September 24, 2012

Atlantic Yards Developer to Break Ground on First Residential Tower

The 32-floor apartment building next to the Barclays Center will be the first of 16 towers slated for the 22-acre development.

Park Slope Patch
by Amy Sara Clark and Paul Leonard

At Friday’s ribbon cutting for the Barclays Center, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner announced the groundbreaking on the site’s first residential tower, reminding the public that the Nets arena is just a small part of the much contested 22-acre project.

"Today is only one part of our larger Atlantic Yards vision. There is more to come,” he said, naming Dec. 18 as the date construction begins on the first of 16 planned apartment towers.

Groundbreaking on the first non-arena building has, of course, been "announced" about 10 different times over the past three years — it's always "any day now."

Forest City Ratner has not yet decided whether the building will be built using traditional construction methods, or be made of modular units, which will be created in a factory and assembled on site. There has been some debate over whether a prefab building will look as good as a traditionally built one.

If the prefab route is taken, Atlantic Yards would host the tallest modular building ever made.


Posted by eric at 12:32 PM

September 11, 2012

After Barclays Comes the Building Blocks Towers

by Dave Hogarty

Now that the Barclays Center is practically open, it's time to direct our attention behind the arena and the planned pre-fab towers that Forest City Ratner plans on building at the Atlantic Yards. The first building is a 32-story tower comprised of 930 separate modular units that will be manufactured elsewhere and assembled on site. If all goes well, that might just be the first of 15 modular-built towers, according to Crain's, with the highest one reaching 50 stories. That's tall, and almost as up in the air as the question of whether any of them will be built.


Renderings: Forest City Ratner/SHoP Architects

Related coverage...

The Real Deal, Come Christmas, Forest City will make its prefab decision at AY

The decision hinges, in part, on whether Forest City can get construction unions to accept a 25 percent pay cut to work on the project. Crain’s noted that cutting construction costs is especially important to the developer because by the time all 4,500 rental units are erected on the former rail yards, half of them must be affordable.

But with the unconventional construction technique comes unique concerns.

Posted by eric at 11:06 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.


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

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.


Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

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.


Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

July 23, 2012

Comptroller Says Housing Lotteries Chosen Out of Trash Bags

The audit says there are flaws in New York City's current affordable housing lottery system.

Park Slope Patch
by Jamie Schuh

New York City’s affordable housing lotteries are chosen by mixing applications around on the floor, and drawing them from large garbage bags, says a shocking new audit by the office of City Comptroller John Liu.

The audit found that the selection process is vulnerable to errors and fraud.

“It’s shameful that when thousands of New York families desperately need affordable housing their hopes are pinned on the City’s embarrassingly ad hoc and sloppy process,” said Comptroller Liu.

And on Bruce Ratner.

Comptroller Liu’s audit, which focused on fiscal year 2011, determined that HPD’s garbage bag lottery was not sufficiently random and created opportunities for error or preferential treatment.

In one instance, auditors found that two out of 11 applicants who were listed as residents of the community board — and therefore offered first preference in the lottery — were not in fact residents of the community board at all.


NoLandGrab: We suppose having your application pulled out of a garbage bag is better than having Bertha Lewis decide who does or doesn't get a subsidized apartment.

Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

July 19, 2012

A confounding HDC hearing on first Atlantic Yards tower: public testimony without clarity about financing; Forest City denounced, supported; FCR’s housing partner says first building falls short but should proceed

Atlantic Yards Report

There was something dismaying, but not so surprising, about the public hearing yesterday held by the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) regarding up to $92 million in tax-exempt bonds for the first Atlantic Yards tower, a 32-story, 363-unit building at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, adjoining the Barclays Center arena.

It wasn’t simply that no board members were present for the hearing in Lower Manhattan, just three agency lawyers, plus an intern, observed by fewer than three dozen people, some of whom warned the agency about going forward, while others said, however flawed, it was a good start.

It was that no official presentation went beyond the contents of a developer-created handout (bottom) provided a day earlier, describing 150 studios (41%), 165 1-BR (46%) and 48 2-BR (13%), 50% of them subsidized, over five income bands.

Then again, the project does not have a transparent history.

We know developer Forest City Ratner seeks nearly $92 million in tax-exempt bonds, which offers crucial savings over taxable financing. We don’t know the full cost of the building nor the full mix of financing. We don’t know whether the tower, known as B2, would be built using modular construction, which is Forest City Ratner’s goal.

We don’t know how the subsidies compare to other projects in the so-called 50/30/20 program, with 50% market, 20% low-income, and 30% moderate- and middle-income units. We don’t even know the rents, at least beyond my unofficial calculations, which suggest that the top subsidized rungs easily track the market.

We weren't told the size of the units, though NYC HDC's Mixed-Income Program term sheet indicates they could be small, with the subsidized studios at 400 square feet minimum, 1-BR units at 575 sf, and 2-BR apartments at 775 sf.

We didn't learn the NYC HDC’s criteria for decisionmaking, though the building's skew toward smaller units actually goes against agency preference.

Also, there was no mention of modular plans. Would construction of what would be the tallest modular apartment building in the world be welcomed as a cost-saving tactic, or does the agency, and those who might insure the bonds, have any wariness about an experiment?


Posted by eric at 7:45 AM

July 18, 2012

Noticing New York's Hearing Testimony Re New York City Housing Development Corporation's Subsidization of Ratner's Atlantic Yards Mega-Monopopoly

Noticing New York

The New York City Housing Development Corporation held an important hearing today on its proposed very substantial subsidization of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly. Here is Noticing New York's testimony.

Delivery of scarce-resource subsidy to Forest City Ratner for out-of-scale development hogs and misdirects subsidy that could and should be better used elsewhere, including smaller developers and not-for-profits with a better chance of it benefitting minority developers.

HDC needs to pay attention to the unhappy saga of abuse. None of us has amnesia about Ratner’s misdeeds and we are not about to get it.


Related coverage...

Raulism via YouTube, Noticing New York's Hearing Testimony Re New York City Housing Development Corporation's Subsidization of Ratner's Real Estate Megamonopoly

Posted by eric at 7:18 PM

Long-Awaited Housing at Atlantic Yards Moves Forward

by Cindy Rodriguez

The plan to build affordable housing at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn appears to be moving forward after the slumping economy caused major delays. The city's Housing Development Corporation will hold a public hearing Wednesday on the sale of about $92 million in tax exempt bonds that will be used to finance more than 360 apartments.

Forest City Ratner, the project’s developer, said half the units in the new building will be below market rates and while preliminary work has begun, formal construction is scheduled for late 2012.The development plan calls for 6,430 apartments to eventually be built at the site. The bonds would help pay for the first building to go up.

According to a 2009 plan issued by Forest City Ratner, the housing should've started shortly after construction on Barclays Center began. But city Councilwoman Letitia James said that never happened. "And so now here we find ourselves in 2012 planning on building this affordable housing which will probably not be built until 2013 some time," she said. James, a vocal critic of the large development project, said nevertheless she is happy the housing was moving forward.


Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

Decoding first Atlantic Yards tower: "affordable" 2-BR rents from $726 to $3,112, murky financing plan, 20K square feet of "arena storage"

Atlantic Yards Report

HDC does its part to keep Atlantic Yards as opaque as ever.

The New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) has passed along some cursory information regarding plans for the first Atlantic Yards residential tower, aka B2, the 32-story, 363-unit subject of a public hearing [today] at 1 pm.

There's no information on the agency web site. I was told I would have to file a Freedom of Information Law request for underlying documents, which will not be available for perusal [today].

However, the agency did send a two-page fact sheet, which bears significant similarity to two previous fact sheets (below) prepared by consultants for Forest City Ratner, but don't necessarily provide useful information to those who may wish to comment publicly [today].

The agency may provide up to $92 million in bonds, part of a financing plan that includes Low Income Housing Tax Credits, HDC Second Mortgage & Developer Equity. But it's not clear what the mix would be.

Here are the highlights:

  • There's no mention if the building will be modular.
  • A subsidized 2-BR unit in the lowest range of affordability should rent for $726,25.
  • A subsidized 2-BR unit in the midrange of affordability should rent for $1,660/mo.
  • A subsidized 2-BR unit in the highest range of affordability should rent for $3,112.50/mo.
  • Of the affordable units, 20% will be 2-BR units, though developer Forest City Ratner's agreement with ACORN pledged 50% (in floor space) devoted to family-size units.
  • The building is heavily weighted to smaller units, perhaps because more transient singles/couples would agree the location trumps living over an arena.
  • The building will offer 20,000 square feet of "arena storage."


Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

July 17, 2012

Tomorrow! HDC hearing on $92 mln in bonds for Brooklyn Atlantic Yards

Good Jobs New York Subsidy Alert

Sorry for so many updates to the July subsidy alert. But, in addition to the new information released by the Industrial Development Agency last week, we recently learned of a hearing related to Brooklyn Atlantic Yards.

The New York City Housing Development Corporation is holding a hearing tomorrow, July 18 at 1:00 pm at 110 William Street, 4th Floor conference room regarding a proposed $92 million bond offering for the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project. Because the website of the New York City Housing Development Corporation has no details of the proposal, much less a mention of the hearing (now that's an "F" for transparency!) the only details available are on Norman Oder's "Atlantic Yards Report" website and below. Unfortunately, the lack of transparency means we don't have materials to share with you. GJNY will attend the hearing tomorrow and post on our website any materials that are made available.


Posted by eric at 11:36 PM

July 12, 2012

First Atlantic Yards tower: modular plans still unresolved, but tax-exempt bonds proceeding, with hearing on July 18

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner this week began what its construction chief called “very very minor” work on the foundation and piles for Building 2, the first residential tower.

But it hasn’t decided whether to pursue modular construction, as negotiations with unions--who, expecting higher-paying jobs on site, aggressively supported Atlantic Yards--are unresolved.

Meanwhile, the New York City Housing Development Corporation is proceeding with the issuance of nearly $92 million in tax-exempt bonds to support construction. A hearing July 18, during which public comment will be accepted, will be held at 1 pm in Conference Room 4 A/B at 110 William Street, 4th Floor, in Lower Manhattan.

No further information is available as of now, which kind of retards public comment. The NYC HDC apparently published the notice in the New York Post this weekend, but no community people--including Council Member Letitia James--knew about it until Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall volunteered it at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting this morning.

The hearing

“I just wanted to mention it,” Marshall said, during the meeting at Borough Hall. “The notice went out, and we didn't see any reaction on the blogs.”


NoLandGrab: Reaction? We're with Jay-Z pal Trey Anastasio on this one.

Posted by eric at 3:35 PM

Developer Gambles on Modular High-Rise for Atlantic Yards Sports Village

Engineering News-Record
by Nadine M. Post

The Engineering News-Record appears to have devoted a good chunk of its July 16th issue to all things Atlantic Yards.

The developer of the residential towers for the $4.9-billion Atlantic Yards sports village in Brooklyn, N.Y., is hedging its bets. In case negotiations with the building trades don't work out for the first tower, planned as the world's tallest modular building, Forest City Ratner Cos. is poised to construct the 32-story high-rise the conventional way.

The Brooklyn-based developer is so hyped on modular that even if the high-rise plan does not fly, it intends to set up shop as a third-party modular building fabricator. "We think [modular] can be explosive for the business," says Robert P. Sanna, FCRC director of construction and design development.

Hopefully not as "explosive" as those manhole covers.

The high-rise modular approach is the brainchild of Bruce C. Ratner, FCRC's chairman and CEO. His scheme was born of a need to find a more economical way to deliver 6,430 units of affordable and market-rate rental housing, comprising six million sq ft in 14 buildings.

If by "brainchild" they mean "stealing the idea and all the senior staff from the company that developed the technology," then yes, it was Bruce Ratner's "brainchild."


Related stories...

Engineering News-Record, Reshaping of Barclays Center Arena Made Possible By Collaboration, Digital Tools

Opportunity knocked for SHoP Architects on July 2, 2009. On that Thursday, Bruce C. Ratner, the beleaguered developer of the controversial Atlantic Yards sports village planned for Brooklyn, N.Y., made an offer that any architect would be crazy to turn down but almost as crazy to accept.

Ratner wanted SHoP to put a better face on a critically panned redesign for his $825-million Barclays Center arena—the centerpiece of the 22-acre transit-oriented development. And he wanted a sketch from SHoP in only five days.

Yes, and Brett Yormark only sleeps three hours a night.

However, SHoP wasn't the only firm in an awkward position. In late 2008, FCRC approached EB with a dubious offer it didn't refuse. "Bruce Ratner said, 'I literally want you to take Conseco Field and place it on our site,'" says Stephen J. Duethman, the project manager in Kansas City, Mo., for EB, which, as a result of a merger, operates under AECOM's name.

