Saturday, January 31, 2015

Atlantic Yards, Pacific Park, and the Culture of Cheating

I offer a framework to analyze and evaluate Atlantic Yards (in August 2014 rebranded as Pacific Park Brooklyn) and the Barclays Center: Atlantic Yards, Pacific Park, and the Culture of Cheating.

Note: this post is post-dated to remain at the top of the page. Please send tips to the email address above, rather than posting a comment here.

model shown to potential immigrant investors in China in 2014,
though not shown publicly in Brooklyn.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Gridlock coming to Barclays Center northern flank? Arena expects 100 buses and 200 for-hire vehicles for NBA All-Star weekend nights

With one week's notice before event prep and two weeks before NBA All-Star Weekend, the Barclays Center today disclosed (bottom) expected traffic impacts around the event, which I think points to significant gridlock along the arena's northern flank.

Notably, though Atlantic Avenue is severely constricted by a crane for the arena's green roof, and the parking/dropoff lane outside the arena is severely constricted, the Barclays Center admits some 100 coach buses and 200 for-hire vehicles will service "arena guests and event staff both Friday and Saturday nights."

"These vehicles will arrive on the arena block for guest drop-off, stage at an off-site parking lot and return to the arenas part of a highly-controlled/scheduled pick-up program at the end of the event," the arena claimed.

Note that the drop-off poses major challenges, and previous promises of controlled and scheduled procedures, notably regarding the loading dock on Dean Street, have proven empty. That Atlantic Avenue crane was supposed to have been installed last August and gone by October, but the schedule clearly slipped.

No less of a booster than Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams opined that traffic on a Saturday afternoon outside the arena was a "mess."

Starting at 6 pm Friday and Saturday nights, and 12 pm Sunday afternoon, the arena is "prepared to welcome approximately 15,000 guests, many of whom carry a high profile and are directly involved in the production and ancillary event throughout New York City," according to the message below.

Other restrictions

As noted in the message, there will be no constraints on residential/business access to their properties, no major work overnight, and limited, though unspecified, parking restrictions.

From Feb. 7-16 vehicular traffic on Sixth Avenue between Pacific and Dean Street will be restricted to northbound vehicles.

There will be additional Barclays Center Pedestrian Traffic Managers and NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agents helping to manage traffic.

Noise-attenuated generators

"In addition to trailers and production vehicles, several generators are required to ensure live television broadcast integrity," the message states. The generators are noise-attenuated, and will be "located within the 6th Avenue broadcast compound from Saturday 2/7 until Monday 2/16."

 That's presumably the lot on the east side of Sixth Avenue, but I've never heard it called the "compound."

Barclays Center signs deal with LIU to revive Brooklyn Paramount; seems to compete with revamped Kings Theatre

Billboard had some news yesterday, Exclusive: Barclays Inks Booking Deal at Brooklyn's Paramount
Barclays Center affiliate Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment has formed an alliance with Long Island University, in which BS&E will bring entertainment back to the historic Brooklyn Paramount Theatre.
"This collaboration will bring the LIU Brooklyn Paramount Theatre back to life," says LIU president Kimberly R. Cline, "creating endless opportunities for LIU and our neighbors."
Adds Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, "We felt that this would be the next step in the evolution of our partnership with LIU, that we should work collaboratively and start bringing some great content there, not only for the student body, but also for the public."
The move will resurrect the 1,500-capacity venue, which opened in 1928, as an active entertainment venue for the first time in more than half a century, with the BS&E team focusing on booking emerging talent in a variety of areas, including music, comedy, and boxing. Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark tells Billboard that the Paramount represents an opportunity in the growing BS&E portfolio, and will begin hosting shows as soon as this quarter.
It's a heck of a space, and a well-located directly over the Manhattan Bridge at the DeKalb Avenue subway station. The former movie theater hosted jazz and rock shows, and was used as a gym by LIU from 1960-2005.

As Billboard points out, other venues that compete in the general space are the Brooklyn Academy of Music (though it's far less pop-oriented), Brooklyn Bowl, and the just-renovated 3,000-seat Kings Theatre (formerly Loew's Kings) in Flatbush.

The reopening of the Paramount seems to directly compete with the Kings--though it has far less space, it likely can capture some acts that can make more money from higher prices at a better located venue.

