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Showing posts from August, 2008

At the DEIS hearing, "an affront to common sense" on adaptive reuse

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

A genteel preservationist took the opportunity to advise on adaptive reuse, which had been dismissed by the Empire State Development Corporation, and didn't get much traction with the crowd.

MS. CHRISTABEL GOUGH: I'm Christabel Gough from the Society for the Architecture of the City. We're an all-volunteer historic preservation advocacy group. And we're here to make some comments on the EIS, specifically on the chapter seven, Cultural Resources. Two buildings in the footprint were determined by the State Historic Preservation Office to be significant historic structures: The former LIRR Stables and the Ward Bakery.

...The consultants say that they examined the possibility of conversion to residential use, but they rejected it. Why? Conversion might entail altering the buildings and then the buildings would lose their in…

From the DEIS hearing: unheeded wisdom regarding the economic claims

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

Late in the hearing, two women with the same first name offered some useful but unheeded wisdom about validating the economic claims behind Atlantic Yards.

MS. KATE GUINEY: My name is Kate Guiney. And I'll be very, very brief. I just want to publicly request that Alan Hevesi, the State Comptroller, audit the proposed Atlantic Yards project by --

(Audience participation.)

MS. KATE GUINEY: -- Forest City Enterprises. I think that the financial numbers and the environmental impact conclusions that we have heard or read about are so widely divergent; we've heard so many different numbers from so many different angles, that I think an audit by a comparatively unbiased party is in order. Thanks.

Questioning the numbers

MS. KATE GALASSI: My name is Kate Galassi. I'm 21 years old and I've lived on Pacific Street for my whole life.

In 2006, as well, Zimbalist's ($73K) testimony was disallowed in court

Three times in the last year sports economist Andrew Zimbalist’s work has been either discredited in a court case or thrown out of court. Let's add a fourth episode to the list, albeit in 2006, in a court case involving the baseball team in Southern California known as the Angels.

The Orange County Register, in a 1/8/06 article, previewed a case in which the city of Anaheim sued the Angels baseball team, arguing that the change of the team name from “Anaheim Angels” to the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” violated a lease in which the team was compelled to keep “Anaheim'” in the name.

The city contended that the change would cost the city $98 million to $374 million. Meanwhile, the team had the third-highest attendance in Major League Baseball and, while the city was concerned about lowered tourism, bed-tax receipts went up 20 percent over the previous year.

Zimbalist, an expert hired by the city, contended that the effect of advertising must be measured over time. Two sports mark…

Zimbalist's Seattle bill was $61,296

Last month, I reported, based on press accounts in Seattle, that expert witness Andrew Zimbalist cost the city of Seattle $17,753 in its effort to hold the new owners of the Seattle SuperSonics to their local lease.

Actually, as the Post-Intelligencer reported yesterday, the total was $61,296, including $59,540 on time spent preparing his report and his 50 minutes of testimony, with the rest going to plus travel expenses.

Zimbalist's report, trashed by an opposing attorney, didn't help Seattle's cause, but the city, which spent $2.96 million in the case, was successful in getting $19 million more in settlement than previously offered.

Zimbalist's report for FCR

As I wrote, we don’t know how much Zimbalist was paid by Forest City Ratner for his deeply-flawed report on Atlantic Yards. But maybe, given that Gov. George Pataki’s administration relied on Zimbalist’s study in a press release, the government should tell us.

Remember, then-FCR executive Jim Stuckey told City Counci…

From the DEIS hearing: "Daniel Ratner" and the Legion of Doom

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

On Thursday, I wrote about the Beckett-like aspects of the hearing. On Friday, I cited a farcical moment in the final community forum. Today let's look at the performance of an eccentric fellow named William Stanford, Jr., who wore dark shades (as he did at this hearing of the Rent Guidelines Board).

Stanford often sounded like a nut, calling his antagonist "Daniel Ratner" (a combo of Bruce Ratner and Daniel Goldstein?), threatening to attack with pro wrestling moves, and charging the aforementioned Ratner with drug smuggling.

But he also made some earthy good sense, questioning the scheduling of a forum on Primary Day with "Are you stuck on stupid?"

The testimony

MR. WILLIAM STANFORD: Thank you for holding this forum. By holding this forum you just gave me a better reason to give Daniel Ratner a flying full nelso…

As de Blasio stresses AY support, he claims CBA, not government, would guarantee the affordable housing

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

Given his current more critical posture toward Atlantic Yards, note that Council Member Bill de Blasio declared his support for the project up front. He acknowledged concerns--amplified significantly in recent months, as he ramps up his candidacy for Borough President--about the impacts on quality of life.

