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February 29, 2012

What the Times put in the Metro section instead of covering the Yonkers corruption case involving Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project

Atlantic Yards Report

Just in case you're wondering what articles New York Times editors decided to put in today's Metro section while continuing to avoid the Yonkers corruption trial involving Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project, consider the following.

The first weighty article, in fact, appeared on the section front, as indicated at right.

Familiar Guest at a Bronx Home: An Out-of-Control Vehicle

A Season Premiere, a Falling Man and Memories of 9/11

Ex-Marine Arrested on Gun Charge Had Poor Record, Manhattan Prosecutor Says

Brooklyn Police Officer Is Accused of Driving Patrol Car While Drunk

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Posted by eric at 10:08 PM

House Acts Against High Court On Eminent Domain

The Associated Press via NPR.org

The House has passed legislation to undercut a 2005 Supreme Court ruling that gives state and local governments eminent domain authority to seize private property for economic development projects.

Supporters of the bill say the 5-4 high court decision was an instance of overreach, and that the government should not be able to take away a private person's home or business for commercial purposes.

The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution says private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation, and eminent domain has traditionally been used to obtain land for public projects such as highways or airports.

The bill would withhold for two years all federal development aid to states or locales that take private property for economic development. It now goes to the Senate.

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NoLandGrab: You know what they say — put 435 monkeys in a room with a typewriter, and eventually they'll craft one halfway-decent piece of legislation.

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, House Passes Bill to Protect Against Post-Kelo Eminent Domain Abuses. Will Senate Even Vote On It?

In post-Kelo 2005 the House overwhelmingly passed the same punitive bill but the Senate didn't act. Rumor had it that it was New York's own Senator Schumer who led the Senate stonewalling on the bill to protect the real estate industry. There was also a full scale effort to block the bill by Mayor Bloomberg (blocking it was one of the items on Bloomberg's 2006 "Five Priorities" card.)

Let's see what happens this time.

Posted by eric at 9:59 PM

Did Forest City Ratner get "bilked" by Yonkers defendant (as suggested in 2010 Times coverage)? Trial testimony indicates the opposite

Atlantic Yards Report

You haven't read it in the New York Times, because the newspaper has chosen to avoid recent coverage of the Yonkers corruption trial (though not saturation coverage of the latest Pale Male twist).

But in the past few days, two Forest City Ratner witnesses demolished the sloppy, dishonest phrasing in the Times's 1/6/10 report, Ex-Official in Yonkers Faces Charges of Corruption.

Back then, the Times suggested that Zehy Jereis, the go-between accused of engineering Ex-Council Member Sandy Annabi's vote to green-light the Ridge Hill project, was "accused of bilking" Forest City.

Got "bilked"?

Any fair reading of the indictment and the term "bilk" should have let a sentient being conclude that Forest City did not get bilked.

Indeed, as Michael D.D. White pointed out in his Noticing New York blog, it strained credulity for the Times to report that "Forest City Ratner, a real estate firm whose specialty is collecting government subsidies through its relentless cultivation of public officials, was outsmarted" by the defendants.

It wasn't.

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NoLandGrab: Funny, but The Times has never postulated that Brooklynites and New York's taxpayers have been "bilked" by demonstrator-of-"the highest ethical standards and behavior" Bruce Ratner's phony promises of jobs and affordable housing.

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

Ridge Hill trial: Forest City execs pushed payment for no-show job despite internal resistance; prosecution's case complicated by Bender's agreement that developer convinced Annabi to switch vote

Atlantic Yards Report

Is it us, or does it seem as if Federal prosecutors are using the whopper (or, more like the tellers of whoppers) to catch the bait? Here's must-read trial coverage from Norman Oder.

In the third and likely final day in which Forest City Ratner (ex-)employees testified in the Yonkers corruption case, a federal jury yesterday heard more evidence that the developer had behaved in a questionable manner.

After all, testimony yesterday indicated that Forest City executives had no problem with Zehy Jereis's seemingly no-show job and, even though he hadn't submitted required monthly reports and a lower-level employee had raised a red flag, two of the firm's top government relations executives, Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone, ordered that he be paid $15,000.

But the developer's not on trial, and the jury might now be wondering why Jereis and Sandy Annabi face corruption charges, while Forest City, the beneficiary of Annabi's changed vote to green-light the Ridge Hill project, is unscathed. (Jurors of course can be instructed to address only the culpability of the defendants, not any other parties.)

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Related coverage...

The Journal News, Yonkers builder Franco Milio says $30G paid to Mangone to get Longfellow deal OK'd

A Yonkers businessman testified Tuesday that his lawyer persuaded him in 2006 to pay $30,000 so then-Councilman Sandy Annabi would stop opposing his land-swap deal and let his development of the Longfellow School property proceed.

Franco Milio told a federal jury that his father, Antonio, ended up paying the money to lawyer Anthony Mangone after Mangone introduced him to Annabi’s cousin, Zehy Jereis, and then told Milio the payment was “to get the approval done.”

Mangone, who was disbarred last year, was indicted along with Annabi and Jereis on bribery and extortion charges but has since pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against the pair.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

Tales From The Far Side -- Forest City Story

Talk of the Sound
by Warren Gross

I cannot let go of this story and none of you should do either. It represents both sound government and an organization, Forest City, that appears so venial and grasping, that both the development and management of our City and its moral imperative is threatened.
...

You ought to read the next installment in the Journal News today under Jonathan Bandler's by-line.

Before looking at one or two points in Bandler's article, it is not at all unfair to postulate that you come away at the end with one of three end-state conclusions which are: (1) Forest City is composed of managerial incompetents, (2) Forest City was active in Ridge Hill in ways that you would, minimally ground your children for, were they guilty of something similar in the playground or (3), they received some form of immunity from the US government in favor for testifying for the prosecution against some rather benign defendents in office at the time in Yonkers. If the latter turns out to be the case, it makes one wonder whether the AG's District Office is somewhat influenced in ways I can only speculate on given what appears to be the evolving substance of this case.

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Related coverage...

Talk of the Sound, A View of Forest City - Politics Promises and Payoffs

Questions about the relationship between New Rochelle's administration and Echo Bay developer, Forest City Ratner, are nothing new to the readers of this site. The dichotomy of having one agenda for the public to witness and another "behind closed doors" agenda for the purpose of bypassing public witness of the procedure can only be characterized as self serving. Self serving for the developer, that is, and not, necessarily, for New Rochelle. On one hand, the public is asked to meet and voice concerns and/or support (as required by law mind you) and then the developer disappears behind closed doors to meet with council members, two at a time, thus avoiding open meeting laws. They did this when they were looking to get their first extension and, quite frankly, it was illegal. Will they do it again? Who knows, but it fits their pattern. Couple that with the campaign money to the mayor and the pattern repeats just as it has in Brooklyn, Yonkers and who knows where else.

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

We didn't know we hired a crook: Ratner firm

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Could it be that Forest City Ratner has a big crook blind spot?

Officials of developer Bruce Ratner’s firm are claiming the company had no clue it recruited a convicted drug dealer and election fraudster to salvage a stalled $842 million mixed-use development in Yonkers.

Forest City Ratner officials told The Post that they never conducted a background check in 2006 on then-Yonkers Republican Party Chairman Zehy Jereis before awarding him what amounted to a $5,000-a-month no-show job. This was after they learned of the political crony’s criminal record from a reporter.

Jereis – who has no real estate experience - got the “consulting” gig three months after convincing then-Councilwoman Sandy Annabi in July 2006 to change her vote and push through FCR’s “Ridge Hill” project.

Shortly after testifying in Manhattan federal court Monday, Scott Cantone, FCR’s senior VP for government affairs, told the Post the company was unaware of Jereis’ shady past and never did a background check on him.

FCR spokesman Joe DePlasco said the firm had “no way of knowing” Jereis had a criminal record because “he was the leader of the Yonkers Republican Party.”

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, NY Post: Forest City didn't conduct background check into Jereis, spokesman claims they had "no way of knowing" his criminal past

Norman Oder turned to The Google — an advanced technology apparently not available at Forest City Ratner's hideout — to discover what the developer had "no way of knowing."

Um, being the Chairman of the Yonkers Republic Party doesn't exempt someone from a criminal past.

In some cases, it might be connected to it. Let's do a very quick literature search.

Follow the link to learn what he found.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Ratner VPs Claim They Didn't Know Fixer They Hired to Pass Yonkers Project Was Convicted Criminal

Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

Barclays Center looks for Brooklyn foodies to vend at new Nets arena

"Everything from pickles to pizza," say officials

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

While testimony in a political corruption trial in Manhattan is making it quite clear that executives at Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner should be on trial rather than prosecution witnesses, the Daily News is across the river covering arena dining options.

The new Nets arena is searching for Brooklyn foodies to serve up their wares at its basketball games and concerts.

Barclays Center officials are distributing a survey to find borough restaurants and food service businesses that can give a little Brooklyn flavor to the new Prospect Heights arena, set to open in September.

“We are committed to bringing the best of Brooklyn to Barclays Center and to draw on the borough’s dynamic food scene,” said developer Bruce Ratner. “Our goal is cast a wide net to make Barclays Center’s culinary experience as quintessentially Brooklyn as it gets.”

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NoLandGrab: "Quintessentially Brooklyn" offerings will be dominated by Coca-Cola and Budweiser.

Posted by eric at 8:57 AM

Dallas Mavericks' Jason Kidd won't rule out return to Nets next season

Free agent to be would back up Deron Williams - or stay in Dallas

NY Daily News
by Stefan Bondy

"The longevity" might have been longer than we thought.

Jason Kidd finally got his ring elsewhere, after a “migraine” and years of listening to Bruce Ratner’s lip service to an on-again, off-again project in Brooklyn.

But with the Barclays Center nearly finished, Kidd said a final hurrah with the Nets is still a possibility if he doesn’t retire after this season — particularly if it means he’ll back up Deron Williams.

“You can’t rule that out. You have to see what happens,” said Kidd, who like Williams is slated to become a free agent this summer. “First I want to make sure I want to continue playing. But we’ll see what happens here in Dallas. I wouldn’t mind staying here in Dallas if that opportunity presents itself.

“But if Brooklyn presents itself, we’ll see.”

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Posted by eric at 8:49 AM

February 28, 2012

The dailies ignore on the Yonkers corruption trial; what's wrong with the Times?

Atlantic Yards Report

So Bruce Bender, long the top government relations official for Forest City Ratner and former Chief of Staff for Council Speaker Peter Vallone, testifies yesterday in federal court about the developer's nearly desperate search for the vote that green-lighted the Ridge Hill project in Yonkers--a process that led to corruption charges against two others--and what do the New York dailies do?

They ignore it. (The suburban Journal News has been covering the story.)

You can almost understand the New York Post, which did have a reporter there (and did cover the testimony last week of Bender's colleague Scott Cantone), and the New York Daily News, which didn't send a reporter.

The tabloids want juicy headlines, though, by my lights, Bender's memo to lobbyist Mike Spano, now the mayor of Yonkers, qualifies as juicy insight into how development and politics really work:

"No fucking around. Get Sandy on board. Tell your brother we need help now."

Sandy would be Council Member Sandy Annabi, now on trial, and the brother would be Yonkers powerbroker Nick Spano, a longtime state Senator turned legislator with his own recent legal troubles.

What happened to the Times?

The New York Times? Well, their federal courts reporter was in the room, diligently taking notes. I'm sure he was capable of delivering a solid report. Maybe he even wrote one.

Someone decided no, maybe the same someone who decided the MTA deal Forest City Ratner renegotiated in 2009 was worth just five short paragraphs in print, or an article on the Nets' efforts to woo fans was worth 18 paragraphs.

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Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

Forest City's Bender, Cantone testify in Ridge Hill trial; no quid pro quo in Jereis hiring, but they strung him along until Annabi voted; developer nearly desperate, ordered Spano to get his brother's help

Atlantic Yards Report

Today was no red-letter day for developer Forest City Ratner. Though not charged in the Yonkers corruption case, two key Forest City executives involved in the $650 million Ridge Hill project--Scott Cantone and Bruce Bender--took the stand and had to explain the company's curious and even desperate behavior in ensuring the project's approval.

Surely the federal jury must have wondered why exactly the developer--the greatest beneficiary of the alleged bribes paid by defendant Zehy Jereis, a former Yonkers Republican chairman, to defendant Sandy Annabi, a former Yonkers Council Member--remains unscathed.

After all, they were concerned about Jereis's persistent requests for a consulting gig, which began before Annabi's vote, so they strung him along, and finally signed him up a few months after Annabi changed her vote in mid-2006 to green-light Ridge Hill.

Defense attorneys did get the Forest City government relations executives to acknowledge that Jereis never requested a quid pro quo. And the execs acknowledged that Annabi never knew anything about Jereis's requests. Nor did they know Jereis had funneled money to her.

What Norman Oder means is that they claimed, under oath no less, that they didn't know Jereis funneled money to Annabi.

And prosecutors, gingerly managing their not-quite-squeaky-clean witnesses, got Bender and Cantone to affirm that no, they would never have hired Jereis for what was essentially a no-show job had they known he had been paying Annabi's bills. (Then again, Cantone testified last week that they wouldn't have hired Jereis if he hadn't helped get Annabi's vote.)

So they wouldn't have hired Jereis if he was bribing Annabi to support their project, but they also wouldn't have hired him if he didn't get her support for their project. Uh huh.

Ultimately, the testimony illuminated the urgent, nearly desperate posture of Forest City, which had committed at least $70 million on Ridge Hill, found factionalized Yonkers politics "crazy," found a unique situation given that Annabi wouldn't even meet with them, and didn't want to see their investment go sour.

After lobbyist Mike Spano, who's now the mayor of Yonkers, told Bender that he and others had been unable to budge Annabi, Bender replied pungently in an email: "No fucking around. Get Sandy on board. Tell your brother we need help now."

But don't bribe her [wink, wink], or we won't pay you for a no-show job.

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NoLandGrab: And if you believe that Cantone and Bender didn't perjure themselves, we have an arena in Brooklyn to sell you.

Related coverage...

The Journal News, Executive testifies: No deal to get Annabi to end her opposition to Ridge Hill

The developer of the Ridge Hill project in Yonkers would not have hired political operative Zehy Jereis as a consultant if it was known he had a financial relationship with Councilwoman Sandy Annabi, an executive of the developer, Forest City Ratner.

But during testimony today at the federal corruption trial of Annabi and Jereis, executive Scott Cantone also insisted that there was never any quid pro quo between hiring Jereis and getting Annabi to end her opposition to Ridge Hill and cast the deciding vote for it in 2006.

NLG: Sure, "no fucking around. Get Sandy on board" with Jedi mind tricks.

Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

The latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert: efforts redoubled at rodent control; cover on dirt pile finally noted

Atlantic Yards Report

Below are some excerpts from the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 2/27/12 and released yesterday by Empire State Development after preparation by Forest City Ratner.

I've bolded the notable changes from the previous alert. Note the increased efforts at rodent control, a huge issue for the surrounding community, and belated efforts to cover a dirt pile, which was cited by Atlantic Yards Watch.

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Posted by eric at 12:07 PM

A Somewhat Perverse Frank Gehry Timeline

Metropolis Magazine
by Martin C. Pedersen

Frank Gehry's lost decade.

Leon Krier’s recent broadside against Frank Gehry’s proposed design for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C., had me thinking about the world’s most famous architect. For a man who created one of the most important buildings of the 20th century, Gehry, who turns 83 in a couple of days, has hit a fair number of potholes in recent years. Here’s a quick review of some of them (at least the ones I could think of off the top of my head):

December 2003: In February the Walt Disney Concert Hall opened to universal acclaim. The consensus? The creator of the Guggenheim Bilbao had done it again! Frank Gehry, as a global cultural figure, could not be riding any higher. That perception begins to change when the developer Bruce Ratner unveils his colossal Atlantic Yards proposal for downtown Brooklyn. It includes a new Frank Gehry–designed sports arena, along with Frank Gehry–designed commercial towers and apartment buildings. (Confession: I liked it, with a few caveats, but I didn’t live in the neighborhood.) The scheme lands on the doorstep of Brownstone Brooklyn with a resounding thud. In a very bad early sign, Robert Moses’s name is invoked.

2004: Among the cultural elite of Brooklyn, Gehry goes from world’s most influential architect to pawn in a real estate game played by Ratner. This line of thinking persists for the better part of the decade, as does fierce neighborhood opposition to the plan.

August 2005: Hurricane Katrina strikes the Gulf Coast. A huge, runaway casino barge strikes Gehry’s half-completed Ohr-O’Keefe Museum in Biloxi, Mississippi. This is greeted in some parts of Brooklyn as some sort of cosmic payback.

November 2007: Three years after the Stata Center opened, MIT sues Gehry and his contractor, citing a long list of complaints: cracking masonry, poor drainage, mold, persistent leaks throughout the building, and sliding ice and snow. (The suit is settled three years later.) Longtime partner Jim Glymph takes the fall.

April 2008: In response to delays at Atlantic Yards (mostly, related to lawsuits) and a slowing economy, layoffs begin at Gehry Partners. Even Gehry’s name can’t protect the firm from the tidal wave sweeping the profession.

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NoLandGrab: Pedersen left out the denouement. June 2009: Gehry fired from Atlantic Yards project in cost-cutting move.

Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

Barclays Center At Atlantic Yards: New Home Of The Brooklyn Nets Nearing Completion

Newsday via The Huffington Post

After years of controversy, Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards--future home of the Brooklyn Nets--is "much more than halfway complete" according to Bob Sanna, Executive VP of Forest City Ratner Companies.
...

24 months since construction on the site started, construction workers are already installing elevators and the Prospect Heights stadium is finally taking shape.

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Related coverage...

The Source, Barclay Center For BK Nets Almost Complete

A fall opening is expected for the 18K seats arena just in time for a Nets preseason game in their new kingdom. It was Jigga's idea, so it has to work, right?

NoLandGrab: Yeah, right.

Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

Crime Report: Man Thrown to the Tracks — Then Mugged There

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Gersh Kuntzman

Sticky-fingered thieves were active in both of Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn malls last week — as they are every week.

Chuck E. Gone

A female robbery duo swiped a handbag from a woman who was watching her friends’ stuff at Chuck E. Cheese inside the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Feb. 20.

The victim told cops that she was inside the mouse-themed eatery at around 9:30 p.m. when a woman approached and distracted her by asking directions to the bathroom. That’s when her accomplice swiped the Coach handbag, which contained various cards.

Picked at Mall

A pickpocket swiped a wallet from a shopper inside the Atlantic [Center] Mall on Feb. 21.

The 74-year-old victim told cops she had been shopping inside the Marshalls department store inside the mall at around 2 p.m., and noticed that her wallet had been taken.

The thief got various cards and $120.

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Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

February 27, 2012

Assemblyman Joe Lentol, some curious connections, and the Ridge Hill/Yonkers corruption trial that resumes today

Atlantic Yards Report

So, who knew Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol had played a key cameo in the machinations that led to passage of Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill development in Yonkers? Not until testimony last Thursday in a federal corruption trial did that surface, and only glancingly so.

The upshot: Lentol, an Atlantic Yards supporter, seems closer to Forest City than most people knew.

The reasons? Unclear, but Lentol's close relationship with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, himself a key Forest City ally, probably doesn't hurt. (Lentol chairs the Brooklyn delegation and the Codes Committee, both key positions.)

The linkage? The go-between who connected Lentol, Forest City, and defendant Zehy Jereis--charged with bribing Council Member Sandy Annabi to change her vote--said he knew the Assemblyman from the very mainstream Lions Club.

But both the go-between, Joseph Galimi, and Lentol also have been reported to have connections, however indirect, with organized crime figures, factoids that should be filed away in case more information surfaces.

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NoLandGrab: And here we thought the Ratners were the only crime family involved in this case.

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

Trial highlights Jereis-Annabi ties

The Journal News
by Jonathan Bandler

Whether there was bribery or extortion involved in the relationship between Sandy Annabi and her cousin Zehy Jereis remains to be seen at their federal corruption trial.

But the first few days of testimony has shed much light on Jereis’ opportunism and the intricate ties they shared.

As soon as he got Forest City Ratner executives a meeting with Annabi so they could persuade her to support their $840 million Ridge Hill development, Jereis sought a job for himself. He kept asking for it in more than a dozen emails before finally landing a one-year, $60,000 contract.

“He was persistent. He was aggressive,” testified Scott Cantone, a senior vice president with Forest City Ratner.

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NoLandGrab: And he was essential in getting Forest City's Ridge Hill project greenlighted, for which he was rewarded...

Posted by eric at 9:45 AM

Next Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting: March 15, not March 1 (and ESD's Ken Adams will be there); Transportation Focus Group to meet March 8

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meetings, held about every two months, are usually interesting, since they provide an opportunity for involved agencies interact, and for Forest City Ratner to undergo questioning by the few elected officials (and their designated staffers) who care.

And some news--such as plans for Transportation Demand Management, or affordable housing--tends to surface.

At the last meeting, held 1/26/12, it was announced that the next meeting would be Thursday, March 1. That date, less than two months away, has now been pushed back to Thursday, March 15, from 9:30 to 11 am at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
...

One key issue is transportation, and the next meeting of the Atlantic Yards Transportation Focus Group--which incorporates community members in an advisory role, with representatives of ESD and the Borough President's Office present--will be held March 8 at 6 pm at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

The meeting is open to the press and public, but the only participants in the round-table discussion are designees from invited community groups.

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Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

Bribes, Intimidation, Silencing Opposition "Business as Usual" for Forest City Ratner

Talk of the Sound
by Robert Cox

Dwight R. Worley of the Journal News explains how Noam Bramson's favorite developer operates - bribes, intimidation and silencing communities groups -- which Worley says is "business as usual for Forest City Ratner":

Forest City known for tough political skills around region
...

Under Mayor Bramson the New Rochelle City Council has made it routine to make liberal use of executive sessions and highly questionable "2 x 2 x 2" meetings in order to keep discussions with Forest City Ratner executives out of the public eye. This is a bi-partisan failure as both Republicans and Democrats on council have readily accepted this farce to keep discussions of public business with far-ranging implications for New Rochelle residents out of the public eye. Ratner, on the other hand, would not have it any other way.

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Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Ex-Yonkers Council Member: "Forest City Ratner games the system and does not play by the rules"

Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

Ridge Hill Corruption Trial: Forest City Ratner Got What it Wanted By Paying Yonkers Operative

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The federal bribery and corruption trial which centers of Forest City Ratner's Yonkers Ridge Hill development project has been playing out for over week in a Manhattan federal court room. This is the case where the alleged bribee, former Yonkers councilwoman Sandy Annabi, was indicted, and the briber, Yonkers GOP operative and Annabi cousin Zehy Jereis, was indicted, while nobody associated with the beneficiary of the bribe—Bruce Ratner's Forest City Ratner company—was indicted.

Yesterday Ratner operative Scott Cantone testified (his testimony will continue on Monday, February 27th, and will be folllowed, most likley, by Forest City Ratner's former fixer/lobbyist Bruce Bender's testimony). And boy did his testimony lead to some serious head scratching. As Norman Oder retells it in his extensive reporting on yesterday's hearing, Forest City Ratner knew what it was getting by agreeing to give the no show job $5,000/month to Jereis....

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Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

Commercial Rents Rise Near Barclays Site

All About Fifth

According to the Park Slope Patch, commercial rents near the Barclays Center have doubled over the past few months and vacant spaces are filling up fast.

This certainly seems like good news for properties near Flatbush Avenue and there is plenty of evidence that the arena is attracting businesses to vacant spaces on the northern end of Fifth Avenue.

The question is, will these rent increases make their way south along Fifth, towards Union Street and, if so, can stores, bars and restaurants make money under these circumstances?

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NoLandGrab: Sure, if they're artisanal mom 'n' pops like McDonald's and Pizza Hut..

Posted by eric at 9:18 AM

David Stern on relocation, arenas, Hornets sale

CBSSports.com
by Ben Golliver

Golliver traveled to the NBA All-Star Game in Orlando to report on David Stern's pontificating.

No new teams, no relocating teams if at all possible, and a few moments of appreciation for the majesty of world-class arenas.

