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April 29, 2011

PlaNYC 2030, the questionable estimate of 1M more people, Morrone's history of erroneous NYC predictions, and the preservation movement

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's a must-read from AYR on the trouble with crystal-ball gazing.

Will New York grow by a million people by 2030, the premise of Mayor Mike Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 sustainability effort? The latest statistics, growth of 2.1% over the past decade, suggest it's increasingly unlikely, though Bloomberg and others contest the numbers.

Still, the PlaNYC update should at least acknowledge the new numbers--but it hasn't, as Michael D. D. White points out in his Noticing New York blog:

Not only have the population projections not been changed in the plan... the old numbers remain firmly anchored in the plan.

A history of misplaced predictions

That got me thinking about the insightful keynote address given March 5 by historian, critic, and much-lauded guide Francis Morrone at the annual conference of the Historic Districts Council (HDC).

One theme of his address: over the past 40 years, the span of HDC's existence, many predictions have been way off. And though Morrone didn't mention PlaNYC, anyone listening would have another reason for skepticism.

Similarly, though Atlantic Yards is tangential to this discourse--the project has been justified, in part, because of the need to add density in light of population growth--we should be reminded (yet again) to take Atlantic Yards predictions with a grain of salt.

From the 1950s to the 1970s

Morrone reminded his audience that, in the 1950s, New York City was the pre-eminent world city by "every conceivable measurable criterion," including manufacturing, corporate headquarters, wholesale/retail sales, seaport activity, and cultural capital.

Predictions that the city would suffer a shortage of factory workers were way off. And, he noted:

New York City lost nearly a million people in the 1970s.

Today we are supposed to be planning for a city that will grow by more than a million by 2030. Yet 20 years before people started talking about "planned shrinkage," when New York had a preeminence among the cities of the world that no city in the history of the world had ever had, not a single expert, not one, predicted, or could have, the scale of the population loss. Something for us all to keep in mind when we hear expert projections.


Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

ESDC announces extended working hours at the Vanderbilt Yard, beginning earlier, ending later, and adding Saturday work

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation yesterday distributed a Supplemental Report to its bi-weekly Atlantic Yards Construction Update, announcing extended working hours at the site, beginning earlier and ending later, and also introducing Saturday work for at least three months:

The following section has been modified to include new information:

Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard/ Carlton Avenue Bridge
New Information: commencing on May 2, 2011, yard construction hours will be: 6am – 4:30pm. In addition, beginning on Saturday May 7, 2011, construction work will take place on Saturdays during the hours of 7am – 5:30pm for a period of at least three months. Work will consist of the installation of SOE [support of excavation] piles along the south side of the jobsite within block 1120 & 1121; along “the bump” on Block 1120 (Lots 19, 28 and 35) and near the former gas station on Block 1121, lot 42.

Click through to learn what the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement had to say about work hours.


Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Get reeled in

National Post


On the surface, real estate isn't the most thrilling of themes. Instead of mortgage rates and maintenance fees, though, the following three docs focus on such universal themes as personal autonomy, class warfare and good ol' political corruptness.

Battle for Brooklyn

Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley, U.S.A.

As any New Yorker can tell you, there's no bigger game in town than real estate. Galinsky and Hawley's sometimes exhilarating, occasionally frustrating doc tackles the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, a massive complex of skyscrapers anchored to the new home of the New Jersey Nets. Focusing on one lone graphic designer who refuses to bow down to developer Bruce Ratner, the film is expertly paced, but too often falls victim to a preachy "damn the man" tone.


NoLandGrab: If they knew the "man" like we know the man, they'd be damning him, too.

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Eminent Cinema: Atlantic Yards Doc Coming to a Rooftop Near You

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

It took almost as long for Bruce Ratner to get his Atlantic Yards project through the huge community fight as a movie about that fight to get made. The Battle of Brooklyn will have its debut this summer, opening on June 3 at Brooklyn Heights Cinema as part of the Brooklyn Film Festival with a showing the following week in Fort Greene Park as part of the summer Rooftop Films series.

This is far from the first film about the project. But unlike Brooklyn Matters, this doc appears to be less of a polemic meant to sway the public against Ratner and the Nets than a swan song for a battle lost. Maybe they could screen it on the Barclays Centre Plaza when it opens next year.


Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

Bloomberg introduces city to Ben Dover

Queens Crap

Hizzoner added, "What we have to do is decide will it be fewer cops, fewer firefighters, fewer teachers, fewer this, fewer that."

How about fewer tax breaks for developers? Why are people up in arms about GE not paying taxes, but seemingly have no problem with Forest City Ratner or the Related Company getting free land and sweetheart tax deals like this one?


Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

April 28, 2011

Must-see "Battle For Brooklyn" Makes World Premiere This Weekend in Toronto's Hot Docs Festival

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The up close and personal Atlantic Yards documentary feature film, "Battle for Brooklyn"makes its world premiere this weekend in Toronto's Hot Docs international documentary film festival. Toronto's NOW magazine has this review of the film, which it declares is a "must-see."


Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com], Atlantic Yards flick to highlight the 2011 Brooklyn Film Festival

long-awaited film documenting the controversy surrounding Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project will debut locally on June 3.

Brooklyn Film Festival and Rooftop Films today announced that “Battle For Brooklyn” would have its United States premiere 8 pm on June 3 at Brooklyn Heights Cinemas to open the 2011 Brooklyn Film Festival.

The film highlights how the state approved using eminent domain in 2006 to boot many Prospect Heights residents from their homes in order to pave way for a NBA arena still under construction and 16 residential and commercial towers that developer Bruce Ratner lacks financing to break ground on. It was also be shown June 9 as a part of the Rooftop Films Summer Series in Fort Greene Park.

Curbed, Jane's Carousel Gets Prepped; Atlantic Yards Doc to Premiere

Not tired of the Atlantic Yard controversy yet? Then you'll be thrilled to know that Brooklyn's biggest boondoggle is bound for the big screen!

Posted by eric at 10:07 PM

Nets’ Brooklyn Neighbors : We Don’t Want Your Glorified Wing Stop (Or The Indie Rock)

Can't Stop The Bleeding

“We do not need a bar on Pacific Street,” argued Brooklyn resident Syble Henderson at last night’s Community Board 6 subcommittee meeting to consider plans to open Players Gastro Pub & Sports Bar adjacent to Bruce Ratner’s under-construction Barclays Arena. “Historically that block has been impacted with all kinds of anti-social activities,” claimed Henderson, who surely realizes that serving a postgame microbrew to Brook Lopez would mean a new low for the neighborhood.


NoLandGrab: Serving a beer to a Nets player after a game would be one thing (as if you find Knicks players at Mustang Sally's after a game at the Garden). Having a bunch of drunks making a racket at 3 a.m. on a weeknight in a residential neighborhood is altogether something else.

Posted by eric at 9:56 PM

Deron Williams, Billy King Tour Barclays Center Site


Give the NBA credit for this — at least they locate the arena correctly in Prospect Heights, and not "downtown Brooklyn."

After lunch in Manhattan, Nets general manager Billy King and point guard Deron Williams traveled into Brooklyn's Prospect Heights neighborhood to visit the Barclays Center construction site. The visit marked the first for each of them, and the duo soaked up information from Forest City Ratner Companies and Hunt Construction Group officials, querying them about everything from layout and design to the planned parking situation. Walking down to what will eventually become center court of the new arena, you could see each of them begin to envision the future.

"It's cool to see the beams up," Williams said. "You hear about how it's going to look and how it's going to be finished. But it's good to come and see how the progress is. You can kind of start picturing it, what it's going to be like, see the layout of things. And it's good to see the area – I hadn't been to this area yet. It's different. This is in the heart of the city. It's kind of like the Garden. It's the same feel. It's special."


NoLandGrab: Must be all the new bars sprouting up that make the area feel "kind of like the Garden."

Posted by eric at 9:47 PM

PRESS RELEASE: Controversial Atlantic Yards Project Documentary - Battle For Brooklyn - Premieres in US

BROOKLYN FILM FESTIVAL and ROOFTOP FILMS announce the US Premiere of Battle For Brooklyn

Brooklyn Film Festival (BFF) and Rooftop Films are proud to announce the US Premiere of Battle For Brooklyn, a controversial look at the Atlantic Yards project. The film will open the 2011 Brooklyn Film Festival on June 3rd at Brooklyn Heights Cinemas at 8pm. The film will be also shown as a part of the Rooftop Films Summer Series on June 9th in Fort Greene Park. Prior to both Brooklyn screenings, the documentary will have its world premiere at the Toronto HotDocs festival on April 30th.

“We are extremely excited to be working with such strong Brooklyn institutions that have supported us for over a decade,” said Directors Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky.

“Directors Suki Hawley and Michael Galinski, BFF alumni, have been working on this project since 2003 and we are proud to give voice to a Brooklyn community that has been fighting with limited resources and without much external support an enormous battle to save their own homes,” said festival director Marco Ursino. “We are also excited about the collaboration with Rooftop Films. Battle for Brooklyn is an important documentary that belongs to the community and we feel that this partnership will ensure a truly broad outreach.”

“We at Rooftop Films believe strongly in the value of partnerships and always strive to do everything that we can to assist filmmakers in our community. So we are very excited to be teaming with the Brooklyn Film Festival to present these two screenings and to support the theatrical release of Michael and Suki’s Battle For Brooklyn. The dedication that Rumur Inc. has shown to documentary filmmaking and to the borough of Brooklyn has been an inspiration to us for more than a decade, and we believe that their latest work is essential viewing for fans of documentary film and for those who care about the future of their communities," said Dan Nuxoll, Program Director at Rooftop Films.

link [PDF]

Posted by eric at 5:08 PM

Project Update #71: It's live!!!- get your tickets to BFF now June 3rd

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Brooklyn Film Festival US premiere - click link to get info and tickets.

June 3rd- Brooklyn Heights Cinema.


Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

Update #70: Hot Docs Premier on Saturday April 30

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Yesterday at 6pm we finished Battle for Brooklyn. David is on a plane to Toronto with the Tape and the Poster that we finished at 10pm. If you look closely at the poster you'll see a couple of exciting things. We already told you about the great reviews the film is already starting to get. The new information here is that the film will be the opening night film at the Brooklyn Film Festival on June 3rd (at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema)- with a big afterparty [Buy tickets].

The next day we fly to Chicago for a Saturday night Screening at the Chicago Underground film festival.

We'll let you know how it goes in Toronto and share some other exciting brooklyn news soon.


Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

FCR may raise $40M more from immigrant investors; document confirms that EB-5 loans can be used to pay off mortgages, says nothing about job creation

Atlantic Yards Report

We would call this unbelievable, but Atlantic Yards is so crooked that nothing is unbelievable.

An Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) document reveals that developer Forest City Ratner, which already has signed up 498 immigrant investors to offer a $249 million low-interest loan, may seek another 80 investors for a $40 million loan.

The agreement between the ESDC and a Forest City Ratner affiliate was acquired via a Freedom of Information Law request. Though it offers much detail on how the money might be spent--Forest City has wide latitude--it says nothing about the ostensible purpose of the funding under the federal government's EB-5 immigration program: job creation.

The issue of job creation must be addressed in documents submitted to a federal agency, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The investors park their money for perhaps five years, and can get green cards for themselves and their families, assuming the claims of job creation pass muster.

[T]he loan proceeds could be used to reimburse Forest City Ratner for its costs on the Arena, the Subway Entrance, the public plaza, the upgrade railyard, demolition of project structures, utility work, the construction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, the creation of arena parking, and preparation of development sites.

Essentially it's a piggy bank for whatever Forest City Ratner wants, including the final category, which I highlighted: paying off any liens and encumbrances, such as the existing land loan from Gramercy Warehouse Funding.

Does any of this create or retain jobs? That's what they may say on paper, but it seems clear that the developer is substituting lower-cost capital for higher-cost capital.

Take for example the Carlton Avenue Bridge; the developer is obligated to reconstruct it, whatever the source of the capital. So the use of immigrant investor funds for the bridge doesn't add jobs.


NoLandGrab: As some people are fond of saying, "f**k the bridge." And the jobs, and the investors, and the taxpayers, and....

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

Another arena-related bar coming to Pacific Street, between Players and residences

Atlantic Yards Report

As a commenter pointed out on Park Slope Patch, another bar, Machavelle, is destined for 602 Pacific Street, what appears to be a residential building (with, apparently, mixed-use zoning) next to the furniture store that would be the home of Players, a gastropub and sports bar, which generated much concern at a Community Board 6 committee meeting Monday night.

A liquor license application for Machavelle was filed April 12, so the plans have apparently not yet been before the Community Board.


Related coverage...

NetsAreScorching, Daily Link: More Atlantic Yards Dispute?

Recently, the debate over the space surrounding the Barclays Center has escalated. Most recently, a club called “Players” is looking to open its doors near the center and local residents are worried about this likely post-game venue becoming a distraction to their daily lives.

The Atlantic Yards project has trudged through many legal disputes just like this one. This shouldn’t do anything to halt progress on Bruce Ratner’s brainchild and the Barclays Center will probably be built in due time. That being said, hearing stories about the project causing trouble for local residents is certainly disheartening.

NoLandGrab: Not nearly as disheartening as what is sure to become a torrent of new bars will be for residents near the arena. Here's a preview:


Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

Hot Docs 2011 Preview Pt. 7

Criticize This!
by Andrew Parker

Battle for Brooklyn
World Showcase
Directors: Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley

Battle for Brooklyn chronicles a seven year fight in the life of Daniel Goldstein, a graphic designer turned unlikely community advocate, who fought against the displacement of thousands of people due to a suspect claim of Eminent Domain made by the Forest City Ratner development group in a bid to bring the New Jersey Nets NBA squad to town with a new stadium. The film is an interesting look at a community at war with itself. Despite all the suspect deals on the part of the developers and the state of New York, just as many people believe the building of the stadium and the new community surrounding it (championed by such luminaries as architect Frank Gehry and Nets co-owner Jay-Z) will create much needed jobs. While Goldstein is a devoted advocate who finds himself repeatedly silenced, he is also a deeply flawed and possibly even somewhat broken man driven to near madness. A David and Goliath tale where David is booed as often as he is cheered, Battle for Brooklyn is a great portrait of how all politics truly are local. A must see for urban studies junkies.

Rating (out of five stars): ★★★★☆


NoLandGrab: We should point out that most of the people booing were paid or similarly compensated to do the booing.

Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

Avella to donate campaign funds to offset Lipsky cash

Queens Campaigner
by Connor Adams Sheets

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said Tuesday he has planned since shortly after Richard Lipsky turned himself in to authorities March 10 on corruption charges to donate to charity an amount equal to the $3,000 in campaign contributions the lobbyist made to his 2010 campaign. Avella said he has also cut off all contact with Lipsky and suggests others do the same.

For the two years before his federal indictment, Lipsky was one of the most prominent voices in defending Willets Point United, a coalition of small business and property owners in Willets Point who have sought to fight the city’s plans to replace the 62-acre district of auto repair shops and factories with a $3 billion development project.

“I told people that may have Lipsky on their payroll that he may under no circumstances contact my office or come to my office,” Avella said. “We will have no contact with the individual. And my recommendation is for any group that had hired him as a lobbyist to let him go.”


Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

Construction Spending Hits A 5-Year Low

The Wall Street Journal
by Joseph De Avila

Construction spending in New York City dropped 12% last year, falling to its lowest level since 2005, according to a new report.

Builders cut back on residential housing and office buildings even as the city's economy slowly began adding jobs again. Part of the drop last year was due to big projects like the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field wrapping up in 2009.

The number of construction workers also fell by 8,900 to 111,800 in 2010. It's the fewest construction workers employed in the city since 2004.

It would have been even worse if not for a few large projects, including the World Trade Center and the new basketball arena at the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Yes, without Atlantic Yards, there would have been only 111,640 construction workers employed in 2010, rather than 111,800. Thank goodness we taxpayers have shoveled hundreds of millions of dollars into that project.

Related coverage...

WNYC Radio, Spending Slump Hurts NYC Construction Workers

Posted by eric at 9:36 AM

April 27, 2011

For Construction Safety Week, Department of Buildings leads visit to Atlantic Yards arena site; videos show perspective on construction

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has a package of reports on yesterday's Atlantic Yards construction-safety event.

Yesterday, as part of Construction Safety Week and the "Experience is Not Enough" campaign, the city Department of Buildings (DOB) offered a tour to the press of the Barclays Center site, aiming to remind workers and others about safe construction practices throughout the city.

The arena site was chosen not because it's been the site of major problems but rather an a site where there's been good communication between workers/managers and the DOB.

I shot a few videos. Below, Deputy Commissioner Eugene Corcoran of the Department of Buildings speaks to the press. (Yes, the audio is obscured because of the significant noise of the site and my imperfect equipment.)


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Before press tour of arena site, community concerns about oversight, responsiveness, District Cabinet schedule

Before the press tour yesterday of the Atlantic Yards arena site held by the Department of Buildings (DOB), Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association distributed a sheet reminding reporters about the need for effective oversight of the project, such as a governance entity, common with other large projects.

He was not targeting the DOB but rather the Empire State Development Corporation, which has overall responsibility for the project.

Atlantic Yards Report, Two walks near the Atlantic Yards site: Sixth Avenue (below Flatbush Avenue) and Flatbush; Dean Street and Sixth Avenue

Yesterday, to document the street scenes near the Atlantic Yards arena site, I filmed two walks. Both show the intersection of residential, retail, and construction.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

Some ambiguous words from new HPD head, City Council housing chair on Atlantic Yards affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

In Point/Counterpoint: Mathew Wambua & Erik Martin Dilan, published 4/25/11, City Hall News asked new Housing, Preservation and Development Commissioner Matthew Wambua and City Council Housing Committee Chair Erik Martin Dilan to discuss various housing issues.

One was Atlantic Yards; here are their somewhat ambiguous comments, in response to the unstated but implied question that Forest City Ratner was scaling back its promises:

Wambua: Atlantic Yards, I had not heard they were scaling back [affordable housing], to tell the truth. I’d heard that they were thinking about a new kind of development, which would be a modular multistory, I think 35-story modular development. But I wasn’t necessarily under the impression they were doing anything less than what they’d anticipated doing so much as different from what they’d anticipated doing.

For our product—the product we develop—for middle-income and lower-income housing, there’s huge significant unaccommodated demand, and so there’s cyclicality to the stuff that we do. In good times, people need us because rents are getting too high. In bad times, people need us even more because they have less income. So that unaccommodated demand isn’t necessarily being changed, depending on where you are in the cycle. So we’ll continue, as we always have, to do gangbuster business.

Dilan: I honestly hope they keep the commitment to build affordable housing. I understand that financing can be challenging at this point. So, for major projects like Atlantic Yards, I think we have to just to hold them to the commitment that they made to that community, and to Brooklyn, as well.

The unanswered question is whether Forest City Ratner will fulfill its commitment without getting additional subsidies from the city.

Wambua's predecessor denied Forest City Ratner such subsidies; I suspect that the request will recur, so we'll see whether Mayor Mike Bloomberg goes to bat for a favored project.


Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

Numbers up: The New York Times Is Counting Wealthy Chinese, In A Too-Short Story

Noticing New York

This week it was impossible not to notice that the New York Times was prominently featuring the number “585" for a short little blurb of a story featured in its "News of the Week in Review" section. Turns out they were counting wealthy Chinese. (See: Prime Number, Published: April 23, 2011.) The Times was taking note that 585 is the estimated number, in the thousands, of people in China who this year will have investable assets of $1.5 million or more. This was according to a study by Bain & Company, a Mitt Romney connected consulting firm.

The number, the subject and the calculation couldn’t help but remind us all of another number, “498" which is the number of Chinese that Forest City Ratner is soliciting to “invest” $538,000 in order get American government issued green cards that Forest City Ratner is being allowed to sell more or less exclusively for its own private benefit. After some time (five years), the Chinese are supposed to get back less money ($500,000) which, other than their green cards, constitutes the return on their investment provided the deal Forest City Ratner has structured for them doesn’t tank. This all has to do with something known as the federal EB5 program, a program Congress created supposedly to produce jobs in the U.S. but which Forest City Ratner is taking advantage of in a non-job producing way. Essentially, the Ratner firm is abusing the EB-5 program in a way that Congress is now letting it be abused: Ratner is selling United States green cards to rake in cheap capital without producing jobs.

In other words, if, as reported in the Times, there are 585,000 Chinese who have $1.5 million or more to invest, 498 of them, or one out of every 1,197 of them are expected to pony up $538,000 of that available $1.5 million to pay Forest City Ratner for green cards.


Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

Another Sports Bar Showdown Near Barclays

On Monday locals bashed a bar on Pacific Street that would cater to crowds bound for Brooklyn Nets games.

Park Slope Patch
by Stephen Brown

Thanks to the geniuses who thought it was a good idea to override city zoning and allow an arena to be built in the midst of residential neighborhoods, residents of Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Fort Greene are going to get plenty of practice fighting liquor license applications.

Prime 6 was only the tip of the iceberg.

Hot off the heels of a fight over one sports bar near the Barclays Center, a new showdown is brewing between locals and the owner of a second bar that will cater to sports fans going to Brooklyn Nets games.

The owners of a Manhattan restaurant want to open Player’s Gastro Pub and Sportsbar on Pacific Street at Flatbush Avenue, which would seat 150 people and be open until 4 a.m. every night.

But on Monday residents at a meeting of Community Board 6 scoffed at the notion of the sports bar on their block.

