Skip to main content

AY likely still larger than the original under new scaleback (but does the Times notice?)

A New York Times article today, headlined Developer Said to Cut Size of Brooklyn Project, describes a proposed 6 to 8 percent cutback in Atlantic Yards, stating:
Officials say that Forest City has not settled on the final numbers for the project, but that it plans to reduce the size by 500,000 to 700,000 square feet by eliminating hundreds of market-rate apartments. That would enable the developer to cut the height of some of the towers, including a 350-foot building on what is known as Site 5, on the west side of Flatbush Avenue, and possibly at Miss Brooklyn.

This is the lead story for the entire newspaper. They should have done better. Unmentioned is the sequence of proposals, which show that the project could still be bigger than originally announced:
December 2003: 8 million square feet
September 2005: 9.132 million square feet
March 2006: 8.659 million square feet

A reduction of 500,000 square feet would make the project 8.159 million square feet, while a cut of 700,000 square feet would mean 7.959 million square feet.

And even a reduction in bulk would leave Miss Brooklyn and the building at Site 5 quite large. Right now, the former would be about three times the bulk of the Williamsburgh bank, in square footage, and the latter would be nearly twice the size of the bank. In fact, a cut of 700,000 square feet from Miss Brooklyn alone would still leave it bulkier than the bank.

All in the timing

A new cutback was expected; the only question was when. Borough President Marty Markowitz offered criticisms at the August 23 public hearing, saying that the project was too big and that the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower, at 512 feet, should remain the tallest building (while the proposed "Miss Brooklyn" would be 620 feet), but it's hard to believe that Markowitz didn't vet his words with the developer.

But the cutback won't assauge critics. The Times reported:
“I don’t think the bottom-line community concern is really about aesthetics, which is what shaving a few stories off the heights of the buildings is about,” said James F. Brennan, a Brooklyn assemblyman. “I don’t think this flies.”

New carrots?

There's a tantalizing hint of a tradeoff:
But according to executives briefed by the developer, Mr. Gehry has objected to any changes in his design for Miss Brooklyn. Forest City, they say, will continue to set aside 2,250 apartments for low, moderate and middle-income tenants, even as it seeks additional subsidies for that part of the development.
(Emphasis added)

And why hasn't the public been told what the housing subsidies would be?

Belated high-rises?

The article states:
Mr. Ratner’s project won widespread support in December 2003, when he first announced plans to build a glass-walled arena for the Nets and to erect 4,500 apartments, half of them subsidized. For the romantics, there was the appeal of the borough having its first major professional sports team since the agonizing departure of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1957.
But over the following two years, the size of the project swelled to 7,300 apartments and the high-rise towers — 19 to 58 stories — took shape, looming over the four- to six-story buildings in the adjoining neighborhoods.

The high-rise towers were there from the start, in renderings released in December 2003.

The article continues:
In March, Forest City reduced the project by 475,000 square feet by cutting 440 market-rate condominiums, but that went largely unnoticed.

What was largely unnoticed was that the developer lied in saying that the "original design" had been reduced. The Times in its coverage at least pointed out that the square footage was greater than the original amount proposed.


Today's article continues:
The reduction in the project’s scope comes as the Empire State Development Corporation prepares to hold two more public hearings later this month before voting on the project in October. Officials say the developer is likely to unveil the changes around Sept. 25, when the City Planning Commission is expected to issue design guidelines for the project and recommend changes, including a reduction in density.

September 25 is conveniently after the two community forums, and just three days before the end of the comment period to the Empire State Development Corporation.

And it's all set, according to the Times:
At that point, there could be a long line of politicians and activists hoping to take credit, including the Bloomberg administration, Mr. Silver, Ms. Millman and Mr. Markowitz.
“Everyone’s going to take credit for something that everyone knew would happen,” said an executive who works with Forest City. “For these guys, it’s very important.”

Then again, the Times said that the last public hearing was August 24, rather than August 23. And the article says a recent Crain’s New York Business poll shows that most New Yorkers approve of the project, although opposition is strongest in Brooklyn, without any caveats.

Gargano flexible

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, displays a new flexibility. The Times reports:
"I’m sure the developer is looking at ways to reduce the size of the project,” said Charles A. Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, which has granted initial approval of Atlantic Yards. “It would be a good thing for everyone. It’s an important project for Downtown Brooklyn.”

Well, not only did the Times not catch him on the Downtown Brooklyn error, they didn't point out his statement last December to the New York Observer, which reported:
“There is no need to scale down the project,” Mr. Gargano said, although the environmental-impact study that will gauge the project’s impact on traffic, sewage, school population and so on is still underway.


  1. I think that the focus should be more on the open space lost and needed for the project. I was in the World financial Center parks this weekend and it was nearly a madhouse.

    In the original plan the top of the arena was suppossed to be a public space. It is no longer, and there has been no compensation for that loss.

    People should be drawn to this area, but there will be no space to enjoy. If there isn't space I still don't see how it can be thought of as a civic use and significant improvement on the public land. The arena alone doesn't cut it.


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…

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…