Friday, July 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.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Lowbrow/Brilliant? New York Mag's Approval Matrix misses mark on Barclays Center green roof (which aims to block leaking bass)

Well, New York Magazine calls its Approval Matrix "Our deliberately oversimplified guide to who falls where on our taste hierarchies." It's usually quite savvy. But not always.

Consider the Lowbrow/Brilliant designation for the Barclays Center's green roof. The print version is brief.

The online version links to a 5/27/15 WABC report, BARCLAYS CENTER INSTALLING SOUND-MUFFLING GREEN ROOF, which states:
The lush greenery will absorb rainwater, and therefore put less stress on the sewer system. Then, there's the acoustic component, as the roof will absorb sound that is outside the building and muffle sounds inside the center.
...And another thing that will be fascinating to watch is how all of this will actually change to reflect the seasons.
Somehow missing is the fact Barclays Center has regularly leaked bass into the surrounding neighborhoods like a giant neighborhood sub-woofer, leading to a fine. Or that the green roof promised in the early days was to be accessible to the public.

In other words, the green roof, however a cosmetic and operational improvement, is also a p.r. effort, and a way to recover from some unusually bad acoustic design in the arena. Not brilliant.

Also, the installation--notably the lingering crane blocking traffic on Atlantic Avenue--has taken far longer than projected. Not brilliant.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Barclays Center releases July 2015 event calendar, also August and September; fairly light schedule, for now

Yesterday, a bit late, the Barclays Center released its July 2015 event calendar, as well as the calendar for the next two months--which obviously may be filled in more.

It's a fairly light month, with a New York Islanders scrimmage, five concerts, and two comedy shows on one night--plus four tours, which are small events.

July 2014 was a little busier, but only because there were multiple Walking with Dinosaurs and Cirque du Soleil shows.

August 2015 event calendar

In August, there will be two concerts, a boxing night, an unspecified "private event", and two days of pro wrestling, plus two days of wrestling load-in.

August 2014 was somewhat busier, because of the circus and Marvel Live.

September 2015

The September 2015 calendar, as of now, is pretty thin, but includes three concerts and three NHL pre-season games, a sign of how the arrival of the Islanders might fill seats.

The September 2014 event calendar--at least as released--was pretty thin, as well, with five concerts, one hockey game, and two community events.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

A new middle school at B15? There's significant support, but also questions about location, function (updated with CEC 13 letter citing overstated capacity)

Updated of 7/1 coverage 7/2 with mention of CEC 13 letter.

The school, once planned for B5, is now planned for B15
There was vocal support at a public hearing that the school planned for the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park B15 building be a middle school rather than, as planned, a flexible, mixed elementary/intermediate school.

While such advocates acknowledged the location just east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets was imperfect, they suggested the urgency of a middle school in District 13 trumped such concerns.

So far, several elected officials, Community Board 8, Community Education Council 13 (CEC 13) , and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) support such a middle school at B15. But it doesn't mean that, as a tweet from Sen. Jesse Hamilton indicated, "#ProspectHeights is unified behind a new middle school at #AtlanticYards."

Some questions

In fact, those closest to the project, the Dean Street Block Association (DSBA)--which withdrew from PHNDC after the latter signed a settlement agreement regarding the project timetable and oversight--offered a more nuanced statement, questioning the location opposite the arena and police/fire stations, and requesting that the Department of Education better assess local needs.

DSBA seeeks "an all-inclusive plan to avoid overcrowding, reduce the risk our elementary students will have to travel distances to get to school, and improve middle school options."

Regina Cahill, president of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, also tweeted her concerns about the location--but was told her suggested alternative (the B5 site) would be built too late.

While Community Board 2 just touches Prospect Heights, its constituents--update: people in the northern half of the project site, at least 7 towers, will be in CB 2--will be using the school. CB 2 questioned the location, suggesting the school be moved to the southeast block of the project, in a building contemporaneous with B15.

CB 2 said "the decision on whether the school be designed for elementary or middle school students, or both, should be deferred in order to respond to the needs at the time the school opens." (That may be less efficient, however.)

What does developer want?