LIU says the Paramount can offer benefits to its students--the same thing they said about Barclays. Then again, the once promised "Barclays Center Community Platform" involving LIU never came to fruition.

Barclays goes country

Crain's reports:
Barclays Center has formed a three-year partnership with local country station Nash FM 94.7 to bring at least two concerts a year to the Brooklyn arena. The deal comes after the arena's first country-music show—a Luke Bryan concert in September—sold out.
Then again, Yormark is no longer apparently spewing nonsense like, "We have to educate [country artists] about the fact that there are 385 country bars in the borough."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Advice for DNC Chair on visit to Brooklyn: take a walk around the Barclays Center, and beyond

Dear Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz,

I understand, as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, you're on a whirlwind tour this week of the potential locations for the 2016 Democratic National Convention: Columbus, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn/New York.

I doubt you can see too much in Friday's visit, and I'm confident your hosts can show you a good time and give you the hard sell.

I'll spare you the optics (as I mentioned in my Times op-ed)--the role of a Russian oligarch and the Shanghai government reaping the benefits of crony capitalism in and around an arena named for a bank that paid a huge fine for interest-rate manipulation.

And I'll just mention as an aside that arena developer Bruce Ratner is selling the 55% of the arena his company owns, and the DNC's choice of Brooklyn would be a payoff to one of Mayor Bill de Blasio's big backers.

(Ratner, by the way, also gives to Republicans when it's professionally prudent. But he and fellow executive MaryAnne Gilmartin are part of the 119-member Host Committee.)

The logistics

But please do look at the logistics.

Maybe you'll take the subway to the Barclays Center. Once you're there, do assess the capacity of the arena plaza, which serves as the catchment arena for most arena goers (but was supposed to be the site for a tower). Then, I 'd encourage you to take this walk.

First, go southeast on Flatbush Avenue along the arena flank away from Manhattan, until your reach Dean Street.

Turn left. You're in the street, in an awkwardly shared pedestrian and bike lane caused by the untimely delay in the construction of the B2 modular tower--the "most pathetic building of the year," according to Curbed. It began in December 2012 and was supposed to take two years. Now it's supposed to be finished by the end of 2016.

Bottom line: even if they suspend construction for the week of July 25, 2016, the huge crane will still be there.

Right past the crane is the secondary entrance to the arena, along Dean Street. That's where crowds get sent when the main arena entrance gets saturated. If the convention comes to Brooklyn, the main entrance will be saturated. This has nothing to do with business owners, who understandably wish for more crowds and customers a few or more several blocks away.

The loading dock and beyond

Please keep walking and notice the two huge garage doors. That's the arena loading dock, for trucks and VIP vehicles to enter two elevators and descend to reach the event floor.

Given that trucks enter residential Dean Street, it's crucial that they be timed and managed carefully to avoid disturbing this residential neighborhood. (Do remember that, to facilitate building the arena, New York State overrode zoning that otherwise requires a 200-foot cordon between sports facilities and residential districts.)

Guess what? The record is very, very spotty. That's led to the rather peculiar situation in which operators of the Barclays Center, who otherwise promote its status as a "state of the art" venue, ask forbearance for being a "start-up."

At Dean and Sixth

As you approach the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, look left. The construction equipment is there to help retrofit a green roof--a second exoskeleton, never planned in this way--aimed in large part to tamp down bass that unaccountably escapes from the arena during certain concerts.

That huge crane will be replaced by another crane later this year, to build an apartment tower that will be under construction all through 2016. Mayor de Blasio touts it as "100% affordable," but steers clear of acknowledging how most of these units--better described as "income-linked"--would rent to middle-class households earning six figures.

Please cross Sixth Avenue. You probably don't know that the 100-foot stretch of land on the north side of Dean--the parking lot, and the three houses--are part of Atlantic Yards, er, Pacific Park Brooklyn.

The three houses, as well as the property directly north of them extending to Pacific Street, have been conveyed by eminent domain to New York State, which is working very hard to ensure all residents vacate the premises by the end of February.

So, by the time the convention rolls around, it should be a vacant lot. Then, a 27-story 100% market-rate rental tower should be built, starting in approximately July 2016.

