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March 31, 2012

"Hey, you! Out there! I've got kids trying to sleep!"

Atlantic Yards Watch

Your peaceful night's sleep, courtesy of Mr. Sandman Bruce Ratner...

Loud noises at night have triggered multiple incident reports filled with the exasperation of local residents in the last several days and weeks. One Dean Street resident last night shouted "Hey, you! Out there! I've got kids trying to sleep!" to a worker banging his crowbar against a fender in the staging area at 10:30 PM. In another case a resident on Vanderbilt reports a vibration so impactful artwork fell off the walls at 12:15 AM.

A resident on St. Mark's Avenue reports "intense pounding/crashing noises coming from the construction site as I write -- "and we are 3 blocks away with sound-proofed windows! ... How is this permissable?" St. Marks Avenue is uphill from the construction site and some rear windows have an unobstructed path for sounds emanating from the construction site. The filer reports noise extending to 1 AM on Wednesday night.

Another filer from Pacific Street reports two "extremely noisy" nights in a row and that "the loud beeping sound of the trucks with loud bangs and booms stops me from sleeping. I can still hear it even with ear plugs." The filer also complains about the "bright white stadium lights that shine directly into my bedroom window." The lights are railyard lights installed to faciliate LIRR repairs that can only be executed when the railyard is dormant, but have been retasked by FCRC for use now by construction crews. The filer asks, "Does anyone take these complaints seriously or will I have to takes matters into my own hands and seek legal advice?"

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NoLandGrab: The answers are, respectively, "no" and "yes."

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Atlantic Yards Watch: residents exasperated by loud noises at night; state agency asks Forest City not to use noisy hoe ram

The "jackhammering" sound, 1:30 am, March 22

Posted by eric at 11:50 PM

The Yonkers corruption case and the chances for a reversal

Atlantic Yards Report

The Journal News, in Skeptical judge in Annabi case may consider bid to dismiss, reports that U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon had questioned the nature of a conspiracy in the corruption case in which former Yonkers City Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor, Zehy Jereis, were convicted:

The primary argument by defense lawyers William Aronwald and Anthony Siano was that there was no evidence of any quid pro quo or meeting of the minds that Jereis’ payments came with the expectation Annabi would vote as he directed.

Prosecutors... countered that they had ample evidence of Jereis’ payments and Annabi’s official action and that the linchpin proving the corruption was the lengths the two went to to conceal their financial relationship.

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Related content...

The Journal News, Skeptical judge in Annabi case may consider bid to dismiss

Defense motions to dismiss the charges after the prosecution’s case or set aside the verdict in the event of a conviction are routine.

But during the trial, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon signaled doubt in the government’s evidence. She wondered what proof prosecutors had that the $174,000 Jereis paid Annabi over the years had anything to do with the councilwoman’s eventual decision to change her vote and approve Yonkers’ largest ever real estate project, the Ridge Hill housing and retail development.

NoLandGrab: The jurors obviously believed that there was ample evidence of guilt, and that the government proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt, or they would not have convicted Annabi and Jereis on every single count. If Judge McMahon were to throw out the conviction, it would amount to reverse jury nullification, and beg the question of why the court should bother with juries at all.

Posted by eric at 11:38 PM

Enablers Part II -- Those Who Vote for Forest City/Ratner and Citizens Who Are Silent

Talk of the Sound
by Warren Gross

This will be brief! I join John D and many others in denouncing any of our representives who cast a vote for Echo Bay with the proviso that Forest City/Ratner are the developers.

As a matter of fact, I see Forest City, from a layman's point of view, as unindicted co-conspirators at Ridge Hill in Yonkers although their legal grounds were carefully raked and covered with manure as well as dirt.

Any Council Man or Woman, any of the 7, Ceremonial Mayor/Councilman at Large and 6 District Representatives would be covered with this wicked mixture as well.

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Posted by eric at 11:35 PM

Brooklyn Barclays Center Sends Ratner, Daily News Into Frenzy

New York Magazine Daily Intel
by Eliza Shapiro

Ratner, who has been unfavorably compared to a modern-day Robert Moses, has waged a long and costly battle for the space over the last decade. He is also finding an outlet for his excitement in hyperbole: “This is the first truly 21st-century building in New York City.” He also calls it "the greatest arena I've ever seen."

Sheftell likens the space to other great New York "civic spaces" like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The excitement is spreading — at least to other people with major investments in the project. "When the Nets get good, the place is going to hop," said Gregg Pasquarelli, a partner at SHoP, one of the architecture firms that designed the Center.

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Posted by eric at 11:31 PM

After Atlantic Terrace sells out condos, a search for a restaurant or gastropub close to arena for ground-floor space

Atlantic Yards Report

Brownstoner reported March 29:

Atlantic Terrace, the co-op on Atlantic Avenue with both market- and affordable-rates units, has sold out. The buildings hits the milestone about one-and-a-half years after hitting the market. Heather Gershen, the director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, said “we’re very pleased from both the timing and the pricing perspective” and that all units are expected to close within the year.

It obviously took longest to sell the market-rate units; I pointed out last October that the pricing was way less than Forest City once expected, though if Forest City's modular plan comes to fruition, its costs will be lower, and the prices also will fall.

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Related coverage...

Brownstoner, All 80 Units Have Sold at the Atlantic Terrace Co-op

Atlantic Terrace, the co-op on Atlantic Avenue with both market- and affordable-rates units, has sold out. The buildings hits the milestone about one-and-a-half years after hitting the market.

NoLandGrab: The affordable-housing score — Atlantic Terrace 60, Atlantic Yards 0... despite the latter being announced four years before Atlantic Terrace even broke ground.

Posted by eric at 11:21 PM

Forest City execs to investment analysts: arena revenues should stabilize in 2014; open to partner on AY housing (but don't need one), "well-positioned" in NY market for "multifamily products"

Atlantic Yards Report

In a conference call today with investment analysts, Forest City Enterprises executives today didn't reveal much new about the Barclays Center arena, but added a bit of a gloss on details.

Chief Financial Officer Bob O'Brien said company executives had an opportunity to see the arena, calling it "a pretty amazing thing."
...

"Can you talk about the residential entitlements at Atlantic Yards," asked analyst Sheila McGrath in the lingo peculiar to those talking about the business of development. Is the company thinking of bringing in a partner?

Matt Messinger, Executive VP at Forest City Ratner, responded: "We’re focusing our efforts at the moment on the towers immediately around the arena, the first three residential towers... Our hope is break ground on that [first] building in the later part of this year. And then, we’re actively in predevelopment on the other towers, as well. That's wort of where our focus is at the moment."

(Note that they've pushed back the groundbreaking date for that first tower, B2, numerous times.)

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NoLandGrab: "Actively in predevelopment?" Then we suppose the Nets are "actively in prewinning," Messinger is "actively in preveracity," and when we go to bed tonight, we'll be "actively in preawakening."

Posted by eric at 11:13 PM

In Daily News, Bruce Ratner packs multiple lies into one sentence: "For 100 years, this was a train depot in the middle of downtown Brooklyn."

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner tells the New York Daily News, "For 100 years, this was a train depot in the middle of downtown Brooklyn. Now it’s the greatest arena I’ve ever seen.”

No, it wasn't.

About half the arena site was a railyard used to store and service trains. The rest consisted of buildings where people lived and worked, as well as a public street.

Nor was that a depot, in the common definition: a "building for railroad or bus passengers or freight."

Nor was it "in the middle of downtown Brooklyn" but rather in Prospect Heights. And even if you consider the arena site an extension of Downtown Brooklyn--as Forest City surely will argue--it's by no stretch of the imagination in the middle.

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NoLandGrab: And that was the least objectionable part of the article.

Posted by eric at 12:01 AM

March 30, 2012

Barclays Center arena will change Brooklyn forever

'This is the first truly 21st-century building in New York City': Bruce Ratner

NY Daily News
by Jason Sheftell

We recommend a little editing to that headline. How about "Here's something to distract you from all the news about the guilty verdicts in Yonkers?"

And one warning: you'll need a shower after reading this one. It may be the single greatest piece of drivel ever written about Atlantic Yards.

Even in midconstruction, there are moments touring the Barclays Center in Prospect Heights when you can’t help but feel extreme joy. It’s like walking the Empire State Building, I imagine, when the thing was all girders and steel. You just know this building will change New York City and the borough of Brooklyn forever. No longer will Brooklyn play second fiddle to Manhattan, or any other city such as Chicago or Miami.

It’s not just that pro sports are back in the borough for the first time since 1957; it’s the arena’s shape, design, intent, location, housing, public space and stubborn persistence it took to get this here. There are 11 subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road flowing underneath. Over 6,400 housing units will back the arena, with 2,200 units affordable. How can anyone argue with that?

I guarantee the first time anyone sets foot near or inside this building, opening on Sept. 28 with a Jay-Z concert, they will get goosebumps.

Those aren't goosebumps, Jason — they're hives.

“The pedestrian experience was very important to us,” says Ratner, walking the arena and stopping to talk to some of the 620 construction workers on site daily. “The entrance was key. One of the problems with sports arenas is there is no central entrance or exit. I wanted a front door, a place for people to congregate, to feel part of the place. The entrance needs to be the beginning of the entertainment experience that you’ll share with 18,000 other people.”

Ratner and SHoP achieved that goal. Entering will feel like moving into a great civic space, like Grand Central Station or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, only built for and of this time.

Actually, that was supposed to be the "Urban Room," which got shelved when Ratner scrapped plans for a demandless office tower (and its thousands of promised office jobs).

The housing surrounding the arena is as advanced.

Except there is no housing surrounding the arena. He means "promised housing" that may or may not ever get built.

Here's a good one:

After an initial period of confusion about fear of crowds after games or events, locals in every direction seem excited. Of 10 randomly questioned people walking nearby, only one spoke against the arena.

Does he mean "10 randomly questioned construction workers?"

And finally, cue the Star-Spangled Banner:

Call me pro-development or polyanna, but I believe in great civic projects like this. I believe in grand architecture. And I believe in Brooklyn.

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NoLandGrab: Can someone pass the Kleenex? Even we're getting choked up. Or is it a gag reflex?

Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

Developer comments on Yonkers verdict: "This trial was not about the actions of Forest City Ratner" (not quite)

Atlantic Yards Report

Yes, when Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender wrote in an email to then-lobbyist (and now-Yonkers Mayor) Mike Spano, "No fucking around. Get Sandy on board," he surely meant to add, "but no funny business — we only do things on the up and up and we would never, never, never, ever condone anything remotely shady."

[Wink, wink.]

A tidbit from the expanded New York Times coverage of the Yonkers corruption trial verdict:

“This trial was not about the actions of Forest City Ratner,” the company said Thursday, adding it had “no knowledge of the financial relationship between Ms. [Sandy] Annabi and Mr. [Zehy] Jereis.”

Well, it wasn't, and it was about Forest City Ratner.

After all, would Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone, who ran the government relations office and hired Zehy Jereis as a reward for his helping get Council Member Sandy Annabi to flip her vote, still be with Forest City if there weren't some clouds over that behavior?

Yes, Bender and Cantone testified, they had no knowledge about the financial relationship between Annabi and Jereis. But they also made no effort to check for his criminal record, or to request the reports Jereis was supposed to send in to validate his no-show consulting job. And they made sure he got paid.

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Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

Yonkers Duo Convicted in Federal Corruption Case With Ratner's Ridge Hill at Center

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

While Forest City was never accused of any wrongdoing by the federal prosecutors, they still remain the sole corporate beneficiary of Councilmember Annabi's sudden switch from nay to yea on the Ridge Hill approval. This switch came after Forest City's (recently made) former politcal fixer Bruce Bender, after years of trying, was able to get a meeting with Annabi—that meeting was arranged by her Zehy Jereis. Soon after the vote was flipped Jereis received a no-show job with Forest City Ratner for which he was unqualified. Payments for that $60,000/year job stopped when the federal indictments were revealed. (Jereis, by the way, had twice been a convicted criminal—once for drugs and once for election fraud—yet Forest City still thought it sensible to use his services and claimed it did not know his tainted history.)

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Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

Local fallout regarding Yonkers trial: newspaper laments corruption, columnist argues that, in the end, Ridge Hill is good for Yonkers

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder rounds up some of the media coverage of yesterday's guilty verdicts in the Forest City-tainting Yonkers corruption trial.

The Journal News has a good package of articles and commentary (and video) responding to yesterday's convictions, on all counts, of former City Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor, Zehy Jereis.

The editorial, Annabi trial ends, but corruption will linger, stated:

The smitten-cousin defense, novel and intriguing as it was, ultimately was no match for common sense, or the Rolex watch, car payments, airfare, cash or other valuables that moved between former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and her distant cousin, one-time Yonkers Republican Party Chairman Zehy Jereis, convicted Thursday of all charges in their federal corruption trial.

There was some plausibility to that defense, actually, given that Jereis also went through a dramatic personal makeover, including a 150-pound weight loss, which he said was motivated by his desire for Annabi.

Then again, as prosecutors pointed out, the checks to Annabi came from a joint account Jereis shared with his wife, while he and Annabi talked 81 times on "job fair day" and only four times on Valentine's Day.

Very confusing. Could it be that Jereis had the hots for Annabi and also wanted to influence her, and/or she treated him as a "sugar daddy" but also took his political advice? If so, that's still basis for guilt, prosecutors said, since friendship doesn't get you off the hook.

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Related coverage...

The Journal News, Editorial: Annabi trial ends, but corruption will linger

At trial, evidence shows numerous financial transactions between Annabi and Jereis, her campaign manager during her successful run for council in November 2001. He later received a no-show job with Forest City Ratner, developer of Ridge Hill. Prosecutors said developers worked through Jereis to control Annabi’s votes.

The Journal News, Yonkers corruption trial: History of payments and projects

The Journal News, Annabi, Jereis convicted on all bribe, corruption counts

The two defendants stood with their hands clasped before them and showed no emotion as the jury foreman read the guilty verdicts. Neither would comment afterward, but their attorneys – William Aronwald for Annabi and Anthony Siano for Jereis – said they were disappointed. They said that if McMahon does not set aside the verdict, they would appeal based on what they said was the insufficiency of the government’s evidence.

NoLandGrab: The jury seemed to think the evidence was plenty sufficient.

The Journal News, 'Slam dunk' verdict called 'turning point' for Yonkers

“This says, very clearly and very loudly, ‘If you are elected, you are entrusted with public dollars — and if you are in any way complicit in taking illegal gifts, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” [Yonkers Mayor Mike] Spano said.

NLG: Who wants to bet those words will come back to bite Mike Spano in the you-know-what someday?

The Journal News, Reisman: On Ridge Hill, Annabi's vote was right for Yonkers

NLG: Right? Wrong! And who wants to bet those words will come back to bite Phil Reisman in the you-know-what someday?

NY Daily News, Disgraced ex-Yonkers City Councilwoman convicted of taking bribes for vote on proposed $600M development project

A $600 million mega-project developer Bruce Ratner wanted to build in Yonkers was approved after a former Yonkers City Councilwoman dropped her opposition to the deal in exchange for bribes, a Manhattan Federal Court jury found Thursday.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: There’s Nothing Like a Church Fish Fry

By no measure was yesterday a good day for Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner and his Forest City Ratner Companies, thanks to a federal jury ruling that now links the developer’s Ridge Hill project to corruption in Yonkers, New York Magazine’s Norman Oder reports. Neither Mr. Ratner nor his company was charged with any shenanigans, but Forest City did hire one of the convicted conspirators, Zehy Jereis, for a no-show job after he allegedly helped lobby then-City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi to support the Forest City project.

WNYC, Romance Didn’t Motivate Bribes Between Yonkers Councilwoman, Associate: Jury

Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

Forest City reports additional losses on Nets, 64% of forecasted arena revenues under contract

Atlantic Yards Report

It's a good thing for Bruce Ratner that the New Jersey Nets served as the phony "civic" aspect of his Atlantic Yards project, because, beyond that, his purchase of the team has been a complete financial debacle.

Forest City Enterprises, parent of Forest City Ratner, issued full-year and fourth-quarter earnings today, citing record-setting EBDT (Earnings Before Depreciation, Amortization and Deferred Taxes) of $1.61, compared with $1.59 per share for fiscal 2010.

However, for 2011, the net loss attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc., was $86.5 million, or $0.52 per share, compared with net earnings of $58.0 million, or $0.34 per share, in 2010. Why? Forest City made less money on property sales and joint ventures, and lost money by deciding "to strategically reposition the company's land business through sale or other disposition."

Nets losses, arena revenue

Losses on the Nets also hurt, as the company is absorbing additional losses after the amount in the red exceeded the $60 million cap on losses accepted by team owner Mikhail Prokhorov when he bought the team.

The company also reported that some "64 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the [Barclays Center] arena are currently under contract," a not insignificant rise from the 56 percent reported in December.

Still, with six months to go before the arena opens in, if that rate of growth continues, the 100 percent mark, which Forest City has admitted it won't meet, will be a good margin away.

(Contractually obligated income, which includes revenue from naming rights, sponsorships, suite licenses, Nets minimum rent and food concession agreements, accounts for 72 percent of total forecasted revenues for the arena.)

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Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

March 29, 2012

In Yonkers corruption case, Annabi and Jereis found guilty on all counts, after more than four days of deliberation

Atlantic Yards Report

After five weeks of testimony and more than four days of deliberation, a federal jury today found former Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor, Zehy Jereis, guilty of several corruption counts, including extortion and conspiracy to give and receive corrupt payments, regarding Annabi's vote flips to support two development projects, including Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill.

Neither was charged with bribery (which was in the initial indictment) but rather "corrupt payments," related to the $174,000 (including a $60,000 loan promptly repaid) Jereis gave to Annabi over seven years, offering down payments for real estate and paying her bills.
...

As noted in the press release, the Department of Justice said that the investigation is ongoing. Indeed, the trial raised questions about the behavior of other elected officials, notably state Sen. Tom Libous, said by witness Anthony Mangone to have gotten his son a job at Mangone's law firm and directed payments to that firm via a murky company.

Forest City Ratner was not charged and has said it's not a target for investigation. Still, if Annabi and Jereis don't succeed in their appeals, or efforts to get the verdict dismissed, it would be interesting to see if either have anything more to share about the developer's behavior.

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Posted by eric at 4:51 PM

Yonkers Politicians Guilty of Corruption Over Forest City Ratner Project

New York Magazine
by Norman Oder

A federal jury has convicted former Yonkers City Councilmember Sandy Annabi and Zehy Jereis, her political mentor and campaign manager, of extortion and conspiracy to accept and give corrupt payments, related to two real-estate deals, including an $842 million Forest City Ratner development.
...

Prosecutors argued that the money enabled Jereis to control Annabi's vote — notably her decision in 2006 to support Forest City Ratner's giant Ridge Hill retail/residential project. The trial revealed the convoluted politics of Yonkers, the state's fourth-largest city, as well as Forest City Ratner's intensive effort to get Ridge Hill passed. After Jereis helped Forest City executives by setting up a meeting between them and Annabi, he asked for a job.

The company put him off until after Annabi voted, then gave him a backdated consulting contract and paid him $15,000 for three months even though he did virtually no work. A Forest City executive testified that Jereis "probably" would not have been hired if he had not produced Annabi's vote. Neither Forest City nor its employees were charged in the case.

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Related coverage...

The New York Times, Two Convicted in Yonkers Corruption Case

Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, called the convictions “a victory for the citizens of Yonkers who – like all Americans -- deserve fair and honest government, and not government driven by bribes and riven with backroom deals.”

We probably deserve fair and honest real estate developers, too, no?

In court, a prosecutor, Mr. Halperin, noted that under the advisory federal sentencing guidelines, Ms. Annabi could face a sentence of 12 to 15 years, and Mr. Jereis of 14 to 17 years.
...

Ms. Annabi’s lawyer, Mr. Aronwald, reiterated outside the courthouse that he planned to seek to have the verdict set aside. “The evidence was insufficient to sustain a guilty verdict,” he said. “The government did not prove a corrupt agreement."

NoLandGrab: The jury, obviously, felt otherwise.

Posted by eric at 1:38 PM

BREAKING: Annabi, Jereis convicted in Yonkers corruption trial

The Journal News
by Erik Shilling and Jorge Fitz-Gibbon

This just in!

Former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and her cousin, former Yonkers Republican chairman Zehy Jereis, have been convicted of all charges in their federal corruption trial that exposed a pattern of bribes and kickbacks to control Annabi’s votes on the city council.

Annabi, 41, and Jereis, 40, were found guilty of conspiracy, bribery and extortion charges in connection with $174,000 that Jereis spent on Annabi over several years.

The jury found that the money allowed Jereis to control Annabi’s vote on the Yonkers City Council, particularly in approving two multi-million development projects in the city - a housing development known as the Longfellow School project and the [Forest City Ratner] Ridge Hill Development.

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Related coverage...

The Wall Street Journal, 2 Yonkers politicians convicted of corruption

A former Yonkers councilwoman and the one-time leader of the city's Republican Party were found guilty Thursday of corruption when jurors rejected a claim that it was a case of romance, not vote-buying.
...

"The only love these two shared was a love of money," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Carbone.

In addition to the corruption charges, both Annabi and Jereis were convicted of extortion and depriving Yonkers of honest services. Annabi was convicted of making false statements to banks and filing false tax returns, all related to the payments from Jereis.

Posted by eric at 12:51 PM

Watching the Nets in Newark: an inexpensive trip, but not necessarily a bargain

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a trip to Newark to get a little advance look at Your Brooklyn Nets.

Several news cycles ago, before the Howard discussion crested, and before (and after) the Linsanity hype, I traveled with a Brooklyn friend to the Prudential Center in Newark on Friday night February 3, when the Nets played the Minnesota Timberwolves. I do like basketball, and I wanted to see how things were going in Newark.

The game wasn't bad, and the tickets were cheap. I got two-for-one $30 seats, plus a $10 handling charge, for $40. But two $10 concession cards were thrown in. So each seat--decent but not great location-- essentially cost $10. For even less popular games, the cheapest seats have been available on StubHub for a penny, plus handling.

For a Brooklynite using public transit, I can't say the experience, even at the low prices, was really worth it. The trip takes a while. The team is uneven. And the relentless hype that characterizes the Brett Yormark Nets has been amped up another notch.
...

The Nets' new announcer, David Diamante, was suitably energized when the home team scored and studiously neutral when announcing, say, the name of an opposing player who just hit a three.

And while it's understandable that the public address system shows replays of excellent home team plays, it's annoying that arena-goers--unlike those watching on TV--could not get a replay of a great play by the visitors.

Diamante sounded especially smooth when he announced the Nets Dancers. Was I hearing a tiny trace of his experience DJing at strip clubs?

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Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

Yonkers trial jury today enters fifth day of deliberations

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Journal News:

All the parties have fallen into a "wait and see" rhythm, prosecutors in an office downstairs, lawyers for [defendants Sandy] Annabi and [Zehy] Jereis at the defense table. Jereis spent much of the day in the hallway outside U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon's 14th floor courtroom. Annabi sat reading the Bible in a conference room. She said she couldn't talk to a reporter while the case was pending, but pointed out one passage that was her focus, Psalms 7, entitled God the Vindicator, and said simply that's what she was counting on.

Also in the courtroom, as I observed yesterday afternoon: several journalists, a couple of supporters of the defendants, and several investigators on the project. And, yes, a Forest City Ratner rep.

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Related coverage...

The Journal News, Jurors continue deliberations in Annabi trial

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

March 28, 2012

Sweet charity: Domino builder gave $100,000 to pro-development W’burg groups

The Brooklyn Paper
by Aaron Short

Whoda thunk it? A developer buying off community groups? In Brooklyn?

The developer behind a plan to build apartments at the former Domino Sugar factory spent at least $100,000 courting Williamsburg community groups that later supported controversial plans to allow residential construction at the industrial site, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.

Community Preservation Corporation Resources — which is fighting to avoid foreclosing on the massive waterfront plot where it hopes to build 2,200 apartments and retail space — doled out donations of between $9,000 and $30,000 to organizations that subsequently backed the Domino project from February 2008 to December 2009, months before its campaign to rezone the site, court filings reveal.

