September 27, 2012

Crime Report: Several Burglaries on Washington Avenue

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

"Grand Theft Land" wasn't the only crime going down near the intersection of Brooklyn's Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues last week.

Purse Stolen

A 45-year-old woman placed her handbag on a shelf while shopping at the Old Navy store at the Atlantic Center mall at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 23, police said. When she looked for her bag five minutes later, she realized that someone had stolen it, according to cops.

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Posted by eric at 11:32 PM

September 26, 2012

Anticipating Fallout From Lobbyist’s Legal Cooperation

The New York Times
by Thomas Kaplan and David W. Chen

The halls of the New York State Capitol have for years provided a happy hunting ground for prosecutors and ethics investigators.

Over the last six years, 27 elected officials in Albany have been indicted, convicted, censured, or otherwise accused of misconduct, according to a running tally maintained by the New York Public Interest Research Group. The allegations have been diverse; they include a senator attacking a photographer and an assemblyman having an affair with an intern.

Now, it seems probable that the list will grow: Richard J. Lipsky, a well-known city and state lobbyist convicted of bribing former State Senator Carl Kruger, has been secretly cooperating with the federal authorities, suggesting that other elected officials could soon find themselves in trouble with the law.

Elected officials, and perhaps the developers who bribe them?

“I thought, ‘Who did Lipsky turn on?’ ” said State Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who has pushed to improve ethics rules in Albany. She added, “I bet many people in elected office and in the lobbying world said to themselves, ‘I wonder if it’s X.’”

Solve for X. Here's a hint.

His clients in recent years have included the Red Apple Group, which operates the Gristedes supermarket chain, and the developer Forest City Ratner, and he gave tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to officials at the city and state levels.
...

“A lot of members who started with me are no longer here because they are being housed elsewhere,” City Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn observed Tuesday. She would not be surprised, she said, if Mr. Lipsky tried to reveal “some sordid and/or illegal relationships,” given his extensive dealings with the City Council and the number of big projects the Council has debated.

“A lot of people are bracing themselves for what tomorrow holds,” Ms. James said. “I just hope it’s not any of my colleagues.”

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Catching up: Powell on Ratner; permit parking; Lipsky talks; new arena sponsors

Norman Oder weighs in on this, and other, news.

Does this mean he'd implicate Forest City or local officials involved with Atlantic Yards? I doubt the former, and have no idea about the latter.

Posted by eric at 12:55 PM

THE 30-MINUTE INTERVIEW: MaryAnne Gilmartin

The New York Times
by Vivian Marino

Synergy! The Times interviews its development partner's EVP a couple days before that development partner's new arena opens. And — of course — no interview with a Forest City Ratner or Nets executive would be complete without the obligatory "sleep? who needs sleep?" reference.

Ms. Gilmartin, 48, is executive vice president for commercial and residential development at Forest City Ratner Companies, which was a development partner of The New York Times’s headquarters. Its Barclays Center arena, part of the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, is to open this week.
...

Q. You have a husband and three children. How do you juggle work and family life?

A. And three dogs, a goldfish and a bird.

I think sleep is overrated for a working mom.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Times publishes softball interview with Forest City Ratner's Gilmartin

The New York Times, fresh from an editorial on Atlantic Yards that relied on one source, Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin--and a slam at Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein that relied on a neighbor with violent thoughts-- today offers a 30-minute Real Estate page interview with Gilmartin.

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

September 25, 2012

Crooked Kruger lobbyist names names for feds: Court docs

NY Post
by David Seifman and Bruce Golding

A longtime lobbyist who pleaded guilty to bribing crooked ex-pol Carl Kruger has been spilling his guts about “numerous other persons” under investigation by the feds, bombshell court papers revealed today.

Richard Lipsky “provided substantial assistance” related to “ongoing law-enforcement investigations” in a bid for leniency, according to the Manhattan federal court filing.

Prosecutor Glen McGorty didn’t identify any of the targets by name and redacted the details of Lipsky’s cooperation, but one political insider said the revelation would send tremors through City Hall and the Albany statehouse.

“Anyone who’s ever had any dealings with him is going to be nervous,” the insider said.

And nobody's had more dealings with Lipsky than Forest City Ratner.

Lipsky was busted by the FBI last year as part of what prosecutors called an “extensive investigation” into public corruption.

Days before his arrest, agents executing a search warrant found more than $100,000 stashed in a safe in his apartment, and another $4,000 in “crisp, large denominational bills” stuffed into a suit jacket.

During the raid, he also spoke on the phone to an unidentified “political operative” to spread the word that the feds had closed in, according to court papers.

Hmm, wonder who that could be?

Lipsky, whose clients included retailers and unions, portrayed himself as a fighter for the “little guy.”

Yes, little guys like Shorty Bruce Ratner.

article

Related coverage...

True News, FBI Has Kruger Lobbyist Talking - Pols Panic

Mr. Lipsky Was A Lobbyist for Bruce Ratner
Enjoy Your Tax Payer Stadium Opening Ratner

Posted by eric at 1:43 PM

September 24, 2012

Forefront Excerpt: City on a Hill

Next American City
by Daniel Brook

Be afraid, Seattle, be very afraid.

On July 17, inside the council chamber with its swooping walls of blonde wood and brushed steel, council members were weighing far-reaching changes to one of progressive Seattle’s proudest accomplishments: The New Deal-era Yesler Terrace development, America’s first racially integrated housing project. Stroking their chins, looking overeducated and skeptical, council members pondered whether the Seattle Housing Authority’s ambitious plan to transform the low-rise, low-income public housing project into a high-rise, mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood truly reached levels of perfection worthy of Seattle.
...

Occupying some of the most potentially valuable land in the city, Yesler Terrace is within walking distance of City Hall itself. But just as the steep hill dividing the two sites renders the walk more arduous than it looks on the map, the social distance between the well-to-do white council members and the immigrants of color who constitute most of the project’s tenants may be even larger. For all the meticulous concern over the design of the redevelopment, there is a sense among Yesler residents and many area neighbors that the council is missing the forest for the trees. Critics see council as quite possibly well meaning but hopelessly out of touch, so concerned about the aesthetics and environmental impact of the project, they have lost sight of its social impact — and of safeguarding the public trust itself. In the Seattle Housing Authority’s plans, the 561 units of extremely low-income housing at Yesler Terrace will be rebuilt and more than 1,000 units of low- to medium-income “workforce housing” will be added. But the bulk of the development will be devoted to as many as 3,100 market-rate units.

The short list of real estate developers eager to get in on the deal is hardly allaying fears. Recent planning meetings have been attended by representatives of the man who owns Seattle, Microsoft co-founder-turned-real estate magnate Paul Allen, and Forest City Ratner, the famed antagonist in the most contentious community/developer fight of the last decade, the Atlantic Yards’ Battle of Brooklyn. That fight pitted Forest City — a company known for building publicly subsidized developments — against community advocates who said its multibillion plan for a basketball stadium surrounded by a new mixed-income neighborhood of high-rise towers would displace lower-income people.

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NoLandGrab: Paging Scott Turner.

Posted by eric at 8:14 PM

September 19, 2012

Wednesday Winners (and Losers)

Mobilizing the Region

Losers
...

Forest City RatnerAtlantic Yards Watch has revealed that the neighborhood near Brooklyn’s Barclays Center has been plagued by regulation-flouting trucks in the area on construction business, a condition that has reportedly grown even as project developer Forest City Ratner assumed control of an arena loading dock earlier this month. “With apparently no enforcement taking place,” AYW writes, “the consequence is a wide range of adverse impacts on the community: trucks idling for long periods; use of unauthorized truck routes; and blocking of bus lanes, bike lanes, no standing zones and travel lanes. Travel and the quality of life on Dean Street between Flatbush and 6th Avenue is particularly affected.”

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Posted by eric at 10:09 PM

The Culture of Cheating: does Yonkers trial show Forest City as “good corporate citizen”? Prosecutors say developer avoided "significant concessions"

Atlantic Yards Report

...in its desperate effort to get its 81-acre Ridge Hill retail/residential project past the Yonkers City Council, Ratner’s firm had rewarded a fixer--a clear case of looking at “the economics.” FCE and its subsidiaries are no stranger to aggressive lobbying and strategic spending, but this time Forest City Ratner seemed to cross a line--an ethical one, if not a legal one.

Shortly before the trial, the two key Forest City executives expected to testify, government relations chief Bruce Bender and his deputy Scott Cantone, let it be known they were leaving to form a consulting company.

Was this a purge, or perhaps damage control? Given the duo’s subsequent testimony--how Forest City hired a Yonkers operative for a no-show job after he helped get a City Council Member to flip her vote on Ridge Hill--their departure didn’t look routine.

Rarely does the development dance get described in such excruciating detail, complete with profane email messages and hold-your-noise hiring. This was the Culture of Cheating--no, not for Atlantic Yards, but with the same developer and many of the same players.

As the trial proceeded, Crain’s New York Business columnist Greg David, generally a friend to developers, commented that Forest City Ratner must be relieved that its “See no evil, hear no evil” posture in Yonkers got so little attention.

About six weeks after the trial began, on March 29, the fixer, Republican Zehy Jereis, and the Council Member, Democrat Sandy Annabi, were convicted on all counts, including the giving and receiving of corrupt payments and, in the case of a second project, extortion. Whatever the verdict, as David suggested, Forest City Ratner’s reputation had already been tainted--and far more than when the indictment emerged in January 2010.

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Posted by eric at 12:39 PM

Shoplifter bites security guard

The Brooklyn Paper
by Eli Rosenberg

Following in the great tradition of Bruce Ratner...

Atlantic terminated

A pick-pocket struck in the elevator of the Atlantic Terminal Mall, stealing a woman’s wallet on Sept. 9.

The 61-year-old victim said she got in the building’s elevator at 6 pm and noticed her wallet was missing when she got out.

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Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

September 18, 2012

The Culture of Cheating: Forest City gets the inside track with the MTA, then gets to revise the deal (though the MTA could have recognized its leverage)

Atlantic Yards Report

The spanking new Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center subway entrance is an undeniable asset to the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, and the city of New York. But in this public-private partnership, the subway station will serve arena patrons more than anybody--and Forest City Ratner won't pay for additional service.

Moreover, the key parts of the developer's transaction with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), notably the payment for development rights over the Vanderbilt Yard, and the subsequent development thereof, still wait, thanks in part to FCR's ability to get in on the ground floor in 2003 with no competition for years, then renegotiate the deal in 2009.

Did it have to be that way? Maybe not.

Yes, there’s a “fundamental asymmetry” in complex projects that favors a developer, because it “can generally leave the project and even the city while politicians cannot,” as planning professor Lynne Sagalyn warned in Times Square Roulette, her epic 2001 epic analysis of redevelopment.

With Atlantic Yards, however, the public had more power: Forest City was desperate to move the money-losing Nets from New Jersey into a profitable new arena, larded with luxury suites and sponsorships enabled by the country's richest media market, and to get tax-exempt bonds sold by the end of 2009.

Instead, when Forest City asked to renegotiate, the MTA, controlled by the governor and mayor, complied. This is the Culture of Cheating from another angle: less deception than an inside deal from the start.

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Posted by eric at 12:45 PM

September 17, 2012

Klores' Brooklyn basketball essay in Times has glaring omission: Oder

NY Daily News Sports ITeam Blog
by Michael O'Keeffe

Sounds like Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder really liked Dan Klores' sweeping essay on Brooklyn and basketball in Sunday’s New York Times. But Oder also points out a glaring omission in the piece.

Klores, identified as a “Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and playwright,” is also the founder and chairman of the public relations firm that has represented Forest City Ratner, the company behind the Nets’ Barclays Center, since the Atlantic Yards project was first announced.

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Posted by eric at 9:44 PM

The Culture of Cheating: Forest City's effort, through Kruger, to get taxpayer money to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how a Forest City Ratner executive, asked in July 2009 if the would seek more subsidies, responded, “Forest City does not expect to ask for more subsidy?" Not only did Executive VP later request $10 million more in housing subsidies, so too did Executive VP Bruce Bender try to get state funds to repair the Carlton Avenue Bridge the developer was supposed to fund.

The corruption charges that surfaced in March 2011 against then-state Senator (and now-imprisoned) Carl Kruger portrayed a chummy relationship between Kruger and Bender, who not only tried to get money for the bride but also for the Lakeside Center project in Prospect Park. (Bender's wife is on the Board of Directors of the Prospect Park Alliance.)

Though the conversation between Kruger and Bender occurred in December 2010, the charges cast in new light some of Kruger's over-the-top support for Atlantic Yards, including his Brooklyn aria at an August 2006 environmental review hearing and his accusation in May 2009 of Metropolitan Transportation Authority intransigence regarding a renegotiation of the Vanderbilt Yard deal.

And they showed Forest City's relentless--if, in this case, unsuccessful--push to offload its obligations on the public. That's savvy business, but its closer to the "culture of cheating" than to "civic developer" status that Bruce Ratner professes.

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Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

Crime Report: Teen Arrested in iPhone Theft Spree

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

They must've learned the ol' misdirection game from Bruce Ratner's "Jobs, Housing & Hoops" scam.

Check-Out Fake-Out

A pair of crooks stole a 23-year-old woman’s wallet while she tried to work the self-check-out machine at the Atlantic Center Pathmark around 5:45 p.m. on Sept. 9, police said. The woman told cops she placed her wallet down to check out her groceries when one person distracted her and another grabbed her wallet. Her wallet held $20 in cash, as well as a Capital One card, a TD Bank debit card and an American Express card, according to cops.

The woman canceled her cards before any unauthorized purchases could be made, police said.

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Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

September 14, 2012

Ticket program announced for arena events, managed by Daughtry's DBNA; will be aimed at organizations in CBs 2, 3, 6, & 8

Atlantic Yards Report

Community organizations--well, some of them, limited to four community districts near the Barclays Center--will be eligible for 50+ free tickets for various arena events, not just--as first believed--Nets games, via a sweepstakes.

Great! NoLandGrab would like the suite for Streisand, The Stones, and Dylan. Email us when the tickets are ready and we'll send someone over to pick them up.

It's unclear which events, but presumably there will be more available for college basketball, gospel, and games against bottom-dwellers than Nets vs. Knicks.

The organization in charge is the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA), led by the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, and, as far as I can tell, essentially a subgroup of his church.

(The DBNA officers are apparently church members; though they're not listed on the web site, they are listed on IRS filings. According to the most recent Form 990, from the year 2010, the DBNA had received more than $700,000 in support over the previous five years. The donor is not specified, but the lion's share, if not all, almost surely comes from Forest City Ratner.)

Not only will the DBNA manage the ticket giveaway, Daughtry has long championed a chapel-like meditation room, 150 square feet.

They're calling it the "Meditation Closet."

His organization also will be in charge of "a Project Gallery for documenting and celebrating the creation of the CBA [Community Benefits Agreement]," which will be an interesting challenge, because all of the CBA signatories accept money from the developer, not a best practice in CBA circles, and several are silent to the point of moribund.

link

Related content...

Press Release via Brooklyn News Corp, Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance Announces Community Tickets Program for Events at Barclays Center

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

September 12, 2012

Cops: Woman slashes man with broken mug handle

The Brooklyn Paper
by Eli Rosenberg

More action in the "whole big bad" of Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn malls.

Atlantic terminated

A crook stole a woman’s wallet in the Atlantic Center Mall on Sept. 1.

The victim told cops she was at a restaurant in the plaza near Flatbush Avenue at 6 pm when she left her purse on the table while she used the restroom, returning a few minutes later to find her wallet missing.
...

Targeted

A crook waltzed out of the Atlantic Center Mall’s Target with a TV he didn’t pay for on Sept. 8.

Representatives from the store in the mall near Flatbush Avenue told cops that a thief walked out with a 32-inch Samsung TV without paying for it between 7 and 7:10 pm.

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Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

September 11, 2012

As EB-5 "visas for job creation" program faces renewal vote today, the Daily reveals that an investigation into waste, fraud, and abuse has begun

Atlantic Yards Report

Federal overseers are apparently following the vastly obvious clue that not all is right with the booming EB-5 program, which grants wealthy foreigners green cards for themselves and their families in exchange for purportedly job-creating investments marketed by private investment pools known as regional centers.

In 'INVESTOR VISA' PROBE: Federal program trading foreign finance for citizenship comes under scrutiny, The Daily's Sarah Ryley (ex-Brooklyn Eagle) reported yesterday:

A burgeoning immigration program that gives wealthy foreigners and their families a chance at citizenship if they lay down big cash is under scrutiny by Homeland Security and the Securities and Exchange Commission, The Daily has learned.

...Jay Peak Resort in Vermont has used $200 million to transform itself into a year-round destination. And the developer of a new basketball arena for the Brooklyn Nets has collected $228 million to replace costly conventional financing.

But many projects have gone bust and some are in legal disputes that allege fraud, casting doubt on the immigration agency's ability to effectively monitor the program....

Last month, Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General launched an investigation to determine if the program is "effectively administered and managed to detect and deter fraud, waste, abuse, while avoiding national security threats," according to the internal announcement obtained by The Daily.

Beyond the legal disputes, there's much evidence of misleading marketing, as shown in videos from web sites in China regarding the Atlantic Yards investment.

article

Related content...

The Daily, ‘INVESTOR VISA’ PROBE: Federal program trading foreign finance for citizenship comes under scrutiny

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

September 10, 2012

Legoland comes to Brooklyn

Decision looms on plans for world's tallest prebuilt towers in downtown Brooklyn.

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

Here's another article for which we covered Atlantic Yards Report's coverage this weekend.

Architect Christopher Sharples knows what most people think of when they hear the term "modular construction."

"A bunch of shoeboxes sitting on top of one another," said the SHoP Architects principal.

Soon he hopes to shatter that negative stereotype in record-setting fashion. Mr. Sharples is part of a core group of 18 people brought together by Forest City Ratner to design a 32-story residential tower made up of 930 prebuilt modules containing portions of finished apartments—everything from bathrooms to kitchens—bolted to a steel frame.

It will not only be the world's tallest modular structure but likely the least uniform one as well, boasting four different façades. It will also take a prominent position next to the Barclays Center, in the developer's Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn. There it may ultimately be joined by 15 other modular apartment buildings, at least one soaring as high as 50 stories.
...

For starters, 60% of the construction would be done indoors in a factory where carpenters, plumbers, painters and electricians would build the modules. Meanwhile at Atlantic Yards, crews would erect the tower's steel frame. The dual tracking of construction alone could shave as much as six months off the process, saving millions of dollars.

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NoLandGrab: Six months? That means Atlantic Yards might get built in 29 years, six months, rather than 30 years.

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

September 7, 2012

"September is Just the Beginning" banners that mysteriously appeared on Prospect Heights streets mysteriously removed

Atlantic Yards Report

Now you see them, now you don't. Apparently September is not the beginning.

Last night, some 24 hours after a few dozen "September is Just the Beginning" banners appeared on light poles on Prospect Height streets near the Barclays Center arena, most were removed.

Why? I'm hoping to find out.
...

Friday morning on Sixth Ave.

Thursday morning on Sixth Ave. (same spot)

link

NoLandGrab: Good riddance.

Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

September 6, 2012

Crime Report: Thumb Severed In Attack

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

In the House That Bruce Built, crime took center stage again this week.

iPhones Snatched

A pickpocket stole a 24-year-old woman’s iPhone from her purse while she shopped at the Mandee department store on Flatbush Avenue, between Fourth and Atlantic Avenues, on Sept. 2 at 6:30 p.m., police said.

Flatbush Avenue, between Fourth and Atlantic Avenues, is better known as Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal mall.

Target Targeted

Someone stole a flat-screen television and two DVD players – valued at more than $1,000 – from the Target at the Atlantic Terminal Mall between noon on Aug. 31 and 3 p.m. on Aug. 2, police said.

Bag Taken at Daffy’s

A crook grabbed a 26-year-old woman’s bag from the stroller she hung it on while she shopped at Daffy’s department store inside the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Aug. 28, between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., police said. The woman told cops she didn’t see anyone steal her bag, which contained her wallet, debit card, MetroCard, a camera and some clothing.

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Posted by eric at 9:44 PM

September 5, 2012

Forest City: Barclays Center ribbon-cutting will be Sept. 21; Investor Day at arena will be Oct. 22

Atlantic Yards Report

There will be a "formal ribbon-cutting event" to mark the opening of the Barclays Center arena on Friday, Sept. 21, David LaRue, CEO of Forest City Enterprises (parent of arena developer Forest City Ratner), said today.

(That's one week before the first concert, with Jay-Z, on Sept. 28.)

LaRue and other executives participated in a quarterly conference call with investment analysts, following up yesterday's press release regarding second quarter results.

CFO Bob O'Brien also provided an update on Investor Day, which will be held at the arena on Monday, Oct. 22. He said it would be an afternoon event, with optional evening activities, including a concert at the arena.

The event, he said, would help introduce new investors to Forest City and update them on the company's progress, as well as provide a closer look at the arena and Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

September 4, 2012

Forest City Enterprises: as of July, 75 percent of forecasted arena revenue under contract (but August had gains)

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the Barclays Center is moving ever closer to a hugely hyped opening, but revenues, it seems, are not quite there--though presumably the opening won't hurt.

From a press release issued today by Forest City Enterprises, Forest City Reports Fiscal 2012 Second-Quarter and Year-to-Date Results, regarding activity up through 7/31/12:

In Brooklyn, plans are being finalized for the opening events at Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards. Of the more than 200 events planned for arena's first year of operations, approximately 195 were already committed as of the end of the second quarter, and ticket sales to date are meeting the company's expectations. As the opening approaches, interest in suite sales and additional sponsorship opportunities is also accelerating. A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony is being planned for September 21 and Forest City is planning an Investor Day event at the arena for October 22. Approximately 75 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the arena are currently under contract.

Given that Honda and GEICO both signed on in August, after the second quarter ended, they're presumably well above 75 percent.

Still, a year ago, the projection for the opening was a vague "most sold," according to Forbes. They do have "most sold," but that's a lot of wiggle room.

link

Posted by eric at 9:14 PM

September 3, 2012

Crime Report: Playground Shooting

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

It way a typically unquiet week in Bruce Ratner's woeful Brooklyn malls...

Pickpocket Strikes

A pickpocket stole a 32-year-old woman’s wallet at the Target inside the Atlantic Terminal Mall at 3 p.m. on Aug. 8 and made a $20 purchase at the Bath & Body Works inside the shopping center with the woman’s American Express card, police said. The woman reported the theft on Aug. 23.

Cold Stone Crime

A 28-year-old woman’s wallet was stolen from her purse at the Cold Stone Creamery inside the Atlantic Terminal Mall between 2:15 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Aug. 26, police said. The crook quickly made two purchases totaling $115 on two of the woman’s bank cards, according to cops.

Purse Theft

Someone dipped into a 19-year-old woman’s purse at the Marshalls store on Atlantic Avenue, between Fort Greene Place and South Portland Avenue, police said. The victim told cops she left her purse in her shopping cart at 9:45 p.m. on Aug. 24, and when she later opened it, she noticed her drivers license, Bank of America debit card, two MetroCards and some cash were missing.

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Posted by eric at 1:08 PM

August 29, 2012

Lawsuit seeking unpaid wages for BUILD trainees could expand, as plaintiffs' lawyers get OK to contact other 29 trainees

Atlantic Yards Report

The number of potential plaintiffs could grow in the lawsuit against Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) and others for failure to pay trainees for roughly two months of work they did helping build a house on Staten Island.

Seven of the 36 people in a coveted Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program filed suit last November in federal charging not only violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act but also that they were promised union cards and careers.

The suit not only targets BUILD but Forest City Ratner, which supported the organization, a Community Benefits Agreement signatory, as well as individual executives, along with the company that did the training.

The lawsuit, though the charges were narrowed, survived a motion to dismiss. Now the plaintiffs can try to add some of the other 29 people from the program, but only for the claim of unpaid wages, not damages for the promised union cards.

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Posted by eric at 2:09 PM

Thug threatens woman in G train station

The Brooklyn Paper
by Eli Rosenberg

Marshalled

A crook stole from a woman’s purse at the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Aug. 24.

The 19-year-old victim told cops she was at the Marshalls in the plaza at 9:45 pm when she left her purse in her shopping cart. When she returned five minutes later, her Ukranian driver’s license, debit card, MetroCard, and some cash were gone.
...

Stone cold

A crook stole a woman’s wallet in an ice cream store in the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Aug. 26.

The 28-year-old victim told cops she was at the Cold Stone Creamery in the Flatbush Avenue mall at 2:15 pm when her wallet disappeared from her baby’s carriage.

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Posted by eric at 12:25 PM

August 27, 2012

Would private-sector version of alleged harasser Vito Lopez get "fired in a heartbeat" (as per Daily News)? Maybe not if it's Forest City and Jim Stuckey

Atlantic Yards Report

The career of Bushwick Assemblyman and Kings County Democratic Party Chair Vito Lopez is gravely wounded, perhaps mortally so, and not by accusations of political chicanery, steering funds to the social service empire he founded, or ensuring that his girlfriend and a political ally, who run that empire, get paid very well.

Instead, it's an ethics committee finding of sexual harassment, which, though not a full legal proceeding, involves some investigation. Lopez denies the allegations.
...

As it happened, a somewhat parallel situation--it's not clear precisely how much--happened at private-sector Forest City Ratner regarding Jim Stuckey, who headed Atlantic Yards, but there was no firing "in a heartbeat" but rather some resistance at first.
...

Stuckey has since been sued for harassing a subordinate at NYU, and left the university; both defendants are fighting the charges, and the case is pending.

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Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

August 25, 2012

From Ratner's Times Square role to Atlantic Yards: corporate dominance of public space and a noncompetitive insider deal

Atlantic Yards Report

In James Traub's 2004 book, The Devil's Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square, the author describes (on p. 189) a memorable interview with Bruce Ratner, "the developer responsible for Madame Tussaud's and Applebee's."

Ratner, Traub suggests, "is not a native New Yorker with a New Yorker's possessiveness over the city's past," and observes his subject justifying his decisions.

What's America today? Chains

Traub begins by quoting Ratner:

"Applebee's and Chevys--they're what America is today. I'm not saying that's good or bad, any more than Bond Clothes was." Bond, on Broadway and 44th, was Times Square's biggest retailer in the forties and fifties...

Ratner's implicit point was that 42nd Street was being true to its own past precisely by virtue of being dominated by McDonald's and the ESPN Zone. Forth-second Street was the home of popular entertainment, and in our own time mass culture is produced by giant companies. The elite can afford the local and the particular; ordinary folks consume less expensive, franchised products. And so a "corporate" 42nd Street was a democratic 42nd Street. Ratner's aides were now chuckling with some embarrassment at the boss's swelling oratory, but he plunged on, the bit between his teeth. "It's always been a place to go out for the lower-middle-income New Yorker. You go out on a Saturday night, and it's basically people of low-middle-income means, from the boroughs, from New Jersey, from Long Island, out for a date. If you think about all the great streets in the world, it's about seeing people from that culture. And it does that. And you know what? Maybe, at the end of the day, that's what a successful street is. Should it be Applebee's or should it be someplace else? Who knows? It's a great place."

The scene is quite plausible, as Ratner, in interviews, can start to babble.

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Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

August 23, 2012

Welcome to Brooklyn: The most dishonest place in America

Metro New York
by Carly Baldwin

Regular readers of NoLandGrab — and the frequent crime reports from Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn malls — won't find this surprising at all.

Staten Island is more honest than Queens. Manhattan is more honest than State Island.

And Brooklyn is the least honest borough of all.

Those are the findings of an informal marketing “study” done by Honest Tea, the sweet tea company owned by Coca-Cola. From Aug. 8 to Aug. 19, Honest Tea erected more than 50 unmanned pop-up kiosks in 30 cities across the country, including several in New York.

The stands were stocked with drinks and a jar asking for $1. Payment was based on the honor system. The company wanted to see if people would pay when, ostensibly, nobody was watching.
...

Citywide, 92 percent of people stopping by put in money. Approximately 1,800 people stopped by the Honest Tea booths. The booths were set up at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn Queens Center Mall in Queens, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, outside CitiField in Queens, at the Staten Island Mall and at Chelsea Piers. There were stands on Wall Street, Madison Avenue and outside where "The Colbert Report" and "The Daily Show" are filmed.
...

Two spots in New York City made the bottom five for the fewest amount of donations: At Atlantic Terminal, only 61 percent of the people who stopped put in cash. Someone also tried to steal some duct tape from that location, the company lamented.

article

NoLandGrab: Welcome to Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn, Honest Tea!

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

August 22, 2012

Gun-wielding thugs rob C train rider

The Brooklyn Paper
by Eli Rosenberg

While Bruce Ratner was pulling a con job on a gullible Will Leitch, crime was also going down in his Atlantic Terminal mall.

Victoria’s swipe

A crook stole a woman’s wallet at the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Aug. 18.

The 55-year-old victim told cops she left her wallet on the counter of the Victoria’s Secret in the Flatbush Avenue mall at 12:13 pm, returning two minutes later to find it gone.

article

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

August 16, 2012

Women Kicking Ass: MaryAnne Gilmartin

Architizer

Not to be outdone by yesterday's Wall Street Journal and New York Times puff pieces on Bruce Ratner and Jay-Z, respectively, the Architizer Blog plays toady to Forest City Ratner's Maryanne Gilmartin.

By way of introduction, please tell us about one current project you’re most excited about.

Right now I am most excited about modular construction. We have been working for two years on developing this exciting modern means of construction, which we believe will allow us to build world-class residential high-rise buildings more efficiently and more effectively in the urban core, partnering with union labor.

My fascination with modular stems from the fact that it’s a massive innovation that will revolutionize high-rise construction. Like all “disruptive” technologies—think of GPS versus printed maps—it will bring about wholesale transformation and has the potential to transform how we build in NYC and throughout the U.S. Modular is a powerful proposition for all cities that struggle with developing middle and moderate income housing stock.

We’d love to hear a bit about how you got where you are today. Was it all part of a grand plan, or did chance play a role? Did you have a mentor that guided your professional growth?

I believe in serendipity, hard work and living with purpose. In the real estate industry, you are what you build.
...

The construction industry has been historically male-dominated. In your mind, is gender still an issue in the profession, or have we broken through the “glass ceiling”?

This can be true, though in my case I have has a great mentor in Bruce Ratner, the CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, who runs his shop as a meritocracy.

article

NoLandGrab: Meritocracy? New York's taxpayers might think it a kleptocracy.

Posted by eric at 5:14 PM

August 15, 2012

FCRC removes trees planted by residents, shrinks landscaping around arena parking lot

Atlantic Yards Watch

Bruce Ratner's "civic development company" just ripped out yet more trees in Prospect Heights.

 

An existing area of greenery planted and maintained by community members was removed yesterday by FCRC. To the left above is the work in progress on Carlton Avenue between Pacific and Dean Streets. To the right is the former appearance of the block. The sidewalk forms the western perimeter of what will be the new arena patron parking lot.

If the plantings had been allowed to remain, the area may have been the single place around the arena patron parking lot to meet the 7 foot landscaped perimeter standard required of other parking lots in NYC. Instead, the landscaped perimeter will apparently be reduced to 4 feet on Carlton Avenue like the other sidewalks surrounding the lot.

The arbor vitae were planted in that location three years ago. They were paid for by the private contributions of the residents of the block and a grant from the Citizen's Committee. They replaced similar plantings installed in the same location years earlier by the developer Boymelgreen. As part of the grant, and also at the community's request, NYC Parks placed a number of street trees along the street in that location.
...

FCRC and the State have rejected calls from local residents and the New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects for the site to meet NYC DCP guidelines for the landscaping of surface parking lots. Features of the lot that have already been built, such as the setting of the fence line only 4 feet inside the property line, already do not conform.

article

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

August 13, 2012

With fewer than 46 days to go, the Barclays Center still hasn't hired a Community Affairs Manager; nor has there been announcement of "community advisory task force"

Atlantic Yards Report

With fewer than 46 days to go before the 9/28/12 opening, the Barclays Center is apparently still trying to hire a Community Affairs Manager, the "arena’s point person on all aspects of community affairs... responsible for attending and representing the Barclays Center at community meetings... managing and implementing community involvement activities including philanthropic initiatives of the Barclays Center and Arena Affiliates."

I say "apparently" because the job is still advertised on the page for arena employment, and no one from arena operator Forest City Ratner has responded to my query.

Presumably someone will get hired, but the longer it takes, the longer the learning curve. It may not be easy to find the right person, but the lack of such a hire suggests it's less of a priority than other things, such as selling tickets to events.

Community outreach was key, for example, to support for the liquor license for the arena from Community Board 6, which on 5/11/12 requested a "community advisory task force" that "should be appointed and convened without delay." (There's a State Liquor Authority board meeting on the license on August 29.)

An attorney for the arena promised that, "As part of the existing Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet structure, Forest City Ratner Companies has agreed to a sub-committee on quality of life issues." There's been no public announcement of this sub-committee.

article

NoLandGrab: You'd think they'd at least fulfill the little promises, but no.

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

August 9, 2012

Lots in Yonkers

A big new development is bringing the city to the suburbs

NY Post
by Katherine Dykstra

Forest City's Ridge Hill is the epitome of new urbanist development — except everybody needs a car.

The retail aspect [at Ridge Hill] is great. They have great restaurants and REI and Lord & Taylor and a movie theater,” says Leah Caro, president of Bronxville-Ley Real Estate. “But they don’t have a dry cleaner or a pizza by the slice.”

The Ridge Hill complex has been constructed on 81 acres between the New York State Thruway and the Sprain Brook Parkway, meaning there isn’t a township within walking distance, nor is there a train station. While Monarch offers residents shuttle service to the Bronxville Metro-North stop, the shuttle only runs during rush hour. To get anywhere else, there’s no getting around the fact that one would need a car.

article

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

August 2, 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Want To Live Near Top Of NYC Skyline? Only Costs You $60,000 A Month

CBS New York
by Dave Carlin

Big news on affordable housing from Forest City Ratner!

Now you can live atop a gleaming, 76-story art sculpture, but it doesn’t come cheap.

In a CBS 2 television exclusive, reporter Dave Carlin was granted a first look inside the penthouses of Manhattan’s tallest and swankiest residential tower.
...

“Asking rent for this apartment is $60,000 a month,” [Forest City Ratner's Susi] Yu said.
...

The luxury skyscraper has one surprising amenity: rent-stabilization. The high-rent units will stay that way for 20 years.

article

NoLandGrab: That's right! If the NYC Rent Guidelines Board limits the annual stabilized increase to 2%, as it did this year, you'll only be paying $1,000,000 or so in rent in 2032. How can you pass that up?

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

August 1, 2012

Forest City Ratner to settles with worker injured during Ridge Hill Construction

Lohud.com
by Erik Shilling

Here at NoLandGrab, we're sticklers for focusing on the positive. So we like to think that Forest City Ratner's failure to deliver on its pie-in-the-sky promise of 17,000 construction jobs may well be keeping workers from getting hurt — or worse.

A prominent tri-state developer agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a state Supreme Court lawsuit with a former worker at the Westchester’s Ridge Hill development in Yonkers.

Ryan Vrabel was injured in 2009 when his hand got caught in an unguarded belt drive at the site, according to Steven Gaines, his lawyer. The accident led to the partial amputation of the thumb on his non-dominant hand.

He subsequently filed suit against the developer, Forest City Ratner, and several other companies in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn in 2010, alleging negligence. Two years later, the parties told a judge last month they had reached a settlement in the case.

article

Posted by eric at 6:41 PM

July 30, 2012

Flashback to September 2010: Forest City's Gilmartin said "we anticipate" funding for first tower by spring of 2011

Atlantic Yards Report

Less than two years ago, at a 9/29/10 public meeting on the arena plaza, Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin aimed to mitigate some of the bad publicity that stemmed from Bruce Ratner's comments at a press event a day earlier about how the project might take longer than ten years.

"We explained the possibility that the project might be delayed by economic conditions and be built over a longer period than ten years," she said. "That being said, Forest City's plans for the buildout are as follows. We are currently working on moving forward with the three residential buildings on the arena block. We anticipate having funding in place to start the first building at Dean and Flatbush in the spring of 2011, the second six to nine months later, and the third about the same time after that."

Note that the Development Agreement gives them a lot more time--ten years for the third tower to start--before penalties kick in. Construction on the first building has been delayed again and again, though now executives say it will start before the end of the year, though it's not clear yet whether it will be modular construction.

article

Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

July 27, 2012

Sky-High, as in the Rent Check

The New York Times
by Alexei Barrionuevo

What does $60,000 a month get you in a luxury rental? If it's in the penthouse of Bruce Ratner's Beekman Tower, it gets you the need to put on a robe — plus shoddy finishes.

That isn’t true at New York by Gehry, where you can stand at the window of the master bedroom of the north penthouse, renting for $60,000, and look to your left and see part of the west penthouse. You can see into the window of the apartment below that as well.

“There is the whole vertical living thing here,” said MaryAnne Gilmartin, an executive vice president of the Forest City Ratner Companies, the building’s developer (and the developer of The New York Times building). “There are a lot of social connections in the building. There are little pieces and slivers of the building where you are looking into other units.”

To each his own, but to me that seems the biggest downside of the Gehry penthouses, along with interior finishes that, while supposedly designed by Mr. Gehry himself, don’t seem quite up to the standard of the top-flight condo buildings Ms. Gilmartin says they are competing with.

article

Related coverage...

The Real Deal, Rental buildings add $20,000-plus per month listings

...for the first time, Manhattan’s rental buildings are also offering super-expensive apartments to lure wealthy people who are determined renters. New York by Gehry, for example, at 8 Spruce Street, will list in September three penthouses on its 76th floor for $45,000 to $60,000 per month. The $60,000 per month north-facing penthouse is 3,800 square feet; the price represents $16 per square foot per month.

Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

July 24, 2012

A Real Estate Industry Code: The Special Interests of Forest City Ratner vs. The Rest of the Real Estate Community And New York City at Large

Noticing New York

Ratner’s mega-monopoly should be broken because he is a bad dude, and, as I later testified at the hearing, it should also be broken up because, irrespective of whether he is a bad dude, monopolies (particularly a really big one like this) are deleterious the city as a whole and therefore to all the rest of us.

Further, I told my listener, I would make the point that Ratner’s over-scale and overly dense mega-project was a subsidy hog, that it misdirects scarce subsidy that should be divided up to better benefit multiple developers, not-for-profits and minority developers more likely to be among them.

“That's great,” my listener said, “you should be able to get a lot of real estate developers to come to the hearing and testify to the same thing!”

“No,” I said, “they won't be doing that.”

“Why?” asked my listener. “That should be something they should really want.”

I offered my explanation. “They won't do it, and they don't do it,” I said, “because the real estate development community has a code. They NEVER testify against each other. It doesn’t matter how preposterously greedy another developer’s proposal may be or how deleterious that proposal is to the rest of the real estate community and to the city at large; they won’t do it.”

“It’s a club in which Forest City Ratner is one of the biggest members,” I said. I told my listener that the powerful Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) always supports Forest City Ratner’s proposals even when those proposals are specific just to Forest City Ratner (and outrageous) notwithstanding that the Ratner proposals are not generally beneficial to the real estate board's members and can actually represent sacrifice or jeopardy for them.

article

Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

July 23, 2012

Advice for the New York Times's New Public Editor

The Huffington Post
by Daniel R. Schwarz

On July 16, the New York Times announced that its fifth public editor would be Margaret M. Sullivan, "the first woman to hold this position."
...

With the appointment of Ms. Sullivan, this is a good time to review what the public editor position has accomplished and where it has failed.
...

By consulting outside financial experts, the public editor must, when necessary, shine an informed light on the Times's financial relationship with both Mexican magnate Carlos Slim and with the Forest City Ratner real estate company, which now owns the entire new Times building and leases the Times's floors back to it.

article

Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

July 18, 2012

Daffy’s Failure Means a Vacancy at Atlantic Terminal Mall

Brownstoner

The news that discount retailer Daffy’s is closing its doors after more than five decades may not bring a tear to many readers’ eyes but it does mean something for the Downtown Brooklyn real estate market: One of the the Secaucus, N.J.-based chain’s 19 locations is at the Atlantic Terminal Mall. While that might seem like bad news for landlord Forest City Ratner at first blush, given rising rental rates for retail in recent months in the area around Barclays Center, it might actually be a boon to the developer. After all, it’s 20,000 square feet right across the street from the arena.

link

NoLandGrab: Given the mall's persistent crime problem and Bruce Ratner's propensity for attracting public entities as tenants, may they can put a police precinct in the Daffy's space, or better yet, a Department of Corrections facility.

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Brute bashes man on the head

The Brooklyn Paper
by Eli Rosenberg

The "Pocketbook Protector" continues to be AWOL from Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal Target.

Another target

A crook stole a wallet containing more than $500 from a shopper at the Atlantic Terminal Mall on July 12.

The 34-year-old victim told cops she was in the Target near Flatbush Avenue at 7:30 pm when she left her bag in her shopping cart, returning 15 minutes later to find her wallet — and the cash — gone.

article

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

July 12, 2012

Forest City: we need agreement with labor before loan available to go modular (plus EN-R's account of "drug dealers, gangs and prostitutes" plaguing AY site)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder critiques the Engineering News-Record's big Atlantic Yards package. Some highlights:

Forest City has started foundation work, but at least according to the article, they're still not sure:

"We need an agreement with labor before we can get a bank loan, and [we] are working on both," says Gilmartin. "We are all optimistic, but if we run into a problem, we will build conventionally."

FCRC expects to start the first of three buildings in phase one by year's end. The other two are planned to follow, each six to nine months apart.

They've been saying "six to nine months" for a while.
...

Rewriting history

One article, Fancy Footwork To Steady the Course of Brooklyn's Controversial Atlantic Yards Sports Village, begins with a truly fantastical lead:

Fifteen years ago, the 22-acre plot for the $4.9-billion Atlantic Yards sports village in Brooklyn, N.Y., was an eyesore. For more than 20 years, drug dealers, gangs and prostitutes had populated the neighborhood. Many buildings were vacant. "Blighted Brooklyn" was a more fitting moniker than the familiar "Brownstone Brooklyn."

My comment:

That's quite a lead paragraph. For fiction.

"Drug dealers, gangs and prostitutes" just a block away from the 78th precinct?
How about checking out
http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2006/10/21-years-of-prospect-heights-blight.html
or a description of when the hookers (but not gangs/dealers) roamed, a lot earlier
http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/33/18/dtgfreddyshistory20100430bk.html
or the court decision on "relatively mild conditions of urban blight"
http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2009/11/faq-on-court-of-appeals-decision-in.html
And no one, even the developer, calls it a "sports village."

article

NoLandGrab: Though, as we wrote, it is a sports village.

Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

July 10, 2012

While Prokhorov opens wallet for stars, community facing the Barclays Center arena won't see money for more cops, new railyard, increased subway service, worker training

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Nets fans, led by the pseudonymous Net Income (aka Bob Windrem) are thrilled by the emergence of the team's big-spending owner, who's on the cusp of landing Dwight Howard, as I wrote today.
...

But Prokhorov and especially his partner Bruce Ratner are pretty chintzy on the other end. Prokhorov saves from all the deals that Ratner, his partner on the arena, has made. And Ratner, rather than dig deeper into his corporate pocket or trade a greater share of ownership for Prokhorov's cash, has tried to save on many aspects that might make the project more "civic."

Here are a few things Ratner hasn't paid for or won't pay for:

  • an Independent Compliance Monitor for the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA)
  • wages for trainees in a much-promoted training program that was mandated in the CBA, now subject of a lawsuit
  • a replacement railyard the size initially promised
  • increases in police coverage generated by the arena
  • increases in subway service generated by the arena
  • a residential permit parking program, as in a model CBA
  • the removal of street trees (though Ratner eventually coughed it up)
  • increased garbage pickup on blocks near the arena (this is unresolved)

This saves Ratner well over $100 million, just on the railyard. The rest are, relatively speaking, modest expenditures, though the police and subway costs should be among the more substantial.

And that's not even mentioning the significant direct subsidies ($271.5+ million), the giveaway of naming rights ($200+ million), tax breaks, low-cost land, and other benefits for the project. The New York City Independent Budget Office called the arena a money-loser for the city.

link

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Crime Report: A Busy Week in the 88th Precinct

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

Things returned to (ab)normal at Bruce Ratner's Fort Greene malls last week.

Oh, Chuck

A thief swiped a woman’s purse while she used the restroom at the Chuck E. Cheese “restaurant” inside the crime-ridden Atlantic Terminal Mall on July 2.

The victim told cops that she was inside the arcade/snack bar at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues at around 10:30 p.m. when she slipped off to relieve herself. That’s when the thief moved in, taking her purse, which contained various cards.

There were at least two other crimes inside the same mall last week:

  • A thief stole a purse from a woman inside the Target department store on July 3, getting away with cards and an iPhone 4 at around 5:40 p.m.
  • An alleged shoplifter was arrested after he stole clothing, food and diapers from the Target store at around 7:30 p.m. on July 4, cops said.

article

Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

July 6, 2012

Markowitz's summer concert series: patrons include Forest City, Barclays Center, Brooklyn Nets, and Barclays

Atlantic Yards Report

One hand washes the other four, and vice versa.

Just in case you were wondering, no less than four entities associated with the new Brooklyn are are backing--as patrons, above sponsors--Borough President Marty Markowitz's two summer concert series.

The Seaside Series in Coney Island cites the Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets, and Forest City Ratner Companies, among eight patrons.

(There are many more sponsors. Last October the New York Times explained how Markowitz raised big bucks for charities associated with projects that boosted his reputation, drawing on donors who did business in the borough.)

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Series in Crown Heights/PLG adds a fourth sponsor: Barclays. That might not be the best timing, but who cares, really.

link

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

July 4, 2012

Forest City Ratner to start pile/foundation work on first tower; DOB "preliminary approval" received, but no permit (which means?)

Atlantic Yards Report

There's some news buried in the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated July 2 and issued this morning by Empire State Development after preparation by Forest City Ratner: the developer is starting work on the long-delayed first tower, slated to include 50% subsidized aka "affordable" housing. Forest City has said the tower would be modular construction.

There's some murkiness, however, because it claims that "preliminary approval" has been received by the Department of Buildings, even though no permit has been issued, as confirmed by the DOB pages regarding the site.

The Construction Alert states:

Tower 2 • Work will commence on July 9th on pile and foundation work required for T2 which will need to be in place prior to arena opening. DOB preliminary approval has been received.
Tower 2
• Installation of piles as part of the Tower 2 early work program will take place on Saturday, July 14 and Sunday, July 15th during regular working hours adjacent to the south wall of the arena and Flatbush Avenue.

ESD explanation

I queried Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development. Her response:

“FCRC have been talking with DOB about this work, but a permit still has not been issued. Some of the foundation work must be completed before the arena opens because of the close proximity of B2 to the arena. Other work on B2 will commence before the end of the year.”

Well, it certainly makes sense to get the foundation work started before a whole bunch of people start walking nearby. But if there's no permit, why offer "preliminary approval"?

article

Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

June 29, 2012

Dear Park Slope Neighbor...

Some registered voters in Brooklyn's 7th Congressional District received a "Dear Neighbor" letter from the "Concerned Residents of Park Slope" just prior to last Tuesday's primary election, touting the candidacy of Erik Martin Dilan, a City Council member and the hand-picked candidate of Brooklyn Democratic machine boss Vito Lopez. Dilan was running against popular 10-term Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who is most decidedly not under the sway of Lopez and his cronies.

Among the half-dozen signatories to the letter were Brigitte LaBonte, Assistant VP of External Affairs for Forest City Ratner, and Amy Bender, wife of former Forest City Executive VP Bruce Bender.

The letter praises Dilan, of course, while failing to mention that he was named "the worst of the worst" among City Council members by the Daily News just last year, and — no surprise here — was one of the first elected officials to support Atlantic Yards. No surprise either that Dilan is a veritable pork processing plant among Council members.

Lastly, we couldn't help but chuckle at a line in the letter praising the way Dilan "miraculously secured funding to vital community services." Amy Bender's husband knows a thing or two about miraculously securing funding, too, but his funding miracles, it should be noted, involved colorful conversations with jailed ex-State Senator Carl Kruger that were being surreptitiously recorded by the Feds.

The letter promoting Dilan came up a bit short of miraculous, by the way — he was trounced by Congresswoman Velazquez by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Posted by eric at 4:32 PM

June 27, 2012

Atlantic Yards faces a small setback

The state's top court ruled that the developer must forecast the Brooklyn project's effects over 25 years of construction, not 10.

Crain's NY Business
by Ian Thomas

Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corp. must conduct a new supplemental environmental impact statement of the Atlantic Yards project, as the New York Court of Appeals revealed Tuesday that it would not hear an appeal of lower court rulings.

The developer and the state's development arm opened themselves up to the legal challenge by modifying the plan in 2009.

The plan for the Brooklyn project, which includes the nearly complete Barclays Center and was first unveiled in 2003, was changed when it became clear that it would take far longer than the original estimate of 10 years to complete because of the recession and lawsuits filed by opponents. They successfully argued that the environmental impact should examine the effects on the neighborhood from 25 years of construction.

"We're pleased the court did not hear the appeal," said Jeffrey Baker, a partner at the law firm of Young Sommer, which represents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a community group that was involved in bringing the original lawsuit back in November 2009. "This is an opportunity for the government to rethink and reformulate this project."

article

NoLandGrab: Let's be clear — the plan was never "changed." The 10-year claim was pure hogwash from the start. And the project will take far longer than 10 years to build due not to the recession or (completely warranted) lawsuits, but because there was no way it could ever have been built in 10 years.

Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, State Loses Final Appeal in Atlantic Yards Fight

Tuesday’s ruling ends more than a year of appeals by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). There is no additional avenue for appeal.

Posted by eric at 5:39 PM

At (belated) meeting on arena operations, some specifics on parking, questions about loading dock and traffic agents, and a flat statement that the public will pay for extra police

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports in depth on last night's arena-perations meeting.

