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May 31, 2011

Reconsidering Jane Jacobs: writers suggest that planners have become disempowered; shouldn't fealty to developers be part of the equation?

Atlantic Yards Report

The new book, Reconsidering Jane Jacobs (APA Planners Press), edited by Max Page and Timothy Mennel, serves as a bit of a bookend to Block by Block: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York, the 2007 book (Princeton Architectural Press) also co-edited by Mennel, and some of the essays--criticizing Jacobs or the impact of her followers--have already provoked spirited discussion.

Page's introduction sets out the challenge:

Is there any other urbanist whose ideas more people profess to understand who is less understood? And is there another urbanist whose influence is so widely felt even where her name is not well known? We suggest in this volume that the answer is again “no”: Many who profess to understand Jacobs’s ideas don’t, and many more who profess not to know of her work have in fact been deeply influenced by it. Like Freud’s, her ideas are everywhere, named or unnamed.

...Jane Jacobs has had lasting power for many reasons, but one of them certainly is that she offers something for everyone. As Francis Morrone has noted, Jane Jacobs has drawn the praise of new urbanists and preservationists, free-market capitalists, and advocates of government regulation. She is a right-wing libertarian, and she is a left-wing antiwar protester. She cherishes the small-business owner and rails against bureaucrats who limit innovation, and she is also the symbol of one of the things conservatives in the 2008 presidential election scoffed at: “the community activist.”

Fifty years after the publication of Jacobs's classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, (1961), the editors sought writers who would "wrestle with her blind spots, her contradictory political impulses," observe "the unintended uses to which her writing has been put."

The AY angle

There's no explicit mention of Atlantic Yards in the new collection, but, as I suggest below, there are arguments that connect to it.


Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

Is the law finally going to be enforced in relation to illegal construction worker parking on Pacific Street?

Atlantic Yards Watch

The NYPD has posted "no parking" signs on Pacific Street from the Newswalk parking garage to 6th Avenue on Pacific Street for Tuesday, May 31st.

Are the police finally going to crack down on the illegal construction worker parking on Pacific Street that regularly occurs on sidewalks and in no standing zones in this location? There are no signs on the 6th Avenue bridge which is also a regular source of free and illegal parking for Barclays Center construction workers.

As has been commented on by community members on this website, the illegal parking in this location has regularly blocked sidewalks and the travel lane, as well as made street cleaning impossible. It has also contributed to a sense that parking regulations in the area are enforced selectively.


NoLandGrab: We thought all the jobs were going to people from the neighborhood. Why would anyone need to drive?

Posted by eric at 1:21 PM

Now renting: luxe condos built for the global rich

AP via CBS Moneywatch.com

Due to a glut of glitzy condo towers and the need to appease skittish lenders some developers have found a new use for the gilded, clubby preserves once meant for buyers who could afford the seven-figure price tags. They're renting them out and offering all of the perks normally reserved for the elite. The hand-watered grass roofs and outdoor movie theaters. The heated, valet-attended porte-cocheres. The pet spas offering canine cardio and play dates for your puppy.

And developers have found that renters —reluctant to buy in a still-unsteady market— are embracing them. One marketing banner flapping against a ritzy, new rental building in New York says it best: "Repent. Rent. Repeat."

Frank Gehry's crumpled, stainless-steel skyscraper in Manhattan--the tallest residential tower in the world--was originally supposed to include 200 sprawling condos along with 700 rentals. Now all of the critically-acclaimed building's apartments are for rent. The units, whose rents start at $2,630 for a 600-square-foot studio, are even rent-stabilized --meaning rents are regulated so tenants will only see small annual increases. There's even an option to pay extra for decor hand-picked by Gehry, including Capellini's Rive Droite armchair, Jonathan Adler's Claude Drawers and Blu Dot's Swept Sofa.

"People are liking the fact that they don't have to commit to a mortgage and a large dollar amount to live here," says MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, the building's developer.


NoLandGrab: 'Cause God knows, $2,630 a month for a 15' x 20' box is a bargain anywhere.

Posted by eric at 1:16 PM

indieWIRE’s Best Film Fests June Has to Offer

by Bryce J. Renninger and Daniel Loria

As we welcome the summer, we also welcome one of the year’s most exciting months for film festivals. From summer destination festivals like Provincetown and Nantucket to some of the year’s biggest documentary fests to a slew in Brooklyn, indieWIRE presents our one-stop guide to all the top fests June has to offer.

Brooklyn International Film Festival—Brooklyn, NY—June 3-12 [link]

Spanning theaters in north and south Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Film Festival is the most expansive of the borough’s festivals. The festival will serve as the home turf debut of Hot Docs’ “Battle for Brooklyn,” which chronicles the borough’s controversial Atlantic Yards development project.


Posted by eric at 1:08 PM

May 30, 2011

Goldman Sachs buys Google ads to promote its role in getting Louisville arena built; what about Brooklyn?

Atlantic Yards Report

Attached to a 5/7/11 Boston Globe review of sportswriter Robert Lipsyte's new memoir was the advertisement at right, in which financial behemoth Goldman Sachs promotes its role in the new arena in Louisville, KY.

Presumably such Google ads are being bought wholesale, attached to other sports coverage.

"See how the construction of a new arena helps businesses downtown," states Goldman, pointing to a web page and film, with the summary:

Now, new businesses are opening, new jobs have been created and downtown Louisville is more vibrant than ever, with new restaurants and services available to local residents and visitors.

What about Brooklyn?

Will Goldman, which arranged the bond financing for the Atlantic Yards arena (aka Barclays Center), promote its role in the new facility? Likely.

But the promotion will have to be more subtle. New businesses? Sports bars, sure, but local residents surely have enough restaurants and services.

New jobs? Surely not nearly as many as promised during the heady days of "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops."

New housing? Not Goldman's problem.


Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

More stories of rats in the area of arena construction come forward; Community continues to believe the source of rodent infestation is project construction

Atlantic Yards Watch

Since the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet several weeks ago, more complaints about rodents have reached this site, been voiced at the monthly Dean Street block association meeting and posted on Atlantic Yards Report. Rodents have been an ongoing problem in the area since work on Atlantic Yards began in 2007.

On Monday the 23rd, a resident of 6th Avenue between Dean and Bergen Streets attended the monthly meeting of Dean Street Block Association and regaled those in attendance with stories of rats attempting to chew through an exterior door and expressed anxiety about walking home alone after dark due to the infestation. This area is only a few feet from arena excavation.

Three weeks ago, this website located the rodent infestation primarily on Dean Street at 6th Avenue. With further input from area residents, we now locate the area with current problems to 6th Avenue from Bergen to Dean Street, Dean Street from 6th Avenue to Carlton, and Carlton between Dean and Bergen.


Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

Atlantic Yards Film to Play at Brooklyn Heights Cinema

Brooklyn Heights Blog

The NY Daily News reports on Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky's Atlantic Yards film Battle for Brooklyn which will be shown this Friday at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema.

NY Daily News: In the film, as a coalition comes together to fight against the demolition, directors Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky focus on Daniel Goldstein, whose just-purchased apartment was in one of three condos that Ratner’s firm, Forest City Ratner, planned to demolish.

“We knew the site and lived in the area, and when I saw the stories about it, I thought, ‘There’s something weird here,’ ” says Galinsky, who lives with Hawley in Clinton Hill.

“I saw posters saying ‘Stop the Atlantic Yards Project.’ Then I met Patti Hagan, a neighborhood activist, who said people were taking buyouts. But she said, ‘You should meet this guy Dan, he may stick it out.’ That was the way into the story. Dan was a person saying, ‘This is wrong, and I can’t let this happen.'"

Are you planning to see the film?


Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

Two accidents occur within an hour on Dean Street Monday morning

Atlantic Yards Watch

Two car accidents occurred inside one hour, and within two contiguous blocks on Dean Street Monday morning, May 23rd.

Amy Sara Clark reports in the Prospect Heights Patch that a four car accident took place at 7:30 a.m. on Dean Street between Carlton and 6th Avenues when a driver swerved to avoid a double parked car. The driver was taken to the hospital with unspecified injuries.

Only minutes later at 8:15 a.m., another accident occurred on Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt when a street cleaner driving against traffic hit a car traveling with the traffic. The street cleaner works for Laquila who is a contractor on Barclays Center construction. It is unclear why the street cleaner was driving in the incorrect direction during peak driving time.

Traffic in the area has increased since the street closures took place that established the footprint of the Atlantic Yards Project. The increased traffic on Dean Street has been compounded by the extended reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge. Along with the increased traffic has come more accidents.


NoLandGrab: Ratner's private street sweeper causing an accident by going the wrong way on Dean Street is a pretty apt metaphor for Atlantic Yards, don't you think?

Photo: Atlantic Yards Watch

Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

May 29, 2011

On Lopate, critic Witold Rybczynski said Atlantic Yards shows "how the developers, in a sense, are taking the lead in being planners"

Atlantic Yards Report

I missed this several months back, but author (Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities) and Slate architecture critic Witold Rybczynski, in an interview December 9 with WNYC's Leonard Lopate, offered some not atypical criticism about Atlantic Yards.


The Atlantic Yards discussion comes up at 12:36.

LL: Then there’s that whole matter of the Atlantic Yards project in Downtown Brooklyn. What are your thoughts on that?

(Not quite Downtown Brooklyn.)

WR: I thought the Atlantic Yards was an example of how the developers, in a sense, are taking the lead in being planners. I thought there were two problems there. One was the density seemed awfully high. And putting it in the hands of one architect, in this case Frank Gehry, I don’t think is a good idea. I have great respect for him as an architect, but I don’t think one architect shouldn’t design blocks and blocks of a city. Again, it’s going back to that piecemeal idea.

(Now that Gehry's gone, there likely will be several architects, as Gehry initially requested, though it's not like multiple parcels would be bid. And Gehry was part of the sales job.

LL: The Municipal Art Society was opposed to it because it kind of cut Brooklyn down the middle, and they felt that better planning allows for streets going through and for more of a mixing of neighborhoods. Another issue with Atlantic Yards was the building of a sports arena. Earlier we had a big debate about whether to build a Jets stadium on the West Side. And this is something that has become controversial all over the country. Do those stadiums wind up helping the community or costing the community an awful lot?

WR: When they’re planned, they’re often described as economic sort of engines. The evidence I’ve read is that they don’t, in fact, contribute economically to a city. They’re part of a city because it’s part of the culture of a city to have sports. But I think their proponents tend to exaggerate the economic spinoffs that come from them. And especially when they are subsidized by public funds, they really don’t make a lot of sense.

(Which is why maybe someone should have thought about giving away naming rights.)


Posted by steve at 9:53 PM

Court fight: Story of the battle over a basketball arena opens Brooklyn Film Festival

Daily News
By Joe Neumaier

It would be hard to find a better movie to open this year's Brooklyn Film Festival than "Battle for Brooklyn."

The rousing, engrossing documentary will screen at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema on Friday. It chronicles the conflict that began in December 2003 when real estate developer Bruce Ratner announced plans to build Atlantic Yards, a shopping and arena complex where the relocated New Jersey Nets will play, smack in the middle of Prospect Heights.

The troubled project — scheduled to open in 2012 — split city residents. Presented as simply a renovation of unused rail yards, it would eventually displace almost 1,000 residents and businesses, some of whom had been there a half century or longer.


Related coverage... Nets Daily, Battle Over, But Not Divided Opinion

Posted by steve at 9:48 PM

May 28, 2011

As his finishes his film Brooklyn Boheme, filmmaker and writer Nelson George will leave Fort Greene; one spur is the opening of the arena

Atlantic Yards Report

A 4/28/11 Wall Street Journal profile of writer and filmmaker Nelson George, Artist Films a Farewell to His Home: Nelson George Looks Back to a Time When Fort Greene Spilled Over With Talent, describes George's work on a documentary on black creative folk titled Brooklyn Boheme:

Within a few years, Mr. George found himself surrounded by cutting-edge African-American artists and performers. He soon became an editor at Billboard magazine and a columnist for the Village Voice. In the years since, he has published 15 books and a number of screenplays, and directed several films. He cited Fort Greene's proximity to Manhattan as well as its superior architecture and, in the 1980s, affordable prices—the result of a once-affluent, culturally rich area having fallen on hard times in the 1970s—for the rapid evolution of the community. "[Author] Carl Hancock Rux moved into a duplex apartment for $350 and his landlord asked him if he could recommend the other vacant units to his friends," Mr. George said. "You could buy a house for a hundred thousand."

Escaping the arena

Now George is leaving the neighborhood:

His own impending move is motivated primarily by the opening of the Barclay's Center, which will house the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets of the NBA. Citing the population density and traffic that it will bring, he said, "the DNA of the area will change profoundly; it will be the end of this era of the neighborhood."

But it's not just the arena. George has previously expressed his concerns about gentrification, writing in the Times in April 2009:

I’ve been gentrified, and while I’m not as mad as hell, I’m not entirely comfortable as an artsy, graying black man of 51 when I walk the streets of the neighborhood where I’ve lived half my life.

...And the neighborhood became the centerpiece of this black alternative vision precisely because it was a place where many whites were afraid to go.

Asked, at a panel that month, about the future of Fort Greene a decade hence, “I’m not certain,” George responded. “If they build a sports arena, and they build those other things, I think it will change the nature of the neighborhood. You can’t build a sports arena and not have fast food restaurants, not have souvenir shops, not have strip clubs.”

So far, the changes seem focused on Flatbush Avenue and Pacific Street, but the arena is still more than a year away.

George is no new critic of the arena; he's a member of the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board, which made a splash when inaugurated in 2006 but which is essentially dormant.


Posted by steve at 10:49 PM

New documentary 'Battle for Brooklyn' details the fight over the Atlantic Yards project

Daily News
By Michael O'Keeffe

The Atlantic Yards documentary "Battle for Brooklyn" makes its U.S. debut this Friday at the Brooklyn Film Festival. This rundown of the film mentions unseemly behavior by some of the project supporters.

Forest City Ratner vice president Bruce Bender, pointing to a map as he tells the filmmakers which blocks will be seized for the project and which blocks will remain intact, comes across as dishonest and arrogant as the Bush administration officials who brought us the Iraq War. He's a man without empathy, completely unable to comprehend why residents and businessmen would be reluctant to step out of the way so his company could reap big profits.

Marie Louis of BUILD, a purportedly independent Brooklyn group that supported the project, continues to insist on camera that BUILD is a volunteer, grass-roots organization even after being confronted with tax records that show it received millions of dollars from Ratner.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz reduces himself to a cartoon character as he invokes Junior's cheesecake and the long-gone Brooklyn Dodgers to explain why Ratner needs to take homes and businesses to build an NBA team. "He shed so many tears for the Dodgers going to La-La Land," AY foe Patti Hagan says in the film. "He's shed no tears for the one thousand people he wants put out of their homes."


Posted by steve at 10:39 PM

Atlantic Arena, Traffic Mitigation plans

North Flatbush Avenue BID

Here's further notice of traffic changes due to construction of the new Nets arena:

The following changes are scheduled to take place on July 15th, 2011.

Conversion of Fourth Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue into a one-way southbound street.

• Reversal of the direction of Pacific Street between Fourth and Flatbush avenues, changing it from westbound to eastbound.

• Installation of a new traffic light at the intersection of Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue, and a new crosswalk across from Flatbush Avenue, where vehicles will be able to make right or left turns onto Flatbush Avenue.

• Cars and trucks can use Third Avenue via Atlantic to get to Flatbush Avenue. Pacific Street will offer secondary access to Flatbush Avenue, but trucks are not permitted to use it.

The changes mean that Flatbush Avenue-bound cars on Fourth Avenue will either have to turn on Pacific Street, or take Atlantic Avenue to Third Avenue: the Flatbush Two Step is born.


NoLandGrab: Rather than mitigation, this is a plan for aggravation.

Posted by steve at 10:33 PM

No 'Dave and Busters-Type' Bar Slated for Arena Area

Park Slope Patch
By Kristen V. Brown

Residents in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards site can put the kibosh on fears that a rowdy “Dave and Busters-type” bar will be the next thing to open near the arena.

Henry Weinstein, the owner of 604 Pacific Street, told Patch that his plans for the space include nothing of the sort, despite a recent online ad proclaiming that the 35,000 square foot property at Flatbush Avenue can host “80,000 customers” and is perfect for an adult-themed version of Chuck E. Cheese.

Weinstein, a one-time Atlantic Yards opponent, said that the ad was instead the result of an “over ambitious” consultant who put the ad up without his knowledge.

Instead, Weinstein says he plans to lease the mega space to a “high class, SoHo-type operation.”

“I could see why the ad was offensive to many of people in this neighborhood, because they’ll already be assaulted with a deluge of people once the arena opens up,” he said.


Posted by steve at 10:31 PM

May 27, 2011

New Rochelle Dems Pick Slate for Upcoming CIty Council and Mayoral Race

Talk of the Sound
by Robert Cox

Haven't heard this anywhere else, but here's what one New Rochelle blogger is reporting about Forest City's Echo Bay project.

If they achieve a super-majority, it is expected that the Democrats would use this power to finance tens of millions of dollars to move the DPW City Yard to a new, smaller location on Beechwood Avenue in order to give away the current City Yard to Forest City Ratner, a Cleveland-based developer. Council Member Lou Trangucci of District 1, site of the proposed City Yard on Beechwood, has objected to the plans on the grounds that paying off the bond will require significant tax increases.

Forest City has several large projects going in the area most of which are the subject of Federal indictments related to bribing public officials to support local projects. A Forest City official is an unindicted co-conspirator in each of the various Department of Justice cases. A senior official at Forest City Ratner admitted recently to one Talk of the Sound contributor that the Echo Bay Project is "dead" and that "nothing is going to happen there". Some political observers in New Rochelle believe that the entire project is a political favor to Mayor Noam Bramson based on an expectation that when Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) retires, Bramson will run and win her seat in Congress. The Ratner family have been big donors to Mayor Bramson over the years.


Posted by eric at 12:55 PM

Residents near AY construction site still air complaints about rats; ESDC says rodent burrows found and filled, but that's just within the site

Atlantic Yards Report

Looks like Bruce Ratner has created lots of affordable housing on the Atlantic Yards site — for rats.

Residents on blocks bordering the Atlantic Yards site are becoming frustrated by the increased presence of rats--not an uncommon feature of city life, but one they believe is created or at least exacerbated by nearby construction.

Larry Schwartz, a resident of Dean Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues sent a letter yesterday to Council Member Letitia James, who had brought up rodent complaints at the Atlantic Yards District Cabinet meeting May 19 only to be reminded that Forest City Ratner is responsible only for on-site abatement and that making the developer responsible off-site would lead to a slippery slope of blame.

Rats infesting the garbage

Schwartz wrote:

Yesterday as I came home around 8 pm, I observed at least 6 or 7 rats all scurrying in and out of a garbage bag in front of my building that had been placed there for pickup today. All these rats scurried into the garage that is next door to our building. This garage has become infested with rats. Obviously, there is nothing we can do about placing garbage on the sidewalk for pickup. Either the city or Forest City Ratner has to deal with this problem. There are many kids in the neighborhood, and it is a very disturbing health issue.

I have attached 3 photos I took. While only one rat is clearly shown in the photos, please trust me that that whole bag was literally filled with them. This is an urgent matter, and I hope you can help facilitate a solution quickly.

James's comment

"The source of this problem is clearly related to the Atlantic Yards Project," commented James, who, it should be noted, would be pressed to prove that.

"FCR should therefore be held accountable for rodent abatement in and around the footprint, today. Failure to address this problem is just another example of their disregard for the quality of life issues residents of Prospect Heights are dealing with as a result of this ill conceived and financially challenged project."


Photo: Larry Schwartz

Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

The Flatbush Two Step! Major street changes coming to Barclays Center area

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gary Buiso

Get ready to dance the Flatbush-to-Fourth Two-Step — whether you like it or not.

The state this week unveiled its plan to ease traffic around the $1-billion Barclays Center at Flatbush, Fourth and Atlantic avenues, permanent changes that its creator predicts will untangle the maze of roadways near the rising basketball arena.

The changes, already ratified by the state and city, will take hold on July 15.

The plan was first broached six years ago in the project’s environmental impact statement, one that galled critics who claimed the changes splash lipstick on a pig — namely, an 18,000-seat arena surrounded by low-rise residential neighborhoods.

“They want to turn my street into a viaduct,” said Pacific Street resident Jim Vogel, who said he expects mayhem on game nights — when 500-800 cars will traverse Pacific Street between Fourth and Flatbush avenues every hour, according to the developer’s estimates.

Other block residents were equally perturbed.

“What mitigation?” wondered Therese Urban. “You mean the one that doesn’t mitigate traffic and only adds to it. This was objectionable when it was first written six years ago — and it still is.”


Related coverage...

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Traffic Changes Coming to Area Near Atlantic Yards

Dennis Holt reworks the press release.

Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

NYU is up on Downtown thanks to latest Metrotech leases

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

NYU is expanding its existing Polytechnic Institute to include two more buildings in Metrotech Center, a move that borough officials cheered as a magnet for Downtown development — and a sign that university is serious about Brooklyn.

NYU-Poly signed a 20-year lease with Forest City Ratner for space in Metrotech Center, a campus of 11 mixed-use buildings between Flatbush Avenue Extension and Jay Street, where space has recently been going cheap.

The Metrotech complex — built in the early 1990s with hefty public subsidies — has largely included financial institutions, until many began to decamp during the financial bubble of 2008, according to real-estate broker Chris Havens.

He said that NYU likely took advantage of a “fantastic deal” and that Metrotech space is “going cheap.”

“The biggest hole in Brooklyn is Metrotech — there’s lots of space there for lease,” Havens said.


NoLandGrab: Ah, finally some unvarnished truth about Forest City Ratner's Metrotech. Guess we won't be seeing any Atlantic Yards office towers (or office jobs) any time soon.

Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

May 26, 2011

The Atlantic Yards Odyssey, On Film

The L Magazine
by Mark Asch

An interview with Battle for Brooklyn filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky.

How do you decide when you've "covered" an important aspect of your story? How do you prioritize which points, made by your subjects, need to be edited into the film, or countered, or followed-up, or emphasized by a title card or expert talking head?

In the end, we had to stick to the idea that the film was from the point of view of Dan's struggle to stop the project. We often use talking heads and cards during our process of creating the film. Then we find a way to show what the talking head or card was telling us and we take it out. It's a longer process, but it allows people watching the film to do the work of coming to an understanding themselves.

For example, we came to realize that the film was really telling the story of how government operates in tandem with business in Brooklyn these days (in the city? in the country?). It's from a very top-down approach, as if communities or schools are a business. The government makes sweeping decisions on behalf of many citizens and creates a "new" community from scratch. But it turns out the community was developing organically on its own, which is precisely why Forest City Ratner really wanted this deal to happen. Far from being a "blighted" neighborhood that was in dire need of government intervention, it was a thriving neighborhood, complete with three newly converted condo buildings, with condos fetching half a million dollars or more at the time.


Posted by eric at 5:51 PM

Barclays Center Construction Progressing At Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards

CBS New York

The Barclays Center is the biggest piece of the Atlantic Yards complex and is under construction right now in Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Actually, the Barclays Center seems to be the only piece of the Atlantic Yards complex, though we're expecting a giant parking lot, too.

Photo: Tom Kaminski / WCBS 880

Posted by eric at 5:34 PM

June 15: UNITY 4 Community Meeting -- We Can Do Better Than an Arena, A Big Parking Lot

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Forest City Ratner is constructing the arena, but the rest of the demolished 22 acre site is a big question mark...except for enormous "interim" surface parking lots. We, as a community, need to fix this future for the coming decades.

In order to plan, set a better framework, and change the dynamic for the future development of the site Councilmember Letitia James, Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn invite you to UNITY 4, a community meeting on Wednesday, June 15th to discuss the community's plans for the Atlantic Yards site, with the UNITY Plan and its principles as a jumping off point.

Please mark your calendars.

Wednesday, June 15. 7pm
at Atlantic Commons
388 Atlantic Avenue (between Hoyt and Bond)


Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

Forest City Enterprises gets one-third off loan due Cleveland; will subsidary FCR pursue similar discounts regarding Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

Is a discount on a Forest City Enterprises loan from the city of Cleveland a harbinger of further requests to adjust Forest City Ratner's public obligations regarding Atlantic Yards?

