Skip to main content

With railyard work halted, no answers about the timetable to rebuild the Carlton Avenue bridge (and why is FCR in charge?)

It's possible that the indefinite suspension of work at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard and the intersecting and partly-demolished Carlton Avenue bridge will not extend the closure of the bridge beyond the already announced two years.

But I can't say for sure, and the government agency overseeing the Atlantic Yards project--the agency that issued the closure announcement in January--can't say either, leaving a private company in charge of informing the public.

After all, if litigation--developer Forest City Ratner's not-so-credible excuse for suspension of work--could have indefinitely delayed bridge reconstruction, shouldn't that have been disclosed during the environmental review?

(DDDB points out that public subsidy for a project on public land with stated public benefits should generate accountability.)

(I took the first and fourth photos yesterday, looking east from Pacific Street, and the third photo, looking west from Pacific Street. Tracy Collins took the second photo from above, before the demolition began.)

Two years closed, seven months to rebuild

After all, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) said in the Atlantic Yards Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS; Construction Impacts, p. 17-23) that "dismantling and replacement would take about seven months."

At the same time, work on the bridge is apparently somewhat dependent on work in the railyard below. On p. 17-1, the ESDC stated, "The Carlton Avenue Bridge effort, which was scheduled to be completed within the first 12 months of construction in the DEIS, would likely take two years to facilitate LIRR Vanderbilt Yard reconstruction."

(The closure was originally supposed to take nine months.)

Trying to get answers

I sent several questions to ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston, who responded yesterday, "The responsibility for work to construct a new Carlton Avenue Bridge is Forest City Ratner's. No work is being done on the bridge now. Beyond that, I will have to refer you to FCRC on all of your other questions."

Sweet.

Forest City Ratner doesn't answer my questions (though it does respond to some other reporters and does issue press releases).

I also sent a query in the mid-afternoon to the city Department of Transportation, but haven't heard back yet.

Since when did we leave an unaccountable private company in charge of the timetable for the reconstruction of a public thoroughfare?

The closure announcement

The ESDC's closure announcement:
The one-way bridge is being closed to accommodate upgrading the Long Island Rail Road’s Vanderbilt Yard under the bridge, and also to construct a new bridge as part of the Atlantic Yards project. For the duration of this work, northbound traffic will be rerouted either west along Pacific Street to Sixth Avenue, which will become two-way to accommodate this detour, or east along Pacific Street to Vanderbilt Avenue.

It's not clear from the announcement or the FEIS whether work could be done to construct a new bridge even if work has stopped at the railyard.

And, while it seems that a seven-month timetable to rebuild the bridge could be met even if delays continue at the railyard, it's not clear whether and how delays push back that timetable.

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…

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…

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…