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March 31, 2011

NBA probing Jay-Z’s visit to Kentucky locker room

AP via Yahoo! Sports

An NBA spokesman confirms that the league is investigating Jay-Z’s presence in Kentucky’s locker room after the Wildcats clinched a Final Four berth.

The rapper visited the players after their victory over North Carolina on Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J, home of the Nets. Jay-Z is a part-owner of the team and attended the Nets’ 120-116 loss at New York on Wednesday.

NBA rules prohibit team personnel from having contact with players who are not yet draft eligible, and spokesman Tim Frank told the Associated Press the league is looking into it.

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Posted by eric at 3:01 PM

Forest City reports increased earnings, savings on Nets, small uptick on contracted arena revenue--and departure of Minieri

Atlantic Yards Report

In a press release headlined Forest City Reports Fiscal 2010 Full-Year and Fourth-Quarter Results, Forest City Enterprises yesterday reported record earnings, though those earnings on a per share basis are down.

The parent of Forest City Ratner noted that the sale of the Nets was paying off, and that there was a modest increase in contractually obligated arena income.

The Real Deal also reported yesterday that Forest City Ratner president and Chief Operating Officer Joanne Minieri, with the company since 1995, had left for her own consulting venture. She also will continue to advise FCR.

Was Minieri nudged out in an effort to save a big salary--no replacement was announced--or was she simply itching to leave? It's tough to know, from the outside, but the developer has been trying to save on relatively small expenditures, such as $100,000 for an Independent Compliance Monitor.

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Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

FCE PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Reports Fiscal 2010 Full-Year and Fourth-Quarter Results

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today announced EBDT, net earnings and revenues for the fourth quarter and full year ended January31, 2011.

EBDT

EBDT (Earnings Before Depreciation, Amortization and Deferred Taxes) for the full year ended January 31, 2011, was $309.9 million, a new record for the company and a 2.9 percent increase compared with last year's $301.1 million. EBDT for the fourth quarter was $43.1 million, a 45 percent decrease compared with last year's fourth-quarter EBDT of $78.4 million.

EBDT for the fourth quarter and full year 2010 were impacted by a loss on early extinguishment of debt of $31.7 million ($0.16 on a fully diluted, per-share basis), related to inducement payments for the early exchange of a portion of the company's 2016 Senior Notes for Class A common stock, which occurred in the final week of the fiscal year.

On a fully diluted, per-share basis, full-year 2010 EBDT was $1.59, a 20.5 percent decrease from the prior year's $2.00 per share. Per-share EBDT for the fourth quarter of 2010 was $0.23, compared with $0.43 per share in the fourth quarter of 2009. Per-share data reflects new Class A common shares and the "if-converted" effect of convertible debt and convertible preferred stock issued in 2009 and 2010.
...

Net Earnings/Loss

For the full year, net earnings attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc., were $58.7 million, or $0.34 per share, compared with a net loss of $30.7 million, or $0.22 per share, in 2009. For the fourth quarter of 2010, net loss attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc. was $1.8 million, or $0.01 per share, compared with net earnings of $6.2 million, or $0.04 per share in the fourth quarter of 2009.
...

Work continues at the Barclays Center arena at Atlantic Yards, with steel now rising several stories above ground level at the site. With the building taking shape, the reality of major league sports returning to Brooklyn has helped generate additional momentum and enthusiasm for the project. Approximately 55 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues are currently under contract for the arena, which is expected to open in late summer 2012.

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Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

In Shadow of Yankee Stadium, 3 Unfinished Ball Fields

The New York Times
by Corey Kilgannon

Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino called the Yankees the "evil empire" a few years back. Which makes their enablers in New York City government Darth Vader.

On Thursday, the New York Yankees begin their regular season at Yankee Stadium, a gleaming $1.5 billion behemoth that opened in the Bronx in 2009 as the new home of one of the richest franchises in sports.

But next to the stadium is a lingering eyesore – a protracted construction project that was supposed to have been transformed into three public ball fields months ahead of opening day. Instead, some coaches and neighborhood residents say, it remains a joyless Mudville.

Just as the new stadium was enveloped in controversy, from its financing to its ticket prices, the construction of the three fields has also prompted debate.

The city promised to build the fields, which are starting to take shape directly across 161st Street to the south of the stadium, to replace others that were bulldozed in 2006 to make way for the stadium.

The razed fields, in Macombs Dam Park, were the only regulation baseball diamonds nearby, and were home to neighborhood pickup games and youth leagues, and to teams from schools like All Hallows High School, a parochial institution several blocks away.

“We’ve gone five years now with no ball fields here,” said Sean Sullivan, 55, the principal of All Hallows and a coach of its baseball team, which has spent five years scouring the city for home fields. “They took the parks away from my kids, and now our team is a bunch of gypsies.”

The team, which played part of its 2009 season in Staten Island, is still searching for a site for its league opener on April 7.

The fields were originally to be completed late last year, as the centerpiece of Heritage Field, a 10-acre park where the former Yankee Stadium stood. But the groundbreaking was delayed until last June, and city officials now say the fields will not open until fall 2011.

“They built the new stadium in record time, but building replacement parkland for the community is literally dragging,” said Helen Foster, who represents the neighborhood on the City Council.
...

Ms. Foster accused the Yankees of doing little to help local residents in one of the poorest parts of the country. “There’s this perception in this area that the Yankees’ needs come before everyone else’s,” she said.

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Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

Brooklyn hoopla

It's official: Net tickets go on sale

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Tickets went on sale yesterday for NBA basketball — in Brooklyn!

As the New Jersey Nets’ future home at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues starts to take shape after years of delays, the team began offering current season ticket holders the first crack at locking in luxury accommodations in the new digs.

The 4,000 "All-Access" premium seats being offered at the rapidly rising, 18,000-seat Barclays Center in Prospect Heights, will run from $99 a game for lower level to $1,500 for courtside — or $4,356 to $66,000 for a full season.
...

But to get the premium "All Access" benefits, fans will have to commit to buying them for the first three years — with the prices locked in.
...

Yormark said the average Nets ticket at Barclays Center would run $132 — more than double the $60 average for tickets to see the woeful Nets at Newark’s Prudential Center... The new Nets prices are expected to be among the NBA’s highest in their inaugural season in Brooklyn and comparable to what the Knicks will charge at Madison Square Garden.

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NoLandGrab: Now there's a bargain.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Nets start selling tickets for Brooklyn 2012; prices up; no PSLs (personal seat licenses), despite 2006 prediction; "Grand Opening Weekend" planned

Notably, the Nets no longer plan Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs), which in both internal Forest City Ratner documents and a KPMG report from 2006 were supposed to bring $20 million in over two years in revenue from 4500 PSLs ($4444 each over two years).

That's likely a reflection of the recession, the drop-off in luxury spending, and the uncertainty of the product on the court.

Instead of PSL, three-year deal?

One commenter on NetsDaily observed:

Three year commitment = way out of PSL

I had my meeting on Monday at the Barclay’s Showroom and it was a great experience. Top notch, first class.

But the pricing is through the roof for the seats I’m in now. Like $300 more per game, per seat. Of course I’m sitting center court, 7th row, so I guess that will be expected.

In the end, I may actually be priced out of this place if I don’t want to be in the rafters. Think about the starting price of $99 for the All Access Pass ticket sections. That’s $99 per game, per seat so basically $200 per game x 44 games (3 preseason) = $8,800 × 3 year commitment = $26,400.

You are signing a contract to pay $26,400 for 2 seats for the next 3 years without knowing what the product will be on the floor.

To me, that’s just too much at this point. Maybe something will change, or I’ll have to get comfy with sitting upstairs.

The New York Times, Nets Begin Selling Tickets for New Arena

The Nets’ chief executive, Brett Yormark, said the team started sales to gauge how many season-ticket holders would re-up for the move to Brooklyn. The passes will be offered in June to fans who do not hold season tickets, and the rest of the tickets will be available in the fall.

CBS New York, Nets Begin Selling Tickets For 2012-13 Season In Brooklyn

“Our number one priority in pricing our tickets was to ensure that Nets games are accessible to everyone,” Yormark said.

The Brooklyn Paper, Nets are selling tickets — to Brooklyn games

“We kept fans in mind, but obviously, we have a business to run,” Yormark said.

Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

Why the Census Bureau might be right on NYC

Crain's NY Business
by Greg David

The topic of whether New York City has been shortchanged by the 2010 census is certainly a hot button issue. The mayor continues to insist the census takers missed as many as 200,000 residents because they could neither count people in apartment buildings nor find immigrants who had no interest in being enumerated.
...

Now comes a very provocative piece by Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, an expert on cities, which suggests the Bureau of the Census might be right.
...

He finds lots of evidence to support the idea that growth is in line with housing creation, which means the less-than-expected 2.1% increase is on the mark.

If true, the Bloomberg administration should start doing some hard thinking. In part, the housing shortfall is the result of the financial crisis that delayed major development initiatives at Atlantic Yards, Hudson Yards, Coney Island and Willets Point, to name only a few. The administration is not responsible for that.

Other administrations, however, would be considering measures to spur more construction, as Ed Koch did in the early 1980s. So far, the administration isn't interested in that approach; maybe it is time for a change in plan.

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NoLandGrab: The real question is, does housing creation spur population growth, or does population growth drive housing creation? If it's the latter, and New York City's growth is stagnating, who's going to pay to live in all of Bruce Ratner's planned luxury condos?

Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

Knicks and Nets: Two Teams That Need an Introduction

The New York Times
by George Vecsey

Both the Knicks and the Nets are mutants — teams that keep evolving, on their way to someplace else. Eventually the dust and disorder at the Garden will be replaced by a vastly more expensive new version of the arena, while the Nets continue their loopy hegira from the Meadowlands to Newark and onward to Brooklyn, three-card monte with players. Now you see them, now you don’t.
...

The Nets have an owner who speaks (Russian and English), the charismatic Mikhail D. Prokhorov, and they plan to move to the Atlantic Yards section of Brooklyn, with all the urban disruption and mixed blessings that entails. They are a work in progress, sharing the old slogan with the Knicks: Dig We Must.

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NoLandGrab: "Atlantic Yards section of Brooklyn?" That must be the section also known as Prospect Heights.

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

There’s a ‘middle way’ in architecture

The Providence Journal
by David Brussat

Some will say my column of two weeks ago, “A modernist building I actually like,” should have run tomorrow.

Applause for a building designed by Frank Gehry ought to fall on April Fool’s Day. I will probably find some way to regret my kind words for his new Beekman Tower, a 76-story residential skyscraper that developer Bruce Ratner renamed “New York by Frank Gehry at 8 Spruce St.” By putting the architect’s name in the title of the building, Ratner revealed his doubts that it looked enough like a Gehry to lure edgy renters into its pricey units.

That’s why it appealed to me. It almost looks like a traditional New York skyscraper. Very not-Gehry. But a colleague who’d just visited New York and saw the building said it was awful. And my editor urged me to write about the difference between seeing a building in photos and seeing it in person. I think he was suggesting that I might have to revise and extend my remarks, as they say in Congress.

Well, since I still haven’t seen the building in person, I’m not yet prepared to revise my remarks. But I sure can extend them.

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Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

Forest City Ratner Unloads Share in Both Atlantic Center, Terminal

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Forest City Ratner Companies is selling a 49-percent stake in 15 of its shopping centers, including the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues at the edge of Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene.
...

The [Wall Street] Journal notes that the sale comes as Ratner is experiencing increased costs in its development of three major projects, including the Barclays Arena and housing complex at Atlantic Yards.

“The company is having difficulty starting the [Atlantic Yards] housing component,” the Journal wrote.

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Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

Markowitz: NYC Needs More Affordable MF

GlobeSt.com
by Paul Bubny

Markowitz recalled a visit to Istanbul in which that city’s mayor showed him the startling before-and-after contrast brought about by the redevelopment of one part of town. The transformation was accomplished in just six months, he said, a time frame unheard of here. “They don’t have ULURPs, community boards and everything else you have to go through to get things done here,” he said.

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NoLandGrab: Wait a second. Marty constantly goes on about how "New York isn't Amsterdam" when he's railing against the Prospect Park West bike path, but now he thinks New York should be Turkey, where they "get things done," whatever the cost?

Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

Freddy's will Outlive us All

The L Magazine
by Cara Cannella

Freddy's Bar

627 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope
Rating: 4 out of 5 L's

In the epic 21st-century tale of greed and corruption that is the Atlantic Yards, Freddy's Bar is the displaced underdog protagonist with a heart of gold; Bruce Ratner, the power-mongering authority figure; Borough President Marty Markowitz, his bumbling sidekick; and Freddy's bathroom graffiti, the Greek chorus—a collective voice commenting on the drama.
...

The iconic Prohibition-era establishment Freddy's Bar and Backroom—hub for artists, thinkers, performers, and generations of cops from a neighboring precinct and voted among Esquire's "Best Bars in America"—closed last April to loud protest from its intensely protective and devoted following. Boxed out of its longtime Prospect Heights home at Sixth Avenue and Dean Street by the Ratner-driven development project centered around an arena for the New Jersey Nets—the "Death Star we know as Atlantic Yards," according to a blog post by Freddy's bartender-turned-co-owner Donald O'Finn—the original bar was a symbol of all that the "Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn" movement holds dear.

After a nightmarish real estate hunt and relocation process, the bar finally has a new home on a somewhat ragged stretch of Fifth Avenue in South Slope. From the look of things, the three new co-owners—O'Finn and fellow Freddy's bartenders Matt Kuhn and Matt Kimmet—have no plans to leave anytime soon. They brought with them the old wooden booths and tables and original red mahogany bar, enveloped by a string of metal links known as the "Chains of Justice." At old Freddy's, patrons hand-cuffed themselves to the bar to protest eminent domain abuse; at new Freddy's, the chains serve as a reminder of their fight.

Despite all of these growing pains and heavy talk, Freddy's is still just a bar, and a great place to get drunk and knit (as part of their knitting circle) or check out live music and performances including Diva Night (where opera amateurs belt their hearts out to a heckling audience) and the stand-up hour "Ed Sullivan on Acid" with guests including Angry Bob from HBO's Bored to Death.

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Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

March 30, 2011

New Jersey Nets start selling tickets for games — in Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Paper

Don't everyone burn up those phone lines at once. The Nets, according to the press release reprinted by The Brooklyn Paper, are beginning to sell "Brooklyn" Nets tickets for the 2012-2013 season.

From the press release:

The first-of-its-kind All Access season tickets for NETS Basketball at the Barclays Center of Brooklyn are going on sale today for current season ticket holders. The team is distributing by mail premium-designed, five-panel ticket packages that showcases the NETS and the Barclays Center in preparation for the team’s relocation to Brooklyn for the 2012-13 NBA season.

Season tickets for these premium locations will feature the unprecedented NETS All Access Pass. This Pass will offer fans several distinctive elements, including the opportunity to purchase tickets before the general public to non-NETS events that will be staged at the Barclays Center. The All Access Pass can also be used for unlimited food, prepared by award-winning Levy Restaurants, at designated clubs and all fixed concession stands during NETS games; a first-time offering for a major New York metropolitan area sports team.

Additional All Access Pass benefits will include: a private entrance, dedicated VIP speed lines at all entrances, concierge service, early access into the Barclays Center, membership to the Barclays Center Business Alliance - a corporate networking program exclusive to sponsors and season ticketholders - and much more.

While All Access Passes are the first ticket offerings being made available, non-premium NETS season tickets for the Barclays Center will be implemented in different phases in 2011.

When all price points are unveiled, the NETS ticket prices will be available for everyone’s budget. Two thousand tickets will be priced at $15 and under for each game, and an allotment of tickets for all events at the Barclays Center will be made available to the community, which was committed to in the Community Benefits Agreement of 2005.

Fifty percent of all season tickets will be priced at $55 or less per game, and lower level season tickets start at $65.

There will be no Personal Seat License for NETS tickets.

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NoLandGrab: No PSLs? Why thank you, Nets — as if that was remotely a possibility.

Related coverage...

NY1, Nets' New Home To Feature All-Access Pass

A deluxe package will soon pamper some lucky Nets fans when the team moves to Brooklyn.

Current Nets season tickets holders are getting first dibs on the All-Access pass for the 2012-2013 season.

It'll give fans premium treatment at the Nets' new home at the Barclays Center.

The pass starts at $99 a game and includes unlimited food, a private entrance, concierge service, and access to a business center.

But non-season ticket holders have to hold on a bit longer for their chance to buy tickets.

Posted by eric at 7:57 PM

President of Forest City Ratner steps down to start her own firm

The Real Deal

Joanne Minieri stepped down as president of the New York subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises today, the same day the firm sold 49 percent of its stake in 15 New York City properties. Minieri will continue to advise the New York arm, Forest City Ratner, on major projects, but will launch her own venture geared towards consulting real estate developers and financial services companies. Minieri joined Forest City Enterprises in 1995 and was promoted to president and COO in 2007. As president she has been closely involved in Forest City's Atlantic Yards project including breaking ground on the Barclays Center that will be home to the Nets. Bruce Ratner, CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, called Minieri's accomplishments with the company "extraordinary," and Forest City Enterprises CEO Charles Ratner praised the team she assembled. "I am pleased to be leaving at a time with many challenges behind us, and so many signature projects successfully completed," Minieri said.

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NoLandGrab: Successfully completed? Like the Carlton Avenue bridge?

Posted by eric at 7:49 PM

Federal agency stonewalls Freedom of Information Act requests on Forest City's EB-5 green card scheme, waits four-plus months to send denial letters

Atlantic Yards Report

Are the Feds in on this crooked deal, too?

Will we ever find out how exactly federal authorities gave preliminary approval--and more--to the astounding efforts to get Chinese millionaires to invest in Atlantic Yards in exchange for green cards?

Not that likely.

During a crucial four-month period when developer Forest City Ratner and the New York City Regional Center successfully recruited immigrant investors in China and South Korea, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) stonewalled my Freedom of Information Act requests in a very odd fashion.

The USCIS responded to me in letters dated 10/22/10 and 11/2/10, as well as two undated letters.

However, it did not mail those letters until early March, some four months later, and gave no explanation for the delay.

Moreover, the explanation given for three denials of my FOIA requests--that they were not of journalistic and public interest--seems belied by another letter that granted a request for expedited treatment, apparently because my request was of journalistic and public interest.

While that request was granted, I have not received the records at issue.

Read on for more of Norman Oder's back and forth with the USCIS. No word as to when, or if, he's going to start meeting shadowy Hal Holbrook-looking dudes in the bowels of parking garages. All we know is, follow the money.

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Posted by eric at 12:53 PM

Annabi lawyer wants Mangone plea deal unsealed in Yonkers corruption case

LoHud.com
by Timothy O'Connor

The lawyer for indicted former Yonkers Councilmember Sandy Annabi wants a federal judge to unseal attorney Anthony Mangone's plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Mangone pleaded guilty to corruption and tax charges in the case, which began four years ago when the FBI and federal prosecutors investigated Yonkers City Council's handling of the controversial $600 million Ridge Hill development project.

He signed a plea agreement prior to his Nov. 29 guilty plea. His lawyer, James DeVita, asked a federal magistrate judge to seal the plea deal until sentencing, leading to speculation that Mangone had agreed to cooperate with federal investigators in the long-running probe. Federal prosecutors did not object to the sealing of the agreement.
...

Annabi's lawyer, William Aronwald, said he thinks Mangone is working with federal authorities.

"I have no doubt he's a cooperator," Aronwald said Tuesday.

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NoLandGrab: The big questions are what does Mangone know, and what is he telling prosecutors?

Posted by eric at 12:43 PM

Reconsidering Jane Jacobs: a program tomorrow at the Museum of the City of New York

Atlantic Yards Report

No direct Atlantic Yards angle here, but a nice discount for readers of Atlantic Yards Report for what sounds like an interesting event.

Tomorrow, Thursday, March 31 at 6:30 pm, the Museum of the City of New York will host a panel titled Reconsidering Jane Jacobs.
...

Reservations required: 917-492-3395 or e-mail programs@mcny.org
$6 museum members; $8 seniors and students; $12 non-members
$6 when you mention Atlantic Yards Report

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street

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Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

Ratner Sells Shopping-Center Stake

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

Since more traditional means of raising money didn't work out, Forest City Ratner has turned to an asset sale.

Forest City Ratner, one of New York's largest developers, has sold a 49% stake in 15 shopping centers scattered throughout the metropolitan area in a deal that values the retail portfolio at $852 million, the company said Tuesday.

The sale to Madison International Realty comes as Forest City has been hobbled by major development projects that were started at the market's peak, when prices and expectations were far higher than they are today.

Madison, a firm that owns noncontrolling equity stakes in properties, is paying $172 million to Forest City, which holds the remaining equity and will still manage the properties. The portfolio has $500 million in debt connected with it.

The malls tend to be well-trafficked properties, with a list that includes the Atlantic Center at the edge of Fort Greene in Brooklyn, a property in the Times Square area and a mall on 125th Street in Harlem.

"This is probably the largest portfolio of retail properties owned by a single landlord in the New York area," Ronald Dickerman, Madison's president, said in an interview Tuesday.
...

The Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner subsidiary, led by Bruce Ratner, is in the process of developing three major projects, including a new Nets basketball arena and housing complex in Brooklyn, a 76-story apartment tower in Lower Manhattan and a large mall in Yonkers.

The Brooklyn arena has seen costs rise by hundreds of millions of dollars since it was initially planned, and the company is having difficulty starting the housing component. The mall in Yonkers envisioned a high-end retail tenant base that has proved difficult to attract because of the economic downturn.

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NoLandGrab: No word as to whether the "colorful characters" (aka shoplifters, pickpockets and purse-snatchers) who frequent the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls were included in the deal.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Seeking cash, Forest City Ratner sells 49 percent of Atlantic Terminal/Center malls, other retail and entertainment properties

In an effort to "create liquidity" (aka raise cash), Forest City Ratner has sold a a 49% stake in "15 mature retail and entertainment properties" in the New York City area, including the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls in Brooklyn.

The buyer, Madison International Realty, will invest $172.3 million in cash. The properties are valued by this transaction at $851.5 million, including $499.9 million of debt. Forest City will continue to own a majority 51% stake, and manage the properties.

Is that a good deal for Forest City? Did Madison get a bargain? The only context I see is from the Wall Street Journal, in a short article today headlined Ratner Sells Shopping-Center Stake:

The sale to Madison International Realty comes as Forest City has been hobbled by major development projects that were started at the market's peak, when prices and expectations were far higher than they are today.

Those "major" projects include Atlantic Yards, the Ridge Hill project in Yonkers, and the Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan.

Forest City Enterprises Press Release, Forest City Announces Joint Ventures with Madison International Realty for 15 New York City Area Retail Centers

The properties included in the transaction are: the 42nd Street Retail and Entertainment Complex and Harlem Center (retail component) in Manhattan; Atlantic Center, Atlantic Terminal (retail component) and The Heights in Brooklyn; Queens Place, Steinway Street Theatres and Shops at Northern Boulevard in Queens; Shops at Bruckner Boulevard, Castle Center and Shops at Gun Hill Road in the Bronx; Shops at Richmond Avenue and Forest Avenue Cinemas on Staten Island; and Columbia Park in North Bergen, New Jersey.

Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

Park Slope Restaurant Met With Resistance

NY1
by Jeanine Ramirez

Prime 6 restaurant is opening at the corner of 6th and Flatbush Avenues, the site of a former video store. It can hold 230 people on the ground floor, the basement and the backyard. But many who live nearby say the restaurant's size and outdoor space will ruin their quality of life.
...

Along the corridor is the Atlantic Yards project which Ofshtein hopes will bring in business when the basketball arena opens. However, some residents worry about the growing congestion.

"We are concerned about saturation. And woe unto the next restaurant, bar that wants to open up on our corner," [nearby homeowner Harry] Lipman said.

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Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

Out of the City's Domain

Willets Point United

As we commented yesterday, Judge Joan Madden has thrown the city a curve ball by issuing her order to show cause against that effort to segment the Willets Point project and avoid proper review of the Van Wyck ramps. In doing so, Madden explicitly rejected the city's argument that this entire dispute could be rolled into the eminent domain challenge.

We anticipate that EDC will try to make this case when they submit papers to the judge in response to her order. We know exactly why the city is trying to use the ED gambit-they are on stronger legal ground-given how the NY State courts have ruled on condemnation challenges-in this arena then in the environmental arena where its case is much weaker.

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Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

Atlantic Yards Causes Bike-SUV Collision

The L Magazine
by Benjamin Sutton

Park Slope Patch reports that shortly after 10pm an SUV hit a cyclist at the intersection of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue after the driver's view of the oncoming rider was blocked by big blue Atlantic Yards construction walls.

The SUV driver, whose windshield was smashed when the cyclist was thrown over the hood in the collision, remained at the scene while the deliveryman was taken to the emergency room by ambulance. The driver told local resident Wayne Bailey when he arrived at the scene that the cyclist ran through a red light. Bailey told the Patch: "He said he didn’t even see the cyclist because of the blue wall where the arena is being built. He said it blocked his view and the bike came out of nowhere."

A police source asserts that "The cyclist was at fault," although, clearly, Bruce Ratner was at fault.

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NoLandGrab: In fairness to Forest City Ratner, the construction shed at the corner in question actually has plexiglass panels that allow some visibility, more so than most construction sites we've seen.

Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

Where Wal-Mart Failed, Aldi Succeeds

The New York Times
by Stephanie Clifford

While Wal-Mart revives its plans to get into New York City, a giant German retailer has slipped in relatively unnoticed.

In February, with virtually no opposition — a Queens politician even showed up at the grand opening in Rego Park, Queens — a discount retailer called Aldi opened its first store in the city, and plans to open a second one, in the Bronx, later this year.
...

Even though Aldi, like Wal-Mart, is nonunion, it has faced little resistance, compared with the heated opposition often headed by unions and politicians that Wal-Marts have encountered in larger markets.

Why so little push back? Here's why.

“There’s no reason to oppose an Aldi — it’s a small format, and they usually get space from an existing landowner or landlord, a small guy who’s plugged into the community, not a big guy like a Forest City Ratner,” Mr. Johnson said.

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Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

March 29, 2011

City's Willets Point plans hit legal pothole

Judge asks authorities why she shouldn't reverse her earlier dismissal of lawsuit to block the redevelopment after city skirts restrictions.

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Engquist

Joan Madden didn't do Atlantic Yards opponents any favors, but she's at least threatening to toss a wrench in the city's Willets Point land grab.

The city's bid to redevelop Willets Point, Queens, hit a pothole Tuesday when a judge ordered the Bloomberg administration to show why she shouldn't revoke the go-ahead she granted last summer.

State Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden had ruled that the project could proceed because the city promised not to condemn any land until it had approval for new Van Wyck Expressway ramps, which it had deemed essential to the project. But when state and federal approval of the ramps proved elusive, the city split the project into two phases and moved ahead with condemnations, arguing that the ramps were not required for Phase I.

But the administration failed to make that argument to the judge.

According to Michael Gerrard, the attorney for Willets Point property owners who object to the city's plan, the judge signed an order directing the city to explain why her order dismissing his lawsuit should not be vacated.

City lawyers will prepare a brief, the property owners will write a response, and the judge will hear oral argument in open court July 20.

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Related coverage...

City Hall, Imminent Domain: Willets Point opponents looking to avoid fate of the Atlantic Yards, Columbia University expansion

An interesting look at the legal strategy of Willets Point property owners.

By next summer, the dilapidated jumble of auto shops in Willets Point should be starting to transform into a slick new development featuring mixed-income housing, a hotel and a convention center.

But first the city must take on a small band of business owners trying to hold onto their property in the Queens neighborhood, and while recent experience shows that the city has the upper hand in securing the land for the project, the group is eager to learn from recent economic development fights.

Two other redevelopment projects in the city, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Columbia University's expansion in Manhattan, recently reaffirmed the right of government to take private property in New York and turn it over to private developers.

As the city takes its first step toward using eminent domain in Willets Point, opponents are looking carefully at the legal battles over those two projects, as a guide for which strategies to follow and which to avoid.

One major problem:

Yet in the end, what will shape the outcome is not broad support but the courts. And in New York, where the laws are notoriously permissive, the courts broadly support eminent domain.

NoLandGrab: Especially for other people's houses.

Posted by eric at 11:32 PM

Morgan Spurlock, Filmmaker

Here's Park Slope

Morgan Spurlock is no fan of the corporatization of New York City.

Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is perhaps best known for his groundbreaking 2004 film Super Size Me, in which he ate nothing but McDonalds for 30 days and ended up 24 lbs. heavier, with the liver of a chronic alcoholic. Born in West Virginia, he recently moved back to Park Slope after living in Fort Greene for the past couple years, and is glad to be back. We met up this morning at Cafe Martin and discussed his background, his love of Park Slope, and his newest project, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a documentary about finding product placement and sponsors for that documentary, in theaters April 22nd.
...

HPS: What's your ultimate goal with this film?

Morgan: What I would love to see happen is for people to become so incredibly aware of the amount of marketing happening in their lives that we start to question how much sponsorship we want in our daily lives. Does everything need to be brought to you by some sponsor? The City Council just passed a law, they're going to start selling off parks and things in New York City to corporate interests. Giving them the naming rights, much like Barclays Station instead of Atlantic/ Pacific. Is that where we are as a society, that literally the only people we can turn to are corporations to come in and underwrite things? If that's the case, I can't wait to go skiing in Pepsi, Colorado!

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NoLandGrab: Coincidentally, Spurlock's The Greatest Movie Ever Sold will open the Hot Docs festival in Toronto at which Atlantic Yards documentary Battle for Brooklyn will have its world premiere.

Posted by eric at 11:07 PM

Ratner Creates 1,786 New Artists

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The saga of Forest City Ratner's green-cards-for-cash hustle in China and Korea just gets more weirdly corrupt, thanks to investigative digging in multiple languages by the indefatigable Norman Oder.

The basic premise of the EB-5 program is not bad: dangling a priority lane to citizenship in exchange for investment funds that will create jobs in the United States. But now it turns out that to justify their pursuit of $249 million in Asian money, FCR and its partner, the New York City Regional Center, claim the arena will generate 7696 jobs...3705 in construction, 350 in retail and--ready for this?--1786 in art and entertainment.

As far as construction jobs go, at the moment on a good day there may be 150 workers on the site. And that's before Ratner starts using prefab buildings to cut down on labor.

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Posted by eric at 11:02 PM

Can a prefab skyscraper work well with the urban landscape? "You can, but it's not been done yet," professor tells Brian Lehrer

Atlantic Yards Report

The biggest Atlantic Yards news this morning on the Brian Lehrer Show was the blunt statement by Rafael Cestero, Commissioner of the city Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development, that his department felt an additional housing subsidy request by Forest City Ratner "was not a good public investment."

But there were some enlightening moments in another segment, Pre-Fab At Atlantic Yards, notably observations that it's difficult to create an esthetically satisfying modular tower, and Forest City Ratner is working in uncharted territory.

Lehrer started off the discussion by pointing out that the developer is considering a 34-story modular tower, the tallest in the world. Modular construction is untested at this height and, while it could cut construction costs in half, unionized construction workers would lose many jobs they expected.

Click through for Norman Oder's transcription of the discussion, with his commentary.

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Posted by eric at 10:55 PM

On Brian Lehrer, HPD Commissioner says FCR's request for additional housing subsidy "was not a good public investment"

Atlantic Yards Report

Today on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, the host asked Rafael Cestero, who's leaving his post as Commissioner of the Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development (HPD), about the report that HPD had declined Forest City Ratner's recent request for an additional $10 million in additional subsidies--beyond the $14 million for 150 units--for the first residentail building.

"One is, we have a set of programs that we use across the city... that fall within certain subsidy parameters that make sense for taxpayers and make sense for the city," Cestero responded. "We felt that the additional subsidy that Forest City was requesting... didn't meet those parameters and, frankly, that we felt was not a good public investment to go beyond what we have already committed."

"We want to see housing built there. We're all deeply committed to seeing not just the arena built, but to see... the affordable housing built," he added, "but we think the parameters that we've laid out, the program that we've laid out, allows that project to go forward."

Clearly, for Forest City Ratner, it doesn't. They want a better deal than other developers.

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Posted by eric at 10:49 PM

Would putting the MTA’s 8,881 properties on the market help plug the budget gap?

City Hall
by Laura Nahmias

But the MTA's finances are already under investigation, and state comptroller's office says the beleaguered authority ($900 million operating deficit, $2.1 billion projected deficit over next three years, $31 billion in capital debts) needs to find ways to generate revenue.

Last summer Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office audited the MTA's real estate department, which is in charge of finding ways to market and sell the agency's holdings. Di- Napoli determined the agency should find a way to unload many of its buildings, offices, easements and air rights to offset the tremendous debt.

"Our audit made very clear that the MTA must make the most of its revenue streams by maximizing the value of its real estate holdings," said Eric Sumberg, spokesperson for DiNapoli. "The MTA is not in a position to ignore potential cost savings, and our audit found that the MTA has done just that."
...

The MTA says work is underway to determine what can be sold.

"We are in contract to sell the development rights over Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards, two of our biggest and certainly most valuable properties," said Aaron Donovan, a spokesperson for the MTA. "In addition, we are in the midst of a systematic investigation of our office space needs. We've issued a request for proposals to solicit the help of brokers who may be able to help us identify the sales potential of some of our office sites."

The what Yards? We thought the Atlantic Yards project was being built in part on the Vanderbilt Yard.

The renewed push to identify saleable properties came shortly after Jay Walder was appointed chair of the MTA, according to the audit report. Walder has since pledged to step up the efficiency within the $5.2 million real estate division.

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NoLandGrab: Some ways to "step up the efficiency" might include not ignoring better bids, not selling properties for less than half of their assessed value, and not giving away sweetheart payment terms when your deadbeat buyer can't come up with the cash.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Victory for the "Atlantic Yards" meme: even MTA spokesman inaccurately uses term to describe Vanderbilt Yard

Actually, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority property, 8.5 acres, is called the Vanderbilt Yard.

By contrast, Atlantic Yards is the brand for a 22-acre site that includes formerly public streets, formerly private property, and some private property that neither the state nor developer Forest City Ratner controls.

Posted by eric at 10:26 PM

SUV Driver Sends Brooklyn Delivery Cyclist to the ER

Streetsblog
by Noah Kazis

An SUV driver hit and injured a delivery cyclist at the intersection of Dean Street and 6th Avenue in Brooklyn at around 10 p.m. last night. Photos sent to us by reader Wayne Bailey, who came across the scene shortly after the collision, seem to show that the cyclist was on his way to deliver food when he was hit and thrown over the hood of the car with enough force to shatter the windshield.

The NYPD press office did not have any information on the crash, but according to the Park Slope Patch, police have assigned culpability to the cyclist, who did not suffer major injuries. The driver stayed at the scene, according to Bailey, and the cyclist was taken by ambulance to the emergency room. Bailey said the driver claimed the cyclist “came out of nowhere” and also blamed temporary blue walls around the Atlantic Yards construction site for blocking his vision. We do not have the cyclist’s version of events.

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NoLandGrab: No word as to whether Forest City Ratner is citing the condition of the SUV's windshield as evidence of blight, but it's likely.

Photo: N. Wayne Bailey

Posted by eric at 10:12 PM

Cuomo’s H.E.L.P. History Potentially a Pertinent Factor Vis-à-vis Ratner’s Atlantic Yards’ Dense Modular Construction

Noticing New York

It seemed worthwhile to take the Way Back Machine for a spin to retrieve for present-day consideration what may be some pertinent background vis-à-vis Forest City Ratner’s announced intention to build the tallest prefab modular building in the world and then, perhaps, to proceed to build the densest thicket of such buildings imaginable. (See: Friday, March 18, 2011, The Real Question to Ask About the Ratner Bait-and-Switch Approach on Atlantic Yards and Friday, March 18, 2011, A Ratner Bluff on the Not-So-Fab Prefab Modulars? A Second Opinion.)

A mere score of years ago, Andrew Cuomo was using modular to build some of his H.E.L.P. projects, projects that provided transitional or permanent housing for homeless families. This was back when Mr. Cuomo, now governor of the state of New York, was just the son of the then governor of the State of New York, his father Mario. (See: Housing for Homeless Approved, by James Feron, Special to The New York Times, April 24, 1990.)

Why is this important? Because Mr. Cuomo is the decision maker to who controls ESDC (the “New York State Urban Development Corporation” doing business as the “New York State Urban Development Corporation”) and could thereby, with relatively little difficulty, pull the plug on Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Mega-monopoly to send Mr. Ratner packing. He should.

Although it is potentially pertinent background, it should not be thought that Mr. Ratner is proposing to build in the footsteps of Mr. Cuomo. Mr. Cuomo was never building the sort of tall buildings or high-density project that Mr. Ratner is talking about and he did not push the envelope beyond tested technology as Mr. Ratner proposes to do. Mr. Cuomo promised high quality cost effective design (donated by contributing architects), he did not engage in a bait-and-switcheroo that started with a promise of premium starchitecture via the likes of Frank Gehry.

Click through for an interesting trip back to 1990. What was Michael D.D. White doing back then?

A note of disclosure: I was the attorney in charge of working on these H.E.L.P. projects with Mr. Cuomo at the New York State Housing Finance Agency which provided financing.

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Posted by eric at 9:59 PM

Park Slope residents fear noise that Nets arena, local bars would bring

The Real Deal

Prime 6, a bar set to open in May at the corner of Flatbush and Sixth avenues, one block from the Nets' forthcoming Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn, caught flack from Community Board 6 yesterday for a 46-seat outdoor patio it intends to keep open, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

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Posted by eric at 9:54 PM

Believable? Feds told $249M in immigrant investor (EB-5) funds would create 3705 construction jobs, 350 in retail, 1786 in art/entertainment

Atlantic Yards Report

How can Forest City Ratner and its partner, an investment pool called the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), claim that 498 Chinese (and Korean) millionaires seeking green cards would create 7696 jobs by investing a half-million dollars each ($249 million total) in the Atlantic Yards project?

It's one of the most preposterous claims in the entire saga of Forest City Ratner's effort to gain a low-interest loan, saving perhaps $191 million, via the federal government's EB-5 program. Under the program, investors and their families gain green cards in exchange for purportedly job-creating investments, ten per investor.

Now there's new evidence undermining the claim, given that the claimed job total--including jobs in construction and entertainment--can't reflect how the money would be used.

A graphic on the web site of Kookmin, a South Korean immigration agency working with the NYCRC, suggests, for example, that the investment would create 3705 construction jobs and 1786.5 jobs in "art, entertainment."

Those numbers defy common sense--the entertainment jobs, for example, would have to be tied to the arena.

But the money isn't needed for the arena.

Read on [that means YOU, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services!] for Norman Oder's thorough dismantling of the Atlantic Yards EB-5 house of [green] cards.

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NoLandGrab: We just emailed a link to this story to uscis.immigrantinvestorprogram@dhs.gov urging the Citizenship & Immigration Services to dig into this shady deal. We suggest you do the same.

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

Atlantic Yards Ethnic Humor

BeehiveHairdresser.com

We’re guessing that Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz doesn’t have any aspirations of having the good people of Ireland purchase the bonds that will pay for the construction at the Atlantic Yards/destruction of Brooklyn, because if he was trying to get Irish investment in Brooklyn, it’s going to be an uphill battle with “jokes” like this one being front and center at the opening of the Barclays Center construction pit.

Here’s a close-up of the “joke.”

They probably keep their more racy jokes that start off something along the likes of: “Three black guys walk into a bar…” “Two midgets have an erection…” “What does a man in India have to do to…” on the other side of that bin.

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NoLandGrab: Haha, hilarious, Bruce Ratner! Thanks for classing up the neighborhood.

Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

More robberies at Target

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Indicted Atlantic Yards lobbyist Richard Lispky and Atlantic Yards booster Carl Kruger seem to have inspired the locals to perpetrate a little crime of their own.

Target troubles

At least three more thefts took place inside the troubled Atlantic Terminal Target last week. Here’s the rundown:

• A thief snagged a wallet from a shopper looking for bargains at the store, which is near Atlantic Avenue, on March 19. The woman’s bag was sitting inside a shopping cart at around 4 pm when the thief rifled through it.

• A goon handed a stolen wallet to an accomplice after swiping it from a 25-year-old’s shopping cart on March 26. The woman saw the thief take her wallet out of her bag at 5:45 pm, but he had already passed it off when she confronted him.

• Two women were arrested on after they tried to smuggle 55 articles of clothing on March 27. The thieves also tried to make off with some groceries and baby items during the 8:30 pm theft.

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Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Jay-Z’s $450 million Business Empire

Yahoo! Finance
by Daniel Gross

Jay-Z's career and business interests are vivid testimony to the mainstreaming of hip-hop culture. Deals come his way in part because he is, simply put, much cooler and culturally relevant than older guys in suits. It's not simply that he can attract a crowd, but that he lends a kind of legitimacy to all sorts of ventures — including the efforts to build a huge arena/ development to house the New Jersey Nets in Brooklyn. The New Jersey Nets, as Greenburg notes, had long been a second-tier team in the NBA, and an afterthought in New York. Facing political obstacles and community opposition, Nets owner Bruce Ratner offered Jay-Z a small ownership stake in exchange for becoming one of the public faces of the project. Another potential bonus: the other owners thought Jay-Z could help attract top talent like LeBron James to the Nets.

That hasn't quite worked out.

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Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

Midnight ours! CB6 tells controversial bar to close early on weekend

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

A Community Board 6 committee demanded on Monday night that a controversial Park Slope bar close its 46-seat outdoor patio by midnight on weekends, saying neighbors aren’t exactly the late-night party types.

“It’s reasonable,” said Pauline Blake, who lives nearby and dreads the boom of boozy voices coming from Prime 6, a 230-person sports bar under construction at Flatbush and Sixth avenues. “Later than that means I’m not going to sleep.”

Prime 6 owner Akiva Ofshtein will fight the resolution, saying that he has invested too much money to boot his open-air cocktail crowd earlier than 1 am, which is similar to competing bars nearby.

“I can’t go below the competitive standard,” said Ofshtein, who will open in May.
...

Park Slopers have been protesting Prime 6 for weeks, saying it will keep them up at all hours, clog streets and lure a rowdy crowd from Barclays Center arena, which will open one block away in 2012.

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Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

The Central Park South Building That Just Won't Die

Curbed
by Joey Arak

A fear of e-mail hasn't kept Extell Development chief Gary Barnett from finding himself in the middle of some of the day's hottest topics, from Atlantic Yards (where he tried to outbid Bruce Ratner at the last minute) to the economic crisis, which he tried to fix with a two-page memo. Now he's wormed his way into the case of 220 Central Park South, a rental building that Vornado has been trying to tear down and replace with luxury condos since 2005.

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Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

Pre-Fab At Atlantic Yards

WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show

Coming up this morning between 10 a.m. and noon on AM 820 and FM 93.9:

New York Times reporter Charles Bagli discusses Forest City Ratner's plans to build the world's tallest pre-fab steel structure at Atlantic Yards. Aseem Inam, professor of urbanism at Parsons, joins the conversation and discusses pre-fabricated construction from an urban design point of view.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, On the Brian Lehrer Show today, "Pre-Fab At Atlantic Yards," with the Times's Bagli and a professor of urbanism

Norman Oder has already posted a comment.

Beyond the economic savings to the developer, and the reduced numbers (and thus income) of construction workers, consider that modular construction also would have a significant impact on the projected tax revenues to the city and state from Atlantic Yards construction.