Three (now-empty) houses will be demolished for the school
Developer Greenland Forest City Partners has stayed out of the public discussion, but I'd guess they favor the elementary/intermediate school as proposed, which could be a good selling point to entice families to move into the project.

As I've noted, the choice of a school for B15 takes the focus off the fact that it's a 100% market-rate tower built at 27 stories next to four-story apartment buildings (on Dean Street), on a site assembled after eminent domain was used to acquire property from homeowners.

The case for a middle school

The case for a middle school was suggested in a series of tweets yesterday from CEC 13:
1/ The crisis of D13 middle school quality is in the here and now
2/ one building can not address capacity needs of all DoBro & AY/PP
3/ Key ? from @PS9BklynPTO, 11, 20 fams: "where do we go for middle?
4/ if we just add elem capacity we only make middle school prob worse
5/ new @psms282 review hits key points …
6/ ... Solid elems like 282 must pull from across Bk to fill seats
7/ ... While D13 middles "struggle... to find academic footing"
8/ w notable exceptions solid d13 elems must fill seats w out-of dist
9/ in lg part because d13 parents fear lack of middle school choices
10/ so question is where are the quality d13 middle school seats?
Note that they're not arguing that District 13 itself lacks middle school seats, just "quality" ones, and (presumably) near Prospect Heights, where parents have been advocating for seats. It's a legitimate policy argument.

But it does not necessarily reflect the rationale for the school in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, which, according to the Second Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, is "mitigation for the projected significant adverse impact to the supply of elementary and intermediate school seats" caused by the construction of project apartments.

The larger context, as CB 2 points out, is the lack of new schools commensurate with new construction, with no response from school officials to the school seats required by construction of more than 5,000 new apartments built since Downtown Brooklyn was rezoned in 2004.

Update: CEC 13 cites misleading statistics

According to the CEC letter (bottom):
Although the site plan does not indicate the projected growth of intermediate school population, the 2014 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Pacific Park project discloses that the project “would result in a significant adverse impact to intermediate schools.” Please note that the data for two of the three intermediate schools presented in the 2014 FEIS presents a potentially misleading picture of middle school seats actually available to area students. I.S. 571 was closed in 2013. I.S. 340, despite being located within the confines of District 13, is a District 17 middle school, which does not provide seats to District 13 middle school students. Thus, the FEIS overstates intermediate school capacity in Sub-District 1 of District 13 by at least 550 seats.
....Moreover, we believe there is a least as much capacity to accommodate the new elementary school students that might otherwise be accommodated within the proposed B15 site instead within at schools such as – especially - PS 9, along with PS 282, PS 133, PS 20, and PS 11, especially when consideration is made to the significant percentage of out-of-district 13 students some of these schools presently serve. Crucially we believe PS 9, just one block away, should be the zoned school for new residents in the Atlantic Yards / Pacific Park, and all of the western portion of Prospect Heights between Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue.
(Emphasis in original)

It's surely dismaying that official documents are not accurate, which makes it difficult to have an informed discussion.

The PHNDC letter

Here's the summary from PHDNC, reflecting the case many are making, headlined "PHNDC calls for dedicated middle school at Atlantic Yards site":
On May 15, 2015, the New York City School Construction Authority [SCA] issued a notice for the development of a 616-seat primary and intermediate school to be housed in building B15 at the Atlantic Yards site. The building is slated to begin construction in July of 2016.
Citing the longstanding need for a middle school to serve students from Prospect Heights and its environs, in comments to the notice submitted to the SCA today, PHNDC called for the proposed facility to instead be a dedicated middle school for District 13 students. "The SCA and DOE should issue direction that the developer design the facility as a dedicated middle school as soon as possible so to take advantage of these opportunities without risking its projected September 2018 opening," wrote PHNDC Chair Gib Veconi. In separate comments submitted to SCA, Community Education Council 13 and Community Board 8 also called for the facility to be dedicated as a middle school.
PHNDC further noted the challenges of siting a school close to an arena, a police station, and a fire house. Mr. Veconi wrote, "Therefore, it will be incumbent upon City agencies—including DOE, DOT, NYPD, and the Office of Film, Theater and Broadcast—to coordinate efforts that ensure the safety of students entering and leaving the school is maintained, and disruptions to the neighboring residents are minimized. The SCA and the DOE must explain how that coordination will be accomplished, and what protocols will be established, before plans for the school are approved."
Finally, PHNDC called on the SCA and Department of Education to commit to a public review process for the school's design that will include community input.
According to the full PHNDC comments (also bottom), the primary schools near Atlantic Yards "have seen dramatic improvement" but parents have few options, with few open seats in "[h]igh-performing middle schools... configured for grades K-8."

