Skip to main content

DEIS hearing or Atlantic Yards rally? BUILD, ACORN, community groups muster the troops

In some ways the hearing Wednesday on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is just a public relations exercise. After all, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is expected to approve the project after community comments are incorporated into a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

But advocacy and community groups are rallying their troops to criticize the DEIS and to urge for the project's approval--and to shape the media portrayal of the debate. So expect an energized, possibly raucous crowd at New York City Technical College's Klitgord Auditorium, from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Location: 285 Jay Street @ MetroTech, between Tillary & Johnson. Poster at right from Fort Greene Association & Society for Clinton Hill.)

Among the pre-meeting messages is an explanation for the July 11 Affordable Housing Information Session, in which Forest City Ratner and ACORN told some hopeful but frustrated New Yorkers about housing that was at least four years away.

Now ACORN is encouraging attendees--remember, they filled out information sheets so they could be reminded of housing information--to lobby for the project next week. The session last month was, among other things, a recruiting meeting.

What's at stake

The DEIS is a disclosure document, not a decision document; it discloses adverse impacts on issues like traffic, open space, and noise, but does not require mitigation. The ESDC will hold a follow-up forum on September 12 (the day of the primary election) and accept comments through September 22.

Once the ESDC board receives the FEIS and approves the General Project Plan, an associated document, then the political fight resumes. Assuming that the project is not delayed in court over an eminent domain challenge or a challenge to the validity of the DEIS, the project would eventually go to the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB).

Approval requires a unanimous vote of the PACB, which is controlled by representatives of the governor, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

While Silver killed the West Side Stadium, he has expressed no such dismay about the Atlantic Yards project; in fact, one explanation for the downsizing of office space in the Brooklyn project is that it wouldn't compete with space in Silver's Lower Manhattan district. (Other explanation: a weaker Brooklyn office market and more lucrative condo possibilities.)

Rallying the troops

To BUILD, whose leaders have been among the project's most fervent advocates, the only potential adverse impacts are traffic, shadows and "building heights."

In the flier BUILD is sending to supporters, those issues are no match for, among other things, "the Historic Community Benefits Agreement, Jobs, Affordable Housing, Business Opportunities, and a Brooklyn NBA Team."

BUILD is advising its members to get to the meeting at 3:30 p.m., an hour before it begins. Given the number of people who likely want to speak, it could be a long night. (Note that most of the photos regard the Nets. Click to enlarge.)

ACORN's alert

A NY ACORN alert, sent to those who signed up at the Affordable Housing Information Session, states that New York ACORN will be speaking out on:
The need for affordability and not luxury.
2,250 affordable rental apartments for low to moderate income families.
10% of the rentals for senior citizens.
Tell the ESDC that We Support the Atlantic Yards Project and We Need Housing!
Speak up for Atlantic Yards! Speak up for Housing! Speak up for Brooklyn!

Note that the "need for affordability and not luxury" is a reference to Atlantic Yards in the context of several other development in Brooklyn, not a description of the project as a whole. Of 6860 apartments, 2250 would be considered affordable, but 900 of the affordable apartments would rent for more than $2000 a month.

As noted, some two-thirds of ACORN followers surveyed on the Atlantic Yards project have household income under $30,000; they'd be eligible for some 900 of the subsidized apartments.

In other words, the pledge of 50 percent affordability glosses over the fact that low-income New Yorkers could access fewer than half the units deemed affordable.

ACORN will form a group at the corner of Jay Street and Willoughby at 6 p.m., which is after the hearing begins but an acknowledgement that those interested have jobs and travel obligations.

ACORN in the Voice

NY ACORN executive director Bertha Lewis, in a letter to the Village Voice this week, criticizes an article by C. Carr, Life in the Footprint, writing that Carr completely ignored the larger context. This development is about finding solutions to New York's affordable-housing crisis....ACORN has worked with Forest City Ratner to guarantee that 50 percent of the 4,500 new units planned for Atlantic Yards will be rent stabilized and affordable to low, moderate, and middle-income families.

Note that there would be 6860 new units, not 4500, and thus the project would not be a 50/50 affordable plan; the affordability applies only to the rentals. And Lewis leaves out the larger context of to whom the units would be affordable.

The critics and opponents

Some community and activist groups concerned about the project are emphasizing the potential impact of the projects. The poster at top, emphasizing the project's scale, was issued by the Fort Greene Association and the Clinton Hill Society, both of which specified that they are critical of the plan as it stands.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has posted this message and will hand-deliver it to thousands of Brooklynites:
This narrow window for public comment on the "Atlantic Yards" DEIS is symptomatic of a process that has severely limited the community’s input and scrutiny from the outset. By scheduling the hearing in late August, the ESDC appears to be trying to minimize public criticism of the DEIS, so it’s crucial that we don’t let them get away with it. Please prepare as well as you can: the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, the Atlantic Yards Report and the Brooklyn Papers have some great info to get you started; arrive at the DEIS hearing as early as possible, and sign up to speak; and let the ESDC know what you think.

Addendum: NoLandGrab offers a waggish edit of the BUILD poster. (Click to enlarge)


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…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

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…