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November 30, 2011

Forbes feature on Gilmartin (and Pavlova) repeats developer's talking points, revisionist history

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder sprinkles a little cold water on MaryAnne Gilmartin's version of events, as told to Forbes.

Forbes.com, in a feature aimed for its ForbesWoman channel, offers Meet The Women Behind The Brooklyn Nets, focusing on Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin and Onexim's Irina Pavlova.

Writes Jenna Goudreau, transcribing without skepticism Gilmartin's self-serving account:

Gilmartin, 47, has been a commercial real estate developer with Forest City for 17 years—seemingly as long as this project’s been in the works. The firm purchased the Nets in 2004, she explains, with the intention of bringing them to Brooklyn and building a state-of-the-art sports complex and 15 residential buildings over an old rail line running through the borough’s center. Rigorous public reviews, resident protests and holdouts, 35 lawsuits and a volatile economy resulted in years of delays.

Here's what Gilmartin said, on the video below:

"So this project has been in the planning since 1994, when we purchased the New Jersey Nets, with the intention of bringing them to Brooklyn, to build a new home for professional sports and also to build thousands of units of housing. There are over 35 lawsuits associated with the project, and that cost us time and the process that we went through to resolve those lawsuits and to work through the public approvals I think resulted in a better project."

What's wrong: the timetable

How could the writer suggest that this project has been in the works some 17 years, since 1994? Because Gilmartin, in either an error or a Freudian slip, said the project "has been in the planning since 1994, when we purchased the New Jersey Nets."

That year, of course, was 2004, but the planning for this specific project began well before then, at least two years earlier. And, as I reported in 2006, the Nets did approach Forest City Ratner in the early 1990s to buy the team and move it to Brooklyn.

What's wrong: the project configuration and location

Actually, the initial plans were not for "15 residential buildings," as Goudreau wrote, nor merely to "build thousands of units of housing." Forest City Ratner promised 10,000 office jobs in four office towers.

Nor would the project be "over an old rail line running through the borough’s center." Rather, less than 40% of the site would be over an existing rail yard used to store and service trains.

What's wrong: rigorous public review

Goudreau, not Gilmartin, called the process "rigorous public reviews." Nope, not when the state said Ratner could build the project in ten years, while Ratner now says it was never possible.

What's wrong: 35 lawsuits

Now, there weren't 35 lawsuits. Not even close.

Read on for more debunking.


NoLandGrab: Is it us, or is MaryAnne Gilmartin starting to make Jim Stuckey sound like a stickler for the truth?

Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

Meet The Women Behind The Brooklyn Nets


Deep inside the steel skeleton of the soon-to-be Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, drills are whirring, hammers striking and cranes excavating. The air is dusty and the ground littered with piles of wires, metal beams and loose hardware. Despite her suit dress and open-toed heels, an unconcerned MaryAnne Gilmartin, the arena’s lead developer, simply steps around the debris. In just 10 months, these gaping bones will welcome the NBA’s New Jersey Nets to their new home—as the Brooklyn Nets—thanks to two powerful women working vigorously behind the scenes.

If real estate mogul Bruce Ratner and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov are the faces of the New York-bound basketball franchise, Gilmartin and Irina Pavlova are the feet on the ground, clearing the way. As EVP of Forest City Ratner Companies, Gilmartin manages development of the near $1 billion arena, which anchors the larger $4.9 billion, 22-acre Atlantic Yards project in the heart of Brooklyn. Pavlova represents the interests of Prokhorov, the minority owner of the arena and majority owner of the Nets, its major tenant.

We'll leave it to Atlantic Yards Report to dissect Gilmartin's fantasy version of events. Here's some of the bit on Pavlova.

Spearheading the excitement over the 18,000-seat arena, Pavlova, 41, gets a live video feed of construction on her desktop and gushes that she cheers so hard at Nets’ home games she loses her voice. The Russian-American has dual citizenship, speaks five languages (with varying levels of fluency) and has worked all over the world. She started her career at Prudential in New York, and in 2005 launched the Moscow office of Google. In 2010, the chief executive of Onexim, Prokhorov’s company, told Pavlova over a casual dinner about a little deal with an American team, and asked if she’d be interested in “keeping an eye on things” in the States. “I don’t know a thing about basketball,” she said, but soon agreed.

Which would explain why she shouts herself hoarse at Nets' games.

And she learned quick. “It took me a few months to get my hands around the business and get comfortable with how things work,” Pavlova says with a subtle accent. “I’ve learned it’s tickets, sponsorships and suite sales. It’s not rocket science.”

Which would explain how the Nets' CEO qualifies as a "Yormarketing genius."


Posted by eric at 11:57 AM


F**ked in Park Slope

Is our nabe headed to the Oscars? Maaaaybe. BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN, a feature length documentary about the controversial Atlantic Yards project, is one of fourteen films currently in the running for an Oscar nomination.

Husband and wife filmmaker team Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky spent eight years carving over 500 hours of footage down into the feature length documentary, which has won numerous festival awards, including this year's Rooftop Films Summer Series Official Selection (you can read our FiPS review of the film HERE).

“I’m not placing odds on us [winning],” Galinsky recently told THE BROOKLYN PAPER. “I’m very excited that we even have a chance.”


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Atlantic Yards Film a Finalist For Oscar Nomination

If "Battle for Brooklyn" makes it to that prestigious evening, [Daniel] Goldstein said the publicity would go a long way to bringing attention to what is going on at Atlantic Yards.

"The Oscar recognition will loudly amplify the community’s voice of opposition and further expose the corrupt Atlantic Yards boondoggles,” he told the Brooklyn Paper. “It also provides clear evidence that the community’s fight in Brooklyn has universal interest.”

Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

November 29, 2011

The EB-5 files: federal agency stonewalls request for info on job creation by immigrant investors, reveals misleading claim about arena bonds, withholds a letter made public elsewhere

Atlantic Yards Report

So, how exactly did Forest City Ratner and the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) aim to convince federal overseers and potential investors that the plan to seek $249 million in funds from 498 green card-seeking immigrant investors was kosher?

We may never know, since the federal agency overseeing the EB-5 program is keeping most key information under wraps. For example, the document explaining how that investment would produce--as required by federal law--at least ten jobs per $500,000 investor was redacted, deemed a trade secret.

Other documents deemed trade secrets have already been made public by other parties, suggesting that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has a rather heavy hand when it comes to transparency.

No way to evaluate job-creation claim

So, while the EB-5 program is justified as supporting job creation, there's no way to evaluate that claim when it comes to the Brooklyn Arena & Infrastructure Project--said to consist of the arena, infrastructure, and a new railyard--marketed to immigrant investors.

And that's quite curious because the arena was and remains already funded. That makes it questionable that immigrant investors could get credit for jobs created not merely by their investment but by the entire $1.448 billion project, a project that did not need their money to proceed.


NoLandGrab: If by "trade secret" they mean "complete and utter bulls**t," then by all means, it's a "trade secret."

Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

Oscar fever! Yards docu-ganda on short list for little gold statue

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

Can we stop with the "docu-ganda" already? Even Errol Louis thinks Battle for Brooklyn was fair and balanced.

The Atlantic Yards documentary, “Battle for Brooklyn,” has a fighting chance to take home one of Tinseltown’s top trophies.

Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky’s exhaustive history of the Prospect Heights mega-project and 14 other true-life tales have been short-listed for an Oscar nomination in the Documentary Feature category by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The husband-and-wife team of filmmakers from Clinton Hill spent eight years making the documentary, but said the possibility of winning a little gold man was the farthest thing from their minds when they started the project in 2003.


NoLandGrab: As for The Brooklyn Paper's Academy Award prognostications, they wrote this back in June:

Sure, a little less hagiography on Dan Goldstein and a lot more Kelo could’ve made this an Oscar contender....

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

Two sports columnist react to the resumption of the NBA and the meaning of Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

Grantland editor Dan Fierman, a contributor to The NBA Is Back! An over-the-top, totally ridiculously long, undeniably giddy appreciation of the return of the NBA by the Grantland staff:

One of the very hardest things about leaving Brooklyn was sacrificing a front-row seat to how the Nets move played out. The real estate battles, the simmering class warfare over the Barclays Center, and the arrival, as if from space, of the gangly billionaire from Russia was the greatest drama we had going in the borough. The storylines were ready-made: The return of professional sports to the County of Kings! The Deron Williams contract debate! Jay and Bey courtside every night!

These things were (obviously) media crack in the only city in America that has its own 24-hour cable news channel. But to me and my 30-something peers, the Nets move was more than that. Brooklyn is a borough rapidly filling with children. Schools are bursting at the seams. Teachers can't be hired fast enough. The parks overflow with new parents who were themselves moved out of NYC as children by overprotective fathers and mothers. As someone who was very recently one of their number — the father of a son just now old enough to understand what goaltending means, and maybe even to comprehend the importance of inside positioning — I can tell you how much that move to Brooklyn meant to those parents. See kid, look! Look at how Deron throws the outlet pass! Watch how Lopez keeps those hands above his head! Listen to the goddamned crowd roar! How can you possibly not love this game?

Only if you forget how it was done.

New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey, in Welcoming Back N.B.A. With Open Yawns, allows for a side notice:

My flicker of enthusiasm for the Nets included their move from that dismal spot in the swamps into that struggling, but recognizable, urban center, Newark. Next year they will move into a much more vibrant place — the land grab near downtown Brooklyn being a separate issue. Just the mention of Brooklyn evokes the scent of restaurants and walks in cool neighborhoods.

The lingering question: will people agree with Mayor Mike Bloomberg, as depicted in the documentary Battle for Brooklyn, that “Nobody’s going to remember how long it took, they’re only going to look and see that it was done”?

Likely many sports reporters and columnists won't remember. Others, understandably, will experience, "issue fatigue." But people will remember. The movie's just one sign of that.


Related content...

Grantland, The NBA Is Back! An over-the-top, totally ridiculously long, undeniably giddy appreciation of the return of the NBA by the Grantland staff

The New York Times, Welcoming Back N.B.A. With Open Yawns

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

Pact's Benefits in Limbo

Pledge to Nonprofits Cleared Deal for Columbia, but Money Tied Up in Squabble

The Wall Street Journal
by Jacob Gershman

New York City's CBAs are leaving a lot to be desired.

It was supposed to be a breakthrough victory for Harlem residents and a model on how to settle raging land-use disputes.

But more than 2½ years after Columbia University brokered an agreement with community groups—exchanging a lucrative package of benefits for the area's blessing of the university's expansion into West Harlem—local officials and residents are complaining that the fruits of the deal remain a mystery.

Political squabbling over control of the benefits has left nearly $3 million in Columbia-donated funds idling in a bank. The group administering the largest chunk of benefits, the West Harlem Local Development Corp., doesn't have an office, a website or a staff. The corporation hasn't made public any reports of its activities.

As required, Columbia has directed funds to pay for an agreement compliance officer hired by the state and a tenants attorney to advise residents on evictions. But no one has been retained.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who enforces the state's charities law, has subpoenaed the nonprofit corporation, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars but never registered with his office.

"It's a lesson in what not to do. These community benefit agreements, you have to be very careful because all that glitters is not gold, especially from the perspective of the people who live in the community, the little people," said state Sen. Bill Perkins, a Harlem Democrat who has opposed the university's expansion efforts.

The snags highlight common problems with private pacts between developers and neighborhood coalitions. Agreements for the Atlantic Yards arena project in Brooklyn and the construction of the new Yankee Stadium ran into similar complaints.


Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Setting up home in Brooklyn

SHoP realises visualisation for B2 residential tower, though still lingers on finalising construction method

by Tom Aston

Designs for the 340,000 sq ft B2 building - potentially set to become the largest prefabricated modular structure to be erected - have finally been unveiled, after several setbacks had previously hindered initial progress. This release by developer Bruce C. Ratner marks the end to a fostering, in certain sectors, of doubt, over whether the project could overcome the loss of its iconic lead architect Frank Gehry.


NoLandGrab: Right. Because nothing puts an end to doubt like a bunch of renderings, right?

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

More and more iPhone crimes

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

"Black Friday" indeed, Bruce Ratner-style.

Department score

A heartless crook stole a woman’s merchandise and purse from Target in the crime-riddled Atlantic Terminal Mall on Nov. 25.

The 32-year-old victim told cops that she left her cart unattended inside the Atlantic Avenue store at 6:55 pm. When she returned minutes later, the cart — which contained the items she just purchased, an iPod and $300 — was gone.


Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

Notre Dame finds pre-Big East milepost at Gonzaga

Chicago Tribune
by Brian Hamilton

In 2013-14, there is one headline event thus far: A preseason tournament that features three games at home for the Irish ... and then a glamor date against Kentucky at the sparkling new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.


NoLandGrab: What?! We must've missed the press event featuring Brett Yormark, Bruce Ratner, John Calipari and the Pope.

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

November 28, 2011

Living in a 76-Story Work of Art, and a Symbol of Rebirth

The New York Times
by Kate Taylor

"All the news that's fit to print" — and this homage that reads like an advertorial.

At 870 feet, 8 Spruce Street — or, as it is known by real estate agents, New York by Gehry — is the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere, though it may soon be surpassed by a 90-story hotel-condominium going up near Carnegie Hall. Still, with its irregular facade, with facets that twist like silver ribbons hanging from the sky, the Gehry building has quickly become a distinctive part of the skyline and a symbol of Lower Manhattan’s rebirth since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Cue the patriotic music.

Nine months after the building welcomed its first renters, it has become a microcosm of the neighborhood. There are professionals in their 20s, families and members of the wealthy elite. Available studios and one-bedrooms rent for skyward of $3,700 a month and three bedrooms for $11,975 and up.

If by "microcosm of the neighborhood," The Times means "way more rich, white people than you'd find anywhere else in the neighborhood," then, yes, by all means.

The first five floors of the 76-story tower house the new Public School 397, the entrance of which is on the east side of the building, separated from the residents’ entrance on the west, so the streams of children arriving and lawyers and bankers leaving for work do not have to cross.

Lawyers and bankers being part of the "microcosm," school kids, not so much.

By building the school, the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, was able to secure $203.9 million in tax-exempt Liberty Bonds to finance construction. (Forest City Ratner was the development partner of The New York Times in its Midtown headquarters.)


NoLandGrab: Seriously, New York Times? This is what passes for "news" now? As for the whole "microcosm" thing, the U.S. census bureau reports that nearly two-thirds of people living in zip code 10038 paid less than $1000 in monthly rent in 2009.

Posted by eric at 10:37 PM

NY Court of Appeals, reversing surprise decision, OKs state economic development grants; Daily News, which saluted AY, lauds dissent by Judge Robert Smith (whose AY dissent the paper ignored)

Atlantic Yards Report

A 5-2 state Court of Appeals decision last week (Bordeleau vs. New York State) upholding state grants for economic development wasn't a surprise, even though the court had to reverse an appellate court that gave the Tea Party-affiliated plaintiffs some measure of hope.

Yes, the state Constitution bans gifts and loans to private entities, but the state has done so for years through intermediary public benefit benefit corporations like the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), based on the premise that they are independent. (Of course, the governor controls the ESDC, as we've seen in the Atlantic Yards saga.)

And, judges are reluctant to intervene in such longstanding, however dubious, economic development policy, even if involves the largest state economic development subsidy in history, to upstate chip maker GlobalFoundries, which--no surprise--is already seeking to modify and improve the deal it got.

An editorial surprise

What was a surprise was a scorching 11/26/11 New York Daily News editorial headlined New York Court of Appeals was wrong to toss corporate subsidy suit: Dismissal reveals double standard on taxpayer protection.

After all, while the Daily News criticized the court's endorsement of the ESDC's subsidy practices, it has never looked askance at ESDC support for Atlantic Yards. (The New York Times hasn't covered the subsidy case, either in its news pages or editorial pages.)


Related content...

NY Daily News, New York Court of Appeals was wrong to toss corporate subsidy suit: Dismissal reveals double standard on taxpayer protection

Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

How Brooklyn Got Its Groove Back

New York’s biggest borough has reinvented itself as a postindustrial hot spot.

City Journal
by Kay S. Hymowitz

Brooklyn also benefited from the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations’ rezoning of fallow industrial neighborhoods for “mixed” uses, so that residential, commercial, and light-industry buildings could occupy the same area. These decisions have met with fierce resistance, with Brooklyn’s gentrifiers—ironically, given their historical role in changing the borough—among the most vociferous in arguing that grabby real-estate interests and their friends in government are driving out an indigenous population. Bruce Ratner’s much-reviled Atlantic Yards project, which took advantage of the government’s bullying eminent-domain powers, lends some credence to the charge. But mostly, Brooklyn’s transformation has come from the ground up.


Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

So, how much did unions give up to get the Barclays Center going?

Atlantic Yards Report

On Local 157 blogspot, "Where New York City District Council Carpenters Communicate, Connect and Stay Informed!" there's an intriguing comment posted in response to a reposting of Daily News columnist Denis Hamill's valentine to Forest City Ratner's Bob Sanna and the union workers building the arena.

Wrote the anonymous commenter:

How about some free tickets for the men who took the hit on the PLA's [Project Labor Agreements] to make it happen.

Time to have a Trades Night out when the season starts next year. You can go by the Certified Payroll records on file with the CM [Construction Manager] & Project Owner.

C'mon - set it up. Let's see if Ratner appreciates the effort and steps up

Forest City Ratner stopped construction of the Beekman Tower (aka 8 Spruce Street) to negotiate a PLA.

I'm not sure if Forest City simply took advantage of an existing general PLA or negotiated one specifically for the arena. But it sure seems that the developer shaved savings on labor costs.


NoLandGrab: Seeing how giving away unsold seats — of which there are likely to be plenty — won't cost Ratner a dime (and will generate otherwise-foregone concession revenue, to boot), this commenter will surely get his wish.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

ATTENTION: Additional Screenings of Battle for Brooklyn; Documentary In Oscar Running

Team Tish
by Aja Worthy-Davis

If you have not yet seen the much. talked. about. Battle for Brooklyn, now is your time to do so. The documentary, co-directed by Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky and produced by David Beilinson, chronicles the seven-year long fight between the Prospect Heights community and one of the largest real estate developers in the country. It features Council Member Letitia James as well as activist Daniel Goldstein and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

Upcoming Screenings:
Maysles Center, 343 Lenox Avenue (between 127 & 128 Streets), New York, NY
Dec 1, 7:30pm: Q&A with filmmakers
Dec 6, 7:30pm: Q&A with Mindy Fullilove and local community
Dec 9, 7:30pm: Q&A with Dan Goldstien

Brooklyn Heights Cinema, 70 Henry Street, Brooklyn, NY
Nov 23, 6:00pm
Nov 30, 6:00pm

The Academy recently announced that Battle for Brooklyn is one of 15 films listed for an Oscar in the Documentary Feature category. The five final nominees will be announced in January 2012.


Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Permit Parking Splits Brooklyn Politicians

City Hall News
by Stephen Witt

Yes, even that Stephen Witt can play it straight when he wants to.

[Councilmember Letitia] James, who has long advocated permit parking in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, argued it is needed more than ever, with out-of-district drivers sure to be looking for parking during events at the Barclays Center arena when it opens at the Atlantic Yards development site.

But [Councilmember Al] Vann said permit parking would hurt the bordering working-class neighborhoods.

“I fear that residential parking permits for the area directly surrounding Atlantic Yards would have a significant negative impact on neighborhoods slightly further away, like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights,” Vann said in a statement. “It would create an incentive for commuters to park in these neighborhoods as an alternative, and would also open the door to requiring New Yorkers to pay for parking in their own communities and throughout the entire city.”


NoLandGrab: Had Al Vann thought of that earlier, maybe he could have spoken out against Atlantic Yards and the traffic and parking problems it will surely create.

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

Feds drop case against Kruger ‘crony’

Brooklyn Daily
by Dan MacLeod

Federal prosecutors have dropped charges against a developer they claimed funneled nearly $500,000in bribes to state Sen. Carl Kruger — the second suspect to beat the rap in the government’s pronged attack against the embattle Brighton Beach legislature.

Feds say they will dismiss the charges against Aaron Malinsky, who was arrested on March 10 alongside Kruger (D–Brighton Beach) — as long as he keeps his nose clean for six months, according to the developer’s lawyer, Scott Mollen.

Prosecutors claim that, in return for the money Malinsky paid to Olympian Strategic Development, Kruger greased the wheels so the developer could build a $65-million shopping center on city-owned land at the corner of Avenue D and Remsen Avenue in Canarsie. The site is home to a BJ’s.

The feds also accused Kruger of:

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

• Promoted Malinsky’s plans to put a small-scale clothing store at Four Sparrows Retail Center during a scoping session on the project.

Malinsky and Rosen were among five men prosecutors say Kruger accepted bribes from between 2006 and 2011. The remaining three suspects, which include union lobbyist Richard Lipsky, have yet to go to trial.


Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

The Man Who's Building Barclays


Bob Sanna is the man in charge of construction at the Barclays Center, a native Brooklynite who's also a City College grad. His resumé is filled with some of the borough's biggest projects but he's most proud of the arena. "There’s a special feeling in having a hand in building a sports and entertainment arena where memories are made and history happens in my native Brooklyn."

Now 60% complete, Barclays will be unique in that the court --aka the "event level"-- will be 25' below street level, something he says was Bruce Ratner's idea after climbing the "endless escalators" of Madison Square Garden.


NoLandGrab: Life's a bitch when you have to stand there while a mechanical stair case carries you to your luxury suite.

Photo: Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

Something I’m Not Doing

Urban Media Archaeology

The first thing I thought of was a lot of facts, all the Atlantic Yards news items floating in the internet. And the thing that could tie them together would be a timeline. Probably the least debatable thing is when something happens. A lot of people/places/things can be involved and some moment in time unites them. I could pick an event that changed things—Frank Gehry fired as lead architect, for example—and use that as a jumping-off point to catalogue networks and actors identified in ensuing news stories or wherever. The three layers of my map would be timeline, network and actors, with each layer ‘filling up’ the layer that came before—a timeline full of networks, and each network full of actors.

I think this would’ve been a valuable approach—if it were completed, it would be the world’s most thorough glossary of Atlantic Yards. But for no other reason than that sounds really really boring, I’m going to change my methodology. The three layers framework still sounds good, but I’m going to try to make my research a little more active. More on that later…


Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

November 27, 2011

Denis Hamill tells why there is so much union pride in building Barclays Center in Brooklyn

Daily News

The reason for building Atlantic Yards isn't to benefit billionaire developer Bruce Ratner. No, we're doing this for the kids. It's funny how all the tangible benefits go to Ratner.

As a sports-crazed kid who grew up 11/2 miles from here, I know this new arena will have a profound effect on Brooklyn kids, their parents and new immigrants who will unite behind a true home team, the way the Brooklyn Dodgers made my immigrant father more of a true American than his citizenship papers did.


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy, Denis Hamill's Love Letter to Forest City Ratner's Very Own NIMBY Bob Sanna"

Denis Hamill's Daily News column, "Denis Hamill tells why there is so much union pride in building Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Construction boss Bob Sanna is behind the Nets new basketball arena," is a really sweet love letter to Forest City Ratner's head of construction Bob Sanna who is overseeing the Atlantic Yards construction.

Hamill asks Sanna, "What was the first thing he had to do to erect this 18,000 seat arena?" Hamill allows Sanna to blithely respond, without challenge, "Demolish 52 buildings. We did that in sections, starting at Atlantic Ave, as politics played out and tenants vacated. Then we start carving away at the land."

Spoken like a true tin pot dictator. Politics didn't "play out," it was a fixed political deal. And tenants weren't "vacated," they were removed by eminent domain condemnation.

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily News columnist Denis Hamill rhapsodizes about arena construction

Daily News columnist Denis Hamill, who thinks the Brooklyn Nets can give Brooklyn a soul and who swallows Forest City Ratner promotional spin, today salutes Forest City's head of construction, Bob Sanna, "Park Slope native, also the son of a Local 3 worker."

The online headline: Denis Hamill tells why there is so much union pride in building Barclays Center in Brooklyn: Construction boss Bob Sanna is behind the Nets new basketball arena.

Sanna, to Hamill, credits developer Bruce Ratner for having the event level level "25 feet below grade," and describes the role of union workers:

“Then comes a parade of 40 trades,” Sanna says. “Local 20 guys pour concrete on the 250 steel footings, held together with metal straps, making foundation walls, forming a big fat concrete pontoon if you will, that keeps our main foundation from penetrating into the ground. The whole arena sits on this structure.”

...Under which will perform an urban symphony of plumbers, steamfitters, painters, carpenters, electricians and all the rest of the 40 trades that Brooklyn-born Bob Sanna oversees in the construction of the first major professional sports venue in Brooklyn in 55 years.

OK, it's parade, or a symphony, but shouldn't Hamill have mentioned Forest City's hardball treatment of construction unions regarding its modular plans? Or maybe that Sanna's statement that "politics played out" to clear the site is a euphemism (as per DDDB) for a political fix.

Or maybe that Sanna's not a Brooklyn resident any more, but is fiercely defending his New Jersey home town from... overdevelopment.

Posted by steve at 11:00 PM

Forest City Ratner's latest dubious claim about the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the CBA: "As the project progresses, especially, with residential, a monitor will be hired"

Atlantic Yards Report

After I raised the issue in City Limits, and Council Member Letitia James followed up a public meeting and a press conference, we have a new pledge from developer Forest City Ratner regarding an Independent Compliance Monitor required by the Community Benefits Agreement.

Responding to a comment solicited by Our Time Press (almost certainly from the notorious Stephen Witt), FCR now says it hire such a monitor--but sometime later.

The reporter didn't bother to look at the actual document, which required a monitor years ago.

But Witt doesn't try to hold Forest City Ratner accountable. Nor does the rest of the press when it comes to the CBA.

(The New York Observer ran a front-page article this week on problems with the Columbia University CBA. No contact info for the person in charge of the Columbia CBA? Ditto in Brooklyn. No web site for the CBA? Ditto. It's just that there's a Congressional candidate, Vince Morgan, who's decided to make an issue of it in Manhattan.)


Posted by steve at 3:34 PM

What Oscar Snub of “Page One: Inside the New York Times” Might Tell Us About A Misplaced Losing-the-Battle (and War) NY Times Bet

Noticing New York

Just like much of its Atlantic Yards fight coverage, the New York Times has given short-shrift to the Oscar-nominated film concerning this fight, "Battle for Brooklyn". This blog post concludes by noting what the bad result is when the Times fails to do good reporting on local issues.

In that regard we are only talking the documentary film world reporting on the real world. But the Oscar race is a clue to a bigger real world story. That bigger story is about how the New York Times could become a significantly greater paper by setting aside its misplaced bet that it can get away with sidestepping proper coverage of important local news stories like Atlantic Yards or Columbia University’s the similarly problematic use of eminent domain to take over West Harlem or. . . the list of stories goes on. It is a long one because everything is connected.


Posted by steve at 3:23 PM

Have You Looked in "Our Time Press" and Found the Fine AY Reporting? Not a Witt

Atlantic Yards Report, A response to Stephen Witt, and a letter of support

The latest issue of Our Time Press contains a letter from me in response to a column by the notorious Stephen Witt. It begins:

In his column about Atlantic Yards in the Nov. 17 issue, Stephen Witt writes that that “For doing this”--consistently seeking out the views of project supporters--"opponents of the project and their media mouthpieces, including Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder, continually blasted me.”

The issue isn’t whether Witt seeks out other views, it’s that he’s an irresponsible and unreliable writer.

But there's another letter, from the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, one of those who's views Witt embraces:

I just read your column in the Our Time Press. I appreciate your consistency. I know that is has not always been easy for some individuals to be supporters of the Atlantic Yards Project. Thank God that there are individuals who believe in the benefits for the community that this project will accrue.

Well, there's belief, and then there's proof.

Atlantic Yards Report, Scoop? Forest City considering Navy Yard as modular site

The notorious Stephen Witt has a purported scoop in the latest issue of Our Time Press, as the 11/25/11 article Ratner eyes Brooklyn Navy Yard for Atlantic Yards Construction is labeled "Exclusive."

It begins:

Developer Forest City Ratner is looking at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as one of three possible sites to manufacture modular units of the Atlantic Yards project, according to a source with knowledge of the project.
“The Brooklyn Navy Yard is close to the site and it would be kind of cool given its history of ship building,” said the source, adding that the other site is also in Brooklyn and the third site is in Queens.
When finalized the manufacturing site will construct prefabricated units for the world’s largest modular constructed building at 32 floors on the Atlantic Yards site. It will also be utilized for the other 14 other residential buildings proposed on the $4.5 bill project.
The source said that surprisingly there are still quite a few manufacturing sites around the city, and modular construction will bring manufacturing union and trade-union jobs.
The site will also serve the construction needs around the city, the country and perhaps globally,” the source said.

Is this news? A week earlier, Forest City told the Wall Street Journal it was looking at three sites, in Brooklyn and in Queens.

So the only "news" is that the Navy Yard is a potential Brooklyn site. That's hardly a surprise, as the New York Times, in its initial report on Forest City's modular plans last March, mentioned Capsys, a modular builder at the Navy Yard.

And who's the "source with knowledge of the project"? I'd bet that the "source," who provided other self-serving quotes, was Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco.

Posted by steve at 3:06 PM

November 26, 2011

Atlantic Yards Construction Tests Patience of Residents

By Janet Babin

Construction continues on the developer Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Disruption is worse at night, especially for Prospect Heights residents. That’s when work crews spill onto Flatbush Avenue and snarl traffic. The work is testing some residents' patience.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Deconstructing a dubious, uninformed WNYC Atlantic Yards round-up

When I saw the headline on an WNYC article today, Atlantic Yards Construction Tests Patience of Residents, I thought that maybe they'd drawn from the ongoing Atlantic Yards Watch articles and incident reports on the impact of construction, such as the recent Trucks at Atlantic Yards continue to violate site protocols, obstructing a public street.


The article is a remarkably uninformed, "View from Nowhere" hodgepodge. It's annotated below.


Construction continues on the developer Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Disruption is worse at night, especially for Prospect Heights residents. That’s when work crews spill onto Flatbush Avenue and snarl traffic. The work is testing some residents' patience.

Christine McCoy lives nearby and shops at was the Pathmark supermarket located across the street from Atlantic Yards, which will include Barclays Arena, the new home for the Nets NBA basketball team. “The traffic is crazy. I'm not going to be coming to this Pathmark anymore, because it is not going to make any more sense,” McCoy said.

Actually, the issue is less the crazy traffic by day but the impact of construction on adjacent blocks, as documented by Atlantic Yards Watch.


Despite these issues, there are many neighborhood residents who are eager for the project to move forward.

Jacob Parris owns Vinnies, a men's boutique a few blocks away from Atlantic Yards. Parris believes the arena will improve foot traffic to his store. “Right now everybody's driving...you know, they're driving either, past, going into the city, or driving back to Brooklyn,” said Parris. “But now with the stadium there, it'll be something to look, at something to want to walk through,” he said.

Vinnies is next to a couple of dense neighborhoods, so there's a lot of foot traffic on Flatbush Avenue. It's fair to say that retail serving nearby residents is doing fine--as long as they have a long-term lease--but more regional retail, such as Vinnie's, should do better with arena crowds.

Oh, and the Barclays Center featured Vinnies in a spotlight promotional video. Keep that in mind when you hear positive statements about the arena from Junior's, Hooti Couture, BK Terrace, Bergen Comics, all featured in such videos.

Posted by steve at 9:50 PM

Have unions "saved" Bruce yet? Not quite (though not unlikely)

Atlantic Yards Report

I'm a little late on this but I should point out that, while the 11/23/11 Brooklyn Paper article headlined Unions save Bruce with big pay cut to get Yards going sounds like a scoop, it offers no new evidence:

Union workers are coming to Bruce Ratner’s rescue — again! — agreeing to take massive pay cuts to pave the way for the first residential building at Atlantic Yards, a cut-rate, pre-fabricated tower to rise next to the Barclays Center.

...It is unclear how much money will be lost to laborers, but carpenters make as much as $90 an hour in wages and benefits at real construction sites, but only $30 per hour when working inside the kind of factory where Ratner will build the pre-fabricated units.

