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Real Deal: signs of distress, at least in short-term for office space and luxury units

Is New York real estate showing symptoms of distress? asks the Real Deal asks in its 6/1/17 issue. Here's a relevant passage for AY/PP watchers:
On the whole, office leasing across the boroughs has been healthy.... However, much of the leasing activity has been driven by concessions...
Absorption is especially low in Brooklyn, where about 7 million square feet of office space is in the pipeline despite very little interest from big-name Manhattan tenants. Amid the growing oversupply, the vacancy rate in Brooklyn reached 7.1 percent in the first quarter, up from 5.7 percent in late 2015, according to CoStar Group data. So that suggests that developer Greenland Forest City Partners might not be unhappy that its two contemplated--though not yet approved--office projects are still a good way from fruition: the plan to transfer bulk from the approved B1 tower at the arena plaza across the street to Site 5, as well as the plan to convert the B4 tower at the northeast corner of the arena…

Now "No Stopping" signs in place on Vanderbilt outside 550 Vanderbilt condo

OK, the signs are finally in. As seen below, "No Stopping Allowed" signs have been belatedly installed on Vanderbilt Avenue outside the 550 Vanderbilt condo tower, between Dean and Pacific streets.

That should finally deter the scofflaws parking and blocking the bike lane, since it allows for enforcement. The photos were sent to me Sunday; I'm unsure of the precise date, because it wasn't announced by developer Greenland Forest City Partners or the Department of Transportation.
"I will mention there’s been some frustration about these parking signs, frustration for all of us, that they’re not installed yet," Ashley Cotton, a representative of the developer, said at a meeting 6/6/17. "It takes us and the DOT [Department of Transportation] to get this completed. So we’ll take our side of the blame, it just should have happened faster, but I’m told it’s imminent," Cotton said.


At a 5/2/17 public meeting, more than a month earlier, Cotton said the go…

In Crain's "Most Powerful Women," Gilmartin goes to 11 from 17 (really?)

Lists of "most powerful" are always more art than science, but I have to wonder why Crain's New York Business ranked Forest City New York  President and CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin number 11, a decent uptick from the previous ranking, 17, in 2015.

In an Editor's note, The girls are all right, Jeanhee Kim of Crain's writes, "Within all these stories is the idea that time has a dramatic impact on power. Women move up and down and on and off our list every two years."
Sure. But Gilmartin, though advancing institutionally with prominent positions outside her job, hasn't had that great a two years at Forest City. Here's what they write about her:
2016 NET OPERATING INCOME $230 million
NYC IMPACT Member, Executive Committee and Board of Governors, Real Estate Board of N.Y.; co-chair, Brooklyn Downtown Partnership; board member, BAM and N.Y. Public Radio
When the next book on Brooklyn’s rebirth is written, it will certainly have a chapter on MaryAnne Gilmar…

Before NBA draft, a logjam on Dean Street outside loading dock

Thursday's NBA Draft at the Barclays Center was supposed to draw a "significant number of vehicles" and a "large volume of buses" and, indeed, there was some disruption.

As shown in the video below, narrowed Dean Street outside the arena--remember, there's non-AY construction on the south side, starting at Flatbush--made for something of a logjam as a bus pulled out after making a delivery, while another (for NBA draftees and others, I was told but not confirmed) waited to enter. This was shortly before 6 pm, for a 7 pm event.

I'm told the video did not capture a longer period of slowed traffic before the video started. A fire truck returning to its Dean Street station was delayed, though it wasn't an emergency.



Note that in the video above, a van improperly parked on the south side of Dean across from the loading dock hinders turning by the bus. It's unclear whether that was a vehicle for Barclays or for the police, but it wasn't supposed t…

No surprise: company hawking EB-5 for Atlantic Yards country's biggest investor visa middleman

Some useful, if not ironclad, statistics from The Real Deal 6/21/17, Government releases crucial EB-5 data – but beware, it could be full of flaws:
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services issued three years of EB-5 visa data this week, confirming what was already known to many in the industry: big city regional centers servicing developer clients dominate the field for investors looking to immigrate to the U.S.
Between 2014 and 2017, USCIS approved more than 26,000 petitions for visas nationwide and rejected 3,313, its data show. The overwhelming majority of regional centers saw 100 or fewer petitions processed during the period. EB-5 visa issuance is currently capped at 10,000 new investor visas annually.
The US Immigration Fund (USIF), a Florida-based EB-5 regional center company with branches in New York City and New Jersey, accounted for more than 3,100 approved petitions, or 17 percent of all approved EB-5 visas in this period, the data show. In New York, developers …

Bertha Lewis backing "two-time disgraced" Hiram Monserrate because “we believe in criminal-justice reform”