“To have five or six bars in one area, you get to a tipping point and suddenly you have Bourbon Street in Brooklyn,” said Harry Lipman, a lawyer who was instrumental in the previous sports bar battle in Park Slope. “You have people coming out of a game at 10 p.m. or so — they already had a couple of beers, then they get more drunk, then they’re fumbling for car keys — it’s potentially loud and boisterous.”


Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Slopers fight Barclays bar war on second front

A fiery group of neighbors stormed a Community Board 6 meeting on Monday night to rage against the proposed “Players Gastropub and Sports Bar,” which seeks to serve alcohol until 4 am across the street from the rising arena on Pacific Street at Flatbush Avenue.

It would be the closest drinking establishment to a venue that is expected to draw 19,000 sports fans per night.

“I don’t want fans coming out and pissing on our neighborhood,” said Jon Crow, a longtime advocate of nightlife limits in Park Slope. “People looking to drink until three or four in the morning are already three sheets to the wind.”

Residents of the once-hardscabble, “Fortress of Solitude”-esque block said they don’t want to go back to the bad old days.

“We’ve fought long and hard to bring stability to the block,” said Syble Henderson, of the East Pacific Street Block Association. “We don’t want a business that’s potentially disruptive.”

Posted by eric at 9:24 AM

Building Inspectors Tour Atlantic Yards In Brooklyn During Construction Safety Week

CBS New York

It’s Construction Safety Week. What better time for the city to showcase precautions in action at the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn?

How about never?

Buildings inspectors like Eyal Amos distributed posters, banners and orange bracelets to the hard hats at the Atlantic Yards project.

“We’re not here only to give them violations and what not, [but to] get them all going back home at the end of the day to their families. We don’t want to see people dangling, falling off the edge of the building,” Amos told WCBS 880 reporter Marla Diamond.

Amos said the inspectors visited the site each week.

“We’re trying to see that the workers themselves have a good practice, whoever needs to wear harnesses, whoever needs to have hard hats, people have the right equipment,” said Amos.

On Tuesday, Amos observed workers on the skeleton of the Barclays Center arena, which will become the home of the current New Jersey Nets basketball team.

“We want to see them tied off. We want to see them having harnesses on,” said Amos.


Related coverage...


With the exception of the World Trade Center, there’s probably no better place to call a press conference dealing with construction issues than Atlantic Yards. At the moment the controversial project practically guarantees a large press turnout. This Tuesday, the Department of Buildings used the site as a backdrop to launch a new safety campaign for the 7th Annual Workers Safety Week with a particular focus on getting workers to wear harnesses.

But while DOB officials talked safety on the site, off site Dean Street Alliance president Peter Krashes complained that there were still problems for workers and neighbors. “If the community is affected, then the workers must be, too,” he said of dust and noise. “The problem with Atlantic Yards is there are holes in oversight by the Empire State Development Corporation.”

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Behind the Scenes at Arena Site: City Leads Tour

“This is the largest construction site currently in New York City,” said Eugene Corcoran, deputy commissioner for the Department of Buildings, leading a press tour through the arena site.

Accompanying the various reporters and photographers were officials of Forest City Ratner and Hunt Construction (the main contractor on the job), union workers and others.

Teams from the DOB inspect the arena site once a week due to size and complexity, according to officials. Mark Gladden, construction manager at Hunt Construction, pointed out that the firm has worked on sports arenas throughout the U.S., including CitiField in Queens and AT&T Park in San Francisco. Many of its subcontractors are national subcontractors who follow jobs from town to town, he added.

Both he and Bob Sanna, director of design, development and construction for Forest City Ratner, emphasized that the workers on the site are union members. At any given time, there are about 160 workers on site, Hunt said.

Posted by eric at 9:13 AM

April 26, 2011

A gastropub and sports bar coming to Pacific & Flatbush: another incursion on residents or the best alternative near the arena? CB calls for caution

Atlantic Yards Report

Residents of northwest Park Slope, already wary of seemingly under-the-radar efforts to install new arena-related bars near the under-construction Barclays Center, had some harsh words last night for entrepreneurs aiming to put Players Gastro Pub and Sportsbar, plus a pizza/falafel quick serve combo, in a building on Pacific Street at Flatbush Avenue now home to a furniture store.

(Above left, photo from Google Maps; note that the building at left has been demolished and is the site of arena construction. The view is looking south along Flatbush.)

“We do not need a bar on Pacific Street,” commented resident Syble Henderson, who helped found the Brooklyn Bear’s community garden at the northwest corner of Pacific and Flatbush, speaking at at a Community Board 6 subcommittee meeting concerning permits and licenses.

“Historically that block has been impacted with all kinds of anti-social activities,” Henderson said at the meeting held at the 78th Precinct at Bergen Street and Sixth Avenue, referring to drugs and prostitution residents fought 30 years ago. “We have fought long and hard to bring stability to that block... This is an attraction for all kinds of misuse.”

About 15 other residents nearby joined Henderson in her sentiments, while no resident spoke in favor of the plans, and the committee agreed to postpone any recommendation to the State Liquor Authority until its meeting next month and further discussion about the new facilities’ operating plans and procedures. (The Community Board’s vote is advisory, but can push parties to negotiate.)

One issue, reminiscent of the recent tensions over the Prime 6 bar/restaurant planned at Flatbush and Sixth Avenue, was how much notice residents got. Signs were posted on Thursday in the 500-foot radius of the planned new facilities, but several residents said they never saw them.

While the sentiments might be portrayed as NIMBY, it might be more accurate to call them the tensions arising from putting an arena so close to a residential neighborhood. 
(The state is overriding city zoning that requires a 200-foot barrier between sports facilities and residents.)

For their part, the entrepreneurs insisted that their plan was the best alternative for a newly-coveted spot and that their landlord, Henry Weinstein--a mainstay of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District (BID) and, while an owner of land in the Atlantic Yards footprint, a prominent opponent of the arena plan--recognized that.

Players would operate 11 am to 4 am daily, occupying 3500 square feet, with seating for 150 and two bars, one with 15 seats, the other with six seats.


NoLandGrab: Et tu, Henry?

Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Another chance to see the documentary on Freddy's Bar and Backroom

Atlantic Yards Report

Vicente Rodriguez Ortega's documentary Freddy's debuted last year (review), and it will be shown tomorrow, April 27, at indieScreen, 85 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, as part of the Brooklyn Film Festival.

The blurb:

Freddy's Bar & Backroom was a thriving cultural hub situated in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Open since prohibition, the bar featured a unique and colorful history. It was destroyed in 2010 to make way for the Atlantic Yards development project. This charming documentary had its World Premiere at the 2010 Brooklyn Film Festival, and captures the diverse set of characters in Freddy's community - the bartenders, the regulars, the artists and the musicians. Freddy's recently reopened in Park Slope, Brooklyn, but this film provides a window into an era of Brooklyn's history that has been permanently demolished.


Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Mockup of weathered steel façade panels for arena delayed two months, should be delivered in mid-May

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how Forest City Ratner VP for Construction Bob Sanna said that arena subcontractors were behind on producing the pre-weathered steel for the Barclays Center exterior?

Well, another aspect of that project seems to be behind. According to the latest ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE, Weeks of April 25, 2011 through May 8, 2011, produced by Forest City Ratner and distributed by the Empire State Development Corporation:

The excavation and concrete footing placement for a long term but temporary visual mockup of the weathered steel façade panels has been completed at 752 Pacific Street. The mockup panel delivery and placement of the footing was originally expected to be completed during the reporting periods covering March 7th through March 25th, however the delivery has been revised to mid-May.


NoLandGrab: One man's "weathered steel façade" is another man's pile of rusty junk.

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

Another iPhone swipe

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

How many times do we have to warn you — do not enter Bruce Ratner's malls without your pocketbook protector.

Marshall menace

Crooks converged on the Marshall’s inside the troubled Atlantic Center on Atlantic Avenue between Fort Greene Place and South Portland Avenue last week. Here are some highlights:

• A goon grabbed a 30-year-old woman’s purse as she shopped for clothes inside the department store on April 15. The woman laid her bag by her feet as she went through several clothing racks at 8:30 pm. When she completed her task 15 minutes later, she realized her bag was missing.

• A 47-year-old woman was arrested on April 19 after she was caught stealing more than $1,600 worth of clothing and accessories. The thief was grabbed leaving the store at 8:12 pm without paying for handbags, shoes and lingerie.


Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

April 25, 2011

On Tuesday, a Construction Safety Week visit to the Atlantic Yards site

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Department of Buildings:

Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri today announced the launch of the 7th Annual Construction Safety Week, a week-long series of events aimed at raising awareness about safe construction practices throughout the City. To kickoff this year’s events, the Department hosted a four-hour safety conference – Build Safe / Live Safe: An Inside Look at the Latest Construction Trends in New York City – at New York University in Manhattan today with more than 250 construction industry professionals to discuss new ways to improve construction operations, as well as specific trends identified in recent construction-related accidents. The Department also launched a new safety campaign, entitled “Experience Is Not Enough,” to encourage all construction workers to use proper fall protection, such as guardrails, harnesses and nets, while working on a job site.

Tomorrow is an Atlantic Yards visit:

On Tuesday, Department inspectors will visit the Atlantic Yards construction site in downtown Brooklyn, one of the largest ongoing construction projects in the City, and distribute posters, banners and bracelets to workers as part of the new safety campaign. Since 2008, 16 workers have lost their lives due to a lack of proper fall protection, including two fatal accidents earlier this year. In February, two workers, ages 49 and 51, were killed when they fell about 65 feet while installing a steel beam at a job site on West 83rd St. in Manhattan. Inspectors determined safety harnesses were on site at the time of the accident, but they were not being used.

Note that, despite the somewhat awkward phrasing, no workers have lost their lives at the Atlantic Yards site.


NoLandGrab: A number of people, however, lost their homes to the Atlantic Yards site.

Posted by eric at 10:38 PM

Kunpeng, consultancy promoting AY to immigrant investors in China, among firms willing to deceive regulators, according to newspaper investigation

Atlantic Yards Report

There's new evidence that consultants helping Chinese millionaires immigrate, as in the program involving the "Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project," are skating toward fraud.

In this case, the evidence does not involve the EB-5 program, in which investors park $500,000 for a purportedly job-creating project in exchange for green cards for themselves and their family, but rather a similar Canadian program.

Kunpeng International, a consultant prominent in promoting the Brooklyn project as an associate of the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), an investment pool working with Forest City Ratner, has been identified as one willing to deceive Canadian regulators.

(Kunpeng's head is at right in the photo with the Empire State Development Corporation's Peter Davidson, who provided a certificate during a roadshow in China last October. That proclamation, as I wrote, elides the difference between the Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project before the potential investors--purportedly the arena, infrastructure, and railyard--and the Atlantic Yards project as a whole, which would produce many more jobs and potential benefits.)

Helping a fictitious applicant

In a 4/22/11 article headlined How China’s ‘crooked consultants’ help the rich enter Canada, the Globe and Mail reports that a fictitious potential immigrant created for the purposes of the article--who has the required minimum $1.6 million CAD in assets but not the required documentation providing the wealth is legitimate--was offered help in sugarcoating his past by 18 of the 22 China-based immigration consultants approached.

Of the 22, 12 said that even a criminal record--jail time for stabbing someone in a fight--could be overcome:

If the relative were to persuade – bribe, if necessary – someone at his local police station to issue such a certificate, explained an agent at Kunpeng International, a Beijing-based firm, Canadian officials “can’t come to China to check the archives” in person.

John Ryan, chief executive officer of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, a former consultant in China, told the newspaper that business ethics in China are flexible:

“In Chinese culture, they feel that, in dealing with governments, they need an edge. They don’t really understand that, in our Canadian system, they can deal openly and honestly with the government and be dealt with fairly.”


NoLandGrab: Is it us, or does our system sound much closer to China's than to Canada's?

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

First real review and it's great

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Superb storytelling and great characters, especially charismatic city councillor Laetitia [sic] James, make this a must-see.

there's a mini review in Now Toronto- Their version of the Voice etc.

Let's hope that the rest of the reviews are like that!


Related coverage...

NOW Toronto, NOW Review: Battle for Brooklyn

Development company Forest City Ratner is determined to raze a full 18 hectares of Brooklyn to make way for a new arena for the New Jersey Nets, new condos and shops, but squatter Daniel Goldstein has no intention of leaving his apartment. He organizes the community to protest.

NoLandGrab: Something gets lost in the Canadian-to-English translation ("squatter?"), but you get the point.

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

A blind spot toward the ESDC, and some questions of legal ethics regarding Atlantic Yards representations

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, wry New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote about "angry" new Republican governors in Wanna Buy a Turnpike?:

In Ohio and Wisconsin, angry new governors John Kasich and Scott Walker are taking economic development out of the hands of state bureaucrats and giving the job to new quasi-private entities that will be much more effective and efficient.

In Florida, where the Legislature did all that in the 1990s, the angry new governor Rick Scott has a bold plan to improve economic development by creating a State Department of Commerce that will be much more effective and efficient.

Really, just so there’s change and it doesn’t sound socialistic. “We don’t want to leave any money on the table,” said Kasich, who is planning to sell five prisons, the lottery and maybe do something with the turnpike. I’m from Ohio, and while I never did like the turnpike, I’ve always been a fan of history. I wonder if I could get a good deal on the Warren Harding homestead.

Collins might want to look in her own backyard, where the Empire State Development Corporation is a quasi-public (or, alternatively, quasi-private) entity that cuts through red tape in service to business, such as the New York Times Company (which benefited from eminent domain in building the Times Tower with Forest City Ratner) and Forest City Ratner, in its Atlantic Yards project.

Atlantic Yards and legal ethics

Yesterday, in Applying the Principles of Legal Ethics to New York Development: Lawyers Are Not Supposed to Represent Deceiving Clients, Noticing New York's Michael D. D. White pointed out that lawyers have an ethical duty to not only withdraw from representing a client who behaving dishonestly but to do so "noisily."

White, at a legal ethics seminar asked some hypothetical questions: does this apply to the lawyer representing the developer of a publicly financed real estate project, where, in essence, the public is the buyer.

The answer--given to a hypothetical, and with the caveat it wasn't actual legal advice--was yes.

White allows for a gray area, in which the Atlantic Yards hype might be dismissed as dubious assumptions and insufficiently backed up assertions, both of which are permissible.

He adds:

One area where it seems that misrepresentations of fact did occur is with respect to the misrepresentations to Justice Marcy Friedman about the legitimately expected timetable for the development of the mega-project was: With lawyer assistance it was represented to the justice that Forest City Ratner and ESDC officials expected to complete the project within ten years while withholding from her (and the plaintiff parties representing the public in opposing the project) documents between them providing for and clearly envisioning a multi-decade build-out.

Similarly, sale of the EB-5 investments to prospective Chinese “investors” has been rife with misrepresentation. Technically, the misrepresentations being made to the Chinese are being made to them as private parties on the other side of a business transaction (rather than just an unwitting public being subjected to a spiel) so a high standard should apply respecting any misrepresentations. On the other hand is there thinking that as the Chinese are not American citizens they should not be expected to benefit from the full protection of U.S. law?

The issue regarding the timetable was brought before Friedman in March, in a motion for sanctions against the lawyers representing the state and Forest City Ratner, though Friedman refused to hear oral argument.

The EB-5 misrepresentation seems like a stronger case. We'll have to see how that plays out.


Posted by steve at 12:38 AM

Atlantic Terminal part of AY complex? Nah.

Atlantic Yards Report

From NetsDaily:

Also, here's a little viewed video of the entry pavilion of the one piece of the Atlantic Yards complex that's complete, the Long Island Railroad/New York Subway terminal across the street (and around the corner) from the arena. The terminal is a one end of an underground concourse that links nine subway lines (used to be 10 but the "V" line has been discontinued), the LIRR and the Barclays Center Transit Connection in front of the arena. The Atlantic Terminal is going to become very familiar to Nets fans.

Actually, the Atlantic Terminal transit hub is not "one piece of the Atlantic Yards complex." Rather, a piece of the latter--an under-construction new passageway--connects to the terminal. (And the V line never went to Brooklyn.)

For more, see my 1/6/10 post, Atlantic Yards revisionism and the belated LIRR pavilion at Atlantic Terminal.


Posted by steve at 12:32 AM

April 24, 2011

A Post-Earth Day Post: Bloomberg, His PlaNYC 2030, His Environmental Creds (Credentials and Credibility) and Population Projections

Noticing New York

The basis for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC is a projection for an additional 1 million New York residents by the year 2030. Recent stats show that population increase for New York is going flat, but this old projection is considered immutable.

New York City’s population is still growing. By 2030 we project that our population will increase to more than 9 million

Why is this important? One reason is that the projections for enormous population growth have been used as a backdrop to help justify the Bloomberg-style mega-development that begins with tearing things down while not having terrific success at replacing what gets demolished. It is also interesting to note that in 2007 Bloomberg's Director or the Budget, Mark Page, was factoring in this assumed population growth when calculating his balancing of the budget.


Posted by steve at 6:16 AM

PlaNYC update: an Atlantic Yards mention (for water mains!) and potential reconsideration of parking requirements

Atlantic Yards Report

On April 21, Mayor Mike Bloomberg released an an update (massive PDF) on PlaNYC 2030, the sustainability initiative launched in 2007.

Notable is an oblique mention of Atlantic Yards, as well as a nod to a major omission in the original plan: consideration of reducing parking requirements in residential developments, especially those near transit.

Previously I called the policy PlaNYC 1950, and the City Planning Commission is reportedly already studying the reduction of parking minimums.

An Atlantic Yards mention

Notably, Atlantic Yards is not described as transit-oriented development, or as the right way to develop publicly-owned property. it does get a nod under the heading "Upgrade water main infrastructure":

Once water leaves our in-city-tunnels, it travels through 6,700 miles of water mains to reach our homes. These aging pipes require continual maintenance and occasional upgrades. We will build out and replace critical water supply infrastructure to support the growth of the Coney Island community and make thousands of housing units and offices possible at Atlantic Yards. We will replace distribution mains in Jamaica Estates in Queens and Pelham Parkway in the Bronx. We will also complete the trunk main network in the Rockaways in Queens. Our commitment to upgrading and maintaining our system will save ratepayers money by preventing costly water main breaks and help support economic development in every borough.

For now, that water main upgrade will mainly benefit the Barclays Center.


Posted by steve at 6:12 AM

Applying the Principles of Legal Ethics to New York Development: Lawyers Are Not Supposed to Represent Deceiving Clients

Noticing New York

This blogger's attendance a two hour course entitled “Legal Ethics: Real World Issues and Considerations” raises questions as to how what kind of ethics, if any, were followed by politicians and lawyers who helped get the Atlantic Yards development started.

One question that comes to mind is whether lawyers consider that a different standard does apply to Forest City Ratner and perhaps any developer that does publicly financed projects, the thinking being that when you are talking about projects financed by the public one has entered the realm of politics, a realm where truth is no longer important and “factual statements” take on entirely new definitions. A recent example of the extreme we have gone to in this regard was when an aide to Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), condoned Kyl’s senate floor whopper that abortions are, “well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does” (only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does relates to terminating pregnancies) by saying the senator’s declaration of the percentage “was not intended to be a factual statement.” The political humorists are rightly having a field day with this “not intended to be a factual statement” ploy, Stephen Colbert and Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! included.

Maybe in the political realm one can get away with virtually any misrepresentation of the truth no matter how “factual” sounding the statements appear to be. But would the perpetual Forest City Ratner promotions be acceptable if Ratner were foisting the transaction on a private party instead of the New York taxpaying public? The idea that a distinction might exist is an intriguing theory worthy of consideration but not necessarily the law.


One area were it seems that misrepresentations of fact did occur is with respect to the misrepresentations to Justice Marcy Friedman about the legitimately expected timetable for the development of the mega-project was: With lawyer assistance it was represented to the justice that Forest City Ratner and ESDC officials expected to complete the project within ten years while withholding from her (and the plaintiff parties representing the public in opposing the project) documents between them providing for and clearly envisioning a multi-decade build-out.

Similarly, sale of the EB-5 investments to prospective Chinese “investors” has been rife with misrepresentation. Technically, the misrepresentations being made to the Chinese are being made to them as private parties on the other side of a business transaction (rather than just an unwitting public being subjected to a spiel) so a high standard should apply respecting any misrepresentations. On the other hand is there thinking that as the Chinese are not American citizens they should not be expected to benefit from the full protection of U.S. law?

Read the full blog entry and see how a close look reveals that the law firm presenting this ethics course has worked to help the Atlantic Yards project over legal hurdles.


Posted by steve at 5:41 AM

MTA Looks to Unload Midtown Headquarters


This story about the MTA's plan to sell or lease its midtown headquarters contains a reminder of how the MTA screwed itself and the public by selling the Vanderbilt rail yards to developer Bruce Ratner for an amount well below their assessed value and and later restructuring the deal so that it accepted $20 million up front when the original deal called for $100 million.

Gene Rusianoff, staff attorney for transit advocacy group the Straphangers Campaign, tells GlobeSt.com that he’s concerned that the MTA find the money it needs to fund its rebuilding program. “They need the dough,” Russianoff says. “They have a five-year rebuilding program and only funding for the first two years.” Russianoff’s main concern, he says, is that the organization not cheat itself on any property it sells. “We don’t think the MTA got a very good deal for the West Side Yards or the Atlantic Yards.”