Those rosy projections of tax revenues have already been diminished by delays in the project, notably in the planned office building. They would be further diminished if Atlantic Yards is not built out to the size approved, as a significantly smaller project would pass state muster.

Those reasons are why City Council Members Letitia James and Brad Lander, at a committee hearing earlier this month, pressed NYC Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky on the need for a new cost-benefit analysis. Pinsky resisted the idea.

More here.

Posted by eric at 10:05 AM

March 28, 2011

Take TWO (AYR’s) On Times Coverage- Revisiting Light Shed by CityTime Outsourcing Scandal When Reexamining Bloomberg Management Myth

Noticing New York

In beating the New York Times to the punch covering the Bloomberg administration’s admissions about the city’s failed outsourcing policy, an about-face in that came in response to the CityTime scandal, Noticing New York presented a very different and much bigger big picture story than did the Times Sunday. - - Missed in being so Johnny-on-the-spot was the opportunity to incorporate observations by Atlantic Yards Report today about how the Times story buttressing a key point of that Noticing New York coverage: That the ill-fated trust the administration placed in delegations of government duties to the private sector carries over into its failures with respect to the management of the city’s mega-development projects.

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Posted by eric at 10:08 PM

So, the Prospect Park Alliance actually welcomed Bruce Bender's help to get state funding via Carl Kruger for a new skating rink

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on Emily Lloyd's letter to the New York Post.

I'd point out that there's a little wiggle room there. Alliance staff asked Amy Bender for help. They didn't necessarily ask her to ask her husband. But perhaps that was implied. And it certainly was welcomed, according to Lloyd's letter.

Also note that the article cited, “Kruger Crony Leaned on Me for Vote”, doesn't actually say anything about the Prospect Park Alliance. Rather, a March 16 Post article, headlined Prospect Park group rage at 'Kruger' exec, began:

A top Atlantic Yards executive who requested state funds for Prospect Park's skating rink from embattled state Sen. Carl Kruger was never asked to do so by the park's fund-raising group -- and now park advocates are furious at being linked to the corruption scandal, sources told The Post.

"He has dragged our name through the mud," fumed a Prospect Park Alliance source about Forest City Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender, whose conversation with Kruger was featured in a federal criminal complaint against the Brooklyn Democrat.

The claim that Bruce Bender wasn't asked is not inconsistent with Lloyd's statement. Prospect Park Alliance board members may not have agreed to have Bruce Bender raise funds for them, though some might have recognized that asking Amy Bender would involve her husband.
...

I'd add that the Alliance might not want to be involved in dialogues like these, as described in federal charges.

"The Vice President said he needed a 'combo of two projects... the park and Carlton Avenue Bridge." Kruger said "the bridge is out," and asked Bender to choose:

The Vice President said that he did not know and that "this" was "bad." KRUGER said, "I guess the park, fuck the bridge." The Vice President said that "my dilemma is as you know, I don't mind fucking the bridge, I can't fuck it right now, I've got to leverage that bridge, what's my value?"

link

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

Nets' new home moving forward

Bergen Record
by John Brennan

The spot that will one day be the site of the Barclays Center basketball court is a mud patch, and only about a quarter of the arena’s circumference is apparent.

But 12 months after a high profile groundbreaking for the $1 billion arena near downtown Brooklyn, concrete and steel testify to the reality of the Nets’ pending exit from New Jersey.

The first of the arena’s halfdozen large roof trusses was erected 10 days ago, now defining the height of the 675,000square-foot facility for the many passers-by. About 30 percent of the steel is already up, and the foundation is 70 percent complete, arena officials say.

The precast steps will be put in place within the next 30 days or so, giving a sense of the bowl to curious neighbors. The first part of the facade is expected to be in place by mid-July, and the roof should be in place by year’s end. If construction continues at this pace, the arena is likely to open on schedule in mid-2012 — just months before the Nets move in that fall.

Guess who's PUMPED! about the advent of the arena.

Nets chief executive Brett Yormark is renowned for his unbridled optimism — a trait that didn’t waver, even during last season’s record-breaking futility of an 0-18 start en route to a league-worst 12 wins in 82 games. So it’s a given that Yormark would gush about the possibilities in Brooklyn, where the arena is a key piece of the Atlantic Yards project being built by developer Forest City Ratner.

“We’ve been talking to artists and promoters, and the biggest names in the business want to play here,” Yormark said during a tour of the arena site last week. “I think our opening-month celebration is going to be unprecedented. When we put out the artists’ names that are going to appear here. … Everyone sees the movement in Brooklyn. They understand that this is going to continue the renaissance in Brooklyn, and they’re embracing it. They want to be a part of it.”
...

Yormark said season-ticket holders will begin receiving invitations to reserve Barclays Center seats in the next 10 days.

“We’re only marketing our 4,400 best seats to start,” said Yormark, whose arena will include 3,200 premium, or “club” seats. Yormark said that all 16 “brownstone suites,” featuring 16 seats, have sold out at $450,000 apiece. Yormark said about 40 percent of the suites are sold overall, with the nine most-expensive, event-level, Jay-Z-designed suites being held off the market until the fall.
...

But many Nets fans in New Jersey undoubtedly can’t visualize crossing two major rivers and numerous potential traffic bottlenecks to make it to the Barclays Center — even though the arena is less than 20 miles from downtown Hackensack and less than 30 miles from Wayne.
...

Parking also figures to be a challenge, although Yormark said there will be 1,100 spaces at the site, 600 more at the Atlantic Center, and another 1,600 to 1,700 spots in lots within six to eight blocks. Yormark said that studies show about 70 percent of Knicks fans arrive by mass transportation, and that he hopes that at least half of Nets fans will do the same.

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Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

Continuing controversy

Bergen Record
by John Brennan

Construction on the Barclays Center has been steady during the past year after a series of delays, from 2004 to 2010, in the Atlantic Yards project — the name for the 17-building mixed-use complex for which Barclays Center is a key piece. But the complex’s developer, Forest City Ratner, continues to face controversies.

* A lobbyist whose client list included Forest City Ratner was charged earlier this month for his role in an alleged bribery scheme with state Sen. Carl Kruger, D-Brooklyn. While the company was not accused of any wrongdoing, Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender is alleged to have been caught on a wiretap seeking additional public subsidies for the company’s share of costs for a new bridge near the arena site. Bender allegedly used crude language in an exchange with Kruger about putting the bridge construction on the back burner.

* In addition, Atlantic Yards officials recently suggested that they may use prefabricated components to construct the second building at the site later this year. That has angered local union leaders who for years have supported Forest City Ratner’s plan, showing up at project rallies to applaud what they were told would be thousands of construction jobs and shouting down project opponents.

Using prefab materials produced off-site could dramatically reduce the number of construction jobs at the Brooklyn site. About 100 men were on the job one morning last week, using hydraulic cranes, excavators and other equipment.

* Forest City Ratner’s use of a federal program that attempts to lure hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to projects such as Atlantic Yards also has been criticized, because the investors — in this case, mostly from China — gain a fast-track toward obtaining green cards for themselves and their families. The program is supposed to reward those who create or save jobs in the United States.

* The last major lawsuit against the Atlantic Yards project was just heard by a state Supreme Court judge last week. Judge Marcy Friedman gave no indication about when she would rule on whether a new environmental impact statement was needed as a result of an alteration of the project’s timeline that gave Forest City Ratner as long as 25 years to complete the project. The project could be delayed for months if Friedman orders a new impact statement.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, In the Record, Nets CEO Yormark says arena concert schedule coming soon; also, some lingering AY controversies lightly described

The EB-5 program has been criticized because no new jobs would be created, and it's highly dubious any would be saved, thus evading the spirit if not the letter of the law. Also, the marketing has been clearly deceptive.

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

Behind the Bloomberg administration's CityTime scandal: budget director Mark Page (who helped steer the revision of Forest City Ratner's MTA deal)

Atlantic Yard Report

Mark Page, the Bloomberg deputy most responsible for the CityTime scandal, has a bit of Atlantic Yards history.

Page, it should be remembered, was one of the two Bloomberg appointees on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority who pushed hard against any skepticism toward Forest City Ratner's requested June 2009 revision of the September 2005 deal for Vanderbilt Yard development rights, allowing the developer to save on upfront cash and a smaller replacement railyard.

As I wrote 6/25/09, as for the last-minute character of the deal, which had been aired only two days earlier, Page claimed unrealistically that, because MTA staff had been busy working on the deal, “it’s not as though it’s something that’s been dropped in our laps suddenly to consider.”

“I think that realizing value from railyard property that we own is something that we have learned over the last number of years, much of which has been in a boom real estate cycle, is extraordinarily difficult,” Page said. “Because we require the railyard function... we’re selling the space above it. To have an opportunity to actually realize value for the space above our land requires a tremendous upfront investment by the buyer to actually build the platform, an upfront, major investment before the buyer can then move on.”

However, I pointed out, there's no obligation that Forest City Ratner build the platform on the majority of the Vanderbilt Yard site.

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Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

Above board

NY Post
Letters to the Editor

“Kruger Crony Leaned on Me for Vote,” (March 17) states that Forest City Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender sought funding for the construction of a new skating rink in Prospect Park without having been requested to do so by the Prospect Park Alliance.

Alliance staff did ask Board Member Amy Bender to help advance our request for state funding for the skating rink, which is currently under construction. Bender’s husband, Bruce, was trying to assist the alliance in obtaining state-funding toward a major public project.

Alliance staff who are involved in public fundraising were informed about those efforts. All proposals for public funding are requested in an appropriate and transparent way.

Emily Lloyd, President/Administrator, Prospect Park Alliance, Prospect Park

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NoLandGrab: We're not sure whether this makes it better or worse. The fact that the Alliance would ask the developer of New York City's most-controversial real estate boondoggle, which is soaking up hundreds of millions in those precious state funds, to lobby on their behalf doesn't show particularly good judgment.

Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

It Pays to Be a Lobbyist in Brooklyn

mcbrooklyn

A couple of weeks ago it came out that State Senator Carl Kruger was accused of taking $1 million in bribes including money from Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist on behalf of developer Forest City Ratner.
...

Life is good for lobbyists in Brooklyn. One developer alone, Forest City Ratner, paid roughly $3,819,600 over the past five years to lobbyists pushing his controversial Atlantic Yards mega project. (It must be hard to keep track of a few bribes when that kind of money is flying around.)

The Forest City Ratner company (under the name Atlantic Yards Development Co.) paid lobbyists $1,023,000 in 2009 and $298,000 in 2010. In 2008, the company paid lobbyists under two names: $72,000 to lobbyists under the Forest City Ratner name and $298,000 under the name Atlantic Yards Development Co. In 2007, under the name Forest City Ratner, they laid out $980,000. In 2006 they paid lobbyists $1,148,600.

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Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Vornado Project Hits Hard Spot

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

Extell Development has thrown a wrench in Vornado Realty Trust's plans to redevelop a lucrative site at 220 Central Park South. And as Atlantic Yards watchers know, Extell's not shy about causing rival developers a little agita.

This isn't the first time Mr. Barnett has butted heads with a heavyweight in New York City real estate. A decade ago, he unsuccessfully sued to block construction of the New York Times tower on 41st Street after the state tried to seize land owned by Mr. Barnett for the Forest City Ratner project. And in 2005, he made an unexpected bid to the M.T.A. in an attempt to offer an alternative to another Forest City project, the Atlantic Yards basketball arena and housing development in Brooklyn.

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Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

Critics fault tax abatement agreements

Municipal officials, who get most of the payments in lieu of taxes, defend the practice

MyCentralJersey.com
by Sergio Bichao

Guess who's riding the tax-break gravy train in New Jersey.

Critics of tax abatement deals have questioned whether abatements are necessary at all to attract development, or even if the development itself is necessary or desirable. The comptroller's report calls it "inappropriate or nonremedial development.'' The South Jersey township of Gloucester, for example, awarded abatements to three separate Wawa convenience stores, within two to four miles of each other, even though the area within a five-mile radius already was served by 20 such Wawa stores.

Woodbridge does not seem like a town that would have to try hard to woo developers. The New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, Interstate 287, Routes 1, 9 and 440, and major rail lines, with three commuter stations, all criss-cross the township, connecting it to all points of the state.

Yet officials believed it was necessary to offer a 30-year abatement worth $26 million to Forest City Ratner, a multibillion-dollar developer, to build a strip mall next Woodbridge Center mall, which is paying $7 million a year in property taxes. A Wegmans supermarket and strip mall on the other side of Woodbridge Center also has no PILOT, paying $1.6 million a year in regular property taxes.

article

Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

A Little Health Problem

Peter Vilbig: Writings and Readings

Atlantic Yards finds its way into a piece of short fiction.

But who did put it there? I quickly ran through the usual suspects that paranoia might suggest: the Obama administration; rogue CIA agents; thugs hired by that Russian dude putting the stadium up at Atlantic Yards for the Nets. (I signed the petition, so sue me.)

link

Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

March 27, 2011

Daily News investigation of City Council Members points to (AY supporters) Dilan, Mealy as "the worst of the worst," also targets Sanders

Atlantic Yards

The New York Daily News has been publishing a dismaying series on the ethical shortcomings of one-third of the 51 City Council Members.

An editorial yesterday, The City Council is a sorry spectacle, the Daily News investigation showed in sordid detail, highlights a few, including these two:

Two Brooklynites won the award for the worst of the worst. Erik Dilan and Darlene Mealy represent districts with large low-income populations, where families with limited resources face the tough challenge of finding decent places to live.

And what has Dilan, of Bushwick, chairman of the Housing Committee, done to help? He helped himself, of course. He moved into a subsidized apartment that is supposed to be for families with incomes of less than $114,000. He and his wife reported incomes $40,000 over the limit.

Mealy, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, is also squatting on housing that should be occupied by someone making a lot less than the $112,500 salary plus a $10,000 lulu she gets for her part-time Council job.

She and her sister bought a taxpayer-subsized three-bedroom co-op in Bed-Stuy in 1993, when Mealy worked for the Transit Authority. Their joint income was supposed to be less than $15,000. Two years later, they came up with a $14,000 down payment for a brownstone.

Mealy was one of the two members of the 16-member Brooklyn City Council delegation to show up at the March 2010 Atlantic Yards arena groundbreaking. Mealy's gotten campaign contributions from members of BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), an Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatory, and has supported BUILD with discretionary grants.

Dilan, as the graphic at left shows, was one of the earliest elected officials to support Atlantic Yards; the list is from the bid for the Vanderbilt Yard that Forest City Ratner delivered in July 2005 to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

What about Sanders?

Also note the presence on that list of Council Member James Sanders.

He presided over the notorious May 2004 City Council Committee hearing in which Forest City Ratner and its allies spoke all morning, before a full slate of committee members and the press, while project opponents faced empty chairs and a media blackout in the afternoon--a scene prominent in the upcoming Battle for Brooklyn documentary.

The Daily News pointed out that Sanders, while criticizing predatory lenders, had his own conflict:

He failed to mention that he had stopped paying his mortgage and his home was in foreclosure. He calls himself a "victim" and represents himself in court, trying to avoid eviction and damning predatory lenders.
...Sanders declined to discuss his case, but predicted his final settlement will allow "other victims to learn that they, too, have a way to fight back.

That reasoning prompted an editorial scoffing at his excuse:

Identified by the Daily News I-Team as delinquent on his payments, Sanders countered that he was a victim of predatory lending rather than a plain old deadbeat.
It was the bank that lured him into a $588,000 mortgage on a Far Rockaway home in 2006.
It was the bank that made him believe he could afford $3,000-a-month payments.
It was the bank that got annoyed when he stopped sending in checks.
It was the bank that has insisted on foreclosing.
It was the bank that doesn't understand why he should be allowed to stay in the house payment-free after two years.
As Sanders pleaded in court, "My family and I were likely the victims of dishonest, deceitful and ... corrupt lending practices."
So here we have an elected official who purports to be smart enough to write laws while pleading that he was bamboozled into borrowing half a million dollars he could not afford.
How dumb is that?
New York Knucklehead dumb.

link

Posted by steve at 10:37 PM

Noticing New York on "fictional job creation" and Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Drawing on some of my reporting, Noticing New York's Michael D. D. White takes off from a story about fictional job creation nationally to dissect claims of job creation with Atlantic Yards:

In the case of Atlantic Yards we have two levels of AWOL government, each level with its own fictional job creation program that is not fulfilling its ostensible purpose: At the state level the ESDC (the “New York State Urban Development Corporation” doing business as the “New York State Urban Development Corporation”) does not monitor or pay attention to how many jobs are created at the megadevelopment and on the federal level (Congress again neglecting the declared core of a program) we have the non-job-creating EB5 program that we will get to in a minute. Perhaps what mightily facilitates the ease with which the EB-5 program is abused is that it is not known by any formal title, like the American Jobs Creation Act, leaving the New York Times to struggle as it refers to Ratner’s 'enrollment’ of “498 Asian investors” in “an obscure federal program that grants [“sells” is a better word] green cards in exchange for a $500,000 investment in a job-producing American project,” thereby stumbling compliantly into having referred to `job-production’ which is, as discussed, actually nonexistent.

More here, including a list of six specific problems.

link

Posted by steve at 10:33 PM

The Myth Of Bloomberg’s Management Expertise Reexamined: What Happens When Government Doesn’t Manage Its Programs

Noticing New York

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent considerable time and energy promoting himself as a great manager. Is this really the case? Not if you first consider the backpedaling that his administration has done after losing control of the outsourced CityTime project.

Word is that the Bloomberg administration is busy making acknowledgments that it screwed up (and consequently needs to make some serious readjustments) when it delegated to the private sector complex technical projects for which the administration should have retained responsible for itself. In its ill-fated relinquishment of these responsibilities to others, the administration much vaunted for its management expertise lost control of the management, cost, and scope of essential work and tens of millions of dollars of fraud ensued. All of this is surfacing with announcements Thursday night that the administration is now shifting (contritely?) to a policy of “insourcing” from what it had been a policy of “outsourcing.”

...

At the end of last year it came out that the city was the victim of a “$80 million information technology fraud scheme involving development of the CityTime project, “an automated system devised to streamline employee timekeeping.” The New York Times wrote that the ongoing federal investigation was:

casting a pall over an initiative that the mayor had championed as a hallmark of efficient, computerized management, the case does little to help the opinion of the administration’s outsourcing practices.

Similarly, Bloomberg has lost control over large development projects that are essentially outsourced to developers.

Do you want to know what was most on my Noticing New York mind the entire time I was considering all this information about the ill-advised course taken with the Bloomberg administration’s outsourcing of these sophisticated and technically complex projects? It’s the penchant of the Bloomberg administration to do essentially the same thing when, by policy, it hands over large swaths of the city like Atlantic Yards, Willets Point, Columbia's West Harlem takeover, and Hudson Yards, to private developers (or paves the way for the leveling of Coney Island), essentially subcontracting the public’s warfare to those developers and just hoping for the best. It is the same thing: Government walking away from the job that only government can really do well.

Surely, with these subcontracted handouts to the private sector, the public similarly loses money, but this time billions instead of hundreds of millions. Similarly, just as Deputy Mayor Goldsmith says: “the bigger problem is they become the City. Right? We lose control of the scope and we lose control of the price and we need to bring more of the management on our side of the table.” And if this loss of control doesn’t lead to what is technically “fraud” it leads to essentially the same kind of losses for the public as the unleashed developers ultimately deliver mega-messes that differ significantly in quality, scope, and nature from what they promised on day one.

link

Posted by steve at 10:15 PM

The American Jobs Creation Act, Job Creation That Wasn’t: What Happens When Government Doesn’t Manage Its Programs

Noticing New York

This blog post begins with a review of a federal program that has"jobs creation" in its title, but managed not to create any jobs, but did improve the bottom line of participating corporations . One can't help to think about Atlantic Yards as another example of government-gone-missing when it's time to get public benefits for public resources expended.

In the case of Atlantic Yards we have two levels of AWOL government, each level with its own fictional job creation program that is not fulfilling its ostensible purpose: At the state level the ESDC (the “New York State Urban Development Corporation” doing business as the “New York State Urban Development Corporation”) does not monitor or pay attention to how many jobs are created at the megadevelopment and on the federal level (Congress again neglecting the declared core of a program) we have the non-job-creating EB5 program that we will get to in a minute. Perhaps what mightily facilitates the ease with which the EB-5 program is abused is that it is not known by any formal title, like the American Jobs Creation Act, leaving the New York Times to struggle as it refers to Ratner’s 'enrollment’ of “498 Asian investors” in “an obscure federal program that grants [“sells” is a better word] green cards in exchange for a $500,000 investment in a job-producing American project,” thereby stumbling compliantly into having referred to `job-production’ which is, as discussed, actually nonexistent.

As for ESDC, it pushed through Ratner’s net-loss-to-the-public basketball arena (now the Ratner/Prokhorov arena) with the unsound idea that even if public money would be lost on it, at least jobs would be created. But there are numerous problems with the idea that ESDC or the government is on the case in this regard:

  1. ESDC doesn’t have a place to start from in tracking jobs, since all the job creation figures bandied about to promote the project were insanely phony to begin with.

  2. ESDC doesn’t itself actively keep track of or monitor job creation. When stories surface about the number of jobs being created (or lack thereof) it is Forest City Ratner that is supplying the figures.

  3. The actual jobs, to the extent that they can be detected, are much lower than (expected?- NO) originally bruited. Very low indeed.

  4. Ratner is doing what he can to keep employment resulting from the megadevelopment at a minimum, particularly union employment, including through the use of untested modular construction.

  5. The role of government to monitor and administer its own job creation programs really oughtn’t be delegated by abdication as, for instance, to the CBA (so-called “Community Benefits Agreement”). Rather, to the extent that this is what ESDC did with Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner has actively gone out of its way to avoid hiring an Independent Compliance Monitor as called for by the CBA.

  6. To the extent that any part of the provision of jobs is meant to be related to the provision of minority jobs, the responsibility for tracking that remains in the hands of someone Ratner hired, Darrle E. Greene, best known for being indicted for (and ultimately having to make restitution for) falsifying numbers he was submitting to government. When the disgraced Greene was found to be involved in the Aqueduct Raceway scandal (involving multiple parallels to Atlantic Yards) Greene was forced to withdraw from the Aqueduct transaction but he is still around for Atlantic Yards.

link

Posted by steve at 8:55 PM

March 26, 2011

In Our Time Press, the notorious Stephen Witt hails Ratner's modular plan, cites support from Caldwell of BUILD

Atlantic Yards Report

The notorious Stephen Witt is now writing for the Bedford-Stuyvesant-based Our Time Press, but his m.o. remains the same.

In Build Atlantic Yards in Bedford-Stuyvesant (from this issue), Witt writes:

If developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) wants to prefabricate all planned 16 high-rise buildings in his $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project that’s fine with me as long as most of the factory work stays in Brooklyn.

And a good place to start looking for a site to build modules components of the skyscrapers that will be trucked and bolted together on the 22-acre site starting at the Flatbush/Atlantic avenues intersection is in Bedford- Stuyvesant.

This is a version of an argument made by Crown Heights residents (and then-Daily News columnist) Errol Louis, as expressed at a forum in September 21006: "If they’re going to get a billion-dollar TIF [tax-increment financing] deal in Rensselaer County, I think where I live, in Kings County, if somebody wants to bring a billion-dollar deal there, with way too much paid per job, in my neighborhood, where there’s a lot of unemployment, personally, I would say, ‘You know what? I’ll take that.’”

...

The article closes:

The announcement came as the mostly wealthier and white opponents of the project continue to decry it. Interestingly, some of these people have made opposing the plan a cottage industry and have already benefited from the project.

Caldwell said he finds it interesting that opponent bloggers never even try to tell both sides of the story, and continue to demonize anyone that tries to see both sides of the coin.

“I was just at Cataldo’s Restaurant and Pizzeria on Dean Street and Vanderbilt Avenue and the owner told me how he is doing a great business from arena construction workers,” said Caldwell.

“The bloggers and people against the project don’t talk or write about the positive economic impact the arena has already had in the area,” he added.

As McClure comments:

Ouch. But we thought it was the wealthier and white proponents of the project who were benefiting from the project — that is, until the Feds swooped in.

The other night, as it happens, I was talking to someone who lives on the Prospect Heights/Crown Heights boundary. Nobody in her building--mostly poorer and black (to use the converse of Witt's term)--supports Atlantic Yards.

Maybe that's a limited sample, but Witt's sample is just as limited. And everyone he cites is making money from Atlantic Yards. Maybe he should consider the other side of that coin.

link

Posted by steve at 10:02 PM

March 25, 2011

Build Atlantic Yards in Bedford-Stuyvesant

Our Time Press
by Stephen Witt

He's baaaaaaaack! Legendary Atlantic Yards reporter Steve Witt is now penning, apparently, a column for Our Time Press called "At Wit's End" — and this one certainly lives up to the name.

If developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) wants to prefabricate all planned 16 high-rise buildings in his $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project that’s fine with me as long as most of the factory work stays in Brooklyn.

And a good place to start looking for a site to build modules components of the skyscrapers that will be trucked and bolted together on the 22-acre site starting at the Flatbush/Atlantic avenues intersection is in Bedford- Stuyvesant.

It’s an idea that developer Bruce Ratner should consider after announcing recently he might start the housing portion of the arena/housing project with the world’s largest prefabricated or modular dwelling at 34 stories – 30 percent of which will be affordable.

Modular building provides plenty of jobs in America’s rural areas as many single- family homes are now built that way. If this technology can be perfected in large-scale buildings, other developers will follow suit, and there is a chance to revive the city’s sagging manufacturing base.

See, Bruce Ratner isn't double-crossing the unions. He's saving New York City's manufacturing economy!

The only sour note in Ratner’s announcement was that he was looking to locate the factory in Long Island City Queens, which would take jobs out of Brooklyn.

So I called Ratner spokesperson Joe DePlasco, who said the company, is also looking at sites in Brooklyn. A good place to start is northwest Bed-Stuy, which is currently zoned for manufacturing.

Another good spot would be in and around the Brooklyn Navy Yard – also zoned for manufacturing.

James Caldwell, president of Brooklyn United for Innovative Development (BUILD), one of the signatories of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) also hailed the move.

“If it creates jobs in manufacturing it will be a throwback to a different era with a new twist,” said Caldwell, whose non- profit organization is funded by Ratner.

It's like "An Angel sent from God II!"

Caldwell noted that it’s very tough for people of color to get into construction unions under the current economic climate.

“It (building part of the project in factories) might be an easier way for people of color to get into the unions,” he said.

But guess what — those factory jobs pay roughly 40% of the construction-site jobs, according to The Times.

Caldwell said since signing the CBA, BUILD has put about 350 people to work either through Ratner or on other Ratner projects throughout the city.

Call us skeptics, but we sure would like independent confirmation of those 350 jobs.

“We’re working on an employment plan for when the arena is built to provide about 1,200 jobs and even more when the affordable housing is built,” he said. “There will be a lot of permanent jobs and small business opportunities at the arena, particularly in customer service and hospitality-type jobs.”

And yes, we sure would like to see that plan.

The announcement came as the mostly wealthier and white opponents of the project continue to decry it. Interestingly, some of these people have made opposing the plan a cottage industry and have already benefited from the project.

Ouch. But we thought it was the wealthier and white proponents of the project who were benefiting from the project — that is, until the Feds swooped in.

Caldwell said he finds it interesting that opponent bloggers never even try to tell both sides of the story, and continue to demonize anyone that tries to see both sides of the coin.

Operative word: coin.

“I was just at Cataldo’s Restaurant and Pizzeria on Dean Street and Vanderbilt Avenue and the owner told me how he is doing a great business from arena construction workers,” said Caldwell.

“The bloggers and people against the project don’t talk or write about the positive economic impact the arena has already had in the area,” he added.

Don't let anyone say we haven't written about the positive economic impact of the arena: James Caldwell says that construction workers are buying lunch at one restaurant on Vanderbilt. Only $5,999,990,000 to go!

Posted by eric at 8:15 PM

Comment of the Day

Curbed
by Joey Arak

"The mystery developer is Bruce Ratner. He's promising housing PLUS a new hospital, sure, but when the whole thing is developed (scheduled for 2014, pushed back to 2031) there will be a 2-room clinic with one semi-retired nurse and a doctor who got his degree from Surgery Univeristy (an Internet-accredited institution), a large parking lot, 2 piles of dirt and a whole lot of angry Russian and Chinese investors. However, it's okay because 1,000% of Manhattanites (and 2,300% of West Village residents) support the project."—JGP [Mystery Developer Working on Alternate St. Vincent's Plan]

link

Posted by eric at 8:09 PM

Getting ready for modular construction? NYC Building Trades Employers' Association asks unions to drop restrictions on off-site work

Atlantic Yards Report

Modular construction, apparently, is one of the negotiating points between contractors and union workers.

Union radical Gregory Butler, on his Gangbox News blog, recently posted THE BUILDING TRADES EMPLOYERS ASSOCIATION'S 26 POINT ULTIMATUM TO THE NEW YORK BUILDING TRADES, from the Building Trades Employers' Association (BTEA), which represents "1,700 construction managers, general contractors and specialty subcontractor firms in New York City."

It included cuts in wages, no overtime for make-up work, a cut in overtime pay from double to time-and-a-half, and rule changes, but the key passages, at least regarding Forest City Ratner's plans for modular construction of towers at the Atlantic Yards site, are these:

#6. No limitations on materials, supplies or equipment, regardless of their source or origin;

#7. Elimination of prohibitions of or restrictions on work which is performed off-site on materials or products modified or fabricated for installation on the project;

The larger context

On March 19, in a front-page article headlined Trade Unions in City Confront a Rise in Nonunion Projects, the New York Times pointed to the BTEA's new Build Union Jobs web site (screenshot at right) and noted that "what may be their most tense contract negotiations in years" is imminent:

The employers have backed off an initial demand for wage cuts, but they are still aiming for a 25 percent cut in labor costs, by reducing benefits and changing some work rules. They say these changes would allow them to better compete with nonunionized companies, which are winning jobs from developers because their costs are 20 to 30 percent cheaper.

The Times article leaves the impression that some rules that clearly need changing--such as requiring three operating engineers in place when only one is needed--while others may be efforts to extract more profits.

The Times article mentions Atlantic Yards, but not the request for rule changes regarding off-site construction:

And this week, the developer of the Atlantic Yards megaproject in Brooklyn said it was seriously considering using a prefabricated method to build its residential high-rise. While most of the workers would be unionized, there would be fewer of them and they would earn less money because much of the labor would be done in a factory, where wage scales are lower than on the site.

article

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

Where should architects draw the ethical line? In discussion, Gehry and Ratner inevitably come up

Atlantic Yards Report

On the Glass House Conversations web site (connected to the Philip Johnson Glass House), writer Mark Lamster recently raised a question about architectural ethics, and of course Frank Gehry and Atlantic Yards came up.

Lamster posed the question:

How do we choose our clients? On this subject, Philip Johnson, self-professed "whore," was apt to quote H. H. Richardson's admonition that the "first principle of architecture is to get the job." That is rather cynical, perhaps, and in fact there were some clients (the mafia, for instance) for whom even Johnson would not work. But how do the rest of us know when and where to draw the line? Is it acceptable to work for a government with a spotty record on human rights? How about a corporation with a poor environmental history? How do we balance commercial imperatives with a desire for a moral practice?

To be a design professional is to navigate ethical territory that is rarely black or white, but some shade of gray. What compromises are and are not acceptable in this world?
...

Brooklyn-based writer Karrie Jacobs:

Architects in particular, because they rely on clients with excess money and clout to achieve their artistic and professional goals, are susceptible to temptation and moral failure. (See: Faust.)

Two examples come to mind:

...2) Frank Gehry and Bruce Ratner. To the many opponents of the Atlantic Yards project, this seemed like an unholy alliance. All I could figure was that Gehry was, for a very long time, blind to the politics of this gig because it gave him something he badly wanted: the chance to design an entire high-rise urban neighborhood. And because it promised to keep his firm in black-ink for a long, long time. I’m not convinced that morality had anything to do with Gehry’s exit from the deal. I just think that Ratner, ultimately, couldn’t afford to build Gehry’s dream neighborhood. The money and the clout had diminished.

Morality had nothing to do with Gehry's exit; his design (four towers constructed simultaneously with the arena, sharing HVAC) was impossible, and his cordial words upon leaving the job likely had to do with his other gig with Ratner, designing the Beekman Tower.

article

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

March 24, 2011

Fair warning from 2010: the Atlantic Yards story is not ovah (and now look at the news); What about the EB-5 angle?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Yards story is still going strong, isn't it? As Michael D. D. White writes in his Noticing New York blog:

The Times is having a harder and harder time not covering Atlantic Yards. That’s partly because Atlantic Yards is a bigger story than the paper has heretofore rightfully acknowledged.

Last year, when press and public attention diminished, it shouldn't have. I wrote 8/24/10, about the lack of press attention to the appointment of Arana Hankin as the Empire State Development Corporation's Atlantic Yards project manager:

Perhaps, they think, the Atlantic Yards story is ovah. Except it's not.

I wrote 11/30/10 about the failure to follow up on the last Atlantic Yards court case and the Community Benefits Agreement:

Journalists and others who think the Atlantic Yards story is ovah simply have closed their minds.

And I wrote 12/7/10 about the New York TImes's curious failure to cover Atlantic Yards news:

Instead, in the last month, we've seen two feature articles and a review regarding The Civilians, as if Atlantic Yards is ovah, history, an arts story. Nah.

Now, given the news about modular construction and charges against state Senator Carl Kruger and lobbyist Richard Lipsky, it should be clear that Atlantic Yards will remain a subject of interest--and require scrutiny--for a good while.

What about the EB-5 angle?

The biggest uncovered story? Forest City Ratner's recruitment of 498 green card-seeking immigrant investors under the federal government's EB-5 program.

link

Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

Whither the New York Times? Noticing New York Comment Respecting a Manhattan Institute Sponsored Debate

Noticing New York

The Times is having a harder and harder time not covering Atlantic Yards. That’s partly because Atlantic Yards is a bigger story than the paper has heretofore rightfully acknowledged. Basically, I think there was a decision at the Times made, albeit in the necessarily amorphous and unstated way that decisions would have to be made in such a news organization, to relegate Atlantic Yards, and more specifically the governmental misconduct and impermissible cronyism associated with Atlantic Yards, to the status of an official non-story within its pages. But the story won’t go away.

With new revelations like the Forest City Ratner pattern of being involved in the bribery of government officials, the recently unveiled ambition to make Atlantic Yards the densest forest of modular units in North America and EB5 program abuses in selling green cards to the Chinese solely for developer benefit the Atlantic Yards saga is a constant poster child for malefaction. But what the Times most misestimates is the extent to which the Times story interrelates with the coverage of the national and local stories it editorially believes it should be covering vigilantly.

I believe that the Times made a miscalculation that Ratner, as a financial buddy, could be off-limits for critical pieces- but not puff pieces- (Its own little behind-the-scenes deal with the devil), but that indulgences would come (in the good old religious sense of buying indulgences to recover from sin) via its moralistic vigor on national issues. But there is no such line to be drawn. Everything is connected. (This is one of the points of an epically idiosyncratic Noticing New York piece currently in the works: Adding A few More Off Topic Notes (Or Are They Really?).)

(* You encounter a similar Jekyll and Hyde split with Michael Ratner: On the one hand he is a defender of intentional human rights coordinating with the likes of Naomi Wolf and on the other he is feathering his nest with political contributions to now-indicted state senator Carl Kruger, no doubt with the intention of keeping the money flow from his brother Bruce Ratner off the radar screens)

The Times can’t write about race relations without observing the context in which white men like Ratner have attempted manipulate those concerns for their own financial advantage. The Times can’t cover Bloomberg and his potential run for president without observing how he favors awarding the development of big swaths of the city to a small in-crowd of connected developers. The Wall Street shenanigans covered by the Times very popular op-ed columnist Paul Krugman echo in the goings on with respect to Atlantic Yards as do all the Times stories about the accelerating redistributions of wealth from the middle class to the upper echelons.

The list of what the Times is missing by failing to make connections goes on ad infinitum. It also all relates to the question asked by the title given to the St. Francis evening debate: “Is the New York Times Good for Democracy?” The Times seriously hamstrings itself with respect to covering the big story on American Democracy by failing to adequately cover Atlantic Yards.

article

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

Barclays Center Starts Raising the Roof

Curbed
by Joey Arak

What makes this Barclays Center construction update different from the ones that have come before it? Now the arena is one big mothertrussin' pile of steel. The arched Barclays-branded roof will be supported by two 350-foot-long trusses, and a new photo released by the Nets organization and posted on Nets Daily shows the first one being installed. The 1000% of Brooklynites who support Atlantic Yards should be thrilled!

link

Photo: New Jersey Nets via Nets Daily

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

INDICTMENTS REVEAL LEGISLATIVE BRIBERY RING-- AND SYSTEM

Ground Report
by Richard Cooper

The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, announced indictments on March 11th of two New York state legislators and six others.
...

The legislators were selling votes, according to the indictment. Lobbyist Richard Lipsky sought and obtained Senator Kruger's support for New York state government funds for three projects of his client Forest City Ratner, owned by developer Bruce Ratner.
...

Lipsky was a supporter of the Brooklyn eminent domain and corporate welfare scheme known as Atlantic Yards. (Full disclosure: I have been an opponent of this project, contributing financially to Develop, Don't Destroy Brooklyn. For details, search groundreport.com for my other Atlantic Yards and eminent domain articles). However, he was an opponent of the Queens eminent domain and corporate welfare scheme known as Willets Point. He is on Ratner's payroll. Purely, a coincidence, I'm sure.

Senator Kruger has been indicted for illegally being induced by lobbyist Lipsky to seek the New York state taxpayer funds on behalf of Lipsky's client Ratner. This is as it should be. But large sums of money are appropriated going to the benefit of corporations in violation of the state constitution without bribery or extortion.

Fortunately, Buffalo attorney James Ostrowski and a squad of plaintiffs around the state have filed suit against the governor, the legislative leaders, and some major firms such as IBM who have received these unconstitutional grants or loans. I am pleased to be one of the plaintiffs. Known to its supporters as the Stop The Pork Lawsuit, the appeal is going to be heard by the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, most likely in April.

article

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

March 23, 2011

EXCLUSIVE: Barclays Center will be nest for the Blackbirds

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gary Buiso

The Blackbirds are looking to nest with the Nets.

The suddenly world-class Long Island University men’s basketball team is in negotiations to play a portion of its home games at the Barclays Center, catapulting the plucky squad to a national audience when the arena is completed next year.

“LIU [is part of] a strategic partnership that will encompass many areas of our business, including having several LIU games played at the Barclays Center,” said Nets spokesman Barry Baum.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, LIU basketball team may play at Barclays Center; that puts the LIU provost's enthusiastic, unquestioning support for AY in context

In an article labeled "Exclusive," the Brooklyn Paper reports Barclays Center will be nest for the Blackbirds, which, as I explain below, helps put in context the hyperbolic support for Atlantic Yards recently expressed by the provost of Long Island University.
...

Note that the home court hasn't been doing that well, with fewer than 1800 seats filled--one tenth of the capacity of the Barclays Center. As the New York Times reported last week:

The team did not sell out its home games until the Northeast Conference final, when the gym (capacity 1,800) was packed with students and faculty members, and some local groups who got free tickets.
...

Numerous smaller academic institutions have used sports to gain a larger public profile, and LIU seems eager to adopt that strategy.

But the AY support still doesn't add up. The campus provost, Gale Stevens Haynes (a self-described basketball fan) said in a sworn affidavit in the case challenging the Atlantic Yards timetable (heard this month):

The students and faculty at LIU-Brooklyn are very supportive of the Atlantic Yards Redevelopment Project. The advantages of the Project are abundant.

... I know that the students and faculty of LIU-Brooklyn firmly believe that the important public benefits that will result from the Project will outweigh any adverse impacts of extended construction on our neighborhoods.

If LIU students don't care about their own university's basketball team, how do they care about Atlantic Yards? They don't.

Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Brooklyn Paper: some contradictions in the Prime 6 story about bottle service; Capital NY: owner leaning toward "California cuisine"

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper reported yesterday, in In Prime 6 fight, the bar owner has two faces:

The owner of a controversial new bar in Park Slope maintains that his place will be a local eatery — but he told state liquor officials that the two-story, 230-person “lounge,” will hire four “security guards,” offer “bottle service” and have an outdoor “stand-up bar.”

Prime 6 will be a live music venue that caters both to Brooklynites and, “out-of-town patrons in anticipation of the Barclays stadium” that is rising one block away, according to a booze permit application filed by owner Akiva Ofshtein last year with the State Liquor Authority.

“It will offer several rooms for private parties, including a basement lounge [and] a large outdoor secluded-dining backyard to be enjoyed during the spring,” the application continued.

link

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

Kruger scandal costs developer another project

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

A deep-pocketed developer entrenched in an ambitious, federally funded plan to build the borough’s tallest building at Albee Square has been quietly thrown off the project for his involvement in the FBI’s sweeping bribery probe into state Sen. Carl Kruger.

Acadia Realty Trust, the builders behind the $750-million City Point project, which received $20 million in tax-exempt federal stimulus money when it suffered financial troubles in 2009, confirmed that developer Aaron Malinsky’s PA Associates has been “removed from all operational involvement” behind the plan to bring a four-story shopping mall and as many as 700 units of housing to the Fulton Mall.
...

“Acadia would never have tolerated anything improper being done [to the City Point project],” project spokesman Rick Matthews said in a statement. “We have no knowledge of any improper or illegal activities related to Malinsky’s projects, but we have strong policies in place prohibiting illegal or unethical conduct by employees, associates or affiliates.”
...

The developer was arrested alongside Kruger (D–Mill Basin) and six others on March 10, and was charged with bribing Kruger and his lover Michael Turano with $472,500 over the years.

In return, Kruger:

• Tried to get Forest City Ratner Companies, the lead developer on the soon-to-be-built Four Sparrows Retail Center on the southern tip of Flatbush Avenue, to give a portion of the project to Malinsky so he could build a department store on the city-owned site.

article

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

Atlantic Yards documentary film "Battle for Brooklyn" to debut at Toronto's Hot Docs Festival April 30

Atlantic Yards Report

First came The Civilians' documentary play In the Footprint: The Battle for Atlantic Yards, which opened last fall. Now comes the documentary "Battle for Brooklyn" (working title "Battle of Brooklyn").

link

Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

Two vicious iPhone robberies

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

It wasn't quite like last week's all-out criminal free-for-all at Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn malls, but a sticky-fingered thief did help himself to some fancy frames.

Vision villains

A crook swiped more than $2,800 worth of designer glasses from the National Vision Center in the troubled Atlantic Center Mall on March 18.

Workers at the store between Fort Greene Place and South Portland Avenue said that the thief stormed in at 5:10 pm and began looting the display cases, taking three pairs of Prada glasses, three pairs of Gucci glasses and one pair of specs designed by Dolce Gabana.

article

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

About that Ken Adams confirmation hearing

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the confirmation hearing yesterday for the Empire State Development Corporation's Ken Adams was supposed to be streamed on the Internet. But I couldn't get access, and I haven't yet found any reports on the hearing.

link

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

Who Made the New Brooklyn (and Who Controls the Old)

The L Magazine

Brooklyn is the fourth-largest city in the country—as such, it is a complex place. For some, it is a throwback to the greatness of immigrant America, for others, it is the frontline of international hipster monoculture... Whatever the case, the idea of "Brooklyness" has never been more out in the world, even if it's impossible to pin down. What follows is a look at the people who've created that idea, and in whose hands its future rests.
...