Those were the takeaway business points from NBA commissioner David Stern, who held his annual press conference before All-Star Saturday, addressing a crowd of more than 100 reporters inside Orlando's new Amway Center.
...

The New Jersey Nets' move to Brooklyn

Stern got back into salesman mode when discussing the upcoming move of the New Jersey Nets to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2012-2013 season. He lauded the building and sounded genuinely excited about a transformed rivalry between the Nets and the Knicks.

"We are very happy for Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov that this building has not only risen from the ground, but it's going to be indoors, completely pretty soon, and it's going to be on time and opening," Stern said. "It is great for Brooklyn. It is great for the Knicks. We're going to have a spectacular rivalry. And it's going to be great for the fans of New York City and the NBA to have that kind of a rivalry and that kind of a new building."

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Posted by eric at 9:12 AM

February 26, 2012

Why so few larger apartments in first planned tower? Maybe it has to do with not gambling on the market-rate units

Atlantic Yards

Remember how Forest City Ratner said last month that the "goal"--actually a promise--of ensuring half the subsidized apartments (in square footage) would be larger units wouldn't be met in the first tower?

FCR executive said it had to do with the way city subsidies work. Perhaps, but consider that the 175 subsidized units would be the same configuration (mostly studios and one-bedrooms) as the market-rate units. And it's a lot less risky to rent smaller market-rate units than larger ones.

As the Wall Street Journal reported in a 2/13/12 article on market-rate condo units, Brooklyn Feels a Pinch: Few Family-Size Apartments in Borough:

Developers are often loath to gamble on larger units, especially in neighborhoods that are considered up-and-coming. A $1 million three-bedroom unit that doesn't sell is a much greater liability than a smaller unit.

After all, who's going to want to pay market-rate rents to live next to an arena? Likely those who value the location--the proximity to transit and nightlife. That suggests singles and couples, not families.

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Posted by steve at 5:49 PM

A house ad in the Times and a question mark about coverage of Forest City Ratner's role in the Yonkers corruption case

Atlantic Yards Report

It was curious that, after a Forest City Ratner executive testified last Thursday about the developer's questionable behavior connected to its Ridge Hill project, a key part of the corruption case against two Yonkers figures, no article appeared in the New York Times.

...

After all, the Times had two reporters in the courtroom and, by any objective standards, the goings-on were more newsworthy than, say, coverage of promotional efforts by the Nets. After all, also taking the stand was the current mayor of Yonkers, Mike Spano, a former lobbyist for Forest City.

And the Times, presumably, has unfettered space online in its CityRoom blog.

...

It seemed even more curious after a look at the print paper Friday. There, at the bottom of A22, a page devoted to metropolitan coverage, was a house ad (right) for the Times. Such house ads are typically used to fill space when there's no paying ad or article to take precedence.

Had the Metro desk prepared another news article for print, it could have fit in that space. But it didn't.

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Posted by steve at 5:44 PM

February 25, 2012

Betsy Gotbaum's birthday present for Bruce Ratner: a letter to the Times

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum wrote that fawning letter to the New York Times last month defending Bruce Ratner from the slings and arrows of columnist Michael Powell?

Well, it was published on Wednesday, 1/18/12, and thus made a nice--if unintended as such--birthday present for Ratner. I just noticed that the New York Post reported 1/20/12 on its Page Six gossip column:

We hear...
That Bruce Ratner, developer of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for the Nets, had a surprise birthday party at Stand Up New York on West 78th Street on Wednesday. Marty Markowitz and wife Jamie, Betsy Gotbaum, journo Lizzy Ratner (Bruce’s daughter) and Fox News’ Ellen Ratner (his sister) were among a group of 30.

So, Markowitz and his wife made the top 30?

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NoLandGrab: Marty achieved his top 30 status by taking a big "number two" all over Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Posted by steve at 11:09 PM

Ex-Yonkers Council Member: "Forest City Ratner games the system and does not play by the rules"

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the New York City press was surprisingly quiet on Friday regarding the Yonkers corruption trial--only one mainstream article, from the Post, though the Times had two reporters in the audience--but the Journal News, which covers Yonkers and the region, at least has been giving the issue, and the trial, steady coverage.

Today the Journal News offers an overview article on the developer, Forest City known for tough political skills around region. The toughest critic is a local:

Forest City Ratner has “little or no regard for public opinion,” said John Murtagh, a former Yonkers councilman and opponent of the Ridge Hill project who recently testified in the trial. “Their entire business model is to exploit every tax loophole and taxpayer-funded subsidy that they can. Promise the world and deliver far less, and do it all by manipulation.”

Among those praising the company is Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, D-Brooklyn, who helped arrange the developer's meeting with Zehy Jereis, who's charged with bribing Council Member Sandy Annabi to get Ridge Hill passed, and soon got a no-show job with the developer: “The company is a good one as far as I’m concerned. They definitely have a good track record as developers as far as efficiency and getting things done.”

But efficiency and getting things done also have to do with tactics, and I'm quoted in the article as saying, “Forest City Ratner, however community-friendly it aims to appear, plays hardball when it counts.”

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Posted by steve at 11:04 PM

Forest City known for tough political skills around region

The Journal News

When the federal corruption trial of a former Yonkers councilwoman and her political operative cousin continues next week, testimony from Forest City Ratner Cos. executives could shine a light on alleged backroom financial dealings.

In the bribery trial of Sandy Annabi and former Republican leader Zehy Jereis, Scott Cantone, senior vice president for government and public relations for Forest City Ratner, already has testified that the developer provided Jereis with a $60,000 consulting job after he arranged a meeting with Annabi. Following the meeting, Annabi changed her vote to approve the company’s Ridge Hill retail and residential complex.

Cantone’s testimony may continue next week, and if you believe court filings and a trail of critics from Brooklyn to Yonkers, the allegations and political maneuvering are business as usual for Forest City Ratner. The development company’s politically connected millionaire chief executive, Bruce Ratner, has proven adept at facing down opposition to get what he wants.

Forest City Ratner has “little or no regard for public opinion,” said John Murtagh, a former Yonkers councilman and opponent of the Ridge Hill project who recently testified in the trial. “Their entire business model is to exploit every tax loophole and taxpayer-funded subsidy that they can. Promise the world and deliver far less, and do it all by manipulation.”

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Posted by steve at 10:59 PM

Citibank and Barclays: Condemn Uganda’s 'Kill the Gays' Bill

Change.org

Barclays Bank has been no friend to Brooklyn by sponsoring the new Nets Arena, but maybe they can be encouraged to be responsible elsewhere.

Ugandan legislators have re-introduced the dangerous Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a proposed law that would criminalize homosexuality in the country with extreme penalties. Under this proposed law, LGBT people could be killed or sentenced to life in prison, solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As the bill’s author, David Bahati, has said, he believes the government of Uganda should “kill every last gay person.” (1)

Citibank and Barclays -- two of the largest banks in the world -- have major operations in Uganda. Citibank has nearly $300 million in assets invested Uganda, and is a major leader in a U.S. Chamber of Commerce based in Kampala, Uganda’s capital.

Barclays is Uganda’s third largest bank, with more than 1,000 employees in the country and 51 branches throughout the nation.

Citibank and Barclays are also well known for supporting their LGBT employees and protecting their employees and customers from anti-gay discrimination. Citibank is a huge supporter of LGBT groups in the United States, and has received a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. And just last week, Barclays was named the most LGBT-friendly company in all of Scotland, and regularly is ranked as one of the best companies for LGBT people to work for in the world.

With the “Kill the Gays” bill looming in Uganda’s parliament, Citibank and Barclays have unique and necessary voices that could help stop this bill in its tracks. Their presence in Uganda is significant, and their voices in opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill could have a profound impact in keeping LGBT people safe in Uganda.

Ask Citibank and Barclays to publicly condemn Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill, and send a loud message to Ugandan legislators that criminalizing homosexuality with lifetime prison sentences and the death penalty won’t be supported by major international businesses.

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Posted by steve at 10:55 PM

February 24, 2012

Before a Dribble, Real Estate Scores Points

The Wall Street Journal
by Kavita Mokha

For Sharon Davidson, whose job includes encouraging businesses to set up shop in downtown Brooklyn, there is no difficulty in pinpointing the biggest change in her work.

"Five years ago, it was difficult to get anyone to rent in this district," said Ms. Davidson, executive director of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District. "Now with the arena, the rents have doubled and I get calls from people who want to move to this area."

The arena, of course, is Barclays Center, the future home of the New Jersey Nets that is scheduled to open in September. But the complex, part of a larger planned business and residential development, has already touched off a significant spurt in commercial and residential real-estate activity spreading out from the junction of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

"On every corridor and street that leads to the arena, there is a rush for retail space," said Paul Zumoff, an agent with Corcoran Group and an area resident.

Not everyone is happy about the gentrification bonanza, however.

"It's great for the landlord—it's like they found oil," said Sury Mukherjee, owner of Mondini Fashion, a clothing store that has been on Pacific Street for 33 years. "The arena will bring more business here, but some of us will be outta here by then."

Mr. Mukherjee added that he didn't have a long-term lease and has been told to expect a four-month termination notice from his landlord.
...

And while some local area residents welcome the changes in the pipeline, others remain skeptical.

"I moved here five years ago because it had a family vibe to it," said 35-year-old Marta Betancourt, a graphic designer who lives on Flatbush Avenue with her husband and two children. "I'm not sure how the neighborhood will absorb a Madison Square Garden-type complex smack in the middle of it."

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NoLandGrab: Actually, the North Flatbush Avenue BID covers the stretch from Atlantic Avenue to Plaza Street, not "downtown Brooklyn," which begins north of Atlantic.

Related coverage...

Crain's NY Business, Barclays Center is a slam dunk for real estate

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Official: Annabi meeting led to job

The Journal News
by Jonathan Bandler

The meeting Jereis arranged got Annabi to switch her vote and eventually led the company to give Jereis a $60,000 consulting contract, a Forest City Ratner official testified Thursday in the federal corruption trial of Annabi and Jereis.

Scott Cantone, senior vice president for government and public relations, said officials were worried about how hiring Jereis would look so soon after the deciding vote and were concerned about what he could actually do for them.

But still they gave him the job, which, as it turned out, he was not very proficient. Jereis didn’t provide any good leads for new retail development and only filed the reports they required of him months later after it was publicly revealed he was under investigation, Cantone said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Halperin asked the executive what the company had gotten from Jereis.

“Aside from providing access to Sandy Annabi, nothing at all,” Cantone replied.

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NoLandGrab: In which case, they got everything they expected — and needed.

Related coverage...

NY Post, ‘No-$how’ Ratner woe

An executive for one of New York City’s top developers testified yesterday that the firm handed a Yonkers political crony what amounted to a $5,000-a-month no-show job.

Some people might call that a "$5,000-a-month bribe."

Forest City Ratner – whose Big Apple projects include Brooklyn’s controversial Atlantic Yards development – hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing but is featured in the fed’s ongoing Yonkers corruption case.

Scott Cantone, FCR’s senior VP for government affairs, testified in Manhattan federal court that the firm hired then-Yonkers Republican Party chairman Zehy Jereis as a “consultant” in 2006 because Jereis was the only one who could swing a key vote their way to push through a stalled $650 million mixed-use development called “Ridge Hill.”

The Real Deal, Forest City Ratner testifies it paid political insider to swing vote on Westchester development

Though Forest City Ratner is not charged with any wrongdoing, this marks the second recent corruption case, after the Sen. Carl Kruger trial in December, in which the developer has been named.

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

Atlantic Yards: Beyond Barclays

City Limits

Here's a brief Atlantic Yards photo essay.

What came next was eight years and counting of very public neighborhood strife: protests and lawsuits by residents angered at the use of tax dollars and state eminent domain powers to tear down two city blocks of buildings to benefit a private developer; accusations and counterclaims in the wake of Ratner signing a "community benefits agreement" to promise jobs and affordable housing to local groups in exchange for their endorsing the project.

All that—aside from a few straggling lawsuits — is done now, and the Barclays Center basketball arena is now taking shape at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush, with its grand opening set for this September.

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Photo: Pearl Gabel

Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

FCR's Cantone testifies: defendant Jereis probably wouldn't have gained no-show job had he not gotten defendant Annabi's vote switch on Ridge Hill; also, Brooklyn Assemblyman Lentol played key cameo

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder files a must-read report from the Ridge Hill corruption trial.

Yesterday, in a Lower Manhattan federal courtroom, developer Forest City Ratner was for the first time forced to publicly explain its dubious role in the machinations that provoked the ongoing corruption trial centered around Yonkers.

Forest City has not been charged, but the developer was arguably a bigger beneficiary than the two defendants: ex-Council Member Sandy Annabi, charged with taking bribes to approve two projects, one of them FCR's Ridge Hill, or her distant cousin Zehy Jereis, charged with funneling her some $174,000 in cash and gifts, essentially keeping her on retainer.

Forest City hired Jereis in 2006 for a virtual no-show job not long after Annabi had switched her stance to approve Ridge Hill, an 81-acre, $650 million development with 1.3 million square feet of retail, plus residential and office space.

Jereis, Annabi's political mentor, after organizing a meetings between her and the developer and then getting her on board, then pestered Forest City Ratner for a job.

Yes, it "was certainly a concern" for him that Annabi might not change her vote in the absence of an immediate job for Jereis, Ratner executive Scott Cantone testified yesterday.

But FCR wouldn't agree to it. "We thought, optically, it would look bad," Cantone said, noting that "we had really just met Zehy Jereis."

At the end of the day's questioning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Carbone asked a pointed question: "If Zehy Jereis had not produced Sandy Annabi's vote, would he have been hired by Forest City Ratner?"

"It's hard to say, but probably not," responded Cantone, Senior VP for Government and Political Affairs, in the matter-of-fact tones that marked his testimony.

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NoLandGrab: When do they get to the part where FCR "isn't suspected of any wrongdoing," 'cause we're not really getting that from Cantone's testimony.

Posted by eric at 12:48 AM

February 23, 2012

FCRC covers dirt mountain three weeks late, offers creative interpretation of air quality policy

Atlantic Yards Watch

More than three weeks after it was created, a mountain of dirt the last two construction updates stated "will be completely covered" was finally covered last night.

The lack of covering has been a real concern to nearby residents because of the hazard dust will migrate from the stockpiled material. Dust did blow from a similar pile over the summer. Winter weather conditions, especially this winter, are erratic and do not reliably suppress dust.
...

Until this week, no water misting was observed on the pile or during unloading. Further, the stipulation in the MEC to mist during unloading is not cited in FCRC and ESDC's statement.

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Posted by eric at 1:32 PM

In court, former Yonkers Council Member explains why she resisted Forest City's plan: "I truly believe that Ridge Hill had been given a sweetheart deal"

Atlantic Yards Report

An additional $10 million pledge by Forest City, on a project that could cost nearly $700 million, was under scrutiny yesterday.

Was it, as Annabi contends, significant enough to sway her vote and the best deal available, or was it a drop in the bucket? “It was essentially meaningless,” former Council Member John Murtagh said, according to the Journal News.

Former Yonkers Council Member Dee Barbato spoke similarly, using a term common in the Atlantic Yards debate: "I truly believe that Ridge Hill had been given a sweetheart deal."

With Annabi, the two Council Members represented the opposition to the project, and Forest City had to get at least one of them to change their vote.

(The trial continues at 9:30 am with former Council Member Dennis Robertson, who is expected to testify that a Forest City lobbyist told him that Jereis would ensure Annabi's vote if he got a consulting contract. Former Forest City Ratner officials Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone may testify at some point reasonably soon. In the courtroom yesterday afternoon, when I attended, was Forest City's designated lurker.)

Paying the fair share

For the size of the project, at some 80 acres, "the developer really should have and could have paid the appropriate fair share of property taxes," declared Barbato, who represents the district that includes the project.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Halperin asked her to ballpark a figure. The Cross County Shopping Center, Barbato said, was about one-third the size of Ridge Hill and pays $3 million or so in PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes).

Forest City's property tax pledge, $1.2 million, "was just not sufficient," Barbato said. Based on the Cross County example, Forest City should be paying $9 to $10 million a year--over 30 years.

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Related coverage...

The Journal News, 2 Ridge Hill foes testify on Sandy Annabi's vote

Dee Barbato was driving over the Tappan Zee Bridge one day in June 2006 when her colleague on the Yonkers City Council, Sandy Annabi, called her to say she had changed her mind and would vote in favor of one of the biggest developments in the city’s history, the $650 million Ridge Hill project.

“It’s like one of those moments, ‘Where were you when Kennedy was shot?’ ” Barbato recalled Wednesday on the witness stand at the federal corruption trial of Annabi and Zehy Jereis. “My response was: ‘Oh Sandy. Oh no. Don’t do that.’”
...

Barbato and Murtagh both testified Wednesday that they had no idea that Annabi had a financial relationship with Jereis, a former chairman of the Yonkers Republican Party, and that Jereis was getting a consulting job with the developer.

Posted by eric at 12:49 PM

Forest City, via state agency, says pile of dirt's OK because only periodic misting is required. But what about the promise to cover it with filter fabric?

Atlantic Yards Report

So, what does Empire State Development, the state agency in charge of Atlantic Yards, have to say about the massive pile of uncovered dirt on Block 1129, the southeast block of the project site, identified by Atlantic Yards Watch?

I got a response that seemed, from the syntax, to have been prepared by Forest City Ratner and simply passed on by the state agency:

In accordance with the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments [p. 19], section N, Part 4, subpart (a), item (iv), we have maintained dust control of the soil stockpile at block 1129 via water misting. Due to the favorable ambient weather conditions only a periodic misting has been required. Dust monitoring has been in place, as it always is, and no monitors showed any dust events during this period, nor did our on-site OEM [Office of Environmental Monitor] personnel witness any dust events during this period. When the construction of the stockpile is complete it remains the intention of the contractors involved to switch to a cover as means of dust control until the soil is utilized for backfill.

What about the cover?

Even if we take that at face value, given that AYW reports that dust is a common by-product of construction, what to make of the promises in the last two two-week Construction Alerts, beginning with the week of January 30:

Backfill Storage

In order to work more efficiently within the Yard, we will stockpile excess soil required for backfilling the site in our lay down area adjacent to Pacific St in block 1129. The pile will be completely covered with filter fabric and additional measures will be used to prevent run off of soil into Pacific St. We expect the soil, which is non-hazardous, to remain in place until mid-April.

(Emphasis added)

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Posted by eric at 12:38 PM

THE MASTER AND MIKHAIL

Are Putin and Prokhorov running for President against or with each other?

The New Yorker
by Julia Ioffe

On December 24, 2011, Mikhail Prokhorov—banking and mining billionaire, N.B.A. team owner, international playboy, and Russia's third-richest man—set out to be among the people. A crowd of about eighty thousand had come out to Moscow's Sakharov Avenue to demand free elections to lambaste Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
...
The urban professionals who made up the core of the Moscow protests have come to despise Putin, and they generally despise Communists. But they also don't have much love for Prokhorov. For most of them, he is a Kremlin stooge, taking orders from Putin, his ostensible opponent. According to this theory, which Prokhorov denies, his campaign is roughly equivalent to what would happen in Barack Obama persuaded T. Boone Pickens to run as an independent, in order to siphon votes from the actual Republican nominee.

The story on the Nets' owner's phony Russian presidential campaign contains some additional entertaining tidbits.

For one, like everyone else involved with the Nets and Atlantic Yards, Proky doesn't need sleep — until now:

"No, no, I'm not wilting," Prokhorov said, when I remarked on his posture. "I'm just catching up on sleep. I'm sleeping seven hours a night now! Before, it was four or five."

Of course, just because Proky's in bed, doesn't mean he's sleeping.

In general, Prokhorov is unapologetic about his predilections. ("How will I become president without a first lady?" he recently wrote on his Facebook page. "Let me tell you a secret: I had my first lady when I was seventeen.")

Ba-dum-ching.

Speaking of shtupping, Proky could maybe use marketing genius Brett Yormark's help with his Russian version of the Toyota Prius:

He began investing in high-tech and nanotechnology projects, which were being pushed by the Kremlin in its drive to diversify the Russian economy. One of these ventures is a Russian-made hybrid vehicle whose name, to the Russian ear, sounds like "Fuck-Mobile." Putin gave it a spin last spring and praised it as "a totally new product" with an "attention-grabbing" name.

article [Full access requires subscription]

Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

Atlantic Yards

Amplified NY

A construction worker in Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn is seen through the fabric slit of a fence on December 3, 2010.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Chris Farling (zlandr)

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Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

Barclays Center could be a good fit for Isles

Newsday
by Neil Best

Except for the fact that the Barclays Center's ice rink doesn't actually fit in the Barclays Center. But let's never mind reality.

Barclays Center was built primarily by and for the Nets, but as the arena takes its final shape, another potential use has become clearer than ever.

Evident around the perimeter of the arena floor in the heart of Brooklyn is the outline of a hockey rink, the one that on Oct. 2 will host the first sports event in the building -- an Islanders preseason game against the Devils.

That game inevitably has prompted speculation the site could be a landing place for the Islanders after their lease at Nassau Coliseum expires in 2015. It is too soon to assess the likelihood of such a move; it is not too soon to assess the arena's ability to accommodate it.

"That, physically, is easy to accomplish,'' said Bob Sanna, an executive vice president of Forest City Ratner who is in charge of construction. He said the building always was designed with a regulation rink in mind and has plenty of locker room space to house a home team.

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NoLandGrab: Three weeks ago in The New York Times: "Mr. Sanna said the construction team would also have to design additional locker rooms for hockey players."

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

The Three Things The Nets Can Do To Survive in Brooklyn

The Sports Fan Journal
by Jason Clinkscales

Bruce Ratner purchased a seemingly distressed property, dressed it up for staging purposes and sold a majority of it in record fashion within a few years.

Bruce Ratner essentially flipped the New Jersey Nets.

Whoa! Stop right there. "Distressed?" The New Jersey Nets were two-time defending NBA Eastern Conference Champions. Distress only set in once Ratner bought the team as the necessary Trojan horse in his land-grabbing scheme.

We’re still months away from seeing Brooklyn Nets merchandise, as the Nets are playing out the string in Newark. However, there are a few things the Nets need to do once they arrive in The City’s most boisterous borough in order to not only make headlines, but to finally build a permanent identity.
...

The truth is that the future Brooklyn Nets are going to struggle for a while. They very well might struggle for another thirty-five years, despite their new home. This is a franchise that has had brief periods of success couched under generations of mismanagement, disinterest and just plain bad luck. There are plenty of examples of franchises that have experienced the same small peaks and deep valleys, but a handful of them have been able overcome their history. We don’t know how the Nets will buck or follow the trend, but they’re giving themselves a decent shot by embracing Brooklyn. However, what remains to be seen is how Brooklyn itself will embrace the Nets.

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Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

Planned parking-free apartments near Barclays Center stoke fear

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

A developer promises he’s doing the community a favor by not including parking at his planned 55-unit apartment building across the street from the Barclays Center, but Prospect Heights residents say he’s only making things worse.

Martin Domansky claims he wants to do away with required on-site parking at his proposed apartment building on Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street to discourage car owners from moving to the traffic-clogged streets near the soon-to-be-finished home of the Brooklyn Nets.

“We want to make it a better neighborhood,” said Domansky, who is planning a $20-million five-story luxury rental complex that will replace the blue, triangle-shaped Bergen Tile factory, which closed in 2008.

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NoLandGrab: Domansky is exactly right. A parking-free building will attract people who don't have or want to own cars. Build parking, and the cars — and congestion — will follow.

Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

Nix on the Knicks Puns, Please

NY Observer, Editorial

Lin-fidelity?

Not that we’re the only ones with our eye on Number 17: Jay-Z and Beyonce made a rare public appearance last week to a Knicks game, despite the fact that Sean Carter had previously announced a change in his allegiances to the New Jersey Nets (soon to be Brooklyn Nets), of which he is part owner along with Mikhail Prokhorov and Bruce Ratner. He’s already told Knicks fans to start trading in their hats and turn their attention to worshiping Kris Humphries but maybe that doesn’t officially kick in until next season.

