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December 31, 2011

AY down the memory hole: Times says arena will "undoubtedly transform Downtown Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

In a year-ahead front-page article in tomorrow's Metropolitan section, the New York Times offers a three-paragraph summary for Brooklyn, mostly about Atlantic Yards:

When the sports arena that anchors the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project finally opens in September, after more than eight years of lawsuits and construction delays, it will undoubtedly transform Downtown Brooklyn.

Downtown Brooklyn? Didn't the Times more than five years ago acknowledge in a mega-correction that Downtown Brooklyn was an inaccurate designation for the project?

In a 4/17/11 article about living in Prospect Heights, the Times included Atlantic Yards and the arena site within the bounds of the neighborhood. See graphic at right.

(Arguably, the northern and western edges of the arena site, which border wide avenues, might extend Downtown Brooklyn. But walk down Dean Street from the surface parking lot on the southeast block of the site, and enter from Dean Street? That's not Downtown.)

Also, was it merely "more than eight years of lawsuits and construction delays"? What about Forest City Ratner's desperate search for new capital, from a Russian oligarch seeking to burnish his image to Chinese investors seeking green cards?

...

The initial paragraph continues:

But will the 19,000-seat Barclays Center, soon to be home to the Nets and host to Jay-Z, the circus and 200 other events a year, help its neighborhood become an epicenter of entertainment and commerce, as most officials predict? Or will it be a vortex of traffic, trash and other civic headaches, as some residents fear?

So it's "most officials" vs. "some residents"? What if it's both?

After all, what "most officials" predict is not exactly a stretch, since an arena, by definition, attracts certain kind of entertainment and commerce.

And won't it create a vortex of traffic, as the Times itself has warned, as well as other untoward local effects, as Atlantic Yards Watch regularly documents?

link

Related content...

The New York Times, What to Expect in New York in 2012

Posted by steve at 6:05 PM

Cognitive dissonance: Bruce Ratner, he of the ever-shifting Atlantic Yards vision, salutes DUMBO developer Jed Walentas because he "holds firm to the vision"

Atlantic Yards Report

In a front-page Real Estate section article tomorrow, headlined DUMBO on His Mind, the New York Times profiles Jed Walentas, son and successor to David Walentas, the wily and wise developer who bought up defunct manufacturing structures for a song and, over decades, alchemized them into residential gold.

And who does the Times find to salute Walentas?

Bruce Ratner, the president of the Forest City Ratner Companies, which is developing the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, said he had watched Mr. Walentas grow more confident as he took control of the company.

“What is really interesting about David and Jed is that they both have a vision for what they want,” he said. He pointed to other large-scale development projects across the city, saying the extent of their success had been dependent on the developer’s vision.

...

In Dumbo, he said, the guiding vision was to retain the area’s industrial flavor (without the industry), while providing a street-level experience both diverse and interesting — even if it means subsidizing rents for small-business owners and declining the high rents offered by big-box stores, or selling off properties and cashing out.

“Jed holds firm to the vision,” Mr. Ratner said. “And that is not a minor comment.”

...

Pause for just a moment of cognitive dissonance.

The guiding vision for Atlantic Yards has been... to make it work.

Architect Frank Gehry? Gone.

Four office towers around the arena? Gone (though one may come someday).

Running track and bird sanctuary above the arena? Gone.

A ten-year timetable? Never really believed it, Ratner admitted last year.

Affordable housing buildable as planned? Never really believed it, Ratner admitted this year.

Unionized on-site construction jobs? Far fewer than promised.

Independent Compliance Monitor for the Community Benefits Agreement? Promised, but never delivered.

link

Related content...

The New York Times, Dumbo on His Mind

Posted by steve at 6:01 PM

The Atlantic Yards meme gets a boost in 2011, with more coming from a journalist's novel

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote in March how a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority used the term Atlantic Yards--a marketing term for a 22-acre project, some of which is still in private hands--for the agency's 8.5 acre Vanderbilt Yard.

In April, one of the MTA's watchdogs similarly used the term Atlantic Yards to describe the property the agency marketed.

And in a manuscript

You'd think that a journalist writing about Atlantic Yards would know better, but not the notorious Stephen Witt, who's written an AY novel called The Street Singer. The Daily News gave it unaccountable publicity earlier this month, but not until AY opponent Patti Hagan gave me the hard copy of the article did I see an excerpt from the manuscript, which included this:

"Thaddeus Hoover," I said, suddenly recognizing the name. You're the guy who wants to bring the Nets to Brooklyn and build an arena at the Atlantic Yards."

"No, I'm the man who will build the arena and bring Brooklyn its first major professional sports team since the Dodgers left for California."

As Tad spoke, I though about Goody Brats saying Hoover was sucking up the neighborhood. It was kind of funny. Here I was having a drink with the land grabber himself.

Put aside the not-so-naturalistic dialogue and the Zelig-like wish fulfillment--Witt did once enthusiastically hug Ratner--and remember, Atlantic Yards was not a place.

link

Posted by steve at 5:54 PM

Fucked in Park Slope: A Year in Review

F'd In Park Slope

10, The Atlantic Yards Project And Battle For Brooklyn

While nearly everyone in our neighborhood is familiar with the Altantic Yards Project that started back in 2003, this year's documentary Battle for Brooklyn consolidated those eight years into a cohesive -- and possibly Oscar-nominated -- film. The ambitious project, spear headed by private developer Bruce Ratner, was initially proposed as 16 new skyscrapers and a giant sports arena for the city of Brooklyn. In the process, people were forced out of their homes and a community was divided: while many strongly opposed the looming eviction of nearly 1,600 tenants whose property fell into the footprint of the design plan, some residents supported the project for the promise of jobs and the excitement of having a major sports team in our neighborhood.

...

In November, a group of local unemployed construction workers announced a lawsuit against Bruce Ratner for failing to provide promised jobs and wages to work on the Atlantic Yards project. It's likely that Ratner offered this "Community Benefits Agreement" to cool some criticism and gain support of local politicians.

This past year the Barclay Center itself has given us some blog-worthy news: it almost made Kim Kardashian's ass move here, has the worst rendering artist in the history of rendering artists, announced an integration with our beloved BAM, will be hosting Jay-Z shows and has made the traffic in that area worse than it already was.

Are you there, Bruce? It's me, Kerri.

You suck.

link

Posted by steve at 5:22 PM

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2011

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Missing from this review of Atlantic Yards news, is the admission by developer Bruce Ratner that the affordable housing long promised as part of the project is not possible.

Love it or hate it, 2011 was the year the Atlantic Yards project really got under way. Construction has been moving rapidly on Barclays Center – future home of the Nets basketball team -- and the physical fact of the arena’s presence in the Brooklyn landscape began to overshadow the project’s use of eminent domain and other controversial development practices in the news coverage this year. But construction has not been without strife. (A so-called “rat tsunami” was one of the unpleasant side effects of the large construction site).

And the years-long community struggle against the project will not soon be forgotten thanks to Battle for Brooklyn , a documentary released in 2011 about the Atlantic Yards project that is reportedly on the short list of possible Oscar nominees.

In other Atlantic Yards news, the project’s developer, Bruce Ratner, announced in November that they planned to use prefabricated, modular construction for the residential towers planned for the site – meaning that the majority of construction would take place in a factory and the pieces would be assembled on site. If the plan goes forward, Brooklyn will be home to the tallest prefabricated or modular steel structure in the world.

link

Posted by steve at 5:10 PM

Brooklyn’s Predictions for 2012

Brooklyn Heights Press
by Mary Frost

Two items of this list include references to the Atlantic Yards project.

John Torenli, sports writer, Brooklyn Eagle:
The Nets scheduled arrival in Brooklyn in November will go off as planned. Don’t be surprised if Orlando center Dwight Howard joins point guard Deron Williams for the Opening Night festivities at the Barclays Center. Nets owner Mikail Prokhorov will not win the Russian presidency.

...

Ed Breslin, proofreader, Brooklyn Eagle
...Gridlock will finally become reality on Flatbush and Atlantic avenues as the Nets open in the Atlantic Yards area of Brooklyn.

link

Posted by steve at 5:04 PM

December 30, 2011

A traffic light down at Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street; trucks regularly ignore the staging area and use Carlton improperly

Atlantic Yards Report

As if saying goodbye to 2011, Atlantic Yards Watch reports that the traffic light on the southwest corner of Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street was knocked down December 28, apparently by one of the several trucks that ignore the Pacific Street staging area and improperly use Carlton Avenue, then make a left.

link

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Open and Shut: The 2011 Edition

Brownstoner

Atlantic Yards Anxieties

The arena’s going up, but many nearby residents cast aspersions on the planned opening of several businesses perceived as catering primarily to arena visitors. The controversy over a bar/restaurant called Prime 6 got the most press. After the owner announced the joint wouldn’t, as some feared, be a strip club, residents still pushed for strict operating hours and complained about plans to offer bottle service. The state approved a liquor license but it has yet to open. Meanwhile, a gastropub announced plans to open at 604 Pacific Street, and a liquor license was eventually approved with a stipulation that no dancing be allowed. No doubt these won’t be the only new businesses near the arena to battle the community boards.

link

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

Movie Review: "Battle For Brooklyn" -- Lessons For Honolulu Rail From A Reluctant Activist

Inverse Condemnation
by Robert H. Thomas

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser today published my movie review of "Battle For Brooklyn," the documentary about the Atlantic Yards eminent domain fight, on the op-ed page. Check it out here or below. More importantly, if you are in Honolulu next week, come to one of the four screenings (details and link to ticket purchase below).

article

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

December 29, 2011

Brooklyn's largest subway hub will be co-named (not re-named) for Barclays arena (timing, name not yet announced)

Atlantic Yards Report

To clarify a report on About.com (picked up by the Brooklyn Eagle) that Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street Station Goes Corporate, Will Now Be Renamed Barclays Terminal, the MTA confirms that it will be a co-naming, not a renaming.

Neither a precise name nor timing have been announced, but I doubt the co-naming would occur until the arena opens. The official opening date is 9/28/12, but there should be a soft opening in August.

The first-ever sale of station naming rights was announced in 2009, for $200,000 a year over 20 years--a bargain, I'd contend.

link

Related...

About.com, CORRECTION/UPDATE: Happy 2012...and Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street Station Goes Corporate, Will Now Reflect the Name Barclays

Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

A look back at 2011: the arena rises, construction troubles, a reconfigured community response, the modular surprise, an enduring lack of oversight, and the lingering impact of Battle for Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder runs down the Atlantic Yards year that was.

Even if the volume was turned down somewhat, it was not a quiet year in Atlantic Yards.

When I wrote my "What's next in 2011" post on 1/4/11, I pointed to "Accountability issues, timetable questions, and a reconfigured community response, with BrooklynSpeaks rising, DDDB receding."

That was mostly right, though hardly the full story. After all, as I wrote, "I wouldn't be surprised if there's a new Atlantic Yards twist."

The surprise in 2010 had been "the astonishing effort" to market Atlantic Yards to immigrant investors seeking green cards. The 2011 surprise was Forest City Ratner's revelation that it was planning to build the long-delayed first tower, and the rest of the project, via untested modular construction. (That's still not firm.)

Accompanying that statement was the astonishing admission by developer Bruce Ratner that union-built towers with affordable housing had never been viable. While that contradicted some eight years of his and backers' statements, it produced few ripples.

While I pointed to "a push to sell Nets tickets and suites, and further evidence of Forest City Ratner/Barclays strategic philanthropy," I didn't fully anticipate the impact of the arena rising and how the Nets and Barclays Center operators would strategically dole out announcements, including the unsurprising team name, to generate press coverage.

Along with the arena and railyard work, which soon stretched to after-hours work, came a steady stream of complaints about the impact of construction--parking, garbage, traffic, and noise, as well as a seeming weekly (if not daily) pattern of violating various promises and rules, all documented via Atlantic Yards Watch, a key new player in the community response.

article

Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

Bruce Ratner's Exercise in Bland

The Wall Street Journal
by Robbie Whelan

Up until now, the design story of Bruce Ratner's mega arena and mixed-use project at Atlantic Yards has involved a feeling of betrayal and then later, a sense of partial redemption.

Now there's a new chapter with the unveiling last month of Mr. Ratner's plans for the residential component of the project. This one could be titled "Playing it Safe." The design for Atlantic Yards' apartments doesn't offend, but ultimately they serve as an unsatisfying conclusion to the story.

Actually, many critics of Atlantic Yards find this highly offensive, especially since the "cutting-edge Frank Gehry design" and "15,000 unionized construction jobs" were key elements of Bruce Ratner's massive bait-and-switch.

Critics who long for great architecture are unlikely to be appeased by the design of the first apartment building.

article

Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Ratner ‘Playing it Safe’ With Atlantic Yards Design?

Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

Brooklyn’s Top Stories of 2011

Brownstoner

Atlantic Yards Starts to Take Shape

As it has for several years running, Atlantic Yards dominated Brooklyn news in 2011. Construction on the Barclays Center arena has progressed at a steady clip this year. The project continued to be controversial and a magnet for lawsuits, however. This fall the Empire State Development Corporation and developer Forest City Ratner appealed an earlier ruling in favor of project opponents. In that case, community groups challenged the ESDC’s 2009 approval to increase the duration of the project’s construction from 10 to 25 years, arguing that a new environmental review was necessary given the new time line. Meanwhile, another lawsuit against the mega-project was filed in November by workers who said they hadn’t landed union jobs they believed were promised after completing a training program. With the arena construction in full swing, nearby residents complained about a rat tsunami, as well as traffic changes that had been implemented and less-than-desirable “Atlantic Yards businesses” opening. While construction has yet to begin on any Atlantic Yards buildings aside from the arena, Forest City Ratner applied for building permits for the project’s first residential building and made headlines with the news that the company was considering a prefab structure for that and subsequent towers in the development.

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Posted by eric at 9:35 AM

AY down the memory hole: Capital declares Kuntzman's Brooklyn Paper "got massive mileage out of the Atlantic Yards saga"

Atlantic Yards Report

From Hey Honeys! 'King of Brooklyn' Gersh Kuntzman heads off to academe, to instruct young gumshoes, in Capital (tagline: This is How New York Works), about the Gershification of the Brooklyn Paper:

It also meant transforming what was already a well-respected community publication, with its informative re-caps of local board meetings and dutiful coverage of provincial affairs, into the type of scrappy news product that could command the interest and respect not only of its neighborhood constituents, but of those media elites across the river.

“What I did,” said Kuntzman, more modestly, “was, I took a very, very strong paper, I cut the story length in half, and I added a kind of tabloid brashness."

And nothing was lost?

What about AY?

Writes Joe Pompeo:

Apart from the bottled water wars, some other classics from Kuntzman’s Brooklyn Paper canon, outside its signature beats like bike lanes and local development (it got massive mileage out of the Atlantic Yards saga), include the horrific geese-slaughtering of July 2010, the infamous 6-year-old sidewalk chalk vandal of Park Slope, and the editor’s rather racy real estate porn spoof...

Here's the comment I tried to post:

The Brooklyn Paper "got massive mileage out of the Atlantic Yards saga"?

Here's what the BP hasn't covered:

-Forest City Ratner's effort to raise $249 million from immigrant (mostly Chinese) investors seeking green cards via the EB-5 program.

--Borough President Marty Markowitz's willingness to shill for that effort by making a video claiming that "Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."

--Forest City Ratner's unwillingness to hire the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the much-promoted Community Benefits Agreement.

article

Related content...

Capital, Hey Honeys! 'King of Brooklyn' Gersh Kuntzman heads off to academe, to instruct young gumshoes

Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

People We've Met: Angelina Jolie, James Caan and other stars we spoke to in 2011

Joe Neumaier remembers talks with Michelle Williams, Drake Doremus, Joe Berlinger and more

NY Daily News
by Joe Neumaier

The News's movie critic looks back at the year in film.

In June, Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky — the filmmakers behind one of the year’s best documentaries, “Battle for Brooklyn” — talked about good and bad changes in the borough they love and live in. Joining them was Daniel Goldstein, one of the most impassioned voices in Hawley and Galinsky’s film about the fight surrounding the Atlantic Yards project.

The first thing Galinsky noticed when we all sat down? That I was holding a coffee from a local deli, not a Starbucks “Venti.”

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Posted by eric at 9:19 AM

Curbed Awards '11: Adventures in Urban Planning

It's time to make up a bunch of awards and hand them out to the most deserving people, places and things in the real estate architecture, and neighborhood universes of New York City. Yep, it's time for the Eighth Annual Curbed Awards!

Curbed
by Dave Hogarty

Bruce Ratner takes the Bronze and the Gold in 2011!

3) The roof is raised at Barclay's Arena, literally! And Italian classical soloist phenom Andrea Boccelli turns up his nose at MSG to perform at the Atlantic Yards arena in December 2012.
...

1) Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project has gone from starchitect Frank Gehry's sweeping redesign of Prospect Heights to the proposed installation of the world's tallest pre-fab modular rental tower. Hurray?

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Posted by eric at 9:12 AM

December 28, 2011

Battle for Brooklyn | Dec 27-29 at 8pm

indieScreen

Battle for Brooklyn is playing tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. at indieScreen in Williamsburg — your last chance to see the Oscar-contending film in 2011.

tickets / more info

You also have until 9:43 p.m. this Thursday to make a pledge to Battle for Brooklyn's Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the Academy Awards push. A $35 donation will secure a signed pre-release DVD — your last chance to grab a DVD for some time.

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

Battle for Brooklyn, "community," and the Occupy Wall Street parallel (the massive NYPD response to protest)

Atlantic Yards Report

On watching Battle for Brooklyn yet again, I notice things I didn't emphasize the first time around in my review, things that make the movie both more frustrating and more valuable.

For example, the term "community" is a slippery concept in multiple ways. The movie portrays tensions over the Community Benefits Agreement, ginned up by developer Forest City Ratner to create the appearance of responsibility to the community.

But the "community" of opposition to Atlantic Yards--portrayed, though not sufficiently explained--depends less on those living/working in the project footprint than on those in the surrounding neighborhoods, those who must bear the brunt of the project's impacts.

The film has a neat narrative arc, following the path of activist Daniel Goldstein, but it can leave the impression that the fight is over. Yes, the fight to stop the project is over, and the amount of activism diminished, but, community concerns continue, such as over the lack of a transportation plan as the arena opening approaches.

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Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

Million-Dollar Visas

The New York Times, Editorial

The Times has a big, fat blind spot — and it obscures 22 acres in Prospect Heights.

The federal government’s investor visa, created in 1990, gives foreigners a chance at green cards if they invest $1 million to build a business in the United States that creates at least 10 jobs. Investing in an area with high unemployment would cut that price in half.

The program, known as EB-5, has led foreigners to invest in projects around the country, like factories, resorts, shipyards and other enterprises in designated poor areas in need of jobs. A report in The Times last week found that EB-5 applications have nearly quadrupled in two years, to more than 3,800 in the 2011 fiscal year.

But the program has spawned cynical practices that are stretching the rules and violating the spirit of the law. Some participants in New York, the report found, are pouring money into development zones that are misleadingly labeled as high-unemployment areas to qualify for the lower $500,000 investment threshold, but are not poor or underdeveloped.

For example, a $750 million office tower in the mid-Manhattan diamond district has raised 20 percent of its financing through the EB-5 program. This was made possible through a trick of mapmaking in which state officials counted the number of unemployed people in the census tract next door, which includes Times Square, to justify calling the whole area a high-unemployment zone.

Likewise, the gerrymandered lines of the development zone in Lower Manhattan near Wall Street skirt the wealthy enclaves but cross the East River to enfold a public-housing project in Brooklyn. Visa-seekers have used this district in three separate projects to qualify for the $500,000 discount.

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NoLandGrab: Is it just coincidence that The Times fails to mention the grandaddy of EB-5 abuse, their development partner Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Times editorial criticizes EB-5 gerrymandering, ignores Atlantic Yards example, as well as other EB-5 abuses

What's missing

Well, it's good that the Times is taking EB-5 issues seriously, but it's glaring that one of the key projects to take advantage of this gerrymandering, the Atlantic Yards project, went unmentioned. (Is that the "spirit of the Times," channeled through the publisher, a former business partner with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner?)

It's also notable that the Times does not recognize that the intent of Congress--to create jobs--is subverted in other ways, such as giving immigrant investors credit for jobs created by money contributed by taxpayers, or by allowing dubious calculations of indirect job creation.

MichaelBenjamin2012's Blog, Using Poor NYers as window dressing…Again! – UPDATED

Projects such as Atlantic Yards, the Battery Maritime Building, and the International Gem Tower have used questionable maps and the EB-5 program to attract foreign investors. Blogger Norman Oder and Reuters have revealed that manipulation of the program extends beyond deceptive zoning districts to misrepresentations and flat-out lies told to potential Chinese and Korean investors.

Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Hip Hop and the (Near) Future

The Huffington Post
by Eric J. Henderson

Ness touches a particular bundle of nerves that are base ingredients: futurism, hip hop, and the "occupy" spirit long before the tents went up.

I was introduced to him by actor and dj, DJ TAbu, who showed me his first EYE2025* salvo, "Pedalin." He sharpens his political angle to deliver part I of the vision:

"...set in Ratner Heights, (the area formerly known as Fort Greene/Clinton Hill/Downtown Brooklyn, now owned entirely by construction mogul/re-gentrification king Bruce Ratner). EYE2025*Chapter1 is a dystopic vision of the future, a future that is rapidly approaching. Blurring the lines between genres, the music twists and turns through sounds [on a] mission to bring to light the world of the have-nots, and send out a call to arms to rise up, educate and build community."

That's old school hip hop -- basic political agitation -- but it's also near future for a new age, especially if you live near the Atlantic Yards he's talking about, flashpoint for the Battle of Brooklyn.

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Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

5 trends in NYC's booming real estate market in 2012

am New York
by Graham Wood

The kingdom of Queens

The Atlantic Yards' 15 minutes are up; when it comes to new developments, the next big locale is fit for Queens.

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NoLandGrab: Lucky Queens!

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

December 27, 2011

Can a Sports Team’s Ill Fortunes Be Foretold in Its Name?

The New York Times
by Clyde Haberman

Developments in the New York sports world over the holiday weekend lead to a conclusion that has been bubbling for a while, and now seems inescapable: If you root for a team whose name ends in “ets,” you’re swimming in a sea of troubles.
...

There is another “ets” team, the basketball-playing Nets of New Jersey, which is destined to move soon to Brooklyn in the arena that is rising at Atlantic Yards. This team is some catch. It lost 70 percent of its games last season. At that, it was vastly improved over the previous year, when it lost 85 percent of the time.
...

By the way, the basketball team’s majority owner is Mikhail D. Prokhorov, a billionaire oligarch who announced this month that he would challenge Vladimir V. Putin for the Russian presidency in an election scheduled for the spring. Distracted as Mr. Prokhorov is by Russian politics, it is hard to see how much attention he will give to his flop of a basketball crew as it prepares to move to Brooklyn.

Maybe yet another name change is called for, particularly if this team doesn’t improve. Why not the Brooklyn Nyets?

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Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

States push further into the EB-5 act: New York offers grant to get Capital area regional center off the ground, Maine backs application in progress

Atlantic Yards Report

Given that states and cities benefit when local developers and businesses get cheap foreign capital, it's no surprise that states have begun to assist efforts to establish regional centers that recruit green card-seeking immigrant investors.

According to a 12/8/11 article in The (Albany) Business Review, State plan includes $125K to create EB-5 visa program in Albany:

The state will pay $125,000 [see p. 59 of this awards list] to help establish a federal visa program in the Albany, New York, area that would match wealthy foreign investors with local developers.

The funding is among the $62.7 million awarded to the Capital Region today through a competition set up by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to promote economic development.

The money was requested by the Center for Economic Growth to create the EB-5 visa program.

There are significant start-up costs to a regional center, including a lengthy application and an economic analysis--apparently funded by the grant--that must be submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Then there are marketing costs. The total can reach $600,000.

The Center for Economic Growth (CEG), a not-for-profit membership organization in the Capital Region, would not operate the regional center, according to the article; rather, the overseer would be another not-for-profit or, as is most common, a private business.

CEG President F. Michael Tucker told the 11/8/11 Business Review, “It basically provides a tranche of financing that would complement traditional bank debt and developer equity because right now in this credit market developers need more equity than they have in the past,” Tucker said.

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Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

Year In Review: Top Real Estate Stories of 2011

The biggest real estate stories of the year include the commercial development of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the reverberating effects of Atlantic Yards

Carroll Gardens Patch
by Peter Saalfield

This week Carroll Gardens Patch is looking back at some of the biggest stories of 2011.

We continue today with real estate. In 2011, gentrification marched onward as home prices rose, developers unveiled new building plans, and several stores and restaurants were forced out of business by rising rents.

