Saturday, December 03, 2016

An RFEI for a railyard in the South Bronx. Not for the one in Brooklyn. Despite what Gargano said.

From Crain's NY Business's Joe Anuta yesterday, State eyes massive development over South Bronx rail yard:
The state wants to deck over a nearly 13-acre rail yard in the South Bronx to make way for a massive waterfront development in the area, which is attracting more private investment as land costs rise elsewhere in the city.
Last month, Empire State Development released a request for expressions of interests [RFEIs] inviting developers to present offers for leasing or purchasing the land, decking over the yards, then building a sizable residential or mixed-use project on top.
The parcel sits along the Harlem River, just north of the Willis Avenue Bridge. It is currently used as a transfer station to move goods between cross-country trains and trucks that traverse the tristate area—a use the state plans to maintain going forward.
"It's exciting, and very rare to offer the opportunity to develop more than a dozen acres of prime waterfront land in New York City," ESD head Howard Zemsky said in a statement.
Oh.

The parallel with Atlantic Yards isn't precise, but it's not absent, either. In this case, the state Department of Transportation owns a 96-acre area called the Harlem River Yards, which it leases, and now wants to develop 13 acres of it.

By contrast, with Atlantic Yards, the state--the Metropolitan Transportation Authority--owned an 8.5-acre railyard, but a private developer, Forest City Ratner, already had conceived a plan to tether that to private property, city streets, and other public property to make a 22-acre site. Only after that came the request for proposals, or RFPs. There was no RFEI.

In both cases, the state can override zoning.

According to RFEI document, bottom, the development objectives include:

  • Preserve the designated intermodal rail facility footprint at Harlem River Yards...
  • Maximize economic benefit to the State while minimizing the State’s economic and
  • environmental risk
  • Enhance the Harlem River Yards as an economic engine for the South Bronx and New York;
  • Increase public access to the Harlem River waterfront;
  • Increase the availability of high-quality affordable housing in New York;
  • Maximize incorporation of green building and sustainable design practices; and
  • Feature meaningful participation of Minority Business Enterprises, Women Business Enterprises and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned-Business

The missing parallel

But the true head-spinner for Atlantic Yards watchers regards the RFEIs (requests for expressions of interest), because the state official whose authority approved the project, Empire State Development Charles Gargano, said in an interview that that was how the project was being developed.

As I reported, Gargano, on 11/15/05, appeared on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC radio and was asked by the host, who'd just cited an essay by Hunter College planning professor Tom Angotti,  "Is this a through-the-looking-glass version of how development should work?

The exchange occurs near the beginning of the embedded audio below.


"If you understand development and how it does work," Gargano responded, "we have a process in government, state government and I’m sure other government bodies have the same, whereby we put out, first of all, on any area we’re trying to develop, we put out what we call an RF--I, request for-- EI, expressions of interest. And the reason why we do that is we want to pick the brains of the private sector, and see what kind of ideas they have, and after all, they’re the ones with the resources who are going to build these projects, so we want their ideas. We put out this RFEI, that’s the initial—that’s the first part of the process, and it has worked very well for many, many decades."

Not this time.

The MTA did not issue an RFP for the Vanderbilt Yard--the main public property contained in the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint--until 5/24/05, nearly 18 months after the Atlantic Yards plan was announced on 12/10/03.

The ESDC never issued an RFEI. Forest City Ratner had been in discussions with city and state agencies for a long time. That's not the "process" Gargano described.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Why might B4 return as office tower? Would have had slow-leasing apartments. (Where are promised site amenities?)

The dormant B4 site; photo excerpt from AY Webcam
As I wrote yesterday, in 2009, the consultant KPMG estimated that market-rate buildings in the Atlantic Yards project would, on average, take one year to fill up.

However, there was one glaring exception, as indicated in the annotated graphic below left: B4, the behemoth tower at the northeast corner of the arena block, which was estimated to take two years.