A long-awaited meeting last night on Barclays Center operational issues--parking, security, sanitation--was deemed useful but frustrating by community members who’ve been watching developer Forest City Ratner plow ahead with arena-related construction, even without official approvals.

“This is a start, six months late,” observed Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association, noting the tight timetable before the arena opens Sept. 28. He said he told Empire State Development Corporation CEO Kenneth Adams, a convenor of the Borough Hall meeting, that he almost didn’t attend because he was so frustrated by Forest City’s decision, for example, to proceed on the planned surface parking lot without a work permit.

The Barclays Center operational team, which did most of the talking, delivered a good amount of boilerplate, as well as occasional specifics, such as the configuration of parking lot and planned entrances and exits. Krashes pointed out, however, that a lot of questions remain unanswered, such as the location of Traffic Enforcement Agents (TEAs) to steer traffic so it doesn’t overly impact the residential neighborhood, or plans for emergency and fire service in the neighborhood. (Neither was the location of pedestrian managers noted.)

Community consultation will continue, but mainly after the arena opens.

Adams led off by saying that ESD, the Borough President’s Office, and Forest City will convene an Atlantic Yards quality-of-life committee once the arena opens. It will involve state and city agencies, and unlike the bimonthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, which meets during work hours, will “meet regularly, in the evenings.” Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for ESD, is working on it.

Forest City’s Ashley Cotton added that a community affairs officer would be hired for the arena.

article

NoLandGrab: As long as these committees and staff positions continue to serve purely to push information at the community rather than to actually collaborate with it, they're essentially meaningless.

Posted by eric at 1:14 PM

New York State Court of Appeals denies ESDC and Forest City Ratner appeal of order to revisit 2009 Atlantic Yards plan

BrooklynSpeaks

In a final defeat for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) in their attempt to illegally extend construction of the Atlantic Yards project from 10 to 25 years, New York State’s highest court today denied their motion to appeal a July 2011 decision ordering a revisit of a 2009 modification to the plan and additional environmental analyses. ESDC and FCRC lost their previous appeal by a unanimous decision of the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division. The denial by the New York State Court of Appeals means that the July order by Justice Marcy Friedman will stand, and the supplemental environmental impact study (SEIS) must proceed.

article

Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Court of Appeals: Forest City and ESDC Must Conduct Environmental Impact Study Based on 25-Year Atlantic Yards Timetable

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

Commercial Klutch: June Edition

Brownstoner

This month our masked commercial crusader peers into his crystal ball.

This column is dedicated to our dedicated reader & commenter, Trolley Dodger. Whereas a request was made for insider information, said shall be provided. Much of what is stated is future or near future, yet it will come to pass my friend.

Forest City will tear down the first Atlantic Center Mall property and make a bigger and better one. They will also demolish Mo’s and PC Richards and replace it with a huge building, with Apple Computer at the base. The arena’s huge effect on both the psyche of Brooklyn and the surrounding real estate will bring us tourist and B & T folks, turning the immediate area into a party. Watch for a fun venue in 604 Pacific. 750 Pacific won’t be torn down but will become a fancy tech tenant property, for one tenant.

article

NoLandGrab: That crystal ball could use some Windex. For one thing, the Atlantic Center Mall was designed so that additional towers could be constructed on top of the existing building; it won't be torn down. For another, Forest City doesn't have the financial wherewithal to take on something like that. You're better off relying on the Magic 8 Ball.

Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

Court Rejection of Appeal Means Atlantic Yards Will Undergo New Environmental Review

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Bruce Ratner has lost his fourth court decision in a row. Today NY State's high court, the Court of Appeals, rejected the developer's (and the Empire State State Development Corporation's) request to appeal the lower court's unanimous upholding of the Supreme Court order that Atlantic Yards must undergo a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

The suit, originally brought by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and other community organizations, has had a long and winding path. At the core the case is about the State's bogus claims (and subsequent impact study) that the project build out would be 10 years, when in actuality it will likely be 25 years at minimum, and thus the attendant impacts will be substantially different then the ones studied.

The ruling today and the previous ones show, thankfully, that NY courts can actually be a check against public agencies running amok on behalf of private interests.

The ruling also means that the bulk of the Atlantic Yards project will undergo an SEIS, which will include a public hearing.

The time is now for ESDC and Governor Cuomo to intervene to insure that Forest City Ratner doesn't hold a huge chunk of Prospect Heights hostage for the next generation.

link

Posted by eric at 12:01 AM

June 26, 2012

Court of Appeals denies effort by ESDC, Forest City to appeal timetable case; state must analyze impact of 25-year buildout; will leave cloud over project as arena opening approaches

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner's legal losing streak continues...

Yes, the Empire State Development Corporation will have to conduct a court-ordered analysis of the potential 25-year impacts of Atlantic Yards construction after all, leaving a cloud of concern over the project--and a rebuke to the state agency--as the Barclays Center proceeds to a September 28 opening.

The project was long expected to take ten years, but document signed in late 2009 gave developer Forest City Ratner 25 years.

More like long claimed to take ten years. Everyone knew there was no way it would get done in ten years, especially those making the claim.

The state agency, as well as Forest City, had sought to appeal a unanimous Appellate Division decision upholding a lower court's requirement of Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). The state Court of Appeals, in a decision issued without elaboration, denied permission for such an appeal. (Had the appellate court been split, an appeal would have been automatic.)

The decision to seek an appeal rather than pursue the SEIS and evaluate the impacts of an extended buildout had rankled community members who'd gone to court, in cases filed by two coalitions, led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks.

The lower court ruling required an SEIS to evaluate Phase 2 of the project, the towers planned east of Sixth Avenue and the arena block, thus sparing the arena. However, many questions remain regarding the parking lot planned to serve the arena, located on the southeast block of the site, destined ultimately for towers.

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Posted by eric at 3:22 PM

Et tu, Apple?

The following hit our email in-box this morning:

Grand opening: The Apple Store, Ridge Hill.

Introducing the Apple Store, Ridge Hill.
Join us for our grand opening June 30 at 10:00 a.m.

We think not.

Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

June 25, 2012

Behind the revision of the railyard deal: MTA says it leaves agency whole, won't try to put a dollar figure on work so far, says disruptive work to meet deadline not expected

Atlantic Yards Report

As noted on June 7, the Wall Street Journal broke the news that developer Forest City Ratner, which successfully revised the Vanderbilt Yard development rights deal to build a smaller, cheaper replacement railyard and to attenuate payments, has managed to save cash flow by renegotiating another aspect of the schedule with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Instead of beginning the permanent railyard this June 30, as indicated in an MTA Staff Summary dated 6/22/09, the official start date has been moved back 18 months to 12/31/13, with terms disclosed to the MTA board members on June 4.

Now that I have the underlying documents and posed questions to the agency, I can attempt answers at some of the lingering questions:

  • Does Forest City save money? Probably.
  • Does it leave the MTA where it wanted? Yes, but thanks in part to the agency's own delays.
  • Will a concentrated schedule mean noisy late-night work? No, they say.
  • Can the schedule be extended/relaxed again? Surely.
  • Does Forest City have the upper hand? Looks that way.

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NoLandGrab: Next time you curse the fact that the bus you used to take no longer exists, or wait 30 minutes for a subway, or find yourself in a filthy '60s-era subway car, don't curse the MTA — they're just following orders from their parent company, Forest City Ratner.

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

June 22, 2012

ATLANTIC CENTER: FIFTH AVENUE OF THE BOROUGHS?

Retail Traffic

Actually, our own Fifth Avenue used to terminate at the Atlantic Center mall — until Bruce Ratner wiped it off the map.

If Forest City Enterprises decides to go ahead with the redevelopment/remerchandising of its Atlantic Center Mall and Atlantic Terminal Mall properties in Brooklyn it might be able to remake the surrounding area into an outer borough Fifth Avenue, retail industry insiders say.

Retail industry insiders who clearly have never been in Bruce Ratner's malls, that is.

Forest City, the commercial real estate developer behind the soon-to-open Barclays Center arena and entertainment venue, revealed that it’s now reviewing the possibility of upgrading its nearby retail properties. A spokesperson for the company said there are no definite plans as of yet; Forest City executives are “just thinking out loud.”

If the company decides to go ahead with the project, demographics in the surrounding area certainly offer a lot of potential.
...

“Brooklyn is getting multi-million dollar condos, but there is not a lot of upscale shopping,” [retail consultant Howard] Dadivowitz says. “I would say it’s a void and a possibility. A Whole Foods [makes sense there], a Bloomingdale’s definitely would make sense. Why wouldn’t Tiffany’s build a nice store there? I think they would.”

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NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner currently bans groups of four or more teens from hanging out in his malls. When Bloomie's and Tiffany move in, that ban will surely be expanded to groups of zero or more teens. Can't have the "tough kids" from "the projects" scaring off the customers!

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

June 20, 2012

Judge says lawsuit filed over "sham" training program can proceed, with key claims remaining against Forest City and BUILD; other claims dismissed

Atlantic Yards Report

In a preliminary victory in the case filed by by seven (of 36) participants in a pre-apprenticeship training program (PATP) promised as part of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), a federal judge this week agreed not to dismiss potentially costly claims that Forest City Ratner is responsible for failure to pay unpaid wages to the trainees for their entire training program, which plaintiffs' attorneys call a "sham."

Federal Judge John Gleeson did dismiss several aspects of the case filed against Forest City, executives Bruce Ratner and Jane Marshall, BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), and BUILD CEO James Caldwell, but he rejected a motion to dismiss key claims, including the most contested claim during a court argument last month: whether Forest City and BUILD constituted "joint employers."

The argument concerned the plaintiffs' claim that, by signing the CBA, which promised the PATP, and funding and directing BUILD, that Forest City Ratner was responsible for the program. One plaintiff, recounting how he was promised a union card and a union job, said "I was robbed," when the case was announced last November.

An attorney for Forest City, BUILD, and their individual officers argued that the facts don't support "the economic reality test" as established in case law. But attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that this case was unusual, and Gleeson agreed, in his 19-page decision (below):

However, I cannot conclude at the pleadings stage that it was unreasonable, as a matter of law, for the Plaintiffs to rely on promises of union membership and jobs made to a small number of PATP participants by a major real estate enterprise that would employ tens of thousands of union workers.

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege sufficient facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.

The legal process of discovery had already begun, and will continue, as plaintiffs' attorneys, who include Matthew Brinckerhoff, the chief lawyer on the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, probe the relationship between Forest City and BUILD.

Plaintiffs' attorney Nicole Salk, who said Gleeson "really understood the main arguments," estimated that it would take at least six months before the next phase, which could be a motion for summary judgment, or a trial. Settlements in such cases are possible as well, though the plaintiffs this week just got more leverage.

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NoLandGrab: Let's cut to the chase. The relationship between Forest CIty Ratner and BUILD is as follows: Forest City Ratner = BUILD, and BUILD = Forest City Ratner.

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Federal Lawsuit Against Bruce Ratner and His Partnter B.U.I.L.D Will Move Forward

Time for Bruce Ratner to book another big act for his (and Mikhail Prokhorov's) arena, lest the press start paying attention to this federal lawsuit he is on the wrong end of....

NLG: Is Bad Company touring? That'd be fitting.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

Brooklyn Nets a Mega Mall: Forest City Mulls What’s Next for Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

It could be the biggest thing to come to Atlantic Yards since Barbara Streisand and Justin Beiber announced they would be playing concerts at the Barclays Center this fall. While everyone (but the neighbors and former neighbors) is looking forward to the opening of the new arena, Forest City Ratner now has its eyes trained across the street, to the two malls it owns there.

Once work on the arena is complete, the difficult task of moving forward with the adjoining apartment buildings lies ahead. But as interest in the area’s retail has boomed in anticipation of the new 18,000-seat venue, Forest City Ratner has also accelerated plans to redevelop the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls.

“It’s an obvious opportunity,” MaryAnne Gilmartin, Forest City’s executive vice president, told The Observer. “One of the many things we think about is the impact the arena will have, and how we can help create a holistic neighborhood at Atlantic Yards from there.”

The impact the arena will have is pretty much the only thing nearby residents are thinking about.

One piece in the possible architectural transformation of the two malls is more than a million square feet of development rights Forest City still holds on the property. Together, the two malls equal a little less than 800,000 square feet, meaning an expansion could more than double the space.

This does not necessarily have to be retail development, as the Atlantic Terminal building already has an office tower on top, known as 2 Hanson Place. As Norman Oder pointed out back in 2006, preliminary designs for the Atlantic Yards project revealed three towers atop the mall, tucked away in the background and unmentioned in discussions of the project.

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Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Whodathunk It! Ratner's Arena Benefits Ratner's Malls!

In case there was still any lingering doubt about who benefits from Atlantic Yards—the developer Forest City Ratner or the loser, the public—this article should end all of those doubts. (Perhaps the judicial system that thought eminent domain for the project was legitimate because the public was the intentioned beneficiary of the Atlantic Yards project might now agree that that was just a load of, we'll be polite here, hogwash)....

Atlantic Yards Report, Forest City Ratner's ambitious plans for its Atlantic Terminal and (blighted) Atlantic Center malls; new towers not yet on the table, but new retail surely in sight

In Brooklyn Nets a Mega Mall: Forest City Mulls What’s Next for Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center, the Observer's Matt Chaban writes:

While everyone (but the neighbors and former neighbors) is looking forward to the opening of the new arena, Forest City Ratner now has its eyes trained across the street, to the two malls it owns there.

Everyone? Really?

But it surely is worth pointing out, to use Michael D.D. White's "mega-monopoly" term, that Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project was sure to rain benefits on the developer's adjacent malls, and that should have reflected in the public negotiations.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Mall Might Get Re-skinned and Repositioned

While discussing the balancing act of broadening the mall’s demographic appeal without alienating its core constituency, Ms. Gilmartin said that “everything [short of razing the building] is on the table,” including making over the dreary, uninviting brick facade.

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

Cops: Bullies threaten teen on DeKalb

The Brooklyn Paper
by Eli Rosenberg

In Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn malls, if the crooks don't get you, the employees might.

TCB-why?

An employee at a Flatbush Avenue candy store bashed a co-worker with a cooking pan during an argument on June 17.

A 22-year-old employee at the TCBY yogurt store in the Atlantic Center Mall told cops she was in a tiff with a co-worker at 11 am when the pan-handler struck her.
...

Bested by

A cunning thief stole nearly $2,000 worth of electronics from a store in the Atlantic Terminal Mall through an elaborate ruse on June 12, police reported.

Representatives from the Best Buy on Atlantic Avenue told cops that a man opened up a credit card account with, what turned out to be, a fake North Carolina driver’s license on June 5, purchasing $1,980 worth of goods between then and June 12.

Police arrested the suspect when he returned to the store on June 12.

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Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

June 19, 2012

Federal Court: Lawsuit against Forest City Ratner and BUILD to Move Forward

Press Release via South Brooklyn Legal Services

Bruce Ratner suddenly finds himself on a prolonged courtroom losing streak.

A federal judge in Brooklyn has decided that a group of Brooklyn residents may move forward on their lawsuit against Forest City Ratner and related entities based on unpaid wages and broken promises. In a 19-page decision, Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York held that the plaintiffs, participants in a sham job training program created by the Atlantic Yards developers and Brooklyn United for Innovative Development (BUILD), may proceed on their central claims against the defendants.

The decision affirms that the plaintiffs properly stated claims for unpaid wages under federal and state labor laws against all the defendants, who plaintiffs allege jointly operated the Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program (PATP). Judge Gleeson determined that although the trainees were not employees in the ordinary sense, they may still be entitled to be paid for their work. The judge held that all the defendants, including Bruce Ratner, may be liable for unpaid wages.

The court also found that the defendants may have engaged in deceptive acts or practices in violation of the New York General Business Law. The court based this determination on the allegations that the defendants recruited a large number of potential trainees with misleading promises of union membership and jobs. According to the decision, this constitutes a “sufficient public impact” to show a broad effect on consumers at large.

While some claims were dismissed as to certain defendants, the judge affirmed all the key aspects of the legal basis for the plaintiffs’ lawsuit. The defendants argued that the developers could not be held to promises to deliver union jobs. However, Judge Gleeson stated: “I cannot conclude . . . that it was unreasonable, as a matter of law, for the Plaintiffs to rely on promises of union membership and jobs made to a small number of PATP participants by a major real estate enterprise that would employ tens of thousands of union workers.”

For more information, please contact South Brooklyn Legal Services’ Nicole Salk at 718-237-5544 or Sarah Dranoff at 718-237-5578.

Posted by eric at 4:41 PM

Jail for Ex-Westchester Legislator in Tax Case

The New York Times
by Nate Schweber

Yet another sleazeball who has done the bidding of Forest City Ratner is headed to the big house. Say hello to Lipsky and Kruger for us, Nicky.

Nicholas A. Spano, who spent nearly three decades representing Westchester County as a state senator and assemblyman, was sentenced on Monday to a year and a day in jail for tax evasion.

“This is an ending to a difficult period of my life and the beginning of the next phase,” said Mr. Spano, 59, flanked by close to a dozen members of his family, one of the most politically powerful in the county.

Judge Cathy Seibel of Federal District Court also fined Mr. Spano, a Republican who left office in 2006, $30,000 and ordered him to spend a year on supervised release. Mr. Spano is scheduled to begin his sentence on July 9 and may be eligible for release from jail after about 10 months. Judge Seibel said she hoped the sentence would send a deterrent message.

“The public is sick and tired of the powerful and fortunate not paying their fair share in taxes,” she said. “And it also seems that the public is tired of politicians treating election to Albany not as an opportunity to serve the people, but an opportunity to line their pockets.”

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NoLandGrab: The public is also sick and tired of Teflon Bruce's henchmen taking the fall, while the kingpin remains untouched.

Posted by eric at 1:22 PM

June 18, 2012

A New York Year

Metropolis Magazine
by Colin Fanning

Forest City Ratner wins an award — and for once it doesn't involve something like being a Super-Villain.

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) annually presents its MASterworks Awards to recognize outstanding works of architecture or urban design completed in the prior year. The jury for the 2012 awards is a notable list in its own right: it included architects Brandon Haw of Foster + Partners, Claire Weisz of WXY Architecture + Urban Design, and Adam Yarinsky from the Architecture Research Office; journalist Suzanne Stephens from Architectural Record; and the president of MAS, Vin Cipolla. This refreshingly diverse list of winners—a carousel pavilion by Jean Nouvel shares honors with a children’s library in Queens—looks back at an exciting post-recession year for architecture in New York.

Best New Building: New York by Gehry, Gehry & Partners

The highest honor went to Gehry’s shimmering new residential tower at 8 Spruce Street in downtown Manhattan. The jury calls it “a striking symbol of Lower Manhattan’s resurgence,” and its undulating silver façade, standing out among its mid-rise neighbors, certainly makes a dramatic addition to the skyline.

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NoLandGrab: MAS, as our long-time readers know, mustered some Milquetoasty opposition to Atlantic Yards, co-founding BrooklynSpeaks — but dropped out once BrooklynSpeaks filed a lawsuit.

Photo: Forest City Ratner

Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

June 12, 2012

Crime Report: Gun Violence and More iPhone Thefts

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

Marshalls Plan

A thief — possibly a chatty one — stole a woman’s wallet inside the Marshalls department store in the crime-ridden Atlantic Center Mall on June 6.

The victim told cops that she was inside the Atlantic Avenue store at about 4 p.m. when she had a brief conversation with a man. A few minutes later, she noticed that her wallet, which contained various cards, was missing. She told police that she was unsure if the talkative gent was the thief.

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Posted by eric at 10:03 PM

June 10, 2012

Forest City claims "we've been working very hard to make Atlantic Yards a reality," says "there's a certain irony" about protest today (well, only a bit)

Atlantic Yards Report

In a preview today about the Atlantic Yards protest at 3 pm, Patch offers a quote from Forest City Ratner:

We understand fully the need for more jobs and more housing in Brooklyn and throughout the City, which is why we’ve been working very hard to make Atlantic Yards a reality. But there’s a certain irony that people who were opposed to the project, and worked hard to stall the project, now criticize it for not delivering fast enough the benefits.
The arena is scheduled to open this September and we have started an extensive outreach initiative to fill the 2000 arena jobs, including visits with community groups, public housing and churches. We hope as well to begin the housing this year. Fifty percent of the first building will consist of affordable units.
We are hopeful that as Atlantic Yards progresses, that we can all work together to achieve the benefits that we believe Brooklyn needs and that this development will provide.

Looking more closely

Forest City has been "working very hard to make Atlantic Yards a reality" under the timetable and program that makes sense to it as a company that must meet certain profit and revenue goals.

Bruce Ratner admitted in 2010 that the project was never expected to be built in the promised ten years, even though that's the time frame that the developer and governmental officials used to estimate project benefits. And last he said that "existing incentives" don't work for high-rise, union-built affordable housing, which is of course what his firm proposed.

As for the "certain irony that people who were opposed to the project, and worked hard to stall the project, now criticize it," Forest City has a slender point, though not a convincing one. The Coalition for Arena Justice organized by Brown Memorial Baptist Church consists mainly of churches that were not part of the Atlantic Yards battle, though a few pastors were periodic critics.

BrooklynSpeaks, a co-sponsor of the rally, never opposed the project but has tried to improve it, and went to court to seek a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, given that Forest City, while promising a ten-year buildout, negotiated contracts that give the firm 25 years. (It had previously avoided going to court.) Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which did oppose the project and led several lawsuits, has promoted the protest, but is not an official sponsor.

Has Forest City "started an extensive outreach initiative to fill the 2000 arena jobs"? Nearly, but not quite. The 105 full-time jobs do not require "extensive outreach," while the 1901 other jobs are part-time--but not the equivalent of full-time jobs once promised by the project. That said, Forest City had not previously promoted this number of arena jobs, and they will surely be welcome to those who have them, and tell their friends and associates.

While fifty percent of the first building will consist of affordable units, affordable does not mean low-income, and most of those who rallied for the subsidized housing will not be eligible for many if not most of the affordable units. And Forest City Ratner, as Council Member Letitia James has pointed out, has not lived up to its promise for larger affordable apartments in the first tower.

As for how "we can all work together to achieve the benefits that we believe Brooklyn needs and that this development will provide," consider the passive sentence construction: "this development will provide."

The development won't provide anything without investment, subsidies, pressure, and penalties. That's the argument for oversight.

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Posted by steve at 9:17 AM

June 9, 2012

Forest City executives: "we expect to break ground" this year on first tower; arena revenues should stabilize in two years

Atlantic Yards Report

In a conference call yesterday with investment analysts, executives from Forest City Enterprises followed up on the June 7 press release regarding first quarter earnings, which indicated that "[a]pproximately 70 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the arena are currently under contract."

That represents a rise from 64 percent three months earlier, which itself represented a not insignificant rise from the 56 percent reported in December 2011. The developer has admitted that the 100% mark will not be met by the arena opening.

Yesterday, CEO David LaRue suggested progress has "re-accelerated" after a slowdown thanks to the NBA labor dispute. Still, his colleagues agreed that income from the arena is not expected to stabilize for some two years after the September 2012 opening.

link

Posted by steve at 7:19 PM

June 8, 2012

At announcement of gospel shows, Sharpton claims (!) Ratner "has lived up to everything he said and more" (!?!)

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, so yesterday the Wall Street Journal had a scoop about Forest City Ratner's pulling back on its obligation to build a replacement railyard--a boring, process-y infrastructure story, right?--but the Barclays Center announced two new gospel shows:

  • GRAMMY award-winning gospel great and Brooklynite Hezekiah Walker and his Love Fellowship Choir
  • 2012 Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound™ Gospel Celebration, the country’s premiere and most prestigious gospel music experience
  • plus ‘The King’s Men’ (already announced)
    ...

Daughtry, Sharpton, and head-spinning claims

The arena's in-house scribe had a report, Gospel has a home, on the press event, "a rousing two-song preview." But the real news, in my reading of Ben Couch's account wrote, concerned the massaging of history:

Joining Ratner and Walker as speakers were Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry, Pastor of The House of the Lord Church and Founder of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance. Both spoke of the commitment Ratner made to ensuring the community was included in the Atlantic Yards project, and more importantly – his commitment to following through on their agreements.

Daughtry traced the roots of their relationship to 2004, when the DBNA first came to an agreement with Forest City Ratner on fostering arena programs, as well as the development of a state-of-the-art health center and an intergenerational complex. Sharpton pointed out that the setting proved fitting because Daughtry’s leadership helped to define the Community Benefits Agreement that swayed those with questions to support the project.

But credit DNAinfo, in Praise the Lord! Barclays Center Christened as Gospel's New Home, for some stunning quotes:

It was nearly eight years ago that The House of the Lord church hosted another press conference, where officials from Forest City Ratner Companies and the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance announced that they had hammered out a Community Benefits Agreement to guarantee that locals would benefit from the Atlantic Yards development, said the church's pastor, Rev. Herbert Daughtry.

With the arena now poised to open in September, Daughtry praised Ratner for delivering on promised amenities like a health center and meditation room at the new arena.

Sharpton echoed those comments. "I can say without contradition [sic] that Bruce Ratner has lived up to everything he said and more," Sharpton said to a hearty round of applause. "He is an example of what corporate accountability and partnership is all about."

But some critics disagree. The watchdog group Brooklyn Speaks is holding a rally Sunday June 10 to demand stronger oversight of housing and jobs promised as part of the arena deal.

Some critics disagree is what NYU scholar Jay Rosen calls the "View from Nowhere," the false middle, the inability to do any analysis (and, btw, BrooklynSpeaks is only a part of the rally).

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Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

Reverend Sharpton, Perhaps Inhabiting a Parallel Universe, Praises Ratner for Fulfilling Promises

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Bruce Ratner got state approval or his project based o promises of 2,250 units of "affordable" housing and 15,000 permanent jobs. He's deliverd a money losing arena and parking lots. Yet, here is Reverend Al Sharpton (via DNAinfo.com) today at a press event touting gospel concerts at Ratner and Prokhorov's House that Eminent Domain Built:

...With the arena now poised to open in September, [Reverend Herbert] Daughtry praised Ratner for delivering on promised amenities like a health center and meditation room at the new arena.

Sharpton echoed those comments. "I can say without contradiction that Bruce Ratner has lived up to everything he said and more," Sharpton said to a hearty round of applause. "He is an example of what corporate accountability and partnership is all about."

Actually, there is plenty of contradiction. The four big promises of job creation, affordable housing, so-called "blight removal," and the creation of open space have all amounted to big failures two years after the arena groundbreaking. Contraray to Sharpton's mind-boggling comments, Bruce Ratner has lived up to nearly nothing he has said about Atlantic Yards.

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Related content...

NY1, Barclays Center To Host Gospel Events

"It's right, quite appropriate," said Bruce Ratner, the CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies. "Brooklyn is first the borough of churches and second, it is a major place for gospel."

Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

June 7, 2012

Forest City Enterprises: contractually obligated arena revenues at 70%, up from 64%, but still far from target, four months out

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Enterprises, the parent of Forest City Ratner, announced first-quarter operating results today, with lower net earnings than during the comparable last year.

For Atlantic Yards watchers, note that there was no mention of any tower being built:

Construction is nearing completion at the Barclays Center arena at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, in preparation for the grand opening in September 2012. Approximately 70 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the arena are currently under contract. Response to recently announced events at the arena has been enthusiastic, and event ticket sales are on pace with the company's expectations.

That 70 percent statistic--which likely reflects the Calvin Klein deal-- represents a rise from 64 percent three months ago, which itself represented a not insignificant rise from the 56 percent reported in December 2011, the developer has admitted that the 100% mark will not be met by the arena opening.

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Posted by eric at 7:04 PM

Another Delay at Atlantic Yards

Brownstoner

Forest City is going to miss the June 30 deadline it initially agreed to for commencing work on the MTA train storage yard it is committed to building as part of its Atlantic Yards Project, according to the Wall Street Journal. “It’s more of the same,” said Democratic district leader Jo Anne Simon. The MTA doesn’t seem upset though. “From our perspective, very little is changing here,” said a spokesperson for the Transit Authority. FCR says it will break ground by the end of the year and still meet its 2016 deadline for completion.

link

Related coverage...

The Real Deal, Forest City Ratner admits to more delays for Atlantic Yards benefits

Posted by eric at 6:45 PM

LIRR Faces New Delay: Brooklyn Train Yard

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

The developers of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn have delayed construction on a new train storage yard, one of the many public benefits that had been promised in order to win public approval for a professional basketball arena and housing development at the site.

While the storage facility for Long Island Rail Road trains is still required to be completed by 2016, the delay comes as developer Forest City Ratner Cos. has struggled with higher-than-expected costs and a sluggish economy that have slowed other portions of the project.

"It's more of the same," said Jo Anne Simon, a Democratic district leader in Brooklyn who is a critic of the project. "There's a whole host of things that are problematic and have been delays in benefits."

Forest City spokesman Joseph DePlasco said the yard will still be completed on time. The developer has already built a portion of the yard, he said, and other related work will continue.

MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said the developer has agreed to do $10 million of additional work in the interim, and the LIRR is using a temporary rail yard meanwhile.

"From our perspective, very little is changing here," Mr. Lisberg said.

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NoLandGrab: From our perspective, too — it's just one more in an endless parade of examples of broken promises that ultimately screw the taxpayers. We're guessing the MTA won't be delaying fare hikes, right?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, WSJ: Forest City gets MTA to accept start date on permanent railyard moved back 18 months; finished yard still due by September 2016

Developer Forest City Ratner, which successfully renegotiated the deal for Vanderbilt Yard development rights to build a smaller, cheaper replacement railyard and to attenuate payments, has managed to save cash flow by renegotiating another aspect of the schedule with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to the Wall Street Journal.

By building the arena, Forest City Ratner had to move the railyard functions (storage and cleaning) to a smaller temporary yard east of the arena block, and to build a larger--though not as large as originally promised--upgraded yard by 9/1/16.

As the screenshot above indicates, construction of the larger yard was supposed to begin this June 30, as indicated in an MTA Staff Summary dated 6/22/09.

The Journal's Eliot Brown reports that the start date has been moved back 18 months to 12/31/13, with terms disclosed to the MTA board members this week.

Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

Breaking city rules, construction workers take a break, and smoke, at the Dean Playground

Atlantic Yards Report

Rule-breaking dopes brought to you by the letters F, C and R!

It's not the first time that construction workers (almost surely) from the Atlantic Yards site have been caught taking a break in the Dean Playground, despite city rules that bar adults from hanging out in playgrounds if they're not supervising kids.

But it's the first time they've been caught smoking, which violates one of the playground rules. (It's also a rule, by now, in city parks.)

Atlantic Yards Watch has two sets of photos, one set taken yesterday, with the workers smoking, and another taken June 4, with the workers just hanging out.

Enforcement would seem to be a job for both the Parks Department and the Police Department; according to AY Watch, 311 advised a call to the former.

A few construction workers, at least, do not think rules apply to them; hence the creation of free parking by uprooting a "No Standing" sign.

link

NoLandGrab: One might think it's also a job for Forest City Ratner and its state puppet overseer, Empire State Development, no?

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

Despite the arena hoopla, are they making their nut? Forest City's behind on contractually obligated revenues, and stated $4 million for Calvin Klein sponsorship claim looks doubtful

Atlantic Yards Report

The Barbra Streisand concert announced recently may be "a feather in the cap of the promoters of the arena," as the Times suggested, and the Justin Bieber announcement generated more buzz, as did even the announcement of a couple of hockey games from the Eastern European professional league, KHL.

However--and this question was relevant even before the Nets didn't get lucky in the NBA lottery--it doesn't remove the question mark over whether the Barclays Center will bring in the revenue predicted from ticket sales and sponsorships.

After all, in late March parent company Forest City Enterprises reported that some "64 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the [Barclays Center] arena are currently under contract."

While that's a not insignificant rise from the 56 percent reported in December 2011, the developer has admitted that the 100% mark will not be met by the arena opening.

The next quarterly report arrives late this afternoon and it should factor in the announcement that Calvin Klein signed on as a Founding Partner, in a deal reported at $4 million a year.

So we'll see how much closer they are to the 100%.

However, as described below, it's doubtful that the Founding Partner deals are worth $4 million a year.

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Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

Bikers moving out to make way for builders

Real Estate Weekly
by Sarah Trefethen

Forest City Ratner is four to six weeks away from signing a lease for 100,000 s/f of factory space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, according to executive vice president MaryAnne Gilmartin.

The space is currently occupied by NYC Bike Share, which is scheduled to relocate to a permanent home in Sunset Park this fall. When that happens, Forest City will ramp up the city’s first factory for building residential high-rise buildings.

The developer plans to build a 32-story, 350-unit residential tower at Atlantic Yards by inserting the factory-built building modules into a steel chassis built on site, Gilmartin told guests at the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation’s “Glimpse the Future of the AEC Industry” event Tuesday morning.

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NoLandGrab: In Forest City Ratner-speak, "four to six weeks" could mean anywhere from nine months to 25 years.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Forest City's Gilmartin says modular factory lease to be signed in four to six weeks

I'm placing a later quote ahead of an earlier one, but the juxtaposition is telling. At one point, Gilmartin says, “This is absolutely about bringing the unions to the table.”

At another, however, "she expects that in-factory workers will be paid $36 per hour, while the construction workers on-site will make $90 per hour." No wonder Forest City remains in negotiations with the unions.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Community Board 3 Meets

A monthly update of the activities of Community Board 3 representing Bedford-Stuyvesant

Bed-Stuy Patch
by C. Zawadi Morris

And sometimes they can't be bothered to show up.

The Economic Development Committee planned to give a brief overview of the hiring plan for the Barclay Center to be presented by Forest City Ratner. However the representative from their office did not show. The committee is trying to re-schedule for the next CB3 meeting.

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Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

Will Forest City Residential Try to Railroad New Rochelle's Echo Bay Proposal?

Talk of the Sound
by Peggy Godfrey

The author confuses Atlantic Yards with the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but gets the main points right: Forest City's projects have been plagued by controversy — and they're not to be trusted.

Echo Bay development "could be good or bad," depending on how honestly the public is dealt with. Contrasting Forest City Ratner to Louis Cappelli, he said Cappelli came to every meeting and was open with the community. But Forest City Residential was trying to railroad a project against a community overwhelmingly against it. Citing the approximately 40 people in attendance at the New Rochelle Citizens Reform Club Meeting where he spoke on May 22, he said developers like Forest City Ratner depend upon residents not being aware of what is going on in the community. In Yonkers Forest City Ratner used closed door meetings and executive sessions, while Alfred Del Bello, lawyer for Cross County's expansion, would meet with the public.

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Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

May 29, 2012

Crime Report: Is That A Gun Or Are You Just Faking Me Out of My iPhone?

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

The week featured a lot of the usual crime — including more robberies at the ever-dangerous Atlantic Terminal Mall — and the return of the ultimate criminal pantomime: the use of a finger to simulate the possession of a firearm.
...

More Mall Rats

There were at least three more crimes in the Atlantic Terminal Mall last week:

  • A pickpocket swiped a wallet from a Target customer after she left it on a counter and turned away for a split-second on May 26. The victim, 69, lost cash and various cards in the 1:30 p.m. crime.

  • A thief swiped a wallet after bumping into a woman inside the Daffy’s clothing store at around 6:15 p.m. on May 27, getting an iPhone.

  • Another thief has stolen unmentionables from the Victoria’s Secret shop. The manager of the lingerie emporium told cops that he spotted a thief leaving the store with $1,200 in Body Bras at around 4 p.m. on May 25.

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Posted by eric at 10:04 PM

May 25, 2012

Developer Pieces Together Legoland Deal for Ridge Hill

The Wall Street Journal
by Laura Kusisto

The huge Ridge Hill open-air shopping center in Yonkers, which initially leased slowly, has cut a deal to beef up its entertainment offerings with the first Legoland Discovery Center in the state.

Forest City Ratner Cos., the developer of Ridge Hill, has leased a roughly 33,000-square-foot space to Merlin Entertainments, of the U.K., which operates half a dozen other Legolands in the U.S. The stores sell Lego sets and offer a number of attractions for children ages 3 to 10 based on the popular building toy.

Ridge Hill's Legoland will feature a pit filled with soft Legos, classes, rides, party rooms and a cinema. It also will have a "Miniland" with iconic buildings designed out of Lego pieces, including the Empire State Building and the new Ground Zero tower known as One World Trade Center that is nearing completion in downtown Manhattan.

article

NoLandGrab: Here's a preview.

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

May 24, 2012

Forest City Builds Communities From Within Through National Day of Service

1,200+ associates nationwide participate in ninth annual Forest City Community Day

Forest City Enterprises Press Release

Forest City Community Day sounds like something straight out of The Office.

Today, more than 1,200 Forest City associates nationwide will trade in their computers and office supplies for work gloves, paint brushes and shovels during the company's ninth Annual Community Day.

What, no bulldozers, wrecking balls or crowbars?

Community Day is a day of service that brings together Forest City associates from across the country to provide much-needed help to more than 60 agencies and charitable organizations nationwide that provide critically needed services in our communities.
...

Associates from the company's properties and regional offices are also participating, including more than 130 from Forest City Ratner, the company's New York subsidiary, who are teaming up with KaBOOM!, a national non-profit, to build a new playground in Brooklyn.

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NoLandGrab: "KaBOOM!" is also the sound we all heard when Forest City Ratner knocked over the Ward Bakery Building, Daniel Goldstein's apartment, and Freddy's. How fitting.

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

Forest City Ratner's savings from scrapping the MetroCard bundled with ticket: perhaps $2 million to $3 million a year

Atlantic Yards Report

“We might be able to put a ticket on a MetroCard, but we might not be able to put a MetroCard on a ticket," Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall said at a public meeting in May 2011.

And the plan was part of the suite of strategies promised in the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments the developer signed with the Empire State Development Corporation.

But Forest City Ratner officials and consultant Sam Schwartz yesterday said it would be impractical to link a MetroCard to a ticket, that it would not serve as a practical incentive, and that many arena-goers already have unlimited ride MetroCards.

All of those are plausible, but another angle on the issue should be clear: scrapping the plan would save Forest City Ratner a lot of money.
...

So, is Forest City Ratner just keeping the cash, or spending the money to otherwise deter driving?

link

NoLandGrab: Three guesses — and the first two don't count.

Posted by eric at 12:25 AM

May 22, 2012

Crime Report: A Big Break on Atlantic Terminal Crime?

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

For a second there, we thought the Feds had finally indicted Bruce Ratner.

It was a big week for the cops of the 88th Precinct, what with an arrest of a longtime Atlantic Terminal Mall shoplifting suspect, and other collars, but the randomness, the violence, of crime continued to mar an otherwise great neighborhood (yes, we’re talking about the bizarre umbrella beating).
...

He’s the Target

Cops say they have arrested a serial Atlantic Terminal Mall shoplifter.

According to police, Richard Burgos was arrested on May 19 and quickly connected to shoplifting incidents on May 13, 17 and 18. In his three known trips to the mall, Mr. Burgos, 43, allegedly stole two DVD players, shirts and spider wrap.

Seems Mr. Burgos must've spawned some copycats, however.

Thief Caught

An alleged shoplifter was arrested after he stole a shirt and shorts from the Old Navy in the Atlantic Center Mall on May 15, cops said.

Police said that the man entered the Atlantic Avenue store at around 5:20 p.m. and stole the clothing — but he was spotted by a security guard. After a brief fight, the thief escaped, but cops picked up the suspect the next day.

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Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

May 21, 2012

Terminal Tower, Cleveland headquarters of Forest City Enterprises, has overdue loan; developer must go to "special servicer" to revise terms

Atlantic Yards Report

Crain's Cleveland Business, in Forest City overdue on Terminal Tower loan: Developer houses 500 workers in city icon, reports (sub. required):

A $38 million loan secured by Terminal Tower, the Public Square skyscraper the Guide to Cleveland Architecture calls “the landmark of the city,” is overdue.

How that debt will be resolved by the building's owner, real estate giant Forest City Enterprises Inc. — which has its headquarters and more than 500 employees in the 52-story structure — remains to be seen.

As with other buildings that are worth less than previously valued and not delivering the once-predicted revenues, the loan has been assigned to a "special servicer" to revise and extend loan terms and even potentially re-assign ownership.

article

Posted by eric at 11:49 PM

May 18, 2012

From the Real Deal: a profile of former City Hall officials "who wield big influence" in real estate includes Forest City's Ashley Cotton estate meets politics

Atlantic Yards Report

The Real Deal's May issue offers Where real estate meets politics: A look at former City Hall politicos who wield big influence in the industry:

With Mayor Michael Bloomberg nearing the end of his third (and final) term, it’s no surprise that many of his top aides have now caught a case of government fatigue and fled to the private sector. And a high percentage of those who’ve worked for the pro-development mayor have been tapped for jobs in the real estate industry.

While hiring a former administration official (or former City Council member) doesn’t get a real estate firm the keys to City Hall, it can provide valuable insight when it comes to navigating the ins and outs of government.

...But there are firewalls in place: For example, an ex-government official can’t lobby their former employer for a year after stepping down, and can’t ever advocate for a project that he or she voted on while in office.

So that means, for example, that Forest City Ratner's Ashley Cotton, who's among those profiled in the piece, can't be lobbying City Hall for a year.

(Note that, despite the Real Deal's description, Cotton previously worked as a Senior Policy Advisor in the Mayor's Office, and before that the New York City Economic Development Corporation and under Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.)

link

Related content...

The Real Deal, Where real estate meets politics

Ashley Cotton
Then:
Senior Policy Adviser, EDC
Now: Vice President, External Affairs, Forest City Ratner

Cotton — who got her start helping manage Andrew Cuomo’s successful campaign for state attorney general in the mid-2000s and later worked for deputy mayor Bob Steel — only recently left the public sector.

At Forest City, she will focus on the opening of Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards, which is set to debut with a Sept. 28 concert featuring Jay-Z.

The opening “is a huge moment for Brooklyn, and as a Clinton Hill resident, I’m thrilled to be a part of it,” she wrote in an e-mail. “There is no question that my City Hall experience was ideal preparation for working on a project that is going to be a game changer for this borough.”

Cotton replaces government relations executive Bruce Bender, who also formerly worked for the city as policy advisor to the mayor. Cotton said Bender left to start his own consulting business.

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

On Gov. Cuomo's Schedule: Al D'Amato

Gov. Cuomo posted another batch of his daily schedules on his CitizenConnects website this afternoon.

Daily Politics [NYDailyNews.com]
by Celeste Katz and Glenn Blain

The latest offerings cover the first three months of 2012 and – like the previous postings on the site – offer a limited view of how Cuomo spends his day. They include an array of meetings the governor had with officials, labor leaders and educators leading up to passage of the 2012-13 budget.
...

One of the more interesting meetings took place on Feb. 20 in Cuomo’s New York City office between Cuomo and former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (the schedule misspelled D’Amato’s first name as Alphonse). Also in attendance: Top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco.

Cuomo’s office has not responded to a request for information about the meeting and a D’Amato spokeswoman said she had no information on what the sitdown was about.

There's more of that transparency that Status Cuomo has been trumpeting.

D’Amato is now a registered lobbyist with a bevy of deep-pocketed clients, including telecommunications giant Verizon New York.
...

Other D’Amato clients include the Atlantic Yards Development Company , the Trustees of Columbia University and the Real Estate Board of New York.

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NoLandGrab: In other words, D'Amato's client list is a Who's Who of eminent domain abusers.

Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

May 17, 2012

Welcoming committee isn't out for Forest City in Cambridge, Mass.

Crain's Cleveland Business
by Scott Suttell

Forest City, which is no stranger to friction with urban residents after its Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, N.Y., is getting some pushback in Boston.

Boston.com reports that neighbors of a 130-unit residential tower proposed at the edge of Central Square in Cambridge “are criticizing the size of the building and its potential effect on nearby parks.”

The 165-foot tall tower is part of a proposal by Forest City Commercial Group and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that would require passage of a zoning change by Cambridge City Council before it could be built, the website notes.

article

Related coverage...

Boston.com, Neighbors wary of tower proposed near Central Square

Speaking at a hearing about the proposal before the City Council’s Ordinance Committee Tuesday, Cambridge resident Jonathan King lamented the effect the residential tower would have on the area around Central Square and the Lafayette Square neighborhood. King said shadows would be cast on the nearby Jill Brown Rhone Park and the building would not offer a pleasant view from the park.

“The proposed residential tower will be a scar on the sight line,” King said. “This is going to be an ugly tall building out of place.”

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

May 16, 2012

Why was Forest City Ratner not touched in the Yonkers case? Law prof suggests prosecutorial discretion regarding a potential conspiracy charge that would've been tough to win

Atlantic Yards Report

Some keeping watch on the recent Yonkers corruption trial, in which former Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor, Zehy Jereis, were convicted, had to wonder why developer Forest City Ratner, the beneficiary of Annabi's vote flip to enable its huge Ridge Hill retail/residential project, went unscathed.

After all, while Annabi got nearly $200,000 from Jereis over eight years, and he got a far smaller sum from the two developers he worked with, Forest City's gain, in exchange for a no-show job it gave Jereis after the vote, was surely far greater.

Annabi's vote unlocked progress on a project on which Forest City had already spent some $70 million. Forest City's potential losses, from delay, from selling Ridge Hill to other investors, or from shrinking the project, could have been huge. And it only cost Forest City a commitment of $60,000 to Jereis, who ultimately was paid only for three months: $15,000.

So, why didn't prosecutors target the biggest beneficiary?

article

Posted by eric at 12:47 PM

May 14, 2012

Crime Report: Thief Crashes Big Steiner Celeb Bash

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

After a rare off-week, Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center mall reappears on the crime blotter — along with its crime-ridden sister-mall.

It was a different sort of week for the cops in the 88th Precinct, with a rare crime inside the Steiner Studios film center and lots of good collars. Of course, there was more crime in the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls, and some car thefts and burglaries.
...

More Mall Rats

A thief stole a wallet from a shopper inside the crime-riddled Target department store in the Atlantic Terminal Mall on May 8.

The victim told cops that she had been shopping inside the store at around 6:20 p.m. when a pickpocket swiped the wallet — and with it various credit cards.

The thief tried to use the credit cards at a nearby Applebee’s and in a Metrocard machine, but failed. But the villain was more successful at the Macy’s on Fulton Street, where he or she rang up more than $1,000 in purchases, cops said.

Bathroom Break

A thief waited until an Atlantic Center Mall customer was in the bathroom before he or she stole an iPhone and wallet from the shopper’s baby stroller on May 10.

The victim told cops that she was stopping at the crime-addled mall on Atlantic Avenue at around 4:30 p.m. when she needed some restroom relief. After conducting her business, she returned to the hallway to discover that someone had taken her phone and wallet.

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Posted by eric at 4:42 PM

May 10, 2012

Gehry Spire Stake on Block

The Wall Street Journal
by Laura Kusisto

Savvy sale — or strapped for cash?

As apartment rents in Manhattan hit new highs, the owners of New York by Gehry, the city's tallest rental building, are looking to cash in by putting a stake in the tower up for sale.

A venture led by Forest City Ratner Cos., which developed the Frank Gehry-designed silver spiral in lower Manhattan, is seeking to sell as much as a 49% interest in a deal that is expected to value the 76-story building at more than $1 billion.
...

Forest City and its partner in the tower, National Electrical Benefit Fund, are looking to take advantage of the high demand among investors for New York City apartment buildings, which have been steadily increasing rents despite the shaky economy. Dallas-based Invesco Real Estate, for example, recently closed on a nearly $60 million purchase of the Arias in Park Slope, which was built as condos and converted to rentals.
...

Some in the industry, though, believe the rental market has peaked as renters are fed up with rising prices and may turn to buying. Thousands of new rental units are also in development, adding more competition to the market.

article

Photo: Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal

Posted by eric at 11:04 PM

Where were promised union jobs, and wages for training program? Lawsuit by trainees against BUILD, Forest City faces key court argument tomorrow; defendants ask judge to dismiss most but not all claims

Atlantic Yards Report

Amid the Barbra Streisand hoopla, Atlantic Yards controversy persists.

The federal lawsuit filed last November against Forest City Ratner and job-training group BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development) faces a crucial hearing Friday, May 11, as a federal court will hear arguments on the defendants' motions to get most but not all of the charges dismissed.

Seven (of 36) people who went through a highly-competitive pre-apprenticeship training program (PATP) enumerated in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), sued BUILD, Forest City, and individual executives, as well as the company that BUILD found to provide unpaid training for them.

The plaintiffs, who sued on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, seek to recover not only unpaid wages but also to recover damages based on what they call broken promises that led them to participate in a "sham employment training program."

Whatever the result of the motions, some version of the case will persist. If the motions are unsuccessful, the court argument will ultimately concern damages that represent lost earnings from a union career, and paid potentially by deep-pocketed corporate defendants.

If successful, the motions will reduce the case to an argument about smaller sums that represent unpaid wages from the training program, paid by less-established defendants. Note that a motion to dismiss must treat allegations as true, but argue that, as a matter of law, they are not valid.

The hearing will be at 11:30 am in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Courtroom 6C South, Brooklyn, before Judge John Gleeson.

article

Posted by eric at 1:05 PM

May 8, 2012

Putting the Tech in Metrotech

Start-Up MakerBot Industries to Move to Downtown Brooklyn; Engineers Mixing With Office Workers

The Wall Street Journal
by Laura Kusisto

Metrotech is getting its first actual tech tenant in its 20-year existence.

The MakerBot lease is also good news for Forest City Ratner Cos., which owns One Metrotech and a large chunk of Downtown Brooklyn's office space.

In recent years, the landlord tried to attract more media, nonprofit and technology companies to the area, especially given that demand for back-office space has shrunk.

"We've had creative, media and not-for-profit tenants. This is our first technology company. We hope it's the first of many," said MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial and residential development for Forest City.

article

Related coverage...

