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October 31, 2011

Speak up in support of residential permit parking around the arena

Atlantic Yards Watch
by Danae Oratowski

WHAT: Hearing of the New York City Council Committee on State and Federal Legislation

WHEN: Wednesday, 11/2 at 10:30AM

WHERE: 250 Broadway, 14th Floor

According to the Empire State Development Corporation, when the Barclays Center opens in September 2012, an expected 35-40% of arena patrons will arrive for events by car. That means as many as 6,100 cars travelling to the site for each of the more than 200 events anticipated to be held each year.

This barrage of traffic is expected to cause significant delays at more than half of the intersections within a half mile of the arena. It will add to the vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle accidents that have already made Atlantic Avenue Brooklyn's most dangerous road. And it will result in up to 3,000 arena patrons taking curbside parking spots5 in Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, and Prospect Heights, clogging already-congested residential side streets.

Among all of the impacts to neighborhood character and quality of life that will come from locating Atlantic Yards' arena within residential communities, none are of greater consequence to more residents than the traffic generated by arena events. But there is a way to reduce the demand for our local streets. It's called "residential permit parking," or RPP, and it's been effective in other cities, like Boston and Chicago, where sports facilities are located in densely-populated areas. By limiting on-street parking during arena events to local residents, RPP will create a disincentive for arena patrons to drive, reducing congestion and making streets safer.

New York City requires authorization from the State legislature before it can implement RPP. On Wednesday, 11/2 at 10:30AM, the City Council will hear testimony on legislation authorizing the City to enact residential permit parking programs in the five boroughs. The Atlantic Yards Watch sponsors urge you to participate in this critical hearing and make your voice heard.


You can also sign a petition supporting RPP here.

Posted by eric at 11:07 PM

Kim Kardashian Files For Divorce

by Jocelyn Vena

OMG, he plays for the Nets? Weren't they like 12-70 two years ago? Eeewww!

Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries said "I do" in an elaborate, very public ceremony over the summer, and now comes word that the reality starlet and her basketball player hubby are calling it quits just 72 days after tying the knot.

The news comes as several tabloids have been reporting on Kim and Kris' marital woes. Kardashian and NBA player Humphries married on August 20 in California in a lavish ceremony in front of friends, family and E! cameras.


Posted by eric at 10:56 PM

The secret history of Forest City's prefab plans: partner modular firm charged with sneaky business, but settlement resolves lawsuit; case file reveals threat by FCR exec

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has a fascinating exclusive on the back story to Forest City Ratner's exploration of modular building techniques for Atlantic Yards. Biggest non-surprise: FCR dancing around shady dealings and legal action.

The first third of this article describes the outline of the story; the rest delves into further depth. The article is based on my reading of the case file in the lawsuit described below (Kullman Buildings Corp. vs. XSite Modular), as well as additional comments from architect James Garrison.

I contacted Forest City's spokesman this morning to ask for comment on behalf of the company and its partner XSite and was told, "As of now, they will not comment." I will post updates should they develop.

Developer Forest City Ratner’s ambition to build modular towers at record-setting heights, which could make Atlantic Yards profitable and launch a new prefab business, has provoked curiosity, speculation, and concern since reports of such plans surfaced in March 2011.

After all, with modular construction, Forest City might cut costs and construction time considerably. Atlantic Yards, now likely to take decades, could be completed closer to the long-promised ten-year schedule, albeit with question marks about its durability, diminished spending on jobs, and lowered tax revenues.

And, previously unreported, the modular venture has a contentious, litigious history, which for months slowed Forest City's efforts.

Today, while Forest City still faces challenges to go modular, including union negotiations and investment to start a factory, it has cleared a major hurdle.

By virtue of a legal settlement in August involving its business partner, FCR gained the expertise and financial terms it sought for assistance "in the development and implementation of a system and methodology of designing, manufacturing, and constructing modular" high-rise buildings "in a cost effective manner."

The charges in the lawsuit, aired in numerous legal papers, were settled before adjudication, thus leaving the full story ambiguous. The judge did issue two temporary restraining orders, lending some credence to the plaintiff's claims of potential harm caused by FCR's partner, whose legal defense the developer apparently funded.

The essence of the lawsuit

From Forest City's perspective, it was trying to negotiate the right transaction with the right partner, figuring out how to build 35-story-plus towers at a time when the tallest modular building rises only 25 stories. (The taller the building, the more complex the challenge, given wind and seismic stresses.)

To the Kullman Buildings Corp., which lost a potential contract and apparently has since gone out of business, Forest City benefited from its partner's alleged sneaky tactics.

As Kullman alleged in its lawsuit, FCR "was effectively able to circumvent Kullman's refusal to turn over the ownership rights in this system by the fact that Kullman's key employees collaborated a plan to work directly with FCRC under the formation of a new rival company."

Kullman not only refused to give up some rights to proprietary technology, it sought a royalty rate higher than Forest City would pay, and its CEO sought to change another key contract feature.

Forest City ceased negotiations and soon signed a contract with a new firm, XSite Modular, which agreed to a deal with different contours, including a lower price and less control of intellectual property than Kullman had sought.

XSite is staffed by former Kullman employees recruited by the recently-fired Kullman second-in-command, even as at least one was participating in communications on behalf of the firm regarding the Forest City contract.

Kullman sued XSite and six employees. The defense, denying the allegations, pointed out that employees had not signed non-compete agreements and that Kullman had failed to identify specific proprietary technology.

While the plaintiff's claims likely overreached--if Forest City had already decided to drop Kullman, could the defendants have caused the loss of that future contract?--Kullman argued that the defendants, among other things, faced a common-law duty not to act against the interests of their employer while still working there.

Forest City was not named in the suit, nor did it provoke the formation of XSite. Still, FCR played a key role, supplying testimony and, according to documents in the suit, agreeing to pay the defendants' legal fees.

Click thru for the full story.


Posted by eric at 2:17 PM

Occupying the Institutions.

by Michael Galinsky

If you watch one piece of film this week, make sure it's the one posted below.

Last week on buzzflash I wrote about the connection between our film “Battle for Brooklyn” and OWS. Last year, as we completed Battle, we started to make a film about education in NY. We saw intense similarities between the way in which parents were shut out of the education process and the way in which communities were shut out of the development process. Our daughters’ school felt under attack by the DOE, and we heard rumors that they planned on putting a charter school in our building. We started to examine the way in which decisions were made and information flowed, and we found a thoroughly corrupted system that was gamed to shut out parent and community involvement. It was once again, a top down management style that did not take into consideration the voices of those most affected by decision makers.

The process, of housing one school inside another has a tendency to pit neighbor against neighbor, forcing them to fight over scarce resources in the guise of fostering competition. If the community is divided, those in power have a much easier time of doing what they want. We witnessed both development fights and school fights using sham public forums to create the impression of public involvement. However these public meetings were almost always overrun by division. We saw this time and time again in the Atlantic Yards fight, and it was clearly taking place in the schools fight.

This year the people took over the PEP meeting using consensus techniques learned at Occupy Wall Street, rendering those in power essentially useless. Thankfully it was captured by meerkat media collective so that we have direct evidence that the occupy movement has moved from anger to rage to action.

From the first moments of my first visit to occupy wall street I had a sense that something momentous was taking place. This morning, when I saw this video by meerkat media that cinematically captures the people taking control in a consensus model it was clear that the movement has powerful legs to carry it.


NoLandGrab: We'd like to think that the folks at the PEP meeting learned from the mistakes of those of us who earnestly testified at the ESDC's rigged Atlantic Yards hearings, when we thought that if we just laid out all the facts about the unsolvable environmental impacts, reason would prevail. We were wrong. Don't get fooled again: sham democracy isn't democracy — it's a sham.

Posted by eric at 12:42 PM

From Atlantic Yards Watch and CLEXY Block Association: concern over "Future Stadium Event Traffic on Classon Avenue"

Atlantic Yards Report

A message on Atlantic Yards Watch, headlined Future Stadium Event Traffic on Classon Avenue, from CLEXY Block Association (Classon, Lexington, and Quincy):

Over 500 people have signed the petition to address the traffic issues on Classon Avenue created by the Atlantic Yards.
Classon Avenue is clearly being targeted as the main means of egress for future event traffic to the BQE. Classon Avenue is almost exclusively a residential street, yet current levels of illegal truck usage from the Atlantic Yards (Classon is not a truck route [map excerpt above], Bedford Avenue is the designated truck route) are creating serious health and safety risks for all who live, work and travel on Classon Avenue. These unsafe conditions will be greatly exacerbated by the increased traffic associated with the Atlantic Yards events. The CLEXY Block Association is petitioning for:
1. No Left Turn designation from Atlantic onto Classon Avenue
2. Clear and prominent signage along Atlantic designating Bedford as the route for the eastbound stadium traffic to access the BQE.
3.Addition of signage reinforcing Classon Avenue as prohibited to all truck and traffic excluding those making local deliveries.
4. Addition of a bike lane on Classon Avenue from Bergen to Dekalb.

Here's coverage on Brownstoner and Patch. Below, a map for context.


Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Block Association Petitions for Street Safety on Classonlink

Bed-Stuy Patch, Block Assn. Wants Fewer Trucks on Classonlink

Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

Plans Killed for Project Tied to Probe

The Wall Street Journal
by Joseph De Avila and Eliot Brown

One of New York City's largest developers has quietly scrapped a deal to build a shopping center on city-owned land in Brooklyn, a site that drew scrutiny during a federal investigation of state Sen. Carl Kruger.

The city had tapped developer Forest City Ratner Cos. to take the lead on the project, located on a 15-acre plot of land in Mill Basin, that was to include a shopping center and auto mall. Construction was expected to begin by 2014.

But in recent months, the developer switched course. Last month, officials issued a largely unnoticed one-line statement on the website of an obscure city office that said the "project has been withdrawn as of September 2011."

The shopping center had ties to a corruption case involving Mr. Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, but Forest City officials said that case had no connection to their decision to drop the project.

"Forest City's part of this project was small, and they are right now concentrating on a number of larger ones," spokesman Joe DePlasco said in a statement.


NoLandGrab: Funny, but Forest City sang a different tune to The Wall Street Journal just 10 months ago:

"This area has not only some of the best demographics in the country, but is extremely under-retailed as well," Andrew Silberfein, executive vice president and director of finance and retail development at Forest City Ratner, said in a statement.

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

Unhappy Halloween: Recalling Last Year’s Tricky “Treats”: The Ghastly Ghosts Lurking In PR Messages From Atlantic Yards To Zucotti Park

Noticing New York

Halloween is upon us. So it seemed like the right occasion to recall the gruesome details of the scarifying PR packages the New York Times and CNG's Brooklyn Paper dumped on the doorsteps of Brooklyn residents one year ago for Halloween weekend.


Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

On official abdication of responsibility, and cheerleading editorials

Atlantic Yards Report

Let's take a look at an interesting column today about the impact of political and journalistic forces. I've left some identifiers blank until the bottom:

So how does [blank] do it? It starts with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

No mayor in recent history has abdicated his responsibilities in [blank] as has Bloomberg.

...Second, there is the compliant media, reflected in the cheerleading editorials of the Daily News. That was the paper with the once-proud motto, to contrast it with the Post, “The City’s Honest Voice.”

That motto is as dead as the dodo.

This is from Ray Kelly: Too Much Respect, from Leonard Levitt's NYPD Confidential blog, and the blanks reference police commissioner Kelly and police department oversight.

Bloomberg is only partly responsible for Atlantic Yards--the state has more responsibility--but, in both cases, they've mostly let developer Forest City Ratner take the lead, complying, for example, with Forest City's 2009 request to renegotiate its deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

And the Daily News has had the most cheerleading editorials about Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 11:53 AM


Room Eight: Gatemouth's Blog

Politics maven Howard Graubard (aka Gatemouth) follows up on last week's accusation that State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who's thought to be prepping a primary challenge to longtime 10th District Congressman Ed Towns, is a flip-flopper on charter schools (among other things).

To return to the subject, on this issue and others, like Atlantic Yards, Hakeem Jeffries tends to nuance himself to death, but on this issue, as with Atlantic Yards, he often gets to a place near my own thinking. Further, I‘ll take this moment to remind BPA that he surely prefers Hakeem’s Atlantic yards nuance to ET’s full-throated support of Ratnerville.

But the real question here is “Does Ed Towns even have a stand on Charter Schools?

As I’ve documented before, on so many issues, ET’s thought processes, if one can even call them that, are quite embarrassing.


NoLandGrab: The man does have a point.

Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

Annenberg Center extends outreach to West Philly

The Daily Pennsylvanian
by Shelli Gimelstein

A heads-up to all our loyal readers in New York's sixth borough — In the Footprint is coming to Philadelphia.

Since 1971, the Annenberg Center has hosted a variety of acts ranging from American Indian tribal dancers to the Mask & Wig Club. Now, it is using its cultural resources to expand its role in the West Philadelphia community.

In addition to its elementary- and middle-school outreach efforts, from Jan. 18. to Jan. 29 the Annenberg Center will be presenting the play In the Footprint – The Battle Over Atlantic Yards in order to attract more adult audiences. Epstein believes the play, about a controversial development project in Brooklyn, will have “strong resonance in Philadelphia due to [ongoing construction] projects around Penn’s campus.”

Annenberg hopes to use the play to “spark community engagement and conversation due to the nature of this performance,” spokeswoman Sarah Fergus wrote in an email.


Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

October 30, 2011

Neighbor: Edgemont Resident MaryAnne Gilmartin, Executive Vice President of Commercial and Residential Development at Forest City Ratner Companies

Westchester Magazine
By Deborah Skolnik

Eminent domain abuse, bypassing local representation, broken promises -- it's all okay because FCR VP MaryAnne Gilmartin, who was put in charge of the Atlantic Yards project after the sudden departure of predecessor Jim Stuckey, "...looks lovely. With shiny, coiffed brunette hair, a metallic dress, and twinkling blue eyes,.."

By 2007, Gilmartin was Ratner’s No. 3 in the company, and his No. 1 choice to take over stewardship of its massive Atlantic Yards development project, a $4 billion complex consisting of residential and commercial buildings, as well as an arena, all situated over an active rail yard. “It’s a run-down and decrepit area where the LIRR used to park and service trains,” Gilmartin says. “It’s been a labor of love for more than seven years. Of the six thousand housing units, more than two thousand will be affordable housing. It’s bringing in construction jobs and jobs for locals. And by relocating the Nets here, we’ll be bringing pro sports back to the borough that’s never recovered from the loss of the Dodgers.”

Then why all the fuss? Atlantic Yards has been the subject of several lawsuits and numerous protests. A journalist, Norman Oder, maintains a blog, atlanticyardsreport.com, that chronicles Forest City Ratner’s every move on the project. Another blog run by the anti-Yards group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (dddb.net) is highly critical. There’s even a movie, Battle for Brooklyn, about locals taking a stand. “The issue for many of these people is the way that some of the land was assembled through eminent domain,” Gilmartin says. “Some other people think it will make the area’s population too dense. And others don’t want a stadium in their backyard. I won’t speak in detail for the opposition.”

The opposition can speak for itself. “Forest City’s successes are inextricably related to the acquisition of public subsidies,” Norman Oder says. “Their successes are also related to major spending on lobbying, and substantial political and charitable contributions, as well as hardball tactics.” Oder also points out how initial grand promises for the Yard have been scaled back (architect Frank Gehry is no longer involved) and how many of the promised union construction jobs didn’t pan out. He cries foul on slick money-saving moves he feels Ratner made, such as convincing authorities to condemn certain land parcels in stages rather than at once. The year the New York Times building was completed, Crain’s crowned Gilmartin one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in New York.

Gilmartin doesn’t escape personal criticism either. “Look, I’ll be honest. I don’t like her,” says Daniel Goldstein, the last person to cede his apartment to the Yards project (for a reported $3 million) and the founder of DDDB. When Gilmartin first approached him to discuss a buyout, he says, she requested confidentiality, then breached it. “A friend’s child goes to the same school as her kids, and told his mom Gilmartin came to talk to the class about the Yards and gave them Nets swag,” he says. “Apparently she told them that they were building houses for poor people and bringing in a basketball team, but that a mean man named Daniel Goldstein wouldn’t leave. I wasn’t there, obviously. Who knows, maybe she said I was standing up for my beliefs. But to discuss me at all with a bunch of third graders? That’s warped.” He also feels Gilmartin portrayed his settlement to the media as “having been all about money, when the big holdup was, they wanted me to accept a gag order and I kept refusing.”

Oder is no Gilmartin fan either. “She commutes by chauffeured car to Brooklyn and strikes me as comfortable among real estate peers, but chilly at the few—and heavily managed—opportunities she has to interact with Brooklynites with qualms about Atlantic Yards,” he says.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, In Westchester magazine, a heroic profile of FCR's Gilmartin, with some acknowledgment of controversy

Reporters aiming to profile Forest City Ratner executives have a couple of options: there's the route of total sycophancy, as with the Real Deal's portrait of CEO Bruce Ratner, or the path of complication, as with a piece in the Forward on Ratner.

Given that Westchester Magazine is one of those glossy publications with a booster-ish edge, it's unsurprising that the publication's profile of FCR executive MaryAnne Gilmartin emphasizes triumph: Neighbor: Edgemont Resident MaryAnne Gilmartin, Executive Vice President of Commercial and Residential Development at Forest City Ratner Companies: She’s overseen some of the area’s largest real-estate projects. But before MaryAnne Gilmartin could become a force among New York’s developers, she had to build up something else from nearly nothing: herself.

The summary:

If the woman in front of [FCR's] 8 Spruce Street is a household name, the woman behind it is less so, though remarkable in her own right: MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial and residential development at Forest City Ratner Companies. Indeed, the Spruce tower is far from the only mark this innovative and tenacious builder has left on the skyline. The Edgemont mom of three made her first splash by winning the contract to build the New York Times building, an intricately designed tower that brought new life to Eighth Avenue. In Brooklyn, she’s helping to shape Atlantic Yards, a complex of residential and commercial buildings that will also be the new home of the New Jersey Nets. Right here in Yonkers, her handiwork can be seen at Ridge Hill, a cluster of stores, offices, and residences beckoning like Mecca off the Sprain Brook. “They’re more than just buildings to me,” Gilmartin says of her projects. “They sort of become like my children.”

Some controversy

However, the article acknowledges some controversy:

Problem children, some. Atlantic Yards has been a focal point of bitter controversy going on a decade, with certain locals protesting everything from the destruction of neighborhood character to use of eminent domain. Ridge Hill, too, inspired opposition and incited scandal. Smack in the middle of the Sturm und Drang, helping her company’s visions go from point A (abstraction) to point B (built!) is Gilmartin, poised and proud. “We tend to take things on only when they’re complicated,” she declares.

And if you think her present life sounds complicated, wait till you hear about her past.

In other words, the article stresses how Gilmartin, who "looks lovely" during a meeting at a "posh Yonkers restaurant," survived a painful family life by working hard, getting a scholarship (and working her way through school), and graduating Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude. (Yet, she still doesn't understand Atlantic Yards affordable housing.)

Posted by steve at 11:49 PM

Guilt over recycling? Consider construction waste from "the 1%"

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times today prints comments regarding last Sunday's article on the recycling conundrum facing New Yorkers, headlined Lunch, Landfills and What I Tossed. One comment that made it into print, from union carpenter Gregory A. Butler:

It's fascinating that most of the commenters are focused on hectoring and lecturing the common man and woman to bring their own knives, forks, plates, napkins (and maybe even tables and chairs) from home as a means of reducing waste.

The thing is, a full 50% - 7 million tons out of 14 million tons of waste generated in this city every year - is industrial debris from construction.

Contrary to the article, we're not talking about "dirt" here. We're talking about cutoffs from metal studs, tracks and beams, pieces of scrap sheetrock, cardboard boxes that contained bathtubs, sinks, toilets and stoves, pieces of wood, sawdust, scrap electrical wiring ect ect ect.

There would probably be a lot more waste if construction workers like me didn't scour the jobsite dumpsters for scrap metal that we can sell for a profit.

However, nobody here talks about making Mr Trump, Mr Zuckerman, Mr Silverstein, Mr Walentas, Mr Ratner and the other New York real estate billionaires "reduce, reuse and recycle".

Why not charge them by the pound for all the garbage their construction sites generate?

That makes a lot more sense than putting a regressive garbage tax on the working class and the poor, or lecturing people to bring their own plates to a restaurant!

Let's keep the focus on the 1% and the garbage their businesses generate, rather than wagging our fingers at 99%ers with a plastic bag and a paper cup!


Posted by steve at 11:21 PM

What's the press for? "To hold those in power accountable." But a lack of attention or sustained coverage diminishes accountability.

Atlantic Yards Report

At the Brooklyn Book Festival Sunday, September 18, I attended a panel featuring three journalists, all Pulitzer Prize winners.

One, Jesse Eisinger of ProPublica ("an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest"), observed, "The primary function of the press is to hold those in power accountable."

That's a justification for First Amendment protections, but that doesn't mean the press consistently recognizes that watchdog role.

That issues arises in the book Bad News: How America's Business Press Missed the Story of the Century, about the failure to anticipate the financial crisis, despite significant evidence that it was looming.

And yes, there are some observations that apply to Atlantic Yards.

The impact of under-coverage

In an essay titled "Missing the Moment," Ryan Chittum, who writes about the business press for Columbia Journalism Review, observed:

It's easy to find perfectly fine stories than demonstrably wrong ones, especially in the top tier of the financial press. But the hardest part of journalism is the picking of priorities. A news organization can only cover so much. What was left out or under-covered is as much a part of the story of how the press performed as what made the papers.

What about Atlantic Yards: Did the New York Times cover the oversight hearing led by state Senator Bill Perkins? The failure to conduct a market study regarding blight? The delays in the release of the Development Agreement? Even Forest City Ratner's role in Marty Markowitz's fundraising?


Posted by steve at 11:16 PM

October 29, 2011

The Markowitz defense/explanation: I did it for Brooklyn (plus a letter the Times didn't print)

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has a letter in today's New York Times, responding to the newspaper's lengthy investigation of his private fundraising:

I wasn’t elected Brooklyn borough president to do nothing, and I certainly wasn’t chosen for my good looks. My office doesn’t set its own budgets, and gets only $300,000 in discretionary money for programming in a borough of 2.6 million people — less than 12 cents per person! I refuse to accept these limitations, and Brooklynites deserve better.

To make a difference for Brooklyn, I’m an aggressive supporter of economic development and proud of every project that has helped our borough reach new heights.

The nonprofits affiliated with my office have helped countless Brooklynites, sending thousands of kids to summer camp, entertaining millions at free summer concerts, playing host to the largest book festival in the Northeast and providing residents in need with toys and food during the holidays.

And to the businesses that have helped these efforts, I say, Bravo! And more companies should do the same.

If when I’m finished, I have made you prouder to be a Brooklynite, improved your life even a little bit and put a smile on your face, then I achieved what I set out to do.

MARTY MARKOWITZ Brooklyn, Oct. 25, 2011

What's missing

Yes, Markowitz has used the money to serve the public--and to burnish his reputation, thus ensuring cakewalks in his two races for re-election. And Markowitz, of course, evades the question of whether those firms that donate get special favors.


Posted by steve at 3:36 PM

Forest City: dropping Mill Basin project had nothing to do with corruption probe

Atlantic Yards Report

The Wall Street Journal today follows up on news (as I and others reported yesterday) that Forest City Ratner's Four Sparrows Marsh Retail Center at Mill Basin has been withdrawn, explaining that it's actually dead, but--according to the developer--the Carl Kruger corruption charges have nothing to do with it.

In Plans Killed for Project Tied to Probe, the newspaper reports:

The shopping center had ties to a corruption case involving Mr. Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, but Forest City officials said that case had no connection to their decision to drop the project.

The builder believed the shopping center faced an uphill battle on two fronts, according to a person familiar with the matter: Forest City was worried about political opposition to the big-box retailers planned for the site, and the developer wanted to avoid an expected lengthy legal battle over turning city park land into commercial space.

Well, Atlantic Yards faced a battle, if not an uphill one, but Forest City Ratner deemed it worth it. There's always a cost-benefit analysis, and I'd bet that the corruption case was another factor in Forest City's analysis of Four Sparrows.


Posted by steve at 3:33 PM

A "tough guy from Brooklyn": new book describes Vinny Viola, Nets minority owner (and the one who brought Mary Higgins Clark on board)

Atlantic Yards Report

Had the larger-than-life Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov not emerged on the scene, the buyer of the New Jersey Nets may well have been Brooklyn-born Vincent (Vinny) Viola, former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and now chair of the firm Virtu Financial.

And Viola appears to be a colorful figure in his own right, according to The Asylum: The Renegades Who Hijacked the World's Oil Market, journalist Leah McGrath Goodman's dishy 2011 book about NYMEX. Still, given some careless reporting, we may have to take some of it with a grain of salt.


Viola, a New Jersey resident and longtime Nets season ticket holder (via NetsDaily, which offered a 6/26/09 bio sketch), got to know Bruce Ratner through real estate. Goodman writes:

After becoming a Nymex trader, Viola also dabbled in other businesses, running some community banks in Dallas and starting up proprietary trading shops active in the New York and London energy markets. After taking the chairmanship, he even invested in the Nets basketball team alongside real-estate developer Bruce Ratner, who'd worked on the construction of the Nymex building that had generated so much controversy. The two men moved the team from New Jersey to Viola's hometown of Brooklyn, with Viola bringing in other investors from Nymex--most notably, bestselling mystery romance novelist Mary Higgins Clark, whose daughter Patty Clark Derenzo was Viola's secretary.

Despite the past tense, the team has not yet moved.


Posted by steve at 3:27 PM

October 28, 2011

Forest City Ratner project in Mill Basin, touched by corruption indictment, "has been withdrawn;" indicted developer had role in City Point, whose lead developer didn't pay bribes but made gifts to Markowitz charities

Atlantic Yards Report

The mayor's office has quietly indicated (as per Queens Crap) the demise of Forest City Ratner's Four Sparrows project, once touted as housing a Wal-Mart:

The Four Sparrow Marsh Retail Center at Mill Basin project has been withdrawn as of September 2011.

It's unclear why, but the project has been tainted by corruption charges.

About 15 acres were to be retail, including an existing Toys 'R' Us, and 46 acres formally mapped as parkland. This fit into Forest City's m.o.: getting the inside track on potentially valuable public property and then getting the zoning changed.

Does "withdrawn" mean "dead"? Unclear.

Yesterday I queried the NYC Economic Development Corporation, source of the map, but didn't hear back. Their Four Sparrows web page has not been updated, as it says "Construction expected to begin in 2014.

But if the project comes back, there will have to be some new players.

Consider that state Senator Carl Kruger and developer Aaron Malinsky in March were both indicted on corruption charges that included, among several counts, the Mill Basin project. Malinsky was charged with bribing Kruger. Forest City was not charged, though it was enmeshed in an effort to wangle state funds from Kruger.


Related coverage...

Queens Crap, Ratner project dies silent death

Glory, glory, hallelujah!!!

A Walk in the Park, EDC Cancels Controversial Bruce Ratner Plan To Develop Nature Preserve Into Shopping Mall

New York City claimed that because Four Sparrow Marsh was never officially "mapped" as parkland it can be disposed of and therefore, DPR is not required to protect it. However there are many playgrounds, parklands and natural areas throughout New York City that have never been mapped, yet these sites are recognized and protected as parkland. Mapping is only one factor that is used to determine whether land can be legally protected under the Public Trust Doctrine, use is another factor. Since the entire site has always been used as parkland, it therefore should be protected under Public Trust Doctrine. The new, proposed retail use is clearly a non-park use.

The Real Deal, Ratner's Mill Basin retail project withdrawn

The Bloomberg administration has withdrawn its controversial plans to permit developer Bruce Ratner to transform public parkland in the Mill Basin part of Brooklyn into a shopping mall, A Walk in the Park blog reported, announcing the withdrawal on the Office of Environmental Coordination's website.

Posted by eric at 2:13 PM

Brooklyn Borough Prez Marty Markowitz: Arm Twister or Force of Nature for Nonprofits?