That strategy was not possible, he adds. But, in 2009, EB did as little as possible to modify its Indianapolis arena so that it would fit into a tight urban site.

The total cost of the facade redesign is $54 million. "We had to make the investment for public reasons," says Sanna.

Engineering News-Record, Fancy Footwork To Steady the Course of Brooklyn's Controversial Atlantic Yards Sports Village

ENR should probably stick to engineering and steer clear of social history.

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."

Now, crime is down, and land values are way up. Pedestrians are pushing strollers, not drugs. Brooklyn is on the map, thanks in large part to developer Bruce C. Ratner. In the late 1980s, he went where no Manhattan developer dared to go—to Brooklyn. First came an office campus called MetroTech Center (ENR 2/10/92 p. 26). Other commercial projects, which border the Atlantic Yards site, followed.

The urban pioneer's stake in the New York City borough, population 2.5 million, did not prepare him for the controversy over his most ambitious project: a public-private village set over a railyard next to the city's third-largest transit hub (ENR 3/8/04 p. 29). Foes of the Atlantic Yards plan, unveiled in 2003, often refer to Ratner by the first syllable of his name and remain outraged by the development's scale, density and architecture. Their lawsuits delayed Ratner's plan but failed to stop it.

Critics are especially appalled by the village's centerpiece: a 675,000-sq-ft arena for the National Basketball Association's Brooklyn Nets, owned in part by Ratner. Barclays Center is set to open with a Jay-Z concert on Sept. 28, five years later than first planned.

Six years, actually, but who's counting.

NoLandGrab: Norman Oder objects to the "sports village" moniker, but we think it's spot-on — especially given the complete absence of any promised housing, offices, retail or open space.

Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

July 11, 2012

Photos: preliminary work on the site for Building 2, the first modular tower

Atlantic Yards Report

On Monday, Forest City Ratner began work on the foundation and piles for the first residential tower (aka Building 2 or Tower 2), having announced Department of Buildings approval two days before the DOB actually granted it.

Forest City has announced plans to build the first tower using modular construction, and has said a lease on a modular factory would be signed this month, though no formal announcement has been made.

At 32 stories and some 350 units, it would be the tallest modular building ever, a technological gamble of sorts, as well as a gambit that could save Forest City Ratner significant money and time. Construction would not start until the arena opens. Forest City has not yet described how construction would disrupt foot traffic.

Below, photos by community contributor AYInfoNYC taken Monday of initial work. Note that the space around the arena is somewhat exaggerated because the fencing goes past the property line to the edge of the sidewalk.


Posted by eric at 1:39 PM

July 6, 2012

Two days after Forest City announces "preliminary approval" for work on first tower, Department of Buildings indicates that's so

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote on July 3 how developer Forest City Ratner plans to start work on July 9 on pile and foundation work for the first Atlantic Yards tower.

But it's unclear what "preliminary approval" for such work from the Department of Buildings meant, as no permit had been issued.

The "preliminary approval" was related by Empire State Development, in the bi-weekly Construction Update prepared by Forest City and released July 3 (but dated July 2), and the ESD's Arana Hankin elaborated not so completely:

“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.”

I tried on July 3 to find out from the Department of Buildings what "preliminary approval" means. I tried again yesterday, without success.

A July 5 update

But the DOB's web site now indicates approval for such work, which either means 1) the DOB is slow in updating its web site (and getting back to press), 2) Forest City got a promise before it was actually approved and/or paperwork filed, or 3) both.

Evidence leans toward the second explanation, because all the documents were filed yesterday.


Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

June 7, 2012

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.


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

May 29, 2012

WSJ on delayed Atlantic Yards affordable housing: no mention of modular gambit or KPMG report that said project was indeed buildable

Atlantic Yards Report

There are a couple of interesting things unsaid about Atlantic Yards in today's Wall Street Journal round-up focusing on that project and Willets Point, Housing Pieces Delayed: 'Affordable' Apartments That Helped Sell Big Projects Have Yet to Materialize.

Unmentioned, however, is the state agreed to give Forest City 12 years to build the first three towers and 25 years for the whole project, despite projections that the 16 towers would be finished in a decade.

The meaning? Bumps in the road or lies on the way?

According to the Journal, the "delays speak to broader challenges of building housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income families in New York, once the main focus of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's housing agenda."

Well, yes, and no. The delays also speak to the willingness of the state to commission a dubious report from KPMG claiming that the project could be built in a decade, and the willingness of a now-retired Empire State Development Corporation official to dismiss the Kahr report, commissioned by community groups, that was far more pessimistic.


Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Forest City: Building Affordable Housing at Atlantic Yards ‘Turns Out Not To Be So Easy’

As in the case of Atlantic Yards, it’s much easier for a developer to say what the public wants to hear and then fudge, delay and renegotiate its way out of the tough stuff later on. MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president at Forest City Ratner, said that the developer really did intend to make one-third of the residential units at the Downtown Brooklyn location affordable, “But it turns out not to be so easy.”

NoLandGrab: We're shocked! Shocked! And we bet ACORN New York Communities for Change[ing Your Name] is, too.

Willets Point United, Unaffordable Hosing

Is this why the city council approved the use of eminent domain? We don't think so. The Journal lays this out and we invite rational folks to ponder the future: "In recent weeks, the Bloomberg administration reached a tentative deal with the Related Cos. and Sterling Equities to redevelop a large industrial swath of land at Willets Point, in a plan that now calls for housing to be built as a third step with a groundbreaking by 2025, according to people familiar with the matter. The companies would first spend years building a hotel, and a large retail center in the area before moving on to constructing the housing in an unproven and polluted site near Citi Field."

Yeah sure, that will happen. This is the classic bait and switch with the Wilpons as the master anglers-hooking a land grab that they have been envisioning for over twenty years. Having already hosed the tax payers with their stadium deal the Wilpons have won the daily double-and have done so by crafting an illegal lobbying scheme that created a phony not for profit to camouflage their own self interest. Hats off to them!

But shame on the city-and the city council needs to take a long hard look at this scam.

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

April 27, 2012

Ratner, Bloomberg provoke little skepticism about "2,000 jobs" announcement; recruitment efforts begin next week; Ratner admits more potential delay on first building

Atlantic Yards Report

The press conference yesterday regarding jobs (press release) at the Barclays Center was mostly a success for Mayor Mike Bloomberg and developer Bruce Ratner, whom the mayor referred to as "a neighbor of mine, a friend of mine."

First, many media outlets provided the understandably dramatic visuals of the structure, as shown in the first video below that I shot, and Bloomberg's endorsement of the tight seating bowl.

And most media outlets reported, with relatively little skepticism, the claim that there would be 2,000 jobs at the arena, with recruitment focused on the neighborhoods and housing projects near the site.

Also note that Ratner nudged back the goalposts for the first residential building yet again, suggesting it could start either later next year or early next year.

Press coverage

The New York Times, which had two reporters there, didn't cover the press conference (yet). The Daily News reported there would be "2,000 jobs... some 90% of them part-time," but didn't clarify--despite the reporter's tweet--that it would mean 1,240 FTE.

The New York Post focused on remarks Borough President Marty Markowitz made in response to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but did mention the 1,240 number.

(The Post in January, presumably citing information provided by Forest City Ratner, predicted 1500 full and part-time workers. When asked about those numbers yesterday, Ratner said, "I don't where you got the 1500... at any one time, we'll have at most 800 people in the arena.... on a major event.")

Metro didn't specify the number of jobs but did--unlike nearly every other press outlet--quote a statement issued later by Council Member Letitia James, which strikes me as on target, that most of the jobs "will do little to address the rising poverty in the borough."

Patch quoted the 2,000 figure as well as my pre-meeting reference to the state's projection of 1,120 FTE jobs. NY1 cited 2,000 jobs and some debate over the living wage, but didn't drill down. ABC was enthusiastic, with no skepticism. Ditto for Newsday.

The Observer focused on naming the Nets. amNY quoted skepticism from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn but not the 1,240 figure. The Village Voice cited the interaction I had with Bloomberg.

Gothamist didn't quote the FTE numbers but stressed:

Forest City Ratner is promising to "report quarterly on the number of employees and the neighborhoods that they are from." All the arena-haters noted that for future reference? Good.

Gothamist apparently doesn't know about the developer's long-delayed obligation to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor. The Epoch Times did focus on the questionable job numbers.


Posted by eric at 2:17 PM

March 12, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

Some good primary reporting from Norman Oder...

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

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

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

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

Latest documents

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


Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

The KPMG report

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

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


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

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

February 2, 2012

Barclays Center provoking real estate boom? If so, why can't Ratner get housing off the ground

Atlantic Yards Report

I can't say I completely buy the amNY article headlined Brooklyn nabes expect real estate boom with Barclays Center. After all, the neighborhoods described are already changing--and they're not exactly adjacent to the arena.

The article begins:

When you think about Brooklyn real estate, Williamsburg, Park Slope and the downtown district - the borough's hottest and priciest areas - are probably the first neighborhoods that come to mind.

But with the opening of a new arena in seven months, other nabes may be rising to the top - even if it comes at a price.

The buzz surrounding Barclays Center in Prospect Heights is expected to attract an onslaught of investment to the area and turn the nearby neighborhoods into some of the most sought-after ZIP codes in the city, real estate experts said.

"Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, Bushwick and Sunset Park are on the verge of exploding," said Jamella Swift, senior associate broker at Citi Habitats. "Once the stadium opens, the domino effect from Fort Greene, Park Slope and Prospect Heights will carry over to the adjacent neighborhoods."

What? A domino effect from the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush all the way down to Sunset Park? Crown Heights began changing a while ago, as we were reminded this morning. Bed-Stuy began to boom before the 421-a law expired. Bushwick has been experiencing a domino effect from Williamsburg, not the arena.


NoLandGrab: Right. Same way the Upper West Side was cow pastures until Madison Square Garden was built.

Related content...

amNY, Brooklyn nabes expect real estate boom with Barclays Center

Posted by eric at 12:58 PM

January 27, 2012

Atlantic Yards Update: No Left Turn on S. Oxford, State Says No to Resident Veto, More

Residents also learn that only 11 percent of apartments in first tower are slated to have two or more bedrooms, compared to the 50 percent promised.

Park Slope Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

Here are a few highlights from yesterday’s meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, a group of Ratner, state and elected officials that meets bi-monthly:

No Left Turn for S. Oxford

To the chagrin of anyone trying to get to Fort Greene when driving east on Atlantic, there will be no left turn on S. Oxford Street. However, there will be a left turn onto Carlton (once it re-opens) as well as onto Fort Greene Place.

The Department of Transportation has eliminated that turn lane in favor of a pedestrian “refuge” for those who can’t cross all the lanes in one light.

No Resident Veto Power on Traffic Plans:

Afraid of the traffic onslaught when Barclays Arena opens in the fall, neighborhood groups have asked for more input into the traffic management plan.

In response, the Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing the construction, set up a Transportation Focus Group that will give civic groups and block associations to give early input on the plan directly to ESDC and Ratner officials.

Skeptical that the input would have an impact, at last month’s meeting, the groups asked for veto power on the plan. The ESDC’s Arana Hankin said in December the agency would consider the request, but came back this morning with firm no.


Posted by eric at 11:39 AM

First residential tower now delayed until spring or summer; Forest City admits "goal" of including more larger units won't be met; CM James says developer's not meeting commitment

Atlantic Yards Report

Say what you will about creepy Jim Stuckey — he wasn't so nearly prone to ineffectual blathering as Jane Marshall.

For the umpteenth time, Forest City Ratner has pushed back the projected groundbreaking for the first Atlantic Yards residential tower, Building 2 (B2), at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street flanking the Barclays Center arena. Now the groundbreaking could be spring, as most recently projected, or summer.

Also, as acknowledged today at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, Forest City will not meet its "goal"--purportedly guaranteed by the Community Benefits Agreement and long promoted by the developer--of ensuring that half of the subsidized "affordable housing" would be (in square footage) devoted to larger units of two and three bedrooms.

"It doesn’t dilute our desire to meet the commitment in the future," insisted Forest City executive Jane Marshall at the meeting, held at Borough Hall.

"I understand your desire," responded Council Member Letitia James, skeptically. "I desire to be thin, and young"--the audience chuckled--"but that’s not going to happen. The bottom line is that, there was a commitment, there was a promise. There’s a need in the neighborhood... I would hope you would honor your commitment to the community.”