Well, we can't be sure, but the Forest City modus operandi, it's clear, is to play hardball, taking advantage of what public agencies allow.

(FCR doesn't have any loans to pay back, but it is supposed to create new public infrastructure, and already renegotiated a discount on the development rights to the Vanderbilt Yard and got permission to build a replacement yard smaller than promised.)

The discount in Cleveland

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer's blog, a post headlined Forest City paying $10.3 million to close out $15 million in city loans:

Forest City Enterprises will pay Cleveland $10.3 million of $15.4 million owed on three development loans, and the city will call it even.

About half the money will replenish a "rainy day" fund that is to run out this year, and $3.9 million will go to economic development. The City Council has set aside $1.4 million for neighborhood projects, with each of the 19 members receiving $75,000.

The deal, initiated by the city, involves loans made to the real estate and development company with federal Urban Development Action Grant money in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Forest City used the low- and no-interest loans to develop The Avenue at Tower City Center.

Forest City had faced balloon payments totaling about $15.4 million due in 2016 or 2020, depending on the loan.

Ken Silliman, Mayor Frank Jackson's chief of staff, said the deal ensures the city will collect two-thirds of a debt that would be hard to recover if Forest City defaulted. He and Economic Development Director Tracey Nichols said it also makes money available for economic development at a time when private financing remains tight.

(Emphasis added)

Making the deal

Why should Forest City default? They can afford to pay back the loan. They just don't want to.

The question is why Cleveland let them get away with it.


Related content...

Cleveland.com, Forest City paying $10.3 million to close out $15 million in city loans

Silliman acknowledged that the city is unlikely to recoup the full value of the three Forest City loans.

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

At MetroTech, NYU-Poly takes some unused office space of Forest City Ratner's hands; move pitched as "owning the square"

Atlantic Yards Report

When I first wrote about New York University's astonishing absorption of the Brooklyn-based engineering school Polytechnic University, I thought it merely an intriguing (and severely under-examined) real estate story involving a principal of the MetroTech complex developed by Forest City Ratner and Polytechnic.

Now there's a more explicit connection. As the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported, in an article headlined NYU-Poly Expands at MetroTech Center: Will Allow School to ‘Own the Square’ and Enhance 24/7 Downtown Community.

Poly already occupies buildings around the commons--buildings with ground-level space flanking the open area--so I don't see how adding upper floors in office buildings makes the campus more dynamic.

Rather, it solves a problem for Forest City Ratner: getting office tenants into its properties. Remember, In the past year, as Crain's NY Business reported, NYSE Euronext moved out of roughly 387,000 square feet at 2 MetroTech Center.

We don't know if Poly is paying the rates expected from office tenants, but it's unlikely.


Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

VIDEO: Pedestrians, Bicyclists Sound Off On Planned Atlantic Yards Traffic Changes

Reacting to a recently announced Traffic Mitigation Plan, residents hope for the best... but prepare for the worst.

Park Slope Patch
by Paul Leonard

"It's going to be a complete mess."


Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

A Peek Inside Prime Six

Here's Park Slope

On the heels of the news that 604 Pacific Street looks like it's going to get its own Barclays Center-themed eatery (while another sneaky little one already opened last weekend a block away- where's Jennifer McMillen when you need her?), I thought now's a good time to check in with Prime Six, that lightning rod for controversy that will be opening someday on Sixth and Flatbush.


Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

N.Y.U. expansion plan gets mixed reception at City Planning

Real Estate Weekly
by Roland Li

All we can say to our friends in Greenwich Village is be very afraid when AKRF, the go-to firm for minimizing major environmental impacts, gets involved.

Greenwich Village residents and elected officials expressed concerns over New York University’s proposed expansion, while other groups testified in support, at a public hearing at the Department of City Planning on Tuesday.

The hearing was the the first opportunity to comment on a draft scoping document, prepared by AKRF, N.Y.U.’s land use consultant, which will form the basis of a study of the potential impacts of four new buildings in Greenwich Village. (AKRF has worked on a number of high-profile land use cases, including Columbia University’s expansion, Atlantic Yards, and the World Trade Center reconstruction.)

Numerous local residents said the proposal, which would add 2.5 million s/f of new development and require construction over a span of 20 years, was out of context with the neighborhood and would overburden the existing infrastructure.

Can you guess who showed up to endorse the project?

Supporters of the plan included the New York Building Congress, construction industry officials, local business groups, and the Real Estate Board of New York.


Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

Battle For Brooklyn

Nathan Kensinger Photography

On June 3rd, 2011, the Brooklyn Film Festival will present the United States Premiere of "Battle For Brooklyn" as its opening night film. This screening has been called "the perfect combination of movie and event" by the NY Daily News. It will take place at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema at 8pm, followed by an Opening Night Party at the powerHouse Arena in Dumbo.

As the Director of Programming for the Brooklyn Film Festival and as a documentary photographer living in Brooklyn, I've had the privilege of getting to know many of the Brooklynites who battled against the Atlantic Yards. "Battle For Brooklyn," however, is a film that all residents of Brooklyn should be proud of, as it fairly presents the opposing sides of the issue and captures the passion that Brooklynites have for their borough, no matter where they stand on the Atlantic Yards.


Related coverage...

Moving Picture Institute, New York Daily News raves about Battle for Brooklyn

The New York Daily News calls Battle for Brooklyn "feisty" and "fairly reported," deeming it a story that has "heart, soul and chutzpah."

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

May 25, 2011

Neighborhood around new Nets Arena bracing for sports bar blitz

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

As a new Nets arena rises at Atlantic and Flatbush Aves., a slew of sports bars are already popping up to serve the thirsty hordes it will bring.

At least three new bars are on tap for the immediate area - and many neighbors aren't happy about it.

Residents, including some who unsuccessfully opposed building the Barclays Center arena in the first place, are now turning their ire toward the planned bars, fearing drunken crowds will invade their neighborhood with noise, vandalism and public urination.

"We don't want the area around the arena to turn into the area around Madison Square Garden," said Harry Lipman, a lawyer who lives nearby.

Opponents fear the glut of sports bars is only the beginning.

"People are going to be out there all night messing around and making noise and all the other stuff," said Wayne Bailey, 56. "Why do you need to be open until 4 o'clock in the morning if you're serving the neighborhood?"

Prime 6 owner Akiva Ofshtein bought himself a measure of peace by agreeing to scrap a backyard bar and close his yard by midnight on weekends, but said he was shocked by the uproar.

"I was surprised by the tone it took," he said. "[The arena] is there. You've got to move on with life. You can't hold on to grudges forever."

Oh?! Try us.


Posted by eric at 2:13 PM

Entertainment/retail round-up: new bar already open; changes agreed to by potential sports bar; Calexico bites the dust

Atlantic Yards Report

Catching up on some changes regarding expected and potential arena-related nightlife...

Park Slope Patch reports that Machavelle Sports Bar & Lounge has already opened, located in front of a residential building at the corner of Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue. Residents say there's been no dialogue with the owner.

Park Slope Patch also reports that the operator of Players Gastro Pub and Sports Bar, planned for a warehouse-like space at Pacific and Flatbush

has agreed to soundproof the venue, hire addition security on game days, and restrict hours to 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, among a host of other stipulations. There will be no dancing, and the owner has expressly specified that the space will not be a nightclub.

The only point of contention: Thursday nights, on which restaurant owner Scott Alling would like to stay open until 4 a.m. Initially, Alling proposed that the 150-seat eatery stay open until 4 a.m. every night.

Calexico goes down

Here's Park Slope reports that Calexico, a humble Mexican restaurant at 88 Fifth Avenue near Warren Place has been closed, after being seized for nonpayment of taxes:

With the Barclays Center rising just a couple blocks away I had a feeling that this two-storefront restaurant, which had been there for many years, wouldn't be able to keep up with the inevitable rising rents. Sad to see it was brought down by its own tax problems.


Posted by eric at 1:45 PM

In NY, a "condemnor can condemn a Kasha Knish": more criticisms of eminent domain in New York and suggested reforms

Atlantic Yards Report

The latest issue of the Albany Government Law Review, published by Albany Law School, concerns Eminent Domain: Public Use, Just Compensation, & "The Social Compact", with several articles that touch on the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case.

And, as scholars indicated in a recent conference at Fordham Law School, few think that decision was wise, or that the legal regime in New York inspires confidence.

Probably the quote of the issue comes from attorney Michael Rikon, who represents condemnees (including Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein) and suggests:

It is an aphorism in criminal law that a good prosecutor could get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” With regards to condemnations in New York, it can fairly be said that in New York, a condemnor can condemn a Kasha Knish.

Commentators in the issue propose numerous reforms to right the balance in New York--reforms that likely would be opposed by supporters of the status quo.

One commentator suggests that decisions to condemn made by elected officials should be given deference, but that decisions made by appointees and others not directly accountable should face a higher burden. That would impact projects like Atlantic Yards.

Read on for Norman Oder's in-depth coverage.


Posted by eric at 1:38 PM

The End is Near

Mike Silva's NY Baseball Digest

Could it be — the New York Myets?

The word on the Street is that Wilpon may need to sell the team within the next thirty days since the infusion of cash from minority ownership may not be enough. It’s the financial sectors version of the rumor mill, but the facts make it very believable. This is where a Mark Cuban – it’s no secret he would love to own the Mets- could eventually swoop in and takes over the team. Remember, the minority investors were not vetted for a majority share by MLB. As much as Selig hates Cuban, wouldn’t he rather see his National League New York franchise solvent? Another name to keep an eye on is Mikhail Prokhorov. Think about how owning the Mets, along with their minor league affiliate in Brooklyn, would align with the Atlantic Yards project. Prokhorov would own SNY, and have the ammunition to really play ball with Jim Dolan and MSG.


Posted by eric at 1:32 PM

May 24, 2011

NYU-Poly Expands at MetroTech Center

Will Allow School to ‘Own the Square’ and Enhance 24/7 Downtown Community

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Going for a more dynamic, vibrant feel to its campus in Downtown Brooklyn, NYU-Poly, more formally known as the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, has signed a lease with Forest City Ratner for academic space in two Ratner-owned buildings at MetroTech.


NoLandGrab: Nothing says "dynamic" and "vibrant" like MetroTech! Forest City is also bringing that "24/7" feel to the neighborhoods near its basketball arena.

Posted by eric at 11:14 PM

Big Traffic Changes in the Works for Atlantic Yards Area

A mitigation plan proposed by the ESDC will take effect on or around July 15.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

Motorists just getting used to navigating the maze of construction vehicles, barriers and crossing guards around Atlantic Yards will have to contend with another round of major changes intended to relieve traffic jams through the area.

The Empire State Development Corporation released a Traffic Mitigation Plan on Monday that will alter the flow of traffic through key intersections as Barclays Center construction continues.

A source at the 88th Precinct, which covers the neighborhoods north of the Atlantic Yards site, said that the most troublesome area in terms of traffic incidents was the crossing between Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.


Posted by eric at 7:14 PM

Calexico Restaurant Seized by Taxman, Up For Rent

Here's Park Slope

Calexico, the Mexican restaurant at 88 Fifth Avenue, near Warren Street, has been seized for nonpayment of taxes. "For Rent" signs are plastered all over the gate and windows, and a call to the number on those signs confirms that the restaurant is closed for good.

With the Barclays Center rising just a couple blocks away I had a feeling that this two-storefront restaurant, which had been there for many years, wouldn't be able to keep up with the inevitable rising rents. Sad to see it was brought down by its own tax problems.


NoLandGrab: When a small restaurant doesn't pay its taxes, it's called "illegal." If Bruce Ratner doesn't pay his taxes, it's known as a "tax break."

Posted by eric at 7:04 PM

ESDC issues Community Notice re traffic changes coming July 15; Community Forum June 14; presentation now online

Atlantic Yards Report

Following up on last Thursday's Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, the Empire State Development Corporation has issued an official Community Notice regarding traffic changes beginning on or around July 15, and a public meeting on June 14, as well as the presentation prepared for the meeting.

Notably, while I and others have emphasized one impact of the closure of Fourth Avenue northbound between Atlantic and Flatbush avenues--the odd right turn on Pacific Street to go east to Flatbush, and then left to go north--the presentation indicates that most drivers heading toward the Manhattan Bridge would instead go left on Atlantic and right on Third Avenue to reach Flatbush.

The changes were prepared by Sam Schwartz Engineering, Forest City Ratner's contractor, and ratified by city and state agencies.

Animation describing traffic plan


Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

COMMUNITY NOTICE: Permanent Changes to the Roadway Network on Fourth Avenue and Pacific Street

AY Community Notice 52311


Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

Atlantic Yards: Arena Opening Traffic Mitigation Plan

Arena Traffic Mitigation Plan 52311


Posted by eric at 12:27 PM

On NY1, Markowitz practices Atlantic Yards revisionism, FCR cheerleading: "they have every intention of keeping their word"

Atlantic Yards Report

For a preview of Atlantic Yards revisionism, take a look at Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's appearance last week on NY1's Inside City Hall.

The high points:

  • Half of the housing will be affordable (no, just the half the rentals)
  • "Seven years of lawsuits" delayed the project (the first lawsuit began in 2006)
  • "Atlantic Yards" is the railyard (no, the Vanderbilt Yard is less than 40% of the 22-acre site)
  • the railyard was "totally empty" (no, it was a working railyard that only in recent years became attractive to developers, as with Hudson Yards)
  • "they [developer Forest City Ratner] have every intention of keeping their word" (shouldn't Markowitz have gotten a little skeptical after promises, for example, that architect Frank Gehry would remain on the job?)

(Note: To reach the Atlantic Yards segment, you must cycle through the first loop of the interview, which lasts 8:26.)


Related content...

NY1 Online, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz On "Inside City Hall"

"Inside City Hall" talked with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz on Thursday about the proposed closing of eight fire companies, his concerns about bike lanes and development of Coney Island.

NoLandGrab: Markowitz also has the audacity to claim — in talking about recent Community Board 6 votes on the Prospect Park West bike path — that "I reappoint members on community boards that don't agree with me." That must be a change in policy, since Markowitz infamously purged nine CB6 members in 2007 because they didn't agree with him on Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

Is a planted Atlantic Avenue median the latest design casualty at Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Watch

When asked about plantings on the raised median planned for Atlantic Avenue east of Flatbush, Forest City Ratner project manager Jane Marshall stated there would only be a poured concrete median. Ms. Marshall said that the existence of LIRR tracks beneath Atlantic Avenue made it impossible to include planting beds on the median. Councilmember Tish James pointed out that Park Avenue in Manahattan has railroad tracks running beneath it from Grand Central to north of 96th Street. Ms. Marshall quickly replied that the supports beneath Park Avenue were stronger.

A planted median certainly seemed possible at the time the EIS was issued. A rendering of Atlantic Avenue looking west from Sixth Avenue shows a row of shrubs and trees separating lanes of traffic on Atlantic Avenue. And an aerial landscape plan also shows trees on the median between Flatbush and Sixth.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, What happened to trees on the Atlantic Avenue median opposite the arena? They were in the FEIS visuals but not in the text

Then again, as Atlantic Yards Watch, via Gib Veconi, points out, landscape architect Laurie Olin, whose firm produced the renderings, left the project more than two years ago.

And it may be that no one expected Olin's designs to be more than "conceptual."

After all, I'd add, there seems to be a discrepancy between the visuals attached to the Final EIS and the text, which, in Chapter 12, Traffic & Parking, mentions a median but not plantings.

Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

When arena opens in 2012, Building 2 still under construction; despite predictions, it doesn't look like another tower will be under way by then

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the Arena Traffic Mitigation Plan prepared by Sam Schwartz Engineering and distributed yesterday by the Empire State Development Corporation, Building 2 (highlighted), the first housing tower, is expected to be under construction when the arena opens in September 2012.

As the gray outline in the graphic suggests, the location for Building 4, at the northeast corner of the arena block, is demarcated, but it's unclear when the building will go up. And a bicycle parking facility will occupy part of the space designed for Building 3.

(Click on graphic to enlarge and clarify)

Schedule slipping

Why is this important? Because in September 2010, Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin said, "We anticipate having funding in place to start the first building at Dean and Flatbush in the spring of 2011, the second six to nine months later, and the third about the same time after that."

Not only has the first tower been delayed, it doesn't look like the developer aims to get the second building started within six to nine months.


Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

Another Sports Bar for Atlantic Yards Area – And This One’s Already Open

Machavelle Sports Bar & Lounge stealthily opened over the weekend.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

Here we go again.

A new bar and lounge has quietly opened up directly across from the Barclays Center at Fourth Avenue and Pacific Street – right next to the proposed location of Player’s Gastro Pub and Sportsbar, a new eatery that has had Slopers up in arms over concerns for noise and late hours.

Machavelle Sports Bar & Lounge soft opened over the weekend, and plans to officially open this evening, according to a man that identified himself as the owner but refused to give his name for fear of “media attention.”

Much like the initial issue with Prime 6, another planned Barclays Center-area bar, Machavelle was somehow granted a liquor license (in a speedy one month) without Community Board 6 ever even learning that it was applying for a license in the first place. The lounge then stealthily opened over the weekend.

“It never went before Community Board 6, so there seems to be a problem with the process,” said Jim Vogel, a Pacific Street resident and representative to State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. Vogel caught wind of the situation last month, and has left several notes with the owner in hopes of opening a dialogue but heard no response.

He said that Senator Montgomery is looking at putting together legislation that would require the State Liquor Authority wait for a response from the community board before granting any liquor licenses, rather than grant a license after 30 days regardless of response.

“Our block used to be quiet, but it’s not going to be like that anymore,” said [Pacific Street resident May] Mosleh. “It’s going to be like living on 42nd Street.”


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Player’s Gastro Pub Agrees to Community Concessions

Player’s Gastro Pub and Sportsbar hasn’t even signed a lease, and already the bar and restaurant has agreed to a bevy of concessions.

The spot, planned for Pacific Street at Flatbush Avenue directly across from the quickly-rising Barclays Center, has agreed to soundproof the venue, hire addition security on game days, and restrict hours to 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, among a host of other stipulations. There will be no dancing, and the owner has expressly specified that the space will not be a nightclub.

That is – if it happens at all. Player’s has not yet signed a lease, and property owner Henry Weinstein, a one-time Atlantic Yards opponent, is still considering other tenants for the space.

An online ad boasts that the massive, 35,000 square foot property would be perfect for “’Dave and Busters’ type entertainment.”

[Player's owner Scott] Alling attempted to persuade concerned nearby residents that while they might be concerned about issues like noise and sidewalk garbage, his proposal is surely more acceptable that whatever else Weinstein might bring in.

“I guess the reason that we’re so sensitive is because this is right next to the arena,” said Elba Vasquez, a Dean Street resident.

“Since the arena has gone up, there have been many more bars that have come in,” said NFBID President Regina Cahill. “This is just the wave of what’s happening.”

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

The Slow And Quiet Return Of Richard Lipsky

City Hall News
by Adam Lisberg

He's baaaaaaack?!

He doesn’t roam City Hall anymore with his cellphone earpiece and his red appointment book. He doesn’t exhort reporters to cover his press conferences. He doesn’t blast out email about his latest blog posts.

But indicted lobbyist Richard Lipsky is quietly edging back into the game.

Lobbying reports on file with the city and state show Lipsky billed at least $28,500 to three clients in March and April. That’s down significantly from the $60,533 he billed 10 clients in January and February, but it’s still a significant level of work.

It’s unclear whether Lipsky actually lobbied government officials, or simply advised his clients on public relations and other functions, after he was charged March 10 with conspiracy and money laundering.

He made his name as a lobbyist for small businesses, fighting the city’s plans to seize property in Willets Point, Queens through eminent domain, though he has also worked on behalf of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards development that used eminent domain.


Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

May 23, 2011

Update #74: Daily News hits it out of the park

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

The Daily News hit it out of the park on Sunday. In a summer preview about Battle For Brooklyn, and the new Woody Allen film, News film editor Joe Neumaier had this to say...


Posted by eric at 5:39 PM

If there are 500 workers at AY site, how does that compare to official projections? Well, 1000+ jobs were promised to last over three years

Atlantic Yards Report

There are 500 workers at the Atlantic Yards site, Forest City Ratner officials said last week, though there's no independent confirmation.

The total is difficult to trumpet since it’s so much smaller than the numbers promised, I wrote, prompting one observer to wonder: if the promised construction job figure was 10,000 job years (or 1000 jobs over ten years), wouldn't that mean that they are providing about half of the promised jobs?

Not at all.

Looking at the numbers

First, the current projected total is 17,000 job-years, up from the original 15,000. Those numbers, however, depend on a full build-out of the project, which is highly doubtful.

Second, the jobs were supposed to be concentrated in Phase 1, when the arena was under construction along with four towers. None of those towers is under construction as of now, and the first tower, Building 2, has been delayed and may be built via modular construction, which would significantly reduce jobs.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

Project Puts Brooklyn First

The Wall Street Journal
by Dana Rubinstein

Profit is the lodestar of most building design in New York City. So it is the rare and refreshing development that is driven by something other than revenue maximization.

Take the case of 212 S. Oxford St., a 10-story red brick and aluminum cooperative development on Fort Greene's Atlantic Avenue border. From its bathroom vanities to its bamboo floors, the building is steeped in and guided by ideology: more precisely, by the desire to propagate an economically integrated society in rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn.

"We want something that fits into the Brooklyn culture," says Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, a community development and social justice organization based in Gowanus that is the co-developer of the building, named Atlantic Terrace. The building's motto is "Made in Brooklyn."

The development sits on Atlantic Avenue and South Oxford Street, right next to the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls developed by Forest City Ratner Companies. All fall within the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area, of which Atlantic Terrace is the final piece.

Before the Fifth Avenue Committee's involvement, the site, a former gas station, had lain fallow for more than 20 years. When the committee and Magnusson Architecture and Planning, who are co-developers on the project, won the development rights in 2003, they had a brownfield on their hands, with seven tanks leaking lead gas into the soil below. Extensive remediation followed.

Today, from the soundproof windows of 212 S. Oxford, visitors can see cranes lifting pieces of the Nets arena into place across Atlantic Avenue.


NoLandGrab: While Bruce Ratner has yet to even put a shovel in the ground for any housing, Atlantic Terrace and its nearly 75% affordable units is complete. Why is Ratner in line for any affordable-housing subsidies when other developers obviously do it better, faster and less expensively?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Atlantic Terrace, across from arena site, seeks "new Brooklyn retailers"

The good news, according to the sponsor Fifth Avenue Committee, is affordable housing (subsidized co-ops for households ranging from $34,970 to $115,380), LEED gold certification, locally-crafted finishings, and common amenities open to both subsidized and market-rate tenants.

Going local

The Journal reports:

Even more principled: the 11,400-square-foot ground-floor retail space is being marketed primarily to local tenants. "We've received some interest from some national chains," says Heather Gershen, the director of housing development for the Fifth Avenue Committee. "We think it's important for people to get fresh produce, milk, the morning paper. We would like to see some of the new Brooklyn retailers."

Or, as Ms. [Michelle] de la Uz puts it, "There's already a mall."

Yes, the site borders Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls.

While the article mentions Atlantic Yards, unmentioned is that the expected size of the latter project scotched the Fifth Avenue Committee's plans for solar power on the Atlantic Terrace roof.

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

Forget traffic changes and rats at AY District Service Cabinet, free fare incentive generated news for Post and Brooklyn Paper

Atlantic Yards Report

It's kind of bizarre that, to two newspapers, the main news emanating from last week's Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting concerned not the meat of the discussion--such as traffic changes and rats--but an issue mentioned as an aside and expected to be discussed at a future meeting.

The Post on May 20 published 'Net'roCard on track for Brooklyn hoops fans and today the Brooklyn Paper published Take the train to the game — and then inside.

It's hardly news that arena sponsors aimed to connect game tickets to MetroCards--after all, Chapter 19, Mitigation, of the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement describes a free fare incentive.


Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

The Tappan Zee Is Falling Down

Why is New York taking so long to replace a vital bridge?

City Limits
by Nicole Gelinas

Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn mega-project makes a cameo appearance in this in-depth look at the Tappan Zee Bridge's interesting past and perilous future.