Many union leaders merely shrugged when asked about the pay cuts, suggesting that if the workers don’t give back, the project might not go ahead, leaving laborers with no work at all.

“We are attempting to reach an agreement … that will work for the building trades,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council.

A labor union source translated LaBarbera for those who don’t speak the language of press releases.

“The unions are going to do what it takes to preserve jobs for their members,” said the source. “The wage scale is ultimately going to be [the deciding factor]. This is going to be a long process.”

Yes, LaBarbera's quote--offered in accompaniment to Forest City Ratner's release of its modular plans--indicate that the unions are prepared to deal with Forest City Ratner.

But it's not clear exactly what will happen. Given that Forest City has not yet established that modular factory it plans, it's quite possible that the unions will compromise on compensation for conventional construction for the first building.


Posted by steve at 9:38 PM

November 25, 2011

"Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown": Atlantic Yards indifference and buying the future

Atlantic Yards Report

When I was working on the lecture I gave last August at Galapagos, I tried to come up with a line to nudge those who think Atlantic Yards is too complicated, or not worth attention because little can be done. ("Issue fatigue," as Capital New York's Tom McGeveran wrote recently.)

It wasn't original of, course, but it was resonant: "Forget it Jake, it's Atlantic Yards."

(I'd gotten the line from a friend, but a little searching sends me back to previous use by Michael D. D. White in his Noticing New York, which also cited New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman's use of the term.)

Fortunately, a good number of people won't forget.


Posted by eric at 1:12 PM

With Roof Half Up, a View Inside


Billy King, prohibited from talking about players or the lockout or anything much else, has taken to distributing the latest pictures of the Barclays Center, tweeting this image from inside the arena Wednesday, the first since the roof paneling started going up early this month.

The arena should be fully enclosed in January and permanent power from ConEd will be turned out next week. Workers continue to work double and triple shifts and weekends to assure "schedule maintenance", that is completion by late August of next year and a grand opening of September 28 (which also just happens to be Brett Yormark's 45th birthday).

Meanwhile, Bruce Ratner has reached a deal with union leaders to permit him to build the first of 16 modular apartment buildings at Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: If NetsDaily was written by real journalists rather than fans, they'd know that Bruce Ratner has reached no such deal. That conclusory tidbit is from an erroneous Brooklyn Paper report, but NetsDaily has never been long on facts.

Posted by eric at 1:00 PM

“Bruce Ratner’s latest useful idiots have no one to blame but themselves.”

Reason Hit & Run
by Damon W. Root

City Journal’s Nicole Gelinas reports on the latest lawsuit stemming from the Atlantic Yards boondoggle in Brooklyn, where the state of New York seized private property via eminent domain on behalf of a basketball stadium being built by real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner. As Gelinas notes, the seven Brooklyn residents who filed suit this month aren’t actually upset about the eminent domain abuse that occurred, they’re just mad at Ratner because he won’t let them get in on the spoils....

It’s hard to feel much sympathy for anybody who believed Ratner’s bogus promises, but at least these seven dupes have a shot at learning from their erroneous ways.


Related coverage...

Gideon's Trumpet, A Cautionary Tale in Brooklyn

A tip of our hat to Nicole Gelinas of the City Journal for her article that tells the story of seven people who according to their complaint just filed in court againt the Atlantic Yards management, bought into promises of good jobs in exchange for supporting that redevelopment project. Nicole Gelinas, The Ratner Seven, City Journal, November 18, 2011 — click here. But guess what? They allege that they were duped.

Bottom line: when redevelopment promoters promise to bake a bigger economic pie for all to share, it may just be that what they are really promising is pie in the sky.

Posted by eric at 12:50 PM


Architect's Newspaper Blog
by Branden Klayko

From the twisting titanium forms of Frank Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn to a prefabricated tower of 17 unique modules, the design of Atlantic Yards’ runs the gamut of the architectural spectrum. On November 17, Forest City Ratner and SHoP Architects confirmed rumors that the 22-acre project will house a collection of the world’s tallest prefabricated buildings, beginning with the 32-story B2 tower nestled alongside the Barclay’s Center on Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street.

SHoP chose to break down the visual mass of the building by forming three distinct stacked and set-back volumes in accordance with guidelines set out for the project by the Empire State Development Corporation. Even though the façade will be comprised of hundreds of identical pieces, Chris Sharples, principal and founder at SHoP, told AN that the tower is designed to hide its modularity. “It won’t be obvious that this is a modular building,” he said.

Once at Atlantic Yards, modules are joined at vertical steel columns on their corners and cross-bracing installed to protect against lateral and seismic forces. Even without a traditional steel frame, Sharples said the Arup-engineered building will be just as strong as any other high-rise.


NoLandGrab: And if it's not, that'll be the ultimate Atlantic Yards bait-and-switch.

Related coverage...

Construction Digital, World's Tallest Prefab Building Proposed

Prefab has long been avoided for projects over a few stories because of a lack of cross-bracing supports that allow towers to sustain the high winds and increased loads of vertical building. Designers hope to overcome these limitations with more than 900 steel chassis modules mounted on a system of steel frames, with all the connections on the exterior of the structures.

NLG: "Hope?!"

Buildipedia, SHoP Architects' Barclays Center comes to Brooklyn

Although the Plaza at the Barclays Center is surrounded on two of three sides by relentless traffic, it is being constructed without the "active edge" walls characteristic of classic piazzas. Nonetheless, it should provide a lasting foreground for the Barclays Center and is sure to be surrounded by Atlantic Yards high-rise neighbors. The Plaza is appropriately sized and intelligently located, allowing it to serve as the site for fun flea and farmer’s markets, street fairs, and the inevitable raucous victory celebrations.

NLG: Raucous celebrations are exactly what the residents living in the adjacent quiet brownstone neighborhoods are hoping for. Not.

Posted by eric at 12:19 PM

Former Courier reporter hits the big time!

Brooklyn Daily
by Joanna DelBuono

Former Courier Life reporter extraordinaire [NLG: ?!] Stephen Witt has finished his second novel — and this one is going to be a blockbuster. No, that’s not a dig at Witt’s first novel, “American Moses,” but his new one, “Street Singer,” is set in the tumultuous saga of the Atlantic Yards mega-project, which Witt covered from its inception. “Street Singer” is Hemmingway-esque — no, not because it’s the greatest book of all time or features lots of drinking in Paris, but because its such a thinly veiled look at the intrigue surrounding the deal that brought the Nets across the river from that other state. Spoiler alert — “Street Singer” follows subway musician Jason Spirit (he’s based on Witt, by the way) through the seamy backroom deals, on the hustings with the anti-project rabble, and into the offices of Russian oligarchs. Yikes!


NoLandGrab: "Yikes!" has been our precise reaction to most of Witt's writing about Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

Prospect Heights Brings Community Discussion Online

The Brooklyn Ink
by Cristabelle Tumola

What's the #1 topic among Prospect Heights blogs? You guessed it.

The biggest issue that Prospect Heights residents are vocal about is Atlantic Yards, the site of the Barclays Center. Next fall the arena will be home to the New Jersey (soon to be Brooklyn) Nets basketball team. For the past five years, residents have been complaining about increased traffic, littering, noise and other problems that have resulted from the construction.

Locals have taken their concerns online with Atlantic Yards Watch. This site, part blog, part forum, allows registered users to submit incident reports related to the project, so they can be followed.

A pregnant mother of a toddler, desperate to get some sleep, recently posted about the “outrageous construction noise” that has been keeping her family up all night.

In a recent Brooklynian post, residents lamented the closing of Christie’s Jamaican Patties, a neighborhood restaurant that’s shutting down after 45 years in business.

In another post, locals traded opinions on the just released designs for a residential high-rise glass tower to be built near Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing all our loyal readers a happy, healthy and boondoggle-free Thanksgiving.

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

The Atlantic Yards site in (crazy-quilt) zoning context

Atlantic Yards Report

The Department of City Planning's new Zoning and Land Use application, aka ZoLa, offers a new way to find city zoning and other rules, though the department cautions that it "is provided solely for informational purposes," with no promises of accuracy.

Indeed, a look at the area around and including the Atlantic Yards site shows that the map had not caught up with reality, as Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, and Pacific Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, and between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, had not been demapped.

Moreover, several buildings remain on the site, whereas now all of those needed for the first phase are gone, and that little triangle just east of the C6-2 designation, home to the Brooklyn Bear's Garden, seems to be designated as vacant land.

But what is remarkable is the diversity of the site, a railyard north of Pacific Street zoned for low-rise manufacturing (M-1), a western parcel zoned for big development (C6-1), a southeast block zoned mainly for manufacturing, neighboring "fingers" outlined in heavy blue indicating a historic district, residential on Pacific and Dean streets in the southwest portion of the site, and commercial overlays on Flatbush (including within the site), and on Vanderbilt bordering the site.

No wonder developer Forest City Ratner sought and got a state override of zoning....


Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

2003 - How far we have come


When the blogger's pseudonym is MUSCLE13, one doesn't expect much — and MUSCLE13 doesn't disappoint.

Man it has taken too long. Bruce Ratner bought the Nets in 2003. The CIDC was formed in 2003. On this Thanksgiving let's all give thanks that we are so very close to the 2 most important Brooklyn developments in history - The Barclays Center and Year Round Coney.

We are that close. Brooklyn takes on Manhattan in 2012. Year-Round! Happy Thanksgiving!


Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving 2011!

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

No gravy, again, this year, just Russian dressing (the gravy was used up on Forest City Ratner's taxpayer gravy train). Here we are, nearly eight years after Ratner announced his project, and all we know is that the developer is constructing the world's most expensive, money-losing arena he promised with no other promised "benefits" on the horizon (sure, this past week Forest City released renderings of 2 or 3 new buildings, and claimed they will use modular construction—though that seems like a ploy to gain union concessions, aka "union-busting"—but gave no definitive details on a groundbreaking date for the first tower, which is already years behind schedule, and admitted to not having the financing to construct that first tower.) Instead, we have 22 acres of developer's blight (though somehow a rusty arena facade is somehow a feature rather than a characteristic of blight).

On a more serious note, we offer our gratitude at this time of thanks giving to all of our supporters over the past eight years and for those who, day by day, are learning more and more about Ratner's Folly at Flatbush.

We wish you and your loved ones a very happy holiday.


Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

From the latest Construction Alert: how construction (at the arena site) "progresses as scheduled" but may require extra shifts, and "schedule maintenance" (at the rail yard) requires weekend work

Atlantic Yards Report

There's no major news, as far as I can tell, in the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 11/21/11 and distributed yesterday by Empire State Development (after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner).

But I do want to point out some curious, recurring, "Orwellian, almost" language. The heading regarding the arena site states "Construction at the Arena Site Progresses as Scheduled."

However, the section also mentions that a second shift by the steel erector/stadia installer, while not expected in the next two weeks, will be re-evaluated after this period, while some weekday overtime may be needed and work on Saturdays will continue.

In other worse, "scheduled" progress requires overtime. Similarly, fireproof painting of the structural steel will continue on a second shift.

Also, waterproofing of the interior walls of the east storm water retention tank may be performed on a second shift. The tie-ins for the piping for the storm/sanitary/water services to the arena at 6th & Pacific as well as Dean & Flatbush may require a second and/or third shift, as well as weekend work.

The vertical transportation (aka elevator) contractor is expected to work a second shift during this period.

By contrast, the heading on the section regarding railyard work is "What's Happening in the Rail Yard." It also states:

Due to the need to expedite all of this work for overall schedule maintenance, it will be progressed on Saturdays and (selected Sunday & Holidays).

In other words, "schedule maintenance," like "scheduled" progress, requires overtime.


Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

Unions save Bruce with big pay cut to get Yards going

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

The article is a bit conclusory about things that haven't actually happened, but the end result will most likely go this way.

Union workers are coming to Bruce Ratner’s rescue — again! — agreeing to take massive pay cuts to pave the way for the first residential building at Atlantic Yards, a cut-rate, pre-fabricated tower to rise next to the Barclays Center.

Labor unions provided crucial support for Ratner when his controversial, $5-billion project was moving through the approval process five years ago in exchange for a promise of high-paying jobs. But the agreement currently being negotiated between union leaders and Ratner, workers would give up millions of dollars in pay to allow the developer to move forward with the cheaper, modular building.

It is unclear how much money will be lost to laborers, but carpenters make as much as $90 an hour in wages and benefits at real construction sites, but only $30 per hour when working inside the kind of factory where Ratner will build the pre-fabricated units.

Many union leaders merely shrugged when asked about the pay cuts, suggesting that if the workers don’t give back, the project might not go ahead, leaving laborers with no work at all.

“We are attempting to reach an agreement … that will work for the building trades,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council.

A labor union source translated LaBarbera for those who don’t speak the language of press releases.

“The unions are going to do what it takes to preserve jobs for their members,” said the source. “The wage scale is ultimately going to be [the deciding factor]. This is going to be a long process.”


Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

National Notice Article on Orwellian Reversal As Bloomberg Biographer Proclaims OWS-Evicting Billionaire Mayor "Firm Supporter of the First Amendment"

Noticing New York

There is a new National Notice article up for your delectation of things Orwellian. It involves the reversal Bloomberg biographer, Joyce Purnick, made when she declared just weeks ago on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show that New York City’s billionaire mayor is “a firm supporter of the First Amendment” when in her 2009 biography of Mr. Bloomberg she describes him as anything but. Ms. Purnick’s new point of view arrived coincidentally with the Bloomberg administration’s efforts to depict Bloomberg as a civil libertarian as he orchestrated eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zucotti Park. (All the details are al available here: Tuesday, November 22, 2011, Orwellian Purnick Purge: Bloomberg Biographer Rewrites Billionaire Mayor’s Record On First Amendment Free Speech Rights.)

Noticing New York readers may recall that we once considered Ms. Purnick’s Bloomberg biography “Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics” in the context of how it expunged from his portrait depiction of “significantly errant Bloombergian megadevelopment” and particularly Atlantic Yards, notwithstanding Ms. Purnick’s having been thoroughly briefed on that megadevelopment’s outrages. See: Saturday, October 3, 2009, What Purnick Has Purged: The Bloomberg Bio Mysteriously Missing Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

Restore some LIRR service


The Long Island newspaper's editorial board thinks the MTA should use a small current-year fiscal surplus to move basketball fans.

Looking down the tracks, certainly there will be a need to restore service to Brooklyn after midnight. The borough is bustling and a new arena opens in the fall at the Atlantic Yards terminal.


Posted by eric at 9:47 AM

Crain's investigation: The high price of political payback at McCormick Place

Crain's Chicago Business
by James Ylisela Jr.

Forest City Enterprises pops up in a political scandal that has cost Illinois taxpayers a half-billion dollars.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan cost taxpayers nearly half-a-billion dollars by blocking repeated efforts to restructure McCormick Place bonds and finance a much-needed second hotel at the convention center, a Crain's investigation finds.

Between 2005 and 2010, Mr. Madigan stopped five refinancing bills, ignoring declining interest rates that would have saved hundreds of millions. At the time, he never explained why, but his reasons seem petty and political: McCormick Place CEO Juan Ochoa, an appointee of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, had fired a Madigan ally at the convention center, and lawmakers from both parties say the speaker wanted retribution.

But politics may not have been Mr. Madigan's only motivation. By holding up refinancing, the speaker also denied McCormick Place the money to build a new hotel. That bought time for clout-heavy developers Gerald Fogelson and Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises Inc. to push a controversial land swap and hotel deal with McCormick Place on property just north of the convention center. Both were then clients of Mr. Madigan's law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, but the speaker denies any connection.

While McPier's efforts to restructure its debt and finance a hotel were going nowhere in the General Assembly, a group of well-connected real estate agents, developers and lawyers were pushing hard for a deal that would transform the vacant land into a thriving community called the Gateway Development.

Gateway was the brainchild of Gerald Fogelson and Forest City Enterprises, creators of nearby Central Station, an 80-acre spread of high-end townhouses and condominiums where former Mayor Richard M. Daley once lived. The $4-billion Gateway plan called for condominiums, apartments, senior housing, office space, retail, entertainment venues and, at the south end of the property, a twin-tower hotel for McCormick Place.

The plan was as beautiful as it was ambitious, offering Lake Michigan views and easy access to Soldier Field and the Museum Campus. But there was a catch: To make the deal work, Mr. Fogelson and Forest City wanted McCormick Place to give up five acres of prime vacant land along Lake Shore Drive in exchange for less than two acres they owned toward the back of the property, documents obtained by Crain's show.


NoLandGrab: Imagine if Crain's put a little effort into investigating the Atlantic Yards deal, instead of mindlessly cheerleading for it.

Posted by eric at 9:10 AM

November 22, 2011

BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN, the Story of One Neighborhood's Battle to Fight Big Business from Taking Their Homes, Captures the Attention of Critics and Audiences in the Heat of the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Screening at the Maysles Center in Harlem and Brooklyn Heights Cinema in December

Battle for Brooklyn

Upcoming screenings:
Maysles Center, 343 Lenox Ave., between 127 & 128 streets, New York, NY
Dec 1, 7:30pm: Q&A with filmmakers
Dec 6, 7:30pm: Q&A with Mindy Fullilove and local community
Dec 9, 7:30pm: Q&A with Dan Goldstein

Brooklyn Heights, 70 Henry Street, Brooklyn, NY
Nov 23, 6:00pm
Nov 30, 6:00pm

Indie Screen, 285 Kent Ave at S. 2 Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Nov 27, 5:00pm


Posted by eric at 1:41 PM

Boxy and Timely

by Javier Arbona

Forest City Ratner has released renderings of their SHoP-designed high-rise condos for Atlantic Yards. And let's face it, assuming Ratner doesn't backtrack on the design yet again, the project resembles the same ho-hum, cookie-cutter vertical sprawl of a thousand-and-one other transit-oriented development boondoggles. But this one is even special-er, cus the business and modular-savvy of SHoP seems to have been put to good use for Ratner's union-busting scheme. As L Magazine writes:

The union workers who would be assembling the towers, in various factories, before they're stacked up, would stand to make less the half the hourly wage they could expect if the tower was constructed on-site. Forest City Ratner told the Times, "We are in the process of attempting to reach an agreement that will work for the building trades and Forest City in an effort to create permanent employment," because they are definitely trustworthy when it comes to delivering the jobs they'd long promised the community.

Someone, quick, please break-down what Bruce Ratner makes per-hour, given his $931,584.00 annual income.


NoLandGrab: We're going to wager that the income figure represents only his Forest City Enterprises compensation, and not his Forest City Ratner haul, too.

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Is Bruce Ratner "Union-busting?"

Is Ratner's dangling of modular construction a "union-busting" ploy to build conventionally on the cheap? That's the charge from Archinect and it is difficult to argue against....

One wonders if the unions will let this happen, after all, Ratner has no choice but to build union.

Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

A "Brooklyn version of Roppongi Hills"? Could densifying New York make Atlantic Yards site look like Tokyo?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes issue with New York Magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson's contention that Atlantic Yards could be like Tokyo's Roppongi Hills neighborhood.

First of all, the term "at Atlantic Yards" obscures the nature of the site. "Atlantic Yards" is the name for a proposed dense development site, in some cases--like a good chunk of the 100 feet east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets--not yet controlled by the developer or state.

Nor is an "arena surrounded by a vast hole." Actually, the site is long, not round, as with Roppongi Hills, at [right] (map credit here).

The arena's got some spaces bordering it for future development, and a temporary plaza. There's a huge surface parking lot two blocks away, a yet-unbuilt skyscraper site occupied by P.C. Richard/Modell's (aka Site 5), and a mostly working railyard that's undergoing reconstruction.

A "Brooklyn version of Roppongi Hills"?

Arguably, the original project plan--an arena wrapped by four towers would something closer to the spirit of Roppongi Hills. However, that plan included ideas already scotched, such as a park and running track on the arena roof.

The rest of the Atlantic Yards site, given its increased distance from transit, makes it an even less likely candidate to be Roppongi Hills.

According to Virtual Japan, the 27-acre Roppongi Hills emphasizes both height and public space, with fewer than 800 apartments (versus 6430 planned for Atlantic Yards), meaning that the density refers to office/cultural/retail uses more than residential....


Posted by eric at 1:16 PM

Patty wake, patty wake! Christie’s to close on Flatbush Avenue

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

Bruce Ratner 1, Black-owned Mom-n-Pop restaurant, 0.

A 45-year-old, critically acclaimed, beloved neighborhood eatery is falling victim to arena-spurred gentrification.

The owner of a cheap neighborhood favorite will close his restaurant after 45 years in Park Slope and Prospect Heights, citing a landlord-tenant dispute fueled by a nearby sports arena.

Paul Haye, who runs Christie’s Jamaican Patties on Flatbush Avenue and Sterling Place, says he’ll close by January, claiming his landlord — who last spring welcomed embattled sports bar Prime 6 to the neighborhood — gave him the boot in order to collect higher rent from a new tenant, now that Barclays Center is closer to completion.

The dispute is the latest evidence that small businesses may have trouble staying open near the arena, where the Nets will play basketball next season (if there is a season).

Businesses owners in Fort Greene and north Park Slope also report that landlords have doubled rent, citing proximity to the arena in new real-estate ads.


Posted by eric at 1:07 PM

Battle for Brooklyn Makes Oscar Short List, Thanks to Occupy Movement

Huffington Post
by Bruce E. Levine

The 2011 Oscar documentaries short list is in, and the good news is that Battle for Brooklyn -- snubbed earlier this year by many major film festivals -- is on that list. The Occupy movement has made Battle for Brooklyn impossible to ignore.

Battle for Brooklyn asks: Do we really accept that Big Money -- through intimidation, bribery, or some other coercion -- can shove us out of our homes and obliterate our communities? The film is about the abuse of eminent domain by the rich and powerful. Eminent domain is the government's right to seize private property (usually with compensation) for the public good. However, it is the elite -- not ordinary Americans -- who have the power to define what is the public good. Battle for Brooklyn documents a group of the "99 percent" who, between 2004 and 2011, staged a courageous battle against the "1 percent" at a time when most of us had lost our fight.


Related coverage...

Meadowlands Matters [NorthJersey.com], Brooklyn 1, Jersey 0

While I got about 5 to 10 minutes of airtime in Soprano State with my colleague Jeff Pillets explaining the Xanadu and EnCap sagas in the Meadowlands, I actually more thoroughly “lived” the Goldstein story. Goldstein, filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, and I could not have imagined that a show of resistance by Goldstein around 2004 that was reported by me and filmed by Galinsky and Hawley would turn into a long-running saga that lasted for all of us (and felt most viscerally by Goldstein, obviously) until 2010.

What makes Battle for Brooklyn so compelling is that the producers have hundreds of hours of “live footage” to work with. I saw Goldstein change over the years from a neophyte in terms of dealing with the press (occasionally, that being just me, in this post-apocalyptic media age) to a savvy promoter of his cause. And if you see this film, you’ll see the same transformation thanks to the years of stockpiled footage.

Reason Hit & Run, Battle for Brooklyn Shortlisted for an Oscar

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that Battle for Brooklyn, the acclaimed documentary about New York’s eminent domain abuse on behalf of real estate tycoon and New Jersey Nets co-owner Bruce Ratner, is one of 15 films shortlisted in the Documentary Feature category in the upcoming Academy Awards, with the five final nominees to be selected from this group. It’s a well-deserved honor.

Posted by eric at 12:55 PM

Occupy Brooklyn General Assembly

threecee via flickr

November 21, 2011

Atlantic Terminal Mall
Atlantic & Flatbush Avenues
Fort Greene
Brooklyn, NY


Posted by eric at 12:46 PM

Occupy Brooklyn Activists Discuss Movement’s Future

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Cynthia Magnus

Occupy Brooklyn (OBK) activists held a “general assembly” on Sunday, Nov. 20, attended by approximately 75 people outside the Atlantic Terminal mall, to discuss the possibility of “occupying” a space in Brooklyn, among other topics.

Ideas included occupying public space at MetroTech, at the Atlantic Yards project or in a government building, as well as taking over finished but empty foreclosed buildings.


NoLandGrab: If the Occupy movement does put up some tents on the Atlantic Yards site, at least Bruce Ratner will be able to say some housing has been built there.

Posted by eric at 12:38 PM

Op-Ed: Civic Leader Blasts Community Board Secrecy

Sheepshead Bites
by Ed Jaworski

Shhh. There apparently are secret agents, or maybe participants in a witness protection program, among the members of Brooklyn’s Community Board 15.

Three times I have tried to learn the clandestine backgrounds of all Community Board 15 board members, who supposedly represent all residents of the community.

Neighborhoods they are from, which specific civic groups they represent, and who appointed them: that’s the requested, highly classified information.

The reluctance to publicly provide fundamental facts about Community Board 15’s members presents the impression that lack of good faith, or secret deals, permeates this basic level of government. This in spite of the fact that board members are considered public officials under state law; and Governor Andrew Cuomo has vowed to restore the previously little-known quality of honest government.

While Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer proposed that the community board appointment processes be de-politicized and involve more outreach, diversity and transparency, that’s not the modus-operandi here. Indeed, examples of non-reappointments of opponents to hot-button projects as the Atlantic Yards, among others, show that politics control Brooklyn’s community board seats.


Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

November 21, 2011

Atlantic Yards: From Frank Gehry's Seussian Nightmare to SHoP's Modular MetroTech

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Here is a visual history of Atlantic Yards renderings from Frank Gehry's Seussian Nightmare to SHoP's Modular MetroTech:


Posted by eric at 12:47 PM

On transit improvements at Atlantic Yards

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

At the crossroads of Atlantic Ave. and Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn rests one of the borough of Kings’ busiest subway stations. Over the next few years, it’s only going to get worse, but proposals to expand and adapt the station to new uses from the Barclays Center and, eventually, Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards complex have yet to see the light of day.

The brouhaha over the Atlantic Yards is a well-covered story. Under heavy pressure from local politicians, the MTA, as we know, sold out the air rights over the Vanderbilt Rail Yards to Bruce Ratner for well below-market.

So what happens when the Barclays Center and, eventually, the Atlantic Yards complex opens? Right now, the station has a variety of entrances from various street corners. There’s an entrance to the 4th Ave. platform at 4th Ave. and Pacific St., an entrance to the LIRR and the local Manhattan-bound IRT station in the Atlantic Center and an entrance to the Brighton Line off of Hanson Place. It isn’t perfect, but it works.

Meanwhile, changes are in store. As the renderings for the Barclays Center show, work on the arena includes a new street-level entrance to the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. station that will go from the plaza outside of the arena to, well, somewhere, and the fact that the “somewhere” is undefined is concerning. Over the past few weeks, I’ve asked the MTA for renderings of the subway improvements, and although the arena and work on subway access has been long-planned and will open in ten months, the MTA doesn’t yet have renderings. They have only schematics that have yet to be released to the public, and we have no idea how the flow of people will be improved or addressed at a major subway location in Brooklyn.

When the Atlantic Yards project was first negotiated, transit improvements were part of the deal. To add so many people to a small area right on top of an already-busy subway station was simply inviting transit capacity disaster, and Ratner pledged to improve the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. subway station and also the LIRR terminal. So far, all we know for sure is that the subway stop will bear Barclays’ name when the arena opens. Anything else is conjecture.


Image: SHoP Architects

Posted by eric at 12:26 PM


F**ked in Park Slope

Only days after being sued by disgruntled construction workers for undelivered jobs and wages, Bruce Ratner throws another shrimp on the fuck-you-Brooklyn-barbie pit he calls the Atlantic Yards. Representatives of Ratner's firm released some stank ass pictures by SHoP architects revealing the first of a few towers planned around the Barclay Center. And here's the kicker: they're all pre-fab modular towers. That means they're made in smaller modular units in a factory, then transported to the Atlantic yards, where they will be bolted into place. Sort of like Legos, but not nearly as cool.


Image: SHoP Architects

Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

NYC Regional Economic Development Council's draft strategic plan: priority projects involve the food industry, clean tech, incubators for artists and small biz (but there may be wiggle room for Atlantic Yards)

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the New York City Regional Economic Development Council has issued its Draft Strategic Plan (also embedded below) and, contrary to my speculation last month, there's virtually nothing about Atlantic Yards in the competition (with other regions) for packages of state economic development subsidies.

Rather, the priority projects involve the food industry, clean tech, an incubator for artists and others, and a small business incubator. Here's the 11/15/11 press release. The strategic plan review, in which regions compete, will be next week.

Then again, as described below, if Atlantic Yards--despite being excluded from the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning--is considered part of the Downtown Brooklyn "Opportunity Zone," then some state assistance could be steered there.


Posted by eric at 12:07 PM

State government moves toward accountability... on highway construction cost overruns

Atlantic Yards Report

An 11/16/11 press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicates a new effort to protect taxpayer dollars from cost overruns on state highway construction projects.

It's not a direct parallel to Atlantic Yards, but it points to several principles that could apply to construction/development projects like Atlantic Yards, including inadequate planning, lack of oversight, and limited accountability.


NoLandGrab: Don't hold your breath.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, State government moves toward transparency... on health insurance

An 11/15/11 press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicates a new requirement that the data behind health insurance rate requests be made public.

It's not quite a direct parallel but it would be interesting to see if background material behind economic development subsidy requests be made public.

NLG: See comment above.

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

Bruce Ratner, seeker of housing solutions for the city, or cost-cutter?

Atlantic Yards Report

Do what you love, the money will follow, especially if what you love is getting your cronies in government to help you make money.

From Crain's New York Business yesterday, Modular thinking could shape NY's future skyline: Bruce Ratner wants 32-story stack to rise at his Atlantic Yards:

Developer Bruce Ratner thinks he has found a solution to the city's vexing housing shortage and wants to showcase the answer at his massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.

That suggests Ratner's motivation is civic virtue of some kind. It's a business, man.

Cutting costs

How about:

Developer Bruce Ratner was desperate to cut costs at his massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn and is taking the risky step of building modular housing, which if it works, might be a solution to the city's vexing housing shortage.


Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

Ratner Admits That Atlantic Yards, As Proposed and Approved, Was Never Financially Feasible

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Was Atlantic Yards ever feasible as proposed in 2003, as approved in 2006, re-approved in 2009 and as presented to state court in 2010? No. Who says so? Bruce Ratner admitted as much in comments made to the Wall Street Journal yesterday upon a release of new Atlantic Yards tower renderings shrouded more in uncertainty than the press reaction would lead one to believe.

Well, in 2003, 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011 Forest City Ratner proposed, had approved and claimed that it would build half of its rental units as "affordable" with union labor. So what changed? Note that Ratner did not say that the changed economy is the reason his approved plan doesn't work or that the existing incentives today are different than what they were when the project was proposed and approved.

What changed? Just the candor that the project has proposed, hyped and approved was never feasible from the start. But government, Ratner and ESDC were warned that the project was not financially feasible.


Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

November 20, 2011

From GQ: Jay-Z's path from the streets to high society (and what about fronting?)

Atlantic Yards Report

As one of the 2011 GQ Men of the Year, Jay-Z is designated King. Alex Pappademas observes:

Take Watch the Throne, on which two grandiose motherfuckers explore the theme of grandiose-motherfuckerdom from vastly different perspectives, stacking dubstep on top of opera on top of Otis Redding, triumphalism on top of sorrow on top of more triumphalism, striving for a sound as vast and strange as the world they've come to inhabit. It's glorious and obnoxious and pointedly self-aware, and it was more fun to argue about than any hip-hop record since, I don't know, Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak or Jay-Z's widely jeered Kingdom Come.

The gist of a lot of those arguments: In an economic moment as bleak as this, is it not sort of a dick move to drop an album—even a great one—about what it feels like to be richer than a fifteenth-century pope? On what turned out to be the day of a stock market crash? Even the Watch the Throne T-shirts were limited-edition Givenchy and sold for $300.

...Watch the Throne is an honest record about trying to find your moral compass when insane wealth and success have knocked down every boundary that once gave shape to your world. Write what you know, y'know?