Forest City Ratner's partner ACORN, or its successor, was supposed to hold the developer to its housing pledge, but Bertha Lewis, who promoted the project because of the pledge, has not yet questioned the commitment.

Click through for Norman Oder's timeline of Forest City's moving Building 2 "goal" posts — which have now been moved 10 times in a little more than two years.


NoLandGrab: Forest City's repeated delaying of housing construction sure helps our confidence in all their other promises — but surely they'll deliver with the Transportation Demand Management plan or the reopening of the Carlton Avenue bridge. Right?

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

January 26, 2012

Florida Law Implemented in New York Would Actually Bring Housing to Atlantic Yards Site

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

New York ain't Florida but the following article reminds us of two things:

1. Bruce Ratner demolished a long-term homeless shelter scattering the most vulnerable amongst us all over the city in order to build a... long-term surface parking lot that will include parking for the Barclays Center of Brooklyn©.

2. If New York had this Florida law and implemented it at least Atlantic Yards would actually provide some form of housing, which it currently is not doing at all:

Florida law would turn its publicly funded ballparks and stadiums into homeless shelters
By 'Duk | Big League Stew | Yahoo! Sports

Could the new Marlins ballpark or the Tampa Bay Rays' Tropicana Field serve as a homeless shelter for the 270 or so nights a year that they're not used for baseball?

If two Florida lawmakers have their way, they might. As reported by the Miami Herald, state legislators have unearthed an obscure law that has not been enforced since it was adopted in 1988. It states that any ballpark or stadium that receives taxpayer money shall serve as a homeless shelter on the dates that it is not in use.

Now, a new bill would punish owners of teams who play in publicly funded stadiums if they don't provide a haven for the homeless.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

January 24, 2012

How many subsidized apartments for low-income families in first Atlantic Yards tower? Just eight 2BRs, as Forest City Ratner reneges on promise to build half the affordable space as 2BR/3BR units

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner maintains its unblemished record of not keeping any promises.

How many affordable apartments would there be for low-income families--families that need two bedrooms or more--in B2, the first planned Atlantic Yards tower?

Only eight.

And that's out of 350 total units.

The building, which has been delayed nearly two years and has not yet broken ground, would include 130 studios, 180 one-bedroom, and 40 two-bedrooms.

Of those latter 40 units, 20 would be subsidized. However, only eight of them would be low-income, with monthly rents at $701.75 and $902.25, at least under current income guidelines.

The other subsidized "affordable" two-bedroom units--four each--would cost $1604, $2406, and $3007. It makes you wonder how much the market-rate units would go for.

Reneging on the pledge

Why so few larger units? For the first building, Forest City Ratner has reneged on its long-promised "goal" to ensure than half the affordable housing--on a square foot basis--would be two- and three-bedroom apartments.

And that was a key selling point to struggling families hoping for better housing, as noted in the screenshot at [right], from the original web site.

Note that the web site misleadingly implied that half the number of units--rather than square footage--would be larger units.

Yes, they even lie about their lies.


Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

January 23, 2012

Prefab Towers at Atlantic Yards: Will They Look Good?

Forest City Ratner is going ahead with plans to create prefabricated buildings at Atlantic Yards, but can their design hold up amidst Brownstone Brooklyn?

Park Slope Patch
by Jamie Schuh

Forest City Ratner and architect house SHoP are still working to make prefabricated towers a cost-saving reality at Atlantic Yards, but critics question whether prefab buildings can save money while still looking good, according to The Real Deal.

The Real Deal also believes that Brooklyn is too good for buildings that look like corners were cut in order to save money, adding, “value engineering is the besetting sin of architecture in the five boroughs.”

Design perspective notwithstanding, the idea of prefab buildings came under fire last March, when plans for modular construction at the Atlantic Yards site was announced, and local unions were livid at the loss of jobs on the site.


Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

January 19, 2012

In the Real Deal, architecture critic says meh on prefab: "perhaps not better [than Gehry design]... surely not worse"

Atlantic Yards Report

In the Real Deal, critic James Gardner asks Atlantic Yards: Can prefab be fabulous? Will the prefab tower at Atlantic Yards look like real architecture, or will it be Lego-like? and comes down toward the latter.

What he doesn't grapple with is whether, in fact, the first tower, B2 (Building 2, not “Barclays Two,” as he writes) would be prefab. It's still in question.


Posted by eric at 5:53 PM

Atlantic Yards: Can prefab be fabulous?

Will the prefab tower at Atlantic Yards look like real architecture, or will it be Lego-like?

The Real Deal
by James Gardner

How's this for a back-handed compliment: architecture critic James Gardner calls Bruce Ratner's prefab dream "not worse" than Atlantic Yards's previous Frank Gehry iterations.

The most remarkable thing — perhaps the only remarkable thing — about the recently released plans for a residential high-rise at Brooklyn’s much-debated Atlantic Yards site is not the design itself, but rather the manner in which the project will be built.

Conceived by SHoP Architects for Forest City Ratner, the building will be made up of prefabricated units constructed off-site and then assembled on the premises. The prefab component of construction should allow for considerable savings.

Aesthetically, the great question surrounding B2 is whether, when completed, it will look like real architecture, or like something that’s just rolled out of one of the recently unveiled 3-D printers.

Will this development make it possible for good architecture to be produced at bargain-basement prices — or will it prove to be the greatest gift of technology to fans of so-called value engineering? Even more than lackluster design, value engineering is the besetting sin of architecture in the five boroughs, and it produces that sinking feeling that corners were cut, and the cheapest materials were used, to save the most money.

Surely the project revealed by SHoP looks, from the initial renderings, to be far duller and more conventional — in purely formal terms — than what Gehry had proposed. However, Gehry’s project was overrated, for all the usual mid-cult reasons — adulation of fame and the tendency to associate newness with importance — attendant upon the labors of starchitects. And B2, though perhaps not better, is surely not worse.


Posted by eric at 4:52 PM

December 29, 2011

Bruce Ratner's Exercise in Bland

The Wall Street Journal
by Robbie Whelan

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

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

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

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


Related coverage...

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

Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

December 9, 2011

The only game in town

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Ipsen

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

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


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

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

November 17, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

2008 MAS renderings

2011 SHoP renderings

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


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

Posted by eric at 4:49 PM

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

The Times is given the scoop

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

The risk

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

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

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

The money

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

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


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

Posted by eric at 3:18 PM

Design Unveiled for Tower at Atlantic Yards

City Room
by Charles V. Bagli

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

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

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

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

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


Related coverage...

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

Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards is going boxy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All renderings: SHoP Architects

Posted by eric at 2:52 PM

October 21, 2011

Schumer sponsors bill to bail out housing industry by selling temporary visas to immigrant investors; wouldn't this distort the market (and maybe even help AY)?

Atlantic Yards Report

Apparently, essentially selling green cards through the questionable EB-5 program--under which prospective immigrants must create ten purported jobs with their $500,000 investment--was only the start.

Now Congress is considering selling three-year residence visas to foreigners who invest $500,000 in the housing market, and co-sponsor Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) somehow thinks "it won't cost the government a nickel."

Schumer doesn't seem familiar with opportunity cost, the notion that we might choose a different alternative that could prove more beneficial.

For example, immigration analyst David North of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies thinks EB-5 investors should also have to buy a $50,000 U.S. bond for each visa issued. So why not ask prospective home purchasers do more than bail out the housing industry in exchange for those visas?

Schumer's proposal could have major unintended consequences, such as rising prices in prime areas (Hello, Brooklyn) while little impact on foreclosed subdivisions in, say, suburban Las Vegas. (See similar skepticism from a law firm involved in EB-5.)

But this bill, which requires investors to pay cash, will surely gain support from FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate), the pillars of New York City's uneven economy and, not coincidentally, Schumer campaign support. The founder of the Toll Brothers firm is already on board.

Heck, it just might goose demand for Forest City Ratner's unbuilt luxury condos in the Atlantic Yards project. After all, if the developer wants to sell condos in 2015 for $1217/sf--more than double nearby Atlantic Terrace, it sure helps if buyers care more about visas than price.


NoLandGrab: Now there's an enervating idea.

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

August 25, 2011

FCR's Gilmartin: AY "the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city" (no, and that's not what sold ACORN)

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that people are talking about the possibility of the first Atlantic Yards tower, let's remember that Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards point person, MaryAnne Gilmartin, told a real estate industry panel last year that Atlantic Yards "is the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city."

That's a remarkable statement because 1) it's not true (though it is ambitious) and 2) the Atlantic Yards "affordable housing" was sold to, and supported by, community groups that represent poor and working-class people, not middle-income residents.

Who was the housing for?

That's not to say middle-income New Yorkers don't need housing help. But Atlantic Yards would never have drawn the public support it did had it not been perceived as helping those most struggling.


NoLandGrab: Don't forget the "world-class Frank Gehry design!"

Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

Ratner Files App for First Residential Bldg. At Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Nostradamus? No, MaryAnne Gilmartin!

MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial and residential development at Forest City Ratner Companies, predicted it would happen.

At a meeting of the Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable in February, when she was giving an update on the Barclays Center Arena and the Atlantic Yards development, she said that within the year construction might begin on the development’s first residential building closest to the arena.

Indeed, a permit application was filed Aug. 16 with the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) for the new building.

Emphasis, ours.


NoLandGrab: Yeah, and The Rapture came on May 21st, and since we didn't repent, we must be in Hell, condemned to having to read nonsense like that above for eternity.

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

August 24, 2011

Bruce Ratner to Finally Build a Residential Tower at Atlantic Yards?

The L Magazine
by Mark Asch

For now, the Observer further reports, Forest City Ratner isn't ruling out the possibility of building a prefabricated tower—it'd be a cheaper, shorter process, requiring far fewer construction workers—a test balloon that took many potshots when it was floated this spring.

“'Clearly, prefab housing is not what we expected,'" Richard Weiss, a spokesman for Construction and General Building Laborers’ Local 79, told the Brooklyn Paper: '"The only reason we [supported the project] was for jobs for our members.'" Right, because Forest City Ratner has kept so many of the promises it made in manufacturing enlisting support for Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

Permit for first Atlantic Yards tower filed; signs suggest it won't be modular (so how will they save money?)

Atlantic Yards Report

While the permit application doesn't say so explicitly, one sign points to conventional construction: the building's primary structural system would be "Steel (Encased in Concrete)," while the tallest modular building extant, a 24-story, $34 million high-rise in Wolverhampton, England, is framed with structural steel.

That structure is considerably shorter than the 33-story, 322-foot, 368-unit tower planned by Forest City. Indeed, what drew headlines was Forest City's apparent interest in building the world's tallest modular residential building--a tactic that might save significant sums but also could pose risks.

More subsidies?

If Forest City can't save money via modular construction, how do the numbers "pencil out"? After all, in March 2011, talk show host Brian Lehrer asked Rafael Cestero, outgoing Commissioner of the Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development (HPD), about the report that HPD had declined Forest City Ratner's recent request for an additional $10 million in additional subsidies--beyond the $14 million for 150 units--for the first residential building.

"One is, we have a set of programs that we use across the city... that fall within certain subsidy parameters that make sense for taxpayers and make sense for the city," Cestero responded. "We felt that the additional subsidy that Forest City was requesting... didn't meet those parameters and, frankly, that we felt was not a good public investment to go beyond what we have already committed."

"We want to see housing built there. We're all deeply committed to seeing not just the arena built, but to see... the affordable housing built," he added, "but we think the parameters that we've laid out, the program that we've laid out, allows that project to go forward."

So has the developer figured out a solution? Or has the Bloomberg administration moderated its position?


Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

Ratner finally moves ahead with residential Yards tower

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

The 368-unit building — which may be either a conventional tower or a controversial pre-fabricated structure — would rise on Dean Street just east of Flatbush Avenue, next door to the under-construction, 19,000-seat Barclays Center.

Ratner’s Executive Vice President MaryAnne Gilmartin said that construction could start this winter after a “year-end ground-breaking.”

Designs for the building are being finalized, but Gilmartin confirmed that Ratner’s team is “still designing both prefab and conventional alternatives” — with a final design decision expected by the end of the year.


Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

Ratner eyes arena apts.

NY Post
by Rich Calder

After eight years of planning, developer Bruce Ratner hopes to finally move forward with the first of 16 residential and commercial towers planned for Brooklyn’s embattled Atlantic Yards project.

Ratner has filed a permit with the Department of Buildings to erect a 33-story, 368-unit building at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, next to the 18,000-seat Barclays Center being built for the NBA’s Nets.

Half the units would be designated as affordable housing for low- and middle-income families.


