September 28, 2012

Post: many more food and beverage spots moving near arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Anyone walking around and near the Barclays Center, especially on the Flatbush Avenue side, can see there are empty retail spaces--or non-consumer ones--that are surely to be transformed. The New York Post reports, in Eateries in mad dash to Barclays ’hood:

With rap mogul/Nets co-owner Jay-Z christening the venue with an eight-night concert run starting tonight, Danny Meyer burgers-and-fries joint Shake Shack plans to soon move into prime Flatbush Avenue real estate across the street from the 18,200-seat arena, sources said.

Landlord Michael Pintchik refused to comment on the deal but confirmed two other restaurants were coming to nearby Flatbush Avenue property he owns by Dean Street that should also have foodies salivating.

The owners of super-trendy Delicatessen and Macbar in Manhattan are opening an offshoot eatery called Elbow Room a block away on Flatbush Avenue that also specializes in gourmet mac-and-cheese dishes.

Moving in next door will be a Texas-style barbecue joint “featuring a top pitmaster from Austin, Texas,” Pintchik said.

More than a dozen other new eateries are also in the works within three square blocks of the arena.

That's a little confusing, because there's a place called Elbow Room in the arena, on Atlantic Avenue.

See the Post for more, including reports of a tripling of retail rents.


Related content...

NY Post, Eateries in mad dash to Barclays ’hood

Yearly leasing rates on commercial space near Barclays Center ran about $55 to $65 a square foot when the arena broke ground in 2010, but now runs roughly $160 to $200, local brokers and property owners said.

“Every landlord was of the firm belief that the Messiah was coming and [Barclays Center] would drive up property values,” recalled Timothy King, a managing partner at CPEX Real Estate Services.

NoLandGrab: They were expecting the Messiah and all we got was Bruce Ratner?

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

"Prime Brooklyn Retail" still available on Flatbush Avenue side of Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

Is the arena finished? Well, on the day the Barclays Center opens, they're still looking for a tenant on Flatbush Avenue, toward Dean Street below the Nets Shop.


NoLandGrab: Perhaps the rent is too damn high?

Photo: AYInfoNYC

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

September 20, 2012

Three-pointer! Triangle Sports building sold

The Brooklyn Paper
by Eli Rosenberg

Bruce Ratner's gentrification machine is kicking into high gear.

Two young real estate titans snatched up the prized Triangle Sports building steps from the soon-to-open Barclays Center — adding a crown jewel to their already impressive collection of upmarket Brooklyn properties and kicking off in earnest a real estate gold rush around the arena.

Redsky Capital LLC, helmed by recent Cornell graduates Benjamin Bernstein and Benjamin Stokes, purchased the three-sided structure on Flatbush Avenue for $4.1 million — a whopping $900 per square foot that sets a new record among comparable retail buildings in the borough, insiders say.

The young real estate barons would not comment on their plans or divulge anything about potential tenants for the site, which McDonald’s eyed earlier this year.


Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

September 19, 2012

Barclays Center Boasts Stacked Concert Lineup

Dean Street

It's a safe bet that NoLandGrab won't be giving this place its holiday party business.

Need dinner before a show? A drink afterward? Stop by and we will treat you right.

We can hardly wait until the 28th, and it seems like most of the city feels the same way. Having another venue for events and entertainment is incredibly exciting, especially since this one is in our back yard. We hope to see you soon, and remember Dean Street next time you are headed to Barclays.


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

September 18, 2012

Brooklyn Holds Court: Barclays Center To Impact Surrounding Traffic And Businesses

by Tara Lynn Wagner

While business owners hope to turn sports fans and concert-goers at the new Barclays Center into customers, local residents are concerned about overcongestion. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

Selling out the Barclays Center is good news for Jay-Z but not necessarily for local Brooklynites. They say crossing the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue is already dangerous on foot and can take 20 minutes in a car.

"It's just going to be a nightmare because cars are going to be bottled up," says resident Julia Pacetti. "There are no really good sidewalks in that area to speak of. They are very narrow. I just don't think the roads and the sidewalks are going to be able to accommodate the cars and the people."

Greg Yerman, on the other hand, says he's happy to accommodate the new crowds. As the owner of two restaurants on Flatbush Avenue, he expects that an influx of 18,000 people will spice up business.

"If we can get even a small percentage of those butts in our seats, it would be a significant coup for us," he said.

While restaurant and bar owners prepare to cash in, other small business owners fear the new economic climate could force them to move out.

Their problem is that as the arena went up, so have the rental rates.

"Rental rates just about a year ago were in the $75, $80-a-foot range and we're now seeing rents approach $200 a foot in the immediate vicinity to the stadium," [commercial realtor Geoffrey] Bailey says.

article [with video]

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, NY1: residents may worry, but businesses mixed/optimistic about arena opening

Norman Oder sums up the story...

The gist:

  • a resident worries about traffic
  • a restaurant owner is hopeful
  • a commercial real estate broker says rents have gone up and more food-related businesses are coming
  • a barber thinks he'll be priced out
  • the Chamber of Commerce CEO promises cross-promotion with local businesses (though that hasn't been announced)

Missing: the reason this is a strain for neighbors is that the state overrode city zoning to place an arena within 200 feet of a residential district.

NoLandGrab: If only Oder could be that succinct with his own stories!

Posted by eric at 1:23 PM

September 17, 2012

What's the Deal

Triangle Building Sold

The Wall Street Journal
by Laura Kusisto

Just a couple of weeks before the opening of Brooklyn's new Barclays Center, the Triangle Building, a 96-year-old neighborhood mainstay across the street from the new arena, has sold to a Brooklyn-based investment firm.

RedSky Capital LLC paid $4.1 million, or $900 a square foot, for the building at the intersection of Flatbush and Fifth avenues that's housed Triangle Sports a retailer of shoes and sporting goods.

Officials with RedSky declined to comment. But Ofer Cohen, a broker at TerraCRG, which arranged the sale, said the new owner is "exploring unique retail uses that can take advantage of the visibility and exposure of the property."

Some neighborhood residents have objected that nightlife establishments are taking the place of neighborhood spots, but Mr. Cohen, of TerraCRG, insists that won't be the case here. "Part of [the new owners'] vision is to make it a very Brooklyn-type use, to stay true to the Brooklyn authenticity," Mr. Cohen says.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Triangle Building sells for $4.1 million; ad-supported free ATMs at Barclays

Just enough authenticity, I'd bet, to make sure they earn back their investment.

There was no timetable announced for an opening, but the new retail outlet obviously won't be open when the Barclays Center opens across the street on Sept. 28.

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

How Brooklyn Businesses REALLY Feel About The Barclays Center

Business Insider
by Shlomo Sprung

As Brooklyn braces for the long-awaited opening of the $1 billion Barclays Center on September 28, the area around the new arena is quickly changing.

New businesses are coming in, rents are going up and many of the old businesses are being forced to close their doors.

While many outsiders view the arena opening as positive, there is a lot of worry among local business owners, who are concerned they may not be able to withstand downtown Brooklyn's shift from a bustling residential area to a super-busy urban hub with an arena that will draw millions of visitors.

We recently walked around the neighborhood and spoke with local business owners to see how they're being impacted by the new arena.


Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

September 10, 2012

Former Markowitz deputy Scissura: arena can be convention center and Marty can "do whatever he wants to do" after he leaves office

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder picks out the relevant pieces from a City & State interview with Marty Markowitz's former right-hand man.

From City & State, An Interview with Carlo Scissura, the Brooklyn Chamber’s New Leader (and former Chief of Staff to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz):

Q. Are you going to work with the Brooklyn Nets?

A. It’s the greatest thing happening in Brooklyn right now. In less than two months, the Nets will be playing in Brooklyn. We’re thinking about partnerships with the Nets and the Barclays Arena. One of the first things out of my mouth when I travel to tourism trade shows is we have the Nets and we have the Barclays Arena. Let’s do some conventions there. It’s time Brooklyn become convention central for smaller conventions. The Barclays Arena should become a beacon for conventions across America.

That's interesting--the arena has never been promoted as a convention center, nor are arenas generally that flexible. It would help to have more delivery space and parking, and a connected hotel or two.


Related content...

City & State, An Interview with Carlo Scissura, the Brooklyn Chamber’s New Leader

Q. How do you replace Marty Markowitz when he leaves office?

A. There is only one Marty Markowitz in the world. He currently is the best borough president Brooklyn has ever had. It will take 20 of us to replace him. He will always be the borough president.

Q. What’s he going to do next?

A. He can do whatever he wants to do. Any organization in the city would be lucky to have him.

Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

August 30, 2012

NYC’s Oldest Sports Retailer & Newest Team Play Off Each Other

Metro Focus []
by Christina Knight

Brooklyn’s new team, the Brooklyn Nets, unveiled their Jay-Z designed logo and merchandise not at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, but at a true New York retailer on an avenue better known as a traffic artery than a shopping strip. The roots of Modell’s Sporting Goods store at 140 Flatbush Avenue go back to 1889, when the family-owned sporting goods retailer was founded on Cortlandt Street in Lower Manhattan. The profile of this particular location has skyrocketed with the building of the Nets’ new home — the Barclays Center — directly across Flatbush Avenue.

Since that day, business has boomed for the Park Slope retailer. According to store manager Nick Chang, the store sold out of 80 percent of its Brooklyn Nets stock that day and scrambled to receive more merchandise from its other Brooklyn and Manhattan locations.

Sales have been good ever since.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, "Blighted" Modell's store is doing just fine, thanks to arena proximity

Would you believe that a "blighted" property is now doing well, as the Modell's across from the Barclays Center is getting renovated rather than razed?

According to the July Atlantic Yards 2006 Blight Study conducted for the Empire State Development Corporation, both the Modell's store and its neighbor, P.C. Richard, are blighted because they're too small and occupy a block long designated for redevelopment as part of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA).

Now that the market is different, presumably a rezoning could have done the trick, as well. Instead, the state overrode zoning so Forest City Ratner can build a tower--once 40 stories, now 25 stories--at the site. There's no plan yet to build it.

Metro Focus [], Wearing Brooklyn Pride: A New Look in Town: Brooklyn Nets

Justin, 13, Manhattan resident [right]

Q:Why are you wearing that shirt?
A: ‘Cause it’s cool and I like the colors.
Q: Do you like the team?
A: (Shrugs). I’m a Knicks fan.
Q: How would you rate Brooklyn on a scale of 1 to 10?
A: (Another shrug). I don’t go there a lot.

Photo: MetroFocus/Christina Knight

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

August 25, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

What's America today? Chains

Traub begins by quoting Ratner:

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

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

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


Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

Meet the Owner: Calvin Clark of Mo's Fort Greene

Talking about the bar's first year in business and the opening of Barclays Center.

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Paul Leonard

After a more than a year in business and with the potentially game changing opening of Barclays Center only weeks away, Patch decided to check back in with Clark—who also owns the Brooklyn club Langston's—to get a sense of the year that was and the year yet to come.

Patch: Barclays Center is opening on Sept. 28 with Jay-Z's first concert. What are you expecting to happen as far as your business' bottom line after the arena opens?

Clark: [Laughing] I'm hoping to get at least 30 or 40 people from that stadium every time they have an event. It's kind of up in the air—I'm not sure how it's going to affect the community. Barclays Center—rightfully so—they are trying to keep as many dollars inside the stadium as possible with bars and clubs. And I don't know how much of that is going to spill out into the community. Fort Greene has the advantage of being one of the hot new neighborhoods—not new, but it's hot and it's happening. And that might give us an advantage. I'm just hoping that we get 30-40 people spilling from the stadium every time they have an event. It would be great. I talked to the owner of 67 Burger and he was saying pretty much the same thing—Scopello's as well. We're three blocks away from the stadium and it could make all the difference. People might not want to walk that extra block.

Patch: In terms of parking, crowds and that kind of stuff, do you have any trepidations about the opening of the arena?

Clark: Parking is going to be a nightmare. We already have traffic snarling along Atlantic and Flatbush Avenue. They haven't even finished the parking. I've heard that they are going to be bussing people down from the end of Atlantic Avenue by the river. It's going to be a nightmare. I don't care which way they spin that.


Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

August 22, 2012

The arena effect or the "Brooklyn" effect? Top broker suggests the latter is more important

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Commercial Observer: The Eight Percenter: In 2012, Massey Knakal’s Stephen Palmese Closed 8% Of All Brooklyn Sales Deals. How?:

The draw for Brooklyn is the borough itself, he says, and not the so-called residual value that will be created by the impending debut of Ohio-based developer Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Development, which other brokers and developers have been boasting about ever since the Barclays Center broke ground in 2010.

“I think that’s hogwash,” he said of the shared benefits of the Atlantic Yards development on residential real estate. “I don’t think it’s going to affect residential rates at all. You can argue that it could decrease rents.”

“It has sort of insulated and propped up the retail in the surrounding corridors that were trying to find their identity,” Mr. Palmese said. “So yes, it has had a positive effect for retail, but I think it has a negative effect on residential.”

I agree that "Brooklyn" itself is the draw; after all, that's why the arena's here.

The arena impact: mixed

But I suspect that the arena's impact in both categories is a bit more mixed. "Positive effect" means increasing retail rents in the orbit of the arena, though that likely means that the retail mix will become skewed toward bars and restaurants and stores that can cater somewhat, if not mostly, to an arena crowd.

Already there's a plethora of bars and restaurants likely aiming for cross-over success. That already means that more workaday businesses, like laundromats and stationary stores, get nudged out, and local residents who depended on them feel a loss.


Related content...

The Commercial Observer, The Eight Percenter: In 2012, Massey Knakal’s Stephen Palmese Closed 8% Of All Brooklyn Sales Deals. How?

Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

August 16, 2012

Prospect Heights Lot Bought up for $5.75M


Public records show the the awkwardly sized, 31,000-square-foot parking lot on St. Marks Avenue, between Washington Avenue and Underhill, sold for $5.75 million. Here are details from the old listing: “It has been operated as a public parking lot and can continue as such since the immediate area has very limited parking. The site is also ripe for residential development, being close to Flatbush Avenue, public transportation, [and] Atlantic Yards…”


Posted by eric at 4:56 PM

August 14, 2012

Brooklyn rebounds as the new bohemia

USA Today
by Rick Hampson

The trendspotters at USA Today set their time machine to 2005 and discover that Brooklyn is heating up.

At the end of another disappointing season, Brooklyn Dodgers fans would console themselves with the refrain, "Wait 'til next year!" The team is long gone, but for Brooklyn, next year is here.

The arrival of the NBA Nets gives Brooklyn its first major league team since the Dodgers' departure for Los Angeles in 1957, and something else: more evidence that, as its denizens claim, the borough that was once a punch line is now the coolest place in America, a land of rooftop farms and pop-up art galleries, of haircuts, eyeglasses, hats and body piercings so chic that even Parisians utter, "Très Brooklyn!"

"People I know from London don't want to go to Manhattan," says Kari Browne, 33, a former broadcast news producer who last month opened a cafe in the up-and-coming Victorian neighborhood of Ditmas Park. "They want to come to Brooklyn."


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Behind "Brooklyn rebounds as the new bohemia": does arena mean "Brooklyn is back" or something more complicated?

The article describes the project thusly:

The New Jersey Nets' relocation to the new Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn is a big reason why guard Deron Williams re-signed with the team and why the league's best center, the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, once tried to join him.

When the arena opens this fall with concerts by Jay-Z and Barbra Streisand and the first Nets' game, it will cap one of the more remarkable reversals of fortune in U.S. urban history.

Barclays is part of a planned $5 billion high-rise residential-commercial complex that community groups have criticized for abusing the power of eminent domain, uprooting residents and ripping up the neighborhood fabric.

But to Fred Siegel, a New York writer and political activist, the project says: "Brooklyn is back."

It's interesting to hear Fred Siegel quoted as saying that the Barclays Center indicates that "Brooklyn is back." I bet he said more, or would have, if they asked. Siegel also has called arena developer Bruce Ratner a "master of subsidy" and questioned whether there was any reason to provide public subsidies for the arena.

Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

August 10, 2012

Black-owned Businesses, Which Helped Fulton Street Survive, Fall Victim to its Revival

The Brooklyn Ink
by Shayna Estulin

Although there was widespread public and private disinvestment from Fort Greene in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, Sutton said that black entrepreneurs saw the potential to change a black ghetto into an enclave of business and culture that would attract customers who wanted to patronize black establishments.

Those businesses– clothing shops, bistros, and art stores– gave Fort Greene its unique character, bolstering real estate values, bringing in tourists and new residents and eventually attracting outside developers and businesses. In 2000, the city announced a multi-million dollar cultural redistricting around the neighboring Brooklyn Academy of Music. Six years later, the Atlantic Yards project – including luxury housing, high-end retail and arena for the Nets basketball team — broke ground.

Since then, rents have risen exponentially. Small storefronts along Fulton Street that were being leased for only $2,000 or $3,000 a few years ago now go for $6,000 to $8,000.


NoLandGrab: Surely that exponential increase in rents has nothing to do with Bruce Ratner's giant gentrification machine.

Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

August 6, 2012

Bars Around Barclays Tread Fine Line Between Locals and Arena Visitors

by Janet Babin

The area around the new Barclays Center Arena in Brooklyn has become a new bar and restaurant hotspot.

Entrepreneurs are trying to capitalize on potential new business that could come from the 675,000-square-foot venue at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.

But there are concerns that the hoards of fans from Brooklyn Nets games or concert goers looking for an after party could clash with locals at these new neighborhood watering holes.

That’s why many bar and restaurant owners are trying to appeal to both regulars and arena clientele.

The neighborhood surrounding Barclays has not opened its arms to the arena and the potential headaches that will come with it. Residents are concerned about rowdy crowds spilling out of the 19,000 seat venue, could rattle regular diners, and may even keep them away – at least on game day.

According to local Community Board 8, just over two dozen new bar and restaurants have requested liquor licenses in the past 12 months in the area between Atlantic Avenue and Eastern Parkway, from Flatbush to Washington Avenues.

That compares with eight requests in the same time period in 2010 and 2011.


Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

August 1, 2012

Kemistry Lounge Files Application with SLA and Plans to Open in Sept.

Co-owner James Brown said the future for his upscale restaurant/lounge is clear and construction is continuing.

Park Slope Patch
by Will Yakowicz

Like Bruce Ratner's phantasmagorical Brooklyn Islander's dreams, Kemistry Lounge keeps coming back — but this nightmare may be real.

Despite staunch opposition from its neighbors, local politicians, having their liquor license application rejected by Community Board 6 and even getting sued by their landlord, Kemistry Lounge is forging ahead and plans to open in the end of Sept.

The owners of Kemistry Lounge, the upscale restaurant/lounge being built on Flatbush Ave., between Prospect Place and St. Marks Avenue, filed their liquor license application with the State Liquor Authority this week and told Patch that they plan to open their 245-person capacity space as planned.

Their application to the SLA is requesting a license for bottle service, but Brown said that they may be serving the bottles a little differently to make for a safer atmosphere.

“In light of the incident in the Manhattan night club we may still serve the full amount of what’s in a bottle but may serve it in a different container,” Brown told Patch on Tuesday, referencing the recent brawl between singer Chris Brown (no relation) and rapper Drake where multiple people were injured by bottles thrown at the club W.iP. “But again, you typically don’t have issues in bar/restaurant/lounge settings. Bottle service type issues tend to happen in club settings.”

Actually, bottle service-type issues tend to happen in places with bottle service. And nearby residents are much more concerned with the effect the contents of those bottles will have on the people drinking them than they are with what those people might do to each other with the bottles inside Kemistry Lounge.

Peter Adelman, Prospect Place Neighbor’s lawyer, said that they are ready to take measures to protect their community’s quality of life if Kemistry ignores their requests for compromise.

“We are dismayed at Kemistry’s refusal to cooperate with area residents and we are ready to fight this,” Adelman said. “I am prepared to respond appropriately and vigorously to their application to the SLA."


Posted by eric at 7:52 PM

July 31, 2012

More Undercover Park Slope: 439 Bergen Street

BK to the Fullest

A post about local real estate weighs the "arena factor."

While proximity to the new stadium has been a deal breaker for many at places this close like 414 Dean, we think that ultimately the pro's of this location outweigh the con's. We've got calls in to the urban planner at the City Council's local office for the district that Barclays Center is in, regarding the pedestrian overpasses (covered here) that we think will be necessary to allow automobiles and pedestrians to flow somewhat civilly around the stadium. Why even the new signage for Barclays Center in the Atlantic subway points people to exit at one of the furthest intersections from the stadium also disappoints and confuses us.

That feeling of disappointment and confusion is also known as "naming rights." But don't worry, it quickly goes away in the presence of, er, greatness.

However, for all our stadium worries and angst, it somehow melts away when we ran into Jay-Z last night on 15th Street and started gushing to him about his upcoming concerts at the stadium and his Nets. We're sure someone equally as star-struck by Park Slope won't mind having the stadium around the corner from them at this house.


Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

July 30, 2012

Zigun wants Shore Theater taken away from owner through eminent domain

The Brooklyn Paper
by Will Bredderman

The city should use its power of eminent domain to seize the Shore Theater from its disgraceful owner — who has sat on the property for nearly two decades without doing anything to it — and turn it into the palace it once was, the unofficial mayor of Coney Island decreed on Thursday.

Coney Island USA founder Dick Zigun said Horace Bullard has allowed the building where Jerry Lewis once performed to crumble, and doesn’t deserve the choice property at Surf and Stillwell avenues.

“Whether it’s through the Landmarks Commission or eminent domain, this must be done by any means necessary,” Zigun said during annual State of Coney Island Address. “The Shore Theater must be occupied.”


NoLandGrab: Since the city was seduced by the dark side of the power of eminent domain, it's highly unlikely that they'd use it for good.

Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

July 27, 2012

Downtown Brooklyn hailed for growth in jobs, income; rezoning lost to history; Barclays Center seen as opportunity; DBP portrays itself as nonpartisan

Atlantic Yards Report

Downtown Brooklyn is booming--sort of. Yesterday, a press conference at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Borough President Marty Markowitz, and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) unveiled reports about job growth, a residential boom, and the area's future.

While two publications (Patch and the Epoch Times) did check with FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), which expressed dismay at the lack of affordable housing, nobody pointed out that the rezoning passed in 2004 was aimed to increase office jobs for Wall Street and other large firms, which didn't happen at all.

Instead, there's been little increase in office space; the boom has been in health care/social assistance, education, leisure hospitality and tech. From 2003 to 2010, there was a growth of nearly 12,000 jobs, or 18.3%, in the Comptroller's broadly designated Downtown Brooklyn, which includes several adjacent neighborhoods, from Boerum Hill to Clinton Hill, but not Prospect Heights (though the arena gets listed).

Why's that important? Because neither legislators nor advocates focused on ensuring that property owners, newly gifted with the opportunity to build large residential towers or hotels, had reciprocal obligations. Thus the median income has boomed, but the benefits have not been broadly shared.

The DBP's report also includes a curious evasion, in which the organization claims not to be partisan.


Posted by eric at 12:02 PM

Closing Bell: Brooklyn Film Series Explores Gentrification


Yesterday Film Wax kicked off a monthly film series called “Brooklyn Reconstructed.” It explores “gentrification, eminent domain, public subsidies for luxury developments, political corruption, rising rents and neighborhood revitalization [as] underlying themes in most Brooklynites’ day-to-day lives.” The first film in the series was My Brooklyn, which will be followed by The Domino Effect, Battle for Brooklyn, The Vanishing City, Made in Brooklyn, Gut Renovation, and Last Summer in Coney Island. All films are screened at The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture at 53 Prospect Park West. See the full schedule of events here.


NoLandGrab: If you missed Wednesday's screening of My Brooklyn, it's being shown again locally on Tuesday, July 31st, at 6:30 p.m., at Park Slope United Methodist Church, 410 6th Avenue at 8th Street.

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

July 25, 2012

Downtown evictees: The city is booting us from Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

Tenants at one of Downtown’s last rent-stabilized buildings say they aren’t just getting evicted — they’re getting kicked out of Brooklyn.

Low-income residents of a brick tenement on Albee Square between Willoughby and Fulton streets claim they received city-stamped letters reneging on a promise to provide nearby housing after the city made plans to demolish their home and build a small park and a parking lot in its place.

Dozens of tenants found out the city will place them into far-away areas of the Bronx and Manhattan — even though the Department of Housing Preservation and Development agreed to give them “comparable housing,” after it acquired the five-story building using eminent domain, activists and residents say.

The agency has not provided any living options in the neighborhood, let alone the borough, said Carlos Barrera, who has lived there for decades.


Posted by eric at 2:47 PM

July 24, 2012

Brooklyn Reconstructed

Battle for Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Update #88

Battle continues to roll across the country and we are gearing up for dozens of screenings timed to the opening of the Arena. Mayor Bloomberg says at the end of the film, "No one's gonna care how long it took. They are just going to look and see that it was done." We think that the film is helping to disprove this idea, and we are working robustly to make it less true everyday.

I am also writing to let you know about a series that starts tomorrow at the ethical culture society in Brooklyn with My Brooklyn. It's called Brooklyn Reconstructed and it features at least 7 films (one a month). Battle for Brooklyn plays on Sept 26th - 2 days before the arena opens. There's a nice article in the L magazine about the series. All of the films are extremely thoughtful and well made. Before Isabel Hill made Brooklyn Matters she made "Made in Brooklyn". You'll laugh, you'll cry, you punch a politician in the eye.


Posted by eric at 10:05 PM

The Brooklyn Gentrification Film Series

The L Magazine
by Henry Stewart

Tomorrow night, with My Brooklyn, Filmwax kicks off its documentary screening series Brooklyn Reconstructed, featuring seven films about development and gentrification that will be screened one a month through January at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture in Park Slope. We spoke to Filmwax's Adam Schartoff about development in Brooklyn, and why there are so many documentaries about our borough.

Why put on a series like this now?

The films are all movies that were made over many years, and documented a changing city in ways that the "media" has been unable to. In large part I think they were inspired by a wave of "development without representation." In each case the filmmakers observed a government/business effort to push through zoning changes that brought massive revenue to developers in ways that denied any real input to those citizens most affected by the plans. Gentrification and development are nothing new. But what's taken place in neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn, to name just two, are the results of a very different phenomena. While being floated as normal change, in fact what we've seen in the past decade is not organic gentrification, but a remarkably calculated land grab designed by our mayor, the City Planning Committee and a few greedy developers. These folks are owning both sides of the argument. It's rather impressive, really.


Posted by eric at 7:41 PM

The little economic engine that could? Once Atlantic Yards was called an "economic engine." Now it's the arena.

Atlantic Yards Report

The Summer 2012 issue of Brooklyn!!, Borough President Marty Markowitz's promotional publication, offers an enthusiastic coverage of the new arena, with a curious claim:

Along with pumping up Brooklyn’s reputation as the place for sporting and entertainment events, Barclays Center is its own economic engine, providing 2,000 full and part-time jobs, plus a shot in the arm to the ancillary businesses around the arena.

Forest City Ratner says those 2,000 jobs add up to 1,240 FTE (full-time equivalent), but I think that's very doubtful.

Either way, it's hard to call the arena "its own economic engine," given the significant subsidies and tax breaks, and the fact that the New York City Independent Budget Office calls it a net loss to the city.

After all, sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, at least before he delivered a report for his client, Forest City Ratner, told the 2/16/04, Courier-Life, "One would not say, 'Let's move the Nets to Brooklyn to help the local economy.'"

Now one would, at least if the one is Markowitz.


Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

July 18, 2012

The Brains Behind Brooklyn’s Boom

Next American City
by Brian Browdie

When Jay-Z takes the stage to open the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn this September, the show will be more than a homecoming for the hip-hop superstar from the borough’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.

The christening of the arena, part of the Atlantic Yards complex under construction between Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, will mark a milestone in a transformation of downtown that began eight years ago, when the Bloomberg administration instituted a series of zoning changes with the goal of spurring development. The city also invested nearly $300 million in local streetscapes and other improvements, including teaming with the state to build Brooklyn Bridge Park, a necklace of green along the East River that opened two years ago.

But while Brooklyn’s boom has everything to do with national trends (including those pertaining to a certain h-word that will not be used here) and changing economic realities, there is another less-visible force that for the past nearly seven years has helped guide everything from which stores get new awnings to how many gleaming new towers rise in the once-desolate area surrounding the Manhattan Bridge.

Its name? The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.


NoLandGrab: That praise seems a bit overstated, no?

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

Daffy’s Failure Means a Vacancy at Atlantic Terminal Mall


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


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

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

July 16, 2012

New Nets Arena Proves a Magnet

The Wall Street Journal
by Laura Kusisto and Alexander Heffner

When the Nets win a game at the new Barclays Center, where will the after-party be held?

That's a question on the minds of numerous bar and restaurant owners as they invest in locations around the arena that's scheduled to open this fall in Brooklyn. New places are opening and old ones are expanding with the expectation that basketball fans and others attending events at the up-to-19,000-seat arena will be hungry and thirsty and looking for a good time afterward.

But the arena's neighbors—many of whom have greeted the project skeptically all along—are pushing back, saying the new establishments threaten to transform charming side streets into destinations for late-night revelers. They're concerned that big sports bars will create nuisances and change the character of an area that was already becoming upscale when the arena broke ground.

Some residents fear that bars, which pay higher rents, are coming at the expense of services for residents. "I'm concerned that it's becoming booze alley. I'm concerned that other corridors are becoming burger heaven," says Letitia James, the city councilwoman for the area. "Once the arena is dark, you have a community that remains, and a community with a lot of children and young families."

Retail rents are skyrocketing, driving out retailers who pre-dated gentrification. Mr. King, of CPEX, some landlords are charging as much as $100 a square foot, up from about $60 a few years ago. A space at Fourth and Atlantic avenues could fetch "a nosebleed number north of $180 a foot," he says.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Wall Street Journal reports on arena-area changes, with some curious omissions about Kemistry and the arena liquor license

In New Nets Arena Proves a Magnet, the Wall Street Journal reports on the efforts by bar/restaurant owners to serve both transient and local crowds, and on the tension between good ol' businesspeople and stuffy people who live there:

This opposition has been slowing leasing efforts for a big space kitty-corner to Barclays Center on Atlantic Avenue, according to Bob Hebron, a principal of Ingram & Hebron Realty that has the brokerage assignment. The community is "beginning to dig in its heels" to prevent sports bars or "Hooters-type places" from opening there, he says, referring to the restaurant chain known for its scantily clad waitresses.

Nearby on Flatbush Avenue, a restaurant entrepreneur's attempts to open a bar named Kemistry that would operate until 3:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays ran afoul of the local community board. In May, the board voted overwhelmingly to oppose its liquor license application, though the resolution doesn't block Kemistry from trying to get a license.

While the article lower down delicately mentions that Kemistry "was planning to offer customers the ability to buy bottles of hard liquor and make drinks at tables," some context is missing.

Kemisty would be only the second club in Brooklyn with bottle service, and would be far closer to a residential district than most (all?) bottle service clubs.

And while Kemistry operator James Brown says he's moving ahead, the article doesn't mention that the business is being sued by its landlord for nonpayment of rent.

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

July 11, 2012

Landlord Suing Kemistry Lounge for Four Months Back Rent and Eviction

The future of Kemistry Lounge is unknown as the lawsuit against them demands over $65,000 and requests a “warrant to remove” tenant at 260 Flatbush Avenue.

Park Slope Patch
by Will Yakowicz

Kemistry, we hardly knew ye.

The battle of Kemistry Lounge is now in the hands of the Kings County Civil Court of the City of New York.

On June 25, a petition was filed by the landlord of the 245-person capacity space on Flatbush Avenue, between Prospect Place and St. Marks Avenue, under the name of 260 Flatbush Realty LLC against Kemistry Lounge Entertainment Group LLC demanding four months of unpaid rent, a total of $60,000, plus property taxes, $6,078.81, for a total of $66,078.81.

The petition, submitted by 260 Flatbush Avenue Realty’s attorney Jess Berkowitz, also states that three days before the proceeding that “the rent due or possession of the premises has been demanded personally from respondent tenant.”

Now, the landlord is seeking the “removal” of Kemistry Lounge.


NoLandGrab: This is what happens when you spell "Kemistry" with a K. Neighbors will find it perfectly O-Ch if the bottle-service wannabe never opens its doors.

Posted by eric at 12:55 PM

July 6, 2012

Is Schneiderman Giving a Pass on Possible Illegal Lobbying on Redevelopment Effort Favored by a Major Donor?

naked capitalism
by Yves Smith

An alert reader pointed to a new post by Norman Oder, who has been following the so-called Atlantic Yards project, a $4.9 billion proposed “redevelopment” for part of Brooklyn proposed by Bruce Ratner of Forest City Development.

What caught his eye was that Schneiderman had secured a settlement from three groups, one New York City’s “economic development agency” and two local development corporations. This triumverate was pushing local legislators to support development projects in Willets Point in Queens and Coney Island in Brooklyn.

But Oder raises the question: why didn’t Schneiderman also pursue the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which operates in pretty much the same manner? Might it have something to do with the $12,500 that Ratner gave to Schneiderman’s 2010 campaign?


Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

July 4, 2012

Missing from the AG's settlement with NYC EDC: a mention of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

There was something curious about an announcement yesterday by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, first reported by the Wall Street Journal in City Agency Admits Illegal Lobby Effort:

New York City's economic-development agency and two related organizations admitted in a settlement Monday that they illegally lobbied the City Council on behalf of projects at the heart of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's redevelopment agenda.

The concessions came after a three-year probe by the state attorney general's office. Investigators found that the Economic Development Corp. worked behind the scenes with the groups—called local development corporations—to nudge lawmakers to support projects in Willets Point in Queens and Coney Island in Brooklyn.

"These local development corporations flouted the law and lobbied elected officials, both directly and through third parties," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.

Where's the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership?

But there was no mention of seemingly similar activities by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which lobbied the city for the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning and the state for approval of Atlantic Yards.

I queried the Attorney General's office yesterday about whether the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership had been given a clean bill of health (and, if so, why), or whether an investigation was continuing. I didn't get an answer.


Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

After 3 Days of Blackouts, Con Edison Promises Infrastructure Upgrades

On-and-off blackout at Bergen Street and Flatbush Avenue were due to overburdened equipment, a spokesman said.

Park Slope Patch
by Amy Sara Clark and Will Yakowicz

Following 72 hours of intermittent power failure for at least 122 businesses and homes near Bergen Street and Flatbush, a Con Edison spokesman said the problem is due to increased “usage in the area.”

The explanation came after two manhole fires over three days caused power disruptions to the subway, nearby apartment buildings, restaurants and even the NYPD's 78th Precinct.

The on-and-off blackouts caused residents and merchants alike to suffer.

“This is ridiculous, I can’t tell you how exhausted I am,” said Eyal Hen, who owns the nearby Fish and Sip and Chickpea. “Three days in a row and we’re losing business, losing thousands and thousands of dollars. I can’t even talk about it anymore.”

For those wondering, the growth in demand is not due to the soon-to-open Barclays Center. “We already have engineered for that, separately from the surrounding community,” said Chris Olert, the electric company's assistant director of media relations.

Sure they have.


Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

Hoteliers hopping on Brooklyn brandwagon
by Harvey Chipkin

The “Brooklyn brand,” which has drawn a new generation of the hip and artistic, is now attracting hotels—everything from the just-announced revival of Barry Sternlicht’s “1” brand to a music-oriented hotel being developed by a well-known DJ.

Hoteliers also are looking to the imminent debut of the massive Atlantic Yards mixed-use project, which will include the Barclays Center, future home of the NBA’s Nets. The project is scheduled to open in phases starting this fall. The Fulton Street Mall is another major mixed-use project that will draw visitors to the borough.


Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

Brooklyn Residents Less Than Thrilled About Atlantic Yards Congestion

NY Observer
by Sarah Grothjan

The residents in the neighborhoods bordering Barclays Arena will almost certainly be stuck with congestion and beer-swilling visitors, but at least they may be spared a multi-level nightclub.

The landlord is evicting Kemistry Lounge’s owners for non-payment of rent, putting a halt (if only a temporary one) to their clubbing brainchild, Brownstoner reports. That’s good news for those nearby the lounge’s would-be home at 260 Flatbush Avenue.

The prospect of the nightspot drawing a loud, young intoxicated crowd to an area that is likely to already be highly-trafficked by loud, young and intoxicated people left many in Community Board 6 unenthusiastic about its arrival.


Related coverage...

Bronwstoner, Kemistry Lounge’s Future in Question

Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

July 3, 2012

City Agency Admits Illegal Lobby Effort

The Wall Street Journal
by Michael Howard Saul

Is there anyone or anything associated with the Atlantic Yards project that isn't crooked or corrupt? Anything?

New York City's economic-development agency and two related organizations admitted in a settlement Monday that they illegally lobbied the City Council on behalf of projects at the heart of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's redevelopment agenda.

The concessions came after a three-year probe by the state attorney general's office. Investigators found that the Economic Development Corp. worked behind the scenes with the groups—called local development corporations—to nudge lawmakers to support projects in Willets Point in Queens and Coney Island in Brooklyn.

Let's not forget their knowingly dishonest Atlantic Yards boosterism.

"These local development corporations flouted the law and lobbied elected officials, both directly and through third parties," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.

The findings seemed to give ammunition to critics of the Bloomberg administration and its economic-development arm, which has been accused of pushing through large-scale projects over community objections.

Where've we seen this phony astroturf act before?

In pushing the Council for zoning and other land-use changes, city officials "took steps to foster the appearance of independent 'grass-roots' support for the projects in the local community," said the agreement signed Monday by the EDC and the other groups.

For example, the agreement said the EDC directed the Queens group to use its fax machine to send a letter drafted by city officials about the Willets Point project to Council members because, in the words of one city official, "we felt this letter coming from our fax machine would have been lobbying."

Other lobbying activities included ghostwriting op-eds and preparing testimony, according to the agreement.

Heads will roll, though, right?

The finding carries no fine or harsher penalty.


NoLandGrab: Let us be the first to call publicly for EDC President Seth Pinsky to join Barclays' "Diamond" Bob Diamond in tendering his resignation.

Posted by eric at 2:02 PM

Planned Kemistry Lounge hits big hurdle: landlord seeks eviction and judgment

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, maybe the second information passed on ten days ago by the North Flatbush BID wasn't too far off: despite statements then by principals in the planned Kemistry Lounge on Flatbush Avenue near Prospect Place that the establishment was moving ahead, it's just hit a significant roadblock.

According to legal papers affixed to the exterior of the building, the landlord, 260 Flatbush Avenue Realty, has gone to court to evict the Kemistry Entertainment Group for nonpayment of rent (of the to-be-renovated space), requesting $66,078.81, with interest from June 1, 2012.

I queried Kemistry last night but haven't heard back; I will update this when I learn more.

The planned lounge has been quite controversial because its principals planned bottle service, which has been associated with rowdy behavior and is usually not offered in residential districts. Kemistry's main entrance would be on busy Flatbush Avenue, albeit quite close to a day care center, and have a back exit on residential Prospect Place. It has not yet applied for a liquor license, after failing to gain support of Community Board 6.


Posted by eric at 12:44 PM

June 29, 2012

As Hooters stalks Brownstone Brooklyn, 'breastaurants' spread across America

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Candice Cholap

If there's a spread between the sensibilities of Brownstone Brooklynites and the rest of America, it might be found in the "breastaurants."

While a growing number of Americans are chomping down at a new breed of restaurants that feature family-style food in addition to lust-provoking scantity-clad waitresses, alert neighbors of the new Barclays Center are determined to fight a bid by the original "breastuarant" — Hooters — to open an outlet in their midst.

“I don’t know whether it’s a cultural clash or a clash in values, but it’s not the kind of establishment people would expect to find in Brownstone Brooklyn,” said Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6, which includes Park Slope, as quoted by the Daily News.


Related (un)coverage...

mcbrooklyn, No One Laughing At the Hooter Jokes in Brooklyn Anymore

One of the longest-running jokes on Brooklyn blogs is the old "a Hooters is opening in our neighborhood" gag. Everyone has a good laugh, wipes their eyes and moves on.

Now the Brooklyn Eagle and NY Daily News report that neighbors of the soon-to-open Barclays Center are trying to fend off an actual Hooters from opening in their neighborhood, but no one's laughing. (Not even at the category name "breastaurant.")

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

June 27, 2012

Commercial Klutch: June Edition


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

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

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


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

Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

June 23, 2012

A kerfuffle over Kemistry: no, they haven't abandoned plans for space

Atlantic Yards Report

Though they've gotten the thumbs-down from Community Board Six (coverage) regarding plans for bottle service, and seen significant opposition from neighbors, local elected officials, and a church, operators of the proposed Kemistry Lounge on Flatbush Avenue near Prospect Place say they are still pursuing plans for a restaurant, bar, and lounge.

They have apparently not yet applied for a liquor license from the State Liquor Authority. Today, the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, which had helped mediate discussions between the operators and neighbors, tweeted, "Kemistry lounge folks asked to leave space and break lease after not paying rent since March."

That information, however, was secondhand and incorrect. "Kemistry is moving forward with our project," stated project manager Damali L'Elie. "I recently saw a tweet from Flatbush BID stating that we have asked to be released from our lease, this is incorrect. We fully intend to complete construction of Kemistry and have a grand opening shortly after."

("We are still working on our time line," she added, in response to my query.)

The space at 260 Flatbush Avenue would have an exit on residential Prospect Place between Flatbush Avenue and Sixth Avenue. The lounge, which would hold up to 225 people, would be only the second bottle-service establishment in Brooklyn, and closer to a quiet residential neighborhood than most such clubs in the city.

The proprietors have said bottle service is integral to their plans. Alarm over such service has increased in recent weeks, after a brawl at a club in SoHo. While the Barclays Center will feature a branch of Jay-Z's 40/40 Club, it will not feature bottle service, as at its other locations.


Posted by steve at 5:27 PM

June 22, 2012

Department of City Planning announces plan to streamline agency review of land use applications; said to save developers money and create jobs faster

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on New York City's efforts to streamline the land-use review process — which seems to us just one more step toward making the city an enclave for the wealthy.

Note that this all will happen before the process of seeking community input under ULURP. Also note that Atlantic Yards notably bypassed ULURP, since it proceeded under a state review process.

The benefits

Steel estimated the new program "will save applicants up to $100 million per year in soft costs and carrying costs," and thus "[m]ore development means more jobs for New Yorkers."

City Planning Director Amanda Burden said. “We have spearheaded zoning initiatives to create affordable housing, green the city, facilitate economic development and transportation options as well as new public open spaces throughout the five boroughs, and BluePRint will enable all these projects to be realized faster, without sacrificing high standards and careful review."

And I'd add that, while it's surely wise to eliminate unwieldy process, this still focuses on facilitating individual projects and the Department of City Planning has focused on zoning, rather than comprehensive planning.


NoLandGrab: What we really need is better, smarter development, not just more development.

Posted by eric at 12:26 PM


Retail Traffic

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

June 20, 2012

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

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

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

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

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

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

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

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


Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone? Really?

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

Brownstoner, Atlantic Mall Might Get Re-skinned and Repositioned

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

Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

June 18, 2012


A/N Blog
by Tom Stoelker

Mayor Bloomberg evoked Fitzgerald today when he announced the deal between Sterling Equities and Related Companies to revamp Willets Point. “Today the ‘valley of ashes’ is well on its way to becoming the site of historic private investment,” the mayor said in a statement, referring to the gritty midpoint between Gatsby’s West Egg manse and Manhattan. The plan pegs its success to a mega entertainment/retail hub just west of the stadium, that sounds very much a part of a trend in projects that used to be called malls, but are now called retail/entertainment attractions.

More like distractions.

That the housing comes so late in the game has got more than few politians up up in arms. The Daily News reported early this week that City Coucilmember Karen Koslowitz was not pleased. It’s a pretty sensitive topic that was initially raises in The Wall Street Journal last month, which cited Willets Point and Atlantic Yards as examples of where housing was used to win favor with the locals but ends up being the last component of the project scheduled for completion.


Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

June 15, 2012

Catching up: optimism about arena-area retail rents, unmet promises in Williamsburg, auditions for Brooklyn Nets dance team

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder rounds up some stories that we missed, too. Here are some shortcut links:

The Wall Street Journal, Brooklyn Waits on Promise of a Park

It has become a familiar scenario across the city, as large developments such as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Willets Point in Queens move forward: The promises made by the city and developers to overcome opposition change over time or are delayed long into the future.

The Real Deal, How the Barclays Center will transform Brooklyn retail leasing

NY Observer, Nets Debut Dance Team (Containing Only One Native Brooklynite) and Its Cheeky Moniker: The Brooklynettes


Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

June 14, 2012

Kelly Anderson, 'My Brooklyn' Director, Discusses Brooklyn Gentrification

The Huffington Post
by Christopher Mathias

According to The Fordham Institute's Michael J. Petrilli, Brooklyn has four of the nation's top 25 most gentrifying zip codes. They are, in order of whiteningness, 11205 and 11206 (parts of Ft. Greene, Clinton Hill, and Williamsburg) 1237, ("East" Williamsburg and Bushwick) and 11238 (Prospect Heights, Crown Heights and Bed Stuy).

But Brooklynites don't really need charts and graphs to know gentrification is creeping further and further into the borough.

Three recent documentaries have focused on the issue. "Battle For Brooklyn" documents the process by which a chunk of Prospect Heights was displaced to make room for Atlantic Yards and Barclays Center, "Gut Renovation" focuses on the rezoning of Williamsburg, and "My Brooklyn: The Battle For The Soul Of A City" concentrates on Downtown Brooklyn, and vanishing Fulton Mall.

"My Brooklyn" (which, along with "Gut Renovation," received the Audience Award at the Brooklyn Film Festival) features footage of Mayor Bloomberg and real estate developers salivating over the Brooklyn market while longtime residents are brought to tears in intimate interviews about having to move their families or close their businesses.

The film, by Kelly Anderson and Allison Lirish Dean, shows concrete evidence that gentrification, namely in New York, doesn't just happen, but is rather fueled by public policy.


NoLandGrab: Battle for Brooklyn, for those of you with short memories, won top honors at the 2011 Brooklyn Film Festival.

Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

May 17, 2012

Building the Next New York: the RPA's recommendations for mega-projects implies avoidance of Atlantic Yards pattern, though report suggests no verdict yet on project

Atlantic Yards Report

With "advocacy" groups like RPA, who needs developers?

The Regional Plan Association has just issued Building the Next New York: Recommendations for Large Real Estate Projects, which offers some sober criticisms of Atlantic Yards while analyzing a range of large development initiatives in order to propose some recommendations.

The business-oriented, rational RPA--self-described as "America's oldest and most distinguished independent urban research and advocacy group"--says it's too soon to come to a verdict on Atlantic Yards, a project it offered support mixed with suggestions for reform.

However careful in not making such a judgment, the RPA surely learned some lessons from Atlantic Yards. "These projects are enormously complex and can take a generation or more to build," said RPA President Robert Yaro. "This makes it essential to maintain both flexibility and a public stake throughout the life of the project."

That sounds like an acknowledgment that the significant changes in Atlantic Yards should not have been surprising--but that the government agencies approving those changes should have done more to represent the public interest.


Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

Small Arts Venue Casts a Weary, Yet Hopeful, Eye On Barclays Center

Both pitfalls and positives seen from opening of mega-arena in September.

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Paul Leonard

As a resident, Terry Greiss is one of many neighborhood voices that have been critical of Atlantic Yards redevelopment, including the still-rising Barclays Center.

But as executive director of Fort Greene's Irondale Center, Greiss' feelings about the mega-project are decidedly more mixed—a sign of the many challenges and opportunities awaiting small local cultural venues as the September opening date for the 18,000-seat arena draws closer.

"The jury is out about whether it’s going to be a good thing or a bad thing," Greiss said of Barclays' imminent arrival.


NoLandGrab: The jury is out, but they've only been out for five minutes, and they just sent the judge a note asking if they can award higher damages than those outlined in the instructions to the jury.

Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

May 14, 2012

More than 1,000 Brooklynites call on Governor Cuomo and the State Liquor Authority to end liquor sales at Barclays Center by 10:00 PM

Local elected officials join call for policies to limit impact of arena crowds on residential neighborhoods


The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors announced today that more than 1,000 Brooklynites have signed an online petition calling on the State to limit the hours of liquor sales at the Barclays Center arena, with a final cut-off time of 10:00 PM. The petition was first posted on BrooklynSpeaks’ web site on Monday, May 7.

“The response to BrooklynSpeaks’ petition says volumes about public concern for safety and neighborhood quality of life following the opening of the Barclays Center,” said Jo Anne Simon, Democratic Leader of the 52nd Assembly District. “The arena operators and concessionaires have an obligation to do what is reasonable and responsible to ensure that crowds leaving events late in the evening don’t disrupt residential life.”

Said City Council Member Stephen Levin, whose district includes the neighborhoods of Boerum Hill and Park Slope adjacent to the arena, “Residents don’t understand why Barclays should be reluctant to accept a 10:00 PM limit on liquor sales, when the same concession operator has a 9:30 PM curfew at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Barclays has a responsibility to ensure that rowdy crowds will not be spilling into our residential communities late at night, causing problems for the families who live here.”

“The only reason Barclays Center is being built at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues is because the State allowed overrides of City zoning regulations that would have prevented an arena being sited next to homes,” said Council Member Letitia James, who represents the adjoining neighborhoods of Prospect Heights and Fort Greene. “We now need the Governor and the State Liquor Authority to ensure we don’t end up with an all-night bar, too.”


Posted by eric at 4:48 PM

May 13, 2012

Kemistry update: more pols, CB6 pile on opposition; owner vows to move forward with some level of compromise

Atlantic Yards Report

Park Slope Patch has an update on the planned Kemistry Lounge, a "club" (at least in neighbors' eyes) with bottle service on Flatbush Avenue near the Barclays Center.

Not only has Assemblywoman Joan Millman sent a letter to the State Liquor Authority (SLA) opposing a liquor license for the establishment, so too have Council Member Steve Levin and state Senator Velmanette Montgomery. And the full Community Board 6 has backed the opposition stated by its permits and licenses committee.

The sticking points include hours of operation, bottle service, and the nature of the back entrance on residential Prospect Place. Co-owner James Brown told Patch he'd compromise in part on hours and the entrance, but there was no word on bottle service, which neighbors fear would fuel unruly behavior.


Posted by steve at 9:57 PM

May 9, 2012

New real estate firm has nothing to do with Barclays Center — except name

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

He’s not Bruce Ratner, but this Prospect Heights real estate player is selling the Barclays Center.

Broker Greg D’avola dubbed his new Bergen Street firm Arena Properties — an Atlantic Yards-influenced name he hopes will help snag customers searching online for land near the soon-to-open basketball arena.

D’avola has no stake in the controversial mega-project, but he claims gaining web traffic from Nets-related Google searches was the main reason he named his three-man residential and commercial enterprise after the arena — a development that has sparked a real estate gold rush and protests from neighbors who say it will harm the community’s quality of life and charming ma-and-pa spirit when it opens this fall.

“I understand a lot of people have bitter taste in their mouth about the arena — but you can’t deny it’s coming,” said D’avola.


Posted by eric at 1:15 PM

May 8, 2012

Putting the Tech in Metrotech

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

The Wall Street Journal
by Laura Kusisto

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

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

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

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


Related coverage...

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

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

Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

May 4, 2012

Brooklynites sound off on Hooters’ efforts to open near Barclays Center

Residents split on whether chain should come to borough

NY Daily News
by Joseph Tepper, Lore Croghan and Erin Durkin

The Daily Hooters News can't get enough of running this photo.

Hooters’ march on Brooklyn may have been rebuffed by some property owners near the new Nets arena, but the busty chain is reportedly scouting other spots in the neighborhood. And while Hooters’ interest drew howls of protest from many in the area, others say critics should relax and enjoy Hooters’ wings and good clean fun. Here’s a sampling of opinions from around the borough:

City Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Prospect Heights):

“I think Hooters is offensive to women, and I think Hooters is an affront to the women’s movement, and I think we have enough hamburger restaurants that have located on Flatbush Ave. and Vanderbilt Ave. in the last year. I think we have enough establishments that are serving alcohol. Flatbush Ave. is often referred to as booze ally, and do we don’t need booze and boobs on Flatbush Ave.”

Steve Edmilao, 41, Barclays Center construction worker:

“You just got to be open minded. I go there for beer, wings, and the whole nine yards. Just let the business flow in and uplift the Brooklyn area."

Jessica Greer Morris, Executive Director of Project Girl Performance Collective, based in Brooklyn Heights:

“Hooters claims to be giving opportunity to college age women in need of work. We have a girl who is valedictorian of her class in Brooklyn who cannot afford college. Does she have to have large breasts and wear a tight shirt to be able to afford college? Is this the best we can offer our children? Every day, we work with young girls and see how institutions like Hooters contributes to their low self-esteem. Hooters is not about empowering girls, it is about objectifying them.”


NoLandGrab: We think it's "the whole nine yards" that some people find objectionable. And really, anyone who claims Hooters wings are "the best" has never been anywhere near Bonnie's Grill.

Photo: ISI/Business Wire

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

May 3, 2012

Retail coming to 470 Vanderbilt: could it include a Hooters? (Denis Hamill would be fine with that)

Atlantic Yards Report

From the 5/2/12 Real Estate Weekly, GFI brings Atlantic Yards retail corner to market:

GFI Development Company is offering corner and street-front retail space at 470 Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn.

The ten-story, 660,000 s/f mixed-use property is four blocks from Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal Mall, a major destination shopping thoroughfare for Brooklyn.

More importantly, it's two blocks--albeit across broad Atlantic Avenue from the Barclays Center surface parking lot and within walking distance of the arena.

There will be 3,000 employees at the building alone, from the Human Resources Administration, and location is near dense residential districts. It's a former tire factory turned telecom center, soon to include more housing.

What kind of retail?

So, will the retail be aimed at neighborhood residents, building employees/visitors, or arena-related traffic--or a bit of all? There will be up to 21,500 square feet of ground-floor retail, including 7,100 square feet at the corner of Atlantic and Vanderbilt Avenues.

That's big enough for a Hooters, and a real estate guy told The Local that Hooters scouts would be looking there.


Related content...

Real Estate Weekly, GFI brings Atlantic Yards retail corner to market

The building, located at the crossroads of Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and Clinton Hill, is also walking distance from the Atlantic Yards development. 470 Vanderbilt Avenue is steps from the 20,000 seat Barclays Center, home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, and minutes away from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Pratt Institute and the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Owner Seeking ‘Slam Dunk’ for Dour Building Near Atlantic Yards

Mr. Havens said that Hooters real estate hunters would certainly be looking at 470 Vanderbilt as a location for their food-serving pinup calendar, which company officials say is named in homage to the owl, not the slang term for a female body part (or, more accurately, parts).

“It’s sexist and I would never go there, but anyone has a right to open any store,” Mr. Havens said. “And people like to forget, but people who go to sporting events go to Hooters.”

NY Daily News, Who gives a hoot about pretty girls as waitresses? It’s no reason to block Hooters from Brooklyn

Denis Hamill would go there, though — to research his hatred for Park Slopers.

Hooters is being unfairly targeted.

This is the new politically correct Brooklyn that is fast endorsing an oppressive Puritanism.

Hamill makes his case by claiming we haven't complained enough about some other Bruce Ratner fine-dining establishments.

Across the street from the new arena there's a Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins, McDonald’s and Buffalo Wild Wings.

NoLandGrab: Exactly, Denis.

Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

May 1, 2012

BOUNCED! Brooklyn folks around Nets' new home say bra humbug to Hooters

Prospect Heights and Park Slope locals upset that curvy-server chain is hunting for digs, pleased they've been getting the brush

NY Daily News
by Kerry Burke, Lore Croghan and Joe Kemp

The Snooze needs three — yes, three — reporters to get the handle on Hooters.

A move by Hooters to open near the new Nets arena has gone bust so far — but brownstone Brooklyn is melting down at the very thought of the risque restaurant invading their neighborhood.

Hooters reps have been trolling through the stroller-friendly neighborhoods of Prospect Heights and Park Slope for a possible storefront — but local moms say they are ready for battle.

“It’s a disgusting national chain with bad beer and bad food,” said Lee Skaife, mother of a 13-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy.

“It’s just not a family place.”

Hooters — which already has two locations in midtown and in Queens — is looking to cash in by luring Nets fans from the new Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards, which opens in September.


Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

April 30, 2012

Hooters Reportedly "Desperate" To Bring Boobs To Park Slope

by Garth Johnston

According to reports the chain has made unsuccessful plays for multiple properties in the area.

"I think they [Hooters] desperately want to open in the neighborhood, but I don’t think they’re going to on North Flatbush," Sharon Davidson, director of the North Flatbush BID, told Prospect Heights Patch when she confirmed that the restaurant had tried to get in at both the Triangle Sports building (across from the Atlantic Yards) and the Pintchik Paint and Hardware building a little further over.

We've contacted Hooters regarding their interest in the area, but have yet to hear back. Considering the upcoming arrival of the Nets—not to mention those Canz waitress poachers—we understand why they'd want to expand their foothold in the city beyond Midtown. They do have good wings.


Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

April 27, 2012

Community Board 6 committee urges restrictions on variance request for apartment building planned for Bergen Tile site across from arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Not so fast, a Community Board 6 committee said last night to those planning an apartment building at the Bergen Tile site across from the Barclays Center arena, mainly on busy Flatbush Avenue but also extending around to lower-scale--and quiet, for now--Dean Street.

The Landmarks/Land Use Committee urged restrictions on a developer's request for a variance to add density and eliminate parking from a six-story apartment building with nearly 55 units.

While Atlantic Yards was brought up only a few times, it remains a context. Reprising remarks he made at another committee meeting earlier this week, board member Lou Sones observed, "A lot of people in this neighborhood have been basically screwed."

Either they were kicked out by eminent domain or are inundated by bars, he said, adding, "It was a lose-lose for everybody in the area."


Posted by eric at 12:15 PM

Triangle Sports Sold, ‘Neighborhood-Friendly’ Restaurant Coming In

The 97-year-old business across from Atlantic Yards will be closing its doors within weeks.

Park Slope Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

After just three months on the market, the iconic Triangle Sports building across from Atlantic Yards has been sold.

Owner Henry Rosa declined to name the buyer until the contract is completed, but confirmed that the new business will be “neighborhood friendly.”

According to Sharon Davidson, director of the North Flatbush BID, there was a bidding war and the top five bidders were all restaurants. She said one of them was Hooters, but Rosa confirmed that Hooters is not the buyer.

Hooters also approached the nearby Pintchik Paint and Hardware about selling, but the hardware store turned them down, Davidson said, adding, "I think they (Hooters) desperately want to open in the neighborhood, but I don’t think they’re going to on North Flatbush."


Posted by eric at 12:08 PM

April 26, 2012

Regarding Kemistry liquor license application, Millman sends SLA letter urging recognition of concerns about bottle service and closing times

Atlantic Yards Report

Assemblywoman Joan Millman has backed Prospect Place residents' concerns about the pending state liquor license application from Kemistry Lounge, which on April 23 received a thumbs-down advisory vote from a committee of Community Board Six.

According to her April 24 letter to the State Liquor Authority (below), Millman is concerned about:

1) Bottle service: Kemistry Lounge wishes to be the second establishment in Brooklyn to offer bottle service. Bottle service drastically increases patrons’ incentive to drink and promotes dangerous levels of drunkenness.

2) Closing times: This establishment abuts a quiet residential block and is located near two day-care centers. A set of reasonable closing times must be established.

The proprietors and neighbors are far apart on the issue of closing times; for example, the former have requested a 3:30 am cutoff on weekends, while residents, as well as the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, asked for 2 am.


Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

April 25, 2012

Public hearing tomorrow on plan for Bergen Tile site at Flatbush and Dean

Atlantic Yards Report

A committee of Brooklyn Community Board 6 will hold a public hearing tomorrow at 6 pm regarding the application for an apartment building at the Bergen Tile site, at the corner of the north side of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street opposite the Barclays Center (which is referred to as the southeast corner).

The applicant wants to waive required parking, which has caused community pushback, given the expected arena-related parking crunch, with no provision for residential permit parking. Then again, as surely will be argued, the site is very close to public transit, and parking requirements are increasingly seen as antiquated.


Posted by eric at 11:36 AM

The Barclays Center and Local Businesses

Journographica Class Blogs
by Adrian Szkolar

A Stony Brook University journalism student looks at small business hopes for a positive arena effect.

With the New Jersey Nets set to relocate to Brooklyn this upcoming September, local businesses have a sense of hope that with fans flocking to the games, there will be more potential customers.

“I’m positive there is some impact,” said Asandoh Jones, an instructor at New York Chess and Games, a local chess shop on Flatbrush Avenue which mainly relies on revenue from chess lessons. “The question is, we’re wondering how good it will be for business, it certainly can’t hurt.”


NoLandGrab: Jobs, Housing & Chess!

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

No ‘Kemistry’ — Slope group votes no on club’s liquor license

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

A proposed nightclub called Kemistry Lounge features some bad elements, according to a civic group representing Brownstone Brooklyn.

A Community Board 6 committee voted unanimously on Monday to reject a liquor license request for a sprawling Flatbush Avenue venue near the soon-to-open Barclays Center after neighbors complained it would bring noise and nuisance to the community.

The proposed live music venue — which wants to offer bottle service and dancing — would keep nearby residents awake at all hours and bombard a neighborhood that’s already oversaturated with boozy nightlife establishments, committee members said.

“People in the area feel more and more put upon — there’s been a cumulative element when it comes to liquor license applications,” said CB6’s Gary Reilly.


NoLandGrab: No doubt the Empire State Development Corporation believes that liquor license applications near the Barclays Center are at "acceptable levels."

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

April 24, 2012

Community Board 6 committee disapproves Kemistry Lounge liquor license application; would be second bottle-service club in the borough (video)

Atlantic Yards Report

After hearing passionate criticism about the planned Kemistry Lounge on Flatbush Avenue near Prospect Place, the Community Board 6 Public Safety/Environmental Protection/Permits/Licenses committee voted to disapprove a liquor license application, agreeing with concerns expressed about late night hours and what would be only the second bottle-service club in the borough--and the first one particularly close to residences.

Here's a summary of concerns from Prospect Place Neighbors, a new organization formed in response to the application, which points out that the location is within 500 feet of eight establishments with full liquor licenses and on a block with six storefronts of preschool facilities. (Here's their press kit.)

The lounge would be a few short blocks from the Barclays Center, clearly a generator of patrons.

The committee's vote is only advisory, and the State Liquor Authority (SLA) has the final call.


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Community Board 6 Rejects Kemistry Lounge’s Liquor License Application

On Monday night, Community Board 6’s liquor license committee voted to reject Kemistry Lounge’s liquor license application, with a final vote of 12 in favor to reject, zero opposed and 2 abstentions.

Kemistry Lounge at 260 Flatbush Avenue, which is not open and still under construction, is located between Prospect Place and St Marks Avenue and plans to be a 225-person upscale lounge with bottle service at tables, a private party room with a dance floor in the basement and live music and DJs.

But the aspect that disturbed the residents of Prospect Place the most was the fact that the establishment runs from Flatbush Avenue to Prospect Place and has three large plate glass windows and an exit on to the residential street.

“There is going to be a lot less thump, thump, thumping than you guys think,” [Kemistry co-owner James] Brown said. “We are not a nightclub.”

But with bottle service, a 225-person capacity, live music and DJs, Lou Somes, a member of CB6, said it is hard to believe that Kemistry won’t at least be “like a club.”

“The bottom line is that it looks like a nightclub, it smells like a nightclub and I have a problem with having something like a nightclub in this area,” Somes said.

Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

NYU, NYC, MTA reach deal for 370 Jay Street

2nd Ave. Sagas
by Benjamin Kabak

The MTA’s headquarters at 370 Jay Street will be a blight no more upon Downtown Brooklyn. After a decade of wrangling, political proclamations and unfunded plans to renovate the building, the MTA has agreed to surrender its lease on the building to the city, and in return, the city will provide NYU with the opportunity to turn the building into an applied sciences center in the heart of a rapidly growing neighborhood.

According to the Mayor’s Office, NYU will pay the MTA $50 million relocation expenses. The NYPD, another tenant, will receive $10 million. The university will then pay $1 per year in rent while receiving a series of tax breaks as well. That’s quite the deal for the city.

When NYU first announced its plans to open a science center in Brooklyn, the university originally offered the MTA $20 million to vacate its premises. The authority, no longer willing to roll over and die as it did with the Atlantic Yards air rights, dug in and asked for $50 million. With prodding from the Mayor, NYU gave in, and the MTA will begin to move out later this year.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Learning from the Vanderbilt Yard: MTA does not "roll over and die" when it makes Brooklyn deal with NYU

So, it looks like (too late) the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is doing better at negotiating than it did with Forest City Ratner.

I commented on Second Avenue Sagas to clarify that the MTA sold air rights to its Vanderbilt Yard, which were air rights for (part of) the Atlantic Yards project. Some people reading “the Atlantic Yards air rights” might think that the MTA property (8.5 acres) represented the entire 22-acre project.

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

April 23, 2012

Community Board 6 committee tonight hears presentations on liquor license applications for Kemistry Lounge and Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

The last two items on the long agenda for a Community Board 6 Public Safety/Environmental Protection/Permits/Licenses committee meeting tonight involve a controversial venue near the Barclays Center and the arena itself, about which the committee postponed a vote, requesting further community outreach:

Continued presentation and review of an on-premises liquor license application submitted to the State Liquor Authority on behalf of Kemistry Entertainment Group dba Kemistry Lounge at 260 Flatbush Avenue (between St. Mark's / Prospect Places).

Continued presentation and review of an on-premises liquor license application submitted to the State Liquor Authority on behalf of Levy Premium Foodservice, LP and Brooklyn Events Center, LLC at the Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Avenue (between Flatbush/5th Avenues).

The meeting starts at 6:30 pm. The location:
Prospect Park YMCA
357 9th Street, 7th floor
(between 5th & 6th Avenues)


Posted by eric at 12:13 PM

April 19, 2012

Impact of Atlantic Yards arena, actually, will be felt a lot more when new/empty spaces get filled

Atlantic Yards Report

Has the advent of the Barclays Center really changed retail in the blocks around it?

That was the theme of a misguided Times article Tuesday, which focused significantly on gentrification-led change (see the map below, highlighting small establishments), while missing the fact that such change had nothing to do with reclaiming the enduring "scar" of the Vanderbilt Yard.

The map even missed the burger boom outlined by the Brooklyn Paper, which, that article suggests, is partly driven by the arena for Five Guys, but not for 67 Burger.

Meanwhile, the Times scanted the opportunity to address issues of accountability, such as the five-month delay in the Transportation Demand Management plan or the Appellate Division's smackdown of the Empire State Development Corporation. And that raises questions about whether local officials are prepared to address arena impacts on the residential blocks.

What's coming

While the area around the Barclays Center is changing, and there's significant retail demand for open spaces, what struck me last night as I walked Flatbush Avenue is how much more change there will be.

There are several major spaces empty, or not yet open, unmentioned in the Times's oddly-focused map....


Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

April 18, 2012

Love-Hating Brooklyn and the Atlantic Yards

Curbed NY
by Dave Hogarty

The half-assed New York Times piece on the arena effect spawns more, since it's The Times.

For all of its winking fun, however, the Times does point out that the neighborhood around the Atlantic Yards is walking a tightrope between bemoaning rapid change and getting caught in the doldrums of protracted development. Massive plans that were meant to utterly transform the Atlantic Yards over 10 years are now projected to take 25 years, forcing residents to "tolerate vacant lots, above-ground arena parking and Phase II construction staging for decades."


Related coverage...

Planetizen, Nowhere Near Completion, Brooklyn's Mega-Development is Already Changing the Neighborhood

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Effect: Is it Changing Retail For the Worse?

Crain's Cleveland Business, Forest City's Atlantic Yards project brings change to Brooklyn

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

Will A Bigger, Taller, Rezoned Midtown Be Bloomberg's Legacy?

by Garth Johnston

Mayor Bloomberg has made many plays over his two-and-a-half terms at leaving a lasting physical legacy, but none really worked out. The maybe-too-short One World Trade isn't really his, the Jets stadium never happened (and neither did the Olympics), Atlantic Yards is enriching a few while alienating many of the locals—and don't even get us started on CityTime. So what's a billionaire from Boston to do? Well, according to the Daily News, try and rush through rezoning to rebuild the area around Grand Central taller! Sleeker! With less soul! Yup, views of the Chrysler Building could soon be but a memory.


Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

April 17, 2012

Atlantic Yards Changed Brooklyn Long Ago, Says NYT [POLL]

The transformation of Brooklyn has already been felt in the Atlantic Yards project – and the first phase, the Barclays Center, hasn't even been completed.

Park Slope Patch
by Jamie Schuh

...the Times says that the changes are evidence that the project has accomplished its goal of transforming the Long Island Rail Road’s dreary rail yards and surrounding industrial buildings, described by Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco as “a scar that divided the neighborhood.”

But would these changes have happened on their own, anyway? Other Brooklyn neighborhoods, like Williamsburg and DUMBO, blossomed with high-rise condos and artisanal cocktail bars long ago. Vote in our poll below, or let us know your thoughts in the comments.


NoLandGrab: The guy who mostly pays DePlasco's salary, Bruce Ratner, could himself be described as a "scar that divided the neighborhood" — except that with probably 9 out of every 10 residents loathing him, that hardly counts as "divided."

Posted by eric at 11:06 PM

April 10, 2012

Slope battles another bar near Barclays

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

Park Slope residents say a planned music venue just blocks from the soon-to-open Barclays Center gives new meaning to the term “bad chemistry.”

Neighbors of the proposed Kemistry Lounge on Flatbush Avenue say a venue with live performances, DJs, a full bar, dancing, and an exit on a residential block of Prospect Place will bring noise and ruckus to their quiet community.

“It’s disruptive; it turns the street into liquor lane,” said neighbor Harold Gruber. “It’s going to make it impossible to sleep.


NoLandGrab: Speaking of liquor lane, don't forget the Barclays Center liquor-license hearing tonight at the 78th Precinct, 65 Sixth Avenue, at 6:30 p.m.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

April 6, 2012

Brooklyn Broadside: What Will Downtown Brooklyn Look Like in the Year 2012?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

The veteran Eagle columnist swallows a handful of mushrooms and predicts the future of Brooklyn development.

With all the development underway again in Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg and elsewhere, maybe it’s time for some crystal ball gazing. I’ve picked 2022, 10 years away, because it is safer than picking five years hence.

Andrew Cuomo will be in his second term as president, having been renominated at the 2020 Democratic convention held at Barclays Center. Christine Quinn will have just completed her second term as mayor, and Marilyn Gelber will be in her second term as Brooklyn borough president.

God help us on those first two. Marilyn would be a giant upgrade over the current situation, however.

