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February 28, 2011

Video (finally) of Marty Markowitz's outrageous claim to potential immigrant investors: "Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards"

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, I posted the audio 12/8/10 and a link to the video on February 2.

But Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's performance in a video presented to potential immigrant investors in Atlantic Yards is so spectacular that it deserves its own video excerpt, below.

Markowitz claims, incredibly, "Brooklyn is 1000 percent, 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."

He knows that's false. But it could help save Forest City Ratner some $191 million under the dubious exploitation of a federal program in which immigrant investors get green cards for themselves and their families in exchange for purportedly job-creating investments.

The original video, produced by the New York City Regional Center, an investment pool, is made available by a South Korean video-sharing site. It is hard to download, so the excerpt was created the old-fashioned way, by filming the screen.

Markowitz closes by asserting that "there's nothing better than China and Brooklyn together."

There's some irony there, given that the version shown here is subtitled in Korean. Forest City Ratner and the New York City Regional Center have sought 498 investors, 40 from South Korea.

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Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

Concern for Underclass as the City Progresses on Its Willets Point Plan

The New York Times
by Dan Bilefsky

Two years ago, as the mayor attended the Mets’ home opener at the new Citi Field, Adrien Nicolescue, an auto mechanic from Romania, joined a procession of honking garbage trucks to protest the city’s plans to condemn the nearby Willets Point area and build a $3 billion project of apartments, office buildings, stores, restaurants and a hotel.

But as his comrades geared up for another showdown with the mayor at a public hearing on the project scheduled for Wednesday, Mr. Nicolescue decided to pack up and leave. “I am going home, back to Romania,” he said, standing on the same pothole-pocked corner of Willets Point where he has been drawing in customers for windshield repairs for 36 years.

Willets Point, in Queens, is a 61-acre expanse of junkyards and auto-repair shops so squalid that local business owners compare it to Iraq. “I don’t want to leave,” Mr. Nicolescue said, “but I have nowhere to go."
...

Whatever the challenges, some are determined to stay. Michael Rikon, a lawyer representing 82 businesses that have refused to leave, said that he was preparing to file a lawsuit against the city, claiming that the project flouted environmental laws. But he acknowledged that history and precedent were not on his side.

In November 2009, the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, ruled that the state could take businesses and private property for the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Legal experts said that decision reaffirmed New York’s right to use eminent domain even as many state legislatures have been moving in the opposite direction.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, If 29 developers are interested in Willets Point, why not the Vanderbilt Yard? Also, no Times scrutiny for Pinsky's projections

Two things jump out from a New York Times article today headlined Concern for Underclass as the City Progresses on Its Willets Point Plan:

Seth W. Pinsky, president of the corporation, said in an interview that the project would create 5,300 new jobs, provide affordable housing and generate $25 billion in investment over the next 30 years. He said that 29 developers had already expressed interest, and that the city would choose finalists this spring.

But opponents of the Bloomberg plan counter that the project is speculative and environmentally unsound.

Contrast with AY

First, if 29 developers have expressed interest in Willets Point, would a similarly large number have jumped at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard and/or the entire Atlantic Yards site?

But the MTA didn't reopen its RFP after Forest City Ratner in 2009 asked to renegotate the Vanderbilt Yard deal, and MTA board member Jeff Kay claimed, "But there is no other market. No one else has come forward with a credible proposal at this time, and we should take advantage of that.”

Optimistic projections

Second, Pinsky should not with any certainty claim such definitive numbers about jobs, housing and investment. Nor should the Times transcribe his claims without a glimmer of doubt.

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

A Bridge Too Late, and More

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

For those who still remember there was once a Carlton Avenue bridge, its return just moved further out into the future. When it was closed in January 2008 the reopening was scheduled for January 2010. But the date kept moving, and now Norman Oder reports the latest update: April 2012, which would mean the bridge will have been closed more than twice as long as originally promised in the original Atlantic Yards environmental review. Oder suspects, moreover, that fall of 2012 is more likely.

Oder also writes that the entrance to the arena will also be a moving target. When Building 1 is constructed--an office tower plus the "Urban Room"--the entrance to the Arena will be temporarily moved to Sixth Avenue.

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Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

Wanna build a hotel near BAM? It’ll cost you

The Brooklyn Paper
by Laura Gottesdiener

Throughout this hotel craze, the BAM Cultural District has remained a bed-and-breakfast area only — though that will likely change when Bruce Ratner’s basketball arena is done.

“A hotel is something that has been proposed for a long time,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene).

“People are anticipating the arena, which would necessitate a hotel.”

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Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

Brooklyn, NY Focus

Mole's Progressive Democrat

NYC Community Organizations Blast Wal-mart for Partnering with Predatory Lender Jackson Hewitt...WalMart, Bruce Ratner and now predatory lenders...this is one nasty nest of corruption here, and Bloomberg and Marty Markowitz are part of it.

Another example of Bruce Ratner's corrupt influence on NYC: Will mystery of Ridge Hill be explained when case goes to trial in June?

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Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Richmond Ave. getting its mojo back, as it lands Dick's 1st Staten Island store

SILive.com
by Stephanie Slepian

Guess who's malling Staten Island.

Another high-profile vacancy along Richmond Avenue will be filled this summer when Dick’s Sporting Goods opens its first Staten Island store in the spot once home to Circuit City in New Springville.

Dick’s, the largest publicly-traded sporting goods store in the country, joins DSW and Trader Joe’s — which will mark its arrival this spring — by bringing life back to one of the borough’s busiest shopping corridors.
...

"It’s good news," said Mike Rapfogel, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, the well-positioned real estate company that owns commercial and residential properties around the country, including the shopping center that will become home to Dick’s.
...

Earlier this month, the Pittsburgh-based [Dick's] agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit and 22 related state lawsuits brought by current and former employees who say they weren’t properly paid overtime and were made to work through breaks.

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Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

February 27, 2011

Slopers will rally tomorrow night against sports bar near Barclays Center

The Brooklyn Paper
By Natalie O’Neill

First came the fight over Atlantic Yards — now comes the fight over all the bars it will attract.

Park Slope residents are planning to storm a Community Board 6 hearing on Monday night to protest a liquor license for Prime 6 NYC, a live music venue and sports bar that is under construction at the corner of Flatbush and Sixth avenues — just one and a half blocks from the future home of the Brooklyn-bound Nets.

...

“It is completely in conflict with an internationally famous, family oriented area,” said Steve Ettlinger, a non-fiction writer who lives nearby. “And everyone who has approached the owner has been rudely rebuffed.”

...

The liquor license application will be discussed by Community Board 6 at the Prospect Park YMCA [357 Ninth St. between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 643-3027] on Feb. 28 at 6:30 pm.

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Posted by steve at 7:10 PM

A profile of the guy whose firm produced Ratner's brochures: "Josh is highly motivated by making profit"

Atlantic Yards Report

The 2/22/11 profile in Capital NY, How former liberal operative Josh Isay became the default paid-media guy to the New York establishment, concerns SKDKnickerbocker, once known as Knickerbocker SKD.

It's an interesting piece of inside baseball, but without an attempt to evaluate the content of the firm's work. The press does such evaluation with certain political ads, but not (despite my argument) with the firm's misleading brochures for Forest City Ratner.

The article notes:

Both the corporate and the political clients ostensibly benefit from the same essential asset: Isay’s knowledge of how reporters, politicians and regulators process information.

And that's why the press should take the message seriously.

Clients

The article lists several clients, but not FCR:

In addition to NYSE, the firm has been hired by a host of corporate and union clients, including Thor Equities, the firm that sparred with the city over the redevelopment of Coney Island; the Rudin family, which controls some 14 million square feet of real estate in New York City; Genting New York, a subsidiary of the Malaysian gambling giant that won state approval to install slot machines at the Queens Aqueduct; and Education Reform Now, the Joel Klein creation that’s battling teacher unions in New York. (Anita Dunn, Isay’s partner in D.C., is advising a group with a similar agenda: Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst.)

Meanwhile, Isay seems to have worked at one time or another with all of the best-known politicians in New York City...

The bottom line

Here's the bottom line regarding Isay's choice of political clients, which likely applies to corporate clients, as well:

Certainly, he will not feel constrained by any sense of partisan duty.

(As one of Isay's consultant friends put it, "Josh is highly motivated by making profit, which is fine.")

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Posted by steve at 7:03 PM

Zimbalist issues guiding principles for successful arena in Edmonton; guarantees of revenues and ancillary development absent in Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

In an Edmonton Journal article headlined Case for new arena no 'slam dunk': Leading analyst says such plans can work - if conditions are right, sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, who claims he turns down 70 percent of consulting gigs offered, offers a mixed opinion on a new downtown arena:

Success, he says, comes down to a few guiding principles.

These include: thoughtful planning and design; a solid financial model that places most (roughly 80 per cent) of the financial burden on the private-sector partner; upfront, iron-clad guarantees from the developer to protect local taxpayers from projected future revenue shortfalls or project cost overruns; and a binding upfront commitment by the team owner and his developer-partners to proceed with ancillary projects, such as hotels or condos.

What was missing in Brooklyn

Funny, but Zimbalist didn't say that in the "study" he conducted for Forest City Ratner. (He was hired before the project was unveiled in December 2003.)

Protection from future revenue shortfalls? No, Zimbalist provided the best-case scenario, which assumed a full buildout of the original configuration, and at the announced ten-year timetable.

The timetable is long gone, as is the configuration, and a full buildout is questionable, given that it's not required by the Development Agreement.

Binding commitment to proceed with ancillary projects? The Development Agreement allows a much smaller project. Office space (jobs and tax revenue) was swapped for condos.

Here's a prescient criticism, from the 5/4/04 Daily News:

"This document is a self-serving document," said Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Fort Greene). "This document is a ruse. We should line our wastebaskets with it."

And that's not even getting into other contradictions and willfully naive statements.

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Posted by steve at 6:59 PM

Everyone is getting a break because who can afford to pay retail on taxes?

Daily News
by Adam Lisberg

It's no surprise that developer Bruce Ratner, via his Atlantic Yards project, can be seen feeding heartily from the public trough.

Nobody pays retail in New York, right?

That's true for the city's buildings, too.

Every one of the biggest new private construction projects in New York is helped along by some sort of public subsidy.

The World Trade Center floats on a sea of tax-free subsidized bonds and taxpayer-funded infrastructure. Same with the Barclays Arena under construction at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards.

...

"These days, a publicly subsidized project doesn't necessarily equate to a large public benefit," said Bettina Damiani of the watchdog group Good Jobs New York, which is still smarting from the giveaways for the new Yankee Stadium.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Everyone's getting tax breaks, says Daily News columnist, who neglects the ironies of the free-market Bloomberg administration

Daily News columnist Adam Lisberg, in Everyone is getting a break because who can afford to pay retail on taxes?, points out some ironies:

...

But he doesn't go far enough. After all, it's Mayor Mike Bloomberg who regularly invokes the free market when talking about the sports industry or the entrance of Wal-Mart.

Instead, Lisberg lets an apologist speak:

"If it was a more rational level of taxes, we wouldn't need it," said Steven Spinola, head of the Real Estate Board of New York.

Posted by steve at 6:39 PM

Flashback, 2006: interim surface parking could last "for some time," predicted Brooklyn Views blogger Cohn

Atlantic Yards Report

Architect Jonathan Cohn hasn't been writing his Brooklyn Views blog since March 2007, but he was right on the money when he wrote, on 4/3/06, about the emergence of interim surface parking and the elasticity of "interim."

He wrote:

One change in the Final Scope is the admission that an unspecified amount of “interim surface parking” on the eastern part of the project site will be constructed during Phase I. (P.14). This “use” of the site could be in-place for some time. While the Phase I analysis year is 2010 and Phase II is 2016, schedules for large projects are notorious for being accurate only at the moment they are proposed.

Maybe not even then. Now we know that the interim surface parking could last for decades.

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Posted by steve at 6:30 PM

February 26, 2011

That arena entrance on Sixth Avenue? It would become a main entrance for a stretch if Building 1 gets constructed

Atlantic Yards

Only in December 2010 did we see images of an arena entrance on Sixth Avenue, not present in any of the previous renderings, or in the Design Guidelines, which state that principal entrances " shall be located through the Urban Room and on Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street."

But the Urban Room, west of the arena, would be replaced by a plaza, and that plaza would be closed during the time of construction if and when the flagship tower, B1, is built. That would finally produce the Urban Room.

A new main entrance

Information on the new main entrance was in the 12/21/09 Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, posted by the Empire State Development Corporation and laying out Forest City Ratner's obligations:

In the event development of Building 1 is delayed so that it will be constructed after the arena commences operation, FCRC shall, for the period of construction of Building 1: (i) relocate the main arena entrances to the north and east side of the arena; (ii) provide directional signage at various point on the arena block, indicating routes to the arena’s entrances and amenities; and (iii) erect pedestrian construction sheds protecting, among other areas, the subway entrance and pedestrian walkways and sidewalks on the arena block.

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Posted by steve at 4:50 PM

February 25, 2011

Flashback, 2006, Gargano interview: "This site is dormant. It's on a railyard" and "the improvements... will benefit all the people from that area"

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember Charles Gargano, the George Pataki-era Chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation who had a much higher profile than any of his successors? (Remember Patrick Foye, Avi Schick, Robert Wilmers, Marisa Lago, and Dennis Mullen? Now there's Kenneth Adams.)

Gargano, who liked to be called "the Ambassador" (for his time sweating out service in Trinidad and Tobago), famously declared "we cannot stop progress, stop development. I think what we have to do is to make sure we go through the proper process to assess everything."

To his credit, unlike his more cautious (and prudent) successors, Gargano liked to meet the press, and he was challenged at times during interviews, by Brian Lehrer ("classic political evasiveness") and also by Channel 13's Rafael Pi Roman, who interviewed him for an October 2006 piece I previously covered (overview and focus on blight).

Back to the video

Now Pi Roman has posted that New York Voices piece, The Battle for Brooklyn, on YouTube.

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NoLandGrab: No one put the "ass" in "Ambassador" like Charlie Gargano.

Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

February 24, 2011

Reopening of Carlton Avenue Bridge, closed since January 2008 (supposedly for two years), nudged from April 2012 to "summer 2012"; will it go longer?

Atlantic Yards Report

It was inevitable, wasn't it? We knew that the Carlton Avenue Bridge, closed since January 2008, had to reopen before the Atlantic Yards arena reopens.

And now that "substantial completion" of the arena is August 12, 2012, so too has the city Department of Transportation nudged back the reopening of the bridge from the most recent deadline, April 2012, to "summer 2012."

That's not the first revision of the plan, not by a long shot.

And I'd say there's a good chance that the bridge reopening could be nudged further back to "fall 2012," if the arena opens in the fall.

Closure for four-and-a-half years?

All this means that bridge would be closed for at least four-and-a-half years, more than twice as long as originally promised in the Atlantic Yards environmental review, approved in 2006.

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NoLandGrab: This is exactly the kind of outrageous disregard for the community that we can expect for the next three decades — and no one with the power to do anything about it is holding Forest City Ratner accountable.

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

A day after losing out on Anthony, Nets get superstar point guard Williams; he's got a contract extension to sign, but for now, it's seen as a big win

Atlantic Yards Report

After being seen as losers to the Knicks in the (costly) effort to attract star Carmelo Anthony, the Nets yesterday got superstar point guard Deron Williams, unhappy at the Utah Jazz in exchange for point guard Devin Harris (the face of EB-5 flackery), rookie forward Derrick Favors, and more.

For Nets fans, the optimistic perspective is that Williams will sign a contract extension and help attract more stars. The pessimistic one is that Williams won't sign and will leave.

But the consensus, for now, is that the Nets made a good deal.

Cut to round-up of sports stories praising trade. And then back to reality.

Would that any of these writers, who pay such intense attention to hoops, considered the "Debbie Downer" issue of "the crooked crap that actually matters," such as how team and arena owners make their money.

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NoLandGrab: Yes, Williams isa good player, but when was the last time you saw someone outside of Salt Lake City sporting his jersey? And the Nets traded their two best players not named Brook Lopez, and two potential lottery picks, for the guy who caused legendary NBA coach Jerry Sloan to quit.

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

February 23, 2011

Carmelo Anthony’s Impact on Jay-Z’s Net Worth

Forbes.com
by Zack O'Malley Greenburg

When Carmelo Anthony suits up for his first game as a Knick tonight, there will be a thick soup of euphoria in the air. There will be cheers, laughter and maybe even a few tears of joy. Because for the first time in a decade, New York basketball fans have a championship-caliber team to root for, helmed by two name-brand superstars.

But for Brooklyn native and Nets co-owner Jay-Z, the focus will be on the other side of the river, and what might have been – not to mention a lost opportunity for the rapper to add another seven-figure sum to his net worth ($450 million, by our latest estimates) through a bump in the value of his 1.5% stake in the Nets.

“Had the Nets been able to acquire Carmelo at a reasonable price, the franchise value would have increased,” says Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based consultancy SportsCorp. “A star of his caliber combined with a rebranding and move to Brooklyn could have added more than $100 million to the franchise’s value.”

A simple back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that Carmelo’s trade to the Knicks, and not to the Nets, will cost Jay-Z about $1.5 million in equity. It also represents lost value of $80 million for Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who holds an 80% stake in the team as majority owner. And now, as the Nets prepare for a move to Brooklyn in 2012, both moguls must determine what it is that they’re moving.

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Related coverage...

Gothamist, Hey, the Nets Made a Big Trade Too!

In the aftermath of the conclusion to the Carmelodrama, the Nets made their own splashy move today, trading Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, two first-round draft picks and cash to the Utah Jazz for two time All-Star point guard Deron Williams. After they lost the LeBron sweepstakes last summer, and the Carmelo one this week, the Nets were determined to emerge with a franchise player this time; and though it seemingly came together very quickly, coach Anthony Johnson says it was in the works for awhile: "This is not a Plan B. It was just one that wasn't announced. One that nobody got -- until recently. He's not a Plan B. He's a Plan A also. We've been working on this for a while."

If it's true, then this gives further credence to the suggestion that the Nets only re-entered the Carmelo trade discussions last week in order to drive the price up for the Knicks, and piss them off at the same time. It's also interesting that over the weekend, it was reported that Williams told associates he was interested in joining with Amare in NY in 2012. But now, Williams will be the face of the Nets come 2012/2013, when the team moves into the Barclay Center at Atlantic Yards.

NoLandGrab: Not so fast — the Forbes story goes on to point out that Williams can opt out of his Nets contract at the end of next season.

Atlantic Yards Report, My thoughts on the meaning of the BK Nets? Don't forget the EB-5 story, as immigrant investors are misled into thinking they're supporting an arena

Debbie Downer, aka Norman Oder, still thinks the mainstream press ought to focus on all the crooked crap that actually matters, instead of the faux hoops hoopla for a league that's likely not even going to be in business next season. He just doesn't get how the media works, does he?

I was asked today to comment for a New York Observer article "about the post-Melo fight between the Nets and the Knicks for New York's psyche. Would you be interested in sharing your thoughts as to what this team does or does not mean for Brooklyn and the city as a whole?"

My response: "I think it means that Chinese millionaires think they're investing in an arena in exchange for green cards, via the developer's dubious deployment of the federal government's EB-5 program."

Don't put on blinders

Yeah, it sounds like a non sequitur, but the point is: when it comes to sports, I lean toward Dave Zirin, who can't forget how team owners wangle profits, not Will Leitch, who willfully puts on blinders.

And the New York Observer, however worthy its effort to cruise the borough basketball zeitgeist, should also have been reporting on what surely is misrepresentation and may be fraud.

It was former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky who famously said, "[T]here is nothing like professional sports to make public people nutty."

That applies to the press, as well.

NLG: In non-EB-5-related news tonight, 'Melo had 27 points and 10 boards in his New York debut, as the Knicks defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, a team they'd beaten only once in their last eight tries, 114-108.

Posted by eric at 10:44 PM

Can New York Build a Smarter City?

GlobeSt.com
by Ryan Clark

The NYU Schack Institute’s day-long event, “Building the Smart City: Removing Barriers, Fostering Innovation” checked in for the afternoon with less theory and more application of green building practices. Themes for the afternoon focused on “livability” and public-private partnerships.
...

Melissa Burch, SVP of commercial and residential development at Forest City Ratner Cos., discussed some of issues facing the Nets Arena development at Atlantic Yards and how the project team was working with smaller initiatives to green the project. While FCRC was not concerned with running afoul of regulatory agencies—she and Cross noted that for both of their projects, much of negotiating was done upfront, limiting post-hoc regulation—FCRC, she felt, had an ability to experiment with a larger pipeline of developments, allowing and incubator for solutions. This prevented mass implementation of unsure practices.

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NoLandGrab: We have no idea what she's talking about — it's like this story got run back and forth through a translation site — but we couldn't resist the opportunity to post a photo of NYU professor, and former Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards point-man, Jim Stuckey.

Photo: GlobeSt.com

Posted by eric at 10:35 PM

BLIGHTED AREA? NOT AT ALL!

Welcome to Harlem

Damon Bae’s commercial laundry on Third Avenue in East Harlem may never be mistaken for the kind of glamorous businesses found near Wall Street, Times Square or Madison Avenue, but it is a thriving concern in this neighborhood of three- and four-story buildings and vacant lots.

The laundry, Fancy Cleaners, serves the five dry cleaning stores Mr. Bae owns in Manhattan, and the small retail dry-cleaning operation he opened inside the laundry has attracted customers from Harlem and beyond in the five years since he moved here from Murray Hill.

“I didn’t expect such a huge volume,” Mr. Bae said. “There aren’t many residential buildings nearby. But you offer a good price, and people will find you. You should see the line on Saturdays. I’ve even got people coming from the Bronx.”

But Mr. Bae, and more than a half-dozen other small-business owners in this neighborhood bound by Second and Third Avenues, from 125th to 127th Streets, are waging an uphill fight to hold onto their property. The Bloomberg administration has so far moved successfully in the courts to condemn six acres on behalf of a big developer for a $700 million East Harlem Media, Entertainment and Cultural Center.

“I think that the city is going to take away our properties and businesses so they can make another developer with deeper pockets a lot of money,” Mr. Bae said.
...

Many of the business owners knew that a large stretch of the area was included in a 150-block urban renewal effort that was approved in 1968 but never quite materialized. But property owned by at least three of the businessmen was not included in the renewal zone, at least not until 2008, when the Bloomberg administration added those parcels to the mix.

At the time, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hailed the creation of jobs and housing, and the city justified taking the private property by declaring the area “blighted” — a description that Mr. Bae and the other business owners found galling.

The city owned most of the land, allowing it to sit fallow for decades while turning down Mr. Bae and other business owners who wanted to buy parcels to expand their operations.

“It’s artificially manufactured blight,” Mr. Bae said.
...

The battle against eminent domain in East Harlem has received less attention than similar disputes at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, Willets Point in Queens and the Columbia University expansion in West Harlem. But in each case, longtime businesses were pushed out to make way for large developments.

Jacob Toledo, the owner of Cycle Therapy, runs the city’s largest motorcycle dealership in a refurbished five-story building on East 127th Street. Rows of new and used Triumph, BMW, Honda and Yamaha motorcycles and scooters line the neat shop, while the smell of oil hangs in the air. Mr. Toledo says he may be forced to close his business permanently if the city takes his land.

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NoLandGrab: Besides everything else thats egregious about this situation, how can you countenance any project that would put a company as creatively named as "Cycle Therapy" out of business.

Posted by eric at 10:19 PM

Real public works (transportation), the mis-described "wave of development" (as of 2007), and Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

At the panel Roads to Nowhere: Public Works in a Time of Crisis, last night at the Museum of the City of New York, the discussion focused on the Access to the Region's Core (ARC) train tunnel between New Jersey and New York vetoed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the Second Avenue Subway, and relatively smaller fixes like Bus Rapid Transit.

All of those are infrastructure projects that drive development. None are mega-projects like Atlantic Yards, run by a single private developer. (Atlantic Yards would add a transit entrance to an existing station, thus mainly serving the arena, and an upgraded but smaller railyard, not previously requested by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.)