Note how that tower counter-balances the "100% affordable" building and, in the aggregate, represents the gentrification de Blasio claims to be alleviating. Ah, but there will be a school included, a public use aimed to take the edge off the $4000-a-month apartments.

Why was this plot of land taken for the project and, in part, judged blighted? Well, the original plan to build Atlantic Yards promised four towers and the arena under construction simultaneously, which meant this 100-foot-wide rectangle was to be used for staging.

You might ask: how does a 27-story building get placed next to a row of apartment buildings four stories tall? Well, developer Forest City Ratner got the state to make that happen.

Continuing on Dean

Please continue walking along Dean Street. Do you think you're in Downtown Brooklyn, the home of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership? You're not.

At the corner of Dean Street and Carlton Avenue, you'll see some very large fences, extending into the street. That means that Carlton Avenue is so narrow that trucks regularly damage a tree. On Dean Street, commercial vehicles now have to park on the sidewalk, leading to fines.

The explanation for this is that the state wants to ensure that neighbors are protected from sound, but the fundamental issue is that a very large project has been squeezed into a very tight spot, leaving little margin for error. Something has to go.

Indeed, just yesterday dirt shot from a drill rig blew out the window of a car.

This situation might not impact conventioneers. But it's relevant as a sign of poor planning, incomplete disclosure, and the inevitable side effects of a very tight fit.

There's another "100% affordable tower" going up, at the corner of Dean and Carlton. What de Blasio won't say is that the next three buildings along Dean Street, all the way to Vanderbilt Avenue, will be condos.

At Vanderbilt

Continue to Vanderbilt, and briefly turn right. Then reflect how the state designated nearby properties on the north side of Dean Street blighted and consider this test: "If you're within five minutes of getting decent cappuccino, there can be no blight."

Please return to the corner of Dean and cross Vanderbilt, then cross Dean to the bar WoodWork, whose owner wrote an enthusiastic letter about the convention.

"You could kick a soccer ball from our pub in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, to what we hope is the future home of the 2016 Democratic Convention," the owner wrote.

Please ask him to kick a soccer ball more than two blocks. 

After that, you deserve a drink. 

Atlantic Yards CDC meeting postponed until February 6

Isn't a bit Keystone Kops-like to announce a meeting, with an agenda, then postpone it because some people haven't been appointed yet?

A 10:22 pm message:
Dear Community,
In order to allow for the appointment of a full complement of Directors, the initial meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation is being postponed from Friday, January 30th to Friday, February 6th with the details to be confirmed. 
ESD Atlantic Yards Team
Is it remotely possible the meeting could be moved to Brooklyn?

Unspecified in the NYT: when it comes to housing lotteries, the demand is most significant for lower-income units

There are a couple of odd things about the New York Times article today, Long Lines, and Odds, for New York’s Subsidized Housing Lotteries. First, it states:
The odds of winning the New York Lotto jackpot are, of course, worse (one in 22 million on a $1 play), but the housing lotteries have daunting odds of their own.
Last year, a new building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn drew 58,832 lottery applications for 105 affordable units. Not far behind was the Sugar Hill development in Upper Manhattan, which drew more than 48,000 applicants for 98 apartments.
Given the frequent use of the term "affordable," the article does not make sufficient distinction between subsidized income-linked housing geared to low-income households and that geared to middle-income ones.

Rest assured that the demand is most significant for lower-income units. That's why the middle-income Hunter's Point South Towers in Long Island City need to be advertised.

The searching Forest City?

The article states:
Developers said they had learned to start marketing the apartments early, sometimes years ahead.
“It’s somewhat like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Melissa R. Burch, executive vice president for development at Forest City Ratner Companies, which is preparing for the lottery of 2,250 affordable units at Pacific Park Brooklyn, formerly known as Atlantic Yards.
First, Burch has already left Forest City. It's far more difficult to find certain, better-off households to apply. And, of course, Forest City is not preparing for a lottery for all 2,250 units. The project will take another ten years, so it will be one building at a time.

Spare agenda emerges for meeting tomorrow of Atlantic Yards CDC; RSVP required today; members/director still a mystery

At bottom is the official announcement for the first meeting, at 2 pm Friday, of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation. Note that RSVPs must be received today, and that the meeting will be webcast.