The deeper problem behind all the delays, however, is not regulatory but political. When New York officials want to do something quickly, they don’t worry overmuch about legal niceties, public input, or possible court challenges. It took politicians little more than a year to comply with NEPA’s (National Environmental Protection Act) requirements for the Fulton Street transit center in lower Manhattan, for example—a project favored by Sheldon Silver, the powerful Speaker of the state assembly. It also took little more than a year to secure NEPA approval of extending the Number 7 subway line to the Far West Side of Manhattan, a project that Mayor Michael Bloomberg threw his political weight—and the city’s money—behind. The Atlantic Yards basketball stadium and housing project in Brooklyn doesn’t involve federal money, so officials didn’t need to deal with NEPA in that case, but they did steamroll over a similarly rigid state-environmental review process, inviting the state court cases that arose.

No politicians, though, have championed the Tappan Zee. That’s not surprising, since they wouldn’t get much out of it politically. It doesn’t offer affordable housing, as Atlantic Yards supposedly does. Nor does it open up vast new tracts of land to development and tax revenues, as the West Side extension is supposed to. And it isn’t a project funded by a pot of 9/11 money, as the Fulton Street project was (at least until costs exceeded those funds). All the pols will get for building a new Tappan Zee is complaints for years on end about construction and money—so that some future politician won’t have to watch a bridge collapse.


NoLandGrab: Unmentioned by Gelinas is the fact that we might have more dollars for bridges if we didn't squander boatloads of them on unnecessary arena boondoggles.

Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

From Tracy Collins: weathered steel facade mock-up visible at corner of Carlton and Pacific

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder covers Tracy Collins's posting of arena "skin" photos.

Yesterday, photographer Tracy Collins visited the southeast corner of Pacific Street and Carlton Avenue, where mock-ups of the Barclays Center weathered steel facade have been posted.

Note that the mockup panel delivery and placement of the footing was originally supposed to come in mid-March, but was delayed two months, and that arena subcontractors were described by a Forest City Ratner executive as behind on producing the pre-weathered steel.


Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

Two ironies in the pop-up Guggenheim gallery coming to MetroTech: filling Sid's space, offering respite some AY footprint residents might have wanted

Atlantic Yards Report

Aren't there a few ironies regarding the Guggenheim Museum's upcoming temporary exhibit in a storefront space in Forest City Ratner's Metrotech?

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, in a 5/17/11 article headlined ‘The Gugg’ Comes to Downtown, played it straight, explaining that Tim King of CPEX Real Estate and FCR executive MaryAnne Gilmartin helped provide a free venue for the exhibit in the former home of Sid’s Hardware at 345 Jay Street.

What happened to Sid's?

Unmentioned in the Eagle article: about 15 months ago, as the Brooklyn Paper reported, family-owned Sid's, the first local retailer to transfer to MetroTech after the project changed Downtown Brooklyn, was moving to Hamilton Avenue.

That was, less than a year after a store representative testified before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that the arena project would bring new customers and other benefits to Sid's and its neighbors.

Belated respite

The second irony involves the “Stillspotting NYC” exhibit, which in its first incarnation will feature Pedro Reyes’ "Sanatorium."

As described by the museum:

While the vitality and stimulation of the urban environment can be pleasant, those living in or visiting densely populated areas, such as New York, can have wildly different experiences. The ever-present cacophony of traffic, construction, and commerce; the struggle for mental and physical space; and the anxious need for constant communication in person or via technology are relentless assaults on the senses. One wonders how locals and visitors can escape, find respite, and make peace with their space in this “city that never sleeps.”

The Guggenheim Museum responds with stillspotting nyc, a two-year multidisciplinary project that takes the museum’s Architecture and Urban Studies programming out into the streets of the city’s five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. Every three to five months, “stillspots” are identified, created, or transformed by architects, artists, designers, composers, and philosophers into public tours, events, or installations.

Um, perhaps some of the Atlantic Yards footprint residents who had to endure enormous disruption during construction activities in 2008 could have used such repose.

“Sanatorium” will be open June 2 to 5 and 9 to 12, with advance registration required and tickets $15 for adults, $10 for museum members.


Posted by steve at 5:03 AM

Show me the monkey! Upcoming film treats include Brooklyn doc, return of Woody Allen, and apes

Daily News
Joe Neumaier

Atlantic Yards is nothing to look forward to, but it looks like the documentary of the fight against it is.

Early next month will see the perfect combination of movie and event, and not just because of a title. The opening-night selection of "Battle for Brooklyn" at the Brooklyn Film Festival — screening June 3 at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema (and opening at Cinema Village on June 17) — will be a form-and-function moment in which directors Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley's absorbing, important documentary will unspool in the borough it captures in transition.

The movie, about the fight by Prospect Heights resident Daniel Goldstein and community advocates to halt the Forest City Ratner firm from using Eminent Domain to relocate residents in order to build the Atlantic Yards development has heart, soul and chutzpah. (Insert your own punchline there about the Yards' future tenant, the New Jersey Nets.)

Feisty but fairly reported, "Battle" chronicles not only the resistance to the change but also the origins of an advocacy group − Brooklynite Goldstein's evolution from apartment owner to activist, and the life changes that arrived along with it − and the way New Yorkers rally when it's time to fight.

Like last year's doc "The Vanishing City," about the de facto purchasing of Manhattan blocks by corporate landlords, the movie will resonate with those who worry for the city's soul.

The time line that drives "Battle for Brooklyn" makes it as urgent as any Hollywood thriller. The fact that its real-life ending sits not far from the Brooklyn Film Festival's backyard makes it even more gripping, and gut-wrenching.


Posted by steve at 5:00 AM

Jim Stuckey Should Explain His Atlantic Yards "Game Changer" Tweet

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Former Forest City Ratner Senior VP and Atlantic Yards head honcho until he was mysteriously and unceremoniously let go by the developer and now is a Divisional Dean at NYU's Schack Institute of Real Estate and a prolific Tweeter recently tweeted:

Went to see Atlantic Yards last week. Incredible progress. A real positive game changer for NYC.

Really Jim? Can he explain how his former boss's construction of a money losing arena and vast parking lots, attained by eminent domain abuse, massive public subsidies and the subversion of the normal planning and political process is a "game changer"? Or perhaps he meant a losing game changer.


Posted by steve at 4:57 AM

Take the train to the game — and then inside

The Brooklyn Paper
By Gary Buiso

Some day, a train ticket may not only take you to a Brooklyn Nets game, but get you inside, too.

Developer Forest City Ratner told the Post last week that it is working with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to devise a MetroCard that can be swiped for entry into the $1-billion Barclays Center arena, or a game-day ticket that can be used to enter the subway system.

The goal is to cut down on car traffic that critics fear will overwhelm the residential neighborhood near the rising arena at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street.


“Forest City should honor its commitment to make a project that is transit-oriented, as opposed to a massive parking lot in the community,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene). “I don’t think it’s too early to talk about it — we need to begin discussions now. The façade of the arena is almost completed.”


Posted by steve at 4:53 AM

Barclays Center façade

Threecee via Fllickr

Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street Prospect Heights Brooklyn, New York

This appears to be one panels that will make up the rusted metal skin of the new Barclays Center Arena of Atlantic Yards.


Posted by steve at 4:45 AM

'Dave and Busters-Type' Bar May Open Near Atlantic Yards

Park Slope Patch
By Kristen V. Brown

Prime 6 was just the beginning.

Not even after a month after news broke that a second bar will open at Flatbush Avenue and Pacific Street catering to sports fans heading to Brooklyn Nets games, the bar’s property owner has posted an online ad boasting that the massive, 35,000 square foot property is perfect for “’Dave and Busters’ type entertainment.”


A massive amount of businesses catering to arena crowds – and increased neighborhood traffic because of them – has long been one of the chief concerns of those opposing the arena. Residents have recently raised major concerns over both Prime 6 and Player’s Gastro Pub and Sportsbar.

“I think this is the tip of the iceberg for what the future holds for the block nearest the arena,” said Eric McClure, co-founder of Park Slope Neighbors. “I think something like this does have the potential to overwhelm the surrounding blocks. I also think that the community can have some influence by sticking together and pointing out the problems.”

“I think this really points out why the city had a prohibition against placing arenas withing 200 feet of a residential neighborhood, and how foolish the state was to override it. This all is just not compatible with residential neighborhood,” McClure added.


Posted by steve at 4:39 AM

At Get Reel, the Video Store Experience Lives On

Park Slope Patch

This item about Get Reel, a video store in Park Slope is an example of how Brooklynites know that the arrival of Atlantic Yards is not the harbinger of good times.

It's clear from looking around that the staff really does know their stuff. The shelves are dotted with notecards pointing out staff picks and recommendations, and chatting with them is like taking a film school class.

"Becoming a member here is more than just joining a video store," explained Kim. "It's like joining a community film club. People come here to hang out, meet, and chat about film. Sometimes I come in and see people sitting on the floor! If we had more space we'd have a coffee shop in here too."

While business is still brisk, Christine knows that the good times may not last forever, especially with rents expected to rise as the Barclays Center nears completion just a few blocks away.


Posted by steve at 4:25 AM

May 22, 2011

May 21st: The Ratner


Here's one reason to be sorry that the world did not end yesterday, courtesy of photographer Adrian Kinloch.

Today I took one last stroll around Ratner’s vast skeletal construction at Atlantic Yards. Too bad the Barclays Bank Nets arena won’t be ready for the Rapture.


Posted by eric at 1:42 PM

May 21, 2011

Marty Golden's silence on Carl Kruger; Richard Lipsky's campaign money for Golden, and a wide variety of politicians

Atlantic Yards Report

In March, I pointed to a couple of posts Room 8 blogger Gatemouth, aka Howard Graubard, had written about the charges against state Senator Carl Carl Kruger (who, by the way, says he's running for re-election!), Assemblyman William Boyland, and lobbyist Richard Lipsky.

Now Gatemouth points out that state Senator Marty Golden, who in 2008 took three days to introduce a resolution concerning arrested state Senator Hiram Monserrate, has been conspicuously silent regarding Carl Kruger, who helped to elect Golden.

And, Gatemouth points to another curious connection between Kruger and Golden: a $3000 campaign contribution by Dorothy Lipsky (lobbyist Lipsky's wife) to Golden.

Spreading the wealth

I took a look at campaign contributions that Richard Lipsky and Dorothy Lipsky gave from their three addresses (all listed in the city's lobbying database; search on Richard Lipsky) and found a varied set of recipients.

See below for the full list, but it includes significant contributions--$9000 from 2008-10--from Dorothy Lipsky to "Friends of Carl," which is Kruger's campaign committee.

(If Richard Lipsky was funneling cash to Carl Kruger, as charged, this would be considered the legal element of a larger scheme. Lipsky himself gave $3500 to Kruger from 2003-07.)

Dorothy Lipsky made a $3800 contribution in 2009 to the untouchable Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. She gave $2500 to Monserrate in 2006 and again in 2009. Her husband gave $4500 from 2005-08.

Richard Lipsky gave $4800 from 2008-10 to Assembly powerhouse and Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez and $5000 in 2009 to Senator Pedro Espada, who was later indicted for embezzlement (and goes to trial in September).

He also gave $3000 in 2010 to former City Council Member Tony Avella in his successful campaign for state Senate. (City Hall News reported 1/27/10 on Avella's new conciliatory strategy.)

Most of Lipsky's contributions have been to Democrats, though, as the contribution to Golden suggests, he and his family are not doctrinaire. Indeed, in 2002 and again in 2010, he gave $2000nto the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee.

The AY angle

Lipsky, a longtime lobbyist for Forest City Ratner, made one set of contributions that might be seen as furthering the developer's interests.

In 2006, he gave three contributions totaling $2500 to Tracy Boyland's stealth campaign against incumbent state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, an Atlantic Yards opponent.

Was Boyland, in fact, the "Ratner candidate," as some charged? Not exactly, but there were some signficant intersections. As predicted by a source in the Crain's Insider, Boyland indeed used the same consulting firm--Knickerbocker SKD--that FCR has used for its deceptive Atlantic Yards mailers.

(As noted, former Council Member Boyland told the Brooklyn Papers that she's friends with FCR's Bruce Bender, a former top City Council aide.)


Posted by steve at 11:47 PM

The Miscalculations Encouraged By the Fuzzy Math of Subsidies: Yankee Stadium Bonds on Verge of Default- A Case Study

Noticing New York

This article reviews the imminent financial disaster of publicly-subsidized Yankee parking garages and includes a cautionary note regarding Atlantic Yards.

The default is illustrative of a danger everyone should be on guard against when it comes to development through subsidies: Beware of miscalculation because those involved in development are likely to have put away their sharp pencils. Subsidies, generate fuzzy math, fuzzy thinking and they take peoples' eyes off reality and real costs. Those who are expert at working City Hall to finagle subsidies do not necessarily have the same skill sets as those who know how to shave a profit out of the real world, and frequently there is also the danger that their thinking is that if and when they are off on their numbers they will be patching things together at the back end with additional subsidy flows, perhaps with a “too big to fail” argument. That seems to be the case with Atlantic Yards. (The latest about Atlantic Yards fuzzy math was reported upon by Atlantic Yards Report yesterday.)

In the case of Atlantic Yards, say for example with the mega-project’s implausible initial job-projection numbers, fuzzy math is cultivated as a habit to get a foot in the door for what would otherwise have been an unacceptable project. Atlantic Yards' false projection of a ten-year build-out rather than a multi-decade build-out is another example.


Posted by steve at 11:36 PM

The Nets And Other Awesome Toys Of Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov

Business Insider

This gloss on Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is mostly just a set of pictures that communicate the insight that one of the advantages of being rich is owning lots of stuff.

Americans got to know him last year, purchased an 80% stake in the New Jersey Nets, as well as 45% of their yet-to-be-built home in Brooklyn.

Of course the Nets, whom he bought for a reported $200 million, are his best toy of all.


NoLandGrab: With a 24-58 record, the Nets seem less than awesome.

Posted by steve at 11:07 PM

Familiar Faces, on a Larger-Than-Life Scale, Help Bring a Block Closer Together

The New York Times

The Times covers an art project in reaction to the Atlantic Yards.

Led by a resident, Dana Eskelson, who was concerned that the local shopkeepers were being forced out of business by the Atlantic Yards stadium project a block away, neighbors on Bergen Street became the first group in New York to join a global art project developed by a Paris street artist known as JR.


Posted by steve at 10:59 PM

May 20, 2011

After Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars Of Public Subsidies, Barely Used Yankees Parking Garages Face Financial Collapse

Transportation Nation
by Jim O'Grady

The Bronx's All Hallows High School baseball team has been rendered nomadic by the Yankees, having to play all its games on the road. But that's not the half of it. This is a must-read story for those who want to learn how an auto-centric stadium plan has turned into a fiscal and urban-planning fiasco.

The team, like the rest of the neighborhood around Yankee Stadium, is still waiting for promised replacement fields.

But so few Yankee fans are parking at eleven garages and lots around the new stadium that the company managing them may soon default on $237 million in tax exempt bonds used to build them. In an effort to stave off collapse, the garages recently hiked prices to $35 a game. But as of last month, they were two thirds empty on game days.

These guys must have slept through Econ 101. No one's parking here, so we'll raise the price of parking?

According to public documents and two separate analyses, the Bronx Parking Development company owes the city $17 million in back rent and other payments. The city is paying $195 million to replace the parkland it gave to the Yankees. And New York State spent $70 million to build Parking Garage B. That’s where Derek Jeter and his fellow players park, along with VIP ticket holders. The garage is not open to the public, and allows those who use it to enter directly into the stadium.

Bettina Damiani is project director at Good Jobs New York, a government watchdog group. “It doesn’t seem to make sense to publicly subsidize the stadium and also publicly subsidize the parking garages,” she said, adding it isn’t just about the money. “This is about the impact it’s had on an entire generation of kids who have not had access to open public park space the way they did have.”

The new Yankee Stadium is smaller than the old one. But when the team insisted in 2006 that it needed 2,000 extra parking spots, the New York City Industrial Development Agency issued 237 million dollars in tax exempt bonds for an expanded parking system–paving over the neighborhood’s only regulation baseball diamonds to do it.

The Yankees insisted from the beginning that they needed 9,000 parking spots, 2,000 more than before. They even made it a legal condition for not moving out of the Bronx.

But the MTA tells WNYC that more than 50% of a typical sell-out crowd arrives by train, bus or ferry. Many fans who do drive skip the $35 dollar charge for a spot at a Yankee garage and either park on the street or at cheaper lots in the neighborhood. One local garage advertises on a flyer that says, “Don’t pay 35 dollars.” Its prices start at $15.

Little has changed from 2006 outside the stadium on game days. Traffic cops stand on corners directing the circling cars. By first pitch, every one of the area’s 3,200 curbside spots is filled.

Angel Castillo, a car-owner who lives four blocks from the stadium, sees it all season. “Oh my God, sometimes if I come and the game starts, I gotta wait when the game finished one hour after the game,” he said. “After midnight.”


NoLandGrab: Mayor Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Yankees management and others responsible for this disaster were egged on in 2006 by discredited "sports economist" Andrew Zimbalist Jr., who wrote then in a New York Times Op-Ed that "all parking revenue would go back to the state and more than pay off the investment."

Related coverage...

ESCHATON, Getting Everything Wrong

Nobody could have predicted rich out of touch assholes would get everything wrong. First, it's New York. Not everybody drives. Second, if you charge $35 for a parking spot people are going to look for cheaper options, even in New York. Third, a big f**k you from the kids whose ball field you took away. Fourth, stop handing taxpayer money to rich assholes, especially if those rich assholes are building unnecessary parking garages in New york City.

Posted by eric at 12:19 PM

News from AY District Service Cabinet: Street changes, including Pacific St. reversal, coming in June, fireworks over rats, 60 workers from Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

Get ready for more construction and previously announced changes on streets in the area of the Atlantic Yards project, starting next month, including the reversal of Pacific Street between Fourth and Flatbush avenues and a new left turn from Pacific to Flatbush, thus diverting traffic that formerly went north on Fourth Avenue.

That was the main takeaway from the third meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, held yesterday at Brooklyn Borough Hall and involving representatives of various city and state agencies and community boards. Official notice of the changes is expected June 7, and a public meeting to describe the changes will be held June 14 at Borough Hall from 6:30 to 8 pm.

Another major issue at the meeting, one of the few flashpoints for tension, was raised by City Council Member Letitia James, who reported significant rodent problems at blocks around the site, though Forest City Ratner, pointing to a slippery slope of responsibility, said its responsibility was limited to the site itself.

There was no mention of timing for the much-promised affordable housing and a Forest City Ratner executive indicated the number of local workers is relatively small: 38 of 500 workers on site come from the three adjacent Community Boards, with a total of 60 Brooklyn residents on site.

Also, Forest City Ratner consultant Sam Schwartz inadvertently highlighted a likely problem connected to the arena surface parking lot planned for the block bounded by Dean and Pacific streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. He indicated that the sidewalks on Pacific Street leading to the arena site were large enough to handle crowds--but didn't acknowledge that the crowds are expected to use Dean Street, which has much narrower sidewalks.

Also, Forest City Ratner asserted that one of its Community Benefit Agreement partners, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, was briefed and is distributing information on environmental issues, though there's no evidence that's happening.

As Forest City Ratner consultant Sam Schwartz explained, construction of certain traffic mitigation measures required in the Final Environmental Impact Statement must begin in June, because they have only two construction seasons to get the work done before the arena opens in the late summer of 2012 and that work at the congested intersection of Atlantic, Flatbush, and Fourth avenues must be done on nights and weekends.

Pointing to the gridlock at that intersection, he said traffic planners decided to take the shortest leg, on Fourth Avenue going north between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue, out of circulation.

Thus, Pacific Street would be made one way eastbound, and drivers would have to do what the Brooklyn Paper dubbed the “Fourth-to-Flatbush Two-Step.”

Listening to Schwartz, Jon Crow, a coordinator of the Brooklyn Bear’s community garden at Pacific and Flatbush, shook his head. He later said he had no problem with the direction change, but thinks that allowing a left for traffic going north on Flatbush would create its own gridlock.


NoLandGrab: We're going to go out on a limb here and predict that the rerouting of northbound Fourth Avenue traffic to Flatbush via Pacific Street is going to be an epic disaster that will make the usual gridlock seem trivial by comparison.

Posted by eric at 11:53 AM


The New York Times
by Vivian Marino

Mr. Dickerman, 47, is the founder and president of Madison International Realty, a real estate private equity firm, which through its investment funds holds ownership stakes in buildings around the world, including several in the New York area, among them the Chrysler East Building and 520 Madison Avenue. The company has also had investments in the Seagram Building over the years.

Q Tell me about your business.

A I think we do something very unusual in the world of commercial real estate and investing: we acquire ownership interests in Class A assets from existing investors looking for an early exit strategy. Our objective is not to seek control of the properties — it’s to provide liquidity, which means buy their interest. We’re not a loan-to-own shop.

Q You recently announced a deal to acquire a 49 percent interest in 15 retail and entertainment properties owned by Forest City Ratner.

A They came to us, I think, in September 2010 to fund their go-forward investments. You may know that the Atlantic Yards development is something like $4 billion.

These properties are as core as core can be. They’re 99 percent occupied; the average lease term is over eight years.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Why did Forest City Ratner sell a 49 percent stake in its malls? To help pay for Atlantic Yards, and to combat investor "fatigue"

In a "Square Feet" interview in the upcoming Sunday New York Times Real Estate section, Ronald Dickerman, founder and president of the private equity firm Madison International Realty, explains his business and talks about the deal announced at the end of March to acquire a 49 percent interest in 15 retail and entertainment properties owned by Forest City Ratner.

So what do companies like Forest City do with the cash?

"To redeploy into other investment opportunities, to fund other liabilities within their portfolio," responded Dickerman.

In other words, to help pay for Atlantic Yards.

Madison investors see a rate of return "between 17 and 18 percent gross," so that suggests Forest City Ratner gave up something significant.

Asked if his firm adds value to its holdings, Dickerman said no:

We invest in core Class A assets where the building itself is relatively stable and the deal is not distressed. What’s distressed about the transaction is the fatigue of the underlying investor.

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

'Net'roCard on track for Brooklyn hoops fans

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Coming soon to a controversial arena near you: the MetroTicket! Fans headed to the Nets' new Brooklyn arena are on track to use the same ticket to ride to the game -- and get into the stands.

With the Barclays Center’s opening set for Sept. 2012, developer Forest City Ratner and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have begun re-exploring plans to develop a game-day MetroCard that could also be swiped to enter Nets games or a game ticket to be used on subways during game days.

Another option, officials said, is prepackaging MetroCards and Nets tickets together to fans instead of creating a single card or ticket for dual use.

The distribution of free – or pre-paid -- MetroCards to ticket holders is one of several proposals being explored by the Nets and Forest City to cut down on anticipated car traffic to the Prospect Heights arena.

During an Atlantic Yards meeting at Borough Hall yesterday, it was also revealed that 600 of the 1,100 parking spaces in an arena lot would be reserved for cars with at least three or more riders, and that Nets parking would be pre-paid in advance. Moreover, Forest City says it’s considering having designated parking spaces.

Despite the efforts to limit cars heading to Barclays Center, Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn), a longtime Atlantic Yards critic, said she expects arena events to jam traffic on nearby neighborhood streets and called on Forest City to eliminate all arena parking.


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

New Watchdog Site Will Keep Close Eye on Atlantic Yards

The Park Slope Civic Council, Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and Boerum Hill Association have formed the Atlantic Yards Watch.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

The Barclays Center arena is flying up at the intersections of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues – and the surrounding neighborhoods now plan to keep a very close eye on it.

On Wednesday, civic organizations from Boerum Hill, Park Slope and Prospect Heights announced that they had banded together to found Atlantic Yards Watch, a website which will closely monitor and chronicle the construction on the Atlantic Yards construction site, and its subsequent effects on the neighborhoods surrounding the mega construction project.

The organizations involved in the site – the Park Slope Civic Council, Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and Boerum Hill Association – hope that the website will help address quality of life concerns that increasingly face residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the development.


Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

There Goes The Neighborhood: Neighbors Hate on Dave and Busters Copycat Near Barclays Center

by Michael Gross

More news and blues on the arenafication of the streets around the coming Barclays Center. Local landlord Henry Weinstein, who was an early opponent and plaintiff in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain cases, is seeking to cash in by seeking more lowest common denominator tenants for his property across Flatbush Avenue from the complex, reports Brooklyn Paper.


Related coverage...

Gothamist, Is Downtown Brooklyn Getting A Dave & Busters?

