Monday, August 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.

From City Limits: Documents Reveal Woes at Pioneering Atlantic Yards Building

From City Limits, my article today, Documents Reveal Woes at Pioneering Atlantic Yards Building:
The Atlantic Yards apartment tower known as B2 officially launched in December 2012 with great fanfare and high hopes, and not just because of what developer Forest City Ratner proposed to build: 32 stories housing 363 apartments, half of them affordable. It was that B2, nearly flush to the Barclays Center, would be the world's tallest modular tower, with its flooring, fixtures, appliances, and facades delivered within a metal-framed chassis some 10' high, 15' wide, and 30' long. Forest City said it had "cracked a code" and claimed an "iPhone moment".
Two additional Atlantic Yards towers would start within the next 12 to 18 months, among the 6,430 apartments—2,250 of them below-market—planned for the project, all to be built modular. B2's 930 mods—which Forest City CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin likened to "shrink-wrapped apartments—would be made at a new factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The first mods arrived at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue in December 2013 with a proud "Made in Brooklyn" wrapping.
B2's pioneering approach was seen as more than just an intriguing development at the highly contested Atlantic Yards site. Its designers and admirers thought the modular method might lower the cost of affordable housing, creating a new model for high-rise, union built apartments.
Today, the reality of B2 has not matched the anticipation. The building—delayed, stalled, and since re-started to reach half its ultimate height—will take more than twice as long as promised and cost far more than projected. B2, also known as 461 Dean Street, remains mired in lawsuits filed by Forest City and its former partner Skanska, with dueling charges of incompetent execution and flawed design.
While Forest City Chairman Bruce Ratner in July 2014 claimed on NY 1 that modular "worked out technically perfectly," with delays the only problem, state documents acquired via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request paint a more ominous picture. Half of the first 39 apartments suffered significant water damage. The first four floors were "largely gutted." according to reports from consultant STV, which serves as owner's representative for Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing/shepherding the entire Atlantic Yards project, which has been renamed Pacific Park Brooklyn.
The builders got so skittish that, on the 9th and 10th floors, drywall sections of the ceilings and walls closest to the windows were omitted from mods, to be installed later, undermining the concept of completing as much as possible in the factory (The STV documents—here's an example—do not seem to bolster either side in the legal dispute between Forest City and Skanska.)
For the rest of the article, please see Documents Reveal Woes at Pioneering Atlantic Yards Building:

Here's a series of STV reports from August 2014:


Here's another STV document, with a few highlights pointing to issues that were unresolved, at least as of August 2014:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

From Atlantic Yards Watch: a truck idling in bus stop, a street closed without notice (and a truck blows through)

As construction proceeds, seeming violations continue, as documented by resident Peter Krashes on Atlantic Yards Watch. Yesterday, Bay Crane delivery truck idles in bus stop on Vanderbilt Avenue:
Bay Crane truck parked in the bus stop on the southwest side of the Vanderbilt/Dean intersection in front of 556 Vanderbilt idles for more than 3 minutes. It was still idling when I arrived and idling when I left. Residences are feet away.
Indeed, see the video:



Saturday was a day when the street was closed for construction, but they're still not supposed to idle like that. Even more confusingly, see a report from Friday, Dean Street block closed without notice for one day:
Due to work in the street at the Dean and Vanderbilt intersection, Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt was closed today. According to multiple workers involved with the work, it was closed all day and re-opened around 2:15.
According to the workers, the work being executed was electrical work in the street for 550 Vanderbilt. The work was not Con Ed. There was no notice of this work, or the closure of the street by either the Pacific Park developers or the State.
Here's video:

Krashes noted:
The closure was poorly done, and caused confusion. The vehicles shown on the street eventually turned around and drove out against the direction of traffic
Here's video of a truck ignoring the closure out of confusion (and blowing through the barrier):


Added Krashes:
There was also electrical work in the street on August 13th for the project that disrupted traffic. That work was apparently directed toward feeding electric to the construction staging area. It took place at the same time the bike lanes were closed to install the white patches the Pacific Park Arts murals are now located on. I don't think either type of work was disclosed to the community.
The closure today is the first of a row of disruptions for the block this week. On Saturday Dean Street and Vanderbilt will be closed to construct a crane. On Tuesday the 1st, a notice from DEP was posted on my door stating the water will be shut down for a day for my building. The notices are posted up and down the street. According to a business I spoke to that depends on the use of water, they were consulted by DEP and found them helpful. It is work related to the construction of Pacific Park. There hasn't been any notice of this closure distributed by the Pacific Park developer or the State.