Can you guess the one topic on which the great prognosticator's Magic 8-Ball keeps returning a "Reply Hazy - Try Again?"

But even I cannot predict how the building of the full Atlantic Yards project will proceed — or when.


Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

April 5, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps the only true words Bruce has ever uttered.

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

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


Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Brooklyn’s Class A woes

Borough’s Downtown market sees highest availability in office space in more than a decade

The Real Deal
by Adam Pincus

The Atlantic Yards office tower(s), and its bogus 10,000 permanent jobs, coming never.

The office market in Downtown Brooklyn was once going strong with a full slate of long-term leases, and a roster of financial firms like Bear Stearns & Company, which were locating back offices there to flee expensive Manhattan rents.

But today its high 90 percent occupancy rate masks a staggering 26.8 percent availability rate — from downsizing tenants and expiring leases in its 8 million square feet of modern, Class A office buildings. That’s according to fourth-quarter 2011 figures, the most recent available from commercial firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

The growth of vacant and available space has been a long time in the making, as financial firms reduced head counts, moved staff overseas, or decamped to New Jersey.

The availability rate — measuring space vacant now or available over the next 12 months — in Downtown Brooklyn’s modern office space is among the highest in the nation.

Developer and landlord Forest City Ratner controls most of the market, with about 5.2 million square feet in six buildings. Most of those buildings are in the Metro Tech Center complex, as well as three additional buildings, including 1 Pierrepont Plaza.

Forest City has just 3 percent vacancy in its portfolio, data from CoStar Group shows. But it acknowledged that about 18 percent of the portfolio is available, either directly through Forest City or indirectly through existing companies in the form of a sublease.


NoLandGrab: There's a shocker — Forest City Ratner officially claiming a low vacancy rate, while reality begs to differ.

Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

Vacant Lot and Warehouse Snatched Up for Millions in Prospect Heights

Could developers be moving to turn a Prospect Place warehouse and an Atlantic Yards-area vacant lot into new residential buildings?

Prospect Heights Patch
by Jamie Schuh

Vulnerable Prospect Heights residents who weren't removed by Bruce Ratner's bulldozers will likely be finished off by the Atlantic Yards gentrification wave.

Prospect Heights recently saw two big real estate transactions, though with uncertain plans, it’s difficult to tell whether or not the neighborhood will see new residential units, or possibly a large commercial space.

A warehouse at 363-371 Prospect Place, between Underhill and Washington avenues, sold to a Manhattan-based developer for $4.2 million, says Brownstoner. The building is 30,000 square feet, with frontage on both Prospect Place and St. Marks Avenue, says the blog. Last December, the Department of Buildings shut down plans for a residential conversion and two-story addition (for 44 proposed units), but since the building has been under contract since June 2011, “those plans may still be in the cards,” says Brownstoner.

Borough Builders, Inc. bought the vacant residential land just a block from Atlantic Yards at 650-654 Bergen Street (between Vanderbilt and Underhill Avenues) for $2.7 million in an all-cash transaction, a record for 22,270 square feet of buildable area, says CoStar Group. The post says that there were no approved plans, no foundation in place and no tax abatement on the parcel.


Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

April 4, 2012

Let’s Make a Deal! How Mike’s Mild-Mannered Closer Seth Pinsky Got the City Building Again

Dan Doctoroff's protégée picks up the mantle for PlaNYC.

The New York Observer
by Nitasha Tiku

If picking up the mantle for PlaNYC means building lots of parking lots, then Seth Pinsky is right on track.

“There are no permanent obstacles with Seth,” said Mr. Doctoroff. Mr. Lieber put it more bluntly: “He wears the other guy out.”

Some blame that stance for the chaotic denouement of the tech campus competition. “There’s a line that Stanford left because Seth was too difficult to deal with,” the source said. Those privy to negotiations say Stanford was taken aback by the binding legal penalties involving factors outside of their control.

“I’m not sure anyone really knows what happened there,” Mr. Pinsky said. “I think developers are used to dealing with cities that just write a check and say, ‘Will you just swear on a Bible that you’ll do this?’”

Bruce Ratner is used to dealing that way, anyway.

Meanwhile, community advocates and urban planners decry the EDC’s corporate structure and lack of transparency. “They pass for being a government agency, and in fact they have more power than many of the line agencies under the mayor,” said Tom Angotti, director of the Center for Community Planning and Development at Hunter College and the author of New York for Sale, who noted that by the time neighborhoods are consulted, the EDC has typically already made up its mind.

“If [closing deals] is the only criterion, he’s been a success. But for me that’s not the only criteria, nor should it be for the public. The question is what’s the quality of the deals,” added Mr. Angotti, a technical advisor to the alternative plans for the arena at Atlantic Yards. He cited the Brooklyn stadium as an example of selecting a more suburbanized approach over a plan that would benefit locals. “It divides three neighborhoods instead of uniting them and it just creates another giant super block in the middle of Brooklyn.”


Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

April 2, 2012

Another planned bar/lounge on Flatbush Avenue, Kemistry, provokes concern over exit on residential street, "nightclub" plans

Atlantic Yards Report

We'd missed this story last week, and planned to post it today, but Norman Oder beat us to the punch — as per usual.

Not surprisingly, there's another controversy over a lounge/nightclub planned near the Barclays Center arena at a location that fronts on busy Flatbush Avenue but had a rear exist on a residential street.

In this case, as described by Park Slope Patch and Brownstoner last week, it's The Kemistry Lounge International, which has a placeholder website, but a Facebook page, now offline (but cached), alarmed some neighbors.

(The name, as pointed out by a Brownstoner commenter, is apparently a nod to Kem Owens. The location is 260 Flatbush Avenue, noted on the map.)

The concerns

The main concerns seem to be:

  • whether there will be an exit onto Prospect Place
  • whether the 245-person capacity space will be a nightclub with rowdy people out late

The first issue seems relatively straightforward: bar owners told Brownstoner that the back exit would be used only as an emergency exit. Surely that can be negotiated.

The second issue may be tougher to pin down. If the lounge will have dancing only for private events, as Patch reported, how often would they be? If, in the words of co-owner James Brown, "It won't be a nightclub," what does that mean?


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Nabes Don’t Want Upscale Lounge on Flatbush Ave.

Prospect Place is a quaint and quiet residential block—and most of the neighborhood wants to keep it that way.

Last night, at the Community Board 6's permits and licenses committee, twenty or so residents of the tree-lined street voiced serious concerns about the proposed 245-person capacity restaurant and bar/lounge called Kemistry Lounge, which is on Flatbush between Sixth Avenue and Prospect Place.

Joe Marvel, who has been living on Prospect Place since 1975 and lives right next to the new development’s plate glass exit on Prospect Place, is worried about his quality of life.

“The whole neighborhood will be affected by this place’s throbbing music at all hours of the night and there will be an uptick of loitering and urinating,” Marvel said. “In no way are we opposed to business, but we are opposed to clubs.”

After the meeting, Kemistry's James Brown said he wasn’t discouraged, but rather that a negative reaction was “par for the course.”

“I think it is good and the community’s concerns are legitimate,” Brown said. “We want to make changes and adapt our environment to their concerns so we can work and live together.”

Brownstoner, Slope Residents Worry About Another Arena-Area Club

Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

March 31, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

Brownstoner reported March 29:

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

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


Related coverage...

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

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

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

Posted by eric at 11:21 PM

March 28, 2012

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

The Brooklyn Paper
by Aaron Short

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Posted by eric at 11:01 PM

March 27, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

But there is a lesson for the area...


Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

March 24, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted by steve at 6:45 PM

March 23, 2012

Collapse Kills Worker

Two Others Injured While Razing Warehouse for Columbia University Expansion

The Wall Street Journal
by Pervaiz Shallwani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

March 21, 2012

New Domino project embroiled in lawsuit

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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


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

Posted by eric at 7:16 PM

Views From the Market Top

The Wall Street Journal
by Laura Kusisto

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

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

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

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


Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

March 19, 2012

Sweet movie: Domino doc explores controversial project

The Brooklyn Paper
by Aaron Short

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

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

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

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


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

March 15, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

And personal ambition/greed seemed to be a spur:

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

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

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

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


Related content...

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

Posted by eric at 12:37 PM

March 13, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Domino Effect

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

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


Related coverage...

The Commercial Observer, Domino Sugar Factory Site Up For Sale

Posted by eric at 1:19 PM

Retail ripples from Atlantic Yards

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

The Real Deal
by Lana Bortolot

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

March 12, 2012

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 27, 2012

Commercial Rents Rise Near Barclays Site

All About Fifth

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

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

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


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

Posted by eric at 9:18 AM

February 24, 2012

Before a Dribble, Real Estate Scores Points

The Wall Street Journal
by Kavita Mokha

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

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

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

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

Not everyone is happy about the gentrification bonanza, however.

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

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

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

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


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

Related coverage...

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

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

February 23, 2012

Planned parking-free apartments near Barclays Center stoke fear

The Brooklyn Paper
by Daniel Bush

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

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

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


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

Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

February 22, 2012

Brooklyn Broadside: Downtown Building Boom Could Be a Planning Nightmare

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Look who's just catching on — sort of.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NoLandgrab: You can't make this stuff up.

Posted by eric at 12:23 PM

February 17, 2012

Bigger Slope historic district could curb development near arena

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

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

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

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

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

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


Image: Brooklyn Paper

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

February 15, 2012

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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

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


Related content...

The Wall Street Journal, Brooklyn Arena Pulls More Retail

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

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

The Real Deal, Waterbridge Capital bets on Barclays Arena

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

Posted by eric at 4:14 PM

February 14, 2012

New Building Will Replace Bergen Tile Near Arena


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


Related coverage...

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

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

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

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

Photo: Tracy Collins

Posted by eric at 1:14 PM

Brooklyn's Shifting Center

The Wall Street Journal
by Joseph De Avila

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

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

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


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

Related coverage...

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

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

Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

February 9, 2012

Is this the start of a Barclays Center gold rush?

The Brooklyn Paper
by Eli Rosenberg

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

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

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


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

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

February 5, 2012

Signs of the times: Franklin Avenue, House of D, Southpaw transition

Atlantic Yards Report

So, while some were waiting around for Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn continued to change:

  • Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights becomes "the next subway stop on Brooklyn’s gentrification express"
  • While the Brooklyn House of Detention was being renovated, six high-rise apartment buildings were built nearby, and a boutique hotel is across the street
  • After eleven years, Park Slope music club Southpaw will close and the space, like others on Fifth Avenue, will become a business serving kids

Bonus: Southpaw co-owner Mikey Palms told the Brooklyn Paper how he got the Fifth Avenue building:

“A crackhead and a prostitute were living above the venue and the owner told me, ‘If you can get ’em out, you can have the space,’” he said.


Posted by steve at 1:13 PM

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

February 1, 2012


F'd in Park Slope

Mom-and-pop store TRIANGLE SPORTS has sat at 182 Flatbush Avenue since 1916. For nearly 100 years it has bravely survived amid the growing monstrosity of its now-neighborhood, much like the last chip in the otherwise empty plastic party bowl.

The rise of Atlantic Yards and the controversial Barclays sports arena has changed the smaller-scaled Brooklyn landscape forever. Growing numbers of big-box chain stores and eateries are following the big money and pushing out local businesses that can’t compete.

Christie’s Jamaican Patties, another long-time and much beloved business further up Flatbush, is also closing, a result of skyrocketing rents sought by landlords for any property that falls within the long shadow cast by development corporation Forest City Ratner. They are, by the way, the Godzilla of Greed, responsible for the nightmarishly unnavigable MetroTech and the “crime-ridden” Atlantic Center mall, as it is often referred to in the local papers.

Meanwhile, workers in the independent stores that are displaced don’t have much to look forward to. In a federal lawsuit filed in November of 2011, seven would-be Atlantic Yards workers claimed that construction jobs and union cards that were promised to them by various Ratner-affiliated agencies never materialized. The lies were so numerous and so little was actually accomplished that City Council member Letitia James called the promise of jobs for the workers, some of whom ended up working at McDonalds, “the greatest bait-and-switch in the history of Brooklyn.”


Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

January 31, 2012

Goodbye, Triangle Sports: in 2005, Atlantic Yards sounded like a boon; now it's a reason to close

Atlantic Yards Report

From a 7/6/05 New York Times article headlined Brooklynites Take In a Big Development Plan, and Speak Up:

Henry Rosa, 55, the co-owner of a sporting goods store at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, said: "I suspect it will be great for us. Once the project is complete, with new residents here, it will bring us more traffic." But he said that if he lived in the area, he would probably be angry.

From today's Wall Street Journal, Bowing to Change: Brooklyn's Triangle Sports Feels the Pressure From All Sides:

A family-owned sporting-goods and apparel store on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn is calling it quits after 96 years in business, another sign of changes sparked by the coming of the nearby Barclays Center arena complex.

Feeling the pressure from big-box stores and the weak economy, Triangle Sports has put its building up for sale in hopes of finding a store or restaurant itching to be close to the multiuse sports, retail and residential project rising across the street.

"It's getting harder and harder for a smaller, independent retailer to survive," said an emotional Henry Rosa, one of the partners behind Triangle Sports, who started working in the shop as a teenager in the 1960s.

...National retailers and Manhattan restaurateurs have been quietly scoping out properties around the arena, real-estate brokers and property owners said.


Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Triangle Sports Building for Sale

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

January 30, 2012

Bowing to Change

Brooklyn's Triangle Sports Feels the Pressure From All Sides

The Wall Street Journal
by Joseph De Avila

There goes the neighborhood — courtesy of Bruce C. Ratner.

A family-owned sporting-goods and apparel store on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn is calling it quits after 96 years in business, another sign of changes sparked by the coming of the nearby Barclays Center arena complex.

Feeling the pressure from big-box stores and the weak economy, Triangle Sports has put its building up for sale in hopes of finding a store or restaurant itching to be close to the multiuse sports, retail and residential project rising across the street.

"It's getting harder and harder for a smaller, independent retailer to survive," said an emotional Henry Rosa, one of the partners behind Triangle Sports, who started working in the shop as a teenager in the 1960s.

More change is on the way for the area around Barclays Center as it prepares to open this fall. National retailers and Manhattan restaurateurs have been quietly scoping out properties around the arena, real-estate brokers and property owners said.

"Is it going to look like Madison Square Garden?" said Geoffrey Bailey of real-estate service firm TerraCRG, which is marketing the Triangle Sports building. "It's going to look like Brooklyn's interpretation."

"This trend is going to accelerate in a monumental way as we get closer to the arena opening," said Timothy King, managing partner with CPEX Real Estate.

But longtime Triangle Sports shoppers said they were sorry about the news that the business was closing.

"It's a symbol of things that have been here a long time," said Liz Fader, 75 years old, from Boerum Hill. "This is just another example of this loss of community."


Related coverage...

Here's Park Slope, Triangle Sporting Goods Up For Sale

This sadly seemed inevitable: After 96 years occupying the prime corner of Fifth Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, and Dean Street, Triangle Sporting Goods has put itself, and the building it calls home, up for sale.

Posted by eric at 5:12 PM

January 23, 2012

Building New York: NYU 2031 Returns Controversy to Silver Towers

International Business Times
by Roland Li

NYU's Greenwich Village-eating development scheme has at least one thing going for it — it's not Atlantic Yards.

The opposition has been fierce. Local residents and preservation groups have long battled NYU's various development projects, which have involved demolition of existing buildings, including the former Palladium nightclub and St. Ann's Church. These new buildings, they argue, will overwhelm the neighborhood, first with noisy construction, and then by their sheer mass. They point out that the proposed 3 million square feet in new construction would be more mass than the Empire State Building. They call for the school to seek space in Lower Manhattan or elsewhere -- anywhere but the Village.

NYU has said that the plans will require no tenant displacement or eminent domain--in contrast to its northern neighbor Columbia's growth or the controversial genesis of Atlantic Yards, both of which led to various lawsuits.


Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

January 20, 2012

"Brooklyn Is Set for a Building Boom," as per WSJ? Maybe if you count the delayed Atlantic Yards towers.

Atlantic Yards Report

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, Brooklyn Is Set for a Building Boom:

Developers are rapidly running out of space to build new projects in Manhattan, but brownstone-dotted Brooklyn could be poised for a building boom, according to a new report.

Brooklyn has in the early planning stages as many as 14,000 new residential units in the coming years, compared with Manhattan, where just 5,000 new units are in the early planning phase, according to a new report by Nancy Packes, a consultant to some of the city's largest developers.

That's primarily because Manhattan is running out of new sites that are zoned for residential use, according to Ms. Packes.

Developers, such as AvalonBay Communities Inc., Stahl Real Estate and Douglaston Development already have large new projects planned for downtown Brooklyn and the Williamsburg waterfront in the next few year.

Oh, really? No breakdown of that 14,000 figure was given and, as Brownstoner observed, "we’re guessing that the vast majority of those are supposed to be delivered via Atlantic Yards and Domino, so the 'boom' has been imminent for quite some time."

And, I'd add, the apartments towers have been delayed for a while.


NoLandGrab: OK, Wall Street Journal, hit the snooze button and go back to sleep for a couple more years.

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

January 19, 2012

Barclays Center May Already be Attracting New Retail Potential

Industrial building on Dean St. is on the market, with listing suggesting realtor wants to turn it into a retail hub.

Carroll Gardens Patch
by Jamie Schuh

An industrial building on Dean Street, between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues, is on the market and its listing suggests it may host retail businesses catering to Barclays Center arena-goers, according to Atlantic Yards Report.

AYR says that the former headquarters of a stencil-making company is now being promoted by realtor Winick as soon to have an "all glass front” and parking for 90 cars, while also touting its proximity to the arena.


Posted by eric at 4:30 PM

January 17, 2012

An industrial site for sale on Dean Street across from the planned arena parking lot promises change

Atlantic Yards Report

An industrial building on the south side of Dean Street a bit east of Carlton Avenue--across from the future surface parking lot for the Atlantic Yards arena--is for sale, and the broker suggests it could be high-density residential, while offering a rendering [right] that suggests, at minimum, ground floor retail serving arena-goers.

The site offers a substantial 65,000 square feet, which would support not just a restaurant but a small multi-store complex.

The 1951 building, which offers two stories above ground and one story below ground, is zoned M-1, aimed for light manufacturing, but in which "[o]ffices, hotels and most retail uses are also permitted." Residential is more iffy.

It offers a 140-foot frontage and a significant potential footprint, according to the advertisement from Winick Realty Group:

  • 16,500 Square Feet Ground Floor (ceiling 11½ -12 feet)
  • 21,370 Square Feet Second Floor (ceiling 11½ –12 Feet)
  • 26,722 Square Feet Lower Level (12-14 Feet Lower Level)

No price is listed, but a previous sales effort, via another broker, priced the building at $5 million.

Winick also promotes an "all glass front," parking for 90 cars, and cites, as neighbors, "Nets Arena, Barclays Arena, Atlantic Terminal, Atlantic Yards, Atlantic Center."


Related coverage...

Daily Heights, 594 Dean Street is for Sale

While the broker is saying that it’s a good site for high-density residential development, it’s got 140 linear feat of frontage that looks like it would support retail geared toward arena-goers, as this rendering of 594 Dean Street suggests. They even helpfully suggest an upscale name for the development: “The Warehouse at Dean.”

Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

January 16, 2012

Lavazza Coffee Opening Near Arena


Thanks to the tipster who pointed out that a Lavazza Coffee outpost is moving into the Atlantic Yards vicinity, on 6th Avenue between Bergen and Dean streets. A graphic design office occupied the space previously. Our tipster wonders, “Maybe the owner has been renegotiating in anticipation of AY?” Do you think a cafe will do well in this spot?


NoLandGrab: Do well? With the Nets putting fans to sleep with their woeful play, this place should be selling espressos by the bucketload.

Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

January 12, 2012

Controversial Slope sports bar to open as farm-to-table eatery

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

A once-embattled Park Slope sports bar will open with a new name and a strikingly different business model in hopes of becoming a slam-dunk for community foodies — not arena crowds.

Woodland, a farm-to-table eatery with an outdoorsy motif, will start serving food on Feb. 1 in the storefront at Flatbush and Sixth avenues that was slated to become Prime 6, a music venue and watering hole that sparked neighborhood controversy without ever opening amid concerns it would draw rowdy basketball fans and a hip hop scene.

Owner Akiva Ofshtein said he has altered his business’ vision and will now open “a nice cozy restaurant” with a 46-seat patio that closes by midnight on weekends in an attempt to better mesh with the community.

“I’ll be among his first customers,” said neighbor Steve Ettinger, who bashed Prime 6 at a Community Board 6 meeting last year. “I’m grateful he changed his mind.”


Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Whose Mall Is It Anyway: Will Brooklyn Flock to Fulton Street’s New Chain Stores?

Isn't That Why We Left Pittsburgh Behind to Begin With?

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

H&M is scheduled for a new glass building on the corner of Hoyt Street being built by Mr. Laboz, below which will be a TJ Maxx. Aeropostale opened across the street in the fall of 2010, around the same time the new Shake Shack was announced, which opened in December, a month after the Gap announced plans to take space on the mall. Express is coming, too. The gleaming new first phase of CityPoint will open in the first half of next year, quite possibly with a Target inside, so successful is the one half-a-mile away at Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Center Mall.

Yet, venture inside that mall, and it is largely devoid—except for the aisles of Target—of the kind of clientele Mr. Laboz and his cohort talk of attracting. It remains to be seen whether the brownstone babies and their cousins in the condo towers will ever migrate to the mall, giving up on Bird, Greenlight Books or the newly arrived Barney’s Co-op.

“The hard part is, black people will shop where white people shop, they don’t have a choice,” one veteran Brooklyn broker said. “It doesn’t work the other way around.”

The borough president has been a huge champion of the strip’s transformation, disputing charges of its Manhattanification. “Nobody wants that less than me, I campaigned against that when I ran for office,” Mr. Markowitz said.


NoLandGrab: Oh, really? Atlantic Yards — which, if built, would be the densest residential tract in North America — says you're a liar.

Posted by eric at 10:47 AM

January 11, 2012

Slope’s Prime 6 is Now ‘Woodland,’ Opening Sunday


Before it has even opened, Prime 6 gets a name change, and perhaps a change of heart.

Prime 6, the controversial bar/restaurant opening on the corner of Flatbush and 6th avenues in Park Slope, is changing its name and finally has an opening date. According to the Flatbush Avenue BID, the establishment will now be known as Woodland and will have a soft opening this Sunday, January 15th. Apparently the business has toned down the club atmosphere so many Slopers were nervous about and is instead striving to be a “go-to spot for farm to table food, super steaks, fresh fish, venison, bison burgers, etc.” No bottle service, then?


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Prime 6 is Now Woodland, Opens Sunday

In April, owner Akiva Ofshtein agreed to compromise with the community by closing the backyard seating area by 11 p.m. on weekdays and 12 a.m. on weekends. Ofshtein also ditched plans for a backyard bar, nixed any possibility of bottle service and promised to meet with Community Board 6 after one year to discuss any recurring problems.

Here's Park Slope, Opening Sunday: Prime Six, Now Re-Named "Woodland"

According to Brownstoner, they've gone in a completely opposite direction from the "nightclub" theme that they were originally shooting for, largely because of pressure from the neighborhood.

Posted by eric at 4:45 PM

January 1, 2012

"How Brooklyn Got Its Groove Back": an analysis of the borough's rise, and those left behind (and, I'd suggest, why that helped bring us AY)

Atlantic Yards Report

In the Autumn 2011 issue of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, Kay S. Hymowitz offers How Brooklyn Got Its Groove Back: New York’s biggest borough has reinvented itself as a postindustrial hot spot.

And, while not about Atlantic Yards (except for one mention), it presents a useful framework, based on personal experience and reportage, for some of the changes that brought us here, while offering more background on the enduring economic divide sketched this week in Crain's.

(It's on the Atlantic Cities' list of ten best CityReads of 2011.)

An AY mention

In the section under rezonings, Hymowitz writes:

Brooklyn also benefited from the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations’ rezoning of fallow industrial neighborhoods for “mixed” uses, so that residential, commercial, and light-industry buildings could occupy the same area. These decisions have met with fierce resistance, with Brooklyn’s gentrifiers—ironically, given their historical role in changing the borough—among the most vociferous in arguing that grabby real-estate interests and their friends in government are driving out an indigenous population. Bruce Ratner’s much-reviled Atlantic Yards project, which took advantage of the government’s bullying eminent-domain powers, lends some credence to the charge. But mostly, Brooklyn’s transformation has come from the ground up. In the beginning, as Osman observes, gentrification spread because “a few families decided to cross” Atlantic Avenue, the southern boundary of Brooklyn Heights. The rezoning that finally took place decades later was simply bowing to reality: large factories were gone for good, and young singles and families wanted in.

For Atlantic Yards, it must be pointed out, there was no rezoning, just an override of zoning.


Posted by eric at 6:33 PM

December 28, 2011

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

am New York
by Graham Wood

The kingdom of Queens

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


NoLandGrab: Lucky Queens!

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

December 21, 2011

Downtown Remains Contested Territory

City Limits: The Brooklyn Bureau
by Neil deMause

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

Whether this is success depends on who you ask.

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

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

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

A long-sought transformation

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


Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

December 16, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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

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

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


Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

December 13, 2011

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

Atlantic Yards Report

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

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

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


Posted by eric at 11:43 PM

December 12, 2011

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

New York Magazine
by Justin Davidson

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

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

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


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

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

Posted by eric at 9:35 AM

December 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

December 7, 2011

Is Downtown Brooklyn The Next Foodster Hotspot?


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

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


Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

December 2, 2011

Sewer Project Expected To Launch Willets Point Redevelopment

by Josh Robin

Willets Point's beleaguered property owners are finally getting storm sewers — but only as a prelude to getting kicked out.

Whether with a shovel or a real pile driver, the redevelopment of Willets Point is moving forward.

The plan is to turn its pothole-covered streets and excess of auto body shops into a neighborhood of apartments, businesses and a convention center.

New sewer lines come first, however.

"We must reclaim these 62 acres and take the first steps towards installing the infrastructure that will keep Willets Point clean and sustainable for generations to come," said Bloomberg.

By "reclaim," the Mayor means "seize."

Business owners point out that it's not their fault the streets look rough. They paid taxes for years, and now they're the ones bearing the brunt of the city's neglect.

Jerry Antonacci's family has run a carting business for 35 years.

"It's gotta be over a million dollars over 30 years in taxes, and what do we get for it? We're getting kicked out. I mean, we didn't get no streets, we didn't get no sewers, we didn't get no sidewalks, no street signs, no stop signs, no snow plowing, nothing," said Antonacci.

The city can look with optimism at court approval of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, which allowed the seizure of private property for a largely private development.


NoLandGrab: "Largely private?" Which parts aren't private?

Related content...

Willets Point United, Bloomberg Sneaks into Willets Point Sewer

Willets Point property owners have a slightly more sober take.

Earlier today Mayor Bloomberg snuck into Willets Point in order to do a photo op at the site of the sewer construction project-that has yet to be permitted by the DEC! He was so proud of this opportunity that there was no notice of the event last night on his official schedule-and the event took place close to the Flushing River where Willets Point businesses were not likely to take notice.

Posted by eric at 9:42 AM

November 22, 2011

Patty wake, patty wake! Christie’s to close on Flatbush Avenue

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

Bruce Ratner 1, Black-owned Mom-n-Pop restaurant, 0.

A 45-year-old, critically acclaimed, beloved neighborhood eatery is falling victim to arena-spurred gentrification.

The owner of a cheap neighborhood favorite will close his restaurant after 45 years in Park Slope and Prospect Heights, citing a landlord-tenant dispute fueled by a nearby sports arena.

Paul Haye, who runs Christie’s Jamaican Patties on Flatbush Avenue and Sterling Place, says he’ll close by January, claiming his landlord — who last spring welcomed embattled sports bar Prime 6 to the neighborhood — gave him the boot in order to collect higher rent from a new tenant, now that Barclays Center is closer to completion.

The dispute is the latest evidence that small businesses may have trouble staying open near the arena, where the Nets will play basketball next season (if there is a season).

Businesses owners in Fort Greene and north Park Slope also report that landlords have doubled rent, citing proximity to the arena in new real-estate ads.


Posted by eric at 1:07 PM

November 17, 2011

Affordable housing moves ahead... at Hunter's Point South

Atlantic Yards Report

Crain's New York Business yesterday reported: Queens housing project to be all 'affordable': Originally pegged at 75% subsidized housing for the middle class, Hunter's Point South will be 100% affordable, a city official announced Wednesday:

The first phase of the huge Hunter’s Point South project on a 30-acre waterfront parcel in Long Island City, Queens, will be 100% affordable housing, Deputy Mayor Robert Steel announced Wednesday afternoon.

How exactly they calculated they could make this project work as all affordable--more subsidies?-- remains unclear, but a Related spokesman said the team was "thinking creatively and working collaboratively."

What's the biggest project?

Crain's noted:

When completed, Hunter's Point South will be the city’s largest affordable housing complex built since Co-Op City opened in the Bronx in the 1970s.

By contrast, Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin has claimed Atlantic Yards "is the most ambitious middle-income housing project ever undertaken in this city, because of its commitment to produce 2250 units of housing."

Forest City is supposed to announce plans for the long-delayed first tower by the end of the year.


Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

November 14, 2011

FUREE, elected officials ask Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to allow community input on search for new president

Atlantic Yards Report

FUREE (Families United for Racial & Economic Equality), along with State Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Joe Lentol, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, and City Council Member Letitia James (but not Steve Levin), has sent a cordial letter requesting community input in the search for the new president of the private-public Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP)...


Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

November 10, 2011

"Prospect Heights Is Happening!" (thanks to arena), Corcoran claims, using photo of building which (unmentioned) is across from arena parking lot

Atlantic Yards Report

Prospect Heights residents have been getting the below postcard from mega-brokerage Corcoran encouraging them to choose that firm to sell their home. (Postcard via Prospect Heights activist Patti Hagan.)

The text, as stated on the back:

Prospect Heights is Happening!
Your neighborhood is transforming. With the Barclays Center arena nearing completion, Propsect Heights and the surrounding area are being redefined.

Then follows the Corcoran pitch.

The unmentioned irony

The "Just Sold" building pictured is 618 Dean Street, directly across the street from the planned interim surface parking lot for the arena, which could last a decade and might impinge ever so slightly on residents' lives.

And did Corcoran, in its ad, mention the parking lot? Nope.


NoLandGrab: Irony? Norman Oder's never worked in real estate. They're probably kicking themselves for not adding "adjacent to AMPLE parking!"

Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

November 3, 2011

Park Slope, Brooklyn: A Neighborhood Growing and Changing at Each End

Urban Edge, The Blog
by Scott Lynch

Park Slope apartments sit within what New York Magazine called "the most livable neighborhood in New York City" a couple of years ago. Of course, residents of Park Slope, Brooklyn didn't need anyone to tell them that.

The people of this community have long enjoyed a near-ideal combination of easy access to the great Prospect Park; lots of dining, nightlife, and shopping options; an active, diverse population; beautiful, historic architecture, especially the grand brownstones that line the leafy streets; good public schools; and plenty of public transportation options.

The question today is: how are the changes on the neighborhood's edges, at both the northern and southern borders, going to effect residents of Park Slope rental apartments?

To the north of Park Slope, right across the neighborhood's border of Flatbush Avenue, is the biggest (and most controversial) construction project this part of town has seen in years, the Barclays Center....


Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

November 2, 2011

Mill Basin big-box is killed

Brooklyn Daily
by Thomas Tracy

Brooklyn’s biggest developer has pulled out of a controversial plan to build a shopping center that would include a Walmart-sized store on city owned land near Kings Plaza, killing the Flatbush Avenue project that was connect to Carl Kruger.

Forest City Ratner Companies is walking away from it’s plan to build a big-box retail outlet on the city-owned Four Sparrows Marsh next to the Toys ’R’ Us on Flatbush Avenue between Avenue U and the Gil Hodges Bridge, which the scandal-scarred state senator had been pushing the company to get done.

Insiders say Forest City Ratner Companies owner Bruce Ratner, who is currently building the controversial Atlantic Yards, the biggest development project in the borough, canned his plans for the Four Sparrows Marsh when he couldn’t find a suitable tenant.

Other sources said Ratner didn’t want to deal with possible lawsuits from environmentalists who threatened to sue if he broke ground on the marshlands.

But there’s also the Kruger (D–Brighton Beach) connection...


NoLandGrab: The better headline, of course, would have been "Bruce: 'F**k the Shopping Center.'"

Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

October 31, 2011

Plans Killed for Project Tied to Probe

The Wall Street Journal
by Joseph De Avila and Eliot Brown

One of New York City's largest developers has quietly scrapped a deal to build a shopping center on city-owned land in Brooklyn, a site that drew scrutiny during a federal investigation of state Sen. Carl Kruger.

The city had tapped developer Forest City Ratner Cos. to take the lead on the project, located on a 15-acre plot of land in Mill Basin, that was to include a shopping center and auto mall. Construction was expected to begin by 2014.

But in recent months, the developer switched course. Last month, officials issued a largely unnoticed one-line statement on the website of an obscure city office that said the "project has been withdrawn as of September 2011."

The shopping center had ties to a corruption case involving Mr. Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, but Forest City officials said that case had no connection to their decision to drop the project.

"Forest City's part of this project was small, and they are right now concentrating on a number of larger ones," spokesman Joe DePlasco said in a statement.


NoLandGrab: Funny, but Forest City sang a different tune to The Wall Street Journal just 10 months ago:

"This area has not only some of the best demographics in the country, but is extremely under-retailed as well," Andrew Silberfein, executive vice president and director of finance and retail development at Forest City Ratner, said in a statement.

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

October 28, 2011

Forest City Ratner project in Mill Basin, touched by corruption indictment, "has been withdrawn;" indicted developer had role in City Point, whose lead developer didn't pay bribes but made gifts to Markowitz charities

Atlantic Yards Report

The mayor's office has quietly indicated (as per Queens Crap) the demise of Forest City Ratner's Four Sparrows project, once touted as housing a Wal-Mart:

The Four Sparrow Marsh Retail Center at Mill Basin project has been withdrawn as of September 2011.

It's unclear why, but the project has been tainted by corruption charges.

About 15 acres were to be retail, including an existing Toys 'R' Us, and 46 acres formally mapped as parkland. This fit into Forest City's m.o.: getting the inside track on potentially valuable public property and then getting the zoning changed.

Does "withdrawn" mean "dead"? Unclear.

Yesterday I queried the NYC Economic Development Corporation, source of the map, but didn't hear back. Their Four Sparrows web page has not been updated, as it says "Construction expected to begin in 2014.

But if the project comes back, there will have to be some new players.

Consider that state Senator Carl Kruger and developer Aaron Malinsky in March were both indicted on corruption charges that included, among several counts, the Mill Basin project. Malinsky was charged with bribing Kruger. Forest City was not charged, though it was enmeshed in an effort to wangle state funds from Kruger.


Related coverage...

Queens Crap, Ratner project dies silent death

Glory, glory, hallelujah!!!

A Walk in the Park, EDC Cancels Controversial Bruce Ratner Plan To Develop Nature Preserve Into Shopping Mall

New York City claimed that because Four Sparrow Marsh was never officially "mapped" as parkland it can be disposed of and therefore, DPR is not required to protect it. However there are many playgrounds, parklands and natural areas throughout New York City that have never been mapped, yet these sites are recognized and protected as parkland. Mapping is only one factor that is used to determine whether land can be legally protected under the Public Trust Doctrine, use is another factor. Since the entire site has always been used as parkland, it therefore should be protected under Public Trust Doctrine. The new, proposed retail use is clearly a non-park use.

The Real Deal, Ratner's Mill Basin retail project withdrawn

The Bloomberg administration has withdrawn its controversial plans to permit developer Bruce Ratner to transform public parkland in the Mill Basin part of Brooklyn into a shopping mall, A Walk in the Park blog reported, announcing the withdrawal on the Office of Environmental Coordination's website.

Posted by eric at 2:13 PM

October 27, 2011

785 Dean S 785 Dean Street #4

The New York Times
Real Estate Listings

APT is 15mins from Prime Atlantic Yards Stadium. Walk to live shows and games throughout the year.


Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

October 25, 2011

The Multifamily Guy

NY Observer
by Daniel Edward Rosen

Bruce Ratner's basketball arena appears to be having a pronounced gentrifying effect on the surrounding neighborhoods, while his allegedly "affordable" housing remains nothing more than a promise.

To look at the buildings neighboring it, 567 Vanderbilt Avenue is a typical four-story, mixed-use apartment building in Brooklyn. From the bricks it was built with to the upwardly mobile professionals and strollers it presumably houses, the structure is nearly identical to the other assets in that corner of Prospect Heights.

With a recent shift on the ground—characterized by relatively new restaurants like James, Cornelius and, inevitably, the Vanderbilt—sales prices in the neighborhood are rising.

But over on Vanderbilt Avenue in particular, where trendy bars and cafés pop up each week, prices are absolutely surging, in part because of Nostradamus-like predictions of basketball fans flooding the zone once the Nets start playing inside the proposed Atlantic Yards arena and, ultimately, exiting en masse from doors leading directly to the street.


Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

In Brooklyn, a Quaint Block and a Symbol of Blight

The New York Times
by Diane Cardwell

Warren Street between Bond and Nevins offers many of the things well-off buyers seek in Brownstone Brooklyn: a pastoral, leafy feel; long rows of 19th-century town houses; proximity to transportation and charming little restaurants; young families on the block.

But the block also has something that those buyers have traditionally seemed to avoid: two large public housing projects that stand tall at either end, to many New Yorkers enduring symbols of danger, social dysfunction and blight.

How is it, then, that prices on the block are relatively high?

Joan Joseph-Alexander, who is marketing the town house through her company Ambassador Realty, said she arrived at the price after looking at sales in the ZIP code and factoring in the appeal of living within walking distance of the Barclays Center, the arena under construction at Atlantic Yards, but shielded from the traffic and noise it is expected to bring.


Posted by eric at 11:50 AM

October 24, 2011

Dean Street: once “the worst block in Brooklyn”

Ephemeral New York

Today, Dean Street between Carlton and Sixth Avenues appears to be a pretty decent stretch of Prospect Heights, mostly lined with restored row houses and brownstones.

Could it really have been so horrible in February 1947, when a priest charged that it was “probably the worst block in Brooklyn” in terms of its concentration of “juvenile delinquents”?

The New York Times articles chronicling the charge don’t provide a lot of details, mainly noting that police say they’ve “tried to interest the 350 children and youths living on the block in a wide variety of sports programs” to no avail.

Apparently not all the residents of the block thought the kids were so bad. According to the Times, “some [residents] believed it was no better and no worse than other slum streets.”

That “slum street” has some awfully pricey real estate, even with Atlantic Yards going up at the other end.


NoLandGrab: We're kind of surprised that the ESDC didn't cite the 64-year-old quote in attempting to justify Bruce Ratner's modern-day "sports program."

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

October 20, 2011

Billion dollar business back in New York

Real Estate Weekly
by Liana Grey

In Brooklyn, on the other hand, walkup apartment buildings are leading the way. “We’re seeing a lot of investors coming into Brooklyn, particularly smaller firms,” said Michael Amirkhanian of Massey Knakal’s Brooklyn team. “This is going to be our first billion dollar year since 2008.”

Multifamily properties within a four or five avenue radius of Atlantic Yards are particularly prized, as equity groups expect the area to become hot once the new Nets arena opens.


NoLandGrab: 'Cause the neighborhoods within a four or five avenue radius of Atlantic Yards — Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill — have been ice-cold for years, right?

Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

October 19, 2011

NY property sales soar, but no cigar

Citywide sales on track to reach $25 billion, quadruple 2009's lows but still 60% below 2007 peaks. Gains seen in all boroughs as number of sales also shows big gains.

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Ipsen

Bruce Ratner, gentrifier.

Property sales across New York City hit $19.2 billion in the first three quarters of the year and are on pace to end the year at $25 billion, despite a slowdown in the turbulent third quarter, according to a report released Tuesday by Massey Knakal Realty Services.

The area around Atlantic Yards, in Brooklyn, has also seen a lot of buying. There, sales volumes and prices are rising in anticipation of further progress on the massive redevelopment of the former rail yards.


NoLandGrab: Not to mention the 60%+ of the site that used to be people's homes and businesses — not railyards.

Posted by eric at 12:36 PM

October 18, 2011

Over 3,300 New Daily Visitors to Our Neighborhood?

My Little O [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]

The New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) is in the process of negotiating a 20-year lease to occupy six floors (400,000-square-feet) of the telecom building at 470 Vanderbilt Avenue. If approved, HRA will consolidate over 1,700 employees from two current locations (210 Livingston Street in Brooklyn, and 330 W. 34th Street in Manhattan).

In addition to the 1,700 staff, the two agencies will service about 1,600 clients each day. This will bring over 3,300 new daily visitors to the area. A presentation by representatives of HRA at last night’s Community Board 2 general meeting was not received well by both members of the board and the community. The primary concern is that the neighborhood’s infrastructure (parking and public transportation) is not equipped to handle the influx of that many daily visitors. CB2 board member, Mr. Andrew Lastowecky said, "The Clinton/Washington A and C subway stop cannot handle an additional 3,000 people each day during peak hours." If employees and clients do drive there are no parking facilities or roadside parking in the area to accommodate them either. Board members also expressed concerns about the potential traffic congestion that will occur if there's a significant increase in cars during the development of Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 9:37 AM

A proposed school of science and engineering vs. Atlantic Yards: competitive bidding and subsidies well below the city's payoff

Atlantic Yards Report

Would you believe that New York City's "game changer"--a proposed science and engineering grad school aimed at helping New York compete with Silicon Valley--looks like a much bigger bargain than Atlantic Yards--and emerging from a fairer playing field?

In a 10/17/11 article headlined Two Top Suitors Are Emerging for New Graduate School of Engineering, the New York Times reported:

With less than two weeks left to apply in the competition for $400 million in land and subsidies to build a science and engineering graduate school in New York City, some of the world’s great universities continue to change plans and jockey for position, and there is a growing view among them that Cornell and Stanford have emerged as the favorites.

...People briefed on the universities’ plans, whose cost estimates exceed $1 billion in some cases, speculate that one or more of the contenders will try to improve their standing by forgoing the city’s offer of up to $100 million to upgrade roads, water and power supplies, offering to pay those costs themselves.

By contrast, Atlantic Yards was embraced by city officials as a package deal, and there was never any competition to build a mixed-use arena complex, only a belated RFP, 18 months later, for a key piece of property, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard.

The MTA never took seriously the one competitive bid, $150 million cash from Extell, since it chose to negotiate solely with Forest City Ratner, which bid $50 million. Yes, Forest City argued that the overall value of its bid was higher, but Extell was never asked to develop its bid further, or to bolster it.

Who knows--perhaps if the bidding had gotten competitive, as with the new graduate school, a bidder might have proposed forgoing some of the city's proposed subsidies.


Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

NYCHA Chairman: Parking Minimums “Working Against Us”

by Noah Kazis

The New York CIty Housing Authority is aiming to undo the kind of failed urban development that Bruce Ratner plans to do with Atlantic Yards.

Leaders in New York City’s public housing community are interested in transforming city-owned superblocks into mixed-use, mixed-income communities that engage with the pedestrian realm. There are of course many obstacles to this kind of ambitious project, but only one was identified specifically in a Municipal Art Society panel on the topic last Friday: the city’s own parking requirements.

Developing existing NYCHA land could bring a wide variety of benefits to both public housing residents and the surrounding communities, said John Rhea, the chairman of NYCHA, and his fellow panel members.

Infill development, said Rhea, means “we can do a lot more to ensure that the income diversity is stronger.”

Infill development also would allow the city to undo some of the design drawbacks of the tower-in-a-park style housing project, common in many parts of the city. A plan put forward by Rosanne Haggerty, the president of the homelessness prevention organization Community Solutions, for four adjacent housing projects in Brownsville would build between 700 and 1,000 units without displacing a single resident, she said. Her organization’s design would break up the existing superblock by restoring the original streets back through the housing project and put new buildings facing the sidewalk, recreating the traditional pedestrian environment. “Those blocks can reknit into the surrounding street grid,” said Haggerty. Surface parking lots would be replaced with new housing, retail, schools and green space under Haggerty’s plan.

Standing in the way of this kind of revitalization, however, are the city’s antiquated parking requirements.


NoLandGrab: As Norman Oder has written, Atlantic Yards is PlaNYC1950.

Posted by eric at 9:20 AM

October 15, 2011

From 1990 to 2003: Ratner gets the gumption to build beyond the height of the Williamsburgh Bank Tower

Atlantic Yards Report

How times change. A 3/18/90 New York Times Real Estate section article, headlined COMMERCIAL PROPERTY: Downtown Brooklyn; Two Tall Office Towers Planned on a Single Block, described plans for Forest City Ratner's MetroTech:

AS originally designed, 330 Jay Street was 505 feet tall, only seven feet shy of the Williamsburgh building. [Developer] Mr. [Bruce] Ratner was asked whether he ever considered proposing the tallest tower in Brooklyn.

"'We're not into that,'' he answered. ''We don't have to be the tallest, as long as it gets up and built.''

Bolder plans

By 2003, however, Ratner had achieved many more successes, and Brooklyn was booming. Hence the plan, when Atlantic Yards was announced, to build a flagship tower (dubbed "Miss Brooklyn" by architect Frank Gehry), that would rise 620 feet, 108 feet taller than the iconic bank tower.

No one pointed out Ratner's 1990 pledge.

However, "Miss Brooklyn" was still not supposed to block views of the tower's famous clock. As it turned out, Forest City Ratner at project approval in 2006 did agree to cut the height of the building to 511 feet, one foot shorter than the bank tower.

At the same time, however, that 2003 promise was abandoned, as the tower would still block the view of the clock.

For now, the issue of blocking the clock is subdued, because there's no market for an office tower. Meanwhile, another building in Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyner, became the tallest in the borough. It's not near the bank building, though, so it doesn't block the clock.


Posted by steve at 11:59 PM

October 14, 2011

The Mysterious Property Values of Atlantic Yards

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

Like all NIMBY battles, the fight against Atlantic Yards ultimately comes down to a matter of property values. One of the justifications for the project was that this corner of Brooklyn was blighted. The neighbors already living there certainly took issue with such characterizations—hello, Dan Goldstein!—but now the Post takes a close look at exactly how the new arena and still-born apartments are affecting property values.

Since the fight against Atlantic Yards was principally about eminent domain abuse, cronyism and misuse of subsidies, we guess that means it was a fight about principle rather than a NIMBY battle.

Still, there are stories of real estate speculators, as well, trying to buy up swathes of apartments, counting on a rising tide. Norman Oder points out that prices are still desperately below those Forest City Ratner’s numbers crunchers predicted when they boosted for the project, so the de-blighting has yet to take place. Still, crowds may be nasty, but they’re less noisy than an open construction site.


Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

Who's Getting Foreclosed on in Brooklyn Today? The Voice Finds Out

Runnin Scared
by Michelle D. Anderson

Without a shovel in the ground for housing, is Atlantic Yards already driving gentrification through foreclosures?

Yesterday, the Voice wrote about a protest happening today at Brooklyn Supreme Court. Led by Occupy Wall Street and the group Organizing for Occupation (which led a successful eviction blockade of 82-year-old Mary Ward's home in August), the afternoon event will protest the foreclosure of three more properties in Brooklyn.

Much like the owners of New Bombay Masala, the tenants we spoke to at 964 Dean Street, David Stoller and Kenny Lloyd, were unaware of today's protest.

However, the two musicians and audio engineering professionals say they were aware that the four-floor commercial building where they live and work will be put up for sale today. They fear that both their businesses and apartments are at stake.

Lloyd says there is a group that wants to turn the building into a condominium. "It's an historical kind of building. It can be a much better place than turning it into a condo," he thinks. He said companies are purchasing buildings nearby left and right, and he attributes this trend to the construction of the new Brooklyn Nets arena in Atlantic Yards in Prospect Heights.

Stoller wonders if the auction is even legal and he says his business and livelihood are on the line.

"I'm really getting screwed on this," Stoller said.


Posted by eric at 9:18 AM

October 13, 2011

Court vision

With opening of Nets’ new arena actually on horizon, Brooklyn residents brace themselves for whatever happens next

NY Post
by Katherine Dykstra

As the stadium, which will seat 18,000 during basketball games and 19,000 for concerts and contain eight clubs and restaurants, makes its bold way into Brooklyn, the neighborhoods that surround it -- Park Slope, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill -- are busy figuring out how to react.

“No one knows exactly what will change yet,” says Ofer Cohen, president of TerraCRG, a commercial realty group whose office is in the shadow of the arena. “The one aspect of development that will come earlier will be in terms of retail on Atlantic and Flatbush surrounding the arena.”

According to Cohen, landlords in the area have been patiently awaiting the opening of the stadium, allowing leases to lapse and their spaces to sit vacant in anticipation of attaining higher rents. Asking retail rents on Flatbush across from the stadium go from $85 per square foot up to $175 per square foot, the high end of Brooklyn pricing, notes Geoffrey Bailey, vice president of retail services at TerraCRG.

“Now that it’s clear that [the stadium] will be finished and finished soon, you’re going to start seeing these spaces fill up,” Cohen says.

Even on the eastern edge of the Atlantic Yards footprint, where nothing but 1,100 parking spaces are slated for the short term, there is interest.

But while retailers salivate, the state of residential development in the area is more uncertain.

“I haven’t seen developers trying to buy close to the stadium,” says Brendan Aguayo, an agent at the Aguayo and Huebener residential firm.

At Atlantic Terrace, a new mixed-income co-op building directly across the street from Barclays Center, the 59 affordable units have all been purchased, as have nine of the 20 market-rate apartments. The one-, two- and three-bedrooms are around $550 per square foot.

“We’re seeing more construction-specific fears as opposed to arena-specific fears,” says Heather Gershen, director of housing development at Fifth Avenue Committee, which developed the project. “It is a major construction project, but construction is a reality of living in New York.”

“The big question is, what will the real community benefits be? We were promised affordable housing and construction jobs. They’ve announced modular construction,” Gershen says. “Jay-Z is not an amenity.”


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, NY Post on real estate around AY: retail enthusiasm, residential wariness--and vast gap between Atlantic Terrace pricing and KPMG's AY predictions

The New York Post today publishes a real estate article headlined Court vision: With opening of Nets’ new arena actually on horizon, Brooklyn residents brace themselves for whatever happens next.

So, while the article does take in some diverse voices, it's focused on the real estate market, not the "whatever happens next" of daily construction noise and dust faced by some project neighbors, as documented on Atlantic Yards Watch, or the burdens expected from pedestrians and drivers congesting narrow streets on their way to and from interim surface parking.

Brownstoner, Questions About Atlantic Yards and Real Estate Values

Meanwhile, the story also touches on sales at Atlantic Terrace, where the developer says prices are going for around $550 a foot. Atlantic Yards Report notes that in a 2009 report by the consulting firm KPMG to the Empire State Development Corporation, the company determined that only a “modest inflation factor” would be needed for Forest City Ratner to achieve its goal of selling units for $1,217 a foot by 2015. That means, as Atlantic Yards Report notes, that “the Atlantic Terrace price of $550/sf would have to more than double across the street” in just a few years.

The Real Deal, Atlantic Yards construction boosts nearby retail, slows development one is quite sure how the construction will impact local residents, and by extension property values, let alone when Brooklynites can expect the construction to be complete.

"They haven't decided whether the [first residential tower at the site] is going to be prefab or not," said Daniel Goldstein, one of the founders of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. "If they don't know [that] today, how can they break ground in the next few months?"

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

October 12, 2011

470 Vanderbilt moves toward renovation; did the state really consider impact of workers and visitors to new offices?

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times article today on 470 Vanderbilt, Unconventional Financing Helps Deal for Brooklyn Space, casts new attention on the former tire factory and telecom space--circled in the Empire State Development Corporation map at right; click to enlarge--that is being renovated across broad Atlantic Avenue from the northeast section of the Atlantic Yards site:

But late last month, the New York City Human Resources Administration signed a 20-year, 400,000- square-foot lease for six floors of the 10-story building — the largest deal in Brooklyn this year and the culmination of more than two years of negotiations. Along with a second, smaller deal, 470 Vanderbilt is now 85 percent leased. In conjunction with a residential tower that the developers hope to build on an adjacent parking lot, it could speed the transformation of the area, which lies between Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.

Any impact on AY traffic or pedestrians?

The Empire State Development Corporation has claimed that the change in use would have no new significant adverse impact, in a document summarizing the 6/14/11 public meeting on traffic issues, posted and also embedded below. However, as I explain below, there are reasons for doubt.


NoLandGrab: We've obtained an exclusive photo of the AKRF team that compiled the Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement.

Related coverage...

The New York Times, Unconventional Financing Helps Deal for Brooklyn Space

Posted by eric at 12:33 PM

Need a job? Become Downtown’s chief executive (prior experience needed)

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kate Briquelet

If having left your previous two jobs under mysterious circumstances isn't a barrier, then Jim Stuckey, we have the job for you!

Looking for work? Want to make $200,000? The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has a job for you!

The quasi-governmental Downtown-boosting group is on the hunt for a new president and even sent out an announcement last Thursday in hopes of attracting resumes.


Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

Room for One and Occasionally More

The New York Times
by Joyce Cohen

We linked Curbed's coverage of this story on Monday, but it's deserving of stand-alone status.

The apartment is across the street from Barclays Center, the arena that is to be the centerpiece of the huge Atlantic Yards development and the home of the recently renamed Brooklyn Nets once the team moves from New Jersey. The location “is problematic for some buyers,” Mr. Stanard said. “But Sab is into sports and thought it was so cool architecturally. He had been following the whole process and was kind of into it.”

Mr. Singh, with help from his brother and his parents, paid $565,000 for the apartment, and closed last summer. Maintenance is a bit over $1,100 a month.

He knows that Atlantic Yards is controversial — criticized for its scale, among other things. “I think of the arena as a case study every time I look outside my window,” he said. “I am surprised they are not changing the name of the Nets. I would completely rebrand the team.”


NoLandGrab: A real "case study" would be checking back with Mr. Singh in a couple of decades to see how he's enjoying living next to what will be either a perpetual construction project or a sea of surface parking.

Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

October 10, 2011

Brooklyn, borough of snobs

NY Daily News
by Snowden Wright

The curators of what's trendy are, unsurprisingly, also its creators. In that way, members of the creative class, by choosing Brooklyn as their home, made others want to do the same. Many of my friends who, years ago, claimed they would never leave Manhattan now live in Brooklyn, not out of economic necessity, but rather, as Truman Capote once put it, by choice.

Ironically, many of the qualities that made Brooklyn desirable have been diminished by the influx of new residents. Apartments aren't very cheap anymore, and commercialization is getting pervasive. Jay-Z, for example, recently joked he can no longer afford Brooklyn. Added to which, the New Jersey Nets, a team the musician partly owns, will soon be playing at the Barclays Center, a project that exemplifies the Manhattanization of the borough.


NoLandGrab: Ha ha, good one, Hov. You got 99 problems, but a wit ain't one.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Brooklyn backlash, in full swing

Of course, that depends on the definition of "Brooklyn." Those who can't afford neighborhoods mentioned in the essay like Fort Greene, Red Hook, Greenpoint, and Park Slope may indeed move to places like Washington Heights. They also may move to neighborhoods mentioned in the essay like Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. Or they may move to even less-heralded zones.

So I think Wright overgeneralizes by claiming, "These days everyone seems to be subject to Brooklyn elitism."

Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

Times-O-Matic Real Estate Radar: In Which the Commute Out of the City Demands The Attention

by Bilal Khan

If reading The Hunt stokes your deepest hopes that someday everything in life could work out, then you, too, are obsessed with the New York Times Sunday Real Estate section. Join us as we venture into the depths of this weekend's installment.

So, Sarbjit Singh had kind of a weird dilemma. He got a job in Long Island, but was totally resistant to signing his life away and moving to the suburbs. So, keeping in mind his family who'd be visiting, he set to find an apartment with access to the LIRR. Looking in the $600,000 range, he decided that somewhere close to the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn was his best bet. Well, he browsed around and certainly had options for his budget in the area. After a couple of duds he found an Atlantic Yards facing apartment at the Atlantic Terrace in Fort Greene. The price? $565,000 for a slice of soon-to-be arena madness!


NoLandGrab: Let's not forget that Mr. Singh's building would have solar panels on the roof, too, had they not been scrapped for fear of being in perpetual Atlantic Yards shadow.

Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

October 9, 2011

Freddy's in the South Slope seen as part of a resurgence, but... it ain't Prospect Heights

Atlantic Yards Report

Crain's reports, in Low-key Brooklyn neighborhood makes some noise: South Slope area suddenly hot spot for bars, restaurants., that the reincarnation of Freddy's is going well:

Patrons were crestfallen last year when Freddy's, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, poured its final shots. While the boisterous tavern—a hangout for artists, cops and others since Prohibition—was razed to make way for Atlantic Yards, one of its owners had an epiphany. “We could reinvent ourselves,” said Donald O'Finn. “We could start again.”

In February, Freddy's was reincarnated near the corner of 17th Street and Fifth Avenue. The area, south of the Prospect Expressway and between Fourth Avenue and Green-Wood Cemetery, has had a surge in bars and restaurants in recent months.

...After looking in Park Slope and Gowanus for a new location, Mr. O'Finn knew that the 15-year lease for 2,300 square feet in South Slope was a bargain. He would not disclose the exact price but said that “it would easily be double or triple elsewhere.”

Timothy King of CPEX Realty Services said he was not surprised. He noted that many businesses priced out of Park Slope find sweet deals just south of the expressway. Rents there are usually between $30 and $35 a square foot, versus $75 to $100 a square foot in Park Slope.

There's at least one big difference, however, between this location and Prospect Heights: the subway is more than ten minutes away.

In other words, these days, to be on the cutting edge, you must go ever farther toward the periphery.


Posted by steve at 11:26 PM

October 4, 2011

Downtown Brooklyn booster's tenure gets mixed reviews

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Joseph Chan oversaw retail, residential growth, but was a polarizing presence.

Crain's NY Business
by Shane Dixon Kavanaugh

Joseph Chan's arrival five years ago as president of the new Downtown Brooklyn Partnership was heralded as the start of something big for the city's third-largest—yet underachieving—business district. With backing from the Bloomberg administration and the borough's biggest corporations, Mr. Chan was expected to unify the local business groups, boost commerce on government-dominated blocks and attract buzz-worthy tenants.

Mr. Chan largely achieved these goals, though his tenure, which ended last week, was marked by controversy, budget woes and turf battles.

“None of us had a big enough stake in [downtown Brooklyn],” said Bruce Ratner, whose MetroTech complex was built with a fortress-like design during the high-crime 1980s. But Mr. Chan rallied stakeholders and “suddenly, we were all speaking with one voice.”

But for some, Mr. Chan, a protégé of former Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, was a polarizing presence who favored big developers over small businesses. They believed he sometimes did the mayor's bidding.

“It was another example of the Bloomberg administration blurring the lines between private industry and government,” said Councilwoman Letitia James.

article [trial subscription may be required]

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

October 3, 2011

Bidders emerge for Willets Point megaproject

Two major developers, as well as the real estate firm of the New York Mets' owners, have submitted proposals to turn the Queens property into a modern venue of entertainment, retail, hospitality and housing.

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

Two major developers and the Mets' owners' real estate firm are among the firms that submitted proposals for the right to redevelop Willets Point, sources said.

The Related Companies has teamed up with Sterling Equities, which is controlled by Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, to submit a proposal to redevelop the 12.75 acres included in the Queens project's first phase, the sources said. Silverstein Properties, which is building three towers at the World Trade Center site, also threw its hat into the ring.

City officials would not say how many proposals they received by last month's deadline, but indicated they were satisfied with the quantity and quality of the submissions.

The city controls about 90% of the land in the phase one area, and has not ruled out using eminent domain to obtain the rest.


NoLandGrab: No word as to whether cash-strapped Forest City, or any Russian billionaire oligarchs, submitted a bid.

Posted by eric at 4:08 PM

September 24, 2011

Cumberland Street Fort Greene, Brooklyn, NY 11238

The New York Times, Real Estate Listings

1 Bedroom
1 Full Bathroom


This LARGE 1 BR apartment features a WONDERFUL Kitchen with GRANITE counter tops and STAINLESS STEEL appliances. The building even has an ELEVATOR and LAUNDRY! Located just 2 blocks from FT. GREENE PARK, 1 block to the subway, 5 mins to Atlantic Yards and a short distance from the many cafes and shops that line Fulton St. makes this a MUST SEE apartment! Come take a look! Contact ME for ALL your real estate needs. A SERIOUS consumer deserves PROFESSIONAL attention!


NoLandGrab: We're not sure if "5 mins to Atlantic Yards" means only 5 mins from Atlantic Yards or, don't worry, it's a good 5 mins to Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

September 21, 2011

Hotels Near Barclays Center

The Real Places

Planning your next trip to a Brooklyn Nets game, or a Hasidic wedding? The Real Places has a listing of nearby lodging.

Barclays Center is an entertainment and sports venue planned to open in September 2012. The NBA's New Jersey Nets are scheduled to play their home games there starting with the 2012-2013 season (when they'll presumably be known as the Brooklyn Nets). The arena will seat 18,000 for basketball, 14,500 for hockey and up to 19,000 for concerts. Barclays Center is part of the Atlantic Yards commercial and retail project in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights neighborhood.

For a more visual method of finding nearby hotels, try our full page map of hotels around Barclays Center containing the 50 closest hotels.


Related content...

The Real Places, Hotels Near Barclays Center in Brooklyn

At the moment there are no places to stay in the immediate neighborhood, but does have a guide to the hotels closest to Barclays Center in Brooklyn – future home of the Nets.

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

September 16, 2011

Anticipation and Worries Greet New Downtown Venue to Open Tonight

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Brenna Walton

As Lillian Wood left Wednesday night’s Community Board 2 discussion of the opening of a new performance venue at 509 Atlantic Avenue, she turned to her friend.

“Where is 509 Atlantic?” asked Wood, who has lived in Clinton Hill for 52 years.

Then it dawned on her. She looked alarmed.

“That’s right across the street from the stadium.”

Roulette Intermedium, a non-profit arts organization, will open an experimental music venue at that address tonight, just steps away from the planned Barclays Center. On Wednesday, Community Board 2 voted to support Roulette’s application for a liquor license from the State Liquor Authority, with a strict set of stipulations attached.

But noise, traffic and trash are the concerns of residents who oppose bars and clubs opening in the shadow of the arena. Ms. Wood said the area is already more congested than it was before its construction began.


NoLandGrab: "Right across the street from the stadium" is a bit of a stretch — at the corner of 3rd and Atlantic Avenues, it's more than a city block and about 1000 feet from the arena. Still, per capita alcohol consumption in the area will likely increase significantly thanks to Bruce Ratner's basketball palace.

Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

September 15, 2011

CB2 Recap: Bollards, Roulette, Red Apple


Roulette, the new experimental music venue at 509 Atlantic Avenue, got the OK from the board for a liquor license, but it came with a list of stipulations. As part of its approval, the board said the venue couldn’t act as a bar or nightclub, or have outdoor space; it also asked for soundproofing and time constraints on loud music. The grand opening of the venue is this Sunday, September 18th.


Posted by eric at 12:29 PM

September 8, 2011

Roulette Calms Neighborhood Fears, Wins CB Support for Liquor License

Community Board 2 Health, Environment and Social Services Committee approved Roulette's Liquor License.

Carroll Gardens Patch
by Gwen Ruelle

By being responsive to community concerns, Roulette, the new not-for-profit avant garde performing arts space on Atlantic Avenue, has won approval from Community Board 2 for its liquor license application.

At the Health, Environment and Social Services committee meeting Wednesday night, the committee approved the liquor license without question or comment.

At the end of July, the venue, which has been operating in Manhattan for 33 years but moved into the YWCA over the summer, was denied its liquor license, and several community members said they feared potential rowdy, drunken parties held at the space, which is set to open September 15.

Many of these fears stemmed from concerns about the forthcoming Barclay’s Center at Atlantic Yards, with residents worried the large stadium crowds would inevitably bring loud sports bars and clubs to the now peaceful neighborhood.

Since then, Roulette has been working with the community board to create a list of stipulations to ensure that these out-of-control parties will not take place.


Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

September 7, 2011

Liberty Bonds, 9/11, and Forest City Ratner: the first subsidy for a commercial tower (the only one in Brooklyn) and the largest subsidy for a residential tower

Atlantic Yards Report

While Forest City Ratner was not the largest beneficiary of post-9/11 federal recovery funds, it was among the savviest, gaining the first triple tax-exempt bonds for commercial projects, the Bank of New York Tower at Atlantic Terminal, which was the only project outside of Manhattan.

Beyond that, FCR garnered the single largest share of the relatively small amount of tax-exempt bonds designed for housing, aiding construction of the Beekman Tower (aka 8 Spruce Street aka New York by Gehry) in Lower Manhattan.

Thus, in gaining nearly $300 million in tax-exempt (federal, state, city) bonds, the developer saved tens of millions of dollars by paying a lower interest rate. It's more evidence for scholar/writer Fred Siegel's characterization of Bruce Ratner in the 11/30/05 Cleveland Plain Dealer: "He's the master of subsidy."

Yesterday, in a New York Post op-ed headlined Liberty misspent: Political use of rebuild bonds, Nicole Gelinas of the free-market Manhattan Institute suggested that, given that so much of the aid, including up to $8 billion in Liberty Bonds for real estate, went outside of Ground Zero, "New York squandered time and money doling out favors."

Beyond Gelinas's argument, there's evidence, described below, that the Bank of New York is not now meeting the requirements for job retention that justified another chunk of subsidies it gained.


Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

This shameless profiteering rakes over the ashes of 9/11

Belfast Telegraph
by Eamonn McCann

Meanwhile, major corporations have been gifted billions to stay or move into the area around Ground Zero and the bonanza is by no means over.

The current edition of Village Voice cites a couple of startling figures: $1bn to Goldman Sachs for its plush building across from the site, $764m for a Durst Tower in midtown Manhattan and a Bruce Ratner office tower in Brooklyn.

In other words, some of the biggest and most profitable companies in the US are being paid vast sums of public money to operate in districts vaguely relevant to 9/11 in which they'd very likely have chosen to operate anyway. Who would have thought it - that Goldman Sachs would make $1bn from al-Qaida murdering 3,000 New Yorkers? Apart from Goldman Sachs, that is.

"When we were eating and sleeping post-9/11 stuff, the powers-that-be insisted that these subsidies would rescue lower Manhattan", Village Voice quotes Bettina Damiani of watchdog group Good Jobs New York. "Ten years and billions of dollars later ... we need to do some rethinking."


Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

September 6, 2011

How the Twin Towers Transformed New York

The Indypendent
by John Tarleton

As New Yorkers mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it’s hard to imagine that the 16 acres in Lower Manhattan that were once home to the Twin Towers ever served another purpose. Fortunately, we have Eric Darton, a locally born and bred historian and novelist to remind us of the origins of the World Trade Center in his recently re-released history of the towers, Divided We Stand.

In his book, Darton reaches back to the beginning of the 20th century to explore the intellectual and aesthetic ideas as well as the political and economic forces that eventually produced the 110-story behemoths that dominated the New York City skyline for almost three decades. In doing so, he reminds us that while the World Trade Center eventually became “sacred ground” to millions of Americans, it was originally conceived as a power play by local elites. Darton recently spoke with The Indypendent about the World Trade Center’s past and present impact on New York, the joys of writing history and why another set of skyscrapers at Ground Zero is exactly what we don’t need.

JT: What is the relationship between the World Trade Center and other mega-developments that have followed here in New York?
ED: Eminent domain was used in 1966 to erase Radio Row, a perfectly viable commercial neighborhood that had scores of small businesses located in the footprint of the future World Trade Center site. This moved a bunch of legal goalposts and certainly moved people’s expectations. Once the powers that be get away with something like that, it’s tempting to keep on going. This can be seen in the Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn, in which eminent domain has been used to advance a massive, undemocratic and useless project.


Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

August 18, 2011

Mixed Reactions to New Sports Bar Near Planned Arena

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

The Barclays Center is not scheduled to open until next September, but just a block away, at 602 Pacific Street, there’s another sports-related establishment sparking debate.

When Machavelle Sports Bar & Lounge — a softly lit two-level drinkery with a wooden bar and plush couches — started serving pints in May, some residents shared their concerns with Park Slope Patch that the area would soon resemble 42nd Street or New Orleans’ Bourbon Street. Others have accused the owners of capitalizing on the planned arena, which many of the bar’s neighbors oppose.

Jon Crow, the coordinator of the Brooklyn Bears Community Garden on Pacific Street, just across from Machavelle, said the bar marks the first of many negative changes to the neighborhood’s landscape as it prepares for the Barclays Center to open.

“You’re going to have a rash of bars like this that want to open up and capitalize on all the crowds they see coming for the games and performances at the ‘urina,’” Mr. Crow said. “We call it the ‘urina’ because when they’re leaving the ‘urina’ they’re going to be urinating all over the neighborhood.”

The owners of the bar, stung by the criticism, point out that that they’re Brooklynites themselves. They say they’ve been unfairly accused of favoring profit over their Pacific Street neighbors.

“We’re not trying to infiltrate,” said Carolyne Monereau-St. Louis, the wife of one of the bar’s owners, Eddie St. Louis. “We just want to be a part of the community, of the neighborhood.”

“I don’t have a problem with sports bars,” said Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a non-profit that has been critical of the Atlantic Yards project. “I do obviously have a problem with the arena that attracts businesses that are not about the community, they’re about serving patrons of the arena.”

Still, Mr. Goldstein said he does not bear any ill will toward the owners of Machavelle Sports Bar & Lounge. “As Brooklynites, I hope they do well with their business,” he said.


Posted by eric at 1:15 PM

August 16, 2011

Marty Markowitz wants to know why Apple won’t open a store in Brooklyn

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Brooklyn certainly isn’t the Apple of Steve Jobs’ eye, and his latest snub has the borough’s biggest booster seeing red.

"I seriously just don’t get it," Borough President Marty Markowitz said today, after officials announced that an upscale restaurant would anchor new retail coming to the Municipal Building in Downtown Brooklyn -- instead of the Apple store he had been seeking.

He said the computer giant and its CEO "won’t reach the big-time until Apple finally opens a store" in Brooklyn.

Yeah, Apple, which for a spell last week became the world's most valuable company, and which has more cash-on-hand than the Federal government, won't hit the big time until it makes Brooklyn's Blowhard happy. Right.

The Beep said "almost every big-time" Brooklyn developer building new retail space has reached out to Apple – only to be shunned.

Others interested included developers for the Atlantic Yards in Prospect Heights, a few sites in Williamsburg and a city-owned office tower at 345 Adams St. Downtown, sources said.