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Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

February 22, 2012

FCR's Bender mentioned in first day of Ridge Hill trial testimony: he was at two key meetings regarding defendant Annabi's changed vote

Atlantic Yards Report

Former Yonkers Council Member John Murtagh, testifying yesterday in the federal corruption trial involving Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project, described the presence of (recently departed) Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender at a couple of key meetings before then-Council Member Sandy Annabi, a defendant in the trial, changed her vote to approve the project.
...

The first Bender meeting

According to the report, Murtagh described a May 18, 2006, meeting at Westchester Country Club with Annabi, Council Member Dee Barbato, Forest City Ratner's Bender, and FCR lobbyist Albert Pirro:

“They weren’t conceding any of our positions, what we needed,” Murtagh said. “It kind of went nowhere.”

In the parking lot afterward, he said, Annabi told him and Barbato that if they stuck together they could get much more from the developer.

But a few weeks later Annabi had changed her mind in exchange for an extra $10 million the developer would give the city.

Lobbyist Pirro, he said, had previously made a similar proposal, which he thought inadequate. The "extra $10 million," of course, was Annabi's public rationale, while prosecutors say she was taking money from her distant cousin, Yonkers Republican Chair Zehy Jereis, who later got a no-show job from Forest City.

The second Bender meeting

On July 11, 2006, shortly before Annabi formally voted for the project, Murtagh was called by defendant Jereis to a meeting:

He met Jereis and Bender at a Starbucks on Central Avenue, and Jereis, who did most of the talking, told him Ridge Hill was going to pass and that it would look good politically for Murtagh to vote for it as well.

“I kind of figured it looked better for Sandy if two people changed their vote,” Murtagh told Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Halperin. “But to suddenly change my vote, far from being politically savvy, it would have been political suicide.”

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Related content...

The Journal News, Witnesses testify of Sandy Annabi's spending: Rolex watch, diamond necklace

The summer of 2006 was a busy time for Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi.

She ended more than a year of opposition by voting in favor of the controversial Ridge Hill development. And she went on a bit of a spending spree, paying $7,100 for a Rolex watch and diamond necklace and more than $3,800 to fly business class to Jordan, witnesses testified Tuesday at the corruption trial of Annabi and Zehy Jereis.

Prosecutors contend the money came from a $20,000 bribe Annabi received to support another proposed development.

Talk of the Sound, New Rochelle City Council Approves $600,000 Borrowing to Pay for Design Work on Proposed City Yard on Beechwood Avenue

Despite numerous reservations about the wisdom of moving the Department of Public Works City Yard, the New Rochelle City Council voted 6-1 last night to approve borrowing $600,000 to finance the design phase of the proposed City Yard on Beechwood Avenue. The City will issue bonds to raise the money.
...

Many New Rochelle residents have expressed skepticism over what they perceive to be self-serving studies intended to justify decisions made by city officials who want to move the yard at taxpayer expense to benefit Forest City Ratner. The Ratner family has donated over $10,000 to Mayor Noam Bramson.

Posted by eric at 1:05 PM

Ratner in talks for 100,000 s/f space

Real Estate Weekly
by Sarah Trefethen

Forest City Ratner is in talks to lease a 100,000 s/f factory space at the Brooklyn Navy Yards.

The facility would be the manufacturing hub for pre-fabricated modules the developer wants to use to build on the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn.
...

The first of the 14 residential buildings planned for the site is a 32-story, 350-unit tower scheduled to begin construction this spring.

They mean "scheduled," in quotes.

FCR spokesman Joe DePlasco said the Navy Yards was one of three possible sites the company was considering for a factory base.

Joey from Cobble Hill always tells it straight up, so that's good enough for us.

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Posted by eric at 12:52 PM

New Nets arena shaping up

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

“This is that magic time when the building really begins to take shape, so that you can finally feel it’s an arena,” said Bob Sanna, executive vice president for construction at Forest City Ratner Cos., developer of the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets’ 18,000-seat arena.

Yes, magical.

Although it will be months before the Nets' future hardwood-playing floor is installed, much of the arena's interior is starting to shape up.

Premium seats are now being installed in the arena’s lower bowl. The upper-bowl’s seating is already complete, along with the lower and upper concourses.

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Photo: Paul Martinka/NY Post

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Post: arena "still on schedule to open in September" (but that schedule's less than a month old)

In the New York Post's Brooklyn blog, New Nets arena shaping up, Rich Calder reports today:

Workers earlier this month buttoned up the top of the under-construction Barclays Center in Prospect Heights by completing its steel-roof deck, and they also recently began insulating the rooftop and waterproofing it with a light-gray covering.

...[Forest City executive Bob] Sanna during an interview with the Post yesterday said about 35 percent of the 188,425-square-foot roof is complete and that Barclays Center is still on schedule to open in September.

“We got lucky with the warm weather we've been having. You usually aren't able to get roofers on a roof in February,” said Sanna.

Yes, the warm weather does eliminate certain potential construction challenges. But "on schedule to open in September" is a bit incomplete, given that only this month was the substantial completion date pushed back from late August to early September.

Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

Brooklyn Broadside: Downtown Building Boom Could Be a Planning Nightmare

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Look who's just catching on — sort of.

The Steiner brothers’ announcement last week of their plans to build a large apartment building in Downtown Brooklyn has prompted a review of what’s been built, what is being constructed and what is being planned.

The result is astonishing. Within a 2-square-mile area that includes the Downtown core and part of Fort Greene down to Atlantic Avenue, 7,362 new residential units will soon be going up. As we show later, many additional potential and intended units are excluded from that number.
...

Take out a map and walk around this general area. Look at the narrow sidewalks and narrow streets and imagine the infrastructure — telephone lines, gas mains, water mains — that was designed for a much smaller population.

Look and you won’t find the number of schools that probably will be needed for all the newcomers. Think of all the retail services that aren’t there now but will be needed. Check out bus routes and schedules, traffic patterns, and so much else.

There is an obvious conclusion. A heck of a lot more needs to be done than to just build 50-story buildings.

Oh, really? That kind of talk sounds an awful lot like what critics of Atlantic Yards — a project Holt can't get enough of — have been saying for years.

I have excluded the Atlantic Yards project, whose plan originally called for 6,400 housing units, both because most of the project is outside the 2-square-mile area and because there is no real estimate of how many residential units will in fact be built.

Um, Bruce Ratner's plan still calls for 6,400 housing units.

We are creating a whole new core city. Have city planners thought through all this? Somebody better do so before we find a mess on our hands.

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NoLandgrab: You can't make this stuff up.

Posted by eric at 12:23 PM

February 21, 2012

A celebration Thursday of the life of the late Marie Louis, of BUILD, and a fundraiser for her children

Atlantic Yards Report

Marie Louis, Chief Operating Officer of BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), died late last year, at 39. On Thursday, there's a celebration of her life and a fundraiser for her children.

Click through for the details.

link

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

When did the Barclays Center lose out on the 2013 NBA All-Star game? Maybe back in April 2011. Why 2014 may be in question, too.

Atlantic Yards Report

After the Barclays Center began construction in 2010, with an expected opening for basketball in October 2012, there was some speculation that the new Brooklyn arena could host the NBA All-Star game and the surrounding weekend festivities in February 2013.

Take, for example, a 2/22/11 piece headlined Will Brooklyn, Nets Be Ready To Host The NBA All-Star Game? by Barry Janoff on NYSportsJournalism.com:

Even without Carmelo Anthony, there is an all-star coming to the NBA's Nets in the near future — either the 2013 or 2014 NBA All-Star Game.

But two key questions may not be answered for several months: Will the Nets' new venue, Barclays Center in Brooklyn be completed as scheduled in 2012? And will the arrival of Anthony with the New York Knicks tip the All-Star Game scales in favor of Madison Square Garden?

Well, the arena likely will be completed--just barely--in time for the scheduled 9/28/12 opening, with a Jay-Z concert.

But delays along the way likely were enough to take 2013 out of the running. And they might even affect 2014.
...

Just last week, the NBA unveiled Houston as the host city for the 2013 All-Start Game, leading Janoff to write that "[t]here is strong speculation that the 2014 All-Star Game could be played in Brooklyn, NY." It also could be held in a renovated Madison Square Garden.

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Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

February 20, 2012

What's going on here? Your basic truck carrying unknown cargo idling on a residential street on the way to the arena site

Atlantic Yards Report

What's going on here? As Atlantic Yards Watch documented on the morning of Friday, 2/17/12, flaggers on (privatized) Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues apparently let a delivery truck bound for the Barclays Center site advance onto residential Pacific Street west of Carlton.

It idled more than 20 minutes in the street, as if double-parking. The contents? Apparently "unknown barrels of chemicals."

link

NoLandGrab: Conversely, they might just be getting ready to test the arena's deep fryers.

Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

Yonkers corruption trial to offer look inside Westchester politics

Ridge Hill probe likely to call many lawmakers and builders to testify

The Journal News
by Jonathan Bandler

The Yonkers federal corruption trial set to continue Tuesday will offer a rare behind-the-scenes look into a world of closed-door politics and lucrative development deals.

The trial of former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and her cousin Zehy Jereis will feature cameo appearances by lawmakers, political fixers, super-rich builders and even a disbarred lawyer.

As many as six current and former members of the City Council could testify, as could new Mayor Mike Spano; a former Yonkers mayor, Westchester’s county executive and New York lieutenant governor, Alfred DelBello; and four executives from Forest City Ratner, the developer of the $650 million Ridge Hill development for which Annabi cast the deciding vote despite her earlier staunch opposition to the project.
...

Jurors also will hear about four executives from the Ridge Hill developer – Bruce Bender, Scott Cantone, Richard Pesin and John Swagerty – some or all of whom will testify. Bender and Cantone recently left Forest City Ratner to start their own consulting firm.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Testimony in Yonkers corruption trial, including Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project, begins tomorrow

The defense in both cases for Annabi is that the developers changed the projects so as to remove her objections. However, as the article concludes:

Ridge Hill drew much criticism from Annabi in her first term in office, particularly that the developer, which she famously once called “probably richer than God,” was getting too much in tax breaks. She, John Murtagh and Dee Barbato were the three opponents on the council. That ordinarily would not have been enough to defeat the project, except that Ridge Hill needed zoning changes that required a supermajority. Halperin said Annabi, after one meeting on the Ridge Hill project, turned to Murtagh and Barbato and essentially told them “(the developers) need five votes — if we stay strong we can win this.”

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

February 19, 2012

A tougher road than expected for expanding Barclays; no implications (yet) for Brooklyn promotional efforts

Atlantic Yards Report

So, the banking firm plastering its name on the Brooklyn arena is hitting a rough patch, at least in Europe. In a 2/9/12 article headlined Barclays Falls Short of Big Dreams, the Wall Street Journal reported:

In June 2009, top Barclays PLC executive Robert Diamond laid out an ambitious plan for the venerable British bank "to be the premier global investment bank," a goal he hoped to achieve "over the next couple of years."
More than three years after Barclays absorbed Lehman Brothers' North American operations in a cut-price deal that represented a critical moment of the financial crisis, Barclays has yet to achieve the lofty goals set out by Mr. Diamond, now the bank's chief executive.
Despite making progress, the investment-banking division, called Barclays Capital, is making less money than executives predicted. In Europe, which Barclays targeted as a key growth area, it has struggled to win investment-banking assignments in the crucial areas of equities and mergers and acquisitions. It has fallen short of a goal to become a top-three player in those categories.

The strategy in the U.S. may be on more solid ground, but it's just the key part of the business, according to the firm's report of 2011 results, issued 2/10/12.

Still, if Barclays doesn't do better, who knows, maybe it will want to renegotiate, yet again, the naming rights agreement. Or place a greater priority on using the Barclays Center arena to boost its profile. Stay tuned.

link

Posted by steve at 10:46 PM

February 18, 2012

Mountain of soil grows on block 1129, creating dust hazard and violating environmental protocols

Atlantic Yards Watch

A 2 1/2 story tall mound of soil, described as backfill in the last two construction alerts (January 30 and February 13), has been uncovered on an ongoing basis since it was first created over two weeks ago. The mound is located in the staging area on block 1129 and continues to grow. The mound has a base of about 150 by 100 feet. The photo above on the left is the view from Vanderbilt Avenue toward the west. The photo to the right is the view south from the third story of a residential building on Dean Street.

Although the mound has never been covered, both construction alerts describe it as covered. They state, "the pile will be completely covered with filter fabric and additional measures will be used to prevent run off of soil onto Pacific Street." All stockpiled dry materials are required to be covered, water misted, or sprayed with non-hazardous suppression agent in the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (MEC).

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, What's up with the "mountain of soil" on Block 1129? A dust hazard and a violation of environmental protocols, apparently

Atlantic Yards Watch offers another disturbing dispatch, Mountain of soil grows on block 1129, creating dust hazard and violating environmental protocols:

A 2 1/2 story tall mound of soil, described as backfill in the last two construction alerts (January 30 and February 13), has been uncovered on an ongoing basis since it was first created over two weeks ago. The mound is located in the staging area on block 1129 and continues to grow. The mound has a base of about 150 by 100 feet. The photo above on the left is the view from Vanderbilt Avenue toward the west. The photo to the right is the view south from the third story of a residential building on Dean Street.

...

I'll check with Empire State Development, the state agency in charge of Atlantic Yards, to see if they have a comment.

Posted by steve at 10:55 PM

Arena facade work, as predicted, resumes on east side of structure

Atlantic Yards Report

A week ago, on 2/11/12, I wrote how there's a new schedule to install the pre-weathered lattice panels for the Barclays Center exterior, necessitated by the temporary shutdown of contractor ASI Limited.

And on 2/13/12 I noted that, according to the latest Construction Alert, façade panels at the uppermost elevation would be installed during "this reporting period and taking place on second shift."

Indeed, that's what's happened, according to photos and videos taken yesterday looking west at the arena from Pacific Street. The work is taking place on the east side of the structure, along Sixth Avenue between Atlantic Avenue at the north and Pacific Street (halfway down) at the south, extending all the way to Dean Street, the southern border.

link

Posted by steve at 10:52 PM

Metals in Construction, 2012 Facades Conference

A Daily Dose of Architecture

The high-minded architects of ShoP are proud to be tools of developer Bruce Ratner's.

After a schmooze break came Jonathan Mallie (below), principal at SHoP Architects and SHoP Construction. He presented three projects -- Botswana Innovation Hub, Barclays Center, B2 @ Atlantic Yards -- with the largest chunk of time focusing on Barclays, the stadium now under construction as part of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. It is wrapped by a skin of glass and weathering steel, which is being installed in "mega panels" that require lots and lots of help from software like Rhino, Grasshopper, and even a custom iPhone app to track construction progress. SHoP's presence at the conference must have been mandatory, since as architects they are trailblazers in exploiting collaboration in regards to digital fabrication. They are taking their accumulated knowledge and skill even higher with the modular prefab high rise of B2, but I'm not sure the architectural appeal of the carefully stacked boxes is as high as the skillfully covered stadium below.

NoLandGrab: Not mentioned was how the facade of community benefits used to justify eminent domain and governments subsidies continues to slide off of the Atlantic Yards project.

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Posted by steve at 10:43 PM

February 17, 2012

Brooklyn Cosmos? Full Frontal Sponsorship Options

The Denim Kit

The New York Cosmos are shopping for land in New York City for a new stadium and have not ruled out any of the 4 boroughs (sorry Staten Island).

The Cosmos? You mean, like, Pele? Circa 1977?

Now, let’s get ahead of ourselves here for a moment, its imprudent, but it sure is darn fun. A Brooklyn-based professional soccer team will need a Brooklyn-friendly sponsor to grace the front of their shirts. No ordinary sponsor will do.

Barclays: A more well-heeled, realistic option is Barclays, The British bank made a big splash in Brooklyn by sponsoring the new Arena for the Nets at Atlantic Yards. Since they are already supporting the return of professional sports to Brooklyn it would make sense for them to support a sport they know best. Barclays has, of course, been the title sponsor of the English Premier League since 1993 and is currently contracted to remain so through the 2012-13 season.

Um, no.

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NoLandGrab: In-the-know Atlantic Yards foes aren't likely to be assuaged by this option, either.

Posted by eric at 11:00 PM

Ridge Hill trial opens, but mystery persists regarding Forest City Ratner's role in compensating accused consultant who paid accused Council Member

Atlantic Yards Report

According to the opening statements yesterday by defense lawyers in a federal corruption trial, there are explanations for why Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi was given money by her distant cousin, Yonkers Republican Party Chair Zehy Jereis, and why she changed her vote to enable Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill development.

Jereis was infatuated with her, and Annabi believed that changes in the Ridge Hill project--retail, residential, and more--finally made it worthwhile.

The question is whether those arguments--presaged in pretrial papers--is whether they add up. After all, Annabi has denied the romantic relationship purported (or perhaps merely pursued) by Jereis. And, as previously reported, those changes in Ridge Hill were small beer.

Defense lawyers went after the go-between regarding the second project, Longfellow, Anthony Mangone, who already pleaded guilty to funneling cash to Jereis to pay off Annabi.

The question is whether and how they will go after Forest City, three of whose former staffers are expected to be mentioned or to testify in the trial, which is expected to resume Tuesday.

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Related coverage...

The New York Times, Prosecutor Tells How Ex-Yonkers Councilwoman Got Secret Payments

“Jereis made these secret payments to Annabi to influence and control her official conduct, so that he could in turn sell his control over Annabi to the highest bidder,” said the prosecutor, Jason P. W. Halperin.

Mr. Jereis repeatedly asked representatives of Forest City Ratner to hire him as a consultant, the prosecutor added, and Forest City Ratner ultimately gave him a $60,000 consulting contract after Ms. Annabi voted in favor of the Ridge Hill project.

True News, Criminal Lobbyists Who Win Approval or Obtain Government $$$ for His Projects

While the Feds says Forest City Ratner company has not broken the law, they say the lobbyists hired to get government favors have. If you believe that Ratner who won $750 million for his Atlantic Terminal Nets Stadium project in Brooklyn did not know what his lobbyists were doing you should apply for a job as a reporter in New York.

Deep Throat Said Follow the Money, So Why is Nobody Following Where Ratner's Lobbyist Got Their Bribe $$$ . . . Maybe They Donated It?

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

Bigger Slope historic district could curb development near arena

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

Preservationists and elected officials are pushing to expand Park Slope’s historic district — a move that could protect the neighborhood’s charm amidst a predicted wave of development sparked by the soon-to-open Barclays Center.

Councilmen Steve Levin (D–Park Slope) and Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) are throwing their weight behind a longstanding Park Slope Civic Council effort to extend the community’s already substantial landmark district to include 12 blocks of buildings between Fifth and Sixth avenues bounded by Flatbush Avenue and President Street — effectively barring non-contextual construction in the neighborhood anywhere near the arena.

“For people who live nearby, this is a pretty important thing,” said Park Slope historian Francis Morrone, noting that stadiums rarely rise so close to buildings with so much history and unique style. “Without protection, there’s every reason to think [future development] would be inconsistent with the historic character.”
...

[Park Slope Civic Council Historic District Committee Chair Peter] Bray claims the landmarking push isn’t a direct response to scheduled opening of the Barclays Center, as the proposal has been in the works for years. But he says the historic zone would help if an arena-influenced wave of development hits Park Slope.

“It’s a tool for preserving architecture integrity, the character of the streetscape and quality of life — and Atlantic Yards has some bearing on that,” said Bray.

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Image: Brooklyn Paper

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Louder than ever

Your complete guide to the 9th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

Missoula Independent

Here's a tip for our many loyal readers in Big Sky Country — don't miss this award-winning doc.

Battle for Brooklyn

Big Sky audiences should already be familiar with the work of filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley. In 2004, the duo took top honors at the inaugural Big Sky Documentary Film Festival with Horns and Halos, the story behind a controversial George W. Bush biography that almost never saw the light of day. This year, they could win again for Battle for Brooklyn.

The new film doesn't hold the immediate sex appeal of a prominent presidential candidate and allegations of drug use. Brooklyn is about eminent domain. But the consequences of that wonky legal term, and the people who engage in a vicious fight to define its meaning, make for one powerful film.
...

Showing: Sat., Feb. 18, at 10:15 a.m., at the Wilma.

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Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Judicial Panel Skeptical of ESDC and Ratner in Atlantic Yards Courtroom Drama

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

On Tuesday the state and Forest City Ratner lamely argued their appeal in front of a NY State Appellate Court panel which was not buying their contorted arguments. They were appealing the case the community won in which it was ruled that they are required to do a new environmental review for the bulk of the Atlantic Yards project.

Here is a round up of the court room drama...

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Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

February 16, 2012

NYT columnist Powell: FCR's Bender, Cantone (who just left) could testify or be mentioned in Ridge Hill trial

Atlantic Yards Report

Times columnist Michael Powell, who's been writing about Forest City Ratner's curious role in both Brooklyn and Yonkers--unindicted but behaving questionably--this morning offered this tweet:

That would be Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone, who just left the company because--as one associate airily spun--it's "simply time to go." Richard Pesin, who oversaw the Ridge Hill project as head of retail, left in January 2011.

link

NoLandGrab: Time to go, alright... to jail.

Posted by eric at 11:30 PM

City Limits package on Atlantic Yards: Bertha Lewis accepts Forest City's failure to live up to housing promises, still thinks AY will live up to its billing

Atlantic Yards Report

City Limits, via its new Brooklyn Bureau, has published a package of stories on Atlantic Yards. While the package serves as a reasonable overview, recognizing considerable uncertainty about neighborhood impacts and jobs/reveneus, the publication--with some contributors new to the project--misses the chance to dig in some ways.

Take Traffic, Noise & Hope: Atlantic Yards Still Elicits Mixed Views. Of course it does: residents living near the arena are understandably alarmed by the prospect of a surface parking lot and traffic, while business owners, however dismayed by construction, understandably welcome new crowds.

That's not the issue. The issue is whether the state, in overriding zoning to squeeze this project into the northern section of Prospect Heights, bordering--at least on two edges--a residential district, bent over backwards too much for developer Forest City Ratner.

That's what the battle February 14 in court--unmentioned in this package--was all about.

False framing on housing issue

The article headlined Opinions Harden Over Atlantic Yards Housing could better have been framed, perhaps as "Forest City Ratner Reneges on Promises, Maintains Support from Advocate Lewis (Who Owes Them)."

This issue is not "opinions" but accountability.

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Related content...

Here are some excerpts from The Brooklyn Bureau's package, which suffers from a good bit of redundancy among the individual pieces.

The Brooklyn Bureau, Opinions Harden Over Atlantic Yards Housing

Facts be damned, Bertha Lewis continues to blame everybody but herself and Bruce Ratner.

Rather than cast aspersions on the community benefits agreement, former ACORN head Bertha Lewis blames economic conditions and litigation for reshaping the Atlantic Yards deal.
...

“What we should have done is allow those in power to negotiate for us and pat us on our heads,” said Lewis. “Deal after deal, one agreement after another, if you don’t have someone overlooking that, things happen.”

Um, what?

Lewis says she speaks with Ratner two or three times a month. She sometimes frames the housing issue in racial terms, claiming that some who opposed the Community Benefits Agreement privately lambasted the idea of having a “high-rise ghetto.” She remains convinced the project will live up to its billing.“You will see the first building go into the ground this year. We build housing, we don’t build arenas. If I didn’t believe [in this project] and to put faith with works, then what’s the point? No, I’m a true believer, so that’s why I’ve got to dig in every month.”

NoLandGrab: OK, Bertha, name names. We don't know anyone who has actively fought Atlantic Yards who was or is opposed to a large affordable-housing component. The community-supported UNITY Plan calls for a larger proportion of affordable units than that outlined in your so-called Community Benefits Agreement. Give up the race-baiting b.s., already.

The Brooklyn Bureau, Brooklyn's Arena Is Coming. What's Coming Next?

Lost in all the tabloid headlines has been a deeper question: Now that the first stage of Atlantic Yards is set to arrive, what will Brooklyn get for its near-decade of discord? What will the project—possibly the biggest single change to arrive in the borough since Robert Moses rammed the BQE through a half-dozen neighborhoods in the 1950s and 60s—mean for Brooklyn residents, workers, and businesses?

In some ways, the argument that Atlantic Yards prompt eight years ago persists today. The impact of the project on rents, businesses, the job market and quality of life is no clearer now because of the delays and uncertainty surrounding every aspect of the Ratner plan but the Nets arena.