Marty Markowitz
Though powerless to undo new bicycle infrastructure (phew!), Marty remains a mighty political force, by far the likeliest borough president to make a bid for city hall if/when Bloomberg's reign ends. Brooklyn has changed dramatically since the third-term prez took office in 2001. He's notched noble efforts in education and affordable housing, but there's the far more substantial list of less laudatory causes Marty has championed: tearing down Admiral's Row; turning Brooklyn from a place where people live into a brand that people buy; and a little real estate project called Atlantic Yards—he harnessed the power of denial for a recent video message courting potential Chinese investors, proclaiming: "Brooklyn is one thousand percent behind Atlantic Yards!"
...

The Forever Yards: Bruce Ratner
However many of Atlantic Yards' planned infrastructure-toppling residential towers ever go up over "blighted" Prospect Heights, given the current housing market (and however many pol-placating low-income units they ever include), the man still brought major league sports back to the BK, and the shockwaves—like Park Slope's panic over a stadium-crowd-catering hip-hop club—have already begun.

link

Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

March 22, 2011

world premier at hot docs in toronto april 30

Battle of for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Battle for Brooklyn (note new name) will have its world premier at the Hot Docs Documentary Festival on April 30th at 7pm. This is fantastic news as Hot Docs is the most important doc festival in North America.

As a world premier it got prime placement in the articles today that appeared in Variety, Hollywood Reporter, and Indiewire.

link

Posted by eric at 10:57 PM

Hot Docs Unveils 18th Edition Film Slate

The Hollywood Reporter
by Etan Vlessing

The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival's 18th edition is to open April 28 with Morgan Spurlock's POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

Spurlock's feature doc on advertising and product placement paid for entirely by advertising and product placement comes to Toronto for a Canadian premiere at the Winter Gardens Theatre by way of Sundance and the SXSW Film Festival, and ahead of the Sony Pictures Classics release on April 22.

As Hot Docs unveiled its feature film program Tuesday, the festival said it will unspool 199 documentaries from 23 countries over ten sidebars.

Don't expect love-at-first-sight storylines or blue-lit love scenes. Hot Docs means mostly celebrity-driven pics or portraits about the realities of war and conflict and personal struggle.

Sean Farnel, Hot Docs director of programming, said the main film themes this year include the arrogance of power, problematic families and "directors becoming fictional characters in their own films." There's also a world premiere for Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley's Battle for Brooklyn in the World Showcase program, which captures a community fighting to stop developer Bruce Ratner demolishing a Brooklyn community to make way for a New Jersey Nets basketball arena and commercial towers.

article

More info and tickets at the Hot Docs web site.

Posted by eric at 5:10 PM

Union sundown! Ratner risks losing labor support with prefab tower

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gary Buiso

Developer Bruce Ratner has yet to birth a building at the Atlantic Yards site, but he’s already causing labor pains.

Unions are recoiling after learning that the mega-developer has been secretly planning a prefabricated tower at the Prospect Heights site — a decision that could significantly jeopardize hundreds of union jobs that Ratner promised to organized labor and their political supporters at a critical juncture in his project’s approval process.

The 34-story building at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street — the first residential building in what is on paper is stll a $4.9-billion 16-skyscraper project — would be constructed using 900 modules, or prefabricated steel boxes, that would simply be stacked and bolted together, the New York Times reported last week.

This week, union members were the ones bolting — from Ratner.

“This was never part of the plan that was presented to us,” charged Richard Weiss, a spokesman for Construction and General Building Laborers’ Local 79. “If something is going to provide good jobs to our members, we are going to support a project. But, clearly, he’s changed how he is planning to go forward.”

It was the unions who loudly supported Ratner for years, trumpeting the hundreds of construction jobs that were slated to be filled by union workers during the decade it will take to build the project.

If the modular plan proceeds, union jobs would be considerably diminished, as most of the work is completed on a factory floor rather than on site of what would be the world’s tallest prefab building.

“Everything is built in one shot — the electrical, the plumbing — then they pick up the box with a crane and put it in place,” said Tony Buscema, president of the Brooklyn Board of Business Agents, which finds work for the building trade unions. “The building trades don’t get much out of it because the rooms are already completed.”

article

NoLandGrab: We don't want to say we told you so — but we told you so, and we've been telling you so for the past seven years.

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

Would modular construction require a new environmental review? ESDC says there's no official plan, so speculation is unwise

Atlantic Yards Report

On March 17, I asked this question publicly: Does modular construction mean a new environmental review is needed for Atlantic Yards?

I suggested it might, given that the delivery of 900 modules, "lifted into place by crane and bolted together at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street," as the Times described it, could introduce a different set of impacts on traffic, or on street closures.

Querying the ESDC

I followed up by posing the question to the Empire State Development Corporation:

Would the introduction of modular construction at the Atlantic Yards site require a new environmental review or technical memo?

Spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell responded:

The fact that the building would be modular as opposed to conventional construction would merit another environmental review only if the design guidelines or any other MGPP [Modified General Project Plan] requirement could not be met using the modular approach. If such a decision would be made to adopt modular construction in lieu of conventional construction, ESD would first ascertain as to the modular building's ability to meet the design guidelines and fulfill any other applicable project requirements. If it was determined that the modular approach did not, then ESD would consider adopting modifications to the guidelines, or if necessary, the MGPP. In this case, an additional environmental review might be required, depending on the degree of the modifications.

article

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

New bio of Jay-Z: some good business anecdotes, "loyalty to his money," a suggestion he got a discount on the Nets; an AY chapter riddled with errors

Atlantic Yards Report

While Zack O'Malley Greenburg's Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office, is billed as "The Definitive Jay-Z Biography," it focuses, as the author acknowledges, on business, not music.

Thus there's less analysis of Shawn (Jay-Z) Carter's creativity and cultural impact, and no pick-up from the star's own 2010 book Decoded, which is both insightful and cryptic, leaving some lingering questions about the star's ethics.

There's a potted history of Jay-Z's involvement with Atlantic Yards, which offers some intriguing numbers regarding the value of Jay's investment, but is unfortunately riddled with errors.

And Jay-Z wouldn't talk to Greenburg; the author suggests that "Jay-Z doesn't like to share the proceeds of projects he feels he can execute on his own."

"His loyalty is to his money"

That said, Greenburg did crib from other interviews, talk to other journalists, and interview several people who worked with Jay-Z. The book portrays a capable and sometimes cutthroat businessman. As his mentor from Brooklyn, Jonathan "Jaz-O" Burks, suggests, "His loyalty is to his money."

article

NoLandGrab: That's supposed to be surprising?

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

In Prime 6 fight, the bar owner has two faces

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

The owner of a controversial new bar in Park Slope maintains that his place will be a local eatery — but he told state liquor officials that the two-story, 230-person “lounge,” will hire four “security guards,” offer “bottle service” and have an outdoor “stand-up bar.”

Prime 6 will be a live music venue that caters both to Brooklynites and, “out-of-town patrons in anticipation of the Barclays stadium” that is rising one block away, according to a booze permit application filed by owner Akiva Ofshtein last year with the State Liquor Authority.

Neighbors are concerned.

“It underlines the mysteriousness of the proposed bar,” said Steve Ettlinger, whose yard faces Prime 6’s outdoor patio, which will seat 46 people. “There are a number of things that don’t stack up.”

Community Board 6 now wants to reopen the debate, voting last week to ask the state for a new license hearing on the grounds that the board failed to provide locals with enough advance warning about the lone hearing.
...

On a wider level, opposition to Ofstein’s bar can be seen as a proxy battle in the long fight over the Atlantic Yards mega-project, which will undoubtedly alter the local nightlife scene once the Barclays Center arena is completed in late 2012. The area is already bustling at night — but there is no telling what 19,000 basketball fans will do once they become a thrice-weekly fixture.

article

Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

Kruger crony thrown off B'klyn skyscraper plan

NY Post
by Rich Calder

A New York developer nabbed in the sweeping federal corruption probe that snared state Sen. Carl Kruger earlier this month has been quietly cut out of one of Brooklyn's biggest projects, which was slated to bring the borough its tallest building, The Post has learned.

Aaron Malinsky's PA Associates had been partnering in City Point, a mixed-use project slated to rise as high as 65 stories at the city-owned former Albee Square Mall site in Downtown Brooklyn.

But Acadia Realty Trust confirmed yesterday that it has used its powers as majority partner to remove Malinsky "from all operational involvement" in City Point.
...

The feds say Malinsky funneled $472,500 in bribe money to Kruger through a shell company set up by Kruger's lover and alleged accomplice, Michael Turano. In exchange, the feds say, Kruger assisted Malinsky in getting approvals to develop the $65 million Canarsie Plaza Shopping Center on city property and Kruger tried to get developer Forest City Ratner to give Malinsky a piece of a retail center Ratner is building on city land in Mill Basin.

Kruger even arranged a meeting with Forest City officials and Malinsky, the complaint says.

article

NoLandGrab: No word yet as to whether the ESDC has thrown Forest City Ratner off the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Gehry parties with U2's Bono and actress Candice Bergen on his bday at 8 Spruce Street

The Real Deal

Really, Bono? Really?

Famed architect Frank Gehry celebrated his 82nd birthday this past Saturday during a fete on the 76th floor of New York by Gehry, the starchitect's latest project located at 8 Spruce Street in Lower Manhattan. Among the guests at the party, held in a penthouse unit inside the newly opened rental tower, were numerous stars of the art, music and real estate worlds, including actress Candice Bergen, singer Bono and Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner, which developed the 903-unit building.

link

Related coverage...

Curbed, Bono, Candice Bergen Get Invites to Frank Gehry's Penthouse Party

Developer Bruce Ratner presented the man of the hour with a 40-inch birthday cake shaped like a Gehry-esque tower, and God altered the elliptical orbit of the moon to create a lighting effect that helped New York by Gehry's steel curves shine extra bright above the Lower Manhattan skyline.

Photo: Philip Greenberg

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

March 21, 2011

ESDC CEO Ken Adams has a Senate confirmation hearing; here are some questions about Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

On Tuesday at 10:30 am, the New York State Senate's Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business will hold a confirmation hearing for Kenneth Adams, Commissioner of New York State Department of Economic Development and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation.

The hearing, to be held in Albany, will be streamed on the Internet. The Chair of the Committee is Sen. James Alesi (R-Rochester), who at least knows something about Atlantic Yards after joining Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) at a January 2010 oversight hearing in Harlem on eminent domain.

Only an hour has been allotted, and surely there are many things on the minds of the Senators and of Adams, but they still should ask a few questions about the ESDC's most controversial project.

Some Atlantic Yards questions

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Does Adams support a governance entity to provide some oversight and continuity regarding the project?
  • Given that the ESDC has acknowledged that the project won't be completed in the announced decade-long timetable, shouldn't the agency conduct a cost-benefit analysis that provides multiple scenarios, including a delayed buildout, delayed office space, and modular construction?
  • Does the ESDC stand by its statement, made a year ago in reference to the Ridge Hill case, that they "remain confident in Forest City as a developer and as a good corporate citizen"?
  • Does Adams agree with ESDC President Peter Davidson's claim, in China in support of Forest City Ratner's effort to get immigrant investor funding, that Atlantic Yards would "be the largest job-creating project in New York City in the last 20 years”?

link

NoLandGrab: Here's betting Atlantic Yards never even comes up.

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

"Gray Lady Down," a debate on the Times, and an AY mention

Atlantic Yards Report

Having read William McGowan's book Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of The New York Times Means for America, I knew it does not address such relatively local issues at Atlantic Yards (built by the Times Company's business partner on the Times Tower, Forest City Ratner), but instead more ideological issues such as gay marriage, immigration, the Duke "rape" case, and the war on terror.

So McGowan didn't bring up Atlantic Yards during a debate last month with Michael Tomasky, American editor-at-large for the Guardian, at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights. (Tomasky's main point was that the allegedly halcyon days of the past featured flawed coverage, especially in scope, of a different stripe.)
...

I think the issue is somewhat murky. I have no doubt that the editorial page is committed, by virtue of the "spirit of the Times" (aka Sulzberger), to supporting Atlantic Yards, or, at least, keeping its mouth shut about dismaying details.

Is the Metro desk in the tank? I don't think so--and I can't let myself think so. But the Times has done, on the whole, a lousy job covering Atlantic Yards.

Editors make choices, and the Times has chosen to put far less energy into looking carefully at Atlantic Yards than at a number of other issues. Meanwhile, the Sports section laps up Nets publicity.

link

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

Corrupt Brooklyn Politician's House Looks Exactly How You'd Expect

Curbed
by Joey Arak

State Senator Carl Kruger, accused of shady dealings in connection with a number of Brooklyn real estate projects—including Atlantic Yards and the Brooklyn Navy Yard—has had a long and complicated and possibly intimate relationship with members of the Turano family of Mill Basin. And seeing as how the Kruger case will one day make for a great Dateline special, the Times investigated these colorful characters in great detail. But the star of the show, by far, is the Turano's gaudy 7,000-square-foot waterfront mansion, which looks like it was built for a mobster, probably because it was.

link

Photo: Emily Berl for The New York Times

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

The Day: Modular Construction and Political Corruption

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

Last week we watched a new clip from “Battle for Brooklyn”, a documentary (by Local contributor Michael Galinsky) coming out this spring chronicling the fight over the Atlantic Yards Project. The clip shows Bruce Bender, Forest City Ratner executive vice president, and politicians talking about the local jobs the project will create.

The claims of job creation came under scrutiny last week, after The New York Times reported that developers are constructing a 34-story modular high-rise at the site. The building, which would be the world’s tallest prefabricated steel structure, could cut construction costs in half by requiring fewer and cheaper workers.

That potential reduction in Atlantic Yards construction jobs has refueled the drive to closely examine the project and Forest City Ratner, which was recently mentioned in a corruption case against New York State Senator Carl Kruger. The New York Times also reported that the developer pressed Mr. Kruger for $9 million to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge at Atlantic Yards.

link

NoLandGrab: Forest City actually said they were considering prefab construction.

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

Ratner lied to the unions

Queens Crap

Crappy has a message for the building trades.

Well, union members, since you acted like sheep it's no surprise that you have been led to the slaughter.

See you at Willets Point, where the rest of the flock will no doubt be put down.

link

Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

March 20, 2011

Times devotes seven reporters to Kruger-Turano investigation; what if they applied same resources to Forest City Ratner's EB-5 venture?

Atlantic Yards Report

In A Senator’s Shadow Family, the New York Times today assigns seven reports to look at the complicated relationship between accused (of corruption) state Senator Carl Kruger and the Turano family, who live in an over-the-top house in Mill Basin:

In the days since the criminal complaint was filed on March 10, the four central characters in this drama have declined to talk extensively to reporters. But interviews with two dozen people who know them, along with previously undisclosed court and city records, reveal a strange symbiosis. Mr. Kruger vaulted the Turanos into his spheres of power and influence, prosecutors say, landing Dorothy a plum job and, later, funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into her sons’ bank accounts to finance a $200,000 Bentley and pay down a $1.2 million mortgage.

The Turanos, in turn, provided the senator companionship, and prosecutors say the brothers helped conceal his growing payoffs from lobbyists and corporations.

Imagine what seven reporters could find if they looked into Forest City Ratner's EB-5 venture, to which the newspaper finally devoted space--all of two paragraphs--this week.

link

Posted by steve at 10:13 PM

Kruger's campaigns see big 'Net' gains

New York Post
By Gary Buiso and Aaron Short

Talk about team spirit.

State Sen. Carl Kruger -- who, the feds charge, directed state money to the Atlantic Yards project, which includes a new Nets arena -- took thousands of dollars in campaign cash from deep-pocketed donors connected to its developer, the team and the arena.

Nets investor Michael Ratner -- a lawyer and brother of the developer, Bruce Ratner -- and Michael's wife, Karen Ranucci, each gave $2,000 to the Brooklyn Democrat's campaign weeks before Bruce bought the team in 2004. Bruce's company, Forest City Ratner, is also building the Brooklyn arena.

Richard Lipsky, a former Ratner lobbyist who, with Kruger, was charged by feds on March 9 in a $1 million bribery case, legally gave Kruger's coffers $3,500 between 2003 and 2007, and Lipsky's wife, Dorothy, gave $9,000 between 2008 and 2010, state data show.

Lipsky was caught on FBI wiretaps allegedly paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to Kruger, who is charged with directing state cash to Forest City's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project and other Lipsky clients.

Other Nets investors in the Kruger campaign-money mix were Vincent Viola, a Wall Street mogul and former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange, who gave $5,000 in 2009, Ahron Hersh, a former CEO of a handbag company, who gave $5,000 in 2005, and Martin Rostowsky, president of a Sunset Park electric-supply company, who gave $250 in 2004.

...

Kruger, 61, has gone out of his way to cheer for the Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights, which sits well outside his South Brooklyn district.

At a public hearing in 2006, he gushed: "We're not talking about the Nets arena. We're not talking about Forest City Ratner . . . We're talking about Brooklyn first. What better way can we talk about Brooklyn than bringing an arena and a first-class team to the doorstep of what is truly the capital of our world, our borough, Brooklyn?"

Critics blasted Kruger's cozy relationships with Nets and arena backers.

"Contributors feel as if they have to make campaign gifts in order to have the support of crooked officials like Kruger," said Dick Dadey, head of the watchdog group Citizens Union.

Michael Ratner, Viola, Lipsky and Rostowsky did not return calls for comment. Ranucci hung up the phone when Kruger's name was mentioned. Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, declined to comment, as did Nets spokesman Barry Baum.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, New York Post notices contributions from Michael Ratner and wife to Kruger, discovers other Nets investors who gave

When, in September 2006, I first wrote about lawyer Michael Ratner's campaign contribution in apparent furtherance of the goals of Forest City Ratner (run by his brother Bruce), nobody in the press seemed to care.

When news of corruption charges against state Senator Carl Kruger first surfaced this month, I mentioned that Kruger had received FCR-related campaign contributions, and on Friday I wrote again about Michael Ratner.

Exclusive?

Today, in an article labeled "Exclusive," the New York Post offers Kruger's campaigns see big 'Net' gains:

State Sen. Carl Kruger -- who, the feds charge, directed state money to the Atlantic Yards project, which includes a new Nets arena -- took thousands of dollars in campaign cash from deep-pocketed donors connected to its developer, the team and the arena.

(Actually, he directed state money toward a Prospect Park project pushed by Forest City executive Bruce Bender.)

Nets investor Michael Ratner and his wife, Karen Ranucci, are cited first, with no reference to my coverage.

New findings

The others listed advance the story:

  • Richard Lipsky, a former Ratner lobbyist, and his wife, Dorothy (Lipsky's also been charged, for illegal gifts, as well)
  • Vincent Viola, a Wall Street mogul and former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange
  • Ahron Hersh, a former CEO of a handbag company
  • Martin Rostowsky, president of a Sunset Park electric-supply company

Hersh said his gift thanked Kruger for helping Russian Jews, while no one else, including reps for the developer and the Nets, would comment.

The numbers are not so great as to suggest a massively organized plan; still, it's notable that so few would comment.

link

Posted by steve at 10:02 PM

Times Magazine takes look at architect Scarano: NYC Department of Buildings was overwhelmed during boom, and relied on self-certifications

Atlantic Yards Report

In a fascinating article headlined The Supersizer of Brooklyn, the New York Times Magazine explores the curious case of now-disgraced Robert Scarano, who became the architect of choice for developers looking to capitalize on the outer-borough building boom, especially in gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Greenwood Heights, and Park Slope's Fourth Avenue.

Scarano's specialty: he found ways to build not only eye-catching modernist designs, but to work around the zoning code, building loft mezzanines that qualified as storage space, thus adding secret space to a more cramped (on paper) apartment.

(Ahead of the curve, the late Bob Guskind wrote about Scarano a ton.)

Self-certification

Clearly, gentle city procedures, allowing architects to proceed on the honor system, enabled Scarano's tactics. The Times reports:

Scarano boasted that he knew every nook and cranny of the zoning code, and few thought to question his expertise. He had a genial relationship with the buildings department, and he usually submitted his designs under the city’s self-certification program, an honor system instituted to save money during the Giuliani administration. This meant that, in the vast majority of cases, buildings were being constructed with the go-ahead from just one person: Robert Scarano. In neighborhoods all over the city, though, concerned citizens began to throw up obstacles.

Cracking down

Finally, however, Scarano faced a backlash, as the Times reports:

In early 2006, after a meticulous review, the city filed a series of civil charges against Scarano in an administrative court, among other things claiming that he “made false or misleading statements” in submissions for 25 self-certified projects. Most of the violations concerned mezzanines. The buildings department had just promulgated new guidelines, holding that if the mezzanines had more than five feet of headroom, they could not count as storage space. A few months after the case was filed, the city settled the charges in return for Scarano’s giving up his right to self-certify. “I believe strongly and until today that my interpretations and my decisions were founded on things that were permissible,” Scarano says, contending that many of his audited buildings were eventually cleared by examiners.

Some wonder, if what he was doing was so blatantly illegal, why Scarano met with approval for so long. Robert LiMandri, the commissioner of the buildings department, said he had “no information that indicates that there was any sort of corruption” and that no employees were disciplined. Rather, he contended, the department was overwhelmed by a “frenzy” of building activity, and it relied on Scarano’s representations, which were often voluminous and confusing. At the time, the department had no way to punish him for lying. In 2007, though, state legislators, inspired by complaints about scofflaw architects, passed a law that allowed tough sanctions. “We really needed this stick to be able to say to people, look, there are no more cat-and-mouse games,” LiMandri said. The department created a new Special Enforcement Unit, focusing on Scarano as an initial target.

(Emphasis added)

Perhaps the Buildings Department's posture toward Scarano was not dissimilar to other departments' posture toward Atlantic Yards: they relied on representations they couldn't, or wouldn't, examine closely.

link

Posted by steve at 9:55 PM

Seven years ago, Brooklyn Paper house ad touted "the most complete and honest coverage" of Atlantic Yards and "changing face of Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

From a house ad in the 3/20/04 Brooklyn Papers (now the Brooklyn Paper):

2 massive Urban Renewal projects would change the face of Downtown Brooklyn forever — turning both quaint and gritty neighborhoods into high-trafficked walled communities, and massively impacting life in the surrounding residential neighborhoods.

The proposed Nets arena is just a small part of the master plan, the most expensive Urban Renewal and property condemnation in Brooklyn’s history.

Only The Brooklyn Papers has asked: Is this the Manhattanization of Brooklyn ... or the “depeopling” suburbanization of our streets?

Are these projects good for Brooklyn?

YOU'LL FIND THE MOST COMPLETE AND HONEST COVERAGE OF THE CHANGING FACE OF BROOKLYN ONLY IN THE BrooklynPapers.

Looking back

In retrospect, I'm not sure the question was Manhattanization vs. suburbanization, though it's more the former.

Rather, it's whether the public sector would prove to be a tenacious defender of the public interest, or whether the project would be steered by the developer, with cheerleaders like Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz bending over backwards to help.

The Brooklyn Paper did an aggressive job covering Atlantic Yards, though that's diminished since the newspaper was bought by Rupert Murdoch in 2009.

link

Posted by steve at 9:45 PM

At tense Council hearing, James, Lander cite AY delays, construction changes, press NYC EDC's Pinsky on need for updated cost-benefit analysis

Atlantic Yards

City Council Members Tish James and Brad Lander questioned Seth Pinsky about what the true benefits would be for Atlantic Yards. Pinsky continues to acknowledge the 25 year build-out that call into question any return for the City's subsidies for the project.

Two Brooklyn City Council Members yesterday grilled Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) about Atlantic Yards, but Pinsky both defended Forest City Ratner’s potential plan to build modular housing for the project, and argued that it, along with delays in tax revenues from a longer buildout, would not necessarily affect the city’s cost-benefit analysis of the project.

The latter statement, which Pinsky repeated in several ways, left Council Member Brad Lander dismayed and dumbfounded, calling Pinsky’s answers to Council Member Letitia James “deeply inadequate” and warning that the city has “misplaced confidence” in Forest City Ratner (FCR).

I'd also suggest that it requires an independent cost-benefit analysis, by the Independent Budget Office, rather than a self-serving one by the city.

...

“Let me go to may favorite project of all time, Atlantic Yards, they've been in the news,” James said. “They've been involved in two controversies, sort of unindicted co-conspirators.” She cited the Ridge Hill corruption case and the charges against state Senator Carl Kruger.

Does the $24 million “we so graciously have provided them” for the Carlton Avenue Bridge represent new money?

“No. That's money that's been in the budget now for some time,” Pinsky responded. “As you know, the original investment that the city was going to make in the Atlantic Yards project was about $200 million. Over the course of our negotiations, we finalized an agreement with Forest City last year which brought the total investment by the city to $179 million. the $24 million for work that were doing to help it go forward, $24 million for the Carlton Avenue Bridge, and $131 million for land acquisition.”

“What was original commitment to Forest City Ratner from the City of New York?” James asked.

“I believe the $200 million,” Pinsky responded.

That’s not true. The city initially committed $100 million, only to double that figure in 2007 after the project received initial approvals, and later to dial back slightly. (I think it’s still murky, given the likelihood that the city is also paying for some work on the FCR side of the ledger.)

...

“Have you done an updated cost-benefit analysis to determine how many jobs are being created by Atlantic Yards, because this project has changed?” James asked.

“The project actually has not changed significantly,” Pinsky maintained. The build program still calls for 16 towers. The arena size, though it’s decreased in square footage, continues to have the same number of seats. The MTA yard continues to meet the needs of the MTA.”

(That’s a bit of a euphemism, because, while a replacement railyard remains planned, it’s smaller than originally announced.)

“We haven't updated the cost-benefit analysis since we made the investment, but the analysis that we did showed that this would yield hundreds of millions of dollars in net incremental benefits to the city,” he stated.

James then referenced the recent news that Forest City Ratner is considering constructing the tallest-ever building made via modular construction, to meet its affordable housing obligations.

“Does that concern you?” she asked, noting that it would affect the number of jobs and the cost-benefit analysis.

“As I understand, this is an option that’s being explored,” Pinsky said carefully. ”I think, more importantly, that it's really not our place to stand in the way of innovations in technology relating to buildings.” He added that "it’s obviously incredibly important” that whatever is built complies with the project Design Guidelines and with safety requirements, but said that it’s tough to speculate on the impact until Forest City Ratner makes a decision.

He then went on to speculate a bit. “One thing I do know, in the articles, Forest City said they were looking at using a factory in New York City to do the construction, which is a benefit and job creator that we certainly didn't ever factor into our analysis,” he said. So, “if we were to go back,” that would have to be factored in.

“Well, clearly they're not going to complete this in ten years,” James noted, adding that the city committed funds based on that timetable.

Council Member Brad Lander continued the questioning:

“Everything you've said so far, in response to my questions, I think, has been a thoughtful answer. I have to say the answers you gave to Council Member James’s questions, I think, were deeply inadequate,” Lander began. “To begin with, let’s talk about the cost-benefit analysis. If I promise you a dollar today, and then instead I say, ‘I’ll give you a dollar in 15 years, is that dollar worth the same amount?’”

“Well, actually, that's not what the agreement was,” replied Pinsky with a touch of pique. A veteran of grilling by the bombastically prosecutorial legislator Richard Brodsky, Pinsky is no shrinking violet. “If we’re going to play an intellectual game it has to be fair.”

“I'm talking about the cost benefit analysis on the project revenues,” Lander continued, in a genially prosecutorial tone. “Your cost-benefit analysis evaluated a city investment of capital against projected tax revenues to the city, correct?”

“Among other things, correct,” Pinsky replied, a bit cagily.

“A pretty important one, though, the revenues, in terms of figuring out whether it’s a net positive to the city,” Lander asked.

“Absolutely,” confirmed Pinsky.

“So,” Lander continued, with increasing incredulity, “if the project is delayed from the timetable of ten years, and you earlier in your remarks said ‘over the course of the next several years,’ which I think is extremely generous, to a minimum of 25 years, with total uncertainty on whether the full buildout will happen at all, when and whether the office jobs will actually happen, the revenues that are going to come to city as a result of the construction and implementation and operation, are likely to be dramatically delayed from what you originally estimated in the cost benefit analysis that you did when you agreed to put all this capital into that project. I don’t see how you can say that’s not true.”

link

Posted by steve at 9:27 PM

A Ratner Bluff on the Not-So-Fab Prefab Modulars? A Second Opinion

Noticing New York

Many have denounced the recent announcement that modular construction is being considered for Atlantic Yards. This blog post considers that the announcement may simply be a feint.

The analysis of whether the public is being blackmailed essentially harkens back to the way that Ratner threatened Community Board 2 for additional approvals on his Beekman Tower project by saying he wouldn’t build the community’s promised school. He was already theoretically obligated to build the school in connection with the permission he had been given to erect such an immense building on the site. He got the benefit of the extra approvals from the community board.

On today’s WNYC 411, Greg David has another take on the possibility that Ratner is bluffing, this time harkening back, also to the Beekman Tower, but this time to the way that Ratner later (bluffingly?) halted the tower's construction in order to exact concessions from the construction unions. The tower DID eventually proceed and Ratner DID get concession from the unions.

The fact is we may both be right. If it is potentially a ploy Ratner may intend it do double duty and do both.

Business reporter Mr. David appears to be having a harder time saying he still supports Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly, but he refused to say, when questioned during his interview, that he was wrong from the start. He offered a tempered and lukewarm hedged assessment: “Sure I regret that it’s not going to be beautiful off the bat, but you know fifteen years from now it might be great, - I’m hoping.” - - Fifteen years as hoped for by Mr. David is, of course, outside the 10-year time frame for which ESDC did its environmental assessment and the project is actually now expected to take decades.

link

Posted by steve at 9:15 PM

The Real Question to Ask About the Ratner Bait-and-Switch Approach on Atlantic Yards

Noticing New York

This blog posting begins with a listing of the depressingly familiar bait-and-switch that has become the hallmark of Atlantic Yards.

A List of Ratner Atlantic Yards Bait-and-Switches (incomplete)

This most recent episode means that an incomplete list of the bait-and-switches that have been `foisted’ upon the ESDC to date now includes the following:

  1. Cheap, untested, modular construction instead of premium `starchitect' (Frank Gehry) design (or high quality materials) for the residential portions of the project

  2. The revamping of the basketball arena Gehry design to an airplane hanger design dressed up with a theoretically temporary metal lattice work wreath. That arena is also smaller than promised and apparently can’t accommodate a hockey team, not that the surrounding Brooklyn Brownstone community should actually be happy if it could.

  3. A shift from a swift 10-year build-out of the megadevelopment to a schedule that (like the now 40-plus-year development of Roosevelt Island) will take the protraction of “decades” to complete.

  4. Constructing, in return for the MTA’s contribution of land, a significantly downscaled train yard with 7 tracks rather than 9 or the original 10, which reduced and minimized train yard will not provide the MTA with the flexibility it needs for long-term plans.

  5. A ditching of promised green space both in permanent and immediate terms.

  6. A substantially lower, in fact pathetically paltry, purchase price for public land paid out over time and at the developer’s option rather than upfront. The developer also gets an artificially low interest rate courtesy of the taxpayers puts down just 20% to start and doesn't having to pay the bulk of the already discounted price the government had previously accepted, a remaining $80 million, until 2031.

This kind of thing would not go on but for the cooperation of New York State and tool of developer Bruce Ratner, the ESDC.

I am not surprised that the first thing a friend asked me upon hearing of this latest bait-and-switch was: “Do you think that Ratner intended this all along?” Whether Ratner intended this particular bait-and-switch all along is not the question. What is important, as we have pointed out before, is that ESDC worked from the beginning to put the Forest City Ratner organization in the driver's seat, giving it, without bid, exclusive rights to this megadevelopment in such a way that Ratner could always shortchange and blackmail the public with frequent bait-and-switches thereafter. This setup for bait-and-switches was certainly intended by Ratner and consciously facilitated by ESDC officials from the get-go. So whether or not Ratner intended this particular bait-and-switch is not important: He intended a framework in which he could pull off this bait-and-switch or any other bait-and-switch he could think of.

Is Ratner really intending to carry out this most recently proposed bait-and-switch or is it just blackmail to get the state and city to give him more money? Does it make a difference? The result is the same; the public has been gypped. And thank you very much ESDC; this comes courtesy of you.

The blog post ends by suggesting how Governor Cuomo could act in the interest of the state by putting an end to the Atlantic Yards project and, instead, work for development that produces real benefits.

One simple, efficacious way for Cuomo to send Ratner packing would be to simple settle the current environmental lawsuit before Judge Marcy Friedman in favor of the myriad community plaintiff organizations that joined together to bring it. In fact, looking at this switch to modular prefab, Atlantic Yards Report has just added one more reason why that lawsuit should be settled in the plaintiffs’ favor: See, Thursday, March 17, 2011, Does modular construction mean a new environmental review is needed for Atlantic Yards? Settling in the plaintiffs’ favor would give us all one dead Ratner project. It would also mean an end to the current structure that locks the state and city into being the victim of a constant round of bait-and-switch operations throughout the foreseeable decades. Your move, Governor Cuomo.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Noticing New York: if Ratner was considering modular construction for a year, that plan was hatching even as he saluted unions at the groundbreaking

Noticing New York's Michael D. D. White, in The Real Question to Ask About the Ratner Bait-and-Switch Approach on Atlantic Yards, offers a partial list of bait-and-switches (e.g., Frank Gehry, timetable, railyard, less money down) facilitated by the government.

Notably, White points out that Ratner was already considering a modular construction plan that would "shaft the unions" even as he saluted them at the groundbreaking last year.

Also, in a second post, White suggests Ratner might be bluffing the unions, as he did with the Beekman Tower, which was halted at the half way point for renegotiation.

Posted by steve at 8:58 PM

Dear NY Media, Forest City Ratner Is Corrupt

Daniel Goldstein

Soon to be former New York state senator Carl Kruger and uber-lobbyist (and hugely hypocritical self-promoter and self-righteous blogger Richard Lipsky) are corrupt. It didn't take last week's federal indictment against them to make that clear, anyone who has watched them over the years could see that.

Kruger shilled for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan over and over and Lipsky was paid to shill for Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan over and over. Specifically Kruger, at public hearings and a Senate hearing urged the MTA to sweeten an already sweetheart land deal for Ratner, and spoke in support of the project with such over the top glowing praise that one couldn't help but think "who paid this guy off?"

Lipsky went on the attack against Atlantic Yards opponents and critics, including me personally, attended every important event and hearing, blabbering into the bluetooth glued to his head or speed thumping his blackberry, during the Atlantic Yards approval "process," and he carried Ratner's water even though Ratner stands for everything Lipsky supposedly has spent his career fighting. Just last week he claimed he was only helping Ratner with youth sports efforts. Yeah right.

These are corrupt individuals.

But what of Bruce Bender, Ratner's vice president of governmental affairs and public relations? And what of Forest City Ratner the corporation? This is a corrupt organization. Bender has been named now, for the second time in just over one year, as a key player in a federal corruption indictment. No, Mr. Bender wasn't indicted in either instance, but the only question that raises is--why not?

In the Ridge Hill indictments in Yonkers though he is not named I'm sure Bender is the same player. Bender, on behalf of Forest City Ratner, is at the very center of the indictment for bribery against former Yonkers councilwoman Sandy Annabi and lobbyist Zehy Jereis. Bender, it seems pretty clear from that indictment, gave Mr. Jereis $60,000 for a no show consultant job with Forest City and in return Jereis got Annabi to change her pivotal vote on Ratner's Ridge Hill project from "no" to "yes." Annabi’s flip happened days after Bender met with Jereis over lunch in Brooklyn.

(And by the way, why aren't Forest City Ratner and Bender referred to by name in this Kruger indictment, why are they anonymous? There doesn't appear to be any reason for the anonymity.)

Bender is a corrupt individual. And he serves a cutthroat, ruthless real estate corporation with his corrupt behavior. Forest City Ratner will stop at nothing to gain more and more public subsidies and more and more valuable real estate. To paraphrase Bender from the Kruger indictment, they don’t even care if they fuck the public.

I'm sure Bender’s day will come, but until it does it is important to remember that just because the Feds haven't indicted anyone at Forest City Ratner for corruption, doesn't mean they haven't acted corruptly. They have, and they continue to do so.

Forest City's response to the Lipsky indictment, that they are shocked, shocked! to find that Lipsky is tainted and that they've cut ties with him immediately, is such a cynical joke. Forest City hires guys like Lipsky and Bender to do their dirty work, they hire them specifically because they are tainted and have strong relationships with easily corrupted politicians such as Kruger. Bender built up his political operative status as a powerbroker in South Brooklyn’s Thomas Jefferson Democratic clubhouse. And now he just uses that power to cut deals and call in favors from sleazy characters such as Kruger.

How does Ratner mouthpiece respond to the crude wiretap dialogue between Bender and the indicted Kruger in the federal complaint? Here’s the official Forest City Ratner response in The Times:

...Forest City Ratner did not deny that Mr. Bender was the person to whom Mr. Kruger was speaking. “I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that the person in charge of government relations at Forest City Ratner speaks to government officials,” said Joe DePlasco, a spokesman. The complaint, he said, “does not suggest that Forest City Ratner behaved in any way that’s inappropriate."...

Did DePlasco read the complaint?! No, nobody is surprised that Bender talks to government officials, but is DePlasco suggesting that we shouldn't be surprised that Bender, on the wire tap talking to Kruger about getting public money to rebuild a bridge crucial to local traffic flow that his company took down and was supposed to pay for and rebuild 2 years ago, said, "I don't mind fucking the bridge, I can't fuck it right now." Does Joe DePlasco think we are all idiots? Does he think that is the appropriate way to treat the public for his company's purportedly public project?

DePlasco is wrong: the complaint doesn't suggest that Forest City Ratner behaved in any way that's illegal, but it sure does suggest that it behaved in an inappropriate way, as did the Ridge Hill indictment.

I'm so sick and tired of Forest City Ratner getting a completely free pass from New York politicians and most of the New York media. Perhaps now--with Bender's extra salty language and hardball lobbying tactics (in this case trying to scrounge up public money for a public bridge Forest City Ratner took down for AY and was supposed to pay to put back up and still has not done so over 2 years since it was supposed to go back up), with no regard for the Brooklyn public or New York taxpayers, luridly exposed in this indictment against Kruger, along with the Ridge Hill bribery mystery--that free pass can end.

Posted by steve at 12:01 AM

March 19, 2011

Press Release: Councilmember Lander Criticizes EDC for Refusal to Conduct New Cost-Benefit Analysis for Atlantic Yards, Calls for Suspension and Reduction of City Subsidies

Councilmember Brad Lander

New York, NY – On the heels of the revelation that Forest City Ratner may build the first residential tower at Atlantic Yards with modular construction, thus dramatically reducing total wages and tax revenues to the City, City Councilmember Brad Lander today criticized NYC Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky's refusal to reevaluate the City's capital contribution to the Atlantic Yards project and conduct an updated cost-benefit analysis in light of significant changes to the project. Lander called for the City’s subsidy to Atlantic Yards to be suspended, and subjected to the same 17% capital cut that EDC is taking overall.

At the City Council's preliminary budget hearing on EDC's budget, Lander argued that changes to the project since EDC committed $200 million to Forest City – a much-longer timeframe, uncertainty about full build-out and the contemplated office space, and now the potential of modular construction significantly reducing wages and tax revenues – are likely to dramatically reduce the project’s tax revenues to the City, and therefore require a fully updated cost-benefit analysis, before the City proceeds to distribute any remaining subsidy dollars.

“The City’s subsidy to Atlantic Yards should be suspended until we have a new cost-benefit analysis, and subjected to the same 17% capital cut that EDC is taking overall,” Lander said. “I was not initially a die-hard opponent of this project, but I had many questions and concerns about whether the benefits would be realized, the public costs would be contained, the developer would live up to its obligations, and the process would be transparent. Unfortunately, those concerns have grown enormously, and it has become clear that City is very likely to lose many millions of dollars on this project, even as many of the contemplated benefits have evaporated. We need a new cost-benefit analysis before we proceed to put City taxpayer money into this project, just as we need real public oversight and accountability.”

Lander, together with Councilmember Letitia James, also asked Pinsky a series of questions about several troubling developments related to the project, including allegations that Senator Carl Kruger took bribes for his efforts to secure New York State subsidies for the Atlantic Yards project, and that representatives of Forest City Ratner and its partners may have misled foreign investors as part of its efforts under the EB-5 program to secure investment through the procurement of US visas, despite the fact that these investments will create no new jobs beyond what had already been promised.

Mayor Bloomberg has imposed a 10% capital cut for parks and infrastructure, and EDC overall has taken a 17% capital cut. Yet the City’s contribution to Atlantic Yards has not been reduced – despite the City’s fiscal difficulties, despite the many concerns surrounding the project, and despite the likelihood that the project’s tax revenues to the City are likely to be significantly reduced.

Posted by steve at 11:49 PM

Look at the graphics: Times devotes less space to EB-5 controversy than to puff pieces about Nets promotions

Atlantic Yards Report

Size does matter.

Yesterday, the New York Times briefly mentioned Forest City Ratner's effort to raise $249 million from immigrant investors, as if no questions or controversy were connected.

I've scanned the print article, to contrast the amount of coverage with the significant space the Sports section has devoted to covering Nets promotions of dubious value...

Yes, Metro is different from Sports, but people read the Times as a whole.

(And, I should add, today's Times has a Metro section feature on the move of Freddy's from Prospect Heights, displaced from the arena block, to an address that's either the South South Slope, Greenwood Heights, or northern Sunset Park: The Transmigration of a Brooklyn Saloon. It's not uninteresting, but it's also soft news, not hard news that requires some analysis.)

The two paragraphs the Times devoted to EB-5 are also dwarfed by a Sports section photo of Nets dancers and a puff piece about a promotion for tax time.

link

Posted by steve at 11:44 PM

Two Times headline tweaks, softening the political impact of the modular tower plan

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not uncommon that newspapers publish articles with web headlines that differ from headlines that appear in print, given the constraints of the latter.

And it's not uncommon, given the fluid world of web-first publishing, the web headlines change as well.

Still, it's worth pointing out the apparent softening of provisional New York Times headlines over the past two days.

Union concerns not played up

As I wrote March 17, the article headlined in print as "Atlantic Yards Plans to Build Tallest Prefab," and online as Prefabricated Tower May Rise at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, at point had a different web headline, with a tougher slant: "In Brooklyn, a Prefabricated Tower May Anger Unions."

In other words, the story tilted from an emphasis on the political context of the decision to a more gee-whiz approach to technology.

The article yesterday, headlined online as With Federal Case and Modular Building Plan, New Attention for Atlantic Yards Project, and with a similar headline in print, at one point was headlined online as "Atlantic Yards Developer Draws Criticism from Unions," as the screenshot indicates.

As it happens, the union angle wasn't the main thrust of the piece, which was a (somewhat wimpy) round-up. But was there more criticism from unions that ultimately didn't appear?

link

Posted by steve at 11:41 PM

If LIU students don't care about their own university's basketball team, how do they care about Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

What must they be thinking on the Long Island University campus in Brooklyn?

In a 3/17/11 article headlined It May Be News to Brooklyn, but Basketball’s Spotlight Is on One of Its Own, the New York Times reported:

Now, L.I.U.-Brooklyn has jumped on the express to new heights. The university, by winning its conference championship, earned one of 68 bids to the N.C.A.A. basketball tournament. This Friday in Charlotte, N.C., it will play a polar opposite in school spirit, campus acreage and basketball tradition: the University of North Carolina.