PHNDC noted that there is more potential capacity for elementary school seats at places like PS 9, built as a primary school but now also housing an intermediate charter school.

PHDNC said school officials "must assess whether the school will represent an impact to the [nearby] Dean Playground, and develop a plan to mitigate the impact." It did not mention the potential impact of the construction of the B1 office tower over the arena plaza, which would temporarily shift an area entrance to the the east side of the arena.

PHNDC suggested that school officials "SCA present to the community and its elected representatives a near-term plan for addressing capacity issues associated with increased residential development in downtown Brooklyn and at the Atlantic Yards site," given that the 616 seats planned are less than a third of increased need projected in Atlantic Yards project documents, not to mention "thousands of apartments recently completed, in progress, or planned for downtown Brooklyn."

Community Board 2 letter

A letter (in full below) from the executive committee of CB 2 similarly noted that there would be nearly three times the need from Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park residents itself.

CB 2 noted that the SCA did not consider an alternative site, but "building B13, on Block 1129 (bounded by Vanderbilt Avenue, Dean Street, Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street), has the same construction timetable as B15 but is further from the arena, the major thoroughfares, and the public safety facilities. Community Board 2 encourages the SCA to consider this building as an alternative site."

Regarding the focus of the school, SCA said the plan should be decision should be deferred, and " a range of concurrent solutions should be considered and implemented by the Department of Education and the SCA. These include strategies to make the existing CSD13 intermediate schools more attractive to parents and exploration of a more porous boundary between districts 13 and 15."

Dean Street Block Association

DSBA (letter in full below) calls the "the new school... scaled insufficiently to meet community needs" and the location "a poorer choice than most." Though background conditions changed, with more of a capacity shortfall, there was no increase in the requirement for the developer, which has long been required to provide 100,000 square feet of space for a school.

"In a departure from what is detailed in the Project agreements, it is likely to be delivered 5 buildings (1,500 units) after the significant adverse impact emerges," wrote the DSBA. "Unique conditions at the site will deliver poorer and potentially less healthy classrooms, less safe pedestrian access, poorer open space, and unique community impacts including to other community facilities than other potential options."

"Ideally, a site would be selected in the Project looking at a range of variables including the timing the school can be opened relative to the emergence of the significant adverse impact, the quality of its potential classrooms and open space, proximity to transit, pedestrian safety, drop-off strategies, and impact on its surroundings," according to the letter.

"Studies, including for traffic and pedestrians, could be done across a range of options to help select the best location. With the exception of proximity to transit, B15 falls short of most other building site options east of 6th Avenue depending on the variable assessed," states the letter, which notes, among other things, the impact of arena operations and the planned B1 tower.

"Because the proposed 616 seat school fails to meaningfully absorb the number of students being introduced into District 13 schools," states the DSBA letter, "two problems are now being unacceptably pitted against each other: the priority of ensuring elementary students don’t travel distances to go to school and. the need the District 13 CEC has identified for 'quality' middle school options in the district."

Solution said to be coming for NYPD parking on Sixth Avenue sidewalk opposite arena block

June 30 photo of Sixth Avenue north of Dean Street
It's vexing for neighbors, and its vexing for the cops--but a solution may be in sight.

Construction of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has cut the number of street parking spaces in the vicinity of the 78th Precinct stationhouse at Sixth Venue and Bergen Street, so that means police personnel driving to work have been parking on the sidewalk opposite the arena block, as shown in the photo above.

The "78th now has to combat park again, all the way from Dean to Pacific [streets]," said Wayne Bailey, president of the 78th Precinct Community Council, at the recent Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting. "When is that going to be addressed?"

He didn't quite get an answer from state officials or developer Greenland Forest City Partners.