The Brooklyn Bureau, Traffic, Noise & Hope: Atlantic Yards Still Elicits Mixed Views

As the opening approaches and the plan evolves, opponents of the project are claiming vindication. Business owners hold out hope for a silver lining amid what they say are mounting problems related to construction and traffic. And supporters of the project are curiously silent. BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), a group which initially supported the project and accepted funding for job training from Forest City Ratner, did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment. Once billed as a linchpin of community support for the Ratner plan, BUILD hasn't posted a new press release to its website since 2004.

The Brooklyn Bureau, Nets Arrive, Questions Remain At Atlantic Yards

Already, there are hopes (and fears) of the impact of 18,000 fans a night pouring out into the streets, bringing both spending money and noise and traffic to the neighboring brownstone blocks. At the same time, elected officials and construction workers are nervously eyeing the empty lots that remain around the arena, where promised — but as yet unscheduled — condo towers are supposed to provide both housing and some of the 25,000 new jobs that developer Bruce Ratner promised would result from his Atlantic Yards master plan.

"We get closer and closer to opening day, and there's so many things that we just don't know," says Robert Perris, district manager of Community Board 2, which abuts the Atlantic Yards development site on the north.

Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

Did Goldman, Sachs try to run the Brooklyn Arena LDC? It appeared so, but then an Investor Update call for today was canceled.

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, we knew that the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC), the entity set up to issue tax-free bonds for the arena, was little more than an alter ego of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), even though it is officially a "creation" of the Job Development Authority (JDA), another ESDC alter ego.

I was recently alerted to an Investor Update Call scheduled for today, apparently to alert arena bondholders on the progress of construction. The document, issued via the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, stated:

The Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation invites you to participate in an Investor Update Call related to the above-captioned transaction.

The RSVP went to a staffer at Goldman, Sachs.

Very curious

That sounded odd, given that the BALDC is a publicly created body, with board members appointed by public officials.

How could this be delegated to Goldman? Was the ESDC (also known simply as Empire State Development) involved?

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Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

Brooklyn Basketball Arena Nears Final Buzzer

Engineering News Record

A major design goal was to integrate the facility into the local bustle. It includes exterior views into the seating bowl, says Stephen Duethman, Midwest region managing principal for lead architect AECOM. "The whole dynamic of the interior is based on the industrial and nightlife theme, the feeling of the streets of Brooklyn," he adds.

That transparency was a feature of the original design, though little else of that eclectic vision remains other than Gehry's master plan for the Atlantic Yards. "The building had to be transparent and activate the street—not just a big blank wall," Sanna says.

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NoLandGrab: That view from the street into the arena is the only thing that's been transparent about the Atlantic Yards project. Case in point — the article's faulty parroting of this classic Forest City fallacy: "Opponents filed 37 lawsuits, none of which the developer has lost."

Related content...

News 12, via NBA.com, Barclays Center

Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

Jereis: Gifts to Annabi were for love, not bribes; judge limits use of emails

The Journal News
by Jonathan Bandler

For love? Yeah, the love of Bruce Ratner.

The $170,000 in cash and gifts Zehy Jereis gave former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi wasn’t a bribe to influence her vote.

It was a manifestation of his love for his cousin, he said — and he thinks a series of emails he sent Annabi can prove that to jurors at their federal corruption trial, which began Wednesday.

But U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon has severely limited how the jury might get to see the alleged romantic emails, if at all.

The suggestion that Jereis and Annabi had a social, not a political, relationship was made by the defense last year. But the exact nature of that relationship was never made clear. Annabi has told The Journal News in the past that the two were cousins.

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NoLandGrab: There's really nothing about this case that isn't creepy on some level.

Photo: Matthew Brown/The Journal News

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

Top 10 Greatest New York & New Jersey Nets

Uncle Mike's Musings

One can argue with Uncle Mike's greatest-player rankings, but the roster of worst Nets' owners of all time has an undisputed #1.

2. Jason Kidd, Number 5, guard, 2001-08. Few athletes have ever made as much difference to a team as Kidd did when he arrived in a trade with the Phoenix Suns for clubhouse cancer Stephon Marbury in 2001. Almost instantly, the Nets went from being one of the NBA’s joke franchises to being a genuine title contender. First season: Eastern Conference Champions. Second season: Same, and actually won 2 games in the NBA Finals. Third season: A 3rd straight Atlantic Division Championship. Fourth season…

Well, that’s when Bruce Ratner bought the team, and their fate was sealed. He instantly began the process of moving the Nets to Brooklyn, and the Nets became a lame-duck team, and have spent more seasons as such (7, 2005-12) than did the Montreal Expos (4, 2000-04). Despite another Division title in 2006, it was pretty much all over. Ratner broke up the team, and drove the fans away. The last Nets game I’ve attended had 12,000 people at the Meadowlands Arena – and this was when the San Antonio Spurs were in town, as defending champions, with Eva Longoria still married to the Spurs’ Tony Parker, and Nets part-owner Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce also in the front row. You’d think people would at least want to see them… Pretty soon, Kidd didn’t want to be there, either, and left under a cloud.

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Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

February 15, 2012

ESDC asks appellate court to deny full study of 25-year Atlantic Yards impacts (and alternatives); some judges skeptical, others wonder what harm it would do

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on yesterday's Atlantic Yards court hearing.

It was a somewhat uphill battle yesterday for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), asking a state appellate court panel to overturn a lower court’s order that the agency study the impact of a 25-year Atlantic Yards buildout, solicit public comment, and conduct a public hearing.

A couple of the five judges were clearly skeptical of the state, with one citing the ESDC's "obstinate adherence" to the long-professed ten-year buildout.

Others, taking in the objections from the defendants, questioned whether a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)--which would analyze those extended impacts and even consider alternatives to Phase 2, since as revising the project to diminish impacts or welcoming new developers--would really cause any harm.

Then again, questions from the bench do not necessarily indicate how a court will rule after analyzing the legal papers.

Atlantic Yards was approved in 2006, with a ten-year buildout, then revised in 2009, as Forest City reopened settled deals with the ESDC (regarding the timing of condemnations) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (regarding the payment of railyard development rights and the configuration of a replacement railyard), in order to save money.

As part of the 2009 approval, as the defendants stressed, the state did analyze the impacts of 15-year buildout (in the 2009 Technical Memorandum). In response to a lower court ruling by Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, the state produced a document (the 2010 Technical Analysis) arguing that a 25-year buildout would not create any impacts not previously disclosed.

But that document was inadequate, argued the lawyers for the petitioners, community coalitions led by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks.

At the heart of the 35-minute argument before the Appellate Division, First Department, in Manhattan was whether an intense buildout of the 17-building project over a decade would be worse than an extended, if less intense, buildout over 25 years. The state says yes, the petitioners say no.

The legal dispute does not affect the building of the arena, nor the towers around it, but does address plans for and impacts of Phase Two of the project: the eleven towers east of Sixth Avenue, including those to be built on a platform over the Vanderbilt Yard.

A decision is expected in about two months. An appeal is not automatic unless two of the five justices dissent.

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Related coverage...

NorthJersey.com, An arena grows in Brooklyn – but it’s complicated

The Bergen Record's John Brennan stands out among mainstream media reporters for his dedication in covering the Atlantic Yards story.

Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner was in court in Manhattan on Tuesday – Valentine’s Day – arguing against critics’ claims that they have a sweetheart deal with New York State to develop the project on any timetable they choose.

First things first: This last remaining lawsuit, eight years into the saga, will not impact construction of the Nets’ $1 billion Barclays Center arena near downtown Brooklyn nor its scheduled opening in September. That is the first of more than a dozen buildings scheduled to go up – eventually.

And that’s where this legal action comes in: If the project’s original 10-year timetable is now more realistically a 25-year one for full buildout, is a Supplemental Environmental Impact statement required?

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], How Long Will It Take to Build Atlantic Yards? No One Knows

Even the lawyers don’t know when Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project will be completed — if it will be completed at all.

That bombshell — and the equally explosive prospect of a massive parking lot just south of Atlantic Avenue taking up promised park space for more than a decade — were the highlights of yesterday’s appeals court hearing to consider whether the 16-skyscraper arena, commercial and residential project is so delayed that Mr. Ratner must perform a new environmental impact statement to analyze the effect of the longer buildout.
...

“This is the 13th and 14th litigation about the Atlantic Yards project,” [Empire State Development Corporation attorney Philip Karmel] said. “If we had a supplementary [environmental impact statement], there’d be yet another litigation.”

NoLandGrab: Well, if it was of the same quality as its predecessor, yes there would.

Posted by eric at 4:49 PM

New twists in Ridge Hill corruption trial: Forest City consultant Pirro said to claim job for defendant Jereis would get defendant Annabi to flip her City Council vote

Atlantic Yards Report

In pre-trial decisions yesterday by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, the contours of the Yonkers corruption trial, which begins today, became more clear, with confirmation that Forest City Ratner officials would indeed testify and new evidence of a central role by a Forest City Ratner consultant.

The case involves bribes allegedly paid by Yonkers Republican Chair Zehy Jereis to Council Member Sandy Annabi to greenlight two projects, the Longfellow (by Milio Management) and Ridge Hill (by Forest City). Attorney Anthony Mangone has already pleaded guilty in the Longfellow case.

The Pirro connection

The New York Times reported, in With Action by Judge, Details in a Yonkers Corruption Case Emerge, that Albert Pirro, Jr., husband of Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro (and former federal prisoner on tax charges), was working as a consultant for Forest City Ratner:

During a meeting with one council member, Mr. Pirro turned the conversation to how others on the Council might vote, according to a prosecution account described in a judge’s ruling released late Tuesday; when it came to assessing one member, Sandy Annabi, he showed no hesitation, the account continued.

He was confident, according to the same account, that he could win her vote by giving a job to one of her friends, Zehy Jereis, then the chairman of the Yonkers Republican Party.

“I am not worried about Sandy Annabi,” Mr. Pirro was quoted as saying to Dennis Robertson, then a councilman. “We will just give Zehy a consulting contract, and we will get her vote.”

Federal charges indicate that's what happened, that Jereis got a no-show job from Forest City after Annabi changed her vote. The Times reports:

Mr. Pirro declined to comment. Forest City Ratner said it “had no knowledge of what Mr. Pirro may have said.” The company said it had cooperated fully with the inquiry and “at no point was there any indication or suggestion that they behaved in a way that was inappropriate.”

Prosecutors may not have suggested that Forest City behaved illegally, but the developer has never explained or justified the no-show job. Doesn't that qualify as inappropriate or unethical?

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The New York Times, With Action by Judge, Details in a Yonkers Corruption Case Emerge

It was 2005, and Albert J. Pirro Jr., a noted man of influence in Westchester County, was working as a consultant for a major real estate developer that was seeking approval from the Yonkers City Council for a large luxury mixed-use development.

His wife, Jeanine F. Pirro, was soon to begin a Senate campaign that she would later abandon; Mr. Pirro was several years removed from an 11-month stint in federal prison in a tax case, and he had been retained by the developer, Forest City Ratner, to help it obtain enough support from the City Council to win approval for the project, Ridge Hill.

The Wall Street Journal, Judge Allows New Claims in Bribe Trial

A Manhattan federal judge presiding over a Yonkers corruption trial ruled Tuesday that prosecutors can introduce previously unknown allegations involving former state Sen. Nick Spano, who pleaded guilty last week to tax evasion.

Although Mr. Spano isn't charged in the case and won't be taking the stand, his presence has begun to loom large offstage.

LoHud.com, Judge in Yonkers corruption trial allows evidence involving Nick Spano, Al Pirro

Video by Matthew Brown

Yonkers Tribune, Pre-trial Hearing Sets the Tone in Government’s Case Against Annabi and Jereis

Posted by eric at 4:26 PM

Betting on slow eminent domain and instant retail potential, investor buys Atlantic Avenue building destined for second phase of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

This is a bit of a head-scratcher: real estate investors apparently believe the second phase of Atlantic Yards--notably the element that involves construction over the Vanderbilt Yard and adjacent properties that bump into the railyard--is so far off that they're buying property slated for eventual condemnation.

In an article today headlined Brooklyn Arena Pulls More Retail, the Wall Street Journal reports:

A real-estate investment company has closed on the purchase of a 105-year-old industrial building near the site of the new Barclays Center sports arena in Brooklyn.

Waterbridge Capital is considering turning the 40,000-square-foot facility at 700 Atlantic Ave. into a retail center, a person familiar with the matter said. Waterbridge bought the property for about $7 million, this person said.

Retail rents in the area may double from the current $50-$60/sf when the arena opens.
...

The building is in the area indicated in blue on the map (from DDDB) above right.

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Related content...

The Wall Street Journal, Brooklyn Arena Pulls More Retail

The site is located within the second phase of Forest City Ratner Cos.' master plan for its larger Atlantic Yards development, which will include residential towers. Forest City eventually plans to build three apartment buildings on the block that includes 700 Atlantic Ave.

But Forest City hasn't begun any residential construction because of the financial downturn. The company expects residential work to begin on the first phase of the project by the end of the year. The second phase of construction, however, is still years away.

The Real Deal, Waterbridge Capital bets on Barclays Arena

“Up until a year ago, people didn’t know if they could finish” the arena, said Ofer Cohen, president of TerraCRG, who was not familiar with the Waterbridge transaction. “It’s going to unfold in the next couple of years… and people want to take advantage of it.”

Posted by eric at 4:14 PM

Construction Noise Still Giving Residents Near Barclays Center a Headache

Loud construction noises and lights from Con Ed electrical work, as well as the rebuilding of the Carlton Ave. Bridge, have been keeping residents up at night.

Park Slope Patch
by Jamie Schuh

Construction in and around the Barclays Center arena has still been keeping neighbors up all night, says the Daily News.

The News says that residents around Fifth Avenue and Dean Street in Park Slope have heard Con Ed workers installing an electrical conduit at the arena until as late as 6 a.m., and about an hour later, construction on the arena itself begins.

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NoLandGrab: What a bunch of whiners. Brett Yormark gets by on one hour of sleep a night — why can't they?

Posted by eric at 4:00 PM

Contractor, Ohio bank assume control of ASI

Zionsville Times-Sentinel
by Rod Ross

Operations of ASI Ltd. in Whitestown have been taken over by Hunt Construction and Ohio Farmers Bank, so that construction of a $4.9 billion sports arena and residential complex in Brooklyn, N.Y., will continue.

Financial issues that may have led to ASI’s brief closure have been resolved, but ASI faces at least one lawsuit in Boone County, and more could follow.
...

“I gather that ASI had a financial issue,” said Joseph DePlasco, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner Companies, developer of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, that will include a new arena for the New Jersey Nets, and several 16-story apartment buildings.

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Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

BlockParty 2012 Auction Preview

Urban Omnibus

Can't get enough of Atlantic Yards? Then this auction is for you.

We’re two weeks out from our second annual Omnibus fundraiser, the Urban Omnibus BlockParty 2012, this year taking place at the St. Patrick’s Youth Center on Mulberry Street. Following up on the success of last year’s event, we are thrilled to offer again a silent auction of artwork donated by artists, architects, thinkers and doers we have featured on Urban Omnibus or whose work we think our readers will find compelling.

Here, we offer a preview of the paintings, photographs, illustrations, prints, tickets, experiences and more that you will see offered at the party on February 28th. Check them out below and then buy your tickets to the event here. Don’t wait — tickets will be more expensive at the door.
...

Norman Oder (journalist, editor, tour guide, author of watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report, contributor to UO)
A two-hour private walking tour of the Atlantic Yards site and environs for up to 8 people
bidding starts at $80

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Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

February 14, 2012

Nets arena construction at Atlantic Yards causes sleepless nights in Prospect Heights

All night jackhammering driving Dean St. residents crazy

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Just like a good hellish neighbor, Bruce Ratner is there — nearly 24/7.

The Atlantic Yards project is causing a lot of sleepless nights for Prospect Heights neighbors.

All night jackhammering for utility work to prepare for the new Nets arena - expected to open in September- has residents on Dean St. near 5th Ave. ready to crack, they said.

And on the other side of the project site, the state last week authorized developer Bruce Ratner to work until 3 a.m. on rebuilding the Carlton Ave. Bridge, which he is scrambling to get done in time for the arena opening.

“It’s horrible,” said Gary Wiebke, 52, who lives on Dean St. “The noise levels are astounding. Our building shimmies, it shakes.”

Residents said the work on the electrical upgrades goes on until 6 a.m. - and about an hour later, construction work on the arena starts. They say it’s the latest in a series of arena-related infrastructure projects that have driven them up the wall. Wiebke said a tenant who rented the apartment across the hall from him moved out after less than a week because he couldn’t take it.

“I'm getting physically ill as a result of not sleeping,” said Alan Sondheim, 69. “The noise really got seriously intolerable.”
...

Over at the Vanderbilt Railyards, Ratner spokesman Joe Deplasco said the late-night work is “required to complete the rail yard work and north half of the bridge.”

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NoLandGrab: Maybe if they hadn't spent two years not working on the bridge after they tore it down in 2008, they wouldn't be working round the clock now. "F**k the bridge?" More like f**k the residents.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report,

Now that Forest City Ratner is on an accelerated schedule to finish the Carlton Avenue Bridge by September, flood lights at the Vanderbilt Yard are on til 3 am:

Wayne Bailey, 57, who lives across from the yard, said as bad as the noise are the blinding flood lights that make it bright enough to read a book at midnight. “It is so extreme, it’s so glaring, it’s such light pollution that kids can’t go to sleep,” he said.

“This is a circumstance they created for themselves," said Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association. They shouldn’t be let off the hook.”

But they can be, unless there's effective oversight.

Posted by eric at 1:32 PM

Appeals court argument Tuesday: should state have systematically examined impact of 25-year Atlantic Yards buildout? Is another public hearing needed?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder previews today's Atlantic Yards court hearing...

In an argument [this] afternoon lasting no longer than 30 minutes, lawyers for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner will argue to a state appellate court that a trial judge overstepped her boundaries in ordering the agency to systematically examine the environmental impacts of a 25-year project and to reassess the second phase of Atlantic Yards.

In turn, lawyers for two community coalitions, led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks, will argue that the decision by Justice Marcy Friedman--which came after a skein of rulings--should be upheld, and a public hearing must be held. (Legal papers are here.)

The case will be heard during the 2 pm session Tuesday at the Appellate Division, First Department, at 27 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Given that this appeal argument is eighth on the calendar, it may not be heard until 3:30 or later, though those attending probably should get there by 3 pm.

The legal dispute does not affect the building of the arena, nor the towers around it, but does address plans for and impacts of Phase Two of the project: the eleven towers east of Sixth Avenue, including those to be built on a platform over the Vanderbilt Yard.

On a broader note, the case, addresses whether the state agency essentially cheated to ensure that Atlantic Yards would move forward--and whether judges, who generally defer to state agencies if they display a mere "rational" basis for their decisions, are willing to more aggressively protect the public interest.

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Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Valentine's Day Court Argument on Ratner's Sweetheart Deal

What better day than Valentine's to further discuss, in court, the sweetness of Bruce Ratner's sweetheart deal?

Posted by eric at 1:25 PM

New Building Will Replace Bergen Tile Near Arena

Brownstoner

PRD Realty, a Manhattan-based firm, filed for permits with the city last week to construct a mixed-use development where the old Bergen Tile building stands, on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street. The location is directly across the street from where Forest City Ratner is supposed to eventually build the first Atlantic Yards residential tower and also very close to Barclays Center. The permit request says it was “filed in order to obtain denial and referral to Board of Standards & Appeals,” and developer Martin Domansky says that this is because PRD can’t feasibly construct the number of parking spaces the project would be required to have. Domansky says the project, which will have 50-some-odd rental units in addition to commercial space, would be required to have 26 parking spaces by law.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Brownstoner: six-story building planned for old Bergen Tile site on Flatbush at Dean opposite arena

Well, some people thought it might be a hotel, but Brownstoner reports that a permit application has been filed for a six-story rental apartment building, with some 50 units and ground-floor commercial space (quick serve food, anyone?), at the Bergen Tile site at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street.

The developer has to get a variance to get out of parking requirements, another sign of their ridiculousness.

Way back in 2008 the site was being promoted as a potential retail site.

Photo: Tracy Collins

Posted by eric at 1:14 PM

Crain's: DOB Commissioner LiMandri touting FCR's modular plan

Atlantic Yards Report

Last November New York City Department of Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri was endorsing modular construction, saying, "you also have to figure out how to build bigger, and better, and modular."

And, according to today's Crain's Insider [subscription required], Modular Construction’s Savings, he's still saying that, with specific reference to Atlantic Yards:

If Forest City Ratner succeeds in its effort to build modular housing for Atlantic Yards off-site, the work could probably be done more efficiently, but the greatest savings would come from wages. Off-site workers cost union builders $36 an hour versus $90 for on-site labor. Total project savings might be about 20%. Just one local firm, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, constructs housing units off-site but only for low-scale buildings, and adds the façade in the field. Forest City plans to do high-rises, including façades, in factories. Its unions’ approval is needed. City Buildings Commissioner Bob LiMandri has been touting the proposal around town. Supporters say it would reduce truck traffic, debris and noise at construction sites as well as improve work quality.

The flip side? Not only would Atlantic Yards workers earn much less (definitely), and they would be fewer in number (probably), but also the projected tax revenues generated by the project would decline.

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Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

Times columnist Powell again tracks the connection of "politically wired developer" Ratner to the Yonkers corruption trial involving Ridge Hill

Atlantic Yards Report

In Tracking the Tentacles of Corruption, New York Times Gotham columnist Michael Powell writes again (as he did last month) about the upcoming Yonkers corruption trial and the connections to developer Forest City Ratner:

But the trial is tantalizing for where its tentacles extend — linking political corruption in Westchester to that in Brooklyn, and touching on the curious fashion in which real estate developers pursue their chosen game.

(Where was Powell, say, at the March 2010 arena groundbreaking, or the August 2006 hearing on the Draft EIS, both of which were prime fodder for columns? Well, he's been a columnist since only May 2011. But no other columnist had a clue? Shame.)

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Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Times Columnist Michael Powell Takes Second Closer Look at Ratner Ties to Yonkers Corruption Trial

February 14th starts the federal corruption trial involving Bruce Ratner's Ridge Hill project in Yonkers, in which his now-former top lobbyist Bruce Bender is the unnamed and unindicted co-conspirator in a case where the briber and the bribee were indicted while the beneficiary of the bribe, Bruce Ratner's firm, wasn't.

On the eve of the trial's start The Times's columnist Michael Powell's second column on the Ratner ties to the trial pulls no punches. Powell is the first mainstream journalist, as far as we can tell, to pull the mask off Bruce Ratner and his "left-liberal" abettors such as former public advocate Betsy Gotbaum....

NoLandGrab: Given the machinations of Gotbaum and her successor Bill de Blasio, perhaps the office's name should be changed from NYC Public Advocate to Bruce Ratner's Personal Advocate.

Posted by eric at 12:22 PM

Brooklyn's Shifting Center

The Wall Street Journal
by Joseph De Avila

New York's Steiner family is planning a 52-story rental apartment tower on a gritty block in downtown Brooklyn in what would be the latest expansion of residential development in the borough beyond its traditional boundaries.

The family, which is best known for developing a Hollywood-scale studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, is moving forward with a building that would include about 720 units and 50,000 square feet of store space. The Steiners acquired the bulk of the site, at the intersection of Schermerhorn and Flatbush avenues, for $30 million in November, and plan to break ground early next year at the latest.
...

The Steiners are betting that demand for housing will overflow from popular Brooklyn neighborhoods like Park Slope and Fort Greene. The area also will benefit after the Barclays Center makes its debut this fall just two blocks away on Flatbush, bringing in thousands of visitors for basketball games and concerts, Mr. Steiner said.

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NoLandGrab: "Benefit" is not quite the word we had in mind.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, A 52-story tower planned for Flatbush Avenue, near BAM and just north of the Williamsburgh bank building, extends skyline south toward AY site

The Brooklyn Paper, High-end high-rise planned on Flatbush

Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

Edward Carter — Lost One Year Ago, But His Legacy Lives On

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Serge Avery

As part of its coverage of Black History Month, The Local remembers long-time activist Ed Carter, who passed away one year ago.