I've written about de Blasio's failure to do "due diligence" regarding Atlantic Yards. But I hadn't examined his statement at the hearing, which claimed that, because the federal and state governments were not supporting affordable housing, Atlantic Yards "is one of the only ways we're going to be able to make progress," but "only if we insure the community benefits agreement [CBA] is adhered to."

However, the affordable housing depends significantly on city and possibly state housing bon…

From absurdism to farce: the community forums conclude with "What for?"

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

Yesterday I wrote how the August 23 hearing at times resembled an absurdist work by Samuel Beckett. But the end of the September 18 community forum devolved into a moment of pure farce, in which a not very well-informed young woman questioned the premise of the hearing and got back a wearily sardonic rebuttal from an audience member.

MS. TAMEKA BROWN: Hi. My name is Tameka Brown. And I represent PPEE [People for Political and Economic Empowerment]. And I'm for the project.

As a single mother -- I am also in the construction business. Just like these men out here that's wanting jobs and low income housing, I also want that too, for me and my daughter to provide a better life for me and her.

On that point, with y'all coming up here and saying all that stuff about the environment and all the rest of the stuff, what for? Why?

MR.…

To Lew Fidler, AY would replace an "old Buick"

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

He may not have been quite as folksy as State Senator Carl Kruger, but Council Member Lew Fidler gave him a run for his money.

COUNCIL MEMBER LEWIS FIDLER: For those of you who are probably about to boo me, I want to offer you my sympathy, but not my support. You know, I remember when I had to get to get rid of my -- my old Buick, you know, it's a trusty old familiar car. You know, I had it for, you know, longer than I probably should have. And I felt really bad as they drove it off to the junkyard. But you know what, I knew that driving into the future with my beautiful, new union-built car was a whole lot better.

I want to be associated with bringing jobs to Brooklyn; I want to be associated with bringing union jobs to Brooklyn; I want to be associated with bringing housing to Brooklyn...

(Audience participation.)

COUNCILMAN FIDLER…

"I've been here since 2:00": echoes of Beckett at DEIS hearing

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

There are more than a few places where the dialogue, at least as captured on the transcript, has echoes of absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett, notable for lines like “You must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on.”

Anonymous voices inside the Klitgord Auditorium lamented that people were not let into the building, that they'd been waiting for hours, and that the public would no longer be allowed to speak at a public hearing.

(Photo of Beckett mural in London by Rachel Scott Halls, reproduced under a Creative Commons license.)

Inside and outside

THE HEARING OFFICER: Thank you, Mr. Watkins. The next speaker is Bob Braun. Is Bob Braun here?

A VOICE: He won't be let into the building. Bob Braun is outside.

THE HEARING OFFICER: In that case, the next speaker is Richard Chernoso (phonetic.) Is Richard Chernoso here?

(No response.)

THE…

Elections = term limits? The disingenuous Marty Markowitz

With Mayor Mike Bloomberg quietly exploring the possibility of having the City Council--not the voters--overturn term limits, term-limited Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, undeclared for mayor and unsure of his next move, has signed on.

The Sun, in an article headlined Markowitz Calls for Ending Term Limits, reported Tuesday:
"New York City has always had term limits: They're called elections," Mr. Markowitz said yesterday in an interview at City Hall, where he held a press conference calling for greater federal funding for the city's senior centers. He added that his support for ending term limits would have a direct impact on his own political future.

"If Brooklynites would have me again, I would love to serve as their borough president," Mr. Markowitz said.


The justification

Markowitz suggested that term limits empower a "faceless, nameless bureaucracy" and, as the Sun reported, second terms are often less effective under the current two-…

At the DEIS hearing, invocations of Brooklyn street cred

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

From Assemblyman Roger Green to various community members, supporters of the Atlantic Yards project stressed their connections to Brooklyn, which might have led a casual observer to conclude that supporters were the "real Brooklyn." Even the one union guy who spoke that night, Dan Jederlinic, was a Brooklyn resident, though many if not most of the union representatives at the hearing were from out of the borough or even the city.

Perhaps because they were focused on actually responding to the DEIS within their precious three minutes, or perhaps because some were relative newcomers, project opponents initially didn't try to match the Brooklyn rhetoric. Though that ultimately changed, it's not what made the news.

Born in Brooklyn

Green came out swinging.

ASSEMBLYMAN GREEN: I want to start by saying for some of you that I …

"We talk about people and we talk about children": Carl Kruger's "Brooklyn" aria

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

As I write today, a lot of people at the hearing invoked Brooklyn. However, no one did it quite like Carl Kruger, who conjured up an aria of Brooklyn buzzwords: communities, children, neighborhoods, jobs, and housing.

