear and limiting definition to "blight." New York is one.

The decision dismissed the finding of a lower court that the official definition of "blight" used by the state could apply to "virtually every neighborhood in the five boroughs" of New York City.

Instead, the appeals court applied the same broad definition of "blight" under which it had allowed a state agency to condemn the large Atlantic Yards property in Brooklyn for the benefit of a private developer.


NoLandGrab: For the record, Kelo was decided in 2005, not 2007.

Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

January 12, 2011

"Shocking news": Observer floats lightly-sourced claim that Apple is looking for store near arena location; what about the EB-5 story?

Atlantic Yards Report

Yeah, and LeBron James is going to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the first Frank Gehry-designed Apple Store, which will also contain 300 units of affordable housing.

The New York Observer claims it's broken "some shocking news recently and nobody noticed," because only subscribers to the new Commercial Observer Now tri-weekly newsletter got it.

The headline in the Observer is iRatner! Apple Digging Atlantic Yards for First Brooklyn Store, but the story--likely based on a real estate broker--is more vague:

With plans dashed for a fifth Apple store on 34th Street late last year, sources say the tech behemoth is now setting its sights on a location near the proposed Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn, future home to the Nets basketball team.

Since last month, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has been informally chatting with potential landlords, including Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, about leasing options in the area, a source with ties to Forest City Ratner told The Commercial Observer on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Observer and others have steered clear of some other "shocking news," such as the admission, by a firm with ties to Forest City Ratner, that its agents are misleading potential immigrant investors about an EB-5 investment in Atlantic Yards tied to green cards.


Related coverage...

The Commercial Observer, Apple Mulling Atlantic Yards Store

"They've been very gun shy, the Apple people," said the source, who refused to be identified because the person was not given clearance to speak publicly. "They're focusing on the arena area right now, but there's no space. But it's the only place in Brooklyn that's super visible, close to trains and about as close as you can get to a 24-hour community in the borough."

Spokespeople for Forest City Ratner and Apple did not immediately return calls Wednesday.

If you're wondering how these fanciful stories sometimes take on a life of their own, here's how...

Curbed, Atlantic Yards to Get Brooklyn's First Apple Store?

Gothamist, Brooklyn Teased With Talk of Atlantic Yards Apple Store

Posted by eric at 12:26 PM

Review officer slams Carpenters Union; AY cheerleaders from Brooklyn Local 926 cited for improper spending, obstructing investigation

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's a look at some of the fine company Bruce Ratner keeps.

A couple of Carpenters Union cheerleaders for the Atlantic Yards project have come into severe criticism and sanction for suspected and confirmed improprieties, according to a new report by a court-appointed monitor.

The Times on January 10 offered an overview, headlined Review of Carpenters’ Union Shows Corruption Persists:

More than a year after its parent union placed the New York City District Council of Carpenters under supervision because its leader was charged with racketeering, the council remains influenced by the mob and is still a source of cash and illicit benefits for a select few, according to a recent assessment.

The assessment, filed last month by a court-appointed review officer, shows some progress in cleaning up the district council and its constituent locals, and proposes a number of substantive reforms.

But it also presents a troubling picture of a deeply ingrained culture of corruption, and some aspects of the assessment raise questions about with the stewardship of the supervisor appointed by the parent union, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

The First Interim Report of the Review Officer, Dennis M. Walsh, was filed in federal court in Manhattan, and posted (embedded below) by Local 157's John Musumeci, whose blog offers a forum for regular union members to learn what's going on and to push for reforms.

AY angle: Sal Zarzana

According to p. 15 of the report, Walsh writes:

Shortly after I was appointed, I received notice of over $30,000 of inappropriate expenditures made by Salvester Zarzana, the business manager of Local 926 [in Brooklyn]... The trustees in place ... during the time of such expenditures did not do their duty and in some cases, knew about the improper expenditures. All of these trustees will soon be held to account when time allows for charges to be prepared by my office...

Zarzana has testified at Atlantic Yards hearings and spoken at rallies. As I wrote 6/6/08, covering the "Brooklyn Day" rally, Zarzana (right) offered a familiar trope, accusing the opposition of not saving Brooklyn. “Where were you 40 years ago, when Downtown Brooklyn looked like a war zone?” he asked. “But we were here.”

(Photo by Adrian Kinloch)

Zarzana was the only speaker to target elected officials who are opponents or critics of the project. “There’s a bunch of politicians we need to straighten out, like [City Council Member] Tish James,” he said.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

More mallings at crime-ridden shopping center

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Apparently, Bruce Ratner's de-populating of the Atlantic Yards footprint has not put an end to the neighborhood's crime problem. Quite the opposite, actually.

Mall maul

Two thugs jumped a 14-year-old boy outside of the crime-ridden Atlantic Terminal Mall on Jan. 4, taking his iPhone.

The victim was walking past the shopping center on Flatbush Avenue between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue at 5 pm when the thieves ran up and punched him in the face. The pricey smart phone was taken during the struggle, the victim told police.

More malling

More crooks and hooligans were running wild inside both the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center shopping malls last week. Here’s what happened:

• Five thugs attacked a 16-year-old boy inside the Best Buy on Jan. 7, shattering the teen’s jaw. Employees told police that the teen was inside the store between Fort Greene Place and S. Portland Avenue at 7 pm as the thugs came in and pounced. The injuries were so severe that the victim’s jaw had to be wired shut.

• A thief swiped a purse from a woman shopping inside the Burlington Coat Factory on Dec. 30. The woman put her purse on the floor inside the store for just a few moments at 8:30 pm, but when she went to retrieve it a few minutes later, her bag was gone, along with her cash and credit cards.

• A thief snagged a pocketbook from a new mom on Jan. 8 when the woman took a break to assist her newborn. The woman told police that she was standing outside the Victoria Secret, adjusting her child’s booties, at 6 pm when the thief lifted her purse from the baby carriage.

• More than $7,500 in gift cards was taken from the Target between Dec. 26 and Jan. 4 — but this time an employee was to blame. A supervisor at the store between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue told police that the 20-year-old cashier took the cards without paying for them. The employee was arrested on Jan. 8.


Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

The new Downtown Brooklyn skyline, the rezoning gone awry, and yet more proof KPMG's report to the ESDC was bogus

Atlantic Yards Report

The more we learn about the state of condo sales in Brooklyn, the more Arthur Andersen's, er, KPMG's "market report" "justifying" the Atlantic Yards project looks like a total joke — except the joke's on us.

I'm coming a little late to the 1/9/11 cover story in the New York Times's Real Estate section, headlined Suddenly, a Brooklyn Skyline, but it's worth another look, for its slant and its omissions.

