Skip to main content

The unwritten story: Forest City Ratner and Brooklyn politics

The outline has emerged, perhaps for the first time, of Forest City Ratner's extensive reach into Brooklyn politics. Of course the borough's leading real estate developer--in terms of major projects--would play a significant role, but little analysis has appeared in the press.

It's well-known that FCR spends a lot of money on lobbying, but that Bruce Ratner and his lieutenants eschew local campaign contributions.

Still, that Watergate-era adage remains operative: follow the money.

Contributions via surrogates

As I've reported, Bruce Ratner's relatives and associates have contributed regularly to political races in Brooklyn (and beyond), especially as election day approaches.

What makes this curious is that Michael Ratner, the eminent human rights lawyer, and his wife, both Greenwich Village residents, make some contributions from Forest City Ratner's offices in Brooklyn. Michael Ratner apparently does have an office there, but his wife sure doesn't--and they apparently put their progressive ideology in check when blood meets Brooklyn.

A curious polling firm

Someone is paying the shadowy, California-based polling firm Pacific Crest Research, to push-poll Brooklynites in favor of 18th Senatorial District candidate Tracy Boyland (and to ask about Atlantic Yards), to query Brooklynites about the 11th Congressional District race (and ask about Atlantic Yards), and to query them about other local races.

FCR won't admit/deny that the firm is their client. However, who else is interested in these topics, especially since the polls also include nongovernmental but AY-connected figures like the Rev. Herbert Daughtry?

At this point, Forest City Ratner's failure to disavow any role in the Pacific Crest Research calls should be taken as probable cause--not proof, but certainly sufficient to be raised publicly.

Political ties

Sure, people have personal ties independent of their jobs, but it's always convenient if the politicians they help share the interests of their employers. FCR executive Bruce Bender is playing some role in helping Boyland, according to the Brooklyn Papers.

A hand in Green's race?

And why has Assemblyman Roger Green remained in the three-way race against Rep. Edolphus Towns and City Councilman Charles Barron, even though Green has little money and has hardly campaigned vigorously? The Times reported Friday:
Two months ago, the challengers — City Councilman Charles Barron and Assemblyman Roger L. Green — talked about joining forces and whether one should drop out of the race in order to defeat Mr. Towns. But since then, their deliberations have spiraled into a series of meetings, angry charges and accusations of betrayal.
In an interview this week, Mr. Barron said that he had reached an agreement with Mr. Green more than a week ago in which they agreed that Mr. Green would drop out and support the Barron candidacy.


Green claimed unconvincingly that he was campaigning vigorously. He told the Observer: "I'm a deliberative person," Green added. "I try not to be impulsive in my decision making and my actions."

That's hardly an explanation.

But look at it from a FCR-centric view. Towns supports the Atlantic Yards project, as does Green. (Both Towns and Green, though the former more recently, have received contributions from Michael Ratner.) Barron is a staunch opponent.

By staying in the race, Green--who has decent name recognition due to his longevity in office--may siphon votes that Barron could have taken in a two-way race. Green, could go to work for Forest City Ratner, as did his aide Randall Toure, or be very employable in an organization related to the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.

Was Green's candidacy serious from the start? A veteran political observer told me that it was, as Green had hoped to get union backing for his bid--unions were furious with Towns for some of his votes. Once Green failed to get the union nod, his fundraising dried up, and his candidacy was doomed.

The larger picture

Political reporters have often been tone-deaf to the Forest City Ratner/Atlantic Yards element in local politics; remember how Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum's equivocations were ignored last year?

It's time to wise up.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

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…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

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…