Posted by eric at 9:48 AM

August 23, 2011

If Bruce Ratner Builds It: Forest City Files DOB Application for First Apartment Tower

NY Observer
by Thornton McEnery

Here comes the next round in the city’s most intractable debate over the further development of Atlantic Yards, as it appears that exactly one week ago, Forest City Ratner filed its first building application for a residential tower on the corner of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue.

And that, and a dollar, will get you... a dollar.

As The Observer reported in the fall, Forest City Ratner planned to begin construction on the project during the first half of this year. While it has missed that mark, there was suspicion nothing would get built this year at all. Herewith is the first proof that might not actually be the case.

According to Forest City Ratner, everything is moving ahead as planned. “The permits were filed as standard operating procedure as we move forward,” Director of Commercial & Residential Development MaryAnne Gilmartin said in a statement. “We are still designing both prefab and conventional alternatives for the first residential building at Atlantic Yards and are shooting for a year end groundbreaking. We hope to show renderings to the public during the 4th quarter of this year.”


NoLandGrab: By "show renderings to the public," Gilmartin means "grant an exclusive to The New York Times."

Related coverage...

Curbed, Forest City Ratner Files for First Atlantic Yards Residential Permit

The application calls for a 33-story, 368-unit building, and the company previously promised that it would be a 50-30-20 project—20 percent of the units reserved for low-income tenants, 30 percent for middle-income tenants, and the remaining 50 percent for market-rate tenants. The building listed on the application is also roughly the size of the prefabricated tower Bruce Ratner was considering, and a construction worker at the site told Brownstoner that's still a possibility.

The Real Deal, First permit for residential tower at AY filed

Posted by eric at 10:14 PM

August 6, 2011

Atlantic Yards Un-Watch: new residents of Atlantic Terrace declare construction noise "minimal" (what about other side of arena block?)

Atlantic Yards Report

From an article to be published in the August 7 New York Times Real Estate section about Atlantic Terrace, catercorner to the northeast of the Atlantic Yards arena block, headlined In Brooklyn, Blurring the Wealth Boundary:

Mike Leslie, a transplant from San Francisco who bought the original model penthouse unit with his partner, Michael Richardson, said the fact that there were low-income owners in Atlantic Terrace had not given them pause. The looming issue for the couple was the construction of the arena for the New Jersey Nets going on across the avenue at the Atlantic Yards site, but after determining that construction noise was minimal, they were won over by the 463-square-foot terrace with their penthouse, Mr. Richardson said.

Well, there sure might be construction noise if and when Forest City Ratner starts building directly across the street, as is the plan.

Residents of this new building apparently are fortunate, since residents of Pacific and Dean streets bear the brunt of construction staging and noise, as noted on Atlantic Yards Watch.

Unmentioned in the article is that Atlantic Terrace developers gave up a plan for solar panels when they learned how large the nearby Atlantic Yards towers would be.

Also, the team won't be the New Jersey Nets when they get here.


Posted by steve at 10:50 PM

April 27, 2011

Some ambiguous words from new HPD head, City Council housing chair on Atlantic Yards affordable housing

Atlantic Yards Report

In Point/Counterpoint: Mathew Wambua & Erik Martin Dilan, published 4/25/11, City Hall News asked new Housing, Preservation and Development Commissioner Matthew Wambua and City Council Housing Committee Chair Erik Martin Dilan to discuss various housing issues.

One was Atlantic Yards; here are their somewhat ambiguous comments, in response to the unstated but implied question that Forest City Ratner was scaling back its promises:

Wambua: Atlantic Yards, I had not heard they were scaling back [affordable housing], to tell the truth. I’d heard that they were thinking about a new kind of development, which would be a modular multistory, I think 35-story modular development. But I wasn’t necessarily under the impression they were doing anything less than what they’d anticipated doing so much as different from what they’d anticipated doing.

For our product—the product we develop—for middle-income and lower-income housing, there’s huge significant unaccommodated demand, and so there’s cyclicality to the stuff that we do. In good times, people need us because rents are getting too high. In bad times, people need us even more because they have less income. So that unaccommodated demand isn’t necessarily being changed, depending on where you are in the cycle. So we’ll continue, as we always have, to do gangbuster business.

Dilan: I honestly hope they keep the commitment to build affordable housing. I understand that financing can be challenging at this point. So, for major projects like Atlantic Yards, I think we have to just to hold them to the commitment that they made to that community, and to Brooklyn, as well.

The unanswered question is whether Forest City Ratner will fulfill its commitment without getting additional subsidies from the city.

Wambua's predecessor denied Forest City Ratner such subsidies; I suspect that the request will recur, so we'll see whether Mayor Mike Bloomberg goes to bat for a favored project.


Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

April 17, 2011

Pocketbook Protector Found On Washington


Yeah, we know this add refers to bargain hunting, but it could just as easily be the kind of protection needed at Bruce Ratner's nearby, crime-ridden malls.

Posted by steve at 10:56 PM

April 4, 2011

NBA deal is 'net' loss for B'klyn

NY Post
by Rich Calder

The hoop-la has faded in Brooklyn.

When the Atlantic Yards complex was announced in 2003, its developer promised the borough a basketball team, world-class arena designed by Frank Gehry, 16 soaring residential and office buildings, affordable housing, parks and recreational facilities.

To make the grandiose plans come true, some 800 residents and businesses were dispossessed and city and state taxpayers kicked in $305 million so far.

But it's looking like all Brooklyn will be left with is one of the worst teams in the NBA -- playing in a new, nondescript facility.

Documents filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission by developer Bruce Ratner and his Forest City Enterprises warn that the non-arena portions of the plan could experience "further delays" leading to most or all of the rest of the 22-acre, $4.9 million project being scrapped.

Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn) and Prospect Heights activist Patti Hagan, both longtime foes of Atlantic Yards, said the SEC documents are the latest "proof" that Ratner can't deliver 2,250 affordable housing units and most of the 17,000 jobs he promised state officials in order to gain project approvals.

"It was all just a mirage," James said. "He underestimated the economy and opposition, and now all we're getting is an arena and a large parking lot."


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Post's questionable, conclusory "exclusive," based on SEC warnings: "NBA deal is 'net' loss for B'klyn"

Leave it to the New York Post to conjure up a conclusion out of a very uncertain situation and some boilerplate hedging language.

Yes, it is likely that "Brooklyn" will get far less than originally promised--after all, Forest City Ratner need not build out the entire project, has loopholes for affordable housing subsidy delays, and faces more significant penalties for Phase 1 and its buildings than the rest of the project.

But it's way too conclusory to state that the only thing that would be built is an arena. After all, as has been front-page news, Forest City Ratner is looking to save big by building the first tower via modular construction.

The Post recognizes that. Indeed, the print version of the article includes a graphic with the outline of potential towers, described as "what could be lost."

I reported on this "exclusive" news two days ago, calling the description of risks "boilerplate."

The real news from the SEC filings, as I pointed out, was that parent Forest City Enterprises is no longer talking about an Atlantic Yards office building, which would bring significant tax revenues.

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

March 31, 2011

Why the Census Bureau might be right on NYC

Crain's NY Business
by Greg David

The topic of whether New York City has been shortchanged by the 2010 census is certainly a hot button issue. The mayor continues to insist the census takers missed as many as 200,000 residents because they could neither count people in apartment buildings nor find immigrants who had no interest in being enumerated.

Now comes a very provocative piece by Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, an expert on cities, which suggests the Bureau of the Census might be right.

He finds lots of evidence to support the idea that growth is in line with housing creation, which means the less-than-expected 2.1% increase is on the mark.

If true, the Bloomberg administration should start doing some hard thinking. In part, the housing shortfall is the result of the financial crisis that delayed major development initiatives at Atlantic Yards, Hudson Yards, Coney Island and Willets Point, to name only a few. The administration is not responsible for that.

Other administrations, however, would be considering measures to spur more construction, as Ed Koch did in the early 1980s. So far, the administration isn't interested in that approach; maybe it is time for a change in plan.


NoLandGrab: The real question is, does housing creation spur population growth, or does population growth drive housing creation? If it's the latter, and New York City's growth is stagnating, who's going to pay to live in all of Bruce Ratner's planned luxury condos?

Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

Markowitz: NYC Needs More Affordable MF
by Paul Bubny

Markowitz recalled a visit to Istanbul in which that city’s mayor showed him the startling before-and-after contrast brought about by the redevelopment of one part of town. The transformation was accomplished in just six months, he said, a time frame unheard of here. “They don’t have ULURPs, community boards and everything else you have to go through to get things done here,” he said.


NoLandGrab: Wait a second. Marty constantly goes on about how "New York isn't Amsterdam" when he's railing against the Prospect Park West bike path, but now he thinks New York should be Turkey, where they "get things done," whatever the cost?

Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

February 10, 2011

FCR pushes back timetable for Building 2, hopes for groundbreaking by end of year, says SHoP will design that first tower

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite happy talk by Forest City Ratner executives about a groundbreaking this year for the first arena block tower, and a mini-scoop by the Observer that the architect will be SHoP (designers of the arena facade), the real news is this: the tower is again delayed, and may not start this year, given the difficulty of getting financing.

(About a year ago, the plan was to break ground by the end of 2010.)

At a meeting this morning at Borough Hall of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, involving various involved agencies. City Council Member Letitia James asked about the timetable for the affordable housing.

The first building, at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, would have about 400 units, 50 percent subsidized, divided into 30 percent middle- and moderate-income and 20 percent low-income.

"We're working on the design of that building," responded Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall. "We've been making progress--it's not been as fast as we wanted it to be." And while FCR had hoped to announce the design around this time, "I think it'll be closer to the second quarter."

She later specified "probably the end of May or early June."

"We still believe we can get in the ground in 2011, and that’s our goal," Marshall said. "It's been a complicated procedure, because we are not only looking at design, we've been talking to the financing community... As you know, it's dire out there."

Unclear is whether this building, given the somewhat complicated site, costs more per unit than comparable projects. Forest City aims to use off-the-shelf housing subsidies, including the city's financing for such 50/30/20 buildings, but also needs to raise private money.

What is clear is that, if the arena proceeds on schedule, and opens in the summer/fall of 2012, it will not be accompanied by the opening of a residential building, as initially planned.


Posted by eric at 9:40 PM

First residential building at AY to break ground this year

The Real Deal
by Candace Taylor

Within the year, Brooklyn may see the start of construction on the first residential building at the Atlantic Yards, the opening of a new outdoor market in Downtown Brooklyn and sales commencing at new residential condominium 20 Henry.

Members of the real estate community received these and other development updates yesterday at the first installment of the 2011 Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable series.

Speakers at the event, held at the Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn Heights, included Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz; John Rhea, the chairman of the New York City Housing Authority; and MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial development and leasing at Forest City Ratner Companies, who gave an update on the Barclays Center Arena.

The first residential building on the site will be a 50-30-20 project, she said, meaning 20 percent of the apartments will be reserved for low-income tenants, 30 percent for middle-income tenants and the rest for market-rate renters. She said Forest City Ratner hopes to begin construction this year.


NoLandGrab: Like Norman Oder (see below), we'll believe it when we see it.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, First AY residential building to break ground this year?

The headline in the Real Deal is First residential building at AY to break ground this year, but the actual quote is this, from Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin:

She said Forest City Ratner hopes to begin construction this year.

A year ago, however, another executive said they planned to break ground in the fourth quarter of 2010.

In other words, headlines shouldn't be definitive.

NY Observer, SHoP Scores First Apartment Building at Atlantic Yards

Back in September, when Ratner and SHoP principal Gregg Pasquarelli unveiled new designs for the public plaza at the foot of the Barclays Center arena, the architect said he would love to design some of the project's buildings, though his primary concern was executing the masterplan. "SHoP's goal is to make sure it's a beautiful and cohesive whole," he said at the time.

Well, it looks like Pasquarelli will be getting his wish after all, as The Observer has learned the firm has been tapped to design B2, the first apartment building planned for the site, along Dean Street on the southeast corner of the arena.

Curbed, First Atlantic Yards Apartment Building Breaking Ground This Year?

The Real Deal has a great roundup of all the tidbits of news from yesterday's Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable, an always-sunny confab of developers and others with a stake in the borough's bricks and mortar. The headline is the update from a Forest City Ratner exec on the progress at Atlantic Yards, where the first apartment building (of the 16 that are still somehow planned) is expected to break ground this year.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Historical Society Receives $93K From Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable Series

Besides telling attendees about seeing the scoreboard from the subway exit at the new arena, MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial development at Forest City Ratner, said people will also be able to see the arena’s practice facility from the plaza.

