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July 31, 2011

Public vote (!) tomorrow to replace Nassau Coliseum; demise would boost Barclays Center; Daily News, Post, slam (!) public arena funding; economist warns of "corporate welfare to pro sports team owners"

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a referendum Monday in tax-strapped Nassau County on a $400 million plan to replace the Nassau Coliseum (and build a minor league ballpark), and you can bet that Barclays Center backers are hoping the whole thing blows up, thus sending events--no, not the main tenant, the hockey Islanders, but concerts and shows--to that new arena rising near the Long Island Rail Road terminal in Brooklyn.

There's reason for question the plan, as I'll describe below, but it's notable how the New York Daily News and New York Post editorial pages, steady backers of Atlantic Yards, have discovered their inner Daniel Goldstein, fervently denouncing the "scheme."

(It's also notable that the public gets a voice decide--though it should be pointed out that a Monday in August is not exactly designed for mass turnout. Neither the public nor local elected officials voted on support for Atlantic Yards. Note that the Nassau County Legislature and then the Nassau Interim Finance Authority would then decide.)

Were the editorial pages just bamboozled by "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops"? Is this "good government" week? Or did someone (Rupert, Mort?) make the call?

Meanwhile, "thousands of union workers, Nassau County officials, hockey fans and Islanders players" held a rally this week, the business community is opposed, the rival teams Devils and Rangers registered their support, and Governor Andrew Cuomo stayed studiously neutral (in contrast with his office's unyielding support for Atlantic Yards, a state project).

...

It's not at all the same funding mechanism as that for the two baseball stadiums in New York City and the Atlantic Yards arena--the questionable but legal use of tax-exempt bonds as PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes), a magic trick that requires tax-exempt land and diverted phantom taxes.

Nor is the $400 million sought from voters to be used for land purchase and infrastructure, as the nearly $300 million in direct funding (plus much, much more in indirect support) for Atlantic Yards.

Rather, Nassau Coliseum backers want voters to pay for construction--but, unlike with Atlantic Yards and the two stadiums, at least the government would get a percentage of rent.

link

Posted by steve at 8:15 PM

July 30, 2011

Cliche alert: AP hoops writer suggests Bruce Ratner "remembers" the days of the Dodgers in Brooklyn. Nah.

Atlantic Yards Report

Brian Mahoney, NBA writer for The Associated Press, reports, in Nets hard at work building toward Brooklyn move:

"Brooklyn certainly deserves the best of entertainment there is to offer,'' [Bruce Ratner] said.

Ratner remembers when Brooklyn had it, when the beloved Dodgers played at Ebbets Field and top musicians performed at the Paramount. He believes the Barclays Center will bring back what's been missing.

"Sports and entertainment are such a part of our lives in this country. People who say, 'Well, it's just an arena,' they're really not right,'' Ratner said. "It's a physical structure. More than that, it's a part of ourselves, it's part of what entertainment is and everyone loves entertainment.''

(Emphasis added)

Which is, why, of course, that the project was sold as "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops," with the added layer of starchitect Frank Gehry.

Does Ratner really remember the "beloved Dodgers" in Brooklyn? He was a 12-year-old Clevelander in 1957, when the team left for Los Angeles.

link

Posted by steve at 3:59 PM

In an alternate universe, Nets GM Billy King, suburban Philly resident, compares AY arena setting to Chicago's United Center; sports stenography ensues

Atlantic Yards Report

Nets General Manager Billy King, along with paid pitchman Albert King, a Brooklyn native and former Net, hosted basketball writers Wednesday at the under-construction Barclays Center.

King, who lives in suburban Philadelphia and spent a good chunk of his professional career in that city, made a stunningly uninformed comment, equating the Atlantic Yards setting to the setting for the United Center in Chicago, suggesting that the impact of the arena would be similar.

Chicago vs. Brooklyn

The United Center is located on a 46-acre parcel. The Atlantic Yards arena is located on a, what, six-acre parcel?

The United Center is located in a non-residential area west of the Chicago Loop. The Barclays Center will abut neighborhoods that have predominantly low-rise and mid-rise residential buildings.

The arena, yes, will bring changes to Brooklyn, notably event-related retail and entertainment. But there's no comparison to Chicago. (Nor, really, to L.A., but that's a different story.)

Still, the press lapped it up, as dutifully chronicled by NetsDaily, whose chief blogger, NetIncome, perhaps aiming to avoid the "Leni Riefenstahl of the New Jersey Nets" tag, did cite one of the numerous press reports of a protest by disaffected former project supporters.

link

Posted by steve at 3:57 PM

July 29, 2011

Rio, come kick a ball around with us the 30th of July!

International Alliance of Inhabitants

On the day of the World Cup draw, the Popular Committee of the World Cup and Olympics will have a public action in defense of “The People's Cup.” A march for the People's Cup will begin gathering at the Largo do Machado at 10am and will move towards the Marina da Goria where the draw is taking place.

While the 20 million dollar party for choosing the qualifying groups for the 2014 World Cup is happening on the 30th of July in Rio de Janeiro, thousands of the city's residents are being removed from their homes in preparation for the tournament, street vendors are prevented from working and the vast majority of the population will not have enough money to pay for tickets to the World Cup. The Popular Committee of the World Cup and Olympics will detail these and other processes in a collective interview for the press on the 29th of July.
...

The 2014 World Cup will impact 12 Brazilian cities. These are municipalities in which the majority of people do not have access to sewerage and in which a high percentage of people live in favelas.
...

According to authorities, forced removals are expected to affect around 12.5 thousand people in Rio de Janeiro but the evidence suggests that the number of removals undertaken for the mega-events will be around 30 thousand.

link

Posted by eric at 3:48 PM

Losing $30M in annual fees shows city whiffed big-time on new Yankee Stadium, Citi Field

NY Daily News
by Juan Gonzalez

Here's a shocker — New York City's park users are getting screwed at the expenses of the Yankees and Mets.

If you want to know why more than 450 city park workers are about to be laid off or why the Parks Department has imposed outrageous fee increases, just take a look at the new Mets and Yankees ballparks.

Deals the Bloomberg administration negotiated in 2006 have stripped some $30 million in annual revenue the Parks Department once generated from Shea Stadium and the old Yankee Stadium.

This is not something City Hall wants you to know. Parks officials only confirmed the revenue loss after the Daily News asked why budget documents showed a dramatic drop in the agency's franchise income since 2008.
...

As recently as 2008, the two ballparks represented nearly half of the $51 million in concessions revenue generated by the entire Parks system.

On top of that, the city was taking in an additional $6 million annually from parking fees at Shea and the old Yankee Stadium.

Once the new ballparks opened, all that revenue disappeared - even the parking money.
...

"The elected officials who voted for this welfare for rich professional teams should be ashamed of themselves," said Geoffrey Croft, director of New York City Park Advocates.

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NoLandGrab: Don't worry. Surely that lost revenue will be made up with the Barclays Center, right?

Posted by eric at 1:00 PM

A paean to the New York Times in a New York Magazine cover story; missing is any recognition how the Times fails to cover Brooklyn (and AY)

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Magazine cover story praising The New York Times provokes a little cold water from Norman Oder.

The article could have gone further to analyze how coverage of New York has been diminished.

Now the Times gives tougher scrutiny to Baghdad than to Brooklyn.

I'm not saying the Times doesn't publish Brooklyn feature, trend, and real estate stories. I'm saying their Brooklyn bureau is far smaller than their Baghdad bureau. And there's no priority on continuity and institutional memory.

And that leads to Atlantic Yards coverage (by a newbie to AY coverage) like the article I dissected 7/19/11, featuring lousy reasoning (why is it Atlantic Yards "opponents" are the only ones asked about the public interest?), basic factual errors (no, Sen. Chuck Schumer's promised 10,000 jobs had nothing to do with construction), and perfunctory wave at a complex controversy (Forest City Ratner's questionable use of the EB-5 program for immigrant investors).

Shouldn't the Times do a better job?

And isn't there another reason: Shouldn't the Times, given the parent company's business relationship with Forest City Ratner, in building the Times Tower, be exacting in its scrutiny of the developer?

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Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

Upper Floors of New York by Gehry Now Officially Renting

Curbed
by Sara Polsky

Clink! You're still fired!

The lights are on, the crane is down, and now, the moment we've been waiting for: the upper floors of New York by Gehry/8 Spruce Street/Beekman Tower are now renting. By "upper floors," we mean floors 40 through 76, which have two- and three-bedroom apartments. A bunch of brokers have already been inside the new 45th-floor model units, to join Gehry and developer Bruce Ratner in a champagne (or perhaps it's sparkling cider?) toast earlier this week. The 22,000 square feet of amenities, including the 50-foot swimming pool, the spa, the screening room, and the library, are also officially open.

link

Related content...

New York by Gehry, Ripple Effect: Frank Gehry’s Acclaimed NYC Skyscaper Debuts Upper-Floor Luxury Rental Units to High Demand

How sad that New York by Gehry comes up in a "blog" search. Maybe Google will start selling news to sites that are actually ads.

Photo: Philip Greenberg

Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

What if Rupert cared? A few Atlantic Yards story ideas (!) for the New York Post (or other tabloid)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder must have eaten some crazy mushrooms last night.

What if... in some kind of alternate universe, media mogul Rupert Murdoch made Atlantic Yards a special priority?

After all, as Azi Paybarah reports in this week's New York Observer, Rupert’s Post Game: His Royal Pie-ness Story on Page SShhh, the New York Post responds to its owners whims and directives. And the Post, not surprisingly, played down a great tabloid moment: the pie in the face Murdoch received when testifying before the U.K. Parliament.
...

Herewith, a few Atlantic Yards story ideas that could fit in the limited space and short attention span of the Post (or other tabloid):

  1. Baldfaced lying! Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, on tape, claims that "Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."
  2. Scandal shift! Darryl Greene, whose role in the Aqueduct "racino" was so toxic it helped scotch the bid he was part of, continues as minority contracting consultant for Atlantic Yards.
  3. Convenient amnesia! Despite obligations to fund an Independent Compliance Monitor to evaluate the Community Benefits Agreement, Forest City Ratner has not done so.
  4. Delusionary behavior! Forest City Ratner, as if in some time warp, continues to maintain that tax revenues, as well as jobs, will be delivered as promised.
  5. Stunt! What might it be like for a few thousand arena-goers to walk down residential Dean Street, with its narrow sidewalks, from the surface parking lot to the arena? (Send a few hundred flash mobbers down the block!)

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Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

Brooklynites Who Once Supported Atlantic Yards Switch Sides, Claiming Broken Promises

Runnin' Scared
by Zoe So

Across the street from the under-construction Atlantic Yards stadium, the future home of the Nets in Prospect Heights, a group of about 100 Brooklynites gathered yesterday to protest several large development projects in the neighborhood which they say have not delivered the promised job and contracts to the local community.
...

The project was presented as "a win and double-win situation" for the developers and community, said Robert E. Cornegy, Jr, the Democratic District Leader in neighboring Bed-Stuy who was present at the rally. "But we got hosed," Cornegy said.

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NoLandGrab: Folks who failed to smell something rotten when "win and double-win" and "New Jersey Nets" were combined in the same deal really have only themselves to blame. Maybe, just maybe, they should have been taking NoLandGrab to heart.

Posted by eric at 12:07 PM

What Jay Walder's new city, Hong Kong, can teach us about transit: Make money, don't just spend it

NY Daily News
by Alex Marshall

The Regional Plan Association's Marshall wonders why Bruce Ratner should get a discount, and then get to keep the change.

The impending departure of Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Jay Walder for the more lucrative shores of Hong Kong to lead its metro and commuter rail system has one silver lining: It has brought our attention to a top-notch metro system that not only can pay its chief a million-dollar plus salary, but which doesn't need public money at all. In fact, the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway Corp. actually makes money.

As the MTA worked this week to make up billions of dollars in shortfall in its capital budget, despite having cut thousands of jobs and vital services over the last few years, the question screams out: How does Hong Kong do it?

The answer is that Hong Kong's MTR also acts as a real estate developer and business company. It owns 12 shopping malls built around its stations, as well as residential and office properties. The primary goal, of course, is to move people; but actually making a profit is a huge added benefit - one that the MTA must consider.
...

What if the MTA had chosen to develop the land around the Hudson Yards in Manhattan instead of effectively selling it off to a developer? Or take Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn: Why should the private sector reap most of the benefits from track and station improvements?

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NoLandGrab: And let's not forget the state's giveaway of lucrative arena naming rights, too.

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

July 28, 2011

Can Fourth Avenue Really Be Grand?

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz thinks so.

Park Slope Patch
by Will Yackowicz

A news report featuring the name "Markowitz" usually means another ethics violation and attendant fine, but this one's actually about the future of Brooklyn's Fourth Avenue.

Between Bergen Street and St. Marks Place there are almost ten vacant storefronts, but there are also three bars, a pizzeria, a two-week old wine shop and two trees. Two business owners on the strip believe there is hope for the Avenue.

Juan Carlos Aguilera, the general manager of the bar Cherry Tree, believes in Fourth Avenue’s transformation. He moved from Argentina two and a half years ago and in that time said the block changed “drastically.” With the new Nets arena coming, he said, there is no stopping Fourth Avenue.

“This will be the principle street in two years. New businesses are sprouting up everyday,” Aguilera said. “In two years it will be completely changed.” He also explained that Cherry Tree, which owns the vacant building next door and the pizzeria on the other side, is going to help the transformation by putting two more bars on each side and a recording studio in the basement.

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NoLandGrab: 'Cause God knows there aren't nearly enough bars planned for the area surrounding the Barclays Center. What better to improve neighborhood quality of life than more bars?

Posted by eric at 10:55 PM

Signs stating sections of Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street will be closed July 30-31 and August 6-7 from 8 am to 4 pm are incorrect; there will be no closures this weekend

Atlantic Yards Watch

Atlantic Yards Watch has corrected the street-closing information it posted earlier today.

The new temporary closures were due to renovations on the Newswalk building, not Atlantic Yards. Apparently, the closures have been suspended for this upcoming weekend because the contractor failed to meet public notification requirements. When further information is available, it will be posted here.

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NoLandGrab: We're sticking with our original theory, however — Bruce Ratner is throwing neighborhood residents the block party to end all block parties. In fact, it's likely to be a superblock party.

Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

Did Forest City Ratner try to avert yesterday's rally? There were hints, plus an FCR associate shadowing the protest

Atlantic Yards Report

Did Forest City Ratner or others try to stop yesterday's protest, led by People for Political and Economic Empowerment (P.P.E.E.)?

P.P.E.E. president Martin Allen, in the interviews below, hinted as such, though he wouldn't name names. He said they wanted to avert the protest, and call him in for a negotiation.

He said he wanted a public negotiation, with promises for local jobs and hiring fulfilled as promised. If such another project arose, I asked what he'd do differently? Get it in writing, he said.

But Forest City did sign a Community Benefits Agreement, so the devil's in the details.

Shadowing the protest

At one point, the woman pictured at [right], along with an associate walked along, observing the protest.

One of the protesters identified her to me as Yvette, the daughter of Darryl Greene, the controversial minority hiring/contracting consultant who was so toxic, because of his criminal record, that his role in one firm's Aqueduct "racino" bid led to the demise of that bid.

Greene's firm, The Darman Group, has long worked for Forest City Ratner and was supposed to help the firm hire an Independent Compliance Monitor to report on the Community Benefits Agreement.

A records search indicates that Darryl Greene has a relative named Yvette Dennis.

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Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

The Ratner response to yesterday's protest: there are 543 workers, 217 from Brooklyn (really?); one report asks, Where's the ICM?

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, Forest City Ratner claimed in the Daily News that there were 543 workers on the Barclays Center construction site, and that 217 of them live in Brooklyn. Norman Oder thinks not.

I question those statistics.

Keep in mind that, at the 7/14/11 Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, Forest City reported 430 workers on site. Even if that number has increased, keep in mind last month a more independent source--the consultant to the arena bond trustee--reported 320 workers--while in May Forest City had reported 500.

As for the number of Brooklyn workers, aid Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin, stated, verbatim. "[S]ince construction began approximately 180 Brooklyn residents have been working on site."

(Emphasis added)

Cumulative totals are not the same as current statistics.

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Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

FUREE, looking for "missing jobs" promised in Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, protests Forest City Ratner, focuses on Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

Atlantic Yards Report

In contrast to yesterday morning's protest by People for Political and Economic Empowerment regarding the lack of local jobs and contracts, an afternoon protest held by FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), was more organized, with protesters wearing t-shirts, planning with the police, chanting and singing, and offering both agitprop theater and concrete demands.

FUREE, which brought 40-50 people to several sites around Downtown Brooklyn, including the offices of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, focused on the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), asking (unsuccessfully) for a meeting with DBP President Joe Chan.

They contrasted the promises of 18,500 new jobs with the reality, which includes a claimed 7000 new jobs--I'd like to see the statistics.

The press release below points out that, instead of jobs (via office towers) the main result of the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning was luxury housing.

I'd add that planners and the City Council neglected to require that, should developers take advantage of increased development rights and build luxury housing, they should have been required to share the fruits of their increasingly valuable property and build affordable housing, as via the now-standard practice of inclusionary zoning.

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Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

At protest outside Atlantic Yards site, former project supporters angrily call for local jobs and contracts

Atlantic Yards Report

The big news from yesterday's protest of the lack of jobs at the Atlantic Yards site (and other sites), held by People for Political and Economic Empowerment (P.P.E.E.), was less the content of the protest than the fact that it occurred: formerly vocal (and disruptive) supporters of the project were now holding a protest, as I noted in my preview piece.

But the protest (videos below), which focused on Atlantic Yards (and went to one other site, near the Brooklyn Academy of Music), was notably angry, as P.P.E.E. President Allen and others excoriated developer Forest City Ratner from outside the gate and, at times, admitted regret for their formerly pro-project stance.

About 60-70 people attended, though Allen and others vowed future protests, with larger crowds. If so, Forest City--which may have tried to avert the protest--will have more on its hands.

Note that, despite the sign above, the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) shouldn't be void because Bruce Ratner and his company sold 80% of the Nets and 45% of the arena to Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov. But it is tough to monitor, or enforce.

The protesters gathered at the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, with a good number of reporters present, most if not all drawn by a Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn press release based on my preview article.

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Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Atlantic Yards project's former supporters turn on developer over lack of local jobs

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

The Atlantic Yards project is falling short on the number of promised construction jobs - prompting protests from some of the project's biggest backers.

Advocates and would-be workers who loudly backed the project at years of public hearings turned their bullhorns yesterday on developer Bruce Ratner.

"We feel like idiots because we supported you, we listened to you, we thought your word was gold," said Martin Allen, president of People for Political and Economic Empowerment. "Now that you got the job moving, you turn into a rat."

Oh, no, Mr. Allen, Bruce Ratner was a rat long before he hatched his Atlantic Yards scheme.

Hector Diaz, 51, of Bushwick, who is unemployed, said he went through 18 months of training in flagging, painting and carpentry and hoped to get work on the project.

"I marched. We went to City Hall. ... We supported Ratner to get this project," Diaz said. "It was all a dream. It's up in smoke."

Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development is sticking to the script, however.

"At first, yes, we were frustrated," said BUILD President James Caldwell. "They had to make adjustments and we had to make adjustments, too. ... As long as it's a decent job, we're willing to take it."

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Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Unions to Ratner: Hey, where are the jobs?

Um, it was mostly non-union workers who were protesting.

Local workers who once championed the Atlantic Yards project have turned their back on developer Forest City Ratner — vowing to protest every two weeks until they get what they were promised: thousands of jobs.
...

Allen and other workers say they’ve heard enough empty guarantees.

“We’re going to start hitting them where it hurts and let them know what they’re doing is wrong to the people of Brooklyn,” Allen said. “If you’ve got offices in Brooklyn, we’re going to be there.”

The Epoch Times, Atlantic Yards Construction Jobs Not Delivered, Protesters Say

This article is riddled with errors, but it got this right:

All of the [Community Benefits Agreement] stipulations rest on the oversight of an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM). The ICM is a committee composed of representatives of each benefit category, explained [Brooklyn Community Board 2 District Manager Robert] Perris in a phone interview. The ICM is responsible for assessing whether Forest City Ratner has sufficiently fulfilled its duties.

“The ICM has never been funded,” said Perris. “I'm not sure if they've ever met. We've not been apprised of any meeting or of how successful any commitments have been.”

State of the Re:Union, “Broken Promises” in Brooklyn

One of the promises made by the project’s developer, Forest City Ratner, was the creation of construction jobs for residents of Brooklyn. But at a recent meeting, Ratner said that of the 500 workers currently employed at Atlantic yards, 60 were from Brooklyn and only 38 from neighborhoods surrounding the project.

So today, dozens of Brooklyn residents gathered to protest at the worksite. Among them, community activists who were once supportive of the Atlantic Yards project, now say they feel like “suckers” because they put their support behind the development.

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Where were you in 2005? Times's skeptical coverage of jail bid in New Jersey contrasts markedly with willingness to downplay parallel issues in Vanderbilt Yard bid

Atlantic Yards Report

A front-page (in the New York edition) article in today's New York Times Metro section is headlined Political Links and a Jail Bid in North Jersey.

That skeptical piece contrasts notably with the Times's coverage of the process by which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority sold rights to develop its Vanderbilt Yard.

Consider, for example, the Times's perfunctory news brief, headlined Metro Briefing | New York: Brooklyn: Atlantic Yards Proposals Sought and published 5/26/05, in its entirety:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seeking competitors for the development of its Atlantic Yards site, and has set a deadline of July 6 for proposals. A proposal by Bruce C. Ratner to build 6,000 housing units and a stadium for the Nets basketball team on the site has already won endorsements by the city and the state, which have each offered to pay $100 million for site improvements. But Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the authority, said yesterday that the agency had decided to consider other proposals in part because of its experience with its West Side railyards, which became the focus of a bidding war before an agreement was reached to sell the property to the New York Jets. Mr. Kelly said he knew of no other bids that were being prepared for the Atlantic Yards site. Thomas J. Lueck (NYT)

(Emphases added)

The MTA never had an Atlantic Yards site, nor could other bids have been prepared for "the Atlantic Yards site," which is 22 acres, while the Vanderbilt Yard is about 8.5 acres.

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Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

Police Begin Ticketing Illegally Parked Cars Near Atlantic Yards

Cops have given out 69 parking tickets in the past two weeks, the Daily News reports.

Park Slope Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

After months if not years of complaints, police have finally started ticketing some of the dozens upon dozens of illegally parked cars near the Atlantic Yards construction sites, according to the Daily News.

Cops have given out at least 69 parking tickets in the past two weeks for such violations as parking in a bus stop, on the sidewalk, in front of a hydrant and in No Stand Zones, the News reports.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Watch, The Daily News reports the NYPD is now ticketing construction worker cars parked illegally

As part of what will be an ongoing initiative Atlantic Yards Watch will post a review of existing construction worker parking strategies in a few weeks.

Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

July 27, 2011

'A Broken Promise' Over Atlantic Yards Jobs

Workers rally in the shadow of the still-rising Barclays Center to express outrage over a lack of construction positions for Brooklyn residents.

Park Slope Patch
by Paul Leonard

It pains us to say we told you so, because we're talking about peoples lives and livelihoods, but good God, we've been telling you so for more than seven years and some 17,000 or so posts.

Community activists once supportive of the Atlantic Yards mega-project today angrily denounced developer Forest City Ratner over what they called a lack of available construction positions for Brooklyn residents.

"We feel like suckers because you made us tell our people something that wasn't true," yelled Martin Allen, a community organizer for People for Political and Economic Empowerment, into a bullhorn just outside the gates to the Barclays Center worksite on Sixth and Atlantic avenues. "Because none of the people are inside this project that supported this project."

Allen helped rally around 100 community activists and workers, many of whom, like Victor Richardson of Crown Heights, have been unemployed for over a year or more.

"They promised us work before they even started and we got nothing yet," said Richardson, a non-union worker who said his last job was at a construction site in The Bronx.

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Related coverage...

Prospect Heights Patch, VIDEO: 'A Broken Promise' Over Atlantic Yards Jobs

Brownstoner, Protesters Call for More Jobs at AY, Downtown Projects

“We’re fighting because we’ve been lied to,” [People for Political and Economic Empowerment President Martin] Allen told the crowd. “We were promised jobs and they never came.” He also yelled toward the construction site, addressing developer Bruce Ratner: “You’re shameful… you’re a monster to Brooklyn.”

Posted by eric at 10:02 PM

The Battle for Brooklyn: Blues for Mr. Charlie’s Numbers

The Icehouse Gang
by Kevin Baker

Well, whattaya know? Seems like we may have thrown a little sugar in the gas bag, excuse me, gas tank of progress over in Brooklyn, Forest City Ratner.

It appears that the Ice House Gang’s favorite movie of 2011, The Battle for Brooklyn, has raised a new ruckus about New York City’s greatest continuing rip-off, the building of the basketball arena for a shady Russian oligarch atop the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn.
...

Let’s concentrate instead on how great it will be to live high atop one of those 34-story, 400-apartment, pre-fab towers. No doubt as comfortable as riding on a Chinese bullet train these days.

What’s more, the pre-fabs have finally put paid to the ridiculous jobs figures bandied about the project by the likes of our own U.S. Senator, Charlie Schumer. Mr. Schumer promised 10,000 jobs from Atlantic Yards—many of them to be had by local, minority residents, according to the Rev. Herbert Daughtry and other friendly, neighborhood demagogues.

Instead, the construction of the arena and the promised repairs and renovations of the train terminus below it are now going to employ all of 430 workers, just 180 of them from Brooklyn.

Oh, well. Mr. Charlie can go back to resolutely refusing to regulate Wall Street in any way from his key position on the Senate Finance and Banking committees, and pursuing his real obsession—the destruction of bike lanes wherever they may be found.

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Posted by eric at 9:54 PM

New York’s MTA: It’s Not What You Think It Is

NY Gritty
by Mike Vogel

In 2005, the same group of politicians and real estate types that praised Walder’s sterling stewardship of the MTA conspired to build a $2 billion dollar stadium for Johnson & Johnson magnate Robert Wood (“Woody”) Johnson’s New York Jets football team on the West Side of Manhattan–most of it with taxpayer money.

Guess who owned the development rights for the land? You got it–the MTA. And while this prime property was appraised at just under $1 billion, the goodfellas on the MTA board offered it to their Jet cronies for the bargain basement price of $300 million.

The MTA, then run by real estate mogul Peter Kalikow, couldn’t wait to privately work out this deal with the low-balling Jets (it eventually fell apart), while simultaneously pleading poverty and preparing to raise the subway and bus fares.

At about the same time, real estate magnate and co-owner of the NJ Nets basketball team Bruce Ratner announced his latest extravaganza: The Atlantic Yards. This grand development was to encompass office buildings, residential towers, a hotel and a new home for the Nets in downtown Brooklyn.

Take three guesses who owned a vital chunk of this real estate. The first two don’t count.

In 2005 the MTA struck a secret deal to sell crony Ratner the valuable property without opening it up to competitive bidding. When the media caught wind of this scheme, the MTA reluctantly gave other bidders a short window for bids.

Real estate firm Extell bid $150 million. Ratner bid $50 million (eventually raised to $100 million). Guess who won the rights?

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Posted by eric at 4:53 PM

The mound at Dean Street and Carlton Avenue is finally "slimed" with green protective covering

Atlantic Yards Watch

Yesterday, roughly a month after a mostly uncovered large mound of dirt appeared on block 1129, an incident report to this site reports "the mound was "slimed" with green stuff." The green stuff is presumably a protective covering to inhibit dust.

The photographs submitted with the report show one portion of the mound still covered with plastic and another with a slightly unnatural green hue.

Early this month this site reported that improper custodianship of the mound appeared to violate numerous commitments in the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments. Since that time, ESDC has told this writer they continued to "reprimand" the contractor to ensure the dust pile is covered or wetted frequently, and that they requested an air monitor be placed near the pile to ensure air is not compromised.

link

Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

FAQ: Forest City Ratner's ridiculous claims about Atlantic Yards tax revenues and jobs, and what's wrong with the (somewhat more sober) city and state projections

Atlantic Yard Report

Atlantic Yards will be an economic engine for Brooklyn, New York City and the State generating more than $5 billion in new tax revenues over the next 30 years. In addition to tax benefits, the project will also create thousands of new jobs: upwards of 17,000 union construction jobs and up to 8,000 permanent jobs.
--Developer Forest City Ratner, July 2011, as claimed to Crain's New York Business

Will the project bring in $5 billion in new tax revenues?

Not at all. That's a variant of the notorious $6 billion lie touted by sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, Forest City Ratner's hired consultant, working well outside his expertise. Bizarrely, FCR executives and an FCR lawyer at times claimed in legal papers that it was a state estimate. That was an extra lie.

What's wrong with the $5 billion calculation?

There are many reasons why the reasoning's flawed, such as the use of new residents' income to calculate benefits, which is like Donald Trump claiming he's creating an "economic engine" by building speculative condos.

But the calculation also violates two standard practices among economists analyzing these kind of developments.

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Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

Complaints about extended hours work continue, and new sources of construction noise at night and on weekends may be on their way

Atlantic Yards Watch

A wonderful night's sleep, brought to you by the letters F, C and R.

Complaints about late night and after hours construction work continue to reach this website. The video above, (which reached this site indirectly), was filmed at 1:30 am at the intersection of 5th Avenue and Bergen Street.

Complaints about permitted late night work on the project date back to the extended infrastructure work that took place on Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue in 2008 and caused substantial discomfort to many living in the vicinity. The earliest illegal after hours work inside the footprint dates to the spring of 2007, only a short time after work on the project began.

The sources of the complaints relate to an expanding list of types of work scheduled at night and on weekends. The affected residential areas are dispersed throughout the perimeter of the 22 acre project site.

In the meantime, new potential sources of late night noise may soon be added.