NoLandGrab: Gee, could it be that Steve Jobs would rather eat tacks than have to deal with the likes of Markowitz and Ratner?

Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

August 11, 2011

Startups Seeking Capital > Sports Bar in Brooklyn - Needs Funding

The Merchant Processing Resource

If you're going to be kept awake all night by the noise, you might as well lie there knowing you've got a piece of the action! Who wouldn't want to invest with someone named Sparkle?

This sports bar is located near the Barclays Stadium in Brooklyn, New York. It is going to be the home of the Brooklyn Nets Basketball team.

Proposal Summary: My cousin and I have been thinking about opening up a sports bar for a while now and since they are building the stadium for the basketball team, we thought that this would be an awesome opportunity. Our business plan is written up and we have the location set.

Management Team: Myself Johnelle Degannes and my cousin Sparkle Johnson

Return On Investment: We know this is going to be a success. We have so many ideas. It would be a great help if we can get the funding for this.


NoLandGrab: Johnelle and Sparkle are also raising funds to help a Nigerian prince move a large sum of money overseas and to travel to Lithuania to collect on a large lotto jackpot.

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

August 9, 2011

Atlantic Yards Concerns Block the Approval of Arts Space Liquor License

Roulette promises to address residents' issues.

Carroll Gardens Patch
by Gwen Ruelle

Roulette, a new experimental arts and avant-garde music space located in the ground floor of the YWCA on Atlantic and Third avenues, is dealing with community concerns before its doors have even officially opened.

The Barclays Center, opening soon just a few short blocks away at Atlantic Yards, has made residents extremely cautious about what new businesses and establishments open nearby.

“Because of the coming arena there is a lot of sensitivity about the rise of commercial businesses in terms of bars and clubs,” said Howard Kolins, President of the Boerum Hill Association. “The community wants to make sure it has a large voice in terms of what gets approved and under what conditions.”

And to that end, Community Board 2 recently voted down a liquor license application for the new branch of the formerly Manhattan based not-for-profit arts venue, which is slated to open on September 15.

“I am not against alcohol,” said Eric Albert, a resident. “I am, however, against the kind of behaviors that seem to aggregate around sporting venues.”

Supporters of Roulette insist that the institution has no connection with the sports scene surrounding Atlantic Yards.

“I think certain people are trying to set a precedent, which I understand, but they have to look at this as an individual request,” said Karen Zebulon, board member of the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation. “It’s not going to be a club, it is somebody having a glass of wine at intermission.”


NoLandGrab: Wait, they're denying a liquor license to an arts organization housed under the roof of the Young Women's Christian Association while sports bars and clubs like Player's and Prime Six are sprouting like mushrooms after a rainstorm? Barkeep, pour us another one of those NIMBYades.

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

July 28, 2011

Can Fourth Avenue Really Be Grand?

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz thinks so.

Park Slope Patch
by Will Yackowicz

A news report featuring the name "Markowitz" usually means another ethics violation and attendant fine, but this one's actually about the future of Brooklyn's Fourth Avenue.

Between Bergen Street and St. Marks Place there are almost ten vacant storefronts, but there are also three bars, a pizzeria, a two-week old wine shop and two trees. Two business owners on the strip believe there is hope for the Avenue.

Juan Carlos Aguilera, the general manager of the bar Cherry Tree, believes in Fourth Avenue’s transformation. He moved from Argentina two and a half years ago and in that time said the block changed “drastically.” With the new Nets arena coming, he said, there is no stopping Fourth Avenue.

“This will be the principle street in two years. New businesses are sprouting up everyday,” Aguilera said. “In two years it will be completely changed.” He also explained that Cherry Tree, which owns the vacant building next door and the pizzeria on the other side, is going to help the transformation by putting two more bars on each side and a recording studio in the basement.


NoLandGrab: 'Cause God knows there aren't nearly enough bars planned for the area surrounding the Barclays Center. What better to improve neighborhood quality of life than more bars?

Posted by eric at 10:55 PM

July 21, 2011

Budget watchdog: big projects "generally do not end up generating jobs or investment that was promised when subsidies were provided"

Atlantic Yards Report

The news from the July 19 conference on the Future of New York City, sponsored by Crain's New York Business, concerned the city's revival after 9/11, and the city's effort to recruit an engineering campus.

(The city's offering up to $100 million in subsidies and low-cost land. Didn't the Atlantic Yards project get nearly $300 million in direct subsidies and discount land?)

There was no mention of Atlantic Yards, at least at the panels I attended, but there was some unease about city policies that have led to such projects, and when I buttonholed Public Advocate Bill de Blasio to ask about Atlantic Yards, his answers, not surprisingly, were vague.

Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, stressed investments in education and transit, as well as the impact on services of "embeddedness, debt service, and fringe benefit costs."

"The more I learn about economic development efforts, and subsidies and tax exemptions, the less confident I am that they do produce the value they promise," she warned.

"There's a lot of focus on big projects, but they generally do not end up generating jobs or investment that was promised when subsidies were provided," she said. "There needs to be much more cost-benefit analysis and rigor in analyzing these projects before we get into them."

(I've argued that city and state agencies analyzing such project should, along with the typical best-case scenarios, present worst-case scenarios. Heck, why not a range.)


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

July 20, 2011

Brooklyn Broadside: Tobacco Warehouse: Opportunity Destroyed

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

The cranky Eagle columnist has found something that makes him even crankier than Atlantic Yards opponents do — and he may have good reason.

Here is the perplexity: does the judge’s decision mean that the federal government cannot ever negotiate with the city or state of New York about transfer of ownership of both the Tobacco warehouse and the Empire Stores?

If this is true, it means that a ruin of a building and the bulk of the Empire Stores can never be efficiently re-used. This is so preposterous as to be unbelievable.

The long delays in the Atlantic Yards development have already cost Brooklyn a watershed building designed by Frank Gehry. We will never get that unique chance again. Loss of the St. Ann’s group is so lamentable as to raise new hackles. And there is no sensible reason for this loss.

Let's not get carried away their, Dennis. You know and we know that no Frank Gehry building was ever really going to get built on the Atlantic Yards site. Can you say Trojan Horse?

But Dennis comes to his senses, just a wee bit.

One can make a case for all the fuss about Atlantic Yards, even if one doesn’t believe the time lost and money spent was worth it. But one cannot find an intellectual argument of merit for crippling a well-thought out plan for the Tobacco Warehouse and the needed reuse of the Empire Stores, and the potential loss of a stellar performance group founded in Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: There, now. That wasn't too hard to admit, was it? Bet you even feel better getting it off your chest.

Posted by eric at 5:41 PM

July 8, 2011

Area Residents Will Not Get Priority For Red Apple Supermarket Jobs

Company representatives say laid-off workers elsewhere in the city to get first dibs at 100 positions at the long-promised Myrtle Avenue grocer.

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Paul Leonard

For residents eagerly awaiting the arrival of badly-needed fruit and vegetables—not to mention jobs—it was an important first step.

Beginning this week, the office of Councilwoman Letitia James, D-Brooklyn, will be accepting applications on behalf of the Red Apple supermarket slated to open this September in The Andrea building at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Ashland Place.

That's the good news.

Now make room for the not-so-good: according to representatives of the Red Apple Group, laid-off workers elsewhere in city, many of whom are members of UFCW Local 1500, will get first dibs on the approximately 100 positions created at the new market.

While those union rules provide important protections for existing workers, that means there could be significantly less jobs to go around for residents, particularly those in nearby Whitman, Ingersoll and Kingsview Houses—areas where the need for quality employment with benefits are the greatest.

Longtime borough residents may remember that promises of the positive net impact in terms of jobs as a result of new development have been made in the past—namely by Forest City Ratner at Atlantic Yards. However, very few of those construction positions so far have gone to Brooklyn workers, again partly due to union rules.


NoLandGrab: But mostly due to Forest City Ratner's "promises" being a load of b.s.

Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

July 7, 2011

Sunnyside Yards Redevelopment

Pedestrian Observations
by Alon Levy

Sunnyside Yards, lying along the LIRR Main Line immediately adjacent to the site of my proposed Sunnyside Junction, span about half a square mile (1.3 km2) of mostly vacant land, with some big box retail with ample parking at its eastern margin. The short distance to Manhattan has already made Western Queens increasingly desirable (538′s Nate Silver called Sunnyside the third best neighborhood to live in in New York); the new rail junction would make this vacant land into prime real estate, making it feasible to sell air rights above the yards in a similar manner to how much of East Midtown was developed with air rights over the Grand Central tracks.

The best way to combine the two goals – retaining existing neighborhood context and allowing high-intensity commercial development near the station – is for the city to have progressively higher-intensity zoning proceeding from the margins to the station itself. Away from the immediate station area, medium-rise buildings such as those of Upper Manhattan (excluding projects) should suffice, and the city should not try to ram high-rise buildings against neighborhood opposition. This would also be friendly to small developers, turning this into the anti-Atlantic Yards. Needless to say, there should be no parking minimums, since the area would be dense and well-served by mass transit.


Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

June 29, 2011

The Good News About the Bad Construction News

NY Observer
by Tom Acitelli

The Building Congress yesterday came out with an understandably bleak construction report showing sluggish growth during the Great Recession in new office space, among other things, and not holding out too much hope for the rest of 2011. This year, in fact, will mark the first since 2000 with no new office tower opening.

It could have been worse, much worse.

One of the reasons it was not: New York City did not overbuild commercially during the boom.

Had that not been the case–had the last decade been one of barn-burner construction–vacancy rates could have been a lot higher, rents a lot lower, and, eventually, construction financing and jobs that much harder to come by. Why build more when there are empty towers everywhere? (Ever been to downtown Detroit?)

The city may as yet get its chance to have overbuilt, with the World Trade Center construction and the proposed Hudson Yards; and lesser commercial undertakings like Columbia’s West Harlem expansion and whatever finally, maybe, comes up commercial-wise with Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

June 28, 2011

After 41 Years, David's Laundry Closing Today

Here's Park Slope

The "arenafication" of the North Slope has officially begun.

David's Laundry, the 41-year old dry cleaners on Fifth Avenue between Bergen and St. Marks, will be closing for good today. The shop, which closed for several months last year due a landlord dispute but re-opened with a new lease on life in January, will shutter for good this afternoon, and all clothes not picked up by then will be donated to charity.

Susan, the shop's friendly proprietor for all 41 years of its existence, was in the process of cleaning the space out when I dropped in yesterday to discuss the closure.

"The landlord sold the building," she told me, her accented voice heavy with disbelief and resignation. "They're forcing me out. We're closing forever tomorrow."

It's these small, fairly anonymous businesses, run by hard working folks, that give life to neighborhoods. Once they're gone, what will replace them? In this case, it will most likely be a chain that can afford the rents rising in anticipation of the arena going up across the street. I have a feeling that in this part of the neighborhood, there's plenty more where this came from.


Posted by eric at 10:38 PM

A foolish proposition

Queens Crapper

From Backyard and Beyond:

The marsh itself was mosquito-free. And tranquil-looking… but don’t let looks deceive you. Salt-marshes are one of the most productive of ecosystems, nursing fish and many invertebrates, filtering water and absorbing storm surges, pumping blessed oxygen into the air, providing food for everything from bacteria to mammals.

Green with two species of spartina, ringed by phragmites, studded with the keystone ribbed mussels, soft and hard shell clams, mud snails, fiddler crabs, and plentiful little fish in the rising tide. Is this Brooklyn? Yes, it is. A Forever Wild remnant of the salt-marshes that once ringed Jamaica Bay and much of the city. (JFK, LGA, EWR and TEB were all built on salt marshes). But “Forever Wild,” a Parks Department designation without much legal pull, doesn’t mean all that much unless we fight for it.

The EDC wants to give part of this land to Bruce Ratner so he can build a strip mall and large parking lot. The attitude is: "Who needs nature? This is NYC, damn it!"


Photo: Backyard and Beyond

Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

June 21, 2011

More Four Sparrow Marsh Documentation

Save Ridgewood Reservoir

Here's an item about Bruce Ratner's wetlands-destroying, WalMart-building plan for Mill Basin marshland.

Two justifications that the parks department has been using to justify destroying part of an important wetland that is owned by the city are:

  • Four Sparrow Marsh is not parkland
  • The acreage that they want to give to developers is not part of Four Sparrow Marsh

Fortunately there is plenty of public documentation that contradicts their public statements. Below is a list of links to New York City Department of Parks and Recreation webpages and downloads with information relevant to Four Sparrow Marsh. The list also includes a few links from other city agencies. If the any of those links mysteriously disappear, let us know as we've saved all the downloads and created PDF files of the webpages...


Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

June 12, 2011

The changing face of retail: Park Heights Stationers spot to become Five Guys burger franchise

Atlantic Yards Report

Last summer, Park Heights Stationers at Flatbush Avenue and Park Place closed after 25 years, "due to the rising cost of operation," as its landlords apparently sought to get much higher rent from a retail space located in an affluent community near a subway station (B/Q).

Now, reports Patch, the new tenant will be one in the rapidly growing Five Guys burger chain.

Presumably Five Guys considers neighborhood residents its prime clientele, but I wouldn't bet against promotions aimed at arena-goers.


Posted by steve at 9:24 PM

June 3, 2011

Brooklyn Broadside: NYU’s Expansion Benefits From Downtown Space Here

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Triple oops! The Eagle's Dennis Holt forgets to disclose his fealty to all things Ratner.

Last week’s report on NYU-Polytechnics’s growth plan adds a new dimension and a new promise. They plan to expand by taking up space in nearby office buildings, in MetroTech space for that matter.

The plan includes Poly taking up 120,000 square feet of office space in two buildings, the ninth and 10th floors of 2 MetroTech and the sixth floor of 15 MetroTech.

This is a win-win situation for all involved. Forest City Ratner, in this case, earns income from empty, non-paying MetroTech space. NYU pays much less to rent the 120,000 square feet than if it had to build anew. And NYU also achieves a degree of planning capability it didn’t have before.


Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

May 28, 2011

No 'Dave and Busters-Type' Bar Slated for Arena Area

Park Slope Patch
By Kristen V. Brown

Residents in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards site can put the kibosh on fears that a rowdy “Dave and Busters-type” bar will be the next thing to open near the arena.

Henry Weinstein, the owner of 604 Pacific Street, told Patch that his plans for the space include nothing of the sort, despite a recent online ad proclaiming that the 35,000 square foot property at Flatbush Avenue can host “80,000 customers” and is perfect for an adult-themed version of Chuck E. Cheese.

Weinstein, a one-time Atlantic Yards opponent, said that the ad was instead the result of an “over ambitious” consultant who put the ad up without his knowledge.

Instead, Weinstein says he plans to lease the mega space to a “high class, SoHo-type operation.”

“I could see why the ad was offensive to many of people in this neighborhood, because they’ll already be assaulted with a deluge of people once the arena opens up,” he said.


Posted by steve at 10:31 PM

May 26, 2011

A Peek Inside Prime Six

Here's Park Slope

On the heels of the news that 604 Pacific Street looks like it's going to get its own Barclays Center-themed eatery (while another sneaky little one already opened last weekend a block away- where's Jennifer McMillen when you need her?), I thought now's a good time to check in with Prime Six, that lightning rod for controversy that will be opening someday on Sixth and Flatbush.


Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

N.Y.U. expansion plan gets mixed reception at City Planning

Real Estate Weekly
by Roland Li

All we can say to our friends in Greenwich Village is be very afraid when AKRF, the go-to firm for minimizing major environmental impacts, gets involved.

Greenwich Village residents and elected officials expressed concerns over New York University’s proposed expansion, while other groups testified in support, at a public hearing at the Department of City Planning on Tuesday.

The hearing was the the first opportunity to comment on a draft scoping document, prepared by AKRF, N.Y.U.’s land use consultant, which will form the basis of a study of the potential impacts of four new buildings in Greenwich Village. (AKRF has worked on a number of high-profile land use cases, including Columbia University’s expansion, Atlantic Yards, and the World Trade Center reconstruction.)

Numerous local residents said the proposal, which would add 2.5 million s/f of new development and require construction over a span of 20 years, was out of context with the neighborhood and would overburden the existing infrastructure.

Can you guess who showed up to endorse the project?

Supporters of the plan included the New York Building Congress, construction industry officials, local business groups, and the Real Estate Board of New York.


Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

May 25, 2011

Neighborhood around new Nets Arena bracing for sports bar blitz

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

As a new Nets arena rises at Atlantic and Flatbush Aves., a slew of sports bars are already popping up to serve the thirsty hordes it will bring.

At least three new bars are on tap for the immediate area - and many neighbors aren't happy about it.

Residents, including some who unsuccessfully opposed building the Barclays Center arena in the first place, are now turning their ire toward the planned bars, fearing drunken crowds will invade their neighborhood with noise, vandalism and public urination.

"We don't want the area around the arena to turn into the area around Madison Square Garden," said Harry Lipman, a lawyer who lives nearby.

Opponents fear the glut of sports bars is only the beginning.

"People are going to be out there all night messing around and making noise and all the other stuff," said Wayne Bailey, 56. "Why do you need to be open until 4 o'clock in the morning if you're serving the neighborhood?"

Prime 6 owner Akiva Ofshtein bought himself a measure of peace by agreeing to scrap a backyard bar and close his yard by midnight on weekends, but said he was shocked by the uproar.

"I was surprised by the tone it took," he said. "[The arena] is there. You've got to move on with life. You can't hold on to grudges forever."

Oh?! Try us.


Posted by eric at 2:13 PM

Entertainment/retail round-up: new bar already open; changes agreed to by potential sports bar; Calexico bites the dust

Atlantic Yards Report

Catching up on some changes regarding expected and potential arena-related nightlife...

Park Slope Patch reports that Machavelle Sports Bar & Lounge has already opened, located in front of a residential building at the corner of Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue. Residents say there's been no dialogue with the owner.

Park Slope Patch also reports that the operator of Players Gastro Pub and Sports Bar, planned for a warehouse-like space at Pacific and Flatbush

has agreed to soundproof the venue, hire addition security on game days, and restrict hours to 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, among a host of other stipulations. There will be no dancing, and the owner has expressly specified that the space will not be a nightclub.

The only point of contention: Thursday nights, on which restaurant owner Scott Alling would like to stay open until 4 a.m. Initially, Alling proposed that the 150-seat eatery stay open until 4 a.m. every night.

Calexico goes down

Here's Park Slope reports that Calexico, a humble Mexican restaurant at 88 Fifth Avenue near Warren Place has been closed, after being seized for nonpayment of taxes:

With the Barclays Center rising just a couple blocks away I had a feeling that this two-storefront restaurant, which had been there for many years, wouldn't be able to keep up with the inevitable rising rents. Sad to see it was brought down by its own tax problems.


Posted by eric at 1:45 PM

May 24, 2011

Calexico Restaurant Seized by Taxman, Up For Rent

Here's Park Slope

Calexico, the Mexican restaurant at 88 Fifth Avenue, near Warren Street, has been seized for nonpayment of taxes. "For Rent" signs are plastered all over the gate and windows, and a call to the number on those signs confirms that the restaurant is closed for good.

With the Barclays Center rising just a couple blocks away I had a feeling that this two-storefront restaurant, which had been there for many years, wouldn't be able to keep up with the inevitable rising rents. Sad to see it was brought down by its own tax problems.


NoLandGrab: When a small restaurant doesn't pay its taxes, it's called "illegal." If Bruce Ratner doesn't pay his taxes, it's known as a "tax break."

Posted by eric at 7:04 PM

Another Sports Bar for Atlantic Yards Area – And This One’s Already Open

Machavelle Sports Bar & Lounge stealthily opened over the weekend.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

Here we go again.

A new bar and lounge has quietly opened up directly across from the Barclays Center at Fourth Avenue and Pacific Street – right next to the proposed location of Player’s Gastro Pub and Sportsbar, a new eatery that has had Slopers up in arms over concerns for noise and late hours.

Machavelle Sports Bar & Lounge soft opened over the weekend, and plans to officially open this evening, according to a man that identified himself as the owner but refused to give his name for fear of “media attention.”

Much like the initial issue with Prime 6, another planned Barclays Center-area bar, Machavelle was somehow granted a liquor license (in a speedy one month) without Community Board 6 ever even learning that it was applying for a license in the first place. The lounge then stealthily opened over the weekend.

“It never went before Community Board 6, so there seems to be a problem with the process,” said Jim Vogel, a Pacific Street resident and representative to State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. Vogel caught wind of the situation last month, and has left several notes with the owner in hopes of opening a dialogue but heard no response.

He said that Senator Montgomery is looking at putting together legislation that would require the State Liquor Authority wait for a response from the community board before granting any liquor licenses, rather than grant a license after 30 days regardless of response.

“Our block used to be quiet, but it’s not going to be like that anymore,” said [Pacific Street resident May] Mosleh. “It’s going to be like living on 42nd Street.”


Related coverage...

Park Slope Patch, Player’s Gastro Pub Agrees to Community Concessions

Player’s Gastro Pub and Sportsbar hasn’t even signed a lease, and already the bar and restaurant has agreed to a bevy of concessions.

The spot, planned for Pacific Street at Flatbush Avenue directly across from the quickly-rising Barclays Center, has agreed to soundproof the venue, hire addition security on game days, and restrict hours to 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, among a host of other stipulations. There will be no dancing, and the owner has expressly specified that the space will not be a nightclub.

That is – if it happens at all. Player’s has not yet signed a lease, and property owner Henry Weinstein, a one-time Atlantic Yards opponent, is still considering other tenants for the space.

An online ad boasts that the massive, 35,000 square foot property would be perfect for “’Dave and Busters’ type entertainment.”

[Player's owner Scott] Alling attempted to persuade concerned nearby residents that while they might be concerned about issues like noise and sidewalk garbage, his proposal is surely more acceptable that whatever else Weinstein might bring in.

“I guess the reason that we’re so sensitive is because this is right next to the arena,” said Elba Vasquez, a Dean Street resident.

“Since the arena has gone up, there have been many more bars that have come in,” said NFBID President Regina Cahill. “This is just the wave of what’s happening.”

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

May 23, 2011

Project Puts Brooklyn First

The Wall Street Journal
by Dana Rubinstein

Profit is the lodestar of most building design in New York City. So it is the rare and refreshing development that is driven by something other than revenue maximization.

Take the case of 212 S. Oxford St., a 10-story red brick and aluminum cooperative development on Fort Greene's Atlantic Avenue border. From its bathroom vanities to its bamboo floors, the building is steeped in and guided by ideology: more precisely, by the desire to propagate an economically integrated society in rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn.

"We want something that fits into the Brooklyn culture," says Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, a community development and social justice organization based in Gowanus that is the co-developer of the building, named Atlantic Terrace. The building's motto is "Made in Brooklyn."

The development sits on Atlantic Avenue and South Oxford Street, right next to the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls developed by Forest City Ratner Companies. All fall within the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area, of which Atlantic Terrace is the final piece.

Before the Fifth Avenue Committee's involvement, the site, a former gas station, had lain fallow for more than 20 years. When the committee and Magnusson Architecture and Planning, who are co-developers on the project, won the development rights in 2003, they had a brownfield on their hands, with seven tanks leaking lead gas into the soil below. Extensive remediation followed.

Today, from the soundproof windows of 212 S. Oxford, visitors can see cranes lifting pieces of the Nets arena into place across Atlantic Avenue.


NoLandGrab: While Bruce Ratner has yet to even put a shovel in the ground for any housing, Atlantic Terrace and its nearly 75% affordable units is complete. Why is Ratner in line for any affordable-housing subsidies when other developers obviously do it better, faster and less expensively?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Atlantic Terrace, across from arena site, seeks "new Brooklyn retailers"

The good news, according to the sponsor Fifth Avenue Committee, is affordable housing (subsidized co-ops for households ranging from $34,970 to $115,380), LEED gold certification, locally-crafted finishings, and common amenities open to both subsidized and market-rate tenants.

Going local

The Journal reports:

Even more principled: the 11,400-square-foot ground-floor retail space is being marketed primarily to local tenants. "We've received some interest from some national chains," says Heather Gershen, the director of housing development for the Fifth Avenue Committee. "We think it's important for people to get fresh produce, milk, the morning paper. We would like to see some of the new Brooklyn retailers."

Or, as Ms. [Michelle] de la Uz puts it, "There's already a mall."

Yes, the site borders Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls.

While the article mentions Atlantic Yards, unmentioned is that the expected size of the latter project scotched the Fifth Avenue Committee's plans for solar power on the Atlantic Terrace roof.

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

The Tappan Zee Is Falling Down

Why is New York taking so long to replace a vital bridge?

City Limits
by Nicole Gelinas

Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn mega-project makes a cameo appearance in this in-depth look at the Tappan Zee Bridge's interesting past and perilous future.

The deeper problem behind all the delays, however, is not regulatory but political. When New York officials want to do something quickly, they don’t worry overmuch about legal niceties, public input, or possible court challenges. It took politicians little more than a year to comply with NEPA’s (National Environmental Protection Act) requirements for the Fulton Street transit center in lower Manhattan, for example—a project favored by Sheldon Silver, the powerful Speaker of the state assembly. It also took little more than a year to secure NEPA approval of extending the Number 7 subway line to the Far West Side of Manhattan, a project that Mayor Michael Bloomberg threw his political weight—and the city’s money—behind. The Atlantic Yards basketball stadium and housing project in Brooklyn doesn’t involve federal money, so officials didn’t need to deal with NEPA in that case, but they did steamroll over a similarly rigid state-environmental review process, inviting the state court cases that arose.

No politicians, though, have championed the Tappan Zee. That’s not surprising, since they wouldn’t get much out of it politically. It doesn’t offer affordable housing, as Atlantic Yards supposedly does. Nor does it open up vast new tracts of land to development and tax revenues, as the West Side extension is supposed to. And it isn’t a project funded by a pot of 9/11 money, as the Fulton Street project was (at least until costs exceeded those funds). All the pols will get for building a new Tappan Zee is complaints for years on end about construction and money—so that some future politician won’t have to watch a bridge collapse.


NoLandGrab: Unmentioned by Gelinas is the fact that we might have more dollars for bridges if we didn't squander boatloads of them on unnecessary arena boondoggles.

Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

'Dave and Busters-Type' Bar May Open Near Atlantic Yards

Park Slope Patch
By Kristen V. Brown

Prime 6 was just the beginning.

Not even after a month after news broke that a second bar will open at Flatbush Avenue and Pacific Street catering to sports fans heading to Brooklyn Nets games, the bar’s property owner has posted an online ad boasting that the massive, 35,000 square foot property is perfect for “’Dave and Busters’ type entertainment.”


A massive amount of businesses catering to arena crowds – and increased neighborhood traffic because of them – has long been one of the chief concerns of those opposing the arena. Residents have recently raised major concerns over both Prime 6 and Player’s Gastro Pub and Sportsbar.

“I think this is the tip of the iceberg for what the future holds for the block nearest the arena,” said Eric McClure, co-founder of Park Slope Neighbors. “I think something like this does have the potential to overwhelm the surrounding blocks. I also think that the community can have some influence by sticking together and pointing out the problems.”

“I think this really points out why the city had a prohibition against placing arenas withing 200 feet of a residential neighborhood, and how foolish the state was to override it. This all is just not compatible with residential neighborhood,” McClure added.


Posted by steve at 4:39 AM

May 20, 2011

There Goes The Neighborhood: Neighbors Hate on Dave and Busters Copycat Near Barclays Center

by Michael Gross

More news and blues on the arenafication of the streets around the coming Barclays Center. Local landlord Henry Weinstein, who was an early opponent and plaintiff in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain cases, is seeking to cash in by seeking more lowest common denominator tenants for his property across Flatbush Avenue from the complex, reports Brooklyn Paper.


Related coverage...

Gothamist, Is Downtown Brooklyn Getting A Dave & Busters?

Beer-soaked Dance Dance Revolution junkies, rejoice! You might not have to go all the way to Times Square to get your sweat on anymore! A giant "Dave & Busters"-style "entertainment mecca" might be coming to downtown Brooklyn soon, right across the street from the Barclays Center. After reading the very excited online ad the property's owner posted today today, what "Chuck E. Cheese with beer"-style chain wouldn't want to move in?

While it's all very speculative right now as to who will ultimately move in, one interesting twist to the story is that the property's owner, Henry Weinstein, was an early opponent of Atlantic Yards project. Now, he seems to have changed his tune, saying "There’s no stopping progress." And there's no stopping those sexy neon lights, either—bring on the DDR!

Eater NY, Landlord Seeks 'Dave and Busters' Type for Brooklyn Complex

The Brooklyn Paper uncovers a pretty spectacular ad for a new tenant for an entertainment complex across from the Barclays Center.

Photo: Edopeno via flickr

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

May 19, 2011

Luxury penthouse condos at One Hanson Place sell at auction for $465-$625/sf; FCR, according to KPMG, was expecting $1217/sf for AY condos in 2015

Atlantic Yards Report

Uh oh. Better redo the calculations, Bruce.

In October 2009, as I wrote, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) released the Atlantic Yards market study by KPMG, which stated, in the words of an ESDC lawyer, that it was "not unreasonable" for the 14 residential buildings (sans Site 5 and Building 1) to be absorbed in the officially announced decade.

The upshot: Forest City Ratner was counting on sales prices of $1217/sf in 2015 up to $1369/sf in 2019.

Well, we're four years away, and the luxury housing market isn't getting too close.

At One Hanson

A 5/17/11 New York Times article headlined A Perch Above Brooklyn, Going Once, Going Twice... described the bidding for penthouse condos in One Hanson Place, the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank building.

A two bedroom duplex with 2,120 square feet inside and 1,948 square feet of terraces sold for $1.325 million. That's $625/sf, without counting the terraces.

Three 3,243-square-foot four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath apartments without terraces were originally listed for close to $5 million ($1542/sf) sold for around $1.7 million, or $524/sf.

A 2,848-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath, went for $1.325 million, or $465/sf.

The prices aren't quite firm, as two of the sales could be rejected, and the buyers must pay a 10 percent premium on top of their bid. And, of course, an auction can't be expected to bring top dollar.

And yet...

...consider that the KPMG report described more generic Atlantic Yards condos, not penthouse apartments in a vintage building.


Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

Mega-party space to rise across from Barclays Center

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gary Buiso

A boozy entertainment Mecca is taking shape across the street from the Barclays Center — and the chief beneficiary is one of the early opponents of the Atlantic Yards mega-project.

The nearly football field-sized property, on Pacific Street just across Flatbush Avenue from the rising basketball arena, is already the proposed home of a sports bar/gastropub, but property owner Henry Weinstein continues to market the massive property in a breathless online ad touting it as “perfect for ‘Dave and Busters’ type” entertainment, a reference to the frenetic Texas-based chain that’s been described as a Chuck E. Cheese with beer.

“How about neon or digital behind glass, aimed at the crowds streaming into the Barclays Arena?” the ad crows. “Our architect calls it a ‘sexy space’ — we call it a freakin’ GOLDMINE for the right user!”

The ad dangles the prospect of “80,000 customers a night,” though the $1-billion arena seats roughly 18,000.

Whatever the numbers are, one-time project foe Weinstein said he’s not going to kick a gift horse in the mouth.

“There will be an arena across the street and this will be a big entertainment destination. Like it or not, this is an upcoming area,” he said. “There’s no stopping progress.”


Residents said the transformation of the neighborhood into a neon-lit nightlife destination is exactly what they feared since the inception of the Atlantic Yards project, which overrode city zoning to allow for an arena and up to 16 skyscrapers in an otherwise low-rise, quiet residential area.


NoLandGrab: "Freakin'" will surely be on the lips of nearby residents, too, followed not by "goldmine" but by "nightmare," "disaster," "travesty" — you get the idea. Thanks, Henry.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Beyond Prime 6 and the sports bar/gastropub, a 35,000 square foot entertainment center planned for Pacific at Flatbush

Turns out the gastropub and sports bar, coupled with a pizzeria and falafel joint, planned for the corner of Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue may be far more demure than what's planned for the rest of the space, some 35,000 square feet.

As with previous public battles over Prime Six and the abovementioned establishments, the concern from neighbors emanates from the very tight fit of arena and neighborhood. As the Brooklyn Paper reports:

“Go to Madison Square Garden and see what kinds of businesses are around it,” said Eric McClure, co-founder of Park Slope Neighbors, a civic group. “I definitely think this changes the nature of the neighborhood.

“This is what people feared when the state overrode zoning laws that ban the construction of an arena within 200-feet of a residential neighborhood,” McClure added.

The property has neighbors’ attention, as the proposed bar/gastropub is already causing indigestion among those fearful of the radical change that’s anticipated.

But Weinstein dismissed local concerns.

“We want something that is community board friendly,” he said.

I don't think that necessarily dismisses local concerns; Weinstein is a longtime member of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, which has tried to mediate between businesses and neighbors.

But anything that large, right around the corner from a residential block, won't exactly be easy to live with.

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

May 10, 2011

Jeffries gets Corcoran to revise listings from Prospect Heights to Crown Heights; why not challenge FCR's claim AY would be in "downtown Brooklyn"?

Atlantic Yards Report

What was that we were saying earlier about a whole heap of nothing?

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who's drawn attention, praise, and skepticism (I Love Franklin Ave., Brownstoner) for his announced plan to "punish real estate agents for inventing neighborhood names and for falsely stretching their boundaries," can report some success with the latter part of his effort.

(Perhaps not coincidentally, Jeffries just opened an exploratory committee for a possible race for the Congressional seat now occupied by longtime Rep. Ed Towns, who may retire.)

He announced yesterday (full press release below) that, in response to his request, the Corcoran Group, a major real estate company, agreed to move "the eastern boundary of the Prospect Heights community back to its proper border, and correct[ed] several listings that had improperly marketed Crown Heights properties as located in Prospect Heights."

What about AY?

Given that Jeffries is apparently a stickler for Prospect Heights' boundaries, citing Flatbush Avenue as its western border, it's notable that the Assemblyman has not taken on a bigger target, challenging Forest City Ratner's ongoing claim, since 2003, that Atlantic Yards would be in "downtown Brooklyn."

But Jeffries has often been on the fence regarding Atlantic Yards. And his constituents likely are more divided on Atlantic Yards than on real estate brokers claiming that Franklin Avenue = Prospect Heights, or even the emerging ProCro coinage to describe the zone just east of the recognized Prospect Heights border.


Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

Packaging Public Land, The City’s Role in Private Development

Urban Magazine
by Claudia Huerta

It’s hard not to notice all the construction going on in New York City. Yet where the average passerby sees only cranes and the hands of private developers reshaping the city, planners, policy-makers and political insiders see the increasingly powerful role of the city’s arms-length organization, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

EDC is different from other city agencies in some important ways. For instance, when city-owned properties are sold, the names of the bidders and their projects are not revealed to the public. It is only after EDC selects a developer that the community is informed of the developer’s plans. Unsurprisingly, this process has raised the ire of many New York City communities and made it the target of a public backlash, as was the case in the recent Willets Point and Atlantic Yards development proposals pushed by EDC.

Having many different funding sources gives EDC a lot of power. Add to that its unique semi-public, semi-private status and it is a recipe reminiscent of Robert Moses’ Triborough Bridge Authority, which built countless bridges, tunnels and highways throughout the city with impunity from the 1940s to the 1960s despite much public disapproval.


Posted by eric at 12:19 PM

Xanadu- Governor Christie’s Ode-ious “Yes We Khan” Moment

Noticing New York

(Above: “Xanadu” from “Citizen Kane” - “cost: no man can say”- and “Xanadu” the mega-project in New Jersey, - more costs now being assumed by the New Jersey taxpayers- both from wikipedia.)

Suppose the New York Times proposed a contest for readers to write a poetic ode about a huge, over scale, garishly designed and questionably subsidized mixed-use project critically integrated with a sports complex: Do you think the readers might respond with lacerating lyricism questioning the judgement, priorities and profligacy of public officials?

Well, the New York Times did, and its readers did, only the contest was not held with respect to the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly handed out to Bruce Ratner (the Times business partner in building the new Times building). The contest was held with respect to New Jersey’s stalled Xanadu project recently rescued from financial insolvency by Governor Chris Christie.

May 3, 2011, the Times declared a winner: Prevailing Poet Is Decreed in Meadowlands Ode Contest.

Here for reference is the opening stanza of the original Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

The declared winner was Steve Schoenwiesner of Montclair, N.J., for his two-stanza entry, one stanza of which is reproduced below:

For Xanadu did Christie-Khan
A stately subsidy decree.
While tracks below a river, planned,
Were scuttled, fundless, by this man
A blight revives tax-free.


Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

City seeks developers for Willets Point revamp

Grand plans inch forward for 62-acre Queens that's been the subject of a lengthy legal battle between the city and some of the local businesses that would be displaced.

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

The city moved another step forward Monday with its hotly contested plans to redevelop Willets Point, Queens. The city's Economic Development Corp. issued a request for proposal seeking a developer to build out the first portion of the 62-acre site, a parcel of land located next to Citi Field.

With Atlantic Yards, by contrast, the developer was selected before the project was announced. In fact, it was the developer who selected the project.

“We think this is premature,” said Michael Gerrard, senior counsel of Arnold & Porter, who represents 10 businesses that have been fighting for years to halt the Willets Point redevelopment. Some of Mr. Gerrard's clients are actually located in the first phase, he noted. “The project is still in legal limbo due to continuing uncertainty over whether the city will receive approval for the Van Wyck ramps that are essential to the project, which was approved as a whole, not something that could be broken into chunks or phases.”


Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

May 6, 2011

Good Grief! More Stories (Involving Computers and Schools) Deflating The Bloomberg Management Expertise Myth

Noticing New York

When you are questioning the reliability Bloomberg’s management expertise and the extent to which his statistics reflect a real world versus Bloomberg’s desire for an exulting edifice-complex oriented headline, the statement the in the Times about Bloomberg’s “big push” for an applied sciences school (“envisioned as one of the largest development projects in the city’s history” - What? Bigger than the Atlantic Yards mega-monoploy handed to Bruce Ratner?) has more ominous resonance:

William A. Zajc, chairman of Columbia’s* physics department, said the idea for an applied sciences school was a “field of dreams venture.”

(* Is this gripe just because Columbia doesn’t want competition for its takeover of West Harlem?)

(See: Bloomberg’s Big Push for an Applied Sciences School, by Javier C. Hernnandez, April 26, 2011.)

The Times story also includes criticism that the mayor should, instead, be thinking in terms of deploying the city capital (“the city has pledged to offer capital [$100 million or more] and public land”) to build upon and expand existing resources and programs rather than these grandiose plans to “start from scratch” which NYU’s proposal to the mayor dares to criticize:

“A ‘start from scratch’ approach that parachutes a new player into New York without the requisite ingredients that lead to success has the potential to be a waste of resources.”

Willlets Point, Atlantic Yards, Coney Island, even the Columbia expansion into West Harlem (potentially competing with the mayor's applied sciences school vision): Where else have we been hearing about the mayor’s intoxication with wiping the slate clean in order to “start from scratch” before building anything?


Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

May 5, 2011

Like, OMG, NJ, a mall is not public infrastructure!!!!!!!!!!!

The Torch
by Nicole Gelinas

This blog focuses on New York. But the new managers of the Xanadu-cum- “American-Dream@Meadowlands” mall project over in Jersey noted helpfully yesterday that “Manhattan can see us.”

OK, then. What Manhattan sees today is an unwise leadership decision on the part of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Yesterday, Christie officially threw state support behind the resurrection of this long-failed project to build a mega-mall in northern New Jersey.

Having called the unfinished building “the ugliest damn building in New Jersey and perhaps America,” Christie pledged to see the supposedly private-sector project through under new ownership.

To that end, the state will offer $200 million in new financial help.

If the dozens of other political vanity projects — from sports stadiums to Atlantic Yards to Destiny USA — that came before this one are an indication, the mall will continue to be a boondoggle.


NoLandGrab: This is the same Chris Christie who wouldn't spend NJ taxpayers' money on the badly needed ARC tunnel project. We guess an indoor ski slope is more important than good commuter-rail access.

Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Marty eyeing Ringling site for Coney concert series

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alex Rush

The new greatest show on Earth may be Borough President Markowitz’s Coney Island summer music series.

The Beep is reportedly hoping to relocate his “Seaside Concerts” to the W. 21st street parking lot that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus abandoned after a two-year run. The planned relocation, first reported by NY1, was expected after the city formally booted the controversial weekly shows from Asser Levy Park last month after noise complaints — and a lawsuit — from neighbors.

Last year’s shows were funded by several companies, including Forest City Ratner and the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets, but The Beep still found ways to cut costs, using Rikers Island prisoners — paid just $1 an hour — to set up and remove the 2,000 seats for the series’ audiences.

Just weeks after the suit was filed, the city temporarily overturned the decades-old ban so that the shows could go for the 2010 season. But the 500-foot rule is back in effect and the city moved the concerts out of Asser Levy Park even before there is a ruling in the suit.


NoLandGrab: No judge has thought it a problem, however, that the State of New York overrode local zoning rules preventing a basketball arena from being sited within 200 feet of several residential neighborhoods.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

May 4, 2011


by Joey Arak

Though there's no sign of Walmart being interested in the neighborhood (yet!), foes of the corporate giant hit up a Lower East Side community board meeting to give a "scathing presentation" about the retailer. Some are worried the SPURA megaplan, which in theory will one day be built, may provide an LES opening for Walmart. "These people are predatory retailers," said Walmart Free NYC's Bertha Lewis, who way back when was so excited about Atlantic Yards she smooched Bruce Ratner.


NoLandGrab: Is there no one with more credibility than Bertha Lewis for Walmart opponents to trot out to Community Board meetings? She'd kiss Sam Walton's bones, too, if there was a grant and low-interest loan in the offing.

Posted by eric at 10:01 PM

May 2, 2011

Hey, taxi! Marty hails Turkish cab maker — and the jobs it will bring

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gary Buiso

Boondoggle alert!

Borough officials spent Sunday morning cheering Turkish automaker Karsan, a politically connected company promising hundreds of Brooklyn jobs if its design is chosen as the city’s next yellow cab.

“I hope that city officials will seriously consider taking a ride with Karsan — we owe it to everyone in the city that seeks gainful employment,” said Borough President Markowitz who organized the automotive love fest at Borough Hall.

Karsan USA’s president is William Wachtel, one of the founding partners of the powerful law and lobbying firm Wachtel & Masyr, whose client list includes Forest City Ratner and IKEA.

[Karsan advisor Jay] Kriegel is also a longtime city insider, currently a senior adviser to the Related Companies, which is developing land in East New York that could be home to another borough first: Walmart.

But he said politics have not fueled the effusive support Karsan is receiving from local pols.

“That has nothing to do with anything,” Kriegel said. “This is about a decision on the merits.”


NoLandGrab: Call us skeptics, but when they say "this is about a decision on the merits," why do we think the merits have "nothing to do with anything?"

Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

April 28, 2011

Nets’ Brooklyn Neighbors : We Don’t Want Your Glorified Wing Stop (Or The Indie Rock)

Can't Stop The Bleeding

“We do not need a bar on Pacific Street,” argued Brooklyn resident Syble Henderson at last night’s Community Board 6 subcommittee meeting to consider plans to open Players Gastro Pub & Sports Bar adjacent to Bruce Ratner’s under-construction Barclays Arena. “Historically that block has been impacted with all kinds of anti-social activities,” claimed Henderson, who surely realizes that serving a postgame microbrew to Brook Lopez would mean a new low for the neighborhood.


NoLandGrab: Serving a beer to a Nets player after a game would be one thing (as if you find Knicks players at Mustang Sally's after a game at the Garden). Having a bunch of drunks making a racket at 3 a.m. on a weeknight in a residential neighborhood is altogether something else.

Posted by eric at 9:56 PM

Another arena-related bar coming to Pacific Street, between Players and residences

Atlantic Yards Report

As a commenter pointed out on Park Slope Patch, another bar, Machavelle, is destined for 602 Pacific Street, what appears to be a residential building (with, apparently, mixed-use zoning) next to the furniture store that would be the home of Players, a gastropub and sports bar, which generated much concern at a Community Board 6 committee meeting Monday night.

A liquor license application for Machavelle was filed April 12, so the plans have apparently not yet been before the Community Board.


Related coverage...

NetsAreScorching, Daily Link: More Atlantic Yards Dispute?

Recently, the debate over the space surrounding the Barclays Center has escalated. Most recently, a club called “Players” is looking to open its doors near the center and local residents are worried about this likely post-game venue becoming a distraction to their daily lives.

The Atlantic Yards project has trudged through many legal disputes just like this one. This shouldn’t do anything to halt progress on Bruce Ratner’s brainchild and the Barclays Center will probably be built in due time. That being said, hearing stories about the project causing trouble for local residents is certainly disheartening.

NoLandGrab: Not nearly as disheartening as what is sure to become a torrent of new bars will be for residents near the arena. Here's a preview:


Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

April 27, 2011

Another Sports Bar Showdown Near Barclays

On Monday locals bashed a bar on Pacific Street that would cater to crowds bound for Brooklyn Nets games.

Park Slope Patch
by Stephen Brown

Thanks to the geniuses who thought it was a good idea to override city zoning and allow an arena to be built in the midst of residential neighborhoods, residents of Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Fort Greene are going to get plenty of practice fighting liquor license applications.

Prime 6 was only the tip of the iceberg.

Hot off the heels of a fight over one sports bar near the Barclays Center, a new showdown is brewing between locals and the owner of a second bar that will cater to sports fans going to Brooklyn Nets games.

The owners of a Manhattan restaurant want to open Player’s Gastro Pub and Sportsbar on Pacific Street at Flatbush Avenue, which would seat 150 people and be open until 4 a.m. every night.

But on Monday residents at a meeting of Community Board 6 scoffed at the notion of the sports bar on their block.

“To have five or six bars in one area, you get to a tipping point and suddenly you have Bourbon Street in Brooklyn,” said Harry Lipman, a lawyer who was instrumental in the previous sports bar battle in Park Slope. “You have people coming out of a game at 10 p.m. or so — they already had a couple of beers, then they get more drunk, then they’re fumbling for car keys — it’s potentially loud and boisterous.”


Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Slopers fight Barclays bar war on second front

A fiery group of neighbors stormed a Community Board 6 meeting on Monday night to rage against the proposed “Players Gastropub and Sports Bar,” which seeks to serve alcohol until 4 am across the street from the rising arena on Pacific Street at Flatbush Avenue.

It would be the closest drinking establishment to a venue that is expected to draw 19,000 sports fans per night.

“I don’t want fans coming out and pissing on our neighborhood,” said Jon Crow, a longtime advocate of nightlife limits in Park Slope. “People looking to drink until three or four in the morning are already three sheets to the wind.”

Residents of the once-hardscabble, “Fortress of Solitude”-esque block said they don’t want to go back to the bad old days.

“We’ve fought long and hard to bring stability to the block,” said Syble Henderson, of the East Pacific Street Block Association. “We don’t want a business that’s potentially disruptive.”

Posted by eric at 9:24 AM

April 26, 2011

A gastropub and sports bar coming to Pacific & Flatbush: another incursion on residents or the best alternative near the arena? CB calls for caution

Atlantic Yards Report

Residents of northwest Park Slope, already wary of seemingly under-the-radar efforts to install new arena-related bars near the under-construction Barclays Center, had some harsh words last night for entrepreneurs aiming to put Players Gastro Pub and Sportsbar, plus a pizza/falafel quick serve combo, in a building on Pacific Street at Flatbush Avenue now home to a furniture store.

(Above left, photo from Google Maps; note that the building at left has been demolished and is the site of arena construction. The view is looking south along Flatbush.)

“We do not need a bar on Pacific Street,” commented resident Syble Henderson, who helped found the Brooklyn Bear’s community garden at the northwest corner of Pacific and Flatbush, speaking at at a Community Board 6 subcommittee meeting concerning permits and licenses.

“Historically that block has been impacted with all kinds of anti-social activities,” Henderson said at the meeting held at the 78th Precinct at Bergen Street and Sixth Avenue, referring to drugs and prostitution residents fought 30 years ago. “We have fought long and hard to bring stability to that block... This is an attraction for all kinds of misuse.”

About 15 other residents nearby joined Henderson in her sentiments, while no resident spoke in favor of the plans, and the committee agreed to postpone any recommendation to the State Liquor Authority until its meeting next month and further discussion about the new facilities’ operating plans and procedures. (The Community Board’s vote is advisory, but can push parties to negotiate.)

One issue, reminiscent of the recent tensions over the Prime 6 bar/restaurant planned at Flatbush and Sixth Avenue, was how much notice residents got. Signs were posted on Thursday in the 500-foot radius of the planned new facilities, but several residents said they never saw them.

While the sentiments might be portrayed as NIMBY, it might be more accurate to call them the tensions arising from putting an arena so close to a residential neighborhood. 
(The state is overriding city zoning that requires a 200-foot barrier between sports facilities and residents.)

For their part, the entrepreneurs insisted that their plan was the best alternative for a newly-coveted spot and that their landlord, Henry Weinstein--a mainstay of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District (BID) and, while an owner of land in the Atlantic Yards footprint, a prominent opponent of the arena plan--recognized that.

Players would operate 11 am to 4 am daily, occupying 3500 square feet, with seating for 150 and two bars, one with 15 seats, the other with six seats.


NoLandGrab: Et tu, Henry?

Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

April 18, 2011

When it comes to Wal-Mart plans, Lewis (ex-ACORN) decries linkage between store and affordable housing; what about the arena linkage?

Atlantic Yards Report

From an article in City Hall News headlined Critics Accuse Developers Of Obfuscating Plans To Bring Wal-Mart To NYC:

In a letter addressed to Related Companies CEO Stephen Ross, Wal-Mart critics accused the real estate developer and their allies of knowingly spreading falsehoods about the benefit of siting the big box store. Related is the organization widely believed to be in negotiations to bring Wal-Mart to East New York in Brooklyn.

The charge stems from a recent Housing Preservation and Development hearing, which dealt with the transfer of city-owned Gateway Commercial land to Related. According to Bertha Lewis, former head of the now-defunct ACORN who co-authored the letter, a lawyer representing Related conflated the transfer of land for mall construction with affordable housing.

...“Good people can disagree, but be transparent and honest,” said Ms. Lewis in reference to Related. “If you are negotiating to bring a Wal-Mart to Gateway II, say that. Don’t say that it’s about housing.”

Well, a not dissimilar kind of conflation occurred 3/11/10, when Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Forest City Ratner/Barclays issued press releases touting the ceremonial arena groundbreaking, promising it would bring affordable housing in its wake.

It hasn't. It's been delayed, as Forest City Ratner considers the radical, cost-cutting step of modular construction.


Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

April 15, 2011

Tucked Between Past and Future in Brooklyn


The New York Times
by Joseph Plambeck

On the north side of Prospect Heights in northwestern Brooklyn, construction workers are busy building the Barclays Center, the future home of the New Jersey Nets.

On the neighborhood’s south side sit several of the borough’s most venerable cultural institutions and attractions.

And in between is an evolving neighborhood that is also a blend of the old and the young, the established and the newcomers.

When Honey Moon Ubarde and her husband were moving to New York from San Francisco in 2007, they knew they needed space. They had lived in Manhattan before, but now with two young girls and several pets, they set their sights on Brooklyn. They ended up in Prospect Heights, buying a town house for about $1.3 million.

Some friends questioned the location, Ms. Ubarde, 34, said, but she had no doubts. “We were surprised that more people hadn’t moved here,” she said, “that more people didn’t see everything that’s around this location.”

Her home is just a few blocks from some of Brooklyn’s most heavily trafficked destinations, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Prospect Park.

Brokers and residents say that in the last decade there have been many families of new arrivals sharing Ms. Ubarde’s response to the area.

As Michael Ettelson, an agent for Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, put it, Prospect Heights “went from a neighborhood many people hadn’t heard of to a place that a lot of people want to be.”


NoLandGrab: But didn't Bruce Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation claim the neighborhood was blighted?

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Times Real Estate section returns to Prospect Heights, finds not blight but "a place that a lot of people want to be"

The latest Living In/Prospect Heights, Brooklyn article for the New York Times Real Estate section, online now and destined for the Sunday paper April 17, is headlined Tucked Between Past and Future in Brooklyn, and should be read in concert with the four previous "Living In" articles published from 1985 through 2005, which I cataloged in October 2006.

In 1999, the headline was A Diverse Neighborhood Spruces Up in a Turnaround, while in 2005 it was A Neighborhood Comes Into Its Own.

While Prospect Heights is more economically diverse than, say, neighboring Park Slope, thanks to a larger number of rent-regulated buildings, you wouldn't get that from the latest article. (It does quote a resident as saying the drug dealers are long gone.)

The Times reports:

Another big change is the Atlantic Yards development, Bruce C. Ratner’s 22-acre residential and commercial project, which includes the Barclays Center and has many vocal critics. So far, several brokers said, the project has not substantially affected real estate prices. The arena is scheduled to open in September 2012.

Atlantic Yards, Mr. Ettelson said, was a bigger concern among prospective buyers four or five years ago, when all people had to go on about the development was drawings and the like. Now, he said, “they see a stadium going up, and people are not necessarily positive about it, but they feel more confident.”

Well, there's likely a tension between wanting a scarce and valuable resource--a row house in a desirable neighborhood near transit--and coping with the increase in traffic on select streets.

I'd suggest that "prospective buyers" should not be chosen as the primary constituency for judging the impact of Atlantic Yards. What about the people who live there?

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

April 13, 2011

After mediation, Prime 6 owner agrees to give up backyard bar, close backyard seating area by midnight on weekends

Atlantic Yards Report

Thanks in part to mediation by the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, there's Finally, A Compromise Over Prime 6, as Park Slope Patch reports.

There's a vote tonight at Community Board 6, which is expected to ask the State Liquor Authority to enumerate the agreement in Prime 6's liquor license.


Posted by eric at 8:43 AM

April 12, 2011

Finally, A Compromise Over Prime 6

After over a month of arguments between community members and a restaurant owner, a deal was negotiated.

Park Slope Patch
by Kristen V. Brown

The owner of a controversial Park Slope bar and restaurant has agreed to a bevy of demands, including closing his backyard seating area by 11 p.m. on weekdays and 12 a.m. on weekends.

Akiva Ofshtein, owner of Prime 6, the restaurant under construction at Flatbush and Sixth avenues, agreed to the laundry list of stipulations after a group of irate local residents insisted that the eatery change its hours, backyard setup and even requested a new liquor license hearing.

Ofshtein also ditched plans for a backyard bar, nixed any possibility of bottle service and promised to meet with Community Board 6 after one year to discuss any recurring problems.

“I feel like both sides had to do a little compromising in order to make everybody feel comfortable,” said Ofshtein, adding, “I still think they’re upset with me a little prematurely.”

The compromise comes after over a month of discussions between Ofshtein and a group of residents who live near the eatery, which is slated to open next month. Throngs of fuming residents stormed a March CB6 meeting, furious over rumors that the locale would be a nightlife hotspot catering to the Barclay’s arena crowd and even angrier that the restaurant had already been granted a liquor license without appearing before the community board.


Posted by eric at 10:09 PM

April 10, 2011

Catering Hall’s Plan for a Hotel Upsets the Neighbors

The New York Times
By Joseph Berger

This article is about an attempt by the owner of the catering establishment Grand Prospect Hall to gain a zoning exemption so that he may build a hotel next door to his establishment. Oddly, Atlantic Yards figures into his justification for the zoning variance.

But to Mr. Halkias, obtaining a zoning exception from the city is a matter of economic survival. The New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, with a 2,000-guest ballroom, is siphoning off some of his wedding business, he said, and hotels that may be built as part of the Atlantic Yards development or in Coney Island would steal away even more.


NoLandGrab: The Times should know that, since the ESDC has given developer Bruce Ratner 25 years to build his project, Mr. Halkias, who's about 70, will be over 90 by the time a hotel is built in the Atlantic Yards project, if ever.

Posted by steve at 12:07 AM

April 5, 2011

Atlantic Yards Arena Question


We just looked at an open house at 57 St. Marks, between 5th and 6th. I was wondering how the Atlantic Yards Arena will likely affect this block. If anybody has any insights into how living in this neighborhood may be impacted by arena, I would be appreciative.


NoLandGrab: That's what we call Prime (6) real estate, as some commenters point out.

Posted by eric at 12:15 AM

April 4, 2011

Bad comparison alert: The Yonkers waterfront, 112 acres, is like Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Journal News/

The Yonkers waterfront is the kind of real estate that makes developers drool and tax assessors rub their palms in anticipation. Minutes from Manhattan and offering the most dramatic Hudson River views this side of the Palisades, the Alexander Street waterfront is 112 acres of blank slate just waiting to be molded into the next Battery Park City, or Atlantic Yards, or White Plains.

Um, White Plains is a city, Battery Park City covers 92 acres, and Atlantic Yards would be 22 acres. And a blank slate--not quite.


Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

March 30, 2011

Park Slope Restaurant Met With Resistance

by Jeanine Ramirez

Prime 6 restaurant is opening at the corner of 6th and Flatbush Avenues, the site of a former video store. It can hold 230 people on the ground floor, the basement and the backyard. But many who live nearby say the restaurant's size and outdoor space will ruin their quality of life.

Along the corridor is the Atlantic Yards project which Ofshtein hopes will bring in business when the basketball arena opens. However, some residents worry about the growing congestion.

"We are concerned about saturation. And woe unto the next restaurant, bar that wants to open up on our corner," [nearby homeowner Harry] Lipman said.


Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

Out of the City's Domain

Willets Point United

As we commented yesterday, Judge Joan Madden has thrown the city a curve ball by issuing her order to show cause against that effort to segment the Willets Point project and avoid proper review of the Van Wyck ramps. In doing so, Madden explicitly rejected the city's argument that this entire dispute could be rolled into the eminent domain challenge.

We anticipate that EDC will try to make this case when they submit papers to the judge in response to her order. We know exactly why the city is trying to use the ED gambit-they are on stronger legal ground-given how the NY State courts have ruled on condemnation challenges-in this arena then in the environmental arena where its case is much weaker.


Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

Where Wal-Mart Failed, Aldi Succeeds

The New York Times
by Stephanie Clifford

While Wal-Mart revives its plans to get into New York City, a giant German retailer has slipped in relatively unnoticed.

In February, with virtually no opposition — a Queens politician even showed up at the grand opening in Rego Park, Queens — a discount retailer called Aldi opened its first store in the city, and plans to open a second one, in the Bronx, later this year.

Even though Aldi, like Wal-Mart, is nonunion, it has faced little resistance, compared with the heated opposition often headed by unions and politicians that Wal-Marts have encountered in larger markets.

Why so little push back? Here's why.

“There’s no reason to oppose an Aldi — it’s a small format, and they usually get space from an existing landowner or landlord, a small guy who’s plugged into the community, not a big guy like a Forest City Ratner,” Mr. Johnson said.


Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

March 29, 2011

City's Willets Point plans hit legal pothole

Judge asks authorities why she shouldn't reverse her earlier dismissal of lawsuit to block the redevelopment after city skirts restrictions.

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Engquist

Joan Madden didn't do Atlantic Yards opponents any favors, but she's at least threatening to toss a wrench in the city's Willets Point land grab.

The city's bid to redevelop Willets Point, Queens, hit a pothole Tuesday when a judge ordered the Bloomberg administration to show why she shouldn't revoke the go-ahead she granted last summer.

State Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden had ruled that the project could proceed because the city promised not to condemn any land until it had approval for new Van Wyck Expressway ramps, which it had deemed essential to the project. But when state and federal approval of the ramps proved elusive, the city split the project into two phases and moved ahead with condemnations, arguing that the ramps were not required for Phase I.

But the administration failed to make that argument to the judge.

According to Michael Gerrard, the attorney for Willets Point property owners who object to the city's plan, the judge signed an order directing the city to explain why her order dismissing his lawsuit should not be vacated.

City lawyers will prepare a brief, the property owners will write a response, and the judge will hear oral argument in open court July 20.


Related coverage...

City Hall, Imminent Domain: Willets Point opponents looking to avoid fate of the Atlantic Yards, Columbia University expansion

An interesting look at the legal strategy of Willets Point property owners.

By next summer, the dilapidated jumble of auto shops in Willets Point should be starting to transform into a slick new development featuring mixed-income housing, a hotel and a convention center.

But first the city must take on a small band of business owners trying to hold onto their property in the Queens neighborhood, and while recent experience shows that the city has the upper hand in securing the land for the project, the group is eager to learn from recent economic development fights.

Two other redevelopment projects in the city, Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Columbia University's expansion in Manhattan, recently reaffirmed the right of government to take private property in New York and turn it over to private developers.

As the city takes its first step toward using eminent domain in Willets Point, opponents are looking carefully at the legal battles over those two projects, as a guide for which strategies to follow and which to avoid.

One major problem:

Yet in the end, what will shape the outcome is not broad support but the courts. And in New York, where the laws are notoriously permissive, the courts broadly support eminent domain.

NoLandGrab: Especially for other people's houses.

Posted by eric at 11:32 PM

Park Slope residents fear noise that Nets arena, local bars would bring

The Real Deal

Prime 6, a bar set to open in May at the corner of Flatbush and Sixth avenues, one block from the Nets' forthcoming Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn, caught flack from Community Board 6 yesterday for a 46-seat outdoor patio it intends to keep open, according to the Brooklyn Paper.


Posted by eric at 9:54 PM

Midnight ours! CB6 tells controversial bar to close early on weekend

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

A Community Board 6 committee demanded on Monday night that a controversial Park Slope bar close its 46-seat outdoor patio by midnight on weekends, saying neighbors aren’t exactly the late-night party types.

“It’s reasonable,” said Pauline Blake, who lives nearby and dreads the boom of boozy voices coming from Prime 6, a 230-person sports bar under construction at Flatbush and Sixth avenues. “Later than that means I’m not going to sleep.”

Prime 6 owner Akiva Ofshtein will fight the resolution, saying that he has invested too much money to boot his open-air cocktail crowd earlier than 1 am, which is similar to competing bars nearby.

“I can’t go below the competitive standard,” said Ofshtein, who will open in May.

Park Slopers have been protesting Prime 6 for weeks, saying it will keep them up at all hours, clog streets and lure a rowdy crowd from Barclays Center arena, which will open one block away in 2012.


Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

The Central Park South Building That Just Won't Die

by Joey Arak

A fear of e-mail hasn't kept Extell Development chief Gary Barnett from finding himself in the middle of some of the day's hottest topics, from Atlantic Yards (where he tried to outbid Bruce Ratner at the last minute) to the economic crisis, which he tried to fix with a two-page memo. Now he's wormed his way into the case of 220 Central Park South, a rental building that Vornado has been trying to tear down and replace with luxury condos since 2005.


Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

March 28, 2011

Vornado Project Hits Hard Spot

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

Extell Development has thrown a wrench in Vornado Realty Trust's plans to redevelop a lucrative site at 220 Central Park South. And as Atlantic Yards watchers know, Extell's not shy about causing rival developers a little agita.

This isn't the first time Mr. Barnett has butted heads with a heavyweight in New York City real estate. A decade ago, he unsuccessfully sued to block construction of the New York Times tower on 41st Street after the state tried to seize land owned by Mr. Barnett for the Forest City Ratner project. And in 2005, he made an unexpected bid to the M.T.A. in an attempt to offer an alternative to another Forest City project, the Atlantic Yards basketball arena and housing development in Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

March 23, 2011

Brooklyn Paper: some contradictions in the Prime 6 story about bottle service; Capital NY: owner leaning toward "California cuisine"

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper reported yesterday, in In Prime 6 fight, the bar owner has two faces:

The owner of a controversial new bar in Park Slope maintains that his place will be a local eatery — but he told state liquor officials that the two-story, 230-person “lounge,” will hire four “security guards,” offer “bottle service” and have an outdoor “stand-up bar.”

Prime 6 will be a live music venue that caters both to Brooklynites and, “out-of-town patrons in anticipation of the Barclays stadium” that is rising one block away, according to a booze permit application filed by owner Akiva Ofshtein last year with the State Liquor Authority.

“It will offer several rooms for private parties, including a basement lounge [and] a large outdoor secluded-dining backyard to be enjoyed during the spring,” the application continued.


Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

March 22, 2011

In Prime 6 fight, the bar owner has two faces

The Brooklyn Paper
by Natalie O'Neill

The owner of a controversial new bar in Park Slope maintains that his place will be a local eatery — but he told state liquor officials that the two-story, 230-person “lounge,” will hire four “security guards,” offer “bottle service” and have an outdoor “stand-up bar.”

Prime 6 will be a live music venue that caters both to Brooklynites and, “out-of-town patrons in anticipation of the Barclays stadium” that is rising one block away, according to a booze permit application filed by owner Akiva Ofshtein last year with the State Liquor Authority.

Neighbors are concerned.

“It underlines the mysteriousness of the proposed bar,” said Steve Ettlinger, whose yard faces Prime 6’s outdoor patio, which will seat 46 people. “There are a number of things that don’t stack up.”

Community Board 6 now wants to reopen the debate, voting last week to ask the state for a new license hearing on the grounds that the board failed to provide locals with enough advance warning about the lone hearing.

On a wider level, opposition to Ofstein’s bar can be seen as a proxy battle in the long fight over the Atlantic Yards mega-project, which will undoubtedly alter the local nightlife scene once the Barclays Center arena is completed in late 2012. The area is already bustling at night — but there is no telling what 19,000 basketball fans will do once they become a thrice-weekly fixture.


Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

March 20, 2011

Times Magazine takes look at architect Scarano: NYC Department of Buildings was overwhelmed during boom, and relied on self-certifications

Atlantic Yards Report

In a fascinating article headlined The Supersizer of Brooklyn, the New York Times Magazine explores the curious case of now-disgraced Robert Scarano, who became the architect of choice for developers looking to capitalize on the outer-borough building boom, especially in gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Greenwood Heights, and Park Slope's Fourth Avenue.

Scarano's specialty: he found ways to build not only eye-catching modernist designs, but to work around the zoning code, building loft mezzanines that qualified as storage space, thus adding secret space to a more cramped (on paper) apartment.

(Ahead of the curve, the late Bob Guskind wrote about Scarano a ton.)


Clearly, gentle city procedures, allowing architects to proceed on the honor system, enabled Scarano's tactics. The Times reports:

Scarano boasted that he knew every nook and cranny of the zoning code, and few thought to question his expertise. He had a genial relationship with the buildings department, and he usually submitted his designs under the city’s self-certification program, an honor system instituted to save money during the Giuliani administration. This meant that, in the vast majority of cases, buildings were being constructed with the go-ahead from just one person: Robert Scarano. In neighborhoods all over the city, though, concerned citizens began to throw up obstacles.

Cracking down

Finally, however, Scarano faced a backlash, as the Times reports:

In early 2006, after a meticulous review, the city filed a series of civil charges against Scarano in an administrative court, among other things claiming that he “made false or misleading statements” in submissions for 25 self-certified projects. Most of the violations concerned mezzanines. The buildings department had just promulgated new guidelines, holding that if the mezzanines had more than five feet of headroom, they could not count as storage space. A few months after the case was filed, the city settled the charges in return for Scarano’s giving up his right to self-certify. “I believe strongly and until today that my interpretations and my decisions were founded on things that were permissible,” Scarano says, contending that many of his audited buildings were eventually cleared by examiners.

Some wonder, if what he was doing was so blatantly illegal, why Scarano met with approval for so long. Robert LiMandri, the commissioner of the buildings department, said he had “no information that indicates that there was any sort of corruption” and that no employees were disciplined. Rather, he contended, the department was overwhelmed by a “frenzy” of building activity, and it relied on Scarano’s representations, which were often voluminous and confusing. At the time, the department had no way to punish him for lying. In 2007, though, state legislators, inspired by complaints about scofflaw architects, passed a law that allowed tough sanctions. “We really needed this stick to be able to say to people, look, there are no more cat-and-mouse games,” LiMandri said. The department created a new Special Enforcement Unit, focusing on Scarano as an initial target.

(Emphasis added)

Perhaps the Buildings Department's posture toward Scarano was not dissimilar to other departments' posture toward Atlantic Yards: they relied on representations they couldn't, or wouldn't, examine closely.


Posted by steve at 9:55 PM

March 18, 2011

HOSPITAL BRIBERY CHARGES: Willets sticks with Lipsky
by Connor Adams Sheets

You have to hand it to the Willets Point United crew — they're far more loyal than Richard Lipsky has ever been. Or Forest City Ratner, for that matter.

Willets Point United was keeping Lipsky’s services as of Monday, bucking the trend of cutting ties with him set by many of his other clients and associates. The group paid Lipsky $57,500 in 2010, according to lobbying records.

“The allegations have nothing whatsoever to do with Willets Point, and we consider that Dr. Lipsky has done a most effective job on behalf of WPU to expose the severe negative impacts of the proposed Willets Point development,” the group said in a lengthy statement on its website. “WPU is motivated, indefatigable, and inspired by Dr. Lipsky’s contact with federal enforcement agencies.”

Forest City Ratner Cos., the developer of the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, a flashpoint in the national eminent domain debate, hired Lipsky, effectively barring him from being able to work on behalf of project opponents.

Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for the developer, said Lipsky worked for Forest City Ratner as a consultant for about five years before he was terminated last week.

“He actually worked on issues related to youth and sports. His background is in sports. He has a doctorate in sports psychology or something like that,” DePlasco said. “He was a consultant, so he wasn’t directly employed.”

Hmm. We'll have to go back and re-read all of Lipsky's "Daniel Does Destroy" blog posts attacking Atlantic Yards critics to try to find the youth and sports angle.

Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), an outspoken opponent of the $3 billion plan to redevelop Willets Point, spoke at that same protest. He said Friday he was “very surprised” to hear that the lobbyist worked on both sides of the eminent domain issue.

“I wouldn’t have expected Lipsky to be involved, but it’s symptomatic of the system,” he said. “How the hell can you be involved in helping the Willets Point owners fight the misuse of eminent domain and yet you’re supporting the misuse of eminent domain by Ratner at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn?”



Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

March 15, 2011

Flatbush Avenue freakout: How a race-baiting hoax hooked Bobo Brooklyn, briefly

Capital New York
by Michael McLaughlin

An excellent piece by Mike McLaughlin on the brouhaha over "Prime 6."

THE FIGHT IS ALL BUT OVER EXCEPT for a Hail Mary attempt by the bar’s opponents to get the State Liquor Authority to grant what would be an unusual second hearing on the liquor license application. State Sen. Montgomery, State. Sen. Daniel Squadron, Assemblyman James Brennan and Councilman Stephen Levin signed a March 8 letter making the same request.

There’s also an upcoming summit scheduled by North Flatbush Avenue Business Improvement District officials to make peace between Ofshtein and the opponents. They’ll tackle an agenda on mundane items like garbage pickups and what hours the garden will be open. Race, very likely, will not be a topic again.