No, New York Times, there was no effort to "redevelop the Atlantic Yards"

From the front page of the New York Times Styles section today (though published online two days ago), The Battle for the Soul of the Hamptons:
To help make its case publicly, the group has enlisted the powerhouse political firm SKDKnickerbocker, whose officials have factored in the presidential campaigns of John Kerry and Barack Obama and the successful effort to redevelop the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn over community opposition there.
They keep getting it wrong. It's impossible to say "redevelop the Atlantic Yards" because "Atlantic Yards" never existed in the first place: it was a branding name for a proposed, and now partly enacted, development project. (I wrote about this in May 2006 and again in January 2009.)

It would be OK to say "develop the Atlantic Yards project" or "develop Atlantic Yards" but the use of "the" suggests it's a place. "Re-develop" is worse, because it implies an existing defined place was there to be redeveloped.

Atlantic Yards was a cobbled-together site including railyard, public streets, and private property. (Some, actually, is still private.)

Even calling the 8.5-acre Vanderbilt Yard--the railyard within the 22-acre site--"Atlantic Yards" would be misleading, since that falsely conflates the developer's branding with a much smaller piece of publicly-owned land. (Most of it is still publicly-owned.)

The irony, which reinforces my point, is that the imaginary place "Atlantic Yards" no longer even exists. Last year, the new owners renamed the project Pacific Park, and evidence suggests they did so in part to shake the controversy over the name Atlantic Yards.

Daily News "learns" that Islanders billboards coming tomorrow; WPIX promotes arena craft beer festival

Lots of news outlets publish items that are variations of press releases, but there does seem to be a pattern in which entities associated with the Barclays Center participate.

Yesterday, the Daily News (sponsor of the arena plaza) reported, in New York Islanders billboards roll out in Brooklyn, their new home:
Billboards touting the borough’s newest sports heroes, the New York Islanders hockey team, are going up Monday across the borough, the Daily News has learned.
The “Tradition’s New Home” campaign by Barclays Center, which will be the Isles’ home ice starting this upcoming season, will featuring 20 billboards spotlighting a storied history that includes four Stanley Cup championships.
Some of the billboards feature the team’s stars, including captain John Tavares and defenseman Johnny Boychuk.
Now, how do we think the Daily News "learned" that--through some aggressive application of reporting chops or rather an arena handout?

A 8/25/15 "PIX11 report", TAPPED: The Ultimate Craft Beer Festival at Barclays Center, informed us:
Making its Brooklyn debut Oct. 25, TAPPED: The Ultimate Craft Beer Festival will feature more than 100 craft beers, wines and cider tastings.
Craft connoisseurs — and casual fans alike — can sip their way through two sessions on Oct. 25. The first session runs from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and or the second runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday football games will be shown on TVs throughout the arena and interactive games including corn hole, beer pong and Jenga will be available.
Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, but PIX11 News viewers have special pre-sale access to the passes.
Use the code “PIX11” to get your tickets early. Pre-sale starts 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, and ends 9:59 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 27.
Click here to purchase the 12:30 p.m. TAPPED Session, or click here to purchase the 5 p.m. TAPPED Session.
Ok, that's marketing. Remember, WPIX has a studio inside former retail space at the arena.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ex-Net Darryl Dawkins dies at 58; unmentioned in obits was his EB-5 career, pitching Atlantic Yards in China

From the NBA
The former ex-Philadelphia 76er and New Jersey Net Darryl Dawkins, known for his flamboyant style and backboard-shattering dunks, died this week, with many journalists saluting his career and personality.

All those are deserved, but the sports journalists missed something, because it just wasn't their beat, nor is it nearly anyone else's territory.

Unmentioned was Dawkins's curious sideline role for Barclays Center developer (and Nets majority-then-minority owner) Bruce Ratner. 

