Skip to main content

Pollster, trolling for development business, claims AY "possible blueprint"

In an op-ed in today's New York Post, headlined A BLUEPRINT GROWS IN B'KLYN, pollster Craig Charney, who conducted the deceptive poll on Atlantic Yards last September for Crain's New York Business, claims:
DEMOLITION began this week to clear ground for New York's biggest urban redevelopment project in decades, Atlantic Yards. That marked not just a crucial defeat for New York's militant anti-developers - the dreaded "NIMBY" (not in my backyard) lobby - but also the emergence of a possible blueprint for future victories.

Didn't we dispose of the Times's "modern blueprint" formulation a while back?

Charney's misleading analysis starts in the very first paragraph. First, demolition actually began in February; Charney's referring to demolitions challenged in court and last week permitted to proceed.

Second, the opponents are not NIMBYs--why would they be organizing the UNITY 2007 charette this weekend?--but critics of this specific plan, which would be more dense than the nation's densest census tract and is so radioactive that the city won't cite it as a blueprint in the just-released PlaNYC 2030 document.

Charney, in the second paragraph, makes another error, saying Atlantic Yards would have 8.7 million square feet of space (actually 8 million) and cost $4.2 billion (actually $4 billion.) He says that developer Forest City Ratner "did have to scale the project down modestly to get the go-ahead," but that, of course, is untrue: the size of the project, in square footage, would be just about the same as announced.

Endorsing Bruce

Charney comes to a conclusion vastly different than New York Magazine's Chris Smith, who wrote last August: What at first seemed to me impressive on a clinical level—a developer’s savvy use of state-of-the-art political tactics—ends up being, on closer inspection, truly chilling.

Charney writes: But Atlantic Yards and its developer, Bruce Ratner, have still showed how to promote big redevelopment projects in 21st century American cities.

Poll defense

He suggests reasons behind the Crain's poll he produced, which showed general support for Atlantic Yards:
Most people don't worry much about development issues outside their own neighborhood. Only one in five New Yorkers followed news about the project closely.
Anti-development arguments also don't resonate much with New Yorkers these days. Claims that the project was out of scale and promoted gentrification raised serious doubt for only three in 10; the costs of more schools and sewers did so for just one in three. Ratner's decision to avoid the city's land-use review process by building on state land raised the most doubts, but even this worried just 40 percent.


Isn't the answer in his second sentence? Those who knew more about it were more likely to be critical. The Times, for example, has never published a rendering of the project in neighborhood scale.

Building support

Charney claims that the "key factor was Forest City Ratner's willingness to listen - and make concessions," leading to "an innovative 'community-benefits agreement.'" He cites Chris Smith calling it "terrific and creative commitments," including the affordable housing pledge. (Let's say Smith's analysis remains debatable.) Those "concessions" were in process at the beginning, not any response to the critics who emerged.

Remember the way the poll was worded:
The project will provide 2,250 low-, moderate-, and middle-income rental apartments. Is this a very important benefit, an important benefit, not an important benefit or no benefit at all?

The phrase "the project will provide" echoes the developer's syntax. Such language suggests that the project itself is the actor, even though the housing would be provided by a developer backed by significant public subsidies.

As I wrote, consider some alternative ways to frame that question:
The project would include 2,250 low-, moderate-, and middle-income rental apartments, with an average rent of $1542.

The project would include 2,250 affordable apartments, but more than half would be too expensive for people at Brooklyn's median income.

The project would include 2,250 affordable apartments, but the inclusion of those apartments means the development would be significantly out of scale with its neighbors.

The project would include 2,250 affordable apartments, but most wouldn't be built until after 2010, and could be delayed by the market.

The project would include 2,250 affordable apartments, but we haven't been told the full amount of the subsidies used to support them.

The project would include 2,250 affordable apartments, but most wouldn't be built until after 2010, unlike city rezonings which require affordable housing to be built along with the rest of project.


More than six months after the poll, we still don't know the extent of the subsidies or whether they could be better deployed elsewhere. And Charney hasn't noticed landscape architect Laurie Olin's prediction that the project could take 20 years to build, not ten, which would delay the production of affordable housing significantly. Wouldn't that change a poll?

Columbia's CBA


Charney concludes that Columbia University, in dealing with the Local Development Corporation set up to negotiate a CBA in West Harlem, "will need to show the same flexibility... that Ratner showed in Brooklyn."

The LDC, of course, is vastly different from the CBA "coalition" in Brooklyn. The New York Observer in February reported criticism from an opponent of Columbia University's development plan:
“Ratner and the city got together with one big, national not-for-profit and a set of local sycophants and put something together which doesn’t seem to have satisfied too many people, except for those who are benefiting directly from it,” Mr. [Jordi] Reyes-Montblanc, the chairman of Community Board 9, said.

Crain's editor Greg David wrote last September, explaining the genesis of the poll: Charney, a professional pollster whose firm had emphasized political work, wanted to raise his company's profile within the business community.

Consider today's op-ed another effort at marketing.

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…