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A debate on eminent domain for Atlantic Yards and in New York: blight, pretext, holdouts

Catching up on some 2011-12 eminent domain reading...

The Fordham Urban Law Journal hoted a debate between NYU Professor Roderick Hills and Ilya Somin on the eminent domain decisions by the New York Court of Appeals in the cases of Atlantic Yards (aka Goldstein) and Columbia University (aka Kaur).

Somin's 2011 article  “Let there Be Blight”, which I covered here and here, argued that these takings violated both the New York state and federal constitutions, especially, he said, because of the contrast between the court’s broad definition of  blight and the state constitutional provision limiting blight condemnations to “substandard and unsanitary areas.” Hills responded with a critique and Somin posted a reply.

Somin's argument

I quoted Somin's argument:
the New York Court of Appeals erred badly, by allowing highly abusive blight condemnations and defining pretextual takings so narrowly as to essentially read the concept out of existence. The "extraordinarily broad defi…

Prokhorov's company announces start of LIU Paramount Theatre renovation in fall, will open 2019

The renovation of the Paramount Theatre, at Long Island University and the DeKalb Avenue subway stop in Brooklyn, is moving ahead. (And, as I've observed, that's bad news for the renovated Kings Theatre deeper in Flatbush, which lacks such a good transit connection.
The 5/22/17 press release from Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment didn't mention a budget, previously said to be $50 million paid by BSE, or the financial arrangement between BSE & LIU (two years ago the university wouldn't specify rent to be paid):
Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment to Restore Legendary Theatre to its Former Glory in Partnership with LIU Brooklyn
BROOKLYN – The renovation and revival of the LIU Brooklyn Paramount Theatre, located at the Northeast corner of Flatbush and DeKalb Aves. in downtown Brooklyn, is set to begin this fall, with an anticipated opening before 2019. The construction process will restore the iconic …

Next Atlantic Yards CDC meeting Tuesday, June 6

The next meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation is coming in ten days. I'm not sure what the agenda will be--there's not much dramatic going on with the project, not that's surfaced publicly--but the most recent meeting, on 3/29/17, was brief and mostly uneventful. 
A media advisory sent out at 2:25 yesterday from Empire State Development: What: Meeting of the Directors of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, an ESD subsidiary.  When: Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at 3:00 p.m.  Where: Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University
Library Learning Center – 515 Conference Room (5th Floor)
One University Plaza (at Flatbush and DeKalb Avenues)
Brooklyn, New York 11201  This meeting is open to the public. Web casting of the meeting will be available here.  Due to building procedures, those attending should please RSVP by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, June 5, 2017. RSVP press line (800) 260-7313; RSVP public line (212) 803-3766.

ESD: late-night work was shifted to evening because of LIRR request; no explanation for lack of notice

Four nights ago, as I reported, neighbors near the intersection of Atlantic and Sixth avenues reported noisy, disturbing late night work on the West Portal of the Vanderbilt Yard. That work had not been announced, and there was no hotline to call with concern. (There should be.)

I sent a query the next morning to Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding the overall Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project. Can you let me know, I asked:
what was going on and how long it lasted?whether it will continue?whether it was noticed and, if not, why not? I got a response late yesterday that did not address the lack of notice. The concrete work on the new West Portal tunnel roof was originally scheduled to occur during the day, but was shifted to evening because of a last-minute request from the Long Island Rail Road, so it wouldn't conflict with train operations.

That work--I was told yesterday--was again scheduled for Wednesday, May 24 and Thursday, May 25 (last night…

Times Plaza safety upgrades include new pedestrian islands at Atlantic/Flatbush; open space plan, not applauded, comes later

One huge, unmentioned irony hung over the presentation last Thursday by the New York City Department of Transportation about upcoming safety improvements to chaotic, perilous Times Plaza--notably new pedestrian islands and concrete neckdowns for those crossing Atlantic and Flatbush avenues--and the subsequent upgrading of the triangular public space.

The initial justification for the plan--first presented as a public space upgrade, then augmented with safety improvements after much public pushback--is to offset an open space deficit for workers in the area, as identified in the 2014 Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park. (That open space deficit is a moving target, if new office towers and thus workers arrive.)

And not only did members of Brooklyn Community Board 2's Transportation Committee and attendees look skeptically at the city's plan for that open space, Emily Weindenhof, Director of the DOT's Public Space Unit, acknowledged the…

From City & State: Gerrymandering Jersey City Unemployment to Help Kushner Projects in Jersey City

Remember the "Bed-Stuy Boomerang" I uncovered in 2011, which was used to gerrymander an area of high unemployment to enable cheap EB-5 financing from immigrant investors for Atlantic Yards?

Well, such gerrymandering continues, and in my essay in City & State, I explain how that was done for a couple of very high-profile EB-5 projects, those involving the Kushner Companies in Jersey City, one branded as Trump Bay Street: HOW JERSEY CITY UNEMPLOYMENT WAS GERRYMANDERED TO HELP KUSHNER PITCH INVESTOR VISAS:
It shouldn't be a surprise. Like some other real estate developers, the Kushner Companies, builders of two luxury apartment projects in Jersey City and owned by the family of President Trump’s aide and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have gamed the EB-5 investor visa system, getting their buildings officially located in zones of high unemployment – thanks to creative mapmaking.
These maps, previously unreported, connect Kushner's 65 Bay Street project, marketed as Trum…

So, does an "on-demand sommelier" drive 550 Vanderbilt sales? Nah. But it is *in* a neighborhood.

All publicity is good publicity, especially when your building comes first in a roundup, but there's a certain incoherence to Curbed's roundup yesterday, headlined In New York’s cutthroat residential market, experiences are the new must-have amenity, and subtitled "Perks like a fitness room and a lounge are no longer enough to lure prospective tenants."

Notably, 550 Vanderbilt is a condo building, not a rental. (One other building in Curbed's roundup is a condo; the rest are rentals.)

While 550 Vanderbilt residents might appreciate a "Neighborhood Partner Program" involving local businesses, like gardening classes and "an on-demand sommelier," it's doubtful that the condo buyers who put down deposits two years ago give a fig.

Remember, sales are "slower than anticipated," the developer acknowledged, confirming the obvious. Moreover, the recent price drops for rentals--see StreetEasy graphic at right--surely suggest that price, no…

From the latest Construction Update: more foundation piles at the railyard (but no mention of evening West Portal disruption)

According to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning May 22 and circulated yesterday at 3:45 pm (a bit late) by Empire State Development after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners, there's not much new work, but some progress in infrastructure for the long-term buildout.

Drilling of foundation piles in the area of B5--in the Vanderbilt Yard just east of Sixth Avenue--should be completed during these two weeks. After that, drilling foundation piles in the area of B7 will begin. These are two large sites once projected to start vertical construction in 2023 and 2019, respectively.

Also, the site access ramp to the railyard. may be relocated to the western end of the block.

An evening disruption
Also, unmentioned in the update, two project neighbors last night reported noisy, disruptive night work going on at the West Portal site, with jackhammering and klieg lights at the southeast corner of Atlantic and Sixth/So…