Beer-soaked Dance Dance Revolution junkies, rejoice! You might not have to go all the way to Times Square to get your sweat on anymore! A giant "Dave & Busters"-style "entertainment mecca" might be coming to downtown Brooklyn soon, right across the street from the Barclays Center. After reading the very excited online ad the property's owner posted today today, what "Chuck E. Cheese with beer"-style chain wouldn't want to move in?

While it's all very speculative right now as to who will ultimately move in, one interesting twist to the story is that the property's owner, Henry Weinstein, was an early opponent of Atlantic Yards project. Now, he seems to have changed his tune, saying "There’s no stopping progress." And there's no stopping those sexy neon lights, either—bring on the DDR!

Eater NY, Landlord Seeks 'Dave and Busters' Type for Brooklyn Complex

The Brooklyn Paper uncovers a pretty spectacular ad for a new tenant for an entertainment complex across from the Barclays Center.

Photo: Edopeno via flickr

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

Long-delayed Ridge Hill opening nears

Westfair Online
by John Jordan

A project that will easily surpass $600 million to build when all is said and done is on the cusp of having its first tenant open for business and is readying for an October “mini” grand opening when dozens of tenants are expected to open their doors.

The Ridge Hill project in Yonkers, which will total approximately 1.2 million square feet of mixed-use space and is being developed by Forest City Ratner Cos., was approved by the Yonkers City Council in July 2006 and officially broke ground Nov. 28, 2007.

Since then, Forest City Ratner and general contractor Yonkers Contracting Company Inc. have been undertaking the massive excavation, infrastructure and building construction in connection with the project. Originally scheduled to open in late 2009, the project has encountered delays that have pushed the project’s opening to this October that will be followed by individual tenant openings that will be staggered throughout the remainder of this year and into 2012.


NoLandGrab: Must've been the Atlantic Yards lawsuits that caused those delays.

Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

May 19, 2011

Luxury penthouse condos at One Hanson Place sell at auction for $465-$625/sf; FCR, according to KPMG, was expecting $1217/sf for AY condos in 2015

Atlantic Yards Report

Uh oh. Better redo the calculations, Bruce.

In October 2009, as I wrote, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) released the Atlantic Yards market study by KPMG, which stated, in the words of an ESDC lawyer, that it was "not unreasonable" for the 14 residential buildings (sans Site 5 and Building 1) to be absorbed in the officially announced decade.

The upshot: Forest City Ratner was counting on sales prices of $1217/sf in 2015 up to $1369/sf in 2019.

Well, we're four years away, and the luxury housing market isn't getting too close.

At One Hanson

A 5/17/11 New York Times article headlined A Perch Above Brooklyn, Going Once, Going Twice... described the bidding for penthouse condos in One Hanson Place, the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank building.

A two bedroom duplex with 2,120 square feet inside and 1,948 square feet of terraces sold for $1.325 million. That's $625/sf, without counting the terraces.

Three 3,243-square-foot four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath apartments without terraces were originally listed for close to $5 million ($1542/sf) sold for around $1.7 million, or $524/sf.

A 2,848-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath, went for $1.325 million, or $465/sf.

The prices aren't quite firm, as two of the sales could be rejected, and the buyers must pay a 10 percent premium on top of their bid. And, of course, an auction can't be expected to bring top dollar.

And yet...

...consider that the KPMG report described more generic Atlantic Yards condos, not penthouse apartments in a vintage building.


Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

Mega-party space to rise across from Barclays Center

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gary Buiso

A boozy entertainment Mecca is taking shape across the street from the Barclays Center — and the chief beneficiary is one of the early opponents of the Atlantic Yards mega-project.

The nearly football field-sized property, on Pacific Street just across Flatbush Avenue from the rising basketball arena, is already the proposed home of a sports bar/gastropub, but property owner Henry Weinstein continues to market the massive property in a breathless online ad touting it as “perfect for ‘Dave and Busters’ type” entertainment, a reference to the frenetic Texas-based chain that’s been described as a Chuck E. Cheese with beer.

“How about neon or digital behind glass, aimed at the crowds streaming into the Barclays Arena?” the ad crows. “Our architect calls it a ‘sexy space’ — we call it a freakin’ GOLDMINE for the right user!”

The ad dangles the prospect of “80,000 customers a night,” though the $1-billion arena seats roughly 18,000.

Whatever the numbers are, one-time project foe Weinstein said he’s not going to kick a gift horse in the mouth.

“There will be an arena across the street and this will be a big entertainment destination. Like it or not, this is an upcoming area,” he said. “There’s no stopping progress.”


Residents said the transformation of the neighborhood into a neon-lit nightlife destination is exactly what they feared since the inception of the Atlantic Yards project, which overrode city zoning to allow for an arena and up to 16 skyscrapers in an otherwise low-rise, quiet residential area.


NoLandGrab: "Freakin'" will surely be on the lips of nearby residents, too, followed not by "goldmine" but by "nightmare," "disaster," "travesty" — you get the idea. Thanks, Henry.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Beyond Prime 6 and the sports bar/gastropub, a 35,000 square foot entertainment center planned for Pacific at Flatbush

Turns out the gastropub and sports bar, coupled with a pizzeria and falafel joint, planned for the corner of Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue may be far more demure than what's planned for the rest of the space, some 35,000 square feet.

As with previous public battles over Prime Six and the abovementioned establishments, the concern from neighbors emanates from the very tight fit of arena and neighborhood. As the Brooklyn Paper reports:

“Go to Madison Square Garden and see what kinds of businesses are around it,” said Eric McClure, co-founder of Park Slope Neighbors, a civic group. “I definitely think this changes the nature of the neighborhood.

“This is what people feared when the state overrode zoning laws that ban the construction of an arena within 200-feet of a residential neighborhood,” McClure added.

The property has neighbors’ attention, as the proposed bar/gastropub is already causing indigestion among those fearful of the radical change that’s anticipated.

But Weinstein dismissed local concerns.

“We want something that is community board friendly,” he said.

I don't think that necessarily dismisses local concerns; Weinstein is a longtime member of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, which has tried to mediate between businesses and neighbors.

But anything that large, right around the corner from a residential block, won't exactly be easy to live with.

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

On eve of Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, community groups launch web site to monitor Atlantic Yards construction impacts

Atlantic Yards Report

On the eve of the somewhat delayed third meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet (which meets today at 9:30 am at Borough Hall), three Brooklyn civic groups have announced a web site that complements and augments the work of the public agencies that are supposed to coordinate responses to Atlantic Yards.

Three organizations prominent in BrooklynSpeaks--the "mend it, don't end it" coalition that ultimately saw its members go to court (the case is pending)--have launched Atlantic Yards Watch, a web site to "monitor ongoing construction and operational impacts from the Atlantic Yards project on surrounding communities." (See full press release below.)

The groups are the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, the Park Slope Civic Council, and the Boerum Hill Association.

Community contributions

The web site, which allows for community contributions, suggests that, as the battle to stop the project has waned, efforts to change and monitor it will continue.


Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries Forms Congressional Exporatory Committee

The L Magazine
by Mark Asch

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, of the 57th District (Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights) has formed a congressional exploratory committee, Politicker reports. Jeffries, a personal, well-educated, well-dressed 40-year-old, is seen as something of a comer in Brooklyn Democratic politics; he's been touted as an Obama-like crossover figure. As the districts are currently drawn, he'd be challenging the 10th district's incumbent-for-life, Ed Towns, should he run.

District and neighborhood boundaries are something of a pet issue for Jeffries—he successfully cosponsored a bill to end prison-based gerrymandering in New York State, and he recently got Corcoran to stop using their real estate listings to expand Prospect Heights into Crown Heights.

This could be seen as something of a sandbag levee constructed against the creep of gentrification; Jeffries's other recent pet project, Project Reclaim, aims to fill unfinished and under-occupied boom-era condo developments with low- and middle-income tenants. (Which is not to say that he's gone full populist: he was a noted fence-sitter on Atlantic Yards.)

Also on the list of Young African-American Brooklyn Pols Who Are Not Going to Wait Forever, by all accounts, is the second-term City Councilwoman Letitia "Tish" James, who would, if elected to congress, bear a rather uncanny resemblance to the House member played by Queen Latifah on 30 Rock that time.


NoLandGrab: Tish, of course, has been anything but a fence-sitter on Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

Invitation letters to DOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan & Atlantic Yards Director Hankin

Our Streets — Our Stories
The Dean Street Block Association (6th Ave. to Vanderbilt Ave.)

The following letters were sent on May 3, 2011 by the DSBA and the Carlton Avenue Association to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Atlantic Yards Project Director Arana Hankin.

Both officials were invited to a public meeting hosted by the associations to answer the community’s questions and address concerns about traffic and pedestrian circulation related to the Atlantic Yards project.

Our immediate area will be affected significantly and in unique ways by the operation of the Barclays Center and the implementation of the Atlantic Yards Project. We are dependent on the effectiveness of the Project’s mitigations and roadway improvements.

The Carlton Avenue Association and the Dean Street Block Association, 6th Avenue to Vanderbilt would like to extend an invitation to an informed representative of the Department of Transportation to attend a public meeting hosted by our associations to directly answer our community’s questions and address our concerns about traffic and pedestrian circulation on our streets. We believe because of the unique way we are impacted by the project, a meeting focused on our concerns is appropriate and necessary.


Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Write Night at Frank’s on Thursday

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Wesley Middleton

Remember when Bruce Ratner's favorite megaproject was fodder for angst-ridden writers? Perhaps it still is.

What do personal essays by accomplished writers and made-to-order cocktails by a seasoned bartender have in common? You can find them both at Write Night at Frank’s Cocktail Lounge at 660 Fulton Street this Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Write Night at Frank’s is a free public event featuring a curated lineup of eight to 10 accomplished writers, all of whom have published work, many of whom have day jobs and most of whom live in Brooklyn.

The theme for the first Write Night two years ago, “How ya doin’? You ok?”, was chosen to help ease some of the tensions running through the community that spring.

“It was a time when people were feeling down about things,” Ms. Bok explained. “The economy was down, gas prices were up, the whole Bernie Madoff thing happened and people were irritated about that. There was the whole fight over the Atlantic Yards, so it was a way to check in to see if everyone was okay, a way of banding together.”


Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

May 18, 2011

PRESS RELEASE: Brooklyn Civic Associations Launch Web Site to Monitor Impacts from Atlantic Yards Construction

Civic organizations in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, Park Slope and Prospect Heights today announced the launch of Atlantic Yards Watch (http://www.atlanticyardswatch.net), a web site which will monitor ongoing construction and operational impacts from the Atlantic Yards project on surrounding communities. The largest single development in Brooklyn’s history, Atlantic Yards is unusual as a State-sponsored project that does not have dedicated public oversight.

“With construction in full swing and the Barclays Center expected to open in September 2012, local community members are concerned over the lack of transparency in identifying and resolving the many traffic, noise, air quality and safety issues associated with Atlantic Yards,” said Danae Oratowski, Chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “By tracking concerns reported through its web site and the NYC 311 system, Atlantic Yards Watch will provide a centralized record of reported incidents and resolutions.”

In addition to submitting reports of construction and operational impacts, site visitors can also participate in discussion forums on quality of life and safety topics. “We’d like to see Atlantic Yards Watch become a resource for the Empire State Development Corporation, City agencies, and also Forest City Ratner,” said Michael Cairl, President of the Park Slope Civic Council.

The idea for the web site grew out of a study by a graduate class at Pratt Institute led by Professor Jamie Stein. The class researched public responses to projects in other urban areas, and proposed potential models for structuring a response in relation to Atlantic Yards. “Communities faced with large development projects having the potential to disrupt local life for decades have to find ways to effectively communicate risks, make recommendations to government authorities and developers, and ensure that proper disclosures are provided,” said Professor Stein.

“Atlantic Yards Watch is intended to address gaps in oversight that we hope will eventually be closed through the establishment of a local development corporation or authority that is accountable to the public,” said Howard Kolins, President of the Boerum Hill Association. “Until that entity exists, it’s critical to document the community’s experience with the impacts of the Atlantic Yards project.”

Posted by eric at 3:42 PM

Consultant says arena one month ahead of schedule, transit connection two months; what about the Carlton Avenue Bridge?

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the latest Site Observation Report, dated 5/16/11 and based on a 3/24/11 site observation, 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.

The report indicates that the arena is one month ahead of schedule, based on cash flow projections, and the Transit Connection to the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street station is about two months ahead of schedule.

Note, however, as mentioned below, last month the substantial completion date and final completion date for the arena had been moved back.

According to the graphics below (click to enlarge), spending on the arena, and presumably work at the site, is expected to increase markedly in the next year.


Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Fernando Ferrer to replace Doreen Frasca on the MTA Board

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named Fernando Ferrer, the one-time mayoral candidate, to the MTA Board. The one-time head of the Drum Major Institute for Public Affairs and current lobbyist will replace Doreen Frasca, whose term expired in 2010. Ferrer, the Bronx Borough President from 1987-2001, will have to be confirmed by the State Senate, but he likely won’t face a significant opposition in Albany.

Interestingly, this move could have an impact on the board’s makeup. Frasca, an expert in the financing of complex transportation infrastructure projects, has been one of the more outspoken members of the MTA Board. For instance, she has long cast a wary eye toward the Atlantic Yards deal.


NoLandGrab: Frasca's "wary eye" didn't prevent her from voting in June of 2009 to approve the MTA's outrageous sweetening of Bruce Ratner's sweetheart deal for the Vanderbilt Yard.

Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

‘The Gugg’ Comes to Downtown

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

"The Gugg?"

The Eagle has learned that the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is bringing a temporary exhibit to a storefront space in Downtown Brooklyn.

Tim King, a principal of CPEX Real Estate, and MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president at Forest City Ratner, worked together to provide a free venue for the exhibit — in the former home of Sid’s Hardware at 345 Jay St., also known as 1 MetroTech.

King, who received the call from the Guggenheim’s curator several weeks ago, said the request for a site came with “a wish list of requirements, including free space.” He contacted Gilmartin, who he described as “very enthusiastic,” then showed the space and put the curator in touch with Forest City — all pro bono.

The exhibit, titled “Stillspotting NYC,” will be ongoing but will have its inaugural edition in Downtown Brooklyn, according to David van der Leer, assistant curator of Architecture and Urban Studies. “We looked at many places around the borough — from Williamsburg, Bushwick, Crown Heights to DUMBO — and found our favorite place for the first edition of ‘Stillspotting NYC’ in Downtown Brooklyn,” wrote van der Leer in a published statement. “To many it is a place of work or transit, but so few people realize it can also be an incredible resource for stillness that will be transformed over the coming years.


NoLandGrab: The "stillness" that "the Gugg" sees is a product of the Metrotech dead zone that Bruce Ratner has created in downtown Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

May 17, 2011

Company’s Arenas Leave Cities With Big Problems

The New York Times
by Ken Belson

If Karl Marx were around today, he would be calling publicly funded arenas, rather than religion, the "opium of the people." Or at least of the political "leaders" elected by those people.

The plan sounded great during the real estate boom: build a midsize arena, stuff it with sports, music acts and monster trucks and create a centerpiece for the new city center being developed on a dusty mesa here, 20 miles north of downtown Albuquerque.

But trouble started almost from the day the doors of Santa Ana Star Center opened in 2006. Global Entertainment, the company hired to build and manage the arena, failed to book enough events, and the minor league hockey team it recruited folded. Attendance was light because of high ticket prices and the arena’s remote location. Unrealistic sales targets and high turnover among the arena’s staff added to the problems.

The arena, which Global Entertainment said would be profitable in a year, has lost so much money that Rio Rancho has had to spend millions of dollars each year to keep it afloat. The city fired Global Entertainment in 2009 and sued it to recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.

A new arena manager has brought in more business, but the losses have continued to mount, eating into the city’s already tight budget and pushing lawmakers to eliminate jobs and cut costs, including asking police officers to buy their own practice ammunition.


NoLandGrab: The "opium of the people" quote is particularly apt, since despite example after example after example of the failure of publicly funded arenas and stadiums to deliver on the promises made about them, politicians and developers and team owners continue to succeed in getting them built on the taxpayer's dime.

We also wonder what Marx would make of the fact that so many failed arenas end up as home to mega-churches.

Posted by eric at 12:53 PM

Prokhorov will lead Russian political party close to Kremlin that some see as astroturf; rival calls it "serious mistake"

Atlantic Yards Report

Whenever you think the whole Atlantic Yards saga can't get any weirder, think again. Case in point.

Now, as he enters the political arena, his shorthand biography, at least for American consumption in the New York Times, inevitably includes the basketball team. The Times article is headlined Russian Billionaire Announces Plan for Political Party:

MOSCOW— Mikhail D. Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire and owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, announced on Monday that he would lead a liberal Russian political party with close ties to the Kremlin.

The decision, seven months before parliamentary elections, seems to be part of a Kremlin effort to provide an alternative for Russians disaffected with the country’s dominant political party, United Russia, while still ensuring continued support for the ruling authorities.

The party that Mr. Prokhorov will lead, Right Cause, generally espouses pro-Western, liberal views in tune with those of the business and intellectual elite in Moscow and St. Petersburg. But the party was set up by the Kremlin in 2008, and some critics refer to it as nothing more than a fake opposition intended to help give Russia the semblance of a real, multiparty democracy.

Given that the party was set up by those in power, is there any echo of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement here?

Contributing to AY?

The Times states:

His international prestige has also been rising in large part because of his 2010 purchase of the Nets. Since closing the deal, he has courted fans, cavorting with Jay-Z, the rap star and part owner of the Nets, and pledging to contribute to the Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn, where the Nets will move. At a news conference in January, he declared, “America, I come in peace.”

(Emphasis added)

Pledging to contribute to Atlantic Yards? That sounds like it's some kind of charity. If Prokhorov gets another piece of Atlantic Yards--remember, he already has 45% of the arena holding company, he wouldn't be contributing; he'd be investing to make a profit.


Related coverage...

The New York Times, Russian Billionaire Announces Plan for Political Party

The Wall Street Journal, Nets Owner to Lead Russia Party

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

Pondering political priorities as transit withers

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

Let’s talk about priorities. New Jersey doesn’t have enough money for the ARC Tunnel, but it can find funds for the Xanadu project or road expansion. Nassau County can’t afford the fund Long Island Bus service, but it can fork over significant tax subsidies for a new sports arena. New York City can’t afford more money for student fares or a subway station at 41st St. and 10th Ave., but Bruce Ratner doesn’t have to pay even market value for the rights to develop the area above the Vanderbilt rail yards.

Right now, New York is at a juncture. Its politicians can continue down a path of ignoring transit problems and solutions in exchange for quick and obvious fixes such as arenas and malls. Else, its leaders can actually lead. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of the former and very little of the latter, and the millions of people who need public transit are going to continue to suffer.


Posted by eric at 12:02 PM


F**ked in Park Slope

FIPS once again consults its Magic 8 Ball regarding Atlantic Yards.

According to BUMPERSHINE, American Express is having a pre-sale for an All-Access Pass to the Nets 2012-2013 season in their new stadium, the Barclay Center (or as I like to call it: the giant steel shit Bruce Ratner took on us all). And there is an actual date! September 28, 2012!

I thought I would turn to my modern Delphi, the Magic 8 Ball) and see what it thought of our little cluster fuck to be: (I say again, like I say every time, I do not reshake. Whatever the 8 ball responds, I write!)

Magic 8 Ball How are you?
Most likely.

Great! So let's dive right in. Do you think the Barclay Center is the WORST. IDEA. EVER?
You may rely on it.

Do you think the North Slope will suffer because it's close(ish) proximity?

How so? Traffic on event nights? Noise pollution? A systematic extermination of bike lanes?
You may rely on it.

Will the Nets suck just as hard in Brooklyn as they did in New Jersey?
You may rely on it.

M8B are you really excited to see other family-friendly events like Sesame Street on Ice and the latest Cirque Du Sogay when they roll into town?
Very doubtful.

Yeah, me neither. Do you miss Freddy's in it's old location?
It is decidedly so.

Me too. Oh well.


Related coverage...

BUMPERSHINE, Brooklyn Nets Amex Presale Info, Barclays Center Set To Open in Sep 2012

If the massive steel skeleton on Flatbush and Atlantic wasn’t enough of a reminder, the nightmare of almost every South Brooklyn resident just got one step close to reality today. Bruce Ratner’s much reviled Barclays Center is scheduled to open on September 28, 2012, at least according to this e-mail blast that I received from American Express this morning.

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

The Ulster County Republicans in a Can't-Do America

Mitchell Langbert's Blog

Bruce Ratner pops up in a blog post about Ulster County Republicans and a history of American political cronyism.

Back in the day of the Second Bank of the United States, the precursor of today's Federal Reserve Bank, Whig politicians were on the Bank's payroll until Andrew Jackson, the equivalent of today's Ron Paul, abolished the bank and set the stage for the greatest economic expansion in world history. After the Civil War, Standard Oil captured a number of state legislators, much as Bruce Ratner and The New York Times recently utilized New York State's Empire State Development Corporation to evict law-abiding property owners for Ratner's and The Times's benefit.


Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

May 16, 2011

Saving six figures: likely one reason Forest City Ratner hasn't yet fulfilled the obligation to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor for the CBA

Atlantic Yards Report

As I described 11/29/10, Forest City Ratner has claimed, dubiously, that it didn't have to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM) to provide a credible outside analysis of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), despite provisions in the document, signed 6/27/05, to hire one "[a]s soon as reasonably practicable."

"It didn't actually go into effect until we broke ground for the arena," Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall claimed last fall. Of course the developer had been proudly reporting some figures--such as minority contracting--all along.

One reason for that reticence, as I've suggested, may be that such an ICM might do its job.

Tight budget

Another may be simpler: Forest City Ratner keeps a close watch on its spending, and every six-figure sum it saves makes a difference.


NoLandGrab: OK, Jane, even if we gave you the benefit of the doubt, you've had 14 months to do what you said you would do.

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

A Forest City Enterprises tale: 60 years of service to the co-chairman of the board, formality and awe

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder highlights a case of Stockholm Syndrome at Forest City HQ.

A column in the 5/15/11 Cleveland Plain Dealer, Eleanor Fanslau has been at the heart of Forest City for 60 years: Regina Brett, profiles Eleanor Fanslau, 77, who for 60 years has served as the secretary and "right hand, his bookkeeper, executive assistant, receptionist and caretaker rolled into one" to Sam Miller, Forest City's co-chairman of the board and treasurer, who's now 90.

He's retiring and moving to emeritus status. Last June, I wrote about his performance at the annual meeting, in which he came off "more like the great-uncle who gets to hog the microphone at the family reunion because he’s always rented the venue."

Sacrificing service

Regina Brett's column describes Fanslau's super-loyal, sacrificing service to a company that's grown from a modest local lumber company to a national developer:

They sound like an old married couple who yell just because they can. It's the cadence of their conversation.

And yet:

He doesn't allow her to make personal calls. After 60 years, he still insists she call him Mr. Miller. She comes in at 7:30 a.m., prints out his emails, opens mail, pays bills, answers letters and phone calls. She eats lunch at her desk.


Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

NetsDaily Off-Season Report #5


Some wishful thinking from the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets fantasy site.

There's "Bark", a new hot dog place near Barclays Center where Billy King, Bobby Marks, Bruce Ratner and Brook Lopez dined before checking out the arena. No one's saying there's a connection and "Bark" is a perfectly reasonable name for a neat little restaurant featuring hot dogs, but that arena right around the corner could wind up being known as "The Barc" or even "The Bark" ... as in "Who Let the Dogs Out?" There's also the Best Western Arena Hotel, down Atlantic Avenue. It advertises itself as close to "the NBA Barclay Arena." And we haven't even mentioned the (at least) three sports bars planned for the streets around the arena.


NoLandGrab: And locals are almost as thrilled about those sports bars as they are about the arena.

Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

here it comes...

threecee via flickr

6th Avenue & Bergen Street
looking north along 6th
Prospect Heights
Brooklyn, New York

The cranes on the construction site of the Barclays Center Arena of Atlantic Yards loom over the homes on 6th Avenue. This residential block, shared with the NYPD 78th precinct (on the right), will be one of the most directly impacted by the 18,000-seat arena. The southeast corner of the arena will be at the end of this block, at the intersection of 6th & Dean Street.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Tracy Collins: photos of blocks adjacent to the arena, and the arena from above

Photographer Tracy Collins has been shooting the neighborhood around the arena site for years. Here are some of his latest photos.