Few on Flatbush Avenue seemed to know or care that the Blackbirds had made it. Junior’s Cheesecake, across the street, is stocked with sports memorabilia including a Brooklyn Nets jersey, but nothing from L.I.U.

There were no banners on campus, just two red electronic outdoor signs with a reminder to support the Blackbirds. The team did not sell out its home games until the Northeast Conference final, when the gym (capacity 1,800) was packed with students and faculty members, and some local groups who got free tickets.

...“We have had some spirit issues here over the years,” said Greg Fox, the associate athletic director for external relations. “We’re a commuter school, primarily, and our students tend to be more reactionary than proactive.”

The AY connection

Why is this important? Because the campus provost, Gale Stevens Haynes (a self-described basketball fan also quoted in the article) said in a sworn affidavit in the case challenging the Atlantic Yards timetable (heard this past week):

The students and faculty at LIU-Brooklyn are very supportive of the Atlantic Yards Redevelopment Project. The advantages of the Project are abundant.

... I know that the students and faculty of LIU-Brooklyn firmly believe that the important public benefits that will result from the Project will outweigh any adverse impacts of extended construction on our neighborhoods.

If LIU students don't care about their own university's basketball team, how do they care about Atlantic Yards?

link

Posted by steve at 11:27 PM

Critic Lange: Maybe Gehry's design was kinda modular, too

Atlantic Yards Report

In Bad Faith Towers, Design Observer's Alexandra Lange makes the connection between the Times's graphic, for illustrative purposes, of a pre-fabricated, modular tower that might be built at the Atlantic Yards site, and a Frank Gehry rendering of the arena block, which looks pretty darn modular.

She writes:

Are we so desperate for affordable housing (again, the recession changes everything) that we will take a chance on untested building technology? Who gets to be the guinea pig on the 34th floor? Surely Forest City Ratner did not want this news out the week of the Japanese quake.

...Surely Ratner will tart up the prefab units with some cast concrete lintels and blown-up brownstone details, and call them contextual. But the truth is, the Times rendering is not so far from the boxy stacks Gehry proposed after the billowing Miss Brooklyn proved too costly. As with the disappointing 8 Spruce Street, there's a thin value engineered line between industrial production and genius.

link

Posted by steve at 11:06 PM

Ratner Gets Press, More To Come?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

In the aftermath of the major New York Times piece revealing Forest City Ratner's plans to minimize union labor by using modular construction for the first residential tower, the media have started to take a second look at the deception and corruption that are the hallmarks of Atlantic Yards.

Patch takes a look at the outraged union reaction in Brooklyn who sound all but ready to break out the inflatable rat for the corner of Dean and Flatbush. And then the Times itself followed up with a broader look at the Atlantic Yards bait-and-switch.

But as Norman Oder points out, there's still another really big story here that the major media has yet to nail: FCR's borderline-fraudulent sales of green cards to Asian investors in return for investment dollars. The EB-5 program is meant to create new jobs in the U.S., but as the Times reports:

MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, said that when it received final approval from the federal government, the $249 million would be used to pay down a land loan for the project and additional work on the railyard.

How many new jobs does paying off a loan create? And wasn't the railyard work already required under the master plan? Oder, ever generous to his colleagues, actually sets out a complete roadmap for coverage of this scandal-in-the-making, in the comments section of the Times' follow-up article. It's a story about a well-intentioned Federal program that Ratner has turned into yet another form of corporate welfare, based on hawking U.S. green cards like memberships in a time-share resort. Journalists, please start your engines.

link

Posted by steve at 10:25 PM

The Week in Pictures, March 18

The New York Times

Atlantic Yards makes it into the Times' Week in Review slide show as the paper makes an attempt at giving the project a hard look.

In a bid to cut costs at his star-crossed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the developer Bruce C. Ratner is pursuing plans to erect the world’s tallest prefabricated steel structure, a 34-story tower that would fulfill his obligation to start building affordable housing at the site.

link

Posted by steve at 10:10 PM

The Transmigration of a Brooklyn Saloon

The New York Times
By Liz Robbins

Here's an article about Freddy's, once a center for opposition to Atlantic Yards and of how the now-relocated bar is doing.

As one of the last holdouts refusing to yield to make way for the Atlantic Yards development project, Freddy’s, which was at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Dean Street, generated such creative agitation it drew enormous publicity before giving up the fight last April.

Out of the limelight, Freddy’s has been settling into a quieter, comfortable existence on Fifth Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets.

...

The inside looks virtually the same because the deal that Freddy’s previous owner, Frank Yost, struck with Forest City Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards, had the entire bar packed into three industrial storage units for the next location.

...

Freddy’s, of course, preserved the symbol of its move. The “chains of justice” hang beneath the lip of the bar; last spring, patrons were prepared to chain themselves to the bar when the bulldozers came.

link

Posted by steve at 10:10 PM

The Prodigal Blogger Returns

Catasterist

A stint on a grand jury has given this blogger a chance to reflect on the poor design of Ratner projects.

There are a lot of interesting design issues to think about during jury duty–how it feels to be in a windowless room for the duration of a lovely spring day; mixing with defendants and witnesses and wardens in slow, awkward elevators; even the size of a temporary jury badge (too big to fit in a wallet) where my title (JUROR) and number are much larger than my name (which matters to almost no one). In addition, the New York State Supreme Court Building in Brooklyn was built by Forest City Ratner, the developer in the news lately for the Atlantic Yards fracas. Let me just say that if the design quality of this courthouse and the entire MetroTech development is any indication, I don’t have a lot of faith that the Atlantic Yards project will be a great civic center.

link

Posted by steve at 10:05 PM

From Columbia Journalism Review: A Sports Myth Grows in Brooklyn: New basketball arena won’t occupy the site the Dodgers sought

Atlantic Yards Report

I've been writing about the "same site" myth for years and, in a 2/17/08 post suggested that the New York Times's failure to correct a persistent error would have consequences. Indeed, it has.

Columbia Journalism Review today publishes my online article, A Sports Myth Grows in Brooklyn: New basketball arena won’t occupy the site the Dodgers sought:

Journalists who write about the new basketball arena rising in Brooklyn, scheduled to house the basketball Nets in 2012, frequently invoke the borough’s last major league team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, who left in 1957 for Los Angeles. They sometimes cite a seeming spiritual link: the Barclays Center arena is said to be located exactly where a successor to Ebbets Field could have emerged.”

A half-century earlier, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley had hoped to build a new home for his team on the same site,” writes Zack O’Malley Greenburg in Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office, officially published March 17. (Jay-Z’s an investor in the Nets, hence a chapter on the Atlantic Yards project.) The Ebbets Field connection has been brought up by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, cited by a journalism professor and author on a book on the Dodgers, and even entered an ongoing exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

The problem? It’s a myth. The stadium would have been located across a wide avenue. While the myth has appeared in multiple media outlets, I believe that The New York Times, which many researchers treat as a reliable source, bears significant responsibility.

The error has appeared at least five times in the Times

link

Posted by steve at 10:00 PM

March 18, 2011

Animated video: F#@k the Bridge with Carl and Bruce

Atlantic Yards Report

An anonymous and creative person has created an animated video that appropriates the dialogue between Bruce Bender and Carl Kruger, but has cartoon characters deliver it, with cutesy/robotic computer-generated voices.

link

Posted by steve at 4:23 PM

With Federal Case and Modular Building Plan, New Attention for Atlantic Yards Project

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

The Atlantic Yards project began with much fanfare in December 2003, when the developer Bruce C. Ratner unveiled his plans at a pep rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall: an exotic basketball arena and a sprawling residential development that would provide affordable housing, jobs and community development.

The $4.9 billion project took a battering during the ensuing seven years of public review, controversy and delay. Today, the 18,000-seat basketball arena, which will be home to the Nets, is taking shape at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. But revelations in the past few days have brought renewed attention to the rest of the 22-acre project.

Last week, a federal bribery case against State Senator Carl Kruger turned up a recording of an executive at Mr. Ratner’s company, Forest City Ratner, pressing Mr. Kruger for $9 million to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge at Atlantic Yards. Forest City Ratner did not get the money, and the executive was not accused of any wrongdoing, but the recording did bring unwanted attention to the company’s desperate search for financing.

And this week, Forest City Ratner confirmed that it was considering erecting a 34-story prefabricated, or modular, tower, as a way of cutting its construction costs and fulfilling its obligation to start building housing.

The construction unions that Mr. Ratner had lauded last year for sticking with him were stunned by the suggestion that much of the work might take place in a factory, where wages are much lower than on-site. Forest City has put off the start date for the tower, the first of 16, until the end of the year.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the organization whose lawsuits delayed the project for years, said the plan for a modular building was the latest in a long line of broken promises.

article

NoLandGrab: What really delayed the project for years was a) a degree of outlandishness and unrealistic ambition that, b) made the project impossible to finance, compounded by c) an absolute disregard for public process that forced opponents to pursue legal action.

Related coverage...

Norman Oder is moved to publish two blog posts on The Times article.

Atlantic Yards Report, Times can't help but notice bad news about Atlantic Yards, gets supportive quote from Markowitz, soft-pedals EB-5 story, railyard deal

The New York Times today follows up on the skein of bad news and broken promises afflicting the Atlantic Yards project, but doesn't go nearly far enough.

The article downplays the bargain Forest City Ratner got on the renegotiated railyard and finally mentions--but completely soft-pedals--the astounding effort to trade green cards for purportedly job-creating investments.

The headline, With Federal Case and Modular Building Plan, New Attention for Atlantic Yards Project, inherently indicates the Times's own role in calling attention to the project.

Yes, the taped conversation between scandal-plagued state Senator Carl Kruger and Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender is in the public record, but the modular building plan was a Times scoop.

The missing scoop(s)

And the Times could've had a scoop of sorts on Forest City Ratner's effort to exploit the EB-5 investment program; after all, I laid out a road map in a comment yesterday on the Times's web site.

Instead, just as with two other pieces of damning Atlantic Yards news--Forest City Ratner's bailout of ACORN, and the major cut in the value of arena naming rights--the Times covered it belatedly, parenthetically, and weakly.

Atlantic Yards Report, How does refinancing a land loan and helping build a new railyard create Atlantic Yards jobs, under EB-5? It defies common sense

Bagli writes:

[Forest City] also lined 498 Asian investors who enrolled in an obscure federal program that grants green cards in exchange for a $500,000 investment in a job-producing American project.

MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, said that when it received final approval from the federal government, the $249 million would be used to pay down a land loan for the project and additional work on the railyard.

How would that create jobs? It wouldn't--at least not in great quantity, not close to the 4980 minimum jobs required (ten per investor) or the 7696 jobs claimed.

If no EB5 funds, then what?

What happens if Forest City does not pay down the land loan? The collateral development rights would have gone to their lender, Gramercy Warehouse Funding, if Forest City didn't pay. Now they'd go to the Asian investors.

What about the railyard? They're obligated to build the railyard by 2016; if they can't come up with financing they'd lose development rights.

Their whole 2005 bid to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority--and the renegotiation of the bid in 2009--was based on the premise that the cash component was only a small percentage of the overall value.

How jobs are calculated

In either case, note that under federal guidelines, actual jobs need not be counted; rather, an economist's report suffices. It applies a "multiplier" to the total sum invested.

However, for the "Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project," Forest City Ratner and its partner, the New York City Regional Center, have been claiming that the $249 million sought is part of a $1.448 billion package, and that the "multiplier" be applied to the entire sum.

That of course would increase the number of jobs.

That may pass muster under lax federal review, but it's bogus.

It's bogus because refinancing the loan wouldn't create jobs.

And it's bogus because the arena--nearly a billion dollars, and the main component of the EB-5 project as pitched to investors--is already funded and would go ahead with or without the immigrant investor funds.

Posted by eric at 1:11 PM

Bruce Bender (and elected officials) on jobs

Battle of Brooklyn via Vimeo

In 2004 when the project was first announced it had the full support of the trade unions because they were promised jobs during construction. As the process went on the unions could be counted on for boisterous support of the project at public hearings. An article in the March 16th, 2011 New York Times announces that the developer will likely use modular construction to build the housing. This will save the developer money but will severely limit the number of jobs.

In this scene from Battle for Brooklyn (out spring 2011) elected officials and a representative of Forest City talk about the jobs circa 2004.

link

NoLandGrab: You know what "enervates" us? Chuck Schumer.

Posted by eric at 12:52 PM

Bad Faith Towers

Design Observer
by Alexandra Lange

Never let it be said that Bruce Ratner is not an avid follower of architectural trends. With this latest iteration of building at Atlantic Yards he swaps titanium for brown paper, correctly sensing that, post-recession, prefab is more palatable than starchitecture. Where once the Faustian bargain he offered Brooklynites appealed to their old school pride (a real city has its own sports team) and new Brooklyn snobbery (we could have had a Gehry before Manhattan), the new one is more pragmatic. Do you want affordable housing now, built fast and cheap, or later, when I wring a reduction in the number of promised units from the state?

The Times (for once) offers some distance from Ratner, development partner for their own Eighth Avenue tower, by pointing out that this new plan sells out the construction unions that were among Ratner's biggest supporters. (Another sign of distancing: The paper also seems to be calling the project Atlantic Yards again, a site Ratner and his Russian partner rebranded Barclays Center.) The desirable industrial jobs that would come from the prefab plant required to build such a tower would pay much less than old-fashioned site work. Do we want green industry enough? Are we so desperate for affordable housing (again, the recession changes everything) that we will take a chance on untested building technology? Who gets to be the guinea pig on the 34th floor? Surely Forest City Ratner did not want this news out the week of the Japanese quake.

Surely Ratner will tart up the prefab units with some cast concrete lintels and blown-up brownstone details, and call them contextual. But the truth is, the Times rendering is not so far from the boxy stacks Gehry proposed after the billowing Miss Brooklyn proved too costly. As with the disappointing 8 Spruce Street, there's a thin value engineered line between industrial production and genius.

article

Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

Union reps criticize Ratner's bombshell about modular construction; Markowitz issues statement of support, left with contradiction

Atlantic Yards Report

In Unions Outraged Over Ratner's Prefab Tower, Patch does a good job rounding up comments from construction unions regarding Forest City Ratner's plan for modular construction, which came to light yesterday.
...

Meanwhile, the project's biggest cheerleader, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, tried to finesse the issue. As the New York Times reported today:

But Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president and a longtime supporter, attributed Atlantic Yards’s current problems to a devastating recession and the opposition’s lawsuits.

“Despite the economic realities we face today,” Mr. Markowitz said in a statement, “I have every confidence that Atlantic Yards will deliver what was promised, including affordable housing, much needed jobs and, of course, the new Barclays Arena for the Brooklyn Nets.”

How exactly would Atlantic Yards deliver the "much needed jobs," in the quantity and at the pay levels expected?

All indications are that there would be fewer jobs, at lesser pay. And that means the cost-benefit analyses should be recalculated.

article

NoLandGrab: Maybe Ratner's plan to slice union jobs is why Marty is touting a job fair on the cover of his latest "Brooklyn!!" "newspaper."

Posted by eric at 12:27 PM

Bruce Ratner's late 2010 campaign contributions: $12,500 to AG candidate Schneiderman, $7500 to the Senate Republicans

Atlantic Yards Report

Michael Ratner, of course, is not the only Ratner doling out lavish campaign money.

To architect Frank Gehry, whose grasp of development politics appears (in retrospect) enormously shaky, Bruce Ratner is "politically like me" and a fellow "liberal, do-gooder."

But a look at Ratner's pattern of campaign contributions again suggests otherwise.

Would a "liberal, do-gooder" in New York State give $7500 to the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee, as Ratner did on 11/1/10?

Or would that donor more likely be, as I wrote in February 2008, someone who "plays hardball when it counts?"

The Schneiderman contribution

Ratner on 10/28/10 also gave $12,500 to the campaign of Democratic Attorney General candidate Eric Schneiderman, who won his race with 55 percent of the vote.

(The contribution limit in statewide elections is $37,800.)

Could that be an effort to ensure that Schneiderman not pursue a lingering investigation from the Andrew Cuomo-led AG's office into the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's lobbying on behalf of Atlantic Yards and other projects?

Or is it just to make sure that Schneiderman takes some calls ahead of others?

Previous coverage

Last year, I noted $12,500 in contributions to Cuomo's gubernatorial campaign, $2000 to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's campaign, and $10,000 to New York Uprising, the clean-up-Albany project spearheaded by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, Citizens Union Director Dick Dadey, and former New York City Parks Commissioner and New York Civic Director Henry Stern, Ratner's mentor.

article

NoLandGrab: The idea of Bruce Ratner supporting an effort to clean up Albany always makes us chuckle — right before we puke.

Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

The Ratner-Kruger campaign connection; one month after Atlantic Yards was announced, (brother) Michael Ratner and his wife gave $2000 each

Atlantic Yards Report

Follow the money.

Now that charges are swirling around state Senator Carl Kruger, it's worth a look back to see how Forest City Ratner (FCR) apparently steered campaign contributions to him less than a month after the Atlantic Yards plan was announced.

Kruger, along with some other undistinguished Brooklyn politicians, received campaign contributions via a most unusual source: FCR CEO Bruce Ratner's brother Michael Ratner, the eminent human rights lawyer, as well as his wife Karen Ranucci.

Kruger got $2000 from each on 1/6/04, as indicated in the graphic (click to enlarge; full list at bottom). Atlantic Yards was announced on 12/10/03.

Michael Ratner's curious pattern

Michael Ratner wouldn't comment when I first wrote about this in September 2006. I suggested that he was carrying water for his brother Bruce, who for a stretch was a "refusenik" from campaign contributions.

Michael Ratner's Brooklyn political contributions--in a pattern quite different from his other contributions to progressive politicians--seem to have been guided not by ideology but by corporate interests.

He was an investor in the Nets, as well as significant stock in the publicly traded corporation, Forest City Enterprises, controlled by the Ratners' extended family.

Indeed, the evidence is damning: Michael Ratner and his wife, Karen Ranucci, both Greenwich Village residents, both made campaign contributions using Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn building as a return address, as well as from their home address.

Click through to learn how many of Michael Ratner's favorite pols have ended up behind bars.

article

Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

Source: Atlantic Yards Developer Mulls Pre-Fab Construction

NY1

The developer of the Atlantic Yards project could be cutting costs by using prefabricated materials.

A source with Forest City Ratner says it's something the firm has been exploring, but no decision has been made.

This comes after a recent New York Times article which says Ratner is pursuing a plan to use pre-fab or modular construction in a 34 story building at the site, which would serve as affordable housing.

The move would save the developer money in construction, labor and wage costs.

Although workers would be hurt by such a move, a representative from the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York said its members look forward to continued employment opportunities with Ratner.

link [with video]

NoLandGrab: Something tells us that's not what the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York was saying to Bruce Ratner on the phone yesterday after taking a gander at the front page of The Times.

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

Prefabricated Tower May Rise at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards

Local 157 blogspot

The New York City District Council of Carpenters' reposting of yesterday's blockbuster New York Times article elicited this comment from "anonymous":

Ratner, the Rat - once the benefit of the grants & funding were in place...who is kidding who here, the Modular Components of the Tower will be built in Shanghai, China by men making $15 bucks a day.

The below quote conveniently leaves out the fact that the INDOOR COMPONENT will occur IN CHINESE FACTORIES! You guys gave back enough on the PLA Wage & Benefit Concessions - you have to fight this.

"Modular construction saves time because the building components can be put together at the same time the foundation is being dug, and because the factory is indoors, weather is not a problem. Materials can be bought in greater bulk and stored on-site. More of the work is done horizontally, on the factory floor, rather than vertically, saving the time it would normally take for all the plumbers, carpenters, electricians and others to move up and down the structure every day."

link

Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Another Insert into the Music- Hands Joining Across Eras: Brooklyn Heights Unitarians and How a Historical Landmark Saved the Past For the Future

Noticing New York

A new post from Michael D.D. White alights several times on Atlantic Yards and Bruce Ratner, most prominently here:

A Naughty Brooklyn Museum Apologizing Naught (Bruce Ratner)

At this point we must fulfill our Noticing New York duty to point out how in 2008 the Brooklyn Museum besmirched the memory of Augustus Graham by awarding the Augustus Graham award to real estate developer/subsidy collector and eminent domain abuser Bruce Ratner.

Henry Stiles who, according to historian Olive Hoogenboom, wrote the standard book on Brooklyn history says that Graham was deeply motivated by a concern "for the poor, the suffering, the young, and those" neglected "portions of the community" and his determination to secure for them a larger “share of the great moral and intellectual privileges.” The Unitarian congregation’s website (in an article by Ms. Hoogenboom) points out how this “made him a role model for that church's great settlement work, out of which grew the housing reforms of Alfred T. White.” All of this is quite incongruous with the likes of Bruce Ratner. The Brooklyn Museum has yet to apologize to the community for its errant and profoundly community-damaging award “honoring” Mr. Ratner, whose firm is now implicated in the illegal bribing of public officials for favoritism in two recent instances: with respect to his Atlantic Yards mega-monoply here in Brooklyn and buying approval for the $630 million, 1000-apartment, 81-acre Ridge Hill Forest City Ratner Project in Yonkers.

article

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

HOSPITAL BRIBERY CHARGES: Willets sticks with Lipsky

YourNabe.com
by Connor Adams Sheets

You have to hand it to the Willets Point United crew — they're far more loyal than Richard Lipsky has ever been. Or Forest City Ratner, for that matter.

Willets Point United was keeping Lipsky’s services as of Monday, bucking the trend of cutting ties with him set by many of his other clients and associates. The group paid Lipsky $57,500 in 2010, according to lobbying records.

“The allegations have nothing whatsoever to do with Willets Point, and we consider that Dr. Lipsky has done a most effective job on behalf of WPU to expose the severe negative impacts of the proposed Willets Point development,” the group said in a lengthy statement on its website. “WPU is motivated, indefatigable, and inspired by Dr. Lipsky’s contact with federal enforcement agencies.”

Forest City Ratner Cos., the developer of the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, a flashpoint in the national eminent domain debate, hired Lipsky, effectively barring him from being able to work on behalf of project opponents.

Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for the developer, said Lipsky worked for Forest City Ratner as a consultant for about five years before he was terminated last week.

“He actually worked on issues related to youth and sports. His background is in sports. He has a doctorate in sports psychology or something like that,” DePlasco said. “He was a consultant, so he wasn’t directly employed.”

Hmm. We'll have to go back and re-read all of Lipsky's "Daniel Does Destroy" blog posts attacking Atlantic Yards critics to try to find the youth and sports angle.

Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), an outspoken opponent of the $3 billion plan to redevelop Willets Point, spoke at that same protest. He said Friday he was “very surprised” to hear that the lobbyist worked on both sides of the eminent domain issue.

“I wouldn’t have expected Lipsky to be involved, but it’s symptomatic of the system,” he said. “How the hell can you be involved in helping the Willets Point owners fight the misuse of eminent domain and yet you’re supporting the misuse of eminent domain by Ratner at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn?”

Indeed.

article

Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

From a View on Court Street to Overseeing the Entire City

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Samuel Newhouse

An article on the new chief of NYC Buildings Department's legal unit includes this tidbit:

The DOB’s office, for example, has a white roof, which helps keep the building at a cooler temperature without expending as much energy. New developments at the Atlantic Yards site in Downtown Brooklyn will have the same cool white roofs.

Unless, of course, those cool white roofs cost one penny more than any another type of roof, in which case, they'll go the way of just about every other Atlantic Yards promise.

link

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

March 17, 2011

Prefab Preview?

Passing by the Barclays Center construction site this afternoon, we spotted what we thought — given the absence of union construction workers — must be a model for Bruce Ratner's newly announced modular housing.

We're guessing this is a duplex.

Posted by eric at 11:17 PM

Unions Outraged Over Ratner's Prefab Tower

Union leaders lamented potential plans to build a 34-story prefab residential building on the Atlantic Yards site.

Park Slope Patch
by Stephen Brown and Amy Sara Clark

Local union workers are reeling from developer Bruce Ratner’s acknowledgement that the first residential building at the Atlantic Yards site may be prefabricated — a move that would cut costs, as well as hundreds of union jobs.

The revelation, reported by The New York Times, would cut construction costs in half by requiring a smaller workforce making significantly less money.

“We understood that there would be a certain number of jobs generated by this project that would in turn support the local economy. Clearly farming out modular housing does not do any of those things,” said Richard Weiss, a spokesman for Construction & General Building Laborers’ Local 79. “The union supports projects based on one criteria only: are there jobs for our members in this project? If that’s not the case, then we’re not going to support it.”

Other union representatives were equally dismayed.

“It would be disappointing, very disappointing,” said Edward Walsh, president of the New York State District Council of Iron Workers, which works on the site of the $4.9 billion, 16-tower mega project at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. “There are a lot less jobs for iron workers if this is built prefab.”
...

“We have obvious concerns about the safety and quality of modular construction for larger buildings as well as its impact on estimates for job creation, wages and benefits that have been central to the economic justification for projects advancing,” said a spokesperson for the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater NY via E-mail.

“Forest City Ratner has been a developer using union labor of the building and construction trades for many years, and it is on this basis that we have consistently supported projects its pursues.”

article

Posted by eric at 10:56 PM

Developer Mulls Pre-Fab Housing at Atlantic Yards

WNYC News Blog
by Cindy Rodriguez

In a written statement, the Building and Construction Trades Council said it's concerned about the safety and quality of modular construction, as well as its impact on jobs and wages.

Forest City said pre-fab technology could allow for more efficient development, and eventually translate into more affordable housing and more union jobs. A spokesman for the developer said it would never build something that isn't safe. The company said while its exploring the modular option, it's pursuing conventional construction as well.

Related coverage...

Field of Schemes, Ratner mulls prefab housing tower alongside Nets arena

The good news: Facing a May 2013 deadline to break ground or else face million of dollars in penalties, Forest City Ratner may finally be building one of the promised apartment buildings that were the main hook for getting approval for its Brooklyn Nets arena project.

The bad news: The developer is considering building a prefabricated 34-story tower, which would be the world's largest, in order to cut costs.

Why is that bad news? Well, the other hook for the project was that it would create jobs, and as the New York Times' Charles Bagli notes, "a carpenter earns $85 an hour in wages and benefits on-site, but only $35 an hour in a factory." (Not to mention that a factory can be built anywhere, which pretty much obviates the job benefits to New York City of the project.)
...

Bagli also notes that since no one has ever built a prefab building this tall, no one is sure whether it would hold up to wind shear and seismic forces. Plus, as he doesn't note, a building made of stacked-and-bolted-together boxes — think a pile of shipping containers with windows in them — sounds hideously ugly. But then, we know that Ratner has a tolerance for ugly.

A|N Blog, QUICK CLICKS> SUPPORT, PREFAB, WRIGHT, GENIUS

The New York Times covers Forest City Ratner‘s plan to use prefab building components for a 34-story apartment building at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Engineered by Arup and designed by SHoP, the units should be pretty high-end as far as modular housing goes, but construction workers argue that the prefab approach will mean less jobs.

Posted by eric at 10:44 PM

Hint of Old-Time Ratner Debate Surfaces Again

Developer: Modular Tech Is Only One Possible Option

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

Telling the truth, however, doesn't appear to be one of them, because the Eagle has a statement from Forest City, and guess what? They're not selling out the unions — this is going to mean more union jobs!

An official statement from the developer read, “Forest City is working very hard to identify innovative ways to develop the first residential building at Atlantic Yards because the need for affordable and middle-income housing in the city remains critical. That said, Forest City will only build consistent with its values as a company, and that means union labor. Modular technology is cutting edge, allowing for more sustainable and efficient development.

“Particularly now, this could translate into more middle income, affordable and elderly housing. And that also means more union jobs. While we are still designing out the building for conventional construction we are exploring the modular option as well.”

They did not say whether parking spaces would all be filled with flying cars, however, or whether the entire complex would be powered by a huge hamster-filled Habitrail.

Councilwoman Letitia James, who took part in many anti-Ratner demonstrations when the Atlantic Yards were a hot issue, said this development highlights “a long list of failed promises,” meaning the promise of more construction jobs. “I wasn’t particularly disappointed because I wasn’t particularly surprised,” she said.
...

The New York Central Labor Council did not return calls to the Eagle by press time.

article

Posted by eric at 10:29 PM

Prefabulous? How Atlantic Yards Could Revolutionize New York City Real Estate

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

Matt Chaban makes the case that modular maven Bruce Ratner could revolutionize the construction business in New York City — which could send thousands of building-trades workers looking for new careers.

Atlantic Yards has its problems. Bruce Ratner's arena-cum-condos megaproject has involved insider deals and eminent domain, Russian oligarchs and Chinese visas, bratty Brooklynites and disgraced lobbyists. The news, revealed in today's Times, that Ratner is trying to save on construction costs by using prefab building technology is far from the biggest story to involve Atlantic Yards. Yet the news could have a farther-reaching impact on the city than anything else to take place at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

It is not simply that Ratner is considering building a 34-story prefabricated apartment building, though it is notable that this would be the tallest prefab building in the world. It is that, should Ratner succeed, many, if not most, of the city's developers would follow in his footsteps. It could alter the way we build, the way we work, the way we live, the very look of the city.

Architects have been pursuing prefabrication almost since Henry Ford's first Model-T rolled off the line. The dream of mass-producing housing inside of factories was a hallmark of mid-century modernism's utopian streak, though the process proved more costly than traditional methods and was largely abandoned. Over the past decade, however, the technology has advanced enough that it has become an affordable and practical means to build, one that is not uncommon in Europe and Asia. Locally, Pratt recently constructed a prefab dorm and at least two malls made of shipping containers are in the works.

As The Times makes clear, modular construction could present more challenges to Ratner than his fellow developers. One of the reasons housing is said to be so expensive in New York is the cost of labor. By doing much of the "construction" in a factory, developers can cut down greatly on this particular expense, even if the factory workers are unionized, as well. For those looking to encourage gainful employment in New York, this is not necessarily a benefit, as The Times points out.

article

NoLandGrab: Here's Bruce in his younger, more "mod"ular days.

Posted by eric at 4:40 PM

Poetic Justice in Brooklyn

Gideon's Trumpet

Property-rights advocate Gideon Kanner is shedding no tears for those who helped shill for Bruce Ratner but now might have found themselves on the short end of the fix.

It has been a familiar phenomenon that after a controversial redevelopment project is approved, what comes out of the municipal/redevelopment sausage machine is not necessarily what was promised to the public and the courts.
...

But it’s a case of poetic justice with a dollop of schadenfreude when the screwees of such a shift in plans turn out to be former supporteres of the original redevelopment plan. And just that is apparently what is happening in Brooklyn.

One of the major points urged in favor of the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn was that its construction would create jobs. In fact, according to the New York Times, when the targeted locals, protesting their coming displacement by eminent domain, appeared at community hearings, local union lads would drown them out with chants of “Jobs, jobs, jobs!” But guess what?

It now turns out that Forest City Ratner, the Atlantic Yards redeveloper intends to use modular construction to put up some of the buildings now planned for that project. What that means is that much of the construction will be accomplished in factories whose employees get paid a lot less than on-site construction workers.
...

Anyway, this development is infuriating the construction workers, the selfsame folks who were such supporters of the Atlantic Yards projects and who cheered on as the indigenous inhabitants of the project area were pushed aside to make room for Ratner’s construction plans.
...

Moral: when you demand that someone else’s rights be subordinated to what you claim to be ”the public good” that will put a buck or two into your own pocket, don’t be too surprised if in the event that “public good” bites you in the posterior as well.

link

Posted by eric at 4:27 PM

Ratner Planning Prefab Alternatives For Atlantic Yards

Gothamist
by Garth Johnston

With Frank Gehry long gone, how low-brow can Forest City Ratner take the never ending Atlantic Yards project? Well, the company is seriously considering making the project's first non-stadium building, a 34-story residential tower adjacent to the Barclay Center, the world's tallest prefabricated building.

Inspired in part by the above video of a 15-story tower going up in China over two days, the Times reports that Bruce Ratner has ordered the building's latest architect, SHoP Architects, to work on both regular and modular designs for the 400-unit building.

Assuming that the structure can support itself, withstand winds, and pass other structural tests a prefab building would be a huge boon financially for Forest City Ratner, which has had much difficulty financing the project since the markets collapsed. But, as the Gray Lady points out, those savings would come at the expense of one of the projects most consistant supporters: construction unions.
...

Candace Carponter, legal director for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, hammers the point home: “Jobs and affordable housing accounted for nearly all of the Atlantic Yards project’s promised benefits, and with Ratner’s selling-out of the unions, shelving of any office space, and the scarcity of subsidies for housing, the community is left with the arena as the primary “benefit” - if you believe a traffic-choking, noise-generating, taxpayer-money-losing white elephant is somehow beneficial.”

And that isn't even touching on the fact that prefab buildings are, with very rare exceptions, incredibly unattractive.

NoLandGrab: Is it us, or does that rendering of the last Gehry design kind of look like prefab towers that weren't anchored properly? Maybe we're getting that "world-class Frank Gehry design" after all! Though that overnight Chinese building is very reminiscent of Bruce's Atlantic Terminal illness.

Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Ratner Considers Prefab Tower for Atlantic Yards

The story says that though the move would cut costs, a prefabricated tower "is untested at that height" and the move would likely piss off construction workers, who were among the mega-project's most vocal supporters. Although the the developer has its architecture firm SHoP working on designs for both a traditional and modular building, another consideration is whether a prefab structure of this height would actually result in much of a cost savings, according to the story: "Whether taller modular buildings can be built to withstand intense wind shear and seismic forces, while retaining cost savings, is another question, because the higher a structure is built, the more bracing it would require."

About.com [Brooklyn, NY], NIMBY: Ratner Atlantic Yards to Try Building Highest Ever Prefab Apartments?!?

Oh, and BTW, this questionable building, with about 400 apartments, "would fulfill his obligation to start building affordable housing at the site," according to the Times story, Prefabricated Tower May Rise at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards. If the first building gets an OK, rest assured that Ratner will try to build all 16 of the proposed apartment towers in the same way: pre-fab.

Iffy housing safety for poor people? Undercutting the original deal, that the Atlantic Yards would create a lot of jobs?

Everybody knows Atlantic Yards is in a financial bind. And this prefab idea is ingenious, out-of-the-box thinking. But it's bad public policy. And, in terms of possible safety issues, well, just how cynical can you get?

The Real Deal, Ratner hopes to build world's largest prefabricated tower in AY

The Times notes that by employing this relatively inexpensive method to fulfill his obligation to provide affordable housing, Ratner is neglecting a longtime support group: construction workers who were after Atlantic Yards jobs.

The Huffington Post, World's Largest Prefab Building Might Come To Atlantic Yards

However, constructing it this way also greatly reduces the number of new jobs- and creating new jobs was one Ratner's biggest selling points for the Atlantic Yards project in the first place.

Others are also concerned that the prefab option may not be quite as pretty as Frank Gehry's original design.

Posted by eric at 4:00 PM

Bruce Ratner Aggravates Construction Workers by Considering Modular Buildings at Atlantic Yards

Daily Intel [NYMag.com]

While many Brooklynites and conservationists protested Bruce Ratner's massive Atlantic Yards project, one group that was steadfastly on his side was construction workers. They argued that the massive complex would be good for the local economy and drowned out local protesters with chants of "Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!" But now the same supporters are agog at news that Ratner, in an effort to save money, is considering cheap and labor-light modular construction for some of the commercial and residential space on the property. The Times reports today that Forest City Ratner has been secretly looking into modular construction for nearly a year and is considering building the highest pre-fab tower ever built, at 30 stories.
...

Needless to say, we've come a long way from the jumbled, whimsical towers that original masterplanner Frank Gehry once envisioned.

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Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

jpreardon.com

It isn’t all that surprising that Forrest City Ratner is seriously considering building a 34 story, pre-fab, modular tower to satisfy affordable housing requirements. This is just one of many promises that will be unkept on the Atlantic Yards project. This particular promise was to the construction workers who stood to gain quite a few jobs out of this project. But, modular construction means far fewer construction jobs.

There should also be some safety concerns about a modular tower that high. It’s probably not going to look all that wonderful either. Then again, I doubt anything built on that site will be all that aesthetically pleasing, prefab or not.

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Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

At the March 2010 groundbreaking, Bruce Ratner saluted union labor, to cheers, thanking them for "arm in arm support for this project" (video)

Atlantic Yards Report

Union workers might feel double-crossed by Forest City Ratner's plans for modular construction of Atlantic Yards towers, but at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards arena, little more than a year ago, on 3/11/10, everything was fine.

As I reported, developer Bruce Ratner saluted union labor, now quite wary of the developer's plan for lower-cost modular construction.

"Now, 2004, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10--union labor!" declared Ratner, to cheers, at the 5:52 mark of the video below.

Ratner cited "dozens of rallies, arm in arm support for this project. It's all about jobs! You have built this city and you will build this Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards and everything that our company does, just like you've built with us, hand in hand, for over 30 projects, in this city. Thank you, Gary LaBarbera and particularly, thank you for union workers. Thank you so much."

More cheers.

Union dismay

Today, the Times reported dismay from LaBarbera:

“This is something that could be of great consequence to the building trades,” said Gary La Barbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, an umbrella group for the construction unions. “We have never been supportive of prefab buildings, for obvious reasons.”

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NoLandGrab: But Bruce always seemed so trustworthy. We just don't get it.

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

Does modular construction mean a new environmental review is needed for Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

On the one hand, the modular construction considered by Bruce Ratner as a money- and time-saving solution to building towers on the Atlantic Yards site would reduce and de-concentrate typical construction activity.

On the other, the delivery of 900 modules, "lifted into place by crane and bolted together at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street," as the Times described it, could introduce a different set of impacts on traffic, or on street closures.

So too could modular construction for the rest of the site.

And, whether or not those impacts would be less significant than those already studied, these new impacts sure have not been studied.

Is the Empire State Development Corporation working on--i.e., having ubiquitous consultant AKRF write--another Technical Memorandum/Technical Analysis right now, as AKRF did in 2009 and 2010?

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Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

Atlantic Yards Prefab Tower

Restless

Was there ever any doubt that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" would turn out to be a cheap highrise trailer park? Prefabricated Tower May Rise at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, NYT.

I suggest he replace the current "stacked shipping container" design... with the one above by Catherina Scholten [via greg.org].

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NoLandGrab: That one's kinda cool. The reality could be worse. Wal-Mart by Gehry?

Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

Forest City Ratner to Slap Together Prefab Tower at Atlantic Yards

mcbrooklyn

Enthusiasm is unbridled for Bruce Ratner's newly announced modular building plan.

The cheapo 34-story tower "would fulfill his obligation to start building affordable housing at the site," according to the Times. If it's anything like the 15-story Ark Hotel in China -- a similar prefab project that Ratner has shown interest in, according to the Times -- the thing could be slapped together in a couple of days.

Construction workers are simply shocked that Ratner would do this. They were his most most ardent supporters, the Times says, "during years of stormy community meetings, where they drowned out neighborhood opponents with chants of 'Jobs, jobs, jobs.'"

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Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

Kruger crony leaned on me for vote: pol

NY Post
by Rich Calder and Dan Mangan

A Forest City Ratner executive whose cozy relationship with state Sen. Carl Kruger is featured in a new criminal complaint against the Brooklyn politician personally lobbied a Yonkers councilman hours before a controversial vote that later led to bribery charges against a councilwoman.

Yonkers Council Majority Leader John Murtagh Jr. said FCR Vice President Bruce Bender leaned on him in 2006 to change his expected vote opposing a controversial FCR development. The meeting was set up hours before a Yonkers council vote by then-Yonkers Republican Party chairman Zehy Jereis.

Bender, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, was the point man for FCR’s efforts to win the Yonkers council’s approval for the $630 million 81-acre “Ridge Hill” retail, commercial and residential development there.

Murtagh told The Post that Jereis called him “hours before the vote” and asked him to meet at a Yonkers Starbucks.

When he arrived, Jereis, who was with Bender, warned Murtagh that Councilwoman Sandy Annabi “is going to vote ‘yes,’ so this is going to pass, and it would help me politically if I vote in favor of it also,” Murtagh recalled.

Murtagh said he refused, adding, “I don’t make decisions like that, to do so would be political suicide.“ Jereis in Oct. 2006 was given a one-year, $60,000 real estate consulting contract by FCR in what prosecutors claim was a payoff by the company for getting Annabi to drop her opposition to the development.

Jereis had no experience in the real estate business and never submitted monthly work reports to FCR until March 2007 when the feds began dropping subpoenas as part of the Yonkers investigation, prosecutors said.

Last year, Annabi was charged by federal authorities with accepting more than $166,000 in bribes to vote in favor of Ridge Hill and another Yonkers development.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Post: Yonkers Council Member says Bender pushed him to change vote in Ridge Hill case

In Kruger crony leaned on me for vote: pol, the New York Post continues chipping away at the relationship between developer Forest City Ratner and scandal-plagued state Senator Carl Kruger, again looking at the Ridge Hill case in Yonkers.
...

And this time, unlike in an article earlier this week, the Post completes the story, explaining that Jereis got a consulting job from Forest City in an apparent reward, even as the developer and its staff evaded any charges.

Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

FCR considers "world's tallest prefab steel structure" for first affordable tower; big savings, but promised union jobs, tax revenues lost, new risks

Atlantic Yards Report

In what seems to be a desperate--or maybe innovative--effort to save money and time, Forest City Ratner may build the world's tallest modular structure to deliver the affordable housing long promised as an Atlantic Yards benefit.

In doing so, however, FCR would establish its own factory to manufacture the components, severely cutting expected on-site union jobs, and presumably cutting deeply into projected tax revenues, thus upending the always optimistic estimates of project benefits.

FCR's Lego-like solution would severely antagonize union construction workers who, fulfilling requests by the developer and their own leadership, fervently and sometimes obnoxiously backed the project at rallies and public hearings.

And the bait-and-switch would continue a pattern of renegotiating contracts in order to save money.

For example, FCR in 2005 bid $100 million in cash for the rights to build on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, only to renegotiate the contract in 2009, paying only $20 million out of the $100 million pledged, with 22 years to pay the rest, at a gentle interest rate.

Also, in building a 34-story tower at first, FCR would take risks by venturing into a construction technology that is still developing, the current record-holder only rises 25 stories.
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The tallest modular building in the world, according to a 9/2/09 article in Building Design and Construction, is Victoria Hall, a 25-story apartment tower in Wolverhampton, England. A 9/21/09 article in National Real Estate Investor calls it 24 stories.

Note the prefab appearance. Does Forest City Ratner's claim that buzzy firm SHoP will design the building apply to the modular units? Or, more likely, would SHoP merely graft a "skin" on the building, as with the Ellerbe Becket arena?

Some flaws

The Times suggests that tall modular buildings require significant bracing, but modular buildings can have their flaws. A 3/26/08 Times article describes a modular building at Yale University that was built in 2004:

“They tried to blend in the appearance of the building with what’s here already,” said Martin Dominguez, a first-year medical student who was also an undergraduate at Yale and has lived in the modular building for 18 months. “They did a reasonably good job, though the building obviously looks pretty modern relative to the other architecture.”

Mr. Dominguez said he was not happy with the quality of the dormitory’s construction — some of the walls do not quite fit together and the floor is uneven in the bathroom, he said.
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Need for a cost-benefit analysis

[Forest City Ratner EVP MaryAnne] Gilmartin should be asked to estimate the actual number of expected jobs, as well as the total in wages. Or the Empire State Development Corporation should do so.