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Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Police crack down on illegal parking around Atlantic Yards construction

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Cops have finally cracked down on the rampant illegal parking around the Atlantic Yards construction site.

The Daily News reported this month that construction workers, city employees and others were parking illegally and using bogus placards around the busy project site with no fear of enforcement - but now the NYPD is handing out the tickets.

Cops have issued 69 parking summonses in the last two weeks in the blocks around the site, an NYPD spokesman said. The spokesman said the violations "run the gamut" and include parking at a bus stop, on the sidewalk, in front of a hydrant, and in No Standing zones.

Empire State Development Corp. project manager Arana Hankin said when she visited the site last week, she saw NYPD brass directing a ticket blitz.

"All the cars were being ticketed," she said. "They were being threatened that they would be towed." ...

Wayne Bailey, 56, who had complained about the parking problem, said in addition to the NYPD ticket blitz, the Sanitation Department has been targeting alternate side parking violators.

"I want to give credit where credit is due. They're doing a good job," he said. "They don't park on the sidewalk anymore. ... Our streets are getting cleaner."

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily News: parking summonses rise around Atlantic Yards site; now, what about cops themselves? what about trucks with contents uncovered?

Unclear is whether the actions of police officers themselves are being targeted.

What next?

The illegal parking was blatant, thus relatively easy to respond to. Equally blatant, it seems, is the periodic departure of trucks from the Atlantic Yards site without tarps covering dirt and dust, as required by the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments.

Will Hankin's agency step up to stop that?

Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Following up on the Markowitz campaign fine: two editorials criticize him; Brooklyn Paper suggests wife is First Lady; poll (taken before fine surfaced) shows BP high in 2013 Mayoral rice

Atlantic Yards Report

That $20,000 fine levied against Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz for letting his wife get her expenses paid on three international trips--despite explicit advice to the contrary (which he ignores)--is still provoking discussion.

The Daily News reports, in Irked Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz: Change city travel law, that Markowitz is hoping for the City Council to allow spouses to travel for free. Council Members say that's unlikely.

Is Jamie "First Lady" of Brooklyn?

In an editorial, Marty Markowitz scores another Knucklehead Award for trying to pass off his wife as first lady of BK, the Daily News simply says Markowitz is wrong, without noting how the judge in the case contrasted Jamie Markowitz's duties with that of a real First Lady.

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NoLandGrab: First lady? Somehow, we don't see Michelle Obama grabbing up as many expensive place mats as she can carry, and telling people who didn't get one "you snooze, you lose."

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

PHNDC's Veconi on the lessons of the latest Atlantic Yards ruling: the state "is willing to risk breaking the law" when it helps Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

In a July 23 op-ed in Prospect Heights Patch, Lessons from the Community’s Atlantic Yards Win, Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (a component of BrooklynSpeaks), analyzes the significance of Justice Marcy Friedman's July 13 ruling ordering the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to conduct a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement.

Among the lessons:

ESDC is willing to risk breaking the law when it helps FCRC [Forest City Ratner]. ESDC had previously shown itself willing to exploit New York State’s regressive eminent domain laws to transfer private property to FCRC. The Friedman decision shows that the agency is also willing to violate State environmental laws when doing so is economically beneficial to FCRC. Furthermore, the experience of this lawsuit shows that ESDC has no compunction about obfuscating in court to conceal what it knows when the facts are. This is a truly chilling realization when one considers that ESDC has sole formal responsibility for Atlantic Yards oversight.

The courts aren’t a substitute for responsible project governance.... Justice Friedman’s decision left ESDC with the responsibility of correcting its prior error in not preparing an SEIS, even though her previous decisions in the case had excoriated the agency for lack of transparency it is review, and for not informing the court of key facts during trial....

The collective judgment of our local elected officials should be sought and respected on major project decisions. Unlike other large ESDC projects, Atlantic Yards does not now have a dedicated subsidiary with a board including outside directors to give balance to decision-making. Instead, the agency in effect delegates its authority to FCRC.
...

Who's the community?

Veconi's op-ed continues one dismaying pattern in discussion of the lawsuit. Two separate coalitions, led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and BrooklynSpeaks, filed separate lawsuits, which were consolidated.

Thus, the win was shared, even though DDDB ultimately let BrooklynSpeaks take the lead in court.

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NoLandGrab: We were going to point that out, too, but Oder beat us to it.

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Lessons from the Community’s Atlantic Yards Win

Prospect Heights Patch
by Gib Veconi

On July 13, New York Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman delivered a major victory for the communities surrounding the Atlantic Yards project over the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC). Among other things, the court found that ESDC’s failure to analyze the effects of extending construction of Atlantic Yards from 10 to 25 years meant its approval of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) lacked a rational basis. Justice Friedman ordered ESDC to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) and reconsider the modified plan after its new impacts have been assessed. Although the Friedman decision did not receive detailed press coverage, community members can find in it important lessons for the future of advocacy on Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Some Atlantic Yard supporters are now changing their tune

NY Daily News Sports ITeam Blog
by Michael O'Keeffe

Atlantic Yard Report blogger Norman Oder reports that some of the loudest supporters of Bruce Ratner's basketball arena and the rest of his massive development scheme have finally figured out that all those promises of jobs, jobs, jobs were BS, BS, BS.

"Saying 'We need jobs, not broken promises,' a group that loudly and sometimes disruptively rallied in support for Atlantic Yards is changing its tune, organizing a public protest on July 27 outside the in-progress Barclays Center site and nearby Downtown Brooklyn-area construction sites," Oder writes.

"The rally, aimed to start at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues at 9:30 a.m., is sponsored by P.P.E.E. (People for Political and Economic Empowerment), which helps train and place hard-to-employ people, some of them ex-convicts, in construction work.

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Related coverage...

Curbed, Jobs Protest at Atlantic Yards

ATLANTIC YARDSVILLE—The heat can't stop the anti-Atlantic Yards sentiment—it just comes out earlier in the morning. People for Political and Economic Empowerment will be holding a rally at 9:30 tomorrow morning "to protest the lack of promised jobs at Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards site and other development sites in the greater Downtown Brooklyn area," according to a press release from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. The rally will start at the corner of Atlantic and Sixth avenues.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, July 27: Disaffected Atlantic Yards Supporters to Protest Lack of Jobs at Project Site

It is a shame that Ratner treats his (former) supporters in such a way that now they need to rally to protest his broken promises...even though it was predictable. We are certain the folks rallying tomorrow would be happy to have others join in solidarity.

Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

This weekend, extended work at the Atlantic Yards site related to the removal of underground storage tanks

Atlantic Yards Report

According to a Supplemental Report to the Empire State Development Corporation's previously issued two week Construction look–ahead regarding July 18-July 31, 2011, extended work--on evenings and weekends--will be needed to remove underground storage tanks from a former gas station at the eastern end of the site, near Pacific Street and Vanderbilt Avenue.

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Posted by eric at 9:58 AM

July 26, 2011

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Weds, July 27. 9:30-11:00 Rally for Jobs

We Need Jobs, Not Broken Promises

Rally Called by People for Political and Economic Empowerment to Protest Lack of Promised Jobs at Atlantic Yards Project Site and Other Greater Downtown Brooklyn Area Development Projects

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn would like to bring your attention to the announcement at this link (www.scribd.com/doc/59878819/PPEE-Protest-July-27-2011) from People for Political and Economic Empowerment (P.P.E.E).

P.P.E.E. has called a rally for tomorrow, July 27th from 9:30 to 11:00, to protest the lack of promised jobs at Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards site and other development sites in the greater Downtown Brooklyn area.

(Please note that the rally is announced on the flyer to start at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, but we have been told it will start at the corner of Atlantic and 6th Avenues, next to the under construction Atlantic Yards arena.)

Today on his Atlantic Yards Report Norman Oder wrote about the planned rally and the organizations and individuals who've organized it.

Posted by eric at 1:38 PM

Fitch downgrades pool of loans led by Metrotech Center building

The Real Deal
by David Jones

Fitch Ratings downgraded a $6.6 million class of commercial real estate loans led by 10 Metrotech Center, a seven-story office building owned by Forest City Ratner in Downtown Brooklyn.

Fitch downgraded one class of COMM Mortgage Trust 2005-FL-10, saying 42 percent of the pool is expected to default due a 10 percent overall decline in cash flow compared with the last update.

The 359,000 square foot property, located at 625 Fulton Street in Brooklyn, is faced with an expiring lease with the Internal Revenue Service, which occupies nearly 88 percent of the building. The loan represents 7.4 percent of the pool balance.

The lease is scheduled to expire in February 2012, though the General Services Administration has announced plans to extend the IRS lease for at least six months. The loan is currently in special servicing and has been listed as distressed since early 2010.

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Posted by eric at 1:01 PM

Another protest tomorrow, from FUREE, regarding the lack of jobs at Atlantic Yards site and other sites

Atlantic Yards Report

Beyond the protest scheduled tomorrow morning by P.P.E.E. (People for Political and Economic Empowerment) and REBUILD, FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality) tomorrow afternoon will be holding "WHERE THE JOBS AT?", a "Walking Tour & Action" aimed to highlight the lack of jobs at Atlantic Yards and other construction sites.

(FUREE, unlike the other groups, has never been an Atlantic Yards supporter.)

From FUREE:

The hunt starts @ 1PM at FUREE’s office – 81 Willoughby St., Suite # 701.

Unemployment is high... Wages are down... Our communities are struggling... IT'S TIME TO TAKE ACTION!

"WHERE THE JOBS AT?" Walking Tour & Action

Across Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn big developers and corporations are given millions of tax-payer dollars and tax-breaks to build in our communities.

They promise jobs and/or affordable housing in return.

But what happens when the much-hyped community benefits shrivel up or disappear? How do we hold them accountable?

Join FUREE for a neighborhood walking tour and creative action to track down the missing jobs. From the Fulton Mall to Atlantic Yards to lesser known sites in the area, we’ll hunt down the mysterious job snatchers and find the real solutions we need.

Bring your family and friends, your FUREE t-shirts and noise-makers.

MORE INFO / RSVP to FUREE at: 718-852-2960 ext. 306, lucas(at)furee(dot)org.

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Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

Formerly vocal and distruptive Atlantic Yards supporters, P.P.E.E. (and REBUILD), to rally July 27 protesting lack of jobs at AY site and other construction sites

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Yards saga is now moving toward a version of blowback.

Saying "We need jobs, not broken promises," a group that loudly and sometimes disruptively rallied in support for Atlantic Yards is changing its tune, organizing a public protest on July 27 outside the in-progress Barclays Center site and nearby Downtown Brooklyn-area construction sites.

The rally, aimed to start at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues at 9:30 a.m., is sponsored by P.P.E.E. (People for Political and Economic Empowerment), which helps train and place hard-to-employ people, some of them ex-convicts, in construction work.

P.P.E.E. is essentially interchangeable with REBUILD, an organization launched in 2004 by the late Darnell Canada, a pro-project activist who had just left BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), a signatory of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement. BUILD also works on job training, though for a broader range of jobs beyond construction.

"Don't tell me one thing one day, and then when the day comes, when the work is coming, you tell me something else," Martin Allen (right), Canada's friend and president of P.P.E.E., told me, during a recent interview at P.P.E.E. headquarters in Bushwick, on a stretch of Broadway where storefront churches vie with retail outlets.

(P.P.E.E. and REBUILD, once located on Gold Street near Downtown Brooklyn, saw that space demolished for the luxury Avalon Fort Greene, and had to seek inexpensive quarters farther away from the Fort Greene housing projects that are part of their base.)

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NoLandGrab: Here's hoping they'll have a large inflatable Ratner at the protest.

Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

Appeals Court Rejects Dallas Developer’s Claim That Book About Eminent Domain Defamed Him

Author and Publisher Protected by First Amendment

Institute for Justice

In an important victory for the First Amendment, a unanimous Texas Fifth Court of Appeals has handed a major defeat to Dallas developer H. Walker Royall in his defamation lawsuit against the author and publisher of Bulldozed: “Kelo,” Eminent Domain, and the American Lust for Land. In November 2009, a Dallas trial court issued a blanket denial of Carla Main and Encounter Books’ claims that the book is protected by the First Amendment, prompting the appeal.

Late yesterday, the Dallas appellate court reversed the trial court’s judgment and held that Royall failed to produce evidence that anything in Bulldozed defames him in any way. The opinion [PDF] reaffirms that criticism of public projects is protected by the First Amendment, and that developers who are involved in those projects cannot hide behind defamation law to escape criticism over their role.

“Walker Royall has failed in his attempt to use this frivolous defamation lawsuit as a weapon to silence his critics,” said Dana Berliner, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, the nonprofit public interest law firm that is defending Main and her publisher. “The appeals court has exposed the frivolity of Royall’s lawsuit, holding that Royall failed to prove that a single word of Bulldozed defames him.”

Published in 2007, Bulldozed chronicles events in Freeport, Texas, where Royall signed a development agreement to have the city take land owned by Western Seafood—a generations-old shrimping business—and give that land to Royall’s development company for a luxury yacht marina.

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NoLandGrab: Here's a link to some of our past coverage of the Freeport land grab.

Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

Markowitz fined $20,000 for accepting free airfare and other travel perks for his wife--despite having stated he knew he had to pay her way

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has been slammed with a $20,000 fine by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) for gaining free travel for his wife on three foreign trips, two to Turkey and one to the Netherlands.

And while Markowitz, in press statements, has produced some part-justifying and entertaining explanations--yes, there was a lot of official business, yes, it's hard to split hotel costs--he (and many in the press) ignore the fact that, before the first of the three trips, Markowitz told the COIB that he'd pay for his wife.

It's been a rough stretch for Markowitz at the COIB. In February, he was fined $2,000 by the COIB for using Chief of Staff Carlo Scissura as his lawyer for a home-buying transaction in 2009. Scissura was fined $1100.

And his wife Jamie has previously taken advantage of her position, taking home eight valuable placemats given to attendees at a Brooklyn Museum gala in April 2008.

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NoLandGrab: And to think the whole spurious legal case against Brooklyn's beautiful Prospect Park West bike path hangs on Markowitz's sworn statement.

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

"Isolated incident"? Two more instances yesterday (and one today) of trucks leaving Atlantic Yards site with contents uncovered, violating environmental commitments memo

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, it's time to shut this construction site down until they can demonstrate even the smallest shred of competence.

Though the Empire State Development Corporation last week suggested that a truck leaving the Atlantic Yards site with its contents uncovered--a violation of an environmental commitments memo signed by developer Forest City Ratner--was an "isolated incident," the evidence is mounting that it wasn't.

Yesterday I wrote about how there appear to have been three additional episodes last week.

Beyond that, the incidents continued, as new photos were posted on Atlantic Yards Watch yesterday morning and afternoon, as well as this morning.

Click thru for yet more photographic evidence.

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Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

Meeting Held About Atlantic Yards Rodent Problem

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The Eagle has landed... on this story a couple weeks behind everybody else.

Last week, Councilwoman Letitia James, representatives from Councilman Steve Levin’s and state Senator Velmanette Montgomery’s offices and other community leaders met with representatives of the Empire State Development Corp., city agencies and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCR) at a meeting in Brooklyn.

The meeting’s focus was on rodent infestation, which has become a serious concern in the Atlantic Yards footprint and surrounding community.

Recently, neighbors of Dean Street near the Atlantic Yards project have reported cat-size rats and an uptick in the rat population. Many have expressed concerns about the rodent population’s increase in the neighboring homes and streets surrounding the construction site.

Many people say that rats have not been a problem until the arena’s construction, while others have referred to it as a “rat tsunami.”

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Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

July 25, 2011

VIDEO: A Change Of Direction

Local residents respond to the new traffic patterns around the Atlantic Yards construction zone.

Park Slope Patch
by Patrick Conti

The streets, they are "a-changing"—direction, that is.
...

Anticipating voluminous crowds of cars and pedestrians at Barclays Center, developer Forest City Ratner proposed a series of changes to the area's traffic patterns. The first of those changes kicked off Sunday with the reversal of direction on Pacific Street, which went from one-way westbound to one-way eastbound between Fourth and Flatbush avenues.

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Posted by eric at 1:24 PM

My Brooklyn: The Battle for the Soul of the City (movie)

MCMI Report

Over the last 10 years I have witnessed a battle for property rights, seen people’s homes seized by the government under immenent domain laws, stores get priced out of neighborhoods and huge corporations and developers build skyscrapers with luxury condos for millionaires to live in, while displacing the community that was here. Much of this is being done to make way for the Atlantic Yards project, which is building a stadium to house the Nets basketball team in Brooklyn. A lot of us were rooting for that to happen. Hometown hero Jay-Z even got involved, investing in the project and promoting it heavily. So what’s wrong with that, you say? What’s wrong with corporations taking over and making money in Brooklyn? Why is it a bad thing that luxury condos mean that more millionaires will be living among us? Won't that be good for the local economy? Won't it create jobs?

Well, that is the argument that Mayor Bloomberg and the investors are making. To hear the flipside of this argument, check out the videos below, which include excerpts of local residents expressing their concerns, their hopes for the neighborhoods they live in and how the development is impacting the block.

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Related content...

Kickstarter, My Brooklyn: A Documentary project in Brooklyn, NY by Kelly Anderson & Allison Lirish Dean

Battle for Brooklyn got made thanks to the several hundred people who backed the film via its Kickstarter campaign. The My Brooklyn filmmakers have also turned to Kickstarter to raise the funds to finish their film.

My Brooklyn chronicles the dramatic changes that have occurred in Brooklyn over the past ten years, and shows how these changes are not natural, but fueled by public policy. The film documents how an obsession with upscale environments driven by the the Wall Street bubble is threatening the very economic, racial, and ethnic diversity and neighborhood character that have historically drawn many generations to Brooklyn, and made it unique. This process has led to a fierce battle over the soul of the city, the themes of which resonate with urban communities across the county.
...

The $20,000 we hope to raise through kickstarter.com will be used to hire an editor to finish the film. Kelly Anderson (the director) has been editing, and we have a strong rough cut, but we need to bring in an outside eye to make the arguments clear and have the film sing! Thanks for your help in getting us to the finish line.

Click here to join NoLandGrab in making a pledge.

Posted by eric at 1:00 PM

An open letter to the New York Times's Public Editor: a false equivalence between Atlantic Yards promoters and "opponents," and the dubious claim of a $400 million arena naming rights deal

Atlantic Yards Report

Dear Mr. Arthur Brisbane,

I'm sure you're aware that some of us who read the Times closely take issue with the newspaper's coverage of the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Indeed, last August, I posted a comment regarding Atlantic Yards in response to your debut column.

I don't say that the Times, by virtue of the parent company's partnership with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner on the Times Tower, is in the developer's pocket. But I do think that business relationship obligates the Times to be exacting in its coverage, and the newspaper regularly falls short.

I write regarding the July 19 article headlined online as Atlantic Yards Arena Takes Shape, but Protests Carry On and in print as "An Arena Rises at Last, But Protests Carry On."

My critiques are collected here, but I want to make one general point, about a false equivalence between Atlantic Yards promoters and "opponents," and one specific one, regarding the Times's credulous acceptance of the claim that Barclays paid a record $400 million for naming rights, despite significant evidence to the contrary.

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Posted by eric at 12:47 PM

Three more instances last week in which trucks drove off railyard site with contents uncovered, violating agreement regarding dust suppression measures

Atlantic Yards Report

If the people building, and supporting the building of, Atlantic Yards are too dumb or lazy or uncaring to properly cover a dump truck, how do we expect them to manage far more complex challenges like traffic and parking?

OK, the Empire State Development Corporation told me that a July 19 episode, in which a dump truck existed the railyard site without any tarp over the dirt, "appears to be an isolated incident."

However, as posted on Atlantic Yards Watch and in the photos below, on July 18 there were three separate instances in which trucks approached or left the railyard site with their contents uncovered. The trucks are on Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues.

All instances violate the December 2009 Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, a contract in which Forest City Ratner "shall require its contractors to implement dust suppression measures....

Click thru for photographic evidence.

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Posted by eric at 12:37 PM

Some Atlantic Yards Traffic Changes in Place

Brownstoner

Yesterday some of the traffic pattern changes planned for the streets around Barclays Center had been implemented, with Pacific Street between 4th Avenue and Flatbush switched from a westbound to eastbound street. A new traffic light was also in place on the corner of Flatbush and Pacific. According to a traffic cop on the scene, the other big change—which involves turning 4th Avenue between Atlantic and Flatbush into a one-way, southbound road—will be in effect next weekend.

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Related coverage...

All About Fifth, Changes to Traffic Near Atlantic Yards

It isn't clear how this will affect Fifth Avenue, but we thought we would pass this information on.

Photo: Brownstoner

Posted by eric at 12:27 PM

July 24, 2011

Stringer calls for abolition of member items in City Council; Daily News editorial points to importance of fairness in contracting

Atlantic Yards Report

The distribution of Member items is inequitable and have become a way of keeping Council members in line. This has led to a critical report from the Manhattan Borough President. Atlantic Yards helps provide an example of how member items are doled out.

The Daily News pointed to this:

Consider two councilmen - Domenic Recchia and Charles Barron - who were elected in Brooklyn districts located fairly close to each other.

Recchia is a Quinn lieutenant and chairman of the Finance Committee. He represents Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Brighton Beach and Gravesend. This year, he distributed $1,630,064 to groups such as the Brighton Ballet Theater Company, the Russian American Foundation and the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association. His total amounted to $10.30 per resident.

Barron is a self-styled civil rights firebrand who has attacked Quinn's leadership. He represents East New York, Brownsville and Canarsie and was permitted to deliver less than a quarter of Recchia's sum to groups in his neighborhood: $399,464, or $2.40 per person.

Not that it was germane to the distribution of funds, but guess which Council Member supported Atlantic Yards, and which one did not? Right.

...

In fiscal year 2012, Council Districts received an average of $638,479. City Council Member Letitia James, serving her second full term (plus part of the late Council Member James Davis's unfinished term), has seniority, but not an in with Quinn.

So in 2012, James's 35th District received $481,964.00, ranking 37th among 51 Council Districts.

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Posted by steve at 9:42 PM

July 23, 2011

From Atlantic Yards Watch: a truck leaves the railyard site, gets wheels washed for dust, but dirt remains uncovered; state calls it "isolated incident"

Atlantic Yards Report

As reported by a sharp-eyed Prospect Heights resident on Atlantic Yards Watch, on 7/19/11, at 1:20 pm, a dump truck leaving the railyard site got its wheels washed, but exited without any tarp over the dirt.

That violates the December 2009 Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (text below), a contract signed with the Empire State Development Corporation [ESDC).

Official response?

Yesterday I queried the ESDC regarding what steps or penalties might be taken in response.

"ESD and its consultants are aware of the issue, which appears to be an isolated incident," responded spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell. "We have made clear our expectation that these project requirements be strictly enforced to reduce the possibility of violations and have been assured of increased attention to this matter."

That sounds like: if you do it again, we'll slap your wrist, but you're OK for now.

The truck heads out

The wheels are washed

The truck exits, uncovered

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Posted by steve at 10:05 PM

Barclays Center And The Arts: How To Fill An Arena

Prospect Heights Patch

There was much attention three weeks ago when the Barclays Center of Brooklyn announced that there would be a partnership with the Brooklyn Academy of Music to help put on some shows in the arena, which offers almost nine times the seating capacity of BAM's largest current theater. "With the construction of the Barclays Center, there will be a remarkable array of arts and entertainment venues, ranging from 250 to 18,000 seats, within a two-block radius here in Fort Greene," Karen Brooks Hopkins, president of BAM, was quoted as saying. She promised “spectacular large scale, artistically-driven events that have never been seen in New York City” – shows “on a very large scale, large nouvelle cirque kind of work, big dance kind of things, music.”

How any BAM events could come any where near to filling an 18,000 seat arena is a mystery, but not to worry. This is basically a publicity stunt as BAM would recommend only 3 events each year.

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Posted by steve at 9:38 PM

July 22, 2011

Atlantic Terminal Traffic Changes Go Into Effect Sunday

The major traffic changes are being implemented in anticipation of Atlantic Yards.

Prospect Heights Patch
by Georgia Kral

Will this weekend mark the start of Brooklyn's very own Carmaggedon?

In anticipation of car crowds at the new Barclays Nets arena, developer Forest City Ratner has proposed a series of changes to traffic patterns.

The major changes go into effect on Sunday and include:

  • Conversion of Fourth Avenue into a one-way street going southbound between Atlantic and Flatbush avenues only.
  • Reversing Pacific Street from one-way westbound to one-way eastbound between Fourth and Flatbush avenues.
  • Installation of a traffic signal at Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue, as well as a crosswalk.
  • The ability for motorists to make a right or left turn from Pacific Street to Flatbush Avenue.
  • Truck traffic will be barred from Pacific Street. Northbound Fourth Avenue truck traffic will be diverted to Third Avenue via Atlantic to get onto Flatbush.

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Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

Latest consultant's report: arena still ahead of schedule (but lingering schedule issues?), 320 workers on the job (fewer than FCR's report)

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the latest Arena Site Observation Report, dated 6/30/11 and based on a 6/1/11 visit, based on cash flow, the Barclays Center remains is one month ahead of schedule and the transit connection remains two months ahead of schedule.

The report is prepared by Merritt & Harris, the real estate consultant to the arena PILOT Bond Trustee.

There are a few items that should provoke further inquiry, such as a discrepancy between the number of workers reported and the number reported by Forest City Ratner, and a discrepancy regarding the percentages of minority- and women-owned contractors.

Those discrepancies might be explained by a report from the Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM) required by the Community Benefits Agreement, but no ICM has been hired.

Also, there may be a lingering dispute about the schedule.

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Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

'Battle for Brooklyn' documentary chosen by Michael Moore for Traverse City Film Festival

Daily News Sports ITeam Blog
by Michael O'Keeffe

"Battle for Brooklyn" is heading to Michigan.

Michael Moore, the man behind "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Sicko," has chosen the critically praised documentary about the Atlantic Yards project for his Traverse City Film Festival. The film will screen at the festival on Wednesday and Friday, July 29.

Reason, the libertarian magazine, posted an interesting interview with "Battle for Brooklyn" filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley on its blog this week.

Galinsky talks about reactions to the flick, which puts the relationship between Nets minority owner Brude Ratner and pols such as Mayor Bloomberg and Sen. Chuck Schumer in an unhealthy and undemocratic light:

"Some of the writers have said it kind of puts the government and developer in bed together," Galinsky says. "Well, they are. The story is so corrupt, it is so corrupt, it is really hard to imagine how corrupt it is.

"This kind of process of top-down government is endemic in New York."

link

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

Working the overnight shift at the arena site: questions posed (and pending), but Final EIS disclosed possibility

Atlantic Yards Report

So, will there be a first-ever third shift at the Atlantic Yards site? If so, why? And what kind of safeguards would there be?

I haven't gotten answers yet.

Questions posed

The latest Construction Alert issued on July 18 by the Empire State Development Corporation (and prepared by developer Forest City Ratner) indicates that "subject to receipt of permits, a third shift may be instituted during this reporting period, from 11 PM – 7 AM, Monday – Friday only."

(There have been no previous third shifts for arena construction, but there have long been some disruptive overnight shifts regarding utility work at the boundaries of the project. For example, see this video.)

Some readers asked me about this, so I queried the Empire State Development Corporation about it, and was told to ask Forest City. (The ESDC said in June that working a second shift "ensures maximum productivity.")

So I asked the developer for the rationale for the third shift, and the safeguards planned.

And I asked the Department of Buildings if a permit had been granted, and what safeguards would be required.

Both sets of queries are pending.

article

Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

Casinos, gaming and horses, oh my!

Real estate moguls look to win in a new field

The Real Deal
by Michael Stoler

Becoming successful in real estate is not easy. Not only does it take a stomach for risk, it also takes the ability to bounce back from failed projects -- as many are trying to do now.

But once real estate executives achieve a certain level of success, they often seem to branch out to other areas of business.
...

Over the last decade, a number of successful real estate leaders have also been investing in their hobbies -- which include big moneymakers like baseball and football. Fred Wilpon, head of real estate investment firm Sterling Equities Associates (and more recently, a Madoff victim), is the principal owner of the New York Mets. In February 2008, Related's Ross famously purchased 50 percent of the Miami Dolphins football team, its venue Dolphin Stadium and the surrounding land from Wayne Huizenga for $550 million. A year later, he completed his purchase of 95 percent of the franchise for $1 billion.

Meanwhile, Bruce Ratner is the minority owner of the New Jersey Nets, after heading up an ownership group that paid $300 million in 2004.

article

NoLandGrab: Yes, Bruce Ratner was investing in his hobby, alright — his hobby being subsidy- and land-grabbing.

Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

July 21, 2011

Maybe Murdoch has a light touch with the Brooklyn weeklies he bought, but the change in Atlantic Yards coverage has been profound

Atlantic Yards Report

Reports WNYC, Fearing a Heavy Hand, Outer-Borough Papers Find Murdoch Has Light Touch:

When News Corp – which owns the New York Post and Wall Street Journal - bought community newspapers in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn in 2006, 2007 and 2009, respectively, media watchers were worried they'd be reshaped as conservative Murdoch mouthpieces.

But several former staffers at The Brooklyn Paper and TimesLedger newspapers say the marching orders never came — and the neighborhood papers that now make up the Community Newspapers Group at News Corp continued to make their own decisions about editorials, endorsements and reporting, according to former employees.

About Atlantic Yards

The piece concludes:

The Brooklyn Paper, formerly a fierce watchdog on the Atlantic Yards project has become less aggressive since the 2009 sale, [Norman] Oder alleges, but he isn't sure whether or not that is attributable to News Corp.

"“I do see less of a focus on hard news," he said. "There is a lot of softer news. It's hard to say if that is Murdoch or just a sign or our times. When weekly newspapers like Brooklyn Paper were stronger they did more aggressive reporting."

