Wednesday, October 26, 2016

On Dean Street outside arena, illegally parked trucks and cars pose hazards; NYPD next door

If you're wondering why the Barclays Center's nearest neighbors feel they get the short end of the stick, well, consider the photo below of the scene around the southern flank of the arena, on Dean Street between Sixth and Flatbush avenues, at 8:15 am yesterday.

As the annotated photo--sent to me by a resident--shows, a truck at right is parked in the travel lane (outside a residence), a truck in the center distance is parked in the bike lane, and one car is parked illegally, another improperly.

Yes, it's possible that the truck on the right is associated with another construction project, at Bergen Tile (a site that would be in the right of the photo). But the rest surely are connected to the Barclays Center and overall Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project. 

Why no intervention?

Last night, at the monthly meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council, a neighborhood resident told Deputy Inspector Frank DiGiacomo that people were concerned about safety on Dean Street, including illegal standing and parking, and the blocking of bike lanes.

"We'll send guys to look at it," DiGiacomo replied. (The photo was not shown at the meeting, but sent to me later.)

But the precinct is literally around the corner--just turn right at that center truck--and policing the full range of infractions around the Barclays Center does not seem to be a priority. (A precinct official separately said at the meeting that a special unit has cracked down on trucks driving illegally on Fifth and Sixth avenues in adjacent Park Slope.)

In fact, the arena and overall Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project likely couldn't function without relatively gentle treatment by the cops, which I suspect comes from 1) policy set from the mayor's office and 2) a general NYPD focus on responding to crime.

Modular tower 461 Dean might get first occupant (resident manager) next week

Not only might the construction fence go down around 461 Dean Street (aka B2), the long-gestating modular apartment building flanking the Barclays Center, it might soon have its first occupant.

Peter Walsh, the building's resident manager, said last night at the monthly meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council, that he might move in as early as Tuesday, Nov. 1. That's nearly four years after the groundbreaking, twice as long as the originally promised timetable (once 20 months, then two years).

That, interestingly enough, is the same date as the Quality of Life Community Update meeting, which means that developer Forest City Ratner--remember, this is the only tower not being developed jointly with Greenland USA--would have some good news to announce.

What will be interesting/challenging for Walsh and the new residents is how arena operations--which often bring vehicles idling and double-parking nearby--impact their lives. Then again, presumably the moving trucks delivering new residents' property will pose a different set of challenges on narrow Dean Street.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

From the latest Construction Update: B2 construction fence might start coming down, excavation on Pacific Street

According to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Oct. 24 and circulated today at 1:43 pm (late) by Empire State Development after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP), there may be some minor changes around the exterior of construction sites--and some ongoing disruption.

Portions of the construction fence around 461 Dean Street (aka B2) may be removed this reporting period. Also, the sidewalk bridge at 550 Vanderbilt (B11)  may be taken down by the end of the month, while the high bridge at the corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and Pacific Street will still be utilized.

During this period, Optimum crews will excavate on Pacific Street between and Sixth avenues, to install infrastructure. "This work is NOT by GFCP but will be monitored," the update states.

Also, "noisy at times" water main installation activities will continue on Pacific between Sixth and Carlton avenues. That block of Pacific may be closed temporarily because of "[e]xpanded construction and underground field conditions." And wewer refurbishment continues on Pacific, including the replacement of manhole cover frames and recoating of the interior of manholes between Sixth and Vanderbilt.

After-hours work

As in previous weeks, there may be late shift, Saturday, and overnight work. Saturday work is expected at B2 and at B3 (38 Sixth Avenue), B11, B12 (615 Dean Street), and B14 (535 Carlton Avenue). Second-shift work also may occur at B2, which is the first tower expected to open.

Weekend electrical utility work will continue at the LIRR rail yard. Weekday and weekend work in the Yard requires working hours to be extended to approximately 7 pm each evening to prepare for the temporary relocation of the LIRR drill track and the West Portal approach slab construction.

As stated in the past ten construction updates, demolition at Block 1120, the railyard block between Sixth and Carlton avenues, could commence upon receipt of Department of Buildings and Department of Transportation. A community notice will be distributed.

Dean Street neighbors balk at new middle school using Dean Playground, exiting on Dean

664 Pacific, with school in lower section;
"play yard" should be on fourth floor
The 664 Pacific tower, a 27-story luxury rental building with a school at its base just east of the arena block, is on hold for now as the developers and the owners of an adjacent building argue over the appropriate protections for that building during construction.