“We are making extraordinary progress on the Barclays Center,” she said. “The steel is rising and the decking is visible. We will be watching basketball games in the 2012-13 season.”

NLG: Yeah, but will be watching them in Newark?

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

November 2, 2010

ACORN Press Release: The end of an era: ACORN files Chapter 7 bankruptcy

End of an era? Or end of an error? Bertha Lewis — still defiant in her self-delusion — announces ACORN's bankruptcy filing.

... we will be filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy by close of business today.

We have seen this coming for some time. Our chapters closed in the first quarter of the year. We have spent our remaining resources trying to dissolve the organization with integrity, while continuing to respond to the extremist attacks. Allegations and reports will continue to try to undermine all that ACORN has done, often searching for evidence from long before I became CEO.

Thank you to all our members, supporters, funders, friends and allies who helped ACORN carve out a deep and lasting place in history. Let us all learn from the past, and march boldly into the future. ACORN will live on in the hearts of the people it served, and as those of us who fight for justice know, "THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED".


NoLandGrab: Does this mean Bruce Ratner won't be getting his money back?

Posted by eric at 9:56 PM

September 30, 2010

KPMG's Fuzzy Math on Atlantic Yards

NY Observer, Op Ed
by Norman Oder

On Tuesday, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner surprised reporters with his candor, acknowledging that the timetable for the project, despite the officially announced 10-year time span, was "market-dependent."

After all, if the arena and all 16 towers take 25 years, as he acknowledged was possible, then the much-ballyhooed benefits (affordable housing, open space, tax revenues) would not arrive as promised. And the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the state's economic development agency, might find itself with some egg on its face.

Damningly, the ESDC's then-CEO said in April 2009 that the project would take "decades." However, in an August 2009 report for the ESDC (below), consultant KPMG pronounced the 10-year timetable valid.

Given that Mr. Ratner apparently doubts the timetable himself, it's worth looking at how KPMG's numbers just don't add up. (In a somewhat similar instance, when buyers at the Trump SoHo Hotel Condominium New York became suspicious that the developers were inflating condo sales figures, they filed suit.)

If there were to be no sticks forcing the developer to build, the ESDC had to find some carrots. They had to find evidence that the housing market would be healthy enough to absorb 1,930 luxury condos—a good number wrapped around the arena. (There also would be 2,250 market-rate rentals and 2,250 subsidized rentals, although a good chunk of the latter would be at or near market rates.)

So KPMG had to find comps, other large Brooklyn condo projects that have been selling at a decent clip and at prices within plausible distance of the $1,217 per square foot (psf) FCR seeks in 2015. (The latter figure was revealed in the KPMG report, though it was supposed to be redacted.)

Consider the Toren condo building on Flatbush Avenue near the Manhattan Bridge, which KPMG, as of August 2009, asserted had been 98 percent sold. Some nine months later, the developer told the Times that the 240-unit building had reached the 55 percent mark.

How about the nearby Oro Condos, which KPMG claimed was 75 percent sold? An Oro press release this past March crowed that half of the units had been taken.

While real estate information is ever more transparent, KPMG in its report included no backing data, just vague references to obtaining "reference materials" from Forest City Ratner, "meetings or phone interviews with various Project sponsors" and surveying "numerous brokers, property managers and other market participants."

However dubious, the report remains crucial to the final Atlantic Yards court case. State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman is considering requests from several community groups to force the ESDC to do an additional review of the project's longer-term environmental impacts.



Atlantic Yards Report, An op-ed for the Observer on KPMG's fuzzy math regarding the Brooklyn housing market

I've written a lot about KPMG's curious market study for the Empire State Development Corporation.

Now I've threaded some of those observations and analyses into an op-ed for the Observer online, headlined KPMG's Fuzzy Math on Atlantic Yards, and tweaked to incorporate this week's news....

Posted by eric at 9:25 PM

May 19, 2010

Review & Comment: Little Ol’ Brooklyn

Brookln Daily Eagle
by Henrik Krogius

The Eagle's Krogius finally talks some sense, but too little, too late.

As New York’s single most populous borough, Brooklyn is expected to absorb its share of the city’s additional million anticipated by 2020. In that context the four thousand apartments projected for Atlantic Yards, at a major transportation hub, make obvious sense.

He means by 2030, but that's not the part that makes sense.

So here we are, in little ol’ Brooklyn, facing the monster of growth. We have no realistic prospect of holding it entirely at bay. What is open to us is to exercise the best judgments as to where the growth fits better and where it does not. We can’t shut out the next ten or fifteen years. Brooklyn will have to grow. The best hope – and it may take further economic calamity – is that despite the inertia a way will eventually be found to modify our capitalistic workings so that we can live with what we have rather than always demanding that there be more.


Posted by eric at 10:59 PM

February 22, 2010

New York ACORN relaunches (in same office) as New York Communities for Change; Stringer, de Blasio, other elected officials to appear at fundraisers

Atlantic Yards Report

Like a squirrel in the midst of winter, Norman Oder keeps digging up ACORNs.

New York ACORN, Forest City Ratner's key partner in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (for the ever-tenuous promise of subsidy-monopolizing affordable housing) has been renamed New York Communities for Change.

Why? State affiliates of national ACORN, which has been tinged by internal scandal and bad press, have apparently decided to relaunch and decentralize.

In the case of the New York affiliate, at least, the office remains at the same location. It shares an address with the Working Families Party and its many convoluted affiliates--a parallel, to some extent, with the many overlapping entities connected to national ACORN.

The New York Communities for Change web site cites an address and fax number, which are the same as the Brooklyn ACORN address and fax number, as indicated on a now-defunct web page preserved by the Internet Archive.

That address is responsible for much more political activity.

As City Hall News reported 11/30/09, that same address houses the Working Families Party, formed in 1998 by ACORN and two unions, now with more than 60 affiliate organizations. And it also houses the nonprofit lobby group the Working Families Organization, Data & Field Services, the political consulting company founded in 2007 by the Working Families Party, and the nonprofit Progressive America Fund.

There's an ongoing of federal investigation regarding Data & Field Services, which came after a lengthy investigation by City Hall News.


NoLandGrab: Seems to us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

January 16, 2010

TODAY: Pop Star Crystal Waters comes to Brooklyn this Saturday to help City Council Member Letitia James convince the City to keep a homeless family-shelter, scheduled to be closed by the City on Martin Luther King's Birthday (Jan. 15), open until Spring

Pop Star Crystal Waters comes to Brooklyn this Saturday to help City Council Member Letitia James convince the City to keep a homeless family-shelter, scheduled to be closed by the City on Martin Luther King's Birthday, open until Spring

The shelter is slated to be demolished for a parking lot for Barclays Bank's Barclays Center sports stadium construction vehicle parking. Crystal Waters’ hit, She's Homeless, will be performed in protest of the shelter closing and this massive development project

(Brooklyn, NY) - Crystal Waters, whose 1990s hit song “Gypsy Woman” is about a homeless woman that sings for her supper (“la da dee laa da da”), is coming to the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project site this Saturday to help homeless families in Brooklyn by fighting to keep a crucial family-shelter open, which is located in the footprint of the proposed Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project.

“I don't know which is colder, Brooklyn in January through March, or what the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project and the City and State of New York are doing to the homeless families on January 15. Keep this shelter open till it's warm out,” said Council Member James.

The shelter has beds for 88 families, ranging from couples to families with small children. It is scheduled to be shut down by the City of New York, and condemned by eminent domain at the request of Barclays Bank's Barclays Center (a basketball arena), and its developer Bruce Ratner on January 15. Since Barclays is in England, and has no branches in New York, Crystal Waters (who resides in England) is asking Barclays Bank to have a heart and request that the City keep this shelter open, at least until the spring - so that families who become homeless in New York’s cold winter will have access to an indoor place to sleep. During these hard economic times, let’s consider all homeless individuals, especially the many families and children who are struggling.

The City claims that families currently residing at the Pacific Avenue and Dean Street homeless shelter will be relocated. Even if the claim is to be believed, this is not the point. New York’s shelter system will still lose beds and facilities for homeless children and their parents who will need shelter from the cold, specifically during the harsh New York winter. The Barclays Center, (whose owners have decided a parking lot for its construction vehicles is more important than Brooklyn’s homeless families) is slated to be used as an arena for the New Jersey Nets, (some think the Nets is the worst team in the NBA; the team was purchased in 2009 by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov). And, even the City’s Independent Budget Office has found that this publicly subsidized arena would be a net financial loser for New York City if built.

“Owners of the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project are forcing the City to close this critical family-shelter, and allowing the state to take it by eminent domain in the dead of winter, and on the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend. This is absolutely wrong and unnecessary. The community believes that nothing at all will be built in place of this homeless shelter - possibly for years and decades…if ever. Taking away beds for our City’s most vulnerable residents is simply unconscionable,” said Council Member James.

Ms. Waters will perform her song, Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless), with local homeless people to raise awareness of what owners of the Barclays Center are doing, and to encourage Barclays Bank to ask the City and State to keep the shelter open until Spring, when the weather warms up. The press conference and performance will be at Freddy's Bar, which is itself fighting eviction because of the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project.


Pop Star Crystal Waters in Brooklyn to support City Council Member Letitia James and homeless families. Her hit, She's Homeless, will be performed 2pm.


Singer Crystal Waters, Council Member Letitia James, public officials, residents, and homeless advocates


Freddy's Bar, 485 Dean Street in Prospect Heights - Corner of 6th Avenue - (718) 622-7035 - (2or 3 to Bergen St. Station)


Saturday, January 16, at 2pm

Posted by steve at 11:30 AM

November 19, 2009

Empty luxury condos, government intervention, and AY housing

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at the call to subsidize the conversion of stalled condo buildings into affordable housing, the debate over such a program's appropriateness and potential efficacy, and the possible implications for Atlantic Yards.

The Right to the City-NYC coalition, which includes housing advocacy groups and several elected officials (including Prospect Heights Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries) held a press conference in Downtown Brooklyn on October 27 to urge the city "to convert these vacant condos into deeply and permanently affordable housing for low-income New Yorkers." (Here's CityRoom coverage.)

Others involved were City Council Members Melissa Mark Viverito, Letitia James, and Maria del Carmen Arroyo. While the group has the same general goals as the city in its Housing Asset Renewal Program (for which $20 million has been allocated), the latter is aimed at moderate- and middle-income families.

As Crain's reported in an article headlined Survey finds 601 troubled condo projects:

Right to the City identified Be@Schermerhorn, a 246-unit luxury condo, with a vacancy rate of more than 93%, and Forté, a 108-unit luxury condo, with a vacancy rate of more than 60%. Both buildings have been on the market for at least a year. Forté was recently taken over by its lender Eurohypo bank. The group has not identified specific buildings in the Manhattan neighborhoods yet.


Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

November 6, 2009

If the Gehry premium is 15%, why have estimates for AY condos (sans Gehry) gone up so much rather than been reduced?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder catches Forest City in a conundrum, thanks (inadvertently, and no doubt, unintentionally) to Professor Stuckey.

A Real Deal article, headlined Forest City goes one for two with Gehry: As Atlantic Yards stalls, Beekman Tower skyscraper sprouts, quotes a former Forest City Ratner official as saying, not unreasonably, that residences in buildings designed by starchitect Frank Gehry should command a premium.

"I think people will pay extra to live in this building," Stuckey said, estimating the premium at 15 percent.

That's plausible. And that also means that Forest City Ratner should be moderating, rather than increasing, the per square foot (psf) estimates it has been making for Atlantic Yards.

Fuzzy math

In 2006, at the top of the market, the developer's working estimate for condos was $850 psf. Now, according to a report KPMG prepared for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), Forest City Ratner is counting on sales prices of $1217/sf in 2015 up to $1369/sf in 2019.


Posted by eric at 7:18 PM

July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Happy July 4th!

Posted by steve at 12:00 PM

June 16, 2009

After Ratner - 9902

Photo by b'klynborn, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

Vanderbilt Ave btw Dean and Pacific Streets, either side deconstructed by Bruce Ratner.


Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

April 17, 2009

The Brooklyn real-estate bust continues

The Brooklyn Paper
by Ben Muessig

Brooklyn is for sale — but nobody is buying.

The collapsing economy is being blamed for a 35-percent drop in the number of properties sold in the borough’s once-booming housing market in the first quarter of this year compared to the last part of 2008.

Worse, the first quarter of 2009 is off 57 percent compared to the first quarter of 2008.

The bad news — contained in a new report from the real-estate consulting firm Miller Samuel, which conducted the study for the Prudential Douglas Elliman real-estate firm — follows a trend that started last year, when the economy imploded, mostly because of a housing market bust.