However, at the meeting Tuesday of the Community Council, Captain Frank DiGiacomo, the commanding officer, said he and Bailey were working on a solution.

"Give me two weeks," he said.

Those 24 spaces in the mall

Also at the Community Update meeting, there was some back-and-forth on the nature of the parking that the developer is supposed to provide for the 78th Precinct.

"There is an environmental commitment that 24 spaces are provided... in proximity to the precinct house," said resident Peter Krashes, who has long pushed for accountability.

"They’re in the Atlantic Yards Terminal [sic]," replied Nicole Jordan, who leads community relations for Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards. (Apparently she meant the Atlantic Terminal mall, owned by developer Forest City Ratner, which is across Atlantic Avenue from the Atlantic Yards site.)

That, replied Krashes, was "not in the [project] footprint.  The MEC [Second Memorandum of Environmental Commitments] is very clear... 24 spaces in the project footprint itself... What I think I just heard is there's a violation."

Krashes was right--I think. The document states:
1. FCRC shall provide 24 parking spaces on the Project site for police vehicles assigned to the 78th Precinct House. Such parking shall be provided without charge and at a location that is proximate and convenient to the Precinct House. FCRC shall have the right to modify the location of such spaces from time to time in order to address construction logistics and operational matters, provided that the location remains proximate and convenient to the Precinct House.
The first sentence seems unambiguous. The spaces must be on the project site. The second sentence notes that they can be moved, as long as the location is close to the Precinct House. That doesn't say they must remain on the project footprint, and the mall is arguably convenient to the Precinct House--at least as convenient as the farthest reaches of the project site (though not much of the project site).

 “What you've heard is there is an accommodation for parking," ESD official Marion Phillips III responded to Krashes. "You’re saying you want them in the footprint?"

"I'm saying it's your obligation is to put it in the footprint," Krashes responded. "It is the responsibility of the developer…. to deliver 24 spaces inside the footprint."

After that, state officials and Bailey disagreed as to whether use of the mall lot was acceptable to the police. (I didn't get to clarify that with DiGiacomo, but will update if I learn more.)

Latest Yormark p.r. stunt: enlist (part-time) Barclays Center employees to promote Nets, Islanders tickets

In 2009, Nets CEO Brett Yormark famously declared, "And if you know anything about the Nets, we drive business PR. That’s what we do. We’ve got a young man who runs our business communications department and his responsibility is every day to get a press release out."

So that's the context for the latest in offseason p.r., BROOKLYN NETS AND NEW YORK ISLANDERS SALES TEAMS GROW BY 1,900 SELLERS:
BROOKLYN (July 1, 2015) – Barclays Center has launched an Employee Referral Program for its 1,900 arena employees to promote season ticket sales for the Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders.

With 80 percent of its employees residing in Brooklyn, Barclays Center is encouraging staffers to serve as sales representatives in their communities by providing referrals for potential ticket buyers for the borough’s two major professional sports teams.

Employees who make a successful referral will be rewarded with cash rewards, and will be entered into a raffle to win larger prizes including a season ticket package and a cruise. Brett Yormark, CEO of Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets, tipped off the initiative yesterday at Barclays Center with a rally for the employees on the Barclays Center Practice Court.

“Most of our employees are proud Brooklynites who strongly support our teams,” said Yormark. “This program vests them in the arena’s success.”

The Employee Referral Program comes on the heels of the Brooklyn Nets Neighborhood Day last Wednesday when more than 100 [mostly full-time, surely] Nets front office employees took to the streets to launch the team’s sales and marketing campaign.
Um, given that nearly all those employees are part-time, without benefits, and with a never-to-be revealed weekly take-home pay, they're not likely living next door to many people who have the extra cash to  buy a season ticket.