Of course, if the overall theme of the place still seems vague to the locals, it seems to be vague to Ofshtein himself, now chastened.

“I wanted to make something a little more high-end,” he told Capital. “Maybe a steakhouse. But now I’m leaning more and more towards California cuisine.”

And in all likelihood: Prime 6 will open, and Ofshtein's relationship with the neighbors will improve.

“This isn’t what I wanted to be talking about before I even opened my restaurant,” he said. “They have legitimate issues and I don’t want to ruin my relationship with them.”


Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

March 10, 2011

Staples Rumored To Be Taking Sid’s Former Space

Office Supply Chain Will Have 27,000 Square Feet

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Looks like Forest City Ratner is bringing another "mom 'n' pop" business to Metrotech.

The Eagle has learned from at least three sources “on the street” that a Staples store has leased the former home of Sid’s Hardware at 345 Jay St. in MetroTech.

The rumor could not be confirmed as of press time Wednesday as e-mails from the Eagle to both Staples and Forest City Ratner Companies, the landlord, went unanswered.


Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

Brooklyn Paper piles on Prime 6 story, doesn't acknowledge petition might be fake, continues to ignore the EB-5 story and the Markowitz video

Atlantic Yard Report

The Brooklyn Paper today offers an article headlined Web war over Prime 6! Online petitions reveal racism, fear-mongering, ignorance, which takes a petition opposing the coming bar/restaurant (and asking for hip-hop to be traded for indie music) as legitimate and representative, even though it acknowledges that the author can't be found and most signers made fun of "Jennifer McMillen."

In other words, it could be a fake, or a parody, neither of which the newspaper acknowledges.

But "the story was packaged by The Brooklyn Paper with its familiar hysterical slant," to borrow the words (regarding another article) of former Brooklyn Paper publisher Ed Weintrob.

Proxy battle?

So maybe they should be careful claiming that "The fight against the bar can be seen, in part, as a proxy battle for the lost war over Atlantic Yards."

As Steve Ettlinger, one of the neighbors concerned about the bar, has said:

All we who have been most active in dealing with Prime 6 have talked about is licensing procedure, use of the common garden area (affecting dozens of people), and things like garbage pickup -- the stuff that the community board asks us to comment on, and for which that Feb. 28 meeting was specifically held. Very boring, every day, concrete stuff that has absolutely zero to do with judgment or taste in music or whatever. Boring, straightforward stuff. Neighborly stuff. Civic stuff.


Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Web war over Prime 6! Online petitions reveal racism, fear-mongering, ignorance

Sound of the City [], Park Slope "Rap Club" Update: The Community Board Meets, And Jennifer McMillen Stays Suspiciously Silent

According to [Community Board 6 Permits and Licenses Committee Chair Mark] Shames, the Park Slope community raised three main complaints. First, Prime 6 will be providing bottle service, which, alongside an apparently risqué website (since taken down), led residents to believe the venue, in Shames' words, "might be a gentleman's club." It won't be a gentleman's club. But it will be open until 4 a.m., which seems to be a sticking point, and residents on the adjacent St. Mark's Avenue fear that the backyard space will bring the noise over from Flatbush to their more residential street.

The biggest obstacle to Prime 6's liquor license was the 500-foot rule, whereby an establishment serving liquor cannot be within 500 feet of another establishment doing the same thing. The club passed, but now the community wants a redo on the hearing.

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

March 6, 2011

LETTER: Reseve Judgement on Atlantic Yards-Area Restaurant

Prospect Heights Patch
By Regina F. Cahill

This open letter from the head of the North Flatbush Avenue BID urges locals to takes a strong wait-and-see stance regarding the new restaurant Prime 6.

We know that some of our neighbors are concerned about new developments, particularly Prime 6 being built at the corner of Flatbush and Sixth Avenues, but I ask you to reserve judgment on Prime 6.

We know it will be a bar restaurant, we know it may attract a new customer base but we also know that there are measures and regulations that we can employ to encourage new business to succeed while preserving our quality of life. New York State Assemblywoman Joan Millman has proposed just such controls with A 11288 which calls for restrictions on use of backyards for cafes and hours of operation.

The BID is committed to working together, to encourage the enforcement of the existing regulations and to create guidelines for existing and new businesses that will allow for business growth while preserving the peaceful enjoyment of our homes. We welcome all new businesses and residents upon their arrival provided they operate within the law and continue to be good neighbors. Additionally, we must recognize that we each have a personal responsibility to be a good neighbor and that it must start with facts, communication and understanding that there are such things as private property rights; local, state and federal regulations that often apply to our actions and there are entities and agencies to enforce existing rules and regulations.


Posted by steve at 9:31 PM

March 4, 2011

Media meme #2: about that "indie rock" petition for Prime 6; the author can't be found and the whole thing may be fake

Atlantic Yards Report

We've been played, folks.

Neighbors' concerns about Prime 6, the "sports bar," club, or simply nightlife spot with an entrance on Flatbush Avenue and a backyard extending into a residential block, has turned into a huge donnybrook about 1) bars capitalizing on the arena and 2) places attracting a "hip-hop" crowd.

The first seems at least partly true. Evidence for the second relies mostly on an online petition urging that the bar switch to "indie" rock, a petition so precious that it generated numerous parody signatures, and a petition in response urging "Jennifer McMillen" to move to the Hamptons. And lots of pile-on coverage.

Except no one, save the Wall Street Journal, tried to find McMillen, who's not listed in the phone book or in any database. And the Journal couldn't find her, and suggests the kerfuffle is based on a falsehood:

It was provocative stuff, especially for a famously liberal and oft-mocked Brooklyn enclave. Except it might not be true.

At a recent meeting, most locals who turned out in force to air gripes about the establishment—tentatively called Prime 6 and tentatively set to open in May—didn't know a Ms. McMillen. Efforts by The Wall Street Journal to find a person with that name in New York City were unsuccessful.


Related coverage...

The Wall Street Journal, Brooklyn Venue Sparks Debate

Residents insisted none of their concerns had to do with any playlist at the spot, planned for Flatbush and Sixth avenues, just a few blocks from the Atlantic Yards development, which includes a new basketball arena for the Nets.

"I care about the 4 a.m. closing hour," said Michael Rooney, an attorney.

"No one—even among the most concerned neighbors—said anything about hip-hop music. That's a complete invention with racist overtones," said Steve Ettlinger, a writer and Park Slope resident of 26 years. He thinks the petition must be a hoax.

NoLandGrab: So the question is this — is "Jennifer McMillen" just a prankster having some fun, or is there something more sinister and calculated going on here? Like an effort to tarnish people opposed to the overriding of zoning rules that typically prevent an enormous sports arena from being built immediately adjacent to residential neighborhoods?

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Downtown Brooklyn's population boom reaching sky-high levels

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Downtown Brooklyn’s population is soaring as high as its glimmering new apartment buildings — but the flood of new residents are already reeling from the area’s lack of shopping and public services.

But newcomers are already griping about a dearth of local schools, grocery stores, retail shops, timely sanitation pickup and street lighting.

“These people were promised the Manhattanization of Brooklyn by their brokers and all they got was being able to live in tall buildings,” said City Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn), who represents most of the area.

Officials estimate about two million more people will be visiting the area per year by 2012, following the planned opening of the Nets' new NBA arena a half-mile away and the nearby expansion at the BAM Cultural District.


NoLandGrab: Wonder how many of those two million will be driving.

Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

March 3, 2011

New Gowanus hotel already at war with rivals

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gary Buiso

A brash Brooklyn-bred newcomer to the borough’s burgeoning hotel scene is already calling out rivals, boasting that his soon-to-open Gowanus establishment could put one competitor — Hotel Le Bleu — in the red.

Thirty-year-old Bensonhurst-native Alec Shtromandel says his Union Hotel on Degraw Street between Third and Fourth avenues will be the crown jewel in a narrowly defined market place.

And Union has proximity to the Barclays Center basketball arena and Atlantic Yards development — now a selling point for prospective hotels.

“That is definitely a factor,” Shtromandel said. “We are five blocks away from Atlantic Yards, and at some point there will be a lot of new housing, and the arena in 2012 will drive a lot of traffic to the hotel.”


NoLandGrab: OK, when was the last time you stayed in a hotel before or after attending the circus, or Disney on Ice, or a Nets' game? And "five blocks away?" No.

View Larger Map

Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

March 2, 2011

Important truths about Willets Point

Crain's NY Business
by Greg David

One place you surely won't get the truth about eminent domain abuse is from Greg David, who's even b.s.-ed his own daughter about it.

It may appear Wednesday at a public hearing that there is considerable opposition to the Bloomberg administration's plan to clean up and redevelop the hazard waste site known as Willets Point, Queens. Don't be deceived. Tomorrow is the end game of a decades-long effort to make Willets Point a generator of jobs and business activity. Also don't forget that the last-ditch efforts of the few holdout businesses have extracted a steep cost: preventing the city's economy from being as prosperous as it could be.

The opposition has been greatly overstated. In a 2007 survey, Hunter College researchers found exactly one resident in the area. At the time, there were 225 businesses, mostly auto parts and repair business. They employed 1,300 people. Most of the major businesses in the area have reached agreements with the city to relocate elsewhere, mostly to nearby College Point. The numbers of remaining businesses and workers is much smaller today.

Meanwhile, opponents keep inventing strategies to derail the city. For a while, it was the idea that planned highway ramps somehow violated the environmental impact statement. A judge dismissed the claim summarily. Another complaint is that eminent domain is being wrongly applied. New York's highest court has rejected that line of reasoning at both Atlantic Yards and Columbia University's West Harlem plan, and the U.S. Supreme has refused to consider the cases. Case closed.


NoLandGrab: Yes, Greg, a government that can take land from whomever it wants whenever it wants — that's got to be good for business, right?

Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

Is Any Business Safe From the Arenafication of Brooklyn?

by Joey Arak

Atlantic Yards is already the biggest thing to hit Brooklyn since that meteor that killed all the dinosaurs (look it up), and its impact will extend far beyond the megaproject's footprint. The under-construction Barclays Center is a huge arena, and huge arenas bring in huge crowds. Local businesses that rely on the exchange of goods and services for currency like to appeal to these crowds. It's the reason why you can't swing a dead Flyers fan outside Madison Square Garden without hitting a sports bar. But the Barclays Center is not in Midtown, and already brownstone Brooklyn residents are fearing the first signs of the arenafication of their neighborhoods.

That's apparent in the backlash to Prime 6, the planned bar/restaurant at Flatbush and Sixth Avenues that some Park Slopers assume will be a rowdy hip-hop club catering to arena crowds. The latest chapter in the saga, Fucked in Park Slope points out, is one resident's apparently serious attempt to get Prime 6's owner to opt for indie rock over hip-hop. And nope, race has nothing to do with it.

Even some local haunts appear to be getting arenafied. Ancient dive bar O'Connor's on Fifth Avenue and Dean Street, not far from the Barclays Center, is tripling in size and adding an upstairs restaurant in an effort to modernize, the Brooklyn Paper reports. The owners say it has nothing to do with the arena, but one regular says "it seems like there won’t be that same run-down feeling," and an O'Connor's bartender told the BP "the vibe might change." What's next, Gorilla Coffee selling Nets foam fingers?


Related coverage...


Sorry Park Slope: this is the kind of thing that makes me want to move to NJ and live in a white community that ADMITS they're racist.

Apparently this "petition" has been floating around facebook since yesterday; and I'm embarrassed to see that a few douchebags have actually SIGNED it.

The gist of it is that this retarded park slope yenta (non jewish? thank g-d) is trying to convince the owners of that new controversial bar on Flatbush, Prime 6, to "embrace indie music" instead of hip hop. If you read between the lines, the none-too-subtle message is that she'd rather have white guys in flannels standing around her patio than hard hittin' brothas with blow-torches and pairs a' pliers.


So here's the gist of my big idea: Isn't there some middle ground between this spot being a stroller repair shop and it being a full-on hip-hop club?

No one can change the fact that Prime 6 WILL exist - they have their liquor license, and nothing's going to deter them from opening. BUT: What if owner Akiva Ofshtein could be convinced that his business will see far more financial success as a different kind of nightlife establishment. Instead of focussing on hip-hop and urban entertainment, what if Prime 6 embraced some of the more indie local artists of ALL races who live and perform in the area.

The L Magazine, Park Slope, Manhattan Beach Fight to Keep Out Poor People, Black People

Now, tempers are high over a planned nightclub that plans to open near where the Barclays Center will be. Prime 6, a multi-story restaurant and lounge at Sixth and Flatbush avenues, concerns neighbors because it could attract an unwanted element. "To have a restaurant for the Atlantic Yards crowd is different than to have a restaurant for this community," a representative for Councilmeber Stephen Levin said at last night's community board meeting, the Park Slope Patch reported. Critics' central complaint seems to be noise: the planned late hours, combined with outdoor seating areas.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Bottle Service Comes to Flatbush

OK, so there may not be a Carlton Avenue bridge anytime soon, but don't say that the Arena hasn't already started to bring new features to the neighborhood. Last night at a contentious Community Board 6 meeting, Park Slope residents received a first, somewhat murky look at the plans for Prime 6 NYC at the corner of Flatbush and Sixth Avenue.

With three liquor licenses already approved, Prime 6 NYC's proprietors promise a multi-floor establishment with "bottle service" open to 4 AM, plus a large outdoor area adjoining residential property. Prime 6 NYC has been variously described in the media as "a gentleman's club", a "hip-hop venue" and a "sports bar"; something, as it were, for the whole family.

Park Slope Patch, Petition Urges Atlantic Yards-Area Restaurant to 'Embrace Indie Music'

The Brooklyn Paper, Another old-man bar bites the dust as O’Connor’s gets pre-Nets makeover

Fifth Avenue’s beloved old-man bar, O’Connor’s, will get a makeover and expansion just in time for the Barclays Center to open a couple blocks away — but the owner says his loyalties are to longtime customers, not the thousands of sports fans who will fill the arena next year.

Come summertime, the no-frills Prohibition-era dive will be expanded to include an upstairs restaurant with seating that serves “good, off-the-bone Irish-American food” and — for the first time — beer on tap. It will be three times bigger and one story taller.

“We’re trying to keep the old look, but modernize it a bit,” said owner Mike Maher, who has run the bar, near Dean Street, for three years.

Maher said that the renovation and retooling had nothing to do with the 19,000-seat arena rising one block away, but the arena is sure to draw a crowd of sporty types from outside Park Slope to a place that’s now only popular with a small band of regulars.

NoLandGrab: This is exactly the kind of crazy stuff that happens when you override zoning laws and allow Bruce Ratner to drop an enormous arena in the midst of three residential neighborhoods. There are not a whole lot of residential uses in the blocks near Madison Square Garden — for good reason.

Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

March 1, 2011

The Downtown Brooklyn rezoning produced housing (& the DBP is happy), but shouldn't landowners who got a gift have been required to share the wealth?

Atlantic Yards Report

In a 2/27/11 article headlined Downtown Brooklyn's residential growth: Downtown, slated for office space, got a residential boom, Crain's reports how the downtown Brooklyn rezoning approved in 2004 has produced far less than the "forecast 4.5 million square feet of new office space and accompanying 18,500 jobs."

Rather, 1.3 million square feet of office space has been produced--no job total announced--and a lot of new housing: 23 residential buildings, and 4300 units.

The designated cheerleader is happy:

“One of the components of a healthy downtown is having a 24/7 community with a vibrant residential sector,” said Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “We're delighted.”

What about the change?

Yes, that's a component, but then again there's the record:

“We were supposed to get the third-largest business district in the city [behind midtown and lower Manhattan],” said Robert Perris, manager for Brooklyn's Community Board 2, which includes downtown. “What we've gotten is a high-rise residential neighborhood.”

Affordable housing

The article notes:

City Councilwoman Letitia James, who represents large sections of the downtown area, argued that the boom has excluded low- and middle-income families. She also noted that the neighborhood lacks schools, food stores and other necessary services and amenities.

“We were sold a bill of goods,” Ms. James said. The residential component should have more affordable housing, she added, but what she most wants to see is the thriving commercial center that the city initially proposed.


Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

Slopers are too late to stop Yards-area bar

The Brooklyn Paper

Dozens of enraged Park Slopers stormed a community board meeting on Monday night to object to a liquor license for a controversial bar at the corner of Flatbush and Sixth avenues — but the protesters quickly learned that they were too late: the liquor license had been granted earlier this month because no one raised an objection.

Akiva Ofshtein was granted his license by the State Liquor Authority on Feb. 16 for his location inside the former Royal Video store about a block and a half from the under-construction Barclays Center basketball arena.

He had notified Community Board 6 back in November of his intention to seek the license. The board had 30 days to object, but it did not.

The business will occupy a prime spot in what is already a nightlife hub, one that will undoubtedly get busier with the arrival of the Brooklyn Nets. The battle against the bar can be seen, in part, as a proxy battle for the lost war over Atlantic Yards.

Community Board 6 will reconsider the matter in a month, but it is unclear what the panel can achieve.

Ofshtein still needs the Department of Buildings to sign off on the plans, which request a total occupancy of 230 people.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The battle over Prime 6 at the corner of Flatbush and Sixth: not a sports bar, but questions over the owner's intentions

Given the capacity and the proximity to transit, it's questionable that Ofshtein is targeting a neighborhood audience, as he claimed to the Paper:

In an interview, he told us that he has yet to decide what type of restaurant his place will be, deciding between a “California kitchen” and a steakhouse, possibly named Prime 6.

But either way, he insisted, his restaurant is for locals.

“I am gearing up for a Park Slope clientele,” he said, promising a May opening.

The bar will serve food until 4 am, feature two large televisions, a private party area, “acoustic music,” and an outdoor garden area — which residents said must be removed from his plans.

Park Slope Patch, Slopers Rally Against Atlantic Yards-Area Restaurant

A controversial restaurant near Atlantic Yards was granted a liquor license weeks ago without any protest from the community, but the throngs of angry Slope residents who crowded a community board meeting Monday night in hopes of blocking the license had no idea.

Neighbors to Prime 6 particularly decried the restaurant’s plan to serve food until 4 a.m., seven days a week and called for any backyard space to be scrapped entirely.

“He really just needs to abandon the outdoor space. He may not be aware of the acoustics, but there is no way that it will not be loud,” said Paul Zumoff, a Bergen Street resident and area real estate broker. “I sympathize with how difficult it is to open a restaurant, but he doesn’t appear to be receptive to our concerns.”

Brownstoner, Slopers Rally Against Alleged 'Gentleman's Club'

Brownstoner has some video from last night's meeting.

Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

February 28, 2011

Wanna build a hotel near BAM? It’ll cost you

The Brooklyn Paper
by Laura Gottesdiener

Throughout this hotel craze, the BAM Cultural District has remained a bed-and-breakfast area only — though that will likely change when Bruce Ratner’s basketball arena is done.

“A hotel is something that has been proposed for a long time,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene).

“People are anticipating the arena, which would necessitate a hotel.”


Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

Brooklyn, NY Focus

Mole's Progressive Democrat

NYC Community Organizations Blast Wal-mart for Partnering with Predatory Lender Jackson Hewitt...WalMart, Bruce Ratner and now predatory lenders...this is one nasty nest of corruption here, and Bloomberg and Marty Markowitz are part of it.

Another example of Bruce Ratner's corrupt influence on NYC: Will mystery of Ridge Hill be explained when case goes to trial in June?


Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

Richmond Ave. getting its mojo back, as it lands Dick's 1st Staten Island store
by Stephanie Slepian

Guess who's malling Staten Island.

Another high-profile vacancy along Richmond Avenue will be filled this summer when Dick’s Sporting Goods opens its first Staten Island store in the spot once home to Circuit City in New Springville.

Dick’s, the largest publicly-traded sporting goods store in the country, joins DSW and Trader Joe’s — which will mark its arrival this spring — by bringing life back to one of the borough’s busiest shopping corridors.

"It’s good news," said Mike Rapfogel, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, the well-positioned real estate company that owns commercial and residential properties around the country, including the shopping center that will become home to Dick’s.

Earlier this month, the Pittsburgh-based [Dick's] agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit and 22 related state lawsuits brought by current and former employees who say they weren’t properly paid overtime and were made to work through breaks.


Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

February 27, 2011

Slopers will rally tomorrow night against sports bar near Barclays Center

The Brooklyn Paper
By Natalie O’Neill

First came the fight over Atlantic Yards — now comes the fight over all the bars it will attract.

Park Slope residents are planning to storm a Community Board 6 hearing on Monday night to protest a liquor license for Prime 6 NYC, a live music venue and sports bar that is under construction at the corner of Flatbush and Sixth avenues — just one and a half blocks from the future home of the Brooklyn-bound Nets.


“It is completely in conflict with an internationally famous, family oriented area,” said Steve Ettlinger, a non-fiction writer who lives nearby. “And everyone who has approached the owner has been rudely rebuffed.”


The liquor license application will be discussed by Community Board 6 at the Prospect Park YMCA [357 Ninth St. between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 643-3027] on Feb. 28 at 6:30 pm.


Posted by steve at 7:10 PM

February 23, 2011

Ruffled feathers! Environmentalists, Walmart foes want to stop Four Sparrows shopping center

Courier-Life Publications
by Thomas Tracy

Mill Basin residents say the city’s plan to expand a shopping center built atop protected marshlands near the foot of Flatbush Avenue is not going to happen without a fight — and some argued it shouldn’t happen at all.

At a Feb. 18 meeting intended to get the neighborhood’s take on its plans for the Four Sparrows Retail Center between Kings Plaza and the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, environmentalists and Walmart opponents joined forces to shoot down the project — making it clear that if the city and developer Forest City Ratner Companies want to replace the cherished wetlands with big box stores, there will be a war on two fronts.

• Front one: Environmentalists and bird watchers want to prevent any development at the site, claiming that construction will destroy a borough treasure — a priceless city-owned wetland.

“The city says it wants to build something fabulous [on the wetlands],” nature lover Vivian Carter told residents attending the hearing at Kings Plaza. “But we have something there already, thank you very much.”

• Front two: The battle over which store — we’re talking about Walmart, of course — will be housed in the new shopping center.

Forest City Ratner Companies is also currently building the controversial Barclays Center, the future home of the Brooklyn Nets, as well as a proposed 16-tower mini-city containing more than 6,600 units of housing — another project that some believe swiped public land for private benefit.

To read more about the project and send in comments, visit


Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

February 22, 2011

Near arena site, O'Connor's expands, though AY-connected buyer was rebuffed

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's Park Slope blogger Dan Myers has an interesting interview with Mike Maher, who bought O'Connor's Bar, on Fifth Avenue between Bergen and Dean, three years ago, and is expanding it with a beer garden, a backyard, and a kitchen.

And while it is not becoming an arena bar, as apparently some suitors sought, it can't not be influenced by the building just a few blocks north:

"When I was a candidate to purchase this bar from the O'Connor family, I was the only one who promised to keep the name, and the brand," said Maher. "Everybody else wanted to change the name. People connected to the Atlantic Yards offered them more money, but they sold it to me because I promised to keep it O'Connor's, and to not build condos on the roof. I think the O'Connor family would be happy with what we're doing here. They never considered the bar a 'dive,' and if you take a look around, we've always kept it spotless in here."

Maher claims that the rising Barclays Center didn't affect his decision to expand, but with construction well-underway just up the street, it's clear that there will be a huge demand for bars like the new O'Connor's as soon as the arena opens. It remains to be seen whether the old bar will remain the classic, regular hangout it's been for decades, or if the new additions will alter the bar's character irreparably. It appears to be in good hands, though.

(Emphasis in original)

Note that Freddy's Bar & Backroom was populated by staff and patrons who once moved from O'Connor's.


Related coverage...

The L Magazine, Park Slope Dive Bar O'Connor's to Expand: Is That a Bad Thing?

Maher tells Here's Park Slope:

We're modernizing the room, but a priority is to keep the old look...We'll be saving the bar and the booths and as much of the room as we can, but the seats will be replaced, because they're falling apart. If we want to serve food, we have to bring it up to code.

That makes sense: O'Connor's could use new stools and booths. But does Maher's threefold expansion spell that he's up to something more than making the place look nice? Maher claims he is not building an "arena bar," but I remain skeptical: will this new O'Connor's be connected to its community, like the old Freddy's or even (to a lesser extent) the old O'Connor's? Or will it be a hot spot to grab a bottle of Bud and a plate of wings after a Nets game? God help us if it's the latter, blech.

Posted by eric at 11:26 PM

Ratner’s First Residential Development 97% Leased

Amenities, Proximity to Barclays Arena Credited With Its Success

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

It's clear that the Eagle really can't get enough of Bruce Ratner.

The new 36-story rental building at 80 DeKalb Ave. in Fort Greene, Forest City Ratner’s first residential building in Brooklyn, is 97 percent leased.

“Only a few units are left,” MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of commercial development at Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), told attendees at the Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable earlier this month.

And if you order by midnight tomorrow...

The building, situated between Hudson Avenue and Rockwell Place, “is a great building,” she added. Her reasons? It has great access, it’s beautiful inside and out, it’s near the Barclays Center arena, and it has great amenities like a washer and dryer in every unit.


NoLandGrab: Yes, surely the renters can't wait for the arena. Those always add value to a residential neighborhood.

Related coverage...

DNAinfo, Frank Gehry’s Skyscraper Has Rent-Stabilized Apartments

We're guessing that if you can pay $3,300 a month for a one-bedroom, rent-stabilization doesn't really matter.

Frank Gehry’s sparkling new luxury skyscraper on Spruce Street offers a surprising amenity: rent-stabilization.

Forest City Ratner, which developed the 76-story tower, received Liberty Bonds and city tax breaks for the project and in return has to keep all 903 apartments rent-stabilized for 20 years.

That doesn’t mean the apartments are cheap — the rents start at market rate, or $3,300 for a one-bedroom.

Posted by eric at 10:51 PM

February 21, 2011


New York City Audubon

Take Action!

NYC Audubon has some great resources to help you craft and submit comments to the New York City Economic Development Corporation on its destructive plans to partner with Bruce Ratner and build yet another mall over critical marsh habitat along Jamaica Bay.

Click here for more info

Comments are due by February 28th.

Will it be this?

or this?

Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

February 18, 2011

Public Scope

Backyard and Beyond

Here's a must-read piece, which we republish in its entirety, about Forest City Ratner's plans to annex some scarce Brooklyn marshland for yet another shopping mall.

I attended the Four Sparrow Marsh “retail center” public scope meeting last night.

How sweet, the community room at King’s Plaza Mall — was it a requirement of the project’s approval long ago or a goodwill gesture on the part of management? — is located under the parking garage. It’s symptomatic of our degraded democracy that private spaces — malls — are the preeminent agoras of our nation, but they are agoras only in one sense, the market place of things. Not the market place of ideas, mind you. Consumption – our reigning religion, formerly a name for a disease, which consumed — burnt up — the body of the victim, as consumption now does the planet — is a such a fallen idol; predicated on creating desires that can never be met, lest we only go shopping once.

The turnout was well over the 60 allowed in the room. The proposal, a private taking of public land, was revealed as something of a shell game: it’s all speculation right now, with no named commercial tenants, and two vague renderings. Yet the machinery of Economic Development grinds on; this meeting is the precursor to the Environmental Impact Statement. The project architect – actual architects put their names on these commercial boxes? – kept referring to a “view corridor” towards the marsh, until somebody asked him if he meant the, uh, four-lane road. He was. (This was a better euphemism than “fill of unknown origin” which describes a lot of the littoral edge of the city.) A trio of slick politicals – Council, Assembly, Senate – spoke, mostly against, sort of. A community board type suggested that something classy like Lord & Taylor would be welcome. Representatives from park advocacy and environmental groups were rightly and decidedly against this folly, but the real joy of the evening was seeing the non-affiliated public in action. Some real voices of Brooklyn on display. A couple were clearly gadflies of long standing – you go, ladies. Two construction union reps, invested in such projects, unfortunately, both had the message that mega-developer and long-time benefactor of public-giveaways (socialism-for-the-rich) Forest-City Ratner cared about communities. Oy!

The public comment period is open to 2/28. The comment I’ll be submitting goes something like this:

Four Sparrow Marsh is a small piece of wildness in the city. It’s not a park – you mostly sink into the goo if you try walking there, and you have to watch where your feet go because the place is crawling with fiddler crabs in season. The birds, both residents and migrants passing through during the spring and fall, get most of the attention, but the marsh is also home to much invertebrate life, and fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Musk rat, for instance. There are also, of course, plants, and lichens, and fungi, components of the whole web of life that we humans are also a part of. As part of the larger ecosystem and life web of Jamaica Bay, which is part of the vast estuary that surrounds New York City, the marsh is vital to the future of the city. As a water filter; as a buffer against the rising waters of global warming; as an incubator of new life, fresh air, rich soil, the miracle of a small bird seen by someone otherwise surrounded by concrete. It’s a place, even with the highway howling nearby, you can hear the wind in the reeds. Why do we still have to defend the obvious, vital need for such things? It certainly shouldn’t be diminished and threatened by another mall and vast parking lot, a speculative project of short-term (and short-sighted) profit, indicative of a development ethos – transferring the commonwealth to private power – that has proved a failure over and over again.


Posted by eric at 11:33 AM

February 16, 2011

East Harlem Mall to Add Food Court

by Jeff Mays

Bruce Ratner is bringing a new amenity to the folks of East Harlem. One "amenity" he's already brought them? A way-too-big parking garage.

East River Plaza features both a Target and a Costco, but the developers of the massive mall say they left out one major trait shared by most successful shopping centers: a food court.

Representatives from Forest City Ratner and Blumenfeld Development Group say they plan to remedy the oversight and are currently looking for an operator to oversee the food court they are planning to install.

Andrew Miller, a vice president for Forest City Ratner, said the parking space has been leased out to an operator so they have no control over the rates. Some retailers have the option of offering validated parking and have been encouraged to do so but have not, he said.

"Everyone agrees the garage is much, much larger than it needed to be," said Miller.


Posted by eric at 9:45 AM

February 14, 2011

Is Wal-Mart Worse?

Gotham Gazette
by Courtney Gross

It was a relatively quiet morning in front of Atlantic Center -- the usually buzzing Brooklyn shopping complex kitty-corner to the site of Atlantic Yards.

Mikey Richardson, 29, had a Target bag in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Richardson comes to Target -- the anchor store in the center -- once or twice a month for the occasional household item.

Last week it was a power tool set.

The 29-year-old Crown Heights resident has no problem unloading his wallet at this particular national retailer, which boasts more than 1,700 stores throughout the country.

But Richardson changed his tune when it came to its competitor, the world's number one retailer: Wal-Mart.


NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner, of course, has done more than his unfair share to bring big-box retailers to New York City.

Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

February 10, 2011

Downtown Brooklyn: Old School

The Heidelberger Papers

Downtown Brooklyn in undergoing rapid change with the construction of highrise luxury condos, the Atlantic Yards project, and many other tides indicative fast paced NYC gentrification. These shots were taken from Livingston Street, near Bond, a section that resembles what Downtown Brooklyn (and much of the entire city) used to appear before it took a much more upper class trend.


Photo: Matt Heidelberger

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

February 3, 2011

City to Seize Land in Queens

Eminent-Domain Proceedings Set for Property Holdouts at Willets Point Project

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

New York City is moving to seize property from landowners in Willets Point.

Seeking to kick-start a massive Queens real-estate development project conceived in the boom years, the Bloomberg administration is moving to seize a portion of the site from private property owners.

Next week, the city plans to initiate the eminent-domain process on holdout owners who own property in the first 20-acre phase of the 62-acre project. The city also is planning to solicit bids from developers in the spring, according to city officials.

Known as Willets Point, the development site by Citi Field is slated to ultimately contain more than eight million square feet, with more than 5,000 apartments, a hotel and more than 1.7 million square feet of retail space.

The site currently is filled with junkyards and auto-repair shops, along with some larger industrial properties. The City Council in 2008 approved the use of eminent domain to acquire parcels from holdouts.

The property owners are expected to litigate to block the city action, although New York state laws give the government broad powers to use eminent domain. Similar recent development projects, like the new basketball arena being built at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, have survived court challenges.

Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist who represents business owners at the site, says that the eminent domain action was "an absolute disgrace."


NoLandGrab: The mercenary Lipsky, like a broken clock, is occasionally right. But he sure sang a different tune when Daniel Goldstein refused to sell to Lipsky's client, Bruce Ratner.

Related coverage...

Curbed, City Ready to Drop an Iron Fist on the Iron Triangle

The Bernie Madoff fallout may have plunged the Mets into financial chaos, but the real fireworks in Queens are about to kick off across the street from the team's stadium. The city is getting ready to start the controversial process of separating property owners from their property at Willets Point, the self-contained village of junkyards and auto-repair shops known as the Iron Triangle.

The Journal reports that next week Team Bloomberg will initiate eminent domain proceedings against nine holdouts, with more to come in the future. It's expected that the property owners will fight the government in court, but if you've been paying attention to how these things have gone as of late (Atlantic Yards, Columbia expansion, etc.), let's just say that the Mets stand a better chance of winning the World Series than some guy does of keeping his scrap heap behind the outfield.

Queens Crap, Here comes the Bloomberg steamroller

Crain's NY Business, City plans to seize Willets Point land

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

January 31, 2011

Catching up: on declining manufacturing jobs, uncounted vacant lots (that could support new housing)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Bloomberg administration may gain respect for pursuing illegal gun sales, but there are lots of lapses when it comes to land use.

In a post January 15, I quoted the Village Voice quoting City Limits on the decline of manufacturing jobs, but here's Sarah Crean's original piece, dated January 3, headlined Did City's Industrial Policy Manufacture Defeat?

She wrote:

According to research conducted by the New York Industrial Retention Network, 23.4 million square feet of industrial space was lost to approved rezonings between 2001 and 2008, impacting some of New York’s most populated manufacturing districts. Significant portions of Greenpoint-Williamsburg, Long Island City, the midtown Garment Center, and Port Morris in the Bronx were rezoned during this period, mainly for residential development.

Repeated attempts by community groups, labor unions, industrial advocates and others to promote alternative plans that would not place as much pressure on manufacturing clusters met with limited success. We were particularly unsuccessful in reaching any sort of a conceptual common ground with the Department of City Planning. They generally ignored the argument that permitting residential development in industrial areas would lead to conversion pressure because owners of industrial buildings could generate higher returns with residential tenants. The Department of City Planning made repeatedly clear its belief that manufacturing jobs were not integral to New York’s future, while residential development, of course, was. Now as we struggle through double-digit unemployment in many of the city’s low income neighborhoods, the logic of ignoring our industrial sector seems more questionable.


NoLandGrab: But where is one going to find a nice poached turbot in beurre blanc and a lovely Pouilly-Fuisse in a manufacturing district?

Posted by eric at 11:08 PM

January 25, 2011

Latest City Incubator Opens in Flatiron Area

The Wall Street Journal
by Joseph De Avila

Atlantic Yards gets a mention as the yardstick for wasteful public spending.

The eighth entrepreneurial program sponsored by New York City opened Monday, aimed at providing technology and design classes to aid new businesses.

The Bloomberg administration plans to launch another so-called incubator in the Bronx this spring. To date, the city has invested $3 million in the programs, with about 500 people working out of its incubators.

Compared with the amount of money the city invests in corporate tax incentives and big real-estate projects like Atlantic Yards, incubators are "still a drop in the bucket," said Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center of for an Urban Future, a nonpartisan research group. Still, he said, "I think it's a huge shift in local economic development policy, and it's long overdue."


Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

January 24, 2011

The Vanishing City: film focuses on the fruits of a corporate-friendly mentality and the "luxury city"; AY gets a cameo

Atlantic Yards Report

Trying to understand the arc of the city that led to such projects as Atlantic Yards, I've been writing recently about the loss of manufacturing. That's part of a larger story, told intriguingly--if incompletely--in the 55-minute 2010 documentary, The Vanishing City, by Fiore DiRosa and Jen Senko.

The overview:

Told through the eyes of tenants, city planners, business owners, scholars, and politicians, The Vanishing City exposes the real politic behind the alarming disappearance of New York’s beloved neighborhoods, the truth about its finance-dominated economy, and the myth of “inevitable change.” Artfully documented through interviews, hearings, demonstrations, and archival footage, the film takes a sober look at the city’s “luxury” policies and high-end development, the power role of the elite, and accusations of corruption surrounding land use and rezoning. The film also links New York trends to other global cities where multinational corporations continue to victimize the middle and working classes.

Opening with the voices of neighborhood residents who fear they are being pushed out, the film pivots on the insights of anthropologist and urban historian Julian Brash, author of Bloomberg’s New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City and subject of this 10/22/08 Q&A on Jeremiah's Vanishing New York blog.

The "luxury city" quote, as noted at the bottom, reflects Mayor Mike Bloomberg's framing of the city as a luxury product for corporations to choose as a location--a philosophy, as the film points out, that's belied by the tax breaks targeted for big employers.

But the film, not inappropriately, points to an emphasis on building luxury housing, with the attendant shift in the character of neighborhoods, as small businesses close.

The question, echoed in the 2007 and 2008 discussions of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, is whether that was simply the market at work. As the film reminds us, it wasn't.


Posted by eric at 9:04 AM

January 19, 2011

Great moments in euphemistic coverage: the Wall Street Journal reports on Steiner Studios expansion, ignores EB-5

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Wall Street Journal yesterday, regarding the expansion of Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Take Two for a Brooklyn Film and TV Studio:

Doug Steiner, chairman of Steiner Studios, says about $65 million will come from private investors, $10 million to $20 million will come from Steiner and the rest will come from government programs.

Those private investors are immigrant investors trading $500,000 for green cards for themselves and their family under the federal government's EB-5 program, as the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC) reminds us.

The NYRCR is promoting another, more controversial effort to trade green cards for investments, involving Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 11:12 PM

Why the NYPD Bicycle Crackdown Is a Sign of How New York Sucks in 2011


Something is rotten in the state of New York. The putrescent miasma, leaching out slowly from the windows in towering pre-war apartments, from out of the sidewalk vents where one can hear from below the failing heartbeat of the subway system, slowly being bled to death. The stench is everywhere… thick, suffocating, lethal. Some are immune, born with the resistance through inheritance, countless others traded away their soul for it. Everyone else just has to suffer.

Bloomberg’s administration has, through a variety of policies, criminalized any kind of independence of thought. The rezoning of certain areas in a number of examples, the far west side/Hudson Yards, or the Atlantic Yards catastrophe that awaits the people of downtown Brooklyn. One of the most egregious, the 125th St. rezoning plan where the city has changed the code to allow for residential construction as high as 30 stories tall, increasing the residential capacity of the corridor by as much as 750%. Developers are awarded height bonuses for ‘inclusive housing’, lottery winners from the immediate neighborhood, or in other words the lucky few who won’t have to be a part of the mass exodus of the poor Harlem denizens to the Bronx and points further afield. Retailers that can afford these newly zoned spaces are ones that can afford the high new rent: Old Navy, American Apparel (although them maybe not much longer), Nike, M.A.C., The Body Shop, Starbucks, and the list goes on. Local retailers need not apply.


Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

January 18, 2011

Panasonic HQ to unbuilt Atlantic Yards tower? There's nearly three times as much vacant space at MetroTech

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, as rumors surfaced that Panasonic might move its headquarters from New Jersey to Brooklyn--and Forest City Ratner's extant MetroTech or yet-to-be built Atlantic Yards office towers--I suggested that the tower at AY's Site 5 might be a better destination than Building 1.

However, given available space at MetroTech, that seems like a more likely destination. Panasonic needs 250,000 square feet. Crain's, in a 1/16/11 article headlined Office vacancies grow in boroughs outside Manhattan, reports:

Downtown Brooklyn saw the largest setbacks: NYSE Euronext moved out of roughly 387,000 square feet at 2 MetroTech Center, and J.P. Morgan Chase left about 352,000 square feet at 4 MetroTech...

And because tenants in the outer boroughs tend to seek smaller spaces, leasing up emptied offices takes longer than it would in Manhattan. For instance, the tenant taking the most new space in the boroughs last year was the city's Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications, which took 72,000 square feet at 2 MetroTech.

That means there's some 739,000 square feet available at MetroTech, nearly three times the amount Panasonic needs.

Sure, they'd prefer to be flagship tenants in a building, but wouldn't existing space be cheaper? It would, unless the city offered additional subsidies.


Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

Walmart and the Theater of the Absurd

The Neighborhood Retail Alliance

Lobbyist Richard Lipsky and rabid NY Post columnist Andrea Peyser, of one (warped) mind on Atlantic Yards, have parted ways when it comes to Walmart. Perhaps Forest City Ratner needs to put Lipsky back on the payroll.

In our view, it is a form of grotesque pandering for Peyser to troll East New York looking for out of work folks-and then ask them about their view of the store: "In a park in East New York, a long Town Car drive from Manhattan, I met a dad who watched his kids. Last year, he was out of work 12 months. Now it's going on 24. To him, Walmart is not just a store. It's the chance for a new life. "We need jobs," said Malik Johnson, a laid-off laborer. "I'd work at Walmart in a heartbeat."

It's heartbreaking to hear about anyone who has been out of work and struggling in this economy-but asking them about how they would feel about a potential job opening, is what we would call a self fulfilling prophecy.


NoLandGrab: Of course, it wasn't a "form of grotesque pandering" for Bruce Ratner to troll Prospect Heights looking for out of work folks-and then ask them about their view of Atlantic Yards. No, because Lipsky was on the inside for that one.

Posted by eric at 11:58 AM

January 17, 2011

Office vacancies grow in boroughs outside Manhattan

The office market in Brooklyn and Queens and on Staten Island is still struggling to recover

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

Whether you call it "Miss Brooklyn," "B1" or vaportecture, the market for Bruce Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards office tower is non-existent.

The office market in Brooklyn and Queens and on Staten Island is still struggling to recover.

Those areas, whose collective net space absorption was negative throughout 2010, posted their highest level of negative absorption in the fourth quarter, according to CoStar Group's latest report on the boroughs beyond Manhattan (not including the Bronx). In all, 564,930 more square feet of space was put on the market than was leased during those three months, even as Manhattan racked up positive absorption of 2 million square feet.

Accordingly, the office vacancy rate for the three boroughs jumped to 8.1% in the last quarter, from 7.2% in the previous period.

“The outer boroughs clearly have some issues,” said Chris Macke, senior real estate strategist at CoStar.

Downtown Brooklyn saw the largest setbacks: NYSE Euronext moved out of roughly 387,000 square feet at 2 MetroTech Center, and J.P. Morgan Chase left about 352,000 square feet at 4 MetroTech. Since the market in the boroughs beyond Manhattan is so small, with just 67 million square feet of rentable office space, those departures put a relatively big dent in the figures, Mr. Macke noted.


Posted by eric at 9:20 PM

The absurd Wal of fear

NY Post
by Andrea Peyser

Here's a shocker — Andrea Peyser, aka the angriest woman in the world, is a fan of Walmart.

On Monday, The Brooklyn Papers reported that the giant purveyor of discount orange juice and underwear six-packs was to open a massive store in a new development on the fringes of Flatbush Avenue near Kings Plaza, spreading jobs, bargains and -- if you believe carping critics -- pain. By Tuesday, word spread like a cancer to blogs and the mainstream media.

Tuesday night, an emergency meeting was scheduled so local officials might run Walmart out of town.

"I don't know what the idea is," said Dorothy Turano, district manager of Community Board 18. "We could wake up one morning and find a Walmart there."

The hearing was pushed back, due to snow. The next day, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner denied his company met with Walmart about opening a store in its planned Four Sparrows Retail Center.


NoLandGrab: If Forest City Ratner says they didn't meet with Walmart, you can be certain they met with Walmart.

Related coverage...

Mole's Progressive Democrat, Brooklyn, NY Focus

Not surprising that Walmart and Ratner would get together. After all, they both are about as sleazy and greedy as you can get.

Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

January 15, 2011

Panasonic Headquarters Rumored to Move

InfoTech Spotlight
By Juliana Kenny

Rumors of a Panasonic move to a Forest City property are repeated.

Relocation may be in the works for Panasonic (News - Alert) Corp. The company has been eyeing property in Brooklyn, NY, which is where it may move its current headquarters from Secaucus, NJ. But the New Jersey Economic Development Authority has also approved a huge amount of money for tax credits if Panasonic moves to Newark instead and stays within New Jersey’s borders.


Posted by steve at 11:30 AM

January 14, 2011

Panasonic HQ to move from NJ to Brooklyn and FCR's MetroTech or Atlantic Yards? A few unanswered questions and some Site 5 speculation

Atlantic Yards Report

Panasonic might stay in Secaucus or move to other cities, so it's likely the company is conducting a behind-the-scenes subsidy auction.

Remember, in March 2009, Mayor Mike Bloomberg complained about New Jersey dangling subsidies to attract New York-based companies across the river. So would this truly be economic development?

Site 5 location?

There are only two building sites in the Atlantic Yards footprint destined for office space, and the flagship building, Building 1, likely would be too big for Panasonic, which needs 250,000 square feet.

Moreover, Building 1 would be extremely complicated to build, involving an Urban Room attached to the arena rather than the plaza currently planned.

Thus, if Panasonic does move to the Atlantic Yards footprint, Site 5, currently the home of Modell's and P.C. Richard (bounded by Pacific Street and Fourth, Flatbush, and Atlantic avenues), might be a more likely spot for that office building.


NoLandGrab: OK, let's see if we can get this straight. Atlantic Yards involves millions upon millions in subsidies for a Russian oligarch, Chinese "investors" seeking green cards, and now, more subsidies for a Japanese electronics giant? Brooklyn really is a melting pot.

Posted by eric at 10:49 AM

Panasonic Eyes N.J., Brooklyn

The Wall Street Journal

First Apple, now Panasonic? Soon, we expect "unnamed sources" to suggest that President Obama is considering relocated the White House to Atlantic Yards.

Panasonic Corp. of North America is in talks with New York City officials about relocating the company's headquarters and hundreds of jobs to Brooklyn, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Japanese electronics maker's U.S. headquarters currently is located in Secaucus, N.J. On Tuesday, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority approved as much as $102.4 million in tax credits for Panasonic to move to Newark instead of a possible move to New York City. The plan would keep about 800 jobs in New Jersey.

"This is about keeping jobs in the state and growing the economy," said Laura Jones, a spokeswoman for the authority. She added that Panasonic was keeping their "options" open and is also looking at other major cities including Atlanta, Chicago and New York.

People familiar with the matter said that Panasonic is eyeing two sites in Brooklyn—the MetroTech Center development in Downtown Brooklyn and the new Atlantic Yards development, which is also the site of a new basketball arena for the New Jersey Nets. Both Brooklyn sites are controlled by Forest City Ratner.

"At this point no decision have been made," said Jim Reilly, a spokesman with Panasonic, a unit of Panasonic Corp. of Japan. The company is still exploring its options, including staying in Secaucus, he said. He declined to discuss which cities the company was considering moving to.

Executives of Forest City Ratner couldn't be reached.


Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

January 12, 2011

"Shocking news": Observer floats lightly-sourced claim that Apple is looking for store near arena location; what about the EB-5 story?

Atlantic Yards Report

Yeah, and LeBron James is going to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the first Frank Gehry-designed Apple Store, which will also contain 300 units of affordable housing.

The New York Observer claims it's broken "some shocking news recently and nobody noticed," because only subscribers to the new Commercial Observer Now tri-weekly newsletter got it.

The headline in the Observer is iRatner! Apple Digging Atlantic Yards for First Brooklyn Store, but the story--likely based on a real estate broker--is more vague:

With plans dashed for a fifth Apple store on 34th Street late last year, sources say the tech behemoth is now setting its sights on a location near the proposed Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn, future home to the Nets basketball team.

Since last month, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has been informally chatting with potential landlords, including Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, about leasing options in the area, a source with ties to Forest City Ratner told The Commercial Observer on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Observer and others have steered clear of some other "shocking news," such as the admission, by a firm with ties to Forest City Ratner, that its agents are misleading potential immigrant investors about an EB-5 investment in Atlantic Yards tied to green cards.


Related coverage...

The Commercial Observer, Apple Mulling Atlantic Yards Store

"They've been very gun shy, the Apple people," said the source, who refused to be identified because the person was not given clearance to speak publicly. "They're focusing on the arena area right now, but there's no space. But it's the only place in Brooklyn that's super visible, close to trains and about as close as you can get to a 24-hour community in the borough."

Spokespeople for Forest City Ratner and Apple did not immediately return calls Wednesday.

If you're wondering how these fanciful stories sometimes take on a life of their own, here's how...

Curbed, Atlantic Yards to Get Brooklyn's First Apple Store?

Gothamist, Brooklyn Teased With Talk of Atlantic Yards Apple Store

Posted by eric at 12:26 PM

The new Downtown Brooklyn skyline, the rezoning gone awry, and yet more proof KPMG's report to the ESDC was bogus

Atlantic Yards Report

The more we learn about the state of condo sales in Brooklyn, the more Arthur Andersen's, er, KPMG's "market report" "justifying" the Atlantic Yards project looks like a total joke — except the joke's on us.

I'm coming a little late to the 1/9/11 cover story in the New York Times's Real Estate section, headlined Suddenly, a Brooklyn Skyline, but it's worth another look, for its slant and its omissions.

Notably, the nearby public housing is ignored and the main justification for the rezoning that led to the towers--an expected need for office space--is downplayed.

And--no surprise--there's no mention of the discrepancy between the sales figures revealed in the article and the ones consultant KPMG ginned up for an 8/31/09 report to the Empire State Development Corporation on the housing market in Brooklyn--a report used to justify the unrealistic ten-year Atlantic Yards buildout.

Sales figures vs. KPMG

According to the Times, Oro was more than 50 percent sold before the building was finished but, "[b]y September 2009, the building was only 28 percent sold." That led to price drops. Now its about 70 percent sold.

Funny, but KPMG claimed on 8/31/09 that the Ora was 75 percent sold. Not even close.


Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

January 11, 2011

Express support for affordable housing in Manhattan

Save the Lower East Side

Atlantic Yards is offered up as an example of what not to do.

Tuesday Jan. 11 is the deadline for community comment submissions (send to on SPURA -- the largest vacant land area south of 96th Street -- a rare opportunity for the creation of affordable housing, and a part of Bloomberg's plan to create or preserve 165,000 affordable units, including 60,000 new units to be created. How many of these 60,000 new units SPURA will contribute depends in part on what our community says.

CB3 is currently working towards a plan of 800 affordable units, and a total residential ratio of 50% market-rate to 50% non-market-rate. The non-market-rate housing will comprise

20% low-income housing,
20% moderate (<$100,000 income) & middle income (<$130,000 income) housing, and
10% senior housing.

In other words, the CB plan, if built, would result in at least 1,600 residential units, about the size of one EV block of six story tenements.

Whether the city will respect the community agreement is an open question. Look at what happened to Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: By "look at what happened to Atlantic Yards," we're not sure whether they mean the refusal to entertain the UNITY Plan (despite Extell's higher bid for the Vanderbilt railyard), or the "Community Benefits Agreement" whose "benefits" consist, as of now, of unenforceable promises and the whims of "market realities."

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

January 10, 2011

Stores Planned Near Brooklyn Marsh

The Wall Street Journal
by Joseph De Avila

Forest City Ratner is in the process of destroying a large swath of Prospect Heights to make way for a basketball arena. Now they've turned their sights on an environmentally fragile section of Mill Basin, where they plan to build — wait for it — a car dealership.

A plan to transform a 15-acre swath of land near Four Sparrow Marsh in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, into a car dealership and retail center has drawn criticism from local conservation groups.

The city has eyed this area for development for more than a decade, but locals have opposed adding retail projects along traffic-clogged Flatbush Avenue.

We have great concerns," said Glenn Phillips, executive director of New York City Audubon, a conservation group. New York City Audubon has pushed to protect the marsh, home to several threatened species of birds, and its surrounding area since the late 1980s.

The plan calls for a 110,000-square-foot Cadillac dealership to be built next to an existing Toys "R" Us store on Flatbush Avenue. The new retail center, covering at least 127,000 square feet, would be located just south of the toy store and north of the Four Sparrow Marsh.

The project is scheduled to begin the city's land use process this spring. Developer Forest City Ratner Cos. will oversee the project, breaking ground in 2014.

"This area has not only some of the best demographics in the country, but is extremely under-retailed as well," Andrew Silberfein, executive vice president and director of finance and retail development at Forest City Ratner, said in a statement.


At issue is the 67-acre Four Sparrow Marsh, which is currently a nature preserve and the nesting site of several threatened species of birds, like the seaside sparrow. The project could hurt the amount and quality of water in the basin, said Mr. Phillips with New York City Audubon. It could also disrupt the nesting of several species of birds, he said.

The city will work to ensure that the project proceeds with negligible environmental impacts, said Julie Wood, a spokeswoman with the New York City Economic Development Corp.

"That's something we take seriously on all of our projects," she said.

And surely, their consultant — let us go out on a limb and guess it will be AKRF — will take seriously the need to deliver an Environmental Impact Statement that reveals... no impact!

The retail center would be located less than a mile away from Kings Plaza Shopping Center, also on Flatbush Avenue. In the past, the local community board has opposed retail projects that would add to local traffic.

"Flatbush Avenue is a disaster," said Dorothy Turano, district manager of the board.


NoLandGrab: Wait, we thought it was "under-retailed."

Posted by eric at 10:22 PM

January 8, 2011

What Neighborhoods Are All The New Developments In?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

One might think that urban planning should take place before buildings are constructed. This editorial seems to suggest that waiting until afterward is better. Adding to a lack of credibility is the implication that housing at the Atlantic Yards site will be built anytime soon and confusion as to its location.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for all these housing units east of Flatbush Avenue to be considered in “Downtown” rather than Fort Greene? And for that matter, the same kind of questions can be raised about the Atlantic Yards site — “Downtown” or Prospect Heights?


NoLandGrab: Since the new Nets arena is now under construction, it's no longer necessary to pretend along with Bruce Ratner that Prospect Heights is in downtown Brooklyn.

Posted by steve at 8:29 AM

January 6, 2011

This man is bringing Smashburger to NYC

Jim Denburg is thinking big. And Brooklyn!

Metromix New York
by Jim Rodbard

And maybe even the "Atlantic Yards area."

You're opening three locations! Where are you looking?
My territory is the downtown business district, so Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Fort Greene and the Atlantic Yards area. I think two can go into that area.


Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

January 4, 2011

The Bloomberg Era, Part Two

Nathan Kensinger Photography

Forced Change
December 31, 2010 - At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, this multi-part photo essay examines how New York City's built environment has changed over the past 10 years, and what the future of New York's skyline might be. Part one of this essay can be seen here.

On January 1st 2010, Michael Bloomberg was sworn into office for a nearly unprecedented third term as the Mayor of New York City. Bloomberg, the 23rd richest person in the world, is only the fourth mayor in the city's history to serve a third term in office, and accomplished that goal by running "the most expensive self-financed political campaign in U.S. history," according to the Huffington Post. During his tenure, Mayor Bloomberg has "amassed so much power and respect that he seems more a Medici than a mayor," according to The New Yorker. He has used his power and wealth to enact an agenda of post-9/11 development that has radically changed the city's landscape. As described in part one of this photo essay, "not since Robert Moses has a single individual presided over such a large-scale transformation of New York City's built environment."

Like Robert Moses, the legendary Power Broker, Mayor Bloomberg currently exerts a stranglehold of power over New York City. In 2009, New York Magazine bluntly declared "Mike Bloomberg owns this town," and "in the past seven years Michael Bloomberg has become the only powerful figure in New York who really matters.... The mayor is not a dictator... but Bloomberg gets what he wants more than any mayor in modern memory." Also like Robert Moses, who was called New York's Master Builder, much of Mayor Bloomberg's work has focused on constructing a new version of the city. In 2009, Bloomberg drew comparisons between his accomplishments and Robert Moses', telling The New Yorker that "we’ve done more in the last seven years than—I don’t know if it’s fair to say more than Moses did, but I hope history will show the things we did made a lot more sense." Unfortunately, the parallels between Bloomberg and Moses also include the use of controversial methods to force development projects through, often at the expense of New York's unique fabric of small neighborhoods.

One of the most controversial tools Mayor Bloomberg has utilized in his quest to transform New York City is eminent domain, a practice whereby the state seizes private property to clear the way for an impending development meant for civic and public improvement. This was a favorite tool of Robert Moses, "who rammed highways through dense urban neighborhoods with a 'meat-ax' and became the un stoppable engine of 'slum clearance'," according to Metropolis Magazine. Moses' methods were often vilified, but he created the infrastructure for present day New York City, building highways, bridges, tunnels, parks and institutional landmarks like the Lincoln Center and the United Nations that have been freely used by countless millions of people. Michael Bloomberg, on the other hand, has approved the use of eminent domain for private development projects that include luxury residences and retail shops, college campus facilities and a sports arena. When completed, none of these developments will be open to the general public. They include several neighborhoods documented on this website: Willets Point (aka The Iron Triangle), Manhattanville and the Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 1:28 PM

New Life for Projects Put on Hold

The Wall Street Journal

Real-estate developers that haven't seen much action lately are hoping 2011 is going to be different.

For more than two years now, the landscape for new real-estate development in New York City has been a cold one. The economic downturn relegated many a project throughout to hibernation mode.

Employment plummeted after 2008, and with it any immediate need for new office space to house the tens of thousands of new office workers expected in a booming economy. While rental housing and hotels have fared better, construction financing remains scarce.

But with green shoots emerging in the New York City economy, developers are dusting off their plans crafted back in 2006 and 2007. A handful are even making a go at getting a shovel in the ground some time this year, even though most are predicting that the economic rebound will be sluggish.

Here's a look at four large sites that may (or may not) see construction in the year ahead:

Atlantic Yards—First Residential Tower

Forest City Ratner

CHANCES: Decent. With a new basketball arena under way, Forest City has said the company will start construction on this 400-unit building in 2011. Then again, the firm, which has hit some tough times, said the same thing last year.


NoLandGrab: The Journal is starting to catch on.

Photo: Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal

Posted by eric at 1:20 PM

December 30, 2010

Jersey City Complex Awaits Tax-Credit Boost

The Wall Street Journal
by Shelly Banjo

With construction projects stalled throughout the region, developer George Filopoulos is hoping a vote by the New Jersey Senate next month will help him continue his high-profile redevelopment of the old Jersey City Medical Center into a 14-acre mixed-use complex.

Mr. Filopoulos's financing plans underscore the key role the public sector is playing these days in private construction projects. With the economy and banking system still under stress, conventional sources of construction financing are scarce. Other projects under way, such as the basketball arena at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and office buildings at the World Trade Center, have some form of public support.

"The market has been horrendous and folks are turning to government agencies for help," says Robert Antonicello, executive director of the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency.


NoLandGrab: Some folks have always turned to government agencies for help, which is why New York City and New York State lease so much space in Forest City Ratner's Metrotech and Atlantic Center.

Posted by eric at 9:05 AM

December 29, 2010

No Vacancy: Why Empty Condos Aren't Becoming Affordable Housing

Boom-time overbuilding left thousands of units vacant. But a city program to convert them to affordable housing has found the market uncooperative.

City Limits
by Diana Scholl

We've all seen the half-built boom-era condos and thought: "Wouldn’t it be great if this could be low-income housing? Everybody wins!”

So why hasn’t that happened yet?

In May 2009 City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York City’s Department of Housing and Preservation and Development (HPD) unveiled the Housing Asset Renewal Plan (HARP). Politically, it sounded great. The idea was to kill two birds with one stone: Build much-needed affordable housing while at the same time heading off the potential blight represented by what Quinn described as “tarnished trophies of the building boom.” The $20 million initiative provides developers and banks incentives to turn unused condo units into middle-income housing.

In her State of the City address that February, Quinn said, “These vacant apartments now represent our best asset in the fight for affordable housing.” The original estimate was that up to 500 units could be made affordable.

Flash forward almost two years after Quinn’s prophecy, and not one HARP deal has been signed.

Avi Rosenthalis, coordinator of Right to the City-New York City (RTC-NYC) advocates more publicly and community-owned residential properties. “The city is working under the premise that affordable housing must be profitable,” Rosenthalis says. In Right to the City’s recent report on vacant condos, it argues for using eminent domain to seize vacant residential buildings and turn them into affordable housing, and for using tax foreclosures to facilitate the conversion of tax delinquent vacant residential buildings in low-income communities into quality affordable housing.

Right to the City is currently looking into vacant buildings that would qualify for city takeover. The group proposes that these buildings be turned into community land trusts—non-profit entities that buy and manage land for the purpose of providing low- to moderate-income housing. Homeowners within a community land trust are only permitted to sell their homes back to the land trust or to another low-income family, guaranteeing that the units of housing remain permanently affordable.

“We’re talking about Robin Hood-type options,” Rosenthalis says. “These are the most feasible options on the books. But it takes political will.”


NoLandGrab: Unfortunately, the only political will in New York City is for the reverse Robin Hood — taking from the needy to give to the likes of Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

December 23, 2010

‘Freak’ out! Evicted shooting gallery is bulldozed in Coney

The Brooklyn Paper
by Alex Rush

The Disneyifcation of America's Playground continues apace, this time under cover of darkness.

What the freak?

The landlord who evicted the Shoot the Freak booth and seven other businesses on the Coney Island Boardwalk last month ransacked the paintball attraction overnight on Dec. 22, boarding up the main entrance and jacking paintball equipment, memorabilia and other props.

“They came like thieves in the night,” said booth owner Anthony Berlingieri. “Those little sneaks emptied out the place and there is nothing left, except for the Shoot the Freak sign.”

Central Amusement International — which has a 10-year lease to not only run a theme park, but fulfill a city plan to revive the entire amusement area — gave the eight businesses the boot on Nov. 1.


NoLandGrab: First it was Bruce Ratner alleviating "blight" by creating real blight. Now it's Central Amusement International "reviving" Coney Island by bulldozing it.

Posted by eric at 10:41 PM

December 22, 2010

Brooklyn Broadside: Brooklyn in 2011 Will See More Downtown Development

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

It is that time of the year, with only a handful of days left, to try to peer ahead and predict what may happen in Brooklyn in 2011.

After two years of squealing brakes and cries of woe because of the great recession in Brooklyn, projects began to move again, some with force, in the Downtown Brooklyn area and elsewhere in 2010.

Looking ahead to next year, we can expect more of the same, with a tag reading “To Finish in 2012,” on many of the projects.

Some of these projects are obvious. After years of holdups, Atlantic Yards began to take shape when the skeleton of the Barclays Center went up. But that first very important structure will not be finished until 2012. What we should see in 2011 is the beginning of the housing portion of the project.


NoLandGrab: Don't set your watch by Holt's predictions. Here's last year's gaze into the crystal ball for 2010.

"If Forest City can hold to its schedule, the first residential building will start being built, and by the end of the year, there could also be news about the commercial part of the project."

Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

December 17, 2010

Violet and Green: NYU’s LEED Platinum-Hopeful Wilf Hall Opens To Positive Reviews — And Protests

The Energy Collective
by Stephen Del Percio

Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards make cameos in a perspective on a new NYU building in the West Village.

As I’ve written in the past, there are times when it’s instructive — or at least interesting — to ask the green building aficionado’s version of WWJD — call it WWJJT, What Would Jane Jacobs Think? The legendary urbanist and rabble rouser did battle with a wholly different set of powers-that-be than the ones that currently, um, be in New York City — where Robert Moses’s power resided in City Hall, the real power in New York City real estate today resides with the mega-developers to whom City Hall has effectively ceded power through a series of official and unofficial policies. But while it’s easy enough to figure out where Jane Jacobs — or her disciples, or anyone of good faith — would come down on grandiose mega-developments such as Riverside Center and New Domino, it’s perhaps even easier to tell where she would come down on some of the massive neighborhood overhauls being undertaken by NYC’s major educational institutions. While Columbia prepares for a massive $6.3 billion, eminent domain-powered neighborhood re-imagining of Manhattanville, NYU is already going ahead with the first stage of an equally ambitious — and much-protested — expansion in the West Village. Given that the West Village was Jacobs’ old stomping/living grounds, it’s likely that she’d be on the front lines with the protesters.

That NYU seems comparatively well-intentioned, or at least brand-sensitive enough to attempt to play the good neighbor in this case, is nice, but beside the greater point — the system isn’t working when the best that communities can hope for is that the Implacable Megaforces terraforming their neighborhood are of the comparatively benign higher-educational variety as opposed to purely profit-motivated mega-developers. (Just as the political discourse is dysfunctional when it pits cynical billionaires against moderately more tolerant billionaires) This isn’t the way that it is supposed to work, and for every community board taking a tenuously successful stand against this sort of thing, a great many more are either bulldozed by the political power of big developers and institutions or hornswoggled — as at Atlantic Yards or New Domino — by the city’s unwillingness to hold developers accountable for their higher-minded promises of affordable housing, public space, and so on.


Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

December 16, 2010

City dangles carrot to help produce a Google

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Steel says the city is ready to offer cash or real estate to attract an applied science school and bolster the area's economic future.

Crain's NY Business
by Jeremy Smerd

This has nothing to do with Atlantic Yards, eminent domain, or Forest City Ratner — yet. But it's worth noting that Forest City Enterprises "is recognized as one of the country's leading developers and owners of life science campuses," by its own humble admission. And since they are also to subsidies what a pig is to truffles, and the Bloomberg Administration said today that the city "will contribute an as-yet undefined but 'significant' sum to persuade a university or applied science organization to set up shop here," you can expect that the gears in Bruce Ratner's head are already turning — if, in fact, the deal hasn't already been cooked up in some Metrotech back room.

The Bloomberg administration wants the next Google to be made in New York.

The city is looking to attract engineers whose innovations could help shift the local economy away from its reliance on the financial services industry. Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Steel announced in his first policy speech that the administration is seeking to attract to the city a new school for applied science and engineering.

In his speech, made Thursday at Google's New York City headquarters on Ninth Avenue, Mr. Steel said the city is issuing a formal request for expressions of interest and will contribute an as-yet undefined but “significant” sum to persuade a university or applied science organization to set up shop here.

He said incentives could come in the form of cash or city real estate in locations such as the Navy Hospital Campus at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, several sites on Governors Island, Goldwater Hospital Campus on Roosevelt Island, Farm Colony on Staten Island or in central business districts around the city. Mr. Steel cited Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City as an example of the kind of remote campus the city envisions.


Posted by eric at 5:11 PM

On the edge

NY Post
by Katherine Dykstra

What makes a new condo building desirable? Not proximity to an endless construction site.

After four years on the market, One Hanson Place is down to its last eight condos.

While the former Williamsburg Savings Bank building — which has been hosting the Brooklyn Flea in its magnificent ground-floor space — is undeniably beautiful, part of the slow sales can likely be attributed to its less-than-ideal location. Though it sits at the intersection of desirable neighborhoods — Fort Greene, Boerum Hill — it’s also on a noisy, windy block that’s near Atlantic Yards, which will be a construction site for years to come.


Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

December 14, 2010

Development, Zoning Fights Fuel Push For NYC Roadmap

City Limits
by Jarrett Murphy

It was hard not to be impressed by the December 2006 rollout for Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 initiative. Guests who took the subway out to Flushing were carted via trolley-bus to the stunning Queens Museum of Art. The crowd of dignitaries, advocates and reporters packed the floor of an exhibition hall and flowed onto a mezzanine above. A slick multimedia presentation accompanied the mayor's remarks, and the former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw oversaw a panel discussion after Bloomberg spoke. The mayor himself was masterful, weaving together civic confidence, moral purpose and self-deprecating humor. And how sweeping his vision was: carbon emissions reduction, affordable housing, new parkland, better transit and cleaner water.

There was just one problem: PlaNYC wasn't actually a plan. Nor was it meant to be one. "It's supposed to be an agenda, and that's what it is," says one former PlaNYC staffer. "We made a mistake by calling it a plan."

No shock there. As the new issue of City Limits magazine reports, real planning is not something New York City has ever done. Other major cities have drafted comprehensive plans that linked land development to transit improvements and government services. But New York has always relied on zoning, which creates rules for what the private market can build, rather than planning. Some attribute this to the city's political complexity, others to the power of the local real estate industry. Many argue that New York is too spontaneous a place for a plan.

But there are growing calls to re-examine those assumptions. Pitched battles over recent redevelopment plans—from Atlantic Yards to Manhattanville—have fueled a fervor for more community input into how the city grows. Developers face lengthy environmental reviews that can increase the cost and alter the marketability of a project. Deals in which builders offer benefits in exchange for community groups' support are under increasing legal and political scrutiny. New York, with a transit system strained by growing ridership and crumbling finances, is struggling to compete with other cities in offering a greener and more efficient commute.

In "City Without A Plan," City Limits looks at the past, present and possible future of planning in New York, with reporting from the South Bronx to the Brooklyn waterfront to suburban Staten Island.


Posted by eric at 5:04 PM

December 10, 2010

"Retail and residential protections" around the Atlantic Yards site? Nope

Atlantic Yards Report

Just in case you were wondering, a City Hall News article, Bing Pitches Greater Economic Impact Of Second Avenue Subway Construction, got an Atlantic Yards reference wrong:

In front of the Second Avenue entrance to Delizia Pizza on the Upper East Side was a crane and the camped materials of a continuous construction site underway. In front of the 92nd Street entrance to the table-service area was another unit, humming and blocking the view from the north. And inside was Assembly Member Jonathan Bing, his hands deep in dough and tomato sauce.

...If not, Bing said, the consequences will go far behind his district which is one of the most affluent in the state, but has so far not been provided with the special retail and residential protections granted at other major construction sites around the state, such as on the Far West Side or around the Atlantic Yards development.

(Emphases added)

Really? That would be very surprising to those who endured utility work at the site in 2008.


Bing's office tells me he didn't say that.


NoLandGrab: Maybe City Hall News editor Edward-Isaac Dovere was channeling his Brooklyn Standard days.

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

December 9, 2010

Bing Pitches Greater Economic Impact Of Second Avenue Subway Construction

City Hall
by Edward-Isaac Dovere

In front of the Second Avenue entrance to Delizia Pizza on the Upper East Side was a crane and the camped materials of a continuous construction site underway. In front of the 92nd Street entrance to the table-service area was another unit, humming and blocking the view from the north. And inside was Assembly Member Jonathan Bing, his hands deep in dough and tomato sauce.

Bing made it through college and law school without having to spend a summer waiting tables, and his pizza experience before Wednesday night was limited to eating an occasional pepperoni slice. But he got behind the counter and pulled on a white T-shirt with a picture of a gondolier to make a point: in the three-and-a-half years since the most recent groundbreaking, one-fifth of the businesses along the construction for the line that will eventually run through his Upper East Side district have been forced to close, and he wants the state to do something about it.

If not, Bing said, the consequences will go far behind his district which is one of the most affluent in the state, but has so far not been provided with the special retail and residential protections granted at other major construction sites around the state, such as on the Far West Side or around the Atlantic Yards development.