The Nonprofit Quarterly
by Rick Cohen

Marty Markowitz seems to be New York City’s happy political power broker. According to the New York Times, Markowitz has worked with real estate interests such as Forest City Ratner, the developer of the massive Atlantic Yards complex in downtown Brooklyn, to move their projects through the often-stalled pipeline. As a gesture of political gratitude, Forest City Ratner has contributed $1.7 million since 2003 toward charities favored by the borough president—part of more than $20 million the Times says Markowitz has raised from developers and special interests for four charities that Markowitz has created.

He doesn’t think that there’s any problem with donors who “might feel compelled to give because of his political influence,” because, as Markowitz told the Times, “I know the difference between right and wrong, and ethical and nonethical.”

Markowitz may see no problem, but the ethical issues are sort of obvious—even though Markowitz’s charities are a sort of Brooklyn boosterism-oriented kinds of groups. It doesn’t matter: if they are seen as the charities of the borough prez, the donations from corporations with borough business, particularly if subject to Markowitz’s arm-twisting, look bad.


Posted by eric at 2:05 PM

Bill of Frights! Can the Government take your Home?

A More Perfect Blog
by Robert Chapman-Smith

What could be more frightening than violations of our constitutional rights? But is everything that appears to be a violation actually one? This week we’ll explore some current constitutional issues ripped from the headlines, and delve into some questions about whether rights are being violated. We hope you enjoy our Bill of Frights!

“For every man’s house is looked upon by the law to be his castle of defense and asylum …” Sir William Blackstone, an english jurist from the 18th century, said these words in his seminal work Commentaries on the Laws of England. Though not an American, Blackstone’s words are reflected in American law. But some believe the principle that one’s home is respected by legal institutions is under fire in the United States through the abuse and overuse of eminent domain.

The Takings Clause of the 5th Amendment empowers the national government to seize property needed for “public use,” but it also restricts government by requiring it to provide just compensation to the owner. The Supreme Court has applied these restrictions to state and local governments through the Fourteenth Amendment. Yet from 1998 through 2002, the Institute for Justice documented 10,000 properties in 41 states where eminent domain was used to transfer property from private citizens to private developers whose planned projects promise to boost the local economy.

The proposed redevelopment projects vary in scope and rationale. Some are done in the name of urban renewal and the cleaning up of “blighted” neighborhoods. In an example from 2003 , New York City seized property in Brooklyn so that Bruce Ratner could build a stadium and bring his New Jersey Nets basketball franchise into the city. At the heart of the disputes of such projects is the definition of the Fifth’s Amendment’s words, “public use”.


NoLandGrab: Frightening, indeed.

Posted by eric at 1:55 PM

Hey Bloomberg, Buy Your Own 7 Train to New Jersey!

by Stephen Smith

An article about Mayoral support for extending the #7 subway to Secaucus contains this appraisal of the Bloombergian legacy.

Bloomberg has, overall, been a good mayor for New York, but his success in governing has not lived up to his reputation as a businessman. New York has improved its position over the past decade, but so have all American cities – it’s hard to attribute it to his leadership, specifically. The Hudson and Atlantic Yards redevelopment projects are his two greatest accomplishments, and both have been dogged by accusations of cronyism.


NoLandGrab: Referring to two development projects whose only "development" is a half-built arena as the Mayor's greatest accomplishments is wildly off-base. Atlantic Yards may be the greatest misstep of his tenure, while things like 311, PlaNYC2030 and the remaking of the city's streetscape actually are noteworthy achievements.

Posted by eric at 1:46 PM

Jay Z Challenged on Claim That New Stadium Employs “Thousands and Thousands”

The Brooklyn Ink

Rapper Jay Z, a minority stakeholder in the Brooklyn Nets, gave questionable employment numbers for the new stadium in an interview with Rosanna Scotto of Channel 5′s “Good Day New York.”

Salon [aka Norman Oder] explains...


Posted by eric at 1:41 PM

Hakeem Jeffries Sells Out Our Children’s Education & Future for DFER

New York City Parents Union

In July 2011, Jeffries did a flip flop on charters & charter co-locations betraying parents and attacking the NAACP & UFT for standing up for all children. He did this for DFER money. We responded to his selling out with our press release at: http://www.nycparentsunion.org/?p=195.

Now, Jeffries, the only elected to attend this charter town hall meeting yesterday is ramping up his sellout campaign to the privatizing, union busting charter lobby. Apparently, this is nothing new for Jeffries, he flip-flopped/sold out on Atlantic Yards too.


NoLandGrab: It really shouldn't be this hard to upgrade from Ed Towns.

Posted by eric at 1:35 PM

Price hike! Brooklyn Museum raises its ‘suggested’ donation

The Brooklyn Paper
by Juliet Linderman

The cash-strapped Brooklyn Museum has increased its “suggested” admission fee $12, a 20-percent jump caused by the poor economy, museum officials said.

“The financial climate is such that we unfortunately need to raise the prices of suggested admission to cover the costs of operation — presenting exhibits, personnel, a whole range of things,” said Museum spokeswoman Sally Williams.


NoLandGrab: Well, increasing the admission price is better than the museum doing this again.

Posted by eric at 1:19 PM

October 27, 2011

Longing For Correcting Images to Jay-Z’s Hip-Hop Hype and Ratner’s Atlantic Yards “Strategy of Distraction”

Noticing New York

Is Jay-Z in the dark about the realities of Atlantic Yards, or is he in the know and a bit discomfited by it all? Michael D.D. White offers a third option.

Noticing New York can propose a third theory, one that could be considered a hybrid of the other two and one that can go a long way to explain Jay-Z’s sour puss. Noticing New York sallied forth with this theory once before.

The theory?: Jay-Z signed on to an agreement to promote Atlantic Yards once upon a time when he didn’t understand the facts of the megadevelopment but forgot at that time to include in the agreement he signed what is known in the entertainment industry as a “reverse morality” or “reverse morals” clause, a clause that had it been included in his contract, could by its design have given Jay-Z ample opportunity to walk out on the project given the shameful conduct of his partners to date.


NoLandGrab: Allow us to propose a fourth theory. Given that Jay put money before morality in his pre-stardom drug-dealing days, to borrow a line from fellow hip hop star Eminem, maybe he "just don't give a f**k."

Photo: Tracy Collins

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, From Noticing New York: another take on Jay-Z, and some corrective images

Michael D. D. White, in a Noticing New York post headlined Longing For Correcting Images to Jay-Z’s Hip-Hop Hype and Ratner’s Atlantic Yards “Strategy of Distraction”, suggests ways to amend the promotional images of Jay-Z and his Atlantic Yards partners, as in the example below.

Posted by eric at 12:02 PM

From the latest Construction Alert: second shift for steel not expected, crane planned for Flatbush Avenue, pile driving at Carlton Avenue Bridge

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert (below), dated October 24 and distributed October 25 by Empire State Development (after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner), there are a few notable changes:

  • a second shift from the steel erector is not expected in this and next week
  • installation of the arena facade will require a crane to occupy part of northbound Flatbush Avenue
  • there will be additional pile driving (and, presumably, noise to neighbors) at the Carlton Avenue Bridge.


NoLandGrab: Funny, we thought the Carlton Avenue bridge was supposed to be completely rebuilt and operational at the beginning of 2010.

Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

Blogger calls out Jay-Z for overstating benefits of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project

NY Daily News Sports ITeam Blog
by Michael O'Keeffe

Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder, writing for Salon this week, points out that politicians and developers aren't the only ones who have made inflated claims about Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn basketball arena. Oder calls out Jay-Z, the hip-hop artist who owns a tiny slice of the Nets, for overstating the benefits of Ratner's massive real estate project.


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Jay-Z Doesn't Deserve a Free Pass for Broken Promises of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder, fresh off a column in City Limits, move on to Salon.com to take a long look at why hip-hop icon and less-than-one-percent-but-always-out-in-front-owner of the New Jersey Nets Jay-Z should not get a free pass when it comes to the broken promises of Atlantic Yards by his partners Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov.

Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

#AtlanticYards and #OccupyWallStreet

Atlantic Yards Report

Is Atlantic Yards like Occupy Wall Street?

On the October 23 edition of the Hot 97 roundtable dialogue Street Soldiers, concerning Occupy Wall Street, guest Autumn Marie made the point, at about 11:10:

"That same corporate interest is what's controlling the prison-industrial complex... That same corporate interest is what is bringing the Nets stadium, right, to Brooklyn. The same thing is causing eminent domain around the city."

Battle for Brooklyn filmmaker Michael Galinsky writes, in The OWS Battle to End Crony Capitalism Was Presaged in the Battle for Brooklyn:

Our film lays bare all of the elements that have enraged the masses. An extreme version of corptocracy-a willing government taken over by corporate interests against the interests of the people-in which a developer plans a project, calls all the shots, and gets the government to steamroll the public process and provide unbelievable levels of subsidies. The media follows the corporate script, reporting on the story when the developer issues press releases, and dutifully repeating ridiculous assertions about revenues, housing, and jobs without doing any due diligence whatsoever. As a citizen, it was infuriating and mind numbing. As a filmmaker, it was painful.

Note that the intro states inaccurately that the rest of the site is "currently basically a big parking lot."


Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

Nets fans deserve one last hurrah

by Gregory Hrinya

The NBA will not play a full 82-game season in 2011-12, and odds are the league will not play any games at all.

The owners and players are back at the bargaining table Wednesday in an attempt to salvage some semblance of a season. A shortened season is never ideal, and while the NBA may not need it, New Jersey Nets fans need it.

Most of the Nets organization has already checked out and moved on to Brooklyn, be literally or figuratively. The Nets corporate offices are in transition from East Rutherford's PNY Center to One MetroTech Center North in Brooklyn. Basketball operations will remain in New Jersey for now, but before the 2012-13 season, the Nets will officially become New York property.


Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

785 Dean S 785 Dean Street #4

The New York Times
Real Estate Listings

APT is 15mins from Prime Atlantic Yards Stadium. Walk to live shows and games throughout the year.


Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

October 26, 2011

What's the real Marty Markowitz like? Lawsuit depositions point to a calculating, volatile politician (and some questionable management by Markowitz's then-deputy)

Atlantic Yards Report

Oy vey.

What's the real Marty Markowitz like? "The people in Brooklyn know me," the Brooklyn Borough President yesterday told the New York Times, waving off criticisms about private fundraising from companies doing business in Brooklyn. (Common Cause was not convinced.)

But do they? Those who know only showman Markowitz may smile, but the real Marty is far more calculating and volatile, as detailed in documents in a sex discrimination suit filed in December 2007 by a former staffer against both him and his office.

Some of the headlines--prompted by the plaintiff's effort to lend momentum to her case by sharing depositions--have been lurid, magnifying relatively small incidents: Suit: Marty ran the Beep’s office like a frat-house and Marty Markowitz blasts 'Tinkerbell' ex-staffer.

By my reading of the extant depositions--surely not the whole record--ex-staffer Regina Weiss has a case, though it's not a slam dunk. No, Markowitz's office doesn't resemble the testosterone-fueled atmosphere of, say, a trading floor. Still, there may be evidence of disparate treatment toward male and female staffers.

The real Marty

More than anything else, the lawsuit pulls back the curtain on Markowitz, showing he recognizes the division between policy and his "shtick," can be a "screamer" beneath his jovial exterior, practices retail politics by pumping out proclamations, blurs the already-fuzzy line between governing and campaigning, and obsesses about his Brooklyn!! promotional publication, which aims to mention or honor as many people as possible.


Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Is Jay-Z just insulated from the Atlantic Yards reality? Or does he understand the hustle, but sometimes feels uncomfortable?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder peruses photos of Jay-Z and company for clues about the "cultural icon's" pysche.

In response to my article on Jay-Z yesterday, one reader suggested that maybe the "cultural icon" just doesn't know the facts behind Atlantic Yards. After all, he tends to arrive and leave via Maybach, and is coddled and cheered along the way.

Maybe. But maybe he does understand the Atlantic Yards hustle, And while he certainly knows how to enthuse about the team and arena, maybe he's a bit uncomfortable with some of his partners.

Doesn't Jay-Z look a little.... out of sorts when forced to hang out with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz?


NoLandGrab: Or maybe Oder is just giving Jay-Z too much credit. Our take? Of course he doesn't want to hang with a bunch of doofus sleazeballs, but to Jay, it's a business, man.

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

The OWS Battle to End Crony Capitalism Was Presaged in the Battle for Brooklyn

by Michael Galinsky

The Battle for Brooklyn filmmaker pens a compelling essay about how the film and Occupy Wall Street are cut from the same cloth.

Six months after the project was announced, faced with the threat of eminent domain and a multi-year battle to save their homes, almost all of the condo-owners in the footprint accepted a buyout from the developer. It was later learned the buyouts had actually been paid for with public money. This left Daniel Goldstein as the only person living in his 31-unit building. The media portrayed him as a NIMBY who was standing in the way of necessary and publicly beneficial "progress." Thousands of his neighbors stood with him, and appreciated what he had done, but outside the circle of people who really knew what was going on, there was an effort to characterize him as a villain.

The larger community surrounding the project's footprint was somewhat divided about the development plan, but there was a strong base of opposition. To counter this movement, the developer went right to the corporate playbook and started to buy off community groups and purchase help from others to support the project. When the press treats reporting like theater, reality gets lost in the shuffle. In the papers and on TV, the community group actively fighting the project and supported by thousands of donations from local residents, gets the he said/ she said treatment in relation to the developer. Nearly every news story gets launched by a corporate press release, and just like Occupy Wall Street, people who don't go down to check out the situation for themselves have no idea of what's going on. One thing that has driven the OWS movement, though, is that people have gone down, and they've found a very different picture than what they've been told. The papers are telling them one thing and Facebook is telling them another. This process leads to deeper questions about the media, and what is really being delivered to the public.


Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

Atlantic Yards: Promises Vs. Reality


Norman Oder has a piece in City Limits called “The Unfulfilled Promises of Atlantic Yards” that focuses on how Forest City Ratner hasn’t delivered on a lot of stuff outlined in the mega-project’s 2005 Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). Oder makes the case that not only has the developer failed to make good on a number of the CBA’s touted benefits—many of which, he writes, have been sidestepped because of the agreement’s “aspirational, conditional language,” so the lack of promised affordable housing thus far can be blamed on subsidies not being available, for example—but has also yet to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor to report on the extent to which the CBA is being adhered to.


Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

More copper stolen from construction site

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alfred Ng

You want to keep something safe in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall? You need a safe.

‘Dead’ end

A thief stole the purse from an employee at the Dead Sea Spa in the Atlantic Center Mall on Oct. 21.

The 27-year-old victim told cops she hid her bag in a closet at the shopping center near Flatbush Avenue at 1:10 pm. When she returned an hour later, her stuff — including $1,130 and an Israeli passport — was gone.


Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

October 25, 2011

Following up on the Times's Markowitz story: why the timing? who was left out (Bloomberg)? will Common Cause call for investigation be heeded?

Atlantic Yards Report

Will anything come of the New York Times's coverage of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's curious end-around of campaign finance laws via campaign contributions? Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY issued a statement today:

"This is sheer pay to play and it's dishonest to pretend otherwise. The Borough President has leveraged his position for personal aggrandizement at great expense to the public cause. Democracy demands accountability from our elected officials, anything less undermines us all. We believe that there should be a full investigation by both the Brooklyn District Attorney and the conflict of interest board."


NoLandGrab: Given Markowitz's 25-year history or ethics violations, perhaps the Feds would like to have a look?

Posted by eric at 11:22 PM

Jay-Z’s hip-hop of distraction

The hip-hop superstar hypes a Brooklyn, N.Y., sports arena that failed to deliver on its jobs pledge

by Norman Oder

You can’t hustle a hustler, right? So Shawn Carter, aka hip-hop superstar Jay-Z, surely doesn’t mind fronting for two other world-class hustlers: Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn, N.Y’s most powerful developer, and New Jersey (to Brooklyn) Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia’s second-richest man. The three men are partners in promoting the new Barclays Center sports arena now under construction in Brooklyn, the first building in the massive, controversial Atlantic Yards project.

While Brooklyn-born Carter owns a tiny fraction of the team, he’s become the face of the franchise, the Teflon-coated superstar employed by his partners to distract attention from the hardball politics, sweetheart deals and private profits behind the arena and the rest of the 16-tower project.

As Jay-Z, Carter will get to open the arena next fall with a string of concerts. ”Get All Access to Jay-Z,” proclaim widespread advertisements, pushing a ticket package that offers team home games and the right to purchase seats to other arena events. He’s even said to have a hand in designing the team uniforms and some of the luxury suites. These all help Carter take the Jay-Z brand to the proverbial next level. As he’s rapped, “I’m a business, man.”

Along the way Carter has spouted bogus “facts” about the project that don’t stand up to scrutiny.


Posted by eric at 11:16 PM

Opposition To Crony Capitalism As Uniting Cause: Resource-Grabbing Mega-Monopolies (Like Atlantic Yards) As Catalyst For Great Recessions/Depressions

Noticing New York

The other day listening to an NPR story about what the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the Tea Party ought to both have in common I heard Harvard professor and activist Lawrence Lessig say:

. . . whether you are upset about the size of government or the size of corporations, one thing everybody should be upset about is when corporations use their power to corrupt the government, to reinforce their size and their influence. A critical change in the way in which we've seen America become much more unequal was driven by changes in public policy that was driven itself by [that] *kind of influence . . . >>So whether, again, you like big corporations or you like capitalism, you and the right cannot possibly defend crony capitalism.

Hmm! When “corporations use their power to corrupt the government, to reinforce their size and their influence . . . crony capitalism.”

Does that sound like the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards land grab to reinforce Bruce Ratner’s mega-monopoly that now, through government assistance, is proposed to extend to 50+ acres?


Posted by eric at 11:10 PM

Developer Removes Crossing Signal Obstruction At Atlantic Yards

Forest City Ratner also identifies other problem signals elsewhere at the massive construction site.

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Paul Leonard

Pedestrians can now cross one of Brooklyn's busiest throughfares with a bit more confidence.

In response to our story Monday on construction netting blocking a crossing signal at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner sent workers out this morning to investigate the issue.

"We did find that there were problems with visibility... so we made changes," said a Forest City spokesman.

On a visit to the highly trafficked intersection Tuesday, those changes included cutting out a section of the construction barrier to allow the crossing signal to be clearly seen by commuters, students and shoppers heading southbound across Atlantic Avenue.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, After Patch points out sidewalk crossing problem caused by Atlantic Yards construction, FCR makes a fix

Posted by eric at 10:59 PM

Times takes belated but critical look at Markowitz's charity strategy; Forest City largest donor; BP claims criticism irrelevant, but what about his shilling for Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times today offers a tough--but not tough enough--front-page (in the New York edition) story about Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's remarkable method of fundraising outside the campaign system.

It's headlined From Brooklyn Office, Mixing Clout and Charity. And yes, the largest amount--$2.4 million--comes from developer Forest City Ratner and Atlantic Yards-related firms.

A lame take on the Ratner connection

The anecdotes in the article all concern companies other than Forest City Ratner, so Markowitz's favorite project--and biggest source of donations--gets mentioned only at the end:

Forest City Ratner Companies, which is building the Atlantic Yards complex, has long relied on Mr. Markowitz’s backing for the huge project in the face of neighborhood opposition. Forest City is one of the biggest contributors to Mr. Markowitz’s charities, having given approximately $1.7 million.

“Sometimes, the borough president in his advocacy has blurred the lines between the role of private industry and government,” Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn, an opponent of the project, said. “He is taking advantage of a loophole in the law.”

Mr. Markowitz, who has not yet decided whether to retire from politics or to run for mayor in 2013, called such criticism absurd.

“I have everything that I could have,” he said during an interview. “I don’t need anything. I don’t need any of you! I have done this. I loved it. You could raise all the issues you want — the people in Brooklyn know me, they love me.”

That's a nonsensical, evasive response, ultimately, and the Times shouldn't have let him get away with it.


NoLandGrab: Somehow "love" doesn't quite seem like the right word.

Posted by eric at 12:32 PM

From Brooklyn Office, Mixing Clout and Charity

The New York Times
by Liz Robbins and Alison Leigh Cowan

What's front-page news to The Times is something that most of us have known for a long time — something is rotten in Brooklyn (Borough Hall).

When one of the biggest real estate developments in Brooklyn was stalled two years ago, its owner turned to the city government for help, seeking $20 million in financing. Nearly 50 projects were applying for a small number of aid packages at the time, but this one, City Point, had a prominent supporter.

“The future of Downtown Brooklyn depends on it,” Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president, declared.

City Point received the financing, and around the same time, the lead developer on the project, Acadia Realty, gave $50,000 to a charity run by Mr. Markowitz. The donation was one of a series that Acadia has made to Mr. Markowitz’s charities since 2005, totaling more than $300,000, city records and interviews show.

New York City has adopted some of the strictest rules in the nation to curb the influence of money in politics. Donors with business before it are all but barred from contributing to officials in the city’s campaign finance system.

Yet in recent years, Mr. Markowitz has found another way to tap into those donors. He has established a network of four charities that has reaped at least $20 million since 2003, and probably more, according to interviews and an analysis of city records.

The donors to the nonprofit groups range from huge corporations like Wal-Mart and TD Bank to local entrepreneurs, but they usually have one thing in common: They have a stake in city legislation, real estate projects, zoning disputes and other Brooklyn issues.

But everything's kosher, according to Marty.

“I know the difference between right and wrong, and ethical and nonethical,” Mr. Markowitz said. “I am not pitching them to give me money, and me in turn give them anything.”


Here's how the game works.

Mr. Markowitz was once an outspoken critic of Wal-Mart’s effort to open in the city, contending that the company treated its workers poorly and would harm local businesses.

In 2008, Mr. Markowitz recommended approval of the zoning resolution for a retailer in East New York, Brooklyn, preferably a supermarket, but only on the condition that Wal-Mart could not be the retailer unless it changed its employment practices. He even demanded that the developer promise in writing to prohibit Wal-Mart.

Last spring, Wal-Mart executives donated $150,000 to the Martin Luther King Jr. concerts, a Markowitz group, and met with Mr. Markowitz.

Soon after, Mr. Markowitz softened his criticism of Wal-Mart, saying its executives convinced him that the company had improved its labor practices. He added that shoppers were now going to Wal-Mart on Long Island. “It doesn’t make sense to me how we keep Wal-Mart out of Brooklyn,” he said.

Both Wal-Mart and Mr. Markowitz said the donations were unrelated to Mr. Markowitz’s views on Wal-Mart’s expansion to Brooklyn.

Union leaders, who have long opposed Wal-Mart in New York and elsewhere, disagreed.

“When somebody changes their mind after a corporation has come in and given a large donation, it is seen as an example of everything that people are disgusted with in politics,” said Patrick Purcell, the assistant to the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500.


NoLandGrab: Disgusted, indeed.

Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

New New York Times architecture critic expresses concerns for urbanism, not just in "buildings as sculptures" (and what will he say about the arena?)

Atlantic Yards Report

After Herbert Muschamp and Nicolai Ouroussoff, known for their admiration of starchitects and especially Frank Gehry, the New York Times named Michael Kimmelman as architecture critic. And, though some questioned his background as an art and culture critic, Kimmelman has delivered, at least in his initial reviews, far more context than his predecessors.

So, will Kimmelman visit the Barclays Center next year and only assess the sightlines from upper bowl seats, the view of the scoreboard from Flatbush Avenue, the weathered steel panels, the plethora of branding, and the curious oculus?

Or will he see the impact of a parking lot one long block on a residential neighborhood, the effect on pedestrians of narrowed sidewalks, and the impact of a zoning override allowing an arena to face residential neighbors across narrow Dean Street?

Will he point out that the oculus exists because the much-touted Urban Room does not, and the Urban Room was supposed to be part of a tower that remains unbuilt? And that that tower was vital to the state and city's optimistic-to-the-point-of-irresponsible economic projections?


Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

Don't Walk: Crossing Signal Obscured at Atlantic Yards

Construction netting latest hazard for pedestrians at busy intersection.

Park Slope Patch
by Paul Leonard and Amy Sara Clark

Pedestrians crossing Atlantic Avenue southbound at Flatbush Avenue are already used to dealing with cars, trucks and construction equipment streaming past one of Brooklyn's busiest thoroughfares.

Now they have to deal with yet another obstacle: black construction netting obscuring a crossing signal at the notoriously tricky intersection.

That means southbound pedestrians such as Crown Heights resident Sandra Marshall crossing Atlantic Avenue at Flatbush were essentially "walking blind"—with the signal at the southeast corner of the intersection either completely or partially covered by the top portion of a construction barrier installed by workers at the quickly-rising Barclays Center site.

"It makes you feel like you have a death wish trying to cross here," Marshall said. "I just try to run as fast as I can."


Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

The Multifamily Guy

NY Observer
by Daniel Edward Rosen

Bruce Ratner's basketball arena appears to be having a pronounced gentrifying effect on the surrounding neighborhoods, while his allegedly "affordable" housing remains nothing more than a promise.

To look at the buildings neighboring it, 567 Vanderbilt Avenue is a typical four-story, mixed-use apartment building in Brooklyn. From the bricks it was built with to the upwardly mobile professionals and strollers it presumably houses, the structure is nearly identical to the other assets in that corner of Prospect Heights.

With a recent shift on the ground—characterized by relatively new restaurants like James, Cornelius and, inevitably, the Vanderbilt—sales prices in the neighborhood are rising.

But over on Vanderbilt Avenue in particular, where trendy bars and cafés pop up each week, prices are absolutely surging, in part because of Nostradamus-like predictions of basketball fans flooding the zone once the Nets start playing inside the proposed Atlantic Yards arena and, ultimately, exiting en masse from doors leading directly to the street.


Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

In Brooklyn, a Quaint Block and a Symbol of Blight

The New York Times
by Diane Cardwell

Warren Street between Bond and Nevins offers many of the things well-off buyers seek in Brownstone Brooklyn: a pastoral, leafy feel; long rows of 19th-century town houses; proximity to transportation and charming little restaurants; young families on the block.

But the block also has something that those buyers have traditionally seemed to avoid: two large public housing projects that stand tall at either end, to many New Yorkers enduring symbols of danger, social dysfunction and blight.

How is it, then, that prices on the block are relatively high?

Joan Joseph-Alexander, who is marketing the town house through her company Ambassador Realty, said she arrived at the price after looking at sales in the ZIP code and factoring in the appeal of living within walking distance of the Barclays Center, the arena under construction at Atlantic Yards, but shielded from the traffic and noise it is expected to bring.


Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

The Failures of Atlantic Yards, In Detail

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder takes a look at just some of the failures of the Atlantic Yards project. The only promise kept by Forest City Ratner, 19 months after the arena groundbreaking, is that a public money-losing, private profit-making arena is under construction at the gridlocked intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush. What's to be done about it? That's a question our elected officials really ought to start answering, especially those seeking higher office...


Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

October 24, 2011

The Unfulfilled Promises of Atlantic Yards

What's missing from the controversial development site? Not just the jobs and housing, says this writer, but the independent monitor required by the community benefits agreement.

City Limits
by Norman Oder

Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder pens an appraisal of (some of) Atlantic Yards's failures.

How is developer Forest City Ratner fulfilling its ambitious promises of jobs, affordable housing, local/minority contracting, and more at its controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn?

Not so well, though the developer won't admit it, nor fund the independent monitor that's supposed to tell us.

After all, the only construction now involves the Barclays Center arena, due to house the relocated (from New Jersey) Brooklyn Nets in fall 2012, plus associated infrastructure work. Yes, the economic downturn has slowed the promised 16 towers, but the first residential building, slated to include 50 percent subsidized housing, was never supposed to be delayed—and it's more than a year late.

There are more fundamental problems.


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Opinion: Ratner Breaks Atlantic Yards Promises on Jobs, Housing—and Oversight

Norman Oder, the man behind Atlantic Yards Report, writes a piece on CityLimits.org today arguing that Forest City Ratner has failed to live up to promises on several fronts, and, because he hasn't hired the required independent monitor to oversee the project, there is nobody to call him on it.