Notably, the nearby public housing is ignored and the main justification for the rezoning that led to the towers--an expected need for office space--is downplayed.

And--no surprise--there's no mention of the discrepancy between the sales figures revealed in the article and the ones consultant KPMG ginned up for an 8/31/09 report to the Empire State Development Corporation on the housing market in Brooklyn--a report used to justify the unrealistic ten-year Atlantic Yards buildout.

Sales figures vs. KPMG

According to the Times, Oro was more than 50 percent sold before the building was finished but, "[b]y September 2009, the building was only 28 percent sold." That led to price drops. Now its about 70 percent sold.

Funny, but KPMG claimed on 8/31/09 that the Ora was 75 percent sold. Not even close.


Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

As Wal-Mart's talked up as tenant of Forest City Ratner's new southern Brooklyn mall, two ironies

Atlantic Yards Report

A new retail center at the southern tip of Flatbush Avenue, the Four Sparrows Retail Center, would be just big enough to house a Wal-Mart superstore, reports the Brooklyn Paper, which does not add--as, a commenter notes, the Wall Street Journal reported--that the developer will be Forest City Ratner.

That sets up a couple of ironies. One, as a Brooklyn Paper commenter points out, is that City Council Member Lew Fidler opposes a Wal-Mart, though he was happy to back Atlantic Yards.

Another is that the public relations firm repping the anti-Wal-Mart coalition Wal-Mart Free NYC is BerlinRosen, which happens to be working for Forest City Ratner on Atlantic Yards outreach.


Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

Atlantic Yards cited in Competitive Enterprise Institute report as example of bad public-private partnerships

Atlantic Yards Report

On the heels of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's cautions on public-private partnerships comes The Limitations of Public-Private Partnerships: Recent Lessons from the Surface Transportation and Real Estate Sectors, by Marc Scribner of the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Notably, Scribner suggests that the two categories are very different beasts, and that real estate projects should be avoided. Atlantic Yards is one of five examples in that sector.

His summary:

One has long been dominated by government monopolies and the other has been largely free of political forces. In the case of surface transportation infrastructure, innovative new private-sector financing, management, and ownership regimes have much to offer in terms of minimizing taxpayer exposure to risk, capturing user revenues, and creating an efficient transport network. In contrast, government’s recently expanded role in real estate development has increased taxpayer exposure to risk, socialized costs, and concentrated the benefits into the hands of select private developers and special interests.

He recommends that partnerships in the real estate sector be avoided, "[o]utside of limited instances such as the Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program."

The examples, including AY

The 30-page report cites five examples of dubious real estate deals, including:

  • downtown Minneapolis’ Block E
  • downtown Pittsburgh's Fifth and Forbes corridor
  • New Jersey's Xanadu (recently renamed The Meadowlands) megamall
  • Navy Yard development, including a new stadium, in Southeast Washington, DC

The fifth is Atlantic Yards, which "required extensive use of eminent domain—both the threat of condemnation and condemnation itself," relied on "hired-gun" Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist, and involved “community activists” Al Sharpton and Bertha Lewis.

Whether the taxpayers will be "on the hook for at least $1.6 billion" is hard to ascertain, but the developer will be saving a bunch. (And that's before Chinese money for green cards, even.)


Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

January 11, 2011

Comptroller DiNapoli issues report on public-private partnerships: needed are full and fair value, realistic agreements

Atlantic Yards Report

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has released a new report, Controlling Risk Without Gimmicks: New York’s Infrastructure Crisis and Public-Private Partnerships [PDF], an effort to evaluate both the opportunities and risks with turning infrastructure over to partnership with the private sector.

The report notes that the state faces an estimated $250 billion in infrastructure needs over the next 20 years, notably transportation ($175 billion), municipal wastewater ($36 billion) and clean water ($39 billion). (Here's coverage from City Hall News.)

The Atlantic Yards example is not mentioned, but is at least partly on point: the main issue was the marketing of public land without a fair process, and secondary issues involved the packaging and valuation of public infrastructure such as a new railyard and transit entrance.

Essential principles

So DiNapoli's conclusions are worth noting:

There are four essential principles that New York must adopt in order to mitigate the financial risks inherent in public-private partnerships:

Full and Fair Value: Identify and use the best practices for the valuation of public assets to ensure that the public receives the full, fair value for the use of its property.

Reasonable Pricing: Keep private sector profits within reason to ensure that P3 agreements do not burden the public with unwarranted expenses, excessive fees, or high toll increases.

Realistic Agreements: Carefully draft P3 agreements to ensure that they do not include unrealistic expectations or inaccurate financial calculations.

Responsible Budgeting: Avoid budget gimmickry by adopting financing rules that prevent a disproportionate shift of current capital costs onto future taxpayers. This must be based on a comprehensive reform of the State’s debt and capital financing practices.

What about AY?

Given the history of Atlantic Yards, I'd argue that public assets were not fairly valued, nor have costs and benefits been accurately assessed.

Meanwhile, developer Forest City Ratner's efforts to renegotiate the Vanderbilt Yard deal with the MTA suggests that private sector profits--bolstered by a mayor and governor firmly on board with the Atlantic Yards project-- held sway over public value.


Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

Window Closing Again on Melodrama

by Mark Ginocchio

The bad soap opera otherwise known as the New Jersey Nets is taking its toll on fans. Take Mark Ginocchio, for example.

In a move that should surprise nobody who’s been following this saga since the Fall, new reports late last night indicate that talks between the Nets, Nuggets and Pistons are moving further and further away from the goal line and a Carmelo Anthony to Nets trade is in jeopardy.

From my perspective, the problem is this has become a lose-lose proposition. With reports out there that Mikhail Prokhorov apparently wants ‘Melo at any cost, even suggesting he would forgo an extension, the Nuggets have the Nets over a barrel with no leverage. If the Nets end up having to take on a contract like Al Harrington’s, just to make this deal happen, it would be a terrible deal from a cap flexibility perspective, and it would make it increasingly more difficult for the Nets to get Chris Paul in 2012, which I think should be the ultimate end game here. But the Nets have also come too far to watch this deal collapses. With 8 players on the roster rumored to move, this team is surely all but mentally lost right now, and if this talks last until the deadline in mid-February, the toxicity around this organization gets worse and worse.

