Skip to main content

Six months later, where's Phase One redesign

Delays on the Atlantic Yards project apparently flummoxed New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, who last September anticipated a redesign of the arena block in the fall.

And delays in another Forest City Ratner project, Beekman Tower, led Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week to query the company about the timetable for a promised school, leading to a non-answer from the developer.

It's another reminder that, whatever the projected timetable, the developer--and parent Forest City Enterprises--works on its own schedule, dictated by its own sense of the market.

As RBC Capital Markets analyst Rich Moore told the New York Observer 9/10/06, “The quality that Forest City has is that they are very disciplined about moving forward in stages... They build one office tower and see if they are doing well, and if they are not, there is always the option of waiting until the market catches up to them or of altering their plans.”

Phase One confusion

Last September 9, in a "New Season" season preview in the New York Times's Arts and Leisure section, in an article headlined Architectural Shifts, Global and Local, Ouroussoff wrote:
New Yorkers will see several major nonmuseum projects getting under way this season...

Another huge project is the $4 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, and Frank Gehry will soon unveil his redesign of its first phase, so it will soon become clear whether Brooklyn will receive a dazzling 21st-century version of Rockefeller Center or a conventional retail-entertainment-sports complex inside a pretty architectural wrapper.


It's been six months. How long until public officials start asking about the projected schedule for Atlantic Yards affordable housing, given the delays in construction and the overstuffed pipeline for affordable housing bonds?

The school in Lower Manhattan

Then again, they might not get many answers. As the Observer reported, Silver recently sent a letter to Forest City Ratner expressing concern "that construction has apparently slowed at your new Beekman Tower site since you generously agreed to incorporate a new K – 8th grade public school into the base of that new building. As you know, the school is scheduled to open in September 2009.... A number of constituents and community leaders have contacted my office in recent weeks with inquiries regarding the progress of the Beekman Tower building."

He asked the developer for its "most up to date schedule for construction of the Beekman Tower and when you anticipate that the new school will be able to open."

FCR spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt gave the Observer a response: "We are very sensitive to the school overcrowding issues currently facing Lower Manhattan as it was the Speaker who originally raised the issue and it was at his insistence that we included the school in our project. We are continuing to work very closely with the Speaker and appreciate all of his efforts in helping to move the project forward as quickly as possible."

Spinning the press

Silver asked for a schedule, but Riegelhaupt didn't answer the question. Rather, he asserted that the developer is "continuing to work very closely with the Speaker..."

Well, if they were working so closely together, Silver wouldn't be asking the question in the first place. That kind of obfuscation, along with pious assertions that the company is eager to share information, suggest that Riegelhaupt might compete with Joe DePlasco as a spinmeister.

Comments

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.