We're still waiting for the names of the members and the AY CDC director, but yesterday the agenda, such as it is, was circulated, as noted below.

The first four items (Corporate Action) seem boilerplate.It's unclear whether President's Corporate Update is mere boilerplate too, or whether the yet-to-be-identified President will say something about, for example, complaints regardng the narrowing of Carlton Avenue and Dean Street.

Meeting information

Barclays Center/WPIX partnership already paying off, as arena MC hosts visiting reporter

In case you were wondering, that marketing partnership between WPIX 11 and the Barclays Center is paying off.

Yesterday the TV station posted this piece of fluff, Ally Love gives tour of Barclays Center hot spots. The text:
BARCLAYS CENTER (PIX11)– As NBA All-Star Weekend in February nears, PIX11 will be your home for exclusive coverage of the festivities in heart of Brooklyn.
Scott Stanford caught up with Ally Love, the Nets Arena MC, who showed him a couple of hot spots around Barclays.
It did acknowledge, at least, that "Barclays Center is a marketing partner of PIX11."

What's in the piece? Well, Stanford goes with Love down Flatbush Avenue for a meal at Sugarcane, a Caribbean restaurant that opened up exclusively for them.

Then, more strangely, they visited Rocco's Tacos on Adams Street, which is a rather long walk from the arena, and certainly more distant than numerous rival restaurants. Could it be that Rocco's has a marketing arrangement with the Barclays Center?

And that was pretty much it, unless you count Love describing her in-house duties at the arena and Stanford's exclamation that "this is going to be the place to be."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My response to NYT letters in which Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, businesses take issue with my op-ed, support DNC

Wow, not one but three Letters to the Editor published in print in today's New York Times in response to my online-only op-ed last week. They deserve rebuttal.

And note that none of the letters responded to the situation--as I mentioned--in which two cranes, used for two towers under construction, flank the arena's secondary entrance and loading dock.

From the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
To the Editor:
Re “Holding the Democratic Convention in Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboudit” (Op-Ed,, Jan. 21):
I take issue with Norman Oder’s views about Downtown Brooklyn’s readiness to host a successful Democratic National Convention in 2016.
Downtown Brooklyn is one of the East Coast’s greatest urban economic success stories, with new night life, cultural offerings and accommodations, making it an ideal location for Democrats to discuss the future of their party and our country.
Eleven subway lines and 11 different buses stop within blocks of Barclays Center, easing any concerns about unbearable traffic congestion.
Regarding the “extensive use” of EB-5 visas, a program that allows foreign investors to receive visas in exchange for a short-term, $500,000 investment, by the China-based co-owner of Barclays Center:
As the borough of immigrants, we should welcome immigrants, not demonize them, even if we disagree with their home country’s government or America’s broken immigration system. After all, when did we begin to tolerate xenophobia in Brooklyn?
Finally, while area businesses and residents deserve top-notch planning, I have no doubt that City Hall can and will deliver.
Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
Brooklyn, Jan. 22, 2015
First, let's remember that Tucker Reed essentially works for Forest City Ratner. A co-chair of the DBP is MaryAnne Gilmartin, the CEO of Forest City Ratner, which runs the Barclays Center (owning 55% of the operating company), is selling the arena, and is quite interested in luring the convention to highlight its property.

And Forest City Ratner is the dominant component of the MetroTech Business Improvement District, which is run by the DBP.

Second, note that I didn't write about Downtown Brooklyn. The Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Brooklyn project is located in Prospect Heights, as the Times has reported numerous times.

Arguably, the arena extends the borders of Downtown Brooklyn, but the significant impacts of arena events--as with the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards--has been on the adjacent streets of Prospect Heights.

By the way, I got an email from a professional contact this morning, regarding a meeting we had last August 11, when the Democratic National Committee visited Brooklyn: "One of the reasons we were SO late getting to you from Manhattan was because of just the expedition to see about hosting the convention in Brooklyn!! Remember! The traffic was horrific."