NoLandGrab: Special what? If by "special protections," Bing means having the state seize your home or business to hand it over to Bruce Ratner, then yes, he's correct.

Posted by eric at 7:57 AM

December 6, 2010

Vote Could Mark End of Long Quest for Project

The Wall Street Journal
by Eliot Brown

Extell Development, which offered the MTA more money for the Vanderbilt Yard than Forest City Ratner did, but lost the bidding anyway, is hoping to start a big Manhattan project soon.

After years of planning and public tussle with the Upper West Side community, a giant set of apartment towers planned to rise by 59th Street and the West Side Highway is nearing approval from the City Council.

But between now and then, key issues need to be resolved between the developer, Extell Development, and the community. While the size of the project is likely to be close to what Extell wants, the two sides are still debating the amenities that Extell will put into the neighborhood like a school and park.

One of the largest privately-held development sites in Manhattan, the project marks the latest of a string of multi-thousand-apartment megaprojects planned in recent years to seek public approvals.

Those projects, including Atlantic Yards, the West Side rail yards, the development of a former Con Edison site on the East Side, and the conversion of the Domino Sugar factory in Brooklyn, all have yet to start construction of the housing.


NoLandGrab: Better change that slogan to "Hoops, Jobs & Housing."

Posted by eric at 8:32 AM

December 3, 2010

The "Brooklyn buy-in" for the Aqueduct "racino" involves the Darman Group and the state minority contractors' group (and Forest City, tangentially)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at the sleazy shenanigans behind the Aqueduct "racino" bidding.

As I wrote November 29, Forest City Ratner continues to rely significantly on The Darman Group, a firm run by Darryl Greene, which was unfit to participate in a bid for the Aqueduct "racino" because of Greene's criminal record.

Indeed, in the past two years, Greene's firm has expanded beyond its Queens office, as indicated in the screenshot below, to Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

The Brooklyn office is at 182 Duffield Street, a row house adjacent to the MetroTech development, which is owned by Forest City Ratner's First New York Management division.

(Photos by Jonathan Barkey)

The IG's Aqueduct report

Greene and his firm came in for some tough treatment in the state Inspector General's 10/21/10 report that criticized the Governor’s Office and state Legislative leaders for failing to fulfill their public duty in the January 2010 selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) to operate Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. (Full report here.)

According to the IG, AEG should have been disregarded at the start, and that the chaotic process resulting in AEG’s multi-billion dollar award was a “political free-for-all” marked by unfair advantages and more than $100,000 in campaign donations.

The report has been forwarded to United States Attorney Preet Bharara and New York County District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., for appropriate action and referring Senators John Sampson and Malcolm Smith (Greene's former partner) and Senate Secretary Angelo Aponte to the Legislative Ethics Commission.


NoLandGrab: Surely Governor-elect Status Cuomo is going to clean up this mess, though, right?

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

December 2, 2010

Lone Local Manufacturer Fights to Survive

The Bragley Manufacturing Company has had to fight competition abroad and a difficult economic environment at home.

Prospect Heights Patch
by Justin Hunte

Why, here's one Prospect Heights business that has survived the coming of Atlantic Yards — for now.

"My father started this business," says Neil Lurie, owner of Bragley Manufacturing Company, Prospect Height's lone remaining manufacturing company. "From the age of 12 or 13 I was in a machine shop with him so that's where I learned how to do this. These are generational businesses and once they're shut down, they're gone. They never open up again."

Lurie's frustration with the current state of US manufacturing is apparent almost immediately. Straddled with increased competition abroad and an ominous economic environment at home, he's witnessed the industry's downward spiral as America transitions into a service-oriented economy first hand.

The daunting economic climate continues to plague Bragley's operating environment. Despite a seemingly constant barrage of new challenges -- severe shortages of suppliers and customers, increased unemployment taxes and looming real estate tax increases expected with the arrival of the Atlantic Yards project -- Lurie continues to fight to maintain position, one order at a time.


NoLandGrab: If Lurie's business can't survive, there are sure to be plenty of good jobs selling cotton candy at the Barclays Center, right?

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

December 1, 2010

Lawsuit Tries to Slow "New Domino" Development

by Garth Johnston

Crying poor environmental review seems to be the hot way to try and stop Brooklyn developments of late. Just as Develop Don't Destory Brooklyn is attempting to slow the Atlantic Yards project because of misrepresentations in its enviromental impact statement another group of Brooklynites is using a similar tactic to try and halt the massive development planned for the old Domino Sugar refinery (which got City Council approval back in June after much community opposition).


Posted by eric at 10:35 PM

November 28, 2010

On Flatbush Avenue, small plazas slated for an upgrade; unlike plaza slated for arena block, this involved community consultation

Atlantic Yards Report

The (temporary) plaza planned for the Atlantic Yards arena block isn't the only plaza along Flatbush Avenue that's getting a makeover.

Several small plazas at the intersections of Flatbush and four cross streets, from Sixth Avenue to Eighth Avenue, are getting makeovers.

And these makeovers come about via a much different process, a public charrette, meetings with the public.

The Atlantic Yards plaza was dispensed from on high, though the decisionmaking process was discussed by developer Forest City Ratner and Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP Architects.

The meeting on the Flatbush plazas was held on September 28, one day before the arena plaza event, at a joint meeting of the Transportation Committees of Community Boards 6 and 8.

More from Brownstoner here.

From the BID

As stated on the North Flatbush Business Improvement District (BID) site:

On Tuesday, September 28, NY Department of Transportation Downtown Brooklyn Coordinator, Christopher Hrones, unveiled the new conceptual designs for the corridor along Flatbush Avenue from Atlantic Avenue to Plaza Street. These conceptual designs calls for the transformation of the 6, 7 and 8 Avenue Triangles into public space and the redesign of the Carlton Avenue for pedestrian safety.

This plan came out of a charette the BID hosted in June 2008 partnering with Project for Public Space. With a grant from SBS, The North Flatbush Avenue BID hired New York based urban landscape designers, W-Architecture and landscape LLP. Now with almost 3 million in capital funding, DOT has contributed conceptual plans for the 6th, 7th and 8th Avenue Triangle parks as well as the small Carlton Avenue triangle.

Many of the plans calls for expanding the triangle, adding new planters, benches, tables and chairs, bike racks and reconfiguration of the 6th Avenue Victorian clock. In the future, the BID hopes to host events and sidewalk fairs in these public spaces.


Posted by steve at 9:52 AM

November 25, 2010

Is the Domino Developer Out of Money?

The L Magazine
by Henry Stewart

Atlantic Yards makes a cameo as the yardstick for bait-and-switch development projects.

Last week, a rumor circulated suggesting that CPCR might not have the resources to continue with the Domino project—rumors that the developer denied. "There is absolutely no validity to those rumors," Richard Edmonds, a spokesman for the Domino project, wrote in an email. "Domino is proceeding on schedule, with a groundbreaking on the upland parcel in late 2011."

As CPCR fought for zoning changes that would allow its 2,200-unit, 11.2-acre project to move forward, many in the community worried that the developer might win approval but then sell the project to another developer. CPCR promised a generous 30 percent affordable housing component to the project—well-above the 20 percent required by law, which helped to win it the support of many local groups—but only as a non-legally binding promise of the sort a cash-strapped developer could later go back on, particularly under pressure from a new business partner.

These aren't the only promises on which CPCR could renege. Consider the five blocks of promised waterfront-parkland that would provide access to that part of the East River in Brooklyn for the first time in roughly 100 years. That could, conceivably, be scrapped as a result of "financial strain." Preserving the historic DOMINO sign—another CPCR promise—could be deemed too costly; retaining noted architect Rafael Vinoly's design could prove unduly pricey and be replaced with something even more garish. (Something similar happened with Atlantic Yards when the Frank Gehry design that helped win the project approval was eventually scrapped, because of "cost concerns," in exchange for a brutish concrete slab.)


Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

November 18, 2010

Review & Comment: Weight of the Apple

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Henrik Krogius

The Eagle's Krogius laments the fact that Bruce Ratner doesn't get his name into the new edition of The Encyclopedia of New York City.

In the age of Google and Wikipedia, Yale University Press (in conjunction with the New-York Historical Society) has not been deterred from issuing a 9-pound second edition of The Encyclopedia of New York City. Its editor-in-chief is once again the eminent urban historian and Columbia Professor Kenneth T. Jackson. It runs to 1561 pages, up from 1350, in an 8 ½-by-11-inch format, with three columns to the page in fairly small 8-point type ($65).

Among the new Brooklyn entries are those for Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn Cyclones, DUMBO, and Atlantic Yards. The DUMBO entry, by independent historian Cathy Alexander, runs to one column and summarizes both the area’s history and recent development, not omitting references to controversy. The brief Atlantic Yards entry, by Norman Brouwer, skims over the subject, noting dispute but not naming the developer (Bruce Ratner) or original architect (Frank Gehry).


NoLandGrab: Maybe their spell-checker thought "Bruce Ratner" was a dirty word.

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

November 17, 2010

Partridge Family star’s feathers ruffled over city’s handling of Tobacco Warehouse bid

The Brooklyn Blog []
by Rich Calder

Atlantic Yards pops up not once, but twice, in an article about the latest murky dealings at Brooklyn Bridge "Park."

“I felt like this was Atlantic Yards again and Bruce Ratner was stacking a meeting with his union supporters,” said Judi Francis of the watchdog group Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund.

It is the second time in two weeks that the full media and public were not properly notified, as is required by state and federal law, for what should have been a public meeting at Borough Hall. The earlier illegal meeting involved the Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights.


Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

November 11, 2010

‘Green School’ Work Site Rocks 72nd St. Homes

Owners Fear Dirt, Noise, Darkness Will Cloud Their Properties

Bay Ridge Eagle
by Harold Egeln

Meanwhile, for other Brooklynites, "Atlantic Yards" is a synonym for "nightmare."

Yes, a new school is wonderful and needed, all agreed. But its construction is already making life a little less wonderful for its neighbors, who brought their concerns directly to the NYC School Construction Authority through Community Board 10.

“This is our smaller Atlantic Yards-type dispute,” resident Joe D’Angelo said, claiming his backyard usage may be curtailed during the construction.


Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

November 10, 2010

Big Real Estate's Super: Steve Spinola Has Run REBNY But How Will He Get on With Another Cuomo?

NY Observer
by Zeke Turner

You might not believe this, but in New York City, real estate and politics are the same thing!

Developer Bruce Ratner came to Steven Spinola for help in 1985. Mr. Ratner needed to get tenants for his planned MetroTech Center in Brooklyn, and Mr. Spinola was Ed Koch's economic development chief. Part of his job was to keep tenants in New York, and Morgan Stanley was thinking about moving its back offices to New Jersey.

"They were trying to convince Morgan Stanley to go to MetroTech," said Mr. Spinola last Friday, sitting at the lunch counter at Junior's near Times Square, his left hand surrounding a Diet Coke with lemon as he recalled his rise to prominence. "They asked me to go to a meeting with Morgan Stanley to discuss and to tell them that the city was ready to encourage them to do whatever."

Mr. Spinola was wearing a dark brown, three-button suit with a black-and-gold Real Estate Board of New York lapel pin. For the past 24 years, REBNY has been the seat of Mr. Spinola's power. He's the longest-serving president in the century-plus history of the city's largest trade group and arguably the most powerful real estate lobbyist in the state. He faces his sharpest challenge in years in dealing with an incoming governor, Andrew Cuomo, who has an electoral mandate and also a need to work with a real estate industry whose interests do not always jibe with his party's political machinery.

After Mr. Spinola's meeting with Morgan Stanley, the prospects for a deal looked dim. "We went down in the elevator. I turned to Bruce Ratner and I said, 'There's no way you get them to MetroTech.' I said, 'But I have a site on Pierrepont Street that's currently a garage. And one of my guys came to me two months earlier and said, "The city's about to give a new lease for this garage. We oughta have a cancellation clause in case we ever need it."'"

"So I called up City Hall, I asked for it, they gave it to me. So I said to Ratner, 'Can you spend the weekend coming up with a design for a building on that site? I'll sole-source it to you if we can get Morgan Stanley to be the principal tenant.' And we made that deal."


Posted by eric at 8:48 AM

November 5, 2010

No Brooklyn Brewery Beer Hall for Phony Island, After All

Grub Street

Yesterday the Times' City Room blog reported that Brooklyn Brewery was rumored to be negotiating to open a beer hall in Phony Island — which is what we’re calling it from now on, thank you very much. The Post also wrote today that “sources said” Brooklyn Brewery was the favorite to operate a beer garden. But don’t boycott the brewery just yet: An operations employee there, Brian Dochney, tells us (and we believe him) that it’s absolutely not true, and indeed all mention of Brooklyn Brewery has mysteriously disappeared (without a correction) from the City Room post. “The article was supposed to read a Brooklyn brewery, not the Brooklyn Brewery,” he says.

“We have no involvement in that, and no plans for a Coney brewery. It was literally a typo that makes us look like the big bad wolf. It’s misinformation, and we’ve been chasing our tail around the Internet trying to put out fires.” Dochney adds, “We want our reputation to be for supporting the classic Brooklyn things — it’s funny it’d be us they mention.” Actually, a Brooklyn Brewery beer hall might’ve been the best of all evils. We’ve said it before: If a Dunkin’ Donuts on the boardwalk can happen in Seaside Heights, it can happen here.


NoLandGrab: Ah, yes. The "classic Brooklyn things": a Russian oligarch's plaything, a British bank-tagged basketball arena, scores of Chinese investors, eminent domain abuse, etc., etc. Which may explain why opponents of Atlantic Yards are still boycotting the Brooklyn Brewery.

Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

November 2, 2010

As the Boardwalk Is Remade, 9 Fixtures Are Told to Leave

The New York Times
by Charles V. Bagli

The Las Vegasfication of Brooklyn continues apace.

From behind the bar at Ruby’s, hard on the Boardwalk in Coney Island, Cindy Jacobs Allman commiserated with customers and other business owners slowly grasping that their livelihoods — as well as a familiar part of the city’s landscape — would soon be gone.

Nine longtime Boardwalk tenants, including familiar places like Ruby’s, Shoot the Freak and the Beer Garden, were told on Monday that their leases would not be renewed.

The news came from Central Amusement International, which has a long-term city lease for the 3.1-acre seaside amusement area and the Boardwalk. The company said it wanted to extend its “vision of a resurgent Coney Island.”

Translation: "Not like Coney Island at all."

But the nine businesses that are part of that past have until Nov. 15 to shut down. Ruby’s, for example, has been a fixture on the Boardwalk since 1934, and the pathway nearby is named after its founder, Ruby Jacob.

“We just heard this devastating news,” Ms. Allman said. “We are a throwback to the past. We make people feel good. To think we’re not going to be part of the new Coney Island is just very sad.”

Anthony Berlingeri, who owns Shoot the Freak and Beer Island, said he was angry that longtime business owners were being expelled, much as stalwarts were evicted during the redevelopment of Times Square and the site of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 3:29 PM

October 27, 2010

Cataloging non-blight on Vanderbilt Avenue

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite the presence of the eastern end of a "blighted" Atlantic Yards project site, "Almost every corner along the stretch of Vanderbilt Avenue that runs through Prospect Heights is home to an eatery or drinkery of note," according to Brooklyn Based.

Of particular note are Woodwork, on Vanderbilt between Pacific and Dean streets, and Weather Up, at Dean Street, both immediately across the street from the staging/construction zone slated to be a massive surface parking lot.


Posted by eric at 11:39 AM

October 22, 2010

MAS Survey on Livability: people say they're satisfied, but dismay regarding (over)development seeps out

Atlantic Yards Report

Though a Municipal Art Society (MAS) survey on livability released yesterday garnered headlines for its seemingly counter-intuitive conclusion that most New Yorkers are happy and find the city livable, it also contains signs of significant discontent regarding development.

And that wariness--72 percent seemingly oppose new housing or housing beyond existing scale in their neighborhoods--suggests a tension between those who like neighborhood scale and the Bloomberg administration's expectation of another 1 million people here by 2030.

Results of this initial poll were not particularly subtle--it would be important to understand attitudes toward development teased out by type of neighborhood, zoning, and transportation options, because the key question is fitting increased density to neighborhoods that can handle it.


Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

September 30, 2010

Brooklyn Tornadoes and a Cool-Headed Appraisal of Weather Weirding in New York

Noticing New York

Only Michael D.D. White would even think about trying to tie together tornadoes, blizzards, rising sea levels, hydrofracking and Atlantic Yards, but wouldn't you know, he pulls it off.

First, his own warning:

Get ready: This is going to be about New York and the environment in some very, very big-picture terms.

We confess we found ourselves initially irritated by the “apocalyptic thinking” of the “Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront,” show at the Museum of Modern Art.

Its grand scale thinking made us uncomfortably ill at ease, reminding us of the kind of from-on-high it-is-easy-to-replace-everything planning arrogance* that is, for example, associated with Coney Island’s destruction.

(* Sure, its easy enough to tear down a portion of Prospect Heights, including newly renovated buildings, to construct the murkily unparticularized “Atlantic Yards” but the ability to actually fill in this hole developer Bruce Ratner created in the neighborhood becomes a theoretical maybe-someday exercise when the developer says of replacement construction: “it's really market-dependent as to when it will really be completed.”)

Storm Surge Barriers?

I was at the New York City Council during little reported hearings where the possibility and expense of buildings storm surge barriers was discussed. It’s done in the Netherlands. The cost was estimated at $5 billion and possible because there are only a few choke points in the harbor that would need to be addressed. Naturally, any public work estimated to cost $5 billion will probably cost more: The Brooklyn Bridge (built during the reign of Boss Tweed) cost more than twice its original estimate. But $5 billion is not much more than all the public subsidies we are putting into the Atlantic Yards project; money spent on such barriers would be for infrastructure of benefit to all rather than subsidizing one development firm’s private profit at the expense of others and wouldn’t even $10 billion likely be a small cost compared to the cost of a catastrophic storm surge?


Posted by eric at 12:52 PM

September 28, 2010

Loft building near Barclays arena re-enters market at 50 percent off

The Real Deal

A 24,000-square-foot industrial loft building at 1199 Atlantic Avenue, just blocks away from the new Barclays Center sports arena, is back on the market at $72 per square foot, nearly half its original price. The property, marketed by commercial real estate firm TerraCRG, had been on the market in contract in mid 2008 for $3.3 million but the sale was never completed after developers couldn't obtain construction financing. The four-story loft building is currently vacant. Allowable uses include hotel, retail, offices, and as-is industrial and the site has approved plans from Howard Johnson for a 44-unit hotel. "With the construction of the Nets Arena underway, the location on Atlantic Avenue is becoming more strategic as an economy hotel site," said Ofer Cohen, founder and president of TerraCRG. "Unfortunately, the lingering recession and the tough economic climate prevented this development from moving forward in the previous round."


NoLandGrab: As with most claims about Atlantic Yards, the "just blocks away" description isn't all that accurate, unless your idea of "just blocks" means "more than a mile." It would, however, be closer than the Best Western Arena Hotel.

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

September 12, 2010

Real estate ad: Beat the Nets to Brooklyn

Atlantic Yards Report

Rising real estate values are anticipated with the construction of the Nets arena? Why not? The area around an arena is probably as attractive as, say, the residential streets adjoining Bruce Ratner's mall.

Well, maybe real estate agent Delroy Bodley could use a little help with fonts and proofreading (click on graphic to enlarge), but he gets credit for being the first to presume that the arrival of the Atlantic Yards arena will boost downtown real estate values:


If so, then shouldn't those luxury condos on the Atlantic Yards site go up lickety-split?

Well, maybe not. The apartment at issue is about $700 a square foot. Forest City Ratner, according to a KPMG report, is counting on sales prices of $1217/sf in 2015 up to $1369/sf in 2019.


Posted by steve at 11:03 AM

September 8, 2010

Atlantic Yards Report: "Stealing the common from the goose": Henry Stern's compelling case against 15 Penn Plaza (and the glaring Atlantic Yards blind spot)

Save Hotel Pennsylvania

A blog dedicated to fighting Vornado's massive 15 Penn Plaza discovers Atlantic Yards Report.

An interesting blog that I came across. He makes a valid point, and just for those who are wondering, it's not over, yet.


Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

September 7, 2010

For Developers, a Time of Opportunity

Economic Downturn Leads Civic Groups and Community Boards to Rethink Their Longtime Policies of Limiting Retailers

The Wall Street Journal
by Anton Troianovski

Developers are gearing up to bring more national retailers to Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island—if local politics allow it.

Long Island civic groups are infamous among developers for their success in blocking projects such as a huge mall proposed by Taubman Centers Inc. at the site of the old Cirro Wire factory and Old Plainview, a 166-acre mixed-use project that Charles Wang and Scott Rechler wanted to develop in the town of Oyster Bay.

Community boards in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens are similarly prickly about major projects involving national chains, fearing traffic woes for area residents and competition for home-grown retailers.

But developers may have an easier time these days because of the economic downturn and the efforts of local governments to boost employment. "There's a heightened sensitivity to the idea of anything new, anything vibrant, anything fresh on the Island because it potentially represents jobs," said Kate Murray, supervisor of the town of Hempstead.

Ms. Murray's town board of appeals recently gave a green light to a proposed shopping center called the Gallery at Westbury Plaza. The developer, Equity One, a national shopping-center landlord based in North Miami Beach, Fla., is negotiating to lease some of the space to Trader Joe's and the Container Store, people familiar with the project say.

Other plans slowly moving forward include one by a venture of developers Forest City Ratner and Philips International to bring a major retailer to a development site in the Mill Basin neighborhood of Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: We recommend the "state override" as a tried-and-true tactic for steamrolling local opposition — and the archaic notion of "democracy."

Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

September 1, 2010

Lunch with the Critics: Park51 & 15 Penn

Design Observer

The specter of you-know-what looms in a discussion of NYC's latest development controversies.

For this second installment of Lunch with the Critics, Mark Lamster and Alexandra Lange traveled to midtown to visit the Hotel Pennsylvania, across from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden on Seventh Avenue. It is the site of a planned 67-story office tower developed by Vornado Realty Trust that would dramatically alter the midtown skyline, rivaling (perhaps) the Empire State Building. On the subway there, they talked about Park51, the proposed community center and mosque in lower Manhattan that has become a political target. In their previous lunch, they explored the recent renovations to Lincoln Center.

Mark Lamster: What’s rather insane about 15 Penn is that it actually adheres to the zoning code, and exploits it quite cannily. It seems silly that this property should be allowed a 56 percent (!) bonus because it’s adjacent to a major transit hub and the developers are making a variety of accommodations. The $100 million in transportation renovations Vornado is kicking in will create some very real improvements to the area, but they don’t necessarily assuage all the extra square footage and skyline-hogging bulk. Also, you can’t put all kinds of new pressure on the transit system and then ask for a pat on the back for making sure it doesn’t totally collapse the day you open for business. More to the point, Penn Station needs a massive and comprehensively planned overhaul. It’s not a pig that needs more lipstick.

Alexandra Lange: I agree with all of that. Even in the glory days of the plaza bonus in the 1960s and 1970s, when a mid-block, all-but-hidden passage with a tiny tree sign indicating it was public space could get you extra floors, we were never talking 56 percent. What Vornado is “giving” us is what they should be required to do. Their building isn’t going to be attractive to tenants unless they renovate the transport and paths to it.

The craziness of piling tower on tower in one of the most congested parts of the city reminds me of the oft-ignored community objections to the original Atlantic Yards scheme. Sure, it is great to put an arena on top of a transit hub, but only if it is a transit hub (and an intersection, for that matter) that has extra capacity. The reason the Citibank tower still sits in lonely splendor in Long Island City is an earlier administration’s attempt to spread the office worker wealth, not concentrate it. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work. Or hasn’t worked yet.


Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

August 26, 2010

Brooklyn Broadside Proposed 15 Penn Plaza: Not Worthy of Our Great City

And Ratner Should Have Kept Original ‘Miss Brooklyn’ Design

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Look who just caught on! All these years, we took Dennis Holt to be serious in his unfettered enthusiasm for every last proposed development, no matter how ill-conceived. But his latest column — in which he finally discovers a project he opposes (in Manhattan, of course) — reveals that it was all just parody.

I’m glad this scrap is taking place across the river and not here, because the current issue is a misplaced one. It really isn’t that Vornado’s proposed building, 15 Penn Plaza, is only 900 feet away from the Empire State Building, or that from New Jersey they look like they are shoulder to shoulder, or that the Vornado building could be 1,250 feet tall. Those are sidebars.

What the issue really concerns is appearance. The proposed building stinks, it is boring, and it shouldn’t be located anywhere, even New Jersey.

To my dismay, I haven’t heard or read about people talking about style or panache, only about location. Where is the Municipal Art Society? Where is the Art Commission? Where is Amanda Burden? Where are the city’s crack architectural critics? How can something so boring get so far along without a hue or a cry? The tragedy of the Atlantic Yards saga isn’t really that the arena was held up for six years, or approved, for that matter: It is that Frank Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn is not going to be built and its replacement won’t be built where it should have been. (Some of us continue to hope that if and when it is feasible to put a commercial building over P. C. Richard, Bruce Ratner will turn once more to Gehry.)


NoLandGrab: Someone let Mr. Holt know that Frank Gehry was a Southern California Trojan horse from the start, please.

Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

August 25, 2010

Brooklyn Broadside: Domino Development: As Important to Brooklyn As Atlantic Yards

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Now there's an endorsement!

It is also not hyperbole to predict that the area will continue to bring dramatic change that will have to include new schools, new public services and big-box stores.

And there is reason to concur that the Domino project is at least on a par with Atlantic Yards in importance. The major impacts of Atlantic Yards will be the sports arena and eventually new commercial development. The housing planned for the area will evolve over decades.

The Domino project will bring a lot of new people to a not-so-large area in a very short amount of time. The views from the Williamsburg waterfront will be much better than any view from Prospect Heights, the site of Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: Holt, who grew up during the Great Depression (the first one), refuses to ever use "over" and "development" in the same sentence.

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

August 24, 2010

The Empire State Building vs. 15 Penn Plaza: the battle over views recalls Miss Brooklyn vs. the Willy B (except there were promises from FCR)

Atlantic Yards Report

After a hearing yesterday, the New York City Council is expected to vote Wednesday to approve a new, 1216-foot tower, 15 Penn Plaza, across the street from Penn Station and two blocks away from the iconic, 1250-foot Empire State Building (ESB).

The ESB's owners protest that the new tower would block a unique asset on the city's skyline--an argument that depends, of course, on perspective, as the renderings below (via the Times) suggest.

And the campaign against that new tower by the ESB's owners, on a web site and in full-page newspaper ads, sounds a little like the criticisms about the impact of Frank Gehry's Miss Brooklyn tower on the iconic Williamsburgh Savings Bank.

There are a few key differences, however:

  • in Brooklyn, there was a much stronger case against the new tower, given that Forest City Ratner promised at the start that it wouldn't block the bank's iconic clock
  • in Brooklyn, the new building would be positioned on perhaps the main view corridor for the older building
  • in Manhattan, unlike Brooklyn, the owner of the older building spent money on a public campaign to raise awareness

The view from Vornado

The view from the ESB's owners


Related coverage...

Gothamist, Could 15 Penn Plaza Be Successful Somewhere Else?

As we mentioned before, a good 76% of New Yorkers apparently think building a 1,200 foot tower two blocks away from the Empire State Building would be detrimental to the New York City skyline. But as The Empire State Building Company's Times ad said, "There will be taller buildings in New York City...but they should merit the height with excellence." We took a look back at some recent New York history to one building that seems to be doing just that. The year was 2009, and Frank Gehry's 76-story Beekman Tower was causing quite a stir.

Developer Bruce Ratner almost had to stop the building at 38 stories due to the economy, but got the project back to its full height after negotiating with labor unions to save costs. And though the 867-foot tower is is changing the city's view of the iconic Woolworth Building (the city's tallest building from its construction in 1913 until 1930), it has not seen nearly as much criticism as 15 Penn Plaza has in just the past few days.

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

August 23, 2010

Todd Triplett just needs a little cash, that’s all

The Brooklyn Paper
by Aaron Short

Todd Triplett is about to open a new art space in Fort Greene, a second try for the would-be dance impresario three years after his original venue, Amber Art Space, was closed down and seized by the city.

Triplett has found a location — a former parking garage on Atlantic Avenue — to realize his vision of a multipurpose arts and performance space for Prospect Heights and Fort Greene that he is calling “Free Candy.”

Free Candy is similar to Triplett’s prior effort, Amber Art Space — though he hopes it won’t end the same way.

In 2007, the city took over Amber a mere four weeks before its opening, claiming that the neighborhood around it was blighted and the building was needed as part of the BAM Cultural District plan.

Triplett and his partners had poured $1.2 million into that space, hoping to open a three-story music club on Ashland Place. But the city wanted to build a 187-unit condominium tower on the site, smashing Triplett’s dreams.

The building was never built.

“Basically, they’ve created the blight,” said Triplett. “I’ve moved on. I don’t have any anger. I just want to do it. What’s so hard about supporting the arts? Let’s just go.”


To support Todd Triplett's "Free Candy" project via Kickstarter, click here.

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

August 22, 2010

Judge won't block Willets Point redevelopment

State Supreme Court judge rejects group's attempt to halt project on environmental grounds.

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

The same judge who gave the first legal pass to the deeply flawed Atlantic Yards Environmental Impact Statement has done the same for the deeply flawed Willets Point Environmental Impact Statement.

A state Supreme Court judge has denied an attempt by Willets Point's lone resident and nearly two dozen local land and business owners to win an injunction halting the redevelopment of Willets Point, Queens.

The group's members had argued that the environmental review conducted by the city failed to “take a hard look at the environmental impacts” on regional highways, emergency response services and area water supplies, among other complaints.

They had sought an order annulling the environmental review of the project and the City Council and Planning Commission's approvals, as well as an injunction barring the city from continuing with the development until it complied with proper environmental procedures.

But State Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden denied the request, ruling against the Willets Point group on all of its claims—which ranged from questioning the environmental review to contending the office of the deputy mayor for economic development did not have the authority to be the lead agency on the project.

Jerry Antonocci, owner of Crown Container owner, one of the businesses that filed suit, promised the group would persevere in their attempt to stop the development.

“I'm sure we're going to appeal the decision,” he said. "We just got out of the first inning. It ain't over. We're not giving up.”


Posted by eric at 12:18 PM

August 19, 2010

Williamsburg's Last Domino: A Gentrification Time Bomb?

The L Magazine

A Williamsburg "agent-provocateur" cites Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn boondoggle as the benchmark for mass gentrification.

Dennis Farr, a local activist and lifetime resident, is standing alongside me underneath some of the project's scaffolding on an afternoon in late July. In the middle of our conversation, he looks at me, seriously, and says: "Atlantic Yards pales in significance to what's gonna happen here."


Posted by eric at 9:10 AM

August 17, 2010

The changing face of retail on Flatbush, poised for more change, especially closest to the arena block

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes an in-depth look at changes along Flatbush Avenue. If Madison Square Garden is a guide, can Sbarro's and McDonald's be far off?

Flatbush Avenue south of Dean Street has been changing for a while and the anticipated Atlantic Yards arena is likely a significant factor regarding the future of the adjacent block, as well as some factor--though not necessarily the most significant one--further down the road.

Near Seventh Avenue

A few long blocks from the arena site, at Park Place just below the intersection of Flatbush and Seventh avenues, Park Heights Stationers has closed after 25 years, "due to the rising cost of operation," which sure sounds like a rent increase.

As the handwritten comments indicate, the store was appreciated, but as comments on Brownstoner suggest, some thought it too slow to change with the times. (Photos by Norman Oder)

Will it become another chain drug store, just as the Dominican lunch counter across Seventh Avenue became a Duane Reade? Possibly, but it more likely could become an eating and drinking establishment that takes advantage both of the subway access (it's right outside the subway stop for the Q and B trains), and the relative arena proximity.

My information is thirdhand, but a source who spoke to a former employee told me that that employee believed that the landlord sought more rent from an arena-related business.


Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

August 6, 2010

Last Summer at Coney Island

If not for Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards, the pillaging of Coney Island would surely be a contender for Brooklyn's worst development tale ever.

Part of the BAMcinématek series Brooklyn Close-Up

Mon, Aug 9, 2010, 4:30, 6:50*, 9:30pm
*Q&A with director J.L. Aronson

Directed by J.L. Aronson

(2010) 94min

Coney Island revitalization: seaside salvation or Brooklyn boondoggle? Coinciding with the opening of a new Luna Park this summer, this timely documentary wrestles with the fate of “the world’s playground,” birthplace of the hot dog, and precious vestige of our nation’s past. Featuring interviews with longtime residents and key players on all sides of the recent scuffle, the film details the storied evolution of Coney Island and past and present plans to redevelop it. World premiere.

BAM Rose Cinemas
General Admission: $12
BAM Cinema Club members: $8


Posted by eric at 10:56 AM

New Hotel on Third Ave. in Gowanus Readies for Opening in Early Fall

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

A soon-to-open new Brooklyn hotel has discovered an untapped market — construction tourism!

The new 12-story, 130-room hotel, at 181 Third Ave. in Gowanus, on the edge of Boerum Hill, is a project of the Troutbrook Company, a privately owned real estate investment firm based in Manhattan.

I am excited about bringing the first Fairfield Inn by Marriott to Brooklyn,” said [hotel developer Mark J.] Freud. “With Forest City Ratner finally breaking ground on the Nets Arena, just five blocks away, the Fulton Mall undergoing a $15 million streetscape reconstruction and many other new projects in the area, there has never been a better time for leisure and business travelers alike to stay in Downtown Brooklyn.”


Posted by eric at 9:20 AM

August 4, 2010

Roundtable Wrap: Apple Store Teaser


On the same day that the blog FIPS reported a Marty Markowitz staffer saying that Apple was not coming to Brooklyn, we sat in the audience at the quarterly Real Estate Roundtable luncheon at the Brooklyn Historical Society at which veteran commercial broker Robert Greenstone said he knew where the new Apple store would be but was sworn to secrecy. He could have been pulling the audience's collective leg, but it didn't seem like it. The whispers after the talk were that it was going to be in or around Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: After 25 years of Macs, might we have to return to the PC? "In" or "around" will make all the difference.

Posted by eric at 12:39 PM

August 2, 2010

Tables for Two: KAZ AN NOU

53 Sixth Ave., between Dean and Bergen Sts., Brooklyn (718-938-3235)

The New Yorker
by Amanda Thompson

If any neighborhood is in need of a morale boost, it’s the stretch between Flatbush and Vanderbilt Avenues, bordering the Atlantic Yards site. The last tenant took a multimillion-dollar payout, Forest City Ratner’s heavy equipment has moved in, and Freddy’s Bar has served its last beer. Just south of the buildings awaiting demolition, though, Kaz An Nou seems determined to bring a bit of Caribbean color and hope. (Its proximity to the Atlantic Yards wrecking ball has caused some concern, but the owners think they’re safe, thanks to the Seventy-eighth Precinct station house next door.)

The restaurant’s name means “our house,” and eating here does have the feeling of home: the host, waiter, and chef, Sebastien Aubert, owns and operates the place with his wife, Michelle Lane, and minimal other assistance.


Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

July 27, 2010

For the New Domino, newly unveiled MOU casts doubt on affordable housing promises

Atlantic Yard Report

Last week, I raised questions about the guarantees of 30% affordability in the New Domino plan in Williamsburg (which approaches a full City Council vote on Thursday).

Now Williamsburg Greenpoint News+Arts advances the story, reporting:

Unlike the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning of 2005, which spelled out the inclusionary housing goals and benefits in the zoning text, the affordability aspects within the New Domino proposal are in a separate letter, a non legally binding document called a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

...In the case of the New Domino plan, the “out” lies not just with the city but with the developer CPCR as well. From a copy of the actual MOU (see at end of article) for the proposed New Domino plan, exclusively obtained by WG News + Arts, paragraph 9 in the text clearly states:

“Whereas, this MOU is not a legally binding instrument and is only intended to set forth the understandings of the parties without creating any legally enforceable rights or obligations.”

If it sounds too good to be true, remember that in other famous MOUs that have so far not been fully met, if at all met, like the second MOU attached to the Atlantic Yards proposal, developers were actually required to pay fines and restitution if the deal were to fall apart.


Related coverage...

Williamsburg Greenpoint News+Arts, New Domino Development Goes to a Vote in City Council w*/ no Guarantees for Community

The Brooklyn Blog [], City set to approve Domino plan -- without guarantees

NY Observer, At New Domino, Affordable Housing Promise More of a Pledge

Alas, this resembles the groundwork of many a development project in New York. While a good number of developers do end up delivering on promises, other projects are sold to the public on the promise of certain public benefits (in exchange, the public's representatives grant approvals), only to see those benefits eroded over time as they prove difficult or impossible to fulfill. A couple other case studies to look at: Battery Park City, once meant to be mostly below-market rate housing; and Atlantic Yards once meant to have a green roof and a Frank Gehry-designed arena.

Posted by eric at 9:26 AM

July 25, 2010

Birth of a new urban model

Crain's New York
By Amanda Fung

This article suggests that the nearly-completed Battery Park City could serve as a template for building sustainable projects that create wholly new communities. How Atlantic Yards could be included on this list is a mystery as there are no indications that the project was planned with sustainability in mind and it is destroying, not creating a community. The article gives credit for the success of Battery Park City to the State's Battery Park City Authority. Atlantic Yards is unique among New York's large projects in having no real oversight.

Now, with major mixed-use development projects looming on the horizon—from the rail yards on the West Side of Manhattan to Willets Point in Queens to Atlantic Yards and Coney Island in Brooklyn—Battery Park City is also being viewed by planners as a potential model for crafting sustainable communities from scratch.

The article also lists several large projects in various stages, including Atlantic Yards. The project is mistakenly listed as being in downtown Brooklyn, instead of Prospect Heights. The project's original goals are listed, but with only a basketball arena being constructed and one residential tower supposedly on the drawing board, nobody can really say what the developer will build in the 25 years allowed by the Empire State Development Corporation. Parking lots are more likely than 16 towers.


Area 22 acres in downtown Brooklyn

Goals The Barclays Center, an 18,000-seat arena, will be home to the Nets basketball team. Future plans for 16 towers for mostly residential units, but project will also include hotel and office space.

Status The foundation for the Barclays Center was recently poured.

Developer Forest City Ratner Cos.


Posted by steve at 8:09 AM

July 24, 2010

Big Footed by the EPA in Brooklyn

The Wall Street Journal
By Julia Vitullo-Martin

The complaint in this op-ed is that the city and state, at the behest of developers, should be in charge of cleaning up the Gowanus Canal. Given the way the city and state bent over backwards for developer Bruce Ratner, it's not surprising that many favor going to the EPA, rather than risk sacrificing a diligent cleanup because of the needs of developers. The quote below invokes the Atlantic Yards project as an example of how not to do intelligent development.

Some neighborhood activists are happy with the Superfund designation. Linda Mariano, co-founder of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, tells me she opposes "premature development." She argues that "the neighborhood belongs to the people—not to the private developers and not for the kind of Atlantic Yards overdevelopment this mayor has been advocating for. The EPA will do a significant cleanup so that we can reuse the brownfields as open space, recreation, adaptive reuse for light industry and artisans."


Posted by steve at 6:55 AM

July 23, 2010

Community Board Approves Its Disapproval of Riverside Center

NY Observer
by Sam Levin

Manhattan Community Board 7 is all for bloated, neighborhood-warping mega-projects — just as long as no one builds one within the confines of Manhattan Community Board 7.

Step one of Riverside Center’s public review is complete.

After four hours of debate in a special meeting devoted entirely to Extell’s 8-acre project, Community Board 7 on Thursday night finalized its own recommendation for the final frontier of the Upper West Side.

“CB7 endorses the initiatives of the City government,” the [Board's] report says, citing precedent of Atlantic Yards and the New Domino Sugar Factory development.


Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

July 21, 2010

Enough Already

Talking Points Memo
by David Kurtz

TPM Reader MK, a New Yorker, has had enough with out-of-towners like Sarah Plain protesting the mosque near the WTC site:

I first heard about this project a month or two ago, and the thing that struck me the most about it was the overwhelming support it had from the local community board in Lower Manhattan. As you are probably familiar it is nearly impossible to have a community board agree on even the most mundane issues, so to have a community board agree 29-1 on ANY this particular issue is quite an accomplishment.

Furthermore, why is land use in New York City the business of anyone else but the citizens of New York? If so, I would really like to know Sarah Palin's opinion of the Atlantic Yards (or Hudson Yards or the expansion of Columbia University) project, an issue that is 1,000,000x more controversial than this project. That's all this is: a land use issue.


Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

July 20, 2010

New Domino plan passes key hurdle with no essential modification; is affordable housing subject to same loopholes as with Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

When it comes to big developments, you always have to look behind the curtain. And when it comes to the controversial New Domino development in Williamsburg--the second-largest in Brooklyn, after Atlantic Yards--the land use process, the affordable housing, and the urban planning all deserve another look.

Notably, the project has been justified because of the promised affordable housing, but, as with Atlantic Yards, the developer won't commit to building the housing in the announced timetable.

So the likely loopholes should be part of the public discussion.

And here's a number you haven't seen in print: $2.5 million, which is (nearly) the total the New Domino developer spent on lobbying in the last five years (details below).

I posed several questions to the New Domino developers, including whether the 660 units had to be built in ten years, whether the timing or number of units is subject to subsidy availability, and whether the developer--as in some Community Benefit Agreements--was required to put money in an affordable housing fund up front.

"I apologize, but no one is available at CPC Resources to answer this inquiry," spokesman Richard Edmonds responded.


NoLandGrab: Hey, at least he apologized!

Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

July 15, 2010

18th-Century Ship Found at Trade Center Site

City Room
by David W. Dunlap

How does the discovery of a 200-some-odd-year-old ship relate to the saga of Atlantic Yards? Read on.

In the middle of tomorrow, a great ribbed ghost has emerged from a distant yesterday.

On Tuesday morning, workers excavating the site of the underground vehicle security center for the future World Trade Center hit a row of sturdy, upright wood timbers, regularly spaced, sticking out of a briny gray muck flecked with oyster shells.

Obviously, these were more than just remnants of the wooden cribbing used in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to extend the shoreline of Manhattan Island ever farther into the Hudson River. (Lower Manhattan real estate was a precious commodity even then.)

“They were so perfectly contoured that they were clearly part of a ship,” said A. Michael Pappalardo, an archaeologist with the firm AKRF, which is working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to document historical material uncovered during construction.


NoLandGrab: Clearly, AKRF has its claws in nearly every major (and majorly subsidized) construction project in New York City. We've been unable to ascertain, however, whether the World Trade Center Environmental Impact Statement claimed that the project would have "no adverse impact on maritime operations in lower Manhattan."

Posted by eric at 9:48 AM

July 13, 2010

Hidden New York Byways Revealed With 80,000 Photos in the Latest AIA Guide

Bloomberg News
by James S. Russell

Fran Leadon, an authority on New York City byways, wore out four pairs of shoes tramping as much as 20 miles a day to update the classic “AIA Guide to New York City.”

“I love discovering these quiet corners of New York,” Leadon said as I joined him recently on a city walk, referring to a quiet enclave of vine-clad 19th-century row houses called Vinegar Hill. It missed out on the boom decade’s wave of gentrification that seems to have swallowed up much of Brooklyn.

The AIA guide, sponsored by the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, is a 1,055-page love letter to the city. It obsessively details the greatness of well-known neighborhoods, while luring the reader to bucolic corners of Staten Island and the hidden Art Deco grandeur of the Bronx.

Leadon, who helped update the work of the original authors, the late Norval White and Elliot Willensky, had the daunting task of reflecting the biggest explosion of development in New York since the 1950s. He says he took 80,000 photographs.

He documents the robust renovation that has energized the neighborhoods all around the planned Atlantic Yards megadevelopment. “None of these areas were in the last edition of the guide,” he said. The riches he uncovers explode the argument that Forest City Ratner’s contentious project was needed as an antidote to blight.


Image: Oxford University Press via Bloomberg

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

July 12, 2010

Atlantic Yards as Muse


The Nets haven't made a big splash in the NBA free agent market, but they're changing the game when it comes to cheap Brooklyn hotels. A new inn on Atlantic Avenue was going to be called the Best Western Downtown Brooklyn, but was renamed the Best Western Arena Hotel because of its proximity to the Barclays Center, even if both names aren't quite accurate when you take a look at the location. Still, we would've gone with Best Western Eminent Domain Environs.


Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

A partnership slows in Downtown B'klyn

Stalled merger exposes political divisions

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Engquist

Something is rotten in Downtown, and guess who's one of the players?

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a local development corporation formed by the Bloomberg administration in 2006 to reshape the city's third-largest business district, has run into financial and political difficulties that cloud its future.

The seed money it was getting from the city, a robust $2 million only two years ago, has plunged to a mere $250,000, forcing it to shed personnel and accelerate a long-envisioned takeover of three local business-improvement districts and their reliable revenue streams. But the longtime head of one BID has balked, and local politicians have put the merger on hold.

The partnership must pull off the ambitious reorganization if it is to survive as anything but a shell. The BIDs would account for $5 million of the organization's proposed $7.5 million budget for the fiscal year that began this month. Member contributions would total just $340,000.

Meanwhile, some Brooklyn City Council members—who view the organization as an arm of the Bloomberg administration, characterized by big salaries and nebulous accomplishments—want it disbanded.

The partnership—which is down to nine employees after cutting several positions from its 19th-story MetroTech suite—has support for its restructuring plan from the large corporations that dominate its board. But Michael Weiss, executive director of the MetroTech BID, who would lose his job in the shakeup, has rounded up political support to stall it.

Mr. Chan declined to comment, but his spokesman, Lee Silberstein, paints a bright picture of the partnership's accomplishments and future. “On balance, this is playing out as it was supposed to,” he says, noting that the partnership enjoys strong support from the downtown Brooklyn business community, including titans like developer Bruce Ratner, banker Alan Fishman and former KeySpan chief Robert Catell.

But Councilwoman Letitia James says Mr. Chan miscalculated in his handling of Mr. Weiss's BID. “Joe's usurpation of MetroTech was not wise, was not smart politically. He did not do his homework and is now suffering the consequences,” she says.

Mr. Ratner tried to broker a compromise by offering Mr. Weiss a job paying more than the $165,000 he is making, but Mr. Weiss declined.


NoLandGrab: Of course, Mr. Ratner collects rent from the Partnership, and Partnership personnel have turned up at public hearings to laud his Atlantic Yards project, a good chunk of it on the public dime.

Posted by eric at 9:36 AM

July 11, 2010

Behind the "Best Western Arena Hotel" and its "six blocks away" location

Atlantic Yards Report

We've become used to hearing all kinds of deceptive claims made for the Atlantic Yards project, but now the management of a new hotel is trying to say that, once the Nets arena is complete, guests will be close by. Nope.

Well, the new Best Western Arena Hotel is in Bedford-Stuyvesant, but that has not stopped them from claiming proximity to Downtown Brooklyn, promoting (as in the graphic below) Brooklyn scenes at Fulton Ferry, and drawing a name from the two-years-away Atlantic Yards arena.

A press release claimed:

Located within walking distance to the Atlantic Terminal, guests have convenient access to a variety of attractions including the Barclays Center, future home for the Nets NBA team, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum and the world-famous, Coney Island. Just minutes from the hotel, guests will also enjoy shopping at Atlantic Terminal Mall and Macy’s.

“Brooklyn is quickly becoming a top destination for tourists, business and leisure travelers, and with the new Barclays Center, a new sports arena for the New Jersey Nets scheduled to open in 2011, our hotel will be a great addition to the city,” said Mukesh Patel, owner of the Best Western Arena Hotel. “We are only six blocks from the new arena and the only hotel and first stop along the Long Island Rail Road, making it a convenient stay whether they're in the area for work or play.”

Um, the arena is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012.

Also, even the most generous interpretation of "six blocks"--starting at Nostrand Avenue (which should count as a half block away)--is wrong. A walker on the south side of Atlantic Avenue would have to walk seven quite long blocks (Bedford, Franklin, Classon, Grand, Washington, Vanderbilt, and Carlton avenues) before getting to the Sixth Avenue border of the arena site.

As for the Long Island Rail Road, the best arena access would be via the Atlantic Terminal stop. It would be 1.4 miles from the hotel address to the northeast corner of Atlantic and Sixth avenues, and probably about 1.5 miles to the actual arena entrance.

Short blocks in New York City are about 20 blocks to a mile, with the average for long blocks about seven avenues to a mile, the New York Times's 9/17/06 FYI column. That would make the arena hotel about 30 short blocks from the arena, or about ten long ones.


Posted by steve at 2:53 PM

July 2, 2010

Nets Owner to Operate From Seagram Offices

The Wall Street Journal
by Craig Karmin

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov recently completed his first Manhattan property deal since becoming owner of the New Jersey Nets, taking office space in the Seagram Building on Park Avenue.

His private investment firm, the Moscow-based Onexim Group, has agreed to lease about 2,500 square feet on the 26th floor of the famous building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, said a person familiar with the matter.

Mr. Prokhorov plans to use the space as his business office when he's in town and it will serve as an office for the Nets basketball team, this person said.


NoLandGrab: Surely that can't be right. The owner of the future Brooklyn Nets would want to have his office in Brooklyn, wouldn't he? Maybe in the flagship new Atlantic Yards office tower that Bruce Ratner will start building any day now. Oh, wait...

Crain's NY Business, NYC office construction at near standstill

Building starts in first four months of 2010 fall to lowest level in years, with 99% of the work coming in alterations and renovations.

New York City office construction is at a virtual standstill, according to the New York Building Congress, a nonprofit group that represents the construction industry. However, there are signs of a possible recovery in coming years.

According to the group's review of multiple data sources, the value of office construction starts sank to a mere $163 million in the first four months of 2010. At that pace, the value of starts for the year as a whole would come to just $489 million, compared with $2.6 billion in 2009 and $1.3 billion in 2008.

Currently, the majority of office construction work is in the alterations and renovations category, rather than new ground-up construction. For the first four months of 2010, alterations accounted for more than 99% of all construction starts as measured by value—$162.3 million, versus $700,000 in new construction. In 2009, alterations accounted for $1.7 billion of the $2.6 billion in office starts.

While the data doesn't suggest an imminent turnaround, a review of historical construction data, as well as recent employment and leasing trends, suggest that the office market outlook will be one of gradual absorption of available space, potentially followed by renewed expansion, for the next few years.

NLG: But let's not let this news stop the Empire State Development Corporation from claiming the full Atlantic Yards project will be completely built in 10 years.

Posted by eric at 9:43 AM

Brooklyn Broadside: Domino Joins Brooklyn’s Big Projects

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

This reporter believes that there are five big projects on the Brooklyn lineup, big in terms of size but also big in terms of impact on the borough and for the future. Brooklyn would be totally different, and quite poorer, without them.

Atlantic Yards has started, and Wednesday’s Eagle reported that nearly 700 cubic yards of concrete has been poured in building the sports arena. In one sense, this is the biggest of the projects because of the number of housing units that might be built, because the impact of the sports arena itself will be almost immeasurable, and because the possibility of a whole new Downtown springing up in a number of years is strong.


NoLandGrab: Even Dennis Holt is right sometimes, as in his admission that Atlantic Yards's housing units might be built. Yet while the economic impact of the arena might be "almost immeasurable," the traffic impact of the arena is already being felt all to well by nearby residents.

Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

June 30, 2010


Eating Everywhere

Jessica Pichardo runs from the backyard space of Linger Café & Lounge, her restaurant on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn where she’s chatting up a group of people to say hello to me. She seems a bit frazzled – the polar opposite of the mood in the restaurant which is more laid back and calm. But such is life when you run a café in a booming neighborhood; working six long days per week. But she’s in great spirits, and is genuinely happy with her life since opening the doors of Linger almost one year ago.

What do you see happening in this part of Brooklyn right now and going forward?
I see a lot of development – more & more people moving to the area. It’s such a great central location. We’re on the cusp of a lot of different neighborhoods (Boerum Hill/Fort Greene/Clinton Hill/Downtown Brooklyn/Park Slope) within walking distance. It’s definitely an up and coming area especially with the Atlantic Yards project happening. I expect a lot more hustle & bustle over the next few years. I’m excited about being one of the pioneers in this neighborhood, and one of the things that’s important to me is staying true to that mom & pop, small business sort of mentality regardless of how developed the area may become.


NoLandGrab: Linger, unfortunately, is exactly the type of mom & pop shop that one doesn't find amid the fast-food chains surrounding Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium and other sports venues.

Posted by eric at 9:36 AM

June 17, 2010

Thor’s Sitt says he was "blindsided" at Coney Island, others say challenges to be expected

The Real Deal
by Candace Taylor

The developers of three significant -- and often controversial -- Brooklyn projects commiserated about the challenges of building in the borough at a panel today, while sharing how they embrace those challenges.

The panel, part of GreenPearl's Brooklyn Real Estate Summit, was held at St. Francis College in Downtown Brooklyn. Panelists included Joseph Sitt, the chairman and CEO of Thor Equities, which owns much of the commercial real estate in Coney Island even after selling 6.9 acres to the city for $96 million last year. Also present were MaryAnne Gilmartin, an executive vice president at Forest City Ratner, the developer of the massive Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn, and Andrew Kimball, the CEO of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp.

The moderator of the panel, the Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation's Joan Bartolomeo, asked the three if they ever get sick of the politics and hassles that accompany large development projects in New York City.

Perhaps Joan should've asked Brooklyn residents and property owners if they ever get sick of having their homes seized for private development fueled by massive public subsidies, or the gridlock and endless horn-honking caused by the absence of planning, or the corrupt politics that masquerade as public "process."

Sitt said he was surprised by the emotional public response to his plans to redevelop Coney Island, including removing aging buildings to make way for newer attractions.

"I admit, in the case of Coney Island, I got kind of blindsided," he said.

Ten years ago, the Brooklyn-native said, "nobody had any interest in Coney Island," adding that he got involved in the seaside amusement district "not so much for the investment," but more "as a personal hobby, to try to give back" to the community.

Joe, why didn't you say so? If we'd only known it was all about philanthropy, we would've tossed roses at you and kissed your benevolent feet.

Gilmartin said her company Forest City Ratner is prepared for the "great challenges" that come with their projects. "If you want to be an urban developer, this is what comes with the territory," she added.

Forest City Ratner's projects are often more challenging because they build from the ground up, rather than purchase properties built by others, and the company often engages in complicated public-private partnerships.

Those "complicated public-private partnerships" are well worth the billions in free taxpayer dollars and the handover of other people's properties.


Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

June 10, 2010

Exhibit: The City We Imagined/The City We Made: New New York 2001-2010 (including, of course, Atlantic Yards)

Atlantic Yards Report

An exhibition at The Architectural League, The City We Imagined/The City We Made: New New York 2001-2010, concerns architecture, planning, and development in New York since 2001.

It's well worth watching and, yes, Atlantic Yards is a component of the story. Still--and this is some useful perspective for those of us focused on AY--so much in New York has changed that it's understandable that those elsewhere in the city may find it hard to pay attention to all.

The free exhibition is on view at 250 Hudson Street (entrance on Dominick Street) until June 26 and should move to a summertime venue beginning on the July 4th weekend. It's open Wednesday-Sunday, Noon-7 pm.


Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

How Communism Shaped New York—Literally

NY Observer
by Nicholas Juravich

In his new book, Manhattan Projects: The Rise and Fall of Urban Renewal in Cold War New York, Samuel Zipp, an assistant professor of urban studies at Brown, explores the competing visions of the city that arose in the two decades following World War II. Charting the rise of four major sites of clearance and construction, Mr. Zipp argues that these projects must be understood as products of Cold War battles for cultural superiority, as well as of local developments.

At each stop along the way—the United Nations Headquarters, Stuyvesant Town, Lincoln Square and East Harlem—we encounter government planners, business and real estate interests, liberal reformers and local residents, all struggling to articulate their own ideas of what the postwar "Capital of the World" should be, fighting for "the right to give imaginative shape to the city." The resulting account breathes new life into the ink-stained history of urban renewal and asks important questions about its legacy in today's global metropolis.

And yet, New Yorkers today not only enjoy the fruits of urban renewal—concerts at Lincoln Center, strolls along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, apartments—but continue to renew their city—Atlantic Yards, save for its ZIP code, would be right at home in Manhattan Projects—even as they curse the phrase.


NoLandGrab: Then it was Communism, today it's Socialism — for the rich.

Posted by eric at 9:28 AM

June 6, 2010

Is Coney starting to remind you of Atlantic Yards?

Coney Rocks

This blog entry is here to remind us that the city is all too often ready to bend to the wishes of developers. The author seems to be someone who wants to suck up to the powerful, and doesn't care if Coney Island becomes a generic, indoor mall.

First they try to stop hotels through zoning. They lose. Then they try to stop hotels through a historic district designation. They lose again. Now they want to tell the developer how he should develop the buildings. LOL What's next?

Looks quite obvious that those dilipated buildings will be bulldozed and hotels will eventually happen in Coney.

Coney will go year round. Like it or not!


Posted by steve at 7:45 AM

June 3, 2010

Job Growth Requires Vibrant Urban Neighborhoods

The Huffington Post
by Vin Cipolla

The president of the Municipal Art Society, which wouldn't dirty its hands by joining with fellow BrooklynSpeaks members to sue the Empire State Development Corporation over Atlantic Yards, laments the failures of mega-projects to create good jobs while touting the job-growth potential of Columbia U's land grab (with nary a mention of eminent domain abuse).

The debate about the physical development of New York City inevitably focuses on large-scale projects: Atlantic Yards, Hudson Yards, and the World Trade Center site. But those massive developments are not where most job growth typically takes place; they largely involve relocating existing jobs much more than creating new permanent ones. The current slow-down in development brought about by the recession provides a chance to refocus attention on how urban planning can create jobs. With unemployment at 10 percent in New York City, we cannot afford to miss any opportunities, and a number of good ones are in front of us.

Second, the new 17-acre campus of Columbia University, being developed on the West Side at 125th Street, provides another opportunity. The campus offers enormous advantages to the city, expanding New York's intellectual base and research capacity, and the challenge for the city now is to ensure that, as it develops, the surrounding areas benefit sufficiently from job generation. This, in part, requires that the nearby neighborhoods have the amenities and attributes needed to attract the entrepreneurs and related businesses that the new campus can inspire.

New York will always be a city of mega-projects. It's a city of big dreams. The challenge is to ensure that those dreams are compatible with business growth and do not undercut the job-generating potential of the city's fundamental fabric of urban neighborhoods.


Posted by eric at 8:43 AM

May 30, 2010

Coney Island reopens for summer season, but will buildings be demolished for chain retail and condos? Also, an AY cameo in the saga of a "razzle"

Atlantic Yards Report

Here's a look at how the city continues to work hand-in-hand with a developer to destroy Coney Island as an amusement area even as both claim to revive it.

The summer season has begun at Coney Island, with Astroland replaced by the new rides of Luna Park (named to echo one of the three great amusement parks, open from 1903 to 1944 and replaced by public housing).

That's the cause of much official celebration and, indeed, there are some other signs of life, such as the city's plan to move the famed B&B Carousell to Steeplechase Plaza.

However, as Kevin Baker writes in the Village Voice and the folks at Save Coney Island remind us, much remains contested, notably developer Joe Sitt's plan to demolish some historic structures on or below Surf Avenue and replace them with chain retail and restaurants--and, quite possibly, hotels/time-shares that would be turned into condos, thus leading to the demise of the amusement zone ecosystem (despite Coney's unique zoning).

Perhaps the most basic question is asked by Save Coney Island spokesman, Juan Rivero.

“The Bloomberg administration needs to decide: Will this summer be remembered as the beginning of Coney Island’s rebirth? Or will be remembered as the summer that the City allowed an opportunistic developer to demolish Coney Island’s history?” Rivero said.


Posted by steve at 8:46 AM

May 29, 2010

Coney Island's Grand Past and Grim Future

Requiem for a dreamland

Village Voice
by Kevin Baker

An epic and well-worth-reading piece on the Joe Sitt/Mike Bloomberg/Dominic Recchia/Amanda Burden destruction of the incredibly resilient-but-teetering American playground, Coney Island, wouldn't be complete without a mention of the epitome of the modern "razzle" — Atlantic Yards.

Coney Island today is a place where you can drink beer, "shoot a freak," see a geek, see a burlesque show, see fish, catch fish, eat fish, ride the Cyclone, ride the waves, win a kewpie doll, play Skee-Ball, go to a ballgame, see a band, lie on the sand. It is the last stand of the demimonde, the last place where you can feel the openness and the energy of 1970s New York, stripped of the accompanying dread of crime and decay.

The city and the developers they favor now propose to rescue us from all that, just as, in the past, they "rescued" a unique, prosperous community of 100,000 people by turning it into a bereft, isolated slum of 50,000 people. Where, 50 years ago, an unaccountable, unelected city authority tore down much of Coney Island under "Title 1," now an unaccountable, unelected city authority endorses tearing it down again under "Phase 1." And once again, anyone who objects is accused of championing "the nostalgic fables of the past."

It's not just Coney. Much like Thor Equities, Michael Bloomberg's administration has forwarded its development schemes everywhere with "renderings of some fantastic building." On and on it goes, from the Olympics and the West Side Stadium, to the gargantuan "airport village" in Jamaica, to the wall of condos planned for the Queens and Brooklyn waterfront along the East River, to the Hudson Yards project on the West Side, newly revived—an endless carny game of bait-and-switch, sold on the promise of one amazing, futuristic building after another, none of which ever seem to get built.

A veritable catalog of such swindles—past, present, and future—can be found in a triumphalist 2006 copy of New York magazine on "Tomorrowland"—the Oz-like New York it imagined would exist by 2016.

Therein can be found a headline that reads, "Brooklyn (Like It or Not) Will Get a Shimmering Frank Gehry Crown."

It refers, of course, to the Atlantic Yards project, where somehow no shimmering crowns ever appeared—only plans for a cheesy, college-style fieldhouse, built to house a bad basketball team owned by a mysterious Russian oligarch. In the process, the city—which currently claims to be unable to afford to let schoolchildren ride the subway at half-price—may well have squandered nearly $200 million for the cash-strapped MTA, money it left on the table in its rush to hand the site over to a single mega-developer that ended up flipping the whole project.

Actually, Bruce Ratner has only flipped the Nets, and 45% of the arena, which he had to do to keep the project solvent. Of course, he's also flipped the bird to Brooklynites.

Just down the page, in the same New York article, is a mention of another coming attraction in Tomorrowland: the Thor Galleries Tower, in Albee Square.

The real problem here, though, isn't Joe Sitt, or even Mayor Mike, the developers' buddy, but the driving force behind them and so many other mayors and developers over the years. It's a mentality, a secular religion, a form of warped corporate progressivism that insists order and sterility and profit can always be imposed upon the vast creative anarchy of this city.

Down on Coney Island, they know better.

"I think the island is both welcoming and malicious. I think it'll thwart them in some way," says Richard Snow, who remembers seeing the remnants of the foundation holes dug for the great Friede Globe Tower, still visible into the 1970s. "I think I know enough about Coney to say that it won't work out the way anybody's saying it will."

article / text-only version

Posted by eric at 1:46 PM

May 24, 2010

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth? An Examination of Brooklyn Bridge Park in Terms of the Politics of Development

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White publishes an epic three-part look at the politics of development in New York City, viewed through the prism of Brooklyn Bridge Park. It touches only tangentially on Atlantic Yards, but the delays in construction of the park conjure scary visions of a 50-year buildout in Prospect Heights.

This three-part article, which is principally about the new Brooklyn Bridge Park currently under development, wends a long, more serpentine path through the politics of New York City development than perhaps any other we have written. As you would expect, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's appearance is much more than a cameo. We don’t offer him praise.

Inevitably the metaphor of looking a gift horse in the mouth comes to mind when we contemplate the spectacular change to the city’s waterfront that will one day be Brooklyn Bridge Park. Whatever our government agencies ultimately do, the park will provide desirable benefits that will be extremely hard to complain about. But not conscientiously examining “gifts” that government officials deliver just doesn’t work in the political environment of New York. Besides Brooklyn Bridge Park is not truly a gift; it is something that community activists worked for years to obtain. Our elected representatives are, after all, supposed to be working for us. It is their job to properly administer our available public resources. Whether they are doing so requires a conscientious examination. We hope you will find that conscientious examination takes us on an interesting and worthwhile trip.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

May 15, 2010

Behind “Vision Plan for the Fourth Avenue Corridor,” a "community-based process," including concerns about Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how a Department of City Planning official admitted that the city had had no interest in developing the Vanderbilt Yard, and that Atlantic Yards was a developer-driven project?

Well, now Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz (the biggest booster of AY) has spearheaded a "community-based process" to help figure out how to improve the major artery of Fourth Avenue, which, at its northern end, nearly reaches the Atlantic Terminal mall and the Atlantic Yards arena site.

In fact, the report (embedded below) issued yesterday recommends improvements in open space on the south side of Flatbush Avenue very near the arena site. The source of funding for this and other improvements, such as landscaping, is unclear.

Yes, a plan for a main artery like Fourth Avenue is not the same as a plan for an arena plus housing, but the contrast in process remains striking.


Posted by steve at 7:23 AM

May 11, 2010

EMINENT DOMAINIA: The Big Apple Bites!...

Courier-Life Newspapers via, Last holdouts face eviction to make room for 'Willoughby Square Park'

There are dozens of tenants left in the city-acquired properties on Albee Square between Willoughby and Fulton streets, some of whom allege that the city isn’t helping them find new homes.

“They keep telling us that they’ll help us get a place, or that they’ll pay us to move out — but they lied,” said Ray Ahamed, a 14-year resident of one of the properties. “Some people have been living here for 50 or more years. My family will have a hard time finding a place to go.”

Ahamed added that he was given a July deadline to get out — a date not confirmed by the city.

“What’s the worst-case scenario? We’re not sure,” said an HPD official, who asked not to be named.

Posted by eric at 10:50 PM

May 10, 2010

What We Built (and Didn’t)

Bloomberg’s surprisingly unchanged city.

New York Magazine
by Justin Davidson

At times during the last decade, it felt as though every part of New York was constantly trying on new identities, and not always so comfortably. “The City We Imagined/The City We Made: New New York 2001–2010,” a sweepingly particular new exhibit presented by the Architectural League in a storefront at 250 Hudson Street, chronicles that period of convulsive construction. On one side of a snaking line of panels is the imagined New York: a time line of dreams, fights, proposals, announcements, visions, and revisions. On the other are 1,000 photographs of the city as it really became. You could walk through the displays repeatedly and follow a different story line each time. The show is a sentimental journey through a decade’s worth of real-estate-development fights.

In these ten years, New Yorkers discussed what was to be built with vituperative intensity. Architecture mattered—architects themselves became celebrities—and the city’s soul always seemed to be hanging in the balance. What dominated discussion were the grandest dreams and angriest battles: the threat of a stadium looming over the West Side, the vision of a jagged Olympic village bristling at Hunters Point, the alternately hopeful and paralytic saga of Moynihan Station, the demoralizing arc of Atlantic Yards, the tortuous tale of the World Trade Center. Many of these are stories of soufflélike fantasies that collapsed and left their sites in 2010 essentially as they were in 2001—or worse.


Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

May 9, 2010

A Tower Grows at Flatbush and Myrtle

The Wall Street Journal
by Anton Troianovski

A high-rise called Toren hovers over Brooklyn's jumbled cityscape like a sci-fi robot elevated on a platform of dimpled, zigzagging metal panels.

"It's like something from outer space," says Deborah Johnson, who walks past the new apartment tower on the intersection of Flatbush and Myrtle a few blocks from the Manhattan Bridge on her trip home from work.

Up the street is Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. "Over time it's going to mature and it'll be a different kind of place," Mr. Duffy says of the stretch of Flatbush occupied by Toren.

But some are nervous. Standing at Toren's base, Manhattan attorney A. Mason says, looking upward, "The reason I chose to live in Brooklyn is because it does not look like that."


NoLandGrab: Of course, Toren doesn't look like that, either. In one of the classic marketing-brochure fantasy shots of all-time, BFC Partners issued a rendering showing the building surrounded by green lawns, rather than in its true locale, shoehorned among other high-rises smack up against chaotic Flatbush Avenue.

Posted by eric at 10:10 PM

May 6, 2010

The Times's Dining section discovers new restaurants thriving less than a block from blight

Atlantic Yards Report

From a New York Times "$25 and Under" restaurant review yesterday, headlined The Vanderbilt and Kaz an Nou:

The service was slick, the room was handsome and the food reliably good at the Vanderbilt, a well-groomed gastropub that opened last fall in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. But something was missing.

It was not half as pleasurable as Kaz an Nou, a new French-Caribbean place two blocks away with half its size and sophistication.

Looking at the map

Those living nearby or checking the map know that the two blocks between Kaz an Nou (on Sixth Avenue between Bergen and Dean, closer to Dean) and The Vanderbilt (on Vanderbilt Avenue between Bergen and Dean, closer to Bergen) are long east-west blocks.

By contrast, each restaurant is less than a single short north-south block from the corner of Dean Street, which happens to be the southern border of the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Why does this matter? Because the Empire State Development Corporation, in its Blight Study, declared at the outset:

This report presents an evaluation of conditions in the area proposed for the Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project which themselves are evidence of blight or which may retard the sound growth and development of surrounding areas.

(Emphasis added)


Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

April 28, 2010

Community Pacts Questioned in the Zoning Process

The New York Times
by Terry Pristin

Now, in a report that is likely to have considerable influence on policy makers, the New York City Bar Association has urged the city to stop allowing community benefits agreements to be part of the zoning approval process. The report warns, among other things, that the agreements could create an opportunity for corruption.

Ya think?

“It is our recommendation that the city announce that it will not consider C.B.A.’s in making its determinations in the land-use process,” the bar association said in the report last month. The report, which was in the works long before the armory proposal was defeated, also urged the city to declare that it would no longer play a role in “encouraging, monitoring or enforcing the agreements.” The report acknowledged that there was no way to prevent developers from making deals with community groups. But it said the city should get involved, if at all, only when the developer was seeking a public subsidy.

And when don't developers seek a public subsidy?

In recent years, city officials have opposed these private agreements on the ground that the city review process provides ample opportunity for community groups to seek concessions from developers. But previously, the Bloomberg administration championed or helped foster the agreements for projects like the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn; the Gateway Center at Bronx Terminal Market, a Related Companies project; and the expansion of Columbia University.

Of course, in the case of Atlantic Yards, there was no city review process.

While acknowledging that many residents believe that the city’s formal zoning process, known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or Ulurp, “fails to adequately consider or protect their interests,” the bar association report raised these and other questions about the private agreements:

¶Do the groups involved in the C.B.A. truly represent the community or are they simply seeking advantages for themselves?