He credits Jay for making it from the 'hood:

Nearly every rapper tells a version of that story. But nobody tells it better or to a wider cross section of the population—children, rap nerds, corporate America—than Jay-Z. No hip-hop artist who owes his credibility to the street has moved farther beyond it and into the rarefied air of twenty-first-century high society than Jay has. But at 42, he remains, precedent-defyingly, a rapper people still care about, because he's managed to frame all his achievements—his front-office stint at Def Jam, his ownership stake in the NBA franchise soon to be known as the Brooklyn Nets, the $150 million deal with LiveNation that's said to rival Madonna's, even the pop star he put a ring on—as we-shouldn't-be-here victories for a kid from public housing, and for hip-hop, too.

Fair enough. It's just that he's running interference for some of the people making false promises (it is alleged) to Brooklynites from the neighborhoods he left.


Posted by steve at 10:37 PM

In Our Time Press, questionable coverage of the latest lawsuit

Atlantic Yards Report

The notorious Stephen Witt, now writing for Bed-Stuy-based Our Time Press, has produced his coverage of the lawsuit filed earlier this week: Another Atlantic Yards lawsuit: Allegations that training program does not bring union jobs as promised.

There's no mention of the issue of unpaid wages, but a "he said, she said" focus on whether jobs and union cards were promised to 36 trainees in a highly selective program. Witt writes:

But both FCR and BUILD officials said union cards were never promised, and charged James, state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and longtime foes of Atlantic Yards are behind the lawsuit. They also said their opposition is a major contributing force behind the lack of jobs as promised by the CBA.

...[BUILD's James] Caldwell said his organization has placed close to 400 people from the community with jobs, many on other FCR developments, and that the downturn in the economy has caused the build-out of the Atlantic Yards project to be much slower.

...[Forest City spokesman Joe] DePlasco said there are about 800 people currently working on the Atlantic Yards project...

Of these workers, 410 are city residents including 174 from Brooklyn, of which 67 are from Central Brooklyn...

DePlasco said of the 36 people that went through the BUILD pre-apprenticeship training program, 19 were working in property management, retail or construction-related positions as of September this year.

All that is irrelevant to the question of whether the 36 people, who began the program in August 2010, were promised jobs and union cards. After all, some of those 19 people have jobs at McDonald's


Posted by steve at 10:35 PM

Notes from a conference on zoning: scrap parking minimums, the argument for competitiveness, and a dissent

Atlantic Yards Report

A major conference last week in New York titled Zoning the City inspired commentary, including this one about a certain lack of imagination on the part of Mayor Bloomberg. An emphasis on only large projects can produce inappropriate results, as in Atlantic Yards.

The Design Observer's Alexandra Lange, in Who Are We Competing For?:

Back when I was writing stories about the Doctoroff era for New York, I remember asking, "Why the focus on Class A office space? Don't we need Class B and C too?" And I remember wondering, "Why spend all this money on out-of-towners? What about the people already here?" Their strategic focus was so lofty, so much on the top maybe 15 percent, on skyscrapers, on new convention centers, on new waterfronts, that it seemed to leave no room for what was happening on the ground.

...What also struck me in several post-administration presentations was a lack of adaptability, an inability to understand alternate perspectives on appropriate goals. Early in the day, a man stood up and asked how zoning could help the owner of a 25x100 lot with some extra FAR [Floor Area Ratio]. At first there was no response, but later, someone suggested that the smallholders could get together, and use a version of the High Line's cap-and-trade zoning to build a tall building on the avenue and off their street. Fine, but as the owner of a 25x75 foot lot (that's a brownstone), what I and my neighbors might much rather do is band together and trade our FAR for a park. Why must all moves be monetary, and upward? Indeed, what about the public life legendary planning consultant Alex Garvin kept vaunting?

And a comment from John Massengale:

Do we agree on this? - No matter how many times Rem Koolhaas and Frank Gehry use the word "progressive," they are building for the 1%.


Posted by steve at 9:55 PM

Money cleanses: a Bloomberg anecdote

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a very interesting passage in City Hall's profile of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance:

Vance succeeded at mending the once-fractured relationship his office had with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Unlike Morgenthau, who was insulated from political pressure by dint of age and a half-century’s worth of political clout, Vance needs Bloomberg’s help. A key part of his platform, a family justice center, is still unfunded. A bill increasing domestic violence penalties that Vance hoped would pass the state Legislature fell prey to partisan infighting in the State Senate.
His office’s $91 million budget depends on a variety of sources, including the city’s budget, controlled by Bloomberg, and discretionary funds from both the City Council and the borough president.
But Vance also seemed to make a key decision deferential to the mayor. The office prosecuted John Haggerty, a consultant to Bloomberg’s 2009 reelection campaign, who was convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the mayor’s campaign. Vance’s prosecutors took the unusual step of granting Bloomberg immunity in exchange for his testimony.
Experts wondered why Haggerty was the only person tried in a case where it seemed Bloomberg’s campaign had skirted campaign-finance laws—though Vance did score a much-needed victory when the jury convicted Haggerty of felonies.
Asked whether he’d deliberately courted the mayor’s favor to mend their relationship, Vance said, “It always is better to have people on your side than opposite you when you’re trying to achieve an objective.”

It's not clear whether that's an admission in response to a question about selective prosecution or a more general question.

But it does suggest how power works in New York City.


Posted by steve at 9:52 PM

How Could The Times Get Yet Another Story (In Addition to Atlantic Yards) So Wrong: OWS Evicting Bloomberg as Defender of Free Speech

Noticing New York

Noticing New York has frequently covered and criticized the grossly inadequate, misleading and biased coverage that the New York Times has provided with respect to the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards megadevelopment and associated issues such as the abuse of eminent domain that is also occurring elsewhere, like Columbia University’s takeover of West Harlem.


Heretofore the Noticing New York thesis about such atrocious coverage by the Times was that it was all the more insidious and dangerous because the paper of record is, in otherwise confidence-inspiring ways, head and shoulders over other newspapers in New York City, even all the rest of country. The Times dereliction with respect to the Atlantic Yards family of issues seemed to be a willful and conscious choice related to a deal the Times knowingly made with the devil when it attempted to buttress itself financially (while garnering some attention-grabbing cultural surface glitz) by partnering with real estate developer and subsidy-collector-specialist Forest City Ratner to use (abuse?) eminent domain to build a New Times Square headquarters building.

The problem is, as pointed out in prior Noticing New York articles, you cannot selectively cast a blind eye to the misconduct associated with the city’s biggest boondoggle because everything is connected. You cannot expect to elide the evils of Atlantic Yards in your pages because it leaves holes in your paper-of-record stories about everything else. Do you want to report about the Brooklyn Borough President's shady capitalization on conflicts of interest involving charities created for that purpose? There’s a gaping hole in this tale you tell unless Atlantic Yards gets featured front and center.


Posted by steve at 9:44 PM

Workers: "Atlantic Yards Scammed Us"

Bay Ridge Journal

According to a South Brooklyn Legal Services press release, a group of Brooklyn workers who joined a job training program as part of the Atlantic Yards development deal have filed a federal lawsuit against Atlantic Yards Development Company LLC, Brooklyn Arena LLC, Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (‘BUILD’), Forest City Ratner Companies LLC (‘FCRC’), Bruce Ratner and others.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants fraudulently induced the plaintiffs into taking part in a fake employment training program.

When developer Bruce Ratner announced Atlantic Yards in December, 2003, neighborhood residents immediately objected that by demolishing residential buildings, the project would evict tenants and drive out homeowners and small businesses.

In a move calculated to subvert protest and conquer local politicians, Atlantic Yards developers entered into a so-called ‘Community Benefits Agreement’ (‘CBA’), promising jobs and other benefits, with a bunch of cardboard "community organizations", including BUILD, created solely for purposes of negotiating the CBA.

Among other things, the CBA promised that Atlantic Yards would create a Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program’ (‘PATP’), in partnership with BUILD, to train community residents for construction jobs at Atlantic Yards.

Plaintiffs joined the PATP in the fall of 2010 -- several even quit their jobs to do so. They were repeatedly assured by the developers that, by completing the program, they would earn membership in construction unions employed at Atlantic Yards.

Those jobs never materialized.


Posted by steve at 9:41 PM

Modular thinking could shape NY's future skyline

Crain's New York

Atlantic Yards doesn't have the starchitect, jobs, open space or affordable housing that was promised. Why would anyone believe it when Bruce Ratner says he's going to build modular?

Developer Bruce Ratner thinks he has found a solution to the city's vexing housing shortage and wants to showcase the answer at his massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Forest City Ratner's chief executive wants to construct 15 apartment towers planned for the 22-acre site by using modular construction, claiming it will shave about 20% off the construction costs. He hopes to start assembling and constructing the first test case—a 32-story, 350- unit residential building stacked on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street—this spring.

“We could build 20% more housing this way,” Mr. Ratner said. “This could be positive for the city.” Mr. Ratner faces numerous challenges. He must reach a deal with various building trade unions in which they'd agree to the lower labor costs that modular construction promises. His company also still needs to obtain financing.

“At this point, we are pursing the prefabricated model,” Mr. Ratner insisted, adding that Forest City has been working on this approach for more than two years.


Posted by steve at 9:25 PM

Occupy Brooklyn General Assembly (10 Meeting)

Occupy Brooklyn General Assembly

Date(s) - 20 Nov 2011
4:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Atlantic Terminal Plaza


We are coming to the end of an intense week for the Occupy movement in New York and across the country. After the eviction in Manhattan, thousands of people demonstrated yesterday that the movement is stronger than ever and unwilling to fade away as some politicians have been hoping.

Yesterday afternoon, hundreds of people gathered at subway stops in Brooklyn and shared stories before joining the march at Foley Square. Later in the evening, hundreds more participated in a spontaneous general assembly in Cadman Plaza.

Join us this Sunday to harness this momentum and build our community.


Posted by steve at 12:42 AM

As BrooklynSpeaks, AY Watch point to the need for oversight and questions about community impact, New York magazine's critic embraces Forest City's modular plan

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, Forest City Ratner's announcement of its modular construction plan certainly changed the narrative in more than one way. Not only did it deflect attention from the lawsuit filed by workers who said they were promised union cards and construction jobs, it has been embraced by at least one architectural critic who's generally been skeptical of Atlantic Yards.

Davison recognizes that modular housing "has a venerable but erratic pedigree," but suggests that the "great advantage of Atlantic Yards is that it’s huge enough to create its own demand":

Proposing a forest of modular high-rises might seem at first like a bargain hunter’s strategy to get something—anything—built at a troubled site. Unions are already upset at the prospect of shifting traditional construction jobs to lower-paying factory work. In the end, though, the move could help alleviate the city’s perpetual shortage of reasonably priced housing—and bring back some manufacturing as well.

Legitimate points, but lots left out, including the Bruce Ratner's admission of a bait-and-switch, along with an array of apartment sizes skewed smaller than promised.


BrooklynSpeaks, in Ratner: Affordable housing won’t work for Atlantic Yards, followed up on developer Bruce Ratner's statement to the Wall Street Journal,

Mr. Ratner said Thursday that the existing incentives for developments where half the units are priced for middle- and low-income tenants "don't work for a high-rise building that's union built."
He added that he had "accepted the fact that we're not going to get more subsidy."

BrooklynSpeaks warns that "his statement may set the stage for Forest City Ratner to claim an “Affordable Housing Subsidy Unavailability” under the master development agreement it executed with the Empire State Development Corporation."

That would allow construction to last even longer than 25 years. It's also possible, BrooklynSpeaks allowed, that this is a way to pressure union officials. (It's also part of the modular plan, I'd add.)

BrooklynSpeaks sums up:

First, $200 million of State and City subsidy wasn’t enough for Atlantic Yards. Next, Frank Gehry’s architecture was too expensive for Atlantic Yards. Then, the 10-year project schedule was too short for Atlantic Yards. Eight acres of open space also didn’t work for Atlantic Yards, unless one considers an 1,100-car surface parking lot to be open space. And providing unionized jobs for local residents hasn’t worked for Atlantic Yards, either. Now, the 2,250 units of affordable housing are in greater doubt. It may be the only public promise that FCR will be able to keep is that its arena will create a traffic nightmare in central Brooklyn.


Posted by steve at 12:34 AM

From Atlantic Yards watch: a traffic jam on Pacific Street yesterday, trucks idling, no enforcement

Atlantic Yards Report

Several trucks idling. A truck delivering steel beams stuck for an hour. Several trucks idling on the street behind it. Cars caught in the traffic jam honking.

All this outside the Newswalk, a large residential building on Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, and adjacent buildings, late yesterday morning, as documented on Atlantic Yards Watch.

All apparently caused by the confluence of a construction worker's car double-parked due to lunch hour alternate side.

Meanwhile, flaggers from the staging area east on Pacific Street, unmindful of the traffic tie-up ahead, continued to let trucks proceed west toward the arena site.

Above left, trucks on Pacific Street just west and east of the Carlton Avenue intersection. East is the private street used as a staging area.

Note that the second truck blocked any other vehicle traveling north on Carlton Avenue to proceed in the only manner possible, which is west on Pacific Street.

The source of the traffic jam

Below, a picture of the rig further west on Pacific Street, stuck. More photos, and video, here. The lingering question: is there any oversight?


Posted by steve at 12:31 AM

November 19, 2011

Building #2 announcement raises questions about construction plans, parking and open space

Atlantic Yards Watch

When will there be promised affordable housing, parking for residential housing and open space? Just because Atlantic Yards is a publicly-subsidized project, it doesn't mean the public is allowed to know the answers.

The New York Times has unveiled pictures of what may be the first residential building to be built at Atlantic Yards. If this design is used for what is called Building #2, the 350-unit building will be the tallest using modular construction in the world.

At the last several District Service Cabinet meetings FCRC Vice Presidents Jane Marshall and Bob Sanna have stated alternate plans using modular and conventional construction are being prepared by FCRC. The Times notes that "the developer ultimately may instead decide to build the first tower conventionally."

According to the Wall Street Journal, FCRC will build using modular techniques if an agreement can be reached with the construction unions. The Journal cites Bruce Ratner that existing incentives for developments where half the units are priced for middle and low income tenants "don't work for a high-rise building that is union-built." Norman Oder in Atlantic Yards Report calls this a "stunning contention" and "astounding admission" because in both 2006 and 2009 the State found plausible the developer's argument it could build the residential development with existing incentives within ten years. Evidence to the contrary was ignored when those findings were made.


Posted by steve at 11:36 PM

What Could (Not Ever) Have Been at Ratner's Atlantic Yards


Here's a partial recounting of how the Atlantic Yards project changed from featuring starchitect Frank Ghery and affordable housing to a project which now has neither.

Fast forward to 2009, after a brief attempt at value engineering, when Bruce dumps Frank and his $1 billion of starchitecture for a more modest and universally reviled hangar vision drummed up by Ellerbe Beckett. That didn't go over so well, so SHoP was brought on to class up the proceedings later that year. Barclays Center broke ground in 2010 and is now trucking along nicely; as for that residential building, rumors about the modular build-out first lit up the 'wire back in March, and now: voila.

As many have pointed out, the repeated focus on subsidized housing from the beginning was what cleared many of Ratner's development hurdles; even back in 2005, Forest City Ratner promised that half the housing units would be reserved for tenants making less than $100,000 per year.


Posted by steve at 11:29 PM

The Ratner Seven

City Journal
By Nicole Gelinas

This piece has harsh words for those who believe in promises made by Bruce Ratner.

Earlier this week, seven Brooklyn residents filed a federal lawsuit against Bruce Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards basketball arena, accusing him of committing a grave injustice. The plaintiffs, however, aren’t opposed to injustice; in fact, they had hoped to benefit from it. For the wrongs that they’ve suffered, Bruce Ratner’s latest useful idiots have no one to blame but themselves.

Ratner has spent eight years using the power of New York City and New York State to injure people who don’t have the arbitrary power of the government backing them. Starting in 2003, Ratner garnered the support of Mayor Bloomberg, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, and a succession of governors to use the power of eminent domain—plus $700 million in subsidies—to label some private Brooklyn properties “blighted,” seize them, and build his stadium and (at some point) surrounding apartment towers. Ratner gained government backing only by marshaling community support: that is, he shoveled money into new “grassroots” advocacy groups like Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD). Ratner signed a “community benefits agreement” under which BUILD chief James Caldwell would train residents—many of them low-income Brooklynites—for as many as 15,000 well-paying construction jobs at Atlantic Yards.


Now, seven job-seekers are suing, alleging that Ratner and Caldwell duped them into joining a “training” class last year that consisted of reading Wikipedia printouts and then working—unpaid and unsupervised—for two months on a dangerous Staten Island home-construction site owned by a third party. During their “training,” the seven “learned very little that they did not already know,” they said, because they were “already fully capable of performing construction work.” One man had previously worked as a carpenter; another had “extensive experience” and had once supervised 100 people on a worksite; a third had worked as an electrician’s apprentice. Two others quit jobs to enroll in Ratner’s “training,” while another turned down a maintenance job. The seven plaintiffs toiled unpaid because, they say, Ratner’s surrogates promised them trade-union memberships, a pathway to good jobs building Atlantic Yards. Caldwell, whose BUILD salary was funded by Ratner, told them that they should “prepare to be millionaires,” they say. They got nothing. “None of the Plaintiffs has received an offer of employment in a construction job” at Atlantic Yards, according to their suit.


Posted by steve at 11:08 PM

Shocker: Brooklyn Jobs And Housing The Old-Fashioned Way

Huffington Post
By Steve Ettlinger

We need more Red Apples and fewer Barclays Centers.

The Brooklyn Paper just reported that the new Red Apple supermarket that just opened on Myrtle Avenue in Fort Greene hired over 70 workers, many of whom are from the public housing projects sitting across from it. In fact, the human resources director for the chain says, "Almost all the jobs have gone to people from the area."

Wouldn't we love it if more major construction could generate that kind of result!

In light of the all the subsidies given to major corporations to create jobs, like Chase and Forest City Ratner, it stands out. After all, Chase, the original downtown Brooklyn subsidy magnet for job creation, has either eliminated or moved most of its jobs.

However, because only the arena is being built at this time, there are few regular jobs being created; an arena is not the same job-generator as an office building, of course. Nor is a residential building going to create that many jobs, and only one is likely to rise next year.

FCR's subsidies for its Atlantic Yards/Barclays Center will total almost $2 billion. Well, Red Apple says they only got this: a job fair and training sessions at the Ingersoll Community Center put together by Councilmember Letitia James and District Leader Lincoln Ressler, among others. The city did re-zone the area, but that was a planned re-zoning for a larger area, not a special exception for a well-connected developer like FCR.


Posted by steve at 11:03 PM

Following up on one vocal BUILD supporter

Atlantic Yards Report

One supporter of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), who attended a press conference Tuesday to respond to a lawsuit naming BUILD, was Vincent Haynes, who entered the conversation at 2:40 of the video below


"Contrary to the allegations that have been made by [Council Member] Letitia James and others," Haynes said, "BUILD has been responsible for employing many individuals. I can attest to that. I have been one of the individuals who landed employment."

Was that construction work, or at Atlantic Yards? No, Haynes replied, unwilling to specify where he works. "However, BUILD does an excellent job by providing to the community resources in terms of job development, job placement, and job training."

That is not at issue in the lawsuit, which regards trainees in a selective program who charge they were promised construction jobs and union memberships.


Just as the plaintiffs invoked the presumed protections in the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), so too has Haynes. Brooklyn the Borough reported in August 2009:

Vincent Haynes, 49, works as a Civil Servant at an unspecified city department and is a consultant to Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) and lives in Crown Heights.

I think [the opposition is] a lot of smoke and mirrors, bells and whistles, pomp and circumstance, but they know like we know that the project’s going to go through and it’s only a matter of time before they’re going to climb aboard and they’re going to be in the caboose. Too much money has been invested, contracts have been drawn up, we have things in writing. It’s not just a verbal agreement, it’s a written agreement and if [Forest City Ratner] doesn’t follow through [on affordable housing and/or jobs], the courts will handle it.


Posted by steve at 10:58 PM

Another Atlantic Yards lawsuit Allegations that training program does not bring union jobs as promised

Our Time Press
By Stephen Witt

Seven Central Brooklyn residents last week filed a federal lawsuit against Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) and a local nonprofit organization alleging that the job training program they participated in did not result in their getting a construction union card nor work on the Atlantic Yards site.

The residents participated in a Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) pre-apprentice job training program as part of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) between FCR and several local nonprofit organizations. FCR is the primary funder of BUILD, which is run by longtime Crown Heights community activist James Caldwell.

“We believed them when they said that this was a path to union membership and union jobs,” said plaintiff Kathleen Noriega, 58, of Crown Heights. “They even told us that they had seen the union books that were reserved for us. They told us that we could rely on their promises because the CBA would guarantee that they keep their word.”

City Councilwoman Letitia James, who organized the press conference announcing the lawsuit, said the plaintiffs not only failed to find jobs out of the program, but also performed free labor in the construction of a house on Staten Island. “As time moves forward, the mounting distance of (FCR President) Bruce Ratner’s promises becomes more apparent with the Atlantic Yards project,” said James. “Ratner has not fulfilled his promise of 17,000 jobs for the community. Ratner is not delivering on the 2,250 affordable housing units he promised. FCR has not delivered much to the community, and continues to do an injustice to Central and Downtown Brooklyn residents by disregarding their voices.”


Posted by steve at 10:57 PM

How About That Modular Construction?

The proposed use of modular construction on the Atlantic Yards project site is likely a gambit being used to wring concessions from construction unions. But would current modular construction technology permit a 32-story modular building?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Modular Experts Comment On Ratner Highrise Plan
by Raanan Geberer

James Garrison, assistant adjunct professor at Pratt Institute and principal of Garrison Architects isn't very definite about the the possibility of tall modular buildings.

The use of this technology in Atlantic Yards, he said, would be a challenge because of the building’s height. “Tall buildings have to have significant wind and seismic earthquake loads, and because of that, they tend to have a very strong structure.

Treehugger, World's Tallest Prefab To Be Built in Brooklyn? Fuggedaboutit.
By Lloyd Alter

The title of this article leaves no doubt as to what conclusion has been reached.

The whole thing boggles the mind. Having worked in prefab for a number of years, I can tell you that it's complicated, more than just piling up boxes like Lego. To have changes in builders and architects, intellectual property battles, and fights with unions in a City like New York while trying to build the world's tallest prefab and save time and money? Fuggedaboutit.

Atlantic Yards Report, A statement from Council Member Letitia James on the modular issue

A statement by Council Member Letitia James on Forest City Ratner’s plan to use Prefabricated Steel on Towers at Atlantic Yards project:

“The use of prefabricated steel ‘modular construction’ to build apartment towers as a part of Atlantic Yards is another despicable slight to the community surrounding the project by eliminating more crucial jobs for residents, as well as possibly creating less sound structures in an attempt to cut costs, all while FCRC has received City and State subsidies for the development. Past experience has also shown that designing a ‘bracing system’ for prefabricated steel buildings to protect against storms has been challenging. Bruce Ratner does have an obligation to support the community he serves by providing employment opportunities, as well as to parallel the safety of these buildings with those around the footprint that have weathered more than 100 years.”

It will be interesting to see how the city and state confirm that high-rise construction with modules and a steel frame will work at the planned, experimental height.

And there's a lot more James could say, notably regarding how Ratner could claim that it's impossible to build high-rise affordable apartment buildings with union labor, and how the city seems to be learning how to do deals better.

Posted by steve at 10:34 PM

15 Documentary Features Advance in 2011 Oscar Race

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The documentary about the Atlantic Yards fight, "Battle for Brooklyn" has deservedly been short-listed in the competition for an Academy Award for Documentary Feature.

Beverly Hills, CA (November 18, 2011) – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that 15 films in the Documentary Feature category will advance in the voting process for the 84th Academy Awards. One hundred twenty-four pictures had originally qualified in the category.

The 15 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production company:

  • "Battle for Brooklyn" (RUMUR Inc.)
  • "Bill Cunningham New York" (First Thought Films)
  • "Buck" (Cedar Creek Productions)
  • "Hell and Back Again" (Roast Beef Productions Limited)
  • "If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front" (Marshall Curry Productions, LLC)
  • "Jane's Journey" (NEOS Film GmbH & Co. KG)
  • "The Loving Story" (Augusta Films)
  • "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" (@radical.media)
  • "Pina" (Neue Road Movies GmbH)
  • "Project Nim" (Red Box Films)
  • "Semper Fi: Always Faithful" (Tied to the Tracks Films, Inc.)
  • "Sing Your Song" (S2BN Belafonte Productions, LLC)
  • "Undefeated" (Spitfire Pictures)
  • "Under Fire: Journalists in Combat" (JUF Pictures, Inc.)
  • "We Were Here" (Weissman Projects, LLC)

The Documentary Branch Screening Committee viewed all the eligible documentaries for the preliminary round of voting. Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles on the shortlist.


Posted by steve at 10:22 PM

November 18, 2011

Ratner's modular tower release and the mostly compliant press: an FAQ on timing, misdirection, jobs, the lack of larger apartments, and Ratner's astounding admission

Atlantic Yards Report

There are plenty of news outlets simply repeating Bruce Ratner's news releases on plans for housing units for the Atlantic Yards project, but only Norman Oder digs deeper to reveal the continuing story of the project as a series of deceptions and promises not kept.

Well, Forest City Ratner yesterday announced plans for Building 2, a 32-story, 350-unit tower with half subsidized apartments--the world's tallest modular tower--and the press piled on.

They just didn't answer all the questions.

Why were the renderings released yesterday?

No report explained that. There's no financing for the first building. The modular plan isn't final.

I'd bet that the release was strategized to deflect any lingering attention from the lawsuit filed two days earlier by construction workers charging they didn't get promised jobs and union cards after going through a selective training program mandated by the Atlantic Yards Community Benefit Agreement.

And to put pressure on construction unions. Remember, Ratner stopped building the Beekman Tower (aka 8 Spruce Street) midway to renegotiate with the unions.

What kind of pressure?

Well, Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building Building and Construction Trades Council, said, in a statement, "We are in the process of attempting to reach an agreement on modular construction that will work for the building trades and Forest City in an effort to create permanent employment opportunities for our members,"

Is Ratner definitely building modular?

Not at all. "We intend to do it modular," he told the Wall Street Journal, but said the decision isn't final. Indeed, you have to watch his language. In November 2009, after the state eminent domain decision, Ratner said they had the "intent" to move the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn for the 2011-12 season.

Didn't the permit application describe a non-modular process?


Did any press outlet mention that?

Not yet.


Does this announcement represent an about-face by Ratner? The Daily News said "project opponents saw another about-face by the developer." The Times quoted Council Member James, "who denounced what she described as the growing distance between the promise and the reality of Atlantic Yards."

It's another example of journalists pitting Ratner against "opponents" and maintaining what Jay Rosen calls the "View from Nowhere," the false middle, the inability to do any analysis. Actually, Bruce Ratner said it himself, that "existing incentives" don't work for high-rise, union-built affordable housing.

He said that?

Yup. Of course, he proposed--and the state approved--high-rise, union-built affordable housing.

Does that mean all the promises about Atlantic Yards residential rental towers, and the approval of those promises, were bogus?

Uh, yeah.


Related converage...

The L Magazine, Yup, It's a Prefab High-Rise for Atlantic Yards

Fort Greene - Clinton Hill Patch, Design Revealed for Atlantic Yards' Pre-Fab Tower

International Business Times, Forest City Ratner, SHoP Unveil Atlantic Yards Tower [PHOTOS]

Gothamist, Sorry, Brooklyn: This Is What Atlantic Yards Is Supposed To Look LIke

WNYC, Atlantic Yards Tower Design Revealed

The Wall Street Journal, Ratner Goes 'Modular' in Brooklyn

Daily News, Apartment tower at Atlantic Yards will be built in a factory

The Brooklyn Paper, Unions, aesthetes dunked as Ratner plans pre-fab building at Yards

New York Post. Atlantic Yards building with ‘Legos’

Curbed, Here's a Glimpse at the World's Tallest Prefab Condo Tower

Smart Planet, NYC SHoP Architects take modular construction to new heights

Crain's New York, Bruce Ratner’s breakthrough

NY1, Plans For Atlantic Yards Modular Tower Unveiled

Media Bistro, Details Released for ShoP’s Atlantic Yards Residential Buildings, Will Include World’s Tallest Modular Tower

Posted by steve at 6:52 PM

Learning from Atlantic Yards (?): city will no longer "routinely sweeten deals for developers" after selection

Atlantic Yards Report

From Crain's New York Business Insider, today:

City's Tech Campus Leverage

The Bloomberg administration believes that the new way it negotiates deals will produce a better tech campus project for the city. In the past, the city would routinely sweeten deals for developers or have projects die, because bidders were allowed to negotiate terms after being selected and praised at a press conference. No more. “We keep multiple horses in the race until we reach an actual deal,” an administration source said. “We actually make our counterparties bid on the contract document itself and mark it up. And that's part of our evaluation.” With skin in the game, the source added, “if [bidders] walk away or try to kill the deal, they have something to lose.”

(Emphasis added)

With Atlantic Yards, the city and state both anointed Forest City Ratner as the developer before the public process, including the bidding for the key piece of public property--the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard--began.

And Forest City Ratner, after a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the city and state, then changed the deal, getting more city subsidies in 2007.

In 2009, Forest City renegotiated settled deals with the MTA and the Empire State Development Corporation.

After that was accomplished, FCR brought in Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov as majority owner of the Nets and minority owner of the arena holding company, thus allowing public assistance to flow to an "oligarch of our own."

In 2011, the modular plan emerged.


Posted by steve at 3:47 PM

Forest City seems to be backing off its pledge to have 50% of affordable apartments be larger units. What will Bertha Lewis say?

Atlantic Yards Report

As I've noted, the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA, below) requires an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM), who should have been reporting on the progress of the Pre-Apprentice Training Program, subject of a lawsuit filed this week.

Does the ICM enforce the housing pledge, part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between developer Forest City Ratner and ACORN? No, but there's need for oversight, because the developer seems to be changing the plan, providing more smaller apartments than pledged.

According to page 7 of the CBA, ACORN--or, now more likely, its successor New York Communities for Change--was supposed to "form and facilitate a Housing Council" for community input regarding those buildings.


It's not clear now who exactly is responsible, given ACORN's demise, but Bertha Lewis, the vocal leader of ACORN and backer of Atlantic Yards, has pledged publicly she would hold Forest City to its agreement.

So far, the signs suggest Lewis has a lot to ask about. Or, maybe she's been told: the CBA (p. 24) states that the developer "will not announce or agree to any material modifications in the 50-50 Program without the prior approval of ACORN."


Posted by steve at 3:43 PM

Prokhorov a hardliner among team owners? No, acknowledges reporter who called him that

Atlantic Yards Report

Earlier this month, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com called principal Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov a "hardliner" among owners, happy to lose a season.

He's changed his tune, suggesting Prokhorov needs the season to start so he can keep star guard Deron Williams. Then again, as noted by NetsDaily, it's in Williams' financial interest to stay either way.


Posted by steve at 3:41 PM

Bait-and-switch: Ratner says "existing incentives" don't work for high-rise, union-built affordable housing. Which he proposed--and the state approved.

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a stunning contention in the Wall Street Journal article headlined Ratner Goes 'Modular' in Brooklyn, dated 11/18/11:

The project's planned 6,400 apartments—and particularly the 2,250 units pledged for low- and middle-income tenants—were a key selling point for the development when it was approved by the state over neighborhood criticism in 2006. It was later stalled by lawsuits contesting the use of eminent domain, and then slowed by the economic downturn.

Now Forest City has told government officials that the high proportion of affordable apartments has made it difficult to make the economics work for the towers, despite a surprisingly strong rebound in the rental market.

Previously, the company asked the city for additional subsidy to make the first Atlantic Yards tower move forward, to no avail.

Mr. Ratner said Thursday that the existing incentives for developments where half the units are priced for middle- and low-income tenants "don't work for a high-rise building that's union built."

He added that he had "accepted the fact that we're not going to get more subsidy."

(Emphasis added)


Ratner proposed a development that, at least in part, contained half subsidized units, (Atlantic Yards is supposed to have 6430 apartments, as approved, with 1930 condos and 4500 rental units. Half of the latter would be subsidized, "affordable" units.)