Regarding EB-5

Finally, I wasn't demonizing immigrants. Here's what I wrote, with very tight space limits:
Perhaps the diciest symbolism regards Greenland and Forest City Ratner’s extensive use of a federal program called EB-5, which allows foreign investors to get visas in exchange for a short-term $500,000 investment (an amount that, on paper, is purported to create 10 jobs).
Greenland and Forest City Ratner have already reportedly raised some $250 million through the program; put differently, a Chinese government is making a profit by marketing American residency to its own nationals — a bizarre, if legal, twist on the law’s intent.
In other words, the investment doesn't really create jobs (the rationale for the program) and the beneficiary, bizarrely, is a foreign government.  Remember the video for "Atlantic Yards II," Forest City's second round of EB-5 fundraising, and the first (of two) with Greenland?

"We believe that this city was built and created for an immigrant population,” Gilmartin stated, somehow conflating the developer’s profit push with patriotic multi-culturalism. “And EB-5 allows folks from all around the globe, in the great tradition of this city, to come and participate in one of the most exciting developments in our country."

As Darthmouth's John Vogel of Dartmouth wrote in February 2013 U.S. News:
One of the oddities about the EB-5 program is that the U.S. government is giving out the green cards, but the entrepreneur who puts together the investment gets the money. This scheme seems inefficient and open to corruption. If our government really believes that it is a good idea to sell green cards, maybe we should drop the pretense that this is a job creation program. It might be more efficient to have the money go directly to the U.S. Treasury and reduce the deficit by billions of dollars a year. In fact, the U.S. government could auction off these green cards and perhaps raise even more money.
Local business support
To the Editor:
You could kick a soccer ball from our pub in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, to what we hope is the future home of the 2016 Democratic Convention.
Our small business is thankful to share a neighborhood and patrons with Barclays Center and the big events it attracts to Brooklyn.
At the same time, we have been impressed by and thankful for the terrific work of the New York Police Department in keeping our neighborhood safe and our traffic flowing. Every high-profile event that Brooklyn hosts is an opportunity to show off our community, our diversity, our families and our businesses.
A national stage like the Democratic Convention is a wonderful opportunity for the world to learn what we already know: Brooklyn is the world’s greatest stage. Our hope is that the Democrats will come to Brooklyn in 2016, pick their nominee and then stay and experience all that Brooklyn has to offer.
Brooklyn, Jan. 21, 2015
The writer is the chef and owner of WoodWork Brooklyn, a soccer bar. 
To the Editor:
The businesses along Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, would welcome the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Barclays Center.
We understand the concerns raised by Norman Oder, but ultimately believe that the influx of thousands of delegates, members of the news media and even protesters would be good for the small businesses ringing the arena, including the more than 500 businesses in the Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District.
We look forward to working with Mayor Bill de Blasio to make the event a big success for everyone involved.

Exec. Dir., Park Slope Fifth Avenue
Business Improvement District
Brooklyn, Jan. 21, 2015
WoodWork is located at Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street, so you'd need a very strong kick and some headwind to get a soccer ball two long blocks away.

It's an eight-minute walk, according to Google, to the closest arena entrance, on Dean Street just east of Flatbush Avenue.

That said, it's understandable that some, perhaps many, businesses--especially those serving food and drink--would support a big event.

(Note that in August 2013, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake visited Woodwork.)

Still, on the same day my op-ed appeared, a new coalition, the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance, emerged to express concern about the convention and calling on the mayor "to immediately appoint a point-person to coordinate government agencies and the developer with the involvement of local community boards and elected officials as a means to minimize unnecessary adverse impacts."

In other words, other businesses, especially those closest to the arena and most likely to bear the brunt of street closings for security reasons, are more wary than those represented by WoodWork and the Fifth Avenue BID.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Silver on the rocks; prosecutors querying Speaker's staff (Rapfogel?)

After a brief interim period in which his colleagues agreed to let him step aside but not down, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is on the rocks.The Times reports:
Moving to exile one of New York’s most powerful and long-serving leaders, Democrats in the State Assembly agreed late on Monday to ask Sheldon Silver to step down as speaker in the wake of his arrest last week on federal corruption charges.
The Democrats reached the decision in a closed-door meeting that stretched for hours, rebuffing a bid by Mr. Silver to keep his post by relinquishing some of his responsibilities while he defended himself against the charges.
...Leaving the Capitol just before midnight, Mr. Silver told reporters that he had not told anyone that he was resigning, and that he would meet with his Democratic colleagues on Tuesday.
“I am the speaker,” he said, adding, “I’m standing. And I’m going to be standing for a long time.”
City and State reported:
Multiple Assembly members also said the suggestion of a five-member leadership appointed by Silver was officially off the table and that the Assembly would follow house rules in replacing the speaker. According to those rules, if Silver resigns from his post, the Assembly majority leader, Joe Morelle, will become the acting speaker until a new one is voted on during an Assembly floor meeting.
But no one has agreed on a new speaker.