The currently cash-strapped developer says the donations, which it calls “public reputation” money, simply prove that it is invested in the neighborhood. But attorney and civic watchdog Norman Siegel said the donations suggest an instance of quid pro quo.
...

The money went to groups including Southside United Housing, a Williamsburg housing developer; Catholic Charities, a Diocese-affiliated social services organization; El Puente, a Williamsburg youth and activism institution; Churches United, a defunct religious social services outfit; and Keren Ezer, an Orthodox nonprofit. The developers also donated money to the Brooklyn Philharmonic, an orchestra based in DUMBO.

Each group collected a $10,000 check except Catholic Charities, which received $9,000, and Churches United, which brought in $30,000.

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NoLandGrab: Well, at least all the groups were extant before the project was announced — which is not the case with all big Brooklyn real estate projects.

Posted by eric at 11:01 PM

Crime Report: Purse Snatchings and Bad Workers

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

Well, at least no customers were harmed in the perpetration of this crime.

Bad Worker

An employee of Target was arrested on March 24 for passing merchandise to friends, cops said.

The worker started the scheme on March 3, but was finally nabbed for it weeks later after someone at the Atlantic Terminal Mall store realized that close to $1,600 in goods were missing, police said.

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Posted by eric at 10:55 PM

FAC's Michelle de la Uz is appointed (by de Blasio) to City Planning Commission

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, on a City Planning Commission dominated by mayoral appointees, one person can't sway the body, but it's certainly a non-Bloomberg-esque move for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio to appoint Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee.

Perhaps de la Uz, whose group is a member of BrooklynSpeaks, may have some advice for the Planning Commission on the surface parking lot planned for the southeast block of Atlantic Yards.

At the very least, she might provide some real-world perspective on the project (as, presumably, Borough President Marty Markowitz's appointment, Shirley McRae, also does).

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Posted by eric at 10:48 PM

Bruce Ratner on fawning CEO Radio: "I always felt kind of special" traveling to Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

You wouldn't expect a series of minute-long interviews last month with Bruce Ratner on CEO Radio, a collaboration between WCBS NewsRadio and the Wall Street Journal, to be too hard-hitting. After all, the show's slogan is upbeat:

Ray Hoffman interviews CEOs about their business practices. Learn what it takes to be at the top of your business game!

But there are some nuggets amid the puffery, although the package can't match the awesome duet earlier this month between Charlie Rose and Ratner.

...

Ratner, says the host, "may be the most important figure in the history of Brooklyn since the Dodgers left," given the work his firm has done "to transform the face of Brooklyn, including now the new Barclays Center."

The most important figure? Well, Ratner's certainly up there, but I bet supporters of longtime Borough President Howard Golden would disagree.

But when he was growing up, that wasn't his goal. "I came out of the '60s, and so I thought I would wind up going into some sort of public interest law," Ratner tells his interviewer, noting he "did 12 years of public interest," either teach law or government service. (He sure likes to invoke the '60s.)

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Posted by steve at 9:07 AM

"We're on schedule," says FCR construction executive Sanna, but he doesn't sound certain

Atlantic Yards Report

There's an intriguing quote from Forest City Ratner construction chief Bob Sanna in a NY1 puff piece (mostly) on the Barclays Center, keyed to a visit from Nets Coach Avery Johnson.

(Surely the headline, Nets Coach Takes His First Tour of Barclays Center, is overstated. It's the first time he visited the building since the roof was enclosed.)

"We're on schedule," Sanna said, in a slightly defensive tone. "I mean, in this kind of business where you're outside all the time and materials are coming from all over the United States, any one thing can drive your schedule, but we're on schedule right now, scheduled to complete in September."

That leads to the question: if they go off schedule, what will it take--more overtime, opening the arena without the rebuilt Carlton Avenue Bridge--to get back on schedule?

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Related content...

NY1, Nets Coach Takes His First Tour Of Barclays Center

Posted by steve at 8:59 AM

Jury to begin fourth day of deliberations in Yonkers trial

Atlantic Yards Report

After three days--not quite full days, since yesterday ended at 2:30 pm--a federal jury is still weighing corruption charges against former Yonkers City Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor, Zehy Jereis.

As noted by the Journal News, the jury yesterday "asked today for the testimony of Jereis and former co-defendant Anthony Mangone, who claimed to have passed along a $20,000 bribe to Jereis in 2006 to influence Annabi's vote on the Longfellow housing project in her district."

There was no such claimed bribe regarding Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project, but prosecutors argued that the stream of payments from Jereis over seven years induced Annabi to vote as he wished. Defense attorneys pointed to the absence of any agreement to do so, and argued that Annabi changed her vote because of concessions.

On Monday, Hezi Aris of the Yonkers Tribune described what could be gleaned by courtroom observers:

Shouting matches that seemed to give rise from passionate retelling of events and diminution of opposite minded juror's perspectives espoused broke the decibel level often times in the late morning into the mid afternoon, subsiding after 3:00 p.m., or so. While the expressions were loud, they were not discernible. No inference could be deduced.

As I wrote, there was a Rashomon-like aspect to the case, with the Jereis's gifts to Annabi portrayed as evidence of infatuation and evidence of influence.

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Posted by steve at 8:56 AM

"Brooklynized" water gets low marks in NY Mag's Approval Matrix

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Magazine's Approval Matrix doesn't think much of the Barclays Center's embrace of "Brooklynized" water devised in Florida:

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Posted by steve at 6:33 AM

March 27, 2012

"Jersey Strong, Brooklyn Ready"? Nets' focus on Brooklyn has its drawbacks, scribe says

Atlantic Yards Report

How well is the Nets' "Jersey Strong, Brooklyn Ready" slogan working? Not so well.

Wrote New York Daily News beat reporter Stefan Bondy 3/24/12:

With injuries and long losing streaks mounting, the Nets have looked increasingly unmotivated and resigned to losing - an offense more understandable considering their lame-duck status in New Jersey, the lack of support at the Prudential Center and the constant focus on Brooklyn.

Thirty-five years in New Jersey is coming to a fitting, anonymous end.

link

Related content...

NY Daily News, NJ Nets snap five-game losing streak against Charlotte Bobcats at Prudential Center

NoLandGrab: The Nets started a new losing streak last night, getting blown out at home New Jersey by the Utah Jazz.

Posted by eric at 12:17 PM

From the latest Construction Alert: new rail track, progress on Carlton Avenue Bridge, delay in traffic mitigation work, creation of surface parking lot to start May 1 (though no plans announced)

Atlantic Yards Report

Below are some excerpts from the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 3/26/12 (and embedded below), and released yesterday by Empire State Development after preparation by Forest City Ratner.

The highlights include:

  • installation of new rail road track in the west end of Block 1120
  • progress on the North Abutment of the Carlton Avenue Bridge
  • removal of an access ramp to the arena
  • work on the remaining traffic mitigation work will begin in late April, not merely April
  • work on the surface parking lot should begin May 1, though no plans have been announced
  • streets lights and curbs are being installed on Flatbush Avenue

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Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

Protesters march in opposition of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project

NY Daily News Sports ITeam Blog
by Michael O'Keeffe

A few dozen protesters marched from the Occupy Town Square rally in Fort Green Park to the Nets’ Barclays Center on Sunday to make the connection between Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project and the crony capitalism that sparked the Occupy movement.

The protesters brought The Illuminator, a van equipped with a projector that allowed them to display images on the exterior walls of the still-under-construction arena. Ratner’s mug – “the face of kleptocracy,” according to the protesters – looks a little like the great and powerful Oz splashed on the arena wall.

The most striking thing in the video from Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, the team behind the powerful “Battle for Brooklyn” documentary, is the number of police officers who gathered en masse in response to a peaceful march.

link

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

The NYU expansion plan provokes debate, as well as support for expansion in Downtown Brooklyn; NYU urged to set up a community advisory committee

Atlantic Yards Report

There's another big land use plan/dispute out there: the expansion of New York University, with the main controversy regarding its plans for Greenwich Village, where 2.5 million square feet (of 6 million total in the city) are projected by 2031.

The Leonard Lopate Show yesterday featured a mostly critical (with no NYU rep) assessment of the plan. New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman on March 25 gave it a thumbs up-and-down treatment.
...

On the Lopate Show, two critics, NYU faculty member [Mark Crispin] Miller and Community Board 2 Chairman Brad Hoylman were joined by Municipal Art Society President Vin Cipolla, whose organization takes a mixed view on the expansion.

Lopate twice mentioned the MAS's criticisms of the Atlantic Yards plan, as if not recognizing that the organization is no longer in the fray, as I commented.

But there is a lesson for the area...

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Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

Jonathan Rosen, public affairs consultant for Forest City (and many others), honored by Crain's

Atlantic Yards Report

Hey, ever noticed this gent at an Atlantic Yards meeting?

He's p.r. man Jonathan Rosen of BerlinRosen, one of Crain's New York Business's "40 Under 40" honorees.

And a consultant to Forest City Ratner.

He started in politics, working for state Senator (now Attorney General) Eric Schneiderman, then joined Valerie Berlin, Schneiderman's chief of staff, on Mark Green's mayoral campaign.
...

With Silver, Schneiderman, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio on board with BerlinRosen, among others, Forest City has to like the synergy. The firm also represented ACORN.

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Photo: Crain's NY Business

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Al Pirro: Forest City Ratner (ex-)lobbyist, lawyer, and dinner guest from Mob Wives (according to the Post, though he denies it)

Atlantic Yards Report

Al Pirro--lawyer, lobbyist, and estranged husband of former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro--was a small but not unimportant character in the federal corruption trial involving former Yonkers City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and her mentor, political fixer Zehy Jereis.

(The jury's still deliberating, by the way, after two full days.)

Pirro served as a lobbyist for developer Forest City Ratner, which desperately needed Annabi's vote to get its Ridge Hill retail/residential project passed.

While Pirro was mentioned in testimony by several witnesses, he was never called to testify himself--perhaps because prosecutors recognized that, with his felony record of tax fraud (and rumors of mob ties), Pirro might be red meat to defense attorneys.

A boozed-up dinner

Now, according to the New York Post, there's another reason to be wary of Pirro: he can be a nasty, threatening drunk.

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NoLandGrab: Only the classiest for Forest City Ratner!

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

Jury deliberates in Annabi, Jereis case

Pair face federal bribery charges

The Journal News
by Erik Shilling and Jorge Fitz-Gibbon

The jury deliberating federal corruption charges against former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and onetime city Republican Chairman Zehy Jereis seems to be in no rush to reach a verdict.

After taking Friday off, the panel on Monday made three main requests: to have lunch outdoors, for 11 extra copies of the verdict sheet, and to be allowed to go home for the night.

“Keep an open mind,” U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon told the jurors as she dismissed them about 5 p.m. “See you tomorrow, 9:30, usual time. Bye.”

The jury will continue Tuesday to try to decide the fates of both Annabi and Jereis, who are charged with bribery, conspiracy and extortion.

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Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

March 26, 2012

Minieri, ex-Forest City executive, to head Suffolk County's economic development agency

Atlantic Yards Report

Newsday reports, in Suffolk to get new economic development chief:

New York City real estate consultant Joanne Minieri, who until last June was president of the company building Brooklyn's mammoth Atlantic Yards and the new New Jersey Nets arena, will be named Tuesday to head Suffolk's beefed-up economic development agency, according to business officials and Bellone administration sources.

Minieri, according to the paper, lives in Brooklyn and owns a home in Southampton. (Most of the article is limited to subscribers.)

The Newsday report says she "ran Forest City Ratner Cos. until last year, when she started a consulting company."

Well, she was Chief Operating Officer and president, but not CEO. And there was reason to believe she was nudged out, as she was not replaced and Forest City was trying to cut costs.

link

Posted by eric at 11:05 PM

Sochi 2014: Building Boom for Winter Olympics Leaves Some Behind

The World
by Julia Barrton

It sounds almost as if Bruce Ratner is in charge of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games — and Alexei Kravetz is the Russian Daniel Goldstein.

“A certain number of relocations have been necessary for the construction of Olympic venues, and Sochi 2014 and the government has assured us that people are being fairly compensated in line with Russian law,” the IOC said.

While the IOC said it has met with some of the displaced families in Sochi, it hasn’t spoken with one man there who’s been in a standoff with Russian authorities.

Alexei Kravets has been living in one room of his house on the Black Sea coast. He’s been without water, gas or electricity for five months, since the city demolished the rest of his neighborhood to make way for a new rail yard. His cinderblock house is surrounded by mud and rubble, and he’s painted slogans like “IOC help!” and “SOS!” in red on all the windows.

“In the evening, a backhoe comes up to the house and starts to scrape the concrete just to pressure me psychologically,” Kravets said. “If I left the place for, like, 15 minutes, they’d tear it down right away.”

Kravets said the backhoes have damaged the walls and he’s afraid the house could collapse on him. He’s refused the government’s offer of an apartment three miles from the coast. He’s a lawyer, and he’s appealed to Russian and European courts for help, but has gotten no ruling.

“We never asked anything from the state,” Kravets said. “We built the house all by ourselves, and now the state is taking it away from us.”

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Photo: Julia Barton

Posted by eric at 10:35 PM

Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn

Gavin Smith via Vimeo

Did you miss out on Occupying Atlantic Yards last night? Here's the animated slideshow that was projected, via The Illuminator, onto the side of the half-built Barclays Center.

link

Posted by eric at 7:50 PM

Old Orlando arena dies at age 23 of being insufficiently subsidized

Field of Schemes
by Neil deMause

With the full Atlantic Yards build-out possibly taking as long as 25 years (and that's the official worst-case scenario), it's not a long shot that we might one day witness the controlled implosion of the Barclays Center before the rest of the Atlantic Yards project is even done.

The Orlando Magic's old Amway Arena was demolished yesterday, if "old" is the right word for it: The arena was just 23 years old, and had been targeted for replacement by its NBA tenants pretty much since it opened.

The Magic's owner (Amway kingpin Rich DeVos) complained from the start that the building was economically obsolete, because it lacked the kind of luxury and club seats that other, newer arenas built in the 1990s had.
...

In other words, the old arena wasn't making enough money for DeVos' tastes, and spending $75 million on renovations would only make profits go down. But an entirely new arena that cost six times that amount was just what the doctor ordered, so long as taxpayers paid most of the tab and the Magic kept all the revenues.

If you want the template for stadium and arena development over the last 20 years, there it is in a nutshell.

link

Video by TwinTurboUCF via YouTube

Posted by eric at 5:51 PM

Illuminate Atlantic Yards

Rumur via Vimeo

On March 26th after Occupy Town Square in Fort Greene, a group of protesters marched to Atlantic Center Mall and did some mic checking. They then marched across the street to the arena site where they focused attention on the process by which the arena came to be.

link

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

40 Under Forty: Jonathan Rosen, 33

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

BerlinRosen, Principal

Mr. Rosen is a top strategist for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and real estate titan Bruce Ratner.

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Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

2012 Occupy Atlantic Yards

threecee via flickr

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Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

As jury ponders Yonkers corruption trial, flashbacks: Annabi, who didn't testify, before the indictment called co-defendant Jereis "a great man"; Ratner at groundbreaking saluted "courage" of officials who backed project

Atlantic Yards Report

So, the jury in the federal corruption case involving former Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor (and former Yonkers GOP Chairman) Zehy Jereis continues its deliberations today, after taking Friday off.

The Westchester-based Journal News, which has been following the trial closely, this weekend published In Yonkers corruption trial, feds bet big on Mangone's history, a look at the vulnerable prosecution witness Anthony Mangone, an admitted liar and convicted felon hoping to get a break on his sentencing.

The implication: if Annabi and Jereis survive the corruption charges (Annabi also faces tax and mortgage fraud charges), it may be because Mangone was unreliable.

The Annabi-Jereis connection

One enduring mystery regarding the trial concerns the nature of the relationship between Annabi and Jereis. In court, Jereis claimed he was infatuated with Annabi, thus explaining the $174,000 in gifts over seven years.

Other political figures in Yonkers, as well as a former close friend of Annabi's, said there was nothing romantic to the relationship. Prosecutors scoffed at the claims, arguing the money was aimed to keep Annabi on a string to vote as Jereis wanted.

article

Related coverage...

The Journal News, In Yonkers corruption trial, feds bet big on Mangone's history

Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

The Occupy movement comes to the Barclays Center arena: "This is what kleptocracy looks like"

Atlantic Yards Report

After Occupy Town Square gathered in Fort Greene Park yesterday, a smaller group (as per The Local) of a few dozen marchers moved first to Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Terminal mall, home to big box stores, then moved to the in-construction Barclays Center arena, accompanied by "the Illuminator," a van that projected images on the wall of the structure.

(Photo and set by Tracy Collins.)

"This is what kleptocracy looks like," marchers chanted, and "the Illuminator" broadcast photos of Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and former Governor George Pataki.

Would the 99% have made a diff?

The marchers surely were the 99%, compared to a big developer, but they were not huge in number nor demographically a full cross-section of Brooklyn.

"If the 99% concept had existed during the Atlantic Yards fight, would we have won?" asked Stuart Schrader on Twitter.

My response: "Good question. But Atlantic Yards backers claimed to be helping Brooklyn's most vulnerable, via the CBA."

That said, the 99% concept surely would have made the fight more interesting, and complicated--and perhaps caused some media outlets and civic groups to look harder.

article

Related content...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: We Were ‘Occupied’

ayinfonyc via YouTube, Occupy Brooklyn vs. Ratner

More ayinfonyc videos...

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

Brooklyn center turns to Boca for its 'Brooklyn' bagels and water

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
by Larry Barszewski

A major Brooklyn sports and entertainment venue has found the essence of Brooklyn bagels and tap water — in Boca Raton.

New York's famed bagel shops may be miffed, but Barclays Center has chosen Boca Raton's Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company as its bagel vendor.
...

Its operation at Barclays Center will take Brooklyn's New York City tap water and turn it into — Jerry Seinfeld couldn't make this up — Brooklynized water.

"They're going to turn it into better Brooklyn water," said company attorney Robert Mayer. "It's only going to have the good stuff."

Be sure to watch the video to hear real ex-New Yorkers sing the praises of their Florida Brooklyn bagels.

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Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

New Brooklyn arena puts Islander tix on sale

The first National Hockey League game to be played at the Barclays Center, featuring the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, will go on sale on Thursday.

Crain's NY Business
by Adrianne Pasquarelli

After years of waiting, the first sporting event at Brooklyn's Barclays Center is nearly upon New Yorkers. Tickets for the Oct. 2 National Hockey League game, which will pit the New York Islanders against the New Jersey Devils, will go on sale Thursday.

Someone's been studying at the Brett Yormark Institute of Hyperbole:

“We're extremely excited to play the first NHL game in the new, state-of-the-art Barclays Center,” said Garth Snow, general manager of the Islanders, in a statement, noting that a large part of the team's fan base is already in Brooklyn.

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NoLandGrab: We know a thing or two about the NHL, and we can honestly say we have never, ever encountered an Islander fan in Brooklyn.

Then again, "a large part" of the Islanders' "fan base" would fit neatly into Freddy's Backroom.

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

This Is What Kleptocracy Looks Like

No Land Grab via Flickr
This picture of the Nets arena was taken during this past Sunday's "Occupy Town Square" held in Fort Greene.

Posted by steve at 12:01 AM

March 25, 2012

Emergency caused by construction when the Carlton Avenue traffic light is knocked down again

Atlantic Yards Watch

Construction apparently caused an emergency yesterday morning when a traffic signal at the Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street intersection was knocked down for the fourth time this year. This time the knocked over light blocked Pacific Street and electric wires were exposed. Because vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic wasn't routed away from the site, all used the same sidewalk to get around the problem. The incident occurred only a few feet from the location of the work removing the mock-up of the Barclays Center facade announced with a Supplemental Construction Alert on Friday.

...

Because electric wires were exposed and the street was blocked, the resident called 911. Fire fighters from Dean Street's 105th Ladder Company apparently appeared 25 or more minutes later. Several workers associated with Hunt then also came to the site and spoke to firefighters, but refused to identify themselves or talk to residents.

No source of the problem was volunteered by Hunt or the firefighters. An electrician working for the city who arrived around the same time as the fire fighters confirmed construction was the cause. When asked if taxpayers or the construction firm would pay for the work to restore the light, he suggested it would likely be taxpayers.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, From Atlantic Yards Watch: construction accident knocks down light at Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street near work removing facade panel, but sequence remains murky

Here's the video, but much more at Atlantic Yards Watch.

Note that, while an electrician working for the city, according to AY Watch, "confirmed construction was the cause," a Forest City Ratner rep says it was a truck from P.C. Richard. Check back for further updates.

Posted by steve at 11:40 PM

Times Public Editor: let's worry about an overplayed article (about Mitt Romney); the same criticism should have been operative in 2006

Atlantic Yards Report

From the New York Times's Public Editor, Arthur Brisbane, in When Packaging Oversteps the Facts:

A NEWS article ultimately is judged on much more than its raw factual ingredients. Its points of emphasis, headline, length and position on the page combine to couch the article in a way that delivers its intended meaning and significance.

...“This is a reminder that the fairest story in the world can seem exaggerated when it’s overplayed,” added Mr. [Jerry] Ceppos, a former executive editor of The San Jose Mercury News.

The column concerns a front-page article on Mitt Romney and his passive investment in a fund that owns a company used by China to suppress dissidents.

But couldn't the criticisms--and even more of them--have been applied to the Times's misguided 2006 lead story about the phantom Atlantic Yards scaleback? That time, however, Brisbane's predecessor pronounced all OK, and failed, unlike Brisbane, to survey some other experts.

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Posted by steve at 11:37 PM

Will Brooklynites embrace the Nets? Will the bitter history be forgotten?

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Based, in Nets Gain—and Losses, as this question:

Next year has the potential to be a long season, which could add to the frustration Brooklynites are already likely to feel amid all the talk of eminent domain, traffic jams and affordable housing bait-and-switch that already surrounds the Barclays Center, the Nets’ arena.

So what does it mean to Brooklyn basketball fans if, in fact, our new home team sucks?

The answer? Some still support the Knicks. Others have jumped on the wagon.

One calls Mikhail Prokhorov "the Russian Mark Cuban, so he’s going to want to win at all costs,” which doesn't take account of Prokhorov's strikeouts so far on big-time stars like LeBron James and Dwight Howard.

The writer, Van Sias, agreed with the need for patience regarding the team and project:

Or, as my wife, Nancy Gannon, the great philosopher puts it: “Best-case scenario, they’re awesome and just eff up my parking. Worse-case scenario, they suck and they eff up my taxes and my parking.”

My comment:

How does the difference between the Nets being "awesome" or "sucking" affect whether they "eff up my taxes" (or, to be more precise, "somewhat eff up the city budget because the arena causes a loss, according to the Independent Budget Office)?

link

Posted by steve at 11:35 PM

EB-5 industry group: let's get law renewed, then we can worry about weeding out the bad apples

Atlantic Yards Report

An insight into the world of EB-5 investment immigration just emerged: apparently some of those marketing investments to would-be immigrants think some of their peers are cutting corners.

The response from an industry group? Let's get the law authorizing regional centers, investment pools federally authorized to market such investments, permanently renewed by September. Then we can go after the bad apples.

link

Posted by steve at 11:33 PM

The HRA delay at 470 Vanderbilt and the (delayed) impact on the area around the Atlantic Yards site

Atlantic Yards Report

Brownstoner reported 3/21/12:

HRA’s 470 Vanderbilt Move-in Date Pushed Back
Construction moves along at 470 Vanderbilt Avenue, where the Human Resources Administration signed a lease two years ago. Before construction started up, the move-in was scheduled for Spring 2012; once construction began, it pushed back to the end of this year. An HRA rep tells us the move-in date is now Spring 2013. When the move finally happens, it should bring 1,800 staff and 1,500 visitors to the area on the regular.

What does that mean? Whatever the impact on traffic or pedestrian conditions for the area around the Atlantic Yards site--I argued the state did not consider the impact of office workers and visitors--it won't come until well after some kinks are worked out regarding arena operations.

And that means arena operators should be breathing a little easier.

link

Posted by steve at 11:23 PM

March 24, 2012

Looking at development around the arena site: new "center of gravity" for Brooklyn?