I don't think my comment is so much an allegation as a (well-founded) argument.

article

Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

The Ten States That Restrict Personal Freedom (And Those That Protect It) Read more: The Ten States That Restrict Personal Freedom (And Those That Protect It)

24/7 Wall St.
by Douglas A. McIntyre, Charles B. Stockdale, Michael B. Sauter

Can you guess the identity of the least-free of these United States?

  1. New York

> Fiscal freedom: -0.471 (lowest)
> Regulatory freedom: -0.90 (11th lowest)
> Personal freedom: -0.191 (3rd lowest)
> Net Migration (2000-2009): -8.9%

New York is the least free state in the country. According to the report, this is because it has the lowest rated economic freedom and the third lowest rated personal freedom in the country. The state has the highest taxes in the nation, with above average property, selective sales, individual income, and corporate income tax rates. Government spending on “public welfare, hospitals, electric power, transit, and employee retirement” is all well above the national averages. The state also has the second greatest debt as a percentage of the state’s economy in the country, behind only Alaska. The state is not much better when it comes to personal liberty. New York has among the strictest gun laws in the country, motorists are highly regulated, home schools are highly regulated, and cigarette taxes are the highest in the country — currently $4.35 a pack. Eminent domain “abuse is rampant and unchecked,” such as last year’s case involving the expansion of Columbia University and the Atlantic Yards program in Brooklyn.

article

NoLandGrab: Don't get us wrong — we're all for gun control, regulating drivers and cigarette taxes. It's the land-grabbing we have a problem with.

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

Querying Bill de Blasio on Atlantic Yards progress: "I still believe this is a project that can create a lot of jobs and a lot of affordable housing"

Atlantic Yards Report

After a panel on jobs, during which there was time for only a couple of questions, I approached de Blasio and introduced myself. He was friendly, recognizing me--after all, we'd spent a memorable couple of hours jousting about Atlantic Yards in in 2007, leading to my rather critical portrayal.

Below is the transcript of our exchange, unedited, but with some commentary.
...

NO: And now the numbers on jobs are pretty low, the numbers on housing are zero. Has that caused you to rethink either the concept of CBAs, or your support, or government's posture--any sort of cause to rethink?

BdB: I want to get the results we wanted originally, or as close to them as possible. So my framework here--I don't think this history's over yet.

NO: --Of course not.

BdB: And I know you feel differently. So let's just--

NO: It's not a question of whether I feel differently, it's whether I analyzed it.

BdB: I appreciate you. I've always appreciated analysis. I remember when we sat in the Tea Lounge long ago--we disagreed, but I admire how much work you put into it, I think you do some good thinking. But my bottom line is, I still believe this is a project that can create a lot of jobs and a lot of affordable housing, and what I want to do is see that come to fruition.

NO: Right--but, fair enough, but how do you do that, to go from the rhetoric to the actual performance?

BdB: Y'know, I don't have the chapter and verse, I didn't see this morning's article--

NO: Understood.

BdB: But my point to you--I'm trying to be honest about the question. I still believe the project can be very effective, and my job is to try and help make it effective, that's the bottom line.

Arguably his job is to protect the public interest, so "effective" means gaining the public benefits without too many public costs. And his reliance on developer Bruce Ratner to help raise funds certainly raises some question of his loyalties.
...

In February 2011, I queried two of his spokesmen to ask whether the Public Advocate had a position on Forest City Ratner's failure to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor. I never got a response.

NO: This CBA was supposed to have something called an Independent Compliance Monitor. It never happened. And because the only people who can enforce the CBA are the signatories, government can't intervene. In L.A., where the CBA is also signed by the government, government can actually try to enforce it. So your thoughts about CBAs, to the extent that you do think about them, because I know you've got a lot on your plate--have you thought about whether government should be a part of CBAs?

BdB: I think it depends on the context. But again, where I'm trying to focus, I think it's kindred to your point, is clearer definitions, better enforcement. And that's something I'm working on.

What next?

How exactly de Blasio's working on it remains unclear because, at that point, one of his aides intervened and he moved on to another interlocutor.

article

Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

New Barclays Center Stadium: Did You Know They're Talking About 200 Events a Year?

About.com Brooklyn, NY

Uh, yes.

Wow. I just finished doing a little what's-what article about the rapidly rising Barclays Center stadium at Atlantic Yards, and I'm bowled over by the number of events the developers are talking about putting on: 200 a year. Let me repeat: Two hundred a year.
...

That's a LOT of people streaming in, out, and around the area; the stadium will seat 18,000 for basketball games, and jam an extra 1,000 or so more in for concerts.
...

The new Brooklyn stadium isn't Ebbets Field redux, oh misty eyed nostalgic Brooklynites, although Larry King's ads would make you think this is all about getting a pro sports team back to Brooklyn. Nope.

link

Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

Budget watchdog: big projects "generally do not end up generating jobs or investment that was promised when subsidies were provided"

Atlantic Yards Report

The news from the July 19 conference on the Future of New York City, sponsored by Crain's New York Business, concerned the city's revival after 9/11, and the city's effort to recruit an engineering campus.

(The city's offering up to $100 million in subsidies and low-cost land. Didn't the Atlantic Yards project get nearly $300 million in direct subsidies and discount land?)

There was no mention of Atlantic Yards, at least at the panels I attended, but there was some unease about city policies that have led to such projects, and when I buttonholed Public Advocate Bill de Blasio to ask about Atlantic Yards, his answers, not surprisingly, were vague.
...

Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, stressed investments in education and transit, as well as the impact on services of "embeddedness, debt service, and fringe benefit costs."

"The more I learn about economic development efforts, and subsidies and tax exemptions, the less confident I am that they do produce the value they promise," she warned.

"There's a lot of focus on big projects, but they generally do not end up generating jobs or investment that was promised when subsidies were provided," she said. "There needs to be much more cost-benefit analysis and rigor in analyzing these projects before we get into them."

(I've argued that city and state agencies analyzing such project should, along with the typical best-case scenarios, present worst-case scenarios. Heck, why not a range.)

article

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

As New York Heats Up, Workers Try To Stay Cool

All Things Considered
by Joel Rose

It's summer, ergo, it's hot.

ROSE: It was also business as usual at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, where construction of a new basketball arena is under way. Electrician Steve Lewis is rewiring streetlights on Flatbush Avenue near the future arena.

Mr. STEVE LEWIS: Nothing's different. Just do your job and make sure you drink a lot of water to stay cool. This is nothing, wait 'til Friday, right?

link

NoLandGrab: Think Friday'll be bad? Wait 'til the first time a few thousand arena-goers try to drive down Dean Street to Bruce Ratner's 1,100-car surface parking lot.

Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

The Devils Hired WHO? And the Last New Jersey NBA Schedule

Uncle Mike's Musings

Uncle Mike is not amused.

Also, the NBA schedule has been released -- a rather optimistic gesture, considering that, like the NFL, the league has officially locked its players out.
...

The last home game of the regular season – and, most likely, the last game the team will ever play under the name “the New Jersey Nets,” unless they somehow make the Playoffs – will be on Wednesday, April 18, 2012, an 8:00 start, against the Chicago Bulls. Swell, a good team. Way to set up a victory in the team's finale, boys.

Why do I still care? Bruce Ratner can go f**k himself for all I care, and if Mikhail Prokhorov can't see that Newark can be every bit as good a basketball city as Brooklyn, then he can go f**ksky himself with a cold Siberian pitchfork.

Your New Jersey teams, ladies and gentlemen. Oy...

link

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

July 20, 2011

Reason.tv: Battle for Brooklyn-Eminent Domain Abuse Gone Wild

Reason.tv

The libertarian blog has an interesting interview with Battle for Brooklyn's filmmakers.

Reason.tv sat down with co-directors Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley to discuss eminent domain abuse and political perceptions of their film. Galinsky and Hawley insist their film is not a polemic, but rather an all-too-common story of a single person fighting an injustice against figures whose power and influence drawf his own.

article

Posted by eric at 9:47 PM

In the Village Voice, a tough portrait of Mayor Bloomberg, but a missed opportunity to mention Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has a short review of a recent Village Voice piece headlined Citizen Bloomberg: How our mayor has given us the business.

article

Posted by eric at 9:36 PM

Rhetoric check: arena now dubbed "Barclays Center of Brooklyn," taking advantage of Brooklyn connection (and connoting civic virtue)

Atlantic Yards Report

As noted on NetsDaily, the Barclays Center arena is now being called the Barclays Center of Brooklyn.

What's in the name?

Clearly arena promoters are taking advantage of the geographic location--Brooklyn's got a lot of buzz these days--but there's something more going on, I'd suggest.

It's very unusual to attach a geographic location to an arena, as these lists of United States and Canadian arenas show. (Ditto for stadiums.) Of the few arenas with geographical locations, it's not typical to use "of." The list includes, for example, HP Pavilion at San Jose.

What it means

The name "Barclays Center of Brooklyn" is designed, I believe, to leave the impression that the arena is somehow embedded in the borough, a contributor to civic virtue and local coffers.

article

Posted by eric at 9:30 PM

Renderings of arena interiors (by SHoP) "unveiled," though "subject to change"

Atlantic Yards Report

Promoters of the Barclays Center--um, now the Barclays Center of Brooklyn--have "unveiled" renderings of several interior spaces, "including the spectacular entrances, Main Concourse, Arena Atrium, four bars/lounges, three clubs, one restaurant, and select suites."

They're designed by SHoP, the buzzy architectural firm hired to improve the Ellerbe Becket arena. As noted the "creative renderings" are "subject to change," which surely was an important warning for those who pondered Frank Gehry's various Atlantic Yards renderings.

Two renderings (click to enlarge)

Click thru for the "official" press release.

link

NoLandGrab: "Spectacular?" Looks like most any other arena.

Related coverage...

NY Observer, Atlantic Yards Arena: Bars With a Chance of Basketball

The new images are even complete with stylishly dressed virtual people cheering on (presumably) the Nets in their new home.

And by the looks of these renderings there will be no shortage of alcohol in the new arena, which will house at least four bars and a court-side club. Swanky.

NY Post, Inside look at Nets new arena

It’s not "The Worlds Most Famous Arena," but it’ll certainly be New York’s most modern.

The Nets’ new Brooklyn home — set to open in September 2012 — can’t compete with Madison Square Garden’s storied history, but it will be packed with a slew of modern amenities.

Park Slope Patch, Luxe Treatment for VIPs at the Barclays Center

"The interior spaces of the Barclays Center will provide premium experiences that are reflective of a sophisticated and dynamic venue in the heart of Brooklyn," said Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark in a statement. "nothing has been spared in creating an inviting and spectacular environment to compliment the best events in sports and entertainment."

NoLandGrab: Plus the Nets!

Curbed, Fancy Chandeliers and Courtside Club for Barclays Center VIPs

SHoP principal Gregg Pasquarelli says the firm designed the Barclays interiors to focus on "bringing the energy of Brooklyn street life into the arena," using a "simple yet tactile palette of industrial materials." If you're curious what "simple yet tactile" is running these days, the Roll & Hill chandelier* pictured in the second slide above runs for $5,000 and up.

NoLandGrab: * Roll & Hill chandelier not included.

The Brooklyn Paper, Separate and unequal at the Barclays Center

Critics were nonplussed by the arena’s glitzy design.

“It’s surprising that they don’t have the money to pay for the rest of the project,” said Candace Carponter, the legal director of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, one of the groups suing the state over Atlantic Yards, “but they’re going to sell high-priced tickets to high-rollers who’ll show up in big cars and clog traffic on our streets.”

Gothamist, What The Brooklyn Nets' New Barclays Center Home Will Look Like Inside

And while the just-released renderings of the $1 billion dollar building's interiors, by the firm SHoP Architects PC, aren't exactly riveting they are...something.

WONDER at the all white VIP entrance where Russian billionaires will be able to avoid the hoi polloi. MARVEL at the earth-toned main concourse which "includes a smooth terrazzo floor reflecting the lights of a night sky above with clear directional signage to seat and suite locations." STARE at the Beers of the World bar which will never in all its days look as empty as it does in SHoP's rendering and finally OGGLE the private suites that you will never be able to visit!

The Real Deal, Nets reveal interiors of Barclays Center

The interior will use brown and gray colored lighting to achieve a "Brooklyn feel," Christopher Sharples, co-founder of the stadium's designers, SHoP Architects, said.

NLG: Feel this, Sharples!

NetsDaily, Barclays Interior Designs Released

Meanwhile, the two reigning heavyweight boxing champions, Ukrainian brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko said they were excited about the possibility of bouts at Barclays in front a big Russian crowd. "Let's do it," said Wladimir.

Posted by eric at 5:56 PM

Brooklyn Broadside: Tobacco Warehouse: Opportunity Destroyed

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

The cranky Eagle columnist has found something that makes him even crankier than Atlantic Yards opponents do — and he may have good reason.

Here is the perplexity: does the judge’s decision mean that the federal government cannot ever negotiate with the city or state of New York about transfer of ownership of both the Tobacco warehouse and the Empire Stores?

If this is true, it means that a ruin of a building and the bulk of the Empire Stores can never be efficiently re-used. This is so preposterous as to be unbelievable.
...

The long delays in the Atlantic Yards development have already cost Brooklyn a watershed building designed by Frank Gehry. We will never get that unique chance again. Loss of the St. Ann’s group is so lamentable as to raise new hackles. And there is no sensible reason for this loss.

Let's not get carried away their, Dennis. You know and we know that no Frank Gehry building was ever really going to get built on the Atlantic Yards site. Can you say Trojan Horse?

But Dennis comes to his senses, just a wee bit.

One can make a case for all the fuss about Atlantic Yards, even if one doesn’t believe the time lost and money spent was worth it. But one cannot find an intellectual argument of merit for crippling a well-thought out plan for the Tobacco Warehouse and the needed reuse of the Empire Stores, and the potential loss of a stellar performance group founded in Brooklyn.

article

NoLandGrab: There, now. That wasn't too hard to admit, was it? Bet you even feel better getting it off your chest.

Posted by eric at 5:41 PM

AY Rodent Control Meeting Report

team tish

This past week, Council Member Letitia James, representatives from City Council Member Steve Levin’s Office, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery’s Office, other community leaders and stakeholders met with ESDC, City agencies and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCR) at an Atlantic Yards Cabinet Meeting in Brooklyn. The meeting’s focus was on rodent infestation, which has become a serious concern in the Atlantic Yards footprint and surrounding community.
...

During the meeting, a New York City Department of Health rodent-specialist identified a number of hotspots near the immediate area of the Atlantic Yards property. In response, Forest City Ratner stated they would provide vouchers for the community to purchase special trash cans that could contain and deter rodents. Forest City Ratner agreed to work with Colony, a pest management company, which provides integrated pest management to alleviate the situation through education, outreach, and bait control. The MTA representative in attendance also shared that employees would continue to check rat bait traps every thirty to forty days in subway stations located near Atlantic Yards.

The Department of Sanitation reported that certain recommendations would be made for homeowners in this Prospect Heights area. These include that all garbage in cans be placed on the street at or around 9 p.m. Another recommendation is garbage be put in secured cans (which would be enforced by the Sanitation Department). Forest City Ratner also stated it would lead a new initiative that separates the food waste from the construction garbage on the Atlantic Yards site.

link

Posted by eric at 5:35 PM

Brooklyn Smells Bad Today

Brooklyn Based

We’ve been hearing all sorts of reports on Twitter about a terrible smell in Brooklyn today. Here are some highlights. starting with our own inquiry tweet:

@BrooklynBased
We’re hearing about a sulphuric, gates of hell, low tide stink all over Brooklyn today? Who smells it?

@emilyspurr @BrooklynBased
the stench woke my boyfriend and i up this morning (park slope based), we thought a sewer pipe had burst. what IS it?!

@jbberk @BrooklynBased
I caught a whiff in Ditmas Park, just north of
#Cortelyou In fact, I first smelled it in my apartment.

...

You know what? We have it figured out. It’s the gates of hell (or a hellmouth, if you want to get all Joss Whedon nerdcore on it) opening under the Atlantic Yards construction site.

Any other theories?

link

Posted by eric at 5:21 PM

Daniel Goldstein Interview on WBAI

WBAI Evening News

Daniel Goldstein was interviewed Tuesday night on WBAI's Evening News show.

The segment runs seven minutes, and begins at the 6:45 mark.

listen

Posted by eric at 4:53 PM

July 19, 2011

Do you commute thru Atlantic Yards/Barclays Arena Project Footprint?

This news about a research project hit our in-box this morning.

311NYCX is looking for civic minded cyclists that commute thru the Atlantic Yards/Barclays Arena Project Footprint!

The funding & duration for this project is scheduled to continue until December 2014!

311NYCX is looking for 10 to 15 or more civic minded bike commuters willing to wear a helmet cam that holds 4-5 hours of video. Ideally we will start with 6 riders that travel thru 4th Ave to Washington via Dean Street with emphasis on the bike lane from 5th Ave to Vanderbilt anytime from 5am to 10pm and the same route via Bergen. You will exchange SD cards between 6th Ave & Carlton Ave on Dean St 24/7 so no need to upload to FTP etc.

Your participation will be totally anonymous if you desire.

There will be 1 mandatory training meeting, interested? Please send an email to 311NYCX@gmail.com with your contact info & your commuting route details.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Atlantic Yards: How Brooklyn's Arenafication is Going

Curbed
by Sara Polsky

On the heels of last week's news that the second phase of the Atlantic Yards project needs a more thorough environmental review—one that could delay construction on phase two—the Times checks in on how the Brooklyn megaproject and its many, many controversies are going. Here now, some updates.

link

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

Times article on arena rising finally mentions Friedman decision, acknowledges reasons for opponents to "complain" (but doesn't analyze the public interest); essential narrative is Ratner's triumph

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder conducts an excellent step-by-step vivisection of yesterday's New York Times story on Atlantic Yards.

The New York Times today finally does mention the important judicial ruling last week, only to give it short shrift in a wide-ranging article focusing on the under-construction arena.

It was initially headlined online as After Years of Delays, Atlantic Yards Arena Begins Taking Shape, later amended to Atlantic Yards Arena Takes Shape, but Protests Carry On, and in print as "An Arena Rises at Last, But Protests Carry On."

The article, despite rounding-up criticisms and mention of the documentary Battle for Brooklyn, maintains an overall narrative of triumph: the fact that an arena's coming. After all, the photos all illustrate construction, not community impact.

My criticisms include:

  • the suggestion that only "opponents" should care about the public interest
  • the downplaying of the significance of last week's court decision
  • the Times's acceptance of undocumented claims regarding naming rights
  • the Times's portrayal of Forest City Ratner's response to the rat problem
  • the Times's unquestioning description of the developer's use of the EB-5 program
  • the calculation of construction jobs
  • the downplaying of the value of the documentary Battle for Brooklyn
  • the shorthand description of Daniel Goldstein's settlement

article

Posted by eric at 9:21 AM

Rats on the run at Atlantic Yards?

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

Rat-plagued residents of Prospect Heights will get relief from the rodent infestation caused by the Atlantic Yards project — courtesy of the developer himself.

Bruce Ratner’s company announced last week that it would reimburse residents for rat-proof garbage cans in response to criticism from neighbors who claim that construction of the Barclays Center arena has spawned a booming, out-of-control rodent population that is feasting on unprotected sidewalk trash.

“It’s a good step, but it’s one piece of the puzzle,” said Peter Krashes, president of the Dean Street Block Association.
...

But Tracy Collins, who lives on Dean Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues, said he’s worried that the problem will return once the Barclays Center starts welcoming throngs of basketball fans — and the litter they leave behind.

“It’s going to last for who knows how long,” he said.

article

Posted by eric at 9:17 AM

Barclays Tours Intended to Amaze

NetsDaily

The Nets fan site wallows in its warped triumphalism.

In the latest tour of Barclays Center, Bruce Ratner tells the Times, "Sometimes I look at it and I am amazed we all got there." That is of course the point of the tours that are now weekly or even more frequent. Despite impediments, and the Times lists them all, there is now evidence, in bright orange hues, that it's all very real, amazing actually.

The arena' critics can complain about the dust or the "rat tsunami" or the illegal parking or revel in their (limited) court victory last week, of which the Times takes its first notice. Doesn't matter much.

link

NoLandGrab: "Amazing?" It's a basketball arena. That's turning your neighborhood upside down. But at least fan-bloggers are happy.

Posted by eric at 9:09 AM

July 18, 2011

After Years of Delays, Atlantic Yards Arena Begins Taking Shape

The New York Times
by Liz Robbins

While a few days late, The Times gets around to reporting on last week's Atlantic Yards court decision (and much more), and it's one of the paper's better efforts in covering the project. And in one great bit of irony, they link to Atlantic Yards Report's (née TimesRatnerReport) coverage of legal developments.

Steel beams arc high into the Brooklyn sky, flanked by five cranes that rise from a deep, divisive hole in the ground. Sections of prefabricated concrete seat platforms and concourses — the guts of every sports arena since Roman times — are now in place.

Trucks rumble through the hot, dusty corner of the 22-acre site known as Atlantic Yards. There, shoehorned into one of the busiest intersections in Brooklyn, the arena for the New Jersey Nets is finally taking shape.

After eight years of delays — involving eminent domain lawsuits, neighborhood protests, financial setbacks, the removal of its world-renowned architect to cut costs and the enlisting of a Russian oligarch to cover them — the arena, the site’s first building out of 17, is on track to open in September 2012.

“Sometimes I look at it and I am amazed we all got there,” Bruce C. Ratner, the chairman and chief executive of Forest City Ratner Companies, the project's developer, said last week after part of the roof truss was installed. “It was a long haul.”

The arena, however, is the only building with a definite debut date. And the fights that have surrounded the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project from the beginning are far from over, with the rising colossus (and what is yet unseen) giving opponents fresh reason to complain.

The arena’s construction spills over onto the main thoroughfares of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, snarling traffic and sending rats scurrying onto sidewalks. Trucks are kicking up dust when they exit, and some construction workers have been parking their cars illegally in the neighborhood.

At least one bar has received a liquor license in anticipation of the arena’s opening, and neighbors are already fearing the late-night noise and clientele on game nights.

Meanwhile, a new documentary featuring the opposition to the project, “Battle for Brooklyn,” has galvanized some advocates again, lending a national focus to their cause. They are quick to point out that while moderately priced housing and jobs for Brooklyn residents were the hallmarks of the Atlantic Yards promise, the first has not happened, and the second has been slow to come.

Last week, a justice in State Supreme Court ruled in favor of these opposition groups, ordering the state body that oversees the project to conduct another environmental review in light of the delays.

article

Related coverage...

Josh Blackman's Blog, “Sometimes I look at it and I am amazed we all got there. It was a long haul.”

Bruce Ratner makes me sick. This Times piece on the construction of Atlantic Yards makes only fleeting references to the eminent domain battles used to seize property in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards...

Posted by eric at 7:24 PM

Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet focuses on rats; FCRC commits to providing vouchers to residents for garbage cans

Atlantic Yards Watch

Speaking of community complaints...

The Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet Thursday, July 14th was largely dedicated to the rodent problem in the vicinity of the project. At the meeting Forest City Ratner committed to providing community residents a voucher to get a free garbage can.

More details of the program, including the type of can and the specific area the program will be available, will be made public in a week or so.

In addition, at the instigation of Council Member Letitia James, the NYC Department of Health, the NYC Department of Sanitation and ESDC Project Director Arana Hankin are working together to identify a strategy to address the full range of problems in and around the project site.

link

Posted by eric at 7:16 PM

From the latest Construction Alert: more late shifts (and a possible overnight one); new dispatch center, dust control seem responses to documented complaints for trucks

Atlantic Yards Report

The latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 7/18/11 and embedded below, contains several things worth noting, including mention of a possible third (overnight) shift at the arena site, plus two mitigation measures that seem to be responding to recently documented community complaints.

article

Posted by eric at 7:12 PM

Atlantic Yards Twist: Judge Agrees State Agency Catered To Developer Forest City Ratner

The Huffington Post
by Norman Oder

The Atlantic Yards Report über-blogger pens a lengthy analysis of last week's court decision for The Huffington Post.

The local press recently applied team coverage to the slaying of an eight-year-old Hasidic boy in Brooklyn and the perjury trial of pitcher Roger Clemens, but an important court ruling regarding the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn received either minor mention or -- in the case of the New York Times and the New York Daily News -- a complete blackout.

That's a shame, because the decision confirms what many Atlantic Yards opponents, and even some more neutral observers, have long believed: the New York State agency in charge of the arena-cum-skyscrapers project has bent over backwards to accommodate developer Forest City Ratner.

And that message, also contained in the new documentary Battle for Brooklyn, suggests the much-touted move of the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn will be forever tainted.

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Posted by eric at 7:00 PM

Another reason why the Daily News and Times should have covered the lawsuit: it (again) demolishes Ratner's claims of continuous legal victories

Atlantic Yards Report

Perhaps the simplest reason, among many, for the New York Daily News and New York Times to cover the latest Atlantic Yards legal decision, is that the reportage serves to rebut Forest City Ratner's recurring, but long incorrect, claim that the project has continuously prevailed in court.

(A more complex reason would be that, however the decision fails to slow ongoing construction, it represents a rare case in which a New York State judge overrules a decision by a government agency, declaring that it does not pass the minimal "rational" basis test.)

A spoon-fed reporter

As more reporters new to the Atlantic Yards controversy write about it, they are vulnerable--especially if lazy and/or pressed for time--to simply regurgitating the developer's spin.

"[Bruce] Ratner was a perfect 35-for-35 in judicial decisions throughout the eight-year process," wrote New York Daily News Sports Writer Stefan Bondy in his 6/11/11 article headlined Bruce Ratner finds vindication as Nets' new digs take shape in Brooklyn, but residents still angry.

Except he wasn't a "perfect 35-for-35." It's doubtful there were 35 decisions and Ratner had already lost a few, including a decision last November in which state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman slammed the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) for "yet another failure of transparency."

A record of reliance on Ratner

Press outlets and even government officials have regularly reported the Ratner claims and on 5/21/08, Lumi Rolley of No Land Grab complied a scorecard that came out 11-3 in favor of Ratner, not 18-0, as was claimed by Bruce Ratner, repeated by the ESDC's Avi Schick, and cited by the New York Times (18 rulings "in Mr. Ratner's favor").

On 2/26/09, the Times quoted an "elated" Ratner as saying, “Once again the courts have decided in favor of Atlantic Yards." On 11/25/09, the New York Post reported that Forest City Ratner bragged that the court record was 24-0.

The Times's DealBook blog on 12/17/09 reported that "Atlantic Yards has won a string of court victories." On 3/1/10, the Times cited "a long line of legal victories."

The truth is a little more complex.

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Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

An unsigned defense of Yormark (and criticism of me) in Arena Digest

Atlantic Yards Report

An unsigned 7/17/11 article in Arena Digest, Debate continues over new Nets arena, is surely written (or influenced) by the pseudonymous NetIncome (aka Bobbo), the dyspeptic and prolific main contributor to NetsDaily.

The article purports to be a summary but bears a project-affectionate slant, with a few digs at me.

A "matter of process"

It begins:

The new Brooklyn arena for the relocating New Jersey Nets (NBA) continues to generate controversy; community activists opposing Atlantic Yards won a court decision but failed to persuade a judge to stop construction on Barclays Center.

...However, she did not halt construction on the first phase of the project, nor did she halt progress on the second phase, which will include surface parking and more.

...really the win in court last week was more a matter of process being reviewed than any decision on the merits of the project.

Winning the court decision is pretty significant without having to stop arena construction, which was unlikely. Surface parking is part of Phase 1.

And the case was never about the merits of the project, it was about whether the environmental review was sufficient. The judge said it wasn't--a highly unusual intervention.

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Related coverage...

Arena Digest, Debate continues over new Nets arena

NoLandGrab: "Net Bobbo's" lack of transparency is a perfect metaphor for the lack of transparency in the Atlantic Yards backroom boondoggle.

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

Looking at the Crain's coverage of Atlantic Yards economic benefits: another bad example of "he said, she said" journalism

Atlantic Yards Report

As with The Real Deal's remarkable puff piece on Bruce Ratner, published last May, yesterday's article in Crain New York Business, Barclays Center takes shape at Atlantic Yards: Eight years after it was proposed, the arena is selling tickets. presents 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."'

The Crain's article, which I addressed in full yesterday, is a particularly bad example of that, since it positions the "he said, she said" claims about economic benefits in a rather illogical manner.

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Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

Mayor Still Looks to Building and Zoning to Ease Housing Crunch

Gotham Gazette
by Tom Angotti

Albany last month finally found a way to continue rent regulations in the city. But the new regulations barely address the bigger issues facing housing in the city -- long-term affordability for most tenants and homeowners.

The city’s long-term sustainability plan, PlaNYC2030, does acknowledge that challenge. And in its update released earlier this year, the Bloomberg administration takes these efforts a bit further, acknowledging the importance of saving housing and the neighborhoods where people live. However, that too falls short because the mayor still puts the priority on zoning to promote new housing and give short shrift to preserving our neighborhoods.
...

Some projects , including Hunters Point, define affordable by using the official area median income, which is almost twice as high as the median in New York City. Thus, most people with low incomes will not be able to afford these homes. Another large project slated for affordable housing, Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, has yielded only a basketball arena after some eight years of planning.

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Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

Another reason to distrust the New York Daily News's editorial today: a dishonest photo

Atlantic Yards Report

Today's Daily News editorial, which I dissected here, was accompanied by a photo of two thirds of the railyard--in other words, perhaps a quarter of the overall Atlantic Yards site.

The other part of the arena--not stadium, as Borough President Marty Markowitz would remind people, is being built on pieces of residential/commercial Pacific and Dean Streets.

In other words, the photo is as dishonest as the editorial.

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Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

Unwilling Partners?