Another dispute is simmering, derived from the different interests of school advocates and residents of Dean Street, which is adjacent to the tower's southern flank. (The other borders are Pacific Street at the north, and Sixth Avenue at the west.)

During a design charrette for the school in April, as described on the M.S. OneBrooklyn web site, stakeholders "felt it was desirable to make a connection with the Dean Playground through DOE [Department of Education] and NYC Parks. Can it extend outdoor space for school activities?"

That goal is not surprising, given that, while the school would have small amounts of outdoor space on the fourth floor and at ground level, the tower is the only Pacific Park Brooklyn building east of the arena block without landscaped open space. Note the stylized rendering below, via Marvel Architects, designers of 664 Pacific (aka B15).

Neighbors alarmed

But residents of Dean Street, who note the 1.3-acre Dean Playground is already heavily used--and suffers improper incursions by Pacific Park construction workers and Barclays Center staffers--are alarmed.

"We have a concern that it will be usurped, or taken over," noted the Dean Street Block Association's Elaine Weinstein at a 10/17/16 meeting of the group, which attracted a diverse group of some 55 people. People at the meeting, as described below, also reprised general dismay at the location of the school, which is very near both a police and fire station, as well as the arena.

Map via Marvel Architects shows proximity of Dean Playground southeast of  664 Pacific residential tower. Open space in Pacific Park Brooklyn residential towers is more extensive than portrayed, but most will arrive after school opens.
The Parks Department's Marty Maher, Chief of Staff to the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner, seemed reassuring.

"We have jointly operated playgrounds immediately adjacent" to schools, he said. In this case, the department could, in response to a permit request, let the school use it for an event, "but on a regular basis, we don't have the ability or desire to let them use it."

What's the solution

Atlantic Yards Final Supplemental Environmental Impact
Statement indicates Dean Playground has Heavy use.
Given an expected 600 students, "you know Dean Street is going to be overrun," one participant said. "What can be done to give them open space?"

Maher said that neighbors should talk to the Department of City Planning, the Department of Education, and the Mayor's Community Assistance Unit. (Representatives of the latter two agencies were invited but didn't attend the meeting.)

While parks and playgrounds don't typically work on top of buildings, it's "an option for the school," Maher said.

Indeed, though the official presentation (at bottom) on 664 Pacific produced by Marvel Architects makes no mention of aboveground playground space, DNAinfo reported that the school’s design includes a 3,000-square-foot 'play yard' on the building’s fourth floor and a 2,100-square-foot open space on the ground floor." (There would be a gym indoors, of course.)

664 Pacific ground floor plan.
Open areas likely not green.

It's not clear how exactly the 2,100 square foot ground floor space would be used, as it's adjacent to residential buildings. (See graphic at left.) But that total of 5,100 square feet pales in comparison with the Dean Playground, which is more than ten times larger.

Other perspectives

The focus on Dean Playground should remind people that the school--less a public benefit than a mitigation for the increased strain on civic resources from a large new population--was sited with little opportunity for outdoor space beyond the elevated exterior space.

After all, if the school were on the southeast block of the project, which will have most of Pacific Park's eight acres of open space and is the first area being built outside the arena block, students might compete to use open space otherwise sought by buyers of expensive condos.

Two of those buildings on the southeast block, 535 Carlton and 550 Vanderbilt, will open in the next few months. The other two were supposed to have started, but are delayed.

When the school was proposed at 664 Pacific, the targeted opening date was September 2018, but at the charrette the expected date was said to August 2019. Now documents in the court case point to 2020.

Until two years ago, the school was not assumed to be at this location. As disclosed in the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) produced by Empire State Development, the school was expected to be part of B5, the building site directly north of B15, east of Sixth Avenue between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue.

That would have required the construction of an expensive deck, and presumed a steady ten-year buildout--which didn't happen. It also would have included ground-level project open space.