Ratner proposed a development that would have high-rise towers built by union labor. The promised quantity of jobs and amount of housing won him support from unions, advocacy organizations, and elected officials.

He never said he couldn't do what he proposed. In fact, he got a state override of zoning that would allow a the buildout his firm calculated was necessary to deliver profits.


Posted by steve at 3:38 PM

Moving the goalposts for the first Atlantic Yards tower: from "by year end" to "the spring," just in five months

Atlantic Yards Report

The Wall Street Journal reports, in an article headlined Ratner Goes 'Modular' in Brooklyn, dated 11/18/11:

Forest City now says it expects the first of those buildings—a 32-story, 350-apartment tower—to be started in the spring. But the firm hasn't yet secured financing for the building, and that date would be about a year later than the company pledged when it started the arena in early 2010.

Earlier this month, executive Jane Marshall said, "We still believe that, before the end of the year, we will be able to announce which way we’re going and show the the design to the public. That's our goal, consistent with our goal to break ground on B2 early next year.”

Actually, they haven't announced whether the first tower will definitely be modular. And they're no longer planning to break ground "early next year."

Moving the goalposts

This past July, MaryAnne Gilmartin, the developer’s Atlantic Yards point person, said, “We expect to decide on our construction approach in the coming months, and we anticipate a groundbreaking by year end."

So, just in five months, they've moved the groundbreaking from "by year end" to "early next year" to "the spring."

How can we trust the announcement that it would be modular?


Posted by steve at 3:36 PM

November 17, 2011

So, Atlantic Yards may indeed look like Atlantic Lots, in terms of buildings

Atlantic Yards Report

When, in May 2008, the Municipal Art Society produced Atlantic Lots, renderings of a stalled Atlantic Yards project, it delineated both enduring parking lots as well as some boxy buildings on the arena block.

The buildings (below) in the fanciful full buildout looked nothing like the new Frank Gehry plan just released at the time.

2008 MAS renderings

2011 SHoP renderings

As it turns out, the new modular renderings released today look very much like the Atlantic Lots renderings. And there's still a huge surface parking lot planned for the southeast block of the project site.


NoLandGrab: MAS's lawyers should be drawing up papers for an (anti-)intellectual property suit.

Posted by eric at 4:49 PM

Forest City releases designs for first residential tower, which would be modular (unless it's not)

Atlantic Yards Report

In an announcement that just might have been timed to deflect attention from the lawsuit filed against Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner and longtime Community Benefits Agreement partner BUILD, the developer today released renderings for the three arena block residential towers, and said they'd be built modular--unless they're not.

Given the lack of certainty about the production plan, and no mention of financing, there's reason to think the press announcement was a strategic move, either to deflect attention or to put pressure on construction unions.

Note the rectilinear nature of most buildings, a far cry from some of original architect Frank Gehry's more irregular renderings.

The Times is given the scoop

The news was broken by the New York Times, in a CityRoom post headlined Design for Tower Unveiled at Atlantic Yards. (There's no mention of the business relationship between the developer and the New York Times Company, partners in building the newspaper's headquarters.)

The risk

[Times reporter Charles] Bagli points out that modular construction is "largely untested at this height," with the tallest building 25 stores:

The challenge for developers, architects and engineers in building taller modular buildings has been to design an economical bracing system that would protect the structure from wind shear and seismic forces. The developer is working with SHoP Architects, Arup structural engineers and XSite Modular. “If anybody can crack the code,” Mr. Ratner said, “this group can.”

This is the first Times mention of XSite Modular, which can work with Forest City thanks to the settlement of a contentious lawsuit.

The money

The article ends with a mention of discussions between the developer and construction unions. “We are in the process of attempting to reach an agreement that will work for the building trades and Forest City in an effort to create permanent employment,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said obliquely.

Not only would wages for workers be lower, and the number of workers (likely) decreased, so too would expected tax revenues to the city and state--another project selling point.


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder also points out that the building permit points toward conventional construction, not a prefab process.

Posted by eric at 3:18 PM

Design Unveiled for Tower at Atlantic Yards

City Room
by Charles V. Bagli

SHoP has replaced Frank Gehry's stacked shoe boxes with stacked milk crates. Modular milk crates.

The developer Bruce C. Ratner unveiled the design Thursday morning for the world’s tallest prefabricated steel structure, a 32-story residential building at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street in the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project.

The 350-unit building uses rectangular shapes, colors and glass to break up the mass of the structure, which would sit snugly up against Barclays Center, the new arena of the Nets basketball team that is scheduled to open in September 2012. Mr. Ratner, chief executive of Forest City Ratner, said that prefabrication or modular construction could save time and cut construction costs by as much as 25 percent. Fourteen other residential buildings would be built at Atlantic Yards using the same technology.

Forest City Ratner is also negotiating a labor agreement with construction unions, which have supported Atlantic Yards, but could end up with fewer jobs and lower wages for some workers if the project goes forward.

Mr. Ratner said Thursday that he hoped to begin construction early next year. But the start date has been a moving target for more than a year now.


Related coverage...

The Wall Street Journal, Plans Unveiled for Apartments Over NBA Arena

Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards is going boxy.

Just how the buildings will be constructed is also unclear. Forest City said Thursday that it intends to use modular construction, a mostly untested technique for high-rise buildings. But the developer hasn’t made a final decision and said it is still negotiating with unions.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Forest City has released a rendering only to see the project depart dramatically from its initial vision.

Curbed, Atlantic Yards' Modular Rental Tower Will be World's Tallest

Working with Arup and XSite Modular, the architects configured 930 steel chassis modules around a lateral system of steel braced frames, with all the connections on the exterior of the modules, a method the developer describes as "process, not product innovation."

Brownstoner, Renderings Released for First Atlantic Yards High-Rise; Ratner Wants to Go Prefab

Bruce Ratner says 60 percent of construction would take place in a factory, and a deal still needs to be hammered out with construction workers since union workers make significantly less in factory settings than at construction sites.

The Brooklyn Paper, BREAKING: Ratner’s pre-fab tower!

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner will build the world’s tallest pre-fabricated tower as the first residential building inside his mega-project, dealing a blow to labor unions and architecture enthusiasts, but jumpstarting his stalled development.

Crain's NY Business, Low-cost construction set for Atlantic Yards towers

All renderings: SHoP Architects

Posted by eric at 2:52 PM

A departure at Empire State Development: former Atlantic Yards overseer (and booster in China) Peter Davidson

Atlantic Yards Report

From today's Crain's Insider:

MOVING OVER: Empire State Development Corp. Executive Director Peter Davidson joins the Port Authority Monday. He will initially focus on economic development and energy policy.

Davidson, I noted earlier this month, had long had Atlantic Yards in his portfolio, overseeing Project Director Arana Hankin. Now new Chief of Staff Justin Ginsburgh has overall responsibility for Atlantic Yards.

Last year, in a trip to China to boost Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project among potential investors, Davidson claimed, incredibly, that it would "be the largest job-creating project in New York City in the last 20 years.”


Posted by eric at 1:42 PM

Group says 'Look at the figures'

The Item of Millburn and Short Hills
by Lindsey Kelleher

What's good for Brooklyn is apparently not good for Forest City Ratner's head of construction's own neighborhood.

Supporters of the Concerned Neighborhood Association argue that the infrastructure on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Old Short Hills Road isn't big enough to support the proposed synagogue that Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky wants to build there.

And Robert Sanna, a trustee for the association, noted that constructing a synagogue on this property, which is 1.8 acres, could set a precedent for building other institutions such as shelters, day care centers or hospitals on property lots that are too small to accommodate them. Current township regulations require 3 acres of land for building a house of worship.

State-licensed architect Michael Soriano from Cornerstone Architectural Group LLC was hired by the Concerned Neighborhood Association's attorney Kevin Coakley to show the Millburn Zoning Board of Adjustment how many people could fit inside the Chai Center under the International Building Code New Jersey Edition.

The Item previously reported that some people in favor of the Chai Center find it ironic that Sanna is against zoning exceptions in his Jefferson Avenue neighborhood but is employed with Forest City Ratner Corporation, a development company in New York. Sanna noted to both The Item and at the Oct. 31 hearing that his occupation is not relevant to the synagogue application.


NoLandGrab: But Sanna's own unvarnished, hypocritical NIMBYism is relevant to us! He doesn't seem to have a problem with a state override of city zoning for Atlantic Yards, the sweeping away of city rules forbidding the siting of an arena in a residential neighborhood, or the fact that (if his boss can hornswoggle the funds to build it) Atlantic Yards would be the densest residential tract in North America.

Posted by eric at 1:22 PM

The "Modern Blueprint" and the Triumph of Marketing over Memory

In an alternate universe, a Brooklyn newspaper columnist could have filed this dispatch yesterday.

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder imagines a world in which news outlets actually out a little effort into their reporting.

The "Modern Blueprint" and the Triumph of Marketing over Memory

The walk is little more than a mile, but on Tuesday it connected two very different worlds. At lunch hour outside Brooklyn's Borough Hall, there stood a snazzy new trailer, complete with blinking video screens, that was dubbed, in overweening form, "The Experience." A vehicle in service to commerce.

The goal: to sell tickets and suites to the opening season, beginning next year, for the Brooklyn Nets in the new Barclays Center.

Fans and downtown office workers/visitors lined up to shoot baskets, egged on by an animated announcer and DJ, hoping to win a free t-shirt. The Nets Dancers, well-toned lasses in bodysuits, clapped appreciatively. Brisk young men, trim and energetic, hawked season tickets.

One inquiring Brooklynite, hearing the tab was some $4500, shook her head in disbelief, only to be reassured that less expensive seats would someday be available. Others, the ones chosen for quotes by the Nets' fake news service, were more enthusiastic.

At 2 pm, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the wind-up doll of Atlantic Yards support, emerged from his office. He joked about being too short to play basketball among the celebrated hoopsters at Wingate High School.

“Everything we’ve seen about the team has shown it’s a ‘Net positive’ for Brooklyn,” Markowitz said, in words dutifully captured by the Nets' scribe. “It’s something you have to experience for yourself, and – thanks to the EXPERIENCE – now we can.”

About a mile away, there was a less scripted, less corporate event, one that did not lure the reporters from the city's three dailies who were watching Markowitz.


Posted by eric at 1:12 PM

Whistleblowing and EDC: Culture and the Questionable Spirit In Which the State Agency Most Responsible For Atlantic Yards Wields Omnipotent Powers

Noticing New York

In a post that compares and contrasts the Penn State sexual abuse scandal and Atlantic Yards, Michael D.D. White explores the Empire State Development Corporation's shoddy record on compliance with state law.

Fully on notice about its noncompliance given my February 3, 2010 Noticing New York article, ESDC finally adopted the whistleblower policy it was legally required to on April 26, 2010 (i.e. also missing the March 1, 2010 deadline of the second law).

It was on the agenda for April 26, 2010 for administrative action as Agenda item #4. According to the minutes, when one of the board members asked, they were told that this was the first time the agency had such a policy but there is no mention recorded in the minutes or in the memo presenting the policy to the directors that the agency had been improperly without such a policy for many years.

JDA, ESD’s coadministered sister agency that was involved in issuing the (rather questionable) bonds for the Atlantic Yards Prokhorov/Ratner “Barclays” arena did not act to adopt the required whistleblower policy until more than a year after ESD, June 28, 2011.

The responses I received after inquiries to the ESD press office inform me that the policies, since their adoption, have been essentially inert.


Posted by eric at 1:00 PM

Atlantic Yards Lawsuit Plaintiffs Allege Broken Promises


Former Build supporters sue the organization and FCR from rumur on Vimeo.

Here’s a video of the press conference on Tuesday about the lawsuit over Atlantic Yards jobs. The footage, shot by Milica Petrovic, shows some of the plaintiffs saying they were promised union jobs at Atlantic Yards after completing a training program. Maurice Griffen, one of the people suing, has this to say: “They guaranteed me a union card. They said it’s not a question of if we have it, it’s just a question of if you complete the program or not.” Meanwhile, a lawyer from South Brooklyn Legal Services says the suit hinges on “contract law…if a promise is made it has to be kept…these were promises made at the Community Benefits Agreement, they were made at orientation…” Councilwoman Letitia James says the plaintiffs “were had.”


Posted by eric at 12:42 PM

How the arena promoters market (and twist) GQ's designation of Brooklyn as "the Coolest City on the Planet"

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner, which brought to Brooklyn Chuck E. Cheese and Buffalo Wild Wings, is ever ready to ride on the slipstream of cool created by independent entrepreneurs.

Forbes reported yesterday on a press conference announcing college hoops at the Barclays Center:

[Developer Bruce] Ratner noted that someone commented to him recently that Brooklyn was the coolest place on the planet. “Not that you’d know it looking at me,” the 66-year-old real estate developer joked.

Um, that wasn't just a "comment," it was a GQ article about non-corporate restaurants. But there's no limit to exploiting the Brooklyn brand--or, as I described it last year at the arena groundbreaking, "the endless marketing and unbearable banality of borough iconograpy."


Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

B/Q Service Announcements

Brooklyn Community Board 14

Bruce Ratner brings transit-riding Brooklynites a different kind of "Black Friday."

Shuttle buses will replace all B & Q subway service between Pacific Street and Prospect Park from 10:00 pm Friday, November 25 until 5:00 am on Monday, November 28th. This is due to ongoing construction work for the Atlantic Yards Arena. Check www.mta.info for further updates.


Posted by eric at 12:24 PM

Affordable housing moves ahead... at Hunter's Point South

Atlantic Yards Report

Crain's New York Business yesterday reported: Queens housing project to be all 'affordable': Originally pegged at 75% subsidized housing for the middle class, Hunter's Point South will be 100% affordable, a city official announced Wednesday:

The first phase of the huge Hunter’s Point South project on a 30-acre waterfront parcel in Long Island City, Queens, will be 100% affordable housing, Deputy Mayor Robert Steel announced Wednesday afternoon.

How exactly they calculated they could make this project work as all affordable--more subsidies?-- remains unclear, but a Related spokesman said the team was "thinking creatively and working collaboratively."

What's the biggest project?

Crain's noted:

When completed, Hunter's Point South will be the city’s largest affordable housing complex built since Co-Op City opened in the Bronx in the 1970s.

By contrast, Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin has claimed Atlantic Yards "is the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city, because of its commitment to produce 2250 units of housing."

Forest City is supposed to announce plans for the long-delayed first tower by the end of the year.


Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

The Barclays Center Classic: not just Kentucky but also LIU

Atlantic Yards Report

While the headline on the AP article was Barclays hoops classic gets Kentucky vs. Maryland, focusing on the two college basketball powers, don't forget the undercard: Long Island University vs. Morehead State University.

And that, as I suggested in March, helps explain the LIU provost's hyperbolic support for Atlantic Yards:

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

According to the promotional article on the Nets' web site, the Kentucky-Maryland game will be on ESPN. The LIU game? Unclear. They had a good year last year, but this gives them another level of exposure.

You can't have a major game without sponsorship, right? So the first "classic"--definition: "a work of enduring excellence" or a "traditional event"--will be presented by Sheets caffeinated energy strips.


Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

Yormark, Calipari Announce Barclays Center Classic

Nets Basketball Press Release

Yesterday's announcement that the University of Kentucky and the University of Maryland would play the inaugural NCAA basketball game at the Barclays Center of Brooklyn® featured a "despicable, shameless used car salesman — and the surprise is that's not a reference to Bruce Ratner or Brett Yormark!

Flanked by Kentucky coach John Calipari and Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson, on what Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner called “another good day” despite dreary weather, Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark announced Wednesday that the under-construction arena would tip off its “Brooklyn HOOPS” college sports franchise with the Barclays Center Classic, presented by Sheets Brand Energy Strips, on November 9, 2012.


NoLandGrab: "Sheets Brand Energy Strips?" Seriously?

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Occupy Wall Street Protesters Hit Borough Hall at 3 p.m.

As part of the two-month anniversary of the movement, Occupy Everywhere protesters are spreading across the city.

Carroll Gardens Patch
by Georgia Kral

At 3 p.m. today, Occupy Wall Street protesters will be fanning out across the city to talk with people in train stations. They will be at Borough Hall, Court Street between Joralemon and Montague, at 3 p.m.

Early Tuesday morning, police cleared Zuccotti Park, the home of the movement for the past two months. Meanwhile, the Occupy Brooklyn faction has been growing, focusing on corporate development projects launched in conjunction with the city, like Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

November 16, 2011

Brooklyn Residents File Lawsuit to Recover Unpaid Wages

The Local [Clinton Hill/Fort Greene]
by Chester Soria and Martin Leung

Ironic that The Times, which sent experienced reporter Liz Robbins to cover the Nets' staged event at Borough Hall, sent two interns to cover the press conference about the lawsuit. Let's hope they get better treatment in their training program than the ex-trainees got from Forest City Ratner and BUILD. And frankly, their reporting is better than The Times's usual Atlantic Yards coverage.

[Plaintiffs' attorney Nicole] Salk added that the plaintiffs entered the internship program because they were guaranteed union jobs and that they continued working because they were told they would not receive membership if they stopped.

Marie Louis, BUILD chief operating officer, attended the press conference with other members of the organization to find out who the plaintiffs were. She argued after the press conference that all the plaintiffs signed an agreement that said they would not receive pay or be guaranteed union membership.

“They knew it was an unpaid internship,” Ms. Louis said, adding that the plaintiffs misunderstood the agreement. “We can’t help it if people have an idea in their mind that they laser in on.”

Those lasers, of course, were guided by falsehoods.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys, however, said after the press conference, that a signed agreement does not mean that their clients were not entitled to pay.

“You can’t waive your right to be paid for your labor,” said Molly Thomas-Jensen, a SBLS staff attorney.

Maurice Griffin, 23, of Prospect Heights, was one of the plaintiffs at the conference. Mr. Griffin said that he personally asked James Caldwell, BUILD president and CEO, about union books — membership cards that denote union membership — and that Mr. Caldwell told him he had nothing to worry about. He also said Mr. Caldwell told the class that he himself had seen the union books.

“You can ask all the 36 students,” said Mr. Griffin, “and all 36 will tell you that the said the union books were guaranteed.”


Related coverage...

NY Observer, SUIT: Forest City Broke Union Promises

“Their understanding was that upon being admitted (into the unions), which (BUILD instructors) guaranteed they would be when they completed the program, that they would be given a job on the Atlantic Yards construction site,” Matt Brinckerhoff, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, told The Commercial Observer.

Mr. Brinckerhoff added that the training itself was “muddled and haphazard” and taught the participants “various platitudes.”

Gothamist, Atlantic Yards "Interns" Suing Forest City Ratner For Broken Promises

Posted by eric at 5:05 PM

Nets Rally Amid Dreary NBA News

Though the NBA lockout continues, the Nets held a rally in Downtown Brooklyn to drum up support in their new home.

Park Slope Patch
by Jamie Schuh

Though the NBA lockout continues, and the players have now rejected the league’s contract offer and shut down their union, the Nets still went ahead with their “Brooklyn Experience” rally outside of Borough Hall yesterday, according to the New York Times.

Though still located in New Jersey, the team will move to the Barclays Center area when construction is finished. Ironically, the rally was held on the same day that construction workers held a press conference about their legal suit against the developers behind the Atlantic Yards mega-project, which includes the new stadium.

Still, fans lined up outside of Borough Hall to shoot hoops, while others enjoyed music from a D.J. and Nets dancers shimmied adopt a 40-foot promotional trailer.


Posted by eric at 4:54 PM

“I was robbed,” claims plaintiff in lawsuit against BUILD and FCR; defendants deny promising jobs and union cards, setting up contest over credibility; claims over unpaid wages in "sham" training program may be easier to prove

Atlantic Yards Report

To City Council Member Letitia James, the leading political opponent of Atlantic Yards, the federal lawsuit filed yesterday by seven would-be Atlantic Yards workers, who claim they were promised construction jobs and union cards after finishing a highly competitive training program, confirms that the project “was the greatest bait and switch in the history of Brooklyn.”

For the workers-- some of whom quit jobs or declined job offers in expectation of post-training work and union membership--it was simply a chance for justice, after going through the 15-week program sponsored by Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), where they learned little and were put to work, without pay, on a mostly unsupervised contracting job.

“We were repeatedly reassured on numerous occasions that all we had to do is to complete the program and we would obtain union books and employment,” said Kathleen Noreiga, 58, an electrician (in video below). She made a point of saying she had rallied for the project with BUILD, which, while offering job training and assistance, has regularly brought Atlantic Yards supporters to public hearings and events. (BUILD CEO James Caldwell has regularly praised Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner as "like an angel sent from God.")

Seven of the 36 workers who went through the program, which concluded last December, joined the suit, announced at a press conference yesterday afternoon. (Videos by Jonathan Barkey)

“I was robbed,” asserted Maurice Griffin (in video below), who quit his non-union carpentry job to do the 15-week, Forest City Ratner-funded program that began last August.

“They guaranteed me a union card, They said it’s not a question of whether we have it, but whether you complete the program. And I completed it. I came every time, early. I did my work. I’m here to let everybody know I’m not going to stand for this.” Griffin later joined a union on his own.

Click thru for much more.


Posted by eric at 12:30 PM

Lawsuit Against Forest City Ratner And The Fallacy Of Relying On A White-owned Monopoly To Create Construction Work For The Minority Community

Noticing New York

I’d like to focus on one particular aspect of the lawsuit, the question of what Forest City Ratner really ought to owe everyone. The plaintiffs are represented by South Brooklyn Legal Services and one of the attorneys I spoke to today commented that it was sort of absurd that Forest City Ratner had to be sued for not delivering what was essentially the jobs “sweetener” promised for getting control over all the acreage associated with Atlantic Yards. I think that actually trivializes the debt that Forest City Ratner is walking out on.

It is astounding to think that with the resources of its huge mega-monopoly Forest City Ratner is stiffing people for even these few jobs. The 22 acres of Atlantic Yards are contiguous to other Ratner-owned acreage, making for 30 contiguous Ratner-owned acres at the site, with 50+ Ratner-owned acres in the area. That’s an awful lot of mega-monopoly tying up resources in the community accompanied by an unwillingness to hand out jobs.

More important, it should not be overlooked that the creation of the Ratner mega-monopoly precluded and destroyed other jobs. Therefore, I don’t think it is a case of Ratner just owing the community or individuals the few jobs that were the promised sweetener in connection with all the Ratner takings; what Ratner owes the community ought to be commensurate with all the jobs destroyed or precluded by the mega-monopoly.


Posted by eric at 12:24 PM

Bait and switch? Ratner sued over ‘sham’ job-training program

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner set up a “sham” job-training program that ended up screwing workers out of promised union positions on his $5-billion mega-project, a bombshell lawsuit charged on Tuesday.

The workers say that they were promised union membership and jobs in exchange for taking a 15-week apprenticeship course in 2010, but were never hired on at the Prospect Heights site — which includes the Barclays Center and 16 residential towers on a 22-acre parcel of land stretching from Flatbush Avenue to Vanderbilt Avenue.

“They told us they would set aside jobs,” said Kathleen Noriega, one of the plaintiffs. “What they did was wrong and misleading.”

Noriega and six other plaintiffs are being represented by South Brooklyn Legal Services, which has long been involved in Atlantic Yards-related suits.

“The project developers … blatantly violated many federal and state statutes designed to protect individuals from exploitation,” said lawyer Molly Thomas-Jensen. “The project developers … also made promises, to community members and directly to the plaintiffs in this case, that they have broken.”


NoLandGrab: We don't see how this could have happened. We had Bruce Ratner's word, for crying out loud.

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

Tonight, 11/16, 6pm at Cardozo Law School: Battle for Brooklyn Screening and Panel Discussion

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Tonight at 6pm the Cardozo Real Estate Law Association presents a screening of Battle for Brooklyn followed by a panel discussion including, for the first time, both Daniel Goldstein and Matthew Brinckerhoff:

Daniel Goldstein, co-founder of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), the film's protagonist and lead plaintiff on the eminent domain lawsuit at the core of the film;

Matthew Brinckerhoff, Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady, DDDB legal counsel and attorney for the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case;

Michael Galinsky, Co-Director (with Suki Hawley) of "Battle for Brooklyn," partner of Rumur Films;

Steven Polivy, Chair, Economic Development & Incentives Practice, Akerman Senterfitt LLP.

The film just premiered in Pittsburgh and that city's Post Gazette movie critic called Battle for Brooklyn a "movie for our times," as it captures the zeitgeist like no other film screening today.

The film and panel discussion are free and open to the public. An RSVP is required. RSVP here.


Related content...

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Three Rivers Film Festival serves up wide-ranging choices

"Battle for Brooklyn" captures the circus that typically erupts over developments that will wipe out the homes and businesses of the little people: community groups that noisily take to the streets and council chambers under red-hot TV lights, finger-pointing, lawsuits, war chests and passions running as high as the proposed skyscrapers.

"Battle for Brooklyn" is illuminating, inspiring, discouraging and even predictable -- funny how those promised local jobs never materialize -- and a movie for our times.

Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

Time and Sparrows

New York Pelagic

A very interesting blog post about nature and New York underscores the environmental crime prevented when Forest City Ratner pulled the plug on its proposed Four Sparrows Marsh project.

So after going back there the first time I went home and got on the ol’ google to see what’s what with the Four Sparrow. WELL. It turns out that my little secret garden was slated to be developed by… wait for it… RATNER. Yup. Same guy. Can you believe this shit? It was like a set up for a Disney movie or something. I’d have to assemble my gang of plucky pals and charismatic animal friends and defeat the big bad developer who would probably be SMOKING and maybe even doing something mean to one of those charismatic animals!

FOREVER Wild my ass! This, from the parks department’s own site:

“As the larger and older of the two remaining salt marshes on the north shore of the Jamaica Bay estuary system, Four Sparrow Marsh serves two critical roles besides nesting habitat. It is a rest stop for up to 326 species of migrating birds on the Atlantic Flyway, and acts as a “kidney”, filtering pollution and excess nutrients from the Bay.”

Would you sell your kidneys to Bruce Ratner? I don’t know about you, but the last time I went on a bender and woke up missing some organs I did not feel good.

Wait. Hold on. This happened. It seems as though Four Sparrow is safe for now. For now. But make no mistake; just because we have lost 90% of our wetlands in New York does not mean we can’t lose 95%.


Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

College hoops powerhouses Kentucky and Maryland set to tip off at Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center arena

John Calipari and Wildcats will open new Nets arena

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Give the people (and the media) hoops and circuses...

Two powerhouse college hoops teams are set to christen the court when Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center arena opens next fall.

The University of Kentucky Wildcats and the University of Maryland Terrapins will play the first college basketball game at the arena in a Nov. 9, 2012, doubleheader, officials said.

Kentucky coach John Calipari will announce the games at the Barclays Center Showroom Wednesday.

On Tuesday at Brooklyn Borough Hall plaza, the Nets continued their season ticket sales campaign with the unveiling of a 40-foot trailer dubbed “The Experience” — equipped with a basketball hoop, video game consoles, seats from the arena and a rooftop stage.

The efforts to promote the new arena came after a group of construction workers sued Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner — charging that Ratner promised construction jobs at the arena site to them and other local residents, but then reneged.


Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

November 15, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg: "You have Bruce Ratner's word. That should be enough for you..."

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Seven construction workers, including former outspoken supporters of Atlantic Yards, promised union cards and construction jobs on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project are filing suit in federal court today against the developer, the community group funded by him—Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD)—and others.

The video clip below is from Battle for Brooklyn. The clip is a response to a reporter's question about whether the Atlantic Yards Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) is legally binding, Mayor Michael Bloomberg answers, "You have Bruce Ratner's word. That should be enough for you and everybody else in this community."

You gotta see it to believe it:


Posted by eric at 11:44 PM

Construction Workers Sue Atlantic Yards Developer, Claiming They Were "Duped"

Workers allege that Forest City Ratner and the non-profit BUILD failed to deliver promised union cards and jobs following unpaid apprenticeship program.

Park Slope Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

Claiming they were duped, seven Brooklyn construction workers are sueing the developer of the Atlantic Yards Project and a local community organization for failing to deliver union cards and construction jobs they said were promised at the end of what they call a “sham” job-training program.

“I was robbed,” said Maurice Griffin of Crown Heights at a news conference today in the shadow of the rising Barclays Center. Griffin, like many of the plaintiffs, quit a job to join the program.

”I would never have joined this pre-apprenticeship program if it wasn’t agreed (guaranteed) to me that I would have a union card upon completion,” he said.

Councilwoman Letitia James, who organized the press conference, called both the pre-apprenticeship program and the Atlantic Yards Project “the greatest bait-and-switch in the history of Brooklyn.”

Read on for more of this sordid story.


Photo: Amy Sara Clark/Patch

Related coverage...

NY1, Locals Claim Atlantic Yards Developers Denied Promised Construction Jobs

This is priceless:

Developer Forest City Ratner said, "We have already generated 50 percent of the projected economic activity for phase one. Were it not for the delays brought on by opponents of the project, including some of those behind this law suit, even more people would be employed right now.”

NoLandGrab: "Some of those behind this law suit?" The people "behind" this lawsuit are seven former Atlantic Yards-supporting BUILD members who got screwed over by Forest City & friends.

My Little O [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Unpaid Wages and broken Promises

The seven plaintiffs participated in a Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program, created by the project developers totrain community residents for construction jobs within the arena and project. The plaintiffs alleged that they were repeatedly and consistently told that upon completion of the program they would earn membership in building trades unions whose workers would be employed by the Project. Instead, they said they never received any offers of employment at Atlantic Yards, and were only employed for two months in the construction of a house on Staten Island, for which they received no wages or other compensation.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Another Atlantic Yards Lawsuit

The suit seeks the recovery of unpaid wages as well as damages based on alleged false promises. The plaintiffs are represented by South Brooklyn Legal Services (a program of Legal Services NYC) and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.

Atlantic Yards Report, Documents from the lawsuit against BUILD & FCR: the press release and the legal complaint

Posted by eric at 11:26 PM

Brutally weird: Times covers lawsuit against BUILD/FCR amid longer article about promotional event for the Nets

Atlantic Yards Report

So, former supporters and construction trainees of Atlantic Yards Community Development Agreement signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development) held a press conference today to say, basically, we were robbed (because promised union memberships and project jobs didn't pan out, leading to a lawsuit), and how does the New York Times cover it?

In the 11th paragraph of a 19-paragraph CityRoom post headlined Nets Hold a Rally Amid a Lockout and an Uncertain Season.

My comment (not yet posted):

The framing of the lawsuit--as a subordinate item amid coverage of a far less meaningful promotional event involving the Nets--disserves readers. It deserves its own article, and the juxtaposition is awkward.

Though Caldwell said trainees had signed a waiver of payment, at the press conference--not attended by the Times--a lawyer for the plaintiffs said that such a waiver was unenforceable, and that the workers had to be paid.

As for DePlasco's numbers--that "19 of the trainees found jobs in property management, retail or construction related positions"--the issue is: how many got the union jobs that the plaintiffs said were explicitly promised? (Some are working at McDonald's and Planet Fitness. Only one is working at Atlantic Yards.)

One of the reasons we didn't learn these statistics earlier relates to another issue raised in the lawsuit: Forest City Ratner's failure to hire the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the Community Benefits Agreement.


Posted by eric at 11:14 PM

Nets Hold a Rally Amid a Lockout and an Uncertain Season

by Liz Robbins

While seven Brooklynites who'd been duped by phony promises of Atlantic Yards jobs were holding a press conference about their lawsuit in front of the district office of City Councilmember Tish James, The New York Times was on the case — covering a pre-packaged, phony New Jersey Nets "media event" at Brooklyn Borough Hall. Really.

On Tuesday, the day after one of the bleakest in the history of the National Basketball Association — when the players rejected the league’s contract offer, disbanded their union and the season seemed closer to being doomed — the Nets held a rally to promote their “Brooklyn Experience” outside Borough Hall.

This was for a team still located in New Jersey and that will play in Downtown Brooklyn next year in an arena now half-built — in a league that may not operate for the foreseeable future.

The gleeful scene amid such uncertainty, and under the threat of a new lawsuit, was a bit absurd, not to mention surreal, like a Mad Hatter’s tea party held under ominous skies.