Not only did Dawkins do public appearances in Brooklyn, boosting Atlantic Yards, he went to China at least twice on Ratner's behalf, helping promote Atlantic Yards to not-so-well-informed potential investors who were considering investing
Signing autographs in China
$500,000 in the project in exchange for green cards for themselves and their families under the EB-5 program.

Under the program, investors forego all or most interest because they most value the green cards. The benefit, however, goes to the developer, as long as ten jobs are purportedly created by each investment.

Dawkins first went to China in 2010 for the first of three rounds of investment in Atlantic Yards, helping perpetuate the deception that the investment was going into the arena.

Dawkins also went to China in 2014 to boost "Atlantic Yards III."
The official statements

From the Nets:
“The entire Brooklyn Nets organization is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of legendary player Darryl Dawkins. As a member of the Nets in the 1980’s, Darryl, known as Chocolate Thunder, entertained fans on the court with his powerful dunks and effervescent personality, and also made an enormous impact in the community. Following his playing career, Darryl remained a part of the Nets and NBA family by serving as an ambassador and sharing his love of the game with countless fans. He had an amazing personality and touched everyone in a positive way. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the Dawkins family and to all those who had the pleasure of knowing Darryl. He will be deeply missed.”
From the NBA:
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released the following statement regarding the passing of Darryl Dawkins:"The NBA family is heartbroken by the sudden and tragic passing of Darryl Dawkins. We will always remember Darryl for his incredible talent, his infectious enthusiasm and his boundless generosity. He played the game with passion, integrity and joy, never forgetting how great an influence he had on his legions of fans, young and old. Darryl was beloved around the league and he will be deeply missed by his friends, family, teammates, and coaches, as well as the millions of fans who witnessed the high-flying brilliance of the one and only 'Chocolate Thunder.' Our thoughts and prayers are with Darryl's wife, Janice, and the entire Dawkins family during this difficult time."

Friday, August 28, 2015

Dean Street between Carlton/Vanderbilt, and west side Vanderbilt between Pacific/Bergen closed Saturday for crane assembly

From 6 am through 9 pm tomorrow, Saturday, Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues--y'know, the street with the murals--and Vanderbilt Avenue southbound (west side) between Pacific and Bergen streets will be closed to accommodate a crane being assembled for Pacifi­c Park construction.

(This was previewed in the most recent Construction Update, with details provided late yesterday afternoon.)

Between Pacific and Bergen Streets, Vanderbilt Avenue will remain open to northbound traffic only. Flagmen and Traffic Enforcement Agents will help with vehicular and pedestrian movement. The sidewalks will be open but subject to temporary closures .

The eastbound B65 bus will be rerouted up to Atlantic Avenue and then Washington Avenue, while the southbound B69 buses will be rerouted to Washington Avenue briefly as well.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Updating the retail picture: Flatbush Avenue and Bergen Street (and the $6 cereal bar!)

Well, Leslie Albrecht of DNAinfo did what I was unable to do, attend the Community Board 6 committee meeting on liquor licenses Monday, so she provided many details on the upcoming restaurant next to Shake Shack, in Michelin-Starred Restaurateur Opening 'Speak-easy Sushi Bar' Near Barclays:
The Japanese hospitality company... Plan Do See, Inc. operates restaurants worldwide and owns Sushi Azabu, the Greenwich Street sushi den tucked below the Japanese restaurant Daruma-Ya. Customers enter through Daruma-Ya and have to ask to be seated downstairs at Azabu, which won a Michelin star in 2007.
A similar concept is in the works for the 3,700-square-foot Flatbush Avenue space, which will have a New American restaurant and bar on the ground floor and roof, and a "speak-easy sushi bar" below ground, the co-owners told Community Board 6 on Monday night.
There's no name yet, but the liquor license application got an approval vote, which is advisory but usually presages State Liquor Authority approval. Partner Peter Levin suggested that the restaurant would serve both local and arena patrons, which has been a crossover goal for the Pintchik family of landlords.

CB6's permits committee approved the new establishment's liquor license application, but the State Liquor Authority has final say on the license.

A closing on Bergen

Albrecht also reported, Bergen Street Comics Closing After 6 Years in Business, with no details yet on exactly why:
“I’m so bummed that Bergen Street Comics is closing. The ‘perfect block’ of comics, Babeland, and Gorilla coffee is over," wrote Erik Hinton on Twitter, referring to the nearby adult shop and cafe.
This is Bergen Street between Flatbush and Fifth avenues, a very curated street of small businesses, at least on the south side.