The drop in sales was caused in part by unrealistic asking prices, according to researchers.


With loads of new Brooklyn condos sitting empty, one wonders how Bruce Ratner and the ESDC can make the numbers work on Atlantic Yards. Could they be planning to just sit on the empty lots for a few decades?


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Does 2037 Work for You?

But the biggest implications are for the time frame of the rest of the project. All of the promised community benefits--affordable housing, jobs, greenspace, and so on--aren't likely to arrive as briskly as the tardy arena, and will probably await further installments of the project.

And when is that likely to happen in the Ratner world of receding timelines? While not strictly comparable--in the sense that the current AY plan is primarily residential--new research on the future of the World Trade Center buildings gives a sense of what kind of truly remarkable dates are possible in the brave new world of post-meltdown New York real estate. The forecast: One World Trade Center, which the Port Authority is building, will not be fully occupied until 2018. Tower 2 will not be completely rented until 2025 and Tower 3 will not be fully leased until 2037.

The timeline of Atlantic Yards needs a similarly clear-eyed reassessment. The use of eminent domain and public subsidies are based on promised benefits on a certain timeline--and it would be useful to at least know approximately which decade we're talking about.

Posted by eric at 6:31 PM

December 8, 2008

Nouriel Roubini vs. Andrew Zimbalist: housing construction doesn't increase labor productivity

Atlantic Yards Report

Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics at the Stern School of Business at New York University, is known as a prescient and pessimistic analyst of the national and international economy.

Whether or not his predictions are accurate, his criticism of the housing market makes a solid basic point: building housing is not the solution for economic growth and increasing local tax revenues.

That's another nail in the coffin of the misguided, misleading report produced by sports economist Andrew Zimbalist for Forest City Ratner, claiming, astoundingly, that the Atlantic Yards project would bring $6 billion in new revenues mainly because of an increase in housing, not jobs.

And it's another reason Zimbalist's report--along with other economic claims for Atlantic Yards--deserves serious analysis, rather than, as the New York Times did , giving Zimbalist the last word.

Here's the crux:
...The reality is that the U.S. has invested too much – especially in the last eight years – in building its stock of wasteful housing capital (whose effect on the productivity of labor is zero) and has not invested enough in the accumulation of productive physical capital (equipment, machinery, etc.) that leads to an increase in the productivity of labor and increases long run economic growth. This financial crisis is a crisis of accumulation of too much debt – by the household sector, the government and the country – to finance the accumulation of the most useless and unproductive form of capital, housing, that provides only housing services to consumers and has zippo effect on the productivity of labor. So enough of subsidizing the accumulation of even bigger MacMansions through the tax system and the GSEs.


NoLandGrab: Roubini's predictions about the housing bubble and economic woes have been very accurate — unfortunately — so his critique of huge investments in housing at the expense of other more productive investments must be taken seriously.

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

August 3, 2008

A Proper Relationship with the Host?


Noticing New York looks at Consumers Rights League (“CRL”) June report, "ACORN's Hypocritical House of Cards":

"ACORN's business model involves choosing a corporate target, attacking it, reaching a financial settlement, and then beginning the cycle again with a different target. The organization's own manifesto says: "ACORN's lifeblood is conflict with targets outside the organization," according to an internal document. This strategy has been very effective in the case of mortgage lenders. A magazine sympathetic to ACORN notes dryly, "AHC exhibits a unique ability to develop relationships with institutions, including some with which ACORN was previously in conflict."

Ergo, thinking about it this way, if ACORN’s final goals in launching an attack on a corporate target are a partnership and money for organizing then ACORN has much in common with a parasite- It never wants to kill the host; it wants the host to live so it can coexist with it. Ultimately, it adopts the host's goals as its own.

What that would mean is that in making its judgements about something it has attacked, ACORN would not be asking whether something bad should end, or whether there is a balance that should be struck. ACORN would always stop short of ending a bad thing or striking a proper balance if it would kill the host or partnership opportunities.
I can’t say whether what is alleged is true in other contexts. I observe that, in the case of Atlantic Yards ACORN’s alleged “Business Model” model fits.


Posted by amy at 11:08 AM

July 22, 2008

At MCNY panel, defending dissent and promoting the better way to develop (not like Atlantic Yards)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports from a panel discussion last Thursday at the Museum of the City of New York that went a little off-topic.

But the Civic Talk, sponsored by Henry Stern’s New York Civic and titled “What If? Battles Over Development,” was notable for some rhetorical disagreement about the nature of civic opposition and some strong opinions on the right way to develop in New York. And Atlantic Yards came up not as a good example but as something to be avoided.

[Urban Planner Alexander] Garvin then criticized government projects and, apparently, public-private partnerships like those pursued by the ESDC: “And we would stop having this ridiculous argument that we constantly have about the government going to get involved in developing property on its own. I think the government should be not developing real estate. The government should be doing its investing in its infrastructure and its own property. And there is a great deal of it. We do not maintain our streets well. We have collapsed bridges everywhere.”

“And finally this city has begun to do the kind of investment that it did in the 19th century, and that I believe would help deal with a lot of what Al Butzel is talking about," he said. "If we stopped talking about developing Atlantic Yards or developing these things and left private property to the private owners to develop and instead spent our money on the public realm, I think we’d get a lot of work [done].”

That drew significant applause.


Posted by eric at 9:35 AM

July 16, 2008

I.R.S. Could Crimp Bloomberg's Big Plans

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

The Observer's lead real estate reporter takes an in-depth look at New York City's furious efforts to preserve tax-exempt financing for its favorite son, Bruce Ratner.

As the Bloomberg administration scrambles to get its development projects in the ground amid a slowing economy and a waning political term, two major planned initiatives the city has championed face a formidable hurdle: the Internal Revenue Service.

For the financing plan for the Atlantic Yards housing and sports arena complex in Brooklyn, and for one being considered for the planned middle-income-housing mega-complex at Hunter’s Point South in Queens, the city would need a favorable ruling from the I.R.S. or face substantially higher costs for both projects. Negative rulings from the federal agency could result in tens of millions of dollars in added costs, putting up new obstacles to major developments that have already seen ambitions scaled back.

For both projects, the city wants to use tax-exempt financing, a method that lowers costs substantially—perhaps more than 15 percent—with the bulk of the savings coming out of federal tax revenues.

And, at least in the case of Atlantic Yards, the I.R.S. is rather wary, as it has called the financing method a “loophole” that it has ordered closed.


NoLandGrab: We haven't rooted this hard for the IRS since "The Untouchables."

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

April 15, 2008

De Blasio blasts Ratner, Calls for Moratorium on Demolitions

Bill de Blasio is mad as hell, and he wants to know why the rug has been pulled out from under Atlantic Yards' promised affordable housing. The Gowanus Lounge and Brownstoner share the scoop from last night's blogger meet-up with the Council Member.

The Gowanus Lounge, De Blasio Calls for Moratorium on Atlantic Yards Demolition

City Council Member and Brooklyn Borough President candidate Bill de Blasio is calling for a moratorium on demolition in the Atlantic Yards footprint. Mr. de Blasio made comments deeply critical of possible changes in the huge project as part of a wideranging discussion last night that covered everything from construction safety as developers race to beat changes in the 421a tax break program to zoning issues in Gowanus and Carroll Gardens.

On Atlantic Yards, Mr. de Blasio said, "I am livid at the New York Times interview with Ratner" in which the developer announced that the project would be scaled back and that massive amounts of affordable housing would be seriously delayed or eliminated. "There was no discussion with the community before he went on record," Mr. de Blasio said, adding that the changes put "the entire community benefits agreement up for question."

Brownstoner, De Blasio Blasts Ratner on AY Obfuscation

The Councilman also said that he thinks the entire development should be reviewed again by the state if Forest City Ratner is now conceiving of a vastly different project, particularly one that reneges on its promised affordable housing. "I held out hope for the project because of the amount of affordable housing it would create, as well as the number of jobs it would bring," he said. "But I have been constantly disappointed in the lack of community involvement...I've never seen anything that's been mismanaged so fundamentally in terms of community involvement."

NoLandGrab: What Council Member de Blasio is overlooking is that there really hasn't been any discussion with the community ever, and that early support for the toothless and barely enforceable Community Benefits Agreement by him and other politicians has now come home to roost.

Additional coverage:

Curbed, Atlantic Yards Stall: Another Call for a Demolition Moratorium

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

March 19, 2008

Condo of the Day: 535 Dean Street Penthouse Price Cut


Can you say Atlantic Yards Effect? There's no other reason we can think of (other than that pesky global financial crisis, of course) to explain why this 1,400-square-foot penthouse at 535 Dean Street in Prospect Heights just had to cut its asking price from $899,000 to $799,000. In its current configuration, it's also not much of a family apartment either. Still, you'd think there'd be at least one childless buyer out there who would be digging the open space and views (and rather low monthyl maintenance of $701). What gives?


NoLandGrab: 535 Dean Street is perhaps better known as the Newswalk Building — conveniently located in the notch of the Atlantic Yards footprint.

More "Atlantic Yards Effect" from flickr.

Posted by eric at 6:04 PM

March 9, 2008

The upside of the Miss Brooklyn switch: less density, more public revenues?

Atlantic Yards Report

Given that the flagship Atlantic Yards tower Miss Brooklyn has apparently been shifted from a mix of condos and office space to all office space (after being originally announced as office space), that could adjust two statistics that might make the project look better.

As I wrote February 27, the project's residential density would go down from 292 apartments/acre to 273 apartments/acre, still a high number but a 6.5% drop.

More importantly, an increase of more than 200,000 square feet of office space might be seen as significantly recouping the projected $456 million loss the Empire State Development Corporation calculated in December 2006 when 270,000 square feet of office space was cut.

Those dramatic numbers never fully made sense, so any future projection should be subject to more public vetting.


Posted by amy at 11:58 AM

March 7, 2008

Downtown Brooklyn Housing Falls Short of Predictions

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Sarah Ryley

This article gives an overview of new housing projects for Downtown Brooklyn, and also mixes in Atlantic Yards, which is located in Prospect Heights.

The following contrasts Forest City's opinion as to how well housing might sell in Atlantic Yards with that of Halstead Property Director of Marketing, William Ross.

Ratner’s financial projections for Atlantic Yards estimate market-rate condominiums in each tower would sell out in three to seven months, with construction phased over seven years. Miss Brooklyn’s 335 condos would sell in six months; the towers in the second phase, each with roughly 200 condos, would sell in three months, according to projections.

Ratner doesn’t have a crystal ball to predict market conditions over a decade, and Reigelhaupt cities MetroTech and other large projects as proof of his company’s staying power. “Forest City has been in Brooklyn for over 20 years and developed through all sorts of business cycles,” he said.

But William Ross said those projections seem optimistic even during boom years. He predicts towers with hundreds of condos will sell out in two or three years. “I think the timeline is going to stretch,” he said. “If too much comes on the market too quickly, it’s actually not healthy for the market.”


Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

February 7, 2008

ACORN backing the good fight in Queens

Lookie who forgot to take a page from the Bruce Ratner community playbook by promising ACORN a fat contract to administer affordable housing.

From today's events listing on The Real Estate Observer:

12:45 p.m. Queens workers and ACORN members protest redevelopment project that will displace businesses in Willets Point; EDC headquarters, 110 William St.

NoLandGrab: It's nice to see ACORN backing the Willets Point businesses. Hope the grassroots community group doesn't turn its back on its constituents again by signing on to a deal that directs a minimal amount of benefit to its own base.

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

January 25, 2008

In Williamsburg, Vito Lopez wants "real" affordability

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner's controversial subsidy-sucking Atlantic Yards plan creates an enormous warp in the local political space-time continuum — Brooklyn Democratic Chair Vito Lopez is the latest hypocrite to get sucked into its orbit.

Brooklyn Democratic Chair Vito Lopez, who represents Williamsburg and Bushwick in his Assembly district, is a strong proponent of affordable housing, so strong he's threatening to use eminent domain to ensure that the recently-closed Pfizer site would lead to truly affordable housing.

In a statement to the Observer, he said that the "company’s definition of affordability in no way matches the annual income of working class New Yorkers, nor the low and moderate incomes of Williamsburg residents."

Regarding Atlantic Yards, however, Lopez supported the "carve-out," ensuring a special break for Forest City Ratner and affordability that also departs from the incomes of working-class and average Brooklyn residents.

One commenter notes that it's all about eminent domain abuse:

If eminent domain abuse is used to give big developers, like Ratner, the chance to develop housing to be occupied by people at exceptionally high incomes (like with Ratner’s 421-a exception allowing him higher incomes than anyone else) then Mr. Lopez is in favor of it.