Happy fans lined up to shoot baskets — most of them woefully off the mark — against the tricked-out 40-foot mobile promotional trailer that had television screens inside and screens outside showing video games in which the Nets played against themselves.


NoLandGrab: Note to media — if the Nets dancers and Sly Fox are on hand, it's probably not a real news story.

Posted by eric at 11:00 PM

The missing Independent Compliance Monitor for the Atlantic Yards CBA: it should have reported on the construction job training initiative, now subject of a lawsuit

Atlantic Yards Report

I've written several times about the failure of Forest City Ratner to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM) as required by the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.

That failure has saved Forest City up to $100,000 a year and has helped the developer stave off a closer look at total number of jobs at the project site.

Beyond that, it seems, the failure to hire an ICM has diverted scrutiny of Forest City's pre-apprentice training program, the subject of a lawsuit filed today by trainees who said they were promised jobs.

The missing reports

There's no ICM, so we've never seen a report on the training program. However, the CBA, excerpted at right, requires quarterly reports from the Developers to the CBA Coalition (representatives of the eight signatories) and ICM, including:

Number of Community residents presently enrolled in the Pre Apprentice Training initiative; Community Boards in which they reside and percentage of Minority (by category) and women workers; household income; number who successfully completed such initiative, and number who obtained jobs at the Project Site; successful participants length of current employment at the Project Site; percentage of successful participants as to number of total apprentices at Project Site”

(Emphasis added)

Had such reports been issued, the lawsuit might have been averted. Similarly, had figures who advocated for Atlantic Yards by citing the CBA--like Public Advocate Bill de Blasio--spoken up, it would not have taken a lawsuit to bring the lack of a compliance monitor to light.


NoLandGrab: But really, who needs an Independent Compliance Monitor when you have Bruce Ratner's word?!!!

Posted by eric at 12:27 PM

BUILD, its unpaid customer service training for an appreciative cohort, and a graduation ceremony featuring some "Occupy Central Brooklyn" rhetoric

Atlantic Yards Report

In the spring of 2000, activists including ACORN, the WEP Workers Organizing Committee, and the Rev. Al Sharpton marched against low-wage jobs at the Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Center mall and Regal Cinemas in Brooklyn, as described in William DiFazio’s 2005 book Ordinary Poverty.

The low end of the retail wage scale usually doesn't pay living wages. So it’s notable that Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development) recently began to focus on unpaid customer service training--involving classroom sessions and unpaid internships--to position people for hospitality and retail jobs.

After all, BUILD--which had no track record in job training but is led by people with records of community service--was established with the expectation of high-paying construction jobs at the Atlantic Yards project.

The CBA mandated that BUILD offer pre-apprentice construction job training, funded by Forest City Ratner, with the implication that it begin shortly after the CBA was signed in 2005.

That finally happened last year; today, some who went through training have filed suit saying it's a sham. At the least, as I explain, Forest City is now emphasizing that the program--promised as training "Community residents for construction jobs within the Arena and Project"--aims to help new workers develop the kinds of skills that they can use beyond this project."

Click thru for much more about BUILD and its programs.


Posted by eric at 12:19 PM

Seven (of 36) trainees who went through job training program for Atlantic Yards construction jobs sue Forest City, BUILD, others, claiming promises were a sham

Atlantic Yards Report

But wait — they had Bruce Ratner's word!

Forest City Ratner and Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development) have made extensive promises regarding construction jobs for locals at the Atlantic Yards project, a new lawsuit contends, but have not come through.

A Daily News exclusive today, headlined Promise of union jobs a lie by Atlantic Yards, suit by construction workers charge, presages a press conference this afternoon about the suit.

The essence of the case

Notably, the plaintiffs include some people who vocally supported the project with the expectation of jobs. The Daily News reports that workers who say they were promised Atlantic Yards construction jobs instead got "a sham training program" and "offers to work in maintenance, a health club and McDonald’s."

Were workers guaranteed construction work, as alleged? No, BUILD CEO James Caldwell told the newspaper. His organization, along with the deeper-pocketed Forest City Ratner, and individual company executives, are named in the suit.

Forest City declined comment until the company sees the suit. Likely crucial to the case is what specifically the trainees were promised, and how that can be established in court.

Click thru for more.


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner, BUILD, James Caldwell Sued in Federal Court Today for Broken Atlantic Yards Promises

Seven construction workers, including former outspoken supporters of Atlantic Yards, promised union cards and construction jobs on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project are filing suit in federal court today against the developer, the community group funded by him, Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD), and others.

Remember, it was Mayor Bloomberg who was famously caught on tape, as seen in the film "Battle for Brooklyn," saying that legal agreements aren't necessary because, "You have Bruce Ratner's word. That should be enough for you." It appears that neither his words or agreements carry much weight.

The only promise kept so far is to construct a money losing, community disruptive, environmentally damaging billion dollar arena in the midst of a housing crisis for a team in a league that is currently working its way into oblivion.

Brownstoner, Lawsuit to be Filed Over Atlantic Yards Jobs

One of the plaintiffs had this to say: “I believed I was going to be employed, that jobs were going to come into my community. …It was all lies.” Meanwhile, the president of BUILD says the program never guaranteed construction jobs. Matthew Brinckerhoff, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs along with South Brooklyn Legal Services, is quoted as follows: “It’s galling that people living in the community were conned into enthusiastically supporting this project based on the promise of jobs.”

The Brooklyn Paper, ‘Betrayed’ workers to sue Ratner today

Ratner once boasted that the 22-acre project would create 1,500 jobs per year over a 10-year buildout, but roughly 700 people are currently at work on the arena.

The paltry numbers have prompted disgruntled workers — who backed the project during its approval process five years ago — to rally regularly for jobs.

NoLandGrab: At least the paltry few got construction jobs, unlike these duped trainees.

The Real Deal, Construction workers sue Ratner over false promises at AY

The workers say they enrolled in Ratner's training program for construction workers on the project, weren't fully compensated for the work they performed during the training and afterwards were offered jobs in maintenance, a nearby health club and a McDonald's.

Atlantic Yards Report, Given the lawsuit against BUILD and FCR, will the New York Times revisit the 2005 "modern blueprint" claim?

Remember this 2005 New York Times article about Forest City Ratner and BUILD?

Now there's a lawsuit.

NLG: But wait, people — they had Bruce Ratner's word!

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

Nets To Lose Less With No Season?


The Nets might find a silver lining in a lost NBA season — fewer operating losses.

Forbes, which chronicles what the rich do with their money, thinks that a lost season could benefit the Nets financial picture, that they're one of five NBA teams that will lose less money this year than they would have if the team played games. The financial picture was laid out a few days back by Mike Ozanian.

According to Forest City Enterprises, Bruce Ratner's parent company, the bulk of the team's $35+ million in losses will have to be eaten by the Cleveland firm. Under the 2009 deal between Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian agreed to handle up to 80% of the Nets losses in New Jersey with a ceiling of $60 million. That ceiling was reached in June and FCE is now responsible for much of the team's losses, just as it was before Prokhorov bought in.

And Prudential Center isn't going to miss the Nets much either. Bob Sommer, who runs the Rock, says the venue will be able to fill its dates whether the Nets play this season or not. “We won’t be financially disabled, perhaps we’ll even be better off," said Sommer. It appears the only people who will be hurt will be those dependent on the games for revenue, from restaurant and bar owners outside the arena to people like ball boys and scorekeepers inside.


Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

Look, crime is bad in Fort Greene

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

And it's especially bad inside — and outside — Bruce Ratner's malls.

Bike pain

A thief gershed a $1,500 bike from outside the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Nov. 8.

The 34-year-old victim told cops that he parked on Flatbush Avenue at 1:50 pm. When he returned a half hour later, his gray mountain bike was gone.

Dirty secret

A shoplifter in a fur-trim coat stole 240 pairs of underwear from the Victoria’s Secret at the crime-riddled Atlantic Terminal Mall on Nov. 12.

An employee told cops that the thief entered the shop at 10:11 am, yanked $2,000 worth of panties from the shelf and fled.


Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

Promise of union jobs a lie by Atlantic Yards, suit by construction workers charge

Seven construction workers to sue Bruce Ratner

NY Daily News
by John Marzulli & Erin Durkin

But they had Bruce Ratner's word!

They say they were promised good paying union jobs on Brooklyn’s largest construction site.

But what they got from what a new lawsuit charges was a sham training program were offers to work in maintenance, a health club and McDonald’s.

Seven construction workers will sue developer Bruce Ratner Tuesday, accusing him of falsely promising them the moon to win political and community approval of his controversial Atlantic Yards project.

He not only failed to deliver the jobs but also stiffed them for work they performed in the training program, they allege.

“I believed I was going to be employed, that jobs were going to come into my community,” said electrician Kathleen Noriega, 58, of Crown Heights.

“It was all lies,” said Noriega, one of the plaintiffs filing suit Tuesday in Brooklyn Federal Court.

The suit contends Ratner claimed plans for a new sports arena for the Nets and 16 residential and commercial skyscrapers would create 17,000 union construction jobs and 8,000 permanent jobs.

Noriega said she was a vocal supporter of the project’s training program, which offered construction workers membership in building trade unions. Many of the organizations that signed on to train the workers, like Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, were bankrolled by Ratner, according to the suit.

BUILD President James Caldwell, who is named as a defendant in the suit, defended the program, saying most of the 36 participants have been placed in maintenance jobs at other Ratner properties.

Caldwell denied anyone was guaranteed construction work.

“Just like Forest City Ratner made adjustments, (in the size of the project) we had to make adjustments,” Caldwell said.

“It’s galling that people living in the community were conned into enthusiastically supporting this project based on the promise of jobs,” said lawyer Matthew Brinckerhoff who is representing the plaintiffs, along with South Brooklyn Legal Services.

“They were promised union membership with union jobs, instead they got McDonald’s,” Brinckerhoff said.


NoLandGrab: Mr. Caldwell means they had to adjust their lies. Shame.

Posted by eric at 6:24 AM

November 14, 2011

John Paul Stevens: Kelo Was No Big Deal

Reason Hit & Run
by Damon W. Root

In his new memoir Five Chiefs, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens comments on a variety of significant cases that came his way during his three decades on the Court. Noticeably absent from that list is Kelo v. City of New London, the notorious 2005 eminent domain ruling where Stevens upheld the bulldozing of a nice neighborhood so that the local government—working in cahoots with the Pfizer Corporation—could hand the land over to a private developer. Speaking to Wall Street Journal reporter Jess Bravin last week, Stevens broke his silence about the controversial case, though his lame defense is unlikely to persuade many critics:

"It's the most unpopular opinion I ever wrote, no doubt about it," Justice Stevens said in an interview. He said he empathized with Ms. Kelo, "but the legal issue would have been exactly the same if it had been a gas station or a pool hall."

In other words, Stevens would let the government have the same free rein to use public power for private gain whether or not the unfortunate property owner happened to be a sympathetic victim. Duly noted.

As for the national backlash against his ruling, Stevens admits that it has put a slight damper on his social life:

"I had people at a bridge game stop me and ask, 'How could you have written that opinion? We thought you were a good judge, but we learned otherwise,' " he said.


Posted by eric at 9:12 PM

Coach Cal Headlines Barclays Center Press Conference

Nation of Blue

Wow, they sure are busy cranking out non-news events this week. Do they really need a press conference to announce an early-season college basketball game between two teams with no local interest? How slow are ticket sales?

Kentucky will open the Barclays Center next season vs Maryland and Coach Cal will headline the press conference announcing the event.


Posted by eric at 9:05 PM

Press conference Tuesday afternoon at Borough Hall: new mobile 'EXPERIENCE'

Atlantic Yards Report

A press release from the Nets, headlined Barclays Center and Nets Basketball to unveil new mobile 'EXPERIENCE' on plaza at Brooklyn Borough Hall: Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, NETS General Manager Billy King, And NETS Head Coach Avery Johnson to Attend Event...


Posted by eric at 9:02 PM

Federal lawsuit to be filed against Forest City Ratner Companies LLC, and others for damages based on unpaid wages and false promises

City Councilmember Letitia James issued the following media advisory this afternoon.

Council Member James, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, South Brooklyn Legal Services, Clergy and Community to Hold Press Conference in Support of Brooklyn Residents Persuaded into Participating in Deceptive Atlantic Yards Training Program

Press Conference This Tuesday, November 15, 3:30pm at 67 Hanson Place and South Elliott place - in front of the District Office of Council Member James

Federal lawsuit to be filed against Forest City Ratner Companies LLC, and others for damages based on unpaid wages and false promises

A group of Brooklyn residents who participated in a job-training program negotiated as part of the Atlantic Yards project plan to file a federal lawsuit against the Atlantic Yards Development Company LLC, Brooklyn Arena LLC, Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, Forest City Ratner Companies LLC, Bruce Ratner and others.

The suit seeks the recovery of unpaid wages as well as damages based on false promises. The plaintiffs are represented by South Brooklyn Legal Services (a program of Legal Services NYC) and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.

WHO: Elected Officials, Clergy, Lawyers, and Plaintiffs

WHAT: Press Conference to Announce Lawsuit against Atlantic Yards Development Company LLC and others

WHEN: Tuesday, November 15 at 3:30pm

WHERE: 67 Hanson Place and South Elliott Place in front of the District Office of NYC Council Member Letitia James

NoLandGrab: But Mayor Bloomberg saidwe had Bruce Ratner's word!

Posted by eric at 8:11 PM

The Week in Crime: A Citizen’s Arrest at Old Navy And A Halloween Slasher at Pathmark

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

Crime in Bruce Ratner's malls has gotten to the point where shoppers have to stand in for security guards. Of course, you can't really blame those security guards for not wanting to get involved.

A Blade Out at Pathmark

-A security guard at the Pathmark on Atlantic Avenue had a frightening encounter with a razor blade after catching a shoplifter around 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 31, police said. The thief was held in a security office for about 30 minutes before he removed a razor blade from his waistband, swiped it within six inches of the security guard and fled the supermarket, police said.

A Vigilante at Old Navy

-A witness saw a teen place a $27 Old Navy sweater in her handbag at Atlantic Terminal Mall at approximately 2:45 p.m. on Nov. 2, police said. A struggle ensued as the witness tried to apprehend the teenager while she was still in the clothing store, police said.

The good Samaritan received a cut on the hand and the shoplifter was arrested by officers. A 16-year-old girl has been charged with robbery in the third degree, criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree, assault in the third degree, petit larceny, menacing in the third degree, and harassment in the second degree, a spokesman the Kings County District Attorney’s office said.


Posted by eric at 8:01 PM

Traffic barriers and signs on Pacific Street are restored

Atlantic Yards Watch

After nearly six months, missing traffic barriers, parking regulation signs and traffic signs have been restored to Pacific Street between 6th and Carlton Avenues. The "MPT" (Maintenance and Protection of Traffic) measures were the victim of the heavy use of that block by Atlantic Yards related construction trucks. The parking regulation signs were apparently removed to enable illegal construction worker parking.

The barriers and signs are "temporary" measures implemented for the period the Carlton Avenue Bridge is closed. They are designed to delineate for drivers the current mid-block shift of Pacific Street from a westbound one-way to a two-way between 6th Avenue and the entrance to the LIRR ramp into Vanderbilt Railyards. LIRR vehicles must enter the ramp from the west due to its angle to the street. With the re-opening of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, Pacific Street between 6th Avenue and Carlton Avenue will be returned to a two-way for the full-length of the block.

These measures have had to last longer than anticipated because the Carlton Avenue Bridge, originally anticipated to be closed for two years, will have been closed for four and a half years if it opens on the current schedule. They were restored because a community member raised the issue with NYCDOT. Although NYCDOT approves MPT measures associated with Atlantic Yards, it is FCRC's contractors who install and maintain them.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Atlantic Yards Watch: Finally, NYC DOT restores missing traffic barriers, parking signs to Pacific Street

If there weren't an Atlantic Yards Watch and watchful Atlantic Yards neighbors, how much oversight would there be?

After all, only activism from the latter has restored "missing traffic barriers, parking regulation signs and traffic signs... to Pacific Street between 6th and Carlton Avenues," according to Atlantic Yards Watch.

Who's responsible for the vandalism? Apparently construction workers trying to find convenient parking by breaking the rules.

Posted by eric at 7:45 PM

Occupy Wall Street finally gets a Brooklyn accent

The Brooklyn Paper
by Eli Rosenberg

The Occupy Wall Street movement finally took on a Brooklyn accent on Saturday, with protesters decrying “crony capitalism” at several controversial sites — rallying most heatedly at a spot that many call the ultimate symbol of corporate control of democracy, the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment.

Occupy Brooklyn protesters started their march at the JP Morgan Chase complex in Downtown’s Metrotech Center, complaining that the bank got a sweetheart tax subsidy deal, but the main target of the anger was Bruce Ratner’s heavily subsidized Atlantic Yards project, which was approved by a secretive state panel in late 2006 without going through the city’s normal public review process.


Related coverage...

Brooklyn Heights Press, Occupy Brooklyn Marches to Atlantic Yards

About 100 “Occupy Brooklyn” supporters gathered at Korean War Veterans Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn on Saturday for teach-ins, performances and a march to sites they say represent corporate greed in Brooklyn, with a heavy emphasis on Atlantic Yards. Younger Occupy Wall Streeters were joined by groups like the Brooklyn Green Party, FUREE and Common Cause. Speakers said that companies like Forest City Ratner and Chase Bank broke their promises to employ thousands of local workers in return for millions of dollars in subsidies. “They’ve gamed the system against the 99 percent,” they said.

Photo: Mary Frost

Posted by eric at 6:31 PM

I Occupied WALL Street(s) & All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt That Made Jay-Z Richer

Reason Hit & Run
by Nick Gillespie

Fresh off his triumphant role in bringing the Atlantic Yards project (a.k.a. The Great Basketball Swindle) to Brooklyn via skeevy biz practices, eminent-domain-abuser and ticket-fixing rapper Jay-Z briefly had a new controversial project: Making a buck by selling t-shirts intended to support the Occupy movement and keeping all that filthy corporate lucre for himself.


Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

Jay-Z, the 1%, and his decision to drop that "Occupy All Streets" t-shirt

Atlantic Yards Report

Jay-Z's usually pretty good at judging the cultural moment, and floating on the goodwill of fans, but not this past week.

As the New York Post reported yesterday, Jay-Z has pulled his $22 Rocawear t-shirts, which showed “Occupy Wall Street” altered to read “Occupy All Streets” after criticism of his company's failure to share profits with protesters.

Another article on the Post web site, attributed to Newscore, slammed him harder:

Jay-Z, who has had 12 No. 1 albums, has spent much of his career promoting the massive accumulation of wealth and celebrating the people that do so.

The Jay-Z defense

On the other hand, those defending Jay-Z point out that, while he may be in the 1% of wealth, he's earned it through creativity and drive, not through the crony capitalism and unfair rules that the Occupy protesters have decried.

That's a significant point, except it breaks down when it comes to Jay-Z's promotion of Atlantic Yards and the new Brooklyn arena.


Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Daniel Goldstein speaks out against Atlantic Yards, breaks terms of settlement?

Nets Are Scorching

From the department of "What are pro basketball blogs supposed to write about when there's no pro basketball..."

Famed protester Daniel Goldstein, known best for heading Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn until reaching a settlement with Bruce Ratner worth roughly $3 million, was on hand to protest, stating that “There is no greater monument to crony capitalism in all of Brooklyn than the Atlantic Yards Project.”

According to the terms of Goldstein’s $3 million settlement, he “cannot actively oppose the project.” Oops. While I’m not sure if this qualifies as “actively opposing” under the specific language in the settlement, it’s safe to say this isn’t exactly “actively promoting.”


NoLandGrab: But it is exactly correct.

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

The renaissance of Brooklyn? Credit Ratner, or the creative class?

Atlantic Yards Report

Is Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner "the man chiefly responsible for the renaissance of Brooklyn," as Brett Yormark, the relentlessly promotional CEO of the New Jersey Nets, introduced him at the 9/26/11 media event featuring Jay-Z?

Of course not. Not even ubiquitous environmental consultant AKRF tried to say that, even though it did offer a very selective history for the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

And, a city official suggested last week, credit goes to the creative class. (I don't disagree, but I think it's more complicated.)


NoLandGrab: No, we're pretty sure it was Bruce Ratner, when he wasn't busy curing polio, putting a man on the moon and caring for poor children in India.

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Nets Take Show(room) on the Road


Because the Barclays Center hasn't generated enough traffic already...

For years, the Nets have been bringing high-end customers to their Barclays Center showroom atop Bruce Ratner's New York Times building. There, the prospects are treated to a mock-up of a suite, complete with virtual views of the arena from any seat. Now, the Nets are taking their show(room) on the road.

They've have outfitted a 40-foot trailer to replicate the showroom, complete with two flat screen monitors that can project the virtual views, as well as hardwood floors, a hoop that can be set up outside, a rooftop deejay both and even a small Nets store ...of sorts. Billy King and Boro President Marty Markowitz will unveil the "Experience" Tuesday at Borough Hall. One reason for a mobile marketing tool: the Nets are about to start marketing loge seat packages to small businesses.


NoLandGrab: Given tepid sales of suites and tickets, this isn't surprising. Nor will we be surprised when Brett Yormark rings our doorbell, offering a deeply discounted ticket package.

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

FUREE, elected officials ask Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to allow community input on search for new president

Atlantic Yards Report

FUREE (Families United for Racial & Economic Equality), along with State Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Joe Lentol, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, and City Council Member Letitia James (but not Steve Levin), has sent a cordial letter requesting community input in the search for the new president of the private-public Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP)...


Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

November 13, 2011

Occupy Brooklyn Pictures

Brit in Brooklyn

The Occupy Brooklyn march took place this afternoon with stops along the way at Metro Tech, Atlantic Yards and Fulton Mall. During these breaks the marchers were given information on how the developments came into being.

Daniel Goldstein spoke about Atlantic Yards, outside the Ratner shopping center.

An Occupy Wall Street surprise for Brooklyn was the launch of the awesome poster edition of the Wall Street Journal. One of Zuccotti Park’s very own had journeyed across the east river to distribute the new edition.

More pictures in my Occupy Wall Street archive.


Posted by steve at 11:45 PM

Occupy Brooklyn - Featuring Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report, "Occupy Brooklyn" march against corporate greed features denunciation of Atlantic Yards

There was a distinct Atlantic Yards flavor to Occupy Brooklyn yesterday, which drew perhaps 110 people--and a plethora of watchful police--to the Cadman Plaza teach-in and the ensuing "March to Evict Corporate Greed."

Atlantic Yards was denounced as an example of such greed, and a half-dozen Atlantic Yards activists were present, repurposing protest signs, as well as some groups--Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Brooklyn Green Party, Sierra Club--who had participated in Atlantic Yards-related events.

But the overall group included more young people, and the message was much broader.

Given the huge buzz about Occupy Wall Street, the crowd was relatively small. There was a minority of people of color. Still, the diverse crowds that the march encountered--both on foot and in cars--seemed receptive to the "We are the 99%" message and to the handouts warning about public support for corporate deals.

Occupy Brooklyn events continue today, in specific neighborhoods and at Brooklyn College, so the leaderless movement has opportunity to grow. Alternatively, it could establish a permanent presence--you can bet those managing MetroTech are wary--and make its presence known more firmly.

Related coverage...

Prospect Heights Patch, Occupy Brooklyn Marches on Atlantic Yards
By Amy Sara Clark

The Occupy Brooklyn movement marched on the Atlantic Yards Project Saturday as part of a “March to Evict Corporate Greed.”

About 100 people participated, including Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

"There is no greater monument to crony capitalism in all of Brooklyn than the Atlantic Yards Project," he said as the group paused in front of the Atlantic Center Mall in the shadow of the rising Barclays Center.

mcbrooklyn, Occupy Brooklyn Marches to Atlantic Yards and Other Sites of Corporate Greed

A multi-generational crowd showed up at Korean War Veterans Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn yesterday for the Occupy Brooklyn community event. The Green Party, FUREE and Common Cause joined the Occupy Brooklyn group.

The day included teach-ins about community organizing and the impact of big money on our politics, a hot lunch, performances and a march to sites of corporate greed in Brooklyn, including Atlantic Yards. Speakers said the 1 percent spend their political money to game the system against the 99 percent.

DIY Business Assoction, Occupy Brooklyn occupies Brooklyn blocks on November 12–13

From where we were standing, Occupy Brooklyn’s small collective of activists were some of the most positive, friendly protesters we’ve ever seen.

Here are some photos from Occupy Brooklyn’s Speak-out and Teach-ins at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall in Cadman Plaza West on Saturday, November 12. The pow-wow was followed by a March to Evict Corporate Greed! at 2:30 p.m.

On Sunday, November 13, Occupy Brooklyn is hosting a meeting for Community Actions from 11–3 p.m. and a General Assembly at 3 p.m.

Posted by steve at 11:05 PM

Journalism or advertising? Daily News promotes next Nets promotional event for new mobile marketing tool, claims "luxury suites are already half-gone"

Atlantic Yards Report

There's another piece of journalism-as-advertising in today's New York Daily News, headlined NBA lockout aside, Nets working hard to sell New York on next season's team, Barclays Center & Brooklyn.

What's the mark of success? "About 50% of their 100 suites — average price $250,000 — are already sold," declares the Daily News. The headline deck states "luxury suites are already half-gone."

Except that was the approximate number in July, too.

More puffery

The other piece of news? A preview of a media event:

On Tuesday, the Nets roll out their latest fan-friendly attraction: “The Experience,” a state-of-the-art, interactive, souped-up and hooped-up mobile marketing tool.

The 40-foot-long trailer, with hardwood floors inside and a rooftop deejay booth, offers fans everything from a touch of Nets history to a chance to buy gear to an opportunity to fire jumpers at a regulation-height hoop.

Music pumps from speakers up high, while the trailer’s back end is set up to serve food and drinks to fans — just around the corner from an electronic scoreboard.

...Nets General Manager Billy King and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz will unveil “The Experience” on the plaza outside Borough Hall.

How often has the Daily News covered, say, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's dishonest shilling for Forest City Ratner's effort to recruit Chinese immigrant investors seeking green cards? Never.


Posted by steve at 10:49 PM

November 12, 2011

Some questions unanswered from the past week's Atlantic Yards-related news

Atlantic Yards Report

Some questions unanswered from the past week's Atlantic Yards-related news:

  • Does Forest City Ratner have permission to install bollards at the Atlantic Yards arena site? I asked the Department of Transportation but haven't heard back.

  • Flood lights at the Vanderbilt Yard, supposed to go on at 6 am, were reported to go on at about 4:30 am. About this one I didn't ask, but wouldn't a proactive Empire State Development, the agency overseeing the project, want to set the record straight?

  • How much did the various parties spend on the last playground "funded in part" (but promoted in the main) by the Barclays Nets Community Alliance? I asked sponsor Out2Play but haven't heard back.

  • Here's a bonus: Representative Yvette Clarke issued a press release stating that she took "took Dr. Winslow Sargeant [of the federal Small Business Administration] on a tour throughout key sections of 11th Congressional District of New York such as Brownsville, Prospect Plaza and the Atlantic Yards/Nets Stadium site, which represent areas where small businesses thrive, are currently undergoing development and are in need of federal resources for its revitalization." What?


Posted by eric at 1:46 PM

One year later, rethinking the Prokhorov-sponsored "Global Russian" phenomenon

Atlantic Yards Report

Journalist/editor W.P. Norton, in Rediscovering Russian America (also published on the website of the Institute of Modern Russia), questions the term “Global Russians,” associated with the orbit of billionaire entrepreneur/Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and his magazine Snob (an acronym):

The term itself was originally coined to describe the affluent, intercontinental target audience of Snob magazine, a hardcopy-slash-Internet-enabled journal created in 2008. Snob, a media platform with offices in Moscow, London and New York City, was created for Prokhorov by such top-flight Russian editorial talent as Vladimir Yakovlev and Masha Gessen.

Interestingly, Russians themselves disagree heatedly when it comes to defining the concept.

And it turns out, according to Norton, the journalist who coined the term, Michael Idov, has left Snob and has distanced himself from the concept.


Posted by eric at 1:38 PM

Darcy James Argue's Brooklyn Babylon

Feast of Music

Darcy Argue likes to think big. As in: writing and performing original jazz with his own 18 piece orchestra. I've seen Darcy play all kinds of places over the past four years - everywhere from small dives like the Bowery Poetry Club to proper clubs like the Jazz Standard and Joe's Pub - and each time, it's been a joyous thrill ride.

Now, Darcy's managed to one-up himself with Brooklyn Babylon: a fully staged, fully integrated sight-and-sound performance currently taking up residence at BAM's Harvey Theater. Commissioned by BAM's Next Wave Festival, Brooklyn Babylon tells the story of master carpenter Lev Bezdomni, who is comissioned to build a carousel that will crown the tallest building in the world, which is being constructed in the heart of Brooklyn. The message came through loud and clear, sitting within a crane's length of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaplex, where the Nets are set to move in late next year.


Posted by eric at 1:33 PM

Prokhorov, Jay-Z, Gehry, Ratner (for "Athletics"!) make "The Haute Living 100" of New York

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder catches up on the Haute Living 100.

The luxury mag Haute Living Magazine, in The Haute Living 100 of New York, places the Nets' owner in the top 20 of its Business category:

19. Mikhail Prokhorov
What makes him haute: Billionaire entrepreneur Mikhail Prokhorov began by becoming one of Russia’s leading industrialists in the precious metals sector. While running Norilsk Nickel, the company became the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium. Prokhorov is the chairman of Polyus Gold and the president of Onexim Investment Group. Prokhorov is the third richest man from Russia and the 39th richest man in the world, with an estimated $18 billion net worth. He also is co-owner of the New Jersey Nets.

He's also the only Russian on the list, so clearly the basketball association is what got him there. Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner does not appear in this section, though he appears lower down.


Posted by eric at 1:12 PM

November 11, 2011

Is Jay-Z Trying To Profit From Occupy Wall Street?

Business Insider
by Karlee Weinman

Speaking of corporate greed...

He's got 99 problems, and now "the 99%" might be another one.

Rapper Jay-Z is plastering Occupy Wall Street's message onto a new line of T-shirts, to be released Friday under his Rocawear clothing label.

But here's the thing: Rocawear isn't going to share its wealth. A Rocawear spokesperson sent us a statement confirming there's no plan to distribute any of the profits, which will surely pour in from shirt sales, to Occupy Wall Street.

With Rocawear set to keep proceeds, New York's favorite native son is poised to cash in on his apparent support of a movement that rails against exactly that sort of thing. The irony!


NoLandGrab: "Occupy All Streets" is kinda what Bruce Ratner, with Jay-Z providing cover, has done to Prospect Heights.

Posted by eric at 9:55 PM

Here’s Reminder: Map For Saturday’s Occupy Brooklyn 2:30 PM March To Evict “Corporate Greed” (And Maybe Ratner's “Crony Capitalism”)

Noticing New York

(Above, map of route for Occupy Brooklyn's 2:30 March tomorrow, Saturday the 12th, to “evict corporate greed.” )

Maybe you already know about Occupy Brooklyn’s planned march tomorrow at 2:30 to “evict corporate greed.” If you do, then the map of the proposed march tomorrow should serve as a reminder for that event and also for the teach-ins that begin at 10:00 AM at the Korean War Veterans Plaza at Cadman Plaza which is near Brooklyn Borough Hall, at Cadman Plaza West/East between Tillary and Johnson. If you didn’t know about it before, this is your opportunity to put it in your calendar.

The map of the proposed march should be a reminder of something else: The vastness of Forest City Ratner’s government-assisted mega-monopoly on some of the most valuable and densely zoned real estate in Brooklyn. It is interesting to note how much of the march, which will be 2.5 miles of walking in all, will involve going either over the property of Forest City Ratner or will be tightly flanked by Forest City Ratner’s property.


Posted by eric at 9:48 PM

A protest at MetroTech and questions about subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

In a demonstration yesterday outside J.P. Morgan Chase at MetroTech, featuring an in-character "Mr. Moneybags" and the "mic check" rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street, organizers from ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York, condemned the bank for accepting a 25-year subsidy in 1988 worth nearly $238 million but not meeting job totals.