The $6 cereal bar

And, guess what, the news of a cereal bar (!) in the sneaker shop Kith got surprisingly big play in the New York Times food section, with photo, To Munch: Cereal With Toppings From a Clothing Retailer:
New York has its first dedicated cereal bar. A small white-tiled alcove just inside the renovated Kith clothing and sneaker store in Brooklyn has 24 brand-name cold cereal varieties, with toppings. The cereals come packaged in single-serving Mylar bags that fit into small shoe boxes, from which the cereal can be eaten. The boxes are designed by sports figures — Andre Agassi has done the first one. There is no salad-bar-style display because the owner Ronnie Fieg does not like food out in the open. Milk, coffee and cereal-flavored soft-serve are also sold. Mr. Fieg says he has been obsessed with cereals since he was a teenager, mainly because he was not allowed to have sweet ones. Before the store opens, there is an express window to the street for cereal: Cereals from $6 with milk, ice cream from $5.50, Kith Treats, 233 Flatbush Avenue (Bergen Street), Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, 347-889-6114, kithnyc.com.
I get that they have to charge more for convenience and packaging, but I'll be curious to see how many people want to pay $6 for cereal. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wrestling, and its amped subculture, comes to the Barclays Center

Y'know, when I stopped by the Barclays Center plaza on Sunday around 6 pm the wrestling fans milling about for SummerSlam, many dressed in wrestling t-shirts, some with wrestling belts, and a few with masks, seemed a little... rowdy.

They were chanting the names of wrestlers at each other: "Rod-dy Pi-per" was one I remembered.

Reports from other nights suggest similar boisterous gatherings--impossible, as I've written, if the original Urban Room were the gathering place, rather than the outdoor, more fluid plaza.

One resident told me that some of fans walking around the neighborhood were similarly amped, a few of them aggressively so. (The masks were disconcerting.) That's the flip side, apparently, of a very engaged fandom, as described below in the Observer piece.

Apparently, the bars on Fifth Avenue got a lot of business.
Inside, on Sunday, it was reported that "[t]here were more than a dozen instances of fans being escorted out of WWESummerSlam at the Barclays Center last night over bad behavior due to being intoxicated, according to PWInsider." (No one linked to the original source.)

The Monday night event

As Vinnie Mancuso reported for the Observer, in Slam Culture: What I Learned From Attending ‘WWE Raw’ at the Barclays Center:
Last night inside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, I saw a 250-pound physical human specimen assault former Daily Show host Jon Stewart. I also saw a grown man make a seven-year-old girl cry. I also saw a (different) grown man take a shit in a urinal. 
Only one of those things was part of the show.
 And he was reporting on the third night of the three-day event, Monday Night Raw, which was sold out:
Here’s the most important lesson I learned in my three and a half hours of non-stop Raw: The action inside the ring, which despite its reputation is no different from live theater, is second nature to the fascinating subculture that flocks to stadium after stadium to watch it. And if you don’t think that subculture is a large one, your commute obviously didn’t take you along Atlantic Ave past Barclays, where the plaza outside the arena was filled to capacity before the doors opened. Continue down 5th Ave, and from every open air bar you would hear chants you wouldn’t quite understand unless you knew the names of pro wrestlers dating back as far as the 1980s.

That’s the surprising part of all this. You would expect the crowd to be crass (it was) and you anticipate it being on the juvenile side (it was), but nothing I’ve ever attended beat this in pure anticipation..... It reaches a point where at one point during the show the entire audience uses their phones to simulate a sky full of fireflies, and it’s one of the coolest things you have ever seen, and you forget for one second that you’re a fucking culture snob and smile to yourself like an idiot.

Of course, you take this good with the bad.
Saturday's event

The Sportster reported on Saturday's event, in Top 10 Ways NXT Takeover: Brooklyn Was Better Than SummerSlam:
Just how hyped was the crowd leading up to NXT Takeover: Brooklyn? Hundreds of people were lined up outside of the Barclays Center three hours before the doors opened for an event that was not general admission. Even before Triple H began NXT Takeover with a promo inside of the ring, the crowd inside of the Barclays Center was chanting for beloved wrestlers and ready to pop upon hearing the theme songs associated with their favorite acts. That NXT crowd remained energetic and loud past 11:00 pm local time and up through the conclusion of the show, and fans continued to sing the praises of the WWE performers as they exited the arena.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Safety improvements "near" the Barclays Center, and the need for more; enforcement and tolls help, but what about Atlantic Yards?

Officials Unveil Pedestrian Safety Improvements Near Barclays Center, reported CBSNewYork yesterday. Actually, it's not so near the Barclays Center and Streetsblog more precisely reported it as Atlantic and Washington Gets Fixes, Now What About the Rest of Atlantic?

As Streetsblog reported:
The multi-leg intersection of Atlantic Avenue, Washington Avenue, and Underhill Avenue has received its second round of street safety improvements in four years. Adding to a 2011 project that expanded pedestrian space, this latest set of changes includes new turn restrictions, crosswalks, and larger median islands [PDF]. Advocates welcomed the changes, but want DOT to think bigger when it comes to overhauling Atlantic Avenue, one of the city’s most dangerous arterial streets.
There are continuing problems, indeed, around the Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue intersection actually near the Barclays Center.

As DNAinfo reported 7/14/15, there were more than 150 car crashes occurred in the immediate area around the Barclays Center from Jan. 1-July 7, according to the NYPD. Atlantic and Fourth avenues and Atlantic and Flatbush avenues each had 36 crashes, while Flatbush and Fourth, where a bicyclist had been recently killed, had 23 accidents.

The article did not drill down into causes and fixes.

On Fox5, Gridlock Sam

That DNAinfo article inspired as shown in this Fox 5 report, produced in late July--and taped from the TV by Wayne Bailey, a Prospect Heights resident, Community Board 8 member, and Atlantic Yards Watch contributor who appeared in the segment.

"You can come here at any morning and you'll see people blocking the crosswalks, and pedestrians have to walk into the traffic," Bailey says in the segment. Fox5 quotes the Department of Transportation as "aggressively redesigning the area," with significant drops in injuries and collisions.



One issue Bailey points out is the "toll-shopping" of truck drivers aiming to avoid paying to cross the river, which draws traffic through Brooklyn.

Oddly enough, the Fox5 report does not mentioned is any impact from arena operations, which draw periodic traffic surges, or Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park construction, which has narrowed Atlantic Avenue next to the arena, as well as Dean Street, Carlton Avenue, and Sixth Avenue--as well as the impact of trucks using local streets on their way to a truck route.

In fact, after the discussion of "toll-shopping," the segment went to the studio, where an anchor interviewed "transportation expert" "Gridlock Sam" Schwartz, without mentioning that his firm is a consultant to Forest City Ratner and the Barclays Center on their transportation plans.

"This is a complex problem, a problem created 150 years ago, when you had separate towns in Brooklyn, with different grid systems," Schwartz says. Sure, but it's a little more than that

Asked what's needed, Schwartz added that, once the tolls came off the bridges, truckers drive through Downtown Brooklyn to cross the free bridges rather than to pay to take tunnels or the Verrazano Bridge. He also cited the usefulness of red light cameras to slow traffic. He made no mention of the enormous project being constructed near that intersection.

Doomed on Dean Street: three houses wait for wrecking ball

These three houses on Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue, condemned by the state via eminent domain and one eviction--compensation in case of one building is finalized, for the other two unresolved, as far as I know--are scheduled to be demolished for a 27-story, market-rate building (plus, likely, a school).

That building, B-15, will encompass a larger site stretching 100 feet wide (west) to the sidewalk at Sixth Avenue, and up to Pacific Street. Meanwhile, the houses stand marked with Xs--utility shutoff? target for wrecking ball?--and windows left open, with no worry about deterioration.

If the designation of blight regarding two of these houses was bogus, well, now blight is being achieved, unnaturally. (I took the photos Sunday. Brownstoner reported 7/28/15 on the approval of demolition permits.)

Remember, documents indicated that this 100-foot wide stretch was designated part of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park (at least in part) for business reasons, not because of an urban planning principle. Early on, the stretch was needed for construction staging, as four towers and the arena were supposed to be built at the same time.