Skip to main content

Still waiting for Madden; decision on AY environmental challenge lingers

Two major Atlantic Yards legal cases remain pending and in one the decision has been delayed far longer than expected. The challenge to the environmental impact statement was heard on May 3, and state Supreme Court Justice Joan A. Madden indicated she would try to rule promptly.

Then again, the voluminous legal record stretches more than 25,000 pages, so that's a formidable challenge. In mid-July, Madden issued a memo (the first "Waiting for Madden") that stated she expected to have a decision in September.

The case has lingered for three months more, undoubtedly causing nervousness on both sides. I don't think we can read anything into the delay other than that it's a complicated case and the judge is trying to rule carefully.

On the one hand, such challenges to environmental review rarely succeed. On the other, Madden did express skepticism regarding the state's assertions of "blight" and whether the project is actually a "civic project."

A successful suit might block the project entirely--even as Forest City Ratner has sunk significant sums into pre-construction demolition and railyard work--or require a revision of the environmental review, which could delay and change the project.

Also pending is a decision from a federal appeals court, after a hearing in October, regarding an appeal of the dismissal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain challenge.

AY failing?

Last Thursday, under the headline Atlantic Yards Seems To Be Failing, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn wrote:
[W]e see a stalled project: infrastructure activity is occurring in the Ratner-selected footprint, and demolition has taken place on some of the buildings the developer owns, but there appears to be a lot of soil pushing and dirt shifting on the rail yards. As of today, the construction of the project hasn't moved forward, and cannot move forward.

One year after political approval, and the project seems to be failing. The project is stale. And the markets don't look promising for the overly-dense behemoth.


Well, the project certainly has been delayed, markets fluctuate, and resolution of the legal cases is necessary for construction.

Atlantic Yards may be troubled, but that's not proof that it's failing; rather, Forest City Ratner and the state are calculating that they can move forward as far as they have under the expectation that they will prevail in the lawsuits.

In the next several months, we should discover the wisdom of that calculation.

Comments

  1. I don’t know whether this is part of the law suit or something Madden is considering but I am wondering whether the gag-order, non-disclosure, tout-for-the-project agreements that Ratner obtained in conjunction with buying proposed project site land under threat of eminent domain irredeemably tainted the otherwise deficient environmental review process. Under what may be considered illegal duress, Ratner collected agreements, in likely violation of public policy, that required members of the public to:

    1. Testify in favor of the project at the public hearings.
    2. Limit what they could say about the megadevelopment.
    3. Report information to Ratner about the activities of the public opposition.
    4. Withdraw from groups and organizations opposing the megadevelopment.
    5. Not assist, fund or coordinate with entities opposing the megadevelopment.
    6. Promulgate Ratner-scripted statements to the media covering the megadevelopment in lieu of their own honest sentiments or knowledge of facts.
    7. Designate others to speak on their behalf in favor of the megadevelopment irrespective of what they, themselves, would have said or testified.
    8. Eliminate all their expressions of opposition to the megadevelopment including all their writings and any banners.
    9. NOT take actions in opposition to the megadevelopment including NOT:
    a. Sign petitions
    b. March
    c. Rally
    d. Testify against the megadevelopment
    e. Demonstrate against the megadevelopment

    If a substantial segment of the better informed Brooklyn and local public was so constrained by such questionable agreements obtained by such questionable means how was the process of obtaining testimony from the public not irredeemably tainted?-

    ReplyDelete
  2. An additional comment on these gag-order, non-disclosure, tout-for-the-project agreements- Such agreements have only materialized recently with the new private-sector-propelled world of eminent domain abuse. In the old days when eminent domain was a process conducted through a government negotiation process according to an old time practitioner, “There were no gag orders because the government did all the acquisition and did not rely on the developer at all.” And, had the government sought to get such gag orders they would more likely have been held to be unconstitutional and/or void as against public policy precisely because they would have been obscuring a government process and would have been using government power to silence free speech.

    The results from having the private the private sector tale over these activities are of course worse and ought also to be voided as against public policy.

    (The SEQRA law of course did not anticipate this corruption of process.)

    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…

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…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.