Posted by eric at 8:18 PM

Cartoon Finish: The Barclays Center

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Alexander Gruss

“So now do you finally understand what Eminent Domain means?”

Artist Alexander Gruss sent us this cartoon, his take on the controversial Barclays Center project in Brooklyn.


Illustration: Alexander Gruss

Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

Neglected fences, not development or artwork, characterize the project's second phase

Atlantic Yards Watch

Bruce Ratner's prettying-up of approximately 7% of the fencing surrounding his giant blight creation isn't really cutting it.

"Works in Progress," Artbridge’s exhibition of 20 digital prints installed in segments along construction fencing circling the arena block, is located on Flatbush Avenue, Dean Street and 6th Avenue. It will be in place until April or May of next year.

The effect of the exhibition is enhanced by the active construction of the Barclays Center rising behind as a backdrop. But its total running length is only 425 feet, and it is installed next to the first elements of project construction. The 22 acre project footprint has approximately 6,000 linear feet of fencing along its perimeter.

When the exhibition was announced to the public in June, AYW ran a story including a photograph (below, left) of a fence located on Atlantic Avenue at Vanderbilt. The photo to the right was taken October 8th.

In its report, Combating Graffiti: Reclaiming the Public Spaces of New York, NYPD asks that property owners immediately report graffiti to the police and upon completion of a police report remove it. The goal is to prevent the long term display of markings and discourage vandalism. "Experience has shown that prompt clean-up is an effective deterent to the re-occurrence of graffiti."

Formerly the area shown in the photos was a functioning BP gas station. The lot has now been excavated around a LIRR tunnel that runs beneath the fence. The area is the eastern-most part of Atlantic Yards and among the last areas scheduled to be developed. Until it is, the lot will remain an example of how, in some locations, Atlantic Yards has reversed development progress and introduced blight.

For the short-term, the area is a source of rodent, garbage and graffiti complaints.


Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

Gilmartin, at MAS Summit; touts Gehry tower; Forest City signs on as sponsor; was summit about livability or competitive advantage?

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner's Frank Gehry-designed 8 Spruce Street, aka Beekman Tower, is truly a trophy for the developer--especially when there's no time for pesky questions.

In a five-minute presentation October 13 at the second annual Municipal Art Society Summit for New York City, Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin offered "Observations on the Making of a New York City Skyscraper." The blurb:

MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial and residential development for Forest City Ratner Enterprises, will share with us the story of how the tallest residential tower in the western hemisphere came to be. Designed by Frank Gehry, 8 Spruce Street is a singular addition to the iconic New York City skyline and tells a rich story of design and development.

It does present a rich story, and Gilmartin used her brief time effectively, but she also left some things out, as I suggest in my annotations below.


Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Dean Street: once “the worst block in Brooklyn”

Ephemeral New York

Today, Dean Street between Carlton and Sixth Avenues appears to be a pretty decent stretch of Prospect Heights, mostly lined with restored row houses and brownstones.

Could it really have been so horrible in February 1947, when a priest charged that it was “probably the worst block in Brooklyn” in terms of its concentration of “juvenile delinquents”?

The New York Times articles chronicling the charge don’t provide a lot of details, mainly noting that police say they’ve “tried to interest the 350 children and youths living on the block in a wide variety of sports programs” to no avail.

Apparently not all the residents of the block thought the kids were so bad. According to the Times, “some [residents] believed it was no better and no worse than other slum streets.”

That “slum street” has some awfully pricey real estate, even with Atlantic Yards going up at the other end.


NoLandGrab: We're kind of surprised that the ESDC didn't cite the 64-year-old quote in attempting to justify Bruce Ratner's modern-day "sports program."

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Bard College professors attack Occupy Wall Street

Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Don't count us as surprised when you-know-who's name pops up in a game of "who's worse."

In my email exchange with [Bard College professor Roger Berkowitz] last year, I brought up the names of a number of Bard trustees who certainly fit the description of “one percenters”, all of whom he regarded as “respected people”.

It is difficult to figure out which one of them has abused democracy the worst. Is it Bruce Ratner who used political connections to get the green light for an abysmal development project in downtown Brooklyn and who secretly funded Astroturf “civil rights” groups to back Ratner’s ambitions?

Or is it Stewart Resnick who uses his connections to the Democratic Party in California to divert precious water resources to his pistachio nut and pomegranate plantations, leaving ordinary citizens without clean drinking water and toilets that will not flush? One wonders if this muddle-headed liberal would be so willing to defend the Stewart Resnicks of the world if it was his drinking water that was coming out of the faucet the color of tobacco juice.


Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

October 23, 2011

Oddly, New York Times Movies page now has Battle for Brooklyn at 1.5 stars. But all the written reviews are positive.

Atlantic Yards Report

How could it be that the Atlantic Yards documentary Battle for Brooklyn, which got 14 unanimously positive written reader reviews on the New York Times movies page, end up with a 1.5 rating (up to 5) from with 35 votes, as indicated in the document posted at bottom?

It doesn't make sense to me, nor to the filmmakers, who tweeted about it on October 11, generating an acknowledgement of a yet-uncorrected computer glitch.


Something's wrong with the Times's system. Of the 14 written reviews, all (including mine) of which originally had four- and five-star ratings, only two now have star ratings associated with them.

In other words, the system stripped out those positive votes. That allows the aggregate weight of votes not associated with written reviews to take precedence. And votes not associated with written reviews don't deserve more weight, as they require less thought.

According to the film's Facebook page, the Times acknowledged an error with the data, but has not yet fixed the problem.

As with news coverage of Atlantic Yards, I'll repeat my formulation: because of the parent company's business relationship with project developer Forest City Ratner, the Times has an obligation to be exacting in its coverage of Atlantic Yards, and it has not met that obligation. Battle for Brooklyn - Reader Reviews - NYTimes


Posted by steve at 11:02 PM

At Bertha Lewis's new organization, The Black Institute, some Atlantic Yards (and ACORN) connections

Atlantic Yards Report

Former ACORN Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis, who headed the New York branch of ACORN and later national ACORN, has focused her activism not on ACORN's local successor, New York Communities for Change, but instead founded and heads The Black Institute, a new think tank that aims "to shape intellectual discourse and dialogue and impact public policy uniquely from a Black perspective (a perspective which includes all people of color in the United States and throughout the Diaspora)."

Lewis is featured in this month's Essence magazine as among the 28 most influential black women and "perhaps the most influential community organizer of our time."

Both the organization's board of directors and advisory board include people with a track record of Atlantic Yards support. Yes, such a big project does intersect with a large number of people.

However, given those connections, as well as Forest City Ratner's temporary bailout of ACORN--the developer was the organization's biggest creditor--I wouldn't bet Lewis's new organization will criticize Atlantic Yards.


Posted by steve at 10:59 PM

Occupy Wall Street and the Banks- Messages From Bonnie & Clyde, “They’ve Got Too Much Money”: Ownership of the Public Forum by the Wealthy?

Noticing New York

There is an example within this blog post of what happens when even streets are changed from public to private space.

How large does this problem of private ownership of the public realm loom in New York City? Consider what is happening to traditional Brooklyn with the 50+ concentrated acres (above) supposed to be owned by Forest City Ratner in the key central, dense areas atop the main public subway lines (see below). Those fifty acres include the 30 contiguous acres of the proposed Atlantic Yards where, at significant financial loss to the public, the Ratner/Prokhorov (“Barclays”) basketball arena is now being built. This 50+ acre mega-monopoly was brought about with government subsidies and the intervention of eminent domain abuse to concentrate this land ownership in the politically connected Ratner organization. In a significant government-assisted privatization of public space it incorporates streets, avenues and sidewalks previously belonging to the public, together with park, plaza and "public square" space that would otherwise likely have been publicly owned as well.

To understand in foreboding miniature what this mega-monopoly’s privatization of public space might portend for free speech it is worth remembering back to the public protest of the arena’s groundbreaking ceremonies (not attended by local politicians except for Borough President Marty Markowitz). The police hemmed in the demonstrating crowds with orange netting and reflexively told us to return “to the sidewalks.” In other words the sidewalks were our permitted space to publicly demonstrate and express our opposition to the shameless boondoggle. The problem was that there were no longer any sidewalks to return to. They had been privatized by Ratner. My chant, as the police hemmed us in and told us to return to the sidewalk was, “Give us back our sidewalks!”


Posted by steve at 10:44 PM

Barclays Center Construction Offset By "Works In Progress" Art Installation

By Jeanine Ramirez

From the "Putting Lipstick On Pigs" department:

In the midst of the frantically paced construction and the congestion of car and foot traffic, there's a calm escape at the site of the new Barclays Center.

Twenty works by Brooklyn artists are now displayed along Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, decorating the blue plywood set up along the arena's perimeter.


The group also wanted to help bridge the divide the controversial project caused by displacing some neighborhood residents and businesses that sat in the footprint of the arena.

"We knew that it was being built. There wasn't much that we could do about that. And we thought if we could help somehow both the neighborhood accepting this structure and the artists,” said Durso.

NoLandGrab: Exactly how is trying to give cover to the disaster that is Atlantic Yards helpful to the neighborhood?


Posted by steve at 10:33 PM

October 22, 2011

Does Warren Buffett really back Schumer's plan to trade visas for home purchases? It was more an offhand remark amid support for the market's workings

Atlantic Yards Report

Did billionaire Warren Buffett really back the proposal, co-sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mike Lee (R-UT), to stimulate housing demand by offering visas to immigrants who spend $5000,000 in cash for housing?

Despite widespread coverage saying just that, the evidence is far more murky. Actually, Buffett made an offhand, somewhat fanciful comment--not a policy proposal--while urging that the free market work its course, as the video below indicates.


NPR reported:

The concept appears to have broad support. Billionaire Warren Buffett endorsed it as an effective way of getting rid of excess housing inventory in an August interview with Charlie Rose.

"If you wanted to change [the] immigration policy so that you let 500,000 families in, but they'd have to have significant net worth and everything, you'd solve things very quickly," Buffett said.


Here's an excerpt from the transcript.

BUFFETT: I mean this -- this is a huge correction of a bubble that popped.

ROSE: And -- and what is necessary to take place over the next two years in order to increase household formation and decrease the amount of construction?

BUFFETT: Well, we’re doing pretty well on the decrease in construction.

...ROSE: Demand is a factor in that.

BUFFETT: Demand is a factor and we artificially gave it a little boost when we went with the credit a year or two ago on -- on -- on purchase of homes. I think it’s a mistake to try and -- to try and front end it. I mean it just delays the eventual recovery. If you’ve gone in excess of something -- if I’ve got too many purple dresses and I run a dress shop, I get rid of those purple dresses and -- and then I can start all over again with the dresses that the people want.

ROSE: Yes.

BUFFETT: And I -- I mark them down to whatever it takes. You could -- you could -- you could have -- you could have a bunch of rich immigrants come in and they’d all need houses, for example. I mean if you wanted to change your immigration policy so that you let 500,000 families in but they have to have a significant net worth and everything, you’d -- you’d solve things very quickly. But naturally it’s being solved. Capitalism is solving this. But we’re fortunate in doing this, Japan has a declining population. I mean, if they get in excess of something it isn’t going to get worked off. We have households being formed every day. I’ve got a grandson getting married this weekend so we’re -- we’re forming them all the time. And -- and we’re forming it a lot faster than we’re building homes.

(Emphasis added)

Note that all the news coverage omitted the next sentence Buffett uttered: But naturally it’s being solved.

Sure, there's room to disagree on whether, in the housing market, more should be done to support homeowners and avoid community dislocation. But an offhand remark, amid a larger call for the free market, should not be seen as a policy prescription.


Posted by steve at 3:39 PM

Another book imagines that Walter O'Malley sought a spot "in the Atlantic Yards"

Atlantic Yards Report

As shown at right, in A Moment in Time: An American Story of Baseball, Heartbreak, and Grace, baseball great Ralph Branca (with his co-author) imagines that there was a place, in the 1950s, called "Atlantic Yards."

There wasn't. And it wasn't where Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley wanted to build, either.

Nor will the Barclays Center cost $4 billion. That was once the tab for the entire Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by steve at 3:36 PM

October 21, 2011

Scalia Lumps Kelo Decision with Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade

ABA Journal
by Debra Cassens Weiss

From the department of too little, too late — at least where Atlantic Yards is concerned.

Justice Antonin Scalia predicted Monday that the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London will be overturned.

Speaking to students at the Chicago-Kent School of Law, Scalia criticized the decision allowing the city of New London to use eminent domain to seize property for economic development, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “I do not think that the Kelo opinion is long for this world,” Scalia said.

Long enough for Bruce Ratner, however.

Scalia ranked Kelo among the top cases in which the court made a mistake of political judgment, according to the Sun-Times account.


Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

Schumer sponsors bill to bail out housing industry by selling temporary visas to immigrant investors; wouldn't this distort the market (and maybe even help AY)?

Atlantic Yards Report

Apparently, essentially selling green cards through the questionable EB-5 program--under which prospective immigrants must create ten purported jobs with their $500,000 investment--was only the start.

Now Congress is considering selling three-year residence visas to foreigners who invest $500,000 in the housing market, and co-sponsor Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) somehow thinks "it won't cost the government a nickel."

Schumer doesn't seem familiar with opportunity cost, the notion that we might choose a different alternative that could prove more beneficial.

For example, immigration analyst David North of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies thinks EB-5 investors should also have to buy a $50,000 U.S. bond for each visa issued. So why not ask prospective home purchasers do more than bail out the housing industry in exchange for those visas?

Schumer's proposal could have major unintended consequences, such as rising prices in prime areas (Hello, Brooklyn) while little impact on foreclosed subdivisions in, say, suburban Las Vegas. (See similar skepticism from a law firm involved in EB-5.)

But this bill, which requires investors to pay cash, will surely gain support from FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate), the pillars of New York City's uneven economy and, not coincidentally, Schumer campaign support. The founder of the Toll Brothers firm is already on board.

Heck, it just might goose demand for Forest City Ratner's unbuilt luxury condos in the Atlantic Yards project. After all, if the developer wants to sell condos in 2015 for $1217/sf--more than double nearby Atlantic Terrace, it sure helps if buyers care more about visas than price.


NoLandGrab: Now there's an enervating idea.

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

Brooklyn Nets desperately need a new name: It sounds bad, and it means nothing

NY Daily News
by Alexander Nazaryan

Nazaryan, who's written insipidly about Atlantic Yards before, wastes more ink on the critical issue of the name "Nets." Seriously.

But the Nets, currently of New Jersey and soon of Brooklyn, are the nadir of athletic nomenclature. True, we may not have a basketball league to speak off, since the segment of our maligned 1% that can dunk a basketball can't settle its dispute with franchise owners. But if Brooklyn does host its first pro team since the Dodgers decamped for Los Angeles in 1957, that team cannot be called the Nets.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Department of Diverted Attention: Daily News devotes long op-ed to question of Nets' name change

We'll leave it to Norman Oder to suggest more worthy topics.

But, really, is this what deserves extended discussion when the state has failed to hire a community relations rep and extended construction is disturbing neighbors?

NoLandGrab: Well, at least it keeps Nazaryan from writing nonsense about bikes and bike lanes.

Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

Traffic Calming Measures on Classon Avenue Inch Forward

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Mary Shell

Over the last several months, members of the Classon, Lexington, and Quincy Block Association, known as CLEXY, have noticed with mounting concern the new signs indicating no left turns off Atlantic Avenue onto Vanderbilt and Washington Avenues – leaving Classon Avenue as one of the few Clinton Hill streets to remain open to traffic coming from Atlantic.

“It has become clear,” said Laura Benko, president of CLEXY, at the group’s meeting last Thursday evening, “that Classon Avenue has been targeted as the primary means of egress for future Atlantic stadium traffic.”

After Community Board 2’s Oct. 12 approval of traffic calming measures on Classon Avenue, CLEXY members said last Thursday that they still worried about traffic from the planned Barclays Center arena on Atlantic Avenue, pedestrian safety, and signage on Classon Avenue.


Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

Scoopy's Notebook: N.Y.U. dean scandal

The Villager

A Saturday New York Post article reported that James Stuckey had voluntarily quit his post the day before as president of the city’s Public Design Commission “two weeks after he abruptly quit his job as dean of N.Y.U.’s Schack Institute of Real Estate. University spokesperson Paola Curcio-Kleinman said Stuckey quit for ‘health’ reasons,” according to the Post. However, the Post said it was preparing to reveal that Stuckey, in fact, had been ousted by N.Y.U. after school officials confronted him about accusations he had sexually harassed women at the university. In addition, according to the daily tab, Stuckey was previously booted from developer Forest City Ratner in early 2007 for inappropriate conduct with subordinate female employees. Why would N.Y.U. even hire this guy based on his track record of harassment? Did he really, as the N.Y.U. spokesperson claimed, quit for “health reasons?”


NoLandGrab: Why would they hire Stuckey? 'Cause Bruce Ratner asked them to. And sickness is a health reason, right?

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

Long-entangled Ridge Hill complex opens to Yonkers throng

The Journal-News
by Ernie Garcia

THIS JUST IN: People who received valuable free gift cards at Ridge Hill grand opening say Ridge Hill is just peachy!

The official launch festivities for Westchester's Ridge Hill drew thousands Thursday seeking gifts and a first look at the $685 million retail-residential center.

By 8:30 a.m. at least 160 people had lined up in front of L.L. Bean to receive one of 250 free gift cards. Chappaqua resident Steven Gwon, 63, who won a $500 gift card at L.L. Bean, predicted success for Ridge Hill.

"I think it's going to be terrific when it's fully open..." said Gwon.

Denise Richmond took a $22 taxi ride from New Rochelle, arriving at L.L. Bean at 6:15 a.m. and taking her place as sixth in line.

"It's a beautiful place," said Richmond of the facility. She said she thought Ridge Hill will have a positive impact on Westchester County.

The 81-acre center's inauguration Thursday included an early evening pyrotechnic show. The display recalled the many years of political fireworks spawned by the controversial project, which included arguments about millions in tax breaks for the property and the ongoing federal prosecution of former Yonkers councilwoman Sandy Annabi, who, with former Yonkers Republican chairman Zehy Jereis, is accused of conspiring to sell her City Council votes on Ridge Hill and an unrelated project.

Bruce Ratner, Forest City's executive vice president, said his company couldn't have opened the complex without local support.

"We thank you so much for helping us get this through," Ratner told Amicone and Spencer.

[Wink, wink.]


Related coverage...

The Daily Harrison, Westchester's Ridge Hill is a 'City Within a City'

Ridge Hill wants to give Westchester County residents an unparalleled experience by combining shopping, dining and entertainment into one long, elegant and upscale outing.

NLG: Is it us, or is a "city within a city" fashioned around an upscale shopping mall symptomatic of everything that's wrong with America?

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM


The New York Times
by Vivian Marino

Surely we're not qualified to report for The New York Times, not having attended Harvard, Yale or Princeton, but here's a question we would've asked the president and CEO of AKRF: how many times has your firm ever found an environmental impact that was too great for a development project to go forward?

Mr. Applebome, 59, is the president and chief executive of AKRF, an environmental planning and engineering firm.

The company, which is based in New York, has prepared environmental impact studies for numerous development projects throughout the city, including Columbia University’s expansion plans, the Atlantic Yards and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.

Q Who are some of your clients?

A We’ve worked for almost all the big development organizations: Durst, Tishman, Related, Rudin, Resnick, Forest City, Sterling Equities, Vornado, Glenwood, Trump, Brookfield, Hines... I’m sure I’m leaving some out.

Q This is AKRF’s 30th year in business.

A Yes, and it’s a big accomplishment to have worked in this industry for that long and to still be going strong.


NoLandGrab: Consistently finding "no adverse impact" is a sure formula for success!

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

October 20, 2011

In softball Times interview, AKRF president shrugs off challenges to credibility, but the AY blight study tells a different story

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, we don't really expect hard-hitting journalism from The Times's Real Estate section, but really.

The president of ubiquitous environmental consultant AKRF gets respectful treatment in SQUARE FEET | THE 30-MINUTE INTERVIEW: Edward A. Applebome, scheduled for the 10/23/11 Real Estate section of the New York Times:

Q Speaking of all these clients, some groups have questioned AKRF’s objectivity when conducting studies for them, charging that more often than not you reach conclusions in their favor, as with Columbia’s plans.

A If it’s an impact study, that’s really being done for the decision-making agency, and it becomes their document. It’s not an advocacy document — it’s a disclosure document.

In New York nothing’s easy. Communities care about what gets built, and adjacent property owners often care the most. Of course there is a lot of controversy surrounding some of the projects we are involved with, as was certainly the case with Columbia’s Manhattanville proposal. This is New York City and people have strong competing opinions they express in different forums, but we would not be as successful as we are if the quality and accuracy of our work could not be sustained.
(Emphases added)

AKRF in action

More often than not? Let's recall this sequence from a 1/5/10 oversight hearing led by state Senator Bill Perkins, querying Anita Laremont, then General Counsel of the Empire State Development Corporation.

"Has AKRF ever found a situation where there was no blight?" Perkins asked, drawing laughs from the audience.

"Let me just say," Laremont responded, a bit sternly. "AKRF does not find blight. Our board finds blight. AKRF does a study of neighborhood conditions. They give us a report, and we make a determination based on that as to whether the area is blighted."

(Not true, actually. AKRF was hired to do "a blight study in support of the proposed [Atlantic Yards] project.)

"Have you ever differed with their point of view?" Perkins asked. "Have they ever come back with a determination that was, in your point of view, not blighted?"

"No," acknowledged Laremont.

"Have they ever given you a determination that you concluded was not blighted?" he continued.

"No," she said.


NoLandGrab: And if The Times is going to do fluff on the real estate pages, shouldn't the Metro desk do this story with actual bite?

Posted by eric at 11:22 PM

Surveyors near arena blocks: are they measuring sidewalk capacity?

Atlantic Yards Report

As noted on Atlantic Yards Watch, workers have been surveying the sidewalk on streets in Prospect Heights, mainly those that would serve as pathways between the planned surface parking lot and the arena. Below, Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues.

Beyond that, work was spotted on Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues; on Carlton between Dean and Pacific; and on Vanderbilt (west side) between Dean and Pacific. Only the latter, which constitutes the eastern border of the parking lot, does not constitute a direct path to the arena.

What's the purpose?

"This is not ESD," said Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for Empire State Development, in response to my query.

I'd bet it's more likely consultants--working for Forest City Ratner or a subcontractor?--trying to test sidewalk capacity. As I've written, on Dean Street at least, it's a very tight fit.


Posted by eric at 12:52 PM

ArtBridge and Atlantic Yards: art spruces up some construction fencing (and we remember some history)

Atlantic Yards Report

It is surely an improvement over dull monolithic construction fence around the Atlantic Yards arena block, and there are some excellent individual pieces of art in the installation Works in Progress, curated by ArtBridge, which has the worthy aim of sprucing up construction sites.

Still, it was a little strange yesterday to be standing on Dean Street listening to the heads of ArtBridge--Founder Rodney Durso and Director Jordana Zeldin--describe their efforts, with the nearest backdrop a fanciful vision of wild animals.

(Photos and set by Tracy Collins. I cropped the photo at [right].)

After all, the north side of Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth avenues, now the southern border of the arena block, used to be a modest but sturdy Brooklyn street, as Collins's montage shows.


Related coverage...

threecee via flickr, 2011 Artbridge: "Works In Progress"

New York Magazine, Design News

Scaffolding Worth Looking At
The Atlantic Yards construction site is no one’s idea of beautiful, making it an ideal candidate for beautification by ArtBridge, the Chelsea public arts nonprofit dedicated to gussying up the city’s nearly 1 million linear feet of scaffolding. The group is turning roughly 2,500 square feet of perimeter fencing into canvases for twenty Brooklyn-based artists. The works were chosen from nearly 200 submissions by a jury including artist Vik Muniz, Humble Arts Foundation founder Amani Olu, and Brooklyn Museum curator Eugenie Tsai.

Posted by eric at 12:30 PM

Billion dollar business back in New York

Real Estate Weekly
by Liana Grey

In Brooklyn, on the other hand, walkup apartment buildings are leading the way. “We’re seeing a lot of investors coming into Brooklyn, particularly smaller firms,” said Michael Amirkhanian of Massey Knakal’s Brooklyn team. “This is going to be our first billion dollar year since 2008.”

Multifamily properties within a four or five avenue radius of Atlantic Yards are particularly prized, as equity groups expect the area to become hot once the new Nets arena opens.


NoLandGrab: 'Cause the neighborhoods within a four or five avenue radius of Atlantic Yards — Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill — have been ice-cold for years, right?

Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

Hope Reichbach's family launches memorial fund in honor of young political activist

NY Daily News
by Katie Nelson

The News picks up on a story first reported by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle last week.

Burgeoning political activist Hope Reichbach's efforts to build a better Brooklyn were tragically cut short earlier this year, but a new memorial fund created in her honor will give others the chance to continue her altruism.

At least one boldface name is already funding the cause. The family of Brooklyn Nets owner and real estate developer Bruce Ratner has pledged $15,000 a year for the next five years.

Ratner and Gus Reichbach are decades-old friends who lived together while attending Columbia Law School.

The Ratner family hopes the donation will help "keep some version of Hope's amazing heart beating," said Ratner's daughter Lizzy, a journalist. "Some version of her brilliant mind thinking. Some version of those amazing boxing-trained biceps fighting for a better world."

"It's a wonderful idea, excellent because it empowers and provides opportunity," Lizzy Ratner said. "But is also going to create a generation of young people who can help realize Hope's vision and live out her ideals of social justice and build on them."


NoLandGrab: Maybe some of those empowered young people will fight against the kind of eminent domain and subsidy abuse for which Lizzie's dad is famous.

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

Tool of the day: Google’s “Follow Your World” feature

A web app lets you track satellite and aerial imagery over time.

Nieman Journalism Lab
by Megan Garber

Google has a cool feature: an app, Follow Your World, that allows you to track satellite images of locations you specify within Google Maps and Google Earth. Each time Google updates its satellite and aerial imagery for the areas you’ve selected, it’ll send you a notification letting you know about the new info.

The feature’s been around since January; today, it’s expanding into 43 additional languages, from Arabic to Estonian, Serbian to Vietnamese. And while the app is a nifty thing overall — you could use it, say, to track changes in the neighborhood you grew up in, or on your college campus, or at the town you’ll be vacationing in this winter — the feature also provides potentially useful data for reporters. (Particularly in combination with Google Earth’s Historical Imagery showcase, which lets you compare satellite images as they’ve changed over time.) Think of, say, reporting on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards project.


NoLandGrab: Thanks, but like Bartleby, we'd prefer not to.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

October 19, 2011

'Battle For Brooklyn' Filmmaker Speaks Out On Occupy Wall Street

Michael Galinsky discusses parallels between the ongoing protests and the fight over Atlantic Yards.

Park Slope Patch
by Paul Leonard

Historians have long said that those looking to decode the present should get busy consulting the past.

So it goes for Clinton Hill residents Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky's Atlantic Yards documentary, Battle For Brooklyn, which has grown in stature from a project about the ultimately unsuccessful effort against a massive development to one with renewed relevance in the continuing Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread from Zuccotti Park to Grand Army Plaza and beyond.

"Atlantic Yards represents everything that Occupy Wall Street is mad about," Galinsky said. "The lack of jobs, housing, all of the broken promises."

Indeed, the documentary—which begins a semi-permanent weekly run at Brooklyn Heights Cinema starting tonight at 7 p.m.—and its theme of democratic resistance to the powers-that-be seems to have universal appeal, leading to packed moviehouses from Cleveland to Los Angeles.


Posted by eric at 10:36 PM

Catching up on Bruce Ratner's campaign contributions: to de Blasio and New York Uprising (and would past gift to Schneiderman stave off Downtown Brooklyn Partnership investigation?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Money can buy you friends, and even better, the obeisance of people who shouldn't be looking the other way.

After late 2010 campaign contributions to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and to Senate Republicans, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has made two other notable contributions.