SENATOR CARL KRUGER: My name is Carl Kruger. I'm the State Senator representing the Southern Tier of Brooklyn and I think that tonight "Brooklyn" is the operative word. We're not talking about the Nets Arena. We're not talking about Forest City Ratner. We're talking about Brooklyn, we're talking about communities, we're talking about Brooklyn first. And what better setting for us to talk about Brooklyn than to talk about job creation; to talk about union jobs --

(Audience participation.)

SENATOR CARL KRUGER: -- building a union project; What better way can we talk about Brooklyn than talki…

As new stadiums spring up, grumbling over ticket prices (but is that the real issue?)

There's been some vigorous discussion on the New York Times web site in response to yesterday's front page article, headlined New Stadiums: Prices, and Outrage Escalate, about how four new stadiums coming online in the next few years have raised ticket prices and also added revenue-raising elements like personal seat licenses--both of which are likely for the Atlantic Yards arena, which goes unmentioned in the article.

The article is sympathetic to the elite of sports fans who have season tickets, while some online commenters suggest that fans should be paying for new stadiums. Others point out that the stadiums receive public financing and tax breaks, and that "professional sports leagues are government sanctioned cartels" with competition limited. Moreover, season tickets are often a tax deduction.

And what about the Nets? As I wrote last year: "Thanks significantly to 170 new high-priced suites, the “blended average ticket price” for Nets games would go up dra…

Onward with Team Golden? AY supporter caught in self dealing

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

State Senator Marty Golden, who had his own heckler at the hearing, mainly stuck to Forest City Ratner talking points. His closing, however, showed a bit more rhetoric:
Onward with Team Nets; Onward with Team Ratner; Onward with the team of the City and this great Borough of Brooklyn for their future.

Team Golden

But the Senator seems most concerned with Team Golden, as Tom Robbins of the Village Voice explains in an article today headlined GOP Star Marty Golden Doles Out Big Bucks to his Family Catering Hall:
What makes it even more noteworthy is that every time Golden's campaign writes a check to the company [that owns Bay Ridge Manor], it goes into very friendly hands. Although he sold the establishment a couple of years after he entered the senate, Golden didn't have to hunt for a buyer: His brother bought it. Also, according…

Three minutes? Transcript shows how DEIS hearing quickly went off track

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

More than 250 people signed up to speak at the hearing, which, if speakers had been kept to the three-minute limit, would've meant 750 minutes (12.5 hours) in speaking time alone. Needless to say, that didn't happen.

Hearing Officer Edward Kramer's unwillingness to keep some of the first 13 speakers, all elected officials, to three minutes, coupled with his incapacity to keep the crowd under control, made for a chaotic hearing. And while an ESDC spokeswoman insisted afterward that "ESDC followed our practices and policies regarding hearings. We intend to conduct the forums similarly," in the follow-up community forums, Kramer enforced the time limit by having the microphone turned off.

After the elected officials spoke, neither Debra Dawkins of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA) nor Nets fan Tal Ba…

Powell calls Towns "woefully" MIA on Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Paper has posted articles and podcasts of its separate interviews with veteran 10th Congressional District Rep. Edolphus Towns and challenger Kevin Powell.

At about 29:00 of the interview, Powell begins to criticize Towns on a number of issues, saying Towns hasn't addressed joblessness and the need to incubate small businesses, and has been "silent on police brutality" and unwilling to talk to peace activists.

"Missing in action"

Then, at about 30:30, Powell adds, "Where is he on Atlantic Yards? Woefully missing in action, because he's in the pocket of a number of developers."

Actually Towns is not so much missing in action but offering his endorsement to developer Forest City Ratner, although he's been far less vocal than most other elected endorsers.

Powell says he'd try to make sure small businesses get micro-loans and also said Towns hadn't tried to lure businesses like Best Buy to empty buildings along Atlantic Avenue in…

USA Today loves Brett Yormak

Brett Yormark, CEO and president, Nets Sports and Entertainment (and CEO, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment), is impressive on a lot of fronts, as USA Today's rapturous profile told us yesterday.

Unfortunately, the reporter swallowed the line that Yormark and the Nets "hope to be in [Brooklyn] by the start of the 2010 season." As I commented on the USA Today site, check out Bruce Ratner's 2011 statement to shareholders and Yormark's consistent fudging of the facts.

Overstatements from the DEIS hearing: land acquisition, legal challenge, new high schools, housing

This week AYR will look back at the 8/23/06 hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), drawing on the official transcript.