According to Good Jobs New York, Chase had 5000 in New York City in 1988 and was supposed to ultimately have 5950 jobs, all part of job retention promised with a move to MetroTech. But Chase has since cut jobs and relocated jobs to other states, leaving a total of 1593 jobs.

Was obligation cut?

The Brooklyn Paper, however, reported:

JP Morgan Chase spokesman Michael Fusco said that the agreement cited by protesters was dropped and renewed in 2004. He said the company is now required to have only 2,500 full-time employees and recently hired 800.

“We’re in compliance with the city and remain in good standing with IDA,” he said.

If that's true--that they need only have the number of jobs originally promised--then it's evidence, as with Atlantic Yards, that the city and state are willing to revise already favorable deals.


Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

Is Atlantic Yards (site of OWS protest) an example of "anti-capitalist outrage"? Maybe against crony capitalism

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper previews Occupy Brooklyn events this weekend (here's a map of the march):

Occupy Brooklyn’s events — part of Occupy Wall Street’s official “Occupy Your Block” efforts to connect to communities around the city this weekend — will be centered around Cadman Plaza in Downtown on Saturday and will many traditional liberal groups, including the Green Party, FUREE, Organizing 4 Occupation, the Sierra Club and Brooklyn For Peace.

The fair will culminate with a rally and march in and around Downtown — what one blogger called a “March To the Most Dangerous Traffic Intersections in Brooklyn” — stopping at locations of anti-capitalist outrage, such as Atlantic Yards, and the JP Morgan Chase, where protesters rallied on Thursday.

(Emphasis added)

But Atlantic Yards isn't an example of "anti-capitalist outrage." It's an example of "anti-crony-capitalist outrage."

When Atlantic Yards opponents and critics point to the absence of an RFP (request for proposals) for the Vanderbilt Yard until 18 months after the city and state announced support for Forest City Ratner's proposal, they're arguing not against capitalism but for fair procedures.


Related content...

The Brooklyn Paper, Occupy Brooklyn storms back with a weekend of action in Downtown

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Millman: Parking Permits 'Not Coming Anytime Soon'

Champion of legislation in Albany clearing the way for RPPs predicts a long road ahead.

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Paul Leonard

Golden to Arena Neighbors: "Drop Dead!"

If there were any doubts that the already heated debate over the prospect of Residential Permit Parking in Brooklyn was just beginnning, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, D-Cobble Hill, dispelled them at Wednesday night's Community Board 2 monthly general meeting.

"It's not so cut and dry. If it has to happen, it's not happening for awhile," said Millman, who first proposed legslation in the Assembly clearing the way for RPPs in Brooklyn Heights in 2008.

Millman's remarks made it increasingly unclear about whether any parking permit system would be in place in time for the scheduled opening of Barclays Center in September.

This week, state Sen. Martin Golden, R-Bay Ridge, joined other legislators from South Brooklyn in slamming the idea of parking permits on Brooklyn streets.


Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

P.S. 9 and M.S. 571 Celebrate New Playground

The ribbon-cutting of the $305,000 revamped space was marked with poetry, dance, song ... and a giant silver fox.

Prospect Heights Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

P.S. 9 and M.S. 571 celebrated the opening of its $305,000 playground yesterday with song, dance, poetry and even a visit from the NETS mascot, Sly.

The revamped space was funded in part by Out2Play, a non-profit that raises funds to refurbish NYC public school playgrounds, the NYC Department of Education, Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, and the Barclays Nets Community Alliance, a partnership of Forest City Ratner, the NETS and Barclays that, since forming in 2007, has given area non-profits $1 million a year, according to a NETS news release.


NoLandGrab: Here's a recent Atlantic Yards Report piece on the Barclays Nets Community Alliance's playground funding.

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Assemblyman Boyland found not guilty in corruption case, despite lies and no-show job

Atlantic Yards Report

...But believe it or not, we hold our elected officials to an even lower standard than we hold Bruce Ratner.

Assemblyman Carl Kruger, and (by extension) Forest City Ratner must be breathing a little easier after learning that Assemblyman William Boyland, charged in the same overall federal corruption case which snared Kruger and mentioned FCR (in relation to Kruger), was acquitted yesterday.

In Jury Acquits Assemblyman of Conspiring to Take Bribes, the New York Times reported that the jury found Boyland's actions questionable but not criminal:

Most jurors felt that Mr. Boyland “clearly did things wrong,” the juror said, citing evidence that he lied on disclosure forms about his work for MediSys, and that he had a no-show job.

...“We could not connect the dots,” the juror said. “We could not say that because he got the money, he advocated for MediSys... We couldn’t do that beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Other party guilty

Here's what's confusing: the former MediSys CEO, David Rosen, was already convicted of conspiring to bribe Boyland in return for him helping MediSys. Maybe the difference was that Boyland, who did not testify, chose a jury trial, and Rosen chose a bench trial before a judge.

Kruger's trial is in January.


Related content...

The New York Times, Jury Acquits Assemblyman of Conspiring to Take Bribes

After the verdict was delivered, Mr. Boyland said, “I’m looking forward to getting back to serving as assemblyman for the 55th District.”

NoLandGrab: We bet he is. Dispensing his patented brand of compassion.

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

Billy Crystal to Host the Oscars - YES!!

TV Takes All
by Debra Caruso Marrone

If there's a takeaway from all this, it's that Hollywood holds its Ratners to a higher standard than New York does.

War. Famine. Presidential politics. A terrible economy. Forget all of that for awhile because all is right in the world - in Tinsel Town, at least.

Billy Crystal announced today via Twitter that he will be back for a ninth time to host the 84th annual Oscar awards on February 26th.

Crystal, 63, is stepping in after a fiasco that brought down a politically incorrect (and dumb) producer (Bruce Ratner) and an ill-advised initial choice of host (Eddie Murphy).

Ratner was forced to resign after making anti-gay slurs. Murphy walked away following Ratner's resignation.


NoLandGrab: They, of course, mean Hollywood director Brett Ratner. But regardless, don't worry, Eddie — for a guy as loyal as you, there's a job waiting at One Metrotech.

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

November 10, 2011

Mississippi Voters Pass Eminent Domain Reform. New York One of Six States With No Post-Kelo Reform

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Is it any surprise that New York State, whose politics are overwhelmed by the real estate industry and is perhaps the worst offender when it comes to eminent domain abuse, is one of only six remaining states to take no steps towards legislative reform in the wake of the 2005 Supreme Court Kelo eminent domain ruling?


Posted by eric at 6:34 PM

Atlantic Yards Watch: railyard flood lights, supposed to go on at 6 am, yesterday were illuminated 90 minutes earlier

Atlantic Yards Watch

Can we believe the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert?

Ummmm, no?

According to the document, to facilitate early start of work, railyard flood lights are supposed to be turned on at 6am. (Sunrise is after 6:30 am.)

However, according to a neighbor who shot photos and video yesterday and posted them on Atlantic Yards Watch, the lights went on at about 4:30 am.

The impact on residents? Those at 700 Pacific Street, face "extreme excess light pollution," blinding at times, according to the neighbor.

On video


Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

"Prospect Heights Is Happening!" (thanks to arena), Corcoran claims, using photo of building which (unmentioned) is across from arena parking lot

Atlantic Yards Report

Prospect Heights residents have been getting the below postcard from mega-brokerage Corcoran encouraging them to choose that firm to sell their home. (Postcard via Prospect Heights activist Patti Hagan.)

The text, as stated on the back:

Prospect Heights is Happening!
Your neighborhood is transforming. With the Barclays Center arena nearing completion, Propsect Heights and the surrounding area are being redefined.

Then follows the Corcoran pitch.

The unmentioned irony

The "Just Sold" building pictured is 618 Dean Street, directly across the street from the planned interim surface parking lot for the arena, which could last a decade and might impinge ever so slightly on residents' lives.

And did Corcoran, in its ad, mention the parking lot? Nope.


NoLandGrab: Irony? Norman Oder's never worked in real estate. They're probably kicking themselves for not adding "adjacent to AMPLE parking!"

Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

Catching up on the NBA lockout: contract may be resolved today, but a lost season would hurt the Brooklyn-bound Nets far less than rival teams rooted in their cities

Atlantic Yards Report

We're the 88% (who haven't noticed that the NBA is missing)!

What does the continued NBA lockout--which may finally be resolved today (see links at NetsDaily)--mean to the New Jersey Nets? Well, consider the post by Forbes magazine's Mike Ozanian, who considers the team among Five NBA Teams Would Lose Less Money With No Season.

That's consonant with one report--though they haven't been widespread--portraying principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov as a hardliner. CBSSports.com's Ken Berger wrote 11/6/11, in For hardliners on both sides, 96 hours left to save NBA season:

Prokhorov, who according to sources is fine with a strategy that would blow up his mediocre team's last season in Newark, is lucky in that he doesn't really have a fan base to hold him accountable. But where are the city attorneys, district attorneys, attorneys general and editorial page writers in some of those other cities to ask who's going to refund taxpayer money that's funding empty basketball arenas during a canceled season?

Then again, playing this season might help keep star point guard Deron Williams, who can opt out of his contract, on board. More importantly, under the owners' proposal, the Nets will have a lot of flex in their salary cap to sign free agents to complement Williams.


NoLandGrab: The Nets had a lot of flex last year, too, when they were rebuffed by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire and ended up with Johan Petro, Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow, and Jordan Farmar. Who?

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Potential Roadblock for Permit Parking Plan

State Sen. Marty Golden and other southern Brooklyn pols are against the idea of permit parking for residents.

Park Slope Patch
by Jamie Schuh

The plan for residential permit parking, lauded by some residents who live near the Barclays Center arena, may not have a chance in Albany, if state Sen. Marty Golden, R–Bay Ridge, has his way.

The Brooklyn Paper reports that though City Council approved the proposal, Golden has called the idea of a voluntary permit parking system “another tax on our communities.”


NoLandGrab: Marty Golden, however, was more than happy to spend a billion dollars of taxpayer money on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

8-Bit NYC

Urban Media Archaeology

8-Bit NYC is, in the words of its creator Brett Camper, “a lo-fi web map of New York City, inspired by 8-bit video games.” Camper created a rendering engine that analyzes 16×16 pixel tiles of the OpenStreetMap to determine the individual tiles’ content (a road, a park, etc.) and replace it with the appropriate 8-bit style bitmap tile. 8-Bit NYC can be considered “fake 8-bit” in the sense that it essentially takes higher fidelity OpenStreet maps and down-samples them, effectively stripping information that was once available.

My application of the map explicitly applies 8-Bit NYC’s implied heroic quest to its basemap. Perhaps to Alison Sant’s dismay, 8-Bit’s lo-fi orthogonal geometry makes a great canvas on which to affix a narrative. With a few additions, 8-Bit NYC can make for a provocative tool in telling a story, combining the similar nostalgia of antique illustrated maps and video games’ linear progression. Draw a path from Manhattan through Brooklyn Heights, where I’ve added a few 8-bit skyscrapers, and toward Atlantic Yards, and we can see a simple movement of vertical development starting in the city, crossing into Brooklyn and creeping toward its center. Using hallmarks of video game good and evil, we can illustrate the use of eminent domain in Atlantic Yards as a monstrous bulldozer, plowing down Snoopy and his house. Not the most nuanced argument, but there are certainly circumstances where such reductions could be useful.

My Atlantic Yards application:


Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

November 9, 2011

Barclays Nets Community Alliance no longer claiming "it has funded" refurbished playgrounds but rather "funded in part"

Atlantic Yards Report

The latest press release promoting a playground refurbished by the Barclays Nets Community Alliance has a subtle but significant change in language, as the team/sponsor no longer seem to claim all the credit. (I'm checking on the actual numbers.) They still get to issue the press release, though.

Previous claim

About two months ago, the alliance was claiming that "it has funded" a refurbished playground, leaving the impression it deserved most of the credit, even though the alliance paid about one-eighth the cost.


Posted by eric at 10:12 PM

Eddie Murphy will skip the Oscars

Crain's NY Business
by Matthew Flamm

What's this have to do with Atlantic Yards? Nothing. We just wanted to say that, while in the past we've felt bad for Hollywood director Brett Ratner when he got confused with land-grabber Bruce Ratner, this time we actually feel bad for Bruce.

The Oscars are having the week from hell. Eddie Murphy, who had been scheduled to host the Academy Awards telecast Feb. 26, announced Wednesday that he would not be doing the show.

His decision came one day after director Brett Ratner stepped down as the show's producer. Mr. Ratner, who recently directed Mr. Murphy in Tower Heist and who picked him as host, had sparked a firestorm of controversy by using an anti-gay slur at a press event promoting his new movie.

It didn't help that Mr. Ratner then went on the Howard Stern Show and talked about his sex life.


NoLandGrab: Really, Crain's?

Posted by eric at 9:44 PM

Mississippi Becomes the 44th State to Reject Kelo v. New London Ruling

Eminent Domain Reform Passes with 73 Percent of Vote

Castle Coalition

In a tremendous victory for property rights, 73 percent of Mississippians yesterday overwhelmingly rejected the infamous U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v. City of New London to become the 44th state to pass stronger protections for property owners against eminent domain abuse.

Initiative 31 amends the Mississippi Constitution to prohibit the government from seizing private property by eminent domain and handing it to other private entities. Government agencies that take private property by eminent domain for a public use must own and use that property for 10 years before selling or transferring it to a new, private owner. Restricting the transfer of the property the government acquires by eminent domain discourages the forced transfer of property from one private owner to another private owner under the guise of “economic development” and will protect the vast majority of property owners in Mississippi.

“Mississippians and their property are safer today—their homes, farms or businesses cannot be taken by eminent domain simply to be to be handed over to others for private profit,” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Dana Berliner.

Mississippi had been one of only seven states that have not yet enacted any type of eminent domain reform since the Kelo decision which took away the homes of seven New London, Conn., families for private development and sparked a nationwide backlash against eminent domain for private gain. IJ represented Susette Kelo before the U.S. Supreme Court.


NoLandGrab: New York — perhaps the worst eminent domain abuser in the nation — is among the six states that have yet to enact any post-Kelo reforms.

Posted by eric at 9:27 PM

N.B.A. Needs Drastically Different Approach

The New York Times
by William C. Rhoden

Brooklyn Nets ad whiz Steve Stoute — who recently called Bruce Ratner "our generation's Robert Moses" — has a plan for ending the NBA stalemate: have the 1% partner up with the other 1%.

Commissioner David Stern likes to talk about partnership, but in the rough-and-tumble world of stalled labor negotiations, the fundamental relationship is anything but.

The N.B.A. and the players are engaged in another season-threatening battle over the distribution of what has become about $4 billion a year in revenue. This is not what a partnership looks like. If the N.B.A. and the players were actually partners, with players having an ownership stake in the league, we might be watching basketball instead of owners against players, owners against owners and players against players.

The concept of players’ equity would probably be met with great resistance from the owners and take years to work out. But given the tangled state of current negotiations, why not strategize now for the next contract?

“There’s not a better time than now,” said Steve Stoute, the founder and chief executive of Translation Consultation and Brand Imaging.


NoLandGrab: Actually, there was a better time than now — before now. With 88% of the public saying "really, there's an NBA lockout?", would anyone care if the Nets never played a game in Brooklyn — or anywhere else?

Posted by eric at 9:08 PM

From the latest Construction Alert: new floodlights at railyard; discussions about how to reduce noise during upcoming Atlantic Avenue work

Atlantic Yards Report

The big news from the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 11/7/11 and distributed yesterday by Empire State Development (after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner) includes:

  • Work at the railyard will continue on Saturdays and some Sundays, "due to the need to expedite all of this work for overall schedule maintenance" (in other words, to not fall behind)

  • Now that Daylight Savings Time is over, Yard Flood Lights will be turned at 6am and from dusk to 7:30 pm.

  • Work will begin late 1st quarter or early 2nd quarter 2012 on the remaining traffic mitigation work, most of which is made up of raised medians along Atlantic Avenue from Flatbush Avenue to Vanderbilt Avenue. Given previous complaints about noise, the parties involved are discussing how to "reduce noise intensity."

  • Bollard installation is continuing, starting at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street and is anticipated to be complete around the site perimeter by the middle of December.

I wandered by the site last night and saw a few bollards installed. Based on comments at last Thursday's Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, it was my understanding, however, that the city Department of Transportation had not yet approved the bollard plan. (I'll update this when I get it clarified.)


NoLandGrab: Silly Norman Oder — Forest City Ratner doesn't need "approvals" to do what it wants.

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

AKRF contract for Supplementary EIS: up to $1.7 million (paid by FCR)

Atlantic Yards Report

Speaking of rearranging deck chairs...

Last Thursday, at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, Empire State Development (Corporation), reported that the agency board approved extension of its contract with environmental consultant AKRF for a “substantial amount.”

I followed up and learned the sum: up to $1.7 million. Such environmental review costs are paid by the applicant, Forest City Ratner.

AKRF is beginning the process of working on the scope for an Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) regarding the impacts of an extended project buildout, 25 years versus the studied ten years.

After the draft scope of work is finalized in-house, Hankin said, "we will be going to the public, soliciting comments.” No schedule has been set.


Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

A switch at Empire State Development: new Chief of Staff Justin Ginsburgh now has Atlantic Yards in his portfolio

Atlantic Yards Report

"Attention passengers: we have rearranged the deck chairs for your comfort. We hope you are enjoying your cruise on the Titanic Atlantic Yards."

According to a new Empire State Development (Corporation) organizational chart, dated 10/26/11, new Chief of Staff Justin Ginsburgh, whose appointment was announced 9/6/11, now has overall responsibility for Atlantic Yards.

The project previously was in the portfolio of Executive Director Peter Davidson, to whom Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, reported.

The chief of staff is a newly created position. Before coming to ESD, Ginsburgh worked at Goldman Sachs for a year and seven months, following his 2009 graduation from Harvard Business School (where he signed the MBA Oath, joining others in aiming to “create value responsibly and ethically”).

Ginsburgh, who's in his early 30s, spent three years as Senior Project Manager for the New York City Economic Development Corporation and before that spent a year at the Boston Consulting Group.

What's the reason?

I queried agency spokesman Austin Shafran about the change. Shafran responded, "Mr. Ginsburgh has taken on some of the oversight of key ESD projects to ensure we maintain an active role in their progress."

That's not terribly helpful, given that, presumably no one at the agency would acknowledge that it had not previously been maintaining an active role.


Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

Occupy Brooklyn This Weekend, If You Don't Get Run Over


This weekend's Occupy Brooklyn activities will include a march to Atlantic Yards and Metrotech.

Occupy Brooklyn is challenging Brooklynites to "join them during this weekend of action to help evict corporate greed from the borough."

At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday everybody is going to March to Evict Corporate Greed. Here is a map of the march route. Sorry to be a wet blanket but it may as well be called "March To the Most Dangerous Traffic Intersections in Brooklyn."

Everyone is leaving from Korean War veteran's Plaza (Point A), walking to Atlantic Yards and then ending up back at Metrotech in Downtown Brooklyn (Point B).


Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

Four Sparrows Development Nixed Under Shadow Of Corruption

Sheepshead Bites
by Randy Rojas

Of course, close ties to politicians, especially crooked ones, don't always work to Forest City's benefit.

Plans to build a shopping center with ties to indicted State Senator Carl Kruger on a city-owned nature preserve near Kings Plaza have been terminated by the developer.

Forest City Ratner Companies, which is currently building the controversial Atlantic Yards, decided to bail on its plan of building a shopping center on the Four Sparrows Marsh next to the Toys ’R’ Us on Flatbush Avenue, between Avenue U and the Gil Hodges Bridge. The cancellation was first noted by Queens Crapper.

Insiders say the reason Forest City is doing this is because they couldn’t find a suitable tenant, but there are reasons to think otherwise.


Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

Bramson Wins in Landslide, New Rochelle Democrats Retain Majority on City Council, May Achieve Super-Majority

Talk of the Sound
by Robert Cox

If a closely contested election in New Rochelle tips toward the Democratic candidate, the big winner might be "do-gooder liberal" Bruce Ratner.

If Fertel holds on, Democrats will hold a 5-2 majority on City Council and with that control will be able to "bond" or borrow money on a straight party line vote. The Democrats will also be able to override Governor Cuomo's 2% tax levy cap. Democrats are expected to use their super-majority to approve an estimated $25-30 million in long-term debt to move the DPW City Yard from its current location on East Main Street to a new location on Beechwood Avenue as part of an effort to clear the way for development along Echo Bay by Forest City Ratner.


Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

November 8, 2011

Brother's (Goal) Keeper

Pro sports team executives Brett and Michael Yormark play off each other to raise the bar for individual performance.

by Don Yaeger

The Two-Sports-Marketing-Geniuses-are-Better-Than-One story has already been done to death, but lack of actual results can't keep the Doublespeak Twins down.

When New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark needs to find ways to creatively market his NBA team, he doesn’t have to look in the mirror… though sometimes it may seem that way. Often, he calls his brother Michael, the other half of the only identical twins running professional sports franchises in the United States.

The two, among the most innovative minds in their industry, share the same grueling schedule, the same philosophy for success—and the same face.

Brett, who also serves as president/CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, and Michael, president of the Florida Panthers hockey franchise, have been capturing the industry’s attention for more than a decade. Named to “Forty Under 40” lists in several high-profile magazines, the Yormark brothers, at 44, are the youngest to hold their positions in their respective leagues.

Since joining the Nets in 2005, Brett has helped bring about a 15 percent increase in ticket sales and a stunning increase of nearly 200 percent in team sponsorships. He also managed a deal with the Barclays banking and financial services company that includes a 20-year strategic marketing partnership and naming rights to the Barclays Center under construction and slated to open in 2012. Additionally, he secured a dozen other major sponsors for the Barclays Center before the first shovel struck dirt.

Actual numbers tell a different story. Since Yormark joined the Nets in 2005, attendance has deteriorated. Average attendance for the Nets last season was 6% lower than it was in 2005. And the Nets give away tons of tickets. The naming rights deal for the Barclays Center is reportedly half what Yormark claims it is. Then there's the bottom line: the Nets have hemorrhaged money during Yormark's tenure.

Michael faced the particular challenge of warming South Florida residents to the idea of a hockey team when he joined the organization in 2003. After taking over in 2007, he helped launch the team’s BankAtlantic Center toward becoming the fourth-highest revenue-producing arena in the country and increased suite sales by more than $2.5 million per year. The Panthers’ fan base continues to expand each season, as does BAC’s entertainment offerings, which now include the Sinatra Theatre and several high-end dining venues.

Um, wait a second. The Panthers went to the Stanley Cup finals in 1996, spurring plastic-rat tossing hockey mania. And when they moved into their current arena for the 1998-1999 season, they set a team record with average attendance of more than 18,500. They averaged 15,936 fans a game during 2003-04, Yormark's first season, and drew an average of 15,689 last season. That doesn't sound like the fan base continuing to expand each season.

If the Yormark twins have any real claim to marketing genius, it's in marketing themselves.


Posted by eric at 10:48 PM

Let Me Ascertain You: Podcast Series Launch!

The Civilians Blog

Welcome to the very first episode Let Me Ascertain You: The Civilians Podcast Series!

Let Me Ascertain You is a weekly podcast series drawn from the company’s ongoing live cabaret series of the same title and including the best material from a decade of creative investigation. The episodes cover topics such as Occupy Wall Street, Atlantic Yards, the adult entertainment industry, Evangelical Christianity, and more.

Our first episode features performances of interviews about Atlantic Yards with Brooklynites about the controversy over the largest development project in Brooklyn's history.

This episode features the performance of interviews with Atlantic Yards bloggers, local business owners, residents, and activists, examining how the fate of Brooklyn and New York City is decided and what can be learned from this ongoing saga of politics, money, and the places we call home. The material was collected for the company's play In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards.



Posted by eric at 10:40 PM

Razing a New Tower of Babel

THe Wall Street Journal
by Tad Hendrickson

As Manhattan sees its skyline altered once again by the new World Trade Center tower, and downtown Brooklyn watches the emergence of the Barclays Center arena, big digs are taking up a lot of physical and psychic space in New York City.

It's fitting, then, that down the road from the Nets' new home at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, these and other themes underpin a ground-breaking new multimedia work called "Brooklyn Babylon," which begins a four-day run Wednesday as part of the BAM's Next Wave Festival.

Devised by Grammy-nominated composer/arranger Darcy James Argue and graphic artist Danijel Zezelj, "Brooklyn Babylon" presents a new dystopian version of the Tower of Babel fable, wherein the mayor of Brooklyn, in a grand act of hubris, decides to build the tallest building in the world. The story also follows an Eastern Europe immigrant carpenter, who lives in the neighborhood where the tower is being erected, as he builds a carousel atop the structure and becomes an accomplice to the destruction of his beloved neighborhood.

"I think people are going to draw whatever conclusions they want to draw from the story—whether it is related to Atlantic Yards or other projects," Mr. Argue said. "We wanted to be broader than that, but there is certainly resonance with the fact that it is happening right around the corner from where we happen to be performing the work."


Posted by eric at 10:28 PM

Catching up: WSJ on corporate welfare, Noticing New York on the connection between public hearings and the lack of public trust

Atlantic Yards Report

From today's Wall Street Journal, an editorial headlined The Corporate Welfare State: A cause to unite the tea party and the Occupy Wall Street crowd.":

For those who say this is good for American competitiveness, consider that ending all corporate welfare programs would finance a substantial cut in the 35% corporate income-tax rate that makes U.S. business less competitive but does a poor job of raising revenue because of these loopholes. A big rate cut would generate far more jobs and wealth than passing out checks to businesses one at a time.

As important as this economic damage is the corrosive effect that corporate welfare has on public trust in government. Americans understand that powerful government invariably favors the powerful, who have the means and access to massage Congress and the bureaucracy that average citizens do not. This really is aid to the 1% paid by the other 99%.

The public trust

Thematically connected is Noticing New York's Michael D. D. White, in Public Hearings For Big Real Estate Projects: Refining Your Sense of the Absurd (with an AYR reference):

There is a theory, a rather frightening one, that there is now a club, a political and financial class, that is above the law. I heard this theory propounded by Glenn Greenwald, the author of “With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful” on a Leonard Lopate show segment yesterday.


Posted by eric at 10:00 PM

DOB Commissioner hints at sea change (including FCR's plans?): "you have to figure out how to build bigger, and better, and modular"

Atlantic Yards Report

Given the city's housing squeeze and numerous illegal units (such as apartments in single-family houses), policy analysts and even city officials are now grappling with the idea of supplying new forms of housing, such as small but updated single room occupancy (SRO) units and multiple units attached to a house.

That was the subject of an intriguing conference yesterday titled "Making Room," sponsored by the Citizens Housing and Planning Council and The Architectural League of New York.

I'll have some more coverage in another post but first would like to focus on the comments of Department of Buildings (DOB) Commissioner Robert LiMandri, who seemed skeptical toward the new ideas--which would generally add density without changing the overall scale of neighborhoods--and supportive of an alternative: building towers via lower-cost modular construction.

It sounded very much like the DOB has been having serious conversations with developers--say, Forest City Ratner--that want to do exactly that.


Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

Public Hearings For Big Real Estate Projects: Refining Your Sense of the Absurd

Noticing New York

What’s the difference between “surreal” and “Kafkaesque”?

This is the kind of distinction you will find yourself making if you want to become a connoisseur of the flavors that public hearing futility comes in.

I just wrote about public hearings held where it is a forgone conclusion that those testifying are going to be ignored by those holding the hearing. And I wrote about a famous incident where, at one hearing, Jane Jacobs was arrested for protesting such absurdity. (See: Wednesday, November 2, 2011, Big Politically-Connected Real Estate Projects: Ignoring The Public Majority With Futile “Participatory Democracy” Hearing Process.)

Jane Jacobs suggested the intent of the hearing she was attending might have been considered simply as a steam valve by those holding it to help abate public indignation and wrath. And that gets into something else discussed, whether when attending such a hearing you should address yourself to those holding the hearing who won’t listen to you or, to make yourself feel better, to an audience of other members of the public who feel as you do. That assumes you are let into the hearing at all.


Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

Barclays CEO Diamond slammed for inadequate defense of banks as "good citizens"

Atlantic Yards Report

Barclays Capital, which bought naming rights to the Atlantic Yards arena that the state gave away, has come in for a bit of criticism of late.


Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

NetsDaily Off-Season Report #30


With no actual basketball to write about, NetsDaily devotes itself to real estate development, and unearths an interesting modular-construction tidbit from SHoP's Gregg Pasquarelli:

In a little noticed discussion among New York architects on September 12, arena design architect Gregg Pasquarelli raised doubts that it's going to work.

It's horrifying for me to say this but we are working on 2.7 million square feet of affordable housing in the city in five towers....I mean we've got two parallel teams working on this modular project to see if there's a way to build a 40- or 50-story modular building because by keeping it in the factory we can control the cost in a lot better way that we can out in the field. And it's really hard. We've been working on it ...three separate teams of 25 people working day and night on this for a year with developers who say I want a good building supportive developers who say build me the best building you can but here's the budget. It's almost impossible.

Pasquarelli doesn't mention Atlantic Yards, but it does seem that's what he's talking about and what Ratner wants him do. Pasquarelli's SHoP firm has a commission to design at least the first tower and has also been asked to revise the Frank Gehry master plan for Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Crime is still crazy bad in Fort Greene

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alfred Ng

And it's still crazy bad in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center mall, too.

Pathmark pilfers

There were at least two crimes at the Pathmark on Atlantic Avenue last week:

• On Oct. 29, a victim was at the cash register in the grocery store between S. Elliott and Fort Greene places at 6:30 pm. She put her wallet down to retrieve the rest of her items from her cart when the thief sneaked off with the billfold, which contained more than $200.

• Two days later, a would-be robber cut his way out of the store after security guards caught him allegedly shoplifting at 7:30 pm. He pulled a knife and slashed at the guards until he got away, but cops said they collared their man two days later.


Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

Daily News opposes residential parking permits, but would consider an Atlantic Yards exception

Atlantic Yards Report

In an editorial this morning headlined City council parking permits might turn out to be ‘hunting licenses’ that impose a fee for what is now free, if annoying, the Daily News came out against residential parking permits (RPP) for pretty much the same reasons the Department of Transportation (DOT) is wary, but allowed for an exception:

In very limited cases, something like neighborhood permits might make sense: as in the immediate orbit of huge arenas like Yankee Stadium and the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which will get flooded with cars on game nights. The city Transportation Department is studying the feasibility of reserving some curbs in those areas for residents and expects to have the results, including pros and cons, in January. Never mind, we can’t wait, says the City Council — which has passed a home-rule message asking Albany for permission to make the change.

Will Albany agree? Not if Republicans like Brooklyn Sen. Marty Golden have their way.

But anyone opposing RPP around crowd magnets like sports facilities has to come up with a better plan, not just say no.


Related content...

NY Daily News, City council parking permits might turn out to be ‘hunting licenses’ that impose a fee for what is now free, if annoying

The latest brainstorm for reengineering city streets, most of which already work just fine: Why, I know — whaddya say we grant people residential parking permits?

NoLandGrab: If the Daily News's editorial writers actually believe that most New York City streets "already work just fine," they really ought to get out from behind their windshields once in a while.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Rogues Gallery: The AIANY (“American Institute of Architects New York”) Subway Corridor Posters Under the IFC Center Showing “Urbanized”

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White notices something familiar on a subway advert, and offers a remedy.

On our way to catch and write about “Urbanized,” the new Gary Hustwit documentary about urban design we discovered, heading up from the A Train, that the subway corridor directly under the IFC Center theater hosting the film is lined with AIANY (“American Institute of Architects New York”) posters featuring different architectural projects. Some of those images are of Hall of Shame subsidy grabbers, and for sure at least the pictures of the of the net-public-loss Atlantic Yards Prokhorov/Ratner (“Barclays”) basketball arena are destined to be disgruntling.


The subway images promoting the Prokhorov/Ratner arena and these other government assisted, government subsidized projects is also part of something else that has been a Noticing New York preoccupation recently: The pummeling we are getting everywhere we go reflecting a severe imbalance in the public dialogue delivered via paid speech. Big picture, the skewing of wealth in this country is working in conjunction with the increasing privatization of the traditional avenues and elements of public speech (including but not limited to public spaces and streets in which to speak). That means that we are forever being subjected to ubiquitous, insistent cues and reinforcements of (for example) the way Forest City Ratner wants things perceived.