That's surely not an ideal situation for a developer.

And that may be why B4's proposed configuration has changed multiple times, as the developer tries to figure out what to do with a huge, nearly 825,000-square-foot building, more than the combined bulk of the two other arena-adjacent towers, 461 Dean and 38 Sixth, both of which near completion.

From 2009 KPMG report
And it may be why B4 seems indefinitely delayed, with no plans by the state to require--as was once predicted--temporary open space and public amenities on such a stalled development site.

That would be costly, given that the footings of the tower would be 20+ feet below street level, once part of the Vanderbilt Yard.

Now, as shown in the photos, the site is filled with generators and other equipment, with pedestrian access barred by fences.

A shifting plan

B4, at 511 feet, was long slated to be the second-tallest and second-bulkiest tower, after B1, aka Miss Brooklyn. It would retain that status even if most of the B1 bulk gets moved across the street to Site 5, as is planned.

Remember, the four towers around the arena were once supposed to house office space. Then three of the towers--including, presumably, B4--were to become condos.

As of 2009, B4 was apparently envisioned as an 80/20 (80% market/20% low-income) rental building, with the 711 market-rate units taking 24 months to rent out, and the remaining 176 below-market units taking just three months.

Below grade at B4 site
(Though the chart above says the affordable units would be "middle-income," I think it's an error. There aren't any 80/20 buildings in which the affordable units are middle-income.)

In October 2013, the state approved a change to the building's design, with the justification that, without such a modification, B4 would be a much smaller building, and would substantially decrease affordable housing.

As of August 2014, as shown in the graphic below, Building 4 was to be a mixed building, with 213 condos and 551 rentals, half of them affordable. Construction was to start in March 2017.

That's changed too. Earlier this year, developer Greenland Forest City Partners announced a plan to convert B4 into office space, and also to sell a stake in the building (along with two planned condo towers).

Nothing has happened since then and, presumably, it would be tougher to sell that stake before Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project, amends the official Atlantic Yards plan to allow office use.

Perhaps they recognized that, not only does the residential market seem glutted, that location is suboptimal for residents, with no room for open space at the ground level.

October 2016 annotation
The missing amenities

B4 site from Atlantic Avenue sidewalk
I took a look at the Technical Memorandum produced by Empire State Development in 2009 after project deal terms were revised.

It claimed that delayed construction would be alleviated by new amenities:
Temporary open space and public amenity use such as retail kiosks, landscaped seating areas, and plantings would be provided on the building footprints not under development, particularly Buildings 3 and 4. These amenities would enliven the street-level environment and provide a buffer between the arena and residential district to the south.
B4 site from Sixth Avenue
Well, B3, when the arena opened, had some green space and bicycle racks, but no seating or retail. B4 has remained an equipment zone.

I don't recall any evidence that the purported commitment was memorialized in contract documents (though I'll check again).

But the promise was brought up again in the ESDC's Response to Comments document:,
Comment 27: A number of commenters strongly disagreed with the conclusion of the Technical Memorandum that the environmental impacts of a delayed Project will not increase relative to a Project completed on schedule. The modification of the Phase I development would radically modify the original strategy of the Project to mitigate the placement of the Arena within residential neighborhoods by integrating it with commercial and residential density.
Response: As described in the Technical Memorandum, should prolonged adverse economic conditions result in delayed construction of Buildings 3 and 4 on the Arena block, temporary open space and public amenities such as retail kiosks, landscaped seating areas, and plantings would be provided on these building footprints. These amenities would enliven the street-level environment and, along with Building 2, would provide a buffer between the Arena and existing development to the north and south.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

2009 report: one year to fill market-rate buildings; some affordable units faster than others

New apartment buildings don't just fill up lickety-split. Buildings get TCOs (temporary certificates of occupancy) that approve certain floors for residence, while work continues elsewhere.