Such numbers should be plugged into the cost-benefit analyses conducted by the city, state, and Independent Budget Office.

Forest City is clearly under pressure to fulfill its obligations and make its expected profits. City officials denied a request for $10 million in additional housing subsidies.

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Posted by eric at 1:53 AM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Jobs, Housing & Hoops! Touted Atlantic Yards “Benefits” Continue to Disappear

Construction Unions Latest Victims of Forest City’s Broken Promises

BROOKLYN, NY—First it was the promised “10,000 permanent jobs.” Then it was the “arena roof garden.” Next it was the “world-class Frank Gehry design.” Then it was the “2,250 units of affordable housing.” Then the “urban room.” And the “eight acres of publicly accessible open space.” Now comes the latest casualty among Forest City Ratner’s endless string of cynical, empty, broken promises – a large chunk of the relentlessly touted construction jobs.

According to a bomb-shell story in today’s New York Times, Forest City Ratner plans to build the first residential building on the Atlantic Yards site using modular construction techniques that will likely reduce significantly the number of promised Atlantic Yards construction jobs. Such a move seriously undermines one of the project’s prime selling points – the claimed provision of “17,000” (really 1,700 over 10 years) good-paying union construction jobs – and further imperils any potential fiscal benefits for the city and state, since many of the jobs would pay far less than what had been projected. According to The Times story, “a carpenter earns $85 an hour in wages and benefits on-site, but only $35 an hour in a factory.” Much of the work, The Times reports, would be done in a factory.

While Forest City once claimed, with disregard for reality, that the Atlantic Yards project would generate “$6 billion in new city and state revenues over 30 years,” the drop in tax revenue as a result of the lower employment figures will almost certainly render the project a net loser for the taxpayers. The New York City Independent Budget Office has already, in 2009, projected that the arena would cost city taxpayers $40 million, while estimating a paltry state tax-revenue gain of about $25 million. City and state taxpayers have already contributed nearly $300 million in direct cash subsidies to the project, and the eventual tab for total subsidies is expected to reach several hundred million more.

According to sources cited in The Times article, Forest City plans to construct a significant portion of what is being called Building 2, or B2, off-site, which would result in sharply lower wages for workers. That would be a major blow to New York’s construction unions, which have been among the biggest backers of the Atlantic Yards project, frequently demonstrating their support vocally – and emphatically – at public events.

“Unfortunately, our friends in the building trades are learning the hard way that Bruce Ratner can’t be trusted,” said Candace Carponter, legal director for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. “Jobs and affordable housing accounted for nearly all of the Atlantic Yards project’s promised benefits, and with Ratner’s selling-out of the unions, shelving of any office space, and the scarcity of subsidies for housing, the community is left with the arena as the primary “benefit” – if you believe a traffic-choking, noise-generating, taxpayer-money-losing white elephant is somehow beneficial.”

Union leaders, like Gary La Barbera, president of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, and scores of rank-and-file union members, have been fixtures at pro-Atlantic Yards rallies orchestrated by Forest City Ratner. However, La Barbera told The Times that Ratner’s interest in modular construction “could be of great consequence to the building trades,” adding they “have never been supportive of prefab buildings.”

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“If this is how Mr. Ratner treats his ‘friends’ and business partners,” said Eric McClure, a spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, “I can’t wait to see how he treats the large contingent of Brooklynites who’ve been warning for years that this exact thing would happen. Actually, I can wait.”

If Forest City Ratner were to pursue a modular building, they would be entering uncharted territory. The world’s tallest existing modular building, according to The Times, is a 25-story dormitory in the United Kingdom. Forest City’s blueprint calls for a 34-story tower.

“I’m not sure I would want to spend much time on a high floor in an experimental building put up by a developer so desperate for money that he was recently hawking green cards in China,” said DDDB’s McClure. Forest City has been actively trying to raise capital overseas through the U.S. government’s EB-5 Visa program.

Posted by eric at 1:33 AM

March 16, 2011

Prefabricated Tower May Rise at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

The Times's Charles Bagli has a blockbuster, and the big news isn't Bruce Ratner's fascination with unproven building techniques — it's his apparent screwing over of the construction unions.

In a bid to cut costs at his star-crossed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the developer Bruce C. Ratner is pursuing plans to erect the world’s tallest prefabricated steel structure, a 34-story tower that would fulfill his obligation to start building affordable housing at the site.

The prefabricated, or modular, method he would use, which is untested at that height, could cut construction costs in half by saving time and requiring substantially fewer and cheaper workers. And if that method works, the large number of buildings planned for the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards — 16 in all, not including the Nets arena, now under construction — could also make it economical for the company to run its own modular factory, where walls, ceilings, floors, plumbing and even bathrooms and kitchens could be installed in prefabricated steel-frame boxes.

The 34-story building, with roughly 400 apartments, would comprise more than 900 modules that would be hauled to Atlantic Yards, lifted into place by crane and bolted together at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, next to the arena.

Mr. Ratner’s development company, Forest City Ratner, has been investigating modular construction for a year, but has kept its plans secret. MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, confirmed Wednesday that the company was seriously considering the modular method, although, she added, no final decision had been made.
...

“The company is interested in modular, high-rise construction in an urban setting,” Ms. Gilmartin said. “It’s driven by cost and efficiencies.”

But it would also infuriate the construction workers who were Mr. Ratner’s most ardent supporters during years of stormy community meetings, where they drowned out neighborhood opponents with chants of “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

“This is something that could be of great consequence to the building trades,” said Gary La Barbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, an umbrella group for the construction unions. “We have never been supportive of prefab buildings, for obvious reasons.”
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Modular construction saves time because the building components can be put together at the same time the foundation is being dug, and because the factory is indoors, weather is not a problem. Materials can be bought in greater bulk and stored on-site. More of the work is done horizontally, on the factory floor, rather than vertically, saving the time it would normally take for all the plumbers, carpenters, electricians and others to move up and down the structure every day.

But it is the labor savings that are suddenly worrying some union officials, who were repeatedly asked by Forest City to mobilize their members for years of raucous community meetings.

The state and the city agreed to provide $300 million in direct subsidies for Atlantic Yards, in part because Forest City insisted that the project would generate “upwards of 17,000 union construction jobs.”

Not to worry, Ms. Gilmartin said: “We’re a union shop, and we build union.”

But under current wage scales, union workers earn less in a factory than they do on-site. A carpenter earns $85 an hour in wages and benefits on-site, but only $35 an hour in a factory.

And while modular construction employs a large number of carpenters, ironworkers, who earn as much as $93.88 an hour in pay and benefits, could lose a lot of jobs.

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NoLandGrab: Certainly, some chickens are coming home to roost for the building trades, who were only too happy to disrupt public hearings on Atlantic Yards that were already shams. But in the end, they're just another of Bruce Ratner's many victims. Live and learn, folks.

Posted by eric at 11:00 PM

Bruce Bender in the news

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Little did the filmmakers behind soon-to-be-released Atlantic Yards documentary Battle of Brooklyn know that Forest City's Bruce Bender, and not Daniel Goldstein, might end up stealing the show.

Forest City Ratner representative Bruce Bender was very generous in giving us a couple of interviews for our documentary. Recently he was linked to a corruption scandal related to the Atlantic Yards. We thought we would share one of the scenes from the film starring Mr. Bender.

Bruce Bender talks about Atlantic Yards project. from rumur on Vimeo.

Next week we'll have some exciting news about the festival premier of the film.

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NoLandGrab: Keep talking, Bruce. But we're glad they edited out the scene with him f*cking the bridge.

Posted by eric at 5:10 PM

Post: Backlash from Prospect Park Alliance toward FCR's Bender over fundraising conversation with Kruger

Atlantic Yards Report

You'd think that the Prospect Park Alliance, a group of civic-minded folk raising money for a beloved resource, might be a little peeved at being caught up in some apparently sleazy politics, and at least a few are.
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Did the group get the $4.5 million promised? Apparently not, according to the Post:

A Prospect Park Alliance spokesman said the group never got the money, and another official there said they doubt it ever will.

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Posted by eric at 4:18 PM

BrooklynSpeaks and DDDB battle ESDC and FCR in inconclusive court hearing over AY timetable impacts; no stay issued; judge won't hear sanctions case

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has the complete blow by blow from yesterday's New York State Supreme Court argument over the failure of the Empire State Development Corporation to properly weigh the effects of 25 years (or more) of Atlantic Yards construction impacts.

What was likely one of the last court hearings in a long skein of Atlantic Yards legal cases was an inconclusive but hard-fought affair yesterday afternoon in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

A lawyer for the community coalition BrooklynSpeaks assailed a "cover up" by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) over the legitimacy of the ESDC's response to a court order requiring it to explain why it didn't need issue a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement to study the impact of a potential 25-year buildout.

In response, the ESDC and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) forcefully defended themselves.

Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, who in a hearing last June had evinced skepticism toward the ESDC--and issued a ruling in November partly backing community petitioners, requiring the ESDC to make new findings--asked relatively few questions.

The judge, whose default posture seems to be weary, wary skepticism, ultimately expressed some exasperation with both sides.

She heard a request for a stay on Atlantic Yards construction--a request with the provision that ongoing arena construction could continue--but did not indicate when she'd rule.

No hearing on sanctions motion

One thing was clear: Friedman was not about to take seriously the unusual motion, filed by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and by Brooklyn Speaks--and later withdrawn by the latter--for sanctions and lawyers' fees from the opposing side, for failure to produce the crucial Development Agreement last year in court.

Though that issue was the subject of some heated legal papers, Friedman said at the outset that she would not devote any oral argument time on it.

She announced she'd give each side 20 to 30 minutes for their arguments, but they each wound up taking about 45 minutes. As is typical.

Click through for a full report on the arguments.

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NoLandGrab: Our favorite part? Forest City attorney Jeffrey Braun getting himself extolling the virtues of ubiquitous environmental impact consultant AKRF, calling them "rigorous" and the "gold standard" for such firms. Had we been able to cross-examine, we would have asked him, in all their rigor, how many times they've ever found a project had unacceptable impacts. If he could cite just one instance, we'd throw in the towel.

And as Norman Oder reminds us, the ESDC admitted at an early 2010 oversight hearing held by state Senator Bill Perkins, that AKRF has never provided a determination that did not lead to a blight finding. Perhaps Mr. Braun meant to say "gold standard for real estate developer-friendly" consultants.

Posted by eric at 12:15 PM

Yankee Stadium parking strikes out

Bronx outfit faces default on bonds as fans park elsewhere and residents fume

Crain's NY Business
by Hilary Potkewitz

As we, and others, notably Streetsblog, have been warning for years, the Yankee Stadium parking situation is a disaster. Now even Crain's is catching on. When you pave parks to put up a parking lot, everybody loses. Even the people running the parking lots.

The first pitch of the baseball season and the return of thousands of fans cannot come fast enough for most businesses around Yankee Stadium. But one company might prefer that April be postponed this year.

Bronx Parking Development Co., which runs the garages for the new stadium, faces an April 1 due date for a $6.8 million interest payment on bonds issued to fund construction of three facilities. The company had to dip into reserves to make a similar payment in October, and—barring a last-minute renegotiation—all signs point to a default this time.

A default could set up a seizure by bondholders and would leave the garages' future in question. The property, which covers some 21 acres, was part of parkland taken over to make way for the current incarnation of Yankee Stadium.

The potential irony has some in the community seething.

“Our community loves its parks, and we could always use more,” said Pastor Wenzell Jackson, chairman of Bronx Community Board 4, which includes the stadium and the surrounding area. “Now there's just empty parking garages that are not benefiting the community.”

This isn't complicated. Use eminent domain the way it was intended — seize these garages and rebuild a park for the people.

But the geniuses who brought you this disaster in the first place want to pour gasoline on the fire.

Community leaders, including Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., are planning for what comes next.

“We've been working diligently to bring a top-flight hotel to the area near Yankee Stadium,” Mr. Díaz said in his State of the Borough Address late last month. “As many of you have heard, the Yankee Stadium parking lots are facing severe financial problems ... and we believe one of the garages could be used for the hotel development.”

Because that area has tremendous tourist demand during the 21 hours a day when baseball isn't being played? Or because hotel developers make nice campaign donations?

It's clear that not all the garages are needed. In August, Bronx Parking admitted that the facilities, which contain 9,000 parking spaces, were never more than 60% full on game days. As a result, it said, revenues were insufficient to service the more than $237 million in tax-exempt bonds issued to fund its project, which involved building three new garages and refurbishing several existing ones.

And how do you entice more people to park? By raising the rates by 50%!

Last year, Bronx Parking officials complained that an estimated 800 cars a game were parking at the nearby Gateway Shopping Center. And for good reason: Spaces at the center cost about $4 an hour, compared with $23 a game for a self-park space in the stadium garages (or $35 for valet service). This year, rates will increase to $35 a game ($45 for valet), according to the company's 2011 operating budget.

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NoLandGrab: As our pro-Atlantic Yards friends used to chant about people's homes in the project's footprint: Tear it down! Tear it down!

Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

Prospect Park group rage at 'Kruger' exec

NY Post
by Rich Calder and Dan Mangan

When you put people who have unsavory connections on your board, this is what happens.

Thanks for nothing.

A top Atlantic Yards executive who requested state funds for Prospect Park's skating rink from embattled state Sen. Carl Kruger was never asked to do so by the park's fund-raising group -- and now park advocates are furious at being linked to the corruption scandal, sources told The Post.

"He has dragged our name through the mud," fumed a Prospect Park Alliance source about Forest City Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender, whose conversation with Kruger was featured in a federal criminal complaint against the Brooklyn Democrat.

FBI wiretaps captured Bender asking Kruger for $11 million in state funds for two Ratner projects in Brooklyn -- a Mill Basin development, and the massive arena and high-rise project downtown -- as well as $4 million to renovate Prospect Park's skating rink.

While the rink was not a project of the development company headed by Bender's boss, Bruce Ratner, Bender's wife is a Prospect Park Alliance board member, and the couple live near the park.

article

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

Filling in the gaps in the Post's Bruce Bender story: questionable behavor in Yonkers

Atlantic Yards Report

In Scandal follows top exec, the New York Posts reports on Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender's record not only in lobbying "scandal-plagued state Sen. Carl Kruger" but also the Ridge Hill case in Yonkers.

The Post reports:

In 2006, Bender, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, was the point man for Forest City's efforts to win approval from Yonkers for a $630 million commercial and residential development.

A Yonkers councilwoman, Sandy Annabi, stunningly switched her position on the development, and helped pass it. Last year, Annabi was charged by federal authorities with accepting more than $166,000 in bribes to vote for that deal and another development.

A Forest City spokesman said the company backs Bender, and noted, "We cooperated fully with the [Yonkers] investigation, and neither the company nor any of its employees were found to engage in wrongful behavior."

The missing connection

Here's what's missing: Forest City hired the alleged briber, Zehy Jereis, for a no-show job.

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Posted by eric at 12:02 AM

March 15, 2011

The Long Decline of Richard Lipsky

NY Observer
by David Freedlander

Just after evening came to the city last Friday, Richard Lipsky appeared in the lobby of the Normandy on Riverside Drive. Gone was the Bluetooth headset that seemed welded to his ear as he conducted his business in the lobby of City Hall or the State Capitol. Gone, too, was the thick red leather-bound restaurant-reservation-style book that Mr. Lipsky used to keep appointments for the one-man lobbying shop that battered and bent governors, mayors and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Instead of one of his famously dark suits, Mr. Lipsky was wearing a gray tracksuit with red stripes and sneakers; a gold chain peeked out at the neckline of a white undershirt. The bags under his eyes were larger than usual, and the eyes themselves stained a kind of bright red. He put his hand on The Observer's shoulder and guided us out into the still-gathering darkness of 86th Street, past the earshot of the doormen watching over one of the city's premier Art Deco addresses, where he owns a $1.6 million apartment.

The day before, Mr. Lipsky had surrendered to federal prosecutors who accused him of using his clients' money to buy off Carl Kruger, a powerful state senator from Brooklyn. Investigators found more than $100,000 in Mr. Lipsky's home safe and more than $4,000 in cash stuffed in a suit pocket.

His lawyer instructed him to not to talk to the press, but he advised us to read some of the clippings about him and to talk to his clients.

"I like to fight for the underdog," he said, before disappearing back inside. "That's just who I am."

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NoLandGrab: Yeah, like that plucky little Bruce Ratner. Oh, wait — Lipsky's doing it for the kid$.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Observer on "The Long Decline of Richard Lipsky"

The New York Observer has a long, gloomy piece on the once Observer-anointed, alleged bribe-giving lobbyist Richard Lipsky,The Long Decline of Richard Lipsky, which closes:

Unlike Mr. Lipsky, most lobbyists wanted those in office to stay-they relied on these relationships for business. He had burned so many bridges that he needed a whole new crop of lawmakers. It makes sense, then, they say, that Mr. Lipsky would be caught handing cash over to a longtime outer-borough lawmaker. It was the only way he could get anyone to take his calls.

"He wanted to start representing the fat cats, but because he was so obnoxious and aggressive, he didn't have that many successes," said longtime lobbyist Norman Adler. "When you are under pressure like that, you pull out all the stops."

Unmentioned is why Forest City Ratner might have wanted to hire Lipsky: to organize youth sports (as the developer claimed), to be an all-around weapon against Atlantic Yards opponents, and, perhaps most likely, simply to take him off the table so he wasn't available to those opponents.

Posted by eric at 11:53 PM

Krugerpalooza: Tuesday Edition

NY Post, Ratner's Kruger connection! Bruce had dealings with indicted senator

The biggest developer in the borough — whose Atlantic Yards project is the biggest in Brooklyn history — is now linked to the biggest pay-to-play story in years.

Federal wiretaps show that a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner, which is building the Barclays Center arena as part of the 16-tower apartment and retail complex, paid hundreds of thousands in bribes to state Sen. Carl Kruger (D–Brighton Beach), the former Finance Committee powerhouse.

The lobbyist, Richard Lipsky, was indicted by federal prosecutors with Kruger and several others last week, for his role in the scandal, which included funneling $252,000 to Kruger, who in turn provided state funding to projects being developed by Forest City and other clients.

No one from Forest City was indicated or charged — and it is unclear if the company knew what Lipsky was allegedly doing.

But Forest City Vice President Bruce Bender was caught on the federal wiretap negotiating with Kruger, who has steered millions in state money to the $4-billion project.

The Brooklyn Paper, Arrested Kruger: I’m not going anywhere

State Sen. Carl Kruger says he’s going to continue serving the people of Southern Brooklyn despite federal charges that could earn him up to 120 years in the Big House — and land him in the poorhouse.

Five days after federal authorities announced that the Democrat sold his political clout and government connections for close to $1 million in payoffs to deep-pocketed lobbyists and developers, the embattled legislator said he’s going to keep on fighting for the residents who sent him to Albany.

“I am here to represent the people of my district,” Kruger, who’s facing more than $5 million in fines, repeated to reporters in Albany on Monday during his first public appearance since his arrest last week. “I am here to do my job and that’s what I’m doing.”

NoLandGrab: What a statesman — only thinking about his beloved constituents.

Cleveland Scene, A Brooklyn Bridge, Cute State Senator, Involve Forest City in New York Corruption Case

New York news is finding its way back to the Forest City.

Wire-taps, bribes, scathing snippets of conversation published in the newspaper; ring a bell? The scenario must be annoyingly familiar to Cleveland’s best-loved real estate developer, Forest City Enterprises. Although the company avoided the Cuyahoga County corruption fallout, it’s not faring so well in New York where it is being showcased as “Real Estate Developer No. 1” in a federal public corruption case there.

The criminal case was unsealed last week and is a little complicated. We will try to boil it down for you. There is a skating rink, a retail development, and a bridge in Brooklyn. To clarify—not the Brooklyn Bridge, but another one. All are part of a new complex that the company's Forest City Ratner division is developing to be the new home to the Nets.

Let's hope they're wrong about Prospect Park being part of the project.

The Times notes that this is the second time in less than two years that Forest City Ratner has been named in a federal corruption investigation involving New York. The company has escaped indictment both times.

NLG: So far.

Posted by eric at 11:40 PM

Also in court today: DDDB seeks attorneys' fees for reopening timetable case after Development Agreement withheld & "deceptive, obstreperous conduct"

Atlantic Yards Report

What if the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) had made sure that the Development Agreement--which gives a 25-year deadline to build Atlantic Yards--was available before a January 2010 court argument, or allowed into the court record shortly thereafter?

The dispute over the timetable is the subject of a court hearing today in the last Atlantic Yards court case, as the case was reopened after it was initially dismissed, only to have the ESDC say it didn't need to have issued a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to study to impacts of a 25-year buildout.

And it's also fodder for a companion case before Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, in which lawyers for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) seek attorneys fees and sanctions from the opposing lawyers and their clients for withholding the agreement, which the ESDC and FCR saw as key to guaranteeing the professed ten-year timetable.

The details:

Tuesday, March 15, 2:30 PM
New York County Supreme Court
60 Centre Street
Room 335

Was the withholding of the agreement a legitimate disagreement about tactics, or was it frivolous and improper conduct?

Charges about the latter have lead to an unusual and bitter dispute.

Had the document been available, there would have been no need to file a motion to reargue the case--a motion that was partly successful, given that the case was reopened, and continues--argue DDDB lawyers.

In response, the ESDC and FCR, and their attorneys, have vigorously opposed such a request for sanctions, calling it unprecedented.

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Posted by eric at 1:14 PM

Atlantic Yards Opponents Head to Court Over Project Timetable, Legal Fees

Park Slope Patch
by Geoffrey Decker

Only days after the one-year anniversary of the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking, the last standing lawsuit against developer Bruce Ratner’s mega-development will hit the courts.

Today opponents will reargue in Manhattan Supreme Court that the developer won approval from the state for the Atlantic Yards project in 2009 by submitting incomplete data. And Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, one of two major activist groups opposed to the project, will also attempt to recoup some of their legal costs.

Lawyers for Develop Don’t Destory are suing the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency overseeing the project, for $35,027.94 in legal fees, according to court documents. The group seeks back pay for its attorneys who spent several months challenging the decision that gave Ratner the green light to begin construction.

Opponents will also reargue that the approval of the project hinged on a timeline rooted in figures that forecast the completion of the entire Atlantic Yards project in 10 years, though subsequent data put completion of the Atlantic Yards as far away as 25 years. This extended timeline, opponents argue, was intentionally withheld from the courts to win a critical ruling shortly before the groundbreaking.

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Posted by eric at 12:47 PM

Scandal follows top exec

NY Post
by Brendan Scott in Albany and Rich Calder and Dan Mangan in NY

A phone call to scandal-plagued state Sen. Carl Kruger that was caught on an FBI wiretap marked the second time a top executive with the developer of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards was thrust into an unwanted spotlight.

Forest City Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender had earlier lobbied on behalf of a project that led to another elected official's arrest.

Bender was heard on a December call wiretapped by the FBI asking Kruger for millions of dollars in state funds for two Forest City projects, and for a skating rink at Prospect Park that had no connection to the company. Bender lives near the park, and his wife is on the park's fund-raising board.

When Kruger (D-Brooklyn) -- who last week was charged with taking $1 million in bribes -- told Bender he would have to choose between getting $4 million for a Forest City Ratner project in Mill Basin or for the park's skating rink, Bender said, "I guess the park," a criminal complaint claims.

In 2006, Bender, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, was the point man for Forest City's efforts to win approval from Yonkers for a $630 million commercial and residential development.

A Yonkers councilwoman, Sandy Annabi, stunningly switched her position on the development, and helped pass it. Last year, Annabi was charged by federal authorities with accepting more than $166,000 in bribes to vote for that deal and another development.

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NoLandGrab: These cases are fascinating, because people are receiving bribes, and there are middlemen making the payments, but no entity seems to be originating the bribes. Go figure.

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

The Carl Kruger backstory, via Gatemouth's long memory

Atlantic Yard Report

Room 8 blogger Gatemouth, aka Howard Graubard, has a couple of very interesting posts on the charges against state Senator Carl Carl Kruger, Assemblyman William Boyland, and lobbyist Richard Lipsky.

First, in Restling With Our Rights, or Lincoln Suspends the Constitution (Due Process for Electeds, Part One), he criticizes District Leader Lincoln Restler, who became the first pol to call for the elected officials' resignations before a trial.

But he's no supporter of Kruger, not at all. He writes:

Carl Kruger and I go back a long way.

I’ve despised Carl ever since 1984.

Brooklyn Democrats were then in the midst of a leadership war between the forces of Borough President Howard Golden and the late Tony Genovesi, fighting a series of proxy wars across the County.

The anecdote continues for a while, leading to this:

I then looked at an angry looking bald man watching us warily. Having already been through a morgue of newspapers clippings looking for dirt on Maisel’s associates, I said the following, and nothing more:

“You must be Carl Kruger.”

The man turned blood red.

I guess I understand why. If someone called me “Carl Kruger,“ I’d be insulted too.

But this man was Carl Kruger.

The mad man now started screaming at the top of his lungs.

“FUCK YOU!!!!…AND FUCK YOU, KENNY, FOR BRINGING HIM OVER HERE.”

There's much more, including an account of Democrat Kruger's endorsement of Republican Rudy Giuliani for U.S. Senate and Republican Marty Golden against sitting Democratic State Senator Vincent Gentile, a trade that ensured Kruger's safe seat, and an explanation of how Kruger's alliance with Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno sabotaged the reform efforts of Gov. Eliot Spitzer:

Truthfully, no one writing on the blogs today has a longer and more distinguished record of hatred for Carl Kruger than I do.

Click through for Part II.

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Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

More robberies at Ratner’s malls

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Seems like there was even more crime going down at Bruce Ratner's mall last week then there was in a typical phone call between his Atlantic Yards lobbyist and disgraced state Senator Carl Kruger

Picked clean

Thieves were running wild at the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center last week. Here’s what happened:

• A 20-year-old tried to swipe $6,378 from the Atlantic Avenue Pathmark on March 12, but was arrested after a brief chase.

The thief was inside the supermarket between Fort Greene Place and S. Portland Avenue at 7:30 am when he saw an employee emptying the self-serve cash registers. He grabbed the money and scooted out the door, only to be apprehended on Dean Street.

• A thief jumped a 15-year-old outside the Atlantic Center mall on March 7, taking his Blackberry cellphone. The teen was heading inside when the 3:25 pm robbery took place.

• A sticky fingered hooligan swiped a woman’s wallet on March 8 after bumping into her inside the Atlantic Avenue Pathmark. The victim told police that someone brushed by her at around 6:30 pm, but she didn’t realize her wallet had been lifted until much later.

• A goon snagged a purse from a woman shopping inside the Flatbush Avenue Target on March 12. The victim lost her bag, $1,500 and several credit cards during the 3:10 pm confrontation.

• A thief plucked a purse from a woman’s shopping cart inside the Flatbush Avenue Target on March 13. The woman left her cart for just a few moments at 11 am — just enough time for the thief to make off with $60, her wallet and her passport.

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Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

Flatbush Avenue freakout: How a race-baiting hoax hooked Bobo Brooklyn, briefly

Capital New York
by Michael McLaughlin

An excellent piece by Mike McLaughlin on the brouhaha over "Prime 6."

THE FIGHT IS ALL BUT OVER EXCEPT for a Hail Mary attempt by the bar’s opponents to get the State Liquor Authority to grant what would be an unusual second hearing on the liquor license application. State Sen. Montgomery, State. Sen. Daniel Squadron, Assemblyman James Brennan and Councilman Stephen Levin signed a March 8 letter making the same request.

There’s also an upcoming summit scheduled by North Flatbush Avenue Business Improvement District officials to make peace between Ofshtein and the opponents. They’ll tackle an agenda on mundane items like garbage pickups and what hours the garden will be open. Race, very likely, will not be a topic again.

Of course, if the overall theme of the place still seems vague to the locals, it seems to be vague to Ofshtein himself, now chastened.

“I wanted to make something a little more high-end,” he told Capital. “Maybe a steakhouse. But now I’m leaning more and more towards California cuisine.”

And in all likelihood: Prime 6 will open, and Ofshtein's relationship with the neighbors will improve.

“This isn’t what I wanted to be talking about before I even opened my restaurant,” he said. “They have legitimate issues and I don’t want to ruin my relationship with them.”

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Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Writer Austin Ratner 'Jumps' Into Brooklyn Heights Beauty

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

There goes the neighborhood?

Walt Whitman, Truman Capote, Simon Rich—Brooklyn Heights has long been home to some of New York's best-known writers. Now, America's oldest suburb can welcome Austin Ratner to its ranks.

A Johns Hopkins-trained doctor, Mr. Ratner has penned the textbook Concepts in Medical Physiology as well as the far less technical The Jump Artist, a novel about postwar photographer Philippe Halsman that has been praised by Harper's, among others. Yet it stands to reason that it is family connections as much as book royalties helping to pay for the stunning five-story home at 96 Joralemon Street. According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Mr. Ratner is the stepson of James Ratner, who is an executive at Cleveland-based Forest City and cousin to Brooklyn macher Bruce Ratner.

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NoLandGrab: The home apparently was not acquired through an eminent domain proceeding, so we wonder what portion of the $3,000,000 purchase price is attributable to public subsidies padding Forest City's bottom line?

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

March 14, 2011

Albany's snooze button and business

Crain's NY Business
by Greg David

Hey! Look who just (a little, anyway) caught on!

"Every single time we arrest a state senator or assemblyman, it should be a jarring wake-up call," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said last week. "Instead, it seems that no matter how many times the alarm goes off, Albany just hits the snooze button."

Last week's indictment of state Sen. Carl Kruger, an assemblyman, a lobbyist and two hospital executives raised the heat on the Legislature to pass ethics reform. Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to impose a Moreland Commission--an independent investigative panel with broad powers--if the Legislature does not act soon. And ethics reform, which means new rules for legislators and members of the executive branch, is desperately needed because businesses are so dependent on Albany that lobbying seems, at least in some cases, insufficient.
...

Real estate interests. One of the most fascinating sections of the charges details Mr. Kruger's efforts to find state funds to help Forest City Ratner pay for infrastructure improvements at its Atlantic Yards development and at the same time help the firm's chief government relations executive get money for Brooklyn's Prospect Park, where his wife served on the board. The U.S. attorney says Mr. Krueger's efforts were the results of bribes Mr. Lipsky paid him with his retainer from Forest City. This makes two black eyes for Forest City. It won approval for a major mixed-use developments in suburban Yonkers only after a city councilperson changed their vote, which the U.S. attorney charges was in response to a bribe from a Forest City consultants. Forest City has not been charged in either case.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Greg David (gingerly) and Michael D. D. White (righteously) look at the Kruger case and Forest City Ratner

Greg David of Crain's New York Business has always been an Atlantic Yards booster, which means he has to approach the charges against state Senator Carl Kruger a bit gingerly, in Albany's snooze button and business....

Posted by eric at 11:11 PM

Battle over AY timetable goes to court tomorrow, led by BrooklynSpeaks: "benefits should not be conferred as the result of a ruse..."

Atlantic Yards Report

Coming tomorrow is a hearing in the last Atlantic Yards court case, a challenge to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) that was initially filed in 2009, dismissed in March 2010, resurrected a few months later, partly upheld by a judge, and then waved away by the ESDC.

The details:
Tuesday, March 15, 2:30 PM
New York County Supreme Court
60 Centre Street
Room 335
Manhattan

While a victory would, at best, delay arena construction slightly and require further study of the overall project timetable, the case aims to right the balance between the public interest and a government agency arguably willing to do a developer's bidding.

The case challenges the legitimacy of the ten-year project timetable that the ESDC board assumed when it approved the revised project in September 2009, and the failure of the ESDC to conduct a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement to study to adverse impacts of a project that could last 25 years.

And, though the Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman in December refrained from issuing a stay on construction--a request that's been renewed--the dispute continues, as groups in the coalition BrooklynSpeaks forcefully questioned the ESDC's findings that a 25-year buildout would have no adverse impacts beyond those already studied.

The lead plaintiff in the BrooklynSpeaks coalition is the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC). Among the plaintiffs are several neighborhood groups, residents, and local officials: City Council Member Letititia James, state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, and Assemblyman Jim Brennan.

DDDB steps back

The case consolidates two cases brought by groupings led by BrooklynSpeaks and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, but the latter has submitted only one set of papers since December, as well as joining in the reply papers submitted by BrooklynSpeaks and letting the latter take the lead.

"After five years of litigation, we have become disillusioned with the judiciary, and doubt that any judge will stand up to Ratner and right the countless wrongs he has imposed and continues to impose on our community," commented Candace Carponter, DDDB legal director, in response to my query about DDDB's posture.

"On the other hand, this is BrooklynSpeaks' first lawsuit, and they are more optimistic than we that the court will do the right thing," she added. "Still, we believe in the challenge raised in our joint lawsuit, and don't want anyone to mistake our letting BrooklynSpeaks take the lead as acquiescence in any form. We remain vigilant for opportunities to expose this Project for what it really is."

Indeed, DDDB attorney Jeff Baker will be in court tomorrow arguing to require the ESDC and Forest City Ratner, and their lawyers, to pay DDDB for the costs of the additional legal work "DDDB's lawyers had to perform because ESDC and FCR improperly withheld a key contract from the court last year." (I should have more on this case tomorrow morning.)

Click through for Norman Oder's very detailed recap of what these cases are all about.

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Posted by eric at 5:02 PM

Lightning Keeps Striking: It Couldn’t Happen To Some More Deserving People . . Over and Over, Again- Ratner, Illegal Bribes and Jay-Z and Beyoncé

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White ponders how it can be that Forest City Ratner keeps popping up in the pages of federal corruption indictments.

It’s that OMG-lightning keeps striking in the same place phenomenon. It may startle you, but if you know your science then you know that not only can lightning keep striking the same place, if the conditions are there it is quite likely to.

Suspense and . . .

It may also be described as the couldn’t happen to a better person phenomenon. That is to say that sometimes when you have watched the operations of a firm like Forest City Ratner closely for a long time you have found yourself wondering for just how long they are going to escape the consequence of a certain style of heinously cynical conduct. Looks like the answer may be not much longer. . . or, at least, not forever.

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Posted by eric at 4:15 PM

More shocking than Kruger's $500,000 gift to Bruce Bender's pet project is the Senate leadership's willingness to let Bender allocate funds himself

Atlantic Yards Report

Though state Senator Carl Kruger has certainly helped developer Forest City Ratner over the years, and the charges described last week certainly put that help in a new light, the federal complaint does not show Kruger allocating funds to the developer.

Sure, he seemed willing, but he didn't have enough money, so what he did have went to a Prospect Park project requested by Forest City Ratner Executive VP Bruce Bender.

That might be seen as much as helping an old crony as anything else.

Senate leaders bend to Bender?

Still, another look at the complaint suggests some shocking--at least to those who believe what they learned in civics class--behavior from a Senate staffer, apparently at the behest of "Senate Leader #1."

Who's that? Apparently Senator John Sampson (as identified in news coverage), who has had supporters use Forest City Ratner offices for a fundraiser.

That staffer was willing to essentially outsource government "pork" directly to Bender, letting the real estate executive allocate money "as he saw fit."

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Posted by eric at 4:06 PM

An Insert Preview - Music Superstar Ethics: How Completely You Can Sell “You can say what you say, but you are what you are.” Jay-Zzzzus!

Noticing New York

Nets' minority owner Jay-Z makes an appearance in a lengthy post, loosely about "360° deals" in the recording industry.

This Noticing New York discussion of the city-shaping aspects of music and the structure of the music industry could not be complete without discussing the city-shaping-size political scandals in which Jay-Z has been involved, Atlantic Yards and Aqueduct Raceway. Perhaps in these scandals we see the effect that 360 degree multi-rights deals can have in shaping our cities. It is easiest to see what this means in the case of Atlantic Yards. Through his appearances at strategic events Jay-Z has been giving cover to a ruthless developer’s abusive land-grabbing* seizures of private property in brownstone Brooklyn, whereby that developer is seeking to quash competition and alternative community development with 50 acres of high-density mega-monopoly. Thirty of those acres are contiguous acreage found at the Atlantic Yards site, the rest of them closely linked and sitting over the same ganglia of converging key Brooklyn subway lines. With Jay-Z’s help, the developer has been selling this project based on an outrageous constellation of falsehoods.

What Is Jay-Z?

“You can say what you say, but you are what you are.” This philosophical remark about how you conduct yourself in life is regularly attributed to Jay-Z by Tavis Smiley and a list of others.

OK, if that’s Jay’Z’s own quote then we clearly know what he 'can say,’ but what actually IS Jay-Z if he’s involved with such scandals? Well, maybe with a 360 degree multi-rights contract you don’t know until you read all the fine print in the contract. Might we presume Jay-Z didn’t get himself involved in these scandals? What if, instead, it was his promoters that got him involved.? What if Jay-Z’s contract said for him to show up so Jay-Z just did? Who knows whether the particular contracts he signed allow him to still say what he wants to say but the real question is whether he still gets to be who he would otherwise choose to be.

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Posted by eric at 3:02 PM

Is the Kruger/Lipsky case the end of the scandal investigations in Albany? Maybe not. What about the Aqueduct "racino"?

Atlantic Yards Report

In Piling On Carl Kruger, Convicted Already In Court Of Public Opinion, City Hall News explains that state Senator Carl Kruger, unlike many charged with corruption, is not even being given the doubt in the recently announced case involving payments from Richard Lipsky.

Why? City Hall News reports:

“Everyone who’s been paying attention to politics in Brooklyn, has long known that these two gentlemen play pay-to-play politics,” said one politician who asked not to be named, referring to Kruger and Assembly Member William Boyland, Jr., who was also accused of accepting bribes. “They are shady folks, period.”

Kruger’s personal life is already the source of much speculation and innuendo. But his political behavior did not win him any friends either.

Dan Feldman, a former Brooklyn Assembly member tried to explain why.

“A high percentage of the time, I’m amazed and shocked when these people get into trouble. Frankly, this is one of those cases where I’m not shocked—I just didn’t get good vibes,” Feldman said. “Most politicians are very gregarious. With Carl, you never got the feeling of any kind of personal connection. I don’t mean to be cruel—to some extent, it felt like you were talking to a computer.”

Also, Kruger's clear role in Senate shenanigans--one of the "Four Amigos" whose party allegiance was malleable--surely played a role.

Anyone else?

The newspaper reports:

Some wondered how much further the scandal would go. Would there be more arrests in addition to the eight already?

“The cynical analysis is this is the tip of something much larger and this could explode,” [Baruch College professor Doug] Muzzio said. “It’s not only waiting for the other shoe to drop. There seems to be a whole shoe closet here with shoes ready to fall out.”

If so, who could that be? Perhaps the investigation of the Aqueduct "racino" will yield further charges.

If so, those could involve state Senators Malcolm Smith of Queens and John Sampson of Brooklyn.

And if so, there might be a tangential connection to Forest City Ratner.

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Posted by eric at 2:43 PM

Time for an update? Markowitz, on video, praised Forest City to potential investors: "I can assure you that their reputation is unbelievably reliable"

Atlantic Yards Report

In December, I first wrote about Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's hyperbolic praise for Forest City Ratner, assisting the developer's effort to raise low-cost capital from Chinese (and Korean) investors seeking green cards.

Now that Forest City executive Bruce Bender has been caught on government wiretap trying to get government help to fulfill the obligation to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge, and also saying, "I don't mind fucking the bridge," maybe Markowitz's claims of FCR reliability deserve a rethink.

"The largest company in Brooklyn is Forest City development, and I can assure you that their reputation is unbelievably reliable," he declared on the video produced to pitch the project to the investors. "They're a great company to work with; they've worked very closely with government. And the most important thing: they make a promise, they keep it."

Right.

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Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

Lobbyist for Forest City Ratner, New Rochelle's Echo Bay Developer, Indicted for Bribing Elected Officials in Brooklyn

Talk of the Sound
by Robert Cox

A lobbyist for a real estate developer with ties to New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson has been indicted in a federal public corruption probe.

Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist employed by Forest City Ratner, has been indicted on allegations of paying bribes to New York State Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn). Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Public Relations Bruce Bender is also identified in the complaint for his role in seek funds from Kruger last December for three projects....

Forest City Ratner is the developer behind the Echo Bay Development project in New Rochelle which recently received an extension of a Memorandum of Understanding. Mayor Noam Bramson aggressively pushed through the M.O.U. after a series of secret meetings with City officials and refusing to allow public comment on a revised development plan. Bramson has received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the Ratner family. Bramson also receives tens of thousands of dollars a year in payments from Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) who has, in turn, also received funds from the Ratner family. Bramson has been the most vocal proponent for the Forest City Ratner plan to develop Echo Bay.

In a similar scheme, Yonkers officials were indicted in 2010 for their involvement in a bribery scheme involving a Forest City Ratner project in Yonkers.

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Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

Stage Dive: Turning Off Julie Taymor’s Dark Spider-Man for Good

NYMag.com
by Scott Brown

Atlantic Yards: now a metaphor for the biggest Broadway debacle since The Capeman.

Last Thursday, I returned to the scene of the crime. I was honoring a ticket I'd booked to Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark weeks ago, back when I'd believed that the show's March 15 opening date would stick. It was a bittersweet reunion. On one hand, SM:TODT was — is — still riotously loony, never at home in its subject matter unless Spidey's in flight. On the other, I realized I was witnessing the end of something. It was the last time I'll see director Julie Taymor's pure, uncut vision of the Web Slinger, with its self-referential fussiness, goddess worship, and vinegary scent of mounting desperation intact. (It will continue to preview through April 19, then close till May 12, then return for another month of previews, opening June 14. Probably.) When next I make the forced march to the Foxwoods, Spider-man will have become the Broadway equivalent of the Barclay Center at Atlantic Yards: Having begun life as a much-criticized Frank Gehry white elephant, it seems doomed to end as a plain old much-criticized gray elephant.

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Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

March 13, 2011

On Tuesday, big hearing in last Atlantic Yards case, regarding legitimacy of the timetable, need for more environmental review, and lawyer's fees

Atlantic Yards Report

Here is the background for the arguments:

DDDB sued in 2009 to challenge ESDC's approval of the Modified General Project Plan for the Atlantic Yards Project, on the grounds that the Plan was premised upon a ten-year timeline for construction of the entire project even though Forest City was contractually permitted by the MTA to take 30 years to complete the purchase of the rights to the Vanderbilt Yard and construction of most of the project had been postponed indefinitely. ESDC and FCR responded that their development contract required FCR to build the project within ten years, but refused to disclose the contract to the court.

In March 2010, Justice Friedman ruled against DDDB, finding that ESDC's continuing use of the ten-year construction timeframe was sufficiently supported by the evidence in the record, "albeit, in this court's opinion, only minimally". Because ESDC had refused to make the development contract part of the record before the court, DDDB had to wait until the court issued its decision before it could submit the development contract to the court in a motion to reargue the case.

Once DDDB was able to put the actual ESDC-FCR development contract before the court, Justice Friedman determined that the contract did not impose any meaningful obligation on FCR to complete the project within ten years, and reversed her previous decision. In November 2010, the court ordered ESDC to reconsider its reliance on a ten-year construction timeframe for the project, and criticized ESDC for failing its legal obligation to disclose evidence to the court that contradicted the record. The ESDC, not surprisingly, quickly issued its "reconsideration", affirming its approval of the project.