The RED Wrap [CrainsNewYork.com], Forest City’s neighbors hold key

When the young co-founder of a hot, fast-growing maker of 3-D printers talked about why he recently decided to become the first tech tenant at downtown Brooklyn’s MetroTech complex, which was built 20 years ago to house back offices for Wall Street firms, he had some surprising reasons. Sure, MakerBot Industries’ Bre Pettis mentioned the area’s excellent transportation links and views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. But he also threw into the proximity to Shake Shack and Five Guys....

Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

Crime Report: Beatings, Thefts and a Cop is Run Over

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

It was a wild week in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill’s 88th Precinct, with some random beatings, lots of pockets picked, more crime at the Atlantic Terminal Mall and the second week of an ongoing catalytic converter crime wave.
...

More Atlantic Mall Crime

At least two shoppers at the crime-ridden Atlantic Terminal Mall had bags stolen last week:

  • One shopper told cops that she was inside the Target on May 5 at around 3 p.m. when she discovered that her wallet, containing various cards and cash, had been taken off her baby stroller.

  • Another shopper with a baby stroller told police that she lost her wallet in the same manner a half-hour later.

article

Posted by eric at 12:15 PM

May 3, 2012

Yonkers trial update: Annabi aims to set aside verdict

Atlantic Yards Report

Former Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi, whose flipped vote on Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill development led in part to her indictment and then conviction on federal corruption charges, is looking to see that set aside. The Journal News reported yesterday, in Sandy Annabi seeks new trial, new attorney tells The Journal News:

Attorney Edward Sapone said today that he is preparing two post-conviction motions on the grounds that “no rational juror could have found guilt beyond a reasonable doubt as to any of the counts of which Miss Annabi was convicted.”

Sapone noted that during the trial U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon herself expressed skepticism – without jurors present – over the government’s case against Annabi and former Yonkers Republican Chairman Zehy Jereis, who was also convicted after the five-week trial.

McMahon questioned whether prosecutors would be able to prove a key element of the case – that money Jereis spent on Annabi influenced how she voted on the city council.

Post-trial motions must be filed by June 18, and sentencing is scheduled for September 20. However, not only can McMahon be asked to vacate the verdict, an appeal can be filed.

link

Related coverage...

The Journal News, New Annabi lawyer seeks retrial in corruption case

Federal prosecutors argued at the trial that, although it was a circumstantial case, they had ample evidence of a conspiracy. In the end, the jury convicted Annabi and Jereis, her cousin and political mentor, on all counts on March 29.

Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

April 27, 2012

Former State Senator Is Sentenced to 7 Years in Vast Bribery Case

The New York Times
by Benjamin Weiser

Sorry you won't be at the Barc for opening night, Carl. Don't forget to write!

Carl Kruger, the once-powerful New York State senator from Brooklyn who resigned his office in disgrace and pleaded guilty to corruption charges in December, was sentenced to seven years in prison on Thursday by a federal judge in Manhattan.

Mr. Kruger, 62, was the first defendant to be sentenced in a widespread bribery conspiracy case that originally ensnared eight people, and was seen as offering yet more evidence of the apparently unending wave of corruption in Albany.

article

NoLandGrab: Albany... and Prospect Heights.

Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

April 25, 2012

Crime Report: More Thieves at Ratner’s Atlantic Malls

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

It was another busy week for the cops in the 88th Precinct, what with continuing crime from both of Bruce Ratner’s malls, the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal, whose safety and security were the subject of a big analysis last week on The Local.
...

More Crime at Atlantic Center

A woman was beaten and mugged inside the Atlantic Center Mall on April 19, the latest incident at the crime-ridden shopping center.

The victim told cops that she was inside the shopping center, near the intersection at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues at around 4:40 p.m. when a thug approached and punched her. In the ensuing confusion, he grabbed her bag, which contained books and a cellphone charger, and fled.

More Crime at Atlantic Terminal

Two shoplifters were arrested for taking more than $1,500 in goods from the Target department store inside the Atlantic Terminal Mall on April 22, cops said, the latest incident at the crime-ridden shopping center.

Police said that the two men — ages 36 and 38 — attempted to leave the Flatbush Avenue store with undisclosed items at around 7:20 p.m., but were quickly apprehended.

article

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

April 21, 2012

From DDDB: "A Ratner's Gallery of Cronies, Friends, Partners, Fixers and Shrill Supporters"

Atlantic Yards Report

From DDDB, A Ratner's Gallery of Cronies, Friends, Partners, Fixers and Shrill Supporters, "Yesterday marked the latest indictment of Forest City Ratner cronies, partners and strident Atlantic Yards supporters/operatives."

Read on for the list, which includes (as per DDDB language):

  • Salvester (Sal) Zarzana,
  • Disgraced State Senator Carl Kruger
  • Disgraced Atlantic Yards lobbyist Richard Lipsky
  • Disgraced former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi
  • Disgraced Yonkers GOP operative and fixer Zehy Jereis
  • He who feels no sense of disgrace James Stuckey
  • James Caldwell, currently being sued in federal court

link

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

April 20, 2012

AY down the memory hole: Forest City Ratner's malls identified as "crime epicenter," again contradicting Atlantic Yards Blight Study, which absolved them

Atlantic Yards Report

Of all the dubious work that the ubiquitous environmental consulting firm AKRF has done on Atlantic Yards, its crime study, aimed to support the conclusion that the Atlantic Yards footprint was blighted, was most clearly bankrupt.

Remember, AKRF suggested that a little-populated, railyard-dominated section of footprint, rather than Forest City Ratner's two malls, was responsible for the crime spike in Sector E of the 88th Precinct. But it never checked with the cops to square their observations and statistics with the surely self-serving numbers reported by the malls.

From the New York Times's blog The Local today, Our Crime Epicenter: The Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center Malls:

The Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls aren’t just hubs for Fort Greene shoppers and commuters — they’re also the neighborhood hotspots for criminals.

The adjoining shopping centers, owned and developed by Atlantic Yards master builder Bruce Ratner, have been the site of at least 26 reported crimes, and countless other thefts, making it the singular crime epicenter in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill’s 88th Precinct.

From the Atlantic Yards Blight Study:

For example, while there were 39 robberies in sector 88E in 2005, the shopping center security records indicate that no robberies occurred that year at Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal. Similarly, while there were 115 grand larceny crimes reported for sector 88E in 2005, the shopping center security force recorded only one incident of larceny that same year. Although crimes catalogued by the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal security staff are not necessarily the same as those catalogued by the NYPD, the relatively low number of crimes reported at the shopping centers indicates that the high crime rate in sector 88E is more likely a result of crimes occurring on the project site than in Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal.

I've been reporting on the malls' crime problems for years. As I wrote in March 2009, the police had said that the malls were responsible for the area's crime problem.

Helpful study

But AKRF's work was very useful to Forest City Ratner and its enablers. Remember, Jim Stuckey, then president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group, straightfacedly told WNYC talk show host Brian Lehrer in July 2006, "The crime in these [AY footprint] areas is substantially higher than areas around it."

article

NoLandGrab: Like AKRF, Stuckey was never one to let the truth get in the way of a paycheck.

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

Our Crime Epicenter: The Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center Malls

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

The big joke, of course, is that crack Environmental Impact Study consultants AKRF ascribed virtually all the crime in the area to the adjacent neighborhood — you know, the one Bruce Ratner wanted to bulldoze.

The Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls aren’t just hubs for Fort Greene shoppers and commuters — they’re also the neighborhood hotspots for criminals.

The adjoining shopping centers, owned and developed by Atlantic Yards master builder Bruce Ratner, have been the site of at least 26 reported crimes, and countless other thefts, making it the singular crime epicenter in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill’s 88th Precinct.

Just this year, there have been at least:

  • 14 purses and wallets stolen.
  • Four reported — and countless unreported — incidents of shoplifting.
  • Two victims losing $1,200 in an iPad scam.
  • Two fights.
  • Three muggings or attempted muggings.
  • One theft of a bicycle.

The crime is so bad that the 88th Precinct’s commanding officer, Capt. Scott Henderson, is quick to remind shoppers to stay alert.

“I can’t stress this enough: Close your pocketbook, keep it close to your person, don’t leave the purse in the shopping cart,” he said.

article

NoLandGrab: Better yet, just stay out of them altogether.

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

A Ratner's Gallery of Cronies, Friends, Partners, Fixers and Shrill Supporters

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

It's getting easier to count Atlantic Yards supporters who haven't gone to jail or been indicted, but DDDB takes a shot at it.

Yesterday marked the latest indictment of Forest City Ratner cronies, partners and strident Atlantic Yards supporters/operatives. Here's the tally:

Click through for more, as the list goes on. And on.

article

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

April 19, 2012

Phil Reisman: Caution is wise when dealing with Forest City

The Journal News
by Phil Reisman

In a certain well-known novel about a whale, the aged Elijah warns Ishmael and his tattooed pal Queequeg that they will lose their souls if they sign on with Captain Ahab.

They ignored him and ... well, you know the rest.

Is there a political lesson in this seafaring disaster story?

I contemplated the question after talking to former Yonkers City Councilman John Murtagh about Forest City Ratner Companies, the super-sized developer of literally millions of square feet of real estate in the metropolitan region — including the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, Ridge Hill in Yonkers and the Echo Bay project in New Rochelle.
...

“Given their track record in Brooklyn and Yonkers, I would warn any municipality I came across to watch out for these guys because I just think they’re bad operators,” Murtagh said. “They ride roughshod over communities. They quite frankly — legally or otherwise — buy off politicians. They game the system for their advantage.”

article

NoLandGrab: There's really nothing we can add.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Did Atlantic Yards "effectively wipe out the Flatbush section of Brooklyn"? No.

Norman Oder takes issue with one detail in the Journal News column, in which Reisman wrote:

Atlantic Yards is a colossus of a project that effectively wipes out the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. It has spawned many lawsuits and protests from residents and merchants who regard Forest City Ratner to be evil incarnate.

The comment I tried to post:

For the record, whatever you think of Atlantic Yards, it cannot "effectively wipes out the Flatbush section of Brooklyn," because it's not *in* the Flatbush neighborhood. That's more than a mile away. The project is located in the northwest edge of Prospect Heights, and has a significant impact there, including a stretch of adjacent Flatbush Avenue.

I'd add that merchants are likely divided, with some of them, especially purveyors of food and drink, pretty darn happy. And that a closer look at Atlantic Yards suggests that the developer, as with Ridge Hill, plays hardball when it counts.

Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

Former Forest City executive James P. Stuckey, after leaving NYU job under a cloud, rebuilds in Florida (spambot comment: "James P. Stuckey will definitely be a legend")

Atlantic Yards Report

The always, um, colorful James P. Stuckey is back, sort of, as detailed in this entertaining Atlantic Yards Report post. Look out, Florida!

Jim Stuckey, who shepherded the Atlantic Yards project for Forest City Ratner until his mysterious mid-2007 departure, later went to New York University, where last fall he made another abrupt departure.

It turns out that Stuckey and NYU were later sued for sexual harassment--Stuckey and NYU said his departure was for health reasons--and the New York Post reported that allegations of sexual harassment caused the executive's departure from Forest City.

Now Stuckey has relocated from Staten Island to Naples, FL, and still operates his firm Verdant Properties. His personal website, like his Twitter feed, seems crammed with the phrase "James P. Stuckey," perhaps helpful in the process of reputation management....

Click through for the wackiness.

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Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

April 18, 2012

Crime Report: A Busy Week of Purse — And Copper — Thefts

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

When you look up "lame-brained" in the dictionary, the first definition reads "entering one of Bruce Ratner's malls with $7,000 in your purse."

It was a very busy week for the 88th Precinct, with a number of assaults at the notorious Tillary Street women’s shelter, several thefts at the crime-riddled Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls and a couple of thefts of copper, the semi-unprecious metal whose increasing value has driven a mini-crime wave.

Burgled At Burlington

A thief swiped a pocketbook from a shopper at Burlington Coat Factory in the Atlantic Center Mall on April 14. The 51-year-old woman told police she left her purse unattended in her shopping cart at 6:30 p.m. but it was not there when she returned to it.

She lost $7,000, a passport, a wallet and a birth certificate.

Bust Buy

A grifter disguised as a Best Buy employee tricked a man into handing over $1,200 for nothing on April 9.

The 25-year-old man told cops that he was shopping at the Guitar Center in Atlantic Terminal Mall when a stranger outfitted in the telltale blue uniform said he could get the man three iPads for half price. The man met with his new contact outside the Best Buy and gave him $1,200 for the coveted tablets.

The supposed Best Buy worker went into the electronics store and never came back. It’s the second time this year that the exact same scam has gone down.

Targeted

A pickpocket preyed on a woman in the baby section of Target in the Atlantic Terminal Mall on April 12, stealing her purse.

The 29-year-old woman told cops that her bag was inside the shopping cart, but it was not there when she tried to pay at the register at around 9:15 p.m.

The crook got away with a digital camera, a Samsung phone and a Bank of America card, which the scoundrel tried to use about a half-hour earlier.

article

Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Police: Man beat woman with cane

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

New Rochelle City Council Votes 7-0 on Revised Waterfront Proposal for Echo Bay and Armory

Talk of the Sound
by Robert Cox

A vote that was widely expected to go 5-2 along party lines in favor of extending the Forest City MOU with the City of New Rochelle passed 7-0 in favor after a last minute deal was struck under which changes to the term sheet shortened the length of the MOU extension from 18 months to 9 months while creating a concurrent RFP process for the New Rochelle Armory.

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Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

April 17, 2012

Ex-Forest City officials Bender and Cantone launch consulting office, cite "existing and future clients"

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone, formerly the two top government relations officials at Brooklyn-based developer Forest City Ratner, have finally launched Bender Cantone Consulting, which they call "a full service public affairs firm specializing in governmental relations, public policy, political consulting, strategic communications and community outreach." (The BenderCantone.com URL doesn't work yet.)

Word of the move emerged two months ago, perhaps not coincidentally before both testified in the federal corruption trial that led to the convictions of former Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi, a Democrat, and her political mentor and close friend, Zehy Jereis, chairman of the Yonkers Republican Party. A jury agreed that Jereis's nearly $200,000 in payments to Annabi were intended to influence her vote, including her flip on Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill retail/residential project.

Bender and Cantone, unable to get a meeting with Annabi, finally got one via Jereis, who promptly asked for a job. Forest City strung him along until after Annabi's vote, then hired him for an essentially no-show job, ultimately paying him $15,000. "We were between a rock and a hard place," Bender said on the stand.

Neither Forest City nor its staffers were charged, but even a pro-development type like Crain's New York Business columnist Greg David criticized the company's "See no evil, hear no evil" posture.

Bender and Cantone, however much their reputations may have been dinged, said in a mass email Monday that they "look forward to utilizing this experience for the benefit of our existing and future clients," so their connections--built up not merely at Forest City but at the City Council and Mayor's Office, not to mention Brooklyn's powerful Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club--apparently still bear fruit.

link

Posted by steve at 9:07 AM

April 13, 2012

Court: More environmental analysis needed at Atlantic Yards project

Meadowlands Matters [NorthJersey.com]
by John Brennan

As is (sadly) all to often the case, the Bergen Record's John Brennan is more on top of the Atlantic Yards story than most of his New York City brethren.

A New York State Appellate Court panel – in upholding New York Supreme Court Judge Marcy Friedman’s ruling from last July – dismantled the case made by the project’s backers, including ESDC, piece-by-piece.

To clarify up front for Nets fans who know that the $1 billion Barclays Center is scheduled to open in September: this ruling does not derail that opening.

But it does complicate matters for project developers who, in a second phase, are supposed to complete work on most of the 16 skyscrapers around the arena. That work, while of no direct impact on North Jersey sports fans, is of great importance in Brooklyn communities to when – or whether – the project ever produces anywhere near the jobs and affordable housing numbers touted when the project was in its pre-development stages years ago.
...

Sounds like ESDC has some ‘splainin’ to do. I’ll be curious to see if the mainstream New York media digs deeper, considering we have a multi-billion New York City project here – and successive court rulings rebuking the judgment of the state agency that is supposed to be the people’s watchdog to make sure the project rolls out properly.

Emphasis, ours.

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NoLandGrab: If the ESDC hadn't failed to disclose material information, New York State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman would likely have required a supplemental environmental review and state reauthorization that would have prevented Bruce Ratner from beating the December 31, 2009 deadline to secure tax-free financing, rendering him unable to raise the funds necessary to build. Therefore, from this point forward, we'll be referring to it as the "fraudulently constructed Barclays Center."

Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Atlantic Yards Foes Win In Court, But Impact is Unclear

Opponents of the Atlantic Yards project — whose basketball arena is nearing completion at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues — are demanding changes to the mega-development in the wake of an appellate court ruling today that officials violated state environmental law by allowing the project’s developer far more time to finish the job.

Proponents, or better put, Forest City's state lackeys, are singing a different tune...

Empire State Development Corporation Director Arana Hankin issued a statement: “Although Empire State Development is disappointed with the decision, we are fully committed to building a world-class development that will bring thousands of jobs and affordable housing to Brooklyn. The decision does not prevent the arena opening this fall, nor does it affect any aspect of Phase I development, and we will continue working toward the full build-out of the project.”

WNYC, Court Upholds Atlantic Yards Project Ruling

Brooklyn Council Member Letitia James who has long criticized the project said "its clear that if the facts regarding the impact of the development two years ago, the resulting decision would have halted construction." She added that she believes the decision will affect some of the community enhancing parts of the plan. "We can be almost certain at this point that the jobs and housing originally promised will not come to fruition any time soon...."

New York Magazine Daily Intel, Appellate Court Rebukes State Agency for Backing Atlantic Yards

The ruling also backs community claims that there was something fishy about how the state agency went to bat for Forest City Ratner's $4.9 billion project. When the state chose not to study the environmental impact of an extended 25-year buildout in 2009, it helped Forest City meet a crucial deadline and save more than $100 million on tax-exempt bonds.

Reuters, Appeals court calls for review of Atlantic Yards project

An attorney for Develop Don't Destroy, Jeffrey Baker, said his clients were "pleased that (Thursday's) ruling vindicates everything we've been saying since 2009."

"What's disappointing is that we now have further proof from this court that the arena would never have even started construction if EDSC and Forest City Ratner had been honest about the process," Baker said.

Prospect Heights Patch, Appellate Court Orders Additional Review for Atlantic Yards Project

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com], Appellate panel confirms state review of Atlantic Yards was illegal

AP via NBC New York, Court: Atlantic Yards Need Environmental Review

Posted by eric at 2:04 PM

How the appellate court, in its way, backed up Lupica: "It was a hustle in broad daylight by Caring Bruce Ratner from the start"

Atlantic Yards Report

After the March 2010 Barclays Center groundbreaking, Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica commented, "It was a hustle in broad daylight by Caring Bruce Ratner from the start."

The hustle wouldn't have worked without help from Ratner's partner in government, the Empire State Development Corporation, aka Empire State Development (ESD), which had recently completed a clever, devious move, withholding the Development Agreement for Atlantic Yards, thus obscuring the project timetable.

Now the ESD, courts have said definitively, chose expediency over candor, in order to get Atlantic Yards re-approved in 2009 and to enable that groundbreaking. However little the decision may change things on the ground, it's a moral victory and an important message about honest government and the lack thereof. That's news, though not everyone thinks so.

"But the reason why we think Forest City will go forward with this project, and we have every reason to believe so, is that we have a Development Agreement with Forest City that requires it to do so," agency attorney Philip Karmel said in court in January 2010, as detailed below. "I don't know what else ESDC can do."

Well, it could have released that document, which would have revealed how the developer had 12 years to build Phase 1 and 25 years for Phase 2, rather than incentives to get the whole thing done in a decade.

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Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

April 12, 2012

Atlantic Yards Loses in Court. Court Slams ESDC and Orders New Project Review

VICTORY IN COURT FOR DDDB & COMMUNITY

Unanimous Appellate Court Decision Slams ESDC, Forces NY State to Do Supplemental Review and New Approval of Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project

Golden Opportunity for Governor Cuomo To Fix the Atlantic Yards Debacle

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), BrooklynSpeaks and all of their co-plaintiff community groups have won another victory in court over the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner—their second in a row.

In a unanimous decision, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court today found that Justice Marcy Friedman correctly ruled in July 2011 that the ESDC's 2009 approval of Atlantic Yards' Modified General Project Plan violated State environmental law.

The decision upholds the lower court's order that the ESDC initiate a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and new approval process on Phase 2 of the Atlantic Yards project, which includes the bulk of the 22 acre project and the bulk of the non-arena portion of the demolished site.

A public hearing on the SEIS will be mandatory.
...

"The fact is that the project should never have been approved at all—it is entirely illegitimate," said DDDB's legal director Candace Carponter. "The tragedy here is, but for the blatant misrepresentations to the Court by Forest City Ratner and ESDC, it would been determined in 2010 that an SEIS was required and that would have stopped construction of Barclays Arena. ESDC's dishonesty has allowed that to go forward and the community is already feeling the adverse impacts that have long been forecast. We hope that ESDC will abandon its servile devotion to Forest City Ratner and start representing the citizens of this area."

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Posted by eric at 3:46 PM

Appellate Court smacks down ESD, upholds decision ordering new study of long-term Atlantic Yards impact, requires new approval of Phase II

Atlantic Yards Report

(This will be updated.)

In a unanimous decision with almost no chance for appeal, a state appellate court has unanimously upheld a lower court's decision to require the state to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement regarding the second phase of Atlantic Yards and to re-approve the second phase.

In other words, the state should not have misled the public with its irrational insistence that Atlantic Yards could be built in a decade rather than, as is likely, a much longer period, even 25 years, as allowed by a belatedly released Development Agreement.

Nor did the state analyze the possibility of a scenario "in which area residents must tolerate vacant lots, above-ground arena parking, and Phase II construction staging for decades."

The case, known as Matter of Develop Don't Destroy (Brooklyn), Inc. v Empire State Dev. Corp., involves two sets of petitioners, a coalition led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and another led by members of Brooklyn Speaks. Both the Empire State Development Corporation (aka Empire State Development) and Forest City Ratner were defendants.

The decision has no impact on the Barclays Center arena, but complicates Forest City Ratner's plans regarding Phase II and casts a further shadow over the questionable approval process for the project. It also endorses skepticism about whether the promised jobs and affordable housing will be delivered in the long-promised ten years.

The defendants can appeal, but given the unanimous decision and the emphatic language, it's very unlikely.

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Posted by eric at 12:42 PM

April 10, 2012

Crime Report: Lots of Robberies And Other Mayhem

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

If it's "lots of robberies and other mayhem," it's got to be Bruce Ratner's malls.

Daffy’s Ducked

A shopper at Daffy’s inside the crime-ridden Atlantic Center Mall had her wallet stolen as she tried on shoes on March 31, police said.

The 73-year-old victim told cops that she had put her bag down inside the store, which is on Atlantic Avenue near Flatbush Avenue, at around 5 p.m. When she tried to pay for her items, she discovered that her wallet was missing. When she called her credit card companies, she was told that the thief had already rung up more than $1,000 in purchases.

Thrice the Trouble at Target

Thieves preyed on shoppers at the Target inside the Atlantic Terminal Mall last week. Here are the details:

  • A criminal swiped a wallet off a shopping cart inside the department store on April 2 at around 3 p.m., cops said. The shopper said that she lost cards and a phone charger.
  • A woman had her bag stolen while shopping at around 5 p.m. on April 4, losing a variety of cards, but cancelling them before the crook could buy anything.
  • And the next day, a thief stole a purse from a shopper’s cart, getting away with $100 and various cards.

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Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

April 9, 2012

Forest City Ratner's 2011 city/state lobbying: 50% jump, with big contract to Kasirer; in Congress, D'Amato's firm lobbied for EB-5, and even got paid for not lobbying

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner may not be among the state's top ten in lobbying expenditures any more, but the firm still dished out more than $500,000 in 2011 to influence legislation and official action in Albany and New York City. The total represents a nearly 50% increase over its spending in 2010, according to online lobby data.

What did the money buy? Well, it aimed to stymie the creation of a new Atlantic Yards governance entity (so far successful); usher in mixed martial arts at venues including the Barclays Center (not yet successful); influence the Department of Buildings, presumably on modular construction (unclear, but the DOB chief is a supporter); stymie (presumably) eminent domain reform (so far successful); and even address ticket scalping, aka "resale" (inconclusive).

Such lobbying expenditures put into perspective the $60,000 contract for a no-show job the firm gave "consultant" Zehy Jereis in 2006 after he helped get Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi to flip her vote in favor of Forest City's Ridge Hill project, the subject of a recent corruption trial. If they can spend half a million bucks on lobbyists, the thought might be, what's another $60K?

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NoLandGrab: Well, at least they're not having to pay Richard Lipsky for lobbying anymore.

Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

April 5, 2012

Yonkers is nearly broke, and "one-shot budget gimmicks" like Ridge Hill payment are part of the problem

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember the just-concluded Yonkers corruption trial, regarding, in part, ex-Council Member Sandy Annabi's 2006 vote in favor of Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill retail/residential project?

The ostensible justification for the vote, argued vigorously by Annabi's lawyer, was the developer's willingness to pay $10.8 million more. Prosecutors said the money was "peanuts," in the words of one pro-project Council Member, and that Annabi flipped because of her relationship and reliance on funds from her political mentor, Zehy Jereis. Both were convicted.

Though Annabi's attorney argued that that was the best deal available, it had already been on the table.

Now, offering more backing for the prosecution's theory, a new report notes that the Ridge Hill payment was just one of several unwise "one-shot budget gimmicks" used by the city.

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Posted by eric at 8:51 PM

If Downtown Brooklyn office space has a "staggering 26.8% availability" (as per The Real Deal), what does that say about the projected Atlantic Yards office space?

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how the four Atlantic Yards office towers were a slam dunk, according to Forest City Ratner's paid consultant, sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, because office space as of 2004 was supposed to be doing fine?

Well, The Real Deal reports on Brooklyn’s Class A woes: Borough’s Downtown market sees highest availability in office space in more than a decade. The article does leave out some important context:

  • that the demand for office space drove the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, which instead enabled residential towers and hotels
  • that the promised Atlantic Yards office space was crucial to the count of permanent jobs and the total tax revenue

The number of planned office towers at the AY site was cut from four to one, but that one building hasn't been developed, without an anchor tenant.

So, the article suggests that Bruce Ratner's snappy comment to Crain's New York Business in November 2009--"Can you tell me when we are going to need a new office tower?"--remains very much valid.

Perhaps the only true words Bruce has ever uttered.

As I wrote in March 2006, Zimbalist, while predicting Atlantic Yards would eventually create 1.9 million square feet of first-class office space, made no mention of a study of Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment issued a month earlier, which estimated a glut of office space.

In their June 2004 critique, Gustav Peebles and Jung Kim pointed out that Zimbalist didn't point out how so much of the then-well-occupied Class A office space in Brooklyn is at Forest City Ratner's MetroTech development, which has relied heavily on subsidies and government tenants to fill the space.

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Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Yonkers mayor orders background checks for appointees

Politics on the Hudson
by Colin Gustafson

Calling for greater government transparency, the mayor on Tuesday called for mandatory background checks for potential appointees to city boards and commissions.

Candidates for these bodies, Mayor Mike Spano said, should be subject to the same “rigorous checks and balances” as city employees. The city personnel department will conduct the investigations.
...

His announcement follows the dramatic conclusion of the corruption trial of former Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and former GOP boss Zehy Jereis, who were found guilty Thursday of federal conspiracy, bribery and extortion charges.

In the wake of the trial, the mayor — whose brother, former state Sen. Nicholas Spano, pleaded guilty in February to federal tax-evasion charges — has also noted his efforts to beef up the city’s ethics code. Those include appointing three new ethics board members and requiring all city department employees to take annual ethics training.

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NoLandGrab: Never mind that — how about background checks for real estate developers?

Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

April 4, 2012

Thieves loot Hanson Place apartment

The Brooklyn Paper
by Eli Rosenberg

Somebody call a security guard! Oh, wait...

Phone home

Three thugs robbed a security guard on Flatbush Avenue on March 31.

The 23-year-old victim told cops he was in the Atlantic Terminal Mall at 2:45 pm, confronting three men who were bothering a woman. That’s when the jerks grabbed him, took his $500 Motorola radio, and fled.

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NoLandGrab: When the security staff is victimized, who are they supposed to call for backup, anyway?

Posted by eric at 12:38 PM

NY tax agency takes Brooklyn

NY Post
by Steve Cuozzo

The taxpayers are again lining Bruce Ratner's pockets, as another New York State entity takes space at MetroSubsidyTech.

The state Dept. of Taxation and Finance is saving taxpayer dough by moving across the East River.

In one of the year’s largest relocations, the agency is leaving behind its 1740 Broadway offices for Brooklyn’s much cheaper 15 Metrotech Center, The Post has learned.

The agency is taking 133,000 square feet at Bruce Ratner’s complex via a sublease from health insurer Wellfleet. The move will reduce the state unit’s lease cost per square foot from $64 at Vornado’s 1740 Broadway to just $19.50 — resulting in $3.3 million in savings the first year, according to a department spokesperson.

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NoLandGrab: Yes, it's all about saving the taxpayers money.

Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

April 2, 2012

Charlie Rose Does Infomercial For Forest City Ratner

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White returns from an Atlantic Yards hiatus with a takedown of the Channel 13 interview he very aptly terms an "infomercial."

On March 10, 2012 Charlie Rose broadcast what was in effect a half hour, high production value infomercial for Bruce Ratner, his arena and his proposed Atlantic Yards.
...

Rose's interview of Ratner was so much like a late night infomercial that you can read Rose’s questions to, and other exchanges with, Ratner without reading Ratner's responses to know approximately what Ratner came prepared to say and ultimately did say during the interview. I am providing them further below in this article so you can put this assertion to the test. Rose's exchanges are like cue cards to keep Mr. Ratner on track with a predetermined message. Rose's side of the conversation consisted of three categories of things: 1.) friendly and leading questions, 2.) helpful restatements of what he suspected Ratner hadn't said well enough, 3.) oddly enthusiastic exclamations of praise. The eager breathlessness with which Ratner tumbled out his responses added to the feel of this being an infomercial.

Read on for more, including the fascinating one-sided transcript (Charlie could really have handled the infomercial solo), and White's exposure of bad-poker-player Bruce's "tell."

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Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

April 1, 2012

Forest City Ratner: good corporate citizen or relentless seeker of advantage? (100% non-invented quotes)

Atlantic Yards Report

“I think all of this stems from [Bruce Ratner's] sense of what it means to be a good corporate citizen..." -- Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in the Forward, May 2011

"ESDC is fully aware of the Ridge Hill investigation; we have discussed the same directly with Forest City and we have reached out to official authorities. We remain confident in Forest City as a developer and as a good corporate citizen and we are moving forward with the Project." -- Empire State Development Corporation spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell, March, 2010

"“Just left emergency rm my wife needs surgery tomorrow no fucking around get sandy on bd tell your brother we need help now I have to close this and take care of my family.” -- Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, September 2005, revealed in Ridge Hill corruption trial, February 2012

"My dilemma is as you know, I don't mind fucking the bridge, I can't fuck it right now, I've got to leverage that bridge, what's my value?" -- Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, December 2010, revealed in Carl Kruger investigation, March 2011

link

Posted by steve at 11:30 PM

March 31, 2012

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.

article

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.

article

Posted by eric at 11:35 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

March 30, 2012

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.

link

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.)

article

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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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

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

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

March 27, 2012

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.

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Posted by eric at 11:05 PM

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.

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Related coverage...

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

Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

March 23, 2012

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

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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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

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

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

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

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

March 16, 2012

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.

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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

March 15, 2012

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.

article

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."

article

Posted by eric at 12:45 PM

March 14, 2012

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.

article

Posted by eric at 11:19 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.

article

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

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.

article

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

March 13, 2012

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.

link

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

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.

link

Related coverage...

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

Posted by eric at 11:12 PM

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.

article

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.

article

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

March 9, 2012

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

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

March 8, 2012

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

March 6, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

February 29, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

Brooklyn Police Officer Is Accused of Driving Patrol Car While Drunk

link

Posted by eric at 10:08 PM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

Got "bilked"?

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

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

It wasn't.

article

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

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

article

Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

Tales From The Far Side -- Forest City Story

Talk of the Sound
by Warren Gross

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

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

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

article

Related coverage...

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

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

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

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

NY Post
by Rich Calder

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

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

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

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

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

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

article

Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

Follow the link to learn what he found.

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

Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

February 28, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened to the Times?

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

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

article

Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

article

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

Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

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

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

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

Chuck E. Gone

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

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

Picked at Mall

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

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

The thief got various cards and $120.

article

Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

February 27, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

article

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

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

Trial highlights Jereis-Annabi ties

The Journal News
by Jonathan Bandler

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

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

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

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

article

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

Posted by eric at 9:45 AM

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

Talk of the Sound
by Robert Cox

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

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

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

link

Related coverage...

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

Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

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

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

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

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

article

Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

February 26, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

...

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

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

...

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

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

link

Posted by steve at 5:44 PM

February 25, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

link

Posted by steve at 11:04 PM

Forest City known for tough political skills around region

The Journal News

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

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

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

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

link

Posted by steve at 10:59 PM

February 24, 2012

Official: Annabi meeting led to job

The Journal News
by Jonathan Bandler

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

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

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

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

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

article

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

Related coverage...

NY Post, ‘No-$how’ Ratner woe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

article

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

Posted by eric at 12:48 AM

February 23, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

Paying the fair share

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

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

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

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Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 12:49 PM

February 22, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

The first Bender meeting

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

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

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

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

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

The second Bender meeting

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

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

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

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Related content...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 1:05 PM

Ratner in talks for 100,000 s/f space

Real Estate Weekly
by Sarah Trefethen

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

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

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

They mean "scheduled," in quotes.

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

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

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Posted by eric at 12:52 PM

February 20, 2012

Yonkers corruption trial to offer look inside Westchester politics

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

The Journal News
by Jonathan Bandler

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

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

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

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

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Related coverage...

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

February 17, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

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

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

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

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

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Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

February 16, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:30 PM

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

The Journal News
by Jonathan Bandler

For love? Yeah, the love of Bruce Ratner.

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Matthew Brown/The Journal News

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

February 15, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 4:49 PM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

The Pirro connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video by Matthew Brown

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

Posted by eric at 4:26 PM

February 14, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 12:22 PM

February 13, 2012

Tracking the Tentacles of Corruption

The New York Times
by Michael Powell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by eric at 10:35 PM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Relted coverage...

True News, Forest City Ratner

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

Who Paid the Elected Officials Kruger and Annabi?

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's a pretty blanket statement.

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

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

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Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

HEARD AROUND TOWN, FEB. 12, 2012

City & State

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

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

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

February 12, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:25 PM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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Posted by steve at 5:10 PM

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

Atlantic Yards

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

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

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

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

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Posted by steve at 5:04 PM

February 10, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

Curious timing: Ridge Hill trial

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

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

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

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

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

article

Related coverage...

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

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

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Suggestion for @SteveWynnLasVegas

@ShellySilver via Twitter

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

link

Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

February 9, 2012

Audit unfair to Port Authority, critics say

Crain's Insider

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

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

link [Subscription required]

Atlantic Yards Report has more background...

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

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

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

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

Photo: SIPA web site

Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

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

The Journal News
by Phil Reisman

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

But the timing is interesting, to say the least.

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

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

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

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

article

Related coverage...

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

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

Unsatisfying answers

Reisman writes:

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

Will Bender be called to testify?

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

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

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

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

Reasons for doubt

OK, we have:

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

Compromised advisors?

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

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

article

Related content...

Barron's, Forest City Has Room to Grow

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

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Forest City To Divest its Land Business, Some Retail

The Great Recession Ends 60-Year Involvement in Land Development

CoStar Group
by Mark Heschmeyer

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

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

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

article

Posted by eric at 9:47 AM

February 8, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

link

Posted by eric at 6:26 PM

Forest City Departures, New Firm In Offing

Capital Tonight
by Liz Benjamin

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

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

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

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

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

link

Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

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

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

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

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

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

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

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

article

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

Brute knocks down woman, takes her phone

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

Cashed out

A petty pickpocket lifted $3,700 from a woman at Daffy’s in the Atlantic Center Mall on Feb. 3.

The Russian victim told police through a translator that she entered the women’s chain near Flatbush Avenue at about 2 pm. An hour later, she realized her cash, wallet, and cards were gone.

She said she had just withdrawn money from a bank and forgot to zip her bag shut before she shopped.

article

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

February 7, 2012

Arena operator seeks Community Affairs Manager; aim is to "build brand visibility," not manage relations with those bearing the brunt of arena operations

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Events Center, operator of the Barclays Center arena, is seeking a Community Affairs Manager.

Is that job aimed at ensuring good relationships with immediate neighbors, so that Prospect Heights residents aren't disturbed by arena-goers who might forget the arena Code of Conduct or car stacked up on residential streets?

Nah. It's a business, man, and that business, while pretty vague in the job description, is about "brand visibility":

The Community Affairs Manager will be responsible for ensuring active and engaged communities around a defined topic or topics by managing calendars and participating in conversations to build brand visibility and thought leadership.

Main duties

The "essential duties and responsibilities" include:

  • Communicate issues, opportunities, and insights to the company at large;
  • Participate in professional networking by following the prominent bloggers and online writers and attending events;
  • Work with local organizations to develop master list of project ideas and plans;
  • Coordinate logistics, planning, promotion and staffing of volunteer initiatives;
  • Coordinates advertising schedules and placement, as required for ads placed in community program books, newsletters, etc.;
  • Liaises with parties identified in CBA – external law enforcement, political, and public agencies;
  • Involvement in city council meetings and activities;
  • Coordinate all MWBE initiatives and report quarterly results to CBA executive board

In the list above, I think there's some awkward punctuation in the third-to-last item; law enforcement, political, and public agencies are not part of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) but would be separate parties.

link

NoLandGrab: Now when we have the feeling we're being followed, we'll know why.

Posted by eric at 8:42 AM

February 6, 2012

Cool Energy Savings images

AmericanEnergyCouncil.org

A blog post about energy-saving technologies provides a reminder about the sordid history of The New York Times Building.

The site for the building was obtained by the Empire State Development Corporation through eminent domain in 2001. With a mandate to acquire and redevelop blighted properties in Times Square, ten existing buildings were condemned by the EDC and purchased, behind court order, from owners who in some cases did not want to sell. Once the 80,000 square-foot site was assembled, it was leased to the New York Times Company and Forest City Ratner for below market value at .6 million over 99 years.

And this will come as no surprise to those even slightly familiar with Bruce Ratner's m.o. ...

The building is promoted as a "Green" structure, though it is not LEED certified.

article

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

February 4, 2012

Forest City Enterprises stock jumps after decision to shift focus

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the stock market sure liked Forest City Enterprises' decision to divest itself of the land business and, along the way, shifting its corporate structure to have a majority of independent, non-family directors.

The stock jumped 13% yesterday, to $14.91. Last year the stock nudged over $19, while in the last five years it had risen to $70 and dipped below $4.

And Forest City ultimately should be better position to pursue projects in core markets like New York, including Atlantic Yards. (Then again, maybe they'll just keep trying to raise funds from immigrant investors.)

link

Posted by steve at 3:10 PM

February 3, 2012

Forest City doing worse on M/WBE contracting for Atlantic Yards than previously reported: ESD says total is 15.4%, not 22.6%, because some firms aren't certified

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner maintains its perfect record of not making good on an promises!

By the state's measure, developer Forest City Ratner has a much lower M/WBE (Minority and Women's Business Enterprises) utilization figure than previously reported, which suggests it's doing less than previously assumed in reaching out to businesses that truly need a boost.

On January 31, I reported that, according to statistics released by Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, the MBE awards total $91 million (about 16.3% of total purchases), while the WBE awards total $35.1 million (about 6.3% of total purchases).

Thus the combined M/WBE participation is apparently 22.6%, about three-quarters of the way toward the goal of 30% (20% MBE plus 10% WBE), as reflected in the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

Revising the numbers

Well, that was true, but I've since learned that the statistics, while released by ESD, were not only prepared by Forest City Ratner--there was no indication on the document--they do not represent the ESD's own analysis of M/WBE figures.

Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for ESD, explained:

ESD and the Atlantic Yards Project have a certified MWBE utilization contract goal of 20%. Firms must use “best efforts” to meet that goal. If they have not met the goal they must show that they have used their best efforts to retain MWBE firms through outreach and solicitation. ESD has calculated that Forest City has awarded 15.4% to MWBE certified firms to date. ESD does not count the MWBE firms that are not certified. If non-certified firms were included the percentage would increase.

Why wouldn't they be certified? I speculate that either 1) they are/were too fledgling to bother or 2) are too large and prosperous to qualify under the state's newly narrowed rules aimed to exclude M/WBE firms that are very large or led by businesspeople who are so wealthy as to be clearly not disadvantaged.

Whatever the reason, the discrepancy again points out the need for Forest City to not merely self-report but to hire the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the CBA.

article

NoLandGrab: It's official! CBA now stands for Completely Bulls**t Artifice.

Posted by eric at 1:56 PM

Forest City Enterprises, long a family-controlled corporation, to shift to a majority of independent directors; also, new plans to sell land, change corporate focus

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Enterprises (FCE), parent of Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner, is making some changes.

It has decided to sell its land band business to focus on "core rental products - apartments, office and retail properties" in core markets (including New York), and also to divest itself from properties in non-core markets.

Also, long controlled by some interlocking families, namely the Ratners, FCE is shifting its board to a majority of independent directors, rather than family members.

That may be an effort to enhance credibility in the marketplace, but even independent directors are not necessarily corporate watchdogs, as history has proven again and again. FCE public board meetings, at least according to webcasts, show a clubby, go-along atmosphere.

article

Related content...

FCE Press Release, Forest City Announces Governance Actions

Posted by eric at 1:11 PM

February 1, 2012

February 14: a day of reckoning for Forest City Ratner? Cases involving Atlantic Yards timetable and Ridge Hill corruption charges go to court

Atlantic Yards Report

Tuesday, February 14, may be a day of reckoning for developer Forest City Ratner, as two key court cases proceed in Manhattan.

Sometime after 2 pm, there will be oral argument in the appeal filed by FCR and Empire State Development in the case challenging the state's finding that there was no need for a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to analyze the impacts of a 25-year buildout.

In a victory for community petitioners, a judge ruled that such an SEIS was needed.

The case will be heard in the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court, 27 Madison Avenue. I've already written about the first two legal exchanges: the appeal brief from ESDC/FCR and the reply from the petitioners. The appellants get the last word, so I will write shortly about their reply.

The Ridge Hill case in Yonkers

On February 14, jury selection begins in federal court regarding the Ridge Hill corruption case, which touches on Forest City Ratner, though the developer was not charged. The case, which could take a month to try, will be heard by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in courtroom 14C of the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl Street.
...

Will Forest City staffers or lobbyists be called to testify?

I'll have a preview article about the case in the next week or so.

link

Posted by eric at 1:17 PM

January 31, 2012

Ratner’s parent company unveils $300M in NYC property financings

Company closes loans on Queens Place, Nine Metrotech

The Real Deal
by Katherine Clarke

And we thought lenders had learned their lessons...

Forest City Ratner’s Cleveland-based parent company Forest City Enterprises completed more than $300 million in property financings in the quarter ending Jan. 31, 2012, including two worth a combined $163 million in New York City, it announced today.

The company closed a 10-year, $87 million loan for Queens Place, a 455,000-square-foot, five-level retail center on Queens Boulevard. It also purchased the existing $75 million loan at Nine Metrotech, a 317,000-square-foot office building in the MetroTech Center office campus in downtown Brooklyn, and then closed a new 10-year, $63 million loan for the same property.

link

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

January 27, 2012

UPDATE: NYU Schack Dean James Stuckey Accused of Sexual Harassment, Again

NY Observer
by Daniel Edward Rosen

An NYU administrator is accusing the school for failing to honor her promotion after she claimed that then-New York University Schack Institute dean James Stuckey sexually harassed her in a 2011 incident, according to a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court.

Stephanie Bonadio, 34, alleges that Mr. Stuckey had “forcibly placed her hand on his crotch and his erect penis” while the two were discussing her recent promotion at a dinner at The Strip House on September 23, the suit says.

The Strip House? Sure, they serve steaks, but Stuckey must've been hoping the double entendre would help set the mood. According to the New York Magazine review: "Playing off the naughty name, David Rockwell's interior is done up in bordello shades of red and gold, with old burlesque photos on the wall."

The lawsuit, which was filed yesterday, is seeking punitive damages, lawyers fees, owed salary, and trial by jury, among other demands.

Mr. Stuckey made headlines years before when he abruptly resigned as head of the Atlantic Yards development during his time as an executive vice president of Forest City Ratner Cos.

His resignation was spurred on by internal complaints that Mr. Stuckey had acted improperly at a company Christmas party, where he had a number of female colleagues sit on his lap inside a private room in a club, The NY Post reported.

article

NoLandGrab: The full text of the lawsuit is worth a read. Best low, er, highlight:

"Stuckey moved many of the men out of his suite of offices at NYU and he filled it with young, attractive women, including Bonadio."

And here's some free advice to Ms. Bonadio's lawyer: you should investigate what NYU knew about Mr. Stuckey's history with female subordinates when they hired him, and whether his hiring was at the behest of Schack Institute Advisory Board member Bruce C. Ratner.

Related coverage...

NY Magazine, NYU Is Battling a Sexual-Harassment Scandal

Four years prior, Stuckey ditched the Atlantic Yards development firm Forest City Ratner Cos. after he allegedly "took all of his subordinates to a club and then called a number of women employees into a private room, where he had them sit on his lap as though he were Santa Claus." A source told the New York Post, "There’s a pattern of this behavior."

NYU Local, NYU Denies Firing Administrator After She Reported Sexual Harassment

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

January 26, 2012

NYU administrator Stephanie Bonadio says job vanished after her sex harassment complaint

She says James Stuckey, ex-dean of Schack Real Estate Institute, tried to make her perform sex act

NY Daily News
by Barbara Ross

Here's the NoLandGrab public service of the day:

Women — print this photo of former Atlantic Yards/Forest City Ratner honcho Jim Stuckey and keep it in your pocket. If you ever see this guy, immediately run in the other direction.

A New York University administrator charged the school Wednesday with eliminating her job when she accused a dean of sexual harassment.

Stephanie Bonadio, 34, once a rising star in NYU’s Schack Institute for Real Estate, claims her career was ruined when she accused her boss of forcing himself on her.

In the Manhattan Supreme Court suit, Bonadio says she was having dinner at the Strip House restaurant on E. 12th St. with James Stuckey, then dean of the Schack Institute for Real Estate, when he tried to get her to perform a sex act.

As she asked about her pending promotion,“He grabbed her hand and ...without her consent, he forcibly placed her hand on his crotch and his erect penis,” the suit charges.

She said she told Stuckey “she was not that kind of girl.”

Soon after Bonadio reported the incident, Stuckey, a former executive with Forest City Ratner and ex-head of Mayor Bloomberg's commission on design, resigned “for health reasons,” the suit says.

article

Photo: Debbie Egan-Chin/NY Daily News

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Lawsuit against NYU alleges sexual harassment by former Forest City executive Stuckey

Remember that anonymously sourced New York Post article last October that alleged that former Forest City Ratner executive (and Atlantic Yards point man) Jim Stuckey had resigned suddenly from his job at New York University for alleged sexual harassment?

Well, now there's another piece of evidence.
...

NYU denied to the Daily News that it had retaliated, and neither Stuckey nor Bonadio commented.

So it's murky. But Bonadio's allegations against Stuckey, if they go to court, might be backed up if she can find witnesses who can confirm, as the Post also reported, that Stuckey had left Forest City abruptly because of complaints filed by female employees.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Alleged Sexual Harassment by Former Ratner SVP Jim Stuckey Leads to Lawsuit Against NYU

So, what did NYU know about Stuckey when they hired him and did Bruce Ratner's position on the Schack board have anything to do with the hiring? And what will this former NYU administrator, now suing the school, reveal about Stuckey's hiring in her legal briefs?

Is it any wonder at all that the man who felt so entitled to take an entire neighborhood would allegedly feel entitled to his work place subordinate?

Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

January 25, 2012

Crime Report: More iPhones Swiped and One Allegedly Inept Thief

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

On the top of everyone's list of Things Not To Do should be "leave my bag unattended in one of Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn malls."

Forget Me Not

A thief swiped a bag from inside the Atlantic Terminal Mall after a shopper left it behind by accident on Jan. 15.

The shopper, 60, told cops that she was inside the Flatbush Avenue mall at around 4 p.m., then left without her shopping cart. She returned 20 minutes later to find the cart — and the various cards and cash — gone.

article

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

January 18, 2012

Gun-wielding thug robs two on Hanson Place

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

Inside jobs, outside jobs, assaults — just another average week for Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn malls.

Freecycle

A brazen thief stole an expensive bike from Atlantic Avenue on Jan. 11 as its owner visited the Atlantic Terminal DMV.

The victim told cops that he chained his $1,200 bicycle near Flatbush Avenue at 2:30 pm. When he returned two hours later his white Gary Fisher speed cycle was gone.

Target-ed!

Cops arrested a worker at the Atlantic Terminal Target on Jan. 13 who they say stole more than $2,000 from a register this month.

A manager told police that a security camera caught the 20-year-old cashier pilfering loads of cash several times since Jan. 1.

Mall rat

A two-bit crook whacked a woman in the head at Atlantic Terminal Mall on Jan. 14 — trying to steal her purse but getting away empty-handed.

The victim told cops that she was leaving Marshals near Flatbush Avenue at 5:30 pm when the stranger started arguing with her and made a grab for her handbag.