The interest in market-rate units fluctuates with price and competition. So luxury units at the slowly-opening 461 Dean, for example, have been said to come with "incentives" (aka discounts), as do others in the for-now glutted market in and around Downtown Brooklyn.

Even low-income affordable units don't fill instantly, despite huge demand, because of the challenges in processing applications. Moderate- and middle-income affordable units also face challenges, apparently.

One huge lesson of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park is that predictions are fuzzy.
How fast are they filling up?

We don't know exactly how fast the rentals are filling up at 461 Dean, which is said to be partly occupied, and which includes 181 below-market units and 181 market-rate ones. (Maybe we'll learn at the recently rescheduled Quality of Life Community Meeting, set for Jan. 24.)

My October 2016 annotation of August 2014 tentative timetable
It has a TCO dated 11/1/16, which expires at the end of January; more than half the building is ready for occupancy. However, as I wrote yesterday, the lights are on, but few, if any people seem to be home.

By contrast, neither of the two other nearly finished buildings are ready for occupancy, though contracts have been signed at the condo building and, presumably, tenants are being selected for the rental one.

There's no TCO yet for 535 Carlton, the "100% affordable" rental building, which developer Forest City Realty Trust--parent of Forest City Ratner, part of Greenland Forest City Partners, said 11/3/16 "is expected to begin phased opening in the fourth quarter of 2016."

Nor is there a TCO yet for the 550 Vanderbilt condo building, which Forest City said is "expected to begin phased opening in the first quarter of 2017." The fourth tower, the "100% affordable" 38 Sixth Avenue, "is expected to begin phased opening in the second quarter of 2017."

As Forest City suggested in a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, each of the three upcoming buildings--and, I'd guess, 461 Dean--might take up to a year to fill up.

It's not clear if that relates to the slow absorption of apartments and/or a fuzzy start for leasing.

How fast do buildings fill?

But it's worth looking back to a 2009 report on Atlantic Yards by the consultant KPMG. The report was conducted for the Empire State Development Corporation, the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, and it rather unwisely supported the purported ten-year project buildout.

The report is not necessarily current, since it addresses a configuration of buildings that has since changed, but it does suggest that market-rate buildings could take a year until 100% occupancy was reached, with a few rental buildings coming faster (but the largest building quite slow), and the condo buildings taking a year.

From 2009 KPMG report
The report stated:
Given the lack of affordable housing in New York City, and its waiting list, it is reasonable to assume that low income units at each building will be absorbed as soon as they are brought to the market. Displayed on the following page are the market and middle income absorption estimates for the Subject Property.
Yes, the low-income units will be absorbed quickly, so any delay has to do with the processing of applications. But it's interesting to see that, at least in 2009, KPMG estimated that below-market middle-income rentals would take seven months to fill up.

It's not clear why, but presumably that was based on the history of other projects. I'd guess that, as long as enough people participated in the lottery, they'd be easy to fill up. Maybe it has something to do with the possibility that the more expensive below-market units will be on higher floors that get the TCO later in the construction process.

From 2009 KPMG report

Prokhorov shopping minority stake in the Nets to "local minority partner" to strengthen local ties. (We'll see.)

From a statement released yesterday by Brooklyn Nets (and Barclays Center operating company) owner Mikhail Prokhorov, via NetsDaily:
“I am beginning the search for a strategic minority ownership partner of the Brooklyn Nets. I have retained Steve Greenberg, Managing Director of Allen & Company, to assist me in this process. As I’ve said, I’m passionate about owning the Nets and our emerging sports and entertainment businesses, and will continue to look at growth opportunities. My goal in seeking a local minority partner is to further strengthen the team’s New York presence in order to expand upon our business and community relationships. I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken this year, including the opening of the world-class HSS Training Center and developing a new culture with GM Sean Marks and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson. I’m committed to the Nets and will remain the majority owner of the team.”
Given that investors from around the country and world had expressed interest in the Nets, let's see if Prokhorov actually sells to a "local minority partner is to further strengthen the team’s New York presence in order to expand upon our business and community relationships" or, rather, takes the best offer.