Why did Christie act? Jeff Zupan of the Regional Plan Association suggested it was a matter of politics, as he had inherited a project approved by his predecessor: "politicians are always thinking about cutting a ribbon in their terms in office."

Joan Byron of the Pratt Center for Community Development added that Christie was elected by South Jersey drivers, not North Jersey transit riders. She argued that transit advocates had done too little to build a base of public support. (Also see Benjamin Kabak's good summary on Second Avenue Sagas.)

That "wave of development"

I couldn't help but think back on a misguided 1/1/07 New York Times overview, headlined Wave of Development, Cleared for Takeoff:

City, state and federal agencies granted final approvals last month to a half-dozen wide-ranging projects in a political aligning of the stars that will promote New York City's most ambitious economic development agenda in decades.

Approval or financing was given to a Second Avenue subway; an extension of the Flushing Line to the Far West Side; a spur to connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal; financing for tens of thousands of apartments for low- and moderate-income residents; the Atlantic Yards complex near Downtown Brooklyn, which includes a new home for the basketball Nets; and even the bus-stop shelters and public toilets that New Yorkers and visitors have demanded for years.

Yes, the subway and LIRR projects would build important infrastructure to boost economic development, but bus shelters (where) and public toilets (where?) do not economic development make.

Nor does the long-delayed arena. The surrounding office space, once promoted as home to 10,000 jobs, had already been severely reduced, and the one planned office tower is on indefinite hold.

And the Times's curious formulation--"financing for tens of thousands of" subsidized apartments--mis-described a revision in the 421-a tax incentive program, which instead led to a rush to get all market-rate buildings started, and produced hundreds of stalled development sites.
...

An AY footnote

At the end of the program, the panelists were asked about their commutes. Byron said her bicycle commute to Pratt had been "severely compromised" by the closing of the Carlton Avenue Bridge for the Atlantic Yards project--an example of the potential tension between real estate development and transportation.

A bike lane footnote

Asked about issues of walking and biking, Zupan commented, "we have the specter of a former DOT [Department of Transportation] commissioner [Iris Weinshall] suing the city because they're putting a bike lane in Brooklyn--that's horrible."

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Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

Gotham Gazette: CPC's New Domino plan prompts criticism of affordable housing policy, but loan recipients offer pragmatic support

Atlantic Yards Report

In Gotham Gazette, Brian Paul, a fellow at the Hunter College Center for Community Planning & Development, writes critically of the city's trickle-down affordable housing policies, and Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), the lead developer on the New Domino.

Not only has CPC been willing to partner with some questionable developers--the New Domino is not the first relationship with Isaac Katan--but it has focused on (mostly) luxury development on the fringe of gentrification, with its affordable housing lending concentrated in poor neighborhoods.

(A more detailed study in Williamsburg, from 2007, concluded that inclusionary zoning—which provides increased development rights in exchange for including affordable housing—has worked well on waterfront parcels, but not on smaller upland parcels.)

An AY parallel

In July 2007, I noted Some AY echoes in Williamsburg's New Domino plan (& hype). Paul's analysis suggests another parallel, that with ACORN, which argued that it was pragmatically pursuing an imperfect deal with a developer.

Critics, however, might argue that ACORN was compromised by accepting money from the developer.

link

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

Ruffled feathers! Environmentalists, Walmart foes want to stop Four Sparrows shopping center

Courier-Life Publications
by Thomas Tracy

Mill Basin residents say the city’s plan to expand a shopping center built atop protected marshlands near the foot of Flatbush Avenue is not going to happen without a fight — and some argued it shouldn’t happen at all.

At a Feb. 18 meeting intended to get the neighborhood’s take on its plans for the Four Sparrows Retail Center between Kings Plaza and the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, environmentalists and Walmart opponents joined forces to shoot down the project — making it clear that if the city and developer Forest City Ratner Companies want to replace the cherished wetlands with big box stores, there will be a war on two fronts.

• Front one: Environmentalists and bird watchers want to prevent any development at the site, claiming that construction will destroy a borough treasure — a priceless city-owned wetland.

“The city says it wants to build something fabulous [on the wetlands],” nature lover Vivian Carter told residents attending the hearing at Kings Plaza. “But we have something there already, thank you very much.”

• Front two: The battle over which store — we’re talking about Walmart, of course — will be housed in the new shopping center.
...

Forest City Ratner Companies is also currently building the controversial Barclays Center, the future home of the Brooklyn Nets, as well as a proposed 16-tower mini-city containing more than 6,600 units of housing — another project that some believe swiped public land for private benefit.

To read more about the project and send in comments, visit www.nycedc.com/ProjectsOpportunities/CurrentProjects/Brooklyn/FourSparrowsRetailCenterAtMillBasin.

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Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

Why LEED Certification is lagging in New York

Sustainable Cities Collective
by Stephen Del Percio

While some buildings, like the Diana Center, have successfully moved forward with plans for LEED certification and added to New York City’s growing total number of certifications, others, like the New York Times Building, have affirmatively made the choice not to pursue a formal rating from USGBC for a variety of reasons.

According to an article also published earlier this month in the Tribune, Frank Gehry’s acclaimed new 76-story rental building, New York by Gehry at 8 Spruce Street, falls under that latter category. “It won’t be LEED-certified,” a spokeswoman for the project told the Tribune in a phone interview. “It is, in many respects, a green building. [But] [w]e [are] not going to go through the formal process.”
...

Curiously, though, Forest City Ratner – the developer behind Gehry’s tower, touted the potential LEED certification and green features of the controversial Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn as that project battled its way through land use approvals and court proceedings before finally breaking ground late last year. Note that those very types of representations have landed the developer of the Destiny USA project in Syracuse in the middle of some very serious allegations about misrepresentation; that story is one we’ll be following both here at gbNYC and over at our sister publication, the Green Real Estate Law Journal, in the weeks ahead.

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NoLandGrab: If Forest City Ratner claims one of its buildings is "green," you can be pretty well sure it's not. Given their track record, we can rest assured that nothing at Atlantic Yards will be LEED-certified, yet another in a long, long list of broken promises.

Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

February 22, 2011

Near arena site, O'Connor's expands, though AY-connected buyer was rebuffed

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's Park Slope blogger Dan Myers has an interesting interview with Mike Maher, who bought O'Connor's Bar, on Fifth Avenue between Bergen and Dean, three years ago, and is expanding it with a beer garden, a backyard, and a kitchen.

And while it is not becoming an arena bar, as apparently some suitors sought, it can't not be influenced by the building just a few blocks north:

"When I was a candidate to purchase this bar from the O'Connor family, I was the only one who promised to keep the name, and the brand," said Maher. "Everybody else wanted to change the name. People connected to the Atlantic Yards offered them more money, but they sold it to me because I promised to keep it O'Connor's, and to not build condos on the roof. I think the O'Connor family would be happy with what we're doing here. They never considered the bar a 'dive,' and if you take a look around, we've always kept it spotless in here."

Maher claims that the rising Barclays Center didn't affect his decision to expand, but with construction well-underway just up the street, it's clear that there will be a huge demand for bars like the new O'Connor's as soon as the arena opens. It remains to be seen whether the old bar will remain the classic, regular hangout it's been for decades, or if the new additions will alter the bar's character irreparably. It appears to be in good hands, though.

(Emphasis in original)

Note that Freddy's Bar & Backroom was populated by staff and patrons who once moved from O'Connor's.

link

Related coverage...

The L Magazine, Park Slope Dive Bar O'Connor's to Expand: Is That a Bad Thing?

Maher tells Here's Park Slope:

We're modernizing the room, but a priority is to keep the old look...We'll be saving the bar and the booths and as much of the room as we can, but the seats will be replaced, because they're falling apart. If we want to serve food, we have to bring it up to code.

That makes sense: O'Connor's could use new stools and booths. But does Maher's threefold expansion spell that he's up to something more than making the place look nice? Maher claims he is not building an "arena bar," but I remain skeptical: will this new O'Connor's be connected to its community, like the old Freddy's or even (to a lesser extent) the old O'Connor's? Or will it be a hot spot to grab a bottle of Bud and a plate of wings after a Nets game? God help us if it's the latter, blech.

Posted by eric at 11:26 PM

Jeffries, Barron, James seen as leading candidates for Congressional seat now held by Towns

Atlantic Yards Report

City Hall News reports on the expected departure of Rep. Ed Towns and his son Darryl Towns' recent appointment to a post in Albany, in Next Towns Over: The next expected Brooklyn Congressional vacancy:

Now, the field for the coveted north Brooklyn seat has likely narrowed to four frontrunners: Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries, Council Member Charles Barron, Council Member Tish James and, depending on whether he runs for re-election, Ed Towns himself.

There are reasons to believe Towns may not. He not only lost his chairmanship but also was very publicly bounced as the ranking member of his committee by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi over fears that Towns would not aggressively combat investigations launched by the new chair, California Rep. Darrell Issa.

Still, a Towns spokesman said last week that the Congressman would run again.
...

Tish for Public Advocate?

The newspaper reports:

Council Member Tish James is also seen as a potential candidate, though she and Jeffries both share the same Fort Greene base. James was noncommittal about her plans.

...According to two people who have spoken to James about her plans, James is strongly leaning towards running for public advocate if Bill de Blasio runs for mayor.

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Posted by eric at 11:19 PM

Ratner’s First Residential Development 97% Leased

Amenities, Proximity to Barclays Arena Credited With Its Success

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

It's clear that the Eagle really can't get enough of Bruce Ratner.

The new 36-story rental building at 80 DeKalb Ave. in Fort Greene, Forest City Ratner’s first residential building in Brooklyn, is 97 percent leased.

“Only a few units are left,” MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial development at Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), told attendees at the Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable earlier this month.

And if you order by midnight tomorrow...

The building, situated between Hudson Avenue and Rockwell Place, “is a great building,” she added. Her reasons? It has great access, it’s beautiful inside and out, it’s near the Barclays Center arena, and it has great amenities like a washer and dryer in every unit.

article

NoLandGrab: Yes, surely the renters can't wait for the arena. Those always add value to a residential neighborhood.

Related coverage...

DNAinfo, Frank Gehry’s Skyscraper Has Rent-Stabilized Apartments

We're guessing that if you can pay $3,300 a month for a one-bedroom, rent-stabilization doesn't really matter.

Frank Gehry’s sparkling new luxury skyscraper on Spruce Street offers a surprising amenity: rent-stabilization.

Forest City Ratner, which developed the 76-story tower, received Liberty Bonds and city tax breaks for the project and in return has to keep all 903 apartments rent-stabilized for 20 years.

That doesn’t mean the apartments are cheap — the rents start at market rate, or $3,300 for a one-bedroom.

Posted by eric at 10:51 PM

Dr. Bugliarello Remembered as MetroTech Founder

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

Dr. George Bugliarello, former president of Polytechnic Institute of New York (now NYU-Polytechnic), was remembered yesterday not only as the originator of MetroTech but also as someone who contributed greatly to the redevelopment of Downtown Brooklyn as a whole.
...

Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City Companies, said, “Brooklyn would be a very different place today were it not for the inspiring vision of Dr. Bugliarello. During the 1970s, when the borough was in an economic decline, he saw a place where new ideas for the city’s economic progress could flourish. Today, thanks to MetroTech, Brooklyn is a cultural and economic anchor of New York City.”

article

NoLandGrab: Cultural anchor?

Posted by eric at 10:44 PM

So Now What?

NetsAreScorching
by Mark Ginocchio

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the current state of the NBA, it’s the players – most notably the “star” players – run the show, and if ‘Melo was dead set on going to the New York Knicks, the same way LeBron James and Chris Bosh were dead set on joining Dwayne Wade in South Beach – there’s no amount of powerpoint, Russian vodka our Jay Zee playa-ship that’s going to change that outcome.
...

In addition to repeatedly offering the sun and the moon for a player who maybe could have snuck this organization into a bottom playoff seed next year (if there even IS a next year), the front office has once again proven why the Nets will continue to be second-class citizens in the New York area. And assuming all of the main players in the front office and coaching staff remain the same, I don’t know how the stench will be erased. Yes, bravado and risk-taking is a nice change-of-pace from the Bruce Ratner years, but you can only lead with the chin so many teams before you’re left concussed, and needless to say, the 2010-11 New Jersey Nets have been officially knocked out.

What we’ve also learned is as rich as Mikhail Prokhorov is and as charming as he may appear in his 60 Minute interviews and press conferences, the average NBA superstar just does not care. He alone will never sell these players on this organization. The Nets need to stop getting involved in scenarios where the player’s hold all of the leverage. The current framework of this organization is not going to change anyone’s mind. If that’s the Blueprint for Greatness, on merits alone, quite frankly it stinks.

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Posted by eric at 10:38 PM

As Nets lose out to (high-paying) Knicks in Anthony trade, Prokhorov takes some hits; goodbye, Devin Harris, face of EB-5 flackery?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder wraps up coverage of the Nets' latest spectacular failure.

Well, Bruce Ratner has convinced Daily News columnist Denis Hamill (who conveniently forgot about affordable housing and permanent jobs) of the importance of the in-construction Barclays Center arena, it's a tougher sell for Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who lost to the Knicks (who paid dearly in a turf war with the Nets) in the trade for departing Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony.

Writes the Daily News' Mitch Lawrence, in Mikhail Prokhorov is all talk, no action, lets Carmelo Anthony slip through Nets' fingers to Knicks:

There's no other way to sum it up: Monday night was another bad night for the Nets under Prokhorov.

Just as last July was a bad month for the Nets' owner, when the Knicks got Amar'e Stoudemire and he got Travis Outlaw.

Prokhorov likes to tweak his counterpart, Garden chairman Jim Dolan. He likes to put up billboards across the street from the Garden, challenging the Knicks. He likes to send statements out of Moscow saying he doesn't want the Nets to become the Knicks, he wants them to become the Lakers.

Prokhorov is all talk. No action.

Under Prokhorov, the Nets haven't done a thing.

It's not entirely Prokhorov's fault. He goes to see superstars like James last July and Anthony in Los Angeles over the weekend and all he can give them is Brooklyn as an idea. There's nothing in Brooklyn now for the best players in the game to come to. Maybe when the arena is finished, that's when Prokhorov will be able to convert his vast fortune into some NBA superstars.

But not yet.

There's plenty more where that came from.

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Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

ESDC in 2009 promised B2, first affordable housing tower, wouldn't be delayed; is hold-up due to search for bank financing or new subsidies?

Atlantic Yards Report

The first tower planned for the Atlantic Yards arena block is delayed yet again, even though, when the project was re-approved by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in 2009, the agency asserted that at least that building--Building 2, at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street--was on track.

According to the June 2009 Technical Memorandum:

These potential delays due to prolonged adverse economic conditions would not affect the timing of the development of the arena, the transit access improvements, the construction of the new LIRR rail yard, the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge or the construction of Building 2. It could, however, delay the construction of some of the remaining buildings on the arena block as well as the Phase II sites.

It's unclear whether the delay is caused by the unavailability of affordable housing bonds, bank financing, or both.

But as of August 2009, as the Times reported, the developer was already seeking additional affordable housing subsidies, beyond the standard incentives.

A month later, Bruce Ratner told his company's favorite reporter:

“They [opponents] are 100 percent wrong about the affordable housing. It’s another red herring. We’re required to build affordable housing and it has been my personal commitment from the very beginning,” said Ratner.

If and when the building gets started, construction should take 18 months.

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Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

BrookLens

casaCARA

THIS PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS I’m taking is really opening my eyes. Not just to the world around me, but also to how others photograph that same world. I’ve become captivated by the work of two people I don’t know but for their Flickrstream and blog. They’re evidently neighbors of mine here in brownstone Brooklyn; I recognize their turf because it’s very close to my own.

Tracy Collins (threecee on Flickr) is a professional web and graphic designer who has spent a lot of time documenting the furor surrounding Atlantic Yards, the destruction of the old and the rising of the new. His technical prowess is immense and he does fancy things like time-lapse photography. I’ve photographed some of the same blocks and buildings here in Prospect Heights, often hastily and indifferently. Tracy photographs the neighborhood with love and attention and strikingly saturated color. And captures the moment — the interesting moment.

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Posted by eric at 9:26 AM

‘Mastermind of MetroTech’ Dies

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

No, the other one.

George Bugliarello, president emeritus and former chancellor of Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) and one of the founders, along with Bruce Ratner, of MetroTech, died after a short illness on Feb. 18. He helped develop Polytechnic, formed in the 1970s by the merger of Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn and NYU’s School of Engineering, into a major engineering and technological university.

He also was one of the originators of MetroTech, one of the first urban university-industry research parks in the United States, and an advocate for the revival of Downtown Brooklyn in general.

link

NoLandGrab: Industry research park? What happened to that? City and state back-room operations are MetroTech's biggest tenants.

Posted by eric at 9:19 AM

February 21, 2011

SAVE FOUR SPARROW MARSH

New York City Audubon

Take Action!

NYC Audubon has some great resources to help you craft and submit comments to the New York City Economic Development Corporation on its destructive plans to partner with Bruce Ratner and build yet another mall over critical marsh habitat along Jamaica Bay.

Click here for more info

Comments are due by February 28th.

Will it be this?

or this?

Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

Jesse Jackson, 1996: "Between these mountains of the ball parks and the jails was once Campbell's Soup and Sears and Zenith... and stockyards."

Atlantic Yards Report

Once upon a time, before developers muddied up sports facility projects with mixed-use add-ons that might or might not deliver jobs and taxes and publicly-accessible open space, such projects could be seen plain.

Consider the Rev. Jesse Jackson's stirring 8/27/96 speech at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The prepared text was amplified and amended in the remarks as delivered; Jackson, among other things, went off on stadiums and called--15 years before it became more mainstream--for investment in infrastructure.

As Michael Lewis explains in his book Losers: The Road To Everyplace but the White House, Jackson abandoned his notes and became the only speaker to fully engage the crowed, addressing the issue nearly everybody had ignored: economic justice.

Sports facilities as mountain tops

Jackson said, in part:

The Republicans in San Diego put forward the image, the vision of a big tent. On the cover was Gen. Powell and Jack Kemp. But clearly you cannot judge a book by its cover. For inside the book was written by Newt Gingrich and Ralph Reed and Pat Buchanan, all the rights that made Gen. Powell possible are now under assault for the next generation and all that Kemp believed in until last week is now under assault.

What is our challenge tonight? Just look around this place. This publicly financed United Center is a new Chicago mountain top. To the south, Comiskey Park, another mountain top.

To the west, Cook County jail. Two ball parks a jail. That jail, mostly youthful inmates 80 percent drug-positive, 90 percent high school dropouts, 92 percent functionally illiterate, 75 percent recidivist rate. They go back sicker and slicker.

Between these mountains of the ball parks and the jails was once Campbell's Soup and Sears and Zenith and Sunbeam and stockyards. There were jobs and there was industry; now there's a canyon of welfare and despair. This canyon exists in virtually every city in America. One-tenth of all American children will go to bed in poverty tonight. Half of all America's African-American children grow up amidst broken sidewalks, broken hearts, broken cities and broken dreams. The number-one growth industry in urban America -- jail. Half of all public housing built to last 10 years. Jails. The top wealthiest 1 percent wealthiest Americans own as much as the bottom 95 percent -- the great inequality since the 1920s. As corporations downsize jobs, outsource contracts, scab on workers' rights, a class crisis emerges as a race problem. But the strawberry pickers in California, the chicken workers in North Carolina deserve a hearing. We must seek a new moral center.

And today?

This new moral center does not come, as the Rev. Al Sharpton suggested last March at the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking, via fractional team ownership by one very rich celebrity.

"I'm glad I lived to see the color line in ownership broken in Brooklyn, where we've gone from Jackie to Jay-Z, where we can not only play the game but we can own a piece of the game," Sharpton asserted. "So my mother saw Jackie and my daughters will see Jay-Z--we have come a long way."

Sharpton was wrong not just on theory but on facts: the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats when it was established in 2002 was Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television.

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Posted by eric at 9:16 AM

Gehry-Tower in New York: Meter-Monster in Manhattan

Der Spiegel
by Marc Pitzke

We have no idea what any of this says, but we loved the "Meter-Monster" headline.

The Google translation isn't much help, either, but there are some revealing passages.

"New York by Gehry" this giant apartment is immodest: New York, looks like Gehry. Also, the course was commissioned, this time for the real estate company Forest City Ratner-billion. But anyone who has worked there for the one who remains, refreshingly clear.

"We gave him a free hand," says Gilmartin, development head of Forest City Ratner, as she controls the visitor through the partly still under construction located guts - a "vertical city", she says, with more than 100,000 square meters of residential and land. "The only conditions: It had to be beautiful and profitability promise."

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Posted by eric at 9:06 AM

KNICKS-NETS; The Carmelo Tug-of-War Helps Spur Rivalry

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger posts an epic — epic what, we can't really say — about the Nets and the Knicks.

To say the Knicks and Nets maintain a contentious local rivalry is a lie; They don't - Or, they didn't - Or, not yet anyway. But they will!
...

The media remains lukewarm to the County of Kings at best. In this Brooklynites' opinion, they aren't taking the viability of Brooklyn hosting an NBA franchise seriously enough. They laugh off any notion the Nets, or any entity there-of located in Brooklyn can adversely impact the New York Knickerbockers' dominant grip on NYC's basketball loyalties. What they always fail to realize however is we (Brooklynites) could care less what happens in Manhattan. For us "out here" this is what it has always boiled down to for us; - We are Brooklyn and the rest is whatever. We make our own way. We'll have Ours and Manhattan will have theirs. And that's just the way we like it. One day that will get played out on the court and not in the newspapers and on TAWK-shows.

Don't wait to read some nostalgic piece in some magazine or in a book about the birth of a new rivalry written later in your life when one of these Media naysayers decides to tell the story about this, and tell you how they were there When Brooklyn....blah blah blah...., No; not when so many of them are dismissive of the whole thing today. I however, am living it. And I don't do this to get paid either. Just pay attention and put this story together for yourself. It's happening.

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NoLandGrab: We agree about the blah blah blah part.

Posted by eric at 9:00 AM

February 20, 2011

Now at the ESDC, succeeding Laremont and Bloch: Leecia Eve, the almost-Lieutenant Governor, and Juanita Scarlett, veteran governmental/political hand

Atlantic Yards Report

A reader points me to news of two executive appointments at the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), who should have some role, as had their predecessors, in Atlantic Yards.

The summaries are from The Business Council:

Leecia Eve, Senior Vice President and Counsel to the Empire State Development Corporation Ms. Eve most recently served as Vice President for Policy of the No Limits Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that promotes economic issues at home and abroad and advocates transforming American foreign policy around the world, including advancing the rights of women. She is a former partner at Hodgson Russ, Western New York's largest law firm. She served as a judicial clerk to the New York State Court of Appeals Judge Fritz W. Alexander II, Judiciary Committee Counsel to then-Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and as Senate Counsel to then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Eve succeeds Anita Laremont, who took the state's early-retirement incentive. Laremont had the uncomfortable task in her last year of service of claiming at a Senate hearing that the ESDC's board, rather than ubiquitous consultant AKRF, finds blight.

...

Also at the ESDC, succeeding Darren Bloch (who left to run The Capital and City Hall newspapers), is, according to The Business Council:

Juanita Scarlett, Executive Vice President of Strategy, Policy & Public Affairs, Empire State Development Corporation. Throughout Juanita’s career, she has held vital roles in both government and public relations including Director of Intergovernmental and Community Affairs at the New York State Office of Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo and Executive Advisor for Public and Governmental Affairs at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Juanita began her career in public service as Press Officer to Governor Mario M. Cuomo.