ESDC’s findings were inherently inconsistent. It first found that relying upon the ten-year timeline was completely reasonable despite the 25-year time frame in the development contract. It then recognized that the ten-year deadline would not be reached and then it reviewed a new technical memorandum that purported to address the changes in potential impacts of a 25-year time frame and unsurprisingly found the impacts would not be greater or different than what was previously considered.

In December 2010, DDDB filed its motion to the court to award it the additional legal expenses incurred in making its motion to reargue the case, on the ground that the motion would not have been necessary if ESDC and FCR had disclosed their development agreement to the court as they were legally obligated to do.

The legal basis of DDDB's motion is a Court Rule which permits the court to assess legal expenses against a party or attorney whose litigation conduct "is completely without merit in law" or "is undertaken primarily to delay or prolong the resolution of the litigation, or to harass or maliciously injure another", or who "asserts material factual statements that are false."

In January, 2011, with the permission of the court, BrooklynSpeaks and DDDB filed an amended petition challenging the failure of the ESDC to consider the negative impacts of what we believe to be the more likely 25 year plus timeline of the buildout of the entire proposed Atlantic Yards Project. DDDB also challenges ESDC’s failure to hold a public hearing on the 2010 Technical Memorandum that supported its decision where ESDC held a hearing on the 2009 Modified GPP and Technical Memorandum.

Argument on both DDDB's motion for sanctions and the amended petition are scheduled for Tuesday:

Details:
Tuesday, March 15th, 2:30 PM
New York County Supreme Court
60 Centre Street
Room 335
Manhattan

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Posted by steve at 10:55 PM

The cognitive dissonance of the Daily News: cheering Atlantic Yards, slamming Albany corruption, giving slack to Kruger's partner Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

It wasn't so long ago that the New York Daily News, on 12/17/09, was cheering the Atlantic Yards arena:

Even more important, the Atlantic Yards plan calls for building 6,400 housing units, a third of them affordable, on a tract that has been fallow for half a century. Those will take time. Right now, it's enough that we end the dark half-century that began with the defection of the borough's Dodgers and enjoy all the jobs that building the arena will create.

That contained a big lie ("fallow" tract), a medium lie ("all the jobs"), and a ridiculous claim (that the half-century had been "dark").

A corrupt capital

Today, the Daily News is shocked, shocked at the political shenanigans behind the project, in an editorial headlined Crooked Carl Kruger wallowed in Albany's corrupt pork-barrel slush-fund ways:

The million-dollar corruption case lodged against Brooklyn state Sen. Carl Kruger did more than depict him as the personification of sleaze. It also shed invaluable light on the Legislature's cavalier slush-fund culture.

An FBI listening device showed just how much money an individual lawmaker can control - and just how routinely a legislator can dole it out, without accountability or sound judgment, to special friends.

This particular transaction unfolded in December, when Kruger fielded a call from Forest City Ratner honcho Bruce Bender - a client of lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who had allegedly bribed Kruger for help on other matters.

Bender was seeking an amazing $15 million: $9 million for a bridge related to his company's Atlantic Yards project, $2 million for a retail center in Mill Basin and $4 million to renovate a skating rink in Prospect Park.

As it happens, Bender's wife sits on the board of the Prospect Park Alliance.

Kruger laments that he has but $4 million to offer and asks, "What do you want done?" adding, "I guess the park. F--- the bridge."

...

But it takes two (or three) to tango--aren't Kruger's partners deserving of criticism? Wasn't it Bender who said "I don't mind fucking the bridge"?

Blame the legislature?

The editorial concludes:

But this is slimy business as usual in Albany, where pork accounts are so numerous that Senate officials couldn't be quite sure on Friday which account the $4 million came from or where it ended up.

Prosecutors have warned for years that this secretive, unaccountable spending is guaranteed to breed corruption. They were right. Individual lawmakers have no business grabbing and doling out slices of pork. So, from now on, for as long as the Legislature insists on gorging, these grants will be known as Kruger Money.

Shouldn't the Daily News stress that part of the "slimy business" is Forest City Ratner's effort to evade a $14 million obligation it assumed to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge?

link

Posted by steve at 10:47 PM

Park Slope, 1978: "The Myth of Neighborhood" and the fear of blight (and some appearances by the "Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn" author)

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote recently about Suleiman Osman, author of The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York. He will appear at the Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene on March 14, the Museum of the City of New York March 15 (discount admission of $6 if you mention this blog and reserve at 917-492-3395 or programs@mcny.org), Community Bookstore in Park Slope on April 6 (I will moderate), and the Brooklyn Historical Society on April 30.

And then I found the article referenced below.

Park Slope-raised (and Queens-residing) Daily News columnist Denis Hamill may do some lazy work these days (as with his softball interview of Bruce Ratner), but he used to be a superb street reporter, and this 2/13/78 article in New York Magazine, Park Slope: The Myth of Neighborhood, paints a chilling portrait of a very divided district:

Park Slope has luxury homes, slums, commercial strips, heroin supermarkets, working-class enclaves, ethnic hamlets and pockets of successful--and unsuccessful--integration. There is safety, as there is serious crime, struggle for urban survival, and pure apathy.

Hamill describes a series of dividing lines, with an affluent section along Seventh Avenue from Flatbush Avenue to Third Street, a working-class zone to Ninth Street, and below that "mostly a slum." There's an Italian zone, and a Puerto Rican one.

And while some in the more affluent section had raised their voices for civic betterment, Hamill observed that "there have been no great turnouts to protest the destruction of other parts of Park Slope.

Hamill was wrong in predicting that the scourge of abandonment and blight--starting just west of Garfield Place and Seventh Avenue--would move east toward Prospect Park, rather than be subsumed by gentrification, but it's notable that such was a credible prediction.

Things changed in a decade or so, and now, of course, even Fifth Avenue--once full of boarded-up stores--has gentrified.

So the corner of Fifth Avenue and Second Street, once "a bustling heroin bargain basement," is now home to a Thai restaurant named Song.

link

Posted by steve at 10:43 PM

Yes, Kruger apparently helped FCR, but not on Atlantic Yards; Post focuses on the Mill Basin connection, where pol tried to delay public review

Atlantic Yards Report

I've been so focused on the not-quite-favor on Atlantic Yards Forest City Ratner's Bruce Bender tried to negotiate with the indicted Carl Kruger that I didn't look closely at the other FCR deal, where Kruger apparently was helpful.

Rich Calder of the New York Post follows up today, in Kruger's political favor:

State Sen. Carl Kruger -- who is facing federal corruption charges in an alleged pay-to-play scheme -- used his political muscle to hold up a Bloomberg administration project in Brooklyn at least three years to benefit a favored developer also highlighted in the embattled pol’s criminal complaint, the Post has learned.

Note that the details are outside the official complaint, which focuses on the role of another developer in the Mill Basin project.

The article continues:

At issue is a 15-acre city project that includes a new retail center in Mill Basin, built by developer Forest City Ratner. The project, along Flatbush Avenue, is also supposed to hold a Cadillac car dealership. The site currently houses a Toys-R-Us store.

Kruger (D-Brooklyn) sent former Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber a scathing letter in January 2008 threatening to sue the city because it wanted to begin the mandatory public review process on the dealership’s portion of the project, without FCR’s part.

At the time, the car dealership plan was in jeopardy if the city didn’t move quickly, but FCR wasn’t ready to begin a public review – and was concerned that segmenting the project could hurt its plans, sources said.

“It is our intent, and the shared intent of the community and other elected officials, to commence legal action if necessary,” Kruger said in the letter.

The city ultimately gave in to Kruger’s demands, but luckily was able to save the dealership deal. Last month, the entire project’s public review finally began.

FCR has not been charged, but the doubts about whether it's a good corporate citizen--as the Empire State Development Corporation asserted last year--increase.

link

Posted by steve at 10:40 PM

Crain's: Lipsky's relationship with Kruger may have solidified after the lobbyist signed on with Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

In Lobbyist Richard Lipsky's downfall: Lobbyist in bribery scandal touched nearly every biz cause, Crain's New York Business describes Richard Lipsky's ethical flexibility and, near the end of the article, suggests that a connection with developer Forest City Ratner led Lipsky to ally with state Senator Carl Kruger.

Crain's reports:

In the 1990s, lobbyist Richard Lipsky fought ferociously on behalf of small business owners against building a Pathmark supermarket in East Harlem, and, a decade later, against a Walmart store on Staten Island. But the underdog narrative that ran through his three-decade career became muddied more recently as signs emerged that Mr. Lipsky was following the money rather than his principles.

Forest City Ratner hired him in 2006 for its $5 billion Atlantic Yards megaproject in Brooklyn, and a related corporate entity snagged him to pave the way for an East Harlem shopping mall whose anchor is a Target superstore. Those moves were widely attributed to the developer's desire to prevent Mr. Lipsky from stirring up and advocating for the little guys, his traditional constituency.

He aligned himself with four rogue legislators who upended the Democrats' tenuous hold on the Senate in 2009. And he recently signed on with the Committee to Save New York, a big-business alliance backing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's fiscally conservative agenda.

“He was serving far too many masters,” said a Democratic operative. “You could purchase his position on an issue.”

Um, I think Atlantic Yards critics and opponents were pointing that out well before charges surfaced last week.

link

Posted by steve at 10:38 PM

Kruger's vote on gay marriage, protests by activists, and the need for scrutiny

Atlantic Yards Report

In Media Runs With Kruger Gay Stories: Activists' charge indicted anti-equality senator is closeted finally surface, Gay City News reports on the mainstream media's willingness--for the Times, tentative, for the Post, certain--to finally look closely at some evidence that seemed to have been staring at them in the face:

Shortly after Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger joined seven other Democrats in voting against New York’s marriage equality bill in December 2009 –– dooming it to a 38-24 loss –– a busload of LGBT activists descended on two homes blocks apart where Kruger either claimed to live or in fact resided, with some picketers loudly decrying him for being closeted.

In the wake of Kruger’s indictment March 10 on federal charges of taking more than $1 million in bribes in exchange for political favors, the story of Kruger’s homosexuality –– indeed accounts that he is lovers with the son of a woman who was often his companion in public –– have made it into the mainstream press.

A March 11 New York Times story recounts the gay rights protest at Kruger’s residences, noting that the senator has denied being gay. The newspaper also notes that while neighbors of 73-year-old Dorothy Turano's staggeringly gaudy house in Mill Basin described her and the senator as a couple, “it was the oldest son, Michael, to whom Mr. Kruger was closest, and they forged a relationship in which they ‘supported and relied on one another,’” according to the federal indictment.

Michael Turano, a 49-year-old gynecologist, was indicted for helping Kruger to launder his alleged illegal gains.

Both the Times and the New York Post make clear that Kruger was not living in his legal residence in Georgetown, where his sister lives, but with the two Turanos and “Dottie’s” other son, Gerard, who is 47.

The Post is more definitive in its characterization of the relationship between Kruger and Michael Turano, describing the senator as “closeted” and the younger man as his “beau” and “secret longtime companion.”

Kruger and Michael Turano were in near daily contact, according to the U.S. Attorney. Maybe if the protests in 2009 had been taken more seriously, and Kruger's living arrangements scrutinized--if not his companionship, at least the outlandish luxury in which he apparently lived--the press would have been ahead of the feds.

link

Posted by steve at 10:35 PM

What kept Carl Kruger untouchable: member items, and the redistricting that carved up territory for him and Marty Golden

Atlantic Yards Report

In the wake of the charges against state Senator Carl Kruger and others, it's worth another look at my 10/30/06 review of former State Senator Seymour Lachman's timely book of analysis and advocacy, Three Men in a Room: The Inside Story of Power and Betrayal in an American Statehouse, coauthored by Robert Polner. Indeed, the entire legislative and governmental process is distorted by an absence of democracy.

As I wrote, few of our elected representatives come off well. Is it no surprise that several of the officials who back the Atlantic Yards plan are among those who benefit from and support the systematic dysfunction?

Member items

How do leaders keep people in line and maintain incumbency?

“Member items,” basically a discretionary fund that can be used for worthy civic purposes and also to build political capital. In the Republican-controlled Senate, a minority Democrat might get $100,000 to $200,000 to distribute to local community groups and local services, Republicans sometimes get ten times more. (In the Democrat-controlled Assembly, the flip side obtains.)

link

Posted by steve at 10:30 PM

The Sunday Krugerpalooza

Insights into the relationship between State Senator Carl Kruger, lobbyist John Lipsky and developer Forest City Ratner continue.

New York Daily News, Crooked Carl Kruger wallowed in Albany's corrupt pork-barrel slush-fund ways

An FBI listening device showed just how much money an individual lawmaker can control - and just how routinely a legislator can dole it out, without accountability or sound judgment, to special friends.

This particular transaction unfolded in December, when Kruger fielded a call from Forest City Ratner honcho Bruce Bender - a client of lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who had allegedly bribed Kruger for help on other matters.

Bender was seeking an amazing $15 million: $9 million for a bridge related to his company's Atlantic Yards project, $2 million for a retail center in Mill Basin and $4 million to renovate a skating rink in Prospect Park.

As it happens, Bender's wife sits on the board of the Prospect Park Alliance.

Kruger laments that he has but $4 million to offer and asks, "What do you want done?" adding, "I guess the park. F--- the bridge."

But Bender prods Kruger for more. You're the Finance Committee chairman, he says. Can't you squeeze something additional out of Senate Democratic leader John Sampson?

Kruger replies that other community groups "would take $10,000 and kiss somebody's a--."

Crain's New York, Lobbyist Richard Lipsky's downfall

In the 1990s, lobbyist Richard Lipsky fought ferociously on behalf of small business owners against building a Pathmark supermarket in East Harlem, and, a decade later, against a Walmart store on Staten Island. But the underdog narrative that ran through his three-decade career became muddied more recently as signs emerged that Mr. Lipsky was following the money rather than his principles.

Forest City Ratner hired him in 2006 for its $5 billion Atlantic Yards megaproject in Brooklyn, and a related corporate entity snagged him to pave the way for an East Harlem shopping mall whose anchor is a Target superstore. Those moves were widely attributed to the developer's desire to prevent Mr. Lipsky from stirring up and advocating for the little guys, his traditional constituency.

He aligned himself with four rogue legislators who upended the Democrats' tenuous hold on the Senate in 2009. And he recently signed on with the Committee to Save New York, a big-business alliance backing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's fiscally conservative agenda.

“He was serving far too many masters,” said a Democratic operative. “You could purchase his position on an issue.”

...

It isn't clear when his relationship with Mr. Kruger developed, but observers suspect their ties solidified around 2006, when Mr. Lipsky signed on with Forest City Ratner. Its executive vice president for government affairs, Bruce Bender, has known Mr. Kruger for decades.

New York Post, Kruger's political favor

State Sen. Carl Kruger -- who is facing federal corruption charges in an alleged pay-to-play scheme -- used his political muscle to hold up a Bloomberg administration project in Brooklyn at least three years to benefit a favored developer also highlighted in the embattled pol’s criminal complaint, the Post has learned.

At issue is a 15-acre city project that includes a new retail center in Mill Basin, built by developer Forest City Ratner. The project, along Flatbush Avenue, is also supposed to hold a Cadillac car dealership. The site currently houses a Toys-R-Us store. Tim Wiencis/Splash News

Kruger (D-Brooklyn) sent former Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber a scathing letter in January 2008 threatening to sue the city because it wanted to begin the mandatory public review process on the dealership’s portion of the project, without FCR’s part.

...

“He cost the city three years it can’t get back on a project that already faces a lot of opposition,“ said one city official.

Kruger and Bruce Bender, a vice president for government relations at FCR, are longtime allies who both got their starts in Southern Brooklyn’s Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club.

According to the complaint, Bender in December asked Kruger for $11 million in state funds for two FCR projects in Brooklyn – the Mill Basin project and Atlantic Yards – and another $4 million to renovate a Prospect Park skating rink near Bender’s Park Slope home.

Talk of the Sound, Lobbyist for Forest City Ratner, New Rochelle's Echo Bay Developer, Indicted for Bribing Elected Officials in Brooklyn

Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist employed by Forest City Ratner, has been indicted on allegations of paying bribes to New York State Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn). Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Public Relations Bruce Bender is also identified in the complaint for his role in seek funds from Kruger last December for three projects -- $9 million for a bridge related to the Atlantic Yards project; $2 million for the Mill Basin retail development in Brooklyn; and $4 million for a skating rink in Prospect Park. Mr. Bender’s wife, Amy Bender, is on the board of the Prospect Park Alliance, the park’s fund-raising group.

Referred to in the charging document as "a significant real estate development firm ("Real Estate Developer #1")", Forest City employed Richard Lipsky up until Wednesday when the developer terminated the relationship.

Forest City Ratner is the developer behind the Echo Bay Development project in New Rochelle which recently received an extension of a Memorandum of Understanding. Mayor Noam Bramson aggressively pushed through the M.O.U. after a series of secret meetings with City officials and refusing to allow public comment on a revised development plan. Bramson has received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the Ratner family. Bramson also receives tens of thousands of dollars a year in payments from Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) who has, in turn, also received funds from the Ratner family. Bramson has been the most vocal proponent for the Forest City Ratner plan to develop Echo Bay.

Posted by steve at 10:08 PM

March 12, 2011

Come Out Tuesday to Support DDDB!

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

On Tuesday, March 15, at 2:30 p.m., New York State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman will hear argument on the motion of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn to require the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner, and their lawyers, to pay DDDB for the costs of the additional legal work which DDDB's lawyers had to perform because ESDC and FCR improperly withheld a key contract from the court last year. Justice Friedman will also hear argument on the supplemental petition filed jointly by DDDB and BrooklynSpeaks challenging the failure of the ESDC and Ratner to consider the environmental impacts of the much more likely 25 year build-out of the Atlantic Yards Project.

We strongly encourage you, as a DDDB supporter, to attend the hearing on Tuesday. We believe it is particularly egregious that a grassroots organization such as ours has been forced to suffer financial consequences because of the misconduct of a state agency in failing to disclose terms of its agreement with Ratner that allows the 25 year build-out. And we believe it is simply wrong for the court to permit Ratner to benefit from this misconduct by allowing him to continue the project despite the fact that the impacts of the probable scenario have been completely ignored. We are again asking for the court to send this project back for the analysis that is required by law.

link

Posted by steve at 11:53 PM

An imaginary dialogue between Bruce Ratner and Bruce Bender: "What did you mean when you told Carl Kruger 'I don't mind fucking the bridge'?"

Atlantic Yards Report

We don't have a listening device on Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender's phone calls, as apparently the FBI did--at least when he spoke with Carl Kruger--but if we did, perhaps yesterday we could have heard a conversation with Bruce Ratner, his boss at Forest City Ratner.

BR: What were you thinking?

BB: Bruce, Bruce. We didn't get indicted. We didn't get touched.

BR: It doesn't look good.

BB: It's way better than Ridge Hill.

BR: True, but it doesn't look good.

BB: It doesn't look great, but, c'mon, whatever looks not-great is a lot better than what else made the news: Kruger, Boyland, Lipsky--they're toast.

BR: We fired Lipsky quick, true.

BB: He was doing it for the kids!

BR: For the kids!

BB: Youth sports!

(Chortles)

...

BR: I noticed the ESDC wouldn't say we're still a good corporate citizen.

BB: Bruce. In for a dime, in for a dollar. They're in. They can't not be in.

BR: Which means...

BB: We're Teflon.

Click on the link below for the complete conversation.

link

Posted by steve at 7:10 PM

Dancing around the Kruger indictment, Markowitz reminds Brooklynites, "In Unity There is Strength," de Blasio ignores Carlton Avenue Bridge

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Brooklyn-based Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, always quick to offer public statements in response to the most tangential news event, have responded somewhat gingerly to the charges against Brooklyn state Senator Carl Kruger and others.

From Markowitz

Markowitz avoided a statement completely, skipping from a comment on schools to one on the recent tsunami in Japan:

“The devastating earthquake in Japan—one of the worst in recorded history—and the ensuing tsunami have resulted in devastation beyond anyone’s imagination, and our hearts go out to our Japanese brothers and sisters in need. Our proud Brooklyn motto is ‘In Unity There is Strength,’ and Brooklynites have been united once again—as we have been in responding to natural disasters in places such as Haiti, Pakistan and Italy—in opening up their hearts, wallets and pantries to the victims of this catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, as well as their family members here in Brooklyn. For information on donating through the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, please visit the Borough President’s website at www.brooklyn-usa.org and click on the “Japan Earthquake Relief” button.

From de Blasio

While de Blasio Tweeted about the earthquake, he did manage a statement about the case against Kruger and William Boyland:

“Public corruption in any form is vile and reprehensible. In this instance it is particularly sinful, as this pay to play activity deprived the public of basic services while rewarding interests that embraced corruption. Carl Kruger and William Boyland allegedly exploited hospital closings and mergers, at a time when struggling New Yorkers desperately needed healthcare in their communities. This is not a victimless lining of pockets. Until we have real ethics reform that requires lawmakers to be completely transparent, including disclosing outside income, the integrity and quality of our public service will always be in doubt. We need comprehensive ethics reform passed this session.”

Unmentioned: Forest City Ratner's efforts to get out of paying for its Carlton Avenue Bridge obligaton.

link

Posted by steve at 7:07 PM

WSJ, regarding Kruger case, goes easy on FCR's obligation to rebuild bridge, reveals unmet request for additional city housing subsidy

Atlantic Yards Report

In Atlantic Yards Efforts in View In Kruger Case, the Wall Street reports:

The wide-ranging federal complaint that accused state Sen. Carl Kruger and others of corruption on Thursday also shed light on the persistent attempts by one of New York City's biggest real-estate developers to secure more government subsidies for its signature project.

In a December 2010 conversation caught on wiretap, Mr. Kruger told a staff member that an executive at Forest City Ratner Cos. had asked him for $9 million in additional state aid for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, where a Nets basketball arena is under construction.

The request for the money—which would help fulfill Forest City Ratner's obligation to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge—was not fulfilled, according to the complaint filed in Manhattan Federal Court.

But it illustrated the company's scramble to round up money for the project, even as construction of the centerpiece arena is under way.

It not only illustrated the company's scramble to round up money, it illustrated the company's unwillingness to pay for an obligation it assumed.

Request for housing subsidies

The Journal breaks some news, explaining that FCR's search for additional housing subsidies is one reason why the long-promised first residential tower is delayed:

In November, Forest City Ratner asked the city for an additional subsidy for its first residential tower in the project, citing a tough lending market that prevented the company from starting construction, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

More upfront equity was needed, the firm said, requesting $10 million in direct aid.

The request was denied in an email sent by the city's housing commissioner, Rafael Cestero, the people said.

The 400-unit tower has fallen behind schedule.

Initially pledged to start construction by late 2010 or early 2011, the firm now has selected an architect, and it says it aims to start construction by the end of the year, though it still has yet to secure necessary financing.

"Atlantic Yards is a large, complicated project with huge benefits for Brooklyn and the City," Joseph DePlasco, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, said in a statement. "FCRC is working very hard in a difficult economic environment to make the dream of Atlantic Yards a reality, including the arena, scheduled to open in 2012, the affordable housing and the jobs."

(Emphasis added)

The Journal shouldn't let DePlasco spin without any effort at analysis, fact-checking, or an alternative view.

Is the newspaper trading access to the developer--as in news on EB-5--in return for gentle coverage?

link

Posted by steve at 7:02 PM

KRUGERPALOOZA Part II

The Media continues to cover Atlantic Yards boosters-for-a-price State Senator Carl Kruger and lobbyist Richard Lipsky as well as their Forest City Ratner connection.

The New York Times, In a Series of Phone Calls, an Ear Into a Federal Corruption Case

This article focuses on the personalities of Kruger and Lipsky. Lipsky comes off as somewhat annoying and Kruger as someone who likes to be sure he gets paid. The article ends with this exchange between Bruce Bender, a Forest City Vice President and Kruger in which Bender proclaims his love for Kruger and Kruger returns the affection with a bouquet of taxpayer dollars.

On Dec. 28, other Senate Democrats may have been cleaning out their desks, since Republicans were about to assume the majority. But Mr. Kruger had his own mode of preparing for a transition into the minority, the complaint says.

Bruce Bender, an executive with the development company Forest City Ratner, was pressing him for $15 million in state funding for three Brooklyn projects. Mr. Kruger learned that he would be able to obtain only $4 million for the company.

“This is bad,” Mr. Bender said, pressing Mr. Kruger for more.

Mr. Kruger said he would get back to him. Half an hour later, he checked with his aides, found out he had $500,0000 left over at his own discretion, and told them to give it to the company for a project at Prospect Park.

“I love you,” Mr. Bender said a few minutes later, when Mr. Kruger said what he had done. “I really do, actually.”

Mr. Kruger was feeling bighearted. “The couple of bucks that I had, I don’t know what the hell to do with it anyhow,” he said. “Take it. Come Monday, I won’t have it. So take it and enjoy it.”

Capital, The cost of doing business with (or near) Carl Kruger

The other client of Lipsky's mentioned in the complaint, Real Estate Firm #1, has a vice president for government affairs who is quoted from several conversations on the Kruger wiretap. Kruger's promise to this vice president of an additional $500,000 in state funding for a project is a major element of the prosecution's case. It is abundantly clear that Real Estate Firm #1—which is described as having hired Lipsky since 2005, has a four billion dollar mixed-use project in Brooklyn, and is developing another project in Kruger's own neighborhood of Mill Basin—is Forest City Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards.

Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, did not deny that Forest City Ratner is the development company that the complaint mentions but does not name.

"Lipsky's contract was terminated today," he said.

He also tacitly acknowledged that Forest City's executive vice president for government and public affairs, Bruce Bender, is the one the complaint quotes on Kruger's tapped phones.

"It's no surprise that the person in charge of government affairs speaks with elected officials about projects," DePlasco said.

NoLandGrab: We're not f*ing surprised.

WNYC, Lobbyist Lipsky’s Blog: ‘We’re Certainly on Suspension.’

Normally, we at No Land Grab feel bad when a fellow blogger has to step away from the keyboard for an extended period of time, but but not so much in this case when the blogger ins question is the well-compensated lobbyist-for-Ratner Richard Lipsky.

Richard Lipsky, the connected lobbyist who was charged in the federal corruption investigation that also ensnared two legislators, ran a blog for the Neighborhood Retail Alliance. A post on Wednesday morning about a Wall Street Journal article about food cart permits concluded, “This is an area that is replete with corruption.”

About twenty-four hours after that post went up, Lipsky was surrendering to the feds.

That post will be his last, for now. Reached by phone, Lipsky said he’s been advised by lawyers not to comment. But when asked about the future of his blog, he said, “I don’t know yet. We’re certainly on suspension.”

...

Along with the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, Lipsky’s clients included Atlantic Yards Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner, Keep NYC Congestion Free, Willets Point United, and Tuck-It-Away, a self-storage company with an unfortunate name, given the current circumstances.

The Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Yards Efforts in View In Kruger Case

That sucking sound you hear from Prospect Heights is Bruce Ratner continuing to siphon taxpayer money for a private development -- with public benefits to arrive by ...?

The wide-ranging federal complaint that accused state Sen. Carl Kruger and others of corruption on Thursday also shed light on the persistent attempts by one of New York City's biggest real-estate developers to secure more government subsidies for its signature project.

In a December 2010 conversation caught on wiretap, Mr. Kruger told a staff member that an executive at Forest City Ratner Cos. had asked him for $9 million in additional state aid for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, where a Nets basketball arena is under construction.

The request for the money—which would help fulfill Forest City Ratner's obligation to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge—was not fulfilled, according to the complaint filed in Manhattan Federal Court.

But it illustrated the company's scramble to round up money for the project, even as construction of the centerpiece arena is under way.

The Yarn Monkey Chronicles, Motes Balaclava and a Great Unmasking in Gotham

This blog post combines artistic knitting with politics as the author reacts to the recent indictments.

This particularly turns my stomach as the trail leads directly to Atlantic Yards Developer, Forest City Ratner. So many dirty hands have passed through this deal, yet FCR remains virtually Teflon of bribery charges, even as their vice president of governmental affairs and public relations, Bruce Bender, is sourced in a taped $9 million covert conversation with Kruger. FCR has recently retired the service of their lobbyist Richard Lipsky effective since hearing the news of his arrest. Even as I look out my Prospect heights window, I see the traffic and congestion that leads to the arena, a reminder of how we have all been mired in this dirty deal. After the Ridge Hill bribery incident, will Bender and FCR be spared to gallows again?

Yonkers Tribune, Bruce Ratner - The Teflon Don By Hezi Aris

This is the second time in less than two years that Forest City Ratner has been a protagonist in a corruption case. Similar to the relationship between a “john" and a “prostitute," FCR has not been charged; escaping further scrutiny as is so often the case with a “john.”.

The corruption charges accusing Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, alleges he was the recipient of over $1 million in bribes in exchange for influencing state matters. Mr Kruger is also said to have received money from Forest City Ratner’s Bruce R. Bender, vice-president of governmental affairs and public relations,” and FCR’s lobbyist Richard Lipsky, among other clients.

...

It seems Forest City Ratner president Bruce ratner IS the new “Godfather.”

At issue now is whether the Godfather is the" whore" or the "john." Either way, they are using/spending taxpayer money, your money.

Posted by steve at 5:43 PM

Sports costing taxpayers billions

NewJerseyNewsroom.com
by Evan Weiner

Evan Weiner takes a look at America's bottomless stadium sinkhole.

As National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell and his owner team personnel continue bargaining with National Football League Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith to reach a new agreement that covers players working conditions, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wrestles with his state's budget and the possible layoffs of government workers and still has one budget item that will not go away. New Jersey still owes about one hundred million dollars on a facility that no longer exists — Giants Stadium.

More than 100 days from now, National Basketball Association Commissioner could announce that NBA owners have voted to lockout their employees — NBA players — because the owners and the players could not reach a new collective bargaining agreement. NBA owners claim they are losing copious amounts of money yet in Manhattan, the owner of Madison Square Garden (Cablevision's James Dolan) is pocketing money from his regional cable TV network and sellout crowds at Knicks games and not paying some $13-14 million annually in property taxes on a prime piece of real estate between 31st and 33rd Streets and Seventh and Eighth Avenue. Dolan is paying two players more than $20 million a year each (Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony) which suggests he has the means to pay the taxes.

In cash strapped New York City where Mayor Michael Bloomberg has declared war on teachers’ tenure and salaries and New York State where Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised that he will change the way Albany does business and cut expenses, there is no stomach to put the Garden back on the tax roll. Some of those Knicks fans who love STAT (Stoudemire) and Melo (Anthony) may be out of jobs but as long as the team gets tax breaks that seems to be okay with the fans. The more tax breaks, the more money that can be spend on a player.

New York has laid out hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure at the new Yankees and Mets stadiums as well as giving the two franchises many tax breaks and incentives. Former New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner has gotten a slew of tax breaks and incentives to build a Brooklyn arena. New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani built the two most expensive minor league baseball stadiums ever in Brooklyn in Coney Island and on the Staten Island waterfront.

article

Posted by eric at 12:04 AM

March 11, 2011

A year after the ceremonial groundbreaking for the arena: Where's the affordable housing? The other promised benefits? The Carlton Avenue Bridge?

Atlantic Yards Report

A year after the ceremonial groundbreaking (coverage, columns) for the Atlantic Yards arena, what have we?

Yes, Forest City Ratner can invite their useful enablers, like Daily News columnist Denis Hamill and Nets Daily's "Net Income," to the top of the Atlantic Center to cast their appreciative eyes on an arena rising. And a sports fan blogger can chronicle the construction.

Barclays Capital, thanks to naming rights the state gave away, can use the arena as a giant billboard, helped by a good deal for branding the adjacent subway and rail station.

Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets' majority owner, can bask in his newfound global profile, enabled by the myopic media.

What about the benefits?

But what about the rest of the project and all the promised community benefits, the justification for city and state subsidies, and override of zoning, and other special assistance?

The first tower is delayed, despite promises from the developer and happy talk from the city.

The job numbers are far smaller than promised--last month, 150 workers were reported by FCR to be at the site.

Projected tax revenues? Inevitably well below estimates, given delays in the project, especially the office tower, Building 1.

The open space? Well, they'll make a temporary plaza on the arena block instead of Building 1 and the Urban Room.

The Carlton Avenue Bridge? Forest City Ratner, rather than come up with $14 million on its own, wanted state taxpayers to put up $9 million.

The timetable? Bruce Ratner, who in May 2008 insisted that "We anticipate finishing all of Atlantic Yards by 2018," asserted last September that a decade was "never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in.”

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NoLandGrab: To paraphrase a recently indicted, disgraced, Atlantic Yards-boosting politician, "f*ck the affordable housing, f*ck the other promised benefits, f*ck the bridge. And f*ck the public!

Posted by eric at 11:49 PM

Lobbyist Lipsky and the power of media

Crain's NY Business
by Greg David

Greg David points out that he and disgraced lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who's been fired by just about everyone but Donald Trump in the past 48 hours, disagree on just about everything. But he fails to mention the one thing they both love: Atlantic Yards. At least Lipsky was smart enough to get paid for his shilling.

Lobbyist Richard Lipsky, charged this week in a bribery scheme that ensnared state Sen. Carl Kruger and Assemblyman William Boyland, was a master at using the media to build support for his clients. But the allegations, if true, also make it clear that Mr. Lipsky didn't think the media was that powerful or effective a tool.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must note that Mr. Lipsky and I disagree on the vast majority of issues in the public spotlight. In recent months he has criticized me repeatedly, and quite vociferously, for my support of both Walmart's entry into the city and the city's effort to redevelop Hunts Point. There were rare moments of agreement. We concur that taxes are too high in New York. And he praised a blog post I wrote analyzing the limits of The New York Times' commitment to reform in Albany.

The reaction among reporters yesterday to the charges was one of shock. "I thought he was a nudge, a total pain in the butt, but clean," one told me yesterday.

That says volumes about the New York media, doesn't it? It didn't occur to you people that someone so obviously, unscrupulously mercenary might just do anything for money? Why don't some of you boys try to redeem yourselves by poking into why Forest City Ratner keeps popping up in federal corruption indictments?

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Posted by eric at 11:29 PM

Q&A: Ellerbe Becket

Ellerbe Becket's managing principal Stephen J. Duethman on the Barclays Center and the latest design trends

Stadia Magazine

Ellerbe Becket will highlight its work for the Barclays Center at Stadia Design & Technology Expo – where are you with that project right now?
On the design side, we are completing work associated with the interior of the arena, specifically materials selection and signage. The construction is well underway, with construction of foundations, steel erection and the start of precast seating treads and risers scheduled for April this year. Also the fabrication of thousands of pieces of weathering steel is ongoing. These pieces will form the exterior façade of the facility. The biggest challenge on this project was to gain access to the entire site to continue with excavation and construction of foundations. Numerous legal challenges and the demolition of structures on the site hampered the ability to construct the project in a fluid sequence. But all parties are working together to overcome these hurdles and construction is progressing nicely towards an opening date in autumn 2012.

Wait, didn't last week's "Site Observation Report" indicate that the arena, as Norman Oder reported, "could be used in June and July?"

How is new technology, particularly digital technology, impacting on your ideas?
...the event space and seating bowl are designed so that patrons at the exterior plaza will have a view into the seating bowl through a large corner vomitory...

We'll be giving that wide berth. Of course, better there than on a quiet Park Slope sidewalk following some post-game revelry at Prime 6.

What’s your dream project?
I have had many opportunities over the past 18 years on some really important projects that have impacted communities and college campuses. But the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards is truly a spectacular opportunity to impact the city of Brooklyn and surrounding communities.

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NoLandGrab: Funny, but it's the potential impact of the arena on surrounding communities that's got people worried.

Posted by eric at 11:08 PM

KRUGERPALOOZA!

The headlines are awash today with the indictments of State Senator (and big Atlantic Yards booster) Carl Kruger and his not-so-trusty sidekick (and paid Atlantic Yards lobbyist) Richard Lipsky, and of course, "Real Estate Developer #1."

The New York Times, Developer Among Cast of Characters in Kruger Case

A corruption case unsealed on Thursday included a large cast of characters beyond State Senator Carl Kruger, Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr. and six others who were charged.

Also highlighted in the criminal complaint was “a significant real estate development firm,” identified as “Real Estate Developer No. 1,” that was “spearheading an over $4 billion, multiyear, mixed-use commercial and residential development project in Brooklyn.” The description left little doubt that the firm was Forest City Ratner, the developer behind the Atlantic Yards project, a 22-acre residential and retail complex in Brooklyn that includes a new home for the Nets.

It was the second time in less than two years that the company played a role in a corruption case, though it was not charged either time.

The complaint accused Mr. Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, of taking at least $1 million in bribes in exchange for help on state matters, including bribes from Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner, and other clients.

The complaint said the company’s “vice president of governmental affairs and public relations” — Bruce R. Bender has that role at Forest City Ratner — had asked Mr. Kruger last December for state money for three projects: $9 million for the Carlton Avenue Bridge, which is to be replaced as part of the Atlantic Yards project; $2 million for a retail development in the Mill Basin neighborhood of Brooklyn; and $4 million for the renovation of the skating rink in Prospect Park, a public project.

Mr. Bender’s wife, Amy Bender, is on the board of the Prospect Park Alliance, the park’s fund-raising group.
...

[Forest City spokesman Joe] DePlasco said the company ended its relationship with Mr. Lipsky on Wednesday, when word of the case began to leak out, because of the “serious nature of the charges.” Forest City Ratner was the development partner of The New York Times Company on its Midtown headquarters.

Although the complaint contained no evidence that Mr. Bender believed Mr. Kruger was taking bribes, longtime opponents of Atlantic Yards were dismayed that no one from the company had been charged.

“I find it sad that politicians are expendable, but rich developers are not,” said Candace Carponter, the legal director of the group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

Atlantic Yards Report, Two unanswered questions in the Kruger case: Does the ESDC still trust FCR? Why did FCR try to get the state to pay for its bridge obligation?

The New York Times, to its partial credit, follows up on the charges against Carl Kruger and Richard Lipsky with an article headlined, at least online, Developer Among Cast of Characters in Kruger Case.

There's not much there that wasn't in this blog yesterday, but the Times did get a quote in the developer's defense:

Forest City Ratner did not deny that Mr. Bender was the person to whom Mr. Kruger was speaking. “I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that the person in charge of government relations at Forest City Ratner speaks to government officials,” said Joe DePlasco, a spokesman. The complaint, he said, “does not suggest that Forest City Ratner behaved in any way that’s inappropriate.”

Mr. Bender lives in Brooklyn, Mr. DePlasco said, “and I assume he likes Prospect Park.”

DePlasco's partly right--there's no evidence that Forest City Ratner instructed Lipsky to pass on lobbying fees to Kruger.

Weaseling out of bridge obligation?

But Forest City, arguably, did behave inappropriately, though not criminally. The developer, as of last June, was supposed to pay $16 million of the $40 million cost of the Carlton Avenue Bridge reconstruction.

The taped conversation shows that Forest City was trying to get $9 million in state funds to reduce its obligation. If the developer is still scrounging, what does it say about its commitment to rebuilding the bridge?

NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure it says "f*ck the bridge!"

Curbed, BROOKLYN BACKSCRATCHING

The Times takes a more detailed look at the involvement of developer Forest City Ratner in the corruption charges against Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger. There are no smoking guns for Atlantic Yards opponents, nor has FCR been charged with any wrongdoing, but wow, it just makes you feel dirty reading it. Ratner's VP of governmental affairs, Bruce Bender, tried to get Kruger to steer millions in state funds to three Brooklyn projects, and then Kruger made him choose one. Bender picked the skating rink renovation at Prospect Park, where his wife is a major fundraiser.

NLG: Like Carl said, "f*ck the bridge!"

The New York Times, Federal Corruption Case Ensnares a Self-Styled Fighter for the Underdog

...according to federal prosecutors, Mr. Lipsky had come to rely heavily on one well-placed politician to do his bidding, State Senator Carl Kruger, Democrat of Brooklyn, and was secretly paying him for his services.

Prosecutors said over $100,000 in cash was found in a safe in his home, and some $4,000 in crisp bills was in his suit pocket.

NLG: Wonder if they've dusted those bills for fingerprints yet.

LoHud.com, High-profile state senator charged in state's latest political scandal

Forest City Ratner and its affiliates have paid Lipsky more than $320,000 since 2005 for help with its projects in Yonkers, Brooklyn, Har-lem and Queens. Included in that was $256,000 that covered lobbying Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone and City Council members regarding the $600 million Ridge Hill project. Forest City Ratner terminated its contract with Lipsky on Thursday, as did some other clients. Yonkers officials did not respond to messages for comment.
...

The indictment relates to none of those projects, although prosecutors contend that Lipsky's efforts on behalf of Forest City's massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn did receive help from Kruger.

NY Daily News, State Sen. Carl Kruger and Assemblyman William Boyland surrender to feds to face bribe rap

key player was co-defendant Michael Turano, son of Kruger's longtime friend, Dorothy Turano. Michael Turano controlled a shell company, Olympian Strategic Development, that served as Kruger's indirect ATM.

The FBI described Turano as Kruger's "intimate associate." Prosecutors say Kruger was so deeply involved with Turano's family, that by giving money to Turano, the bribers effectively paid off Kruger.

Olympian got $472,500 from developer Aaron Malinsky over several years to back his Brooklyn projects.

Recently, Malinsky tried to get a piece of mega-developer Bruce Ratner's project to build a retail complex called the Four Sparrows on city property in Mill Basin.

Ratner was torn between bringing in small department stores - the plan Malinsky wanted - or going with a "big box" superstore."

NLG: Yeah, we bet he was losing a lot of sleep over that one.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, "I Don't Mind F-king The Bridge."

Forest City Ratner has shown a knack for appearing in corruption cases, but never seems to get a proper screen credit. In the Ridge Hill corruption scandal they were billed as "Developer #2" and now, in the state Senator Carl Kruger indictment they appear as "Developer #1".
...

The FBI reported that when told by Kruger, during a wire-tapped conversation, that there would be funds for a Prospect Park project but no public money to steer toward replacing the Carlton Avenue bridge, Bender was not happy:

The Vice President said that ..."this" was "bad." Kruger said, "I guess the park, fuck the bridge." The Vice President said that "my dilemma is as you know, I don't mind fucking the bridge, I can't fuck it right now, I've got to leverage that bridge, what's my value?"

It's hard to imagine that even a screenwriter could come up with an exchange that better encapsulates Forest City Ratner: a company whose only regard for the public is how much of our money can be siphoned off.

Atlantic Yards Report, If anyone else is snared in the federal investigation, who could it be? Maybe another legislator who's expressed excess Atlantic Yards enthusiasm

A reader asked if anyone, besides state Senator Carl Kruger, might be caught up in the federal investigation that snared Kruger and lobbyist Richard Lipsky.

We don't know--and there's no evidence that any other legislator is under investigation.

But who else, the reader asked, resembles Kruger in performance--a Brooklyn legislator who represents a district far from the Atlantic Yards site, but has vocally and dramatically backed the project?

That would be state Senator Marty Golden, who led a rally for the developer (below) at the 7/29/09 public hearing on Atlantic Yards and entered late, rudely interrupting the proceedings, at a 5/29/09 oversight hearing held by state Senator Bill Perkins.

The Village Voice has reported on Golden's questionable ethics, directing much business to a catering hall he used to own, and family members still run.

Is there any evidence Golden took money from lobbyist Richard Lipsky, or anyone else, to help Forest City Ratner? No.

But, just as Kruger's enthusiasm for Atlantic Yards should now be seen in new light, Golden's outsize enthusiasm deserves some reconsideration.