Then there are the fear mongerers around the legitimate media and blogging community who believe if Anthony ends up as a Knick then Brooklyn “fails.” For one, what is the definition of failure here? Is construction going to stop in Brooklyn and Daniel Goldstein going to get his condo back? Would David Stern, after sticking his neck for Brooklyn, then Prokhorov, going to contract the Nets if they don’t sell out every game for their first five seasons? It’s a paranoid argument being used by those to capitalize on the inferiority complex of a fan base. I, for one, will continue to support this team with or without ‘Melo, New Jersey or Brooklyn. I root for the New Jersey Nets, not the stock price of Forest City Ratner, or Prokhorov’s Onexim.


NoLandGrab: A political opponent once quipped about then-presidential candidate George H.W. Bush that he was "born on third base and thought he hit a triple." Well, it seems that Nets' owner Mikhail Prokhorov was handed a sweetheart deal on former Soviet state assets and thought he was a charismatic Russian Warren Buffett.

Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

Express support for affordable housing in Manhattan

Save the Lower East Side

Atlantic Yards is offered up as an example of what not to do.

Tuesday Jan. 11 is the deadline for community comment submissions (send to spura@cb3manhattan.org) on SPURA -- the largest vacant land area south of 96th Street -- a rare opportunity for the creation of affordable housing, and a part of Bloomberg's plan to create or preserve 165,000 affordable units, including 60,000 new units to be created. How many of these 60,000 new units SPURA will contribute depends in part on what our community says.

CB3 is currently working towards a plan of 800 affordable units, and a total residential ratio of 50% market-rate to 50% non-market-rate. The non-market-rate housing will comprise

20% low-income housing,
20% moderate (<$100,000 income) & middle income (<$130,000 income) housing, and
10% senior housing.

In other words, the CB plan, if built, would result in at least 1,600 residential units, about the size of one EV block of six story tenements.

Whether the city will respect the community agreement is an open question. Look at what happened to Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: By "look at what happened to Atlantic Yards," we're not sure whether they mean the refusal to entertain the UNITY Plan (despite Extell's higher bid for the Vanderbilt railyard), or the "Community Benefits Agreement" whose "benefits" consist, as of now, of unenforceable promises and the whims of "market realities."

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

January 10, 2011

Stores Planned Near Brooklyn Marsh

The Wall Street Journal
by Joseph De Avila

Forest City Ratner is in the process of destroying a large swath of Prospect Heights to make way for a basketball arena. Now they've turned their sights on an environmentally fragile section of Mill Basin, where they plan to build — wait for it — a car dealership.

A plan to transform a 15-acre swath of land near Four Sparrow Marsh in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, into a car dealership and retail center has drawn criticism from local conservation groups.

The city has eyed this area for development for more than a decade, but locals have opposed adding retail projects along traffic-clogged Flatbush Avenue.

We have great concerns," said Glenn Phillips, executive director of New York City Audubon, a conservation group. New York City Audubon has pushed to protect the marsh, home to several threatened species of birds, and its surrounding area since the late 1980s.

The plan calls for a 110,000-square-foot Cadillac dealership to be built next to an existing Toys "R" Us store on Flatbush Avenue. The new retail center, covering at least 127,000 square feet, would be located just south of the toy store and north of the Four Sparrow Marsh.

The project is scheduled to begin the city's land use process this spring. Developer Forest City Ratner Cos. will oversee the project, breaking ground in 2014.

"This area has not only some of the best demographics in the country, but is extremely under-retailed as well," Andrew Silberfein, executive vice president and director of finance and retail development at Forest City Ratner, said in a statement.


At issue is the 67-acre Four Sparrow Marsh, which is currently a nature preserve and the nesting site of several threatened species of birds, like the seaside sparrow. The project could hurt the amount and quality of water in the basin, said Mr. Phillips with New York City Audubon. It could also disrupt the nesting of several species of birds, he said.

The city will work to ensure that the project proceeds with negligible environmental impacts, said Julie Wood, a spokeswoman with the New York City Economic Development Corp.

"That's something we take seriously on all of our projects," she said.

And surely, their consultant — let us go out on a limb and guess it will be AKRF — will take seriously the need to deliver an Environmental Impact Statement that reveals... no impact!

The retail center would be located less than a mile away from Kings Plaza Shopping Center, also on Flatbush Avenue. In the past, the local community board has opposed retail projects that would add to local traffic.

"Flatbush Avenue is a disaster," said Dorothy Turano, district manager of the board.


NoLandGrab: Wait, we thought it was "under-retailed."

Posted by eric at 10:22 PM

On Brian Lehrer Live, Markowitz asks, "Is it a matter of public policy to make New York City like Beijing of 1940?"

Atlantic Yards Report

It's such a slow day for Atlantic Yards news that Norman Oder could only provide us with a little comic diversion.

Last week, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz appeared on CUNY-TV's Brian Lehrer Live, and while he didn't quite discuss one of the questions posed by Lehrer in the segment intro--how can to strike a better balance between big development and the human scale--his performance was telling, both in his over-the-top rhetoric and his Atlantic Yards blind spot.

Click the link for more, if you can stand it.


Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

January 9, 2011

As China begins to crack down on EB-5 marketing, the Brooklyn arena roadshow continues; will it violate emerging standards?

Atlantic Yards Report

The recent Reuters investigation of the EB-5 program turned up several examples of immigration brokers in the Far East misleading those seeking green cards via investment immigration--though, as I've argued, the article gave a pass to the New York City Regional Center's framing and presentation of the Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project.

Now several authorities in China are cracking down on abuses, as detailed in several examples within the last month from the EB-5 News Blog run by Brian Su, president of the EB-5 China Market Council and an EB-5 consultant in Illinois.

Report from China: Beijing Police Crack Down on Unlicensed EB-5 Immigration Intermediary Operations:

Beijing has 77 legitimate and licensed immigration agencies, however due to US EB-5 program and other foreign immigration business boom in last two years, many unlicensed immigration intermediary firms are operating without required licenses.

Report from China: City of Chongqing Cleans up Local Exit-Entry Market:

Municipal Public Security Bureau Assistant Commissioner Yang Jian pointed out that this cleaning up motion's goal is to set the standards for foreign immigration intermediary business.

Report from China: Shanghai Exit-Entry Services Association Issues Warning to Members:

On December 27, 2010, Shanghai Exit-Entry Services Association issued a warning notice to all association members that the association will prohibit members to participate in any un-authorized exit-entry industry competition or award events organized by un-authorized entities and organizations. The association has received numerous complaints that a newspaper publisher was hosting a so called "The Most Trustworthy Exit-Entry Service Agency 2011 Award" event.