The creep fled and the woman was sent to New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope for a cut to her forehead.

article

Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene-Clinton Hill], Crime Report: A Gang on the Loose and More iPhones Swiped

Posted by eric at 9:41 AM

January 13, 2012

Forest City Ratner's designated lurker, the powerful Rapfogel family, and the developer's ties to Sheldon Silver

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner's designated lurker at certain public events is easy to spot, a round-faced young guy who wears the kipah of an observant Jew: Michael Rapfogel, who comes from a family thisclose to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Rapfogel, who works in FCR's government relations department, was taking notes outside an April 2010 courthouse interview after Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein settled and agreed to move--the latter's attorney called it spying.

Rapfogel was, curiously enough, at Brooklyn Borough Hall just before the 12/12/11 meeting concerning a Transportation Working Group, though he didn't stay for the event.

And Rapfogel was across the street (with basketball coach/political consultant Thomas "Ziggy" Sicignano) on 11/15/11 watching the press conference held by Council Member Letitia James announcing a lawsuit filed by seven people who said they were promised construction jobs and union cards after going through an FCR-paid training program.

The Rapfogel connection

Rapfogel holds the title of Vice President--relatively low on the totem pole where such titles later get prepended with "Senior" and "Executive"--but I doubt he's a random hire. Sure, he's got a law degree, so he's competent, but he's also part of a family with crucial political ties. And he's survived while Forest City Ratner has downsized its staff.

His father William Rapfogel serves as the head of a major charity, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, and is an old friend of Silver, and his mother Judy Rapfogel is Silver's chief of staff.

article

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

January 12, 2012

City's Much-Delayed New 911 System Now Taking Calls

DNA Info
by Jill Colvin

When you dial 911, can you guess who collects the rent? Bingo.

The centerpiece of the city’s much-delayed $2.1 billion new 911 emergency system is now up and running in Downtown Brooklyn, at a high-tech center capable of processing up to 50,000 calls an hour.

The new $680 million Brooklyn center, at 11 MetroTech Center, brings police, fire and emergency medical dispatchers under one roof for the first time, and uses a new, high-capacity computer system that officials hope will not only speed response times, but provide protection in the case of calamity.

article

NoLandGrab: Though the new 911 call center lines Bruce Ranter's pockets with taxpayer dollars, when he has an emergency, he calls 912.

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

January 11, 2012

The Times Connects The Dots on Two Federal Corruption Cases Involving Forest City Ratner

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Nearly two years ago when Forest City Ratner was named as what appeared to be an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal bribery and corruption indictment concerning the developer's Ridge Hill project there was much wondering, here and here, about how it was that Forest City, as The Times puts it today, walked between the legal raindrops.

And while we appreciate Michael Powell's column raising those questions and connecting those dots in yesterday's paper, we do wonder why it has taken two years to connect those dots.

link

Related content...

@ShellySilver via Twitter, Judy: Seize @powellnyt's press pass and office supplies: http://ow.ly/8p3wV. And don't let him see this photo: http://ow.ly/8p3OM

The Real Deal, Ratner looms large over two political corruption cases: columnist

Posted by eric at 12:19 PM

January 10, 2012

Ratner in the midst of corruption scandals

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

Despite having ties to a lobbyist and politicians who have either acknowledged bribe-making or are facing trials for bribery, extortion and tax evasion, major developer Bruce Ratner, and his firm Forest City Ratner, has not been implicated in any of the corruption cases, according to The New York Times.

Lobbyist Richard Lipsky and former state senator and Brooklyn democrat Carl Kruger face years in prison after acknowledging bribe-making in court. Both were instrumental in helping to push forward Mr. Ratner’s controversial 22-acre Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. In fact, indictments never named Forest City or Mr. Ratner, but only cited “Developer 1” in Brooklyn and “Developer 2″ in Yonkers.

In Yonkers, after Mr. Ratner received city zoning approval to build an 81-acre luxury mall and housing complex, the developer hired the Yonkers Republican chairman as a consultant. That politician’s cousin was a member was the Democratic council leader who voted in favor of the development project.

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Posted by eric at 1:55 PM

A Developer Between Legal Clouds

The New York Times
by Michael Powell

Even Bruce Ratner's development partner can connect the dots. Will US Attorney Preet Bharara catch on next?

This is corruption’s high season in New York.

Nearly every week, a politician or a lobbyist indignantly denies charges, crows at hung juries or mumbles teary admissions of guilt before an implacable judge.

Last week, the lobbyist Richard Lipsky stood in a courtroom to acknowledge bribe-making. His partner in crime, Carl Kruger, the former state senator and a Brooklyn Democrat, had taken his tear-soaked turn two weeks earlier. They face years in prison.

A few weeks from now, in the same courthouse, a Democratic Yonkers councilwoman and her cousin, the city’s Republican Party chairman, are expected to stand trial. They are accused of bribery, extortion and tax evasion.

The Brooklyn and Yonkers cases are not simply about wayward politicians. The cases share an intriguing tie to the developer Bruce Ratner, who in project after project deploys lobbyists and politicians to change zoning ordinances and chase down rich packets of subsidies.

I should emphasize that Mr. Ratner has walked between the legal raindrops. Federal prosecutors have not implicated him or his company, Forest City Ratner, in either of these corruption cases.

But he figures prominently enough that the indictments identify him as “Developer No. 1” in Brooklyn and “Developer No. 2” in Yonkers. In Brooklyn, he has pushed the 22-acre Atlantic Yards development, including an arena and residential towers. Forest City Ratner was the development partner for the headquarters of The New York Times Company.

Click through for a rundown of the evidence.

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NoLandGrab: It's worth noting that the story's original headline, visible at the top of the article window, was "In Corruption Scandals, Recurring Ties to a Developer, Forest City Ratner." Wonder why Forest City got erased from the headline.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, New York Times columnist focuses on "intriguing" Ratner tie in two corruption cases

New York Times columnist Michael Powell, in A Developer Between Legal Clouds, offers some much-needed connections between “Developer No. 1” in Brooklyn and “Developer No. 2” in Yonkers and some corruption cases that curiously left Forest City Ratner a beneficiary yet legally unscathed.
...

I think the case in Yonkers--where Forest City gained the benefit of a City Council vote thanks to a vote gained by bribery, and never explained giving the indicted briber a no-show job--involves the developer more than the case in Brooklyn, where lobbyist Richard Lipsky and former state Senator Carl Kruger had a range of clients and beneficiaries.
...

The Yonkers case should go to trial soon, and then, perhaps, we will learn some answers to the question of, as I've written, the mystery of Ridge Hill.

A Gotham column unafraid to take on the powerful

Powell's been a columnist since only May 2011, and since then has been unafraid to look critically at the power structure in the state, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Would that he or someone like him had covered, say, the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking in March 2010.

True News, NY Still Has A Poll Tax and the True News Wags the NYT Again

True News takes credit for lighting a fire under the Grey Lady.

On January 5, Right After the Ratner lobbyists took a plea True News wrote a story

True News Asked what Did Bruce Ratner Know and Do About the Lipsky Bribe?

Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

The Day: Warm Enough for a Bike Ride?

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

Our frenemies at Fort Greene Patch had this rewritten press release scoop: Forest City Ratner promoted its senior retail veep to run day-to-day operations of both the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls, which have the distinction of making weekly appearances in our “sales and bargains” column and our police blotter. A company spokeswoman told Patch that Ms. Welch’s appointment “is not expected to affect operations” at the shopping centers. Too bad.

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Related content...

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch, Forest City Executive Takes Reins at Atlantic Terminal Mall

Forest City Ratner, the developer and operator of Atlantic Terminal Mall, announced the appointment of Kathryn Welch as senior vice president of its Retail Group.

Welch is a veteran at the Forest City Ratner's Cleveland-based parent company and will oversee its growing New York City-area retail portfolio.

Those holdings include Atlantic Terminal Mall and Atlantic Center, as well as an under construction 1.3 million-square-foot open-air shopping center in Westchester County.

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

January 9, 2012

Forest City defense re Kruger/Lipsky pleas: federal complaint "in no way says or suggests that we behaved in an inappropriate manner"

Atlantic Yards Report

Reported Brooklyn Daily, regarding the guilty pleas by former state Sen. Carl Kruger and Richard Lipsky:

The [federal complaint against Kruger and Lipsky] in no way says or suggests that we behaved in an inappropriate manner,” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco explained.

Not so.

Neither the 4/7/11 indictment (superseding a 3/9/11 complaint) suggested that Forest City, or executive Bruce Bender, behaved illegally.

And the indictment, far more terse than its predecessor, did not suggest inappropriate behavior.

But the complaint, as I pointed out 12/21/11, very much suggested inappropriate behavior--at least if you think asking Kruger for $15 million, including $9 million to complete the Carlton Avenue Bridge (and talking rather profanely about it), is inappropriate.

link

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

January 6, 2012

FCR's Gilmartin tells Crain's that shutdown of facade fabricator will not cause delays. How will the other steel plates be delivered? They're not saying.

Atlantic Yards Report

The ever-penetrating Crain's New York Business gets Forest City Ratner on the phone to say that, never mind, nothing's wrong. In Barclays Center developer says show will go on, Crain's reports:

The developer of the Barclays Center arena in downtown Brooklyn says that the year-end demise of the company that is fabricating the weathered steel for the arena's distinctive façade will not result in any construction delays. ...“We are concerned when any of our partners has problems, but we don't believe it will affect our construction schedule,” said MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, referring to steel fabricator ASI Limited having gone out of business. “We can still continue with construction.”

Of course they can still continue with construction. The question is where they get the specially fabricated, pre-weathered steel. It's not an off-the-shelf product. Crain's continues:

Ms. Gilmartin said that a large portion of the weathered steel had already been erected. She couldn't immediately say how much still needed to go up. She added that Forest City is working to insure the steel will continue to be made and to be delivered to the site in a timely fashion, but declined to offer details.

That's plenty vague; they won't say how much work is left, and they won't say how they'll get the steel. Of course it's possible that ASI Limited will reopen, which is likely the best-case scenario, and all will work out. But it's also possible that the construction schedule, which has already slipped, as I reported this morning, could slip more.

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Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

January 5, 2012

In Lipsky guilty plea, no mention of Forest City Ratner connection

Atlantic Yards Report

In lobbyist Richard Lipsky's guilty plea yesterday, there was no mention of Atlantic Yards or the unnamed developer, Forest City Ratner, that was among his clients.

It was about paying referral fees to now-disgraced Sen. Carl Kruger for clients Kruger directed his way, and then expecting Kruger to help him in Albany.

Though the indictment and legal complaint indicated that Kruger allocated $500,000 to a client of Lipsky--actually the allocation was at the request of Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, but to his wife's charitable cause--there was no evidence of whether Kruger did so at Lipsky's request.

Lipsky, whose Neighborhood Retail Alliance blog was frozen after he was charged last March, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and one count of bribery.

Though he faced a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, Crain's reported that Lipsky made a deal with prosecutors to serve 57 to 71 months, or slightly less than five years, at best. He will be sentenced by Judge Jed Rakoff on May 4, 2012.

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Related coverage...

The New York Times, Lobbyist Pleads Guilty to Paying Bribes to a State Senator

Over three decades, Richard J. Lipsky built a reputation as a staunch lobbyist for the underdog, even though his side did not always win and his clients were sometimes more establishment than mom-and-pop.

NoLandGrab: Yeah, underdogs like poor lil' Bruce Ratner, whom Lipsky defended from Daniel Goldstein Incorporated.

Crain's NY Business, Richard Lipsky admits guilt in bribery scandal

Forest City Ratner hired him in 2006 to advance its $5 billion Atlantic Yards megaproject in Brooklyn. A related corporate entity snagged him to pave the way for an East Harlem shopping mall anchored by a Target. The moves were widely attributed to the developer's desire to prevent Mr. Lipsky from stirring up and advocating for the little guys, his traditional constituency.

Brooklyn Daily, Lobbyist: I bribed Kruger

A deep-pocketed lobbyist who worked for Forest City Ratner Companies admitted to funneling more than $250,000 in bribes to former state Sen. Carl Kruger in an attempt to buy favor for his clients from the disgraced rep.

Richard Lipsky, who was employed by the developer of the Atlantic Yards arena and residential high-rise project for five years, told Manhattan Federal Judge Jed Rackoff that he had an “implicit agreement” with Kruger that payment to the senator — which he euphemized as “referral fees” — would benefit his clients.
...

One of his biggest clients was Forest City, which paid Lipsky $4,000 a month to help line up legislative support for its many real estate development projects. Forest City also paid him an additional $2,750 a month to promote the Atlantic Yards project.

The Wall Street Journal, Lobbyist Lipsky Admits to Bribery

"I acknowledge that my actions were in violation of the law and I knew that they crossed the line," Mr. Lipsky, 64 years old, said during the proceeding in federal court in Manhattan. "I accept responsibility for my conduct and incredibly poor judgment and I am truly sorry for the serious consequences to my family, my clients, the government, the court and the people of the state of New York."

City & State, Heard Around Town, Jan. 5, 2012

The crowd that gathered in Manhattan Federal Court yesterday to hear lobbyist Richard Lipsky plead guilty to two bribery charges was befitting a man who made more calls to reporters than perhaps any lobbyist in New York City history. Most of the two dozen people on hand to hear Lipsky confess were from the forth estate – and many, no doubt, had been bombarded with story pitches from Lipsky over the years. Even up to the time Lipsky ultimately agreed to his plea, he was relentlessly leading efforts to submarine the Willets Point development in Queens under a thinly veiled pseudonym. So what will Lipsky do with all that boundless energy in prison? As Lipsky and a small group of relatives descended in the courthouse elevator following his guilty plea, he for once had nothing to say.

Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

January 4, 2012

New Jersey Nets Ink Office Deal at MetroTech Center

NY Observer
by Daniel Geiger

How's this for economic development? The Bruce Ratner (minority)-owned New Jersey Nets are moving to the Bruce Ratner-owned MetroTech!

The team is relocating its corporate headquarters from East Rutherford to Downtown Brooklyn, where the organization is taking 35,145 square feet at the office building 15 MetroTech Center. The Nets will take the space for between five and 10 years at rents in the $30s per square foot, said sources.

The Nets will sublease 15 Metrotech’s entire 11th floor from Visiting Nurse Health Care System, Inc., which is consolidating its operations onto another floor it leases at the property, the tenth.

The Nets will take possession of the office space in the coming months in preparation for the 2012-2013 season. That season, which begins this October, will be the first the team will play at the Barclays Center, the new arena being built for the organization by developer and partial Nets owner Forest City Ratner as part of a large mixed use real estate project over Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards.

Although Forest City Ratner owns 15 MetroTech and the Atlantic Yards arena in which the basketball team will play, the negotiations were between Visiting Nurse Health Care System and the Nets.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Nets moving offices to Brooklyn, subleasing space from downsizing MetroTech tenant

The Nets are moving their offices to Brooklyn, and to a Forest City Ratner building to boot, but that represents no net gain to the developer, as the team is subleasing space from a downsizing tenant.
...

The team was originally supposed to move to the arena itself, but the 2009 arena downsizing moved the offices off-site.

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

Lobbyist Lipsky expected to plead guilty today in case that involves Kruger (and touches Forest City Ratner, though developer was not charged)

Atlantic Yards Report

Speaking of crime...

So one question is: will Lipsky's plea indicate any assistance to Forest City?
...

Well, here's one thing Kruger did for Forest City--though this was not, to my knowledge, in the indictment and thus not necessarily connected to Lipsky: he issued an odd press release in September 2009 expressing concern that "the MTA would become an obstructionist body that would ultimately stand in the way of Atlantic Yards."

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Related coverage...

The Wall Street Journal, New Plea in Bribes Scandal

A prominent New York City lobbyist is expected to plead guilty in federal court Wednesday in connection with a wide-ranging bribery case that also ensnared a powerful Brooklyn state senator, according to a person briefed on the matter.
...

On Tuesday, a former executive at Parkway Hospital in Queens pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to bribing Mr. Kruger in a bid to keep the hospital open.

In a statement read in open court, Dr. Robert Aquino, the 54-year-old former chief executive of Parkway, admitted to working with others "with the understanding that in exchange for the payments, a member of the New York state Senate would take official actions in an effort—a failed effort—to keep Parkway Hospital open."

NoLandGrab: If it wasn't considered cruel and unusual punishment, we'd urge the judge to sentence them all to watching Nets games for the next 20 years.

Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

The Week in Crime: Gun Crimes and a Harrowing Kidnapping

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]

Used to be, you only had to worry about someone stealing your wallet or an employee borrowing your identity when you shopped in one of Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn malls. You can now add getting kidnapped to that list.

A 25-year-old woman was briefly kidnapped and then robbed by two scammers on Dec. 27, police said. The victim told police that she was outside the Atlantic Terminal Mall at around 2:30 p.m. when a woman approached and asked for directions to a post office. The victim agreed to drive with the woman to the postal station, but when she entered the car, she found a male accomplice beind the driver’s seat. “Get in and look happy,” the man allegedly told her.

The trio then drove to the victim’s residence, where the woman thief ordered the victim, “Give me your stuff.” It’s unclear how much she got, but when both women returned to the car, the man allegedly demanded, “What else do you have?” That’s when the victim handed over $470 more and exited the car near Flatbush and Fourth Avenues, police said.

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Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

January 3, 2012

Lobbyist Is Expected to Plead Guilty in Bribery Case

The New York Times
by Benjamin Weiser

Why, we just noticed that Richard Lipsky hasn't updated his bombastic, pompous blog since the day before he got pinched on bribery charges. DA got your keyboard, Lipsky?

Richard J. Lipsky, a prominent lobbyist who was charged in the bribery conspiracy case that also ensnared State Senator Carl Kruger, was expected to plead guilty on Wednesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Mr. Lipsky’s plea would come just two weeks after Mr. Kruger resigned from the Senate and pleaded guilty to corruption charges in the broad conspiracy case that has been seen as spotlighting the pervasive issue of corruption in Albany. Mr. Kruger faces up to 50 years in prison when he is sentenced in April by Judge Jed S. Rakoff.

Mr. Lipsky was one of eight defendants originally charged in the matter, and was scheduled for trial this month.

Another of his co-defendants, Robert Aquino, the former chief executive officer of Parkway Hospital in Queens, was expected to plead guilty on Tuesday, leaving just one defendant facing trial.

It was not clear on Tuesday morning to what charges Mr. Lipsky and Mr. Aquino would plead guilty. Lawyers for the two men declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is prosecuting the case.

Mr. Lipsky, who is in his 60s, has long portrayed himself as an advocate for the underdog; he has been a frequent presence in City Hall and in the State Capitol in Albany, and has had a reputation as a pugnacious fighter for his clients.
...

"Underdogs" like these:

Mr. Lipsky’s clients included... a real estate developer that has since been identified as Forest City Ratner.

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Posted by eric at 4:18 PM

The Week in Crime: Target Tussles and Robberies Abound

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Mitchell Trinka

We're just getting caught up on some pre-holiday crime news, the upshot of which is... if you did any holiday shopping in Bruce Ratner's malls and didn't get robbed or assulted, consider yourself fortunate.

Atlantic Terminal Mall Crime

-An employee at Target in the Atlantic Terminal Mall was caught on Dec. 10 putting $1,800 onto gift cards without paying, police said. The employee was observed making the transactions on store surveillance video, police said.

Jamell Long, 17, was arrested on Dec. 18, police said. He has been charged with grand larceny in the fourth degree and petit larceny, according to the Kings County District Attorney’s office.

-A fight broke out at Buffalo Wild Wings at the Atlantic Terminal Mall on Dec. 13 at 4:45 p.m., police said. It all began when two men started a conversation with a group of people eating at the restaurant, police said. One of the men displayed a knife to a 17-year-old boy and demanded he hand over whatever was in his pockets, police said. When the second man asked the other people to hand over their belongings things got physical, the boy told police. One of the robbers punched the boy in the back of the head and a small struggle ensued, breaking the boy’s glasses, police said.

-A woman shopping with her daughter at Target, in the Atlantic Terminal Mall, was caught trying to steal items from the store on Dec. 14 at around midnight, police said. Natasha Stevenson, 35 was arrested that night and has been charged with petit larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, according to the Kings County District Attorney’s office.

-An employee of Target, in the Atlantic Terminal Mall, caught a woman shoplifting clothing on Dec. 23 at 1:47 p.m., police said. When the employee confronted the woman she began to punch the employee with the help of four other people, police said.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Click through for more.

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NoLandGrab: Merry Christmas, Bruce Ratner-style.

Posted by eric at 4:06 PM

January 1, 2012

Man Freed After Being Trapped in Times Building Elevator

The New York Times
by Cara Buckley

Happy New Year, faithful NoLandGrab readers! Today begins the 10th calendar year of the Atlantic Yards project.

Our resolution: to always take the stairs in any building built by Bruce Ratner.

A man was stuck in an elevator at The New York Times Building in Midtown Manhattan for an hour and a half on Friday morning, and firefighters had to break through the wall of the elevator shaft to free him. The man, who works at BT Americas Inc., an information technology company that leases office space on the 46th floor, was not injured and refused medical attention, the Fire Department and witnesses said.

The elevator, an express car that skips lower floors, became stuck between the 10th and 11th floors of the Times Building at 620 Eighth Avenue about 10:20 a.m. Because the elevator was in a so-called blind shaft, and had no openings on those floors, firefighters went through the ceiling of an 11th-floor men’s room to reach the elevator shaft. They broke through a wall and retrieved the man through a side hatch in the elevator car, according to Jim Long, a spokesman for the department. The man was rescued around 11:45 a.m.
...

The building, which opened in 2007, was developed by a partnership of The New York Times Company and Forest City Ratner. The elevator belongs to the section of the building managed by a subsidiary of Forest City Ratner. Neither company would comment on the incident.

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Posted by eric at 6:16 PM

December 26, 2011

Building New York: Biggest Real Estate News in 2011

International Business Times
by Roland Li

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

5. Bold visions for the future

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

December 24, 2011

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

Noticing New York

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

link

Posted by steve at 11:14 AM

December 22, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

article

Posted by eric at 12:51 PM

December 21, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:35 AM

Gang mugs teens at knifepoint at Atlantic Terminal

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

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

Running wild

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

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

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

Police are seeking two suspects.
...

Target-ed

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

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

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Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

December 20, 2011

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

KPCC/Southern California Public Radio

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

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

link / listen

Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 12:37 PM

December 19, 2011

Rules Stretched as Green Cards Go to Investors

The New York Times
by Patrick McGeehan and Kirk Semple

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

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

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

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

"Examination?" That's a bit much.

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

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

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Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

December 15, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

December 9, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related coverage...

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

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

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

EBDT

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

Net Earnings and Loss

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

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

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

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

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

Arena progress, but forecasted revenues stalled

In discussion of the construction pipeline, the company said:

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

That was the same percentage as in September.

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Related coverage...


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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

December 6, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there's big money at stake.

Posted by eric at 12:53 PM

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

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

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

Targeted at Target

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

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Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

December 5, 2011

The latest green-card-scam news from EB-5 Report Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report, Senate hearing on EB-5 program December 7; Obama's jobs council recommends EB-5; USCIS issues draft memorandum consolidating EB-5 policy

The EB-5 Regional Center Investment Pilot Program--the main vehicle for immigrant investors seeking green cards--is due to expire in September 2012, unless Congress acts, and advocates and legislators are beginning to take a closer look.

The EB-5 program, which grants green cards to investors and their families who invest $500,000 (or $1 million if it's not in a Targeted Employment Area) to create ten jobs, initially required the investment itself to create the jobs directly.

But investments through regional centers--federally authorized private (or sometimes governmental) investment pools--make it much easier, as indirect jobs can be calculated via an economist's report. No wonder the number of regional centers has been skyrocketing, and developers (like Forest City Ratner) and others seeking cheap capital have glommed onto EB-5.

Hearing December 7

On December 7 at 10 am, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Reauthorizing the EB-5 Regional Center Program: Promoting Job Creation and Economic Development in American Communities.” It will be webcast.

Based on the title, it sounds unlikely that criticism of the program will be highlighted.

Atlantic Yards Report, At last Congressional hearing on EB-5, little skepticism, some evasion, calls for streamlining program

Given the upcoming Senate Judiciary Committee hearing December 7 on the EB-5 investment immigration program, it's worth a look back at a House hearing 9/14/11 held by the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.

Unsurprisingly, the hearing, titled "The Investor Visa Program: Key to Creating American Jobs" (video), featured little skepticism about the program and some fudging from witnesses. One evaded the fundamental reason why developers and entrepreneurs like EB-5: foreign investors are willing to accept little return in exchange for green cards. (Hence the support for Atlantic Yards.)

Atlantic Yards Report, A new, questionable EB-5 project in China is being called "the new Atlantic Yards"

Would you believe that Atlantic Yards--after my reporting and other reasons for controversy--has now become a cautionary example in the international world of investment immigration?

From EB5info.com, Huge Chicago EB-5 Multi-Hotel Project Under Scrutiny by Investors:

Several Chinese agents and investors are calling into question the claims being made by a new EB-5 Visa Regional Center, The Intercontinental Regional Center Trust of Chicago.

Many are calling this project the new Atlantic Yards due to the extremely large size of the offering ($249.5 million) and the claims being made by its promoters and migration agents in China. The agents need to heavily promote issues of this magnitude in order to raise such an exceptionally large offering (most EB-5 visa project offerings are under $50 million) in a very short period of time.

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

December 2, 2011

Fraud? Immigrant investors in Atlantic Yards were told their green cards were guaranteed, but New York City Regional Center typically warns investors it makes no warranties

Atlantic Yards Report

Why should the green cards-for-cash scam be any different from all the other Atlantic Yards "guarantees?"

There's a huge gap between what the assurances the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) gave to potential Chinese investors in Atlantic Yards about the certainty of their expected green cards and the "no warranty" message the firm typically tells investors.

The warning

The following passage appears in the confidential offering memoranda for two previous NYCRC projects, regarding the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Steiner Studios:

In other words, the company offers no warranty and no assurances that the investors, who parked $500,000 for five years and eschewed interest (mostly) in lieu of green cards for themselves and their families, would actually get the green cards.

Presumably, such boilerplate also appeared in the memorandum for the Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project, which sought (and apparently achieved) $249 million from 498 investors, mostly from China.

In China, green cards guaranteed

As I reported last year, in webcast presentations, representatives of the NYCRC offered public assurances that green cards were guaranteed.

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Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

Another look at the huge benefits from the EB-5 program: perhaps $140 million to Forest City Ratner, and $50 million to NYCRC

Atlantic Yards Report

"EB-5 Friday" continues at Atlantic Yards Report.

So, how much is Forest City Ratner saving on its $249 million low-interest loan from immigrant investors under the EB-5 program? And what are the earnings of is the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), the private investment pool that was marketing the project--green cards in exchange for $500,000 in purportedly job-creating investments?

I have to revise some of my reporting from last year, when I calculated a gain of some $191 million to Forest City, based on the difference between the interest rate the developer might have to pay on the open market and the no-interest being offered to Chinese investors.

I also have to revise my calculations regarding benefits to the NYCRC, which I calculated would earn $38,000 per client in fees, or nearly $19 million.

Earning money on the interest

Rather, the NYCRC may be keeping very little of those fees, since it has to share fees with affiliates. It earns its money on the spread between the interest rate on loan offered to Forest City and the return received by the 498 investors.

Forest City likely will pay 4% to 5%, as with other NYCRC projects promoted by the city, while the majority of the investors, from China, will get no interest, and the 40 or so Korean investors will get .25%.

So it's a win for Forest City and the NYCRC: they both make money. I think Forest City's benefit is still more than $100 million, while NYCRC may earn some $50 million (see bottom).

It's a win for the immigrants: they get green cards for themselves and their family, with the cost being the foregone interest on the investment they get back. (Of course there is a risk, and not every EB-5 investor gets a green card.)

What about the public benefit? The investments are supposed to create jobs, but in some case--as I've shown with the Atlantic Yards investment--they don't create new jobs, and the immigrant investors get credit--apparently legal, though logically questionable--for the jobs created by the entire $1.448 billion in the "Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project."

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Posted by eric at 10:05 AM

New York City Regional Center was busiest nationally in Chinese market in 2011; EB-5 financing via NYCRC seen by city as potential funding for engineering campus, Willets Point

Atlantic Yards Report

Speaking of Willets Point, its future "redevelopers" might be the latest beneficiaries of the ol' green cards-for-dollars scheme.

As I reported 12/17/10, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) proposed that the NYCRC and Forest City Ratner meet to discuss a potential collaboration, and that the NYC EDC has an agreement with the Regional Center that provides a finder’s fee for projects that it refers and are ultimately are financed through their program.

Now NYC EDC sees EB-5 as an integral part of its arsenal, as it gives developers access to low-cost capital while costing the city nothing. The discount comes because the investors are willing to forego much or any return on their $500,000, since they're looking to gain a green card and, after parking their $500,000 for some five years, their money back.

Request for Proposals (RFPs) for both the Willets Point Development Phase 1, released 5/9/11, and the Applied Sciences Facility in New York City, released 7/19/11, list the EB-5 program via the NYCRC as part of a suite of potential economic development benefits....

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Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

December 1, 2011

At the MetroTech tree lighting ceremony, Markowitz talks up the Nets, Levin salutes Ratner, Daughtry lays it on thick

Atlantic Yards Report

The annual MetroTech tree lighting ceremony November 29 drew, by the standards of some previous lighting ceremonies (2010, 2008), a paltry official turnout, with only one elected official beyond Borough President Marty Markowitz.

And without two representatives of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, the Reverend Herbert Daughtry (who served as MC), and James Caldwell (who brought two staffers), the podium would have had no people of color or "community" members.

(At right, Daughtry, left, joins developer Bruce Ratner and Markowitz. Photos and video by Jonathan Barkey.)

Leading off

Still, Daughtry, who once saluted developer Bruce Ratner as having a “customary, humble, winsome manner," introduced him with a flourish.

"Now, it is my great pleasure to welcome to the podium, as you look around as you see the magnificent buildings, some of us remember how it looked before. Down Atlantic Avenue, the great building, the great arena. There is a verse from the ancient scripture which says, where there is no vision, the people perish,' I bring you the man who has the vision, Mr. Bruce Ratner."

OK, that's where we have to stop. Click thru for more.

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Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

November 30, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's wrong: the timetable

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

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

What's wrong: the project configuration and location

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

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

What's wrong: rigorous public review

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

What's wrong: 35 lawsuits

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

Read on for more debunking.

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

Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

November 29, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

No way to evaluate job-creation claim

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

More and more iPhone crimes

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

"Black Friday" indeed, Bruce Ratner-style.

Department score

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

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

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Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

November 28, 2011

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

The New York Times
by Kate Taylor

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

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

Cue the patriotic music.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 10:37 PM

The Man Who's Building Barclays

NetsDaily

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

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

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

Photo: Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

November 23, 2011

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

Crain's Chicago Business
by James Ylisela Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 9:10 AM

November 17, 2011

Group says 'Look at the figures'

The Item of Millburn and Short Hills
by Lindsey Kelleher

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 1:22 PM

Atlantic Yards Lawsuit Plaintiffs Allege Broken Promises

Brownstoner

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

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

link

Posted by eric at 12:42 PM

November 16, 2011

Brooklyn Residents File Lawsuit to Recover Unpaid Wages

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

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

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

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

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

Those lasers, of course, were guided by falsehoods.

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

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

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

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

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Related coverage...

NY Observer, SUIT: Forest City Broke Union Promises

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 5:05 PM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click thru for much more.

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Posted by eric at 12:30 PM

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

Noticing New York

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

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

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

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Posted by eric at 12:24 PM

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

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

Time and Sparrows

New York Pelagic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

November 15, 2011

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

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

Park Slope Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

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

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

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

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

Read on for more of this sordid story.

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Photo: Amy Sara Clark/Patch

Related coverage...

NY1, Locals Claim Atlantic Yards Developers Denied Promised Construction Jobs

This is priceless:

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

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

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

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

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Another Atlantic Yards Lawsuit

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:26 PM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

The missing reports

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

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

(Emphasis added)

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

link

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

Posted by eric at 12:27 PM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

Click thru for much more about BUILD and its programs.

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Posted by eric at 12:19 PM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

But wait — they had Bruce Ratner's word!

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

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

The essence of the case

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

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

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

Click thru for more.

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Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

Brownstoner, Lawsuit to be Filed Over Atlantic Yards Jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now there's a lawsuit.

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

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

Look, crime is bad in Fort Greene

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

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

Bike pain

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

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

Dirty secret

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

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

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Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

November 14, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO: Elected Officials, Clergy, Lawyers, and Plaintiffs

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

WHEN: Tuesday, November 15 at 3:30pm

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

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

Posted by eric at 8:11 PM

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

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

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

A Blade Out at Pathmark

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

A Vigilante at Old Navy

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

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

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Posted by eric at 8:01 PM

November 11, 2011

A protest at MetroTech and questions about subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

In a demonstration yesterday outside J.P. Morgan Chase at MetroTech, featuring an in-character "Mr. Moneybags" and the "mic check" rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street, organizers from ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York, condemned the bank for accepting a 25-year subsidy in 1988 worth nearly $238 million but not meeting job totals.

According to Good Jobs New York, Chase had 5000 in New York City in 1988 and was supposed to ultimately have 5950 jobs, all part of job retention promised with a move to MetroTech. But Chase has since cut jobs and relocated jobs to other states, leaving a total of 1593 jobs.

Was obligation cut?

The Brooklyn Paper, however, reported:

JP Morgan Chase spokesman Michael Fusco said that the agreement cited by protesters was dropped and renewed in 2004. He said the company is now required to have only 2,500 full-time employees and recently hired 800.

“We’re in compliance with the city and remain in good standing with IDA,” he said.

If that's true--that they need only have the number of jobs originally promised--then it's evidence, as with Atlantic Yards, that the city and state are willing to revise already favorable deals.

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Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

P.S. 9 and M.S. 571 Celebrate New Playground

The ribbon-cutting of the $305,000 revamped space was marked with poetry, dance, song ... and a giant silver fox.

Prospect Heights Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

P.S. 9 and M.S. 571 celebrated the opening of its $305,000 playground yesterday with song, dance, poetry and even a visit from the NETS mascot, Sly.
...

The revamped space was funded in part by Out2Play, a non-profit that raises funds to refurbish NYC public school playgrounds, the NYC Department of Education, Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, and the Barclays Nets Community Alliance, a partnership of Forest City Ratner, the NETS and Barclays that, since forming in 2007, has given area non-profits $1 million a year, according to a NETS news release.

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NoLandGrab: Here's a recent Atlantic Yards Report piece on the Barclays Nets Community Alliance's playground funding.

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

November 9, 2011

Barclays Nets Community Alliance no longer claiming "it has funded" refurbished playgrounds but rather "funded in part"

Atlantic Yards Report

The latest press release promoting a playground refurbished by the Barclays Nets Community Alliance has a subtle but significant change in language, as the team/sponsor no longer seem to claim all the credit. (I'm checking on the actual numbers.) They still get to issue the press release, though.

Previous claim

About two months ago, the alliance was claiming that "it has funded" a refurbished playground, leaving the impression it deserved most of the credit, even though the alliance paid about one-eighth the cost.

link

Posted by eric at 10:12 PM

AKRF contract for Supplementary EIS: up to $1.7 million (paid by FCR)

Atlantic Yards Report

Speaking of rearranging deck chairs...

Last Thursday, at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, Empire State Development (Corporation), reported that the agency board approved extension of its contract with environmental consultant AKRF for a “substantial amount.”

I followed up and learned the sum: up to $1.7 million. Such environmental review costs are paid by the applicant, Forest City Ratner.

AKRF is beginning the process of working on the scope for an Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) regarding the impacts of an extended project buildout, 25 years versus the studied ten years.

After the draft scope of work is finalized in-house, Hankin said, "we will be going to the public, soliciting comments.” No schedule has been set.

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Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

Occupy Brooklyn This Weekend, If You Don't Get Run Over

mcbrooklyn

This weekend's Occupy Brooklyn activities will include a march to Atlantic Yards and Metrotech.

Occupy Brooklyn is challenging Brooklynites to "join them during this weekend of action to help evict corporate greed from the borough."
...

At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday everybody is going to March to Evict Corporate Greed. Here is a map of the march route. Sorry to be a wet blanket but it may as well be called "March To the Most Dangerous Traffic Intersections in Brooklyn."

Everyone is leaving from Korean War veteran's Plaza (Point A), walking to Atlantic Yards and then ending up back at Metrotech in Downtown Brooklyn (Point B).

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Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

Four Sparrows Development Nixed Under Shadow Of Corruption

Sheepshead Bites
by Randy Rojas

Of course, close ties to politicians, especially crooked ones, don't always work to Forest City's benefit.

Plans to build a shopping center with ties to indicted State Senator Carl Kruger on a city-owned nature preserve near Kings Plaza have been terminated by the developer.

Forest City Ratner Companies, which is currently building the controversial Atlantic Yards, decided to bail on its plan of building a shopping center on the Four Sparrows Marsh next to the Toys ’R’ Us on Flatbush Avenue, between Avenue U and the Gil Hodges Bridge. The cancellation was first noted by Queens Crapper.

Insiders say the reason Forest City is doing this is because they couldn’t find a suitable tenant, but there are reasons to think otherwise.

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Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

Bramson Wins in Landslide, New Rochelle Democrats Retain Majority on City Council, May Achieve Super-Majority

Talk of the Sound
by Robert Cox

If a closely contested election in New Rochelle tips toward the Democratic candidate, the big winner might be "do-gooder liberal" Bruce Ratner.

If Fertel holds on, Democrats will hold a 5-2 majority on City Council and with that control will be able to "bond" or borrow money on a straight party line vote. The Democrats will also be able to override Governor Cuomo's 2% tax levy cap. Democrats are expected to use their super-majority to approve an estimated $25-30 million in long-term debt to move the DPW City Yard from its current location on East Main Street to a new location on Beechwood Avenue as part of an effort to clear the way for development along Echo Bay by Forest City Ratner.

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Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

November 8, 2011

Crime is still crazy bad in Fort Greene

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alfred Ng

And it's still crazy bad in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center mall, too.

Pathmark pilfers

There were at least two crimes at the Pathmark on Atlantic Avenue last week:

• On Oct. 29, a victim was at the cash register in the grocery store between S. Elliott and Fort Greene places at 6:30 pm. She put her wallet down to retrieve the rest of her items from her cart when the thief sneaked off with the billfold, which contained more than $200.

• Two days later, a would-be robber cut his way out of the store after security guards caught him allegedly shoplifting at 7:30 pm. He pulled a knife and slashed at the guards until he got away, but cops said they collared their man two days later.

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Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

November 7, 2011

State Senator Kevin Parker makes it blatant: “I help you. You help me." (Yes, he once got Ratner-related funds.)

Atlantic Yards Report

Sure, he has a criminal record and a history of violent outbursts, but at least he's honest.

The Daily News today reports, in State Sen. Kevin Parker panned after invite to benefit asks for ‘help’:

ALBANY -- Controversial state Sen. Kevin Parker has raised eyebrows yet again with a fund-raising invitation that boasts: "I help you. You help me.”
"It would be simpler if he just said ‘quid pro quo’ on the invitation,” cracked Citizens Union executive director Richard Dadey.
...The front of the invitation bears the slogan: “I help you. You help me. Together we build.”
...But state Board of Elections spokesman Tom Connolly said that while it’s not necessarily the wording he would have chosen, the statement is “vague.”

It is, at the least, an example of candor: a campaign contribution does not necessarily guarantee reciprocal help, but it is often a precursor.

The Ratner connection

Has Forest City Ratner been connected to Parker? Of course. Karen Ranucci, sister in law of developer Bruce Ratner and spouse of leftist lawyer Michael Ratner, gave Parker a $3500 campaign contribution in 2006.

Click thru to see the identities of some of the other "statesmen" who've benefitted from the largesse of the extended Ratner family.

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Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

Bramson’s Scheme to Over-Ride Cuomo’s Tax-Cap Will Saddle New Rochelle With Large Post-Election Tax Increase

Talk of the Sound
by Anthony Galletta

Guess whose campaign donations are being cited as an issue in New Rochelle's mayoral race?

Bramson would like you to forget that he accepted campaign contributions from New Rochelle’s INDEPENDENT AUDITORS and IDA Tax-Abated wealthy developers like Cappelli & Forest City Ratner.

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Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

November 3, 2011

Council challenger: Williamson dislikes developer donations to councillors

Cambridge Day
by Marc Levy

Yonkers isn't the only place in which Forest City is at the root of electoral controversy.

James Williamson, self-desribed as an event organizer, publicist, neighborhood activist has been a frequent presence during public comment periods at city meetings, often speaking out on matters of affordable housing, public transportation and safety and representation for the city’s less wealthy residents. He first ran for City Council two years ago, saying “we need citizens on the City Council who will really pay attention to what’s going on in our city and will not be afraid to speak up and do something about it.” He sounded the same themes for this year’s campaign.

Why are you running? What is it in you or the community that compels you to do this now?

I want to actually do something on the City Council, rather than just sit back and do nothing and collect a check from the taxpayers for $70,000 a year along with campaign contributions from the likes of multiple members of the Ratner family (of Forest City, MIT’s “developer”) from places like Shaker Heights, a wealthy suburb of Cleveland— not Cambridge. Don’t we already have enough wealthy contributors and interests right here in good ol’ Cambridge?

Several councillor-candidates seemed to respond to concerns raised at the Area IV candidate forum last Thursday night with policy orders at Monday’s City Council meeting about rats, since residents are worried about rats displaced by major development across Main Street from Newtowne Court — but what about Ratners? The family’ behind much of this so-called development, the excavation generating the “rat problem,” and they’re major contributors to some of these very same councilor-candidates, to wit: Ken Reeves, Denise Simmons, Marjorie Decker, and, of course, Tim Toomey and David Maher.

Voters should be sure to examine the searchable database at the Office of Campaign and Political Finance to see to who the various members of the extended Ratner family have been contributing to in recent months and years. They are certainly not the only corporate real estate company “investing” in Cambridge candidates (see Alexandria, for example, among others), but they are perhaps the most visible. And they are evidently equal opportunity contributors, as they have given to the cash-starved Republican, Mitt Romney, and the ethically challenged former speaker of the House, Sal DiMasi, as well. Generous of them, don’t you think?
...

What is the No. 1 issue facing Cambridge you see now or coming up in the next two years, and what is your approach or solution to that issue? Be as concrete as possible in explaining what you will do.

The No. 1 issue is the tsunami of “development” heading toward Central Square and Kendall Square via proposals from the MIT Investment Management Co. and the Novartis and Forest City/Ratner plans for Massachusetts Avenue. And quo vadis Central Square? As noted, Ken Reeves is taking money from the “multiple Ratners,” as are Decker, Toomey, Maher and Simmons.

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NoLandGrab: Sound familiar?

Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

Reisman: Michael Spano's salvo answers Yonkers mayoral rivals' prodding on Ridge Hill

LoHud.com
by Phil Reisman

The Ridge Hill bribery scandal is playing a starring role in the Yonkers mayoral race.

Mike Spano was exasperated. Fed up.

At candidate debates and forums, the ordinarily genial Democrat who would be mayor of Yonkers has been dogged by hints and allegations — really just hints — that he has something to hide about his role in the city's $630 million Ridge Hill development.

Barbs have been hurled by both his opponents, the Republican John Murtagh and Carlo Calvi, the Independence Party candidate. Murtagh has been especially vocal, demanding that Spano "come clean" on Ridge Hill, which is the subject of a federal public corruption probe.

To put it plainly, they're trying to paint Spano as a crook without actually coming out and saying it, relying instead on the power of suggestion, i.e., where there's smoke there must be fire.

Spano is now firing back, charging that Murtagh and Calvi are repeating a lie with the hope that it will stick.
...

For many years, Spano has served as an assemblyman, but the contretemps centers on a two-year period starting in 2004 when he temporarily left the Legislature to work for the Patricia Lynch Associates lobbying firm whose clients included Ridge Hill's developers, Forest City Ratner.

According to his own account, Spano in 2005 was asked to hold "strictly informational" meetings with three key Yonkers City Council members — Dee Barbato, Sandy Annabi and Murtagh — all of whom had opposed the project. He said he didn't lobby the elected officials, but merely recorded their concerns and reported back to his firm.

The project was approved in July 2006 when Annabi, who had previously voted against it, changed her mind and cast the deciding vote.

An FBI investigation resulted later in a indictment against Annabi, charging her with selling her vote to Zehy Jereis, a former chairman of the Yonkers Republican Party who was given a $60,000 "no show" consultant's job by the developer.

Jereis was also a longtime crony and factotum for Nick Spano, the former state senator and older brother of Mike Spano. Annabi is Jereis' cousin.

Anthony Mangone, a lawyer who had served as Nick Spano's counsel and, like Jereis, has a history of getting into hot water, was also charged with extorting the developer of another project involving two closed Yonkers public schools.

Mike Spano, who by this time was back in the Assembly, was called to testify before a federal grand jury. He said he was told he was not a target of the investigation.

Neither Spano has been implicated. Nor has Forest City Ratner.

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Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

Copper Pipe Thieves Strike Again: This Week’s Police Blotter

A breakdown of crime in the 88th precinct, which covers Fort Greene and Clinton Hill

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Melissa Koszer

It was only a matter of time before the crime that runs rampant in Bruce Ratner's malls made it's way to Bruce Ratner's construction site.

Copper Pipes Stolen From Atlantic Yards

Five copper pipes, totaling $4,170 in value, were stolen from Atlantic Yards. The crime was committed at some time between Wednesday and Friday last week. The week prior, a construction site at 130 Flushing Ave. in Fort Greene was targeted—again for its copper pipes.

And speaking of which...

Purse Snatching at Burlington Coat Factory

On Sunday at 7:30 p.m., a woman was shopping inside the Burlington Coat Factory at Atlantic Terminal Mall and placed her bag on a hanger while trying on a coat. An unknown suspect took the bag, which contained the woman’s credit card, an ATM card, and her learner’s permit. The woman later found her bag on the floor of the department store, but its contents were missing.

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Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

November 2, 2011

Mill Basin big-box is killed

Brooklyn Daily
by Thomas Tracy

Brooklyn’s biggest developer has pulled out of a controversial plan to build a shopping center that would include a Walmart-sized store on city owned land near Kings Plaza, killing the Flatbush Avenue project that was connect to Carl Kruger.

Forest City Ratner Companies is walking away from it’s plan to build a big-box retail outlet on the city-owned Four Sparrows Marsh next to the Toys ’R’ Us on Flatbush Avenue between Avenue U and the Gil Hodges Bridge, which the scandal-scarred state senator had been pushing the company to get done.

Insiders say Forest City Ratner Companies owner Bruce Ratner, who is currently building the controversial Atlantic Yards, the biggest development project in the borough, canned his plans for the Four Sparrows Marsh when he couldn’t find a suitable tenant.
...

Other sources said Ratner didn’t want to deal with possible lawsuits from environmentalists who threatened to sue if he broke ground on the marshlands.

But there’s also the Kruger (D–Brighton Beach) connection...

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NoLandGrab: The better headline, of course, would have been "Bruce: 'F**k the Shopping Center.'"

Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

November 1, 2011

Crime is crazy bad in Fort Greene

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

Inside the mall or outside the mall, it's all the same to the crooks.

Food fight

Some lunatic punched a security guard at the Atlantic Avenue Pathmark supermarket on Oct. 26 — the alleged thief’s second arrest this month at the grocer.

An employee told cops that the crook entered the store in the near Flatbush Ave. at 4:45 pm. An hour later, the crook tried to leave with $40 in goods — including Coors beer. When the guard tried to stop him, he jabbed him and snapped the gold chain around his neck.

Medics treated the watchman at the scene, and cops arrested a 50-year-old suspect.
...

Bike pain

A thief rode off with an expensive bicycle locked in front of the Atlantic Center Mall on Oct. 25.

The 35-year-old victim told cops that he parked at a pole near Flatbush Avenue at 2 pm. When he returned two hours later, he discovered that his $1,100 wheels and Kryptonite lock had been gershed.

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Posted by eric at 5:16 PM

What FCR's Ratner and Gilmartin told the grad students: project on a railyard? largest single development of affordable housing?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Master of Science Real Estate Development, a graduate program within Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), has an occasional blog, and I just came across an 8/1/11 post headlined Atlantic Yards discussion with Forest City Ratner:

Just three weeks into the summer semester, the MSRED Class of 2012 spent the afternoon in Brooklyn with Bruce Ratner (CEO Forest City Ratner) and MaryAnne Gilmartin (EVP), overlooking the currently under construction, Atlantic Yards. Situated at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Ave is the centerpiece of the former 22-acre rail yard, the Barclays Center. Starting next season (2012-2013), the Barclays Center will be home to the relocated NBA franchise, the New Jersey Nets.

Bruce Ratner and MaryAnne Gilmartin spoke at length of the challenges and highlights of the Atlantic Yards development process. In addition to being the largest single development of affordable housing in New York City history, the highly complex Atlantic Yards deal constituted of buying and relocating a sports franchise, contributing $50 million to the renovation of the subway station, and a last-minute road show in China to secure an enormous amount of funds which eventually proved to be a turning point in the development.

In addition to the complexities of the deal, Bruce and MaryAnne were very proud of their innovative progress of modular high rise construction. According to Bruce and MaryAnne, this technique could reduce hard costs by 20 to 25%. While it is unclear whether or not this feat of architectural engineering will be implemented for the Atlantic Yards construction, when and if perfected, the prefabricated modular high rise could be the future of real estate development.

Either Ratner and Gilmartin were misleading the students or they spoke in such a way that the students were misled.

I posted comments pointing out that the project would not be "the largest single development of affordable housing in New York City history," that "last-minute road show in China" didn't quite describe the EB-5 venture, and that the project is not on “the former 22-acre rail yard,” which is not "former," either.

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Posted by eric at 5:08 PM

What's the deal with MetroTech?

Occupy Brooklyn

Occupy Brooklyn has produced the flyer below to let people know why they've been meeting on the grounds of Forest City Ratner's MetroTech.