Posted by lumi at 4:38 AM

September 17, 2007

Real estate wonderland, Part 2

Atlantic Yards Report

AtlantaYards.jpgCrazy, the best affordable housing opportunities currently being advertised in the footprint of Atlantic Yards are in... Georgia, as in the state, not the country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia:

At the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, at the tip of the Atlantic Yards footprint, a real estate entrepreneur has begun to tout affordable housing... in Atlanta.

The phone number leads to this real estate agency.

The photo at right was taken from the Flatbush Avenue side of the fence, with the Newswalk condos, not part of the AY footprint, in the distance. (Newswalk, of course, would be dwarfed by the project.)


And speaking about crazy, yesterday, Norman Oder stumbled down the Williamsburg real estate rabbit hole at the Conflux festival. The Riviera Real Estate Agency (slogan, "Live here today before tomorrow is yesterday") might not be as ironic as we may think.

Posted by lumi at 10:40 AM

June 12, 2007


From all around the city, people unite in their discontent about development.

City Limits
By Angela Dews

Although the First Annual Harlem Anti-Gentrification Conference took place on West 130th Street, in the heart of Harlem, attendees came from Greenpoint, Williamsburg, the Atlantic Yards area of Brooklyn, Sunset Park, Hunts Point, South Bronx, Washington Heights, Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and beyond New York. The diverse group came together to commiserate over the economic and political forces that are reshaping their neighborhoods and discuss what, if anything, can be done.

Conference organizer Nellie Hester Bailey, director of the Harlem Tenants Council, cited the provisions of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in telling the approximately 100 tenants, researchers and organizers gathered: “Housing is not an entitlement; housing is a basic human right.”


Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

May 30, 2007

The bosses' takeover of New York

Socialist Worker Online
Review by Aaron Hess

Kim Moody, From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City, 1974 to the Present. New Press, 2007, 352 pages, $26.95.

Socialist scholar and activist Kim Moody’s new book, From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City, 1974 to the Present is an angry, accessible and scrupulously researched account of how the city’s rich and politically connected have consolidated their power over ordinary New Yorkers in the last three decades.

Among the strengths of Moody’s book is that it shows how the inequality and racism in the Big Apple today are not accidental features of “development” or the inevitable consequence of uncontrollable market forces. Beginning in the mid-1970s, the city’s business and political elite consciously planned out its war on workers and the poor.

Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner joins the titans of corporate welfare:

While gutting funding for affordable housing, the city and state have doled out hundreds of millions of dollars in tax exemptions and abatements to the upscale housing market and corporate welfare to “public-private” partnerships run by real-estate titans like Bruce Ratner and Larry Silverstein.


Posted by lumi at 7:32 AM

May 15, 2007

One Hanson Place: The Atlantic Yards Effect

The "Atlantic Yards Effect" has been better for some...

536 Carlton aka 565 Dean Street open house

More details emerge from the large-footprint condo going on sale at the NW corner of Dean and Carlton in Prospect Heights. A commenter on our previous post mentioned that the building may have been built by two Columbia professors who were bought out by Ratner at a "very good price."
A bit more digging reveals that the duo may have been paid $2.975MM by Ratner for their two coops at 475 Dean Street. With their windfall, they promptly purchased a penthouse unit at Park Slope's famed and prestigious Ansonia Muse Condominiums.

...than others:

526 Carlton sells, in spite of the AYE

This townhouse on Carlton between Dean and Pacific has sold for $1.23MM, quite a bit lower than the original ask of $1.499MM. Back in December 2005 nolandgrab had a post on this property, as did brownstoner.

Note: 526 Carlton is located on the block nestled within the Atlantic Yards project footprint.

Posted by lumi at 7:01 AM

April 12, 2007


The city continues to kick its citizens to the curb, but Mary Mattingly has created her own wearable solution.

NY Press
By Jackie Delmatre

A local artist blames Bruce Ratner for secondary displacement, though she entertains a perverse interest in seeing the project get built:

Ever since the Forest City Ratner deal went through to build the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, Mary Mattingly’s apartment hallway on Eastern Parkway has been the width of a backyard creek. At least 40 boxes are piled up and crammed together with artwork salvaged from the art studio that she had to abandon to the ripple effects of the 8 million square feet, $4 billion real estate development.

The building that housed her studio was actually purchased by the Department of Education on November 1, 2006, “at the very last minute,” she claims, because the DOE sought a space with proximity to the Ratner development.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” she says, referring to Ratner, when I visit her in her cramped living space to discuss her latest work, “Going to town meetings won’t do anything.”
However, in a subsequent conversation, Mattingly corrects her own pessimism. It’s not that nothing can be done, she admits; it’s just so frustrating and “it doesn’t feel like there is much time to be frustrated when there are so many worse things going on in the world.” And besides, she’s become perversely interested in seeing the result. The development’s “going to be gross, but there’s something appealing about that grossness.”


Posted by lumi at 7:22 AM

February 14, 2007

Affordable housing: low income or below market--and neither

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder "mad overkills" Ratner's attorney over his improvised description of "affordable housing."

During the federal court hearing last Wednesday on the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, Forest City Ratner attorney Jeffrey Braun, in answer to a question about the definition of "affordable housing," responded by saying "below market."

"We have a long history of public intervention in the housing market," he added, citing such programs as the Mitchell-Lama middle-income program, zoning incentives, and the city's plans to increase low-income units.

But "below market" was an imprecise description.

Affordable housing is more precisely described as subsidized housing which, for rentals at least, the rent is pegged at 30 percent of household income. (The affordable housing universe includes a much smaller fraction of subsidized for-sale units.)

Oder continues by explaining that the area median income figures used to formulate the Atlantic Yards housing plan are not relevant to the incomes of Brooklynites.

And here's one of the big myth busters about Atlantic Yards below-market subsidized housing:

Let's look at the Atlantic Yards housing chart. For the two higher-income bands, involving 900 units, two-person households would pay $1701 or $2127 per month for an apartment.

How does that compare to market rents nearby? I looked at the listings from the high-end Corcoran agency, checking off Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Park Slope, and Prospect Heights, the neighborhoods closest to the project site (which would be mostly in Prospect Heights).

A sampling includes a Prospect Heights one-bedroom for $1395, a Fort Greene one-bedroom for $1400, a Park Slope one-bedroom for $1600, a Fort Greene studio for $1650, and a Boerum Hill one-bedroom for $1900.


Posted by lumi at 9:42 AM

January 19, 2007

More on the renters' lawsuit : lawyer says FCR can't deny offer to those suing

Atlantic Yards Report

Attorney George Locker, who represents renters in the footprint, points out that Bruce Ratner is required by law to relocate the tenants, and that any statements made by Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey about not making deals with parties of any lawsuits is unlawful.


Posted by lumi at 11:33 AM

January 13, 2007

FCR's Stuckey : "almost no chance" AY would be abandoned

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Times's article today on the lawsuit filed Wednesday by Atlantic Yards footprint tenants challenging the relocation plan:
James P. Stuckey, the Forest City official in charge of Atlantic Yards, said yesterday that the company sent all its tenants a letter in 2005 describing a relocation agreement and instructing them to get in touch if they were interested in it. He said the company chose not to send the agreement itself, unsolicited, lest it be seen as an attempt to intimidate the tenants by treating the project as a settled deal.
The latest version of the agreement, which Mr. Stuckey provided, does include all the offers cited by the development corporation, though it also says that if the landlord of the interim apartment ends the lease, the offer of subsidized rent is void.

That's a lot less protection than rent stabilization, which currently protects those renters who are suing, and news to me.

Loophole remains

The relocation offer would be void, as I've written, if the developer abandons the project. The Times reported:
Mr. Stuckey said that if the project was eventually not built, “we would no longer have an obligation” because there would no longer be a project plan for Forest City to adhere to. But citing the hundreds of millions of dollars Forest City has put into the project already, he said there was almost no chance that it would simply abandon the project.

Well, if the eminent domain lawsuit is successful, that decision would not be solely up to the developer.


Posted by amy at 2:19 PM

Tenants Sue Agency Over Brooklyn Project

New York Times

The suit claims that rather than ensure that there is a “feasible method for relocation” in place to move tenants into suitable apartments nearby, as the law requires, the state agency refers only to an offer by Forest City to provide tenants with apartments in the project once it is completed and to provide the services of a real estate broker to help tenants find interim apartments.

Under the terms cited by the corporation, Forest City would cover the tenants’ moving expenses, pay the difference between their current rent and their new rent at the interim apartment, and provide apartments in the proposed development “at rent levels comparable to their current rents.”

Mr. Locker cited several problems with this offer. One is that it is void if the project is not built. Another is that providing the services of a broker is not the same thing as providing an apartment. Still another, he said, is that the offer of rent stabilization on the apartment in the development is good only for the life of the project’s bonds, 30 years, while a rent-stabilized tenancy typically cannot be terminated except for cause. Finally, Mr. Locker said, the offer cited by the development corporation was never formally made by Forest City.


Posted by amy at 2:14 PM

Foes of Brooklyn NBA arena sue, again


In the latest suit, filed Wednesday, 13 tenants in rent-stabilized apartments said the state agency overseeing the project hasn't done enough to help them relocate.

The suit names the Empire State Development Corporation as a defendant. The state agency is using its eminent domain powers to condemn and seize buildings on the site.

When such seizures take place, the developers are obligated to ensure that displaced tenants find a similar place to live _ a tough thing to do in a gentrifying section of Brooklyn where rents have risen in recent years.


Posted by amy at 1:55 PM

January 11, 2007

Tenants' second lawsuit calls AY relocation plan inadequate

Atlantic Yards Report

Thirteen rent-stabilized tenants, who live in two buildings in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint and have already sued to block the demolition of their buildings, have filed another suit, claiming that the relocation agreements announced by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) are inadequate and violate state law.


Posted by lumi at 9:12 AM

December 8, 2006

Ratner to pony-up rent

The Brooklyn Papers
By Ariella Cohen

Answering criticism from fair-housing advocates, the Atlantic Yards developer says his company is guaranteeing to pay the difference between the current rent of soon-to-be-evicted tenants within the footprint of his development and the rent for “a comparable unit,” until the tenants are relocated into a Yards building.

Initially, Ratner only promised to pay the rent for three years — but many worried that tenants would get burned if construction of Atlantic Yards dragged on beyond that time frame.

Of course, if Ratner never builds Atlantic Yards, all bets are off, according to the new deal, which is contained in the state’s final environmental impact statement certified last week.
“It sounds like an improvement if tenants can have confidence that they can have their rent paid until they are moved into a new unit,” said Brad Lander, executive director of the Pratt Center for Community Development. “But there is still insecurity for the tenants if the project falls apart.”

It’s more than insecurity, said George Locker, an attorney for 13 rent-stabilized tenants in the 22-acre Atlantic Yards footprint.

“If this project isn’t built, these people will lose their homes and get nothing in return,” he said. The agreement still violates state [relocation] law. This is not state law, this is Ratner law.”


Posted by lumi at 6:51 AM

December 4, 2006

God Rest Ye Marty Markowitz! Ratner Christmas Carol

Fuhgeddaboudit! Today, the Ratner Christmas Carolers tackle Marty Markowitz.

Word is that the Ratner Christmas Carolers are available for parties and holiday functions and will be making appearances locally when you least expect it.

Posted by lumi at 10:35 AM

November 1, 2006

Housing displacement? The map points to Prospect Heights/Crown Heights

Atlantic Yards Report

HousingTractMap.jpg Local maps of housing tracts show that some of the low-income neighborhoods most vulnerable to gentrification can be found adjacent to the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project proposal.

Maybe Christopher Morris, the real estate investor quoted in the 10/21/06 New York Times as anticipating a rise in property values because of the Atlantic Yards project, was right. Or maybe he was riding on trends that already existed, trends that suggest that blight and stagnation are trumped by development.

Indeed, as Brooklyn College sociologist Aviva Zeltzer-Zubida recently reported at a panel in June, "Housing Displacement in Brooklyn: A Discussion," there’s some stark evidence about gentrification trends, and they point directly to areas in the orbit of the Atlantic Yards proposal. It's not common for areas of poverty to nudge up against areas of wealth, but when they do, the poorer areas are vulnerable to displacement.


Posted by lumi at 6:59 AM

September 28, 2006

Her brick prison

Though the Atlantic Yards proposal has halted development within the footprint during the past three years, what about development around the footprint?