Given that a year ago the team was valued , upon the sale of Forest City Enterprises' remaining 20% stake to Prokhorov, at $875 million, that suggests that he could get $400 million--though he'd still be paying off the equivalent of the $175 million he pledged for the Nets.

As NetsDaily noted, "One question for potential investors is whether Prokhorov would grant minority owners the right of first refusal if he chooses to sell the majority stake and/or agree to a full purchase at a later date."

Again, the Atlantic Yards housing blind spot from de Blasio critics

From the Wall Street Journal today, Some Liberals Seek a Challenger to Unseat de Blasio:
In a letter scheduled to be sent Thursday to Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for housing and economic development, several liberal groups said her approach to housing didn’t include enough units for the lowest-income New Yorkers.
“So far, your housing policies have largely failed to address the needs of the lowest-income residents, many of whom face homelessness and a frightening future in shelters,” said the letter, which was signed by six groups, including New York Communities for Change and the Black Institute.
Except those groups have saluted, without criticism, affordable housing in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park distinctly skewed away from "the needs of the lowest-income residents."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

461 Dean: the lights are on, but is anyone home?

Last night, I snapped the photos below of 461 Dean Street, the modular rental tower flanking the Barclays Center, which developer Forest City Realty Trust, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, said was open for business. (It's the only Pacific Park residential building not owned by the Greenland Forest City Partners.)

The lights are on, but is anyone home? The evidence isn't definitive, but there are a couple of clues that suggest that many if not all of those apartments are not occupied yet.

First, as noted in the photo at right, shot from Flatbush Avenue near Dean Street, there are no shades or curtains in the apartments with lights on. If people were really living there, well, they'd look more lived-in.

Similarly, there are no shades or curtains in the lower-floor windows shown in the photo directly below, shot from Dean Street near the arena loading dock. Nor are there in the upper floors.

More importantly, those top floors--though its not easy to tell from the photo--are above floor 19, which is the top floor, among 32 residential floors, that has been approved for a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy.

As I wrote earlier, this month, as of 10/27/16, the developer had a 3% lease commitment at 461 Dean. Presumably that applied to the 50% market-rate units, and/or the retail, not the 50% below-market "affordable" units, for which there was a lottery.

As of mid-month, the building was officially opened for leasing, with the first tenants expected to move in by the end of the month.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

de Blasio dubiously claims no conflict in asking Rosen for advice on Barclays visit





By the way, note the coverage *after* I raised some of the issues (for which I was not credited):
11/25 Post;  11/29 Post; 11/29 Post; 11/29 WSJ; 11/29 Daily News; 11/29 Post editorial.

As Chinese real estate companies reassess strategy in U.S., Greenland somehow claims no Pacific Park delays

The Wall Street Journal today, in Chinese Developers Reassess U.S. Projects, wrote:
Some Chinese real-estate developers are lowering their profit expectations on U.S. projects or shelving them entirely as frothy prices and rocky partnerships force them to rethink their strategies in the American market.
Swelling supply of high-end New York condominiums could result in losses for some Chinese developers, analysts said. A push to partner with U.S. developers on other projects, meanwhile, has brought unexpected legal spats and other delays.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government is expected to limit the export of investment capital.

The Pacific Park example

But check out this summary:
In Brooklyn, a deal between Shanghai-based, state-owned conglomerate Greenland Holding Group and Forest City Realty Trust on a 22-acre, 15-building mixed-use project in various stages of construction is facing stiff headwinds.
Forest City earlier this month said it took a $307.6 million impairment charge for the project, called Pacific Park Brooklyn, and said it plans “to delay future vertical development.”
“We revised the schedule due to a number of factors, including almost unprecedented concentrations of new rental supply in downtown Brooklyn, which will take time for the market to absorb,” said Forest City CEO David LaRue.
A spokesman for Greenland USA denied there will be delays and said it is “meeting the goals and targets that were established when we invested in 2014.
(Emphasis added)

Denied there will be delays? That does not compute, because, as stated above, the joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners, according to Forest City, plans “to delay future vertical development.”