There were several overstatements and deceptions during the DEIS hearing, notably claims that developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) would pay for the land, that the opponents' legal case was unstoppable, that FCR would build four new high schools, and that affordable housing would be "given" out and guaranteed.

(All emphases are added.)

FCR paying for the site?

Early on, ANN HULKA, Senior Vice President - Real Estate, Empire State Development Corporation, read some boilerplate that was true at the time:
The project developer, Forest City, owns or controls approximately 87 percent of the project site inclusive of land owned by the MTA and City property. It is expected that ESDC will acquire title to the project -- the entire project site exclusive of the parcels to be retained by the MTA -- by condemnation, excuse me. All costs…

Is Kucinich looking at the issue of naming rights?

From a New York Times Magazine Q&A yesterday with Rep. Dennis Kucinich:
I see you are scheduled to speak at the convention on Tuesday, at the Pepsi Center, which sounds like the name of a soda plant. Why is it called that?

My guess is that Pepsi probably bought the naming rights. Naming rights are another thing my subcommittee — the Domestic Policy Subcommittee — is looking into.

We know that the subcommittee has been looking into the tax-exempt bond deals for Yankee Stadium and other sports facilities, as well as the rules behind tax-exempt bonds. But the naming rights inquiry is news to me.

Will new head of ESDC take a walk around the AY footprint?

In March, Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Downstate Chairman Pat Foye, an appointee (and friend) of departed Governor Eliot Spitzer, resigned, leaving his deputy, Avi Schick, as the ESDC's acting president.

Schick, who will leave his post in September, has publicly defended Atlantic Yards. Foye was supposed to visit the AY site, but never did.

Now Governor David Paterson has nominated Marisa Lago, a global head of compliance at Citi Markets and Banking, to be the ESDC's president and chief executive, supervising executives for both downstate and upstate. Reported the New York Times:
Mr. Paterson has made revamping the agency a top priority. As he has sounded the alarm in recent weeks about the increasingly bleak outlook for New York’s economy, a better functioning Empire State Development Corporation has become a key piece of the governor’s economic revitalization plan.

New scrutiny coming?

Given the many things on the ESDC's plate, as described by Crain's New …

Two years after the DEIS hearing, one change is "just business"

Here's a flashback from the epic hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), held 8/23/06. And here's some video, from Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse.

Departed since then, along with Forest City Ratner point man Jim Stuckey, is point guard Jason Kidd, who gamely appeared with teammate Vince Carter to help provide sports flash for the cameras. (He's standing a bit stoically next to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz in this NY Sun photo.)

Kidd, whose trade for Devin Harris looks increasingly like a wise move for the Nets, told the Star-Ledger this week that he didn't have any regrets:
"It's just business," he said. "We had a great run. Sometimes, with moves, business gets in the way. The sad thing is, nobody there is left from when we started the whole thing. I guess you could say they're starting over.

Neil deMause interviews collected

The lesson of Field of Schemes: political reform needed

This is the eighth and final part of a multi-part interview (conducted May 28) with Neil deMause, the Brooklyn-based co-author of the book Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit, and writer of the companion web site. He testified at a 3/29/07 Congressional hearing that questioned taxpayer financing of stadiums, convention centers, and hotels.

Q. What’s the lesson of the book? Do you have general reform advice--what should cities, states, or the federal government do?

A. It’s easy if you’re the city or the state or the federal government: you stop giving money… It’s within federal government’s power to stop tax-exempt bonds from being used for stadiums right now. You just pass a law telling the IRS don’t do that anymore. The federal government could shut down subsidies for sports stadiums and for other ridiculous deals, luring companies from one state to another.

There’s this thing I mentioned in the book. [Rep.] David Minge’s proposal, why …

The reality behind FCR's 80 DeKalb deal (and the implication for AY)

Forest City Ratner's press release about getting a final $30 million (not that much) in financing for its residential project at 80 DeKalb Avenue is getting a lot of coverage (here and here), with one story line, according to the Brooklyn Paper, that "critics pointed out that the state subsidy means that the public will be spending $1.5 million for each affordable unit."

No actual critics were quoted in the article, though a couple appear in the comments section. While the state Housing Finance Agency's 80/20 financing plan is surely vulnerable to criticism, the 80 DeKalb project, as I wrote in April, may be a relative bargain for taxpayers.

$1.5 million per unit is low

The FCR project, along with three others, was selected among 14 projects for the state agency's bonds, because "we view [the 80 DeKalb project] as an efficient use of a scarce resource," said Priscilla Almodovar, President and Chief Executive Officer of HFA. "[T]he developer agreed to …