Scarlett, as it happens, is married to Louis, a noted supporter of Atlantic Yards. (I've had, um, my differences with Louis, who now anchors Inside City Hall on NY 1, but never any dealings with Scarlett.)

link

Posted by steve at 5:08 PM

February 19, 2011

New York Times devotes investigative resources to Park Slope Food Co-op "scandal," ignores EB-5 story

Atlantic Yards Report

This is pretty rich or, rather, brutally weird. Yesterday, the New York Times devoted two reporters and some 1100 words to an article headlined At a Food Co-op, a Discordant Thought: Nannies Covering Shifts:

So the allegation by a Park Slope blog last week that some members were sending their nannies to fulfill their work shifts has raised eyebrows and debate among the granola-and-strollers set of greater Park Slope, and smug satisfaction among those who would rather go to Key Food.

The allegation, by a blog "which goes by a name that cannot be printed in this newspaper" (Fucked in Park Slope), was worth a follow-up, a perfect story for, say, the old and departed City section.

But the coverage seems disproportionate to the Times's willingness to ignore Atlantic Yards. Meanwhile, there's a blog that kinda did some reporting about Forest City Ratner's attempt to raise $249 million from immigrant investors under the federal government's EB-5 program.

link

Posted by steve at 4:18 PM

Other northeastern cities move ahead to lower mandated parking in developments; will New York replace PlaNYC 1950?

Atlantic Yards Repot

In December 2007, I described how Mayor Mike Bloomberg's much-praised PlaNYC 2030 contains a glaring omission, a failure to address the antiquated anti-urban policy that mandates parking attached to new residential developments outside Manhattan, even when such developments, like Atlantic Yards, are justified precisely because they're located near transit hubs. I called the current situation PlaNYC 1950.

In Building a Greener Future: A Progress Report on New York City’s Sustainability Initiatives, released in May 2008, The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund recommended, among other things, a comprehensive study of the parking requirements in the Zoning Resolution. Last July, the Department of City Planning was said to be rethinking parking minimums in new developments in western Brooklyn and elsewhere.

Others move ahead

But nothing's happened yet, while others move ahead. Streetsblog reports, in New York Falls Behind Big Northeast Cities on Parking Policy :

The city of Philadelphia recently released a draft of its new comprehensive plan, Philadelphia2035]. The plan’s release makes New York the last city in the four largest Northeastern metro areas that hasn’t so much as stated a commitment to cutting back on off-street parking.

Philadelphia2035 calls for controlling congestion by adding parking maximums into the zoning code and pricing on-street parking high enough so that 15 percent of spaces are always free. Here in New York, we still pretend that adding off-street parking reduces traffic congestion.

Posted by steve at 4:16 PM

February 18, 2011

88th Precinct Increases Foot Patrols in Response to Crime Stats

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Ichi Vazquez

Looking back at crime in the neighborhood in 2010, Deputy Inspector Anthony Tasso told those who attended Tuesday’s 88th Precinct Community Council meeting, “It was a pretty rough year.”

Crime in the precinct rose 13 percent overall, with robberies surpassing all other crimes. After canceling last month’s meeting because of weather conditions, the Community Council met on Tuesday at the Institutional Church of God in Christ.

Inspector Tasso told local residents that in response to the increase in crime, 10 new officers have been assigned to patrol the neighborhood on foot, focusing on streets where the most incidents have been reported, including Hanson Place, DeKalb Avenue and Cumberland Street.

Um, wouldn't Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls be the place to focus police resources?

Locals also asked Inspector Tasso about installing more video cameras around the neighborhood, and he responded that the police are working on establishing a cooperative network with businesses in the area that already have security cameras, in order to combine their surveillance forces. Councilwoman Letitia James, though not present at the meeting, is working to find funding to install more security cameras in the district, said her spokeswoman.

article

NoLandGrab: Nobody's more fond of security cameras than Bruce Ratner, but they don't seem to be doing much to deter crime in his shopping emporia.

Posted by eric at 10:51 PM

Public Scope

Backyard and Beyond

Here's a must-read piece, which we republish in its entirety, about Forest City Ratner's plans to annex some scarce Brooklyn marshland for yet another shopping mall.

I attended the Four Sparrow Marsh “retail center” public scope meeting last night.

How sweet, the community room at King’s Plaza Mall — was it a requirement of the project’s approval long ago or a goodwill gesture on the part of management? — is located under the parking garage. It’s symptomatic of our degraded democracy that private spaces — malls — are the preeminent agoras of our nation, but they are agoras only in one sense, the market place of things. Not the market place of ideas, mind you. Consumption – our reigning religion, formerly a name for a disease, which consumed — burnt up — the body of the victim, as consumption now does the planet — is a such a fallen idol; predicated on creating desires that can never be met, lest we only go shopping once.

The turnout was well over the 60 allowed in the room. The proposal, a private taking of public land, was revealed as something of a shell game: it’s all speculation right now, with no named commercial tenants, and two vague renderings. Yet the machinery of Economic Development grinds on; this meeting is the precursor to the Environmental Impact Statement. The project architect – actual architects put their names on these commercial boxes? – kept referring to a “view corridor” towards the marsh, until somebody asked him if he meant the, uh, four-lane road. He was. (This was a better euphemism than “fill of unknown origin” which describes a lot of the littoral edge of the city.) A trio of slick politicals – Council, Assembly, Senate – spoke, mostly against, sort of. A community board type suggested that something classy like Lord & Taylor would be welcome. Representatives from park advocacy and environmental groups were rightly and decidedly against this folly, but the real joy of the evening was seeing the non-affiliated public in action. Some real voices of Brooklyn on display. A couple were clearly gadflies of long standing – you go, ladies. Two construction union reps, invested in such projects, unfortunately, both had the message that mega-developer and long-time benefactor of public-giveaways (socialism-for-the-rich) Forest-City Ratner cared about communities. Oy!

The public comment period is open to 2/28. The comment I’ll be submitting goes something like this:

Four Sparrow Marsh is a small piece of wildness in the city. It’s not a park – you mostly sink into the goo if you try walking there, and you have to watch where your feet go because the place is crawling with fiddler crabs in season. The birds, both residents and migrants passing through during the spring and fall, get most of the attention, but the marsh is also home to much invertebrate life, and fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Musk rat, for instance. There are also, of course, plants, and lichens, and fungi, components of the whole web of life that we humans are also a part of. As part of the larger ecosystem and life web of Jamaica Bay, which is part of the vast estuary that surrounds New York City, the marsh is vital to the future of the city. As a water filter; as a buffer against the rising waters of global warming; as an incubator of new life, fresh air, rich soil, the miracle of a small bird seen by someone otherwise surrounded by concrete. It’s a place, even with the highway howling nearby, you can hear the wind in the reeds. Why do we still have to defend the obvious, vital need for such things? It certainly shouldn’t be diminished and threatened by another mall and vast parking lot, a speculative project of short-term (and short-sighted) profit, indicative of a development ethos – transferring the commonwealth to private power – that has proved a failure over and over again.

link

Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

Winning the lottery: The speculator who damned Ratner, got $3 million for his Pacific Street property, and then gushed about the developer

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder tells the tale of a lucky (former) Atlantic Yards footprint property owner.

So, here's a story credulous Daily News columnist Denis Hamill somehow missed: a speculator (like the guys who bought the building housing Freddy's), who slammed Forest City Ratner when it was strategic, then, after he cashed in for $3 million, praised Bruce Ratner to the skies.

Crown Heights resident Menachem Friedfertig bought this empty garage, at 622 Pacific Street, in May 2003, for $382,000, as noted in the document embedded below. That was two months before any mention of Atlantic Yards surfaced in the press, and six months before the plan was announced.

According to the New York Sun, whose 9/2/04 article was headlined "Message to Ratner: ‘I Want My $4M’: Brooklyn Developer Looks To Cash In," Friedfertig planned a new building, with medical offices on the first floor, and five stories of condos, all permitted by current zoning, and got approval from the Department of Buildings.

He clearly felt he had lucked out, telling the Sun, "I have the winning lottery ticket and I want my $4 million."

When I wrote about this 1/20/06, I didn't know what kind of deal Friedfertig made. ACRIS as of 5/2/06 says it was $3 million, an enormous profit.

A better deal than Goldstein

That's a far better deal for Friedfertig than the $3 million Forest City Ratner paid in 2010 to get Daniel Goldstein to leave 636 Pacific Street condo he'd already lost to eminent domain, given the higher initial cost of Goldstein's property, taxes, the now-inflated cost of replacement, and attorney's fees. (The latter two push $2 million.)

Oh, and the fact that Goldstein lived there seven years, enduring demolition and other construction activities.

But Forest City Ratner did not orchestrate a media crusade against Friedfertig, as it's done with Goldstein.

Why not? Because Friedfertig changed his tune, very conveniently.
...

As I reported, Friedfertig, was effusive [at the 9/12/06 community forum (a not-quite public hearing) sponsored by the Empire State Development Corporation]. “It was the most amazing thing,” Friedfertig said. “Mr. Ratner, he was so fair. He was such a mensch.”

Friedfertig, an Orthodox, Hasidic Jew, unveiled a shofar—the ram’s horn used in Jewish ritual—as a gift to Bruce Ratner and proposed that the developer “should blow it on opening day at Ratner arena."

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NoLandGrab: We have another thought as to what Bruce Ratner should blow on the arena's opening day.

Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Ratner: I thought Nets arena was dead in '08

Field of Schemes
by Neil deMause

Hey, remember this blast from the past?

With the economy in freefall a wee pickle and bank credit nearly impossible to get, people are starting to consider what this will mean for the sports-stadium biz. On the hot seat today: the New Jersey Nets' planned Atlantic Yards arena project in Brooklyn, for which Goldman Sachs had promised that $950 million in financing would be in place by today. Yesterday, asked by the Newark Star-Ledger about the status of the Nets financing, the former investment bank issued a terse "no comment."

It turns out the Star-Ledger and I weren't the only ones wondering about this at the time: Nets part-owner Bruce Ratner tells the Daily News today that there was a time he doubted the arena would ever get built: "Yeah, in October of '08. Like a lot of people, I didn't know if we'd all be on breadlines. Goldman Sachs and Barclays Bank were always our underwriters. Greg Carey at Goldman, always a very optimistic guy, told me in October and November there was no financing available at all."

Of course, as I also wrote back then, "It's things like this [the collapsing real estate market] that are more likely to have a lasting impact on stadium and arena projects: Banks will start lending money again eventually, but the lousy economy is likely to last for years." The banks eventually started lending again, Ratner found a guy who was more interested in owning a basketball team than making money on a real-estate deal, and as of today the arena is taking shape, with about half the main vertical support girders in place. (More or less—I last walked past it on Monday.) Still, it's a reminder of how narrow the margin of victory (or defeat) can be in sports construction deals.

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Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

There's a sucker fleeced every minute

The Daily Blahg [NYDailyNews.com]
by Filip Bondy

When the Nets return from their road trip for a game at the Rock on Feb. 28 to face the Suns, they may or may not have Carmelo Anthony. But one thing is for sure: parking will only be $25 in the adjacent Edison lot, not $30.

You have to give the Edison people credit: They stick meticulously to their guns, and to the standings. The price of parking has nothing to do with the Nets, but instead with the opponent. When a first-place team comes to visit, the price of parking is $30. For second-place teams and below, the charge is $25.

That has meant parking for the low-buzz Spurs went for $30, while parking for 'Melo and the Nuggets was a mere $25.

I've heard of teams like the Mets going to tier pricing by opponents, but never the parking lots. However, the cost of parking in the Bronx doubles for the Yankee playoffs, even though your car isn't going to watch a single inning.

All of this nonsense -- and I haven't mentioned PSLs in the NFL -- has contributed to the general alienation of fan bases being squeezed for every penny in their change purse. The Nets may be itinerant wanderers now, but when they hit Brooklyn they should install a fan-friendly philosophy about pricing on all fronts, build up some good will.

If nothing else, you have to figure the price of a subway ride to Atlantic Yards won't double when the Lakers are in town.

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NoLandGrab: Don't be so sure, Filip. Bruce and the MTA have a very close working relationship.

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Construction Progresses on Barclays Arena

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Add this to the inevitability of death and taxes — a piece in the Eagle every couple weeks or so regurgitating the Atlantic Yards pablum spouted by a Forest City Ratner exec.

“We are making extraordinary progress on the Barclays Center,” said MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial development at Forest City Ratner. “The steel is rising and the decking is visible. We will be watching [Nets] basketball games in the 2012-13 season.”

Gilmartin was speaking at the Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable quarterly luncheon at the Brooklyn Historical Society on Feb. 8.

Gilmartin also told attendees that people coming out of the new subway exit on the Barclays Arena plaza will immediately see the sports center’s scoreboard inside, and people will also be able to see the team at play in the arena’s practice facility from the plaza.

link

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Atlantic Yards

Land Use Prof Blog
by Jessica Owley

Perhaps I am late to the game on this one, but I just saw the trailer for a documentary about the Atlantic Yards controversy. The movie, called Battle of Brooklyn, tells the story of Brooklyn's use of eminent domain to build a sports arena. I am a big fan of eminent domain (hmm.. not sure if that is the right way to put it), but will likely see this movie that appears to focus on the protesters.

The main protester that the film follows actually agreed to a $3 million settlement and moved out. I wonder if they include that tidbit.

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NoLandGrab: Yeah, just a little late. Here's part of the comment we posted, which, oddly, appears to have been removed:

Daniel Goldstein received a $3 million settlement after fighting the project for six years, and only after the state had already taken his home. The "tidbit" you condescendingly refer to came when the judge handling the condemnation insisted that he and the state and developer Forest City Ratner reach an accommodation before leaving his chambers. Forest City insisted on a gag order -- wanting to strip him of his Constitutional right to speak out against the Atlantic Yards project -- as a condition of the settlement, but he told them that he would rather end up with nothing than be stripped of his rights and dignity. And of course, his home, because of the development rights accorded to Forest City Ratner by the State of New York, was worth far more than $3 million to the developer.

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

February 17, 2011

Obituary: Edward Carter

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

The community lost a legend this week. Edward Carter, a local leader and community activist who many residents have called the unofficial mayor of Fort Greene, died on Feb. 13, at the age of 77, after battling numerous illnesses.

Mr. Carter was a charter board member of Community Board 2, founder of the Fort Greene Youth Patrol and the stalwart supporter of countless other boards and organizations, but his family said he was just a man who decided to make a difference.

“Fatherless boys, he fathered; hungry kids, he fed them,” said his daughter, Tyrana Carter-Jones. “His community service was limitless.”
...

“He was truly someone who cared about the people and was not ashamed to be outspoken,” said Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, who knew Mr. Carter for more than 30 years.

Mr. Carter was an unsung hero in the community, said the Assemblyman. Indeed, his list of accomplishments is long and diverse. Mr. Carter served as a charter member of Community Board 2 for more than 30 years; a founding member of the organization that became the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation for 35 years; a co-founder of the Fort Greene Senior Citizens Council; a 10-year member of the Fort Greene Community Corporation, a now defunct anti-poverty organization; president of the Walt Whitman Tenants Association from 1968 to 1976; and vice president of the Federation of Black Cowboys for more than 15 years.

Mr. Carter was also an outspoken opponent of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, and famously fired up the crowd at a huge July 16, 2006 Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn rally at Grand Army Plaza by declaring that Brooklynites weren't about "to kiss any developer's ass."

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NoLandGrab: Our condolences to Mr. Carter's family, friends and all those he touched through the years with his good works. The Local has details on a memorial service and funeral arrangements.

Posted by eric at 8:56 PM

Credulous Daily News columnist Denis Hamill asserts "Atlantic Yards" dream real for Ratner, buys into Ratner spin, fails to check facts

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes apart Denis Hamill's love letter to Bruce Ratner.

Denis Hamill, the Daily News's most prominent Atlantic Yards apologist, today pens a fabulist valentine to Bruce Ratner, headlined Atlantic Yards and the Nets Barclays Arena dream real for Bruce Ratner - after 7-yr. nightmare.

First, let's check the headline. The arena might be happening, but Atlantic Yards isn't very real at all. Hamill couldn't be bothered to check, but the much-ballyhooed affordable housing is yet again delayed.

And instead of taking ten years, as Ratner repeatedly promised, the project more likely would take 25.

But that's not why--I suspect--Forest City Ratner reached out to the convenient Hamill. They need to sell some suites, and some sponsorships.

Read on for Oder's line-by-line takedown.

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Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

Atlantic Yards and the Nets Barclays Arena dream real for Bruce Ratner - after 7-yr. nightmare

NY Daily News
by Denis Hamill

OK, some things are more tedious. Like Denis Hamill ♥ Bruce Ratner.

The first time I met him he was 59, and I walked with him along Dean St., where he explained his dream of building a sports arena for the "Brooklyn Nets" basketball team on this place called Atlantic Yards.

Today Bruce Ratner is 66, and seven years, 35 lawsuits, two architects and one economic meltdown later, he's sold off 80% of the Nets and 45% of the arena. But standing at a window 13 stories above the zigzagging yellow bulldozers and swinging boom cranes in the steel armature of the under-construction Barclays Arena, he says: "It's real."

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NoLandGrab: Wait, Bruce Ratner's nightmare? Oh, right, it's been a picnic for everyone else for the past seven years.

Related coverage...

The L Magazine, Daily News Jerks Off Atlantic Yards Developer, Asks if He Wants to Come in Their Mouths, Too

Daily News columnist Denis Hamill recently sat down with devil-horned Bruce Ratner, developer of Atlantic Yards, to ask him if he's OK—does he need anything? A drink? A back massage? Maybe just an astoundingly fawning profile in a daily tabloid?

After a bunch of stupid idiots stood in Ratner's way—creating for him a "nightmare," poor thing—he's finally getting to build his giant stadium. "Next year Brooklyn will have its first professional sports team since the Dodgers left in 1957," Hamill writes. "The 18,500-seat Barclays Center will host more than 200 events, including big-name concerts, pro boxing promoted by Oscar de la Hoya, tennis, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus and Disney on Ice."

Whoa, cool! Disney? The circus? Look out, Newark, New Jersey—Brooklyn could start encroaching on your reputation as Cultural Capital of the World! Maybe next we can has a Walmart?
...

More seriously, though, the piece is also glaringly inaccurate, as though it emerged from Ratner's deepest fantasies. Just about every sentence Hamill writes—literally, every sentence—contains a mistruth or a distortion about the pernicious project. Tireless anti-Atlantic Yards crusader Norman Oder goes through the piece paragraph-by-paragraph to reveal the fictions.

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Review & Comment: The Heights and Change

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Henrik Krogius

Few things are as tedious as Henrik Krogius's complaining forcing us to complain about Henrik Krogius's complaining.

Now, as the Brooklyn Heights Association gets into its second century, and Heights residents are as likely to consider a restaurant on Smith Street in Boerum Hill as some place in Manhattan, the welcoming of change by Heights residents often outstrips that of the BHA. The association has for the most part – though not in every instance – become a clinger to the past. True, the appeal of the Heights rests very much on its historic Historic District status, preserving a scale and a respect for the past that speak of a reassuring continuity as against abrupt upheavals. But, in fighting change the Heights Association tends sometimes to worship sentimentalism to the disregard of current reality, and to intrude its oppositionism into neighboring areas and some not so neighboring, like Atlantic Yards.

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NoLandGrab: We've never gotten why Krogius thinks it's not okay for the Brooklyn Heights Association to oppose something as clearly awful as Atlantic Yards, while thinking that his own hucksterism for the project, from his perch overlooking the Brooklyn Heights Esplanade, is just dandy.

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

NJ fights for Panasonic

The state's Economic Development Authority re-approves controversial $102 million incentive grant; wooing company to Brooklyn just got harder.

Crain's NY Business
by Shane Dixon Kavanaugh

New Jersey's Economic Development Authority on Wednesday unanimously re-approved a controversial $102.4 million grant aimed to move Panasonic Corp. of North America from Secaucus to Newark, hurting the hopes of New York City officials who want to lure the consumer electronics firm to downtown Brooklyn.

In a written decision, the group's chief executive, Caren Franzini, said the grant would keep Panasonic’s 950 jobs in New Jersey and create a net positive benefit of nearly $223 million for the Garden State. As part of the deal, Panasonic must create 250 new jobs over the next 10 years.
...

But even before the ink dried on the authority's minutes approving the grant, Panasonic’s landlord in Secaucus vowed to keep the company from moving to Newark. Hartz Mountain Industries said it planned to file suit against the decision, arguing that the incentive shouldn't be used to move companies that already conduct business in the state.
...

While Panasonic has not issued a statement on authority's decision, the state’s grant makes downtown Brooklyn a less attractive place to move the company’s operations.

Big Apple officials have been trying to woo the company to Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center or Atlantic Yards, which are both owned by developer Forest City Ratner.

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Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

February 16, 2011

Sports territorial rights put Newark, Brooklyn and the N.Y. Islanders at a disadvantage

NewJerseyNewsroom.com
by Evan Weiner

An interesting perspective on the business of sports, especially as it pertains to the New York metropolitan area.

When Mikhail Prokhorov arrives in Brooklyn with his New Jersey Nets franchise, can he bring with him a National Hockey League team — specifically the New York Islanders? The answer according to someone who has been around hockey for a long time is no because the Madison Square Garden's owners, the Dolan family, and the league won't allow Charles Wang's Islanders to invade New York Rangers territory.
...

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has thrown water on the idea that Wang's Islanders could move about 20 miles west of the franchise's present location in Uniondale. The NHL does have the right to control franchises shifts as does the National Basketball Association according to the latest court case (the 2009 Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy proceedings in Judge Redfield Baum's courtroom in Phoenix) involving a league and that league's ability to control franchise shifts. In 1994, NBA Commissioner David Stern and the majority of the league's 27 owners blocked the sale of the Minnesota Timberwolves to New Orleans interests led by boxing promoter Bob Arum. The Arum group planned to move the Minneapolis franchise to New Orleans.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has already met with Stern to discuss the possibility of replacing Prokhorov's Newark-based franchise with another NBA team. It is hard to imagine Stern warming up to the idea of putting a third team in the New York metropolitan area although ultimately it is the NBA owners, not Stern, that decides where a franchise can operate.
...

American sports is not a private entity.

It is a government-subsidized business. Cities are building stadiums and arenas for teams and in some cases paying owners outright to make sure the owner keeps a franchise in town like Louisiana does with New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. The "major league" sports industry has grown financially thanks to antitrust exemptions and all sorts of tax breaks for owners.

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NoLandGrab: Just a couple quibbles. First, the arena would have to be substantially retrofitted to accommodate professional ice hockey, and given the Bruce's money woes, that's not likely to happen any time soon. Second, many Brooklynites would have been much happier if the Dolan's had had a kill button for the Nets, too.

Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

"Anticipate" in the Ratner lexicon = "the placeholder date we don't believe but think we can get away with"

Atlantic Yards Report

I think the word anticipate needs to be added to the Atlantic Yards Lexicon, since it does not, to Forest City Ratner, mean foresee, but rather "the placeholder date we don't believe but think we can get away with."

Follow the link for some examples of Bruce's weasel words (apologies to weasels).

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Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

ALI-ABA

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

We are heading to Florida on Thursday to screen the film at a conference on Eminent Domain.

http://ownerscounsel.blogspot.com/2011/02/battle-of-brooklyn-eminent-domain.html

The film is very close to completion and we hope to launch it at a major festival this spring/summer

Thanks again for your support

link

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Quinn proposes one-stop shop for affordable housing (which takes Ratner out of the loop)

Atlantic Yards Report

If City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has her way, people who seek affordable housing in Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project won't have to go through the developer (and be solicited to be a project advocate).

Rather, there will be a one-stop shop. From Quinn's State of the City address yesterday:

In fact, if you were to rank the biggest problems in New York City based on the number of calls and emails we get at the Council, then housing would be number one.

We can’t keep New York City a place that is growing and diverse if people of every income can’t find an affordable place to live. And when I say a place that’s affordable, I don’t mean a place that’s falling apart.

So let’s talk about one of the most frequent housing calls we get. Even as we work to create more affordable units, New Yorkers tell us it’s incredibly difficult to access the ones we’ve already built.

That’s because in a 21st century world - where you can do everything online - we still make people apply for housing using 18th century technology.

