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Goodbye, Mr. Stuckey; Atlantic Yards head departs for "new challenges"

Jim Stuckey, president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group for Forest City Ratner and the developer's point man for more than three years on the project, has resigned from the company, "effective immediately, citing personal reasons and a desire to pursue new challenges."

(Photo from PBS Newshour.)

Atlantic Yards, the company stated in a press release (below) issued today via spokesperson Howard Rubenstein, "remains on target."

That's of course a relative term, given that parent company Forest City Enterprises has acknowledged a myriad of factors, including ongoing negotiations with governmental authorities, environmental remediation, various lawsuits, increasing construction costs, scarcity of labor and supplies, the difficulty in obtaining tax exempt financing, and increasing rates for financing.

Stuckey will be succeeded by MaryAnne Gilmartin, the developer's executive VP and director of commercial & residential development. An observer I spoke to described her as a more charming salesperson than the rougher-edged Stuckey, who has other strengths, given his long history in public-private developments.

(Here's the Crain's article.)

Fired?

Was Stuckey fired? Well, we can't be certain, and Stuckey did lead Atlantic Yards past some significant challenges (though others remain). Still, whenever an executive leaves without a new job, seeking "new challenges," and when the accompanying press release makes no effort to honor him for his accomplishments, there's no celebration going on.

(Stuckey's bio, which disappeared this afternoon from the developer's web site, had seven admiring paragraphs.)

Still, even if Stuckey was forced out, the issue may be internal to Forest City Ratner rather than connected to the progress of Atlantic Yards and the roadblocks that remain.

Different stylings

Stuckey certainly did what he was hired to do, shepherd the project through City Council hearings in 2004 and 2005, other public meetings, the preordained approval last December 8 by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and some potentially touchy moments before the December 20 final approval by the Public Authorities Control Board. Forest City and the ESDC have won a significant, though not final, victory in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case.

In her book on Times Square redevelopment, Times Square Roulette, author Lynne Sagalyn described Stuckey's attitude toward deal making, while at the city's Public Development Corporation, "more closely matched the maxim 'the ends justify the means.'"

As pre-construction demolition proceeds and the project moves toward a new phase, Stuckey's departure may be politically advantageous for the developer. Just as the new administration of the Empire State Development Corporation can disavow some of its predecessor's decisions, a new Forest City point person might distance herself from--if not exactly disavow--some of Stuckey's statements.

Here's a May 2006 interview on the Brian Lehrer Show. Here's another Brian Lehrer interview, in July 2006. Here's Stuckey last January on WFAN. And here's perhaps one episode Stuckey's bosses didn't like, when Laurie Olin, the landscape architect on Atlantic Yards, in February told the New York Observer the project might take much longer than announced.

The press release

The press release came not from Forest City's internal public relations department nor Dan Klores Communications, the developer's prime outside public relations consultant on Atlantic Yards. Rather, it came from Rubenstein Associates, the city's premier strategic p.r. firm, whose head, Howard J. Rubenstein, was described by The New Yorker as "a kind of gentle fixer for those who run New York."

Rubenstein told me, when I inquired, that he'd been advising the developer for more than a year, but hadn't previously sent out press statements.

FCRC Management Change; Gilmartin To Head Atlantic Yards

Jim Stuckey, Executive Vice President and head of the Atlantic Yards development group at Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), has submitted his resignation, effective immediately, citing personal reasons and a desire to pursue new challenges.

For the past few weeks FCRC has prepared for Mr. Stuckey’s departure to create a seamless transition and named MaryAnne Gilmartin, Executive Vice President and Director of Commercial & Residential Development for FCRC, as head of the Atlantic Yards development team. The Atlantic Yards development, which includes over 6,400 units of mixed-income housing and the Barclays Center, remains on target.

MaryAnne Gilmartin Bio

MaryAnne Gilmartin currently manages Forest City Ratner Companies’ Commercial & Residential Development division, including the development of two of the company’s most prestigious new projects: the 1.6 million square foot New York Times Building in midtown Manhattan designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Renzo Piano, and the Frank Gehry designed Beekman Residential project in lower Manhattan. Ms. Gilmartin has been responsible for the development of several major entertainment and commercial office projects. She led the development of the 42nd Street mixed-use project and the development of the Battery Park City retail complex.

Prior to joining Forest City in 1994, Ms. Gilmartin served as Assistant Vice President for Commercial Development at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) during the Koch and Dinkins administrations, managing the City’s multi-million-dollar corporate retention program which kept Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, Chase Manhattan Bank and other vital businesses in New York City.

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