Report from China: Guangzhou Exit-Entry Administration Sets New Rules for EB-5 Brokers:

In a recent conference with Guangzhou area immigration service providers, Guangzhou Exit-Entry Administration also set new requests to the Guangzhou immigration industry. 1) Set new mechanism for monitoring promotional activities and restrict excessive exaggerations; 2) Publicize risks on overseas investment projects; 3) Each exit-entry service agency must file annual compliance review documentation by the end of December every year; and 4) When handling U.S. EB-5 immigrant investors program, exit-entry service agencies must inform consumers and fully disclose risk factors associated with the program.

Report from China: Role Change of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau Exit-Entry Administration:

As many EB-5 regional centers enter China market, the Beijing government is definitely nervous and closely watching.

And what about the NYCRC?

The basketball push continues. Report from China: New York City Regional Center Continues NETS EB-5 Project Promotion:

A promotional event for New York City Regional Center is to be hosted by a local migration agency in Guangzhou on January 15, 2011. The seminar will be held at 2:00 pm at Westin Hotel, 6 Lin He Zhong Road, Guangzhou. Mr. Gregg Hayden will be attending and entertaining questions. Two NYCRC seminars will take place in Beijing on January 8-9, 2011.

Will the local migration agency "restrict excessive exaggerations" and "fully disclose risk factors"?

Hayden has said the "EB-5 funding, the $249 million we are seeking to raise in the China market, is only 17%, the safest, most secure portion of the capital structure, 17%... portion of the capital structure is the EB-5 portion."

How exactly is that explained and disclosed?


Posted by steve at 4:27 PM

January 8, 2011

Demolition on Block 1129, Hot Bird going down: Photos by Adrian Kinloch

Atlantic Yards Report

Most of the remaining buildings on the southeast block of the Atlantic Yards site, Block 1129, are being demolished, and Adrian Kinloch (aka Brit in Brooklyn) took some copyrighted photos, of which one is below, looking northwest at Vanderbilt Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets.

The tower in the background is the Atlantic Terminal public housing building, while the broader building is 470 Vanderbilt, slated to hold HRA offices.

Note that not every building is going down, since one is being saved for construction offices, despite official promises to the court that everything needed to be demolished quickly. The rest will serve as construction staging and interim surface parking.


Posted by steve at 8:58 AM

A letter to the editor gets published by the Courier-Life, but mention of my blog and EB-5 series gets excised.

Atlantic Yards Report

So I wrote a letter to the Brooklyn Paper and Courier-Life chain in respond to the year-end round-up.

The Brooklyn Paper doesn't have a letters page this week, but the Courier-Life does. However, the paragraph that mentioned my blog, italicized below, somehow got excised. So much for serving the readers.

Also, oddly enough, they changed my rhetoric from "Shouldn't Brooklynites care?" to "Brooklynites should care." (They also changed "committed by" to "committed to," which misleads.) At least we know that a two paragraph letter from the editor's father in the Westchester suburbs merited a four-column headline.

The original letter:

I was amused to read, in your year-end round-up, a fanciful tale involving me on the final night of Freddy’s Bar and Backroom. I was less amused to recognize that the Brooklyn Paper has not covered some important Atlantic Yards news, notably Forest City Ratner's effort to raise $249 million from immigrant investors seeking green cards.

Shouldn't Brooklynites care that Borough President Marty Markowitz, in a video message taped for potential investors in China, claimed that "Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards"? Shouldn't Brooklynites care that tax money already committed by city and state agencies is apparently being used to help calculate the jobs "created" by such investors? Shouldn't Brooklynites care that the spirit, if not the letter, of a federal immigration program is being violated?

The tape of Markowitz's statement and extensive coverage of this controversy appears in the "Anatomy of a Shady Deal" series on my Atlantic Yards Report blog (AtlanticYardsReport.com).

Norman Oder Park Slope


Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

What Neighborhoods Are All The New Developments In?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

One might think that urban planning should take place before buildings are constructed. This editorial seems to suggest that waiting until afterward is better. Adding to a lack of credibility is the implication that housing at the Atlantic Yards site will be built anytime soon and confusion as to its location.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for all these housing units east of Flatbush Avenue to be considered in “Downtown” rather than Fort Greene? And for that matter, the same kind of questions can be raised about the Atlantic Yards site — “Downtown” or Prospect Heights?


NoLandGrab: Since the new Nets arena is now under construction, it's no longer necessary to pretend along with Bruce Ratner that Prospect Heights is in downtown Brooklyn.

Posted by steve at 8:29 AM

January 7, 2011

Why was the city sanitation department yesterday ready to clear Forest City Ratner's private Fort Greene Place?

Atlantic Yards Report

Fort Greene Place, the street between Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls from Atlantic Avenue to Hanson Place, has since 1986 been demapped for a private street. (Last May, Tracy Collins was barred by FCR security from taking photos there.)

So a Brooklynite visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles office at the Atlantic Center mall yesterday afternoon was surprised to see Department of Sanitation vehicles on the street and savvy enough to snap a few pictures.

Street closed

"When I got to Fort Greene Place, FCR security had closed off the street and cleared all vehicles from the street," my correspondent reported. "I saw a Department of Sanitation orange front loader, an orange salt truck with a plow on it, and a sanitation supervisor's vehicle on the street. They were getting ready to plow."

(Photo at right shows plow near Hanson Place, pointing south.)

"I went up to a sanitation man in uniform, probably the front loader driver, and asked him why sanitation was plowing a private street. He did not seem to be aware of that. He asked me who owns the street and I said Bruce Ratner. I told him taxpayers shouldn't be paying to have a private street plowed. The FCR security woman listened to all this in silence."

"I then went into the building to go to DMV and I took the pictures from there. When I came back out 30 minutes later, Sanitation was gone and it looked like they did not plow the street as they intended to."

Who's in charge?

Because Fort Greene Place is privately owned, any parking or traffic enforcement is handled privately, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation told the 3/27/04 Brooklyn Paper.

Presumably the same goes for sanitation--but perhaps there's an explanation. I have contacted both Forest City and the Department of Sanitation to see if they can offer any more detail. So stay tuned for an update.


NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner doesn't need to give no stinkin' explanation for having the city do his bidding. But at least he's consistent in not clearing snow from any of his Prospect Heights/Fort Greene properties.

Posted by eric at 9:48 AM

Daily News piles on speculation in suggesting Islanders may move to Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

A Daily News article today, headlined Battle may be brewing between Brooklyn and Queens for the Islanders, is pretty short on solid facts:

Two years after the Queens Chamber of Commerce expressed interest in luring the Islanders, a Brooklyn-born billionaire has emerged as a potential buyer for the struggling team whose Nassau Coliseum lease expires in 2015.