As the neighborhood searches for the right balance between the old and the new, construction continues to cause contention. For every person who supports development, there is another who opposes it. In 2011, disagreements arose over a few issues in particular.
...

Spillover from Atlantic Yards

The massive Atlantic Yards construction project, supported by politicians such as Mayor Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, has been ruffling feathers for years—and it isn’t even finished. Critics have accused the developer, Bruce Ratner, of lying about the number of jobs that would be created and exaggerating other positive effects for the surrounding neighborhoods.

A particular concern of the people of Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill is traffic and parking. With the main feature of the project—a new stadium for the Brooklyn Nets basketball team—still a year away from completion, traffic has already been disrupted and is poised to get worse.

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Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

Cartographic Excess

Words in Space
by Shannon Christine Mattern

Last week we drew to a close our second year of Urban Media Archaeology, a graduate studio in which my 15 students; my Technical Associate, the ever capable Rory Solomon; and I work together to map historic media networks. Last fall, in the inaugural section of the class, our students mapped everything from the history of walking tours, to movie company headquarters, to Daily News delivery infrastructure, to the social lives of East Village zines, to key sites in carrier pigeon history. This semester the projects were no less innovative; we mapped “media actors” in the debate over the Atlantic Yards development; data-driven systems of graffiti removal; the spatial history of the Young Filmmakers Foundation (intended to seed a larger map of youth media organizations in New York); the evolution of street signs in Manhattan since the late 19th century; the old West Side Cowboys of Chelsea (this project, one of my favorites, involved “ontography“; see below); the changing landscape of independent bookstores in Manhattan and Brooklyn; the social networks of the Soho Fluxus community; 100 years’ history of theaters around Union Square; key individuals and places in the history of subway graffiti; the spatial history of the Bell Telephone system; the forgotten histories of official memorials and murals in East Harlem; surveillance networks in Corona, Queens; locations in Woody Allen’s films; and historic jazz performance venues.

link

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

December 26, 2011

Defender of EB-5 program recommends "leveling the playing field," but doesn't recognize that ending gerrymandering would kill many regional center projects

Atlantic Yards Report

The front-page 12/19/11 New York Times article on EB-5 abuses, Rules Stretched as Green Cards Go to Investors, generated a defensive and somewhat naive commentary by EB-5 practitioner Scott Barnhart, who serves an an EB-5 economic consultant via his firm, Barnhart Economic Services.

Given that Barnhart's 12/22/11 commentary appeared on a very popular EB-5 web site, Brian Su's EB-5 News Blog: Regional Centers in the USA, it's worth a careful look as an example of industry thinking.

Too much regulation?

First, Barnhart suggests that the article "illustrates the problems encountered when regulators, developers and regional center owners must comply with the myriad regulations set forth by Congress surrounding the EB-5 immigrant investor pilot program."

However, the problems are not caused by over-regulation; they've been enabled by (take your pick) poorly drawn regulation or under-regulation. No one has blown the whistle on such problems previously, but they've long lingered, and the industry has not publicly pushed for reforms.

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Posted by eric at 10:05 AM

European banks retreat from U.S. property sector

Reuters
by Ilaina Jones

In September, German bank Eurohypo and developer Forest City Enterprises Inc (FCEa.N) were negotiating a $65 million loan for 9 MetroTech, part of a 11-building office campus in Brooklyn, New York.

By October, the European bank told Forest City to find another lender, according to sources familiar with the talks. A month later, Eurohypo announced it was halting lending for U.S. commercial real estate altogether.

Eurohypo is not alone. Many European banks are retreating from the United States property market to deal with problems at home.

With other lenders also pulling back from the market, borrowing costs for property developers and buyers could jump, said Michael Higgins, managing director and head of U.S. real estate finance for CIBC World Markets Inc.

The end result could be higher construction costs and lower property values, putting a drag on the U.S. commercial property sector's recovery.

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Posted by eric at 9:58 AM

Building New York: Biggest Real Estate News in 2011

International Business Times
by Roland Li

Here are five of the biggest developments of 2011 and an outlook for the future:
...

5. Bold visions for the future

It's one thing to be bullish on New York -- and another to reinvent the skyline.

Danish architect Bjarke Ingels' pyramidal design for the Durst Organization on West 57th Street was one of the most innovative visions for New York, but hardly alone for its boldness. (The project is undergoing land use review.) A Columbia University proposal considered using landfill to create new ground between Lower Manhattan and Governors Island, dubbing the hypothetical neighborhood LoLo. Forest City Ratner is using prefabricated material for its controversial Atlantic Yards project in Downtown Brooklyn -- potentially changing the way buildings are built in the city.

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NoLandGrab: Actually, Forest City Ratner is saying that it might use prefabricated material for buildings it may never have the means to build. More like "bold hallucinations for the future."

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

December 25, 2011

In My Korean Deli, a few glancing mentions of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

In the memoir My Korean Deli: Risking It All For a Convenience Store, published this past March, Ben Ryder Howe describes how, not long after 9/11, he and his Korean-American wife decided to buy and run a bodega in Boerum Hill as partial repayment for the sacrifices her parents made.

It's an entertaining and charming book, especially as Howe juxtaposes descriptions of bodega travails (including working with his indomitable mother-in-law) with the culture of the Paris Review, the venerably eccentric literary magazine, run by the iconic (yet fading) George Plimpton, where he also worked.

The reviews were mostly positive, and I agree, though I usually find "remembered" dialogue in memoirs just a little too pat.

The AY mention

But I want to point to the inevitable Atlantic Yards mention:

Brooklyn is changing. Just down the street... developers from Cleveland have signed an agreement with the government to build one of the largest properties to come to New York in a generation. Skyscrapers, a hotel, a sports stadium and, amid it all, many different "cultural spaces"--this new development, called Atlantic Yards, is going to be so big that its impact will be felt for miles in every direction. Traffic will have to be rerouted, buildings demolished, their tenants relocated. Purely in terms of size and ambition, it seems like the antithesis of the people's borough. It seems more like... Manhattan.

Maybe, though, Atlantic Yards will turn out to be a good thing for us, by raising the value of our lease. maybe it will provide the sort of foot traffic, tourism and round-the-clock sales that shopkeepers dream about. maybe we'll get that Manhattan-style store we once thought of going for after all. But we won't have to wait the five or six years that the construction will likely take to find out, for even closer to where Atlantic Yards will be, the landscape is already erupting in a most un-Brooklyn way, sprouting sunlight-hogging apartment complexes with cubicle-sized dwellings rapped in unfriendly mirrored glass.

You have to try not to be sentimental about it. It makes as little sense to argue against progress and change when it comes to cities as it does with literary magazines...

It does, and it doesn't. The question is how it's done. But Howe's observation is probably not uncommon from many who gave relatively little thought to the issue.

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Posted by steve at 7:12 AM

December 24, 2011

If "everything about the Nets is targeted toward the future," then Brook Lopez's foot injury cannot be good news

Atlantic Yards Report

In his 12/22/11 Grantland article, A Week With the New Jersey Nets: Our man in the Tri-State Area spends some time with Avery Johnson and his team, Jonathan Abrams explains:

Everything about the Nets is targeted toward the future: next year's move to Brooklyn, the retention of Deron Williams past this season, the luring of Dwight Howard, even majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov's bid to become the future president of Russia. Looking over the current roster, it is hard to imagine who, exactly, might be present after the move. Williams, certainly and hopefully. Rookie guard MarShon Brooks will probably be there as well. The rest of the roster is subject to being traded at a whim, having their contracts expire, or being cut before the end of camp.

How's that going? In recent weeks, there have been more than a few stories and tweets indicating that the Nets were Magic center Howard's first choice, part of a trade that had to include Nets center Brook Lopez. But Magic brass chose not to make a deal, so Nets strategists--who do have cap space and draft picks--must wait.

And, as No Land Grab's Eric McClure noted, the bad news for the Nets this week was not the booing of forward Kris Humphries (whose hoops skills far exceed his judgment in participating in for-the-camera weddings).

Rather, it was Lopez's stress fracture in his foot, which the Times deemed "a twin blow to the Nets’ prospects this season and their hopes of landing Dwight Howard."

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Posted by steve at 4:52 PM

Marty Markowitz's holiday card: "We got the Brooklyn Nets"

The Atlantic Yards Report

Below, the cover (Goodbye to Hurricane Irene) and the inside of Borough President Marty Markowitz's holiday card. (Here's some Brooklyn Paper analysis of Markowitz's "gay marriage" theme.)

He's so excited, he states, "We got the Brooklyn Nets," even though they won't arrive til next year.

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Posted by steve at 4:44 PM

Traditional Christmas Eve Revisit of a Classic Seasonal Tale: Ratnerville, the Real Life Incarnation of the Abhorred Pottersville

Noticing New York

It’s Christmas Eve, which means that it is time again to acknowledge and revisit the story of the creation of Brooklyn’s Ratnerville. It is, if you will, the real-life materialization of the bad alternative future the heavenly angel allowed the Jimmy Stewart character to see in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That film proposed that it wasn’t going to be good for the townspeople of Bedford Falls if a one single man, Mr. Potter, with a self-interested eye only on profits, was allowed to own and control the entire town. Now in Brooklyn, because Mayor Bloomberg together with state officials at the Empire State Development agency, believe in the proposition that it is good for a single self-interested Bruce Ratner to own a 50+ acre mega-monopolistic swath of Brooklyn we are seeing materialize in reality a version of that alternative reality: Instead of the movie’s “Pottersville” we have “Ratnerville” that does, indeed, embody the sort of abhorrent conditions of life looked askance at in the film.

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Posted by steve at 11:14 AM

December 23, 2011

An open letter to the city's new Atlantic Yards sort-of-ombudsperson: when there are construction miscues, try to avoid saying "Sorry, it won't happen again"

Atlantic Yards Report

Dear Ms. Lolita Jackson (Director of Special Projects at the NYC Office of the Mayor),

You've apparently just started working on Atlantic Yards issues as the city's new sort-of-ombudsperson, just as you've been doing on the Second Avenue Subway, as you say, "bring[ing] together city agencies to address quality of life issues for businesses and residents that are adjacent to large infrastructure/construction projects."

I hope you don't mind a bit of unsolicited advice.

You haven't had a chance to issue what has become a common mantra from both Forest City Ratner (FCR), the developer, and Empire State Development (ESD), the agency in charge:

Sorry, it won't happen again.

That's what FCR and ESD said after neighbors (via Atlantic Yards Watch) blew the whistle on generators that were making an infernal racket.

That's what ESD said--more or less; they later issued a letter--after neighbors (via Atlantic Yards Watch) cited widespread violations of truck routes.

That's what ESD said after neighbors (via Atlantic Yards Watch) showed how railyard flood lights were left on all night without warning.

That's what ESD said after neighbors (via Atlantic Yards Watch) spotted a contractor disposing of powder on Pacific Street.

You don't want to say it yourself, do you? Shouldn't the government--the representatives of the public--do better?

Shouldn't there be more of an effort to stave off such problems in the first place, or to penalize infractions?

Or is the developer really in charge?

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Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

Nothin' but Nets!

The Mikhail Prokhorov/Bruce Ratner/Jay-Z-owned basketball team made news this week — and none of it good. Could it be The Curse of the Land Grab?

Yahoo! Sports, Kris Humphries, not LeBron James, is the NBA’s most hated player

First off, they coughed up $8 million to re-sign the league's least-popular player.

A year ago at this time, Kris Humphries was a fairly unassuming backup big man for the New Jersey Nets. Then he started casually dating America's sweetheart Kim Kardashian. That romance eventually turned into something more serious -- he went on her TV show, she went to Newark for a game -- and in August they married. It lasted only 72 days, because some loves are just too powerful to do anything but burn out.

Humphries now has a greater celebrity profile, but that fame has been welcomed with searing hatred by many Kardashophilic people of this nation. In fact, a recent Nielsen and E-Poll Market Research poll lists him as the most hated player in the NBA.

But that's not the real bad news. This is.

The New York Times, Foot Injury to Lopez Deals the Nets Twin Setbacks

Brook Lopez is heading for foot surgery, dealing a twin blow to the Nets’ prospects this season and their hopes of landing Dwight Howard.

Lopez sustained a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot in Wednesday’s preseason finale against the Knicks. Surgery is scheduled for Friday. The Nets have not announced a timetable for his return, but it is likely that Lopez will miss at least six weeks.

Lopez, 23, would be the key player in any trade for Howard, the Orlando Magic center, who has asked to be traded. The injury could delay any deal or perhaps scare off the Magic. The N.B.A. has a long history of big men having their careers derailed by foot problems, from Bill Walton to Yao Ming.

The severity of Lopez’s injury seemed to catch the Nets off guard. Although the foot was injured in the first half, Lopez played the entire game, finishing with 15 points and 9 rebounds in nearly 22 minutes.

NoLandGrab: Do you think Brook Lopez might be asking himself "would they have left me in for the whole game if they weren't planning on shipping me to Orlando?"

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

December 22, 2011

Immigrant investors seeking green cards now own mortgage on development rights for Atlantic Yards tower; more mortgages coming

Atlantic Yards Report

Chinese millionaires are closer to owning a piece of the Atlantic Yards project.

Immigrant investors now own a $24.7 million mortgage on the 1.24-acre site for B12, the first of seven development parcels promised as collateral for a low-interest loan to developer Forest City Ratner.

More such mortgages are coming, a state official says, indicating that proceeds from the $249 million low-interest loan garnered through the EB-5 visa program are being delivered.

Forest City Ratner is thus transferring portions of a longstanding high-interest loan to the cheaper capital raised via Brooklyn Arena Infrastructure and Transportation Improvement Fund, an affiliate of the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), a private investment pool authorized to recruit immigrant investors.

It looks like the large majority of the cheaper capital will replace that existing loan rather than be used, as Forest City officials once said, to build a new railyard.

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Posted by eric at 12:51 PM

Free Rat-Proof Garbage Cans for Residents, Again

Forest City Ratner and Council Member Letitia James are providing free trash cans to residents to address continued rat problem.

Prospect Heights Patch
by Jamie Schuh

Free rodent-proof garbage cans are now available for all Prospect Heights residents, thanks to Council Member Letitia James and Forest City Ratner. The heavy-duty, plastic cans with lids are approved by the Department of Health.

More like thanks to Council Member Letitia James's persistent prodding of Forest City Ratner.

Forest City Ratner first offered free trash cans to residents back in August, as part of a “rodent control strategy.”

The trash cans are now available to all residents and business owners within Prospect Heights. They can be picked up at the office of Council Member James, 50 Hanson Place, between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Bring an I.D. and proof of address when picking up, and call (718) 260-9191 to confirm availability.

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NoLandGrab: Yormarketing genius should be announcing the inking of the "official resident trash can sponsor" any day now.

Posted by eric at 12:41 PM

Curbed Cup Elite 8: (3) Atlantic Yards vs. (6) DoBro

Curbed

It's a battle between a phony neighborhood and a phonily named neighborhood — and it's not close.

Half the field has already been eliminated in the Curbed Cup, our annual award to the New York City neighborhood of the year. This week we'll have one matchup per day—with the polls left open for 24 hours—and by Friday only four contenders will be left vying for the prestigious fake trophy. Let the eliminations continue!
...

AY's opponent in this round? Downtown Brooklyn. One commenter and Curbed operative wrote of the neighborhood's transformation this year: "Never mind the Brooklyner, Brooklyn Fare, the new consolidated subway hub, Aloft hotel, or Dekalb Market, but soon there will be Shake Shack, the new Dieterle spot, H&M, a new residential complex, and so on. Subway access is awesome; walking access around Brooklyn is just as good." (And hey, the Shake Shack just opened!) Another commenter points to the makeover of the BAM area and the sales and rental success stories the 'hood's had this year. So which 'hood should advance to the next round?

vote

Posted by eric at 12:34 PM

Token Mets Owners vs. Nets "Owner" Jay-Z

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Speaking of Hova's token role...

Today The New York Times, in a tongue-in-cheek (borderline sneering) manner, takes a look at the financially strapped New York Mets' effort to sell off $20 million shares of the team to minority owners who will have no say in the franchise's development but will receive perks such as access to the Mets' mascot Mr. Met and a parking spot at CitiField. For its story The Times obtained a term sheet given by the Mets' owners to prospective partners.

According to The Times a $20 milllion share represents about 4% of the team (our calculations peg it at about 2.6%).

What's this have to do with Atlantic Yards? Well "cultural icon" Jay-Z is a less than 1% owner of the New Jersey Nets, paying roughly $4.5 million for the right to be out front of the team's marketing campaigns. Yet one would believe from the media coverage (including The Times) and the Nets public relations strategy that he owns a substantial portion of the team. Or, as Norman Oder put it in a Salon article, "He's become the face of the franchise, the Teflon-coated superstar employed by his partners to distract attention from the hardball politics, sweetheart deals and private profits behind the arena and the rest of the 16-tower project."
...

So $20 million to the Mets affords the investor the booby prize of getting to hang with the Mets' mascot. With the Nets, $4.5 million makes you the owner, at least in the eyes of the celebrity-obsessed press.

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Posted by eric at 12:26 PM

NBA Preview, Part One: Breaking Down The Heat, Bulls, And The Rest Of The East

SBNation
by Andrew Sharp

SBNation picks the Nets to finish 12th in the 15-team Eastern Conference, and here's one reason:

The karma surrounding the Nets move to Brooklyn is not good. The scheming from Bruce Ratner, Jay-Z's token role in selling the whole thing, and even the way the team's ditching Jersey after years of putting together a horrid product. It all feels kind of shady, and even if it's all legal, that doesn't mean they'll get away without getting burned.

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Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

John Liu And the Mayoral Race: We Are Confronted by A Misfortune. Can Misfortune Be Turned Aside?

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White rues the (self-created) pitfalls of John Liu's mayoral campaign.

The Times articles essentially evaluate as nails in the coffin of Liu’s mayoral race the federal investigation into Liu’s fund-raising. The investigation is the result of an apparently successful FBI sting operation. How bad is it?: The article about who is in the potential field of candidates for mayor doesn’t even include Liu’s picture amongst the panel depicting the panoply of contenders.

If the sting operation succeeds in knocking Liu out of the race it will be unfortunate from the standpoint of Noticing New York's family of concerns in one respect: As the collection of alternative candidates considered in the December 11th Times article emphasizes, no one else likely to run is likely to pose the same threat to the Bloombergian real estate industry-dominated status quo as John Liu. The threat Liu presents to that established order calling the shots in this city is best judged by his record. As a member of the City Council Liu stood out as part of a small minority willing to reject the dictates of Bloomberg’s Quinn (serving as Speaker of the City Council): He voted in a principled manner on projects such as the irredeemably tainted Walentas Dock Street project. As City Comptroller he continued to take on Bloomberg when almost nobody else did.

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NoLandGrab: Liu's high regard among Atlantic Yards opponents continues to puzzle us, since he's done little more than pay lip service to earn it.

Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

The Good News of 2011

Stone Circles at The Stone House

A film about the Atlantic Yards fight ranks high on a North Carolina list of the best things of the year.

3. “The Battle for Brooklyn” film about fight against Bruce Ratner”s development debacle, on list of possible Oscar nominations for best doc.

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Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

December 21, 2011

Residents Brace for Barclays Center Traffic With Concern and Trepidation

The Brooklyn Ink
by Cristabelle Tumola

Atlantic and Fourth Avenues in Brooklyn have at least two things in common.

First, both are among the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in downstate New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, according to a 2010 report released by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit organization committed to reducing car dependency.

Second, both streets bound the Atlantic Yards project, the future home of the Barclays Center and the New Jersey (soon to be Brooklyn) Nets. That has made the streets the subject of still more ills, among them clogged traffic, illegal parking and noise. And that is only since the arena construction began in March 2010. Local residents fear much worse after the arena opens in September 2012.

They have plenty reason for concern.

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Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

State Senator Kruger pleads guilty, resigns; no mention of "Real Estate Developer #1," but plea includes admission that legislator helped Forest City Ratner executive

Atlantic Yards Report

Sixteen-year Southern Brooklyn state Senator Carl Kruger pleaded guilty yesterday to accepting at least $1 million in bribes--thus supporting his over-the-top residence in Mill Basin and a Bentley--and resigned from the Senate.

The news coverage (Times, Daily News, Post), the more entertaining editorials (Daily News, Post) and Michael Powell's Times column, emphasized Kruger's self-pitying, pathetic, tearful apology, while the Daily News (as did the Observer) pointed to a culture of corruption in Albany. Indeed, Kruger gets to keep his pension.

Neither Kruger's brief allocution nor any of the news coverage mentioned Kruger's interaction with "Real Estate Developer #1" (as detailed beginning on p. 21 of the the 3/9/11 complaint), aka Forest City Ratner.

However, Kruger's guilty plea apparently included admitting that he helped deliver state funds to a cause championed by Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, part of the legislator's work for clients of lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who was also indicted but has yet to go to trial.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Quietly, and without allegations of FCR-related influence or bribery, Prospect Park's Lakeside project gets $2.687 million from the state

Prospect Park's $74 million Lakeside ice rink project was put under a cloud when state Senator Carl Kruger got indicted for--and just pleaded guilty to-- directing $500,000 in state funds to a client of lobbyist Richard Lipsky, part of a suite of charges.

(It was a cause championed by Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, whose wife sits on the Prospect Park Alliance board, though it's hardly clear that Forest City lobbyist Richard Lipsky, charged with bribing Kruger, was doing so for that specific cause.)

But it turns out that Lakeside does just fine getting state funds in the conventional way, untainted by bribery allegations or much publicity.

Posted by eric at 11:35 AM

Downtown Remains Contested Territory

City Limits: The Brooklyn Bureau
by Neil deMause

The Field of Schemes author takes an in-depth look at the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning.

Whether this is success depends on who you ask.

“We’re all very happy with how downtown Brooklyn has progressed over the years,” says Michael Burke, who has served as interim president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership since Chan left to take a job with the state-run Empire State Development Corporation last summer. “Particularly given the economic dynamics of the past few years, where it has continued to thrive and continued to grow even with the significant economic downturn.”

Yaakov “Jack” Fuzailov, meanwhile, takes a more jaundiced view. The former owner of a barbershop that was twice evicted from storefronts along downtown’s Willoughby Street — the first to make way for a new office tower that never arrived, the second because of rising rents — he now cuts hair as an employee of another barbershop across the street from his old storefront. Fuzailov, like many longtime residents and shopkeepers in the area, sees the battle of downtown Brooklyn as one of condo owners against tenants, and visions of high-end retail against those of the unflashy stores that were there before the rezoning hit.

“There is no middle class,” he says. “Either you live in the Brooklyner, or you’re out of here. The middle class like myself is a worker now. I downgraded - I’m poor.”

A long-sought transformation

The current push to revive downtown Brooklyn began in the 1980s, when Polytechnic University (now City Tech) was selected by the city to lead the charge to turn the area into the next Silicon Valley. School officials soon tapped former city consumer affairs commissioner and real estate scion Bruce Ratner to put together a deal for Brooklyn’s largest development ever. Metrotech, as the project soon became known, would replace several blocks of apartment buildings and small business with mammoth office towers that would become home to back-office operations for the likes of Chase Manhattan and Bear Stearns — helped along by $300 million in city rent subsidies to Ratner’s new tenants.

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Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

WPIX picks up on noisy generator story, gets response from FCR that it won't happen again

Atlantic Yards Report

You'd think that the myriad of incidents reported on Atlantic Yards Watch would be easy pickings for the press, but too many press outlets suffer from AY fatigue, indifference, or a willingness to follow the announced narrative.

But last night WPIX-TV's Monica Morales followed up on the story of noisy generators in the Vanderbilt Yard and got the same response from developer Forest City Ratner that I got from Empire State Development: it won't happen again, because noise-attenuating blankets will be used.

The lingering question: why weren't they used in the first place?

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Related coverage...

WPIX, Brooklyn Generator Uproar

Atlantic Yards Report, ESD says next time noisy generators near residences will use noise attenuating blankets (but why didn't they do so originally?)

So, was there any response to the Atlantic Yards Watch posting that explained how noisy generators at Pacific Street and Carlton Avenue were annoying neighbors.

I quered Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, who responded:

The contractor will not be using the generator again in this area in the near future. The generator was placed on the street because there was no space in the yard where the generator could have been placed to do the necessary work on the south abutment of the bridge. If there is a need to use the generator in this area again, the contactor will be required to use noise attenuating blankets.

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Why will railyard floodlights be illuminated at night? Because the policy changed

Atlantic Yards Report

As I wrote yesterday, it seems quite possible that floodlights at the railyard will be illuminated until 11 pm for many months, through next summer.

That leads to scenes (via Atlantic Yards Watch) such as the illumination (at 7 pm) as seen from the Newswalk building on Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues.