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Posted by eric at 12:02 PM

The Eminent Domain One-Percenter

Inverse Condemnation

We're not all that down with the "occupy movement." It seems too unfocused, too anti-competition, too anti-success for us to get on board with the idea that equality of result is what the American dream and our system are based on.

But things like this profile of MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial and residential development at Forest City Ratner Companies in this month's Westchester magazine, make us want to go down to Zuccotti Park and set up a tent.

An "innovative and tenacious builder" who has "left her mark" on the New York skyline, "she’s helping to shape Atlantic Yards, a complex of residential and commercial buildings that will also be the new home of the New Jersey Nets."

The profile details how she got her start, interning and then working for the New York City Economic Development Corporation for seven years before sliding over to Forest City, where her first grand project was the New York Times building, which like Atlantic Yards needed the government's power of eminent domain to make it happen. Are you starting to see the pattern?

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Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

Forest City and the Development of Prefab Plans

Brownstoner

Atlantic Yards Report’s Norman Oder has an extremely in-depth look at a lawsuit between two companies that Forest City Ratner worked with that sheds light on how the developer has been examining using modular construction at Atlantic Yards. The lawsuit, which was settled in August with confidentiality clauses, was brought by a company called Kullman Buildings Corp. against a firm called XSite Modular. XSite is comprised of several former Kullman employees. The suit alleged that Forest City “was effectively able to circumvent Kullman’s refusal to turn over the ownership rights in this system by the fact that Kullman’s key employees collaborated a plan to work directly with FCRC under the formation of a new rival company.” XSite entered into a contract with Forest City early this year and the developer paid for XSite’s defense. Kullman, which had been working with Forest City for a couple years, had also been up for the contract, which involved helping the developer develop a system for designing and manufacturing heretofore-untested super-tall modular buildings.

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Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

October 31, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The essence of the lawsuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click thru for the full story.

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Posted by eric at 2:17 PM

Plans Killed for Project Tied to Probe

The Wall Street Journal
by Joseph De Avila and Eliot Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

October 29, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by steve at 3:33 PM

October 28, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

Does "withdrawn" mean "dead"? Unclear.

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

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

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

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Related coverage...

Queens Crap, Ratner project dies silent death

Glory, glory, hallelujah!!!

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

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 2:13 PM

October 26, 2011

More copper stolen from construction site

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alfred Ng

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

‘Dead’ end

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

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

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Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

October 24, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

October 21, 2011

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

The Villager

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

Long-entangled Ridge Hill complex opens to Yonkers throng

The Journal-News
by Ernie Garcia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Wink, wink.]

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Related coverage...

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

October 18, 2011

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

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

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

Yeah, that's creepy.

Original Photo: Alex Rud/NY Post

Posted by eric at 4:43 PM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

Passing on a problem to NYU?

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

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

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

More apparent board departures: St. John's

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

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

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Related coverage...

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

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

Posted by eric at 4:30 PM

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

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alfred Ng

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

Dirty secret

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

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

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

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Posted by eric at 9:13 AM

October 17, 2011

In Yonkers, Shopping for Shoppers

The Wall Street Journal
by Robbie Whelan

From the department of hardly a surprise...

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

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

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

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

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

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

article

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

October 12, 2011

Hey, Fort Greene iPhone owners — prepare to be mugged

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alfred Ng

Et two (purse snatchings), Bruce Ratner?

Grab bag

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

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

Marshalls madness

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

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

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Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

October 10, 2011

The Mysterious Resignations of Former Forest City Ratner Executive Jim Stuckey

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

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

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

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

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

link

NoLandGrab: Cat got yer Tweets, Jim?

Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

October 5, 2011

Stuckey resigns as NYU Schack Institute head

The Real Deal
by Adam Pincus

James Stuckey, the divisional dean of the New York University Schack Institute of Real Estate resigned abruptly this past Friday, the school told The Real Deal, in a situation reminiscent of how he departed four years ago from a top job at the development firm Forest City Ratner Companies. At NYU, Stuckey left behind a mixed legacy in his two-year tenure, forcing through what some described as necessary changes to improve the school, but was criticized with operating with what they saw as an arrogant and biased management style.

Stuckey resigned last Friday "effective immediately," said Paola Curcio-Kleinman, executive director of strategic marketing and communications for the School of Continuing and Professional studies, of which the Schack Institute is a part.
...

Stuckey left his job as president of the Atlantic Yards Development group at Forest City Ratner suddenly in June 2007 under what sources now describe as a cloud. He had been there for about three years.

article

NoLandGrab: A "cloud" is what they call it now?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Murky departure redux: ex-Forest City Ratner executive Stuckey leaves NYU job "abruptly;" school claims health reasons but doesn't issue public thanks

Jim Stuckey's murky, swift departure from New York University's Schack Institute of Real Estate, as described by The Real Deal, seems somewhat akin to his swift resignation from Forest City Ratner in June 2007, when the company cited "personal reasons and a desire to pursue new challenges."

That meant Forest City's Atlantic Yards point man was succeeded by MaryAnne Gilmartin.
...

Unlike with the Forest City departure, capably managed by Howard Rubenstein, the city's premier p.r. fixer, this resignation--from an institution with a broad constituency--comes with a bit more potential for public discussion.

So we learn, from the article and comments, that Stuckey both stirred the pot productively in his two years at Schack but also antagonized some people.

Well, that happens in high-profile jobs, but it doesn't typically lead to such a swift departure, nor in the midst of an academic term, nor without any thanks.

Posted by eric at 9:53 PM

October 3, 2011

Missing from the Atlantic Antic: Forest City Ratner and the Nets (but Acorn was there--not ACORN)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Atlantic Antic, held the first Sunday in October on Atlantic Avenue going one mile west of Fourth Avenue--essentially west of the Barclays Center arena site--is the city's largest street festival.

Forest City Ratner and the Nets have been a periodic presence at the festival, in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Not last year or the year before. Not yesterday. Maybe they're saving money.

But I'll bet they'll be a presence in 2012.

article

Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

Forest City Ratner's Beekman Tower as a protest backdrop

Atlantic Yards Report

Photographer Adrian Kinloch, tracking the Occupy Wall Street protestors Saturday, October 1, as they ventured onto the Brooklyn Bridge, captured this shot of Forest City Ratner's Beekman Tower (aka 8 Spruce Street or New York by Gehry) looming in the background. His set is here.

link

NoLandGrab: Is there any better backdrop for protest against corporate greed than a Bruce Ratner building, erected with a large dollop of public subsidy, in which three-bedroom apartments rent for $15,000 a month?

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

September 30, 2011

Crime is out of control in Fort Greene

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

...and you can bet Bruce Ratner is doing his part.

On Target

Cops arrested a wannabe pickpocket at the Flatbush Avenue Target on Sept. 25.

The 37-year-old thief was in the frequently burglarized store near Atlantic Avenue at 4:15 pm when she plucked a mobile, credit cards, iPod, and cosmetics from a woman’s bag left in a shopping cart. But a witness saw it all happen and police seized the cutpurse as she tried to leave the store.

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Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

September 24, 2011

This Week in Crime: iPhone and Other Robberies

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Amanda Woods

No 88th Precinct crime spree would be complete without the requisite law-breaking in Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls.

Fort Greene and Clinton Hill saw a wave of crime between Sept. 11 and 18. In this one week span, the 88th Precinct had as much crime reported as it usually does in three weeks. Several robberies occurred across the area — and iPhones remained a common target. iPads and wallet thefts were common last week. Robbers plied their trade in the subways, in Fort Greene Park and in Atlantic Terminal Mall, including Best Buy and Target.
...

Targeted Stores

-A man used fake identification to obtain a credit card at an Atlantic Avenue Best Buy on Sept. 13 at 1:40 p.m., police said. The credit card was used to purchase a laptop and a DVD, police said. After the transaction was processed, store security and responding officers stopped the man in the store, police said.

Jean Mezius, 35, was arrested and charged with grand larceny in the fourth degree, criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree and possession of a forged instrument in the second degree, according to the Kings County District Attorney’s office.

-A 23-year-old woman’s purse was stole while she was shopping at Target in the Atlantic Terminal shopping mall, on Sept. 13 at 7 p.m., police said. Her child was pushing the baby stroller as she shopped at other stores, police said. When the woman entered Target she realized that the pocketbook, that had been hanging on the arm of the stroller, was missing. The pocketbook contained a non-driver New york State identification card, a United Health Care insurance card, an unborn Medicaid card and a New York State Chase debit card, the woman told police.

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Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

September 20, 2011

"Nets bring new playground to Canarsie school"? Actually, they paid 1/8 of the cost, but neither NY Post nor NY1 notice

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not enough that Bruce Ratner is "quietly" helping a blind teenage Sudanese ex-slave. Now he's leveraging taxpayer funds 7-to-1 to "bring" us playgrounds, too!

What if more reporters receiving press releases had taken "antimanipulation" in school?

We wouldn't get headlines like this, from the New York Post's Brooklyn blog yesterday.

Or like this, from NY1:

What did the Nets bring?

Though the Nets played a part, they didn't "bring" the playground. They paid only 1/8 of the cost.

Of course, those reading the vague Nets press release would have had to ask about the role of the Barclays Nets Community Alliance in the "refurbished playground it has funded at P.S. 276 in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn."

(Emphasis added)

Click through to read the God's honest truth press release.

article

Related nonsense...

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com], Nets bring new playground to Canarsie school

NY1, Nets Score Big With New School Playgrounds

Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

Yonkers' image is all about branding

LoHud.com
by Phil Reisman

While Forest City Ratner has practically wallowed in the Brooklyn "brand," it can't even bring itself to admit that its Ridge Hill development is in Yonkers.

Appearing on my radio program, "High Noon," [Yonkers Mayoral candidate Mike] Spano complained that Ridge Hill, the new and impressively huge retail-condominium development, is called Westchester's Ridge Hill. Not Ridge Hill of Yonkers.

"It actually hurts me a little bit when I drive by and I see their little van running around, saying 'Ridge Hill of Westchester,' " Spano said. "Because they're not."

Ridge Hill's creators say they refer to the 1.2-million square-foot complex as "Westchester's Ridge Hill in Yonkers," but Yonkers is barely mentioned at all in the official website. What's more, when you click onto "Directions," a photo pops up showing a young attractive couple gazing out on a river that suspiciously looks like the Seine in Paris.

When I put the question to Forest City Ratner, the developer of the retail complex, I was given a statement from Andy Silberfein, executive vice president and director of finance and retail development.
...

"We are fully committed to the City of Yonkers, are proud to be located in Yonkers and grateful for its support," he said. "If some ads were not properly worded to highlight that we are indeed in Yonkers, we will correct them and make it clear going forward."

article

NoLandGrab: Yeah, right. Just like they've corrected their placing of Atlantic Yards in "downtown Brooklyn" rather than low-rise, brownstone Prospect Heights.

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

September 15, 2011

Beaten for a backpack

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

It's abundantly clear that the Atlantic Terminal Target could use wallet protectors in addition to its vaunted Pocketbook Protectors.

Target-ed

Once again, a handful of crimes took place at the Bruce Ratner-owned Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls this week. Here’s what happened:

• A sticky-fingered thief grabbed a diaper bag containing a wallet and cellphone during a sneaky Sept. 6 theft inside the Flatbush Avenue Target.

The 25-year-old victim was inside the big box store near Atlantic Avenue at 6:30 pm when the crook snagged the bag.

• A 48-year-old woman was arrested on Sept. 7 after she was caught shoplifting inside the Flatbush Avenue Target.

Store employees grabbed the woman at 8:30 pm — just before she could make off with more than $1,000 in baby formula, clothes, candy, cosmetics and a blender.

• A thief made off with a 21-year-old woman’s handbag on Sept. 11 as the woman shopped at the Marshalls on Atlantic Avenue.

The victim was scouting out sales inside the store at 6:20 pm when she left her belongings on the floor.

When she turned back a few moments later, her bag — which contained $400 an iPad and her Russian passport — was gone.

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Posted by eric at 11:39 AM

September 14, 2011

ESDC, Forest City to appeal state court judge's ruling that requires Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement; legislators had asked state to comply with decision

Atlantic Yards Report

When it comes to Atlantic Yards and New York State government, everything is Status Cuomo.

Does the impact of extended Atlantic Yards construction, which could last 25 years, need to be studied further?

No, say the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner. They're appealing two decisions made by state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman--strong criticisms of the state's processes--leading to 7/13/11 ruling and order that the ESDC conduct further environmental review, including a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

The defense argument, as described further below, is that it was "rational in all respects, and adequately supported by the record" for the state to assume a ten-year buildout and to assume that no significant adverse environmental impacts had not already been analyzed.

The question for the appellate court is whether, indeed, it was "rational"--not clear and convincing but simply "rational." That's a very low bar for a state agency to meet in an environmental review proceeding, which is why Friedman's rulings against the state were unusual.

The petitioners--in two combined cases--include civic groups organized by BrooklynSpeaks and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), as well as several individuals and local elected officials. The appeal decision was announced yesterday by BrooklynSpeaks, which in recent months has taken more of a leading role in the litigation.

article

NoLandGrab: Why you hittin' yourself, ESDC?

Related coverage...

Prospect Heights Patch, Order for Environmental Review of Atlantic Yards to be Contested

Brownstoner, Forest City, ESDC Appealing July Atlantic Yards Ruling

Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

September 12, 2011

"Yuck" is one response to Ratner's 9/11 ad promoting the Beekman Tower (aka 8 Spruce Street/New York By Gehry)

Atlantic Yards Report

In his BreakingCopy blog, about copywriting, Daryl Lang today cites Forest City Ratner's 9/11-themed ad running in today's Wall Street Journal. (I'd have thought it would be in the New York Times, too, but maybe they could pick only one.)
...

My comment:

Note that Ratner didn’t place a vote of confidence in Lower Manhattan without hedging his bets.
He got tax-free Liberty Bonds to lower the cost of construction.
And he stopped construction midway to renegotiate with the unions.

link

Posted by eric at 12:54 PM

Developer Bruce Ratner’s 9/11 ad

Breaking Copy
by Daryl Lang

Bruce Ratner, patriot, is at it again, with his version of the Twin Towers.

Here’s an 9/11-themed ad that’s running in the Wall Street Journal today for the real estate developer Forest City Ratner.

Notice the skyline. The rippling, metallic building in the foreground is 8 Spruce Street, a Forest City Ratner building. It was designed by Frank Gehry and is an easily spotted new fixture in the downtown Manhattan skyline. It’s full of pricy apartments Ratner is trying to rent.

In the background, of course, is a rendering of the future 1 World Trade Center, which Ratner is not involved in. The copy above says, simply, “WE BELIEVE.”

What to make of this? On the one hand, yes, Bruce Ratner did place a vote of confidence in Lower Manhattan at a time when the neighborhood really needed investments. But come on. He’s a New York City real estate developer, not a charity. So the ad basically says: “Let’s piggyback the 9/11 anniversary to show off our shiny new building we’re trying to fill up.” Yuck.

link

NoLandGrab: If you don't shell out $15,000 a month for a high-floor 3BR, the terrorists will have won.

Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

September 10, 2011

In Forest City conference call, minimal discussion of Atlantic Yards; Nets losses, as projected in June, continue to grow; arena expected to boost income

Atlantic Yards Report

There wasn't that much new about Atlantic Yards in Forest City Enterprises' second-quarter conference call (transcript) yesterday with investment analysts that wasn't in the press release two days earlier.

Yes, work continues on the arena, and a permit has been applied for the first residential tower.

FCE President and CEO David LaRue made a comment that echoed the "We control the pace" comment from 2008:

In our core markets and key mixed use projects such as Denver and Stapleton, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and The Yards in DC, we have existing entitlements that we are able to activate judiciously.

In other words, they build when they get financing.

link

Posted by steve at 7:39 PM

September 8, 2011

Forest City Enterprises reports big drop in quarterly profits, mainly because last year they could sell Nets share; "forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the arena" have risen only from 51% to 56% in one year

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Enterprises's FY 2011 second-quarter and year-to-date results, as noted a press release yesterday, show earnings down, mainly because the company--parent to Forest City Ratner--didn't have shares in a losing Nets team to sell this year.

Also, as noted below, the public statement contained an indication that sponsorship sales for the Barclays Center arena could be more robust.

Earnings down

For this quarter, net earnings declined from $.62/share to $.02/share over last year, a phenomenon that was emphasized by the AP and Cleveland Plain Dealer in their stories.
...

Arena forecast revenues up only slightly

From the release:

Work continues at Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards, and an official opening date of September 28, 2012 has been set for the arena. Approximately 56 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the arena are currently under contract.

They haven't made much progress in the past year. Three months ago, the figure was 55%. Six months ago, the figure was 55%. In September 2010, one year ago, the figure was 51%.

At the past year's pace, they won't be that much past 60% in September 2012 when the arena opens. I wouldn't doubt they're working on some deals and that they want a much higher number.

article

Related content...

Forest City Enterprises Press Release

Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

September 7, 2011

Liberty Bonds, 9/11, and Forest City Ratner: the first subsidy for a commercial tower (the only one in Brooklyn) and the largest subsidy for a residential tower

Atlantic Yards Report

While Forest City Ratner was not the largest beneficiary of post-9/11 federal recovery funds, it was among the savviest, gaining the first triple tax-exempt bonds for commercial projects, the Bank of New York Tower at Atlantic Terminal, which was the only project outside of Manhattan.

Beyond that, FCR garnered the single largest share of the relatively small amount of tax-exempt bonds designed for housing, aiding construction of the Beekman Tower (aka 8 Spruce Street aka New York by Gehry) in Lower Manhattan.

Thus, in gaining nearly $300 million in tax-exempt (federal, state, city) bonds, the developer saved tens of millions of dollars by paying a lower interest rate. It's more evidence for scholar/writer Fred Siegel's characterization of Bruce Ratner in the 11/30/05 Cleveland Plain Dealer: "He's the master of subsidy."

Yesterday, in a New York Post op-ed headlined Liberty misspent: Political use of rebuild bonds, Nicole Gelinas of the free-market Manhattan Institute suggested that, given that so much of the aid, including up to $8 billion in Liberty Bonds for real estate, went outside of Ground Zero, "New York squandered time and money doling out favors."

Beyond Gelinas's argument, there's evidence, described below, that the Bank of New York is not now meeting the requirements for job retention that justified another chunk of subsidies it gained.

article

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

September 5, 2011

Today's West Indian American Carnival parade, and a prediction regarding 2012 sponsors

Atlantic Yards Report

The West Indian American Carnival parade, New York City's largest public event, occurs today in Brooklyn, beginning at 11 am along Eastern Parkway at Utica Avenue, moving west until it ends two miles later at the Brooklyn Museum, with crowds dispersing west to Grand Army Plaza.

The latter's a mile or so east of the Atlantic Avenue transit hub and Barclays Center construction site.

It's an event for local political and civic leaders and organizations to attend--who can forget Borough President Marty Markowitz's annual appearances, not in carnival get-up, but wearing a tropical shirt?

The website for the West Indian American Carnival Association lists several sponsors:

The list does not include Forest City Ratner, the Nets, nor Barclays. I'd bet that, in 2012, when the arena is opening, one or more of those three will be among the sponsors.

article

NoLandGrab: Walmart is playing the Forest City/Nets/Barlcays role in the 2011 edition.

Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

September 1, 2011

Who got the Liberty Bonds?

The Torch
by Nicole Gelinas

The journalist and free-marketeer reminds us that Bruce Ratner got a chunk of taxpayer money to rebuild that portion of Fort Greene damaged in the 9/11 attacks.

The city’s independent budget office (IBO) has released a report on New York’s post-9/11 disaster and recovery spending. So who got the Liberty Bond money?

As part of its $20.5 billion aid package, remember, Washington gave the city $1.2 billion to support $8 billion worth of “Liberty Bonds” — bonds that private companies could issue for real-estate development projects. No level of government (federal, state, or local) guaranteed the bonds’ repayment, but the bonds are exempt from federal, state, and local taxes, meaning that investors demand a lower interest rate on them.

Of the $6.4 billion in Liberty Bonds issued since 2003, only $3.8 billion – 59 percent — went to build projects at the World Trade Center site. WTC developer Larry Silverstein got about $3.1 billion, and the Port Authority took (or will take) $701.6 million for itself.

Who got the rest? Goldman Sachs got $1.7 billion for its downtown tower. The Dursts got $650 million for the Bank of America building (in Midtown). A Forest City (that’s Bruce Ratner of Atlantic Yards) office-tower project for BONY Mellon in Brooklyn got $90.8 million.

article

Posted by eric at 9:28 PM

August 30, 2011

Bollard backtrack! MTA reverses course on Atlantic Terminal security sarcophagi

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

It's getting increasingly difficult to keep track of the bollards around here. The Barclays Center, which the NYPD in 2007 said wouldn't require bollards, is going to get more than 200 of them. And now, less than two years after NoLandGrab broke the story of the Atlantic Terminal's massive, tomb-like bollards, the MTA says it's going to downsize them.

The MTA has agreed to tear out the massive granite barricades ringing the Long Island Rail Road’s Atlantic Terminal, finally admitting that the concrete coffins at the borough’s largest transit hub were excessive and ugly.

Starting in February, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will rip out the 14 stone sarcophagi and replace them with a series of short metal bollards at the entrance to the $106-million Atlantic Terminal, which opened to immediate criticism in January, 2010.

Actually, they pre-opened to our criticism on December 7, 2009, to be precise.

MTA spokesman Sal Arena acknowledged that the stunning reversal was a response to outcry over the massive security perimeter.

“The new, smaller bollards are less intrusive and more acceptable to the community,” Arena said.

article

NoLandGrab: And in a landmark deal, Barclays has purchased the naming rights, and the MTA spokesman will now be known as Sal Barclays.

Photo: Barry Shifrin/The Brooklyn Paper

Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

Fort Greene thieves love iPhones

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

And they love Bruce Ratner's malls, too.

Stroller swipe

A thief snagged a wallet from a 41-year-old woman getting last-minute Hurricane Irene provisions from the Atlantic Center Pathmark on Aug. 26.

The woman had left her wallet atop her baby stroller at 8:30 pm when the thief walked by and grabbed it.

article

Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

August 29, 2011

Storm mostly spares New York City; had winds been worse, unsecured potential projectiles at Atlantic Yards site could have posed dangers

Atlantic Yards Report

Anyone familiar with Bruce Ratner's record of "securing" construction sites won't be surprised that Atlantic Yards was a hurricane accident waiting to happen.

As the New York Times headline put it, Storm Damage Largely Spares New York, which includes the Atlantic Yards site.

NetsDaily reported:

Barry Baum, senior vice-president for communications at The Barclays Center reports the arena "had no structural damage or damage to equipment. There's water, but it is being pumped out. Everything held up very well." Critics had questioned whether equipment had been secured.

That's a rather pat dismissal (though par for the NetsDaily course). After all, the fact of no damage does not mean that equipment was secured.

As noted yesterday, there were signs of inadequate preparation--materials and equipment left uncovered at the site, despite instructions from the Department of Buildings.

Additional photos

And, according to the file below contributed by a reader, there were several instances of unsecured potential projectiles, including loose lumber. Also note overturned toilets and some collected trash that likely exacerbates the rat problem.

Note that the file is hardly comprehensive; the before-and-after photos focus on the railyard and the site perimeter, not the interior of the arena site, where there were more materials and equipment.

Click thru for pictures, including one of the "Outhouse of Flying Daggers."

link

Posted by eric at 9:24 AM

August 26, 2011

The New York Times Building to Host Gallery of Reflection for Sept. 11

Press Release via Reuters

Those patriots at Forest City Ratner, who help themselves — Liberally, of course — to hundreds of millions in public subsidies, are wrapping themselves in the mantle of 9/11.

The New York Times Building will host 9/11 Remembered: A Gallery of Reflection, an exhibit to mark the 10th anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The gallery will be on view in the lobby of the Times Building and open to the public from Thursday, Sept. 8, through Monday, Sept. 12, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

9/11 Remembered will be a reflection on Sept. 11, 2001 and the past 10 years, and a look toward the future, told through still and video images curated from The New York Times archive.
...

9/11 Remembered is presented by The New York Times and Forest City Ratner Companies. Additional information about the exhibit can be found at www.NYTGalleryofReflection.com.

link

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

August 25, 2011

The Week in Crime: Police Urge Extra Vigilance

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Liza Eckert

The local police are warning that lately, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill are like Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls — you could be a crime victim at any moment.

A spokesman for the 88th Precinct also asked us to alert residents to a couple of worrying crime trends. A spike in robberies, including several involving iPhones, prompted police to ask residents to be extra careful.

“Especially after dark, we’d like to ask them to refrain from using their expensive electronic items in public,” said a spokesman for the 88th Precinct.
...

Larceny at Marshall’s

-A 37-year-old woman set her bag down next to her stroller in Marshall’s on Atlantic Avenue around 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 15 while she walked away to look at some clothes. When she returned, the bag, containing passports, Medicaid cards, money orders and social security cards, was gone.

article

Posted by eric at 6:14 PM

August 17, 2011

FOREST CITY RATNER PRESS RELEASE: Basking in the glow of the nearing 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks

Some people have no shame.

Frank Gehry's Lower Manhattan Skyscraper Is A Shining Symbol of Renewal and Residential Renaissance Over the Past Decade

PR Newswire

NEW YORK, Aug. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A symbol of Lower Manhattan's resurgence over the past decade as a vibrant residential, commercial and cultural neighborhood, the shining New York by Gehry at Eight Spruce Street (NewYorkbyGehry.com) is lauded by architecture critics worldwide. With stainless steel cladding curving like draped fabric, it's an inspired addition to the Manhattan skyline.

"I designed a building I would want to live in as a New Yorker," said renowned architect Frank Gehry. "You could say this is my love letter to New York City. I'm thrilled we were able to do it in Lower Manhattan, which allowed me to be part of something so meaningful -- to stand with this building's neighbors, the residents and businesses of this neighborhood. We worked together over the past seven years to create a new icon for Lower Manhattan."
...

Bruce C. Ratner, Chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, said, "Lower Manhattan has shown its resilience, and we are so proud to be part of its residential growth and renewal. It's been extremely fulfilling to collaborate with Frank Gehry to realize his stunning design and to work with the Bloomberg Administration and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to create a new five-story, 100,000-square-foot public school -- much-needed by local families."

link

NoLandGrab: We're a little surprised they didn't Photoshop in the faint outline of the Twin Towers in the photograph and hang a big American flag off of Gehry's "love letter."

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

August 16, 2011

Another crime in Fort Greene Park

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Pocketbooks aren't the only thing not being protected by Target's Pocketbook Protectors — hang on to your lingerie!

Target swipe

A thief snagged the mother lode during a visit to the Flatbush Avenue Target on Aug. 10: a woman’s bag containing a laptop computer, ipod, cellphone and credit cards.

The 30-year-old victim left her bag unattended in a shopping cart as she perused the aisles at 7:02 pm. When she returned two minutes later, her bag was gone.

Bra bilker

A thief swiped more than $1,600 worth of “Dream Angel” bras at the Victoria Secret inside the crime-ridden Atlantic Terminal mall on Flatbush Avenue on Aug. 13.

The unidentified goon pulled the uplifting undergarments — which cost between $45 and $58 apiece — from store shelves at 1:20 pm, putting them in a Target bag. He then scurried out a back door before anyone knew what had happened.

article

Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

August 13, 2011

The Week in Crime: Violent Fights Across Neighborhood

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Lisha Arino

It appears that Target's Pocketbook Protectors have once again failed to protect shoppers' pocketbooks.

Other Stolen Wallets and Purses

-A 32-year-old woman reported on Aug. 4 that someone stole her purse, police said. The woman said that it was taken from her on July 31 at about 7:30 p.m. while she was in the Atlantic Terminal Mall Target, police said. She placed her bag on a shelf to look through some items, but when she returned, the purse was missing, the woman told police. She also lost her Nokia cell phone, chains, Citibank card, credit cards and a university ID card, police said. The victim called her cell phone and spoke to a female on the other line who agreed to return the phone for a reward, but the victim told police that the woman did not follow through.

You can't expect much help from the police, however, when other mall patrons are biting them.

Resisting Arrest at Atlantic Terminal

-Two women were fighting at Atlantic Terminal on Aug. 2 at 5:25 p.m., police said, when an officer stepped in and tried to cool down the fight and arrest one of the woman, police said. She resisted arrest by flailing her arms, kicking, and biting the officer on the right arm, police said. She also yelled, “Get your hands off of me,” police said.

Latasha S. Lee, 18, was arrested at the station at 5:39 p.m., police said. She has been charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, harassment in the second degree and assault in the second and third degrees, according to the Kings County District Attorney’s office.

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Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

August 11, 2011

Metro Tech BID takeover now complete

The Broolyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

Just what Brooklynites have been clamoring for — more power consolidated in the greedy hands of Bruce Ratner.

It’s official! The public-private Downtown Brooklyn Partnership beginning August 15 will seize control the Metro Tech Business Improvement District.
...

The Partnership, a development corporation created by Bloomberg to spur economic development in Downtown Brooklyn, will now manage the BID’s operations -- and its $2.6 million yearly budget raised through a neighborhood property tax -- ending more than two years of bickering by BID board members split over the plan.

A faction, including Aviles and top BID brass, had fought the Partnership plan despite pressure from City Hall and developer Forest City Ratner, which built Metro Tech’s office complex in the 1980s.

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Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

August 10, 2011

As Investors, Chinese Turn to New York

The New York Times
by Kirk Semple

Leave it to The Times to completely gloss over the controversial nature of its development partner's EB-5 investment program.

Chinese banks have poured more than $1 billion into real estate loans in New York City in the past year. Investors from China are snapping up luxury apartments and planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on commercial and residential projects like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Chinese companies have signed major leases at the Empire State Building and at 1 World Trade Center, which is the centerpiece of the rebuilding at ground zero.
...

Chinese money is also poised to flow into the city through a federal program that offers the possibility of permanent residency to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in certain development projects.

Under this program, known as EB-5, Forest City Ratner Companies has arranged for $249 million in loans from Chinese investors for residential and office towers at Atlantic Yards, the commercial and residential project in Brooklyn that includes a new stadium for the New Jersey Nets.

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NoLandGrab: That's it, the full extent of The Times's coverage of EB-5 investments in Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 10:00 PM

August 4, 2011

A partial loophole in Forest City Ratner's plan to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor for the CBA, but the developer still hasn't fulfilled its obligation (and backers are quiet)

Atlantic Yards Report

I should revise my analysis of Forest City Ratner's obligations under the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM).

I wrote 11/29/10 that Forest City Ratner lied about CBA, claiming it went into effect only when the arena broke ground, and avoided hiring an ICM. I stand by that overall critique. The CBA went into effect shortly after it was signed in June 2005.

However, in terms of hiring an ICM, a footnote in an RFP (Request for Proposals) gave the developer slack until shortly before the groundbreaking, thus contradicting the language (likely) and spirit (clearly) of the CBA.

Even with that slack, however, Forest City Ratner has evaded its obligation, leading to regular situations, as I've described, in which the developer publicly self-reports on compliance with the CBA.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Beyond the over-hyped CBA: Bloomberg announces new plan to address jobs and training for young black and Latino men; response includes a good measure of skepticism (too little, too late?)

Once upon a time, Atlantic Yards and its Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) was portrayed as solving a decent chunk of social problems in Brooklyn. Actually, that was pretty recent; then-Governor David Paterson, at the March 2010 arena groundbreaking, declared, “As the buildings rise on Atlantic Yards, the joblessness rate will fall here in Brooklyn.”

Maybe a somewhat comprehensive strategy is necessary.

A front-page article in today's New York Times, Bloomberg to Use Own Funds in Plan to Aid Minority Youth (or in print "City Campaign Seeks to Lift Young Black and Latino Men"), reports:

The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a blunt acknowledgment that thousands of young black and Latino men are cut off from New York’s civic, educational and economic life, plans to spend nearly $130 million on far-reaching measures to improve their circumstances.

The program, the most ambitious policy push of Mr. Bloomberg’s third term, would overhaul how the government interacts with a population of about 315,000 New Yorkers who are disproportionately undereducated, incarcerated and unemployed.

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

August 3, 2011

Thief loots car — then asks victim to call the cops

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Looks like Bruce Ratner needs to employ some Parking Lot Protectors in addition to Target's Pocketbook Protectors.

Mall menaces

At least two crimes took place at the Atlantic Center Mall last week. Here’s what happened:

• A thug busted his way into a 2011 Toyota in the parking lot on July 27, taking a laptop computer he found inside.

The owner of the car parked his vehicle inside the Atlantic Avenue lot at 4:05 pm. When he returned nearly two hours later, he learned that someone had smashed his side window and removed a bag holding his computer.

• A 22-year-old man was arrested on July 25 after he tried to buy more than $9,000 in electronics — including five iPads — from the Best Buy inside the Atlantic Center Mall with a fraudulent credit card.

The man was arrested as soon as an employee learned that the credit card he had been reported stolen.

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Posted by eric at 8:47 AM

August 1, 2011

The Week in Crime: Wheelchair Stolen and Daylight Robberies

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Susan Rohwer

Maybe Best Buy and Old Navy can borrow a couple Pocketbook Protectors from Target — though they haven't had much success in protecting pocketbooks there, either.

Atlantic Terminal Thefts

  • A total of $2,000 was stolen from the cash registers at Best Buy on Atlantic Avenue between June 4 and July 18, said police. Brandon Stafford, 25, has been arrested and charged with petit larceny in connection with the thefts at Best Buy, said police. Mr. Stafford was arrested at the store on July 19 at 10:25 p.m., according to the police report, which did not say whether Mr. Stafford is an employee at Best Buy.

  • A man tried to walk out of the Old Navy on Atlantic Avenue with $1,016 worth of merchandise that he had not paid for on July 20, police said. That day at 2 p.m. Gabriel Garcia, 41, was arrested at the store and charged with petit larceny, according to the New York State Unified Court System website.

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Posted by eric at 1:55 PM

Down the rabbit hole: federal agency says immigrant investors in EB-5 program can get credit for all the jobs created or saved; critic suggests most EB-5 investments "are of much lower quality"

Atlantic Yards Report

I'm still waiting for more media outlets to latch on to the absurdity of the federal EB-5 program, which is exploding as immigrants seeking to buy their way into the country hook up with entrepreneurs who devise plans that aim to meet the letter, if not the spirit, of a vaguely defined law.

Remember, the $500,000 from each immigrant investor, which gains green cards for the investor and his/her family, is supposed to generate ten jobs.

In the case of Atlantic Yards, no new jobs would be created, but Forest City Ratner's raising $249 million from 498 investors who've been told, misleadingly, that they're investing in an arena.

Most people, learning that wealthy foreigners can buy their way into the country, are taken aback that the program even exists. I focus on whether the letter and spirit of the law are being followed, and whether there's sufficient oversight.

And, as noted below, critic David North suggests that most EB-5 investments are of lower quality than other deals on the open market, which makes sense, since the lure is not financial return but green cards.

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Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

July 28, 2011

Did Forest City Ratner try to avert yesterday's rally? There were hints, plus an FCR associate shadowing the protest

Atlantic Yards Report

Did Forest City Ratner or others try to stop yesterday's protest, led by People for Political and Economic Empowerment (P.P.E.E.)?

P.P.E.E. president Martin Allen, in the interviews below, hinted as such, though he wouldn't name names. He said they wanted to avert the protest, and call him in for a negotiation.

He said he wanted a public negotiation, with promises for local jobs and hiring fulfilled as promised. If such another project arose, I asked what he'd do differently? Get it in writing, he said.

But Forest City did sign a Community Benefits Agreement, so the devil's in the details.

Shadowing the protest

At one point, the woman pictured at [right], along with an associate walked along, observing the protest.

One of the protesters identified her to me as Yvette, the daughter of Darryl Greene, the controversial minority hiring/contracting consultant who was so toxic, because of his criminal record, that his role in one firm's Aqueduct "racino" bid led to the demise of that bid.

Greene's firm, The Darman Group, has long worked for Forest City Ratner and was supposed to help the firm hire an Independent Compliance Monitor to report on the Community Benefits Agreement.

A records search indicates that Darryl Greene has a relative named Yvette Dennis.

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Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

The Ratner response to yesterday's protest: there are 543 workers, 217 from Brooklyn (really?); one report asks, Where's the ICM?

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, Forest City Ratner claimed in the Daily News that there were 543 workers on the Barclays Center construction site, and that 217 of them live in Brooklyn. Norman Oder thinks not.

I question those statistics.

Keep in mind that, at the 7/14/11 Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, Forest City reported 430 workers on site. Even if that number has increased, keep in mind last month a more independent source--the consultant to the arena bond trustee--reported 320 workers--while in May Forest City had reported 500.

As for the number of Brooklyn workers, aid Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin, stated, verbatim. "[S]ince construction began approximately 180 Brooklyn residents have been working on site."

(Emphasis added)

Cumulative totals are not the same as current statistics.

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Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

July 26, 2011

Fitch downgrades pool of loans led by Metrotech Center building

The Real Deal
by David Jones

Fitch Ratings downgraded a $6.6 million class of commercial real estate loans led by 10 Metrotech Center, a seven-story office building owned by Forest City Ratner in Downtown Brooklyn.

Fitch downgraded one class of COMM Mortgage Trust 2005-FL-10, saying 42 percent of the pool is expected to default due a 10 percent overall decline in cash flow compared with the last update.

The 359,000 square foot property, located at 625 Fulton Street in Brooklyn, is faced with an expiring lease with the Internal Revenue Service, which occupies nearly 88 percent of the building. The loan represents 7.4 percent of the pool balance.

The lease is scheduled to expire in February 2012, though the General Services Administration has announced plans to extend the IRS lease for at least six months. The loan is currently in special servicing and has been listed as distressed since early 2010.

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Posted by eric at 1:01 PM

July 18, 2011

Unwilling Partners?

Some merchants angry at growth of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

City Hall News
by Stephen Witt

A nonprofit created by the Bloomberg administration to redevelop downtown Brooklyn is poised to take over an older group that has served a section of the area for years—sparking fears that large developers will have a greater voice there than small businesses.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a local development organization formed five years ago by then Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, soon expects to operate the MetroTech Business Improvement District, just as it operates two other nearby BIDs.
...

But merchants note there is only one shopkeeper on the partnership’s board—Bridge Street Cleaners and Tailors owner Victoria Aviles—and say the partnership’s loyalty remains with developers like Bruce Ratner and Joshua Muss, who sit on its board and pay $450,000 in contributions.

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NoLandGrab: Former Courier-Life reporter Stephen Witt, in a refreshing departure from his past Atlantic Yards coverage, plays it straight for a change.

Posted by eric at 9:36 AM

July 15, 2011

Josh Mandel, (R-OH) U.S. senate candidate not so *golden*

Unified Patriots

Apparently, political candidates in Ohio taking campaign contributions from Ratners is a no-no for Tea Partiers, 'cause where there're Ratners, there's ACORN. In fact, it's as bad as clapping one's hands for Al Gore. If they only knew the half of Forest City's subsidy-grubbing ways.

Angel-faced and attractive Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel has an impressive resume as far as accomplishments in the political arena. At least on the surface. But I’ve discovered Mandel has a lot of skeletons in his closet.
...

Although I can’t confirm by a marriage certificate, I’ve been told by various sources that Mandel is married to a Ratner. If this is indeed correct it would certainly explain his amazing fundraising and the huge enterprise that must be behind this 33 year old gentleman. Albert Ratner, one of the patriarchs of Forest City Ratner did indeed donate $17,000 to Mandel in 2008.

The ties to the Ratners and Mandels also run deep. The Mandels are wealthy and into the casino business.

link

NoLandGrab: Hey, Tea Partiers, did you know the Ratners prefer to gamble with the taxpayers' money?

Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

July 13, 2011

Vicious teens attack another in Underwood Park

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alex Rush

How are Target's Pocketbook Protectors supposed to protect your pocketbook if they can't even protect their own?

Target take

Someone swiped a Flatbush Avenue Target employee’s purse on July 2.

The victim told cops that she was working at the Atlantic Terminal Mall store, which is near Hanson Place, at around 9 am when she absentmindedly left her silver bag on a desk. The purse, which contained cash, cards and makeup, was gone when she returned nine hours later to retrieve it.

Secret steal

Cops arrested a 14-year-old girl for stealing two pricey T-shirts and a bag from the Atlantic Terminal Mall Victoria’s Secret on July 8.

Cops say that the young victim stole the items from the store, which is on Flatbush Avenue near Hanson Place, at around 3:30 pm. Police collared her the same day.

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Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

July 11, 2011

Forest City Ratner's deceptive memo opposing new ESDC subsidiary to oversee Atlantic Yards inadvertently makes strong argument for more transparency, passage of governance bill

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner has issued a self-serving and misleading Memorandum in Opposition to a pending bill that would allow a state subsidiary to oversee Atlantic Yards.

A subsidiary, argues Forest City, would delay public benefits. Rather, the document suggests it would do more to delay private profits.

The memo, with numerous half-truths and deceptions, ultimately makes a huge argument for such a subsidiary. However weak a subsidiary, it at least could create more oversight and transparency regarding the project, and help right a balance of power that tilts toward the developer.

The memorandum, embedded below, was made available on the BrooklynSpeaks web site this weekend. As BrooklynSpeaks explains, FCR's praise for current oversight is rather myopic:

FCRC extolls [sic] the existing project oversight being provided by the ESDC, ignoring a New York Supreme Court Justice’s characterization of the agency’s review of the 2009 plan as having “lacked the candor that the public was entitled to expect, particularly in light of the scale of the Project and its impact on the community.”

The bill, which has passed the Assembly, died at the end of the legislative session in June, but should get another look in the state Senate this summer. At that time, not just the developer but the ESDC itself should be asked to defend the memo's claims.

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Related coverage...

BrooklynSpeaks, Forest City Ratner lobbies unsuccessfully against reform of Atlantic Yards oversight

As Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries bill to reform oversight of the Atlantic Yards project was on its way to the floor of the New York State Assembly, developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) lobbied legislators to vote against the bill by, among other things, circulating a “Memorandum in Opposition.”

The arguments in FCRC’s memo are sometimes inaccurate, misleading and outrageous, but unfortunately not surprising. The developer continues to represent itself as a concerned corporate citizen, blaming the community for delays FCRC itself extracted from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) as concessions during the renegotiation of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan.

Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

Tri-State briefs: Long-delayed Ratner project opening soon in Yonkers

The Real Deal

One of the condo buildings at Forest City Ratner's long-delayed, mixed-use mega-project in Yonkers will soon be opening.

The $660 million project -- which sits on 81 acres along the New York State Thruway and has been dubbed Ridge Hill Village -- will include 1,000 rental and condo units. It will also include 1.2 million square feet of retail, 160,000 square feet of offices and possibly a hotel.

According to published reports, once complete, the project -- which faced community opposition and legal hurdles -- is expected to generate almost $24 million in annual tax revenue for the financially troubled city of Yonkers. It is also expected to generate $8.6 million in county taxes and $29.3 million in state taxes.

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NoLandGrab: "Is expected by" whom? We expect that it will be a bust for Yonkers, but a boon for Forest City.

Posted by eric at 12:22 PM

July 8, 2011

The Week in Crime: Officer Assaulted With Frying Pan After Knife Attack

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

Where was the Pocketbook Protector?

Wallet Stolen At Target

-A 29-year-old woman was shopping in the swimsuit section of the Flatbush Avenue Target at 2:10 p.m. on June 29, when she noticed that her purse was unlatched and her wallet was missing, police said. The woman told Target security, who said they have video footage of a woman stealing the wallet, police said. In addition to the American Apparel wallet, a Capital One credit card, Chase bank card, Wachovia bank card and New York State driver’s license were reported stolen, police said. The woman canceled all of her credit cards, police said.

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Posted by eric at 1:55 PM

July 6, 2011

Forest City sells 49% stake in two New York rental buildings, Beekman and 80 DeKalb, at apparent discount to raise cash

Atlantic Yards Report

Like New York, it seems "Forest City Ratner is open for business." But maybe the line should be "everything must go — no reasonable offer will be refused!"

To lower debt payments, Forest City Enterprises is selling nearly half of two New York rental properties developed by subordinate Forest City Ratner, keeping 51% ownership. Similarly, the company sold nearly half of New York area retail properties in March to raise cash.

The press release at bottom, which is distilled in The Real Deal, Forest City restructures financing at 8 Spruce, DKLB BKLN, provides the developer's preferred angle:

Forest City Enterprises and National Real Estate Advisors [NREA] announced agreements to restructure the financing at 8 Spruce Street, the Frank Gehry-designed 76-story rental tower in Lower Manhattan and at DKLB BKLN the luxury tower in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, saving the companies hundreds of millions of dollars in debt payments.

Crain's Cleveland Business also distilled the press release.

But there's a trade-off: while Forest City may save hundreds of millions in debt, it sold stakes in both buildings for what seem to be discounts. (I suspect I'm missing some elements of the financial deal, but the raw math is still worth a look.)

In the press release, Forest City CEO David LaRue hinted that times are still tough: "Finally, by extending the bank credit facilities, it allows additional time for economic conditions and rents to further improve before refinancing is necessary."

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Related coverage...

The Real Deal, Forest City restructures financing at 8 Spruce, DKLB BKLN

Forest City Enterprises and National Real Estate Advisors announced agreements to restructure the financing at 8 Spruce Street, the Frank Gehry-designed 76-story rental tower in Lower Manhattan and at DKLB BKLN the luxury tower in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, saving the companies hundreds of millions of dollars in debt payments.

The development is key for Forest City, the parent firm of Forest City Ratner, as this $876 million rental tower, formerly known as the Beekman, was under pressure to bring in enough renters to become profitable in a market that is just getting its sea legs.

Crain's Cleveland Business, Forest City Enterprises, National Real Estate Advisors recapitalize two N.Y. apartments

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

Frank Gehry: Dizzy heights

The Guardian
by Jonathan Glancey

This sappy lovefest with the ill-fated Atlantic Yards starchitect, whose Forest City-built 8 Spruce Street was apparently inspired by "Michelangelo and Bernini," includes the best rationalization for construction-budget cost-cutting ever.

I'm getting tearful," says Frank Gehry when I ask him how he feels about finally making his mark on the Manhattan skyline. "My father grew up in Hell's Kitchen, 10th Avenue, on the city's West Side." Irving Goldberg was one of nine children in a very poor immigrant family; his son changed his name in the early 1950s. "He started work at 11," says Gehry. "He had a hard life. I'd like to share 8 Spruce Street with him. Hey, Pa! I got to build a skyscraper right by the Woolworth Building. That's me, Dad. Up there!"

Gehry's previous tribute to his dad was disavowing his surname.

"Originally, I wanted to have the folds going all the way around," Gehry explains. "But the marketing folk said that 15% of people didn't want apartments with wrinkles. So that's why there's a straight side. But, then, they started to rent out the wrinkly apartments, and asked for more of them. By then I'd begun to like the straight side. The models we made showing the tower completely wrinkly just didn't look tough enough for New York."

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Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

Brooklyn Museum Charges Ahead With New Trustees, Despite Troubles

NY Observer
by Dan Duray

The transition remains fraught with uncertainty as Mr. Lehman moves forward with new sources of funding and new partnerships. One of the new trustees is a law professor with a background as a corporate lawyer, another is Williamsburg-based artist Fred Tomaselli, whose retrospective exhibition appeared at the museum last year, and yet another is general counsel for Forest City Ratner Companies. (The museum is close with Bruce Ratner and was criticized for honoring him at a 2008 gala that featured a performance by Kanye West.)

One thing is certain: all eyes are on Mr. Lehman, whose tenacity will be tested by his ability to save what appears to be an ailing institution.

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NoLandGrab: Maybe Bruce can build a skyscraper atop the building, and the museum can collect the crumbs.

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

July 5, 2011

Construction Update: Forest City and contractor Hunt are "considering" helping more with rat abatement

Atlantic Yards Report

From the two-week Construction Update (embedded below), dated 7/4/11, prepared by Forest City Ratner and distributed by the Empire State Development Corporation:

Hunt [Construction] and FCRC have reviewed and are considering actions to supplement the site and adjacent neighborhood’s rodent protection activities. Hunt has more than 225 rodent bait stations within the area work site and Block 1129 that are being monitored and maintained.

The issue, however, is the "rat tsunami" outside the project site. The developer has been pressured to do more and previously said it was considering doing so. Given that rat sightings proliferate, as I've been told, residents seek a solution sooner rather than later.

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Posted by eric at 11:12 PM

July 1, 2011

Brooklyn Museum Names Fred Tomaselli and Two Others as New Trustees

ARTINFO

A week after announcing that it was replacing its board president with investment banker John Tamagni, the struggling Brooklyn Museum has named three new trustees: Fred Tomaselli, a known Brooklyn-booster and the first artist “in recent times” to sit on the museum’s board, along with New York Law School associate professor Tamara Belinfanti and Forest City Ratner executive VP and general counsel David Berliner. (It might be noted that Forest City Ratner, the high-profile development firm, is best known in Brooklyn for its not-exactly-fan-favorite Atlantic Yards project.) Let’s hope these three can inject some life into the wayward institution.

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Related coverage...

NY Observer, Brooklyn Museum Announces New Trustees Amid Money Troubles

The three trustees will be grappling with some financial difficulties–a recent planned show of graffiti art, which was to have courted the sort of controversy the Museum has historically enjoyed (they do have Judy Chicago in the permanent collection!) was scuttled, reportedly due either to financial cutbacks or the potential loss of city money the museum could not afford to lose.

NoLandGrab: Want some more irony? It's highly likely that the museum cursed itself by honoring Bruce Ratner at its annual gala in 2008.

Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

BAM and Barclays Center Strike Up Arts Partnership

WNYC
by Julia Furlan

Since The Times reported it, it must be news.

Grande jetés and encores may join the jabs and jump shots at Downtown Brooklyn's Barclays Center. The developers of the 18,000-seat arena announced on Thursday that they are looking around the corner to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) for arts programming.