Nelson Peltz, a corporate investor on the board of Arby's and Wendy's, has explored buying the hockey club, according to ESPN.com and NHL FanHouse.

Peltz's interest sparked speculation about the Islanders moving to his hometown borough and the under-construction Barclays Center, where the Nets are set to play come 2012.

Speculation from whom? Based on this reasoning, the home town of every potential sports team buyer, should it have an arena, should be considered ripe for relocation.

Not even the Nets were ready to embrace it:

Nets spokesman Barry Baum said the basketball and hockey teams have not discussed sharing Barclays Center.

And that, most likely, is because the Brooklyn arena is too small for major league hockey.


NoLandGrab: The Nets and Forest City Ratner, of course, were happy to let speculation of the Islanders' relocation to their planned Brooklyn arena dangle when they were about to sell bonds to finance its construction.

Related coverage...

NY Daily News, Battle may be brewing between Brooklyn and Queens for the Islanders

NLG: The fantasy also known as the Brooklyn Islanders has been thoroughly debunked by both Noticing New York and Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

The winter of our content

Escape to the warm world of theater

by Jenna Scherer

In The Footprint heads to Boston, with some good advance notices.

Now that theater companies everywhere have packed away their tinsel, Santa hats and Tiny Tim crutches, it’s time to get back to the good stuff.

Midwinter always seems to be the time when theater artists are the most willing to go out on a creative limb, in between the enforced cheer of the holidays and spring. We’re on the dark side of the moon, when companies can and will pull out their riskiest, strangest, most interesting material.

ArtsEmerson continues bringing in awesome companies from out of town. First up is New York’s the Civilians with “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards,” a project about a Brooklyn development controversy (Jan. 19-23 at the Paramount Black Box).


Posted by eric at 9:24 AM

January 6, 2011

Teams and Owners Find Public Money Harder to Come By

The New York Times
by Ken Belson

Amazing! Ken Belson, who frequently covers the Nets for The Times, manages to write a news-analysis piece on the public funding of sports facilities that doesn't mention the Nets or Atlantic Yards. The article does, however, mention the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets and Red Bulls, none of which are owned by the developer of The Times's headquarters building, aka Nets' minority owner, Atlantic Yards developer and corporate-welfare queen Bruce C. Ratner.

The sports world is littered with examples of governments spending hundreds of millions of dollars to host the World Cup or Olympics or to help build stadiums and arenas for privately owned home teams.

But the tide may be turning, ever so slightly. In the last few years, owners of the Mets and the Yankees in New York, the Jets, the Giants and the Red Bulls in New Jersey and the Cowboys in Texas built stadiums that they financed primarily themselves. Last week, San Francisco was chosen to host the next America’s Cup even though the city had no money to offer the race organizers.

The question for economists, fiscal hawks and even Tea Party activists who oppose public subsidies for professional sports is whether these examples represent a growing resistance or are exceptions to the rule. The answer is a little bit of both.

Cities that are short of cash can no longer afford to build stadiums, which is why teams in Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco have struggled to win support for public subsidies.

Really? Nobody told New York City.

“I would like to be hopeful about the end of subsidies, but I’m not,” said Dennis Coates, who teaches sports economics at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. “The bottom line is, no matter how often the public sector says no, the people who want to build a facility will come back to that well because no is not permanent, but yes is.”

Coates and other economists note that while voters are increasingly reluctant to shoulder the entire cost of new stadiums, politicians are finding new ways to keep their home teams happy, either by providing land, paying for parking structures, public transportation and access roads, and offering tax breaks.


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

The Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club: lasting connections to a Brooklyn power base have meant Atlantic Yards support

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a look at the history of the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, a veritable factory for the minting of sleazy politicians, slimy political operatives and Atlantic Yards enthusiasts.

Within the amazingly (and disturbingly) detailed 1988 book, City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York, by Jack Newfield (R.I.P.) and Wayne Barrett, just let go by the Village Voice, is a highly unflattering portrayal of Meade Esposito, for 15 years the chair of the county Democratic Party until his resignation in 1984 (and his later conviction in an influence-peddling scandal).

Esposito's homebase was the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club in Canarsie, described in the book as "patronage-rich."

The AY connection

What's the Atlantic Yards connection? Well, the club remains one of the city's most powerful, and longstanding ties among those spawned by the club mean support for Atlantic Yards.

Specifically, Forest City Ratner Executive VP Bruce Bender, a former chief of staff to City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, comes out of the club, as Matthew Schuerman of the Observer pointed out 5/31/06.

And that's partly why politicians from southern Brooklyn, like Carl Kruger (under investigation, and a beneficiary of Ratner campaign cash), Marty Golden, Lew Fidler, Mike Nelson, and Alan Maisel, have been staunch supporters of Atlantic Yards, even though it's hardly a priority for their constituents.

And that's partly why the New York Times reported, 12/18/06, that it was unlikely that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, as a member of the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), would block Atlantic Yards:

“I’ve articulated my concerns to the speaker in writing, and beyond that, I think it would be counterproductive at this time to discuss the matter publicly,” said Mr. Jeffries, who said he was “confident” that Mr. Silver would take into account the views of the Brooklyn delegation.

That includes, however, a cluster of state lawmakers from south Brooklyn, who are almost unequivocal in their support of the project as it now stands. Forest City Ratner’s chief lobbyist, Bruce Bender, is close to those members; like many of them, he began his career in the area’s leading political organization, the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club.


NoLandGrab: Thomas Jefferson would surely be thrilled that his name has been appropriated by these paragons of democratic principles.

Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

Atlantic Yards

and so it goes...
by Karey Bakker

I was thinking tonight that I might be in the mood to change my banner image on my blog. I stopped to think what time of year that would have been that I took that photo and then it hit me.

That is an image of what is now the big build up of the new stadium in Atlantic Yards. I live only two blocks from the site, so for me – and for most folks in the area – the idea of a sports stadium and the crowds it it will bring with it is not in the least bit appealing. Today as I walk along that part of 6th Avenue, heading towards Atlantic, sounds of iron clanking and cranes creaking fill the air. Workers are typically standing at the entrance on the overpass, directing traffic into and out of the work site. On one hand I hate that they’re there, but on the other I feel better for them than I did the guys and gals who formerly sat in that area – before demolition of the existing buildings began – and, from what I can tell, just monitored the security of the site. There was such an uproar from the community that I guess it was justified. But on days when I’d walk by, heading to the big red bulls eye known as Target, I would give a friendly hello and a smile because maybe they didn’t want to tear down Atlantic Yards either.