If you want to enter an affordable housing lottery, in most cases you actually have to send a postcard to the developer – of each individual building - then wait for them to mail you the paperwork, fill it out and mail it back.

So we came up with a common sense solution – a one stop online application for affordable housing.

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Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

Preview Of Eminent Domain Doc "Battle of Brooklyn"

inversecondemnation.com

The makers of "Battle of Brooklyn," a documentary about the controversial Atlantic Yards project, will present preview screenings of their film later this week at the upcoming American Law Institute-American Bar Association's eminent domain law conference (Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation, and Condemnation 101: Making the Complex Simple in Eminent Domain,) in Coral Gables, Florida.
...

If you are attending the conference, be sure to catch one of the preview showings. We'll post a review once we've seen the movie.

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Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

Stern: Ratner Group Lost "Several Hundred Million" Selling Nets

NetsDaily

In defending his and owners' hardline in labor talks, David Stern told Bloomberg News that the Nets old ownership group, headed by Bruce Ratner, took a serious hit when they sold the franchise to Mikhail Prokhorov.

While discussing the NBA negotiations --and the owners' hardline, Woodruff asked, "Is it a contradiction to say that the current model does not work, and yet, franchises are being bought for huge sums by billionaires like Mikhail Prokhorov who just bought the Nets?"

"Stop there," said Stern, interrupting. "He just did [buy the Nets], and the previous ownership lost several hundred million dollars on that transaction".

While Ratner, his partners and parent group, Forest City Enterprises, did lose more than $200 million, Prokhorov assumed 80% of team debt as part of his purchase. He also agreed to eat up to $60 million in losses while the team is still in New Jersey, bringing the price tag for the team and part ownership of Barclays Center to nearly a half billion dollars.

David Stern Interview (Video) - Judy Woodruff - Bloomberg Television

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NoLandGrab: Boo hoo. Ask Jay-Z, it's a business, man. But let's be clear. Bruce Ratner didn't really lose anything, when you factor in the full deal — Atlantic Yards. So who is left holding the bag? Residents in and around Prospect Heights, and New York's taxpayers.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

East Harlem Mall to Add Food Court

DNAinfo
by Jeff Mays

Bruce Ratner is bringing a new amenity to the folks of East Harlem. One "amenity" he's already brought them? A way-too-big parking garage.

East River Plaza features both a Target and a Costco, but the developers of the massive mall say they left out one major trait shared by most successful shopping centers: a food court.

Representatives from Forest City Ratner and Blumenfeld Development Group say they plan to remedy the oversight and are currently looking for an operator to oversee the food court they are planning to install.
...

Andrew Miller, a vice president for Forest City Ratner, said the parking space has been leased out to an operator so they have no control over the rates. Some retailers have the option of offering validated parking and have been encouraged to do so but have not, he said.

"Everyone agrees the garage is much, much larger than it needed to be," said Miller.

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Posted by eric at 9:45 AM

Frank Gehry's Skyscraper Starts Leasing

DNAinfo
by Julie Shapiro

Frank Gehry’s first skyscraper is finally opening its doors, developer Bruce Ratner announced Monday.

New York by Gehry, a 76-story tower just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, will open its apartment doors to prospective renters this week. Visitors will be able to tour a 37th-floor rental gallery, along with 18 model apartments, which Gehry also designed.

Gehry said in a statement that designing the interiors of the apartments as well as the building’s exterior made him feel connected to the thousands of people who would soon call the tower home.

"I hope they like it," the architect said in the statement.

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NoLandGrab: And that's what passes for an interpersonal relationship with Mr. Warm-and-Fuzzy.

Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

February 15, 2011

News from the Construction Update: water main work, transit work (and outages), Flatbush Avenue snags continue

Atlantic Yards Report

Here are some highlights from the latest Construction Update (embedded below), dated February 14 and prepared by Forest City Ratner and released by the Empire State Development Corporation.
...

There are several track outages associated with repair work:

  • Demolition of the TA structures continues. IRT and BMT Tunnel inspections have taken place and repair work will be implemented during scheduled NYCT track outages during evenings and weekends. IRT Track Outages are now scheduled for the weekends of February 5th and 19th. BMT Track Outages are now scheduled for March 5th, 12th and April 19th. Additional GO’s for both the IRT and BMT will be evaluated as the work progresses. Minor repair and cleanup work will occur on selective evenings under scheduled NYCT flagging protection.

Plastic bollards still out

As noted at the last Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting last Thursday, since the post-Christmas storm, the plastic bollards used to implement reversible lanes on Flatbush Avenue below Atlantic Avenue during rush hour were mangled and unusable, and remain as such:

  • MPT [Maintenance and Protection of Traffic] @ Flatbush Ave - Maintenance of the MPT has been suspended due to the recent snow storms experienced over the last month. At this time the MPT is still in place but the lane changes are not being performed until the weather condition permit. We have advised the DOT that once the weather permits; the MPT will be restored and maintained.

As shown in the Construction Updates embedded below, this was announced in the previous document, dated 1/31/11, but not in the 1/17/11 one, though this all started after Christmas. I didn't notice until it came up at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet.

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Posted by eric at 12:22 PM

Flashback, 2005: “We don’t know when this [Vanderbilt Yard] sale will close," warned one dissenter on MTA board

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper, in a 9/17/05 article headlined RATNER GETS SITE: With MTA’s blessing, Bruce leaves $10 million deposit on rail yards, reported on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's acceptance of Forest City Ratner's $100 million cash bid--double the original, though less than the $150 million cash offered by rival bidder Extell--for the Vanderbilt Yard:

The vote followed hours of public testimony at the Sept. 14 hearing in Manhattan, both for and against Ratner’s plan. The only MTA board member to question the deal at the hearing was Mitchell Pally, a Suffolk county appointee.

Pally said he was baffled that the board didn’t insist on getting more money, or arrange a deal whereby Ratner had to pay the full price up front.

...Pally also questioned why the MTA was making its own transaction contingent upon the actions of other state authorities.

“Why is the MTA making closing contingent on these other bodies?” asked Pally. “We don’t know when this sale will close. It could be two years, it could be five years, it could be 10 years,” he said, pointing out that the MTA faces incredible demands in their current capital budget.

Indeed, four years later, Forest City Ratner renegotiated the deal and put down only $20 million for the segment of land needed for the arena block.

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Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

Hold the shovels! Ratner backtracks on residential construction schedule

The Brooklyn Paper
by Andy Campbell

Developers of the Atlantic Yards project were caught red-faced last week when one of the development company’s officials said that construction of the project’s first residential building would begin this year — but then had to admit that no financing has been lined up.

Forest City Ratner Vice President MaryAnne Gilmartin told real-estate insiders on Wednesday that construction of the long-delayed, 400-unit residential tower at the western end of the mega-project’s footprint would get underway this year, but the next day, a spokesman for the company admitted that the developer doesn’t have money for the project.

“We hope to release designs in late spring or early summer and still hope to break ground this year,” the spokesman said. “[But] they need to secure financing.”

History — and the economy — is not on Forest City Ratner’s side, at least in the short term. Last year, company executive Jane Marshall also said that a groundbreaking on the half-below-market-rate rental building would take place in 2010.

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Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

You Can Finally Rent a Piece of New York... by Gehry, That Is

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

But "do-gooder, liberal" Bruce Ratner, champion of affordable housing, is pursuing potentially record-breaking rental prices.

About 100 of those apartments are now, after months of waiting, finally for rent, at prices that are anticipated to break records in the city's rental market. Simple studios—is anything simple where Gehry is concerned?—start at $2,630-per-month, one-bedrooms are $3,580, and two-bedrooms $5,945. A new rental gallery has just opened on the 37th floor, and renters will be able to tour 18 different model units.

"We knew that Frank's first-ever tower would transform the city's skyline, and felt it was critical that the entire building bear the indelible Frank Gehry imprint," developer Bruce Ratner said in a release. "We're thrilled we were able to realize Frank's vision and achieve a level of excellence that raises the bar."

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Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

Gehry's 8 Spruce Street isn't pursuing LEED certification; Gang's Aqua is

Chicago Tribune
by Blair Kamin

"Do-gooder, liberals" Frank Gehry and Bruce Ratner aren't pursuing LEED certification for their Spruce Street skyscraper.

I wondered whether 8 Spruce Street is a green building, given that Gehry ignited a food fight in the architectural blogosphere last year when (not without reason) he dissed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system of certifying green buildings. In remarks made in Chicago, the Pritzker Prize winner also observed that green buildings, which often require extra upfront costs, don't pay back "in your lifetime."

Clearly stung by the outcry his remarks caused, Gehry later clarified and said that he supports green building practices. But he added that LEED isn't the only way to measure eco-friendly design. "A lot of our clients don’t apply for the LEED certification because it’s complicated and in their view, they simply don’t need it," he said.

Looks like the developer of 8 Spruce Street, Forest City Ratner Companies, is one of those clients.

"It won't be LEED certified," a spokeswoman for the project told me Monday in a phone interview. "It is, in many respects, a green building. We [are] not going to go through the formal process."

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Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

Panasonic's NJ tax-break static could boost NY

Nearly 1,000 corporate jobs possibly in play for downtown Brooklyn if a $102-million incentives package to keep company's American headquarters in Garden State short-circuits.

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

How's this for irony — corporate-welfare king Bruce Ratner could benefit from a government not handing out subsidies.

New York City officials hoping to lure Panasonic Corp. and its 950 North American corporate headquarters jobs from New Jersey may benefit from a dispute playing out across the Hudson River.

Officials at commercial real estate giant Hartz Mountain are challenging $102.4 million in subsidies awarded last month to the consumer electronics firm to help it move to Newark from Secaucus. Hartz executives argue that the law only allows the subsidies to be used for jobs that would be new to the state. They also say public officials overstated the economic benefits to the move, and that the meeting at which the vote on the subsidy took place was not properly publicized.

Hartz owns Panasonic's Secaucus headquarters, a three-building site with a lease that runs through March 2013.
...

Big Apple officials have been trying to sell Panasonic on two sites in downtown Brooklyn owned by developer Forest City Ratner—MetroTech Center and Atlantic Yards—according to sources familiar with the situation. A spokesman for Forest City did not immediately have a comment.

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NoLandGrab: And for those of you who like a side of irony with your irony, how 'bout the fact that Hartz Mountain is challenging the subsidy package on the basis of the jobs not being new, while Bruce Ratner is totally abusing the EB-5 visa program intended (and required) to — you guessed it — create new jobs.

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

February 14, 2011

Good Bye!

Found in Brooklyn

Lisanne McTernan is hanging up her blog, Found in Brooklyn. Godspeed, Lisanne!

I do believe that this will be F.I.B's last post. I would like to thank you all for stopping by because you people out there are the only reason I have kept it up for the past year or so. There were times when I was really into the blog but now unfortunately it has become more of an obligation and that's no fun at all. I think I prefer to be a blog reader rather than a blog writer. I started F.I.B in retaliation to a blog (which shall remain nameless) that I thought was godawful and these days I think F.I.B has been going in that direction as well. This blog started as a photography blog and I also wrote more about music and personal stuff. It took a different turn when I learned that they wanted to build condos in my neighborhood of Gowanus and it became more politically active in a local sense. While I am still interested in local political action, I just can't keep it up via the blog anymore. Between the Gowanus and the Atlantic Yards, I think I'm tired. The Gowanus has gotten it's Superfunding (yay!), Bruce Ratner has gotten his stadium (boo!) and life goes on. Now the big issue is Coney Island and I don't think I have the heart to cover that anymore although I will continue to be active in that fight. Besides there are people who do a way better job than I ever could, just check out the list to the right. I have met many cool people through the blog and have connected with my community in a way that probably wouldn't have happened without it. Thanks to all the other blogs for giving me mucho blog love through the years via linkage and all that, I have always appreciated it. Anyway I am babbling..I'm not accepting an Oscar here! When I started this blog I would of never thought it would go for four years, it's been pretty much the only consistent thing in my life-thanks for reading!

*This photo is the first photo I ever posted and variations of the same area of the block have been on F.I.B countless times. (Four years later those metal things next the fire hydrant are still bent)

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NoLandGrab: Click here for links to some of the Found in Brooklyn stories we've posted over the years.

Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

Bait-and-switch on EB-5: FCR may use immigrant investor funds for housing, not arena, but says "we don't know" where money would go (Is this legit?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner is playing "who's on first?" when it comes to the funds it's trying to raise via the hawking of green cards.

The saga of Forest City Ratner's attempt to raise $249 million from green card-seeking Chinese (and Korean) millionaires under the EB-5 program has reached a new level of absurdity, in which the developer and its allies have offered three separate explanations of how the money might be spent on Atlantic Yards.

This casts further doubt on the logic that each $500,000 investment would create ten jobs, as required under the federal immigration program.

And it suggests a bait-and-switch presented to the potential investors and possibly to the federal government.

Where would it go?

The destination for the funding keeps changing.

Remember, potential investors in the "Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project" were promised glitz: they were told they were investing in an arena, infrastructure, and a railyard, even though the New York City Regional Center admitted to Reuters that the pitch was misleading.

FCR executive MaryAnne Gilmartin told the Wall Street Journal that the money would be used for the railyard, and maybe to pay off a land loan. I pointed to evidence that suggests the $153 million land loan would take precedence.

For housing?

At the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting last Thursday, another explanation surfaced.

City Council Member Letitia James asked if the proceeds from the EB-5 program would be used for the financing of Building 2, the first planned (but stalled) tower, or for something else.

"We don’t know where those proceeds are going to go," Forest City executive Bruce Bender responded. "It’s a big project.”

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Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Corporatism masquerading as Liberty

Credit Writedowns
by Edward Harrison

An examination of faux-Libertarianism, corporatism and kleptocracy inevitably finds its way to Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

There are lots of other examples of corporatism at work in the U.S. legal system regarding property rights in particular. My November 2009 post "New York to use eminent domain to build a basketball stadium" showed the New York State Court of Appeals ruling that the Atlantic Yards basketball project can go forward as planned, dislocating the residents in the Brooklyn, NY area where the stadium is to be built. The decision means that government can evict you from your own home, seize your property, and give you what it believes is a fair price without your consent to build a sports arena, ostensibly for the public good but certainly for state and private profit.

This and other cases like it are occurring because of the decision in Kelo v. City of New London, Conn. If a state or local government deems a private project – funded by private monies and profiting private enterprises – to be in the public interest, it can seize your property to allow this project to occur. In the New London case, residents were evicted to make way for a luxury hotel and up-scale condos, from which private developers would profit handsomely. Kelo was an outrageous example of cronyism completely at odds with the ethos of the Dartmouth College Case of 1819. Because of Kelo, government can now abuse its power to enrich specific private interests. That’s corporatism at work.

Corporatism has nothing to do with liberty. It is all about power and coercion. It’s about favouring the big guy over the little guy, the more well-connected over the less well-connected, the insider over the outsider. And in society that means favouring large, incumbent businesses over smaller businesses, new entrants or individuals.

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Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Is Wal-Mart Worse?

Gotham Gazette
by Courtney Gross

It was a relatively quiet morning in front of Atlantic Center -- the usually buzzing Brooklyn shopping complex kitty-corner to the site of Atlantic Yards.

Mikey Richardson, 29, had a Target bag in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Richardson comes to Target -- the anchor store in the center -- once or twice a month for the occasional household item.

Last week it was a power tool set.

The 29-year-old Crown Heights resident has no problem unloading his wallet at this particular national retailer, which boasts more than 1,700 stores throughout the country.

But Richardson changed his tune when it came to its competitor, the world's number one retailer: Wal-Mart.

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NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner, of course, has done more than his unfair share to bring big-box retailers to New York City.

Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

February 13, 2011

Flashback to December 2010: "Most Anti-Climactic Groundbreaking Award: Atlantic Yards"

Atlantic Yards Report

I missed this one, from Design Observer 12/24/10, Lunch With The Critics: Year-End Awards:

Why should other critics have all the fun? Mark Lamster and Alexandra Lange hash out their bests and worsts of the year over sandwiches in Boerum Hill.

...Most Anti-Climactic Groundbreaking Award: Atlantic Yards — oh wait — Barclays Center. When you’re more interested in the ownership than the team or the building, something is out of whack. [AL]

Lange had previously slammed New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff for, among other things, his coverage of Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by steve at 5:22 PM

February 12, 2011

Daily News, straightfaced, quotes Yormark as saying Kidd comments pushed marketing campaign. Nah.

Atlantic Yards Report

The Daily News Sports section reports, without a glimmer of factchecking, Former Nets guard Jason Kidd may have accelerated New Jersey's move to Brooklyn with comments:

Jason Kidd provided his former team with a reality check about its move to Brooklyn. The Nets' CEO took it to heart.

So after Kidd said last month that players won't believe in the future until an arena opens, CEO Brett Yormark and his public relations team jumpstarted a campaign to relay a message of inevitability to players and fans.

..."When Jason left (for the Mavericks), there wasn't anything coming out of the ground yet. Probably there was a bit of a question mark from his perspective with respect to the project. Shortly after his comments, we felt obligated to put the heat on our messaging and get it out there."

Kidd made his comments around January 22. A month earlier, Sports Business Journal reported:

Translation, another commercial entity in which Jay-Z and Steve Stoute have an interest, has been hired to orchestrate the first pitch for "Brooklyn Nets" tickets, with initial ads expected in February.

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Posted by steve at 5:41 PM

Ratner Hopes To Break Ground on First Tower, But Doesn't Have the Cash

Prospect Heights Patch
By Stephen Brown

The architects of the Barclays Center will also design the first residential tower of the Atlantic Yards project, though officials with the developer, Forest City Ratner, conceded the company still lacks the funding to start building.

A Ratner executive revealed that the company does not have the money in hand to start building the tower on Thursday during an unpublicized meeting called by the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency overseeing the project. The news was first reported by The New York Post.

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Posted by steve at 5:26 PM

Cuomo Appoints Towns (the Younger One)

The Wonkster
By Gail Robinson

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named Brooklyn Assemblymember Darryl Towns commissioner and CEO of the state’s Homes and Community Renewal, which includes the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the state mortgage agency and other housing agencies.

Towns, who has served in the legislature since 1992, is the son of U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns and has often been mentioned as a possible successor to him.

...

Towns currently chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Banks and the Black, Puerto Rican/Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. During his time in the legislature, Towns, whose district includes parts of Cypress Hills, Bushwick and East New York, helped win passage of the ANCHOR Program. He has backed the Atlantic Yards project and recently penned an op-ed for the Post, essentially supporting the idea of a Walmart in East New York. He was a sponsor of a bill that would have end the city police’s shoot to kill policy, instead requiring them to wound suspects if forced to fire.

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More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Cuomo's appointment of Assemblyman Towns may be good news for colleague Jeffries, with a clearer path to the House of Representatives

The ascension of Brooklyn Assemblyman Darryl Towns as commissioner and CEO of New York State's umbrella housing agency is good news for his colleague, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, according to City Hall News, in its 2/11/10, Winners and Losers:

Hakeem Jeffries – Darryl Towns is going to have all sorts of projects in his portfolio as he leaves the Assembly for his new job, but it’s his father’s seat in the House of Representatives that might be affected first and most visibly by his appointment as Andrew Cuomo’s housing commissioner. Now the eventual race to replace Rep. Ed Towns, whose retirement has been expected for years, will almost certainly have one less candidate. That’s good news for Hakeem Jeffries—the Brooklyn Assemblyman who most people have assumed was headed to DC from even before he first arrived in Albany—precisely because it’s bad news for Charles Barron, who will likely need another split primary vote if he wants to squeak through the open primary, whenever it finally comes.

Another potential candidate is the perennial Kevin Powell.

Posted by steve at 5:01 PM

Massive Infrastructure Projects Coming to Atlantic Avenue and Eastern Parkway

Prospect Heights Patch
By Amy Sara Clark

Already hit by massive traffic backups caused by the Atlantic Yards construction, Prospect Heights-area residents will soon be facing 18 months of infrastructure projects tearing up both Atlantic Avenue and Eastern Parkway.

Both projects are slated to begin in a few weeks be completed about 18 months later.

At last night’s packed meeting of Community Board 8, which is affected by the projects along with Community Board 2, residents said the projects should have been staggered.

“So these two projects will be happening simultaneously with the Ratner project?” one resident asked incredulously. “There are already waiting times as much as three minutes to clear one block … Why are the projects being done at the same time?”

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Posted by steve at 4:57 PM

Battle of Brooklyn eminent domain documentary preview at ALI-ABA 2011

We have just heard that a documentary concerning the Atlantic Yards Project (we have discussed AY numerous times on this blog, including here and here) will be previewing at the ALI-ABA Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation course next week in Coral Gables, FL. If you have not registered, there is still time and here's another reason why this course is so unique.

...

Battle of Brooklyn chronicles the seven year fight to stop the use of eminent domain in the single densest development proposed in U.S. history, the infamous Atlantic Yards Project.

Screening times:

Wednesday Feb 16th: 5:30pm - Hyatt Regency, Coral Gables

Friday Feb 18th: 5:30pm - Hyatt Regency, Coral Gables

Running time is 90 minutes.

*The filmmakers will be present to discuss the film Thursday during the 5:30 Participant Reception and Friday following the screening. Note: the film also features ALI-ABA faculty presenter and NYC attorney Norman Siegel.

Attorney for the property owners, Michael Rikon says: "The Battle of Brooklyn is a very important film because it graphically shows how disenfranchised property owners are when confronted with condemnation...This is the best narrative of eminent domain abuse ever made. It is a must for any one seriously interest in Urban Planning."

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Posted by steve at 4:52 PM

Jay-Z's Atlantic Yards Cash-In

The L Magazine

Jay-Z is already an investor in the Atlantic Yards boondoggle, a co-owner of the basketball team coming to play there, but he just figured out a way to make a little more money by exploiting the residents of his home borough. The Nets recently retained the services of Transition, a "branding firm," to burnish its image. According to an Ad-Age article published Wednesday:

Translation is charged with speaking to a variety of constituencies surrounding the Nets' move from New Jersey, including potential new season-ticket holders, current season-ticket holders, longtime fans of the team, local businesses and, perhaps most important, to a vocal though now dwindling group of citizens who have long opposed a new arena in Brooklyn...

The article continues, "Expect Translation to...utiliz[e] rap star Jay-Z." What it doesn't mention is that Jay-Z owns a stake in Translation.

A commenter at the tireless Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report pointed out the connection, linking to a Times article from two years ago about Jay-Z's investment in Translation Advertising, a part of Translation Consultation and Brand Advertising.

Oh, it's like when the Bush administration gave all those contracts to Halliburton.

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Posted by steve at 4:50 PM

Freddy's Bar Rises from the Ashes, Feb. 3, 2011

It's been one hell of a weird year and a miserable winter in New York — blizzards, ice storms, deep freezes, a deep recession, and all. It's been a while since I've posted on this blog. I vowed not to post until Freddy's Bar re-opened its doors.

And like the crocus that peeks through the black ice, Freddy's Bar rose like a sign of hope. Although the official opening night was February 4th, friends and family gathered for a private evening on February 3rd in South Slope... that's right, Freddy's Bar is now nearly two miles away from its original location and nine months since that day.

...

But this was by far fairy tale, the road to the new Freddy's Bar was a white knuckle ride down rocky path lined with obstacles. New York State's misuse of Eminent Domain claimed an entire section of Prospect Heights, forcing then owner Frank Yost into a nominal buyout — it was this or leave with nothing. The only one who benefits from all this is a billionaire developer and his private arena built on public funds. Amidst plans of reforming business, Frank backed out of the partnership and moved on leaving Don and crew in the lurch.

But the dream didn't die on the floor, everyone pitched in and I mean everyone — old patrons, new neighbors, friends, news media, bloggers, online communities. If Freddy's Bar left with anything it left with an incredile collective good will.

...

That whole ugly mess that is New York State's abuse of eminent domain and misappropriation of funds still makes my head throb. It's a disease borne from generations of cronyism, true greed, and paid favors for the wealthiest from the wealthiest... How much does a judge's vote cost these days? As long as someone upstate is still padding their purses behind a locked door, this horror we call Albany may never change.