According to the Mitigation chapter:
While the design of the new school would be completed at a later date, it is assumed that the school would include outdoor play areas including playground space for pre-kindergarten through the first grade and hard surface playground or active play yard for other grades. The school play areas could be provided within the eight acres of open space to be developed as part of the proposed project and would be adjacent to the development site containing the school.
Should the school be located in a portion of the base of Building 5, the school play areas would likely be located to the east or south of the building. The school’s at-grade play areas would be fully accessible to the public during non-school hours. Therefore, the provision of the school and play areas would not substantially affect the open space proposed as part of the project or the open space analysis. 
(Emphases added)

In other words, the school play areas, at least as previously contemplated, would come out of the project's overall open space. Now it may impinge on neighborhood open space.

Below, the open space plan from Thomas Balsley Associates, with B15 at bottom left. (Note the developers' misleading claim that there "will no longer be a dearth of green space in the heart of Brooklyn," given that residents of the complex likely will rely on existing large parks like Prospect Park and Fort Greene Park.)

Other school concerns: move the entrance?

According to the report from the April charrette, school advocates were concerned that, given a planned school entrance mid-block on Sixth Avenue, students might cross in the middle of the street instead of at a light. "The group wondered whether the entrance should be relocated to Dean Street where a better connection with the playground would be possible," the report stated.

They also discussed prioritizing Dean Street for students during school hours, which could reduce vehicle traffic to one travel lane.

At the meeting last week, however, Dean Street residents balked. "Bus route, bike lane, double parking [at the nearby Temple of Restoration]," one quipped. "Other than that, it's a really quiet block."

Department of Transportation representative Abigail Ikner, without commenting on the specific entrance, said the DOT would look at signage and speed bumps to foster safety around the school.

An opportune location?

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo, of the 35th District, was the meeting's invited guest. She arrived about one hour into the two-hour meeting. She acknowledged multiple concerns about the school, including the need to manage dismissals, given that the area in the orbit of the arena and adjacent malls has become a magnet for students.

Cumbo was told of concerns about the Dean Playground and the school entrance, then asked the group, "how does the block feel about the idea of the school?"

"Wish it wasn't coming," said one resident. Others murmured assent. "We feel it's an unsafe place for a school," Weinstein said, acknowledging it's a reality and adding, "But how do we keep it safe?" She added that people were worried about teachers driving in early to park in the neighborhood.

One resident turned the question back to Cumbo: "Do you think the location is a smart move?"

"I didn't think it was a good idea to put it there when all the things were laid out," Cumbo responded. "But it was one of those things... certain projects or decisions were made before you got here."

That's not quite so, as Cumbo was elected in 2013, the site shift to B15 surfaced in April 2014, and the push to make it a middle school--rather than a hybrid elementary/middle school--began in the middle of 2015, with vigorous advocacy from both middle-school backers and those warning about the location.

At a July 2015 press conference backing M.S. One Brooklyn, Cumbo echoed the need to "provide a quality middle school choice" to local residents, and said "the voice of the people, and of our children, have spoken loud and clear." As I reported, only Public Advocate Letitia James among supporteres publicly acknowledged that the school's site "is very challenging."

At the meeting last week, resident Regina Cahill commented, "We all testified in front of the SCA [School Construction Authority] that this was the worst corner." Peter Krashes noted the Dean Street Block Association submitted testimony about the location.
From Marvel Architects: school in yellow at base of tower; note location of police and fire stations, also in yellow.
Progress, and frustration

Progress may result from the meeting. Cumbo said she could help coordinate meetings with city agencies regarding the operation of the school. Residents told Cumbo the issues were broader regarding the impact of the project, and she agreed to work on those issues, as well.

Also in the audience was Jaime Stein, a board member of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), the body set up in 2014 (but first meeting in 2015) to advise Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing the project.

"This whole discussion of the intricacies of the school did not come to the board at all," said Stein, who's one of the few AY CDC board members to attend public meetings and gather information independently.

One resident said she'd given up on the regular state-sponsored meetings regarding the project, such as the bi-monthly Quality of Life Community Update meeting (which will next be held on Nov. 1). "We are totally disgusted with the fact that our voices are not being heard."