After all, as developer Bruce Ratner put it, having this part-time job allows them to have another! Wouldn't a program with real benefits also vest them in the arena's success?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

At Barclays Center, average price for Islanders' tickets rising 70%; despite Yormark spin, they're selling many obstructed seats

There are a couple of very interesting tidbits in the Wall Street Journal article yesterday, Islanders Making Their Move to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Yes, tickets are selling well:
Before the Islanders’ full season schedule was announced last week, Brett Yormark, CEO of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and of Barclays Center, said more than 8,000 Islanders full-season-ticket plans had been sold: 25% from Long Island, 21% from Manhattan and, somewhat surprisingly, 33% from Brooklyn.
The Islanders have a good team, and can build in a new--or at least expanded market. The average ticket price will be $85--that's $35 (or 70%) more than at the Nassau Coliseum but, according to Yormark, about the league average. Still, it's quite a leap.

The capacity issue

From the article:
Yormark has had to address Barclays Center’s shortcomings. The arena was built to hug a 94-foot-long basketball court, so the 200-foot hockey rink had to be nestled into one end of the arena, prompting the removal of most of four sections of seats at that end.
Additionally, after the Islanders played two preseason games there in each of the last two seasons, several of what Yormark called “horribly obstructed seats” above that end won’t be sold, reducing seating capacity to 15,795, about 2,000 fewer than at Nets games.
That makes Yormark sound like a concerned fellow rather than the relentless marketer he is.

After all, as I reported, arena officials in June 2012 said there'd be only 14,500 seats, of which about 1500 would be obscured, a consequence of an arena built specifically for basketball.

When hockey debuted in September 2013, Joe DeLessio of New York magazine wrote There Are Some Pretty Bad Seats for Hockey at Barclays Center:
Last year, when the Islanders were scheduled to play the Devils in a preseason game at Barclays, the seating chart for the game showed that most seats on the west end of the arena wouldn’t be sold, thus giving the hockey seating bowl a sort of horseshoe shape. (That game was never played because of the NHL lockout.) And when the Islanders announced plans to move into Barclays last year, they said the arena’s hockey capacity was at 14,500 but could possibly be bumped up to 15,000 or "15,000 plus." The official hockey capacity is now 15,813. But no major renovations took place; the arena simply decided to sell the obstructed-view seats. It’s not false advertising — the seats are labeled as “limited view,” and they’re less expensive than they’d otherwise be — but the arena doesn’t exactly broadcast the fact that the west end of the arena is far from ideal for hockey. (A Barclays Center spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a question about the decision to sell these seats or a request for a chart of the 416 seats in the hockey configuration that Yormark said last week wouldn't be offered for sale because of sightline issues.)
So they've gone down to 15,795 from 15,813, a reduction of all of 18 seats. Even if they've added some seats with full views, that still suggests they're selling lots of "not-quite-horribly obstructed" seats.

So those numbers allow the Barclays Center to exceed the one smaller arena in the NHL, MTS Centre in Winnipeg, which seats 15,016.

The numbers

The Journal notes that the Islanders averaged only 15,334 fans last season in Nassau during the regular season. With a bigger market, and more expensive tickets, they don't have to draw as many people to reap higher revenues.

But we don't know the contours of the deal between the team and arena. The Wall Street Journal reported that the arena, rather than getting rent from the hockey team, guaranteed an unspecified annual payment in return for the revenues.

The New York Post reported that the arena’s owners guaranteed the Islanders about $50 million in annual revenue for regular season games--which hasn't been publicly confirmed.

Forest City, naming new modular leader, pushing for "new business partners" and "new business opportunities" (even before B2 is done)

A Crain's New York Business article, originally headlined "Forest City Ratner creates a modular-housing division, names unit leader," has been  updated to Forest City Ratner will keep its modular-housing factory in Brooklyn, names construction exec to run it. Both have the subheading "Susan Hayes will lead FC Modular, which operates out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard."

The lead:
Forest City Ratner Cos. has created a new position to head up the firm’s modular-housing division, the company announced Monday, meaning that it plans to keep its Brooklyn Navy Yard factory running after the completion of a 32-story tower next to Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn.
The firm tapped Susan Hayes, formerly an executive at a Manhattan construction firm, to lead the subsidiary, known as FC Modular, which currently runs a production facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
“Modular construction is an important part of the future for our industry, and Susan will bring tremendous value as we seek new business partners and source new business opportunities going forward,” MaryAnne Gilmartin, chief executive of Forest City and one of Crain's 50 Most Powerful Women in New York, said in a statement.
Of course they can't make back their investment in the factory, as well as the expected loss on the first tower, B2 (aka 461 Dean Street), without more production. I've speculated that Forest City will seek/get some grant or support from government to build modular affordable housing.