Some merchants angry at growth of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

City Hall News
by Stephen Witt

A nonprofit created by the Bloomberg administration to redevelop downtown Brooklyn is poised to take over an older group that has served a section of the area for years—sparking fears that large developers will have a greater voice there than small businesses.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a local development organization formed five years ago by then Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, soon expects to operate the MetroTech Business Improvement District, just as it operates two other nearby BIDs.
...

But merchants note there is only one shopkeeper on the partnership’s board—Bridge Street Cleaners and Tailors owner Victoria Aviles—and say the partnership’s loyalty remains with developers like Bruce Ratner and Joshua Muss, who sit on its board and pay $450,000 in contributions.

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NoLandGrab: Former Courier-Life reporter Stephen Witt, in a refreshing departure from his past Atlantic Yards coverage, plays it straight for a change.

Posted by eric at 9:36 AM

News Flash: Daily News Editorialists are Willfully Ignorant and Create Own Atlantic Yards Reality

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

What a surprise: after the news side of the paper ignored last week's big legal victory for the community against Atlantic Yards the Daily "News" editorialists continue to ignore reality and facts in their effort to carry water for Mort Zuckerman's cohorts in the real estate lobby—Forest City Ratner.

Norman Oder takes a look at their self-delusional drivel...

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Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

July 17, 2011

Crain's article on arena calls documentary "latest insult," relies on ever-spinning Yormark as main source

Atlantic Yards Report

In Crain's New York Business today, Barclays Center takes shape at Atlantic Yards: Eight years after it was proposed, the arena is selling tickets. is full of holes, but at least makes a token effort to admit a contrary view.

"Latest insult"

The article begins:

Rising at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, the new home of the New Jersey Nets has survived lawsuits, neighborhood protests and a severe recession. The latest insult is called The Battle for Brooklyn, a documentary critical of the project that opened recently to favorable reviews.

Why exactly is the film, called Battle for Brooklyn (no "The") an "insult"? Couldn't it be a complicating factor in the heroic narrative preferred by Crain's and the New York Daily News?

Meeting preliminary goals

The article continues:

But eight years after developer Bruce Ratner proposed bringing the Nets to the borough as the anchor of the vast Atlantic Yards redevelopment, executives at the $1 billion Barclays Center have turned their attention to the next stage: making sure it turns a profit.

Despite competition from Madison Square Garden, which is being overhauled, and other arenas like the new Prudential Center in Newark, the Barclays Center is having no trouble meeting its preliminary goals, according to Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark.

Images of the recently completed designs for corporate suites and public areas have just gone on display in the center's midtown showroom as sales efforts ramp up in advance of a September 2012 opening. The 18,000-seat arena has sold close to half of its 100 corporate suites.

If they've sold close to half of the suites, let's say the number is 47.

That's 12 more than one year ago, when the total was 35--not bad, but hardly out of the woods.

But we don't know what those goals were, and how they've changed. After all, as of three years ago, there were supposed to be 130 suites, not 100.

Some people get tired of the Yormark half-truths, but if you click on the link below, you'll see that Norman Oder is is on the case to dissect each and every distortion.

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Posted by steve at 4:53 PM

Barclays Center takes shape at Atlantic Yards

Crain's New York Business

You know there's something wrong when a documentary that exposes government hypocrisy in awarding a no-bid project to a politically-connected developer is an "insult."

Rising at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, the new home of the New Jersey Nets has survived lawsuits, neighborhood protests and a severe recession. The latest insult is called The Battle for Brooklyn, a documentary critical of the project that opened recently to favorable reviews.

And you know a reporter is in trouble when he main source of AY info is Brett Yormark. (Weasel words are highlighted.)

Images of the recently completed designs for corporate suites and public areas have just gone on display in the center's midtown showroom as sales efforts ramp up in advance of a September 2012 opening. The 18,000-seat arena has sold close to half of its 100 corporate suites.

How close to half?

It also has 163 events booked for the first year, including 44 Nets games. Mr. Yormark said he aims to have more than 220 events in total.

Additionally, sales of the 4,400 premium season tickets, which top out at $1,500 a game, have “exceeded” expectations, Mr. Yormark said, though he declined to give an exact figure.

Anyone who only "aims" for a number, and "declines to give exact figures" is probably not you best source for a news story.

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Posted by steve at 4:39 PM

Flagrantly ignorant, Daily News calls arena rising "huge plus for an underused neighborhood," ignores latest legal decision

Atlantic Yards

It's no surprise that the New York Daily News, which has cheerleaded at every step for the Atlantic Yards project, would run yet another supportive editorial, today headlined The new Nets' arena rising in Brooklyn is shaping up as a huge plus for an underused neighborhood.

And it's no surprise that that the editorial would be flagrantly ignorant. Indeed, while it would be more defensible to argue that the arena might be, overall, good for Brooklyn--though that would require analysis of costs and benefits--it's "brutally weird" to call it a plus for a neighborhood that, according to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), will experience "significant adverse impacts."

Click on the link to get the complete picture of how truly stupid today's Daily News edtiorial is.

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Posted by steve at 4:35 PM

The new Nets' arena rising in Brooklyn is shaping up as a huge plus for an underused neighborhood

Daily News

Somewhere, on some planet in another dimension, the fight over Atlantic Yards never happened. Nobody questioned the threat eminent domain used to empty a neighborhood. Nobody ever questioned why public money was being spent on an arena that would never return the monies spent and nobody questioned what benefits would come from the project and when. This editorial was written on that planet.

Designed so that half is below ground level and half above, the building will fit seamlessly into the bustle of the surrounding area, home to the nearby Atlantic Terminal Mall and Atlantic Center. It will neither clog the downtown Brooklyn commercial center to the north nor threaten the quality of life in residential communities to the south.

And, as a huge plus, the arena sits beside the convergence of nine subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road. A couple more subway lines and myriad buses ply routes within a few blocks.

To look at it is, again, to rue the wrongheadedness of the anti-development forces that delayed builder Bruce Ratner's plans for the arena, plus thousands of units of housing, through unsuccessful lawsuit after unsuccessful lawsuit after unsuccessful lawsuit.

Oh yeah -- those thousands of units of housing that have yet to even be designed, never mind delivered. And there's that pesky lawsuit that was successful because the ESDC said the project would be built in 10 years but they really knew it would take 25. Give us a call when the benefits arrive, if anybody lives long enough to see them.

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Posted by steve at 4:25 PM

July 16, 2011

No coverage of Atlantic Yards ruling in the Times; on AY, have they done "just enough to avoid being accused of looking the other way"?

Atlantic Yards Report

I'm still surprised that the New York Times, which last November belatedly covered (Judge Rebukes State Agency Over Atlantic Yards Timetable, online only) the precursor decision in the ongoing lawsuit, hasn't covered the more dramatic next step, in which Justice Marcy Friedman further rebuked the agency and ordered a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

Meanwhile, the Metro pages of today's print Times contain an article about performing the cancan on Bastille Day, another about a missing historic street sign in Jackson Heights, and a four-reporter investigation into Dominique Strauss-Kahn's weekend concert-going in the Berkshires.

Commenting on the Wall Street Journal's coverage of its parent company's scandal in the U.K., Times columnist Joe Nocera today observes that "The Journal did just enough to avoid being accused of looking the other way."

Couldn't that observation be applied to the Times's coverage of Atlantic Yards, being developed by Forest City Ratner, which partnered with the New York Times Company on the Times Tower?

ilnk

Posted by steve at 5:13 PM

Former FCR executive Stuckey: "A really bad decision that rewards naysayers for delays. A bad day for affordable housing."

Atlantic Yards Report

He's supposed to be an academic expert, but former Forest City Ratner executive Jim Stuckey, Divisional Dean, NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate, and Divisional Dean, NYU SCPS Division of Programs in Business, has a not-so-supportable opinion about the July 13 decision ordering a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the second phase of Atlantic Yards.

Yesterday, he offered a tweet that distilled the developer's talking/spinning points to their essence:

...

How exactly is this a "really bad decision"? It's highly unusual for a judge to declare that a state agency's decision doesn't meet the minimal "rational basis" test.

Why are the petitioners "naysayers"? Couldn't they simply be citizens trying to vindicate their rights, trying to hold a not-so-accountable government agency to the law? If they were merely naysayers, would they have pursued such detailed and complicated arguments? Wouldn't it be more accurate to dismiss many Forest City Ratner supporters as unquestioning "yea-sayers"?

How does it reward "naysayers for delays"? Actually, it does the opposite. It doesn't delay a thing, given that Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman chose not to stay construction of Phase 1, declaring it was too far along.

In fact, it rewards the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner for delays. The agency was supposed to release the Development Agreement--which gives the developer 25 years to complete the project, rather than the official ten years--in early January 2010. It did not do so until later in the month, a week after the oral argument in the first iteration of this case. Friedman, later blaming a "misapprehension," admitted the document into evidence, and used it as the basis for her decision--16 months after her initial decision.

How is it a "bad day for affordable housing"? Forest City Ratner can and must build affordable housing in Phase 1 of the project, and that hasn't been delayed. However, the developer has repeatedly postponed its plans for the first tower and the Development Agreement allows an Affordable Housing Subsidy Unavailability to be claimed for up to eight one-year periods for each Phase 1 building.

The "bad day for affordable housing" happened when his former employer negotiated a Development Agreement that gave them 25 years to finish the project and the capacity to delay each individual building.

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NoLandGrab: A prediction of the tweet in the headline of this post may be found at: Proverbs 26:11

Posted by steve at 5:00 PM

Ratner gets sports magazine to agree that latest version of arena may be country's best

Atlantic Yards Report

The arena promotion continues. SportsPro Magazine, in its July 2011 The Next special report on stadiums & venues, declares the Barclays Center one of the top ten over the next decade.

“I honestly believe,” says New Jersey Nets minority owner Bruce Ratner, “that in America we do sometimes build an arena with some semblance of architectural taste, and architecturally it’s great.”

Few would disagree with such an appraisal of the forthcoming Barclays Center, future home of the Brooklyn Nets. Its designers at the award-winning SHoP architecture firm have presented what might be the most ambitious and aesthetically pleasing indoor arena ever constructed in the United States. Their assured touch, says Ratner, is apparent “in and out” of the venue.

Except that's what Ratner would have said about the original design by Frank Gehry, whom he once said "is for me an idol."

As noted, the arena itself is by Ellerbe Becket, and thus a cousin to that firm's many NBA arenas, such as the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The "facade" is by SHoP.

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Posted by steve at 4:57 PM

AY down the memory hole: two reports that SHoP is the designer of the Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

From the New York Daily News, 7/15/11, East River Waterfront Esplanade opens in style:

[City Planning Commission Chairperson Amanda] Burden selected a plan from SHoP Architects, the New York-based studio known as the architects of the Barclays arena in Brooklyn.

From SportsPro Magazine, The Next Generation, July 2011:

Few would disagree with such an appraisal of the forthcoming Barclays Center, future home of the Brooklyn Nets. Its designers at the award-winning SHoP architecture firm have presented what might be the most ambitious and aesthetically pleasing indoor arena ever constructed in the United States.

As No Land Grab's Eric McClure pointed out, "Uh, didn't Ellerbe Becket design the inside of the arena?"

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Posted by steve at 4:55 PM

Barclays Center marches on

Meadowlands Matters

John Brennan, who has closely covered the AY story for The Record in New Jersey, gives his assessment of this week's legal decision .

When is a legal victory not a legal victory here on Meadowlands Matters?

When a New York court rules that a New York state agency erred in its conclusions regarding environmental impact analysis of the Atlantic Yards project – but declines to stop construction on the Nets’ $1 billion Barclays Center home at the site.

...

On Wednesday, a state Supreme Court Justice took the rare step of overturning a decision by a state agency – in this case, the Empire State Development Corp., which oversees the Atlantic Yards plan.

In short, the judge found that the use of a 10-year timetable for environmental impact was incorrect because even the ESDC’s own paperwork contemplates a 25-year timeline – if not longer.

...

The matter now winds up to some extent in new Governor Andrew Cuomo’s hands. It’s conceivable that the project’s entire scope could be changed dramatically, and more environmental studies likely will have to be done.

But from the Meadowlands Matters frame of mind, what’s most relevant is this: There is no stopping the Barclays Center from being built, not even a judge unhappy with the agency that has jurisdiction over it.

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Posted by steve at 4:42 PM

Court Says ESDC Has to Take Another Look: More headlines

New York Post, Judge: Not so fast, Atlantic Yards
By Rich Calder

Construction of the Nets' new Brooklyn arena may be on pace to be completed next year, but a state judge's ruling yesterday puts much of the rest of the embattled $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in further jeopardy.

Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman ruled the Empire State Development Corp. illegally approved changes to the Prospect Heights project in 2009 by relying on an out-of-date, pie-in-the-sky 10-year timeline for the plan, which also includes 16 residential and office towers.

Instead, the effects of a project that could take 25 years to build should have been considered, she said.

Friedman isn't requiring developer Bruce Ratner to halt construction on the arena, which will house the NBA team, or the rest of his project's long-delayed first phase. But she did order the corporation to conduct a new environmental review for the project's larger second phase, which includes 11 of the residential towers -- a move that could set it back many more years.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Gets (Probably) Meaningless Slap on the Wrist

It's a little late, but a New York Supreme Court judge has ruled that the Empire State Development Corporation should have given the Atlantic Yards project a more thorough environmental review before approving it in 2009. Oops. So what does the rebuke mean for the future of Atlantic Yards? Not much! Or a lot, depending on who you ask. The Journal notes that the judge won't be ordering a construction halt on Atlantic Yards' first phase, which includes the Nets arena, to be finished next year, and four towers. But the judge did request a new environmental review for the project's second phase, and the Post predicts this could set that phase back significantly. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has taken the opportunity to urge Governor Cuomo for a "complete reassessment" of the project. Doesn't hurt to try, right?

Courthouse News Service, Court Orders New Study of Atlantic Yards Project
By ADAM KLASFELD

The agency supervising New York's controversial Atlantic Yards project must reevaluate how extensive delays in the second phase of enormous development will affect the surrounding communities, a state court judge ruled.

The results of the supplemental study may unravel plans to build more than two-thirds of the project's high-rise buildings, critics of the project say.

...

Established in 2004, the nonprofit Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has been leading 26 community and neighborhood groups in a lawsuit against the developers and state agencies behind Atlantic Yards.

Citing the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the organization says that the project's skyscrapers will cover blot out the sun from nearby neighborhoods, flood communities with game-time traffic surges and drive out local residents in a process they describe as "instant gentrification."

Although the judge did not grant all of the demands sought by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the organization said in a statement that it was "very pleased" with the ruling.

"DDDB has always argued that the claimed benefits were illusory and would never occur and the community would be burdened by a poorly conceived project," the organization's legal director Candace Carponter said in a statement. "It is now clear that the timeframes and benefits of the original project were never even remotely feasible."

Posted by steve at 4:39 PM

July 15, 2011

More from the AY District Service Cabinet: fewer on-site workers than in May; MWBE figures but not local ones; parking problems moving toward resolution?

Atlantic Yards Report

While the meeting yesterday of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet--a multi-agency gathering every two months--focused on rats, several other issues were discussed.

They included an update on construction, an update on jobs/contracting, and longstanding--but perhaps ameliorating--problems regarding illegal parking.

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Posted by eric at 12:19 PM

Fighting rat problem around AY site, Forest City agrees to provide garbage cans to residents; experts leave impression problem is more the fault of community than construction, but "it's always interconnected"

Atlantic Yards Report

Attention slovenly residents! The unfailingly benevolent Forest City Ratner is going to buy you new garbage cans.

Bending from its previous posture that it would not take steps to abate the "rat tsunami" beyond the Atlantic Yards construction site, developer Forest City Ratner today announced it would provide vouchers to residents in the neighborhood to ensure they have sturdy garbage cans to contain waste.

The initiative would be part of a multi-faceted program that officials agree is needed to address rats, a program welcomed by City Council Member Letitia James and other community members.
...

Unresolved was the cause of the rat problems. City officials who'd recently done a walk-through of the construction site and surrounding blocks suggested that the latter had far more uncovered garbage that would attract rats--essentially leaving the impression it was more the fault of the community than of Forest City Ratner.

During the meeting, James honed in on the issue: "As a result of construction and demolition, have their nests been sufficiently disturbed they left the location?"

"It's a very good question," responded Bob Corrigan, an internationally renowned rodentologist who works for the city. He said there was no clear answer, but the results had to be examined on a case by case basis. Construction work is known to disperse rats, but doesn't necessarily do so. "Is it possible? Yes."

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NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure this is the first time the phrase "internationally renowned rodentologist" has appeared on this site.

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

‘Battle for Brooklyn’ Continues To Gather National Attention

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

As well it should.

The film Battle for Brooklyn continues to attract national attention.

Controversial documentary filmmaker and political activist Michael Moore has chosen Battle for Brooklyn for his Traverse City Film Festival in his home state of Michigan. The film will screen at the festival on July 27 and 29.

“We are extremely happy and honored to have Battle for Brooklyn playing with all of the other amazing films at the Traverse City Film Festival,” said co-director Suki Hawley. “Michael Moore’s stamp of approval is very appreciated, and it sends the message that this is a story that’s relevant far beyond Brooklyn and stirring to audiences from all across the map.”
...

After a successful three-week engagement at Cinema Village in Manhattan, the film began a one-week run on July 6 at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema. That engagement has been so successful that the film will screen each Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. for the rest of the summer.

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NoLandGrab: The folks in Michigan know all to well about eminent domain abuse from the infamous case of Poletown.

Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

Brennan Ditches Push for More Atlantic Yards-Area Parking

After plans to draft legislation requiring more on-site arena parking, residents were upset the move would draw more vehicles to the neighborhood.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

After Assemblymember Jim Brennan initially announced that he would introduce legislation to “compel” Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner to provide more on-site parking for the Barclays Center, after coming under fire from constituents and commenters on this site and others, Brennan has ditched any such plans.

“Mr. Brennan believes that the most important matter related to Atlantic Yards at this time is the lawsuit victory regarding the EIS,” said Lorrie Smith, the Legislative Director for Brennan’s office, reffering to Wednesday's decision that the ESDC, which oversees the project, needs to conduct another review of the project plan. “He will be urging ESDC not to appeal, but to perform a meaningful assessment of the area.”
...

“He does not want to leave the impression that he was encouraging automobile traffic to come to the arena. He will now be looking at mass transit alternatives to assist in bringing people to the area,” said Smith.

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Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

A Story about Bruce Ratner

Nets Are Scorching
by Vivek Netrakanti

Bruce Ratner is an infamous name around here. The precursor to Mikhail Prokhorov bought the team with the sole purpose of moving it to Brooklyn; Brooklyn came first, winning came second. However, now that the move to Brooklyn is right around the corner, the Wall Street Journal writes a fantastic recap of what it took to get to this junction. It is appropriately titled “The Great Basketball Swindle.”

Essentially, that’s what Ratner did; he swindled us. Years of mediocre basketball, sold draft picks, and hemorrhaging finances punctuated the Ratner era. While the move to Brooklyn is nice, acquiring good players to support the Big 3 would’ve been even nice, too. In short, Ratner was the worst owner in the NBA during his time with the Nets. Even Donald Sterling was better, in my opinion. Luckily, the Nets now have one of the best in the business.

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NoLandGrab: Spot-on assessment of Mr. Ratner. However, calling newbie owner Mikhail Prokhorov "one of the best in the business" is a wee bit hyperbolic.

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

Supreme Court judge orders new study of Atlantic Yards impact

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

A judge handed Atlantic Yards opponents a minor victory this week, ordering a new environmental review of Bruce Ratner’s $4.9 billion project — but one that is unlikely to halt the development of the under-construction Barclays Center.

On Wednesday, Supreme Court Judge Marcy Friedman ruled that the state acted illegally in 2009 when it approved the plan for the 22-acre Prospect Heights site without assessing the long-term impacts that its 25-year build-out would have on surrounding neighborhoods.
...

Friedman ordered the Empire State Development Corporation to conduct a new environmental study of the post-arena phase of the project, which consists of 11 additional high-rises slated to go up west of Sixth Avenue.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, After calling previous win in timetable case a "meaningless victory," the Brooklyn Paper deems latest decision "minor victory"

My comment on the latest article:

You can call the victory "minor" in the sense that it will have a minor impact on the project under construction. It could have a much larger impact on Phase II.

But it is much more than a minor victory in court, if you consider that judges almost always defer to government agencies, which need merely a "rational" basis for their decisions. The ESDC's ten-year timeline didn't pass that very minimal "rational" basis test.

Why should it have passed that test? After all, the ESDC's own CEO, in April 2009, admitted that Atlantic Yards would take "decades."

In other words, the decision confirms the belief--at least among many opposing the project or watching it closely--that the state has leaned over backward to accommodate the developer, Forest City Ratner.

But wait, there's more...

GlobeSt.com, Court Ruling Puts Part of Atlantic Yards Project on Hold

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn scored a victory in a New York State Supreme Court Tuesday in its fight to force Forest City Ratner Cos. to re-imagine its Atlantic Yards project.
...

Jeff Baker, an attorney for DDDB, tells GlobeSt.com that he hopes the delay will provide time to re-evaluate the project.

“What it means at a minimum is that they have to go back and do a further environmental review and make the necessary findings to go forward with Phase II,” he says. “It’s an opportunity now, with a new administration, to take a fresh look at the project and do a better scale and a better structured development that will redevelop the area but not create a monstrosity or doom it to a protracted, 25 years or more construction schedule.”
...

Candace Carponter, the DDDB legal director, says that she’s not worried about Judge Friedman’s ruling being overturned. “She was very careful in writing this decision to make sure that it was unassailable on appeal,” Carponter says. “I believe that it will not be overturned. I’m not even sure that the ESDC will attempt to appeal it because I think it is such a strong decision.”

WNYC, More Delays Possible for Atlantic Yards

"We're satisfied with this decision," said attorney Jeff Baker who represents the group Develop - Don't Destroy, Brooklyn, which brought the suit. "We wish it had come a bit earlier because it could have stopped the whole project."

Metro Focus, Timeline: Atlantic Yards Grows, Slows in Brooklyn

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

The Next Generation

SportsPro Magazine
by Eoin Connolly

Will the Barclays Center "alter the landscape in more ways than one?" Certainly if you live anywhere near it.

“I honestly believe,” says New Jersey Nets minority owner Bruce Ratner, “that in America we do sometimes build an arena with some semblance of architectural taste, and architecturally it’s great.”

Watch out whenever Bruce begins a sentence with "I honestly believe."

Few would disagree with such an appraisal of the forthcoming Barclays Center, future home of the Brooklyn Nets. Its designers at the award-winning SHoP architecture firm have presented what might be the most ambitious and aesthetically pleasing indoor arena ever constructed in the United States. Their assured touch, says Ratner, is apparent “in and out” of the venue.

article (page 77) / PDF version

NoLandGrab: Uh, didn't Ellerbe Becket design the inside of the arena?

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

Josh Mandel, (R-OH) U.S. senate candidate not so *golden*

Unified Patriots

Apparently, political candidates in Ohio taking campaign contributions from Ratners is a no-no for Tea Partiers, 'cause where there're Ratners, there's ACORN. In fact, it's as bad as clapping one's hands for Al Gore. If they only knew the half of Forest City's subsidy-grubbing ways.

Angel-faced and attractive Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel has an impressive resume as far as accomplishments in the political arena. At least on the surface. But I’ve discovered Mandel has a lot of skeletons in his closet.
...

Although I can’t confirm by a marriage certificate, I’ve been told by various sources that Mandel is married to a Ratner. If this is indeed correct it would certainly explain his amazing fundraising and the huge enterprise that must be behind this 33 year old gentleman. Albert Ratner, one of the patriarchs of Forest City Ratner did indeed donate $17,000 to Mandel in 2008.

The ties to the Ratners and Mandels also run deep. The Mandels are wealthy and into the casino business.

link

NoLandGrab: Hey, Tea Partiers, did you know the Ratners prefer to gamble with the taxpayers' money?

Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

July 14, 2011

Hakeem Jeffries breaks it down: court decision means ESDC has done the developer's bidding, illustrates need for Atlantic Yards governance

Atlantic Yards Report

I asked Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, sponsor of governance legislation that has passed the Assembly but still waiting in the Senate, if he had any comment on the court decision yesterday ordering the Empire State Development Corporation to conduct an additional environmental review of the Atlantic Yards project.

"The court decision further illustrates the need for the Atlantic Yards governance legislation, given the mounting evidence that ESDC has repeatedly failed to protect the public interest in this project in order to do the developer's bidding," he stated.

link

NoLandGrab: That's all well and good, but other than sponsoring this not terribly toothy legislation, has Hakeem ever really done anything to fight Atlantic Yards? Better governance of a total disaster doesn't really solve the basic problem.

Posted by eric at 3:25 PM

Can sidewalks on residential Dean Street handle (some of) 3000 pedestrians coming from arena parking lot? "Sidewalks are expected to be sufficient," asserts ESDC

Atlantic Yards Report

The Empire State Development Corporation has posted [PDF] (also embedded below) 68 questions and responses from the 6/14/11 public meeting on traffic issues.

Over the next few days, I'm going to highlight some of the issues raised.

Sidewalks on Dean

This one jumped out:

31. Are sidewalks on Dean between 6th and Carlton sufficient to handle crowds coming from parking lot?

Pedestrians will use Pacific Street, as well as Dean Street. Sidewalks are expected to be sufficient.

Unlike in the rest of the document, the ESDC did not fall back on statements like "As disclosed in the FEIS [Final Environmental Impact Statement]," "The FEIS did not recommend," or "The FEIS did not assume."

Why? Because they never studied it.

Dean Street, not Pacific

Also note that Dean Street, not Pacific, has been considered the prime route, since there is an arena entrance on Dean Street, but not one on Pacific Street.

article

Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

Looking at Friedman's ruling: no coverage in the Times or Daily News, no press mentions of delay in consideration of the Development Agreement

Atlantic Yards Report

So how big news was a judge's decision yesterday ordering a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Phase II of the Atlantic Yards project and criticizing the state agency for "arbitrary and capricious" reliance on a not-believable ten-year buildout?

Judging by the coverage, only moderate. The Wall Street Journal and New York Post, among others, covered the story.

The New York Times and New York Daily News, pouring resources into the horrible killing of an eight-year-old Brooklyn boy, passed on the story.

Will they get to it today? The Times's commercial real estate reporter, Charles Bagli, is on leave, and the Brooklyn bureau is tiny. The Daily News's main reporter on Atlantic Yards, Erin Durkin, had three bylines in today's paper, all worthy stories: on Broadway Triangle in Williamsburg, Marty Markowitz's concert series, and St. Ann's Warehouse's bid for the Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The New York Observer, its main Atlantic Yards reporter on vacation, missed the story. The Brooklyn Paper hasn't covered the story yet, either.

The missing history

And almost nobody, it seems, remembers the withheld Development Agreement--crucial, as I wrote yesterday, to the case.

article

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

More coverage of yesterday's Atlantic Yards court decision

From the department of strange headlines:

NY1, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Takes A Stand Against Atlantic Yards Project

About damned time!

AP via WCAX.com, NY Atlantic Yards must undergo further review

A judge says Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards development project must undergo further environmental review.

A judge ruled Wednesday that the Empire State Development Corp. erred in granting approval to developer Bruce Ratner's basketball arena and housing project by not first conducting a thorough environmental review.

Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

New Mayoral candidate Tom Allon, of Manhattan Media, and his ill-fated work for Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Standard "publication"

Atlantic Yards Report

The newest 2013 mayoral candidate is another rich media mogul — this one a man infamous for publishing a fake Atlantic Yards newspaper.

Tom Allon, President/CEO of Manhattan Media is a (mini)mogul running for Mayor in a self-professed Bloombergian mode, and his campaign so far has drawn skepticism mainly because of his longshot status.

But if Allon gets serious attention, he should be questioned about his company's ill-fated, un-journalistic alliance with Forest City Ratner on the promotional Brooklyn Standard "publication."

The "publication" lasted all of two issues in 2005, folding after ridicule in the Times (headline: O.K., the Whole Paper Is Basically an Ad) and a mini-scandal over putting a contributor's byline on articles he didn't write. (Allon promised a retraction in the next issue, but no issue ever emerged.)

"I encourage our journalists to cover the Mayoral race, as well as politics in general, with neither fear nor favor," Allon said in a letter this month to staffers, according to the Observer. "I am a journalist first, and would have it no other way."

He sure wasn't a journalist first back in 2005, appearing on the Brooklyn Standard masthead below two Forest City Ratner "editors in chief."

article

Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

A look at the May 19 Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet presentation by the ESDC's mitigation monitor, HDR

Atlantic Yards Report

Before today's Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, here's a look at the presentation made by HDR, the mitigation monitor contracted by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), that was presented at the last meeting, on 5/19/11.

One notable factoid: "On-site a minimum of once a week."

That's not insignificant, but it also cannot mean blanket oversight, which is why the incident reports at Atlantic Yards Watch--which extends beyond the site--serve as a partial extension.

link

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

MUST SEE: BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN

F**ked in Park Slope

After eight years of filming over 500 hours of footage, filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky have chronicled the ultimate "If you see something, say something" in their rightfully raved about film, BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN.

When the ATLANTIC YARDS PROJECT was announced back in 2003, there were mixed emotions about the proposed 16 skyscrapers and a large sports arena that many of us have now COME TO LOATHE.
...

I attended a screening of this film last week and was impressed at how well it was paced and edited, especially when considering the painstaking task of condensing seven years and 500 hours of material into a cohesive 93 minute film. It played out like a Hollywood drama.
...

Battle For Brooklyn is currently playing at BROOKLYN HEIGHTS CINEMA.

article

Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Mayor Bloomberg’s New York: A Model or Cautionary Tale?

BeyondChron
by Randy Shaw

Bloomberg’s approach to governance offers a complex case that requires a particularly nuanced and fact-driven analysis. Julian Brash’s new book, Bloomberg’s New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City, addresses some components of the mayor’s leadership strategy, particularly emphasizing his effort to run the city like a private corporation.
...