Comptroller Scott Stringer and then Public Advocate Letitia James were among the officials yesterday urging Silver to resign.

Silver's staff subpoenad

Will any of the investigation point deeper? (Surely federal prosecutors would first target other elected officials, as well as those doing business with the state, first the likes of those named in the investigation, then, with a lesser chance, others, like Forest City.) 

Newsday reports that "Some members of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s staff have been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors, a source said Monday."

Presumably that includes Chief of Staff Judy Rapfogel, wife of Willie Rapfogel, the now-imprisoned leader of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, which partnered with Forest City Ratner on a 
bid to develop the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area and received proceeds from a charitable event. 

They are parents of Forest City Ratner employee Michael Rapfogel whose hiring, the Times reported, was "seen internally as a way to please Mr. Silver."

The legal and the illegal

Law professor Zephyr Teachout, in an essay for the Times yesterday, wrote:
Albany is reeling, but fighting the kind of corruption that plagues not only New York State but the whole nation isn’t just about getting cuffs on the right guy. As with the recent conviction of the former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell for receiving improper gifts and loans, a fixation on plain graft misses the more pernicious poison that has entered our system.
Corruption exists when institutions and officials charged with serving the public serve their own ends. Under current law, campaign contributions are illegal if there is an explicit quid pro quo, and legal if there isn’t. But legal campaign contributions can be as bad as bribes in creating obligations. The corruption that hides in plain sight is the real threat to our democracy.

Monday, January 26, 2015

First meeting of Atlantic Yards CDC set for Friday, in Manhattan, not Brooklyn; no details yet about board, agenda

With four days to go, Empire State Development issued a Community Advisory Monday re-affirming that the first meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, originally slated to occur in December, would indeed occur at 2 pm on Friday, January 30, as announced in December.

The new board, "responsible for monitoring the delivery of public commitments" but without clear enforcement, was established as part of the compromise announced last June, which set a new 2025 deadline to build the promised affordable housing and, essentially, finish the residential portion of the the project.

Details on the AY CDC
However, rather than being held somewhere in Brooklyn, as promised in December, the meeting will occur at Empire State Development offices in Manhattan, thus making it more difficult for Brooklynites to attend. All must RSVP by Thursday.

Nor has the state released basic information about the new AY CDC, such as the names of the appointees (the governor has nine of 14 slots), and the agenda. (I asked Empire State Development these questions on January 16, and asked again after the notice emerged today.)

One concern, surely, is the tension between getting the project done and cutting corners. Neighbors have recently reported after-hours construction and too-constricted streets, as detailed on Atlantic Yards Watch.

Who's in charge?

Nor has the identity of the AY CDC director been announced.

The recruitment ad promised a salary of $70,000 to $75,000 annually--far lower than the salary for the in-house Project Director--while requiring "5+ years as a Project Manager for large real estate development projects working with government entities and private developers."

Meeting details

What: The Directors of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the New York State Urban Development Corporation d/b/a Empire State Development. 
When: Friday, January 30, 2015, at 2:00 p.m.
Where: Empire State Development
633 Third Avenue – 37th Floor Conference Room
New York, New York 10017 
This meeting is open to the public. Web casting of the meeting is available at 
Due to 633 Third Avenue building procedures, those wishing to attend please RSVP by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 29, 2015. Members of the press should please call (800) 260-7313; Members of the public should please call (212) 803-3795.

FC Modular is hiring (which means the factory isn't quite ready)

The most recent report was that Forest City Ratner had 55 of the 157 workers back at work, so they do need new workers. The message below was circulated by Brooklyn Community Board 2.

Also note that the promises in the Community Benefits Agreement about job training leading to project work can't happen if prospective workers are require to have a year of construction trade experience.