The proponents of the Atlantic Yards Project continue to manufacture hype about an arena that fills a need in a community, and how it will bring jobs to all... etc. Our borough president insists we need this basketball team from New Jersey to be the heart of Brooklyn. What's he been smoking? Bull crap I say. They barely know what do with the blight and traffic they've created. They all could a take a tip from some real people and a real community.

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Posted by steve at 4:44 PM

Does Nicolai Ouroussoff understand that a city is more than just a skyline?

The Naparstek Post
By Aaron Naparstek

This blog post uses architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff's look at the tower designed by Frank Ghery's at 8 Spruce Street to demonstrate Ouroussoff's support of architecture that mostly serves the vanity of the architect.

My stream of consciousness and I read New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff’s review of the new Frank Gehry tower in Lower Manhattan. Nicolai’s text is in block quotes…

A more recent foray, the massive Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, drew the ire of local activists, who depicted him as an aging liberal in bed with the devil — a New York City real estate developer.

Um, yeah, right. Those uppity Brooklyn activists were angry that an architect was working with a real estate developer. That was definitely the only issue there.

it seemed to epitomize the skyline’s transformation from a symbol of American commerce to a display of individual wealth.

Yay?… Oh, wait, he’s just reporting. Good observation, Nick!

...

See, to Nicolai Ourossoff, the way a building looks is much more important than the way it integrates with a community, relates to the neighborhood, impacts a city’s transportation system, quality of life and long-term sustainability. According to Nick, “None of this matters” as long as the building looks interesting on a postcard view of the skyline.

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Posted by steve at 4:24 PM

February 11, 2011

More from AY cabinet meeting: few workers on site, reversible lane snag, demand management upgrade, sidewalk dispute with LIRR, wariness re public

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has an in-depth report on yesterday's of the "Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet."

The lead news from the second meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet,held yesterday at Brooklyn Borough Hall, concerned the delayed (but architect-assigned) Building 2 and the re-launch of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards web site.

But there were several other pieces of news, including a rather low number of local workers. FCR said there are about 150 workers at the site now, with 58 local residents placed though a Community Labor Exchange since the start of construction, with 19 now on the site. (Here's more on the lag between numbers and projections.)

A Community Board District Manager expressed dismay over the weather-related demise of a reversible lane along Flatbush Avenue.

Forest City Ratner said it would beef up a previously announced demand management plan to reduce driving to the arena, and then share it for public comment.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) reported on an unresolved dispute involving the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and the city Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding clearing/cleaning of the railyard perimeter.

There also was an unsettled/unsettling vibe regarding transparency, given a relatively low level of participation by cabinet members as well as a wariness toward the public and press, as described below. (The meeting wasn’t announced, and videotaping was banned.)

The meeting was attended by representatives of various agencies, Community Boards, and elected officials involved in the project. The only elected official to attend was Council Member Letitia James.
...

At the outset, Scissura announced that it was not a public meeting, and that videotaping would not be permitted.

That statement was clearly aimed at me--the only other press person was Rich Calder of the Post, who wrote an overview-- and a minute later, when Scissura was no longer speaking to the group, I approached him. He told me that if I shot video (as I did in November) they’d have me removed.

Later in the meeting, ESDC project manager Hankin, with a bit of edge in her voice, stated that meetings of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet are not subject to the open meetings law.

She said that had been confirmed with the legal counsel of the ESDC and the Borough President’s Office. “Therefore we are not required to post the date of the meetings or invite the public; as a courtesy we've agreed to allow the public to attend,” she said.

Hankin noted that there are multiple avenues for the public to ask questions, via Forest City Ratner and the ESDC. “This body is really serving as an interagency working group.”

After the meeting, I asked Hankin and Scissura by email for documentation that explained why the meeting was not subject to the open meetings law, as well as the rationale for banning videotaping. Hankin told me I’d get an answer today.
...

At one point during the meeting yesterday, Prospect Heights activist Peter Krashes moved to sit next to James aide Alfred Chiodo at the conference table--otherwise limited to cabinet members--and spoke to him. That led Scissura to say a bit sourly, “Alfred, I see you've been fed some questions.”

There were only a couple of members of the public present, but it still seemed that scrutiny and questions were considered intrusive.

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NoLandGrab: How dare the little people ask questions! We see Scissura has been learning from his boss/client.

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

Brooklyn Hopes Players Will Move to Borough Along With The Franchise

via NetsDaily

In other news, we're still waiting for pigs to fly, and thinking we might need to give up on having that tooth beneath our pillow swapped for cash by a fairy.

Devin Harris has long lived happily along the Hudson in New Jersey. Most if not all the Nets live in the Garden State as well but the Daily News writes of Brooklynites' hopes that some of them, specifically Harris, will follow their team to the borough, much like the Dodgers did in the 1950's. (The article appeared only in the newspaper, not online.)

NY Daily News
by Jay Mwamba

It echoes back to the time of the Brooklyn Dodgers -- a historic and special era more than 50 years ago when professional athletes held court and lived in the borough. Back then, for many Brooklynites and their fans, the players were superstars and neighbors.

A part of that nostalgic memory will be rekindled when the New Jersey Nets basketball team moves to the Barclays Center arena in downtown Brooklyn for the 2012-2013 NBA season.

With the neighborhoods of Prospect Heights, Park Slope and Fort Greene in close proximity, there may be pro athletes in the borough again.

The excitement is palpable in the Nets organization and the community as work proceeds briskly on the high-tech venue that will seat as many as 19,500 people.

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NoLandGrab: Yes, we can almost feel the palp.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily News, in cliche-filled article, swallows FCR claims about taxes and jobs

The Daily News published an article headlined Brooklyn Hopes Players Will Move to Borough Along With The Franchise and, though it was in print only, NetsDaily, always happy to boost the Brooklyn move, published it in full.

In it, freelancer Jay Mwamba quoted chief cheerleader Brett Yormark on the Dodgers and swallowed ridiculous Forest City Ratner claims whole:

The Barclays Center is part of a 22-acre residential and commercial rel estate project dubbed the Atlantic Yards that's expected to generate more than $5 billion in new tax revenues over the next 30 years.

In addition to tax benefits, the project will create thousands of new jobs: upwards of 17,000 union construction jobs and as many as 8,000 permanent and as nearly 8,000 permanent jobs.

In a not-exactly broad canvass, the article did find three people excited about the arena: two restaurant managers and a realtor.

NLG: Add them to your boycott list — Blue Ribbon, Kombit Bar and Restaurant, and Brown, Harris, Stevens.

Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

New Atlantic Yards.com Website -- Lots About the Arena, Not Much on Affordable Housing

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

After years of a dormant AtlanticYards.com, the Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner has finally gone live with a new website which emphasizes the money losing Barclays Center with little mention of the promised units of so-called "affordable" housing.

Norman Oder takes a look at the new website here, and Forest City Ranter "wants to hear from you, especially if you are in the neighborhood" (see bottom right of the homepage to let them know "what's on your mind."

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NoLandGrab: Who needs affordable housing when you can buy Nets tickets for 11¢?.

Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

Gehry’s $875 Million Tower Ripples High Above Brooklyn Bridge

Bloomberg
by James S. Russell

This will come as a shocker — Bloomberg (the news source) loves the latest Gehry/Ratner collaboration. At least they had the sense to write this:

Developer Forest City Ratner Cos., notorious for the controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject (where Gehry was once the architect), will start signing leases this month on the first completed apartments. The topmost apartments won’t be ready until 2012.

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Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

February 10, 2011

Brooklyn arena architect to design first residential tower at Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

A hot Manhattan architectural firm has been tapped to design the first residential tower for Brooklyn’s long-delayed Atlantic Yards project – although officials confirmed they still lack the financing to build it.

As developer Forest City Ratner continues construction on the project’s NBA arena in the hopes of moving the Nets there by Fall 2012, company officials confirmed today that SHoP Architects would design the 400-unit building slated to go up next door at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street.

Jane Marshall, a senior VP for FCR, said during a project meeting at Borough Hall that SHoP was selected in part to ensure the new construction blends with the arena.
...

Marshall said she expects the residential tower design to be complete by June and hopes to break ground on it by the end of the year.

However, she said financing still isn’t secure for the tower – although the hope is that producing designs will generate interest from lenders to fund it. The rest of the project’s 16 residential and commercial towers remain on hold because of the slumping economy.

From the department of transparency and openness:

Although the press was not shut out of the meeting, the 90-minute session was not advertised as is required under the state’s Open Public Meetings Law. But Arana Hankin, who oversees the project for ESDC, claimed her agency’s lawyers “determined” Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meetings are “ad hoc committee” meetings and not subject to public meeting laws. The only reason the public knew of the meeting is because blogger Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report was tipped off about it and posted some information about it on his website. Oder, while allowed to take notes, was told he could not take video footage of the meeting when he arrived.

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Posted by eric at 9:45 PM

FCR pushes back timetable for Building 2, hopes for groundbreaking by end of year, says SHoP will design that first tower

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite happy talk by Forest City Ratner executives about a groundbreaking this year for the first arena block tower, and a mini-scoop by the Observer that the architect will be SHoP (designers of the arena facade), the real news is this: the tower is again delayed, and may not start this year, given the difficulty of getting financing.

(About a year ago, the plan was to break ground by the end of 2010.)

At a meeting this morning at Borough Hall of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, involving various involved agencies. City Council Member Letitia James asked about the timetable for the affordable housing.

The first building, at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, would have about 400 units, 50 percent subsidized, divided into 30 percent middle- and moderate-income and 20 percent low-income.

"We're working on the design of that building," responded Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall. "We've been making progress--it's not been as fast as we wanted it to be." And while FCR had hoped to announce the design around this time, "I think it'll be closer to the second quarter."

She later specified "probably the end of May or early June."
...

"We still believe we can get in the ground in 2011, and that’s our goal," Marshall said. "It's been a complicated procedure, because we are not only looking at design, we've been talking to the financing community... As you know, it's dire out there."

Unclear is whether this building, given the somewhat complicated site, costs more per unit than comparable projects. Forest City aims to use off-the-shelf housing subsidies, including the city's financing for such 50/30/20 buildings, but also needs to raise private money.

What is clear is that, if the arena proceeds on schedule, and opens in the summer/fall of 2012, it will not be accompanied by the opening of a residential building, as initially planned.

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Posted by eric at 9:40 PM

Brooklyn's Brennan named Chair of Assembly Corporations Committee; will he press ESDC on Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

A press release from the office of Brooklyn Assemblyman Jim Brennan:

BRENNAN ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT AS CHAIR OF CORPORATIONS, AUTHORITIES AND COMMISSIONS

Assemblymember Jim Brennan (D-Brooklyn) announced that Speaker Silver has appointed him Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions.

Mr. Brennan has served as a member of the committee for 26 years, and served as counsel to his predecessor, who chaired the Subcommittee on Public Power, a subcommittee of the Corporations Committee, for three years prior to his election. Mr. Brennan previously chaired two subcommittees of this 26-member committee – the Subcommittee on Business Corporation Law and the Telecommunications Task Force.

“I want to express my thanks to Speaker Silver for appointing me Chair of this committee,” said Mr. Brennan. “I look forward to the challenges ahead on the issues confronting the committee, including mass transit funding, utilities, and the accountability and governance of our public authorities and corporate entities.”

That's a powerful position, one Brennan's predecessor Richard Brodsky used to pursue reform of laws governing public authorities and to take a tough look at the New York Yankees' new stadium.

Avoiding AY in the Assembly

It's also one that Brodsky chose not to use to look at Atlantic Yards, which just happens to be favored by Speaker Sheldon Silver. So I wouldn't bet on Brennan holding an Atlantic Yards hearing (but am willing to be surprised).

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Posted by eric at 9:09 PM

Cuomo Appoints Towns (the Younger One)

Gotham Gazette
by Gail Robinson

Governor status-Cuomo has gotten a bit sidetracked from his "reform" agenda, apparently.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named Brooklyn Assemblymember Darryl Towns commissioner and CEO of the state’s Homes and Community Renewal, which includes the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the state mortgage agency and other housing agencies.

Towns, who has served in the legislature since 1992, is the son of U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns and has often been mentioned as a possible successor to him.

In the release from the governor’s office both Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, and Duncan MacKenzie, chief of the New York State Association of Realtors, praised the appointment, as did the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, a trade group. The statement did not include comments from any tenant groups.

We don't know about you, but three cheers from the real estate industry always screams "reform" to us.

He has backed the Atlantic Yards project and recently penned an op-ed for the Post, essentially supporting the idea of a Walmart in East New York.

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NoLandGrab: No need for Forest City to run up to Albany — Mr. Towns has already cashed Bruce's checks.

Posted by eric at 8:46 PM

New, simplified Atlantic Yards web site emerges: no renderings beyond arena and no timetable, but still many of the same dubious promises

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, it's a little late, but Forest City Ratner has relaunched the Atlantic Yards.com web site, far more streamlined than the previous version, and without such things as:

  • renderings of any building beyond the arena
  • image galleries
  • a timeline
  • reference to landscape architect Laurie Olin.

The fundamental text, as noted at right:

Atlantic Yards will combine a new arena, the Barclays Center, designed by Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects, a public plaza, eight acres of landscaped open space, more than 6,400 units of affordable, middle-income and market-rate housing, ground-floor retail space for local businesses and office space that will create a vibrant addition to a thriving borough. In 2005, Atlantic Yards’s developer signed the first-ever Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) in New York City to accompany a major development project.

Once upon a time Forest City Ratner promised that the project would be built in a decade, but even Bruce Ratner has abandoned that timetable.

The website offers a signup for the mailing list and a feedback form ("We want to hear from you, especially if you’re in the neighborhood"), as well as links to a summary of the Community Benefits Agreement (the signatories of which are not named), Forest City Ratner, the Barclays Center, and the Nets.

The FAQ

The other major page is an FAQ, which continues some boilerplate projections that deserve skepticism.

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NoLandGrab: A lot of skepticism.

Posted by eric at 6:10 PM

NBA's Nets Tap Translation to Burnish Move to Brooklyn

Agency Must Stoke Pride in Lackluster Team Moving to Stadium Plagued by Protests

Advertising Age
by Rich Thomaselli

The foundation is in place, the steel is poured and the suite concourse level is starting to take shape. Still, the impending move of the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn and the opulent Barclays Center now under construction has been so fraught with controversy, the franchise felt compelled to hire a branding firm to help "position" the move.

New York-based Translation is charged with speaking to a variety of constituencies surrounding the Nets' move from New Jersey, including potential new season-ticket holders, current season-ticket holders, longtime fans of the team, local businesses and, perhaps most important, to a vocal though now dwindling group of citizens who have long opposed a new arena in Brooklyn, saying it will change the dynamic of the beloved borough.

Dwindling?

"Obviously this is a moment we've been waiting for for six years and we only get one shot to get it right," said Nets CEO Brett Yormark of the move to Brooklyn, which was first announced in 2005. "We figured we'd outsource some thinking. We like Translation and we like their leader and the fact that they have a deep bench. The initial work we've received from them has been dead on. They'll help us not only on the Nets brand, but also identifying the Barclays Center."

Actually, the move was first announced in 2003.

"We have a brand, the arena, for housing great talent. And we have a brand, the Brooklyn Nets, and we need to make them a phenomenon in 2012," Mr. Stoute said. "We won't be treating this like a relocated team. We'll be treating this like a team that has a new brand value. Our work is going to be as diverse as Brooklyn itself."

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NoLandGrab: Turning the 16-37 Nets into a "phenomenon" by next year is going to take a lot more than an advertising campaign. And as the first commenter points out, the reporter failed to note that Translation is co-owned by none other than Nets spokesmodel Jay-Z.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The marketing of the Nets, via Translation

Ad Age has a story about the hiring of the marketing agency Translation, which was announced in December.

The new article quotes me:

"I suspect they're trying to reinforce a sense of inevitability -- that the arena is coming -- after years of false promises about the timetable," Mr. Oder said. "That said, they likely have multiple audiences to play to. For one thing, they've only sold a small fraction of the luxury suites and they need those sales to pay off construction. They have the advantage of newness, being a new team in the market, but they also have to fill a building at a time when, at least for now, people have less and less discretionary income. The working assumption has always been that 30% of current New Jersey fans of the Nets would also attend games in Brooklyn. But the team has gotten worse [the sixth worst record in the league at 15-37], and it has been a very long goodbye. If that means fewer New Jersey fans, then they have to reach out as broadly as possible, geographically and demographically, in and around Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 12:07 PM

Downtown Skyscraper for the Digital Age

The New York Times
by Nicolai Ouroussoff

Many New Yorkers have been following the construction of the new residential tower at 8 Spruce Street, just south of City Hall, with a mix of awe and trepidation.

Frank Gehry, the building’s architect, has had a rough time in this city. His first commission here, years ago, was for an Upper East Side town house that was never built; his client, an oil heiress, fired him over Champagne and strawberries. A more recent foray, the massive Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, drew the ire of local activists, who depicted him as an aging liberal in bed with the devil — a New York City real estate developer.

Actually, more like an aging megalomaniac in bed with the devil. But we're quibbling.

The Spruce Street project (formerly called Beekman Tower) would not only be Mr. Gehry’s first skyscraper, but it was also being built for the same developer, Bruce Ratner. And as the tallest luxury residential tower in the city’s history, it seemed to epitomize the skyline’s transformation from a symbol of American commerce to a display of individual wealth.

So, care to guess how the Gehry-worshipping Times critic feels about this new Gehry edifice?

Only now, as the building nears completion, is it possible to appreciate what Mr. Gehry has accomplished: the finest skyscraper to rise in New York since Eero Saarinen’s CBS building went up 46 years ago.

Read on — if you can bear it — for more where that came from.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, AY down the memory hole: NYT critic Ouroussoff says "local activists" depicted Gehry as "in bed with the devil," but he did too

New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff reviews (and mostly approves of) Frank Gehry's Beekman Tower, aka 8 Spruce Street, offering this aside:

A more recent foray, the massive Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, drew the ire of local activists, who depicted him as an aging liberal in bed with the devil — a New York City real estate developer.

Really? Ouroussoff's piece links to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, but here's what he wrote in June 2006:

But if the Gehry-Ratner lovefest has raised an expectation of innovative design, it has also stirred unease. Few would question Mr. Gehry’s talent. The question is whether he has allowed his experimental ethos to be harnessed for the sake of maximizing a developer’s profits.

It’s also fair to ask whether Mr. Gehry and other gifted architects have made a pact with the Devil, compromising their values for the sake of ever bigger commissions.

(Emphasis added)

Curbed, Frank Gehry's Beekman Tower the Best Skyscraper Since the '60s?

But the best building since 1965 also has its faults, primarily its six-story base clad in orange brick, which will house a public school. It's "a letdown after you've seen the gorgeously wrought exterior of the tower above." As for the widely panned flat side of 8 Spruce Street, Ouroussoff writes that "some may find perverse enjoyment in the fact that the building presents its backside to Wall Street." So full of gags, that Gehry.

Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

Congrats to the Packers, but let's end the talk of moral superiority

The Sports ITeam Blog
by Michael O'Keeffe

Let me make one thing clear: I was rooting for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. I like their history. I like their uniforms. I like Aaron Rodgers.

I especially like the fact that the Packers are publicly owned, and that somebody like Dan Snyder or Bruce Ratner will never have the opportunity to buy them and turn them into a laughingstock.

It is indeed cool that the Packers' archaic ownership structure means they'll never threaten to move to Wauwatosa if the good people of Green Bay don't build them a new stadium, and it is indeed cool that profits not used for payroll or infrastructure are contributed to the community.

But that doesn't turn Vince Lombardi into Dorothy Day, and I wish my progressive friends would stop preaching about the moral superiority of the Green Bay Packers.
...

While the Packers don't socialize debt and privatize profits, lots of athletes, coaches and teams have foundations that donate lots of money to good causes. And isn't there a bigger question to be asked here? The starting salary for a New York City cop is $35,000. The starting salary for a New York City teacher is $45,000. The NFL's rookie minimum is $325,000. What's wrong with this picture?

link

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

The Just City: tensions between democracy and equity, heightened scrutiny for megaprojects, and a public share in the profits (and new taxes?)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Just City is Harvard planning professor Susan Fainstein's effort to "to apply abstract arguments concerning justice to actual planning situations," as she said during a panel at the New School on Tuesday, and "to respond to the triumph of neo-liberalism"--thinking dominated by the free market--"in planning doctrine."

While New York has seen substantial growth in the last 40 years, it has also seen the widening of inequality. So there's reason to dispute the argument that benefits of growth will trickle down, she said.

She's long been a critic of the Bloomberg administration. In an article, The Return of Urban Renewal: Dan Doctoroff’s Grand Plans for New York City, in the Spring/Summer 2005 issue of Harvard Design Magazine, Fainstein wrote:

For planners who do not believe that the market always produces choices best for the city, seeing the city once again engaged in planning that makes explicit the changes to come is welcome. Thus, in one respect, the current thrust toward comprehensiveness and public investment is a step forward in making visible and contested a process that otherwise remains hidden. But the methods by which the plans are developed, the emphasis on sports complexes, the encumbrances on the city and state’s fiscal integrity, and the sheer magnitude and density of the proposed projects can only cause serious misgivings.
...

Fainstein seemed to lump in Atlantic Yards with Yankee Stadium. The latter, she said, exemplified "a style of promoting growth that has been going on in New York... Bloomberg came in and said he wasn't going to give big subsidies to sports teams but in fact has done so... So all the teams got their stadiums, or their arenas."

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Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

PHOTOS: The Return of Freddy's

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

The new Freddy’s is here.

The famous Freddy's Bar and Backroom reopened last week in South Slope, months after Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project forced the bar from its longstanding Prospect Heights home on Dean Street.

We know these photos are a bit late, but we figured some of you would still like to see them.

On Feb. 10 the new Freddy’s opened its doors to friends and family of the bar, who crowded its new location on Fifth Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets, in the old Ellis Bar space.

The new space is different to be sure, but still boasts the same spirit of the original Prospect Heights location.

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Photo: Kristen V. Brown, Park Slope Patch

Related coverage...

Here's Park Slope, Know Your Bartender: Donald O'Finn, Freddy's

As Freddy's Bar slogged through the wretched, seven-year battle against the city that culminated last year in its seizure by eminent domain--and subsequent demolition--in order to construct developer Bruce Ratner's Barclays Center, longtime bar manager and artist Donald O'Finn rose to the top of the fray, taking the fight to the streets, television, and anyone who would listen. The fight brought Freddy's into the national conversation about abuse of power and the forcible seizure of land, and by installing chains to the bar and organizing protests, he brought a human element to the legal wrangling. By the time of the bar's demolition (along with the surrounding buildings), it seemed that the only two people that weren't on O'Finn's team were the only ones who really mattered, sadly: Mike Bloomberg and Bruce Ratner.

The re-opening last Friday night of the new Freddy's, about a mile and a half away on Fifth Avenue between 17th and 18th, was a big deal, for obvious reasons. Just about all of the things that made Freddy's unique made the journey, including the bar, the tables, the chains, the art, and O'Finn, who is now co-owner along with former bartenders Matt Kuhn and Matt Kimmett. It's a larger space, with a vaguely nautical/steampunk theme, and it's warm and welcoming.

Click through for lot's more, including HPS's excellent interview with O'Finn.

The Brooklyn Paper, Freddy’s returns — and it’s just like Freddy’s

Andy Campbell sings the praises of the reborn Freddy's.

I’ve seen the positive side of gentrification — the scorned Freddy’s bar, which reopened in Park Slope last week after torn down to make way for Atlantic Yards, proved that good can truly come of bad.

Yes, the Prohibition-era tavern has a new location, but still pays homage to everything that made it Freddy’s in the first place: the same dark wood bar, the same wacky video montages by co-owner Donald O’Finn, the same old barflies, the same feel of a great tavern.
...