That quote needed a little more pushback from the WSJ, as in "reality says otherwise."

As for meeting the goals/targets established in 2014, yes, they're building two "100% affordable" buildings. Otherwise, as shown in the 2014 site map I annotated last month, they're way behind.


Next Quality of Life Community Meeting postponed six weeks, to January; Precinct Council meets tonight

With no explanation as to why, Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, yesterday rescheduled the Quality of Life Community Meeting from December 13 to Tuesday, January 24, 2017, six weeks later.

As per usual, the meeting, once known as the Quality of Life Committee and then the Community Update, will take place at 6 pm at:
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place, 1st Floor Conference Room
Impact of delay

The delay means that instead of a six week gap between meetings--the standard has typically been two months, or eight weeks--there will be a 12-week gap, or nearly three months. But the six-week gap was caused by bunching of previous meetings after delays.

This next delay makes for less oversight, and fewer public questions about project operations and impacts. After all, though the state (and developer?) apparently decided unilaterally to postpone the meeting, there are ongoing concerns that neighbors were ready to raise.

I wonder if the much-promoted move-ins to the 461 Dean rental tower and the 550 Vanderbilt condo tower are going slowly enough that developer Forest City Ratner (for 461 Dean) and Greenland Forest City Partners (for the rest of the project) would rather not face questions in December.

The announced--but hardly certain--2017 schedule for Quality of Life meetings is below.

Meanwhile, some Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park public safety-related issues may come up at tonight's monthly meeting of the 78th Precinct Community Council, at 7:30 pm, at 65 Sixth Avenue.


With many Brooklynites at risk of homelessness, Atlantic Yards can't help much to "solve Brooklyn's housing crisis"

"58% of all New Yorkers have inadequate savings to pay for expenses like food, housing, and rent in an emergency," declared the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) in a recent report (chart at bottom),  "How is Economic Opportunity Threatened in Your Neighborhood?"

That led to headlines like DNAinfo's Most New Yorkers Are Roughly 1 Paycheck Away From Homelessness: Study and Gothamist's More Than Half Of New Yorkers Are One Paycheck Away From Homelessness, Says Study.

2006 flier from developer Forest City Ratner
The statistics are compiled by Community District/Community Board. Below are statistics for the four Community Boards in which residents get a preference for 50% of the units in each Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park housing lottery.

First are the statistics for those whose who are at risk of homelessness, then stats indicating the percentage of rent-burdened households:
  • Community Board 2: 51%/37%
  • Community Board 3: 67%/54%
  • Community Board 6: 48%/35%
  • Community Board 8: 63%/50%
No wonder, as described in a recent Quinnipiac University poll, only 50% of New York City voters say they can afford to live here, while 47% say they can't afford it. It's even worse in Brooklyn, where 45% said they could afford to live here and 52% said they couldn't.

Managing growth, and the AY angle

Recently, in the New York Post, Nicole Gelinas wrote Elite cities are pushing out the working class:
Places like New York and San Francisco aren’t dealing with growth very well. “Build more houses” is a rather obvious solution. But people who already live in a neighborhood have a say. They moved to Greenwich Village or the Upper West Side because they liked those neighborhoods, and don’t want them changed by high-rise towers.
And when we build more houses for middle-class and wealthy people in less-expensive neighborhoods, their presence makes that neighborhood more expensive.
One solution is to build subsidized housing. But our best practical efforts yield us 20,000 apartments a year, and the subsidies they require push housing costs up for the people who aren’t lucky enough to win the literal affordable-housing lottery.
In other words, the people who get the subsidized Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park apartments, especially the fraction for low-income households, will be very lucky and very happy. There will be a lot more unlucky people still struggling.