As Silver steps aside, future cloudy, Lentol among those stepping up; real estate focus; anecdotes of avarice; reforms suggested; Golden next?

Embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, is stepping aside in the wake of corruption charges, as the knee-jerk support he got from see-no-evil members has begun to erode. After all, the press has (finally) been brutal. The Times reports:
In an unusual arrangement, Mr. Silver would not quit his post. Instead, he would temporarily delegate his duties as speaker to a group of senior Assembly members.
...Under the tentative plan developed on Sunday, the Assembly majority leader, Joseph D. Morelle of the Rochester area, and the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, Herman D. Farrell Jr., Democrat of Manhattan, would assume responsibility for budget negotiations.
Three other senior Democratic members — Carl E. Heastie of the Bronx, Catherine T. Nolan of Queens and Joseph R. Lentol of Brooklyn — will round out the leadership team.
Yes, that's veteran Joe Lentol of that mysterious cameo in Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill case. The Buffalo News suggests:
The likelihood of Silver temporarily stepping aside and then somehow returning if he is cleared of the corruption charges is next to zero.
The Post editorializes, Eric [Schneiderman] the silent:
If what US Attorney Preet Bharara alleges is true — that for years Assembly Speaker Silver “monetized public office” — why should it have taken a federal prosecutor to bring him down? Why wasn’t it New York’s attorney general?
Impact on DNC bid?

The Daily News reports:
When New York Democrats pledged their delegate votes to President Obama at the party convention in 2012, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver took the mic as the Empire State’s spokesman.
With the national party on the verge of picking a convention city for 2016, Silver is again in the spotlight — but this time, he’s the target of a stunning corruption probe that could tarnish the Big Apple’s chances of beating out Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio.
...A DNC official wouldn’t comment on the impact Silver’s arrest would have on the bid, but said that the “decision will be based primarily on logistics, financing and security.”
Silver and real estate

The Commercial Observer takes a look at some of the real estate issues involving Silver:
  • The World Trade Center Complex
  • West Side Stadium
  • Moynihan Station
  • Scaffold Law
  • Superstorm Sandy
Let's not forget that, as a member of the Public Authorities Control Board, he gave his blessing to Atlantic Yards, at least in part because Forest City Ratner traded office space--which might compete with his Lower Manhattan constituency--for housing.

The Post reports:
US Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating the massive tax breaks granted to Midtown’s luxury One57 condo building, where a mystery buyer just paid a record $100 million-plus for the duplex penthouse, sources told The Post on Sunday.
And the Times offers Developer Who Keeps Low Profile Is Embroiled in Silver Scandal:
Unlike many other New York developers, Leonard Litwin, a shy, soft-spoken, compact billionaire, has never sought the limelight.
Yet Mr. Litwin and his company, Glenwood Management, have always stood out, for the number of luxury residential towers they have added to Manhattan’s skyline and the exceptionally generous donations Glenwood has made to state lawmakers.
Now, in his 101st year, Mr. Litwin is embroiled in a very public corruption scandal that is rocking the real estate industry and the state’s political establishment.
When Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York State Assembly, was arrested on federal charges on Thursday, the criminal complaint against him included accusations that he used his powerful position to reap millions of dollars in graft by steering real estate developers, among others, to law firms that gave him a slice of their fees.
Glenwood is one of the two developers cited but not named in the complaint, according to people familiar with the matter.
Here's the tastiest passage:
While neither of the developers is accused of wrongdoing, Glenwood’s part in the case has stunned Mr. Litwin’s colleagues in the real estate industry, where he is a revered figure who, friends say, has always sought to avoid controversy. He and the company declined to comment for this article.
He's a revered figure? That's because the real estate industry has no problem with legal if ethically questionable activity like this:
His company has been a prodigious political donor, contributing over $10 million to political candidates and party committees since 2005, according to the complaint against Mr. Silver. In 2014, Glenwood also spent a total of $900,000 on eight different firms to lobby state officials, including Mr. Silver. Other developers have typically left lobbying to the real estate board.
More on Silver