On 12/23/10, he gave $4,950, the maximum, to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a likely 2013 mayoral candidate and a reliable, if not always credible, Atlantic Yards supporter. Ratner in June was the co-chair of a de Blasio fundraiser.

Ratner on 4/1/11 gave $25,000 to New York Uprising, the clean-up Albany effort founded by his old mentor Henry Stern of New York Civic, with support from several noted former elected officials, including former Mayor Ed Koch.


NoLandGrab: As we've said before, there's something Orwellian, almost about Bruce Ratner giving money to a clean-up Albany effort.

Posted by eric at 1:30 PM

“The Battle for Brooklyn” is a movie for these times—of Occupation!

News from Underground

Media critic Mark Crispin Miller posts a letter from Battle for Brooklyn filmmaker Suki Hawley.

Today, the New York Daily News’s Michael O’Keeffe explained some of the parralels between Battle for Brooklyn and Occupy Wall Street. We’ve been waiting for someone to notice.

Now we are back in Brooklyn and back on screen tomorrow at Brooklyn Heights Cinema – 70 Henry St. at 7pm. It will run every Wednesday for the time being.

The recent West Coast tour was amazing, and we had engaged audiences and powerful q and a’s at every event.

About Battle, Charles Mudede wrote in the Stranger, “The documentary is fair and engaging from beginning to end.”

The film also got a rave in the Seattle Times.

Upcoming screenngs include:

– Pittsburgh at Three Rivers Film Festival on Saturday, November 12.
– Chapel Hill on Tuesday, November 22.
– Maysles Center in Harlem in December.


NoLandGrab: "Tomorrow" is now today, so check out Battle for Brooklyn tonight at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema.

Posted by eric at 1:21 PM

"Status Cuomo": unmet Atlantic Yards oversight means savings to Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

Governor Andrew Cuomo, dubbed "Status Cuomo" by his political rivals, seems to have earned that appellation regarding Atlantic Yards.

After all, his administration has merely continued the policy of its predecessors, for example defending the failure to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, even though contracts signed by the state allow a 25-year buildout, rather than the decade predicted.

Job left open, lagging of oversight

Think about it. For four months, the state has left open the community relations position once occupied by Forrest Taylor, then dubbed ombudsman (though he didn't have such power).

Meanwhile, construction noise, dust, and traffic can make life in areas adjacent to the Atlantic Yards construction very trying.


Posted by eric at 1:16 PM

A Block Party Without a Block: A Community Survives Long After Its Homes Are Razed

by Sam Lewis

Documentary filmmaker Jim Epstein, whose short doc on the razing of Manhattantown we posted last month, spoke recently with WNET's blog about modern-day parallels.

Q: The city still uses eminent domain as a strategy to clear private land for development…Is your film in part a cautionary tale?

A: My piece is actually an opening short for the “The Battle for Brooklyn,” a new documentary about the Atlantic Yards Project. I think there are absolute parallels between the urban renewal programs of the ’50s and ’60s and contemporary urban development projects. In Moses’ era, city officials used the urban renewal program as a tool to prevent “white flight,” and they often built public housing or cultural institutions. Today, the city invests in large-scale projects with the mantra of “growth” and “economic development,” but we see the construction of new stadiums and shopping centers.

My favorite Robert Moses quote is, “someday you’ll thank me for these projects and forget about these people.” I’m paraphrasing his actual words, but I think it reflects how we remember this era of urban renewal.


Posted by eric at 1:05 PM

Separating the regulators from the promoters: in Japan, it took a nuclear disaster

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a telling passage in the 10/17/11 LETTER FROM FUKUSHIMA in the New Yorker, headlined The Fallout : Seven months later: Japan’s nuclear predicament.

The full article's not online, but this passage appears near the end of the article, summarizing some of the policy reaction:

The Japanese government ordered an initial round of stress tests--simulated disasters--for most of the nation's nuclear reactors. It passed a tariff that promotes the use of renewable energy sources, which had withered during the heyday of the nuclear program. And, in an important legal change, it moved to separate the regulators in charge of policing the plants from the industrial ministry in charge of promoting them.

Hm--will it take a non-radiation version of a nuclear disaster in New York to separate the agency in charge of promoting a project like Atlantic Yards from the agency that oversees its environmental impact?


Posted by eric at 1:00 PM

Atlantic Yards Gets Artsy

by Sara Polsky

ATLANTIC YARDSVILLE—The folks from Artbridge have been installing an art installation, "Works in Progress" on the Atlantic Yards construction fencing for the past two days. Curbed intern Jeremiah Budin headed to Brooklyn to spy on the art going up—check it out in the gallery above. The installation officially opens Thursday.


NoLandGrab: They needed something to hide the pre-rusted arena cladding meant to pay homage to Pittsburgh Brownstone Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 12:52 PM

When it comes to the NBA lockout, economist Zimbalist, FCR's paid consultant, sounds like the voice of neutral reason

Atlantic Yards Report

It's notable that, in press coverage of the NBA lockout and negotiations, sports economist Andrew Zimbalist is portrayed as a neutral voice of reason. He does, in fact, come off as Scholar Zimbalist.

However, as Consultant Zimbalist, he produced an irresponsible, tendentious report for Forest City Ratner claiming that the Atlantic Yards project would bring billions in new revenues.

(Remember, then-FCR executive Jim Stuckey--yes, the same Jim Stuckey who's been in the news-- claimed at a 5/4/04 City Council hearing, "It is really not our report, it is Professor Zimbalist’s report." But Zimbalist was paid by the developer and used questionable information the developer supplied.)


Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

NY property sales soar, but no cigar

Citywide sales on track to reach $25 billion, quadruple 2009's lows but still 60% below 2007 peaks. Gains seen in all boroughs as number of sales also shows big gains.

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Ipsen

Bruce Ratner, gentrifier.

Property sales across New York City hit $19.2 billion in the first three quarters of the year and are on pace to end the year at $25 billion, despite a slowdown in the turbulent third quarter, according to a report released Tuesday by Massey Knakal Realty Services.

The area around Atlantic Yards, in Brooklyn, has also seen a lot of buying. There, sales volumes and prices are rising in anticipation of further progress on the massive redevelopment of the former rail yards.


NoLandGrab: Not to mention the 60%+ of the site that used to be people's homes and businesses — not railyards.

Posted by eric at 12:36 PM

October 18, 2011

Ho Ho Ho. Christmas Comes Early for Atlantic Yards Critics.

Back in August, former Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards honcho Jim Stuckey was active on Twitter, firing off a series of tweets deriding opponents of the Atlantic Yards project. Stuckey opined that critics had "contributed nothing, but a lot of noise," and that we "oppose, yet have created nothing." He suggested that perhaps we were a little creepy:

Of course, creepy is relative. Some people might define "creepy" as a senior Forest City Ratner executive who, at the company Christmas party, took "all of his subordinates to a club and then called a number of women employees into a private room, where he had them sit on his lap as though he were Santa Claus."

Yeah, that's creepy.

Original Photo: Alex Rud/NY Post

Posted by eric at 4:43 PM

Following up on Jim Stuckey's mysterious resignation: the widespread rumors; questions about FCR's role; and more apparent board departures

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Post scoop Saturday contending that the mysterious departure of Jim Stuckey from two jobs (and subsequently the city's Public Design Commission) was because of alleged sexual harassment--he and New York University say it was health reasons--deserves more attention.

The issue is not merely the salacious allegations, but because of what it says about how power operates in the city.

Notably, it reminds us how Forest City Ratner managed to lock down the press when it booted its Atlantic Yards point man in 2007, and reveals that company CEO Bruce Ratner later helped Stuckey get a new job at NYU. And it leaves some lingering questions about that process.

Passing on a problem to NYU?

It's unclear what occurred at NYU, but if it rises to the level of a legal claim against the university, the plaintiff(s) would have reason to ask, as Eric McClure commented, "who knew what, and when did they know it?"

He likened former boss Bruce Ratner's influence in getting Stuckey a new job to a pope transferring a priest rather than banishing him or getting him treatment. The Post, again using unnamed sources, quoted a Forest City official as claiming "the reasons for [Stuckey's] sudden departure" were shared with potential employers.

That's a lingering question and, as I wrote, the issue may be the subject of an internal inquiry at NYU.

More apparent board departures: St. John's

Not only has Stuckey left the the Public Design Commission, as the Post reported, he's also left the Board of Trustees of St. John's University, his alma mater.

I queried St. John's yesterday in the late afternoon. (Updated 11 am Oct. 18) This morning I received a response: “James Stuckey has resigned from St. John’s University’s Board of Trustees for health reasons.”


Related coverage...

Staten Island Advance, Islander steps down from mayoral panel under a cloud

An NYU spokeswoman did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday, and a knock on the door of Stuckey's Bay Terrace home went unanswered. Attempts to reach him by phone were unsuccessful.

Posted by eric at 4:30 PM

Gridlock on Flatbush, sluggish on Sixth: congestion wrought by AY changes (and an improper truck route)?

Atlantic Yards Report

Um, isn't Forest City Ratner supposed to be paying for additional Traffic Enforcement Agents?

Do traffic changes and congestion created by Atlantic Yards construction have spillover effects? One North Park Slope resident thinks so, and posted the video below, showing gridlock on Flatbush Avenue and Sixth Avenue yesterday morning.

The resident says that congestion on Flatbush, exacerbated by Atlantic Yards-related vehicles, has prompted additional traffic on side streets looking for shortcuts.

Moreover, the closing and demapping of Fifth Avenue north of Flatbush for the arena block has pushed additional traffic onto Sixth Avenue, which is now two ways north of Flatbush, as it always was below Flatbush.

Sixth Avenue a truck route?

The resident said he's seen many large trucks now using Sixth Avenue, especially demolition trucks coming south from the Atlantic Yards site. A police officer told him that the rules had been changed due to Atlantic Yards and that residential Sixth Avenue is now a permitted truck route.

Well, the Department of Transportation (DOT) lists mainly arteries like Flatbush, Atlantic, and Fourth avenues as truck routes, as well as a small stretch of Fifth Avenue and Bergen Street near the arena site.


NoLandGrab: Don't worry, we're sure it'll be fine on game nights.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Watch, Video captures morning gridlock in north Slope

Traffic appears locked at the intersection of Flatbush, Sixth Avenue and St. Marks Avenue. The cameraman then walks down Sixth Avenue to show further gridlock at the intersection of Sixth and Prospect Place. He reports these conditions have become an everyday occurrence.

Posted by eric at 12:51 PM

ESDC's flawed analysis of sidewalk widths highlights risk in privatizing arena planning and oversight

Atlantic Yards Watch

Rarely does a day go by that the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement, and corresponding reports, isn't proved increasingly worthless.

In response to an AYW story showing the effective sidewalk widths on the arena block are going to be narrower than ESDC's 2006 environmental analysis has assessed, the agency's environmental monitor HDR submitted a Technical Memorandum to the Department of Transportation revising effective sidewalk widths and reassessing the sidewalks' level of service.

But HDR's Technical Memorandum about the arena block's sidewalks is flawed as well. It incorrectly applies its own formula for assessing effective sidewalk widths. As a result of that mistake the Technical Memorandum overstates the effective widths of numerous sidewalks on the arena block by several feet. And HDR uses outdated pedestrian numbers from the 2006 FEIS even though the sidewalk conditions being analyzed should be based on the 2009 Modified General Project Plan.

As a result, the level of service calculations (which relate the number of pedestrians anticipated to use a sidewalk in a period of peak use to the sidewalk's capacity) are invalid and should not be accepted.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, From Atlantic Yards Watch: "privatizing arena planning and oversight" leads to flawed analysis of sidewalk width, capacity

The problem: private planning

From AY Watch:

In arguing for the approval of FCRC's plans for bollards on the arena block at the DOT hearing October 5th, Assistant Vice President Sonya Covington stated that the plans followed two years of coordination with government agencies and that the Technical Memorandum had been produced to address changes to sidewalk widths from what was originally anticipated in 2006.

The reality is the opposite. At a critical time in which the operational, demand management and security plans for Barclays Center are being developed behind closed doors, the bollard plans provide a small window into how and who is shaping the plans.

We're still waiting for the Department of Transportation to respond, and for Empire State Development (Corporation) to convene the once-promised Transportation Working Group.

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Story of Occupy Wall Street protestors runs parallel to 'Battle for Brooklyn' documentary

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

The pundits who continue to say they don't understand what the protesters behind Occupy Wall Street want should look at "Battle for Brooklyn," the award-winning documentary about the Atlantic Yards that was released this summer.

The film was released before the Wall Street protests began, but the story it tells is a strong summary of the crony capitalism that sparked the OWS movement.

Public assets, according to the film, were given away to the wealthy and connected. Eminent domain was used, and abused, to benefit corporate interests. Fawning elected officials -- Bloomberg, Schumer, Markowitz, take your pick -- parroted the developer's dubious claims of jobs and affordable housing. Millions of dollars in subsidies were provided for a project that bypassed local review. Competing proposals, which may have been more beneficial to taxpayers and the surrounding community, were ignored or dismissed.


NoLandGrab: Catch Battle for Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema every Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

Posted by eric at 9:42 AM

Over 3,300 New Daily Visitors to Our Neighborhood?

My Little O [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]

The New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) is in the process of negotiating a 20-year lease to occupy six floors (400,000-square-feet) of the telecom building at 470 Vanderbilt Avenue. If approved, HRA will consolidate over 1,700 employees from two current locations (210 Livingston Street in Brooklyn, and 330 W. 34th Street in Manhattan).

In addition to the 1,700 staff, the two agencies will service about 1,600 clients each day. This will bring over 3,300 new daily visitors to the area. A presentation by representatives of HRA at last night’s Community Board 2 general meeting was not received well by both members of the board and the community. The primary concern is that the neighborhood’s infrastructure (parking and public transportation) is not equipped to handle the influx of that many daily visitors. CB2 board member, Mr. Andrew Lastowecky said, "The Clinton/Washington A and C subway stop cannot handle an additional 3,000 people each day during peak hours." If employees and clients do drive there are no parking facilities or roadside parking in the area to accommodate them either. Board members also expressed concerns about the potential traffic congestion that will occur if there's a significant increase in cars during the development of Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

A proposed school of science and engineering vs. Atlantic Yards: competitive bidding and subsidies well below the city's payoff

Atlantic Yards Report

Would you believe that New York City's "game changer"--a proposed science and engineering grad school aimed at helping New York compete with Silicon Valley--looks like a much bigger bargain than Atlantic Yards--and emerging from a fairer playing field?

In a 10/17/11 article headlined Two Top Suitors Are Emerging for New Graduate School of Engineering, the New York Times reported:

With less than two weeks left to apply in the competition for $400 million in land and subsidies to build a science and engineering graduate school in New York City, some of the world’s great universities continue to change plans and jockey for position, and there is a growing view among them that Cornell and Stanford have emerged as the favorites.

...People briefed on the universities’ plans, whose cost estimates exceed $1 billion in some cases, speculate that one or more of the contenders will try to improve their standing by forgoing the city’s offer of up to $100 million to upgrade roads, water and power supplies, offering to pay those costs themselves.

By contrast, Atlantic Yards was embraced by city officials as a package deal, and there was never any competition to build a mixed-use arena complex, only a belated RFP, 18 months later, for a key piece of property, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard.

The MTA never took seriously the one competitive bid, $150 million cash from Extell, since it chose to negotiate solely with Forest City Ratner, which bid $50 million. Yes, Forest City argued that the overall value of its bid was higher, but Extell was never asked to develop its bid further, or to bolster it.

Who knows--perhaps if the bidding had gotten competitive, as with the new graduate school, a bidder might have proposed forgoing some of the city's proposed subsidies.


Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

NYCHA Chairman: Parking Minimums “Working Against Us”

by Noah Kazis

The New York CIty Housing Authority is aiming to undo the kind of failed urban development that Bruce Ratner plans to do with Atlantic Yards.

Leaders in New York City’s public housing community are interested in transforming city-owned superblocks into mixed-use, mixed-income communities that engage with the pedestrian realm. There are of course many obstacles to this kind of ambitious project, but only one was identified specifically in a Municipal Art Society panel on the topic last Friday: the city’s own parking requirements.

Developing existing NYCHA land could bring a wide variety of benefits to both public housing residents and the surrounding communities, said John Rhea, the chairman of NYCHA, and his fellow panel members.

Infill development, said Rhea, means “we can do a lot more to ensure that the income diversity is stronger.”

Infill development also would allow the city to undo some of the design drawbacks of the tower-in-a-park style housing project, common in many parts of the city. A plan put forward by Rosanne Haggerty, the president of the homelessness prevention organization Community Solutions, for four adjacent housing projects in Brownsville would build between 700 and 1,000 units without displacing a single resident, she said. Her organization’s design would break up the existing superblock by restoring the original streets back through the housing project and put new buildings facing the sidewalk, recreating the traditional pedestrian environment. “Those blocks can reknit into the surrounding street grid,” said Haggerty. Surface parking lots would be replaced with new housing, retail, schools and green space under Haggerty’s plan.

Standing in the way of this kind of revitalization, however, are the city’s antiquated parking requirements.


NoLandGrab: As Norman Oder has written, Atlantic Yards is PlaNYC1950.

Posted by eric at 9:20 AM

People have to realize — there’s lots of crime in Fort Greene

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alfred Ng

On the bright side? At least no one was sexually harassed.

Dirty secret

A thief stole 300 pairs of underwear from the Flatbush Avenue Victoria’s Secret on Oct. 13.

An employee told cops that the burglar entered the back of the store near Atlantic Avenue at 10:20 am, put a bunch of underwear in a bag and fled.

Police are seeking a 35-year-old suspect with curly hair.


Posted by eric at 9:13 AM

October 17, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Hits Grand Army Plaza

Prospect Heights Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

We're guessing Marty didn't see the irony.

Occupy Wall Street came to Brooklyn today with dozens gathering at Grand Army Plaza to bring the movement to their own borough.

And the most unlikely occupier — if logic counts for anything — was the one in the middle:

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz stopped by to show support, both for the right of free speech and assembly and for the mission of the movement.

“I share a lot of those sentiments,” he said, citing the disparity of wealth, the struggles of the middle class and the migration of jobs overseas as some of his top concerns.

As one commenter on the Brooklyn Paper's story wrote:

"He's been the biggest booster of Atlantic Yards, the poster project for 1% abuse, and has stood with the 1% who have sued to undo traffic calming on Prospect Park West. What a hypocritical opportunist."

Couldn't have said it better ourselves.


Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

Latest consultant's report: arena still ahead of schedule (lead nudges ahead), transit connection barely on schedule (and slowing); 422 workers

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the latest Arena Site Observation Report, dated 10/7/11, the Barclays Center arena remains on schedule, having increased pace slightly. By contrast, while the associated transit connection to the Atlantic Avenue subway hub is on schedule, but it's pace has continued to slow slightly.

The estimate, based on cash flow, comes in a report prepared by Merritt & Harris, the real estate consultant to the arena PILOT Bond Trustee. Two months ago, the consultant stated that the transit connection was two months ahead of schedule. There's always a time lag; this latest report is based on a 8/25/11 visit and documents made available 9/25/11.

Reading between the lines

The meaning of the pace reported is not simple to assess, as the consultant's rather opaque. This new report nudges up the arena completion by four days, to 8/23/12, while nudging the transit connection back six days, to 4/1/12. The report does not acknowledge that the latter date represents a revision of the schedule.

The report does not mention of the reason for and impact of extended construction hours--though it seems reasonable to conclude that extended hours are needed to stay on schedule.


Posted by eric at 11:35 AM

In Yonkers, Shopping for Shoppers

The Wall Street Journal
by Robbie Whelan

From the department of hardly a surprise...

After a slow start, Westchester's Ridge Hill, the massive shopping mall in Yonkers that opened its first stores in the spring, is finally achieving critical mass in occupancy with a flurry of new leases to tenants like Whole Foods Market, the Cheesecake Factory, H&M, Sephora and L.L. Bean.

But the aesthetic and design goals of the developer, Forest City Ratner Cos., remain more elusive.

The plans for the complex that Forest City announced in 2003 for Ridge Hill incorporated elements of the New Urbanist design movement that began in the 1980s. The idea was to mix the 1.3 million square feet of retail in with office, residential and other uses to give the complex the feel of a walkable village.

But Ridge Hill falls short of being a pleasant enough social destination to meet the definition of a great public space for people to congregate, socialize and actually mingle with other people.

While the Journal calls Ridge Hill's shopping environment a vast improvement over FCRC's Atlantic Terminal mall, it sounds like the suburban equivalent of the Atlantic Center.

For all its planning, the site is still decidedly disconnected from the world around it—a walled fort that, like medieval garrison cities, forbids, aesthetically, rather than inviting entrance.


Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

B is for Barclays

Brooklyn Spoke

Brooklyn Spoke's Doug Gordon snapped this photo yesterday.

I spotted this during a ride up to Prospect Heights on Sunday. It’s the B for the Barclays Center façade at a staging area on the corner of Dean Street and Carlton Avenue.


Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

October 16, 2011

ESD CEO Adams, in online Q&A, takes two Atlantic Yards questions, offers predictable answers

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams took two pre-submitted Atlantic Yards questions yesterday in an online Q&A via the Governor's CitizenConnects web site.

His answers, surely composed with the help of staffers, were predictable, and not very forthcoming.

Extended construction no worse

Q.* Do you agree with ESDC’s December 2010 argument that 25 years of construction is no worse for the local community than 10 years?*

A. I do agree because the impacts of construction are more severe when there are multiple buildings under construction at one time. If only one building is constructed at a time, or if there are gaps between construction, the level of noise will not be as great on the site, there will be less trucks traveling to the site and there will be overall less disruption in the area. A more condensed schedule over a shorter period of time will have more severe impacts to the local community.

By contrast, state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, in her July ruling calling for the agency to conduct a study of the impact of 25 years of construction, disagreed:

The conclusion in the Technical Analysis that an extended delay to 2035 would not have significant adverse environmental impacts that were not addressed in the FEIS [Final Environmental Impact Statement] is, in turn, based on the repeated assertions that the delay in the build-out would result in prolonged but less “intense” construction, and that most environmental impacts are driven by intensity rather than duration.

The Technical Analysis, which was prepared with marked speed in the month after the remand, does not support these findings with any technical studies on the effects of significantly prolonged construction on various areas of environmental concern. Rather, it appears to take the position that it is a matter of common sense that less intense construction will result in lower impacts for conditions such as traffic, noise, and air quality.

Even assuming arguendo that ESDC’s common sense assumption is correct, under established standards for environmental impact analysis, the duration of construction activities is a factor that is required to be taken into account in assessing the impacts on both environmental conditions such as traffic, noise, and air quality, which are amenable to quantitative analysis, and conditions such as neighborhood character, open space, and socioeconomic conditions, which are largely subject to qualitative analysis.

Why appeal court decision?

Q. Why is your agency appealing a July New York State Supreme Court decision ordering ESDC to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement analyzing the effects of the 2009 modified Atlantic Yards plan on the surrounding neighborhoods?

A. ESD strongly believes that it has complied with all relevant laws, and that is why we have appealed Justice Friedman’s decision.

This echoes an ESD statement made last month.


Posted by steve at 11:13 PM

‘Designs’ on women send city big packin’

New York Post
By Josh Margolin and Rich Calder

James Stuckey, who was the lead for the Atlantic Yards project, has left his current job because of alleged sexual harassment. Apparently, this was the case as well when he suddenly left Forest City Ratner in 2007.

The president of the city’s Public Design Commission abruptly quit late yesterday as The Post was preparing to reveal he had been ousted from his day job at NYU because of accusations he had sexually harassed women at the university.

James Stuckey, 57, an appointee of Mayor Bloomberg, held the unpaid post as president of the design commission since 2007, after three years as a member of the commission.

Bloomberg spokeswoman Julie Wood declined to elaborate on Stuckey’s one-sentence resignation letter, but insisted his decision to step down was “voluntary.”

Stuckey’s resignation from the city panel came two weeks after he abruptly quit his job as dean of NYU’s Schack Institute of Real Estate. University spokeswoman Paola Curcio-Kleinman said Stuckey quit for “health” reasons.

Sources briefed on the situation said NYU officials forced Stuckey out after confronting him with the harassment accusations.


“This man should not be in a position of public trust and judgment,” said one former ranking city official with deep knowledge of Stuckey’s alleged history of harassing female subordinates. “He’s been doing this a very, very long time. There’s a pattern of this behavior. He’s a very competent guy, technically speaking. But his historical Achilles heel is this stuff.”

The NYU episode echoed Stuckey’s surprise exit four years earlier from mega-development firm Forest City Ratner Cos., where he led the firm’s controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and its effort to move the New Jersey Nets to the Big Apple.

Stuckey was ousted by the company’s CEO, Bruce Ratner, in early 2007 after a series of complaints had been made against him by female employees, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of what happened.

Ratner, sources told The Post, resisted the idea of getting rid of Stuckey until some of his top lieutenants threatened to quit after an ugly incident at a 2006 Christmas party.

According to company sources, Stuckey took all of his subordinates to a club and then called a number of women employees into a private room, where he had them sit on his lap as though he were Santa Claus.


NoLandGrab: A rather good source predicted this outcome.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, A scoop from the Post: allegations of sexual harassment provoked Stuckey's departure from jobs at NYU and FCR; Ratner's influence got him NYU position

Finally, a media outlet has published an explanation for why Jim Stuckey, Forest City Ratner's former Atlantic Yards point man, and then head of the NYU Schack Real Estate Institute, departed both jobs in a similarly hasty fashion: allegations of sexual harassment.

While a source--I'd bet one connected to Forest City--called Stuckey "very competent" professionally, this might cause some reporters who trusted Stuckey to have some second thoughts about his overall character.

Maybe, for example, the New York Times's Nicholas Confessore and his editors recognize that it might not have been wise, in 2005, to unskeptically convey Stuckey's notorious assertion that "It's Orwellian, almost" to question the company's purported transparency regarding Atlantic Yards.

And it might remind them that Forest City Ratner was involved in some serious damage control, massaged by p.r. fixer Howard Rubenstein, when Stuckey resigned.

Gothamist, City's Head Of Public Design Quits Amid Sexual Harassment Rumors

The former dean of NYU's Schack Institute of Real Estate, and Forest City Ratner's ex-point man on the Atlantic Yards project, has abruptly resigned his unpaid post as the head of the city's Public Design Commission. Sources tell the Post that 57-year-old James Stuckey, who claims he left NYU a few weeks ago for "health reasons," allegedly quit because of repeated sexual harassment claims. "All I can say is I left for health reasons and there's really nothing to say," Stuckey told the Post. Is "hot blooded" a health condition?

"He's been doing this a very, very long time," the source says. "He's a very competent guy, technically speaking. But his historical Achilles heel is this stuff." After spearheading the Atlantic Yards project, Stuckey was allegedly fired from Forest City Ratner after one of Bruce Ratner's "top lieutenants" threatened to quit following an incident at a 2006 Christmas party. According to the source, Stuckey "took all of his subordinates to a club and then called a number of women employees into a private room, where he had them sit on his lap as though he were Santa Claus."

Because it would cause a "PR nightmare" to fire him in the middle of the Atlantic Yards project, Ratner reportedly helped Stuckey get the job at NYU, as Ratner is a member of the Schack Institute's board. Mayor Bloomberg's spokesman declined to comment on Stuckey's resignation other than to say it was "voluntary." No word on whether anyone has applied for a permit to build a Christmas-themed strip joint called The North Pole.

Posted by steve at 12:03 AM

October 15, 2011

From 1990 to 2003: Ratner gets the gumption to build beyond the height of the Williamsburgh Bank Tower

Atlantic Yards Report

How times change. A 3/18/90 New York Times Real Estate section article, headlined COMMERCIAL PROPERTY: Downtown Brooklyn; Two Tall Office Towers Planned on a Single Block, described plans for Forest City Ratner's MetroTech:

AS originally designed, 330 Jay Street was 505 feet tall, only seven feet shy of the Williamsburgh building. [Developer] Mr. [Bruce] Ratner was asked whether he ever considered proposing the tallest tower in Brooklyn.