“He was not ashamed to be outspoken” when he fought for the disenfranchised, his friend, Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Greenpoint), said at the funeral last year.

He was especially outspoken about the controversial Atlantic Yards mega-development, which Mr. Carter opposed. Choice soundbite: Brooklynites are not “about to kiss any developer’s ass” and support the project.

Councilwoman Letitia James wrote that Carter “was a social justice legend, royalty throughout Brooklyn, and could be a royal pain sometimes — another reason why he so dearly loved.”

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Photo: The New York Times

Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

February 13, 2012

Tracking the Tentacles of Corruption

The New York Times
by Michael Powell

The Times's "Gotham" columnist takes another must-read look at the smoke rising around Bruce Ratner. Here's some red meat for NoLandGrab readers.

All of which brings us to the role of the politically wired developer, whose projects are catnip to politicians. No prosecutor has implied that Mr. Ratner or his aides played a corrupt role. In Brooklyn, where he has a 22-acre development known as the Atlantic Yards, he was mentioned in the corruption case last year that toppled a Brooklyn Democratic power, State Senator Carl Kruger. Prosecutors called Mr. Ratner “Developer No. 1.” In Yonkers, he appears in Ms. Annabi’s indictment as “Developer No. 2.”

After I wrote last month of Mr. Ratner’s entanglements, several left-liberal sorts, not least former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, wrote to object that I had besmirched a fine fellow. The developer is a patron of liberal causes. He has set aside a significant number of apartments in his Atlantic Yards project for working-class tenants.

Much of this is true, as is this: Mr. Ratner wrangled $726 million in subsidies and benefits from the city and state, and he fights for even more by the week. (He was the developer of The New York Times building.) His willingness to tuck affordable apartments into his gleaming towers is perhaps a reasonable political tradeoff rather than a testament to his character.

Mr. Ratner relies, too, on phalanxes of former top officials to make his case. The less polite might call them fixers. So he hired Bruce Bender, a former top City Council aide and south Brooklyn Democratic power, as his senior vice president, and put Scott Cantone, a former Giuliani aide, in another post.

In Yonkers, which now resembles nothing so much as “Chinatown” by the Hudson, word is that at least one of Mr. Ratner’s aides could take the witness stand and testify about events that could prove deeply embarrassing.

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Posted by eric at 10:35 PM

From the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert: work til 3 am weekedays, trench dug this weekend at Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street

Atlantic Yards Report

The latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert (below), dated 2/13/12, was distributed today--rather than, as is typical, a day late--by Empire State Development (after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner).

The big news was already announced 2/9/12 in a Supplemental Alert, indicating work til 3 am weekdays through September to ensure the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge.

Also, a trench will be dug at Sixth Avenue and Pacific Streets, with associated sheeting, for stormwater discharge work February 17-20, Friday through Sunday. "Traffic will be limited until it is plated," according to the alert, which does not specify how long that would go.

Missing transparency

In an oddity, the alert states that "transformers are scheduled to be delivered to the arena site on 02/11/12," which was presumably already accomplished.

It also states that the "emergency generator was delivered to the arena site 02/02/12," which happened in the last reporting period but had not been announced in the previous alert.

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Posted by eric at 10:30 PM

Judy: Update the Rolodex...

@ShellySilver via Twitter

 

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Posted by eric at 10:21 PM

Barclays To Boast One Of NYC’s Biggest Parking Lots

CBS New York

The Barclays Center under construction at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn will become the home of the NBA’s Nets, and the fans will need somewhere to park their cars.

Two long avenues from the arena on the residential corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street is what will be one of New York City’s largest parking lots.
...

“I think the lot should comply with New York City zoning regulations,” said Peter Krashes, president of the Dean Street Block Association. “They’re changing the lot to make it work for the developer. Why don’t they take some input from the community?”

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Related coverage...

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch, Coming Soon to Atlantic Yards: Stacked Parking Spaces?

Worried about the threat of traffic problems during basketball games, concerts and other major events at the arena, community groups and some local elected officials are pushing for a permit parking system for the neighborhoods surrounding Atlantic Yards.

However, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, D-Cobble Hill, doubted that necessary approval by state legislators for the permit parking plan would happen anytime soon.

NoLandGrab: If you're a real estate developer, the state will order staffers to work through the Thanksgiving weekend to give you what you need. If you're a community facing a traffic onslaught, on the other hand, well, uh, sorry.

Posted by eric at 10:07 PM

The peril of car stackers on the arena parking lot, Forest City's modular alternative, and delays in (and questions about) the transportation demand management plan

Atlantic Yards Report

The Post quoted Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco as saying that reducing on-site parking is “important," and they are “conducting an analysis" to try to avoid stackers.

Translation: use a modular system that's never been tested. And that was discussed more than eight months ago, though no formal plans have never been announced.

According to an October 2011 report to Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, HDR, the agency's Atlantic Yards mitigation monitor, met with Forest City's transportation consultant, Sam Schwartz Engineering (SSE), and reported:

On-site parking on Block 1129 was discussed in detail, in particular the use of strategies of avoiding extensive vehicle queues on the local street network due to the use of vehicle stackers for parking. Concern was raised especially for the post-event period, when potential excessive wait times would be experience by many event attendees as event staff retrieved vehicles parked in the stackers. To mitigate this concern, SSSE recommended investigation of the feasibility of constructing the use of a temporary parking stucture sold by MORE PARK, LLC, in lieu of the stackers. The temporary parking structure would consist of standard structural steel and precast concrete members and would be installed over a paved surface, without a foundation. SSE is to perform a detailed queue analysis utilizing the MORE PARK system to ensure optimal performance. FCRC and its consulting engineers will study code compliance with NYC Department of Buildings and FDNY.

I wrote last August that More Park was said to have been chosen for the arena lot, but it was unclear whether the company's modular model had been tested in the United States, though it has been used in Europe.

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Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

What if the Barclays Center parking lot was required to meet NYC design standards?

Atlantic Yards Watch

 

Residents of the streets surrounding the Atlantic Yards Project have numerous concerns about impacts that will follow the opening of Barclays Center arena, but few are greater than the effect of a new surface parking lot planned for the block bordered by Carlton Avenue, Vanderbilt Avenue, Dean Street and Pacific Street. The block is known as block 1129.

Following FCRC's renegotiation of the project plan in 2009, the duration of use of block 1129 for surface parking was extended, the number of spaces were increased, and up to two cars were assigned to each space using stackers. In addition, for the first time all the parking planned for the arena was concentrated there. Originally scheduled to be an "interim" surface lot in place for perhaps four years, it is now likely the full block of parking will be in place for at least 12 years, by which point the developer is required to start the construction of one residential building on the block. The remainder of the site can remain a parking lot for as long as 25 years or more since the project's development agreement allows further extension under certain conditions.

The picture on the left above commissioned by AYW is an illustration of the lot configuration and stackers necessary to provide the 1,100 parking spaces specified in the 2009 Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan. Given the density and number of parking spaces, the lot would not comply with New York City's design standards for surface parking lots. For comparison, the picture on the right shows a possible design for parking on block 1129 based upon City standards. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

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Lot illustrations: Joel Stipano

Base photo and arena illustration: Jonathan Barkey and Tracy Collins

Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

Barclays Center in Brooklyn will create parking and traffic problems

Fury at B’klyn arena parking plan

NY Post
by Rich Calder

An unconventional plan for parking at the new Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn has critics predicting a neighborhood traffic nightmare.

Stack-parking spaces — which use hydraulic lifts to stack anywhere from two to four cars atop one another — are expected to fill roughly half of an 1,100-spot parking lot going up next to the NBA Nets’ arena in Prospect Heights, according to renderings commissioned by project critics based on approved plans.

With nearly a square block— bordered by Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, and Dean and Pacific streets— designated to be the only on-site event parking lot for many years, the renderings show what many feared: It’s mathematically impossible to fill a state-mandated 1,100 spots there without stacking spaces.

No current New York pro-sports venue uses stack parking.

The concern, neighborhood residents say, is that hydraulic systems and valet service associated with stack parking slow the entry and exit of cars from the lot, potentially creating bumper-to-bumper traffic on surrounding streets and sending antsy drivers to seek the area’s few remaining curbside spaces.

“Getting cars up and down after events and in and out of the lot will be a time-consuming, major undertaking that’s never been studied,” said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, one of three civic groups that commissioned the renderings.
...

New surface parking lots of this size require tree-lined medians to absorb heat and storm water, but that city law doesn’t apply here because it’s considered “temporary parking.” Under a scenario where the medians were enforced, the lot would only be able to hold about 500 spots, according to additional renderings.

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Rendering: BrooklynSpeaks/Original Photo: Jonathan Barkey

Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Worries Aired About Stack Parking Next to Arena

A rep for Forest City says the developer is “conducting an analysis that we hope will allow” the firm to avoid using stack parking.

NY1, Report: Parking Woes Stack Up Outside New Brooklyn Arena

A possible parking plan at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn has critics fearing a traffic nightmare when crowds emerge from an event all at the same time.

The Real Deal, Critics predict Barclays Center parking nightmare

Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

The mystery of Ridge Hill: as Yonkers corruption case heads for trial, what will we learn about Forest City Ratner, its lobbyists, and Bruce Bender?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder previews a trial in which the name Forest City Ratner is sure to pop up.

A complicated corruption case involving two real estate development projects in Yonkers goes to trial in federal court in Manhattan tomorrow, February 14, and could last a month.

The results should illuminate the dubiously ethical behavior of Forest City Ratner, which gained a huge benefit for its still-in-process Ridge Hill project, but emerged officially unscathed.

One of the three defendants, Anthony Mangone, has already pleaded guilty to giving bribes, resolving some but not all questions about a different real estate project, known as Longfellow.

However, numerous questions linger, mostly about Ridge Hill, an 81-acre project east of the New York State Thruway that includes a giant mall and condos, plus perhaps office space and a hotel.

The largest development in Yonkers history, the cost is estimated at nearly $700 million, a vast change from the site's previous use as a center for drug treatment and defense contracting R&D.

Ridge Hill was enormously controversial, given Forest City Ratner’s request for special zoning and other benefits, the creation of a shadowy (slammed by the Times and now defunct) development corporation, and traffic concerns.

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Relted coverage...

True News, Forest City Ratner

True News Has Been Asking Where the Bribe Money in Both the Cases Involving Ratner Came From?

Who Paid the Elected Officials Kruger and Annabi?

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

Atlantic Yards in Court as State/Ratner Appeal Ruling Requiring New Review

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB issued the following media alert today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2pm**
Oral Argument in State Appellate Court on Atlantic Yards Case

Valentine's Day Oral Argument in Ratner/NY State Appeal Of Ruling Requiring New Atlantic Yards Environmental Review

NEW YORK, NY—What better day than Valentine's to further discuss, in court, the sweetness of Bruce Ratner's sweetheart deal?

On Tuesday, February 14, oral argument will be heard in State Appeals court on an appeal filed by Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation. The partners in the Atlantic Yards project are attempting to overturn a July 2011 ruling, in favor of a community coalition led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks, requiring a new Environmental Impact Statement for the bulk of the Brooklyn development project, which has been floundering over the two years since groundbreaking took place for the arena portion of the project.

Should the Ratner and ESDC appeal fail, the state agency and Forest City Ratner will have to issue a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, hold a public hearing on that review, and vote to approve or disapprove the new review. The fundamental issue in the ruling under appeal is whether a 25 year (or more) build out of the project will have new and different impacts than the now discredited claim by the developer and the state that the entire project (16 towers and the arena) will be built by 2019. (Most of the project site is expected to be parking lots and vacant lots for up to a decade.)

Details below:

Tuesday, February 14th at 2pm**
Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court
27 Madison Avenue in Manhattan (between 25th and 26th Street)

(**The day's argument calendar begins at 2pm. This appeal argument is 8th on the calendar. So we can only estimate when the argument will take place. It is likely to start between 3:30 and 4, and not too likely before 3:30. If you plan on attending we suggest arriving shortly after 3pm.)

The back-story to the ruling, which ordered the ESDC to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, now under appeal is long and tortured. For more about that we recommend reading Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report account of the case history. Mr. Oder has also provided these in-depth reviews of the State and Ratner's appeal brief and the reply from the community coalition defending against the appeal.

What is the significance of this lawsuit and the appeal?

In early December Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation filed legal papers appealing last July's ruling in the community's favor that the state agency acted irrationally, and misled the court and public, when it approved the modified project plan for Atlantic Yards. The court ordered the agency to undertake a supplemental environmental review of the project.

While the arena construction moves ahead for a September 2012 opening, the rest of the project is a huge question mark, which requires some semblance of a meaningful environmental review, something it has yet to receive. This review must include a public hearing.

Should Forest City and ESDC prevail in their appeal, the supplemental review and public hearing will not occur and the project will, yet again, evade a proper review of the impact it is having and is going to have on Brooklyn.

As long as Forest City Ratner continues to fail to deliver on its promises while maintaining its stranglehold on 22 acres in the heart of Brooklyn, the community must demand its opportunity to have a say in what happens to our neighborhoods; upholding this ruling is one important step towards that goal.

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

Forest City's alleged actions in Ridge Hill corruption case, if not illegal, seem to violate corporate Code of Conduct

Atlantic Yards Report

Oh, right. We keep forgetting Forest City has a code of conduct. And apparently, so do they.

Somehow the Forest City Enterprises Code of Legal and Ethical Conduct didn't bar the corporate behavior--noncriminal, apparently, but ethically questionable--alleged in the Yonkers corruption case that goes to trial tomorrow in federal court and will surely mention the role of subsidiary Forest City Ratner.

By my reading, if the code bars not merely bribes but also direct or indirect "improper" payments, it should have barred such behavior.

That means either 1) the allegation isn't true or 2) Forest City's Code of Conduct is toothless.

Hmm, that's a stumper. We're going to flip a coin, which has Bruce Ratner's face on both sides.

Here's the relevant excerpt from the code of conduct:

2. No bribe, kickback or other improper payment or promise of same shall be authorized, approved or made, directly or indirectly, by or on behalf of FCE in connection with any of its business.

That's a pretty blanket statement.

Not merely a bribe, or a kickback, but "improper payment or promise of same."

It seems to cover the actions alleged in the case. We should, in the next few weeks, know more.

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Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

Consultant Melvin Lowe: another Forest City Ratner connection who may be mentioned in Ridge Hill corruption case

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender's name is expected to come up during the Yonkers corruption trial beginning this week, which includes the developer's Ridge Hill project. Bender might even testify.

What about Melvin Lowe, a consultant connected to Forest City, who's had a surprisingly central role in state Democratic politics, thanks to his links to Brooklyn powerbrokers?

It's unclear whether he'll be mentioned in the trial, but it's worth a quick look back at his history with Ridge Hill, Forest City Ratner, and local politics. There are a lot of seeming connections.

How Lowe can you go? Click the link to find out.

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Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

HEARD AROUND TOWN, FEB. 12, 2012

City & State

Forest City Ratner, which has found both big wins and controversy over the last decade, appears to be rewiring its connections for New York’s new political realities. Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone left last week to start a new consulting firm, while the company just hired Ashley Cotton as vice president of external affairs. Cotton was a senior policy advisor to Robert Steel, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s deputy mayor for economic development, and previously was in the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he was attorney general. “Hiring Ashley Cotton is a clear indication that Ratner is trying to reboot,” one insider said. “She is connected to the Cuomo and Bloomberg worlds and also knows all the operatives that matter in business and labor. They are clearly shifting from an old guard approach to a younger, more politically savvy strategy.”

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NoLandGrab: Words we don't ever expect to pass the lips of Ashley Cotton? "I don't mind f**king the bridge, I can't f**k it right now."

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

February 12, 2012

Atlantic Yards Watch gets results: signs nailed to trees are removed

Atlantic Yards Report

A day after Atlantic Yards Watch reported that there were temporary "No Parking" signs nailed to trees on Pacific Street, they were removed.

link

NoLandGrab: Please tell us they removed the signs and not, per their usual m.o., the trees.

Posted by eric at 11:25 PM

Bruce de Blasio?

In today's New York Post article about Bruce Ratner's contributions to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's campaign, Mayor-bid $ecrets, there is a mislabeled picture in the on-line version:
This is clearly not a picture of Bruce Ratner, but, with Bruce's permanent campaign to purchase political influence, the picture's caption probably should be "Might as well be Bruce Ratner".

Posted by steve at 5:38 PM

Mayor-bid $ecrets

New York Post
By David Seifman

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s campaign didn’t report the true number of contributions raised for his mayoral campaign by Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

De Blasio’s filing last month with the Campaign Finance Board showed Ratner took in $4,000 from three individuals with ties to the construction industry — Michael Kaleda, Joseph Posillico and Lloyd Sokoloff — in what turned out to be a record $1 million six-month fund-raising period for the Democratic mayoral contender.

Following inquiries by The Post, de Blasio aides conceded that another $4,500 from construction executives Anthony Mann, Richard Minieri and Vincent Sciullo wasn’t reported as linked to Ratner, which is required by law.

...

At a time when local activists were attacking the Atlantic Yards project, de Blasio — a progressive with close ties to the Working Families Party — was coming out in support by citing the jobs and affordable housing that would be created.

De Blasio aides said they plan to file an amended intermediary form with the CFB correcting all the errors, a move that should take care of any legal issues.

While they’re at it they might want to add employer information for five of the six construction executives who somehow didn’t list that information, making it difficult to spot their connections to Ratner without a scorecard.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Post: Ratner bundled contributions for de Blasio, but both made efforts to downplay it

New York Post Inside City Hall columnist David Seifman reports, in Mayor-bid $ecrets: Ratner pals’ mystery cash, that mayoral candidate and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio reported $4,000 from three individuals via developer Bruce Ratner as intermediary, but failed to report another $4,500 from three more construction executives.

That's a relative pittance, given de Blasio's $1 millon haul, but it looks kind of fishy. Beyond that, Ratner's not supposed to be listed as the “intermediary,” since the total was actually solicited by FCR construction executive Bob Sanna, Seifman was told.

Seifman writes:

In that case, why change the name of the intermediary from Ratner to Sanna?

There’s no way Sanna would do any of this without direction from Ratner, who has made no secret of his support for de Blasio. In December 2010, Ratner wrote a check for $4,950 to help close out debts from de Blasio’s 2009 campaign for the public-advocate job. Last year, Ratner hosted a birthday party/fund-raiser for de Blasio.

One political insider speculated that the developer wanted to play down his role so as not to antagonize other candidates.

Added reason for raised eyebrows: on de Blasio's filing, Ratner is listed as "Forrest City Ratnor Companies CEO."

That's a double spelling error, since it should be Forest City Ratner. Are those filing so dumb they don't know how to spell? Or so Mickey Mouse they think that misspelling the firm's name, as well as the last name of the CEO, could stymie those doing keyword searches?

Posted by steve at 5:28 PM

Forest City executive in charge of Ridge Hill, and his successor, both leave company within one year

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not just the Forest City Ratner executives working on Atlantic Yards who've departed.

Two top executives, each in turn overseeing the Ridge Hill project (among others), left the company in the past year to go to mall operator General Growth Partners, which declared bankruptcy in 2009 but emerged more than a year later.

Maybe the moves were simply sign of good news, finding a better offer after getting work accomplished. Or maybe there was a desire to leave a project that was having a longer gestation than anticipated.

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Posted by steve at 5:10 PM

A visit to Ridge Hill: an upscale mall still very much in progress, and "New Urbanist" condos that aren't

Atlantic Yards

It's time for a field trip to Westchester to take a look at the Ridge Hill development. It sounds a lot like the usual Forest City Ratner enterprise: lots of forward-thinking hype with lots of the same-old development.

So, what's “Westchester’s Ridge Hill", the Forest City Ratner project that's the subject of a corruption trial beginning February 14, really like?

Well, it opened in October, and it's hardly finished, so any observations are preliminary. Still, during a visit to the retail and residential development two Fridays ago, shortly before lunch hour, it was very quiet.

No, we didn't hit the magnet of Whole Foods and, as the signage pictured at left shows, there's room for more stores. But in most places there were more construction workers than shoppers, rendering the omnipresent muzak a bit odd.

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Posted by steve at 5:04 PM

February 11, 2012

New schedule issued for fabrication and installation of weathered steel exterior panels, but it's unclear how much it's delayed

Atlantic Yards Report

While Forest City Ratner official has acknowledged a delay, due to a temporary shutdown of the fabricator, in the delivery of pre-weathered steel panels for the Barclays Center exterior, you don't quite get that from the 2/6/12 Site Observation Report by Merritt & Harris, the real estate consultant to the arena PILOT Bond Trustee.

The report, excerpted at right, indicates that Merritt & Harris was told on 1/5/12 that ASI Limited, the Indiana firm "fabricating the curtain wall and pre-weathering the lattice panels," had shut down.

Because the insurer took possession of all inventory, equipment, and materials," the plant reopened on 1/7/12, with 80% of the workers.

However, the plant shutdown was actually around 12/22/11, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by workers who seek unpaid wages and benefits.

There's a new schedule, as indicated in the screenshot at right, which establishes 5/30/12 as the date for final assemblage of such panels, and 7/15/12 as the date for the final installation of such panels.

What was the old schedule? Unclear.

link

Posted by steve at 5:51 PM

When ACORN endorsed Republican Spano in 2006, was Forest City Ratner a factor? Worth pondering, though plea deal suggests no ties to Ridge Hill

Atlantic Yards

The byzantine world of Yonkers politics, revealed in part by a federal investigation into corruption, has shed light on the relationship between lobbyist/elected official Mike Spano and developer Forest City Ratner.

With the guilty plea by his brother Nick Spano to tax evasion just before the larger corruption trial involving Forest City's Ridge Hill project, there was reason to wonder about connections to Ridge Hill, but the actual plea details released yesterday cast some doubt.

Yes, Nick Spano had a close relationship with defendant Zehy Jereis--who got a no-show job from FCR after allegedly bribing Council Member Sandy Annabi to change her vote on Ridge Hill. Did Nick Spano have any connection to Forest City and Ridge Hill? Unclear, and unclear.

Two of the three Assistant U.S. Attorneys prosecuting the corruption case signed Spano's plea agreement. However, Journal News columnist Phil Reisman, in a column today headlined Sole Spano count seems like swing, miss, thinks that a one-count tax charge was not enough to take out "the political fixer and the big macher of Yonkers," who will still keep his "lucrative lobbying business":

They went after a whale, and it seems all they harpooned was a minnow. It’s hardly a stretch to think that the Ahab-like mission was to somehow tie Spano to the bribery scandal surrounding the $630 million Ridge Hill project in Yonkers. But failing in that, the U.S. Attorney’s Office did what all investigators do when they can’t get the solid goods on somebody: They nail them on taxes.
What’s more, they issued Spano’s crime sheet less than a week before the Ridge Hill trial is scheduled to begin. It may only be a coincidence, but the timing suggests guilt by association.

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Posted by steve at 5:26 PM

Liu Wants To Change Community Benefit Agreements, Development Subsidies

The New York Observer
By Eliot Brown

Atlantic Yards gets yet another mention when it comes to the wrong way to do development in New York City.

For the second time in as many days, Comptroller John Liu has announced plans to revamp a process related to real estate development.

On Tuesday, he called for general changes to the way subsidies are awarded

Wednesday belonged to community benefit agreements, the un-regulated deals often struck between eager developers and community groups concerned about their projects, usually after concessions and money have changed hands.

Calling the unstructured employment of CBAs in New York City an “embarrassment,” Mr. Liu, without offering much specificity, said in a statement that he would create new standards for the agreements “in the coming months.”

There’s much criticism to go around about CBAs in New York: Just who sits at the table to negotiate with the developer (i.e. who represents the “community”) is always subject to debate, and the same elected officials who are approving the project are often negotiating the CBAs as well. The CBAs, which usually have nothing to do with zoning, have become a prerequisite nonetheless for a necessary zoning approval, a common complaint from developers.

Here’s Mr. Liu’s full statement.

Community Benefit Agreements have become commonplace whenever private developers seek public assistance, ranging in form from tax subsidies and no-bid contracting to zoning changes and invocation of eminent domain. In the absence of standards, however, these agreements will become more problematic and ultimately irrelevant.