The only real differences at this Freddy’s are the new location, the new sound system, the new owners and the memory of a Downtown favorite that was bought out by the man. The whiskey, the dim lights, and the cheers are all the same.

Everybody partied hard, with little mention of the Atlantic Yards behemoth that thought it had driven the former watering hole into the ground. It was almost like Freddy’s was, well, Freddy’s.

The Brooklyn Paper, Bar Scrawl, by Bill Roundy: And our cartoonist weighs in

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Downtown Brooklyn: Old School

The Heidelberger Papers

Downtown Brooklyn in undergoing rapid change with the construction of highrise luxury condos, the Atlantic Yards project, and many other tides indicative fast paced NYC gentrification. These shots were taken from Livingston Street, near Bond, a section that resembles what Downtown Brooklyn (and much of the entire city) used to appear before it took a much more upper class trend.

link

Photo: Matt Heidelberger

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

Fordham Law School Conference on Eminent Domain in New York

Lawkipedia
by Ilya Somin

This Friday, I will be speaking at an academic conference on eminent domain in New York at Fordham Law School, 140 W. 62nd Street. The event is sponsored by the Fordham Urban Law Journal. My panel will be at 10 AM, and I will be speaking about the New York Court of Appeals controversial recent blight condemnation decisions in the Atlantic Yards and Columbia cases.

The conference will also include presentations by many well-known property scholars, including Michael Heller, Lynne Sagalyn, Chris Serkin, and my colleague Steve Eagle.

link

More info via the Fordham School of Law.

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

20mph Speed Limit Zone Coming to Boerum Hill?

The L Magazine
by Benjamin Sutton

Last summer the city's Department of Transportation announced plans to test out a (relatively) radical new traffic control plan by creating some pilot 20 miles-per-hour zones, with a few to establishing more if the test areas are deemed successful. Residents of Boerum Hill really want to be guinea pigs for this program.
...

Weirdly, the typically anti-car control Post is all for the idea, especially in anticipation of additional traffic in the area once the Atlantic Yards' Barclay's Center is playing host to frequent professional basketball games. More additional traffic to the area is also expected due to upcoming BQE renovations.

link

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

First residential building at AY to break ground this year

The Real Deal
by Candace Taylor

Within the year, Brooklyn may see the start of construction on the first residential building at the Atlantic Yards, the opening of a new outdoor market in Downtown Brooklyn and sales commencing at new residential condominium 20 Henry.

Members of the real estate community received these and other development updates yesterday at the first installment of the 2011 Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable series.

Speakers at the event, held at the Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn Heights, included Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz; John Rhea, the chairman of the New York City Housing Authority; and MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial development and leasing at Forest City Ratner Companies, who gave an update on the Barclays Center Arena.
...

The first residential building on the site will be a 50-30-20 project, she said, meaning 20 percent of the apartments will be reserved for low-income tenants, 30 percent for middle-income tenants and the rest for market-rate renters. She said Forest City Ratner hopes to begin construction this year.

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NoLandGrab: Like Norman Oder (see below), we'll believe it when we see it.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, First AY residential building to break ground this year?

The headline in the Real Deal is First residential building at AY to break ground this year, but the actual quote is this, from Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin:

She said Forest City Ratner hopes to begin construction this year.

A year ago, however, another executive said they planned to break ground in the fourth quarter of 2010.

In other words, headlines shouldn't be definitive.

NY Observer, SHoP Scores First Apartment Building at Atlantic Yards

Back in September, when Ratner and SHoP principal Gregg Pasquarelli unveiled new designs for the public plaza at the foot of the Barclays Center arena, the architect said he would love to design some of the project's buildings, though his primary concern was executing the masterplan. "SHoP's goal is to make sure it's a beautiful and cohesive whole," he said at the time.

Well, it looks like Pasquarelli will be getting his wish after all, as The Observer has learned the firm has been tapped to design B2, the first apartment building planned for the site, along Dean Street on the southeast corner of the arena.

Curbed, First Atlantic Yards Apartment Building Breaking Ground This Year?

The Real Deal has a great roundup of all the tidbits of news from yesterday's Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable, an always-sunny confab of developers and others with a stake in the borough's bricks and mortar. The headline is the update from a Forest City Ratner exec on the progress at Atlantic Yards, where the first apartment building (of the 16 that are still somehow planned) is expected to break ground this year.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Historical Society Receives $93K From Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable Series

Besides telling attendees about seeing the scoreboard from the subway exit at the new arena, MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial development at Forest City Ratner, said people will also be able to see the arena’s practice facility from the plaza.

“We are making extraordinary progress on the Barclays Center,” she said. “The steel is rising and the decking is visible. We will be watching basketball games in the 2012-13 season.”

NLG: Yeah, but will be watching them in Newark?

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

February 9, 2011

Two views of planning and zoning: the official city perspective (via Amanda Burden) vs. City Limits (City Without a Plan)

Atlantic Yards Report

From the 2/6/11 New York Times Real Estate section, A New City Handbook Demystifies Zoning:

Since becoming New York City’s planning commissioner in 2002, Amanda M. Burden has presided over the rezoning of wide swaths of the city.

Some changes have served traditional zoning goals — encouraging higher density on commercial thoroughfares (particularly near transit hubs) while lowering density in residential neighborhoods. And some have served goals not usually associated with zoning — improving food choices (by encouraging grocery stores to open in underserved neighborhoods) and promoting nonpolluting transportation (by requiring bike parking inside new residential buildings, for example).

“It turns out that boring old zoning, when used creatively, can be used to solve a whole lot of problems,” Ms. Burden said in a telephone interview...

That the [zoning] resolution is “impossible to understand,” Ms. Burden said, has taken the tool of zoning out of the hands of the public. She hopes to change that, with a new handbook, available Monday, that she said not only “demystifies zoning, but I think is entertaining — it’s fun to read.”

...Ms. Burden says she will be happy when residents start attending meetings with dog-eared copies of the new book. “Planning,” she said, “is most effective when it’s in the hands of the community.”

From City Limits

In the January 2011 issue of City Limits, City Without a Plan (p. 16):

Unfortunately, the way New York City plans is largely broken.

Unlike many major American cities, New York has never compelted a comprehensive plan for its future. Instead, it has passed zoning laws to try to constrain the private market... Under Mayor Bloomberg, more than 100 neighborhoods have been rezoned, but it is not clear that those changes follow a logical, equitable or comprehensive plan for how to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of new residents the New York of 2030 will have to house, employ, and move.

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NoLandGrab: And let's not forget, sometimes an entire area is rezoned so the City's Planning Commissioner can find a suitable white-tablecloth place to eat after attending a concert by The Magic Lady.

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

Video suggests maybe those Atlantic Terminal bollards, however ugly, work as street furniture

Atlantic Yards Report

When the bollards outside the Atlantic Terminal station emerged in December 2009, they were tagged by No Land Grab's Eric McClure as "a closely spaced series of enormous, intrusive, Sarcophagus-like — and butt-ugly — blocks."

(Photo by Adrian Kinloch)

The Brooklyn Paper's Gersh Kuntzman followed up in a 1/26/10 article pointing out that the New York Police Department advises that bollards “measure between 30 and 36 inches in height” and be spaced 48 inches apart--but the ones outside Atlantic Terminal are 50 to 52 inches high and in some places are 36 inches apart.

Plans for the Barclays Center plaza nearby include bollards, but not like these. "We're not making that mistake," said Forest City Ratner's Jane Marshall at a public meeting last September. "These are very simple standard bollards, that were approved by the security board and countererrorism."

A second look

Brooklyn architect Jeff Geisinger, however, recently filmed the plaza as an exercise in documenting public place. His video (below), he suggests, "demonstrates the effectiveness of the bollards as urban furniture and as a buffer to the bustling traffic of Flatbush Avenue, despite their bulky, unattractive aesthetic."

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NoLandGrab: Sure, people can sit on them. But we stand by our original appraisal.

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

Looking for local coverage of Markowitz's fine

Atlantic Yards Report

On Monday, the dailies reported that Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was fined by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board for using Chief of Staff Carlo Scissura as his lawyer for a home-buying transaction in 2009.

The Brooklyn Paper hasn't reported that news yet, though yesterday it offered a tough story about Markowitz's objectification of women in public comments--a point I raised in my coverage last week of the State of the Borough address--and today covers the news/photo op involving the visit of Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas to Borough Hall.

link

Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

Meeting marks a step toward a broad-based Brooklyn civic organization, with AY activists playing a role

Atlantic Yards Report

In my New York Times Complaint Box essay last month, Powerless in Brooklyn, I wrote, "We lack meaningful local government, as well as broad-based media and civic organizations."

In a comment, Raul Rothblatt of the Four Borough Preservation Alliance (and an Atlantic Yards activist), wrote, "We are currently working on facilitating cooperation between groups in Brooklyn..."

Indeed, a meeting was upcoming, as I had been told. (I learned of it after I'd written my essay and had it approved.)

First meeting

Now the Courier-Life reports on the first meeting, in New group would 'take back borough' Brooklyn-wide civic group sought
...

Can it work? The agendas of civic groups vary--it's not all land use--but, at the very least, talking might lead to a platform of priorities.

link

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

Freddy's is back, in the South Slope

Atlantic Yards Report

Upon its demise in Prospect Heights, displaced for the arena block, Joshua M. Bernstein wrote, "Freddy’s will endure in spirit, but the patina that the patrons created will be lost in the rubble."

Well, the coverage--and my own brief visit--suggests that the owners and managers have done a pretty good job re-creating the patina, with a new Backroom (though with a small corridor) and new televisions (flat screen this time) to show Donald O'Finn's video art.

It's just in a different neighborhood--maybe the South Slope is the equivalent of Prospect Heights a decade or two ago.

And there's a different orbit around it. For one thing, the history of a cop bar is erased when the local precinct is no longer virtually across the street. Also, the history of Atlantic Yards resistance recedes, as well.

link

Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Nets-nabe speed bump

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Talk about a fast brake!

With the opening of the new Nets arena in Brooklyn nearly two years away, the city is considering lowering the speed limit to 20 mph for drivers in the nearby brownstone neighborhood of Boerum Hill.

Cars and trucks routinely use Pacific and Dean streets and other local streets there as speedy short cuts to and from the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

Councilman Steven Levin said yesterday he believes reckless driving through the neighborhood “will only get worse” once the 18,000-seat, Prospect Heights arena opens in Fall 2012 -- unless “we take pre-emptive action now.”

The city’s Department of Transportation next year is set to kick off its pilot "slow-speed zone" program in select neighborhoods where 10 mph will be sliced off the city’s 30 mph standard limit.

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Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

What’s New in NYC DEP’s Strategic Plan?

Aqueous Advisors

Pretty sure this is the first time we've posted a link to Aqueous Advisors.

Today, NYC DEP released its 78-page Strategic Plan for 2011-2014, with 100 initiatives. My question here is:

What’s new in those initiatives? What’s announced here for the first time?

Below, I’ve identified the 10 items that were newest to me.
...

Initiative #41: Build out and replace critical water mains

DEP will construct new 72″ water mains “to ensure the vibrancy of the Manhattan central business district, support the growth of Coney Island’s amusement district, and make the thousands of housing units and offices at Atlantic Yards possible.” In other words, new condos near the Hudson Yards, Atlantic Yards, and Coney Island will need more water. Will this be paid for by the new development charge in #14?

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Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

February 8, 2011

Second meeting of Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet slated for Thursday at Borough Hall; updates on first tower, web site coming?

Atlantic Yards Report

The second meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet will be held Thursday, February 10, at Brooklyn Borough Hall, from 9:30-11 am, allowing various agencies and entities involved with Atlantic Yards to update each other, and to hear from developer Forest City Ratner.

As with the first meeting, held in November, neither the Borough President's office nor any other sponsoring entity has publicized the event, though a staffer in the office of Council Member Letitia James confirmed the time and location in response to my query.

In contrast with such reticence, last September, Empire State Development Corporation Project Manager Arana Hankin said at a public meeting, "The structure and schedule of these meetings will be announced shortly, and we look forward to your participation."

Questions beforehand

The event is open to the public for observation, but questions must be submitted beforehand to local community boards, James's office, or the Borough President's Office.

Expect an update on construction progress, with an increased number of workers at the site.

New web site delayed

At the November meeting, Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin said the developer was "working on creating an information web page. This will provide the public with regular updates on the project, including issues around construction and traffic. Our goal is to have this up by the end of the year."

That didn't happen.

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NoLandGrab: God knows, in the year of our Lord, two-aught-eleven, it takes a loooong time to create a web page.

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

Are Nets' Attendance, YES Ratings at Rock Bottom of NBA Numbers?

NetsDaily

Sounds like Brooklyn won't be getting a "professional" sports franchise anytime soon. So glad we taxpayers are kicking in a billion bucks for this.

In spite of a move to Newark and a marketing campaign that things are "all new", the Nets attendance and TV ratings appear to be at the bottom of the NBA.

The Nets list their average attendance at "The Rock" as 12,868 so far this season, down nearly 2% from last year.

That's also about 1,000 lower than the next lowest, the Kings, who play in the league's most antiquated arena.
...

Meanwhile, Sports Business Journal reports that the Nets' television ratings on YES are the lowest local ratings in the NBA, at 0.29, meaning only about a quarter of one per cent of all households in the New York area tune into watch the 15-37 Nets. The next lowest rating, for the Clippers on FOX Sports West, is nearly three times higher.

link

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

Impounded car stolen — from cops!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

This week's crooked activity wasn't limited to Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Bag theft

A thief snagged a bag from a 29-year-old during a Feb. 6 visit to the Burlington Coat Factory on Atlantic Avenue.

The victim told cops that she put her bag on the floor before trying on a coat at 3:25 pm inside the department store, which is part of the troubled Atlantic Center.

Seconds later, the thief grabbed the unattended bag and fled.

article

Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

Marty’s ‘pole’ numbers are dropping

The Brooklyn Paper

The pole dancing climax to Borough President Markowitz’s State of the Borough address didn’t go over so well — and some critics are saying that Markowitz’s objectification of women can no longer be ignored.

“I just didn’t think it was necessary,” said Chinita Pointer, who was honored at the Feb. 4 speech for running the non-profit music program, the Noel Pointer Foundation.
...

Markowitz couldn’t resist showing off photos of him with glittery celebrities Beyonce, Brooklyn Decker and Christy Turlington, who were included in the speech for eye candy.

“Tall women have a thing for short, chubby guys,” cracked Markowitz.

The joke was anything but isolated to this one speech.

Markowitz also made some frat house-groaners about Beyonce at the Atlantic Yards ground-breaking ceremony in March, which was attended by her hubby, the rapper Jay-Z.

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NoLandGrab: It's time for him to go.

Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

Freddy’s Bar – Back From The Dead

LocalBozo.com
by Alan Smithee

For decades, Freddy’s Bar was the Brooklyn dive bar to grab a drink and enjoy some excellent live music in their back room performance space. They enjoyed a legendary run, until the city struck a deal with real estate impresserio, Bruce Ratner. The bold deal would see the area between Prospect Heights and Atlantic terminal transformed into a gigantic sports complex. The people who owned the property in the targeted build zone were in for a world of pain. Because of New York’s strict eminent domain laws, they would have no problem forcing people out of their homes and businesses, with no legal recourse at all.

Freddy’s owner’s and its patrons fought tooth and nail to keep their business alive. This was their neighborhood, and their bar, and they would stop at nothing to make sure it stayed that way. The owners took it as far as possible, and even installed chains on the bar for the patrons, and the workers to lock themselves in once the bulldozers started rolling down the streets. They called it “The Chain of Justice.” This was an old school protest competing against new school capitalism and land grabbing. To have dedication to one’s place of business, and watering hole is as American as you can get. After the battle with Ratner and the city ended, sadly Freddy’s ended as well. A huge blowout party was held on its final night of business, leaving fans of the famed bar, and its employees empty. How could the city they love treat a landmark with such disrespect?

But like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Freddy’s Bar has returned. No, they are not at their original location that they inhabited for nearly a hundred years dating back to the Prohibition era. But they are back and that’s all that matters. Now located on 5th Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets, in a neighborhood called South Slope or Greenwood Heights, Freddy’s has found a new home. While it is true that a new location cannot recreate what was once a well worn in dive, where patrons called a home away from home for so many years, the owners of the new Freddy’s want everyone to know that they have taken the time to carefully plan out the layout of the new location. They have utilized several reclaimed pieces, in order to be as green and forward thinking as possible, which also helps the place to have a unique lived in look. The bar will also feature art installations from local artists, and live performances be it music or comedy in their new back room.

In our ever changing and yuppified city, we need places like Freddy’s to thrive. Even if the original home is no longer here, I am happy that the owners and bartenders picked themselves up by their boot straps and rebuilt something that so many loved.

link

Related coverage...

Grub Street New York, Freddy’s Reopens, ‘On Steroids,’ in South Slope

...owner Donald O’Finn described the new place (with its flat-screens instead of vintage TVs) as “Freddy’s on steroids.” Meanwhile, a regular laments that a four-inch stiletto from the old location (“the dirtiest, nastiest thing of all time”) has been cleaned up and covered in glitter, but worry not — a section of the old bathroom wall is on display, and the new bathroom is already getting tagged.

Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

Notes From Our February 5th Screening

Iron Mule Blog

Despite the frigid rainy ickiness outside, it was "On with the show!" inside the 92Y Tribeca last Saturday, as a packed house piled in for another great night of short comedy films with Iron Mule.

We started off the night with a sneak peak at prolific host Victor Varnado's latest comedy concert film, "Tell Your Friends," which will hopefully be coming to a theater or cable channel near you soon. Then Victor and host Jay Stern introduced our guest judge for the evening, Michael Galinsky. Mike shared the trailer for his latest documentary, "Battle of Brooklyn," a 7-years-in-the-making document of the controversial Atlantic Yards project. It wasn't very funny, but fortunately Mike was, so he was allowed to stay.

link

Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

February 7, 2011

Markowitz fined for using staff lawyer to close home purchase, had denied doing so until confronted with documents; BP's travel record gets a look

Atlantic Yards Report

Tsk, tsk, Marty.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, according to the Times's CityRoom post, Brooklyn Borough Chief Fined for Conflict of Interest, has been fined $2,000 by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board for using Chief of Staff Carlo Scissura as his lawyer for a home-buying transaction in 2009. Scissura was fined $1100.

Scissura, in response to Markowitz's request, had recommended Leslie Lombard, who worked at his law firm. But Lombard was on maternity leave and Scissura replaced her. Markowitz didn't get a bill until the COIB began investigating.

The Daily News, in Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz slapped with $2K fine for using work lawyer for home deal, adds to the story it broke, pointing to some duplicity:

Markowitz initially denied that Scissura had represented him - then claimed, when presented with contradicting documents, that the law applies only to lawyers working for the city as attorneys, not as chiefs of staffs.

Beyond conflicts, travel

The Wall Street Journal, in its report, links to a 7/21/10 report, Officials Disclose Freebies, Debt, that stars the BP:

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz accepted more free travel than any other elected official in New York City last year, journeying with his wife to Turkey and the Netherlands, records released Tuesday showed.

Mr. Markowitz, and his wife, Jamie, visited the Netherlands March 18-21, 2009, and they spent Nov. 13-17 in Turkey. Each trip cost between $5,000 and $39,999, and in both cases the couple allowed others to pay their way, records show.

link

NoLandGrab: WE DON'T BELIEVE A WORD coming out of Marty's pie hole.

Posted by eric at 11:39 PM

The 40 Percent Nation

The New York Times
by David Brooks

Egypt? Or Brooklyn?

...in 2002, Thomas Carothers gathered the evidence and wrote a seminal essay called “The End of the Transition Paradigm,” pointing out that moving away from dictatorship does not mean moving toward democracy. Many countries end up in a “gray zone,” with semi-functioning governments and powerful oligarchies.

Sound familiar?

So I’ve been reading reports from the United Nations, the World Bank and other groups to see what they say about the strength of Egypt’s institutions. These reports give the impression that Egypt is a place where people are trying to lead normal, middle-class lives, but they are frustrated at every turn by overstaffed and lethargic bureaucracies.

Uh huh.

But corruption levels are around the global average, which is to say, corruption is rife. It takes 218 days to get a building permit to put up a warehouse, with all the attending bribes. The effort to privatize state-owned enterprises turned into an enrichment scheme for cronies of the regime. For example, only two families were allowed to bid for the state-run cinema company.

Oh, it is Egypt. In Brooklyn, two families were allowed to bid for the state-run railyard, but only one bid really counted.

article

Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

News from the (delayed) Construction Update: ramps on Dean Street, demolitions continue, long-term visual mockup of "weathered steel façade panels"

Atlantic Yards Report

As attention falls off from Atlantic Yards, does the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the agency in charge of oversight, slack off?

The Atlantic Yards Construction Update--aka two-week look-ahead--dated January 31 (embedded below) was sent out four days late, on February 3.

Why, I asked ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell, who responded February 4, "ESDC attempts to distribute the Construction Updates every other Monday. On rare occasions there are delays if construction issues are still in flux."

Given that the updates come from Forest City Ratner, there's a good chance that the ESDC simply had its hands tied.

article

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

STATE OF THE BOROUGH: MARTY MARKOWITZ HAS ISSUES

F**ked in Park Slope

I'm starting to think it's time for our unmedicated esteemed borough president Marty Markowitz to retire to Century Village or Naples, FL where he can ride his tricycle in peace.

Don't we have term limits around here? His schtick is getting old.
...

He talked about a few controversial projects without actually mentioning that they're pissing a lot of people off: Atlantic Yards and the expansion of the Gateway Mall (yeah, the Walmart one), to name a couple.

article

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

A Peek Into the Nets' Future... Through a Locker Room Door

NetsDaily

"NetIncome," the Leni Riefenstahl of the New Jersey Nets, was "permitted" to "take an exclusive peek inside the team's plans for what officials are calling 'best in class' locker room facilities."

Now there's an exclusive.

The design is a big deal for Mikhail Prokhorov, say associates and he doesn't want it to be just "state of the art".

"I would say best in class," is how Nets' technology consultant Milton] Lee describes the goal, borrowing the phrase that's printed on the back of his and every Net official's business cards. "Prokhorov and (Bruce) Ratner, because he's the majority owner of the arena, have been consistent in that they want this to be best in class."

article

NoLandGrab: "Best in class?" Maybe the 15-37 Nets should stamp that on the back of their jerseys. Or maybe Bruce Ratner should hang it on a banner on the Atlantic Center mall.

Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

February 6, 2011

A random, off-kilter Atlantic Yards reference in fiction

Atlantic Yards Report

If Amy Sohn's dishy novel Prospect Park West offers some amusing references to Atlantic Yards, Adam Dunn's recently published Rivers of Gold, a dystopian, near-future (2013) fictional vision of New York, pushes AY off kilter:

Within forty minutes, Dr. Zuckerman's Z was on its way to the police impound on Eleventh Avenue (a half-cleared yard left fallow since the city's Atlantic Yards renovation project collapsed in '08) where it would stay lost for a month.

Well, Atlantic Yards isn't a city project, nor a renovation project, nor located on Eleventh Avenue in Manhattan, nor collapsed.

But it must have a dystopian ring of some sorts.

Here's an enthusiastic review of the book from the Washington Post.

link

Posted by steve at 8:32 PM

Brutally weird: Post has Lewis, James jump on Gilmartin's "cleaning lady" comment; all ignore the bigger EB-5 story

Atlantic Yards Report

Brutally weird.

The most extensive recent coverage of Forest City Ratner's astounding attempt to gain $249 million in financing by essentially selling green cards to Chinese millionaires (under the EB-5 visa program) comes via a manufactured flap over political correctness.

The New York Post, in Atlantic Yards' foot-in-mouth veep, reports:

A top official overseeing Brooklyn’s $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project is being accused by one of its biggest supporters of making insensitive comments about a green-card program being used to raise funds for the cash-strapped plan.