The policy regarding the lights has apparently changed, as Peter Krashes notes on Atlantic Yards Watch, in Nighttime use of railyard floodlights may continue until September 2012.
...

A belated Forest City response

About a week after an inquiry via the Community Liaison's voice mail, Community Liaison Brigitte LaBonte answered AY Watch, in part:

The lights are required to provide visibility for the workers, and to ensure safe working conditions. To minimize the impact to those adjacent to the yard, the lights are directed downward and into the Yard, and away from residential buildings.

However, as noted by Krashes:

Residents note that while the lights are directed downward, spillage on the sides of the lights is intense and flows directly into nearby residences. No adjustments to the floodlights redirecting their beams away from residential building have been made to compensate for their increased use.

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Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

"Developers and officials will exploit any government incentive available"--unless there's a public backlash

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times's front-page coverage of how New York stretches the rules to aid EB-5 projects prompts Eric Hawthorn of the Llenrock Group, a real estate advisory and investment banking firm in Philadelphia, to observe:

Commercial real estate, like any business, is rooted in practicality. Developers and officials will exploit any government incentive available if it’s in their interests. But companies are not immune to public backlash–just ask Bank of America (BAC). If the public perceives a company is cheating a struggling neighborhood out of opportunities, legally or not, it could create a P.R. nightmare that simply isn’t worth the few dollars that were saved.

In other words, press coverage--from the big boys, at least--makes a difference.

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Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Brooklyn's Top 25 News Stories Of 2011

The L Magazine

9. Atlantic Yards Ascendant (Meh.) After years of lawsuits and controversy, construction began on the Barclays Center, its shell rising up above Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Fort Greene. Jay-Z announced the basketball team would be called “The Brooklyn Nets” (whoop-dee-do), while the bar Freddy’s—an icon of the displaced—opened a new location in South Slope. Oh, and those local jobs for construction workers don’t seem to be materializing. Shocking.

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Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

Gang mugs teens at knifepoint at Atlantic Terminal

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men? Not inside Bruce Ratner's Fort Greene malls.

Running wild

Two thugs held a group of friends at knifepoint at the Buffalo Wild Wings on Flatbush Avenue on Dec. 13.

One 17-year-old victim told police that he was with two pals at the barbecue joint in the crime-riddled Atlantic Terminal Mall when one of the goons flashed a blade and said, “If you have anything, give it to me. Not my fault if you get stabbed.”

The crook found empty pockets, and his accomplice punched one of the other victims in the back of the head and broke his eyeglasses.

Police are seeking two suspects.
...

Target-ed

A mother tried to steal goods from the Flatbush Avenue Target on Dec. 14, but was nabbed by a cop on her way out, police said.

The employee told cops that the woman and her daughter entered the store at midnight and allegedly left a half-hour later without paying.

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Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

PARK SLOPE PROFILES IN COURAGE: MIKE SACKS, HUMOR WRITER

F**ked in Park Slope

FIPS interviews humorist Mike Sacks.

Can you give me an elevator pitch for a TV show about Park Slope?

I’d love to see a TV show in which Marty Markowitz is chased by a pack of jackals through the Atlantic Yards construction site. That’s pretty much it. Marty Markowitz being chased by a pack of wild jackals through the Atlantic Yards construction site. Run, Marty, run! Fuggedaboutit!

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Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

December 20, 2011

Deconstructing Marty Markowitz on Atlantic Yards blame (it's all the fault of lawsuits), residential permit parking, and his claim of being underpaid

Atlantic Yards Report

Better sit down for this one.

In a recent interview by Roberto Perez on The Perez Notes, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz gave what likely will remain his standard line on Atlantic Yards: it all would've worked out if there had been no lawsuits.

Well, that ignores the fact that developers of large, multi-phase projects must plan for up-and-down development cycles, and, as already noted by DDDB and NLG, developer Bruce Ratner admitted that his announced plan was never feasible.

The question

At 10:06, host Perez opened up the mike: "Borough President, talk a little bit about Atlantic Yards. There are both sides, of course, the people who are upset about eminent domain, people who are upset that the jobs, supposedly promised by Bruce Ratner have not materialized, and the job training, and the people that are upset over gentrification. Talk about some of the positives of the project, and what do you think of the overall so far, there's a lot of development left that's part of the final project that hasn't happened just yet."

The answer

Markowitz took to it like catnip: "Well, let me just say that, if the folks that opposed this hadn't tied the project up for seven years in litigation, Atlantic Yards, a good piece of it would have been built. The affordable housing would've been on its way. The Nets would be playing in the arena and defeating the Manhattan Knicks. I'm sure, I'm confident. And people would've been working, and it would've been the jobs that were promised. Because when this project was first proposed, the economy was strong in new York and in America. Sadly, seven years of lawsuits that sucked up time, money, and everything else and then we get into the middle of a deep recession."

Wait, the developer originally promised 10,000 office jobs in four office tower. That was bogus from the start. Now there's one office tower planned.

Damning the critics

"Listen, now the critics are complaining that there's not enough jobs," Markowitz continued. "Before, they couldn't care less about the jobs. They couldn't care less about the jobs. They couldn't care less about affordable housing."

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NoLandGrab: Sure, Marty, we couldn't care less about any of that stuff. But what we really don't care about is bringing a lousy pro basketball team to Brooklyn — especially on the taxpayers' dime.

Posted by eric at 1:36 PM

Nighttime use of railyard floodlights may continue until September 2012

Atlantic Yards Watch

And God Bruce Ratner said, Let there be light.

The floodlights in the Vanderbilt Railyard are being used to extend construction work hours to as late as 11:00 PM many days of the week. In the spring of 2010, LIRR told community members the lights would be used infrequently to enable work that could not be executed in the day while the railyard was operating. At that time there was no mention the lights would be used for construction.

The policy for use of the lights has apparently changed. According to ESDC Project Director Arana Hankin, LIRR and the FCRC contractors working on the Carlton Avenue Bridge are negotiating an agreement for the use of the lights that includes extending construction work hours. The rebuilding of the Carlton Avenue Bridge is not a LIRR project, although its completion is dependent on various elements of railyard construction being finished. The lights are planned to be used until reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge is complete, which must be prior to the time the arena opens in September 2012. It is unclear to what extent the lights will be used when construction in Vanderbilt Railyard continues with the replacement of the permanent railyard. It is anticipated to be complete in 2016.

Although the work currently taking place only involves a small number of workers in limited locations, all of the lights in the yard are turned on. On Tuesday, December 6 the lights were left on until 3:30 AM without notice to the community.

Click through for photos of how the lights obviate the need for nearby residents' interior lighting (thereby lowering electricity costs!) and how reading is easy any time (saving people's eyesight!).

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Posted by eric at 1:22 PM

Times gives lavish space to puff piece on new Nets announcer, ignores "sordid history" (by the way, he says cigars are healthier than cigarettes)

Atlantic Yards Report

Sure, Kim Jong-Il is dead, the Eurozone economies are in shambles, and it's an all-out race to the bottom among Republican presidential hopefuls, but whoa — get a load of that new Nets PA announcer's hair!

Number of paragraphs about Atlantic Yards in front-page New York Times article yesterday about EB-5 projects that stretch the rules: 1.

Number of paragraphs in Sports section article today about new Nets announcer David Diamante: 21.

A bit of a puff piece

The Times article, headlined New Nets Announcer Shows Flair and Hair, lets him describe his various jobs and hobbies--motorcyclist, DJ, surfer, boxing announcer. He's got long dreadlocks...

article

Related content...

The New York Times, Nets Announcer Shows Flair and Hair

Diamante was not among the original 400 prospective announcers who auditioned for the Nets in September. After learning of the tryouts, he contacted Nets representatives and was included in the final round of 20 announcers in October. He got the job, signed a multiyear contract and last week announced his first game with the team, at its current home in Newark.

NoLandGrab: Yet one more example of the flawed process surrounding Atlantic Yards.

The Brooklyn Paper, Brooklyn man to be the voice of the Barclays Center

The team will get a side benefit from hiring Diamante, who is active in charities in his spare time, most recently including holding an auction that raised more than $18,000 for Treasure Island Pre-school in Bay Ridge.

“I try to live my life like that,” Diamante said. “You have to be a good neighbor.”

The Nets have been struggling to be just that as the controversial Barclays Center nears completion. But Diamante thinks that any lingering hard feelings will disappear once the team hits the hard wood.

Posted by eric at 1:07 PM

From Atlantic Yards Watch: Generators at Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street disrupt residents

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on yesterday's Atlantic Yards Watch post on noisy generators.

Who wants to live near generators, especially when the decibel level gets stratospheric?
...

So, is "noisier equipment," as per the memorandum, situated "at locations that are removed from sensitive receptor locations and are shielded from sensitive receptor locations wherever feasible," provided with significant noise shielding?

Apparently not:

Although the Memorandum specifies a "minimum 8 foot height perimeter barrier (constructed of 3/4 thick plywood), with a 16 foot hight barrier (of 3/4" thick plywood) adjacent to sensitive locations, including locations along Pacific Street, Dean Street, and Flatbush Avenue opposite residences," there are no barriers of that description installed in this location. The generators are separated from residences by a chain link fence that does not shield noise.

Yesterday, I contacted the state and city officials in charge of Atlantic Yards construction issues, but didn't hear back yet.

article

Posted by eric at 12:56 PM

Psst, you want to buy a green card? It’ll cost you $500,000

KPCC/Southern California Public Radio

A federal program, known as EB-5, was created by Congress during the recession of 1990 to offer foreigners a way to earn a green card by investing in American construction projects.

The program is so successful that applications have quadrupled in the last two years. The minimum investment in the program was set at $1 million, but if the project is in a rural area or a place where the unemployment rate is fifty percent above the national average, the minimum investment is $500,000. The program is intended to encourage more development and job growth in poor areas, but some evidence suggests that, through selective use of census statistics, state officials are using gerrymandering techniques to designate development zones as having high unemployment in areas that are actually economically flourishing.

link / listen

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, EB-5 controversy makes CA public radio show; CA rep says state doesn't bend rules

Yesterday, the Patt Morrison Show, on KPCC/Southern California Public Radio featured a segment taking off from the New York Times's coverage of how EB-5 projects in New York City stretch the rules.

The first guest on Psst, you want to buy a green card? It’ll cost you $500,000 was Times reporter Patrick McGeehan, who gave a basic summary of his article, explaining of state officials "string together census tracks" to claim projects are located in high-unemployment areas, thus allowing a more attractive minimum investment to those seeking green cards: %500,000 versus $1 million.

McGeehan used the term "little private investment banks" to describe the middlemen, formally known as regional centers, who earn both fees and the spread between the low interest the borrower is paying and the no-interest paid by those seeking green cards.

He also noted that the EB-5 program is dependent on "theoretical" job creation, based on a formula.

The program, he said, "was used quite effectively in Vermont, to build ski resorts... Now the problem is these big shiny projects... like a pro basketball arena in Brooklyn [are] stealing away the oxygen."

Actually, though the Atlantic Yards EB-5 project was pitched as an investment into the arena, does not involve a piece of the arena.

NY Observer, New York [Hearts] EB-5 Visas

The Farragut Houses, which like many city housing projects suffers from especially high unemployment, is actually included in three different EB-5 zones, including Atlantic Yards. Whether anyone in the houses is actually benefiting from the jobs is unknown. Whatever the ethics of the program, it should at the very least be helping them.

NoLandGrab: And who wants to bet that it's not?

Forbes, Job Creation Program Stretches Claims About Low-Income Neighborhoods

One example: the huge $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. To attract financing under the EB-5 program, the developer, Forest City Ratner, has claimed the project is going up in an oddly-shaped zone that stretches more than two miles from the site and includes low-income parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Longtime journalist and Atlantic Yards watchdog Norman Oder, author of the Atlantic Yards Report blog, has used Freedom of Information Act requests and translators to comb through piles of documents. Oder has described the developers’ supposed project area as “the Bed-Stuy boomerang,” akin to a gerrymandered political district.
...

Oder has written more than 100 articles on the EB-5 program and he tells me the gerrymandered districts only scratch the surface of EB-5’s many problems.

Curbed, Green Cards Go For Real Estate Cash in Visa Deals

In a bid to finance real estate projects, developers have been ferreting out the hungry, tired, and poor already in NYC to qualify for the creation of special development zones, so they can sell visas to wealthy foreign investors.

Posted by eric at 12:37 PM

Project: Atlantic Yards Media Actors

Urban Research Tool

I've mapped traces of an actor-network involved in transforming representations of the Atlantic Yards redevelopment project in Brooklyn. The green circles represent sources, like The New York Times, mapped based on their headquarters, the black dots represent individual articles/videos/etc and the purple stars represent interviews I've conducted and edited. The map covers two events so far, about which I've written short essays to guide you through the map. Essay 1: Ratner's Announcement. Essay 2: Freddy's Bar.

article

Related content...

Urban Media Archaeology, Evaluating My Atlantic Yards Media Actors Map

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

Battle for Brooklyn | Dec 27-29 at 8pm

indieScreen

Catch Battle for Brooklyn at Williamsburg's indieScreen next week.

Dirs. Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley.
93min | Doc | US | 2010.
Brooklyn Film Festival’s Grand Chameleon Award 2011.

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 11:59 AM

Report: Kruger to plead guilty

The Brooklyn Paper
by Vince Dimiceli

State Sen. Carl Kruger will reportedly plead guilty today to accepting at least $1 million in bribes — and, in doing so, lose his powerful seat in the Senate.

Our sister publication, the New York Post, and a Manhattan publication, the New York Times, reported late Tuesday night that the embattle senator, a Democrat representing a swath of Southern Brooklyn who lives in a posh, seaside mansion in Mill Island, had struck a deal with feds, and would plead guilty to four out of five counts against him.

Kruger’s co-defendant Michael Turano, who shares the home with senator and has been reported to be his lover, is also expected to plead guilty.

Money-laundering charges against both men would be dropped under the deals, in which Kruger will admit to four counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and take bribes. Turano will plead guilty to one count of bribery conspiracy, the Post reported.

If Kruger pleads guilty to the felonies, the 16-year senator would immediately be expelled from the state Senate, where he has served on the powerful Finance Committee.

article

NoLandGrab: No word as to whether Kruger has given up any potential indictees with a predilection for bridge-shtupping.

Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

December 19, 2011

From the latest Construction Alert: at railyard, weekday double shifts; railyard flood lights on until 11 pm through Carlton Avenue Bridge replacement (next summer!)

Atlantic Yards Report

The latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 12/19/11, was distributed today by Empire State Development (after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner).

Notable is that railyard work will proceed on double shifts during the weekdays along with Saturdays and selected Sundays, all in the name of "overall schedule maintenance," aka "staying on time." The previous alert indicated extra work only on weekends.

Also, it seems quite possible that floodlights at the railyard will be illuminate until 11 pm for many months, through next summer, as "Yard Flood Lights will be turned on at 6am and from dusk to 11:00 pm, during double shifts through the completion of the Carlton Avenue Bridge replacement, as needed."

The bridge is supposed to be finished before the arena opens in August 2012, though no firm schedule has been announced.

article

Posted by eric at 11:20 PM

Update #8: The role of the dissident

Battle Campaign via Kickstarter

Today I saw that Marty Markowitz once again used the leverage of his office to make the case that the Atlantic Yards project would be almost built if it wasn't for the complaining gentrifiers.
...

Using the power of office to demonize those who raise important questions leads us to a quote from a more powerful politician and profound thinker. Vaclav Havel died yesterday. On the nature of opposition to power he had this to say:

"You do not become a dissident just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society." —Vaclav Havel

Some dissidents get beaten down. Others overthrow corrupt regimes and become President.

link

Posted by eric at 11:15 PM

Generators at Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street disrupt residents

Atlantic Yards Watch

Generators adjacent to perimeter fencing across from residences, and the absence of barriers to shield the residences from the noise they generate, appear to violate both the spirit and the letter of the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments. The generators are apparently being used to facilitate construction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge.

They are situated directly across the street from residences on the north sidewalk of Pacific Street at the location of the Carlton Avenue Bridge. They are in a highly visible location close to the construction offices and along the walking route between the construction offices and the arena construction site.
...

The Memorandum states that contractors will situate "noisier equipment, such as generators, cranes, tractor trailers, concrete pumps, concrete trucks and dump trucks at locations that are removed from sensitive receptor locations and are shielded from sensitive receptor locations wherever feasible." If not feasible, another step contractors should utilize when practicable are "noise curtains and equipment enclosures . . . to provide shielding from significant noise-generating equipment to sensitive receptor locations."

Although the Memorandum specifies a "minimum 8 foot height perimeter barrier (constructed of 3/4 thick plywood), with a 16 foot hight barrier (of 3/4" thick plywood) adjacent to sensitive locations, including locations along Pacific Street, Dean Street, and Flatbush Avenue opposite residences," there are no barriers of that description installed in this location. The generators are separated from residences by a chain link fence that does not shield noise.

article

NoLandGrab: It's possible it's just a test, intended to simulate the noise of a drunken crowd leaving a Nets game.

Posted by eric at 11:08 PM

Times, in front-page story, critiques gerrymandering in New York's EB-5 projects, gets defensive response from feds; unmentioned are other rules being stretched

Atlantic Yards Report

In a front-page article today headlined Rules Stretched as Green Cards Go to Investors, the New York Times jumps on one aspect of the EB-5 story, the gerrymandering to ensure that immigrant investor projects qualify as located in high-unemployment areas.

The Times cites the International Gem Tower in the diamond district, the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan, and yes, Atlantic Yards (as I wrote 12/9/11), as taking advantage of gerrymandering. The Battery Maritime Building's Targeted Employment Area, the Times reveals, even "jumps across the East River to annex the Farragut Houses project in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn."

Unmentioned: other rules being stretched regarding EB-5, such as the lack of actual job creation (defined via murky, non-public reports by hired economists), or the credit given to immigration investors for investments made by others, including taxpayers.

Also unmentioned is the enormous, sometimes deceptive hype behind project promotion, as well as the participation by city and state officials in such promotion--and the finder's fee to the New York City Economic Development Corporation in brokering EB-5 deals.

In other words, the problem goes much deeper than gerrymandering.
...

Diminishing AYR impact

Describing me as a "local blogger," while not inaccurate, also is imprecise, and diminishes my experience as a journalist. It makes it harder to believe that I might have written more than 100 articles investigating the EB-5 issue.

Moreover, the paragraph leaves the impression that the gerrymandered map was publicly known, and that I merely named it. Rather, the issue was first reported on this blog, based on documents gathered via a Freedom of Information Act request.

article

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Rules Stretched as Green Cards Go to Investors

The New York Times
by Patrick McGeehan and Kirk Semple

Look who just caught on! In typical half-assed fashion, The Times barely scratches the surface of the EB-5 green cards-for-cash scam, a story on which they would have whiffed completely if not for Norman Oder's dogged reporting.

Affluent foreigners are rushing to take advantage of a federal immigration program that offers them the chance to obtain a green card in return for investing in construction projects in the United States. With credit tight, the program has unexpectedly turned into a mainstay for the financing of these projects in New York, California, Texas and other states.

The number of foreign applicants, each of whom must invest at least $500,000 in a project, has nearly quadrupled in the last two years, to more than 3,800 in the 2011 fiscal year, officials said. Demand has grown so fast that the Obama administration, which is championing the program, is seeking to streamline the application process.

Still, some critics of the program have described it as an improper use of the immigration system to spur economic development — a cash-for-visas scheme. And an examination of the program by The New York Times suggests that in New York, developers and state officials are stretching the rules to qualify projects for this foreign financing.

"Examination?" That's a bit much.

These developers are often relying on gerrymandering techniques to create development zones that are supposedly in areas of high unemployment — and thus eligible for special concessions — but actually are in prosperous ones, according to federal and state records.
...

The giant Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, which abuts well-heeled brownstone neighborhoods, has also qualified for the special concessions using a gerrymandered high-unemployment district: the crescent-shaped zone swings more than two miles to the northeast to include poor sections of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. A local blogger and critic of Atlantic Yards, Norman Oder, has referred to the map as “the Bed-Stuy Boomerang.”

article

Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

Marty Markowitz Spreads Holiday Cheer With Bogus Blame and Divisiveness

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

If the folks who supported Atlantic Yards, such as its biggest (as in loudest) cheerleader Marty Markowitz, hadn't attempted to construct the largest single-developer project in NYC history by overriding local zoning, bypassing the votes of all city and state elected officials, utilizing eminent domain for private gain, giving away public assets through sweetheart deals, providing special deals and subsidies totaling somewhere near $2 billion, and breaking housing and jobs promises left and right all while ignoring community input without ever sincerely seeking it, perhaps Atlantic Yards would not be the most reviled development plan in all of New York.

And now, despite all of that plus the growing realization among the non-partisans that the project and its one accomplishment—a money-losing arena—is a clustermess in the heart of Brooklyn, the Borough President is sticking to the absurd line that it is the community advocates' fault the project is a failure. Taking it yet one step further Markowitz astonishingly claims that the use of eminent domain for Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov's benefit was somehow a good thing.

Why do we bring all of this up? Well just look at what holiday cheer Markowitz is spreading.

link

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

Miami Marlins Risk Dropping the Ball on Transit

The Atlantic Cities
by Eric Jaffe

The Miami Marlins, who may have defrauded investors in building their new ballpark, are also sans transportation plan less than four months from opening day. And, oh yeah, there's no transportation yet for the Barclays Center, either.

Next season the Miami (nee Florida) Marlins will move into a new $634 million baseball stadium. Judging by its most recent player acquisitions, the team is willing to spend whatever it takes to lure fans into the seats. They recently signed shortstop Jose Reyes to a $106 million contract. They followed that up with a $58 million deal for left-handed pitcher Mark Buehrle. Although they lost out on free agent prize Albert Pujols, the team's offer — north of $200 million — was not exactly shabby.

Exactly how those fans will get to the seats is a another matter. With the season just a few months away, the stadium's transportation plan remains noticeably incomplete. Most fans will drive: roughly 5,000 garage spaces are intended for season ticketholders, and another 4,000 or so offsite spots will be available nearby. Still parking alone can't fill the 37,000-seat stadium, and the team expects a considerable number of fans to arrive by public transportation; its executive vice president of ballpark development recently said as much: "Everyone wants people to use public transit." But as of right now the team's transit strategy has received far less financial attention than its free agent signings.
...

Considering the poor state of the stadium transit plans, the team's assertion that a large percentage of fans will arrive by public transportation strikes Transit Miami blogger Tony Garcia, who was at the October meeting, as "downright dishonest."

I have to wonder why these people believe that anyone would go through the trouble of transferring two or three times to get close to the stadium, to then walk a mile from Culmer or Civic station or take a shuttle. Are they nuts? Both of the closest stations are about a mile, without taking into account the treacherous 3′ sidewalks, dangerous intersections, and completely lacking pedestrian amenities along the way.

article

Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

December 18, 2011

Guess what: Prokhorov's business associates buff boss to Daily News sports reporter; Russian author suggests "gambler" Prokhorov, even if part of an "arrangement," could shake things up

Atlantic Yards Report

Daily News Nets beat reporter Stefan Bondy takes a dip into politics, with High-stakes one-on-one Nets owner has game to dunk on Vladmir Putin: Prokhorov is shrewd, tough, a good athlete and very rich.

His sources, in total:

• Chris Charlier, deputy CEO of Prokhorov’s holding company Onexim Group
• Nets coach Avery Johnson
• Onexim Sports & Entertainment President Irina Pavlova

What, Nets p.r. couldn't arrange an interview with opposition politician Boris Nemstov, who calls Prokhorov a Kremlin stooge?

link

Posted by steve at 8:02 PM

New towers coming to Downtown Brooklyn would top Williamsburgh bank building and Brooklyner; WSJ forgets that Downtown Brooklyn rezoning was to geared toward offices

Atlantic Yards Report

In a 12/12/11 article headlined Developers Launch Battle Of Brooklyn, the Wall Street Journal reported:

The battle to build Brooklyn's tallest tower is about to begin with two developers planning to break ground next year on residential buildings that will loom nearly 100 feet over any of their predecessors.

At the beginning of next year, Stahl Real Estate, a company with 60-year roots in the borough, will break ground on a 590-foot tower at 388 Bridge St. That would make it the borough's new tallest tower.

But its reign could be short-lived. By late next year AvalonBay Communities Inc. plans to begin building its new Willoughby West project just down the street, which will rise 57 stories and 596 feet, adding 861 new rental units to the market.

The developments will continue a shift for brownstone-dotted Brooklyn, which has been seeing a steady growth in the number of luxury apartment towers. (Emphasis added)

...

Actually, as the Journal's map shows, the developments are located in rezoned Downtown Brooklyn, which is not "brownstone-dotted."