The use of Hudson Yards as the chief case study is also questionable because it involved a unique political obstacle, needing and ultimately failing to gain the support of state Assemblymember Sheldon Silver.

Brash had many better examples available to prove his thesis about Bloomberg’s autocratic and often elite-driven approach to governance, including Bloomberg’s support for the outrageous Atlantic Yards land grab in Brooklyn. That project had all of the features Brash found compelling in the Hudson yards struggle, including a new stadium as a “front” for a massive new office development scheme. The difference is that Silver or any other single state official lacked the power to kill Atlantic Yards, whose construction reflects how Bloomberg has almost always gotten his way.

article

NoLandGrab: Actually, Silver (or former State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, or any number of Governors), could have killed Atlantic Yards — had they wanted to.

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

'Unanswered questions' surrounding ACORN

OneNewsNow
by Russ Jones

Matthew Vadum, senior editor at the Capitol Research Center, says ACORN has filed Chapter Seven bankruptcy, meaning the organization will shut down and have to account for how its funds were spent.

"They are also doing it so they will not have to pay back the $1 million they borrowed from Forest City Ratner, [a New York realty company]. They took money to support the Atlantic yards land grab there in New York, [and] they're going to build a big complex and a stadium for the Mets."

article

NoLandGrab: The Mets? We might have to rethink our opposition.

And by the way, no one ever really expected that ACORN would have to pay back the, ahem, "loan."

Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

July 13, 2011

Court Says State Erred in Ratner Plan Review

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

New York state's development agency erred in granting a 2009 approval to developer Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards basketball arena and housing project by not first conducting a thorough environmental review, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The ruling is a rebuke to the agency, the Empire State Development Corp., which approved the use of eminent domain to make way for the controversial Brooklyn development in 2006. The agency also re-approved a slowed-down version of the project after Mr. Ratner renegotiated the deal in 2009.

article

Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Judge Calls for Additional Review of Atlantic Yards Project

“While we disagree with the decision,“ said Joe DePlasco, a spokesperson for the developer, “it does not stop us from continuing work on the project and will not impact our current construction schedule. The arena is scheduled to open, as planned, in September, 2012 and we are working aggressively to start the residential portion of the project.”

NoLandGrab: If by "working aggressively" DePlasco means "doing absolutely nothing," then, yes, by all means, they're "working aggressively" [ ;-) ;-)] on the residential portion of the project.

Gothamist, Judge Orders Review Of Atlantic Yards Phase II

Judge Friedman ruled that the "ESDC's use of the 10 year build date in approving the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) lacked a rational basis and was arbitrary and capricious," and that the ESDC failed to evaluate the impact of extensive delays for Phase II of the project. Phase I is already underway and involves the construction of a big basketball arena and beautiful sprawling parking lots. Phase II consists of the mixed-use residential and retail buildings with the low-income housing developer Bruce Ratner used to sugarcoat the project.

NY Post, Judge rips ESDC over Atlantic Yards, orders review of project’s second phase

Besides the arena, the rest of Atlantic Yards is on hold due to insuccifient financing, so critics say the judge’s decision could be a nail in the coffin for Ratner completing the project.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, The Looooong Back Story on Today's Court Ruling on Ratner's Atlantic Yards

Today's NY State Supreme Court ruling against the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner, condemning them for their irrational review of the Atlantic Yards project and ordering the state agency to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Phase II of the project has a loooooong and winding backstory that couldn't possibly be captured in soundbites, press releases or print stories (or most blogs for that matter).

So leave it to Norman Oder, on his Atlantic Yards Report, to give the ins and outs of the sad history of this case which came down against the powerbrokers today.

About.com (Brooklyn, NY), Atlantic Yards: David Just Got Goliath (well, temporarily)

Synchronicity is a funny thing; I was just about to write a blog item urging everyone to go to the Brooklyn Heights Cinema to catch the last few showings of a movie about the Atlantic Yards debacle, called Battle for Brooklyn (not to be confused with the actual Revolutionary War Battle of Brooklyn). When...pop!... into my email falls a press release so excited it nearly jumped off the cyber page, announcing a 9th inning change of fortune for Atlantic Yard community activists.

Gotham Gazette (The Wonkster), Judge Orders Another Look at Atlantic Yards

The judge did not halt construction of the arena – although that has morphed too — from a Frank Gehry landmark to a generic box. And Norman Oder writes in Atlantic Yards report, the judge did give the state and the developer, “significant breathing room” by not issuing a stay to top Phase II.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Judge Orders Further Review On Atlantic Yards Development

Michael Galinsky, the co-director of the documentary “Battle for Brooklyn” and a contributor to The Local, said he hopes that today’s decision will bring more government oversight to the Atlantic Yards project.

Reuters, New York court stalls second phase of Brooklyn arena project

The grass roots group that sued the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, to halt or modify the Atlantic Yards project said the court decision is a "golden opportunity" for Governor Andrew Cuomo to overhaul the costly project.

A spokesman for the Democratic governor had no comment.

Posted by eric at 9:45 PM

IJ Scores Major First Amendment Victory For St. Louis Property Owner Protesting Eminent Domain Abuse

Institute for Justice

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today handed down a major First Amendment victory for the right to protest government abuse. The case is a victory for a St. Louis housing activist who grew so fed up with the government’s abuse of eminent domain that he painted an enormous protest message on the side of one of his buildings facing the interstate calling for the end of eminent domain abuse. The city had required him to either remove the mural or get a permit to display his protest, but then it refused to issue him a permit when he applied.

Jim Roos runs a nonprofit housing ministry, which works to provide housing for low-income residents of south St. Louis. Roos became a vocal critic of the city’s use of eminent domain for private development after the city took away several of his housing ministry’s buildings not for a public use, but for private development projects.

Roos refused to remove his protest and so he joined with the Institute for Justice to fight for his First Amendment rights. And today the 8th Circuit handed him a victory, holding emphatically that government isn’t allowed to restrict speech based on its message. The court struck down the St. Louis sign regulations that the city had tried to use to silence this anti-eminent-domain activist.

link

Posted by eric at 6:16 PM

Strange Bedfellows: BAM And The Barclay Center

HYPERALLERGIC
by Liza Eliano

While the press release for the BAM-Barclays alliance promises to create “one of the most vibrant and unique cultural districts in the U.S.,” it is unclear what type of arts programming would be suitable for such a huge arena. The collaboration may provide an excellent opportunity to introduce new audiences to contemporary art and culture, but how much will BAM have to sacrifice its own creative vision to suit the arena’s needs? My fear is that we will get a Disneyfied version of BAM’s programming—especially considering BAM president Karen Brook Hopkin’s use of the word “spectacle” to describe the prospective works.
...

While the verdict on BAM’s programming is not out yet, some Brooklynites are already less than optimistic about the collaboration. The billion-dollar Barclays Center is already an unpopular project among locals, including couple Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley whose documentary Battle for Brooklyn covers the six-year long war the community waged against Atlantic Yards. Many see BAM’s role at Barclays as a ploy to squash complaints from those who are not so eager to see a giant basketball arena bulldoze their home. Galinsky notes that the partnership is a “much greater benefit to Ratner from this P.R. perspective than to BAM.” The truth in his statement cannot be denied—while BAM will receive a curatorial fee, the institution will make no profit off of ticket sales for their performances.

article

NoLandGrab: Six, seven, eight years — who's counting?

Posted by eric at 5:44 PM

Battle for Brooklyn Press Release: Stunning defeat for Forest City Ratner and ESDC in AY Lawsuit sparks interest in Battle for Brooklyn

Today New York State Supreme Court Judge Marcy Friedman issued a stinging decision against the Empire State Development Corporation. Judge Friedman ruled that the "ESDC's use of the 10 year build date in approving the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) lacked a rational basis and was arbitrary and capricious," and that the ESDC failed to evaluate the impact of extensive delays, at least 25 years, in the build-out of Phase II of the project.

The petitioners in the lawsuit, 26 community and neighborhood organizations led by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), were very pleased about the ruling and the changes it must usher in politically.

The stunning news that the coummunity won a surprise victory in their lawsuit concerning the Atlantic Yards environmental impact statement could throw the rest of the project into doubt and brings new attention to "Battle for Brooklyn".

"For those people who have seen 'Battle for Brooklyn' it should come as no surprise that a Judge called foul on the process. Anyone who sees the film can see that the fix was in from the beginning, and hopefully now people will pay more attention," said co-director Suki Hawley.

"When they do a new environmental study there will clearly be more scrutiny, and that's a good thing. Perhaps this will even open the door to taking the community's alternate plan more seriously," added co-director Michael Galinsky.

Battle for Brooklyn runs through Thursday, July 14 at Brooklyn Heights Cinema

Will Play Every Wednesday Night for Rest of Summer

Posted by eric at 5:26 PM

ESDC Statement regarding State Supreme Court Decision

Empire State Development spokesperson Elizabeth Mitchell issued the following statement in response to getting pasted in court today:

Today’s decision on Atlantic Yards did not enjoin construction of the Barclays Center and all components of this important project will continue.

The court ordered ESD to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement focused principally on Phase II of the Project (the buildings east of 6th Avenue).

ESD believes that it complied with all laws applicable to the Project, and is reviewing today’s decision to decide on the best course of action for continuing to move the Project forward.

NoLandGrab: Since the best course of action would be to dismantle the arena and turn the land over to the community, we expect to be disappointed.

Posted by eric at 5:17 PM

VICTORY! Court Orders New Atlantic Yards Review. Golden Opportunity for Gov. Cuomo

VICTORY IN COURT FOR DDDB AND ITS CO-PETITIONER COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS

Court Rules NY State Must Undertake Supplemental Review of Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project

Presents Golden Opportunity for Governor Cuomo to Fix the Atlantic Yards Debacle

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project and its purported benefits were never feasible, it was all smoke and mirrors. In the past year it has become clear to everyone that the project the developer promised and New York State approved is never going to happen. Rather, parking lots and a demolition zone would persist for decades.

But now, because of a Supreme Court ruling, there is a way out of this debacle and a golden opportunity for Governor Cuomo and his Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to fix the big Atlantic Yards mess in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
...

"While the Court felt it could only reverse the approvals for Phase II and require a new environmental review, it is time for Governor Cuomo to assert control over the ESDC and the project site and require a complete reassessment of the Atlantic Yards project," said DDDB attorney Jeffrey S. Baker. "We regret that the Arena is going forward. However, the project was never justified in phases. All of the purported benefits would have come from full development, not a stand-alone arena and a couple of high-rises.”

"DDDB has always argued that the claimed benefits were illusory and would never occur and the community would be burdened by a poorly conceived project. It is now clear that the timeframes and benefits of the original project were never even remotely feasible,” said DDDB Legal Director Candace Carponter. "We call on Governor Cuomo to ensure that the ESDC do an honest, unbiased analysis of the redevelopment of Atlantic Yards and consider a project that truly provides affordable housing, public opens space and meaningful benefits in a timely and financially feasible manner. ESDC should look at all aspects of the project, except the arena, and utilize the Unity Plan or other similar community inspired approaches to redevelop the area."

Referring to the Ratner tail wagging the State dog, Carponter added, "Governor Cuomo and the ESDC should establish their independence from Forest City Ratner and engage in true planning that involves the community and locally elected officials, and no longer act as Bruce Ratner's lap dog."

link

Posted by eric at 4:02 PM

Atlantic Yards Lawsuit: Local Groups Victorious as Judge Slams Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) For Breaking the Law by Approving Atlantic Yards’ 2009 Modified Plan; Calls Use of 10 Year Build Date “Not Rational"

BrooklynSpeaks

The BrooklynSpeaks groups were elated and called on Governor Cuomo to investigate the Project. “This decision sends a clear message that no State authority or politically-connected real estate developer can be above the law when the future of our neighborhoods hangs in the balance,” said Jo Anne Simon, Democratic Leader of the 52nd District. “We expect an investigation into how this was allowed and call on Governor Cuomo to now take decisive action in reforming oversight of Atlantic Yards, ESDC’s largest project.”

The suit was filed in November 2009 by several BrooklynSpeaks sponsors, local elected officials, and community members. The case was originally decided in favor of ESDC and FCRC in March of 2010 on the basis of representations made by ESDC as to the terms of its master development agreement with FCRC prior to the agreement being made available to the public. After the agreement was released and was found to contain no performance guarantees for a 10-year build out, the BrooklynSpeaks sponsors successfully argued for the case to be reopened.

Said Al Butzel of the Urban Environmental Law Center which represented the BrooklynSpeaks sponsors, “After reviewing ESDC’s justification for not preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement, the Court correctly concluded the agency lacked a rational basis for approving the developer’s proposed changes to the project. It was clear to us that the approval of the plan was rushed through illegally in order to enable FCRC to meet a deadline necessary for its arena bond financing.”

link

Posted by eric at 3:56 PM

Breaking: Judge rules for community groups, says state failed to study impact of 25-year buildout, requires ESDC to prepare a Supplemental EIS, but refuses to stay current construction

Atlantic Yards Report

#Winning!

This will be updated.

In the second in a series of decisions finding for community petitioners who challenged the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman has criticized the agency for failing to study the impacts of an extended Atlantic Yards buildout, and ordered the ESDC to conduct a new phase of environmental review, including a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

While it is typical for judges to defer to agencies, as long as they have a "rational basis" for their decisions, Friedman, who slammed the agency last November for "what appears to be another failure of transparency," today found the "ESDC’s use of the 10 year build date in approving the 2009 MGPP lacked a rational basis and was arbitrary and capricious."

No stay, but perhaps a hearing

The decision will require additional bureaucratic hurdles and may require additional mitigation measures regarding an extended interim surface parking lot, or construction procedures. And it should help shape public perception that the ESDC has been too gentle with developer Forest City Ratner (FCR).

However, Friedman gave the ESDC and FCR significant breathing room. She refused to issue a stay on Phase I construction or other work on the project, and said it was premature to issue a stay regarding Phase II.

The judge remanded the issue to ESDC for further environmental review, including an SEIS assessing the environmental impacts of delay in Phase II construction; the conduct of further environmental review proceedings, including a public hearing if required by SEQRA; and further findings on whether to approve the Modified General Project Plan for Phase II of the Project.

She heard oral arguments in the latest phase of the case on 3/15/11. The petitioners included civic groups organized by BrooklynSpeaks and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, as well as several individuals and local elected officials.

The case, however, began more than a year earlier, and had Friedman considered the contradiction between the Development Agreement, kept under wraps until after the first oral argument, and the ten-year buildout, she might have ruled differently in March 2010.

article

NoLandGrab: This is a clear case of justice delayed being justice denied.

But there is a remedy — we have a team of volunteers standing by to begin dismantling the arena, and we've asked BUILD to recruit a demolition crew from the neighborhood.

Posted by eric at 1:58 PM

Brennan Drops Plan for More Atlantic Yards Parking, Will Push Transit Instead

Streetsblog
by Noah Kazis

Assembly Member James Brennan has abandoned the idea of implementing additional parking minimums at Atlantic Yards. That plan would have led more people to drive to the arena while failing to keep on-street spaces open for area residents.

Wrote Brennan in an email to Streetsblog:

I understand the concerns raised about my idea of compelling Ratner to provide off-street parking. I agree completely that the correct policy is not to encourage automobiles coming to the area, so I am dropping any notion of initiating legislation on this subject. You should know that my intention was not to increase parking, but to compensate for the fact that the Empire State Development Corporation eliminated Ratner’s obligation to provide 2300 units of underground parking at the arena as part of the deal to delay completion of the project until 2035. My focus next session will be to find incentives for mass transit.

That’s encouraging news. Atlantic Yards is going up at the site of Brooklyn’s biggest transit hub — precisely the space not to induce more auto trips with government-mandated parking.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, From Streetsblog: Brennan Drops Plan for More Atlantic Yards Parking, Will Push Transit Instead

Note that only 1100 spaces are supposed to serve the arena, with the rest of the approximately 3600 aimed at the apartments. In other words, there were never "2300 units" for arena-goers.

Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

Vicious teens attack another in Underwood Park

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alex Rush

How are Target's Pocketbook Protectors supposed to protect your pocketbook if they can't even protect their own?

Target take

Someone swiped a Flatbush Avenue Target employee’s purse on July 2.

The victim told cops that she was working at the Atlantic Terminal Mall store, which is near Hanson Place, at around 9 am when she absentmindedly left her silver bag on a desk. The purse, which contained cash, cards and makeup, was gone when she returned nine hours later to retrieve it.

Secret steal

Cops arrested a 14-year-old girl for stealing two pricey T-shirts and a bag from the Atlantic Terminal Mall Victoria’s Secret on July 8.

Cops say that the young victim stole the items from the store, which is on Flatbush Avenue near Hanson Place, at around 3:30 pm. Police collared her the same day.

article

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

Video and photography show dump trucks lining Pacific Street between 6th and Carlton this morning

Atlantic Yards Watch

Video and photographs showing dump trucks lining Pacific Street between 6th and Carlton Avenues were attached to incident reports submitted to this website this morning.

The two videos, titled "5:45 am Atlantic Yards/FCR no flaggers + illegal idling," and the photographs show a line of trucks waiting underneath the 170 unit Newswalk building to enter one of the Barclays Center truck entrances at Pacific Street and 6th Avenue.

The trucks are lining up on the wrong block of Pacific Street. The video and photography illustrates an ongoing problem long brought to the attention of ESDC and FCRC. If the protocols outlined in the Barclays Center Delivery Truck Rules and Requirements for the use of a flagger at Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street are not kept, the public Pacific Street between Carlton and 6th Avenues quickly becomes an extension of the construction site. The goal of the use of a flagger in this location is to avoid trucks lining up on this block.

The complaint details the trucks lining up for an hour beginning at 5:45 am, and the photos contain time tags placing them between 6:10 and 6:37 am. NYC law allows idling for no more than 3 minutes. Construction hours for the Barclays Center begin at 7:00 am.

link

NoLandGrab: Is it possible that everyone building this mess, from the ESDC and Bruce Ratner down to the guys filling and driving dump trucks, are just a bunch of incompetent dumbasses?

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

Yet two more documented incidents this morning serve as a reminder proper construction practices have to be implemented at all times

Atlantic Yards Watch

An uncovered dump truck apparently transferring sifted dirt from block 1129 travelled down Pacific Street this morning. Dump trucks are supposed to be inspected to ensure they are covered before they leave the work site.

article

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

Renewed union contracts did not address modular construction, but that's not seen as blocking modular towers at the Atlantic Yards site

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on a recent post by "union radical Gregory Butler, on his Gangbox News blog":

I asked Butler if that meant no modular [construction] at Atlantic Yards--which would include subsidized units and luxury units--and he said no.

"As far as there being a broader move, that didn't happen," Butler said. "But if [Ratner] pushes it, it's almost certain to happen. They've never stopped people from doing prefab."

article

Related coverage...

Gangbox News, Unshared Sacrifice

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

Former Homeless Shelter to be Demolished at AY

Brownstoner

Two demolition permits were just filed with the DOB for 603 Dean (pictured) and 768 Pacific Streets, both addresses of the former homeless shelter on the Atlantic Yards site. The shelter was shut down in early 2010 despite protests from community members and political leaders who objected to its closure and seizure via eminent domain. Tracy Collins has a great shot of the building when it was open, as well as a photo of it from the Pacific Street side. The building neighbored Ward Bakery, which crews completed demolition work on this March.

link

Photo: Brownstoner

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

Traverse City Film Festival 2011: Jane’s Best Bets

Reel Life with Jane
by Jane Boursaw

I’ve been busy poring over the schedule for the Traverse City Film Festival 2011, which takes place July 26 – 31, and stood in line for my tickets today. I love that every year, the film festival folks raise the bar just a little bit higher.
...

As for the rest of the schedule, it’s always REALLY tough to choose because 1) I want to see every single movie; and 2) I always overestimate my energy levels. Why, sure! I can see five movies every day, no problem! And then by about the third day, I start wondering why I didn’t schedule a break in there somewhere.

But, as of this moment, here are the films I’ll be seeing:
...

Battle for Brooklyn‘ (Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley, USA, 2010). I always love documentaries where a group of people take on “the man.” In this one, a historic Brooklyn neighborhood is being torn down to make way for a development that includes a new basketball arena, future home of the New Jersey Nets. The developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, with prominent politicians by its side, promises the project will bring in jobs and low-cost housing, but longtime residents are being forced out of their homes. An eight-year grassroots resistance effort ensues. Geez, I really hope the residents won.

article

NoLandGrab: So do we!!!

Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

SHoP Architects' Gregg Pasquarelli Understands More Than Anyone Else, Almost

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

SHoP Architects' Gregg Pasquarelli, the guy who rendered the traffic-less George Foreman grill at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush, gave a talk recently. He must love irony as much as Bruce Ratner does:

Are Architects Performance Artists? A Conference Addresses "Performativity"
By Jonathan Liu. New York Observer

"We understand more than anyone else on the job site," Gregg Pasquarelli told a second-floor conference room one recent Thursday evening inside the New School's Arnhold Hall.

His audience peered at him through a remarkable selection of eyewear—surely the most impressive array of cantilevers, arches and trusswork west of the East River. "We truly do," he reiterated. "We know more than the developer, we know more the contractor, we know more than the inspector, we know more than the guy installing something. We know a lot about all the stuff. It's the integrator and the communicator role that's the most important thing: We don't build buildings, we make instruction sets for buildings."
...

Well, with all of his highfalutin, self-congralutory archy-speak, surely Mr. Pasquarelli also understands he is in bed with an ethically challenged developer, designing an ethically challenged project. Doesn't he?

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Related coverage...

NY Observer, Are Architects Performance Artists? A Conference Addresses ‘Performativity’

We don't know if architects are performance artists, but some of them — especially those involved with Atlantic Yards — sure seem to be pseudo-intellectual blowhards.

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Quoth the Fellows: Angotti, Brown, & Jambhekar

Institute for Urban Design

Speaking at a meeting about the UNITY 4 plan concerning Forest City Ratner’s development of the Atlantic Yards site in central Brooklyn, Tom Angotti did not mince words, stating that “If they are going to call it transit-oriented development, then there has to be a plan to improve transit.”

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Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

July 12, 2011

As Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting approaches Thursday, Atlantic Yards Watch keeps track

Atlantic Yards Report

I got an email this morning from a Prospect Heights resident telling me--without detail--that construction on the Atlantic Yards site was continuing at 12:30 a.m.

The second shift at the arena site is only supposed to go to 11 p.m., however. I suggested that she contact Atlantic Yards Watch, which has a link for reporting incidents. It's unrelated to this blog--which is aimed at reportage, analysis, and commentary--and set up to maintain an archive of reports.

In fact, Atlantic Yards Watch stands as a daily response to those, like the Empire State Development Corporation's Arana Hankin, who say they're not sufficiently informed of community complaints.

A few of the latest are below, concerning parking and dust.

AY District Service Cabinet

Every two months--it used to be three--representatives of developer Forest City Ratner, the ESDC, the three affected Community Boards, city agencies, and others meet at Borough Hall for a meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet.

The meeting this week is Thursday at 9:30 a.m. The meetings are open to the public and press, but, curiously enough, not advertised. Nor is videotaping permitted.

Visitors cannot ask questions but questions, including community complaints, can be submitted beforehand via the Community Boards, elected officials like Council Member Letitia James (who's generally the only person to publicly challenge the developer/state), and the Borough President's Office.

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Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

Dust for workers and possibly the community from work in the railyard today

Atlantic Yards Watch

Dust from excavation and trucks in the railyard is visible in this photo submitted with an incident report today. Dust suppression measures are supposed to be put in place in order to protect air quality for workers on the project and the community nearby. The Amended Environmental Commitments Memo states:

FCRC shall require its contractors to implement dust suppression measures including the following:

iii. Watering unpaved surfaces, including haul roads and excavation faces. All unpaved haul roads and excavation surfaces shall be continuously watered by watering trucks or constant misting, so that surfaces remain damp at all times when in use during construction. Gravel cover shall be applied to unpaved surfaces which are regularly traveled."

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Photo: AtlanticYardsWatch

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

UNITY: A desperate plea for adult supervision

The Brooklyn Rail
by Brian J. Carreira

In New York City nothing symbolizes the hangover experienced from the real estate frenzy of the aughts better than the debacle that is the Atlantic Yards. Critics have long believed that Forest City Ratner Chairman and CEO Bruce Ratner’s high-flying promises of jobs, starchitecuture, affordable housing, high-rises, and sports were cynically calculated to sell his intention to control the rail yards at Atlantic Avenue. And they were, but it would seem that Atlantic Yards is faltering not because Ratner never believed his promises, but because he blindly believed too many of them.

Over the last eight years, the promises evaporated. The community groups supporting the project were largely astro-turf, not grassroots. (Recently bankrupt ACORN was a notable exception.) The community benefits agreement—promising jobs and affordable housing—that these groups signed onto with the developer was a public relations ploy and had no real structures of oversight or enforcement. Original project architect Frank Gehry, brought in to allay understandable fears that Forest City Ratner would continue to build ugly in Brooklyn, was dumped in favor of cheaper styling.

On June 15, a group of about 100 Brooklynites concerned about the progress—or non-progress—of the Atlantic Yards project gathered at the Commons in Boerum Hill to reconsider the community-driven UNITY plan.
...

The new UNITY plan—which will come out of the recommendations of the various committees formed at the meeting—will differ from its predecessors since it comes after the evictions and demolitions and will need to contend with the reality of a basketball arena next door. But it will likely inherit not only the values of the earlier plans, but also many of the original features.

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Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

The Serious and Not So

Toronto Standard
by Bert Archer

An appraisal of the New York Times documentary Page One includes this bit of understatement.

[Norman] Oder’s reporting on the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, and on the Times’ coverage of it, seems also quite serious, though you’d be forgiven for thinking the guy’s an utter wonk (which he almost certainly is).

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Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

Etude de cas: les Nets ont-ils perdu 44 millions de dollars?

Basket USA
by Julien Bordet

The Nets and Bruce Ratner sound much less offensive en Francais, n'est-ce pas?

La bataille de chiffres se poursuit entre joueurs et propriétaires.

Est-ce que la ligue est en aussi mauvaise position que Stern et les propriétaires veulent bien le dire, ou utilisent-ils des artifices comptables pour masquer le fait que tout va très bien pour eux.

Pour tenter de se faire une idée plus précise, Darren Rovell de NBC a récupéré les comptes des Nets à l’époque où Bruce Ratner en était encore le propriétaire. Les comptes étaient alors publics.

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Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

Daniel Goldstein and Michael Galinsky Interview on WBAI

WBAI

Daniel Goldstein and Battle for Brooklyn filmmaker Michael Galinsky sat down for a lengthy interview with WBAI's Scott Sommer last night.

Listen here.

The segment begins just before the 14-minute mark.

Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

Correction: At the Atlantic Yards site (and others), a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) would have averted a strike

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote July 1 that a last-minute pact averted a citywide strike of construction workers, citing news reports that indicated a strike could have stopped work at the Atlantic Yards site.

Not so. The arena construction, and the rest of the work, is governed by a Project Labor Agreement (PLA), which, as Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC) reminded members, includes a no strike/no-lock out clause.

Here's a list of such projects.

As one commenter on the Local157 blog pointed out, informational picketing would be permitted.

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Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

July 11, 2011

Forest City Ratner's deceptive memo opposing new ESDC subsidiary to oversee Atlantic Yards inadvertently makes strong argument for more transparency, passage of governance bill

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner has issued a self-serving and misleading Memorandum in Opposition to a pending bill that would allow a state subsidiary to oversee Atlantic Yards.

A subsidiary, argues Forest City, would delay public benefits. Rather, the document suggests it would do more to delay private profits.

The memo, with numerous half-truths and deceptions, ultimately makes a huge argument for such a subsidiary. However weak a subsidiary, it at least could create more oversight and transparency regarding the project, and help right a balance of power that tilts toward the developer.

The memorandum, embedded below, was made available on the BrooklynSpeaks web site this weekend. As BrooklynSpeaks explains, FCR's praise for current oversight is rather myopic:

FCRC extolls [sic] the existing project oversight being provided by the ESDC, ignoring a New York Supreme Court Justice’s characterization of the agency’s review of the 2009 plan as having “lacked the candor that the public was entitled to expect, particularly in light of the scale of the Project and its impact on the community.”

The bill, which has passed the Assembly, died at the end of the legislative session in June, but should get another look in the state Senate this summer. At that time, not just the developer but the ESDC itself should be asked to defend the memo's claims.

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Related coverage...

BrooklynSpeaks, Forest City Ratner lobbies unsuccessfully against reform of Atlantic Yards oversight

As Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries bill to reform oversight of the Atlantic Yards project was on its way to the floor of the New York State Assembly, developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) lobbied legislators to vote against the bill by, among other things, circulating a “Memorandum in Opposition.”

The arguments in FCRC’s memo are sometimes inaccurate, misleading and outrageous, but unfortunately not surprising. The developer continues to represent itself as a concerned corporate citizen, blaming the community for delays FCRC itself extracted from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) as concessions during the renegotiation of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan.

Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

Lack of project oversight means stalled AY governance bill should come back (this summer). What's needed? Legislators pushing harder, press attention, good government groups, organized opponents, and Ken Adams on the spot.

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder lays out a blueprint for better oversight of the out-of-control Atlantic Yards project.

The plague of rats around the Atlantic Yards site, widely believed to be caused significantly by Forest City Ratner's construction work, likely can't be solved without an increased commitment from the developer.

Nor can the illegal parking problem be solved without a push to the city.

Nor can Forest City Ratner's compliance with environmental commitments be thoroughly tracked by a state agency more concerned about business than the community.

Nor can FCR be trusted to provide credible information about project oversight.

So, as I argue below, a new governance entity, however vaguely defined in pending legislation, might help tip the balance.