¶Are they experienced enough to strike a good bargain with the developer, or will they sell out too cheaply?

¶Could benefits that require public subsidy — like affordable housing, for example — be awarded to a particular neighborhood to win acceptance of a project rather than on the basis of where these benefits are needed most?


NoLandGrab: The Atlantic Yards CBA, of course, fails all those tests, and badly.

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, In Times, City Bar task force members warn against CBA abuses; Atlantic Yards examples are actually more egregious

A New York Times Real Estate page (Square Feet) article today headlined Community Pacts Questioned in the Zoning Process takes off from the critical report on Community Benefits Agreements (CBA) issued last month (my coverage).

Notably, while the article makes but a glancing reference to Atlantic Yards, the abuses referenced all relate to projects that go before the City Council; Atlantic Yards didn't even face that level of oversight, given that it was shepherded by the unelected Empire State Development Corporation, ignoring the role of both the local Community Boards and the local Council Member.

Moreover, the report contains what might be considered a slap at ACORN, given that one influential lawyer warns against a Council Member designating which affordable housing group should be selected. In the case of Atlantic Yards, there was not even that minimal level of local involvement; the decision was made by Forest City Ratner.

Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

April 15, 2010

Big finish

Mega-projects forge ahead

NY Post
by Max Gross

In just about every real estate cycle, you’ll find the wild-eyed dreamer — the person who makes the case that the moment is ripe to try something new. Something expensive. Something labor-intensive. Something that will change the face of the city as we know it.

Of course, these dreamers only get a hearing during the boom years. Everything changes with a bust. But, yes, we admit that these visions can get pretty far afield before their patriarchs are led to a padded cell.

Our most recent real estate cycle was no different.

Some huge projects got under way over the past decade. Many of them involved hundreds of millions of dollars (in some cases, billions) in investment and years of work. And a surprising number are soldiering on — economy be damned.


Yes, the Nets are getting their arena.

It’s been a long time coming. There were a lot of disruptions along the way. “Obviously, the timing of Atlantic Yards, that’s been deferred,” says Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “The original plans that we were so excited about back in 2004 — obviously the world’s changed.”

But after court challenges, protests and a deal with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, ground was broken last month on the Nets’ Barclays Center, set to open in the spring of 2012. (Jay-Z and Beyoncé were in attendance.) The Barclays Center is the crown jewel in the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project, which will include 6,430 new housing units (2,250 of which will be affordable). And Atlantic Yards is its own jewel in Downtown Brooklyn’s crown.


NoLandGrab: The Nets are getting their arena if Mikhail Prokhorov didn't violate U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe's Mugabe regime.

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Post real estate section says Atlantic Yards is among megaprojects that "forge ahead"

What? How can the Post be sure it will include everything they say? I guess there was no reason to read the Development Agreement that 1) gives the developer 25 years to build the project, 2) offers the option of building the project 44% smaller, without penalty, and 3) provides for ample extensions if there's a lack of affordable housing subsidies.

The implies less a jewel than an ongoing construction site.

If Atlantic Yards is a jewel in Downtown Brooklyn's crown, it's a jewel off a dogleg, since it doesn't even fit into the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's map.

Posted by eric at 11:33 PM

April 12, 2010

Where to Live in 2014

Everyone wants to spot the next Soho or Park Slope. Ten real-estate experts offer their nominees.

New York Magazine
by S. Jhoanna Robledo

Prospect Heights
Chosen by:
Jonathan Butler, founder of
If Butler were in the market, he says he’d be looking here. “It’s got some Park Slope in it but a little Williamsburg, too”—that is, brownstone warmth plus some bite. “You can’t read a magazine or a blog without seeing another bar or restaurant opening on Vanderbilt and Washington Avenues,” says Butler. His tip: stick to streets not directly affected by Atlantic Yards.


NoLandGrab: There are streets not directly adjacent to Atlantic Yards, but streets not directly affected by Atlantic Yards? If Bruce Ratner realizes his dream, there's a decent chance they'll all be a nightmare.

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Prospect Heights in 2014: great, if you avoid "streets not directly affected by Atlantic Yards"

I'd add that the "blighted" strip of Vanderbilt Avenue with cool restaurants and bars is adjacent to that massive planned interim surface parking lot.

Posted by eric at 12:38 PM

April 6, 2010

The DBP's "Downtown Development Story" and the Atlantic Yards asterisk

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder comments on Dennis Holt's column yesterday about Downtown development projects.

Holt acknowledges that "no one really knows right now" how many of the announced 6430 apartments would be built" and thus that, without the AY figures, the numbers under planning don't seem so impressive.

Still, he concludes by accepting the DBP's figures:

The Partnership's new score card is thus a very useful format, and tells the story of the building of a new Downtown Brooklyn in a more meaningful manner. The totals are impressive. They include $9.7 billion spent to create 22,615,000 new square feet of built space, and 14,481 new housing units.

But there's no assurance that figure is being spent or will be spent. Remember, only 24% of that square footage has been built.


Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

Partnership’s Report Details Downtown’s Development Story

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

More than six years into this thing, and Dennis Holt is still insisting that the Atlantic Yards site, snug in the midst of the low-rise Brooklyn Neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and Park Slope, is somehow part of Downtown Brooklyn.

Looking at this new statistical method, one very important element leaps out at you: How the Atlantic Yards project dominates the Downtown Brooklyn numbers. For example, of all the cost estimates, the Yards account for 41 percent of the total. About 44 percent of the new residential units are for Atlantic Yards, and the entire Yards site takes up almost 38 percent of all the space.

The sports arena part of the planned project -- Barclays Center -- takes up a relatively small part of the total project numbers.

At the moment, no one really knows how many of the planned 6,430 housing units will be built.


NoLandGrab: Actually, Bruce Ratner probably knows, and it's probably a lot less than 6,430, too.

Posted by eric at 12:03 AM

March 20, 2010

Brooklyn Broadside: Major Development Projects Proceed Quickly in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

Dennis Holt is someone who never met a real estate development he didn't like. (He'd rather someone just hurry up and build on the banks of the Gowanus Canal rather than waste time cleaning up a toxic site.) He takes a look into his credulous crystal ball and predicts buildings without plans occupied with tenants who can't be found.

During this first quarter, as just about everybody knows, holes were dug for the official birth of Atlantic Yards and the sports arena. Thus, movement begins, after so long a delay, on what promises to be the second core center of Downtown Brooklyn.

The old, first core is itself being revamped — it started more than 20 years ago with MetroTech — and the new core already consists of the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal, the office building and P.C. Richard. It is only a matter of time before an anchor tenant comes forth to permit building a commercial building, probably above the P.C. Richard store.

NoLandGrab: Bruce Rather says: "Can you tell me when we are going to need a new office tower?"


Posted by steve at 7:56 AM

March 17, 2010

Bar Association: Reform Community-Developer Dealmaking

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

The Association of the Bar of New York City doesn't seem to think all that highly of the current process by which landlords cut formal, non-standardized deals with community groups—known as Community Benefits Agreements—to win approvals for planned developments.

CBAs proliferated in recent years, particularly in the late real estate boom, as community groups and elected officials rushed to try to wrest concessions and mitigations from developers who may or may not be financially prepared to shower a bounty on the community. The use of CBAs has been criticized, in part because of the somewhat arbitrary manner in which they are formed (there is no standard for which groups end up being signatories in a CBA or participate in the negotiations with a developer, for instance), and the offerings from developers may not necessarily benefit the larger public interest, but rather just assuage a certain small constituency that happens to be negotiating the CBA.

CBAs have popped up at Atlantic Yards, Columbia University's planned West Harlem expansion, and recently at the Kingsbridge Armory development in the Bronx, which was voted down by the City Council after the requirement of a "living" wage became a make-or-break for the elected officials involved.

The well-researched Bar Association's report piles on more criticism and suggests that the tit-for-tat linking of a council land-use approval with a CBA is improper, if not illegal, given that developers are effectively buying zoning changes by paying certain community groups.


NoLandGrab: Or, in the case of Atlantic Yards, paying "community" groups that didn't exist before the developer itself created them in order to have a handful of entities that would agree to flimsy community benefits!

Posted by eric at 11:22 PM

March 16, 2010

A Quiet Alarm Sounds

A multimedia art exhibit in Fort Greene examines the neighborhood-changing going on all around it.

City Limits
by David Alm

Fort Greene“The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks,” at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, 80 Hanson Place, Brooklyn. Open Wed. – Sun, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Suggested donation $4, through May 16.

Anyone who’s lived in New York for a while has done it: Walked down a familiar block and remembered the old days – even three or four years ago – when that yoga studio was a bodega, that multinational bank was a local business, and you could rent a one-bedroom apartment for under $2,000.

Depending on your politics, income and connection to a place, such changes can be a welcome sign of new amenities and safer streets, or symptoms of a kind of urban cancer. And few places in the city reflect such trends more in recent years than the neighborhoods of northwest Brooklyn. Take a walk through Fort Greene, Clinton Hill or Bed-Stuy today and you’ll barely recognize the world filmmaker Spike Lee immortalized two decades ago in his classic "Do The Right Thing."

“The Gentrification of Brooklyn: The Pink Elephant Speaks” brings together more than 20 artists to inspire thought and conversation around these seismic shifts in New York’s fastest-growing borough. Centered at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in Fort Greene, the four-month-long project combines art exhibitions with discussions, a play, a poetry reading and other events to reach beyond black-and-white diatribes and polarizing prescriptions.

With the controversial Atlantic Yards construction site looming just beyond MoCADA’s front door, “The Gentrification of Brooklyn” sounds a quiet alarm, one that grows louder the longer you listen.


NoLandGrab: "Do the Right Thing?" Not any more, apparently. Spike Lee attended Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards groundbreaking last Thursday.

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

March 14, 2010

Downtown Brooklyn losing its big edge

Crain's New York
By Joe Cavaluzzi

This article points out the failure of Bruce Ratner's Metrotech as large tenants seem prepared to decamp from this publicly-subsidized dead zone in downtown Brooklyn. The obvious question: Why is the ESDC, which is supposed to be about job creation, sinking taxpayer subsidies into Atlantic Yards when there is no market for additional office space in Brooklyn?

Much like New York's other traditional overflow market—the Jersey waterfront—downtown Brooklyn is suffering from not one but two setbacks. It has seen a huge dulling of its competitive edge as it competes with vastly lowered Manhattan rents, and it has seen tenants of all types and tastes reduce their space needs in response to the recession. What's more, those setbacks come at a time when several major developers are weighing plans for new office buildings—led by Forest City Ratner Cos.' plans for a vast commercial/residential project at the edge of downtown Brooklyn at Atlantic Yards, which had been mothballed for two years.

“It's hard to see who would have an appetite for large chunks of office space in downtown Brooklyn,” says Marisa Manley, president of Commercial Tenant Real Estate Representation. She notes that MetroTech and Pierrepont Plaza were both developed 20 years ago with an eye toward back-office use by big financial firms, including J.P. Morgan, Chase Manhattan and Goldman Sachs. “It's not clear that the companies that originally leased those spaces have the same appetite for space now.”

In fact, the city's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications is eyeing 85,000 square feet of office space at 2 MetroTech Center, part of the 434,000 square feet being vacated by Securities Industry Automation Corp., a unit of NYSE Euronext. The company's lease expires in November.


Pressure is building, however. Industry sources say that several of the area's largest tenants may not renew their leases when they come up. Meanwhile, there are some large blocks of space already on the market, including the Chase Building at 4 MetroTech Center, where Jones Lang LaSalle is currently marketing 428,000 square feet for owner Forest City Ratner. The asking rent is $30.50 per square foot.


Don't worry, New York City is happy to follow the ESDC's lead of subsidizing Bruce Ratner by shoveling more money into Metrotech, ostensibly in the name of job creation.

A combination of aggressive landlord incentives and New York City's Relocation and Employment Assistance Program attracted just a handful of tenants to downtown Brooklyn last year. Those signing long-term leases or renewals of 10 years or more for prime space at MetroTech Center were able to negotiate free rent of six months to a year, along with tenant improvement allowances of up to $40 per square foot, according to Glenn Markman, executive vice president at Cushman & Wakefield Inc. On top of that, there were REAP benefits in the form of a $3,000-per-employee tax break for 12 years, which Mr. Markman notes works out to a subsidy of about $15 a square foot.


Posted by steve at 7:35 AM

Mayor Bloomberg likes the big picture, but he should keep an eye on the details, too

Daily News
By Adam Lisberg

Mayor Bloomberg loves to think big. The little things may need some attention.

He was in his element last week at the groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn - thousands of jobs, billions of dollars (plus more than $200 million in public subsidies), shovels, hardhats, progress.


All this attention to big projects comes at a price, though.

Some of the price comes out of your pocket - water and sewer rates have skyrocketed under Bloomberg, and the city's construction debt is higher than ever before.

Some of the price comes in the changed character of a city marked by giant footprints - neighborhood haunts like Freddy's Bar and some apartment buildings replaced by a new Brooklyn arena.

And some of the price comes in opportunities lost, inattention to detail, small problems that could have been fixed before they became big ones.


History doesn't worry much about a few hundred million extra here and there. It's the taxpayers' job to look at the price tag.


NoLandGrab: Two "little details" the Mayor seems to have missed are that the new Nets arena is projected to be a money-loser by the City's own Independent Budget Office and that there is no market for additional office space and, thus, few permanent jobs generated by this project.

Posted by steve at 7:24 AM

March 10, 2010

Space TALK: Commercial Realty Firm Moves to Site Close to Atlantic Yards Development

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

Though groundbreaking isn't happening until tomorrow, the Eagle seems to think that "Atlantic Yards" is already a place.

he boutique commercial real estate brokerage, Terra CRG, has moved its offices to a new location across from Atlantic Yards and just off the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues in Park Slope.


Posted by eric at 11:53 PM

March 9, 2010

Rev. Flake, rapper Jay-Z exit sinking Aqueduct bid

Withdrawals come amid ongoing federal and state investigations into how AEG was picked to develop huge racino in Queens.

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

Jay-Z is pulling out of a crooked real estate deal — but it's not Atlantic Yards.

After weeks of controversy and federal and state investigations involving Gov. David Paterson's selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group to develop the Aqueduct racino, Rev. Floyd Flake and rapper Jay-Z both withdrew themselves from the project Tuesday afternoon. The defections come at a time when the deal was already foundering, and sources say that it is now coming apart quickly and could be canceled by the governor within days.

Jay-Z, who also withdrew his participation in the group Tuesday, according to sources, had a small stake amounting to 2% in AEG through an entity called Gain Global Investments Network.


NoLandGrab: As Norman Oder pointed out last week, Atlantic Yards makes the Aqueduct Racino deal look squeaky-clean. When can we expect the federal and state investigations?

Posted by eric at 4:55 PM

March 8, 2010

Developer Steve Roth: "the more the building was a blight, the more the governments would want this to be redeveloped"

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Observer piece on Vornado Realty Trust Chairman, headlined Steve Roth, Uncorked, described the developer's strategy in holding a key site at Lexington Avenue and 59th Street, later to become the Bloomberg LP tower.

The rationale--acknowledged developer's blight--sounds a lot like a strategy pursued by Forest City Ratner for the Atlantic Yards site.

The Observer reports:

There was another plus to waiting, [Roth] noted, offering a refreshingly candid developer's take on one way to pursue government subsidies:

"My mother called me and said [of the site], 'It's dirty. There are bums sleeping in the sidewalks of this now closed, decrepit building. They're urinating in the corners. It's terrible. You have to fix it.'

"And what did I do? Nothing.

"Why did I do nothing? Because I was thinking in my own awkward way, that the more the building was a blight, the more the governments would want this to be redeveloped; the more help they would give us when the time came.

"And they did."

Laughter followed.


NoLandGrab: ROTFLMAO? No.

Posted by eric at 9:21 AM

March 4, 2010

New condos, Oro and Toren, rise in downtown Brooklyn

Urbanite [amNY]
by Garett Sloane

Attention Stephen Witt:


The wrapping is off Toren, Downtown Brooklyn’s latest star condo tower, and with it a neighborhood is transforming.

Down the street another condo high-rise, Oro, soars above Flatbush Avenue and Gold Street, and it’s surrounded by new rental towers: the Brooklyner, Avalon Fort Greene and the Brooklyn Gold building.

The nearby BellTel Lofts just released more units on the market to hopefully catch a wave of prospective buyers.

There are new apartments to accommodate an influx of thousands of residents. Flatbush Avenue, a little dreary now, is set for a makeover by the city, and a developed Atlantic Yards would bring the Nets nearby.


Posted by eric at 1:12 PM

March 3, 2010

Real-estate machers praying for Jehovah’s properties

The Brooklyn Paper
by Andy Campbell

More competition for Bruce Ratner's planned Atlantic Yards luxury condos.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ planned pullout from Brooklyn is huge news for the faithful, but it’s even bigger news for the real-estate market.

The Witnesses — known officially as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society — announced last week that the group will move forward with an $11.5-million residential and administrative headquarters in upstate Warwick, after more than 101 years in the Heights.

Richard Devine, property manager for the organization, said he doesn’t know what will happen to more than 30 first-class properties that the Witnesses own in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO. Some properties have been on and off the market for years, but now that the sect has officially announced its eventual pull-out, real-estate brokers are chomping at the bit.

“If these properties go on the market — which will take a long time, I imagine — they’ll bring in a lot more residents who will spend in arguably some of the strongest markets in the borough,” said Chris Havens, CEO of Creative Real Estate in the Heights.

“They have [a vacant lot zoned] for 1,000 units of housing right off the bridge in DUMBO, which is a big deal,” Havens said. “They’ll probably sell it at some point, but they’re smart. They’ve been watching the market literally for decades and we probably won’t see much on the market until the economy is better.”


NoLandGrab: Right about the time Ratner will be seeking a market for his condos. View of Manhattan or view of the Nets? You decide.

Posted by eric at 9:27 PM

February 18, 2010

Brooklyn Broadside: Atlantic Yards Opponents Are Only the Latest Opposing Atlantic-Flatbush Development

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

The Atlantic Yards-obsessed Holt relates the story of Baruch College's 1973 proposal to relocate to the current site of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls, but gets the headline wrong: there's no mention in the story of local opposition to that plan. Nor any mention of plans to use eminent domain back when (though the College is a public entity), nor to bolster the college move with billions in subsidies. Nor any thought of dropping an arena directly across the street from low-rise residences in an override of city zoning. In fact, almost nothing about that 1973 proposal smacks of the Atlantic Yards project.

Except The Eagle's misleading headline.


Posted by eric at 9:12 PM

February 11, 2010

B'klyn hot spot

Downtown's population exploding

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Brooklyn's fastest-growing residential neighborhood isn't in the Brownstone Belt from Brooklyn Heights to Park Slope -- it's all happening Downtown. New data show that since 2000, Downtown Brooklyn has gone from a struggling business district saturated with 99-cent stores to home to more than 9,000 people (see the map and census information [PDF]).

Interestingly, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership itself locates the entirety of the Atlantic Yards footprint outside of downtown Brooklyn, something that would be news to Forest City Ratner, which has for years claimed the project was "downtown" rather than in the midst of the low-rise Brownstone neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and Park Slope.

[Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Joe] Chan also said he expects the area to be boosted by the $800 million arena planned for the Nets in nearby Prospect Heights. The arena is part of Bruce Ratner's $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project, which was slated to bring more than 6,000 new units of housing before lawsuits and the credit crunch held it up.

Whether the rest of Atlantic Yards is built or not, Chan expects that "the impact of the arena will be historic," adding, "It's a game-changer for Downtown and the borough."


NoLandGrab: It'd be a "game-changer," no doubt.

Posted by eric at 3:09 PM

February 7, 2010

The Observer points to the 2006 "historical delusion" perpetuated by those pushing Stuy Town; weren't similar delusions behind AY?

Atlantic Yards Report

The purchase of Stuveysant Town by Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock Realty turned out to be a disaster due to overly-rosy projections. A more critical look at unrealistic projections for the proposed Atlantic Yards development could avert a disaster before it happens.

In a New York Observer article this week headlined The Selling of Stuy Town, Eliot Brown and Dana Rubenstein write:

To flip through the pages of the 2006 offering book for potential buyers of the 11,200-apartment Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village-a deal that has devolved into the largest individual property default in modern history-is to immerse oneself in an historical delusion, one that, from today's privileged vantage point, appears as likely as Iraqi WMDs.

The book wove the strands of possible Stuy Town revenue into a real estate dreamscape, one in which the largely rent-regulated complex could become a wealthier community, complete with an elite private school, gourmet grocery shops, private spas, gated communities, Santa Cecilia granite countertops in every apartment.

Well, there were other historical delusions put forth in that heady year, perhaps not of the precise magnitude, but significant nonetheless.

How about the projected Atlantic Yards timeline, which in April 2007 I suggested might be a fantasy?


Posted by steve at 8:28 AM

February 3, 2010

Review and Comment: Hotel Town

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Henrik Krogius

The Eagle's Krogius gets all gee-whiz over the 40 hotel projects claimed to be in the works in Brooklyn (motto: "if the condo market is toast, build hotels"), reminisces about his childhood pre-Jackie Robinson, and fluffs Marty Markowitz.

A rush toward new hotels was encouraged by the rezoning for new construction downtown, by the growing cultural district around the Brooklyn Academy of Music, by the continuing gentrification of brownstone areas, and by such potential magnet projects as Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Yards. However, since the plans for new hotels were made before the financial collapse in 2008 and the resulting deep recession, it will be interesting to see if all the 40 actually get built and how many of them will thrive.

Question: When was the last time you, or anyone you know, booked a hotel room in conjunction with attending an NBA game? Think hard now.

The loss of the Brooklyn Dodgers didn’t help Brooklyn’s hotel situation. Without the Dodgers, Brooklyn lacked a destination magnet to compensate for the general perception that it was a prime example of urban decay and crime. As long as they were in Brooklyn the Dodgers not only drew people to hotels but they also stayed in them during the baseball season.

Fun fact: an NBA roster can have a maximum of 12 active players. That doesn't fill a lot of hotel rooms.

Where Golden lacked charisma, his successor, Marty Markowitz, has little actual power but plenty of infectious personality that carries beyond the borough’s borders. With Marty cheerleading the way, and with urban decline largely in reverse, here’s hoping that Brooklyn as a revived hotel town can actually be realized. That future depends also on other projects like Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Yards going forward in the face of a still uncertain economy.


NoLandGrab: H1N1 is infectious, too — and you wouldn't want to catch it, either.

Posted by eric at 4:07 PM

February 1, 2010

Another reason not to trust the KPMG report to the ESDC on the housing market

Atlantic Yards Report

There's yet another reason not to trust the report (dated August 31) that KPMG delivered to the Empire State Development Corporation on the housing market in Brooklyn.

Remember, the report claimed that Richard Meier's On Prospect Park was 75% sold. However the New York Times reported September 27 that the developer asserted that half of the units had been sold and the web site documented only 25 closings.

KPMG also claimed that the Oro Condos in Downtown Brooklyn were 75% sold. That didn't ring right.

In September, Crain's reported that prices at Oro had been slashed 25%. And yesterday the New York Times reported that the building is 44 percent sold.

Why does this matter?

Because the ESDC relied on the "expert" KPMG to validate its dubious estimate that the Atlantic Yards housing could be absorbed in a decade, a crucial defense in the case challenging the ESDC's approval of the 2009 Modified General Project Plan and the failure to issue a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

The information on Oro further undermines KPMG's expertise.


Posted by lumi at 4:10 AM

January 29, 2010

40 Hotel Projects in Pipeline for Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

This round-up of hotel construction manages to include this whopper in figuring how many hotel rooms might exist in the Brooklyn of the future:

And this does not include the proposed hotels at Brooklyn Bridge Park (100-200 rooms estimated) and in Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Plan (150 rooms estimated in “Miss Brooklyn”).

NoLandGrab: The "Miss Brooklyn" moniker was used for a monstrous piece of office tower vaportecture designed by Frank Gehry who was long ago kicked off he project. There's no design or schedule for this building, and even Bruce Ranter says “Can you tell me when we are going to need a new office tower?”


Posted by steve at 4:25 AM

January 23, 2010

The dirt on development

Crain's takes the measure of six key projects citywide and assesses the chances that renderings will become realities

By Andrew Marks

The deepest recession in decades and a financial market catastrophe that has all but dried up once-mighty credit flows have both contributed to the 550 stalled real estate development projects that dot the city, from Riverdale in the Bronx to Todt Hill in Staten Island.

For the city's biggest projects, ranging from the rebuilding at Ground Zero to the transformation of the rail yards in downtown Brooklyn into a 22-acre mini-metropolis, the normal headaches of political infighting, community opposition and myriad legal challenges now pale in comparison with the great question of the moment: When will tenants once again start banging on doors to demand more office space for their companies or more living space for their families? Only when the market shows signs of reversing its downward spiral—as assessed by measures ranging from rents to land prices—will lenders even think about further risking their battered balance sheets.

As the new year gets under way, Crain's takes a look at half a dozen of the city's biggest projects and judges their chances of completion.


Size/Scope: 22 acres; an arena and 16 mixed-use towers

Date announced: December 2003

Original cost estimate: $2.5 billion

Current cost estimate: $4.9 billion

Developer/lead government agency: Forest City Ratner Cos./None

Thanks to a Russian billionaire, the New York State Court of Appeals and an overwhelming response from bond buyers just last month, it appears that Bruce Ratner's mega-redevelopment of downtown Brooklyn will start to become a reality. At least, that's the case for the new home of the Nets basketball team, the 18,000-seat Barclays Center planned for the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues; construction could begin this month.

The overwhelming bulk of the project still awaits financing, not to mention tenants. After the dismissal of Frank Gehry last year over cost issues, the project also needs an architect.

But Mikhail Prokhorov's $200 million purchase of a majority stake in the Nets and a chunk of their new home, along with Forest City's successful sale of $511 million in bonds, has given the project something it hasn't had in months: hope.

The arena is now expected to be completed this year. But the fate of the original plan, including more than 300,000 square feet of office space, 250,000 square feet of retail, a hotel, and 6,400 apartments—2,000 of which are earmarked for affordable housing—is still in doubt.

“Taking that first step is very important, but between the economic downturn, the luxury housing glut and the state of the office market, it will be a steep climb to get all that built in the next 10 years, if not much longer,” observes Mary Ann Tighe, chief executive of the tristate region for real estate brokerage CB Richard Ellis.


Size/Scope: 26 acres; 12.4 million square feet of commercial, residential and recreational space

Date announced: September 2006

Original cost estimate: $15 billion (including $2.1 billion for extension of the No. 7 line)

Current cost estimate: $15 billion

Developer/Lead government agency: Related Companies/ Metropolitan Transportation Authority

It may be a first in New York: At Hudson Yards, the sprawling, mixed-use project slated to be built above the rail yards west of Penn Station, the city is actually further along with its part of the project than the private developer is. The MTA broke ground early last year on the extension of the No. 7 subway line to 11th Avenue and West 34th Street, and it plans to complete the project in 2014.

In the meantime, Related Companies, which has agreed to build the planned 5.5 million square feet of commercial space, 5,500 apartments and 4 acres of parkland atop a $1 billion platform over the yards, is in a holding pattern. Last February, the developer—which stepped in after original winning bidder Tishman Speyer Properties dropped out the previous spring—requested a one-year extension on closing its $1 billion deal with the MTA.

Related's first $43.5 million payment is due in just a month, and company officials are hopeful.

“We're working diligently with the MTA and expect to meet the deadline,” says a company spokeswoman.

A crucial rezoning of the western section of the site was approved last month after the city and Related tentatively agreed to preserve or build 551 affordable apartments in the area, in addition to the 743 that were already pledged.

With both the developer and the city committed to the plan, its prospects look good in the long run.

“The opening of the subway means that something will get built there,” says Jon McMillan, a director at TF Cornerstone Inc., which is building apartments on West 37th Street that will front the yard's planned boulevard. “Once we've got the 7 line here, it will be [an example of], 'If you build it, they will come.' ”


Size/Scope: 400,000 square feet (plus 750,000 square feet of private retail and commercial redevelopment)

Date announced: May 1999

Original cost estimate: $500 million

Current cost estimate: $1.4 billion

Developer/Lead government agency: None yet/Empire State Development Corp.

The plan to shift passengers from cramped, dingy Penn Station to a new space in the rebuilt Farley Post Office across Eighth Avenue has long made sense. But efforts to line up agreements from local landlords, as well as the necessary city, state and federal approvals—and cash—have repeatedly fallen short.

“It has been a case of one lost opportunity after another,” says Vishaan Chakrabarti, now director of Columbia University's real estate development program, who was a director at the Department of City Planning before moving to Related Companies to develop a public-private plan for the station in 2005.

That plan, which would have moved Madison Square Garden into the back of the Farley Building, went by the wayside when MSG pulled out in April 2008. The Paterson administration is now hoping that working out a less-grandiose scheme will finally get shovels in the ground.

“We're taking a phased approach now, and we could be poised to start the first actual work on Moynihan [this month],” says Peter Davidson, executive director of the Empire State Development Corp.

The state has applied for $98 million in federal stimulus money to get the project rolling, but getting the funding is hardly assured.

“We think our chances are good,” Mr. Davidson says.

That money, along with another $100 million previously obtained from Washington, would let the ESDC start below-ground work to extend passenger concourses and build additional platforms to service existing tracks under Farley. The second phase—developing the station above the tracks—could go ahead simultaneously. But that would require another $400 million.

In the most hopeful sign to date, Amtrak agreed in September to move its operations, serving about 25,000 daily commuters, to the new station—should it ever be built.

Nothing is set as far as the 750,000 square feet of retail and commercial office space proposed for the rear of Farley. Discussions with private developers are continuing, says Mr. Davidson.

“The market is not yet conducive to solidifying a deal, but we have reason to be optimistic and are progressing steadily toward that end,” he adds.


Size/scope: 16 acres; 10 million square feet in six office towers, memorial, museum, transit hub, performing arts center

Date announced: January 2003 (master plan)

Original cost estimate: $10 billion

Current cost estimate: $15 billion to $18 billion

Developer/Lead government agency: Silverstein Properties Inc. and Port Authority of New York & New Jersey/Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

First, the good news: The Sept. 11 memorial is on schedule to open on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The surrounding plaza, however, will not follow until 2013.

After that, the news becomes still more grim. Gov. David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg failed in their attempts last August to get leaseholder Silverstein Properties and the Port Authority, the site owner, to settle their long-running dispute over financing two of the three buildings that Larry Silverstein is hoping to build on the site. Mr. Silverstein opted for binding arbitration instead.

As recently as 2008, Towers Two and Three were targeted for completion in 2012. According to a Port Authority estimate, that date could now stretch to 2037, though Mr. Silverstein is aiming for 2016.

Tower Four, a planned 1.8 million-square-foot property that rose above grade last month, could also soon be in limbo. Although both the city and the Port Authority have committed to lease 600,000 square feet apiece, the building's 2012 completion date now hinges on resolution of a range of issues with the agency, including the schedule for the completion of necessary infrastructure.

“The dispute delays development of the entire site, not just the towers,” says Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corp. Because of the way the master plan was developed, he explains, “every element of the site is necessary for the completion of the other elements.”

No matter what an arbitrator decides, the arguments and delays will go on for years.

“The arbitration solves only one of hundreds of disputes [between Mr. Silverstein and the Port Authority],” says Mr. Pinsky. “They need to agree to work together.”

Meanwhile, the transit hub is running as much as five years behind its planned 2013 completion date. 2019 now looks like the best bet for 1 World Trade Center, the erstwhile Freedom Tower.

“The government agencies have made the project much more difficult than it should be,” says Daniel Libeskind, Ground Zero's master planner. “But we used to argue about major things, and now we're down to discussing street widths.”


Size/Scope: Renovation of 790,000-square-foot building plus 40,000-square-foot expansion

Date announced: June 2004

Original cost estimate: $1.8 billion

Current cost estimate: $463 million

Developer/Lead government agency: Empire State Development Corp. fills both roles

The Javits Center has been lambasted as an undersize embarrassment to the nation's largest city almost since its doors opened 23 years ago. Over time, a series of proposals to expand it—and even to supplant it with a convention center in Queens—have come and gone.

After years of false starts, the latest plan has at least one thing going for it: its sheer modesty, with a downscaled price tag to match. The plan entails spending a mere $463 million on a retrofit and 40,000-square-foot expansion of exhibit space, replacement of the roof and construction of an entirely new exterior envelope.

That's quite a comedown from the Pataki administration's $1.8 billion scheme, much less the $5 billion project, including a 160,000-square-foot expansion, advanced by Eliot Spitzer.

“There's a lot less to it, but something is a lot better than nothing,” says Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers' Association, of the latest plan, which will be entirely funded by a bond issuance backed by a $1.50-per-day tax on hotel rooms that will be applied for the next 40 years. “It means jobs, and it will result in a more appealing convention center that will bring more money into the city.”

Work began last July on the extension—which includes “support” space ranging from loading docks to bathrooms—and is expected to be completed in July of this year. After that, it will serve as “swing space” for exhibitions while the entire existing structure undergoes a phased renovation, expected to be completed in full by 2013. The center's leaky black windows will be replaced with a translucent skin, and new HVAC systems will be installed.

“The Javits Center project still includes an expansion,” points out Peter Davidson, executive director of the Empire State Development Corp. “But everyone agrees that the first need is to rehabilitate what we already have.”


Size/scope: 62 acres; 1.5 million square feet of office, retail, entertainment, hotel and residential space for 18 acres in first phase

Date announced: Spring 2007

Original cost estimate: $3 billion

Current cost estimate: $3 billion

Developer/lead government agency: None yet/New York City Economic Development Corp.

The city's Economic Development Corp. garnered 29 responses to last November's search for developers interested in turning the Iron Triangle—a heavily polluted industrial zone of auto repair shops, junkyards and manufacturers—into a Queens version of Battery Park City. In coming weeks, the EDC will whittle that list down and send out a request for proposals to build the envisioned residential and office buildings, park, school and convention center.

Persuading the remaining land-owners in the area to sell their properties may be far harder. Working with a budget of $400 million, the EDC has bought up more than 60% of the site, and 70% of the property where the redevelopment will be concentrated. But Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist representing Willets Point United—a group of 20-plus holdout property owners—estimates that the city will need at least $700 million, based on prices paid thus far.

“It's pretty clear they're intending to use eminent domain to force out businesses that don't want to leave,” Mr. Lipsky says.

EDC President Seth Pinsky insists that his agency will continue to negotiate, but adds that his staffers will do what's needed to keep the ball rolling. In fact, eminent-domain procedure hearings could begin as soon as this month.

The EDC has scrapped its original plan of bringing in a single developer in favor of adopting a rolling, three-phased project, starting with the southernmost section bordering Citifield, that could have multiple developers.

The only bids solicited thus far have been for the $150 million infrastructure contract to bring in badly needed sewage and storm-water drainage systems. Work is expected to begin in 2011, paving the way for a planned 1.5 million square feet of retail, entertainment and commercial space, 2,000 housing units and 400 hotel rooms.


So it took 25 years. With the official opening of the park's first phase, Pier 1, at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, slated for this winter and the first phase of Pier 6 debuting in the spring, the struggle to transform the moribund piers along the Brooklyn waterfront into a park will be over.

Almost. While money is already in the coffers to bankroll Piers 4 and 5, the joint state-city project needs another $100 million or so to finish Pier 6 and move on to Piers 2 and 3. Peter Davidson, executive director of the Empire State Development Corp., is confident.

“We've got two years to line up the financing,” he says. “In the meantime, we'll be getting the first 70% done.”

Size/Scope: 85 acres stretching south along 1.3 miles of waterfront from the Manhattan Bridge

Cost: $350 million

Who's in charge: New York state

Completion date: 2013

Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

January 1, 2010

Starting in the New Year: Domino Sugar Fight

NY Observer
by Eliot Brown

A story about the controversial Domino Sugar factory project begins thusly:

Just because Atlantic Yards is (probably) now happening, that's not to say Brooklyn has seen the last of big development battles.


Posted by eric at 3:32 PM

December 22, 2009

Mayor Touts Council O.K.'s for West Side Yards, Broadway Triangle; Rebukes Kingsbridge Rejection

The New York Observer
By Eliot Brown

The proposed Atlantic Yards project gets a mention as a project that may happen soon, although there's no more market for office space or condo's than for the other large projects listed. The ESDC, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, has put all of its efforts into seeing that an economically questionable arena gets built.

Speaking to reporters, the mayor ticked off a list of projects he put under the banner of progress: Coney Island, Willets Point; Hunter's Point South in Queens; Homeport in Staten Island.

"For decades, leaders have tried to tap the potential of these projects, but they're actually getting done now," he said. "These projects are leaping off the drawing boards and into reality. They're creating jobs for New Yorkers and affordable housing for families."

Such a characterization as "leaping" is a stretch to be sure, as the largest projects, while approved by the Council, now depend on the market, and few, if any, are moving anywhere fast. The city has made some movement in these projects, though no one can realistically expect Coney Island or Willets Point to be developed any time soon. (Then again, the Atlantic Yards project is poised to move forward at the end of the month.)


Posted by steve at 6:05 AM

December 17, 2009

At Long Last: Atlantic Terminal to Open Next Week

NBC New York

We can't possibly get any more excited about this than Brownstoner, which has already decreed it the "most momentous news in the history of time," but here it is: the Atlantic Station LIRR terminal entrance is supposed to open next week. That would be this thing, which was originally slated to be finished in 2007 after about 156 years of construction. Above: the plans versus the result. Brownstoner also reports that there'll be a completion ceremony inside the terminal tomorrow. All in all, it's been a big week already for Bruce Ratner: first the bonds for the Atlantic Yards basketball arena sell out, and now Long Islanders will be able to get there in style if the thing gets built.


NoLandGrab: Let's not forget the lovely security perimeter surrounding the new terminal entrance — likely a preview of Barclays Center defenses.

Posted by eric at 12:53 PM

Willets Wonderings

The Architect's Newspaper Blog
by Matt Chaban

The A|N Blog's Chaban continues to do good reporting on Atlantic Yards and other controversial NYC development projects.

It appears the city’s plan to trifurcate development out at Willets Point has been a smashing success, as the Economic Development Corporation announced on Friday that 29 developers from across the country have expressed interest in the first phase of the project, an 18-acre swath of land on the western section of the 62-acre Iron Triangle that contains the densest mix of uses. “The quantity and quality of these responses are strong indicators that the development community has confidence in the successful redevelopment of Willets Point despite current economic conditions,” Seth Pinsky, president of EDC, said in a release. An RFP is expected sometime in 2010 for a selection of those 29 respondents. After that, the next hurdle is finishing land acquisition, which stands at 75 percent of the phase one area controlled by the city. If need be, the city has not ruled out acquiring what’s left through eminent domain, a specter that has cast a long shadow over the area’s redevelopment, though one that could be sunsetting.

29 companies interested in developing Willets Point "despite current economic conditions," yet in 2005, when everything was rosy, only Bruce Ratner (and Extell) was interested in developing the Vanderbilt Yard? Something's fishy.

Following a court ruling that the state could not seize land in the Manhattanville section of Harlem so that Columbia could build a new campus there, Atlantic Yards opponents are hustling to have their ultimately unsuccessful case reheard, a last-ditch effort to impede the sale of Forest City Ratner’s bonds. Whether or not they succeed, all this eminent domain tumult—combined with the recent collapse of plans for the Mother of Them All in New London, Connecticut—could nudge New York over the edge, taking it off the list of a handful of states that have yet to enact eminent domain reform since the Kelo decision four years ago. State Senator Bill Perkins certainly thinks so, calling for the governor to live up to his previous promises of a moratorium on eminent domain in the state.

Willets Point is one of the most egregious examples of eminent domain abuse, since the city, for years and years, denied the many productive businesses there the most basic services, like paved streets and sewer connections.

How could this all pay out in Flushing, Queens? David Lombino, a spokesperson for EDC, emphasized the agency’s strong track record on reaching deals with business owners in the area, despite the continued intransigence of some. “The response from the private sector is encouraging,” he said. Should it come down to eminent domain, but eminent domain is no longer there? EDC, while proffering hypothetical projects, does not respond to hypothetical questions.


Posted by eric at 12:30 AM

December 10, 2009

Atlantic Yards YES! Brooklyn's 237 stalled building projects NO!!

New York State has one set of rules for Bruce Ratner and another set of rules for everybody else.

Crain's NY Business, Stalled construction site total hits 515

Brooklyn is hardest hit borough, followed by Queens; further stalled projects are unlikely as work has to start in order to be halted.

Construction work has halted on 515—mostly residential—properties across the five boroughs according to the latest analysis of the city's Department of Buildings inspection records. Hardest hit is Brooklyn.

Nearly half, 46%, of the stalled projects citywide are in Brooklyn according the New York Building Congress, which conducted the analysis. Northern Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Williamsburg and Greenpoint, which had seen a housing boom in the years leading up to the market collapse, have the most stalled projects, making up 30% of the 237 sites in the entire borough.

Since the city DOB began tracking stalled construction sites weekly in July, the total has increased by 30% as of Nov. 29. The good news is the numbers aren't expected to worsen because there aren't too many new projects in the ground, said Mr. Anderson. “You need them to get started before they can be stalled,” he noted.

“To have all these sites just sit there is not encouraging. They do not generate jobs and tax revenues,” said Mr. Anderson. “There is a great deal of construction activity throughout the city that can hopefully be unleashed with the right kind of programs.”

NoLandGrab: That's right, folks. With literally hundreds of residential development projects — many of which could be converted to affordable housing — sitting idle and incomplete, the Empire State Developerment Corporation is pouring all its efforts into breaking ground for a basketball arena. And no, that's not a typo.

Posted by eric at 9:21 PM

December 7, 2009

Willets Point United's fight against eminent domain again causes its lobbyist to gyrate

Atlantic Yards Report

From a press release from Willets Point United:

Willets Point United, Inc. – a group of more than 20 property owners in Queens, NY, fighting to keep their land despite the city’s desire to condemn it and turn it over to a yet-to-be-named private developer – believes the NYC Economic Development Corporation’s (EDC) approach to improving Willets Point is inappropriate, and we will oppose it in every way. Today we have notified the EDC via letter of the very disturbing track records of certain developer firms likely to respond to the EDC’s Request for Qualifications (RFQ) by today’s deadline and asks that these firms be disqualified from future consideration for receipt of a Request for Proposals (RFP).

(Emphasis added)

One contact on the press release was lobbyist Richard Lipsky, the same guy who declared Atlantic Yards opponents should get "a well-deserved delay of game penalty" and sneered "Enough already! It's high time that the DDDers, took their settlement monies, and went back to their lattes."

Lipsky is having to gyrate on eminent domain. He supports eminent domain for his client, Forest City Ratner, but opposes it for his client, Willets Point United, as well as for his client Nick Sprayregen of Tuck-It-Away, who has so far successfully challenged eminent domain for the Columbia University expansion.


Commenter Daniel Goldstein writes:

Wouldn't Lipsky help his Queens and Manhattan clients more if he dropped ranks with his Cleveland-based client and joined ranks with the eminent domain plaintiffs in Brooklyn who are fighting the same exact thing he and his clients are fighting in Queens and Manhattan?

Wouldn't he sleep better at night? A few thousand bucks really can't be worth all the agita from that much cognitive dissonance.

Posted by eric at 9:44 PM

Coney Island site attracts 50 interested bidders; how was the Vanderbilt Yard different?

Atlantic Yards Report

From a New York Daily News article today headlined Coney Island redevelopment plan attracts 50 amusement park companies from seven countries:

The competition to build a new amusement park at the faded seaside mecca has reached a fever pitch as a who's who of amusement operators work to put together proposals by a Dec. 18 deadline.

...It was standing room only when city officials presented their request for proposals at the Las Vegas IAAPA convention last month, after sealing a deal to buy 6.9 crucial acres from developer Thor Equities for $95.6 million.

Some 50 companies from at least seven countries showed up for the information session.

Yet when it came to a "great piece of real estate" (in the words of Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner) like the Vanderbilt Yard, only one bidder besides Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner responded to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's July 2005 Request for Proposals.

Could that have been because city and state officials had already been backing FCR's plan for the past 18 months?


NoLandGrab: Nah, 'cause if the city had been backing the FCR plan already, that would mean there was a pre-textual situation, like with Columbia. And the courts have said that wasn't the case, right?

Posted by eric at 9:37 PM

December 3, 2009

Appellate Division overturns ESDC's use of eminent domain for Columbia expansion; how different is it from AY?

Atlantic Yards Report

A big development in New York City eminent domain news — the Appellate Division has ruled against the ESDC's planned use of eminent domain for Columbia University's Manhattanville land grab.

From the majority opinion in the Appellate Division's 3-2 overturning of the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) planned use of eminent domain for the Columbia University expansion:

It is recognized that Kelo, as described below, did not concern an area characterized as "blighted." However, the blight designation in the instant case is mere sophistry. It was utilized by ESDC years after the scheme was hatched to justify the employment of eminent domain but this project has always primarily concerned a massive capital project for Columbia. Indeed, it is nothing more than economic redevelopment wearing a different face.

So too did the Atlantic Yards petitioners argue that blight was a pretext because it wasn't mentioned as a justification for the project for more than a year after it was announced--an issue ignored by the majority in the Court of Appeals decision last week.


Wrote Justice James Catterson (who also filed a fiery concurrence in the case challenging the AY environmental review):

The most egregious conclusion offered in support of the finding of blight is that of underutilization. AKRF and Earth Tech allege the existence of blight from, inter alia, the degree of utilization, or percentage of maximum permitted floor area ratio ("FAR") to which lots are built. The theoretical justification for using the degree of utilization of development rights as an indicator of blight is the inference that it reflects owners' inability to make profitable use of full development rights due to lack of demand. Lack of demand can only be determined in relation to the FAR when combined with the zoning for the area in question. Manhattanville, for the relevant period, was zoned to allow maximum FAR of two, leaving owners essentially with a choice between a one or two-story structure. No rationale was presented by the respondents for the wholly arbitrary standard of counting any lot built to 60% or less of maximum FAR as constituting a blighted condition.

This is the exact same ratio used in the Atlantic Yards Blight Study.

Norman Oder has more details on the other side of the link.


NoLandGrab: This is great news for the business owners who steadfastly refused to cave in under the threat of eminent domain, but it does leave Atlantic Yards opponents scratching their heads and asking, "how is Columbia U. so different from Bruce Ratner?"

Posted by eric at 3:18 PM

December 2, 2009

Star of Real Estate Boom Is Confronting Hard Times

The NY Times
By Christine Haughney

This story of developer Shaya Boymelgreen's declining fortunes includes a bit about his deal with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner to double-cross footprint property owner Henry Weinstein and the lingering issues with the Newswalk building, which is located in the curious cutout of the megaproject's outline:

Residents of the 173-unit Newswalk building, a former Daily News printing plant in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, that Mr. Boymelgreen finished converting into condos in 2002, have spent $5 million in repairs and legal fees to address structural problems, said Michael Rogers, a member of Newswalk’s condo board. He said the building had so many leaks that some of its original concrete beams had started to fall apart.

“This was a really solid building,” Mr. Rogers said. “The construction is so poor. It’s construction that could have hurt people.”
Then there is the convoluted eviction battle: Henry Weinstein, who owns a Prospect Heights building that Mr. Boymelgreen leases, and where he has his office, sued Mr. Boymelgreen in 2003 for selling the lease on the building to Forest City Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards project. The office is located within the Atlantic Yards site.

But hours before Mr. Weinstein was to evict Mr. Boymelgreen, Henry Herbst — whose company installed telecommunication systems in Mr. Boymelgreen’s projects and who also had his offices in the building — filed bankruptcy proceedings against Mr. Boymelgreen, according to public records and interviews with Mr. Herbst and Mr. Weinstein’s lawyer, David Brody. Mr. Herbst said he feared losing his office and the offices he sublet to others.

“He refused to go into bankruptcy,” Mr. Herbst said. “So we put him into bankruptcy.”


Posted by lumi at 6:08 AM

November 22, 2009

Mapping Out Forest City Ratner’s Monopolistic Strategy of Subsidy Collection

Noticing New York

This blog post points out how Forest City Ratner, developer for the proposed Atlantic Yards project, has pursued a strategy of sucking up available public subsidies by being the only developer considered for any given project. Atlantic Yards is a perfect example of the developer being given a huge chunk of Brooklyn real estate, and subsidies, without competitive bidding.

The ever-growing Ratner monopoly is illustrated with maps showing growth starting from 1 Pierrpont Plaza and spreading further into Brooklyn.

The post finishes with the following:

We conclude simply with this. If monopolies have always been recognized to be bad, such that we have national laws against them, and if monopolies facilitate “rent seeking” behavior that enables developers like Forest City Ratner to manipulate gains for itself at society’s loss, why is the government fostering these real estate monopolies for one real estate company’s unprecedented takeover of so much of Brooklyn? It doesn’t make sense to us but it’s a really BIG question. We hope that our mapping it out helps to visualize just how big.


Posted by steve at 7:16 AM

November 17, 2009


As the City Council takes up consideration of the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment plan, the developer and local pols are locked in a dispute that could derail the project.

City Limits
by Jarrett Murphy

Atlantic Yards makes a cameo in a report on the battle over the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment, living-wage jobs and community benefits as an example of a project whose alleged benefits are looking very tenuous.

Behind the wage issue is a struggle over who holds the power in deciding how public land and money are used to develop under-served city neighborhoods. Pointing to other recent deals where community benefits are in doubt—like Yankee Stadium and Atlantic Yards—Diaz told an October 25th KARA rally that the push for a better deal from Related was part of "our revolution here, our new civil rights movement here, and that is economic development."


NoLandGrab: NLG pop quiz! Read the paragraph below and then guess which way the Kingsbridge Armory project will go when it comes to a Council vote.

Now the matter moves to the City Council, which along with the mayor has final say on the proposal. Related Companies, which has a number of projects besides the Armory that require government approval or assistance, has spent at least $150,000 lobbying city officials and agencies this year and donated $132,000 to municipal campaigns in the 2009 cycle; Land Use Committee chairwoman Melinda Katz, who ran for comptroller this year, was the biggest recipient with $41,650 in Related contributions. Carrion received $29,750, and Queens Councilman Eric Gioia—a member of the zoning subcommittee who ran unsuccessfully for public advocate—garnered $11,050 in Related money.

Posted by eric at 1:57 PM

November 12, 2009

The Coney Island comparison and the Atlantic Yards paradox

Atlantic Yards Report posted a couple of items comparing the City's attempt to redevelop Coney Island and Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards.

On Coney deal, the government pays more than the 2005 value of land, but with the Vanderbilt Yard, the government accepts less

The City has finally struck a deal with Coney Island landowner Joseph Sitt to purchase 6.9 acres for $95.6 million. Having reportedly paid $93 million for approximately 10 acres, Sitt's tidy profit amounts to an increase in the value of the land.

Cut to Atlantic Yards, where the MTA recently renegotiated its deal with Bruce Ratner, spreading payments for the Vanderbilt Railyard over 22 years at a very generous interest rate and agreeing to allow the developer to build a replacement railyard with less capacity than the current railyard. The effective decrease in the value of the land over the railyard is another one of those curious Atlantic Yards paradoxes.

NoLandGrab: For Atlantic Yards's next trick, watchdogs like Norman Oder are keeping an eye on the land values that will have to magically increase in order to justify the triple-tax-free bonds that Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation are hoping to float before the end of the year.

Connecting the dots: How a pastor once protested the Coney Island deal but spoke up for Atlantic Yards

Pastor Guillermo Martino of the Tabernacle of God's Glory Church in Crown Heights, who testified not so coherently on June 22 before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Finance Committee in favor of the Atlantic Yards plan (video below), has a curious profile when it comes to development disputes.

In November 2007, he protested the mayor's plan for Coney Island. As reported by the Bay News, Martino was "one of the dozens of people who turned out wearing bright yellow hats carrying the message 'The Bloomberg Plan: How Much? How Long? Who Pays?'"
Martino and fellow protesters came on buses chartered by Sen. Carl Kruger, who, as the Daily News later reported, spent several thousand dollars from his campaign fund. (After all, Kruger has a huge campaign fund but an untouchable seat.)
Of course, the same questions, including those on the yellow hats, could be raised about Atlantic Yards. Note the Kruger team included not only Martino but also James Caldwell (right in photo), president of Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), who heads the 77th Precinct Community Council in Crown Heights.

NLG: So exactly what is these guys' guiding principle?

Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

November 2, 2009

Stealth By Design

How the city is sneaking great little buildings into unexpected places.

NY Magazine
By Justin Davidson

Congratulations Bruce Ratner, your Atlantic Yards megaproject is part of the City's elite club of overdevelopment follies:

The map of Michael Bloomberg’s New York bears the scars of vast, unfinished dreams of renewal. Hudson Yards, Atlantic Yards, Coney Island, Willets Point, ground zero, Governors Island, the Gowanus Canal—all those glittering megaplans, derailed, deferred, or debased. Yet the Bloomberg administration can claim triumphs at a tiny scale: Station house by station house, library by library, the city has been doggedly smuggling high-level architecture to the neighborhoods that need it most.


Posted by lumi at 4:41 AM

October 29, 2009

A Stalled Vision: Big Development as City’s Future

The New York Times
by Russ Buettner and Ray Rivera

Here's The Times article about which Atlantic Yards Report wrote this morning.

Over the past seven years, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has presided over a historic re-envisioning of New York City, one that loosened the reins on development across the boroughs and pushed more than 100 rezoning measures through a City Council that stamped them all into law.

And when the economy was burning white hot, as it did for several years, the mayor’s plan appeared to be bold and forward-looking, a prescient decision to remake portions of the city in order to lure companies, create jobs and increase economic vitality.

But that vitality is missing in some sections of New York today, where developments spurred in part by easy credit and in part by city initiatives are now stalled or in danger of collapse.

That investigation has expanded into the activities of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which the city helped create in 2006 to help push through development plans following a broad rezoning of the area.

The city awarded the group a $6 million three-year no-bid contract. The group raised another $1.1 million in private donations, tax records show. And Mr. Doctoroff installed a top aide, Joe Chan, to run it. The partnership has become a key voice for the development of Downtown Brooklyn, inserting itself, critics say, into the debate over a plan to build a Nets area and high-rises at the Atlantic Yards. It has spent some $200,000 on lobbying expenses.


NoLandGrab: Irony alert! When we navigated to this article this morning (headline reminder: "A Stalled Vision"), the banner advertisement below appeared at the top of the page.


Posted by eric at 8:37 AM

The Times takes on stalled development: barely a mention of AY but questions about the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

Atlantic Yards Report

The photo attached to today's front-page New York Times article, headlined A Stalled Vision: Big Development as City’s Future, is of the CityPoint site at the Fulton Street Mall in Downtown Brooklyn, but it could just as easily have been of various parts of the Atlantic Yards site.

But Atlantic Yards--well, a segment of it--might get going, so maybe it wasn't the perfect poster child.

Still, the development deserves significant mention because it has been enormously delayed: when Atlantic Yards was announced in 2004, the arena was supposed to open in 2006; when the project was approved in 2006, the arena was supposed to open in 2009; and now it's supposed to open in 2012, though uncertainties abound.

In fact, Atlantic Yards gets barely a tangential mention in an article that touches on Downtown Brooklyn, Hudson Yards, new baseball stadiums, Willets Point, and more.

The mention follows up on an investigation by the Attorney General's office into apparently illegal lobbying by lobbyists for Willets Point, with a revelation that there may be similar questions concerning the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) when it comes to AY.


Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

October 27, 2009

Survey finds 601 troubled condo projects

Figure from grassroots alliance Right to the City-New York covers just six neighborhoods but is far above the official tally for the city as a whole

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

There are a total of 601 condominium buildings scattered across a half dozen neighborhoods in the city that have substantial numbers of vacant units or where construction has stalled, according to preliminary data compiled by Right to the City-New York, an alliance of grassroots community organizations. That figure is well above the 454 recorded by the Department of Buildings for the city as a whole.
[Emphasis, ours]

More than 150 members of Right to the City canvassed six neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn to identify buildings that feature many vacant units or stalled construction. The group, along with several members of the City Council, will announce the results Tuesday afternoon at a rally in downtown Brooklyn as part of an effort to urge the city to convert vacant condos into affordable housing.

In July, the city unveiled a $20 million pilot program, the Housing Asset Renewal Program, designed to turn unsold condos and stalled residential buildings into as many as 400 affordable housing units. Community groups and local officials like Right to the City say the housing renewal is a good start, but it is not enough to resolve the proliferation of vacant buildings, the decline in low-income housing and the city's increasing homelessness rate.

Among the 126 buildings in downtown Brooklyn, 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.

“Clearly HARP is not sufficient to meet the needs for the entire city,” said Councilwoman Leticia [sic] James, who will be attending the afternoon rally.


NoLandGrab: Here's an idea — turn off the subsidy pipeline to Atlantic Yards, take back whatever other city cash Ratner hasn't already spent, and drop it all into HARP. 'Cause it's clear that Atlantic Yards' planned 4,180 units of not-Gehry-designed market-rate housing are not going to be in demand any time soon.

And who's surprised that the City of New York is grossly understating the size of the condo glut? Instead of pushing blindly ahead on Atlantic Yards and fighting the Superfunding of the Gowanus Canal, maybe they should be exercising eminent domain, paying the condo speculators the 20¢ on the dollar that their empty buildings are worth, and solving the affordable-housing crisis all at once.


Posted by eric at 4:58 PM

October 22, 2009

Sharp Drop in Building Residences in the City

The NY Times
By Charles V. Bagli

After five consecutive years in which residential construction in New York exceeded 30,000 apartments and houses annually, fewer than 6,300 units will be built this year, according to the latest report from the New York Building Congress, an industry trade group.
More than 460 residential projects have been delayed, nearly a third of them in Brooklyn, according to the latest figures from the city’s Buildings Department. Many analysts say it will take several years for the market to absorb all the luxury apartments that have been built recently.


NoLandGrab: And we're supposed to believe that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is really planning to keep his commitment to build 6,430 residential units in the next ten years?

Posted by lumi at 6:53 AM

October 21, 2009

The 15-year time horizon for a project less than one-third the size of AY

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times reports on East River Plaza, a six-acre project in East Harlem that will soon open as a big-box vertical mall:

Looking back on his experience at East River Plaza, [developer David] Blumenfeld said that developers of complex projects needed a lot of patience. “Ten to 15 years is probably the right time horizon,” he said. “I don’t know if a lot of people have the stomach for that.”

The site was purchased 15 years ago. Partner Forest City Ratner came on board five years ago and helped speed things up.

Even with FCR's capacity to move projects, surely a 22-acre project like AY that would affect Brooklyn neighborhoods with engaged activists might take a while. Or is the state's decade-long timetable plausible?


Posted by eric at 9:48 AM

October 17, 2009

Jane Jacobs, Star Edition

By Suzanne LaBarre

Here is another example of Mayor Bloomberg backing a project and refusing to listen to any alternatives. In this case, the City plans to build a salt shed, garbage garage and maintenance facility at Spring Street, on Manhattan's lower west side. John Slattery, the actor who has recently become well known for his role on the series "Mad Men", has lent his voice to an alternate plan called "Hudson Rise".

In this article, the proposed Atlantic Yards project again becomes the example of how not to do development in New York City, as Slattery observes the unwillingness of city officials to look at alternatives.

Slattery has a point. New York has made sport of bad planning, from the demolition of Penn Station decades ago to the psychic mess of Atlantic Yards. PlaNYC, Bloomberg’s sweeping effort to green the city, was supposed to change everything. But what’s green on paper doesn’t always translate to the street. The Department of Sanitation facility meets PlaNYC’s imperative because it’s expected to earn LEED certification even though just looking at the thing, it’s obvious there’s nothing particularly green about it. “I think some of the problems in New York City is the architecture that gets approved,” said Slattery. “This is a chance to actually implement something community-related, sustainable, and forward-thinking.”


Posted by steve at 6:05 AM

October 16, 2009

At the Board: Atlantic Terrace Coming Soon

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Jordan Shakeshaft

On Nov. 1, applications will be available for Atlantic Terrace, the 80-unit mixed-income residential development at Atlantic and South Portland scheduled to top off next month. Construction should be complete by May, followed soon after by a city-sponsored lottery.

Heather Gershon of the Fifth Avenue Committee, the nonprofit housing advocacy group that is developing the site, said that residents can expect a LEED-certified green building. “I’m pleased to report that not only are we using sustainable practices and materials, we’re actually buying the majority of our finishes locally,” Ms. Gershon said. The IceStone countertops made of recycled glass and concrete, for example, are all produced at the Navy Yard.


NoLandGrab: Let us get this straight. The Atlantic Terrace project, which was announced on June 13, 2007, will begin accepting applications for its mostly affordable units on November 1, 2009, and will be ready for occupancy probably during the summer of 2010, a scant three years from start to finish.

Right across the street, the Atlantic Yards project, which was announced on December 10, 2003, and which has received overwhelming political backing largely (and allegedly) for it promise of affordable housing, has yet to break ground almost six years later.

What, we might ask, is preventing Bruce Ratner from building affordable housing on all the empty lots he's created in Prospect Heights, with attendant good-paying union construction jobs? Could it be that Atlantic Yards was never really about affordable housing and jobs at all?

Related coverage...

Brownstoner, Atlantic Terrace Applications Available Nov 1

Image via Brownstoner

Posted by eric at 4:59 PM

October 15, 2009

In the Heights

Prospect Heights could be the next Cobble Hill

NY Post
by Katherine Dykstra

Talk to almost anyone affiliated with Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights, and their unofficial line on Vanderbilt Avenue is that it’s what Cobble Hill’s Smith Street was 10 years ago. By that, they mean it’s primed to become the local go-to stretch for everything from a cup of coffee and a seat outside to a locally sourced gourmet dinner. And residential developers are also a big part of this thoroughfare’s land grab.

The neighborhood’s affordability has many buyers willing to overlook the possibility of the neighborhood changing massively if and when the much bandied about Atlantic Yards ever finds its footing. And with the recent investment of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in the Nets, it’s looking more likely than ever that at least an NBA stadium will be built.

“It’s not even on my radar,” says finance guy/Brooklyn blogger Kenny Eng, who bought a 1,450-square-foot three-bedroom in the Washington for $545,000 three years ago. “The part [of the Atlantic Yards site] that’s closer to me, on Vanderbilt, will probably be a parking lot for the construction workers, so I’m not too thrilled about that.”

After a moment, he adds: “That whole project is 10 to 15 years off, even more. Who knows? I could be gone by then.”


Posted by eric at 8:43 PM

Review and Comment: Us Against Ourselves

Brooklyn Daily Eagle's Henrik Krogius is at it again:

The latest perversity is the concerted opposition to an expansion of Brooklyn Friends School into Boerum Hill. Just as the saying goes that no good deed goes unpunished, so no good project for Brooklyn goes unopposed. (One can only imagine the agitated uproar if Jesus were to come back to earth in Brooklyn.)

By "good project," Krogius means Bruce Ratner's eminent domain-abusing, subsidy-sucking historically dense Atlantic Yards overdevelopment:

With Atlantic Yards, too, the unease about outsiders coming in has clothed itself in a variety of more respectable arguments, including traffic (never mind that the site is uniquely well served by public transit), eminent domain (which affects a small handful of people for a 22-acre project), impact of scale on brownstone neighborhoods (which in fact don’t abut the site), and financing arrangements (as if the developer hadn’t incurred considerable risk). That’s not to say there isn’t reason for concern about what the as yet unrevealed, Gehry-less major part of the project will look like.


NoLandGrab: By "outsiders" Krogius may mean the multi-billionaire Russian oligarch that Ratner has lined up to help salvage his taxpayer-funded boondoggle.

Posted by lumi at 7:23 AM

October 7, 2009

Condo prices slashed 25% at big Brooklyn tower

Forty-story Oro in downtown Brooklyn to emphasize bargains over luxury.

Crain's NY Business
By Amanda Fung

In an aggressive effort to boost sales, the developer of the 303-unit Oro tower in downtown Brooklyn said Tuesday that it is slashing prices of its remaining unsold condominiums by as much as 25%.

To date, just 90 units have closed and 30 are in contract at the 40-story tower in the Flatbush Avenue corridor.


NoLandGrab: And Bruce is going to start on a residential building nearby within months of breaking ground on the arena. Yeah. Sure.

Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

October 5, 2009

Divided on development and AY, Marty Markowitz and Kevin Powell talk past each other in the Dreamland Pavilion

Atlantic Yards Report

At the Dreamland Pavilion: Brooklyn and Development Conference held this weekend at Kingsborough Community College, Atlantic Yards was not only the theme of one panel but the central--yet divergent--example for the two main speakers at the inaugural dinner.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, a longtime Atlantic Yards booster, maintained his support for the project, while writer and activist (and periodic political candidate) Kevin Powell offered a more critical take on AY and the process of development.

"There's not a project in this borough more important than Atlantic Yards for this and future generations," Markowitz declared. "One of the most difficult things that I've had to tackle as Borough President is to somehow get over the limited vision of so many people, who don't think about what tomorrow will bring, only what affects me today. It's very hard, when you're in a position of leadership.... you have to begin shaping what tomorrow will bring as well as what this immediate day and tomorrow brings. And Atlantic Yards taught me that, and continues to teach me that."

Powell, noting that he'd risen from poverty thanks to education, said, "I've seen the world through the eyes of poor and working-class people, but I've also seen the through the eyes of someone who's a property owner and a business owner."

"So, as I was sitting there, at this Atlantic Yards hearing, it saddened me deeply, because you began to realize, if you're someone who cares about all human beings... and you really love people, and you really love Brooklyn... you don't want to see that kind of ugliness, because you realize that all these people, ultimately, are being manipulated, and only a handful of folks are really benefiting from this thing."


Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

October 4, 2009

Finding a bottom in Brooklyn

A neighborhood breakdown of prime Kings County -- aka Brooklyn -- shows where prices have dropped most

The Real Deal
By Sarah Ryley

Though Lyin' Bruce Ratner tells everyone that Atlantic Yards is in Downtown Brooklyn, after reading this article about the state of residential development in Kings County, he'll be glad it isn't.

The neighborhoods of Downtown Brooklyn, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene were among the most rapidly gentrified during the real estate boom. Now, the district has also experienced the most rapid fall in median sales price, 29 percent over the past two years.

"Downtown Brooklyn has done worse than just about any other neighborhood, even worse than Williamsburg, for two reasons," said Miller Cicero's Falsetta. "The bulk of the developers in Downtown Brooklyn have been generally unwilling to cut pricing.

"And the other reason is, Downtown Brooklyn never really finished gelling as a neighborhood."

According to the article, it will take years for the market to shake out.

Robert Knakal, chairman of Massey Knakal Realty Services, which is marketing several distressed assets in Brooklyn, predicted prices will bottom sometime next year, at the same time unemployment peaks, and then flatten for two or three years after that.

Ultimately, he said the firm expects prices to drop an additional 5 to 10 percent.


NoLandGrab: Meanwhile, as the demand for luxury housing has evaporated, all of the assumptions that Ratner used when Atlantic Yards was first announced in 2003 are moot.

Posted by lumi at 5:42 PM

September 24, 2009

Bloomberg may be pro-development, but it's much more than that: it's an idée fixe

Atlantic Yards Report

Bloomberg's posture goes well beyond a basic philosophy; it entails (take your pick) loyalty to a certain developer class, unswerving support once he's announced it, and an unwillingness to do the math you'd think a billionaire businessman would feel comfortable doing.

When confronted with evidence from a New York City Independent Budget Office report that the Atlantic Yards arena would be a money-loser for the city, Bloomberg said, according to the Observer:
“I don’t know what the IBO studies would have shown back when they tried to establish the value of Central Park or Prospect Park or anything else,” he told reporters. “These are the kinds of projects you have to do because without that we don’t have a future, and we’re going to get this one done.”

In a January 2004 radio interview, he claimed erroneously that "any city monies of any meaningful size will be debt issues financed by the extra tax revenues that come from this."

As it happens, the IBO, whatever the limits of its report on AY, has done a far more thorough and honest job than the New York City Economic Development Corporation or Empire State Development Corporation, which have produced economic benefit studies that ignore or downplay subsidies and public costs.


Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

September 23, 2009

The Specter of Atlantic Yards

Whether it's a dispute over a new school on State Street, the expansion of a historic district, or more scandal at ACORN, Atlantic Yards — like vaportecture — forever looms in the background.

The Brooklyn Paper, ‘State’ of disunion! Residents clash over school expansion plan

As much as the community might want a residential building, IBEC says that it’s just not feasible at this time. Indeed, other projects in the neighborhood, including the massive Atlantic Yards development are experiencing similar problems with financing.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Council OKs Prospect Hts Historic District

At the time, residents feared that the neighborhood’s rich historic architecture was threatened by the Atlantic Yards project, a proposal by the developer Forest City Ratner to build 16 towers and a sports arena on a site adjacent to the neighborhood.

The American Spectator, Yes, ACORN Does Cheat on Its Taxes

ACORN also sold out its poor constituents in Brooklyn in exchange for a cash bailout from Forest City Ratner, a wealthy developer trying to build the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

September 3, 2009

It came from the Blogosphere..., Amicus Brief In NY Court Of Appeals In Goldstein/Atlantic Yards Case: NY's Public Use Clause Prohibits Judicial Rubber Stamp Of Takings

Willets Point United has filed an amicus brief supporting their fellow New York City property owners in the public use case now pending in the New York Court of Appeals regarding the Atlantic Yards "redevelopment" project in Brooklyn, Goldstein v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp. As we noted here, Willets Point is under the takings gun itself, and has our Owners' Counsel colleague Mike Rikon helping them (he also filed the amicus brief).

The brief argues that the Court of Appeals should not follow the Kelo rule of total deference to economic development takings: "The majority decision in Kelo v City of New London written by Justice Stevens was wrong, wrong in its holding and wrong on its facts."

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards Misrepresents Ownership

The Atlantic Yards Report points us towards a little sleight-of-hand by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). In the comments filed regarding the Modified General Project Plan (GPP) for the Atlantic Yards development, local property owner Henry Weinstein states that the GPP uses an old and inaccurate map of Forest City Ratner's holdings. The map, dated November 1, 2006, falsely implies that Forest City Ratner owns or controls Weinstein's property, which includes a building and two lots used as a parking lot at the corner of Carlton and Pacific.

Brownstoner Forum, Buying into Newswalk?