Gelinas noted that even our infrastructure doesn't support growth any more. (She didn't mention suggestions like adding an F train express, which would stimulate growth in deep Brooklyn, or creating a more regional transit system to support growth in New Jersey.)

What to do?

Gelinas's conclusion:
One crazy idea: Maybe cities and suburbs that aren’t on the East and West coasts should look to what we do that makes us so expensive, and copy the good parts. That would include neighborhood density, which often means small-scale apartment buildings not far from stores, plus transit, parks and libraries, and low crime.
Another idea--ambitious and controversial--comes in the Real Estate Weekly article headlined Chris Ward wants to make Red Hook a model for urban redevelopment:
Aecom’s Southwest Brooklyn vision, which includes Red Hook and the Columbia Waterfront District, covers 246 acres, about eight times the size of Hudson Yards.
...AECOM’s idea for Southwest Brooklyn calls for extending the 1 train to Red Hook and adding two separate stations, adding high-rise development with an interconnected park system, and two new schools, adding affordable housing, streetscape improvement, and an accessible and more resilient waterfront.
The vision calls for up to 45,000 units of housing to be built, to a total of 45 million square feet.
I recognize the skepticism, but, as REW noted:
But in a city with a serious housing crisis, more than 50 percent of residents rent-burdened, and a need for more jobs to match the population growth that is expected to add one million new residents in the next 25 years, Ward argued that a vision this grand is necessary.
“One of the main things we were focusing on when looking at this and thinking about the fabric of the city, is that no development leads to gentrification,” said Ward.
The lesson is that we need much bigger thinking--and, ever unlikely, federal support--to create a more equitable city.

Monday, November 28, 2016

How tall is 550 Vanderbilt? 40 feet above what they say (and it's allowed)

Also see coverage regarding 535 Carlton and 461 Dean.

Remember how the condo tower 550 Vanderbilt was described by developer Greenland Forest City Partners as "[n]estled at the intersection of five of the borough’s most desirable neighborhoods"?

I focused on that bizarre geographic description, but project neighbor/opponent Patti Hagan pointed to the bizarreness of using the verb "nestle," which means, among other things, "to settle snugly or comfortably" and "lie in an inconspicuous or sheltered manner."

Well, it's not inconspicuous at all, especially that extra height shown at right, still covered in scaffolding.

Note Prospect Heights resident Gib Veconi's recent tweet:
Indeed, while the building is officially 202 feet tall,  the height is defined--as is typical--as the "maximum height of the last occupiable floor." A Department of Buildings document indicates 40 feet for bulkheads. That's nearly 20% taller.

According to the project's Design Guidelines, "Rooftop mechanical equipment and elevator and stair bulkheads may exceed the maximum building heights" as long as they're set back from the street at least ten feet, do not exceed 20% of the building's lot coverage, and add more than 40 feet of height.

That may be typical in the city, but it also further challenges the developer's claim that the building is "nestled" into the neighborhood.


Another view of the elevations, below.

How tall is 461 Dean? 37 feet above what they say (and it's allowed)

Also see coverage regarding 535 Carlton and 550 Vanderbilt.

So, is 461 Dean Street (aka B2) really 322 feet tall, as stated in the developer's public presentation (excerpt at right), in Department of Buildings filings, and as listed in the Maximum Heights document prepared by Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project?

Not quite.

The height is defined--as is typical--as the "maximum height of the last occupiable floor." So the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat lists the building height as 359 feet, which is 37 feet taller than the official height. That's 11.5% taller.

Document filed with DOB shows
top floor is 322'; click to enlarge
Indeed, the DOB says the last residential floor is Floor 32, while Floors 33 and 34 include a fire pump room and a generator room. Plus mechanical equipment on the roof.

According to the project's Design Guidelines, "Rooftop mechanical equipment and elevator and stair bulkheads may exceed the maximum building heights" as long as they're set back from the street at least ten feet, do not exceed 20% of the building's lot coverage, and add more than 40 feet of height.