A quote from Hayes, who came from the Manhattan-based construction management firm Cauldwell Wingate Co.:
“While our initial focus is the successful completion of [B2 BKLYN], this modern means of construction offers great promise in the creation of a wide range of high-quality, cost-effective and uniquely sustainable buildings,” Ms. Hayes said in a statement.
It's not clear whether this is a new position in function or name. Surely other personnel have acted as Forest City's point people for modular. 

About the backstory

Gilmartin herself has said the model has to be proven with an open and operating building. Here's Crain's:
The firm was constructing the tower with a U.S. arm of Swedish construction giant Skanska until last fall, when the two had an acrimonious and litigious split prompted by delays and budget overruns on the building, which was originally billed as costing $116 million and was set to open in late 2014.
That's not quite the full story. The issue is not merely delays and budget overruns, but Skanska's claims of design flaws

Monday, June 29, 2015

After complaints about hazardous Atlantic Avenue, Forest City admits traffic agents "not doing their job well enough"

At the Community Update (fka Quality of Life) meeting last Wednesday, executives from developer Greenland Forest City Ratner partners and state and city agencies heard several complaints about unsafe streets, notably the intersection of Atlantic and Sixth avenues, site of major construction.

Two residents north of Atlantic said they were afraid to cross the street, given the poorly marked sidewalks and the poor performance of the Traffic Enforcement Agents (TEAs) paid for by the developer but supervised by the police (though not the local precinct). Such TEAs, residents said, "give preference to large vehicles."

Also, added resident Pauline Blake, "they are nowhere to be found at Sixth and Atlantic ... at 7 in the morning when I drive."

Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton admitted, of the TEAs, "My team completely agrees, they're not doing their job well enough. They've been spoken to many times." She said several had been replaced, and noted that all but one closed sidewalk had been reopened.

The TEAs are separate from the pedestrian monitors, who work for the private firm Sam Schwartz Engineering, hired for specific arena events.

Possible changes

Part of the issue is simply design, since there's no pedestrian refuge in the middle of Atlantic, given that the street has been narrowed for construction, and there is no clear path for pedestrians to stop--and cross.

Keith Bray, Brooklyn Borough Commissioner for the Department of Transportation, said "we are thinking about what Atlantic between Flatbush and Vanderbilt will look like in the future... there will be some changes, from a DOT perspective."

Bray got a significant amount of hostility from a resident, before Forest City acknowledged the problem was ultimately its fault. Forest City's Cotton publicly thanked Bray for his agency's cooperation.

Resident Peter Krashes said the departure of Chris Hrones, a DOT employee assigned to Downtown Brooklyn and Atlantic Yards, means that "part of the frustration" is the lack of a staffer dedicated to the project.

For those approaching Atlantic along Sixth from the south, there's a sign indicating where cars should wait, but no such sign for pedestrians. There's also a missing sign saying "no left turn," noted resident Wayne Bailey, who also heads the 78th Precinct Community Council.  Bray said he'd look into it.

Other changes and concerns

Bray also said that bike lane markings and all intersection markings on Dean Street will be refurbished in July.

He said he'd been told that a "no trucks" sign on Carlton Avenue is obscured. "We're going to look to add an additional sign," he said.

St. Marks Avenue resident Pauline Blake said there were "severe problems" from trucks are detouring on St. Marks, aiming to avoid gridlock by going through a residential street. "Are we going to have to live through this summer with these trucks barreling up St. Marks?"

There were several other comments before Bray got to respond to a series of concerns, but his statement regarding St. Marks was "I just heard that."

Forest City: "it is mind-numbingly loud" at 38 Sixth Avenue construction site; also, a complaint about dust

At the Community Update (fka Quality of Life) meeting last Wednesday, Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton noted that construction work had just started at the  38 Sixth Avenue site at the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, on the southeast end of the arena block.

"The MPT [maintenance and protection of traffic] for that plan is done, so you've seen fences have moved out," Cotton said. "The sound attenuation blankets are going up." 

(Such acoustic blankets have been used at Sixth and Atlantic avenues, but were not mentioned in the most recent Construction Update regarding 38 Sixth Avenue, also known as B3.)

"We know it’s extremely loud... it is mind-numbingly loud," Cotton continued. "It’s because they’ve been hitting cobble [rock]… The field conditions have been very challenging." She said they hoped to get through this phase "very soon."

A question about dust

One resident of Atlantic Terrace, on the northeast corner of Atlantic and Sixth avenues, expressed dismay that the developers, Greenland Forest City Partners, have not consistently put tarpaulins over dirt mounds and wet down the dirt to deter dust. 

"That took a long time to happen.. I want assurances that you’re going to do that," he said, noting that the "dust levels are pretty high," citing a specific incident in which the evidence was very clear on parked cars.

Cotton said they knew about the incident and "addressed it immediately. [Compliance] absolutely has to happen all the time."

WSJ: 550 Vanderbilt gets $200M construction loan; penthouse condo will cost $7 million

The Wall Street Journal, in Pacific Park Condo Gets Construction Loan, reports today that the 550 Vanderbilt condo building got a $200 million construction loan from HSBC Holdings PLC. Such market-rate units cannot depend on tax-exempt financing, as do buildings with "affordable" units.

Two tidbits, first the unit price:
Most of the units will be in the $565,000 to $1.5 million range, but a few of the penthouses will be priced at as much as $7 million.
That's an increase from the initially-indicated price ceiling of $5.5 million, unless they were simply holding such $7 million penthouses in reserve.

And the overall cost:
Mr. [Jeff] Rosen [executive director of the joint venture, Greenland Forest City Partners] declined to put a price tag on the condo. But generally construction loans are equal to 60% to 65% of project value, say real-estate experts. The venture recently received approval from the New York attorney general’s office to start sales and marketing of the condos.
If $200 million is 60% of project value, the total cost is about $333 million. If $200 million is 65% of project value, the total cost is about $308 million.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Crain's: Forest City's Gilmartin 17th-most powerful women in New York City (but for modular building?)

Crain's New York Business has issued its Most Powerful Women 2015, with Forest City Ratner Chief Executive MaryAnne Gilmartin ranked 17, just one step below her ranking two years ago:
As head of Forest City Ratner Cos. for more than two years, MaryAnne Gilmartin, 51, has already overseen the construction of some of New York City's most recognizable landmarks: a residential building designed by Frank Gehry at 8 Spruce St., the Renzo Piano-crafted New York Times Building and the eye-catching Barclays Center in Brooklyn. So it's only natural that Forest City would lean on her to push through its most challenging project yet--a modular building rising in fits and starts near downtown Brooklyn that, when completed, will be the world's tallest at 38 stories.
Ms. Gilmartin, who leads 650 employees, has also embarked on a number of recent developments including a game-changing tech campus planned for Roosevelt Island.
I don't doubt Gilmartin's ranking, but would credit her more with a role navigating the deal with Greenland Holdings to get the project speeded up, and in convincing the mayor and elected officials to give their blessing to not-so-affordable "affordable housing."

The modular tower is at this point a question mark, since it's still in litigation and, even if/when it gets built (at 32 stories, not 38), it's unclear how many more Forest City and/or partners would build. Only if there's a modular pipeline--as Crain's 2013 ranking suggested--can Forest City make back its investment in research and development.

In 2013, Gilmartin was ranked 16:
MaryAnne Gilmartin, 49, became one of the highest-ranking executives in New York real estate development when she was promoted in April to chief executive of Forest City Ratner.
Among her responsibilities, she oversees the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards development project, which includes Barclays Center. Lately, Ms. Gilmartin has pushed the company in a new direction, pioneering the use of modular construction in the city. Ms. Gilmartin is hoping to not only use the time- and money-saving technique for the 15 residential buildings slated for the Atlantic Yards, but also to turn the company's growing capabilities in the method into an assembly line for developers across the city.
Success would help the 2,573-employee Forest City Ratner build on the $1.1 billion in revenue it earned in 2012.
Others on the Crain's list linked to Forest City: