Skip to main content

ESDC plans ombudsperson, new working groups for AY oversight

In an implicit acknowledgment that the oversight for the Atlantic Yards project is inadequate--with only an interim environmental monitor in place, an ineffective Community Liaison Office from developer Forest City Ratner, and the recent fall of a parapet from the Ward Bakery--the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has begun to put some reforms in place.

The plan, for which full implementation is expected shortly, was in the works before the April 26 Ward Bakery incident. It will involve an ombudsperson to deal with elected officials, community representatives and the public, and various interagency working groups. One of the latter committees met last week.

Uneven coverage

The news was reported yesterday in the Daily News, which published its exclusive, headlined Brooklyn arena project gets safety net, on page 24. ESDC later issued a press release.

Today Metro advanced the story, quoting community representatives as saying it's a good first step but that grassroots groups are excluded. (The Times, Post, and Sun all passed on the story.)

Timing: not quite yet

The role of an environmental monitor, who originally was supposed to be on board in early March, will be folded into this plan. (I was told yesterday by ESDC spokesman Errol Cockfield that the monitor was the same as the "owner’s representative for construction activities," but today he clarified that they are separate positions.)

Cockfield added today: "The term 'Owner's Rep' is used in this instance as a term of art and not a literal definition of who the Owner is. Our hiring of the Owner's Rep is so we have a representative to oversee the State's interest in the project."

The ombudsperson--which I'm assuming is the same as the environmental monitor (but maybe that'll be clarified)--would be hired by the end of May.

The ESDC's press release included the following boilerplate, in the first sentence at least:
“Atlantic Yards will bring much-needed jobs and affordable housing to the heart of Brooklyn,” said Patrick Foye, Chairman Empire State Development/Downstate. “These measures will ensure that the project moves forward with as little disruption as possible.”

ESDC letter

Below is the letter sent to local elected officials.

ESDC Oversight and Monitoring Measures for Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Project

Atlantic Yards is a critically important project that will bring jobs, affordable housing and increased economic activity to the city. We are committed to seeing the project completed, and we are equally committed to minimizing disruptions. We believe these measures will accomplish these goals as we work to see this project completed on schedule.

ESDC will implement the following steps:

I. The designation of an ESDC Atlantic Yards ombudsperson
This person will provide elected officials, community representatives and the public with access to current information about the project. The ombudsperson will report to senior officials at ESDC and help facilitate the cooperation of the various government agencies involved in this project.

II. The designation of an Owner's Representative for Construction Activities
This person (or consultant team) will serve as ESDC's representative to monitor the construction activities performed by the developer at the project site. The Owner's Rep will have direct access to ESDC senior officials and staff and will have unlimited access to the site during all phases of construction. The Owner's Rep will coordinate with the developer's construction team and city and state agencies responsible for overseeing construction related activities to keep ESDC apprised of substantive issues during construction.

III. The creation of an interagency working group
ESDC will be pull together representatives from MTA, NYCEDC, NYCDOT, NYCDOB, and others to review approved and planned work on a monthly basis.

IV. The creation of a transportation working group
Concerns regarding transportation impacts, during and after construction, have been consistently mentioned by community and elected leaders. ESDC will organize a small working group of city and state agencies, community representatives and local elected officials to discuss anticipated issues and available mitigation opportunities.

V. Hold regular meetings with local elected officials
ESDC will host regular meetings to update and inform elected officials about overall progress and key project milestones.

As the project moves into the construction phase, we will continue to work with developer Forest City Ratner, elected officials, and our partners in City government to make sure quality of life is maintained.

Comments

  1. Who is/are the "owner(s)" being represented per item II?

    ReplyDelete

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…