That may be typical in the city, but it also further challenges the developer's claim that the buildings are somehow "nestled" into the neighborhood.

After all, as shown in this Instagram view from September, excerpted below, 461 Dean represents an abrupt change from the streetscape to the southeast in Prospect Heights.


What it means

Because 461 Dean is some 360 feet in height, the 360-degree view produced by the developer in the photo below, from the building web site, is rather misleading.

First, views from 461 Dean will vary according to floor. And no one is going to get a view from the top of the mechanicals, which makes Atlantic Terminal 4B, the 310-foot public housing tower at left, look tiny.

How tall is 535 Carlton? 37 feet above what they say (and it's allowed)

Also see coverage regarding 461 Dean and 550 Vanderbilt.

Photo from July 2016
So, is 535 Carlton (aka B14) really 184 feet tall, as listed in the Maximum Heights document prepared by Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project?

Not quite.

The height is defined--as is typical--as the "maximum height of the last occupiable floor."

That's 181 feet, according to this document filed with the Department of Buildings.

But then add 37 feet for the bulkhead and mechanicals. That goes to 218 feet, or a little more than 20% more than permitted. See screenshots below, and clock to enlarge.

And with the rooftop mechanicals, the 19-story building reaches 221 feet, according to the building permit on the Department of Buildings' web site. That's 20% taller.

According to the project's Design Guidelines, "Rooftop mechanical equipment and elevator and stair bulkheads may exceed the maximum building heights" as long as they're set back from the street at least ten feet, do not exceed 20% of the building's lot coverage, and add more than 40 feet of height.

That may be typical in the city, but it also further challenges the developer's claim that the buildings are somehow "nestled" into the neighborhood.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

From NY Slant: the questionable Cuomo-Mangano relationship

Nick Powell's 11/21/16 essay/report in City & State/NY Slant, INSIDE ANDREW CUOMO’S QUESTIONABLE FRIENDSHIP WITH INDICTED NASSAU COUNTY EXECUTIVE ED MANGANO, deserves a closer look. Writes Powell:
But unlike Cuomo’s relationship with Senate Republicans such as Dean Skelos (convicted last year on corruption charges) and John Flanagan, which he could at least justify under the guise of government functionality, the roots of his friendship with recently indicted Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano are far more complicated and perplexing.
Mangano, along with his wife, Linda, and Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, was charged in October with 13 counts of corruption for allegedly accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for funneling $437,000 in county contracts to a local restaurateur named Harendra Singh....
Mangano’s tenure as county executive has been marred by irresponsible fiscal stewardship, near blatant flouting of campaign finance laws and a pay-for-play contracting system largely rubber-stamped by hand-picked Cuomo allies.
What began for Cuomo as an association of convenience, competitiveness and expediency steadily evolved to full-on enabling of Mangano’s ethically murky behavior, particularly as it pertains to Nassau’s finances and contracting process, which a county district attorney in 2014 called “a recipe for corruption.”
There's lots more, including questionable donations to a Republican club, favors apparently engineered by Cuomo, and lighter state oversight over Nassau.

Concludes Powell:
At a time when Cuomo appears to be finally taking statewide ethics reform seriously after years of kicking the can down the road and blaming the Legislature for lacking the “appetite” to get it passed, it’s easy to wonder how much of Mangano’s behavior could have been avoided had the governor’s hunger for a “mandate” not taken precedent over sound fiscal management of one of New York’s most populous counties. Instead, Cuomo’s coziness with Mangano and his former aides is an indelible stain on his credibility in leading this renewed charge toward good government.
And that's without a mention of Mangano's longtime relationship with Republican ex-Senator, now lobbyist, Alfonse D'Amato. Or the transactional relationship between D'Amato and Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner, who made campaign contributions to D'Amato's PAC that, evidence suggests, were then routed to Mangano.