Monday, October 24, 2016

Barclays Center hockey impact: boost for some local business, burden for some neighbors

Reports amNY, New York Islanders at Barclays Center: Local area businesses talk impact going into second season:
Barclays Center has only been home to the previously Long Island-based hockey team for a season, but in the four years since the arena opened its doors residents and businesses alike have grappled with a changing neighborhood dynamic, crowds, fear of rising rents, and what many have categorized as a balancing act between the definite benefits of increased business opportunities and the commercialization of brownstone Brooklyn.
“They’re seeing more Islanders fans using the bars and restaurants as kind of a home base,” said Mark Caserta, the executive director for the Park Slope Fifth Ave. Business Improvement District. “The fans [at Nassau Coliseum] were never used to having bars and restaurants nearby. Now it’s a little bit more like going to Madison Square Garden.”
New York’s “other” hockey team has actually provided more business for the area than concerts or basketball games, Caserta and several local business owners said.
So certain businesses nearby on Fifth Avenue and parts of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street have benefited, though--unmentioned--businesses in the orbit of the project on, say, Vanderbilt Avenue, have not benefited.

Then again, as amNY reports, for some businesses, like Yayo’s Latin Cuisine on Fifth Avenue, the crowds coupled with lack of parking deters some traditional customers, and rents are expected to rise.

The local impact

The article quotes two locals about the overall impact, with one businessperson saying “It’s not super desirable parking in this area, but it hasn’t changed,” and a resident saying he misses that businesses are now more oriented toward arenagoers.

What the article misses is the impact experience by residents in the blocks nearest the arena. At a meeting last Monday of the Dean Street Block Association, locals expressed dismay about numerous aspects of arena operation and project construction.

With the advent of hockey, one said, there have been new complaints about sexual harassment, drunken displays, and "beer cans all over." Could arena security, she asked Barclays Center Community Affairs Senior Manager Terence Kelly, extend their patrols to Dean and Bergen Streets after games?

"We definitely can consider a lot of what you're saying," Kelly said, though he soon added union rules limit the scope of work.

What can neighbors do, he was asked.

Kelly said that the arena could be invited to meetings like the block association meeting and the bi-monthly Quality of Life meetings (next: Nov. 1). He said a patrol car has been stationed outside the bar McMahon's--where fans have been rowdy in the past--on Fifth Avenue, I'd note--but he wasn't sure of the police footprint.

Indeed, Kelly's not in charge of the police, and I doubt that arena security could be legally allowed to patrol outside the arena boundaries.

So it's a police issue--as well as an issue, perhaps, that the arena can stress to attendees. After all, the arena is a very tight fit, backing into a residential neighborhood.

The issue should come up tomorrow night at the monthly meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council, at 7:30 pm at the Precinct, 65 6th Avenue.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Why is Barclays Center ice substandard? System doesn't meet NHL standards, say beat writers

So, when the New York Islanders complained about choppy, not-so-safe ice at the Barclays Center, arena management pledged to improve the ice by hiring an "ice technician."

That didn't quite work, as Newsday's Arthur Staple reported:

Looking back, that should have been done when the Barclays Center developers knew that the Islanders were coming. Which had to have been August 2012, when they installed revised dasherboards to meet NHL standards. But it was a challenge to finish the arena on time, so I'd guess that either cost and/or simple construction time kept the change from being made.

Then again, then-Islanders owner Charles Wang in October 2012 said that talks with the Barclays Center builder/operator began seven months earlier.

Chris Botta added:

But there's no public money, is there, for a new arena? As the Post's Larry Brooks wrote:
Indeed, Slap Shots has learned Islanders ownership has held meetings with folks representing Wilpon-owned Sterling Equities to discuss constructing an arena on what would be the third base/left field area of the parking lot.
It is unclear how this project would be financed. As previously stated in this space, it is all but impossible to believe a one-team arena for which the area — that features MSG, Barclays, Prudential Center and a remodeled Coliseum — has no need could draw any support for public funding, regardless of how necessary new digs are for the Islanders.

So, blame Adams for rumor about James replacing Thompson? Or not.

So, did he or didn't he?

First, Stephen Witt's Kings County Politics suggested, with no named sources, that there was a push for Public Advocate Letitia James--who has worked as a public defender but not a prosecutor--to be named as the appointed successor for Kings County District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, who died recently. Then the New York Post picked it up.

In City and State, well sourced Gerson Borrero quoted "numerous insiders" as blaming Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for the story, since James's departure from her post could leave it open to him and thus gain a citywide profile for his long-professed mayoral ambitions. (Though he didn't query Adams.)

Well, Gov. Andrew Cuomo left Thompson's deputy, Eric Gonzalez, in charge, and City and State soon reported Adams's denial:
“Borough President Adams refutes this depiction of him, one that is based in gossip, much less under the cover of nameless and faceless claims that stand in opposition to the high value of public service that defined his friend and colleague Ken Thompson’s career and legacy,” Stefan Ringel, a spokesman for Adams, said in a statement. 
So, we just don't know. But it's understandable that the untimely death of someone powerful fuels not just mourning but machination.