The newspaper pointed out that the towers are enabled by the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, but not that the rezoning was mainly geared toward enabling new office towers (jobs), not new housing.

link

Posted by steve at 7:59 PM

Marty Markowitz on THE PEREZ NOTES Part 2.

The Perez Notes

I had the opportunity to interview, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Here are some of his views, on the issues of the day. Below the quotes, is the audio of the interview.

...

Atlantic Yards

"If the folks that opposed this, hadn't tied the project up for 7 years in litigation Atlantic Yards a good piece of it would've built. The affordable housing would've been on it's way. The Nets would be playing in the arena and defeating the Manhattan Knicks."

"The folks that were impacted by eminent domain, overwhelmingly most of them did very well. The folks that are the loudest complainers, folks could argue are the gentrifiers."

"I have significant reservations about permit parking, about resident parking only, I don't think it could work."

link

NoLandGrab: Marty can believe what he wants, but even developer Bruce Ratner doesn't see how affordable housing can be part of the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by steve at 5:43 PM

Battle for Brooklyn

John Likes Movies

Some would argue that activist documentaries don't have a place in today's world, what with the 24-hour news cycle souring any notion of a smart but slanted discourse. Battle for Brooklyn, however, is a fine example of how to sell someone on a point of view without hammering them over the head with it. The film's points are cogent, and they're presented in a very compelling manner. Yes, it takes sides, but after seeing the film, you'll understand why. The issues shown involve a great deal of passion, and though it might be too late to stop the Atlantic Yards project, one can only hope people take notice and don't let something like this happen again.

link

Posted by steve at 5:40 PM

December 17, 2011

From Atlantic Yards Watch: the swift destruction of a "No Standing" sign on Pacific Street

Atlantic Yards Report

Looks like Lolita Jackson, the city official now responsible (along with Empire State Development) for coordinating response to Atlantic Yards, has her work cut out for her.

Take one of the latest reports on Atlantic Yards Watch, which documents, as of Thursday, December 15, the swift disappearance of a newly-installed "No Standing" sign on Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton Avenues, opposite the Vanderbilt Yard. It lasted less than a day.

It's not clear who's responsible, but it is clear that construction workers seemed rather cavalier about the downed sign. And the absence of the sign surely benefits workers who wish to find scarce parking.

link

Posted by steve at 3:10 PM

December 16, 2011

Barclays Center traffic changes screwed Boerum Hill, residents say

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

The city’s efforts to tinker with the traffic flow around the Barclays Center to reduce congestion near the under-construction arena have not only failed, area residents say — they’ve actually made things worse on Third Avenue in Boerum Hill.

The city started tinkering with the traffic lights on Third Avenue between Atlantic and Flatbush avenues in August, when traffic on the stretch increased after changes were made to traffic flow to accommodate the coming Prospect Heights arena.

Residents said that the adjustments — including shunting Flatbush Avenue-bound Fourth Avenue traffic to Pacific Street or Third Avenue — has resulted in massive backups not only on Pacific Street, but all the way to State and Schermerhorn streets.

“In order to cross, you really have to weave in and out of traffic,” said Martha Kamber, the executive director of the YWCA on Third Avenue. “There’s also a lot of honking and cars regularly run red lights. It’s very messy.”

Messy, and perhaps unsolvable.

There may simply be nothing that the city can do, given the amout of traffic that is trying to get into and around Downtown.

article

Related coverage...

Carroll Gardens Patch, Efforts to Reduce Congestion Around Barclays Center Are Not Working, Residents Say

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

Did Bloomberg's Olympic legacy really pay off? Some dissent to the new narrative, and an odd attempt to shoehorn in Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

A new report, How New York City Won the Olympics (also embedded below), argues that most of the benefits of the city's 2012 Olympics bid have been achieved, and without the crushing costs of the event.

It has drawn supportive coverage from the New York Times (though see this cautionary comment) and an enthusiastic New York Daily News editorial, plus coverage in The Bond Buyer.

But it should be taken with significant skepticism. The report is authored by the much-quoted Mitchell L. Moss, Director, Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University.

Moss, an advisor to Mayor Mike Bloomberg's 2001 mayoral campaign, has often defended Bloomberg and the Olympic Plan's chief architect, former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, so--despite failure to mention that connection in press coverage--that connection must be layered on his academic credentials.

Also, the report includes some strained attempts to attach the Atlantic Yards arena and plan to the Olympics legacy, though that's not backed up by evidence.

article

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

The Culturati Caucus

New York Magazine

Brooklyn Academy of Music Associate Producer Darrell McNeill (at least until Bruce C. Ratner gets his daily glimpse of NoLandGrab) strays from the party line in New York Magazine's 2011 culture round-up.

Over the past month, we quizzed 97 New York culture mavens (and some visiting luminaries) on the best movies, tweets, and other artistic artifacts they’ve encountered this year. The tallies were anything but scientific, but they nonetheless surfaced a few conspicuous crowd-pleasers—plus, as expected, quite a number of ardent endorsements of everything from Ellen Barkin’s Twitter profanity to DIY architecture at Zuccotti Park.
...

MOVIE I WISH I’D MADE
...
Battle for Brooklyn —Darrell M. McNeill

article

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN

The BK Buzz

We at The BK Buzz attended a screening of the new documentary Battle for Brooklyn last night at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture in Park Slope as part of the Rooftop Films series, “Films for the Occupation.”
...

The film is an intimate and rigorous investigation into the seven-year long fight between a neighborhood and one of the largest real estate developers in the country, Forest City Ratner. And with all the buzz it’s generating, it’s no surprise that the film has been shortlisted in the Documentary Feature category for the 2012 Academy Awards. So check out the trailer below and if you like what you see, the people behind the film have set up a Kickstarter campaign to raise money in order to distribute the film to a larger audience.

link

NoLandGrab: That Kickstarter effort is nearly half way to its goal — click here to help them go all the way.

Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

December 15, 2011

Inside Wukan

Future of Capitali$m

The Telegraph has a story about a property rights revolt inside Communist China:

For the first time on record, the Chinese Communist party has lost all control, with the population of 20,000 in this southern fishing village now in open revolt.

The last of Wukan's dozen party officials fled on Monday after thousands of people blocked armed police from retaking the village, standing firm against tear gas and water cannons....

Wukan's troubles began in September, when the villagers' collective patience snapped at an attempt to take away their land and sell it to property developers.

Sounds like Kelo or Atlantic Yards. Not to blur the distinction between Communist China and America. But property rights are a pretty core issue.

link

NoLandGrab: The distinction is already pretty blurry.

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

EB-5 News Blog: continued uneasiness in China about marketing of EB-5 projects to immigrant investors

Atlantic Yards Report

Apparently there's continued uneasiness in China about marketing of immigrant investor projects, as detailed in the EB-5 News Blog, compiled by Brian Su, head of the EB-5 China Market Council and an EB-5 consultant in Illinois.

On 1/9/11, I pointed to five reports in Su's blog about Chinese officials cracking down on abuses or expressing concern. More recently, Su's EB-5 News blog reported 12/12/11, Report from China: Beijing Exit & Entry Service Association Issues Warning on EB-5 Program:

Beijing Exit & Entry Service Association recently issued a risk warning notice to local Chinese emigration agents and potential investors on EB-5 regional center program. The year of 2011 has been a very busy one for many Chinese emigration brokers that promote EB-5 projects to Chinese investors; various EB-5 projects have been marketed to Chinese investors, and the EB-5 regional center activities in China have been alarming to Chinese emigration trade associations around the country.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, A view of EB-5 regional centers from the inside: marketing key to success, as is endorsement by local government, even though it's a private project

A 4/5/10 report by the Portland (OR) Development Corporation on the possibility of setting up a regional center to market EB-5 investments contains some interesting insights, based on calls to current regional center providers.

The report notes that marketing overseas is crucial, which means local government is rarely the applicant, because it lacks such marketing resources. A minimum of $600,000 is needed to set up, apply, and administer a regional center.

However, endorsement (or the appearance thereof) by local government is critical (as suggested in my coverage of the Atlantic Yards EB-5 venture in China) because it indicates political support, provides the appearance of financial stability, and plays well with investors from China, the largest source of EB-5 funds.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Valery Jean, Executive Director of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, on FUREE's 10th Anniversary Party

Runnin' Scared
by Steven Thrasher

Today we're talking to Valery Jean, Executive Director of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE). FUREE (whom we've interacted with several times this year, including during our coverage of Mary Lee Ward's foreclosure) is celebrating 10 years of stirring up trouble in Brooklyn on behalf of poor and working class New Yorkers trying to hold on.
...

So that enormous Ratner development is going up and will open next year. How big a loss do you think Atlantic Yards is, from your point of view

How big a loss is it to the community? We know we can't stop development, but it can happen in a way that's responsible and fair, and in which it gets input from the community. The loss here was that there were major opportunities for the city and the state for what could have been a positive impact on the community.

[Atlantic Yards] wasn't developed on a human basis, but for the needs of the developers. The loss - and what we're learning is that things can be learned from every situation - is that if there were sound and effective community benefit laws, it wouldn't have led to the loss of jobs and homes which can totally devastate families on many levels, including the diversity of what those families look like.

For me personally, I grew up on Vanderbilt, near Atlantic Yards. When I go back, it's nothing like I remember it at all. We're hoping there are still opportunities out of it, but it's also a wake up call for our community.

article

Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

Prokhorov announces plans to buy major media group, pardon Khodorkovsky; is not likely to gain much support

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite doubts about his candidacy, Russian presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov is saying the right things, announcing plans to pardon jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose conviction is seen as Kremlin-directed.

Meanwhile, Is Prokhorov learning from Silvio Berlusconi and Mike Bloomberg, not to mention Mort Zuckerman and Rupert Murdoch? Apparently. The AP reports:

The billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets running for the Russian presidency against Vladimir Putin is expected to make a formal offer to buy a leading media holding Wednesday, his representative said.

[Mikhail] Prokhorov will be making a formal offer to buy the Kommersant publishing house from Alisher Usmanov, Prokhorov’s spokeswoman Olga Stukalova told The Associated Press. Usmanov, however, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying he doesn’t have any plans to sell it.

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NoLandGrab: It might be easier to start his own "newspaper" instead.

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

The 13 Best Political Films of 2011

Looking back at the movies that moved us most.

AlterNet
by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

...in 2011, we felt the tremors, and a clutch of political films and documentaries both presaged and inspired the increasing awareness and resolve we’ve seen smattering across the globe. You’ll see some of these in the Oscar nomination lineup, but all of them are must-see.
...

13. Battle for Brooklyn (dir. Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley) Oscar shortlisted

For over six years, residents of downtown Brooklyn battled Bruce Ratner, one of the largest real estate developers in New York, for the heart of the neighborhood. After the state and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, invoking eminent domain, rezoned and seized the area known as Atlantic Yards, Ratner began developing his vision: a huge sports arena for the Brooklyn Nets, several skyscrapers (including mixed-income housing, the “mixed-income” part of which was eventually scrapped), and area for mass retail which some fretted would attract national chains and dilute the community reliance that’s been a part of downtown Brooklyn for decades. But most devastatingly, the land on which the new development was proposed already held apartment buildings and other living units. Set to be razed, its occupants and neighbors, some of whom had lived in the buildings for decades, embarked on a battle for their lives and principles. This compelling documentary chronicles the fight. (Upcoming screenings all across America, available on DVD soon.)

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NoLandGrab: Note that Ratner has not "scrapped" plans for "mixed-income" housing. However, when and if any housing gets built is anybody's guess.

Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

Curbed Cup 1st Round: (3) Atlantic Yards vs. (14) East Harlem

Curbed NY
by Sara Polsky

C'mon, NLG readers! You're not going to let the new "neighborhood" of Atlantic Yards advance to the quarterfinals, are you? Vote now.

The Curbed Cup, our annual award to the New York City neighborhood of the year, is kicking off with 16 'hoods vying for the prestigious fake trophy. This week we'll have two matchups per day, and all the results and the full tourney bracket will be reviewed on Friday. Voting for each pairing ends in the wee hours the next morning. Let the eliminations commence!

The drama has mostly quieted (except for the cinematic kind), but it's still been a big year at Atlantic Yards—so big that we're giving it its own neighborhood category. The roof is on the way up at the Barclays Center. And Forest City Ratner announced that the first residential tower at Atlantic Yards will be modular construction, to break ground in early 2012.
...

Which should advance: Atlantic Yards vs. East Harlem

Vote

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

At Stuyvesant Town, new role for privately managed, publicly accessible open space causes consternation

Atlantic Yards Report

So, what happens when privately managed, publicly accessible open space is retooled to appeal more to upscale residents, or outside users?

The experience of Stuyvesant Town may not be directly on point regarding plans for Atlantic Yards, but given that Forest City Ratner has long promised (as in this October 2004 flier) "new open space for the entire Brooklyn community to enjoy," it's worth noting that making space accessible may come with tensions.

(Forest City originally promised six acres; now the promise is eight acres, but not until the entire project is completed, and that could take 25 years.)

The Stuy Town story

The New York Times reported 12/11/11, in Skating Rink Spurs Residents’ Latest Fight With Management:

In the eyes of some longtime residents of Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan, the ruin of their apartment complex has come in stages. First, the development’s managers opened a green market last summer, which drew large crowds of nonresidents, and they scheduled noisy music concerts afterward. Then they allowed vendor carts onto the property: neon-colored trucks that sell tacos, Greek food and desserts on the tree-shaded paths.

...Now, a seasonal ice-skating rink that opened at the end of November has again put management and many residents on a collision course.

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Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

David Burke in Talks to Bring Mini-Food-Trucks to Barclays Center

Grub Street New York
by Beth Landman

Lots of big-name chefs are consulting on food gigs at Madison Square Garden, and now David Burke tells us he's close to signing a deal with the forthcoming Barclays Center in Brooklyn. "We have been in discussions, and we just have some things to iron out,'' Burke says. He explains that unlike his consulting situation with Bowlmor, this will me more hands-on: "I have an idea for baby mobile food trucks — gate 1A could be serving sliders at one point during a game, then gate 2B would have cupcakes."

He says he'd use social media or in-stadium announcements to let people know what food is being served at any given time: "We would have a few trucks, and they would drive by with items until they sell out." He adds, "The food might also be related to the team playing, like Philadelphia cheesesteaks.''

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NoLandGrab: Right, because fans always want to celebrate the opposing team by eating their food. Next thing you know, they'll be giving away reversible jerseys with the visiting team's star on the other side.

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

Good Jobs First report shows states, in New York, offering subsidies for jobs without getting much in return

Atlantic Yards Report

Guess what? Most states, including New York, offer subsidies for jobs without ensuring job creations and job standards in return, according to a new report.

No!!

From Good Jobs First:

States are spending billions of dollars per year on corporate tax credits, cash grants and other economic development subsidies that often require little if any job creation and lack wage and benefit standards covering workers at subsidized companies. These are the key findings of Money for Something: Job Creation and Job Quality Standards in State Economic Development Subsidy Programs, a 51-state [they include the District of Columbia] “report card” study published [yesterday] by Good Jobs First, a non-profit, non-partisan research center based in Washington, DC.
...

Each program is rated on a scale of 0 to 100 (with extra credit for advanced features). Nevada, North Carolina and Vermont rated the highest, with the District of Columbia, Alaska and Wyoming the lowest.

Also low was New York, tied for 43rd place.
...

Consider, for example, that Atlantic Yards subsidies were premised in part on the (optimistic) claims of 17,000 construction related jobs, or job-years. If Forest City Ratner builds modular, as is announced, the amount of tax revenues from construction worker salaries would certainly decline, as well as likely the number of jobs.

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Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

December 14, 2011

Is Prokhorov's candidacy for real? Amid the coverage, some opposition figures say he's a Kremlin stooge

Atlantic Yards Report

Nets' owner Mikhail Prokhorov's phony candidacy for Russia's presidency is drawing praise from phony-ish tabloids and skepticism from those more in the know.

Is Russian billionaire (and Nets majority owner) Mikhail Prokhorov's (NBA-sanctioned) foray into politics a Kremlin-sanctioned play? Amid all the coverage, that's a minority view, but it's one taken by some respected opposition figure and backed by some circumstantial evidence.

The New York Daily News, in an editorial yesterday, saluted Prokhorov:

The unthinkable appears to be happening to Vladimir Putin: A formidable figure will challenge the Russian strongman in that country’s 2012 presidential election.

Raise a glass of Stoli to adopted New York billionaire and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov for having the guts even to say that he’ll try to dethrone the ruthless would-be leader-for-life.

What if he's a fake?

But Newsweek/Daily Beast correspondent Anna Nemtsova asked on 12/12/11, Is Russia’s Mikhail Prokhorov a Fake Challenger for Vladimir Putin?:

On Monday they finally clashed. Prokhorov, who owns the New Jersey Nets, announced that he would run for president against Putin, an act that means he recognizes the current prime minister as a legitimate candidate. [Boris] Nemtsov and other opposition leaders, meanwhile, are calling for Russians to take to the streets next week and demand Putin’s resignation.

Flirting with a crowd of journalists this afternoon, a playful smile on his lips, Prokhorov said he had made “the most serious decision” of his life. The oligarch—chosen by the Kremlin in June to lead the newly created pseudoliberal Right Cause party before being ousted in September—would become a candidate in the presidential election in March.

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NoLandGrab: Prokhorov's candidacy is as real as Bruce Ratner's promise of 10,000 permanent jobs and Proky's guarantee that the Nets would make the playoffs last year.

Related coverage...

NY Post, Nets owner's Russian presidency run has Brooklyn talking

Some folks are less sanguine than the Daily News about Prokhorov's candidacy.

Daniel Goldstein, co-founder of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which opposes the Nets plans to build an NBA arena in Brooklyn as part of the Atlantic Yards project, didn’t hold back his feeling about Prokhorov.

“It is extremely troubling that the potential next president of Russia is the beneficiary of eminent domain in America and one of the most corrupt land grabs we've ever seen in New York City,” he said. “I really feel for the Russians having to choose between a kleptocrat and a tyrant."

Developer Bruce Ratner, who is partnering with Prokhorov in building the Barclays Center for the Nets, declined comment on Prokhorov running for president of Russia, and Nets brass also remained tight lipped about their owner's political aspirations.

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

Everybody's getting into the EB-5 Act

The green cards-for-cash scam is going viral!

Atlantic Yards Report, Former Governor Paterson signs up to promote an EB-5 project

Former New York State Governor (2008-10) David Paterson, whose post-office roles include hosting a drive-time radio show and teaching at New York University, has also signed on to promote an EB-5 investment immigration program, helping recruit investors seeking green cards for purportedly job-creating investments in the Times Square Hotel.

On 5/27/11, the New York Immigration Fund (NYIF), a federally approved regional center--a private investment pool formed to recruit investors--announced a partnership with Paterson, suggesting in a press release (also at bottom) that it was part of "his long-standing agenda of expanding and improving economic development in New York."

NoLandGrab: Especially his own economic development.

Atlantic Yards Report, Extell turns to immigrant investor funding to support its International Gem Tower in the Diamond District

The Extell Development Corporation, one of the city's most bold and ambitious developers, was the only rival to the belated RFP for the Vanderbilt Yard issued by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in July 2005, some 18 months after city and state officials announced their backing for the Atlantic Yards plan, which included the railyard.

Now Extell is taking a cue from Forest City Ratner, seeking a low-interest loan from immigrant investors under the EB-5 program to help finance its $750 million International Gem Tower, a long-gestating--and apparently, under-financed--tower in the Diamond District of Manhattan, on 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

It's established the Extell New York Regional Center, with federal approval.

NLG: By the way, we're launching the NoLandGrab Regional Center this week. And we're throwing our hat into the race for Russian President.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

The dramatic juxtapositions of Brooklyn prosperity and poverty, and looking again at the TEAs

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, I described how state officials agreed to gerrymander maps of Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) to ensure that the Atlantic Yards Project, as well as a project at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, were located in high unemployment zones for the purposes of attracting immigrant investors under the EB-5 program.

Such gerrymandering was possible only because New York, and especially Brooklyn, contains dramatic juxtapositions of prosperity and poverty, juxtapositions highlighted by decades of recent gentrification, which has had little impact on entrenched poverty in housing projects.

Indeed, a map (below) from WNYC via The Local points out such juxtapositions.

According to The Local:

With a average income of $9,001, the second-poorest census tract in the city is in Fort Greene, WNYC reported. The Ingersoll and Walt Whitman Houses are inside that tract, the darkest red area on the displayed map.

...Two tracts over from Ingersoll and Whitman, No. 183 has an average income of $83,105.

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Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

Baby steps to a biz-friendly New York

NY Post
by Raymond J. Keating

A Post op-ed columnist thinks one way to help businesses in New York is to stop letting bigger businesses grab their land. Among his top-five business-friendly moves:

Rein in eminent-domain abuse: In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision in 2005, many states have reinforced private-property protections — but not New York, where governments routinely abuse eminent domain for private uses. Reform might upset large developers, but it would be a big plus for small business, not to mention being politically popular.

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Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

December 13, 2011

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership names Tucker Reed new president, formerly headed DUMBO Improvement District

Atlantic Yards Report

Crain's Insider reports today that the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has finally found a successor to Joe Chan, who left for Empire State Development (though he doesn't oversee Atlantic Yards):

Downtown Brooklyn's Next President
The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has named 31-year-old Tucker Reed the next president of the local development corporation. A former head of the DUMBO Improvement District and policy adviser at the Department of Small Business Services, Reed begins Jan. 9. He succeeds Joe Chan, who left in September.
...

As I've written, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, presumably influenced by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and member Forest City Ratner, has been a reliable cheerleader for Atlantic Yards, and once was (and perhaps still is) under investigation by the state Attorney General's office for improper lobbying.

link

Posted by eric at 11:43 PM

Barclays Center: Then, Now and In-Between

A photo document of construction at the site from October 2010 to December 2011.

Park Slope Patch
by Paul Leonard

Patch has a collection of photos "documenting the pace of construction at the Barclays Center site from Oct. 2010 to Dec. 2011."

link

Posted by eric at 11:32 PM

At community meeting on Atlantic Yards transportation issues, call for "buy-in" on Forest City Ratner's (delayed) plan, frustration that so little is in place, new study of baseline issues announced

Atlantic Yards Report

Funny that Forest City can put double- or triple-shifts on for construction (keeping nearby residents up all night), but the same urgency is absent when it comes to completing a transportation plan that might be those residents' only chance of avoiding an arena-generated traffic nightmare.

A long-awaited meeting last night on community input regarding Atlantic Yards transportation issues--a prelude to a Transportation Working Group (TWG)--generated significant community frustration that so little was in place less than ten months before the Barclays Center arena begins operations.

“This project, and its arena, opens in ten months,” declared Gib Veconi, an activist in the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and BrooklynSpeaks. “We just heard we haven't figured out where the satellite parking lots would be. By the same token, we don't know what happened with the sidewalk plan that shows narrower sidewalks, fewer travel lanes... We don't know what the parking plan for Block 1129 is, which is in the middle of a residential neighborhood..”

He further asked how Traffic Enforcement Agents (TEAs) would be deployed, and how the three police precincts that touch on the site would divide their work.

“Early next year,” responded Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, the state agency in charge of the project. About 30 people attended the meeting at Brooklyn's Borough Hall.

But Hankin faced considerable criticism that too little had been revealed, and that a crucial Transportation Demand Plan (involving incentives to reduce use of cars, free MetroCards, cross-marketing with local businesses, remote parking, and more) would be made available “in the first quarter,” rather than, as promised earlier this year, by the end of 2011.

Community approval?

Indeed, Veconi galvanized the audience by proposing that the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan--which, unlike the forthcoming arena security and operations plans, requires approval by ESD and the city Department of Transportation (DOT)--be subject to community buy-in.

Many in the audience clapped, and Veconi suggested that the vote could be by those present, or by nominees of elected officials representing the neighborhoods around the project site.

“We can think about it,” Hankin said with a smile, in response to Veconi’s initial proposal.

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Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Civic Groups Ask DOT, State for Veto on Atlantic Yards Traffic Plan

Atlantic Yards-area civic leaders asked state and city agencies to give them veto power over Forest City Ratner’s plan to help reduce the traffic onslaught when Barclays Arena opens next fall.

The request came after area community groups were invited by the Brooklyn Borough President’s office to participate in an Atlantic Yards “transportation working group.”

Posted by eric at 1:33 PM

Mayor assigns Director of Special Projects to address Atlantic Yards quality-of-life issues (she's already doing that regarding the Second Avenue Subway construction zone)

Atlantic Yards Report

Though Atlantic Yards is a state project, not a city one, the Mayor's Office is apparently stepping up and assigning a top staffer to ensure a better response to quality-of-life complaints and to ensure interagency cooperation.

(Have they been reading Atlantic Yards Watch and/or tracking 311 calls?)