Posted by eric at 9:58 AM

Pulitzer Prize Winner Jennifer Egan Just Showed Up With Jonathan Lethem At Occupy Wall Street

Business Insider
by Kevin Lincoln

Authors Jonathan Lethem and Lynn Nottage spoke to the Occupy Wall Street crowd in Zuccotti Park recently, and they were joined by a third member of DDDB's Advisory Board.

Though Egan didn't speak to the assembled listeners, she told Business Insider that she saw herself as an observer at the protests.

"Honestly, I feel behind on how the movement has evolved," she said. "I just wanted to support Jonathan. We worked together to oppose the Atlantic Yards Project and I applaud his passion and willingness to put himself out there."


Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

November 7, 2011

State Senator Kevin Parker makes it blatant: “I help you. You help me." (Yes, he once got Ratner-related funds.)

Atlantic Yards Report

Sure, he has a criminal record and a history of violent outbursts, but at least he's honest.

The Daily News today reports, in State Sen. Kevin Parker panned after invite to benefit asks for ‘help’:

ALBANY -- Controversial state Sen. Kevin Parker has raised eyebrows yet again with a fund-raising invitation that boasts: "I help you. You help me.”
"It would be simpler if he just said ‘quid pro quo’ on the invitation,” cracked Citizens Union executive director Richard Dadey.
...The front of the invitation bears the slogan: “I help you. You help me. Together we build.”
...But state Board of Elections spokesman Tom Connolly said that while it’s not necessarily the wording he would have chosen, the statement is “vague.”

It is, at the least, an example of candor: a campaign contribution does not necessarily guarantee reciprocal help, but it is often a precursor.

The Ratner connection

Has Forest City Ratner been connected to Parker? Of course. Karen Ranucci, sister in law of developer Bruce Ratner and spouse of leftist lawyer Michael Ratner, gave Parker a $3500 campaign contribution in 2006.

Click thru to see the identities of some of the other "statesmen" who've benefitted from the largesse of the extended Ratner family.


Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

New Jersey left behind when Nets move to Brooklyn?

by John Brennan

Bergen Record reporter follows up on the same NY1 report.

About seven years ago, I attended a Nets press conference about the plan to move the Nets to Brooklyn in a few years. At one point Bruce Ratner, then principal owner of the Nets, told me that he thought he could retain a good portion of the New Jersey Nets fans once they move to Brooklyn.

Considering that few New Jerseyans I know make many – if any – trips to Brooklyn, that seemed like a stretch.

Now comes some interesting numbers from Dan Lefton, vice president of suites sales and premium seating for the Barclays Center, which is scheduled to open near downtown Brooklyn in 10 months.

Lefton told NY1 television that 39 percent of sales of his product come from Brooklyn, 25 percent from Manhattan, and the rest a combination of “New Jersey, Connecticut, and Philly.

I suspect that Lefton also would mean to include sales from Queens, Long Island, and Westchester County, further cutting into the portion of the 36 percent of remaining suite and club seat sales that come from New Jersey.

But what about single-game tickets?

Some Nets officials sensibly have theorized that the Nets could draw a respectable Jersey crowd for Saturday and Sunday afternoon games, when the least amount of traffic would be expected. But automobile-riding suburbanites may find it difficult to find parking, so the best hope for a Jersey audience is from those willing to take a subway or two. Of course, those lines run less frequently on weekends. That means the Nets may find it challenging to come up with a way to attract Garden Staters.


NoLandGrab: Especially since they've had little luck attracting Garden Staters while actually playing in the Garden State.

Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Journalism or advertising? Inaccurate NY1 piece posits that "Barclays Suite Showroom Has Robust Sales"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on a ridiculously hollow bit of "news."

Let's take a closer look at the 11/3/11 NY 1 item headlined Barclays Suite Showroom Has Robust Sales.

Despite the headlined, there's no evidence in the piece that the sales are robust. We learn that "The Nets sales group says it has sold half of the available suites since they went on the market in March."

That's not true. Actually, suites went on sale three years earlier, in 2008. They had sold some 26 suites--about one quarter of the current total--by May 2008.

By July of this year, they had sold "close to half" of the 100 suites, according to Crain's. So in three years they went from one-quarter to about one-half. That's not so robust.

Journalism or advertising?

The rest of the piece is an advertisement, letting us know the strategy of those promoting the arena....


NoLandGrab: Honestly, Barclays Center suite sales have so far been more bust than robust.

Related content...

NY1, Barclays Suite Showroom Has Robust Sales

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

Political Footballs: L.A.'s Misguided Plans For A Downtown Stadium

by Joel Kotkin

When is a stadium deal a bad deal? Um, always?

Indeed years of independent investigations have discovered that urban vanity projects like sports teams and convention centers add little to permanent employment or overall regional economic well-being. As a Minneapolis Fed study revealed, consumers simply shift their expenditures from other activities to the new stadium. Certainly mega-stadiums have done little to boost sad-sack, depopulating cities such as St. Louis, Baltimore or Cleveland.

Commitments to mega-projects tend to further drive urban areas into debt, largely by issuing more bonds that taxpayers are obligated to pay back. One particularly gruesome case can be found in Harrisburg, Pa., whose underwriting of a minor league baseball team helped push the city into bankruptcy. To get the stadium deal, Los Angeles, already over-indebted and suffering a poor credit rating, will issue another $275 million.

Such projects often obscure the real and more complex challenge of nurturing broad-based economic growth. This would require substantive change in a city or regional political culture. Instead the football stadium services two basic political constituencies: large unions and big-time speculators, particularly in the downtown area. The fact that the stadium will be built with union labor, for example, all but guaranteed its approval by the city’s trade union-dominated council.


Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

Big Politically-Connected Real Estate Projects: Ignoring The Public Majority With Futile “Participatory Democracy” Hearing Process

Noticing New York

When I heard Bill Maher on his Real Time show a week ago offer his thesis about the futility of the forms of participatory democracy into which we are routinely channeled by those with the political upper hand I couldn’t help but think of the public hearing process in New York City with respect to big real estate projects. . . I am not thinking about all real estate projects, but the “done deals,” the wired deals involving those you know are the politically connected heavyweights.

Maher was speaking about the complacent assurance of plutocrats that they’ve cornered the political market and therefore can expect to have the Occupy Wall Street 99% boxed in, just so long as the opposition movement can be channeled into the regular and routine forms of civic contest. Then plutocrats know that the 99% “will lose” if they can be channeled into the normal ways of doing political battle, says Maher, because “the other side [the plutocratic side] has all the lobbyists and all the suits.” Or, as Rachel Maddow observed in the same conversation, when the 99% does it the way the plutocrats would like, an out-gunned 99% can be ignored.

That’s why, says Maher, the plutocrats are intent on having the opposition do it THEIR way.

While Atlantic Yards is not the best example of the public being channeled into conventional participatory processes so they can then be ignored, it is a good example of the tinkering around the edges that occurs as things are engineered when the powers-that-be want a preordained result. Had those in power not had some appreciation of how massively objectionable to the public the Forest City Ratner project was likely to be they might not have decided to override standard public review process to deliver the deal to Ratner.


NoLandGrab: Here's one recent example of how to not play by the rules.

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

More gridlock in the North Slope--and some after rush hour

Atlantic Yards Report

Wonder what streets in North Park Slope and Flatbush Avenue near the Atlantic Yards site look like during and after rush hour? Check out these videos filmed on the morning of Wednesday, 11/2/11--a follow-up to a video filmed about two weeks earlier.

Here's one of them — "A 'wall of traffic along Flatbush,' about 10 am":


Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

City Council Takes to the Streets

Gotham Gazette
by Gail Robinson

The Wonkster tackles residential permit parking.

The other bill — a home rule message actually — could set in motion a plan for residential parking permits in the city. In some other parts of the country — Washington, D.C. — for one, residents of a particular neighborhood purchase a parking sticker that gives them priority for parking places close to their homes. The impetus for the resolution, SLR14, came from people living near the new Barclay Arena at Atlantic Yards, who worry they won’t be able to find parking once the Nets begin playing there next year, as well as residents of the Yankee Stadium area who already complain of difficulty parking.

Councilmember Letitia James, who represents areas near Atlantic Yards, said the parking could serve as a “disincentive” for people to drive to the new arena. “Individuals who come to Barclays Arena should use mass transit,” she said.


Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land: Eminent Domain and Public Benefit

The Legal Infrastructure of Business
by Randal C. Picker

How is the Keystone XL pipeline like Atlantic Yards — other than that both are really bad ideas that could have huge, underplayed environmental impacts? This is how.

Eminent Domain has always been something that has fascinated me. It was brought very much to my attention when I was living in New York back in 2009, due to the bitter battle being fought over Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. A state government agency sought to seize land from a group of landowners in order to give a developer property on which to construct Atlantic Yards, a new arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team. The landowners alleged that the state did not have the rights to seize property to benefit a private developer. Ultimately, New York’s state supreme court ruled in the agency’s favor.

For those not familiar with the term, Eminent Domain is an action by a state to seize private property, providing compensation, but without the owner’s consent. Usually eminent domain is invoked for the building of projects fostering economic development or for public use, such as highways or public utilities. Often the government must first attempt to purchase the property before resorting to the use of eminent domain.

The most recent and largest case that has come to my attention is that of TransCanada’s attempt to invoke eminent domain in order to build an oil pipeline ranging 1,700 miles from Canada, into the US- South Dakota to the Gulf of Mexico. The company has been suing dozens of landowners, taking them to court in their various states. In an interesting twist, TransCanada as the name demonstrates, is a Canadian company, but all permits for the project have been filed through its American subsidiary, located in Omaha.

Can a foreign company even invoke eminent domain in the US?


NoLandGrab: Well, if eminent domain can be invoked for a Russian oligarch's basketball arena...

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Bramson’s Scheme to Over-Ride Cuomo’s Tax-Cap Will Saddle New Rochelle With Large Post-Election Tax Increase

Talk of the Sound
by Anthony Galletta

Guess whose campaign donations are being cited as an issue in New Rochelle's mayoral race?

Bramson would like you to forget that he accepted campaign contributions from New Rochelle’s INDEPENDENT AUDITORS and IDA Tax-Abated wealthy developers like Cappelli & Forest City Ratner.


Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

November 6, 2011

If both parties got charged in the Boyland bribery case, finishing up in federal court, why did Forest City Ratner (or an affiliate/staffer) get a bye with Ridge Hill?

Atlantic Yards Report

A current federal bribery trial sets up a distinct contrast with a case involving Forest City Ratner.

In an 11/2/11 article headlined Corruption Trial Opens for Lawmaker From Brooklyn Political Family, the New York Times reported:

An assemblyman from one of Brooklyn’s most prominent political families struck a secret deal to use his influence in Albany on behalf of a hospital chief executive in return for a sham consulting job that paid him about $175,000, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.

The assemblyman, William F. Boyland Jr., “demanded a no-show job to enrich himself,” the prosecutor, William J. Harrington, told the jury as the politician’s trial began in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

“Boyland did no meaningful hospital work,” Mr. Harrington said, adding that what the hospital, Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, got for its money was “a paid advocate in Albany, a politician on the take.”

...On Tuesday, a lawyer for Mr. Boyland told the jury there was no evidence that his client had accepted bribes and that the government’s case “rests really on cynicism, speculation and suspicion, because you are not going to find evidence of that unlawful agreement,” the lawyer, Richard H. Rosenberg, said in his opening statement.

He said Mr. Boyland had done genuine consulting work for Brookdale, an arrangement he had reached with David P. Rosen, then the chief executive of MediSys, the nonprofit sponsor of Brookdale and other hospitals, nursing homes and neighborhood health centers in Queens and Brooklyn.

...Mr. Rosen was tried this summer by Judge Jed S. Rakoff — in a nonjury trial, at Mr. Rosen’s request. In September, Judge Rakoff issued a ruling finding Mr. Rosen guilty of seeking to bribe Mr. Boyland and two other Democratic officials — Assemblyman Anthony S. Seminerio of Queens and Senator Carl Kruger of Brooklyn — in return for favorable treatment for MediSys.

What about Ridge Hill?

As I wrote in March 2010:

After all, City Council Member Sandy Annabi changed her vote to approve the project and was indicted for accepting bribes. Her cousin, Zehy Jereis, was indicted for giving them.

FCR, which hired Jereis for an apparent no-show job, was not indicted and issued a statement indicating that it had been told by federal prosecutors that neither it nor its employees was a "target" of the investigation.

If so, that suggests either that prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to indict the developer and/or that they believe the developer's cooperation justifies not seeking its indictment.

Thus, FCR not only escaped sanction for some questionable behavior--it has never explained or justified the no-show contract--it also can continue to benefit from a zoning change that was, according to prosecutors, illicitly gained.

If Rosen, who arranged the consulting job for Boyland, was tried and convicted, why has the person (or party) who arranged the no-show job for Jereis given a pass? (Jereis has yet to come to trial.)


Posted by steve at 5:17 PM

The Civilians turned ULURP into a song. Now ProPublica tunes up redistricting and hyrdrofracking.

Atlantic Yards Report

So, remember when The Civilians, for their musical play In the Footprint: The Battle over Atlantic Yards, produced a song about ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) to help explain the difference between city and state oversight?

They were ahead of their time. (So much for the Brooklyn Paper's scorn.)

Turns out that Pro Publica, the nonprofit public interest journalism organization, has begun to produce catchy song videos to help audiences ease into complicated topics like redistricting and hydrofracking. Examples below.

Click through and give a listen.


Posted by steve at 5:14 PM

Movers & Shakers: Gregg Pasquarelli of SHop Architects

Crain's New York
By Theresa Agovino

The new Nets Arena was designed by Ellerbe Becket. A facade was needed to hide that the arena's design is a copy of the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. SHoP Architects designed the facade. This article features Gregg Pasquarelli, founder of SHoP Architects,

You were the third firm brought in to work on the Barclays Center, and you had to fix the design of the second firm. What was that like?

It was something we didn't go into lightly. We took the lead on the design. I'm sure at first it was difficult for everyone, but we really did work together well.

Were you a Nets fan?

I am now. As a Bronx boy, I was a Yankees, Rangers, Giants, Knicks fan. I'll still go to Knicks games.

How important is sustainability to what you design?

It's very important, but it has to go beyond just sustainable bling like solar panels. I think the most sustainable thing we can do as designers is to build buildings that people love. That way, we are not tearing them down every 20 or 30 years.


NoLandGrab: Brooklynites aren't likely to love an arena wedged into one of the borough's busiest intersections.

Posted by steve at 5:01 PM

November 5, 2011

Questions that could have been asked at the AY District Service Cabinet meeting about delays, oversight, responsibility

Atlantic Yards Report

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, most recently held November 3, offers less than 90 minutes for involved agencies, developer Forest City Ratner, and (a few) elected and Community Board officials to address specific and general issues.

And while there some little-promoted positive news--apparently the state, city, and FCR had figured out a way to reduce some jackhammering noise--several issues trailed off into obfuscation or simply were not questioned.

Thus, those overseeing the project still avoid accountability.

And those representing the public simply aren't doing enough.

Yes, Council Member Letitia James does by far the most, but she could drill down more. State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Council Member Steve Levin did ask a few question--and at least they showed up--but were less effective.

Meanwhile, other officials presumably interested in the project and its impacts--Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and his colleagues Jim Brennan and Joan Millman; Council Member Brad Lander, state Senator Eric Adams--didn't bother to show up. (Jeffries sent a staffer.)

It's in Jeffries' district, while Brennan oversees the Assembly's Corporations Committee. Sure, he's got other priorities--and probably doesn't want to tangle with all-powerful Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an Atlantic Yards ally--but shouldn't Brennan want to see exactly how Empire State Development (aka Empire State Development Corporation) operates?

Below, my speculation on how the meeting might have proceeded had the questioners pressed further and had more time. All dialogue in italics is specula

Click through to get an idea of how the publiclly-subsidized Atlantic Yards project continues to avoid public scrutiny.


Posted by steve at 8:40 PM

Noticing New York: Amanda Burden's reputation gets buffed again, in "Urbanized"

Atlantic Yards Report

City Planning Commission Chairperson Amanda Burden gets a lot of good press, some of it deserved, some of it determinedly amnesiac regarding her acquiescence with the city's willingness to let the state oversee Atlantic Yards.

In the new documentary film "Urbanized," as Michael D. D. White explains in Noticing New York, Burden's reputation gets buffed again, but it's not fully deserved:

Not mentioned is that, in the case of the Atlantic Yards mega-project which she helped enable, all these “basic parameters” of zoning that had been set were overridden so the developer could do whatever he wanted to maximize his own best possibilities over those of the community, including his choice to eliminate and absorb into his private ownership formerly public streets, sidewalks and avenues.

For more, go to Noticing New York.


Posted by steve at 8:36 PM

November 4, 2011

REMINDER: Tonight — Battle for Brooklyn at the Park Slope Food Coop

Just a quick reminder that Battle for Brooklyn, the critically acclaimed documentary film chronicling the fight to stop Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, will screen for free tonight at the Park Slope Food Coop.

Battle for Brooklyn
Park Slope Food Coop
Friday, November 4th, 7 p.m.
782 Union Street
(free, and open to both Coop members and non-members)
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with protagonist and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn co-founder Daniel Goldstein.

And don't forget the two screenings this weekend at indieScreen!

Posted by eric at 3:56 PM

More from the AY District Service Cabinet: SEIS process begins; progress on noise complaints; James's dismay at lack of public input; still waiting for demand management plan

Atlantic Yards Report

The summary:

  • Empire State Development (aka Empire State Development Corporation) has begun work on a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) regarding the impacts of an extended project buildout
  • In response to noise complaints, Forest City's contractors improved equipment and adjusted schedules to reduce impacts
  • FCR is supervising additional nearby infrastructure work that's not connected to Atlantic Yards but must be done before the arena opens
  • Council Member Letitia James expressed dismay at the lack of public input
  • A transportation demand management plan will arrive slightly later than initially promised
  • Rodent problems persist in some areas near the project site
  • No decision has been announced on the use of modular parking
  • The state has not yet hired a promised Atlantic Yards staffer

"Not how government should work"

[James] spoke with a palpable sense of grievance. “I just don't want to be in a position where, we are a couple of months out from opening this arena, you present us with a plan, and then say you’ve got 30 days to respond to it. It's just not fair. It’s just not right. That’s not how government should work. It's not transparent. It’s government from the top down as opposed to the bottom up. It's all the things that I abhor and everything that I oppose.”

“So I would hope that you would consider not only the views of community, this is coming from me”--James pointed to herself--” who I am, what I stand for. The way we are moving toward the opening day of this arena leaves the community on the outside looking in, as evident by the fact that they're back there.”

She referenced three Prospect Heights residents sitting on chairs behind her, likely a fraction of those who might come had the meeting not been held during business hours.


Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

PHOTOS: The Barclays Center Comes Together

A monthly photo essay documenting the construction of the Barclays Center, which the Brooklyn Nets will soon call home.

Park Slope Patch
by Georgia Kral

The Barclays Center looms over the busy Brooklyn intersection of Flatbush, Atlantic, Fifth and even Fourth avenues. lt has been getting bigger and bigger with each month, and it finally looks like an (almost) complete structure.


Photo: Georgia Kral/Patch

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

FCR still working on first tower, says arena and transit connection on schedule (no acknowledgment of delays), "working very aggressively" on Carlton Avenue Bridge

Atlantic Yards Report

At yesterday's Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, a bi-monthly meeting of involved agencies and developer Forest City Ratner, representatives of the latter expressed confidence about current construction (without mentioning evidence to the contrary), less certainty about future towers (for which the timetable has shifted), and assurances (despite some doubts from elected officials) that the Carlton Avenue Bridge would get done in time for the arena opening next year.

“We still believe that, before the end of the year, we will be able to announce which way we’re going and show the the design to the public,” [FCR executive Jane] Marshall said. “That's our goal, consistent with our goal to break ground on B2 early next year.”

Actually, the timetable has been shifting. This past July, MaryAnne Gilmartin, the developer’s Atlantic Yards point person, said, “We expect to decide on our construction approach in the coming months, and we anticipate a groundbreaking by year end."

That wasn't the first shift. A year ago, at the 11/4/10 Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, Gilmartin said the developer intended to release designs and start construction of B2 in the first quarter of 2011.

The Empire State Development Corporation had, in June 2009, said that the first tower, at least, would not be delayed at all.


NoLandGrab: Atlantic Yards is nothing if not shifty.

Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

The Top 10 Stupidest, Most Incredibly Annoying Things Said by Rich People: 1% of the Money, 1% of the Compassion (and 1% of the Intelligence?)


When you're Mrs. Bruce Ratner, sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and stiffen your spine to make it through the tough times.

The Occupy Wall Street people are saying that the 1% is heartless and just don’t understand. We say, “Whaddya talkin’ about?!?” They care. They really care. Just read these insightful quotes from some of the 1%.

#6: “It’s the summer season coming up, so my patients must have [plastic surgery] tuneups. But instead of doing liposuction on seven areas, they’re doing three or four. These decisions are so painful.”plastic surgeon Pamela Lipkin explaining the difficulties of the economic downturn

Fun Facts about Pamela Lipkin:
• Married to multi-millionaire real estate developer Bruce Ratner (net worth roughly $400 million, according to USA Today).
• Lives on the Upper East side in a $7 million brownstone.
• Will only buy jewelery at auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christies. As she says: ”I cannot deal with paying retail.”


Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

Weekend Events


Battle For Brooklyn at IndieScreen
Battle for Brooklyn is screening at Williamsburg’s indieScreen this weekend. It is an intensely intimate look at the very public and passionate fight waged by owners and residents facing condemnation of their property to make way for the controversial Atlantic Yards project, a massive plan to build 16 skyscrapers and a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets in the heart of Brooklyn. Shot over seven years and compiled from almost 500 hours of footage, BATTLE for BROOKLYN is an epic tale of how far people will go to fight for what they believe in. Showing Saturday and Sunday at 5pm, buy tickets here.


Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

Whither the AY Independent Compliance Monitor? It's up to the CBA executive committee, which last met four months ago. Also, an update on job numbers and BUILD's role.

Atlantic Yards Report

Speaking of bad CBAs...

Council Member Letitia James brought up an issue I raised recently in City Limits. “In the CBA, there’s a provision...which talks about an Independent Compliance Monitor,” she said. “ Is Forest City Ratner going to hire that compliance monitor and are you going to adhere to the provisions of the CBA?”

“Yes. I mean, the, um, all the matters in the CBA will be adhered to,” Forest City executive Jane Marshall replied, not all that firmly. “There’s an executive committee that has to decide when it wants to do an RFP for a Compliance Monitor.”

“When does that Executive Committee meet and where, and how often?” asked James.

“Typically--it’s usually typically every other month,” Marshall responded.

“And who chairs that?”

“Dee Adossa, from BEE [Brooklyn Endeavor Experience].”

“When was the last time they had a meeting?”

“I think it was actually four months ago, but that doesn't mean we don't communicate,” Marshall said. “We have biweekly calls with the chair, and we have meetings with all of the groups all of the time.” She noted that the groups have different mandates, “and so we work with them based on what their mandate is.”

“And so the compliance monitor will be hired when?” pressed James.

“When the executive committee decides,” responded Marshall.

James later pointed out that the purpose of the ICM is to monitor employment and contracting. "It appears," she said drily, "that person will be hired over the next year when construction is completed."


Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

CBAs: Public Power, Shared Prosperity

Policy Shop
by Jack Temple

Are Community Benefits Agreements the tonic for the nation's increasing economic disparity?

Take, for example, the new accountable development movement. As I've written before, this movement -- largely led by communuity organizing groups and labor unions -- aims to combat urban inequality and promote fair local economic development. While this movement has deployed a range of tactics and strategies, one in particuar -- the negotiation of Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) -- has succeeded in extracting serious amounts of cash from corporations and developers to support living wage jobs, affordable housing, and worker training in over 15 major cities in the United States.

He must not have seen the Atlantic Yards CBA.

Oh, wait...

To be sure, the record for CBAs is not perfect: the conditions set out by the CBA for the Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn, NY have remained unmet largely because the community organizations that were signatories to the agreement have benefited financially from the developer and have declined to pursue legal action.


Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Full Council approves ‘pay-to-park’ plan

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

The full City Council overwhelmingly approved a controversial plan on Thursday to sell parking permits to neighbors of the Barclays Center arena, despite objections from southern Brooklyn lawmakers who say that charging for residential street parking amounts to a tax for something that has always been free.

The Council’s 40–8 vote came one day after the legislature’s State and Federal Legislation Committee approved the measure, which supporters say will prevent basketball fans and other arena-goers from hogging parking spaces in neighborhoods around a 19,000-seat arena that will have parking spaces for just 1,100 cars.


NoLandGrab: How's this for the height of arrogance: State Senator Marty Golden and City Councilmember Lew Fidler shilled for Atlantic Yards though it's miles from their districts, yet they oppose a measure that might provide a little bit of relief to the people who will bear the burden of the traffic the arena will generate.

Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, POLL: Residential Parking Permits for Brooklyn?

What do you think?

Would you like to see resident-only parking come to your neighborhood?
a. Yes, we need to stop commuters and sports fans from using our streets as parking lots
b. Yes, but only during game days
c. No, it's a backdoor tax and my friends won't be able to park when they visit

Bayside Patch, Would You Pay to Park on Your Block?

“I can tell you right now, I am very much opposed to the street parking permit because it’s just another way the city will be taxing middle class homeowners,” said [Bob] Friedrich, who is President of Glen Oaks Village.

NLG: We're going to go out on a limb and guess that Bob Friedrich from Glen Oaks Village in Queens never attended any Atlantic Yards hearings, signed any petitions opposing Atlantic Yards, or donated any money to DDDB's legal fund. Are we right, Bob?


Parking in the slope is already a bitch, yet some fear that with Bruce Ratner's revenge the Barclay Center on it's way to completion, shit will get a whole lot worse. The city projects that the new arena, with more than 200 events planned a year, will bring in about 5,000 additional cars into the area. And they're all going to want to park somewhere for free.

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Councilmember Lander's Statement on Dire Need for a Residential Parking Program for Atlantic Yards


Brooklyn badly needs a residential parking program in place for the area surrounding Atlantic Yards before Barclay's Center opens next year. That's why I'm pleased to support a resolution discussed at a City Council hearing today in support of legislation in Albany that would authorize the City to create such a program.

The area around Atlantic Yards is already gridlocked much of the time, especially at rush hours. This problem will grow dramatically worse on Nets game, concert, and other event nights at Barclay's Center, when thousands of people head there. Even the environmental impact statement prepared by the developer projects a traffic nightmare.

Without RPP, thousands of people are likely to drive to games and events, seeking free parking on neighborhood streets. Traffic will choke local streets, and nearby residents will find it impossible to park.

A residential parking program won't solve the problem, but it will help.


Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

November 3, 2011

Paper of Record?

Battle for Brooklyn

We're sure the business relationship between The New York Times and Forest City Ratner Companies has nothing to do with this. Right? Surely, it's just a coincidence. Right?

About a month ago we screened our film “Battle for Brooklyn” in Bellingham Washington. After the film I mentioned to people that they could support the film by writing reviews on the NY Times readers review section. At that point we had 12 powerfully positive reviews and a five star rating (based on 84 votes). A couple of days later I checked to see if anyone had written a review. There was a new review, but the site now said that the film had 29 ratings and a 1 star. Obviously something was wrong.

I contacted a friend at the NY Times to see if he could help. He got the run around for a few days, but was finally told that it was a data issue. Apparently, when they ported the data from one place to another it went cockeyed. At this point I wrote to the film editor, who had been contacted by my friend about the problem. I asked, if they couldn’t fix the data right away, that they make a note on the page to let people know that the data was inaccurate. I was told it was “out of their hands.” Apparently its a “product development” issue.

I understand that data problems happen. However, once the data is published, it becomes an editorial problem. In the age of crowd sourced information, where does responsibility for erroneous information lie?

After three weeks of waiting for the problem to be fixed, I finally contacted the public editor. I was told that they would look into it. That was one week ago.


NoLandGrab: As Atlantic Yard Report's Norman Oder has often pointed out, given the business relationship between FCRC and The Times (the former developed the latter's headquarters building a few years ago), the paper should be exacting in its coverage. Yet today, nearly eight years after the Atlantic Yards project was announced, they were still erroneously locating it in Downtown Brooklyn. More like the Paper of Wreckord.

Posted by eric at 11:43 PM

Council Member James: Cuomo must muscle support from Golden (and state Senate) for residential parking permits

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite the success yesterday at a City Council hearing for advocates of residential parking permits (RPP), the effort faces a major roadblock: state Senator Martin Golden, a Republican from southern Brooklyn who told the New York Post it was "just another tax" and that the Republican-controlled Senate would not accept it.

And while the measure has significant backing, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, once a supporter (as part of his congestion pricing package), is on the fence, according to the Post. Similarly not taking a position is Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, as well as the agency in charge of Atlantic Yards.

“As I left the hearing, ironically, I ran into Bruce Ratner outside, who indicated to me he was agnostic on the plan," Brooklyn Council Member Letitia James, an advocate for RPP, said at this morning's Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, a bi-monthly gathering of affected agencies, held at Brooklyn's Borough Hall.

"Five minutes later, I ran into state Senator Martin Golden, who said it was dead on arrival," James continued. "I would urge ESDC [Empire State Development Corporation] to work with the governor to bypass the objections of Senator Golden to get residential parking permits implemented. DOT yesterday indicated they were willing to do it in two communities, in and around Atlantic Yards and Yankee Stadium."

James appeals to Cuomo

"This is the time for the governor to basically negotiate this bill and use his popularity to get this bill passed. Senator Golden's objections basically were that this is a backdoor tax," James said. "I just want you to know that 95% of the constituents that have emailed me, called me, stopped me on the street, support this, and are willing to accept a minimal fee and hopefully we can work out provisions for those who are on fixed incomes or low incomes... and some of the businesses that have expressed concerns."

"Right now, our major obstacle to getting this passed is the Republican and Tea Party Senator Golden," James concluded. "I hope that ESDC will join me in moving him out of the way.”


NoLandGrab: Or Bay Ridge voters could do us all a favor and send this clown to retirement.

Posted by eric at 1:30 PM

Keep circling

Pol: I’d KO parking permits

NY Post
by Rich Calder, Joe Mollica and Bob Fredericks

There already wasn't much good to be said for South Brooklyn pol, and Bruce Ratner stooge Marty Golden, who's been an outspoken booster of Atlantic Yards. And now this...

A Republican lawmaker vowed yesterday to kill a proposal that would make it easier for New Yorkers to find a parking spot in their neighborhoods.

“I have serious concerns and can’t support it,” said Brooklyn state Sen. Marty Golden about a plan that would require drivers to pay for a permit to park their cars on the streets where they live.

“I see this as just another tax and you shouldn’t be taxed for the privilege to park your car in New York City,” said Golden, who said the idea would never get through the GOP-controlled Senate. “You should be able to park wherever you want. It’s picking the pockets of drivers.”

The parking permit plan -- which the City Council will take up today -- would also extend to other residential neighborhoods where residents wage daily battles with commuters and visitors for precious parking.

“This bill should not be killed in an Albany back room. Communities that want [permit parking] will get it, and those that don’t, won’t,” the bill’s co-sponsor, state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn Heights), responded to Golden’s vow to quash it.


Posted by eric at 1:14 PM

Latest consultant's report is murky: transit connection delayed, but no explanation offered; not-yet-public document indicates "delays" and "extension of the construction term"; 415 workers on site

Atlantic Yards Report

Hints and statistical evidence that the Atlantic Yards arena and associate infrastructure have slowed somewhat are borne out--though not explicated and perhaps deliberately obscured--in the latest Arena Site Observation Report, dated 11/2/11 and based on a 9/28/11 site visit.

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

It states that the Barclays Center remains barely on schedule, while the transit connection, for a good while two months ahead of schedule, is now behind schedule.