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Related coverage...

NY Observer, Bruce Ratner, Arch-Ironist

The Observer's Matt Chaban sees through the irony.

“I always like to put things that are a little bit ironic together. So here you have a place like BAM, which is a great contemporary-arts cultural institution, and then you have an arena, which, people think about sports and circus and so on. And then you put them together, and then I think you’ve got something special.”

Indeed, Mr. Ratner has been a master of irony through decades of development:

  • He had a rapidly gentrifying stretch of Brooklyn declared blighted, and then condemned.
  • He has acquired a taste for hip-hop.
  • He gets the light touch from the newspaper of record whose headquarters he built.
  • He lives in Manhattan.
  • He hired, then fired, Frank Gehry from the Atlantic Yards project after a lifetime of developing blasé buildings.
  • Ratner’s rats.

(If these are not exactly ironic, well, neither is a cultural institution putting on shows in a sports arena, either.)

CBS New York, Nets’ Barclays Center Announces Partnership With Brooklyn Academy Of Music

“From concerts to family shows, from college sports to boxing, and, of course, to Nets basketball, we have already confirmed more than 150 events per year and we fully expect to host more than 200 events annually,” said Nets CEO Brett Yormark. “It makes great strategic sense to align with our neighbor, BAM, and continue to bring the best of everything to Brooklyn.”

AP via Washington Examiner, NYC's new Nets arena announces arts partnership

BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins said the partnership will give BAM the opportunity to work on a giant canvas.

NoLandGrab: Almost like building a neighborhood practically from scratch.

Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

June 28, 2011

Gunpoint mugging near Fort Greene Park

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alex Rush

Mall rat

Someone stole $9,000 were of jewelry from an Atlantic Terminal Mall kiosk on June 25.

Cops say that there are mall security videos showing the thief breaking the lock on the kiosk, near Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, at around 9 pm to steal the goods.

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NoLandGrab: In some quarters, that's called helping oneself to a subsidy.

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

FCR's Gilmartin makes the Crain's list of NYC's Most Powerful Women, along with Tighe, Wylde, Burden

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards point person, as well as some key supporters, make Crain's New York Business's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in New York 2011.

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Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

A foolish proposition

Queens Crapper

From Backyard and Beyond:

The marsh itself was mosquito-free. And tranquil-looking… but don’t let looks deceive you. Salt-marshes are one of the most productive of ecosystems, nursing fish and many invertebrates, filtering water and absorbing storm surges, pumping blessed oxygen into the air, providing food for everything from bacteria to mammals.

Green with two species of spartina, ringed by phragmites, studded with the keystone ribbed mussels, soft and hard shell clams, mud snails, fiddler crabs, and plentiful little fish in the rising tide. Is this Brooklyn? Yes, it is. A Forever Wild remnant of the salt-marshes that once ringed Jamaica Bay and much of the city. (JFK, LGA, EWR and TEB were all built on salt marshes). But “Forever Wild,” a Parks Department designation without much legal pull, doesn’t mean all that much unless we fight for it.

The EDC wants to give part of this land to Bruce Ratner so he can build a strip mall and large parking lot. The attitude is: "Who needs nature? This is NYC, damn it!"

link

Photo: Backyard and Beyond

Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

June 27, 2011

Most Powerful Women in New York 2011

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

#35. MaryAnne Gilmartin
Executive Vice President
Forest City Ratner Cos.

A fellowship at a city economic development agency provided the springboard for Ms. Gilmartin’s career, which has changed the texture and skyline of New York City.

The 47-year-old Queens native has worked at Forest City for nearly 17 years and developed properties totaling more than 5 million square feet, including The New York Times’ headquarters and the new Frank Gehry-designed residential tower downtown.

Her toughest assignment has been overseeing the controversial $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project. In a testament to her savvy negotiating skills, Forest City officially broke ground on the project last year, and its focal point, the Barclays Center, will open in fall 2012.

link

NoLandGrab: OK, now we're curious. What did Gilmartin's "savvy negotiating skills" have to do with the groundbreaking? All this time, we thought it was a testament to Mikhail Prokhorov's savvy oligarching skills.

Photo: Forest City Ratner

Posted by eric at 6:54 PM

June 23, 2011

Accident injures two and damages cars at Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

A drill accident at the eastern end of the biggest construction project in Brooklyn’s history sent egg-sized chunks of packed dirt and small stones raining down on unsuspecting pedestrians and commuters at the corner of Vanderbilt and Atlantic avenues on June 21 — leaving two injuries and more than seven damaged cars.

Witnesses said they heard an explosion at around 10:30 am as a hydraulic drill malfunctioned, sending dirt and rocks flying into the air.

“I heard this loud sound, but I didn’t know where it was coming from,” said motorist Yahya Alshemi, who was caught under a wave of mud pies. “Then rocks and dirt started falling all over my car.”

Chunks of dirt blanketed Alshemi’s car for nearly two minutes. One hunk slammed his windshield, causing it to spider web.
...

Two people suffered light injuries, officials said. One person was sent to a local hospital with a slight head wound. The other was treated at the scene — the former BP station at the corner of Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues.

The pile driving at the site is expected to continue for two months as part of developer Forest City Ratner’s infrastructure work on the Long Island Rail Road’s Vanderbilt Yards. The company — which is currently building the Barclays Center to house the Brooklyn-bound Nets — did not return calls.

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Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

Ratner is victim of inside job heist!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

Corruption breeds corruption, apparently.

Crooked monitors

A corrupt security guard stole a heap of computer equipment from an office in the Bruce Ratner-owned Metrotech Center on May 17.

An employee at 3 Metrotech Center, near Duffield Street and Myrtle Promenade, told police that she caught the shady night watchman on camera removing dozens of flat-screen monitors and computer towers in bags.

She said that the guard moved 22 monitors and 14 computers to another spot in the office. He returned after work in plain clothes and dragged out the loot.

Police arrested a 52-year-old suspect a month later.

article

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

June 22, 2011

Less than meets the eye: decoding Forest City's announcement of new MetroTech leases

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a closer look at a recent Forest City Ratner announcement of MetroTech leasing activity, and doesn't believe the hype.

In other words, the 365,000 square feet taken at Two MetroTech--thanks significantly to government tenants--does not quite make up for the departure of SIAC/NYSE, which, according to Crain's, lost 387,000 square feet.

Yes, the 22,000 square feet remaining to lease is relatively small, but, at least according to that January 2011 Crain's report, J.P. Morgan Chase left about 352,000 square feet at 4 MetroTech. No wonder Forest City Ratner was trying to recruit Panasonic.

At One Pierrepont Plaza, Morgan Stanley is set to renew less than half the space it leases, leaving a gap of 250,000 square feet.

It still does not bode well for the office space planned for the Atlantic Yards site.

article

Posted by eric at 1:10 PM

June 21, 2011

More Four Sparrow Marsh Documentation

Save Ridgewood Reservoir

Here's an item about Bruce Ratner's wetlands-destroying, WalMart-building plan for Mill Basin marshland.

Two justifications that the parks department has been using to justify destroying part of an important wetland that is owned by the city are:

  • Four Sparrow Marsh is not parkland
  • The acreage that they want to give to developers is not part of Four Sparrow Marsh

Fortunately there is plenty of public documentation that contradicts their public statements. Below is a list of links to New York City Department of Parks and Recreation webpages and downloads with information relevant to Four Sparrow Marsh. The list also includes a few links from other city agencies. If the any of those links mysteriously disappear, let us know as we've saved all the downloads and created PDF files of the webpages...

link

Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

June 19, 2011

NY Daily News down the memory hole: real estate piece buffing Ridge Hill neglects to mention the legal troubles

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Daily News offers some friendly copy on Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project in Westchester, under the headline City on the Hill: "New Urbanism" in Yonkers:

When people think of groundbreaking real estate projects that could change the way we live as New Yorkers, they don’t usually think of Yonkers. Until now.

Just 22 minutes up the New York State Thruway from the upper East and upper West Sides, an 84-acre project that defines what developers, architects and city planners call “new urbanism” is on its way to completion. Called Ridge Hill, this 1.2 million square-foot retail and residential complex from Forest City Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards and the Nets Arena in Brooklyn, is seeing full-throttle construction, leasing and home-buying.

The project has the New York area’s first outdoor mall, with a multiplex cinema, its own Main St. and a water, light and fire show straight out of Las Vegas. There’s a Whole Foods, Lord & Taylor, L.L. Bean, medical building, and four-phase residential component, where one-bedrooms start at $325,000. The development sits on a ridge (hence the name) overlooking the countryside, and it’s less than eight minutes from the nearest train station. The goal is to have a living experience where residents don’t need cars and can walk to restaurants, stores and medical facilities.

Missing the back story

And how did it come about?

More than a decade ago, the politicians in Yonkers asked to buy the land from New York State. After the state agreed to let the city pursue a deal, a request for proposals was issued to developers. According to Mayor Phillip A. Amicone, the Forest City vision was much more compelling and innovative than others.

“They really delivered something that no one has,” says Amicone, who estimates Yonkers will earn $20 million to $25 million in taxes when Ridge Hill is fully operational.

Um, there's just a wee bit missing here, like an oddly changed vote on the City Council, an indictment (which spared Forest City Ratner, despite its entanglement), and a pending trial.

link

Posted by steve at 3:27 PM

June 17, 2011

Sovereign Immunity, Reconfiguration of Brooklyn’s Traffic And The Peculiar Verisimilitude of Government Functions When Forest City Ratner Takes Over

Noticing New York

Here's an excellent Michael D.D. White piece on the abdication of the public role to Forest City Ratner and its consultants.

After I thought about seeing Sam Schwartz’s presentation at Borough Hall the other night it struck me that I had seen something very odd. Yes, the presentation was in the stately courtroom of Borough Hall, the carved woodwork, towering pillars and ornate ceiling conveyed the sense of governmental formality, but here was a man, a consultant hired by and working for a private developer, describing how, as a result of that developer’s project, traffic, was going to be rerouted by him all around the busiest most populous areas of the borough.

While flash animated videos showed the multitudinous streets involved (or at least those to which Mr. Schwartz was extending his formal consideration), Mr. Schwartz casually explained about the little blue stand-ins for real vehicles scooting around in the videos “did not represent the real volume of traffic flow” (which would in real life be considerably heavier) and were there only to demonstrate the sets of theoretical turn off choices drivers would have at specific streets and avenues. Perhaps, by the same token, it should be pointed out that, appearances aside, Mr. Schwartz, standing in Borough Hall showing how so much of the borough’s traffic would be reconfigured (without actually simulating the real volume of traffic flow), did not represent a real public official.

The Private Sector Without Sovereign Immunity

So this is what I am wondering: Although Forest City Ratner and Sam Schwartz as its engineering consultant may seem a lot like the government performing a government function, that is not what they are. Forest City Ratner and Sam Schwartz are private sector entities and however much they have intruded themselves into an assumption of what we would expect would be a government process they are no more actual government officials than a privately hired mall security guard.

So the question is: Can they be liable for their negligence if they do damage in this vastly extensive and impactful reorganization of the borough affecting so many neighbors? As sovereign immunity should not apparently apply to their actions, can these private entities be sued in court if the effect that the new arena and traffic patterns have is to slow response times for the police and fire departments resulting in deaths, physical injuries and property loss when their arrival is consequently delayed?

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Noticing New York on how it looks like Forest City Ratner and consultant Sam Schwartz are performing government functions

Michael D. D. White, in his Noticing New York blog, reflects on the real strangeness of the Forest City Ratner/Empire State Development Corporation session on traffic June 14, given that a private consultant hired by a private developer was explaining--at times not all too well--how public streets would be managed.
...

What if they're sued? White suggests:

If they are, it is probable that they would claim that, despite evidence to the contrary, they actually took no actions, that all the actions were taken by exclusively public agencies immune through sovereign immunity.

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

NYC Unions Agree to 20% Wage Cut On Manhattan Residential Project

Local 157 blogspot
by Carolina Worrell

Key unions in New York City, including laborers and structural trades, agreed to a 20% wage cut yesterday, June 15 for work on Gotham West, a residential development on Manhattan’s West Side that will consist of four buildings and about 1,240 residential units, according to a recent article in Crain’s New York Business.
...

Following Gotham’s lead, developer Forest City Ratner Cos. has submitted an application for a labor agreement to build a residential tower, part of the first phase of its mixed-use Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.
...

A Forest City spokesperson said it is “too premature” to say why the company applied for the agreement.

article

NoLandGrab: We'll take a wild guess that they applied for the agreement because they can't afford to build otherwise.

Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

June 15, 2011

Unions agree to wage cut on major project

Reduction of 20% pledged for construction of over 500 affordable-housing units at planned block-long project on Eleventh Avenue; similar deal eyed for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards.

Crain's NY Business
by Theresa Agovino

New York construction unions have reached an agreement to cut the wages of members working on a massive residential project on the far West Side by 20%, sources said. The project, which will include more than 500 units of affordable housing, is being developed by the Gotham Organization Inc.

Meanwhile, Forest City Ratner Cos. has applied to the unions for similar wage cuts as it prepares to begin construction of its first residential tower at the long-planned Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. There, at least 50% of the approximately 400 residential units will be affordable.
...

Spokesmen for the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, a union trade group, and Forest City declined to comment. Gotham President David Picket couldn't immediately be reached.

article

NoLandGrab: Bruce forgot to mention when he promised "jobs" that they would be cut-rate.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Modular plan or pressure tactic? Forest City said to be asking for 20% wage cuts for first Atlantic Yards residential tower

This confirms that, as I've suggested, the announced modular construction option has been used as a negotiating tool.

The New York Times, Squeezing Costs, Builders Take New Look at Prefab

Now, with an emphasis on materials conservation and reuse, and developers looking to squeeze costs any way they can, modular construction is getting a closer look.

Often the word prefab conjures images of inexpensive and poorly built structures like trailer homes. But proponents of prefab, many of whom shudder at the moniker, say that modular design done well is anything but cheaply built. A modularly constructed building uses the same materials as a traditional one. But because it is made in a factory, workers are not battling the elements and can construct it more soundly and with less waste, proponents say.

And less wages, proponents don't say.

“Is the technology there to do it? Yes. Is the desire? Yes,” said Christopher Sharples, a principal at SHoP Architects, which is designing a possible 34-story prefab tower for the developer Forest City Ratner at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. “In the near future, I think people are going to become more educated about what the potential of this approach could be.”

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Downtown Brooklyn Leasing Exhibits ‘Robust Health,’ Forest City Ratner Says

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Here's a shocker: of 370,500 square feet in new leases at MetroTech, 275,000 of it (nearly 73%) is being leased to the taxpayers.

With the announcement in late May by Polytechnic Institute of New York University (aka NYU-Poly) that it was expanding into 120,000 square feet of space in two buildings at the MetroTech Center, Forest City Ratner Companies, the landlord, now reports multiple new leases for its properties there and at One Pierrepont Plaza nearby in Brooklyn Heights.

“Downtown Brooklyn continues to exhibit robust health despite still-challenging economic times nationwide,” said Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO, adding that he was delighted to report that five diverse tenants have entered into new leases at 2 MetroTech Center and that Morgan Stanley has renewed for a substantial block of space at One Pierrepont Plaza.
...

• The City of New York has signed a 20-year lease for a 155,000-square-foot expansion, comprising the second floor, a portion of the fifth floor and a portion of the ninth floor, as well as the recent addition of the entire fourth floor. This space will house office and data center space for the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

• The General Services Administration (GSA) has signed a 10-year lease for 120,000 square feet comprised of portions of the ground floor, and the entire sixth and seventh floors. The space will be home to the Internal Revenue Service and will be ready by early 2012.

article

NoLandGrab: One would think with the "robust health" of MetroTech leasing, Bruce wouldn't need to try to cut union wages at Atlantic Yards by 20%.

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

June 9, 2011

Ridge Hill corruption trial delayed until early next year; companion case more clear, as one of those indicted has reached a plea deal

Atlantic Yards Report

When will we understand the mystery of Ridge Hill, in which a City Council member in Yonkers and lobbyists have been indicted in a corruption case that significantly benefited Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project?

Not this month, despite indications in February that the trial would come in June.

In March, we learned that the lawyer for indicted former Yonkers Councilmember Sandy Annabi wanted a federal judge to unseal attorney Anthony Mangone's plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Case delayed

On May 27, the Journal News reported, in Convicted lawyer to testify in corruption case:

A politically connected lawyer is expected to testify against former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and her cousin as part of a cooperation agreement he reached last year with federal prosecutors.

Anthony Mangone's guilty plea agreement in the Yonkers corruption case was unsealed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and spells out his promise to cooperate with and testify truthfully for the government.

The agreement does not detail which cases Mangone must testify about — but he would be a key prosecution witness in the Yonkers case.

article

Related coverage...

LoHud.com, Convicted lawyer to testify in corruption case

One of the crimes was redacted at prosecutors' request. Aronwald said he was told that was because it involved an ongoing investigation. He said he would ask a judge to order prosecutors to reveal that information.

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

June 8, 2011

The EB-5 story: WSJ offers less skepticism than Houston Chronicle; federal agency announces plan to streamline applications

Atlantic Yards Report

One of the lessons of the Atlantic Yards saga, and highlighted in the film Battle for Brooklyn, is the importance of a skeptical approach to the media.

Nowhere is such skepticism more important than in coverage of the EB-5 phenomenon, in which would-be immigrants trade purportedly job-creating investments for green cards for themselves and their families.

Despite ample evidence that the program is dubious, especially related to the Atlantic Yards project, the Wall Street Journal yesterday proceeded with some shoddy journalism, in an article headline Program Gives Investors Chance at Visa.

It's in line with the Journal's lame coverage in February, which ignored misrepresentations made by the New York City Regional Center, the first investment fund in the city that recruited investors, in signing up Chinese and Korean millionaires to invest in the Atlantic Yards project.

article

Posted by eric at 7:20 AM

June 7, 2011

Forest City Enterprises reports earnings rise for first quarter 2011, claims Brooklyn office vacancies being addressed, must absorb Nets losses

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Enterprises, whose Forest City Ratner arm is developing Atlantic Yards, reported positive earnings results yesterday, though the company's Brooklyn portfolio may not be as rosy as some of the rest of the business.
...

The most significant driver of results: $42.6 million from the sale of land and air rights to Rock Ohio Caesars Cleveland LLC for construction of a casino in downtown Cleveland, where FCE is headquartered. (Here's the Plain Dealer coverage.)
...

AY update

In both the press release and the conference call, FCE officials said that approximately 55% of the forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the arena are currently under contract.

Three months ago, FCE reported the same percentage. In September 2010, the figure was 51%.

"We are also in the process of initial planning, design, and engineering for work on the first residential multifamily building at Atlantic Yards," [incoming CEO David] LaRue added.

article

Related coverage...

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forest City reports Q1 profit, sees $42.6 million boost to pre-tax EBDT from Cleveland casino deal

Monday's earnings call was the last with a member of the Ratner family at the company's helm. At Forest City's annual meeting Friday, longtime CEO Charles Ratner will become chairman of the board. He will be succeeded by David LaRue, the company's chief operating officer.
...

Shares of Forest City's stock (NYSE: FCE-A) closed trading Monday at $18.71, down 21 cents or 1.1 percent.

Posted by eric at 12:39 PM

More trouble at Ratner’s malls

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Last week it was Crooks 3, Pocketbook Protectors 0 in Bruce Ratner's lawless local malls.

Ratner raids

Several criminals went shopping in the Atlantic Center and the Atlantic Terminal last week. Here’s what happened:

• A crook snaked his hand into a 26-year-old woman’s purse as she shopped inside the Atlantic Center Mall on May 29, taking her wallet. The victim didn’t notice that her wallet, and the $110 inside, was missing until 4:30 pm.

• A sticky-fingered thief palmed a wallet from a 29-year-old woman’s handbag on May 30 as she perused the aisles inside Daffy’s inside the Atlantic Terminal. The woman discovered that her wallet was missing at 5:15 pm, but by then the thief had already run to Target — which is also inside the mall — and spent $224 purchase with her credit card.

• An employee at Old Navy was arrested on May 31 after he swiped 70 polo shirts. Security personnel told police that the 39-year-old employee had taken the shirts on May 16.

article

Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

June 6, 2011

FCE PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Reports Fiscal 2011 First-Quarter Results

via PR Newswire

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today announced EBDT, net earnings and revenues for the first quarter ended April 30, 2011.

EBDT

First-quarter EBDT (earnings before depreciation, amortization and deferred taxes) was $127.4 million, an increase of $56.9 million compared with 2010 first-quarter EBDT of $70.5 million. On a fully diluted, per-share basis, first-quarter 2011 EBDT was $0.63, a 70.3 percent increase compared with 2010 first quarter EBDT of $0.37.

For an explanation of EBDT variances, see the section titled "Review of Results" in this news release. EBDT and EBDT per share are non-Generally Accepted Accounting Principle (GAAP) measures. A reconciliation of net earnings (the most directly comparable GAAP measure to EBDT) to EBDT is provided in the Financial Highlights table in this news release.

Net Earnings/Loss

First-quarter net earnings attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc. were $47.6 million, or $0.25 per share, compared with a net loss of $15.6 million, or $0.10 per share, in the first quarter of 2010. After preferred dividends, net earnings attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc. common shareholders was $43.7 million, or $0.24 per share, for the quarter ended April 30, 2011.

Revenues

First-quarter 2011 consolidated revenues were $316.9 million compared with $271.5 million last year. The year-over-year revenue variance was impacted primarily by the same factors impacting EBDT, as described below under "Review of Results."

Review of Results

An exhibit illustrating factors impacting first-quarter 2011 EBDT results, compared with results for the comparable period in 2010, is available on the Investor Relations page of the Company's web site: www.forestcity.net, and is included in the company's first-quarter 2011 Supplemental Package furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

For the three months ended April 30, 2011, the Company's combined Commercial and Residential Segments (also referred to as the rental properties portfolio) provided a pre-tax EBDT increase of $55.7 million, compared with the first quarter of 2010. The year-over-year increase was primarily the result of initial proceeds of $42.6 million from the previously announced sale of land and air rights to Rock Ohio Caesars Cleveland LLC for construction of a casino in downtown Cleveland, increased income of $7.7 million from tax credits, the ramp-up of new properties of $2.6 million, and decreased interest expense on the mature portfolio of $2.2 million. These increases in the portfolio were partially offset by reduced EBDT from properties sold of $4.6 million.

link

Related...

PR Newswire, REMINDER: Forest City Enterprises Fiscal 2011 First-Quarter Earnings Conference Call

Forest City Enterprises, Inc., (NYSE:FCE-A) has released its first-quarter 2011 financial results and will hold a conference call today at 11:00 a.m. ET to discuss these results. Investors are invited to dial into the conference call hosted by Charles A. Ratner, president and chief executive officer, or to listen to a live webcast of the call through www.forestcity.net.

Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

June 3, 2011

Brooklyn Broadside: NYU’s Expansion Benefits From Downtown Space Here

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Triple oops! The Eagle's Dennis Holt forgets to disclose his fealty to all things Ratner.

Last week’s report on NYU-Polytechnics’s growth plan adds a new dimension and a new promise. They plan to expand by taking up space in nearby office buildings, in MetroTech space for that matter.

The plan includes Poly taking up 120,000 square feet of office space in two buildings, the ninth and 10th floors of 2 MetroTech and the sixth floor of 15 MetroTech.
...

This is a win-win situation for all involved. Forest City Ratner, in this case, earns income from empty, non-paying MetroTech space. NYU pays much less to rent the 120,000 square feet than if it had to build anew. And NYU also achieves a degree of planning capability it didn’t have before.

article

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

Coming Soon: A Town Within a City

The New York Times
by Elsa Brenner

Double oops! Just as it did on Wednesday, The Times forgets to mention its cozy relationship with Forest City Ratner Companies.

Home to a residential drug addiction center in the 1970s, and then the headquarters of a major electronics warfare company, an 81-acre site here along Interstate 87 is now being reincarnated as a mixed-use community.

The road from the property’s former identities to the new one has been long and tortuous — marked by opposition from residents, legal action by neighboring communities worried about additional traffic, and accusations of misconduct on the part of political insiders. That’s not to mention the effect of the recession, which slowed down construction of both the housing and retail components of the project.

It is now more than a decade since the idea for a townlike development was conceived in this city of 196,000 people — and sections of the $660 million Ridge Hill Village, as the project developed by Forest City Ratner Companies is called, are finally opening.

article

Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

June 1, 2011

The Week in Crime: Armed Robbery and Cell Phone Snatchings

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Mitchell Trinka

Who's going to protect the Pocketbook Protectors?

Atlantic Terminal Mall Theft

Four teens were nabbed by officers after stealing clothes and shoes from Burlington Coat Factory in the Atlantic Terminal Mall on May 24, police said. The teens, who had picked up $231.91 worth of items, tried to leave without paying at 4 p.m, but were approached by store security, police said. The teens attacked store security and tried to flee the store, police said. A 17-year-old, a 16-year-old and two 14-year-olds were arrested in the mall 20 minutes after trying to steal the items, police said.

No charges have been filed against the 14-year-old, according to the Kings County District Attorney’s office. The 17-year-old and 16-year-old have both been charged with robbery in the third degree, grand larceny in the fourth degree, assault in the third degree, petit larceny, criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree, attempted assault in the third degree, menacing in the third degree, harassment in the second degree and two counts of robbery in the second degree, according to the Kings County District Attorney’s office.

article

Posted by eric at 3:50 PM

Transit Hub in Maryland Gets a Second Chance

The New York Times
by Eugene L. Meyer

Oops! The Times forgets to disclose who built its headquarters building.

Many people in the mid-Atlantic region probably know this small suburban town as a train stop on the way to or from Union Station in Washington. But with Amtrak and Maryland commuter train stops, a Washington Metrorail station, buses and major highways nearby, New Carrollton seems to have everything a far-sighted developer could want.
...

In a five-way competition, two companies were picked to lead the effort: Forest City Washington, an offshoot of Forest City Enterprises, a publicly traded company based in Cleveland that has nearly $12 billion in assets nationally; and Urban Atlantic, a Bethesda, Md., developer. Forest City is developing a transit-oriented project, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and Urban Atlantic has done $1 billion worth of similar projects, largely in the Washington and Baltimore areas.
...

The project has been hampered by a widespread reputation for “pay to play” corruption in Prince George’s County, in which it is located.

The perception was bolstered last year when the departing county executive, Jack B. Johnson, was arrested on charges of taking bribes from developers. On May 18, he pleaded guilty to extortion and evidence tampering in the case.

article

NoLandGrab: Someone needs to explain why the "transit-oriented" Atlantic Yards project is slated for 3,600 parking spaces — and an "interim" surface parking lot that could last for a couple of decades.

Posted by eric at 9:47 AM

May 31, 2011

Now renting: luxe condos built for the global rich

AP via CBS Moneywatch.com

Due to a glut of glitzy condo towers and the need to appease skittish lenders some developers have found a new use for the gilded, clubby preserves once meant for buyers who could afford the seven-figure price tags. They're renting them out and offering all of the perks normally reserved for the elite. The hand-watered grass roofs and outdoor movie theaters. The heated, valet-attended porte-cocheres. The pet spas offering canine cardio and play dates for your puppy.

And developers have found that renters —reluctant to buy in a still-unsteady market— are embracing them. One marketing banner flapping against a ritzy, new rental building in New York says it best: "Repent. Rent. Repeat."

Frank Gehry's crumpled, stainless-steel skyscraper in Manhattan--the tallest residential tower in the world--was originally supposed to include 200 sprawling condos along with 700 rentals. Now all of the critically-acclaimed building's apartments are for rent. The units, whose rents start at $2,630 for a 600-square-foot studio, are even rent-stabilized --meaning rents are regulated so tenants will only see small annual increases. There's even an option to pay extra for decor hand-picked by Gehry, including Capellini's Rive Droite armchair, Jonathan Adler's Claude Drawers and Blu Dot's Swept Sofa.

"People are liking the fact that they don't have to commit to a mortgage and a large dollar amount to live here," says MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, the building's developer.

article

NoLandGrab: 'Cause God knows, $2,630 a month for a 15' x 20' box is a bargain anywhere.

Posted by eric at 1:16 PM

May 27, 2011

New Rochelle Dems Pick Slate for Upcoming CIty Council and Mayoral Race

Talk of the Sound
by Robert Cox

Haven't heard this anywhere else, but here's what one New Rochelle blogger is reporting about Forest City's Echo Bay project.

If they achieve a super-majority, it is expected that the Democrats would use this power to finance tens of millions of dollars to move the DPW City Yard to a new, smaller location on Beechwood Avenue in order to give away the current City Yard to Forest City Ratner, a Cleveland-based developer. Council Member Lou Trangucci of District 1, site of the proposed City Yard on Beechwood, has objected to the plans on the grounds that paying off the bond will require significant tax increases.

Forest City has several large projects going in the area most of which are the subject of Federal indictments related to bribing public officials to support local projects. A Forest City official is an unindicted co-conspirator in each of the various Department of Justice cases. A senior official at Forest City Ratner admitted recently to one Talk of the Sound contributor that the Echo Bay Project is "dead" and that "nothing is going to happen there". Some political observers in New Rochelle believe that the entire project is a political favor to Mayor Noam Bramson based on an expectation that when Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) retires, Bramson will run and win her seat in Congress. The Ratner family have been big donors to Mayor Bramson over the years.

link

Posted by eric at 12:55 PM

NYU is up on Downtown thanks to latest Metrotech leases

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

NYU is expanding its existing Polytechnic Institute to include two more buildings in Metrotech Center, a move that borough officials cheered as a magnet for Downtown development — and a sign that university is serious about Brooklyn.

NYU-Poly signed a 20-year lease with Forest City Ratner for space in Metrotech Center, a campus of 11 mixed-use buildings between Flatbush Avenue Extension and Jay Street, where space has recently been going cheap.
...

The Metrotech complex — built in the early 1990s with hefty public subsidies — has largely included financial institutions, until many began to decamp during the financial bubble of 2008, according to real-estate broker Chris Havens.

He said that NYU likely took advantage of a “fantastic deal” and that Metrotech space is “going cheap.”

“The biggest hole in Brooklyn is Metrotech — there’s lots of space there for lease,” Havens said.

article

NoLandGrab: Ah, finally some unvarnished truth about Forest City Ratner's Metrotech. Guess we won't be seeing any Atlantic Yards office towers (or office jobs) any time soon.

Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

May 26, 2011

Forest City Enterprises gets one-third off loan due Cleveland; will subsidary FCR pursue similar discounts regarding Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

Is a discount on a Forest City Enterprises loan from the city of Cleveland a harbinger of further requests to adjust Forest City Ratner's public obligations regarding Atlantic Yards?

Well, we can't be sure, but the Forest City modus operandi, it's clear, is to play hardball, taking advantage of what public agencies allow.

(FCR doesn't have any loans to pay back, but it is supposed to create new public infrastructure, and already renegotiated a discount on the development rights to the Vanderbilt Yard and got permission to build a replacement yard smaller than promised.)

The discount in Cleveland

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer's blog, a post headlined Forest City paying $10.3 million to close out $15 million in city loans:

Forest City Enterprises will pay Cleveland $10.3 million of $15.4 million owed on three development loans, and the city will call it even.

About half the money will replenish a "rainy day" fund that is to run out this year, and $3.9 million will go to economic development. The City Council has set aside $1.4 million for neighborhood projects, with each of the 19 members receiving $75,000.

The deal, initiated by the city, involves loans made to the real estate and development company with federal Urban Development Action Grant money in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Forest City used the low- and no-interest loans to develop The Avenue at Tower City Center.

Forest City had faced balloon payments totaling about $15.4 million due in 2016 or 2020, depending on the loan.

Ken Silliman, Mayor Frank Jackson's chief of staff, said the deal ensures the city will collect two-thirds of a debt that would be hard to recover if Forest City defaulted. He and Economic Development Director Tracey Nichols said it also makes money available for economic development at a time when private financing remains tight.

(Emphasis added)

Making the deal

Why should Forest City default? They can afford to pay back the loan. They just don't want to.

The question is why Cleveland let them get away with it.

article

Related content...

Cleveland.com, Forest City paying $10.3 million to close out $15 million in city loans

Silliman acknowledged that the city is unlikely to recoup the full value of the three Forest City loans.

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

At MetroTech, NYU-Poly takes some unused office space of Forest City Ratner's hands; move pitched as "owning the square"

Atlantic Yards Report

When I first wrote about New York University's astonishing absorption of the Brooklyn-based engineering school Polytechnic University, I thought it merely an intriguing (and severely under-examined) real estate story involving a principal of the MetroTech complex developed by Forest City Ratner and Polytechnic.

Now there's a more explicit connection. As the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported, in an article headlined NYU-Poly Expands at MetroTech Center: Will Allow School to ‘Own the Square’ and Enhance 24/7 Downtown Community.
...

Poly already occupies buildings around the commons--buildings with ground-level space flanking the open area--so I don't see how adding upper floors in office buildings makes the campus more dynamic.

Rather, it solves a problem for Forest City Ratner: getting office tenants into its properties. Remember, In the past year, as Crain's NY Business reported, NYSE Euronext moved out of roughly 387,000 square feet at 2 MetroTech Center.

We don't know if Poly is paying the rates expected from office tenants, but it's unlikely.

article

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

May 24, 2011

NYU-Poly Expands at MetroTech Center

Will Allow School to ‘Own the Square’ and Enhance 24/7 Downtown Community

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Going for a more dynamic, vibrant feel to its campus in Downtown Brooklyn, NYU-Poly, more formally known as the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, has signed a lease with Forest City Ratner for academic space in two Ratner-owned buildings at MetroTech.

article

NoLandGrab: Nothing says "dynamic" and "vibrant" like MetroTech! Forest City is also bringing that "24/7" feel to the neighborhoods near its basketball arena.

Posted by eric at 11:14 PM

The Slow And Quiet Return Of Richard Lipsky

City Hall News
by Adam Lisberg

He's baaaaaaack?!

He doesn’t roam City Hall anymore with his cellphone earpiece and his red appointment book. He doesn’t exhort reporters to cover his press conferences. He doesn’t blast out email about his latest blog posts.

But indicted lobbyist Richard Lipsky is quietly edging back into the game.

Lobbying reports on file with the city and state show Lipsky billed at least $28,500 to three clients in March and April. That’s down significantly from the $60,533 he billed 10 clients in January and February, but it’s still a significant level of work.

It’s unclear whether Lipsky actually lobbied government officials, or simply advised his clients on public relations and other functions, after he was charged March 10 with conspiracy and money laundering.
...

He made his name as a lobbyist for small businesses, fighting the city’s plans to seize property in Willets Point, Queens through eminent domain, though he has also worked on behalf of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards development that used eminent domain.

article

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

May 20, 2011

SQUARE FEET | THE 30-MINUTE INTERVIEW: Ronald Dickerman

The New York Times
by Vivian Marino

Mr. Dickerman, 47, is the founder and president of Madison International Realty, a real estate private equity firm, which through its investment funds holds ownership stakes in buildings around the world, including several in the New York area, among them the Chrysler East Building and 520 Madison Avenue. The company has also had investments in the Seagram Building over the years.

Q Tell me about your business.

A I think we do something very unusual in the world of commercial real estate and investing: we acquire ownership interests in Class A assets from existing investors looking for an early exit strategy. Our objective is not to seek control of the properties — it’s to provide liquidity, which means buy their interest. We’re not a loan-to-own shop.
...

Q You recently announced a deal to acquire a 49 percent interest in 15 retail and entertainment properties owned by Forest City Ratner.

A They came to us, I think, in September 2010 to fund their go-forward investments. You may know that the Atlantic Yards development is something like $4 billion.

These properties are as core as core can be. They’re 99 percent occupied; the average lease term is over eight years.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Why did Forest City Ratner sell a 49 percent stake in its malls? To help pay for Atlantic Yards, and to combat investor "fatigue"

In a "Square Feet" interview in the upcoming Sunday New York Times Real Estate section, Ronald Dickerman, founder and president of the private equity firm Madison International Realty, explains his business and talks about the deal announced at the end of March to acquire a 49 percent interest in 15 retail and entertainment properties owned by Forest City Ratner.

So what do companies like Forest City do with the cash?

"To redeploy into other investment opportunities, to fund other liabilities within their portfolio," responded Dickerman.

In other words, to help pay for Atlantic Yards.
...

Madison investors see a rate of return "between 17 and 18 percent gross," so that suggests Forest City Ratner gave up something significant.

Asked if his firm adds value to its holdings, Dickerman said no:

We invest in core Class A assets where the building itself is relatively stable and the deal is not distressed. What’s distressed about the transaction is the fatigue of the underlying investor.

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Long-delayed Ridge Hill opening nears

Westfair Online
by John Jordan

A project that will easily surpass $600 million to build when all is said and done is on the cusp of having its first tenant open for business and is readying for an October “mini” grand opening when dozens of tenants are expected to open their doors.

The Ridge Hill project in Yonkers, which will total approximately 1.2 million square feet of mixed-use space and is being developed by Forest City Ratner Cos., was approved by the Yonkers City Council in July 2006 and officially broke ground Nov. 28, 2007.

Since then, Forest City Ratner and general contractor Yonkers Contracting Company Inc. have been undertaking the massive excavation, infrastructure and building construction in connection with the project. Originally scheduled to open in late 2009, the project has encountered delays that have pushed the project’s opening to this October that will be followed by individual tenant openings that will be staggered throughout the remainder of this year and into 2012.

article

NoLandGrab: Must've been the Atlantic Yards lawsuits that caused those delays.

Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

May 18, 2011

‘The Gugg’ Comes to Downtown

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

"The Gugg?"

The Eagle has learned that the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is bringing a temporary exhibit to a storefront space in Downtown Brooklyn.

Tim King, a principal of CPEX Real Estate, and MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president at Forest City Ratner, worked together to provide a free venue for the exhibit — in the former home of Sid’s Hardware at 345 Jay St., also known as 1 MetroTech.

King, who received the call from the Guggenheim’s curator several weeks ago, said the request for a site came with “a wish list of requirements, including free space.” He contacted Gilmartin, who he described as “very enthusiastic,” then showed the space and put the curator in touch with Forest City — all pro bono.
...

The exhibit, titled “Stillspotting NYC,” will be ongoing but will have its inaugural edition in Downtown Brooklyn, according to David van der Leer, assistant curator of Architecture and Urban Studies. “We looked at many places around the borough — from Williamsburg, Bushwick, Crown Heights to DUMBO — and found our favorite place for the first edition of ‘Stillspotting NYC’ in Downtown Brooklyn,” wrote van der Leer in a published statement. “To many it is a place of work or transit, but so few people realize it can also be an incredible resource for stillness that will be transformed over the coming years.

article

NoLandGrab: The "stillness" that "the Gugg" sees is a product of the Metrotech dead zone that Bruce Ratner has created in downtown Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

May 16, 2011

Saving six figures: likely one reason Forest City Ratner hasn't yet fulfilled the obligation to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor for the CBA

Atlantic Yards Report

As I described 11/29/10, Forest City Ratner has claimed, dubiously, that it didn't have to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM) to provide a credible outside analysis of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), despite provisions in the document, signed 6/27/05, to hire one "[a]s soon as reasonably practicable."

"It didn't actually go into effect until we broke ground for the arena," Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall claimed last fall. Of course the developer had been proudly reporting some figures--such as minority contracting--all along.

One reason for that reticence, as I've suggested, may be that such an ICM might do its job.

Tight budget

Another may be simpler: Forest City Ratner keeps a close watch on its spending, and every six-figure sum it saves makes a difference.

article

NoLandGrab: OK, Jane, even if we gave you the benefit of the doubt, you've had 14 months to do what you said you would do.

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

A Forest City Enterprises tale: 60 years of service to the co-chairman of the board, formality and awe

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder highlights a case of Stockholm Syndrome at Forest City HQ.

A column in the 5/15/11 Cleveland Plain Dealer, Eleanor Fanslau has been at the heart of Forest City for 60 years: Regina Brett, profiles Eleanor Fanslau, 77, who for 60 years has served as the secretary and "right hand, his bookkeeper, executive assistant, receptionist and caretaker rolled into one" to Sam Miller, Forest City's co-chairman of the board and treasurer, who's now 90.

He's retiring and moving to emeritus status. Last June, I wrote about his performance at the annual meeting, in which he came off "more like the great-uncle who gets to hog the microphone at the family reunion because he’s always rented the venue."

Sacrificing service

Regina Brett's column describes Fanslau's super-loyal, sacrificing service to a company that's grown from a modest local lumber company to a national developer:

They sound like an old married couple who yell just because they can. It's the cadence of their conversation.

And yet:

He doesn't allow her to make personal calls. After 60 years, he still insists she call him Mr. Miller. She comes in at 7:30 a.m., prints out his emails, opens mail, pays bills, answers letters and phone calls. She eats lunch at her desk.

article

Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

May 13, 2011

Cognitive dissonance in Ratner-land: is Bruce Ratner a corporate hero or a guy who plays the system? It depends what you read

Atlantic Yards Report

The first two weeks of May have featured a high level of Ratnerian cognitive dissonance: two media mentions that buff developer Bruce Ratner as a white knight, countered by two other mentions that raise serious questions and qualms.

First came Ratner's refute, that sycophantic cover story in The Real Deal. Then comes word (via The Graduate Baruchian and No Land Grab) of Ratner's well-received appearance at the Baruch Business School's Zicklin Leadership Series.

Business ethics

NLG's Eric McClure pointed to this excerpt:

What can an organization do to encourage good business ethics?
BR — It starts from the top. Ethics is an issue of culture. That comes directly from the executives and people who run the company. Lectures turn people off. Leading by action sets the tone. At FCRC a balance between life and work is strongly encouraged. The job is important, but friends and family come first. When people recognize that work is not everything, they become less susceptible to temptation and making poor decisions. Moreover, a culture of fairness further creates an environment where people can make good decisions.

If Forest City Ratner and parent Forest City Enterprise really believe in ethics, well, wouldn't they:
--stop issuing wildly misleading brochures
--not pay consultants (who later get indicted) for no-show jobs
--feel some chagrin about disruptions made in their name

The list could go on.

article

Posted by eric at 1:39 PM

May 12, 2011

Good corporate citizen? Profile of Ratner in the Forward quotes Atlantic Yards opponents and mentions Kruger charges

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's some news unmentioned in The Real Deal's sycophantic profile of Bruce Ratner last week: as headlined in the Forward, the weekly newspaper geared to a Jewish audience, From Humble Lumber Sellers to Clout-Wielding Developers: An Immigrant Tale: Federal Indictment of a Local State Senator Shines Light on Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Redevelopment Project.

The piece, by Neil deMause of the book and blog Field of Schemes, recognizes Ratner's history of gaining government support and gives reasonable credence--and the last word--to Ratner's opponents, notably Candace Carponter of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

Still, I'd contend, the article could have been even tougher. I posted a comment:

“I think all of this stems from his sense of what it means to be a good corporate citizen,” said [Joe] DePlasco.

DePlasco is the developer's paid spokesman. Of course that's what he thinks.

I think, based on an examination of the record, that Forest City Ratner has long made compromises and pursued policies that privileged its bottom line over corporate citizenship. (That's not surprising; FCR's obligations are first to its parent company and shareholders.)

The question for readers and journalists caught in the "he said, she said" back-and-forth is whether the developer, by dint of its track record, deserves more or less credence.

I'd argue for less. Take, for example, the developer's history of deceptive promotional brochures and publications.

article

NoLandGrab: Actually, we don't think DePlasco really thinks Bruce is a good corporate citizen. He's just paid to say it.

Posted by eric at 12:48 PM

Polarizing Downtown Brooklyn business group kept sloppy books - audit

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Honchos at a group charged with lending its business expertise to Downtown Brooklyn could use some accounting classes themselves, an audit found.

Controller John Liu's report slamming the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership for sloppy bookkeeping came as the Partnership got the nod to take over another neighborhood business group - over the objections of some local merchants.

The audit found the Partnership couldn't account for $1.2 million in employee pay and benefits - 45% of its total budget for the year.
...

"If that audit is any indication of how they're going to perform, you can kiss all the good work the BID has done over the years (goodbye)," said board member Vincent Battista, executive director of the Institute of Design and Construction, a junior college on Willoughby St. "They're so inefficient they don't know which way is up."

The board voted 22-9 to approve the takeover, backed by the city and major developers like Forest City Ratner. The move came after they shelved conflict of interest rules that could have barred the 13 board members who also sit on the Partnership board from voting.

article

Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

May 11, 2011

Thanks in part to Forest City Ratner influence, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership takes over MetroTech BID

Atlantic Yards Report

So, what does the news about the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's controversial takeover of the MetroTech Business Improvement District (BID) have to do with Atlantic Yards? A bunch.

The DBP, a reliable cheerleader for Atlantic Yards, and was once (and perhaps still) under investigation for improper lobbying, has support from political leaders and Forest City Ratner. Consider Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's statement yesterday, as reported by the New York Post:

Borough President Marty Markowitz called the Partnership deal “an important step in the ongoing transformation of Downtown Brooklyn into a vibrant, 24/7, live-work urban center -- and soon, home of the Brooklyn Nets.”

link

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

Apartment was too messy to rob!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Target's Pocketbook Protectors just can't keep up with all the pickpockets in Bruce Ratner's purloiner-plagued Fort Greene malls.

Wallet snatch

A thief sneaked off with a woman’s wallet as she shopped inside Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Terminal Mall on May 6.

The victim was walking through the shopping center between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue at 9:20 pm when she realized her bag had been opened.

The mall and its counterpart, Atlantic Center, make weekly appearances in this column, a constant warning to be vigilant.

article

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

May 10, 2011

Controversial takeover of Metro Tech BID approve

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

Something is rotten in Metro Tech.

Mayor Bloomberg and the borough’s biggest developer have prevailed in a heated Downtown Brooklyn turf war.

A development corporation created by Bloomberg to spur economic development in Downtown Brooklyn was awarded a $216,667-a-year contract to run daily operations of a striving Business Improvement District representing 25 square blocks in and around Metro Tech Center.

The decision today by Metro Tech BID to hire Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to manage the business improvement district’s daily operations -- and a $2.6 million budget raised through a neighborhood property tax -- ends more than two years of bickering by BID board members split over the plan.

The Partnership was granted the new responsibilities despite Monday’s release of an audit by Comptroller John Liu that ripped it for keeping shoddy payroll records, poorly documenting private donations and snubbing competitive-bidding laws.
...

A faction, including top BID brass, had fought the Partnership plan despite pressure from City Hall and developer Forest City Ratner, which built Metro Tech’s office complex in the 1980s.

article

Related coverage...

NY Post, Comptroller report rips city's Downtown Brooklyn development corp.

Liu’s audit relies on fiscal 2009 data, which showed the Partnership ended the period with a $319,956 deficit.

It states that 45 percent of the Partnership’s $2.7 million budget is for payroll – including $220,000 for its president, Joe Chan – but the Partnership fails to correctly maintain time sheets that show whether employees actually work all the hours they’re paid for.

The report also states the Partnership is not accurately recording private donations it receives, which could affect matching government grants the Partnership is eligible to obtain. And it says the Partnership isn’t following city guidelines when awarding contracts, including some cases where the Partnership, which was created in 2006, didn’t solicit enough competitive bids.

team tish, Metrotech Board Votes on Management Agreement with DBP; Bookkeeping Issues Outlined in Comptroller Audit Report

“Ironically, the NYC Comptroller’s audit of DBP reveals that the Partnership has poor bookkeeping (including timekeeping and tracking of private contributions) and some procurement issues, which leads one to ask why would the MetroTech Board vote to give DBP more responsibility, if the organization already has problems managing the Court-Livingston and Fulton Mall BIDs? It is my hope that MetroTech Board members are fully aware of the NYC Comptroller’s audit findings before their meeting,” said Council Member [Letitia] James.

The Brooklyn Paper, Audit rips Downtown Brooklyn Partnership over bookkeeping, salaries

The organization in charge of charting Downtown’s future is having serious difficulty steering its own ship, according to a city audit released on Monday.
...

The analysis, which examined data from July 1, 2008 to June, 2009, concluded that the Partnership:

• Lacks adequate controls to substantiate $1.2 million in payments to salaried employees.

• Fails to follow proper procedures regarding documenting $600,000 in private contributions.

• Doesn’t follow the procurement and reporting requirements of the $6-million consulting contract it holds with the Department of Small Business Services.

Posted by eric at 9:57 PM

May 6, 2011

Even in a slow lobbying year, Forest City Ratner spent some $345,000 on array of lobbying firms, including Lipsky

Atlantic Yard Report

In past years, state officials have released annual lobbying information in April; since no such document has been forthcoming, I've taken a look at Forest City Ratner's lobbying in 2010, which, understandably, was well below that in 2009, when the developer renegotiated deals with both the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation.

Indeed, the 2009 total of $1,127,598 in city and state lobbying, perhaps the largest sum for any real estate developer, was succeeded by a 2010 total of some $345,000, likely dwarfed by sums spent on public relations, such as the 3/11/10 groundbreaking ceremony.

The developer spread the money among nine firms, including the one-man show run by Richard Lipsky, who faces corruption charges.

article

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

May 3, 2011

More trouble at Ratner’s malls

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Maybe, someday, "social missionary" Bruce Ratner will go on a mission to truly protect the pocketbooks of patrons shopping in his crime-plagued Fort Greene malls.

Ratner raids

There was more trouble at the, well, troubled Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal last week. Here’s the rundown:

• A 51-year-old man was arrested on April 27 after he was caught swiping eight pairs of women’s shoes and four handbags from the Marshall’s in the Atlantic Center. The thief was caught by store security just before exiting the store between Fort Greene Place and S. Portland Avenue at 7:10 pm.

• A thief snaked a cellphone out of a woman’s handbag as she perused the aisles inside the Atlantic Terminal Target. The woman was about to buy something at the Flatbush Avenue store at 4 pm when she realized her cellphone had been taken — even though she had possession of her bag the entire time.