Brooklyn Nets writing off New Jersey history (year founded, banner colors)

"Our history is the borough right now," the then-New Jersey Nets' Fred Mangione said in November 2010, anticipating the Brooklyn move, and that is truer than ever.

NetsDaily's "Net Income" (aka Bob Windrem) yesterday wrote The subtle end of the New Jersey Nets, noting that the Brooklyn Nets' "new warm-up jackets say 'established 2012,' commemorating when the team arrived in Brooklyn," though they previously said “established 1967,” which was when the predecessor New Jersey Americans launched.

Similarly, the New Jersey Nets' championship banners hanging in the Barclays Center have been reissued in black-and-white, the colors of the Brooklyn Nets, not the red-white-and-blue blend of the predecessor team.

Windrem adds that no longers does any New Jersey-based newspaper cover the team, and most New Jersey fans won't have TV coverage, due to a dispute between YES and Comcast.

He notes mutual disappointment between New Jersey fans and management, and suggests the latter are now focusing on the Long Island market. But as a New Jerseyite, he expresses loyalty, and regret: "But looking up in the rafters and seeing black-and-white banners. Is that really necessary?"

Not everyone shared his sentiments, but several commenters did:

  • The notion that that history would just be written off entirely depresses me.
  • If the Brooklyn experiment had paid off thus far and we were annual contenders, then sure, I can see wanting to distance themselves from the Jersey swamps of mediocrity, but to do it right now is just unnecessary
  • It’s says something that Brooklyn is simply conceding NJ basketball fans to the NYKs.
  • Thinking purely in terms of a branding strategy, I don’t get it. The Nets are the only professional sports team that actively tries to shrink their market rather than expand it. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

So, Barclays Center gets a new VP for Community Relations (but where are those schedules?)

Some changes appear to be afoot at the Barclays Center front office, perhaps related to arena management's new responsibilities.

Roland Guevara, via LinkedIn
There's a new position, VP, Community Relations, held by Roland Guevara, who, according to his LinkedIn profile, took the job in July after working as Director of Public Affairs at Nickolodeon. His position has not been publicly announced, as far as I can tell.

Nor has he been introduced to community stakeholders at arena-related events like the Quality of Life or Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meetings.

Guevara oversees three staffers, including Terence Kelly, Senior Manager, Community Affairs, who's served as the sole listed person in the Community Affairs office since the arena opened in 2012, as noted in the April 2006 version of the Barclays Center front office list.

Barclays may have a bigger presence in Community Affairs, but it doesn't seem oriented to the nearest neighbors. For example, a few months ago, the arena apparently stopped circulating a monthly calendar of events, with expected attendance. (Or: it stopped sending them to me and and people who might share it with me.) And the arena doesn't always send its own representatives to public meetings.

Internal reorg?

That said, there may be some internal reorganization. Michael Wisniewski, now listed as Manager, Community Relations for the Barclays Center (according to the arena web site), on his LinkedIn profile says he's been Community Relations Manager for the Brooklyn Nets since October 2013 and previously was Community Relations Coordinator for the Nets.

Similarly, Courtney Lapsley, now listed as Coordinator, Community Relations for the Barclays Center (according to the arena web site), on her LinkedIn profile says she's been Coordinator, Community Relations for the Brooklyn Nets since July 2016, and was previously since December 2014 a Community Relations Assistant for the Nets.

This may relate to the arena's larger budget and responsibilities, as it takes in revenue from the New York Islanders and guarantees a payment in turn to the team. But it also may mean stretching the budget to have staffers previously working only for the Nets to also work for the arena.

Barclays also has gone from a listed two-person Communications Department to a three-person one.

Barclays Center Front Office, October 2016 (screenshot)

Barclays Center Front Office, April 2016 (screenshot)

Friday, October 21, 2016

GAO report: more evidence that EB-5 immigrant investor program helps wealthy areas (+developers), not public interest

As summarized in the Wall Street Journal, Immigrant Investor Program for Poor Neighborhoods Benefits Rich Ones More, Study Shows. Indeed, the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) has confirmed--more or less--what seems glaring from more than five years of evidence about gerrymandering zones of "high unemployment" for the EB-5 immigrant investor program.