And some misleading information is provided regarding the latter delay.

Strong hints of delays, but how important?

The report also drops a significant hint that the project is delayed somewhat. For the first time, it mentions a "GMP2"--presumably a revision of the project's Guaranteed Maximum Price--that "includes all delays" and "extension of the construction term." That GMP2 was to be issued October 1, but has not been made public yet.


Posted by eric at 12:26 PM

Residential permit parking passes Council committee, with support from most arena neighbors, but not without DOT opposition (to bill, not concept)

Atlantic Yards Report

A packed City Council committee hearing room yesterday was evidence that parking problems--especially but not merely linked to Yankee Stadium and expected Barclays Center crowds--frustrate a lot of New Yorkers.

To the satisfaction of many in the crowd--though not the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), which urged caution--a Council committee approved a resolution requesting the New York State Legislature to pass bills that would authorize a residential permit parking (RPP) program in New York City.

RPP, for a not-yet-established fee, would restrict up to 80% of non-metered residential street parking to residents during certain hours, thus preventing commuters and event-goers from monopolizing already scarce space. It would not guarantee a space, and commercial streets would be excluded.

“It’s not enough, but it's one meaningful policy step,” suggested Council Member Brad Lander, who called the traffic and parking situation around the arena “already a nightmare.” He urged that RPP be put into effect before the arena opens next fall.

The full Council will consider the resolution beginning today. The state bills were introduced by Senator Dan Squadron and Assembly Member Joan Millman, both of Brooklyn.

Bronx Council Member Helen Foster, who chaired the hearing, began by saying “my constituents can't find parking, and parking lots around Yankee Stadium are going bankrupt." Not only do fans monopolize street parking, she said, they are not ticketed when they park on sidewalks or at hydrants.

Fisher thanked Brooklyn Council Member Letitia James, who represents the arena site and a good part of its surroundings, for putting the issue back on the table.


Related coverage...

The New York Times, Plan to Issue New Permits for Parking Is Debated

Nine blocks from the steel shadow of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, Gib Veconi circles Prospect Heights nightly in his 13-year-old Volvo wagon looking for a parking spot, like a buzzard scouring for a meal.

Parking can be a blood sport in New York City, nowhere more so than along the crowded streets around the half-built Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, centerpiece of the Atlantic Yards project. When it opens next fall for concerts and Nets basketball, the competition will get fiercer.

Jiminy Crickets, New York Times. Once and for all, Atlantic Yards is not in Downtown Brooklyn.

Fearing for pedestrian safety and pollution, while hoping to preserve the scarce parking spots left, local leaders like Mr. Veconi, the treasurer of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, have long advocated residential parking permits, or R.P.P. The cost of a permit has yet to be determined.

“It is a problem that is already a significant one, and by putting an arena on top of it, it would absolutely cause the streets to burst open with cars,” Mr. Veconi, 48, said. “If R.P.P. is not implemented by the time the arena opens, there’s going to be an outcry from those neighborhood associations like something you’ve never heard before.”

Park Slope Patch, City Council Moves Forward on Residential Parking Permits

“Sometimes I get home from work and I have to wait two hours to get a parking spot,” said a woman from Prospect Heights who lives on Dean Street a block from the construction. “This is going to get worse and worse. There’s going to be noise, air pollution. I have 21-month-old twins. This is going to be ridiculous.”

The Brooklyn Paper, Parking permitted! Council panel approves ‘pay-to-park’ plan for Barclays neighbors

Meanwhile, lawmakers in southern Brooklyn, where car ownership is far more widespread, lambasted the plan as a tax on drivers, who have always enjoyed free on-street parking.

“The idea that someone would have to pay to park in front of their own home is ludicrous,” said state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge). “This is nothing more than another tax on our communities.”

The plan was criticized along similar lines by Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Marine Park), who lobbied unsuccessfully to postpone Wednesday’s vote.

NoLandGrab: Both of these unrepentant hypocrites Golden and Fidler, whose districts are nowhere near the Barclays Center, were outspoken supporters of Atlantic Yards. Of course.

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

Council challenger: Williamson dislikes developer donations to councillors

Cambridge Day
by Marc Levy

Yonkers isn't the only place in which Forest City is at the root of electoral controversy.

James Williamson, self-desribed as an event organizer, publicist, neighborhood activist has been a frequent presence during public comment periods at city meetings, often speaking out on matters of affordable housing, public transportation and safety and representation for the city’s less wealthy residents. He first ran for City Council two years ago, saying “we need citizens on the City Council who will really pay attention to what’s going on in our city and will not be afraid to speak up and do something about it.” He sounded the same themes for this year’s campaign.

Why are you running? What is it in you or the community that compels you to do this now?

I want to actually do something on the City Council, rather than just sit back and do nothing and collect a check from the taxpayers for $70,000 a year along with campaign contributions from the likes of multiple members of the Ratner family (of Forest City, MIT’s “developer”) from places like Shaker Heights, a wealthy suburb of Cleveland— not Cambridge. Don’t we already have enough wealthy contributors and interests right here in good ol’ Cambridge?

Several councillor-candidates seemed to respond to concerns raised at the Area IV candidate forum last Thursday night with policy orders at Monday’s City Council meeting about rats, since residents are worried about rats displaced by major development across Main Street from Newtowne Court — but what about Ratners? The family’ behind much of this so-called development, the excavation generating the “rat problem,” and they’re major contributors to some of these very same councilor-candidates, to wit: Ken Reeves, Denise Simmons, Marjorie Decker, and, of course, Tim Toomey and David Maher.

Voters should be sure to examine the searchable database at the Office of Campaign and Political Finance to see to who the various members of the extended Ratner family have been contributing to in recent months and years. They are certainly not the only corporate real estate company “investing” in Cambridge candidates (see Alexandria, for example, among others), but they are perhaps the most visible. And they are evidently equal opportunity contributors, as they have given to the cash-starved Republican, Mitt Romney, and the ethically challenged former speaker of the House, Sal DiMasi, as well. Generous of them, don’t you think?

What is the No. 1 issue facing Cambridge you see now or coming up in the next two years, and what is your approach or solution to that issue? Be as concrete as possible in explaining what you will do.

The No. 1 issue is the tsunami of “development” heading toward Central Square and Kendall Square via proposals from the MIT Investment Management Co. and the Novartis and Forest City/Ratner plans for Massachusetts Avenue. And quo vadis Central Square? As noted, Ken Reeves is taking money from the “multiple Ratners,” as are Decker, Toomey, Maher and Simmons.


NoLandGrab: Sound familiar?

Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

Reisman: Michael Spano's salvo answers Yonkers mayoral rivals' prodding on Ridge Hill

by Phil Reisman

The Ridge Hill bribery scandal is playing a starring role in the Yonkers mayoral race.

Mike Spano was exasperated. Fed up.

At candidate debates and forums, the ordinarily genial Democrat who would be mayor of Yonkers has been dogged by hints and allegations — really just hints — that he has something to hide about his role in the city's $630 million Ridge Hill development.

Barbs have been hurled by both his opponents, the Republican John Murtagh and Carlo Calvi, the Independence Party candidate. Murtagh has been especially vocal, demanding that Spano "come clean" on Ridge Hill, which is the subject of a federal public corruption probe.

To put it plainly, they're trying to paint Spano as a crook without actually coming out and saying it, relying instead on the power of suggestion, i.e., where there's smoke there must be fire.

Spano is now firing back, charging that Murtagh and Calvi are repeating a lie with the hope that it will stick.

For many years, Spano has served as an assemblyman, but the contretemps centers on a two-year period starting in 2004 when he temporarily left the Legislature to work for the Patricia Lynch Associates lobbying firm whose clients included Ridge Hill's developers, Forest City Ratner.

According to his own account, Spano in 2005 was asked to hold "strictly informational" meetings with three key Yonkers City Council members — Dee Barbato, Sandy Annabi and Murtagh — all of whom had opposed the project. He said he didn't lobby the elected officials, but merely recorded their concerns and reported back to his firm.

The project was approved in July 2006 when Annabi, who had previously voted against it, changed her mind and cast the deciding vote.

An FBI investigation resulted later in a indictment against Annabi, charging her with selling her vote to Zehy Jereis, a former chairman of the Yonkers Republican Party who was given a $60,000 "no show" consultant's job by the developer.

Jereis was also a longtime crony and factotum for Nick Spano, the former state senator and older brother of Mike Spano. Annabi is Jereis' cousin.

Anthony Mangone, a lawyer who had served as Nick Spano's counsel and, like Jereis, has a history of getting into hot water, was also charged with extorting the developer of another project involving two closed Yonkers public schools.

Mike Spano, who by this time was back in the Assembly, was called to testify before a federal grand jury. He said he was told he was not a target of the investigation.

Neither Spano has been implicated. Nor has Forest City Ratner.


Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

Park Slope, Brooklyn: A Neighborhood Growing and Changing at Each End

Urban Edge, The Blog
by Scott Lynch

Park Slope apartments sit within what New York Magazine called "the most livable neighborhood in New York City" a couple of years ago. Of course, residents of Park Slope, Brooklyn didn't need anyone to tell them that.

The people of this community have long enjoyed a near-ideal combination of easy access to the great Prospect Park; lots of dining, nightlife, and shopping options; an active, diverse population; beautiful, historic architecture, especially the grand brownstones that line the leafy streets; good public schools; and plenty of public transportation options.

The question today is: how are the changes on the neighborhood's edges, at both the northern and southern borders, going to effect residents of Park Slope rental apartments?

To the north of Park Slope, right across the neighborhood's border of Flatbush Avenue, is the biggest (and most controversial) construction project this part of town has seen in years, the Barclays Center....


Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Pedestrian Struck on Classon Avenue

Incident occurred at the intersection of Flushing Avenue Wednesday morning

Bed-Stuy Patch
by Paul Leonard

A vehicle struck a pedestrian at the corner of Classon and Flushing Avenues earlier this morning.

According to the New York City Fire Department, the victim was found lying on the ground at 10:23am and transported to Woodhull Hospital.

The victim suffered minor leg injuries, fire officials said.

Increased commercial traffic down Classon Avenue from the Atlantic Yards construction has been the subject of concern in recent weeks, as many residents have begun to complain about noise, safety and obstruction.


Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

Copper Pipe Thieves Strike Again: This Week’s Police Blotter

A breakdown of crime in the 88th precinct, which covers Fort Greene and Clinton Hill

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Melissa Koszer

It was only a matter of time before the crime that runs rampant in Bruce Ratner's malls made it's way to Bruce Ratner's construction site.

Copper Pipes Stolen From Atlantic Yards

Five copper pipes, totaling $4,170 in value, were stolen from Atlantic Yards. The crime was committed at some time between Wednesday and Friday last week. The week prior, a construction site at 130 Flushing Ave. in Fort Greene was targeted—again for its copper pipes.

And speaking of which...

Purse Snatching at Burlington Coat Factory

On Sunday at 7:30 p.m., a woman was shopping inside the Burlington Coat Factory at Atlantic Terminal Mall and placed her bag on a hanger while trying on a coat. An unknown suspect took the bag, which contained the woman’s credit card, an ATM card, and her learner’s permit. The woman later found her bag on the floor of the department store, but its contents were missing.


Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

Easton, Postrel Win Bastiat Prize

Future of Capitali$m
by Ira Stoll

Atlantic Yards is winning awards! Sort of.

Tom Easton of the Economist and Virginia Postrel of Bloomberg split the $50,000 award for the Bastiat Prize for Journalism, which was awarded Wednesday night at a dinner in New York.

Damon Root, an editor at Reason magazine, won the $10,000 Hoiles Prize, in part for a piece on the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn headlined The Great Basketball Swindle.


Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

November 2, 2011

Council Committee Endorses Residential Parking Permits Over DOT Objections

by Noah Kazis

The budding nightmare also known as the Barclays Center of Brooklyn™ was the primary impetus behind today's City Council hearing on Residential Parking Permits.

A City Council committee took the first step toward bringing residential parking permits to New York City neighborhoods this afternoon. Details haven’t been worked out yet, but committee members signaled their desire to move forward on a system that would restrict a portion of curbside parking space to use by local residents.

While most council members wanted to see residential parking permits brought to neighborhoods across the city, the Department of Transportation opposed RPP except perhaps in the areas immediately around stadiums.

Letitia James, whose district includes the Atlantic Yards site, said that RPPs would ease congestion, protect pedestrians and reduce air pollution.


Related coverage...

WNYC, Residential Parking Permits Get Nod from Council Committee

An Albany bill that would allow the city to establish on-street parking permits for neighborhood residents has won the support of the City Council's transportation committee.

Brooklyn councilmember Letitia James, who represents neighborhoods around the Atlantic Yards development, said drivers from outside the city are taking up too many parking spaces, and the problem is going to get worse when the Barclay's arena opens next year.

"A residential parking permit program would discourage all-day parking by commuters who use neighborhoods, as is the case in downtown Brooklyn, basically as a parking lot," she said.

NY1, Parking Concerns Rise Alongside New Brooklyn Arena

Trying to get a parking spot around Downtown Brooklyn most of the time is futile, but ask residents and they will say it's nearly impossible.

"It used to be we could always find a spot on our block a few years ago. And now it's pretty rare," said one Park Slope resident.

With the Barclays Arena set to open next September, residents are bracing for even more gridlock. More than 200 events are planned at the arena every year.

"With more people coming, more people working in the area, it's just going to get worse," said one Park Slope resident.

Posted by eric at 6:45 PM

Some people are still interested in Atlantic Yards and the failure to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor

Atlantic Yards Report

From the latest City Limits newsletter: the most read/shared article in the last week or so was my essay on The Unfulfilled Promises of Atlantic Yards, focusing on the failure to hire the promised Independent Compliance Monitor for the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.


Posted by eric at 6:39 PM

Montgomery asks NYPD for details on arena security study

Atlantic Yards Report

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery has sent a letter (below) asking New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly for "access to the updated security study" the department has conducted regarding the Barclays Center arena.

She pointed out that streets next to the Prudential Center in Newark are closed during events, and the Atlantic Yards arena initially had similar setbacks:

The Arena is now even closer to the street than in earlier designs. There is now an overhang on the section bordering Atlantic Avenue that goes almost completely to the street. There is an attached steel web skin hovering in front of the full glass walls. In sum, this arena design seems a far greater security risk than even the previous design. The public is quite understandably concerned.

Previous requests

At a meeting on September 26 with state officials, concerned residents also asked for access to the study, acknowledging that particularly sensitive parts would be redacted.

As Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors (and No Land Grab) pointed out, Forest City Ratner was evasive in 2007 when asked how far the arena would be from the street, after Newark decided to close adjacent streets during events.

“We don’t need to know points of vulnerability, but it would really help the community’s comfort level to know, in an ironclad way, we’re not going to close a lane of Flatbush Avenue, or Atlantic Avenue on game nights,” he said.

Kenneth Adams, CEO of Empire State Development, nodded but otherwise gave no quarter.

At a hearing 10/5/11 on plans for bollards, Prospect Heights activist Alan Rosner also called for greater transparency, warning that lanes next to the Brooklyn arena would have to be closed.


Montgomery Letter to Kelly on Arena Security

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

Fearing Atlantic Yards arena traffic crunch, locals seek neighborhood parking permits

City Council hearing on parking permit bill set for Wednesday

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Neighbors around the Atlantic Yards project are pushing for residential parking permits to deal with the thousands of cars set to flood the area when the new Barclays Center arena opens.

The permit system, which needs approval from city and state lawmakers, could start with pilot programs in the blocks around Atlantic Yards and Yankee Stadium, sources said.

Most of the spaces in the area would be set aside for motorists who live in the neighborhood and pay a modest annual fee.

Residents and advocates say parking has already gotten scarce and streets have become more congested around the construction site, and predict the situation will only get worse when the arena opens.

“If nothing changes, we know that there are going to be about 6,000 cars driving to the arena. If they’re human, they’re going to be looking for free on-street parking first before they go to a parking lot,” said Danae Oratowski, chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “What we’re concerned about is the incredible amount of congestion.

“If you look at arenas in major cities all around the country - Chicago, Washington, D.C., Boston - they all have residential permit parking as a way to deter cars from driving into the neighborhood,” Oratowski said.

The City Council is set to hold a hearing Wednesday on a state bill that would allow the city to mandate parking permits.


Related coverage...

Carroll Gardens Patch, Atlantic Yards-Area Residents Get Hearing on Residential Parking Permits

The Barclays Center, which is scheduled to open in September 2012, will attract “as many as 5,600 cars” from visitors who drive to the arena, according to the Empire State Development Corporation.

"If nothing is done before to mitigate this volume of traffic, there will be an increased risk of vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle accidents that already make Atlantic Avenue Brooklyn's most dangerous road," said Councilwoman James in a news release.

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

Compressing the story, and getting it wrong: the Real Deal on Ratner's Atlantic Yards comeback (and was FCR spokesman accurate in saying first building will start this year?)

Atlantic Yards Report

From an 11/1/11 article in the Real Deal headlined Climbing back to the top: A look at some of real estate's most impressive comebacks:

Indeed, just when Atlantic Yards -- the 22-acre combination housing development/basketball stadium -- seemed dead, developer Bruce Ratner got the project back on track, partly by dropping starchitect Frank Gehry's pricey design for a more prosaic one from SHoP Architects. Ratner, who runs Forest City Ratner Enterprises, also eliminated much of the previously planned housing from the site, won some key lawsuits and even paid his chief antagonist, Daniel Goldstein, founder of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, $3 million to relocate.

Much of the opposition was directed at plans to use eminent domain to remove homes and businesses that stood in the way of the project.

Critics might not be mollified by the changes at the project, which broke ground last year. To wit: The arena, promised as a model of urban integration, will be flanked by several parking lots, and might not look that much different from any suburban basketball arena. Still, it will have at least three apartment buildings, according to Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco. He said construction on one of those building will begin this year. And, he said, the arena is on track to open in time for the 2012 NBA season.

Probably the most interesting statement here is DePlasco's claim that construction on one of the buildings will begin this year, especially since Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams said September 26 that groundbreaking will be in the first quarter of 2012.

Compressing the story, and getting it wrong

But it's also interesting to see how the story gets compressed.


Related content...

The Real Deal, Climbing back to the top: A look at some of real estate's most impressive comebacks

It was on, then it was off, and now the new Nets basketball arena is on again -- albeit in a severely truncated form. Brooklyn residents have been buzzing about the fact that, after years of protracted legal battles, the arena is now quickly taking form at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

TODAY ONLY: John Wesley Harding's THE SOUND OF HIS OWN VOICE digital album only $3.99!

Yep Roc Records

Today only, indie record label Yep Roc Records is offering a digital download of multi-talented DDDB Advisory Board member John Wesley Harding's new record, The Sound of His Own Voice, for just $3.99.

It features the single There's a Starbucks (Where the Starbuck's Used to Be), which pays homage to the Atlantic Yards fight.

Buy it now!

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Pop Filter Hot Pick: Three Rivers Film Festival

POP City
by Jennifer Baron

Hey loyal Pittsburgh NLG readers: Battle for Brooklyn is coming your way!

You don't need to trek all of the way to Park City to experience some of cinema's top new documentaries, contemporary international films and restored classics. For three decades and counting, the homegrown Three Rivers Film Festival has invigorated the local cinema community with its November program of visiting filmmakers, informal and insightful discussions, live music, and a celebratory opening bash.

On Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m., Brooklyn-based director-editor team Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley will be in town to present their new award-winning documentary, Battle for Brooklyn, which will be followed by a panel discussion featuring local architect Rob Pfaffmann. Shot over seven years and compiled from 500 hours of footage, Battle for Brooklyn chronicles the very public and passionate fight waged by owners and residents facing condemnation of their property to make way for the controversial Atlantic Yards project, a massive plan to build skyscrapers and a new NBA basketball arena in the heart of Brooklyn. Described as a "gripping David and Goliath story," the film examines issues surrounding eminent domain, historic preservation and the use of public dollars to support private development.


Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Mill Basin big-box is killed

Brooklyn Daily
by Thomas Tracy

Brooklyn’s biggest developer has pulled out of a controversial plan to build a shopping center that would include a Walmart-sized store on city owned land near Kings Plaza, killing the Flatbush Avenue project that was connect to Carl Kruger.

Forest City Ratner Companies is walking away from it’s plan to build a big-box retail outlet on the city-owned Four Sparrows Marsh next to the Toys ’R’ Us on Flatbush Avenue between Avenue U and the Gil Hodges Bridge, which the scandal-scarred state senator had been pushing the company to get done.

Insiders say Forest City Ratner Companies owner Bruce Ratner, who is currently building the controversial Atlantic Yards, the biggest development project in the borough, canned his plans for the Four Sparrows Marsh when he couldn’t find a suitable tenant.

Other sources said Ratner didn’t want to deal with possible lawsuits from environmentalists who threatened to sue if he broke ground on the marshlands.

But there’s also the Kruger (D–Brighton Beach) connection...


NoLandGrab: The better headline, of course, would have been "Bruce: 'F**k the Shopping Center.'"

Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

Wanting to ensure "we get the most out of every economic development dollar," de Blasio calls for more transparency and "the subsidy cost per job" (what about AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

“We have an unemployment crisis in this city that demands we get the most out of every economic development dollar," says Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, so he wants to make sure there's more transparency regarding projects funded by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC).

De Blasio said in a press release:

The new legislation to be introduced by Public Advocate de Blasio in the City Council would require EDC to report for each project site:

  • The number of jobs prior to receiving subsidies;
  • The projected number of jobs when subsidies end;
  • The current number of jobs; and
  • The subsidy cost per job.

The legislation is the first in a series of reforms to be proposed by the Public Advocate this month to spur job creation and expand opportunity for the middle class.

That's surely a worthy goal, but de Blasio is not exactly consistent, having not said a word about the failure to monitor the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.

How many jobs have been created by Atlantic Yards subsidies, and at what cost?


Posted by eric at 10:00 AM


Haute Living
by Rachel Morgan, Rachel Willis, Marie Condry, Alexandra Delgado, Amanda Lang

The Haute 100? We thought they said hate.

19. Mikhail Prokhorov

What makes him haute: Billionaire entrepreneur Mikhail Prokhorov began by becoming one of Russia’s leading industrialists in the precious metals sector. While running Norilsk Nickel, the company became the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium. Prokhorov is the chairman of Polyus Gold and the president of Onexim Investment Group. Prokhorov is the third richest man from Russia and the 39th richest man in the world, with an estimated $18 billion net worth. He also is co-owner of the New Jersey Nets. ...

50. Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z

67. Frank Gehry

And last, but not least...

89. Bruce Ratner

What makes him haute: Bruce Ratner is a prominent real estate developer and minority owner of the New Jersey Nets. He shares ownership with Mikhail Prokhorov, which became official this past May. Ratner is planning to move the Nets to Brooklyn for the 2012-2013 NBA season.


Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

November 1, 2011

This Weekend See "Battle for Brooklyn" In Brooklyn

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

This weekend there are three screenings of the critically-acclaimed film, Battle for Brooklyn, in Brooklyn:

Friday November 4th. 7pm
Park Slope Coop
782 Union Street
(free, and open to Coop members and non-members)
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with protagonist and DDDB co-founder Daniel Goldstein.

Don't forget the two showings at indieScreen, too.


Posted by eric at 9:41 PM

Atlantic Grave Yards

Unhappy Halloween? We snapped a photo of this ghoulish "Welcome Nets" display on Dean Street in Boerum Hill.


Posted by eric at 5:27 PM

Crime is crazy bad in Fort Greene

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

Inside the mall or outside the mall, it's all the same to the crooks.

Food fight

Some lunatic punched a security guard at the Atlantic Avenue Pathmark supermarket on Oct. 26 — the alleged thief’s second arrest this month at the grocer.

An employee told cops that the crook entered the store in the near Flatbush Ave. at 4:45 pm. An hour later, the crook tried to leave with $40 in goods — including Coors beer. When the guard tried to stop him, he jabbed him and snapped the gold chain around his neck.

Medics treated the watchman at the scene, and cops arrested a 50-year-old suspect.

Bike pain

A thief rode off with an expensive bicycle locked in front of the Atlantic Center Mall on Oct. 25.

The 35-year-old victim told cops that he parked at a pole near Flatbush Avenue at 2 pm. When he returned two hours later, he discovered that his $1,100 wheels and Kryptonite lock had been gershed.


Posted by eric at 5:16 PM

What FCR's Ratner and Gilmartin told the grad students: project on a railyard? largest single development of affordable housing?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Master of Science Real Estate Development, a graduate program within Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), has an occasional blog, and I just came across an 8/1/11 post headlined Atlantic Yards discussion with Forest City Ratner:

Just three weeks into the summer semester, the MSRED Class of 2012 spent the afternoon in Brooklyn with Bruce Ratner (CEO Forest City Ratner) and MaryAnne Gilmartin (EVP), overlooking the currently under construction, Atlantic Yards. Situated at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Ave is the centerpiece of the former 22-acre rail yard, the Barclays Center. Starting next season (2012-2013), the Barclays Center will be home to the relocated NBA franchise, the New Jersey Nets.

Bruce Ratner and MaryAnne Gilmartin spoke at length of the challenges and highlights of the Atlantic Yards development process. In addition to being the largest single development of affordable housing in New York City history, the highly complex Atlantic Yards deal constituted of buying and relocating a sports franchise, contributing $50 million to the renovation of the subway station, and a last-minute road show in China to secure an enormous amount of funds which eventually proved to be a turning point in the development.

In addition to the complexities of the deal, Bruce and MaryAnne were very proud of their innovative progress of modular high rise construction. According to Bruce and MaryAnne, this technique could reduce hard costs by 20 to 25%. While it is unclear whether or not this feat of architectural engineering will be implemented for the Atlantic Yards construction, when and if perfected, the prefabricated modular high rise could be the future of real estate development.

Either Ratner and Gilmartin were misleading the students or they spoke in such a way that the students were misled.

I posted comments pointing out that the project would not be "the largest single development of affordable housing in New York City history," that "last-minute road show in China" didn't quite describe the EB-5 venture, and that the project is not on “the former 22-acre rail yard,” which is not "former," either.


Posted by eric at 5:08 PM

Battle for Brooklyn | Nov 5 and 6 at 5pm

indieScreen CineClub

Battle for Brooklyn is screening at Williamsburg's indieScreen this weekend.

Dirs. Suki Hawley & Michael Galinsky | 93min | Doc | US | 2011

2011 Brooklyn Film Festival’s Best Documentary

Cast: Daniel Goldstein, Shabnam Merchant, Patti Hagan, Letitia James, Norman Siegel, Marty Markowitz, Bruce Ratner, Michael Bloomberg, Bruce Bender

BATTLE for BROOKLYN is an intensely intimate look at the very public and passionate fight waged by owners and residents facing condemnation of their property to make way for the controversial Atlantic Yards project, a massive plan to build 16 skyscrapers and a basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets in the heart of Brooklyn. Shot over seven years and compiled from almost 500 hours of footage, BATTLE for BROOKLYN is an epic tale of how far people will go to fight for what they believe in.

link / tickets

Posted by eric at 12:19 PM

AY unicorns: the Independent Compliance Monitor and the Community & Government Relations Manager (maybe we'll learn about them Thursday)

Atlantic Yards Report

Are there Atlantic Yards unicorns?

The Independent Compliance Monitor required by the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement is at least 18 months late and arguably more than five years late.

The Community and Government Relations Manager promised by Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, was first sought in June.

These positions remain unfilled. Like the unicorn, they are, at least for now, mythical beings.

What's the impact? Less oversight. Cui bono?

Maybe we'll learn more Thursday about progress toward filling those positions, at the bi-monthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, scheduled for 9:30 am at Borough Hall.


NoLandGrab: Huh! We thought Cui Bono was on Dancing with the Stars.

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

What's the deal with MetroTech?

Occupy Brooklyn

Occupy Brooklyn has produced the flyer below to let people know why they've been meeting on the grounds of Forest City Ratner's MetroTech.


Posted by eric at 12:02 PM

The Eminent Domain One-Percenter

Inverse Condemnation

We're not all that down with the "occupy movement." It seems too unfocused, too anti-competition, too anti-success for us to get on board with the idea that equality of result is what the American dream and our system are based on.

But things like this profile of MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial and residential development at Forest City Ratner Companies in this month's Westchester magazine, make us want to go down to Zuccotti Park and set up a tent.

An "innovative and tenacious builder" who has "left her mark" on the New York skyline, "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."

The profile details how she got her start, interning and then working for the New York City Economic Development Corporation for seven years before sliding over to Forest City, where her first grand project was the New York Times building, which like Atlantic Yards needed the government's power of eminent domain to make it happen. Are you starting to see the pattern?


Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

Reserved parking

Pols eye permits for neighborhoods

NY Post
by Rich Calder

City residents may soon get the exclusive right to park on the streets where they live.

After years of false starts, state and city legislators are seriously looking at a plan to establish residential parking permits in the Big Apple.

Drivers who live in designated neighborhoods and pay for a permit would be the only ones allowed to park in 80 percent of the spots.

The latest push came after Brooklyn residents began complaining that people attending events at the Barclays Center in Prospect Heights, which is set to open next year, would monopolize most of the parking spaces in their neighborhood.

The new 18,000-seat arena will only have 1,100 designated parking spots — and parking is already tight in the surrounding area.

But the push isn’t limited to those living near the future home of the Brooklyn Nets.

Sources said that with the arena close to opening, there is now a groundswell of support for the council to back the plan after years of indifference by many of its members on the topic.

Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn), who arranged the hearing, said the permits are crucial in neighborhoods near the arena like Fort Greene and Park Slope because they would discourage arena patrons from driving to events -- thus reducing traffic congestion.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, On Wednesday, a City Council committee hearing on residential permit parking

The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council alerts us to a hearing on residential permit parking, to be held tomorrow, November 2, at 10:30 am by the New York City Council Committee on Federal and State Legislation.

The location: 250 Broadway 14th Floor (allow time to go through security).

NBC New York, Residential Parking Permit Plan Revived

“Permit parking is long overdue in downtown Brooklyn, western Queens, upper Manhattan and other communities where residents must circle for hours trying to find parking near their homes,” state Sen. Daniel Squadron told the Post.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Speak up in support of residential permit parking around the Barclays Arena

Got a car? Walk the streets and sidewalks? Breathe the air? Then this hearing and issue impacts you.

Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Brooklyn Love & Basketball

The Wall Street Journal
by Jason Gay

Their love couldn't survive the lockout.

On Monday, the news arrived that the future First Lady of Brooklyn, Kim Kardashian, had filed for divorce from Kris Humphries, a broad-shouldered basketball free-agent-to-be, most recently of the basketball Nets.

The melancholy word came not from the NBA, but the TMZ.

In total, the Kardashian-Humphries union spanned 72 days. That's 51 days fewer than the NBA's work stoppage, which began on July 1.

Every New York area sports fan should root for these two crazy lovebirds to make another try.

Who wasn't looking forward Kim and Kris in Brooklyn? There is no guarantee Humphries will re-sign with the Nets when (and if) the lockout ends, and the team does have to play one more zombie season in Jersey.

But Kim & Kris in Brooklyn was the weird home-spun fantasy, the magazine cover waiting to happen. The world's most overexposed couple in the world's most overexposed place. Borough president Marty Markowitz would drive them both to work in the morning.


NoLandGrab: Actually, their split saves us from having Markowitz make more inappropriate comments, a la his tasteless Beyoncé shtick at the arena groundbreaking.

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

Forest City and the Development of Prefab Plans


Atlantic Yards Report’s Norman Oder has an extremely in-depth look at a lawsuit between two companies that Forest City Ratner worked with that sheds light on how the developer has been examining using modular construction at Atlantic Yards. The lawsuit, which was settled in August with confidentiality clauses, was brought by a company called Kullman Buildings Corp. against a firm called XSite Modular. XSite is comprised of several former Kullman employees. The suit alleged that Forest City “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.” XSite entered into a contract with Forest City early this year and the developer paid for XSite’s defense. Kullman, which had been working with Forest City for a couple years, had also been up for the contract, which involved helping the developer develop a system for designing and manufacturing heretofore-untested super-tall modular buildings.


Posted by eric at 11:15 AM