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Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

Monday July 11, 8-9pm Housing Notebook

WBAI

Scott Sommer will be speaking to Daniel Goldstein, Co-founder of Develop, Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a protagonist in the acclaimed documentary "Battle for Brooklyn," and Suki Hawley, one of the producers and directors of the film.

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Posted by eric at 12:42 PM

The Great Basketball Swindle

A riveting new documentary takes on New York's shameful eminent domain abuse

Reason.com
by Damon W. Root

At its best, Battle for Brooklyn illustrates the scope of these mounting outrages while capturing Goldstein’s shock and anger as he slowly realizes that the deck is truly stacked against him. But since the film clocks in at a lean 93-minutes, several other significant aspects of the story were only briefly addressed or left on the cutting room floor.

One such weakness is Battle for Brooklyn’s treatment of the atrocious November 2009 decision by New York’s Court of Appeals—the state’s highest court—upholding the use of eminent domain. While there is a great scene showing Goldstein anxiously checking his computer for news of the ruling, the only real summary the audience receives is that “we lost.”

Unfortunately, that’s not the half of it. In its 6-1 ruling, the Court of Appeals actually admitted that the state’s blight determination might be bogus and then went ahead and upheld it anyway. “It may be that the bar has now been set too low—that what will now pass as ‘blight,’ as that expression has come to be understood and used by political appointees to public corporations relying upon studies paid for by developers, should not be permitted to constitute a predicate for the invasion of property rights and the razing of homes and businesses,” the majority declared. “But any such limitation upon the sovereign power of eminent domain as it has come to be defined in the urban renewal context is a matter for the Legislature, not the courts.”

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NoLandGrab: And — surprise, surprise — New Yorkers are still waiting for our esteemed state legislature to rein in eminent domain abuse. Don't hold your breath.

Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

The Day: Barclays Center Progress

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Susan A. Rohwer

NY1 recently took a tour of the Barclays Center and the project’s residential tower with developer Bruce Ratner who talked about the construction progress. According to the piece, Mr. Ratner says things are on schedule for an opening next summer. Brownstowner also weighed in, citing a story by The Times from March that reported that the developer must start excavation on the tower by May 2013 “or pay up to $5 million in penalties for every year it falls behind.” There was no update on whether or not the tower will be prefabricated, as The Times reported in the March article.

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Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Ratner Talks Atlantic Yards ETAs

Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

Tri-State briefs: Long-delayed Ratner project opening soon in Yonkers

The Real Deal

One of the condo buildings at Forest City Ratner's long-delayed, mixed-use mega-project in Yonkers will soon be opening.

The $660 million project -- which sits on 81 acres along the New York State Thruway and has been dubbed Ridge Hill Village -- will include 1,000 rental and condo units. It will also include 1.2 million square feet of retail, 160,000 square feet of offices and possibly a hotel.

According to published reports, once complete, the project -- which faced community opposition and legal hurdles -- is expected to generate almost $24 million in annual tax revenue for the financially troubled city of Yonkers. It is also expected to generate $8.6 million in county taxes and $29.3 million in state taxes.

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NoLandGrab: "Is expected by" whom? We expect that it will be a bust for Yonkers, but a boon for Forest City.

Posted by eric at 12:22 PM

July 10, 2011

Waiting for Friedman: four months after oral arguments, decision in last Atlantic Yards legal case yet to emerge

Atlantic Yards Report

Nearly four months later, we're waiting for a ruling in the last extant Atlantic Yards legal case.

On 3/15/11, state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman heard oral arguments in the case challenging the offical Atlantic Yards timetable.

Lawyers from two community coalitions challenged the legitimacy of the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) response to a court order requiring it to explain why it didn't need issue a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement to study the impact of a potential 25-year buildout.

The ESDC made that response only because Friedman reopened a case she'd already dismissed.

Court activity often slows in the summer. If we don't see Friedman's ruling soon, we may not see it until September.

Should Friedman rule for the plaintiffs--coalitions and individuals (including elected officials) organized by BrooklynSpeaks, and groups organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn--the ESDC could be forced to look in great detail at the community impacts of 25 years of construction compared to ten years.

And that could lead to changes in the design or organization of the project--at least (or especially) for the part beyond the arena block.

Flashback: Waiting for Madden

I wrote 12/23/07 about how the challenge to the environmental impact statement was heard on May 3, and state Supreme Court Justice Joan A. Madden indicated she would try to rule promptly. In mid-July, Madden issued a memo (the first "Waiting for Madden") that stated she expected to have a decision in September 2007.

Madden finally ruled in January, eight months after the hearing.

The Daily News recently condemned her for sitting on a ruling for more than five months, thus allowing a homeless shelter being challenged to be built.

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Posted by steve at 5:45 PM

A rather strange sign at the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue: 620 Atlantic Avenue

Atlanitc Yards Report

This is the northwest corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, the home, as of spring 2010, of Freddy's Bar & Backroom and other buildings.

And now

Below is what it looks like now, shot from a somewhat closer perspective. (The construction fence takes up the sidewalk.)

Why does the construction fence bear the address of 620 Atlantic Avenue, which is two blocks to the north and one block to the west (and the former address of the Underberg Building)? Because that's apparently the official address of the arena under construction.

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Posted by steve at 5:37 PM

The BAM-arena alliance, illegal parking, and construction progress: the role of p.r. in controlling the narrative

Atlantic Yards Report

Much of the coverage of Atlantic Yards by New York media could be charitably characterized as "lackluster." This post ponders the lack of media coverage and the influence of the Ratner publicity machine.

The establishment of the web site/project Atlantic Yards Watch, the presence of web sites chronicling Atlantic Yards like No Land Grab and AYR, and the opportunity to present photos and web videos means that the mainstream press should notice what's going on.

They don't always do that, but, after the Daily News published an article yesterday, two television reporters were quick to follow up. It was a fairly digestible story, with lots of visuals.

What's missing?

There's lots more not yet covered regarding Atlantic Yards.

For example, what about Forest City Ratner's failure to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor?

Or Borough President Marty Markowitz's lies in the effort to help Forest City Ratner raise cheap capital from immigrant investors interested in green cards?

Reporters overmatched?

Sure, it's hard out there for a reporter. “We’re all wire service reporters now," Theresa Agovino of Crain’s New York Business said in December 2009, according to the September/October 2010 issue of Columbia Journalism Review, a reference to the push for quantity over quality.

They too often don't have time to think, and that makes them vulnerable not just to p.r. pitches--that's part of the journalistic menu--but also the full packaging of the pitch. (Quick, did anyone actually analyze Forest City Enterprises' self-serving press release about saving on its debts? No.)

Shaping the debate

John Sullivan, in his ProPublica investigation and co-published in the May/June 2011 issue of Columbia Journalism Review, PR Industry Fills Vacuum Left by Shrinking Newsrooms, pointed toi the growing number of p.r. people and shrinking number of reporters, writing:

The dangers are clear. As PR becomes ascendant, private and government interests become more able to generate, filter, distort, and dominate the public debate, and to do so without the public knowing it. "What we are seeing now is the demise of journalism at the same time we have an increasing level of public relations and propaganda," [Robert] McChesney said. "We are entering a zone that has never been seen before in this country."

That said, with Atlantic Yards, there are numerous leads to follow that are not hatched with the cooperation of "dark genius" Joe DePlasco. It's time for journalists to do their job. Or no

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Posted by steve at 5:31 PM

Fox News, WPIX follow up, find illegal parking at site; Atlantic Yards Watch shows Atlantic Avenue "lot" and "funeral director"; will AY District Service Cabinet address parking issue?

Atlantic Yards Report

Following up on the Daily News's coverage of illegal parking around the Atlantic Yards construction site, MyFox New York took a look, and their report, below, is pretty damning.

Beyond that report, Atlantic Yards Watch followed up, pointing out that construction workers have "expanded the locations they park illegally onto Atlantic Avenue, apparently closing off part of a travel lane to create their own free parking lot," as shown in the photo taken yesterday.

Another set of photos shows the wide array of strategies used by illegal parkers, including the daily deployment of a funeral director's card. That was captured in video shot by WPIX, at bottom.

Enforcement issues

There are a couple of problems here. First, as I wrote this morning, someone has to enforce parking regulations when the police flout them.

Off-street parking?

Second, as Atlantic Yards Watch points out, Forest City Ratner and Empire State Development Corporation said at a 6/28/11 meeting that the number of construction workers had not risen to the point where the developer was supposed to create off-street parking.

But construction workers seem to be creating their own illegal on-street parking spaces--and, as the video below shows, they're glad that parking rules aren't being enforced.

District Service Cabinet meeting July 14

Perhaps these issues will be discussed--and resolved--at the fourth meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, to be held July 14 at Borough Hall at 9:30 a.m. (I'm aiming to reconfirm this.)

The District Service Cabinet brings together affected agencies, community board representatives, the Borough President's Office and the developer. Questions from the public cannot be posed at the meeting but can be funneled through the community boards, City Council Member Letitia James's office, and the Borough President's Office.

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Posted by steve at 5:24 PM

July 9, 2011

Atlantic Yards Watch Tracks Parking Mess

Photos show locations and strategies for illegal construction worker parking on July 7th

The following photos show the locations and strategies of Atlantic Yards construction workers who park illegally in the vicinity of the project. All of these photos were taken between 1 pm and 2 pm on Thursday, July 7th.

...

Is it a funeral director or an iron worker? If it is a construction worker he or she has found an inventive way to get around parking regulations. This car was parked in a no standing zone on 6th Avenue immediately adjacent to the Barclays Center site.

NYPD apparently continues to selectively enforce the law; Illegal construction worker parking expands to Atlantic Avenue

Construction workers piggyback on the illegal parking of city employees associated with the NYPD 78th Precinct, FDNY 105 Ladder Company and HPD in the vicinity of the 78th Precinct. This is possible due to the apparent selective parking regulation enforcement of the NYPD in the area around the precinct.

Numerous 311 complaints from community members have been filed at this website about the issue. The pattern of the dispositions of the 311 complaints seem to show the police not finding a problem at the time they go to the locations reported in the complaints. In one case in which the disposition stated the police had corrected the problem, follow up from the filer showed the problem still in place.

Construction workers park illegally on sidewalks, in bus lanes and ignore parking regulations on Pacific Street, 6th Avenue, Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue. An estimated 20 to 30 construction worker cars parked illegally in the immediate area daily during the work week. Free parking for up to 40 construction worker cars is already provided inside the footprint by FCRC to construction workers on several locations on block 1129 and at the former location of the Carlton Avenue Bridge between blocks 1121 and 1120.

...

The Amended Environmental Commitments Memo details "FCRC shall provide on-site parking for construction workers at levels appropriate in light of the number of workers employed at the site during different stages of construction, to a maximum of 800 spaces. FCRC shall monitor the work force levels throughout the construction period and shall report to ESDC on a quarterly basis as to the number of on-site spaces and the utilization of such spaces. The parking facilities shall have perimeter fencing and shall be accessible only during work hours. Parking fees at rates comparable to commercial off-street facilities in the surrounding area shall be imposed for these spaces. FCRC shall consult with and obtain the approval of ESDC, such approval not to be unreasonably withheld, prior to reducing the number of construction worker spaces at the Project site as the number of workers changes and permanent parking locations within the Project site become available for construction worker parking."

At a joint meeting of the Dean Street Block Association and Carlton Avenue Association on June 28th covering traffic and pedestrian issues, the ESDC and FCRC responded to complaints about illegal construction worker parking by saying a formula is being used to determine when the commitments detailed above are to be put in place.

The formula apparently associates FCRC's obligation to meet their commitment to provide construction worker parking, with the availability of on-street parking in the vicinity of the project as outlined in a study from 2005 included in the project's FEIS. The ESDC and FCRC committed at the meeting to providing this formula to the meeting organizers.

During the meeting the ESDC and FCRC said the formula shows not enough workers are on site to necessitate the creation of a construction worker parking lot. This seems contradicted by the fact construction workers are creating their own illegal on-street parking spaces instead of parking in the available spaces the environmental analysis from 2005 says should exist, and that FCRC is already providing free parking.

It may be the case the free parking FCRC is providing on site for construction workers may not conform to, or even violates, what is outlined in the Amended Environmental Commitments Memo. FCRC is meant to provide parking at rates commensurate with nearby parking garages in order to avoid creating an artificial incentive for workers to drive to the site.

If FCRC created parking for a fee and the NYPD provided parking regulation enforcement, the illegal construction worker parking would likely significantly diminish.

Posted by steve at 6:08 PM

Signs for FCRC's Community Liaison Office are posted along the perimeter of the site

Atlantic Yards Watch

On Thursday signs identifying the location of FCRC's Community Liaison Office were posted along the perimeter of the project site. The signs do not include the hours the office will be open.

This follows a statement by Rachel Shatz of the ESDC that FCRC is in violation of the Amended Environmental Commitments Memo at a joint meeting of the Carlton Avenue Association and Dean Street Block Association on June 28th. At the meeting Brigitte LaBonte, FCRC's Community Liaison, stated that she is on site one or two days a week.

The commitments in the memo state, "FCRC shall maintain an on-site construction coordinator to function as a liaison between FCRC and the community with respect to construction-related issues. The coordinator shall be available to consider specific concerns raised by the community with respect to the construction issues and seek to resolve such concerns."

Amy Sara Clark of Prospect Heights Patch and Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report both highlighted Shatz's statement in their coverage of the meeting. In Clark's coverage FCRC promised change and said that the developer would have at least one person on site during working hours.

At points in the project, FCRC has described the Community Liaison as a "capacity" the company has rather than a person.

lilnk

Posted by steve at 6:06 PM

Lots of Parking Coverage

PIX 11, Atlantic Yards Double Parking Double Standard
By Monica Morales

The new Barclays center currently under construction in downtown Brooklyn is attracting illegal parking and bogus parking placards, complain long-time residents on Dean St.

"It's a double standard. Construction workers are getting away with illegal parking. They just put their orange vest on the dashboard and they don't get a ticket," said Peter Krashes, the President of the Dean St. Block Association.

PIX11 News found signs warning the illegal parking would be punished, but no sign of any tickets being distributed. PIX11 news found a parking placard on Atlantic Avenue for a funeral director.

"I think that is hilarious. Too bad the guy didn't take off his union sticker, that he is a construction worker," laughed Krashes.

The N.Y.P.D. spokesperson has said in the past, "Individuals found violating the parking restrictions in the area maybe subject to disciplinary action."

Calls to the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency that oversees the project, were not returned.

Fox, NY, Parking Violations Around Atlantic Yards Site
By Ti-Hua Chang

Parking signs by the Atlantic Yards arena construction site say "No Standing Anytime." But the cars parked there do not have tickets.

The special passes, a day-glow vest on the dash letting police know the car belongs to a construction worker, police union cards, made-up placards of iron worker, and even funeral director.

A local resident took pictures of what he says are construction worker cars tripled parked on "No Standing" streets, cars blocking fire hydrants, and cars blocking people on the sidewalk -- yet not a parking ticket in sight.

The activist group Transportation Alternatives says it found 83 cars parked illegally without tickets. The group argues police have selective enforcement.

Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, says cops don't ticket "their own" and other classes of people they have sympathy with, such as other union employees and construction workers.

The police department responded: "This is a false accusation from a special interest group."

But people in neighborhood say the illegal parking is out of control and no one wants to do anything about it.

The developer, Forest City Ratner, and New York's Empire State Development Corporation acknowledge an illegal parking problem exists around the construction but don't say what specifically they will do about it.

A spokesman for the developer said: "We have instructed contractors to tell their employees to obey all parking regulations. We've also spoken to NYPD about the issue."

The only tickets we did see were on cars parked by police spots by the police precinct one block away.

News 12, Atlantic Yards neighbors fuming over illegal parking

Residents who live near the Atlantic Yards construction site say they're fed up with cars parking illegally in the area.

They say construction workers blatantly ignore signs that forbid stopping, standing or parking along Dean Street. Parking rules, they say, are rarely enforced there.

Some cars in the area have police placards visible in their windshields. Local residents, however, point to a recent study by a transportation group that found many placards in the construction zone to be fraudulent.

Concerned neighbors have launched a website to document parking violations and other troubles they say the construction project is causing.

Posted by steve at 5:50 PM

Status Cuomo? Governor names Lawrence Schwartz, top Paterson aide (including on AY) to be his top aide

Atlantic Yards Report

Status Cuomo?

The New York Times, in Cuomo Picks Schwartz to Be New Top Aide, today reported:

In a shakeup of his senior staff, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday appointed Lawrence S. Schwartz, a senior adviser in his administration, to be his top aide.

As secretary to the governor, Mr. Schwartz will return to a position he held under Gov. David A. Paterson. The move establishes him as arguably the most influential unelected official in state government over the past several years, and marks a rare instance of one man serving as the top staffer to two consecutive governors.

Schwartz played a quiet but not insignificant goal gatekeeping Atlantic Yards for Paterson, for example meeting in December 2009 with Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries on the issue.

That month, Paterson himself met with Atlantic Yards opponents, promising "an objective and fair hearing," but nothing came of it.

In fact, at the March 2010 groundbreaking, Paterson repeated some myths about Atlantic Yards job projections.

link

Posted by steve at 5:01 PM

July 8, 2011

The Week in Crime: Officer Assaulted With Frying Pan After Knife Attack

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Kyle Thomas McGovern

Where was the Pocketbook Protector?

Wallet Stolen At Target

-A 29-year-old woman was shopping in the swimsuit section of the Flatbush Avenue Target at 2:10 p.m. on June 29, when she noticed that her purse was unlatched and her wallet was missing, police said. The woman told Target security, who said they have video footage of a woman stealing the wallet, police said. In addition to the American Apparel wallet, a Capital One credit card, Chase bank card, Wachovia bank card and New York State driver’s license were reported stolen, police said. The woman canceled all of her credit cards, police said.

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Posted by eric at 1:55 PM

Nets guard Deron Williams agrees in principal to deal with team in Turkey as NBA lockout continues

NY Daily News
by Stefan Bondy and Mitch Lawrence

Deron Williams may still represent the future of Brooklyn basketball. But if the NBA lockout continues, he'll be better known as the trailblazer in Istanbul.

In a bold move that adds a new wrinkle to labor negotiations and may further complicate a delicate situation with his team, the Nets point guard has agreed to become the first superstar to play overseas and thumb his nose at the lockout.

Williams reached a deal with an ambitious team in the Turkish League, Besiktas, the same squad that last year signed Allen Iverson. The contract allows him to return to the NBA when the lockout ends.

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NoLandGrab: They mean if the lockout ends. And he doesn't suffer a career-ending knee injury.

Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

MTA says upgraded Vanderbilt Yard is on schedule, but won't specify whether Forest City completed required construction documents by June 2011 deadline

Atlantic Yards Report

So, is the replacement Vanderbilt Yard--smaller, but modernized, and part of a 2009 deal to save Forest City Ratner significant sums--on schedule?

Yes, says the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), but it looks like there are some question marks.

The requirements

According to page 7 of the MTA Staff Summary regarding the revised 2009 Vanderbilt Yard deal, Forest City Ratner was supposed to complete "100% Improved Yard construction documents by June 2011."

"Do you know if that has occurred?" I asked the MTA. "And, if so, does that mean that the permanent railyard is on schedule?"

"The project is on schedule," MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan responded. "Design and construction are being fast-tracked in stages, with North Portion of Permanent Yard already in construction."

Lingering questions

That didn't quite answer my question, so I followed up two days ago by asking if the documents had been completed. I also asked yesterday if there was a timetable for finishing the upgraded railyard.

I didn't get an answer, which leaves me wondering: Is Forest City changing the rules? In other words, is it moving ahead with the railyard but has not completed the construction documents?

I'd say it's a reasonable bet.

Updated: I got an answer this morning from Donavan: "I don’t know about the documents. The overall status is that permanent yard design and construction are being fast-tracked in stages to advance the overall development. The north portion of the permanent yard design was completed and construction started in January 2011, ahead of the required construction commencement deadline of June 30, 2012."

That's pretty confusing. The MTA should know.

link

Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

Illegal parking rampant around Atlantic Yards construction zone in Brooklyn

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Illegal parking and phony parking placards are rampant around the Atlantic Yards construction site, locals and advocates say.

A recent survey by a local block association and Transportation Alternatives found 87 cars in no-parking areas on about four and a half blocks near the arena - and only four had legitimate placards that allowed them to be there.

Of the 83 illegally parked cars, a dozen had construction equipment displayed in the dashboard and another 11 had phony placards from police, fire, and construction unions, the survey found. None of the cars had been ticketed.

Neighbors and advocates point the finger at the massive construction site and the nearby 78th Precinct - saying parking rules are almost never enforced.
...

Meanwhile, the illegally parked cars block sidewalks, bus stops and fire hydrants and make it impossible for streets to be cleaned properly, Dean Street Block Association president Peter Krashes said.

"It's bad for the community. It's unsafe," he said. "I've never seen any tickets given to anybody."

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily News follows up on "rampant" illegal parking around Atlantic Yards construction zone; AYR video shows NYPD placards on Sixth Avenue

The parking problem closest the Atlantic Yards arena site seems more the province of public safety agencies than anyone else--which means the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner don't have much clout.

The video below, shot on Tuesday (7/5/11), shows most cars parked in front of No Standing and No Stopping signs on Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets had police department placards, with a few having fire department placards and some without any obvious placards.

Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

Exclusive: Recent New Jersey Nets Books Reveal Huge Losses

CNBC
by Darren Rovell

News flash! Under Bruce Ratner's stewardship, the woeful New Jersey Nets lost a lot of money.

The biggest battle in the NBA lockout right now might be the public relations battle. Are the losses the owners are claiming real or fictional?
...

Not many teams have balance sheets that are publicly available, but there is one team whose balance sheets anyone can view and it happens to be a team that at least claims to have lost a ton of money.

With that in mind, we were provided the financial statements of Nets Sports & Entertainment LLC, that included the finances of New Jersey Nets properties in 2009 and 2010 (through June 30). The team was owned through April of 2010, by Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies.

If you go through the report, audited by PWC, and you understand how the NBA reported what was in this document to the Players Association, you will understand that it's not out of the realm of possibility that the league's owners were losing north of $300 million for years.
...

For the 2008-09 season, the documents reflect that the Nets lost $77,227,184.

article

NoLandGrab: The news that the Nets lose big money isn't news. Also not news is that NBA owners and players disagree about how losses (or profits) are measured, which is at the core of negotiations over a new NBA collective-bargaining agreement.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, CNBC analysis: even if the Nets lost $44 milion, not $77 million, it suggests NBA losses (but what about the new arena?)

CNBC's analysis of Nets Sports and Entertainment Consolidated Financial Statements for the years ending June 30, 2010 and 2009 (embedded below) is billed as an "exclusive," but the exclusive, I believe, is the analysis, not the documents, which were made available to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to CNBC Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell's analysis, even if the team's claimed $77.2 million loss in 2008-09 is overstated, a more realistic $44 million figure could be used to back claims of NBA losses.
...

I'd suggest an additional conclusion: the new arena will help the team do much, much better.

Atlantic Yards Report, Nets financials point to 11% loan from Prokhorov, 5% (minimum) development fee to Forest City for arena

The document describes the loan between Brooklyn Arena Holding Company (ArenaHoldCo) and entities controlled by Mikhail Prokhorov (MP Entities) that filled an arena financing gap. The loan was reported back in May 2010, but not, to my knowledge, that it bore a junk-bond level interest rate of 11%:

On May 12, 2010, ArenaHoldCo entered into a loan agreement with an affiliate of the MP Entities in the amount of $75,842,086 (the “Loan”). The Loan bears interest at 11% per annum, compounded monthly and matures on June 12, 2013. Both interest and principal are due at maturity. As of June 30, 2010, accrued interest on the loan of $1,162,947 is recorded as part of the Loan from affiliate and has been capitalized to Land and Arena under construction.
A fee equal to $1,000,000 is due on the date the Loan is paid in full, or a pro-rated portion on the date of any partial repayment of the Loan, which is recorded in Accounts payable — affiliates. In the event the Loan is not paid upon maturity, the Loan converts into an equity position in Brooklyn Arena based on a stipulated formula.

So if ArenaHoldCo, which is controlled by Forest City Enterprises, does not pay Prokhorov back, his share in the arena would be converted to equity (as has been reported).

Ratner gets at least 5%

Since July 2007, when the Times reported it, we've known that Forest City Ratner would get a development fee of 5%. This document suggests the fee could be somewhat more:

Developer Agreement
On June 1, 2005, Brooklyn Arena entered into a Development Agreement with an affiliate (the “Developer”), pursuant to which the Developer will plan, develop and oversee construction of the Arena for a fee not to exceed the lesser of $7,000,000 per year or 5% of the total project cost at completion. Through June 30, 2010, $35,000,000 of development fees have been incurred and capitalized to Land and Arena under construction.
...

Forest City likely would earn much more, especially if it can cut costs via modular construction and continue to finagle low-cost financing from immigrant investors.

NBC Sports, Books show Nets with $44 million loss in 2008-09 season

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

NY1 Exclusive: Barclays Center On Track To Open Next Summer

NY1
by Jeanine Ramirez

About half of the steel is now in place at the Barclays Center, as NY1 saw on a recent tour with developer Bruce Ratner.

"You see the piece all the way in the back — it's called the truss — that's going to be the beginning of the top of the arena,” said Ratner.

The roof is scheduled to be completed by winter. Many of the stands are already in place. It’s a dream finally becoming reality for Ratner, who has been planning to bring the Nets to Brooklyn since 2006.

"For all of us, it's a big whoosh moment,” said Ratner. “Something that's been long in coming."

article

NoLandGrab: The "whoosh" is actually the giant sucking sound of all the subsidies Bruce is collecting from the taxpayers. And Bruce has been "planning to Bring the Nets to Brooklyn" since 2003 — he had promised they'd be playing in Brooklyn in 2006.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, AY down the memory hole: NY1 reports Ratner's planned to bring the Nets since 2006

"It's the kind of access no one else has gotten," says NY1's Jeanine Ramirez self-congratulatingly, introducing a progress report headlined Barclays Center On Track To Open Next Summer.

(She lets Ratner wax enthusiastically about his deal with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, paying no heed to Michael Galinsky's essay, Don’t Let Atlantic Yards Developers Control the Narrative.)

Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

Goldstein Comes to Heights Cinema for Q&A on Film

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

Viewers of a special showing of the documentary The Battle for Brooklyn, about the struggle against the construction of the Atlantic Yards project, on Wednesday night were treated to a Q-and-A with Daniel Goldstein, the co-founder of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.
...

Judging by the questions, the audience members were sympathetic to the filmmakers’ and Goldstein’s point of view.

In response to one question, Goldstein said that the Unity Plan for developing the area, which the Extell Plan was based on, may not be dead after all. He called attention to the recent “Unity 4” meeting sponsored by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, Councilwoman James and state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery. (The original architect who designed the plan, Marshall Brown, is now in Chicago but still takes an interest in the issue.)

Briefly, Goldstein said that although the arena is under construction, there is no action yet on the promised housing development in the other parts of the Atlantic Yards site, which are now dominated by parking lots. “As of now, not one apartment of housing has been designed,” he said.

He added that, ideally, the various parcels of land involved could be given to different developers, using the Unity 4 principles as a starting point, rather than have one developer responsible for building the entire site.

article

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Area Residents Will Not Get Priority For Red Apple Supermarket Jobs

Company representatives say laid-off workers elsewhere in the city to get first dibs at 100 positions at the long-promised Myrtle Avenue grocer.

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Paul Leonard

For residents eagerly awaiting the arrival of badly-needed fruit and vegetables—not to mention jobs—it was an important first step.

Beginning this week, the office of Councilwoman Letitia James, D-Brooklyn, will be accepting applications on behalf of the Red Apple supermarket slated to open this September in The Andrea building at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Ashland Place.

That's the good news.

Now make room for the not-so-good: according to representatives of the Red Apple Group, laid-off workers elsewhere in city, many of whom are members of UFCW Local 1500, will get first dibs on the approximately 100 positions created at the new market.

While those union rules provide important protections for existing workers, that means there could be significantly less jobs to go around for residents, particularly those in nearby Whitman, Ingersoll and Kingsview Houses—areas where the need for quality employment with benefits are the greatest.
...

Longtime borough residents may remember that promises of the positive net impact in terms of jobs as a result of new development have been made in the past—namely by Forest City Ratner at Atlantic Yards. However, very few of those construction positions so far have gone to Brooklyn workers, again partly due to union rules.

article

NoLandGrab: But mostly due to Forest City Ratner's "promises" being a load of b.s.

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

For the Really Bad Idea File: Jim Brennan Proposes More Parking for Ratner Arena

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Yesterday Park Slope Patch reported on this really bad idea Assemblyman Jim Brennan is floating to force Ratner to provide more arena parking than the 1,100 spot surface parking lot the developer is already planning.

link

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

BARCLAYS TRYING TO CLASS UP THE JOINT WITH ANNOUNCED BAM INTEGRATION

F**ked in Park Slope
by J. Charles

So I'm pretty sure you all know how I feel about the BARCLAYS CENTER. Not. A. Fan. I take it that a decent number of you feel the same way. The Arena's baby daddy, Bruce Ratner, announced something last week that he's hoping will assuage all of you brownstone Brooklynites from not totally hating his downtown monstrosity.

Using the dark arts, Bruce Ratner convinced BAM to curate anywhere from 3-6 shows a year in the arena (I'm thinking Cirque du Sogay will be at least two of them), in an effort to bring some culture to what computer-generated mock-ups promise to be a baller's paradise (their words, not mine).
...