The "Bed-Stuy Boomerang," Atlantic Yards site in blue;
graphic by Abby Weissman
In reporting by me and the New York Times in 2011, it was clear that EB-5 zones of high unemployment--where the minimum investment is $500,000 rather than the statutory $1 million--were being gerrymandered to ensure that the average unemployment was high enough to qualify.

For example, New York State agreed to add census tracts in Bedford-Stuyvesant to the Atlantic Yards site in Prospect Heights to create a zone of high unemployment, saving the project developers tens of millions of dollars in each of three separate capital raises, totaling some $577 million.

Since then, the Wall Street Journal's Eliot Brown has reported on some glaringly gerrymandered maps, all supporting luxury projects that rely on cheap financing. And also see Trump-Branded Project Developer in Austin Seeks to Tap Immigrant Visa Program.

(The immigrant investors eschew high interest because they instead want the green cards. The public is supposed to benefit from job creation, but investments likely instead fuel profit. I think the program is riddled with dishonesty.)

Yes, the program's defenders say that the projects still draw workers from a larger area, which is true, but there's no proof they draw them from the zones of high unemployment. In 2011, a federal official acknowledged that it seemed the spirit of the law wasn't being respected. Nothing has changed since then.

The GAO report

The GAO report, Immigrant Investor Program: Proposed Project Investments in Targeted Employment Areas, does not make recommendations. However, while looking at a relatively small sample, from the fourth quarter of FY 2015, it determined that 99% of those using EB-5 went in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA).

Within that category, nearly all high unemployment TEAs, and only 3% rural areas, which also qualify as TEAs. Some in Congress want to reform the law to ensure that more investments go to rural areas (though that doesn't necessarily resolve the question of whether the public benefits).

States calculate TEAs, often at the behest of project sponsors, to help them get cheap money. So 90 percent of those investing in a high unemployment TEA, based the TEA on the average unemployment rate for a combination of census areas, the report notes.

Notably, the locations where the projects themselves were located did not have high unemployment. As shown in the table below, 77% percent of the projects were in areas with unemployment rates of 6% of lower.

Finally, who benefits? Some 74 percent of petitioners chose real estate, including mixed use projects, hotels and resorts, commercial, and residential developments; the remaining 28 percent invested or planned to invest in infrastructure projects, such as railways and highways, or transportation, restaurants, medical, and education facilities (percentages do not sum to 100 due to rounding).

Those kinds of projects often create temporary construction jobs, which passes federal muster, and lower the cost to builders. Whether they create permanent jobs is another question.

ESPN's Ultimate Standings not kind to Nets, Islanders, but Knicks, Rangers even worse

Well, neither the Brooklyn Nets nor New York Islanders are doing well in ESPN's Ultimate Standings, which ranks sports franchises on multiple issues, but they're at least better than their counterparts at Madison Square Garden.

Brooklyn Nets
Overall: 110
Title track: 114
Ownership: 107
Coaching: 89
Players: 117
Fan relations: 102
Affordability: 70
Stadium experience: 81
Bang for the buck: 110
Change from last year: +1
ESPN says the "Nets are preaching progress this season -- not wins," and credits the team for lowering ticket prices. "Fans aren't too hard on the team's stadium experience, at 81st overall," says ESPN, which is faint praise among 122 teams, given the new arena, and the bang for the buck is low, because the team is has lousy players.

NetsDaily finds brighter news, citing Ben Detrick, writing for The Ringer, who likens the Nets to Brooklyn’s “expansion team" and the young players as a "penny stock" who might do well:
The 2016–17 Brooklyn Nets are the expansion team they never took the time to be four years ago. Your New Brooklyn Nets are bad, likable, and hopeful. Expectations, bloated salaries, and empty promises from Russian oligarchs are gone.
New York Knicks
Overall: 114
Title track: 101
Ownership: 105
Coaching: 100
Players: 111
Fan relations: 105
Affordability: 118
Stadium experience: 83
Bang for the buck: 117
Change from last year: +7
ESPN notes that the Knicks still sell out, even when they're bad, thus lousy bang for the buck, but have improved coaching and slightly in players.
New York IslandersOverall: 84
Title track: 61
Ownership: 110
Coaching: 108
Players: 63
Fan relations: 62
Affordability: 99
Stadium experience: 118
Bang for the buck: 19
Change from last year: -11
The New York Islanders have a solid team, and prices were "almost $13 below the league average," ESPN notes, hence a "13-point jump in Bang for the Buck," but attendance was 28th in the league and there were obstructed views (though, it should be noted, the arena has tried to improve fan experience this year in other ways).

