Skip to main content

Officials redouble call for AY security study, warn that street closings would unleash a “tsunami”

Elected officials and community activists yesterday again called for an independent study of Atlantic Yards security, given the belated revelation last week, thanks to the New York Times, that parts of the planned Atlantic Yards arena would be only 20 feet from Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.

City and state officials, along with developer Forest City Ratner, have not been willing to explain why the facility would be safer than the Prudential Center in Newark, where two adjacent blocks are closed during (and before/after) events because the arena was deemed too close to the street.

(Photos by Jonathan Barkey)

While members of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN) and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn were in attendance at the City Hall press conference yesterday, and CBN’s Eric McClure (above, flanked by City Council Members Bill de Blasio and Letitia James) hosted the event (here's the CBN press release), the strongest words came from two City Council members, de Blasio and David Yassky, who have generally supported the project while calling for it to be downsized.

Potential "unyielding opposition"

“If they start talking about street closings, they will have unyielding opposition,” declared Yassky (right, with Assemblywoman Joan Millman behind him), expressing the widely-held speculation that some additional setback might be needed for security reasons. “They will have two choices—push the building back, or close streets.”

That might not work, McClure said a bit later: “If you move this basketball arena, you’ll either be playing half-court or you won’t be able to put an arena there.”

“When the security thread is pulled, it may unravel a whole ball of yarn,” Yassky said, noting that security considerations in Lower Manhattan caused “serious changes” in building designs. McClure noted that the Freedom Tower had been moved back 90 feet from the original 25 feet after a security review.

What's the difference?

Some differences between the designs in Newark and in Brooklyn are obvious, notably that the Prudential Center is a standalone box rather than an arena nestled, in part, in four buildings.

And there may be a difference in process, given that that the New York Police Department has been involved early in the design stages, while it's unclear how much input the Newark Police Department had.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle yesterday cited a forceful statement from Forest City Ratner spokesman Bruce Bender: "We do not play around with public safety and neither should politicians who have no experience or background in security issues. Our security plan has been vetted and approved by the NYPD and the best anti-terrorism experts in the city. At some point, a base level of common sense needs to be followed and those people who do not have any security experience need to let the NYPD and the security experts do their jobs.”

The developer has surely taken the security issue seriously, hiring top-flight consultants. On the other hand, the unwillingness by Forest City Ratner and public entities to reveal basic architectural information--that the arena would be 20 feet from the street--until last week has not exactly inspired confidence.

Independent review needed

The official statements haven't convinced the elected officials. “I don’t think that people want to be baited and switched,” said de Blasio (right). “We need an independent review that says there’s no need for street closings.” He said he had some hope that the administration of Gov. Eliot Spitzer would recognize the importance of transparency.

“The ball game’s not over,” he said, noting that subsidies and other issues must be resolved for the project to move forward. If the developer doesn’t behave more transparently, “then the future of their project is in danger,” he warned.

Skepticism or opportunism?

It’s hard to tease out the legitimate skepticism from political opportunism on display yesterday. Some officials have long made security an issue; in December 2005, James, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, Millman, and then-Congressional Rep. Major Owens wrote a letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly requesting a security study. Now they’ve been joined by de Blasio, Yassky, and two newly-elected officials: State Senator Eric Adams and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.

Perhaps Yassky and de Blasio have gained new insight into the issue. Alternatively, their posture may be a way to show their constituencies they do take the project seriously, without backing lawsuits that oppose it. Either way, candidates for, respectively, City Comptroller and Brooklyn Borough President probably want as much media exposure as possible.

Some disclosure possible?

“The project has been shrouded in secrecy from Day One,” declared James (right), the staunchest political opponent of the project. Acknowledging concerns that too much disclosure could compromise security—the blanket explanation for the cap on public discussion—she suggested that documents could be redacted so some information emerges.

If no independent study is ordered, James said, she will again ask for a hearing on the project before the Council’s transportation committee. Then she topped Yassky's formulation, deeming that the closure of streets near and at a notoriously congested intersection would yield a “tsunami.”

“I’m really tired of signing letters and not getting responses,” declared Millman. “We’ve asked for this study in 2005, only to be completely ignored.” She added, “When I go back to Albany, I will hand deliver another copy to the governor.”

A representative from Brennan’s office read a statement: “The public interest in these basic questions is obvious."

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…