"'We're not into that,'' he answered. ''We don't have to be the tallest, as long as it gets up and built.''

Bolder plans

By 2003, however, Ratner had achieved many more successes, and Brooklyn was booming. Hence the plan, when Atlantic Yards was announced, to build a flagship tower (dubbed "Miss Brooklyn" by architect Frank Gehry), that would rise 620 feet, 108 feet taller than the iconic bank tower.

No one pointed out Ratner's 1990 pledge.

However, "Miss Brooklyn" was still not supposed to block views of the tower's famous clock. As it turned out, Forest City Ratner at project approval in 2006 did agree to cut the height of the building to 511 feet, one foot shorter than the bank tower.

At the same time, however, that 2003 promise was abandoned, as the tower would still block the view of the clock.

For now, the issue of blocking the clock is subdued, because there's no market for an office tower. Meanwhile, another building in Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyner, became the tallest in the borough. It's not near the bank building, though, so it doesn't block the clock.


Posted by steve at 11:59 PM

Occupy Wall Street Movement and Atlantic Yards

Occupy Wall Street seeks to expand to Brooklyn. As the thrust of the movement is against corporate welfare, the recipient of such largesse, Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards soon come into the picture.

Corrente, Whose Park? Our Park.

This blog post reveals the contents of a letter from Occupy Wall Street's legal advisors to Brookfield Properties that ostensibly stopped New York City from ousting Occupy Wall Street from Zucotti Park. Analysis finds that one of the signatories of the letter was none other than Michael Ratner, Bruce's brother.

But it is the name of Michael Ratner that caught my eye last night. For Ratner is not just the number one human rights legal activist in New York City, arguably the US. He is also the scion of a multi billion property development firm run by his brother, Bruce Ratner, who happens to be a crony/buddy of Michael Bloomberg. So much so that he got more than 100 million dollars of tax and price breaks from NYC to build--against community opposition--a boondoggle basketball stadium in Brooklyn.

(Oh, and besides being a crony of Bloomberg, guess what! Bruce Ratner was the real estate developer for the New York Times' shiny new skyscraper. Do you think the Atlantic Yards stadium boondoggle got much coverage in Izvestia?)

So while Michael Ratner's credentials as a legal rights activist are solid, his family/monetary connections (he was conspicuously silent in the community legal battle against his brother Bruce, and he owns shares in the Nets, Ratner's team) place him well inside the cozy embrace of New York's power elite.

About.com, Occupy Brooklyn Arrives Saturday, Oct. 15 at Grand Army Plaza
By Ellen Freudenheim

It was just a matter of time, really, before Brooklyn became the umpteenth site for the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon. So tomorrow, Saturday, along with your Farmers Market pumpkins and squash, you can get (and give) a good dose of politics at 11 AM at Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope. What's their message? It's still being honed and harvested.

Where Will Occupy Wall Street in Brooklyn Hang Its Hat?

Outgrowing Zuccotti Park, the protesters need a place to hang their hats.

Personally, I'd like to see a Speakers Corner in Brooklyn, like the famous one in Hyde Park, London.

But hmm...a big empty space that's privately owned? Too bad there's not a safe public space near that so called "blighted" area, Atlantic Yards. Now wouldn't that be the irony of all ironies, if Occupy Brooklyn were to occupy Atlantic Yards? A bloggling thought...

Atlantic Yards Report, At Occupy Brooklyn rally Saturday, will Markowitz show up? From Grand Army Plaza, why not head past arena site and measure corner pedestrian congestion?

The gathering at Grand Army Plaza is not planned as an occupation, just a rally. Peter Rothberg wrote on Patch that organizers were exploring whether to try to "take up indefinite residence in the borough."

What could be the Brooklyn equivalent of Zuccotti Park, site of Occupy Wall Street? The most obvious example to some would be MetroTech Commons, also a privately-owned public space and home to not only Brooklyn's most powerful developer, Forest City Ratner, but also the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership as well as several city agencies.

Posted by steve at 8:53 PM

October 14, 2011

Bruce Ratner, charitable contributions, and money not spent

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on Bruce Ratner's latest act of selflessness.

It's difficult to look at Bruce Ratner's most recently-announced charitable gift--obviously a worthy cause--without looking at the larger context of the developer's spending.

Ratner went to Columbia Law School with Reichbach's father. So there's likely a personal connection involved. And it doesn't look like Ratner's p.r. people pushed this article, unlike, say, the New York Post's coverage of Ratner's "quiet" support for a Sudanese refugee.

Still, as I wrote, Ratner's been a little quieter about a lot of other things, such as the unmet obligation to fund the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement. And, perhaps, assistance to ensure that residents near the Atlantic Yards construction site are able to sleep.

Also, Ratner can't be unmindful that Reichbach worked for Council Member Steven Levin, a moderate on Atlantic Yards who represents some of those up-all-night residents.


Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

Not THAT Michael White: Visiting Occupy Wall Street and How I Know The Economy Is Bad (For the 99%)

National Notice

Michael D.D. White follows up on his recent Noticing New York post about the Occupy Wall Street protests...

The reporter covering Occupy Wall Street wanted to know if I had demonstrated against anything else recently. I told her I had been there to protest the Prokhorov/Ratner (“Barclays’) basketball arena ground breaking.

Atlantic Yards,” she said without skipping a beat. “And before that?


NoLandGrab: Before that? Hasn't Atlantic Yards been going on forever?

Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

MAS Survey on Livability: fuzzy findings on "Big Real Estate Development," overall good news on public satisfaction, and reasons for caution

Atlantic Yards Report

At the second annual MAS Summit for New York City, the Municipal Art Society released its second annual MAS Survey on Livability, which included some fuzzy findings under the rubric of Attitudes toward Big Real Estate Development:

While overall the majority (62%) of New Yorkers think large Real Estate Development in a neighborhood is a good idea, only about 4 out of 10 think it makes the city a better place to live, and nearly one third think it makes no difference.
• Maintaining Neighborhood Character

o New Yorkers divide when it comes to real estate development at the expense of a neighborhood’s character. 51% think the city should invest in real estate development that will create jobs even if it changes the character of a neighborhood, while a similar proportion (49%) say the City should only support development that retains a neighborhood’s character. 60% of Manhattanites support the investment of Real Estate Development that maintains the character of a neighborhood, while only 43% in Brooklyn, 45% in Queens, and 44% in the Bronx do.
o More than half of Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens residents support Real Estate Development that will create jobs even if it changes the character of a neighborhood, as opposed to residents of Manhattan (40%) and Staten Island (47%).

The question was worded differently from the question in last year's survey, which suggested wariness toward housing built out of neighborhood scale. Given today's economy, there surely is more willingness to accept development that brings jobs.


Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

The Mysterious Property Values of Atlantic Yards

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

Like all NIMBY battles, the fight against Atlantic Yards ultimately comes down to a matter of property values. One of the justifications for the project was that this corner of Brooklyn was blighted. The neighbors already living there certainly took issue with such characterizations—hello, Dan Goldstein!—but now the Post takes a close look at exactly how the new arena and still-born apartments are affecting property values.

Since the fight against Atlantic Yards was principally about eminent domain abuse, cronyism and misuse of subsidies, we guess that means it was a fight about principle rather than a NIMBY battle.

Still, there are stories of real estate speculators, as well, trying to buy up swathes of apartments, counting on a rising tide. Norman Oder points out that prices are still desperately below those Forest City Ratner’s numbers crunchers predicted when they boosted for the project, so the de-blighting has yet to take place. Still, crowds may be nasty, but they’re less noisy than an open construction site.


Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

Who's Getting Foreclosed on in Brooklyn Today? The Voice Finds Out

Runnin Scared
by Michelle D. Anderson

Without a shovel in the ground for housing, is Atlantic Yards already driving gentrification through foreclosures?

Yesterday, the Voice wrote about a protest happening today at Brooklyn Supreme Court. Led by Occupy Wall Street and the group Organizing for Occupation (which led a successful eviction blockade of 82-year-old Mary Ward's home in August), the afternoon event will protest the foreclosure of three more properties in Brooklyn.

Much like the owners of New Bombay Masala, the tenants we spoke to at 964 Dean Street, David Stoller and Kenny Lloyd, were unaware of today's protest.

However, the two musicians and audio engineering professionals say they were aware that the four-floor commercial building where they live and work will be put up for sale today. They fear that both their businesses and apartments are at stake.

Lloyd says there is a group that wants to turn the building into a condominium. "It's an historical kind of building. It can be a much better place than turning it into a condo," he thinks. He said companies are purchasing buildings nearby left and right, and he attributes this trend to the construction of the new Brooklyn Nets arena in Atlantic Yards in Prospect Heights.

Stoller wonders if the auction is even legal and he says his business and livelihood are on the line.

"I'm really getting screwed on this," Stoller said.


Posted by eric at 9:18 AM

Nets Move (Offices) To Brooklyn


The Nets have begun shifting business operations from New Jersey to Brooklyn, with eight staffers moving recently to One MetroTech Center North in Brooklyn, near the Barclays Center. MetroTech is owned by Forest City, Bruce Ratner's company and the developer of the arena.

Officials said the offices are not the Nets' permanent home. The team expects to move all its business operations to the borough early next year, well before the arena opens in September.


NoLandGrab: What, they couldn't find any State or City agency to take the space?

Posted by eric at 9:08 AM

October 13, 2011

Court vision

With opening of Nets’ new arena actually on horizon, Brooklyn residents brace themselves for whatever happens next

NY Post
by Katherine Dykstra

As the stadium, which will seat 18,000 during basketball games and 19,000 for concerts and contain eight clubs and restaurants, makes its bold way into Brooklyn, the neighborhoods that surround it -- Park Slope, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill -- are busy figuring out how to react.

“No one knows exactly what will change yet,” says Ofer Cohen, president of TerraCRG, a commercial realty group whose office is in the shadow of the arena. “The one aspect of development that will come earlier will be in terms of retail on Atlantic and Flatbush surrounding the arena.”

According to Cohen, landlords in the area have been patiently awaiting the opening of the stadium, allowing leases to lapse and their spaces to sit vacant in anticipation of attaining higher rents. Asking retail rents on Flatbush across from the stadium go from $85 per square foot up to $175 per square foot, the high end of Brooklyn pricing, notes Geoffrey Bailey, vice president of retail services at TerraCRG.

“Now that it’s clear that [the stadium] will be finished and finished soon, you’re going to start seeing these spaces fill up,” Cohen says.

Even on the eastern edge of the Atlantic Yards footprint, where nothing but 1,100 parking spaces are slated for the short term, there is interest.

But while retailers salivate, the state of residential development in the area is more uncertain.

“I haven’t seen developers trying to buy close to the stadium,” says Brendan Aguayo, an agent at the Aguayo and Huebener residential firm.

At Atlantic Terrace, a new mixed-income co-op building directly across the street from Barclays Center, the 59 affordable units have all been purchased, as have nine of the 20 market-rate apartments. The one-, two- and three-bedrooms are around $550 per square foot.

“We’re seeing more construction-specific fears as opposed to arena-specific fears,” says Heather Gershen, director of housing development at Fifth Avenue Committee, which developed the project. “It is a major construction project, but construction is a reality of living in New York.”

“The big question is, what will the real community benefits be? We were promised affordable housing and construction jobs. They’ve announced modular construction,” Gershen says. “Jay-Z is not an amenity.”


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, NY Post on real estate around AY: retail enthusiasm, residential wariness--and vast gap between Atlantic Terrace pricing and KPMG's AY predictions

The New York Post today publishes a real estate article headlined Court vision: With opening of Nets’ new arena actually on horizon, Brooklyn residents brace themselves for whatever happens next.

So, while the article does take in some diverse voices, it's focused on the real estate market, not the "whatever happens next" of daily construction noise and dust faced by some project neighbors, as documented on Atlantic Yards Watch, or the burdens expected from pedestrians and drivers congesting narrow streets on their way to and from interim surface parking.

Brownstoner, Questions About Atlantic Yards and Real Estate Values

Meanwhile, the story also touches on sales at Atlantic Terrace, where the developer says prices are going for around $550 a foot. Atlantic Yards Report notes that in a 2009 report by the consulting firm KPMG to the Empire State Development Corporation, the company determined that only a “modest inflation factor” would be needed for Forest City Ratner to achieve its goal of selling units for $1,217 a foot by 2015. That means, as Atlantic Yards Report notes, that “the Atlantic Terrace price of $550/sf would have to more than double across the street” in just a few years.

The Real Deal, Atlantic Yards construction boosts nearby retail, slows development

...no one is quite sure how the construction will impact local residents, and by extension property values, let alone when Brooklynites can expect the construction to be complete.

"They haven't decided whether the [first residential tower at the site] is going to be prefab or not," said Daniel Goldstein, one of the founders of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. "If they don't know [that] today, how can they break ground in the next few months?"

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

Iannazzone: Nothing would surprise Nets fans

Bergen Record
by Al Iannazzone

The announcement that the NBA would cancel the first two weeks of the regular season probably drew this kind of reaction from Nets fans all over the state: It figures.

Deep down, you had to know that in the Nets’ final season in New Jersey, things would not go smoothly. Why should they when they haven’t in the previous 34 years?

Every team has drama, but it seems the Nets are among the league leaders in that category every season — even when they had some very good years in the early 2000s.

There was Jason Kidd nearly leaving via free agency in 2002; the Alonzo Mourning experiment and experience; the mutiny against former coach Byron Scott after the Nets reached back-to-back NBA Finals; and the sale of the franchise to a real estate developer who cared more about bringing the team to Brooklyn than he did about a championship.

Bruce Ratner isn’t responsible for some of the bad draft picks the Nets made from 2003-2007. But his arrival and some of the subsequent moves led to Kidd souring on the organization, and the Nets haven’t been the same since.


NoLandGrab: Nor has Prospect Heights.

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Is there a future for long-term planning and more community input? Maybe in the Stringer administration, discussion suggests

Atlantic Yards Report

There was no specific mention of Atlantic Yards at a 10/6/11 panel at The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs titled Community-Based Planning: The Future of Development in New York.

However, for those of us familiar with the project there were lots of echoes: the diminished role of local voices, the failure to plan comprehensively, the willingness to let developers take the lead, and the recognition that the city must accommodate increased density near transit in order to grow.


Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

October 12, 2011

Visiting Occupy Wall Street We Hear “Eliminate the Fed!”: OR Maybe Just Federal Reserve Directors Backing Mega-Monopolies For the Super-Connected?

Noticing New York

A trip to Zucotti Park gets Michael D.D. White thinking about just who "The Fed" really is.

There are provocative ideas circulating among the Occupy Wall Street protestors. Maybe with respect to one idea, a very powerful one, we can take heed, but start small by considering a basic essential: Is the Federal Reserve on the public’s side?

Visiting Occupy Wall Street you will probably see, as I did, the placards calling for elimination of the Fed, (aka the “Federal Reserve” or “Federal Reserve System”).

Take the big step of eliminating the Fed? Maybe we could start with the smaller step of looking at who are the Federal Reserve Directors and whether they can be counted upon to serve the public interest. As mentioned above: Herman Cain?

More important, I have previously pointed out with some anguish that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has on its board two directors, Kathy Wylde and Lee Bollinger, both with one thing conspicuously in common: They have both been key in backing the neighborhood-destroying seizure of land through eminent domain abuse. At the expense of community interests they have endorsed those seizures for the sake of governmentally assisting politically-connected private mega-monopolies.


Posted by eric at 5:33 PM

Majora Carter, speaking tomorrow at BrooklynSpeaks fundraiser, criticizes eminent domain for AY

Atlantic Yards Report

Sustainable South Bronx founder, Dan Doctoroff critic, and "The Promised Land" radio host Majora Carter is keynoting a benefit dinner tomorrow night in Prospect Heights for BrooklynSpeaks.

The coalition has taken the lead role in the ongoing litigation over whether the state studied the effects of a 25-year project buildout and in calling for a new governance entity to oversee Atlantic Yards.

The reform-AY BrooklynSpeaks and the stop-AY Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), now allies on the pending litigation, have long differed over the issue of eminent domain. It was DDDB, not BrooklynSpeaks, that helped organize that court case that culminated in 2009.

The Municipal Art Society (MAS) helped found BrooklynSpeaks, and then-MAS President Kent Barwick explained in December 2007 that they didn't think an eminent domain challenge would work. So a stance on eminent domain was not part of the BrooklynSpeaks platform.

As it turns out, the MAS left BrooklynSpeaks when its member groups, sufficiently radicalized by the failure to gain headway with the state and Forest City Ratner, finally went to court, in a case that paralleled a case brought by a DDDB-led coalition.


Posted by eric at 5:25 PM

Atlantic Yards Media Actors

Urban Media Archeology

Before I get into the project proposal, if you know anyone who has participated in the Atlantic Yards dialogue (attended community meetings, made art about it, whatever) please get in touch! The more possible map points the better. coopd033@newschool


I propose to map the media actors who cover and have covered the development of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. My research will span from 2003, when the Newark Star-Ledger first reported Bruce Ranter’s plan to purchase the New Jersey Nets and move them to a new development in Brooklyn, to present, about one year from the completion of Atlantic Yards’ symbolic focus, Barclays Center. Relevant map points would include, where applicable to individual actors: the actor’s home residence, work site, places of convergence with other actors (meeting sites, sites of press conferences, locations of land being constructed/demolished/affected, etc.) interpreted within the context of media and communication.

As a start, some actors I’d include would be: bloggers like Norman Oder (Atlantic Yards Report), Steve and Lumi (No Land Grab), contributors to Atlantic Yards Watch (which is backed by civic organization BrooklynSpeaks), Aaron Naparstek (The Naparstek Post), Jonathan (Brooklyn Views, now dormant) and The Footprint Gazette (now dormant); the 52 members of the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn advisory board; photographers Tracy Collins, Adrian Kinloch, Jonathan Barkey and artist Peter Krashes; filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky (Battle for Brooklyn) and Isabel Hill (Brooklyn Matters); the owner/curator of Flickr’s Atlantic Yards Webcam; The Civilians’ theater performance of “In The Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards.” Moving out from individual actors, I’ll map the meeting places of relevant institutions and committees, such as the Empire State Development, Forest City Ratner, the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and sites of community hearings, protests and other discussion forums. Certainly the Manhattan home of The New York Times tells a story, a property partially owned (42%), managed and developed by Atlantic Yards’ developer Forest City Ratner. The Atlantic Yards project was parodied in an episode of The Simpsons (S20E08)—does that have a ‘place’?

For the URT project, I’ll map important sites of Atlantic Yards media actors, with supporting materials they’ve put forth into the Atlantic Yards media network. The photographer Tracy Collins lives here, for example, just three blocks from the construction site (hypothetically), and her studio is over here, and here’s a few of her photos, placed in the locations they were shot.


NoLandGrab: Steve and Lumi? Map THIS, blog boy.

Seriously, we'd be happy to help, and we'll start by pointing out that Tracy Collins is a dude.

Posted by eric at 5:09 PM

470 Vanderbilt moves toward renovation; did the state really consider impact of workers and visitors to new offices?

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times article today on 470 Vanderbilt, Unconventional Financing Helps Deal for Brooklyn Space, casts new attention on the former tire factory and telecom space--circled in the Empire State Development Corporation map at right; click to enlarge--that is being renovated across broad Atlantic Avenue from the northeast section of the Atlantic Yards site:

But late last month, the New York City Human Resources Administration signed a 20-year, 400,000- square-foot lease for six floors of the 10-story building — the largest deal in Brooklyn this year and the culmination of more than two years of negotiations. Along with a second, smaller deal, 470 Vanderbilt is now 85 percent leased. In conjunction with a residential tower that the developers hope to build on an adjacent parking lot, it could speed the transformation of the area, which lies between Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.

Any impact on AY traffic or pedestrians?

The Empire State Development Corporation has claimed that the change in use would have no new significant adverse impact, in a document summarizing the 6/14/11 public meeting on traffic issues, posted and also embedded below. However, as I explain below, there are reasons for doubt.


NoLandGrab: We've obtained an exclusive photo of the AKRF team that compiled the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement.

Related coverage...

The New York Times, Unconventional Financing Helps Deal for Brooklyn Space

Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

From the latest Construction Alert: as project progresses, more need for a second shift

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's a conundrum for Empire State Development: if the construction of the Barclays Center of Brooklyn® is really on time, then the Environmental Impact Statement is utterly worthless. But if the EIS isn't utterly worthless, construction of the Barclays Center of Brooklyn® is well behind schedule.

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert (below), dated October 10 but distributed yesterday by Empire State Development (after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner), even as progress in several areas is noted, more aspects of the project will go to a second shift.

The text I've excerpted below mainly concerns text in the document that differs from the previous alert, with the new language in bold.


Posted by eric at 12:22 PM

Construction Alert drops a hint: some loud overnight work near Atlantic Yards site is not related to the project

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a brief but intriguing statement in the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 10/10/11 but issued yesterday afternoon:

We have been advised that Verizon has retained MFM Contracting to install new conduit in the Times Plaza area. This work is independent of and unrelated to the Traffic Mitigation work and is not under the control of AYDC [Atlantic Yards Development Company].

Unmentioned is that MFM Contracting is responsible for some of the loud overnight construction work, including in this video, that has plagued residents on Pacific Street near Fourth Avenue.

Does that mean Forest City Ratner is off the hook? Only partly--residents in the area have reported multiple sources of overnight noise (see list of FCR permits below), and other loud overnight work, such as at the Vanderbilt Yard, is clearly connected to the project.

And it's not clear if MFM's work is devoid of any relation to Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

Need a job? Become Downtown’s chief executive (prior experience needed)

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

If having left your previous two jobs under mysterious circumstances isn't a barrier, then Jim Stuckey, we have the job for you!

Looking for work? Want to make $200,000? The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has a job for you!

The quasi-governmental Downtown-boosting group is on the hunt for a new president and even sent out an announcement last Thursday in hopes of attracting resumes.


Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

Hey, Fort Greene iPhone owners — prepare to be mugged

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alfred Ng

Et two (purse snatchings), Bruce Ratner?

Grab bag

A thief sneaked off with a woman’s purse on Sept. 24 on Atlantic Avenue.

The victim was shopping in the Atlantic Terminal Mall at 4 pm when she put her bag down to try on a jacket. The second she turned back around, the thief, and her bag were gone. Later, the victim discovered that unauthorized charges were made to her debit card.

Marshalls madness

A thief stole a purse in the Atlantic Avenue Marshalls on Oct. 4.

The woman was shopping inside the cut-rate clothing store inside the crime-riddled Atlantic Center Mall at 3:30 pm with her purse in the shopping cart. Surveillance footage showed the crook approaching the shopping cart and snatching the purse. Further video footage showed the thief charging the credit card without permission.


Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

Room for One and Occasionally More

The New York Times
by Joyce Cohen

We linked Curbed's coverage of this story on Monday, but it's deserving of stand-alone status.

The apartment is across the street from Barclays Center, the arena that is to be the centerpiece of the huge Atlantic Yards development and the home of the recently renamed Brooklyn Nets once the team moves from New Jersey. The location “is problematic for some buyers,” Mr. Stanard said. “But Sab is into sports and thought it was so cool architecturally. He had been following the whole process and was kind of into it.”

Mr. Singh, with help from his brother and his parents, paid $565,000 for the apartment, and closed last summer. Maintenance is a bit over $1,100 a month.

He knows that Atlantic Yards is controversial — criticized for its scale, among other things. “I think of the arena as a case study every time I look outside my window,” he said. “I am surprised they are not changing the name of the Nets. I would completely rebrand the team.”


NoLandGrab: A real "case study" would be checking back with Mr. Singh in a couple of decades to see how he's enjoying living next to what will be either a perpetual construction project or a sea of surface parking.

Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

The Witold Rybczynski Interview by Brendan Crain


From an interview with author/architect/academician Witold Rybczynski:

Jacobs definitely espoused density + a mixture of uses. In “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” she wrote almost exclusively about Greenwich Vilage, which is an extreme example of both. I don’t think you have to interpret Jacobs literally to be influenced by her, and like almost all town planners post-DLGAC, the New Urbanism movement has found inspiration in her writing. It is true, as Robert A. M. Stern pointed out in his recent adress to the CNU convention in Philadelphia a few months ago, that the accomplishments of New Urbanism have had more to do with suburbs than with city centers so they have usually been built at lower densities. That has partly to do with the market in the 1980s, when New Urbanism started. Today, a few developers have figured out how to do high-density, mixed-use and we are seeing more new construction along those lines (Atlantic Yards, for example).


NoLandGrab: If by "figured out" Rybczynski means "figured out how to get the government to seize the land, grab lots of subsidies, divide communities through race-baiting, make empty promises and turn a neighborhood upside down with 24/7 construction," then yes, Forest City Ratner has "figured out" how to do high-density, mixed-use, if by "mixed-use" he means "a basketball arena and huge surface parking lot."

As Norman Oder points out in the comments, Rybczynski was much more critical of Atlantic Yards in an interview last December with WNYC's Leonard Lopate.

Posted by eric at 11:35 AM

Eminent Domain, Atlantic Yards Brooklyn, and Beyond (tomorrow Oct 13)

Majora Carter Group

I know big projects can be great projects. I recently had the privilege to visit the Porto Nuovo development in Milan, Italy. It’s a massive re-development in a central part of that great city which was formerly dominated by aging rail yards and disused industrial spaces – alongside longstanding communities of people.

Principal developers of the project, Manfredi Catella and his wife Kelly took a bold step in order to ensure there would be less community resistance to the disruptive scale of the project on the one hand, and honor the responsibility that comes with putting public debt and commitment into the hands of private developers. They put the entire project on hold for year and really listened to people in the area.

The project changed in some big and small ways as a result. There were some hold outs and confrontations to be sure, but the level of conflict was so greatly reduced that the developers saved millions of Euros, people are happier, and an example has been demonstrated.

In contrast, Atlantic Yards developers and their agents bought the image of “community support” through some unscrupulous non-profit organizations that accepted money for that purpose. It is a bitter source of tension for locals and opponents of government meddling in private affairs, alike.


Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

Memorial Fund Will Honor Young Brooklyn Activist

Hope Reichbach, 22, Council Aide, Died in April

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Samuel Newhouse

Friends and family of Hope Reichbach, the up-and-coming Brooklyn activist who died in April, will meet next week in front of the Brooklyn Supreme Court to announce a scholarship fund honoring her life.

“Our goal is to groom the future leaders of Brooklyn, because that’s what Hope was,” said Ellen Meyers, Reichbach’s mother.

The Hope Reichbach Memorial Fund has already attracted considerable support and plans to provide college students doing unpaid internships in political or community service in Brooklyn with $300-a-week cost-of-living stipends.

Developer Bruce Ratner is one of the fund’s biggest supporters, having already promised $15,000 a year for the next five years. About 30 of Reichbach’s friends are on the fund’s steering committee, Meyers said, as well as many others.


Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

October 11, 2011

More Parallels: Atlantic Yards and the Way the Fossil Fuel Industry Is Setting Up An Approval For the Keystone XL Tar Sands High Pressure Oil Pipeline

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White follows up on his comparison of Atlantic Yards and the Keystone XL pipeline.

Part of the testimony compared the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment with the Keystone XL oil pipeline proposed to carry the high pressure pumping of Canadian tar sands oil for shipping out of the Gulf of Mexico; both have involved collusion by developers with government officials to obtain public approvals incrementally so that complete disclosure of the true nature of the project and the full measure of the public’s sacrifice could be side-stepped as initial approvals were locked in.