Park Slope Patch, Ratner Exec Tied to Pol Arrested for Corruption

A top Atlantic Yards executive pressed a Brooklyn state senator for millions of dollars to fund the controversial development, as well as a new ice-skating for Prospect Park, court documents reveal.

The charges filed against state Sen. Carl Kruger by federal prosecutors on Thursday do not explicitly name Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, but they do describe conversations with officials from a “real estate developer which is spearheading an over $4 billion, multi-year, mixed-use commercial and residential development project in Brooklyn.”
...

Like the entire Atlantic Yards development, the reopening of the Carlton Avenue bridge — which links Prospect Heights and Fort Greene — has been beset with delays.

Originally the bridge was slated to close from roughly early 2008 to early 2011. Now, as the watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report noted, the bridge is set to reopen in the summer of 2012.

NLG: Wonder what Vegas is giving on the Summer 2012 bridge reopening? 60-1? 70-1? We'll bet the over/under is October 2015.

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

Best Wiretap Dialogue from a Federal Corruption Indictment Ever

[Warning: this exchange is rated NC-17 for inappropriate language]

From page 22 of the 53-page federal corruption indictment of New York State Senator Carl Kruger, lobbyist Richard Lipsky et al...

Kruger asked "what do you want done?"

The Vice President [Forest City Ratner's Bruce Bender] said that he did not know and that "this" was "bad."

Kruger said, "I guess the park, fuck the bridge."

The Vice President said that "my dilemma is as you know, I don't mind fucking the bridge, I can't fuck it right now."

And that, friends, is how business gets done in Brooklyn, USA.

Posted by eric at 12:26 AM

Why did Forest City Ratner try to get Carlton Avenue Bridge money from Kruger? Because they're scrounging for it; my queries haven't been answered

Atlantic Yards Report

Why was Forest City Ratner, as of December 2010, trying to get $9 million in state subsidies for the Carlton Avenue Bridge out of state Senator Carl Kruger, charged today along with lobbyist Richard Lipsky in a federal corruption case?

Because the developer still needs to pay for reconstruction of the bridge. (And the money sought from immigrant investors via the EB-5 program, though promoted as going to the bridge, would more likely go to refinance a land loan.)

I've tried several times over the past months to learn more about the bridge, to no avail.

I queried the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) last November 12 regarding an apparently federal earmark as well as the current budget for and progress on the bridge. Despite several follow-up requests, I never got a response.

I posed the same questions to the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet on January 25 via City Council Member Letitia James and Carlo Scissura, the Borough President's Chief of Staff. No answers were forthcoming at the meeting February 10.

The Carlton Avenue Bridge is supposed to cost $40 million. The city in 2007 allocated $7 million. According to a 6/24/10 ESDC document (embedded below), which allowed the disbursal of additional City funds for the bridge:

It is expected that the Carlton Avenue Bridge related infrastructure work will cost in excess of $40 million. The City shall fund $24 million of the cost of the Carlton Avenue Bridge related infrastructure work. The remaining cost will be funded by Forest City.

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NoLandGrab: Most unintentionally sincere quote from the 53-page federal indictment of Carl Kruger, Richard Lipsky et al — Kruger: "the bridge is out."

Posted by eric at 12:14 AM

Lipsky: "One's view of process is colored by, in this case, first principles."

Atlantic Yards Report

The rabbinical Norman Oder follows up on the tribulations of the Great Equivocator.

In an 8/24/07 post on his Neighborhood Retail Alliance blog headlined West Harlem's Not For Sale, lobbyist Richard Lipsky wrote some reflections that cast a more noble light on his work than the corruption charges issued today:

Which brings us to a post that was done by the Wonkster yesterday on the CB 9 vote. Calling the CB9 vote a "bump in the road," and referring to Curb's description of the vote as "meaningless,"the web site went on to point out that Richard Lipsky's representing the area's largest property owner and according to the indefatigable Norman Oder, is making arguments that he supposedly refuted when he was representing FCRC on the Atlantic Yards controversy.

First, it would have been nice if Wonkster had linked to us if it was going to link to Oder's exhaustive deconstruction of our arguments. But that being said, we are flattered by the almost hermeneutic-like attention Oder pays to our positions on the topics of eminent domain and the land-use process. He has an almost Talmudic fascination for what he sees as our inconsistencies in these areas.

And in some ways he's right since politics is so often a case of, "whose ox is being gored." But in another important way he's off the mark. One's view of process is colored by, in this case, first principles. In any land use matter first principles emanate from your view of the merits of the project itself.

link

NoLandGrab: The first principles are... there are no principles.

Posted by eric at 12:07 AM

March 10, 2011

Yes, Kruger corruption charges involve Atlantic Yards; unnamed "Developer #1" is FCR; Bender: "I don't mind fucking the Carlton Avenue Bridge"

Atlantic Yards Report

I had questioned whether the corruption charges regarding Carl Kruger's involvement with a "Brooklyn developer" meant Atlantic Yards, but apparently they do.

From the Daily News:

The complaint also points out Kruger's involvement in supporting mega-developer Bruce Ratner's planned $4 billion stadium project in downtown Brooklyn.

Kruger took elaborate steps to hide the payments, having checks funneled through a company called Adex Management Inc., then through a shell company, Olympian Strategic Development.

Olympian was controlled by Michael Turano, a son of Kruger's longtime friend and local community board director, Dorothy Turano. Michael Turano was also charged Thursday.

Kruger is accused of receiving at least $1 million in bribes, sharing lobbying fees paid to Richard Lipsky, another defendant, and then taking the official acts in favor of which Lipsky had been paid to lobby.

If Forest City Ratner, which is not named, is not a target, this might be a repeat of Ridge Hill, in which the developer benefits from apparent corruption but is not penalized.

Can the Empire State Development Corporation repeat its statement, in response to my queries about Ridge Hill, that they "remain confident in Forest City as a developer and as a good corporate citizen"?

From the complaint

The complaint (page 7) notes defendant Richard Lipksy's clients "include, among others, a significant real estate development firm ("Real Estate Developer #1") which is spearheading an over $4 billion, multi-year, mixed-use commercial and residential development project in Brooklyn, New York, as well as various unions and associations...."

On p. 14, it states that Kruger has taken a number of official actions to benefit Lipsky's clients, including "Developer #1."

More coming...

Click through to the complaint, and begin reading at the bottom of page 21 to find out why the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue bridge is taking so long. Warning: rated NC-17 for adult language.

link

Posted by eric at 12:47 PM

Arena slightly ahead of schedule, consultant reports, but "schedule disputes" linger; report reissued after chart errors found

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the latest Site Observation Report by Merritt & Harris, the real estate consultant to the arena PILOT Bond Trustee, dated 3/3/11 and based on a visit 1/31/11, the Barclays Center is still on schedule, but questions remain:

The original 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.

Note that resolution of such disputes was originally expected in December.

An early substantial completion date of June 1, 2012, has been established, which means that the arena could be used in June and July.

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Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

$leaze rap for top pol

Corruption case

NY Post
by Mitchel Maddux, Josh Margolin and Dan Mangan

Speaking of mom 'n' pop businesses, MomandPopNYC blogger, retail consultant and Atlantic Yards lobbyist Richard Lipsky has been swept up in a corruption investigation that netted Brooklyn State Senator — and big Atlantic Yards booster — Carl Kruger.

State Sen. Carl Kruger, a powerful Brooklyn Democrat, will surrender to federal authorities today to face corruption charges, along with an Upper West Side lobbyist linked to him, sources told The Post.

Kruger has been under investigation since 2007 by Brooklyn federal prosecutors for allegations he performed official acts in exchange for campaign donations.

But that ongoing probe is not related to charges Kruger, the ranking Democrat on the Senate's Finance Committee, will face today in Manhattan federal court, sources said.

Those charges relate to lobbying involving hospitals in the city, NBC said.

In addition, longtime Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. of the 55th District in Brooklyn is facing corruption charges today, the station reported.

Also surrendering is lobbyist Richard Lipsky -- well-known for helping small businesses oppose plans that would benefit larger business, including big-box retailers such as Walmart, The Post has learned.

He recently has been advising developers of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project.

article

Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Report: Kruger will surrender to feds in corruption case

State Sen. Carl Kruger is expected to surrender to federal authorities and be charged with trading his political clout for personal gain today — just one week after his attorney claimed the FBI was no longer investigating the Brooklyn legislator.
...

Federal prosecutors haven’t disclosed the criminal charges that Kruger is facing, nor have they named any of his would-be co-conspirators, although the Times claims that Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. (D–Brownsville) and Richard Lipsky, a longtime small business lobbyist and blogger whose client list includes Forest City Ratner Companies, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, will be charged alongside the senator.

Kruger isn’t talking either — he hung up on this reporter on Wednesday evening.

The New York Times, 2 State Legislators Surrender in Corruption Case

State Senator Karl Kruger, Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr. and an influential lobbyist were among eight people who surrendered on Thursday to face charges in a federal corruption case accusing the lawmakers of taking bribes over the course of a decade in schemes large and small, from pushing hospital mergers to extending business hours for liquor stores.

In addition to the lawmakers and the lobbyist, Richard Lipsky, those charged in a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday morning included a real estate developer, two hospital executives, a hospital consultant and a Brooklyn doctor.

Photo: NY Post

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

Staples Rumored To Be Taking Sid’s Former Space

Office Supply Chain Will Have 27,000 Square Feet

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Looks like Forest City Ratner is bringing another "mom 'n' pop" business to Metrotech.

The Eagle has learned from at least three sources “on the street” that a Staples store has leased the former home of Sid’s Hardware at 345 Jay St. in MetroTech.

The rumor could not be confirmed as of press time Wednesday as e-mails from the Eagle to both Staples and Forest City Ratner Companies, the landlord, went unanswered.

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Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Brooklyn Paper piles on Prime 6 story, doesn't acknowledge petition might be fake, continues to ignore the EB-5 story and the Markowitz video

Atlantic Yard Report

The Brooklyn Paper today offers an article headlined Web war over Prime 6! Online petitions reveal racism, fear-mongering, ignorance, which takes a petition opposing the coming bar/restaurant (and asking for hip-hop to be traded for indie music) as legitimate and representative, even though it acknowledges that the author can't be found and most signers made fun of "Jennifer McMillen."

In other words, it could be a fake, or a parody, neither of which the newspaper acknowledges.

But "the story was packaged by The Brooklyn Paper with its familiar hysterical slant," to borrow the words (regarding another article) of former Brooklyn Paper publisher Ed Weintrob.

Proxy battle?

So maybe they should be careful claiming that "The fight against the bar can be seen, in part, as a proxy battle for the lost war over Atlantic Yards."

As Steve Ettlinger, one of the neighbors concerned about the bar, has said:

All we who have been most active in dealing with Prime 6 have talked about is licensing procedure, use of the common garden area (affecting dozens of people), and things like garbage pickup -- the stuff that the community board asks us to comment on, and for which that Feb. 28 meeting was specifically held. Very boring, every day, concrete stuff that has absolutely zero to do with judgment or taste in music or whatever. Boring, straightforward stuff. Neighborly stuff. Civic stuff.

link

Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Web war over Prime 6! Online petitions reveal racism, fear-mongering, ignorance

Sound of the City [VillageVoice.com], Park Slope "Rap Club" Update: The Community Board Meets, And Jennifer McMillen Stays Suspiciously Silent

According to [Community Board 6 Permits and Licenses Committee Chair Mark] Shames, the Park Slope community raised three main complaints. First, Prime 6 will be providing bottle service, which, alongside an apparently risqué website (since taken down), led residents to believe the venue, in Shames' words, "might be a gentleman's club." It won't be a gentleman's club. But it will be open until 4 a.m., which seems to be a sticking point, and residents on the adjacent St. Mark's Avenue fear that the backyard space will bring the noise over from Flatbush to their more residential street.
...

The biggest obstacle to Prime 6's liquor license was the 500-foot rule, whereby an establishment serving liquor cannot be within 500 feet of another establishment doing the same thing. The club passed, but now the community wants a redo on the hearing.

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Nets Center Visits Future Home in Brooklyn

NBC New York
by Geoffrey Decker

The New Jersey Nets aren’t due in Brooklyn for another year and a half, but star center Brook Lopez is scouting the territory.

He visited Bushwick High School this week for a basketball clinic where he shot hoops, signed autographs, and posed for pictures with about 50 students.

“Being that Brooklyn will be our home in a few years, it’s nice to get out here whenever I can,” said the third-year seven-footer.
...

At Tuesday’s event, which was hosted by the U.S. Army to promote physical fitness, an informal poll of the crowd revealed that no one intended to switch allegiances from New York just yet.

“I think I’m a Knick fan for life,” said Keith Williams, a senior guard at Bushwick.

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Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

March 9, 2011

State Senator Kruger, lobbyist Lipsky said to surrender on corruption charges; details coming Thursday

Atlantic Yards Report

With the expected indictments of Brooklyn State Sen. Carl Kruger and lobbyist Richard Lipsky on corruption charges--not related to Atlantic Yards, at least so far (but see below)--the ranks of Atlantic Yards supporters/enablers with a taint keep growing.

Quick: former Assemblyman Roger Green had to resign (and run again) after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor; Darryl Greene, Forest City Ratner's consultant on minority hiring, had to withdraw from the Aqueduct "racino" project because of his record of mail fraud; Carpenters Union official Sal Zarzana was cited by a court-appointed monitor for inappropriate expenditures; Carpenters Union official John Holt was cited for obstructing an investigation and giving false answers to an investigator.
...

Note of course that charges are not convictions, so the "taint" described above could be removed should Kruger and Lipsky emerge vindicated.

Last summer, news broke about an investigation into Kruger,--an aggressively unabashed supporter of Atlantic Yards, and recipient of Forest City Ratner-related campaign contributions.

Lipsky, who's worked for developer Forest City Ratner and against eminent domain for projects such as the Columbia University expansion and Willets Point, had not been mentioned as part of the Kruger investigation.

Click thru for more, and links to more coverage — some of it titillating.

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Posted by eric at 11:50 PM

Brooklyn Senator to Turn Himself In

The New York Times

State Senator Carl Kruger, a powerful and at times controversial Brooklyn Democrat, is expected to turn himself in on Thursday to federal authorities in Manhattan on corruption charges, according to several people briefed on the matter. An influential lobbyist, Richard Lipsky, is expected to surrender alongside Mr. Kruger.

Mr. Kruger had been under investigation by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn who were looking into accusations that he had helped businessmen surmount bureaucratic hurdles in exchange for assistance raising campaign money, but the charges stemmed from an investigation by Manhattan federal prosecutors and the F.B.I.

Others were also expected to be charged in the case, according to one person briefed on the matter, who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the charges had not been made public.
...

Details of the Manhattan case against Mr. Kruger and Mr. Lipsky were not available on Wednesday night. The United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation were expected to hold a news conference on Thursday to announce the charges.

Mr. Kruger’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, declined to comment on Wednesday. Mr. Lipsky’s lawyer, Gerald B. Lefcourt, also declined to comment.

article

NoLandGrab: People who've followed the Atlantic Yards fight over the years are familiar with Mr. Kruger and Mr. Lipsky, both fervent supporters of the project.

Posted by eric at 11:16 PM

Is Prospect Park West bike lane "like Atlantic Yards"?

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times article today on the dispute over the Prospect Park West bike lane closes:

“Part of it is, people don’t like anything new,” she said. “New is bad. It’s like Atlantic Yards. And dogs off leash. Like there’s nothing else wrong with the world.”

Except a bike lane, aimed in part at traffic calming, is not so much like a project that would increase traffic.

And a good number of those supporting the bike lane, such as the organization Park Slope Neighbors, don't support Atlantic Yards.

link

NoLandGrab: Full disclosure — this editor of NLG is a co-founder of Park Slope Neighbors. Also, concomitantly, some of those opposing the bike lane do support Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 1:09 PM

Mission impossible?

Meadowlands Matters [NorthJersey.com]
by John Brennan

John Brennan, who's done some of the most astute mainstream-media coverage of Atlantic Yards from across not one, but two, rivers, scoops the New York MSM again.

Sean Saadeh was just hired to be vice president of programming for the Barclays Center, the Brooklyn arena that is under construction and is scheduled to open in August 2012.

According to the press release, “The Barclays Center will host more than 200 events annually, including premier concerts, monthly major professional boxing cards, professional tennis, top college basketball and hockey, family shows.. and Nets basketball.”

200? With one sports tenant? Figure 45 to 50 Nets games, counting preseason and maybe a round or two of playoffs (might be being kind there), and that leaves at least 150 other events to go. In a recent Sports Business Journal story, club chief executive Brett Yormark broke that down to include 48 Feld Entertainment shows, 12 boxing events, 25 college basketball and hockey games, at least 20 concerts with Live Nation, and a couple of tennis events.

That doesn’t even add up to 200, and those estimates sound optimistic anyway - even with Madison Square Garden going dark in the summer for a couple of years due to a $1 billion renovation. Sounds like the Nets either expect a lot more Harlem Globetrotters and Disney on Ice events to suddenly be held, or they expect to steal nearly all such events from Nassau Coliseum, Izod Center, and Prudential Center.

But as the latter Newark arena discovered after its 2007 opening, promoters and acts didn’t flock to that site from 30-year-old Izod Center just because the new building had wider concourses and a fresh coat of paint. The acts wind up where they can make the most money, not where their fans can get a wider variety of snacks at the concession stand. So Saadeh has his work cut out for him.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Will the Barclays Center host even 200 events a year? That's questionable--and the longstanding promise was 225 events

That adds up to about 110 events beyond basketball, or less than 160.

Brennan suggests that the example of the Prudential Center, which didn't lure acts from the Izod Center, bodes ill for Barclays. Then again, as one Brooklynite pointed out on NetsDaily, there's a new market to tap.

Yeah, 'cause god knows the hassle of taking the subway all the way to Madison Square Garden. Most Brooklynites have never even been to Manhattan.

As we've known for years, the longstanding projection of 225 events a year depended on the closing of the Meadowlands Arena (now the Izod Center) and no construction of an arena in Newark. (Forest City even told the MTA there would be 250 events.)

That scenario of 225 events was accepted by famed sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, a paid FCR consultant, even though it left no place for the New Jersey Devils to play hockey, as Gustav Peebles and Jung Kim pointed out in their critical analysis of Zimbalist's report.

The Izod Center remains open. A new arena was built in Newark. That means more competition, even if Brooklyn is an under-tapped market.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Coming Soon! An Empty Arena

The unravelling of fantasy versus reality in the world of Forest City Ratner continues, as John Brennan, a veteran sports business journalist, takes a look at the booking potential of the Barclays Center on NorthJersey.com. He notes that a recent press release promises that the venue will host "more than 200" events per year, but Brennan does the math and has a hard time coming up with a number even close to that.
...

Brooklyn residents may be happy to have fewer nights of Barclays-induced traffic jams, but in the end the odds are that if the Arena falls short of its financial fantasies, in one way or another New York taxpayers will be picking up the slack.

NoLandGrab: What, no Hasidic weddings?

Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

Is the EB-5 money Plan B for infrastructure funding (after bonds plan was scotched)? Maybe, but maybe they're just winging it

Atlantic Yards Report

Is Forest City Ratner aiming to use $249 million from foreign millionaires under the EB-5 immigration program to make up for an infrastructure gap? There are some hints that's so, but also some counter-evidence.

In 2009, the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC), set up to issue tax-exempt bonds for Atlantic Yards arena construction, was also considering the issuance of up to $400 million in bonds for Atlantic Yards infrastructure.

That didn't happen. As I wrote 11/30/09, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) stated, somewhat cryptically:

ESDC was at one time considering additional tax exempt bonds for infrastructure financing. Ultimately ESDC decided not to pursue that type of financing.

The gap

The ESDC's 2009 Modified General Project Plan budgeted $717 million for project infrastructure, with $100 million from the state for infrastructure and under $100 million--the amount is debatable--from the city.

The bonds presumably would have filled some of the gap.

Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin once said the $249 million would be used for a new railyard (infrastructure) and perhaps to pay off a land loan.

I pointed to evidence that the latter--the loan repayment--was a more likely priority. Then another Forest City executive said last month they hadn't decided how to use the EB-5 funding.

So maybe they're just winging it, and when the numbers "pencil out," as Gilmartin likes to say, they will proceed.

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Posted by eric at 12:44 PM

BP Markowitz Makes Video to Lure Asian Investors to Atlantic Yards

mcbrooklyn

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz made a video recently to lure Asian investors to the Atlantic Yards Project, telling them that "Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."

There should be no language problem: "Land grab" is a term familiar to millions of Chinese farmers.

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Posted by eric at 12:38 PM

If Cuomo's seeking to expand fight against financial fraud, maybe he should look at Forest City Ratner's EB-5 effort

Atlantic Yards Report

A front-age New York Times article February 16 headlined online Cuomo’s Deep Reach Into Regulatory Territory Could Provoke Clash in Albany and, in print, "Cuomo Seeking to Expand Grip to Fight Fraud," stated:

Buried in the governor’s new budget are provisions that would grant the executive branch sweeping new powers to investigate Wall Street banks, hedge funds and insurance companies, alarming some industry officials and raising the prospect of a major clash with his successor as attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, and local prosecutors over high-profile securities and investment cases.

The provisions accompany Mr. Cuomo’s proposed merger of the state’s Insurance and Banking Departments, along with the Consumer Protection Board, into a new Department of Financial Regulation. Mr. Cuomo has argued that those changes are necessary to create a more efficient and modern regulatory framework for businesses and better protection for consumers.

But the budget language would also empower the new agency to issue subpoenas, compel testimony and seek damages and penalties from anyone committing “financial fraud,” a term defined broadly to encompass investments, securities and derivatives marketed and sold by Wall Street investment houses, as well as financial services, life insurance and more.

Wouldn't it be worth looking into the potential "financial fraud" involved in Forest City Ratner's quest for $249 million from immigrant investors under the federal government's EB-5 immigration program?

After all, potential investors are clearly being misled, and the spirit--if not the letter--of the federal program is being violated.

And the Empire State Development Corporation, Cuomo's economic development agency, is helping.

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Posted by eric at 12:15 PM

New ESDC chair named: (female) technology executive from upstate

Atlantic Yards Report

Balancing Empire State Development Corporation CEO Ken Adams, a male Brooklynite with an experience running business organizations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named a female upstate resident who heads a technology firm to be the agency's chair.

A press released issued Monday was headlined Governor Cuomo Announces Nomination to Empire State Development Corporation

Albany, NY (March 7, 2011)

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the nomination of Julie Shimer to Chair the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Julie Shimer is joining a first-class team of economic development leaders including Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy and Empire State Development Corporation President Kenneth Adams," Governor Cuomo said. "Her extensive experience in the upstate and downstate business communities will be essential to the reconstruction of New York's economy. Attracting and retaining business in New York is job number one, and Julie and the rest of the ESDC team will work tirelessly to make that happen."

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Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

Adventures in Brooklyn

Scenes in the City

On the way out, I made a point to pass the Atlantic Yards, a point of interest since seeing the Civilian's In the Footprint, and I thought about the conversation I had with my dad after having seen it. I told him one thing that had frustrated me about the show was that they never really fully explained the details of eminent domain, but went through a lot of trouble convincing us that it was being abused. I asked my dad (a real estate attorney, so, you know, he knows about stuff) what he thought of the fact that even though it's a private developer, they're using the fact that the project is creating affordable housing and jobs to validate the use of eminent domain. He shrugged and said, "That seems about right." The comment didn't really contain any sympathy for the residents who had been who had been pushed out, but nor was it in defense of the government or the developers. It was just an observation that it seemed to him what had happened had been a valid use of eminent domain. The memory made me think fondly of my dad, about how he values logic and consistency - so much so that I think he might favor it over any moral or political ideal. Our politics don't always align, but I like that, I can respect that. I'm comforted by that.

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NoLandGrab: Her dad kinda sounds like Greg David.

Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

The word on the street: I live in Park Slope/Boerum Hill/Gowanus/Atlantic Yards

Dave Ford Does Earth

So, the biggest thing I am running into in this part of Brooklyn–is the fact that there is a serious debate going on about what this neighborhood is actually called. Technically, I think I live in Park Slope. But, believe me, this isn’t Park Slope. Gowanus, named after one of the filthiest waterways on planet earth is right across the street. Boerum Hill was invented by real estate agents during the boom in the mid 200o’s. And then there is Atlantic Yards….

Atlantic Yards is the name of grounds that they are building the new Brooklyn Nets basketball arena. According to all of the people I am meeting–this has been a local political nightmare. The project has displaced people (through the law of eminent domain) of all shapes colors and sizes. It has also displaced a ton of local business’–and neighborhood restaurants and bars. The Whites, Blacks, and Arabs in the area are all equally pissed off about this new arena–as they have all been equally removed. Although, there is the counterpoint in play about how cool it would be to be able to walk to see a professional basketball game “in Brooklyn”. I would definitely like to walk to see a professional basketball team play in the BK! Does that make me a bad person?

Is that rhetorical or do you want us to answer?

So, my devious, mastermind plan to actually rename this area that I live in “Atlantic Yards” is appearing to not be so politically savvy. Although, damn it, I just like the ring of it! People are legitimately hot and bothered about all of this–almost to the point of fisticuffs.

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NoLandGrab: Don't worry, we draw the line at violence.

Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

March 8, 2011

That lingering lawsuit, an upcoming hearing, and some realism from BrooklynSpeaks affidavits about Atlantic Yards costs and benefits

Atlantic Yards Report

There's still one last Atlantic Yards court case, concerning the legitimacy of the ten-year timetable and the failure of the Empire State Development Development Corporation (ESDC) to conduct a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement to study to adverse impacts of a project that could last 25 years.

And, though the Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman in December refrained from issuing a stay on construction, the dispute continues, as groups in the coalition BrooklynSpeaks forcefully questioned the ESDC's findings that a 25-year buildout would have no adverse impacts beyond those already studied.

A hearing will be held on Tuesday, March 15, at 2:30 pm in Manhattan Supreme Court before Friedman, at 60 Centre Street, IAS MOTION Part 57, Room 335.

Expert affidavits

I'll have an analysis of the overall dispute later in the week, but consider the press release circulated yesterday by BrooklynSpeaks, which cites three expert affidavits challenging the ESDC's claims.

In his affidavit, Ron Shiffman, professor of urban planning at Pratt Institute, argues that it's "an obvious omission" for the state to have bypassed city environmental review guidelines to offer an interim build year for projects whose duration is expected to be greater than ten years.

James Goldstein, Senior Fellow and Director of the Sustainable Communities program at Tellus Institute, a nonprofit research and policy organization in Boston, in his affidavit, points to the impact of delays in three projects, two in the Boston area, one in New London, CT. “The recent cases of Filene’s One Franklin development, Harvard’s Allston Initiative, and New London’s Fort Trumbull project all highlight the quantifiable and qualitative costs that arise in the course of unanticipated project delays. They invite a much more deliberate reconsideration of expectations about project costs and benefits once a delay occurs and, as in the case of One Franklin, demand a much more thorough analysis of the unanticipated impacts that inevitably arise from those delays.”

The state and Forest City Ratner, I'll note, have not revised their cost-benefit estimates.

Majora Carter, the former executive director of Sustainable South Bronx and the current President of the Majora Carter Group, in her affidavit, challenges the ESDC’s argument about the non-impact of 15 more years of construction: “This conclusion is not just counterintuitive. It reflects a national trend in land use policy that prioritizes the interests of private developers over the sustainability of vibrant communities."

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Posted by eric at 9:26 AM

City Limits posts an alternative message: Brooklyn's brand leaves many behind, and unity is needed for change

Atlantic Yards Report

I expressed skepticism last week toward Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's claim on City Limits that Brooklyn is thriving.

Now City Limits has posted an essay by Marilyn Gelber, president of the Brooklyn Community Foundation.

The headline is Brooklyn's Boom Leaves Many Behind: The director of Brooklyn's leading foundation writes that the borough's indisputable successes bring an obligation to look out for those whom recent changes haven't favored.

Gelber writes:

As a community, we must agree to improve educational outcomes for all of Brooklyn's young people—particularly for those living in high poverty neighborhoods; we should invest in the power of the arts to unite, enlighten all people from all cultures and all economic backgrounds; we must all ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors receive the community supports they need to be safe and secure in their own homes; we must fight to preserve affordable housing, and support well-designed new housing that fits in with the character of the community, and, we must strive to create a greener and healthier Brooklyn with well-maintained parks and open space, and opportunities to promote community wellness.

So, while we are indeed more than satisfied with the long-overdue attention being paid to our fair county of Kings, we must—as a community, and a Foundation—make sure this is more than a passing fancy.

That may be more a political than a charitable challenge. And so far, in the political realm, we've seen not universal standards--such as a commitment to affordable housing--but support for specific projects, like Atlantic Yards, because of perceived benefits.

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Posted by eric at 9:21 AM

ESDC current and former board members in the news: Cephas leaves bank, Holland in Harlem controversy

Atlantic Yards Report

Empire State Development Corporation board member Derrick Cephas has resigned, Crain's New York Business reports, in Amalgamated Bank's CEO resigns:

Amalgamated Bank Chief Executive Derrick Cephas has resigned, after falling out of favor with bank Chairman Bruce Raynor, sources said.

Mr. Raynor, who is president of garment workers union Workers United, had grown frustrated with the union-owned bank's results in recent years, a banking source said. The CEO's resignation also follows a period during which the bank was in the middle of a protracted dispute between the garment workers and hotel workers unions. As per a divorce agreement reached last summer, Mr. Raynor's union held on to the bank.

While Amalgamated went to a net loss of $1.2 million from net income of $7 million in 2009, the bank seems seems well-capitalized, Crain's said.

A fierce dispute for a former board member

Meanwhile, a much stranger tale involves former ESDC board member Joseph Holland, as detailed in a long Amsterdam News article headlined HARLEM RUMBLE (reg. req.).

It involves a project, Uptown Grand, with broker Thomas Lopez-Pierre, which has gone very wrong.

In copious detail, Lopez-Pierre calls Holland "the Black Bernard Madoff." Holland and relatives have had Lopez-Pierre arrested for stalking and aggravated harassment.

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Posted by eric at 9:16 AM

March 7, 2011

An Atlantic Yards tidbit in a Beekman Tower review

Atlantic Yards Report

From Paul Goldberger's enthusiastic New Yorker review of the Beekman Tower, headlined Gracious Living: Frank Gehry’s swirling apartment tower:

Had Gehry merely licensed his name to Ratner (as many felt he did by his involvement with Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, in Brooklyn), letting him sell a standard-issue tower as a Frank Gehry building in exchange for Gehry's adding a few flourishes?

Goldberger says no.

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Posted by eric at 11:31 PM

Urban planning, sustainable development experts support BrooklynSpeaks’ challenge to approval of Atlantic Yards 2009 modified plan

BrooklynSpeaks

On March 3, several BrooklynSpeaks sponsors seeking to reverse the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) 2009 approval of a plan extending construction of the Atlantic Yards project from ten to twenty-five years, filed affidavits with the court from leading authorities in urban planning and sustainable development. The affidavits by Ronald Shiffman of Pratt Institute, James Goldstein of Tellus Institute, and Majora Carter of the Majora Carter Group were submitted in support of BrooklynSpeaks’ supplemental petition challenging ESDC’s response to a November 2010 court decision ordering the agency to explain its rationale for failing to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) at the time it approved the modified general project plan (MGPP).

“When it approved the 2009 MGPP, ESDC ignored the law, the facts, common sense and, most importantly, the opportunity to engage the community to help make Atlantic Yards work for Brooklyn,” said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “The statements of these experts show how ESDC was deficient in its approval of Forest City Ratner’s proposed changes to the construction schedule, and that ESDC failed to learn from either the failures or successes of other large urban redevelopment projects.”
...

“Even though construction on the Barclays Center arena is underway, it’s not too late for the public to have a voice in the future of Atlantic Yards,” said Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee. “Since ESDC and Forest City have so far refused to engage the local community or its elected representatives in a meaningful way, we have no choice but to ask the Court for a reversal of the 2009 MGPP and to halt further construction. Appropriate study of the impacts of 25 years of construction must be made.”

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Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

New book, "The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn," an interview with the author, some AY echoes, and some AKRF duplicity

Atlantic Yards Report

Do you think Atlantic Yards was the first community clash regarding such things as gentrification, affordable housing, and "Manhattanization" of Brooklyn?

It may be the largest, but it sure wasn't the first. Such tensions have been threaded through the remarkable transformation of the borough's row-house neighborhoods, as chronicled in Suleiman Osman's new book, The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York.

I have an article about the book today in Patch. Also see an excerpt from the book's introduction and an interview in Dwell (and discussion on Brownstoner).

The book is a reminder of how much changed in Brooklyn without government intervention, and also how that spirit made those who changed Brooklyn suspicious of such intervention.

That said, the resistance to Atlantic Yards has gone well beyond knee-jerk and NIMBY, since many of those sympathetic to government intervention draw the line at this version.

Remember AKRF?

The book is also a reminder of--as I wrote more than four-and-a-half years ago--how the ubiquitous environmental consultant AKRF, in its very selective history for the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement, emphasized governmental investment in urban renewal, including condemnation, without acknowledging the parallel process in Brownstone Brooklyn of mostly private reinvestment and revival via historic preservation, which was hastened by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission.

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Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

Brooklyn BP Markowitz's Atlantic Yards Falsehood (Video)

The Huffington Post
by Norman Oder

Even New Yorkers who've barely heard of Atlantic Yards, the Brooklyn mega-project with an under-construction arena for the basketball Nets plus 16 planned towers, know that it's been highly controversial since it was announced in December 2003.

(Why? Eminent domain based on dubious "blight," an arena encroaching on a residential neighborhood, significant government help and subsidies, and a process that bypassed local elected officials, just for a start.)

However, in lying blatantly to dismiss such division--"Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards"--Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has taken a quantum leap beyond his usual quota of boosterism.

Markowitz, who's endured jeers over the years for his fervent Atlantic Yards support, didn't make that claim in Brooklyn, or even in front of any American audience. Rather, he made it on a video aimed to recruit Chinese investors to the project, an effort that would save developer Forest City Ratner big bucks, perhaps $191 million.

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Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Willets Pointman

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance

Lip$ky: "My Atlantic Yards shilling is for the kid$$$$!"

Lisberg also points out what he implies might be a conflict owing to our work on Atlantic Yards: "The city wants to create jobs in a forlorn section of Queens by shutting down the businesses that have been there for decades. Sound weird? How’s this: The chief lobbyist against using eminent domain on those businesses in Queens also works for a developer using eminent domain on homes in Brooklyn."

Now, we dealt with this issue six years ago-emphasizing the importance of the Nets coming to Brooklyn:

"From the Alliance's perspective the most salient reason to join hands with FCRC, Build and Acorn is the bringing of the Nets to Brooklyn with a brand new arena. When the Alliance's Richard Lipsky was an up and comer plying his basketball wares all over the city, Brooklyn was a mecca for all BBall pilgrims. It still is, and the love for the game is beyond what even we would have imagined when we first began to evaluate the AY proposal.

The Brooklyn Nets are going to galvanize the entire borough and the team and its ownership is going to play a major role in working along with the youth leaders of Brooklyn in their tireless and unacknowledged efforts on behalf of the kids. That is why the support has been so unequivocal from these community folks."

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily News pokes at Lipsky contradiction on eminent domain; also, FCR may have hired him for youth sports, but he's been a zealous advocate

Daily News columnist Adam Lisberg yesterday took a swipe at lobbyist Richard Lipsky for some seeming inconsistency: vigorous advocacy against projects involving eminent domain like Willets Point and Columbia University, while working for Bruce Ratner on Atlantic Yards.

Lisberg writes:

At the same time, though, developer Bruce Ratner's companies are paying Lipsky $3,500 a month for "information and advice" on Atlantic Yards, the controversial project to bring apartments and the Nets basketball team to Brooklyn.

The first phase of Atlantic Yards alone required the state to condemn 15 privately owned properties.

Eminent domain allows government to seize a private owner's property to serve the greater public good — if you consider a basketball stadium or a shopping center to be a public good.

Lipsky said he's usually against it, but the Nets arena and its benefits for neighborhood kids make it worthwhile in Brooklyn.
...

If Lipsky was hired strictly for youth sports programs, he sure hasn't let that stop him from extolling Atlantic Yards for multiple reasons.

NoLandGrab: And let's not forget that Lip$ky, the dogged advocate for neighborhood retail, has also been a paid lobbyist for Bruce Ratner's East River Plaza big-box mall, home to such mom-and-pop operations as Target, Costco, Best Buy, Old Navy and Marshall's. Must be because the "Brooklyn Nets are going to galvanize" East Harlem. It's for the kid$$$$!

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

March 6, 2011

Atlantic Yards and "great unbuilt stadiums" (and the "same site" error)

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a certain Frank Gehry Brooklyn arena missing from Slate's If You Don't Build It … A slide-show essay on Seattle's floating dome, Edmonton's Omniplex, and other great unbuilt stadiums.

Still, it's worth a read:

While the stadiums we erect can embody both civic pride and civic catastrophe, unbuilt stadiums reflect our ambitions and our shortcomings more brightly. The ballparks we imagine, design, and fail to see through to completion are testaments to our egos, our metropolitan insecurities, our ever-changing sense of aesthetics, and our growing economic expectations.

I'd say that thinking an arena could be wrapped in four towers housing 10,000 office jobs was a tad overoptimistic.

Getting AY wrong

Unfortunately, the slide show has an incorrect reference to Atlantic Yards:

O'Malley had been hoping to secure land for a privately built stadium at the Brooklyn site now known as Atlantic Yards (currently home of a modern, divisive stadium project).

It's not the same site.

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Posted by steve at 10:20 PM

Is the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership still under investigation for improper lobbying? Unclear

Atlantic Yards Report

Laws only have meaning if miscreants are prosecuted. Why does it seem that the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is getting a pass?

Is new state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman continuing an investigation of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's (DBP) lobbying? I couldn't get an answer when I inquired a couple of weeks back, but the DBP, aiming to insert itself into the last Atlantic Yards lawsuit, surely has lobbied state agencies regarding Atlantic Yards.

As I wrote 10/27/10, in Cuomo has apparently put on back burner investigations of Willets Point, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership lobbying, a New York Times article that day about Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, about to win election as Governor, noted:

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

That referred to Cuomo's investigation of questionable lobbying by the Flushing-Willets Point-Corona Local Development Corporation (FWPCLDC), paid by the city to lobby for the Willets Point urban renewal plan before the City.

What about the DBP?

Previously, I suggested that the DBP, also funded in part by the city, had similarly tried to "influence legislation by propaganda or otherwise." I cited testimony by DBP representatives before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation.

On 10/29/09, the Times reported that the investigation had in fact gone beyond the FWPCLDC:

That investigation has expanded into the activities of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which the city helped create in 2006 to help push through development plans following a broad rezoning of the area.

So, is that investigation still going on? Has it been dismissed? To what extent does/did it involve the Partnership's work lobbying for Atlantic Yards?

Last year, I asked the DBP, which told me to ask the Attorney General's office. I didn't get an answer from either administration, last year and last month.

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Posted by steve at 10:15 PM

US cash for visas scheme targets China

Tom Spender

Tom Spender was instrumental in covering a campaign in China that included Gregg Hayden, general manager of the New York City Regional Center, along with Peter Davidson of the ESDC, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, to help raise capital for Atlantic Yards. The vehicle used was the federal EB-5 program, which supplies green cards to investors on the basis of job creation. Claims of job creation for the Atlantic Yards project are dubious at best, and Spender is suspicious of claims guaranteeing green cards for the investors.

Dodgy dealings between developers and the authorities – sounds just like China! And there is a Chinese angle – under what’s known as an “EB-5” programme, foreigners invest $500,000 into America at almost zero interest rates, theoretically in return for Green Cards, for themselves and their families.

In credit-crunched times, a cheap cash for visas scheme appeals to developers. And it appeals to the Chinese too, who typically want Green Cards so their kids can go to university in the US, which they consider to have a superior education system.

...

I was asked to go along to an EB-5 roadshow in Beijing at which officials from the New York City Regional Center – one of many companies across the US dedicated to encouraging rich foreigners to invest in US projects – presented the Atlantic Yards scheme to rich Chinese.

...

Anyway, the roadshow – which ran for a gruelling 6 months – was due to end last month. According to a Wall Street Journal article, Hayden and his colleagues got the commitments they were looking for. The investors also include a small number of South Koreans.

That means 498 Chinese (and Koreans) have signed up to hand over half a million dollars each, having had assurances from Hayden and others that they are “100% sure” to get their Green Cards. It would be interesting to know what kind of background these investors have and how sanguine they are about the risk involved. From what I can see, China is a high-risk business environment where little can be taken for granted, so people here may be more familiar with risk than many westerners. The rich are spectacularly rich – for them, chucking half a million at the chance of a Green Card may not be a big deal – but some investors may have raised the money from family members and friends. In the past, some EB-5 investors have not only not got the Green Cards but have actually lost their investment. The current crop might do well not to take Hayden’s assurances too literally.

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Posted by steve at 9:54 PM

Muddy waters at Willet: Lobbyist Richard Lipsky leading charge against redeveloping Willets' Point

Daily News
By Adam Lisberg

Richard Lipsky is against eminent domain for Willets Point and in favor of it for Atlantic Yards. What'$ the difference? Dollars from developer Bruce Ratner.

The first phase of Atlantic Yards alone required the state to condemn 15 privately owned properties.

Eminent domain allows government to seize a private owner's property to serve the greater public good — if you consider a basketball stadium or a shopping center to be a public good.

Lipsky said he's usually against it, but the Nets arena and its benefits for neighborhood kids make it worthwhile in Brooklyn.

"I don't have an absolute position on [eminent domain] but I do have a strong disposition against it," Lipsky said. "It takes a lot to push me in that direction."

He also said he only worked on Atlantic Yards' youth sports efforts programs, not its eminent domain work efforts.

Of course, Ratner could have hired him to work for Atlantic Yards just so the opponents couldn’t hire him to work against it.

"That's true," Lipsky acknowledged. "You'd have to ask them why they hired me."

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Posted by steve at 9:45 PM

LETTER: Reseve Judgement on Atlantic Yards-Area Restaurant

Prospect Heights Patch
By Regina F. Cahill

This open letter from the head of the North Flatbush Avenue BID urges locals to takes a strong wait-and-see stance regarding the new restaurant Prime 6.

We know that some of our neighbors are concerned about new developments, particularly Prime 6 being built at the corner of Flatbush and Sixth Avenues, but I ask you to reserve judgment on Prime 6.

We know it will be a bar restaurant, we know it may attract a new customer base but we also know that there are measures and regulations that we can employ to encourage new business to succeed while preserving our quality of life. New York State Assemblywoman Joan Millman has proposed just such controls with A 11288 which calls for restrictions on use of backyards for cafes and hours of operation.

The BID is committed to working together, to encourage the enforcement of the existing regulations and to create guidelines for existing and new businesses that will allow for business growth while preserving the peaceful enjoyment of our homes. We welcome all new businesses and residents upon their arrival provided they operate within the law and continue to be good neighbors. Additionally, we must recognize that we each have a personal responsibility to be a good neighbor and that it must start with facts, communication and understanding that there are such things as private property rights; local, state and federal regulations that often apply to our actions and there are entities and agencies to enforce existing rules and regulations.

