Skip to main content

CBAs head to head: Columbia vs. Atlantic Yards

Now that Community Board 9 has issued its nonbinding vote strongly against Columbia University’s West Harlem expansion plan, the project is not so much over but entering a new phase of community negotiation, according to the Columbia Spectator.

That’s because the Community Board actually has a say, as part of the city’s ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure), as Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn points out.

AY's flawed CBA

The Atlantic Yards process bypassed the community boards and touted a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that was flawed in comparison to existing CBAs elsewhere, notably in pioneering Los Angeles, as Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York testified.

And it’s flawed in comparison to the CBA planned for Columbia. The new West Harlem Local Development Corporation includes members of Community Board 9 and project opponents, who were conspicuously absent from the Atlantic Yards CBA. The LDC has been criticized for not allowing public comment at meetings and that seems to be a significant flaw. Even so, it is far more transparent than the behind-closed-doors Atlantic Yards CBA. Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chair of CB9, famously said last year that “We are avoiding the Brooklyn model,” seeking a wider coalition.

The West Harlem LDC is funded not by the developer but by a quasi-public entity. As City Limits reported:
The New York City Economic Development Corporation provided $350,000 and a professional mediator, John Bickerman, to facilitate negotiations.

CBA scope and topics

And the CBA contemplated by West Harlem LDC covers several areas, including transportation, historic preservation arts & culture, and green spaces, not part of the Atlantic Yards CBA. (Another West Harlem CBA issue is research & laboratory activities, which applies to the specific Columbia situation and is not applicable to Atlantic Yards.)

Columbia University expansionAtlantic Yards
housing housing
employment/jobsworkforce development
business/economic developmentsmall business development
community facilities/social servicescommunity facilities/amenities
environmental stewardship environmental initiatives
-- public housing initiatives
-- faith-based referral services
educationeducational and related services
arts & culture --
transportation --
green spaces --
research & lab activitiesn/a


Hyping the AY CBA

A 6/27/05 press release from the mayor’s office touted “the first-ever Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) in New York City to accompany a major development project.” Forest City Ratner has claimed that the three Community Boards around the proposed Atlantic Yards site footprint participated in crafting the "historic" Community Benefits Agreement.

In May 2006, the chairpersons of the three CBs complained to Forest City Ratner, saying the “statement overstates our participation. As you may or may not be aware, we were invited to play a limited role that ended months before the agreement was signed when some eventual signatories barred us from attending the working sessions.”

Now-departed Forest City Ratner executive Jim Stuckey told the Courier-Life chain that “we met with individual community boards on many occasions and also attended a joint community board meeting that was also open to the public.” As I noted, “did play a role” does not mean “crafted.”

CBAs and beyond

There’s an argument that CBAs, as non-governmental deals, dangerously usurp the role of government. Indeed, the Bloomberg administration now seems to be shying away from them.

But if there are to be CBAs, the Columbia example shows that community concerns extend well beyond those chosen by Forest City Ratner and its partners, some of which it funded.

In January 2006, members of the Park Slope Civic Council said that Forest City Ratner seemed willing to meet and negotiate with representatives of Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods over issues like traffic and urban design--issues that seemingly would come up in the Columbia CBA under "transportation" and "green space."

But such a neighborhood agreement—separate from the CBA, which the developer was unwilling to open—never came to fruition.

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…