It's just one person's opinion — "perhaps" believes that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan is a point of consideration before purchasing a unit in the Newswalk building:

It's also important to consider newswalk's engulfed (almost) by the Atlantic yards project - units facing away from the yards (south exposure) are preferable, but you'll see that reflected in pricing

Queens Crap, "Affordable housing" promise becomes even more of a joke
"Crappy" reposted Atlantic Yards Report's analysis of the Daily News follow-up on the Atlantic Yards Report scoop on lack of affordable housing guarantees for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Architectural Lamentations, The Ignominious Brooklyner is Now Brooklyn's Tallest

111 Lawrence Street is now Brooklyn's tallest building with 51 stories of bland condominiums. It is impressive that this building managed to escape relatively unscathed, from public outcry or protest. This is especially so considering the amount of attention Frank Gehry and Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project Miss Brooklyn received.

The Local, Linkfest: Final Word, Crime Alert and More

The Daily News calls the race for the City Council 35th District seat as being a battle over Atlantic Yards. Candidate Delia Hunley-Adossa said incumbent Letitia James’s unflinching opposition to the project without considering a negotiation is “unacceptable.”

On a similar note, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn wants opponents of Atlantic Yards to register for a walkathon to raise funds for legal action against the development. The walk route ends with a party at Fort Greene’s Habana Outpost.

Posted by lumi at 6:22 AM

August 18, 2009

Will Brodsky look into the curious assessments in the Atlantic Yards arena block?

Atlantic Yards Report

[W]hile the questionable assessments in the case of the new Yankee Stadium generated vigorous criticism from Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, he has mostly been agnostic about Atlantic Yards and hasn't turned his attention to the assessment issue.

On Sunday, at the press conference on the bill concerning public authorities reform, I asked Brodsky if he knew about the issue and would look into it.

His answer was careful, neither ruling Atlantic Yards in or out: "There are a lot of very reasonable questions about the role of the assessor's office in these large authority deals, that are currently under review."


NoLandGrab: Our bet is that Brodsky is more about grandstanding and making noise over shady done deals, than getting in the way of those still in progress.

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

August 13, 2009

Good Luck on That Condo Thing Bruce

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Bruce Ratner wants to build 1,930 luxury condo units not far from this site:

Goldman Sachs' Brooklyn condo bet sours

The company, along with partner The Clarett Group, is negotiating with German lender Eurohypo Bank to turn over the 30-story Forté tower after sales went nowhere.

By Amanda Fung

Forté, a 30-story luxury residential tower in the Brooklyn Academy of Music cultural district in downtown Brooklyn, is underwater.

Manhattan-based developer The Clarett Group confirmed Thursday that, along with its majority partner Goldman Sachs Group Inc., it is negotiating with the project’s construction lender to transfer control to the lender. After two years of marketing, the 108-unit, upscale FXFOWLE Architects-designed building is only 37% sold.


NoLandGrab: This doesn't bode well for sales of not-designed-by-Frank Gehry Atlantic Yards condos. The Forté is about as close to Atlantic Terminal transit as any of Ratner's buildings would be, and it's a nice building (we've been there) with spectacular views. Goldman, by the way, is lead underwriter for Atlantic Yards arena bond sales.

Posted by eric at 6:08 PM

Stimulus funds for CityPoint; could there be stimulus funds for AY? Not from Recover NYC

Atlantic Yards Report

City Point, the big Fulton Mall development project, was just awarded $20 million in tax-exempt bonds under Recover NYC, which directs Federal stimulus funds.

Might Atlantic Yards be next?

It would be tough for Atlantic Yards to make the deadline, given that the NYCEDC would announce the candidates for the second round on November 3, before the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case is likely resolved.

But the issue's moot. Only projects located in the yellow recovery zones would be eligible, and the parcel going east of the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues isn't included. But I wouldn't be surprised at other efforts to gain some stimulus funding for AY.

Questions of fairness

In the Times, one watchdog questioned the Recover NYC program:
“This is a sort of David-and-Goliath example of small businesses that are paying the rent and providing services to a diverse constituency of Downtown Brooklyn and having something kind of dropped on top of them, which is a big wealthy developer getting subsidies,” said Bettina Damiani, director of Good Jobs New York, which studies the use of economic development incentives. “So the impact on the local community needs to really be taken into consideration before we move forward with economic stimulus.”


NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure fairness is of little concern to Bruce Ratner.

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

July 13, 2009

The Billyburg Bust

A working-class neighborhood became a bohemian theme park, which in turn became a fantasyland for luxury-condo developers. Now, littered with half-built shells of a vanished boom, Williamsburg is looking like something else entirely: Miami.

New York Magazine
by David Amsden

A big honking overdevelopment cautionary tale is unfolding ever-so grimly in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Are you paying attention, Empire State Development Corporation and Governor Paterson?

With sales across Brooklyn down a staggering 57 percent from a year ago, Williamsburg, with its high density of new construction, has taken on an ominous disposition. Walk down virtually any block and you’ll come across an amenity-laden building that sits nearly empty: relics of a moment in history that seems, increasingly, like a fever dream. Some developers with iffy financing have quietly been forced to go rental, others have lowered prices to the point where losses are inevitable, and a handful of projects, including two buildings Maundrell had been selling, have gone into foreclosure.

Most unsettling are the cases of the developers who seem to have vanished, leaving behind so many vacant lots and half-completed buildings—eighteen, to be precise, more than can be found in all of the Bronx—that large swaths of the neighborhood have come to resemble a city after an air raid. “I mean, look at that,” Maundrell said as we drove down a particularly grim block on North 9th Street that was lined on both sides by pits of mud where luxury buildings were supposed to be going up. “No signs of anyone actually building anywhere. It’s crazy. My lovely Williamsburg is filled with all these vacant sites everywhere you look.”


NoLandGrab: With hundreds of finished apartments sitting vacant in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, and thousands more coming on line this year and next, remind us again: why is the ESDC pushing full speed ahead on Atlantic Yards?

Posted by eric at 12:48 PM

July 11, 2009

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's AY fig leaves

Atlantic Yards Report

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership essentially serves as a representative for developers, so visitors to their website (a screenshot of it is here) should have their b.s. detectors in good working order. Fortunately, Norman Oder is here to set things straight.

You'd think the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) would've gotten this right, especially since its representatives last month testified in favor of Atlantic Yards before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Empire State Development Corporation.

However, it claims on its web site that Atlantic Yards would be "built over the rail yards near Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues...."

For the record, Atlantic Yards would cover 22 acres; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard is about 8.5 acres. The project can't be built over the rail yards.

Also, some of the numbers are off; as approved in December 2006, the project would include 6430 housing units, a reduction from the 6800 once promised and stated on the DBP web site. There is no plan as of now for hotel space.

And, of course, the Atlantic Yards site is not in Downtown Brooklyn, but would extend it.

Why bother with these seemingly minor issues? Because some people unfamiliar with the project may take the DBP's representations at face value.


Posted by steve at 8:01 AM

June 26, 2009

July 1, Wed, 10 am: City Council Hearing on Coney Island Rezoning

Noticing New York

The Bloombergian machine (assisted on Atlantic Yards by the increasingly confused and foundering Governor Paterson) is certainly revved up to shove things down the public’s throat.

Atlantic Yards, Willets Point, Dock Street — next up... Coney Island.


Posted by lumi at 4:59 AM

June 23, 2009

What could $20 million buy? Only a little more than this small Lower East Side site

Atlantic Yards Report

The day after the Metropolitan Transit Authority Finance Committee rubber-stamped the $20M cash-up-front deal for the arena portion of the Vanderbilt Railyard with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, watchdog Norman Oder continues his series examining what $20M will get you on the open market.


From the Fourth Quarter 2008 Massey Knakal Sales Journal:

A 91’ x 75’ development site at 154 Delancey Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan was sold by Massey Knakal Realty Services in an all-cash transaction valued at $15,750,000. The property is located on the north side of Delancey between Clinton and Suffolk Streets. Based on the C6-2A proposed zoning (current zoning is C6-1), it contains approximately 47,706 buildable square feet.

The segment of the Vanderbilt Yard at issue is 495' x 200', or 99,000 square feet, some 14.5 times larger than the Lower East Side site. If you multiply the Upper East Side price by 14.5, it comes out to $228.4 million.


NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner knows that only poor suckers buy property on the open market and secure private financing to develop it.

Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

June 17, 2009

What could $20 million buy? Not even two small DTB development sites

Atlantic Yards Report

While Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is set to strike a deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by which he'll cough up only $20M up front for the development rights to the portion of the Vanderbilt Railyard on which he plans to build the arena, Norman Oder pokes around looking for comps:

Here's an example of a lot nearly one-seventh as small that in late 2007 sold for more than half the $20 million sum.

From the First Quarter 2008 Massey Knakal Sales Journal:A 187’ x 80’ development site with plans for hotel rooms at 300 Schermerhorn in Downtown Brooklyn was sold by Massey Knakal Realty Services in an all-cash transaction valued at $11,900,000 to a hotel developer and operator... The as-of-right buildable square footage is approximately 83,000 square feet for a mixed-use development project, or 90,000 square feet for a community use property. The site is also located near several mixed-use retail, residential projects, office buildings and is only blocks from one of the strongest retail corridors in New York City, the Fulton Mall.

Keep in mind that the segment of the Vanderbilt Yard at issue is 495' x 200', or 99,000 square feet. The 300 Schermerhorn site is 14,960 square feet.

Yes, the market has changed, but has it changed that much? And isn't a site supporting an arena, housing, and more somewhat more valuable than a hotel site?


NoLandGrab: Long-time watchdogs will recall that Ratner's deal with the MTA was already the lowball bid. Uh-huh... RATNER IS SHORTCHANGING HIS OWN LOWBALL BID.

Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

June 15, 2009

Don’t build it — They will come


As public apathy turns to disdain for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject, commentator Neil deMause recalls other publicly funded megaprojects that died a slow death for the better:

But history shows that red tape sometimes has its silver lining:

• The better part of my childhood was spent in anticipation of Westway, which for roughly a zillion dollars was going to tear up the Hudson River waterfront and bury an expressway beneath it. Thirteen years of bitter public fights later, an endangered-fish lawsuit finally killed the plan, at which point the city instead got the cash for new subway cars and a beautiful scaled-down waterfront promenade.

• Before that, Robert Moses’ Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would have linked the Holland Tunnel to the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges, was debated for most of the 1960s before being abandoned. In the interim, the “blighted” district he had wanted to pave over became ... Soho.

When big projects falter, there’s no shame in stepping back and asking: “Why are we doing this again?” and “What else could we do instead?” It’s what a bunch of good-government groups have already asked about Ground Zero — which blew yet another deadline of its own last week — saying a Westway-style trade-in for mass transit cash makes more sense than subsidizing office towers that will sit empty for a generation.


Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

What could $20 million buy? A warehouse in the Bronx

Atlantic Yards Report

Would the Metropolitan Transportation Authority be getting a raw deal if it agreed to Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner's offer of $20 million up-front for the development rights for the arena portion of the Vanderbilt Railyard. To get a sense of what $20 million is worth these days, Norman Oder has been running a series on what $20 million will buy you these days.

From the 6/10/09 NAI Friedland Realty, a commercial real estate firm based in Yonkers, said that it recently helped complete one of the largest real estate sales of the year in the Bronx. The 144,000-square-foot Paradise Foods warehouse at 1080 Leggett Avenue in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx has sold for $20 million. Manhattan Beer Distributors purchased the 4.9-acre property from Paradise Foods.

That's a little more than twice as much acreage as the section of Vanderbilt Yard at issue, but the warehouse is much smaller than the development planned for the segment of the railyard.


Posted by lumi at 5:25 AM

June 6, 2009

Silver hints W.T.C. consensus is to build more towers

Downtown Express
By Julie Shapiro

The main point of this article is to try to understand what is planned for the World Trade Center Site, even though elected officials are keeping those plans secret. The proposed Atlantic Yards project gets a mention.

Silver listed the other office projects that are falling through, from Hudson Yards to Atlantic Yards, which will make the World Trade Center towers all the more important.


Posted by steve at 7:12 AM

May 19, 2009

LHinks: Bits and bytes post-woodland retreat

Long Island watchdogs and hopeful hockey fans are keeping an eye on the Atlantic Yards arena and how recent events affect their chances of getting a new arena for the NY Islanders:

"I'm not dead yet." -- Because no land development news happens without a "how does this relate to the Islanders?" angle: Another hurdle surpassed for the Atlantic Yards development (and the quest to move the New Jersey Nets -- which I am told is a "basket-ball" team) -- to Brooklyn. There has been a long, hard-fought effort to stop this development, but if it ever launches -- now October is the target -- calls will renew for that to be the Lighthouse alternative for the Long Island Brooklyn Islanders.


Note: "The Lighthouse" is Long Island's version of a boondoggle mixed-use megaproject attached to a new arena.

Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

May 13, 2009

Brooklyn Exchange opening

BKEX.jpg Produced by architecture and communication design students at Pratt Institute, this exhibition presents downtown Brooklyn’s past, present and future development projects in order to imagine a more creative and just vision for its future.

Opening Reception: Friday May 15, 6-8 PM

Metropolitan Exchange
33 Flatbush Avenue

2/3/4/5 to Nevins, B/N/R/Q to DeKalb
A/C/G to Hoyt-Schermerhorn, G to Fulton or B/D/M/N/R/Q/2/3/4/5 to Atlantic Avenue
Gallery Hours, May 16-June 1, W-Sa, 12-6PM

Note: This exhibit also addresses some Atlantic Yards issues.

Posted by lumi at 7:13 AM

The Perils of Public-Private

The NY Observer
By Eliot Brown

While the effort to rebuild the World Trade Cetner site has become the poster-project for the pitfalls with public-private development deals — especially when the economy sours and the private partners seek to renegotiate subsidies and contracts — Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards megaproject is next in line:

The imbroglio downtown brings into glaring view a flaw common to public-private development deals in New York, a city where progress on large-scale projects so often proves elusive. Struck in strong economic times under aggressive assumptions, agreements on large government-administrated developments almost inevitably falter when the economy shifts, causing private developers to petition the public sector for new concessions or subsidies to keep the deals alive. The result is a system in which large projects seem to rarely provide the public with the value initially advertised, at least not within the time frame once imagined.

While the World Trade Center is by all measures an extreme example, with a host of other factors contributing to the mess, this pattern appears again and again in a glance at some of the city’s largest real estate projects on public land in recent years.

In Brooklyn, at the imperiled $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, developer Forest City Ratner is negotiating with a host of agencies to delay or decrease its hundreds of millions in obligations to the public sector, as the viability of the project is now threatened.


Posted by lumi at 6:31 AM

WOW factor on Dean St.

DeanStPent-Corcor.jpg Corcoran's online listing for a penthouse in the Newswalk building tries to sugar coat fact that it is "near" Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project:

This is the most Dynamic Pent House in the building with a true WOW factor.... Located in Prospect Heights near the proposed Atlantic Yards, which involves the designs of world famous architect Frank Gehry and a stadium for the New Jersey Nets basketball team.


NoLandGrab: Wow — by "near" they mean actually surrounded by Bruce Ratner's contorversial Atlantic Yards high-rise complex. [Click image to enlarge.]

Not to nitpick, but a realtor ought to know the difference between a "stadium" and an "arena." Stadiums are bigger, right?

Posted by lumi at 6:17 AM

May 6, 2009

WTF, ESDC? Recession Twists State’s Economic Development Arm

New York Observer
by Eliot Brown

You probably never would have guessed this, what with its slick handling of, and all the progress with, the Atlantic Yards project, but the Empire State Development Corporation is in disarray.

STILL, multiple business leaders and others who deal with the ESDC said that in New York City and elsewhere in the downstate region, the agency does not seem to have adopted a new approach amid the recession. The ESDC’s downstate efforts have generally been defined by a series of high-profile private and public development projects—Atlantic Yards, the expansion of Penn Station—many of which have been stalled.

“I think it is fair to say that if ESDC has a plan for economic development, nobody downstate knows what it is,” said a leader of a downstate economic development organization who interacts with the ESDC.


NoLandGrab: "Nobody downstate knows what" the plan for economic development is? Sure they do. It's "In Bruce We Trust."

Read the full article to learn about the frosty relationship between the ESDC's Chairman and CEO, and how the "keen priority" of filling the job of downstate president has dragged on for the better part of a year. Could it be the psychological test?

Posted by eric at 12:24 PM

May 5, 2009

Another gentrification discussion, the hard to find "sweet spot," and the "public realm"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reviews a preview of a live WNYC broadcast of a discussion on preservation and gentrification, and ties it ever-so-obliquely to Atlantic Yards.

A caller named Manny, who grew up in the Lower East Side and Washington Heights, expressed understandably mixed feelings.

"Is the city safer, yes, but at what cost?" he asked rhetorically. "To have $90-a-plate food [at restaurants] on Avenue B is crazy... It's good, but it's also bad, because the poor people at the end have to pay."

Well, that's only if the city allows developers and homeowners to share the benefits of rising property values without any sharing the wealth--redistributing tax money in the form of "public realm" investment, requiring subsidized housing as a tradeoff for increased density, and making non-gentrified neighborhoods more attractive thanks to better transit and parks.

(Oh yeah, what's the connection to Atlantic Yards? Had the city been doing this all along, a project like AY--essentially a private rezoning--wouldn't have been seen as a savior by some and wouldn't have been so polarizing.)


Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

April 29, 2009

In discussion about Fort Greene and Clinton Hall, history, transition, gentrification, and, yes, Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

It’s hard to do justice to the sometimes compelling, sometimes disjointed, wide-ranging panel discussion concerning Fort Greene and Clinton Hilll presented last night by the New York Times’s blog The Local at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Dweck Center at Grand Army Plaza.

But the session, titled “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” did touch on the important and sometimes fraught intersections of neighborhood transition, development pressure, and race/class relations. (Of the panelists, two were black and two were white.)

And, despite some overlong monologues (from both panel and audience) or off-topic questions, it left people longing for more, for the messy humanity of in-person dialogue, in contrast with often-anonymous online interaction.

The growth of new residential towers, mainly at the neighborhood’s edges--and in several cases the unexpected consequence of a Downtown Brooklyn rezoning aimed to produce new (but ultimately unnecessary) office space, provoked dismay from [Nelson] George, who linked them to the planned Atlantic Yards project, which would be built just across the border in Prospect Heights.


Posted by eric at 9:17 AM

April 28, 2009

Lessons from Times Square redevelopment: even after legislative approval, financial accountability is needed

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at Atlantic Yards through the lens of "Lynne Sagalyn's 2001 epic analysis of redevelopment, Times Square Roulette."

Closer evaluation

Sagalyn argues that, given the lengthy project buildout and economic changes--situations that have recurred in the case of AY--further analysis was warranted:
This context of review intensifies the accountability issues attached to public deal making, as does the task of coping with a changing economic context and its implications for already-cut deals. Both issues make apparent the need for financial accountability of public deal making, after initial legislative approval. By the conventional norms of public policy, this means some type of review of the public’s financial commitments, an ex-ante evaluation of a deal's costs and benefits or an ex-post audit of financial transactions or both. That the public resources in question may be in the form of off-budget foregone revenues (rent credits or tax abatements) or long-term contingent commitments (ESAC) rather than direct cash grants or loans does not change the logic. It only complicates the tasks of analysis and explanation.
(Emphasis added)

Accountability needed

Sagalyn concludes:
If deal making is to progress as an effective and politically sustainable strategy in the took kit of development officials and city planners, the protocols for democratic accountability need to be further refined.


Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

April 9, 2009

NYC EDC head on recent past: "We’ve been much more the 'Real Estate Development Corporation'"

Atlantic Yards Report

When we thought that "EDC" meant "Every Developer Corporation," we weren't far off. NYCEDC Prez Seth Pinsky explains why:

The current issue of City Hall News contains excerpts from a March 13 "On/Off the Record" breakfast session with New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky.

Q: You are the president of the Economic Development Corporation. At this moment of recession, general economic turmoil, what do those words even mean?

A:...What occurred to me was that, really, for much of the last several years, even though we call ourselves the Economic Development Corporation, we’ve been much more the “Real Estate Development Corporation”, and that’s been because the economy has been growing on its own without much need for the city’s interference.

In the full quote, Pinksy admits to an "epiphany" that hardly inspires confidence.


Posted by lumi at 6:03 AM

April 7, 2009

Crain's Two-fer Tuesday: Atlantic Yards buzz kill edition

All signs point to an Atlantic Yards project that, for a long, long time, might be nothing more than a basketball arena. Don't expect condos anytime soon.

City condo sales head south

Condominium sales in the boroughs outside of Manhattan plummeted in the first quarter, but several neighborhoods are still faring better than others, according to a report released Tuesday.

While Manhattan saw a 63% decline in condo sales in the first three months of 2009 from the year-earlier period, Brooklyn wasn’t far behind, with a 61% drop in sales volume. Meantime, sales in Queens and the Bronx were down 58% and 50%, respectively.

The data come from a quarterly study conducted by, a web site operated by the Real Estate Board of New York.

Citywide, average condo sale prices fell 10%, to $1.2 million, the report said. Prices in Brooklyn recorded the largest percentage drop compared with other boroughs, tumbling 12%, to $516,000, from the year-earlier period. In Manhattan, average prices fell 5%, to $1.7 million.

Well, at least they can build some office space, right? Er...

Office rents: Biggest plunge in 25 years

Enormous growth in sublease space pushed Manhattan office rents to their biggest quarterly decline in 25 years as they fell 6% in the first three months of this year, according to a report released Tuesday by Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

Rents fell to an average of $65.01 a square foot in the first quarter, and the $4.43 drop from the end of 2008 was the largest quarterly descent since Cushman began keeping records in 1984.

Rents have slid 11% since hitting a high of $72.97 a square foot in the third quarter of 2008. By the end of the year, rents are likely to plunge 30% from their peak, according to Joseph Harbert, chief operating officer of Cushman & Wakefield’s New York Metro region.

The larger issue is the inability to get debt financing,” Mr. Harbert said. “It is going to take a while for the situation to work itself out.”

The outlook seems grim. There are only $100 million worth of properties under contract now, down from $3.5 billion a year earlier.

NoLandGrab: With Manhattan rates plunging, and office space abundant, any pricing advantage that Brooklyn once held is rapidly eroding.

Posted by eric at 4:21 PM

April 6, 2009

Atlantic Terrace construction

Video, Tracy Collins, via flickr Atlantic Yards Photo Pool.

From Tracy Collins, some stop-action-y video of the Fifth Avenue Committee's Atlantic Terrace project.

Unfortunately, they are not going to install solar panels as planned, as the building would be virtually in perpetual shade due to the towers of Atlantic Yards, which would be to the south, across Atlantic Avenue.

Posted by eric at 8:37 PM

April 5, 2009

Four neighborhoods roll with punches

Recession hits some locations harder than others

Crain's NY Business
by Amanda Fung

And so it goes all across the city as the recession—which many people thought as recently as a year ago might bypass us—hits with increasing fury. Yet the impact of the downturn is highly uneven. In this report, Crain's takes a look at how four very different sections of the city are faring and rates the recession's impact on each.

Big projects stalled out

Recession Impact: Bloodied

OFFICE SPACE 18 million square feet
RETAIL SPACE 4 million square feet (half on Fulton Street)

Source: Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

AFTER NEARLY 20 YEARS of growth fueled by government agencies and back-office operations for big Wall Street firms, downtown Brooklyn made major strides in recent years attracting private businesses and diversifying its mix of commercial tenants.

Last year, companies including WPP's ad agency UniWorld Group and News Corp.'s Community Newspaper Group signed leases at MetroTech Center, according to Keith Caggiano, a broker at CB Richard Ellis Inc. At the time, landlords were dangling asking rents in the high-$30s per square foot, but this year rents have fallen to the mid-$30s and few deals are getting done. Meanwhile, a number of big projects that promised to make downtown Brooklyn the fastest-growing office market in the city outside Ground Zero are on hold.

Among those are Forest City Ratner's sprawling $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, and City Point, which was supposed to transform the Albee Square site on Fulton Street into Brooklyn's tallest building, a 1.5 million-square-foot residential, retail and office tower.


NoLandGrab: More than five years after the Atlantic Yards project was launched, journalists are still misplacing its planned location. Sure, the footprint is near downtown, but it's actual location is in Prospect Heights, bordering Fort Greene.

Kudos, though, to Forest City Ratner's pr team, for its influence on plate tectonics.

Posted by eric at 10:04 PM

Brian Lehrer Takes Stock of the Building Boom: We Ask Some Coulda, Shoulda Questions About the (AOL) Time Warner Center

Noticing New York

This blog entry is largely concerned with assessing the Time Warner Center. Included is a prediction of the effect that the World Wide Web will have on the history of developments.

No one in the future will ever forget or lose access to all the details of the Atlantic Yards fight when you have forever afterwards all of Atlantic Yards Report, No Land Grab and Develop Don’t Destroy’s websites, including many other permanent assets like Bob Guskind’s Goawanus Lounge. The plans like the Unity Plan and the Pacific Plan which are better far better alternatives to the Ratner designs for Atlantic Yards will not fade away as they will remain easily accessible on the web. By the same token, all the ways that the Ratner/ESDC lack of proper public process shortchanges the public will remain just a click or two away.

It is doubtful that were the monstrosity of Atlantic Yards ever built, Paul Goldberger and Hugh Hardy would have a blithely forgetful conversion on Brian Lehrer’s program only eight years after the end of a development battle of so many years running. To be fair though, Atlantic Yards is bigger, much worse than the Time Warner Center since it is a net negative for the public rather than a net positive. Also, so far, unlike the AOL Time Warner Center, Atlantic Yards involves no competitive bids an no compromises from the developer!

A “Time Warning” Question: Will We Be Different in the Future by Having a Different Past?

Our take-away point with respect to the (once-AOL) Time Warner Center is that it is amazing that something from just a few years ago is so remote when we seek to refresh our memories in order to gain perspective on the present. We note, however, that things are changing with the new capabilities of the internet. With those new capabilities, we wonder whether the future will unfold in such a way that we have a quite different relationship with the recent past.

In the future, perhaps 15 years from now, you might even find your perspective on what could have been versus what is shaped by revisiting the current Brian Lehrer series taking stock of what is happening to the built environment in the city. You may find your future perspective shaped when, listening to the series in the far future year, you are reminded that, in the month of April 2009, you phoned in or commented on the program’s web page to express your hopes about what the city could be.


Posted by steve at 8:06 AM

April 3, 2009

Downtown tower keeps going and going and going…

The Brooklyn Paper

The 491-unit residential tower, slated to top off at 514 feet, or two feet taller than the legendary Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building, is at 111 Lawrence St., between Willoughby Street and the vestigial remnant of Myrtle Avenue, in rapidly changing Downtown.
A year earlier, some Brooklynites were aghast to discover that Frank Gehry’s iconic Miss Brooklyn tower, the trophy skyscraper at the gateway to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project, would rise to 620 feet and obscure some views of the bank building’s clocktower. But later that year, Ratner agreed to lower its height to just below 512 feet (though, not to sound like a broken record, the project is stalled due to the economic downturn).


NoLandGrab: Though many Brooklynites decried the notion that "Miss Brooklyn" would dethrone the Billyburg Building, others questioned the notion that the new tallest building in Brooklyn should be around the block from the former.

Though Bruce Ratner's web site would have you believe that the planned Atlantic Yards project is in Downtown Brooklyn, the Lawrence St. tower actually is.

Posted by lumi at 5:42 AM

March 30, 2009

‘Half-built sites’ cast shadow on New York’s economic landscape

Arab Times (AP)

A New York City contractors’ group has tracked over 100 projects in the city either stalled or canceled since last fall’s credit crisis dried up developers’ financing. The city’s Department of Buildings said more than 30 construction sites have been idled during recent inspections, and “we suspect that there are more,” spokeswoman Kate Lindquist said.

One of the biggest is Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, a 22-acre (9-hectare) development where a new arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team and up to 16 towers are planned. Construction activity stopped in December and won’t resume until a residents’ opposition lawsuit is resolved. The developer, Forest City Ratner, has delayed closing on a deal to purchase all the land until they have enough financing for the $4 billion megaproject.


Posted by lumi at 5:28 AM

March 25, 2009

Boro shopping stripped: New report says Brooklyn is hardest hit by shuttering of small businesses

NY Daily News
By Jeff Wilkins, Amanda Prescott and Erin Durkin

Hard times are compounded by Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards ghost town, for one small business owner located near the footprint of the project.

Paul Laidlow, the owner of Living Lights near Clinton Ave., added that the nearby Atlantic Yards project's dormant construction site has also driven shoppers away from the avenue.

"I had my eyes on that project as the lifeline of my business," said Laidlow. "Right now, it's basically survival. We're not even looking to make profit. ... We may not be here much longer if it doesn't turn around."


Posted by lumi at 5:21 AM

March 19, 2009

Best Western Adds Sunset Park, Downtown Hotels

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

In a recent article covering plans for new hotels in Brooklyn, reporter Linda Collins forgot the "cow pie" meter:

If you believe that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project is NOT in Downtown Brooklyn, despite claims by the overdeveloper's marketing materials, this one is even more of a stretch:

Best Western Downtown Brooklyn, 1324 Atlantic Ave. at Nostrand Avenue in Bed-Stuy, is expected to be the first completed, with its opening anticipated this summer.

Last we checked Bruce Ratner hasn't built the arena or the rest of Atlantic Yards, but someone forgot to tell hotelier Mukesh Patel:

He has had a lot of negative comments about the hotel’s location but he had that for the others, too. “But today, Fourth Avenue is changing,” he said. “Today, everyone is going to Williamsburg.” “This [Atlantic Avenue] location is not far from Downtown Brooklyn, it’s not far from the new stadium and Atlantic Yards development, and it’s easy to reach me: by public transportation — there is a Long Island Railroad station right in front of my property.”


Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

March 14, 2009

Downtown B’klyn to get Hyatt, Best Western

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

This article talks about the coming glut of hotel rooms in downtown Brooklyn. It is estimated that if all the proposed devlopment is completed, there will be 2,000 hotel rooms in the area.

The article concludes by making mention of the hotel rooms that would be added by the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

And this does not include the proposed hotels at Brooklyn Bridge Park (100-200 rooms) and in Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Plan (150 rooms in “Miss Brooklyn”).


NoLandGrab: Not only is Atlantic Yards not in downtown Brooklyn, there is currently no estimate as to when, if ever, "Miss Brooklyn" might be built.

Posted by steve at 8:08 AM

After the Bubble

New York Times
By Jonathan Mahler

One might think that The New York Times was going out of its way to misrepresent the proposed Atlantic Yards development. In an article in this weekend's real estate supplement, the author recalls a meeting with then deputy mayor for economic development, Dan Doctoroff. Atlantic Yards is mentioned as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's master plan (emphasis added).

As a violent summer storm raged outside, Doctoroff sketched out for me Bloomberg’s ambitious plans for New York. The rail yards and warehouses of the far West Side would be replaced by condos, hotels and retail stores. Thousands of apartment units and a new arena for the Nets would rise on the site of the Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn. Penn Station would undergo a gut renovation (and be renamed after Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan). Lower Manhattan would be transformed into a recreational playground, with cafes, performing-arts pavilions, ball fields, an outdoor ice rink, even a floating garden on the East River.

"Atlantic Yards" is the name of a proposed mixed-use development planned for Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

-The location of the development is Prospect Heights (or at least say "Vanderbilt Yards" if you're thinking about the Long Island Railroad facility).
-The location is outside of downtown Brooklyn.
-Only about a third of Atlantic Yards would be built over the existing rail yard. The rest would be built by razing the adjoining part of Prospect Heights.


Posted by steve at 7:50 AM

March 13, 2009

After taking over Governors Island and Brooklyn Bridge Park, would the city oversee Atlantic Yards? Nah

Atlantic Yards Report

NYC is planning on taking over the Governor's Island project and is thinking of doing the same for Brooklyn Bridge Park. Norman Oder explains why Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project won't go the same route:

Now, why wouldn't New York City want to take over Atlantic Yards? Well, first of all, it's not a joint city-state project; rather, it's a state project with city contributions.
Let me suggest several other reasons the city wouldn't take over:

  • the project requires a state override of city zoning
  • a city takeover would make a mockery of the lack of city input during the approval process
  • a state agency, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), not a city one, has proposed using eminent domain
  • the ESDC has led the way defending the project in court
  • the city doesn't have any more money to contribute
  • City Council member Letitia James, an AY opponent, might have some questions
  • City Council members Bill de Blasio and David Yassky, sometime AY critics and current attention-seeking citywide candidates, also might have questions
  • AY is a political hot potato, likely the only project that elected officials and civic groups have opposed as unworthy of federal stimulus funds


Posted by lumi at 6:10 AM

Hotels’ shaky bet on success in Brooklyn

Crowds flock to downtown Brooklyn’s Fulton Street Mall for discount school clothes at Cookies or hip-hop wear at Jimmy Jazz. But a new industry is in a risky bid during the recession to dominate the area: luxury hotels.

By Amy Zimmer

Even the hotel portion of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject is looking like it's not going to fly, as a staggering number of hotel rooms are already in the pipeline in Brooklyn during a serious citywide occupancy downturn.

A staggering 2,000 hotel rooms are in the pipeline for downtown Brooklyn — 750 alone on Duffield Street, a tiny block off of Fulton believed to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad.

“If a new hotel doesn’t have financing, it’s not going up,” said Dan Lesser, of CB Richard Ellis. “That’s just the reality.”
Manhattan’s hotels filled only 67 percent of their rooms last month, according to preliminary data from PKF Consulting. A year ago they were 82 percent full. Average room prices plummeted from $250 to $206.


Posted by lumi at 6:00 AM

March 12, 2009

Changes at 470 Vanderbilt: The Box plus a new residential building

Atlantic Yards Report

The real news in a report on plans for the conversion and expansion of the former Atlantic Telecom building on the northwest corner of Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues may be the land valuation.

In April 2007, I wrote about Forest City Ratner's flirtation with a plan to add 470 Vanderbilt Avenue, a nine-story former tire plant turned significantly empty telecom center just north of Atlantic Avenue, to the Atlantic Yards footprint.

That plan went by the wayside, and the telecom center became increasingly empty. But now it's showing signs of major changes: a renovation and rebranding of the office space, with new new retail, plus a new residential building slated for the site's large parking lot.

And there's an important Atlantic Yards connection; follow along to the bottom and take note of the assessed value of the land.

Assessed land value: under $11

It's worth looking at Department of Finance records to see the latest assessment. While DOF does not provide the square footage of the site, multiplying the dimensions (441.67 feet x 218.92 feet) yields a lot size of 96,690 square feet. PropertyShark calculates 90,500 square feet.

The land is valued by the city at $990,000.

That's under $11 a square foot. Such valuations near the Atlantic Yards site will become increasingly relevant if and when the arena block is assessed for the purposes of issuing tax-exempt bonds, especially given the example of Yankee Stadium.


NoLandGrab: To make the numbers work for those bonds, the valuation of the land beneath the planned arena would have to be many, many times that of 470 Vanderbilt, which is just a stone's throw away.

Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

March 9, 2009

Smith: How Bloomberg Could Finally Build Moynihan Station

NY Magazine, "Daily Intel"
By Chris Smith

The state sponsor of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject gets dissed by an unnamed government official in an article about efforts to get the Moynihan Station project back on track (emphasis added):

It would be wildly premature to hire another stonecutter, but there is new hope that Moynihan Station will get underway. Senator Chuck Schumer, with the help of the recession, has reframed the project along its original lines: Creating a new transportation hub instead of redeveloping a vast stretch of Midtown West all at once by moving Madison Square Garden to Ninth Avenue, as private developers Vornado and Related Companies intended to do when they won bidding rights four years ago. “Vornado and Related can’t get financing for the larger project right now, and they don’t know where they’re putting the buildings,” a government official says. “Dealing with trying to move Madison Square Garden is an intractable mess, and ESDC [New York State’s development agency] is not capable of running such a project. So this simplifies things by putting the Port Authority in charge and making transportation the central part of the project again.”


NoLandGrab: We can't speak for the competency of the ESDC, however it is commonly believed that it was chosen so the Atlantic Yards project would be scrutinized under a less stringent land-use review process and, by law, the State could supercede all local zoning restrictions.

Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

March 7, 2009

The Answer to Our Question About NYC Density - Destiny Is National News

Noticing New York

Plans to close portions of Manhattan's Broadway to vehicular traffic probably bring a smile to pedestrians. However, this policy is an indication that the City's approach to development has led to too great a density.

In the case of midtown Manhattan, closing streets to traffic is a possible safety valve. But what safety valve could Mayor Michael Bloomberg use in Brooklyn for the density-busting Atlantic Yards? (Emphasis added.)

The shutting down of the street space is also “answer” to the density question in another sense: although it was likely not anticipated when more density was being created, it serves as an after-the-fact escape valve adjustment to deal with it. That raises the question in our mind: What will happen in those situations where we build to cram in maximum additional density and we don’t have extra streets and avenues to close down as an escape valve or way to adjust when it turns out that we get more congestion than we can otherwise handle? The question is urgent because cramming in maximum additional density is the new Bloombergian planning style.

We are thinking in particular of areas of the city that will experiment with combining superblocks with never before tried levels of density with FARs (zoning code parlance for “Floor to Area Ratio”i.e. “density”) that only become legally possible with such street closings. Ironically, important acknowledged urbanists like Jane Jacobs would call for more streets and avenues (particularly for pedestrians) as a means to cope with high density. Two examples of situations where we therefore may be building without the kind of escape valve option being used here are Atlantic Yards and, considered by the City Planning Commission only last Wednesday, construction of a dense new superblock of towers at what is now Fordham University’s midtown campus site.


Posted by steve at 6:33 AM

March 4, 2009

Plenty of rooms & deals - but no one's staying

NY Daily News
By Elizabeth Hays

According to an article in yesterday's Daily News, there's a glut of hotel rooms in Brooklyn, with more on the way:

As Brooklyn’s hotel boom goes bust, it’s hard times for hotel proprietors. But, for visitors, it’s never been better.
"Brooklyn . . . is hurting pretty bad," said hotel developer Sam Chang, who opened five Brooklyn hotels in recent years, including the Holiday Inn Express on Union St., but sold off his last one two years ago.

"There are too many hotels," he added.

The situation is only going to get worse if the economy doesn't pick up quickly, proprietors predicted.

Nearly 800 luxury hotel rooms are currently under construction downtown, according to the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, including a Sheraton hotel set to open this spring.

Still, other projects are hoping additional construction days will help them ride out the recession.


NoLandGrab: Every few months or so, as the tide shifts in the local real estate market, Bruce Ratner predictably lets on that the configuration of his Atlantic Yards scheme has changed. When commercial vacancies were way down in Manhattan, the signature tower was primarily devoted to offices. Then the condo market was on fire, and planned office space morphed into luxury condos. [Officially, as a hedge, two configurations have been approved by NY State.] For the past couple of years, Brooklyn couldn't host enough hotels, and, like magic, Ratner included a hotel in his plans.

The moral of the story is that the Atlantic Yards is actually a big "whatever" — just give Bruce more money and he'll figure it out along the way. The public doesn't really need Atlantic Yards and this article is more proof that the marketplace doesn't need Atlantic Yards.

Unfortunately, the one feature of Atlantic Yards that the public seems to need or want is the affordable housing, which is supposed to get under way when the "whatever" gets built.

Posted by lumi at 4:46 AM

March 1, 2009

Huge glut of office space coming soon

Queens Crap

From Bloomberg:

New York’s biggest banks and securities firms may relinquish 8 million square feet of office space this year, deepening the worst commercial property slump in more than a decade as they abandon a record amount of property.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., bankrupt Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and industry rivals have vacated 4.6 million feet, a figure that may climb by another 4 million as businesses leave or sublet space they no longer need, according to CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., the largest commercial property broker.

What a great time to build Willets Point and Atlantic Yards up with offices!


Posted by steve at 5:47 AM

February 21, 2009

Manhattan on Sale

by Leslie P. Norton

With all the awful goings-ons in the financial markets this week, what did Barron's choose to put on its cover this week? A report on New York City's teetering luxury real estate market.

First came Miami, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Now Manhattan's high-end housing market is cratering. With Wall Street firms stepping up layoffs, and money for big-ticket mortgages drying up quickly, prices for new york apartments and townhouses of $5 million or more have been falling and may well drop by another 30% before finally bottoming out. That could help turn the Big Apple into the ugliest housing market in America.

While Barron's reported three months ago that the New York luxury market was headed for trouble ("Sand Castles," Nov. 24, 2008), the outlook has become notably worse, with some experts citing the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers as the breaking point.

The local economy is reeling as the securities industry moves to cut some 46,000 jobs by the summer of 2010. Affluent investors have pulled back from house shopping to nurse wounds inflicted by the stock market. Even that most voracious of buyers -- the hedge-fund manager -- has lost his appetite, as angry investors yank their money from his funds.

article [subscription required]

NoLandGrab: Sure, Manhattan's not Brooklyn, but this can't bode well for big, Manhattan-style luxury high-rise buildings in outer boroughs that haven't yet broken ground, like, um, those planned for Atlantic Yards. It's very possible that market assumptions for the project's nearly two thousand condo units are now out the window.

Posted by eric at 2:50 PM

February 13, 2009

Back and Forth: Developing Agenda with Marisa Lago

The Capitol
by Andrew J. Hawkins

A sharp-eyed reader tipped us off to this November interview with the president and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation.

Over the summer, Gov. David Paterson (D) began to put together a team to run the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), first appointing M&T Bank chief executive Robert Wilmers to chair the economic development agency. Two months later, he nominated former Citi executive Marisa Lago to be president and CEO.

Since then, Lago has been traveling to communities upstate and down in an effort to better acquaint herself with the state’s dire economic conditions. She agrees that times are tough for major development projects like Moynihan Station and Atlantic Yards, but sees opportunities for job growth and retention.

Lago talks about the search for a downstate chair, the need to improve infrastructure even during tough times, and the criticisms of Wilmers as a reluctant executive.


Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

February 3, 2009

Adventures in real estate: agent hypes property next to AY site

Atlantic Yards Report

Sometimes you have to wonder if descriptions of properties located near Atlantic Yards are intended as marketing or full disclosure:

Ingram & Hebron Realty, marketing three contiguous properties at 670-674-678 Pacific Street, bills them as "[d]irectly across the street from $4 billion Atlantic Yards/Nets Arena project" and advertises them using a deeply aspirational map of the AY footprint.

(Photo by Tracy Collins shows the brick Spalding building in the background, to the west on Pacific Street.)

After all, nothing has been built, and the property for sale/lease would directly border the site of Building 15, which would first serve as a staging area for arena construction, should it go forward, and then, in four years or more, become the home of a 272-foot tower. It could take decades, if ever, to build the towers in Phase 2, east of the arena block.

In other words, anyone living or working at that location had better bring earplugs.


Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

From Ratner to Trump?

Atlantic Yards Report

A high-profile official at another highly leveraged development company asserts that they are looking for opportunities to take over projects stimied by the current economic climate. Then again, Ivanka did work for the Brucester.


Posted by lumi at 4:45 AM

January 28, 2009

Atlantic Yards as footnote

The troubled Atlantic Yards project frequently pops up as a context-setter — usually as the what-not-to-do example., What’s up, Dock? Lobbying fees, that’s what

For example, when Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project was nearing its approval by Albany lawmakers in 2006, the developer spent $2.105 million to lobby elected and appointed officials, up from less than $500,000 the year before.

Brooklyn The Borough, An Update on Brooklyn Bridge Park

With even Bruce Ratner scaling back, who is going to invest in more overpriced residences during an economic crisis?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Navy Yard, B’klyn Waterfront Are Bright Lights in Otherwise Dismal ’09 Econ. Outlook

George Sweeting, deputy director of the NYC Independent Budget Office and the panelist focusing on the city as a whole, also said a turnaround is far off.

Asked about [Forest City Ratner’s] Atlantic Yards arena project, Sweeting said “It may be time for the city to take another look at it. It’s pretty clear it will not look like originally planned.”

Posted by eric at 9:26 AM

January 26, 2009


The Brooklyn Paper
By Mike McLaughlin

Activity in the luxury condo market around the block from Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards arena and highrise project paints a bleak picture for the need for more luxury housing in the area:

Sales of luxury apartments in the majestic and phallic Williamsburgh Savings Bank building are so sluggish that the owner will rent the unsold units until the economy improves — the latest proof that the real-estate market has gone to hell in a rent basket.

Brooklyn’s tallest building, once predominantly filled with dental offices and now a 190-unit tower called “One Hanson Place,” earlier this year was proudly boasting of an upper-floor apartment with wraparound views of the New York skyline that cost $6 million, but is now trying to fill the last 19 domiciles with rent ranging from $3,400 to $4,800 per month, according to the Stribling Properties Web site.


NoLandGrab: One of the more curious details of Ratner's struggle to build Atlantic Yards has been the occasional announcement that the proportion of housing and commercial space has once again changed. When there was a boom in the price of office space, the formerly-known-as Miss Brooklyn signature skyscraper was supposed to be an office tower. As the luxury condo market soared, Ratner changed his mind and added condos. Two different plans were approved by the Public Authorities Control Board to help Ratner continue to hedge his bet, underscoring the fact that neither is truly in demand.

Predictably, none of the promised affordable housing that is being used to promote Ratner's project will get built if the arena and office space-slash-luxury condos are stalled.

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

January 21, 2009

Speaking of Mythical Places

Develop Don't Destroy posted an item on something we all missed. It appears that the powers that be in New Jersey are concerned that groundbreaking on their Xanadu get started before Bruce Ratner's Shangri-La:

From the January 15th Bergen Record:

Codey questions Xanadu's viability

State Senate President Richard Codey strongly questioned the viability of the struggling [Meadowlands] Xanadu project today, given the repeated delays in its opening as well as the downturn in the national economy.

Former Govs. Jim Florio, left, Richard Codey and Donald DiFrancesco were part of a roundtable discussion on the Meadowlands. "I think it’s a race to see which project is put in the grave first: the Brooklyn [Barclays] arena or Xanadu," Codey said, referring also to the Nets’ long-deferred attempt to move out of the Izod Center...

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

January 16, 2009

EDC: City Not a One-Trick Pony
By Paul Bubny

NEW YORK CITY-"We are undeniably in difficult times," Tokumbo Shobowale, COO of the New York City Economic Development Corp., told an Associated Builders and Owners audience on Wednesday. However, he said that in many ways the city is better prepared to withstand the current downturn than it was following 9/11, thanks in large part to a diversifying economy. "We’re no longer a one-trick pony," Shobowale said.

NoLandGrab: Yeah we're, like, a three-trick pony, that is if you're counting boondoggles for sports team owners, or eminent-domain-abusing megaprojects.

The timelines of two major Brooklyn EDC initiatives--revitalizing Coney Island and the Atlantic Yards project--are less clearly defined at the moment. Shobowale said the goal with Coney Island is to turn it into a 12-month tourist destination, but at present there are only a few acres of the arcades and rides that made the area famous. Forward movement on Atlantic Yards hinges on developer Forest City Ratner Cos. lining up financing, he said, pointing out that the renewed commitment of Barclays to the project is an encouraging sign.

NLG: Ugh, Coney Island is now famous for even less than a few acres of arcades and rides, and we can't decide who is more to blame, developer Joseph Sitt or Mayor Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, "Forward movement on Atlantic Yards hinges on" more than financing: Forest City needs to renegotiate its existing debt burden, continue to feed operating losses from the NJ Nets, and deal with legal suits, a sour credit market, etc.

And since when is Atlantic Yards a "major Brooklyn EDC initiative?" The Mayor signed over New York City's role to the Empire State Development Corporation a long, long time ago.


Posted by lumi at 4:55 AM

January 12, 2009

Door slams shut on New York City’s property boom

Taipei Times

Bruce Ratner's struggling Atlantic Yards megaproject is the current celebrity spokesmodel for the flagging NYC construction industry and real estate market:

Manhattan has traditionally been a real estate fortress, protected from wider trends simply by the facts that so many people want to be here and space on the island is finite.

Not any longer.
Construction, one of the great New York industries, is also stuttering.

Reports suggest that at least US$4 billion worth of construction projects have been cancelled or delayed, among them a 16-storey tower and basketball arena project in the Atlantic Yards neighborhood.

“No one wants to take the risk of putting up a new building,” Harbert said.

The picture is similar in the residential market.


NoLandGrab: BTW, the "neighborhood" is "Prospect Heights" — "Atlantic Yards" is the name of the project.

Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

January 9, 2009

Builder: This ‘Domino’ won’t fall

Th Brooklyn Paper
By Ben Muessig

Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards arena and highrise megaproject is now the official totally floundering, ill-conceived, way-too-expensive poster project:

The developer behind Brooklyn’s second biggest construction project says that he’s doing fine — even though his foes are hoping that the softening economy will do to his oversized project what it did to Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 5:08 AM

January 7, 2009

Markowitz Supports Reopening the Jail and Adding Retail

Gowanus Lounge

Atlantic Yards makes a cameo in GL's report on the Borough President's support for the re-opening of the Brooklyn House of Detention. And yes, the Beep apparently really did say that "Brooklyn families have a right to expect reasonable commuting to visit detained relatives as opposed to the extreme burden of traveling to Rikers Island.”

And we can reassure everyone that Mr. Markowitz has not suggested a Frank Gehry-designed prison at Atlantic Yards should Bruce Ratner cut bait and run, leaving the Beepster twisting in the wind of one of New York’s most historically disastrous failed megaprojects.


NoLandGrab: Stranger things have happened, at least in Springfield, where the Frank Gehry-designed Cultural Center quickly became The Montgomery Burns State Prison (highlights below).

Posted by eric at 1:42 PM

January 6, 2009

Plans for population growth may be off

By Amy Zimmer

In better times, city officials banked on a population boom, but the recession has some urban planners saying the Bloomberg administration may need to reconsider its rosy estimate of a city of 9.1 million people in 2030.

Expectations of a population spike were buoyed by massive construction projects such as the troubled Hudson and Atlantic yards.

“The downturn in the real estate market signals that the city’s population is not likely to increase in the near-term future,” said Tom Angotti of Hunter College’s Center for Community Planning and Development.


Posted by lumi at 4:25 AM

January 5, 2009

Destroying Coney Island to save it

By Neil deMause

After two straight years of “last summer ever!” at Coney, 2009 is starting to feel like the end for real. Astroland itself is in the process of being packed up — possibly for shipment to Australia — leaving only the Cyclone and the smaller Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park as remnants of Coney’s once-great amusement district.
Such is what’s become of the city’s 4-year-old plan to “revitalize” Coney Island via a sweeping rezoning plan to bring in housing and “entertainment retail.”
[Developer Joseph] Sitt’s money-grubbing has drawn lots of deserved jeers, but Coney has plenty of company as a failed example of Bloomberg development policy: Hudson Yards, Atlantic Yards, Willets Point, all of which promise to end up as empty holes commemorating the popping of the real estate bubble (let’s not even get into Ground Zero). A Jan. 14 meeting by the Municipal Art Society is expected to turn into a last-ditch push for the city to call a timeout on its rezoning and go back to the drawing board. It’s a bit late for “think before you act,” but better late than never.


Yesterday, Gowanus Lounge featured a video of Coney Island's makeshift memorial.

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

December 31, 2008

GL’s 2009 Brooklyn Deathwatch: Five Rotting Corpses???

Gowanus Lounge

Here is a list of 5 development development projects that are thought to have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. Topping the list of projects is the one that we'd like most to see pushing up daisies: the not-dead-yet Atlantic Yards.

Last year, we went out on a limb and predicted the Gowanus Whole Foods project wouldn’t happen. It hasn’t. Yet. This year there are oh-so-many projects that one can predict will be scaled back or do the Dance of Death. Here are a few to chew on:

  1. Atlantic Yards. We think there is a good chance most of the project will choke on its own excess, including the arena, because of the credit crunch. Unless, of course, Forest City Ratner succeeds in getting a taxpayer bailout to make it happen. If the arena does happen, we predict a crappy Prudential Center-like structure that would be built at half the cost of Frank Gehry’s work. So, maybe it’s not an entirely dead and rotting corpse, yet, but the thing is already on life support.


Posted by steve at 3:12 PM

December 27, 2008

Downturn Ends Building Boom in New York

New York Times
By Christine Haughney

This article does not mention the proposed Atlantic Yards project, but it provides one context for evaluating claims made by certain developers and State agencies about the project moving forward.

Nearly $5 billion in development projects in New York City have been delayed or canceled because of the economic crisis, an extraordinary body blow to an industry that last year provided 130,000 unionized jobs, according to numbers tracked by a local trade group.

The setbacks for development — perhaps the single greatest economic force in the city over the last two decades — are likely to mean, in the words of one researcher, that the landscape of New York will be virtually unchanged for two years.

“There’s no way to finance a project,” said the researcher, Stephen R. Blank of the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit group.


Posted by steve at 8:28 AM

December 24, 2008

Construction unions may finance building projects

Crain's NY Business

As Forest City Enterprises deals with cash flow woes and tries to keep plans for the Atlantic Yards megaproject alive, here's something to keep track of:

New York construction unions, anxious to keep their members employed as building in the city slows, are exploring starting a fund to help finance real estate projects.

Ed Malloy, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council, says the unions may put $100 million of pension fund money into a fund that would fund various construction projects. However, he said the unions would seek matching funds from the city and the state to create a fund of $300 million. A proposal will be sent to government officials next year.

“As the days go on you hear about more projects with financial problems and we really want to do something to help,” said Mr. Malloy.


Posted by lumi at 5:03 AM

December 12, 2008

Yes to Dock St project

The Brooklyn Paper comes out in support of the Dock St. project because the public review process forced the developer to propose improvements to the design, something that never happened in the case of Atlantic Yards:

Walentas needs a zoning change to make his Dock Street dream a reality.

That requirement allowed community leaders and elected officials to pick apart the original project, a process that revealed its flaws and prevented it from being built.

Such public review was entirely lacking at Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards, where a cursory environmental impact review found serious flaws, yet because no approval was needed by a local agency or elected official, the flaws were never corrected.

On Dock Street, however, the system worked: A flawed project was rejected, and the developer went back to the drawing board and returned with a better design that includes substantial public benefits.


Posted by lumi at 4:41 AM

December 10, 2008

Empty lot — and empty promises? — at Court St project

The Brooklyn Paper managed to report the big news that work has been halted on the MTA railyards for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject, toward the end of an article on a Carroll Gardens project that has been suspended for quite a while now:

The developers of a controversial residential project on Court Street have quietly halted construction for at least six months, raising anxiety that the empty lot will haunt the main drag of Carroll Gardens during this increasingly dire economic downturn.

Here's the second-to-last paragraph:

The same can be said for the borough’s main construction project, Atlantic Yards. The Daily News reported last week that construction at the 16-skyscraper, arena, residential and office space project has halted, pending developer Bruce Ratner’s purchase of land from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the conclusion of several pending lawsuits.


NoLandGrab: Satisfied Atlantic Yards opponents can just shut up now.

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

December 7, 2008

As city housing agency considers bonds for Albee Square tower, FUREE promises a protest


Atlantic Yards Report

The now-demolished Albee Square Mall site in Downtown Brooklyn is slated to become the CityPoint tower, and the image at right from the CityPoint web site presumably illustrates the target audience.
FUREE protest

However, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), a fierce critic of plans emanating from the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, has called (below) for members to protest the plan, stating, "The developers who bought the historic Albee Square Mall and evicted all the small businesses there are now asking the City for $400 million for the 60 story luxury tower they want to build."

Actually, it's $400 million in low-interest financing, not a $400 million grant. Such bonds, which can carry an interest rate of some 175 basis points less--e.g., 4.25% vs. 6%--are attractive to borrowers. The federal government, which takes the hit on lost interest, limits each state's allocation.

FUREE argues that the building should include 50% low-income affordable housing. (Atlantic Yards, btw, was initially promoted as 50% affordable, given 20% low-income rentals, and 30% middle- and moderate-income rentals among the 4500 rentals, but the addition of 1930 condos--at least 1730 market-rate--would bring the affordability ratio down.)


Posted by amy at 9:05 AM

November 25, 2008

President's message: Eyes on the horizon

New York Real Estate Journal
by James McCullar, FAIA

However, when institutions such as St. Vincent's Hospital and Columbia University need to modernize through expansion, or new developments such as Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards transform existing typologies, they often confront resistance from established neighborhoods and civic organizations. New growth is imperative if a city is to remain competitive in the global marketplace; yet those needs must be synthesized with existing contexts and expectations for sustainable communities.

The Wall Street collapse and crisis in global financial markets has unexpectedly brought expectations for unlimited growth to a halt. The New York Building Congress has projected the worst is yet to come in 2010 after projects in the pipeline dry up. However, as Governor Paterson reminded us recently, some of the most significant infrastructure and landmarks in the city, such as Rockefeller Center, was built over periods of economic ups and downs - we must keep our eyes on the horizon.

The silver lining in this cloud will be the opportunity for architects to work together with government, the development community, and civic organizations to plan more thoughtfully for the next cycle of growth, and to rethink projects hastily conceived in the rush of the recent real estate boom. As our workload slows down, we will all have more time to think about the future.

Finding the right balance presents an enormous challenge and demands a creative collaboration often missing in recent new developments where government overrides local concerns. We must be careful not to replicate the errors of our modernist past. Above all we must look back on this period as having created something good that will be remembered by future generations.


Posted by eric at 12:54 PM

Developer Chakrabarti: environmental review process is "workfare" for lawyers and consultants

Atlantic Yards Report

A lot of community groups don't like the environmental review process that, under city, state, and national law, requires elaborate disclosure documents that are burdensome to produce but not necessarily helpful.

And developers don't like them, either.

According to Vishaan Chakrabarti, the Executive Vice President of Design and Planning for the Related Companies:

"Our environmental impact process is completely flawed," he said. "Our regulatory process for a project like Moynihan Station--probably over $15 million has been spent on environmental work that no one will ever read, that is its own kind of workfare program for lawyers and consultants.”


Posted by lumi at 5:10 AM

November 21, 2008

What Decrepit Brooklyn Nabe Gets (In Dreams) This Gleaming Waterfront Park?

Runnin' Scared [Village Voice blog]

Forest City makes a cameo in this brief piece casting doubt on the likelihood of a newly proposed Brooklyn waterfront development coming to fruition.

One of the bright sides of a collapsing economy is that developers -- who normally treat us peons like, well, peons -- are getting their asses kicked. Forest City Enterprises, the home office of Atlantic Yards villain Bruce Ratner, has lost 93 percent of its share value this year. Brooklynites are even starting to reach across neighborhoods to hassle builders. Up your ass like a war of class, richies!


Posted by eric at 1:17 PM

November 20, 2008

The 28 of '08

Busted! New York real estate took a wallop this year—the properties that saw it all and survived to tell us something

NY Observer

What a year, eh? Arab money, Irish money, federal money, no money! This year was the annum when the party stopped and the hangover started, and New Yorkers slept little in between. Both the residential and commercial real estate markets stormed into Jan. 1 of this year happy and bloated, wafted along by hefty credit markets, an indifferent government and a can-do fervor.

And why not? Last year had marked record amounts of investment and apartment and building sales. And the possibilities appeared endless, as lenders poured capital in and buyers yanked it out to satiate markets where $5,000 for a square foot of condo space or $1 billion for an office building felt normal and never-ending.

So long to all that.

As 2008 closes, certain properties stand emblematic of the year’s triumphs and tribulations. Below comes a ranking of the 28 most representative—the towers, sites, stores, developments and complexes that captured a New York City in transition from thrill to chill, and that show the direction of the city property-wise in 2009 and beyond.

No. 25 of 28: Atlantic Yards

article [Click on the dot in central Brooklyn for the lowdown]

Posted by eric at 9:05 AM

November 16, 2008

Initial results of Imagine Coney to be presented tomorrow


Atlantic Yards Report

After two public meetings and two design meetings last week for the Imagine Coney project, the Municipal Art Society will unveil the design team's initial recommendations on Monday at 6:30 PM at the BAMCafe upstairs at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Reservations are recommended.

Initial ideas

While the design team obviously isn't wedded to suggestions from the public, the MAS has provided a list of "top public ideas," some of which are far more realistic than the others.
* Create a Venice, CA-style Muscle Beach
* Brooklyn Nets/Nudie Bar/Gambling (note that these are not linked)
* Hologram Facility/Video Wormhole
* Dig Hole to China
* Reestablish Massive Clock
* Outdoor Stage/Indoor Theater for Public Use
* New Fanciful Architecture
* Best Water Ride Ever
* Robots
* Adult Fun
* New Old Rides
* National Eating Hall of Fame (my idea)
* Transport Rides
* Be in Video Game
* Laser Water Show
* Interspecies Friendship


Posted by amy at 9:31 AM

November 12, 2008

In Coney Island Visions report, new ideas, express dreams, and AY avoidance

Atlantic Yards Report

Observing that the city's truncated Coney Island plan--an apparent accommodation to developer Joe Sitt--"greatly reduces the area set aside for open-air amusements and puts too much faith in 'entertainment retail,'" the Center for an Urban Future yesterday issued a report called Coney Island Visions, asking thinkers from a variety of fields about Coney Island's future.

The effort is a partnership with the Municipal Art Society (MAS), which recently began the Imagine Coney initiative. While the MAS is soliciting advice from everybody, the Center for an Urban Future consulted amusement industry veteran, writers, architects, urban planners, and historians. Most have not been involved in the details of the development debate but were asked to provide a broader picture.

The first person quoted in the report brought up Atlantic Yards is an example of what not to do.


NoLandGrab: More evidence that Atlantic Yards is the poster project for top-down, coercive, community-unfriendly planning and development.

Imagine Coney? Here are three ideas: amusement museum; eating contest Hall of Fame; and street hoops haven
And while we're on the topic of Coney Island, Norman Oder offers three fun ideas for redevelopment of the world-famous amusement destination.

Posted by lumi at 6:02 AM

Will Extell Prove That Diamonds are Forever?

Extell's Gary Barnett has always been a maverick of sorts in the development world. He was the only rival bidder to Bruce Ratner at Atlantic Yards (even though the cause was hopeless). He bought up most of the insular Diamond District to assemble air rights for a skyscraper to be built smack in the middle of it. He wore a baseball cap to the unveiling of the Hudson Yards bids. A maverick, indeed, but that might be the problem: times have been tough for mavericks of late.


NoLandGrab: In one of the most intersting chapters of the Atlantic Yards saga, the mavericky developer Gary Barnett submitted a rival bid to the MTA for the development rights over the railyard. Despite Barnett's higher bid, the MTA decided to give Ratner another shot and subsequently awarded the rights to... Ratner!

Posted by lumi at 5:40 AM

November 9, 2008

Science Park has winning formula

Steve Garmhausen

Drug development company NaniRx Therapeutics will soon outgrow its 2,000-square-foot space near Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. In years past, the company would have been considering a move outside the city.

Instead, executives have their eyes on what's likely to become one of New York's hottest neighborhoods for biotechs: the East River Science Park.

The development “is going to allow us to stay in New York City,” says David Cohen, chief executive.

Larger developments, including the $4 billion, 8 million-square-foot Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and the $15 billion, 26-acre Hudson Yards on the West Side, are drawing more attention than the Science Park. But its Manhattan location and narrow focus are likely to make it a hot spot for small firms that work in the bioscience world. That includes not only biotechs, but law firms and the investment banks that serve them.

NoLandGrab: Fascinating - a proposed development that actually has prospective tenants in mind? Isn't it more fun to just say "if we build it they will come...or the government will bail us out?"

Posted by amy at 11:55 AM

November 8, 2008

Downtown Office Growth Continues Despite Recession

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dennis Holt reports on the recent NY Times article about businesses moving to Downtown Brooklyn.

The centerpiece of the new Downtown will probably turn out to be the City Point development, where the Albee Square Mall used to be. It will be very large and will be located in the old Downtown Brooklyn business core.

The current plan calls for creating about 500,000 square feet of office space. Anchor tenants will probably be acquired before everything is completed. Oddly, the Times’ report did not include this project.

It did mention Atlantic Yards, that somewhat spooked major development, and the potential of significant additional office space along with the sports arena. The point to note with it is that Atlantic Yards will create a second commercial and business center.

It will be both part of an expanded Downtown business center and a new center of its own. How the new center evolves will depend on the progress of the Cultural District and other trends not yet predictable.


Posted by amy at 7:29 AM

November 4, 2008

World According to... Ivanka Trump

IvankaTrumpNYT.jpg Portfolio
By Lloyd Grove

On more than one occasion (1, 2), Ivanka Trump has mentioned that she "earned her stripes working for rival real estate mogul Bruce Ratner," the implication being that she's not just daddy's little girl and that she can totally hold her own with straight-suited politically connected overdevelopers.


Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

October 25, 2008

LPC Plans Hearing on Proposed Prospect Heights Historic District

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Linda Collins

The process for establishing the Prospect Heights Historic District continues.

A public hearing on the proposed Prospect Heights Historic District will be held Tuesday, Oct. 28, before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in Manhattan.


The MAS, PHNDC and the hundreds of residents who wrote letters to the commission believe that the neighborhood’s rich historic architecture — with blocks of beautiful Italianate and neo-Grec rowhouses, interspersed with churches, small commercial and apartment buildings — was threatened by the Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project.


The public hearing is set to take place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the conference room, 9th floor, at 1 Centre St. in Manhattan.


Posted by steve at 8:53 AM

October 22, 2008

Brooklyn's Top 50 Most Influential No. 31 - 40


Several Atlantic Yards B-list celebs landed spots on B-stoner's Brooklyn's most influential list:

32. Joe Chan, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
34. Michelle de la Uz, Fifth Avenue Committee
38. Bertha Lewis, ACORN
39. Urban Planners: Brad Lander, Pratt Center for Community Development, and Tom Angotti, Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development


Posted by lumi at 6:14 AM

Condo of the Day: Newswalk Two-Bedroom

Newswalk2BR.jpg Brownstoner

How big a discount is Newswalk getting these days for the Atlantic Yards effect? Based on this two-bedroom apartment it certainly looks cheap.


Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

October 20, 2008

Sunday in the Park at (New) Domino; the developer (obscurely) opens the door

Atlantic Yards Report


Norman Oder compares and contrasts the New Domino and Atlantic Yards projects.

Yesterday was an opportunity for a wide variety of Williamsburg residents to enjoy an afternoon in a remarkable space--the gritty concrete backyard of the closed Domino Sugar plant, open to the public--as the advertisement indicates--for the first time in a century.

But who was behind this event? You couldn't tell from the advertisement (above) in the Brooklyn Downtown Star or the Courier-Life chain.

New Domino developers CPC Resources and Isaac Katan were not real open about their role, but the posters and other materials were far less egregious than any of Forest City Ratner's "liar fliers" or fake newspapers.

The New Domino project, unlike Atlantic Yards, will go through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The four acres of open space would be mapped as city parkland, again an improvement over the Atlantic Yards open space, which would be managed by a nonprofit organization.

And, of course, there's no way we could have a "Sunday in the Atlantic Yards open space," since so much depends on superblocks, unless someone closed off Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues for a block party.

As with Atlantic Yards, however, the project is already delayed beyond its optimistic p.r.


Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

October 15, 2008

Construction industry to take hit from economy

Citywide, nearly 30,000 construction jobs could be lost by 2010 due to the economy, according to a new report. Construction spending will drop 22% to $26.2 billion in the same period.

Crain's NY Business
By Daniel Massey

If you believe this report, you have to assume that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project is in the eye of the credit crisis storm (emphasis added):

The credit crunch, a slowing economy and growing budget deficits will strip almost 30,000 construction jobs from the city’s workforce by 2010, bringing industry employment to its lowest level in more than 10 years, according to a report released Tuesday by the New York Building Congress.
The number of residential units constructed is expected to be nearly halved by 2010 to 18,500 with a falloff in spending of $2.2 billion. Nonresidential construction, including office space, institutional development and sports venues, will fall nearly 30% to $7.1 billion. And government projects—which remain the primary driver of construction activity in the city—will fall more than 15% to $14.4 billion by 2010.


NoLandGrab: BTW, that's 30,000 real jobs, not "Bruce Ratner jobs" (300 jobs over 100 years).

The NY Times, End Seen to New York Building Boom

From Charles Bagli's article on the same report:

The report confirms that construction and real estate activity tends to be a lagging indicator of economic health. Projects that got under way in the last two years are going forward despite a flagging economy. But experts say that new projects are being delayed.
The big question, [NY Building Congress President Richard T.] Anderson said, is whether the city and state will continue their commitment to capital spending on subway expansions, schools and other projects, or be forced to slash their budgets as tax revenues from Wall Street and real estate fall sharply.

NoLandGrab: The question is where does Bruce Ratner's controversial megaproject fit in this mess. NY City and State have committed hundreds of millions of dollars in direct subsidies, some below-grade work is underway, but many aspects of this large complicated project have ground to a halt and there isn't any marketplace momentum to get the project started.

Posted by lumi at 5:17 AM

October 9, 2008

On stage, the gentrification of Williamsburg: one actor, compelling characters, and some gaps

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reviews a one-man show about gentrification:


The prodigiously talented Danny Hoch, he of the one-man, multi-character shows “Jails, Hospitals, and Hip-Hop” and “Some People,” turns to his home neighborhood of Williamsburg in “Taking Over,” a deftly portrayed and thoroughly absorbing--yet at times frustrating--look at gentrification.

It’s admirable that Hoch pushed for free shows in the boroughs, and it’s worth paying good money to see him, a kinetic Jewish guy from Queens who's steeped in hip-hop. More than a mimic, he inhabits an array of characters, both gentrifiers and the gentrified, capturing the details that mark the tense transition from drug-ravaged 'hood to condo paradise, the loss of New York’s soul that got further attention since the first Jane Jacobs panel last year.

Hoch leaves us with some arresting images and the message, at least, to wake up, and to be willing to look your neighbor in the eye. I joined in the enthusiastic applause at the end of the show but hope that, as the show develops, Hoch might flesh it out more, the same way documentary theater artist Anna Deavere Smith deepened the show Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 by adding more ambiguity.


Posted by eric at 5:18 AM

October 8, 2008

Reality Bangs on Bloomberg's Development Door

Four more years may not help as finance crisis compounds uncertainty of big projects

The Real Estate Observer

Mayor Bloomberg is citing the current economic crisis as justification for casting aside the term-limit law, permitting him to run for a third term, but budget challenges could stand in the way of several planned megaprojects.

Reporter Eliot Brown assesses the local-megadevelopment landscape, which includes Bruce Ratner's highly subsidized Atlantic Yards arena and high-rise project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

What another Bloomberg term would mean for approved developments such as the West Side rail yards and Atlantic Yards isn’t clear, but both developments require substantial investments where financing remains tricky. With Atlantic Yards, developer Forest City Ratner has yet to secure financing or to close on the nearly two-year-old deal, and has asked the city for a new infusion of subsidy.

As for development projects still seeking approval or those that need additional funding, the road could indeed be a rocky one, as city revenues over the next four years would take a major hit from a wounded financial sector.