Listen, BAM. I salute you for falling on that sword and trying to save this place from completely going down the shitter like every other modern arena seems to do. And maybe it will be a great opportunity to get some bigger performances into our neighborhood. But please Bruce, don't act like you're doing us any favors. Cause no matter how many times you dress this lady up, she's still a ho.

article

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

This Week: Must-See Arts in the City

WNYC
by Carolina A. Miranda

194X - 9/11: American Architects and the City, at the Museum of Modern Art In recent years, many American cities have been rethinking elements of their urban fabric: reconsidering mobility, re-inhabiting once abandoned urban centers, creating mixed-use developments that allow citizens to live, work and eat in the same neighborhood, thereby lessening the use of a car. These issues of redevelopment are pressing -- especially in cities like New York, where space is limited, and behemoth projects such as the new World Trade Center site and the proposed Atlantic Yards project, consume entire neighborhoods. In what promises to be a thought-provoking new exhibit organized by architecture and design curator Barry Bergdoll, MoMA is examining more than a half century’s worth of urban renewal schemes by architects both famous (Mies Van der Rohe) and unknown (James Fitzgibbon). It's an excellent way of surveying ideas that have worked, and those that haven't. As part of a related design project, Bergdoll is also spearheading Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream, a workshop series devoted to the relationship between architecture, suburbanism and the foreclosure crisis. In other words, a lot of food for thought. Through January 2, in Midtown.

link

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

July 7, 2011

Jim Brennan Wants to Force Ratner to Build More Atlantic Yards Parking

Streetsblog
by Noah Kazis

More on Jim Brennan's really bad Atlantic Yards parking idea.

According to Tonice Sgrignoli, a legislative aide for Brennan, the legislation is still being researched and no details are available at this point. According to Sgrignoli, ESDC eliminated a requirement to build underground off-street parking that had been in an earlier agreement with Forest City Ratner and this legislation would likely undo that change.

When Streetsblog asked why Brennan thought that Atlantic Yards should have more parking in the first place, Sgrignoli replied that “Anyone who’s ever tried to drive a car and park it in that area will understand why it’s important to provide parking.”

Hopefully, Brennan himself has a more sophisticated understanding of parking policy. As former Boerum Hill Association president Jo Ann Simon said, no conceivable amount of off-street parking is going to free up on-street spaces so long as they are cheaper than going to a garage and available to anybody. “If people drive there, they will always try and find something free on the street,” she said. What happens on-street — many in the area, including Simon, have long pushed for residential parking permits — Simon said, “is entirely irrelevant to whether there should be more off-street parking to serve the arena.”

Simon’s argument is borne out by the reality at Yankee Stadium. There, despite a whopping 9,000 off-street spaces, area residents still complain that on-street parking is impossible on game day, according to a Crain’s report.

Moreover, building extra parking will simply mean that more people are able to drive to the area instead. “Brennan’s proposal to compel more off-street parking in one of New York City’s most transit-accessible locations betrays a terrible lack of understanding regarding transportation and mobility,” said University of Pennsylvania parking expert Rachel Weinberger. “His idea will invite more traffic through his district, more traffic in adjoining districts, and by requiring all of that parking, other development is preempted.”

article

Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

Lessons for the Brooklyn arena from Streetsblog: don't make parking easier

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that Assemblyman Jim Brennan's thinking of requiring more parking near the Atlantic Yards arena, it's worth looking at an extensive 6/15/11 Streetsblog analysis, Can Brooklyn Build a Pedestrian-Friendly Arena at the Atlantic Yards Site?

Noah Kazis writes:

The fundamentals for a smart solution are there: The Atlantic/Pacific hub makes the area better-served by transit than almost anywhere else in the United States. Right now, though, the picture is more mixed. The state recently released its transportation plan for the arena, a plan largely in line with past promises from both the Empire State Development Corporation and the developer Forest City Ratner, which is intended to mitigate the increased traffic that the crowds heading to an arena event will bring to the surrounding neighborhoods. Many of the features, like free subway fares for certain Nets ticket holders and 400 secure bike parking spaces, will help make the Barclays Center more transit-oriented and bike and pedestrian-friendly.

But the developer is planning to build an 1,100-space surface parking lot, killing street life and inducing driving. And with some of the borough’s deadliest streets left in place as enormous traffic arteries, walking and cycling will remain overly dangerous, potentially keeping features like a temporary plaza from being much more than a hard-to-reach traffic island.

In other words, the argument is for fewer parking spaces, not more.

article

Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

Canadian truck carrying prefabricated Barclays Center seating blocks local street's bike lane while idling

Atlantic Yards Watch

A Canadian truck carrying prefabricated Barclays Center seating blocked the Dean Street bicycle lane at Vanderbilt Avenue for over an hour last night. The truck was headed to block 1129 where the seating is stored before being installed in the arena.

According to the local resident who supplied the video above, he first encountered the truck in the location shown in the video around 6:00 pm. The video was filmed over an hour later when he returned from dinner. At both times the truck was idling and sitting in the same place in the bicycle lane.

The truck was apparently violating NYC law. Not only is Dean Street not a NYCDOT designated truck route, in NYC trucks are only allowed to idle for 3 minutes. Blocking a bicycle lane is also not allowed.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Video from Atlantic Yards Watch: idling Canadian truck carrying arena seating, improperly using Dean Street, blocks bike lane for an hour

The need for an Atlantic Yards ombudsman--er, community relations manager--remains, as Prospect Heights residents continue to notice apparently improper construction activities.

Shouldn't someone official be proactively responding, telling us, You're wrong, this isn't a problem, or Thanks for pointing this out, we're taking action so it doesn't happen again?

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

The Battle for Brooklyn: Forty Years of Minstrelsy is Enough

The Icehouse Gang
by Kevin Baker

[Battle for Brooklyn] looks as if it finally is coming to an end of its run—at least at the Cinema Village—at the end of tomorrow, Thursday. If you haven’t seen this remarkable documentary yet, go and do it.

I’ve been through many of the reasons why in this space: the valuable lesson in community organizing it provides; what’s likely to happen when we don’t pay attention and let the powers that be disport themselves as they please. The spotlight this film shines on the craven, venal practices of so much of New York City’s permanent government, from weaselly politicians, to ravenous developers, to gullible and self-interested construction unions.

Time for another harsh dose of truth for “our side,” whatever that means anymore. Some of the most predictable yet still depressing antics exposed in The Battle for Brooklyn are those perpetrated by the city’s presiding black power structure.

article

Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

Bloomberg's Principles

The Future of Capitali$m
by Ira Stoll

Mayor Bloomberg has been doing a fine job of defending Walmart's right to open a store in New York City, but a New York Times news article overstates it some when it refers to Mr. Bloomberg as "a longtime defender of free-market principles." Was he defending free-market principles when he backed the use of eminent domain to seize private property for subsidized housing and a basketball arena at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn?

link

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

Sunnyside Yards Redevelopment

Pedestrian Observations
by Alon Levy

Sunnyside Yards, lying along the LIRR Main Line immediately adjacent to the site of my proposed Sunnyside Junction, span about half a square mile (1.3 km2) of mostly vacant land, with some big box retail with ample parking at its eastern margin. The short distance to Manhattan has already made Western Queens increasingly desirable (538′s Nate Silver called Sunnyside the third best neighborhood to live in in New York); the new rail junction would make this vacant land into prime real estate, making it feasible to sell air rights above the yards in a similar manner to how much of East Midtown was developed with air rights over the Grand Central tracks.
...

The best way to combine the two goals – retaining existing neighborhood context and allowing high-intensity commercial development near the station – is for the city to have progressively higher-intensity zoning proceeding from the margins to the station itself. Away from the immediate station area, medium-rise buildings such as those of Upper Manhattan (excluding projects) should suffice, and the city should not try to ram high-rise buildings against neighborhood opposition. This would also be friendly to small developers, turning this into the anti-Atlantic Yards. Needless to say, there should be no parking minimums, since the area would be dense and well-served by mass transit.

article

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

Unseen Scenes from “Battle for Brooklyn”

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Susan A. Rowher

“Battle for Brooklyn” is the little documentary that keeps going. Filmed over the course of eight years, the film depicts the process of the local Atlantic Yard development. The movie will be showing at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema, starting tonight through July 13, with nightly screenings at 7:15 p.m.

Mr. Galinsky, the director and a regular Local contributor has provided us with two scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor. With hundreds of hours of film, there were some important moments that just didn’t make it into the 93-minute documentary.

article

NoLandGrab: Mr. Galinsky, eh? We used to just call him "Mike" before he had a hit documentary on his hands.

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

Yormark Says Nets To Move Team HQ to Brooklyn "Late Next Spring"

NetsDaily

In a tweet late Wednesday, Brett Yormark said Nets executive offices will move to Brooklyn "late next spring" and that he had "Just finished looking at office space in brooklyn for the nets". The team will likely wait until after the season --and playoffs-- before relocating.

For the Nets, that means after the regular season, if by some long shot there is an NBA season.

A spokesman said Yormark visited a site in Brooklyn Heights, adding he's looking at several but wouldn't speak to specifics. Bruce Ratner's buildings are likely high on Yormark's list.

article

NoLandGrab: If by "likely high" they mean "the only ones," then yes, that would be true, given Bruce Ratner's need to try to fill his surplus of office space.

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

July 6, 2011

More parking spaces for the Atlantic Yards arena? Brennan idea said to be "very preliminary," draws immediate fire; isn't the issue demand management?

Atlantic Yards Report

More parking spaces for the Atlantic Yards arena? According to Patch, Assemblyman Jim Brennan aims to introduce legislation that would “compel Ratner to provide more parking” near the site.

One commenter on Patch wrote:

Jim: You are wildly out-of-touch on this issue. Community groups have stated very clearly: We want residential parking permits and an extremely limited on-site parking supply at this new arena. This is the way to ensure less gridlock, pollution and cruising for parking on our neighborhood streets.

Maybe that's why a Brennan aide told Patch the legislation is “very preliminary.”
...

It's the job of Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation, presumably in consultation with local bodies, to develop a demand management strategy, one that already has several element, as described below.

A refined version of the plan is due in about six months, with opportunity for public comment.

article

Posted by eric at 10:41 PM

Update #82: BK Heights and Michael Moore

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Battle for Brooklyn starts a one week run tonite at BK Heights Cinema at 70 Henry St. in Brooklyn (where it ran as opening night of the Brooklyn Film Festival)

The film runs nightly at 7:15 - tonite and tomorrow we will do q and a with Daniel Goldstein.

Exciting News, Michael Moore has invited the film to his Traverse City Film Festival in Late July. This will really raise awareness of the film in the documentary world.

link

More info: Brooklyn Heights Cinema

Posted by eric at 5:16 PM

Brennan to Push for More Atlantic Yards Parking

Assemblymember Jim Brennan plans to introduce legislation to force Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner to provide more parking.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

This could be the worst Atlantic Yards idea yet, which, as anyone familiar with the project could tell you, is really saying something.

Those already drafting their contingency plans for a parking nightmare once Barclays Arena opens may soon have something to look forward to.

While the Department of Transportation is still only “considering” residential parking permits to cope with the impending parking pain once the 18,000-seat arena opens for the 2012 basketball season, Assemblymember Jim Brennan is drafting his own plan to keep game-goers from taking up precious neighborhood parking spaces.

Brennan is gearing up to introduce legislation that would “compel Ratner to provide more parking,” he said last week.

Brennan said that the 1,100 parking spaces Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner plans to provide for the arena is insufficient given the size of the space. Residents have long worried that on game days, parking in the neighborhood will be nearly impossible and have pressed the city to initiate residential parking permits.

“We’re going to force them to provide more off-street parking,” said Brennan. “There is no reason that Forest City Ratner should be allowed to not provide parking.”

article

NoLandGrab: Actually, there is every reason that Forest City Ratner should be allowed to not provide parking. If you build it, they will drive [PDF].

Posted by eric at 2:05 PM

Forest City sells 49% stake in two New York rental buildings, Beekman and 80 DeKalb, at apparent discount to raise cash

Atlantic Yards Report

Like New York, it seems "Forest City Ratner is open for business." But maybe the line should be "everything must go — no reasonable offer will be refused!"

To lower debt payments, Forest City Enterprises is selling nearly half of two New York rental properties developed by subordinate Forest City Ratner, keeping 51% ownership. Similarly, the company sold nearly half of New York area retail properties in March to raise cash.

The press release at bottom, which is distilled in The Real Deal, Forest City restructures financing at 8 Spruce, DKLB BKLN, provides the developer's preferred angle:

Forest City Enterprises and National Real Estate Advisors [NREA] announced agreements to restructure the financing at 8 Spruce Street, the Frank Gehry-designed 76-story rental tower in Lower Manhattan and at DKLB BKLN the luxury tower in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, saving the companies hundreds of millions of dollars in debt payments.

Crain's Cleveland Business also distilled the press release.

But there's a trade-off: while Forest City may save hundreds of millions in debt, it sold stakes in both buildings for what seem to be discounts. (I suspect I'm missing some elements of the financial deal, but the raw math is still worth a look.)

In the press release, Forest City CEO David LaRue hinted that times are still tough: "Finally, by extending the bank credit facilities, it allows additional time for economic conditions and rents to further improve before refinancing is necessary."

article

Related coverage...

The Real Deal, Forest City restructures financing at 8 Spruce, DKLB BKLN

Forest City Enterprises and National Real Estate Advisors announced agreements to restructure the financing at 8 Spruce Street, the Frank Gehry-designed 76-story rental tower in Lower Manhattan and at DKLB BKLN the luxury tower in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, saving the companies hundreds of millions of dollars in debt payments.

The development is key for Forest City, the parent firm of Forest City Ratner, as this $876 million rental tower, formerly known as the Beekman, was under pressure to bring in enough renters to become profitable in a market that is just getting its sea legs.

Crain's Cleveland Business, Forest City Enterprises, National Real Estate Advisors recapitalize two N.Y. apartments

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

New ESDC spokesman says message is "New York is open for business" and promotes a "dynamic job creation strategy"

Atlantic Yards Report

The mission of Empire State Development, as noted last week, "is to promote business investment and growth that leads to job creation and prosperous communities across New York State."

So it makes sense that new VP of public affairs Austin Shafran, who comes from representing Senate Democrats and replaces Warner Johnston, would say in a statement (according to the Times-Union):

“I am honored to join the ESD team to get the message out that New York is open for business,” said ESD Vice President of Public Affairs, Austin Shafran. “It’s a privilege to work with one of New York’s premier business experts, ESD President & CEO Kenneth Adams, to help promote and implement Governor Cuomo’s dynamic job creation strategy to recharge our economy.”

We look forward to learning how Atlantic Yards fits into that job creation strategy.

link

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

Frank Gehry: Dizzy heights

The Guardian
by Jonathan Glancey

This sappy lovefest with the ill-fated Atlantic Yards starchitect, whose Forest City-built 8 Spruce Street was apparently inspired by "Michelangelo and Bernini," includes the best rationalization for construction-budget cost-cutting ever.

I'm getting tearful," says Frank Gehry when I ask him how he feels about finally making his mark on the Manhattan skyline. "My father grew up in Hell's Kitchen, 10th Avenue, on the city's West Side." Irving Goldberg was one of nine children in a very poor immigrant family; his son changed his name in the early 1950s. "He started work at 11," says Gehry. "He had a hard life. I'd like to share 8 Spruce Street with him. Hey, Pa! I got to build a skyscraper right by the Woolworth Building. That's me, Dad. Up there!"

Gehry's previous tribute to his dad was disavowing his surname.

"Originally, I wanted to have the folds going all the way around," Gehry explains. "But the marketing folk said that 15% of people didn't want apartments with wrinkles. So that's why there's a straight side. But, then, they started to rent out the wrinkly apartments, and asked for more of them. By then I'd begun to like the straight side. The models we made showing the tower completely wrinkly just didn't look tough enough for New York."

article

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Hockey arena site forces day-care center to find new home

Allentown Morning Call
by Elizabeth Murphy

Surely the Allentown Phantoms would never renege on their rent obligations. Right?

Olgie Moreno-Prosper says it's bad enough she has to move her Allentown day-care center to make way for a proposed hockey arena. Now she has to overcome the frustration of zoning bureaucracy to find a new home.

New Generation Learning Center, which tends 75 mostly inner-city children from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, is a tenant of 42 N. Seventh St. The building stands on what will practically be center ice if the city successfully builds a new home for the American Hockey League Phantoms, the Philadelphia Flyers' minor league team that now plays in Glens Falls, N.Y.

With Allentown threatening to acquire properties for the project through eminent domain, building owner Marian Rush said she has a contract to sell the building to the city for an undisclosed amount.

Moreno-Prosper, director of New Generation, wants to keep the day care center in the same vicinity and has a potential new home on the second and third floors of 515 Linden St. But that requires city approval because the building is outside the central business district and is zoned high-density residential.
...

Moreno-Prosper called the zoning process frustrating.

"We are moving because they are asking us to but they are putting us through this to move," she said, noting that she does understand the separation of the city and the zoning board.

article

NoLandGrab: If only she were relocating her basketball team rather than her daycare center, the city would've overrode the zoning for her.

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

Chargers Say They Don't Have to Pay Rent in Lockout

voiceofsandiego.org
by Andrew Donohue

As if we needed it, here's another reminder of why stadiums and arenas are such a bad deal for taxpayers.

The first stop in our exploration of whether an NFL lockout will cost San Diego taxpayers: figuring out if the Chargers still have to pay rent at Qualcomm Stadium.

There's a clause buried in the city of San Diego's contract with the team that allows it to forgo paying the $2.5 million rent if a "force majeure event" prevents the team from using the stadium.

Force majeure literally means a "superior force" and is an unexpected event, like a natural disaster, war or other "act of God," that would keep a party from living up to its contract.

The National Football League's 32 teams collectively have decided that they need a greater share of the league's revenues and have begun a battle that threatens the upcoming season. It's not entirely unforeseen, either. This labor strife has been simmering for years.

The Chargers say, though, that the lockout is indeed a force majeure.

Here's a little icing on the cake.

Intuitively, losing out on $2.5 million in rent would seem bad. But there are years in which the city actually sends the Chargers more money than it receives from the team because the team gets rent credits for things such as property taxes on skyboxes and compensation for lost ticket sales because of the addition of disabled seating.

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NoLandGrab: This sounds like the equivalent of throwing out one's tenants and then using it as an excuse to stop paying the mortgage.

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

Brooklyn Museum Charges Ahead With New Trustees, Despite Troubles

NY Observer
by Dan Duray

The transition remains fraught with uncertainty as Mr. Lehman moves forward with new sources of funding and new partnerships. One of the new trustees is a law professor with a background as a corporate lawyer, another is Williamsburg-based artist Fred Tomaselli, whose retrospective exhibition appeared at the museum last year, and yet another is general counsel for Forest City Ratner Companies. (The museum is close with Bruce Ratner and was criticized for honoring him at a 2008 gala that featured a performance by Kanye West.)

One thing is certain: all eyes are on Mr. Lehman, whose tenacity will be tested by his ability to save what appears to be an ailing institution.

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NoLandGrab: Maybe Bruce can build a skyscraper atop the building, and the museum can collect the crumbs.

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

Photo call: Rats on the Run

The Local [Clinton Hill/Fort Greene]
by Susan A. Rowher

Complaints of a dramatic increase in area rat populations were the topic of conversation at a recent meeting organized by the Dean Street Block Association and Councilwoman Letitia James. Those who live near the Atlantic Yards development swapped horror stories, debated the source of the rodent swarm and discussed possible solutions. Some residents, blamed the “rat tsunami” on the nearby construction of the Barclays Center arena for the Nets basketball team.

So locals, we’re curious. Are you seeing an increase in the neighborhood’s rat population? If so, what do you think is the reason?  Send your stories, opinions and photos to bklocal@nytimes.com or post them on our Facebook page.

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Photo: Fort Greene SNAP

Posted by eric at 12:46 AM

Brooklyn Academy of Music to Curate Arts Programming at Barclays Center

Playbill.com
by Adam Hetrick

The Atlantic Yards development project has been a point of contention for many living in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood, but a new artistic partnership with the Brooklyn Academy of Music may help soothe tensions.

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NoLandGrab: Or not.

Posted by eric at 12:37 AM

Apparel Insiders: Gotham’s Queen of Retail

Brooklyn Gal

First the rat tsunami — next the gentrification tsunami.

With her immaculately coiffed blonde hair, chic suits and touch of bling, Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate’s Retail Leasing and Sales Division, is one of the most recognizable figures in the specialized world of retail real estate.
...
Apparel Insiders recently caught up with Consolo to talk about the go-to shopping neighborhoods in Manhattan and the boroughs and to get the dirt on some of the latest retail trends and emerging areas.
...

AI: On the Brooklyn front do you know of any retailers that are planning on opening in the vicinity of the controversial Atlantic Yards development, which also includes the sports venue Barclays Center? Does Atlantic Yards present an opportunity for retailers? Will those retailers help change the character of Downtown Brooklyn?
FHC: There are rumors of a Dave & Busters — or a similar concept — to come to the area. That would be perfect given the Barclays Center — people attending an event need somewhere to dine/be entertained, as do the many commuters who go through the subway and LIRR stations at the site.  Rent increases will drive more trendy shops. Already, a number of boutiques are moving from Soho to Brooklyn. Given the presence of Barneys Co-Op and Trader Joe’s not too far away, I wouldn’t be surprised to see much more upscale shopping near the project. Atlantic Yards will complement and continue what’s already going on in the area: increasingly upscale shops and restaurants that match the pricey residences in Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill.

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Posted by eric at 12:11 AM

July 5, 2011

Barclays Center Revealed

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

Park Slope Patch
By Kristen V. Brown

The Barclays Center is now truly flying up—in the past month, the sides of the basketball arena that the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets plan to call home in the 2012-2013 have been revealed, with almost all of the steel frame now in place. The concrete slabs that will make up the arena seating has begun to go into place. In the next two months, as installation of the façade kicks into high-gear, what was once merely a collection of steel girders and cranes will reveal the shape of the arena.

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Photo: Kristen V. Brown

Posted by eric at 11:28 PM

Construction Update: Forest City and contractor Hunt are "considering" helping more with rat abatement

Atlantic Yards Report

From the two-week Construction Update (embedded below), dated 7/4/11, prepared by Forest City Ratner and distributed by the Empire State Development Corporation:

Hunt [Construction] and FCRC have reviewed and are considering actions to supplement the site and adjacent neighborhood’s rodent protection activities. Hunt has more than 225 rodent bait stations within the area work site and Block 1129 that are being monitored and maintained.

The issue, however, is the "rat tsunami" outside the project site. The developer has been pressured to do more and previously said it was considering doing so. Given that rat sightings proliferate, as I've been told, residents seek a solution sooner rather than later.

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Posted by eric at 11:12 PM

Revisiting that 7/4/04 Times editorial, The Brooklyn Nets, seven years later: parking, subsidies, cost/benefit analysis, and the dubious promise of 3,000 cheap seats

Atlantic Yards Report

Seven years ago, in a 7/4/04/ City section editorial headlined The Brooklyn Nets, the New York Times published its first, and most skeptical, editorial about the Atlantic Yards arena and project.

The editorial begins:

The idea of bringing a professional sports team to the city almost always sounds great - and then the calculation of cost versus benefits begins. It seems a new team requires a new sports facility, and for some reason, owners of these lucrative franchises are seldom willing to build anything without enormous infusions of public money. That is one of the major concerns about the proposal to place the Jets football stadium on Manhattan's far West Side at a cost to taxpayers of $600 million. It is also an issue when it comes to the Nets and Brooklyn. While the plans to bring professional basketball to Atlantic Avenue are in many ways more attractive than the football proposal, the scale of public investment needs closer examination.

The amount the city and state will be asked to contribute to help the developer Bruce Ratner build the arena as part of a $2.5 billion, mixed-use 21-acre complex over Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards and on adjacent land is still being negotiated. But the public may be asked to guarantee hundreds of millions of dollars in bonded debt if the government helps pay for the arena and for significant infrastructure improvements to allow construction - including moving Long Island Rail Road tracks two blocks. The tab also could include some 3,000 new parking spaces, which will help, if only a little, to manage the influx of cars in an already-clogged corridor.

Such new parking would less likely manage the influx of cars as enable it.

The public was not asked to guarantee bonded debt for the arena, but the state contributed $100 million and the city contributed at least $179 million in direct subsidies.

But the costs to the city, state, and Metropolitan Transportation Authority would be much higher if opportunity costs are factored in, as the Independent Budget Office (IBO) calculated in September 2009.

Such opportunity costs--foregone gains thanks to tax exemptions and other below-market benefits--were not fully calculated in the IBO's 2005 report.

Beyond that, the IBO calculated (graphic below) that developer Forest City Ratner would have total savings of $726 million from "the mix of special government benefits." Consider, however, that that calculation was very conservative, given that the IBO focused on the arena, not the project as a whole. Also see the Empire State Development Corporation's response to the IBO, and the IBO's response

Fair market value

The editorial continues:

Both proposed sports facilities in Brooklyn and Manhattan would be built over rail yards owned by the cash-short and debt-ridden Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which should not be pressured to give away its assets. The state-run authority - which lacks other new sources of revenue - should demand and get a fair market price for any land and air rights the developers at either site need.

A study commissioned by Mr. Ratner (who is a partner of The Times in constructing its new headquarters building) shows that the government would more than get back its investment in the Brooklyn project, based on 30 years of projected new tax revenues from team salaries and new office and residential occupants, among other factors. Another study, endorsed by opponents of the development, maintains that taxpayers could lose half a billion dollars in the deal. We would like to see a third, truly independent examination.

However, no Times editorial has addressed the IBO's second study.

A November 2005 editorial mentioned the first one, arguing against direct subsidies (a position the Times later ignored) and concluding, gingerly:

The Nets arena is not destined to be a cash cow, but the borough deserves a sports team, so long as the price is not too high.

That price has not been addressed.

Local objections

The editorial continues:

Local objections to the Atlantic Yards development need to be addressed, particularly concerning the thousands of additional cars and cabs that can be expected on game nights. While some residents will be dislocated and inevitably wind up feeling pushed around, the mere threat of change is not a reason to oppose the project. Neither is the use of the state powers of eminent domain, as long as the people involved are compensated fairly. Mr. Ratner seems to have been generous in buying out homeowners and moving renters.

Sure, "the mere threat of change is not a reason to oppose the project," but many other things--from environmental impact to an undemocratic process--animated opposition. Does "feeling pushed around" include the "rat tsunami"?

As for eminent domain, the requirement is not merely just compensation but also "public use," long redefined as "public purpose." The Times could have done a much, much more stringent job assessing the public purpose of the project.

Ratner's seeming generosity, of course, was funded in large part by city taxpayers, we since learned. And the Times could have mentioned at the time that the buyouts were accompanied by gag orders (see graphic at left).

Promises of public benefits

The editorial continues:

Community residents have also been promised that the development around the arena will include 4,500 housing units, half slated to go to low and moderate income earners and the elderly.

Those promises need to be unpacked. Half of the 4500 housing units--now 6430--would go to "low and moderate income earners and the elderly," but only half of those 2250 units, or 1125 units, would go to the working-class constituency represented by ACORN, which signed a housing agreement with Ratner.

And only half of those 1125 units, or 562.5, would go to "community residents," of those are defined as residents of the three surrounding community boards.

How many cheap seats?

The editorial continues:

To address another longstanding complaint about sports projects, Mr. Ratner says 3,000 of the 19,000 seats for Nets games at the new Frank Gehry-designed arena will be sold at levels many neighborhood residents could afford - around $15.

As for 3,000 low-priced seats, that promise didn't last long. Usually the developer was vague, for example promising at a 5/4/04 City Council hearing the "maximum number of affordable tickets." However, in a September 2004 Urban Land article, Forest City executive Bruce Bender claimed "we’ve got 3,000 to 5,000 cheap seats selling for $15 to $20."

In a 5/26/05 presentation to City Council, Forest City promised "approximately" 3,000 such seats.

A month later, a 6/27/05 city press release, upon signing of the Community Benefits Agreement, promised at least 2,000 such seats, not 3,000. (The arena would now hold 18,000 people, not 19,000.)

Who's in charge of the jump-start?

The editorial continues:

A basketball arena near downtown Brooklyn is basically a more attractive proposition than a football stadium in Manhattan. The building is less overwhelming and more likely to see regular use. Both the proposed sites need economic development, but the most important need of the far West Side of Manhattan is a subway line, not a monstrous sports center. The proposed Brooklyn site, at Flatbush and Atlantic, is already perhaps the best transportation hub in the city, but the area clearly needs an additional jump-start if it is going to thrive, and Mr. Ratner's project might provide that.

Sure, the arena looks better than the West Side Stadium, but maybe that's not the best comparison. It's specious to call Brooklyn a better transportation hub than Times Square or Grand Central Terminal, but that's no the issue.

The issue, as the Times should have suggested, is whether the city and state should have embraced Ratner's take-it-or-leave-it project, or actually put the valuable railyard out to bid, as it never did.

Brooklyn's luster?

The editorial concludes:

There is also, of course, the dream of giving back to Brooklyn some of the luster it lost when Robert Moses killed Walter O'Malley's vision of building a domed stadium for the Dodgers at the same site nearly 50 years ago. That dream, the housing, the cheap tickets and all the other good things are not worth risking hundreds of millions of dollars in public money and dooming Brooklyn to impassible streets on every game night. But if those issues can be properly addressed, the idea of the Brooklyn Nets is tantalizing.

Brooklyn had and has generated all sorts of luster on its own since then. O'Malley did not seek the same site, but the Times hasn't corrected that error.

So, it it worth "risking hundreds of millions of dollars in public money"? The Times in November 2005 actually opposed direct subsidies, saying "those costs should be absorbed by the builder. Since then, the Times has forgotten that critique.

What about addressing the issue of impassible streets? That hasn't been done, either, but the Times hasn't kept up with the issue, for example not covering a contentious meeting last week on traffic and parking.

Meanwhile, the Times did cover another meeting on the "rat tsunami," but did not see fit to put it in print. By contrast, a Ratner-fed press release about programming help from the Brooklyn Academy of Music made the front page of the Arts section.