From Atlantic Yards to Yankee Stadium to the Columbia University expansion, the public has seen a string of broken promises to communities and questionable involvement by some government officials. Furthermore, an additional layer of unpredictability confronts developers when they engage in private negotiations over benefits associated with their projects. In fact, studies have singled out New York City’s community benefit agreements as examples of what not to do.

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Posted by steve at 5:22 PM

February 10, 2012

Rush to Finish Carlton Avenue Bridge Will Include Floodlights ’Til 3 A.M.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Kyle Thomas McGovern

Repair work on a crucial bridge next to the Barclays Center may continue until 3 a.m. every weeknight between now and September in a mad rush to finish before the first event at the 19,000-seat arena.

The Empire State Development Corporation quietly revealed that workers would add a second shift so that the Carlton Avenue Bridge — a key route between Fort Greene and Prospect Heights that has been closed since January, 2008 — can be finished on schedule.

The work will likely bother neighbors, the agency revealed.

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Related coverage...

Brownstoner, More Delays at Atlantic Yards

The biggest news to those who have to try to navigate the giant construction project is that the Carlton Avenue bridge reopening has been delayed by a month, and in order to meet the new completion date of September 2012 work crews will be at it until 3 am.

Posted by eric at 8:38 PM

Exclusive: the Carlton Avenue Bridge is delayed one month, setting up breakneck pace to achieve completion before arena opens; officials have not acknowledged delays

Atlantic Yards Report

Though neither Forest City Ratner nor city/state officials have said so, the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, a crucial connector between Prospect Heights and Fort Greene, is lagging a month behind schedule, state documents confirm.

The delay has sparked a breakneck construction pace to meet the new completion date of late September 2012, just before the first official Barclays Center event, a sure-to-be-sold-out Jay-Z concert on 9/28/12.

Just yesterday, Empire State Development, the state agency in charge of the project, announced that work to finish the bridge could go as late as 3 am on weekdays through September.

That means that painfully bright (to some) floodlights will illuminate the Vanderbilt Yard until 3 am--and, as experience has shown, likely even longer. And if the bridge doesn't get done in time, nearby streets would face confusion and chaos on event days, at least initially.

(February 2010 photo by Tracy Collins)

Key connection

The bridge, closed since January 2008 to enable renovation work in the below-ground Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt Yard, not only offers a key artery, it borders the planned surface parking lot, a magnet for up to 1100 vehicles.

The $40 million bridge reconstruction is an Arena Opening Condition, a requirement in a document Forest City signed with Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing the project.

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NoLandGrab: And if you think failure to meet that "Arena Opening Condition" will actually keep the arena from opening, we've got another bridge to sell you.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Watch, Railyard construction extended to 3:00 AM weekdays

Construction work hours in NYC normally are allowed 7 AM to 6 PM weekdays. Recently work in the railyard has been extended to begin at 6 AM and end at 11 PM weekdays, and from 7 AM to 11 PM Saturdays. Arena work hours have been extended as well.

Complaints about the use of lights have occurred with some regularity on Atlantic Yards Watch recently. The lights were originally not to be used for construction. According to the Project Director the contract between FCRC and LIRR was to be revised to enable the contractor to use the lights for construction, not just operation and repair as originally intended. The supplemental alert warns the lights may now be used until 3:00 AM.

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Yonkers pol Nick Spano to plead guilty to tax evasion; brother Mike, now mayor, served as FCR agent on Ridge Hill; did Nick have a Ridge Hill connection?

Atlantic Yards Report

In an article today headlined Former State Senator From Westchester Is to Plead Guilty on a Federal Tax Charge, the New York Times reported:

Nicholas A. Spano, a former state senator who doled out millions of dollars in state grants in his Westchester County district during his lengthy tenure in office, is set to plead guilty to a federal tax charge, his lawyer confirmed on Thursday.

Mr. Spano’s lawyer, Richard W. Levitt, said Mr. Spano would appear in Federal District Court in White Plains on Friday and admit to failing to report more than $45,000 in income from 2000 to 2008....

Mr. Spano, 58, a Republican, began representing the 35th Senate District in 1987. In 2006, he was defeated by Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, despite the $3.74 million in “member items,” also known as legislative earmarks, that he had brought to the district the year before.

Curious timing: Ridge Hill trial

What the Times didn't report is the curious timing, as pointed out by the Journal News:

Spano’s appearance in federal court comes on the eve of the trial of former Democratic Yonkers City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and former Yonkers Republican Party leader Zehy Jereis, which is expected to begin Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan.

They are accused of conspiring to sell Annabi’s votes on two development projects in the city, including the controversial $630 million Ridge Hill development.

It could go deeper or, as New York Times columnist Michael Powell tweeted, "rumors of shoes, many shoes, to drop." As Journal News columnist Phil Reisman wrote 11/3/11, "Jereis was also a longtime crony and factotum for Nick Spano, the former state senator and older brother of Mike Spano."

After all, as has been alleged by less than fully transparent sources, Nick Spano, whose lobbyist brother was a agent for Forest City and is now the city's mayor, was indeed involved in the Ridge Hill case.

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Related coverage...

The New York Times, Former State Senator From Westchester Is to Plead Guilty on a Federal Tax Charge

The Journal-News, Ex-Sen. Nick Spano to plead guilty to tax charges, could face up to 3 years in prison

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Temporary construction regulation nailed to two trees on Pacific Street

Atlantic Yards Watch

Could it be because all the metal sign poles had already been removed?

A temporary construction regulation establishing no parking in the vicinity of the Carlton Avenue Bridge reconstruction has been posted to two trees on Pacific Street. Signs associated with "Maintenance and Protection of Traffic" (MPT) are obtained and installed by a contractor for FCRC. It is illegal to nail into street trees in NYC. The fine of $150 dollars for each posting is doubled when the sign is nailed to the tree.

No notice of a change to the MPT on Pacific Street was included in the most recent construction alert. Approximately 4 to 5 parking spaces have been eliminated.

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NoLandGrab: We're most surprised that they could even find trees to illegally nail the signs to, given how Bruce Ratner has already chopped down a Forest's worth of trees in Prospect Heights.

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

Barclays Center completion date pushed back a week, but arena "is slightly ahead of schedule." How so? They changed the schedule to erase delays.

Atlantic Yards Report

Before you drop $1.65 million on your three-year commitment to "The Vault," you might want to make sure the arena's actually built.

Delays are taking their toll on Barclays Center construction, pointing to a hectic--and perhaps nerve-wracking--pace to the finish line.

Not only is the Carlton Avenue Bridge delayed, the substantial completion date for the arena has been nudged back one week for the second time in five weeks, to 9/5/12. That gives arena operators little more than three weeks to test building systems before the first event, a 9/28/12 concert with superstar Jay-Z.

Also, after a report in January indicated that the Barclays Center was behind schedule, a new report from the same construction monitor asserts that the arena is "slightly ahead of schedule," based on actual cash flow versus projected cash flow.

(The final completion date is 6/30/13, which indicates additional work will have to be done while the building is operating.)

Presto: the arena's ahead

That happy conclusion, however depends on changing the schedule, a slight-of-pen unacknowledged in the latest Site Observation Report by Merritt & Harris, the real estate consultant to the arena PILOT Bond Trustee.

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Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Suggestion for @SteveWynnLasVegas

@ShellySilver via Twitter

The Speaker of the New York State Assembly believes casino operators could benefit from the savvy of the latest Forest City spin-off.

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Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

This Just In: The Rich Are Different From You and Me

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Gersh Kuntzman

Rapper Jay-Z only owns a minuscule portion of the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets — but the influence of the millionaire rapper continues to be felt at the Barclays Center arena.

We just received a press release from arena officials touting “The Vault at Barclays Center,” a Jay-Z “inspired” clubhouse for well-to-do fans of the last-place team. It’s so perfectly worded that we present it here, unedited.

Click the link for the typically understated Barclays Center spin.

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Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, The Vault at Barclays Center Offers Luxury Suites at $550K Per Year

If you’ve got the money to splurge, each Vault suite owner will receive eight premium tickets in the first 10 rows of the lower bowl to all Barclays Center events, including Nets games, as well as boxing and concerts. The suites are also described in a release as having “sophisticated lounge seating,” and flat-screen TVs. Suite guests will have access to the Armand de Brignac Champagne Bar (whose bottles go for about $300).

Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

February 9, 2012

Construction hours extended to 3 am to get Carlton Avenue Bridge done; flood lights will be on

Atlantic Yards Report

Apparently, Forest City Ratner is feeling the time pressure, as it plans work at Vanderbilt Yard as late as 3 am on weekdays to get the Carlton Avenue Bridge done, and will keep the lights on.

According to a Supplemental Report to the biweekly Construction Update issued today by Empire State Development (after preparation by Forest City):

Commencing on Thursday, February 9th, Yard construction hours have the potential to extend until 3:00 AM Monday through Friday. These extended hours will remain in place through the completion of the Carlton Avenue Bridge replacement, as needed. Additionally, to facilitate early start and late finish of work, Yard Flood Lights will be turned on at 6am and from dusk to 3:00 am, during double shifts through the completion of the Carlton Avenue Bridge replacement, as needed.

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NoLandGrab: Wait, we must've missed something. Didn't Forest City Ratner tell everyone early in 2008, when the bridge was closed, that a new bridge would be ready in two years? And didn't ESDC reassure everybody in December 2008 that there were "no changes in the schedule at this time." Guess they really did f**k the bridge. Not to mention the people of Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 6:27 PM

Audit unfair to Port Authority, critics say

Crain's Insider

Out with the old Bender, in with the new...

Ashley Cotton, a senior policy adviser in the Bloomberg administration, will join Forest City Ratner Cos. as its vice president for external affairs. Her arrival coincides with the departure of executive Bruce Bender, who left to set up his own consultancy.

link [Subscription required]

Atlantic Yards Report has more background...

According to her LinkedIn profile, Cotton comes out of a somewhat less rough-and-tumble background than Bender and Cantone, who came out of the legendary Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club in Southern Brooklyn.

A graduate of the prestigious Phillips Academy, she earned her BA from Bowdoin College in 2001 and her MPA from Columbia University - School of International and Public Affairs in 2009.

She served as Deputy Campaign Manager for Andrew Cuomo for Attorney General for three years, worked for the newly-elected Cuomo for two years, and then spent a little more than a year as Vice President, Government & Community Affairs for the NYC Economic Development Corporation.

Since March 2010, she's been Senior Policy Advisor in the Mayor's Office. That means she's got pretty good connections to both city and state officials who might decide on, say, helping Forest City get its modular housing program off the ground.

Photo: SIPA web site

Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

Workers file suit against arena facade fabricator ASI Limited based on failure to warn of (temporary) shutdown

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the Indiana firm ASI Limited may be back at work fabricating the exterior panels for the Barclays Center, thanks to the firm's insurer stepping in, but it still may have to pay for its abrupt shutdown on or around 12/22/11.

According to a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Indiana, employee Andrew Shepherd, on behalf of himself and those similarly situated, have sued ASI Limited for collection of unpaid wages and benefits for the 60 days required under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) of 1988.

Firm of a certain size are required to provide at least 60 days’ advance written notice of termination.

According to the lawsuit, about 200 employees were abruptly laid off, and those employees were denied not only wages but holiday pay and health and other benefits.

There's been no response yet in court to the suit, which was filed 2/6/12.

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Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

Reisman: Forest City Ratner exec's resignation conjures up Sandy Annabi case

The Journal News
by Phil Reisman

You can make something out of this ... or not.

But the timing is interesting, to say the least.

Bruce Bender, a key executive vice president for Forest City Ratner — the developer that created the $630 million Ridge Hill retail colossus in Yonkers — has resigned from the firm. Along with a partner, Bender is starting a political consulting firm.

News of his departure was first reported on Liz Benjamin’s Capital Tonight blog.

Curiously, it comes a week before the commencement of a federal corruption trial starring former City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi, who was charged in 2010 with selling her vote for the Ridge Hill project, as well as for another lower-profile project in Yonkers, in exchange for cash bribes.

Bender played a major role in squiring the controversial Ridge Hill deal through the bureaucratic maze of permits and approvals.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Journal News columnist: timing of Bender resignation seems curious, spokesman won't say whether he'll testify in upcoming trial; Forest City issues "terse kiss-off," names Bloomberg official to new external affairs role

Like me, Reisman thought that it was curious for Forest City executive Bruce Bender to leave his job just before the federal corruption trial involving the firm's Ridge Hill project, since Bender played a key role in getting the project going.

Unsatisfying answers

Reisman writes:

Even though no one at Forest City has ever been implicated in the bribery scandal, questions about what Bender (and possibly others) knew about the scheme have lingered ever since U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced the indictments two years ago.

Will Bender be called to testify?

I put the question to Bender through a spokesman, George Artz, but did not receive a response Wednesday.

...Asked if the upcoming Ridge Hill trial had anything to do with his exit, Artz said it did not.

“He’s long wanted to do it,” Artz said. “There is always something happening every moment of time — and 12 years is a long time for anyone to be in one place.”

Forest City issued a terse kiss-off Wednesday: “Bruce Bender has decided to leave Forest City Ratner Companies to pursue other opportunities. Everyone at FCRC wishes him the best.”

Reasons for doubt

OK, we have:

  • no answer regarding whether he'll testify
  • neither Forest City nor Bender's new firm coordinating the news (I contacted Forest City two nights ago but never heard back)

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Forest City Ratner's Lobbyist Bruce Bender Is Leaving. Why? "Simply Time to Go"

We admit we don't know the reason for Bender's departure. All we do know is that February 14th begins a federal corruption trial involving Ratner's Ridge Hill project in Yonkers in which Bruce Bender is the unnamed and unindicted co-conspirator in a case where the briber and the bribee were indicted while the beneficiary of the bribe, Bruce Bender's firm, wasn't.

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

Jay-Z steering Barclays style, also making bank on the champagne served in the luxury suites?

Atlantic Yards Report

Hey, if Forest City stock gets talked up by the same people who earn fees from Forest City, why shouldn't Jay-Z insist that the Barclays Center serve ridiculously pricey and not very good champagne from which he earns an even more ridiculous profit? Exactly.

A 2/8/12 article in the Wall Street Journal, Jay-Z Determined to Make the Nets Stylish: As the Team Moves to Brooklyn, the Rap Mogul and Part-Owner Is the Czar of Aesthetics; Don't Skimp on the Forks, is essentially a commercial--sans any contribution from the man of honor--about how Hova steers Barclays/Nets styles:

In addition, the Nets are set to begin marketing 11 luxury suites that will be known as "The Vault at Barclays Center," a small, high-end space on the event level of the arena. Yes, Jay-Z chose the forks—in addition to offering his input on the Champagne ($300 bottles of Armand de Brignac), the layout (asymmetrical) and much of the décor (lots of black and shimmering metallics).

Hmm, his input on the Champagne.

About that champagne

In an excerpt from Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office, run (and pulled) from The Atlantic, Zack O’Malley Greenburg wrote about a particular business deal:

So why would Jay-Z get involved with a second-tier cham­pagne? Because of the immense profit potential. Fass estimates that Cattier’s pro­duction cost for each $300 bottle of Armand de Brignac is a mere 10 euros. Assuming Jay-Z is an investor, the connection could be through any number of outlets: Cat­tier itself, the brand Armand de Brignac, the importer, the exporter, or the distributor...

Greenburg, who did get much of the Atlantic Yards story wrong, seems on firmer ground here, since he interviewed several people "close to the matter... when I related everything I’d learned, all of them confirmed that Jay-Z receives millions of dollars per year for his association with Armand de Brignac."

But Jay-Z would rather be seen as a connoisseur than someone paid to promote. And the money could be very good, suggests Greenburg:

The production cost per bottle of Armand de Brignac is about $13; the wholesale price is $225. The maximum output is 60,000 bottles per year. If Jay-Z splits the $212-per-bottle profit evenly with Cattier and Sovereign, a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests his annual take would be a little over $4 million. One of my sources confirmed that number, and added that Jay-Z may have received equity in Sov­ereign Brands worth about $50 million. All for dropping a few lyrical references and featuring Armand de Brignac in a couple of videos.

article

Related content...

The Wall Street Journal, article

Jay-Z was sitting on the edge of his impossibly large oak desk when he stressed the importance of flatware.

Forks need to be heavy, he told his small audience, which included Chris Sharples, the architect in charge of designing a block of luxury suites at Barclays Center that would bear the rap impresario's imprint. Forks, Jay-Z said, need to have substance. A plastic fork? Please. Even stainless steel was out of the question.

Wait. Was that Jay-Z, or Yoda?

Last spring, when Sharples and his team first met with Jay-Z, they had him watch an animation that revealed some of the details of the building's ongoing construction. Sharples recalled that Jay-Z got up from behind his desk, leaned toward the screen and, when it was over, sat quietly for several moments before he shared his vision for the suites—the ambience, the color, the experience.

How much does Jay love his champagne?

"I think he treats it the way I treat Diet Coke," said a spokeswoman for the winemaker.

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

Forest City stock seen as bargain by investment analysts from firms that have a business relationship with the company

Atlantic Yards Report

When the 99% complain about income inequality, that's class warfare. When the 1% rig the game, that's just the way the world works.

A 2/7/12 article in Barron's, Forest City Has Room to Grow, suggests that Forest City Enterprises, after divesting itself of the volatile land business and making its board more independent, may do better with investors, especially since it's relatively cheap.

The changes didn't spring from the ever-reformist Ratner extended family. Rather, as Barron's reported:

Many of the changes came after suggestions from existing investors, including Third Avenue Management, the asset-management firm that is the single largest outside shareholder with nearly 20 million shares.

Compromised advisors?

Barron's points out something I hadn't noticed. The investment firms tracking Forest City, whose representatives always seem so chummy with the developer during conference calls, do business with the company.

Doesn't that compromise some of their previously bullish advice? Why weren't they warning investors not to put their money into Forest City if it didn't pursue reforms?

article

Related content...

Barron's, Forest City Has Room to Grow

NoLandGrab: The Barron's story was penned by Bob O'Brien, not to be confused, we're sure, with Forest City CFO Bob O'Brien.

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Is this the start of a Barclays Center gold rush?

The Brooklyn Paper
by Eli Rosenberg

The oddly shaped sporting goods store has already gotten the attention of McDonald’s, which eyed the triangular lot bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Fifth Avenue, and Dean Street, a spokesperson from the burger purveryors said.

TerraCRG, the real estate company marketing the Triangle Sports property, has been using the site’s location just steps from the entrance of the Barclays Center — where the Nets are scheduled to take the court this fall after concerts by rap mogul Jay-Z — as one of its main selling points.

“The Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards development will add exponentially to this demand, causing rents in the already scarce available retail space to surge based on proximity to the stadium,” the firm wrote in a glossy pamphlet marketing the property.

article

NoLandGrab: But don't worry, surely Atlantic Yards won't cause residential rents to go up, displacing lower-income residents. Right?

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Forest City To Divest its Land Business, Some Retail

The Great Recession Ends 60-Year Involvement in Land Development

CoStar Group
by Mark Heschmeyer

After starting out in the land development business 60 years ago, Forest City Enterprises Inc. will reposition or divest its land holdings and is actively reviewing alternatives to do so.

Instead, Forest City is launching a new, four-year strategic plan that will focus its business on its core rental products - apartments, office and retail - in its core markets of New York, Washington DC, Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver. Not included in that list of core markets is Forest City's home base, Cleveland, OH.

The land business buys and sells raw land, develops subdivisions and sells lots to homebuilders. Forest City's land portfolio consists of approximately 35 active projects primarily located in the Southwestern U.S., Texas, the Carolinas and Ohio. As of the end of the third quarter, Forest City listed its value at around $340 million.

article

Posted by eric at 9:47 AM

February 8, 2012

Modular said to be Forest City's "iPhone moment;" retail rents near arena are booming

Atlantic Yards Report

There was some Atlantic Yards news yesterday at the quarterly real estate roundtable hosted by the Brooklyn Historical Society. Forest City Ratner executive Bob Sanna sees modular technology as "our iPhone moment,” a breakthrough for the industry, the New York Post reported.

But no word yet on when and whether they'll get a plant up and running.

The Real Deal reported huge demand for properties near the arena....

link

Posted by eric at 6:26 PM

Forest City Departures, New Firm In Offing

Capital Tonight
by Liz Benjamin

The bridge-shtupping, scene-stealing surprise star of Battle for Brooklyn is movin' on...

A reader called to report two departures from the Brooklyn-based developer, Forest City Ratner, whose name has become synonymous with the Atlantic Yards project: Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone are striking out on their own to create a new political consulting firm.

Apparently, there’s no ill will involved here. The duo felt that after a decade with Forest City, it was simply “time to go.” They’ll be doing a little of everything – consulting, lobbying etc. – and focus largely on NYC, although there might be some forays up to Albany, too. This enterprise is so new, it doesn’t even have a name yet.

Prior to joining Ratner, Cantone served as former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s director of legislative affairs. Bender was a longtime aide to former NYC Council speaker Peter Vallone Sr.

Bender got some unwanted press recently when he was caught on the federal wiretap negotiating for state funds for a non-Ratner project with former Sen. Carl Kruger, who lost his seat after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Report: Bender, Cantone leave Forest City for new consulting firm; could pending Ridge Hill corruption trial be the spur?

Capital Tonight's Liz Benjamin had a scoop today about the departure of two key Forest City Ratner executives, but didn't connect the dots to a pending federal corruption trial that likely will mention--and perhaps involve--one of those executives.

[I've queried Forest City for confirmation. This would mean that four of five key executives listed as lobbyists in 2006 are gone.]
...

There may be no overt "ill will," but why would these top executives leave Forest City before their achievement--the arena--comes to fruition? Why would they leave Brooklyn's most powerful developer?
...

The Kruger case must have been embarrassing for Bender--he was caught on wiretap not only cajoling (with foul language) Kruger for money to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge (and then agreeing "I don't mind fucking the bridge"), he sought support for his wife's charitable project, the Lakeside Center in Prospect Park.

That must have raised a few eyebrows at Forest City offices, but that case is done. However, on February 14, the federal corruption trial involving Forest City's Ridge Hill retail/residential project in Yonkers begins.

Atlantic Yards Report, Executive departures from Forest City pile up: four of five listed as key lobbyists in 2006 are gone

Sure, CEO Bruce Ratner's still around, as is Senior VP Jane Marshall, and Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin surely has stepped up to run Atlantic Yards, but it's remarkable how four of Forest City Ratner's key executives working on the project have left, and under not-always-clear circumstances.
...

Jim Stuckey, the company's Atlantic Yards point man, left abruptly in June 2007 "to pursue new challenges." Last year, the New York Post reported that the departure, as with a more recent one from NYU was spurred by allegations of sexual harassment. Stuckey and NYU have since been sued regarding such allegations.

In March 2011, FCR president and Chief Operating Officer Joanne Minieri left for her own consulting venture, and was not replaced. Was she nudged out in an effort to save on personnel costs?

Now we've learned that government relations officials Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone are apparently leaving to start their own consulting venture. Though a source asserted it was simply “time to go,” that seems odd, given that they'd presumably want to celebrate the opening of the Barclays Center later this year. I suspect that the upcoming Ridge Hill corruption trial, in which Bender is likely to be mentioned, might have been the spur.

True News, Media Black Out Shake Up At Forest City Ratner Surrounded in Kruger Corruption

Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

Super Bowl 2012: Are Sports Stadiums Ripping Off Cities?

International Business Times
by Roland Li

Um, yes?

When the New York Giants and New England Patriots battle in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, they'll be playing in a stadium that was largely financed by taxpayers.

Don't worry, you didn't miss it. We missed this article.

Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis cost roughly $720 million, with the majority of costs financed by state and city taxes increases. The Indianapolis Colts, valued at $1.06 billion by Forbes, contributed $100 million and pays $250,000 per year in rent.

The stadium was projected by planners to contribute $2.25 billion in economic benefit over ten years and create 4,200 new jobs and 4,900 temporary construction jobs. But there's never been a conclusive study that directly ties the construction of new stadiums to economic growth, and some critics dispute the positive benefits of stadiums, which have collectively received around $20 billion in U.S. subsidies in the last two decades.
...