City Councilman Charles Barron calls Bruce Ratner's plan "instant gentrification." City Councilwoman Letita James riffed off that point to NY1 after yesterday's City Planning Commission vote:

"The adverse impacts of this proposed project outweigh all of the social benefits. They include traffic mitigation. They include the displacement of a significant number of poor people and people of color," said Brooklyn City Councilmember Letitia James. "It will result in instant gentrification."

If you've been thinking that Bruce Ratner is the only landlord in Prospect Heights who has been trying to evict low-income and elderly tenants in order to get on with his real estate bonanza, think again.

As reported in yesterday's Daily News, just two doors down from Ratnerville:

A Brooklyn landlord has bricked up all the windows in his Prospect Heights apartment building - except for one unit where a holdout tenant is still living.

Migdalia Barreto, her daughter and her elderly mother contend landlord Mark Scheiner is trying to drive them out of the eight-apartment building to pave way for a luxury conversion.

Posted by lumi at 9:19 AM

September 1, 2006

Letter to Village Voice re ACORN/FCR responses

Atlantic Yards Report addresses two letters to the editor of The Village Voice, one from ACORN's Bertha Lewis and another from Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President Jim Stuckey.

Lewis's letter failed to mention that Ratner added more than 2,000 units of luxury condos after the "50/50" "affordable" housing deal was signed. Stuckey's letter left out the part about the current tenants' agreement that only covered the difference in rent for up to three years (the project is expected to take 10 years to build).


Posted by lumi at 9:36 AM

August 5, 2006

What about the renters? FCR's Stuckey asserts, "We will take care of them"

Atlantic Yards Report

What about the renters in the Atlantic Yards footprint?

Yes, the [renter's relocation] agreements sound good. They'd pay the difference between their current rent and that charged for a new apartment, and they'd be guaranteed a space in the Atlantic Yards project at their previous rent.

However, the relocation agreements, according to [South Brooklyn Legal Services], “leave [renters] vulnerable.” The agreements would pay the differential in rent for only three years, which means that, given that the project wouldn’t be finished until 2010 at the earliest, the tenant would be left paying a high rent for some unspecified period.

Jim Stuckey (Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards Development Group President) says:

“The three years was never meant to be a period that we would leave people out in the lurch," he said. "And if it turns out for any reason at all that we have to contribute to subsidizing them for a longer period of time, than we will certainly do that. This was negotiated with people earlier on, and the project has actually taken on new life, but there’s no question in my mind that if it takes longer, we will take care of them.”

Norman Oder tries to get to the bottom of the issue:

So, I asked, what agreements are now being offered to people still left in the footprint?

[Stuckey] wouldn't specify how many years of differential rent would be paid. “I think the answer is: 'we’ll take care of them,'" he said. "What I’m not going to do is get into the specifics with individuals.”

It would be good, I said, to see it in writing.

“In time,” he responded.


Posted by lumi at 9:13 AM

July 3, 2006

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse

Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse is tryin' to turn it around by broadcasting from "within the footprint of the Bruce Ratner skyscraper Nets arena proposed development project."

TenantX.jpg This installment of the Roundhouse features a roundtable of residents and a tenants' rights attorney speaking about the coersive use of the threat of eminent domain, gag orders, and constitutional rights hero Michael Ratner's financial stake in the project.

The last 10 minutes is a uniquely uninformative interview with Tenant X, who is restricted by a gag order from speaking freely about Bruce Ratner's project. To communicate, Tenant X knocks once for "yes" and twice for "no." This interview will leave you grunting for more.


Posted by lumi at 9:25 AM

May 26, 2006

Extreme density: Atlantic Yards plan would dwarf Battery Park City, other projects

Another must-read post from Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder pokes around NYC and crunches some numbers to try to understand how Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal "stacks up" against our city's other highrise residential developments.

It turns out that the Atlantic Yards proposal would bring more apartments per acre than any other major development he could find. [Using "number of apartments" is a way to approximate the important issue of population density.]

How big should the Atlantic Yards project be (or, for that matter, any project over the railyards)? If you compare AY to other major developments around the city, it would include more than twice as many apartments per acre than at Stuyvesant Town and Battery Park City, and thus a much more dense population--one that would surpass the turn-of-the-century Lower East Side.

PC Village/Stuy Town 11,250 80 140.6
Battery Park City now 9000 92 97.8
Battery Park City later 14,000 92 152.2
Starrett at Spring Creek   5881 153 38.4
Co-op City 15,372 300 51.2
Lefrak City 5000 40 125
Atlantic Yards, 5/06 6860 20 343

NoLandGrab: Look who just caught on! (Hey we're bloggers not urban planners.)

Project critics have been comparing Atlantic Yards to the superblock development projects of the past, as a way to conveniently grasp the size of the proposal and understand the effects of street closings.

However, Ratner's proposal is a MAJOR break from the traditional superblock paradigm, which used highrise towers to maximize open space in an attempt to improve quality of life.

Ratner appears to be using highrise towers to maximize profit. With a very low open-space ratio, this project's density is off the charts in comparison to other residential housing projects and may be the first "extreme-density high-rise project."

Are there ANY urban planning principles guiding the fundamental Atlantic Yards design, except to say that "extreme density" is necessary to insure profitability?

Posted by lumi at 11:01 AM

May 24, 2006

HPD head mildly criticizes 421-a subsidies, defends "targeted eminent domain"

Today's Atlantic Yards Report post covers Shaun Donovan, commissioner of the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and a recent interview in which Donovan commented on the City's 421-a housing subsidies and eminent domain.


Posted by lumi at 7:35 AM

April 23, 2006

Mike likes public housing hike

Daily News describes Bloomberg's support for hikes in public housing rents, and the dissident voice of Bertha Lewis of ACORN:

"We can give tax breaks and subsidies to millionaires and billionaires to build luxury condos, but we can't help working families?" Lewis fumed.


Wait, are you taking the kiss back Bertha?

Atlantic Yards Report details the details:

Lewis is right that reform of the subsidy program is long overdue. But unmentioned is that a lot of public housing tenants pay far less of their income in rent than those in affordable housing. For example, the affordable housing plan ACORN negotiated with Forest City Ratner for the Atlantic Yards project caps rents at 30 percent of household income--which is the standard in the definition of affordable housing. As Bloomberg said, according to WNYC, "We are proposing to raise the rent for people who pay less then 10% of their income in rent. It's a small percentage. Someone has to pay for it."

That's not true, since the calculations below show that some people facing increases now pay 20% of their income in rent. Still, the relatively best-off public housing tenants are facing less of a hit than some of the others facing increases.

Posted by amy at 10:41 AM

March 6, 2006

Atlantic Yards Report: Density Debate Contextualized & Equity-v-Livability

Atlantic Yards Report attempts to clarify two debates surrounding Bruce Ratner's proposed 22-acre mega-development.

New visuals of AY density; when does it become congestion?

The recent "citizen effort" to provide visual context concerning the density of the Atlantic Yards proposal attempts to address Forest City Ratner Executive VP Jim Stuckey's point that density should be situated near a transportation hub. Do the visually arresting images illustrate density or congestion?

Atlantic Yards Reporter Norman Oder quotes Urbanist Roberta Brandes Gratz, in her book The Living City:

"Density comes when many people are in the same place doing things that gain strength from their interaction; congestion results when there are so many of them that interaction becomes difficult, access in and out unpleasant, and frustration high."

Equity vs. livability: the false choice

Pratt Center for Community Development Director Bran Lander framed the affordable housing debate as divided between "'equity advocates,' as represented by ACORN, and 'livability advocates,' as represented by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB)."

Are these convenient labels much too simplistic to further the debate over affordable housing and Atlantic Yards?

Posted by lumi at 11:07 AM

February 14, 2006

In Ratner's Shadow: Caroline Gleeman

WNYC, News Radio

Reporter Andrea Bernstein's series about artist being displaced in Ratner's footprint leads to jewelry designer Croline Gleeman's moving day at 475 Dean St.


Posted by lumi at 1:40 PM

February 13, 2006

In Ratner's Shadow

Part I: The Creative Sector

By Andrea Bernstein

On Dean Street in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, there’s a six-story factory building from the turn of the last century. Its walls are brick and stone, the window frames are made of huge swathes of green metal. The building has been emptied now, by developer Forest City Ratner. Ratner wants to build a basketball arena here, and 17 high-rise towers. WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein has been following the stories of the tenants who are being displaced. Here’s one of them.


Today, Andrea Bernstein is scheduled to discuss her series on displacement in the footprint of Ratner's proposal on the Brian Lehrer Show (10 am-12 noon, WNYC).

Posted by lumi at 9:29 AM

December 9, 2005

526 Carlton Avenue

In the fight against blight, 526 Carlton Ave. has been listed with Corcoran realty for $1.499 million. 526 Carlton stands on the block carved out of in the midst of the Ratner footprint.



Posted by lumi at 4:43 PM

December 8, 2005


The Daily News
By Jotham Sederstrom

This article on an elderly widow who will be displaced by Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project appeared in yesterday's print edition only:

VICTORIA Harmon can recall the days when coal was used to heat her Prospect Heights apartment building.

But one thing the 87-year-old Brooklyn-born widow can't understand is what's going to happen after her apartment of 63 years is razed to make way for the Atlantic Yards arena and towers.

"You'd like to know what's going on," said Harmon, who has lived alone in her second-floor apartment since her husband, Russell, died last year.

"They say it's going to happen, but that's about it. We want to know when."

In a wheelchair and recovering from a stroke, Harmon is one of at least 25 residents in two buildings on Pacific St. bracing themselves for a move when construction begins on the proposed project.

The 22-acre, $3.5 billion plan calls for 9 million square feet of office and residential space in a building to rise as high as 620 feet.

Harmon and other tenants received letters this summer from Forest City Ratner promising new digs at prices similar to what they're currently paying.

Harmon, who draws Social Security checks, pays $180 for her rent-controlled apartment.

"Nobody wants to go, but you gotta go - you have to," said Harmon. "But what do you want me to do? Fight it? They say it will be good for the neighborhood."

Forest City Ratner spokeswoman Lupe Todd said Harmon has not responded to the letter, but that the company would answer any of her questions.

"Our goal is to make the move as comfortable as possible for her once it takes place," Todd said.

If all goes as planned, it will be Harmon's first move since 1942, the year neighbors on her block began displaying stars on their windows to honor sons and daughters fighting in World War II.

It also was the year she and hundreds of other Brooklynites lost their jobs at the nearby Julius Kayser lace factory, which closed shop following union strikes, only to reopen in Pennsylvania.

Decades later, her son Ed would sneak chocolate from the Chunky candy factory that sat behind their apartment on Dean St.

"My mother expected to die there - it's as simple as that," said Ed Harmon, 49, who still lives in the neighborhood.

"The nice thing is her friends take care of her. That's what's going to be missed - not the shell of the buildings; that's neither here nor there - but the community."

Posted by lumi at 7:10 AM

September 23, 2005

What Will Ratner Reap?

The Jewish Week
by Adam Dickter

b&wskyline.gifIf he builds it, will Jews come?:

“It will very likely encourage more Jewish life in an area that has not been the main focus of Jewish life in the borough of Brooklyn,” [demographer Jack] Ukeles said.

On the other hand:

But because Orthodox Jews require more local infrastructure than other denominations or unaffiliated Jews, it is unlikely a large Orthodox community will spring up in the new neighborhood despite overcrowding in areas like Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Borough Park.


Letter to the editor from a Jewish Week subscriber.

Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

June 24, 2005

Some Prospect Heights Residents Fear "Future Brooklyn"


WNYC reveals what's REALLY happening to residents in the footprint, and being made an instant millionaire is not part of the deal:

YOST: I would love for them to come to me and say we’re sorry about you having to move, we realize the inconvenience we’re going to give you an apartment on the 31st floor facing west by southwest so you can see the sunset, a small little terrace so you’ll be able to charcoal your lamb chops out there.

REPORTER: Instead, Yost says, he’s moving to a small basement apartment nearby at the end of this month, where his rent will essentially double.


Posted by amy at 9:21 PM

June 10, 2005


From the Brooklyn Papers:

During a residents-only meeting of the Dean Street Block Association June 2 at the Latin Evangelical Free Church, on Bergen Street at Sixth Avenue, Markowitz urged renters not to move from their apartments even if landlords threatened eviction or refused to renew leases, according to Robert Puca, a resident of the Newswalk condominium on Dean Street, who attended the meeting.

Markowitz said that developer Bruce Ratner had assured him that tenants in Ratner-owned buildings would retain their protections and their rents, Puca said.

article [NoLandGrab files this under "I've got a bridge to sell you."]

Posted by amy at 10:12 PM