Council Member Letitia James, at a meeting at Borough Hall last night on AY-related transportation issues, announced that she had recently met with a a representative from the Mayor's Office, "who is now an ombudsman for Atlantic Yards."

I think James was using the term loosely, but the staffer she named, Lolita Jackson, indeed has Atlantic Yards in her portfolio. Jackson, until June 2011, was Mayor Mike Bloomberg's chief liaison for all Manhattan related community issues.

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Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

How Invested Is Bruce Ratner In Prefab? Oh, Only a Few Million

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

Forest City Ratner has spent $3.5 million on research and development for prefab construction, according to The Journal, which dug the number out of its annual report. Since Mr. Ratner began considering prefab apartment towers in 2009, that is more than a million dollars per year. Add to that the lawsuit Forest City helped fight, and this seems like a considerable commitment to this new approach.

This may put to rest claims that the developer was only looking at prefab as a means to break the unions and get a better rate from them on Atlantic Yards. Then again, with 15 towers containing millions of square feet of space, a few million could be but a drop in the bucket if it means bigger labor saving on the future of the site.

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Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Ratner Still Wants Cheaper Prefab Towers at Atlantic Yards

A five percent savings on the $5 billion project through labor negotiations could mean about $250 million in savings, so even if the developer spends $50 million researching modular construction, Ratner will still be saving money, according to the report.

Posted by eric at 1:21 PM

Exclusive Hawaii Premiere: Battle for Brooklyn, Academy Award Contending Documentary About Eminent Domain

Inverse Condemnation

Aloha to our loyal Hawaiian readers — Battle for Brooklyn is coming your way.

A reminder: on January 3 and 4, 2012, at 1:00 and 7:30 p.m. each day, the Honolulu Academy of Arts Doris Duke Theater is presenting the Hawaii premiere of Battle For Brooklyn, the Academy Award-contending documentary about the Atlantic Yards eminent domain fight. We are lucky enough to have the exclusive Hawaii showing of this important, informative, and entertaining film. More information (and ticket purchase) from the Academy of Arts web site here.

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Posted by eric at 1:03 PM

NBA says it has no problem with Prokhorov's presidential run; will he simply be seen as the Nets' owner, or also as a beneficiary of sweetheart deals?

Atlantic Yards Report

According to MarketWatch, the NBA says "a political career — even being head of state — is no impediment to owning a team."

That's very interesting. Wouldn't someone cry foul if, say, Mitt Romney bought the New Orleans Hornets--the league wants to sell it--to boost his career?

Owning a team has already boosted Prokhorov's image, and might well boost his career.

And what's to stop a politically minded owner from using his team, however it seems benign, to promote his political reputation? Say, a barnstorming tour through Russia. Or an effort to recruit support from Russian-Americans, and thus their relatives back home.

It's curious that NBA was willing to step in and stop a trade (maybe two) of Hornets guard Chris Paul. But Prokhorov, who's entering uncharted territory as an owner, is just fine. Until and unless he makes the league look bad.

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Posted by eric at 12:49 PM

December 12, 2011

A modest proposal to Gov. Cuomo: why New York State should hire that AY Watch camera guy to fill the Atlantic Yards community outreach position

Atlantic Yards Report

When he's not busy decimating transit funding or cutting opaque budget deals in Albany's back rooms, Governor Cuomo is busy ignoring Atlantic Yards. Norman Oder thinks he should hire a local who does pay attention.

To: Governor Andrew Cuomo

From: Norman Oder/Atlantic Yards Report

Since I know you take a special and granular interest in state personnel issues, I wish to alert you to one prominent un-filled position, that of Atlantic Yards--Manager, Community & Government Relations. It was announced as an "immediate opening" way back on June 21.

We in Brooklyn wonder why no one's been hired, given the daily violations--or seeming violations--of construction rules at the Atlantic Yards site and the regular complaints by residents.

Could it be that developer Forest City Ratner, whose CEO has been not ungenerous to you, has a veto? Is Forest City's trying to save on paying the salary for that position? Or does understaffing represent a convenient excuse for paltry oversight, as documented on Atlantic Yards Watch?

Clearly, there's a crying need to have someone to respond and even allow the state, as Project Director Arana Hankin might say, to be proactive. (You might lose that nagging "Status Cuomo" nickname, too.)

After all, Atlantic Yards Watch daily documents incidents involving noise, improper truck procedures, double parking, and more.

It is, you might admit, a salutary example of citizen input. It's also pretty damning. The photos and video don't lie. You're lucky most in the press suffer from Atlantic Yards "issue fatigue."

Still, when asked, Ms. Hankin is left to offer belated explanations for such things as why railyard lights were on all night.

If you look closely at Atlantic Yards Watch, you'll see that the single most prolific contributor goes by the handle 700PacificW.

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Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

New York Real Estate: Housing of the Future?

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

Developer Bruce Ratner is finding out that inventing new building techniques isn't cheap.

His company, Forest City Ratner Cos., spent $3.5 million on "research and development costs" for its plan to build housing towers out of pre-made pods at its $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, according to a filing last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The effort is a bid to save money by using modular construction throughout the development, which includes 6,400-apartments. Pods would be built off-site and stacked up at the construction site.

The decision to go ahead with the technique is not finalized—the firm is still in talks with unions—and Forest City says it has also designed the project's first residential building using standard construction methods.

The firm also designed much of the project's arena twice, first with architect Frank Gehry before he was jettisoned to save costs.

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NoLandGrab: If by "inventing new building techniques" the Journal means "stealing away the top six employees of a firm actually inventing new building techniques" then, yes, Bruce Ratner is by all means the Thomas Edison of modular construction.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Forest City Ratner spent nearly $3.5 million on research and development costs for its modular housing plan

Well, that's a significant investment, and thus a sign that Ratner is serious about it. Then again, I still think that modular announcement last month was timed, in part, to pressure construction unions, and the first building may not be modular.

Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

Billionaire and Ex-Minister to Oppose Putin in Russian Presidential Election

The New York Times
by Ellen Barry and David M. Herszenhorn

We just can't shake this feeling that Russian politics is a lot like professional wrestling.

Amid a crescendo of complaints from Russians fed up with the country’s tightly controlled political system, two prominent figures — a billionaire industrialist and the recently ousted finance minister — sought to fill a void in the opposition leadership on Monday.

The billionaire, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, who owns shares in a major gold mining company and an array of other ventures in Russia as well as the New Jersey Nets basketball franchise in the United States, said he would run for president, challenging Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.

“I made a decision, probably the most serious decision in my life: I am going to the presidential election,” Mr. Prohkorov said at a news conference.
...

For Mr. Prokhorov, whose business interests include a stake in the Atlantic Yards development in downtown Brooklyn, his leap into presidential politics could be risky. He is the first wealthy businessman to pursue a political goal in Russia against the governing authorities since the 2003 arrest of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the former chairman of the Yukos Oil Company, who was jailed after he began financing an opposition party. He remains in prison.

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Related content...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Nets Owner Prokhorov, Beneficiary of Eminent Domain Abuse, to Challenge Putin for Russian Presidency

When Mikhail Prokhorov bailed out Bruce Ratner by buying the New Jersey Nets and 45% of the Barclays Center Arena of Brooklyn© he was just another Russian oligarch (albeit the wealthiest one) and one of the richest men in the world (his rise to wealth built upon sweetheart deals).

But now, the man who benefitted greatly from New York State's controversial eminent domain condemnation, an MTA sweetheart deal for the Vanderbilt rail yards, and hundreds of millions in New York taxpayer subsidies and government breaks wants to become...the President of Russia*. (*Yes, we readily admit that we are not experts on Russian politics, and are certainly not stumping for Putin. So what this all means in Russia is a whole other story though we do think it is important to note how and where Mr. Prokhorov made his big splash into the American cultural and corporate consciousness.)

Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

Reasons to ♥ N.Y. 2011: #22. Because the Skyline Is Soaring Again

New York Magazine
by Justin Davidson

When Lehman Brothers collapsed, the cranes fell silent. Building went into a state of suspended animation, and New Yorkers had a chance to consider what the boom had wrought. But a living city can’t hibernate for long, and New York is waking to the crackle of construction.

And the crackle of eminent domain abuse, apparently...

All through the quiet years, an assortment of megadevelopments kept trudging closer to reality, and seemingly all at once, the hard hats are ready. Willets Point, Queens’s pothole-and-chop-shop capital, is finally getting connected to the sewage system, which portends a new $3 billion neighborhood, complete with convention center and hotel, hard by Citi Field. At Atlantic Yards, attention is turning to the first in a projected series of huge apartment buildings, beginning with the world’s tallest modular tower.

link

NoLandGrab: We'll believe "the world’s tallest modular tower," or any Atlantic Yards building not housing lousy basketball, when we see it.

Meanwhile, New York Magazine had it a bit more right in 2008.

Posted by eric at 9:35 AM

December 11, 2011

At Borough Hall tomorrow, an invite-only meeting on AY-related transportation issues (and, apparently, without Forest City Ratner)

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how City Council Member Letitia James and others have asked, at the bi-monthly meetings of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, for a once-promised Transportation Working Group?

Well, there's a meeting tomorrow at Borough Hall that seems to be a start, though it looks like a one-off, and without the participation of developer Forest City Ratner.

Luke DePalma, Transportation Policy Analyst in the Brooklyn Borough President's Office recently sent a notice to community organizations in the areas near the Atlantic Yards project site:

Your organizations are invited to participate in a meeting with elected officials (or their representatives) and Empire State Development to discuss community transportation concerns associated with the Atlantic Yards project / Barclays Center.

In the interest of keeping the meeting productive with so many participants, please designate only 1 representative from each of your respective groups to participate in the round-table discussion and RSVP to me...

I was told the meeting was open to the press but not, as with the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meetings, open to cameras.

link

Posted by steve at 10:08 PM

December 10, 2011

At Forest City Enterprises conference call, CEO claims first Atlantic Yards residential tower "clearly meets" marketplace demands, doesn't mention modular plan (or EB-5)

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner has gotten a lot of local ink for its ambitious announced plans to built modular towers at the Atlantic Yards site.

However, at a conference call yesterday (transcript) with investment analysts, David LaRue, CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises, talked up the first Atlantic Yards tower without mentioning modular.

“I want to reiterate our goal to move forward with the construction of the first residential tower in 2012," LaRue said. "This is a very important project for Forest City, and clearly meets demands reflected in the marketplace.”

Well, there's surely demand for housing, but not at the costs Forest City Ratner told government officials it expected. LaRue reiterated a "goal," not a plan. None of the analysts asked a question about it.

Nor did Forest City Enterprises executives, while talking about lowering the cost of capital and refinancing loans, talk about FCR's efforts to raise $249 million from immigrant investors via the EB-5 program.

link

Posted by steve at 3:57 PM

An arena grows in Brooklyn

The Record
by John Brennan

The financing of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn – which includes the Nets’ Barclays Center arena – includes about $250 million in investment by about 500 mostly Chinese immigrants who receive green cards in return for investing $500,000 apiece.

That number would be $1 million each, except that the arena neighborhood is said to be an area of “high unemployment.” The estimate by blogger Norman Oder is that Forest City Ratner, the project developer, saved about $140 million by the inclusion of some Bedford-Stuyvestant tracts in a….. rather creatively-designed map.

...

Good luck finding mainstream newspaper coverage of this issue, though. The entire Atlantic Yards saga, dating back to 2003, has been plagued by a lack of consistent coverage by New York City newspapers (I say “consistent,” because sporadically I’ve seen good pieces written). I always recall that line by a Brooklyn activist to me after I had attended a court hearing related to the project that the NYC papers skipped : “It’s a sad day when you have to read a Jersey newspaper to find out what’s going on in Brooklyn.”

link

Posted by steve at 3:52 PM

Battle of Brooklyn roundup: Blogger questions Nets plan for cheap financing for new arena

Daily News
BY Michael O'Keeffe

Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder may be the only journalist digging deep into the Nets' attempts to raise cheap financing for Bruce Ratner's massive arena-and-skyscrapers project by offering green cards to Chinese investors. His latest post explains how state officials gerrymandered the project's map to include sections of Bed-Stuy to convince federal officials that Atlantic Yards is in a high-poverty, high-unemployment area. If the feds buy the state's argument, investors could get much-coveted green cards for themselves and their families by investing $500,000 in the project, not the $1 million required for a project in a more affluent area.

"Is this kosher?" Oder asks. "Well, it seems to violate the spirit of federal immigration law - especially since the targeted census tracts are not being helped much by the project - but likely not the letter."

Also, congratulations to Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky, the Brooklyn filmmakers whose critically acclaimed "Battle for Brooklyn" has made the Academy Awards short list for best documentary. The filmmakers have initiated a Kickstarter campaign to raise $9,000 to promote the film.

The directors will answer questions when "Battle for Brooklyn" is shown at the Stranger Than Fiction Series at the IFC Center in the Village on Tuesday. Daniel Goldstein, the protagonist of "Battle for Brooklyn" will appear with Hawley and Galinsky at the Brooklyn Ethical Culture Society when they show the film as part of the Brooklyn Rooftop Films Presents series.

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Posted by steve at 3:49 PM

December 9, 2011

The Bed-Stuy Boomerang: how state officials gerrymandered a map to help Forest City Ratner recruit immigrant investors and save big (and how the EB-5 program is riddled with such practices)

Atlantic Yards Report

Just when you think the Atlantic Yards green-cards-for-cash scheme couldn't get any more crooked, Norman Oder unearths a crooked map.

Public officials have done much to help developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) recruit Chinese investors to provide a $249 million low-interest loan in exchange for green cards--and now there's new evidence.

We knew that officials from New York City, New York State, and Brooklyn wrote letters to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal agency overseeing the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program, to get Atlantic Yards approved as an investment vehicle.

And we knew that Empire State Development Corporation official Peter Davidson joined a road show in China to hype the project before potential investors, misleadingly claiming that Atlantic Yards "will be the largest job-creating project in New York City in the last 20 years."

Now, evidence suggests that two New York State agencies helped gerrymander a map of Brooklyn unemployment--beginning at the Atlantic Yards site (in blue) in Prospect Heights, omitting more affluent census tracts nearby, and extending east to encompass poorer tracts in Bedford-Stuyvesant. (I'm dubbing the map "The Bed-Stuy Boomerang.")

The map ensured that the promoters of the EB-5 project could tell the needed 498 immigrant investors that the project was located in a Targeted Employment Area, featuring high unemployment. That meant investors had to put up only $500,000, rather than $1 million.

By getting this EB-5 project off the ground, the state helped FCR save more than $140 million, by my estimate, on a $249 million loan.

And it could help the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), a private investment pool federally authorized to attract purportedly job-creating investments, reap some $50 million.

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NoLandGrab: Hello, New York Times, HELLO! While you're devoting an entire Sunday magazine to Hollywood, you're missing out on rampant fraud and abuse being perpetrated on behalf of your "business partner."

Related coverage...

Field of Schemes, New York gerrymandered arena district to aid Nets' green-card-for-arena-funds deal

For those unfamiliar with the nuances of Brooklyn geography, the left end of what Oder calls "the Bed-Stuy Boomerang" is mostly old warehouses along the Long Island Rail Road tracks. The right end, meanwhile, loops up into Bedford-Stuyvesant — and not its rapidly gentrifying western edge, but the still-impoverished middle. Neatly omitted, meanwhile, are the largely affluent brownstone blocks of Fort Greene to the project's north, Park Slope to the southwest, and Prospect Heights to the south.

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

Senators show enthusiasm for EB-5 regional center program; questions raised about level of investment, length of term; a skeptic vs. Sen. Leahy

Atlantic Yards Report

The EB-5 program of investment immigration--at least via its most popular incarnation, the regional center program--has been booming, with the number of regional centers, privately owned (mostly) investment pools set up to recruit immigrants seeking green cards, growing from some 35 to 200 in three years.

However, the regional center program is a pilot program, extended five times for 19 years, and set to expire at the end of September 2012. So Congress has begun considering making the program permanent, and the Senate Judiciary Committee 12/7/11 held a hearing on a bill (Creating American Jobs Through Foreign Capital Investment Act) sponsored by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to do just that.

The only cosponsor so far is Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), but, as at previous Congressional hearings, most legislators seemed positive about a program Leahy called “as much of a win-win program as one could think of.”

Two of the three witnesses program boosters, and the few Senators skeptical seemed more exercised by the rare intersection between EB-5 and illegal immigration than questions of fraud and enforcement.

Still, one Senator put it plainly, that the program is selling green cards.

And the program’s one prominent critic, David North of the (right-wing) Center for Immigration Studies got his due, suggesting that the U.S. scrap the regional center program, that it delivers results that have been poorly documented, and that Senators should not be seduced by positive anecdotes. At the least, he said, the minimum investment--which hasn’t been raised since 1993--should be increased.
...

Some skepticism

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) offered some skepticism, suggesting that “we need to enact reforms to make the EB-5 regional center program worthy of its goals.”

“At the end of the day, one fact remains,” Grassley declared. “The program is simply a way for wealthy investors to buy a green card, not only for themselves but for their families. No skills or management experience is needed. One only needs to write a check... While taking a financial risk... is admirable, evidence suggests that it’s not doing enough to spur job creation.”

But he didn’t drill down very far.

As usual, however, Norman Oder drills down much farther. Click through for more.

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Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

Schumer endorses EB-5 bill making regional centers permanent, cites projects in New York (City Point?!), avoids Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, didn’t attend a hearing 12/7/11 on making permanent a provision that allows regional centers--federally authorized private (mostly) investment pools--recruit immigrant investors under the EB-5 program.

But Schumer is the first co-sponsor on a bill by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to renew the program, and he did offer an enthusiastic statement for the record, applauding “a program that has done so much good in New York State, and which needs to be made permanent.”



“In New York State, we have 9 USCIS-approved regional center projects that are doing a world of good to create good-paying American jobs,” Schumer said, glossing over the fact that, at least with the Atlantic Yards investment, the job-creation calculation is extremely dubious.

The list, including City Point

Schumer proceeded to list five projects, conspicuously omitting the largest, Atlantic Yards, but mentioning--news to me--that the City Point project in Downtown Brooklyn by Acadia Realty Trust has raised $200 million in EB-5 funding.

(Graphic from NYCRC Chinese web site promoting the project.)

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Posted by eric at 11:39 AM

Forest City Enterprises reports: third quarter losses less than last year; some setbacks with New York properties, but expected gain from sale of Nets; forecasted arena revenues stalled at 56%

Atlantic Yards Report

Developer Forest City Enterprises, parent of Forest City Ratner, today announced EBDT (earnings before depreciation, amortization and deferred taxes), net earnings/loss and revenues for the three and nine months ended 10/31/11, saying its net loss was lower this quarter than in the comparable period last year.

EBDT

Third-quarter 2011 EBDT was $77.5 million, compared with $90.7 million in the third quarter of 2010. Year-to-date EBDT was $275.6 million, compared with $266.7 million for the first nine months of 2010.
On a fully diluted, per-share basis, third-quarter 2011 EBDT was $0.37, compared with $0.46 for the third quarter of 2010. Year-to-date per-share EBDT was $1.34, compared with $1.37 for the first nine months of 2010.

Net Earnings and Loss

The third-quarter 2011 net loss attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc. was $38.0 million, compared with a net loss of $46.8 million in the third quarter of 2010. For the nine months ended October 31, 2011, net earnings attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc. were $17.7 million compared with $60.5 million for the same period in 2010.
After preferred dividends, the third-quarter 2011 net loss attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc. common shareholders was $41.9 million, or $0.25 per share, compared with a net loss of $50.6 million, or $0.33 per share in the third quarter of 2010. For the nine months ended October 31, 2011, net earnings attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc. common shareholders were $6.1 million, or $0.03 per share, compared with $52.5 million or $0.33 per share, for same period in 2010 (per share amounts are on a fully diluted basis).

What went wrong? The Village at Gulfstream Park, a specialty retail center in Hallandale Beach, FL, opened in the first quarter of 2010, and has faced "very difficult economic conditions." Also, "250 Huron, an office building in Cleveland, was vacated by its single tenant, which had occupied the entire building," and the building will no longer be rented.
...

Some setbacks with New York properties, but expected gain from sale of Nets

Third-quarter 2011 total EBDT of $77.5 million was impacted by the following factors:
Pre-tax EBDT from the company’s combined Commercial and Residential Segments (also referred to as the rental properties portfolio), decreased $14.9 million compared with the third quarter of 2010, [including] lower EBDT of $4.3 million due to previously anticipated vacancies at two Brooklyn office properties... reduced EBDT from new property openings of $3.3 million (primarily due to lease-up losses at 8 Spruce Street and Westchester’s Ridge Hill).

...The Nets provided a pre-tax EBDT decrease of $10.9 million, as expected, due to the increase in the company’s allocated share of losses.... Decreased EBDT [year-to-date] from the Nets of $34.6 million, primarily due to the nonrecurring 2010 gain on disposition of partial interest in the team.
...

Arena progress, but forecasted revenues stalled

In discussion of the construction pipeline, the company said:

Work continues at Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards, and the arena is on schedule for opening in September 2012. More than 90 percent of steel erection has been completed and installation of the roof deck has begun. Interior build-out is underway on all levels and the structure is expected to be fully enclosed and water tight in the first quarter of 2012. Approximately 56 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the arena are currently under contract.

That was the same percentage as in September.

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Related coverage...


PR Newswire via Marketwatch, Forest City Reports Fiscal 2011 Third-Quarter and Year-to-Date Results

Realty & Investments, Forest City Enterprises Narrows 3Q Loss to $41.9 Million on Stronger Residential Leasing

Seeking Alpha, Forest City Enterprises CEO Discusses Q3 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

The Real Deal, Forest City sees losses of $41.9M

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

So why were the railyard lights on all night? Because railyard contractors got permission. Why weren't residents given an alert? The state dropped the ball.

Atlantic Yards Report

The state seems to drop the ball a lot when it comes to Atlantic Yards construction oversight.

As documented on Atlantic Yards Watch, high-intensity sodium flood lights were on through the night on Tuesday night, until about 3:25 am, even though the latest Construction Alert said they were supposed to go off at 11 pm. (Before this week, they were supposed to go off at 7 pm.)

What happened? Atlantic Yards Watch observed:

As SOP the ESDC/FCR continues to allow changes to construction work restrictions THEN informs community after the change occurs thus aggravating residents even more by failing to enforce what they publish to whitewash what is actually happening.

And that is exactly what happened.

I checked with Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for Empire State Development, who responded:

The EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] projected overnight and extended hours of work on the Atlantic Yards sites. The contractors had the appropriate permit to conduct work in the yard overnight. A supplemental construction alert should have been sent out to notify area residents. We will be certain to do so the next time last minute overnight work needs to occur.

Another lingering question, as noted on Atlantic Yards Watch:

Why is the entire rail yard illuminated when they are only working @ the far north east corner of the rail yard?

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Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

The only game in town

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Ipsen

The fact is that the vacancy rate for commercial space in northern New Jersey is a whopping 18%, more than twice that of Manhattan, and with new towers rising at the World Trade Center site and financial firms around the city (and globe) shrinking, this is no time to be throwing good money after bad on the Hudson’s western shore. No less an authority on Jersey real estate than Jamie LeFrak, whose family is a major landlord on both sides of the river, called using land in Jersey City for housing “the highest and best use of the property now,” according to The Journal.

Curiously, landowners in that other great Manhattan overflow market, downtown Brooklyn, have all drawn that same conclusion in recent years. Remember Miss Brooklyn, the office tower that was to be the tallest building in that borough and the centerpiece of Forest City Ratner’s vast commercial/residential Atlantic Yards complex? Neither does Forest City Ratner, which is pressing ahead with what now looks like an all-residential complex, with the exception of the Barclays Center sports stadium. Now, all we need is jobs for all the people who will occupy these lovely new apartments in New Jersey and Brooklyn.

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NoLandGrab: Those jobs shouldn't be a problem, since Bruce Ratner promised 10,000 of them in Miss Brooklyn and the other Atlantic Yards office buildings... DOH!

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

'Battle for Brooklyn': The American Way

PopMatters
by Cynthia Fuchs

Early on, Goldstein puts his finger on one part of the problem, as he begins to call Ratner’s invasion and use of power “un-American,” then backtracks and says, “You know what, it is American. It’s the American way.” Other parts emerge as Ratner makes deals with the city (in particular securing the right to build on the MTA rail yards) and, the film reveals, a seemingly grassroots organization, Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (B.U.I.L.D.), is paid $5 million by Ratner. And yet another factor is indicated (if not exposed outright) when a series of “community meetings” either prohibit community members’ entrance or are scheduled so that community members do not cross paths with Ratner representatives, and several legal appeals look briefly auspicious and then fail.