• Someone swiped a wallet from a woman caring for her child inside the Atlantic Center on April 30. The woman had put her wallet on the ground as she tended to her child at 8 pm, not realizing that someone was nearby looking to exploit an opportunity.

article

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

May 2, 2011

Yonkers Contracting survives multiple probes, indictments in its history

LoHud.com

The two Yonkers companies that have taken turns reconstructing the Cross-Westchester Expressway have spent decades building themselves into regional powerhouses in the heavy construction industry — one in relative obscurity, the other often deflecting suspicion.

In an industry frequently under scrutiny for mob ties and financial shenanigans, Ecco III Enterprises has escaped unscathed.

But a whiff of corruption has lingered on Yonkers Contracting Co. for decades, though charges never stuck.
...

The company did not get work on the $4 billion Atlantic Yards redevelopment that is bringing the New Jersey Nets to downtown Brooklyn, despite a $346 million bid for one part of the work. But the developer, Forest City Ratner, did tap YCC as general contractor of the $650 million Ridge Hill project a few miles up the Thruway from the contractor's Midland Avenue headquarters.

The developer plays a key part in the latest scandal to rock Albany, the indictment of state Sen. Carl Kruger and several others, including lobbyist Richard Lipsky.

article

Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

April 28, 2011

FCR may raise $40M more from immigrant investors; document confirms that EB-5 loans can be used to pay off mortgages, says nothing about job creation

Atlantic Yards Report

We would call this unbelievable, but Atlantic Yards is so crooked that nothing is unbelievable.

An Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) document reveals that developer Forest City Ratner, which already has signed up 498 immigrant investors to offer a $249 million low-interest loan, may seek another 80 investors for a $40 million loan.

The agreement between the ESDC and a Forest City Ratner affiliate was acquired via a Freedom of Information Law request. Though it offers much detail on how the money might be spent--Forest City has wide latitude--it says nothing about the ostensible purpose of the funding under the federal government's EB-5 immigration program: job creation.

The issue of job creation must be addressed in documents submitted to a federal agency, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The investors park their money for perhaps five years, and can get green cards for themselves and their families, assuming the claims of job creation pass muster.
...

[T]he loan proceeds could be used to reimburse Forest City Ratner for its costs on the Arena, the Subway Entrance, the public plaza, the upgrade railyard, demolition of project structures, utility work, the construction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge, the creation of arena parking, and preparation of development sites.

Essentially it's a piggy bank for whatever Forest City Ratner wants, including the final category, which I highlighted: paying off any liens and encumbrances, such as the existing land loan from Gramercy Warehouse Funding.

Does any of this create or retain jobs? That's what they may say on paper, but it seems clear that the developer is substituting lower-cost capital for higher-cost capital.

Take for example the Carlton Avenue Bridge; the developer is obligated to reconstruct it, whatever the source of the capital. So the use of immigrant investor funds for the bridge doesn't add jobs.

article

NoLandGrab: As some people are fond of saying, "f**k the bridge." And the jobs, and the investors, and the taxpayers, and....

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

April 26, 2011

Another iPhone swipe

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

How many times do we have to warn you — do not enter Bruce Ratner's malls without your pocketbook protector.

Marshall menace

Crooks converged on the Marshall’s inside the troubled Atlantic Center on Atlantic Avenue between Fort Greene Place and South Portland Avenue last week. Here are some highlights:

• A goon grabbed a 30-year-old woman’s purse as she shopped for clothes inside the department store on April 15. The woman laid her bag by her feet as she went through several clothing racks at 8:30 pm. When she completed her task 15 minutes later, she realized her bag was missing.

• A 47-year-old woman was arrested on April 19 after she was caught stealing more than $1,600 worth of clothing and accessories. The thief was grabbed leaving the store at 8:12 pm without paying for handbags, shoes and lingerie.

article

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

April 25, 2011

Kunpeng, consultancy promoting AY to immigrant investors in China, among firms willing to deceive regulators, according to newspaper investigation

Atlantic Yards Report

There's new evidence that consultants helping Chinese millionaires immigrate, as in the program involving the "Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project," are skating toward fraud.

In this case, the evidence does not involve the EB-5 program, in which investors park $500,000 for a purportedly job-creating project in exchange for green cards for themselves and their family, but rather a similar Canadian program.

Kunpeng International, a consultant prominent in promoting the Brooklyn project as an associate of the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), an investment pool working with Forest City Ratner, has been identified as one willing to deceive Canadian regulators.

(Kunpeng's head is at right in the photo with the Empire State Development Corporation's Peter Davidson, who provided a certificate during a roadshow in China last October. That proclamation, as I wrote, elides the difference between the Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project before the potential investors--purportedly the arena, infrastructure, and railyard--and the Atlantic Yards project as a whole, which would produce many more jobs and potential benefits.)

Helping a fictitious applicant

In a 4/22/11 article headlined How China’s ‘crooked consultants’ help the rich enter Canada, the Globe and Mail reports that a fictitious potential immigrant created for the purposes of the article--who has the required minimum $1.6 million CAD in assets but not the required documentation providing the wealth is legitimate--was offered help in sugarcoating his past by 18 of the 22 China-based immigration consultants approached.

Of the 22, 12 said that even a criminal record--jail time for stabbing someone in a fight--could be overcome:

If the relative were to persuade – bribe, if necessary – someone at his local police station to issue such a certificate, explained an agent at Kunpeng International, a Beijing-based firm, Canadian officials “can’t come to China to check the archives” in person.

John Ryan, chief executive officer of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, a former consultant in China, told the newspaper that business ethics in China are flexible:

“In Chinese culture, they feel that, in dealing with governments, they need an edge. They don’t really understand that, in our Canadian system, they can deal openly and honestly with the government and be dealt with fairly.”

article

NoLandGrab: Is it us, or does our system sound much closer to China's than to Canada's?

Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

April 21, 2011

Marty Peeved By Panasonic HQ’s Move To Newark

‘Would Have Been No Better Place’ Than B’klyn

AP via Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Despite Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’ wishes to lure electronics giant Panasonic here, the firm has opted to stay in the Garden State, moving its North American headquarters — and about 800 jobs — from Secaucus to Newark.

Markowitz, who mentioned his wishes to lure Panasonic here at last year’s ceremony to announce that retail would be moving into the Brooklyn Municipal Building, said, “I am disappointed that Panasonic passed on a chance to bring its big screens to the ‘big stage’ of Brooklyn, U.S.A.
...

In a sense, what happened to Panasonic is the reverse of what happened to the Nets basketball team. When the Nets were for sale 2004, Bruce Ratner, who planned to bring the team to Brooklyn, was bidding against Charles Cushner and then-New Jersey senator Jon Corzine, who wanted to keep the team in New Jersey. Ratner won, and they lost.

link

NoLandGrab: As the saying goes, their loss was our bigger loss.

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

Battle of the BIDs: MetroTech merchants fighting takeover try by downtown Brooklyn group

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Small-business owners around MetroTech are battling a move by downtown Brooklyn powerbrokers to take over their merchants group.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is vying to take over the MetroTech Business Improvement District - which taxes property owners and provides security and cleanup services - and control its $2.6 million annual budget.

Partnership officials say they're just trying to run things more efficiently, but some BID members are resisting, charging the group would slight services to small businesses and cater to big developers.

"It's all about the money," said BID President Victoria Aviles, owner of Bridge Cleaners and Tailors. "We have programs that benefit the mom-and-pop merchants and the new residents ... We serve the community, not the developers."
...

City officials and top local developers like Forest City Ratner - which developed MetroTech - are backing the takeover.

article

NoLandGrab: We follow a simple rule of thumb in disputes like this — if Forest City Ratner supports it, it can't possibly be good.

Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

April 20, 2011

More iPhone thefts

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Folks need to learn that it's just not safe to enter Bruce Ratner's malls without a pocketbook protector.

Nintendos nicked

A trio of thieves in baggy pants filled their trousers with more than $2,000 in Nintendo games during an April 12 visit to the Best Buy in the troubled Atlantic Center Mall.

Workers at the store between Fort Greene Place and S. Portland Avenue said that the thieves entered just before 7 pm, swiped several games and game consoles, and left.

The mall, and its neighboring Atlantic Terminal Mall, make frequent appearances in our police blotter.

article

Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Week in Crime: Two Stabbings and a Fingertip Bitten

A 44-year-old woman’s wallet was taken while she shopped at Daffy’s in the Atlantic Terminal Mall on April 11 at 7:30 p.m., police said. The woman was notified by Chase bank that her credit card was used while she was still shopping in Daffy’s, police said. The thief also took her Target credit card, Gap credit card, New York State driver’s license, and health insurance card, the woman reported.

Posted by eric at 2:34 PM

Unlike Nets, Panasonic chooses Newark over Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Blog [NYPost.com]
by Rich Calder

The Nets might be choosing Brooklyn over Newark, but Panasonic plans to do the opposite.

As the Nets prepare for a 2012 move from Newark's Prudential Center to the new Barclays Center under construction on Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and other officials have fallen short in a big push to lure the electronics giant and its 950 jobs to the borough.

link

Related coverage...

The Wall Street Journal, Newark Lands Panasonic With Subsidies

Critics of the deal say New Jersey got played.

"I'm just baffled that they would give them that much money to stay, not only within the tri-state region but within their own state," said Bettina Damiani, a project director for Good Jobs New York, which is skeptical of tax incentives for companies. "Just to move up the Turnpike?"

NoLandGrab: Technically, it's down the Turnpike, but Damiani's point is no less valid.

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

Paying the price to be heard in Albany

LoHud.com

Consider the saga of Patricia Lynch Associates LLC, as discussed in the Sunday article. The robust lobbying firm paid a $500,000 fine last year as part of a settlement with then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office. Investigators asserted that the firm arranged campaign contributions, gifts and other favors to gain access for clients to the state Comptroller's Office under the disgraced Alan Hevesi. The firm also agreed to a five-year ban on lobbying the comptroller's office.

In 2010, Patricia Lynch Associates clients included the City of Yonkers, which paid it a total of $78,486. Another Lynch client is Forest City Ratner, the developer building the massive, mixed-use Ridge Hill complex in Yonkers. It figures prominently in a federal corruption case against former Yonkers Councilmember Sandy Annabi, a Democrat accused of accepting a bribe to drop her longstanding opposition to Ridge Hill.

article

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

April 19, 2011

Panasonic rebuffs Brooklyn's overtures

Electronics giant to relocate corporate headquarters in New Jersey, a move that's sweetened with a $102.4 million subsidy from the state.

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

Here's a first — someone actually out-subsidized MetroTech!

Downtown Brooklyn may be getting New Jersey's Nets, but local officials' attempts to lure Panasonic and its 950 corporate headquarter jobs from the Garden State have come up short.

In the end, Brooklyn could not compete with a $102.4 million subsidy package offered to the consumer electronics giant to move to Newark, N.J., from its current home in Secaucus, N.J.

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, Newark Mayor Corey Booker and Panasonic officials scheduled a Wednesday press conference in Newark to make the announcement, sources said.

Big Apple officials had been trying to sell Panasonic on two sites in downtown Brooklyn owned by developer Forest City Ratner—MetroTech Center and Atlantic Yards.
...

In a statement, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said he would continue to work to bring companies of all sizes to Brooklyn, despite being rebuffed by Panasonic.

article

NoLandGrab: Well, we could always take another run at Cracker Barrel. Or not.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, As expected, Panasonic to move within New Jersey, not to Forest City Ratner sites in Brooklyn

As expected, Panasonic will not move its 950 jobs to Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards, or its MetroTech complex, but rather will move within New Jersey.
...

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz issued a statement:

“I am disappointed that Panasonic passed on a chance to bring its big screens to the ‘big stage’ of Brooklyn, U.S.A. Brooklyn is the Creative Capital of America, and there would have been no better place to develop Panasonic’s next ‘ideas for life.’ This doesn’t change Brooklyn’s status as the hottest place to do business in New York City, and I will continue to work to bring companies of all sizes to Brooklyn. And when the Nets move from Newark to Barclays Center in 2012, it’s going to be a heck of a commute for those Panasonic employees!”

Brooklyn may be good at luring food and drink establishments, or small creative companies, but it sure is not the "hottest place" to do business when it comes to office space.

Posted by eric at 11:13 PM

Tug o' war for B'klyn biz bucks

NY Post
by Rich Calder

There’s a turf war heating up in Downtown Brooklyn.

At stake is control of a striving Business Improvement District representing 25 square blocks in and around Metro Tech Center.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a public-private entity created by the Bloomberg administration in 2006 to spur local economic development, is trying to seize control of Metro Tech BID.
...

But, unlike two nearby Downtown BIDs that quietly agreed to partnership takeovers in 2010, board members for Metro Tech BID are split.

A faction, including top brass, refuse to award the partnership a $300,000-a-year contract to run the BID – despite pressure from City Hall and developer Forest City Ratner, which built Metro Tech’s office complex in the 1980s.
...

“It’s dead wrong to have one group be Downtown Brooklyn’s only voice, and this would set a bad precedent for all city BIDs, ” said Michael Weiss, Metro Tech BID’s executive director.

The partnership is paid $220,000 yearly to run smaller, adjacent BIDs representing Fulton Mall and the Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn streets corridor.

Weiss -- who’d lose his $165,000-a-year job through the merger -- said the plan would “devastate services” for small businesses and the neighborhood’s growing residential community because the partnership “usually puts large developers’ needs first.”
...

Forest City officials, including CEO Bruce Ratner, hold seven of the 33 voting board seats at the BID.

article

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

April 15, 2011

Big Deal Pending at Ratner's Metrotech

NY Observer
by Jotham Sederstrom

Polytechnic Institute of New York University, the private engineering college in downtown Brooklyn, is nearing a deal for approximately 9,000 square feet of office and administrative space at Metrotech Center, sources familiar with the process told The Observer yesterday.

Currently occupying space at the Forest City Ratner-owned 5 and 6 MetroTech as well as nearby space at the historic Wunsch Building at 311 Bridge Street, the 157-year-old school is exploring space at both 1 and 4 MetroTech Center, the sources said.

link

NoLandGrab: 9,000 square feet doesn't sound like a very big deal. Maybe they're missing a zero?

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

April 14, 2011

Brooklyn BID takeover moves forward

Crain's NY Business

Look who's meddling in a downtown Brooklyn power struggle.

Allies of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership have managed, for now, to beat back a proposal aimed at blocking its ability to usurp funding from the MetroTech BID, which it oversees.

The BID held an emergency meeting yesterday that was attended by board members, Bloomberg administration staff, and lawyers for some of downtown's largest developers. The sole item on the agenda: revising the BID's conflict-of-interest policy.

The proposed revision, many agree, would make it next to impossible for BID board members who also sit on the partnership's board to vote to divert money from the BID to the partnership.

“This is not just about MetroTech,” said BID President Victoria Aviles. “This is about all the BIDs in New York City and how umbrella organizations can take them over.”

Despite her efforts, opponents managed to stall the vote after lawyers for Forest City Ratner and Muss Development criticized the proposed conflict-of-interest proposal for being vague. Following an onslaught of hoots and hollers, members voted to form a committee that will review the policy.

article [registration required]

The delay tactic rankled board members who believe that the partnership and its deep-pocketed friends are gunning for a power play. “It's about money,” said Vincent Battista, a downtown Brooklyn business owner. “It's not about serving the community.”

BIDs enjoy a reliable revenue stream from property tax assessments. Some have argued that because the partnership's funding from the city is drying up, its survival depends, in part, on money it can pull from the MetroTech BID and two others in downtown Brooklyn. “They're looking for bailouts on the backs of the BIDs,” said one insider.

Not so, the partnership says: It's simply trying to fulfill one of its original missions, which is to consolidate the services of various organizations in downtown Brooklyn. There is no takeover, supporters claim.

“Those arguments and other ploys are an attempt by a deeply embedded BID bureaucrat to maintain his position,” said an insider, referring to Mike Weiss, executive director of the MetroTech BID. A wily veteran of city politics, Weiss has maneuvered for a year to stymie the partnership's plans. The MetroTech BID board meets again May 5.

Posted by eric at 12:02 PM

April 10, 2011

“Reverse Morality” Clauses for Celebrity Endorsers: What Are They? Something Celebrities, Including Jay-Z, Should Try Enforcing

Noticing New York

Corporations that make use of celebrity endorsements commonly write protections into contracts to protect themselves case of misbehavior by a celebrity. But there are also reverse-morality clauses to protect the celebrity in case of bad behavior by the corporation. A course presented by Andrew Bondarowicz, Esq. suggests that Jay-Z might need such protection as part of his endorsement of Atlantic Yards?

Unfortunately, while reverse morality clauses are actually becoming more prevalent (Mr. Bondarowicz’s says they were almost unheard of 20-30 years ago but are becoming popular in the post-ENRON environment) they are rarely enforced. Why not?

Mr. Bondarowicz puts it this way:

While the considerations may be very similar, it is very unlikely that morals clauses will be enforced in reverse situations mainly because the brand is the one typically that’s paying the endorser and unless you’re willing to forgo the financial implications of that deal you tend to find a way to work within the relationship. Secondly, the brand sought out the endorser to serve as spokesman for the company and in times of crisis it becomes even more advantageous to utilize the services of that endorsement to regain credibility and trust with the public.

That rather delicado lawyer-speak can be translated thus: If the endorser enforces the reverse morals clause they will lose a paycheck, but if they work something out with "the brand" to avoid the clause being triggered they just might get paid even more as they bail the corporation out in its days of crisis.

...

...Forest City Ratner is now in a time of crisis. In fact, if you apply the triggers above in the list of standards that usually apply to paid endorsers, Forest City Ratner has by the judgment of many of us crossed quite a few of those lines, at least in the “softer categories.” As for the “harder” categories, there hasn’t yet been a conviction for felony or misdemeanor or a criminal indictment, but many would convincingly argue that Forest City Ratner is dancing uncomfortably close to those triggers as well. - - Does all this mean that Jay-Z’s paycheck is going up?

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Jay-Z, "a reverse morals clause," and the flexibility of morality

Michael D. D. White, in his Noticing New York blog, suggests that Jay-Z's take from Forest City Ratner might be going up because of a "reverse morals clause" triggered by the company's questionable behavior.

Perhaps, but Jay-Z himself is hardly pure, not merely his unquestioning endorsement of Atlantic Yards, but the $50,000 fine the Nets recently incurred because Jay-Z inappropriately visited the locker room of the Kentrucky Wildcats.

Ultimately, I suspect Jay-Z's fine with it all as long as he can open the Barclays Center with some hugely promoted concerts.

Posted by steve at 12:26 AM

April 5, 2011

Nasty pistol-whip on Myrtle Ave.

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

The only thing that'll disappear faster than one of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards promises is an unattended purse in one of his malls.

Cheesy crime

What a dirty rat!

A thief palmed a 33-year-old woman’s purse on March 26 as his victim celebrated her son’s birthday at the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant/game arcade on Flatbush Avenue.

The woman put her purse on a chair inside the eatery between Hanson Place and Atlantic Avenue at 2:30 pm. When she returned to her chair a few hours later, her bag was gone.

article

Posted by eric at 3:53 PM

April 4, 2011

Wall Street Journal: beyond Atlantic Yards housing, Beekman Tower, Ridge Hill leasing post tests for Ratner

Atlantic Yard Report

What's the news from Ratner Facing New Tests, an overview today from the Wall Street Journal?

Forest City Ratner races an "uncertain rental market" for the high-priced units in the Beekman Tower, it has leased only 45% of its Ridge Hill mall in Yonkers, and, as we know, it hasn't been able to start housing at Atlantic Yards. The Journal reports:

The company's drive to build cash was underscored last week when it announced completion of a months-long deal to sell off a 49% stake in $852 million worth of retail properties. Forest City also announced its president, Joanne Minieri, was leaving the company to start her own firm.

I suggested that Minieri's departure also was a way to save money.
...

The article closes with this cryptic paragraph:

For Atlantic Yards, Ms. Gilmartin said the firm has improved its situation by extending a large loan recently, and it hopes to start the housing this year.

That sounds like they're using the money raised by EB-5 investors seeking green cards, as the Times earlier reported.

How does extending that loan create jobs, as the federal program is supposed to require?

link

Posted by eric at 11:51 PM

Carver Federal Savings on the brink

Feds order Harlem bank to raise new capital. Or else.

Crain's NY Business
by Aaron Elstein

We take no pleasure in reporting the woes facing the bank into which Bruce Ratner made a much-touted (and to some, controversial) $1 million deposit in March of 2005. Though it is ironic that the bank is in trouble due to bad real estate loans.

The parent of Carver Federal Savings Bank holds its annual stockholders meeting April 4 at The Studio Museum in Harlem, near the bank's 125th Street headquarters. It could be the last.

Time may be running out for Carver, the nation's largest bank founded and run by African-Americans and an integral part of the city for 63 years. Staggering under a load of delinquent real estate loans, the bank is under orders from the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision to raise $20 million in fresh capital by the end of this month. That's a steep climb for a bank that at best posts annual profits of $5 million. Yet if Carver can't raise the cash, regulators can either seize the institution and sell it to another bank, or dissolve it.

Longtime Chief Executive Deborah Wright has pulled Carver back from the brink before and has many high-level business and political connections who could help the bank get the needed funds.

article

NoLandGrab: But of course, Ratner, who made the deposit for TV cameras while surrounded by signatories of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, claimed his deposit had nothing to do with Atlantic Yards. Which is good, since he might not get it back. But that's ok, because he encouraged everyone else to put their money there, too.

Here's what he told NY1 back in March, 2005.

Bruce Ratner, the president of Forest City Ratner, said the public deposit, made with a ceremonial giant check, has nothing to do with his hopes of building an arena for the Nets in Downtown Brooklyn.

“This is part of a commitment by our company to constantly, whether an arena or not arena, to support local institutions,” said Ratner. “I have to say one other thing: This is a great bank, and it's a good business move for us and everybody to put deposits here. This is a very important part of the community and very important part of our city.”

Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

Ratner Facing New Tests

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

When Forest City Ratner broke ground last year on its $904 million basketball arena, it was a sign that one of the most active developers in New York was emerging from a brutal recession.

Now as the real-estate market creeps back, large challenges remain for the Brooklyn-based development firm.

The company's $876 million rental tower in downtown Manhattan designed by Frank Gehry began leasing in February. The developer must lease 903 apartments in an uncertain rental market.

Meanwhile, Forest City, led by Bruce Ratner, has leased only 45% of its Ridge Hill mall, a 1.3-million-square-foot retail complex in Yonkers set to open this spring. And the company has been struggling to raise money for the housing that will accompany the basketball arena.

The company's drive to build cash was underscored last week when it announced completion of a months-long deal to sell off a 49% stake in $852 million worth of retail properties. Forest City also announced its president, Joanne Minieri, was leaving the company to start her own firm.

Mr. Ratner wasn't available for comment.

article

Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

April 3, 2011

The explosive growth of the EB-5 regional center program: from 23 to 125 in less than three years

Atlantic Yards Report

Don't think that only Forest City Ratner has figured that the federal government's EB-5 program is a good way to raise low-cost capital.

So have many, many others. Consider the explosion in the number of regional centers, federally authorized investment pools that market green cards in exchange for purportedly job-creating investments. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)

July 2008: 23

July 2009: 60

November 2009: 75

October 2010: 114

March 2011: 125

link

Posted by steve at 10:34 PM

Sellout! Ratner hawks half of his malls to raise $ for A’Yards

The Brooklyn Paper
By Aaron Short

One reason that developer Bruce Ratner needs 25 years to build Atlantic Yards might be that he hasn't got enough money to build the project.

Cash-strapped developer Bruce Ratner is selling half his stake in two of the borough’s largest shopping centers as he struggles to begin his $4.9-billion Atlantic Yards project across the street.

Ratner sold 49-percent shares of Fort Greene’s Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal Mall and 13 other projects to an international real estate investor for $172 million last week.

A spokesman for the company said that the sale would have “no direct bearing” on the delayed mega-development, which is supposed to consist of 16 residential and office towers, plus a basketball arena, but currently only features the under-construction sports facility.

link

Posted by steve at 10:27 PM

April 2, 2011

News from Forest City conference call: AY office space forgotten; project will get built at company's pace; no mention of EB-5 or modular construction

Atlantic Yards Report

During a conference call with investment analysts yesterday held by Forest City Enterprises, there were no questions about Atlantic Yards, so apparently issues of modular construction or EB-5 fundraising have not reached the radar screens of those analysts.

But there were some clues in both remarks by FCE officials and documents released by the company.

For one thing, the Atlantic Yards office tower--a key component of expected tax revenues--seems to be off the table, suggesting it's not expected in the near term. Another involves the repeated claim that Atlantic Yards will develop at Forest City's pace.

Where's the office space?

An end-of-year Supplemental Package to the Securities and Exchange Commission, described Atlantic Yards as the first among "Projects Under Development""

Below is a summary of our active large scale development projects, which have yet to commence construction, often referred to as our "shadow pipeline" which are crucial to our long-term growth. While we cannot make any assurances on the timing or delivery of these projects, our track record speaks to our ability to bring large, complex, projects to fruition when there is demand and available construction financing.

1) Atlantic Yards - Brooklyn, NY Atlantic Yards is adjacent to the state-of-the art arena, the Barclays Center, which is designed by the award-winning firms Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects and is currently under construction. In addition, Atlantic Yards will feature more than 6,400 units of housing, including over 2,200 affordable units, approximately 250,000 square feet of retail space, and more than 8 acres of landscaped open space.

Missing was any mention of the office tower.

At Forest City's pace

In remarks recalling the November 2008 presentation in which Forest City included Atlantic Yards among projects where "we control the pace," CEO Chuck Ratner indicated that the developer still feels the same way.

link

Posted by steve at 11:12 PM

April 1, 2011

Cash-Strapped Forest City Ratner Sells 49% Stake in Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal Malls

The L Magazine
by Mark Asch

Bruce Ratner's company has sold a 49% interest in 15 NYC shopping centers, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. This includes the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls, those two monstrosities across Flatbush from the project which has put Ratner into such dire financial straits.

As if the implications of the sale—the largest possible non-controlling stake in privately owned, healthy income-generating retail developments—weren't clear enough, graf 2 of the WSJ article notes, with killing objectivity, "The sale... comes as Forest City has been hobbled by major development projects that were started at the market's peak, when prices and expectations were far higher than they are today." (One thing they don't mention: this isn't the first time Ratner's sold off assets to keep Atlantic Yards moving. Remember that time he sold his basketball team to the richest man in Russia?)
...

Ratner, you may recall, had several blocks of Prospect Heights declared "blighted" so that the state could claim eminent domain to hand them over to him. Ratner and the state's urban renewal project apparently consists of letting huge swaths of the neighborhood remain vacant and undeveloped indefinitely, or at least until he can find a few million more pennies under the couch.

link

Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Ratner Sells Big Stake in Atlantic Terminal Mall

Madison International, a real estate private equity firm, will pay the developer’s company, Forest City Ratner, $172 million for properties that include both Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal. Madison will also take on $499.9 million of debt.

Ratner will retain the majority share and continue to manage the properties, including the Atlantic Terminal Mall.

Ratner’s plans for 16-tower mini-city and basketball arena at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues was on the brink of financial ruin in 2008 when the economy tanked. Since then, the original architect of the project, Frank Gehry, has been fired, and the developer has said the project could be completed in 25 years, rather than the original 10 years.

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

Brooklyn Kids With Cancer: Apply for Free Family Camp in Maine

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Brooklyn families with a child who has been diagnosed with cancer can attend Camp Sunshine, a one-of-a-kind national retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families in Maine, thanks to the generosity of the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance. The Alliance is a philanthropic partnership among Barclays, the Nets and Forest City Ratner Companies.

Camp Sunshine offers families a place to relax together and take a break from the extraordinary demands placed upon them on a daily basis. The year-round program is free of charge and staffed almost entirely by volunteers. It is the only program in the nation whose mission is to address the impact of a life-threatening illness on every member of the immediate family.

The weekend of April 15 through 18 marks the second consecutive year of the Brooklyn program. It is hoped that up to 40 families from the city will participate in the year’s session at no cost. The program is intended to provide an opportunity for families living in Brooklyn to meet others fighting similar battles, share their experiences and allow their children to just have fun. Families interested in filling the remaining slots can visit the Camp Sunshine website at www.campsunshine.org.

link

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

March 31, 2011

Forest City reports increased earnings, savings on Nets, small uptick on contracted arena revenue--and departure of Minieri

Atlantic Yards Report

In a press release headlined Forest City Reports Fiscal 2010 Full-Year and Fourth-Quarter Results, Forest City Enterprises yesterday reported record earnings, though those earnings on a per share basis are down.

The parent of Forest City Ratner noted that the sale of the Nets was paying off, and that there was a modest increase in contractually obligated arena income.

The Real Deal also reported yesterday that Forest City Ratner president and Chief Operating Officer Joanne Minieri, with the company since 1995, had left for her own consulting venture. She also will continue to advise FCR.

Was Minieri nudged out in an effort to save a big salary--no replacement was announced--or was she simply itching to leave? It's tough to know, from the outside, but the developer has been trying to save on relatively small expenditures, such as $100,000 for an Independent Compliance Monitor.

article

Posted by eric at 11:41 AM

FCE PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Reports Fiscal 2010 Full-Year and Fourth-Quarter Results

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today announced EBDT, net earnings and revenues for the fourth quarter and full year ended January31, 2011.

EBDT

EBDT (Earnings Before Depreciation, Amortization and Deferred Taxes) for the full year ended January 31, 2011, was $309.9 million, a new record for the company and a 2.9 percent increase compared with last year's $301.1 million. EBDT for the fourth quarter was $43.1 million, a 45 percent decrease compared with last year's fourth-quarter EBDT of $78.4 million.

EBDT for the fourth quarter and full year 2010 were impacted by a loss on early extinguishment of debt of $31.7 million ($0.16 on a fully diluted, per-share basis), related to inducement payments for the early exchange of a portion of the company's 2016 Senior Notes for Class A common stock, which occurred in the final week of the fiscal year.

On a fully diluted, per-share basis, full-year 2010 EBDT was $1.59, a 20.5 percent decrease from the prior year's $2.00 per share. Per-share EBDT for the fourth quarter of 2010 was $0.23, compared with $0.43 per share in the fourth quarter of 2009. Per-share data reflects new Class A common shares and the "if-converted" effect of convertible debt and convertible preferred stock issued in 2009 and 2010.
...

Net Earnings/Loss

For the full year, net earnings attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc., were $58.7 million, or $0.34 per share, compared with a net loss of $30.7 million, or $0.22 per share, in 2009. For the fourth quarter of 2010, net loss attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc. was $1.8 million, or $0.01 per share, compared with net earnings of $6.2 million, or $0.04 per share in the fourth quarter of 2009.
...

Work continues at the Barclays Center arena at Atlantic Yards, with steel now rising several stories above ground level at the site. With the building taking shape, the reality of major league sports returning to Brooklyn has helped generate additional momentum and enthusiasm for the project. Approximately 55 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues are currently under contract for the arena, which is expected to open in late summer 2012.

link

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

Forest City Ratner Unloads Share in Both Atlantic Center, Terminal

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Forest City Ratner Companies is selling a 49-percent stake in 15 of its shopping centers, including the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues at the edge of Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene.
...

The [Wall Street] Journal notes that the sale comes as Ratner is experiencing increased costs in its development of three major projects, including the Barclays Arena and housing complex at Atlantic Yards.

“The company is having difficulty starting the [Atlantic Yards] housing component,” the Journal wrote.

link

Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

March 30, 2011

President of Forest City Ratner steps down to start her own firm

The Real Deal

Joanne Minieri stepped down as president of the New York subsidiary of Forest City Enterprises today, the same day the firm sold 49 percent of its stake in 15 New York City properties. Minieri will continue to advise the New York arm, Forest City Ratner, on major projects, but will launch her own venture geared towards consulting real estate developers and financial services companies. Minieri joined Forest City Enterprises in 1995 and was promoted to president and COO in 2007. As president she has been closely involved in Forest City's Atlantic Yards project including breaking ground on the Barclays Center that will be home to the Nets. Bruce Ratner, CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, called Minieri's accomplishments with the company "extraordinary," and Forest City Enterprises CEO Charles Ratner praised the team she assembled. "I am pleased to be leaving at a time with many challenges behind us, and so many signature projects successfully completed," Minieri said.

link

NoLandGrab: Successfully completed? Like the Carlton Avenue bridge?

Posted by eric at 7:49 PM

Federal agency stonewalls Freedom of Information Act requests on Forest City's EB-5 green card scheme, waits four-plus months to send denial letters

Atlantic Yards Report

Are the Feds in on this crooked deal, too?

Will we ever find out how exactly federal authorities gave preliminary approval--and more--to the astounding efforts to get Chinese millionaires to invest in Atlantic Yards in exchange for green cards?

Not that likely.

During a crucial four-month period when developer Forest City Ratner and the New York City Regional Center successfully recruited immigrant investors in China and South Korea, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) stonewalled my Freedom of Information Act requests in a very odd fashion.

The USCIS responded to me in letters dated 10/22/10 and 11/2/10, as well as two undated letters.

However, it did not mail those letters until early March, some four months later, and gave no explanation for the delay.

Moreover, the explanation given for three denials of my FOIA requests--that they were not of journalistic and public interest--seems belied by another letter that granted a request for expedited treatment, apparently because my request was of journalistic and public interest.

While that request was granted, I have not received the records at issue.

Read on for more of Norman Oder's back and forth with the USCIS. No word as to when, or if, he's going to start meeting shadowy Hal Holbrook-looking dudes in the bowels of parking garages. All we know is, follow the money.

article

Posted by eric at 12:53 PM

Annabi lawyer wants Mangone plea deal unsealed in Yonkers corruption case

LoHud.com
by Timothy O'Connor

The lawyer for indicted former Yonkers Councilmember Sandy Annabi wants a federal judge to unseal attorney Anthony Mangone's plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Mangone pleaded guilty to corruption and tax charges in the case, which began four years ago when the FBI and federal prosecutors investigated Yonkers City Council's handling of the controversial $600 million Ridge Hill development project.

He signed a plea agreement prior to his Nov. 29 guilty plea. His lawyer, James DeVita, asked a federal magistrate judge to seal the plea deal until sentencing, leading to speculation that Mangone had agreed to cooperate with federal investigators in the long-running probe. Federal prosecutors did not object to the sealing of the agreement.
...

Annabi's lawyer, William Aronwald, said he thinks Mangone is working with federal authorities.

"I have no doubt he's a cooperator," Aronwald said Tuesday.

article

NoLandGrab: The big questions are what does Mangone know, and what is he telling prosecutors?

Posted by eric at 12:43 PM

Ratner Sells Shopping-Center Stake

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

Since more traditional means of raising money didn't work out, Forest City Ratner has turned to an asset sale.

Forest City Ratner, one of New York's largest developers, has sold a 49% stake in 15 shopping centers scattered throughout the metropolitan area in a deal that values the retail portfolio at $852 million, the company said Tuesday.

The sale to Madison International Realty comes as Forest City has been hobbled by major development projects that were started at the market's peak, when prices and expectations were far higher than they are today.

Madison, a firm that owns noncontrolling equity stakes in properties, is paying $172 million to Forest City, which holds the remaining equity and will still manage the properties. The portfolio has $500 million in debt connected with it.

The malls tend to be well-trafficked properties, with a list that includes the Atlantic Center at the edge of Fort Greene in Brooklyn, a property in the Times Square area and a mall on 125th Street in Harlem.

"This is probably the largest portfolio of retail properties owned by a single landlord in the New York area," Ronald Dickerman, Madison's president, said in an interview Tuesday.
...

The Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner subsidiary, led by Bruce Ratner, is in the process of developing three major projects, including a new Nets basketball arena and housing complex in Brooklyn, a 76-story apartment tower in Lower Manhattan and a large mall in Yonkers.

The Brooklyn arena has seen costs rise by hundreds of millions of dollars since it was initially planned, and the company is having difficulty starting the housing component. The mall in Yonkers envisioned a high-end retail tenant base that has proved difficult to attract because of the economic downturn.

article

NoLandGrab: No word as to whether the "colorful characters" (aka shoplifters, pickpockets and purse-snatchers) who frequent the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls were included in the deal.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Seeking cash, Forest City Ratner sells 49 percent of Atlantic Terminal/Center malls, other retail and entertainment properties

In an effort to "create liquidity" (aka raise cash), Forest City Ratner has sold a a 49% stake in "15 mature retail and entertainment properties" in the New York City area, including the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls in Brooklyn.

The buyer, Madison International Realty, will invest $172.3 million in cash. The properties are valued by this transaction at $851.5 million, including $499.9 million of debt. Forest City will continue to own a majority 51% stake, and manage the properties.

Is that a good deal for Forest City? Did Madison get a bargain? The only context I see is from the Wall Street Journal, in a short article today headlined Ratner Sells Shopping-Center Stake:

The sale to Madison International Realty comes as Forest City has been hobbled by major development projects that were started at the market's peak, when prices and expectations were far higher than they are today.

Those "major" projects include Atlantic Yards, the Ridge Hill project in Yonkers, and the Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan.

Forest City Enterprises Press Release, Forest City Announces Joint Ventures with Madison International Realty for 15 New York City Area Retail Centers

The properties included in the transaction are: the 42nd Street Retail and Entertainment Complex and Harlem Center (retail component) in Manhattan; Atlantic Center, Atlantic Terminal (retail component) and The Heights in Brooklyn; Queens Place, Steinway Street Theatres and Shops at Northern Boulevard in Queens; Shops at Bruckner Boulevard, Castle Center and Shops at Gun Hill Road in the Bronx; Shops at Richmond Avenue and Forest Avenue Cinemas on Staten Island; and Columbia Park in North Bergen, New Jersey.

Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

Where Wal-Mart Failed, Aldi Succeeds

The New York Times
by Stephanie Clifford

While Wal-Mart revives its plans to get into New York City, a giant German retailer has slipped in relatively unnoticed.

In February, with virtually no opposition — a Queens politician even showed up at the grand opening in Rego Park, Queens — a discount retailer called Aldi opened its first store in the city, and plans to open a second one, in the Bronx, later this year.
...

Even though Aldi, like Wal-Mart, is nonunion, it has faced little resistance, compared with the heated opposition often headed by unions and politicians that Wal-Marts have encountered in larger markets.

Why so little push back? Here's why.

“There’s no reason to oppose an Aldi — it’s a small format, and they usually get space from an existing landowner or landlord, a small guy who’s plugged into the community, not a big guy like a Forest City Ratner,” Mr. Johnson said.

article

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

March 29, 2011

Believable? Feds told $249M in immigrant investor (EB-5) funds would create 3705 construction jobs, 350 in retail, 1786 in art/entertainment

Atlantic Yards Report

How can Forest City Ratner and its partner, an investment pool called the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), claim that 498 Chinese (and Korean) millionaires seeking green cards would create 7696 jobs by investing a half-million dollars each ($249 million total) in the Atlantic Yards project?

It's one of the most preposterous claims in the entire saga of Forest City Ratner's effort to gain a low-interest loan, saving perhaps $191 million, via the federal government's EB-5 program. Under the program, investors and their families gain green cards in exchange for purportedly job-creating investments, ten per investor.

Now there's new evidence undermining the claim, given that the claimed job total--including jobs in construction and entertainment--can't reflect how the money would be used.

A graphic on the web site of Kookmin, a South Korean immigration agency working with the NYCRC, suggests, for example, that the investment would create 3705 construction jobs and 1786.5 jobs in "art, entertainment."

Those numbers defy common sense--the entertainment jobs, for example, would have to be tied to the arena.

But the money isn't needed for the arena.

Read on [that means YOU, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services!] for Norman Oder's thorough dismantling of the Atlantic Yards EB-5 house of [green] cards.

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NoLandGrab: We just emailed a link to this story to uscis.immigrantinvestorprogram@dhs.gov urging the Citizenship & Immigration Services to dig into this shady deal. We suggest you do the same.

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

More robberies at Target

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Indicted Atlantic Yards lobbyist Richard Lispky and Atlantic Yards booster Carl Kruger seem to have inspired the locals to perpetrate a little crime of their own.

Target troubles

At least three more thefts took place inside the troubled Atlantic Terminal Target last week. Here’s the rundown:

• A thief snagged a wallet from a shopper looking for bargains at the store, which is near Atlantic Avenue, on March 19. The woman’s bag was sitting inside a shopping cart at around 4 pm when the thief rifled through it.

• A goon handed a stolen wallet to an accomplice after swiping it from a 25-year-old’s shopping cart on March 26. The woman saw the thief take her wallet out of her bag at 5:45 pm, but he had already passed it off when she confronted him.

• Two women were arrested on after they tried to smuggle 55 articles of clothing on March 27. The thieves also tried to make off with some groceries and baby items during the 8:30 pm theft.

article

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

March 28, 2011

So, the Prospect Park Alliance actually welcomed Bruce Bender's help to get state funding via Carl Kruger for a new skating rink

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on Emily Lloyd's letter to the New York Post.

I'd point out that there's a little wiggle room there. Alliance staff asked Amy Bender for help. They didn't necessarily ask her to ask her husband. But perhaps that was implied. And it certainly was welcomed, according to Lloyd's letter.

Also note that the article cited, “Kruger Crony Leaned on Me for Vote”, doesn't actually say anything about the Prospect Park Alliance. Rather, a March 16 Post article, headlined Prospect Park group rage at 'Kruger' exec, began:

A top Atlantic Yards executive who requested state funds for Prospect Park's skating rink from embattled state Sen. Carl Kruger was never asked to do so by the park's fund-raising group -- and now park advocates are furious at being linked to the corruption scandal, sources told The Post.

"He has dragged our name through the mud," fumed a Prospect Park Alliance source about Forest City Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender, whose conversation with Kruger was featured in a federal criminal complaint against the Brooklyn Democrat.

The claim that Bruce Bender wasn't asked is not inconsistent with Lloyd's statement. Prospect Park Alliance board members may not have agreed to have Bruce Bender raise funds for them, though some might have recognized that asking Amy Bender would involve her husband.
...

I'd add that the Alliance might not want to be involved in dialogues like these, as described in federal charges.

"The Vice President said he needed a 'combo of two projects... the park and Carlton Avenue Bridge." Kruger said "the bridge is out," and asked Bender to choose:

The Vice President said that he did not know and that "this" was "bad." KRUGER said, "I guess the park, fuck the bridge." The Vice President said that "my dilemma is as you know, I don't mind fucking the bridge, I can't fuck it right now, I've got to leverage that bridge, what's my value?"

link

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

Above board

NY Post
Letters to the Editor

“Kruger Crony Leaned on Me for Vote,” (March 17) states that Forest City Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender sought funding for the construction of a new skating rink in Prospect Park without having been requested to do so by the Prospect Park Alliance.

Alliance staff did ask Board Member Amy Bender to help advance our request for state funding for the skating rink, which is currently under construction. Bender’s husband, Bruce, was trying to assist the alliance in obtaining state-funding toward a major public project.

Alliance staff who are involved in public fundraising were informed about those efforts. All proposals for public funding are requested in an appropriate and transparent way.

Emily Lloyd, President/Administrator, Prospect Park Alliance, Prospect Park

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NoLandGrab: We're not sure whether this makes it better or worse. The fact that the Alliance would ask the developer of New York City's most-controversial real estate boondoggle, which is soaking up hundreds of millions in those precious state funds, to lobby on their behalf doesn't show particularly good judgment.

Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

It Pays to Be a Lobbyist in Brooklyn

mcbrooklyn

A couple of weeks ago it came out that State Senator Carl Kruger was accused of taking $1 million in bribes including money from Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist on behalf of developer Forest City Ratner.
...

Life is good for lobbyists in Brooklyn. One developer alone, Forest City Ratner, paid roughly $3,819,600 over the past five years to lobbyists pushing his controversial Atlantic Yards mega project. (It must be hard to keep track of a few bribes when that kind of money is flying around.)

The Forest City Ratner company (under the name Atlantic Yards Development Co.) paid lobbyists $1,023,000 in 2009 and $298,000 in 2010. In 2008, the company paid lobbyists under two names: $72,000 to lobbyists under the Forest City Ratner name and $298,000 under the name Atlantic Yards Development Co. In 2007, under the name Forest City Ratner, they laid out $980,000. In 2006 they paid lobbyists $1,148,600.

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Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Critics fault tax abatement agreements

Municipal officials, who get most of the payments in lieu of taxes, defend the practice

MyCentralJersey.com
by Sergio Bichao

Guess who's riding the tax-break gravy train in New Jersey.

Critics of tax abatement deals have questioned whether abatements are necessary at all to attract development, or even if the development itself is necessary or desirable. The comptroller's report calls it "inappropriate or nonremedial development.'' The South Jersey township of Gloucester, for example, awarded abatements to three separate Wawa convenience stores, within two to four miles of each other, even though the area within a five-mile radius already was served by 20 such Wawa stores.

Woodbridge does not seem like a town that would have to try hard to woo developers. The New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, Interstate 287, Routes 1, 9 and 440, and major rail lines, with three commuter stations, all criss-cross the township, connecting it to all points of the state.

Yet officials believed it was necessary to offer a 30-year abatement worth $26 million to Forest City Ratner, a multibillion-dollar developer, to build a strip mall next Woodbridge Center mall, which is paying $7 million a year in property taxes. A Wegmans supermarket and strip mall on the other side of Woodbridge Center also has no PILOT, paying $1.6 million a year in regular property taxes.

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Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

March 23, 2011

Two vicious iPhone robberies

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

It wasn't quite like last week's all-out criminal free-for-all at Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn malls, but a sticky-fingered thief did help himself to some fancy frames.

Vision villains

A crook swiped more than $2,800 worth of designer glasses from the National Vision Center in the troubled Atlantic Center Mall on March 18.

Workers at the store between Fort Greene Place and South Portland Avenue said that the thief stormed in at 5:10 pm and began looting the display cases, taking three pairs of Prada glasses, three pairs of Gucci glasses and one pair of specs designed by Dolce Gabana.

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Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

March 21, 2011

Corrupt Brooklyn Politician's House Looks Exactly How You'd Expect

Curbed
by Joey Arak

State Senator Carl Kruger, accused of shady dealings in connection with a number of Brooklyn real estate projects—including Atlantic Yards and the Brooklyn Navy Yard—has had a long and complicated and possibly intimate relationship with members of the Turano family of Mill Basin. And seeing as how the Kruger case will one day make for a great Dateline special, the Times investigated these colorful characters in great detail. But the star of the show, by far, is the Turano's gaudy 7,000-square-foot waterfront mansion, which looks like it was built for a mobster, probably because it was.

link

Photo: Emily Berl for The New York Times

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

March 20, 2011

A Ratner Bluff on the Not-So-Fab Prefab Modulars? A Second Opinion

Noticing New York

Many have denounced the recent announcement that modular construction is being considered for Atlantic Yards. This blog post considers that the announcement may simply be a feint.

The analysis of whether the public is being blackmailed essentially harkens back to the way that Ratner threatened Community Board 2 for additional approvals on his Beekman Tower project by saying he wouldn’t build the community’s promised school. He was already theoretically obligated to build the school in connection with the permission he had been given to erect such an immense building on the site. He got the benefit of the extra approvals from the community board.

On today’s WNYC 411, Greg David has another take on the possibility that Ratner is bluffing, this time harkening back, also to the Beekman Tower, but this time to the way that Ratner later (bluffingly?) halted the tower's construction in order to exact concessions from the construction unions. The tower DID eventually proceed and Ratner DID get concession from the unions.

The fact is we may both be right. If it is potentially a ploy Ratner may intend it do double duty and do both.

Business reporter Mr. David appears to be having a harder time saying he still supports Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly, but he refused to say, when questioned during his interview, that he was wrong from the start. He offered a tempered and lukewarm hedged assessment: “Sure I regret that it’s not going to be beautiful off the bat, but you know fifteen years from now it might be great, - I’m hoping.” - - Fifteen years as hoped for by Mr. David is, of course, outside the 10-year time frame for which ESDC did its environmental assessment and the project is actually now expected to take decades.

link

Posted by steve at 9:15 PM

March 18, 2011

Animated video: F#@k the Bridge with Carl and Bruce

Atlantic Yards Report

An anonymous and creative person has created an animated video that appropriates the dialogue between Bruce Bender and Carl Kruger, but has cartoon characters deliver it, with cutesy/robotic computer-generated voices.

link

Posted by steve at 4:23 PM

With Federal Case and Modular Building Plan, New Attention for Atlantic Yards Project

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

The Atlantic Yards project began with much fanfare in December 2003, when the developer Bruce C. Ratner unveiled his plans at a pep rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall: an exotic basketball arena and a sprawling residential development that would provide affordable housing, jobs and community development.

The $4.9 billion project took a battering during the ensuing seven years of public review, controversy and delay. Today, the 18,000-seat basketball arena, which will be home to the Nets, is taking shape at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. But revelations in the past few days have brought renewed attention to the rest of the 22-acre project.

Last week, a federal bribery case against State Senator Carl Kruger turned up a recording of an executive at Mr. Ratner’s company, Forest City Ratner, pressing Mr. Kruger for $9 million to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge at Atlantic Yards. Forest City Ratner did not get the money, and the executive was not accused of any wrongdoing, but the recording did bring unwanted attention to the company’s desperate search for financing.

And this week, Forest City Ratner confirmed that it was considering erecting a 34-story prefabricated, or modular, tower, as a way of cutting its construction costs and fulfilling its obligation to start building housing.

The construction unions that Mr. Ratner had lauded last year for sticking with him were stunned by the suggestion that much of the work might take place in a factory, where wages are much lower than on-site. Forest City has put off the start date for the tower, the first of 16, until the end of the year.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the organization whose lawsuits delayed the project for years, said the plan for a modular building was the latest in a long line of broken promises.