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Posted by steve at 8:28 AM

July 4, 2011

From the NoLandGrab archives: Eminent Domination Without Representation

Declaration-of-Independence.jpg

Eleven score and ten fifteen years ago today (230 235 yrs.), 56 property/business owners declared that they were fed up with King George III of England and his failure to act in the best interests of his citizen-subjects.

At the risk of being labeled "screamers" and "kooks," these 56 men volunteered to represent their communities and publicly executed a radical and politically risky move. They pledged their lives and fortunes to fight against what was essentially a "done deal:" the arbitrary rule of law and the manipulation of legislatures to serve the purposes of a despotic power.

On this anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we offer you a transcript of the document (after the jump), so that you may ponder the contemporary significance of the usurpations of a despot who refused to allow local citizens to determine issues that directly affected their lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

As you consider the "Declaration of the thirteen united States of America," your thoughts may drift towards more recent events concerning a major land-use headache in Central Brooklyn (where, coincidentally, the first major battle of the War for Independence was fought): * NY State's takeover, with Mayor Bloomberg's consent, of local zoning, land use and environmental review (in other words, putting an arena and 16 towers at an already congested intersection — economic, health and quality-of-life concerns be damned), * Eminent domain seizures without legislative oversight (no legislators get to vote if the project is under NY State jurisdiction), * Manipulations of the rule of law to serve the purpose of the politically connected (i.e. "emergency" demolitions, the inevitable finding of "blight" to justify private property condemnation), * Approval of the largest single-source development project in the history of NYC placed in the hands of un-elected representatives of the three most powerful men in Albany, * The spending of our tax dollars on Bruce Ratner's private development, with taxes generated by the project earmarked to the servicing of Bruce Ratner's mortgage on the property, * Government officials ignoring the petitions of redress by their subjects/citizens.

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
Massachusetts:
John Hancock

Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5 New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple

Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Source: http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/declaration_transcript.html

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

The need for an ESDC ombudsman--er, community relations manager--and responses to Atlantic Yards Watch concerns about truck routes

Atlantic Yards Report

Given reports on Atlantic Yards Watch of apparent improper construction activities, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) had better fill its job opening soon.

The ESDC has publicly posted the job opening (embedded below) for the position formerly known as Ombudsman, formally termed Manager – Community & Government Relations, Atlantic Yards Project.

The job description states:

The basic function of this position is to foster and manage communications and relationships with local elected officials and community groups/leaders within the Brooklyn community relating to the Atlantic Yards Project; and assist in mitigating the effects of construction by coordinating all relevant parties.

That may be an accurate description of the tasks faced by the former occupant, Forrest Taylor (who left last month after 3.5 years), rather than the formal definition of ombudsman, which is someone "who investigates complaints and mediates fair settlements."

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Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

Sunday @ Atlantic Yards / Barclays Center

A Daily Photo
by brooklynpix

The Nets’ arena is growing by the day, and what’s most striking is that the sides of the building are going to be up against the roadway. It’s a narrow fit. The nearby intersections are hellish, but now traffic cops are frequently posted at the three main lights, so that helps.

[Emphasis, ours.]

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NoLandGrab: Critics have been wondering what the proximity of the arena, especially to Atlantic Avenue, where it appears to be about 10 feet from the roadbed, means for security. Newark police close a street before, during and after games at the Prudential Center that is 25 feet from the arena.

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Declare Your Independence Today, See Battle for Brooklyn in Brooklyn or Manhattan

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Happy Independence Day!

You can declare your own independence this week by seeing the remarkable independent film Battle for Brooklyn at these two independent cinemas:

Cinema Village in Manhattan has daily screenings at 3:05 and 7:10.

And this Wednesday, July 6th, the film begins its run at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema (70 Henry Street) with daily screenings at 7:15pm (on July 6th and 7th after the movie, the filmmakers will be doing a Q&A along with the film's protagonist and DDDB co-founder Daniel Goldstein).

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Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

Times assigns eight staffers to story about Brearley School head's departure; what about covering EB-5?

Atlantic Yards Report

I read with incredulity a 7/2/01 New York Times article headlined Quick Exit of Private School’s Leader Puzzles Parents.

Sure, Times readers are interested in the fate of the city's most prestigious private school for girls. But the Times article, attributed to two authors, also cited five other reporters and a researcher as contributors.

Eight staffers, one story.

It makes me wonder: what if the Times had assigned eight reporters to the EB-5 story--Forest City Ratner's dubious effort to raise $249 million from immigrants interested in green cards--rather than dismiss it in two paragraphs, as was done in March?

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NoLandGrab: The New York Times — fair and balanced?

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Knit Night @ Freddy's Bar, June 26, 2011

The Yarn Monkey Chronicles

Freddy's regulars are still a close-knit crowd.

The perfume of Silver Lindens hung heavily on a warm breeze, reminding us that summer is here. With my fried chicken dinner in hand and a bag of yarn in the other, I walked to Freddy's for our monthly Knit Night. Our small group of South Slope regulars gathered for Beer 'n' Balls and conversation — dog sweaters, socks, new apartments, old neighborhoods, hair, new jobs, the economy, school...etc. I like our quirky little group.
...
Freddy’s Bar has been enjoying its new success in Greenwood Heights, in South Slope Brooklyn. After the travesty which is Atlantic Yards and the debacle with eminent domain abuse, Freddy’s success is well deserved.

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Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

July 3, 2011

Brooklyn’s 100 Most Embarrassing People Of All Time (That I Can Think Of)

Brooklyn Breeder

Brooklyn Breeder's Allison Pennell brings us a holiday weekend list that features a handful of folks who honed their annoyingness on Atlantic Yards.

Last week, Gothamist came out with its colossal “listicle” of 100 Reasons Why Brooklyn Lives Up To Its Hype. Can’t wait for Queens, btw!

I was inspired and awed. So inspired that I decided to do a Brooklyn 100 of my own.

First I was just going to do famous assholes in honor of learning that Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs was a Brooklyn boy. But that wasn’t going to get me to 100. Not that we’re not at capacity but better to go for a bigger catch all: cringe-inducing, wise-assy, know-it-all-ish, over-compensating, pseudo-intellectual, criminal, schmucky, and/or just plain annoying. Essentially: a list of one hundred people past and present who make Brooklyn so very Brooklyn.
...

Bruce Ratner Shitty real estate destroyer of Brooklyn neighborhoods. Maybe used to live here, maybe not.
...

Carl Kruger Hypocritical, outed and thieving State Senator for old-school Brooklyn accused of bribery and money-laundering.
...

Marty Markowitz Can’t wait for the mayoral campaign! Go Marty! Away.

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NoLandGrab: We might be able to come up with a list of Atlantic Yards's 100 Most Embarrassing People of All Time without trying too hard.

Posted by eric at 7:12 PM

Barclays Center contractor Laquila regularly sends trucks down local streets and passed Dean Playground

Atlantic Yards Watch

Illegal Atlantic Yards contructions truck on Dean from tracy collins on Vimeo.

In the last week construction trucks have been sighted regularly on Dean Street between 6th and Vanderbilt Avenues. A resident of Carlton Avenue from Dean to Pacific Streets also states trucks have lined up there early in the morning.

The trucks on Dean Street largely appear to be associated with Laquila, a contractor working on Barclays Center. Many trucks are loaded with gravel and travel past Dean Playground, down Dean Street to Vanderbilt, turn left on Vanderbilt and left again into the former Pacific Street. They may be delivering gravel to a site on block 1129 where the gravel is sifted and loaded back on trucks.

According to a driver interrupted mid-trip at the intersection of Dean Street and Carlton Avenue on Friday July 1st, no information has been provided to Laquila drivers about the routes to take from the arena block.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Watch, Lack of clarity about truck routes, rules and requirements may lead to unnecessary impacts for the local community

Besides recent complaints about truck traffic on Dean Street, this website has received multiple truck related complaints in the last two weeks including a flat bed truck idling twice in two consecutive days on Pacific Street between Underhill and Vanderbilt Avenues and cement trucks lining Dean Street between 5th and Flatbush Avenues. Another complaint located a stationary truck near an accident at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.

Lack of clarity about truck routes, rules and requirements may lead to unnecessary impacts for the local community. Current Barclays Center Delivery Truck Rules and Requirements [PDF] rule out queing anywhere except Pacific Street from Vanderbilt to Carlton.

For months the truck requirements on the ESDC website have been out of date, and the information in the construction alerts released every two weeks has had little useful relationship to the actual configuration of truck entrances around the perimeter of the project.

Posted by eric at 6:48 PM

Another correction request sent to the New York Times: is the arena in "downtown Brooklyn" or near it?

Atlantic Yards Report

As far as The Times is concerned, Bruce Ratner appears to be building the world's first fully portable arena.

In the 6/30/11 article headlined (online) In Alliance, Nets Arena to Offer Arts, the Times reported: Now Atlantic Yards, the development that will bring the New Jersey Nets to downtown Brooklyn, will also be a cultural center.

However, the Times has previously identified the location of Atlantic Yards as being in Prospect Heights. As noted in a 4/27/06 correction:
Because of an editing error, an article in The Arts on Tuesday about Frank Gehry's design for the first phase of the Grand Avenue development project in Los Angeles misstated the location of the proposed Atlantic Yards project that Mr. Gehry is designing in Brooklyn. (The error also appeared in sports articles on Feb. 9 and April 11, in the City section on Jan. 15 and in several articles in 2003, 2004 and 2005.) It is on rail yards and other land in Prospect Heights and on a block in Park Slope; it is not in Downtown Brooklyn, although it is near that neighborhood.

This "downtown Brooklyn" error has occurred several times since then, though most references in the Times have been accurate.

Here is my quick survey of articles requiring corrections.

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Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

Does mostly uncovered mound of dirt on Block 1129 violate ESDC's Memorandum of Environmental Commitments?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments for the Atlantic Yards project states that "all stockpiled dry materials (e.g., sand, aggregate) shall be water-misted; sprayed with non-hazardous, biodegradable suppressing agent; covered; or otherwise enclosed." It also states "loading of any dry material which may release dust from trucks shall be accompanied by manual water spraying of the material," and that "a washing station shall be constructed for all truck exits."

However, according to Atlantic Yards Watch, none of these commitments appear to be met in the case of a mostly uncovered mound of dirt on block 1129 close to homes.

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Posted by eric at 9:43 AM

July 2, 2011

Barclays Center contractors place a mostly uncovered mound of dirt on block 1129 close to homes; there appear to be numerous violations of the Amended Environmental Commitments Memo

Atlantic Yards Watch

Either Frank Gehry has designed his first earth house, or Bruce Ratner is building a giant dirt pile in Prospect Heights.

Barclays Center contractors have created a large stockpile for dirt at the intersection of Dean Street and Carlton Avenue. The mostly uncovered mound is across the street from homes on Dean Street and Carlton Avenue. It has been in place for over a week. The issue was first brought to the attention of this website by an incident report filed Tuesday, June 28th.

It is unclear why this stockpile and the procedure it is associated with are located so close to residences.

The pile appears to violate numerous commitments as detailed in the Amended Environmental Commitments Memo. Dirt was visibly blowing off the pile on Friday, July 1st.

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Posted by eric at 10:17 PM

More on the BAM-arena plans: "you have to be suspicious of anything Ratner might be telling you"

Atlantic Yards Report

We're still waiting for some more coverage on the BAM-arena plans revealed in a spoon-fed New York Times exclusive--the New York Daily News and Brooklyn Paper have yet to weigh in, though the New York Post and many others ran an anodyne AP story.

But "[t]he bottom line is that you have to be suspicious of anything Ratner might be telling you," writes Noticing New York's Michael D. D. White in Cultural Circus? Mr. Ratner’s Attempt to Rechristen His Arena A “Cultural Center.”

He takes off from some previous reporting, including how I pointed out that incredible claim that the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music would together create a new cultural district.

He points out that, while "Ratner describes circuses as part of the commonplace perception people generally have of arenas from which he wants to move away," BAM's Karen Brooks Hopkins contradicts Ratner by suggesting performances can be "large nouvelle cirque kind of work."

The role of the Times

White writes:

Is it a problem that the New York Times fills its pages as the passive conduit for Ratner hype? In reviewing the documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times” Noticing New York noted the film’s reporting of “The New York Times Effect,” which is to say that which the New York Times deigns to include in its pages “sets the agenda” virtually defining reality to a large extent for the rest of the press and that what gets reported in the Times thereafter almost invariably passes down the media food chain.

...By the time the story was boiled down to the short squibs broadcast by WNYC virtually any detectable warning of the PR bogusness of the whole affair had been eliminated.

Rather, he suggests, the Times should have analyzed the "press manipulation," including possible “good news” timed to counter a potential construction workers' strike, or the arena operators' efforts to fill seats at the arena that hasn't come close to the 225 annual events once promised or the 200-plus currently promised.

One correction, one missing one

The online article states:

Correction: July 1, 2011

An article on Thursday about an alliance between the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Barclays Center, the arena being built in downtown Brooklyn, misstated the title for Joseph V. Melillo of the academy. He is its executive producer, not executive director.

Of course, the entire article needs a conceptual correction, but do note that the Times has agreed that the arena is being built in "downtown Brooklyn," not, as the Times once agreed in a mega-correction, as part of a project being built in Prospect Heights.

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Posted by steve at 5:09 PM

July 1, 2011

Opinion: Don’t Let Atlantic Yards Developers Control the Narrative

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Michael Galinsky

Speaking of circuses — Battle for Brooklyn filmmaker and regular contributor to The Local Michael Galinsky weighs in on the Atlantic Yards media circus.

Yesterday I was quoted in a The New York Times article about a new benefit that the Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is touting. Bruce Ratner and the Brooklyn Academy of Music plan to partner on big-spectacle art events at the Barclays Center. I was asked how I thought the community would react.

What struck me, however, was the fact that once again the developer was putting out a story that would show them in a good light, and that any questions about their position were relegated to the end of the article. I was pleased that I was given the chance to discuss the issue, but saddened to imagine that the concerns of the community would be buried below the fold, and that the pattern of the developer controlling the narrative would go on.
...

When something was happening that the developers couldn’t control, such as the 2006 environmental impact hearing, they trotted out some Nets basketball players and held a press conference in a government building (that they built) across the street from the impact hearing. I was prevented from shooting that conference, as you can see in the clip above.

This press conference seemed to be more about distracting the media from the real discussion that was taking place across the street. By trotting out several basketball stars, the publicity company was able to get the “credentialed media” to pay less attention to the discussion about the environmental impacts of the project. Because they didn’t feel that they could trust what I would do with the footage — I was not credentialed or working for a mainstream news organization — I was shut out. I think their concern was that I might not stay on message.

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Posted by eric at 10:12 PM

Cultural Circus? Mr. Ratner’s Attempt to Rechristen His Arena A “Cultural Center”

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White takes an entertaining look at the recent "news" that Bruce Ratner will stage some "cultural events" in his arena.

One respect in which Ms. Hopkins and Mr. Ratner have not coordinated to get their act together (about what they are “coordinating”) is whether we are talking circuses here. Mr. Ratner is saying NO, Ms. Hopkins is saying YES.

In contradistinction to the “cultural institution” camouflage Ratner says he is interested in gaining with his wham-BAM press release, Ratner describes circuses as part of the commonplace perception people generally have of arenas from which he wants to move away:

“. . . . . then you have an arena, which, people think about sports and circus and so on”

But Ms. Hopkins contradicts Mr. Ratner by apparently envisioning that recommending circuses (pardon her French) may be exactly what BAM will do:

She said she expects the performances to be “on a very large scale, large nouvelle cirque kind of work, big dance kind of things, music.”

For those who might need it translated “cirque” is simply French for “circus,” whether “nouvelle” or not.

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Posted by eric at 10:04 PM

NBA lockout could jeopardize next season, affect composition of the Nets

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder rounds up coverage of the NBA lockout. Which set of multi-millionaires will blink first?

While a strike jeopardizing construction of the Atlantic Yards arena has been averted, the next NBA basketball season--or, perhaps, just part of the off-season--could be in jeopardy, as collective bargaining talks broke down.

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Posted by eric at 7:17 PM

Exclusive: How (And Why) An NBA Team Makes A $7 Million Profit Look Like A $28 Million Loss

Deadspin
by Tommy Craggs

Deadspin takes a fascinating look at how pro sports franchises "lose" money while actually making money. And what team do they use for their example of flim-flamming? Bet you'll never guess.

We've excerpted part of the article, but the whole thing is well worth a read.

We've obtained audited financial data for the New Jersey Nets covering the three fiscal years from June 2003 to June 2006. Though the numbers end five years ago, you can still see the roots of the argument that will have NBA owners, come midnight, again locking out their players. You can also see how a team makes money and how it pretends not to be making any money at all.

It's not hard to see the benefits. Owners who've set themselves up as a partnership or a Subchapter S corporation can pass their "losses" onto their personal income tax forms. Let's assume that's what the Nets owners did, and let's put them in the 33 percent tax bracket. (The audit here covers the last year that Lewis Katz and Ray Chambers owned the team, the fiscal year ending in June 2004. In August 2004, six years after buying the Nets, they sold the franchise for $300 million to real estate developer Bruce Ratner. In 2009, Ratner sold an 80 percent share to a Rocky and Bullwinkle character named Mikhail Prokhorov for $293 million in equity.) That $27.6 million loss would mean tax savings of $9.1 million ($27.6 x .33).

If we're trying to arrive at some idea of how much money the Nets really made in 2004, we'll need to do a little crude math. Knock out the $25.1 million RDA — a paper loss, remember — and add the $9.1 million in tax savings. Suddenly, that $27.6 million loss becomes a $6.6 million profit.
...

Bruce Ratner's ownership group took over in fall 2004, and the Nets became a small piece of Forest City's $12 billion portfolio. This includes the Atlantic Yards land grab in Brooklyn, the future home of the Nets and the best explanation for why a buccaneering real estate developer like Ratner might buy a middling franchise like the Nets in the first place. As Neil deMause, co-author of Field of Schemes, explains: "If Ratner had gone to Brooklyn politicians and said, 'Hey, I want to build offices and residential buildings on public land,' they'd have hung up on him. But when he says, 'I'm going to bring professional sports back to Brooklyn,' suddenly here's [Brooklyn Borough President] Marty Markowitz holding press conferences and sobbing about the Dodgers. [Buying the Nets] helped him get a foot in the door with Brooklyn politicians."

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Related coverage...

The Star-Ledger, Report says Nets made money in 2004, despite what the team's books said

According to the story, the Nets claimed to lose $27.6 million in 2003-04, when the team actually made a profit of nearly $7 million.

The team took advantage of a 1959 law that allowed them to reduce its tax obligation by $25 million under something called the roster depreciation allowance (RDA) which says that players, once signed to contracts, begin to depreciate almost immediately, a little bit like new cars, whose value dips the minute they are driven off the sales lot. According to the story, once you eliminate the $25 million RDA, and add the $9.1 million in tax savings the RDA got them, the team earned about $6.6 million in profit.

ESPN.com, Is the NBA really losing money?

The [NBA] contends that 22 of the 30 teams are losing money, to the tune of about $370 million per season collectively. The individual team owners are seeking a complete overhaul of the league's financial model, and have submitted proposals to the players that feature a $45 million hard cap and rollbacks to existing salaries (reductions in existing contracts of 15 percent to 25 percent, based on the players' starting salary) -- a proposal the players association termed "a non-starter." They have also discussed an alternative in which salaries are pegged near their present levels, so the players' share of revenues declines over time as revenues increase over the next 10 years.

That sounds exactly like Bruce Ratner "negotiating" with construction unions.

"There has been ongoing debate and disagreement regarding the numbers, and we do not agree that the stated loss figures reflect an accurate portrayal of the financial health of the league," Hunter said in a statement released during the All-Star break.

The players association contends that a significant portion of the losses is merely an accounting artifact, and doesn't reflect an actual operating loss.

"There might not be any losses at all. It depends on what accounting procedure is used," Hunter said. "If you decide you don't count interest and depreciation, you already lop off 250 [million] of the 370 million dollars."

Atlantic Yards Report, Deadspin: Nets exemplify how basketball team owners use paper losses to mask profits (also see ESPN analysis of sale price)

Larry Coon of ESPN.com adds some analysis:

Brooklyn Basketball (the Nets' parent company) paid $361 million for the team. In order for the balance sheet to balance, it had to show assets in that amount. Some of these are real, physical assets; accounts receivable; and the like. Other parts are "intangible" assets, which represent the amount the buyer paid above the value of the tangible assets. These assets (but not the franchise itself) are amortized over their "useful lives," with a portion of their value (a total of $200 million for the Nets) counted as an operating expense each year. For the Nets this expense added up to $41.5 million in 2005 and $40.2 million in 2006.

In other words, $41.5 million of the Nets' $49 million operating loss in 2005, and $40.2 million of its $57.4 million in 2006, is there simply to make the books balance. It is part of the purchase price of the team, being expensed each year. This doesn't mean they cooked their books, or that they tried to pull a fast one on the players. It is part of the generally accepted accounting practice to transfer expenses from the acquisition to the profit and loss over a certain time period. However, it's an argument that doesn't hold water in a discussion with Hunter and the players association, who would claim that the Nets didn't really "lose" a combined $106.4 million in those two years, but rather that they lost $7.5 million and $17.2 million, respectively.

...Unless the players can share in the profit when a team is sold, they don't want to be burdened with the costs associated with buying the team in the first place. And if they don't have a say in the team's management decisions, they don't want to pay the cost when those decisions go awry.

Posted by eric at 6:48 PM

“Battle For Brooklyn” Deleted Scene: Bertha Lewis’s Non-Response To Low-Income Tenants Kicked Out Of Affordable Housing At The Atlantic Yards Site

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White probes this recently posted outtake from Battle for Brooklyn:

Most of what had to be excised from a 90-minute film, if included, would have been extra damning of the cabal of mega-project supporters Bruce Ratner collected around him while waving cash for those willing to sell out the community for private benefit. One big piece of the story left out of the film is the role of ACORN.

A deleted scene from the movie involving ACORN has been uploaded to the web by Michael Galinsky, one of the film makers of “Battle For Brooklyn.” As a piece that wound up on the cutting room floor, it is a good clue to the superfluity of superb material the film makers amassed and had to make choices about.

The scene is a three-minute drama involving an exchange between ACORN’s Bertha Lewis and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s Daniel Goldstein following a press conference in Brooklyn’s Borough Hall. In the clip Goldstein is trying to get Ms. Lewis to appreciate and understand that developer Forest City Ratner’s plan is resulting in the low-income tenants living in property being acquired for the project getting kicked out of their affordable housing, something that was directly contrary to what, minutes before, Ms. Lewis told a gaggle of reporters. She'd told them this wasn’t happening. Ms. Lewis is imperiously dismissive of Mr. Goldtein's concern, reflexively going out of her way to disclaim the obvious connection between what Goldstein is describing and Forest City Ratner.

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Posted by eric at 6:32 PM

Last-minute pact averts city-wide construction strike, avoids jeopardizing arena construction; was feared strike why double-shift construction began?

Atlantic Yards Report

Though no one admitted it, maybe it was the threatened--and just-averted--strike that led Forest City Ratner to go to double-shift construction at the Atlantic Yards arena site last month.

With contractors' and developers' concerns about construction costs driving discussion of contract renewals, a strike loomed today had not various construction unions agreed to renew contracts that expired yesterday--but a strike was averted as time nearly ran out.

The AP, via the Wall Street Journal, reports:

New York City crane operators have averted a strike after negotiations went down to the wire.

Louis Coletti of the Building Trade Employers Association says two unions representing crane operators, excavators and maintenance engineers agreed on a new contract late Thursday, less than two hours before their contracts expired.

Work could have been halted at World Trade Center sites and a new basketball arena in Brooklyn.

Other unions reached agreements earlier in the day, according to Crain's New York Business, but the operating engineers--from whom significant concessions were sought--control the cranes and thus are essential to any site progress.

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Posted by eric at 11:35 AM

Atlantic Yards Neighbors Say Rats Are Invading The Area

CBS New York
by John Montone

Rats? What rats?

Others in the neighborhood said the rats are just average-sized and some claim they haven’t seen any running around.

A construction worker at the project said he’s not sure why people are surprised by the infestation.

“The same thing happens around your house in the suburbs when you start digging, that’s when termites come up, everything starts moving around,” he said.

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Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Battling the Builder

Cinespect
by Sander Hicks

Has New York City become a complete oligarchy?

It certainly appears that way from the new documentary “Battle for Brooklyn,” now playing at Cinema Village. Here, activist Daniel Goldstein and the volunteers at Develop Don’t Destroy hold up their arms against the corporate financial juggernaut that runs this City. When developer Bruce Ratner decides to develop a series of skyscrapers and a sports arena at the Atlantic Yards site (at Atlantic and Flatbush) he uses nuances in real estate law to seize buildings, and people’s homes, through eminent domain. Goldstein was the only home-owner to hold out until the last, in a battle that lasted seven years. Film-makers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley were there with camera rolling every step of the way.
...

The triumph of Battle is that someone stood up to the juggernaut of financial power and reality manipulation. It has set attendance records at the independent house Cinema Village. Everyone who cares about the life of the City of New York should go see it. Make your 4th of July weekend about a real independence from domination and control.

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Tickets and Showtimes

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

Brooklyn Museum Names Fred Tomaselli and Two Others as New Trustees

ARTINFO

A week after announcing that it was replacing its board president with investment banker John Tamagni, the struggling Brooklyn Museum has named three new trustees: Fred Tomaselli, a known Brooklyn-booster and the first artist “in recent times” to sit on the museum’s board, along with New York Law School associate professor Tamara Belinfanti and Forest City Ratner executive VP and general counsel David Berliner. (It might be noted that Forest City Ratner, the high-profile development firm, is best known in Brooklyn for its not-exactly-fan-favorite Atlantic Yards project.) Let’s hope these three can inject some life into the wayward institution.

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Related coverage...

NY Observer, Brooklyn Museum Announces New Trustees Amid Money Troubles

The three trustees will be grappling with some financial difficulties–a recent planned show of graffiti art, which was to have courted the sort of controversy the Museum has historically enjoyed (they do have Judy Chicago in the permanent collection!) was scuttled, reportedly due either to financial cutbacks or the potential loss of city money the museum could not afford to lose.

NoLandGrab: Want some more irony? It's highly likely that the museum cursed itself by honoring Bruce Ratner at its annual gala in 2008.

Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

The official press release on the BAM-Barclays alliance, the imaginary new "cultural district," and reflections on Bruce Ratner's gift for irony

Atlantic Yards Report

Leave it to Norman Oder to point out the greatest irony of all.

"I always like to put things that are a little bit ironic together" was the money quote from Bruce Ratner in today's New York Times exclusive on the alliance in which the Brooklyn Academy of Music will bring three or four large-scale shows to fill empty dates at the Barclays Center arena.

The first irony is that this was seen as big news rather than as a question mark over the event projections for the arena. Remember, they've booked 150 shows and aim for more than 200 events a year.

The problem with those numbers is that a Moody's analyst in 2009 said its just-above-junk rating for $511 million in Barclays Center PILOT bonds depended in part on 225 events a year, and Forest City Ratner's original projection of 225 events depended on no new arena in Newark, though one has since opened.
...

There's an even greater irony. The alliance with BAM could turn the Barlcays Center into the "18,000-seat opera house" that Assemblyman Roger Green once said Atlantic Yards protestors might embrace.

From Chris Smith's August 2006 New York magazine article, Mr. Ratner's Neighborhood:

Green isn’t quite so blunt, but he sees the divide over Atlantic Yards almost as starkly. “Here’s the question: If we were building an 18,000-seat opera house, would we get as much resistance? I don’t think so,” he says. “Basketball is like a secular religion for most Brooklynites. The opposition to the arena is actually coming from people who are new to Brooklyn, who lived in Manhattan, mostly. And who have a culture of opposing projects of this nature. People who opposed the West Side Highway project; people who opposed the Jets stadium; people who opposed a host of other things. Some of those families now live in Brooklyn. That’s the reality. There’s a class of people who are going to the opera. And there’s another class of folks who will go to a basketball game and get a cup of beer.”

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Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

BAM and Barclays Center Strike Up Arts Partnership

WNYC
by Julia Furlan

Since The Times reported it, it must be news.

Grande jetés and encores may join the jabs and jump shots at Downtown Brooklyn's Barclays Center. The developers of the 18,000-seat arena announced on Thursday that they are looking around the corner to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) for arts programming.

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Related coverage...

NY Observer, Bruce Ratner, Arch-Ironist

The Observer's Matt Chaban sees through the irony.

“I always like to put things that are a little bit ironic together. So here you have a place like BAM, which is a great contemporary-arts cultural institution, and then you have an arena, which, people think about sports and circus and so on. And then you put them together, and then I think you’ve got something special.”

Indeed, Mr. Ratner has been a master of irony through decades of development:

  • He had a rapidly gentrifying stretch of Brooklyn declared blighted, and then condemned.
  • He has acquired a taste for hip-hop.
  • He gets the light touch from the newspaper of record whose headquarters he built.
  • He lives in Manhattan.
  • He hired, then fired, Frank Gehry from the Atlantic Yards project after a lifetime of developing blasé buildings.
  • Ratner’s rats.

(If these are not exactly ironic, well, neither is a cultural institution putting on shows in a sports arena, either.)

CBS New York, Nets’ Barclays Center Announces Partnership With Brooklyn Academy Of Music

“From concerts to family shows, from college sports to boxing, and, of course, to Nets basketball, we have already confirmed more than 150 events per year and we fully expect to host more than 200 events annually,” said Nets CEO Brett Yormark. “It makes great strategic sense to align with our neighbor, BAM, and continue to bring the best of everything to Brooklyn.”

AP via Washington Examiner, NYC's new Nets arena announces arts partnership

BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins said the partnership will give BAM the opportunity to work on a giant canvas.

NoLandGrab: Almost like building a neighborhood practically from scratch.

Posted by eric at 10:23 AM