The MTA agreed to sell development rights for the West Side Yards and Atlantic Yards properties to Related Cos. and Forest City Ratner Cos., respectively. Related deposited $21.75 million in May of last year to execute a binding contract with the MTA and has since added to that amount. Under a payment plan approved by the MTA Board in June 2009, FCRC paid $20 million, with an additional $80 million to be delivered over the next two decades, according to published reports.


Posted by steve at 5:13 AM

April 22, 2011

Question Revisited: How Craftily Close Did Forest City Ratner Skate On Thin Ice of Securities Law Violation With Non-Promise of a Hockey Arena?

Noticing New York

With recent confirmatory revelations that the design of the Forest City Ratner/Mikhail Prokhorov arena was definitely not intended to accommodate a professional hockey team, it is worth circling back to examine again the language included in the official statement to sell the bonds that strongly conveyed the impression that it could do so.

Atlantic Yards Report wrote that Bob Sanna, Forest City Ratner Executive VP for Construction, just recently told a Pratt Institute School of Architecture audience that the arena was not intended for hockey team use. (See: Tuesday, April 19, 2011, Forest City executive says shrinking arena to preclude major league hockey was conscious choice, downplays modular construction as "research project".) Specifically, Mr. Sanna told the Pratt Institute School of Architecture audience that when the arena was shrunk, undergoing what he characterized as “a complete redesign”:

"we made some pretty deliberate decisions early on: we weren't going to have a [professional] hockey team."

That’s a confirmation of something that seemed pretty obvious looking at the schematics: the redesigned arena is far too small to accommodate a standard professional size hockey rink.

But what were the buyers of the bonds for the arena told in the information that was part of the official statement, the disclosure document used to sell bonds? They were told:

For purposes of this analysis, it has not been assumed that the New York Islanders would relocate to the Barclays Center.

OK, that language says that it has “NOT” been “assumed that the New York Islanders would relocate to the Barclays Center” but doesn’t it by any reasonable standard imply that, with luck, there is a legitimate possibility Islanders or another professional hockey team could decide to relocate to the arena?

As such, if the bonds for the arena one day default, as they could, will bond holders be able to sue on the basis that this statement misleadingly misrepresented the arena’s potential uses and revenue sources and therefore its value? If not, the non-positive statement at least says something negative about Forest City Ratner’s business ethics in its willingness to convey misimpressions with craftily constructed non-promises.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Did elimination of pro hockey option at Barclays Center deceive bondholders?

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

Another victory for the "Atlantic Yards" meme, as MTA critic uses term to describe Vanderbilt Yard

Atlantic Yards Report

From a GlobeSt.com article yesterday headlined MTA Looks to Unload Midtown Headquarters:

Gene Rusianoff, staff attorney for transit advocacy group the Straphangers Campaign, tells GlobeSt.com that he’s concerned that the MTA find the money it needs to fund its rebuilding program. “They need the dough,” Russianoff says. “They have a five-year rebuilding program and only funding for the first two years.” Russianoff’s main concern, he says, is that the organization not cheat itself on any property it sells. “We don’t think the MTA got a very good deal for the West Side Yards or the Atlantic Yards.”

(Emphasis added)

Russianoff was using shorthand, but, as I wrote 3/29/11, 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 11:07 AM

The late Robert Fitch and The Assassination of New York: the loss of manufacturing was not accidental

Atlantic Yards Report

Robert Fitch, an independent, impecunious left intellectual, freelance academic, and author of the little-known but still influential The Assassination of New York (Verso 1993, paperback, 1996), died March 4 at 72.

That prompted tributes and reflections from Doug Henwood in The Nation and Josh Mason (and others, including Fitch family members) on his blog.

The book still has resonance for today, including the portrayal of a real estate strategy (build!) as a jobs strategy, the role of the City Planning Commission in validating the power structure, the distorting impact of tax incentives on new construction, the reasons why New York is un-democratic, and the difficulty in fighting real estate proposals more complicated than building a highway through a neighborhood.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

April 21, 2011

NY Release coming up in June

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

We are approaching the finish line. The picture is locked and the post production is wrapping up. We could have only gotten this far with your generous support, and we have the wind at our backs.

Battle for Brooklyn follows Daniel Goldstein and his family very closely. Our goal was to use their story as a way to get audiences to connect personally with the issues that affected the larger community. It's important for us to make it clear to people that the film won't detail all of the nefarious doings, or the various legal decisions (in fact the 4 year legal fight is condensed down to a few minutes in the film). In the end we want people to understand the emotional impact of top-down decision making as much as they do the factual aspects of it.

In early June we will have two very big Brooklyn event screenings (stay tuned for details). We will then open the film in theaters in late June.

As you likely know, the rest of the country watches how a film does in New York before they decide whether or not to book it. With your help we can make a big splash when Battle for Brooklyn opens. That buzz will carry over and get the film and the issues discussed on the national stage.

In order to get the most press attention for the film, we'll open it in Manhattan and then roll it out to theaters across Brooklyn like Indiescreen in Williamsburg as well as either the Pavillion or The Cobble Hill Theater (if anyone has a connection at either, please pass it on).

How can you help? Please become a fan of Battle for Brooklyn on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@BFBrooklyn). We'll keep you posted on where things stand and look forward to your ideas on how to get the word out.


Posted by eric at 2:49 PM

Flashback, 2009: landscape architect Olin observes, "We need to be at the table when people start planning" (Was this influenced by AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

In a 1/30/09 interview with with the American Society of Landscape Architects, distinguished landscape architect Laurie Olin talked about projects he'd worked on, including Canary Wharf in London, Columbus Circle in New York, and the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC.

He didn't talk of his work on the controversial Atlantic Yards project, which he had recently left. But an exchange regarding sustainability leaves a hint Olin was influenced by the controversy.

Click through to hear what Olin had to say, which sounds, to us, like some Atlantic Yards regrets.


Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

Unpacking the "restructuring" of the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard deal mentioned in today's Times

Atlantic Yards Report

In an article today headlined M.T.A. Is Planning to Sell Its Midtown Headquarters, the New York Times reports:

In recent years, the authority agreed to sell the development rights over its West Side Yards for $1 billion to Related Companies and the rights over its Brooklyn property that forms part of the Atlantic Yards project for $100 million to Forest City Ratner. But the money has been slow to come because of the recession and a restructuring of the deals.

(Emphasis added)

For the record

Just for the record, let's deconstruct that vague language.

Forest City Ratner initially bid $50 million in cash for the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard, while rival Extell, the only firm to respond to a belated RFP--18 months after Atlantic Yards was announced, with FCR anointed the public property--bid $150 million.

The MTA, pressured by its political patrons, chose to negotiate solely with Forest City Ratner, which contended--as the MTA agreed--that the overall value of its bid was higher. (Then again, Extell was not allowed to fully develop its bid, nor was there an assessment--as seems necessary in retrospect--as to whether which bid was more likely to come to fruition.)

Forest City Ratner in 2005 then bid $100 million. But the MTA never got the money. In 2009, the developer, arguing that its bottom line had been hurt by the recession, requested a restructuring of the deal.

The MTA, again pressured by its political patrons, agreed to take $20 million down, with the rest delivered over 22 years at a gentle 6.5% interest rate. It also agreed to accept a smaller replacement railyard, saving the developer $100 million.

So the restructuring of the deal not only promised the MTA less money upfront and, arguably, less than it might have gotten had there been a fair RFP. It also promised a lesser package of benefits.


Related coverage...

The New York Times, M.T.A. Is Planning to Sell Its Midtown Headquarters

Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

for Public Speaking and Atlantic Yards: Ask the Right Question

Speaking Up for Success

Prospect Heights activist and speaking coach Jezra Kaye counsels that whether you're giving a speech or fighting a land grab, asking the right question is all-important.

When I was working against the boondoggle Atlantic Yards project, City Councilperson Letitia James (who, along with State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, was our guiding political light), noted that the question you ask predicts the answer you’ll get.

And yes, the positions in this 7-year fight were summed up by these questions:

Bruce Ratner (billionaire developer from Cleveland): Do you think Brooklyn should get 10,000 jobs, thousands of units of low income housing, and a shiny new sports arena?

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (plucky bunch of underfunded community activists): Do you think 800 people and businesses should be removed from their homes by the state so that their land can be given to a billionaire developer from Cleveland, at a cost to New York taxpayers of $1.6 billion dollars?

Time will show which of these questions was more germane. (Hint: 150 jobs. No low-income housing. Profits will flow to the mega-billionaire from Russia who bailed out our Cleveland guy.) But history has already shown that the question is father (or mother) to the answer.


Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

Fighting His Third Term Curse Bloomberg Now Uses His Own Money To Promote Mega-Projects That Aren’t Happening

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White has noticed that Mike Bloomberg is running self-financed campaign-style TV spots, absent a campaign.

I caught one of these personally financed Bloomberg “campaign-style advertisements” the other day (it ended with the legend: “Paid for by Michael R. Bloomberg”). Whether it was nominally or otherwise intended “to bolster his battle with the teachers’ union” or “an effort to lift his sagging approval ratings” it, surprisingly, prominently devoted precious moments of its 30 seconds to promoting Bloomberg’s big, city-assisted real estate developments.

It is a surprise that Bloomberg should be promoting his city-assisted real estate developments given that Bloomberg, now into his third four-year term, has made so little headway with any of his mega-development dreams. Truth to tell, most of the 'jobs' they have so far created have been only for those in the demolition trades.

The projects initiated under Bloomberg have all so far involved mostly just destruction: Atlantic Yards, Willets Point, the Columbia University’s takeover of West Harlem, Coney Island.

It is also surprising that Bloomberg is advertising his languishing city real estate projects as “job creation projects” given that, for instance the Atlantic Yards arena is now mainly famous for the jobs it isn’t creating while the housing to be constructed is now conspicuously in the news for the cutback in jobs associated with the developer’s announced intention to shift to modular construction, building the tallest modular building in the world (if this pushing-the-limits of technology is permitted), and perhaps making the densest area of North America a forest of such units.


Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

Marty Peeved By Panasonic HQ’s Move To Newark

‘Would Have Been No Better Place’ Than B’klyn

AP via Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Despite Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’ wishes to lure electronics giant Panasonic here, the firm has opted to stay in the Garden State, moving its North American headquarters — and about 800 jobs — from Secaucus to Newark.

Markowitz, who mentioned his wishes to lure Panasonic here at last year’s ceremony to announce that retail would be moving into the Brooklyn Municipal Building, said, “I am disappointed that Panasonic passed on a chance to bring its big screens to the ‘big stage’ of Brooklyn, U.S.A.

In a sense, what happened to Panasonic is the reverse of what happened to the Nets basketball team. When the Nets were for sale 2004, Bruce Ratner, who planned to bring the team to Brooklyn, was bidding against Charles Cushner and then-New Jersey senator Jon Corzine, who wanted to keep the team in New Jersey. Ratner won, and they lost.


NoLandGrab: As the saying goes, their loss was our bigger loss.

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

Battle of the BIDs: MetroTech merchants fighting takeover try by downtown Brooklyn group

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Small-business owners around MetroTech are battling a move by downtown Brooklyn powerbrokers to take over their merchants group.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is vying to take over the MetroTech Business Improvement District - which taxes property owners and provides security and cleanup services - and control its $2.6 million annual budget.

Partnership officials say they're just trying to run things more efficiently, but some BID members are resisting, charging the group would slight services to small businesses and cater to big developers.

"It's all about the money," said BID President Victoria Aviles, owner of Bridge Cleaners and Tailors. "We have programs that benefit the mom-and-pop merchants and the new residents ... We serve the community, not the developers."

City officials and top local developers like Forest City Ratner - which developed MetroTech - are backing the takeover.


NoLandGrab: We follow a simple rule of thumb in disputes like this — if Forest City Ratner supports it, it can't possibly be good.

Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

April 20, 2011

More iPhone thefts

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Folks need to learn that it's just not safe to enter Bruce Ratner's malls without a pocketbook protector.

Nintendos nicked

A trio of thieves in baggy pants filled their trousers with more than $2,000 in Nintendo games during an April 12 visit to the Best Buy in the troubled Atlantic Center Mall.

Workers at the store between Fort Greene Place and S. Portland Avenue said that the thieves entered just before 7 pm, swiped several games and game consoles, and left.

The mall, and its neighboring Atlantic Terminal Mall, make frequent appearances in our police blotter.


Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Week in Crime: Two Stabbings and a Fingertip Bitten

A 44-year-old woman’s wallet was taken while she shopped at Daffy’s in the Atlantic Terminal Mall on April 11 at 7:30 p.m., police said. The woman was notified by Chase bank that her credit card was used while she was still shopping in Daffy’s, police said. The thief also took her Target credit card, Gap credit card, New York State driver’s license, and health insurance card, the woman reported.

Posted by eric at 2:34 PM

Another reason for distrusting Dodgers nostalgia: desegregating baseball was easier than repairing Brooklyn's racial divide, to historian Wilder

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Dodgers, and the desegregation of baseball via Jackie Robinson, loom large in Brooklyn history. Thus they have been and will be invoked by many Atlantic Yards boosters.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, straining mightily at the March 2010 groundbreaking, suggested that the sliver of the Nets owned by black celebrity millionaire Jay-Z was a milestone: "I'm glad I lived to see the color line in ownership broken in Brooklyn, where we've gone from Jackie to Jay-Z, where we can not only play the game but we can own a piece of the game."

(The color line in ownership had been broken earlier, and in full, in Charlotte.)

Not so simple

But maybe it's a little more complicated. In his 2001 book, A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn 1636-1990, historian Craig Steven Wilder writes:

It is a twisted irony that Brooklyn's politicians offered more vocal protests against segregated sports than they had against the construction of a black ghetto. By attacking Jim Crow in professional sports, local officials were able to grandstand as champions of racial equality without tackling the politically costly issues of employment and housing discrimination.

...Yet, the integration of its famous baseball team was a mild accomplishment when measured against Brooklyn's extraordinary social divisions.

Wilder seems less impressed that the Dodgers, in the words of Pete Hamill (as conveyed by brother Denis) not only integrated the team but integrated the stands.

Now, while Atlantic Yards is portrayed by proponents as narrowing some of those social divisions, the evidence is far more mixed--and the significant government aid and subsidies would, at best, trickle down rather than represent a public commitment to change.


Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

Unlike Nets, Panasonic chooses Newark over Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

The Nets might be choosing Brooklyn over Newark, but Panasonic plans to do the opposite.

As the Nets prepare for a 2012 move from Newark's Prudential Center to the new Barclays Center under construction on Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and other officials have fallen short in a big push to lure the electronics giant and its 950 jobs to the borough.


Related coverage...

The Wall Street Journal, Newark Lands Panasonic With Subsidies

Critics of the deal say New Jersey got played.

"I'm just baffled that they would give them that much money to stay, not only within the tri-state region but within their own state," said Bettina Damiani, a project director for Good Jobs New York, which is skeptical of tax incentives for companies. "Just to move up the Turnpike?"

NoLandGrab: Technically, it's down the Turnpike, but Damiani's point is no less valid.

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Paying the price to be heard in Albany


Consider the saga of Patricia Lynch Associates LLC, as discussed in the Sunday article. The robust lobbying firm paid a $500,000 fine last year as part of a settlement with then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office. Investigators asserted that the firm arranged campaign contributions, gifts and other favors to gain access for clients to the state Comptroller's Office under the disgraced Alan Hevesi. The firm also agreed to a five-year ban on lobbying the comptroller's office.

In 2010, Patricia Lynch Associates clients included the City of Yonkers, which paid it a total of $78,486. Another Lynch client is Forest City Ratner, the developer building the massive, mixed-use Ridge Hill complex in Yonkers. It figures prominently in a federal corruption case against former Yonkers Councilmember Sandy Annabi, a Democrat accused of accepting a bribe to drop her longstanding opposition to Ridge Hill.


Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

April 19, 2011

Panasonic rebuffs Brooklyn's overtures

Electronics giant to relocate corporate headquarters in New Jersey, a move that's sweetened with a $102.4 million subsidy from the state.

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

Here's a first — someone actually out-subsidized MetroTech!

Downtown Brooklyn may be getting New Jersey's Nets, but local officials' attempts to lure Panasonic and its 950 corporate headquarter jobs from the Garden State have come up short.

In the end, Brooklyn could not compete with a $102.4 million subsidy package offered to the consumer electronics giant to move to Newark, N.J., from its current home in Secaucus, N.J.

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, Newark Mayor Corey Booker and Panasonic officials scheduled a Wednesday press conference in Newark to make the announcement, sources said.

Big Apple officials had been trying to sell Panasonic on two sites in downtown Brooklyn owned by developer Forest City Ratner—MetroTech Center and Atlantic Yards.

In a statement, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said he would continue to work to bring companies of all sizes to Brooklyn, despite being rebuffed by Panasonic.


NoLandGrab: Well, we could always take another run at Cracker Barrel. Or not.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, As expected, Panasonic to move within New Jersey, not to Forest City Ratner sites in Brooklyn

As expected, Panasonic will not move its 950 jobs to Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards, or its MetroTech complex, but rather will move within New Jersey.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz issued a statement:

“I am disappointed that Panasonic passed on a chance to bring its big screens to the ‘big stage’ of Brooklyn, U.S.A. Brooklyn is the Creative Capital of America, and there would have been no better place to develop Panasonic’s next ‘ideas for life.’ This doesn’t change Brooklyn’s status as the hottest place to do business in New York City, and I will continue to work to bring companies of all sizes to Brooklyn. And when the Nets move from Newark to Barclays Center in 2012, it’s going to be a heck of a commute for those Panasonic employees!”

Brooklyn may be good at luring food and drink establishments, or small creative companies, but it sure is not the "hottest place" to do business when it comes to office space.

Posted by eric at 11:13 PM

Forest City executive says shrinking arena to preclude major league hockey was conscious choice, downplays modular construction as "research project"

Atlantic Yards Report

So much for Nets CEO Brett Yormark's coy statements about how arena promoters would "would love the [New York] Islanders [hockey team] to play a couple of games at the Barclays Center."

It's long been suspected that the arena would be too small to accommodate major league hockey, and even a market analysis commissioned by Forest City Ratner stated that "the arena would need to be retrofitted to accommodate the ice-making abilities the NHL requires for its franchises."

Last week, Bob Sanna, Forest City Ratner Executive VP for Construction, told a Pratt Institute School of Architecture audience that, to design a smaller arena that could be financed, "we made some pretty deliberate decisions early on: we weren't going to have a [professional] hockey team."

He noted that, to make an ice floor, the seats move in one direction only, which doesn't make for good hockey sightlines.

That doesn't preclude some hockey games, just a season. The tight, smaller arena--675,000 square feet in the Ellerbe Becket (plus SHoP on the facade) design, opposed to 850,000 square feet in the original Frank Gehry design--furthers a focus on basketball.

Reality, of course, never prevented Yormark, Bruce Ratner and others from misleadingly dangling the notion of a resident pro hockey team during the process of selling arena bonds.

[Sanna] spoke as part of the Pratt Institute's spring 2011 School of Architecture Lecture Series. While Sanna's lecture, according to the promotion, was titled "Development as a Contact Sport," it was more a nuts-and-bolts description of the challenges faced by construction managers on such a project, and a class of would-be construction managers made up the bulk of the audience.

What about the developer's modular plans?

Sanna again said it was a question outside the scope of his presentation but downplayed it as "an experiment... It is for all intents and purposes a research project."

If it's a research project, perhaps it's a negotiating ploy with the unions.

Or perhaps Forest City Ratner just isn't ready to tip its hand.


NoLandGrab: If history and Forest City Ratner executives teach us one thing, it's that nothing they say can ever be trusted.

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

Tug o' war for B'klyn biz bucks

NY Post
by Rich Calder

There’s a turf war heating up in Downtown Brooklyn.

At stake is control of a striving Business Improvement District representing 25 square blocks in and around Metro Tech Center.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a public-private entity created by the Bloomberg administration in 2006 to spur local economic development, is trying to seize control of Metro Tech BID.

But, unlike two nearby Downtown BIDs that quietly agreed to partnership takeovers in 2010, board members for Metro Tech BID are split.

A faction, including top brass, refuse to award the partnership a $300,000-a-year contract to run the BID – despite pressure from City Hall and developer Forest City Ratner, which built Metro Tech’s office complex in the 1980s.

“It’s dead wrong to have one group be Downtown Brooklyn’s only voice, and this would set a bad precedent for all city BIDs, ” said Michael Weiss, Metro Tech BID’s executive director.

The partnership is paid $220,000 yearly to run smaller, adjacent BIDs representing Fulton Mall and the Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn streets corridor.

Weiss -- who’d lose his $165,000-a-year job through the merger -- said the plan would “devastate services” for small businesses and the neighborhood’s growing residential community because the partnership “usually puts large developers’ needs first.”

Forest City officials, including CEO Bruce Ratner, hold seven of the 33 voting board seats at the BID.


Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

April 18, 2011

When it comes to Wal-Mart plans, Lewis (ex-ACORN) decries linkage between store and affordable housing; what about the arena linkage?

Atlantic Yards Report

From an article in City Hall News headlined Critics Accuse Developers Of Obfuscating Plans To Bring Wal-Mart To NYC:

In a letter addressed to Related Companies CEO Stephen Ross, Wal-Mart critics accused the real estate developer and their allies of knowingly spreading falsehoods about the benefit of siting the big box store. Related is the organization widely believed to be in negotiations to bring Wal-Mart to East New York in Brooklyn.