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NoLandGrab: What really delayed the project for years was a) a degree of outlandishness and unrealistic ambition that, b) made the project impossible to finance, compounded by c) an absolute disregard for public process that forced opponents to pursue legal action.

Related coverage...

Norman Oder is moved to publish two blog posts on The Times article.

Atlantic Yards Report, Times can't help but notice bad news about Atlantic Yards, gets supportive quote from Markowitz, soft-pedals EB-5 story, railyard deal

The New York Times today follows up on the skein of bad news and broken promises afflicting the Atlantic Yards project, but doesn't go nearly far enough.

The article downplays the bargain Forest City Ratner got on the renegotiated railyard and finally mentions--but completely soft-pedals--the astounding effort to trade green cards for purportedly job-creating investments.

The headline, With Federal Case and Modular Building Plan, New Attention for Atlantic Yards Project, inherently indicates the Times's own role in calling attention to the project.

Yes, the taped conversation between scandal-plagued state Senator Carl Kruger and Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender is in the public record, but the modular building plan was a Times scoop.

The missing scoop(s)

And the Times could've had a scoop of sorts on Forest City Ratner's effort to exploit the EB-5 investment program; after all, I laid out a road map in a comment yesterday on the Times's web site.

Instead, just as with two other pieces of damning Atlantic Yards news--Forest City Ratner's bailout of ACORN, and the major cut in the value of arena naming rights--the Times covered it belatedly, parenthetically, and weakly.

Atlantic Yards Report, How does refinancing a land loan and helping build a new railyard create Atlantic Yards jobs, under EB-5? It defies common sense

Bagli writes:

[Forest City] also lined 498 Asian investors who enrolled in an obscure federal program that grants green cards in exchange for a $500,000 investment in a job-producing American project.

MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, said that when it received final approval from the federal government, the $249 million would be used to pay down a land loan for the project and additional work on the railyard.

How would that create jobs? It wouldn't--at least not in great quantity, not close to the 4980 minimum jobs required (ten per investor) or the 7696 jobs claimed.

If no EB5 funds, then what?

What happens if Forest City does not pay down the land loan? The collateral development rights would have gone to their lender, Gramercy Warehouse Funding, if Forest City didn't pay. Now they'd go to the Asian investors.

What about the railyard? They're obligated to build the railyard by 2016; if they can't come up with financing they'd lose development rights.

Their whole 2005 bid to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority--and the renegotiation of the bid in 2009--was based on the premise that the cash component was only a small percentage of the overall value.

How jobs are calculated

In either case, note that under federal guidelines, actual jobs need not be counted; rather, an economist's report suffices. It applies a "multiplier" to the total sum invested.

However, for the "Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project," Forest City Ratner and its partner, the New York City Regional Center, have been claiming that the $249 million sought is part of a $1.448 billion package, and that the "multiplier" be applied to the entire sum.

That of course would increase the number of jobs.

That may pass muster under lax federal review, but it's bogus.

It's bogus because refinancing the loan wouldn't create jobs.

And it's bogus because the arena--nearly a billion dollars, and the main component of the EB-5 project as pitched to investors--is already funded and would go ahead with or without the immigrant investor funds.

Posted by eric at 1:11 PM

Bruce Bender (and elected officials) on jobs

Battle of Brooklyn via Vimeo

In 2004 when the project was first announced it had the full support of the trade unions because they were promised jobs during construction. As the process went on the unions could be counted on for boisterous support of the project at public hearings. An article in the March 16th, 2011 New York Times announces that the developer will likely use modular construction to build the housing. This will save the developer money but will severely limit the number of jobs.

In this scene from Battle for Brooklyn (out spring 2011) elected officials and a representative of Forest City talk about the jobs circa 2004.

link

NoLandGrab: You know what "enervates" us? Chuck Schumer.

Posted by eric at 12:52 PM

Bad Faith Towers

Design Observer
by Alexandra Lange

Never let it be said that Bruce Ratner is not an avid follower of architectural trends. With this latest iteration of building at Atlantic Yards he swaps titanium for brown paper, correctly sensing that, post-recession, prefab is more palatable than starchitecture. Where once the Faustian bargain he offered Brooklynites appealed to their old school pride (a real city has its own sports team) and new Brooklyn snobbery (we could have had a Gehry before Manhattan), the new one is more pragmatic. Do you want affordable housing now, built fast and cheap, or later, when I wring a reduction in the number of promised units from the state?

The Times (for once) offers some distance from Ratner, development partner for their own Eighth Avenue tower, by pointing out that this new plan sells out the construction unions that were among Ratner's biggest supporters. (Another sign of distancing: The paper also seems to be calling the project Atlantic Yards again, a site Ratner and his Russian partner rebranded Barclays Center.) The desirable industrial jobs that would come from the prefab plant required to build such a tower would pay much less than old-fashioned site work. Do we want green industry enough? Are we so desperate for affordable housing (again, the recession changes everything) that we will take a chance on untested building technology? Who gets to be the guinea pig on the 34th floor? Surely Forest City Ratner did not want this news out the week of the Japanese quake.

Surely Ratner will tart up the prefab units with some cast concrete lintels and blown-up brownstone details, and call them contextual. But the truth is, the Times rendering is not so far from the boxy stacks Gehry proposed after the billowing Miss Brooklyn proved too costly. As with the disappointing 8 Spruce Street, there's a thin value engineered line between industrial production and genius.

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Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

Union reps criticize Ratner's bombshell about modular construction; Markowitz issues statement of support, left with contradiction

Atlantic Yards Report

In Unions Outraged Over Ratner's Prefab Tower, Patch does a good job rounding up comments from construction unions regarding Forest City Ratner's plan for modular construction, which came to light yesterday.
...

Meanwhile, the project's biggest cheerleader, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, tried to finesse the issue. As the New York Times reported today:

But Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president and a longtime supporter, attributed Atlantic Yards’s current problems to a devastating recession and the opposition’s lawsuits.

“Despite the economic realities we face today,” Mr. Markowitz said in a statement, “I have every confidence that Atlantic Yards will deliver what was promised, including affordable housing, much needed jobs and, of course, the new Barclays Arena for the Brooklyn Nets.”

How exactly would Atlantic Yards deliver the "much needed jobs," in the quantity and at the pay levels expected?

All indications are that there would be fewer jobs, at lesser pay. And that means the cost-benefit analyses should be recalculated.

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NoLandGrab: Maybe Ratner's plan to slice union jobs is why Marty is touting a job fair on the cover of his latest "Brooklyn!!" "newspaper."

Posted by eric at 12:27 PM

The Ratner-Kruger campaign connection; one month after Atlantic Yards was announced, (brother) Michael Ratner and his wife gave $2000 each

Atlantic Yards Report

Follow the money.

Now that charges are swirling around state Senator Carl Kruger, it's worth a look back to see how Forest City Ratner (FCR) apparently steered campaign contributions to him less than a month after the Atlantic Yards plan was announced.

Kruger, along with some other undistinguished Brooklyn politicians, received campaign contributions via a most unusual source: FCR CEO Bruce Ratner's brother Michael Ratner, the eminent human rights lawyer, as well as his wife Karen Ranucci.

Kruger got $2000 from each on 1/6/04, as indicated in the graphic (click to enlarge; full list at bottom). Atlantic Yards was announced on 12/10/03.

Michael Ratner's curious pattern

Michael Ratner wouldn't comment when I first wrote about this in September 2006. I suggested that he was carrying water for his brother Bruce, who for a stretch was a "refusenik" from campaign contributions.

Michael Ratner's Brooklyn political contributions--in a pattern quite different from his other contributions to progressive politicians--seem to have been guided not by ideology but by corporate interests.

He was an investor in the Nets, as well as significant stock in the publicly traded corporation, Forest City Enterprises, controlled by the Ratners' extended family.

Indeed, the evidence is damning: Michael Ratner and his wife, Karen Ranucci, both Greenwich Village residents, both made campaign contributions using Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn building as a return address, as well as from their home address.

Click through to learn how many of Michael Ratner's favorite pols have ended up behind bars.

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Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

Prefabricated Tower May Rise at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards

Local 157 blogspot

The New York City District Council of Carpenters' reposting of yesterday's blockbuster New York Times article elicited this comment from "anonymous":

Ratner, the Rat - once the benefit of the grants & funding were in place...who is kidding who here, the Modular Components of the Tower will be built in Shanghai, China by men making $15 bucks a day.

The below quote conveniently leaves out the fact that the INDOOR COMPONENT will occur IN CHINESE FACTORIES! You guys gave back enough on the PLA Wage & Benefit Concessions - you have to fight this.

"Modular construction saves time because the building components can be put together at the same time the foundation is being dug, and because the factory is indoors, weather is not a problem. Materials can be bought in greater bulk and stored on-site. More of the work is done horizontally, on the factory floor, rather than vertically, saving the time it would normally take for all the plumbers, carpenters, electricians and others to move up and down the structure every day."

link

Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

From a View on Court Street to Overseeing the Entire City

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Samuel Newhouse

An article on the new chief of NYC Buildings Department's legal unit includes this tidbit:

The DOB’s office, for example, has a white roof, which helps keep the building at a cooler temperature without expending as much energy. New developments at the Atlantic Yards site in Downtown Brooklyn will have the same cool white roofs.

Unless, of course, those cool white roofs cost one penny more than any another type of roof, in which case, they'll go the way of just about every other Atlantic Yards promise.

link

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

March 17, 2011

Prefab Preview?

Passing by the Barclays Center construction site this afternoon, we spotted what we thought — given the absence of union construction workers — must be a model for Bruce Ratner's newly announced modular housing.

We're guessing this is a duplex.

Posted by eric at 11:17 PM

Unions Outraged Over Ratner's Prefab Tower

Union leaders lamented potential plans to build a 34-story prefab residential building on the Atlantic Yards site.

Park Slope Patch
by Stephen Brown and Amy Sara Clark

Local union workers are reeling from developer Bruce Ratner’s acknowledgement that the first residential building at the Atlantic Yards site may be prefabricated — a move that would cut costs, as well as hundreds of union jobs.

The revelation, reported by The New York Times, would cut construction costs in half by requiring a smaller workforce making significantly less money.

“We understood that there would be a certain number of jobs generated by this project that would in turn support the local economy. Clearly farming out modular housing does not do any of those things,” said Richard Weiss, a spokesman for Construction & General Building Laborers’ Local 79. “The union supports projects based on one criteria only: are there jobs for our members in this project? If that’s not the case, then we’re not going to support it.”

Other union representatives were equally dismayed.

“It would be disappointing, very disappointing,” said Edward Walsh, president of the New York State District Council of Iron Workers, which works on the site of the $4.9 billion, 16-tower mega project at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. “There are a lot less jobs for iron workers if this is built prefab.”
...

“We have obvious concerns about the safety and quality of modular construction for larger buildings as well as its impact on estimates for job creation, wages and benefits that have been central to the economic justification for projects advancing,” said a spokesperson for the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater NY via E-mail.

“Forest City Ratner has been a developer using union labor of the building and construction trades for many years, and it is on this basis that we have consistently supported projects its pursues.”

article

Posted by eric at 10:56 PM

Developer Mulls Pre-Fab Housing at Atlantic Yards

WNYC News Blog
by Cindy Rodriguez

In a written statement, the Building and Construction Trades Council said it's concerned about the safety and quality of modular construction, as well as its impact on jobs and wages.

Forest City said pre-fab technology could allow for more efficient development, and eventually translate into more affordable housing and more union jobs. A spokesman for the developer said it would never build something that isn't safe. The company said while its exploring the modular option, it's pursuing conventional construction as well.

Related coverage...

Field of Schemes, Ratner mulls prefab housing tower alongside Nets arena

The good news: Facing a May 2013 deadline to break ground or else face million of dollars in penalties, Forest City Ratner may finally be building one of the promised apartment buildings that were the main hook for getting approval for its Brooklyn Nets arena project.

The bad news: The developer is considering building a prefabricated 34-story tower, which would be the world's largest, in order to cut costs.

Why is that bad news? Well, the other hook for the project was that it would create jobs, and as the New York Times' Charles Bagli notes, "a carpenter earns $85 an hour in wages and benefits on-site, but only $35 an hour in a factory." (Not to mention that a factory can be built anywhere, which pretty much obviates the job benefits to New York City of the project.)
...

Bagli also notes that since no one has ever built a prefab building this tall, no one is sure whether it would hold up to wind shear and seismic forces. Plus, as he doesn't note, a building made of stacked-and-bolted-together boxes — think a pile of shipping containers with windows in them — sounds hideously ugly. But then, we know that Ratner has a tolerance for ugly.

A|N Blog, QUICK CLICKS> SUPPORT, PREFAB, WRIGHT, GENIUS

The New York Times covers Forest City Ratner‘s plan to use prefab building components for a 34-story apartment building at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. Engineered by Arup and designed by SHoP, the units should be pretty high-end as far as modular housing goes, but construction workers argue that the prefab approach will mean less jobs.

Posted by eric at 10:44 PM

Hint of Old-Time Ratner Debate Surfaces Again

Developer: Modular Tech Is Only One Possible Option

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

Telling the truth, however, doesn't appear to be one of them, because the Eagle has a statement from Forest City, and guess what? They're not selling out the unions — this is going to mean more union jobs!

An official statement from the developer read, “Forest City is working very hard to identify innovative ways to develop the first residential building at Atlantic Yards because the need for affordable and middle-income housing in the city remains critical. That said, Forest City will only build consistent with its values as a company, and that means union labor. Modular technology is cutting edge, allowing for more sustainable and efficient development.

“Particularly now, this could translate into more middle income, affordable and elderly housing. And that also means more union jobs. While we are still designing out the building for conventional construction we are exploring the modular option as well.”

They did not say whether parking spaces would all be filled with flying cars, however, or whether the entire complex would be powered by a huge hamster-filled Habitrail.

Councilwoman Letitia James, who took part in many anti-Ratner demonstrations when the Atlantic Yards were a hot issue, said this development highlights “a long list of failed promises,” meaning the promise of more construction jobs. “I wasn’t particularly disappointed because I wasn’t particularly surprised,” she said.
...

The New York Central Labor Council did not return calls to the Eagle by press time.

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Posted by eric at 10:29 PM

Ratner Planning Prefab Alternatives For Atlantic Yards

Gothamist
by Garth Johnston

With Frank Gehry long gone, how low-brow can Forest City Ratner take the never ending Atlantic Yards project? Well, the company is seriously considering making the project's first non-stadium building, a 34-story residential tower adjacent to the Barclay Center, the world's tallest prefabricated building.

Inspired in part by the above video of a 15-story tower going up in China over two days, the Times reports that Bruce Ratner has ordered the building's latest architect, SHoP Architects, to work on both regular and modular designs for the 400-unit building.

Assuming that the structure can support itself, withstand winds, and pass other structural tests a prefab building would be a huge boon financially for Forest City Ratner, which has had much difficulty financing the project since the markets collapsed. But, as the Gray Lady points out, those savings would come at the expense of one of the projects most consistant supporters: construction unions.
...

Candace Carponter, legal director for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, hammers the point home: “Jobs and affordable housing accounted for nearly all of the Atlantic Yards project’s promised benefits, and with Ratner’s selling-out of the unions, shelving of any office space, and the scarcity of subsidies for housing, the community is left with the arena as the primary “benefit” - if you believe a traffic-choking, noise-generating, taxpayer-money-losing white elephant is somehow beneficial.”

And that isn't even touching on the fact that prefab buildings are, with very rare exceptions, incredibly unattractive.

NoLandGrab: Is it us, or does that rendering of the last Gehry design kind of look like prefab towers that weren't anchored properly? Maybe we're getting that "world-class Frank Gehry design" after all! Though that overnight Chinese building is very reminiscent of Bruce's Atlantic Terminal illness.

Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Ratner Considers Prefab Tower for Atlantic Yards

The story says that though the move would cut costs, a prefabricated tower "is untested at that height" and the move would likely piss off construction workers, who were among the mega-project's most vocal supporters. Although the the developer has its architecture firm SHoP working on designs for both a traditional and modular building, another consideration is whether a prefab structure of this height would actually result in much of a cost savings, according to the story: "Whether taller modular buildings can be built to withstand intense wind shear and seismic forces, while retaining cost savings, is another question, because the higher a structure is built, the more bracing it would require."

About.com [Brooklyn, NY], NIMBY: Ratner Atlantic Yards to Try Building Highest Ever Prefab Apartments?!?

Oh, and BTW, this questionable building, with about 400 apartments, "would fulfill his obligation to start building affordable housing at the site," according to the Times story, Prefabricated Tower May Rise at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards. If the first building gets an OK, rest assured that Ratner will try to build all 16 of the proposed apartment towers in the same way: pre-fab.

Iffy housing safety for poor people? Undercutting the original deal, that the Atlantic Yards would create a lot of jobs?

Everybody knows Atlantic Yards is in a financial bind. And this prefab idea is ingenious, out-of-the-box thinking. But it's bad public policy. And, in terms of possible safety issues, well, just how cynical can you get?

The Real Deal, Ratner hopes to build world's largest prefabricated tower in AY

The Times notes that by employing this relatively inexpensive method to fulfill his obligation to provide affordable housing, Ratner is neglecting a longtime support group: construction workers who were after Atlantic Yards jobs.

The Huffington Post, World's Largest Prefab Building Might Come To Atlantic Yards

However, constructing it this way also greatly reduces the number of new jobs- and creating new jobs was one Ratner's biggest selling points for the Atlantic Yards project in the first place.

Others are also concerned that the prefab option may not be quite as pretty as Frank Gehry's original design.

Posted by eric at 4:00 PM

Kruger crony leaned on me for vote: pol

NY Post
by Rich Calder and Dan Mangan

A Forest City Ratner executive whose cozy relationship with state Sen. Carl Kruger is featured in a new criminal complaint against the Brooklyn politician personally lobbied a Yonkers councilman hours before a controversial vote that later led to bribery charges against a councilwoman.

Yonkers Council Majority Leader John Murtagh Jr. said FCR Vice President Bruce Bender leaned on him in 2006 to change his expected vote opposing a controversial FCR development. The meeting was set up hours before a Yonkers council vote by then-Yonkers Republican Party chairman Zehy Jereis.

Bender, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, was the point man for FCR’s efforts to win the Yonkers council’s approval for the $630 million 81-acre “Ridge Hill” retail, commercial and residential development there.

Murtagh told The Post that Jereis called him “hours before the vote” and asked him to meet at a Yonkers Starbucks.

When he arrived, Jereis, who was with Bender, warned Murtagh that Councilwoman Sandy Annabi “is going to vote ‘yes,’ so this is going to pass, and it would help me politically if I vote in favor of it also,” Murtagh recalled.

Murtagh said he refused, adding, “I don’t make decisions like that, to do so would be political suicide.“ Jereis in Oct. 2006 was given a one-year, $60,000 real estate consulting contract by FCR in what prosecutors claim was a payoff by the company for getting Annabi to drop her opposition to the development.

Jereis had no experience in the real estate business and never submitted monthly work reports to FCR until March 2007 when the feds began dropping subpoenas as part of the Yonkers investigation, prosecutors said.

Last year, Annabi was charged by federal authorities with accepting more than $166,000 in bribes to vote in favor of Ridge Hill and another Yonkers development.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Post: Yonkers Council Member says Bender pushed him to change vote in Ridge Hill case

In Kruger crony leaned on me for vote: pol, the New York Post continues chipping away at the relationship between developer Forest City Ratner and scandal-plagued state Senator Carl Kruger, again looking at the Ridge Hill case in Yonkers.
...

And this time, unlike in an article earlier this week, the Post completes the story, explaining that Jereis got a consulting job from Forest City in an apparent reward, even as the developer and its staff evaded any charges.

Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

March 16, 2011

Prefabricated Tower May Rise at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

The Times's Charles Bagli has a blockbuster, and the big news isn't Bruce Ratner's fascination with unproven building techniques — it's his apparent screwing over of the construction unions.

In a bid to cut costs at his star-crossed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the developer Bruce C. Ratner is pursuing plans to erect the world’s tallest prefabricated steel structure, a 34-story tower that would fulfill his obligation to start building affordable housing at the site.

The prefabricated, or modular, method he would use, which is untested at that height, could cut construction costs in half by saving time and requiring substantially fewer and cheaper workers. And if that method works, the large number of buildings planned for the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards — 16 in all, not including the Nets arena, now under construction — could also make it economical for the company to run its own modular factory, where walls, ceilings, floors, plumbing and even bathrooms and kitchens could be installed in prefabricated steel-frame boxes.

The 34-story building, with roughly 400 apartments, would comprise more than 900 modules that would be hauled to Atlantic Yards, lifted into place by crane and bolted together at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, next to the arena.

Mr. Ratner’s development company, Forest City Ratner, has been investigating modular construction for a year, but has kept its plans secret. MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, confirmed Wednesday that the company was seriously considering the modular method, although, she added, no final decision had been made.
...

“The company is interested in modular, high-rise construction in an urban setting,” Ms. Gilmartin said. “It’s driven by cost and efficiencies.”

But it would also infuriate the construction workers who were Mr. Ratner’s most ardent supporters during years of stormy community meetings, where they drowned out neighborhood opponents with chants of “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

“This is something that could be of great consequence to the building trades,” said Gary La Barbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, an umbrella group for the construction unions. “We have never been supportive of prefab buildings, for obvious reasons.”
...

Modular construction saves time because the building components can be put together at the same time the foundation is being dug, and because the factory is indoors, weather is not a problem. Materials can be bought in greater bulk and stored on-site. More of the work is done horizontally, on the factory floor, rather than vertically, saving the time it would normally take for all the plumbers, carpenters, electricians and others to move up and down the structure every day.

But it is the labor savings that are suddenly worrying some union officials, who were repeatedly asked by Forest City to mobilize their members for years of raucous community meetings.

The state and the city agreed to provide $300 million in direct subsidies for Atlantic Yards, in part because Forest City insisted that the project would generate “upwards of 17,000 union construction jobs.”

Not to worry, Ms. Gilmartin said: “We’re a union shop, and we build union.”

But under current wage scales, union workers earn less in a factory than they do on-site. A carpenter earns $85 an hour in wages and benefits on-site, but only $35 an hour in a factory.

And while modular construction employs a large number of carpenters, ironworkers, who earn as much as $93.88 an hour in pay and benefits, could lose a lot of jobs.

article

NoLandGrab: Certainly, some chickens are coming home to roost for the building trades, who were only too happy to disrupt public hearings on Atlantic Yards that were already shams. But in the end, they're just another of Bruce Ratner's many victims. Live and learn, folks.

Posted by eric at 11:00 PM

Bruce Bender in the news

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Little did the filmmakers behind soon-to-be-released Atlantic Yards documentary Battle of Brooklyn know that Forest City's Bruce Bender, and not Daniel Goldstein, might end up stealing the show.

Forest City Ratner representative Bruce Bender was very generous in giving us a couple of interviews for our documentary. Recently he was linked to a corruption scandal related to the Atlantic Yards. We thought we would share one of the scenes from the film starring Mr. Bender.

Bruce Bender talks about Atlantic Yards project. from rumur on Vimeo.

Next week we'll have some exciting news about the festival premier of the film.

link

NoLandGrab: Keep talking, Bruce. But we're glad they edited out the scene with him f*cking the bridge.

Posted by eric at 5:10 PM

Post: Backlash from Prospect Park Alliance toward FCR's Bender over fundraising conversation with Kruger

Atlantic Yards Report

You'd think that the Prospect Park Alliance, a group of civic-minded folk raising money for a beloved resource, might be a little peeved at being caught up in some apparently sleazy politics, and at least a few are.
...

Did the group get the $4.5 million promised? Apparently not, according to the Post:

A Prospect Park Alliance spokesman said the group never got the money, and another official there said they doubt it ever will.

link

Posted by eric at 4:18 PM

Prospect Park group rage at 'Kruger' exec

NY Post
by Rich Calder and Dan Mangan

When you put people who have unsavory connections on your board, this is what happens.

Thanks for nothing.

A top Atlantic Yards executive who requested state funds for Prospect Park's skating rink from embattled state Sen. Carl Kruger was never asked to do so by the park's fund-raising group -- and now park advocates are furious at being linked to the corruption scandal, sources told The Post.

"He has dragged our name through the mud," fumed a Prospect Park Alliance source about Forest City Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender, whose conversation with Kruger was featured in a federal criminal complaint against the Brooklyn Democrat.

FBI wiretaps captured Bender asking Kruger for $11 million in state funds for two Ratner projects in Brooklyn -- a Mill Basin development, and the massive arena and high-rise project downtown -- as well as $4 million to renovate Prospect Park's skating rink.

While the rink was not a project of the development company headed by Bender's boss, Bruce Ratner, Bender's wife is a Prospect Park Alliance board member, and the couple live near the park.

article

Posted by eric at 11:22 AM

Filling in the gaps in the Post's Bruce Bender story: questionable behavor in Yonkers

Atlantic Yards Report

In Scandal follows top exec, the New York Posts reports on Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender's record not only in lobbying "scandal-plagued state Sen. Carl Kruger" but also the Ridge Hill case in Yonkers.

The Post reports:

In 2006, Bender, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, was the point man for Forest City's efforts to win approval from Yonkers for a $630 million commercial and residential development.

A Yonkers councilwoman, Sandy Annabi, stunningly switched her position on the development, and helped pass it. Last year, Annabi was charged by federal authorities with accepting more than $166,000 in bribes to vote for that deal and another development.

A Forest City spokesman said the company backs Bender, and noted, "We cooperated fully with the [Yonkers] investigation, and neither the company nor any of its employees were found to engage in wrongful behavior."

The missing connection

Here's what's missing: Forest City hired the alleged briber, Zehy Jereis, for a no-show job.

article

Posted by eric at 12:02 AM

March 15, 2011

Scandal follows top exec

NY Post
by Brendan Scott in Albany and Rich Calder and Dan Mangan in NY

A phone call to scandal-plagued state Sen. Carl Kruger that was caught on an FBI wiretap marked the second time a top executive with the developer of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards was thrust into an unwanted spotlight.

Forest City Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender had earlier lobbied on behalf of a project that led to another elected official's arrest.

Bender was heard on a December call wiretapped by the FBI asking Kruger for millions of dollars in state funds for two Forest City projects, and for a skating rink at Prospect Park that had no connection to the company. Bender lives near the park, and his wife is on the park's fund-raising board.

When Kruger (D-Brooklyn) -- who last week was charged with taking $1 million in bribes -- told Bender he would have to choose between getting $4 million for a Forest City Ratner project in Mill Basin or for the park's skating rink, Bender said, "I guess the park," a criminal complaint claims.

In 2006, Bender, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, was the point man for Forest City's efforts to win approval from Yonkers for a $630 million commercial and residential development.

A Yonkers councilwoman, Sandy Annabi, stunningly switched her position on the development, and helped pass it. Last year, Annabi was charged by federal authorities with accepting more than $166,000 in bribes to vote for that deal and another development.

article

NoLandGrab: These cases are fascinating, because people are receiving bribes, and there are middlemen making the payments, but no entity seems to be originating the bribes. Go figure.

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

More robberies at Ratner’s malls

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Seems like there was even more crime going down at Bruce Ratner's mall last week then there was in a typical phone call between his Atlantic Yards lobbyist and disgraced state Senator Carl Kruger

Picked clean

Thieves were running wild at the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center last week. Here’s what happened:

• A 20-year-old tried to swipe $6,378 from the Atlantic Avenue Pathmark on March 12, but was arrested after a brief chase.

The thief was inside the supermarket between Fort Greene Place and S. Portland Avenue at 7:30 am when he saw an employee emptying the self-serve cash registers. He grabbed the money and scooted out the door, only to be apprehended on Dean Street.

• A thief jumped a 15-year-old outside the Atlantic Center mall on March 7, taking his Blackberry cellphone. The teen was heading inside when the 3:25 pm robbery took place.

• A sticky fingered hooligan swiped a woman’s wallet on March 8 after bumping into her inside the Atlantic Avenue Pathmark. The victim told police that someone brushed by her at around 6:30 pm, but she didn’t realize her wallet had been lifted until much later.

• A goon snagged a purse from a woman shopping inside the Flatbush Avenue Target on March 12. The victim lost her bag, $1,500 and several credit cards during the 3:10 pm confrontation.

• A thief plucked a purse from a woman’s shopping cart inside the Flatbush Avenue Target on March 13. The woman left her cart for just a few moments at 11 am — just enough time for the thief to make off with $60, her wallet and her passport.

article

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

March 14, 2011

Albany's snooze button and business

Crain's NY Business
by Greg David

Hey! Look who just (a little, anyway) caught on!

"Every single time we arrest a state senator or assemblyman, it should be a jarring wake-up call," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said last week. "Instead, it seems that no matter how many times the alarm goes off, Albany just hits the snooze button."

Last week's indictment of state Sen. Carl Kruger, an assemblyman, a lobbyist and two hospital executives raised the heat on the Legislature to pass ethics reform. Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to impose a Moreland Commission--an independent investigative panel with broad powers--if the Legislature does not act soon. And ethics reform, which means new rules for legislators and members of the executive branch, is desperately needed because businesses are so dependent on Albany that lobbying seems, at least in some cases, insufficient.
...

Real estate interests. One of the most fascinating sections of the charges details Mr. Kruger's efforts to find state funds to help Forest City Ratner pay for infrastructure improvements at its Atlantic Yards development and at the same time help the firm's chief government relations executive get money for Brooklyn's Prospect Park, where his wife served on the board. The U.S. attorney says Mr. Krueger's efforts were the results of bribes Mr. Lipsky paid him with his retainer from Forest City. This makes two black eyes for Forest City. It won approval for a major mixed-use developments in suburban Yonkers only after a city councilperson changed their vote, which the U.S. attorney charges was in response to a bribe from a Forest City consultants. Forest City has not been charged in either case.

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Greg David (gingerly) and Michael D. D. White (righteously) look at the Kruger case and Forest City Ratner

Greg David of Crain's New York Business has always been an Atlantic Yards booster, which means he has to approach the charges against state Senator Carl Kruger a bit gingerly, in Albany's snooze button and business....

Posted by eric at 11:11 PM

More shocking than Kruger's $500,000 gift to Bruce Bender's pet project is the Senate leadership's willingness to let Bender allocate funds himself

Atlantic Yards Report

Though state Senator Carl Kruger has certainly helped developer Forest City Ratner over the years, and the charges described last week certainly put that help in a new light, the federal complaint does not show Kruger allocating funds to the developer.

Sure, he seemed willing, but he didn't have enough money, so what he did have went to a Prospect Park project requested by Forest City Ratner Executive VP Bruce Bender.

That might be seen as much as helping an old crony as anything else.

Senate leaders bend to Bender?

Still, another look at the complaint suggests some shocking--at least to those who believe what they learned in civics class--behavior from a Senate staffer, apparently at the behest of "Senate Leader #1."

Who's that? Apparently Senator John Sampson (as identified in news coverage), who has had supporters use Forest City Ratner offices for a fundraiser.

That staffer was willing to essentially outsource government "pork" directly to Bender, letting the real estate executive allocate money "as he saw fit."

article

Posted by eric at 4:06 PM

Lobbyist for Forest City Ratner, New Rochelle's Echo Bay Developer, Indicted for Bribing Elected Officials in Brooklyn

Talk of the Sound
by Robert Cox

A lobbyist for a real estate developer with ties to New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson has been indicted in a federal public corruption probe.

Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist employed by Forest City Ratner, has been indicted on allegations of paying bribes to New York State Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn). Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Public Relations Bruce Bender is also identified in the complaint for his role in seek funds from Kruger last December for three projects....

Forest City Ratner is the developer behind the Echo Bay Development project in New Rochelle which recently received an extension of a Memorandum of Understanding. Mayor Noam Bramson aggressively pushed through the M.O.U. after a series of secret meetings with City officials and refusing to allow public comment on a revised development plan. Bramson has received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the Ratner family. Bramson also receives tens of thousands of dollars a year in payments from Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) who has, in turn, also received funds from the Ratner family. Bramson has been the most vocal proponent for the Forest City Ratner plan to develop Echo Bay.

In a similar scheme, Yonkers officials were indicted in 2010 for their involvement in a bribery scheme involving a Forest City Ratner project in Yonkers.

article

Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

March 11, 2011

KRUGERPALOOZA!

The headlines are awash today with the indictments of State Senator (and big Atlantic Yards booster) Carl Kruger and his not-so-trusty sidekick (and paid Atlantic Yards lobbyist) Richard Lipsky, and of course, "Real Estate Developer #1."

The New York Times, Developer Among Cast of Characters in Kruger Case

A corruption case unsealed on Thursday included a large cast of characters beyond State Senator Carl Kruger, Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr. and six others who were charged.

Also highlighted in the criminal complaint was “a significant real estate development firm,” identified as “Real Estate Developer No. 1,” that was “spearheading an over $4 billion, multiyear, mixed-use commercial and residential development project in Brooklyn.” The description left little doubt that the firm was Forest City Ratner, the developer behind the Atlantic Yards project, a 22-acre residential and retail complex in Brooklyn that includes a new home for the Nets.

It was the second time in less than two years that the company played a role in a corruption case, though it was not charged either time.

The complaint accused Mr. Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, of taking at least $1 million in bribes in exchange for help on state matters, including bribes from Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner, and other clients.

The complaint said the company’s “vice president of governmental affairs and public relations” — Bruce R. Bender has that role at Forest City Ratner — had asked Mr. Kruger last December for state money for three projects: $9 million for the Carlton Avenue Bridge, which is to be replaced as part of the Atlantic Yards project; $2 million for a retail development in the Mill Basin neighborhood of Brooklyn; and $4 million for the renovation of the skating rink in Prospect Park, a public project.

Mr. Bender’s wife, Amy Bender, is on the board of the Prospect Park Alliance, the park’s fund-raising group.
...

[Forest City spokesman Joe] DePlasco said the company ended its relationship with Mr. Lipsky on Wednesday, when word of the case began to leak out, because of the “serious nature of the charges.” Forest City Ratner was the development partner of The New York Times Company on its Midtown headquarters.

Although the complaint contained no evidence that Mr. Bender believed Mr. Kruger was taking bribes, longtime opponents of Atlantic Yards were dismayed that no one from the company had been charged.

“I find it sad that politicians are expendable, but rich developers are not,” said Candace Carponter, the legal director of the group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

Atlantic Yards Report, Two unanswered questions in the Kruger case: Does the ESDC still trust FCR? Why did FCR try to get the state to pay for its bridge obligation?

The New York Times, to its partial credit, follows up on the charges against Carl Kruger and Richard Lipsky with an article headlined, at least online, Developer Among Cast of Characters in Kruger Case.

There's not much there that wasn't in this blog yesterday, but the Times did get a quote in the developer's defense:

Forest City Ratner did not deny that Mr. Bender was the person to whom Mr. Kruger was speaking. “I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that the person in charge of government relations at Forest City Ratner speaks to government officials,” said Joe DePlasco, a spokesman. The complaint, he said, “does not suggest that Forest City Ratner behaved in any way that’s inappropriate.”

Mr. Bender lives in Brooklyn, Mr. DePlasco said, “and I assume he likes Prospect Park.”

DePlasco's partly right--there's no evidence that Forest City Ratner instructed Lipsky to pass on lobbying fees to Kruger.

Weaseling out of bridge obligation?

But Forest City, arguably, did behave inappropriately, though not criminally. The developer, as of last June, was supposed to pay $16 million of the $40 million cost of the Carlton Avenue Bridge reconstruction.

The taped conversation shows that Forest City was trying to get $9 million in state funds to reduce its obligation. If the developer is still scrounging, what does it say about its commitment to rebuilding the bridge?

NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure it says "f*ck the bridge!"

Curbed, BROOKLYN BACKSCRATCHING

The Times takes a more detailed look at the involvement of developer Forest City Ratner in the corruption charges against Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger. There are no smoking guns for Atlantic Yards opponents, nor has FCR been charged with any wrongdoing, but wow, it just makes you feel dirty reading it. Ratner's VP of governmental affairs, Bruce Bender, tried to get Kruger to steer millions in state funds to three Brooklyn projects, and then Kruger made him choose one. Bender picked the skating rink renovation at Prospect Park, where his wife is a major fundraiser.

NLG: Like Carl said, "f*ck the bridge!"

The New York Times, Federal Corruption Case Ensnares a Self-Styled Fighter for the Underdog

...according to federal prosecutors, Mr. Lipsky had come to rely heavily on one well-placed politician to do his bidding, State Senator Carl Kruger, Democrat of Brooklyn, and was secretly paying him for his services.

Prosecutors said over $100,000 in cash was found in a safe in his home, and some $4,000 in crisp bills was in his suit pocket.

NLG: Wonder if they've dusted those bills for fingerprints yet.

LoHud.com, High-profile state senator charged in state's latest political scandal

Forest City Ratner and its affiliates have paid Lipsky more than $320,000 since 2005 for help with its projects in Yonkers, Brooklyn, Har-lem and Queens. Included in that was $256,000 that covered lobbying Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone and City Council members regarding the $600 million Ridge Hill project. Forest City Ratner terminated its contract with Lipsky on Thursday, as did some other clients. Yonkers officials did not respond to messages for comment.
...

The indictment relates to none of those projects, although prosecutors contend that Lipsky's efforts on behalf of Forest City's massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn did receive help from Kruger.

NY Daily News, State Sen. Carl Kruger and Assemblyman William Boyland surrender to feds to face bribe rap

key player was co-defendant Michael Turano, son of Kruger's longtime friend, Dorothy Turano. Michael Turano controlled a shell company, Olympian Strategic Development, that served as Kruger's indirect ATM.

The FBI described Turano as Kruger's "intimate associate." Prosecutors say Kruger was so deeply involved with Turano's family, that by giving money to Turano, the bribers effectively paid off Kruger.

Olympian got $472,500 from developer Aaron Malinsky over several years to back his Brooklyn projects.

Recently, Malinsky tried to get a piece of mega-developer Bruce Ratner's project to build a retail complex called the Four Sparrows on city property in Mill Basin.

Ratner was torn between bringing in small department stores - the plan Malinsky wanted - or going with a "big box" superstore."

NLG: Yeah, we bet he was losing a lot of sleep over that one.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, "I Don't Mind F-king The Bridge."

Forest City Ratner has shown a knack for appearing in corruption cases, but never seems to get a proper screen credit. In the Ridge Hill corruption scandal they were billed as "Developer #2" and now, in the state Senator Carl Kruger indictment they appear as "Developer #1".
...

The FBI reported that when told by Kruger, during a wire-tapped conversation, that there would be funds for a Prospect Park project but no public money to steer toward replacing the Carlton Avenue bridge, Bender was not happy:

The Vice President said that ..."this" was "bad." Kruger said, "I guess the park, fuck the bridge." The Vice President said that "my dilemma is as you know, I don't mind fucking the bridge, I can't fuck it right now, I've got to leverage that bridge, what's my value?"

It's hard to imagine that even a screenwriter could come up with an exchange that better encapsulates Forest City Ratner: a company whose only regard for the public is how much of our money can be siphoned off.

Atlantic Yards Report, If anyone else is snared in the federal investigation, who could it be? Maybe another legislator who's expressed excess Atlantic Yards enthusiasm

A reader asked if anyone, besides state Senator Carl Kruger, might be caught up in the federal investigation that snared Kruger and lobbyist Richard Lipsky.

We don't know--and there's no evidence that any other legislator is under investigation.

But who else, the reader asked, resembles Kruger in performance--a Brooklyn legislator who represents a district far from the Atlantic Yards site, but has vocally and dramatically backed the project?

That would be state Senator Marty Golden, who led a rally for the developer (below) at the 7/29/09 public hearing on Atlantic Yards and entered late, rudely interrupting the proceedings, at a 5/29/09 oversight hearing held by state Senator Bill Perkins.

The Village Voice has reported on Golden's questionable ethics, directing much business to a catering hall he used to own, and family members still run.

Is there any evidence Golden took money from lobbyist Richard Lipsky, or anyone else, to help Forest City Ratner? No.

But, just as Kruger's enthusiasm for Atlantic Yards should now be seen in new light, Golden's outsize enthusiasm deserves some reconsideration.

Park Slope Patch, Ratner Exec Tied to Pol Arrested for Corruption

A top Atlantic Yards executive pressed a Brooklyn state senator for millions of dollars to fund the controversial development, as well as a new ice-skating for Prospect Park, court documents reveal.

The charges filed against state Sen. Carl Kruger by federal prosecutors on Thursday do not explicitly name Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, but they do describe conversations with officials from a “real estate developer which is spearheading an over $4 billion, multi-year, mixed-use commercial and residential development project in Brooklyn.”
...

Like the entire Atlantic Yards development, the reopening of the Carlton Avenue bridge — which links Prospect Heights and Fort Greene — has been beset with delays.

Originally the bridge was slated to close from roughly early 2008 to early 2011. Now, as the watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report noted, the bridge is set to reopen in the summer of 2012.

NLG: Wonder what Vegas is giving on the Summer 2012 bridge reopening? 60-1? 70-1? We'll bet the over/under is October 2015.

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

March 10, 2011

Staples Rumored To Be Taking Sid’s Former Space

Office Supply Chain Will Have 27,000 Square Feet

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Looks like Forest City Ratner is bringing another "mom 'n' pop" business to Metrotech.

The Eagle has learned from at least three sources “on the street” that a Staples store has leased the former home of Sid’s Hardware at 345 Jay St. in MetroTech.

The rumor could not be confirmed as of press time Wednesday as e-mails from the Eagle to both Staples and Forest City Ratner Companies, the landlord, went unanswered.

article

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

March 9, 2011

Is the EB-5 money Plan B for infrastructure funding (after bonds plan was scotched)? Maybe, but maybe they're just winging it

Atlantic Yards Report

Is Forest City Ratner aiming to use $249 million from foreign millionaires under the EB-5 immigration program to make up for an infrastructure gap? There are some hints that's so, but also some counter-evidence.

In 2009, the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC), set up to issue tax-exempt bonds for Atlantic Yards arena construction, was also considering the issuance of up to $400 million in bonds for Atlantic Yards infrastructure.

That didn't happen. As I wrote 11/30/09, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) stated, somewhat cryptically:

ESDC was at one time considering additional tax exempt bonds for infrastructure financing. Ultimately ESDC decided not to pursue that type of financing.

The gap

The ESDC's 2009 Modified General Project Plan budgeted $717 million for project infrastructure, with $100 million from the state for infrastructure and under $100 million--the amount is debatable--from the city.

The bonds presumably would have filled some of the gap.

Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin once said the $249 million would be used for a new railyard (infrastructure) and perhaps to pay off a land loan.

I pointed to evidence that the latter--the loan repayment--was a more likely priority. Then another Forest City executive said last month they hadn't decided how to use the EB-5 funding.

So maybe they're just winging it, and when the numbers "pencil out," as Gilmartin likes to say, they will proceed.

link

Posted by eric at 12:44 PM

March 2, 2011

An out-of-family succession at the helm of Forest City Enterprises, as LaRue takes over from Chuck Ratner

Atlantic Yard Report

For the first time in the 90-year history of Forest City Enterprises, the company will be run by someone outside the founding clan (which still controls the publicly-traded firm).

From a press release:

Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA and FCEB) today announced that President and CEO Charles A. Ratner will become Chairman of the Board, and will be succeeded as President and CEO by David J. LaRue, currently Executive Vice President and COO. The changes are a part of the company's succession planning process and will be effective following Forest City's annual meeting of shareholders on June 10, 2011.

Concurrent with the CEO succession, current co-chairmen Albert B. Ratner and Samuel H. Miller will each become co-chairman emeritus and will no longer serve on the board. Both will remain active in their respective areas of the business.

It was explained as a simple matter of time: Ratner is 69, LaRue 49, and the co-chairmen are in their 80s.

That all may be so, but there's one curious note. The investor conference call to discuss the change was held today with only a few hours notice, while typically the company offers several days of lead time for calls concerning earnings results.

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NoLandGrab: What, no Bruce?

Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

Born of 9/11, an Effort to Rebuild Shattered Haiti

The New York Times
by Julie Satow

James P. Stuckey, humanitarian, philosopher, rebuilder.

Just four days after 9/11, James P. Stuckey, then a vice president of Forest City Ratner Companies, met with executives of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield at Forest City’s headquarters in Brooklyn. Empire had been the fourth-largest tenant at the World Trade Center, and the shell-shocked executives were already thinking about new offices.

Mr. Stuckey promised them a building in 18 months, even though, he said, “they didn’t have any floor plans, they didn’t know who had sat next to who, or even where much of their staff was.”

Is it us, or does this sound a little bit like ambulance-chasing?

“Based on a handshake, we started to pour the foundation,” at the MetroTech office plaza in downtown Brooklyn, said Mr. Stuckey, who in 2009 was appointed a dean of the Schack Institute of Real Estate at New York University. Soon after he assumed the position, he said, he started to think how he could teach students the lessons he learned after 9/11.

The result was a course on postcatastrophe reconstruction, now in its second semester, where students devise building plans, work on environmental and social issues, and create financing models for real-world projects.
...

Postcatastrophe reconstruction — which Mr. Stuckey defines as the period following a disaster from Week 2 to Year 5 — is an emerging field in development circles, and it gained momentum after the tsunami that shook Indonesia in 2004. While many organizations focus on disaster preparedness and the emergency humanitarian efforts that crop up immediately after the event, “there is a void that occurs in the interim period,” Mr. Stuckey said. “After the humanitarian aid ends, how do you transition to the rebuilding stage?”

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NoLandGrab: Suggestion for Mr. Stuckey's next project — helping to rebuild Prospect Heights, where his former boss, Bruce Ratner, has demolished numerous buildings, and has no plans (and no money) to reconstruct any of them anytime soon.

Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

March 1, 2011

iPhone mania in Fort Greene

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

Remember when the Empire State Development Corporation asked us to believe that this type of thing wouldn't happen anymore once Bruce Ratner had depopulated the Atlantic Yards footprint?

Guard dogged

A shoplifter wigged out on an off-duty cop on Feb. 21 after he was caught swiping nine boxes of Claritin allergy medicine from the Target in the troubled Atlantic Terminal Mall at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

The thief was heading toward the door with the medication at 4 pm when the cop, who was moonlighting as an Atlantic Terminal security guard, stopped him.

The crook was arrested, but not before sparking a fight that left the officer with bruised and bloody fingers.

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Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

Since no one in America fell for it...

Queens Crap

These videos created to market the Atlantic Yards project to foreign investors - or should I say people who are being bribed with green cards in return for investing in this debacle - are really something else...

Meanwhile, the City apparently lured Caribbean teachers here with promises of green cards and never delivered on it.

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Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

February 28, 2011

Video (finally) of Marty Markowitz's outrageous claim to potential immigrant investors: "Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards"

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, I posted the audio 12/8/10 and a link to the video on February 2.

But Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's performance in a video presented to potential immigrant investors in Atlantic Yards is so spectacular that it deserves its own video excerpt, below.

Markowitz claims, incredibly, "Brooklyn is 1000 percent, 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."

He knows that's false. But it could help save Forest City Ratner some $191 million under the dubious exploitation of a federal program in which immigrant investors get green cards for themselves and their families in exchange for purportedly job-creating investments.

The original video, produced by the New York City Regional Center, an investment pool, is made available by a South Korean video-sharing site. It is hard to download, so the excerpt was created the old-fashioned way, by filming the screen.

Markowitz closes by asserting that "there's nothing better than China and Brooklyn together."

There's some irony there, given that the version shown here is subtitled in Korean. Forest City Ratner and the New York City Regional Center have sought 498 investors, 40 from South Korea.

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Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

Brooklyn, NY Focus

Mole's Progressive Democrat

NYC Community Organizations Blast Wal-mart for Partnering with Predatory Lender Jackson Hewitt...WalMart, Bruce Ratner and now predatory lenders...this is one nasty nest of corruption here, and Bloomberg and Marty Markowitz are part of it.

Another example of Bruce Ratner's corrupt influence on NYC: Will mystery of Ridge Hill be explained when case goes to trial in June?

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Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Richmond Ave. getting its mojo back, as it lands Dick's 1st Staten Island store

SILive.com
by Stephanie Slepian

Guess who's malling Staten Island.

Another high-profile vacancy along Richmond Avenue will be filled this summer when Dick’s Sporting Goods opens its first Staten Island store in the spot once home to Circuit City in New Springville.

Dick’s, the largest publicly-traded sporting goods store in the country, joins DSW and Trader Joe’s — which will mark its arrival this spring — by bringing life back to one of the borough’s busiest shopping corridors.
...

"It’s good news," said Mike Rapfogel, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, the well-positioned real estate company that owns commercial and residential properties around the country, including the shopping center that will become home to Dick’s.
...

Earlier this month, the Pittsburgh-based [Dick's] agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit and 22 related state lawsuits brought by current and former employees who say they weren’t properly paid overtime and were made to work through breaks.

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Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

February 23, 2011

Can New York Build a Smarter City?

GlobeSt.com
by Ryan Clark

The NYU Schack Institute’s day-long event, “Building the Smart City: Removing Barriers, Fostering Innovation” checked in for the afternoon with less theory and more application of green building practices. Themes for the afternoon focused on “livability” and public-private partnerships.
...

Melissa Burch, SVP of commercial and residential development at Forest City Ratner Cos., discussed some of issues facing the Nets Arena development at Atlantic Yards and how the project team was working with smaller initiatives to green the project. While FCRC was not concerned with running afoul of regulatory agencies—she and Cross noted that for both of their projects, much of negotiating was done upfront, limiting post-hoc regulation—FCRC, she felt, had an ability to experiment with a larger pipeline of developments, allowing and incubator for solutions. This prevented mass implementation of unsure practices.

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NoLandGrab: We have no idea what she's talking about — it's like this story got run back and forth through a translation site — but we couldn't resist the opportunity to post a photo of NYU professor, and former Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards point-man, Jim Stuckey.

Photo: GlobeSt.com

Posted by eric at 10:35 PM