“People would rather cut some long-term projects,” said John Tepper Marlin, former chief economist at the city comptroller’s office, “than cut regular workers, like police and fire and teachers.”
Generally, business leaders and fiscal experts credit Mr. Bloomberg with exercising fiscal discipline and express confidence in his ability to guide the city in a recession. Still, the amount of city debt accrued in his administration suggests that that, too, could compound budget problems in a third term. The total amount of city debt and obligations is slated to rise from $59 billion this year to more than $73 billion by 2011, according to city figures, and, should tax revenues fall, debt payments would take up a significantly larger portion of the budget. That, again, leaves less money for the big projects.


Atlantic Yards Report, "Total uncertainty," says Wylde about development projects (but is AY "shaky"?)

Norman Oder considers some of the opinions expressed in the Observer article and yesterday's Brooklyn Papers story, which described the status of the Atlantic Yards project as "shaky":

[T]he funding at issue, I suspect, may be linked less to the arena than the rest of the project. That means that, should legal challenges be resolved and tax-exempt arena bonds be made available, Forest City Ratner will go ahead and build the arena--and then might have leverage to extract subsidies for towers and additional infrastructure.
Well, there's certainly more doubt about AY than before, and there are a lot of moving parts and challenges, but that doesn't mean it's shaky or ready for a kill.

NoLandGrab: Though Norman may be quite right, it isn't too early to wonder who will finally pull the plug on Atlantic Yards: the State, which is wrestling with a budget gap in the several-billions of dollars; or Forest City Enterprises, which is covering the NJ Nets's approximately $40-million annual operating loss.

Posted by lumi at 6:13 AM

October 3, 2008

Failed Deals Replace Boom in New York Real Estate

The NY TImes
By Charles V. Bagli

Though this article from yesterday's Times does not mention Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project, it goes a long way in explaining the implications of the credit crisis on the local commercial and residential real estate market, and is a must-read for those who are trying to understand the possible effects on Ratner's megaproject:

Developers are complaining that lenders are now refusing to finance projects that were all but certain months or even weeks ago.

While Ratner is searching for an anchor tenant for Building One (formerly known as "Miss Brooklyn")...

Examples of aborted deals and troubled developments abound. Last Friday, HSBC, the big London-based bank, quietly tore up an agreement to move its American headquarters to 7 World Trade Center after bids for its existing home at 452 Fifth Avenue, between 39th and 40th Streets, came in 30 percent lower than the $600 million it wanted for the property.

A 40-story office tower under construction by SJP Properties at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue for the past 18 months still does not have a tenant.

Ratner has already expressed some marketplace flexibility by issuing two configurations of Atlantic Yards, one devoting more space to commercial tenants, the other favoring more residential space. But Charles Bagli reports that the credit crisis affects both the commercial and residential properties:

Some developers who are currently erecting condominiums are trying to convert to rentals, while others are looking to sell the projects.

Existing bond-financing is also being affected:

Commercial properties are not the only ones facing problems. On Friday, Standard & Poor’s dropped its rating on the bonds used in Tishman’s $5.4 billion purchase of the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village apartment complexes in 2006, the biggest real estate deal in modern history. Standard & Poor’s said it cut the rating, in part, because of an estimated 10 percent decline in the properties’ value and the rapid depletion of reserve funds.

The rating reduction shows the growing nervousness of lenders and investors about such deals, which have often involved aggressive — critics say unrealistic — projections of future income.

Posted by lumi at 7:48 AM

September 24, 2008

Planning Commission approves Willets Point plan

Crain's NY Business
by Matthew Sollars

The surprise here is that one of the 12 City Planning Commissioners actually voted against the Bloomberg administration's proposal to redevelop Willets Point, though City Council member Hiram Monseratte saved us the trouble by calling today's vote "a rubber stamp."

The Willets Point plan will now move to the City Council for a vote, where its fate is far from certain. A majority of council members have pledged to vote against the plan if it does not include a higher percentage of affordable housing. They have also objected to the use of eminent domain, something the city has not ruled out if it can’t come to terms with property owners to acquire the land there.


Posted by eric at 4:53 PM

September 22, 2008

Development Watch: Atlantic Terrace Rising


Another dishonorable mention for Atlantic Yards (is there any other kind these days?) in an update on the progress of the Fifth Avenue Committee's Atlantic Terrace project.


It's not looking like we're going to see any affordable housing at Atlantic Yards anytime soon (or market rate housing, for that matter), but at least a smaller project across the street at 669 Atlantic Avenue continues to chug along. Next door to the Atlantic Terminal Mall, the 80-unit Atlantic Terrace co-op project now has lots of steel in the ground, noticeable but hardly rapid progress compared to when we checked in last April. Roughly 70 percent of the apartments will be set aside for either low- or moderate-income earners.


NoLandGrab: Astute readers will remember Atlantic Terrace as the project that had to scrap plans for solar panels due to projected looming shadows from Atlantic Yards, recalling the classic "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" episode of The Simpsons (see the third paragraph after the jump).

Posted by eric at 2:38 PM

September 21, 2008

NYC:Brooklyn hoods-Fort Greene


Skyscraper Life's TalB posts a brief history and exhaustive photo tour of Ft. Greene, following up on last week's tour of Downtown Brooklyn:

In the 1990's, the imfamous Bruce Ratner, who is the of FCR, built the Atlanic Ctr Mall, but many Ft Greene residents called it turnning his back on them b/c there was no entrance on Hanson Pl and just one Atlantic Ave only. More recently, he got the air rights over the Altantic Terminal and made it into a mall, which has still yet to be completely filled, to go with the one he already built.


Photo, Tracy Collins.

Posted by amy at 11:30 AM

September 19, 2008

Our ideal ’hood

In the search for the best neighborhoods in NY, Time Out New York featured several Brooklyn neighborhoods as also-rans. Prospect Heights made the cut, despite one looming überdevelopment.


As indicated by the widespread uproar over the Atlantic Yards development, there’s a refreshingly strong sense of community in this teensy Brooklyn nabe. See what all the fuss is about on a walk through the recently proposed Prospect Heights Historic District, a 21-block area filled with beautiful architecture and carefully preserved Italianate and neo-Grecian row houses. Sip Gorilla Coffee at Joyce Bakeshop (646 Vanderbilt Ave between Park and Prospect Pls, 718-623-7470), or hop across the street to Fermented Grapes (651 Vanderbilt Ave between Park and Prospect Pls, 718-230-3216), where the superfriendly staff can help you choose the perfect vino. Then have a postdrinking chow on crispy wood-fired pizza from Franny’s (295 Flatbush Ave between Prospect Pl and St. Marks Ave, 718-230-0221), touted for making one of the best pies in the city—and deservedly so.— Amy Plitt


Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

September 18, 2008

Financial crisis likely to slow NYC real estate

Associated Press, via amNY
By Amy Westfeldt

The Wall Street crisis that hit the heart of the city's financial district should slow construction of its biggest commercial real estate projects, including the World Trade Center and Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, real estate experts said Wednesday.

"Basically, people are afraid," said Tom Geurts, a professor at New York University's Schack Institute of Real Estate. "Although a project could be profitable, they are afraid to put their money in it because they don't know what is going to happen."
At the multibillion-dollar Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, developer Bruce Ratner long ago decided to postpone building a planned office tower until a major company agrees to move into the building.


MetroNY, Wall St. crisis spreads to real estate projects

A slow recover would drive down sales, increase vacancy rates, and possibly delay large-scale redevelopment projects, such as Manhattan's far West Side and Downtown Brooklyn.

NoLandGrab: We presume that "large-scale redevelopment projects" includes Atlantic Yards in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn which keeps being lumped in with the Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment by developer Bruce Ratner and NY City officials.

Posted by lumi at 6:30 AM

September 17, 2008

An anchor tenant for Building 1? The search just got tougher

Atlantic Yards Report

The Lehman Brothers meltdown can't be good news for backers of Atlantic Yards, especially since Forest City Ratner is searching for an anchor tenant to begin construction of Building 1, the one office tower planned for now.

From a New York Times article, headlined City and State Brace for Greater Demands on Diminishing Resources:

With the prospect of Lehman’s space going on the market, the likely result will be a drop in rents at some of the city’s premier buildings and fewer new towers going up, said real estate executives, urban planners and government officials. Those that are built will probably be smaller, they said.

Look what the cat draggged in
As chance would have it, the BBC is reporting that Barclays Bank plans to purchase the Lehman Bros. headquarters for $1.5 billion. Yup, that's the same Barclays Bank that signed a $400 million naming-rights deal for the new arena to be built at Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards complex. The deal to purchase the building and other Lehman assets would make Barclays the third largest investment bank in the world.

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

September 13, 2008

Polytechnic alumni file suit to rescind NYU consolidation deal


Atlantic Yards Report

Some two months after the State Board of Regents in late June approved New York University's no-money-down absorption of Brooklyn's Polytechnic University, a group of seven dissident alumni have filed suit (PDF) in Albany to rescind the decision, arguing the Regents’ allowed the affiliation in violation of a 2005 Polytechnic board decision to remain independent.

NYU’s consolidation effort--the school is now known as Polytechnic Institute of NYU--not only adds engineering to the university’s portfolio but provides a beachhead in Brooklyn, providing perhaps one-quarter of the real estate NYU needs to expand. The lawsuit, filed against both the Poly board and the Board of Regents, charges that the university's board failed to obtain an appraisal to establish the value of its real estate, air rights and other assets, a breach of its fiduciary duty.

State report lingers

Indeed, a report issued May 20 by State Sen. Kenneth LaValle, the chairman of the State Senate Committee on Higher Education, raised some serious questions about the deal, stating that in three instances the board did not act with the duty of care and/or loyalty required by a fiduciary, notably negotiations conducted in secret, the exclusion of dissident board members from working committees, and the failure to update a three-year-old appraisal of the university's valuable property in Downtown Brooklyn's MetroTech Center. (LaValle, oddly enough, released the report without an accompanying press release or comment.)


Posted by amy at 9:59 AM

September 12, 2008

A NEW Woman

Story Corps


Sherry Castro came to our Lower Manhattan StoryBooth through NEW Nontraditional Employment for Women, one of our many partner organizations in the city. Founded in 1978, Nontraditional Employment for Women is a nonprofit organization that trains women for skilled jobs in construction and other blue-collar industries. Most of the female hardhats at work today in New York City are NEW graduates.

Sherry has worn many (hard)hats in her field of construction. After graduating from NEW, she has worked as an operating engineer, welder, metal fabricator, and mechanic on developments and infrastructures throughout the city. Some of these sites include the foundation at the new Yankee Stadium, the Van Courtland Park reservoir, the Grand Concourse (a boulevard in the Bronx), an underpass on 161st Street, and the widening of a runway at JFK Airport.

For the past month, Sherry has been working as an oiler and operating engineer on the foundation for the new Brooklyn Nets stadium at the Atlantic Yards, a $4 billion mixed-use development project. As an oiler, Sherry greases the machines and performs maintenance and oil changes on them. As an operating engineer, she operates Earth-moving machines to drive piles (a type of deep foundation) for excavation. This means digging up to 50 feet into the ground and pulling boulders as big as cars out of Brooklyn soil!


Posted by lumi at 4:51 AM

August 27, 2008

Developers' Hazard: Legal Hardball

The New York Times
by David W. Dunlap

A recent dip into the archives of The New York Times unearthed an article on the effects of litigation on development in New York City, and interestingly, it features quotes from both Atlantic Yards (and then-Atlantic Center) developer Bruce Ratner and new Empire State Development Corporation CEO (and then-Boston development official) Marisa Lago.

Lawsuits are no longer last resorts. They are an integral part of the process. Litigation has altered the 42d Street redevelopment in Manhattan and the building of Atlantic Center in downtown Brooklyn; it has derailed other projects entirely, like Westway and Columbus Center, the previous proposal for the Coliseum site.

''It is almost impossible to finance a project when it's in litigation,'' said Bruce C. Ratner, president of Forest City Ratner Companies, which inherited Atlantic Center after the legal buffeting. ''Even if there's a remote chance that the plaintiffs will win, the banks are not going to lend the quantities of money required.''

NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that Bruce was saying this in 1996, when the economy was robust and the unforeseen global lending crisis was 11 years away.

There are cities, however, where land-use litigation is not commonplace. ''The ethos of suing on every project just hasn't occurred in Boston,'' said Marisa Lago, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and former general counsel of the New York Economic Development Corporation.

NLG: "Suing on every project" wouldn't be necessary if developers and economic-development officials would propose better-conceived projects, involve affected communities from the get-go, and eschew the use of eminent domain.


Posted by eric at 3:24 PM

August 22, 2008

Gehry Out as Architect of Theater in Brooklyn

The New York Times
by Robin Pogrebin

Sure, we were hoping to see something other than "Theater" in that headline, but this is an interesting story nonetheless.

The architect Frank Gehry will no longer be a part of the project to build a permanent home for the Theater for a New Audience in the BAM Cultural District in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the theater’s founder said Thursday. But the announcement came as a surprise to Mr. Gehry, who said he wasn’t told of the change.

Mr. Gehry had collaborated with Hugh Hardy on the theater building’s initial design. Now Mr. Hardy will be the sole architect on the project, according to the theater.

There seems to be a little confusion, however, as to whether Mr. Gehry bailed, or was pushed out.

“Frank Gehry has said to us, ‘I’m sorry that I have to withdraw, but I’m a great fan of Hugh’s, and Theater for a New Audience is going to have a terrific theater.’ ”

But reached by phone on Thursday, Mr. Gehry said his exclusion from the project was news to him. “I didn’t even know they were starting over again,” he said. “I suppose they didn’t need two of us.”

“He’s quite adequate for the job without me,” Mr. Gehry added, referring to Mr. Hardy. “I would guess there are financial reasons for this.”

In response to the architect’s comments, the theater provided The New York Times with a copy of its correspondence with Mr. Gehry’s assistant, in which the architect was said to have approved the language in the theater’s statement. “Frank told me he was too busy and was unable to continue with the project and that he had to withdraw,” Mr. Horowitz said in a telephone interview. “We respected his wishes.”


Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

Forest City Closes $167M Financing for Build
by Natalie Dolce

The headline seems a little truncated, but GlobeSt serves up a detailed report on the financing of Forest City's 80 DeKalb, including this quote from President and CEO Chuck Ratner regarding loan maturities:

"We continue to manage our maturities effectively, recycling capital from our portfolio where prudent to apply to other strategic uses," Ratner says in a prepared statement. "Financing continues to be available for well-conceived and well-sponsored projects and properties in solid markets with good demographics, both in our portfolio and in our development pipeline."


NoLandGrab: No doubt Brooklyn is a solid market with good demographics, but when it comes to Atlantic Yards, "well-conceived" does not apply.

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

August 18, 2008

Powerful Harlem Church Is Also a Powerful Harlem Developer

The New York Times
by Timothy Williams

Forest City Ratner makes a cameo appearance in a NY Times story on the significant effect that the Abyssinian Development Corporation, the real estate off-shoot of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church, is having on that neighborhood.

The corporation’s largest project to date has been Harlem Center, an $85 million retail and office complex on 125th Street it developed with Forest City Ratner. Businesses there include Marshall’s, Staples, H & M and a Washington Mutual bank.


NoLandGrab: Judging from that partial list of Harlem Center tenants, it's no surprise that some critics say that Abyssinian "has virtually ignored small businesses in favor of chain stores that have damaged the small-town character of Harlem." When you team up with national-chain proliferator Forest City, that outcome is pretty much inevitable.

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

August 17, 2008

Not THAT Michael White


Noticing New York talks about the new federal courthouse on Cadman Plaza East and Tillary Street:

An article in the Brooklyn Eagle describes the plans for the courthouse as “star-crossed” and goes into a bribery scandal involving the general contractor. It reminds us that “A proposal to build it in the Atlantic Center, over the LIRR station, was rejected by federal judges who made it privately clear that this was too far away from the center of things in Downtown Brooklyn.” Tell that to Bruce Ratner the next time he misrepresents Atlantic Yards (which he wants to build more han 4 times as tall!) as being “in Downtown Brooklyn!” (See: Federal Courthouse Project Hits A Snag; New Contractor Sought by Dennis Holt, 03-05-2004)

That same Brooklyn Eagle article tells us “One of Sen. Patrick Moynihan’s last acts was to attend the 2000 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new building. Though physically frail, he gave a stirring speech on the value of public works, a sentiment rarely heard these days, and declared that this building would be memorable.” As many know, I am strongly advocating that we fittingly remember Daniel Patrick Moynihan by putting our resources into Moynihan Station, a “public work” like the courthouse rather than diverting them into Atlantic Yards. Atlantic Yards is not only NOT a “public work,” it represents something Moynihan fought against in his time. It was Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who, in 1986, sponsored the insightful law that bans the use of tax-exempt bonds to finance sports stadiums and arenas which Bruce Ratner now seeks to circumvent.


Posted by amy at 11:00 AM

August 15, 2008

It came from the Blogosphere...


The Pressure Zone, stories 24 - 28: the whirlwind

NY Sun reporter Abe Reisman, who covers crime and emergencies for the paper and reported yesterday's story on the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty's honoring of Bruce Ratner, posted a run down of his recent bylines:

"Developer Bruce Ratner Is Honored at Gala" (not technically part of crime / emergency beat, but i did it in addition to all that)

NoLandGrab: "not technically part of crime / emergency beat," but damned close.

Nets Daily, Mayoral Candidates Praise Ratner

Mr NYC, War Over Willets Point

Every year or two an epic battle between developers and citizens erupts in New York City. There was the battle over the West Side Stadium in 2005 (which was killed) and then there was fight over the Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn (which wasn't killed) in 2006-2007. Now, in 2008, Willets Point in Queens is the new front is this perennial struggle.

NLG: But AY hasn't not been killed yet, either.

QUEENS CRAP, Monserrate Announces Legislation to Restrict Eminent Domain

Queens Crapper posts the press release from Councilman Hiram Monserrate outlining the eminent domain legislation he announced yesterday.

Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

August 14, 2008

Councilman Proposes Law Restricting Eminent Domain



Just one day after crowds of supporters and opponents packed a public hearing on the rezoning of Willets Point, one local leader today will announce legislation challenging one of the biggest concerns surrounding the proposal – the possible use of eminent domain.

The city has said it would only be used as a last resort, but City Councilman Hiram Monserrate plans to announce legislation that would force the city to justify any usage of eminent domain.

He wants a definition of when exactly the city can declare a neighborhood economically blighted, as well as guarantees that any displaced business owners would be properly compensated. Monserrate is also introducing a resolution calling on state legislators to follow the city's lead.


NoLandGrab: City legislation would not affect eminent domain abuse in the footprints of Atlantic Yards or the Columbia University expansion. These properties are to be taken by the State of NY.

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

A Confrontation Over the Future of Willets Point

The New York Times
by Fernanda Santos


Supporters and foes of the Bloomberg administration’s plan to turn gritty Willets Point in Queens into a $3 billion development of stores, offices and apartments faced off Wednesday in a confrontation that grew emotional and raucous at times.

The hearing combined public testimony on Willets Point and two other rezoning projects, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and at south Hunters Point, along the East River in Queens. Opponents of the Lower East Side and Willets Point plans protested outside the auditorium where the hearing was held through most of the day. Councilman Hiram Monserrate led two dozen opponents of the Willets Point proposal two blocks east, to a spot in Washington Square Park, to confront city officials holding a news conference there.

The opponents interrupted the news conference, which was organized by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, and drowned out advocates for the proposal, chanting “Justice for Willets Point!” and “Save Willets Point!”

The police told the city economic development officials that they could not remove the protesters, saying they had a right to be there, even if they were being disruptive.


NoLandGrab: The EDC couldn't force the removal of the protesters from Washington Square Park, but it remains to be seen whether or not they'll be able to remove them from Willets Point. One thing we're pretty sure about, though, is that this eminent domain-fueled war will see many, many battles before it ends.

Posted by eric at 9:08 AM

August 12, 2008

City Council members blast Willets Pt. plan

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

A day before a City Planning Commission hearing on the Bloomberg administration’s plan to remake Willets Point, a majority of City Council members sent a sharply-worded letter to the planning commissioner opposing the project.

In the letter to Commissioner Amanda Burden, 30 council members say they are in “absolute opposition” to the current proposal to redevelop Willets Point, citing concerns over eminent domain, affordable housing, displaced workers and traffic.

“Unfortunately, this is a product of a flawed process that has continuously ignored the requests of the community in pursuit of a top-down planning process that sets a dangerous precedent for large-scale development projects citywide,” the council members wrote in the letter.

The signature drive was organized by the affordable housing group NY Acorn and is the second time in the last four months it has organized a majority of council members to write to a city official opposing Willets Point. Twenty-nine council members sent a similar letter to Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber in April.

This time, the council members say they will not support the plan unless eminent domain is taken off the table in negotiations with landowners; half of the 5,500 housing units are guaranteed to be affordable; a comprehensive relocation and compensation plan for small business owners and employees is put in place; and a community benefits agreement that includes traffic mitigation is implemented.

The city has said it will use eminent domain only as a last resort; its plan calls for 20% of the housing units to be affordable; it is working with LaGuardia Community College on a program to train the approximately 1,700 workers who will be displaced by the development; and it will require the developer to put $5 million into a traffic mitigation fund.


NoLandGrab: We applaud the efforts and actions of the Councilmembers who've taken a stand against eminent domain abuse, but we're compelled to point out a couple of things.

First, the "dangerous precedent for large-scale development projects citywide" has already been set by Atlantic Yards. In fact, had the Atlantic Yards plot never been hatched by Forest City Ratner, it's likely that the Willets Point plan, however heinous it may be, wouldn't have encountered such significant — and well organized — resistance.

Second, we have to admit we're curious about ACORN's role. Sure, their interest in the affordable housing makes sense, but based on their track record with Atlantic Yards, we have a hard time believing that they give a hoot about the use of eminent domain. Left to ACORN, that would surely be a bargaining chip happily traded for a richer mix of affordable units.

Lastly, we won't belabor the silliness of the city claiming that eminent domain will only be used "as a last resort." It was already put into use long ago as a negotiating bludgeon. We'll focus instead on the $5 million traffic mitigation fund. Shouldn't the mitigation of traffic be a pre-development requirement? The time to fix traffic problems is before they materialize.

Posted by eric at 4:35 PM

Why Not Add Atlantic Yards to the Agenda?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB reacts to the City Planning Commission's nonsensical decision to cram three controversial rezoning hearings into one day and one auditorium with a suggestion:

While they're at it, since Atlantic Yards never went through ULURP—thus avoiding a public planning hearing in front of the planning commission or any planning body—perhaps they can add Ratner's project to the agenda.


NoLandGrab: Do you think the repeated scheduling of public hearings on controversial eminent domain-reliant development projects and rezonings in August (Atlantic Yards DEIS public hearing, August 23, 2006; Columbia University expansion ULURP hearing, August 15, 2007; Willets Point redevelopment, tomorrow) is just a coincidence? Or might they be timed to many people's summer vacations? Either way, the triple-billing is a creative new twist.

Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

August 7, 2008

Brooklyn Office Vacancy, Asking Rents Increase

The NY Observer
By Tom Acitelli

During the past few years, as the demand for Class A office space in Brooklyn has risen and fallen, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has regularly reconformed the project according to the market.

It's hard to figure what to make of the news, reported yesterday by the NY Observer, that vacancies are up — but rents are, too:

[A] The report (PDF), from investment-sales firm Marcus & Millichap, forecasts a year-end vacancy rate of 10.5 percent, up from the 10.4 percent at the end of the second quarter on June 30.

As many as 2,000 office-based jobs in Brooklyn are expected to be eliminated this year, according to the report, mirroring the trend in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, the average asking rent for Brooklyn office space has increased in 2008. It was $27.58 a square foot by the end of the second quarter, up 5.1 percent annualy and 4.9 percent since January.


Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

August 3, 2008

Urban Environmentalist NYC: R & E Brooklyn


Gowanus Lounge provides an interview with R & E Brooklyn owners Rolf Grimsted and Emily Fisher:

Q: If you got together with other small business owners in your community what would the hot topics be?

Rolf: My number one topic is ways to retrofit and green the existing housing stock. I also have an idea about using tax incentives for building green. If the 421-a tax incentive and 421-b incentives were used for green building, the city would encourage new green building and the greening of existing homes, and we’d reduce our city’s energy consumption.

Emily: The ongoing boom in new development is a big topic, including the discussions on what’s going to happen to the Atlantic Yards site and how can that development potentially benefit our community and businesses?


Posted by amy at 11:01 AM

July 31, 2008

Relief is sought as building costs soar

by Amy Zimmer

The New York Building Congress, of which Forest City Ratner is a member, released a report stating that New York is "one of the most expensive places to build in America."

The report looks suspiciously like a plea for the City to cater to developers as it includes such remedies as rezoning “idle or derelict industrial land.” This sounds uncomfortably like the scheme used by the State for the proposed Atlantic Yards project, where a working railyard and surrounding neighborhood were labeled as "blighted" to allow a land grab by Forest City Ratner.

The report mentions specific projects that the construction industry would like to go forward:

Already such big projects as the Javits Convention Center and the Fulton Street Transit Center have been scaled back because cost estimates far exceeded original estimates. The construction industry is concerned considering other big projects on the drawing board — the Second Avenue Subway, World Trade Center, Moynihan Station and Atlantic Yards.


Posted by steve at 5:56 AM

July 27, 2008

Myrtle Ave. condo/supermarket project stalls, leaving just an empty space


NY Daily News

The Myrtle Ave. project's crumbling comes as the shaky economy has sent shivers through the real estate industry and put other large city projects in jeopardy. In Brooklyn, the controversial Atlantic Yards and Coney Island projects have faced delays and reductions in size.

Catsimatidis' project is facing the same fate.

"The economy soured, and he can't get municipal bonds to get the affordable housing," said Councilwoman Letitia James (WFP-Prospect Heights), an early supporter of Catsimatidis' project because of the affordable housing.


Posted by amy at 11:05 AM

July 26, 2008

Church vs. Commerce: Parishioners Try to Take the Brooklyn Flea Down


Racked has a full report from a very heated meeting about the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene. The only thing that seemed to bring the room together was an enthusiastic condemnation of Ratner's penchant for big box stores:

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery really stole the show, though, and got folks excited. "I fought against the stadium here," Montgomery said. "This is different. What is suffering in this city and state right now is small business. I'd rather support small businesses than Ratner," she said, and the whole room erupted in applause. "We have lost so many of our small businesses because we don't have the foot traffic...I want buses to stop and spend some money!" More cheering. "These big boxes are running us over!" The room went wild. Everyone can agree about that, right?

Photo from Gothamist

Posted by amy at 12:37 PM

July 24, 2008

Looking back at the unanticipated impacts of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning

Today, Atlantic Yards Report crosses Flatbush to assess a recently released report about the real impacts of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning.

It’s well-known that the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning resulted in some very different outcomes than expected, given that the hot residential real estate market, coupled with changes in the back-office needs of large companies in Manhattan, made it far more lucrative to build luxury housing (and hotels) than the office space (and jobs) that the rezoning was intended to foster.

A new report, Downtown Brooklyn’s Detour: The Unanticipated Impacts of Rezoning and Development on Residents and Businesses, prepared by the Pratt Center for Community Development for FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), points out how much has changed in four years, raising concerns about the displacement of lower-income retail and residential tenants. It doesn’t suggest particular strategies, however. (Solutions aren’t simple; perhaps that’ll be another report.)

The report does remind us that an EIS (environmental impact statement) is hardly infallible, as we’ve also learned in the case of Atlantic Yards, where the EIS anticipated a ten-year project buildout that seems deeply divorced from reality.


Posted by lumi at 4:31 AM

July 23, 2008

Weiner Likes (Some) Mega-Development in Slow Economy

The Real Estate [NY Observer]
by Eliot Brown and Azi Paybarah

Representative Anthony Weiner, a mayoral hopeful, gave his support for a string of large development projects in the city today, saying they're important in a time of economic uncertainty.

"New York needs to continue to grow–I'm a pro-development guy," he said, speaking at a Crain's breakfast. "If you look at downtown, you look at West Side, you look at Penn Station, you look at Ratner, you look at these things–I think that you're going to see that I'm going to be advocating. I want them to be successful, particularly in this time of slow economic growth."

Then, hitting on his favorite theme, Mr. Weiner said the middle-class does not always see a clear, tangible benefit from the projects, adding, "It does create challenges that we have to solve."


NoLandGrab: In these tough economic times, there's nothing more important than shoveling scarce tax dollars at a basketball arena. Is it any wonder that middle-class New Yorkers — and upper- and working-class NYers, too — are having trouble seeing "a clear, tangible benefit" in that?

Posted by eric at 11:08 AM

July 20, 2008

Double Edge to Brooklyn’s Success


NY Times

Brooklyn Brewery's Steve Hindy reaps what he helped sow: rising prices from the rezoning laws and out of scale projects he championed were a death knell to small, local businesses, including his...

Mr. Hindy said the company could expand its local production to more than 40,000 barrels a year, and more than double its current payroll of 35 people, if it found a space that was large enough. But that quest has left Mr. Hindy feeling unappreciated by city officials.

He was a champion of the rezoning of Williamsburg and Greenpoint that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pushed through in 2005. But now he contends that the changes went too far by allowing a variety of nonindustrial uses of land in areas that are labeled industrial business zones.
“Once you name your company Brooklyn Brewery, you kind of take away the threat of moving to New Jersey,” Mr. Hindy said.

NoLandGrab: We venture to bet that more than one person would appreciate the irony of "New Jersey Brewery."

Gumby Fresh adds a sympathetic yet critical missive to the discourse, concluding in this thought:

But here's the killer line. "Some landlords are holding onto industrial property with the hope that it will be rezoned for residential buildings." So all Hindy's support has done is dump a windfall in the hands of condo developers with no interest in helping Hindy get what he wants. There's an easy moral to this story. The old lady and the snake.

Posted by amy at 11:46 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

July 15, 2008

Developer Cuts Back on Plans for Tower to House Baseball’s Cable Network

The New York Times
by Charles Bagli

A 21-story office building planned in East Harlem for Major League Baseball is shrinking.

The tower’s developer, Vornado Realty Trust, had planned to begin construction in April on what would be the home for professional baseball’s newly created cable network, which is scheduled to make its debut in January with 50 million subscribers.

But, according to real estate executives and city officials, Vornado’s inability to finance the $435 million project, known as Harlem Park, has delayed construction and is doing what critics who had complained about the tower’s size could not: reduce its height by about a third. That is in part because the developer seems to have had problems signing up other tenants for the building.

Vornado is now considering a revised plan for a 14-story building at 125th Street and Park Avenue and renegotiating its lease with Major League Baseball, the executives and officials said.

It is the latest example of the difficulty developers have had in trying to borrow money for projects amid the national debt crisis, even projects that only a few months ago seemed to be on the fast track. After completing the excavation for his Beekman Tower project downtown, the developer Bruce Ratner had to stop work for three months while his company went from bank to bank putting together the construction financing.


NoLandGrab: Judging from the most recent developments in the financial and real estate markets, securing financing, especially for mega-projects, is going to get harder before it gets easier.

Posted by eric at 11:09 AM


A City Council bill would require those who use public subsidies to spell out a project's public impact.
by Lauren Victory

With controversy erupting around practically every major new development in New York City – the new Yankee Stadium, Ground Zero and Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, to name a few – concerned citizens have been looking toward the public review and approval process for a stronger voice. The help they seek may have arrived recently, in the form of the introduction of City Council Bill 801, titled Community Impact Reports.

Aimed at those seeking economic development benefits such as direct project subsidies, low-interest financing, tax benefits, tax-exempt financing, and tax-exempt bonds and grants, the bill would require the developer of each project to submit a comprehensive report to City Council outlining the intended social and economic effects of the project on the surrounding communities. Organizations in contract with the city for the purpose of providing social services, or those that create affordable housing units exclusively, are exempt from the requirement.

“We need to have a way to monitor the benefits that are given to developers,” said Councilman Thomas White Jr., a Queens Democrat who chairs Council's Economic Development Committee. Around the city, such benefits are legion: In fiscal year 2006, the New York City Industrial Development Agency alone granted at least $700 million in tax breaks to individual firms.

Councilman Albert Vann, in consultation with Councilmembers White, Bill de Blasio, Letitia James and others, created the bill to "help us to understand how city funds are being used in communities, to help them directly," according to Vann’s legislative director, Dottie Conway. Introduced June 29, the bill is now being further shaped by feedback and is not yet scheduled for a hearing or a vote.


NoLandGrab: Critics question how effective this legislation might actually be, and some see it as just another spin on City- and State-mandated environmental reviews, which are produced by the developer and always seem to arrive at the same, ain't-this-great outcome.

Posted by eric at 9:39 AM

July 14, 2008

Landmarks May Stem Atlantic Yards Area Development

The NY Sun

The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission is holding a hearing tomorrow to "calendar" a proposed historic district for the Prospect Heights neighborhood, the first significant step needed for the area to receive the protected historic district status.

While none of the footprint of the current Atlantic Yards project would be affected by the proposed designation, it would create a surrounding area that could hinder further expansion.
The Municipal Arts Society, the group organizing the legal opposition to the Atlantic Yards project, the opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council are applauding the city's move for historic designation.


Atlantic Yards Report, Missing the point on the Prospect Heights landmarking & AY

Norman Oder thinks that The NY Sun conflated the stance of serveral community groups:

Those most supporting the landmarking process are not major opponents of Atlantic Yards; the Municipal Art Society, for example, wants to "mend it, not end it," via the BrooklynSpeaks coalition. Given the scope of the proposed district, the headline would better have read: Landmarks May Stem Prospect Heights Overdevelopment.

Posted by lumi at 4:35 AM

July 4, 2008

Learning From the WTC Rebuilding Fiasco

Culture of Congestion [NY Sun blog]
By Sanford Ikeda

Congratulations Mayor Bloomberg, you are now holding a straight flush of mismanaged overdevelopment:

As if all the havoc visited upon almost every single one of New York's recent public-private mega-projects — WTC, Hudson Yards, Moynihan Station, Atlantic Yards — hasn't been enough to caution the mayor. Mr. Bloomberg continues to push ahead with a major-redevelopment of Willets Point, Queens.


Posted by lumi at 4:24 AM

June 30, 2008

Popular Fulton Mall plans expansion

NY Daily News

In this article about plans for the Fulton Mall, reporter Allison Colter has rebranded the Atlantic Terminal Mall as "the Atlantic Yards complex."

Target is said to be considering taking space as an anchor tenant - even though it already has a megastore further along Flatbush Ave., in the Atlantic Yards complex.


NoLandGrab: Even Ratner's branding efforts haven't taken it that far.

Posted by lumi at 3:59 AM

June 26, 2008

Karl Fischer bunker beds



Bruce Ratner rates a (dis)honorable mention in a blog post about ubiquitous NYC architect Karl Fischer, complete with a humorous rendering of a Gehry-less Atlantic Yards (click image to enlarge).

Real estate magnate Bruce Ratner's problem is that he thinks too big. If he had quietly bought a block at a time and hired Karl Fischer, Atlantic Yards would be done by now (right). Instead, it's every other block of Williamsburg that gets an arbitrary eyesore from the napkin doodles of The Master.


NoLandGrab: Thanks, but we think we'll get our Prospect Heights fried chicken at Bob Law's Seafood Café.

Posted by eric at 3:23 PM

June 25, 2008

Bronx Groups Demand a Voice in a Landmark’s Revival


The New York Times
by Terry Pristin

We're not sure exactly what tangible benefits will accrue to members of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance in the Bronx, but we're reasonably confident that they have lots of rallies and blockparties in their future.

Now community organizers in the area, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, are seeking a private contract with the Related Companies, the developer chosen by the city in April to transform the Kingsbridge Armory into a shopping mall with 575,000 square feet of retail space, including a department store, a multiscreen movie theater and restaurants.

In recent years, a growing number of private pacts, known as community benefits agreements, or C.B.A.’s, have smoothed the way for developments around the country, including Related’s Grand Avenue project in downtown Los Angeles.

But only a few such agreements have been forged in New York. In 2005, the Bloomberg administration publicly applauded a private agreement between housing advocates and Forest City Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, but now it no longer supports the concept.

“When you do a C.B.A., the decision may be made in a vacuum, and that’s what we’re looking to avoid,” Seth W. Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, said in an interview last week. “We’re not opposed to benefits for the community, and we’re not opposed to community involvement. But we just think it should be part of the larger process.”


NoLandGrab: "The larger process?" How about any process? It's apparent that the Bloomberg Administration now recognizes that Atlantic Yards is the blueprint for how not to do large development projects in NYC.

Posted by eric at 9:20 AM

June 23, 2008

Glass and Darkness: Harbingers of Things to Come for Brooklyn and Its Prospect Park?

Brooklyn Ron

FightTheTowers.jpg Congratulations Bruce Ratner! After spending millions on pr, your "Atlantic Yards" project is offically a "household phrase."

This planned development has not become a household phrase, like Atlantic Yards, but it has serious implications for the park, the surrounding neighborhood of Prospect Lefferts Gardens and for Brooklyn.

Read the rest of the post to learn more about the high-rise controversy brewing on the southeast side of Prospect Park, and Saturday's protest.

Posted by lumi at 4:11 AM

June 17, 2008

Musical Chairs in Emerging BAM “Cultural District”



Congratulations Bruce Ratner, Atlantic Yards is now the poster project for developments that don't go forward as originally planned.

In 2004, Mayor Bloomberg agreed to set aside property in Fort Greene for the construction of a $48.5 million, 299-seat classical theater (above) designed by Frank Gehry and Hugh Hardy for Theater for a New Audience. The itinerant company has not had a permanent home since it started in 1979; the glassy new building would be built on city-owned land in Fort Greene opposite the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in a planned BAM “Cultural District.”

Well, as Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner might privately admit, stuff happens: In 2006, the proposed site of the not-yet-built theater was moved to a lot across the street, on the corner of Ashland Place and Lafayette Avenue. Now the Sun reports that the theater will shuffle down the block so the city can use the site for affordable housing.

It was also revealed yesterday that the planned public library designed by Enrique Norten that was to have risen next to BAM has been aborted due to lack of funds. Instead, Two Trees Management is finalizing a deal to buy the land from the city for $20 million and build a mixed-used facility designed by the same architect.


NoLandGrab: Heck, who needs another public library when having to forego tax-free bonds might cut into the profits of the Yankees, Mets and Nets?

Posted by eric at 9:39 PM

June 15, 2008

"Shoot Hoops Not Guns" restaurant doesn't make it to arena opening


Atlantic Yards Report

The High Stakes Cheese Steaks restaurant on Flatbush Avenue near Bergen Street, which opened in December 2006, replacing the Silver Spoon diner, has closed. The restaurant business is always a gamble--one in four restaurants fail in their first year, and three of five in three years, according to Business Week.

The restaurant's "Shoot Hoops Not Guns" sign, though it may seem a reference to a teen basketball program, was put up, an owner told the New York Post, in a 12/22/06 article optimistically headlined A WINNING $HOT: BROOKLYN EATERY TO BE COURTSIDE, because "he wants his business associated with the arena." That sign was either lost or removed fairly early in the restaurant's lifespan.

The Brooklyn Paper quoted landlord Michael Pintchik as observing that such a narrow menu was difficult to pull off. That, and the fact that the arena wasn't going to open in a year--nor in three. Those were long odds.


Posted by amy at 11:51 AM

June 13, 2008

New York's Morning Handout Newspapers Cover Government Handouts

Both amNY and Metro are covering the story of increased subsidies for large projects, including the proposed Atlantic Yards Project.

Both papers carried similar versions of this story:

State assembly questions public funds for Yankee Stadium

State lawmakers and fiscal watchdog groups cried foul Thursday over the Yankees' bid for another $350 million in public financing for their new stadium, saying it could soak up funds needed for parks and transportation.

Three state Assembly members from New York City called for a public hearing to examine a proposal to provide public support for one the richest franchises in sports.

"These sports teams are private companies that appear addicted to keeping their hands in the government cookie jar," said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn.

Jeffries and Assemblymen Ruben Diaz Jr. and Jose Peralta asked for a hearing on the use of public funds for the Yankees that they said were negotiated "in secret and without the control of elected officials" while other community projects are desperate for funding.

These two additional items appeared in amNY:

The first is this opinion piece by Ellis Henican: When did NYC turn into Gimme City?

Gimme, gimme, gimme…

That's all we're hearing these days. Gimme more of your money for taxes, fares and fees.

The Yankees demand another $350 million in tax-free city financing or they won't finish their new stadium.

Finally, there is this item (found only in the print edition) that includes the issue of additional subsidies for the Yankee Stadium — the same kind that Bruce Ratner will be looking for [click to enlarge]:

Posted by steve at 6:00 AM

June 12, 2008

Can Ft Greene Maintain its Cool?


The Real Fort Greene
by Carlton Banks

The Ft. Greene and Clinton Hill blog finds a ray of sunlight in the stalling of Atlantic Yards, and offers a prescription for keeping the neighborhood "cool" (and they ain't talkin' about the recent heatwave).

How can a neighborhood maintain it’s “cool” in a time of rapid gentrification/”mallification”? This post references my earlier “Has Ft. Greene Gotten Too Cool” post. I’ve been reading the Vanishing NY blog and I’m a little worried. As the prospects for Atlantic Yards dim I’m trying to keep hope alive. It’s not too late to save Ft. Greene from the “mallification of NYC”!


Posted by eric at 3:21 PM

As Cranes Fall and People Die

Economic Development for Whom?
by Judith Levine

In an essay decrying the conventional wisdom that in a construction boom, accidents will happen, Brooklyn author Judith Levine fingers a ubiquitous bogeyman.

Developers—like Forest City Ratner, preparing for Brooklyn Atlantic Yards—demolish affordable housing to build “sub-market-rate” housing, which is unaffordable to most New Yorkers. Meanwhile, the City announces that budget cuts will force 15% rent rises in public housing and the closing of community centers and programs.

Perhaps City Hall has always been a wholly owned subsidiary of the equivalent of Forest City Ratner. Perhaps there’s never been a time when New Yorkers didn’t wake up to the sound of jackhammers, when life here was not noisy, crowded, and chaotic. When workers did not fall to their deaths from skyscrapers and cranes.

But the question is always the same: who benefits?

The job of public officials is to ensure that the answer is the public—not just developers, but the rest of us.


NoLandGrab: Well, we know Bruce Ratner and his cronies benefit. The check for everyone else is in the mail.

Posted by eric at 2:33 PM

M&T Boss Wilmers Named New York State Economic Czar

By John McMahon

Wilmers.jpg Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards is mentioned in a list of stalled projects in NYC in an analysis of NY Governor Paterson's appointment of Robert G. Wilmers, "chairman of M&T Bank and prominent anti-union activist," to run the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the sponsoring agency for Atlantic Yards.

The failure of the Spitzer plan may be something of a red herring given the current economic climate and the state’s inability to fund many of the projects on ESDC’s docket.

A New York Times article last month outlined numerous stalled development projects in New York City and stated that “…the governor has sent conflicting messages, preaching fiscal austerity while suggesting that the state can move forward on a host of costly projects, including the Second Avenue subway, the extension of the No. 7 line, the $14 billion redevelopment of the West Side railyards, the $14 billion Penn Station project and the $4 billion Atlantic Yards basketball arena and residential complex in Brooklyn.” The article goes on to describe growing friction between New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the governor over the direction of the agency.

So why did Paterson do it? The Wilmers appointment comes on the heels of the governor’s controversial (and seemingly ill-fated) plan to put a cap on the amount of taxes a school district can impose. Is Governor Paterson veering to the right or is he just punting?


Posted by lumi at 4:29 AM

June 11, 2008

Square Feet: Squeezing Big-Box Retailing Into Small City Spaces

EastRiverPlaza.jpg The New York Times
by Terry Pristin

Blumenfeld [Development Group] is developing East River Plaza with Forest City Ratner, which was also the partner of The New York Times Company in its headquarters building on Eighth Avenue.

Home Depot has been part of the East River Plaza project for about a decade. Two years ago, the retailer signed a 30-year lease for 110,000 square feet of space. But like many national retailers, Home Depot is trimming its expansion plans as a result of the weak economy, and the company is talking to two warehouse clubs — Costco and BJ’s — about subletting its space, Mr. Blumenfeld said. A Home Depot spokeswoman said the company is “re-evaluating” the site.

As it happens, Costco had counted on becoming one of the anchor stores at East River Plaza, but instead the developers cut a deal with Target in 2006, leading Jeffrey H. Brotman, Costco’s chairman, to complain publicly about being shunted aside.


NoLandGrab: OK, this story provides us with a perfect opportunity to do an Atlantic Yards hypocrisy check.

Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) had a deal with Costco to be one of two anchor tenants at East River Plaza. But when Target expressed interest in 2006, FCRC booted Costco for the bullseye-logoed retailer, which happens to be the main tenant of FCR's Atlantic Terminal mall.

Then in March of this year, Home Depot, the other anchor tenant, announced that it was rethinking its commitment, due to the double-whammy of a slowing economy and the global credit crunch. But Costco-kicker-outter FCRC got all legal on Home Depot; FCRC VP Loren Riegelhaupt told Crain's NY Business, "we have a lease with them, and we expect them to live up to that.” Yup, they're all about honoring commitments.

Speaking of honoring commitments, Forest City Ratner lobbyist Richard Lipsky is best known for heading the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, which purports to fight "the danger presented by big box stores. These stores... pose a dire threat to all of the city’s neighborhood businesses and the communities they serve." Lipsky also represents West Harlem businessman Nick Sprayregen, whose properties face the threat of eminent domain for Columbia University's expansion plan. But Lipsky apparently loves money more than he hates eminent domain, since he's happy to do Bruce Ratner's bidding on Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 5:23 PM

June 6, 2008

M & T Bank Chief Named Development Agency Head

NY Sun
by Peter Kiefer

Robert Wilmers, chairman and CEO of Buffalo-based M&T Bank Corp., has been appointed by Governor Paterson as the new head of the Empire State Development Corporation.


Mr. Wilmers has his work cut out for him at the development agency. He will be assuming the chairmanship under a governor who wasn't elected and who may be out of office in two and a half years. The state is also facing a smaller pool of public capital and private investment for costly development projects, a number of which have been either been stalled or scrapped altogether.

The agency recently scrapped plans for a $1.8 billion expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and has been unable to breathe life into plans for renovating Pennsylvania Station and for the construction of an Atlantic Yards basketball arena and residential complex in Brooklyn.

The chairman of the Assembly's Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, Richard Brodsky, said the appointment was secondary to what he says is a necessary restructuring of the agency.

"I don't think it matters much who it is, but whether he is willing to come in and immediately restructure from the ground up what is a dysfunctional organization," he said.


Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

June 5, 2008

Gov. Paterson names new chief of ESDC

Robert Wilmers (on the right) will replace recently resigned Dan Gundersen and Patrick Foye; he will search for two individuals to run downstate and upstate ESDC divisions.

AP via Crain's NY Business


After some difficulty finding someone to take the job, it looks like the public corporation spearheading Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan will finally have a new chief.

Gov. David Paterson on Thursday appointed Robert Wilmers as head of the Empire State Development Corporation. Mr. Wilmers will be the sole head of the agency and, in a shift, he will be based in Buffalo.

Chairman and chief executive of M&T Bank Corp., Mr. Wilmers has been critical of Albany dating back to the Pataki administration, chastising the state government for regularly spending at twice the inflation rate.

He replaces replace Dan Gundersen and Patrick Foye, both appointed by former governor Eliot Spitzer to run economic development upstate and in New York City, respectively. Mr. Gunderson stepped down Thursday, two months after the departure of Mr. Foye.

Mr. Wilmers will participate in a search for two individuals to run downstate and upstate ESDC divisions, both of whom will report to him.

"Whoever takes the job has to be ready to make fundamental change," said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat critical of economic development during the Pataki administration. "The programs have become enormous giveaways to powerful interests unrelated to any public benefit."


NoLandGrab: Not surprisingly, H. Carl McCall did not get the job.

Posted by eric at 10:36 PM

June 3, 2008

Elected officials sign development pledge, but the question is money

Atlantic Yards Report


On Saturday, the highlight of the Peoples’ Accountable Development Summit--part of the Fifth Avenue Committee’s South Brooklyn Accountable Development Initiative--was a pledge from elected officials to uphold a list of Accountable Development Principles, listed at right.

Those signing the pledge included City Council Members Letitia James and David Yassky, Rep. Yvette Clarke, Assemblymen Hakeem Jeffries and Jim Brennan, State Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Eric Adams, and City Council candidate (and 52nd A.D. Democratic District Leader) JoAnne Simon. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Borough President Marty Markowitz sent representatives to sign the pledge. The principles are honorable; while some, such as the goal of accountable process, do not require more money, others do depend on a commitment of funds.

The main component is a redefinition of affordable housing, calling for making units "truly affordable to people in the neighborhood"--a dig at projects like Atlantic Yards, which contains a significant slice of subsidized units--2250 of 4500 planned rentals, plus 200 of 1930 onsite condos--but which are not necessarily affordable to average Brooklynites. While there's a 50/50 pledge regarding the AY rentals, when that pledge was announced, it applied to the project as a whole; now it would be 38%. Note that "truly affordable" is not defined.


Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

June 1, 2008

Sunday Comix - Courtesy of the People's Accountable Development Summit


The Fifth Avenue Committee's "People's Accountable Development Summit" took place yesterday at P.S. 282 in Park Slope.

Included in a folder provided to every attendee, was a comic book titled "Our Community Our Future - A Guide to Accountable Development Principles" (right).

There is one page dedicated to the problems associated with the proposed Atlantic Development. (Click on the below image for a larger version.)

Posted by steve at 8:59 AM

May 31, 2008

The (relative) silence about the long-delayed Ingersoll Community Center and the breadth of blogs


Atlantic Yards Report

When, earlier this month, I covered (for the Brooklyn Downtown Star) the annual convention of FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), which advocates for low-income women of color, many in the housing projects of Fort Greene, I was surprised to learn that the Ingersoll Community Center, under construction for more than six years, still isn't open, in stark contrast to the steadily rising condos nearby. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), whose web site says not-so-clearly that the center has been "rebuilt," now promises it will open in the fall.

(Photo from New York Daily News.)
Given the paucity of press coverage of Brooklyn in general, I've said publicly that I'm less disturbed by the disproportionate number of bloggers--some good, some not--in Brownstone Brooklyn than by the fact that the Brooklyn bureaus of the city's dailies each have only a handful of people.

NoLandGrab: For full video coverage of the FUREE rally, Episode 1 of Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse's coverage of the FUREE convention will air on BCAT at 8pm Tuesday, June 3rd and in Manhattan Thursday, June 5th, at 8:30pm on MNN. You can also view it on YouTube now.

Posted by amy at 9:29 AM

May 30, 2008

Pol sour on Domino Sugar plant proposal

The Brooklyn Paper
by Ben Muessig

DominoSugarRendering.jpg Another example of how there's one set of rules for Bruce Ratner, and another set of rules for everyone else.

A local lawmaker has opened a new front against the proposed Domino Sugar mega-project, demanding that the developers behind the glassy waterfront high-rises open their books so that he can independently assess the project’s finances.

Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Williamsburg) told The Brooklyn Paper that he can not support the $1.2-billion, 2,200-unit project until the developer justifies the need for two 30-story and two 40-story towers.

“If we’re going to have a project of that magnitude, I really want to see the facts and the figures that require them to build that high and that dense,” Lentol said.

But Lentol — who supported the much-larger Atlantic Yards project in low-rise Prospect Heights, despite its less-generous affordable housing component — won’t back Domino until he can eye the dollars.

“If they want us to continue to give them the benefit of the doubt, they need to make the financials transparent,” said Amy Cleary, a spokeswoman for Lentol. “They keep saying, ‘We’re making very little money,’ but they’re not showing us that.”


NoLandGrab: Yeah, make those financials transparent. Just the way Bruce Ratner has, Joe.

Posted by eric at 1:40 PM

May 29, 2008

State Races To Attract an Economic Tsar

At Least Eight Decline To Take Development Post

The NY Sun
By Jacob Gershman

Hey, how about an ad on Craig's List?


Governor Paterson is struggling to lure a top-tier talent to take over the state's most important economic development agency, as pressure is building on him to settle for a candidate from within his political circle.

A growing list of heavyweights in the business and real estate world has turned down the offer to become the sole chairman of the Empire State Development Corp., which has been left in a state of limbo since Mr. Paterson assumed office more than two months ago.

The erstwhile prospects privately offered the administration a variety of reasons for not wanting the job. Some were unwilling to accept a public-sector salary or had business dealings that would be disrupted by their departure. Others are said to have been wary of the intense public scrutiny that accompanies such a high-level government position.

Compounding the concerns is the state's financial turmoil, which means a smaller pool of public capital and private investment in costly development projects. The development agency is already mired in setbacks. It recently scrapped plans for a $1,8 billion expansion of the Javits Center and has been unable to breathe life into plans for renovating Penn Station and for the construction of an Atlantic Yards basketball arena and residential complex in Brooklyn.


NoLandGrab: Could it be that prospective "development czars" aren't jazzed about overseeing the dismantling of the ill-conceived Atlantic Yards project?

Posted by eric at 8:56 AM

May 27, 2008

Tax breaks, even redesign to lure NYC corporate tenants

AP via Newsday
by Amy Westfeldt

This article discusses how far government will go to subsidize large developments. The proposed Atlantic Yards development isn't mentioned, but it's hard not to think about it when it is also an example of development that would not happen except for massive subsidies.

Across the city, big development projects are slowing down or falling apart because of uncertain financing, making an anchor tenant's commitment a potential make-or-break factor, experts say.


Posted by steve at 5:40 AM

May 23, 2008

Bay Ridge’s Atlantic Yards?

The Brooklyn Paper
by Ben Muessig

Congratulations Bruce Ratner, Atlantic Yards is now the poster project for stalled over-a-railyard development!

A developer’s controversial plan to build a Home Depot above a railyard on the border of Sunset Park and Bay Ridge has been abandoned until the economy rebounds.

Kohen’s development joins a number of higher-profile projects that have stalled in the aftermath of the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Bruce Ratner has struggled to save his ailing Atlantic Yards project near Downtown Brooklyn. The cost of the basketball arena has more than doubled to $950 million, an anchor tenant has not come forward for the iconic Miss Brooklyn tower, and the developer now says only one of his original 16 skyscrapers remains in the once $4-billion plan.

And this week, developer and mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis announced that he had eliminated affordable units in his 660-unit project on Myrtle Avenue in Fort Greene because of the credit crisis.


Posted by eric at 2:28 PM

May 22, 2008

At MAS, AY as an example of a neighborhood planning struggle

Atlantic Yards Report

When it comes to discussions of “David vs. Goliath,” the subject of a Municipal Art Society (MAS) Planning Center Forum on May 14, Atlantic Yards is an inevitable subject, though--as I’ll note below--the politics of AY means that more than one set of parties might consider themselves “Davids.”

The panel addressed the issue of “neighborhood planning in the face of large-scale development,” and planner/architect Stuart Pertz, in his introduction, noted that some projects are inherently large, and only work if built on a large scale. “Unfortunately, it often gets out of hand,” he said, suggesting that “Goliath in development has extraordinary leverage, using powerful lawyers, contractors, planners, and unions.” Then again, he said, “there are many Davids.”

MarshallBrownMAS.jpg A fair amount of the discussion revolved around the Atlantic Yards-alternative UNITY Plan.

Architect Marshall Brown (right), a developer of the UNITY plan for the Metropolitian Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard (and beyond), said, with perhaps some retrospective bravado, “Four years ago we realized we needed to have something in place for the probable occurrence of Forest City Ratner’s plans running aground.” He suggested that Atlantic Yards exemplified a “willful ignorance of limits,” including the physical limit of an eight-acre railyard, the legal limit of eminent domain, the democratic limit of ULURP (the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, bypassed in this case for a fast-track state review), and “finally, the all too evident limit of the talents of a single architect.”

He noted that he wasn’t dissing Frank Gehry, just pointing out--as have others, and even Gehry himself--that megaprojects require multiple architects.

Brown suggested that questions of sustainability and the “looming environmental apocalypse” meant that the Bloomberg administration should prioritize quality ahead of quantity: “I’d say it’s a city of limits.”


Lawyer Candace Carponter (right), a co-chair of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), described how the coalition, formed to respond to the Atlantic Yards environmental review, moved from officially agnostic to ultimately oppositional, joining a lawsuit challenging the review, and becoming a supporter of the UNITY plan. She suggested that the combination of a new governor, “detrimental economics,” and the Newark option for the Nets might provide an opening for the UNITY plan--though of course, that remains to be seen.


Posted by eric at 10:45 AM

May 21, 2008

Top development official to quit

AP, via Albany Times Union
By Amy Westfeldt

Avi Schick, the state's leading development official who oversaw projects from Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards to ground zero, said Tuesday he'll leave his post at the agency in September for the private sector.


This article also ran on

Posted by lumi at 4:40 AM

Jeff Strabone — Bringing New Blood to Cobble Hill’s Leadership

Takes Helm at Cobble Hill Association

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Amy Crawford

Congratulations Bruce Ratner, your controversial Atlantic Yards plan is now the poster project for "iffy" development.

Jeff Strabone, the new president of the Cobble Hill Association, compares the controversy over the Brooklyn Bridge Park development plan to that surrounding the Ratner project:

“I don’t want Brooklyn Bridge Park to become another Atlantic Yards,” Strabone said. “With Atlantic Yards there are so many things that turned out to be iffy, that turned out to be not what people thought they were. It’s not clear to me who will hold title to the parkland once the park is built.”


NoLandGrab: What we don't get is why Brooklyn Bridge Park has to be "self-sustaining," while Atlantic Yards is on track to suck up billions in direct and indirect subsidies.

Posted by lumi at 4:28 AM

May 20, 2008

Calif. parks, NYC neighborhood on most-endangered sites list

USA Today
by Jayne Clark

NTHPendangeredsitesLES.jpg No, Prospect Heights didn't make the National Trust's 2008 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, but the Lower East Side did. Why? The threat of overdevelopment.

The entire California State Parks system, New York's Lower East Side, and a Topeka, Kan., elementary school that help foment the Civil Rights Movement are on the 2008 list of "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places," issued today by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The 2008 list includes a number of neighborhoods, including the New York's Lower East Side, where buildings that figure significantly into the country's immigration history are in danger of yielding to development. They include former tenements, which the trust says, "had an impact on more Americans than any other form of urban housing."


NoLandGrab: Tenements once may "have had an impact on more Americans than any other form of urban housing," but their effect has been rapidly surpassed by that of the luxury condo.

Visit for the full list of endangered sites.

Posted by eric at 1:42 PM

How build big in NYC? Not via the AY example, panelists suggest

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder files an in-depth report on last night's "Can NYC Build BIG Anymore" panel discussion, and offers plenty of reasons why opponents of Atlantic Yards won't miss Empire State Development Corporation President Avi Schick when he leaves at the end of the summer.

What are the right ways to build big projects in a growing city? Although panelists who spoke Monday night didn’t make the point explicitly, the answers they offered--public planning, realistic timetables, public ownership, infrastructure first, and media skepticism toward overhyped renderings--generally point to the opposite of the process behind Atlantic Yards.

The panel, titled Can NYC Build BIG Anymore?, was sponsored by Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century and held at Iguana Restaurant in Midtown. Notably, the acting head of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) also offered a hearty defense of Atlantic Yards, adopting some of developer Forest City Ratner's talking points.

The question, panelists agreed, was not “can” but “how.” “One of the problems we have to confront is that people want to build big too fast,” observed Avi Schick, acting president of the ESDC, which approved and is overseeing Atlantic Yards. “Sometimes they bit off a little too much when they tried to push an entire plan forward at once.”


Posted by eric at 9:09 AM

Development Agency Is Losing Its President

The NY Times
By Charles V. Bagli

AviSchick-NYT.jpg Bruce Ratner's best friend at the Empire State Development Corporation will be stepping down in September.

Avi Schick, president of the state’s economic development agency, which is in the midst of a political overhaul, will step down in September.
After Mr. Spitzer was elected governor, Mr. Schick moved to the Empire State Development Corporation, becoming its president. He was responsible for the state’s role in rebuilding Lower Manhattan, as well as Governors Island, and the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, Columbia University’s expansion plan for Manhattanville and the Brooklyn Bridge project.


Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

May 15, 2008

JPMorgan sees Bear's Midtown NY site saving $3 bln


In an article about JP Morgan's savings on real estate after the acquisition of Bear Stearns, Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards project is cited as an example of the effects of the commercial real estate downturn:

New York City's real estate market is slowing as financial companies lay off tens of thousands of workers and developers find bank loans harder to get and more costly. The withering credit has already delayed mega-projects including Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards and Midtown Manhattan's Hudson Yards.


Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

May 14, 2008

The 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate

Bloomberg, Trump, Ratner, De Niro, the Guy Behind Craigslist! They’re All Among Our 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate

NY Observer

It's noteworthy that the three highest-ranked developers on the Observer's list — #1 Jerry Speyer, #3 Stephen Ross, and #8 Bruce Ratner — are all having a heap of trouble closing their marquee deals: Hudson Yards, Moynihan Station/Madison Square Garden and Atlantic Yards, respectively.

Power. Webster’s Dictionary defines power as … No, no, no, never mind that: Power in New York City real estate means money—its acquisition, spending and creation—especially now, as the market enters a tremulous sunset after several bright, shiny years.

Our list of the 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate was assembled with this finance-centric criterion at the forefront. The list, especially higher up, contains those who animate the deals and the trends. They are the deciders and the money providers. They make the real estate world the rest of us live in; or cover, as the case may be.

#8 Bruce Ratner

Chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies

The leader of what is perhaps New York’s most high-profile development, the controversy magnet Atlantic Yards, Bruce Ratner is one of the most active developers in the city, often pursuing large, publicly administered projects. He’s recently taken a liking to famous architects, ensuring that his developments leave a notable impression on the skyline.


NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner only #8 while Amanda Burden is #5? Anyone familiar with the phony 8% Atlantic Yards "scaleback" knows that when Bruce Ratner says "scaleback," Amanda Burden asks "how much?"

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

May 12, 2008

AYR briefly on BCAT tonight

Atlantic Yards Report

For those of you who can't get enough of Atlantic Yards Report, you can see Norman Oder tonight on BCAT:

I will make a very brief appearance on BCAT's Brooklyn Review show tonight, in the second segment mentioned below. (Online clips will be available later.) The blurb:

Brooklyn Review (Brooklyn's Only News Magazine)
Premiere: Monday, May 12 at at 9pm (Time Warner 56/Cablevision 69)
Encore Presentations: Thursday, May 15 at 1pm & 9pm; Friday, May 16 at 3pm & 11pm

On this episode, Brooklyn Review’s team of reporters explores tension between the African American and Jewish communities in Crown Heights; looks at the role real estate and watchdog blogs are playing in Brooklyn development; visits a Bensonhurst high school where students are examining the ethics of war through live interviews with survivors; checks out the Sakura Matsuri cherry blossom festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden; and samples the borough’s tastiest foods at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Brooklyn Eats event.


Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

May 10, 2008

Last call at Mooney’s

The Brooklyn Paper

Mooney’s pub has lost its fight to stay in its Flatbush Avenue home and will close for good by the end of June.
Now that Mooney’s has been priced out, and there’s a wrecking ball destined to demolish Freddy’s on Dean Street to make way for Atlantic Yards, it’s getting tougher and tougher to find a decent boozing environment.

NoLandGrab: That's okay, we can all hang out in the public space on the arena's green roof, or in the urban room. Oh, wait...guess not.

Posted by amy at 12:42 PM

May 9, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities, Only One With Sewers

The New York Times
by Susan Dominus

When Gordhandas Soni, the owner of an Indian food company, agreed to relocate his warehouse and factory to Willets Point, Queens, back in 1990, it never occurred to him to ask about some of the more basic amenities — the sewage system, for example. “You never ask, ‘You have sewers here?’ ” said Mr. Soni, whose business is called House of Spices. “In America, right here, in the heart of New York City? No! It never occurred to me to ask. It would be silly to ask.”

Now Mr. Soni has banded together with 11 other businesses in Willets Point, filing a suit charging that the city has neglected to repair potholes and provide basic services like sewers and snow plowing, in an effort to devalue the property and ease the path to redevelopment.

Put in the sewers, and fix the potholes, he and his allies contend, and Willets Point will redevelop itself. The city, in reply, concedes that might be true — but because the area is on a flood plain, the city couldn’t provide sewers without removing the businesses, creating an unfortunate but intractable chicken-and-egg situation.

Even if the city could make him whole, Mr. Soni wonders, why shouldn’t he get some additional compensation for the inconvenience of losing his property? As he put it, why should the city “take away from the small guy like me and give to a billion dollar company just so he can make another billion dollars?”

Although it’s never easy for American manufacturers to compete with their counterparts in India — especially when it comes to something like an Indian food product — Mr. Soni says that he would be thrilled with his prospects were it not for this major uncertainty hanging over his head, and the threat that the city could invoke eminent domain to take the property.

“I always thought India would be my competition, that India would run me out of business,” he said, watching a machine fill jars with a dark, rich tamarind paste. “I didn’t think it would be New York City.”


Posted by eric at 12:45 PM

May 8, 2008

As Residents Gear Up for Fight, Economy Slows Projects

Jersey City blog New York's Sixth draws some parallels between Atlantic Yards and development battles in that city's Powerhouse District.

While residents of the Powerhouse District are lawyering up to fend off the Toll Brother's development, preservation efforts across the river are getting some added help from the economic downtown. Sort of.

One victim of the recent economy downtown might very well be the ailing Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. That redevelopment plan lead by Forest City Ratner called for constructing massive towers in a mixed use development centered around a new basketball arena. Area residents fought the plan in court, delaying construction on the project during the real estate boom. Now the economy is collapsing, credit is drying up, and the project may never be fully realized.

As the lawsuits began tipping in Forest City Ratner's favor, the developer seized on the opportunities to begin leveling properties owned by the company, ostensibly in preparation for construction. However, Ratner's early demolition may actually be a scorched earth tactic in the war between new development and preservationists.


NoLandGrab: The blogger, and the commenters, warn that opponents of large developments, by delaying projects via lawsuits, have helped (no pun intended) pave the way for the creation of parking lots that blight the landscape. However, if courts granted the injunctions against unnecessary demolitions sought by project opponents, the landscape would still be populated by many perfectly usable buildings, rather than developer-created empty lots.

Posted by eric at 9:25 PM

Second Development-Related Rally in May Expects Hundreds

by Sarah Ryley

Brooklyn is expected to see its second massive development-related rally this month on May 17, when hundreds are expected to march to Albee Square protesting the "lack of community involvement in upcoming development plans," according to a press release from Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE). Last Saturday, hundreds of Brooklynites clashed in a protest and counter-protest over Atlantic Yards. This rally addresses a myriad of other, less publicized effects of Downtown Brooklyn's development boom that have perhaps been overshadowed (pun intended) by the massive arena and high-rise project, or at least its opponents' more forceful media efforts.


Posted by eric at 6:48 PM

Defying an Uncertain Market

The Cooperator
By Raanan Geberer

Build it, and they will come:

All over the country, one hears about “the real estate bubble bursting,” but that metaphor doesn’t seem to have reached New York yet.

Whether looking at online or print listings, one sees hundreds of pages of new condos for sale in Williamsburg, Harlem, Tribeca, Bushwick, Prospect Heights and other areas. Prices can range from about $270,000 to tens of millions of dollars, and the names associated with new projects in the city read like a who’s who of real estate investment and development. Developers with projects on-deck for occupancy this year and 2009 include Gary Barnett (Extell), Richard Meier, Mario Percedo, Steven Ross (Related), Jeff Levine (Douglaston Development), Ron Moelis (L&M Equities), Toll Brothers, Veronica Hackett (The Clarett Group), Bruce Ratner (Forest City Ratner), Joe Moinan (the Moinan Group), Ed Minskoff (Minskoff Equities), The Albanese Organization, The Sheldrake Organization, LCOR, SJP Properties, Alchemy Properties, Boymelgreen, Don Capoccia (BFC Partners) and ARC Development.

“It’s not like anyone has stopped [building],” says Frank Percesepe, vice president of residential sales for The Corcoran Group in Brooklyn, and some companies have multiple projects in the works, or recently completed and ready for buyers.


Posted by lumi at 5:37 AM

May 3, 2008

Feasting On Harlem

Black Star News
Michael Henry Adams

By now you’ve heard about how the river-to-river rezoning was approved by the City Council--- 47-to-2. Members Avella and Charles Barron, were the heroes of the day. So were a fiery group 50 Harlemites. Young, old, Black, White, Latino, straight, gay---- they angrily and loudly jeered as a pre-selected cheering section applauded the sealing of Harlem’s fate.

Doing her best to sound like Angela Davis, Council Member Inez Dickens, tried to spin the dirty deed as fulfillment of her promise to deliver jobs and greater opportunity to her district. Robert Jackson, stung to be lustily dismissed by the protesters as “an Uncle Tom sell-out, ” demanded that a visibly shaken Speaker, Christine Quinn, “ clear the balcony!” Routinely, the media have highlighted how crucial their support was. Without it, the zoning would have failed.

What’s gone unreported mostly, is how, as with people, area-wide, this issue is related to every other similar issue. For all the talk of compromises and new “affordable housing,” as outlined by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden, the city government’s zoning policies, amount to little more than social engineering, meant to benefit the rich and resettle the poor.

Whether at Atlantic Yards, on the Lower East Side or the Hunt’s Point waterfront, such displacement is immoral. Paris without Parisians, Chinatown without Chinese, New Orleans or Harlem without Blacks, both culturally and economically are absurd and unsustainable. Whenever it happens, wherever it occurs, the concept that people with more money better deserve to live where you or I live, is nothing short of a kind of terrorism of the establishment.


Posted by amy at 10:14 AM

May 2, 2008

Thompson says other developers might join AY; “I’m not sure what that project is any longer”

Atlantic Yards Report


Norman Oder attended a panel discussion at the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs and found that Atlantic Yards came up quite often.

Atlantic Yards was the most contentious element of a panel discussion Wednesday at the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs titled Maintaining Momentum: Can New York’s Ambitious Development Agenda Survive an Economic Downturn?

Moderator Greg David, editor of Crain’s New York Business, and City Comptroller (and mayoral candidate) William Thompson urged that the project proceed, while Julia Vitullo-Martin of the Manhattan Institute (who called the project "corporate socialism") and Brad Lander of the Pratt Center for Community Development endorsed a rethink, albeit for somewhat different reasons.

Still, Thompson acknowledged, “I’m not sure what that project is any longer” and even dangled the hint that it might be revived by bringing in additional developers, as the c