But the most controverial arena has been Forest City Ratner's Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Conceived in the early 2000s, the project received $511 million tax free bonds in 2009, but had to clear lawsuits challenging the use of eminent domain to seize private property. A design by Frank Gehry was later dropped in favor of SHoP to cut costs, and prefabricated steel is being used on residential towers for more savings. The arena is set to open later this year.

Although Kroessler declined to speculate on the potential for tax subsidies for the next generation of stadiums, the trend appears to be continuing throughout the country.

"I don't see any great pushback," said [John Jay College professor Jeffrey] Kroessler.

article

Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

Sky's the limit on pre-fab towers for Atlantic Yards developer

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

In case you've been wondering, the Steve Jobs of real estate developers is... Bruce Ratner!

There’s a lot more riding on whether developer Bruce Ratner can build the world’s tallest pre-fabricated building than just completing Brooklyn’s long-delayed Atlantic Yards project.

Ratner’s company stands to position itself as the go-to developer for what could become a soaring modular-building industry.

Bob Sanna, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner Cos., said yesterday that the company is willing to “share” such technology and is open to also factory-building “modules” for other developers to build modular towers.

“This is our iPhone moment,” Sanna said during a real estate roundtable hosted by the Brooklyn Historical Society.

article

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

NETS SELLING THE FUTURE WITH THROWBACK ABA UNIFORMS

Sports Blog United

The Nets are sending a message to their fans and the rest of the league. The organization is Jersey strong, but it definitely has its minds set for New York. Last night marked the first of five “Hardwood Classics Nights” that the Nets have scheduled for the remainder of the season. During these games, the Nets players suit up wearing their old school New York Nets uniforms from the old ABA days.
...

But just because I like the jerseys doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going out to buy one with Deron Williams’ number 8. It also doesn’t mean I’m going to their new arena next fall to watch.

Let’s face it: the Nets aren’t going anywhere this year with regard to the standings, even if Brook Lopez and MarShon Brooks return fast and at 100 percent. This team will leave Jersey not having appeared in the playoffs since the 2006-07 season. Williams isn’t a lock to re-sign with the Nets next year, which seriously dampens any chance of Dwight Howard coming to Brooklyn. It’s going to be a hard sell for fans to show up next year for a team with basically nothing in the future.

And the Nets hope that flashy new uniforms will do the trick?
...

Once the gimmicks and the novelty of the arena and the new team in town flavor wears off, what does the team have left to fall back on?

article

NoLandGrab: Unfortunately for the Nets, whether New Jersey or Brooklyn, gimmicks are pretty much the extent of Brett Yormark's tool kit.

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

A critic of the EB-5 visa program says it's failing (maybe); report says it's easier to buy your way into the U.S. than other countries

Atlantic Yards Report

David North of the "low-immigration, pro-immigration" Center for Immigration Studies (also see SPLC's criticism of the organization's ties with extremists), the most public critic of the EB-5 immigrant investor program, expands on his December 2011 Congressional testimony with a January 2012 report titled The Immigrant Investor (EB-5) Visa: A Program that Is, and Deserves to Be, Failing.

His summary is that "despite massive promotional efforts":

  • There are comparatively few takers, and only a fraction of them complete the process and get green cards;
  • No one, citizens or aliens, middlemen or workers, or the economy generally, seems to be getting much out of the program;
  • Many of the investments turn out to be bad ones, some scandalous; and
  • Other immigrant-receiving nations run much more rational programs than we do, while securing more significant investments, proportionately, from aliens.

article

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

In Progress: Barclays Center / SHoP

ArchDaily
by Karen Cilento

We have been keeping close watch on the progress of Barclays Center, SHoP’s 650,000+ stadium for Brooklyn at Atlantic Yards. The project has an interesting history as the client, Bruce Ratner, originally looked to Gehry to design an urban solution and iconic image for the 22 acre site, prior to teaming with Ellerbe Becket and SHoP. As we’ve reported earlier, SHoP’s response has developed to become a sweeping pre-fabricated volume, with a perforated latticework steel skin and a transparent ground level. Photographer Roger Edwards has shared some recent photos with us of the construction process as the building is quickly beginning to take shape.

link

NoLandGrab: Gorgeous!

Photo: Roger Edwards

Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

Brooklyn Looks to Slow Zones to Curb Speeding

The Brooklyn Ink
by Cristabelle Tumola

The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) launched a Neighborhood Slow Zone program this fall that reduces speed limits from 30 mph to 20 mph and adds safety measures, such as speed bumps, within a select area. The first and currently only existing Slow Zone in the city was created in the Claremont section of the Bronx in late November. A 20 mph zone program in London has already proven to reduce vehicle speeds and accidents by as much as 40 percent. Now several neighborhoods in Brooklyn are applying for their own Neighborhood Slow Zones, hoping for the same results.
...

The aim of Slow Zones, in addition to lowering the number of accidents, is to reduce noise and traffic in residential neighborhoods, says [DOT spokesman Scott] Gastel. Cut through traffic—cars taking short cuts to avoid busier streets—have plagued some Brooklyn neighborhoods, such as Prospect Heights, which are near major Brooklyn roadways and the Atlantic Yards construction site, the future home of the Barclays Center.

article

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Brooklyn Beep presses for NYU expansion, Apple in borough

The Real Deal
by Candace Taylor

Other speakers at today’s roundtable included Bob Sanna, an executive vice president at Forest City Ratner Companies, and Brooklyn landowner Michael Pintchik, both of whom spoke about the under-construction Barclays Center.
...

Meanwhile, retail rents along Flatbush Avenue across from the arena now exceed $100 per square foot, said Pintchik, who owns Pintchik Discount Hardware in Park Slope and a number of other buildings in the area.

In a sign of the intense interest in area retail, the Flatbush Avenue site of 96-year-old Triangle Sports hit the market last week. Ofer Cohen, the founder and president of real estate service firm TerraCRG, which has the listing, told The Real Deal after the event that his firm has already gotten around 150 inquiries about the building.

For his part, Pintchik said he has plans to develop two six-story, mixed-use buildings along Flatbush near the arena.

When it comes to tenants, he said his company is “not big on fast-food chains,” preferring to “keep the local flavor” instead, with retail tenants who are “artisanal,” “independent,” “quirky,” or “edgy.”

article

NoLandGrab: Unfortunately, too many landlords, unlike the forward-thinking and community-friendy Mr. Pintchik, care only about money.

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

Brute knocks down woman, takes her phone

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

Cashed out

A petty pickpocket lifted $3,700 from a woman at Daffy’s in the Atlantic Center Mall on Feb. 3.

The Russian victim told police through a translator that she entered the women’s chain near Flatbush Avenue at about 2 pm. An hour later, she realized her cash, wallet, and cards were gone.

She said she had just withdrawn money from a bank and forgot to zip her bag shut before she shopped.

article

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

Jay-Z brings his act to Carnegie Hall, steps up charitable work

Atlantic Yards Report

Jay-Z played Carnegie Hall last night, in a benefit for his Shawn Carter Foundation (which supports college education) and he apparently nailed it.
...

The concerts last night and tonight, as well as a fundraising carnival last September that raised more than $1 million, suggest Jay-Z is stepping up his support.

However, as The Daily reported yesterday, in 2010, it raised only $218,849, with most coming from a company owned by a fan. It distributed $124,000 in scholarships that year, plus $23,744 on college tours for potential scholarship recipients and $20,223 for a toy drive in Bed-Stuy.

Shouldn't it be enough for stars to donate their services to raise money? Maybe, maybe not.

link

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

Brown Memorial Baptist Church’s Weekend Rededication

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Erin Horan

More than 500 patient parishioners attended Saturday’s rededication of the fabled Brown Memorial Baptist Church, whose crumbling sanctuary reopened after two years of renovations.
...

The congregation has been inside the Washington Avenue edifice since purchasing it in 1958. Since 2000, the flock has been led by the Rev. Clinton Miller, who has stepped up the church’s activism, most notably by opposing the Atlantic Yards project, which promised basketball and jobs for local residents in the new Barclays Center.

article

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

February 7, 2012

Arena operator seeks Community Affairs Manager; aim is to "build brand visibility," not manage relations with those bearing the brunt of arena operations

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Events Center, operator of the Barclays Center arena, is seeking a Community Affairs Manager.

Is that job aimed at ensuring good relationships with immediate neighbors, so that Prospect Heights residents aren't disturbed by arena-goers who might forget the arena Code of Conduct or car stacked up on residential streets?

Nah. It's a business, man, and that business, while pretty vague in the job description, is about "brand visibility":

The Community Affairs Manager will be responsible for ensuring active and engaged communities around a defined topic or topics by managing calendars and participating in conversations to build brand visibility and thought leadership.

Main duties

The "essential duties and responsibilities" include:

  • Communicate issues, opportunities, and insights to the company at large;
  • Participate in professional networking by following the prominent bloggers and online writers and attending events;
  • Work with local organizations to develop master list of project ideas and plans;
  • Coordinate logistics, planning, promotion and staffing of volunteer initiatives;
  • Coordinates advertising schedules and placement, as required for ads placed in community program books, newsletters, etc.;
  • Liaises with parties identified in CBA – external law enforcement, political, and public agencies;
  • Involvement in city council meetings and activities;
  • Coordinate all MWBE initiatives and report quarterly results to CBA executive board

In the list above, I think there's some awkward punctuation in the third-to-last item; law enforcement, political, and public agencies are not part of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) but would be separate parties.

link

NoLandGrab: Now when we have the feeling we're being followed, we'll know why.

Posted by eric at 8:42 AM

A Sneak Peek Inside Barclays Center: [VIDEO]

A tour of the future home of the Brooklyn Nets yields some surprising elements—both large and small

Bed-Stuy Patch
by Paul Leonard

A tour Friday of the still very active construction site revealed not just the biggest elements of the basketball arena and events center, but also smaller, yet vitally important, details as well.

That list includes ground floor retail with street access to Flatbush Avenue, the first "green roof" proposed for an MTA subway entrance and Ipe wood benches lining the plaza of Barclays Center.

And then there is the colossal: 18,000 seats for basketball games in a "tight bowl" configuration meant to provide a sense of being on top of the action—even in the highest and cheapest rows.
...

But for area motorists, what is perhaps most notable at the enormous construction site is what is not here—namely, a surplus of parking spaces.

With almost 20,000 capacity for events at the arena, Chiarelli confirmed only 1,100 spaces planned for the block bounded by Pacific and Dean streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues.

That has some residents and elected officials concerned about a flood of cars taking up valuable street parking space in the blocks around Barclays Center.

article

NoLandGrab: Actually, residents and electeds are concerned that an 1,100-space parking lot is too BIG, and will draw too much traffic to a quiet residential neighborhood.

Posted by eric at 8:19 AM

As EB-5 goes mainstream, association presents options to financial agencies; head of Vermont regional center says program crucial to state

Atlantic Yards Report

The Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA), a national association of state, county and municipal agencies, on 1/17/12 sponsored a webcast introducing EB-5 investment immigration to its members.

The speakers were David Andersson, President, Association to Invest In USA, and James Candido, Director, Vermont EB-5 Regional Center.

Andersson noted that the trend these days among regional centers to cover several jurisdictions or even a full state, though the regional center he manages in northwest Washington, the Whatcom Opportunities Regional Center, covers just one county.

When the WORC was designated in 2006, he said, there were only about 14 regional centers. Now there are more than 208.

In fact, not until November 2010 did prospect regional centers have to actually pay a filing fee to achieve federal designations. At that point, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) introduced the I-924 form, which comes with a $6230 filing fee to get designated or to have a designation amended.

"There is a move afoot," Andersson said, to get USCIS to offer "pre-approval of projects," which, I might add, is what promoters of the Atlantic Yards project promised investors. "This preapproval has not yet been perfected."

article

Posted by eric at 8:12 AM

USCIS criticized in Inspector General's report for "getting to yes" and being "owned" by immigration attorneys; it didn't cite EB-5, but maybe it could have

Atlantic Yards Report

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal agency in charge of the EB-5 immigrant investor program, has recently come under fire by its own parent agency for going too far to help potential immigrants.

While the criticism, raised by the Inspector General of the parent Department of Homeland Security (DHS), does not address cases within the immigrant investor program, it suggests that USCIS has a "get to yes" culture and is also too much in the sway of private immigration attorneys--both of which, by my observation, apply to the EB-5 program.

The issue was first raised in a 1/5/12 article in The Daily, which got a copy of the DHS report.

article

Posted by eric at 8:09 AM

February 6, 2012

EB-5 visa use booms; ex-elected officials cash in; immigrant investor funding eyed for sports facilities in Sacramento, Oakland

Atlantic Yards Report

EB-5 is all over the news these days, in terms of record-breaking statistics, new opportunities to deploy immigrant investor funds, former elected officials cashing in, and some questionable deals.

The Association to Invest In the USA (IIUSA), the trade association for the EB-5 Regional Center Investment Pilot Program, on 2/1/12 celebrated a new peak in investment immigration....

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, New cautions from China about EB-5 investments (taxes, investment risk)

Even as EB-5 business--and the ambition behind it--continues to grow, there's new caution in China about the benefits and costs of EB-5 investments, in which a $500,000 investment in a purported job-creating enterprise brings green cards for the immigrants and their families.

In a 1/10/11 article headlined Expats in US pay high price, China Daily reported some pitfalls, given that not only must residents pay taxes on worldwide income, there are new reporting requirements....

Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

Andrea Bocelli

Wednesday, December 05, 2012 at [Time TBA]
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

Ticketnetwork

One enterprising Barclays Center suiteholder (Roger Green?) is already offering up his Andrea Bocelli tickets on the secondary market...

$97 for parking? No thanks, we'll circle local blocks for a few minutes before creating our own "parking space."

Wiser opera fans might just choose to make a $1,250 contribution to Channel Thirteen, instead...

Featured Thank You Gift:

2 Tickets: Andrea Bocelli Dec. 5, 2012 at Barclays Center Brooklyn NY Gold Level Orchestra & Front side of Arena plus DVD: Andrea Bocelli Concerto, One Night in Central Park
EXCLUSIVE seats! New York Public Television is the only place to secure tickets to see the one and only Andrea Bocelli LIVE in concert on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 in his only NYC area appearance. He will perform at the brand new Barclays Center, centrally located in Brooklyn! Barclays Center will be served by 9 different subway lines and the LIRR. It is 8 minutes from Wall Street, 18 minutes from Penn Station and 20 minutes from Times Square or Grand Central Station. The Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges and the Holland Tunnel are a quick drive away!

NoLandGrab: That stage configuration looks suspiciously like the proposed "hockey horseshoe."

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

Cool Energy Savings images

AmericanEnergyCouncil.org

A blog post about energy-saving technologies provides a reminder about the sordid history of The New York Times Building.

The site for the building was obtained by the Empire State Development Corporation through eminent domain in 2001. With a mandate to acquire and redevelop blighted properties in Times Square, ten existing buildings were condemned by the EDC and purchased, behind court order, from owners who in some cases did not want to sell. Once the 80,000 square-foot site was assembled, it was leased to the New York Times Company and Forest City Ratner for below market value at .6 million over 99 years.

And this will come as no surprise to those even slightly familiar with Bruce Ratner's m.o. ...

The building is promoted as a "Green" structure, though it is not LEED certified.

article

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

Eric Adams confirms he's running for Borough President

Atlantic Yards Report

When state Senator Eric Adams organized a surprising January 22 press conference on Atlantic Yards, I speculated that one motivation was his rumored run for Borough President in 2013.

Adams wouldn't confirm that he was running, but he did to Room 8 columnist Rock Hackshaws, who wrote 2/3/12:

I have had many credible sources tell me for quite some time now that Adams was going to seek the boro-prez position after Marty Markowitz is term-limited in 2013. In a phone conversation with Adams yesterday, he stated that right now he is first seeking re-election to his senate seat this year; then once he is successful, he will announce a run for the Brooklyn borough presidency sometime before Christmas 2012. He believes his chances of success are very high. I concur.

Well, Adams does have name recognition beyond his elective service, notably as a co-founder (according to his bio) of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. Both his law enforcement background, as well as his willingness to question the police, gives Adams crossover credibility with some voters who might be less favorable toward a black candidate or an ex-cop.

As Hackshaw notes, Adams would be the borough's first black Borough President.

article

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

New commercial to follow "Jay-Z's rise from selling CDs out of the trunk of a car "

Atlantic Yards Report

Relying on a behind-the-paywall WWD article, New York Magazine reports:

Jay-Z's forthcoming commercial will be called "From Marcy to Madison Square," and show black-and-white footage that follows Jay-Z's rise from selling CDs out of the trunk of a car in Marcy Projects in Bedford-Stuyvesant to headlining concerts at Madison Square Garden. It'll reportedly air on MTV, BET, and TNT during NBA basketball games.

Um, I thought Jay-Z's rise relied less on selling CDs than other product.

link

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

February 5, 2012

Signs of the times: Franklin Avenue, House of D, Southpaw transition

Atlantic Yards Report

So, while some were waiting around for Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn continued to change:

  • Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights becomes "the next subway stop on Brooklyn’s gentrification express"
  • While the Brooklyn House of Detention was being renovated, six high-rise apartment buildings were built nearby, and a boutique hotel is across the street
  • After eleven years, Park Slope music club Southpaw will close and the space, like others on Fifth Avenue, will become a business serving kids

Bonus: Southpaw co-owner Mikey Palms told the Brooklyn Paper how he got the Fifth Avenue building:

“A crackhead and a prostitute were living above the venue and the owner told me, ‘If you can get ’em out, you can have the space,’” he said.

link

Posted by steve at 1:13 PM

As Super Bowl Shows, Build Stadiums for Love and Not Money: View

Bloomberg View

As you watch the Super Bowl Feb. 5, spare a thought for the taxpayers in the host city of Indianapolis. The stadium in which the game will be played has been financed largely at their expense and, like so many sports venues built with public money, the cost just keeps growing.

Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Colts play eight regular season games per year, has every amenity: a retractable roof, state-of-the-art turf, seven locker rooms, 137 luxury suites, 1,000 flat-screen televisions. And well it should: It cost $720 million to build.

Of this, the Colts paid only $100 million. To cover the rest, local officials raised taxes on hotels, restaurants and rental cars, and issued bonds that soon led to ballooning financing costs.

...

Although the economic rationale for publicly financing stadiums is poor, an important fact remains: People really, really like sports. And they will often be willing to pay a high price to keep their favorite teams or lure new ones. Sports are part of what makes a city a city -- what would Boston be without the Red Sox, or Chicago without the Bears?

But this calculus is an ethereal one. What price could a city government place on its citizens’ love for their sports teams?

The answer is that public funding for new sports stadiums should be up to voters to decide. Cities should make sure the public has access to independent evaluations of the costs and benefits of building a stadium -- not just the inflated “economic-impact studies” done at the behest of team owners and publicized in the media. It should also be made clear exactly what other subsidies the sports teams will be getting: from cheap loans to cheap rent to cheap land.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Bloomberg (well, his media company) calls for public vote on funding for sports facilities

Now the Brooklyn arena, as well as the two new baseball stadiums, have relatively less direct subsidy than many other deals.

But they didn't need it. They get indirect subsidies, access to sponsors in the nation's biggest media market, and other revenue opportunities.

The city government--hello, Mr. Bloomberg--produced and embraced cost-benefit analyses for the arena that differed significantly from that produced by the NYC Independent Budget Office.

And there was never a vote.

Posted by steve at 1:01 PM

February 4, 2012

Forest City Enterprises stock jumps after decision to shift focus

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the stock market sure liked Forest City Enterprises' decision to divest itself of the land business and, along the way, shifting its corporate structure to have a majority of independent, non-family directors.

The stock jumped 13% yesterday, to $14.91. Last year the stock nudged over $19, while in the last five years it had risen to $70 and dipped below $4.

And Forest City ultimately should be better position to pursue projects in core markets like New York, including Atlantic Yards. (Then again, maybe they'll just keep trying to raise funds from immigrant investors.)

link

Posted by steve at 3:10 PM

Super Bowl 2012: Are Sports Stadiums Ripping Off Cities?

International Business Times
By Roland Li

No story about public financing of sports facilities would be complete without a mention of the poster child of wasteful public spending: Atlantic Yards.

But the most controverial arena has been Forest City Ratner's Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Conceived in the early 2000s, the project received $511 million tax free bonds in 2009, but had to clear lawsuits challenging the use of eminent domain to seize private property. A design by Frank Gehry was later dropped in favor of SHoP to cut costs, and prefabricated steel is being used on residential towers for more savings. The arena is set to open later this year.

link

NoLandGrab: Let's see: Government subsidies and use of eminent domain and all we get is a money-losing arena? I do believe we've been ripped off.

Posted by steve at 3:03 PM

Gallof: Brooklyn Going After Islanders Hard, Making ‘Aggressive Sales Pitch’

CBS 2 New York
By B.D. Gallof, WFAN.com

Despite earlier skepticism and the lack of any new developments since being mentioned two days ago, this author has written a new article covering this story.

The confirmed preseason NHL game next season at the Barclays Center is part of a larger initiative to get the Islanders and owner Charles Wang to consider permanent relocation to Brooklyn, WFAN.com has learned.

The Islanders will host the Devils on Oct. 2, a fact that I first reported two weeks ago and was made official on Thursday.

According to sources, including one within the NHL and another with knowledge of the Barclays Center, the venue is making an “aggressive sales pitch.” In addition, the league source said “the chances of the New York Islanders to Brooklyn are actually pretty good.” The preseason game, sources said, is being viewed as a chance for Wang to get a sense of what life would be like in Brooklyn.

link

Posted by steve at 2:54 PM

February 3, 2012

Forest City doing worse on M/WBE contracting for Atlantic Yards than previously reported: ESD says total is 15.4%, not 22.6%, because some firms aren't certified

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner maintains its perfect record of not making good on an promises!

By the state's measure, developer Forest City Ratner has a much lower M/WBE (Minority and Women's Business Enterprises) utilization figure than previously reported, which suggests it's doing less than previously assumed in reaching out to businesses that truly need a boost.

On January 31, I reported that, according to statistics released by Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, the MBE awards total $91 million (about 16.3% of total purchases), while the WBE awards total $35.1 million (about 6.3% of total purchases).

Thus the combined M/WBE participation is apparently 22.6%, about three-quarters of the way toward the goal of 30% (20% MBE plus 10% WBE), as reflected in the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

Revising the numbers

Well, that was true, but I've since learned that the statistics, while released by ESD, were not only prepared by Forest City Ratner--there was no indication on the document--they do not represent the ESD's own analysis of M/WBE figures.

Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for ESD, explained:

ESD and the Atlantic Yards Project have a certified MWBE utilization contract goal of 20%. Firms must use “best efforts” to meet that goal. If they have not met the goal they must show that they have used their best efforts to retain MWBE firms through outreach and solicitation. ESD has calculated that Forest City has awarded 15.4% to MWBE certified firms to date. ESD does not count the MWBE firms that are not certified. If non-certified firms were included the percentage would increase.

Why wouldn't they be certified? I speculate that either 1) they are/were too fledgling to bother or 2) are too large and prosperous to qualify under the state's newly narrowed rules aimed to exclude M/WBE firms that are very large or led by businesspeople who are so wealthy as to be clearly not disadvantaged.

Whatever the reason, the discrepancy again points out the need for Forest City to not merely self-report but to hire the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the CBA.

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NoLandGrab: It's official! CBA now stands for Completely Bulls**t Artifice.

Posted by eric at 1:56 PM

Gallof: A New Home? Don’t Believe The Hype, Islanders Fans

Brooklyn! Trades! Venues! Excitement? It's Time To Temper The Expectations

CBS New York
by B.D. Gallof

More cold water for the Brooklyn Islanders fantasy.

Despite the inevitable media buzz and the glimmer of hope this will create for a downtrodden fan base, the realities of Brooklyn being any more than a diversion and attempt to pick up some interest from other areas, like Queens and Suffolk, while sending a message to Nassau, aren’t many.

The ultimate goal with these smokescreens is to get someone to ante up some options for the team as its lease with Nassau County winds down. The idea of Brooklyn two or three years ago might have had more promise. Back then, the media and blogosphere would innocently parrot notions. Now, anyone parroting them is instead feeding into the Islanders’ own PR aims and hype.

Brooklyn is wrought with issues.