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Posted by steve at 9:31 PM

March 5, 2011

Times slams Louisiana governor for dubious charity run by wife, ignores Markowitz's use of his own charity to draw corporate donations

Atlantic Yards Report

A front-page New York Times article March 3, headlined Wife’s Charity Offers Corporate Tie to a Governor, begins:

Louisiana’s biggest corporate players, many with long agendas before the state government, are restricted in making campaign contributions to Gov. Bobby Jindal. But they can give whatever they like to the foundation set up by his wife months after he took office.

Transpose the issue to Brooklyn, and change set up by his wife to he himself set up, and the Times might have reason to examine the work of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Missing the point

However, in a 7/16/10 article about Markowitz's concert series, headlined Bringing Fun to Brooklyn and appearing on the front page of the Weekend section, a Times music reporter barely touched on the issue:

Artists are paid for their appearances; each series has a budget of around $1.3 million, three-quarters of which comes from corporate sponsorships. But performing for a big, appreciative crowd deep in Brooklyn can be its own reward, said John Legend, who played the King series two years ago and will return to Seaside on Aug. 5.

As I wrote, that skates over that fact that corporate and foundation contributions, such as from Forest City Ratner and its foundation, mean Markowitz might be indebted to big developers like Forest City Ratner.

Those donations continue, as I pointed out this past January, with $50,000 to each of the Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series and the Seaside Summer Concert Series.

Also, as the New York Post has pointed out, Markowitz's separate charity, Best of Brooklyn, has a record of issuing no-bid contracts.

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Posted by steve at 6:31 PM

As team prepares for move, hope is Nets-Knicks will be new Dodgers-Giants

Associated Press

This article mostly deals with the Nets' chances of building a Brooklyn fan base, but it does manage to mention one reason Brooklynites will not be fans.

The Nets' campaign to build a fan base has been hampered by a drawn-out battle between neighbourhood residents and developer Bruce Ratner over the Atlantic Yards development, anchored by the Barclays Center. Many Brooklyn residents opposed the project's scale and the use of eminent domain to clear the land.

Eric McClure, a spokesman for the group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, said, "I used to root for the Nets until they announced that they were going to be taking people's homes to build a taxpayer-subsidized basketball arena."

link

Further coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, AP offers big-picture piece on meaning of Knicks-Nets rivalry; ex-Brooklynite professes "cosmic scale has swung"

After the New York Observer's big think piece on the meaning of a Knicks-Nets rivalry, now comes a similar article from the AP, headlined As team prepares for move, hope is Nets-Knicks will be new Dodgers-Giants.

The article acknowledges some bitterness:

The Nets' campaign to build a fan base has been hampered by a drawn-out battle between neighborhood residents and developer Bruce Ratner over the Atlantic Yards development, anchored by the Barclays Center. Many Brooklyn residents opposed the project's scale and the use of eminent domain to clear the land.

Eric McClure, a spokesman for the group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, said, "I used to root for the Nets until they announced that they were going to be taking people's homes to build a taxpayer-subsidized basketball arena."

But the "he-said, she-said" technique ends up with a source who's upbeat about the move:

But some Knicks fans say they may switch their allegiance once the Nets are in Brooklyn.

Michael Shapiro, the author of another book about the Dodgers, "The Last Good Season: Brooklyn, the Dodgers and Their Final Pennant Race Together," said the Nets' move to Brooklyn means "the cosmic scale has swung."

"It's going to be really hard for me to root against a Brooklyn team," he said. "Call me in two years."

Shapiro--a native Brooklynite who lives on the Upper West Side--is worth talking to, but it's dismaying that a journalism professor is more concerned about fandom and "the cosmic scale" than, say, the shenanigans behind sports business today.

Unfortunately, he's also helped perpetuate the "same site" error, mythically connecting the arena site with the hoped-for location for a new Ebbets Field.

Posted by steve at 6:12 PM

March 4, 2011

Media meme #2: about that "indie rock" petition for Prime 6; the author can't be found and the whole thing may be fake

Atlantic Yards Report

We've been played, folks.

Neighbors' concerns about Prime 6, the "sports bar," club, or simply nightlife spot with an entrance on Flatbush Avenue and a backyard extending into a residential block, has turned into a huge donnybrook about 1) bars capitalizing on the arena and 2) places attracting a "hip-hop" crowd.

The first seems at least partly true. Evidence for the second relies mostly on an online petition urging that the bar switch to "indie" rock, a petition so precious that it generated numerous parody signatures, and a petition in response urging "Jennifer McMillen" to move to the Hamptons. And lots of pile-on coverage.

Except no one, save the Wall Street Journal, tried to find McMillen, who's not listed in the phone book or in any database. And the Journal couldn't find her, and suggests the kerfuffle is based on a falsehood:

It was provocative stuff, especially for a famously liberal and oft-mocked Brooklyn enclave. Except it might not be true.

At a recent meeting, most locals who turned out in force to air gripes about the establishment—tentatively called Prime 6 and tentatively set to open in May—didn't know a Ms. McMillen. Efforts by The Wall Street Journal to find a person with that name in New York City were unsuccessful.

link

Related coverage...

The Wall Street Journal, Brooklyn Venue Sparks Debate

Residents insisted none of their concerns had to do with any playlist at the spot, planned for Flatbush and Sixth avenues, just a few blocks from the Atlantic Yards development, which includes a new basketball arena for the Nets.

"I care about the 4 a.m. closing hour," said Michael Rooney, an attorney.

"No one—even among the most concerned neighbors—said anything about hip-hop music. That's a complete invention with racist overtones," said Steve Ettlinger, a writer and Park Slope resident of 26 years. He thinks the petition must be a hoax.

NoLandGrab: So the question is this — is "Jennifer McMillen" just a prankster having some fun, or is there something more sinister and calculated going on here? Like an effort to tarnish people opposed to the overriding of zoning rules that typically prevent an enormous sports arena from being built immediately adjacent to residential neighborhoods?

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Media meme #1: why is the Barclays Center naming rights deal reported as "nearly $400 million"?

Atlantic Yards Report

How exactly are sports reporters still reporting that the Barclays Center naming rights deal resembles the $400 million deal announced in January 2007?

Consider the cliche-ridden USA Today article headlined New Jersey Nets go global to help domestic image. (No, it's not about EB-5.)

The article begins:

New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark looked at Brooklyn and saw the world, a melting pot of humanity.

He also saw a world of opportunity for the Nets as the franchise planned its move to Brooklyn starting with the 2012-13 season.

Yormark began an aggressive pursuit of international brands the Nets could partner with, scoring a lucrative 20-year naming-rights deal worth nearly $400 million for the Brooklyn arena with Barclays, the London-based banking and financial services giant.

How does the reporter know the value of the naming rights deal?

Because the $400 million figure was promoted relentlessly by the Nets and Forest City Ratner, and repeated dutifully by journalistic outlets like the New York Times.

What about the cut?

The cut in the agreement, to $200 million and unspecified "certain fees," got covered in a few media outlets. The Times barely covered the story; it referred to "an additional sum" and later reported the Nets claimed "that the bank’s total annual payments, including fees for other rights, remain unchanged."

No evidence was cited. The available evidence, as noted at bottom, suggests otherwise.

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Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

Is Brooklyn thriving and an economic engine? Markowitz cheerleads, but the evidence of unemployment is sobering

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz gets on his soapbox for an essay that's part of the March/April issue of City Limits, Defining Brooklyn.

The headline is Beep Says Brooklyn Is NYC's Economic Engine: "In spite of saying 'goodbye' to our treasures of yesterday, Brooklyn is thriving," writes Borough President Marty Markowitz.

(The essay is mostly adapted--self-plagiarized?--from his State of the Borough Address last month. More importantly, not that Markowitz is embarrassing himself by lying about Atlantic Yards in an attempt to help Forest City Ratner recruit Chinese investors, how much credibility does he have left?)

The evidence for his optimism?

In spite of saying "goodbye" to our treasures of yesterday–Brooklyn is thriving. The reason is simple: Brooklyn has embraced modernization without forgetting its past and become an economic engine for New York City.

Don't believe me? The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. And in this case the pudding is employment data. From June 2009 to June 2010 none of New York's boroughs were even close to Brooklyn. Brooklyn increased employment by 3.6 percent. Not only is that nearly double the next highest number in New York City, it's good enough for 2nd best of all large counties … IN THE COUNTRY. And Crain's New York Business proclaimed Brooklyn to be "at the forefront of the city's economic recovery" thanks to the 14,000 jobs Brooklyn added in 2010.

Do the math

The problem? A 3.6 percent increase in employment is a mere dent in an 11 percent unemployment rate. In other words, you don't subtract 3.6 from 11. (To reduce 11 percent to 7.4 percent would require a near 40 percent drop.)

But don't worry, Marty's prioritizing Borough Hall's spending to address our most pressing needs.

Is spending $1 million of his capital budget on a business incubator a significant allotment? After all, more than one third of his capital budget for 2009, some $24.6 million, was directed to the $64 million amphitheater planned for Asser Levy Park in Coney Island, home of his concert series.

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Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

City Limits on Defining Brooklyn: image does not quite meet reality, but borough is surely in flux

Atlantic Yards Report

The March/April issue of City Limits, Defining Brooklyn, is out, with a few pieces on the web, and offering a challenge:

What does it mean to be "Brooklyn?" No borough in the city—perhaps no other urban place in America—has the kind of name recognition that Brooklyn enjoys. From Neil Simon plays to Jay-Z songs, Brooklyn has long had a prominent cultural profile. And in the past 10 years, Brooklyn has embodied New York's boom, from the boutiques that dot once-gritty Red Hook to the luxury high-rises of Fort Greene. But does Brooklyn's cultural mystique—or the view from Red Hook or Fort Greene—reflect reality throughout the borough?

The answer, you might expect, is no, as indicated by the few articles posted.

(While the cover references the coming Nets arena, the articles posted so far barely mention Atlantic Yards.)

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Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

Downtown Brooklyn's population boom reaching sky-high levels

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Downtown Brooklyn’s population is soaring as high as its glimmering new apartment buildings — but the flood of new residents are already reeling from the area’s lack of shopping and public services.
...

But newcomers are already griping about a dearth of local schools, grocery stores, retail shops, timely sanitation pickup and street lighting.

“These people were promised the Manhattanization of Brooklyn by their brokers and all they got was being able to live in tall buildings,” said City Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn), who represents most of the area.
...

Officials estimate about two million more people will be visiting the area per year by 2012, following the planned opening of the Nets' new NBA arena a half-mile away and the nearby expansion at the BAM Cultural District.

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NoLandGrab: Wonder how many of those two million will be driving.

Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

March 3, 2011

Bob Guskind, in remembrance

Atlantic Yards Report

Bob Guskind, founder of the Gowanus Lounge blog, died two years ago. He's still missed. He would've had a heck of a time writing about the ironies of development and politics these days.

Robert Guskind 1958-2009 from Blue Barn Pictures, Inc. on Vimeo.

His blog, including his work and those of GL contributors, was moved to BobGuskind.com.

link

Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

Teachable moment? Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, LIU, BAM offer gushing, unfounded affidavits supporting FCR in timetable case

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's the latest addition to the list of great works of Atlantic Yards fiction.

"Atlantic Yards will be many things to many people," Forest City Ratner has long stated (as in screenshot from original AY web site, right, complete with misleading fisheye photo).

For the Provost of Long Island University's Brooklyn campus, the project appears to be a mystical mirage, promising an astonishing array of indispensable benefits.

It should be a teachable moment: the question of whether and how Atlantic Yards could provide such claimed benefits could occupy a good number of academic researchers.

Instead, it's a moment for (take your pick) irresponsibility, delusion, or power politics.

In a sworn affidavit, LIU's Gale Stevens Haynes (see p. 47 of the first document embedded below) simply takes the most optimistic scenario on faith.

She claims, without evidence, that students and faculty are "very supportive" of the project, and suggests that the project would offer "housing, jobs, and transit and infrastructure improvements to our students."

And she praises Forest City Ratner for being "genuine in its concern and efforts to understand and address the needs of this community."

Apparenly, CEO Bruce Ratner, who served on the university board's "Buildings and Grounds Committee, offering his expertise to the construction of the Zeckendorf Health Science Center and the Wellness, Recreation & Athletic Center," has won some friends.

Court case pending

Haynes's affidavit, as well as two others, accompany a motion from the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to file a "friend of the court" brief in the last lingering Atlantic Yards court case, regarding the impacts of and the need for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to study a delayed timetable.

It should go to oral argument March 15 at 2:30 pm, as should a linked case regarding a request for legal fees). I'll look at the broader legal arguments in depth next week.

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Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Did Barclays do the Nets a favor in buying naming rights, or was the favor from New York State, which gave the rights away?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Nets are in London as part of the NBA's (and their) march toward world branding.

In Nets Repay Barclays for the Favor, Nets Daily blogger Net Income (aka "the Leni Riefenstahl of the New Jersey Nets") has an exclusive:

This much is indisputable about the Nets' move to Brooklyn: If Barclays hadn't agreed to a $400 million naming rights deal in 2007, the arena now known as Barclays Center would never have been built. It was the critical commitment at the critical time for the Nets. Without it, the whole effort would have lacked credibility.

So dressed in suits and ties (Jordan Farmar and Johan Petro wore bow ties), Nets players and Avery Johnson spent part of their first day in London at a presentation to some 300 Barclays Capital executives and employees Wednesday. It was the first team event, other than a photo at the London Tower Bridge.

The "favor" did not come from Barclays.

Barclays made an investment, from its advertising budget. (You could argue that American taxpayers sure helped.)

The favor came from the state of New York, which gave away naming rights, and then neglected to count that gift as a subsidy.

And, of course, what was announced as a $400 million deal was cut significantly, after two renegotiations nearly in half.

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Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

Willets Point Property Owners Vow to Continue Legal Challenge Against City

WNYC.org
by Richard Yeh

Property owners in Willets Point, Queens, under threat of losing their land by eminent domain as the city makes way for a redevelopment of the area, vowed to reopen a legal case they lost last year.

At an emotionally charged public hearing in Flushing Wednesday, property owners and their attorneys said the city has reneged on a legally binding promise not to take over land without state and federal approval for new highway ramps to alleviate traffic in the area.
...

In addition to the ramps issue, many business and property owners criticized the city’s plan to acquire privately owned property by eminent domain, if necessary, for what they say is a private project. Janice Serrone said property owners like her have not gotten a fair shake from the city in the long neglected neighborhood.

"The developers are going to get a 30-year tax abatement, meanwhile we've been paying taxes for 30 years and have gotten absolutely no services," said Serrone. "Give us our streets and sewers and we'll continue to pay our taxes and develop what rightfully belongs to us."

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Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

New Gowanus hotel already at war with rivals

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gary Buiso

A brash Brooklyn-bred newcomer to the borough’s burgeoning hotel scene is already calling out rivals, boasting that his soon-to-open Gowanus establishment could put one competitor — Hotel Le Bleu — in the red.

Thirty-year-old Bensonhurst-native Alec Shtromandel says his Union Hotel on Degraw Street between Third and Fourth avenues will be the crown jewel in a narrowly defined market place.
...

And Union has proximity to the Barclays Center basketball arena and Atlantic Yards development — now a selling point for prospective hotels.

“That is definitely a factor,” Shtromandel said. “We are five blocks away from Atlantic Yards, and at some point there will be a lot of new housing, and the arena in 2012 will drive a lot of traffic to the hotel.”

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NoLandGrab: OK, when was the last time you stayed in a hotel before or after attending the circus, or Disney on Ice, or a Nets' game? And "five blocks away?" No.


View Larger Map

Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

Park Slope Citizens Decry Plans To Open A "Yo MTV Raps 'Bling-Bling' VIP Club," Suggest Making It An "Indie" Club Instead

VillageVoice.com
by Rob Harvilla

Like we said yesterday, this is the kind of kookiness that ensues when a politically connected real estate developer is allowed to override zoning rules and plop an arena in the midst of three residential neighborhoods.

So there's a hot new club/bar/live-music venue called Prime 6 in the works down in the Atlantic Yards nexus at Flatbush and Sixth in Brooklyn, inciting the usual neighborly trepidation, because this club might play rap music. There is now a petition circulating, not to stop Prime 6 from opening, you understand, but just to suggest they find a . . . friendlier style of music. "Indie," for example, which'd make the place "a vibrant artistic hub instead of another Yo MTV Raps 'bling-bling' vip club." And here we go.

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More where that came from...

NY Post, Park Slopers fight new hip-hop club

A group of persnickety Park Slopers don't want a hip-hop haven in their hipster hood.

NoLandGrab: "Hipster hood?" The Post's GPS might be broken.

NY Observer, There Are at Least 21 Bars Within a Half-Mile of Prime 6

Since this morning, the amount of signatures has blown up from 15 to 145. Though, in true online petition form, most of the signatures are false, lest The Observer be led to believe Whitey McWhite is a real person.

The L Magazine, Incontrovertible Proof that Park Slope is Racist

Gothamist, Park Slope Petitions New Bar to Play "Indie" Instead of Rap

NLG: Dare we say critics of the planned establishment might do better to focus on the real issues, like how loud the music might be, the hours of operation, and at what time the promised outdoor space would close, rather than the genre of said music?

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

March 2, 2011

Brooklyn Loves Atlantic Yards, Adorable Old Man Tells China

Curbed
by Joey Arak

Atlantic Yards critic/blogger Norman Oder has finally captured his white whale: The video message recorded by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz to pitch Chinese investors on that green-cards-for-cash Atlantic Yards scheme. The one in which Markowitz says Brooklyn is 1000% behind the controversial megaproject. It's even better than promised. Like the boss says, there's nothin' betta than China and Brooklyn tuhgedda! Anyone else feel like they need a shower after watching this?

link

Posted by eric at 10:43 PM

Nets' rebirth should include Renaissance of classic hoops name

CBSSports.com
by Jan Hubbard

[Prokhorov] has to create instant tradition and his location provides a perfect setting. His new arena is being built in the Atlantic Yards area of Brooklyn, where a renaissance is taking place. Less than 15 miles from that arena is a place where one of the great basketball teams in history was formed -- the Harlem Renaissance, also known as the Harlem Renaissance Big Five and the New York Renaissance.

That is the perfect name for the rebirth of Prokhorov's franchise. The New York Renaissance is a name grand in tradition. The shortened name, the Rens, is friendly to tabloids and one-column headlines alike.

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NoLandGrab: OK, we get the paying tribute to a famous all-black basketball squad from an era well before any professional sports were integrated, but could there be a more insulting name to residents around the arena? The actual renaissance of those neighborhoods was well under way long before Bruce Ratner cooked up his land-grab scheme, and implying that the abysmal Nets — however you package them — would somehow be fueling the Borough's climb would be just one more slap in the face to the "Atlantic Yards area."

Posted by eric at 10:23 PM

Greg David: Willets Point Truther

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance

You just have to love it when Atlantic Yards enablers — one paid for his shilling, the other just doin' it for free — turn on each other.

In yesterday's Crain's web edition, commentator Greg Davis purports to set the record straight on Willets Point with an article inaptly titled. "Important Truths about Willets Point." As the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan once remarked, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own set of facts. So, in the service of a bit of cognitive dissonance for David-someone who has demonstrated little concern or regard for any one's constitutional property rights in NYC-we offer a rebuttal.

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NoLandGrab: Usually, the enemy of our enemy is our friend — but the mercenary (and incredibly sanctimonious) Lipsky is still our enemy.

Posted by eric at 10:15 PM

In Edmonton, at least, Atlantic Yards haunts Andrew Zimbalist

Atlantic Yards Report

Somehow my critique of sports economist Andrew Zimbalist's contradictions is getting taken seriously in Edmonton, Alberta.

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Related coverage...

Edmonton Journal, Sports economist Zimbalist under attack for his shifting views on arena building

In an interview with the Journal's Gary Lamphier, Zimbalist made it clear he's no fan of the Community Revitalization Levy mechanism (which is proposed in Edmonton) as a way to generate public funding for arenas or stadiums. Too often, he told Lamphier, CRLs fail to live up to initial forecasts.

Zimbalist also liked to see solid commitments from developers before a project proceeds, not just vague promises. Zimbalist also challenged Katz's argument that the Oilers' financial viability depended on a new arena. "Citing Forbes magazine's annual survey of NHL franchises -- the only source of public information available -- Zimbalist said the team ranked among the most profitable in a league where half the 30 clubs are mired in red ink," Lamphier wrote.

Lamphier's article caught the attention of gadfly Norman Oder, who has been keeping a close eye on the multi-year attempt to build a new arena at the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

Oder wrote on his blog, Atlantic Yards Report, that the somewhat pessimistic and definitely tough-talking position that Zimbalist took in Edmonton with Katz is in conflict with the much more optimistic view that Zimbalist took when he was hired by the Brooklyn arena developer, Bruce Ratner, to do a feasability study.

NoLandGrab: Guess it all depends upon who's signing Mr. Zimbalist's paycheck.

Posted by eric at 12:39 PM

Brooklyn is behind Atlantic Yards project, says Marty Markowitz

The Sports ITeam Blog [NYDaiyNews.com]
by Michael O'Keeffe

That's the story, Marty? That's the story!

Brooklyn Borough President and Atlantic Yards cheerleader Marty Markowitz lets loose his inner "Crazy Eddie" in this video posted this week by Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder. In the video, shown to Chinese investors interested in putting money into Nets' minority owner Bruce Ratner's massive development, Markowitz excitedly claims that Brooklyn is "1,000 percent" behind the project. I guess all those protests and lawsuits must have been organized by people from Queens.

The video was produced to promote a federal program that grants green cards to foreign investors whose money saves or creates jobs. But Elizabeth Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corporation, told the Daily News last year that AY developer and Nets minority owner Bruce Ratner turned to the program because it will save a ton of money on Atlantic Yards financing, not because the project was in danger.

link

Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

Important truths about Willets Point

Crain's NY Business
by Greg David

One place you surely won't get the truth about eminent domain abuse is from Greg David, who's even b.s.-ed his own daughter about it.

It may appear Wednesday at a public hearing that there is considerable opposition to the Bloomberg administration's plan to clean up and redevelop the hazard waste site known as Willets Point, Queens. Don't be deceived. Tomorrow is the end game of a decades-long effort to make Willets Point a generator of jobs and business activity. Also don't forget that the last-ditch efforts of the few holdout businesses have extracted a steep cost: preventing the city's economy from being as prosperous as it could be.
...

The opposition has been greatly overstated. In a 2007 survey, Hunter College researchers found exactly one resident in the area. At the time, there were 225 businesses, mostly auto parts and repair business. They employed 1,300 people. Most of the major businesses in the area have reached agreements with the city to relocate elsewhere, mostly to nearby College Point. The numbers of remaining businesses and workers is much smaller today.

Meanwhile, opponents keep inventing strategies to derail the city. For a while, it was the idea that planned highway ramps somehow violated the environmental impact statement. A judge dismissed the claim summarily. Another complaint is that eminent domain is being wrongly applied. New York's highest court has rejected that line of reasoning at both Atlantic Yards and Columbia University's West Harlem plan, and the U.S. Supreme has refused to consider the cases. Case closed.

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NoLandGrab: Yes, Greg, a government that can take land from whomever it wants whenever it wants — that's got to be good for business, right?

Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

How Hakeem Jeffries Became the Barack of Brooklyn

NY Observer
by David Freedlander

The parishioners and many far beyond central Brooklyn have been expecting bigger and better things from Hakeem Jeffries since before he was even a candidate for the Assembly. His funky first name, his appeal to both black churchgoers and earnest reform types and his academic pedigree-graduate degree from Georgetown University, law degree from N.Y.U.-have earned him the label "Brooklyn's Barack."
...

Mr. Jeffries has been a shrewd political operator-his detractors see him as overly calculating-since he finally won the Assembly seat, in 2006. He is a favorite of Brooklyn political boss Vito Lopez, but he is also close to a group of reformers who want to oust Mr. Lopez. He has come down in the middle of the heated fight over Atlantic Yards. His district includes some of the most rapidly gentrifying parts of Brooklyn, including Fort Green, Prospect Heights and Clinton Hill, but he has made a name for himself racking up legislative victories on issues that may matter more to the desperately poor precincts that surround those neighborhoods, including the outlawing of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk database.

If he takes on Mr. Towns in '12, he could have a clear shot at the longtime congressman. If he waits, he could see a Congressional district redrawn to better suit his political base, but he could face the prospect of running in a crowded primary that would feature not only Ms. James, but also Councilman Charles Barron.

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NoLandGrab: And neither Tish James, nor Charles Barron, for that matter, have "come down in the middle" regarding Atlantic Yards — both have firmly opposed it.

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

B-Brawl! Prokhorov, the Nets’ Rakish Russian, Aims A.K. at Garden Party as Dolan’s Knicks Brace for Red Scare

NY Observer
by Reid Pillifant

If Mr. Prokhorov has any hope of capturing the city's affection, he must first conquer Brooklyn, which could prove a rocky beachhead.

The rosiest scenario has the Nets replacing the bygone baseball Dodgers as the borough's pro sports heroes, but the prospect of a glorious homecoming is quite a bit more complicated.

"For someone like me, who's a Brooklynite through and through, it's going to create dilemmas," said Senator Charles Schumer, who was born and still lives a short bicycle ride from the new arena site. "Because I've been a Knicks fan all along, and I guess I'll have to wait until they arrive and see what happens. But my inclination is to stick with the Nets"—he shook his head—"with the Knicks."

The team's arrival has already suffered years of bad press, thanks to the protracted battle over the $4 billion development at the Atlantic Yards site in downtown Brooklyn. Before a series of court rulings resolved it and construction started in earnest last year, the battle pitted neighborhood activists, many of them newcomers who spawned the borough's gentrification, against the team's former owner Bruce Ratner, the site's developer.

The bitterness lingers.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Chuck Schumer's dilemma and Marty Markowitz's return to candor: footnoting the Observer's article on the Knicks-Nets rivalry

A couple of observations on the New York Observer's long article about the owners of the area's two hoops teams, headlined B-Brawl! Prokhorov, the Nets’ Rakish Russian, Aims A.K. at Garden Party as Dolan’s Knicks Brace for Red Scare:

1) They weren't able to interview either owner, Jim Dolan or Mikhail Prokhorov, so all the talk of rivalry is secondhand. But the Knicks are, yes, on the defensive--somewhat.

2) Somehow they didn't quote my observation about the meaning of the EB-5 investment.

3) I would wager I know who said this:

(A person familiar with the plans said Mr. Prokhorov is assembling an in-house retreat for himself 10 times the size of a standard luxury box "for he and his Russian friends.")

That's Brett Yormarkian tactics, and grammar.

4) Sen. Chuck Schumer, who's a Brooklynite, admits to dilemmas, since "I've been a Knicks fan all along." What? Schumer's been a huge supporter of Atlantic Yards. If the prospect of 10,000 phantom jobs no longer "enervates" him, what exactly does he support?

Follow the link for the rest of Norman Oder's Top 7 list.

Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

An out-of-family succession at the helm of Forest City Enterprises, as LaRue takes over from Chuck Ratner

Atlantic Yard Report

For the first time in the 90-year history of Forest City Enterprises, the company will be run by someone outside the founding clan (which still controls the publicly-traded firm).

From a press release:

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today announced that President and CEO Charles A. Ratner will become Chairman of the Board, and will be succeeded as President and CEO by David J. LaRue, currently Executive Vice President and COO. The changes are a part of the company's succession planning process and will be effective following Forest City's annual meeting of shareholders on June 10, 2011.

Concurrent with the CEO succession, current co-chairmen Albert B. Ratner and Samuel H. Miller will each become co-chairman emeritus and will no longer serve on the board. Both will remain active in their respective areas of the business.

It was explained as a simple matter of time: Ratner is 69, LaRue 49, and the co-chairmen are in their 80s.

That all may be so, but there's one curious note. The investor conference call to discuss the change was held today with only a few hours notice, while typically the company offers several days of lead time for calls concerning earnings results.

article

NoLandGrab: What, no Bruce?

Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

Born of 9/11, an Effort to Rebuild Shattered Haiti

The New York Times
by Julie Satow

James P. Stuckey, humanitarian, philosopher, rebuilder.

Just four days after 9/11, James P. Stuckey, then a vice president of Forest City Ratner Companies, met with executives of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield at Forest City’s headquarters in Brooklyn. Empire had been the fourth-largest tenant at the World Trade Center, and the shell-shocked executives were already thinking about new offices.

Mr. Stuckey promised them a building in 18 months, even though, he said, “they didn’t have any floor plans, they didn’t know who had sat next to who, or even where much of their staff was.”

Is it us, or does this sound a little bit like ambulance-chasing?

“Based on a handshake, we started to pour the foundation,” at the MetroTech office plaza in downtown Brooklyn, said Mr. Stuckey, who in 2009 was appointed a dean of the Schack Institute of Real Estate at New York University. Soon after he assumed the position, he said, he started to think how he could teach students the lessons he learned after 9/11.

The result was a course on postcatastrophe reconstruction, now in its second semester, where students devise building plans, work on environmental and social issues, and create financing models for real-world projects.
...

Postcatastrophe reconstruction — which Mr. Stuckey defines as the period following a disaster from Week 2 to Year 5 — is an emerging field in development circles, and it gained momentum after the tsunami that shook Indonesia in 2004. While many organizations focus on disaster preparedness and the emergency humanitarian efforts that crop up immediately after the event, “there is a void that occurs in the interim period,” Mr. Stuckey said. “After the humanitarian aid ends, how do you transition to the rebuilding stage?”

article

NoLandGrab: Suggestion for Mr. Stuckey's next project — helping to rebuild Prospect Heights, where his former boss, Bruce Ratner, has demolished numerous buildings, and has no plans (and no money) to reconstruct any of them anytime soon.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

Is Any Business Safe From the Arenafication of Brooklyn?

Curbed
by Joey Arak

Atlantic Yards is already the biggest thing to hit Brooklyn since that meteor that killed all the dinosaurs (look it up), and its impact will extend far beyond the megaproject's footprint. The under-construction Barclays Center is a huge arena, and huge arenas bring in huge crowds. Local businesses that rely on the exchange of goods and services for currency like to appeal to these crowds. It's the reason why you can't swing a dead Flyers fan outside Madison Square Garden without hitting a sports bar. But the Barclays Center is not in Midtown, and already brownstone Brooklyn residents are fearing the first signs of the arenafication of their neighborhoods.

That's apparent in the backlash to Prime 6, the planned bar/restaurant at Flatbush and Sixth Avenues that some Park Slopers assume will be a rowdy hip-hop club catering to arena crowds. The latest chapter in the saga, Fucked in Park Slope points out, is one resident's apparently serious attempt to get Prime 6's owner to opt for indie rock over hip-hop. And nope, race has nothing to do with it.
...

Even some local haunts appear to be getting arenafied. Ancient dive bar O'Connor's on Fifth Avenue and Dean Street, not far from the Barclays Center, is tripling in size and adding an upstairs restaurant in an effort to modernize, the Brooklyn Paper reports. The owners say it has nothing to do with the arena, but one regular says "it seems like there won’t be that same run-down feeling," and an O'Connor's bartender told the BP "the vibe might change." What's next, Gorilla Coffee selling Nets foam fingers?

link

Related coverage...

F**ked in Park Slope, PRIME 6 PETITION: ANYTHING BUT HIP-HOP!

Sorry Park Slope: this is the kind of thing that makes me want to move to NJ and live in a white community that ADMITS they're racist.

Apparently this "petition" has been floating around facebook since yesterday; and I'm embarrassed to see that a few douchebags have actually SIGNED it.

The gist of it is that this retarded park slope yenta (non jewish? thank g-d) is trying to convince the owners of that new controversial bar on Flatbush, Prime 6, to "embrace indie music" instead of hip hop. If you read between the lines, the none-too-subtle message is that she'd rather have white guys in flannels standing around her patio than hard hittin' brothas with blow-torches and pairs a' pliers.

PetitionBuzz, PRIME 6: EMBRACE INDIE MUSIC!

So here's the gist of my big idea: Isn't there some middle ground between this spot being a stroller repair shop and it being a full-on hip-hop club?

No one can change the fact that Prime 6 WILL exist - they have their liquor license, and nothing's going to deter them from opening. BUT: What if owner Akiva Ofshtein could be convinced that his business will see far more financial success as a different kind of nightlife establishment. Instead of focussing on hip-hop and urban entertainment, what if Prime 6 embraced some of the more indie local artists of ALL races who live and perform in the area.

The L Magazine, Park Slope, Manhattan Beach Fight to Keep Out Poor People, Black People

Now, tempers are high over a planned nightclub that plans to open near where the Barclays Center will be. Prime 6, a multi-story restaurant and lounge at Sixth and Flatbush avenues, concerns neighbors because it could attract an unwanted element. "To have a restaurant for the Atlantic Yards crowd is different than to have a restaurant for this community," a representative for Councilmeber Stephen Levin said at last night's community board meeting, the Park Slope Patch reported. Critics' central complaint seems to be noise: the planned late hours, combined with outdoor seating areas.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Bottle Service Comes to Flatbush

OK, so there may not be a Carlton Avenue bridge anytime soon, but don't say that the Arena hasn't already started to bring new features to the neighborhood. Last night at a contentious Community Board 6 meeting, Park Slope residents received a first, somewhat murky look at the plans for Prime 6 NYC at the corner of Flatbush and Sixth Avenue.

With three liquor licenses already approved, Prime 6 NYC's proprietors promise a multi-floor establishment with "bottle service" open to 4 AM, plus a large outdoor area adjoining residential property. Prime 6 NYC has been variously described in the media as "a gentleman's club", a "hip-hop venue" and a "sports bar"; something, as it were, for the whole family.

Park Slope Patch, Petition Urges Atlantic Yards-Area Restaurant to 'Embrace Indie Music'

The Brooklyn Paper, Another old-man bar bites the dust as O’Connor’s gets pre-Nets makeover

Fifth Avenue’s beloved old-man bar, O’Connor’s, will get a makeover and expansion just in time for the Barclays Center to open a couple blocks away — but the owner says his loyalties are to longtime customers, not the thousands of sports fans who will fill the arena next year.

Come summertime, the no-frills Prohibition-era dive will be expanded to include an upstairs restaurant with seating that serves “good, off-the-bone Irish-American food” and — for the first time — beer on tap. It will be three times bigger and one story taller.

“We’re trying to keep the old look, but modernize it a bit,” said owner Mike Maher, who has run the bar, near Dean Street, for three years.

Maher said that the renovation and retooling had nothing to do with the 19,000-seat arena rising one block away, but the arena is sure to draw a crowd of sporty types from outside Park Slope to a place that’s now only popular with a small band of regulars.

NoLandGrab: This is exactly the kind of crazy stuff that happens when you override zoning laws and allow Bruce Ratner to drop an enormous arena in the midst of three residential neighborhoods. There are not a whole lot of residential uses in the blocks near Madison Square Garden — for good reason.

Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

March 1, 2011

Private Sector Croynism Seeks to Replace Government in Wisconsin: Might New York Be Leading the Way?

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White ends a blogging hiatus by weaving together an interesting thread that involves a shady adviser to New York's new governor, the hidden time-bomb in the GOP's all-out attack on labor in Wisconsin, and, of course, Atlantic Yards.

Here above all else is what caught my eye in the Krugman piece: That when these privitizations are done without bid, which is clearly NOT in the public interest, they will by law be deemed “by definition” to be “in the public interest.” It just seems impossible that sensible Wisconsinites could propose to indulge in such legal absurdities and fictions. Then I realized how closely this situation parallels one of the worst abuse situations in New York:

• The Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly was handed out to developer Forest City Ratner at Ratner’s initiative and without any bid. (Ratner is winding up with contiguous ownership of about 30 acres of Brooklyn real estate over the subway lines and a monopoly on about 50 acres of interrelated high-density real estate total.)
• The megadevelopment is essentially a privatization of the much of Brooklyn together with (through abuse) what is supposed to be the public function of eminent domain.
• In order to allow Ratner this cronyistic seizure, New York State public officials, with New York State court justices affirming their pretextual fiction, have similarly had to legally deem this privatization to be “in the public interest.”

So whatever fight is going on in Wisconsin, maybe New York led the way. (The proposed expansion of Columbia University into West Harlem involves a set of misdeeds quite similar to Ratner’s Atlantic Yards.)

article

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

Uncertainty at Empire State Development Corp. Continues

Gotham Gazette
by David King

Cuomo has outlined a number of proposals that he says will get the organization back on track toward creating jobs and attracting and fostering new businesses. Past that, it is unclear if Adams or even the Cuomo administration knows what, exactly, they are going to do to turn around the corporation, which has been seen in recent years as ineffective, scattered and bloated.

Not to mention crooked.

Neither Cuomo nor officials at the Empire State Development Corp. would comment for this story.
...

To appreciate why changes to the ESDC matter so much you have to understand what the ESDC has done up until this point, but many experts say that, too, is hard to quantify.

The ESDC was created in 1968 primarily to oversee the construction of subsidized housing projects. As an authority, the ESDC can issue bonds to fund major projects without voter approval, and it also has the ability to use eminent domain. That has been a hot topic because of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.
...

The ESDC has come under major criticism in its role for Atlantic Yards. Homeowners and property rights advocates say the organization justified the project and seized to benefit one major company rather than the many small businesses that have been forced to relocate to make way for the project.

In its other role -- overseeing programs created by the legislature -- the ESDC has faced major criticism for its handling of the Empire Zones, a program developed to attract companies to upstate. It isn't clear that any of the major tax breaks and funds it handed out led to any significant job creation. Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who was staunchly anti-big government, famously received $3 million in tax breaks from the state but only created 25 jobs.

article

NoLandGrab: And Bruce Ratner's deal makes Paladino's look almost legit.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Gotham Gazette on ESDC: questions about job creation, city focus, and what exactly it did in service to Atlantic Yards

There are a couple of curious passages in a Gotham Gazette overview article today headlined Uncertainty at Empire State Development Corp. Continues.

First, everyone agrees that the ESDC should focus on job creation, and the debate is whether the gubernatorial-controlled agency should focus on small business or large projects--and whether new CEO Kenneth Adams, former CEO of the Business Council, is partial to the latter.

Atlantic Yards, one of the ESDC's signature projects, is not primarily about job creation, however. Rather, it's about the ESDC helping get a project done, acceding to changes in the plan--from a promised 10,000 office jobs to a perhaps 1340 jobs, 30% of them new, in one delayed tower.

The article states:

[Andrew Rudnick, CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership] does believe, though, that the ESDC needs to refocus its values and core mission. "The ESDC needs new criteria. Most economic development experts would tell you that they no longer use the standard of how many jobs are created, which is what the ESDC uses. Instead, you look at quality of job, investment opportunities, the scope of a project and the potential for using green technology," he said.

With Atlantic Yards, I don't think they're measuring it by job creation.

Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

Barclays Center Taking Shape

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
Photo by Kristen V. Brown

More photos here.

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

The Downtown Brooklyn rezoning produced housing (& the DBP is happy), but shouldn't landowners who got a gift have been required to share the wealth?

Atlantic Yards Report

In a 2/27/11 article headlined Downtown Brooklyn's residential growth: Downtown, slated for office space, got a residential boom, Crain's reports how the downtown Brooklyn rezoning approved in 2004 has produced far less than the "forecast 4.5 million square feet of new office space and accompanying 18,500 jobs."

Rather, 1.3 million square feet of office space has been produced--no job total announced--and a lot of new housing: 23 residential buildings, and 4300 units.

The designated cheerleader is happy:

“One of the components of a healthy downtown is having a 24/7 community with a vibrant residential sector,” said Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “We're delighted.”

What about the change?

Yes, that's a component, but then again there's the record:

“We were supposed to get the third-largest business district in the city [behind midtown and lower Manhattan],” said Robert Perris, manager for Brooklyn's Community Board 2, which includes downtown. “What we've gotten is a high-rise residential neighborhood.”

Affordable housing

The article notes:

City Councilwoman Letitia James, who represents large sections of the downtown area, argued that the boom has excluded low- and middle-income families. She also noted that the neighborhood lacks schools, food stores and other necessary services and amenities.

“We were sold a bill of goods,” Ms. James said. The residential component should have more affordable housing, she added, but what she most wants to see is the thriving commercial center that the city initially proposed.

article

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

iPhone mania in Fort Greene

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Remember when the Empire State Development Corporation asked us to believe that this type of thing wouldn't happen anymore once Bruce Ratner had depopulated the Atlantic Yards footprint?

Guard dogged

A shoplifter wigged out on an off-duty cop on Feb. 21 after he was caught swiping nine boxes of Claritin allergy medicine from the Target in the troubled Atlantic Terminal Mall at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

The thief was heading toward the door with the medication at 4 pm when the cop, who was moonlighting as an Atlantic Terminal security guard, stopped him.

The crook was arrested, but not before sparking a fight that left the officer with bruised and bloody fingers.

article

Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

Slopers are too late to stop Yards-area bar

The Brooklyn Paper

Dozens of enraged Park Slopers stormed a community board meeting on Monday night to object to a liquor license for a controversial bar at the corner of Flatbush and Sixth avenues — but the protesters quickly learned that they were too late: the liquor license had been granted earlier this month because no one raised an objection.

Akiva Ofshtein was granted his license by the State Liquor Authority on Feb. 16 for his location inside the former Royal Video store about a block and a half from the under-construction Barclays Center basketball arena.

He had notified Community Board 6 back in November of his intention to seek the license. The board had 30 days to object, but it did not.
...

The business will occupy a prime spot in what is already a nightlife hub, one that will undoubtedly get busier with the arrival of the Brooklyn Nets. The battle against the bar can be seen, in part, as a proxy battle for the lost war over Atlantic Yards.
...

Community Board 6 will reconsider the matter in a month, but it is unclear what the panel can achieve.

Ofshtein still needs the Department of Buildings to sign off on the plans, which request a total occupancy of 230 people.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The battle over Prime 6 at the corner of Flatbush and Sixth: not a sports bar, but questions over the owner's intentions

Given the capacity and the proximity to transit, it's questionable that Ofshtein is targeting a neighborhood audience, as he claimed to the Paper:

In an interview, he told us that he has yet to decide what type of restaurant his place will be, deciding between a “California kitchen” and a steakhouse, possibly named Prime 6.

But either way, he insisted, his restaurant is for locals.

“I am gearing up for a Park Slope clientele,” he said, promising a May opening.

The bar will serve food until 4 am, feature two large televisions, a private party area, “acoustic music,” and an outdoor garden area — which residents said must be removed from his plans.

Park Slope Patch, Slopers Rally Against Atlantic Yards-Area Restaurant

A controversial restaurant near Atlantic Yards was granted a liquor license weeks ago without any protest from the community, but the throngs of angry Slope residents who crowded a community board meeting Monday night in hopes of blocking the license had no idea.
...

Neighbors to Prime 6 particularly decried the restaurant’s plan to serve food until 4 a.m., seven days a week and called for any backyard space to be scrapped entirely.

“He really just needs to abandon the outdoor space. He may not be aware of the acoustics, but there is no way that it will not be loud,” said Paul Zumoff, a Bergen Street resident and area real estate broker. “I sympathize with how difficult it is to open a restaurant, but he doesn’t appear to be receptive to our concerns.”

Brownstoner, Slopers Rally Against Alleged 'Gentleman's Club'

Brownstoner has some video from last night's meeting.

Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

Since no one in America fell for it...

Queens Crap

These videos created to market the Atlantic Yards project to foreign investors - or should I say people who are being bribed with green cards in return for investing in this debacle - are really something else...

Meanwhile, the City apparently lured Caribbean teachers here with promises of green cards and never delivered on it.

link

Posted by eric at 10:03 AM