For instance, the Atlantic Yards Forest City Ratner government-assisted mega-monopoly is consistently misrepresented as being just 22-acres. In truth those 22-acres are being added to additional government-assisted acres already owned by Ratner for a total of 30 contiguous Ratner-owned government assisted acres so that in the vicinity Ratner will control, in total 50+ acres of dense government assisted acres astride the subway lines. Now the public is being told it has to relinquish additional sidewalk to the monopoly after already having given up streets, avenues and sidewalk that should have inalienably belonged to the public. Now the public is being told that through variances and special permissions Ratner gets to jackhammer away throughout the night (and on weekends) at incredible hearing-destroying decibels for months when, in theory, his arena is on schedule and there is no need to rush its building with extraordinary measures. Now the public is being told that ongoing construction to complete the mega-project will need to be endured for decades (like the 40+ and counting year Roosevelt Island) when, and for purposes of public hearings, newspaper press release consumption and the Environmental Impact Statement the public was initially told construction would be a (comparatively) lickety-split 10 years.


Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Bulldozing for Dollars

Taki's Magazine
by Gavin McInnes

The Libertarian webzine weighs in eminent domain abuse.

Where the left sees big government as the lesser of two evils, the right tends to side with big business. If there’s one thing both sides can agree on, it’s that nothing is more evil than both put together. Eminent domain is a slippery legal concept that combines the insatiable greed of big business with big government’s unlimited power and then sprinkles the resulting mess with incompetence. It was created to compensate citizens whose homes were in the way of important government infrastructure. Unfortunately, today we have entire communities bulldozed by corporate greed and then abandoned by incompetent bureaucrats. What may have been a good idea at the time has enabled a fascist kleptocracy to emerge.


Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

First two weeks of NBA regular season canceled in labor strife; commentator says it's not about the fans or the game

Atlantic Yards Report

Writes ESPN's J.A. Adande, in NBA shows it has no game: Why did the league cancel two weeks? Because it plays the fans for fools, mostly:

You haven't heard the fans, or the game itself mentioned much lately, have you? That's because they don't factor into this discussion at all. It was always about people saving themselves: owners asking the players to bail them out of bad business moves, players asking to preserve their cushy status with the highest average salaries among American team sports.

But Bruce Ratner says the under-construction Barclays Center, beneficiary of triple tax-exempt bonds and a fiendishly clever use of PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) to pay off construction, is "largely for the children and youth."

In contrast with Adande, it should be noted, analysts such as Malcolm Gladwell come down firmly on the side of the players.


NoLandGrab: It's a bit hard for we other 99% to sympathize with either side in this sad battle of greed vs. avarice.

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, NBA Cancels First Two Weeks of Season

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Revenge of the Megaprojects: Artists Try to Put a Good Face on Brooklyn's Arenafication

by Sara Polsky

The Artbridge scaffolding art project already saved us from the terrifying scaffolding at London Terrace, and now it plans to take on a bigger construction site nightmare: Atlantic Yards. Back in June, the organization solicited entries from Brooklyn-based artists, specifically seeking "visual works that riff on, reveal, or reference the artistic process." Artbridge has chosen 20 artists whose work will cover close to 2,500 square feet of Atlantic Yards construction fencing. The installation, which goes up October 17, is fittingly called "Works in Progress." But when it comes to Atlantic Yards, is any amount of beautification enough?


NoLandGrab: Uh, no?

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

Map shows after-hours work everywhere; Final EIS made understatement that nighttime work "may also occur once or twice a week;" resident says "regular sleep is impossible")

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Watch has produced an illuminating annotated map that shows how Construction in every location has been allowed by State and City agencies to extend beyond NYC's normal weekday construction hours.

What the FEIS said

According to Chapter 17, p. 11 Construction Impacts, of the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Statement (FEIS), there was reason to expect some after-hours work:

Extended workdays are expected to occur about 40 percent of the weekdays over the course of construction.
...It is expected that weekend work may be required on one weekend day for approximately 50 percent of the weekends over the course of construction and, in exceptional circumstances, two weekend days would be required.

Notably, that section does refer to "evening and night work" but does not predict the frequency.

Later, in the section on Construction Traffic Projections, p. 39, the documents offers some more specificity:

Construction Work Shifts and Activities

Since a certain amount of extended hours, nighttime work, and weekend construction would likely be required, construction activities associated with the typical day shift (7 AM to 3:30 PM) would generate slightly fewer worker and truck trips than those described above. In general, the extended shift, which may occur once or twice a week during critical construction phases and end at approximately 6 PM, would involve no more than 20 percent of the day shift workforce. Nighttime work (3:30 PM to 11 PM), which may also occur once or twice a week during critical construction phases, could require a separate workforce, totaling no more than 10 percent of the number of day shift workers, to perform specific construction activities at the project site.

(Emphasis added)


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, No Sleep In Brooklyn (Atlantic Yards Area)

Bruce Ratner is keeping the whole neighborhood up, and New York City and State don't mind at all...

Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

October 10, 2011

Construction in every location has been allowed by State and City agencies to extend beyond NYC's normal weekday construction hours

Atlantic Yards Watch

When it comes to Atlantic Yards construction, the rules are there are no rules.

Construction hours in New York City generally span the period from 7 am to 6 pm weekdays. One work shift five days a week from 7 am to 3:30 pm is the norm.

Atlantic Yards is different with extended construction hours taking place throughout the project and its vicinity. Even though the developer currently controls a little more than half of the project's prospective 22 acre site, construction still takes place throughout much of the 22 acres. And construction in every location has been allowed by the State and City agencies that oversee the work to extend beyond NYC's normal weekday construction hours.

The map above is indexed to show the locations where permission to conduct work outside of normal construction hours is detailed in the Atlantic Yards Construction Update dated from September 25th to October 9th. The 2006 footprint of the project is highlighted in orange; areas with active construction work are a stronger orange.


Posted by eric at 10:55 PM

Want to be NFL owner? Packers near 5th stock sale

AP via Yahoo! Sports
by Dinesh Ramde

Here's a novel idea — a stadium renovation being done without public money.

The Green Bay Packers, the NFL’s only publicly owned team, are moving toward a new stock sale by the end of the year to raise money that would help pay for $130 million in renovations at historic Lambeau Field.

Each share would likely cost about $200 and include voting rights, though the value wouldn’t appreciate and there would be no dividends. Stockholders would be able to attend annual meetings at Lambeau, and they’d enjoy such perks as tours of the playing field and locker rooms.

We're not sure that stock that doesn't appreciate or pay dividends and can't be resold is a good investment, but heck, that's true of most investments these days.

The Packers plan to add thousands of seats and other stadium amenities in time for the 2013 season. While other teams often ask taxpayers to help pay for building upgrades, the Packers will foot the entire bill themselves through the stock sale and private financing.

That’s one reason Michael Constantine, a 26-year-old Wisconsin native who now lives in Seattle, intends to buy a share or two.

“I feel like the American public has spent enough over the last 20, 30 years to build and renovate stadiums,” said Constantine, a staunch Packers fan. “I prefer the sale of stock to raising any sales tax.”


Posted by eric at 10:47 PM

Why Not Build A City?

Think Progress: Yglesias
by Matthew Yglesias

Washington, D.C. has the opportunity to do a reverse-Ratner: tear down a stadium and build a neighborhood.

The Washington Post has various people debate what to do with the obsolete RFK Stadium facility in DC:

It’s striking to me how unpopular what I think the obvious and roughly correct solution is. The structure should be demolished and the empty land plus the open air parking lots should be sold to builders to build . . . whatever. An urban neighborhood with houses and some stores. You’re talking about a big parcel of land that’s right by a Metro station offering a convenient 10 minute commute to the House-side of the Capitol. If you build some houses, people will live there and if people live there they’ll want to shop in some stores and eat in some restaurants. Trying to lure a football team to the location to play eight times a year is insane, but in general “what to do with a bunch of transit accessible land in the middle of a city?” isn’t such a complicated question. Just build more city.


NoLandGrab: If the NBA labor impasse continues much longer, they could build a whole bunch of new neighborhoods.

Posted by eric at 10:39 PM

NBA Start Canceled as Talks Yield No Deal

The Wall Street Journal
by Kevin Clark

NBA Commissioner David Stern canceled the first two weeks of the season after two straight days of last-ditch negotiating failed to resolve the labor dispute.

Mr. Stern said both sides were "very far apart on virtually all issues. ... We just have a gulf that separates us."

The league says it stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars.

The sticking point was how players and owners will split the league's $4 billion in revenue. The National Basketball Association says it's losing $300 million a year, and that 22 of its 30 teams are losing money.


NoLandGrab: They would have us believe that 22 of 30 NBA teams are losing money, but 30 out of 30 NBA arenas are goldmines for the taxpayers who paid to build them.

This might not be the beginning of the end, but one of these days the pro sports bubble is going to burst, and it ain't going to be pretty.

Posted by eric at 10:33 PM

Putting the Nyet in the New Jersey Nets! Deron Williams . . . Turkey?

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White relates a National Public Radio story about the NBA's labor strife, which featured a description of erstwhile Nets' star Deron Williams's not-so-happy debut for a Turkish squad, and concludes thusly:

I guess I can feel for some poor lonely bloke getting “booed mercilessly” when he is away on foreign soil. Nevertheless, I am not a fan of professional sports in general* and am myself booing mercilessly the construction for the Nets of the Ratner/Prokhorov (“Barclays”) arena, all the wretched connivances behind it and all the public detriment it will bring. If an NBA player’s strike lasts long enough or can otherwise effect a toppling of Messrs. Ratner and Prokhorov’s publicly financed arena bonds I'll be thrilled. When it comes to booing or cheering locales, brownstone Brooklyn is where I don't want to see the Nets' players deployed.

(* See: Friday, September 24, 2010, Sports Culture Capper: Yankees, Professional Sports and Criminals Wearing Yankee Hats.)


Posted by eric at 10:22 PM

An area of Fort Greene is now to receive rodent-proof trash cans

Atlantic Yards Watch

Patch reports the area eligible to receive rodent proof trash cans has been expanded into a portion of Fort Greene. This news follows Council Member James' request at the last District Service Cabinet that the distribution area for cans be expanded into Fort Greene as a response to complaints from community members.

Previously distribution was confined to the area from the east side of 4th Avenue to the east side of Vanderbilt Avenue south of the project site. During the last distribution of cans in August, they were available to residents of buildings with 12 units or less. According to Patch 150 trash cans will be distributed as early as this weekend to residents in the vicinity of South Oxford Street.

One filer of an incident report living in Fort Greene at Fulton Street and South Portland Avenue wrote, "We have never had such a severe rat infestation in the 28 years I've been around."


Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

Bloomberg: "you promise users everything, then you build what you can and what you think they need"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder ties the cross-examination of Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the trial of a disgraced political consultant to his defense of developer Bruce Ratner.

In a 10/4/11 article headlined Mayor, Not Recalling Much, Testifies in Consultant’s Trial, the New York Times captured a sequence which cast doubt on Mayor Mike Bloomberg's credibility--and suggested that he and developer Bruce Ratner share a penchant for making promises they can't keep.


Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

The Mysterious Resignations of Former Forest City Ratner Executive Jim Stuckey

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Former Forest City Ratner EVP and Atlantic Yards head honcho Jim Stuckey seems to have a habit of being mysteriously disappeared by the institutions that emply him.

In 2007 Forest City Ratner "resigned" Stuckey without any thanks for his tenure at the firm and the departure was handled swiftly by press release and by crisis management guru Howard Rubenstein.

This week comes the news that on September 30 Stuckey abruptly "resigned" from his position as Dean of the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate, also under odd and mysterious circumstances with rumor of an "incident" and "health issues," and, again, no public thanks from his employer.

We don't know the answers to the mystery of these "resignations" but we and others have noticed that the formerly prolific Tweeter Stuckey's Twitter feed has gone silent since September 17th. So, he's not saying.


NoLandGrab: Cat got yer Tweets, Jim?

Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

Most influential New Yorkers, according to Avenue magazine, include Jay-Z and Mikhail Prokhorov (and, wouldja believe it, Tom Allon)

Atlantic Yards Report

The October issue of Avenue magazine, is devoted to The Avenue A-list: The Most Influential New Yorkers of 2011 [PDF]. The Nets posted the article (as noted by NetsDaily), as it includes the team's majority owner and most prominent minority owner.


Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z, is one of the most championed hip hop artists and entrepreneurs in America—not to mention the beloved hubby of Beyoncé and soon-to-be father of her child. Growing up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, Jay-Z has sold approximately 50 million albums worldwide and won 13 Grammy Awards. Jay-Z co-owns the 40/40 Club, is part owner of the New Jersey Nets and is creator of the clothing line Rocawear.

Mikhail Prokhorov

46-year-old Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets, dove head-first into the city’s consciousness by becoming the first foreign owner of an NBA team and a central player in one of New York’s biggest real estate dramas. Prokhorov is Russia’s second-richest man and proved himself a major force in New York real estate after developer Harry Macklowe defaulted on a $513 million loan from Deutsche Bank AG. Prokhorov offered to buy the Park Avenue site in question for $250 million back in 2008.

While Prokhorov is surely influential, I'd still contend that Bruce Ratner is more influential, as Ratner has the local connections and pays for the lobbying.


NoLandGrab: Least influential? Clearly we voters and taxpayers, who can't elect anyone worth a damn, and keep getting stuck with Bruce Ratner's tabs.

Posted by eric at 11:39 AM

Yessss! Hundreds compete to be Nets announcer

The Brooklyn Paper
by Eli Rosenberg

Ladies and gentlemen, your soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets new announcer is … still undecided.

More than 300 wannabe Bob Sheppards auditioned last Friday to be the new voice of the Barclays Center-bound team — but after hours of tryouts, Nets officials had succeeded in winnowing the field down to 15.


Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

The Week In Crime: More iThefts, a Weaponized Book and a Severed Ear

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Michelle Gross

Not a "Week in Crime" goes by without an incident in one of Bruce Ratner's malls.

Two young women threatened an 11-year-old-boy on the evening of Sept. 30 and took his phone at the Target in Atlantic Terminal shopping mall, police said. The incident took place at 8 p.m when two unidentified women approached the victim and asked to borrow his cell phone to call their father, police said. The boy told police that when he refused, one of the women said “Give me your phone or I’ll hurt you.”

Fearing for his safety, the boy handed over his phone to the young women, police said. Police said the two thieves took the phone and fled by foot out of the store. Members of Target security are reviewing video footage taken at the time of the incident in an attempt to identify the phone thieves, police said.


Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

Brooklyn, borough of snobs

NY Daily News
by Snowden Wright

The curators of what's trendy are, unsurprisingly, also its creators. In that way, members of the creative class, by choosing Brooklyn as their home, made others want to do the same. Many of my friends who, years ago, claimed they would never leave Manhattan now live in Brooklyn, not out of economic necessity, but rather, as Truman Capote once put it, by choice.

Ironically, many of the qualities that made Brooklyn desirable have been diminished by the influx of new residents. Apartments aren't very cheap anymore, and commercialization is getting pervasive. Jay-Z, for example, recently joked he can no longer afford Brooklyn. Added to which, the New Jersey Nets, a team the musician partly owns, will soon be playing at the Barclays Center, a project that exemplifies the Manhattanization of the borough.


NoLandGrab: Ha ha, good one, Hov. You got 99 problems, but a wit ain't one.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Brooklyn backlash, in full swing

Of course, that depends on the definition of "Brooklyn." Those who can't afford neighborhoods mentioned in the essay like Fort Greene, Red Hook, Greenpoint, and Park Slope may indeed move to places like Washington Heights. They also may move to neighborhoods mentioned in the essay like Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. Or they may move to even less-heralded zones.

So I think Wright overgeneralizes by claiming, "These days everyone seems to be subject to Brooklyn elitism."

Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

Times-O-Matic Real Estate Radar: In Which the Commute Out of the City Demands The Attention

by Bilal Khan

If reading The Hunt stokes your deepest hopes that someday everything in life could work out, then you, too, are obsessed with the New York Times Sunday Real Estate section. Join us as we venture into the depths of this weekend's installment.

So, Sarbjit Singh had kind of a weird dilemma. He got a job in Long Island, but was totally resistant to signing his life away and moving to the suburbs. So, keeping in mind his family who'd be visiting, he set to find an apartment with access to the LIRR. Looking in the $600,000 range, he decided that somewhere close to the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn was his best bet. Well, he browsed around and certainly had options for his budget in the area. After a couple of duds he found an Atlantic Yards facing apartment at the Atlantic Terrace in Fort Greene. The price? $565,000 for a slice of soon-to-be arena madness!


NoLandGrab: Let's not forget that Mr. Singh's building would have solar panels on the roof, too, had they not been scrapped for fear of being in perpetual Atlantic Yards shadow.

Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

October 9, 2011

Freddy's in the South Slope seen as part of a resurgence, but... it ain't Prospect Heights

Atlantic Yards Report

Crain's reports, in Low-key Brooklyn neighborhood makes some noise: South Slope area suddenly hot spot for bars, restaurants., that the reincarnation of Freddy's is going well:

Patrons were crestfallen last year when Freddy's, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, poured its final shots. While the boisterous tavern—a hangout for artists, cops and others since Prohibition—was razed to make way for Atlantic Yards, one of its owners had an epiphany. “We could reinvent ourselves,” said Donald O'Finn. “We could start again.”

In February, Freddy's was reincarnated near the corner of 17th Street and Fifth Avenue. The area, south of the Prospect Expressway and between Fourth Avenue and Green-Wood Cemetery, has had a surge in bars and restaurants in recent months.

...After looking in Park Slope and Gowanus for a new location, Mr. O'Finn knew that the 15-year lease for 2,300 square feet in South Slope was a bargain. He would not disclose the exact price but said that “it would easily be double or triple elsewhere.”

Timothy King of CPEX Realty Services said he was not surprised. He noted that many businesses priced out of Park Slope find sweet deals just south of the expressway. Rents there are usually between $30 and $35 a square foot, versus $75 to $100 a square foot in Park Slope.

There's at least one big difference, however, between this location and Prospect Heights: the subway is more than ten minutes away.

In other words, these days, to be on the cutting edge, you must go ever farther toward the periphery.


Posted by steve at 11:26 PM

Fort Greene's Reverend Dyson retires; asked about Atlantic Yards in 2005, he said he was "anti-sweetheart deal"

Atlantic Yards Report

The Reverend David "Dave" Dyson is retiring after serving 18 years at of Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene, and that's occasioned some ceremonies and articles.

A former labor organizer, Dyson has a long history of activism, and Atlantic Yards got a mention in two articles. The Local, in a 10/5/11 article headlined Fort Greene Pastor Retires After 18 Years of Service, reported:

He decided to move back into church ministry after his labor union work because he wanted to have a base of operations to focus his ministry. He served at the Riverside Church in Manhattan before moving to Lafayette, where he continued his activism by speaking out against the Atlantic Yards development.

The Brooklyn Paper published a 10/6/11 article headlined Rev. ‘Call me Dave’ Dyson retires at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian:

In recent years, his activism included nuts and bolts stuff — converting the church’s bulbs to fluorescents, for exampe — and the Big Ideas, as when he rallied against the use of eminent domain to pave the way for Atlantic Yards.

Not only did Dyson donate space at the church to groups organizing against the project (as well as numerous other groups), he spoke eloquently about Atlantic Yards in a April 2005 Brooklyn Rail interview by Norman Kelley headlined Pastor of the People: David Dyson.

Dyson's a member of the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board.



Let’s come back to Brooklyn. This church is a hop, skip, and jump from the epicenter of the Ratner plan to turn the Atlantic Yards into an arena. What’s the church’s position on this, or is there not a church position but just your own personal position?


There’s not a church position on this. Our position here as a mainline Protestant church is really not to take positions on specific political issues or to endorse specific political candidates. Certainly we feel the gospel informs our positions on moral and ethical issues, and I personally have become very involved with this, because I’ve been very upset by how this project has come about. I just wrote a letter to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in which I said that I was not anti-development but that I was anti-corruption, anti-sweetheart deal, anti-eminent domain, anti-environmental chaos, anti-lack of transparency—in short, anti many of the things that have been the hallmark of the Atlantic Yards Project. I had a private meeting with Borough President Marty Markowitz, where he asked me why I had a burr under my saddle. I said it’s because one guy—Ratner, who I actually know a little bit—has this sort of private pipeline to this project. There’s no open bidding, there’s no transparency, there’s no community forum. The only people who are being brought in on a community level are being brought in as business partners, not as advocates for the welfare of the community. I told Marty that the deal is being handed on a silver platter to Bruce Ratner because he’s an old college buddy of George Pataki. I said that it just rubs those of us in our community the wrong way. It’s not merely a question of jobs, as our city councilwoman, Tish James, has pointed out many times. Any development scheme or idea is going to bring jobs. The question is about this particular development idea, which is so fraught with corruption, cronyism, and favoritism that I object to it from a moral and ethical standpoint.


Posted by steve at 11:21 PM

Bordering construction site, indoor noise routinely exceeds 65 decibel threshold

Atlantic Yards Report

As I pointed out October 5, the city's current CEQR [City Environmental Quality Review] Technical Manual, dated 2010, states:


The selection of incremental values and absolute noise levels should be responsive to the nuisance levels of noise and critical time periods when nuisance levels are most acute. During daytime hours (between 7 AM and 10 PM), nuisance levels for noise are generally considered to be more than 45 dB(A) [decibels] indoors and 70 to 75 dB(A) outdoors. Indoor activities are subject to task interference above this level, and 70 to 75 dB(A) is the level at which speech interference occurs outdoors. Typical construction techniques used in the past (including typical single‐glazed windows) provide a minimum of approximately 20 dB(A) of noise attenuation from outdoor to indoor areas.

In view of these factors and for the purposes of determining a significant impact during daytime hours, it is reasonable to consider 65 dB(A) Leq(1) as an absolute noise level that should not be significantly exceeded.

(Emphases added)

On October 7, inside the Newswalk building opposite the Vanderbilt Yard, as noted on Atlantic Yards Watch, one resident measured 7 am noise at 68 dB, accompanied by dust and smoke.


Posted by steve at 11:14 PM

Somehow, AKRF-like conflict shouldn't past muster in federal environmental review process

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how it was just fine for the ubiquitous environmental consultant AKRF to have worked for Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner before the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) hired it to do the Atlantic Yards environmental review? (That review, for example, underestimated the impacts of construction noise on surrounding residents.)

Remember how it was also kosher for AKRF to have worked for Columbia University simultaneously while working for the ESDC?

In both cases, the New York State Court of Appeals, upholding eminent domain, thought nothing of the seeming conflict.


Yesterday, in a through-the-looking-glass article headlined Pipeline Review Is Faced With Question of Conflict, the New York Times tells us that that kind of conflict might be bad--at least in federal cases:

The State Department assigned an important environmental impact study of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to a company with financial ties to the pipeline operator, flouting the intent of a federal law meant to ensure an impartial environmental analysis of major projects.

The department allowed TransCanada, the company seeking permission to build the 1,700-mile pipeline from the oil sands of northern Alberta to the Gulf Coast in Texas, to solicit and screen bids for the environmental study. At TransCanada’s recommendation, the department hired Cardno Entrix, an environmental contractor based in Houston, even though it had previously worked on projects with TransCanada and describes the pipeline company as a “major client” in its marketing materials.

While it is common for federal agencies to farm out environmental impact studies, legal experts said they were surprised the State Department was not more circumspect about the potential for real and perceived conflicts of interest on such a large and controversial project.

John D. Echeverria, an expert on environmental law, referred to the process as “outsourcing government responsibility.”

The subsequent study, released at the end of August, found that the massive pipeline would have “limited adverse environmental impacts” if operated according to regulations. That positive assessment removed one of the last hurdles for approval of the proposed pipeline.

"Outsourcing government responsibility" is par for the course in New York, though I don't see AKRF trumpeting its clients.


Posted by steve at 11:06 PM

Taibbi on why Wall Street isn't in jail: "financial crimes don't feel real"

Atlantic Yards Report

Matt Taibbi, he of the famous "Goldman Sachs as vampire squid" formulation, was on the Leonard Lopate Show Monday.

And that pointed me to his 2/16/11 Rolling Stone article headlined Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail? Financial crooks brought down the world's economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them.

Here's the close:

The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don't feel real; you don't see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes. But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They're crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let's steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy. They're attacking the very definition of property — which, after all, depends in part on a legal system that defends everyone's claims of ownership equally. When that definition becomes tenuous or conditional — when the state simply gives up on the notion of justice — this whole American Dream thing recedes even further from reality.

That's not exactly the Atlantic Yards story, but it's also not out of the ballpark. For example, what should we make of the lies presented to potential immigrant investors?


Remember how Forest City Ratner, having pledged $100 million cash in 2005 for the rights to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, in 2009 convinced the agency (via its political patrons) to restructure the deal, putting down $20 million for the initial parcel needed for the arena block and agreeing to pay the rest over 22 years at a gentle interest rate?


Posted by steve at 11:02 PM

Blame game over Port Authority executive director position

Crain's New York

As speculation mounts that Patrick Foye—the deputy secretary for economic development for Gov. Andrew Cuomo—will succeed Christopher Ward as Port Authority executive director, insiders are revisiting his performance as head of the Empire State Development Corp. under Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Not everyone liked what they saw. Mr. Foye's tenure at the state's primary economic development agency ended prematurely; he quit days after Mr. Spitzer resigned in March 2008. Insiders said he struggled to work with real estate developers and the Bloomberg administration to lift New York City megaprojects off the ground.

Some who worked with him on projects describe Mr. Foye as indecisive and unable to maneuver adeptly between various political stakeholders—deficiencies that critics said would be even more glaring if he ran the bistate, multibillion-dollar Port Authority.

“He couldn't advance the ball,” said one insider. “He didn't know what he was doing.”

Detractors said Mr. Foye took a hands-off approach toward Atlantic Yards and led the state to abandon its expansion plans for the Javits Convention Center, which were deemed too costly. The momentum to build Moynihan Station lost steam under his watch. And after his departure, the city wrested control of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Governors Island from the state.


NoLandGrab: A "hands-off approach toward Atlantic Yards" amounts to tacit approval.

Posted by steve at 10:41 PM

October 8, 2011

In Architectural Record, a reflection on a decade and an Atlantic Yards asterisk

Atlantic Yards Report

Architectural Record last month produced a package of articles titled The Death and Life of a Great American City, echoing the title of Jane Jacobs's classic 1961 book and focusing on the rebuilding since the 9/11 attacks.

Editor in Chief Cathleen McGuigan's commentary is headlined The only constant is change:

The decade has been a golden age for the city, a renaissance in architecture and urban design. World-class architects have come to build in New York... High-profile local firms have landed big projects on their home turf, while emerging architects have had new opportunities in both private and civic design.
Most remarkable has been the huge investment in the public realm. The High Line, the park created on a derelict elevated rail bed, is the most famous new public space... Less publicized is the fact that since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in January 2002, the city has created more parkland — nearly 700 acres — than in any time since the era of Robert Moses in the 1930s..
. The seeds for this burst of urban regeneration were planted in the 1990s, with the bid to bring the 2012 Olympics to New York....
But it was also the aftermath of 9/11 that catalyzed the public desire for superior design and planning, a shout from ordinary New Yorkers who crowded into community meetings and spoke powerfully about what should be built at Ground Zero....
Jane Jacobs, the late urbanist, whose famous book inspired the title of this issue, might not have been surprised that the rebuilding of Ground Zero has turned out to be a mixed success, with politics and real estate trumping the best intentions. And with a soaring economy and a big push for development under the Bloomberg administration, the decade brought aggressive change to many neighborhoods throughout the city — occasionally to the alarm of critics and communities, as in the case of the controversial Atlantic Yards arena project in Brooklyn.
Yet it’s mostly been a vibrant time for architecture and urban design.

There might be another way to look at it. New Yorkers got to speak about Ground Zero but had little influence. They had even less regarding Atlantic Yards.

And often there's no effective way to channel the concerns of local residents and balance them with borough-wide, city-wide, and regional interests--especially when, as with Atlantic Yards, the city agrees to let the state override the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).


Posted by steve at 9:40 PM

Rev. ‘Call me Dave’ Dyson retires at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian

The Brooklyn Paper
By Kate Briquelet

A spunky Fort Greene pastor and labor organizer who transformed his church into a center for social justice is retiring — and locals are devastated to see him go.