Atlantic Yards Report

So, I'm catching up on the March 21 Times Real Estate section article In Barclays Center’s Shadow, Awaiting What’s Next:

Indeed, among real estate professionals, the mood around the Barclays Center — the only part of the controversial Atlantic Yards project that has come to fruition — could best be described as optimistic uncertainty....

...Instead, stores are on year-to-year leases, or even month-to-month, as landlords wait to see what changes the behemoth brings. That has given the neighborhood a somewhat ragtag quality, even as other thoroughfares in and around downtown Brooklyn have flourished.

But that is likely to change. Cyril Aouizerate, the owner of Mama Shelter, a stylish boutique hotel in the outlying 20th Arrondissement of Paris, said he was “90 percent sure” he would be opening a Mama Shelter at a site near the arena. Mr. Aouizerate said he had rejected neighborhoods like Williamsburg as “too bourgeois-bohème,” in favor of the less established Boerum Hill area, where he is negotiating with property owners.

Though he is aware that the building is named for a bank and will house a basketball team, he said, "I’m more interested in the fact that Jay-Z is involved."

“That’s a name,” he said, “that we can sell to customers around the world.”

Let's see how they market that one--maybe along with "Brooklynized" water?

link

Posted by steve at 6:45 PM

Ratner amps up the Jay-Z claim: "He is the one that is not only designing the suites, but the lounges, the restaurants, giving the thing a whole feel."

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner gives a tour of the under-construction Barclays Center to the ever-unskeptical Fox 5.

"Everything in this arena is related to Brooklyn. What do I mean by that? The exterior has a certain toughness to it, a certain grittiness to it. It's made out of a kind of steel that hasn't even been painted. It's beautiful, on one hand, but tough on another hand."

(Just like the "Brooklyized" water?)

"It's built to be basketball-centric," Ratner says, but of course isn't asked why that was so: the developer shrunk the building to save money, and preclude (they thought) major league hockey.

link

Posted by steve at 6:44 PM

This morning: facade mock-up panel on Block 1129 to be removed

Atlantic Yards Report

According to a Supplementary Report to the bi-weekly Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, issued yesterday at 5:48 pm, there will be following action this morning on Block 1129, bounded by Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues and Dean and Pacific streets, which is used for construction staging and parking:

The Facade mock-up panel located in the parking area to the west of 752 Pacific Block will be dismantled and removed using a flatbed truck this Saturday March 25th between the hours of 7am-3pm, weather allowing.

link

Posted by steve at 6:29 PM

High-paying, scandal-plagued immigration racket

New York Post

If you have the bucks and the right investment project that will create jobs, you can become a permanent resident of the United States. At least, that's the idea behind the EB-5 visa category. Foreign nationals with $500,000 to spend on a project here can gain entrance to the US and apply for a green card, along with their spouses and children (under age 21), as long as they invest in something that will create at least 10 full-time, continuing jobs.

Trouble is that the program is an abyssmal mess. Bloomberg News has a report highlighting cases of investors who came here expecting to be able to stay but are facing deportation because their investments went sour, they got taken for a ride and have lost their money and their legal right to be here.

...

"Some claims about job generation are dubious, said Michael Gibson, a Tampa-based investment adviser who vets EB-5 deals for foreigners. When a project “substitutes EB-5 capital for more expensive bank financing or bond funding or even equity,” he said, “that isn’t really creating new economic activity. It’s margin for the developer.”

Just look at the new Brooklyn arena for the New Jersey Nets. "The Atlantic Yards developer, Forest City Ratner Cos., is borrowing $228 million in EB-5 money for a $1.4 billion infrastructure and arena fund that’s paying for a new subway entrance, parking facilities, municipal water and sewer line upgrades and other work in the vicinity of Barclays Center, according to Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for the company." But the foreign investors are claiming responsbility for all of the supposedly 8,000 permanent jobs that Atlantic Yards will create.

link

Posted by steve at 6:21 PM

March 23, 2012

BusinessWeek takes look at "dodgy" EB-5 program, cites AY figure at $228 million; Forest City claims money is going to infrastructure, but documents suggest it's just replacing land loan

Atlantic Yards Report

In Coming to U.S. Costs $500K With Dodgy Job Plan, Bloomberg BusinessWeek takes a critical look at the fast-growing EB-5 program, in which developers and others have found a source of cheap financing: immigrants and their families can get green cards for themselves and their families if their $500,000 investment creates ten jobs.

The investigation, which looks at several projects, takes a somewhat critical look at Atlantic Yards, and reveals some new information: a total of $456 million raised, not the announced $498 million, and a questionable explanation for how the money is being used. But it leaves some lingering questions unanswered or unaddressed.

Overall, the portrait of EB-5 is tough, citing limited federal oversight:

Projects aren’t rigorously vetted and have been hyped by operators and brokers, and immigration authorities have botched visa claims and stranded investors and their families, according to lawsuits and participants critical of government supervision.

Several of the projects described are fairly small time, involving a few million dollars, not the $400 million-plus Brooklyn project.

AY and jobs

The article states:

In one case, Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards real-estate development, immigrant investors are putting about 30 percent of the capital into one pool financing the project, and claiming all jobs that pool is expected to create, according to George Olsen, managing principal of New York City Regional Center LLC.

The EB-5 program rules don’t demand enough proof that promised jobs, however they’re calculated, will be generated, said Jose Latour, a Miami immigration lawyer who co-owns American Venture Solutions Regional Center LLC in Florida.

“There’s no accountability,” he said. “Atrociously inflated projects are going to result in a lot of rejected green card applications.”

Latour may be right, but that's not an apt criticism of the Atlantic Yards EB-5 venture. In that case, the applications have been approved. The question is whether that approval meets the letter of the law (apparently) and the spirit of the law (dubious).

article

Related content...

BloombergBusinessweek, Coming to U.S. Costs $500,000 With Job Plan

Civic leaders in El Monte, California, saw the Transit Village development planned for land around the bus station as a way to revitalize downtown.

Developers John Leung and Jean Lang pitched it as something else to wealthy Asians: a ticket to a U.S green card.

The pair solicited $500,000 from a South Korean eager to win a resident visa through a federal program designed to stimulate job creation. The developers’ company went bust, the investor doesn’t have a green card and Transit Village didn’t produce any jobs in El Monte, a city of about 120,000 east of Los Angeles. Leung and Lang said they did nothing wrong. City officials said federal authorities didn’t do enough.

“Little El Monte stepped up to expose these people,” said Rene Bobadilla, the city manager. “Where the heck is the federal government?”

If the Feds aren't going to crack down on a couple of two-bit California developers, who's going to police Bruce Ratner?

Some claims about job generation are dubious, said Michael Gibson, a Tampa-based investment adviser who vets EB-5 deals for foreigners. When a project “substitutes EB-5 capital for more expensive bank financing or bond funding or even equity,” he said, “that isn’t really creating new economic activity. It’s margin for the developer.”

The Atlantic Yards developer, Forest City Ratner Cos., is borrowing $228 million in EB-5 money for a $1.4 billion infrastructure and arena fund that’s paying for a new subway entrance, parking facilities, municipal water and sewer line upgrades and other work in the vicinity of Barclays Center, according to Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for the company. The arena, which is being built for the National Basketball Association’s New Jersey Nets, will be an anchor of the $4.9 billion development, planned to include up to 6,430 housing units and 247,000 square feet of retail space.

The loan money is coming from 456 foreigners through the New York City Regional Center, according to Olsen, the managing principal. Forest City first asked for EB-5 money to pay off loans to the company from a unit of New York-based Gramercy Capital Corp., a real estate investment trust. When USCIS ruled against that, the plan was revised, Olsen said.

As Norman Oder points out in his coverage of the Businessweek story:

Hold on. There's no $1.4 billion infrastructure and arena fund. There is a purported $1.4 billion infrastructure and arena project, a fiction created to market a portion of the overall Atlantic Yards project to investors.

The money for the arena, and infrastructure, was already in place when the then-$498 million investment was marketed to potential investors. There was an existing arena project, funded mainly by $511 million in bonds, plus private equity and city and state subsidies. And the subsidies were supposed to go to infrastructure, in the main.

Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

Collapse Kills Worker

Two Others Injured While Razing Warehouse for Columbia University Expansion

The Wall Street Journal
by Pervaiz Shallwani

It's never the Lee Bollingers or the Bruce Ratners who are victimized by their own dirty work — it's the poor working stiffs who have to carry it out.

A nearly century-old warehouse that was being demolished to make way for Columbia University's expansion into Harlem collapsed on Thursday, killing a construction worker and injuring two others, the city's top buildings official said.

A preliminary city investigation found that workers cut a structural beam supporting the remains of what had been a two-story warehouse on West 131st Street. The section crumpled, burying the men in a cascade of steel beams, bricks and reinforced concrete.
...

The warehouse, built in 1915, was being razed for Columbia University's expansion into a 17-acre site just north of the main campus. The extension will include classrooms, research facilities and administrative offices. The City Council approved the project in 2007.

The project has riled some neighborhood residents and local business owners, who have been especially critical of the decision to seize private property for the expansion. Coincidentally, a protest against the project had been scheduled for Thursday night.
...

Juan Ruiz, 69 years old, was one of the first men to be rescued but later died at St. Luke's Hospital.

The two injured workers, King Range, 50, and Sakim Kirby, 30, were in serious condition at the hospital. All three had been conscious when they were taken from the site.

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NoLandGrab: Our condolences to Mr. Ruiz's family and friends, and hopes for speedy and full recovery for Mr. Range and Mr. Kirby.

Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

Yonkers corruption trial: Jury will resume deliberations Monday

The Journal News
by Erik Shilling and Jorge Fitz-Gibbon

“Let our people goooo! for today.”

That was the message from the federal jury in the corruption case against former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and onetime city GOP boss Zehy Jereis, which ended its first day of deliberations Thursday, showing signs that it would take its time to reach a verdict while perhaps feeling weary after the five-week trial.

The jury, which will not return until Monday, did ask for testimony relating to a Yonkers home that prosecutors said Jereis helped Annabi purchase, and for an afternoon break with outdoor access. They were denied a request for an index of the exhibits.

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Posted by eric at 11:35 AM

March 22, 2012

Prohibition-Era Liquor Store Near Yankee Stadium Closes Doors

DNAinfo
by Patrick Wall

Not only did the new Yankee Stadium kill the neighborhood's trees — it's killing the Bronx's mom-and-pop businesses, too.

It sold its first bottle of liquor in 1934, one year after the end of Prohibition, in the depths of the Great Depression, in the shadow of Yankee Stadium.

It continued to sell spirits from its narrow perch in the Bronx when the neighborhood bustled, then went down in flames during the arson-filled 1970s, and was later rebuilt.

But at the end of this month, after more than 75 years in business, Stadium Wines and Liquor will shut its doors, a victim of raised rents and sluggish sales that the owner, like other nearby merchants, said were at least partly caused by the construction of the new Yankee Stadium.

"The store had been here for 70 years," Manuel Mercedes, the store’s fourth and current owner, recently recalled thinking in 2006 when construction on the new stadium began. "I couldn’t think why it wouldn’t stay here."
...

But six years later, the shop’s yearly revenues have plummeted back to about $800,000, while rent has jumped to about $11,100 per month, according to Mercedes.

He, along with several other merchants on East 161st Street, acknowledge that the recession took a big bite out of business. But they say the deepest dent in their bottom lines came in 2009, when the new Yankee Stadium opened.

"It killed business here," said Joe Bastone, owner of the Yankee Tavern, which opened in 1923 and has served the likes of Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio.

"The first day the stadium opened my food business was down 75 percent," Bastone said, adding that sales have since inched up, but not to their pre-move levels, and only after he lowered prices.

The merchants cite several problems with the new stadium.

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Posted by eric at 11:33 PM

Yonkers corruption case goes to jury after vastly different accounts from Jereis's lawyer, prosecutor

Atlantic Yards Report

Not one, but two, reports from Norman Oder on the final stages of the Yonkers corruption trial.

Rashomon at Ridge Hill moved toward a close yesterday in the Yonkers corruption trial: the lawyer for defendant Zehy Jereis conducted a powerful attack on the government's witnesses, while a prosecutor, in rebuttal, scoffed at the defense.

And after U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon delivered lengthy jury instructions in the afternoon, the jury this morning will begin deliberating on the fate of Jereis, former chairman of the Yonkers Republican Party, and his "political creation" (in the words of one witness), former Council Member Sandy Annabi.

"Are we ready?" McMahon asked Anthony Siano, the attorney for Jereis, charged with giving some $174,000 over seven years to Annabi. Prosecutors say it was to control Annabi politically, leading to her changed votes in favor of Forest City Ratner's massive Ridge Hill project and Milio Management's smaller Longfellow development. Jereis says it was desire.

"Oh yes, Your Honor," replied Siano.

He proceeded to deliver a theatrical performance, modulating his voice from righteous anger to sarcasm to faux wonder. There was no piece of evidence--conversation, email, document--that confirmed the alleged corrupt agreement, Siano insisted.

In rebuttal, a prosecutor responded to nearly everything raised by Siano and by Annabi's defense attorney, William Aronwald, but left one choice detail un-addressed: was there any other explanation for Jereis's dramatic makeover--losing 150 pounds, getting his teeth fixed--than his pursuit of Annabi?

And just as a prosecutor implicitly criticized Forest City Ratner for giving Jereis a no-show job after Annabi's vote, so Siano criticized the developer for pushing through payments to Jereis without questioning why he hadn't delivered the reports required by his consulting contract.

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Related coverage...

New York Magazine, At Yonkers Corruption Trial, the ‘Sugar Daddy’ Defense

There was uncontroverted evidence that Jereis, who ran Annabi's campaigns and served as a close advisor, had given her $174,000 (including a $60,000 loan, promptly repaid) over seven years. Prosecutors say the money was to keep Annabi on a string so she'd act appropriately when called upon — notably to change her vote to support Forest City Ratner's giant Ridge Hill retail/residential project.

Jereis, a married man about the same age as Annabi, gave a different explanation. He testified that he was infatuated with her and did everything he could — including losing 150 pounds and getting his teeth fixed — to try to win her love, which also included paying maintenance on her apartment, helping her lease a white Mercedes-Benz, and taking care of her utility and cable bills. Annabi did not take the stand during the trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Carbone scoffed at the idea, saying, "Their idea of a romantic time is a double date with Forest City Ratner executives at Jake's Steakhouse [in Riverdale]. That's not romance, it's corruption."

The Journal News, Yonkers corruption trial: Jurors start deliberations this morning on Annabi, Jereis

[Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Halperin] said the key evidence was how Annabi concealed the money Jereis spent on her for years: keeping it off her financial disclosure forms and tax returns and denying the financial benefits Jereis was giving her when asked about them by colleagues and FBI agents.

“Why all this hiding if you believe you’ve done nothing wrong?” Halperin asked jurors. “It reeked and they knew it. And they did not want it exposed.”

The New York Times, Federal Jury to Get Corruption Case From Yonkers

Mr. Jereis’s lawyer, Anthony J. Siano, introduced e-mails from Mr. Jereis to Ms. Annabi, apparently to show that his testimony had been genuine. “He was behaving like a lovesick fool,” Mr. Siano told the jury Wednesday.

But in a rebuttal argument, a prosecutor said the testimony of a government computer expert had raised “serious doubts” about the e-mails’ authenticity.

“This case wasn’t about love,” the prosecutor, Jason P. W. Halperin, told the jury. “It was all about the money.”

Posted by eric at 11:35 AM

The Expanding Echo Bay Matrix

Talk of the Sound
by Stephen I. Mayo

Mr. Mayo believes doing nothing would be better than turning over the New Rochelle waterfront site to the "functionally and ethically suspect Forest City organization."

Forest City/Ratner's offer (and that is all it is at this point, an offer) fails on both counts. And I have written here and said on my WVOX radio show "With Mayo" on numerous occasions that it would be better not to develop a plan that only immediately added burdens to public safety and public education resources and did not pay almost immediate dividends to the city, than to build just for the sake of "prettying up" the Sound Shore (or "prettying up" the resumes of the incumbent membership of the New Rochelle City Council). Sometimes indeed, it is better to do nothing than to do "a bad anything."

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Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

March 21, 2012

Yormark's big Barclays Center news: adidas will operate Nets Shop

Atlantic Yards Report

When Nets/Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark tweeted "Be on the lookout for some great barclays center announcements this week," he was not talking about the news about the arena's dubious "Brooklynized" water.

Rather, he must have meant the announcement, dutifully covered by the New York Post (which did cover the water) and Crain's New York Business, that adidas will operate the Nets Shop at the arena.

Click through for the Nets' typically understated press release.

link

Posted by eric at 7:22 PM

New Domino project embroiled in lawsuit

Atlantic Yards Report

This is what happens when, unlike Forest City Ratner, you're not sufficiently creative in finding new financing.

From Crain's New York Business, Domino sugar plans on verge of meltdown:

Relations between the two firms redeveloping the Domino sugar factory site along the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, waterfront began to sour almost from the start, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this month. Now, they are on the verge of a total meltdown that could scuttle the entire project.

link

NoLandGrab: It saves neighborhood activists money when the developers just sue each other.

Posted by eric at 7:16 PM

BK Gateway Transportation Workshop March 31 aims to address existing challenges and future ones, including those posed by Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

New York City Council Member Letitia James, the Boerum Hill Association, the Park Slope Civic Council, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, and The Tri-State Transportation Campaign are sponsoring the BK Gateway Transportation Workshop on March 31. RSVP required.

The announcement

The neighborhoods of Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, downtown Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, Northern Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights face significant transportation challenges. Existing traffic and parking congestion, demands on transit service and dangerous roads for cyclists and pedestrians already pose hurdles for residents, businesses and the environment.

The opening of the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards will further compound these challenges. The BK Gateway Transportation Workshop will lay the groundwork for developing community driven solutions to the transportation issues facing the area.

· Discuss transportation issues affecting your neighborhood
· Share ideas with transportation experts
· Learn about strategies to increase pedestrian and cyclist safety, reduce congestion, and improve transit
· Help develop a plan for the future of transportation and transit in our community

Click below for additional info.

link

Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Dust from trucks in staging area continues for nine hours

Atlantic Yards Watch

Video attached to an incident report shows trucks stirring up what the report calls "drifting dense massive dust" in the staging area on block 1129 today. The video reportedly documents nine hours of activity through the course of the day in which trucks stir up dust. No steps to mitigate the dust took place during that period.

Air monitoring is required to take place upwind and downwind from construction work in order to capture the adverse impact of the work on air quality. The filer reports that the closest air monitors were located on Vanderbilt Avenue at Pacific Street and the Sixth Avenue Bridge between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue. If confirmed, these locations would not seem to be positioned to capture the work causing the dust in this location today. The dust clouds on the video appear to head westward toward Carlton Avenue and Dean Street.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, From Atlantic Yards Watch: nine hours of dust stirred up by trucks

I have asked Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, for comment.

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

In Barclays Center’s Shadow, Awaiting What’s Next

The New York Times
by Fred A. Bernstein

Triangle Sports has occupied the same three-cornered site on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn since 1916. But in January, the store’s owners put the 1,570-square-foot parcel on the market.

What motivated them was the behemoth across the street — the Barclays Center, the 19,000-seat arena where the Nets will play, and which is expected to open in just six months. The Nets’ home games, as well as a full schedule of concerts and the traffic that will accompany them, promise to bring wholesale change to the surrounding neighborhood — and a corresponding increase in real estate prices.

Maybe. On the other hand, stuff like this makes it sound as if there's an arena-driven real estate bubble getting ready to pop.

Cyril Aouizerate, the owner of Mama Shelter, a stylish boutique hotel in the outlying 20th Arrondissement of Paris, said he was “90 percent sure” he would be opening a Mama Shelter at a site near the arena. Mr. Aouizerate said he had rejected neighborhoods like Williamsburg as “too bourgeois-bohème,” in favor of the less established Boerum Hill area, where he is negotiating with property owners.

Though he is aware that the building is named for a bank and will house a basketball team, he said, "I’m more interested in the fact that Jay-Z is involved."

“That’s a name,” he said, “that we can sell to customers around the world.”

Yes, people will be lining up to stay in a hotel a few blocks from an arena that houses a losing team that's less than 1% owned by Jay-Z.

The arena will brand the neighborhood around it, said Louis V. Greco, a prominent Brooklyn developer. “People will be able to say, ‘I live a block from Barclays Center,’ ” Mr. Greco said.

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NoLandGrab: Except they're likely to be saying that through clenched teeth, and you won't be able to hear them over the sound of the honking.

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

Ratner is Guest of Honor at NY Building Congress awards luncheon

Atlantic Yards Report

Meanwhile, if you don't have the $40,000 to $60,000 for a month in one of his penthouses, you can fete Bruce Ratner at a dinner for just $25,000.

Guess who's the Guest of Honor at the New York Building Congress's 91st Anniversary Leadership Awards Luncheon, to be held 5/10/12? None other than Bruce Ratner. Tables start at $25,000.

And the Kick-Off Reception for the Leadership Committee is being held at New York By Gehry, aka Beekman Tower/8Spruce Street, built by Forest City Ratner.

link

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Views From the Market Top

The Wall Street Journal
by Laura Kusisto

Bruce Ratner has yet to break ground for a single one of his promised 2,250 units of Atlantic Yards affordable housing. Meanwhile, at "Nouveau Riche by Gehry"...

In the next six to eight weeks, the three penthouses at New York by Gehry, a Manhattan rental tower twisting 76 stories into the sky, will hit the market at a price that would make most apartment-hunters blanch: $40,000 to $60,000 a month.

Haha! I think we can see the little people way down there!

Above the 52nd floor at New York by Gehry, 50% of tenants earn more than $500,000 a year and 20% earn more than $1 million, Mr. Finn said. The concierge has entertained—and fulfilled—requests for everything from hiring Cirque du Soleil performers for a private dinner party to chartering a private plane for a lobster-tasting.

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Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

Fresh bid to crack domain rules

Real Estate Weekly
by Sarah Trefethen

Real Estate Weekly let's us know its POV right up front.

Omelets require broken eggs. And building big things in the big city can mean running up against resistance from smaller property owners.

From Lincoln Center to Atlantic Yards, eminent domain has been an essential tool in some of the city’s largest development projects.

Not everyone is so sanguine, however.

Late last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, by voice vote, a bill that would prevent the use of eminent domain on property to be used for economic development in all but a list of specific cases, including the construction of a road, hospital, airport, or military base.

The bill has been referred to the Senate, where a similar proposal may be considered as an amendment to the larger Transportation Reauthorization bill, according to some observers.

The proposed law could have serious implications for development in New York. In the immediate term, it would bring development of Willet’s Point in Queens to a halt, according to Lisa Bova-Hiatt, deputy chief in Tax & Bankruptcy Litigation Division of the New York City Law Department, where she is in charge of condemnation and eminent domain.

“This bill would hurt urban cities like New York and Chicago and Atlanta the most, where the housing stock is old,” Bova-Hiatt said. “Eminent domain is a vital tool to acquire blighted property, especially when there are holdouts.”

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NoLandGrab: These homes demolished to make way for Atlantic Yards were "blighted" the same way property owners who had no interest in moving for a private real estate project are "holdouts."

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

Crime Report: Thief Hit G Train Conductor

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

Not so secret? Bruce Ratner's malls have a petty-crime problem.

No Secret Here

A thief got away with some “incredible” underwear and other erotic apparel from the Victoria’s Secret store inside the Atlantic Terminal Mall on March 15.

A store manager told cops that he noticed that $3,000 in Incredible Panties, seamless underwear, yoga pants, eye liner and other cosmetics were missing from the sexually supercharged boutique.

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Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

March 20, 2012

Nets over Buffalo, 4 to 1?

Well working, system instant of translation, think no you?

Fox News ticker, spotted near Times Square, February 15, 2012.

Photo: Daniel Goldstein

Posted by eric at 11:06 PM

Rashomon at Ridge Hill: divergent conclusions drawn by opposing sides in Yonkers corruption trial; also, the "sugar daddy" excuse and questions about Forest City's ethics

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on the closing arguments in the Ridge Hill corruption trial — and promises further updates.

Call it Rashomon at Ridge Hill--and beyond.

After a month of testimony, closing arguments capped the Yonkers corruption trial yesterday, with a prosecutor and a defense attorney weaving dramatically different conclusions from the same sets of facts, notably a seven-year stream of payments from Yonkers political fixer Zehy Jereis to his "political creation," friend, and purported object of desire, Council Member Sandy Annabi.

"He got paid, and she got paid, and nobody was supposed to know," contended Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Carbone, arguing that Jereis's payments were made to reward Annabi, and influence her, as opportunities arose, even if not tied to specific votes.

That, Carbone suggested, led to her changed votes to support Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project and Milio Management's Longfellow project. Jereis later got a no-show job from Forest City Ratner and (they say) got a bribe from Milio.

Meanwhile, the attorney for Annabi, William Aronwald, said that Annabi extracted concessions from the developers and contended there was no evidence that the payments to her were "a result of an understanding that, in exchange, she would perform official acts, at Zehy Jereis's behest, as opportunities arose."

After nearly five hours of closing arguments in the Lower Manhattan courtroom, the jury got to go home. In the morning, Jereis's attorney, Anthony Siano, will offer his closing arguments, surely slashing at prosecution witness Anthony Mangone, an admitted liar who said he delivered a bribe from the Longfellow developers to Jereis.

Prosecutors will then get a short rebuttal. And U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon will then offer jury instructions.

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Posted by eric at 10:57 PM

Nets Gain—and Losses

Brooklyn Based

So, it looks like Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard isn’t moving north anytime soon.

And All-Star point guard Deron Williams may not be moving east with the rest of his team when they leapfrog over Manhattan from New Jersey to Brooklyn.

In other words, our soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets don’t seem likely to give us the opportunity to root for the winning team all that often. Barring some miracle finish to the shortened season, right now the Nets are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the fifth year in a row. The franchise is only two years removed from the worst NBA record of all time [NLG: Not Quite. The Philadelphia 76ers won three fewer games in 1972-73]. Next year has the potential to be a long season, which could add to the frustration Brooklynites are already likely to feel amid all the talk of eminent domain, traffic jams and affordable housing bait-and-switch that already surrounds the Barclays Center, the Nets’ arena.

So what does it mean to Brooklyn basketball fans if, in fact, our new home team sucks?

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Posted by eric at 10:39 PM

Adidas will open first Brooklyn shop, at Nets arena

Crain's NY Business
by Adrianne Pasquarelli

German apparel manufacturer Adidas, which makes most of its sneakers (under suspect conditions) in Indonesia, is coming to Brooklyn, yo.

Brooklynites craving the latest New Jersey Nets-branded merchandise made by Adidas will have to look no farther than the new Barclays Center near Atlantic Terminal.

The Nets announced Tuesday that Portland, Ore.-based Adidas has signed a partnership to operate a 4,000-square-foot store at the new Barclays Center. The center is scheduled to open in September, in time for the Nets' 2012/2013 playing season.

“No other place in the world has such a unique mix of basketball-influenced sports and style culture,” said Nic Vu, vice president of retail for Adidas North America, in a statement about Brooklyn.

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NoLandGrab: Well, sure, but have you tried the water?!

Posted by eric at 4:16 PM

ESDC Now Stands for "Empire State gets 'D' for Corruptibility"

State Integrity Investigation

link

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

Defendant Jereis cross-examined in Yonkers corruption trial: contestations, contradictions, and a major question: were the lovesick emails a sham?

Atlantic Yards Report

As defendant Zehy Jereis underwent a tough cross-examination yesterday, the Yonkers corruption trial in U.S. District Court turned into a stew of contestations and contradictions.

Jereis, a local politico accused of using $174,000 in cash and gifts to control the vote of former Council Member Sandy Annabi, who flipped on two development projects (Longfellow, and Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill), was steady but sometimes evasive in denying not only the accusations facing him but also statements about him by a range of witnesses, including those from Forest City regarding their discussions with him.

And prosecutors raised significant questions--but no more--about the legitimacy of the stream of emails from Jereis to Annabi professing his love for her and, according to the defendant, explaining the reason for his generosity. They were found on Annabi's computer--which also had a wave of deletions--but not Jereis's computer.

An expert witness testified that no "remnants" of the opened emails could be found on Annabi's computer, which exhibited signs of potential tampering, and no sign of them--or responses to them--on Jereis's computer, though he acknowledged that he neither could explain more about the tampering or whether Jereis used another device.

And one email referred incorrectly to the date of a payment Jereis sent, which prosecutors suggested was a sign they were made up later.

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Related coverage...

The Journal News, Computer expert at Yonkers corruption trial: No evidence of Jereis love notes

The emails Zehy Jereis purportedly sent former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi expressing his love for her in 2005 and 2006 could not be found on his computer hard drive, a Rockland County detective who is an expert in computer forensics testified at their federal corruption trial Monday.

Detective Shlomo Koenig also said that an analysis of Annabi's computer, where the emails were found, indicated that dates in her AOL "folder" — usually listed chronologically — were out of order in early 2007, just after the federal probe of Annabi had begun.

"That showed me that something about this folder is not the way it's supposed to be," said Koenig, who works for the computer crimes unit of the Rockland Sheriff's Department and is also assigned to Secret Service and FBI task forces on computer crimes.

The New York Times, Doubt Cast on Defendant’s Romantic E-Mails

Mr. Jereis, 40, testified last week that he made the payments to Ms. Annabi, 41, because he was in love with her. His lawyer, Anthony J. Siano, introduced a series of e-mails that his client purportedly sent to her in 2005 and 2006, apparently to show that his recollections were accurate.

But a prosecutor, Jason P. W. Halperin, focusing on a discrepancy between Mr. Jereis’s testimony and a date in one e-mail, said, “You forget the date, sir, because you made up these e-mails years later.”

Talk of the Sound, Yonkers Corruption Trial Provides Glimpse into the Seedy World of Westchester Poliitics

Norman Oder writing on the Atlantic Yards Report provides an excellent, must read synopsis on the Yonkers Corruption Trial involving Noam Bramson's favorite developer, Forest City/Ratner, more commonly known on Talk of the Sound as "Developer #1".

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Barclays Center Will Sell Bottled "Brooklyn Water" Imported From Florida

Gothamist
by John Del Signore

This is too perfect: When the controversial Barclays Center opens in Brooklyn, the arena will serve "Brooklyn Water," which is produced in Florida. Norman Oder, a longstanding opponent [NLG: Oder would call himself a critic] of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, writes on Grub Street that even though Ratner has made a big deal about seeking Brooklyn-based vendors for the arena, the water will be shipped up from Florida, where it's "created" (as the company puts it) in a bottling plant called Brooklyn Water Enterprises Inc.

The plant has the capacity to produce "50,000 bottles of Brooklynized water per day" using a "14-step proprietary water technology to create Brooklynized water." This is the water that's used to make The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. bagels, which is also based in Florida.

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NoLandGrab: With apologies to Umar Jordan, "if you bottled or baked in Florida, you ain't from Brooklyn."

Related coverage...

The Huffington Post, Barclays Center To Sell 'Original Brooklyn Water Bottling Company' Water Shipped From Florida

Despite a declaration to envelop itself in "quintessentially Brooklyn" cuisine, Barclays Center will be selling "Brooklyn" branded water produced some 1,250 miles away in Boca Raton, Florida.

Grub Street points our attention to the hokey water branding from the Florida-based, Original Brooklyn Water Bottling Company, which promises to successfully have developed a formula to "Brooklynize" water through a special filtration process in order to create "Brooklyn" bagels.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: What You Need Is A Cool Glass of ‘Brooklyn’ Water

One other problem? There’s no such thing as “Brooklyn water.” All New York City water is the same, isn’t it?

Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

"Brooklynized" water and Barclays Center: teasing out the ironies, plus the Yormark connection

Atlantic Yards Report

Can "Brooklynized" water be recreated in a lab and marketed by a Florida company?

And then can it be sold, straight-faced, to people in Brooklyn, who could get "Brooklyn" water through a much easier process, especially when the water is the subject of a lawsuit challenging its authenticity?

That's the subject of a brief article I have today in New York magazine's Grub Street blog, which points to the contrast with Bruce Ratner's professed interested in authentic Brooklyn purveyors.

Below, much more detail, including--natch--the role of the ubermarketing Yormark twins.

(The New York Post has a follow-up too, with no credit to the Grub Street story that inspired it. But the Post has the news that the water will be bottled in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and upstate New York, and dismay from local bagel makers. All that's been previously announced is that the water, not the bagels, would be sold at the arena. But the Post is right in characterizing how arena operators "grudgingly confirmed" the Brooklyn water deal; after all, it has not been played up.)

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Related coverage...

NY Post, Florida-based 'Brooklyn Water' and bagels coming to Nets' Barclays Center

The locally monikered H2O, called "Brooklyn Water," will actually be produced in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and upstate New York, company officials confirmed.

"There’s nothing Brooklyn about this water," cracked Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn), a longtime critic of the arena.

And as part of the Barclays Center deal, the company’s subsidiary, Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company, will open its first metro-area restaurant at the arena and bake on-site.
...

However, arena officials chose the out-of-state bagel franchise over the Big Apple’s more than 440 bagel shops, which include at least 115 in Brooklyn, according to Yelp.com.

NoLandGrab: Like Jay-Z likes to say, keep it real.

Posted by eric at 12:03 AM

March 19, 2012

Brooklyn Arena Will Sell ‘Brooklynized’ Water, Formulated (and Facing Legal Scrutiny) in Florida

Grub Street New York
by Norman Oder

We suggest the following tagline: "Just as legit as the rest of the Atlantic Yards project!"

Even more Brooklyn branding: When the Barclays Center, the new Nets arena at Atlantic Yards, opens in September, all of the bottled water on sale will be "Brooklynized." It may seem to fit with Bruce Ratner's statement that "we are excited to ... make Barclays Center’s culinary experience as quintessentially Brooklyn as it gets." Unfortunately, the water itself comes from the Original Brooklyn Water Bottling Company — which is based in Boca Raton, Florida. And the water doesn't just present a curious, almost Borgesian selling proposition, it also comes with a few legal questions about its legitimacy.

The water comes from a new but rapidly growing Florida-based, Larry King–approved franchise, the Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., which claims it's found the secret to making great bagels: "Brooklynize" the water via a custom filtration process so it resembles "Brooklyn" water, which of course is actually just New York City water. (The company says the water itself comes from "regional bottling facilities.")

At least one person is already going after "Brooklynized" water. The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported last week that a franchise buyer in Florida sued the company, claiming that "the water filtration system is not unique and does not render water equivalent to Brooklyn water."

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NoLandGrab: And it's great for the environment, too!

Posted by eric at 1:42 PM

No interim report yet on arena Transportation Demand Management plan, originally due in December, now planned for May

Atlantic Yards Report

Jobs, Housing, Hoops and a Transportation Demand Management plan?

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting on March 15 covered a lot of ground, but one key issue related to the Barclays Center arena remained shunted to the side, despite promises last year it would have been on the table well before this month.

Where's the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, the multi-faceted effort--free MetroCards, cross-marketing with local businesses, remote parking, etc.--to get fewer people to drive to the arena and instead choose public transit?

Only with a robust TDM plan can the interim surface parking lot--between Dean and Pacific streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues--but shrunk from the now-planned 1100 spaces, which would require (potentially noisy and unwieldy) stackers, to a more manageable, greener configuration.

City Council Member Letitia James asked for an update on the plan, and Forest City Ratner agreed, but the issue was dropped and no discussion surfaced during the meeting, which lasted less than 90 minutes.

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Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

Remote parking garages near Atlantic Avenue? How about LICH and One Brooklyn Bridge Park?

Atlantic Yards Report

So, where might those remote parking garages be located, where those attending Nets games in Brooklyn can park and take shuttle buses to the Barclays Center arena?

At the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting on March 15, Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall said the company had identified two garages for remote parking, "focused on Atlantic Avenue" and "right off the BQE [Brooklyn-Queens Expressway]."

That would allow shuttle buses to follow MTA bus routes along Atlantic Avenue and, presumably, do a drop-off along Atlantic Avenue outside the arena rather than along Flatbush Avenue or the narrower lanes of Dean Street or Sixth Avenue.

Where might they be?

After the meeting, Rob Perris, District Manager for Community Board 2, and Jim Vogel, an aide to state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, both Brooklyn residents, gave it their best guess:

  • Long Island College Hospital (LICH), now part of Downstate Medical Center
  • One Brooklyn Bridge Park, a luxury condo building

Both certainly fit Marshall's description.

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Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

Brooklyn buzz

NorthJersey.com
by John Brennan

A little cold water for the Brooklyn Islanders fantasy.

The Brooklyn site can only properly seat just under 15,000 (tops) for hockey due to the revamped construction plans once larger-than-life architect Frank Gehry bailed out a couple of years ago. That would make the site the National Hockey League’s smallest arena.

Could the Islanders really survive there longterm?

If survive means losing less money than owner Charles Wang is hemorrhaging now at the 40-year-old, over-the-hill Coliseum, then yes.

But a return to profitability? That probably only can come if Wang gets a sweetheart deal to be the premier tenant at a new Long Island facility (oh, and if he can finally turn the team into a winner after decades of struggle).

article

Related content...

YFrog, Barclays center will have best sightlines of any arena

...or so says amateur photog Brett Yormark.

Except for hockey, of course.

Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

Sweet movie: Domino doc explores controversial project

The Brooklyn Paper
by Aaron Short

An interview with the filmmakers behind the new documentary The Domino Effect.

Who’s ultimately to blame for the rezoning of the site and the stalled project?

Daniel Phelps: Mayor Bloomberg’s policies. The mayor gave up all hope for manufacturing.

Brian Paul: They would not have broken ground on the waterfront without real estate interests in the city. The mayor measures economic development by Frank Gehry buildings.

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Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

March 18, 2012

The Sydney Schanberg back story: "the city's newspapers, like the big politicians," were part of "the shame of Westway"

Atlantic Yards Report

The other day, in writing about the estimable Times Metro columnist Michael Powell's understandable but still dismaying decision to steer clear of the Yonkers corruption trial, I made reference to columnist Sydney Schanberg, who crossed a line with his bosses in the mid-1980s.

The episode is instructive, though it doesn't suggest direct parallels, since Schanberg was an opinion columnist, on the Op-Ed page, while Powell is a Metro columnist, his conclusions based more firmly in reporting.

Could you imagine if the Times had an Op-Ed columnist willing to critique the paper itself? What might he/she have said about that softball interview with Bruce Ratner last week, which didn't even mention the Yonkers corruption trial that, even to a business booster like Greg David of Crain's, made the company look bad?

Or what might such a columnist say about the Times's Sunday Real Estate section, which has nothing to say to the 99%--or, in New York City, maybe the 80%.

...

When Greg David of business-friendly Crain's suggests that the dailies under-covered the Yonkers trial, giving Ratner a pass, that's worth noticing. And, yes, the Times has picked up coverage of the defense case. But the newspaper missed the chance to cover the Forest City Ratner in detail.

And even in covering the defense case, the Times's beat reporter missed a piece of piquant testimony regarding Forest City Ratner's due diligence: Zehy Jereis, the fixer Forest City hired for an essentially no-show job, had such nonexistent computer skills he was incapable of creating a Word document.

(The reporter had actually left the courtroom, presumably calculating, not implausibly, that he had more than enough material from Jereis's direct testimony to fill the allotted space.)

lilnk

Posted by steve at 11:37 PM

March 17, 2012

CNG Watch: Brooklyn Paper/Courier-Life ignore District Service Cabinet meeting, as they reap Barclays Center advertising

Atlantic Yards Report

Rupert Murdoch's Community Newspaper Group, which owns the Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life chain, didn't send any reporters to the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting Thursday.

Is it just that the news about governmental oversight is "boring" (as opposed to, say, news about the "burger boom")? Or do the newspapers want to avoid "bad" news as they feature Barclays Center advertising? Both?

From this week's Brooklyn Paper:

link

Posted by steve at 11:17 PM

Even after Dwight Howard move falls through, Nets CEO Yormark claims, "I'm thrilled with the pieces we have"

Atlantic Yards Report

WhenNets/Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark was booked for an "exclusive" interview this afternoon on the Fox Business Channel, both he and the bookers had to be betting the Nets would have big news to report, notably the acquisition of star Orlando Magic Center Dwight Howard.

But Howard decided to stick with the Magic for another year, and the Nets' big move was a trade--which some saw as lopsided against them (though others don't)--for Portland Trail Blazers forward Gerald Wallace.

Nevertheless, Yormark put on his game face and insisted, with all the sincerity's he's mustered in the past, "I'm thrilled with the pieces we have."

link

Posted by steve at 11:14 PM

Atlantic Yards News Roundup

Park Slope Patch
By Peter Saalfield

With the Barclays Center hurtling toward completion, the hustle and bustle of Atlantic Yards seems to be generating more headlines than ever. Taken together, these stories reflect the controversy and excitement that inevitably comes with such a massive project. Here are a few of the most recent:

Reaction to project mixed among local merchants.

...

When will Carlton Avenue re-open?

...

College basketball partnerships announced.

...

Parking and traffic issues continue to draw scrutiny.

...

Construction of residential towers delayed again.

...

Union squabbling amongst construction workers.

...

Which precinct will cover the arena?

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Posted by steve at 11:06 PM

March 16, 2012

Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet round-up: Ken Adams appearance; Carlton Avenue Bridge schedule; parking lot; first tower delay; NYPD questions; new 311 instructions; worker statistics

Atlantic Yards Report

Even Norman Oder can't keep up with Norman Oder. Here's his own round-up of his seven posts on yesterday's Atlantic Yards meeting.

Yesterday's Atlantic Yards District Cabinet meeting featured an appearance from the state's top economic development official, Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams, a Brooklynite.

Adams apologized to not coming to an earlier meeting, but said he has many constraints on his time. He said he was mostly present "as an observer and listener"--indeed, he only spoke privately to visitors.

He reflected that he had come to what he deemed a helpful meeting on Atlantic Yards last September. (Some community members might be a little more critical.)

"You all know Arana [Hankin], and she is the way to get to me," he said. "Arana is so very helpful to us at the agency, in being the point person for the project."

Hankin said another community roundtable with Adams will be held sometime in April. The next Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 3.

The round-up

Is the Carlton Avenue Bridge on schedule? Forest City and ESD say yes, but it depends on what "schedule" means

New instructions for 311 complaints related to Atlantic Yards: always use "620 Atlantic Avenue" as address; ongoing issues regarding rodents, noise, vibrations

Greening the planned surface parking lot? Maybe, maybe not, as Forest City says it's trying to shrink the capacity

Forest City: optimistic about first modular building, adding 2 BR units (but still not meeting pledge); construction won't start until after arena opens

NYPD: no decision has been made regarding precinct assignment for Barclays Center

Forest City: TA work is "going extraordinarily well" (except that's not what bondholders are told)

Forest City: average of 623 workers, 196 Brooklyn residents; job fairs coming for arena-related jobs

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Posted by eric at 3:01 PM

Deck is stacked against stack-parking plan for Barclays Center

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

A top official for the developer building Brooklyn’s Barclays Center said today it’s her “mission” to reduce hundreds of spaces at a parking garage going up next to the NBA Nets' future home to avoid using controversial stack-parking spaces there.

Jane Marshall, an executive vice president at Forest City Ratner, told community leaders and city officials at Borough Hall yesterday that the company “is doing everything we can to avoid it” and the potential traffic problems such a system could bring.

Who wants to wager that Jane comes up a little short of fulfilling her "mission?"

As the Post reported in February, stack parking spaces -- which use hydraulic lifts to stack anywhere from two to four cars atop one another -- are currently in FCR's playbook for operating the 18,000-seat arena. But these spaces are a huge concern of neighborhood residents, who fear they would slow the entry and exit of cars from the lot and create major traffic jams.

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.

article

Related coverage...

The Real Deal, Barclays Center parking should be pre-paid, not stacked: Forest City

Posted by eric at 2:50 PM

57th Assembly candidate Mosley criticizes broken Atlantic Yards promises, "toothless" CBA (but last November saluted CBA signatory BUILD and Forest City Ratner)

Atlantic Yards Report

Walter Mosley, a candidate to succeed his friend Hakeem Jeffries as the Assemblymember for the 57th District, spoke last night at a forum for candidates sponsored by Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform. The rival candidates are Olanike Alabi and Martine Guerrier.

"I love basketball," Mosley said. "But there were promises for basketball, promises for jobs... promises for affordable housing. But unfortunately, the developer has broken our trust. The developer has broken those promises."

"We now have a toothless document called a CBA [Community Benefits Agreement], that really serves no one in the community," Mosley said, speaking to an organization that included many critics of Atlantic Yards.

A different tune

I should point out that, when speaking last November at a ceremony for customer service training graduates organized by CBA signatory BUILD, Mosley was more effusive about the CBA and the developer:

"We are blessed that we have a group like BUILD, a company like Forest City Ratner, who did not ignore the necessity to occupy Central Brooklyn, to make sure places like Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Bed-Stuy, and Ocean Hill, Brownsville, people who live in those communities have an opportunity to make a difference... I've got to occupy Central Brooklyn. We've got to make sure that people in Central Brooklyn are working.”

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NoLandGrab: Sounds like Walter Mosley would be just as tough on Bruce Ratner as Hakeem Jeffries has been... Charlie Rose-tough.

Posted by eric at 2:39 PM

Yonkers trial update: defendant Jereis testifies, denies bribes, asserts unrequited love; witness says he helped Jereis with reports to Forest City because consultant "not so good" with computers

Atlantic Yards Report

The mystery of Ridge Hill took a new twist yesterday in federal court as the lawyer for defendant Sandy Annabi, former Yonkers Council Member, rested the defense without having Annabi take the stand and explain why she accepted money from co-defendant Zehy Jereis, her campaign manager and political mentor, and whether it affected her vote switch on two projects, including Forest City Ratner's retail/residential project.

But Jereis did take the stand, and delivered soap-opera style revelations that the $174,000 he transferred to Annabi was all because of love, not any intention to control her politically and steer her votes, as prosecutors allege, based on circumstantial evidence in the case of Ridge Hill and the testimony of a flawed witness, disbarred attorney and admitted felon Anthony Mangone, in the case of the other project, Longfellow.

And Jereis emphatically denied getting any money from Mangone, as well as passing on any such money to Annabi, whose attorney says she changed her votes based on concessions by the developers.

Jereis's lawyer, Anthony Siano, had not telegraphed the likelihood Jereis would testify. But in retrospect, it was inevitable, given that Jereis's appearance would be the only way to get into evidence email messages to Annabi he allegedly sent.

article

Related coverage...

The Journal News, Zehy Jereis: Love for Sandy Annabi led to gifts; read his emails

The Journal News, Zehy Jereis' emails profess love for Sandy Annabi

The New York Times, Man Says Gifts to Lawmaker Were for Love

New York Magazine, Yonkers Corruption Defense: It Was About Love, Not Money

Posted by eric at 2:27 PM

New York Islanders/MSG Just Happen To Interview Brooklyn Barclays Center Developer Bruce Ratner

Lighthouse Hockey

Poor Bruce Ratner is milking the big lie about hockey at the Barclays Center for everything it's worth. Though hockey ambassador Bruce's "real goal is to make sure the Islanders stay in New York honestly," which, considering the source, is kind of an oxymoron.

The first intermission of MSG's broadcast of the New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia Flyers game carried an interesting surprise: A lengthy interview between Islanders play-by-play announcer Howie Rose and Bruce Ratner, the original developer of the Barclays Center, the Brooklyn arena many hope the Islanders will one day call home.

The Islanders will play a preseason game there against the New Jersey Devils Oct. 2 (tickets, it was mentioned, go on sale March 29), so there is your ostensible reason for the interview. But the interview on the home team's broadcast was not treated as a sales pitch for the preseason game -- it was an open "So, could the Islanders move to Brooklyn?" forum with only cursory verbiage paid to finding a solution in Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead that has been such a gracious home.

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Posted by eric at 1:03 PM

What Precinct Should be the Point Guard for the Barclays Center? [POLL]

Initial reports said that the 78th Precinct would police the arena, but the final decision has yet to be made.

Park Slope Patch
by Will Yakowicz

The Barclays Center footprint straddles two police precincts and two community boards—making the decision of which precinct should police the arena when it opens in September a hard one.

Initial reports said that the 78th Precinct, which is only a block away on Sixth Avenue, will police the arena. However, the Barclays Center is technically located within the 88th Precinct’s borders, but it is a half-mile away from the precinct’s station house in Clinton Hill.

On Wednesday Patch reported that the decision, which will be finalized by the Mayor and City Council, is still up in the air.
...

What do you think? Who should police the new arena?

Click the link to take the poll.

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NoLandGrab: This is likely a contest without any winners.

Posted by eric at 12:48 PM

March 15, 2012

Barclays Center plans global social media push

The Brooklyn arena has partnered with a company to expand its marketing reach by instantly translating its Web content into more than 50 languages.

Crain's NY Business
by Ali Elkin

Wow! News is this? Are not reading sheep enough web portal of U.S.? Uzbekistan fans not of team record with 15-29 however language many.

When Jay-Z throws his housewarming concert at the Barclays Center in September, fans around the world will get live updates about “99 Problems” in 53 languages.

It's part of the arena's owners' plan to build a tricked-out corner of the Internet where the Brooklyn venue can connect with music and sports fans. They announced Thursday plans to partner with Ortsbo, a Toronto-based technology company that specializes in instantly translating text, often for Tweets, chats and live blogs. Ortsbo's service will translate content on the Barclays Center website.

“We've now partnered with Barclays to create a global broadcasting center,” said Ortsbo CEO David Lucatch.

Ortsbo will lead Barclays Center's global social media push by instantly translating spoken or written text on the arena's website into more than 50 tongues. That way, users can view an international chat thread in their native languages.

article

NoLandGrab: Call him Genius Yormarketing for do they nothing.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Crain's publishes puffery: Barclays Center plans global social media push

Posted by eric at 5:37 PM

NYPD: no decision has been made regarding precinct assignment for Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has more from this morning's Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting on plans for policing the Barclays Center.

Contradicting an anonymously sourced New York Post article, a New York Police Department official this morning indicated that no decision has been made to assign police coverage of the Barclays Center arena to the 78th Precinct, whose stationhouse is just a block away.

The arena site actually covers two precincts, and the entire Atlantic Yards project involves a third precinct. City Council Member Letitia James has proposed a special annex shared by all three precincts.

Inspector Terrence Riley of the Office of Management Analysis & Planning, said that "my office's report [on the precinct] is not even complete." The report, and decision, will not be made until after consultation with the community, including Council Member James.

Riley, speaking at the bimonthly meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, was thanked by James, who was in attendance.

Riley said his office collects data, including response times, and crime density, to "try to come to a logical conclusion."

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Posted by eric at 1:18 PM

Powell on pause? Crusading Times columnist sits out Yonkers corruption trial (involving Forest City Ratner) that he put on the agenda

Atlantic Yards Report

Michael Powell was on a roll. The Times's crusading "Gotham" columnist, who since his debut last May has challenged the mayor, the governor, and other pillars of the power structure, had Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner--tinged but not charged in two political corruption cases--in his sights.

After Powell's January 10 column (A Developer Between Legal Clouds), former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum even wrote a letter to the Times, insisting that developer Bruce Ratner "has always demonstrated the highest ethical standards and behavior."

Powell, a one-time tenant organizer and political reporter, was undeterred, despite Ratner's ties to his Times bosses. In Powell's February 14 column (Tracking the Tentacles of Corruption), he raised an eyebrow at Gotbaum's letter, suggesting that Ratner's "willingness to tuck affordable apartments into his gleaming towers [at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards] is perhaps a reasonable political tradeoff rather than a testament to his character."

Shortly after that, Powell, on Twitter reported that three Forest City executives could testify in the corruption trial regarding the developer's Ridge Hill retail/residential project in Yonkers. It passed only after a City Council Member Sandy Annabi, long opposed to the project, flipped her vote, allegedly because she had long been taking cash from political ally Zehy Jereis, who later got a no-show job from Forest City.

After that, silence.

People asked me: Why did he sit it out? Did someone get to him?

When I queried him last week, Powell said he has complete editorial freedom, but had to make some choices for his weekly column under time pressure.

Keep reading — it's well worth it.

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Posted by eric at 1:08 PM

Yonkers trial update: Council President says Annabi said she'd never gotten benefit from Jereis, and that people erroneously thought he controlled her vote

Atlantic Yard Report

Though neither defendant in the ongoing Yonkers corruption trial apparently will testify, the character of former Council Member Sandy Annabi, and the nature of her political reliance on her mentor--and alleged briber--Zehy Jereis, was raised during federal court testimony yesterday.

The main afternoon witness was Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick, a lawyer who testified in a calm, agreeable manner. Under questioning from Annabi's lawyer, William Aronwald, Lesnick agreed that Annabi's district was the poorest district, with the highest unemployment rate.

That, presumably, is fodder for Aronwald's argument that Annabi's about-face on Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project was not because she was influenced by a pattern of some $174,000 in gifts and cash from Jereis over the years, but rather concessions aimed toward the city and the needs of her district.

(Then again, another Council Member testified that the additional $10 million pledge she gained from Forest City was "peanuts.")

Jereis contends he was motivated by the desire for a romantic relationship with Annabi, not to steer her vote.

article

Related coverage...

The Journal News, Sandy Annabi corruption trial: DelBello denies he knew of Mangone

Posted by eric at 12:56 PM

Forest City Enterprises executives talk at property conference: little apparent change in amount of contractually obligated arena revenue

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Enterprises President/CEO David LaRue and Executive VP/CFO Bob O'Brien participated in a roundtable presentation yesterday at the Citi 2012 Global Property CEO Conference in Palm Beach, FL. It was open to listeners on an audio link.

One question raised by their presentation is how much revenue is committed to the Barclays Center arena, built and (in the majority) operated by subsidiary Forest City Ratner. Contractually obligated income will represent 70% of the total revenue of the arena, O'Brien noted. "Of that 70%, we have more than 50% signed and leased today."

Maybe he was just being casual, but the number isn't too impressive. LaRue said in December, “Approximately 56% of forecasted contractually obligated revenue for the arena is currently under contract,” he said. “This is flat with what we reported at the end of the second quarter, but we expect activity to regain momentum once the NBA season starts.”

And it appears somebody forgot to send the CEO the memo about maintaining the fantasy that the Barclays Center could be home ice for an NHL team.

One slightly contentious question was "why didn't you build this for hockey?" The hockey Islanders, whose lease with the Nassau Coliseum, is up in 2015, are talking with the Barclays Center owners, but a good chunk of seats would have to be eliminated to fit a hockey rink, making it the smallest NHL arena.

"The strategy centered around clearly the basketball team we owned at the time," LaRue said, omitting the need to save money. "The design is specifically for basketball, the sight lines, angles of the seating... We did not have a commitment form the Islanders, to say, Boy, I'd like to be there. We knew we wanted to create a venue that was going to be Class A, and the best use for what we had, and that was for basketball."

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Posted by eric at 12:45 PM

Behind the sale of New Domino: an overextended developer (without Ratner's survival skills)

Atlantic Yards Report

It turns out that the proposed sale of the stalled New Domino project is just the tip of the iceberg. Last month, the developer defaulted on its $125 million New Domino loan, according to a blockbuster story by the New York Times's Charles Bagli.

The article explains how the Community Preservation Corporation, which historically used bank loans to build or rehab rent-regulated apartments, put way too much money into it condo projects, through its nonprofit arm, CPC Resources.

And personal ambition/greed seemed to be a spur:

The investments were spearheaded by Community Preservation’s longtime leader, Michael D. Lappin, whose salary and bonuses rose to $1.1 million as he pushed the group into riskier ventures. Some were financed by Community Preservation, others by its for-profit spinoff, which paid part of Mr. Lappin’s salary.

No wonder the developer went into business on New Domino with Isaac Katan, a developer whose track record generated significant criticism.

Bagli writes that nearly two-thirds of the condo loans were delinquent, and Lappin was forced into retirement. The organization has closed office, cut senior executives' salaries nearly in half, and fired 40 percent of its staff.

So, what didn't New Domino do that Bruce Ratner did? Get a low-interest loan from immigrant investors via the EB-5 program. And that--I speculate--is because there was no construction going on and thus no way to claim economic activity and job creation.

link

Related content...

The New York Times, Lured by Visions of Real Estate Profits, Nonprofit Group Stumbled

Posted by eric at 12:37 PM

As Sunshine Week continues, questions about Cuomo administration's responsiveness (and what about my 2010 FOIL requests?)

Atlantic Yards Report

It's Sunshine Week, a national initiative organized by press groups (and allies) to spotlight open government, but sunshine regarding New York State government--notably, Empire State Development ESD)--seems to be lacking.

I've been waiting 18 months for a response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request from ESD, as I'll describe further below.

And journalists from much larger organizations, and even lawmakers, have been stymied, according to a 3/10/12 Albany Times-Union article headlined Delay hurts public access: Cuomo administration offers a mixed record in release of information to New Yorkers.
...

What am I asking for?

Well, the 9/16/10 request, which might be considered fairly broad, sought several documents regarding the Atlantic Yards Development Agreement.

The 10/5/10 request, however, was more narrow, regarding Executive Director Peter Davidson's planned trip to China on behalf of the New York City Regional Center's effort, under the EB-5 visa program, to market an investment in Atlantic Yards that would bring Forest City Ratner a $249 million low-interest loan.

I sought records to explain:

  • the cost and itinerary of the trip
  • what Mr. Davidson is expected to do (outline of remarks, etc)
  • the solicitation for and decision to make the trip
  • any evaluation on ESDC's part of the job numbers used by NYCRC

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NoLandGrab: The Cuomo Administration, apparently, has stuffed those records where the sun don't shine.

Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

Vote to decide whether some Atlantic Yards builders join new union with reputed mob ties

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

A new labor organization with reputed mob ties is attempting to represent 700 rank-and-file union members working on some of New York’s biggest development projects, include Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards and Manhattan’s Hudson Yards.

The Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners Union is pushing itself as a viable alternative to the New York City District Council of Carpenters.

About 700 of the District Council’s dock builders will be asked this week to decide by mail ballot which union they want to be affiliated with. Besides performing pier work, dock builders also do underpinning, pile driving and foundation work for non-waterfront projects like Atlantic Yards.

Michael Bilello, the District Council’s newly elected leader, said the vote should be a no-brainer in his organization’s favor, considering Amalgamated leaders were previously booted from his organization over “corruption.”

"It is my hope that our members understand what is truly at stake with this week's vote and send a resounding message: corruption and the mob will not be tolerated by our union," said Bilello in a statement today.

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NoLandGrab: Not tolerated by their union, sure. But tolerated by Forest City Ratner? We'll see.

Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

A Goldman Sachs executive director parts publicly with the company

Atlantic Yards Report

In a New York Times op-ed today headlined Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs, Greg Smith, a Goldman Sachs executive director, announced his resignation after almost 12 years at the firm.

He doesn't quite call the company a "vampire squid," in Matt Taibbi's famous formulation, but he does reference it.

How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

...I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them.

...It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

Goldman and AY

Goldman Sachs, of course, sold the bonds for the Atlantic Yards arena. No illegal behavior, but was it pushing the envelope? Maybe not to clients, but the deadline for the bond sale drove the timetable for the hasty Metropolitan Transportation Authority consideration of a revised railyard deal.

And Goldman last month seemed like it was running the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation.

link

Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

Barclays Police Detail Still Up in the Air

News that the 78th Precinct would police the arena was premature, according to CB 6 district manager Craig Hammerman.

Park Slope Patch
by Will Yakowicz with Paul Leonard

The city is still bouncing around who will be in charge of policing the Barclays Center when the 19,000-seat arena opens in September.

Although it was initially reported that the 78th Precinct would police the Barclays Center, the decision on which precinct will keep order around the arena has yet to be confirmed, officials said.

"No decisions have been made," Craig Hammerman, the district manager of Community Board 6 said on Wednesday night. "The police are unable to identify who leaked the information from the police to the press, but it's not true."

The arena is technically in the 88th Precinct's borders, but a half-mile away from the station house in Clinton Hill. The 78th Precinct on Sixth Avenue in Park Slope is a stone's throw away from the arena.

Since police precincts must coincide with community board boundaries, a variance will have to be voted on by the City Council before 78th Precinct can take over policing.

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Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

Payback: LIU, fervent supporter of Atlantic Yards, will play at least four games a year at Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

So now we know a little more why Long Island University Provost Gale Stevens Haynes has been so gung-ho for Atlantic Yards.
...

The goal is to use the Barclays Center the way the St. John's University program uses Madison Square Garden. In other words, basketball boosts the university's image. The rest of the specific benefits seem pretty paltry.

After all, LIU has its own new and very serviceable gym, the Wellness, Recreation, and Athletics Center (WRAC), which seats 2500 (the Post said 2000 and the Times last year said 1800).

When I saw a game last month against crosstown rival St. Francis, even that wasn't sold out. Last year, according to the Times, "the team did not sell out its home games until the Northeast Conference final."

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Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Barclays Center Deal Puts Blackbirds In A Much-Bigger N

"Paltry?" Au contraire, Norman Oder. LIU students are going to get schooled by the best.

The deal with Barclays Center officials also includes a small educational component: Students in sports journalism and management will get five, one-hour classes featuring executives from the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets.

NoLandGrab: One can't put a price tag on the opportunity to listen to five hours of bulls**t from the likes of Brett Yormark and Barry Baum.

Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

March 14, 2012

District Service Cabinet meeting tomorrow; questions about police, modular plan, Carlton Avenue Bridge, parking, and more

Atlantic Yards Report

The next Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting will be at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Thursday, March 15, from 9:30-11. The meeting, which never quite gets to all the substantive Atlantic Yards issues out there, still typically generates some important information.

I don't have the agenda, but here are a couple of the issues I hope/expect to be addressed.

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Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

Ratner, in softball Times interview, moves the housing goalposts again: groundbreaking will be "toward the end of the year"

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner gets the requisite gentle treatment in the New York Times's real estate page, in the regular feature, SQUARE FEET | THE 30-MINUTE INTERVIEW: Bruce C. Ratner.

I'll annotate some excerpts.

Arena schedule

Q. One of your latest Brooklyn projects is the Barclays Center sports arena, future home of the Nets basketball team. Is it still opening in September?

A. That’s correct. Virtually all the steel is up, and it’s virtually all enclosed. Now basically we’re working on the interiors. Some parts of it are even ahead of schedule. It’ll finish on time.

It'll finish on time, meaning that the building will open for a concert on September 28. But the substantial completion date has already been nudged back to 9/5/12, more than two weeks later than an earlier version.

And the arena, in terms of cash flow, was behind in January--and described as on schedule only by moving the goalposts.

And the rebuilding of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, a key artery, is a month behind.

Housing

Q. What is the status of the Atlantic Yards housing? Groundbreaking was supposed to have begun this year.

A. Breaking ground on the housing we had hoped would begin this year, and it will begin this year, toward the end of the year. A major reason that it’s gotten delayed is a strong desire to do modular.

Let me just say, there’s a lot of construction going on there besides the arena. Part of what we are doing and had to do was the infrastructure. We also had to move a railroad storage yard. And we’re working on additional infrastructure: the subway tunnel that connects the project, the arena, with existing subways.

Hold on. The construction besides the arena is nearly all connected to the arena. The housing was part of the public benefit created by the project.

The Times interviewer had the question wrong. Groundbreaking was not "supposed to be have begun this year." It was supposed to have begun in late 2010, but Forest City officials have consistently moved the goalposts.

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Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

SQUARE FEET | THE 30-MINUTE INTERVIEW: Bruce C. Ratner

The New York Times
by Vivian Marino

Fresh off being fawned over by Charlie Rose, Bruce Ratner sits down with the Murrow-esque New York Times real estate section.

Q. So you were born on 1/23/45.

A. It’s significant because I’m obsessed with numbers. They just stay in my head forever, and that’s what I think about.

Some numbers Bruce is apparently not so obsessed with: his empty Atlantic Yards promises of 10,000 permanent jobs, 17,000 construction jobs and 2,250 units of "affordable" housing.

Q. You seem a bit obsessed with Brooklyn, too, yet you were born and raised in the Midwest and live on the Upper East Side.

A. When I came to the city after law school, my first job was working for the City of New York. Actually, it was in Queens during the Lindsay administration, and I worked in all the boroughs. Brooklyn had a fascination for me. Everybody has heard of Brooklyn — be it the Brooklyn Dodgers, Coney Island or the Brooklyn Bridge. We would have moved to Brooklyn had my kids not started school in Manhattan.

And now that the kids have been all grown up for how many years? Oh, forget it. We'll leave this to Norman Oder.

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Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

More Obama Bundlers Cash In With Massive Air Force Contract

The Foundry
by Lachlan Markay

Sure, Heritage Foundation, this kind of thing never went down during the Bush Administration. But that's besides the point.

Ronald Ratner is the president and chief executive of Cleveland-based real estate giant Forest City Residential Group. His cousin, Deborah Ratner Salzberg, is the president of the company’s Washington D.C. office. Together, the two bundled between $200,000 and $500,000 for the 2008 Obama campaign. They’ve bundled another $200-500,000 for his reelection campaign as well, as of the fourth quarter of last year.

Since Obama took office, the Ratners have seen millions in federal taxpayer money funneled to Forest City. They are the latest in a long line of Obama supporters who have received taxpayer money, been appointed to federal posts, or enjoyed significant access to administration officials.

Ron Ratner hosted a fundraiser for the 2008 campaign featuring then-Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden. He also hosted Obama at his home for a meeting with Jewish leaders of Ohio.

The fundraisers have continued this election cycle: in September, Ratner again hosted Biden at his home for a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee’s Obama Victory Fund. Tickets to the event cost between $1,000 and $5,000.

Barely two weeks after Ratner hosted Biden for the DNC event, Forest City announced that it had signed a 50-year privatization deal with the Air Force “for the development and management of 2,185 family homes at four U.S. Air Force bases in the Southeast.”

The developments are valued at more than $300 million. Forest City “will also earn an on-going fee,” the company said, though it declined to specify what the fee would be.

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Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

Intrigue mounts on Nets' pursuit of superstar Orlando center Dwight Howard

Atlantic Yards Report

"Intrigue mounts?" We beg to differ.

As the NBA trading deadline approaches, it seems increasingly clear that superstar Orlando Magic Dwight Howard has no intention of staying. The Nets have the upper hand, but not a lock.
...

(And, of course, if the Nets don't get Howard, they're in danger of losing their one star, guard Deron Williams.)

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Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

The mystery of Ridge Hill may not be revealed: defendants seem unlikely to testify; defense lawyers push for dismissal of some charges

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday was a short day in open court for the Yonkers corruption trial. The only witness, testifying for the jury on a videotape made earlier in the day, was the former accountant for ex-City Council Member Sandy Annabi.

And Walid Farhat proved a not-so-reliable prosecution witness regarding Annabi's tax returns, as William Aronwald, Annabi's attorney, caught him in several contradictions and memory lapses. For example, he acknowledged, in contradiction with his testimony last week, that he had told investigators that Annabi made a $50,000 loan to her father by check, not cash.

After Farhat's testimony, the prosecution rested.

Defendants won't testify?

Before hearing arguments for dismissal of the conspiracy, bribery, and extortion charges faced by Annabi and co-defendant Zehy Jereis--tax and mortgage fraud charges would remain--U.s. District Judge Colleen McMahon explained that Annabi's defense might take a day and a half, and Jereis's brief defense would follow shortly after that.

Given the four-days-a-week court schedule, that suggests that closing arguments could begin on Monday.

Such short time periods for the defense signaled that it would be unlikely that either Annabi or Jereis will testify about the stream of payments--gifts, according to Jereis's attorney--that he gave to Annabi. Prosecutors allege that such payments controlled Annabi's vote on two development projects, including Forest City's Ridge Hill and Milio Management's Longfellow, though the direct evidence is murky.

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Related coverage...

The Journal News, Annabi and Jereis defense: Drop conspiracy, bribery charges

The New York Times, Charges Not Dismissed in Yonkers Corruption Case

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

Nets’ arena for LIU-B’klyn

NY Post
by Rich Calder

LIU-Brooklyn Provost Gale Stevens Haynes's pimping of her school for Bruce Ratner's benefit seems to have paid off.

As LIU-Brooklyn launches its long-odds dream of a trip to the Final Four, it has already taken a big step toward shedding its Cinderella status.

The Blackbirds have been offered a “second home court” at the Barclays Center — soon-to-be home of the NBA’s Nets —to play at least four games a year.

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Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

Partial crackdown on Carlton Avenue parking, but construction worker's car apparently gets a pass

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how some construction workers have apparently snagged free parking on Carlton Avenue just north of Atlantic Avenue?

Well, according to video posted on Atlantic Yards Watch, police are ticketing cars parked illegally along that block, but... they gave a pass to a vehicle where a construction vest was visible, indicating the driver's work.

Without an all-day cam, we can't be sure what happened--did the driver somehow luckily stop back at his vehicle when cops were coming through? But the evidence raises questions about selective enforcement.

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NoLandGrab: Looks like "professional courtesy" now extends to the construction trades.

Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

Update to Construction Alert: digging of test pits for parking lot has begun; parking lot construction should begin in Maybe

Atlantic Yards Report

Empire State Development today released a Supplemental Report to the Atlantic Yards Construction Update issued yesterday.

The new information regards construction staging on Block 1129, the southeast block between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues and Dean and Pacific streets.

A contractor began digging 30 test pits in preparation for construction of the parking lot to be located on the block. The work, which is expected to take one week, will be conducted during regular hours.

The parking lot construction should begin in May.

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Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Crime Report: More Beatings for Phones

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

It was a quieter week in the 88th Precinct.

Apparently no one told the thugs and crooks who frequent Bruce Ratner's malls.

Bait and Hit

A man was arrested for trying to strangle an employee inside the Target department store on March 6 after the worker said that an item he wanted was no longer available, cops said.

The victim told cops that he was inside the store, which is on Atlantic Avenue near Flatbush Avenue, at around 2:30 p.m. when the customer approached and started a fight with him about the item in question, which was not identified.

At some point, the fight got physical, with the customer allegedly lunging at the worker and choking him until he blacked out.
...

No Secret

A thief swiped a woman’s wallet after she put it down briefly inside the Victoria’s Secret shop in the Atlantic Terminal Mall on March 8.

The victim, 22, said she put the wallet on the counter at around noon, but it was gone seconds later when she returned her attention to it.

She lost $35 and various cards.

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Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

March 13, 2012

Brooklyn Nets arena will host KHL regular-season games, according to Medvedev

Yahoo! Sports
by Dmitry Chesnokov

Well, well. Brett Yormark has gone and made liars out of us. Regular-season professional hockey is coming to the Barclays Center — Russian professional hockey, that is.

You can't make this stuff up.

We've heard of Moscow on the Hudson; how about on the East River?

Kontinental Hockey League President Alexander Medvedev said on Monday that Barclays Center, which will be the new home for the New Jersey Nets beginning in the 2012-13 season, will host KHL regular-season games and exhibitions, marking the first time the League has made an attempt to bring its product to North American ice.

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Related coverage...

SBNation.com, KHL To Play Regular Season Games At Brooklyn's Barclays Center

Gary Bettman and the NHL are apparently on board with the KHL attempting to promote its product in North America, and Brooklyn makes sense for the KHL in more ways than one.

Nets owner Prokhorov is Russian and has deep ties in the business community there, and he's also a major investor in the new Brooklyn arena. There's also a large Russian and Ukrainian population in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, so the audience is certainly there for the KHL.

ESPN New York, Barclays Center may host KHL games

Barclays Center officials are currently in discussions with Russia's Kontinental Hockey League about hosting some regular season games at the Nets’ future home in Brooklyn next season, according to Brett Yormark, CEO of the $1 billion arena.

“Hockey will have a place at Barclays Center,” Yormark said Monday in an e-mailed statement.

NoLandGrab: Hockey will have a place — it'll just be a little off to one side.

Posted by eric at 1:34 PM

Stalled New Domino project said to be for sale. As with Atlantic Yards, there's a documentary. And the city stonewalled on affordable housing.

Atlantic Yards Report

Um, remember the New Domino plan, the second-biggest project in Brooklyn, a special rezoning for the Williamsburg waterfront that allowed more density for the developer in exchange for--of course--affordable housing?

The project that relied on a celebrity architect and churches that could organize their members to press for the project? 2200 apartments, with 660 of them subsidized? The carrot of new waterfront open space? A historic structure preserved and transformed?

Well, in a not-completely surprising echo of Atlantic Yards, the project is A) stalled for 18 months after approval, though not without promise, and B) inspiring a documentary. (I wrote in July 2007 about the initial echoes.)

But now, according to the Commercial Observer, the site's for sale:

“We are pursuing various options that will achieve our goals: to realize value for ourselves and our partners, and to insure that development is consistent with all project entitlements,” a statement from a company spokesman read in response to The Commercial Observer.

Note that the project, when built, may be worth $2 billion, but the sales tag surely isn't that number.

The Domino Effect

The Domino Effect, by Daniel Phelps, Megan Sperry, and Brian Paul, is in its finishing stages, but the trailer tells a story that is not unfamiliar.

What's especially sobering--and I don't know how much is in the film--how activists in Williamsburg tried to learn from Atlantic Yards but still got shot down. As I describe below, they could not get guarantees of the promised affordable housing or get clear answers on why the rezoning was justified.

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Related coverage...

The Commercial Observer, Domino Sugar Factory Site Up For Sale

Posted by eric at 1:19 PM

A look at the men's basketball tournaments Atlantic City could go after next

Press of Atlantic City
by Susan Lulgjuraj

From Atlantic City to "Atlantic City Yards."

After six years in Atlantic City, the Atlantic 10 Conference men's basketball's run is over.

The A-10 is going to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. next season for the start of a five-year contract.

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Posted by eric at 12:56 PM

From the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert: work on raised Atlantic Avenue medians to begin in April, but unclear whether it will be by day or at night

Atlantic Yards Report

Below are some excerpts from the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 3/12/12 and released yesterday by Empire State Development after preparation by Forest City Ratner.

One highlight: work is expected to begin in April on the remaining traffic mitigation work, mostly the creation of raised medians along Atlantic Avenue from Flatbush Avenue to Vanderbilt Avenue. But it's unclear whether the work will be performed during what the alert calls "limited daytime, which will prolong the construction period, or at night between 10 pm and 6 am."

The decision will be made by the Department of Transportation's Office of Construction Mitigation and Coordination (OCMC).

Also, "construction of a tall retaining wall along the Vanderbilt Ave. end of the yard," between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, should begin soon. The southbound traffic lane and adjoining sidewalk will be taken out of service--for how long it's not quite clear--when concrete trucks are present to pum concrete into the wall below.

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Posted by eric at 12:52 PM

Retail ripples from Atlantic Yards

Nearby eateries see a temporary uptick in business, but not everyone is happy

The Real Deal
by Lana Bortolot

Workers from the under-construction Barclays Center are taking a bite out of the surrounding Brooklyn neighborhood.

Every weekday around noon, the streets around the Prospect Heights site are awash with construction workers heading to their favorite nearby lunch spots. Take-out joints and bodegas, like Gino’s Pizzeria at 218 Flatbush Avenue and AR Coffee Shop on Fifth Avenue and Dean Street, are seeing a steady stream of construction workers come in. At Bergen Bagels, on the corner of Bergen Street and Flatbush Avenue, lines spill out the door each morning, as workers pick up bagels and coffee on their way to the rising arena, which is slated to open in September.

But local business owners have mixed feelings about the temporary uptick in traffic.

Bergen Bagels owner Raj Nandy said the current rush of construction workers isn’t necessarily good for business in the long term, since neighborhood residents may be deterred by the long lines and start patronizing his competitors instead.

“It’s good and it’s bad,” Nandy said. “I’m losing a lot of regular customers.”
...

But retail stores aren’t seeing the same boost in traffic — at least not yet. And some say the construction is actually hurting business. Joy Demesa, who works at 21-year-old Furniture House at 170 Flatbush Avenue, said customers have trouble parking near the store as a result of construction. “Parking was always a problem, and now it’s even worse,” she said.

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Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

Times says judge questions Ridge Hill conspiracy allegations, still hasn't covered Libous episode

Atlantic yards Report

The New York Times's sporadic coverage of the Yonkers corruption trial resumes today with Judge in Case From Yonkers Raises Doubts on Evidence, an article that should hardly displease Forest City Ratner:

Prosecutors contend that the councilwoman, Sandy Annabi, dropped her opposition to the mall complex, known as Ridge Hill, and a second smaller project, as part of a conspiracy in which she received payments of nearly $175,000 from a co-defendant, Zehy Jereis, and another man. The payments, which began as early as 2002, were made to “influence and control her official conduct, so that he could in turn sell his control over Annabi to the highest bidder,” a prosecutor said during the opening statement.

The judge, Colleen McMahon of Federal District Court, did not dispute that the evidence showed Mr. Jereis had conferred money and gifts on Ms. Annabi. But after sending the jury home, the judge made it clear that she was troubled by what she suggested was a lack of evidence of a criminal conspiracy, and asked for an unusual preliminary argument by prosecutors.

I wasn't there yesterday, so I'm not saying it's not newsworthy--after all, there hasn't been testimony about any plan hatched by Annabi and Jereis.

And the Journal News covered the episode too, in Annabi judge skeptical of prosecution theory:

“We do not allege, we do not have to prove, there was any express agreement to flip the vote,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Carbone said. He said it was enough for the government to show that there were payments, that there were efforts to conceal them, and that Annabi took official action as a result.

Indeed, a jury might infer that Annabi's acceptance of money and gifts from Jereis involved an expectation of cooperation.

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Related content...

The New York Times, Judge in Case From Yonkers Raises Doubts on Evidence

Beyond payments and gifts, the judge said: “Is that it? There’s nothing else? It’s just the giving and receiving of stuff?”

The judge’s comments, which were focused only on charges involving the Ridge Hill project, came on the eve of what are expected to be motions by the defense after the government rests to dismiss the indictment before the case even goes to the jury.

Such requests are routinely made by defense lawyers, and it is rare for judges to dismiss cases at that stage, when the government cannot appeal the decision. Judges may reserve such a decision until after trial and direct an acquittal if they feel that the evidence did not support a conviction. The government may appeal such a ruling.

In court on Monday, two prosecutors, Jason P. W. Halperin and Perry A. Carbone, emphasized that they had offered abundant evidence to support a conspiracy charge. They said the evidence showed that Ms. Annabi had received payments and concealed them from council members and others; had carried out official acts for Mr. Jereis, like attending meetings with officials of Ridge Hill’s developer, Forest City Ratner; and later voted to approve the project.

NoLandGrab: Guess the judge feels a good old-fashioned bribe just ain't a crime anymore.

The Journal News, Annabi judge skeptical of prosecution theory

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

March 12, 2012

Uninformed sycophancy: Charlie Rose interviews Bruce Ratner about "Atlantic City Yards" (sic), betrays zero recognition of controversy

Atlantic Yards Report

Charlie Rose's first-ever interview with real estate developer Bruce Ratner, conducted 3/9/12, was spectacularly uninformed sycophancy, as Rose asked virtually no hard questions, and seemed completely unaware that Ratner's Atlantic Yards project had generated sufficient controversy to spur a documentary film and play.
...

A "civic" developer

Noting that "we do lots of architects on this program," such as Ratner's friend Frank Gehry, Rose noted that few developers appear.

"Tell me how you see developers, and what do you think of the role of developers," Rose asked. "Why should we admire them and why should we not so very much admire them?"

"That's a very, very good question," replied Ratner, almost purring. "First of all, the way I think about myself as a developer is as a civic developer. We do a lot of civic projects. Every project that we do has to have some civic component. It can be architecture. It can be economic development, or it can be something like the arena, where we're providing entertainment, where it's in some sense a public building."

Ratner's been using the word civic a lot, but it's a weasel world. It means "of a city," but it does not necessarily denote the public interest. Ratner seems to be saying that, as long as he's building in the city, he's somehow helping the city. The reality is a bit more complicated, having to do with things like public subsidies, tax breaks, and eminent domain.

Click through for more of Norman Oder's dissection of the interview.

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NoLandGrab: Perhaps by "civic developer," Ratner means "one who develops real estate projects that are heavily subsidized with city (and state and federal) money." In that case, indeed, he's as "civic" a developer as you're ever going to find.

Posted by eric at 11:23 PM

How the Barclays Center is spending some of that advertising money (and perhaps winning over publishers)

Atlantic Yards Report

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(Photo via @BarclaysCenter)

Posted by eric at 11:18 PM

Yonkers trial update: temporary adjournment; prosecution nearly done

Atlantic Yards Report

According to a report this afternoon from the Journal News, Yonkers corruption trial adjourned for day due to sick witness:

The federal corruption trial of former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and her political mentor Zehy Jereis has been adjourned for a day while the conclusion of a sick witness’ testimony is videotaped at his home.

The judge, lawyers, defendants and court personnel will travel Tuesday morning to Danbury, Conn., after Walid Farhat’s doctor told the judge that appearing again before the jury would be too stressful for his patient, who suffered a heart attack last summer.

Accountant Farhat testified last Wednesday that he blanched at Annabi's decision to claim a tax deduction on a loan to her father--$50,000 in cash--that wasn't repaid.

He did not appear in court Thursday morning, claiming a medical condition. According to the Journal News, Farhat's testimony will be videotaped, and, after that, prosecutors should be finished with their case.

It's unclear whether Annabi and Jereis will testify.

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Related coverage...

The Journal News, Yonkers corruption trial adjourned for day due to sick witness

Posted by eric at 11:12 PM

College Basketball to Raise Bucks for Cancer at Barclays Center

Coaches vs. Cancer will take place in November at the arena, and tickets will go on sale this weekend.

Park Slope Patch
by Jamie Schuh

Civically minded holistician Bruce Ratner is outdoing himself.

Coaches vs. Cancer, a fundraising effort between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches will bring teams from BYU, Florida State, Notre Dame, and Saint Joseph’s to the Barclays Center this fall to hopefully raise big bucks for cancer research.

Since 1993, Coaches vs. Cancer has raised more than $80 million to fund research, provide up-to-date cancer literacy, advocate for public health policies and help to improve the quality of life for patients and families.

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Posted by eric at 10:55 PM

Poll: Is Ratner's/Prokhorov's Barclays Arena Ugly? Why Stop There?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Park Slope Patch is running a poll on whether readers think Poor Bruce Ratner's and Mikhail Prokhorov's Barclays Center Arena is "ugly." While there is no accounting for taste there is also nobody being held accountable for the fact that the Atlantic Yards project as a whole is one of the ugliest cases of corrupt urban development and kleptocracy in a long, long time.

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Posted by eric at 10:52 PM

Bruce Ratner, real estate developer

CharlieRose.com

"Holistic," "happiness-creating" "civic" developer Poor Bruce Ratner sits down to be tickled with powder puffs by Charlie Rose, who refers to Bruce's signature project as, not inaptly, "Atlantic City Yards."

Watch it if you dare.

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Posted by eric at 3:22 PM

Forest City takes firm steps toward modular plan, but first building stalled, for now, at Department of Buildings (and what about the unions?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Some good primary reporting from Norman Oder...

When Forest City Ratner last November announced dramatic plans to build the first Atlantic Yards tower--and the rest--using innovative but risky modular construction, I suggested reasons for skepticism, notably that the documentation on file at the time indicated conventional construction.

Last month, however, the developer took firm steps toward a modular building, filing several documents with the Department of Buildings (DOB) that indicated modular plans.

However, the DOB has so far rejected the plans, including construction equipment, plumbing, and mechanical/HVAC. It's unclear whether the DOB's rejection is based on substantive qualms or less critical procedural issues.

Keep in mind that DOB Commissioner Robert LiMandri is a fan of FCR's modular plan, and the Bloomberg administration has an obvious interest in having housing delivered.

Latest documents

The latest documentation, filed in the first week of February, indicates that the building would be built with structural steel, rather than, as suggested last year, steel (encased in concrete), a sign of conventional construction.

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Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Report on Meier's On Prospect Park condo building again confirms KPMG lies in Atlantic Yards market study

Atlantic Yards Report

Speaking of "see no evil, hear no evil..."

A New York Times Real Estate section article yesterday, Boldface Buildings in the Cold Light of Now describes sales at what they call Richard Meier's "1 Grand Army Plaza" but was once marketed as "On Prospect Park" and is marketed now as "Richard Meier on Prospect Park.":

Brown Harris has lowered prices on many units, and the glass tower is now nearly 80 percent sold, with an average sale price of about $900 per square foot, respectable for Prospect Heights. “It’s not as successful as originally planned,” Mr. [Stephen] Kliegerman [of Terra Development Marketing] said. “But that might have been overzealous.”

(The website, btw, says "over 80% sold.")

The KPMG report

Why is this all important? Because the KPMG Atlantic Yards Market study done for Empire State Development, some 2.5 years old, claimed that the building was already 75% sold. Actually, as I reported, the figure was somewhere between 25% and 50%.

The report, suggesting a robust market for luxury condos, was key to the state agency concluding that Atlantic Yards could be built in a decade--now highly unlikely.

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NoLandGrab: KPMG is to Forest City Ratner as Arthur Andersen is was to Enron.

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

Forest City in the woods in Yonkers

Developer's reputation takes a hit in Westchester scandal.

Crain's NY Business
by Greg David

When even Crain's Greg David thinks Forest City's reputation is suffering, it's likely they don't have any reputation left at all.

As for Forest City, its efforts to win approval have been detailed at great length in the trial. Here's the bottom line. To push the project, it hired the most powerful people in Westchester—namely Al Pirro (ex-husband of former Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro) and Mr. Spano. When the firm had already invested some $78 million in Ridge Hill and the council seemed unwilling to approve its plan, Forest City became desperate. It hired Mr. Mangone and eventually gave Mr. Jereis a no-show job in hopes they could change Ms. Annabi's vote. That's just what she did.

Forest City has done many good things in New York [NLG: we challenge you to name just one], and no one has suggested that it did anything illegal [NLG: Actually, we have]. But it pursued a project in a city where the politically astute developer knew there was a history of corruption, hired people with questionable bona fides and didn't ask what they did.

Forest City executives admitted in court they were uncomfortable with their deal with Mr. Jereis. Yet its approach? See no evil, hear no evil.

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NoLandGrab: "See no evil, hear no evil" describes precisely the approach taken by Crain's and most of its brethren in covering Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project for the past eight years.

Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

The Day: A Murder Arrest and a Jury Deliberates An Arena

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]

Late last week, our friends at Patch had some fun with the Barclays Center arena, asking readers if the 19,000-seat venue is ugly or not. Sure, the building isn’t really done yet, but who cares — we Brooklynites aren’t afraid to express our opinion even before its valid! So far, a couple hundred people have voted — and the verdict? “Eyesore” is winning with 65 percent of the vote.

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Image: SHoP Architects

Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

March 11, 2012

Is the Barclays Center ugly? Is that the right question?

Atlantic Yards Report

The results of a Patch poll--is the Barclays Center ugly?--are hardly scientific:

...

But one commenter on the Patch poll raised a larger question:

Even if the architecture was beautiful, which it isn't, it is ugly in the sense that it is a product of political corruption. A big developer takes public money, over the objection of much of the affected community, to build something we didn't need which will have many noxious effects on the community (traffic, pollution, noise, etc.), Promised benefits (jobs, affordable housing) disappear from the discussion as soon as its approved. Which poltiician is trying to get Forrest City Ratner to repay the public for the missing benefits? When did capitalism become I'll risk your money for my gain?

Those points, of course, can be debated, but the fact is this: Atlantic Yards was sold to the public as a package deal, with the overall benefits said to trump the overall costs. Any preliminary assessment, however, has to reckon with the failure to deliver that package, as well as the sketchiness of the promises to begin with.

link

Posted by steve at 11:54 PM

Crain's columnist David: Forest City's getting a break from light coverage of Yonkers corruption trial

Atlantic Yards Report

Crain's New York Business columnist (and former editor and Atlantic Yards cheerleader) Greg David implicitly criticizes his own publication and nearly all the New York press by pointing to the light coverage of the Yonkers corruption trial.

In Forest City in the woods in Yonkers: Developer's reputation takes a hit in Westchester scandal, David writes:

One of the most eye-opening exposés of political corruption in New York is getting very little attention—and at least one local player, Forest City Ratner, can only be relieved about that because the developer's reputation is taking a big hit.
The revelations are coming in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where Sandy Annabi, a Yonkers city councilwoman, and Zehy Jereis, a political operative and Forest City consultant, are on trial for bribery, extortion and conspiracy. The charges say that Mr. Jereis bribed Ms. Annabi, his cousin, to change her vote and swing the council in favor of Forest City's $842 million Ridge Hill development in that city. Only the Journal News of Westchester has covered the case in detail.

David notes the defendants' claims, as well as the testimony by key witness Anthony Mangone, who has "shone a spotlight on two powerful Republicans," former Sen. Nick Spano, who was part of "a vote-fraud scheme more than a decade ago" and state Sen. Tom Libous, who got Mangone's law firm to hire his won.

link

Posted by steve at 11:52 PM

Waiting for Kimmelman: everyone's talking about the new Times architecture critic; some wonder when he'll write about Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Michael Kimmelman, the new New York Times architecture critic who seems to care more about context and urbanism than starchitects, is getting a lot of ink these days. At a panel at the Architecture Center last week, as reported in Capital New York, he--along with his predecessors--was the elephant in the room:

All of these critics said that the idea that the entire architectural press had become caught up with the star architects, and object architecture, was not accurate; but that to the extent it was true, it was a monster the Times created over the last decade or more.
...The Times' choice of Kimmelman after [Nicolai] Ouroussoff (whose name was never mentioned, despite obvious references to his tenure at the newspaper) was so extreme that it elicited from [ex-Times critic and current New Yorker critic Paul] Goldberger the idea of a pendulum, which in popular opinion about architecture has swung away from star architects, towards something closer to home. And how The New York Times, in designating its critic, has a unique power to push the pendulum either way.

The Times's inaugural critic was Ada Louise Huxtable, followed by Goldberger, then the more starchitect-oriented Herbert Muschamp and Ourossoff:

“I tried, when I followed her, to keep the sense of engagement with the city going as much as possible, and to write a fair amount about issues again of planning and zoning and so forth,” Goldberger said. “That faded from the Times for a while, and it’s a good sign that the current critic is eager to bring that back.”

...

The Observer's Matt Chaban praised Kimmelman for not comparing buildings to similar ones--"peg versus peg":

Kimmelman seems to care very little for these games and would rather focus on whether or not that peg fits into the hole into which it has been placed, something that really does not happen enough. The only problem is it can lead to articles that read quite a lot alike. At least that is the superficial reading.

Nevermind the fact that there are myriad projects waiting to be weighed in on—the new apartments at Atlantic Yards, or the ones at Brooklyn Bridge Park, or Frank Gehry’s new Signature Theater all come to mind. Far be it from us to give marching orders to Mr. Kimmelman, but the people are dying to know what he thinks, and these are all still projects that could be considered in the lens of cities, too.

While some critics, such as New York Magazine's Justin Davidson (pro) and the Real Deal's James Gardner (unenthusiastic if not quite con), have commented on the SHoP-designed plans for three modular towers, I'd suggest it's premature.

Why? Architecture critics have a history on commenting on plans that don't come to fruition. Maybe they should wait to see if this plan is, in fact, going forward.

link

Posted by steve at 11:47 PM

March 10, 2012

Construction workers create more free parking: "No Parking" signs on Carlton Avenue covered so vehicles can park; then signs are un-covered when workers leave

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember a construction worker, most likely working at the Barclays Center/railyard site, created his own free parking in January by brazenly uprooting a "No Standing" sign on Pacific Street?

Now Atlantic Yards Watch contributor 700PacificW has captured another episode of self-created free parking, this time just north of the railyard site on Carlton Avenue above Atlantic Avenue.

This time the chicanery is more subtle: rather than get rid of a no-parking sign, the worker has covered at temporary "No Parking" sign during the period of time he needed it for his car. Such signs have been added because of the construction nearby on Atlantic Avenue.
...

At about 00:47 of the video, shot yesterday afternoon at 4:48 pm, the worker approaches his SUV and ultimately removes his reflector vest. At about 1:20, he approaches the covered sign, then removes the cover, so the spot is reserved for the next participant in the scheme.

At 01:34, the driver exits his vehicle, apparently having concluded that that the sign is tilted incorrectly. He straighten it, then returns to his vehicle, and drives off.

There's been no announced prosecution of the worker in the January episode, but such evidence, as well as the evidence in the new video, seems blatant. Presumably the police will be asked about it at the next Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, to be held at Borough Hall on March 15 at 9:30 am.

article

NoLandGrab: Thanks, Forest City and ESDC! This kind of blatantly illegal, antisocial and selfish behavior is really making us look forward to the day the Barclays Center brings 18,000 people into the neighborhood.

Posted by eric at 11:44 PM

On Charlie Rose, Ratner talks up arena: Conseco + glass/steel = "first building... in the last ten years that is really a contemporary new building"

Atlantic Yards Report

Charlie Rose's interview with Bruce Ratner last night is not yet online, so for now I'll rely on some quotes from NetsDaily, which suggests that, over a half hour, nearly all the questions were about the Barclays Center arena.

(Remember, when asked recently by the Commercial Observer about the timetable for other buildings, Ratner snapped, "We’re here to talk about the arena.”)

Ratner called the arena "one of the most important civic buildings built in the city," a very generous use of the word civic ("of or relating to a citizen, a city, citizenship, or community affairs").

He called it "the most important arena built in the last half century in this country"--perhaps, though that "important arena" can't be separated from significant trade-offs, like its impact on a residential neighborhoods.

Like Conseco, but updated

Ratner asserted:

Basketball people will love it. First of all, it's built for basketball. It's much like inside the Conseco Center [in Indianapolis]. Very good sightlines. We studied 16 different arenas to get the best sightlines. It will be very tight, exciting, noisy. It's going to have all the latest technology and amenities. So when you're there, you're going to feel you're right in the action.

It's much like the Conseco Fieldhouse (now BankersLife Fieldhouse) because it was modeled on Conseco. Then, after that leaked design was slammed by New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, Ratner hired SHoP to put a new skin on the building, thus earning some praise from the critic.

article

Posted by eric at 11:38 PM

Fraud Found in Jobs Effort; Blow to Bloomberg

The New York Times
by Michael Powell

City investigators have discovered evidence of large-scale fraud in one of the agencies leading Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s signature initiative to find jobs for unemployed New Yorkers.

Here's a surprise — it's not BUILD.

The Department of Investigation found that Seedco, a nonprofit organization that frequently works with the Bloomberg administration, falsely claimed to have helped at least 1,400 people — out of about 6,500 — find jobs; those people are in fact jobless or found employment on their own.

Only 1,400 phantom jobs? They deserve a medal. Bruce Ratner promised 17,000 construction jobs and 10,000 permanent office jobs, while delivering 607. Enervating!

Seedco “developed systematic practices to report false placements” to the city’s Department of Small Business Services, according to a report on the investigation that was released on Friday.

What, no housing and hoops?

article

Posted by eric at 11:24 PM

In China, a 30-story hotel goes up in two weeks

Atlantic Yards Report

If Bruce Ratner was said to be "captivated by a YouTube video depicting the assembly of the 15-story Ark Hotel in China in a matter of days," as the New York Times reported in March 2011, then he must be even more entranced by the more recent assembly of a 30-story hotel in China in just two weeks.

Even though Ratner's company nearly four months ago announced plans to build the first Atlantic Yards tower (and the rest) using modular construction, we haven't heard much since about what would be the world's tallest modular building.

Clearly, assembly would take a lot longer than in China--though it would save significant time and money compared to conventional construction.

link

NoLandGrab: To date, Bruce Ratner has proved himself much more adept at tearing things down than putting them up.

Posted by eric at 11:05 PM

March 9, 2012

Is Barclays Center Ugly?: [POLL]

Judging the aesthetic merits of the city's newest sports arena.

Park Slope Patch
by Paul Leonard

Does a bear s**t in the woods? More like a giant bear from outer space s**t in Prospect Heights.

Designed by Ellerbe Beckett and SHoP Architects, Barclays Center's mirrored glass and aged steel exterior continues to rise just a stone's throw away from some of the oldest and most historically significant housing stock the city has to offer.

So as Barclays begins to take its final shape in the middle of Brownstone Brooklyn, a question:

Is the Barclays Center ugly?

Or is it a welcome, intrinsically modern, addition to the landscape of the borough?

Take the poll.

link

Posted by eric at 3:30 PM

Greening the Planned Barclays Center Surface Parking Lot

The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council presented a proposal for greening the massive surface parking lot planned for a large swath of Dean Street, which Atlantic Yards Watch covered last month, at last night's Atlantic Yards Transportation Focus Group meeting.

The presentation opened with a time-lapse video of Dean Street shot nearly two years ago by Tracy Collins, which shows a street that definitely is not going to be improved by the presence of 1100 cars coming and going to arena events.

Dean at Carlton from tracy collins on Vimeo.

You can download a copy of PHNDC's very sensible suggestions here.

Posted by eric at 3:01 PM

Arena traffic: study of pre-opening conditions coming; aim is to set baseline for potential changes; residents still worry about street closures and surface parking lot

Atlantic Yards Report

City officials and Forest City Ratner are taking steps to assess traffic in the area around the Barclays Center arena, and plans for both a pre-opening study, as well as a post-opening study, have drawn both constructive criticism and civic wariness.

The plans, which are aimed to spur helpful changes, were discussed last night at a meeting of a Transportation Focus Group, involving representatives of community groups and block associations in the arena's orbit, held at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

The 2006 environmental review for the project identified 25 intersections where there’d be significant adverse impacts, but the long delay since that time period necessitated a new baseline study, to be conducted over the next month or two.

That's necessary for comparison with the post-opening study of traffic and pedestrian conditions, to be conducted in the winter/spring of 2013, that was requested of the developer by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT).

Recent changes

The DOT's Chris Hrones noted that DOT already implemented a “major round of mitigations” last summer, including barring left turns onto Flatbush Avenue from northbound Fourth Avenue. “Every time you make changes, there are going to be some adjustments,” he said. “We hope the benefits outweigh the impacts.”
...

Some skepticism

Sandy Balboza of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, expressed skepticism: once analysis is conducted, she warned, “it sounds to me like you're going to make it more of a highway.”

“I don't think there's an adequate plan for getting people not to drive,” she said, alluding to the much-delayed Transportation Demand Management study, which is due in May after being promised for December. “I think we're in big trouble.”

article

Posted by eric at 2:47 PM

Construction monitor: arena still ahead of schedule (if you move the goalposts); new document regarding schedule was to emerge in February, but not seen yet

Atlantic Yards Report

The latest report on Atlantic Yards construction progress, as with its predecessor last month, maintains a 9/5/12 date for substantial completion of the Barclays Arena and site work, giving arena operators little more than three weeks to test building systems before the first event, a 9/28/12 concert with superstar Jay-Z.

And, as with the February report, the latest report fudges the numbers to assert that the arena is "slightly ahead of schedule," based on actual cash flow versus projected cash flow.

That 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. (Dated 3/1/12, it's based on a visit of 1/26/12 and documents made available 2/17/12 review.)

The report mentions a new GMP2 (Guaranteed Maximum Price) schedule to be issued in February that would establish the final completion date. As with many promised documents in the past, it has not emerged in time for the report.

article

Posted by eric at 2:42 PM

Yonkers trial update: Annabi's claim she might be framed; a failure to review documents; another no-show job for Jereis

Atlantic Yards Report

I didn't make it to the Yonkers corruption trial yesterday, so I'll point readers to the Journal News, which covered:

  • an FBI agent's testimony that ex-Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi suggested that her mortgage file may have contained false documents planted to frame her
  • that Annabi didn't review mortgage documents in which her income was falsely inflated, thus making it easier to get loan
  • the FBI's agents hesitation and lack of memory when asked if Annabi was asked to wear a wire and help in a larger corruption investigation
  • the history of fellow defendant Zehy Jereis, the politicowho offered Forest City Ratner access to Annabi and got a no-show job, having gotten a similar job at the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce, in that case thanks to local powerbroker Sen. Nick Spano.

The trial resumes Monday.

link

Related coverage...

The Journal News, FBI agent: Annabi called flawed mortgage documents a set-up

Posted by eric at 2:33 PM

Tish James Says NYPD Should Have Consulted with Community on Barclays Policing

A police annex at the Barclays Center and a collaborate effort between police precincts would have been more effective, she says.

Park Slope Patch
by Jamie Schuh

Earlier this week, the NYPD chose the 78th Precinct to keep order at the Barclays Center because of it’s station house’s proximity to the under-construction arena, but Councilmember Letitia James, D-Brooklyn, says there should have been more of a discussion between the police, elected officials and community groups before the decision.
...

According to James, her solution would be to “place new officers in a police annex dedicated to the Barclays arena site,” with the 77th, 78th and 88th precincts working collaboratively. Developer Forest City Ratner, she says, should underwrite the cost of security.

“There is no reason to cherry-pick from one precinct over another, and no reason to take vital resources from any precinct,” said James. The most important factor is ensuring that the officers in these local precincts remain dedicated to community policing.”

article

Posted by eric at 2:25 PM

Poor Bruce Ratner

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

The Real Deal, in a hagiographic article on the city's powerful real estate wingmen, says while Bruce Ratner and his lieutenant MaryAnne Gilmartin play the levers of government in back rooms to get Forest City Ratner's deals done, it is Bob Sanna who gets the boondoggles built.
...

Yes Poor, poor beset Bruce Ratner, he who said of the Atlantic Center Mall's odd, cold design:

"It's a problem of malls in dense urban areas that kids hang out there, and it's not too positive for shopping," Mr. Ratner said. "Look, here you're in an urban area, you're next to projects, you've got tough kids."

Adding that it was not an issue of class or ethnicity, he said: "You know it's kids that cut school. In the burbs, a 15-year-old can't get to the mall without his parents. Here, it's a little different."

link

Posted by eric at 2:11 PM

On Charlie Rose tonight, Bruce Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

From the New York Post: "Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner visits tonight's "Charlie Rose Show" (11 p.m./Ch. 13)."

How many tough questions will the host ask? Prediction: few if any. The segment should ultimately posted on Rose's website and Hulu.

link

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Tonight: When Charlie (Rose) Met Ratner

One wild card is Charlie Rose's long time relationship (we don't know if it is current or ended) with City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden. We know that Burden, behind the scenes, wasn't too pleased with Atlantic Yards and it is hard to imagine that she is pleased with how it has played out so far, so maybe she'll feed some good info to Rose. On the other hand Rose, Burden and Ratner surely all rub friendly shoulders and are loathe to say an unkind word in public about the other. And on the third hand, perhaps Burden plays as much of a meaningful role on the Charlie Rose show as she did in the State-run Atlantic Yards project, which is to say--no meaningful role.

Posted by eric at 2:05 PM

March 8, 2012

WINNERS & LOSERS, MARCH 2, 2012

City & State

Poor Bruce Ratner.

LOSERS

Bruce Ratner – Forest City Ratner’s head honcho hasn’t been accused of doing anything wrong, but the powerful developer’s company is linked to a string of questionable characters, including disgraced former state Sen. Carl Kruger, lobbyist Richard Lipsky and several figures involved in a corruption case in Yonkers. Even if he played by the rules, those kinds of connections look bad for a man who sees himself as a force for good in New York – and whose business lives and dies on its relationship to government.

article

NoLandGrab: Don't forget to vote for this week's "biggest loser" — Poor Bruce Ratner isn't even winning that.

Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

Forest City's Sanna gets the star treatment in the Real Deal, which ignores hardball regarding 8 Spruce Street, Ratner's self-blame for Atlantic Center mall design

Atlantic Yards Report

In Power behind the throne: The lieutenants pulling the strings for NYC’s top real estate chiefs, Forest City Ratner construction chief Bob Sanna gets to pose (or be Photoshopped?) nobly in front of the Atlantic Yards arena.

But the article, which places Sanna first among the nine profiled "wingmen," hardly says anything about the Atlantic Yards arena, not timetable challenges, rodent proliferation, or the difficulties in getting that custom weathered metal exterior done.

Nor does it saying anything about Sanna's crusade in his New Jersey hometown to fight an allegedly out-of-scale building.

From this point forward, we'll never refer to Bruce Ratner without preceding it with the modifier "Poor":

Spinning Atlantic Center

The article continues:

Sanna said his regrets, so far, are few, like wishing that the Atlantic Center mall in Brooklyn, for instance, had more windows. But when it was constructed in the late 1990s, Forest City capitulated to the demands of their big-box retail tenants, who were convinced that only replicas of their suburban stores would work.

“Poor Bruce was being forced to conform to lease requirements of these suburban stores,” said Sanna, who prefers what Home Depot did on West 23rd Street in fitting their store to an existing, more traditional space. “It’s a whole different level of sophistication.”

Sure, there's a push and pull between tenants and builders, especially in the 1990s, but "Poor Bruce"? He actually blames himself. Kurt Andersen, in his 11/20/05 New York magazine Imperial City column, wrote:

Until now, most of Ratner’s buildings have ranged from the uninspired to the bad, like his shopping center across from the Atlantic Yards. Even he admits the Atlantic Center mall is “not up to snuff. Philip Johnson did a first design, but I made a decision not to use him. I have to blame myself. I’ve been talking for ten years about trying to use ‘design architects’ instead of ‘developer architects.’”

article

NoLandGrab: That ridiculous photo calls to mind this iconic Arnold Newman picture of Robert Moses.

Photo: The Real Deal

Related content...

The Real Deal, Power behind the throne: The lieutenants pulling the strings for NYC’s top real estate chiefs

At Forest City Ratner, decisions about where to locate a building — on Spruce Street in the case of New York by Gehry, or at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn for the under-construction Barclays Center — are made by Bruce Ratner, chairman, and MaryAnne Gilmartin, vice president.

But figuring out what the building will cost, how much time it will take to build and what it will look like are the responsibilities of Bob Sanna. While Ratner and Gilmartin are the faces of the company, Sanna, an architect by training, is the construction manager and point person for all the company’s high-profile projects.

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

Yonkers trial update: a curious tax return for Council Member Annabi, with an unexplained unpaid cash loan to her father

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, the federal corruption trial of ex-Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political advisor/alleged briber Zehy Jereis stayed in fairly dry territory, focusing on questionable documents presented by Annabi that have provoked tax charges.

Walid Farhat, who from 2001-05 served as Annabi’s accountant, testified that he blanched at Annabi's decision to claim a tax deduction on a loan to her father--$50,000 in cash--that wasn't repaid.

He asked for proof--"I didn't see it making sense"--and was giving bankruptcy papers. He pressed and asked for the promissory note Annabi claimed. "She said 'that's not your business,'" Farhat testified.

That loss, as well as some $41,000 in mortgage interest, essentially offset her earnings in 2005, Farhat said.

article

Related coverage...

The Journal News, Annabi's ex-accountant questioned her tax deduction on claimed loan

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Sunshine Week: How to Make a Public Records Request in New Rochelle

Talk of the Sound
by Robert Cox

The level of ignorance of public officials in New Rochelle with regard to requirements of our Open Meeting Law is staggering which has led to the wanton abuse of "executive session" to hide from public view discussions among a quorum of elected officials conducting the public's business.

For example, the New Rochelle City Council has routinely been called into executive session by Mayor Noam Bramson to discuss "matters of real estate" when the discussion concerned projects such as Echo Bay, LeCount Square and, more recently, the Main Street Core Project. There is an exception in the OML under which a body may go into executive session to discuss a matter of real estate but the exception is granted for the public benefit -- that information about a desire by the body to buy or sell property might not become known by land speculators thus driving the price up or down at the expense of taxpayers. In New Rochelle, Mayor Bramson has frequently invoked executive session to hide from the public a free and open debate on projects from favored developers like Forest City Ratner, Capelli Enterprises and Albanese not for the benefit of citizens but for his own personal, political benefit and for the benefit of the developers.

article

Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

March 7, 2012

Yonkers trial: evidence that Council Member Annabi fudged numbers to get home loans, didn't disclose help from Jereis

Atlantic Yard Report

With the departure of witnesses from developer Forest City Ratner and Anthony Mangone, the admitted felon who's trying to get a break by testifying, the Yonkers corruption trial has moved into a somewhat drier phase, as prosecutors emphasize documents in their efforts to make the case against former Council Member Sandy Annabi and her distant cousin and one-time campaign manager, Zehy Jereis.

But the proceeding yesterday in federal court began with some contentiousness between the competing legal teams.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Halperin called U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon's attention to an interview Annabi's attorney William Aronwald had given to News12, the Westchester television outlet, regarding Mangone, who testified that he passed on money from developer Milio Management to Jereis, but also admitted many lies and ethical violations.

Aronwald, according to Halperin, had said, "We're on our way to hopefully convincing this jury that [Mangone] is not at all credible for anything."

Aronwald protested that, "if that's all they shared, it was taken out of context."

"Even so," responded McMahon, "no more interviews."

The prosecution phase of the case is expected to conclude Thursday or Monday.

article

Related coverage...

The Journal News, Prosecutors: Annabi mortgage applications gave fake tax documents

Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

Council Member James: rather than assign 78th Precinct to police arena, create new annex shared by three precincts; also, she still hasn't seen security plan

Atlantic Yards Report

City Council Member Letitia James is not pleased with the decision, conveyed via a New York Post article but not apparently an official announcement, that the New York Police Department will assign the 78th Precinct in Brooklyn to police the Barclays Center arena.

Why? It ignores issues of overlapping jurisdictions, leading her to propose instead an annex shared by the three precincts that currently have jurisdiction over the Atlantic Yards sites, with all additional costs underwritten by the developer.

The 78th Precinct stationhouse is a block away, though the arena is located at the far north of the precinct. The other two precincts have stationhouses located at the far eastern ends of their territories.

James's press statement asserts that the "arena is located in Prospect Heights, which is covered by the 77th Precinct (with the boundaries for the 88th Precinct ending across the street)."

Actually, as noted in the map at right and the map I ran earlier in the week, the 78th and 88th Precincts share jurisdiction over the arena site, indicated in red. The stationhouse for the 78th is denoted by the blue indicator.

Click through for the Council Member's statement.

article

Related content...

Gothamist, NYPD Precincts Fight For Right To Police Barclays Center, With Park Slope Winning

"Winning" might not be exactly the right word.

The 78th Station house is a block away from the arena, and one source at the 78th argues, "The overtime was going up whether we got the arena or not. If something happens at the arena and a cop isn’t around, most people are going to walk into our [station house] to report it because we’re across the street. They’re not traveling all the way to the 88th, so obviously, our workload is going up. And don’t get me started with the traffic and scalpers. Yes, many people are looking forward to more overtime. But the arena is going to be a nightmare to deal with."

Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

March 6, 2012

Barclays Center to Host Winter College Hoops Doubleheaders

The Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival and Holiday Invitational will take place in December, and tickets for both will go on sale this month.

Park Slope Patch
by Jamie Schuh

From the Department of Rewritten Press Releases...

The Barclays Center is still about seven months from opening day, but the arena has already announced the college basketball teams that will be going head to head at the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival and Holiday Invitational, both in December.

On December 15, Michigan will take on West Virginia and Fordham will go up against Princeton for a college hoops doubleheader. This will be the first time that Michigan and West Virginia meet on the court, and the game will be telecast on ESPN.

On December 22, the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational will feature Long Island University versus Seton Hall, and Manhattan College versus South Carolina.
...

“Barclays Center is quickly becoming a must-play for major college basketball teams in the nation,” Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said, in a statement.

article

NoLandGrab: Yes, a "must-play" arena — that has yet to host a game.

Posted by eric at 9:39 PM

Crime Report: More iPhone Thefts and Atlantic Center Troubles

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

In crime reports, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, nothing is certain but iPhones and Bruce Ratner's malls.

There were several more iPhone thefts last week, plus more crime at the troubled Atlantic Center Mall in what was a relatively calm week in the 88th Precinct.
...

Bag Man

A shopper inside the Atlantic Center Mall had her bag stolen when she turned her attention towards her purchases on Feb. 28.

The victim told cops that she was inside the mall, which is on Atlantic Avenue near Flatbush Avenue at around 3 p.m. When she looked for her bag, it was missing — along with various cards and $200.

article

Posted by eric at 2:00 PM

Burger boom sizzles near arena

The Brooklyn Paper
by Eli Rosenberg

Hey, just what the neighborhood needed — more burger joints! Beats strip clubs, though.

It’s not just properties that are flipping near the soon-to-open Barclays Center — it’s patties.

Burger joints are bouncing up around the nearly completed home of the Nets like loose balls as national chains vie with local businesses to win over thousands of hungry fans expected to hit the neighborhood in search of game-time grub.

No less than five new burger spots have opened in the last year within a half mile of the arena — and while the Nets won’t tip off there until September, restaurant owners say the game is already on for them.

article

Posted by eric at 1:37 PM

Witness: Forest City Ratner's consulting contract with Jereis was under discussion right around time of Annabi vote, not a month or two later, as developer's reps testified

Atlantic Yards Report

Might someone have perjured himself while testifying in Federal court last week?

Did Forest City Ratner really wait two months after Yonkers City Council member Sandy Annabi voted to green-light the developer's Ridge Hill project to send Zehy Jereis, who helped wangle Annabi's vote, a consulting contract for an essentially no-show job?

Testimony in the federal corruption trial yesterday suggested an alternative sequence, in which the developer's negotiations with Jereis occurred far closer to Annabi's vote.

Click through for the goods.

article

Related coverage...

The Journal News, Mangone: Unsure if Annabi got bribe

City & State, TOP SENATE REPUBLICAN WRAPPED UP IN YONKERS CORRUPTION TRIAL

Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

VIDEO: New ad prepares Brooklyn for Barclays Center

Metro NY
by Cassandra Garrison

Hey, Brooklyn. You've got a rich cultural identity and diverse neighborhoods. And all of that has been preparing you for the cultural and environmental synergy that is the Barclays Center.

A new TV spot offers a glimpse at the soon-to-open 18,000 seat arena. The ad mostly seems like an attempt at convincing Brooklyn to like the Barclays Center, which, mission accomplished, because they got Jay-Z.

Um, what are we missing?

Now to the good part.

"The transformation of its residential and business areas has prepared this great borough for an even greater future. It has prepared Brooklyn for the Barclays Center."

You heard it right, Brooklyn. All that history was just preparing you: You're ready now, Brooklyn. You're ready for Barclays. Spread your wings and fly.

article

NoLandGrab: Did someone ask Metro to tone down the headline? 'Cause the article link indicates that they lost an adjective somewhere along the way: video-ridiculous-new-ad-prepares-brooklyn-for-barclays-center.

Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

First Nets staffers relocate to Downtown Brooklyn

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Hey Brooklyn, the Nets have finally arrived.

While the currently NJ-based NBA team's players and coaches won’t be calling the borough home until Barclays Center opens in September, its first 57 staffers began relocating today to the club's new offices at Metro Tech Center in Downtown Brooklyn.

The workers -- mostly in sales and marketing -- came from the club's current headquarters in East Rutherford, NJ, and its luxury-suites sales showroom in Manhattan.

Over the next two months, another 100 employees on the business side of operations will follow over to Metro Tech Center, which is owned by Barclays Center builder Bruce Ratner. The developer first proposed moving the team to Brooklyn nine years ago.

Brace yourselves, Brooklyn.

“Everything is coming together. We’re finally here,” crowed Nets/Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, who was among the first to make the move to the new 11th floor offices at 15 Metro Tech Center.

link

NoLandGrab: Can you feel the excitement? Not even a smidge? Us neither.

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

The Day: Let’s Talk About Bollards

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]

Today’s news update is almost entirely dominated by security at the Barclays Center, specifically bollards — you know, those ugly, but necessary, security stanchions that surround all our public buildings in this “post-9-11″ world:

The bollards at the Barclays Center (circled) aren’t visible from the street because of a construction fence, but they appear to be similar to security perimeters at other public buildings.

link

Photo: Gersh Kuntzman/The Local

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

NYPD's 78th Precinct Will Keep Order at Barclays Center

Though the Barclays Center is actually located within the 88th Precinct, Park Slope station house is closer to the arena.

Park Slope Patch
by Jamie Schuh

The decision will mean more cops in the 78th Precinct, and the paper says that it could also create “mega-overtime” for the officers who have to deal with arena traffic, scalpers and unruly sports fans.

So while the choice could be a win for Park Slope residents who will benefit from increased security, the article says that some community leaders in the 88th Precinct aren’t too happy with the NYPD’s decision.

“The 88th Precinct will be affected by the arena just as much as the [78th Precinct]—if not more—so we should be getting the extra cops because crime is already higher here,” an anonymous Fort Greene activist told the Post.

link

NoLandGrab: People, people, no sense fighting. Between Bruce Ratner's malls, political benefactors, consultants, other consultants, and his arena, there'll be plenty of crime to go around.

Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

March 5, 2012

New Barclays Center video features Jay-Z over Ratner; claims arena is at Ebbets Field redux; says borough's transformation "has prepared Brooklyn for the Barclays Center"

Atlantic Yards Report

A new Barclays Center Video, produced for Nets Basketball and released last month, is a curious document, with a sampled hip-hop soundtrack, an upbeat narrator, exactly one person interviewed (Jay-Z).

The m.o. is apparently collages of Brooklyn icons, artisanal/hipster creativity, and historic architecture. Of course, there's no recognition of any controversy over the arena, nor the larger project to which is supposedly tethered. Below, I reproduce the narrator's copy, then interpolate my analysis, coupled with screenshots.

article

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

Arena a Net gain for cops

NY Post
by Rebecca Harshbarger and Rich Calder

It was a jump ball, and the 78th Precinct won it.

NYPD brass are set to tap Brooklyn’s 78th Precinct to maintain order at the NBA Nets’ new home — the Barclays Center — when it opens in September, bypassing the 88th Precinct, whose current boundaries actually include the Prospect Heights-based arena, The Post has learned.

Supporters say the move makes sense logistically because of the arena’s proximity to the 78th’s station house. But foes are crying foul.

The plum designation, confirmed by NYPD sources, ends a behind-the-scenes lobbying battle between both precincts for the arena gig.

The move is expected to increase staffing at the 78th Precinct, which predominately covers affluent Park Slope, and create potential mega-overtime for the cops there to cope with arena traffic and patrons.

NYPD sources and Park Slope community leaders say the decision makes sense.

The under-construction, 18,000-seat arena at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues technically falls within the 88th Precinct, but it’s a half-mile from the precinct’s station house in Fort Greene — yet just a block away from the 78th Precinct.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Post: 78th Precinct chosen to oversee arena; it's closest, though technically includes only part of site

The Post quotes NYPD and community leaders as endorsing the plan, given the proximity of the 78th station house, at Bergen Street and Sixth Avenue one block south of the arena.

There is a logic there, but, as the graphic (from Blight Study attached to the Atlantic Yards General Project Plan) indicates, the arena site--west of Sixth Avenue and between Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue, is not solely in the 88th Precinct, but rather shared with the 78th.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

Putin beats the spread

Global Public Square [CNN.com]
by Matthew Rojansky

Our condolences to "opposition" "candidate" and New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who finished a distant third to Vladimir Putin in yesterday's Russian Presidential election with just 7.84% of the vote (even the Nets have a better winning percentage).

But is Proky really a loser?

Waiting for the returns from Sunday’s Russian presidential elections was a bit like watching a lopsided football game at a Las Vegas sports bar - everyone knew who was favored to win, but what really mattered was the spread.

On the gridiron of Russian presidential politics, Vladimir Putin was the heavy favorite and he did not disappoint. Despite months of anti-regime protests and a relatively transparent voting process, Putin appears to have won well above 60% of the vote, with a respectable turnout of just over 56%. This means that Putin will not only return to the Kremlin in May, but will claim a mandate to govern based on the will of the Russian people. As in sports betting, this outcome promises a big payoff for some, and a long, cold winter for others.

So who were the winners and losers after Sunday’s blowout?

The Winners:
...

The Oligarchs: Despite the poor showing by “independent” presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov, one of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs, he and his neighbors on the Forbes list of Russian billionaires stand to profit handsomely under a new Putin presidency. Putin makes no secret of his disgust for the crooked 1990’s privatization schemes that made Prokhorov and others rich, yet he has no intention of undoing the results. Putin’s message to the oligarchs is simple: make your money but stay out of politics. And they have done so, with the exceptions of Prokhorov, who is suspected to have run on Putin’s orders, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky who lost his company and is rotting in jail. The reward for the oligarchs’ obedience? Putin plans a new round of privatization worth some $50 billion over the next five years.

article

Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

Atlantic Terminal security sarcophagi removal pushed back

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

The massive granite barricades ringing the Long Island Rail Road’s Atlantic Terminal will be ripped out later this year — not starting last month like the MTA originally said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will tap a contractor this month to replace unpopular security sarcophagi at the entrance to the borough’s busiest transit hub with stainless steel cylinders, but a spokesman would only promise that the boulders will be removed during the “early part” of the year-long construction project.
...

The hugely oversized bollards were met with similar criticism when the glitzy $106-million Atlantic Terminal renovation wrapped up in January, 2010.

At the time, LIRR President Helena Williams said the security measure was necessary to meet NYPD standards, but the bollards actually exceed police criteria in height and proximity to each other.

article

NoLandGrab: Let's not forget that this web site had the scoop on the installation of the unsightly sarcophagi way back on December 7, 2009.

Posted by eric at 9:35 AM

Barclays Center begins new marketing plan; Post says it's supposed "to sell Brooklyn as much as basketball;" includes images of non-existent towers

Atlantic Yards Report

A new “seven-figure” Barclays Center marketing push, according to a New York Post Business page article today, "is part of a plan to sell Brooklyn as much as basketball."

I'm not so sure, as the ad, seen in today's New York Daily News (but not the Post or Times, yet), seems to be selling events more than location. It includes images of three non-existent towers ringing the arena. And it makes no mention of the "community involvement" touted in a Barclays Center video.

link

Posted by eric at 9:29 AM

Brooklyn stars in Barclays Center ad push

NY Post
by Claire Atkinson

With the clock counting down to its official opening, Barclays Center is casting a wide net to lure sports and entertainment seekers to Brooklyn.

Beyond basketball, a new ad blitz for the 18,000-seat arena, which will bring the New Jersey Nets to downtown Brooklyn, will give equal billing to the arena’s other attractions.

The Nets may visit "downtown Brooklyn" occasionally, but they'll be playing their games in what's actually Prospect Heights.

The first ad in the “In Brooklyn” campaign will tout college basketball, boxing, concerts and family-friendly shows like the circus, in addition to the arrival of the Nets, when it kicks off today.

article

Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

March 4, 2012

Why journalism is important: "to fill the space that grows between the two parts of democracy: the governed and the governors

Atlantic Yards Report

Jay Rosen, the NYU journalism scholar and, among other things, coiner of the very useful "View from Nowhere" observation, explains:

Why I study journalism and criticize it and try to make it better when I can figure out how.
The reason is there in this quote from Thinking the Twentieth Century, by Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder. (Penguin Books, 2012)

Democracies corrode quite fast; they corrode linguistically, or rhetorically if you like— that’s the Orwellian point about language. They corrode because most people don’t care about them. Notice that the European Union, whose first parliamentary elections were held in 1979 and had an average turnout of over 62 percent, is now looking at turnout of less than 30 percent, even though the European Parliament matters more now and has more power. The difficulty of sustaining voluntary interest in the business of choosing the people who will rule over you is well attested. And the reason why we need intellectuals, as well as all the good journalists we can find, is to fill the space that grows between the two parts of democracy: the governed and the governors.

Tony Judt, who lived upstairs from me, was one of the great students of the West, and did as much as anyone I know to warn of the corrosives of his time.

Politics, I shouldn't have to remind people, extends beyond elections and legislatures to things like development projects.

link

Posted by steve at 9:27 PM

March 3, 2012

Late-night noise complaints (from Atlantic Yards Watch) and arena sal(i)vation (from the Post Sports page) regarding college hoops

Atlantic Yards Report

If you read Atlantic Yards Watch, life isn't so lovely near the Atlantic Yards construction site. One neighbor on Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues recently reported "Heavy pounding every ten seconds or so that shook our bed." That was at 3:30 am.

Another, in the same area, reported "incessant hammering" at 10:45 pm: "Young children are woken from their sleep, or cannot get to sleep because of all the noise!"

Another filmed, a dump truck blocking northbound traffic on Sixth Avenue and endangering those northbound drivers and bicyclists who must veer into the southbound lane.

...

No matter. There's no section of the newspaper devoted to neighborhood quality of life, but there is one devoted to sports--or, as Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York aptly told Congress, "sports entertainment corporations":

Although sports entertainment corporations have an entire section of every day’s newspaper devoted to them, the Yankees and the Mets are, we must always remember, privately owned entertainment corporations. It’s discouraging that officials are confusing teams with public goods like parks, water and transit that are essential to the city’s public health and economic vitality.

Now college sports are not formally "sports entertainment corporations," but when you add in the sponsorship and endorsement deals for big-time programs, and the astronomical salaries for coaches, they pretty much qualify. Take Lenn Robbins' breathless New York Post column today, Brooklyn's Barclays Center set to become hoops heaven:

Later this year, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a stunning basketball cathedral, will open. The Barclays Center isn’t trying to kid anyone — the Garden is the Garden — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for another elite hoops address, another court where kids, especially those in the greatest borough, the County of Kings, can dream about making that highlight basket or buzzer-beater.

...Barclays already announced Kentucky, which could be the reigning national champion, will play Maryland in the inaugural Barclays Center Classic on Nov. 9. LIU-Brooklyn and Morehead State will be the second game of a national/local doubleheader [Nets/arena CEO Brett] Yormark said is the flavor he wants to serve on a consistent basis.

link

Posted by steve at 11:10 PM

Forest City messages: new "No Parking" on Pacific to allow Carlton Avenue Bridge work, "Dear Interested Party" re food vendors

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, some Brooklynites got not one but two messages from Forest City Ratner/Atlantic Yards. The first, a reprise of the "Dear Neighbor" message sent to a select few regarding the potential recruitment of Brooklyn-based food vendors, was addressed to "Dear Interested Party."

No Parking on part of Pacific

The second was this:

This serves as notice as stipulated in DOT Permit #B022012058055 that effective Monday March 5, 2012 there will be No Parking on the north side of Pacific Street from the intersection of Carlton Avenue to approximately 100 feet west of the intersection. Temporary constuction parking regulation signs will be posted to establish this no parking zone. The no parking zone is being established to allow for the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge.

link

Posted by steve at 10:59 PM

March 2, 2012

Yonkers corruption trial focuses on the Longfellow project: a compromised witness with a gambling problem, some Spano mentions, and favors for another state Senator

Atlantic Yards Report

The Yonkers corruption trial continued yesterday in federal court with a focus on the second project, Milio Management's Longfellow, rather than Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill.

Unlike with Ridge Hill, prosecutors had a witness, Anthony Mangone, who claimed direct knowledge of payments to defendant Zehy Jereis, former Yonkers Republican Chairman, intended to influence defendant Sandy Annabi, then City Council Member, to greenlight the project. But that witness, given his criminal record, gambling habit, and admitted perjury, was vulnerable to defense attorneys.

Mangone, the third defendant indicted with Jereis and Annabi in early 2010, has already pleaded guilty to tax fraud and conspiracy charges, and is cooperating in an effort to reduce his prison sentence. And Mangone's testimony also implicated past acts, unrelated to this trial, by his political mentor Yonkers powerbroker Nick Spano, a former state Senator turned lobbyist, who recently pleaded guilty to tax charges.

Nick Spano is part of a local political dynasty that includes his brother Mike Spano, a former Assemblyman who worked as a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner on the Ridge Hill case, now serves as Yonkers mayor, and testified briefly in the trial last week.

article

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

Where are the Barclay’s Center Jobs?

Construction was a washout, but hopes are high for service

The Brooklyn Ink
by Scott Eidler

In a classroom on the 10th floor of the Metro Tech Center, in downtown Brooklyn, two dozen adults are engaged in an exercise. The assignment? After hearing a list of workplace hiccups—unanswered phone calls, pushy customers, tardy co-workers—they must decide, in order of importance, how they should be handled. And quickly.

“It’s piling up now!” says the instructor, after a few of the scenarios have been read aloud.

“You have to respond to the telephone!” suggests one woman in the class.

Charles Torres sits in the back of the room, taking it all in. He likens the customer service class he’s enrolled in to a slice of “humble pie.” He used to manage the Off Track Betting center on Delancey Street in Manhattan, until 2010, when the city closed it down. Customer service wasn’t the field Torres hoped to fall into, but he’s had to swallow his pride. He thought his experience managing an O.T.B. site would qualify him for banking jobs, but so far, he’s been told otherwise. After nearly two years of struggling to find work, he’s been forced to reinvent himself, at 53.

Torres, like many among the unemployed in Brooklyn, connected with Build (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), an organization that pushes development as a job creator and to help Brooklyn residents land those jobs. Most of the students have been laid off, and they see customer service as a second act. They hope to be hired at the Barclay’s Center, the new basketball arena poised to be the cornerstone of the Atlantic Yards project when it opens in the fall.

After legislators criticized Build and the site’s developer, Forest City Ratner, for failing to hire enough Brooklyn residents for construction jobs, Build’s president and CEO, James Caldwell, says more may be hired at the arena. He also argues that Brooklyn residents will be better suited for the housing construction phase of the project than they were for the arena construction.

Though Build instructors say they can’t promise students a service job with the arena, they’re certainly showing them the way there.

article

Photo: Scott Eidler/The Brooklyn Ink

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

Classon Avenue is Latest Atlantic Yards Battleground

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Jessica Thomas

Residents of Classon Avenue are calling for a ban on left turns from Atlantic Avenue onto the northbound roadway in hopes of cutting off a likely escape valve for fans leaving the Barclays Center after the 19,000-seat venue opens in September.

The Classon, Lexington and Quincy multi-block association believes that many drivers will use Classon — rather than Flatbush or westbound Atlantic Avenue — as a route to the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway after attending events at the arena. To prevent that, the group collected more than a thousand signatures on petitions calling for a ban on left turns.

It is unclear how many Barclays Center-goers will drive to the arena at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. A 2006 study estimated that 35 percent of fans would arrive in a car — a conservative estimate that would nonetheless translate to more than 2,300 extra vehicles in the already packed area.

Residents fear that many of those cars will end up on Classon Avenue because the city has already banned left turns onto Vanderbilt and Washington Avenues from Atlantic Avenue citing unsafe conditions for pedestrians at those intersections.
...

A full study of post-game transportation flow is expected to be revealed in May, months overdue. It is unclear if it will fully address the problem of post-game traffic; the Atlantic Yards project’s final environmental impact statement in 2006 did not address traffic concerns on Classon, which was deemed outside the study area.

article

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

A blow to the EB-5 immigration investment industry: heavily promoted project in Vermont sees partnership ended, with questions looming

Atlantic Yards Report

To attract immigrant investors under the federal government's EB-5 program, promoters must design projects that:

  1. provide sufficient job creation (10 jobs, however indirect, per $500,000 investment) to generate green cards for themselves and their families
  2. be secure enough investments so that the investors, after granting a low- or no-interest loan for five years, get their money back from project promoters.

(With the Atlantic Yards EB-5 investment, promoters have gotten the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to sign off on job-creation figures that I think bear little relation to reality, while it's way to soon to see if the investors will get their money back.)

A setback for Jay Peak

One project that has proven its bona fides, at least with the job-creation challenge, is the Jay Peak Resort in Vermont, which has garnered much good press as an EB-5 exemplar. Its president, Bill Stenger, has testified at least twice before Congress about EB-5, including before a Senate Committee led by his friend, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT).

So it is a serious blow to the EB-5 industry that, as reported by EB5Info.com, the firm that brokered investments in Jay Peak to potential investors has ended "what may have been the longest and most successful agent/broker relationship in EB-5 visa history," with letters to more than 100 immigration attorneys.
...

So, what happened? [EB5Info.com's Michael] Gibson can only quote speculation that either Jay Peak is in shaky financial condition or the job creation numbers will not be met.

article

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

Arena contractor Hunt Construction confident about arena enclosure, but still looking for new fabricators

Atlantic Yards Report

Engineering News-Record reports, in a 3/5/12 article headlined Arena Subcontractor's 'Untimely' Default Delays Winter Enclosure:

The default and temporary shutdown just before New Year's Day of ASI Ltd., a principal subcontractor on the $825-million Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., has delayed completion of the arena's enclosure and forced extra effort by the project's prime contractor, Hunt Construction Group, to keep on track for scheduled completion later this year.

Forest City Ratner's Bob Sanna has previously acknowledged delays caused by the temporary closure of ASI Limited. On 1/26/12, he said, "It’s not quite back on schedule yet, but we are about to turn the corner and have that work in place.”

article

Related content...

Engineering News-Record, Arena Subcontractor's 'Untimely' Default Delays Winter Enclosure

"Hunt has asked and Ohio Farmers/ASI has reached out to three separate additional fabricators to determine if these shops have the technical means and available time to assist in fabrication," [Hunt Construction project executive Mark ]Gladden says.

The sequencing remains the same, says Gladden. The enclosure will be completed later than scheduled. Rather than stalling work until the walls have been installed, additional temporary enclosures, required to protect some interior spaces, will be used, he says.

"Hunt remains confident that we will complete the project as scheduled," Gladden says.

NoLandGrab: The Nets' perimeter defense is full of holes, so why shouldn't their arena be, too?

Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

March 1, 2012

Yonkers Corruption Trial Puts Forest City Ratner in the

NYMag.com
by Norman Oder

Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder takes a guest turn with New York Magazine's Daily Intel.

In May 2006, Forest City Ratner had four out of seven votes on the Yonkers City Council, but it needed a fifth to overcome an objection by the county planning board. (Project supporters on the council actually overturned the supermajority requirement, only to have a judge reinstate it in a lawsuit led by Annabi.) Despite having hired two of Westchester’s most-wired lobbyists — Al Pirro, a lawyer who saw his license suspended after a felony conviction and who is married to Jeanine Pirro (then the Westchester DA), and ex-Assemblyman Mike Spano, the brother of State Senator Nick Spano — Forest City couldn’t get a yes vote from Annabi, who had claimed the developer was “robbing the city blind." According to testimony given in the Yonkers trial, it couldn’t even get a meeting with her.

Bruce Bender, until recently Forest City’s top government-relations executive, dialed Annabi at her office at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Yonkers, where she hung up on him. Bender, former chief of staff to City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, played a crucial role in getting Atlantic Yards built for Forest City despite vociferous neighborhood opposition, and was taped by the FBI in a profanity-laced conversation with then state Sen. Carl Kruger, who later pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

At one point, Bender expressed his frustration with Mike Spano, who is now the mayor of Yonkers. "No fucking around. Get Sandy on board. Tell your brother [State Senator Nick Spano] we need help now,” he wrote in a September 2005 email that was later introduced as evidence.

article

Posted by eric at 8:33 PM

Times finally publishes article on Ridge Hill trial, lets flack DePlasco defend Forest City against unidentified "critics," downplays developer's dubious behavior

Atlantic Yards Report

So, after three days of testimony from Forest City Ratner officials, and a one-day grace period, the New York Times today finally publishes an article about the Ridge Hill project and Yonkers corruption, Window Into Developer’s Relentless Quest to Get a Yonkers Project Approved.

It's a serviceable, but way too truncated summary of the drama in the federal case against consultant Zehy Jereis and ex-City Council Member Sandy Annabi, which I've covered at length on this blog.

Because several days of testimony are compressed into one article--rather than publishing daily articles, even online--key details are lost. But it's just enough for the Times to be able to defend itself against charges it had ignored the project.

Leaning Ratner's way

But the ending does lean Ratner's way:

A Forest City spokesman, Joseph DePlasco, said on Wednesday that critics had focused unfairly on the developer’s role. “This is really about a company trying with great difficulty to navigate the byzantine maze of politics in Yonkers,” he said.

Well, no critics are mentioned in the article, so the Times let DePlasco leave the impression that the developer's facing a phantom.

Lame ending ignores developer's dubiousness

The article closes:

As for [ex-Forest City executive] Mr. [Bruce] Bender, he testified that he had always been hopeful that the developer would prevail in its lobbying effort.

“In my experience in over 30 years of government,” he said, “when it comes to politics, there is nothing impossible.”

That's a completely lame conclusion.

The central mystery of Ridge Hill, still extant, is why Forest City, the main beneficiary of Annabi's vote change, emerges unscathed.

The developer was not charged with wrongdoing, but it clearly behaved dubiously--details omitted from the Times coverage.

article

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

Window Into Developer’s Relentless Quest to Get a Yonkers Project Approved

The New York Times
by Benjamin Weiser

Testimony and e-mails introduced as evidence have offered an unvarnished look at how [Forest City Ratner] carried out a relentless behind-the-scenes quest to get the project approved.

Well-connected politicos were hired as consultants. Public officials were asked to apply pressure. Meetings occurred at Jake’s Steakhouse and Madison’s in the Bronx. In one episode, a Forest City executive had to kick Mr. Bender under the table because a third executive had gotten too confrontational.

Mr. Bender, 55, a Brooklyn-born government relations executive, led the effort. Variously described as incisive and charming, cutthroat and bullying, Mr. Bender has spent a career in Democratic politics. He was also at the forefront of Forest City’s Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.

In the Yonkers project, Mike Spano, now the city’s mayor, was one of the influential consultants that Forest City Ratner used to lobby City Council members. Another was Albert J. Pirro Jr., a Westchester County power broker who was then married to Jeanine F. Pirro, then the county’s district attorney.

Ms. Annabi’s lawyer, William I. Aronwald, suggested during cross-examination of one witness that Mr. Pirro had been paid $1 million for his efforts.

Mr. Spano testified last week about Mr. Bender’s brusque e-mail in 2005: “He was really being pushy, really being persistent, wanting to know every second that he possibly could — ‘What are you doing to try and get a positive outcome for the project?’”
...

A Forest City spokesman, Joseph DePlasco, said on Wednesday that critics had focused unfairly on the developer’s role. “This is really about a company trying with great difficulty to navigate the byzantine maze of politics in Yonkers,” he said.

article

NoLandGrab: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Yonkers trial update: case moves past Ridge Hill to Longfellow; trail of money may appear more clear, but key witnesses have pleaded guilty to other charges, show signs of unreliability

Atlantic Yards Report

The prosecution's case in federal court has moved on to the other project at issue, Longfellow, by Milio Management. With Longfellow, the evidence may seem more damning, but the witnesses are likely easier to challenge, as I observed yesterday afternoon. As summarized by the Journal News:

Tax cheat Antonio Milio testified in federal court Wednesday that he gave $30,000 in three bundles of $100 bills to lawyer Anthony Mangone as a payoff to Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi so she would support a plan for Milio’s company to develop two school properties.

Milio said he brought the money — along with an additional $10,000 for Mangone’s legal services — to the lawyer’s Hawthorne office in late June or early July 2006 after Mangone told Milio’s son, Franco, that it would take $30,000 to get Annabi’s vote.

He said Mangone took the money and told him, “This will help us. She’s going on vacation, and she will be very happy.”

Related coverage...

The Journal News, Convicted builder Milio testifies $30,000 cash given to Mangone a payoff for Annabi vote

Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

Battle for Brooklyn: Upcoming Screenings in The Bronx, Manhattan, Minneapolis, Boise, & Boston

Battle for Brooklyn

You don't have to be Canadian to see Battle for Brooklyn in the next three weeks...

March 3, 2:00pm - Salem, Massachusetts
Salem Film Fest - Cinema Salem

March 6, 5pm - Columbia University, Upper Manhattan
Rosenfield Building, Hess Commons (722 W. 168th St.)
Sponsored by Group for Community Recovery at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health
Q&A Follows with Mike Galinsky & Daniel Goldstein

March 8, 7pm - Bronx, New York
Bronx Documentary Center (614 Courtlandt Avenue (@ 151st St.)
Sponsored by South Bronx Unite: Stop FreshDirect
Panel with Mike Galinsky & Daniel Goldstein, and Bronx activists

March 12 & 13 (2 screenings each night) - Minneapolis, MN
Trylon Microcinema

March 18 - Boise, Idaho
The Flicks

March 19, 8pm - Boston, MA
The Docyard (Brattle Theatre)

March 20, 7pm - Boston, MA
The West End Museum, Preservation Film Festival (150 Staniford Street)
Q&A Follows with Michael Galinsky

link

Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

Barclays has lesson for arena advocates

Edmonton Journal
by Paula Simons

Edmontonians are debating the merits of a proposed new arena...

But as Battle for Brooklyn, an award-winning documentary film by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley illustrates, it's easy for municipal politicians and civic boosters to get swept up in the excitement of glitzy arena proposals without considering all the economic and social costs.

"No arena or stadium ever ends up being a net benefit," Galinsky says. "How much public investment is there per job? When is that money going to come back? There's a cost to these things, and who's going to bear it? The public."

Galinsky's film, which plays in Edmonton this Sunday as part of the Global Visions Film Festival, documents the fight between the developers of the Atlantic Yards project, Forest City Ratner, and a group of feisty Brooklynites opposed to the project.
...

It's like a giant shell game, as municipalities scramble to lure or retain pro sports teams with shiny new facilities, promising taxpayers wonderful economic and social benefits, which may or may not materialize. And the more a community like Newark or Brooklyn or Edmonton suffers from an inferiority complex, it seems, the more vulnerable it is to the pressure and the promise.

"I think it's because we're all so easy to roll over and we don't pay attention," says Galinsky.

"We look at our politicians and we think, 'They can't be that out of their minds.' And then it turns out that they are."

article

Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

Forest City plays nice: just after Bender reveals corporate hardball in court, successor Cotton introduces herself to neighbors, promotes effort to recruit Brooklyn food firms big enough to serve arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, a select group of neighbors got the following message from Ashley Cotton, the former city official hired to replace Bender:

Dear Neighbors,

I am writing to introduce myself and share some exciting news about the Barclays Center. I started this week at Forest City Ratner as the head of Government and Public Affairs and look forward to working with all of you. We plan to regularly share news about the arena going forward and I hope you won’t hesitate to call me at any time.

Today we announced that the Barclays Center is expanding its already extensive search for Brooklyn-based food service businesses to become an integral part of the arena when it opens on September 28, 2012. I have attached our press release to this email.

Barclays, Forest City Ratner and Levy are committed to working with local businesses and suppliers, and to integrating local companies into the Barclays Center food program.

We are committed to bringing the best of Brooklyn to Barclays Center. Drawing on the borough’s dynamic food scene, we are excited to cast a wide net to make Barclays Center’s culinary experience as quintessentially Brooklyn as it gets.

Interested Brooklyn-based food businesses should visit www.atlanticyards.com to complete our online survey and read more about the process. The survey will be open for responses from Monday, February 27 until Monday, March 26, 2012.

We hope you will share this information with interested businesses in your community.

Thank you,
Ashley Cotton
Vice President
Forest City Ratner Companies

The news already shared

The news in the press release had already been handed yesterday morning to the ever-eager New York Daily News, which, perhaps not coincidentally, had chosen not to cover the ongoing Yonkers trial.

link

Related coverage...

The Huffington Post, Barclays Center At Atlantic Yards, New Brooklyn Nets Arena, Searching For Local Food Vendors

Barclays spokesman Barry Baum describes the plan, "We’re looking for everything from pickles to pizza and from silverware to sandwich picks. We really want to showcase all Brooklyn-based items that might not otherwise have an opportunity to be considered for an arena."

Hear that McClure's?

NoLandGrab: Um, yeah, we hear it, and if we have anything to say about it, that ain't happening.

Gothamist, Smorgasburg Meets Backboard? Barclays Center Has High Local Food Hopes

In our dream world this will lead to an arena-sized version of Smorgasburg, but we have a sneaking suspicion that it'll just means we'll be getting chicken wings from Jay-Z's cousin's restaurant and hot dogs from Nathan's served with some of those custom Brooklyn Coke flavors we were promised. Maybe a few bottles of beer from Brooklyn Brewery if we're lucky.

Park Slope Patch, Barclays Center Seeking Brooklyn Food Vendors

Posted by eric at 9:30 AM