New York Rangers
Overall: 92
Title track: 44
Ownership: 76
Coaching: 68
Players: 77
Fan relations: 61
Affordability: 120
Stadium experience: 79
Bang for the buck: 104
Change from last year: -17
The Rangers have been a solid team, but prices keep going up, hence lousy bang for buck, and the "roster has also stagnated," says ESPN.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Nassau County Executive Mangano (and wife) indicted for taking bribes

So, another Forest City Ratner-allied politician is tagged as a criminal (though not yet convicted, of course). As the New York Times reported this morning, in Nassau County Executive Is Arrested in Bribery Scheme:
The Nassau County executive, Edward P. Mangano, his wife and the supervisor of the Town of Oyster Bay were arrested and charged on Thursday with trading government contracts and official favors for free vacations, a $450,000 no-show job and other bribes.
Mr. Mangano has been dogged by reports — many published in Newsday — that he and his family had vacationed in the Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos on trips that were paid for by Harendra Singh, a Long Island restaurateur who won a county contract to provide food to local officials in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
...A 19-page indictment released by federal prosecutors on Thursday outlines a bribery and kickback scheme stretching back to the beginning of 2010, when Mr. Mangano entered the county executive’s office after upsetting Thomas R. Suozzi, his Democratic predecessor, in the previous year’s election.
Here's the indictment. It has nothing to do with Forest City or the company's deal with Nassau County to renovate the Nassau Coliseum. But it does--for now--reinforce the suspicion that Mangano might not always be acting in the best interests of the public.

Newsday editorialized that Mangano and Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto should step down, since they can't do their jobs and also their defense. It added:
Long Island is so awash in conflicts of interest and outright stealing that it’s keeping the public corruption divisions of two of the largest U.S. attorney’s offices in the nation working overtime. Federal prosecutors looking into this nexus of political power, money and misbehavior already have convicted Suffolk Police Chief James Burke, Suffolk Conservative Party head Edward Walsh, Town of Oyster Bay Planning Commissioner Frederick Ippolito and State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

Gilmartin: Forest City earlier on was a "shark tank environment" (and hers is kindler/gentler?)

How's this from the Real Deal regarding Forest City CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin?
Gilmartin also described her early days at Forest City. She said Bruce Ratner created a merit-based culture at the company but said there was ample room for improvement.
“It was a shark tank environment there, early on, because there was a lot of testosterone,” she said. “Getting in there, staying in there, sticking with it, and rising based on my merits, allowed me to start to create a culture, a culture that might have been built and birthed by Bruce Ratner but certainly was shaped by those who followed.”
...“Building a culture, while it sounds so simple, I would argue is more challenging than building a billion dollar arena, with 35 lawsuits and one Great Recession, which I have a lot of experience in,” she quipped. “I would say culture is challenging, culture is everything and it starts from the top.”
OK, so Ratner's culture was merit-based but shark-tanky? Remember, as surfaced in a 2011 lawsuit, an architect who tangled with her reported to a colleague, "I had an unpleasant conversation with MaryAnne. I was told they know the same people I know and they’ll make sure to fuck me whenever possible."

Oh, and there weren't 35 lawsuits. They have never provided a list. But it sounds good from their end.

Is the Barclays Center using Dean Playground for staff meetings?

The nearest neighbors of the Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park report enormous frustration with impacts of construction and arena operations--noise, truck traffic on residential streets, idling limos at night on residential blocks, incursions on public space--as I'll detail more shortly.

At a meeting Monday night of the Dean Street Block Association, residents said construction workers regularly eat lunch in the Dean Playground, just half a block from the arena. It's off-limits to adults who aren't supervising kids, but is conveniently located in a residential district that otherwise doesn't offer places for workers to take a break.

That's not allowed, agreed Marty Maher, Chief of Staff to the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner.

And yesterday, a reader sent me photos of what appeared to be a meeting of Barclays Center workers in the playground, which would have been improper unless they had a permit. I queried the arena community affairs rep and press office but didn't hear back.