The charge stems from a recent Housing Preservation and Development hearing, which dealt with the transfer of city-owned Gateway Commercial land to Related. According to Bertha Lewis, former head of the now-defunct ACORN who co-authored the letter, a lawyer representing Related conflated the transfer of land for mall construction with affordable housing.

...“Good people can disagree, but be transparent and honest,” said Ms. Lewis in reference to Related. “If you are negotiating to bring a Wal-Mart to Gateway II, say that. Don’t say that it’s about housing.”

Well, a not dissimilar kind of conflation occurred 3/11/10, when Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Forest City Ratner/Barclays issued press releases touting the ceremonial arena groundbreaking, promising it would bring affordable housing in its wake.

It hasn't. It's been delayed, as Forest City Ratner considers the radical, cost-cutting step of modular construction.


Posted by eric at 10:59 AM



At rumur we tend to make films that focus on people who go against the grain of the system. As we have matured, our characters have matured, but they are still outsiders who have difficulty going with the flow when the flow is going in a different direction than they think it should.

The point of all this is that as filmmakers we are drawn towards stories of outsiders who try to have some impact on others. Battle for Brooklyn follows in the direct footsteps of these other films. A few days after we started following Patti Hagan around the Atlantic Yards site (Patti started the fight against the project) she suggested that we meet Daniel Goldstein because she thought he was one of the only people who wouldn’t easily be bought out by the developer or scared of eminent domain. Not only did we know Daniel but he had designed the artwork for [our film] “Radiation”. She was of course right.

While some filmmaker might have followed this story with a “newsy” fact finding eye we chose to see our character as a way into a deeper emotional understanding of the impacts. Now it’s our job to get people to understand that so they don’t think we’ve failed as filmmakers because we haven’t exclusively focused on the facts.


Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

April 17, 2011

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership aims to take over MetroTech BID funding; yes, Forest City Ratner's involved

Atlantic Yards Report

Opponents of Atlantic Yards would be glad to see Atlantic Yards cheerleader, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, just go away. The Partnership is essentially a representative of developers, including Bruce Ratner, and has lost much of it's funding after accomplishing very little. Now it's trying to stay in existence by taking over the Metrotech BID and its more substantial funding.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a reliable cheerleader for Atlantic Yards, and once (and perhaps still) under investigation for improper lobbying, is in a tussle over funding with one of its components--and, yes, Forest City Ratner is entangled in it.

In an article April 14 headlined Brooklyn BID takeover moves forward, Crain's Insider reported:

Allies of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership have managed, for now, to beat back a proposal aimed at blocking its ability to usurp funding from the MetroTech BID, which it oversees.

The BID held an emergency meeting yesterday that was attended by board members, Bloomberg administration staff, and lawyers for some of downtown's largest developers. The sole item on the agenda: revising the BID's conflict-of-interest policy.

...“This is not just about MetroTech,” said BID President Victoria Aviles. “This is about all the BIDs in New York City and how umbrella organizations can take them over.”

Despite her efforts, opponents managed to stall the vote after lawyers for Forest City Ratner and Muss Development criticized the proposed conflict-of-interest proposal for being vague. Following an onslaught of hoots and hollers, members voted to form a committee that will review the policy.

The DBP has seen its city funding decline, while BIDs are funded by extra tax assessments. The DBP manages three BIDs: the MetroTech BID, Fulton Mall Improvement Association, and the Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID.

The MetroTech BID board next meets May 5.

The back story

In a 7/11/10 article headlined A partnership slows in Downtown B'klyn: Stalled merger exposes political divisions, Crain's reported:

The seed money it was getting from the city, a robust $2 million only two years ago, has plunged to a mere $250,000, forcing it to shed personnel and accelerate a long-envisioned takeover of three local business-improvement districts and their reliable revenue streams. But the longtime head of one BID has balked, and local politicians have put the merger on hold.

The partnership must pull off the ambitious reorganization if it is to survive as anything but a shell. The BIDs would account for $5 million of the organization's proposed $7.5 million budget for the fiscal year that began this month. Member contributions would total just $340,000.

Meanwhile, some Brooklyn City Council members—who view the organization as an arm of the Bloomberg administration, characterized by big salaries and nebulous accomplishments—want it disbanded.

The leader of the MetroTech BID, Michael Weiss, seeing the potential loss of his job in the reorganization, has "rounded up political support to stall it," Crain's said.

Crain's reported:

[DBP President] Mr. [Joe] Chan declined to comment, but his spokesman, Lee Silberstein, paints a bright picture of the partnership's accomplishments and future. “On balance, this is playing out as it was supposed to,” he says, noting that the partnership enjoys strong support from the downtown Brooklyn business community, including titans like developer Bruce Ratner, banker Alan Fishman and former KeySpan chief Robert Catell.

Ratner to the rescue?

Crain's reported:

But Councilwoman Letitia James says Mr. Chan miscalculated in his handling of Mr. Weiss's BID. “Joe's usurpation of MetroTech was not wise, was not smart politically. He did not do his homework and is now suffering the consequences,” she says.

Mr. Ratner tried to broker a compromise by offering Mr. Weiss a job paying more than the $165,000 he is making, but Mr. Weiss declined.

“Right now, we're at a standstill,” says Ms. James. “We're trying to work something out.”


Posted by steve at 10:59 PM

Pocketbook Protector Found On Washington


Yeah, we know this add refers to bargain hunting, but it could just as easily be the kind of protection needed at Bruce Ratner's nearby, crime-ridden malls.

Posted by steve at 10:56 PM

April 16, 2011

Flashback, 2005: Watch for Ratner’s 'bait and switch' (on Gehry designs)

Atlantic Yards Report

In a 9/10/05 letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Paper, headlined Watch for Ratner’s 'bait and switch', Boerum Hill resident Dan Wiley was prescient:

I commend architect Frank Gehry for trying to make buildings wiggle like fish in developer Bruce Ratner’s arena/office/housing mega-complex. However, how many times have we seen renowned architects come up with early innovative designs for projects needing zoning and other approvals and than see those designs fade with the stamp of approval?

...But even if we were to accept these architectural promises at face value, would they be so great anyway? Isn’t this Gehry project simply putting a slippery skin on what is really at heart a dehumanizing Modernist series of super blocks? Maybe what we need are not whales or sharks (eminent domain) but rather smaller fish that have some respect for the coral of Brooklyn. That’s what Gehry should work on.

Of course Gehry's now gone, with the arena designed by sports specialist Ellerbe Becket (with a skin by buzzy firm SHoP), and the towers designed by SHoP and other architects yet to be named.


Posted by steve at 10:35 PM

April 15, 2011

Most politicians, Michael Ratner claimed, are "corrupt assholes;" he joked about having prosecutors evicted from Bruce's building

Atlantic Yards Report

You just don't get these kinds of finds anywhere other than Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report.

Developer Bruce Ratner's brother, and ally, appears in Brandt Goldstein's 2006 book Storming the Court: How a Band of Yale Law Students Sued the President--and Won, excerpted below:

[Law student] Lisa [Daugaard] met [Professor] Harold Koh in the spring of 1991, as a second-year student in his international business transactions class, known as IBT...

After the IBT class, she'd seen enough: Koh was of the system, by the system, and for the system. She would never have dealt with him again had it not been for a radical New York lawyer on campus named Michael Ratner. To Lisa, Ratner was the anti-Koh. Bearded, bald, and fond of quoting Che Guevara, he'd represented everyone from inmates in the 1971 Attica prison rebellion to Nicaraguan citizens attacked by U.S.-funded contras. Ratner had come of age at Columbia Law School during the Vietnam War, and he considered most politicians "corrupt assholes." Along with his colleagues at the Center for Constitutional Rights, he'd even sued to halt the president from sending U.S. troops into battle. Twice. "What's the purpose of going along with the status quo?" Ratner would ask. "The government has enough paid people to do their dirty work."

(Emphasis added)

Mr. Ratner, meet Mr. Kruger.

Read on for another telling excerpt.


NoLandGrab: As Norman Oder goes on to point out, the Atlantic Yards-investor Michael Ratner went on to bestow some quite lavish campaign gifts on a good number of "corrupt assholes" (Ratner's words, not ours).

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

Tucked Between Past and Future in Brooklyn


The New York Times
by Joseph Plambeck

On the north side of Prospect Heights in northwestern Brooklyn, construction workers are busy building the Barclays Center, the future home of the New Jersey Nets.

On the neighborhood’s south side sit several of the borough’s most venerable cultural institutions and attractions.

And in between is an evolving neighborhood that is also a blend of the old and the young, the established and the newcomers.

When Honey Moon Ubarde and her husband were moving to New York from San Francisco in 2007, they knew they needed space. They had lived in Manhattan before, but now with two young girls and several pets, they set their sights on Brooklyn. They ended up in Prospect Heights, buying a town house for about $1.3 million.

Some friends questioned the location, Ms. Ubarde, 34, said, but she had no doubts. “We were surprised that more people hadn’t moved here,” she said, “that more people didn’t see everything that’s around this location.”

Her home is just a few blocks from some of Brooklyn’s most heavily trafficked destinations, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Prospect Park.

Brokers and residents say that in the last decade there have been many families of new arrivals sharing Ms. Ubarde’s response to the area.

As Michael Ettelson, an agent for Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, put it, Prospect Heights “went from a neighborhood many people hadn’t heard of to a place that a lot of people want to be.”


NoLandGrab: But didn't Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation claim the neighborhood was blighted?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Times Real Estate section returns to Prospect Heights, finds not blight but "a place that a lot of people want to be"

The latest Living In/Prospect Heights, Brooklyn article for the New York Times Real Estate section, online now and destined for the Sunday paper April 17, is headlined Tucked Between Past and Future in Brooklyn, and should be read in concert with the four previous "Living In" articles published from 1985 through 2005, which I cataloged in October 2006.

In 1999, the headline was A Diverse Neighborhood Spruces Up in a Turnaround, while in 2005 it was A Neighborhood Comes Into Its Own.

While Prospect Heights is more economically diverse than, say, neighboring Park Slope, thanks to a larger number of rent-regulated buildings, you wouldn't get that from the latest article. (It does quote a resident as saying the drug dealers are long gone.)

The Times reports:

Another big change is the Atlantic Yards development, Bruce C. Ratner’s 22-acre residential and commercial project, which includes the Barclays Center and has many vocal critics. So far, several brokers said, the project has not substantially affected real estate prices. The arena is scheduled to open in September 2012.

Atlantic Yards, Mr. Ettelson said, was a bigger concern among prospective buyers four or five years ago, when all people had to go on about the development was drawings and the like. Now, he said, “they see a stadium going up, and people are not necessarily positive about it, but they feel more confident.”

Well, there's likely a tension between wanting a scarce and valuable resource--a row house in a desirable neighborhood near transit--and coping with the increase in traffic on select streets.

I'd suggest that "prospective buyers" should not be chosen as the primary constituency for judging the impact of Atlantic Yards. What about the people who live there?

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

Big Deal Pending at Ratner's Metrotech

NY Observer
by Jotham Sederstrom

Polytechnic Institute of New York University, the private engineering college in downtown Brooklyn, is nearing a deal for approximately 9,000 square feet of office and administrative space at Metrotech Center, sources familiar with the process told The Observer yesterday.

Currently occupying space at the Forest City Ratner-owned 5 and 6 MetroTech as well as nearby space at the historic Wunsch Building at 311 Bridge Street, the 157-year-old school is exploring space at both 1 and 4 MetroTech Center, the sources said.


NoLandGrab: 9,000 square feet doesn't sound like a very big deal. Maybe they're missing a zero?

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

April 14, 2011

ESDC CEO Adams, asked about AY at third Senate Committee, calls arena the project's "core," fully supports project, expresses optimism about buildout

Atlantic Yards Report

This updates and corrects my coverage of last week's set of state Senate hearings on the nomination of Kenneth Adams as President and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

I mentioned two committee hearings on 4/5/11, but missed another, that involving the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee. And at that hearing, unlike the other two, Adams was asked briefly about Atlantic Yards.

Adams expressed optimism that the delayed project would proceed, spoke vaguely about ensuring community voices would be heard, and, when asked about eminent domain, changed the subject to explain how, with incentives for projects smaller than Atlantic Yards, the state does better to ensure that promised results be delivered before benefits are paid out.

He described Atlantic Yards as a project that his agency fully supports. No one challenged him on how such support, manifested in contracts like the Development Agreement that give the developer a long leash, can be harmonized with incentives that ensure promised results are delivered.

Click through for more, including video.


Posted by eric at 12:55 PM

New Bike Map Is Out: In Microcosm the Conflict of City Planning Policy Re Car-Oriented Atlantic Yards

Noticing New York

The new 2011 bike map is out. As our constantly changing city shape-shifts into new incarnations, the map presents in microcosm public policy conflicts respecting the transportational characteristics planners want the city to assume in the future.

The interesting thing about this year’s map is its cover, celebrating brownstone Brooklyn with a picture of the Hoyt Street bike lane going through Cobble Hill. The intersection shown is Hoyt Street and Dean. Dean Street is another street providing bikers with a bike lane route through what is currently brownstone Brooklyn.

Ironically, the Hoyt and Dean intersection is just .6 miles or 3 minutes away from the car-centric (and parking lot-centric) Atlantic Yards megadevelopment proposed by developer (and heavy subsidy collector) Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner (now working in conjunction with Russian Oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov). The negligible distance can also be measured as the distance of four long blocks and one very short one.

If this distance doesn’t strike you as short, if it seems enough to put Ratner’s mega-monopoly at a safe and sufficient remove, we can also put things into perspective this way: It is actually less than the .7 mile distance one will need to travel to get from one corner of Ratner’s vast mega-monopoly to the other. Remember also that bikers using the Dean Street bike lane will have their brownstone reveries interrupted for a couple of blocks when they have to travel alongside the intimidating and unprecedentedly dense Ratner/Prokhorov car-oriented Atlantic Yards design (and planning) fiasco. That is, of course, if New York politicians continue to let Ratner/Prokhorov continue building it for the next several decades, piling on a rich slather of disproportionately favorable subsidies.


Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

Brooklyn BID takeover moves forward

Crain's NY Business

Look who's meddling in a downtown Brooklyn power struggle.

Allies of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership have managed, for now, to beat back a proposal aimed at blocking its ability to usurp funding from the MetroTech BID, which it oversees.

The BID held an emergency meeting yesterday that was attended by board members, Bloomberg administration staff, and lawyers for some of downtown's largest developers. The sole item on the agenda: revising the BID's conflict-of-interest policy.

The proposed revision, many agree, would make it next to impossible for BID board members who also sit on the partnership's board to vote to divert money from the BID to the partnership.

“This is not just about MetroTech,” said BID President Victoria Aviles. “This is about all the BIDs in New York City and how umbrella organizations can take them over.”

Despite her efforts, opponents managed to stall the vote after lawyers for Forest City Ratner and Muss Development criticized the proposed conflict-of-interest proposal for being vague. Following an onslaught of hoots and hollers, members voted to form a committee that will review the policy.

article [registration required]

The delay tactic rankled board members who believe that the partnership and its deep-pocketed friends are gunning for a power play. “It's about money,” said Vincent Battista, a downtown Brooklyn business owner. “It's not about serving the community.”

BIDs enjoy a reliable revenue stream from property tax assessments. Some have argued that because the partnership's funding from the city is drying up, its survival depends, in part, on money it can pull from the MetroTech BID and two others in downtown Brooklyn. “They're looking for bailouts on the backs of the BIDs,” said one insider.

Not so, the partnership says: It's simply trying to fulfill one of its original missions, which is to consolidate the services of various organizations in downtown Brooklyn. There is no takeover, supporters claim.

“Those arguments and other ploys are an attempt by a deeply embedded BID bureaucrat to maintain his position,” said an insider, referring to Mike Weiss, executive director of the MetroTech BID. A wily veteran of city politics, Weiss has maneuvered for a year to stymie the partnership's plans. The MetroTech BID board meets again May 5.

Posted by eric at 12:02 PM

In Little Noticed Move, NBA Takes Control of BrooklynNets.com


The NBA has taken control of the url, BrooklynNets.com, and now automatically directs traffic from that link to the BarclaysCenter.com NetsBasketball page. According to the domain's history, the web address was controlled for years by a motorcycle site, which first registered it in 2003, not long after Bruce Ratner expressed interest in buying the team. On March 21, NBA Media Ventures LLC at the league's New York headquarters was listed as the website's registrant for the first time.

For years, the site featured one page, featuring a drawing of a basketball player and a top-hatted, tuxedo-wearing, one-eyed plutocrat doing battle and the phrase, "Tim Hailey's Brooklyn Nets vs. The Residents".


Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

Confirmed: Atlantic Yards is Toxic

Vials containing lethal doses of arsenic were found on the Atlantic Yards construction sites.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

Locals in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards construction site have long felt the project was toxic – turns out, it really is.

A recent construction update from developer Forest City Ratner revealed that vials of arsenic were uncovered on the site – the same highly toxic metal famously used to murder lonely old men in the Joseph Kesselring play Arsenic and Old Lace.

Though developers expected to find an abundance on toxins on the site – including metals such as arsenic – the Empire State Development Corporation said that finding actual vials of the stuff on a construction site is highly unusual.

“It is suspected that the vials were from an old pharmacy,” said Elizabeth Mitchell, a spokesperson for ESDC, the state agency that oversees the project.

“Elevated arsenic concentrations may be encountered at urban and agricultural sites due to past industrial and agricultural uses; it is unusual, however, to encounter vials containing arsenic concentrations.”


Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Arsenic Vials and Library Cuts

A puzzling discovery at the Atlantic Yards work site was mentioned in a construction update for the week of March 28 to April 10. Workers found vials of arsenic in dug up soil on the site. Prospect Heights Patch reports that the vials may have come from an old pharmacy, according to Empire State Development Corporation spokesperson Elizabeth Mitchell. The soil around the vials tested at below the Environmental Protection Agency’s limits, Ms. Mitchell told Atlantic Yards Report, but it is being treated as hazardous waste, and will be taken to a disposal facility, possibly in Michigan, within the next two to three weeks.

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

April 13, 2011

Here comes the bribe: Kruger hit with more charges

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

More crimes have been added to the morass of charges filed against state Sen. Carl Kruger — leaving the embattled legislator in even hotter water than he was before.

An indictment released last week adds bribery to the fraud and money laundering charges filed against Kruger (D–Brighton Beach) last month.

If convicted on all counts, Kruger, 61, would face 90 years in prison. He would also have to pay more than $10 million in fines.

During an arraignment hearing on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Harrington told U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff that he has 100,000 documents and 30,000 recorded phone conversations that establish his case.

Kruger is accused of taking close to $1 million in bribes from lobbyist Richard Lipsky, Brooklyn developer Aaron Malinsky, David Rosen, the former CEO of Brookdale Hospital, and a handful of other hospital officials between 2006 and 2010.

During the brief hearing, attorneys for four of the legislator’s would-be co-conspirators, including Turano, announced that they were planning to sever their cases from the senator, apparently believing they’ll have a better chance with a jury without Kruger’s alleged crimes dragging them down. Severing the cases would also improve a defendant’s chances of a plea deal as they approach trial.

Defense attorneys say severing their cases from Kruger’s is logical since the FBI’s case involves several different conspiracies that do not involve all of the defendants.

“It’s a confusing indictment,” attorney Jeff Lefcourt, who is defending Lipsky, said. “It alleges six different conspiracies, but my client isn’t in all of them.”


Posted by eric at 2:45 PM

Arsenic Discovered at Atlantic Yards Construction Site

The L Magazine
by Henry Stewart

While excavating soil at the Atlantic Yards construction site, workers discovered several small vials of arsenic, Atlantic Yards Report reports. The state says the situation is under control: all affected soil has been contained and "will be inspected daily to ensure secure containment and compliance with the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan," reads a report from Forest City Ratner. Other areas of the site will be tested to ensure that no surrounding or underlying soil was contaminated.

In the next two or three weeks, the soil will be removed, treated and disposed of by a facility in Belleville, MI. "Until then," a spokesperson for the Empire State Development Corporation told Norman Oder, "the soil is stored onsite and is sealed on top of and under plastic."

Where vials of arsenic came from, nobody knows. A voo-doo ritual to "poison" the project, perhaps? Nice try, anyway.


Posted by eric at 9:25 AM

Congress considers bill restricting eminent domain for economic development; Institute for Justice backs bill, professor warns against it

Atlantic Yards Report

Will Congress reform eminent domain? Yesterday the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on H.R. 1433, the "Private Property Rights Protection Act," which would prohibit states or political subdivisions to exercise eminent domain (or allow such exercise) over property to be used for economic development.

It drew both strong support and harsh criticism from a split panel of witnesses.

This reprises a similar bill passed by the House of Representatives in reaction to the Supreme Court's controversial 2005 Kelo v. New London decision, which upheld eminent domain for economic development.

(The previous vote was 376-38, indicating bipartisan consensus; it's likely the Republican-dominated House would still support the bill, though perhaps without such consensus. The Senate, Democratic then and now, never voted.)

However, it would not have any effect on agencies pursuing eminent domain under the justification of blight removal, as in the state of New York.

Dana Berliner, Senior Attorney for the Institute of Justice, testified [PDF] that, after the Kelo decision, "the floodgates opened," as the rate of eminent domain abuse tripled. One of her five examples:

Last year, the New York Court of Appeals--the state's highest court--allowed the condemnation of perfectly fine homes and businesses for two separate projects. First, a new baksetball arena and residential and office towers in Brooklyn, and then for the expansion of Columbia University--an elite, private institution--into Harlem.

Note that the justification in both cases was blight, not economic development, though there's obviously conceptual overlap.

Berliner observed that, while some states have reformed their laws, "it remains a major problem in many other states," with New York the worst state in the country, "and it has gotten even worse since Kelo." (There's broad consensus on that.)


Posted by eric at 8:51 AM

After mediation, Prime 6 owner agrees to give up backyard bar, close backyard seating area by midnight on weekends

Atlantic Yards Report

Thanks in part to mediation by the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, there's Finally, A Compromise Over Prime 6, as Park Slope Patch reports.

There's a vote tonight at Community Board 6, which is expected to ask the State Liquor Authority to enumerate the agreement in Prime 6's liquor license.


Posted by eric at 8:43 AM

April 12, 2011

picture is locked

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

We locked picture (at least on the first reel) and the sound mixer, Alex at resoundpost, is hard at work on the sound mix. In a couple of days filmmaker Greg King (Our House) will start doing finish work on the picture.

This morning we have been working with our indispensable composer David Reid, who along with Derek Bermel, has been creating tracks for the film*. David and Derek didn't know what they bargained for 5 months ago when they agreed to give their time to the project. We were working via email but David lives about 300 meters away. In fact, Greg, David, and Alex all have one thing in common. They live and work within a mile of our home/office and within a mile of the Atlantic Yards footprint. We didn't set out to work with only Brooklyn based people, it just so happens that we live in an incredible neighborhood, surrounded by talented artists who have a powerful sense of community. We are also using photos by AY documenters Tracy Collins and Jonathan Barkey.

Speaking of Brooklyn, we have some exciting news about showing the film here. We're still working out the details but within a couple of months the film should be making an epic splash where it needs to be seen most. We'll let you know where in a few weeks.

*In addition to the score that David and Derek have created specifically for the film, we are using a number of tracks by the band Tristeza. They have been incredibly generous with their music, and sent us countless tracks to work with. The one piece of music we still need is an Arcade Fire song- so if you happen to be friends with them- please let them know this is an important project ;)


NoLandGrab: You got that? If any of you know somebody who knows somebody who knows one of the members of Arcade Fire, let them know that one of their songs is key to a critical scene in Battle for Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 11:27 PM

House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution Hearing on H.R. 1433: “Private Property Rights Protection Act”

Institute for Justice Media Advisory

The House heard testimony today on a bill aimed at reining in eminent domain.

In an increasingly partisan nation, one issue unites Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives: reforming eminent domain laws to end the use of public power for private gain. A bipartisan bill being considered in Congress right now would greatly discourage this abuse of power by stripping federal funding from any municipality that condemns private property for private development. This would finally provide some federal protection for the property rights of all Americans, especially the poorest and most-vulnerable, from the alliance of land-hungry developers and tax-hungry government officials.

H.R. 1433 (the “Private Property Rights Protection Act”) cosponsored by Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Maxine Waters (D-CA), prohibits states and municipalities from using eminent domain for private development if they have received federal economic development funds. It also prohibits the federal government from using eminent domain for economic development, which is defined as taking private property and transferring it to another private person to increase tax revenue, jobs or general economic growth. A nearly identical bill that was introduced immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Kelo v. City of New London passed the House overwhelmingly by a vote of 376-38, with the Senate never voting on passage.

Importantly, the bill would still allow eminent domain for traditional public uses like public utilities, roads and post offices, and would also allow local officials to remove properties that pose an immediate threat to public health and safety and put abandoned property to productive use.


Posted by eric at 11:20 PM

Brooklyn Broadside: A Presidential Convention at the Barclays Center?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Somebody's been sneaking an extra glass of sherry (or two).

Sept. 28, 2012. Mark that date on your calendar.

If, like just about everybody, you don’t have a 2012 calendar yet, write it down and put it in a safe place.

Better yet, it is not too early to do some serious long-range planning. That admonishment is directed at the borough president, the mayor, the governor, our two U.S. senators, the Brooklyn congressional delegation (minus the guy from Staten Island), Forest City Ratner, the Brooklyn Nets (or whatever) and the National Basketball Association.

Those who pay attention to such things will note that Sept. 28, 2012 is the scheduled date for the official opening of the Barclays Center, Brooklyn’s new basketball arena. Brooklyn, at long last, will have once more a major-league professional franchise.

Wait. We thought the Nets were moving into the Barclays Center.

Thoughts are already being more or less certified for a three-week gala of opening events. This is only proper. What is also proper is that President Obama should be the premier ribbon cutter, or the first to make the first “official” basket.

There are two reasons why. One is obvious. He is the basketball player in chief. He plays the game all the time. It is not at all improper to think of the president officiating at the opening of the nation’s newest, and probably most compelling indoor sports arena.

(It is also not improper to, sometime in the future, contemplate holding the Democratic National Convention at Barclays Center, but that is a different mission for a different day.)

There is another reason, less obvious, but more important than the fact that Obama has a good jump shot. By that date, the 2012 presidential election will be in full swing, and we know who the Democratic candidate will be.


NoLandGrab: We're going to go out on a limb here and predict that the last place President Obama will be cutting a ribbon six weeks before the 2012 presidential election is on an eminent-domain abusing, subsidy-sucking, back-room-deal hatched billion-dollar boondoggle that'll be home to a horrendous basketball team owned by a Russian oligarch.

Posted by eric at 11:03 PM

Finally, A Compromise Over Prime 6

After over a month of arguments between community members and a restaurant owner, a deal was negotiated.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

The owner of a controversial Park Slope bar and restaurant has agreed to a bevy of demands, including closing his backyard seating area by 11 p.m. on weekdays and 12 a.m. on weekends.

Akiva Ofshtein, owner of Prime 6, the restaurant under construction at Flatbush and Sixth avenues, agreed to the laundry list of stipulations after a group of irate local residents insisted that the eatery change its hours, backyard setup and even requested a new liquor license hearing.

Ofshtein also ditched plans for a backyard bar, nixed any possibility of bottle service and promised to meet with Community Board 6 after one year to discuss any recurring problems.

“I feel like both sides had to do a little compromising in order to make everybody feel comfortable,” said Ofshtein, adding, “I still think they’re upset with me a little prematurely.”

The compromise comes after over a month of discussions between Ofshtein and a group of residents who live near the eatery, which is slated to open next month. Throngs of fuming residents stormed a March CB6 meeting, furious over rumors that the locale would be a nightlife hotspot catering to the Barclay’s arena crowd and even angrier that the restaurant had already been granted a liquor license without appearing before the community board.


Posted by eric at 10:09 PM

State Sen. Kruger pleads not guilty to bribery

Democratic Sen. Carl Kruger of Brooklyn pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he took $1 million in bribes for helping a developer, a lobbyist and two hospital executives.

AP via Crain's NY Business

A New York state senator has pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he took $1 million in bribes in a federal influence-peddling case.

Democratic Sen. Carl Kruger of Brooklyn entered the plea Tuesday. The hearing came days after prosecutors boosted charges against him, adding bribery.

Outside court in Manhattan, Mr. Kruger's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said his client "never accepted bribes from anyone for any matter, and he never abused his office in any way whatsoever."

In court, Mr. Brafman said a substantial number of 30,000 calls intercepted by the FBI during the investigation involved his client either directly or indirectly.


NoLandGrab: 30,000 calls intercepted by the FBI. Wonder who might be sweating that?

Posted by eric at 10:03 PM

N.J./BKN NETS ~ The Billboard Wars Continue; Nets Claiming Their Turf

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger

While the Nets' season might be coming to a close after playing to a less than desirable record, and while their cross-Hudson River rivals are making preparations for the post-season and the Boston Celtics, there is one key match-up in-where the Nets stand toe to toe with the Knicks: Signage.

"Less than desirable?" How about awful?

The Nets launched their latest offensive in the Battle of the Billboards.

Unfortunately, billboards don't win games or sell tickets. Especially this one.

Yesterday, the Nets unveiled a second billboard in Brooklyn featuring Deron Williams and Barclays Center. It follows the same theme as their Times Square ad focusing on the move to the Borough of Kings.
 It Reads:



NoLandGrab: Apparently the Nets haven't rehired the marketing staff they laid off in April 2009. Surely they didn't pay someone to come up with that line.

Posted by eric at 9:51 PM

"The Good Wife" shoots at the arena site (but it's not about Atlantic Yards)

Atlantic Yards Report

A camera crew is at the Atlantic Yards arena site this morning, at the Pacific Street entrance from Sixth Avenue.

However, at least according to the personnel there, it had nothing to do with the project; rather, it was a general construction scene for The Good Wife, the CBS legal drama.


Posted by eric at 12:22 PM

Consultant: arena remains ahead of schedule, but substantial completion date nudged back, final completion date pushed back

Atlantic Yards Report

According the 4/4/11 Site Observation Report on the Barclays Center arena construction, produced by Merritt & Harris, consultants to the real estate lending and investment community, the arena is still ahead of schedule.

Indeed, as the graphic indicates, actual spending (white dot) exceeds projected spending (black dot), though it's still early days.

Falling behind?

But other data indicate that the arena is falling slightly behind earlier predictions:

  • the substantial completion date has been nudged back two weeks from 8/12/12 to 8/27/12
  • a final completion date, involving punch list work and subcontractor close-outs, has been pushed back three-and-a-half months, from 2/28/13 to 6/14/13.

None of this jeopardizes the announced arena grand opening date of 9/28/12, a month after the substantial completion date. However, if additional glitches crop up, it may get tougher for arena promoters to fulfill this plan, as stated in a 4/5/11 press release:

Prior to the official Grand Opening on September 28, the Barclays Center plans to use the first several weeks of September 2012 to host public events and tours to welcome and introduce the Brooklyn community to its new building.


Posted by eric at 7:31 AM

April 11, 2011


The Boombox
by Nadeska Alexis

The University of Kentucky celebrated their Elite 8 victory in the recent NCAA tournament with a visit from Jay-Z that will now cost the mogul and his New Jersey Nets a $50,000 fine.

Following the March 27 game at Newark's Prudential Center, Hov paid a visit to the Kentucky Wildcats' locker room where he congratulated players on their victory over the University of North Carolina. He also offered a few motivational words for their upcoming run in the Final Four series, but when photos and videos of the interaction surfaced, the NBA launched an investigation into Jay's visit.

Due to his minority stake ownership in the New Jersey Nets, Mr. Carter's contact with amateur players was deemed a violation of rules. Two Wildcats team members -- Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight -- are potential lottery picks in the upcoming NBA draft. Although Jay-Z's visit to the locker room was reportedly not for recruitment purposes, NBA rules prohibit team owners from having unnecessary contact with the players until their official declare themselves for the NBA Draft.


Posted by eric at 11:13 PM

At the AY site, soil contains "a limited amount of small vials containing arsenic," but that arsenic's pretty dangerous; state says it's under control

Atlantic Yards Report

You never know what you'll find at a construction site, apparently, including potentially lethal concentrations of arsenic. But the state says it's under control.

From the ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE [PDF], weeks of March 28, 2011 through April 10, 2011, produced by Forest City Ratner and circulated by the Empire State Development Corporation:

Soil discovered during excavation that contains a limited amount of small vials containing arsenic has been covered with and staged on plastic on the southern area of Block 1127. The stockpiles of soil have been secured and will be inspected daily to ensure secure containment and compliance with the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan. The origin of these vials is unknown. Samples of this soil and vials have been collected and are being analyzed to evaluate proper off-site disposal options. Endpoint samples have been collected from the area where the vials were first observed in order to ensure that no additional impacts to surrounding or underlying soils have occurred. All remediation work associated with these vials will be performed in accordance with the Hazardous Materials Health and Safety Plan. Several potential disposal facilities are being evaluated and the stockpiled soil may be disposed of offsite during this reporting period at a properly permitted disposal facility.

I asked the ESDC about the next steps, and spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell responded last week:

A permitted disposal facility has been selected, and once the follow-up paper work has been filed, the soil will be removed from the site (expected within the next 2-3 weeks). Until then, the soil is stored onsite and is sealed on top of and under plastic.

The powder in the vials tested at 148 mg/L, and the results from the TCLP (USEPA Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure) testing of the soil currently stored on site tested at 0.02 mg/L. The USEPA regulatory limit for arsenic is 5 mg/L.

FCR’s contractors are treating the soil pile as a hazardous material even though the soil tests showed concentrations well under the EPA regulatory limits. Since the contents of the vials found in the soil are above this limit, it is more practical and a more prudent safety measure to treat the soil pile as a hazardous waste than to try and extract the individual vials from the soil and dispose of them separately.


Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

Nets Future Brooklyn Home Starts Taking Shape

WNYC Radio
by Arun Venugopal

The Barclays Center, the 18,500 seat arena at the center of the still-contentious Atlantic Yards project, is slowly taking shape in Brooklyn. Last week, the New Jersey Nets management announced September 28, 2012, as the opening date for the arena — the team's future home in Brooklyn.

For some residents, the construction of the Barclays Center represents a mix of day-to-day nuisances and long-term concerns.

Edwin Barreto lives next to the construction site and wishes the arena had been located further out in Brooklyn, perhaps closer to Red Hook. He's been frustrated by the loss of parking spaces, but is even more worried about what will happen, once the arena opens and thousands of outsiders start streaming into the neighborhood.

"What's going to happen too is all those people that go in there and drink that beer, they're going to be coming out here, peeing all over the corners, peeing on people's cars," said Barreto. "I've seen it happen in Newark."


NoLandGrab: Putting an arena in Red Hook, with its dearth of transit access, would've made a bad idea even worse. Mr. Barreto is wrong about that, and let's hope he not right about the other thing — though we fear he is.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Arena: "good for Brooklyn, bad for the neighborhood"?

The article closes thusly:

His friend, Sean Carnegie, walking to his son's basketball practice, saw pros and cons in the location of the arena.

"All in all, it's cool," said Carnegie. "It's good for Brooklyn, bad for the neighborhood."

The choice of a this as a closing quote implies that the reporter considers this a legitimate summary.

Indeed, it captures some of the ambiguity: those closest to the arena site will bear the brunt of its impacts, while those farther away, to the extent it fits their pocketbooks, may avail themselves of sports and entertainment events.

Still, it's unlikely that the man-on-the-street assessment of "good for Brooklyn" factors in the elements of a full cost-benefit analysis, including direct subsidies, tax breaks, and the absence of (or delays in) promised project benefits.

Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

April 10, 2011

Times sees dismay at cross-border poaching with subsidies; Panasonic seen as likely to move from Secaucus to Newark, not Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

This blog entry points up the waste of attempts by competing regional government entities to attract big business. All too often big business gets the benefit of taxpayer-financed goodies with little benefit finding its way back to the localities.

In a 4/8/11 article headlined Businesses Stand to Gain Most in Rivalry of States, the New York Times reported:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This city, sharing a name with one state but settled in another, has a long history of ugly border skirmishes dating back to the Civil War. And even today, the annual football showdown here between the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri is referred to as “The Border War.”

But the interstate rivalry has grown fierce on a new battlefield — business — as the two states stage cross-border raids and entice companies with generous incentives to move a few miles and resettle on the other side.

Though some say such moves strengthen communities with new jobs and tax revenue, a growing chorus of leaders on both sides are wondering about the point of it all, warning that the efforts serve only to help private companies at taxpayer expense. Even some beneficiaries confess surprise at neighbors’ competing with such rancor.

...This approach is often criticized by economists like Timothy J. Bartik, who studies state and local economic development policies for the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

"It’s a little bit of a zero sum game,” Mr. Bartik said. “Because one part gains and the other part loses. And the gains are much more modest than the losses.”

This is a completely legitimate good-government argument. And, of course, it applies equally to luring a basketball team across state lines.

Why was the federal government asked to subsidize a new arena in Brooklyn via tax-exempt bonds when a new arena had just been built in Newark?

Panasonic looks to remain in NJ, but move

And why was New York (presumably) being asked to subsidized Panasonic's possible move to Brooklyn, notably to Forest City Ratner properties?

Whatever those lures, it looks like new subsidies are keeping Panasonic in New Jersey, albeit in a new city.

The Star-Ledger reported 4/2/11, Panasonic gives strongest indication yet of a move to Newark

Panasonic Corp. is leaving its American headquarters in Secaucus and has plans to relocate to Newark, according to statements released this week by company officials.

...But the company’s current landlord, Hartz Mountain Industries, is not letting them go without a fight. Hartz filed an appeal on Thursday seeking to stop the state’s Economic Development Authority from issuing a $102 million transit hub tax credit for the move.

"The tortured application of the law in this case has effectively established an open invitation for one New Jersey municipality to poach businesses from another at the taxpayers expense," Allen Magrini, senior vice president of Hartz Mountain, said in a statement. "This was certainly not the intention of our Legislature, especially when, as is the case here, there are no new jobs being created as a result of the $102 million grant."

..."If a company is truly at risk of leaving our state or considering whether to move here, then the issue is not about pitting town against town, it’s about the reality that New Jersey is being pitted against competing states," [attorney Ted] Zangari said. "The ultimate goal is to make sure businesses expand and relocate here."


NoLandGrab: The ESDC, tool of developer Bruce Ratner, has managed to win for us Atlantic Yards, a project nobody wanted, in the name of providing benefits that grow smaller and less likely to appear as time goes on.

Posted by steve at 8:52 PM

Add To Bloomberg’s Other Mistakes: Mistakes In NOT Acknowledging Mistakes, Including A Certain Ratner Mega-Monopoly

Noticing New York

Everyone knows that the first step in correcting a mistake is recognizing when you've made one. Mayor Mike Bloomberg should take a step back, recognize his error in supporting Atlantic Yards and do what he can to fix his mistake.

Atlantic Yards is probably Bloomberg’s supreme mistake. . . . Atlantic Yards is a spectacular example of a decision that was rushed through with improperly forced haste and it is a spectacular example of just how bad the consequences of such thoughtless haste can be.

The Bloomberg administration has implicitly acknowledged the ignominy of its failure with respect to Atlantic Yards. It did so in the way it handled the departure of Deputy Mayor for Development Daniel Doctoroff (see: Atlantic Yards As Political Hot Potato.)

However disgraceful all its lapses, the Bloomberg administration has done nothing to correct the misreckoned Atlantic Yards course it is on. Correction could be made with less difficulty than continuing through the bog in which the city is now steeped. It would be relatively easy to do what is needed which is to take the project back to the drawing board and bid it out to multiple developers. (Yes, this time the megaproject, currently 17 separate building sites, should actually be bid out.) The project is adrift, amorphously ill-defined and the developer repeatedly transgresses with unacceptable behavior that should long ago have disqualified the developer from Bloomberg’s ongoing accommodation and indulgence.


Bloomberg still has the opportunity to walk away from the Atlantic Yards mega-project and declare it a recognized mistake. Bloomberg’s recently departed housing commissioner Rafael Cestero said that Atlantic Yards is not deserving of additional housing subsidies (it, "was not a good public investment"). Such subsidies would be disproportionate and greater than the subsidies that other more deserving projects would be eligible for elsewhere in the city. Nevertheless, given Bloomberg's very recent defense of the megadevelopment (immediately after talking with Bruce Ratner), Atlantic Yards Report is predicting that we should all gird for the awfulness of yet more subsidies for Atlantic Yards courtesy of Mr. Bloomberg. Atlantic Yards Report has an excellent record in making such calls.


Posted by steve at 8:42 PM

From "Solidarity for Sale": how the mob infiltrates construction unions

Atlantic Yards Report

The late Robert Fitch's 2006 book, Solidarity for Sale: How Corruption Destroyed the Labor Movement and Undermined America’s Promise, came from a union supporter, not a critic, so it's full of disappointment and tough love.

He wrote:

Corruption, properly understood as the private use of public office, has been built into the labor movement from its very inception. When union corruption appears in the press, it's usually because of illegal acts: the outright pilfering of union assets or collusion with the boss, selling the members' jobs or giving away their benefits. But a lot of corruption is legal — hiring your relatives, taking excessive salaries, hiring hall favoritism.

Here's a review.

The mob and construction unions

Last October, at the Municipal Art Society Summit for NYC, analyst Julia Vitullo-Martin said, gingerly, "Historically, the mob has been a problem in construction industry."

Now there are hints that leaders in the Carpenters Union, some of them public supporters of Atlantic Yards, have knowledge of mafia ties--at least as suggested by their reported unwillingness to sign a document disavowing such knowledge.

Fitch explained how the system worked:

Most notoriously, the "Theme for The Godfather" regularly serves as background music whenever six-figure construction jobs are in play in New York City. It's hard to avoid the strong arm of the wiseguys when there's so much money to be made from the huge spread between the union rate and the market rate. The contractors can hire non-union labor for as little as $10 an hour with no benefits. Then they charge the owner, the developer, or the government the union rate. The difference will be pocketed by the contractor, minus the cost of bribes to union officials to look the other way. Mob guys--if they're not the contractors themselves--will wind up with at least a couple of points. It's the fee they charge for protection--a vital commodity in the construction field. The more the spread between wages, the more union members getting the premium wages need protection against those seeking their jobs and the more officials who are betraying their members will need protection against those who covet their territories.