Gehry claims that the project is an “opportunity to build an arena in a very urban setting, which is unique—most of them are built out in the fields, where there’s lots of parking around them. This has a different character, and we’re trying to understand it and work with that.” The film shows, however, that no one on the corporate or government side of this “opportunity” engages with this “different character.” The battle, which is waged on both sides for years, ends badly for the resistant residents. Still, Goldstein says, “If I had it to do all over again, I’d do the same thing.” As the film closes over time-lapsed imagery of the construction underway, you’re too aware that other residents, in other places, will have this opportunity.

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Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

December 8, 2011

Battle Campaign

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

The Battle for Brooklyn filmmakers have launched a new Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the film's Academy Awards push. Click here to chip in (it's tax-deductible, too!).

We have worked on Battle for Brooklyn for 8 years, during which we have seen the film slowly build support and gain momentum among a wide and diverse audience. Raising $25k on Kickstarter - after striking out on two dozen grant applications - was a big UP. Finishing the film and premiering at Hot Docs was a huge UP. Launching it in theaters in NYC and LA has led to critical acclaim. Self-distributing the film this way got us qualified for the Academy Awards. We also had an amazing time at the Brooklyn Film Festival, where the film won the Grand Chameleon Award.

Now that awards season is in full swing, Battle is in the running for some of the big ones. However, there are a lot of expenses involved with getting a film qualified for these awards. We need to make an expensive Digital Cinema Package ($6,000 for that alone!), advertise, travel, and hire publicists. At a bare minimum, we need to raise 9K. 100% of the money raised will go towards our efforts to bring the film to as wide an audience as possible.

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Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

If Bruce Ratner says "it's taken us a while to get there on the architecture," why do prefab plans look like Atlantic Lots?

Atlantic Yards Report

From the New York Observer's 12/7/11 article The Mod Squad: Will Bruce Ratner Transform the Way New York Builds, or Is Prefab Another Project Too Far?:

“It’s taken us a while to get there on the architecture,” Mr. Ratner told The Observer last month on the day he unveiled his new plans for a modular approach at Atlantic Yards. “We did a lot of work to make sure it was something appropriate, in fitting in with the arena and a good reflection on Brooklyn, the city and our country.”

Oh, really?

The Atlantic Yards resemblance, and disavowal

Actually, as I reported 11/17/11, the renderings of prefab towers by SHoP (above and bottom) look a lot like the generic renderings of Atlantic Yards buildings created in May 2008 for the Municipal Art Society's Atlantic Lots plan, which aimed less to show architecture than to depict the impact of an extended fallow period.

And (as I didn't point out last month) a Forest City spokesman, speaking to the 5/5/08 New York Post, disavowed any comparison:

"If MAS thinks that this resembles our project in any way, they are not only greatly mistaken they're doing themselves and the public a great disservice," said Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt. "Frankly, this is so far from anything even remotely resembling what we are building that it's not worth commenting on further."

Riegelhaupt has since left Forest City. Otherwise he might have to eat his words.

Click the link to see the side-by-side comparison.

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Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

The Observer finds support and skepticism regarding Forest City's modular plans, ignores some lingering questions raised by company's announcement

Atlantic Yards Report

So, does the New York Observer's 12/7/11 article, The Mod Squad: Will Bruce Ratner Transform the Way New York Builds, or Is Prefab Another Project Too Far?, address some of the issues I raised last month, such as:

  • the curious timing of Forest City Ratner's modular announcement (to distract from a lawsuit)
  • the fact the permit application for the first building doesn't indicate modular
  • the possibility the announcement was meant to achieve union concessions (on a conventional building)
  • the diminished totals of project wages and tax revenues, with a modular plan
  • the amount of time it takes to get a factory up and running
  • the seeming disavowal of a pledge to build larger apartments
  • Ratner's astounding claim that "existing incentives" don't work for high-rise, union-built affordable housing

No.

That said, the article does gather a reasonable range of opinions on a plan that, given the total of 16 towers (nearly all of them housing), might justify factory start-up costs. And here's a tidbit that explains how the prefab plan was chosen:

Indeed, SHoP, the architects behind the arena and apartment towers, had two separate design teams working on the project at once, walled off from each other. They used different engineers and everything, had a mini architecture competition, and the prefab team came out on top.

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Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

The Mod Squad: Will Bruce Ratner Transform the Way New York Builds, or Is Prefab Another Project Too Far?

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

For nine years now, Bruce Ratner has talked of transforming Brooklyn with his Atlantic Yards project. Bringing professional sports back to the borough, creating a new skyline, “a neighborhood practically from scratch,” as architect Frank Gehry once described it. There would be union jobs and affordable housing for all to enjoy.

As of now, only basketball and a handful of those jobs are guaranteed, all of which took three times as long as originally planned. Mr. Ratner and his partners like to blame the economy and the holdouts who sued to save their property, but the fact remains, they are running well behind schedule, possibly even in violation of previous commitments made to the state when the project was approved.

To catch up, Forest City Ratner has come up with a novel solution for myriad problems with his project: modular construction. More than transforming Brooklyn, Mr. Ratner may transform the way the entire city, even the world, builds. At least that is his hope.

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Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Reactions to the Prefab Designs on Atlantic Yards

There’s a lengthy piece in the Observer about Forest City Ratner’s desire to use modular construction for many, if not all, of Atlantic Yards’ planned high rises. The story has quotes from people in the building trades who are supportive of the idea and some who are skeptical that it will actually save the developer a significant amount of money.
...

The real unanswered question, though, doesn’t necessarily concern the cost savings but simply the technology: That is, can modular design actually be used for buildings as tall as the planned Atlantic Yards skyscrapers?

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Queens judge reexamines lawsuit against city over Willets Point

Queens Times Ledger
by Joe Anuta

A State Supreme Court judge reopened a lawsuit Tuesday that could throw a wrench into the $3 billion redevelopment blueprint for Willets Point after the city broke down its original plans into three separate phases.

State Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden originally ruled against a group of property owners who sued the city to stop the project, but she said in her Tuesday ruling that she would reopen the case after the city Economic Development Corp. made changes to its plans for the 62-acre, mixed-use development, which would replace the auto body shops and industrial businesses that currently populate the Iron Triangle.

According to the ruling, the city broke up the proposal into three phases without conducting a separate environmental study and also claimed that it did not need additional ramps on the Van Wyck Expressway to accommodate increased traffic.

In addition, the city earlier claimed that it would not proceed with condemning property in the triangle until the ramps were approved but did so anyway, the ruling said.

“As the city has now changed its position and is seeking to exercise its powers of eminent domain without approval of the ramps, in direct contradiction of its prior representations, and based on the significance of the ramps to the plan, I conclude that the integrity of the decision-making process has been impacted and sufficient reasons exist for me to consider vacating my prior judgment,” Madden said in her statement.

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Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Inspiration, Fun and More at the Annual Winter Benefit

New York Cares

Who's more deserving of New York Cares Leadership award than Caring Bruce Ratner (and his sidekick from Barclays)?

Great conversation, wonderful food and a successful auction all contributed to making our Annual Winter Benefit a huge success. With your help, we raised almost $1.3 million, which goes a long way in supporting our projects that benefit New Yorkers in need all year long. Our staff had a blast taking pictures, enjoying the amazing Cipriani’s food, running the auction, and most importantly, meeting some of our biggest supporters. The cocktail hour was an ideal moment and opportunity to meet New Yorkers who are dedicated to improving our city, and it was great discussing the amazing work we’re doing together in a fabulous, fun setting.
...

Honorees Bruce C. Ratner, Chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Company, joins Gerard LaRocca, CAO for the Americas at Barclays Capital, onstage as they accept their Leadership Awards.

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NoLandGrab: Mic check?

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

Some Thoughts On Modern Architecture

Grub Street

Congratulations, Bruce Ratner! Even down under, your Brooklyn megaproject is synonymous with the sterile and mundane.

Compare Southbank and Docklands to South Yarra and Collingwood. Compare Canary Wharf to Bloomsbury. Compare Atlantic Yards to Greenwich Village. Which of these areas are indisputably the heart and soul of their respective cities? Which of them, on the other hand, feel like generic committee-designed redevelopment projects where everything, even the roads and footpaths, was built from scratch and is unsettlingly new? A Ballardian landscape of skin-crawlingly clean modern architecture?

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Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Whoops

Urban Media Archaeology

A New School grad student continues to hash out his Atlantic Yards-related thesis.

Part of what got me thinking about this was actually this idea of “opposition networks” that frames my whole project (I’m really digging myself a hole here). First, I don’t think that’s how the people I’m calling “opposition” conceive of themselves. Their work shouldn’t be defined in the negative. The “opposition networks” offer resistance and dissent, but in many cases only implicitly through the telling of a less selective and more considerate account.** Calling them “opposition” implies authority for the developer and the uncritical press’ narrative.

** There’s an important mirroring between the include-everything goals of actor-network theory (the more mediators the better) and those of the Atlantic Yards writers I’m most interested in (the more perspectives/reporting/studies the better).

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Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

Thursday December 8 2011

Majority Report Radio

Battle for Brooklyn filmmaker Suki Hawley is scheduled to appear today on The Majority Report with Sam Seder at 11:30 a.m. EST. Follow the link to tune in.

A great show in store for you today. Suki Hawley, director of Battle for Brooklyn, is here with us to talk about her acclaimed film. It’s the story of one neighborhood’s battle to fight big business from taking their homes.

“…The pundits who continue to say they don’t understand what the protesters behind Occupy Wall Street want should look at Battle for Brooklyn, the award-winning documentary about the Atlantic Yards that was released this summer. The film was released before the Wall Street protests began, but the story it tells is a strong summary of the crony capitalism that sparked the OWS movement.” — Michael O’Keeffe, New York Daily News

link

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

December 7, 2011

Latest consultant's report: arena barely on schedule; transit connection still behind (but no graphic); release of revised project schedule indicating "delays" has been pushed back

Atlantic Yards Report

The latest Arena Site Observation Report, dated 12/2/11 and based on a 10/27/11 site visit, indicates that the Barclays Center remains barely on schedule at the halfway point. Meanwhile, the associated transit connection, for a good while two months ahead of schedule, remains behind schedule.

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

The slowdown likely portends more late night and weekend work to ensure that the arena can achieve substantial completion, as planned, by 8/23/12.

Oddly enough, the report does not contain a graphic--as have previous monthly reports--regarding the progress of the transit connection. That could lead to the conclusion that they don't want to emphasize bad news. (I posed several queries, by email and phone, to Merritt & Harris, but didn't get a response.)

And, as noted below, the release of a revised schedule, once expected to become available in October, has been pushed back.

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Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

How many jobs at the Atlantic Yards site? Ratner said 779, just weeks after consultant counted 415 (not counting the railyard)

Atlantic Yards Report

How many construction jobs are there at the Atlantic Yards site?

In mid-November, Forest City Ratner told the New York Daily News and Patch that there were 779 workers on site at the end of the previous week, November 11.

However, the most recent report on arena construction, prepared by Merritt & Harris, the real estate consultant to the arena PILOT Bond Trustee, cites only 415 workers. The report, dated 12/2/11, is based on a 10/27/11 site observation.

It states:

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Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

ROOFTOP FILMS PRESENTS “FILMS FOR THE OCCUPATION” SERIES

Rooftop Films
by Lela Scott MacNeil

We have exciting news. Next week, December 13-16, in conjunction with several of New York City’s finest film venues, we’ll be bringing you a series of four film programs that continue the conversation that was started at Zuccotti Park.
...

Thanks to the generosity of all filmmakers, distributors, and venues, all screenings will be free for all audience members. Seating for all screenings is limited, audiences are encouraged to arrive early.
...

Wednesday, December 14 – Screening of Battle for Brooklyn (2012 Oscar shortlist)
Directors: Michael Galinsky & Suki Hawley (directors present for Q&A)
Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture in Park Slope at 7:30PM

Just as the new home for the New Jersey Nets (soon to be the Brooklyn Nets) is rising up into the Downtown Brooklyn skyline, Galinsky & Hawley released their film Battle for Brooklyn, which documents the shady business dealings that uprooted families and local businesses from their longtime homes. Films for the Occupation will screen the film, which was just shortlisted for the Best Documentary Oscar, just blocks from the Atlantic Yards site.

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Related content...

The Huffington Post, The Occupy Wall Street Film Series By Rooftop

Stranger than Fiction, BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN

The IFC Center will also be screening Battle for Brooklyn next Tuesday as part of its Stranger than Fiction series. Click the link for more info.

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Atlantic Yards Rivalry! Steve Witt’s ‘Gonzo’ Book Goes Head-to-Head With Watchdog Norman Oder

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

It looks like there is some competition on the Barnes and Noble shelves for pride of Atlantic Yards place. Norman Oder has been hard at work on a book about the Brooklyn megaproject for the past year, but now his chief rival has thrown his pen into the ring.

Calling Stephen Witt Norman Oder's "chief rival" is like calling Kitty Kelley Robert Caro's "chief rival" — and then some.

According to the Daily News, Steve Witt is working on a roman a clef lampooning the development saga—as if the truth weren’t already stranger than fiction. Mr. Witt calls his take “gonzo,” but for critics like Mr. Oder, who calls him “the notorious Steve Witt,” might find it strange that he has chosen not to play the story straight.
...

Who needs facts when you’ve got a great story?

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NoLandGrab: Facts have never been an impediment to Steve Witt.

Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

THE SKINNY ON BUILD: THE SUCK JUST KEEPS GETTING SUCKIER

F**ked in Park Slope

The Atlantic Yards is the GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING THE WHOLE YEAR. It's just so easy to hate the project because everyone associated with that giant wicker rat's nest sucks just as hard as Bruce Ratner does. According to LAST THURSDAY'S BROOKLYN PAPER, BROOKLYN UNITED FOR INNOVATIVE LOCAL DEVELOP (BUILD) was promised 1,500 jobs a year over the Atlantic Yards 10-year construction period. They saw only 15 jobs this year.

In the past, members of BUILD could be seen at anti-Atlantic Yards demonstrations, where they showed support for the project because of the bolster in jobs it would provide for local workers. Well guys, you all got duped because that amounted to a big, fat, nothing. As a result of the lack of promised jobs, residents and members of BUILD FILED A LAWSUIT AGAINST RATNER AND EXECUTIVES AT BUILD for not delivering what they promised, including union memberships if workers attended a 15 week training program.

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NoLandGrab: The total number of construction jobs promised, 1,500 a year for 10 years (later revised to 1,700 a year), weren't all promised to BUILD members; only a fraction of the jobs were expected to go to BUILD trainees. But it's safe to say that the number was much greater than 15.

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

New Jersey's NBA Goodbye Is Set

Uncle Mike's Musings

The Nets' New Jersey finale -- barring the Playoffs, but who's kidding who -- will be on Monday night, April 23, at the Prudential Center. Somewhat appropriately, it will be against the team to whom the New York Nets had to sell Julius Erving just to get into the NBA in 1976, the Philadelphia 76ers. Instantly, they went from being the best team in the ABA to being the worst team in the NBA, moved to the Rutgers Athletic Center in 1977, changing their name to the New Jersey Nets, to the Meadowlands in 1981, and to the Prudential a year ago.

The last day of the NBA regular season will be Thursday, April 26, and the Nets will play their last game as the New Jersey Nets at the Air Canada Centre against the Toronto Raptors. Come November 2012, it will be home games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, as the Brooklyn Nets.

Damn you, Bruce Ratner. R.I.P. New Jersey Nets, 1977-2012.

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Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Is Downtown Brooklyn The Next Foodster Hotspot?

Gothamist

Downtown Brooklyn doesn't exactly have the best reputation for dining out ("this is a vast wasteland when it comes to good food," writes one hungry Chowhounder), but that could be changing in the next year, if a handful of new restaurateurs play their cards right.
...

Whether or not the neighborhood will ever actually shake its reputation as a food wasteland involves some non-food related factors, too—something tells us that "rat tsunami" from nearby Atlantic Yards is causing some diners to lose their lunch instead.

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Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

December 6, 2011

Wednesday’s Department of Environmental Conservation Hearings on High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (“Fracking”): Noticing New York’s Testimony Plus. . .

Noticing New York

You didn't think Michael D.D. White could manage to testify against the potentially disastrous process of hydrofracking without it coming around at some point to Atlantic Yards, did you?

I suggested banning confidentiality covenants. This goes to a broader matter of public policy. Too often the public and public officials do not have the information available to make appropriate decisions because confidentiality covenants have put that information beyond reach. I am not just talking about fracking. This also applies to the use of confidentiality covenants restricting the free speech of those who sign them in connection with many other things:

• Those being evicted by mountaintop removal coal mining
• Those finally agreeing to accept settlements when being chased off their properties by eminent domain abuse as in the case of Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly or Columbia University’s takeover of West Harlem.

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Posted by eric at 7:20 PM

ESD: roofing contractor that poured powder on Pacific Street "was appropriately reprimanded" (but we still don't know what it was)

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote yesterday about an incident captured on Atlantic Yards Watch, and now I have a partial response.

On Saturday morning (12/3/11) at about 7:30 am, workers for Wolkow Braker Roofing, which has a $4.3 million contract to work on the roof for the Barlcays Center, were spotted taking a white drum from a van, inspecting it, and upending it on Pacific Street, discharging a white powdery substance.

Asking questions

I queried the firm, and Empire State Development (ESD), which oversees Atlantic Yards, as to the nature of the powder (and whether it poses hazards), the appropriate procedure for disposing of such powder, and, if the procedure was improper, what action would be taken.

I got a partial response today from Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for ESD, who said "the contractor was appropriately reprimanded yesterday and we don’t expect this to happen again."

That didn't answer my first two questions, or regarding the nature of the reprimanded, so I requested further clarification from Hankin. If and when I get it, I will post an update.

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NoLandGrab: What ESDC means is "we don't expect this to happen again" on camera.

Posted by eric at 7:10 PM

Feds open SEC probe into Miami Marlins stadium deal

The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission has subpoenaed records from Miami-Dade County and Miami over the deal to build a new ballpark for the Marlins.

Miami Herald
by Charles Rabin, Martha Brannigan and Patricia Mazzei

Look who's just catching on!

Federal authorities have opened a wide-ranging investigation into the Miami Marlins’ controversial ballpark deal with Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami, demanding financial information underpinning nearly $500 million in bond sales as well as records of campaign contributions from the Marlins to local and state elected leaders.

In a pair of lengthy letters delivered to government attorneys Thursday, the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission gave the city and county until Jan. 6 to deliver everything from minutes of meetings between government leaders and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, to records of Marlins finances dating back to 2007.

In the almost-identical subpoenas, the SEC also requested documents concerning stadium parking garages built by Miami. The Miami Herald reported Nov. 22 that city leaders are now complaining they were hoodwinked into likely having to pay an annual $2 million tax bill on the garages.

The financing agreement to build the controversial new stadium in Little Havana left the county and city on the hook for almost 80 percent of the overall $634 million tab, which critics considered a giveaway to the Marlins. The deal was a contributing factor in the recall of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, who championed it.
...

Neither subpoena said exactly what the SEC was looking for, though federal investigations into municipalities generally focus on whether bond holders were misled about finances while being enticed to purchase the bonds.

Two former SEC attorneys who reviewed the subpoenas for The Herald said government investigators are likely looking at whether the city and county did proper due diligence into the Marlins’ finances, and whether there was any influence peddling to local politicians.

“There’s always the issue of pay-to-play. They want to know whether there were unlawful contributions,” said William Nortman, a Fort Lauderdale attorney and former SEC regional administrator. “Don’t forget, there was a lot of controversy over the building of this in Miami. They are examining how this came to be. They want to know whether inappropriate payments were made.”

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NoLandGrab: Hey, SEC, you might want to look into another recent deal in which approximately $500 million of bonds were sold to fund construction of a basketball arena.

Posted by eric at 1:25 PM

From street trees to illegal parking; photos show Atlantic Yards' adverse effect on 6th Avenue

Atlantic Yards Watch

They cut down paradise and put up an (illegal) parking lot.

Illegal parking on sidewalks, primarily by 78th Precinct employees, has replaced street trees on 6th Avenue between Dean and Pacific Streets. The photos above are one example of how Atlantic Yards construction has reversed the development progress of some areas of the community adjacent to the project site. The photo on the left was taken in December 2007. The photo on the right was taken November of 2011.

In March 2008, prior to the start of water main and sewer work, the Parks Department gave Forest City Ratner approval to cut down 86 trees adjacent to the project footprint in order to facilitate construction. The trees, like most street trees, were public property overseen by the Parks Department's forestry division.

The now empty tree beds are currently still visible under the tires of the 78th Precinct employees' cars. Because there are currently no plans to replace these trees until construction is complete, this area may not see them restored until Building #15 is built. In the 2006 project plan, Building #15 was anticipated to be the sixth non-arena building completed, and would have been finished less than three years after the opening of the arena. Under the current Project Agreements FCRC can take 25 years to complete Building #15.

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Photos: Tracy Collins (L) & N. Wayne Bailey (R)

Posted by eric at 1:05 PM

Who's Suin' Who? Atlantic Yards EB-5 Marketer NYC Regional Center is Awash in Lawsuits

Atlantic Yards Report, Former affiliate of NYC Regional Center files suit, claiming firm stole confidential Chinese client list, thus saving millions in finder's fees for EB-5 investors in Atlantic Yards, other projects

The New York City Regional Center, which has marketed Atlantic Yards as an investment for green card-seeking investors, is the busiest regional center in the China market, and seems to be New York City's designated third-party source for such cheap capital, is embroiled, directly and indirectly, in two lawsuits, one described below, the other here.

Given the early stage of the lawsuits, and the confidentiality of certain exhibits, it's difficult to fully evaluate them. But it is clear that the EB-5 program can bring significant sums to the middlemen, and thus fuel disputes.

The New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), which has focused on recruiting green card-seeking investors in China, is facing a lawsuit filed by a former affiliate, which claims that the NYCRC appropriated its confidential client list and thus evaded obligations to pay $6 million in finder's fees for new investors.

The lawsuit, filed 4/18/11 by Lion's Property Development Group, also names Hoche Partners Capital and its president, Gregg D. Hayden as defendants. Hayden has served as the NYCRC's chief salesman in China (as I've described) under the title "General Manager Asia" on behalf of NYCRC.

Lion's (led by Chaim Katzap) argues that NYCRC has thus recruited more than 200 investors without paying the $30,000 fee it owed Lion's, or a total of $6 million. (That $30,000 fee, however, would have included a downstream finder's fee of $15,000 from Lion's to each local affiliate.)

There's good reason to pay a big referral fee; I estimated that the 498 investors in the Atlantic Yards project might earn NYCRC $50 million. Meanwhile, Forest City Ratner will get the benefit of a $249 million low-interest loan, from 498 immigrant investors, itself saving perhaps $140 million.

The NYCRC would benefit from the spread between the no-interest offered investors--who care more about green cards than investment returns--and the low interest, perhaps 4% to 5%, charged to the borrower.

Indeed, the suit charges that NYCRC told the local affiliates, aka Network Agents, they'd get $20,000 rather than the $15,000 offered by Lion’s if they worked directly with NYCRC to recruit investors for Atlantic Yards and the other two projects, involving the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Steiner Studios.

Atlantic Yards Report, Lawsuit over control, revenues of NYC Regional Center: co-founder charged with fraud by former partner; counterclaim also charges fraud

The New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), the private firm authorized to raise funds from immigrant investors under the EB-5 program is embroiled in a lawsuit one of its founders filed against another, and that engendered a counter-claim.

Empire Gateway, LLC which owns more than half the NYCRC, and Empire's controlling owner, George Olsen, charge that Sandra Kim Dyche fraudulently gained "membership interest in Empire" and never recruited investors. Thus she should return her membership interest, which is nearly half the value of Empire (and about a quarter of the value of the NYCRC).

In return, Dyche charges that Olsen fraudulently gained control of Empire, and that she deserves damages of at least $5 million. ...

The suit has no direct bearing, apparently, on the NYCRC's Atlantic Yards effort, in which it has apparently raised $249 million from 498 investors, mostly from China but some from Korea.

But there's big money at stake.

Posted by eric at 12:53 PM

Lost in America's ghost franchises

The pending sales of the Dodgers and the Jaguars, and the dislocation damage done

ESPN.com
by Jeff MacGregor

This thoughtful essay from ESPN's This Sporting Life touches just briefly on the Nets, but it's well worth reading in its entirety.

I visited a grave the other day. It's where the Brooklyn Dodgers are buried.

This is out in Crown Heights, at the intersections of Sullivan Place and Bedford Avenue, McKeever Place and Montgomery Street. It's also the intersection of "The Boys of Summer" and "The Death and Life of Great American Cities." Of Roger Kahn and Jane Jacobs. Of the 19th and 20th centuries. Of memory and money and history and fantasy.

This is where Ebbets Field was.