Posted by steve at 12:58 AM

May 15, 2011

Brooklyn Paper offers packaged-by-Nets story: Brook Lopez excited by arena! (plus: an intern discloses snark effect at paper)

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the Brooklyn Paper still hasn't written about Forest City Ratner's dubious efforts to raise money from immigrant investors via the EB-5 program, but the paper did muster the energy to cover a handed-to-them, pictures'n'all, media event: the visit of Nets center Brook Lopez to the arena site and a couple of Bergen Street businesses.

The article, headlined Nets Lopez was the ‘center’ of attention on Bergen Street began:

The New Jersey Nets don’t move to Brooklyn until next October, but one of the team’s stars couldn’t wait that long to take a look at his future home.

Um, that's what Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, and Devin Harris were also prompted to say by their bosses, who later disappeared them.

Note that the article, at least in the initial version posted this morning, quotes a "Baum" with no first name; that would be Nets spokesman Barry Baum. The photos come courtesy of the Nets. While the article doesn't mention when the visit happened, it was Wednesday, three days ago.

A happy businessman

The final quote comes from the owner of hot dog emporium Bark, Josh Sharkey:

“The arena is definitely positive for us,” Sharkey said. “It’s going to be a big improvement for the area.”

Shouldn't food and beverage purveyors commenting on the arena get an asterisk? Of course they--at least most of them--will think the influx of thousands of people would help their business.

Whether Sharkey has the wisdom to comment on the arena's impact on "the area" is a whole 'nother story.

Excited locals?

Note that, according to the Nets' web site, "Brook couldn't go five steps between Bark and the arena site without someone shouting encouragement or asking him to sign."

The photo accompanying that caption shows the featured "someone" to be a construction worker.

Click on the link to get some background on the author of this Brooklyn Paper story.


Posted by steve at 2:17 AM

In the video of Brooklyn photobloggers, still some Atlantic Yards echoes

Atlantic Yards Report

I missed the sixth annual Brooklyn Blogfest Thursday night, but the few reports I've seen suggest it was a congenial and less fraught scene than last year's Absolut kerfuffle. The keynote speaker was blog maven Jeff Jarvis. (Here's a report from the Brooklyn Eagle.)

Brit in Brooklyn photoblogger Adrian Kinloch has posted his video tribute to Brooklyn photobloggers, shown at the event.

A few AY mentions

Though Atlantic Yards, a focus of the relatively limited Brooklyn blogging in the early years of the Blogfest, has receded in relative prominence, I feel compelled to point to two Atlantic Yards photos that made the montage, from which I took screenshots.

At :08, the very first photo in the video, Jonathan Barkey shot State Sen. Marty Golden, developer Bruce Ratner, Borough President Marty Markowitz, at the MetroTech tree lighting last December:

At :54, Tracy Collins captured Markowitz last October looking skeptically at some information proffered by yours truly regarding his putative trip to China to pitch Atlantic Yards to green card-seeking investors:


Posted by steve at 2:04 AM

May 13, 2011

Cognitive dissonance in Ratner-land: is Bruce Ratner a corporate hero or a guy who plays the system? It depends what you read

Atlantic Yards Report

The first two weeks of May have featured a high level of Ratnerian cognitive dissonance: two media mentions that buff developer Bruce Ratner as a white knight, countered by two other mentions that raise serious questions and qualms.

First came Ratner's refute, that sycophantic cover story in The Real Deal. Then comes word (via The Graduate Baruchian and No Land Grab) of Ratner's well-received appearance at the Baruch Business School's Zicklin Leadership Series.

Business ethics

NLG's Eric McClure pointed to this excerpt:

What can an organization do to encourage good business ethics?
BR — It starts from the top. Ethics is an issue of culture. That comes directly from the executives and people who run the company. Lectures turn people off. Leading by action sets the tone. At FCRC a balance between life and work is strongly encouraged. The job is important, but friends and family come first. When people recognize that work is not everything, they become less susceptible to temptation and making poor decisions. Moreover, a culture of fairness further creates an environment where people can make good decisions.

If Forest City Ratner and parent Forest City Enterprise really believe in ethics, well, wouldn't they:
--stop issuing wildly misleading brochures
--not pay consultants (who later get indicted) for no-show jobs
--feel some chagrin about disruptions made in their name

The list could go on.


Posted by eric at 1:39 PM

'Living wage' backers storm City Hall

Advocates rally before a hearing on a bill to hike wages at city-subsidized projects. But mayoral aides and business leaders say the measure would kill jobs.

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

Proponents of a bill to mandate higher wages at city-subsidized projects took to the streets Thursday morning to call for its passage and to protest a city-funded study that found the measure would stifle development and job growth.

The City Hall Park rally, attended by several hundred people, including dozens of pastors, preceded a City Council hearing on the bill that was expected to last late into the afternoon. Protestors carried signs pressing for a “living wage” and accusing its opponents of “putting New Yorkers to work for less.” The latter sign mocked Putting New Yorkers to Work, a nonprofit group established by the Real Estate Board of New York that has led opposition to the bill.

“When companies and developers benefit from government support, they should provide something in return—jobs that allow people to live in dignity, not jobs that keep people in poverty,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, told the crowd.

The bill, Intro 251-A, which would compel employers at projects that receive $100,000 or more in city subsidies to pay workers $10 an hour plus benefits or $11.50 without benefits, was expected to draw passionate testimony from supporters and opponents.

Tokumbo Shobowale, chief of staff in the office of the deputy mayor for economic development, planned to testify on the findings of the city-funded study, details of which were released earlier this week. His prepared testimony called for him to say that wage mandates would hinder development and result in tens of thousands of jobs lost and billions of dollars of lost private investment over the next 20 years.

The job loss and disinvestment would occur disproportionately in neighborhoods outside Manhattan and could potentially prevent some two dozen projects—including the World Trade Center, Coney Island and Atlantic Yards—from going forward, his prepared testimony said.


NoLandGrab: OK, how is compelling Bruce Ratner to pay workers $10 an hour going to prevent Atlantic Yards from going forward? We thought the project was supposed to deliver thousands of good-paying, family-supporting jobs, and in New York City, a "good-paying" job doesn't have an hourly wage that's in the single digits.

It's time to stop blaming the project's failings on everything but Forest City Ratner and its long list of phony promises.

Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

Barclays Center Rendering Near Identical to Existing Arena

by Bilal Khan

So it looks like the "renderings" of the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards that we showed you earlier this week might have something slightly sinister going on with them, at least according to some Atlantic Yards foes. The folks at No Land Grab astutely pointed out that the interior shot of the arena looks practically identical to the Consesco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Is something fishy or is this just nitpicking? In any case, the developers just gave opponents a lot more ammo in their tireless crusade to malign everything-Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: Nitpicking? World-class Frank Gehry-designed arena or Indianapolis-class Ellerbe Becket-designed arena — you decide!

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

2011 Chicago Underground Film Festival: Official Lineup

Bad Lit

Battle for Brooklyn will make its Chicago debut on June 4th, one day after its U.S. premiere in Brooklyn.

8:00 p.m.: Battle for Brooklyn, dir. Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley. Shot over the course of seven years, this documentary chronicles the long fight between the residents of Brooklyn who have to fight the city and greedy developers looking to tear down a beloved neighborhood to make way for a basketball stadium surrounded by enormous skyscrapers. Includes appearances by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, architect Frank Gehry, Jay Z, developer Bruce Ratner, Steve Buscemi and others.


Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

May 12, 2011

Good corporate citizen? Profile of Ratner in the Forward quotes Atlantic Yards opponents and mentions Kruger charges

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's some news unmentioned in The Real Deal's sycophantic profile of Bruce Ratner last week: as headlined in the Forward, the weekly newspaper geared to a Jewish audience, From Humble Lumber Sellers to Clout-Wielding Developers: An Immigrant Tale: Federal Indictment of a Local State Senator Shines Light on Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Redevelopment Project.

The piece, by Neil deMause of the book and blog Field of Schemes, recognizes Ratner's history of gaining government support and gives reasonable credence--and the last word--to Ratner's opponents, notably Candace Carponter of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

Still, I'd contend, the article could have been even tougher. I posted a comment:

“I think all of this stems from his sense of what it means to be a good corporate citizen,” said [Joe] DePlasco.

DePlasco is the developer's paid spokesman. Of course that's what he thinks.

I think, based on an examination of the record, that Forest City Ratner has long made compromises and pursued policies that privileged its bottom line over corporate citizenship. (That's not surprising; FCR's obligations are first to its parent company and shareholders.)

The question for readers and journalists caught in the "he said, she said" back-and-forth is whether the developer, by dint of its track record, deserves more or less credence.

I'd argue for less. Take, for example, the developer's history of deceptive promotional brochures and publications.


NoLandGrab: Actually, we don't think DePlasco really thinks Bruce is a good corporate citizen. He's just paid to say it.

Posted by eric at 12:48 PM

From Humble Lumber Sellers to Clout-Wielding Developers: An Immigrant Tale

Federal Indictment of a Local State Senator Shines Light on Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Redevelopment Project

by Neil deMause

The Field of Schemes author writes a counterpoint to last week's Real Deal puff piece.

When federal prosecutors charged New York State Senator Carl Kruger with taking more than $1 million in bribes in March, few were surprised to see seven others indicted with him. The colorful Kruger, who represents the heavily Jewish Brooklyn neighborhoods of Brighton Beach, Gravesend and Sheepshead Bay, has long attracted media attention for high-profile deal-making among a wide network of politicians and lobbyists.

But the scandal has also swept into its purview an affiliate of one of the country’s most prominent real estate developers, throwing a spotlight on the storied Jewish family that controls it.

Among those indicted was Richard Lipsky, a state lobbyist, who is alleged to have offered bribes to Kruger in exchange for political favors. In FBI wiretaps, Lipsky allegedly conspires with Kruger to share Lipsky’s lobbying fees in exchange for legislative approval of his clients’ projects.

One of the clients the indictment alleges Kruger helped in response to Lipsky’s payoffs is a company labeled “real estate developer #1” that was “spearheading an over $4 billion, multi-year, mixed-use commercial and residential development project in Brooklyn.” That company has been identified in multiple news reports as Forest City Ratner, the developer behind the Atlantic Yards project, a 22-acre residential and retail complex in Brooklyn. An executive for FCR is also captured on wiretaps talking with Kruger about seeking state money for development projects, and this conversation is included in the indictment.

Prosecutors did not charge anyone at FCR with wrongdoing, and there is no indication that FCR knew of Lipsky’s alleged actions. The company’s spokesman emphasized to The New York Times that the indictment “does not suggest that Forest City Ratner behaved in any way that’s inappropriate.” (The spokesman, Joe DePlasco, told the Forward that FCR was not commenting further on the Kruger matter.)

Nevertheless, the Kruger scandal has brought new attention to the business practices of a family-run firm whose real-estate developments have long attracted controversy for using public cash to support private projects.

At the center of the dispute: Bruce Ratner, the camera-shy scion of a storied Cleveland real estate family, who has gained attention in New York for building the new New York Times building, buying the New Jersey Nets with the intention of moving the team to Brooklyn, and remaking the Brooklyn skyline with a series of skyscrapers that are both lauded and reviled by locals. To his defenders, Ratner is a hero of Brooklyn’s rebirth; to his critics, he’s a businessman who has made a career of using his political connections to secure large government subsidies for his development projects.


Posted by eric at 12:39 PM

RPA Assembly on Innovation and the Global City: the need to invest in infrastructure and human capital (what, not arenas?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on an interesting urban-planning forum held last month.

The Regional Plan Association's (RPA) 2011 Regional Assembly, “Innovation and the Global City,” held April 15 in New York City, explored "what global cities, from Singapore to London, and from Stockholm to New York, are doing to remain competitive on the world stage."

In case you're wondering, building a new arena to recruit a sports team from a neighboring state was not a focus of the event.

A Jane Jacobs echo

Opening the Assembly, citing advances in information technology, the RPA's Thomas Wright commented, "Imagine just what Jane Jacobs would have accomplished if she had access to modern social media."

It was an echo of Aaron Naparstek's April 2006 comment to the New York Times: "If Jane Jacobs had the tools and technology back when she was fighting Robert Moses' plans to bulldoze Lower Manhattan, I bet 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities' would have been a blog."


Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

Doc about Atlantic Yards and Nets to premiere at Brooklyn Film fest

Sports ITeam Blog [NYDailyNews.com]
by Michael O'Keeffe

I'm looking forward to seeing "Battle for Brooklyn" when the documentary about the Atlantic Yards controversy makes its United States debut at the Brooklyn Film Festival on June 3. The film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival almost two weeks ago to very favorable reviews, may turn Forest City Ratner critic Daniel Goldstein into the Erin Brockovich of eminent domain.

But Michael Galinsky, who directed "Battle for Brooklyn" with Suki Hawley, writes on his web site Rumur.com that not everybody digs their flick...


Posted by eric at 12:26 PM


The Graduate Baruchian
by Lemuel Morrison & Tex Morgan

MBA students at Baruch College have been graced by the wisdom of Bruce Ratner.

On May 4th the speaker series started with an introduction by Frank Fletcher for Mr. Ratner. He is the CEO and Chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) and has led the firm as a prominent developer of urban real estate. He is recognized beyond his firm with a long career in the public and private sectors.

Professor Donald Vredenburgh joined Mr. Ratner on the dais. The format was a question and answer session.

What is it like to be a leader in real-estate development in New York City?

BR – You must be comfortable with chaos — not necessarily in the strict sense. The world is always changing and something always happens. I found that being flexible is really important in a leader. Can you move quickly and change with the circumstances? Avoid the bureaucracy that stops your progress.

A couple good ways to "avoid bureaucracy" are to have the state override local zoning laws, and use its power of eminent domain to seize property for you.

What can an organization do to encourage good business ethics?

BR — [Silence]

Just kidding — real answer below:

BR — It starts from the top. Ethics is an issue of culture. That comes directly from the executives and people who run the company. Lectures turn people off. Leading by action sets the tone. At FCRC a balance between life and work is strongly encouraged. The job is important, but friends and family come first. When people recognize that work is not everything, they become less susceptible to temptation and making poor decisions. Moreover, a culture of fairness further creates an environment where people can make good decisions.

Silence would have been a truer answer.

Do you have suggestion for business school that have a real-estate program?

BR — Aside from all the usual material, dealing with the media is an important topic — especially in today’s world. Knowing how to work with blogs and social media is becoming very important.

Indeed it is.


Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

Polarizing Downtown Brooklyn business group kept sloppy books - audit

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Honchos at a group charged with lending its business expertise to Downtown Brooklyn could use some accounting classes themselves, an audit found.

Controller John Liu's report slamming the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership for sloppy bookkeeping came as the Partnership got the nod to take over another neighborhood business group - over the objections of some local merchants.

The audit found the Partnership couldn't account for $1.2 million in employee pay and benefits - 45% of its total budget for the year.

"If that audit is any indication of how they're going to perform, you can kiss all the good work the BID has done over the years (goodbye)," said board member Vincent Battista, executive director of the Institute of Design and Construction, a junior college on Willoughby St. "They're so inefficient they don't know which way is up."

The board voted 22-9 to approve the takeover, backed by the city and major developers like Forest City Ratner. The move came after they shelved conflict of interest rules that could have barred the 13 board members who also sit on the Partnership board from voting.


Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

Opinion: Prospect Heights Looks Forward to Shared Streets

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Elaine Mahoney

The New York City Department of Transportation's willingness to work with communities is cited as a stark contrast to you-know-what.

DOT has also designed a plan to improve safety measures down Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights, which hosted a total of 319 accidents between 2005 and 2009, according to the same state DMV and city DOT counts. The Community Board 8 Transportation Committee approved the plan two weeks ago, and it goes to vote at the full Community Board this Thursday, May 12. The most recent version of the plan reflected changes to parking recommended by residents and merchants at previous community meetings. The DOT’s openness to amendments is a welcome change to the lingering climate of bitterness surrounding Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

Tea’d Off: Lone N.Y.C. GOPer Michael Grimm Feels the Pinch

by David Freedlander

"Do-gooder, liberal" Bruce Ratner makes a cameo in the Observer's profile of conservative local Congressman Michael Grimm.

A few days before the New Yorker piece, and before Mr. Grimm met the voters of Brooklyn, and before Republicans pulled the rug from under the backers of the Ryan budget, Mr. Grimm toured Beekman Tower, a still-under construction residential tower in Lower Manhattan, which, when completed, will be the tallest such structure in the city’s history. Mr. Grimm wore a hard hat and blue jeans and chewed gum and was led on the tour by a bunch of similarly outfitted union reps and the project’s developer, Bruce Ratner. The group took a rickety cage of a construction elevator up the side of the building. The whole city seemed to breeze through the bars. “It’s the working people of America that drive this country, Mr. Grimm told the group. “Always has been.”

His presence there illustrated the awkwardness of life as a Republican these days. It is hard to talk about the need to reduce government spending and simultaneously call for more government investment in construction projects.


NoLandGrab: Nobody can reach across the aisle (and into the public pocketbook) like Bruce can! Wonder if Grimm noticed that the building's flat side faces Staten Island?

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

New York Campaign Contributions from Big Banks & Real Estate Developers Hit New Highs in 2010

$3.9 Million in Contributions to New York State and City Candidates

New York Stimulus Alliance via readMedia

As the On May 12 coalition prepares to challenge the logic behind Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget with a teach-in and rally tomorrow, one of the questions that Common Cause/NY members asks is why are New York State and City leaders refusing to balance spending cuts with reductions in generous subsidies for big banks and real estate developers? Part of the reason may be because New York politicians are increasingly dependent on them for campaign contributions.

Twelve major residential real estate developers -- The Donald Zucker Company, Durst Fetner Residential, Extell Development Company, Forest City Ratner, Jack Resnick & Sons, Milstein Properties, Rose Associates, Rudin Management Company, The Brodsky Organization, The Related Companies, Tishman Speyer Properties, and Two Trees Management – and the Real Estate Board of New York made over $3 million in New York campaign contributions in 2010. This figure is triple the amount of contributions made in 2009 and almost double the amount of contributions made in 2008. Crucial policies up for renewal in Albany this year, such as rent control and the extension of the 421a subsidy, are likely fueling the record spending.


Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

May 11, 2011

One of these things is just like the other

Apologies to Sesame Street for that headline, but the alleged future "Most Exciting Venue" in the NBA looks suspiciously exactly like the existing NBA venue in Indianapolis.

Barclays Center:

Conseco Fieldhouse:

Brooklyn was promised Frank Gehry, but it appears that the residential buildings aren't the only ones that will be pre-fab at Atlantic Yards. Not fab at all.

NoLandGrab: OK, in fairness, the American and Canadian flags are flip-flopped in the two arenas. So they're not exactly the same.

Posted by eric at 1:35 PM

Truth in the Age of Snark

by Michael Galinsky

Battle for Brooklyn filmmaker Michael Galinsky posts an interesting and well-worth-reading essay on separating fact from fiction.

In the age of the internet snark is much more important than fact to a disturbing degree. “Reputable” news gathering organizations seem to be devoid of fact checkers and editors are loathe to issue corrections even when the stated facts are clearly wrong. Snark is employed to tell the story the “reporter” sets out to tell, rather than having to do the work of finding out the story. While it is obviously more fun to be snarky than it is to be right, the end result is an extremely fluid relationship to the truth.

When powerful PR people push forth inaccuracies, like projected job numbers and fiscal benefits, it’s nearly impossible to get corrections. With very straightforward facts it should be simple to get a correction, but it never is. With our recent documentary about the Atlantic Yards situation, “Battle for Brooklyn” we have chosen not to focus on the nitty-gritty details of the story, but we have taken great pains to make sure that our facts, when put forth, are correct. We consulted with Atlantic Yards Report blogger, Norman Oder, as we finalized the cut. Norman has been the Don Quixote of fact checking over the past six years. He drives the editors (and us) a little crazy, but if all media (and particularly news media which presents itself as dealing in facts) takes a pass on paying attention to the literal truth, we start to get into very murky water.

Recently we showed a rough cut of the film at a legal conference focusing on condemnation issues. We were surprised to find that the condemning judge and the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) attorney that led the condemnation legalities were in the front row (this is a fact). After the movie the judge had kind words for the film. The condemning attorney did not. In fact he demanded a special session the next day to clear up issues with the film. The following day at his special session it seemed that he only wanted to attack Daniel’s character. He discussed confidential negotiations that he had held with Daniel’s lawyer in order to paint Daniel as a greedy holdout. The following day Daniel’s lawyer emailed me the non-disclosure form that this lawyer had signed previous to his discussion.


Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

Foul! Nets pitch tickets to leader of B'klyn arena opposition

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

He’s likely the last person on Earth who’d buy Nets tickets, but that didn’t stop the club from attempting a full-court press to sell him season passes at its new Brooklyn arena.

Daniel Goldstein – yes, the same guy considered the public face of the opposition movement against the under-construction Barclays Center and the rest of the embattled Atlantic Yards project – got a shocking e-mail yesterday from the Nets marketing department.

Dubbed, “Exclusive Brooklyn Opportunity,” the email asks the co-founder of the Atlantic Yards opposition group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn to consider buying season passes for some of 4,000 "All-Access" premium seats now on sale for the 18,000-seat arena.

Obviously, the marketing employee who sent the email had no clue who Goldstein is.

“I once had a prime spot right there without buying tickets, but they took that away from me. Besides, I like the Knicks,” Goldstein told the Post.


Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Thanks in part to Forest City Ratner influence, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership takes over MetroTech BID

Atlantic Yards Report

So, what does the news about the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's controversial takeover of the MetroTech Business Improvement District (BID) have to do with Atlantic Yards? A bunch.

The DBP, a reliable cheerleader for Atlantic Yards, and was once (and perhaps still) under investigation for improper lobbying, has support from political leaders and Forest City Ratner. Consider Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's statement yesterday, as reported by the New York Post:

Borough President Marty Markowitz called the Partnership deal “an important step in the ongoing transformation of Downtown Brooklyn into a vibrant, 24/7, live-work urban center -- and soon, home of the Brooklyn Nets.”


Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

Apartment was too messy to rob!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Target's Pocketbook Protectors just can't keep up with all the pickpockets in Bruce Ratner's purloiner-plagued Fort Greene malls.

Wallet snatch

A thief sneaked off with a woman’s wallet as she shopped inside Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Terminal Mall on May 6.

The victim was walking through the shopping center between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue at 9:20 pm when she realized her bag had been opened.

The mall and its counterpart, Atlantic Center, make weekly appearances in this column, a constant warning to be vigilant.


Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Even in 1997, some in the press were questioning Ratner's use of political donations and influence

Atlantic Yards Report

On May 3, I pointed to a 11/1/2000 City Limits article that cast a critical perspective on Forest City Ratner--evidence that, despite claims in the Real Deal that developer Bruce Ratner "enjoyed largely favorable PR" before Atlantic Yards, less favorable PR was hardly insignificant.

Consider this 12/28/97 article from the New York Post, headlined King of the Retail Deals:

Ask megadeveloper Bruce Ratner why questions of political donations and connections dog virtually every development his hugely successful Forest City Ratner Companies builds - or even vies for - and he snaps, "It's just silly."

The 52-year-old developer, lawyer and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs angrily dismisses the persistent notion that his heavy contributions at the city, state and federal level get Forest City favored treatment - and even allow him to make special deals.


Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

May 10, 2011

Controversial takeover of Metro Tech BID approve

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

Something is rotten in Metro Tech.

Mayor Bloomberg and the borough’s biggest developer have prevailed in a heated Downtown Brooklyn turf war.

A development corporation created by Bloomberg to spur economic development in Downtown Brooklyn was awarded a $216,667-a-year contract to run daily operations of a striving Business Improvement District representing 25 square blocks in and around Metro Tech Center.

The decision today by Metro Tech BID to hire Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to manage the business improvement district’s daily operations -- and a $2.6 million budget raised through a neighborhood property tax -- ends more than two years of bickering by BID board members split over the plan.

The Partnership was granted the new responsibilities despite Monday’s release of an audit by Comptroller John Liu that ripped it for keeping shoddy payroll records, poorly documenting private donations and snubbing competitive-bidding laws.

A faction, including top BID brass, had fought the Partnership plan despite pressure from City Hall and developer Forest City Ratner, which built Metro Tech’s office complex in the 1980s.


Related coverage...

NY Post, Comptroller report rips city's Downtown Brooklyn development corp.