He added:

The system turns into a protection racket almost from the beginning. it's always in the interest of the contractor to find a union leader who is most willing to let him cut the corners from the contract. In exchange for concessions, the contractor rewards the union leader with discretionary jobs for his members. The union leader is allowed to choose who works and who sits on a bench in the hiring hall waiting to be called. Soon the union leader has gathered around himself a retinue of clients that further protects him from the broader membership.


Posted by steve at 12:53 AM

“Reverse Morality” Clauses for Celebrity Endorsers: What Are They? Something Celebrities, Including Jay-Z, Should Try Enforcing

Noticing New York

Corporations that make use of celebrity endorsements commonly write protections into contracts to protect themselves case of misbehavior by a celebrity. But there are also reverse-morality clauses to protect the celebrity in case of bad behavior by the corporation. A course presented by Andrew Bondarowicz, Esq. suggests that Jay-Z might need such protection as part of his endorsement of Atlantic Yards?

Unfortunately, while reverse morality clauses are actually becoming more prevalent (Mr. Bondarowicz’s says they were almost unheard of 20-30 years ago but are becoming popular in the post-ENRON environment) they are rarely enforced. Why not?

Mr. Bondarowicz puts it this way:

While the considerations may be very similar, it is very unlikely that morals clauses will be enforced in reverse situations mainly because the brand is the one typically that’s paying the endorser and unless you’re willing to forgo the financial implications of that deal you tend to find a way to work within the relationship. Secondly, the brand sought out the endorser to serve as spokesman for the company and in times of crisis it becomes even more advantageous to utilize the services of that endorsement to regain credibility and trust with the public.

That rather delicado lawyer-speak can be translated thus: If the endorser enforces the reverse morals clause they will lose a paycheck, but if they work something out with "the brand" to avoid the clause being triggered they just might get paid even more as they bail the corporation out in its days of crisis.


...Forest City Ratner is now in a time of crisis. In fact, if you apply the triggers above in the list of standards that usually apply to paid endorsers, Forest City Ratner has by the judgment of many of us crossed quite a few of those lines, at least in the “softer categories.” As for the “harder” categories, there hasn’t yet been a conviction for felony or misdemeanor or a criminal indictment, but many would convincingly argue that Forest City Ratner is dancing uncomfortably close to those triggers as well. - - Does all this mean that Jay-Z’s paycheck is going up?


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Jay-Z, "a reverse morals clause," and the flexibility of morality

Michael D. D. White, in his Noticing New York blog, suggests that Jay-Z's take from Forest City Ratner might be going up because of a "reverse morals clause" triggered by the company's questionable behavior.

Perhaps, but Jay-Z himself is hardly pure, not merely his unquestioning endorsement of Atlantic Yards, but the $50,000 fine the Nets recently incurred because Jay-Z inappropriately visited the locker room of the Kentrucky Wildcats.

Ultimately, I suspect Jay-Z's fine with it all as long as he can open the Barclays Center with some hugely promoted concerts.

Posted by steve at 12:26 AM

Catering Hall’s Plan for a Hotel Upsets the Neighbors

The New York Times
By Joseph Berger

This article is about an attempt by the owner of the catering establishment Grand Prospect Hall to gain a zoning exemption so that he may build a hotel next door to his establishment. Oddly, Atlantic Yards figures into his justification for the zoning variance.

But to Mr. Halkias, obtaining a zoning exception from the city is a matter of economic survival. The New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, with a 2,000-guest ballroom, is siphoning off some of his wedding business, he said, and hotels that may be built as part of the Atlantic Yards development or in Coney Island would steal away even more.


NoLandGrab: The Times should know that, since the ESDC has given developer Bruce Ratner 25 years to build his project, Mr. Halkias, who's about 70, will be over 90 by the time a hotel is built in the Atlantic Yards project, if ever.

Posted by steve at 12:07 AM

April 8, 2011

Who Could Have Known?

The Half Empty Glass

Did anyone really think the City was going to get anything but shafted when it declared blighted whole blocks, seized properties and offered up hundreds of millions in subsidies to Bruce Ratner for his Atlantic Yards project? If you thought otherwise, you are a fool.

The deal was that Ratner would get all these things and in return the City would get a world class arena, architecturally significant towers–that would hold both commercial and residential space, the latter with a real amount of affordable housing, and thousands of jobs, both temporary and permanent. All of this would be designed by his architectural eminence Frank Gehry. Brooklyn was finally going to be put on the map.

Those opposing the plan were treated like urban Amish, rejecting anything new, anything that had a whiff of progress and growth about it. Either that, or they were deadbeat moochers and troublemakers. So, with a minimum amount of effort everything moved ahead, a lawsuit here and there is nothing to fuss about here in Gotham, not when a ginormous pot of gold is waiting for you at the end of the rainbow that is home to just about every government official in the city and state of New York.

Everything seemed golden.

Let’s check in where we are now. Frank Gehry is gone. The arena has been redesigned to look like a rusty fieldhouse. Most of the towers are severely delayed and may not be built at all. And the ones that do get built may be constructed using a new modular system. An exciting bit of progress no doubt, but the modular pieces would be built elsewhere by a smaller number of workers making significantly less than any who would have been employed were the buildings to go up in the tradition on-site manner. The $100 million dollars the developers were to pay the MTA for the their rail yards has been reduced to 20 million and a promise to pay the rest by 2031. Also, the Nets blow.


NoLandGrab: That's another bait and switch that hadn't even occurred to us — when the Atlantic Yards project was announced, the Nets were coming off consecutive trips to the NBA finals. Now? Well, yes, they blow.

Posted by eric at 12:15 PM

Nets CEO on New Arena

Fox Business

Brett Yormark returns to his favorite media stomping ground, but for a change, the anchors — unlike Alexis Glick — actually express a wee bit of skepticism.


NoLandGrab: The Nets "will be the new Dodgers?" Sure, "the boys of winter?"

Related coverge...

Atlantic Yards Report, On Fox, Nets CEO Yormark calls Brooklyn "fourth-largest market," plays coy on team name

It's always fun to watch Nets Sports and Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark spin, and in an interview April 6 on Fox Business, he did just that.

Yormark said he "likes" the team name "Brooklyn Nets" and called it is the "working title."

But he said it's not a done deal, so we should wait for an announcement "in the next month or two."

Surely he knows. As I've previously stated, I suspect they're just withholding confirmation of "Brooklyn Nets" for the publicity value.


The interviewer asked if the new arena would accommodate hockey, such as the New York Islanders, currently playing in the antiquated Nassau Coliseum.

Yormark called it a "a multipurpose venue" and said they were open to many events. "We would love the Islanders to play a couple of games at the Barclays Center," he said, noting that the Long Island Rail Road could directly deliver Islanders fans.

He didn't say that the arena would be too small for NHL-level hockey.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Spotted: Atlantic Yards


Are you ready for Atlantic Yards?


Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Council Member James: departure of Cathie Black, along with Atlantic Yards, a sign of Bloomberg's "third-term curse"

Atlantic Yards Report

In response to Mayor Mike Bloomberg's dissmissal of the much-criticized, little-qualified Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, City Council Member Letitia James, a leading critic of the publishing executive, said, "The Blizzard of 2011, CityTime, the Atlantic Yards project, and now this; many would consider this the third term curse.”

(Gothamist noted that the blizzard actually happened at the end of last year.)

James was a leading critic of Bloomberg's effort to overturn term limits and engineer a third term.

Atlantic Yards a third-term curse?

James is not exactly shy in her rhetoric, and there's a good deal of media fatigue regarding Atlantic Yards, but there's reason to consider Atlantic Yards a third-term curse:

  • the impact of delays and changes (like modular construction) on expected revenues
  • Bloomberg's willingness to go to bat for Forest City Ratner's dubious effort to raise cheap money from immigrant investors seeking green cards

Actually, Atlantic Yards might be better considered a first-term (and ongoing) curse, since Bloomberg backed the project unquestioningly from the start.


Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

A green arena? Barclays Center pursuing LEED certification, would gain credit for access to public transit, but no demerit for onsite surface parking

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 builders of the Barclays Center are trying to gain LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Wouldn't a truly green arena have no on-site parking, especially given the much-touted advantage of a major transit hub?

And shouldn't there be LEED points subtracted for having a surface parking lot last not the initially predicted three years, but much longer?


Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

Malinsky indicted on more charges in Kruger bribery scandal case

The Real Deal
by David Jones

A federal grand jury handed down a new 11-count indictment in the state Sen. Carl Kruger ongoing bribery scandal charging the defendants, including real estate developer Aaron Malinsky and lobbyist Richard Lipsky, with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Malinsky was previously indicted for allegedly making $500,000 in bribes to Kruger, a Democrat from Brooklyn, who later stepped in to help move forward several major real estate developments.

Lipsky, who represented various high-profile clients including Forest City Ratner, also allegedly paid off Kruger.


Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Welcome to the "Haier Store area," as arena block sub-location demarcated by future opportunities to "interact with the Haier brand"

Atlantic Yards Report

From the ATLANTIC YARDS CONSTRUCTION UPDATE, weeks of March 28, 2011 through April 10, 2011, produced by Forest City Ratner and circulated by the Empire State Development Corporation:

Work related to the SOE [Support of Excavation] installation and related excavation at the Haier Store area, located at the Pacific Street terminus of the Arena Block, which is located at the 6th avenue & Pacific Street side of the arena, will continue during this reporting period.

(Emphasis added)

The Haier Store area? Oh, remember the 1/11/09 press release headlined Haier America Announced as Long-Term Partner for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn:

East Rutherford, NJ—Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (BSE), an affiliate of Nets Sports and Entertainment, LLC, today announced that Haier America, a national leader for home appliances and digital consumer electronics products, has become a long-term partner for the planned Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The “Haier Experience Store,” which will be part of the Barclays Center and accessible to the public from outside of the arena during event and non-event days, will provide an opportunity for patrons to interact with the Haier brand and its array of products. Haier will also receive a fully integrated marketing platform within the arena and will be a sponsor of the NETS. The sponsorship alliance will provide Haier with a multitude of assets to extend its growth in North America.


Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

April 7, 2011

Seeking balance over blight, academics suggest new standards, dropping underutilization, and tougher look at projects with more % of private benefits

This is Part 3 of a three-part series (Part 1, Part 2) on Fordham Law School's eminent domain symposium in February.

Atlantic Yards Report

Is there a reasonable compromise that would preserve the use of eminent domain as a tool for government while preventing dubious tactics like claiming underutilization--or cracks in the sidewalk--equal blight?

And shouldn't courts play some role in scrutinizing blight, especially for certain projects, ones which promise a greater ratio of private than public benefits?

In an intriguing paper titled The Use and Abuse of Blight in Eminent Domain, attorney (and part-time Columbia academic) Martin E. Gold and Lynne B. Sagalyn of Columbia Business School (and the book Times Square Roulette), set out a hierarchy of eminent domain projects, from those with clear public benefits to those with more private benefits.

Those at the bottom of the hierarchy deserve the most scrutiny, and thus a closer examination of blight findings. They mention Atlantic Yards as falling somewhere in the middle of the hierarchy and criticize some of the definitions used in the AY eminent domain case, notably underutilization.

Need for review

They make a strong case for redefinition, arguing that "effectively there is no review of blight findings in New York" and--as others have contended--the courts have abdicated their role in policing eminent domain.

So "thoughtfully crafted, objective and measurable, standards for the determination of blight" are needed:

If blight is to continue to be a condition and cornerstone for condemnations for renewal or economic development undertakings, it needs serious alteration; otherwise it will continue to serve more as an expensive foil for projects sought by developers and government officials, than as a screen filtering out lands that should be left alone.


Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

Nets/Barclays media events galore!

Atlantic Yards Report

Mayor Mike Bloomberg buys season tickets.

Nets player/mascot spend a couple of hours cleaning up Prospect Park (press release).

New billboard implies Deron Williams will remain with Nets when they move to Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

Nets Accelerate Drive To Brooklyn For 2012 With Marketing, Finances, Optimism

by Barry Janoff

On April 6, the Nets launched a supporting multi-media marketing campaign, "Brooklyn Bound." The opening leg of the campaign is an 80’ x 60’ billboard featuring point guard Deron Williams, located in Times Square (on Broadway between 42nd and 43rd Streets) just blocks away from Madison Square Garden, home to the rival New York Knicks.

“This Times Square billboard tips off our dynamic ‘Brooklyn Bound’ campaign, which will see us doing major outdoor advertising in Brooklyn on billboards and phone kiosks,” Brett Yormark, CEO of Nets Basketball and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, said in a statement. “Deron is arguably the best point guard in the NBA and he will be the face of our campaign as we prepare for the team’s exciting relocation to the Barclays Center of Brooklyn in 2012.”


NoLandGrab: Williams will be a free agent prior to the 2012 season.

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems: Jay-Z Better Off Investing in New York Knicks than New Jersey Nets

Bleacher Report
by Joey Rotunno

The hip-hop generation and the NBA are forever intertwined, but so far, Shawn Carter’s status as an iconic MC—one who many an athlete has idolized—has had no bearing on his ability to attract professional basketball’s cream of the crop.

That being said, perhaps the franchise he owns is simply that unappealing to potential suitors, and it’s going to take a lot more than a move to Brooklyn to create any buzz.

While it’s a bit of a hassle to back out of his arrangement with the Nets, it is always an option for Jay-Z to sell his share and reinvest in the team on the other side of the East River.

I can hear the remix now: If you’re havin’ money problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but the Knicks ain’t one.


Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

Senate confirms Adams as President/CEO of ESDC; no questions about Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

In a press release yesterday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the State Senate unanimously confirmed Kenneth Adams as President and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development, as well as Darrel J. Aubertine as Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Adams appeared at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee and of the Committee on Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business , but Atlantic Yards didn't come up.


Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

April 6, 2011

Nets Forward Kris Humphries – and Sly Too – Clean up Prospect Park

The group of about two dozen Nets employees raked leaves while joggers and toddlers alike paused for a better look.

Prospect Heights Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

Like Carl Kruger is fond of saying, "I guess the park, f**k the bridge."

New Jersey (but soon to be Brooklyn) Nets forward Kris Humphries and about two dozen others put rake to the grass yesterday afternoon to help clean up sodden leaves at Prospect Park.

The group of about two dozen, which included several Nets dancers and the team’s mascot, Sly, raked and bagged for about two hours while joggers and toddlers alike paused for a better look, said Prospect Park spokesman Eugene Patron.

And they took the job seriously.

“They went out and they worked – it wasn’t just a photo opp,” he said.


NoLandGrab: "Yesterday afternoon?" We believe Sly Fox is only allowed to be off-leash between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Posted by eric at 10:13 PM

Mayor Bloomberg scores four season tickets for New Jersey Nets before stadium is even finished

NY Daily News
by Adam Lisberg

Maybe it's us, but we're guessing they meant "Brooklyn Nets" in that headline.

Mayor Bloomberg is bullish on Brooklyn basketball - snapping up four season tickets at the new Nets arena when it opens next year.

"The Nets are going to provide some great entertainment," he said. "It's going to be exciting basketball."

The steel skeleton of the arena, rising above Atlantic and Flatbush Aves., is 30% finished.

"We are thrilled that the mayor has decided to become a season-ticket holder," said Nets CEO Brett Yormark. "The mayor is one of the most astute investors in the city, and we are pleased that he sees the Nets in Brooklyn as a great investment."


NoLandGrab: The astute Mayor must indeed be viewing those tickets as an investment, because we surely don't expect to see him court-side beyond opening night. Of course, when your net worth is reportedly more than $20 billion, it's no big deal to piss away $176,000 (assuming a $1,000-per-ticket face value) on something as awful as Nets basketball. The equivalent purchase for someone with just a million dollars to his name would run less than nine bucks.

Posted by eric at 9:58 PM

Deron Williams Will Join Nets in Brooklyn in 2012, Implies Nets Billboard

by Joe DeLessio

The Great Knicks-Nets Billboard War continues: The Nets today unveiled the Times Square billboard you see here, reminding people that they'll be moving to Brooklyn. (Their Atlantic Yards arena, as you surely knew already, is scheduled to open in 2012.) Of course, whether Deron Williams will actually be on the Nets by the time that happens very much remains to be seen: He's due $17.8 million in 2012–13, but he can opt out of his contract after the 2011–12 season. The Nets can begin negotiating with him on an extension beginning on July 18 (assuming the league's labor situation doesn't push that date back). Though by slapping his face on a billboard — on this billboard — it's clear they're not lacking in confidence.


NoLandGrab: Not lacking in confidence, or yes lacking in common sense?

Photo: New Jersey Nets

Posted by eric at 9:52 PM


The Brooklyn Rail
by Theodore Hamm

A must-read piece on the public funding of sports facilities, and the broken promises that inevitably litter their wake.

Since its inception in 2003, the Atlantic Yards project has experienced many setbacks, but never a shortage of hype. Its initial monumental Frank Gehry design promised to make Downtown Brooklyn another Bilbao; the arena and series of 16 towers would rain manna, not just on the starting squad of the Nets, but on the local black community; and the mantra of “affordable housing” spoke for itself. Such grand plans enabled the developer to rake in more than $300 million in direct public subsidies, and much more in indirect ones, including some seriously sweet deals from the MTA. Now, going on eight years later, a standard fare arena is being built, and we’re facing the frightening prospect that it will be surrounded by modular housing towers.

Whether a prefab high-rise can withstand all of the elements is a question for wind engineers. My focus instead is on what this prepackaged model, microwave-ready and recyclable, suggests about the views of the city’s future held by our leading players. For clues into the present outlook, let’s turn to the not-so-distant past.

In the early 1970s, prior to the ascension of their recently departed figurehead, the Yankees were owned by CBS, and their president was a charismatic fellow named Michael Burke. At the time, the ballclub sought to renovate Yankee Stadium, and wanted the city to help pay the cost. The Giants had already decided to move to Jersey, and there stood a real chance that the Yanks could follow suit. But Burke helped convince Mayor Lindsay, with whom he shared a stylistic affinity, to ante in $24 million in order to keep the Bombers in the Bronx.

It was the first in a series of shakedowns, but it was done with high-minded intent. As Burke told New York magazine in 1972, “What sets a baseball team apart from, say, a dry cleaning business is that because of the peculiar nature of the ball club, you’re a citizen of the city with civic responsibilities. If you have any sense of the city, you have a commitment.” By commitment, Burke was referring to the rejuvenation of the area surrounding the stadium. That same article reported that a Lindsay administration official named Paul Levine had circulated blueprints for how the neighborhood would look by the time renovations were completed in 1976. Presumably those forecasts did not include arson and the other forms of mischief that set the Bronx on fire.

Things didn’t quite go according to plan, of course.


Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

AY eminent domain decision "among the worst I've ever seen," says law prof; former NJ Public Advocate says NY court abdicated role in policing blight

This is Part 2 of a three-part series (Part 1) on Fordham Law School's eminent domain symposium in February.

Appellate Division Justice James Catterson was not the only person at a symposium February 11 to slam the New York Court of Appeals' decision in the Columbia (Kaur) and predecessor Atlantic Yards (Goldstein) cases.

So too did several academics, including some longstanding critics of eminent domain and others who, while recognizing the importance of the tool, agree that jurisprudence in New York has gotten out of hand. They spoke at Taking New York: The Opportunities, Challenges, and Dangers Posed by the Use of Eminent Domain in New York, a symposium at Fordham Law School.

In other words, instead of "junk lawsuits" and "frivolous litigation," as then-Daily News columnist Errol Louis dismissed Atlantic Yards legal filings, or "contrived lawsuits," in the words of academic Bruce Berg, maybe we should be talking about "junk judicial decisions."

After all, the former Public Advocate in New Jersey--a self-described "ACLU civil liberties lawyer"--declared that "the New York Court of Appeals basically abdicated any meaningful role for the judiciary in determining whether a blight designation even passed the laugh test."

And, though the court has indicated that the legislature should step in, panelists expressed little hope that the notoriously dysfunctional New York legislature would act to reform eminent domain laws.

In other words, even though the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn't hear the appeal in the case challenging the condemnation for the Columbia University expansion, a good number of legal experts agree that New York is an outlier.

Need to get your blood boiling? Read on.


Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

No Sleep Till Barclays


Wow, Forest City's Linda Chiarelli is raising the bar for inane Atlantic Yards blather. Are you up to the challenge, Brett Yormark and Bruce Bender?

"The building is a building of its own," Forest City Ratner Companies senior vice president and deputy director of construction Linda Chiarelli, told HOOPSWORLD.

But as unfamiliar as the exterior may seem, the interior evolved from arenas currently in use. In fact, some Pacers fans might find themselves right at home in the Barclays Center.

"We looked at dozens of arenas examining bowl shape more than anything else," Chiarelli said. "The bowl, I would say it's probably he Conseco Field House bowl that inspired the bowl shape."

"This is the opposite [of the Izod Center]," Chiarelli said. "It's a very intimate bowl. That was the goal here to establish that level of intimacy."

You mean like the rendering at right by Freddy's Donald O'Finn?

Not content to let Chiarelli steal the spotlight, HOOPSWORLD gets into the act with its own nonsense.

If a New Jersey resident wants to remain a fan of the Nets, they won't have to cut through Southern Manhattan to drive to the game. Traffic can be avoided by simply driving through Staten Island and over the Verrazano Bridge.

Yup, no traffic at all near Atlantic and Flatbush. Drive on over!

No stadium is perfect, but the Nets have already positioned themselves to be a cheaper, and possibly more convenient way for New Yorkers to see the NBA.