Former ACORN boss Bertha Lewis — who was largely responsible for garnering key grass-roots support for the planned Prospect Heights development that includes an NBA arena – told the Post yesterday that she wants developer Forest City Ratner’s vice-president MaryAnne Gilmarten to apologize for comments reportedly made at a recent Manhattan public event.

"As citizen Gilmarten, I’m not sure how I feel about it. This is not your cleaning lady’s green card program," Gilmarten is quoted in the New York Observer saying while speaking at the New York Commercial Real Estate Woman Inc. event.

She was referring to the federal "EB-5" program, which gives green cards to investors of at least $500,000 in US job-creating projects. FCR expects to raise $249 million through 498 Chinese and South Korean nationals buying their way into America.

Why is she dragging cleaning ladies into this?" Lewis said. "It makes me sad because my aunts and grandmother were cleaning women, and there's a lot of educated people in this country who are cleaning women.

"What is she saying? That rich people can buy their way into the country but the heck with the poor?"

...

And if Lewis has a problem with rich people buying into the country she should not be criticizing Gilmartin's comments so much as criticizing:

  • the existence of the program in the first place;
  • the willingness of Forest City Ratner's partner, the New York City Regional Center, to misrepresent the project, and
  • the willingness of both parties to claim job creation--the quid pro quo for green cards--when no new jobs would be created and they're stretching the spirit if not the letter of the law, since they're crediting Chinese millionaires with jobs created by money allocated long before the investment immigration program started.

Or, how about the "foot in mouth Beep," given that Borough President Marty Markowitz claimed, on video, that Brooklyn was "1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, A press release from Council Member James regarding Gilmartin's "disparaging" of cleaning ladies in comments on EB-5 visa program

Below, a press release regarding what I consider to be a sideshow in the ongoing story of Forest City Ratner's effort to raise cheap capital from foreign millionaires under the EB-5 program.

Council Member Letitia James Responds To Disparaging Comments About Working-Class Women from Forest City Ratner Vice President

New York, NY— At a recent New York Commercial Real Estate Women event MaryAnne Gilmartin, Vice President of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), addressed the effect foreign investment has had on the project’s development. Specifically, she commented on the EB-5 visa, which is a federal visa that is awarded to foreign individuals who invest anywhere from $500,000 to $1M to business based in the United States (a minimum of $500,000 in areas designated “high risk”).

Ms. Gilmartin expressed uneasiness with the program, but conceded that this kind of financing may be the only way to move forward with Atlantic Yards development. She was quoted by the New York Observer as stating, “This is not your cleaning lady's green card program.”

“The fact that Ms. Gilmartin understands the troubling implication that foreign individuals (with enough money to fund high-cost development) could simply purchase green cards is reassuring. However, it is highly disappointing that Ms. Gilmartin felt comfortable disparaging ‘cleaning ladies’ as a working-class group— especially in a room full of commercial real estate experts who are very familiar with the economic and social issues raised by big development in urban areas,” said Council Member Letitia James. “Women who clean homes are doing so to provide a better life for themselves and their families, so that their children can afford the luxury real estate others take for granted. These comments disrespect the dignity of working-class people, who Forest City Ratner and the Atlantic Yards project have displaced to create their version of an ‘urban oasis’. One that apparently doesn’t include cleaning ladies.”

Because of the high-costs associated with the EB-5 visa, some consider the program one that encourages foreign investors to “buy” green cards. Applicants to the program have ballooned from 1,031 in 2009, to 1,995 in 2010. This is almost four times the number of applicants than in 2006. In addition to FCR, the Brooklyn Navy Yard has followed suit in adopting the program, hoping to finance $125M in development funding.

Posted by steve at 8:18 PM

Blighted Area? These Business Owners Beg to Differ

New York Times
By Charles Bagli

Damon Bae, the owner of a commercial laundry, is discovering firsthand what New Yorkers have learned from the Atlantic Yards fight: Your property is not safe once the government decides that it's better for a well-connected developer to have it.

But Mr. Bae, and more than a half-dozen other small-business owners in this neighborhood bound by Second and Third Avenues, from 125th to 127th Streets, are waging an uphill fight to hold onto their property. The Bloomberg administration has so far moved successfully in the courts to condemn six acres on behalf of a big developer for a $700 million East Harlem Media, Entertainment and Cultural Center.

“I think that the city is going to take away our properties and businesses so they can make another developer with deeper pockets a lot of money,” Mr. Bae said.

...

Many of the business owners knew that a large stretch of the area was included in a 150-block urban renewal effort that was approved in 1968 but never quite materialized. But property owned by at least three of the businessmen was not included in the renewal zone, at least not until 2008, when the Bloomberg administration added those parcels to the mix.

At the time, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hailed the creation of jobs and housing, and the city justified taking the private property by declaring the area “blighted” — a description that Mr. Bae and the other business owners found galling.

The city owned most of the land, allowing it to sit fallow for decades while turning down Mr. Bae and other business owners who wanted to buy parcels to expand their operations.

“It’s artificially manufactured blight,” Mr. Bae said.

link

Posted by steve at 7:58 PM

February 5, 2011

Will mystery of Ridge Hill be explained when case goes to trial in June?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Journal News reports, in Jereis, Annabi corruption trial set for June, that former Yonkers Democratic City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and former Yonkers Republican Chairman Zehy Jereis will face a federal trial in June regarding allegations that Annabi switched her vote to green-light Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project, after taking bribes from her cousin Jereis.

FCR, which hired Jereis for an apparent no-show job not long after he organized a meeting with Annabi and she switched her vote, paid him $60,000. FCR was not indicted and issued a statement indicating that it had been told by federal prosecutors that neither it nor its employees was a "target" of the investigation.

As I wrote last March, that suggests either that prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to indict the developer and/or that they believe the developer's cooperation justifies not seeking its indictment.

Thus, FCR not only escaped sanction for some questionable behavior--it has never explained or justified the no-show contract--it also can continue to benefit from a zoning change that was, according to prosecutors, illicitly gained.

link.

Posted by steve at 3:00 PM

The Brooklyn brand proceeds, to gin

Atlantic Yards Report

Marty Markowitz, in his State of the Borough address Thursday, had a section about the Brooklyn Brand:

It has been clear for several years that Brooklyn is now a brand unto itself. But what does that brand represent? NBC news anchor Brian Williams had a humorous take on the concept during a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show with Joe Scarborough. Let’s take a look.

[Video of Brian Williams joking about New York Times discovering Brooklyn]

He’s right. If you’re looking for anything artisanal, sustainable, locally grown or made by hand, Brooklyn’s got it. And now, so does the world. The Brooklyn brand is available from the shores of Manhattan, home of the Brooklyneer bar, which carries Brooklyn-made foods, to Tokyo, where you’ll find the new Brooklyn Parlor, serving up beers from Brooklyn Brewery and a genuine Brooklyn Burger.

And they “absolutely” value the Brooklyn brand in Sweden, home of Absolut vodka. When the company decided to market a New York-themed vodka, they didn’t choose Absolut Bronx (sorry, Ruben!) or Absolut Queens. Nope, they went with Absolut Brooklyn, using a bottle designed by Brooklyn’s own Spike Lee.

And yesterday the New York Times told us about the battle between two Brooklyn gins, Breuckelen and Brooklyn:

Manhattan may have a namesake cocktail, but Brooklyn is playing muse to two rival gins. And the existence of both Mr. Santos’s Brooklyn gin and Mr. Estabrooke’s Breuckelen gin provides an unusually clear — you could even say distilled — example of just how much the symbolism of that borough has changed and just how potent its branding potential is perceived to be.

Tellingly, neither man has deep roots in Brooklyn, or called it home until the last few years. Brooklyn these days is an identity divorced from ancestry or actual time served.

So maybe it won't be quite as hard to sell the Brooklyn Nets. But those "brownstone" and "loft" suites will remain a stretch.

link

Posted by steve at 2:55 PM

“You should let the marketplace decide,” Bloomberg asserts, regarding Wal-Mart; sound familiar?

Atlantic Yards Report

From yesterday's New York Times, headlined Wal-Mart Skips Council Hearing as Impact of Stores Is Assailed:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has said that New York should be open to any legal business that wants to come here, was asked by a reporter on Thursday about the hearing and if it was in the city’s best interest to let Wal-Mart set up shop.

“You should let the marketplace decide,” he said. “Anybody who has tried to manage the marketplace, it has not turned out very well. I think the Soviet Union is as good an example as you’d ever need of that.”

Bloomberg has similarly suggested that the market for sports teams is a free market, which, of course, it's not. It's a cartel, with limited supply.

And that leads localities to offer subsidies and other support to encourage them, such as an inside track on valuable public property like development rights to a railyard.

That's why Bloomberg’s identification with the developer, nearly 18 months before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s belated RFP for its Vanderbilt Yard, was clear in this verbal slip: "Then, we’ve got to find a find a ways--Bruce Ratner’s got to find a ways--to build this complex in Brooklyn."

link

Posted by steve at 2:50 PM

Atlantic Yards' foot-in-mouth veep

New York Post
by Rich Calder

A top official overseeing Brooklyn’s $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project is being accused by one of its biggest supporters of making insensitive comments about a green-card program being used to raise funds for the cash-strapped plan.

Former ACORN boss Bertha Lewis — who was largely responsible for garnering key grass-roots support for the planned Prospect Heights development that includes an NBA arena – told the Post yesterday that she wants developer Forest City Ratner’s vice-president MaryAnne Gilmarten to apologize for comments reportedly made at a recent Manhattan public event.

"As citizen Gilmarten, I’m not sure how I feel about it. This is not your cleaning lady’s green card program," Gilmarten is quoted in the New York Observer saying while speaking at the New York Commercial Real Estate Woman Inc. event.

She was referring to the federal "EB-5" program, which gives green cards to investors of at least $500,000 in US job-creating projects. FCR expects to raise $249 million through 498 Chinese and South Korean nationals buying their way into America.

Why is she dragging cleaning ladies into this?" Lewis said. "It makes me sad because my aunts and grandmother were cleaning women, and there's a lot of educated people in this country who are cleaning women.

"What is she saying? That rich people can buy their way into the country but the heck with the poor?"

NoLandGrab: Yes, Bertha, that's exactly what your friend, Maryanne, is saying. Do you have a problem with that?

link

Posted by steve at 2:23 PM

Markowitz Puts on a State of the Borough Spectacle

Carroll Gardens Patch
By Patrick Wall

Vesti la giubba, Marty.

But though the long speech was full of gimmicks and gags, the borough president didn’t avoid controversial topics, touching upon bicycle lanes, the Atlantic Yards project and the decision this week to close more than two dozen city schools.

...

As expected, the borough president also lauded the Atlantic Yards development, which he said would be an economic boon to Brooklyn.

“After seven years of planning and legal fights,” Markowitz said, “construction on the first phase of the Atlantic Yards project finally got underway, which means thousands of union jobs and an anchor for a rejuvenated downtown.”

The multi-billion dollar Atlantic Yards project, which will include commercial space, thousands of apartments and a basketball arena, has inspired passionate debate – and a few lawsuits – since it was first introduced in 2003.

link

Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Eagle, Marty’s Speech: It Wasn’t Just Bikes
By Raanan Geberer

He largely avoided controversy. Indeed, he mentioned several news developments — such as the Atlantic Yards project, the conversion of the old Domino sugar factory and the planned redevelopment of the Tobacco Warehouse by Arts at St. Ann’s — without saying that they were contentious issues. The one area in which he came out swinging (and, unfortunately, the only area that some news outlets and blogs chose to report) was the issue of bike lanes, specifically the expanded one on Prospect Park West. His entrance atop the “senior bike” on a synthetic-turf “bike lane” was meant to call attention to the subject in a humorous way.

Posted by steve at 2:11 PM

Freddy's Bar and Backroom Re-Opens In South Park Slope

WNYC
By Abbie Fentress Swanson

South Park Slope residents walking down 5th Avenue don't seem to notice the new and improved Freddy’s Bar and Backroom. But inside, the reopening of Freddy's means a lot to bartender Eva Korzan. "This used to be the bathroom graffiti art of the old bar that an artist took, re-interpreted and etched it into granite," Korzan says, pointing to a piece of stone on a wall inside the bar. "It’s post-modernism at its best."

Korzan did everything at the original Freddy's at the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue—from tending bar to booking live music to balancing the books. For more than 70 years, the dive art bar sat on that Prospect Heights corner. But after the city gave the green light to the largest development in Brooklyn's history, the Atlantic Yards project, Freddy's found itself in a stand-off with the project's developer Bruce Ratner. The workers went so far as to chain themselves to Freddy's mahogany bar.

The manager then was Donald O'Finn. He says after seven years of fighting, the bar's owner Frank Yost cut a deal with Ratner. "We got steamrolled by millionaires and politicians, and the most amazing thing is how the community came out to support us," O'Finn says. "We almost won and we almost beat them and we should have. But we almost did, which was amazing. It was definitely a David and Goliath story."

link

Related coverage...

AP via the Wall Street Journal, NYC bar, focus of eminent-domain fight, reopens

The Brooklyn watering hole where patrons chained themselves to the bar during the eminent-domain battle over the Atlantic Yards project has been reborn in a new home.

Freddy's Bar and Backroom is officially reopening Friday in south Park Slope. It's about two miles from the Prohibition-era locale that became a focal point of community ire over the demolition of local homes and businesses. The 22-acre project includes an 18,000-seat Nets arena.

The new owners are all former staff members. They brought some items from the old spot, including a red mahogany bar, some old booths and the chains that patrons used to chain themselves in protest as seizure of the property approached.

City.com, Freddy’s Bar Re-Opens in South Slope

Freddy’s, a beloved dive bar shoved out of Dean Street by Bruce Ratner’s dick, gets reborn today in South Slope in the old Ellis bar space at 627 5th Ave (between 17th and 18th).

It joins a friendly little family of bars—literally: the owners of Black Horse, South, Buttermilk, et al. are all best buds and frequent each others’ places…which you might notice if you also liquor up there. It’s really kind of cute. I imagine Freddy’s will do the same, or risk shunning by the in-crowd. The new owners are former employees of the old place, but they’ve got the same name and a lot of the old interior (including the “chains of justice” used in the Atlantic Yards fight).

Anyway, a big old dive party happens today, Friday the 4th, with music, art and probably a lot of people slant rhyming “Bruce” with a female hygienic device.

Metropolis (Wall Street Journal Blog*, A Displaced Dive Bar, Reborn in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Based, Freddy’s Rises Again

Here's Park Slope, Freddy's 2.0 Opens Tonight

Fucked in Park Slope, Freddy's Bar Re-Opens in South Slope

Posted by steve at 1:41 PM

February 4, 2011

Inside the new Freddy’s Bar!

The Brooklyn Paper

You can kick the bar out of the Atlantic Yards footprint, but you can't take the Atlantic Yards fight out of the bar.

It was almost like Freddy’s.

The Prohibition-era tavern that was torn down last year to make room for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project reopened in a new space in the South Slope on Thursday night, one day before the public grand opening.

Friends of the doomed bar, which lost its battle against the use of eminent domain, flocked to former bartender Donald O’Finn’s new joint near 17th Street — about two miles away from the old haunt, yet seemingly so close.

This version of Freddy’s has the same bar, a lot of the same barflies, and O’Finn’s wacky video loops. He’s now a co-owner.
...

Christening the new venue were longtime fans, including Atlantic Yards activist Steve de Seve; and country music legend Andy Friedman, who spent many a night playing in Freddy’s Backroom (and singing a song about the bar’s demise).

“The original was great, but I’m looking forward to coming here and playing a lot,” said Friedman.

The official opening is tonight.

Freddy’s Bar [627 Fifth Ave. between 17th and 18th streets in Park Slope, (718) 768-8131].

article

Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

Markowitz uses new Strategic Policy Statement for tendentious, erroneous defense of his Atlantic Yards advocacy

Atlantic Yards Report

Does anyone know how to start the impeachment process?

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's new 2011 STRATEGIC POLICY STATEMENT [PDF] contains, among other things, a vigorous, tendentious, and erroneous defense of his Atlantic Yards advocacy, suggesting that the project would make use of an "abandoned rail-yard" and knit together neighborhoods rather than divide them.

It deserves several footnotes.

It starts:

I’m sometimes called a cheerleader or even a pitch-man for Brooklyn. One idea that I pitched on behalf of our borough was a long-held dream of mine that I’m thrilled is now definitely coming to fruition—my promise to bring major league sports back to Brooklyn. As a boyhood fan whose heart was broken when the Brooklyn Dodgers left for "La-La Land" in 1958, I wanted to bring that excitement back to the kids and families of Brooklyn. Nothing brings people together like music, food, religion and sports. I approached Forest City Ratner and expressed my desire for a NBA team in Brooklyn. Now all of Brooklyn awaits the arrival of the Brooklyn Nets! The plans evolved for an arena, retail and residential housing, including, at my insistence, 2,500 affordable units, located on the City’s third-largest transit hub, making modern use of an abandoned rail-yard and knitting together previously divided neighborhoods. The Atlantic Yards project will form a new cultural center befitting the nation’s fourth largest "city" of 2.6 million.

Though surely some Brooklynites await a new team, the tepid response from an invited audience at Markowitz's annual pronouncements during his State of the Borough address undermines his hyperbole about how "all of Brooklyn" awaits the Nets.

The railyard was and remains a working railyard to store and service trains; that's why Forest City Ratner had to build a temporary railyard and is supposed to build a permanent replacement.

There would be 2250, not 2500 subsidized apartments, but a good quantity--perhaps half--wouldn't be that affordable to the "real Brooklyn," as defined by the Daily News suggested.

Nor would superblocks knit neighborhoods; rather, insertion of new streets, as in the proposed UNITY Plan, might do so.

And "plans evolved" from a promise for 10,000 office jobs in four towers around the arena. Now just one of the towers is slated for offices, and indefinitely delayed.

article

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

At State of the Borough, Markowitz makes theater out of bike lane flap, touts "jobs, jobs, jobs," gets tepid response to Atlantic Yards salute

Atlantic Yards Report

It was an invitation-only audience, and the response to the Atlantic Yards arena was mostly tepid (as I'll describe below), which suggests that, when Markowitz makes the area more of a focal point, either in 2012 or 2013, he'll make sure to import a pro-arena contingent.
...

Markowitz said, "I also want to wish everyone a joyous Chinese New Year—'gung hay fat choy!' —happy Year of the Rabbit!" Of course, he made no mention of his shilling for Forest City Ratner's effort to recruit Chinese investors seeking green cards.

And while he kept talking about "jobs, jobs, jobs," he strained to connect that priority--“job one,” he asserted, for elected officials--to his favorite project.

His Atlantic Yards segment was brief:

Seriously, though, 2010 was the year that one of the grandest visions for Brooklyn finally became a reality. After seven years of planning and seven years of legal battles, construction on the first phase of the Atlantic Yards project finally got underway, which means, in the future, thousands of union jobs and an anchor for a rejuvenated Downtown.

That line drew no reaction, typical of past addresses. He didn't mention that jobs fall far short of expectations.

He continued:

Beginning in the fall of 2012, the Barclays Center will not only be the home of the Brooklyn Nets, who will mop up the floor with the Manhattan Knicks, it will also host the kind of events you used to have to leave Brooklyn to enjoy. But it’s not just about the arena; the affordable housing built nearby will help make sure that Brooklyn remains proud home to everyone from everywhere.

The reference to beating "the Manhattan Knicks" drew a brief burst of applause, less than for many other people and places mentioned. The other lines drew silence.

No one from Forest City Ratner or the Nets were present to take credit.

article

Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

Liliuokalani trust objects to Big Isle housing project

The trust fears negative consequences from the project that could affect the existing community

Honolulu Star Advertiser
by Andrew Gomes

A planned community with 2,330 homes initiated by the state to produce work-force housing on the Big Island is generating concerns and opposition that threaten to derail the project.

The estimated $734 million master-planned community called Kamakana Villages at Keahuolu has been in the works for several years, and faces a key hearing today in Kona where the state Land Use Commission is expected to either stop or advance the project.

Developer Forest City Hawaii LLC petitioned the LUC in September to reclassify the 272-acre site near Kailua-Kona from agricultural to urban use.

But the former owner of the land has raised objections over the use of the site and whether impacts from increased traffic will sufficiently be mitigated.

The Queen Liliuokalani Trust, which sold the project site and adjacent land to the state in 1992 under threat of condemnation, has raised its objections with Hawaii County officials, in arguments before the LUC and in a lawsuit filed recently to halt LUC proceedings.

"Please do not misunderstand our intentions," LeeAnn Crabbe, trust vice president, told the Hawaii County Council in written testimony last week. "We support affordable housing and job creation in this community. What we cannot support is the promise of affordable housing and jobs at the expense to others in this community that will ultimately bear the costs."

The trust fears that Forest City won't contribute its fair share toward traffic improvements. The developer insists it will, and said it's negotiating such agreements with the county and the state Department of Transportation.

article

NoLandGrab: Affordable housing and jobs? What, no hoops? Here's one thing our Hawaiian friends can take to the bank — when Forest City "insists it will" carry out some promise, you can pretty much write it off.

Posted by eric at 9:29 AM

February 3, 2011

Please give us all the facts next time, Lizzie

The Sports ITeam Blog [NYDailyNews.com]
by Michael O'Keeffe

There's a good story - "Boom Town and Bust City: A Tale of Two New Yorks" - in The Nation's Feb. 14 edition that examines how the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer thanks to the Great Recession.

But author Lizzie Ratner fails to note that her family has been one of the winners in the economically anxious times.

Ratner's father is Bruce Ratner, the Nets minority owner and Atlantic Yards developer who has received hundreds of millions of dollars in state and city subsidies and tax breaks. And let's not forget that the MTA sold Bruce Ratner prime real estate in central Brooklyn for the Barclays Center for a bargain-basement price - $150 million for land that was appraised at almost $215 million.

Lizzie Ratner, by the way, has been listed as an officer in Forest City Ratner-related companies involved with Atlantic Yards. So has her uncle, Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Ratner has been a hero to many people who care about civil and human rights, but you have to wonder why he's opposed to throwing Palestinians out of the West Bank but does’t seem to care when Brooklyn residents are thrown out of their homes for a basketball arena.

So when you're standing on a dirty, overcrowded subway car, when you have to pay yet even more money for your Metrocard, when you read that Gov. Cuomo is hacking education and Medicaid funding, it may be some consolation that Lizzie Ratner of The Nation knows the score.

link

NoLandGrab: Michael O'Keeffe is being too generous — Papa Bruce is paying only $100 million for the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard. And when paying in one lump sum became a little onerous for Ratner, the MTA sweetened his already syrupy deal by allowing him 22 years (at a below-market interest rate) in which to pay it off.

Posted by eric at 10:51 PM

Jereis, Annabi corruption trial set for June

The Journal News
by Timothy O'Connor

A federal judge has set a June 20 trial date for the two remaining defendants in the Yonkers public-corruption case connected to the $600 million Ridge Hill development.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon set the trial date for jury selection in Manhattan in the case against former Yonkers Democratic City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and former Yonkers GOP Chairman Zehy Jereis.

They are accused of conspiring to sell her voteon the controversial Ridge Hill development, a massive mixed-use complex now under construction.

Annabi and Jereis were indicted in January 2010 along with politically connected lawyer Anthony Mangone in the case. It also was alleged that Annabi's vote was for sale in the lower-profile Longfellow School redevelopment in Yonkers.

Mangone pleaded guilty Nov. 29, saying he paid Jereis tens of thousands of dollars that he thought was supposed to go to Annabi to change her vote in favor of the Longfellow project. Mangone represented the developer in the proposal, Milio Management. The project never got off the ground.
...

Federal prosecutors accuse Annabi of switching her vote on Ridge Hill at the behest of Jereis.

Annabi had opposed the development, even joining a lawsuit filed by other council members to block the development. But she changed her vote July 11, 2006, casting the decisive vote in favor of the project.

That came after Jereis arranged a meeting with representatives of the developer, Forest City Ratner, and Annabi, prosecutors said.

