Skip to main content

BUILD claims MAS meeting was "trying to stop" jobs, housing, and opportunities

It turns out the strongest spin on last Thursday's Municipal Art Society forum came not from any of the groups critical of the Atlantic Yards project but BUILD, fervent supporters of the project.

The notably highminded session on design principles for the project was marked by some pre-meeting skirmishing among community groups critical of or opposed to the plan, and even by some press releases issued before the session began.

And, as Neil de Mause observed in the Village Voice's Power Plays blog: [MAS president] Kent Barwick insisted he didn't want to make simplistic headlines, he made them nonetheless with the declaration that "the [Ratner] plan in its current state would not work."

BUILD misreads meeting

Then there is BUILD. The organization, which has vigorously advocated for the Atlantic Yards plan at various public meetings, gets free office space from Forest City Ratner, and receives significant funding from the developer (though representatives at first denied they got such money).

BUILD sent a message to supporters that was not merely simplistic but thoroughly distorted the purpose of the meeting. "Come out to support affordable housing, jobs and business opportunities for our community," the flier said. There was no mention of the Municipal Art Society.

The flier went on to list the groups and political figures sponsoring the MAS session--groups that actually were careful not to endorse the MAS's conclusions--and declared that they are "trying to STOP Jobs, Affordable Housing And The NETS Arena and Opportunities from coming to our community. Over Fifty (50%) percent of Black Men in OUR Community are unemployed."

"Please come out and support the nets Arena and The Atlantic Yards Project," it continued. There was no reference to the MAS's attempt to assess design guidelines for the project.

While some BUILD officers and representatives of affiliate groups were at the meeting, no large contingent was obvious.

BUILD and unemployment

Recently, city Council Member David Yassky asked for $3 million from the City Council to fund BUILD, under the weak explanation, from spokesman Evan Thies, that “There is an eight-and-half percent unemployment rate in [the area] and that is not going to go down unless there is more access to job-training programs.”

There's obviously a need for jobs and training for black men in Brooklyn--and other Brooklynites as well. Should public funding for the privately-negotiated Community Benefits Agreement--and a signatory with no previous record in job training--be the priority?

Also, the source of BUILD's unemployment figures--and the definition of the community boundary--is unclear. A BUILD press release states that "[t]here is a 78% unemployment rate in the Fort Greene housing project and a 66% unemployment rate within the Farragut housing project."

As for black unemployment in the city, the New York Times reported last year on a study that said 60.7 percent of working-age black men in the city had jobs. That does not, however, mean that 39.3 percent are unemployed, because the study didn't count those who "neither sought nor wanted a job, such as students, stay-at-home fathers, early retirees, and the disabled, among others."

Equally unclear is how much of a dent the project could make. The Community Benefits Agreement, as the New York Observer reported last December, does set aside some construction jobs for minorities:
The agreement sets a goal of employing 35 percent minorities—a reasonable and achievable threshold which Forest City has met on its other projects. In other words, 525 jobs—not reserved for public-housing residents, or even residents of Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy, but for minorities from all over the metropolitan region.

But any jobs and benefits also should be seen in the context of direct subsidies and public costs that would be well over $1 billion. It's all part of a larger debate that goes beyond assertions that the MAS session was about stopping jobs and affordable housing.

Comments

  1. I'm on the BUILD telephone tree (don't ask) and last Wednesday they left a message announcing that "while 50% of African American men in Brooklyn are unemployed, some people are trying to stop a major economic development that will create jobs." I was invited to attend "an emergency meeting" on the subject. Corroborating your report, there was no mention that this was infact an MAS presentation.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.