If by "cheaper," they mean "more than double the $60 average for tickets to see the woeful Nets at Newark’s Prudential Center" and "among the NBA’s highest" priced tickets, then yes, "cheaper" it is.

article [Scroll down for story]

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

Ratner Arena Will Include 400 Satanic Bike Parking Spots

by Ben Fried

Well, this doesn’t make up for the eminent domain abuse, inexcusable subsidies-slash-dealmaking, crappy urban design and extensive surface parking acreage, but the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay reminds us that the Brooklyn basketball arena financed by Bruce Ratner, Mikhail Prokhorov, and the taxpayers of New York State will include 400 bike parking spaces.

With the opening of the 18,000-seat arena less than 18 months away and the Nets saying that it will host 200 events a year, 400 bike parking spaces will come in handy. But what about those oceans of surface parking? There must be a better way to plan for people to get to the arena than to invite thousands of car trips to one of the most transit- and bike-accessible sites in the entire city. Streetsblog will be taking a closer look at the Atlantic Yards transportation equation in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned.


Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Kim Kardashian's Boyfriend Is Ready For Brooklyn Nets-NY Knicks Rivalry

by Jen Chung

Dumb & Dumber?

Kris Humphries, a forward for the NJ Nets and also boyfriend of Kim Kardashian, visited the Barclays Center, the former site of a Frank Gehry-designed sports arena (now it's something that look like an airplane hanger a modified airplane hanger), where his team is supposed to play. In fact, Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, who happens to be the Nets CEO, says the area will open on September 28, 2012. And Humphries can't wait.

He told reporters, "Hopefully we can get everyone in Brooklyn to come out and support us and build the tradition the Knicks have... There is a rivalry now. Just think about what it will be like out in Brooklyn." And the Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay also attended the press event.

According to Gay, "[Humphries] said he wasn't sure if he would live in Brooklyn, though he'd heard "there are some real great places to stay."


Related coverage...

Arena Digest, Barclays Center set to open for 2012 season: Developer

The bigger issue for many locals: what happened to the rest of the ambitious Atlantic Yards complex. The arena was designed as an anchor for a larger development of office and retail towers, initially designed by architecture legend Frank Gehry. Along the way the arena design was downscaled, and the other towers put on hold.

Indefinitely, as it turns out.

Queens Crap, $300M down the drain, people evicted for nothing?

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

April 5, 2011

As media pile on to Post's questionable scoop, Bloomberg defends Ratner; get ready for request for additional subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Post's questionable, conclusory article yesterday, based on SEC worst-case warnings, drew unskeptical follow-up in Gothamist, New York, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and others.

Even the Star-Ledger, in Nets' Brooklyn project reportedly could be scaled back, chose to trust the Post's framing of the story rather than the facts its reporters noted.

Bloomberg professes optimism

In Mike believes Atl. Yards hoopla, the Post followed up:

A confident Mayor Bloomberg insisted yesterday that the housing and commercial component of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards complex won't be scrapped, saying he was certain that developer Bruce Ratner is proceeding as planned.

"I talked to Bruce Ratner as late as 30 minutes ago, and let me tell you, he thinks his business is going very well out there and he's very optimistic about Atlantic Yards," Bloomberg said.

Except Ratner's business isn't going very well; that's why he sold 49% of 15 retail properties.

Nor is the project proceeding as planned; after all, Bloomberg's own administration--at least under the recently-departed HPD head--denied additional subsidies for the first tower.


Posted by eric at 4:32 PM

Justice Catterson says of Court of Appeals opinion in AY eminent domain case, "I don't know what it means"; rues that his critique was "an epic fail"

This is Part 1 of a three-part series on Fordham Law School's eminent domain symposium in February.

Atlantic Yards Report

James Catterson, an Associate Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, has been the most conspicuous judicial critic of eminent domain jurisprudence in New York, writing the plurality opinion, later reversed, denying the state's effort to condemn land for the Columbia University expansion, and penning a scorching concurrence in the case upholding dismissal of challenge to the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

Nor has Catterson shied away from public, pungent criticism of the Court of Appeals' decision in the Columbia and predecessor Atlantic Yards cases, calling it confusingly opaque. He spoke at Taking New York: The Opportunities, Challenges, and Dangers Posed by the Use of Eminent Domain in New York, a symposium February 11 sponsored by Fordham Law School.'

The overview

In opening remarks lasting a little more than half an hour, the bow-tied Catterson--brisk, earthy, self-deprecating--offered what he termed a "Cook's tour" of the history of eminent domain.

Then, in the final minutes, he spoke about the November 2009 Atlantic Yards decision, Goldstein, et al., v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, d/b/a Empire State Development Corporation, and the Columbia case, Parminder Kaur, et al., v. New York State Urban Development Corporation.

Read on for Catterson's worthwhile words of wisdom.


Posted by eric at 4:23 PM

Inside the Barclays Center

A monthly photo essay documenting the construction of the Atlantic Yards development and the Barclays Center, which the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets will soon call home.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

The Barclays Center is now looming impressively over intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, the shape of the basketball arena that the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets plan to call home in the 2012-2013 season clearly visible.

About 70 percent of the foundation has been laid, and 30 percent of the steel is in place. Next week, the stadium seating will arrive from Detroit and Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner expects to begin work on the façade as early as June.


Photo: Kristen V. Brown

Posted by eric at 4:14 PM

Nasty pistol-whip on Myrtle Ave.

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

The only thing that'll disappear faster than one of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards promises is an unattended purse in one of his malls.

Cheesy crime

What a dirty rat!

A thief palmed a 33-year-old woman’s purse on March 26 as his victim celebrated her son’s birthday at the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant/game arcade on Flatbush Avenue.

The woman put her purse on a chair inside the eatery between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue at 2:30 pm. When she returned to her chair a few hours later, her bag was gone.


Posted by eric at 3:53 PM

Turning Hipsters Into Hoopsters

The Wall Street Journal
by Jason Gay

The New Jersey Nets—currently rattling around the trunk of the NBA's Eastern Conference—are coming soon to the magnificent birthplace of Lena Horne and Woody Allen and the adopted home of a lot of dudes who can't stop yapping about the final LCD Soundsystem show. (To take every lazy Brooklyn stereotype to the extreme, please read this story while chomping an artisanal pickle. And growing a mustache. And converting your Satan bike to a single speed.)

This wasn't a Nets game, just a showcase with some steel and mud to excite the media. After years of community controversy—and some bad feeling still simmering—it actually is happening: NBA basketball is coming to Brooklyn, to the busy intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. Monday it was announced that the Barclays Center is set to open for business on September 28, 2012.

On hand was Nets forward Kris Humphries, who was fitted for a white hardhat and asked to pose for photographs of the growing coliseum. He wore a navy blue Brooklyn sweatshirt, and after he walked down a muddy ramp to the court level, someone pointed out to him where the center of the court was going to be.

He said he wasn't sure if he would live in Brooklyn, though he'd heard "there are some real great places to stay." He said he didn't mind if parents wanted to bring their babies into Park Slope bars.

OK, just kidding about that last part.


Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Save the date! Barclays Center to open on Sept. 28, 2012

After years of false starts, economic malaise, local protests, lawsuits and atrocious basketball, New Jersey Nets officials finally unveiled some positive team news on Monday: The Barclays Center will be open on Sept. 28, 2012.

The grand opening of the $1-billion arena now under construction at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues will launch three weeks of concerts and events, according to Brett Yormark, the Nets chief executive officer, who led nattily attired team executives, the media, and Nets power forward Kris Humphries through the mud for a tour of the work site.

“It’s all coming together,” he said.

The grand opening will be preceded by public events and tours to introduce Brooklyn to the arena before the Nets 2012-13 season begins.

“The community will sample it first,” Yormark said.

CBS New York, Opening Date Set For Barclays Center In Brooklyn

For the past five years, the team has been trying to make inroads in Brooklyn, or, as Yormark says, they’ve been seeding the brand.

“It’s very important for our players to be very visible here, to be engaged, to give back,” he told WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell.

NoLandGrab: Brett Yormark is incapable of uttering a single sentence that's free of marketing-speak platitudes. Seriously, the guy sounds like a first-year MBA student.

Atlantic Yards Report, At arena site media event, Nets forward Humphries mouths bromides, Yormark claims Barclays Center "is about the community"

It was just two years ago that Nets guard Devin Harris stepped up as the face of the team's move to Brooklyn, replacing the departed Richard Jefferson, who outlasted the original faces, Jason Kidd and Vince Carter.

Harris is gone now, replaced by Deron Williams, and yesterday, at a Nets media event held at the Barclays Center construction site to highlight the September 28, 2012 opening date, the player mouthing Brooklyn bromides was forward Kris Humphries.

Read on for Norman Oder's breakdown of the stories above.

Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

Ex-FCR exec Stuckey surfaces on Twitter: "Robert Moses had it easy," AY opponents "so boring;" Goldstein reminds Stuckey of his curious departure

Atlantic Yards Report

So Jim Stuckey, the former Atlantic Yards point man on Atlantic Yards, is tweeting up a storm from his post at the New York University Schack Institute of Real Estate.

His latest Atlantic Yards-related tweet concerned the New York Post's story on Sunday about the Rev. Herbert Daughtry.

This prompted a response from Atlantic Yards uber-opponent Daniel Goldstein.

The intimation: there was something a tad curious about Stuckey's 2007 departure.

Click through for more of Jim Stuckey's Tweets.


Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

Mike believes Atlantic Yards hoopla

NY Post
by Rich Calder and David Seifman

A confident Mayor Bloomberg insisted yesterday that the housing and commercial component of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards complex won't be scrapped, saying he was certain that developer Bruce Ratner is proceeding as planned.

"I talked to Bruce Ratner as late as 30 minutes ago, and let me tell you, he thinks his business is going very well out there and he's very optimistic about Atlantic Yards," Bloomberg said.

Recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings indicate everything but a new home for the New Jersey Nets may be scrapped, but Bloomberg said those types of filings are necessary because developers are required to spell out all potential problems for investors.

"It does say that the world could come to an end. And it might," the mayor said sarcastically.

"It does say everybody could give up watching basketball -- that's a possibility."


NoLandGrab: Obviously, the Mayor hasn't seen the Nets play, or he wouldn't joke about everybody giving up watching basketball.

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

Atlantic Yards Arena Question


We just looked at an open house at 57 St. Marks, between 5th and 6th. I was wondering how the Atlantic Yards Arena will likely affect this block. If anybody has any insights into how living in this neighborhood may be impacted by arena, I would be appreciative.


NoLandGrab: That's what we call Prime (6) real estate, as some commenters point out.

Posted by eric at 12:15 AM

Barclays Center Will Open Sept. 28, 2012!

Nets CEO Brett Yormark announced that the center will open with three weeks of public events before the season opener.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

It’s official: on Sept. 28, 2012 the Barclays Center arena will officially open for business.

Brett Yormark, CEO of the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets, made the announcement Monday afternoon at a press conference at the Atlantic Yards construction site, alongside the team’s power forward Kris Humphries.

“We’re really excited about being here, this is obviously a moment we’ve been waiting for a great while,” said Yormark.

The arena’s grand opening will include three weeks of public events prior to the Nets taking the hardcourt for the first time. Yormark said the opening festivites were an effort to “welcome and introduce the Brooklyn community to its new building.”


NoLandGrab: Given the reliability of Yormark's past pronouncements, we're not going to write this one in ink.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Barclays Center grand opening said to be September 28, 2012

NetsDaily reports:

Meanwhile, Sports Business Journal reports Barclays Center’s grand opening is set for Sept. 28, 2012, capping a three-week run of soft openings tied to open houses and community events, Brett Yormark said. The event that day should be announced in the next 30 days...but many believe it will be a concert by Jay-Z. The date was included in a story about how the Nets need to hire a new general manager for Barclays after the Knicks stole Alex Diaz from the Nets arena project.

Posted by eric at 12:06 AM

April 4, 2011

Maybe they should call it NiTwitter

James P. Stuckey

The opponents of this project are so boring. Read this @newyorkpost Preacher’s suite deal, http://nyp.st/dQXT4M #Brooklyn #Atlanticyards


NoLandGrab: One thing about Stuckey, you could never say he was boring. Why'd you lose your job at Forest City again, Jim?

Posted by eric at 11:56 PM

Wall Street Journal: beyond Atlantic Yards housing, Beekman Tower, Ridge Hill leasing post tests for Ratner

Atlantic Yard Report

What's the news from Ratner Facing New Tests, an overview today from the Wall Street Journal?

Forest City Ratner races an "uncertain rental market" for the high-priced units in the Beekman Tower, it has leased only 45% of its Ridge Hill mall in Yonkers, and, as we know, it hasn't been able to start housing at Atlantic Yards. The Journal reports:

The company's drive to build cash was underscored last week when it announced completion of a months-long deal to sell off a 49% stake in $852 million worth of retail properties. Forest City also announced its president, Joanne Minieri, was leaving the company to start her own firm.

I suggested that Minieri's departure also was a way to save money.

The article closes with this cryptic paragraph:

For Atlantic Yards, Ms. Gilmartin said the firm has improved its situation by extending a large loan recently, and it hopes to start the housing this year.

That sounds like they're using the money raised by EB-5 investors seeking green cards, as the Times earlier reported.

How does extending that loan create jobs, as the federal program is supposed to require?


Posted by eric at 11:51 PM

Nets' Brooklyn project reportedly could be scaled back

The Star-Ledger
by Colin Stephenson

This is like a bad game of telephone.

Sure, we don't expect that Bruce Ratner will ever build half the stuff he promised (or was it threatened?) to build for his Atlantic Yards project. But as Atlantic Yards Report pointed out today, this morning's New York Post article drew some awfully broad conclusions from safe-harbor language in Forest City's most recent quarterly earnings report.

And now, everyone's jumping on that bandwagon.

The Nets’ new arena being built in Brooklyn remains on schedule to open for the 2012-13 season, but a story in today’s New York Post suggested the rest of the nearly $5 billion project, of which the arena is supposed to be the centerpiece, is in danger of being scrapped.


Related coverage...

MyFoxNY.com, Nets Arena Plans Scaled Down

The Atlantic yards complex that will become the new home for the NBA's Nets could be a lot smaller than originally planned.

NYMag.com Daily Intel, Apartments, Parks, Mall, and Office Space May Never Get Built at Atlantic Yards, EVER

In SEC filings last week, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner admits: "If any of the foregoing risks were to occur we may ... not be able to develop Brooklyn Atlantic Yards to the extent intended or at all." As the Post observes, this means all Brooklyn will be left with is an uninspiring, brown stadium — and one of the worst teams in the NBA.

Posted by eric at 11:34 PM

Carver Federal Savings on the brink

Feds order Harlem bank to raise new capital. Or else.

Crain's NY Business
by Aaron Elstein

We take no pleasure in reporting the woes facing the bank into which Bruce Ratner made a much-touted (and to some, controversial) $1 million deposit in March of 2005. Though it is ironic that the bank is in trouble due to bad real estate loans.

The parent of Carver Federal Savings Bank holds its annual stockholders meeting April 4 at The Studio Museum in Harlem, near the bank's 125th Street headquarters. It could be the last.

Time may be running out for Carver, the nation's largest bank founded and run by African-Americans and an integral part of the city for 63 years. Staggering under a load of delinquent real estate loans, the bank is under orders from the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision to raise $20 million in fresh capital by the end of this month. That's a steep climb for a bank that at best posts annual profits of $5 million. Yet if Carver can't raise the cash, regulators can either seize the institution and sell it to another bank, or dissolve it.

Longtime Chief Executive Deborah Wright has pulled Carver back from the brink before and has many high-level business and political connections who could help the bank get the needed funds.


NoLandGrab: But of course, Ratner, who made the deposit for TV cameras while surrounded by signatories of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, claimed his deposit had nothing to do with Atlantic Yards. Which is good, since he might not get it back. But that's ok, because he encouraged everyone else to put their money there, too.

Here's what he told NY1 back in March, 2005.

Bruce Ratner, the president of Forest City Ratner, said the public deposit, made with a ceremonial giant check, has nothing to do with his hopes of building an arena for the Nets in Downtown Brooklyn.

“This is part of a commitment by our company to constantly, whether an arena or not arena, to support local institutions,” said Ratner. “I have to say one other thing: This is a great bank, and it's a good business move for us and everybody to put deposits here. This is a very important part of the community and very important part of our city.”

Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

NBA deal is 'net' loss for B'klyn

NY Post
by Rich Calder

The hoop-la has faded in Brooklyn.

When the Atlantic Yards complex was announced in 2003, its developer promised the borough a basketball team, world-class arena designed by Frank Gehry, 16 soaring residential and office buildings, affordable housing, parks and recreational facilities.

To make the grandiose plans come true, some 800 residents and businesses were dispossessed and city and state taxpayers kicked in $305 million so far.

But it's looking like all Brooklyn will be left with is one of the worst teams in the NBA -- playing in a new, nondescript facility.

Documents filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission by developer Bruce Ratner and his Forest City Enterprises warn that the non-arena portions of the plan could experience "further delays" leading to most or all of the rest of the 22-acre, $4.9 million project being scrapped.

Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn) and Prospect Heights activist Patti Hagan, both longtime foes of Atlantic Yards, said the SEC documents are the latest "proof" that Ratner can't deliver 2,250 affordable housing units and most of the 17,000 jobs he promised state officials in order to gain project approvals.

"It was all just a mirage," James said. "He underestimated the economy and opposition, and now all we're getting is an arena and a large parking lot."


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Post's questionable, conclusory "exclusive," based on SEC warnings: "NBA deal is 'net' loss for B'klyn"

Leave it to the New York Post to conjure up a conclusion out of a very uncertain situation and some boilerplate hedging language.

Yes, it is likely that "Brooklyn" will get far less than originally promised--after all, Forest City Ratner need not build out the entire project, has loopholes for affordable housing subsidy delays, and faces more significant penalties for Phase 1 and its buildings than the rest of the project.

But it's way too conclusory to state that the only thing that would be built is an arena. After all, as has been front-page news, Forest City Ratner is looking to save big by building the first tower via modular construction.

The Post recognizes that. Indeed, the print version of the article includes a graphic with the outline of potential towers, described as "what could be lost."

I reported on this "exclusive" news two days ago, calling the description of risks "boilerplate."

The real news from the SEC filings, as I pointed out, was that parent Forest City Enterprises is no longer talking about an Atlantic Yards office building, which would bring significant tax revenues.

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

Community Benefits Agreement in the News

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

I wanted to share this article from the NY Post about how corrupt the CBA process is at the Atlantic Yards. It's nice that this came out before we finished the film because it will be perfect to add to the credit sequence. As usual Norman Oder expanded on the article.

Now at the end of the film it is clear that every problem that those opposing the project were fighting against have come to pass. Outsize subsidies, lack of affordable housing, rampant corruption, and blight are all clear and present.

We are making good progress, and getting great feedback on the latest cut. We will be ready for Hot Docs.


Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Ratner Facing New Tests

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

When Forest City Ratner broke ground last year on its $904 million basketball arena, it was a sign that one of the most active developers in New York was emerging from a brutal recession.

Now as the real-estate market creeps back, large challenges remain for the Brooklyn-based development firm.

The company's $876 million rental tower in downtown Manhattan designed by Frank Gehry began leasing in February. The developer must lease 903 apartments in an uncertain rental market.

Meanwhile, Forest City, led by Bruce Ratner, has leased only 45% of its Ridge Hill mall, a 1.3-million-square-foot retail complex in Yonkers set to open this spring. And the company has been struggling to raise money for the housing that will accompany the basketball arena.

The company's drive to build cash was underscored last week when it announced completion of a months-long deal to sell off a 49% stake in $852 million worth of retail properties. Forest City also announced its president, Joanne Minieri, was leaving the company to start her own firm.

Mr. Ratner wasn't available for comment.


Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

Bad comparison alert: The Yonkers waterfront, 112 acres, is like Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Journal News/LoHud.com:

The Yonkers waterfront is the kind of real estate that makes developers drool and tax assessors rub their palms in anticipation. Minutes from Manhattan and offering the most dramatic Hudson River views this side of the Palisades, the Alexander Street waterfront is 112 acres of blank slate just waiting to be molded into the next Battery Park City, or Atlantic Yards, or White Plains.

Um, White Plains is a city, Battery Park City covers 92 acres, and Atlantic Yards would be 22 acres. And a blank slate--not quite.


Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

April 3, 2011

Brooklyn pastor scores prime seats at Nets' new venue

New York Post
By Gary Buiso

Rev. Daughtry was for jobs, hoops and housing for the Atlantic Yards project. Who knows when the jobs and housing might show up. He's got hoops!

Want Nets tickets? You'll have to make a higher calling.

Rev. Herbert Daughtry, pastor of a Boerum Hill church, will have the final say over the distribution of 54 free tickets and a luxury box for every event at the new Nets arena when it opens next year.

The deal is part of a "community benefits agreement" the clergyman -- who was a high-profile proponent of the arena's construction -- hammered out with developer Forest City Ratner on behalf of his nonprofit Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Association, which was formed with $50,000 in seed money from Forest City in 2005.

The deal includes four seats in the $1 billion Barclays Center's lower bowl, 50 ducats in the upper section, and a posh suite, according to Nets spokesman Barry Baum.


"This is [Daughtry's] little piece of the pie for having been a cheerleader to Ratner," said Candace Carponter, legal director of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a group opposed to Atlantic Yards.