Something kinda strange happened this week. As the New York Post reported 6/21/17, Activist endorses Monserrate’s return to politics: He was expelled from the state Senate for slashing his girlfriend and did time for mail fraud, but Hiram Monserrate was endorsed Wednesday for his City Council run by activist Bertha Lewis.
The support of the Black Leadership Action Coalition, a political fund-raising arm of Lewis’ left-leaning Black Institute, is a major boost for the former lawmaker in the race to succeed Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland in Queens.
...Lewis told The Post her group endorsed Monserrate because “we believe in criminal-justice reform” and most of the neighborhood residents polled believe he’s the best candidate for the 21st Council District, which includes Jackson Heights, Flushing, Elmhurst, Corona and College Point.Um, "believ[ing] in criminal-justice reform"--which could mean revising bail and sentencing standards--does not automatically translate into s…

Forest City NY said to experience major layoffs, disproportionate part of national downsizing

Update: the Plain Dealer reports that 30 of the 50 jobs cut nationally are in Cleveland. Crain's Cleveland Business says the number is 29 and the loss of 50 jobs means 1750 jobs companywide. Assuming my source is correct, New York had the majority of the remaining job cuts.
Forest City New York (formerly Forest City Ratner) yesterday laid off some 15 staffers, I'm told by a well-informed source, including some with high salaries and significant responsibility. That would represent more than a ten percent cut.

That number is not confirmed--multiple queries to the developer did not draw responses--but the Wall Street Journal yesterday reported cuts nationally by Cleveland-based parent Forest City Realty Trust (FCRT).

Forest City Laying Off 50 Workers as It Refocuses on Property Development Business, the WSJ reported, “Today our company is fundamentally different than when we began our journey,” corporate CEO David LaRue said in a company message, the paper reported. “The pending s…

Yormark: Islanders owners have been given "optionality": Barclays + Nassau (plus potential new pipes)

Despite saying (unsurprisingly) earlier this month that Barclays Center managers don't plan to make design changes to the arena--after all, it would be tough to add seats or change sightlines--the arena's top official is hardly ready to give up the New York Islanders hockey team.

In an interview yesterday with WFAN's Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton (who have a food stand at the arena!) Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark indicated that Barclays is very much in play for the Islanders, despite (overstated) reporting that the arena was dumping the hockey team.

At about 6:58 of the interview, Carton stated he believes the Islanders will go to a new arena at the Belmont racetrack. (A new arena is tough to justify in this market, and would be expensive, so I have my doubts.)

Giving owners "optionality"

"Is there any way," Carton asked Yormark, "that the wealthy men that are your bosses, and that own the building and make these ultimate decisions, including …

Pacific Park Developer's Deceptive Affordable Housing Spin--not the first misleading op-ed

I published comments critiquing Tackling New York’s Housing Affordability Crisis, by Ashley Cotton of Forest City New York, in Gotham Gazette. And the same publication gave me a platform to respond, in Pacific Park Developer's Deceptive Affordable Housing Spin.
An excerpt:
Those of us with long memories recall past deceptive essays by the developer. In May 2008, Bruce Ratner, CEO of Forest City Ratner (since renamed Forest City New York), penned an op-ed for the Daily News, contending, "for the first time, I am offering an updated construction timetable for the project...We anticipate finishing all of Atlantic Yards by 2018."
Well, we know how that turned out. The timetable stretched to 2035, and then was said to be 2025, at least for the affordable housing, though officials at Ratner's parent company now hint at well past 2030.
"We're still building the iconic Miss Brooklyn tower," Ratner wrote, regarding the Frank Gehry-designed flagship building at the…

Developer's op-ed claims 535 Carlton as example of "Tackling New York’s Housing Affordability Crisis"

Updated with my rebuttal, Pacific Park Developer's Deceptive Affordable Housing Spin.
How about that.

Gotham Gazette, "a pioneering nonpartisan New York City-based online watchdog publication" (for which I've written), today publishes Tackling New York’s Housing Affordability Crisis, by Ashley Cotton is Executive Vice President, External Affairs at Forest City New York:
One creative solution has already proven to be successful in Brooklyn: public-private partnerships. Last week, Greenland Forest City Partners was proud to open 535 Carlton, our COOKFOX-designed, 298-unit building in one of the most desirable parts of the city. The best part? It’s 100 percent affordable, and proof positive that our public-private affordable housing model delivers great results. This pioneering partnership ensures that Pacific Park Brooklyn, our 22-acre project in downtown Brooklyn, enhances the area’s diversity, vibrancy, and accessibility.
Working in conjunction with the city and the …

From City & State: Media Critic de Blasio Should Cop to How He Steers Coverage:

From my City & State essay Media Critic de Blasio Should Cop to How He Steers Coverage:
In a recent interview with BuzzFeed's Ben Smith, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio played media critic, denouncing the tabloid focus on purported fripperies, claiming his vital work gets ignored, and suggesting that corporate media follow a corporate agenda.
Hold on.
Yes, the mayor’s beef is partially legitimate: His Park Slope gym routine and his posture on the Puerto Rican Day Parade are news stories that have drawn disproportionate attention. However, as critics point out, de Blasio didn't seem to mind when political rivals like his predecessor Michael Bloomberg faced similar tabloid censure.
More importantly, de Blasio's no victim...  Consider how de Blasio has steered coverage of "affordable housing," which laypeople often translate as "low-income," but merely means "below-market," with tenants paying about 30 percent of their income towards rent.…