With the sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers now upon us -- and that of an unloved football franchise down in Jacksonville, Fla. -- we note this week the staying power of impermanence, the fickle nature of devotion, the business of business, and the unbridgeable distance between "change" and "progress."
...

Does ownership of a pro sports franchise constitute a public trust? Or is it just another hustle? Or does that calculus change according to our cynicism and the needs and wants of the leagues and the owners?

I'm not sure it matters. It didn't seem to matter to Walter O'Malley the year I was born. He took the Dodgers west to find his fortune and broke Brooklyn's heart. A year from now, the borough takes the Nets from New Jersey, and their new home will be Atlantic Yards (see this or this) -- just across the park from the fossil footprint of Ebbets Field.

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Posted by eric at 12:43 PM

Rooftop Films Gives Occupy Wall Street Its Own Film Series

The New York Times
by Felicia R. Lee

Not going to be in Portland this weekend? Here's an upcoming Battle for Brooklyn screening closer to home.

As a political movement, Occupy Wall Street has attracted plenty of headlines, buzz and creative energy. Now, this being New York, it has its own film series. Rooftop Films, in partnership with several movie houses throughout the city, is presenting a free series of four films from Dec. 13 to 16 featuring issues that ignited the demonstrations.

Rooftop Films is a nonprofit best known for showing movies outdoors (hence the name). In a statement released on Monday, Dan Nuxoll, the program director for Rooftop, said the series was prompted by a public outpouring over the events surrounding Occupy Wall Street.
...

On Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. the screening will be “Battle for Brooklyn” at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture in Park Slope. The directors Michael Galinksy and Suki Hawley will be available for a Q. and A. session about their 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary film about families and businesses uprooted in Brooklyn by the construction at Atlantic Yards of the Barclays Center, the new home for the New Jersey Nets (as they morph into the Brooklyn Nets).

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Related content...

Indiewire, Rooftops Films Brings "Films for the Occupation" to NYC

Indiewire has the full press release.

Rooftop Films will present "Films for the Occupation," a series of four film programs set to run December 13-16 in New York.

Films to be screened include Emily James' "Just Do It: A Tale of Modern-Day Outlaws," Michael Galinsky & Suki Hawley's "Battle for Brooklyn," David Singleton's "The Flaw" and various short films.

Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

Battle for Brooklyn Q&A with Eminent Domain Activist Randal Acker Following Screening

Hollywood Theatre

Here's a heads-up to our loyal readers in Portland, OR.

Sunday, December 11th at 7:30pm I Q+A with local eminent domain activist Randal Acker following screening.

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Posted by eric at 12:23 PM

Brooklyn writer pens 'The Street Singer,' a novel based on the Atlantic Yards arena project

Author Stephen Witt's fictional take includes characters based on developer Bruce Ratner and rapper Jay-Z

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Reality-based reporter Erin Durkin reports on a new book by an Atlantic Yards beat reporter not so grounded in reality.

The Atlantic Yards project has inspired a musical, a movie - and now a madcap book by a reporter turned novelist.

Stephen Witt, who covered the project for local papers for years, penned “The Street Singer” - a self-described roman a clef combining his own early years in New York with a gonzo take on the $4.9 billion Prospect Heights project.

“I got into journalism originally because I loved creative writing,” said Witt, who is looking for a publisher for the manuscript but plans to put it out by next spring through his own publishing company if he doesn’t find one.

The book follows a flat-broke subway musician who stumbles into contact with a high-powered developer named Thaddeus Hoover - a thinly veiled take on developer Bruce Ratner.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The notorious Stephen Witt writes a novel based on Atlantic Yards

The notorious Stephen Witt, known for his tendentious articles in the Courier-Life chain and now Our Time Press, is writing a book based on Atlantic Yards--a novel--and the Daily News thinks it's newsworthy.

Here are a couple of lines from the Daily News article:

“I got into journalism originally because I loved creative writing,”
....Witt said he found the project’s twists and turns better suited to an off the wall fictional take than a scholarly account. The story unfolds over six months leading up to the groundbreaking for the new Nets arena, but takes some artistic liberties. “It’s definitely a gonzo telling of it,” Witt said.

Um, he's been taking some artistic liberties all along.

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

From the latest Construction Alert: crane demobilized today; railyard flood lights on until 11 pm for second shift; union dispute re waterproofing of tank at arena

Atlantic Yards Report

The latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 12/5/11, was distributed yesterday by Empire State Development (after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner).

Such on-time distribution is rare--usually the document is a day or two late--but it's clear timeliness is important, because there are some significant changes beginning today.

The highlights:

  • a large crane at the arena site will be demobilized on a second shift today, 3-11 pm, to be replaced by a smaller one
  • the façade subcontractor resumed a second shift yesterday
  • waterproofing of a storm water retention tank is suspended because of a union dispute
  • railyard flood lights will not only be turned on at 6 am (though there are reports it's earlier) and from dusk to 7:30 pm as previous, but extended to to 11:00 pm, during double shifts
  • a Utility contractor working on the corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street has moved to a lot closer to Pacific Street "to help mitigate noise impacts to residents"

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Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

We Need More Zoning

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

The Observer gives Bruce Ratner a semi-pass on Atlantic Yards's open space in a semi-paean to Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman.

Given the right constraints, however, the city’s developers can actually do good. Even if Atlantic Yards will be a public space disaster as Mr. Kimmelman seems to suggest, Bruce Ratner has pushed his architects at SHoP to create the best space around his arena possible, even if it is not nearly enough space.

Someone going by "normanoder" left the following comment:

Ratner has been pushing his architects "to create the best space around his arena possible"? How about "the best space, given that there's no office tower and Urban Room as promised"?

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Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

Andrea Bocelli, and the Brooklyn Academy

l'Espresso
by Andrea Visconti

The Google translation leaves a bit to be desired, but absolutely nails one aspect of the story (look for our hint).

Andrea Bocelli for his only concert in New York in 2012 and straight stitch snubs Manhattan to Brooklyn instead. Do not sing at Madison Square Garden as he did many times in the past but chose instead the new Barclays Center.

Beyond the fact that a performance in Brooklyn instead of Manhattan is a sign of how New York is changing I would not have taken had I not seen this news just this week the film "Battle for Brooklyn." This is a new documentary that is currently in the pipeline for the Oscars. It is part of the finalists in the preselection for the nomination.

The theme of "Battle for Brooklyn" is precisely the battle lasted seven years to try to block the construction of the Barclays Center. A battle between a major real estate speculator and a community of about a thousand people who are forced statre with good (money) or bad (the legal process) to clear the area and make room for a huge multi-purpose project.

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Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

The Week in Crime: Rooftop Burglars and a Bad Day at the Spa

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Rebecca Sesny and Menglin Huang

"The Week in Crime" wouldn't be complete without an incident in at least one of Bruce Ratner's local malls.

Targeted at Target

-A woman left her shopping cart unattended for a few minutes at Target and found the whole cart was missing when she came back at 4:40 p.m. on Nov. 22, police said. The shopping cart contained store merchandise that she had already purchased, as well as her purse with $310 cash, an iPod and a bank debit card, police said.

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Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

December 5, 2011

Eye On New York: On The ‘Battle For Brooklyn’

CBS New York

“Battle for Brooklyn” tells the story about how one man and how his small Brooklyn community fought to save their homes and neighborhood from being taken over by one of the largest development plans in New York City history.

It took Brooklyn filmmaker Suki Hawley and her co-director Michael Galinsky eight years to make the documentary, and now it’s done.

In this segment of Eye on New York, CBS 2’s Dana Tyler talks with Hawley about the long community battle and how the film came together.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, "The project that was approved in 2009 no longer exists": from "Battle for Brooklyn" via Eye on New York

Well, the fight involved much more than "his small Brooklyn community." Nor were there "several dozen lawsuits," as interviewer Dana Tyler suggested. Nor was Tyler's closing observation that "We do know Jay-Z very much behind this" explored.

For those new to the documentary, co-director Suki Hawley gave a reasonable summary of the project's history and goals. For those of us not new to it, the initial scene broadcast still has power.

"The project that was approved in 2006 no longer exists," asserts protagonist Daniel Goldstein. The excerpt does not explain that he was speaking at a May 2009 state Senate oversight hearing, a prelude to a revision of the project to be approved by the Empire State Development Corporation.

Goldstein was correct then. And, it could be said now that "The project that was approved in 2009 no longer exists," since developer Bruce Ratner last month said, astoundingly, that a project with high-rise affordable housing built by union labor was never viable.

Posted by eric at 9:57 PM

Bloomberg pitches the city and Ratner's Nets, reacts un-positively to the Cuomo tax plan

Capital New York
by Dana Rubinstein

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in his element this morning at the Hilton on Sixth Avenue and 53rd Street, where a ballroom full of real estate executives gave him a standing ovation.

That's pretty much all you need to know about New York City's real estate industry and New York City politics.

The occasion was the yearly convention of the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group representing the shopping mall industry. As it so happens, the ICSC is also, like the mayor, staunchly opposed to the "living wage" bill now under consideration in the City Council, and provided testimony against the legislation during a City Council hearing last month.

OK, maybe that's all you need to know about the real estate industry.

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner sat in the front row, in the center, and won plaudits for getting the mayor to attend.

And that is about all you need to know about the International Council of Shopping Centers convention.

[The mayor] made a pitch for Downtown Brooklyn, Willets Point, Homeport, Hudson Yards, and, of course, Atlantic Yards.

“Close to a quarter of a million square feet of new retail space is going up at the nearby Atlantic Yards development, Bruce Ratner’s development, and it’s also the future home of Brooklyn’s N.B.A. franchise, the largest private-sector project the borough has ever seen,” said Bloomberg.

He encouraged the crowd to buy Nets tickets while they still can.

"I bought mine," he said, eying Ratner. "Did you send me a bill yet?"

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Bloomberg promotes "close to a quarter of a million square feet of new retail space" at Atlantic Yards--except it it could take 25 years

Norman Oder points out that "going up" is a relative term when it comes to the "nearby Atlantic Yards development."

Let's look at the plan for 247,000 square feet. Only 91,000, according to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, would be built in Phase 1, and we have no idea how long it will take to build all five towers. They have 12 years to build Phase 1 before penalties kick in, and the minimum square footage could be accomplished with three or four towers.

The rest would be built over the lifetime of the entire project, which could take 25 years before penalties kick in.

Posted by eric at 9:34 PM

You See, the Mayor Sees, We All See ICSC

NY Observer
by Daniel Edward Rosen

OK, we changed our minds. But we can't wait to see Roger Green at the opera.

We were inside the West Ballroom at The Hilton New York, on the hunt for available seats when a large and friendly man sitting dead center in the front row waved us over and asked us to sit with him.

That friendly man was Bruce Ratner, head of Forest City Ratner Companies, who had no idea that he had just invited two reporters from The Commercial Observer to join him.

When we—colleague and fellow “Dan” Daniel Geiger is here as well—introduced ourselves to Mr. Ratner, he politely asked that we not ask him anything on the record. So we did not, and instead shared a nice conversation about growing up in New York City—he is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and I grew up blocks away from where he lives now on the Upper East Side—and on the imminent return of the NBA.

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NoLandGrab: The Observer can be so droll that we can't quite tell if they're playing this straight or with a wink. "Humble, winsome," anyone?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Atlantic Yards down the memory hole; Observer reporter describes project as "thriving"

In New York Observer coverage of Mayor Mike Bloomberg's appearance at a shopping center convention, the reporter (and a colleague) sit down with "friendly man" Bruce Ratner, who asks not to be asked anything on the record:

In person, Mr. Ratner is a delightful and forthcoming chap—nevermind that his vision for a basketball arena in Brooklyn has also included the removal of homeowners living in Prospect Heights through the use of eminent domain.

Perhaps that good feeling leads the reporter to reference the Atlantic Yards project as "the controversial – and thriving – development headed by my esteemed new seat mate."

Thriving?

Bruce Ratner just acknowledged that he could never keep his promises, given for the last eight years, to build high-rise affordable housing with union labor.

He also acknowledged last year that, after promising for years that the project would be built in a decade, that was "never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in."

Posted by eric at 9:21 PM

Brooklyn ‘lands one’

Tenor picks new arena over MSG

NY Post
by Rich Calder

With this, our final NoLandGrab post, we would like to thank all of our readers for their loyalty during the past eight years. But now that the Barclays Center will indeed become the 18,000-seat opera house that we've always hoped it would (added bonus: also future home to the world's most chichi equestrian event), we don't see the point in fighting it any longer.

Bravo, Bruce Ratner!

The World’s Most Famous Arena is getting a run for its money.

Renowned Italian classical vocalist Andrea Bocelli will shun Madison Square Garden next holiday season to perform instead at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, The Post has learned.

“It’s always a pleasure for me to play in New York, but I’m particularly excited to perform in Brooklyn for what will be my only 2012 performance in the city that has given me such affection,” Bocelli, known as “The Fourth Tenor,” said yesterday in a statement.

Bocelli had played nine straight holiday shows at the Garden, but has booked Dec. 5, 2012, at the Barclays Center — becoming the biggest name yet to be lured away from MSG to the future home of the NBA’s Nets.

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Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

What's going on here? Arena roofing contractors dump white powder on Pacific Street

Atlantic Yards Report

If they were aiming to placate residents with free cocaine, they should know that folks near the Atlantic Yards site aren't having any trouble staying awake.

On Saturday morning at about 7:30 am, workers for Wolkow Braker Roofing, which calls itself "New York's Premier Roofing Company" and has a $4.3 million contract to work on the roof for the Barlcays Center, were spotted doing something very curious on Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton Avenues.

As noted on Atlantic Yards Watch, at about :46 of the video below (and captured in the screenshot at left), workers for the company took a white drum from a van, inspected it, and upended it on the street, discharging a white powdery substance.

What was it? Was this SOP?

As they were wearing no protective gear, it's likely the substance was not particularly toxic. Still, dumping waste material, of whatever ilk, in the street, is hardly an appropriate procedure.

As asked on Atlantic Yards Watch, "Can the ESDC or FCR please tell the community what unknown white power substance was dumped into the street next to 171 unit residential building from a Barclay’s arena contractor? [Are] there any penalties?"

I reached out to the Empire State Development Corporation and Wolkow Braker, which works on major projects like office buildings, schools, courthouses, and museums. If and when I get any amplification, I'll post an update.

But wait, there's more. Click below to read on.

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Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

The latest green-card-scam news from EB-5 Report Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report, Senate hearing on EB-5 program December 7; Obama's jobs council recommends EB-5; USCIS issues draft memorandum consolidating EB-5 policy

The EB-5 Regional Center Investment Pilot Program--the main vehicle for immigrant investors seeking green cards--is due to expire in September 2012, unless Congress acts, and advocates and legislators are beginning to take a closer look.

The EB-5 program, which grants green cards to investors and their families who invest $500,000 (or $1 million if it's not in a Targeted Employment Area) to create ten jobs, initially required the investment itself to create the jobs directly.

But investments through regional centers--federally authorized private (or sometimes governmental) investment pools--make it much easier, as indirect jobs can be calculated via an economist's report. No wonder the number of regional centers has been skyrocketing, and developers (like Forest City Ratner) and others seeking cheap capital have glommed onto EB-5.

Hearing December 7

On December 7 at 10 am, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Reauthorizing the EB-5 Regional Center Program: Promoting Job Creation and Economic Development in American Communities.” It will be webcast.

Based on the title, it sounds unlikely that criticism of the program will be highlighted.

Atlantic Yards Report, At last Congressional hearing on EB-5, little skepticism, some evasion, calls for streamlining program

Given the upcoming Senate Judiciary Committee hearing December 7 on the EB-5 investment immigration program, it's worth a look back at a House hearing 9/14/11 held by the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.

Unsurprisingly, the hearing, titled "The Investor Visa Program: Key to Creating American Jobs" (video), featured little skepticism about the program and some fudging from witnesses. One evaded the fundamental reason why developers and entrepreneurs like EB-5: foreign investors are willing to accept little return in exchange for green cards. (Hence the support for Atlantic Yards.)

Atlantic Yards Report, A new, questionable EB-5 project in China is being called "the new Atlantic Yards"

Would you believe that Atlantic Yards--after my reporting and other reasons for controversy--has now become a cautionary example in the international world of investment immigration?

From EB5info.com, Huge Chicago EB-5 Multi-Hotel Project Under Scrutiny by Investors:

Several Chinese agents and investors are calling into question the claims being made by a new EB-5 Visa Regional Center, The Intercontinental Regional Center Trust of Chicago.

Many are calling this project the new Atlantic Yards due to the extremely large size of the offering ($249.5 million) and the claims being made by its promoters and migration agents in China. The agents need to heavily promote issues of this magnitude in order to raise such an exceptionally large offering (most EB-5 visa project offerings are under $50 million) in a very short period of time.

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

What's going on here? Atlantic Yards Watch offers more evidence that those operating railyard flood lights turn them on well before announced 6 am start.

Atlantic Yards Report

When author and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board member Jonathan Safran Foer wrote Everything is Illuminated, this isn't what he had in mind.

According to the last few Atlantic Yards Construction Alerts (e.g., 11/21/11, floodlights at the Vanderbilt yard are supposed to be turned on during the week at 6 am and from dusk to 7:30 p.m., to facilitate work.

As documented on Atlantic Yards Watch, on Wednesday, 11/30/11, the lights were on early, beginning at about 5 am, as indicated in the video below, and at 5:19 am, as indicated in the time stamp on the photo at left.

(Also see article on AY Watch.)

This isn't the first report of such deviation from the schedule.

As I wrote 11/10/11, Atlantic Yards Watch reported that, on the day before, the lights went on at about 4:30 am.

That may be more convenient for those planning work at the site. It's not more convenient for the neighbors. If the reports are true--and I'll see if Empire State Development, charged with overseeing site work, has a comment--shouldn't this be stopped?

And on Sunday

Note that the lights are supposed to be on early during the week to facilitate work.

However, yesterday, Sunday, when no one was working at the railyard in the early morning, the lights were on by 6:30 am, as noted on Atlantic Yards Watch.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Watch, Entire railyard is illuminated for construction mornings and nights, including outside of scheduled construction hours

Representatives of Dean Street Block Association, 6th Avenue to Vanderbilt raised the use of the lights with LIRR during a meeting in the spring of 2010. The meeting was facilitated by former ESDC Ombudsman Forrest Taylor and took place at his office. The lights had recently been installed and their intensity was a concern to the community. At the meeting LIRR reassured the community representatives the lights would be used only rarely for work that could not be done during the day because of conflict with railyard operation. The use of the lights for railyard or Carlton Avenue Bridge construction was not mentioned as a possibility. At this time in the project's implementation the temporary railyard has been moved to its new location on the east side of the LIRR/MTA property, but has not yet been covered.

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

What's going on here? Trucks keep idling on Pacific Street rather than wait in staging area

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, the video below, as published on Atlantic Yards Watch, does not represent the most scintillating viewing.

But it provides yet another example of trucks idling on a residential street when they should be in a staging area.

Three dump trucks are filmed at 6:30 am, across the street from a residential building, on the middle of Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues. The arena site is a half-block away, and the railyard site is around the corner.

In both cases, they're supposed to be staged on Pacific between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, a formerly public street demapped and turned into a staging area. For example, at 4:43, a construction worker seemingly gives directions to the drivers, two of whom leave at 9:37, and the third at 10:20.

What happened? As noted on AY Watch, either the trucks were released too soon from the staging area, or they avoided it completely, bypassing the truck route and entering Pacific Street from Carlton Avenue.

Why? Because there's too little oversight and/or the drivers and their bosses don't think it matters.

Who loses out? People who are living there.

link

Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

December 4, 2011

Horse show at arena brings complications; in Washington, DC, they closed city streets

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Watch offers a follow-up on some recent news, Gucci horse competition coming to Barclays, but where will the horses go?, where we learned that 70 to 80 horses would be stabled inside the building, with more than 200 horses in tenets nearby.

Writes Danae Oratowski:

The Paris Gucci Masters is held at the Salon de Cheval, a dedicated horse show facility that includes warm-up rings and trailer parking in addition to stables and show rings. Instead, the Barclays event will resemble the International Horse Show at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., which needed closed three city blocks around the arena this October.
In addition to outdoor stables, there’s likely to be a need for an outdoor warm up ring, since the backstage areas of the Barclays center may not be large enough. There’s also the small matter of a few hundred horse trailers that will arrive and unload (most likely in the middle of the night to avoid traffic).

A commenter on my earlier piece had written:

Temporary stalls can be set up anywhere. The Washington Int'l is held in the Verizon Center, stalls and warmup rings are in a nearby parking garage.

Closed streets in Washington

Actually, no. WTOP reported 10/26/11, "We noticed that 6th Street NW and F Street have been blocked around the Verizon Center." The Washington Post reported 10/24/11 that "F Street between Fifth and Seventh, and Sixth Street between F and G will be closed for the week to house temporary stalls for horses."

In a 3/15/11 statement, the Washington International Horse Show announced a three-year deal with Verizon Center to extend its run at the venue through 2013:

"We are thrilled to remain at Verizon Center and continue this great Washington tradition. Verizon Center has been home to WIHS for 12 years, and while there are complexities in producing an urban horse show with shipping horses in and out of the city and closing city streets to create stables, it also makes us one of the most exciting horse shows in the country," said Anthony F. Hitchcock, chief operating officer of WIHS.

(Emphasis added)

And in Brooklyn?

Note that the Verizon Center, unlike the Barclays Center, does not directly border a residential neighborhood.

In Brooklyn, I'd bet we see Sixth Avenue closed outside the arena, and maybe parts of Dean and Pacific Street. But if anyone official knows differently, please let me know. Print

link

Related coverage...

Atlanltic Yards Watch, Gucci horse competition coming to Barclays, but where will the horses go?

Posted by steve at 11:02 PM

More from the file in the case challenging economic development grants: the influence of politics, the legacy of AY eminent domain litigation

Atlantic Yards Report

A few more pieces from the file in the case (as I described November 28) unsuccessfully challenging the state's practice of economic development grants as violating the state Constitution's ban on gifts to private undertakings.

The corruption of state politics

From the initial plaintiffs' brief, 9/15/08:

Complaints about state politics being dominated by “Three Men in a Room,” the Governor, Speaker and Majority Leader, are legion. What makes this corrupt regime possible is the flagrant disregard of the Constitution, both in appropriating grants to favored corporations and in allowing those three officials to secretly choose the recipients of the illegal largesse. As pointed out in the complaint, many recipients of grants return the favor by making campaign contributions to influential legislators. This further increases their power over the rank and file legislators who need this money at election time.

From the 8/4/08 complaint:

  1. There are well over 100 grants to chambers of commerce, groups that supposedly espouse the principles of free private enterprise.
  2. On information and belief, recently a candidate for state legislature in Upstate New York approached a chamber of commerce official for support and was told the group could not support him as they were getting state money from the incumbent.
  3. This anecdote illustrates the corrupting influence of corporate welfare in our extraordinarily non-competitive political system.

The influence of eminent domain litigation

The Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, known as Goldstein, played a key role in the 1/10/11 brief from the state as defendant:

B. Appropriations For The Purpose Of Fostering Economic Development Are For A Public Purpose.

This Court has recognized that promotion of economic development is a valid objective of governmental action. The issue has presented itself primarily in cases involving condemnation of real property, where the Court has confirmed that “removal of urban blight” is a “recognized public purpose or ‘use’ ” and therefore “a proper, and, indeed, constitutionally sanctioned, predicate for the exercise of the power of eminent domain.” Matter of Goldstein v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp.... The determination that economic development in the form of the removal of urban blight is a public purpose sufficient to justify a taking of private property necessarily implies that economic development is a also sufficiently public purpose to justify an expenditure of public funds. Indeed, a “public purpose” requirement supporting a taking of private property should be at least as stringent as a public purpose requirement supporting the expenditure of public funds.

In the Goldstein and Kaur cases, this Court also made clear that the determination of whether a governmental action serves a public purpose is a legislative rather than a judicial task.

Of course, the "legislative" task in the case of Atlantic Yards was determined not by the legislature but by a purportedly (to the defense) independent public benefit corporation, the Empire State Development Corporation.

Some reformers think that the burden should be higher when eminent domain is conducted by such an unelected body, compared to an elected one.

link

Posted by steve at 10:57 PM

New York State Abdicates Its Responsibility As Ratner Fouls the Air

Atlantic Yards Watch

Equipment spews dust into air over railyard and Atlantic Avenue

Video submitted with an incident report shows dust being blown into the air this morning in the railyard near the work reconstructing the Carlton Avenue Bridge. The video above is one of four submitted.

The incident report accompanying the video reports "this has been going on for the last few days."

The report notes that the dust was so significant the worker using a water hose to suppress dust moved away, stopping his task.