Liu’s audit relies on fiscal 2009 data, which showed the Partnership ended the period with a $319,956 deficit.

It states that 45 percent of the Partnership’s $2.7 million budget is for payroll – including $220,000 for its president, Joe Chan – but the Partnership fails to correctly maintain time sheets that show whether employees actually work all the hours they’re paid for.

The report also states the Partnership is not accurately recording private donations it receives, which could affect matching government grants the Partnership is eligible to obtain. And it says the Partnership isn’t following city guidelines when awarding contracts, including some cases where the Partnership, which was created in 2006, didn’t solicit enough competitive bids.

team tish, Metrotech Board Votes on Management Agreement with DBP; Bookkeeping Issues Outlined in Comptroller Audit Report

“Ironically, the NYC Comptroller’s audit of DBP reveals that the Partnership has poor bookkeeping (including timekeeping and tracking of private contributions) and some procurement issues, which leads one to ask why would the MetroTech Board vote to give DBP more responsibility, if the organization already has problems managing the Court-Livingston and Fulton Mall BIDs? It is my hope that MetroTech Board members are fully aware of the NYC Comptroller’s audit findings before their meeting,” said Council Member [Letitia] James.

The Brooklyn Paper, Audit rips Downtown Brooklyn Partnership over bookkeeping, salaries

The organization in charge of charting Downtown’s future is having serious difficulty steering its own ship, according to a city audit released on Monday.

The analysis, which examined data from July 1, 2008 to June, 2009, concluded that the Partnership:

• Lacks adequate controls to substantiate $1.2 million in payments to salaried employees.

• Fails to follow proper procedures regarding documenting $600,000 in private contributions.

• Doesn’t follow the procurement and reporting requirements of the $6-million consulting contract it holds with the Department of Small Business Services.

Posted by eric at 9:57 PM

Exclusive Brooklyn Opportunity!

Looks like Brett Yormark's marketing machine — like his basketball team — needs a little fine tuning complete and total overhaul! The following email was forwarded to us today by a former Atlantic Yards footprint resident of some note.

From: xxxxxx@brooklynnets.com
Date: May 10, 2011 3:13:46 PM EDT
To: Daniel Goldstein
Subject: Exclusive Brooklyn Opportunity

Dear Mr. Goldstein,

I hope you are well. I was unable to reach you over the phone before and as I know you are interested in the NETS exciting relocation I wanted to ensure you are aware that sports and entertainment will be returning to Brooklyn after a fifty-five year absence.

My name is xxxxxxx xxxxx, and I will be your direct contact at the Barclays Center of Brooklyn, opening 2012.

We have partnered with leaders in the entertainment and hospitality industry including Live Nation Entertainment, Golden Boy Boxing, Legardere Unlimited, IMG College and Feld Entertainment. The Barclays Center will feature 6 exclusive clubs & restaurants with upscale food and beverage offerings from award winning Levy Restaurants.

I would like to set-up a time for us to discuss all of the great opportunities within the Barclays Center of Brooklyn. Please let me know the best time to reach you.

Thank you,


xxxxxxx xxxxx
Premium All Access Manager
NETS Basketball
The New York Times Building
620 8th Avenue, 38th Floor
New York, NY 10018

NoLandGrab: Perhaps the Nets' Premium All Access Manager was unable to reach Mr. Goldstein "over the phone before" because his phone is buried under piles of rubble created by the former majority owner of the team she works for! We're pretty sure never will be a good time for her to reach Mr. Goldstein.

Posted by eric at 5:27 PM

Jeffries gets Corcoran to revise listings from Prospect Heights to Crown Heights; why not challenge FCR's claim AY would be in "downtown Brooklyn"?

Atlantic Yards Report

What was that we were saying earlier about a whole heap of nothing?

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who's drawn attention, praise, and skepticism (I Love Franklin Ave., Brownstoner) for his announced plan to "punish real estate agents for inventing neighborhood names and for falsely stretching their boundaries," can report some success with the latter part of his effort.

(Perhaps not coincidentally, Jeffries just opened an exploratory committee for a possible race for the Congressional seat now occupied by longtime Rep. Ed Towns, who may retire.)

He announced yesterday (full press release below) that, in response to his request, the Corcoran Group, a major real estate company, agreed to move "the eastern boundary of the Prospect Heights community back to its proper border, and correct[ed] several listings that had improperly marketed Crown Heights properties as located in Prospect Heights."

What about AY?

Given that Jeffries is apparently a stickler for Prospect Heights' boundaries, citing Flatbush Avenue as its western border, it's notable that the Assemblyman has not taken on a bigger target, challenging Forest City Ratner's ongoing claim, since 2003, that Atlantic Yards would be in "downtown Brooklyn."

But Jeffries has often been on the fence regarding Atlantic Yards. And his constituents likely are more divided on Atlantic Yards than on real estate brokers claiming that Franklin Avenue = Prospect Heights, or even the emerging ProCro coinage to describe the zone just east of the recognized Prospect Heights border.


Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

New Arena Renderings Revealed; Architect Says Barclays Center To Be The NBA's "Most Exciting Venue"


Now there's an unbiased opinion for you.

AECOM, corporate parent of architect Ellerbe & Becket, posted new renderings of the arena on its website recently, featuring views of the interior previously unseen. Among them: a dramatic vista of the arena bowl filled as well as a view from another angle. There are also renderings of the arena dressed up for a concert, the main concourse, a champagne bar, an exclusive club and a new view of the main entrance.

The web site said of the arena, scheduled to open September 28, 2012:: "This promises to be the most exciting venue in the NBA ... one of the most intimate seating configurations ever designed into a modern multi-purpose arena, with unparalleled sightlines."


Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

Packaging Public Land, The City’s Role in Private Development

Urban Magazine
by Claudia Huerta

It’s hard not to notice all the construction going on in New York City. Yet where the average passerby sees only cranes and the hands of private developers reshaping the city, planners, policy-makers and political insiders see the increasingly powerful role of the city’s arms-length organization, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

EDC is different from other city agencies in some important ways. For instance, when city-owned properties are sold, the names of the bidders and their projects are not revealed to the public. It is only after EDC selects a developer that the community is informed of the developer’s plans. Unsurprisingly, this process has raised the ire of many New York City communities and made it the target of a public backlash, as was the case in the recent Willets Point and Atlantic Yards development proposals pushed by EDC.

Having many different funding sources gives EDC a lot of power. Add to that its unique semi-public, semi-private status and it is a recipe reminiscent of Robert Moses’ Triborough Bridge Authority, which built countless bridges, tunnels and highways throughout the city with impunity from the 1940s to the 1960s despite much public disapproval.


Posted by eric at 12:19 PM

Xanadu- Governor Christie’s Ode-ious “Yes We Khan” Moment

Noticing New York

(Above: “Xanadu” from “Citizen Kane” - “cost: no man can say”- and “Xanadu” the mega-project in New Jersey, - more costs now being assumed by the New Jersey taxpayers- both from wikipedia.)

Suppose the New York Times proposed a contest for readers to write a poetic ode about a huge, over scale, garishly designed and questionably subsidized mixed-use project critically integrated with a sports complex: Do you think the readers might respond with lacerating lyricism questioning the judgement, priorities and profligacy of public officials?

Well, the New York Times did, and its readers did, only the contest was not held with respect to the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly handed out to Bruce Ratner (the Times business partner in building the new Times building). The contest was held with respect to New Jersey’s stalled Xanadu project recently rescued from financial insolvency by Governor Chris Christie.

May 3, 2011, the Times declared a winner: Prevailing Poet Is Decreed in Meadowlands Ode Contest.

Here for reference is the opening stanza of the original Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

The declared winner was Steve Schoenwiesner of Montclair, N.J., for his two-stanza entry, one stanza of which is reproduced below:

For Xanadu did Christie-Khan
A stately subsidy decree.
While tracks below a river, planned,
Were scuttled, fundless, by this man
A blight revives tax-free.


Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

In profile of ESDC head Adams, Jeffries expresses optimism about stability and accountability; did Adams's AY testimony merit that?

Atlantic Yard Report

From a profile in The Capitol headlined Empire Building: Andrew Cuomo, Kenneth Adams and the struggle to restore New York’s economy:

The governor’s desire to grow the private sector will be tested, though, by the internal complexities at ESDC, a sprawling agency with 10 regional offices, 430 state employees, hundreds of subsidiaries and oversight over thousands of public-private partnerships, from mega-projects like the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn to much smaller grant programs for equipment procurement and facility upgrades.

Optimism about Adams

The article notes:

But even critics of the agency’s work express optimism that change is on the way.

“Ken Adams should provide a greater measure of stability and accountability at the agency, which has suffered over the years as a result of the constant musical chairs at the top,” said Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries, an outspoken critic of the agency’s handling of the Atlantic Yards project.

Jeffries is more of a selective critic than an "outspoken critic," making the legitimate case that a subsidiary is needed to oversee Atlantic Yards but, unlike some fellow elected officials, steering clear of any lawsuits challenging or criticizing the project.

Accountability coming?

Beyond that, during testimony last month at a confirmation hearing, 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.

Adams's entrance may suggest stability, but his testimony didn't promise accountability.


NoLandGrab: Jeffries is more like a CINO — a "critic in name only," since his "criticism" has accomplished a whole heap of nothing.

Related content...

The Capitol, Empire Building

Posted by eric at 11:40 AM


Film to open at Cinema Village in Manhattan and at Indie Screen in Brooklyn on June 17

We Are Movie Geeks

BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN, the controversial documentary by acclaimed filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley (Horns and Halos) about one Brooklyn neighborhood’s enduring battle against the corporate developers of the Atlantic Yards project, will have its theatrical premiere in New York City on June 17th. The film will also open this year’s Brooklyn Film Festival on June 3rd, and will screen in the Rooftop Films summer series on June 9th in Fort Greene Park.


Related coverage...

mcbrooklyn, Rooftop Films Season Opener This Weekend

The 15th Annual Rooftop Films Summer Series opens this Friday, May 13th, in the Lower East Side.

On June 9, Rooftop Films presents Battle For Brooklyn, which tells the tale of a group of people in Brooklyn who come together to fight the Atlantic Yards Project. Shown in Fort Greene Park; Free.

See the full schedule here.

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

The battle over the description of the battle (i.e., did Goldstein "sell" his apartment?)

Atlantic Yards Report

From Crain's Insider, 5/4/11, Daniel Goldstein, Film Star [subscription required]:

Battle for Brooklyn will showcase not only the fight over Atlantic Yards when the documentary makes its U.S. premiere at the Brooklyn Film Festival next month, but also its protagonist: graphic designer Daniel Goldstein. In a press release, the documentary is described as “the infuriating story of a greedy corporate Goliath.” Goldstein, the film's David, was the last to leave the area. He sold his condemned apartment for $3 million.

(Emphasis added)

From Crain's Insider [subscription required], today:

CORRECTION: Daniel Goldstein, who led opposition to the Atlantic Yards development, received $3 million to vacate his apartment and to compensate him for its acquisition by the state through eminent domain. The transaction was mischaracterized in a May 4 Insider item.

He may have received $3 million, but he didn't keep it--a significant chunk went to his lawyer, with additional sums for moving, renting, and finding a new place.


Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

City seeks developers for Willets Point revamp

Grand plans inch forward for 62-acre Queens that's been the subject of a lengthy legal battle between the city and some of the local businesses that would be displaced.

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

The city moved another step forward Monday with its hotly contested plans to redevelop Willets Point, Queens. The city's Economic Development Corp. issued a request for proposal seeking a developer to build out the first portion of the 62-acre site, a parcel of land located next to Citi Field.

With Atlantic Yards, by contrast, the developer was selected before the project was announced. In fact, it was the developer who selected the project.

“We think this is premature,” said Michael Gerrard, senior counsel of Arnold & Porter, who represents 10 businesses that have been fighting for years to halt the Willets Point redevelopment. Some of Mr. Gerrard's clients are actually located in the first phase, he noted. “The project is still in legal limbo due to continuing uncertainty over whether the city will receive approval for the Van Wyck ramps that are essential to the project, which was approved as a whole, not something that could be broken into chunks or phases.”


Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

The MTA’s Top 5 Botched Real Estate Deals

Sheepshead Bites
by Allan Rosen

The MTA is short of cash. That is no secret. Albany is partially to blame for that, as Ben Kabak has written about endlessly in SecondAvenueSagas.com. But have the MTA’s real estate deals been in the best interest of the public or in the best interests of the real estate industry? Over the years real estate and banking interests have been the most prevalent occupations of MTA Board members. At the Brooklyn Public Hearing for the service cutbacks held in March 2010, a small group of protesters raised signs critical of the MTA’s deal to sell Atlantic Yards for below market value. In 2009, a lawsuit was filed to that effect. But it was hardly the only questionable land deal under the MTA’s watch.


Posted by eric at 7:27 AM

May 9, 2011

Prompt but not so forthcoming: City Planning comes up empty when asked about in-house debate re Atlantic Yards and ULURP

Atlantic Yards Report

So, did any city planners object to the fact that Atlantic Yards bypassed all city review, with the city ceding its Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) to the less stringent state process?

It's one of those lingering questions in the Atlantic Yards saga, given that even former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, in hindsight, agreed that was a mistake.

In March, I filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the Department of City Planning and the City Planning Commission, during the years 2002-2006:

Specifically, I request documents, including correspondence, from or to DCP staff/officials and CPC staff/officials, regarding whether and why the Atlantic Yards project should go through ULURP or not. (It did not go through ULURP; the Empire State Development Corporation overrode zoning.)

I thought I might get something substantive; surely someone within the city's planning firmament might have been slightly peeved that such a major project bypassed any city review.

Short answer — apparently not. Read on.


Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

May 8, 2011

"Ratner's refute" generates more refutation and debate

Atlantic Yards Report

The Real Deal's May 1 cover article headlined Ratner's refute: Developer insists Atlantic Yards is moving forward is still generating refutation.

Check out the Comments section, which is thoroughly critical of the article, until we hit #13:

You could bother to interview any of the project opponents, some of whom won a recent court case against the project and are awaiting another important decision from the judge. However, you saw nothing wrong with using their illustration of the parking lots, while failing to give them credit for it.

Comment #11 Posted By: Eliot 05/04/11


Ratner definitely expected opposition. He was engineering astroturf support for the project in January of 2004, working with disgraced former Assemblyman Roger Green to create phony "community organizations" to sign his "Community Benefit Agreement", which has no teeth (but did get him Bertha Lewis' lips). Through his CBA proxies, Ratner waged a PR campaign against neighboring communities, painting them as rich NIMBYs so he could justify refusing to engage with them or their elected representatives on either benefits or impacts from Atlantic Yards.

Comment #12 Posted By: pher 05/04/11


Ratner is resilient. What these idiots in Brooklyn don't understand is that he has built Brooklyn. If it wasn't for Ratner, there would be no Prospect Heights, there would be no Fort Greene and no Clinton Hill. Those areas were doomed until he brought jobs and industry to that area.

Comment #13 Posted By: Anonymous 05/05/11


Regarding #13, it's the opposite. Fort Greene was landmarked in 1978, Clinton Hill in 1981. The momentum had begun well before Ratner moved into real estate development.

Comment #14 Posted By: Anonymous 05/05/11


This article was well done, and the truth of Ratner and the atlantic yards project has come about. I think the critics of Ratner need to take a hike, if it weren't for this man, downtown Brooklyn, and the atlantic yards area would still be a run down blighted area. Ratner should be honored during for all of this, rather than be put down by these NIMBYS.

Comment #15 Posted By: Anonymous 05/06/11


Regarding #15, Ratner got a good deal--an insider's deal--on a valuable piece of public property, the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard. Just look at the Hudson Yards plan for a contrast: multiple bidders at the outset. As for the the blighted 'atlantic yards area,' consider that Ratner had demolish luxury condos that had been converted from industrial space.

Comment #16 Posted By: Anonymous 05/06/11


Posted by steve at 11:46 PM

From Lopate Show on NYU expansion controversy: how Atlantic Yards fits into the discussion

Atlantic Yards Report

Yes, Atlantic Yards remains a touchstone in discussions of urban issues. During a 4/19/11 segment on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show regarding New York University's Expansion Plan, the topic came up at the end.

At 30:59, Lopate asked, "Do you think that the Atlantic Yards controversy fits into this discussion?"

"Absolutely," responded author and urbanist Roberta Brandes Gratz. "Because, as I try to show in my book [The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs], there are basically two ways at looking at the future of change in a city. One is these large, overbearing, urban-renewal-style Robert Moses kind of projects, in which you wipe out an existing fabric to build a new one of questionable quality or whether you try to fit in and build on existing assets, which is, as I point out in the book, the Jane Jacobs way."

Of course it's hard to build a sports arena out of existing assets, but sports facilities are not economic saviors, which is why the city and state support for the Atlantic Yards arena is so questionable.

And there were industrial buildings in the Atlantic Yards footprint that had already been rehabilitated, and others awaiting such work. But there never was an open debate about what to do with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, much less the blocks adjacent.


Posted by steve at 11:42 PM

Can manufacturing thrive in the city? New Pratt/Brookings report offers strategies

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote last month about the late Robert Fitch and his book The Assassination of New York, which, among other things, makes the case that New York too easily sacrificed its manufacturing space.

Last month, the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program and the Pratt Center for Community Development in Brooklyn issued a report, The Federal Role in Supporting Urban Manufacturing, that warns about the conversion of manufacturing land to housing and mentions, among other successful enterprises, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center.

And, of course, we shouldn't forget that more jobs come from manufacturing than from megadevelopments in which office space (jobs!) is traded for housing.

From the press release:

The report looks at how cities, including New York, have made sure that budding manufacturing businesses have room and resources to grow. The report looks at how cities, including New York, have made sure that budding manufacturing businesses have room and resources to grow. While conventional wisdom says that urban manufacturing is in decline because it's no longer necessary, the Pratt Center/Brookings research found that for decades urban manufacturing has been sidelined by government policies that control the money, land and other resources businesses need to succeed. The report outlines essential steps to put government to work in support of manufacturing instead of against it, and open up job growth where it's most urgently needed—in the cities where the workers, transportation and markets already exist.

To help New York City and State as well as other states and localities better support the needs of small, urban manufacturers, the report recommends that the federal government:

  • Modernize policies to encourage metropolitan areas and states to capitalize on their existing manufacturing assets, support their integration into regional economic clusters, and do a better job of coordinating economic development with sustainability goals;
  • Encourage federally funded state and local workforce organizations to develop and enhance programs that equip workers with skills that match existing and emerging manufacturing jobs;
  • Provide support to states to create advanced manufacturing centers that focus on the research and development of new technologies and help manufacturing firms apply these technologies to their work;
  • Support state and local policies that help small manufacturers expand into new domestic and global markets;
  • Revise Small Business Administration programs to diversify the kind and amount of funding available to small manufacturers; and
  • Revamp programs and policies, such as the rules for Industrial Revenue Bonds, to help revive the market for industrial real estate development in urban areas.


Posted by steve at 1:28 AM

hotdocs 2011 part i

Steve Munro

Battle for Brooklyn ****

Directed by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, USA

Living in a city whose government was recently taken over by politicians whose recipe for success is to sell everything in sight, I just had to see Battle for Brooklyn. This film follows a 7-year battle by residents and businesses against redevelopment to make way for a new basketball stadium and many, many condos.


The pattern here is distressingly familiar: a sports complex, a team of dubious value, a developer who needs government help to achieve his goals, governments that are more interested in money and good news than in preserving neighbourhoods. The legal and political issue at the heart of the story is the abuse of powers of “eminent domain”, or as they are known in Canada, “expropriation”. If the state uses its power to force the sale of land for any purpose, then no neighbourhood is safe from intervention on behalf of a developer whose project is deemed “a public good”, and the opportunities for corruption are obvious.


Battle for Brooklyn is a cautionary tale about the results of government and private interests conspiring together against the public. This film, at a neighbourhood scale, is a fitting complement to Hot Coffee (on the systematic limitation of corporate liability) which I saw later in the festival.


Posted by steve at 1:21 AM

Brooklyn Film Festival, Rooftop Films Announce Premiere of Battle for Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Phoebe Neidl

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 3 at Brooklyn Heights Cinemas at 8 p.m. The film will be also shown as a part of the Rooftop Films Summer Series on June 9 in Fort Greene Park. Prior to both Brooklyn screenings, the documentary had its world premiere at the Toronto HotDocs festival on April 30.

“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 Galinsky, 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.”


Posted by steve at 1:18 AM

May 6, 2011

Even in a slow lobbying year, Forest City Ratner spent some $345,000 on array of lobbying firms, including Lipsky

Atlantic Yard Report

In past years, state officials have released annual lobbying information in April; since no such document has been forthcoming, I've taken a look at Forest City Ratner's lobbying in 2010, which, understandably, was well below that in 2009, when the developer renegotiated deals with both the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation.

Indeed, the 2009 total of $1,127,598 in city and state lobbying, perhaps the largest sum for any real estate developer, was succeeded by a 2010 total of some $345,000, likely dwarfed by sums spent on public relations, such as the 3/11/10 groundbreaking ceremony.

The developer spread the money among nine firms, including the one-man show run by Richard Lipsky, who faces corruption charges.


Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

In latest Observer "100 Most Powerful" in New York Real Estate list, Prokhorov again leads Ratner, bike lanes called example of "Mrs. Moses"

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Observer has chosen its fourth annual list of The 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate and, once again, Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, inexplicably to me, was placed ahead of Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

Well, the list (slideshow) "was chosen internally by The Observer using subjective criteria" and, below, I offer a few comments.

Note that the numbers in parentheses reflect last year's rank.

The Russian mogul

#24. Mikhail Prokhorov (43)

Controlling owner of the New Jersey Nets

When Mr. Prokhorov stepped forward last year as the new owner of the New Jersey Nets, he not only established himself as the latest real estate investor to interlope the city’s gridlock of property assets, but also forced himself onto Gotham’s cultural scene. So much so that New York magazine named him as the leader of the city’s “Global Russians.” Whether he can really make it in this town has yet to be seen, but, either way, for now he’s bought himself a ticket to the top.

Prokhorov owns a 45% stake in the arena holding company, which means he's less of a real estate investor than Bruce Ratner, and, as I wrote last year, Ratner has the connections and pays for the lobbying (and still does, as documented today). He's still more powerful, in my book.

A small bump-up for Bruce

#48. Bruce Ratner (53)

Chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner

With the last of the lawsuits behind him, Mr. Ratner began work on what may still be the most cutting-edge arena in the country, even without Frank Gehry designing it. The developer is struggling to find financing for the first apartment tower on the site-but if he does, there are rumors it could be the largest prefabricated structure in the world, and something with the possibility to transform the way New York builds. And there is a certain Manhattan apartment building he and Mr. Gehry managed to finish together.

Not the largest, but the tallest prefab structure. And the last of the lawsuits still lingers.


Related coverage...

NY Observer, The 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

Good Grief! More Stories (Involving Computers and Schools) Deflating The Bloomberg Management Expertise Myth

Noticing New York

When you are questioning the reliability Bloomberg’s management expertise and the extent to which his statistics reflect a real world versus Bloomberg’s desire for an exulting edifice-complex oriented headline, the statement the in the Times about Bloomberg’s “big push” for an applied sciences school (“envisioned as one of the largest development projects in the city’s history” - What? Bigger than the Atlantic Yards mega-monoploy handed to Bruce Ratner?) has more ominous resonance:

William A. Zajc, chairman of Columbia’s* physics department, said the idea for an applied sciences school was a “field of dreams venture.”

(* Is this gripe just because Columbia doesn’t want competition for its takeover of West Harlem?)

(See: Bloomberg’s Big Push for an Applied Sciences School, by Javier C. Hernnandez, April 26, 2011.)

The Times story also includes criticism that the mayor should, instead, be thinking in terms of deploying the city capital (“the city has pledged to offer capital [$100 million or more] and public land”) to build upon and expand existing resources and programs rather than these grandiose plans to “start from scratch” which NYU’s proposal to the mayor dares to criticize:

“A ‘start from scratch’ approach that parachutes a new player into New York without the requisite ingredients that lead to success has the potential to be a waste of resources.”

Willlets Point, Atlantic Yards, Coney Island, even the Columbia expansion into West Harlem (potentially competing with the mayor's applied sciences school vision): Where else have we been hearing about the mayor’s intoxication with wiping the slate clean in order to “start from scratch” before building anything?


Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

May 5, 2011

Battle for Brooklyn a huge hit at Hot Docs

Persistence of Vision

Battle for Brooklyn, already an audience favorite, received a standing ovation last weekend at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. Watch the footage here.

The film saw two sold out screenings and got rave reviews at Hot Docs, whose website lists Battle for Brooklyn as the fifth most popular film out of 199 films at the festival, as of May 1.


NoLandGrab: You might not get to see photos of the body of Osama bin Laden, but after Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder wrote on Tuesday that Battle for Brooklyn received standing ovations "according to the filmmakers," said filmmakers felt compelled, as noted above, to produce the evidence.

In the spirit of full dis-Oder, however, we should note that the film had dropped a few places to 14th most popular as of May 2nd.

Posted by eric at 12:23 PM

Cutting construction costs key to first Atlantic Yards tower; is modular option part of overall effort to get union concessions as contracts expire?

Atlantic Yards Report

There was some useful information in the sycophantic Real Deal profile article headlined Ratner's refute: Developer insists Atlantic Yards is moving forward (and critiqued here): the effort to control construction costs, whether via experimental modular construction or union concessions, is crucial to the developer's profits, and to the timing of the promised housing.

According to the article:

Profits from the planned residential buildings are "going to depend on where construction costs wind up," [Bruce] Ratner said.

[Maryanne] Gilmartin said the company has finished the schematic design phase of the project's first residential tower, a 400-unit building on Dean Street that will be 50 percent affordable units and 50 percent market rate.

The company is in the process of developing two separate possible designs for the building -- one modular, aimed at cutting costs, and one conventional. It expects to send contract documents out to bid on both designs in the "latter part of the year," Gilmartin said.

It's possible that the modular option is aimed as leverage to get unions to make project-specific concessions, as I've suggested. So the conventional design also would be aimed at cutting costs, though in a different way.

After all, Forest City Ratner famously halted work halfway through the construction of the Beekman Tower, then renegotiated union contracts to save money.


Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

The Battle for Brooklyn


The movie mainly follows activist Daniel Goldstein and members of the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn as they fought for 6 long years to discourage the city and Forest City Ratner from developing the land. Unfortunately, they were not successful and construction is now going ahead at the planned site, but hey, this is the story of how long it took them to actually start because of a few courageous people.


Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Like, OMG, NJ, a mall is not public infrastructure!!!!!!!!!!!

The Torch
by Nicole Gelinas

This blog focuses on New York. But the new managers of the Xanadu-cum- “American-Dream@Meadowlands” mall project over in Jersey noted helpfully yesterday that “Manhattan can see us.”

OK, then. What Manhattan sees today is an unwise leadership decision on the part of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Yesterday, Christie officially threw state support behind the resurrection of this long-failed project to build a mega-mall in northern New Jersey.

Having called the unfinished building “the ugliest damn building in New Jersey and perhaps America,” Christie pledged to see the supposedly private-sector project through under new ownership.

To that end, the state will offer $200 million in new financial help.

If the dozens of other political vanity projects — from sports stadiums to Atlantic Yards to Destiny USA — that came before this one are an indication, the mall will continue to be a boondoggle.


NoLandGrab: This is the same Chris Christie who wouldn't spend NJ taxpayers' money on the badly needed ARC tunnel project. We guess an indoor ski slope is more important than good commuter-rail access.

Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Marty eyeing Ringling site for Coney concert series

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alex Rush

The new greatest show on Earth may be Borough President Markowitz’s Coney Island summer music series.

The Beep is reportedly hoping to relocate his “Seaside Concerts” to the W. 21st street parking lot that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus abandoned after a two-year run. The planned relocation, first reported by NY1, was expected after the city formally booted the controversial weekly shows from Asser Levy Park last month after noise complaints — and a lawsuit — from neighbors.

Last year’s shows were funded by several companies, including Forest City Ratner and the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets, but The Beep still found ways to cut costs, using Rikers Island prisoners — paid just $1 an hour — to set up and remove the 2,000 seats for the series’ audiences.

Just weeks after the suit was filed, the city temporarily overturned the decades-old ban so that the shows could go for the 2010 season. But the 500-foot rule is back in effect and the city moved the concerts out of Asser Levy Park even before there is a ruling in the suit.


NoLandGrab: No judge has thought it a problem, however, that the State of New York overrode local zoning rules preventing a basketball arena from being sited within 200 feet of several residential neighborhoods.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

May 4, 2011

Hot Docs Brings it All Home: 8 Documentaries You Should See

by Basil Tsiokos

The 18th annual Hot Docs is an embarrassment of riches for documentary fans. Running running April 28-May 8, it’s virtually impossible to catch a screening of every film one would like to see. Spotlighting more than 200 Canadian and international documentaries for Toronto audiences, there’s have a lot of tough viewing choices.

The eight titles below share a particular focus on questions of home and belonging - from explorations of literal dwellings to broader questions of nationhood and community.

Daniel Goldstein’s Brooklyn condo is the point of contention in Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley’s “The Battle for Brooklyn,” which makes its world premiere at Hot Docs. Goldstein’s building is in the footprint of Mayor Bloomberg’s ambitious Atlantic Yards’ economic development plan for the borough. While there are many uncertainties about the benefits promised by the project, developers and the city government are determined to move forward, making questionable use of eminent domain laws to essentially force people out. Not willing to go without a fight, Goldstein becomes an activist, little realizing that his battle will take seven years and cost him a relationship. Galinsky and Hawley found a great underdog in Goldstein and have constructed a thoroughly engaging look at the infuriating erosion of individual rights in the interest of corporate concerns and political maneuvering.


Posted by eric at 10:13 PM


by Joey Arak

Though there's no sign of Walmart being interested in the neighborhood (yet!), foes of the corporate giant hit up a Lower East Side community board meeting to give a "scathing presentation" about the retailer. Some are worried the SPURA megaplan, which in theory will one day be built, may provide an LES opening for Walmart. "These people are predatory retailers," said Walmart Free NYC's Bertha Lewis, who way back when was so excited about Atlantic Yards she smooched Bruce Ratner.


NoLandGrab: Is there no one with more credibility than Bertha Lewis for Walmart opponents to trot out to Community Board meetings? She'd kiss Sam Walton's bones, too, if there was a grant and low-interest loan in the offing.

Posted by eric at 10:01 PM

After two delays, Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting will be May 19 at Borough Hall, 9:30 am

Atlantic Yards Report

In the end, the next (and third) meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet will not be held two months after the previous one, as some desired, but more than three months later.

The meeting, originally scheduled for tomorrow, May 5, has been postponed to May 19 at Borough Hall, at 9:30 am. It offers a chance for the relevant city and state agencies to meet with each other and developer Forest City Ratner to discuss relevant issues.

It also generates news--information not previously available--such as the timetable for the first tower (delayed) and the number of workers at the site (limited). Such meetings have been little publicized.


Posted by eric at 12:09 PM


by Joey Arak

How do international audiences react to our local knock-down, drag-out development battles? Standing ovations! That's what greeted Atlantic Yards mortal enemy Daniel Goldstein, who was in Toronto for the premiere of Battle for Brooklyn, the doc about the controversial megaproject. The film fest circuit's next unlikely star? The flick screens in Brooklyn on June 3, and Atlantic Yards Report says the 90-minute length makes it "both understandably and troublingly limited." Maybe HBO can adapt it into a series. It couldn't possibly be more boring than Treme.


Related coverage...

ViralStash.com, The ‘Battle for Brooklyn’ is On

The Atlantic Yards project has been rife with controversy since it was first proposed and although most of that drama has subsided, a pair of filmmakers from Clinton Hill are hoping to stir things back up with a documentary about the process and the corresponding eminent domain abuses that came with it. Behold the Battle for Brooklyn!

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Gate Agape at Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn (the Borough)
by Nicole Brydson

An open construction gate leads to some very outdated "official" NBA info.

So we recently noticed the fence was ajar at the construction site of the new Nets Arena in the burgeoning BAM Cultural District. Here's what we saw: basically, it's a big hole in the ground with some steel sticking out.

I've heard some speculation of whether the stadium will be completed in time for the planned 2012 season, so I snapped a few shots of the progress. NBA.com announced ticket sales information for back on March 30, saying that the top of the line passes had sold out, but "remaining premium seats range in price from $99 to $1,500 per seat." However, the site's Atlantic Yards FAQ (screen shot) still states that tickets will go on sale in Fall 2009 and that...

The new Frank Gehry-designed arena will be located at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, an area in close proximity to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Brooklyn Museum.

Time to update, folks! And maybe mind the gates.


Photo: Nicole Brydson/Brooklyn (the Borough)

Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

Love New York? Walk the Talk this Weekend In the Spirit of Jane Jacobs

The Municipal Art Society of New York

MAS is looking forward to hosting this weekend’s Jane’s Walk in New York City, a series of free neighborhood walks and bike rides throughout all five boroughs, celebrating the legacy of Jane Jacobs. This is the first year MAS is coordinating Jane’s Walk in New York City, and we have more than 20 walks lead by local residents and urban enthusiasts planned for the weekend.

Among other Jane’s Walk NYC highlights: tour Atlantic Yards with journalist Norman Oder or bike around the Rockaways with former Yolanda Garcia Community Planner Award winner Jeanne DuPont.


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

May 3, 2011

Markowitz, de Blasio outraged by potential conflicts in taxi selection, but they didn't mind conflicts with Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Public Advocate (and Brooklyn resident) Bill de Blasio, and Assemblyman Micah Kellner have written a letter (below) to New York City Comptroller John C. Liu asking him to investigate the process by which the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has selected the new "Taxi of Tomorrow."

They believe that the Turkish manufacturer Karsan, the only one of the three RFP respondents that promised to build parts for the taxis in Brooklyn, was eliminated due to several potential conflicts of interest, including a leak of a consultant's report to the New York Times, and that consultant's work for the other two finalists.

(Here's coverage in the Brooklyn Paper and Patch. The winner was Nissan.)

Selective outrage

They make a reasonable case--I haven't studied it enough to be sure--but I'm struck by the (ahem) selective outrage.

Other potential and real conflicts related to Atlantic Yards did not draw the ire of Markowitz and de Blasio, notably 1) the essential decision by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to give the Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner without an RFP (which was belatedly issued), and 2) the role of environmental consultant AKRF, which worked consecutively for FCR and the Empire State Development Corporation.


NoLandGrab: Surely Markowitz and de Blasio only care about the merits, and not the politics, right? Right? 'Cause we know, when we go car shopping, Karsan is always at the top of our list.

Posted by eric at 9:03 PM

Reading The Real Deal on Bruce Ratner: a "strange twist of fate," housing doubts, and big arena profits

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder continues his dissection of today's Real Deal puff piece on Bruce Ratner, and while it's all worth a read, this bit is particularly eye-opening.

While I don't take pleasure in criticizing a fellow reporter, I have to recount some of the back story. The writer, new to Atlantic Yards, contacted me in mid-April.

He was obviously typing sloppily: "Everybody talks about how Ratner entered development with a social conscious, which seems ironic, givcen all the opposition he has engendared with Atlantic Yards. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on that."

So I sent him some things to read, notably a piece on Ratner's campaign contributions and links to an essay headlined Democracy Now? Ratner Plays Hardball When It Counts and excerpted significantly here.

I sent links to six more pieces, including The Mystery of Ridge Hill. His response: "ei yi yi. I just want some quotes not a dissertation."

He didn't bother much with what I'd written, obviously, nor did he contact me again.

It was a dismaying example of what press scholar Jay Rosen criticizes as “He said, she said” journalism, in which "No real attempt is made to assess clashing truth claims in the story" and "The means for assessment do exist, so it’s possible to exert a factual check on some of the claims, but for whatever reason the report declines to make use of them."


NoLandGrab: Ei yi yi is right. Ask the journalist who knows about Atlantic Yards than any other reporter, and then complain about TMI? That's how you end up with hard-hitting stories like Ratner's Refute.

And "Ratner entered development with a social conscious?" If that was ever true, it ceased being so a long, long time ago.

Posted by eric at 6:07 PM

Update #73: rooftop films

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Things in Toronto have gone incredibly. There have been scores of positive reviews and tweets about the film- and we've been told that it's one of the top films in terms of audience reaction!!

As you know- the film will open the Brooklyn Film Festival on June 3rd.

It will then screen at Ft Greene Park on June 9th- as a collaboration between rooftop films and the Brooklyn Film Festival.

The following week it opens at Cinema Village and indie screen in Brooklyn.

Rooftop has long been a supporter of ours- and they do incredible work. I want to alert you to their awesome fundraiser- for very low cost you can get a pass to the entire summer of events- please consider helping them out.



Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Coming Soon: “Battle for Brooklyn,” the Atlantic Yards Documentary

Last weekend we saw another positive review for “Battle for Brooklyn,” a documentary directed by Local contributor Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley. The online magazine Spacing Toronto reviewed the movie, which was just shown at Toronto’s Hot Docs festival. The documentary is a “compelling and important” portrayal of the fight “against the expropriation of people’s homes for private profit,” said the magazine, which covers urban landscape issues.

Posted by eric at 5:56 PM

Atlantic Yards Report Refutes Ratner's Refute

Atlantic Yards Report, "Ratner's refute"? Real Deal claims "Developer insists Atlantic Yards is moving forward"

Well, we shouldn't expect that much from the real estate industry-friendly publication The Real Deal, which has published a cover article headlined Ratner's refute: Developer insists Atlantic Yards is moving forward.

I'll have more of a critique in a bit, but first, consider that such head-in-the-sand reporting somehow misses the news from last fall, as I wrote 9/28/10:

From WNYC today, Ratner Abandons 10-Year Timeline for Atlantic Yards:

Developer Bruce Ratner said Tuesday morning what many of his critics and even some of his associates have been saying for years: there is no way the entire Atlantic Yards project will be done in 10 years.

He said the 10-year timeline was always misunderstood. It was never meant to be more than a best-case scenario to be used in environmental impact statements.

“That was really only an analysis as to what the most serious impacts [would be], if all the other planned development in downtown Brooklyn happened right away,” Ratner says. “It was never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in.”

He added: “I would say it's really market-dependent as to when it will really be completed.”

Atlantic Yards Report, "Ratner's refute"? Real Deal claim of "largely favorable PR" deserves some footnotes

True, there were many fewer negative articles, but they were not insignificant. Consider the 11/1/2000 City Limits article headlined Wage Rage: Big corporations and developers reap major subsidies from the city, but their service staffs make starvation wages. Now a wave of organizing campaigns is trying to change the equation.:

One week before the Renaissance Plaza strike began, on May 9, demonstrators marched outside the Atlantic Center Mall to demand better wages and benefits for workers in all of malls operated by Forest City Ratner, the city's largest retail developer. Al Sharpton led the chants, but the protest was organized by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now--better known as ACORN. The group, organizer Bertha Lewis explains, wants heavily subsidized, "big box" retail developers like Bruce Ratner to make mall tenants agree to pay decent wages and benefits. "If you are feeding at the public trough, then you must at least pay your workers a living wage," she says.

Ratner's company, Lewis readily admits, is no worse than any other developer. They all have the same "dead-end, low-wage, non-union, no-benefit jobs," she says. ACORN singled out Ratner because he's one of the biggest developers in the city, and because he is currently receiving more than $20 million in city subsidies.

Those are the same Al Sharpton and Bertha Lewis who Ratner, thanks to strategic giving and questionable promises, has been able to recruit to support Atlantic Yards.

Atlantic Yards Report, Bruce Ratner, once "humble, winsome" to a supporter, becomes "affable, rumpled" to a journalistic sycophant (but what about the grim photo?)

Once upon a time, in the memorable words of the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, Bruce Ratner was described as having a customary "humble, winsome" manner.

I guess we'll have to add "affable, rumpled" to the list, since that's the shorthand description in The Real Deal's cover article headlined Ratner's refute: Developer insists Atlantic Yards is moving forward.

Consider the quote from Ratner accompanying the photo: "Ultimately the truth will come out -- that this project will be very good for Brooklyn."

The article makes no attempt to discern the competing evidence regarding that truth, but doesn't Ratner in the photo appear not so affable but rather a bit grim?

NoLandGrab: Bruce will heretofore be known as "The Grim Rumpler."

Posted by eric at 12:38 PM

Ratner's refute

Developer insists Atlantic Yards is moving forward

The Real Deal
by Adam Piore

The legend of Bruce Ratner, as told by Bruce Ratner. Cue violins.

For a developer who prides himself on building with a "social mission," the bruising battle to break ground on the mammoth Atlantic Yards project has not been easy -- to say the least.

Over the last eight years, Bruce Ratner has been repeatedly excoriated by community activists and Brownstone Brooklynites, attacked in the press, and called everything from a "liar" to a "serial eminent domain abuser and corporate welfare queen."

If you type the words "Bruce Ratner" and "scumbag" into Google, you get 567 hits.

It's a strange twist of fate for the affable, rumpled Cleveland native, who spent his summers at Columbia Law School working for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the rest of his 20s and 30s as a consumer advocate, defending the poor from the scams of small-time hucksters and corporate con men.

Without Bruce, there would be no Brooklyn as we know it today.

Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, credited Ratner with "literally, over the course of almost two decades, dragging Brooklyn into the 21st century."

"When Bruce and Forest City made a commitment to Downtown Brooklyn, there were no other private investors interested," she said, noting that the new investment also brought funds for subways and other infrastructure.

Funds for subways and other infrastructure that the state of New York appears to be giving back.

There's an irony, [Wylde] noted, in that "the people who are now trying to close the door" on new development at the Atlantic Yards, and protect their turf, "wouldn't have anything worth much if it wasn't for Ratner's investments over the years."

"There was such an overwhelming sense in the '80s that Brooklyn was a classic area of urban decay," she said. "The local homeowners were battling high crime and the spread of blight, so I think there was appreciation of the importance of new investment. I think that the opposition to Atlantic Yards is in fact a function of a neighborhood that is gentrified thanks to decades of investment by Forest City."

Thank you, Bruce!

Of course, we have to have a dash of the Atlantic Yards creation myth...

But when [Marty Markowitz] suggested Ratner construct an arena on the vacant Atlantic rail yards, "[Bruce] saw something much greater than me. He saw a possibility of a major development that Brooklyn needed."

...with a little "vacant rail yard" myth thrown in for good measure.

Here's a better idea:

However, Council Member [Letitia] James -- one of the most vocal politicians in the fight against Ratner -- said in a statement that the site he controls is "too big and too important to be held hostage and kept barren for decades by the developer."

"Mr. Ratner," she said in a long statement her office sent in response to an interview request, "knew that he wanted those 22 acres cheap, and to get the land, he promised the world while maintaining the impression that he could deliver. Because of this, Mr. Ratner has already come back to the city and state for more taxpayer money, for a project that, when initiated in 2003, was proclaimed to be 'primarily privately funded.' I fully expect there will be future efforts to extract yet more public subsidy for Atlantic Yards."

She said the government should "take back the land" and divide it into "manageable parcels." She also demanded that officials initiate a "transparent, competitive bidding process to award the parcels to multiple developers, making it financially feasible in a way that Atlantic Yards is not and never was."

Here's a surprise (not):

Ratner estimates that the profits from the arena "are going to equal or surpass where I thought they would come out."

He estimated the arena will generate annual net income of about $110 million to $120 million, cost $30 million to operate, and require about $45 million to $50 million a year to pay off financing, leaving the company with about $35 million a year in profit -- which will generate a roughly 10 percent return on the $350 million invested by Forest City to build the stadium.

"That is pretty good out of the box," Ratner said. "It will increase as time goes on."

The Real Deal gives Bruce the last word:

Ratner insisted that the Atlantic Yards is back on track.

"This wound up being challenging in ways I did not expect, though I probably should have expected the opposition," Ratner said. "I know the housing is going to be incredible, and the arena will be the most beautiful in the country. Ultimately the truth will come out -- that this project will be very good for Brooklyn."


NoLandGrab: If by "Brooklyn," Bruce Ratner means "Bruce Ratner," he may be right yet!

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

UNITY 4.0: June 15th Community Meeting To Revisit UNITY In Light of Recent Atlantic Yards (lack of)

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Save the Date:

A community meeting to revisit the UNITY Plan for the MTA Vanderbilt Rail Yards in the context of recent developments within the Atlantic Yards project area.

When: Wednesday, June 15th. 7pm
Where: The Commons
388 Atlantic Avenue
(between Hoyt and Bond)


For more information contact unity4info@gmail.com


Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

Battle for Brooklyn debuts in Toronto, mostly to kudos, will open in Brooklyn in June

Atlantic Yards Report

The documentary Battle for Brooklyn debuted this past weekend at Toronto's Hot Docs festivals, garnering mostly positive reviews from local critics and, according to the filmmakers, standing ovations for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Daniel Goldstein, the film's most prominent character, who was in attendance.

It will be the opening night film at the Brooklyn Film Festival on June 3rd (at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema).

Having seen a near-finished version, my shorthand take is that it's quite compelling--and for reasons not fully fleshed out in the initial reviews cited below.

At the same time, for those of us who know the sweep of the story, Battle for Brooklyn, at about 90 minutes, is both understandably and troublingly limited.

I'll say more about the film at a later date, but for now will compile the initial reactions.


Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

'Battle for Brooklyn,' Newest Atlantic Yards Documentary, Opens

Film by Clinton Hill residents had world premiere Saturday.

Prospect Heights Patch
by McCarton Ackerman

A pair of Clinton Hill filmmakers have released a documentary that makes a controversial Brooklyn issue relatable to audiences across the globe.

Directors Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky have recently released Battle for Brooklyn, which highlights the controversy surrounding Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards Project. The world premiere took place at the Toronto HotDocs festival last Saturday, and the national premiere will be at the 2011 Brooklyn Film Festival on June 3. The film will also be shown at Fort Greene Park on June 9.

“We initially had read about the Atlantic Yards project in the New York Times and it seemed like a press release,” said Hawley. “There were more questions than answers.”

“We didn’t want this to be an activist film, which is tough because you do become involved to a certain extent,” said Galinsky. “Our approach as directors is to follow characters and not facts. We want to show people under pressure and how they react to that pressure.”

Perhaps the biggest sign that the film did its job is the response from audiences outside of the New York area. At the world premiere in Toronto last Saturday, Galinsky says they were given a five minute standing ovation after the screening.


Related coverage...

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter, Update #72: Amazing screening- amazing reviews

We had a sold out - amazing screening for our world premier tonite. The audience totally got the film- and gave Dan a long long standing ovation.

we have gotten a bunch of amazing reviews already- and twitter is abuzz with positive energy.

2nd screening tomorrow at 1:30 was sold out- and it played even better today- Dan got a 5 minute standing ovation after it was over.

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

More trouble at Ratner’s malls

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Maybe, someday, "social missionary" Bruce Ratner will go on a mission to truly protect the pocketbooks of patrons shopping in his crime-plagued Fort Greene malls.

Ratner raids

There was more trouble at the, well, troubled Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal last week. Here’s the rundown:

• A 51-year-old man was arrested on April 27 after he was caught swiping eight pairs of women’s shoes and four handbags from the Marshall’s in the Atlantic Center. The thief was caught by store security just before exiting the store between Fort Greene Place and S. Portland Avenue at 7:10 pm.

• A thief snaked a cellphone out of a woman’s handbag as she perused the aisles inside the Atlantic Terminal Target. The woman was about to buy something at the Flatbush Avenue store at 4 pm when she realized her cellphone had been taken — even though she had possession of her bag the entire time.

• Someone swiped a wallet from a woman caring for her child inside the Atlantic Center on April 30. The woman had put her wallet on the ground as she tended to her child at 8 pm, not realizing that someone was nearby looking to exploit an opportunity.


Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

Barclays Center Flying Up

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 continues to fly up – now each week progress is obvious, the shape of the basketball arena that the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets plan to call home in the 2012-2013 season more visible.

The majority of the arena’s foundation has been laid, with efforts now focused on erecting the steel frame of the arena itself. Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner expects to begin work on the façade as early as June. Demolition and excavation still continues on the Long Island Railroad/Vanderbilt Yard side of the site.