Residents and churchgoers honored the Rev. David Dyson of Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church on Tuesday at an event that was supposed to include Phil Donohue. The famous talk show host didn’t show up, but no one cared — Dyson, who led the church for two decades, was the man people came to see.

“Don’t call me Rev. Dyson,” he opened, characteristically. “It’s Dave.”

The Pittsburgh-born leader of the S. Oxford Street church — only the seventh pastor in 150 years — pushed his members to fight for gay rights and worker’s issues and against the Atlantic Yards mega-project.


Posted by steve at 9:35 PM

UPDATE: Rat-Proof Trash Cans To Arrive In Fort Greene

Fort Greene Patch

For a few lucky Fort Greene residents dealing with a rise in the rat population—which may or may not be tied to Atlantic Yards construction—help is on its way.

According to Letitia James, D-Brooklyn, 150 heavy-duty rat resident trashcans will be distrubuted for the residents of S. Oxford Homes.

The 141-unit housing development is located a short distance away from the rising Barclays Center project between Atlantic Avenue and Fulton Street.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Patch: Thanks to CM James and Forest City, some in Fort Greene to get rat-proof trash cans

Patch reports that 150 trash cans will be distributed in Fort Greene, thanks to a joint initiative by Council Member Letitia James and Forest City Ratner.

In August, FCR had paid for and distributed numerous cans in a limited area below Atlantic Avenue, assisting residents faced with a plague of rats--exacerbated by Atlantic Yards construction, many believe.

However, many people in Fort Greene have filed complaints with James. At the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet last month, James raised the issue, and Forest City somewhat reluctantly agreed to talk about it.

Patch reports that the trash cans would go to "residents of S. Oxford Homes," which is not a formal name I recognize. Possibly it's Atlantic Commons. But it likely does not cover the full area where people were complaining.

Posted by steve at 9:26 PM

So, I'm trying to start #OccupySteveStoute. Displaced Brooklyn children will move into Steve's home and eat his soup.

Jose R. Mejia via Twitter

@Naparstek Steve Stoute is a major label exec turned ad exec who I once respected for his approach to multicultural marketing...

@Naparstek But then this happened: http://bit.ly/q0t7JB: He compared Bruce Ratner to Robert Moses in a positive light. Effing dunce.

@Naparstek So, I'm trying to start #OccupySteveStoute. Displaced Brooklyn children will move into Steve's home and eat his soup.


Posted by eric at 7:34 PM

October 7, 2011

Silver lining in the Yankees disaster

Crains NY Business
by Greg David

The former Crain's editor, who has championed Atlantic Yards and its taxpayer-burdening arena from the get-go, is suddenly a critic of subsidies for sporting venues.

He must've listened to the clip of The Brian Lehrer Show we posted this morning.

The Yankees are crying in their beer (or cursing A-Rod) but there is one silver lining to their unexpectedly quick loss in the baseball playoffs: The defeat won’t damage the city’s economy much. Baseball, you see, isn’t like the sporting events that really power the economy—namely the New York City Marathon and US Open Tennis Championship.

It's more like basketball. Nets basketball.

The best study of the economic impact of a major league playoff game was published in 2008 by economics professors Victor Matheson and Robert Baade. It should be noted that Mr. Baade has been a critic of public money that is used to subsidize sports stadiums. Nevertheless, his research is pretty thorough. He found that the average playoff game generates about $7 million in economic impact for the home city. The figure would probably be a little higher in New York, so let’s say the benefit might be $9 million.

None of this should come as a surprise. While the Yankees are a tourist attraction, the majority of fans are New Yorkers. Season and multi-game ticket packages account for the vast majority of ticket sales for the Yankees, as anyone trying to go to a single game knows. Many tickets are resold by Yankee fans looking for some extra dough, so the number of out-of-towners is larger for playoff games, as is the out-of-town media contingent. Still, seats are primarily occupied by New Yorkers who drive and take public transit, and go home after the game.

The irony, say people like Professor Baade, is that baseball stadiums get the biggest subsidies. In New York, the situation is more perverse. The Bloomberg Administration wants to charge the marathon a fee for the police and other services it provides. That may be understandable, but shouldn’t Yankees pay for the extra burden of the playoffs too?


NoLandGrab: As Baade explained this morning, people who attend baseball (or basketball) games are spending money that they might spend on other entertainment, like a movie or theater. They don't generate new and separate economic activity. Plus, movies and theater aren't subsidized like baseball (or basketball) games are. And no one ever factors in the substantial costs, like police overtime (or massive - and noisy - infrastructure upgrades.

Posted by eric at 4:16 PM

Stadium and Dollars

WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show

Stadium-finance expert Robert Baade joins guest-host Mike Pesca to poke gaping holes in claims that stadiums and arenas are economic engines.


Posted by eric at 1:34 PM

Construction noise: waiting for answers, some curious (relative) quiet, and some TV coverage

Atlantic Yards Report

For the third time in four days, I ventured last night at 11 pm to the intersections of Fourth Avenue and Atlantic Avenue and Fourth Avenue and Pacific Street, site of overnight road/utility work that's been keeping residents up at night.

Last night, it was relatively quiet, at least until midnight when I left. There was very light work at Atlantic, and the work at Pacific, though it clocked at about 90 decibels from just off the opposite curb. Inside an apartment hallway (though not an apartment itself) on Monday, the ricocheting noise reached 94 dB.

The indoor limit is 65 dB, and that limit has been approached (64.5 dB in one apartment Monday) or exceeded in nearby apartments. More testing is needed, but clearly those affected include residents outside the zone where impacts were predicted.

Why the quiet? Could it be that they knew that WPIX-TV (below) had been out doing an article earlier that day? Could complaints to Empire State Development, the state agency in charge of the development (which has yet to answer my question about additional mitigation), have led to some phone calls?


Related content...

WPIX, Not Stop Contruction Headache


Posted by eric at 1:22 PM

The Bustle At Barclays Center

Documenting the construction of the new home of the Brooklyn Nets.

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Patrick Conti

Finally, it appears as though motorists have mostly adapted to the major traffic changes near and around the arena, which went into affect this past summer—though the flow of traffic immediately surrounding Atlantic Yards still seems to be a slow go.


NoLandGrab: It doesn't just seem to be a slow go — it is a slow go.

Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

The art strategy: beautify the construction fence and "riff on, reference, or reveal something about the artistic process"

Atlantic Yards Report

From ArtBridge, announcing work on a 400-foot long stretch of sidewalk shed, from 20 artists (in 19 works):

About Works In Progress — OPENING OCTOBER 20th

Art-making is a transformative act. Pigment mixed with medium becomes paint, that paint, when applied to canvas becomes “art,” that art, when we see it on gallery walls or in the public realm, alters the world around us.

The construction process can in many ways be seen as a mirror of the artistic one; breaking ground, reconfiguring it, reinterpreting space to make it new.

With this in mind we invite Brooklyn-based artists to submit visual works that riff on, reference, or reveal something about the artistic process for consideration for our latest public installation, ArtBridge: Works in Progress,” to be installed in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn in early Fall of 2011.

What constitutes a “finished” piece? How might a spot of bare canvas peaking through layers of paint reference a work’s beginnings? What kind of work results from careful planning? From spontaneity? These are some of the questions we hope that artists will address through their work.

Maybe another question might be: Is this the heart of Downtown Brooklyn?


NoLandGrab: Maybe it's us, but we have a tendency to feel a smidge of contempt for arts organizations that get in bed with Bruce Ratner, well intentioned, or not.

Posted by eric at 12:41 PM

No Grand Plan for NYC Development

It's hard to set a course in an ever-changing mega-city

The Epoch Times
by Tara MacIsaac

In a bit of understatement, Atlantic Yards garners a mention as a project that left the community feeling left out.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has been advocating for city planners at every level of the community to gain a more comprehensive overall picture. When he took office, only one city planner was on staff. He hired 60.

Stringer wants to see city planners in community organizations, on community boards, and at the borough president's office, as well as a Department of City Planning that communicates better with other agencies. The Departments of Transportation and Education are also important players, he says.

Stringer isn't calling for more power to the city's 52 community boards. He's calling for more funding to give them the tools they need, so they can better advise the City Planning Commission. Community board budgets have not changed in the last nine years, falling far behind inflation, according to Stringer.


NoLandGrab: Yes, Brooklynites have a bad (and well justified) case of Borough President envy.

Posted by eric at 12:27 PM

How Brooklyn Nets can reach hipsters

by Kurt Snibbe

Music mogul Jay-Z, a part-owner of the NBA's New Jersey Nets, recently announced that the team will officially become the Brooklyn Nets when it moves to that borough of New York for the 2012-13 season.

In order to appeal to Brooklyn's largest demographic -- its thriving hipster community -- the team will need to develop a marketing campaign targeted to the borough's too-cool-for-everything citizens.

Page 2 offers up a few suggestions ...


Related coverage...

The L Magazine, How Will the Brooklyn Nets Net Brooklyn Hipsters?

All ESPN's suggestions take the form of phone pole tear-away flyers, and though most are unfunny—like jokes about beards and obscure musical tastes—a couple hit the mark...

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

NetsDaily: happy to have anonymous readers sling nastiness at Goldstein, but no opportunity to weigh in on Yormark's controversy (updated with change)

Atlantic Yards Report

NutsDaily is at it again.

The website NetsDaily, popular with team fans, team brass, and some sportswriters, earlier this year was questioned by a reader for including the seemingly tangential news that Nets Board of Directors Chairman Christophe Charlier was sending singer (and prep school classmate) John Forte on a Russian tour, helping him rebuild his life after prison.

"read the banner…most comprehensive," wrote the main contributor to the site, who goes by the name Net Income, pointing the commenter to the banner: "The most comprehensive source for news about the New Jersey Nets."

NetIncome was eager to link earlier this week to an unflattering and thinly-reported article in the Daily News about Atlantic Yards foe Daniel Goldstein, but not, of course, to any of the follow-ups that cast doubt on the original story.

NetIncome has claimed "I have won Four Edward R. Murrow awards in my professional life so I have some credibility." Thing is, he's done so while using his name. The blog pseudonym lets him avoid responsibility.


NoLandGrab: Only four? He's more deserving of a bunch of these.

Related content...

Bergen Record, Lawsuit against Nets exec thrown out

Looks like Yormarketing Genius has raised his game to a new level.

A judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit brought against Nets CEO Brett Yormark by an ex-girlfriend who alleged that he fraudulently induced her to have an abortion.

Reyna Purcell of Upper Saddle River said in a lawsuit filed earlier this year that she became pregnant shortly after she started dating Yormark in October 2010.

Purcell said that she wanted to have a child, but that Yormark told her he would end the relationship if she gave birth. She also alleged that Yormark promised to stay in a relationship if she got an abortion.

Purcell, 34, got an abortion in February, but “shortly thereafter [Yormark] immediately terminated the relationship with the plaintiff and has never spoken to her again,” the lawsuit alleged.

NoLandGrab: We feel awful for Ms. Purcell, but really, she's probably the only person surprised at the way her relationship with Yormark played out.

Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

Brooklyn Paper Blocks Links Re City Rules NOT Requiring That Hi-Decibel Late Night Construction On The Ratner/Prokhorov Arena Be Done At Night

Noticing New York

In an Atlantic Yards Report story we read that the Brooklyn Paper today published an article headlined "Noises on! Barclays Center construction now 24-7-365" that contains the following language, “City rules require that the work be done at night, when traffic is lightest,” leading the reader to infer that city rules are requiring that ALL of the work now being done at night during the now 24/7 schedule must be done at night. That’s not so.

What was more startling however, was reading in the Atlantic Yards Report story that when Atlantic Yards Report’s Norman Oder twice tried to provide corrective comments to the article via the Brooklyn Paper’s “Reader Feedback” feature, his corrections were blocked. (See: Thursday, October 06, 2011, Brooklyn Paper covers after-hours construction but suggests that all of it is required to be done at night. Not so.)

Into the breach we went with a Noticing New York test of the Brooklyn Paper’s correction- censoring block. Here is our comment and our diagnostic of the situation.


Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

Unlike other Fox Business coverage, libertarian John Stossel sympathetic to AY resistance; doc director says AY will be "18 acres of parking lots"

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner usually gets a very welcome reception on Fox Business News, but libertarian John Stossel, understandably, prefers those resisting eminent domain.

So below is his recent interview with Battle for Brooklyn director Michael Galinsky and protagonist Daniel Goldstein. Their warning about government cooperation with a private developer is the fundamental argument, so they should be more careful about their descriptions.


Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

October 6, 2011

Stoute's Plan to Market the Nets? Kissing Up to Brooklyn

Translation CEO on Borough Pride, City Rivalry and Bruce Ratner as a Modern-Day Robert Moses

Advertising Age
by Kerem Ozkan

Savor this one — it's surely the last time that Brooklyn Nets' adman Steve Stoute will be allowed to speak to the press.

Nets officials have been busy hyping Brooklyn as an iconic globally-recognized brand. Translation Founder-CEO Steve Stoute, whose agency is handling marketing for the team, said the New York City borough is marketing gold. "The power of the Brooklyn brand is so resounding. It means so many things: hard work, gentrification and diversity, music, culture." And while there are still critics upset over the use of eminent domain to make way for the Barclays Center where the team will play, Mr. Stoute said Brooklyn residents should "be ecstatic" about the move.

Honestly, it isn't easy to contain ourselves.

Mr. Stoute talked to Ad Age about the move, the branding and, sure to rile up critics of how the stadium came about, this "gift" from developer Bruce Ratner.

Oh, this ought to be good.

Ad Age: Another factor in all this is that the Atlantic Yards project has been steeped in controversy. What will you say to win the neighborhood over?

Mr. Stoute: I think that there's always going to be people who resist change. It's a human reality. I look at what they had to go through and say it wasn't easy, but it made sense. It was there to improve, to uplift, to contemporize, to bring back sports to the borough. It's the Barclays Center of Brooklyn. It's of the people. This is Bruce Ratner's gift to them. He is our generation's Robert Moses.


NoLandGrab: Robert Moses? You mean the guy who destroyed neighborhoods by paving them through with highways, displaced thousands and thousands of people, made us slaves to the automobile, ran the Dodgers out of town, and precipitated decades of urban decay? That Robert Moses? Did someone shoot this guy up with truth serum? As far as we can tell, that's the first time anyone selling the public on Atlantic Yards has ever told it like it is. We can almost forgive him all that of-the-people, Bruce's-gift nonsense.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Ratner hires advertising agency. Agency CEO calls him "our generation's Robert Moses."

Norman Oder posted a comment to Ad Age (which, unlike the Brooklyn Paper, hasn't barred him from doing so):

Mr. Stoute may be an able adman, but "Our generation's Robert Moses"? Wow.

Moses is steeped in controversy, but what he built--roads, parks, pools--aimed at the public interest. Bruce Ratner's job is to build projects and make a profit.

"Bruce Ratner's gift to them"? Wow, again. Maybe that would be closer to fact had Ratner paid his own way, but if you add the public subsidies and tax breaks, the arena is a loss to NYC taxpayers, according to the NYC Independent Budget Office.

By the way, it's "eminent domain," not "imminent domain." Thanks to New York State's very flexible definitions of "blight," Ratner was able to get the state to declare a gentrifying zone blighted as a precursor to eminent domain. His cousin Chuck Ratner, then-CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises, called it a "great piece of real estate."

NLG: The article initially referred to the use of "imminent" domain, but was corrected after Mr. Oder pointed out the error. Of course, when Bruce Ratner and the ESDC are involved, "imminent" domain might be more accurate.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner Is "Our Generation's Robert Moses," Minus the Good Stuff

If Mr. Stoute and the Nets think it is a good idea to compare Bruce Ratner to the most notorious power abuser in American urban history, we can't disagree. Although, say what you will about Moses, he did oversee public works, rather than purely self-aggrandizing, for-profit real estate deals.

As for Ratner's munificent "gift" to the people of Brooklyn aching in their stomachs for the return of the Dodgers—when Ratner returns our homes, businesses, streets, tax dollars, zoning laws, democratic processes, and our Constitution we'll be sure to send him a big thank you note.

Posted by eric at 10:00 PM

NetsDaily: "critics" are "claiming" that construction noise bothers them.

Atlantic Yards Report

We're going to start calling these guys NetsDummy. Or NetsFaily. But really, what can one expect when they have feckless fans, rather than actual journalists, doing the writing?

You know who's bothered by Atlantic Yards construction noise. According to NetsDaily, the pseudonymously (and tendentiously) written website that claims to aggregate all Nets-related news, they're "[c]ritics of the arena."

No, they're not "critics of the arena." They're people who (in the main) have been uninvolved in the Atlantic Yards controversy but just happen to live very close to noisy construction. Which disturbs their sleep. Why? Because the state allows very loud overnight work to go on very near them.


Posted by eric at 9:48 PM

At DOT hearing on bollard plan, a challenge to claim that an effective width of 5'2" would not create sidewalk bottleneck outside arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Clearly New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) hearings on "revocable consents"--permission to install structures on city property--are typically pro forma affairs, held in a small conference room in a Lower Manhattan building.

Well, yesterday's hearing, which included consideration of the bollard and street furniture plan for the Atlantic Yards arena block, was a little different. DOT staffers were faced with detailed testimony that took issue with a just-produced claim that a smaller sidewalk, with an effective width of 5'2", would make no difference to pedestrians.

After all, as testimony from the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) indicated, the official analysis was based on 2006 pedestrian counts, not those generated by 2009 changes in the project plan which could deliver more people to the south side of Atlantic Avenue west of Pacific Street.

Will those comments make a difference? Unclear, but DOT will accept further comments through October 15 (via Emma Berenblit at eberenblit@dot.nyc.gov) and will review these in consultation with other DOT divisions or other agencies.

No deadline has been set for the agency's decision, though the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert indicated that a reconfiguration of Flatbush Avenue MPT (Maintenance and Protection of Traffic)--which recently began--would set the stage for bollard installation and facade work.


Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

Mayor Michael Bloomberg In the Regalia of Queen Elizabeth I? Noticing New York’s Testimony at the DOT Hearing on Atlantic Yards Bollard Plan

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White recounts his colorful testimony at yesterday's New York City Department of Transportation hearing on the Barclays Center bollards plan.

You can read up on all the details of it if you want in Atlantic Yards Report but the gist of the matter is that the Ratner/Prokhorov arena, even in its diminished non-hockey-accommodating size, is not fitting very comfortably into the neighborhood space that’s already been seized for it. Among other things, security is an issue since these days arenas have to be presumed to be attractive targets for terrorists (even if they hide out in or take brownstone neighborhoods hostage as human shields). That means that bollards are necessary.

Bottom line, because of the poor fit that has been managed the public, as a solution, is expected to surrender its expectation of adequate sidewalk space. The arena doesn’t have the dainty Cinderella glass-slipper-scale footprint that was once promised to slide easily into the neighborhood and instead its extra step-sisterish size mass is being squeezed and forced in. The original Cinderella folk tale involved the ugly step-sisters hacking off their toes as they pretended they could fit into the glass slipper. That’s what we’ve got going on here, some hacking off of toes- The public is losing its sidewalk.


Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

Noises on! Barclays Center construction now 24-7-365

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

Workers will now toil on the Barclays Center around the clock, seven days a week to ensure that the $1-billion arena will be ready for Jay-Z’s grand opening concerts next summer.

Neighbors of the Prospect Heights arena were quick to notice the stepped-up construction schedule, thanks to ear-splitting noise between 10 pm and 6 am on Atlantic, Flatbush and Fourth avenues, and Pacific Street, where roadwork is underway in hopes of reducing traffic to the 19,000-seat arena.

Construction is also going full-blast to repair the shuttered Carlton Avenue bridge, install new sewer lines and prepare the site’s rail yard for a massive upgrade.

As if that weren’t enough, truck deliveries to the site were pushed back to 6 am, and a staging area inside of the Atlantic Yards footprint is active 24 hours per day, according to residents.

“It’s noisy and loud,” said Milagros Barreto, who lives on Dean Street. “I can hear the work clearly from my house.”

John Carruthers, who lives on Pacific Street, said the noise is keeping him and his 14-year-old daughter up at night.

“She ends up going to sleep late and wakes up tired,” he said. “It’s pissing me off.”


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Brooklyn Paper covers after-hours construction but suggests that all of it is required to be done at night. Not so.

Norman Oder tried to post a comment to the Brooklyn Paper's story, but got denied. Here's part of it.

To say "City rules require that the work be done at night" suggests that Forest City Ratner has not asked for any special permissions. Not so.

There are no requirements, for example, that work be done at night at the arena site, or that deliveries be made earlier. They've speeded up. Asked about 24/7 work, Bruce Ratner said, "We don't want to take any chances."

Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

NBA Economics

It's the Stupid Economy

Fascinating article posted on the Grantland website a few weeks back by Malcolm Gladwell discussing the economics of owning a professional basketball franchise. The article recounts a little known, but intriguing story which ties the ownership of the New Jersey Nets basketball franchise to the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn by real estate mogul Bruce Ratner.


NoLandGrab: "Little known?!!!" Why do we bother?

Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

October 5, 2011

Stuckey resigns as NYU Schack Institute head

The Real Deal
by Adam Pincus

James Stuckey, the divisional dean of the New York University Schack Institute of Real Estate resigned abruptly this past Friday, the school told The Real Deal, in a situation reminiscent of how he departed four years ago from a top job at the development firm Forest City Ratner Companies. At NYU, Stuckey left behind a mixed legacy in his two-year tenure, forcing through what some described as necessary changes to improve the school, but was criticized with operating with what they saw as an arrogant and biased management style.

Stuckey resigned last Friday "effective immediately," said Paola Curcio-Kleinman, executive director of strategic marketing and communications for the School of Continuing and Professional studies, of which the Schack Institute is a part.

Stuckey left his job as president of the Atlantic Yards Development group at Forest City Ratner suddenly in June 2007 under what sources now describe as a cloud. He had been there for about three years.


NoLandGrab: A "cloud" is what they call it now?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Murky departure redux: ex-Forest City Ratner executive Stuckey leaves NYU job "abruptly;" school claims health reasons but doesn't issue public thanks

Jim Stuckey's murky, swift departure from New York University's Schack Institute of Real Estate, as described by The Real Deal, seems somewhat akin to his swift resignation from Forest City Ratner in June 2007, when the company cited "personal reasons and a desire to pursue new challenges."

That meant Forest City's Atlantic Yards point man was succeeded by MaryAnne Gilmartin.

Unlike with the Forest City departure, capably managed by Howard Rubenstein, the city's premier p.r. fixer, this resignation--from an institution with a broad constituency--comes with a bit more potential for public discussion.

So we learn, from the article and comments, that Stuckey both stirred the pot productively in his two years at Schack but also antagonized some people.

Well, that happens in high-profile jobs, but it doesn't typically lead to such a swift departure, nor in the midst of an academic term, nor without any thanks.

Posted by eric at 9:53 PM

Construction noise inside a nearby apartment building: way off the charts (though not as bad inside a unit); maybe state, FCR officials should check it out

Atlantic Yards Report


Maybe Arana Hankin, the state official in charge of Atlantic Yards, and Jane Marshall, a Forest City Ratner executive, should take a relatively brief evening walk from their Fort Greene homes to check out the deafening construction noise at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Pacific Street.

Marshall recently likened the additional stretch of overnight noise to a dentist's appointment that would be over in a month.

But that's not quite right.

It's probably closer to a long-term dentist's visit without any novocaine. After all, one resident of 568 Pacific Street described it as "torture."

At that building on Monday night, inside a hallway, a visitor registered a 94.0 dB reading on a decibel meter, as shown in the photo at right.

That's way, way off the charts.

Measuring impacts

The upper acceptable limit at night, according to the city and state, is 65 dB, which itself is way above the recommended level of 45 dB, as noted below.

But there's no evidence anyone officially involved in Atlantic Yards has tried to monitor this, or to offer promised mitigations (see below). Hence my suggestion above.

As shown in the chart at left, from a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) guidance on noise, sound becomes intrusive as it approaches 70dB.

It becomes annoying at 80 dB.

At 90 dB, it becomes very annoying, and can cause hearing damage after continuous exposure.


Posted by eric at 12:27 PM

Sidewalk bordering arena would have effective width of 5.2 feet, says ESD consultant, but that won't be a problem (really?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Would Forest City Ratner's plan to install security bollards around the Atlantic Yards arena block--subject of a hearing today at 2 pm--lead to a diminished effective sidewalk width compared with the width disclosed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)? How would that affect pedestrians?

A memo produced by an Empire State Development (ESD) consultant, and submitted to the Department of Transportation, which is holding the hearing, offers the answers: yes, and not much.

In other words, even if the effective sidewalk width--the width minus obstructions--is just 5.2 feet on the south side of Atlantic Avenue west of Sixth Avenue, it's OK, people will manage. That will be interesting to see tested in reality.


Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

NBA negotiations stall, and a partial season cancellation looms; sportswriters slam owners who gain many advantages beyond the team

Atlantic Yards Report

Why was Jay-Z, owner of a minuscule slice of the Nets, front-and-center at the September 26 promotional event announcing the unsurprising news that the team would be the Brooklyn Nets and he'd open the arena with some concerts.

Why is he the face of a marketing campaign?

Well, not only is he a celebrity, labor negotiations prevent the teams from using any of their players. And now it looks like at least some of the season will be lost.


Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

Battle crew on Stossel

Fox Business via rumur via Vimeo

Daniel Goldstein and Battle for Brooklyn filmmaker Michael Galinsky appeared last week on Stossel.


Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

To Prefab or Not to Prefab: Atlantic Yards Design Decision Will Be Made This Year

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

Prefabricated buildings have not been such a hot topic of conversation since Buckminster Fuller passed away, but that is about all anyone can talk about at Atlantic Yards anymore. On the one hand, it could signal a paradigm shift in how New York City builds, on the other, it goes against many of the employment promises Forest City Ratner made when the project won support from politicians and labor unions. With building plans recently filed, the decision on what to do is getting close. How close? The Observer asked Maryanne Gilmartin exactly that.

While Ms. Gilmartin could not say when the decision would be made, she did admit, “We’re on the cusp.”

“It’s definitely a 2011 conversation, and one we look forward to having very soon,” she added. That leaves us with 88 days until the big reveal.


NoLandGrab: Their decision definitely probably likely possibly maybe could come any day week month year decade now.

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

AY Check-In: Residential Build, Rats and Traffic


Yesterday Community Board 2 sent out a comprehensive update on all things Atlantic Yards. A few things of note: the first residential building, which Forest City Ratner filed permits for in August, is currently known as “B2.” Design is under way, though there’s still no decision on whether it will be built using traditional or modular construction. As the Observer noted yesterday, Forest City says it will have something more to report by the end of the year, and construction is slated to begin shortly after. In response to previous rat complaints near the site, the city Health Department singled out three to four “hot spots” on Dean Street, between Sixth and Carlton avenues. There are also a few problem areas on Fourth Avenue and Pacific Street; the Pacific Branch Library, the Church of the Redeemer, and a catch-basin at that corner.

Finally, DOT reported on the traffic changes implemented this July and August. Traffic improved on Flatbush but slowed on 3rd and 4th avenues. DOT plans to adjust the signal timing on Fourth Avenue to reduce the jam of vehicles at Atlantic Avenue.

DOT is also holding a public hearing today, 2:00 pm at 55 Water Street, Room 707, on the revocable consent for the security bollards and other features surrounding the Barclays Center.


Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

Atlantic Yards Foe In Fire Fight With Neighbor Over New Home Addition

by John Del Signore

Daniel Goldstein can't catch a break — turns out Bruce Ratner was his good neighbor.

Goldstein has yet to even file plans for the extension, but his neighbor Kathryn Roake, an administrative law judge who's lived in her house for 22 years, says she knows what he's up to—and it's going to kill her garden.

I said, 'You're going to wreck my garden and cut off the sunlight.' He said, 'Well, only the morning sunlight.' I said, 'That's all I have!' He asked me my name, but I said it was none of his business and walked away. Then I turned and said, 'I hope their house burns down.'" Welcome to Park Slope, Goldstein.