Jereis, who is alleged to have paid Annabi more than $160,000 in bribes over several years, received a $60,000 consulting job with the developer after Annabi changed her vote, federal prosecutors said.

Annabi and Jereis have denied the charges.

article

NoLandGrab: Sure, Jereis may just be a dummy, since a $60,000 consulting gig doesn't begin to cover $160,000 in bribes. But something tells us there's more to this story, and this ought to be one very entertaining trial. Stay tuned for June 20th.

Posted by eric at 10:39 PM

Flashback, 2003: “What happens if he builds the arena & one office tower & says, 'I can’t get the banks to lend me all that money for the housing'?"

Atlantic Yards Report

Shortly after the Atlantic Yards plan was announced, the 12/22/03 Brooklyn Paper, in an article headlined BULLDOZED: Nets arena would skirt city review [PDF], reported on the questionable--and never-implemented--plan to finance the project with tax-increment financing, using taxes the project would generate.

The paper quoted a skeptic:

Neil deMause, co-author of “Field of Schemes,” a book delving into “how the great stadium swindle turns public money into private profit,” is not convinced.

DeMause, who lives in Flatbush, says that the city is actually losing money on the Ratner arena plan because people have a limited amount of entertainment dollars. Money spent at the Nets arena means money not spent at the movies or shopping, which would generate taxes free and clear for the city.

“The worry is that he’s talking about scaled development,” deMause said. “What happens if he builds the arena and one office tower and then says, ‘I can’t get the banks to lend me all that money for the housing?’”

(Emphasis added)

That latter warning remained true no matter the financing scheme.

The timetable

And now we know that the chances of building the project on the timetable announced are nonexistent, with the 25-year outside date seeming more likely.

Even Bruce Ratner acknowledged it last September, stating, despite evidence to the contrary, of the ten-year timetable, "It was never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in.”

article

NoLandGrab: As DDDB says, "You gotta hand it to those Ratner folks, they are all about integrity!"

Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

FCR's Gilmartin slightly queasy about selling green cards, but not about misrepresentations made to potential investors

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Observer catches up on news that Forest City Ratner has been trying to raise $249 million by "letting foreigners basically buy green cards":

The new-old program came to light this fall, when it turned out that Atlantic Yards' developer Forest City Ratner was using the program to help finance its Atlantic Yards project. But even Forest City VP MaryAnne Gilmarten [sic] seems a little queasy about the program.

"As citizen Gilmarten, I'm not sure how I feel about it," Ms. Gilmarten said at a New York Commerical [sic] Real Estate Women event attended by The Observer a couple of months back. But she continued that with conventional financing channels frozen, the project might otherwise never get built. "This is not your cleaning lady's green card program," she said.

It's curious that Gilmartin--whose name the Observer couldn't get right--feels queasy about the fundamental nature of the program, which, however questionable, at least was a response to similar programs in countries like Canada and Australia.

Misrepresentations and omissions

After all, she apparently doesn't feel queasy about the misrepresentations and lies used to pitch the project to unwary potential investors.

link

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Ratner Exec Says What? "This is not your cleaning lady's green card program."

You gotta hand it to those Ratner folks, they are all about integrity!

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

City to Seize Land in Queens

Eminent-Domain Proceedings Set for Property Holdouts at Willets Point Project

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

New York City is moving to seize property from landowners in Willets Point.

Seeking to kick-start a massive Queens real-estate development project conceived in the boom years, the Bloomberg administration is moving to seize a portion of the site from private property owners.

Next week, the city plans to initiate the eminent-domain process on holdout owners who own property in the first 20-acre phase of the 62-acre project. The city also is planning to solicit bids from developers in the spring, according to city officials.

Known as Willets Point, the development site by Citi Field is slated to ultimately contain more than eight million square feet, with more than 5,000 apartments, a hotel and more than 1.7 million square feet of retail space.

The site currently is filled with junkyards and auto-repair shops, along with some larger industrial properties. The City Council in 2008 approved the use of eminent domain to acquire parcels from holdouts.

The property owners are expected to litigate to block the city action, although New York state laws give the government broad powers to use eminent domain. Similar recent development projects, like the new basketball arena being built at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, have survived court challenges.
...

Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist who represents business owners at the site, says that the eminent domain action was "an absolute disgrace."

article

NoLandGrab: The mercenary Lipsky, like a broken clock, is occasionally right. But he sure sang a different tune when Daniel Goldstein refused to sell to Lipsky's client, Bruce Ratner.

Related coverage...

Curbed, City Ready to Drop an Iron Fist on the Iron Triangle

The Bernie Madoff fallout may have plunged the Mets into financial chaos, but the real fireworks in Queens are about to kick off across the street from the team's stadium. The city is getting ready to start the controversial process of separating property owners from their property at Willets Point, the self-contained village of junkyards and auto-repair shops known as the Iron Triangle.
...

The Journal reports that next week Team Bloomberg will initiate eminent domain proceedings against nine holdouts, with more to come in the future. It's expected that the property owners will fight the government in court, but if you've been paying attention to how these things have gone as of late (Atlantic Yards, Columbia expansion, etc.), let's just say that the Mets stand a better chance of winning the World Series than some guy does of keeping his scrap heap behind the outfield.

Queens Crap, Here comes the Bloomberg steamroller

Crain's NY Business, City plans to seize Willets Point land

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

City cooking up food business hotspot in one of Brooklyn's low-income neighborhoods

NY Daily News

In [today's State of the Borough] speech, Markowitz also will publicly plead with electronics giant Panasonic, whose executives he has already pitched to privately, to move its American headquarters to Brooklyn. He said the company, now based in Secaucus, is eyeing Newark and Brooklyn for a new site - and urged them to move to developer Forest city Ratner's MetroTech or Atlantic Yards developments.

"They would become instantly the flagship company of Brooklyn," Markowitz said.

A Panasonic spokesman said no decisions have been made. A Forest City rep declined to comment.

article

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

February 2, 2011

Really scary carjacking on Atlantic

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

The only thing more monotonous than the daily snow or icefall is the steady drumbeat of crime in Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn malls.

Target trouble

There were two more thefts at the Target in the troubled Atlantic Terminal Mall last week:

• On Jan. 26, security guards told cops that a crook walked out of the store, which is on Atlantic Avenue near Flatbush Avenue, without paying for about $1,700 of fancy electronics.

• Four days later, a crook stole a pretty wallet from a shopper.

The 32-year-old victim told cops she put her wallet in the front pocket of her backpack at 2:30 pm. She soon noticed the pocket was unzipped and her purple, glittery wallet — which was filled with five credit cards — was missing.

article

Posted by eric at 11:15 PM

'Not Your Cleaning Lady's Green Card Program:' $500K Visas Finance U.S. Construction

NY Observer
by Laura Kusisto

Desparate times in the construction industry call for desperate measures. Like letting foreigners basically buy green cards, for example.
...

The new-old program came to light this fall, when it turned out that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner was using the program to help finance its Brooklyn project. But even Forest City VP MaryAnne Gilmarten Gilmartin seems a little queasy about the program.

"As citizen Gilmarten Gilmartin, I'm not sure how I feel about it," Ms. Gilmarten Gilmartin said at a New York Commerical Real Estate Women event attended by The Observer a couple of months back. But she continued that with conventional financing channels frozen, the project might otherwise never get built. "This is not your cleaning lady's green card program," she said.

link

NoLandGrab: Not your what? We don't even know where to begin with how wrong this whole quote is, but the bottom line appears to be this: all's fair when it comes to Bruce Ratner's profit.

And believe it or not, some of us don't even have cleaning ladies.

Posted by eric at 8:58 PM

Atlantic Yards Yes! Everything else No!!

While the new Governor's budget takes huge bites out of just about everything else, it appears to preserve the status-Cuomo for Brooklyn's biggest boondoggle. Money well spent, Bruce Ratner!

The New York Times, With Cuts, Cuomo Offers Shrunken Budget

Declaring New York State “functionally bankrupt,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a $132.9 billion budget on Tuesday that would reduce year-to-year spending for the first time in more than a decade, slash projected spending on education and health care, and slice the budget for state agencies by more than half a billion dollars in the next fiscal year.

Planned spending on Medicaid programs and local school aid would each be cut by $2.85 billion, closing roughly half of a budget gap now estimated at $10 billion, one of the largest in recent history. The likely loss of federal matching funds would roughly double the Medicaid cut, bringing spending down in those programs by about $3 billion more.

2nd Ave. Sagas, Cuomo removes $100M in dedicated transit dollars

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has, as feared, removed $100 million in dedicated funding from the MTA’s budget as part of his effort to close a state spending gap that reaches the billions. For the authority, this is the second year in a row that the state’s chief executive has stripped money intended for downstate transit, and while the MTA says it will not raise fares this year, history is not on the agency’s side.

Basically, the net losses to the MTA will be $100 million overall but such a relatively slim cut was accomplished only through an accounting sleight-of-hand. Essentially, Cuomo is removing $200 million in dedicated operating funds and granted the MTA’s capital fund — with its $10 billion gap — a meager $100 million in economic development money. The loss to the operating side far outpaces the $143 million Gov. David Paterson removed from the budget in late 2009.

NoLandGrab: "Dedicated funding" means that money is specifically allocated to transit, yet the Governor and the Legislature have again managed to pick the lock. The one lock-box that's safecracker-proof, however, appears to be the one around state handouts for Atlantic Yards.

The MTA hasn't helped matters, of course, by selling Bruce Ratner the Vanderbilt Yard for far less than its appraised value, and then allowing Ratner sweetened terms for paying off the sweetheart deal.

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

FCR, according to Wall Street Journal, has gotten $249M commitment in EB-5 funds; video of project pitch shows more lies, Markowitz mugging for camera

Atlantic Yards Report

Some four months after planting news in the Wall Street Journal regarding efforts raise $249 million from immigrant investors seeking green cards, developer Forest City today tells the Journal--well, it's sourced to "people familiar with the effort," who won't go on record--that 498 investors have committed the $249 million sought.

The news is slipped in an overview of the recent popularity of EB-5, headlined Help Fund a Project, and Get a Green Card: Once-Obscure U.S. Program Provides Alternative Financing for Developers, but New Flood of Interest Raises Concerns.

FCR's success is not surprising, given the popularity of basketball in China, the number of Chinese millionaires seeking green cards and the tendency in China, apparently, of doing little due diligence on such EB-5 immigration programs.

Failure of oversight

What is surprising is the failure of the Wall Street Journal, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigraiton Services, the federal agency that oversees EB-5, to look closely.

After all, Reuters in December nailed the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), the private investment fund pitching the project, on several misrepresentations:

  • that investors need not worry about getting green cards
  • that investors would be financing a new arena in Brooklyn for the National Basketball Association's Nets
  • that the government of New York State is involved in the project being presented

And while the NYCRC blamed its foreign agents, I pointed out that such lies, and other misrepresentations, were at the heart of the pitch presented in an NYCRC video and by NYCRC staffers.

Click thru for much, much more.

article

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

Help Fund a Project, and Get a Green Card

Once-Obscure U.S. Program Provides Alternative Financing for Developers, but New Flood of Interest Raises Concerns

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

With bank financing for new construction in short supply, real-estate developers are turning to a federal program that grants green cards to foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 in a project.

The new attention has turned a once-obscure alternative source of funds into a viable route toward development. Use of the 20-year-old program nearly doubled last year, to 1,995 investor applicants in the fiscal year ended last September from 1,031 in the prior year.

In 2006, when the economy was still roaring, there were just 486 applicants, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The program is named EB-5 because it represents a fifth category of employment-based immigration.
...

But amid the downturn, real-estate developers in particular have flocked to it. Perhaps the highest profile user is New York's Forest City Ratner, which is tapping the program for its Nets basketball arena under construction in Brooklyn, part of a larger residential project.

The developers, who have said they are looking to help refinance a loan and build out infrastructure, in recent weeks received final commitments for $249 million from 498 investors, according to people familiar with the effort. Such a sum, which comes at a lower cost than traditional financing, would have been difficult to receive from a bank or other standard lender.

article

NoLandGrab: If Bruce Ratner has indeed secured commitments, he has pulled off yet another in a series of successful Atlantic Yards-related scams.

Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

More details on the curious valuation of future AY development sites for potential immigrant investors

Atlantic Yards Report

Thanks to the website of a South Korean migration consulting firm working with the New York City Regional Center, we now have a few more details on the surprising valuation of the collateral offered to immigrant investors for the Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project.

As I wrote in December, the $542.4 million valuation for the seven development sites, which averages about $179 per buildable square foot, seems overvalued, at least when compared to what Forest City Ratner paid the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for similar (and partly overlapping) development rights over the Vanderbilt Yard.

It may be that Forest City Ratner got a good deal, and that the estimates presented to the potential immigrant investors, given the cost of actually turning that value into cash, were overblown. I queried the real estate firm Massey Knakal, which produced the official estimate of value, but got no response.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, How Bloomberg went to bat for Ratner's effort to gain $249 million in immigrant investor funding

Thanks to the website of an immigration broker in South Korea, we now have some of the documents used to promote the legitimacy of the effort to raise $249 million in EB-5 funds, mainly from Chinese investors, but partly from Korean ones, for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Most of the documents are boilerplate recitations of money committed, though presumably presented as impressive signs of government and corporate commitment to so-called Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project, a curious subset of Atlantic Yards as presented via the EB-5 program for immigrant investors.

Notably, however, one letter, from Mayor Mike Bloomberg, shows how much the city has gone to bat for such a questionable effort.
...

Bloomberg calls the $249 million sought "vital to the initial stages" of Atlantic Yards. However, as state officials admit, the project would go forward with or without the new funding.

Atlantic Yards Report, In South Korea, unlike China, NYCRC promises a dollop of interest to sweeten the Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project

Maybe potential immigrant investors from China really are seen to be dumber, or more desperate.

Remember, the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) promises them zero interest on the $500,000 they would park in the Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project, which is supposed to get them and their families green cards.
...

In South Korea, however, the web site of the Kookmin migration consulting firm shows that investors would earn an annual .25% dividend rate, less than the 1% and 2.5% on two other projects represented by the firm, but at least something.

That would cut slightly into Forest City Ratner's savings on the $249 million loan, which I've estimated at $191 million.

While the NYCRC's efforts have been concentrated in China--a promotional video has Borough President Marty Markowitz claiming "there's nothing better than China and Brooklyn together"--the chart indicates that the firm is seeking 40 of 498 investors from Korea.

Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

For the Nets, a Brooklyn Stars Can’t See

The New York Times
by Harvey Araton

Sounds like we have this Times columnist to blame for the whole Atlantic Yards mess.

There are some in the news media and even N.B.A. sophisticates who didn’t or still don’t see the pragmatism in the Brooklyn transfer because their familiarity with the borough began and ended with Junior’s, if not the Dodgers. Having lived for many years in downtown Brooklyn, I once had to explain to a league official how accessible the arena site at the Atlantic Yards would be by subway and rail and how surrounded it would be by restaurant-rich neighborhoods full of upscale young people with disposable income.

On the other end of the telephone was the longtime Westchester resident David Stern, the N.B.A. commissioner.

If Stern had to be sold on what Brooklyn might become as an alternative to the failed Meadowlands experiment, what can we expect from the league’s reigning prima donnas?

Travis Outlaw isn’t one of them. As a consolation-prize free agent last summer, Outlaw, a 6-foot-9 forward from Starkville, Miss., received a rather generous deal from the Nets: $35 million over five years, at least two to be played in Newark.

Asked Monday night if he and the typical N.B.A. player had a sense of the approximate location of the new arena to Midtown, or to Madison Square Garden, Outlaw shrugged.

“I don’t think guys think it’s too far, but they probably don’t really know if it’s that close or not,” he said.

Told the arena was only about a 15-minute subway ride from the Garden, Outlaw said: “That’s it? That ain’t bad at all. That’s crazy. I didn’t know that at all.”

Of course, most future Nets won’t be inclined to ride the No. 2 train, so Outlaw promptly said, “What about driving?”

article

NoLandGrab What about driving? Yes, that's the problem with siting an arena with thousands of parking spots at Brooklyn's worst intersection.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Times columnist suggests Brooklyn arena would be only 15 minutes from MSG. Nah.

New York Times Sports columnist Harvey Araton thinks the Atlantic Yards arena would be only 15 minutes by subway from Madison Square Garden, but he's off by about 100 percent--it's nearly twice as long a trip, according to HopStop (and likely even longer, given the underground passageway planned).
...

Click on the graphic to enlarge, and see the contradiction.

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

Freddy’s Revenge

Beloved ProHi bar finds a new home in South Slope

New York Press
by Joyce Hanson

"ProHi?"

Dipsomaniacal doomsayers might find it hard to believe that anything good can happen bar-wise. But this month in Park Slope they would be wrong, because Freddy’s is coming back to life Feb. 4.

Yes, that Freddy’s, the brave little dive bar in Prospect Heights that stood up to the wrecking ball of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development ambitions and lost in 2010. The old bar disappeared last May after a seven-year-long fight that gathered artists, musicians, politicos, activists, locals, Freddy’s groupies and good old-fashioned drunks in a united front against eminent domain and The Man.

But the spirit of Freddy’s stayed alive, and the bar is reopening at a new location at 627 5th Ave. That stretch of the avenue now provides prime territory for a proper pub crawl, as Freddy’s joins neighbors including Black Horse Pub, Buttermilk Bar, Sidecar Bar & Grille and its next door neighbor South.

“It’s Freddy’s rebooted,” says Matt Kuhn, who owns the new bar along with Donald O’Finn and Matt Kimmett. All three have a history of managing and bartending Freddy’s going back over a decade when the joint was a cop bar at its original location across the street from the 78th Precinct. When previous owner Frank Yost got his Ratner payoff and then backed out of financing the 5th Avenue location, the new owners scrambled to do all the work that needed doing along with a Freddy’s-friendly community of artists, carpenters, designers and crafts people.

“It’s Freddy’s on steroids,” says O’Finn. “Everybody wants it to be the same Freddy's. They think, ‘Oh, you've got another space. Good. Now you can just move everything from the old space to the new space.’ And I'm like, ‘Well, no, that's not the way it's going to happen. This is going to be so much better.’ Now the inmates run the asylum.”

article

Photo: New York Press

Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

Court hearing scheduled for Thursday, concerning DDDB motion for legal costs, is postponed

Atlantic Yards Report

The hearing, scheduled for Thursday, on a motion by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) to recover its legal costs, has been postponed, with no date yet set.

DDDB wants the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner, and their lawyers, to pay DDDB's legal costs because of the withheld Development Agreement.

link

Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

February 1, 2011

Development of Barclays Center Arena & Atlantic Yards

Via Crain's NY Business

WHEN
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.

WHERE
Cornell Club
6 East 44th Street
Midtown / Park Ave. South, NY 10017
Directions | Subway

DESCRIPTION
MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president, Forest City Ratner Companies, will speak at the B’nai B’rith Real Estate Unit luncheon on Wednesday, February 2, 12:00 noon, at the Cornell Club, 6 East 44th Street. Her topic is “Development of Barclays Center Arena & Atlantic Yards.”

Call Aracelis Kuilan at 212 885 7239 to secure your reservation for the February 2 luncheon. You can also fax her at 212 885-8118, e-mail akuilan@bdo.com. Admission is $60 up to two days in advance and $70 at the door. It is advisable to reserve in advance to secure a place.

There's a separate note on the page that says "this is a free event," which doesn't comport with "$70 at the door." But it does feature an executive from Forest City Ratner, home of "15,000 construction jobs," "2,250 units of affordable housing" and "the arena will open in 2006," which might explain the oxymoronicness. Best to contact the hosts.

link

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

DDDB in court Thursday, seeking sanctions from ESDC/FCR and their lawyers for withholding Development Agreement

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how, last March, Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman criticized the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) “deplorable lack of transparency” and acknowledged that the ESDC’s use of a ten-year timeframe for the project buildout in the Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) was supported “only minimally”?

And in a decision last November, she criticized the ESDC for withholding the Development Agreement, which gives a 25-year outside date to build the project?

The ESDC, in response, issued findings that it wouldn't make a difference in terms of impact. The two coalitions bringing suit, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks, may be in court later this month challenging those findings.

Legal costs sought, hearing Thursday

Before then, DDDB, but not BrooklynSpeaks, has filed a motion to require the ESDC and FCR, 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."
...

The fact that BrooklynSpeaks has not joined the motion suggests that such a tactic, which is on the aggressive side, might not sit well with the judge.

Then again, should the ESDC and FCR get away with the failure to disclose the Development Agreement?

It seems that, so far, they have been unscathed and the longer the case lingers, the less likely a judge would be willing to intervene in construction of the arena and ancillary facilities.
...

The Development Agreement, signed 12/23/09, had clearly been delayed. Part of the master closing documents, it was not released until 1/25/10, was six days after a hearing in a case challenging the timetable was heard before Friedman.

It was also about three weeks after the ESDC told me the documents would be made available.

Doesn't that seem a little suspicious?

article

NoLandGrab: Actually, it seems a lot suspicious.

Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

"Resolution... expected over the next few months" regarding arena construction schedule disputes (which were to be resolved in December)

Atlantic Yards Report

Speaking of construction...

Is the Atlantic Yards arena on schedule? Despite happy talk from Bruce Ratner and Brett Yormark in the 1/26/11 New York Times, we can't be certain.

The latest Site Observation Report [PDF], from consultants (to the bond trustee) Merritt & Harris, has been released, dated 1/28/11 and based on a 12/21/10 visit.

The previous report indicated that "there is a meeting anticipated for mid-December to resolve current schedule disputes."

That wasn't enough. Here's the update:

A High Level Arena Summary Construction Schedule, dated July 16, 2010, has been provided for our review. The current schedule, prepared by Hunt, indicates that substantial completion is anticipated to be by August 12, 2012. The Developer is currently reviewing that schedule and is working with Hunt to resolve current schedule disputes. A resolution is expected over the next few months.

link

NoLandGrab: There might be a silver lining, after all, to all this cursed snow.

Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

Atlantic Yards on the Rise

A monthly photo essay documenting the construction of the Atlantic Yards development and the Barclays Center, which the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets will soon call home.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

The first signs of the Barclays Center are beginning to peek up over the blue wall encasing the Atlantic Yards development. Steel girders are looming over Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, and construction workers now can be seen balancing on the beams that will form the structure of the basketball arena that developer Bruce Ratner hopes to open for the 2012-2013 season.

This month, there were developments behind the scenes, too — last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo tapped Cobble Hill native and former Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Kenneth Adams to run the Empire State Development Agency, which oversees the project, along with Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Every month, we'll take a look at the progress the work crews are making. As the Barclays Center and the rest of the development rise along the neighborhood’s border, we'll take note as each beam is raised, each wall is erected and each building demolished.

Click thru for more photos.

link

NoLandGrab: Bruce is probably done demolishing for a while, since he's not going to knock anything down until he's ready to build something other than the arena, which may be a long way off. Or never.

Photo: Kristen V. Brown/Park Slope Patch

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

Carmelo no longer Nets' problem as New Jersey chooses to move on

SI.com
by Chris Mannix

Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe the Nets had been planning for weeks to display photos of the Barclays Center construction in a back hallway of the Prudential Center, a hallway that just happens to be the path that visiting players take on their way to the locker room. That it happened when the Denver Nuggets were in town, well, that was nothing more than a delicious irony.

"That was interesting," Carmelo Anthony said with a chuckle. "That was interesting."

Indeed, it seems even if New Jersey's basketball operations staff has abandoned the pursuit of Anthony -- and multiple sources continue to insist that they have -- minority owner Bruce Ratner's group continues to fuel the flames. It figures. The Barclays Center has been Ratner's Hell's Angels, an interminably long project that has encountered countless roadblocks along the way. Now that the finish line is within reach, sponsors must be wooed, season-ticket packages sold. Those jobs get exponentially easier with a superstar like Anthony on board.

But that's not going to happen. Not now, probably not ever. Ratner's team may not have believed Mikhail Prokhorov when he said the Nets were out of the Anthony sweepstakes. But Anthony did.

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Posted by eric at 10:05 AM