So, I’ll leave my banner image just the way it is. Before long, from that very place on the 6th Avenue overpass, one won’t be able to see much of a Brooklyn skyline – if at all.


NoLandGrab: Actually, they're tearing down a sizable chunk of "Prospect Heights" in order to put up "Atlantic Yards."

Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

This man is bringing Smashburger to NYC

Jim Denburg is thinking big. And Brooklyn!

Metromix New York
by Jim Rodbard

And maybe even the "Atlantic Yards area."

You're opening three locations! Where are you looking?
My territory is the downtown business district, so Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Fort Greene and the Atlantic Yards area. I think two can go into that area.


Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

January 5, 2011

Village Voice jettisons Wayne Barrett, fellow investigator Tom Robbins resigns, local journalism loses (for now) institutional memory, watchdogs

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, just a few hours after I finished the amazingly (and disturbingly) detailed 1988 book, City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York, by Jack Newfield (R.I.P.) and Wayne Barrett, did I learn that Barrett had been laid off from the Village Voice for budgetary reasons and that Tom Robbins, the other Voice investigative reporter with deep knowledge of the city and state, had resigned in solidarity.

(Voice editor Tony Ortega disagrees with the latter interpretation.)

Wrote Barrett in his valedictory:

It never mattered to me what the party or ideology was of the subject of an investigative piece; the reporting was as nonpartisan as the wrongdoing itself. I never looked past the wrist of any hand in the public till. It was the grabbing that bothered me, and there was no Democratic or Republican way to pick up the loot.

The greatest prize I've ever won for the work I've done in these pages was when Al D'Amato called me a "viper" in his memoir. Chuck Schumer, who ended D'Amato's reign after 18 years, ascribed his victory in a 2007 memoir to a story I'd written a decade earlier that devastated the incumbent Republican. What Schumer didn't say was that as soon as Hank Morris, Schumer's media guru, went up with an ad based on my revelations about D'Amato, Arthur Finkelstein, who was running D'Amato's 1998 campaign, aired a commercial about Schumer's near-indictment and flashed my nearly two-decade-old clips breaking that scandal on the screen as well. I was the maestro of a commercial duel.

I've cited Barrett and Robbins periodically, including Barrett's amazing (and criminally ignored) report on Democratic Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson's reason for never getting tough on Mayor Mike Bloomberg (that museum Thompson's wife leads and Bloomberg has funded), or Robbins's description of Bloomberg's "Velvet Coup" in getting term limits overturned.

Neither turned their attention to Atlantic Yards, rich if complicated fodder, and that's another piece of luck for Forest City Ratner. (Was it because of lingering sympathy for ACORN? Too many other juicy targets?)

Their role at the Voice

I've been inspired by Barrett and Robbins, who come to conclusions and opinions--unlike reporters constrained by journalistic convention--but only after doing the reporting.

“The reporting I do I believe is very objective,” Barrett told WNYC. “After I’ve reported a story, I am allowed, unlike people at dailies, to frame the reportage in a piece that contains opinions. But it’s the reporting that shapes the opinion. It’s not the opinion that shapes the reporting.”


Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

January 4, 2011

Vicious New Year’s beating

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Last week's blizzard did not deter at least one purse-snatcher from a visit to Bruce Ratner's crime-happy Brooklyn malls.

Purse pinch

Last week’s snowpocalypse slowed everyone down — including the thieves who work the embattled Atlantic Center mall.

A 16-year-old filched a woman’s handbag inside the Flatbush Avenue Target on Dec. 26, but was arrested before she could get away with the stolen loot.

The victim was perusing the aisles inside the store between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue at 2:15 pm when the teen plucked the handbag from her shopping cart — only to be grabbed by store security guards a few minutes later.


Posted by eric at 10:02 PM

What's next in 2011? Accountability issues, timetable questions, and a reconfigured community response, with BrooklynSpeaks rising, DDDB receding

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder peers into his crystal blog and predicts the future of Atlantic Yards, c. 2011.

In my 2010 preview a year ago, I suggested it would be the year of "the final endgame and, likely, a very changed landscape." In the main, that was accurate, as described last week: "definitive progress on arena, Prokhorov emergence, Chinese investors (!), same questions of accountability."

No one could have predicted the astonishing effort to market an investment in the Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project to Chinese (and Korean) investors seeking green cards.

And no one would have bet that a state judge, Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, would hand Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and allied groups--and BrooklynSpeaks and allies in their first lawsuit--a long-awaited partial victory in court, ruling that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), in "what appears to be yet another failure of transparency," had failed to study the impacts of a 25-year buildout.

What next? The ESDC quickly provided such a study, deeming the impacts unimportant--which may be enough to make it pass the low legal bar, though not sufficient to convince locals that a surface parking lot lasting decades is not a meaningful change.

The legal process may continue for months, though it's highly unlikely Friedman will stop arena construction and unlikely--though more up in the air--whether she'll require any more action regarding Phase 2, involving an indefinite interim surface parking lot and other neighborhood impacts.

Contours of change

It remains to be seen whether the ESDC, under new Governor Andrew Cuomo, will take Atlantic Yards oversight more seriously, and whether any governance entity might emerge. Cuomo hasn't given any signals that he understands Atlantic Yards, and donor Bruce Ratner and some Ratner lobbyists surely have his ear.

It's likely that the center of gravity for citizen activism will shift away from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), which tried mightily to stop Atlantic Yards and highlight the bypass of democracy, to BrooklynSpeaks and cluster of groups more concerned with oversight issues and monitoring of construction impacts.

And what about blog coverage?

Last year I wondered if No Land Grab would remain as a daily compiler (and commenter on) all things Atlantic Yards and it did, with Eric McClure shouldering most of the work. However, just as DDDB has receded, I wouldn't be surprised if NLG, too, steps back somewhat.


NoLandGrab: Amen, brother!

Posted by eric at 1:49 PM

Beekman Tower Preview: Better Than the Movies It Plays Before?

by Joey Arak

Frank Gehry's Beekman Tower 8 Spruce Street New York by Gehry has been compared to the reality-defying architecture seen in Inception, and just like that blockbuster, it turns out Gehry's skyscraper also has a big Hollywood budget. A commercial for the coming-soon rental tower has been rolling before flicks at the Regal Union Square movie theater, a shorter version of the video seen on the building's new website. We just watched it for the first time, and it's safe to say this video—nay, film—would definitely win the Oscar in the Best Feature, Rental Building Promo category. No wonder the rents are so damn high!

The artsy clip created by dbox begins with our Starchitect of the Year sketching the building's shape while talking about the bay windows and showing off a watch from his signature collection, because that's how humble, hard-working anonymous architects get down. Then it cuts to some hipster watching the clip in a cab, followed by a quick-cutting barrage of Beekman Tower (we're still calling it that, by the way) glamour shots interspersed with scenes from neighborhoods that in most cases are nowhere near the building. Instrumental music swells in the background, and in the end our entire reality is revealed to be an app on a higher being's iPad. We're guessing that higher being is Bruce Ratner?


Related content...

New York by Gehry, The Film

Posted by eric at 1:37 PM

The Bloomberg Era, Part Two

Nathan Kensinger Photography

Forced Change
December 31, 2010 - At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, this multi-part photo essay examines how New York City's built environment has changed over the past 10 years, and what the future of New York's skyline might be. Part one of this essay can be seen here.

On January 1st 2010, Michael Bloomberg was sworn into office for a nearly unprecedented third term as the Mayor of New York City. Bloomberg, the 23rd richest person in the world, is only the fourth mayor in the city's history to serve a third term in office, and accomplished that goal by running "the most expensive self-financed political campaign in U.S. history," according to the Huffington Post. During his tenure, Mayor Bloomberg has "amassed so much power and respect that he seems more a Medici than a mayor," according to The New Yorker. He has used his power and wealth to enact an agenda of post-9/11 development that has radically changed the city's landscape. As described in part one of this photo essay, "not since Robert Moses has a single individual presided over such a large-scale transformation of New York City's built environment."

Like Robert Moses, the legendary Power Broker, Mayor Bloomberg currently exerts a stranglehold of power over New York City. In 2009, New York Magazine bluntly declared "Mike Bloomberg owns this town," and "in the past seven years Michael Bloomberg has become the only powerful figure in New York who really matters.... The mayor is not a dictator... but Bloomberg gets what he wants more than any mayor in modern memory." Also like Robert Moses, who was called New York's Master Builder, much of Mayor Bloomberg's work has focused on constructing a new version of the city. In 2009, Bloomberg drew comparisons between his accomplishments and Robert Moses', telling The New Yorker that "we’ve done more in the last seven years than—I don’t know if it’s fair to say more than Moses did, but I hope history will show the things we did made a lot more sense." Unfortunately, the parallels between Bloomberg and Moses also include the use of controversial methods to force development projects through, often at the expense of New York's unique fabric of small neighborhoods.

One of the most controversial tools Mayor Bloomberg has utilized in his quest to transform New York City is eminent domain, a practice whereby the state seizes private property to clear the way for an impending development meant for civic and public improvement. This was a favorite tool of Robert Moses, "who rammed highways through dense urban neighborhoods with a 'meat-ax' and became the un stoppable engine of 'slum clearance'," according to Metropolis Magazine. Moses' methods were often vilified, but he created the infrastructure for present day New York City, building highways, bridges, tunnels, parks and institutional landmarks like the Lincoln Center and the United Nations that have been freely used by countless millions of people. Michael Bloomberg, on the other hand, has approved the use of eminent domain for private development projects that include luxury residences and retail shops, college campus facilities and a sports arena. When completed, none of these developments will be open to the general public. They include several neighborhoods documented on this website: Willets Point (aka The Iron Triangle), Manhattanville and the Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 1:28 PM

New Life for Projects Put on Hold

The Wall Street Journal

Real-estate developers that haven't seen much action lately are hoping 2011 is going to be different.

For more than two years now, the landscape for new real-estate development in New York City has been a cold one. The economic downturn relegated many a project throughout to hibernation mode.

Employment plummeted after 2008, and with it any immediate need for new office space to house the tens of thousands of new office workers expected in a booming economy. While rental housing and hotels have fared better, construction financing remains scarce.

But with green shoots emerging in the New York City economy, developers are dusting off their plans crafted back in 2006 and 2007. A handful are even making a go at getting a shovel in the ground some time this year, even though most are predicting that the economic rebound will be sluggish.

Here's a look at four large sites that may (or may not) see construction in the year ahead:

Atlantic Yards—First Residential Tower

Forest City Ratner

CHANCES: Decent. With a new basketball arena under way, Forest City has said the company will start construction on this 400-unit building in 2011. Then again, the firm, which has hit some tough times, said the same thing last year.


NoLandGrab: The Journal is starting to catch on.

Photo: Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal

Posted by eric at 1:20 PM

January 3, 2011

Nets' owner dead set on making team No. 1

Bergen Record
by Al Iannazzone

We were getting ready to send flowers after reading the first three words of that headline, but it turns out this is just more pro-Prokhorov fluff.

Prokhorov, in an e-mail from Russia, said his mission is, "to build a championship team, a dynasty team."

"The great thing about sports is you can have an underdog that with time becomes a winner. We no longer have a losing mentality, and that is a huge step for the Nets.

But they still have a losing record, and at 9-25 are the fourth-worst team in the NBA.

After becoming owner last spring, Prokhorov guaranteed a playoff berth this year — doubtful — and championship within five years.


NoLandGrab: That "guarantee" wouldn't have been so meaningless if he'd guaranteed season-ticket holders their money back.

Posted by eric at 2:02 PM

Echoes from The Big Short, a book on the financial meltdown: "Either the game was totally rigged, or we had gone totally f@#!ing crazy."

Atlantic Yards Report

Michael Lewis's bestselling The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine is an entertaining, compelling, and tragic narrative that explains how the bond and real estate derivative markets led to the market crash.

Essentially, the few people who did the math saw it coming, and everyone else kept their heads in the sand. And nearly all those who let it happen, and got bailed out, stuck around to get rewarded.


Couldn't that scenario apply to other things, like a project promised to last ten years but instead would last decades?

The AY connection

And, guess what, some firms in Lewis's book play key roles in the Atlantic Yards saga.

There's Goldman Sachs, packager of the Atlantic Yards bond deal, which is considerably less exotic than the "synthetic subprime mortgage bond-backed CDO, or collateralized debt obligation."

While the CDO had been invested to redistribute the risk of corporate and government bond defaults, more recently it was used to disguise the risk of subprime mortgage bonds.

Goldman Sachs managed to get crappy bonds re-rated by the mortgage rating agencies, Moody's and Standard & Poor's, as 80 percent triple-A. No surprise that the rating agencies played along; they get paid by Wall Street.

And, yes, those rating agencies rated Atlantic Yards arena bonds--though not, apparently, the more questionable securities being marketed to would-be immigrant investors.


Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

January 2, 2011

Paying for power jolts some military families

About 6,400 Navy and Marine Corps households will be charged for excess energy use, a cost some believe is unfair

Honolulu Star Advertiser
by William Cole

If someone was going to charge America's hard-working military men and women a penalty for using too much electricity, could you guess who it would be? C. Montgomery Burns? Guess again.

Come Saturday, 6,400 military families in Hawaii will start to get electricity bills where there weren't any before, and although the change is intended to reduce consumption, not all are viewing the effort with holiday cheer.

The Navy and housing contractor Forest City Military Communities are testing the utility bills as a pilot program at Navy and Marine Corps housing in Hawaii. A similar test is under way at military housing at Beaufort/Parris Island in South Carolina.

For at least six years in Hawaii, Forest City has collected military members' housing allowances—which are substantial—as full payment for rent, utilities and all other costs under a public-private venture (PPV).

Now, military families will have to pay for electricity if their usage exceeds 20 percent of an established average for their neighborhood.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Andrew Lunn, 31, formally questioned the rationale for the change, known as the Resident Energy Conservation Program, before recently deploying to Iraq with the 25th Infantry Division.

"Service members are already adequately compensating housing communities for the electrical costs incurred," Lunn said. "The only reasonable explanation is that the civilian corporations running military housing here in Hawaii are exploiting the spirit of the RECP as a vehicle to generate additional income at the expense of service members."

Lunn's wife, Jennifer, said she skimped on Christmas lights this year on their Pearl City Peninsula home because of electricity cost worries.

"My husband is deployed and we can't even put up lights," she said. "Normally, we would put out double (the lights) at least, and it's like, ugh, take (the fun) out of the holiday season."

And what about during summer, when the sun is broiling?

The Navy said Forest City will not allow residents to install their own ceiling fans, but the housing manager will consider installing more on its own.

Forest City is converting all older air-conditioning thermostats to newer models that limit the lowest possible setting to 72 degrees.


NoLandGrab: Merry Christmas to our men and women in uniform.

Posted by eric at 9:58 PM

The Battle of Brooklyn Trailer


The Battle of Brooklyn explores the poorly understood phenomenon of eminent domain abuse. A feature-length documentary from filmmakers Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley, and David Beilinson, this film investigates how real estate developers, local government, community activists, and the media have clashed over the largest single-source development project ever proposed in New York City. Widely known as the Atlantic Yards project, this undertaking has for the past four years been a major source of contention as local residents resist a billionaire developers attempt to use eminent domain to seize their homes and businesses. Done in the name of “development,” schemes such as this one eviscerate private property rights and make a mockery of the Fifth Amendment–and yet they freely exploit lucrative taxpayer subsidies, easements, and tax abatements.


Posted by steve at 7:36 PM

Prospect Heights bar, across the street from blight, now colonizes TriBeCa

Atlantic Yards Report

In October, cataloging non-blight on Vanderbilt Avenue, I mentioned, among others, Weather Up at Dean Street, immediately across the street from the staging/construction zone slated to be a massive surface parking lot.

Weather Up is "now colonizing TriBeca," in the words of PaperMag. Blight, the justification for eminent domain in the Atlantic Yards site, is supposed to arrest development. It didn't arrest the original Weather Up, nor the spinoff.

Such colonization, in fact, appears to be the opposite force of blight.


Posted by steve at 7:26 PM

January 1, 2011

After snowstorm, sidewalks around perimeter of Atlantic Yards site still not cleared; if FCR and LIRR punt, will ESDC make sure something's done?

Atlantic Yards Report

One might think that developer Bruce Ratner could keep some sidewalks cleared of snow to show his gratitude to the State of New York for delivering valuable real estate to him so cheaply. The recent blizzard has provided another example of how we should expect Atlantic Yards to add blight to an area as part of a project that was supposed to remove it.

The presence of numerous un-shoveled sidewalks around the perimeter of the Atlantic Yards site suggests that the new year does not mean that old problems are forgotten.

Much in the same way the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) memorably punted when asked in 2006 if the city or the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) were responsible for "blighted" conditions--weeds and trash--on the sidewalks bordering the Vanderbilt Yard, so too has no agency nor developer Forest City Ratner yet taken responsibility for clearing the sidewalks after the December 26 snowstorm.

Dean Street resident Peter Krashes sent me several pictures take late Thursday afternoon, which depict a situation that remained substantially similar to the one I observed late yesterday afternoon.


Krashes said that, last year, after the Dean Street Block Association won a Citizen's Committee for NYC grant to beautify the neighborhood, they asked to meet with LIRR, because of concerns about the sidewalks. ESDC ombudsman Forrest Taylor helped arrange the meeting.

During the meeting, according to Krashes, the LIRR stated that since its umbrella authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is a state agency that operates in many municipalities, it would be onerous for them to be held accountable to the laws of each municipality.

Thus, the MTA can ignore local law and follow its own regulations instead. As a result, he said, the LIRR maintains that they do not have the same responsibility as private property owners to maintain sidewalks adjacent to their properties in NYC.


Posted by steve at 9:08 AM

Los Angeles Times architecture critic, aghast at a stadium proposal, thinks New York, by contrast, doesn't embrace developer-driven projects

Atlantic Yards Report

Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne yesterday offered Critic's Notebook: Los Angeles needs a game plan: AEG's plans for a new football stadium in downtown Los Angeles point to bigger problems: The city follows, not leads, and allows developers to shape Los Angeles one mega-project at a time.

He lamented:

One is that City Hall finds itself in the familiar position of reacting to, rather than guiding with any real foresight, a major development proposal that seeks to rewrite the planning rules downtown.

New York leads the way?

Dismayingly, Hawthorne suggested New York offers a counterpoint:

By contrast, other cities, notably New York under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Portland, Ore., have breathed new life into the public sphere not by chasing giant developer-driven projects but by tending carefully to transit, bike paths, parks and other human-scaled improvements.

I posted a comment:

That's ridiculous. Along with appointing an innovative director of the Department of Transportation and others concerned about human-scaled improvements, Bloomberg has backed to the hilt developer-driven megaprojects such as the West Side Stadium (killed), new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets, and the Atlantic Yards project (arena plus towers) in Brooklyn.

Distinguished planner Alexander Garvin said this past June, "Atlantic Yards: what kind of public realm is there? None,” he responded rhetorically. “A single site rezoned for a single owner with a set of towers and an arena. That's not a public realm. If you're going to increase what you can support on the site, you need to be able to support them with something, such as community facilities, mass transit, and streets, and I have a problem when the upzoning isn't related to that.”


Posted by steve at 9:03 AM