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Posted by eric at 1:48 PM

Retail politics vs. policy positioning: a contrast between the Markowitz and Stringer "State of the Borough" speeches

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is running for mayor. And he presides over a borough that, unlike Brooklyn, doesn't have an identity independent of the city at large nor, arguably, needs one.

But it's still worth noting how Stringer's State of the Borough Address, unlike Markowitz's version, focused on policy.
...

By the way, here's the word count per speech:

  • Stringer: 4,190
  • Markowitz: 11,246

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NoLandGrab: Y'know what they say — if you have nothing to say, talk for 95 minutes.

Posted by eric at 1:41 PM

PHOTOS: Atlantic Yards Becomes the Barclays Center

A monthly photo essay documenting the construction of the Barclays Center, which the Brooklyn Nets will soon call home.

Park Slope Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

Month by month, the Barclays Center has grown.

Now covered with fabric, the looming frame of the Brooklyn Nets's future home is beginning to look more like the building it will eventually become.

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NoLandGrab: Ironically, the entire project has been swathed in fabrications since the get-go.

Photo: Amy Sara Clark/Patch

Posted by eric at 1:32 PM

Forest City Enterprises, long a family-controlled corporation, to shift to a majority of independent directors; also, new plans to sell land, change corporate focus

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Enterprises (FCE), parent of Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner, is making some changes.

It has decided to sell its land band business to focus on "core rental products - apartments, office and retail properties" in core markets (including New York), and also to divest itself from properties in non-core markets.

Also, long controlled by some interlocking families, namely the Ratners, FCE is shifting its board to a majority of independent directors, rather than family members.

That may be an effort to enhance credibility in the marketplace, but even independent directors are not necessarily corporate watchdogs, as history has proven again and again. FCE public board meetings, at least according to webcasts, show a clubby, go-along atmosphere.

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Related content...

FCE Press Release, Forest City Announces Governance Actions

Posted by eric at 1:11 PM

Pricey Yankee Stadium parking garages hardly used and owner heading for default on $237 million in bonds

Lots part of new stadium deal but have turned into waste of space — 21 acres — producing nothing for taxpayers

NY Daily News
by Juan Gonzalez

Pshaw! Parking garages surely are a good deal for the taxpayers. Uh...

THE FIRM that built and manages the new Yankee Stadium parking garages can’t repay $237 million in tax-exempt bonds the Bloomberg administration arranged for it four years ago, new financial records show.

Bronx Parking Development Company LLC is running perilously low on cash reserves and faces a looming default by the end of the year, according to a report filed Friday by a trustee for the firm’s bondholders.

Time is running out, in other words, to avoid one of the biggest failures in decades of bonds issued by a New York City agency.

The simple fact is that Bloomberg and his aides made a costly mistake when they succumbed back in 2005 to the Yankees’ demand for a 9,000-space garage system. It was all part of the deal for the team to build a new stadium in the Bronx.
...

Bronx Parking Development has turned into a giant tax deadbeat. The firm, which is not connected to the Yankees, has failed to pay any rent or property taxes, even though the garages sit on 21 acres of leased public land.

It currently owes the city a whopping $25 million.

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Posted by eric at 1:01 PM

Super Bowl Lands on Taxpayers’ Backs as Stadium Deal Turns Sour

Bloomberg Businessweek
by Aaron Kuriloff and Darrell Preston

Hosting the Super Bowl has to be a civic moneymaker, right? Guess again.

While Super Bowl fans are riding zip lines through downtown Indianapolis this week in the runup to the National Football League’s championship game, taxpayers are digging deeper in their pockets to pay for the stadium where the game will be played.

The $720 million Lucas Oil Stadium, where the New York Giants meet the New England Patriots on Feb. 5, has prompted local officials to raise hotel, restaurant and rental car taxes, and make other payments on top of about $43 million in unexpected financing costs related to their sports and convention facilities.

“They said, ‘We’re going to have one great fantastic party with an unbelievable advertisement for Indianapolis and it isn’t going to cost taxpayers a dime,’” said Pat Andrews, 60, a blogger and community activist who ran unsuccessfully for City Council last year. “Well, baloney.”

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Posted by eric at 12:57 PM

Developer: Never Mind About Morton's -- Downtown Brooklyn 'On Fire'

mcBrooklyn

By now local carnivores have discovered that Morton's Steakhouse in Downtown Brooklyn has abruptly closed, but not to worry, landlord Muss Development told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Thursday.

A spokesperson for Muss told the Eagle late Thursday that in the previous 24 hours, Muss had received a dozen calls from interested restaurants.
...

Question: Did Morton's give advance notice to members of Brooklyn's high society who kept their personal bottles in the restaurant's private wine cellar before they closed? (Like Bruce Ratner's, shown [right].)

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NoLandGrab: Will you be having the Subsidy Chardonnay or the Domaine Eminent today, Monsieur Ratner?

Posted by eric at 12:44 PM

February 2, 2012

State of the Borough: Markowitz's overstuffed tribute to Brooklyn, with only mild enthusiasm for the new arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, maybe next year, once it's open, the Barclays Center will make a bigger splash. As in past years, the diverse crowd at Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's typically overstuffed State of the Borough address was only mildly enthusiastic to mentions of Atlantic Yards and the new arena.

Then again, he brought it up 38 minutes into a speech (full text) that went more than 95 minutes, and that's a lot of speech.
...

The arena mention

Just after that "ink" remark, Markowitz transitioned this: "After years of struggle and false starts, 2012 is the year that the Barclays Center will really come to fruition. With the new arena nearly complete, it's clear this area will be the hub of a new city center, creating the jobs in and around the arena that we desperately need."

There was no reaction. It's not at all clear that the area will create jobs "that we desperately need," since most jobs, it seems, will be in the fields of restaurants, entertainment retail, and arena services, which generally don't pay well.

But Markowitz found some applause lines. "For an old-timer like me, it feels like Brooklyn has gone 'Back to the Future' —to the days when Downtown was teeming with nightclubs and dancing halls — when we rocked — and we rolled — our way to the Fox Theatre, the Paramount, and back," he continued, generating some claps from old-timers.

"I can't wait to sit in the arena watching the Brooklyn Nets mop up the floor with the 'Manhattan Knicks,'" he continued, provoking more enthusiasm with a line that always works by appealing to reflexive borough pride.

"And I'm filled with hope that the Nets will get Dwight Howard, someone I really 'look up to!,'" he added, as a photo illustration of the diminutive Markowitz and the itching-to-leave Orlando Magic center appeared on the screen. "In fact, my ultimate dream would be Dwight Howard on the Nets — and Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand on stage."

The Dwight Howard mention didn't do much for a crowd that apparently included relatively few basketball fans. Then again, it didn't have time to sink in. In a rather bizarre interlude, a Streisand impersonator then entered the stage, serenading the crowd and, Babs-like, began shaking hands, as if at a bar mitzvah or wedding, with the diverse group of honored guests on stage.

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Posted by eric at 1:42 PM

Barclays Center provoking real estate boom? If so, why can't Ratner get housing off the ground

Atlantic Yards Report

I can't say I completely buy the amNY article headlined Brooklyn nabes expect real estate boom with Barclays Center. After all, the neighborhoods described are already changing--and they're not exactly adjacent to the arena.

The article begins:

When you think about Brooklyn real estate, Williamsburg, Park Slope and the downtown district - the borough's hottest and priciest areas - are probably the first neighborhoods that come to mind.

But with the opening of a new arena in seven months, other nabes may be rising to the top - even if it comes at a price.

The buzz surrounding Barclays Center in Prospect Heights is expected to attract an onslaught of investment to the area and turn the nearby neighborhoods into some of the most sought-after ZIP codes in the city, real estate experts said.

"Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, Bushwick and Sunset Park are on the verge of exploding," said Jamella Swift, senior associate broker at Citi Habitats. "Once the stadium opens, the domino effect from Fort Greene, Park Slope and Prospect Heights will carry over to the adjacent neighborhoods."

What? A domino effect from the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush all the way down to Sunset Park? Crown Heights began changing a while ago, as we were reminded this morning. Bed-Stuy began to boom before the 421-a law expired. Bushwick has been experiencing a domino effect from Williamsburg, not the arena.

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NoLandGrab: Right. Same way the Upper West Side was cow pastures until Madison Square Garden was built.

Related content...

amNY, Brooklyn nabes expect real estate boom with Barclays Center

Posted by eric at 12:58 PM

The Islanders Are Coming! The Islanders Are Coming!

Runnin' Scared
by Neil deMause

There's one problem with that scenario: As part of the frugality-induced downsizing of the Nets' arena that took place when Ratner sacked architect Frank Gehry in 2009, the building's floor is now sized only for hoops, not pucks. The solution proposed by the Brooklyn arena operators has been to reduce the building's capacity from 18,000 to 14,500 seats for hockey. Nets spokes-VP Barry Baum tells the Voice that this "would involve a decreased capacity in the upper and lower seats behind one of the goals" — likely along the lines of what the AT&T Center in San Antonio does for the minor-league Rampage, with one entire end taken up by a giant ad board.

That works fine for minor-league hockey, and should be good enough for an exhibition game, especially when the Islanders aren't even drawing 14,500 fans a game out in Uniondale. But for a permanent home of an NHL franchise? That'd be more problematic.

First off, a hypothetical Brooklyn Islanders would be playing in the league's smallest arena: The Winnipeg Jets are the current record holders, squeezing into the 15,000-seat MTS Centre. At 14,500 seats, in fact, the Isles would be doomed to draw less than all but two non-Islander NHL teams (the Dallas Stars and the when-are-they-moving-to-Canada-already Phoenix Coyotes) — not a vision to warm the cockles of a pro sports owner's heart.

Then too, there's the little matter that the Islanders would be sub-tenants of the Nets in Brooklyn, which means giving up first dibs on all the suite revenue, ad board and concessions sales, and other boodle that makes having a brand-new arena such a lucrative prospect for sports teams.

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Related coverage...

F'd in Park Slope, MARTY PUTS THE BARCLAY CENTER ON ICE

As for Marty, he said ice hockey is the tip of the iceberg for the ugliest arena ever built. He has dreams of monster truck races, Ringley Brothers Circus and concerts from Jay-Z, just to name a few. Sorry Marty, no matter how many awesome monster trucks or gentle elephants in festive head gear you parade through that rat's nest, it won't make it any prettier.

Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

Brooklyn 'courts' more tourists with Barclays Center venue

amNY
by Erik Ortiz

Brooklyn's making a play for the millions of tourists who come to the city -- and wagering that its new arena will win over more visitors.

Elected officials and sports execs want to give Manhattan a run for its tourism dollars, although it is uncertain whether the new Barclays Center -- set to open Sept. 28 with a gala concert by Jay-Z, a part owner of the Nets -- will score.

"When all is said and done, it will be another jewel in the crown of Brooklyn," Tony Muia, who runs "A Slice of Brooklyn" bus tour, said of the upcoming arena.

Tour buses are exactly what we need at the confluence of Flatbush, Atlantic and Fourth Avenues.

Triangle Sports, a 96-year-old business across from Barclays Center, is being sold. It could become an upscale restaurant or retailer catering to visitors and locals alike.

"The stretch [of Flatbush Avenue] is packed," said Geoff Bailey, vice president of retail services for TerraCRG, which is marketing the Triangle Sports property. "There are new restaurants coming and [that are] rumored to include big New York chefs. It gives people a reason to come to the area and linger."

Because nothing says "fine dining" like an arena.

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Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

High-rise housing going modular

This Just In [CNN.com]

This just in? Sure, if by "just in," they mean 11 months ago.

It's an idea that has the potential to revolutionize the construction industry: Use prefabricated modules to build more than 6,000 housing units. If the real estate development firm Forest City Ratner is able to turn the idea into a reality, the firm will build the tallest modular construction building in the world, a 32-story residential tower in Brooklyn, New York.

Click through for more, plus audio, if, like the newshounds at CNN, you missed this story when it broke in March of last year.

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Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

February 1, 2012

Deconstructing the latest softball Ratner interview: plans for affordable housing are even shakier than before, and Ratner's tense even with a friendly publication

Atlantic Yards Report

This New York Observer article, Waiting for Bruce: The Commercial Observer Tours Atlantic Yards Arena, is such a nada-burger that it deserves some off the cuff annotation.

The article is in italics, my commentary not. I'm not sure why it was published other than a generalized desire by the Commercial Observer, which is owned by a real estate mogul, to play nice with Bruce. (Well, here's the justification, I guess: slideshow.)

A chauffered Lexus LS sedan pulled up to the corner of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue and out slid Bruce Ratner from the back seat. He was 15 minutes late.

In a navy suit with a merino v-neck sweater over a dress shirt with no tie and an open collar, he was also underdresed for the sunny but windy chill swirling across the $1 billion Barclays Center that his firm Forest City Ratner is well into building at the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn.

“I thought it was going to be 50 degrees,” Mr. Ratner said, immediately noticing the cold.

This is what's called "setting the scene."

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Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner Loses Tempter in Softball Barclays Center Interview

Such petulance just because a friendly publication's reporter was attempting to dig a wee tiny bit and perhaps broke the restrictions of Mr. Ratner's narrow interview ground rules? Of course Mr. Ratner wouldn't want to talk about anything besides the arena...because there is nothing to say about any of the rest of the phantom project.

Posted by eric at 11:40 PM

February 14: a day of reckoning for Forest City Ratner? Cases involving Atlantic Yards timetable and Ridge Hill corruption charges go to court

Atlantic Yards Report

Tuesday, February 14, may be a day of reckoning for developer Forest City Ratner, as two key court cases proceed in Manhattan.

Sometime after 2 pm, there will be oral argument in the appeal filed by FCR and Empire State Development in the case challenging the state's finding that there was no need for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to analyze the impacts of a 25-year buildout.

In a victory for community petitioners, a judge ruled that such an SEIS was needed.

The case will be heard in the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court, 27 Madison Avenue. I've already written about the first two legal exchanges: the appeal brief from ESDC/FCR and the reply from the petitioners. The appellants get the last word, so I will write shortly about their reply.

The Ridge Hill case in Yonkers

On February 14, jury selection begins in federal court regarding the Ridge Hill corruption case, which touches on Forest City Ratner, though the developer was not charged. The case, which could take a month to try, will be heard by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in courtroom 14C of the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl Street.
...

Will Forest City staffers or lobbyists be called to testify?

I'll have a preview article about the case in the next week or so.

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Posted by eric at 1:17 PM

Waiting for Bruce: The Commercial Observer Tours Atlantic Yards Arena

NY Observer
by Daniel Geiger

Bruce lets his testy side slip out...

Mr. Ratner bristled when asked to make further reaching projections of progress on the Atlantic Yards site. Standing inside the arena and gazing into its nearly finished bowl of seats, The Commercial Observer’s gaze couldn’t help but trail farther, through a large entryway being used by construction vehicles. Beyond was the rest of the site, a stretch of train tracks and dirt recessed below grade that runs east for several blocks between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street.

“We’re here to talk about the arena,” Mr. Ratner snapped when asked when those portions of the development would begin.

One could forgive Mr. Ratner’s edginess given the opposition he has faced. Sensing that he had perhaps recoiled a little too fiercely, his demeanor quickly loosened.

“You have to understand, my words have been twisted around in the past,” Mr. Ratner said.

Translation: "My 'promises' have been exposed as lies time and time again.'"

Mr. Ratner also pointed out that games will be partially visible from the plaza in front of the arena.

“It’s going to be the only court in the league where you can literally watch the game from the street outside,” Mr. Ratner said, pointing out the arena’s embrace of the surrounding community.

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NoLandGrab: If by "embrace" Mr. Ratner means "death grip," then, by all means, the arena is embracing the surrounding community.

Posted by eric at 1:06 PM

Testing the Ice Where Hockey Was an Afterthought

The New York Times
by Liz Robbins

The New York Islanders, tied for last place in their conference and playing in the obsolete Nassau Coliseum, are scheduled to play an exhibition game against the New Jersey Devils in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Oct. 2, perhaps to test the ice for a future move.

The arena that had been designed, and redesigned, for basketball will now transform somewhat awkwardly to accommodate hockey for its first sporting event days after the building opens with a concert by Jay-Z. The Nets will start playing there in mid-October.
...

The Barclays Center, under the original design of Frank Gehry, was configured to accommodate professional hockey. But when Mr. Gehry was replaced by SHoP Architects and the company now known as Aecom, hockey became an afterthought. Now, the developer of the arena and the surrounding Atlantic Yards site, Forest City Ratner Companies, is adjusting to make the arena suitable for hockey.

According to Robert Sanna, Forest City Ratner’s executive vice president for construction and design development, the seating capacity will be reduced to 14,500 from 18,000 for basketball, which would make it the league’s smallest rink. Retractable seats will mostly be collapsed on one end, closest to the Atlantic Terminal side, and therefore the alignment around the rink will resemble a horseshoe.

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NoLandGrab: "Somewhat awkwardly?" That's an understatement. "Suitable for hockey?" Well, yes, it would have ice.

Related coverage...

Let this once and for all put an end to talk of an NHL team calling the Barclays Center of Brooklyn™ home — we're certain no NHL rink is configured as "somewhat awkwardly" as this...

New York Islanders Adrift, The Hockey Configuration of the Barclays Center

The configuration for hockey will be the horseshoe shape that I thought it would be according to a New York Times article.

The New York Times, Islanders to Play Devils in Preseason Game at New Arena in Brooklyn

For the Islanders, this is purely a scare tactic...

The announcement serves as another shot across the bow of Nassau County politicians and voters, who have rejected every effort by Islanders owner Charles Wang to upgrade or replace Nassau Coliseum, the club’s 40-year-old home. Although the 16,250-seat Coliseum is one of the N.H.L.’s best buildings for sightlines and intimacy, it is virtually inaccessible by public transit and has few of the money-spinning corporate luxury enticements that provide revenue at other arenas.
...

N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman has been a vocal supporter of Wang’s efforts to get a new or extensively upgraded building for the Islanders. He commented briefly on the Islanders situation in answer to reporters’ questions Saturday during the N.H.L. All-Star weekend in Ottawa.

“They still have three and a half years to go,” Bettman said, referring to the club’s Nassau Coliseum lease. “Long Island deserves a new building, not just for hockey but for concerts and family shows and the like.”

Gothamist, Islanders To Play In Brooklyn! For One Game

GOAL! The rumors were (sort of) true! Hockey is really coming to Brooklyn...for at least one game. Yup, despite concerns that the Barclays Center was too small for regulation hockey, the much-maligned Atlantic Yards stadium has announced that on October 2, 2012 the Islanders are going to play the New Jersey Devils. In Brooklyn!

Posted by eric at 12:44 PM

Markowitz will promote Barclays Center hockey (exhibition game!) in State of the Borough, won't close door on mayoral run, but seems resigned to sitting it out; not sure "son" (gray parrot) understands his legacy

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who gives his invitation-only State of the Borough address tonight, apparently will be promoting future events at the Barclays Center.

As Newsday first reported yesterday, the Islanders will play the New Jersey Devils in a preseason game on October 2; it's the first NHL game in Brooklyn.

(Would you believe the New York Times devoted a Metro section article to the game, Testing the Ice Where Hockey Was an Afterthought, with credits to four reporters? The Times sure didn't cover the failure to provide the promised Transportation Demand Management plan, or the failure to provide promised larger affordable housing units.)

According to a Courier Life report issued before the official announcement, he indicated he'd be pushing for NHL hockey. Markowitz was appearing at the Bay Ridge Community Council's Presidents' Luncheon, held, not coincidentally, at the Bay Ridge Manor, long owned by state Senator Marty Golden and his family.

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Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

FOR SALE: A CENTURY’S WORTH OF SWEAT AND SNEAKERS

F'd in Park Slope

Mom-and-pop store TRIANGLE SPORTS has sat at 182 Flatbush Avenue since 1916. For nearly 100 years it has bravely survived amid the growing monstrosity of its now-neighborhood, much like the last chip in the otherwise empty plastic party bowl.
...

The rise of Atlantic Yards and the controversial Barclays sports arena has changed the smaller-scaled Brooklyn landscape forever. Growing numbers of big-box chain stores and eateries are following the big money and pushing out local businesses that can’t compete.
...

Christie’s Jamaican Patties, another long-time and much beloved business further up Flatbush, is also closing, a result of skyrocketing rents sought by landlords for any property that falls within the long shadow cast by development corporation Forest City Ratner. They are, by the way, the Godzilla of Greed, responsible for the nightmarishly unnavigable MetroTech and the “crime-ridden” Atlantic Center mall, as it is often referred to in the local papers.

Meanwhile, workers in the independent stores that are displaced don’t have much to look forward to. In a federal lawsuit filed in November of 2011, seven would-be Atlantic Yards workers claimed that construction jobs and union cards that were promised to them by various Ratner-affiliated agencies never materialized. The lies were so numerous and so little was actually accomplished that City Council member Letitia James called the promise of jobs for the workers, some of whom ended up working at McDonalds, “the greatest bait-and-switch in the history of Brooklyn.”

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Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

From the latest Construction Alert: a two-week (at least) closure of the Flatbush Avenue sidewalk west of Dean

Atlantic Yards Report

The latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 1/30/12, was distributed yesterday by Empire State Development (after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner).

There's not much dramatic in the alert, just indications of expected progress in various aspects of the project. Most notable to neighbors, perhaps, is this:

An 80’ section of the northern Flatbush Ave. sidewalk west of Dean St. will remain closed during this reporting period while façade installation is underway. This closure is due to agreement between NYCDOB [Department of Buildings] and Hunt [Construction].

Late-shift work

As in the previous alert, there will be double-shift and weekend work at the Long Island Rail Road/Vanderbilt Yard/ Carlton Avenue Bridge:

  • All weekdays all locations in the yard: 6:00AM to 11:00PM
  • Saturdays as required: 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM
  • Sundays and Holidays as required: 8:00AM to 11:00PM

And there may be late shift and overnight shift work at the arena site:

Subject to receipt of permits, a second shift shall be continued throughout this reporting period, from 3 – 11 PM, Monday-Friday only. Also subject to receipt of permits, a third shift may be instituted during this reporting period, from 11 PM – 7 AM, Monday–Friday only.

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Posted by eric at 12:22 PM

Did an "emergency situation" really preclude alerting neighbors to overnight work last Saturday? Permit for crane was issued 11 days in advance

Atlantic Yard Report

Let's take another look at the explanation given for the disruptive overnight work beginning last Saturday at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Sixth Avenue.

Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, Empire State Development, stated:

The work that was occurring this weekend was being done by the LIRR and had nothing to do with Atlantic Yards. The LIRR is typically very good at notifying us of work that they need to do after hours so that we can inform the community, especially when it relates to Atlantic Yards. But apparently there was an emergency situation in the yard this weekend and they had to get in there very quickly.

Well, maybe it had "nothing to do with Atlantic Yards," but, given that reconfiguration of the LIRR's Vanderbilt Yard is part of the project, it seems like there's some connection, even if not formally part of the Forest City Ratner-led work.

"Emergency situation"?

It's even more doubtful there was an "emergency situation." After all, it's hard to get cranes on short notice.

And, it turns out, the (almost surely) related Department of Transportation permits were issued January 17, eleven days earlier. The permits were for work on Atlantic between Sixth Avenue and the block immediately to the east, South Oxford Street,beginning Saturday, January 28.

Three sequential permits, listed below, were issued the same day.

Given that the announced purpose purpose was "Mobile Crane to Lift Electrical Equipment," and that's what happened, I trust that the permits applied to the work indicated in the photo above. I've asked Hankin for any further explanation, and will update this post if I learn more.

link

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

YIKES! Brooklyn Nets’ Barclays Center 1.0 “Concept Court” Looks Frighteningly Real

Brooklynian

Wow! Or Yikes! Or both. Mythbuster created this “Concept Court” called Brooklyns Nets’ Barclays Center 1.0. So Brooklyn basketball is just around the corner (literally). This brings it all into focus. Maybe a bit too sharp. Until now, “Brooklyn Nets” has seemed like some distant figment of Bruce Ratner’s imagination (or Jay-Z’s). What has it been, 7 years??

link

NoLandGrab: Seven minutes gone and the Nets haven't put any points on the board? Seems pretty real to us. And it's been eight years.

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM