Skip to main content

Gargano stumbles on Lehrer's show: no eminent domain quite yet?

Appearing likely for the last time on the WNYC radio show Brian Lehrer Live, Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Chairman Charles Gargano today again defended the Atlantic Yards project and offered some evasive words about exactly when eminent domain would be used for the project.

The interview ranged over a number of issues, but, before it concluded, Lehrer made sure he tackled Atlantic Yards.

BL: I just want to get to Atlantic Yards. Is your final approval vote tomorrow?

CG: Yes. Friday, we have a board meeting at 3:30 to approve the final General Project Plan.

Actually, the ESDC board must do the following, as per the public hearing notice:
These actions include ESDC’s affirmation of the General Project Plan, the condemnation of privately owned land and City owned land, the disposition by ESDC of the Project site and the provision of State funds in furtherance of the Project.

In doing so, they must approve the Final Environmental Impact Statement, as well.

BL: And that’s definitely going to be a yes?

CG: Well, we don’t know. We’ll see. Right now, all of the board members have been given material in advance to review. And then it’ll be up to the board members to vote yes or no.

Would any of the board members--all appointed by Governor George Pataki--vote no? Unlikely.

The eminent domain stumble

BL: Part of that vote is any condemnations that you decide are needed. Does that mean seizing property under eminent domain?

Gargano became a little tongue-tied.

CG: At this point, we have, we do—we have not used, or--have not used to date any eminent domain condemn-condemn-condemnation.

BL: And you don’t anticipate a vote on anything like that tomorrow?

CG: No, there is nothing about that tomorrow.

What exactly does this mean? The ESDC plans to condemn all the property, including that owned by Forest City Ratner, in part to remove tenants with rent-regulated leases.

I asked ESDC spokeswoman Jessica Copen for clarification. She responded, "The Chairman misspoke. Approval for authorization of eminent domain will go before the Board tomorrow. And, no, we have not used eminent domain."

The PACB vote

The project would then have to go to the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), which is controlled by Governor George Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Silver has been at odds with Gargano, and may want to hold the project so it could be considered by the administration of incoming Governor Eliot Spitzer, a fellow Democrat. Then again, Silver generally supports Atlantic Yards.

BL: Silver supports this project, so do you expect final approval—final approval--before the governor’s term is up?

Gargano got a little combative.

CG: Y’know, Brian, I don’t want to talk about the governor’s term. He is still the governor. Should we stop work now because his term is going to be up?

BL: I’m asking you if this is going to get done?

CG: I hope so. We intend to—if it’s approved tomorrow at the board, we intend to move it to the Public Authority Control Board for the December meeting, which I believe is December 20.

Spitzer concerns

BL: And Eliot Spitzer has expressed concerns in the past about how much money the state might need to contribute in the future to Atlantic Yards, although he too supports the project. Do you think those numbers are rock solid?

CB: We think so. We’ve hired financial consultants to review those numbers, as we do in every other phase in a project, we hire the experts from the outside to make sure that everything is in order and we are comfortable with the information, and in, this case, with the financial numbers. So, look, I understand, he’s going to be the governor, so he should be concerned. But I think--I would like to to say to Governor-elect Spitzer that we have done everything possible to make sure that the numbers are good.

Well, the numbers are incomplete. And opaque.

ESDC vs. developers?

Gargano, in discussing the failure of the Moynihan Station project, again took aim at the PACB:
The process we have, the PACB, where one of the three…can knock down a project, is a terrible, dysfunctional process....Sheldon Silver has called me all kinds of names. He called me corrupt with out any facts whatsoever… That’s as much of a joke as when he said, ‘I can’t vote for the project, it’s not what the developers want to build.’ We don’t care what the developers want to build. We are the public authority. We want to do something that’s for the public benefit. And Moynihan Station must be built.

An ESDC lawyer had, in a previous case regarding demolitions for the Atlantic Yards project, described the relationship between agency and developer as "collaborative."

Lehrer asked Gargano of Silver's association's with Madison Square Garden and Gargano, who said he ordinarily wouldn't stoop to such criticims, defended himself:
It will come out, I guarantee you, sooner or later, that he’s being influenced by Madison Square Garden, for a number of reasons. And we’ll find out who’s corrupt… His former chief of staff works there as a lobbyist. His daughter works there.

Comments

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.