Consider this handy chart from DNAinfo regarding Silver's reported and unreported income. On
Friday, the Post's Fred Dicker reported a telling anecdote:
For the better part of a decade during the 2000s, Silver told an associate, he would routinely send a $100 check each year to the campaign committee of former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
“I knew he didn’t need the money,’’ Silver told the associate with a nervous laugh.
“But I wanted to see if he would cash my check. If he did, then I knew I wasn’t in any trouble because if he was investigating me, he wouldn’t have taken the money.’’
Dicker added:

Silver didn’t knock down the suspicion that he was about making as much money as possible a few years ago when he began defending his bizarre practice of flying on the state’s dime from New York City to Albany via Washington, DC, or some other distant spot so he could pick up a few extra frequent flier miles for his personal use.
That's a bizarre story, as the Post reported in 2013:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver spent $20,219 in taxpayer money over the past three years jetting from New York City to Albany — but the top-flight pol turned easy 150-mile, one-hour jaunts into epic 500-mile, five-hour odysseys in a greedy quest to rack up frequent-flier miles, according to sources and expense records.
Instead of finding cheap flights that connect directly from New York City to Albany, or taking less-costly trains or automobiles, the second-most powerful man in the state takes long, expensive detours through Philadelphia or Washington, DC.
“He brags about his ability to build up mileage,” said one Albany insider.
What needs to be done

Paul Newell, a former Silver challenger and a District Leader in Lower Manhattan district, wrote an op-ed in Saturday's Daily News, observing that "elected officials say progressive, pro-community things in public forums" but "the developers and landlords get their way behind closed doors," as with Silver's actions.

He notes that the solutions are well-known, including:
  • A ban on all outside income for New York’s legislators.
  • Public financing of elections. 
  • An open and transparent legislative process. 

Golden's moment?

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is reportedly looking into the records of several other legislators, including Republican Sen. Marty Golden of Brooklyn, who has a curious history of directing campaign cash to the catering call his brother runs, and for which he is the landlord, as the Village Voice reported in 2008.

If Golden gets charged, that would make yet another Atlantic Yards booster in ethical trouble. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Greenland claims to avoids NIMBY; Dean Street business owner, who supports Atlantic Yards, outraged by street narrowing

From Bloomberg News via the Los Angeles Times, 1/24/15: Community challenges to development drive up project costs in nation's least affordable city:
Greenland Holding Group steers clear of Hollywood [Los Angeles] and other communities where the company may face protracted opposition, said Ifei Chang, chief executive officer of the U.S. unit of the Shanghai-based development company.
"We want to invest in a city that's more forward-thinking," said Chang, whose projects include the $1 billion Metropolis in downtown Los Angeles and the $5 billion Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. "Communities that say 'not in my backyard' might not welcome us. Those cities aren't in the picture."
From today's New York Daily News, Voice of the People:
Give Brooklyn back its street
Brooklyn: I feel harassed, betrayed and exhausted trying to live and work in the borough where I grew up. In 1999, I purchased the building that houses my business in Prospect Heights. When the Atlantic Yards project came on the drawing board, I thought of it as a positive proposition for jobs and the community. 
Fast forward to today. I don’t have a problem with any part of the construction project, now called Pacific Park. I have a huge problem with the fact that the city gave the developer half of Dean St., literally. The street now has a 16-foot construction wall, one lane of traffic and no parking lane. My business’ five trucks must park all over the neighborhood during the day and indoors at night.
In one week, we have received six parking tickets — all from the same police officer — for parking on the sidewalk while in the process of bringing trucks inside. It is so unfair to the working guy that there seem to be more obstacles in our way every day in this city. Jack Ippolito
He runs Primo Uniform Service at 606 Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. Above right is what it looks like, taken from a video

Below, thanks to Google Maps, is what it used to look like. It's a big difference.

Atlantic Yards down the memory hole: Pacific Park issues pre-Barclays photo of Flatbush and Atlantic

The photo circulated by Pacific Park Brooklyn

Beyond the link to Tracy Collins's photos, more directly available here and here, also see Kevin Walsh's survey in Forgotten New York.
By Tracy Collins
It was not a historic district: there were some empty buildings, some tired buildings, and some better buildings. But the announcement of Atlantic Yards froze all redevelopment plans. And the site certainly was not empty as portrayed in the photo above until Forest City Ratner began significant demolition.