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Who Needs Housing When You Have Free Tix?

So just when it looked like all the promised benefits of the Atlantic Yards project--loads of construction jobs, lots of affordable housing--were empty promises, Bruce Ratner has finally come through with the big payoff for the community. Well, not exactly for the community, but for long-time Ratner cheerleader Rev. Herbert Daughtry, who will get to distribute 54 free tickets and a luxury box for every event at the new Nets arena when it opens next year.

And those gratis ducats aren't chump change. Season tickets for the Nets went on sale last week, with an average price of $132 a seat, about double the prices that prevailed last season in New Jersey. Fans were not delighted, even with the lowest price point. According to one commenter on a Nets fan site:

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...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....

But displaced fans shouldn't look to Daughtry for his freebies. The Reverend told the New York Post that "he hopes to use some tickets as a carrot for kids to get better grades and perhaps offer the suite to sick patients at Fort Greene's Brooklyn Hospital Center."

Better yet: maybe that luxury box could be retrofited to be the affordable housing component of Atlantic Yards. Who says promises don't come true?

Atlantic Yards Report, Post focuses on the Rev. Daughtry's control of arena tickets; will he also control use of the arena ten times a year by community groups?

The New York Post discovers that the Reverend Herbert Daughtry and his created-for-the-Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA) will be in charge of free tickets for the Barclays Center arena, as we've long known.

But the big news--if true--was slipped in as an aside: Daughtry's group also would control the ten-times-a-year use of the arena by community groups. That was never specified in the DCBA.

Daughtry's role

In Brooklyn pastor scores prime seats at Nets' new venue, the Post reports:

Want Nets tickets? You'll have to make a higher calling.

Rev. Herbert Daughtry, pastor of a Boerum Hill church, will have the final say over the distribution of 54 free tickets and a luxury box for every event at the new Nets arena when it opens next year.

The deal is part of a "community benefits agreement" the clergyman -- who was a high-profile proponent of the arena's construction -- hammered out with developer Forest City Ratner on behalf of his nonprofit Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Association, which was formed with $50,000 in seed money from Forest City in 2005.

The deal includes four seats in the $1 billion Barclays Center's lower bowl, 50 ducats in the upper section, and a posh suite, according to Nets spokesman Barry Baum.

Note: I reported after the March 2010 groundbreaking that Daughtry had spoken of controlling access to 50 free tickets--valued at $33,000, a mere blip in the total of public subsidies and tax breaks the developer has received.

(I'm assuming such $15 tickets would all sell out. And while lower bowl seats and a a suite would have a higher face value, it shouldn't be assumed that any value should be assigned, since they wouldn't all sell out.)

Some background

The Post reports:

The 80-year-old activist, who was an adviser to the Rev. Jesse Jackson and slain rapper Tupac Shakur, found God after doing a four-year stint in state and federal prison in 1953 for attempted armed robbery.

Daughtry's group was among eight that signed the benefits agreement in 2005 and stand to gain as the project proceeds. One signatory, for example, the Mutual Housing Association of New York -- it replaced the defunct activist group ACORN and in 2008 received a $1.5 million loan from Forest City -- will be in charge of marketing the project's affordable-housing component.

It's worth mentioning that, while Daughtry claims to live in Brooklyn, he raised his kids in Teaneck, NJ.

As for ACORN, that was not a $1.5 million loan, but a $1.5 million grant/loan. The distinction isn't crucial; ACORN isn't paying Forest City Ratner, and the developer still got a good deal.

Posted by steve at 11:00 PM

The explosive growth of the EB-5 regional center program: from 23 to 125 in less than three years

Atlantic Yards Report

Don't think that only Forest City Ratner has figured that the federal government's EB-5 program is a good way to raise low-cost capital.

So have many, many others. Consider the explosion in the number of regional centers, federally authorized investment pools that market green cards in exchange for purportedly job-creating investments. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)

July 2008: 23

July 2009: 60

November 2009: 75

October 2010: 114

March 2011: 125


Posted by steve at 10:34 PM

Sellout! Ratner hawks half of his malls to raise $ for A’Yards

The Brooklyn Paper
By Aaron Short

One reason that developer Bruce Ratner needs 25 years to build Atlantic Yards might be that he hasn't got enough money to build the project.

Cash-strapped developer Bruce Ratner is selling half his stake in two of the borough’s largest shopping centers as he struggles to begin his $4.9-billion Atlantic Yards project across the street.

Ratner sold 49-percent shares of Fort Greene’s Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal Mall and 13 other projects to an international real estate investor for $172 million last week.

A spokesman for the company said that the sale would have “no direct bearing” on the delayed mega-development, which is supposed to consist of 16 residential and office towers, plus a basketball arena, but currently only features the under-construction sports facility.


Posted by steve at 10:27 PM

In St. Louis, a protest sign meets government arrogance

The Washington Post
By George Will

New York courts have refused to rein in eminent domain abuse. Now comes a story where the issue is not even allowed to be mentioned.

A dialectic of judicial deference and political arrogance is on display in St. Louis. When excessively deferential courts permit governmental arrogance, additional arrogance results as government explores the limits of judicial deference. As Jim Roos knows.

He formed a nonprofit housing and community development corporation that provides residences for people with low incomes. Several times its properties have been seized by the city government, using “blight” as an excuse for transferring property to developers who can pay more taxes to the seizing government.

The Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision legitimized this. It permits governments to cite “blight” — a notoriously elastic concept, sometimes denoting nothing more than chipped paint or cracked sidewalks — to justify seizing property for the “public use” of enriching those governments.

Roos responded by painting on the side of one of his buildings a large mural — a slash through a red circle containing the words “End Eminent Domain Abuse.” The government that had provoked him declared his sign “illegal” and demanded that he seek a permit for it. He did. Then the government denied the permit.

The St. Louis sign code puts the burden on the citizen to justify his or her speech rather than on the government to justify limiting speech. And the code exempts certain kinds of signs from requiring permits. These include works of art, flags of nations, states or cities, and symbols or crests of religious, fraternal or professional organizations. And, of course, the government exempted political signs. So the exempted categories are defined by the signs’ content.


Posted by steve at 10:11 PM

April 2, 2011

News from Forest City conference call: AY office space forgotten; project will get built at company's pace; no mention of EB-5 or modular construction

Atlantic Yards Report

During a conference call with investment analysts yesterday held by Forest City Enterprises, there were no questions about Atlantic Yards, so apparently issues of modular construction or EB-5 fundraising have not reached the radar screens of those analysts.

But there were some clues in both remarks by FCE officials and documents released by the company.

For one thing, the Atlantic Yards office tower--a key component of expected tax revenues--seems to be off the table, suggesting it's not expected in the near term. Another involves the repeated claim that Atlantic Yards will develop at Forest City's pace.

Where's the office space?

An end-of-year Supplemental Package to the Securities and Exchange Commission, described Atlantic Yards as the first among "Projects Under Development""

Below is a summary of our active large scale development projects, which have yet to commence construction, often referred to as our "shadow pipeline" which are crucial to our long-term growth. While we cannot make any assurances on the timing or delivery of these projects, our track record speaks to our ability to bring large, complex, projects to fruition when there is demand and available construction financing.

1) Atlantic Yards - Brooklyn, NY Atlantic Yards is adjacent to the state-of-the art arena, the Barclays Center, which is designed by the award-winning firms Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects and is currently under construction. In addition, Atlantic Yards will feature more than 6,400 units of housing, including over 2,200 affordable units, approximately 250,000 square feet of retail space, and more than 8 acres of landscaped open space.

Missing was any mention of the office tower.

At Forest City's pace

In remarks recalling the November 2008 presentation in which Forest City included Atlantic Yards among projects where "we control the pace," CEO Chuck Ratner indicated that the developer still feels the same way.


Posted by steve at 11:12 PM

April 1, 2011

Two more (Atlantic Yards-supporting) Carpenters Union officials step down, as they avoid signing declarations regarding organized crime

Atlantic Yards Report

Whaddaya know? Some more of Atlantic Yards best friends are finding themselves under a cloud. And unlike some of today's news, this is no joke.

In January, I reported that two Carpenters Union cheerleaders for the Atlantic Yards project have come into severe criticism and sanction for suspected and confirmed improprieties, according to a report by a court-appointed monitor.

Now there's more, as additional Atlantic Yards supporters have found themselves under a cloud as they've avoided statements about mafia ties, including Anthony Pugliese, left in photo, with Sal Zarzana, center.

(At right in the photo, from the 7/22/09 informational meeting organized by the Empire State Development Corporation, is Atlantic Yards opponent Robert Puca. Photo by Adrian Kinloch.)

The earlier report

The January report by Dennis M. Walsh was filed in federal court, and noted more than "$30,000 of inappropriate expenditures made by Salvester Zarzana, the business manager of Local 926 [in Brooklyn]."

Also, Walsh concluded that Local 926 business representative John Holt knowingly violated Job Referral Rules, obstructed an investigation, and gave false answers to an investigator. Walsh thus vetoed Holt's employment as a business representative.

The latest: mob influence?

Local 157's John Musumeci, whose blog offers a forum for regular union members to learn what's going on and to push for reforms, reported 3/16/11:

Local 157 Vice President/Representative Anthony Pugliese was pushed into retirement because he refused to cooperate and sign a declaration under penalty of perjury pertaining to mob influence over the affairs of the District Council, an informed source said.

Pugliese 57, a 35-year UBC member, and for the past 12 years, a Council Representative reportedly making $158,069 and collecting a tools pension, before he unexpectedly retired last week amid a zealous investigation by Review Officer Dennis Walsh, pertaining to organized crime influence over the affairs of the District Council, its affiliated local unions and members.

As Musumeci reports, District Council employees are supposed to sign a declaration, under penalty of perjury, that they they have no information beyond that already publicized regarding mob ties:

Pugliese invoked his privilege against self-incrimination and decided to retire instead of sign the declaration an informed source said.

Note that these are anonymous sources, but no one has posted a response accusing Musumeci of inaccurate information.

He also wrote 8/24/10 that, on the night before the leader of the New York City District Council of Carpenters pleaded guilty to taking bribes from contractors, Pugliese declared that the leader, Michael Forde, was innocent.

Brugueras also resigns

Another Local Union 926 official, Ray Brugueras, "also suddenly resigned last week," Musumeci reported 3/12/11, again using anonymous sources.

Brugueras testified several times in favor of Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

Press Release: Prokhorov's Nets to Utilize Obscure BS-5 Green Card Program to Lure New Talent

via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Nets to Use Federal BS-5 Hope For Hoops Program

Mikhail Prokorov's Nets to Utilize Obscure Federal Immigration Program in Desperate Effort to Find New Hoops Talent, Fund New Concessions, and Pay Off Prokhorov Debts

April 1, 2011

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - Newark Nets President Brett Yormark announced today that the 23-51 Nets, coming off another devastating season on and off the court, plan to utilize an obscure federal green card program for which NBA commissioner David Stern had long lobbied Congress in the hopes of injecting new, unknown talent and funds into the basketball league.

The program, officially called the BS-5 Hope for Hoops Program but called BS-5 for short, allows NBA teams with at least four losing seasons in a row to offer green cards and a spot on their roster to any foreign investors willing to lend a minimum of $20 million to the team. The team is also required to start the foreign investor in at least five games during the season, and give the player a minimum of 5 minutes per game. If the team improves upon the past four season's records, the investor gets his/her money returned in full with interest (at a rate of .05 percent).

The BS-5 program also allows the franchise to expand its active roster by a maximum of ten players, all of whom must be BS-5 players. All BS-5 investors must be at least 5' 11".

According to the legislation enacting the BS-5 program, the funds from these foreign investors are to be used solely to improve the quality of the basketball team on the floor and the team's win-loss record through player development, the free agency market and trades.


Posted by eric at 12:22 PM

Highway Removery: Bloomberg Says “My Way Is the Highway,”- Private-Public Partnership Finally Bridging a Gulf

Noticing New York

News about the decades-old effort to remake the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway ties, naturally, to Atlantic Yards.

The Bloomberg administration just announced intentions to accelerate materialization of an intriguing part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030, (which plan was announced during his second term) in order to bring about, before the completion of Bloomberg’s third term, the platforming and building over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway that separates Brooklyn’s Red Hook and Carroll Gardens. Nine new blocks of residential housing will be created. Perhaps even bigger news is that the Bloomberg administration has, with some hoopla, unveiled its intentions to implement the construction via an ambitious new form of private-public partnership, supported by charitable dollars, that it says will create a windfall for the public.

Jumping with sharp-eyed alacrity into the unfolding events, State Senator Daniel Squadron has co-authored a proposal with Assemblywoman Joan Millman: They are urging that the envisioned windfall increase in values be captured with tax increment-financing to divert the resulting increased property taxes to pay expenses for the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Noting that the building over the BQE will be taking place just blocks away from the park, Squadron observed that the new structures being erected will greatly expand the population accessing and benefitting from the park every day. Squadron pointed out that, in all probability, the reason the Bloomberg administration now found it attractive to accelerate this proposed development was because of the world-class contributions the park would be making to neighborhood aesthetics and amenities.

For many, the platforming over the BQE is considered long overdue. Although it was included as an element of the mayor’s 2030 plan, the idea had been urged long before that, including some serious discussion in 1980. Above is an image from architect Susannah Drake from her DLANDSTUDIO, whose proposals preceded the mayor’s adoption of them into his plan (the above envisioning is only a park- no buildings).

Bloomberg L.P. was not always the first choice to be the private developer side of the private-public partnership. The city originally leaned toward selection of Forest City Ratner. Seth Pinsky, President of the mayor’s New York City Economic Development Corporation said that a lot of people viewed the Ratner organization merely as a professional subsidy collection organization. “That underestimates Ratner,” said Mr. Pinsky, “by the time Ratner has completed the Atlantic Yards project it will have learned a lot about platform construction. The superior expertise garnered at taxpayer expense should not be discounted or wasted.” Nevertheless, Mr. Pinsky said the city had problems with the Ratner organization leading to the decision to switch to the expertise available if things are managed under Doctoroff and his people.

“First,” said Pinsky, “there are the Ridge Hill and Kruger indictment tapes concerning Forest City Ratner’s participation in bribing government officials. We are not sure all the tapes made have surfaced yet.” Secondly, said Pinsky, there is a question of good government: “When you are NOT taking bids it looks bad to keep handing out swaths of the city to the same real estate development firms. It looks like the mayor is playing favorites. It is better to take turns and hand out deals on a rotating basis.”

Bloomberg expects to reduce the overall cost of the project (and boost returns to investors on the equity side of the transaction) by directing into it charity funds that are under his control. To that end, funds Bloomberg collected through the Mayor's Fund to Advance the City for the victims of the recent Japanese disasters may be temporarily rerouted or “reutilized.” “In the end the Japanese will get these monies with interest,” said Bloomberg, “we will be setting the whole thing up with long-term zero-coupon capital appreciation bonds....

"At least, whatever we do, we’re paying an internal rate of interest at a LIBOR rate set by Barclays.”


Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

Forest City Ratner News Release: "The Arena Can Wait. Affordable Housing Now!"

via Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

This shocking news release from Forest City Enterprises just landed in our mailbox.



The Arena Can Wait. Affordable Housing Now.

Forest City Ratner Prioritizes Affordable Housing Over Barclays Center Arena In Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Project

CLEVELAND, Ohio and BROOKLYN, New York - April 1, 2011 - Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCE.A and FCE.B) today announced that the Barclays Center Arena for which it broke ground just over one year ago, is going on the backburner so the development firm can break ground on the affordable housing units it has long promised to construct for Brooklyn.

Bruce Ratner, chairman and chief executive officer of Forest City Ratner Companies, the company's New York-based subsidiary, and other Forest City executives, were joined by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Barclays PLC President Robert E. Diamond, Jr., NETS investor and cultural icon Shawn "JAY-Z" Carter, and many other community leaders to happily announce that they realized the depravity of constructing a money-losing, billion dollar arena in the middle of housing crisis and will immediately commence construction of affordable housing towers.

Click through for the rest of the release.


Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

First Tickets On Sale For Nets Games in Brooklyn

Season ticket holders get first dibs on the "All Access" tickets at the 18,000-seat Barclays Center

Park Slope Patch
by Stephen Brown

There are 100 suites in the $1 billion arena, including 16 “brownstone suites” that cost around $450,000. The least expensive of the bunch will be the “loft suites,” which cost between $215,000 and $300,000.

Nets spokesman Barry Baum added that only one brownstone suite was still available, and that 10 suites designed by Jay-Z — who holds a small stake in the team — will go on the market in the fall.


NoLandGrab: We suggest renaming the "brownstone" and "loft" suites "Pre-Fab" and "Modular," respectively.

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Former hospital executive David Rosen indicted in Kruger corruption case

NY Daily News
by Robert Gearty

When you're bribing crooked politicians, it's apparently a really bad idea to cut out the middle man.

A former hospital executive on Thursday became the first defendant in the corruption case against Brooklyn Sen. Carl Kruger to be indicted.

David Rosen, the former head of Jamaica Hospital, is charged in a bribery scheme involving Kruger and Assemblyman William Boyland, both Democrats.

A federal grand jury in Manhattan accused Rosen of bribing Kruger, Boyland Jr. and the late Queens Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio to get them to support the hospital's requests in Albany.

Rosen was ousted as CEO after being arrested last month.


Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

Mixed Reviews: Prokhorov Makes Waves But Doesn’t Get Results in Season One

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by John Torenli

The best thing an audience can say about an upstart reality television series or hot new dramatic cable saga is that they can’t wait to see what happens next season.

Based on that scenario, Mikhail Prokhorov’s first full campaign as principal owner of the New Jersey (soon-to-be-Brooklyn) Nets has been a smashing success.

Since the 45-year-old metal tycoon has taken charge, the Nets have been more newsworthy than usual, gaining arguably their most attention since Jason Kidd led them to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003.

A check of the franchise-in-transition’s record, both on and off the court, however, indicates that the positive results have been based much more on style than substance.


Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

Cash-Strapped Forest City Ratner Sells 49% Stake in Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal Malls

The L Magazine
by Mark Asch

Bruce Ratner's company has sold a 49% interest in 15 NYC shopping centers, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. This includes the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls, those two monstrosities across Flatbush from the project which has put Ratner into such dire financial straits.

As if the implications of the sale—the largest possible non-controlling stake in privately owned, healthy income-generating retail developments—weren't clear enough, graf 2 of the WSJ article notes, with killing objectivity, "The sale... 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." (One thing they don't mention: this isn't the first time Ratner's sold off assets to keep Atlantic Yards moving. Remember that time he sold his basketball team to the richest man in Russia?)

Ratner, you may recall, had several blocks of Prospect Heights declared "blighted" so that the state could claim eminent domain to hand them over to him. Ratner and the state's urban renewal project apparently consists of letting huge swaths of the neighborhood remain vacant and undeveloped indefinitely, or at least until he can find a few million more pennies under the couch.


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Ratner Sells Big Stake in Atlantic Terminal Mall

Madison International, a real estate private equity firm, will pay the developer’s company, Forest City Ratner, $172 million for properties that include both Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal. Madison will also take on $499.9 million of debt.

Ratner will retain the majority share and continue to manage the properties, including the Atlantic Terminal Mall.

Ratner’s plans for 16-tower mini-city and basketball arena at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues was on the brink of financial ruin in 2008 when the economy tanked. Since then, the original architect of the project, Frank Gehry, has been fired, and the developer has said the project could be completed in 25 years, rather than the original 10 years.

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

Brooklyn Kids With Cancer: Apply for Free Family Camp in Maine

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Brooklyn families with a child who has been diagnosed with cancer can attend Camp Sunshine, a one-of-a-kind national retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families in Maine, thanks to the generosity of the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance. The Alliance is a philanthropic partnership among Barclays, the Nets and Forest City Ratner Companies.

Camp Sunshine offers families a place to relax together and take a break from the extraordinary demands placed upon them on a daily basis. The year-round program is free of charge and staffed almost entirely by volunteers. It is the only program in the nation whose mission is to address the impact of a life-threatening illness on every member of the immediate family.

The weekend of April 15 through 18 marks the second consecutive year of the Brooklyn program. It is hoped that up to 40 families from the city will participate in the year’s session at no cost. The program is intended to provide an opportunity for families living in Brooklyn to meet others fighting similar battles, share their experiences and allow their children to just have fun. Families interested in filling the remaining slots can visit the Camp Sunshine website at www.campsunshine.org.


Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

Brooklyn Arena On Track For 2012 Opening

by Jeanine Ramirez

Nets CEO Brett Yormark gave NY1 a tour of the site. He says the construction is right on track for a 2012 opening when the Nets, for the first time, will play in Brooklyn.

"They've been underserved in the area of sports and entertainment for years. Since the dodgers left in 1957. We're the home team. We're coming back. And we're giving them something to root for," said Nets CEO Brett Yormark.

Thank goodness. We've been bored out of our wits for the last 54 years.

"We're bringing the circus here and Disney on Ice. We have a college franchise we're developing with IMG College for lots of great college sports with basketball and hockey," Yormark said.

If it's not Yormark's usual hyperbole, that may be some news. There's been some question as to the arena's suitability for ice hockey.


Posted by eric at 10:45 AM


Sports Choice

Question by Matt D: Can you invest stock in the New Jersey Nets?

Can you invest stock in individual NBA teams?

Best answer:

Answer by jken2030
um, No.


Posted by eric at 10:40 AM