Photo: Kristen V. Brown/Park Slope Patch

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Bruce Ratner becomes slave driver, makes Barclays Center construction workers work longer and on Saturdays

The Funky Apple
by Nigel Chiwaya

You may not have noticed it, but the Barclays Center, future home of the New Jersey Nets, is coming along quite nicely on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. But apparently it’s not happening fast enough for Bruce Ratner, the project’s developer, as he’s set to make construction workers work longer hours and Saturdays for the next three months.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

In Prospect Heights, More Caution than Jubilation at Bin Laden's Death

Among residents and area workers, reaction ran from mildly pleased at the symbolic value to skeptical that bin Laden is actually dead.

Prospect Heights Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

Atlantic Yards construction workers weigh in on the (alleged) death of Osama bin Laden.

Down the street, at a local deli, some said they were unmoved by the news.

“It doesn’t matter to me. It took them 10 years to capture him. I don’t see the big deal,” said Andrew, a 23-year-old construction worker at Atlantic Yards who declined to give his last name.

And others were outright skeptical.

“Was he even killed?” said Frank Sierra, a 30-year-old construction worker at Atlantic Yards who was at a Bergen Street deli on his lunch break.

“I hope it’s true,” said Mariel Miele, 29 and also an Atlantic Yards construction worker on lunch break. She said she wouldn’t be surprised if the announcement was just an effort to divert the public’s attention from soaring gas prices, but if it is true, she hopes will inspire some other countries to help the U.S. in Afghanistan.


NoLandGrab: Yes, most likely the President's announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden was just an elaborate diversion — call it "Jobs, Housing, Hoops & the Death of the World's Most-Wanted Terrorist!"

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

May 2, 2011

Q & A with Battle For Brooklyn co-director Michael Galinsky

Can Culture
by Arik Ligeti

CC: Do you feel that journalists were really missing this story? Were they covering it objectively?

MG: There were some journalists who were covering it objectively, and at the very end you see this guy named Norman Oder and he was an editor at Library Journal and he took it on to report, and he was incredible when he reported, and he pretty much became the source for the rest of the media. But the media, the way it’s structured, nobody had time for it. There’s no Brooklyn newspaper on the level of The Times or the Daily News. There’s a local, the Brooklyn paper, and eventually they were bought out by a Murdoch paper, and they were leading the charge but now they don’t really cover it very well. They did a terrible job covering it, which is what drew us to it in the first place. I mean there were some good reporters, but in general they would go on to do something else.

CC: Why do you think journalists were missing the story?

MG: It takes a lot of time to pay attention, and when you have a publicist for a developer and they’re paying that publicist a million dollars a year, the publicist has a lot of money to work with. I’m not saying to buy favours but if you’re a journalist who’s gotten really busy, you’re going to quote the developer because they sent it to you, and maybe a couple of other people on the phone. But if someone gives you the story it’s just easier to print what they say. And because they’re powerful [journalists] are giving deference.


Related coverage...

Can Culture, Battle For Brooklyn

The story of Battle for Brooklyn follows the six-year struggle of a community group trying to fight off a corporate development project. The situation sounds strangely familiar to what’s happening in Ottawa and the city’s Lansdowne Live project, but instead of developing on a park, Brooklyn’s battle grounds span three blocks in the middle of a borough.

Directed by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, the documentary begins in 2003, as the American development company Forest City Ratner unveils their Atlantic Yards project. Helmed by world renowned architect Frank Gehry, the project looks to bring the National Basketball Association’s New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, an idea backed by rapper, part-owner and former Brooklynite Jay-Z.

In the end, we only see what happens to Goldstein, not where displaced residents and businesses end up. However the perspective Galinsky and Hawley present does show the importance of transparency by calling attention to the media coverage. The lack of information and understanding leaves the residents of New York City, and the development company with disappointing results. Viewers are also left wondering if things would have been different if all the information was put out in the open.

Perhaps Ottawa can learn from Brooklyn’s mistakes when it comes to development. If they do, hopefully it will save the city time, money, and from disappointment.

Photo of Daniel Goldstein, Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley by Andrew Nguyen

Posted by eric at 9:39 PM

“Welcome To Brooklyn” Where the Game Is Frivolous Spending On Boondoggle Basketball Arenas- Getting the Image Right

Noticing New York

Just the other day we were out crossing the Pulaski Bridge that connects North Brooklyn to Queens when lo and behold what did we espy but a “Welcome to Brooklyn” sign set up to flog the Forest City Ratner/Mikhail Prokhorov Nets basketball arena to the traffic going to and fro!

The sign was doubled-sided so it presented the same “Welcome to Brooklyn” message whether you were coming to or leaving Brooklyn (the shot above is the “Welcome to Brooklyn” you see when leaving Brooklyn- the shot below is what you see when arriving), but we found ourselves transfixed more by a second anomaly of this image that wasn’t gotten right: The picture is the really preposterous old rendering of the arena which by now ought to be discredited in the minds of most people. I am surprised it hasn’t been discarded. . . .

. . . For one thing, the preposterous old rendering used in the billboard still has, in the background, the notorious ghostly vaportechture that stands in for the buildings that aren’t being built, while blotting out both the real neighborhood being destroyed and the developer-created parking lots that are likely to be around for decades. The rendering also substituted a whoosh of orange glow for the inevitable slow-moving traffic jams that will surround the arena.

Click through for Michael D.D. White's reflections on this latest Nets ad campaign, and his suggested alternative version.


Posted by eric at 9:28 PM

A List of Reasons Lovers of New York Should See “Bill Cunningham New York,” A Documentary About Photographing New York Fashion

Noticing New York

Never mind six degrees — The New York Times is never separated from Forest City Ratner by more than a couple degrees.

You can still catch the documentary “Bill Cunningham New York” in New York area theaters. The sweetly charming Cunningham, a man of extraordinary magnanimity of spirit, is a beautiful nerd, a man who, by giving himself over entirely to his obsession with fashion, achieves a singular greatness few of us can ever hope to achieve. With his two contrasting photographic features appearing weekly in the New York Times, Cunningham meticulously and with relentless energy chronicles the upper echelon fashion at New York’s exclusive charitable soirees and, also, more important, street fashion.

Among the several reasons Michael D.D. White urges us to see the film are these:

• The way that charity event life meshes with money and power (and therefore, the astute will extrapolate, politics and political agenda.)

Whither the New York Times? The future of the city, at least for the time being, is probably inextricably linked with the New York Times. As Cunningham’s work now and over the years has mostly been for the Times the film provides a valuable window into the culture of the paper, including a scene with Times publisher Pinch Sulzberger (called "Pinch" because his father was nicknamed "Punch"). A lot of the film is shot inside or just outside of the New Times building that the Times, employing eminent domain, built in a business partnership with Bruce Ratner, the notorious politically-connected subsidy collector reviled for Atlantic Yards, (a mega-project the Times refrains from criticizing or scrutinizing).


Posted by eric at 9:12 PM

Remember the "Reference or fantasy" post four years ago about the projected ten-year Atlantic Yards timeline? It was a fantasy

Atlantic Yards Report

[Re-published from] Monday, April 30, 2007

Reference or fantasy? The (projected) ten-year Atlantic Yards timeline

(Click to enlarge)

Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards is supposed to be completed in a decade, by 2016, according to the construction schedule (document at bottom) included in the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Empire State Development Corporation.

Graphic designer Abby Weissman has combined elements of the construction schedule with the Atlantic Yards site plan. Time will tell whether it's a valid reference or a fantasy.

As of 2011

Note that the construction schedule, proposed 7/10/06, was already out of date in 2007.

As the graphic indicates, all of Phase 1, west of Sixth Avenue, was supposed to be done by now. Instead, only the arena is under construction, with a planned late summer 2012 completion.

As of now, there's no timetable for any of the towers, completion of Phase 1 could take 12 years, and the project as a whole could take 25 years, according to the Development Agreement--and there are further loopholes for delays.


NoLandGrab: As we wrote earlier, yes, things are, um, completely on schedule.

Posted by eric at 12:19 PM

The charity strategy: Barclays/NETS Community Alliance now giving to Brooklyn Steppers, Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote last June how the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance had not only given donations to playgrounds and to the Brooklyn Historical Society, it had begun to support the Brooklyn Public Library's summer reading program.

Let's add a few more recipients to the growing list. On April 17, as the graphic at right indicates, the Brooklyn Steppers drumline--a stalwart at Atlantic Yards events, by the way--held a fundraiser, the Battle of the Drumlines, featuring "a head to head battle of two of the nation's top Historically Black Colleges and Universities - North Carolina A&T State University vs. South Carolina State University."

Also, the alliance serves as the lead sponsor of the 2011 Benefit Bash for Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a Sunset Park nonprofit that aims "to empower low and moderate income Brooklyn residents to secure quality housing and build financial assets."

The charity strategy

Using charitable donations to make friends and neutralize potential critics is not a new strategy; after all, Forest City Ratner has practiced this tactic for years, as has--on a much grander scale--Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

And organizations that need money, in an era when government support is scarce, can't help but be grateful.

Ultimately, however, these gifts are an easy call for the donor, since the public is essentially paying the freight.


Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

Buzzer beater! Ratner workers will toil longer, and on Saturdays, to get arena done

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gary Buiso

Work in and around the developer’s Atlantic Yards site on Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues will stretch into Saturday for the next three months, and last longer during the weekday, according to an updated schedule released late last week by the Empire State Development Corporation, the agency overseeing the work.

Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco said the $4.9-billion mega-project is proceeding “completely on schedule,” and the time changes reflect the fact the project is located above an active Long Island Rail Road train yard belonging to the adjacent Atlantic Terminal.


NoLandGrab: If by "completely on schedule," Joe DePlasco means "there's no timetable for completing the 90% of the Atlantic Yards project that's not the arena," then, yes, things are completely on schedule.

Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

Hey, taxi! Marty hails Turkish cab maker — and the jobs it will bring

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gary Buiso

Boondoggle alert!

Borough officials spent Sunday morning cheering Turkish automaker Karsan, a politically connected company promising hundreds of Brooklyn jobs if its design is chosen as the city’s next yellow cab.

“I hope that city officials will seriously consider taking a ride with Karsan — we owe it to everyone in the city that seeks gainful employment,” said Borough President Markowitz who organized the automotive love fest at Borough Hall.

Karsan USA’s president is William Wachtel, one of the founding partners of the powerful law and lobbying firm Wachtel & Masyr, whose client list includes Forest City Ratner and IKEA.

[Karsan advisor Jay] Kriegel is also a longtime city insider, currently a senior adviser to the Related Companies, which is developing land in East New York that could be home to another borough first: Walmart.

But he said politics have not fueled the effusive support Karsan is receiving from local pols.

“That has nothing to do with anything,” Kriegel said. “This is about a decision on the merits.”


NoLandGrab: Call us skeptics, but when they say "this is about a decision on the merits," why do we think the merits have "nothing to do with anything?"

Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

Yonkers Contracting survives multiple probes, indictments in its history


The two Yonkers companies that have taken turns reconstructing the Cross-Westchester Expressway have spent decades building themselves into regional powerhouses in the heavy construction industry — one in relative obscurity, the other often deflecting suspicion.

In an industry frequently under scrutiny for mob ties and financial shenanigans, Ecco III Enterprises has escaped unscathed.

But a whiff of corruption has lingered on Yonkers Contracting Co. for decades, though charges never stuck.

The company did not get work on the $4 billion Atlantic Yards redevelopment that is bringing the New Jersey Nets to downtown Brooklyn, despite a $346 million bid for one part of the work. But the developer, Forest City Ratner, did tap YCC as general contractor of the $650 million Ridge Hill project a few miles up the Thruway from the contractor's Midland Avenue headquarters.

The developer plays a key part in the latest scandal to rock Albany, the indictment of state Sen. Carl Kruger and several others, including lobbyist Richard Lipsky.


Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

An Architect's Blueprint for Overexposure

The Wall Street Journal
by Joe Queenan

An Iowa-based philanthropist and architecture aficionado has offered a $300 million reward to any city anywhere in the world that dares to hire someone other than Frank Gehry to design its gleaming new art museum.

"Don't get me wrong, I like iconoclastic, swoopy structures that look like bashed-in sardine cans as much as the next guy," says the philanthropist, who wishes to remain nameless for fear of enraging close friends in the art world. "I like Czech dance halls that look like a 747 plowed right into the façade as much as anybody. I bow to no man in my admiration for an architect who can design an art museum that looks like a intergalactic recycling center. I just thought it would be nice to give the second-most-famous architect in the world a shot at a payday. Whoever he is. I know I've got his name here somewhere."

The philanthropist's gambit underscores how amazingly popular Mr. Gehry's playful, irreverent architecture has become in recent years, and how hard it is to find anyone helming a major municipal building project who would dare to hire someone else to execute a commission. The latest is a 76-story structure in lower Manhattan, the largest swoopy apartment building in the world.


NoLandGrab: Sure, but how many places can say they have had a Gehry bait-and-switch?

"There's a swoopy, somewhat incongruous Frank Gehry building in Millennium Park in Chicago," says a famous architecture critic who wishes to remain nameless for fear of being perceived as a revolting, disgusting philistine who ought to be hanged, drawn, quartered and then shot, but only after being blinded and flayed alive. "There's a swoopy Frank Gehry building in L.A. There are swoopy Frank Gehry buildings in New York, Seattle, Cleveland, Toronto, Cambridge, Mass., and Princeton, N.J. That's not to mention the swoopy Frank Gehry buildings in Basel, Switzerland, Miami Beach, Las Vegas and Bilbao, Spain. Everywhere you go on the planet, whether it's an art museum, a concert hall, a corporate headquarters or a hospital, there's a swoopy Gehry building. I'm not saying that the world doesn't need any more swoopy Gehry buildings that look like dented Miller Lite cans. I'm just saying that maybe the world doesn't need quite so many."

A city planner who wishes to remain nameless for fear that he will be branded an enemy of iconoclastic swoopiness says that municipalities dread not having a Frank Gehry building somewhere within the city limits, even if it's only a postmodern nursing home or a puckish, irreverent library.

"Elciego, Spain, has a Frank Gehry building," he notes. "Herford, Germany, has a Frank Gehry building. Dundee, Scotland, has a Frank Gehry building. I'm going to level with you: I don't even know where those places are. Nobody does. I think they might be in Europe. But I'll tell you one thing: I know where Biloxi, Miss., is. Well, if Biloxi, Miss., has a playful Frank Gehry building, we just can't afford not to. Even though I can't tell you who we are."

The critic who wishes to remain nameless for fear of having his stately Colonial house firebombed by cutting-edge-architecture buffs, and his family fed to great white sharks a limb at a time over six weeks, elaborates.

"If you're living on a planet where Cleveland has a Frank Gehry building and Biloxi has a Frank Gehry building, for you to not have a Frank Gehry building of your own makes your city look stupid. It makes it look like your city fathers have no vision, no panache, no brio, no chutzpah. You've probably noticed that Schenectady and Tallahassee don't have one of these swoopy buildings."

In the three months since the philanthropist offered his $300 million prize to any city—of any size—that dares to not commission a Frank Gehry building, there has not been a single taker.

"Cities are afraid to seem backward and square," he concedes. "There's nothing a local tourism board or chamber of commerce fears more than acquiring a reputation for being un-cool. So there's a strong possibility that my $300 million might just sit there, unclaimed, forever. Though frankly, I still think the great city of Scranton might step up to the plate."

Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

May 1, 2011

Coming Saturday, May 7: a Jane's Walk around the Atlantic Yards site and environs

Atlantic Yards Report

The Municipal Art Society, along with Jane's Walk USA, is sponsoring a series of free walking tours in New York City on the first weekend in May, including a walk I'll lead of the Atlantic Yards site and environs. (I co-led such a tour in 2007.)

What's a Jane's Walk?

Jane’s Walk USA is a series of free neighborhood walking tours that helps put people in touch with their environment and with each other, by bridging social and geographic gaps and creating a space for cities to discover themselves. Since its inception in 2007, Jane’s Walk has happened in cities across North America, and is growing internationally.

Jane’s Walk USA honors the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs who championed the interests of local residents and pedestrians over a car-centered approach to planning.

The description

Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn’s Most Controversial Development

Understand the context of Brooklyn’s most controversial development project, with Norman Oder, the journalist behind the Atlantic Yards Report and veteran New York City tour guide. The walk begins at the edge of Downtown Brooklyn, where one of the borough’s tallest buildings has been converted to luxury condos, dips into revitalized Fort Greene, and looks at decades of urban redevelopment before traversing the Atlantic Yards footprint itself in Prospect Heights.

The Barclays Center arena is going up, but the rest of the project remains in question. Thus, the tour provides an opportunity to discuss the challenge of fitting an arena into an area that bridges low-rise Brooklyn and edge of Downtown Brooklyn, and the plans for space adjacent to the arena. Beyond that, the tour will traverse the 22-acre site beyond the arena block, looking at, among other things, a planned superblock, historic preservation and conversion in the area, and plans for indefinite interim surface parking.

The history of Atlantic Yards also will be discussed, including the initial designs by Frank Gehry, the legal challenges, and promises of jobs/affordable housing.

Date: Saturday May 7, 2011
Time: 1:30pm-3:30pm

Begin: outside One Hanson Place (aka Williamsburgh Savings Bank), near the intersection of Hanson Place and Flatbush Avenue. (Take 2/3/4/5/D/N/Q/R to Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street stop.)

End: Dean Street and Vanderbilt Avenue, within walking distance of 2/3 stop at Grand Army Plaza or A/C stop at Clinton/Washington.

Host: Norman Oder
Host Organization: Atlantic Yards Report/New York Like a Native

Contact info:
No need to sign up for this event . . . just show up at the meeting place listed above.

For questions please email:

Note: because there's no cap on the audience, the crowd could be large. We'll be making several stops to look around, so as attendees will be reminded, please be respectful of others using the sidewalks and streets.


Posted by steve at 10:23 PM

Gehry: "You have to rise above" the excuses in architecture

Atlantic Yards Report

In the May 2011 issue of The Atlantic, under the rubric How Genius Works, several innovators are interviewed, among them architect Frank Gehry.

The brief interview focuses on the design for the building for the New World Symphony in Miami, but there are resonances for those of us who remember his role in Atlantic Yards.

Gehry begins:

ARCHITECTURE IS A SERVICE BUSINESS. An architect is given a program, budget, place, and schedule. Sometimes the end product rises to art—or at least people call it that.

After discussing his methods, Gehry concludes:

Look, architecture has a lot of places to hide behind, a lot of excuses. “The client made me do this.” “The city made me do this.” “Oh, the budget.” I don’t believe that anymore. In the end, you have to rise above them. You have to say you solved all that. You’re bringing an informed aesthetic point of view to a visual problem. You have freedom, so you have to make choices—and at the point when I make a choice, the building starts to look like a Frank Gehry building. It’s a signature.

In the case of the Atlantic Yards arena, Gehry's building, according to Forest City Ratner, was too big to be financed and, I'd add, it was integrated with the surrounding towers in a way that would not be feasible if the developer took many more years to build them.


Posted by steve at 10:21 PM

On NetsDaily, time travel regarding AY documentaries

Atlantic Yards Report

From yesterday's NetsDaily:

Meanwhile Back in Brooklyn...

Amidst news that yet a third sports bar is planned opposite Barclays Center, a long-awaited documentary about the struggle of local landowners and tenants to stop the arena and Atlantic Yards has debuted at the Brooklyn Film Festival. "Brooklyn Matters", which at times had trouble getting funding, describes itself as "an insightful documentary that reveals the fuller truth about the Atlantic Yards proposal and highlights how a few powerful men are circumventing community participation and planning principles to try to push their own interests forward."

The Brooklyn Paper which was first an opponent and then a proponent of the project, gave it a mixed review saying on one hand ""Brooklyn Matters" is a clever invective that will preach to the converted — the Atlantic Yards opponents who are its likely audience — a sermon they already believe: Atlantic Yards is bad" but on the other casting it as "an engaging head-butt to developer Bruce Ratner, the Empire State Development Corporation, Mayor Bloomberg and former Gov. Pataki." So there.

That mixed review was published 1/27/07.

The new film is Battle for Brooklyn, which debuted in Toronto last night and will debut in Brooklyn in June.


NetsDaily posts an update, apparently in response to my earlier post:

Meanwhile Back in Brooklyn...

Amidst news that yet a third sports bar is planned opposite Barclays Center, a long-awaited documentary about the struggle of local landowners and tenants to stop the arena and Atlantic Yards has debuted at the Brooklyn Film Festival. "The Battle for Brooklyn", which as the New York Observer notes had as much trouble getting funding as the project itself. An earlier version of this item confused "The Battle for Brooklyn" with an earlier documentary, "Brooklyn Matters".

What's the difference between the two? The Observer: "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."

The Observer reported:

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.

That's a reference to time, not funding. And it's Battle for Brooklyn, not The Battle for Brooklyn.


Posted by steve at 10:16 PM

Hot Docs: Battle for Brooklyn

Spacing Toronto

Here's a review of "Battle for Brooklyn" as the film is shown in Toronto's Hot Docs international documentary film festival.

Battle for Brooklyn follows the seven-year fight of Brooklyn resident Daniel Goldstein and a group of community activists coalesced under the banner “Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn” against the massive Atlantic Yards mega-project. In 2003 billionaire developer Bruce Ratner and his firm, Forest City Ratner, announced a plan to buy the New Jersey Nets basketball team and relocate it to Brooklyn. With starchitect Frank Gehry on board and millions in public subsidies, Ratner unveiled the goliath Atlantic Yards development - comprising not only a basketball arena but also sixteen high-rise buildings, housing luxury condominiums, office and retail space – to be built over the disused Brooklyn rail yards as well as parts of a long-existing and densely-populated local neighborhood. So began seven years of community protests, legal actions, and political bargaining, culminating with the State Supreme Court’s enactment of eminent domain, the subject of this compelling and important documentary about corporate power and the production of urban space.


Posted by steve at 10:04 PM

At the Soapbox Gallery on Dean Street, some exhibits with Atlantic Yards reflections

Atlantic Yards Report

The Soapbox Gallery, a window at 636 Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues across from the interim surface parking lot planned to serve the Atlantic Yards arena, is hosting installations from 11 artists beginning today through June 23.

As indicated in the below press release, the installations April 3-May 7, May 15-May 21 (note that the description of Atlantic Yards is more than a tad incorrect), May 29-June 8 reflect on Atlantic Yards.

For the latter installation, as indicated in the second document, artist Elaine Angelopoulous seeks to borrow Atlantic Yards-related materials from neighborhood residents.


Posted by steve at 10:01 PM

The Brooklyn brand now extends to a store called "by Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper points us to by Brooklyn, a new boutique focusing on Brooklyn-made products, just another stop on the road for the resilient and resurgent Brooklyn brand.

Will the "Brooklyn Nets" be seen as part of this brand, or, with every piece of the Barclays Center arena boasting a corporate logo, something alien?


Posted by steve at 9:59 PM

Transit-oriented development? A developer (not Forest City Ratner) says parking minimums in dense districts near transit are unwise

Atlantic Yards Report

Streetsblog has a very interesting interview with Alan Bell, co-founder of the Hudson Companies, about parking minimums (an issue under discussion in the PlaNYC revision):

Bell identified Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue as another design casualty of parking minimums, pointing to buildings like Boymelgreen Developers’ much-maligned Crest and Novo apartment buildings. The large buildings there were required to include parking, but subway lines under the street made putting it underground cost prohibitive. “[Boymelgreen] made the calculation that he’d rather sacrifice having retail on the ground floor in exchange for not putting the parking below ground, it was so expensive,” said Bell. The result is a series of buildings that are utterly indifferent to pedestrian life, presenting blank walls and parking to the sidewalk.

One solution Bell proposed is revising the zoning code so that parking minimums are eliminated in medium- or high-density districts near transit. Said Bell, “Historically, there’s no question, if I’m building near a subway stop, I’m going to attract a lot of people who don’t want a car or need a car. That’s proven in the marketplace.”

The Atlantic Yards angle

So why would Atlantic Yards have 2570 spaces intended for the project's residential component and an additional 1100 spaces for arenagoers?

(Those spaces are ultimately supposed to go underground, but the initial arena parking, as well as some of the residential parking, would remain indefinitely on surface lots.)

Because (take your pick):

  • ths is a test

  • high rollers going to arena suites want to drive

  • residents of luxury units want to drive too
  • Forest City Ratner didn't want to muck around with city policy
  • the city wasn't ready to change its policy
  • the state wasn't ready to override this aspect of city policy (unlike others)
  • nobody really thought through the notion of "transit-oriented development"


Posted by steve at 9:52 PM