NoLandGrab: Look, nobody likes change, especially when it comes in the form of a home-renovation project next door. But there are probably dozens of other projects like this going on in Park Slope right now, and none of them have become fodder for tabloids and blogs.

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

Rat Resistant Trash Cans Debated For Fort Greene-Clinton Hill

Representatives of Forest City Ratner agree to look into expanding giveaways north of Atlantic Avenue.

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Paul Leonard

For denizens of the neighborhoods north of the Atlantic Yards project, a new weapon in the battle against vermin may soon be at hand.

During the fifth meeting of the Atlantic Yards cabinet on Sept. 22, representatives from Forest City Ratner said it would look into supplying free rat resistant garbage cans for Fort Greene-Clinton Hill residents.

The developer already provides trashcans at several rat "hot-spots" in Prospect Heights. However, along with a rise in rat sightings in Fort Greene have come increased calls for Forest City Ratner to expand the program to the blocks north of Atlantic Avenue.

Residents blame increased excavation, demolition and construction at the Atlantic Yards site for the increase in rodent activity.

Forest City Ratner has said the increase in rat sightings is unrelated to Atlantic Yards construction.


NoLandGrab: And big chunks of the Antarctic ice shelf falling into the ocean have nothing to do with global warming, either.

As Norman Oder points out in the comments, Forest City was more or less shamed into considering the trash-can giveaway by City Council member Tish James.

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Fort Greene Pastor Retires After 18 Years of Service

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Amanda Woods

Reverend David Dyson is stepping down after 18 years as pastor at Fort Greene's Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church.

He served at the Riverside Church in Manhattan before moving to Lafayette, where he continued his activism by speaking out against the Atlantic Yards development.

“We…want to protect the area, which has been a wonderful place to raise a family, from developers who would just knock down people’s homes and put up glass and steel structures,” Mr. Dyson said.


Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

October 4, 2011

Can't sleep? On video, the overnight jackhammer and excavator tear up Pacific Street, make a din

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder took his video camera over to Fourth Avenue and Pacific Street last night to see what all the racket was. Turn up the volume at your own peril.

[I]t's questionable whether the state's environmental review considered the full impact, given that soundproofed windows were offered only to people on the east side of Pacific and Dean streets, not the west. Nor were they offered to anybody living on Fourth Avenue.

Shouldn't measures have been extended? I haven't gotten an answer from Empire State Development.

On video

Well, I went over there last night at around 11 pm to observe jackhammering and the work of an excavator. The video begins near the station exit on the east side of Fourth near Pacific. The noise from the work was quite audible underground.

How loud was it?

My camera is mainly for still photos, so the microphone, and video capacity, remain rudimentary. So the actual volume of the work is even louder.

I didn't bring a decibel meter, but I can say that, as of this morning, my ears still ache. So it's understandable that residents say they can't sleep.


NoLandGrab: As Bruce Ratner is fond of saying, "Let them eat Sominex."

Posted by eric at 12:41 PM

2006 environmental analysis underestimates extent of construction noise impacts; affected residents left without recourse

Atlantic Yards Watch

AYW has received numerous incident reports about noise from nighttime work in the vicinity of Pacific Street, 4th and Atlantic Avenues beginning in late July. Similar complaints have also been posted on Brownstoner and made to elected officials. The work involves infrastructure for the Barclays Center, and includes street construction with jackhammering.

After following up with the residents who submitted incident reports, AYW has observed the following:

  • Some affected residents live outside the zone identified in the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) where significant noise impacts were anticipated. Sensitive receptor locations in the 2006 analysis (locations like residences or open space where human activity may be affected by project generated noise) do not account for more recent conversions from commercial to residential in the vicinity of the project site.

  • None of the residents complaining have received notice of the noise attenuation measures offered by Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC).

  • The specific noise attenuation measures offered as mitigation (double paned windows and air conditioners) are already in place and residents report they are still kept up at night.

A common complaint in the residents' reports is that their windows are not sufficient to stop the noise caused by the jackhammering, resulting in sleepless nights. The homes of the residents commenting below are labeled on the map above showing the zone significant construction noise impacts were anticipated in the 2006 FEIS (modified from FEIS, figure 17c-2). The anticipated affected area is shaded gray. It is also the zone in which FCRC is required to make noise mitigation measures available to residents.


NoLandGrab: This should really come as a surprise to no one, but the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement is, on a pretty much daily basis now, being exposed as worthless.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, AY Watch: Noise plagues residents outside zone where impacts were anticipated

Posted by eric at 12:27 PM

Hearing tomorrow at 2 pm on bollard plan for arena block

Atlantic Yards Report

The bollard plan for the Atlantic Yards arena block will be the subject of a standard public hearing--which also will address three other "revocable consents"--held by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) on Wednesday, 10/5/11.

The hearing will be held at 55 Water Street, 7th Floor, Room 707, beginning at 2 pm. "Revocable consents," which grant permission to install structures on city property, typically start for a term of ten years.


Posted by eric at 12:07 PM

Is Dan Goldstein Really As Bad As Bruce Ratner Just Because He Wants a Renovation?

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

Most people probably don't go straight to the Daily News when their new neighbor plans to renovate and build a modest as-of-right extension that conforms to zoning and would increase the building's Floor Area Ratio by just enough to avoid being considered blighted for underutilization by the ESDC.

But most people (quite thankfully) don't see the PR value of attacking new next-door neighbors through the tabloids.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Daniel Goldstein!

Like so many other homeowners in the city, Mr. Goldstein is planning a rooftop and rear-yard addition to his new home. In what might be construed as an ironic twist–the Daily News certainly sees it that way—Mr. Goldstein’s new neighbors do not appreciate his home-improvement project.

Next-door neighbor Kathryn Roake, 59, says Goldstein’s 18-foot, three-story addition to the back of his building will block the light to her beloved fruit and vegetable garden.

“I was so horrified,” said Roake, who has lived in her 15th St. home for 21 years. “It’s going to block all the sunlight to my garden and the back of my house.

If that's the case, imagine how "horrified" Roake would have been if Bruce Ratner was planning to seize her home to build an arena. And one might wonder how a to-code extension built to the northeast of her yard would manage to "block all the sunlight" to her garden.

The News was unable to get a comment from Mr. Goldstein, but we were, and the story The Observer was told was quite different. (Granted, we were unable to reach Ms. Roake.)

He told us that he reached out to the neighbors first, but they did not respond and instead, apparently, went to the tab. Mr. Goldstein has plenty of experience with adjudicating matters in the press, and while he would rather deal with these issues directly, they are out there, so what choice does he have. He also wondered at how the dimensions of his expansion could be known when they are not even complete, and whatever they are, they will be code compliant:

Our plans aren’t finalized, but when they are they’ll be submitted to DOB as required when doing a renovation and extension. Once our plans are approved our construction will be safe, well within zoning and within the law, and we’ll be certain to protect our neighbors’ property and our own.

Indeed, these sorts of additions happen all the time, from Uptown to the Village to Brownstone Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

Cuomo's new regional economic development councils: potential source of new state subsidies for Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

Where will Forest City Ratner look for additional subsidies to meet Atlantic Yards profit goals, to get that first tower built (after additional city subsidies were denied), to finish the Carlton Avenue Bridge (after Carl Kruger came up empty), finish a new railyard (if EB-5 immigrant investor funds aren't enough), and to do much more?

They have to be considering the New York City Regional Economic Development Council, one of ten regional economic development councils established this past summer, as noted in a 7/20/11 press release headlined Governor Cuomo Announces $1 Billion in Economic Development Funding Will be Available Through New Consolidated Application Process.


Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

NBA Lockout Allows Owners To Cheat Fans, Embrace Greed

The NBA lockout will reach a head on Tuesday, all because the league's owners can't get enough money and refuse to prioritize anything over the quest for wealth.

by Tom Ziller

In the NBA, fans aren't just customers. We are investors. We bankroll the whole operation. Of the $2 billion spent on building and renovating NBA arenas since 2000, $1.75 billion of it has been public money. Without a public willing to play Stern's extortionist games -- ask Seattle what happens if you refuse to build a gym on the league's terms -- the NBA would be hosting its biggest games in rinky-dink arenas, or worse, on college campuses. Instead, the public plays along and bites on the threats, Stern's NBA rakes in $4 billion a year and owners have the luxury of demanding a bigger slice.

You wonder how a player like Antoine Walker can go broke after making $108 million in the NBA? Ask how [Phoenix Suns owner Robert] Sarver can do the same thing on a much grander (if less stylish) scale. Ask how the mighty Maloof brothers can crush their family's empire and take a whole city's sports identity down with it. Ask how Bruce Ratner can burn through stacks of money like firewood without even one eye on the product on the court. But the biggest difference is that when Antoine Walker burns his loot, the guy has to shimmy down to Puerto Rico and to the D-League to making a living. He has get back on his feet on hustle. Sarver? He gets a bailout. The Maloofs? They pawn off one of their dad's businesses. Ratner? He remembers that the Nets he lost so much money on were simply Vaseline for a real estate project in Brooklyn that will make his company billions more than an NBA team could ever be worth.


Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

Brooklyn Nets Have Perfect Job for Post-Presidency Marty Markowitz

The L Magazine
by Benjamin Sutton

Last we heard it sounded pretty likely—though not completely certain—that current Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz will be retiring from politics when his current term ends in 2013. But just because he's (probably) leaving public office doesn't mean he has to cease being Brooklyn's most boisterous spokesman: the Brooklyn Nets need an announcer, and we think Marty'd be perfect for the job.


Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

Downtown Brooklyn booster's tenure gets mixed reviews

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Joseph Chan oversaw retail, residential growth, but was a polarizing presence.

Crain's NY Business
by Shane Dixon Kavanaugh

Joseph Chan's arrival five years ago as president of the new Downtown Brooklyn Partnership was heralded as the start of something big for the city's third-largest—yet underachieving—business district. With backing from the Bloomberg administration and the borough's biggest corporations, Mr. Chan was expected to unify the local business groups, boost commerce on government-dominated blocks and attract buzz-worthy tenants.

Mr. Chan largely achieved these goals, though his tenure, which ended last week, was marked by controversy, budget woes and turf battles.

“None of us had a big enough stake in [downtown Brooklyn],” said Bruce Ratner, whose MetroTech complex was built with a fortress-like design during the high-crime 1980s. But Mr. Chan rallied stakeholders and “suddenly, we were all speaking with one voice.”

But for some, Mr. Chan, a protégé of former Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, was a polarizing presence who favored big developers over small businesses. They believed he sometimes did the mayor's bidding.

“It was another example of the Bloomberg administration blurring the lines between private industry and government,” said Councilwoman Letitia James.

article [trial subscription may be required]

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

October 3, 2011


Studio 360

Kurt Andersen interviews musician and author Wesley Stace (aka John Wesley Harding) about his soon-to-be-released new record, The Sound of His Own Voice. The single "There's a Starbucks (Where the Starbucks Used to Be)" pays tribute to a Brooklyn neighborhood with a boondoggle problem.

There's a stadium where we used to drink at Freddy's,
for a team that no one likes or wants or needs,
they said they'd revitalize the place,
now there's a million parking spaces,
maybe bedrooms for the homeless refugees.

Listen to the interview:

Watch the video for "There's a Starbucks (Where the Starbucks Used to Be)":

Pre-order the CD here.


NoLandGrab: Veterans of the Atlantic Yards fight will recall John Wesley Harding's memorable performance at the Prospect Park bandshell following DDDB's Walk Don't Destroy II fundraiser in 2006.

Posted by eric at 4:17 PM

Bidders emerge for Willets Point megaproject

Two major developers, as well as the real estate firm of the New York Mets' owners, have submitted proposals to turn the Queens property into a modern venue of entertainment, retail, hospitality and housing.

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

Two major developers and the Mets' owners' real estate firm are among the firms that submitted proposals for the right to redevelop Willets Point, sources said.

The Related Companies has teamed up with Sterling Equities, which is controlled by Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, to submit a proposal to redevelop the 12.75 acres included in the Queens project's first phase, the sources said. Silverstein Properties, which is building three towers at the World Trade Center site, also threw its hat into the ring.

City officials would not say how many proposals they received by last month's deadline, but indicated they were satisfied with the quantity and quality of the submissions.

The city controls about 90% of the land in the phase one area, and has not ruled out using eminent domain to obtain the rest.


NoLandGrab: No word as to whether cash-strapped Forest City, or any Russian billionaire oligarchs, submitted a bid.

Posted by eric at 4:08 PM

Occupy the NBA!

The Nation
by Dave Zirin

“The purpose of Occupy Wall Street is to reclaim the country from corporate interests. The protesters feel as though their political system has been hijacked by Wall Street's corporations, and as a result their elected officials now serve the interests of the wealthy upper-1 percenters instead of what they call the ‘99 percent.’”- Allison Kilkenny, Citizen Radio

After decades of corporate greed run amok, a viral clarion call has sounded to strike back and “occupy everywhere”. What started as several dozen people saying they would "occupy Wall Street" has become a national movement. Now we have thousands of people who are part of Occupy Boston, Occupy DC, Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Las Vegas, even Occupy Nebraska. Now we have labor organizations like the Transit Workers Union and 1199 joining the charge. Now it’s high time to take this movement and bring it to the National Basketball Association. We need to “Occupy the NBA.”

Why not? Do you really want to talk about corporate greed piledriving the interests of “the other 99%”? Look no further than the NBA. The League’s billionaire owners have locked their doors and threatened to cancel the 2011-2012 season following the most lucrative year in league history. They haven’t only locked out the players union, but thousands of low-wage workers – the people cleaning the arenas, parking the cars, and selling the overpriced flat, foamy swill the League calls beer. They've also locked out secretaries and scouts, managers and mascots. Somewhere in Phoenix there's a guy in a gorilla suit with a sign that reads, "Will dunk for food."

It’s Wall Street’s version of the high pick-and-roll, their go-to play: magically turning our tax dollars into their profits. Look at the billions that have gone to NBA arenas while public workers are laid off and the infrastructure of our cities rot. As economist David Berri has noted, $2 billion has gone into building eight new facilities. Of that amount, 84%, $1.75 billion, has come out of our pockets. That number also doesn’t include the $2 billion in tax dollars being funneled into the Atlantic Yards Project for the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets. To David Stern claim that 23 of 30 owners are "losing money" on the NBA, while leaving public subsidies out of his math, only demonstrates his ugly contempt for us 99 percenters.

As Henry Abbot wrote on ESPN’s True Hoop blog before being methodically tortured in an undisclosed Bristol, Connecticut safe-house, “So long as taxpayers pay for the stadiums, and players do the work, why, again, do we cut owners in on the deal?”


Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Missing from the Atlantic Antic: Forest City Ratner and the Nets (but Acorn was there--not ACORN)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Antic, held the first Sunday in October on Atlantic Avenue going one mile west of Fourth Avenue--essentially west of the Barclays Center arena site--is the city's largest street festival.

Forest City Ratner and the Nets have been a periodic presence at the festival, in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Not last year or the year before. Not yesterday. Maybe they're saving money.

But I'll bet they'll be a presence in 2012.


Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

Glut of parking spaces in city

Ancient zoning rules force developer to overbuild. But reforms could reduce number of empty parking spaces.

Crain's NY Business
by Jeremy Smerd

The Department of City Planning knows its 1950s-era parking requirements are outdated and is preparing to issue recommendations for Manhattan and “inner-ring” neighborhoods, such as those in western Brooklyn and Queens. But transportation advocates worry that reforms will fail to dent what they deem an oversupply of parking at large developments.

“We've asserted that limiting parking supply can be a valuable tool to encourage mass transit,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “[The city's] point of view is people will own cars and drive, no matter what.”

Transportation advocates worry that the glut at Yankee Stadium will be replicated at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, which is to have 3,670 parking spots when residential buildings are completed in the project's second phase. Until then, much of the space next to the site's arena, the Barclays Center, will be a blacktop parking lot.

“If the economic conditions change and phase two of the project doesn't go forward, you will have this big empty space in the middle of Brooklyn,” said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.


NoLandGrab: All the more reason to a) significantly cut the number of parking spaces planned for Atlantic Yards, and b) divide the parcels up, set development guidelines, and auction them off to different bidders.

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

Forest City Ratner's Beekman Tower as a protest backdrop

Atlantic Yards Report

Photographer Adrian Kinloch, tracking the Occupy Wall Street protestors Saturday, October 1, as they ventured onto the Brooklyn Bridge, captured this shot of Forest City Ratner's Beekman Tower (aka 8 Spruce Street or New York by Gehry) looming in the background. His set is here.


NoLandGrab: Is there any better backdrop for protest against corporate greed than a Bruce Ratner building, erected with a large dollop of public subsidy, in which three-bedroom apartments rent for $15,000 a month?

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

October 2, 2011

Could the Atlantic Yards Monopoly Be Even Less Regulated Than It Is? Why A Mega-Monopoly Continuation Isn’t Workable

Noticing New York

Just how unregulated can the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly be? Probably more unregulated than anyone can possibly imagine. Anyone, except perhaps the developer/subsidy collector himself, Bruce Ratner, who seems always to be able to envision the next steps to which his firm’s lack of accountability can be taken, and then implement it.

The signals being sent by Governor Andrew Cuomo indicate that Ratner’s fondest wishes for no effective regulation will be accommodated. One such signal is the appointment of mega-project booster Joe Chan for a top-ranking job at the Empire State Development (Corp.), the agency that theoretically supervises and regulates the megadevelopment. (See: Wednesday, September 14, 2011, Post: Atlantic Yards booster Joe Chan to leave Downtown Brooklyn Partnership for ESDC and Downtown Brooklyn economic development czar stepping down for state job, September 14, 2011, by Rich Calder)

The fact Atlantic Yards will be so blatantly unregulated should make clear to those considering the matter that seeking to regulate a continuing Ratner monopoly of vast size is not a solution. What is really needed is for the unjust and unjustifiable Ratner mega-monopoly to be broken up.


The answer, the only answer, is to break up Ratner’s mega-monopoly. Those who think the answer is to more effectively and meaningfully “regulate” Ratner’s monopoly are wrong. This is not 1913 when phone company president Vail was amenable to constraints to provide public benefit. Times have changed. The regulated have changed and the regulators have changed. You cannot expect to regulate a mega-monopoly like Ratner’s with politicians like Bloomberg and Cuomo in office. And you would still need an independent judiciary to enforce the law. Whereas once Professor Wu might have surmised that regulation of the 1913 phone company was tantamount to being ineffectual because it was superfluous to the good intentions of phone company president Theodore Vail, regulation of the Ratner mega-monopoly is, per se, going to be ineffectual for another reason: Because Ratner, running the show, will simply shrug off any meaningful restraints that the misguided struggle to impose.


Further coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Noticing New York's White: "Just how unregulated can the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly be? Probably more unregulated than anyone can possibly imagine."

Noticing New York's Michael D. D. White was not at the meeting September 26 in which Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams met with local elected officials and community members regarding Atlantic Yards, but his take on recent events, Could the Atlantic Yards Monopoly Be Even Less Regulated Than It Is? Why A Mega-Monopoly Continuation Isn’t Workable, is well worth reading:

Just how unregulated can the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly be? Probably more unregulated than anyone can possibly imagine. Anyone, except perhaps the developer/subsidy collector himself, Bruce Ratner, who seems always to be able to envision the next steps to which his firm’s lack of accountability can be taken, and then implement it.

The signals being sent by Governor Andrew Cuomo indicate that Ratner’s fondest wishes for no effective regulation will be accommodated. One such signal is the appointment of mega-project booster Joe Chan for a top-ranking job at the Empire State Development (Corp.), the agency that theoretically supervises and regulates the megadevelopment.

One example unmentioned in White's critique: the state's unwillingness to crack down on blatant and continuing violations by trucks drivers of of site and city regulations.

Regarding the ESD

Regarding the Adams meeting, White writes:

It is an example of how the principal role of State Officials is to run interference and provide a insulating layer of separation between the entity actually responsible and in charge (Forest City Rather) and the community itself. In essence, ESD and its state officials are like the high-priced secretary who, with impeccable manners, brushes you off by telling you that her boss is not in but she will be sure to communicate to him everything you want him to know and she is sure it will be “looked into.”

Challenging the reponse

He also critiques the "cryptic and timidly expressed" joint press release from BrooklynSpeaks and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn:

Does the third of those points, “open the development to additional teams,” with its ensuing etc eteras mean anything other than dismantle the Ratner mega-monopoly? Wouldn’t it be more courageous, frank and evocative of principle to simply say “dismantle the Ratner mega-monopoly and bid it out properly to multiple developers”?

...Here is a suggestion: Address a number of these matters simultaneously by saying that public funds should not be used to subsidize the mega-project’s excessive density and call for a per-acre limitation on subsidies (that excludes seized streets and sidewalks from the acreage calculation) that should not exceed what developers of normal density projects ordinarily get. This would help take the profit and the wind out of the sails of the Ratner’s eminent domain abuse monopoly.

Posted by steve at 11:02 PM

City's outddated parking requirements for residential project near transit hubs (like AY) may get a revamp--but does it matter?

Atlantic Yards Report

In Glut of parking spaces in city: Ancient zoning rules force developer to overbuild. But reforms could reduce number of empty parking spaces. Av, Crain's New York Business reports that two new developments near Downtown Brooklyn's transit offerings, Avalon Fort Greene and [Forest City Ratner's] 80 DeKalb Avenue, have seen only half their parking spaces leased:

Off the streets and under buildings, however, exists a glut of parking spaces, built not to accommodate demand but to comply with zoning that the city has barely updated since the auto boom more than half a century ago.

The result is not just little-used garages in neighborhoods bordered by car-packed curbs, but a policy that seems to be at odds with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's vision of a sustainable city that rationally allocates precious resources and removes barriers to business.

The Department of City Planning knows its 1950s-era parking requirements are outdated and is preparing to issue recommendations for Manhattan and “inner-ring” neighborhoods, such as those in western Brooklyn and Queens. But transportation advocates worry that reforms will fail to dent what they deem an oversupply of parking at large developments.

This is the PlaNYC 1950 that I've written about, and that transportation reformers (and developers) have long been trying to change.

AY impact?

Crain's reports:

Transportation advocates worry that the glut at Yankee Stadium will be replicated at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, which is to have 3,670 parking spots when residential buildings are completed in the project's second phase. Until then, much of the space next to the site's arena, the Barclays Center, will be a blacktop parking lot.

“If the economic conditions change and phase two of the project doesn't go forward, you will have this big empty space in the middle of Brooklyn,” said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Hold up. The space immediately adjacent to the arena would not be used for parking--rather, the southeast block, Block 1129, is to be a surface parking lot, with parking eventually to be moved underground.

And even if Phase 2 does go forward, given the gentle deadlines for the project--ten years until a building must be constructed on Block 1129--there will be, if not a "big empty space," a big surface parking lot.

What next?

Crain's reports:

A City Planning spokeswoman declined to comment on the policy recommendations it is readying. But sources briefed on the matter said residential garages in Manhattan could be allowed to rent to the public (which many do illicitly), while developments in transit-served areas outside Manhattan may see parking requirements lowered.

Of course, the state overrode zoning for Atlantic Yards so it could have overridden the parking requirements--and still could. So even a city policy change might not affect Atlantic Yards.


Posted by steve at 10:56 PM

Daily News claims Goldstein "disses neighbors" by pursuing as-of-right renovation/addition

Atlantic Yards Report

The Daily News article today hyped as an "exclusive," Daniel Goldstein fought the Atlantic Yards project, but disses neighbors with his own construction, reminds me of the tabloid reporter described in The Submission, Amy Waldman's new 9/11 novel:

A tabby all the way--that's what she was. She had no ideology, believed only in information, which she obtained, traded, peddled, packaged, and published, and she opposed any effort to doctor her product.

So Goldstein, a co-founder of Develop Don't Dstroy Brooklyn, bought a new house in Park Slope and planned a renovation and addition. His neighbors don't like it, according to the Daily News:

Next-door neighbor Kathryn Roake, 59, says Goldstein's 18-foot, three-story addition to the back of his building will block the light to her beloved fruit and vegetable garden.

She and another neighbor also think that construction will damage their houses.

What's missing

Here's what's missing from the article: whether Goldstein's plans violate zoning in some way, or whether he's requested a variance from the Department of Buildings.

No, and no.

Nor was any evidence offered showing that the addition would, in fact, block the sun, despite the Daily News's conclusory caption:


So the Daily News elevated a garden-variety dispute into a tabloid story.


Related coverage...

Daily News, Neighbors fuming as anti-Atlantic Yards activist Daniel Goldstein plans large addition to new home
By Erin Durkin

The Brooklyn activist who led the resistance to the Atlantic Yards project has angered his new neighbors with a construction project of his own.

Daniel Goldstein, whose Prospect Heights condo was seized by eminent domain to make way for the new Nets arena and 16-tower project, bought a new home in Park Slope earlier this year - and neighbors are seething over his plans to build an addition.

Posted by steve at 10:42 PM

Auditions for Nets' announce spot generates coverage in four news outlets; ESD chief's performance ignored

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Post assigned two reporters for a 10/1/11 article headlined Nets’ loudmouths: Wacky tryouts for PA gig. Two Daily News reporters were responsible for Talking their way in: Hundreds seek job as new voice of the Brooklyn Nets.

Radio station WNYC offered a slideshow and NY1 produced a report.

It's a lot easier to report a cute feature like this than to try to keep tabs on the government agency responsible for Atlantic Yards. None of the outlets covered the meeting in Brooklyn last Monday in which Kenneth Adams, CEO of Empire State Development, defended the project and deflected questions.


Posted by steve at 10:39 PM

Jay-Z's offhand comment: "thinking about" moving to Brooklyn but "prices are really high"

Atlantic Yards Report

At a charity auction for his foundation, Jay-Z was briefly interviewed by E Online, which turned it into a 9/20/11 headline, Jay-Z Talks Baby, Moving to Brooklyn, Obama:

Speaking of money, Jay said he may move to Brooklyn like his basketball team, the New Jersey Nets...if he can afford it!

"I have been thinking about it, but the prices over there are really high," he laughed. "It's not like before!"

The Daily News turned that secondhand comment into a headline, Jay-Z: I'm 'thinking about' moving to Brooklyn but 'prices are really high'.

It's hard to believe that wasn't more than an offhand comment, but it's still tone deaf. As one reader commented on E Online:

No way Brooklyn is more expensive than Tribeca!

(Jay-Z has a place in TriBeCa and a house in Scarsdale.)

Or, as a New York Daily News reader commented:

Is he serious! He can afford to buy Brooklyn! Sheesh. People with money cry, while they have a loaf of bread under arm.

Or another:

I am certain Jay-Z was being facetious. With the amount of cash he and his wife have, they could live anywhere. Does anyone actually believe that Brooklyn is more expensive than Manhattan? That's a joke!

Also note how Jay-Z's less than 1% interest in the Nets becomes "his basketball team."


Posted by steve at 10:36 PM

October 1, 2011

On CNN Money, Ratner tours/touts arena, makes unfounded claim about winning "37 lawsuits," claims Barclays "stuck with us"

Atlantic Yards Report

In a video posted yesterday, Tour the new Nets arena with Bruce Ratner, CNN Money offers publicity to an arena a year away from completion.

Ratner offers two reasons for the long path. "There were a lot of litigation. some people unhappy, it's a democracy, it's our country, entitled. We won 37 lawsuits." (At the groundbreaking in March 2010, Ratner claimed "34 lawsuits.")

How can he say that with a straight face? The number of lawsuits was about ten--maybe there were a bunch more decisions on motions. Ratner and the state, notably lost the last decision--which will be appealed--which combines two lawsuits..

The economy

More important to the delays, he said, was "the Great Recession... We were just about to get the financing when the world fell apart, and we had to re-do everything."

That would include not just dropping Frank Gehry's design but reopening settled deals with two state agencies, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation.

A Barclays question

"Can you talk a little more about the partnership with Barclays?" he was asked.

"First of all, they've been amazing partners--they've stuck with us," Ratner stated. Actually, Barclays renegotiated the naming rights agreement twice and the official figure was cut in half.


Posted by steve at 2:11 PM