More violations of truck rules and regulations occur, causing air quality impacts

An incident report from November 28th contains two videos showing trucks departing the construction site quickly and stirring up dust into the air. The location of the incidents shown in the video is Pacific Street at Carlton Avenue, where a dispatch is supposed to stop all trucks and only let them advance when the designated entrance is ready to receive them.

Air quality in the community near the site is affected when trucks speed and/or dirt is spread from the work site by the wheels of construction trucks. While coordination of trucks associated with project construction has improved since incident reports and stories posted on AYW began drawing attention to violations of truck rules and NYC law, there has never been wheel washing stations at each exit as promised, and dirt and mud is often tracked from the site. Further, the number of exits/entrances currently in use at the site far exceeds what was anticipated in any environmental analysis.

Inside the construction site trucks are required to obey a 5 mph speed limit. The video shows trucks apparently traveling too fast on the public section of Pacific Street; an area where the 5 mph speed limit may not apply, but where community life must co-exist with the designated route of Atlantic Yards construction delivery trucks.

Posted by steve at 10:50 PM

No Land Grab: The Rip Van Winkle Edition

Here are two items filled with stale information.

Architectism, Atlantic Yards: B2 Bklyn Building by SHoP Architects

Here's an outdated description of the Atlantic Yards project that even the developer doesn't use any more. There's an added bonus of the invocation of starchitect Frank Gehry even though he was thrown off the project years ago as a result of "value engineering".

The Atlantic Yards area is in a current development,striving to be a residential zone.The project wants to redevelop 22 acres of Downtown Brooklyn and the aimed areas are: Flatbush Ave, Fourth Ave, Vanderbuilt Ave and Dean St.The initiators of this project were Forest City Ratner Companies.

Frank Gehry designed the plan and this is how he divided the buildings: 6 million square feet were reserved for the residential space, Barclays Center and an entertainment area while 247,000 square feet are for retail purposes,336,000 square feet are for office spaces and 8 acres are spared for an open space.

New York Islanders Adrift, Barclays Center Still Short of Goal

"Value engineering" of the Nets arena rendered it too small to accommodate professional hockey, but fanciful discussion persists.

The Barclays Center management set a goal of 220 events for its opening year and they are still 50 events short. The fact that Brooklyn still needs to fill events helps the Islanders leverage when dealing with the Barclays Center. This creates a need for the Islanders 41 home games to fill the void for the opening season and future ones as well.

Posted by steve at 10:34 PM

Andrea Boccelli Will Sing At Barclays Center Instead Of MSG

Gothamist

Following in the footsteps of Jay-Z, famous Italian tenor Andrea Boccelli will sing at the Barclays Center next year. And the Post notes it's quite the coup for the under-construction arena, since Boccelli had been performing his annual holiday show at Madison Square Garden.

link

Posted by steve at 10:29 PM

December 3, 2011

A Krashes op-ed in the Courier-Life: unanswered questions about modular plan, need for state oversight (and Forest City declined space to respond)

Atlantic Yards Report

The op-ed page of the Courier-Life chain (available only through the PDF of this week's issue) was supposed to include two perspectives on Forest City Ratner's new plan for pre-fabricated modular housing.

However, Forest City Ratner declined to respond--presumably a managed press rollout two weeks ago sufficed for its purposes--so the single piece is a critique by Peter Krashes, active in the Dean Street Block Association, BrooklynSpeaks, and Atlantic Yards Watch, headlined, "When it came to Atlantic Yards, we, the critics, were right all along."

His points: Forest City Ratner won't deliver what it long promised, there are many questions unresolved, and there's no effective oversight.

link

Posted by steve at 5:35 PM

Times architecture critic Kimmelman embraces planner Garvin's take on the "public realm" and the need to put the public first, calls Atlantic Yards "ill-conceived"

Atlantic Yards Report

Those of us who've followed the work of urban planner and scholar Alexander Garvin know he likes to talk about "the public realm," what he calls (as he did three years ago) "the quality of life of a great city,” including streets, squares, transportation systems, schools, public buildings, and parks.

So it's no surprise he spoke similarly in an walkabout interview, scheduled for the cover of tomorrow's New York Times Arts & Leisure section, with new New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, headlined Treasuring Urban Oases.

What is surprising--though less so with each article--is that Kimmelman continues to emphasize the impact of architecture on the city as a whole, rather than focus mainly on spectacular new buildings.

Writes Kimmelman, laying out the fundamentals:

“The public realm is what we own and control,” [Garvin] told me the other day when we met to look around Midtown. More than just common property, he added, “the streets, squares, parks, infrastructure and public buildings make up the fundamental element in any community — the framework around which everything else grows.”

Thinking first about public space

And the critic takes an implied shot on his predecessors, Nicolai Ouroussoff and Herbert Muschamp:

We’ve been so fixated on fancy new buildings that we’ve lost sight of the spaces they occupy and we share. Last month Mr. Garvin addressed a conclave of architects, planners and public officials from around the country and abroad, who met on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of New York’s landmark 1961 zoning resolution. That resolution established the incentive program for private developers, whereby developers construct public spaces — plaza “bonuses,” in zoning lingo — in return for bigger buildings. Acres of some of the costliest real estate in town have been turned into arcades and squares as a consequence, but sheer space, the urban sociologist Holly Whyte famously observed, is not “of itself” what people need or want. Quality, not quantity, is the issue. Mr. Garvin argues that the city should reverse its approach, zoning neighborhoods like Midtown, Lower Manhattan and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, by thinking first about the shape of public space instead of private development.

Why big projects like Atlantic Yards are "ill-conceived"

And while Garvin walks around midtown with Kimmelman, Atlantic Yards gets a prominent mention:

The Dutch today put together what they call “structure plans” when they undertake big new public projects, like their high-speed rail station in Rotterdam: before celebrity architects show up, urban designers are called in to work out how best to organize the sites for the public good. It’s a formalized, fine-grained approach to the public realm. By contrast, big urban projects on the drawing board in New York still tend to be the products of negotiations between government agencies anxious for economic improvement and private developers angling for zoning exemptions. As with the ill-conceived Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the streets, subway entrances and plazas around Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, where millions of New Yorkers will actually feel the development’s effects, seem like they’ve hardly been taken into account.

link

Posted by steve at 5:29 PM

December 2, 2011

Treasuring Urban Oases

The New York Times
by Michael Kimmelman

The Times's recently appointed architecture critic continues to right the wrongs of his predecessors. Keep up the good work, Mr. Kimmelman.

What passes for public space in many crowded neighborhoods often means some token gesture by a developer, built in exchange for the right to erect a taller skyscraper. [Alexander] Garvin, an architect, urban planner and veteran of five city administrations, going back to the era of Mayor John V. Lindsay (1966-73), has spent the better part of the last half-century thinking about these spaces.

“The public realm is what we own and control,” he told me the other day when we met to look around Midtown. More than just common property, he added, “the streets, squares, parks, infrastructure and public buildings make up the fundamental element in any community — the framework around which everything else grows.”

Or should grow.
...

But what makes high-density neighborhoods pedestrian friendly?

Good public space for starters.
...

The Dutch today put together what they call “structure plans” when they undertake big new public projects, like their high-speed rail station in Rotterdam: before celebrity architects show up, urban designers are called in to work out how best to organize the sites for the public good. It’s a formalized, fine-grained approach to the public realm. By contrast big urban projects on the drawing board in New York still tend to be the products of negotiations between government agencies anxious for economic improvement and private developers angling for zoning exemptions. As with the ill-conceived Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the streets, subway entrances and plazas around Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, where millions of New Yorkers will actually feel the development’s effects, seem like they’ve hardly been taken into account.

article

NoLandGrab: Better click through to the article fast before Mr. Kimmelman's editors realize that he didn't hew to the paper's usual fawning treatment of Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 1:19 PM

Fraud? Immigrant investors in Atlantic Yards were told their green cards were guaranteed, but New York City Regional Center typically warns investors it makes no warranties

Atlantic Yards Report

Why should the green cards-for-cash scam be any different from all the other Atlantic Yards "guarantees?"

There's a huge gap between what the assurances the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) gave to potential Chinese investors in Atlantic Yards about the certainty of their expected green cards and the "no warranty" message the firm typically tells investors.

The warning

The following passage appears in the confidential offering memoranda for two previous NYCRC projects, regarding the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Steiner Studios:

In other words, the company offers no warranty and no assurances that the investors, who parked $500,000 for five years and eschewed interest (mostly) in lieu of green cards for themselves and their families, would actually get the green cards.

Presumably, such boilerplate also appeared in the memorandum for the Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project, which sought (and apparently achieved) $249 million from 498 investors, mostly from China.

In China, green cards guaranteed

As I reported last year, in webcast presentations, representatives of the NYCRC offered public assurances that green cards were guaranteed.

article

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

Another look at the huge benefits from the EB-5 program: perhaps $140 million to Forest City Ratner, and $50 million to NYCRC

Atlantic Yards Report

"EB-5 Friday" continues at Atlantic Yards Report.

So, how much is Forest City Ratner saving on its $249 million low-interest loan from immigrant investors under the EB-5 program? And what are the earnings of is the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), the private investment pool that was marketing the project--green cards in exchange for $500,000 in purportedly job-creating investments?

I have to revise some of my reporting from last year, when I calculated a gain of some $191 million to Forest City, based on the difference between the interest rate the developer might have to pay on the open market and the no-interest being offered to Chinese investors.

I also have to revise my calculations regarding benefits to the NYCRC, which I calculated would earn $38,000 per client in fees, or nearly $19 million.

Earning money on the interest

Rather, the NYCRC may be keeping very little of those fees, since it has to share fees with affiliates. It earns its money on the spread between the interest rate on loan offered to Forest City and the return received by the 498 investors.

Forest City likely will pay 4% to 5%, as with other NYCRC projects promoted by the city, while the majority of the investors, from China, will get no interest, and the 40 or so Korean investors will get .25%.

So it's a win for Forest City and the NYCRC: they both make money. I think Forest City's benefit is still more than $100 million, while NYCRC may earn some $50 million (see bottom).

It's a win for the immigrants: they get green cards for themselves and their family, with the cost being the foregone interest on the investment they get back. (Of course there is a risk, and not every EB-5 investor gets a green card.)

What about the public benefit? The investments are supposed to create jobs, but in some case--as I've shown with the Atlantic Yards investment--they don't create new jobs, and the immigrant investors get credit--apparently legal, though logically questionable--for the jobs created by the entire $1.448 billion in the "Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project."

article

Posted by eric at 10:05 AM

New York City Regional Center was busiest nationally in Chinese market in 2011; EB-5 financing via NYCRC seen by city as potential funding for engineering campus, Willets Point

Atlantic Yards Report

Speaking of Willets Point, its future "redevelopers" might be the latest beneficiaries of the ol' green cards-for-dollars scheme.

As I reported 12/17/10, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) proposed that the NYCRC and Forest City Ratner meet to discuss a potential collaboration, and that the NYC EDC has an agreement with the Regional Center that provides a finder’s fee for projects that it refers and are ultimately are financed through their program.

Now NYC EDC sees EB-5 as an integral part of its arsenal, as it gives developers access to low-cost capital while costing the city nothing. The discount comes because the investors are willing to forego much or any return on their $500,000, since they're looking to gain a green card and, after parking their $500,000 for some five years, their money back.

Request for Proposals (RFPs) for both the Willets Point Development Phase 1, released 5/9/11, and the Applied Sciences Facility in New York City, released 7/19/11, list the EB-5 program via the NYCRC as part of a suite of potential economic development benefits....

article

Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

Sewer Project Expected To Launch Willets Point Redevelopment

NY1
by Josh Robin

Willets Point's beleaguered property owners are finally getting storm sewers — but only as a prelude to getting kicked out.

Whether with a shovel or a real pile driver, the redevelopment of Willets Point is moving forward.

The plan is to turn its pothole-covered streets and excess of auto body shops into a neighborhood of apartments, businesses and a convention center.

New sewer lines come first, however.

"We must reclaim these 62 acres and take the first steps towards installing the infrastructure that will keep Willets Point clean and sustainable for generations to come," said Bloomberg.

By "reclaim," the Mayor means "seize."

Business owners point out that it's not their fault the streets look rough. They paid taxes for years, and now they're the ones bearing the brunt of the city's neglect.

Jerry Antonacci's family has run a carting business for 35 years.

"It's gotta be over a million dollars over 30 years in taxes, and what do we get for it? We're getting kicked out. I mean, we didn't get no streets, we didn't get no sewers, we didn't get no sidewalks, no street signs, no stop signs, no snow plowing, nothing," said Antonacci.
...

The city can look with optimism at court approval of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, which allowed the seizure of private property for a largely private development.

article

NoLandGrab: "Largely private?" Which parts aren't private?

Related content...

Willets Point United, Bloomberg Sneaks into Willets Point Sewer

Willets Point property owners have a slightly more sober take.

Earlier today Mayor Bloomberg snuck into Willets Point in order to do a photo op at the site of the sewer construction project-that has yet to be permitted by the DEC! He was so proud of this opportunity that there was no notice of the event last night on his official schedule-and the event took place close to the Flushing River where Willets Point businesses were not likely to take notice.

Posted by eric at 9:42 AM

December 1, 2011

Despite Promises, Apprenticeship Program Produces Only 15 Jobs at Atlantic Yards

James Caldwell, president of a community organization partnered with developer Forest City Ratner, defends record of employment creation.

Park Slope Patch
by Amy Sara Clark and Jamie Schuh

The president of a community group being sued for not producing Atlantic Yards jobs promised after an unpaid apprenticeship program defended his organization, saying that while the construction jobs didn’t come through, his group has put more than 400 people to work.

His comments come in response to a report today in the Brooklyn Paper that BUILD, a community group created to work with Forest City Ratner to provide local workers with Atlantic Yards jobs, has secured only 15 jobs at the site so far.

Last month, seven Brooklyn construction workers filed suit against Forest City Ratner and BUILD (aka Brooklyn United for Innovated Local Development), arguing that Ratner failed to deliver on promises of union cards and jobs on the Atlantic Yards site after they completed an unpaid apprenticeship program.

But in an interview this afternoon, BUILD president James Caldwell, defended his record, saying that the 400-plus jobs he’s found in such areas as building maintenance and retail may be lower paying, but some (such as maintenance and porter positions) do have unions of their own and nearly all have the advantage of being permanent.

article

NoLandGrab: And with the news that the Gucci Masters equestrian event will come to the Barclays Center in 2013, BUILD is about to announce its newest job-training program. 30 highest scores get union books!

Posted by eric at 6:22 PM

How Brooklyn Nets Can Cut In On Knicks

SBNation.com
by Jason Concepcion

Are there any more played-out tropes than Brooklyn Nets or Brooklyn Hipsters? What about combining the two for even greater inanity?!

The Nets are coming to Brooklyn in 2012 and they will be looking for fans deep in Knicks territory. Luckily there exists a group -- indigenous to the Balkanized borough of Brooklyn -- that remain largely untapped by team loyalties.

These are the hipsters. Residing in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bushwick these post-modern tastemakers are ripe for the picking for any team who knows what attracts them. Our suggested gameplan follows.

article

Posted by eric at 6:01 PM

Deron Williams will not sign extension with Nets, agent says

NorthJersey.com
by Al Iannazzone

The good news? The Barclays Center will host a swanky equestrian event. The bad news? The Barclays Center will likely not host the Nets' best player.

The slim hope the Nets had of Deron Williams signing a contract extension has been dashed completely.

Williams’ agent said his client will play out this season and become a free agent next summer.

Deron will not be signing the extension,” Jeff Schwartz told The Record this afternoon. “Based on the new rules it doesn’t make any sense for him to sign the extension. It has nothing to do with how much he likes New Jersey. Because of the rules, he’s going to play the season out and probably opt out of his deal.”

article

Related coverage...

ESPN.com, Agent: Deron Williams won't sign

Sources close to the team said the Nets aren't concerned by the news, saying they really prefer equestrian events knew it was going to happen.

It is not surprising that Williams would take this route. He can earn roughly $30 million more by opting out at the end of the season and re-signing with the Nets, if that's what he decides to do.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn’s Superman?

According to a report on ESPN yesterday, the Nets aren’t waiting long to find a running mate for superstar point guard Deron Williams.

Um, the guy who's not willing to sign an extension? That's kind of putting the cart before the horse-jumping, isn't it?

With the NBA lockout solved and the season set to begin on Christmas Day, the soon-to-be-Brooklyn franchise is reportedly preparing a trade for high-flying Orlando center Dwight “Superman” Howard.

Current Nets center Brook Lopez and a pair of future first-round picks could be part of a proposed deal that would lock Howard into position as Williams’ co-star when the team moves into the Barclays Center in November 2012.

NoLandGrab: Except that Williams isn't locked into anything, so why would Dwight Howard approve that trade?

Posted by eric at 5:42 PM

Elite show-jumping competition coming to Barclays Center in 2013, with 200 horses stabled in tents "just outside" (where?)

Atlantic Yards Report

"[J]ust outside" suggests space in the rather small footprints of the apartment towers to be built adjacent to the arena.

Or maybe they'll use the small lot just east of Sixth Avenue on Dean Street.

Or will they close down the plaza that's supposed to be a public amenity?

link

Related coverage...

Gothamist, Elite Horse Competition Will Slum It In Brooklyn

You know what "edgy" Brooklyn needs? Rich people who ride pretty horses at exclusive champagne-fueled events. Fortunately, the Gucci Masters horse-jumping competition is coming to the Barclays Center in 2013, and organizers are using the opportunity to trot out as many trite Brooklyn cliches they can think of.

Crain's NY Business, Brooklyn jumps ahead

Posted by eric at 1:53 PM

The Horses Will Jump in Brooklyn

The Wall Street Journal
by Sophia Hollander

The Gucci Masters is to Roger Green's hypothetical "18,000-seat opera house" as the hypothetical opera house is to monster trucks or professional wrestling.

At the 2011 Gucci Masters, a prestigious show-jumping event that begins in Paris this weekend, spectators can enjoy free on-site manicurists and hair stylists, a Champagne bar and a private pony paddock for children.

It's typical glamour for a sport that has attracted celebrity offspring such as Georgina Bloomberg, daughter of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Jessica Springsteen, daughter of Bruce. Hong Kong is also part of the show-jumping series, and organizers are now planning to add a third site.

They've picked Brooklyn.

The Barclays Center will host the new elite show-jumping competition in 2013, drawing the world's top 30 riders to compete for $1 million in prize money, officials were scheduled to announce on Thursday in Paris.
...

[Ashley Herman-Griffin, project manager for the New York Masters] added, show jumping remains a spectacle predicated on horses that can cost up to 10 million euros each, world-class chefs, and extravagant production values. The New York event will cost $6 million to produce, including prize money, and will be broadcast to a global audience estimated at 550 million households, she said. "It's not a hipster event," she said.

article

NoLandGrab: Don't say we didn't warn you that something like this could happen.

Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Barclays Will Host Elite Show-Jumping Event

Today, the Wall Street Journal reports that the arena will also be home to the 2013 New York Masters, an elite show-jumping competition that’s part ponies, part champagne, caviar and celebrities. The event will pit the world's top 30 riders against each other (in the most civilized way possible) for a $1 million prize.
...

The Journal says that the event will cost $6 million to produce, with around 80 horses stabled inside the arena, and more than 200 in tents outside.

NLG: 200 horses in tents "outside?" In the "temporary surface riding stables," perhaps?

Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

Lawsuit prompts Brooklyn Paper to take tough (and partly misleading) look at BUILD and failure to deliver project jobs to supporters

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development) has been sued for not delivering Atlantic Yards jobs to some of the 36 selected for a highly competitive pre-apprenticeship training program, some are taking a closer look at the results delivered by one of Forest City's most vocal organizational supporters.

The Brooklyn Paper, in Out of work! Ratner ally BUILD got just 15 jobs for black Yards supporters, offers some tough--and in a couple of cases overstated--reporting, focusing on the failure to deliver promised jobs expected as a result of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) BUILD signed:

BUILD’s President James Caldwell said that the group has helped 400 people find work around town — but he admitted that only 15 of those positions were on Ratner’s Prospect Heights development, which currently consists of only the under-construction Barclays Center near the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

I reported last month that most of the 350-400 jobs were at places like Forest City Ratner's malls, though not that 15 had found work at the project. Note that the Brooklyn Paper headline overstates the issue somewhat, since, the "just 15 jobs" refers to jobs at the project, not jobs in total.

Most importantly, the article points to an issue I've reported on previously: experts on CBAs agree that groups shouldn't take money from the developers they negotiate with. BUILD never existed before Atlantic Yards was announced, and has always supported the project.

article

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

Out of work! Ratner ally BUILD got just 15 jobs for black Yards supporters

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

The organization that promised to deliver jobs for black supporters of Atlantic Yards has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from developer Bruce Ratner to help train workers for the positions — but has only secured work for 15 people at the $5-billion mega-project.

The mostly black members of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development who were promised some of the 1,500 jobs per year over the project’s 10-year buildout loudly supported Atlantic Yards during the approval process, often appearing in hard hats at rallies and hearings and presenting a contrasting face to the project’s mostly white opponents.

BUILD’s President James Caldwell said that the group has helped 400 people find work around town — but he admitted that only 15 of those positions were on Ratner’s Prospect Heights development, which currently consists of only the under-construction Barclays Center near the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

Residents filed a lawsuit against Ratner and BUILD last Tuesday in federal court, claiming that executives at BUILD and Ratner’s company falsely promised them union memberships and jobs in exchange for completing a “sham” 15-week training program run by the Downtown nonprofit in 2010.

Caldwell disputed the claim, and blamed his failure to secure more Atlantic Yards jobs for local residents on the economy and lawsuits from Yards opponents.

“There would be [more jobs] had all these things not taken place,” he said. “The bottom fell out of the economy.”

But the Great Recession didn’t hurt BUILD’s bottom line: the organization’s annual operating budget increased from $191,721 in 2007 to $279,395 in 2009, according to the latest available documents from the Internal Revenue Service.

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NoLandGrab: Wow, who could have predicted that? We had Bruce Ratner's word, after all.

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

ATTN, NYC Reasonoids: Reason.tv urban renewal doc and Battle for Brooklyn screening tomorrow

Reason Hit & Run
by Jim Epstein

Tomorrow night Tonight, my Reason.tv documentary short, The Tragedy of Urban Renewal, will open for Battle for Brooklyn (which was recently shortlisted for the Oscars) at Maysles Cinema in Harlem. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with me, Jim Torain (who's featured in my film), Battle director Michael Galinsky, and Columbia University professor Mindy Fullilove, who's the author of Root Shock: How Tearing up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About it.

We'll be talking Robert Moses, Atlantic Yards, and eminent domain abuse in the 1950s vs. today.

WHAT: Screening of The Tragedy of Urban Renewal and Battle for Brooklyn.

WHEN: Tomorrow Tonight, December 1, at 7:30PM.

WHERE: Maysles Cinema at 343 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Ave (Between 127th and 128th) in NYC. Suggested admission is $10.

link

Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

PHOTOS: The Barclays Center Has Risen

A monthly photo essay documenting the construction of the Barclays Center, which the Brooklyn Nets will soon call home.

Park Slope Patch
by Will Yakowicz

Piece by piece and month by month, the Barclays Center has grown. Now, with the frame complete and the glass walls filling in, the arena is looking like the soon-to-be home of the Brooklyn Nets.

The enormous footprint lies within the intersection of Flatbush, Atlantic, Fifth Sixth [NLG: Thanks to Bruce Ratner, Fifth Avenue no longer exists northeast of Flatbush] and Fourth avenues.

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NoLandGrab: The fire hydrant at left indicates just how close the arena will be to Flatbush Avenue. That shouldn't be a problem, right?

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

At the MetroTech tree lighting ceremony, Markowitz talks up the Nets, Levin salutes Ratner, Daughtry lays it on thick

Atlantic Yards Report

The annual MetroTech tree lighting ceremony November 29 drew, by the standards of some previous lighting ceremonies (2010, 2008), a paltry official turnout, with only one elected official beyond Borough President Marty Markowitz.

And without two representatives of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, the Reverend Herbert Daughtry (who served as MC), and James Caldwell (who brought two staffers), the podium would have had no people of color or "community" members.

(At right, Daughtry, left, joins developer Bruce Ratner and Markowitz. Photos and video by Jonathan Barkey.)

Leading off

Still, Daughtry, who once saluted developer Bruce Ratner as having a “customary, humble, winsome manner," introduced him with a flourish.

"Now, it is my great pleasure to welcome to the podium, as you look around as you see the magnificent buildings, some of us remember how it looked before. Down Atlantic Avenue, the great building, the great arena. There is a verse from the ancient scripture which says, where there is no vision, the people perish,' I bring you the man who has the vision, Mr. Bruce Ratner."

OK, that's where we have to stop. Click thru for more.

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Posted by eric at 10:32 AM